Donna Galanti and I have had a lot of fun together doing character interviews and showing up on The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow when we’ve had new books out. She’s taking over my blog today to give me a break. I have some family business to take care of. I know you’ll enjoy her post. Thank you, Donna.
I lost my childlike wonder for quite some time. As my son became an avid and selective reader, I started reading the books on his bookshelf and fell in love with the magic of being a child again. And in doing this I began to see patterns in these kid adventure tales – and I began applying what I learned to create my own stories. So, I started out my author career writing thrillers for adults but a newfound love for reading and writing middle grade books inspired me to switch to writing thrillers for kids. But still, sometimes, my childlike wonder fades.
What evokes childlike wonder? And as adults writing for children, how can we recapture that?
Regaining a childlike sense of wonder isn’t about returning to a childlike state, it’s about letting yourself be awed by the little things in your grownup life. The mundane every day is what can dull our wonder. And just because those little things happen every day doesn’t mean they aren’t miraculous.
But keeping your childlike wonder can be difficult when grownup duties mount. Two years ago, in a pressure-cooker twist I had final proofs to revise and edit on book one in my fantasy series, Joshua and the Lightning Road, and was committed to deliver book two on the same day. Did I say “same day”? I did. With two books due on February 1st I had to grasp the wonder again – and fast.
So I ran away to a secret lodge to get it all done. I wallowed in editing drudgery. Line by line. Word by word. Character by character. Emotional moment by emotional moment.
Book one was the story I spent three years writing and revising with a developmental editor and after I got an agent and book deal for it, was presented with additional story edits. Book two was the story I wrote in four months and had six weeks to revise – and know what needed to be done. But did I really? And could I?
And somewhere in my editing elbow grease, I lost what the stories had become, and how to edit them. What words to eliminate. Sentences to re-arrange. Ensure consistent details through the series. Repetitive scenes to cut and move. Find and replace. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Each day through my lodge window I watched two kids sled. Up and down the hill they went. And their laughter and joy snapped me out of my trapped trance. I remembered being ten years old and how a whole day of sledding was magical. I also remembered turning twelve and sad with the awareness that I didn’t want to sled anymore. I had moved on, just like we move on into adulthood.
And I realized now that in order to do my job well as a children’s author and to find joy in it, I needed to rekindle my kid wonder again. Just as I pondered this, a video of babies going through tunnels popped up in my Facebook feed. I couldn’t help but laugh at their wonder. And I thought, as writers of middle grade, how can we keep that kind of wonder with us?
My wonder list:
1. Re-visit pictures of ourselves as kids. Daydream about what we were doing in those photos. What we were excited about?
2. Did you write diaries as a child or teen? Go back and read them to inspire that voice of youth in your own writing.
3. Look at the world from a different perspective. Like that tunnel. Like the snow. I went out in it and made a snow angel and looked up at the sky. Something I hadn’t done in years.
4. Create a new bucket list together with our kids or grandkids. What do they dream of doing that we could do with them?
5. Read stories by our own children, or grandchildren, to see how they view the world in their words.
6. Revive memories of being the age of our characters. Draw a map of the neighborhood we grew up in. Remember what we saw, what we felt, and how we reacted to events there and write them down.
7. Act out a scene in our book, or any book, with dramatic flair.
8. Face a childhood fear (mine was going down in our dark 200-year-old cellar where I was sure dead bodies were buried in the dark hole in the wall).
So, what did I pick to do on my retreat? I paced and read my books aloud, acting them out with great dramatic flair. I became the hero running for his life (in my son’s voice of course) and his fierce but loyal mentor (Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit) and the bad guy (Liam Neeson).
And I remembered how awesome it was to be a kid again and lost in the moment. And that every day as a kid was about being lost in the magical moments. Kind of like tiny miracles over and over – in the little things.
So…I made my deadline.
I turned in the best stories I could for my Joshua and the Lightning Road series with the time that I had.
And on my way home at dusk through the snow-covered Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, the Lehigh Tunnel loomed in twilight. Its lights were ablaze in the dark. I raced through it like a wide-eyed rider surfing a lightning road. Fitting I think. And I was once again, lost in the wonder – and the small things.
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy (Imajin Books) and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series (Month9Books). She is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle-grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. Donna has lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com. She can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads. For tips on building your author platform, check out Donna’s course, Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors, and sign up to receive free weekly guides and videos. Details here: https://www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com/
Donna is offering book 2 in the Joshua series, Joshua and the Arrow Realm (print U.S. only or choose e-book international). Just tell us if you’d like to enter to win.