Liz Garton Scanlon

How did you become a writer?

There was my exhaustive autobiography in 4th grade. My diary-with-a-lock when I was 11. My whirlwind romance with college radio reportage. There was the angst-ridden poetry of my 20s and the corporate copywriting once I had a mortgage. But honestly, it was having children of my own that made me into a children's writer. It was the re-immersion into children's literature, through their eyes, that reminded me how much space there was in that world for curiosity and wonder, surprise and sweetness, creative risk, exploration and surprise. Some people say they write in spite of their kids but I absolutely write in gratitude to mine. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Virginia Wolff for gorgeous, gushing, flowing prose. Emily Dickinson and Uri Shulevitz for potent brevity. Lucille Clifton for honesty. Franciso X. Stork for respecting young readers. Cynthia Rylant for respecting VERY young readers. Mary Ann Hoberman for rhyme and Audrey Vernick for humor. I've learned so much, in person, from Ronald Wallace, Naomi Shihab Nye, Kathi Appelt, Patti Lee Gauch and all my colleagues at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as in the pages of books by Cheryl Klein (The Magic Words), David Bayles and Ted Orland (Art & Fear) and Mary Oliver (A Poetry Handbook). I plan to never stop reading, listening, learning and growing.

When and where do you write?

Big work happens about 4 days a week, either at my standing desk, at my dining room table, or on the lake deck at my favorite coffee shop. But more subtle, generative, curious work happens everywhere and all the time -- while running or waiting, while cooking or facing a sleepless night, via scribbles in my journal, notes on my phone, and babbled thoughts to my husband or kids or anyone who will listen. 

What are you working on now?

I've got two middle-grade novels in revision, and a picture book manuscript just begun. And there's always a poem or two on the side. I like to have more than one project going because then, if I get stuck, I can try something else for awhile.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Yes, most mornings! OK, that's a little bit of an exaggeration but the truth is that I often open my laptop with fear. Or at least trepidation. And it's usually not till I've been at work for 30 or 60 minutes that I find my feet underneath me and start to recognize that I'm walking some sort of path. The key, for me, is just to start. To risk writing something, even if it's terrible. To try.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

I love this quote by E.B. White: "You ask, 'Who cares?' Everybody cares. You say, 'It's been written before.' Everything has been written before." To me, this removes the pressure to be somehow, miraculously, original, but it also opens up the possibility that our work might be someday received and even welcomed. It's both practical and hopeful. It helps.

What’s your advice to new writers?

I think it's important to remove some high-horsed mystique from the whole thing, to remember that regular folks write! Young folks and parents, teachers and gardeners, folks with no money and folks with plenty, morning folks and insomniacs. All around regular folks write, by using their own voices to express their deep love and worries for the world. You can be one of them. You can be one of us. There is always room for your story.

Liz Garton Scanlon is the author of many picture books, including the Caldecott Honor book All the World, One Dark BirdKate, Who Tamed the Wind, and Bob, Not Bob, which was co-authored by her pal Audrey Vernick. She also wrote the middle grade novel The Great Good Summer and has another forthcoming. She serves on the faculty of the Vermont Faculty of Fine Arts, is a frequent and popular presenter at conferences and festivals, and lives most of the year with her family in Austin, Texas.

Jake Bible

How did you become a writer?

I've always been a storyteller. Or "liar," as some might say. I wrote my first story in elementary school. I actually had to illustrate it and bind it into a children's book for class. That was when the bug bit. I wrote all through school until life and work got in the way. It wasn't until 2007 that I got back writing and submitting short stories (yay for the internet!). I have been writing professionally since 2008 and don't ever plan to stop. Slow down, yes, but never stop.

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Roger Zelazny is #1. The Amber series blew my mind. Add in Poe, Henry Miller, Vonnegut, Tom Robbins, Robert McCammon, and Cormac McCarthy and I never stood a chance of writing "normal" fiction. As for teachers, I wouldn't be a writer without Mike Garling. Corridor Elementary school. 3rd grade and that children's book I had to write, illustrate, and bind. Mike was an incredible teacher and started me on my path.

When and where do you write?

