February’s Ink Splat Author Interview features Haven Iverson, author of the children’s book, Slow Down, Tumbleweed. In the interview, Haven shares with us about how she developed her characters, where she finds inspiration, and her dual role as a book editor.
Writing Challenge from Haven Iverson
Animals, insects, and the natural world offer so many opportunities for stories when we learn about their habits and adaptations. Right now, I am working on a picture book that was inspired by the migration of wildebeest. Wildebeests undergo the largest mammal migration in the world. They are on foot, traveling from place to place, almost all year long. So, I asked myself—what if I imagined the wildebeest who had to migrate, but who was really a homebody? What would happen if there was a wildebeest who preferred to stay home?
Pick an animal you love and spend some time learning about that animal’s behavior. What do they eat? How do they move? Do they hibernate? Can they swim? Maybe they like to hang off tree branches upside down. Once you’ve chosen your animal and identified one of its unique behaviors, pick a human personality trait that comes into conflict with that animal’s “normal” adaptation or behavior. If your animal is an animal that normally hibernates, what would happen if that animal would prefer to dance all night long? Write a short story about your animal who wants to do things differently from all the rest.
Did you write as a child? What’s the first thing you remember writing?
As a child I was not much of a writer. But I was in love with stories. I loved movies and television and the theater. I loved to be in the school plays, and I was involved in theater all the way through college. In theater I was able to be a part of creating stories in other ways. I also liked to record stories. I had a cassette player—and I used the record button often. I don’t have siblings, and as a child I spent a lot of time talking to my stuffed animals. I remember recording plays in my room in which I was a character and all my stuffed animals were characters. So that was my form of writing. All of my stuffed animals had voices. In terms of writing, I did have a diary—but in my diary I liked to keep lists. Lists of the people I loved. Places I loved. People who made me angry. Names of dogs I liked. I still loving making lists—and
What’s your favorite aspect of craft—character, plotting, setting, or something else?
In terms of writing, my favorite aspects of craft are character and setting. Plotting is more difficult aspect for me—but usually, when I spend time with character and/ or setting, if I really dig in to one or both of those things, a plot arises. For Tumbleweed, Mabel’s character became clear to me simply by watching tumbleweeds. They look joyous as they scrurry here and there, jump and bounce and blow in the wind. By just watching tumbleweeds, I knew Mabel would have to be exuberant and joyous as a character. Slowly she came to life. For setting, I did two things that helped the setting in the book come alive. I listened to a lot of country music—music that rambles and rumbles like Mabel. And I also researched a lot of the animals and plant-life of West Texas.
What’s your favorite source of inspiration when you have a blank page to start on?
Honestly I see inspiration everywhere. Inspiration always begins with curiosity. I read a lot—books, magazines, blogs, newspapers. I also listen to a lot. I listen to nature podcasts, creativity podcasts, history podcasts, and more. Every once in a while something will capture my attention and I will be just completely obsessed. So I try to follow whatever captures that obsession—the thing that makes me want to go down a rabbit hole and learn more and more. Another source of inspiration is actually my dreams. Dreams can be so strange! Full of odd details. But life is strange. And literature is strange. When I think of a lot of the books I’ve loved (A Wrinkle in Time and Neil Gaiman’s Coraline come to mind), I realize many of them have an otherworldly dream-like quality. Whenever I have a really strange and vivid dream, I like to write it out first thing in the morning. I find that very often there are details within the dream.
A special thank you to Haven Iverson for sharing with us! Read more about Haven and her work @ https://haveniverson.com/
Haven Iverson is an author and editor of children’s literature living in Boulder, Colorado. She received my MFA as a fellow at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas, Austin. Slow Down, Tumbleweed (Sounds True, 2021) is her first published children’s book.
Haven edits books of adult non-fiction and has had the honor to work with wisdom holders like Pema Chodron, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mark Nepo, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, and many more over the past 15 years. And she also edits children’s picture books.
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