Sunday, August 5, 2012

Patricia MacLachlan: My Writing: What Works, What Doesn't

Patricia MacLachlan is the author of SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL, SKYLARK, and CALEB'S STORY.

In her wonderfully blunt and colorful way, she talked to us about what motivates her to write a story, urging us to think about those crucial first lines in our picture books and novels.

"The first line of a story is where the kernel of truth begins. If I don't have it in the first line, I don't get it later."

Some examples of her own first lines that open up worlds: 
  • "You were the first." 
  • "I could tell Mama and Papa that I wouldn't go." 
  • "Did Mama sing every day," asked Caleb, "every single day?" 
She likes to begin books with conversation because it's your character speaking. 

Even for someone as well published as Patricia gets rejections. She wanted to do four or five picture books out of SARAH, PLAIN AND TALL. She proposed this, actually: "I thought, I'm going to be rich and buy more diamonds." But her editors didn't want to do it. Apparently they don't want historical fiction for the very young. She still likes the idea, though.

She read quite a bit of her own writing, including a picture book she tried to write in a single sentence, managing to complete the story in two or three sentences (and with a semicolon).

Then she read BEFORE YOU CAME with illustrations by David Diaz, and it was so lovely, we couldn't help but applaud. Then she kind of scolded us for it, which only made us want to clap more.

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