Monday, October 08, 2007

Sally Gardner

At the September SCBWI Professional Series event, Sally Gardner talked about her writing process. She mainly works directly onto an apple laptop because she loves the free-form where she writes and writes, stop, then discards most of it. She explained she might only keep three sentences and then she starts all over again, until she finally gets the rhythm of the book.

When the manuscript is complete she sends it to her agent, who has an editor who looks at the grammar and tidies up her spelling. This is a necessity for Sally because she is chronically dyslexic and she described how she has built up an excellent rapport with the editor.

However, Sally thinks it is a great mistake to have too many voices listening to your work. She has never belonged to a writer’s group and insists it is not the sort of thing she would do as she is not a group person. Sally told us she felt writing is an intensely private thing and you’ve got to have someone you trust not to bring in their own agenda to your work. If you’re showing it and you own it, if you’ve got a clear feel you need to be sure it’s not going to be tarried by their prejudices or jealousies. You must be very careful whom you choose.

She also recommend authors back-off the child-tested idea, claiming it is OK for the younger child, but when children get older they can pollute your work.

Sally never wrote for her own children, she writes for herself. She said if she hadn’t have had children, she would have still wanted to write children’s books. But, reinforced, it is important you know your market, know the genre and to know yourself.

Her advice to new writers is to keep writing and never give up:

"Actually, it is difficult to know what advice to give. It’s really about
finding your voice and how you wish to write. You’ve got to want to write.
Listen to the words. Do they sing out? Do they capture you?"

You have to have some recall on your memories of justice, being wronged, being in trouble, etc to be able to find your own voice. When writing for children believe in the child within you. Never patronise. Always assume the children know more than you do. It is only adults that have problems with concepts. Have an idea of alluring magical surrealism and live true to that reality.

Sally told us how she felt very privileged in her life especially when she worked in the theatre, because she got to work with alot of different writers and has watched a lot of plays being performed. She explained how she has seen what works and what doesn’t work; what makes the audience fidget, what makes the audience get up and leave. Most solitary writers never get to see this. She told us how she believes her own voice grew over a long period of years from this experience and being very involved in the written word.
"I just love the sound of words. Dyslexia does not stop anyone loving words.
You’ve got to love words; you’ve got to be riveted by them to want to write."
Some people say writing is all about swallowing a dictionary to write a book, but Sally does not think this is true. She said some of the best books have the most simple words and it is these simple words that make the books so powerful.

Lots of people plot, but she doesn't. She also advised to be careful you’re not a tourist. Take the child very fast by the hand and lead them quickly through the plot. When she writes for older children she uses music to inspire her. It helps her to get back into the mood straight away.

When she falls asleep she said it is just as important as writing. Walking and time away from the computer is also just as important. It’s in these lazy moments you get to know where you want to go. Sally recommended that we as writers should have lots of talks aloud to ourselves. She said, opening yourself up will help your story grow.

At the moment, Sally is working on the sequel to the Red Necklace. It is a love story between the two main protagonists, Yann and Sido.

Her only regret is she wishes she’d had this belief in herself earlier. People can achieve their dreams. She feels like she has waited all herlife to get to this moment and now she is flying.

Listening to Sally talk was truely an inspiration. Her enthusiasm for writing was contagious. It was a most enjoyable evening.


Wilf said...

Excellent,Anita! Many thanks.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

This is great, Anita, many thanks. Wish I could have been there. I relate so well to what you have written up about Sally's talk.

Candy Gourlay said...

great anita! i'll put a link to this on the britishscbwi website!

Anita Marion Loughrey said...

Thanks you lot. I always find the Professional Series so stimulating.
Great to hear from you all.
Love Anita ♥