by Naomi Kinsman
When you’re reading, have you ever had a moment when the world opens up and lets the magic in?
Maybe, like author Liz Kessler, magic shows up for you when you’re writing, too.
A couple Inklings and I had the opportunity to meet with Liz before her book launch at Linden Tree. We talked about writing, magic, and the creative process. Here are some of the questions we asked, along with Liz’s inspiring answers.
Q: Why do you write about mermaids?
A: I love that edge between what we know and what we don’t. The sea offers all kinds of possibilities. I love the fact that anything could be happening there.
Q: What do you do when you have too many ideas?
A: It’s like ketchup. When the bottle is completely full, you turn it upside down but you can’t get anything out. Ideas are like that too. Instead of going straight into a story, I spend a long time building my ideas. I take long walks and think. I collect possibilities on index cards. Once I’m more sure of the ideas I want to use, I type them up. Then I cut and paste them onto big pieces of paper, sorting out scenes and chapters. Then, I type up my plan, and again, I write lots of notes and continue to make changes. Finally, after about three months, I have a solid plan, and I start to write. While I’m plotting, I try to use physical objects, paper and glue, anything I can see. Writing is so much in the head that I like to have physical objects to help me see the story.
Q: How do you create such relatable characters?
A: I like to look at the world in a childlike way, and I put a lot of myself into my characters. I also choose characters that catch my imagination–like Emily Windsnap. I’m grateful to her for taking me on adventures. One way I get to know my characters is by cutting out images in magazines and making collages. Once I have an idea about what my character looks like and what kind of personality she has, then I work on names.
Q: When did you know you wanted to be an author?
A: I started writing at an early age, and I even published a poem when I was 9 years old. Unfortunately, though, school and I were different shapes. I was naughty at school. But then, I had a teacher who changed the direction of my life. She told me that I could do better than I was doing. And she cared so much about reading and writing that she made me love it, too.
Q: Any words of advice for youth writers?
A: Try to be patient. Don’t worry too much about getting your writing published. While you’re young, write about what you love. You have all the time in the world, but right now, you can write for the sheer love of it. Share your writing with a group of peers–like the Inklings! Give feedback to one another kindly, and try not to put yourself under too much pressure.
At the end of her talk, Liz told us about a book she loved as a child, The Adventures of the Wishing Chair. In this story, an ordinary-looking chair granted wishes. Liz would sit in chairs around her own house and make wishes, wondering if maybe this time, the wish would be granted. She loves writing stories that invite us to see the possibilities in our everyday world. Certainly, her Emily Windsnap stories make us wonder: This time when I dive into the pool, will I grow a tail?
And so, I ask our Inklings … What kinds of magical windows and doorways can you open with your stories? What possibilities can you help us see?
Liz Kessler’s latest Emily Windsnap book has just arrived in bookstores. Use this link to support your local indie and to buy Emily Windsnap and the Falls of Forgotten Island. You might also enjoy A Year Without Autumn or Has Anyone Seen Jessica Jenkins?