Sunday, July 15, 2007

One Writer's Process: Sarah Weeks

Her wit and humor, as well as her quirky characters and graceful writing, are only a few of the reasons why Sarah Weeks' picture books and novels have found such a wide audience since she began writing children's books in the early 1990's.

Weeks, a singer and songwriter as well as a children's author, has written more than thirty picture books and eleven novels, including her popular middle grade series--
Boyds Will Be Boyds--and her Guy novels--Regular Guy, Guy Time, Guy Wire, and My Guy
--which will soon be made into a feature film by Disney.

Her picture books such as Crockodile Smile, If I Were A Lion, and Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash have been described as "invitingly innovative" (SLJ), "tremendous read aloud possibilities" (Kirkus), and "a storytime must" (SLJ)... and her YA novel, So B. It, about a young girl who lives an unconventional lifestyle with her mentally disabled mother, earned Weeks numerous honors, including a Parent's Choice Gold Award and an ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2004.

Weeks' latest book, Jumping the Scratch, was a 2006 Book Sense Summer Children's Pick, and reviewers have written that "...readers will care about the characters and applaud their well-deserved triumphs." (Booklist)

"I’ve written quite a few books now and one thing I’ve discovered along the way," writes Weeks, "is that the process of creating characters and telling a story is completely different for me with each book."

Weeks continues: "I never know where the idea is going to come from or what will catch my interest and end up becoming a theme or a character or a plot twist in a story. I have tried more than once to create an outline because I have a feeling it might be easier to write if I knew where my story was going ahead of time, but it just doesn’t seem to work for me. The minute I try to make a plan, my mind leaps over the fence and starts running like mad in another direction."

When Weeks isn't writing her songs or children's books, she teaches in the Writing Program at the New School in New York, where she lives with her two sons. Recently, she was kind enough to take time away from her work to share some thoughts on writing with Wordswimmer.

Wordswimmer: How do you get into the water each day?

Weeks: Generally speaking, I'm a morning writer. I like to get up, put on a pot of coffee (hazelnut decaf, actually) and write all morning. I try to keep away from e-mail and phone calls, both of which can easily de-rail me if I'm on a roll.

If I'm in the middle of working on a book, I tend to want to re-read from the beginning before I write further. It's time-consuming, but I always feel like that launches me properly back into the voice of the piece.

Wordswimmer: What keeps you afloat...for short work? For longer work?

Weeks: I really have to like what I'm working on. If I feel like I don't want to work on something, it usually means it's not right. Along the way, if I feel like I'm getting lost in the process, sometimes I show my editor a work-in-progress so that she can help me get back on track. It took me years to get to a place where I could do this. It's the ultimate in trust.

Wordswimmer: How do you keep swimming through dry spells?

Weeks: I recently went through my first episode of writer's block. It was AWFUL. I felt self-conscious and depressed. I took many hot baths, cried, screamed, talked to anyone who was willing to listen to me whine and, finally, I just glued myself into the chair and wrote until the log jam broke. Man, was I relieved when it did.

Wordswimmer: What's the hardest part of swimming?

For me, it's the fact that I don't outline. If I could write with an outline, I think the process would be much faster for me. I've tried forcing myself to outline, but I always end up feeling trapped. I like to make my characters talk and see where that leads me. Sometimes the route is circuitous, but eventually I always seem to get there.

Wordswimmer: How do you overcome obstacles, problems, when swimming alone?

Weeks: I rely on my editors for sage advice. Choosing the right editor is kind of like choosing the right person to marry. You have to love, trust and respect that person, and the fit has to be right.

Wordswimmer: What's the part of swimming that you love the most?

Weeks: I love the times when I completely lose track of time, when I make myself laugh or cry. Those are the best. That, and finally finishing a book. That feels AMAZING.

Wordswimmer: Thanks so much, Sarah.

For more information about Sarah Weeks, visit her website at her blog at

And for a brief summary of her work, visit

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