I used to write full-time every weekday, 9-5. But life and finances aren't always cooperative, so now I write part-time on the weekends and when I can snatch some extra time. For the most part I write in my office at home behind a mid-twentieth century modern desk that was my wife's grandfather's. It's a massive half circle that spans 9' in diameter. I love it.

What are you working on now?

Right now I'm working on a quirky mystery/thriller that's a weird combo of Northern Exposure meets Twin Peaks. Slow going, but a lot of fun. I'm also prepping for the penultimate Roak novel which is tricky because I took a long break, so now I have to go back and reread the previous ones because continuity. Stupid continuity...

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?

Nope. I wrote 50 novels in five years. I have more ideas in my head, and in my iPhone's Notes app, that I will never et to write in my lifetime. Writing is like breathing to me and telling stories is my core, so writers block just isn't a thing for me.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

It came from Scott Sigler and he said it takes 4-5 years in the publishing industry before you even start to understand what's going on. He was 100% right. After about my 4th year I realized I didn't know jack about what I was doing and my eyes were only just opening up. It cracks me up when new writers start spouting off about how writing and publishing should be. I just nod and smile and wait and watch for when reality kicks in for them.

What’s your advice to new writers?

Be prepared for success. Writers talk about failure too much and don't talk about how to handle success. Okay, so you now have a hit book? What do you do? You move fast and capitalize on that success, you don't kick back and get comfy. When opportunity knocks, will you be ready? Start thinking on that, people. I've blown a couple good opportunities because I wasn't be prepared.

Jake Bible is a Bram Stoker Award nominated novelist, short story writer, independent screenwriter, former podcaster, and inventor of the Drabble Novel. He has entertained thousands with his modern pulp fiction tales. Jake reaches audiences of all ages with his uncanny ability to write a wide range of characters and genres. 

Jake is the author of 60+ novels, including the bestselling Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter series of space crime novels, the bestselling Z-Burbia series set in Asheville, NC, the bestselling Salvage Merc One, and the MEGA series for Severed Press. He is also the author of the YA zombie novel, Little Dead Man, the Bram Stoker Award nominated Teen horror novel, Intentional Haunting, the middle grade ScareScapes series, and the Reign of Four series for Permuted Press. As well as Stone Cold Bastards and the Black Box, Inc novels for Bell Bridge Books.

Find Jake at jakebible.com. Join him on Twitter @jakebible and on Facebook.

Elvia Wilk

How did you become a writer?

I started out as an artist. Over time, I realized I was spending all my time in the studio writing rather than making things. At first it was poems and fragments, and then I started writing pieces about art, and eventually reviews and essays. Suddenly one day I realized I didn't need a studio anymore. Every problem (formal, emotional, intellectual) that I've tried to solve since then has been one I've found I can tackle within the confines of the page. I'll keep writing until that changes. 

Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).

Many of my influences are artists. For the last few years: Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Barbara Hammer, Ana Mendieta, Suzanne Lacy. I have too many writerly influences to name! Those who I thought of while writing my recent novel the most include Kurt Vonnegut, Tom McCarthy, Jonathan Lethem, and Jeff VanderMeer. I always think about Doris Lessing. Lately I've been reading and learning from Ingeborg Bachmann. 

When and where do you write? 

I write at home, in my living room, at a desk. I have a nice chair and big monitor to force myself to sit up straight. I write whenever there's time, which is usually in the afternoon—after I get some other work done and feel I can concentrate. 

What are you working on now? 

I'm turning several talks I've given over the past few years into essays. They're about topics like weird fiction, black holes, vampires, and role-play. I'd like to compile them into an essay collection.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? 

Every day! I just make myself write some words, however bad they are, and eventually I forget I'm blocked. If that doesn't work, I take a walk. 

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Butt in chair, for as long as it takes. If that doesn't work, take a walk. 

What’s your advice to new writers?

You'll probably have to write a lot of bad stuff in order to get anywhere good. So quantity over quality at the start, at least in order to develop a regular practice and get used to flexing your muscles. If you can, try writing lots of short pieces for publications (anywhere will do) so you get used to deadlines and the editorial process. A lot of the real writing work is editing work. Drafts are called drafts for a reason! And of course—read as much as possible.

Elvia Wilk is a writer and editor living in New York. Her first novel, Oval, was published in June 2019 by Soft Skull.