*This post is part of #PimpMyBio by Lana Pattinson and #PitchWars, a twitter-based contest hosted by Brenda Drake in which authors seek mentors to help revise their manuscripts for a follow-up agent round. Even if you don’t have a manuscript ready for this season #PitchWars is still a great community to interact with, and provides a wealth of information and networking opportunities with other writers.*
I wanted to use this space to give more of a sense of who I am beyond just one manuscript, so I’m focusing more on my passions as a writer and less on my submission for PitchWars. But I will include the (very amateur) aesthetic for my YA Southern Gothic novel, THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES:
THE BORING BIO
- MFA in Children’s Literature
- BA in Creative Writing
- Certificate in Irish Studies (University College Cork)
- Member of SCBWI since 2006
- Critique partner (10+ years)
- What I write:
- YA (southern gothic/magical realism)<–my PW submission
- MG ( WIP fantasy sequence inspired by the Welsh myth cycle: The Mabinogion)
- Character-driven picture books
- What I do when I’m not writing:
- Sing: shape note, Appalachian ballads, Trad Irish and Folk
- Hike near my Appalachian home
- Contra dance (insanely fun Irish-mountain-hippie dance)
- Critique for my CPs! I love developmental editing. Copyediting, not so much.
THE FUN PART
My passion for storytelling started with film rather than literature. As an offbeat kid I loved the character- and dialogue-driven films of the 1940s and ’50s (while most of my friends preferred Chip ’n’ Dale and DuckTales). Those formative years spent watching Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracey, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, and Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds spar on the silver screen gave me a penchant for banter, tension, and comic relief, and ultimately set the tone and tempo for my storytelling voice today. I may write in a different genre than most of those films, (southern gothic, magical realism), but the scene structure, rhythmic dialogue, and relationship dynamics are very much inspired by them.
Writing is a cinematic experience for me. Had I a different disposition, I might’ve pursued musical theatre; but as someone with social anxiety, I chose the route of creator instead. I can be writer, director, and method actor all rolled into one. And nobody ever sees me. They see the story and the players while I work safely off-screen. Knowing this releases me into a special kind of freedom I have yet to experience “in real life.”
These are a few of my favorite things:
- Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence
- All things Madeleine L’Engle
- Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain
- Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), and Figgs and Phantoms.
Current favorite authors:
- David Almond feeds my soul. His novels haunt and move me. Finishing one of his stories is like emerging from this spell where I’m not sure whether I’ve been dreaming or having a nightmare. He’s a master at discovering wonder in the mundane and exploring humanity’s capacity to inspire both beauty and terror in others. And he does it all with such brevity and simple language. He is all that I aspire to be…and yet we write nothing alike. And that’s the way it should be, or else things could get creepy and awkward really fast. #I’mYourNumberOneFan
- Neil Gaiman is the creator of the creepiest, most magical worlds and unforgettable characters. He’s a master storyteller in every sense of the word. Favorites: ANANSI BOYS, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE
- Maureen Johnson can always make me laugh—even within the first five pages of a Jack-the-Ripper spin-off with ghost serial killers. Her love of theatre and classic film, goofy physical humor and great character development make her writing irresistible to me.
- Maggie Stiefvater. Need I say more? Maggie is as Maggie does. The Raven Cycle combines so many things I love: Celtic myth, rural Virginia, magic—oh, and her voice. ❤
- Clue, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and The Court Jester = my definition of comedy. I also love the playfulness of The Princess Bride and Stardust.
- Wes Anderson = my spirit animal. There’s some critical debate over his style, but whatever it is, that thing that he does, it resonates with me. His films are quirky, visually stunning, hilarious in how deeply serious each character takes themselves, and features little pockets of unexpected sentimentality.
- The Artist. One of my favorite films EVER.
- Actor: Jimmy Stewart. He played all different types of roles: gunslinger, daydreamer, wide-eyed American boy-hero, lawyer, musician, journalist, Hickcockian sleuth…No matter what role, costume, or setting, he was fully himself and simultaneously fully in character. He had a style that nuanced every scene without ever being showy or upstaging others. That’s the closest I can come to describing how an author’s voice permeates everything she creates. You can flow from genre to genre and even change the tone of the narrator, but your storytelling voice—the way you structure, build, and arrange and reveal moments and emotions—that is what makes your writing both universal and unique.