Interview with Anita Daher

by kipress

I interviewed Anita Daher, today’s CreComm guest speaker and Winnipeg writer extraordinaire, by email just before classes started–but decided to save it for when she arrived to speak about her extensive experience as a children’s writer. Note carefully her point about grammar and how editors roll their eyes!

1. What’s the fastest you’ve ever written a book (Describe – how fast, how many words in the end?)

Earlier on in my writing career I wrote much more quickly than I do now, however the fasted by far was Two Foot Punch. Because of an incorrect file transfer and a crashed hard drive I no longer have my draft manuscripts, so I can’t give you an exact word count. It wasn’t a long book—probably around 42,000 words. With an ok from my editor I began writing it in May of 2007. With great relief, I handed it in before my end-of-June deadline…only to be asked if I could rewrite the book from 3rd person to 1st person. I did, and still made the print deadline of August. It was published in October.

2. Your #1 top book recommendation for someone who wants to write for young readers.

Just one? Can’t do it! We all learn from reading others, and so I recommend we read books from other authors, particularly authors we admire, particularly authors who are writing in the genre we are most interested in. Beyond this, I must make three recommendations:

General reference: How to Write a Children’s Book and Get it Published, by Barbara Seuling. The material is well presented, touches on picture books, novels, and non-fiction, and offers guidance on query letters and submission packages.

General skills: Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. This book is meant for any writer, fiction or non-fiction, and offers terrific guidance on pacing, dialogue and originality.

From the department of “too often neglected”: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty. This guide developed over time from the author’s web site, and is a quick and easy read—enjoyable, even. Too often we let our basic grammar skills slide, or maybe there are areas we were never 100% sure about to begin with. Make a few pages bedtime reading, and increase chances for publication. Stupid mistakes can cause editors to roll eyes, and we want to avoid that whenever possible.

3. You’ve become a horse person. What is so compelling for you about horses?

I love spending time with horses. They are reactive animals, which means when I am with my horse I need to have my mind completely on him so that I don’t miss subtle body language telling me that he is nervous about a scary bush, or annoyed (though my boy is rarely annoyed), or distracted in a way he might step on me. If my mind is completely on him, it is completely off the 24,000 other things going on in my life on any given day. It’s like a vacation. Also, I’ve learned contrary to what I thought when I was a teen, there is a lot more to riding than hopping on and saying “go.” It’s been a rush taking lessons (at my advancing age), and training my body to work all parts together in order to communicate well for a better riding experience.

4. What is your favourite brand and flavour of potato chip, and why?

Oooh…love hate relationship. I love potato chips, and I hate it that I love them. Right now I’d love to hate myself for snacking on (with love) Dutch Crunch kettle Cooked Jalapeño and Cheddar chips. Each one is an experience: loud, and bites back.