Today I am honored to be hosting Angela Morrison as part of her blog tour on the most important day... RELEASE DAY!! I posted my review of Sing Me to Sleep yesterday (you can read it here if you missed it) and today I am happy to share with you more student created questions for Angela.
Angela is an amazing lady whom I have enjoyed getting to know over the past few months. When I started this blog right after giving birth to my second child, I came across Sing Me to Sleep on a blog and fell in love with it. I found Angela's email address and emailed her to let her know that I had featured it in my "Waiting on Wednesday" post (check it out here). Much to my shock, I got a replay and this is what I read in my email:
I make Penguin send me a box of ARCs so I can send them to middle school English teachers just like you.I am not ashamed to say that I squeed like a little girl when I read that! I got the book and literally could not put it down (feeding Jaxon with one hand and reading with the other... I am sure there are pictures!). I am so glad that you can all get your hands on this amazing novel now and you need to RUN to the nearest bookstore and buy it! Thanks again to my students and their amazing questions. Angela, you are amazing and your patience with a crazy middle school ELA teacher is astounding! Now, on with the interview!!
How did it feel when you got the letter back from the editor saying that your book was good and would be published? -Patrick (7th grade)
It was pretty exciting. If a publishing house is going offer you a contract, the editor will call you on the phone. I was living in Switzerland at the time and my editor was in New York, so she sent me an email saying she wanted to talk. So I kind of freaked out for a day or so until she called. My stomach was in knots. I couldn't eat. I couldn't hold a conversation. When she did finally call, we were out! My kids called us on the cell, and we drove home as fast as we could so she'd still be at her office. I needed to call her on our international internet phone at home. That was for my first book, TAKEN BY STORM.
When you don't know what to write (hit a mental block) do you doodle or just start writing about anything? -Shamone (8th grade)
I'm lousy at drawing so I don't do that, but if you like to doodle that's a good way to let your mind relax. Writing about anything is good, too. Just keep going until you are writing something you like. Cut the stuff that you warmed up on. Sometimes, though, when you relax and don't think too much about what you are writing, you write the very best stuff.
Mental blocks happen when we are stressed and our brains are on fast mode. To be able to write--or create anything--you need to slow down your brain waves. I know it sounds hokey, but it's true. I swear by it. If you've got a mental block, take a nap. Serious. Scribble what is in your brain when you wake up--while you are still relaxed and dozy. Or put your assignment by your bed, read through it just before you go to sleep, and make sure you have pencil and pen right there on your nightstand table. When you wake up, write whatever you are thinking. Even if it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the assignment. Sometimes completely unrelated junk blocks us. Get rid of that and you can access great creative stuff. I do this all the time. That's how I wrote both my novels. No lie. (This is called "morning pages" and you can read lots more about them and writer's block in Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST WAY.)
It also helps to take a walk, go for a drive, or even go swimming. Just the right music helps me get my brain ready to write. I have to turn it off while I write, but I find a lot of ideas in good song lyrics.
What did you feel when you write Sing Me to Sleep? What emotions played a role in writing? -Chris T. (8th grade)
The material I worked with for SING ME TO SLEEP is so emotionally powerful that I was a basket case the whole time I worked on it. I cried so much I kept on having to stop and dry off my keyboard. I hope you feel all those tears as you read the book.
But there are many emotions in SING. I tried hard to make sure you experience those emotions right along with Beth--embarrassment, anger, confusion, passion, love, happiness, joy, sadness, devastation, hope. I'm eager to hear from readers what emotions they felt when reading it.
How old were you when you wrote your first book? -Marquez (8th grade)
I wrote my first book in fourth grade. It's called "Henry the Bookworm," and I still have the handmade copy I made of it. But it took me until my own children were mostly teenagers to finally write an entire novel. I went back to school to learn how to do it when my youngest son started grade school. If you are going to be a professional at ANYTHING, you need to qualify yourself. You need mentors, coaches, to teach you how to do it. I found that in a master's degree program where my teachers were all authors. It was the coolest school ever.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers? -Stephen (8th grade)
Yeah. Lots of advice. Check out my blog for writers on my website. Click on "liv2writ" for a start.
I always tell students when I speak at their schools that writing is just like any other endeavor. To be good at it, you have to practice A LOT! Read the kind of books you want to write. Study them. Write every day. Whatever you want. Especially when you're sleepy--when you've just woken up or before you go to sleep. Don't worry about spelling, grammar, punctuation. Just let it flow. You can add all that later. You will surprise yourself.
Find good mentors and listen to them. It took me three and a half years after I had my degree to finally find an editor. I got loads of rejections. But sometimes an editor would make a few suggestions that could improve the book. Those suggestions were gifts. I took them and rewrote my novel again and again.
While you are in school, you have teacher mentors who are there to guide you. Every red mark on your paper, every comment scribbled in the margin is a huge gift--of their time and talent. Don't get angry and waste their efforts. When they write on your paper, it isn't because they are angry with you or you blew it. It's because they care about you. They want you to get better and better at this wonderful mystery we call writing. Just because you don't get it right the first time, doesn't mean you'll never get it right. The beauty of writing is you get to do it over and over and over until your words sing. You only fail if you give up. You only fail if you aren't willing to revise it one more time.
Save everything you write. It is precious. Some day you'll be in my position and need that great source material!
Thanks again, Angela, for sharing this time with me on the blog and answering the questions and writing such an amazing book. Here's to all the success you deserve! Happy reading everyone!
In kindergarten I wanted to be a veterinarian and a mom. I planned to have ten kids and a hundred cats. Then in first grade, I learned how to write.