Joining us for Creative Spaces is YA novelist Melody Maysonet. Her debut novel, A Work of Art, was named a best book of 2015 by YA Books Central. Kirkus gave it a starred review saying, “An important book about endings, beginnings and the choice to move on.” Here’s a brief summary about the book:
Tera is seventeen, shy, and artistically gifted. Her hero and mentor is her father, a famous graphic artist who also protects her from her depressed, overly critical mother. Tera is looking forward to going to a prestigious art school in France, but her world is turned upside down the day the police arrest her father for an unspeakable crime. Tera desperately wants to believe his arrest is a mistake, so she goes into action, searching for legal counsel and sacrificing her future at art school to help him. But under the surface of her attempts at rescue, there are rifts in Tera’s memories that make her wonder: Could he be guilty?
Describe your workspace.
I love my creative space! Wooden floors, wooden bookshelves, a comfy reading chair, and lots and lots of books. My son’s artwork hangs on the wall, along with selected pieces from my World War II collection and a framed print of William Blake’s Newton.
Describe a typical workday.
My writing habits have changed recently. I am a chronic self-editor, which makes me a very slow writer, but after I took an SCBWI workshop taught by NYT best-selling author Jonathan Mayberry and writing coach Lorin Oberweger, that changed. Now I’m committed to writing 1,000 words a day. So I take my son to school (or camp) and then I write. When I get stuck (I don’t believe in writer’s block), I find out what’s stopping me and address it. Most of the times when I get stuck it’s because there’s a flaw in the plot.
List three of your most favorite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.
- My World War II collection. Since I was a teen, I’ve been fascinated by World War II, and I read a lot of World War II books. My collection consists of several original propaganda posters (including one of a sailor floundering in the ocean saying, “Someone Talked!”); nearly a hundred original buttons (my favorite has a string you can pull to make Uncle Sam chop the head off a cartoon Hitler); a Life magazine cover from 1942 signed by all of the surviving men made famous in the HBO miniseries The Pacific; and numerous books, ration cards, and mementos.
- My comfy chair. It’s big and cushy and has a matching ottoman. What’s not to like?
- My books. A hardback, first-edition of Watership Down by Richard Adams holds a place of honor as my all-time favorite book.
Do you have any rituals in your work habits? Describe them.
No rituals, but maybe I should burn some Muse-inducing incense.
What do you listen to while you work?
I love music, but I prefer to write in silence because sometimes I get caught up in how the music makes me feel rather than the words I’m putting down.
What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?
I don’t eat while writing, but I do sip water.
What keeps you focused while you’re working?
If I’m into what I’m writing, it’s easy to stay focused. If not, I think about showing up empty handed to my weekly critique group, the Tuesdays (www.tuesdaywriters.com) They keep me motivated!
Do you write longhand, on a computer, or another way?
I write on a computer, although I’ve done my share of scribbling on whatever paper is available—place mats, napkins, even toilet paper if it’s just a few lines.
How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?
I start with the kernel of an idea and then outline the entire book. But I’ll revise the outline throughout my process because what sounded good on paper when I started the book might sound stupid as the characters take on lives of their own. Still, the outline keeps me focused on the big picture. I feel panicky if I don’t have a master plan, even if the master plan is constantly evolving. For my work-in-progress, I recently re-outlined parts of the outline once again, and the book is getting stronger and stronger. I’m excited!
If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?
My husband. He knows to leave me alone while I’m writing, and I wouldn’t feel self-conscious mimicking characters’ facial expressions or lines of dialogue, which I do constantly while I’m writing.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?
The Plot Clock, which I learned from Joyce Sweeney and Jamie Morris when they collaborated on a series of writing workshops. The Plot Clock shows how to plot the external events of a novel alongside the internal growth of the character. It’s genius!