Thursday, October 24, 2013

7 Questions For: Author S. L. Lipson

S.L. Lipson, in her own words:

My first "publication" was a hand-stapled, primitive graphic novel, co-written with two boy buddies in fifth grade, about an elephant with a camel's hump filled with a lemonade-like drink called "humphantajuice"--a big hit at school! Since then, I've published many articles, poems, and three books for kids, most recently THE SECRET IN THE WOOD, an ebook about two kids coping with the stress of moving while trying to figure out how to help a trapped tree fairy get unstuck from the wood panel of a bedroom wall.

I have worked in publishing as a magazine and manuscript editor, a children's encyclopedia article writer, and an associate literary agent. I now spend my nonwriting hours teaching writing to my favorite kind of people: kids! Since 1997, I have taught private and group writing workshops; school-site, enrichment writing workshops; and summer writing camps and lessons. I sometimes teach teachers, too, and help them with their classroom writing programs.

Communication with words is my favorite way of connecting with other people, and the reason I'm equally passionate about writing and teaching! Thank you for reading my books and leaving me your comments--I love to hear from my readers and know that we've connected!  

Click here to read my review of The Secret in the Wood.

And now S. L. Lipson faces the 7 Questions: 

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

The  only way I can answer this is to reframe the words  “favorite books” to the “books that most influenced me as a writer.” I hope that’s okay. I think those books would include:
The Giving Tree
Charlotte’s Web
Catcher in the Rye
To Kill a Mockingbird
(I know that’s 4, but I’m using the same excuse I give to my private writing students when they ask if I can tutor them in math, too: I stink at math!)

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

I write for 5-6 hours a day, but my pages aren’t always part of a book manuscript; mostly I’m dividing my time between blog posts, lesson materials, critiques, pithy phrases for my social media followers, poems that nag me to put them on paper, songs, and--when I’m really focused, and my dogs are behaving--one of the many novels-in-progress that call me to my keyboard. I read for 5-6 hours a day, too; and again, that time is divided between books (mainly novels), news articles, blogs and emails, and the writings by my students.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

My agent suddenly quit his agency, leaving me without representation, and after waiting so long to find him, I was very discouraged. My dear friends, Jennifer and Bob, had experience with self-publishing Bob’s first book (he’s now a best-selling business book author), and they suggested that I stop waiting for other people to launch my career and launch it myself by self-publishing Knock on Wood. I never expected that the path to publication would branch off into the path of teaching writing as much as I do today! And then that teaching path led to my second published book, Writing Success Through Poetry, a text for students and teachers of writing.

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

I believe that writing ability is not innate, nor is it taught. Writing ability is an evolutionary process, catalyzed by a love of reading, fostered by an environment that encourages creative thinking and experimentation, and shaped—but not created—by teachers who empower, enlighten, and enrich the evolving writer.  I was not born a writer, but have become one. Writers, like our manuscripts, are works-in-progress.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about writing is hearing from people who have been moved by my words and then quote them back at me! Obviously, the people I’m referring to are often kids; however, once I had the extraordinary pleasure of hearing from one of my favorite YA authors, Jay Asher, who called me with glowing feedback about the opening pages of my YA-novel-in-progress and read my own words aloud to me on the phone, saying, “I loved this line especially…oh, AND this one, too….” That definitely epitomizes my favorite thing about writing!
My least favorite thing is receiving form-letter rejections after months of waiting for a reply from an agent or editor, without any indication that anyone in the office even read my work.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

As my tree fairy character, Althea, would say, “Honor the trees who gave their lives for the paper on which your words travel; honor their strength with your strongest word choices, their beauty with your richest imagery, and their deep roots with your most memorable phrases.” And if you write only on computers and publish only online and on ereaders…well, in that case, honor the energy of the natural world that makes the virtual world possible!

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

E.B. White. He is one of my role models as a children’s author, and wrote about writing, as I do; plus, I will forever call all spiders “Charlotte” because of him. We would NOT eat any bacon at our lunch, either.

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