Sunday, February 12, 2012

One Writer's Process: Erik P. Kraft

The road to publication for Erik P. Kraft hasn’t been a straightforward one but more like an experiment in abstract art, a process of making random connections that somehow end up as books.

“My first book, Chocolatina, got pulled out of the slush pile,” says Kraft. “The Lenny and Mel series got published when an editor was in the audience when I did a reading.”

And his most recent book, Miracle Wimp?

Kraft admits the manuscript for Miracle Wimp was half-finished for a long time.

“No publishers were interested because it wasn't complete. Then one day my agent called me and said, ‘I think I can sell that book,’ and had five publishers fighting over it, though it was the exact same manuscript everyone had turned away years earlier. That really highlights just how random getting published can sometimes be.”

Since Chocolatina appeared in bookstores in 1998, Kraft has established a reputation among middle-grade readers as a zany humorist and illustrator. His latest book, Miracle Wimp, about a boy named Tom Mayo, was described by Publishers Weekly as a "Comedic riff on male adolescence....a quick and entertaining read." And Kirkus Reviews wrote about it: "The humor, short chapters and drawings will snag reluctant readers."

In college Kraft explored a variety of subjects–from archaeology and veterinary science to entomology–but in the end he remained an English major, and went on to Vermont College for his MFA so he could learn to refine his storytelling abilities.

He admits that he always wanted to be a writer once he realized it wasn’t just a remote possibility. “I would probably have kept writing my own stories regardless. I wanted to be a scientist of some sort for a while, until my math skills started to make it clear I wasn't really cut out for that.”

Now he relies on his sense of humor to help him create scenes in his books to rival some of the more humorous (and zany) moments in his own life, such as when he stuck a pea up his nose as a baby.

“My parents called 911,” recalls Kraft, “but in the meantime, my father thought about what he had always seen in cartoons, and threw a handful of pepper in my face. I immediately sneezed the pea out.”

And then there was the time his family’s dog encountered a skunk. His mother used to retell the story to him at bedtime. It was a story which Kraft says “was always exciting because they poured tomato juice on the dog to try to get the stink out.”

Kraft enjoys listening to music while he’s writing. “I find it cuts down on distractions,” says Kraft. “Or at least inner ones. Inevitably one of the cats will sit on my notebook and attack my pen, but I have yet to find a cure for this.”

When he’s not writing, he teaches writing for Gotham Writer's Workshop, and performs once a month with the Union Square Round Table, “which may or may not be considered comedy,” he says. He also used to be in a band called Shumai.

Recently, Kraft, who lives in Littleton, MA, took some time from his work-in-progress to share his thoughts on writing with wordswimmer.

Wordswimmer: If writing is like swimming... how do you get into the water each day?


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

Kraft: I like to swim in short amounts. For short work, sometimes that means a short swim, but not always. For longer work, it means small amounts for a longer period of time. I suppose I’m more of a sprinter.

Wordswimmer: How do you keep swimming through dry spells?

Kraft: Dry spell or not, you have to go to the pool (or the lake, or the ocean, etc.). If you’re not there, you can’t swim. You show up, you get in the water.

Wordswimmer: What's the hardest part of swimming?

Kraft: Doing it even when you don’t want to. No matter how much you enjoy it, we all have days where you just don’t want to do it (or I do, anyway). But you get in and do it anyway.

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

Kraft: Don’t fear drowning. Don’t fear anything. No one needs to see you swim unless you want them to. Swim out too far, see what happens. Swim back to shore if you don’t like it. Try again.

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

Kraft: The speedo! Er, I mean a finished piece of work I feel good about.

For more information about Erik, visit his websites:!/erikpkraft

And for more interviews with Erik, visit:

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