Joining us today for Creative Spaces is author Leslie Bulion. Leslie has published a range of books spanning middle grade novels, picture books, and science poetry. Some of her titles include At the Sea Floor Cafe, The Trouble with Rules,Hey There, Stink Bug!, Uncharted Waters, and Fatuma’s New Cloth.
This week she’s celebrating the publication of her latest novel, The Universe of Fair:
Miller Sanford, an engaging eleven year old science whiz tries to show his parents he’s responsible enough to enjoy the town fair without parental supervision, but events conspire against him. Instead of a freewheeling fair day, Miller is drawn into a mishap-filled fair day he never imagined, involving a string of tag-along first graders, lemon meringue pie, witch pumpkins and flying death heads!
Kirkus Reviews declared The Universe of Fair“A cheerful and totally entertaining look at fairs, friendship and the value of family.” For more information about Leslie visit her website. And to follow the fun of The Universe of Fair blog tour this week, visit here for a list of all the interviews and posts that are happening. (And come back on Thursday when I post a Creative Spaces interview with the illustrator, Frank W. Dormer!)
Describe your workspace.
I work two places in my house. I have a desk nestled under and next to long bookshelves in a sunny office/guest room. I sit there to do research, to do the “business” of writing, and to attend the business part of daily life. If I’m editing my work, I often sit there, too, since the display is larger and I can see more of my work at a glance.
I do lots of my creating work—the actual writing of poems and novels—on a laptop, sitting in my favorite rocking chair in our family room. There’s a fireplace, cozy furniture, a soft carpet, and space for a big, black dog at my feet.
Describe a typical workday.
Here’s a typical writing day: I try to begin with a walk or a run, then check email and social media briefly at my desk. I love to be in my writing chair by 9 if I can, but that doesn’t always happen. Other days I have meetings, school visits, or, as I often say: life intervenes. Working at home gives great flexibility, but it is also a struggle at times to keep other activities from eroding my writing time.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
1. My rocking chair. I bought it at a tag sale at least 25 years ago and sanded it until it changed from a redwood color to a soft, blond wood. I pulled out sproingy, broken springs and reupholstered it, but that task has since been tended to by a professional. It is exactly the right height for me to keep my feet flat on the floor and my laptop on my knees.
2. My bookshelves, and particularly the shelves overflowing with books written and illustrated by friends.
3. Our knucklehead lab/Rottweiler/pit cross, Rory. She is sweet, footwarmer company, she’s used to my quiet routine, she demands attention whenever the phone rings, and she’s always ready for a walk.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.
I usually choose a screen saver for my laptop that relates to my work in progress. Right now I have a photo of Thompson’s gazelles grazing on the Serengeti Plain. Looking at that picture helps bring my head and heart back into the sensibilities of the new work. When I’m working on a novel, I always reread the work I did the day before and tweak it before I move on to the new writing of the day. That’s more process than ritual, I guess.
What do you listen to while you work?
I need quiet when I write. I don’t listen to music, I don’t want the phone to ring. I want to be home alone. I have trouble if someone nearby is mowing their lawn, or running a chain saw or a leaf blower. I think to myself: Ah, the sounds of the country. I am no fan of power equipment noise. Conversely, I can work in a crowded mall food court—that can be like white noise. Unless someone at the next table is having an interesting conversation . . .
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
I’m fairly compartmentalized about work. I break to eat, and if I bring something to eat to my workspace I usually plough through it pretty quickly to get the distraction out of the way. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
Once I’m into my work, I often don’t look up or get up until way past when it’s ergonomically advisable. But if I’m having trouble with a piece, or have been away from my writing tending to life’s joys and necessities, I can have trouble settling back in. When that happens, getting out of my house and writing somewhere else—like the library—helps me refocus. Also going for a walk. Walking seems to jiggle loose solutions to writing problems. If I’m working on science poetry and need access to my research materials I’ll make deals with myself: I’ll just try and work for another hour. Or: I’ll just work until I get this line/stanza/poem to flow. If I’m lucky, I’ll pass my self-imposed deadline without realizing it.
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
Computer all the way! Ask anyone who knows me—I have the worst handwriting. Even I can’t read it. I don’t even jot myself notes by hand if I can help it. I love technology. Siri is my new BFF.
How do you develop your story ideas?
That’s a very BIG question. Each book seems to grow in a different way, especially since I write novels and science poetry, which involve two very different processes. The poetry always starts with a scientific theme and grows more complex from there as I immerse myself in research. Some of my novels have started with a setting I love, like a Rhode Island coastal salt pond, or, in the case of The Universe of Fair, my town’s giant agricultural fair. I examine my feelings about that place, then try to imagine someone who doesn’t share those feelings. Why don’t they? And what if . . . what if . . . ?
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
I can’t share. Sorry.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
Just one piece of advice? Aack. Okay, I’ll pick this one: Always be thinking about the next book.