Today I am hosting a woman of many talents, Elisabeth Aikins, who is an author, teacher, mother and baseball fan. Elisabeth and I met several years ago at a conference, and both of us have been watching each other’s progress toward publishing our first novel. Elisabeth, thank you for joining me today!
You’re a teacher, a mother, and a baseball fan. How do you find time to write?
During the school year, I work for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours a night. During the weekends I try to get in at least 3 hours. Generally I go to my local Starbucks (and sometimes the Library or another coffee shop), get settled with a coffee, go over what I need to get done and do it. Do I always get solid writing done? No, sometimes I check emails, update my Facebook page, and occasionally my blog. I don’t write on my blog as much as I’d like.
You’re tireless! How did you become a writer?
I wish I could say I was a born writer, but that wasn’t the case. In fact, I hated writing when I was a kid because I was a terrible speller. I did, however, love to read and read everything I could get my hands on. When I went to get my teaching credential in my early 20’s, I ended up in a 1st grade class and rediscovered one of my favorite books, Clifford the Big Red Dog. That’s when I decided I needed to write. I wrote for about 3 years, had the first of my 3 kids and stopped for 8 years. I started writing again about 8 ½ years ago and have been at it ever since.
So is Clifford the one who convinced you that you write for kids?
I never considered writing for adults because the books that have affected me the most were the ones I read as a kid.
How do you handle the inevitable rejections?
Obviously I don’t like them, but I take them for what they are…learning experiences. My favorite one I got from an editor at Viking a few years ago. She didn’t accept the picture book I sent her, but she liked my writing and asked me to send her something else. I sent her one of my novels. Although I just found out from her a couple months ago that she wasn’t interested, she commented again on the strength of my writing. That in itself helps to push me forward to the next editor. I also had a critique last year from an editor that was painful to hear, but amazing to get because not only did she tell me what needed to be worked on, she gave me suggestions and was extremely helpful! She still wants to see the novel when I’m ready to send it to her.
Other than your novel Cat which you’ve been shopping around, what else are you working on?
I have another Young Adult novel under consideration right now with an editor from Beach Lane Books, in addition to a Picture Book I have with an agent. The novel I’ll be working on after I finish with Cat is one about a 17 year-old piano protégé who is put on a path of self-discovery when she notices her ability to play the piano is starting to deteriorate. It’s more of a suspenseful mystery.
That’s great! Good luck! Which books lie on your nightstand?
Oh man, too many! I just finished Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John which was really good! The next on my list is The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander. I hope to get to that before the school year starts again.
Do you read a lot?
I don’t read nearly as much as I used to, or should. I love the Shiver series by Maggie Stiefvader, The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt and anything by Sarah Dessen and Carolyn Mackler.
Those are some of my favorite writers too! Which author do you think influenced you most into becoming a writer?
Noel Streatfeild, Judy Blume, Margery Sharp, Madeleine L’Engle, Norman Bridwell and funny enough, Douglas Marland who wrote for the soap opera “As The World Turns” from 1985 until his untimely death in 1993.
Do you have a book inscribed to you that you love?
This summer I finally got my copy of 13 Reasons Why signed by Jay Asher. I also have a copy of I Want My Hat Back! signed by Jon Klassen. My favorite one is a copy of The Day Jimmy’s Boa Ate the Wash that I had signed by Steven Kellogg nearly 20 years ago. Although my most prized possession is a letter I received from Noel Streatfeild when I was 13 after I wrote to her about my love of her book Dancing Shoes. I found out years later she was in her mid-eighty’s when she sent it and passed away a couple of years afterwards.
Have you had any stories, articles or poems published in magazines? Any advice to writers who are still on their way to see their words in print?
I’ve had a couple fiction pieces and a non-fiction piece published in magazines that were for the middle grade age range. My advice would be keep at it! Persistence is the key. I could have stopped trying when I got all my rejection notices before I took my break from writing, but instead I took the time to take stock of what I needed to do when I go back at it. My dad has a favorite saying that I recite to myself everyday, “Never Say Die.” So I never will.
Thanks Elisabeth for interviewing with me today!
Have I missed any questions you’d like to ask Elisabeth? Like who her favorite baseball team is? Please ask your questions in the comments below. WE LOVE YOUR COMMENTS!