- Please describe your writing day? My typical writing day starts around 5:00 a.m., and I am usually at the keyboard within and hour of waking up. Most of my day is devoted to rewriting the current project. However, the story I am rewriting, is not the story that is being committed to a storyboard, which is not the story which is being illustrated, which is not the story at pre-press, which is not the story being printed for publication. My day is balanced between all of these. They must all work in concert; and, I must admit, they normally do. Each day, I devote no less than an hour each day gleaning a thesaurus for ideas and titles. During the course of the week, I video chat or talk to my illustrator, Peggy Trabalka, at least once a day and my printer, Jim Tepel, no less than twice a week. They are an integral part of making believable words unbelievable by making the books alive. Without these two individuals, I would just have a manuscript and storyboard, at best. So, my typical work day usually lasts from 12-15 hours. And I love it.
- What do you like the best about writing? It is no different from the adage, ”the problems of doing a job that I love are a lot more fun than the problems of doing a job that I do not love. I do love what I do. Not that what I do is so great; but, in the greater sense that I do what I love: and that is simply, to think like a child. Like dissolves like. So, you cannot write for children unless you learn to think like one. I don’t even allow bouts of writer’s block or “authoritis”bother me. It is part of the discipline. As a writer, we only have two excuses: First, we do not know what we are trying to say; and second, we know what we are trying to say, but we don’t know how to write it. You just have to discipline yourself and work through it.
- What are you passionate about in your writing life (themes, topics…and so on)? In my mind, those themes that address universal truths as in fairy tales and allegories are what I live for. For nothing that I will ever write will be real, but all of it is true. And by definition, that is a fairy tale. In other words, in THE LITTLEST TALL FELLOW, it says, “If you each for your dreams you will never be small”. That is true. But the book is not real. In THE BUMBLEBEE AND THE RAM, it says, “you should always be yourself”. That is true. But the book is not real…But I must admit, I live for the allegory. Technically speaking, I struggle the most with my titles. For they are the book. Especially when it comes to allegory. It takes me longer, at times, to think of a title worthy of being written than the words themselves. I wrote a story once called, THE HANDSTAND. It was about disability awareness. But it was not until I found the allegory (the inversion of the word) that I was able to proceed. Allegories are my favorite. I love the irony.
- Describe your writing space? My working environment is quiet, quite simple, and typical of a studio. Yes, it does have its share of techno-gadgetry: computers, scanners, printers and wireless. But nothing can replace the three books that stand on one of my works desks: a thesaurus, a dictionary and a rhyming dictionary. Without these, all the gadgetry in the world would not make a difference. Everything I write starts with those three books. And of course, Frankie, my constant quadruped companion for 18 years.
- Is there one tip that you can offer a beginning writer who is starting out? It took almost eleven years to become published. For anyone aspiring to become an author, do not take rejection personally. Send out your query letters with the SASE and wait for the rejections to come back. Take it as a complement. It means your work is being circulated. You are looking for that one editor who is searching for that very manuscript which you have written. Case in point: I was once at a distributor conference in Memphis and one of the keynote speakers was an editor who rejected Richard Bach’s, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, because there was no mass market appeal for it. Need I say more. It is all a numbers game. But, I ask you, what in life is not?
- Do you have any other books in the works? In the business of publishing, the only book that really matters is the next one. Few writers can rest on the laurels of just once book. I am very fortunate to have quite a few projects waiting in the wings. Some are fairy tales and some are allegories. Most are written in verse, but there are, at least, four that are written in prose. They deal with bigotry, bullying, our ecology, and of course, utter silliness. There is a sequel to MY FRIENDS THAT RHYME WITH ORANGE that I am dying to come out with.
- Include anything else about the writing life that you would like to…I have always considered myself as barely-an-author. (Which is much more fun than barely-not-being-an-author.) Ten books published, in my mind, does not make me an author. It just makes me published. Being well read makes me an author. I bear that in mind everyday. But I also believe in what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in one of his bestsellers, OUTLIERS. Aside from legacy, that ability to self-determine your life (mine being an incredible education provided by my parents), there is also the Rule of 10,000 hours. In other words, if you are not willing to put in the time and continually be a student then the chances of mastering your chosen craft will dwindle accordingly.
Thank you so much Barry! All the best of luck!