Joining us today for Creative Spaces is author Anna Staniszewski. Her debut middle grade novel, My Very UnFairy Tale Life, was recently published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Here’s a taste of My Very UnFairy Tale Life from Anna’s website:
“Is your magical kingdom falling apart? Twelve-year-old Jenny is on the case, whether she likes it or not. Saving the world might sound exciting, but for Jenny it’s starting to get old—even staying in the real world long enough to take a math test would be a dream come true! And when you throw in bloodthirsty unicorns, psychotic clowns, and the most useless gnome sidekick ever, Jenny decides that enough is enough. She’s leaving the adventuring business and not looking back. Or. . . is she?”
In addition to her own blog, Anna (along with author Alisa Libby) maintains “First Page Panda“, an online resource for readers to get previews of middle grade and young adult books.
To learn more about Anna Staniszewski, visit her website and blog. And now, let’s take a peek inside her workspace!
Describe your workspace.
I have a small office dedicated to writing. It’s cozy and filled with books, but for some reason I’ve almost abandoned it recently. Instead, I’ve been curling up on the living room couch with my laptop. My posture hates me, but I guess I must like being in a nesting position when I’m being creative.
Describe a typical workday.
I teach part-time, so my schedule is different depending on the day, but typically I spend time in the morning answering emails, blogging, and doing other internet activities. Then I take the dog for a nice long walk and let my brain wander. After that, I like to get some writing or teaching-related work done. I find that I do my best writing in the late afternoon; often when dinnertime comes around I’m busy typing and don’t even realize my stomach is growling. When I’m about to chew off my own arm, that’s when I know it’s time to quit.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
1. My dog, Emma. She’s a huge distraction but also a comfort to have nearby.
2. My notebook. Whenever I’m feeling particularly stuck on a character or plotline, I get out my notebook and start jotting down ideas to get the creative juices flowing again.
3. My craft book collection. I’m a tiny bit obsessed with books on the craft of writing. I use them quite a bit in my teaching, but I also find that a touch of writing wisdom from James Scott Bell or Donald Maass is often just what I need to give me a fresh perspective on my WIP.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
When I’m ready to dive into a long writing session, I usually have to make some tea before I can start. And maybe nibble on a cookie or two. Baked goods, warm beverages, and writing all seem to go together.
What do you listen to while you work?
I can’t really listen to music while I work, especially if it has lyrics, but I’ve found that having a Red Sox game on low volume in the background while I’m revising creates the perfect amount of white noise for me. (And, as an added bonus, I can cheer when something exciting happens.)
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Earl gray tea with a touch of milk and sugar, Fig newtons, and chocolate!
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
I’ll be honest: sometimes nothing keeps me focused! When I’m having a really hard time keeping my mind on work, I set a timer for twenty minutes and force myself to buckle down for that time. After that, I can usually get into the groove of things. I do find that when I’m revising, I’m usually much more motivated than when I’m drafting. I think that’s because drafting is often messy and meandering, whereas revising is more orderly and analytical; I’m a control freak, so I like making things nice and organized.
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
I mostly write on the computer, but when I’m brainstorming or trying to solve a problem, that’s when I get out the pen and paper.
How do you develop your ideas?
Very very slowly! I usually start with a bare-bones idea and add layers to it as I go. My first drafts tend to be very dialogue-heavy, essentially just characters standing around talking about their problems. In revisions, I try to figure out how to turn those conversations into action.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
My husband and I shared an office for a couple of years and it actually worked out pretty well. We would distract each other sometimes with funny YouTube videos and such, but when it was time to get to work, we were pretty good at focusing. It felt nice to be working together side-by-side.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
A friend and writing partner had this bit of wisdom when I was querying my first novel and not having much success: “Maybe this isn’t the book that’s going to get you published.” I realized she was right, and that I just had to keep working on new projects. My next manuscript landed me an agent, and the one after that got me a publishing contract. I learned that you always have to keep creating; you never know which book will be The One.