Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cynthia Leitich Smith at Alamosa

Cynthia Leitich Smith
Wednesday, March 7 several SCBWI-New Mexico members and friends gathered at Alamosa books to chat with New York Times Bestseller, Cynthia Leitich Smith, about her Tantalize series. In this photo she is holding Tantalize: Kieren's Story, a graphic novel written from the point of view of the werewolf love interest of Tantalize heroine,Quincie Morris.

I took the book to school the next day to show to our secretary who happened to have a purchase order specifically for graphic novels. The book was sitting on my desk when one of my students walked in, recognized the cover, and said that his mother had recently purchased Tantalize: Kieren's Story for her boyfriend. It's nice to know that Cynthia's books are popular with adults as well as teens.

In addition to writing full time, conducting school visits, and teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Cynthia maintains one of the industries leading blogs, Cynsations, where educators and professional writers find invaluable tips about the writing profession. One of the main questions people wanted to know was how Cynthia manages her time and juggles her many writing commitments. Cynthia suggested writing blog articles in advance and then scheduling them to post on a regular basis. She does this and it enables her to have articles posting even when she is out of town. She also recommended multi-tasking whenever possible. Her husband, Greg Leitich Smith, children's author, lawyer, and handyman extraordinaire, built her a treadmill desk so she may write and walk at the same time.

Another topic for the evening was rewrite strategies. One of the most fascinating techniques that Cynthia employs is to write a first draft and then completely destroy it, erasing it from the computer memory and getting rid of any other stored versions. She then starts over from the beginning. Her belief is that this practice tightens story structure and allows her to easily get rid of things that don't belong. When asked if she is ever tempted to go dumpster diving for the USB or CD version she's thrown away, she said she believes meaningful material will rise up again.

It was inspirational to me to know that even author's of Cynthia's caliber throw away great amounts of their work. Though I've never had the nerve to toss out an entire manuscript, I have certainly deleted dozens of pages at a sitting. I am currently working on a complex fantasy that employs elements of time travel and archaeological discovery. I've thrown away over a hundred pages and written numerous scenes multiple times before feeling satisfied with them. It helps to know that sometimes this is just part of the process. 

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