Thursday, December 13, 2018

7 Questions For: Author Elana K. Arnold

Elana K Arnold writes books for and about children and teens. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis where she has taught Creative Writing and Adolescent Literature. Her most recent YA novel, What Girls are Made Of, was a finalist for the National Book Award, and her middle grade novel, A Boy Called Bat, is a 2018 Global Read Aloud selection and a Junior Library Guild Selection.

A parent and educator living in Huntington Beach, California, Elana is a frequent speaker at schools, libraries, and writers’ conferences. Currently, Elana is the caretaker of seven pets, only three of which have fur.

Click here to read my review of A Boy Called Bat.

And now Elana K. Arnold faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Ahh, this is a mean question. This is like asking which are my top three favorite pets. I will pick three books, but don’t tell the others.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

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

I write 15-20 hours per week; I read about 10 hours per week (and wish that number was greater!). I spend another 10-15 hours per week doing “business-y” stuff like writing emails, communicating with editors, planning school visits. And I spend countless hours wandering in my brain, dreaming, considering my works in progress and ideas for future books.

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

I was a voracious reader growing up, and I began writing stories of my own at a fairly young age. I went to graduate school to pursue fiction writing, but the experience drained me, and after I graduated, I didn’t write for a long time. Instead, I returned to my childhood love of reading everything.

When I returned to writing, I did so from a different place—rather than trying to write “literature,” as had been my goal as a graduate student, I just wanted to tell a good story, all the way to the end. I finished the manuscript of my first novel, SACRED, in 2010, and with it, I found an agent and then my first publisher, Random House. I have been actively writing and publishing ever since.

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

For me, both. I loved reading so much that the only thing that could be better, I thought, would be to create my own stories. And it was wonderful, until I allowed myself to believe that only a very narrow definition of “good writing” mattered, a false belief often perpetuated in writing programs.
Then, I was frozen and full of doubt. I think writers can be taught, but I also think they can be “un-taught,” and it’s incredibly important that teachers leave space for writers to grow.

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

Telling a story is a way for me to live another life, and it’s a way for me to share my questions about being human as well as my core beliefs. I love this about writing. I suppose a “least favorite” thing has more to do with the business of writing than the art or craft—the wheels of publishing move so desperately slowly!

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)

Here’s a brief list:

Practice finishing things. Beginnings are usually more fun, but a story needs a middle and an end. Don’t worry about length—just get to the end.

Read widely, and by people who have different lived experiences than yours.

Stay curious. An artist’s job is to notice what’s happening and deeply care.

Consider getting a pet. Maybe several.

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

Today, I’d say Nora Ephron, because I appreciate the way she plumbs the depths of her personal stories to find humor. If you ask me tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll have a different name. There are so many authors I admire!

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