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Kimberly Willis Holt

National Book Award winner Kimberly Willis Holt grew-up all over the world but now calls Texas her home. Author of picture books, chapter books and novels, Ms. Holt will be visiting Houston this month to celebrate the release of her new book for young readers, Piper Reed Gets a Job. Recently, I caught-up with Ms. Holt and visited with her about the craft of writing, small moments and inspiration.

 

 

 

Describe your path to writing.

 

I started writing on June 15, 1994. I didn’t own a computer, but I bought some yellow legal pads and pens and sat at the table on my screen porch.

 

Because I was new to the craft, I took every writing class in my city and attended conferences in a 300 mile radius. Some say you can’t teach someone to write. I disagree. Each of my teachers gave me something that I use today.

 

Like most new writers, I sent my work out too soon, and I was rejected. But I kept rewriting. Eventually an agent agreed to represent me. About six months later my first book, My Louisiana Sky sold.

 

 

Where do you find inspiration?

 

Often, ideas for my books are inspired from small moments in my life.  These moments can range from going down a Louisiana dirt road like Tiger does in My Louisiana Sky, to standing in line to see the fattest boy in the world like Toby does in When Zachary Beaver Comes to Town.  I rarely realize that these small experiences are potential starting points for novels.  They wait patiently until the time comes when they knock on my door and ask to tell their story.

 

Describe a normal “writing” workday.

 

There is no normal writing workday. Those existed before I was published. Now the business of writing plays a role in my hours. Let me give you an example. I recently lost my assistant so yesterday I started my day answering email about booking events. I also answered a query about a picture book manuscript from my editor. Then I had a phone call interview with 88 fourth graders from Abilene. Next I sent out W-9’s, contracts, and books.  This was all before lunch. After lunch I booked some flights and answered more email. Yesterday I didn’t put one word on the page.

 

Now this was not a typical day either. Usually I write in the morning before I do anything. Otherwise the business of writing starts to take over. People look baffled when I tell them I wrote more before I was published.

 

 

You write novels, chapter books and picture books. When you sit down to write, do you have a specific way to approach each different genre?

 

Not really. Each story comes to me in a voice. The voice determines the genre. I usually can only work on one story at a time. I love writing for different ages. I want my readers to grow up with my stories. But that hasn’t been a calculated decision. It just happened.

 

 

 

Who are your favorite writers and why?

 

One of the first children’s authors that I admired after I started writing was Pam Conrad. She taught me the power of similes and metaphors.

 

I learned how to vary sentence length from Han Nolan when I read a beautiful long lyrical sentence in Hand Me Down a Miracle.

 

Roald Dahl’s quirky humor inspires me to stretch because humor is hard for me.

 

What advice would you give aspiring writers?

 

Perseverance and passion endure. Writing is hard.  But when you have a passion for something, it is worth every bit of time and effort.  Work hard, dream hard!

This interview originally appeared in the October 2009 edition of the Houston Banner.

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Interview with Author Dotti Enderle

To call Dotti Enderle a multi-faceted and talented writer would be an understatement. Novels, picture books and mysteries are just a few of the genres that the Houston -based author and storyteller has listed on her writing resume. Recently I caught up with Dotti and spoke with her about writing, inspiration and advice for young writers.

 

 

Describe your path to writing.

 

In 1993, I became a professional storyteller. Schools and libraries hired me as a children’s storyteller for special events. I created my own version of folktales, but also wrote original stories too. In 1995, I had such a large collection of original stories I decided to try getting them published. I went on to have over 100 stories, articles and poems published in various children’s magazines. I also submitted to book publishers. I landed my agent in 1999 and my first book was published in 2002.

 

Where do you find inspiration?

 

Everywhere. Ideas come from newspaper articles, a sentence in a book, something I overhear at the mall. But mostly I can just sit down and start typing, and the story develops as I go along.

 

Describe a normal “writing” workday.

 

I don’t have a normal writing day. I discipline myself to write at least one hour each day, and some days that hour extends to two or three. Other days I struggle to get 500 words written. I’ve learned not to reward or punish myself for how much or how little I write. I’m not one of those authors who can sit down and pound out twenty pages a day. I accept that. Everyone should write in a way that works for them, and never strive to meet someone else’s style or standards.

 

Who are your favorite writers and why?

 

As for as children’s and YA literature, I love Laurie Halse Anderson, M.T. Anderson, and Kimberly Willis Holt. For adult fiction, I’m hooked on Harlan Coben, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, and most anything by Christopher Moore.

 

What advice would you give aspiring writers and why?

 

Read! Read! Read! Both how-to books and the genre in which you wish to write. I once heard that you have to read 1000 books before you can write just one. That’s so true. My biggest lesson came when I took one of my favorite books, When Zachary Beaver Came To Town by Kimberly Willis Holt, and dissected it. I made note of when she used description within dialogue. What strong verbs she used. How she painted a scene so we could visualize it. This was when I began to see my own writing weaknesses. I don’t think a million how-to books could have taught me that.

 

 

Dotti’s numerous books can be found at any local bookstore or online. Her latest book, Gingerbread Man Superhero! is due out September 2009 from Pelican Publishing.

This interview first appeared in the Houston Banner, June 2009