Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lisa McMann and THE UNWANTEDS at Alamosa Books

 Lisa McMann spoke at Alamosa Books last Tuesday, September 10, as part of her tour for The Unwanteds: Island of Fire, the Third book in The Unwanteds series published by Aladdin (an imprint of Simon & Schuster). Also available were the books from her Wake Trilogy, a haunting series for older teens published by Simon Pulse (also my publisher - yay!). Alamosa created a beautiful display of Lisa's books.

Lisa told the Alamosa audience that The Unwanteds is special to her because it was inspired by an experience with her own children. They came home one day with a letter from school saying the arts classes were going to be eliminated because of budget constraints. This was devastating news to her highly artistic children. She told them, "It sounds like you kids are being punished for being creative." That comment started a line of What If questions that led to The Unwanteds and the world of Quill where crazy rules, built up over time, prohibit any sort of artistic expression.

In Quill, thirteen-year-olds are placed into three categories: Wanteds go to college and have the chance at an education, Necessaries are trained to serve in menial jobs, and Unwanteds, those deemed dangerous because of their artistic tendencies, are sent to a death farm. Fortunately, the man who is supposed to be putting kids to death has secretly been saving them and training them in his own magical world.

Lisa talked about the creative process and reminded us that if you are creating a magical world you must have a lot of rules for governing that world. Her kids had a great time helping her come up with the rules for the spells in The Unwanteds books.

One of the highlights of Lisa's talk was when she shared how she got started as a writer and her inspiration for the Wake Trilogy. She had won a short story contest and it provided her enough money so she didn't feel pressured to find a job when her family moved to Arizona. She decided to take the time to write a novel, but it wasn't as easy as she thought. Finally, after a year and a half and no book on the horizon, she immersed herself in movies, going to the theater five times in one week. Then she reread books she used to love to read. A piece in one of the movies gave her the idea for her first novel which she wrote in three months. She then spent another three months revising it.

She didn't sell that book or the second book either, but one night she had a dream about being able to see inside her husband dreams. That's when she envisioned Janie, a seventeen-year-old girl who gets sucked into other people's nightmares against her will. Lisa worked feverishly, eighteen hours a day for seven days, until she completed the rough draft for Wake. She said this isn't hard to do if you have the entire story in your head, especially if the story is short. Wake is about 40,000 words.

I'm not so sure I agree. I would have a hard time sitting that long without some serious yoga. Lisa said after completing that quick first draft, she spent another two months rewriting the story. She found an agent fairly quickly who introduced her to the wonderful team at Simon Pulse.

Lisa's experiences were inspirational and informative. Many of the audience members were from our local SCBWI chapter. Lisa was gracious enough to pose with the other authors for the photo below. Oh, and it looks like somebody's granddaughter sneaked inside the photo, too. Perhaps she's an author in training?

Friday, September 13, 2013

The People You Meet Along the Way

Miss May survived hurricane Sandy, but the first floor of her home was uninhabitable. This is what her living room looked like when our work crew showed up to tear out the remaining walls and put up dry wall this past July. The week prior another group had come through to put in the sub-flooring.

You would never guess from the exterior that the first floor was in such poor condition. Miss May gave us permission to take photos of the house, but did not want to be in the pictures herself. She was a truly inspirational woman. A retired nurse, she said she had lived in this house on Long Beach, New York for over sixty years. Although the hurricane was last October, she had only just returned home the week before we arrived. When this photo was taken, she was staying on the second floor while the first floor was renovated.

Miss May had been living with her nephew ever since Superstorm Sandy destroyed much of her home. She walked with a cane and got around pretty slowly, but her mind was as sharp as ever. She had wanted return when the waters receded, but her nephew was worried about her safety. He was so concerned he took down the stair railings so she wouldn't be tempted to go back, but while he was out of town she moved back anyway.

We were in Long Island with Next Step, a faith based group that organizes work project like this all over the world. See my August 6 post for more details. The people you meet along life's journey are truly remarkable. Each one is full of stories.