It’s the middle of the summer, the kids are out of school and most people’s brains have all but melted in the Texas heat and humidity. Luckily for me, I was able to chat this week with the delightful and bright Constance Van Hoven, which gave my brain enough of an artic blast of smart to get me through the rest of the summer. As an author for all ages, Constance has a special spot in her heart for her home state of Minnesota. One of her picture books, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota, is especially delightful to read during one of our long Texan summer afternoons.
Where did you grow-up and where do you live now?
I grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, but spent many wonderful summers on my grandmother’s farm near Red Cloud, Nebraska. Today, I split my time between St. Paul and Bozeman, Montana where our two daughters and their families live.
Describe your creative journey.
My creative journey as a writer began with my mother who was a kindergarten teacher and loved children’s books. Books were our birthday and Christmas gifts. In college I majored in English, took lots of creative writing classes. After college I worked as a buyer for a chain of specialty toy and book stores in the Twin Cities. Over the years, I found I loved working with children’s book authors who visited our stores and longed to be one of them. I took writing classes locally and then went to Vermont College and finished their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults program. It was a life changing experience for me. In 2009 I wrote THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS IN MINNESOTA (Sterling) and in 2011 HELLO! MINNESOTA (Sterling). Both projects were enormously fun to write and I was so fortunate to have great illustrators for both books. Mike Wohnoutka for the holiday book and David Walker for the board book.
What is a normal “writing” workday like for you?
Normal work day? That’s a tough one. I strive to write for several hours in the morning, churning out three or four pages of my current project and then spend afternoons revising, catching up on research, reading emails, etc. A late afternoon walk with my husband and our extremely energetic puppy gives me time to ponder ideas and problems. Oh, and I’m addicted to lemon drops and pretzel chunks while I’m working.
Who are your favorite writers and why?
I have many favorite writers who inspire my work. Joan Bauer and Richard Peck are at the top of my list. Every one of Joan’s books is chock full of great humor and lots of heart. Richard Peck’s writing is so wise. I loved Katherine Applegate’s, THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN. The structure of it and the way it conveyed the emotions of the animals was amazing. For picture books, I never tire of William Steig’s work. Also Martin Waddell. Both authors write stories with humor and warmth.
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
My advice to inspiring writers is familiar: read, read, read. Join a writer’s group, take classes and write for the joy it gives you, not fame or fortune.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a middle grade novel. It’s history, mystery and ghost story. I’m also compiling a collection of letters my dad wrote. He was a computer pioneer and a pretty darn good writer. At present, the project is a labor of love for my family, but who knows what it might turn into!
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