Saturday, February 11, 2017

Andrea Davis Pinkney: Beginning Chapters

Andrea Davis Pinkney is an award-winning, NYT bestselling author and editor-at-large for Scholastic. In short, an all-around genius.

She started by telling us how she begins her day. At 4 AM. (At which point everyone realized they are not going to become Andrea Davis Pinkney because regular humans are not made of steel.)

As this wee hour, Andrea puts her iPhone on her knee and sets a timer. Then she closes her eyes and thinks of happy things. It's a way for her to get her feet on the floor. Then she picks up a notebook--she showed us hers. Slim and elegant, just like Andrea. Every one of her books begins in a notebook like those.

After that, she hastens to the swimming pool and does her workout. She returns home, writes a bit more, and goes to her day job at Scholastic.

"Writers write daily. Every day." On their birthdays. When they don't feel like writing. When their houses are messy. When the children aren't feeling well. "Writers write every day under all circumstances and conditions."

Whatever you want to do, you have to be actively engaged in the pursuit of doing it. It doesn't mean everything is publishable.

First chapters are the hardest ones, and she talked to us about this from the perspective of a writer and editor.

Andrea is a theater buff. She sees everything she can. She loves the moment before the curtain rises. It's a moment of great anticipation, a moment before potential greatness.

"I have to lift that curtain and dazzle instantly."

There's something she likes to call the Chapter 1 Pact. Or the Page 1 Pact. The promises is that the writer reaches out a hand, invites a reader on a journey, and pulls the reader along. A book called The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim is a recent title that does this beautifully.

Andrea urged us to kill "the committee"—those voices in your head that say can't, won't, and other things that get in the way. You can't get to Chapter 1 if you're engaged with negativity. (Or, if you're a pacifist, kiss the committee goodbye.)

She also takes care to turn off her editor switch when she's writing. "Do not edit yourself. It's like doing dental work on yourself, or being your own psychotherapist."

Another piece of advice: "Bring your twinkle." What you bring to the party. The unique thing everyone has. The gift God gave you. "You can't bring your twinkle if you bring the committee with you."

Chapter 1 has to have this twinkle too. You don't have a lot of time, and there are a lot of elements to pack in, including:
  • voice 
  • emotion
  • texture/color
  • psychic condition


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