Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author answers three questions about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.
Today, please turn your listening ears to Katia Novet Saint-Lot, author of the children’s book Amadi’s Snowman. If you haven’t read Amadi’s Snowman, get on it…especially if you have kids. Published in 2008 by Tilbury House, it tells the story of a boy in Nigeria who just can’t understand why his mom wants him to learn how to read but who eventually learns to love words through some very surprising encounters. Katia is a lifelong expat (currently living in Bangladesh) who has a pretty special understanding of culture and who can translate that understanding onto the page.
Here’s what Kirkus Reviews said about Amadi’s Snowman: “Purposeful, yet without the heavy didacticism of some books on the topic of literacy, this tale shines a welcome light on cultural differences.”
Let’s hear what Katia has to say about her writerhead. (Sshh…no talking in the back.)
1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).
Pressure, deadlines, challenges–most likely a throwback to my journalist days. Free writing, if only I remembered to do it more often. Sometimes, the process is long-winded, slow, and convoluted. Other times, inspiration strikes, and…bang, it happens. There is no blue print. No recipe that works each and every time. I’m working on being braver. Good writers are incredibly brave. Writing means facing your demons. It means pushing yourself, and at the same time, letting go. It means trusting the process, your characters, their story. It means getting out of the way. It means a lot of things that I fail to remember on a daily basis. But then, I relax, I forget myself, forget to worry for a second, or to try so hard, and…SURPRISE!
I do most of my writing at my desk, on my computer. But sometimes, I need a change of scenery. I commute to the couch in the living room, the one broken in the middle (second time) because my daughter thinks it’s a trampoline. I take a notepad, a pencil, my notebooks. And I doodle. I draw these strange series of elaborate loops, or endless geometric patterns. I get lost in them.
I would like to be able to take my laptop to a library. It’s not been possible so far. Also, I’m a bit of an hermit. I can easily stay home and not go outside for days. Today, for instance, I jumped up at 2.45 PM and ran to the shower so I could get out of my pajamas before my daughters walked through the door.
2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)
Depends who does the interrupting. If it’s a what, I will most likely swear copiously in two or three languages–and throw the dried-up pen across the room, of course. A computer crash will have me going through a lot of unflattering colors until I dissolve into anguished sobs (I’m not good at back-ups). The guys spitting constantly outside my window, here, in Bangladesh, also spark some interesting and most unladylike grunts and comments. Phone I easily ignore, unless it’s a call from my kids’ school. My daughters? There also, it depends whether I hear them or not. If it’s serious, I will. I seem to know the difference instinctively. It helps that they have powerful lungs, too. If it’s not, I’m known to go deaf for as long as I need to be. But the person most responsible for interrupting my writerhead is myself, I’m afraid, and have a self-sabotaging propensity to procrastinate.
3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.
In a recent blogpost, I mentioned a little witch named Scribbly who wanted to write the perfect novel. When we were looking for a name for my first online critique group, I suggested Scribbly. My writer friends preferred Scribblers, but Scribbly was born, and I wrote a story where I imagined a simmering cauldron. One day, after a lot of simmering, sizzling, chopping, skimming, work and effort, a fragrant ribbon of words finally danced out and onto Scribbly’s page.
A large cauldron, round, blackened, full of magic and mystery. A cauldron like Mary Poppins’ bag, bottomless. You never know what it will yield. Have it sit on a flame, always (the cauldron, not the bag). A slow fire, or one that rages and spits sparkles around. Keep throwing ingredients into the cauldron. The brew must cook and stew–always (something I had a very hard time achieving for a few months after we moved to Bangladesh).
Katia Novet Saint-Lot is the author of Amadi’s Snowman, illustrated by Dimitrea Tokunbo (Tilbury House, Publishers). She thrives on diversity, and feels very privileged to have a family hailing from France, Spain, Haiti, and the U.S., two beautiful daughters, and an expatriate life that has taken her to seven countries, and counting. A translator by trade, she tries to carve more and more time for her writing, and is currently working on several picture books, and one YA novel set in India. Finding an agent, at this stage, would make her very, very happy.