Tracy is one of the many people I follow on Facebook and Twitter. She is the recipient of the 2009 SCBWI WIP grant and an amazing writer. A few weeks ago, when she used a great vlog to announce that she had signed with Michael Bourret, I knew I HAD to interview her.
Fortunately, she agreed! So, without further adieu, here’s Tracy:
CF: How long have you been writing? Why did you start?
TC: In the summer of 2006 My daughter said, “Mom, aren’t you happy that all of your dreams have come true?” Her question spurred a conversation about how many of my dreams had indeed come true, but that there was one big one that hadn’t. I said, “Imagine if all the people with stories in them, never got them out.” She responded, “Then, why aren’t you doing it?” BAM! I thought, Yeah, why aren’t I?!!? And suddenly, I HAD to walk the talk.
CF: Tell me about your writing process. Are you a “pantser” or do you outline? Edit forever? Paint a picture of your process for us.
TC: Until recently, I was a fly by the seat of my pants writer. No outlines. Though I always had a vague notion of where I was headed. Now, I see the wisdom of having a clearer map for where I’m going. My next book idea is already pretty well thought out on paper ahead of time and I will probably do an actual outline (a loose one). I think I still need the process to be somewhat organic. I like to be surprised by what my characters do. I think in “scenes” and will often write random scenes, out of sequence, and have to figure out how to integrate them all. As for editing and revising…that’s when the real work begins for me. I write very spare at first and then add the real meat later which is opposite from the ‘spew it out and then cut, cut, cut’ method.
CF: What is the hardest aspect of being a writer? Have you ever wanted to quit?
TC: For me, the hardest aspect is patience, with myself, with the business. I remember the days of going to conferences with dreams of being “discovered”. It never happened. Funny thing is, when I let go of that and focused on my writing, good things started to happen. I have indulged in some whining here and there, but can honestly say I have NEVER wanted to quit. Regret is something I try hard to avoid and I would always regret quitting. Besides, I’m always up for a challenge!
CF: How did you find your agent?
TC: This is the part where I skip around in glee, because it just happened within the few weeks!
I’m elated to be represented by the sweet and savvy Michael Bourret from Dystel & Goderich. It was a series of occurrences that made it possible, but I trace it back to winning the SCBWI Work in Progress Grant. Because of that, an editor expressed interest and suggested I introduce myself to Michael at the SCBWI NY conference. I finagled an introduction and submitted to him in early February (on my birthday, actually). While he had my submission, we met again at an SCBWI Nevada event three weeks ago and it was shortly after that that he offered to rep me. I’m very excited about partnering with him for the next phase of my adventure!
CF: Where do you find your inspiration?
TC: Honestly, inspiration is everywhere if you are paying attention. Conversations, magazines, newspapers, etc. Just stay open.
CF: What inspired your current novel?
TC: The idea for my current work in progress was initially sparked by one little sentence in an article in a magazine. I read that sentence and thought, ‘Whoa. There’s a story there.’ It punched me in the gut. That’s how I know I’m on to something, when I have a visceral reaction to the idea.
CF: Are any of the characters like you?
TC: In CHALK HOUSES (the book that won the grant under the title: The Circle Journal) the main character is pretty much me. Yeah…correction…Talon IS me. My current WIP stars a fifteen year old boy. We seemingly could not be more different, but I actually do identify with him in many ways, in his sarcasm and the fight in him.
CF: Most bizarre random fact about you – something you doubt we know about you?
TC: I’m laughing because anyone who has visited my website www.tracyclark.org probably knows more about my idiosyncrasies than they want to! I can tell you that the walls of my bathroom are covered in positive quotes. If you have to sit there, you might as well be inspired! Haha!
CF: One piece of advice for up-and-coming writers.
TC: Just one? Read widely but specifically read books from your chosen genre. Do not assume you can write for teens just because you were one once upon a time. Inform yourself about what teens ‘now’ are into and reading and thinking.
CF: Anything else you want to share?
TC: If you write for kids of any age, consider joining SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) It is an incredible organization that will not only inform you about the business of publishing, but will also inspire you. I say with all seriousness, that it is the most important thing I’ve done (besides writing, of course.)
Thank you so much for having me!