Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview with Gisele LeBlanc

Good morning Gisele. I'd like to thank you for stopping by for an interview.

Hi Gayle! I'd like to start by saying thank you for inviting me to your blog, and I'm honored that you wanted to share my poem with your readers!

1. What got you started in writing for children?

As far as how I got started in writing for children, it all started with the fact that as a child I loved reading. I remember spending countless hours in my room, totally immersed in books. My love for writing naturally developed as a result of that.

I remember one day in English class (I think I was in eight or ninth grade), we had to write a descriptive paragraph and then read it aloud. After I read mine, I remember everyone staring at me. Even my teacher was quietly gawking at me. I was so relieved to find out that everyone's reaction had been due to the fact that they had been captivated by my description of a babbling brook.

That was the moment I realized how powerful writing could be, how it can transport the reader to another moment in time and place--and how I loved being able to use that power. That same teacher a few years later encouraged me to keep writing.

I never forgot that.

Of course, life happened, and I only started writing seriously once I was in my late 20's, after I had my son and was lucky enough to become a stay-at-home mom. The first novel I worked on (which to this day remains unfinished, lol!) had not been intended for children, but my College English professor read it and said she thought it would make a wonderful story for children.

A light bulb went off and I've been writing for children ever since.

2. How long have you been writing for children?

I've been writing off and on for children for about 10 years now--wow, didn't realize until this moment that it's been that long.

3. Tell us a little bit about your path to publication.

I started participating in online critique groups and writing communities--where I learned a lot! Eventually, I started my own little critique group and began submitting to magazines. My first ever acceptance was from Wee Ones, for a poem about a spider.

4. Tell us about one of your most heart-breaking rejections and about one of your best.

You know, honestly, I can't say that I have ever been heart-broken by a rejection. I didn't take me long to get over the unrealistic expectation that getting published is easy. And from being around other writers that I met online, I learned that rejections shouldn't be taken personally.

I mean, sure, if I get a rejection, there is that moment of disappointment, but it slips off my back pretty quickly. Then, I turn around and send the submission off to the next publisher. That's about it.

And after being on both sides of the publishing coin, I know that rejections don't automatically mean your writing is awful. Neither does it necessarily mean that your poem/story is not publishable. It's possible that it simply didn't resonate enough with the editor, or there was another piece that grabbed them more. Editors are different. They don't all like the same things. Thank goodness!

All writers get rejected--it goes with the territory, but persevering is essential. At one point, I remember thinking maybe I was wasting my time--not with the writing, but with the submitting part--I was feeling sad, but nothing I would categorize as heart-broken. My first acceptance came in not long after that, so I'm glad I didn't give up!

The best acceptance was that first one, definitely. It was even more special because my son was beside me at the time the acceptance email came in. He gave me a big hug and we both starting jumping up and down like idiots. LOL! Sharing that moment with my son was the best, and knowing that he is proud of my writing successes means everything to me.

After that, the magazine acceptances started coming in fairly regularly--although most of them have been for online publications, so when I got my first acceptance from a print magazine (Our Little Friend) that was another exciting moment!

5. What made you choose to start your own children’s magazine?

I started Dragonfly Spirit because I loved writing and editing, and I also wanted to help showcase new writers. It was a wonderful learning experience, and I was delighted to see the magazine attracting seasoned writers as well! I had not expected that.

6. Tell us about your current job as assistant poetry editor.

Unfortunately, due to the economy, and needing to cut back on operational costs, I'm not with SFC Magazine anymore, but the time I was there made me realize how much I miss working as an editor.

And, I had actually been thinking about starting a little magazine of my own, dedicated to haiku for kids. Now I have more time to devote to developing this idea. So, I guess it's like they say, and everything truly happens for a reason.

7. Describe a typical day in your writing life. Are you a morning writer? An afternoon writer? A late night writer?

I tend to write mostly in the afternoons--mornings are usually reserved for my house work. I get distracted very easily and can't concentrate when the house isn't tidy! You could say it's become part of my writing ritual. I try to focus on critiques, catch up on blogs, and other writing-related things in the mornings as well.

I know that writing every day is important, but that is one thing I still struggle with. I often can't sit down to write unless I force myself into my chair and set my timer for 10 or 15 minutes. Then I take a break for a few minutes, then set the timer again, and so on.

After a few sessions, I'll often hit that zone and I can forget the timer for the rest of the afternoon. But some days, I need the timer throughout the whole writing session.

I might write a lot for a week, but then not write anything for several days. My brain needs time to recharge and process things. The ideas have to simmer. I also learned that this is a natural part of the creative process. I'll usually read a lot during those days.

I don't work on my writing at night because by that time, my brain has turned to mush. *wink*

8. Any advice for aspiring authors?

I would say write for the enjoyment of it. Be fully present when you are writing, and don't worry about finding a publisher. Make your story, or poem, or whatever it is you're working on the best it can be--and stay true to it. Always keep perfecting your craft, and believe in your writing and in yourself. Publication will be much more likely to follow.

9. Are there any writing books you recommend? Workshops? Conferences?

For writing poetry, I recommend Myra Cohn Livingston's Poem-Making: Ways To Begin Writing Poetry. This one is a must read, especially for beginning and intermediate poets. It's intended for children aged 9-13 but is packed with information and inspiration for all poetry writers--definitely one to add to your writing books. I give it a huge two thumbs up.

I also highly recommend Stephen King's On Writing because it's very inspirational, and for new writers, Nancy Kress's Beginning, Middles, and Ends. Both these books aren't specifically focused on writing for kids, but the overall information is good for most writers.

Another book that I've started and am really enjoying is Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen. I've also heard many wonderful things about it, and about Anastasia's classes.

Besides that, I think it's important for writers to read a lot in their genres, and analyze what they read. Look at how things are put together. Writers should also read widely in other genres, read nonfiction, classics--read, read, and read some more. I believe if a writer doesn't make time to read, chances are they'll never make time to write either.

As far as conferences go, I've never been to one. There aren't that many around my neck of the woods, unfortunately.

10. Finally, where do you get your ideas?

I get ideas from reading, from things that happen in my daily life, from hearing other people talk about things. Brainstorming is lots of fun, too! Asking "what if" can lead you to a lot of ideas as well.

What if a certain theory you heard came true? What might result of it? What if all the bees in the world disappeared? What if it started raining Jello? What if whatever you touched turned into chocolate?

Look at the world around you with a curious eye. Ideas are everywhere.

To see what Gisele is up to these days, visit her blog Reflective Ink at: http://grleblanc.blogspot.com/

3 comments:

  1. Outstanding interview Gayle and Gisele! Loved reading about your writing process.....

    And congratulations on winning the contest, Gisele...!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great interview!

    I loved hearing about your first writing experience. What a nice memory.

    ReplyDelete