Nutschell Anne Windsor planted the seed for Story Sprouts when she posted a MeetUp for children’s book writers near her Los Angeles home. The group began in 2010 with 8 members. Now over 300 writers take part. In 2012, the group applied for 501(c)(3) status as the Children’s Book Writers of Los Angeles (CBW-LA). Along with support and critique, the CBW-LA offers workshops to help writers hone their skills. The Story Sprouts Writing Day Anthology emerged from one such workshop. The anthology includes a collection of 38 poems, narrative essays, and picture book manuscripts from 19 authors.
7 of the workshop’s authors give insight into their writing experiences in a short interview with PageCravings.
What cultural value do you see in storytelling?
Lynne Southerland: Stories provide the connective tissue of our world. They link us together within our specific families or cultures and then fan out beyond our horizon to demonstrate that no matter the idiosyncrasies of a particular group, we are all exploring the fundamental questions of existence.
Why write for children rather than adults? Why did you choose juvenile lit?
Diane Fisk: I enjoy writing for children because they are still impressionable and open to forming new opinions. As a former teacher I find it rewarding to write a story which highlights a particular positive thought or idea which might be adopted by the reader.
Donna Atmur (Donna Marie Robb): Juvenile and young adult literature has always been the genre that came naturally to me, no matter my age. I’ve noticed that most of my stories and novels, even before I was conscious of doing it, featured youthful protagonists. I suppose this is because children and teens, unencumbered by adult responsibilities, are free to go off on wild adventures. They are coming of age, so their stories tend to follow the “Hero’s Journey” motif in an arc that shows them maturing through their experiences. This is both a challenge and a joy for me to explore as an author.
In addition to her contribution to Story Sprouts, Donna’s creativity can be read at FictionPress.
Lissa Ross: A while ago, I came up with a concept for a children’s animated TV series, “Alias Jet Girl” and started pitching my idea around Hollywood. I had no idea that very few shows get picked up each year, and unless you have already have had a successful show, it’s even less likely!
Refusing to give up, I decided to turn my concept into a series of children’s books, and joined CBWLA last year, with the hopes of navigating the world of children’s book writing with like minded souls! It has been a great experience to attend guest lectures and workshops, culminating in actually becoming a printed writer with our anthology, “Story Sprouts”. Yay!
What do you give up in order to make the time to write?
Sleep. Mostly sleep.
I’ve actually left jobs in order to write, in order to make sure that I have the time to pursue my passion and my dream. I’ve never regretted it. I’ve always felt what I’ve given up is for a worthy cause.
Family events. Dinners. Parties. Days Off. More sleep.
Just about everything, actually.
Sometimes I’ve had to sacrifice money, time, even relationships in order to write, but thankfully my husband is also a writer and we support each other. It’s been a difficult road at times, and a challenging one – but incredibly rewarding as well.
No matter how scared I get or how often I question myself, I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes of all times: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid.” – Goethe
I believe that in the end, it’s worth it… Writing is always worth it.
How did you become involved with Story Sprouts?
Nutschell Anne Windsor: The idea for STORY SPROUTS came about during one of our CBW-LA board meetings in 2012. Our goal was to give our budding writers their first taste of publication, and to encourage them to keep on pursuing their writing dreams.
I had facilitated several creative writing workshops for the group, and members enjoyed the activity inspired them to come up with their own pieces afterward. We (the CBW-LA board) decided that we could take this creative writing workshop to the next level by allowing participants to gain publishing credits. Guided by a series of writing exercises and creative prompts, participants rose to the challenge and came up with two pieces for publication during the six-hour workshop.
What did you find most useful in learning to write? What was least useful or most destructive?
Alana Garrigues: I found reading the most useful in learning to write. When I was younger, my stories very closely “mimicked” whatever book I had just finished reading (and by mimic, I mean I may have changed a male character to a female or changed a name, but otherwise the stories were nearly identical. We’re talking back to seven-years-old, but Charlotte’s Web and Trumpet of the Swan were retold more times than I can count that year…).
Over time, my stories evolved as did my writing style. But honing in on what drives me to read more – humor, wisdom, cliff-hangers – and identifying what makes me put a book right back on a shelf – endless chatter about landscape, lack of diversity among characters, droll terminology – helps me tremendously. It all works subconsciously to allow me to edit several times beneath the surface before I write.
Which brings me to the second half of the question – what doesn’t help. Notice I said I edit subconsciously – it’s a natural part of my flow, but it is deep, deep beneath the surface. Editing consciously as you write does not help. At all. Neither does a strict diet of proper grammar. I’m sure there are hordes of English teachers who would disagree with me, but I believe the first, and most important, aspect of a story is its voice and ambiance. Which sometimes means breaking the rules – like my use of hyphens and sentences that start with “but” or lack a subject in this answer. Editing is important, especially when turning in freelance work or when writing in another voice, but it is not the core of the story. The core of the story is what the characters whisper to you between the plot you’ve selected for them, and the ways in which they surprise you with their own banter, twists and turns. And if you’ve edited their voices before they can speak, you’ve lost the flavor of literature.
A rare view into the building blocks of composition, Story Sprouts is made up of nearly 40 works of poetry and prose from 19 published and aspiring children’s book authors.
This compilation includes all of the anthology writing exercises and prompts, along with tips, techniques and free online writing resources to help writers improve their craft.
Get inspired to write. Pick up an ebook or paper copy through Amazon.