Blog Tour and Interview with A.E. Cannon
Originally posted on March 26, 2014
Ann Cannon is a versatile writer. She has penned picture book (PB) to young adult (YA) and writes a weekly column for the Salt Lake Tribune. Her blog, The Writer’s Corner (And Also What I Ate Today.) is quite entertaining.
I had the pleasure of attending her morning session at last year’s WIFYR. She knows the craft and is witty, charming, and personable. She’s teaching a YA class this summer. For our blog tour, Ann agreed to share some of her thoughts on writing.
Q: You’ve written YA, MG, chapter books and PB. Do you have a preferred age group to write for?
A: You know, I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to try my hand at all of these things. It’s probably not the smartest way to build a career—publishers like to pigeonhole you because you’re easier to market that way—but it’s sure been fun to write for kids of all ages.
Q: What were some of your favorite books as a child?
A: I was a child of the sixties, and so my favorites probably reflect that. I adored A Wrinkle in Time and Where the Red Fern Grows. I also loved Old Yeller because apparently I liked books where the dogs all died. WHAT?! I also loved Little Women, which I made the mistake of re-reading as an adult. DON’T DO IT! YOU’LL HATE IT. Heidi, on the other hand, still holds up for some reason. I wish I would have found The Secret Garden as a kid. I would have loved that book beyond all reason.
Q: Who are authors you admire or books you’ve loved reading?
A: Oddly, although I don’t write fantasy, my favorite books of all time are the LOTR trilogy. My favorite children’s book—which I didn’t discover until I was an adult, actually—is The Secret Garden. And it was M. E. Kerr’s book Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack that made me want to write young adult novels.
Q: What do you do when you aren’t writing?
A: What do I do when I’m not writing? Hmmmm. Mostly feeling guilty about the fact that I’m not writing. I also like to garden and spend time outdoors. I knit a lot, too. Socks, mostly. Because I know how to, now.
Q: What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Q: How many children’s lit WIPs have you currently got going?
A: I just finished up a YA novel and a picture book manuscript. Now I’m working on an early middle-grade novel.
Q: Care to discuss some of them?
A: Hmmmm. Let’s see what happens to them first, okay? I’m kind of superstitious when it comes to talking about WIPs.
Q: You are busy with family and your weekly Salt Lake Tribune column. How do you balance the column with other writing projects?
A: Oh gosh. I’m not always very successful at that. I do have a hard and fast deadline with the Trib, so that comes first on the writing front. Beyond that I try to write to a word count five days a week. It feels GREAT when I manage to do that, but I don’t always get it done. Sadly.
Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser?
A: Panster all the way. (Great word, btw!)
Q: Would you rather write the first draft or edit it?
A: First drafts are killers for me. I feel frustrated most of the time I’m getting stuff down on paper. I’m one of those writers who really takes off when I re-write.
Q: Last June at WIFYR, you mentioned a concept I’ve been living by ever since, grounding the reader with the story. Please share what do you mean by that and why it is so important.
A: Because writers mentally inhabit the world they’re writing about, they sometimes forget that readers aren’t inside their heads with them. Writers often unintentionally create scenes where their readers can’t see or hear or touch what’s happening and that makes those readers feel adrift. Unanchored. Floating off in space like Sandra Bullock. That’s why I think it’s so important to ground your characters (and thereby the action) on the space/time continuum.
Q: How many hours a day do you spend writing?
A: It depends on the day. When I have a deadline at the paper—especially on a longer story—I’ll spend maybe 5 or 6 hours writing. Otherwise an hour or two. That’s actually writing time. If you count the time I spend in my head thinking about a story, then it’s a lot more.
Q: How does your writing day unfold?
A: When I was a young mother with young kids, I wrote at night after everybody was in bed. Now that I’m old and start shedding brain cells after 6:00 in the evening, I find morning works best for me. I try to get a few morning chores done and then sit down at the computer around 9:30 or so.
Q: Do you have a favorite book you wrote? Is there one you’d rather forget about?
A: Well, your books are like your kids. You love them all for different reasons, right? But the book I had most writing fun BY FAR was The Loser’s Guide to Life and Love. Writing that book was pure bliss. I knew at the time I would never have another writing experience like that one. As far as forgetting about one? Not really. I was surprised, frankly, that someone bought The Chihuahua Chase. I actually just meant that one to be a writing exercise. But hey. I was happy to sell it.
Q: What writing advice do you have for emerging writers?
A: Set a word count and try to hit it Monday through Friday. 500 words is really do-able on a daily basis. And if you’re consistent, you’ll have a book by the end of the year.
Q: What three writing tips would you give aspiring authors?
1. Don’t tell yourself that you’ll write someday when you’re less busy. You will always be busy.
2. Try to write every day Monday through Friday. Five hundred words. Twenty minutes. Whatever works for you. If you’re consistent, you’ll have a book by the end of the year.
3. Decide right now to say “no” to jealousy. Sometimes it’s hard to be happy for another writer and his/her success when things aren’t happening for you. Believe me. I know this from personal experience. But letting yourself become bitter will only hurt you. And I don’t want you to be hurt.
Good luck! And don’t forget to have fun.
Q: What do you wish published writers had told you before you started writing?
A: Hmmm. Sometimes I think unpublished writers feel like everything in their lives will turn suddenly golden once they publish a book. And it’s true–publishing feels great. But in the end, you’re still you. Publishing isn’t a panacea for life’s problems.
Q: What makes you laugh?
A: If something or someone makes me laugh, I can forgive almost anything they throw my way. The last book that made me laugh right out loud was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. I also love Nick Hornby. His books are funny and sad and wise and hopeful all at the same time. A Long Way Down may be one of my favorite books of all time. (Warning: language!) The last movie that made me laugh was In a World. And right now on TV I like Brooklyn Nine Nine and Jimmy Kimmel. I try to catch Kimmel’s monologue every night before going to bed.
Q: On the WIFYR site, you say there will be cupcakes this summer? Truly?
A: Oh yes. There will be cupcakes.