Tricia Springstubb is the author of many books for young readers including the middle grade novels What Happened on Fox Street and its sequel Mo Wren, Lost and Found.
What Happened on Fox Street was an Indie 2010 pick, received starred reviews from Kirkus and The Horn Book, and was named to the Kirkus, Washington Post, and Bank Street School “Best Books of the Year” lists.
Publishing next month is Tricia’s picture book Phoebe and Digger, about a little girl who becomes a big sister and relies on her her favorite toy to help her through the transition.
If you enjoy this interview, you might also enjoy reading what Tricia had to say about writing spaces of her past. You can learn more about her and her books by visiting her website and her blog.
Describe your workspace.
I love my work space, especially the windows. They look out on the street, so I can distract myself with all the kids and dogs and bicycles going by. From spring through fall I can see my blooming perennial garden. Over the years I’ve worked in a lot of spaces, most of them small and barricaded against my children, so it’s very luxurious to have a big desk and lots of natural light. Two other things I love about the space are my desk is so beat up spilled coffee doesn’t matter, and my cats frequently visit me there.
Describe a typical workday.
My typical workday begins with some cat-petting and coffee-drinking.
|one cat on my lap|
I check e-mail and always send notes to my three grown daughters, who live (sigh) on the exciting East Coast. I wade into my writing day slowly, re-reading what I’ve done the day before and the notes I’ve made for today’s work, till finally my feet can’t touch bottom any more and I’m swimming forward. I usually write for three or four hours before I take a break for a long walk, where I mull things over and often work out problems (always, always, I carry a pen and paper!). Afternoons, I work on my blog, or a book review. Evenings, of course, are for reading.
|my other cat helping me work|
What do you listen to while you work?
I never listen to music or anything else (besides my own voice whispering the words out loud) while I write. It’s too distracting, and gets stuck in my head.
|toys and gifts from friends and readers|
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
After writing for thirty years, I don’t have any trouble staying focused. I’ve got a big strong focus muscle. I have to admit, though, that when I’m stuck, checking e-mail is a huge temptation for me. I’m considering getting that software that locks you out of the internet for a certain amount of time for your own good!
|Lake Erie rocks–my next book is set on an island in the lake|
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
I write exclusively on the computer these days. My hand just can’t keep up with my brain, and I do so much revising, right from the very beginning.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I’ve never succeeded in making an outline I could stick to, though I try not to begin a piece unless I know (or think I know) how it will end, and what the general narrative arc is. I’m on the third draft of my new middle grade novel, and each one has been substantially different from the other two. The setting is the one thing that has stayed wholly the same. A sense of place is very important to me, second only to voice. I have a new picture book coming out this March. It’s called Phoebe and Digger, and it’s about a little girl whose alter ego is her toy digger. Originally, Phoebe’s toy was a rubber gorilla–this was straight out of real life with one of my girls. Picture books are just as demanding as novels, and I worked really hard on those 600 words!
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
If I had to share my work place with anyone, it would be my husband, because by now he’s very adept at giving me my own space!
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
There is so much good writing advice to be had. I feature some nearly every week on my blog. But my current favorite is from Louise Erdrich, a superb and humble writer. “I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel. I approach the work as if, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything.”