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Old pro to young writers: just keep at it
Author Tamora Pierce walked on stage; regally swathed in a huge scarf; her head held high.
Im going to tell you, she said to the 200-plus youngsters in the audience, mostly early teenage girls, of the magic of writing.
Then she took off the scarf and threw it and her regal manner over her shoulder waiting for her words to sink in.
I could see the horror on your faces as you thought to yourself, Were going to be listening to this for an hour? she said. She told the audience she was not a melodramatic, self-absorbed author.
But Im also not a nice person, she added, so watch out.
Pierces appearance was part of the Kitsap Reads project of the Kitsap Regional Library. An early book of hers Alanna: The First Adventure made the 1983 New York Times best seller list published by Random House. Pierce writes fantasy books for teenagers. Her books, known for their teenaged girl warriors, have received critical acclaim.
She quickly had everyone laughing. CKHS staffers not planning on attending, ended up standing in the back of the small CK High School auditorium at the 7 p.m. event Saturday night.
Pierce was raised in rural Pennsylvania, the child of a long, proud line of hillbillies, she said.
Let me tell you how this works, she said. Youll ask the questions, and Ill answer. You can even ask questions about my spouse creature, whos been helping me in the writing business 25 years. She was referring to her husband.
How did you get started?
When I started out (writing) in middle school, I would have killed for five minutes with a real writer, who couldve answered questions I spent years figuring out myself, she said.
How do you come up with names for your characters?
Dont hate me too much for this. But believe it or not modern baby-naming books, she said. The new ones are the best theres such a variety of spellings. I even found a Web site with, get this, 682,000 baby names. It was a thing of beauty.
You had a seven-year writers block. Howd you get through it?
Ive got a number of techniques you can try for that, Pierce said. Introduce new characters, try telling the story from a different point of view, switch from first-person to third-person storytelling, try it as a play, or poem, have something happen, like a tornado. Put it aside for a month or so. Keep what you wrote in the past so you can look back and see how bad you were.
How come you write about girls and not boys?
Well, there were not many girl (heroes) in books when I was young, she said. My Dad had three daughters, so I was the oldest boy. I grew up reading boy adventure books and anything by Mark Twain. Its still about eight boy heroes to two girl heroes. So long as there arent many girl heroes out there, Im going to keep writing about girls. Boys wont read books about girls, but girls will read anything.
How do you feel about someone editing your books?
My first editor was Jean Carl. In those days, her name was enough to sell a book to publishers. Remember, the editors are there to help you. If you dont look good, they dont look good. Several failed books from an editor and theyre out of a job. Editors keep me from doing goofy stuff in my books. Her latest novel is Tricksters Choice.
Are any of your characters based on you?
Hmmm ... short, round, bespectacled book worm, she said. No, I dont think so.