A Peek at the Creative Space of Natasha Wing

Joining us today for Creative Spaces is author Natasha Wing. (On her birthday no less–happy birthday, Natasha!) Natasha is the author of 19 children’s books and more on the way. She is best known for her “The Night Before” series which began with The Night Before Easter, published in 1999. Celebrating its tenth anniversary this year is the bestselling The Night Before Kindergarten. In May, a The Night Before Kindergarten Sticker Stories book will be published to commemorate the anniversary. Also being published in May is the newest title in the series, The Night Before Preschool.

In addition to “The Night Before” books, Natasha is the author of How to Raise a Dinosaur, a lift-the-flap book with tips on caring for a pet dinosaur; Jalapeno Bagels, a story inspired by the multi-cultural bakery Los Bagels in Arcata, CA; An Eye for Color, a biography of artist Josef Albers; as well as several other titles. To learn more about Natasha Wing and her books visit her website and her blog.

And now let’s take a peek at where and how Natasha works . . .

Describe your workspace.

My office is on the second floor and is a converted spare bedroom. It’s very square and compact, but everything’s pretty much within reach. My workspace is a corner desk with one side against the window wall and another jutting out into the room, like a peninsula. I get the morning light, which I prefer for writing. Outside the window I see a field of straw-yellow grass with a pump jack methodically pumping oil, and a view of the Budweiser plant. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I do like the smell of the wafting hops.

Describe a typical workday.

My days have been less structured since I moved to Fort Collins, Colorado (AKA Fort Fun) where it’s very active and outdoorsy, and I’m finding things I’d rather be doing than sitting at my computer. But a more typical workday is to be at my computer by 8:30 a.m. to do some kind of publishing-related work such as writing, internet surfing/research, marketing, emailing with my editor and writer friends, and generally trying to “get things going” in the business either by creating new stories or marketing opportunities. This happens basically until noon. Afternoons and weekends I sporadically edit, read, check facebook and emails, and write when I’m inspired. So it’s part discipline, part winging it.

List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My plastic dinosaurs because I found them for 19 cents at a thrift store and they make me smile. (My interest in dinosaurs has been rekindled since my book, How to Raise a Dinosaur, came out.)

A pen and ink drawing of the front of the New York Public Library that I bought from a street artist when I was in New York City for an SCBWI conference. I love the reminder of the power that that building holds–knowledge–and thinking that my books may be IN THERE.

The third thing is my computer. Not the physicalness of it, but that it provides access to the outside world where I can stay in touch with writers and friends, do research at my fingertips, and that it’s like having a really smart brain that remembers everything and a really anal secretary all wrapped up in one.

Do you have any rituals in your work habits? If so, describe them.

I think the only ritual-like habit I have is to check my emails first to help me warm up for the morning writing time.

What do you listen to while you work?

The hum of my computer. I tend to be easily bothered or distracted by noise, so I don’t have music or a TV show going on while I work. I want to be able to hear the editor in my head. 

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

If I’m frustrated with a story and feel the need to really sink my teeth into something – be it editing or solving a story problem – then I prefer snacks that crunch, like tortilla chips or Terra chips. A nice way to celebrate finishing work, say after school visits or on Fridays when the traditional work week wraps up, is with a glass of wine.

What keeps you focused while you are working?

The conditions under which I can really focus are when I’m working on a story that is moving and grooving for me, and when my husband is out of the house and my cat’s not meowing at me. Deadlines also help. So does needing a paycheck.

Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?

Once in a while I’ll scribble down the initial idea to capture it before it’s gone. And I may write a few key notes about the idea. But since I have terrible handwriting and can’t always decipher my notes, I mostly I write on the computer. 

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I’m pretty organic versus structured. If something excites me, or if my brain immediately starts projecting images and playing out the story in my head, then I know it’s a story idea I want to develop further. I am toying around with an idea for a novel right now, and this time I wrote some key information about the characters and some potential chapter points on big note cards, and I think that has helped organize my thoughts. I will occasionally do a dummy for a picture book if I can’t quite get a handle on editing it.

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be and why?

Maybe Philip Pullman because he seems like he’d be a quiet man, and too focused to want to stop and talk with me. But that I’m sharing my space at all is only because someone is forcing me.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Everyone is on their own path to publication. The other is replace weak adverbs with strong verbs.


3 Responses to “A Peek at the Creative Space of Natasha Wing”

  1. Jeannie Mobley

    Me too, Laura. It makes me want to write a book about a dino just so I can have a picture like that!

    Great interview, and glad to see they are back. I hope that means the Bertmann manuscript is all polished up and adventuring out into the world, too!

  2. LadybugSF

    I love the Night Before books. I must get those for Kara right away. And also second the weak adverbs message… I tell that to my students all the time!