Joining us today for Creative Spaces is Ann Jacobus. Her debut YA thriller, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, was published last fall from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in San Francisco with her family. To learn more about her visit her website, find her on Twitter as @annjacobusSF, or like her on Facebook.
Now let’s take a peek and see where and how she works!
Describe a typical workday.
Sometimes I get up at 6:00 to meditate until 6:50. I’m never sorry I did it, but it’s hard to wake up at 6:00.
Typically, I’m up at 6:50, kid(s) off to school by 7:30, and at my desk with tea and breakfast by 7:32 am. I put out any fires and answer any urgent emails, or other social media maintenance. Then I turn off Internet and write or revise. I’ll check email and have a second quick breakfast during a break at 10 or so, because you can never have too many breakfasts.
My newest computer flashes the emails I’ve just received across the top of my screen regardless of whether gmail is open, and I can’t decide if this is good or not. If something comes in from my editor for example, or from an old friend, or even a compelling sale on sweaters or free grocery delivery, I hop to it. If I miss reading them because I’m focused for once, (but noted the flash in the upper right corner) then I have to wonder what it was and go check.
Lunch by 1:00, then more administrative stuff, email correspondence, social media, reading, until 3 or 4 depending on sports schedules, exercise, dog walks, appointments, grocery shopping, etc. Ideally more reading in the evenings.
In the summer, we spend a month or so in our summer house, where my “office” is being sprawled out on my bed. I do love to sit outside in one of these rockers to read or think, watch the sun go down, and drink wine. Sometimes I even let someone join me.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
We had some renovations done this past year. I used to use our spare bedroom as my office. It has wonderful bookcases. But my daughter is living in there for now, so I’ve claimed a corner of our bedroom.
I sit in a stuffed chair that is in terrible need of re-upholstering. But it’s comfortable and cozy. So while something does need to be done about it’s tattered appearance, I hate to part with it even temporarily.
My laptop- EVERYTHING is on it.
Supply of Trident bubble gum. For when I’m stuck. It helps to chew. I used to have Rolos or Twizzlers handy, but I’m cutting back on sugar, one day at a time.
What do you listen to while you work?
Well, neighborhood construction, traffic, delivery and trash collection sounds, conversations of people walking by outside, fog horns, sirens, as well as house sounds, including family members yelling long distances, phones ringing and laundry spinning.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
Fruits and nuts of all kinds and Trident bubble gum. Okay, Rolos, or any kind of chocolate, milk or dark, with or without caramel, with or without nuts. And green tea.
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
Nothing. Do you know of something that will do this?
I can stay focused once I get going, sometimes at the expense of family, meals, deliveries, etc. But it can be really hard to get there.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
The answer is kind of “all of the above.” I used to be more of a seat of the pants writer. Just sit down and go. I try really hard now to think and stew and research for longer beforehand, write backstory and learn about my characters (interviews, maps, correspondence), and come up with major plot points or milestones BEFORE I begin writing a new story. This has proven again and again to save time. I can’t outline, so I have to accept that I need to write lots of pages I’ll never use, but in the end I’m still throwing out fewer pages than when I just go with no preplanning.
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
I do share my workspace. With our inherited Long-haired Chihuahua.
Here’s a photo of Louie. My son was letting him mess around as Super Dog. (People who dress up their pets should probably be punished).
I’d be glad to share my workspace with another writer if I could interrupt them and ask for advice on my work-in-progress. Like some depth and flawless prose style from Ursula LeGuin, or maybe some help with plot from screenwriter Graham Moore. I liked THE IMITATION GAME and I always need plot help. Plus he seemed like a good guy and I admired what he disclosed at the 2015 Academy Awards when he won for best screenplay. Dav Pilkey would probably be really funny and could possibly add some much needed levity to my work.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
“Read. Read. Read. Write. Write. Write.”