author of My Life as a Girl. Libby’s full bio can be found at the start of the interview, posted yesterday, with more about her and her work at her website.
This interview was conducted for the Delaware Literary Connection. For more information about the DLC, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
RL: Do you belong to a writers or critique group? Do you share your work with anyone for review before sending it out to an agent/editor/publisher?
EM: As I tell my students, it’s not a draft until you’ve shared it with a reader and learned from their reaction. Though I’m not currently in a writing group, I’m lucky to have several trusted readers, including my husband and colleagues from Warren Wilson College (where I completed my MFA) and SCBWI.
RL: As a writer, are you a planner or a pantser? (Definitions for the uncertain: Planner is a writer who maps out or outlines a story in advance or during the writing process. Pantser is one who sits at the keyboard and lets whatever happens, happen.)
EM: How about a plantser? I have a general sense of where I’m going — an idea I’m trying to illustrate, or a picture I’m trying to understand. But I never know what I’m really writing about until I’ve completed a draft. I spend most of my writing time in revision: reorganizing what’s emerged, burying what I’ve learned so the reader can have the pleasure of discovering it as the story unspools.
RL: Part 2 of the above question: In your daily, non-writing life, are you a planner or a pantser?
EM: I’m a planner! I shop with a list, make weekly meal plans, schedule exercise, send birthday cards on time, plan family vacations six months in advance. To me, a schedule is like a good syllabus: a framework that supports your goals (for the semester, for your family, for your novel), allowing you to relax and experience, to think and dream. I’m an excellent and cheerful administrator, often tapped to be in charge. Which is why I had to wean myself from work I’ve enjoyed in the past — directing Bryn Mawr’s summer writing program for high school students, filling in as Acting Director of Creative Writing and Acting Director of Admissions, running concessions for community theater, chairing the school craft night and science fair – so that I can get my writing done!
RL: You do a lot of outreach (book talks, signings, school visits) in the Philadelphia literary scene. Do you have a favorite or pet event that’s the most fun or has special meaning to you?
EM: I love to teach, probably too much for my own literary health! But nothing compares to the experience of visiting a class of students (as I did recently at Country Day School of the Sacred Heart in Bryn Mawr) who’ve read your work and prepared questions for you. Connecting with readers is what every writer wants. Despite rumors to the contrary, writing isn’t about fame or fortune – it’s about communicating something and being understood.
RL: How does conducting workshops for young writers help you as a writer for young readers?
EM: When you work with young children and teenagers, it’s more difficult to underestimate them in your work. But most importantly, kids remind you that writing is a form of play – and that, under the best circumstances, it’s supposed to be fun.