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!