On April 16, I signed a contract with Silver Knight Publishing for my middle grade book The Wide Awake Loons.
That book felt “meant to be” from the first. The conception of books is a subject that mystifies. The Wide Awake Loonsis the only book that I planned in my head before writing it down. My other novels usually began as a short piece or story that developed as I wrote.
An unusual shot by Steve Cushman
Loons became a symbol of writing for me. Does a writer travel from here to there or does a writer dive into their material, submerging ideas and experiences before surfacing like a loon? I never wrote a first draft so quickly again. And strangely, I hadn’t really learned how to plan a book in my head. It may have been the hours at work one summer in Minneapolis and the muggy weather that had me planning a book I put off writing.
Or the reason was better stated by these authors:
"In writing, there is first a creating stage--a time you look for ideas, you explore, you cast around for what you want to say. Like the first phase of building, this creating stage is full of possibilities.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.” - Willa Cather
“To write fiction, one needs a whole series of inspirations about people in an actual environment, and then a whole lot of work on the basis of those inspirations.” - Aldous Huxley
"Because I don’t work with an outline, writing a story is like crossing a stream, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock, now I’m on this rock." - Ann Beattie (from the Paris Review, 2011)
Whether I begin a novel in my head or on paper, I usually write as if I’m on a journey with a map rather than an outline. Events are starred places, however I’m not sure about how I will get there and what is on the way. That sultry summer when I planned my loon book, I spent some days in Northern Minnesota where I’d vacationed since childhood and where I always heard loons. Loons are enigmatic, sitting on the water like ducks, but if you see one and approach it, the loon will tease, diving under and making you guess where it will emerge on the lake.
The Common Loon by Judith W. McIntyre
I read up on loons and while reading nonfiction, the book took form. At that time in Minneapolis, I lived one block from a branch YMCA. While writing my loon book, I swam once or twice a day and sat in a sauna with an after-work group. Since, I’ve known that if I feel writer’s block, I should swim.
As a child, I was so enamored with Dr. Dolittle that after reading a chapter, I rewrote it in my head with me as Dr. Dolittle’s daughter, talking to animals and traveling with him. It was probably my first experience, writing in my head. Animals communicate; you just have to introduce a kitten to a cat and soon, the cat will tell it where it can sleep and when it can eat, and that it should groom itself before approaching. Birds intrigue, succeeding at navigation and establishing nest sites that are recovered from one year to the next. Having read many animal and anthropomorphic novels, I’ve long been fascinated with animal communication and also with telepathy. The Wide Awake Loonsportrays two worlds, that of humans as we know it and that of animals communicating between themselves.
I’ve already set up my fan page for the book, anticipating the cover, and plan to chronicle the publishing of this middle grade loon book. Here is the Facebook page address: https://www.facebook.com/WideAwakeLoons