My first job out of college was as a TV news reporter and weather forecaster at the tiny ABC affiliate in Yakima, WA. It was at KAPP TV I learned how to photograph, write, and edit news stories as a one-girl band. In a humming newsroom (okay, warehouse), I used to pound out scripts on an old manual Smith-Corona typewriter (I'm not that old but the station was that cheap). Here I am giving the weather forecast . . .
Apparently, shoes weren't in the budget. Don't let anyone tell you broadcasting isn't glamorous. I learned early on how to focus my energies when telling someone else's story; a daily deadline will do that to you. Now, I can pretty much write nonfiction anywhere, any time with any noise going on in the background. So far, I've published 68 nonfiction children's books on all kinds of topics, from storm chasing to video gaming. And I've done it to the tune of construction crews, leaf-blower lunatics, and a duo of 24-hour-a-day barking Dobermans.
Fiction, however, is a different story. I know that many writers like to write in coffee shops or set the mood at home with music, candles, and food. I admire that, and aspire to it, but I can't do it. To me, these things are distractions. If I'm listening to music, I'm going to miss what my characters are saying. If I am smelling a lovely scented candle, I'm not going to be able to write dialogue set in the boys bathroom. If I have chocolate on the brain, well, forget thinking about anything else. There is only one thing I need to do my best fiction writing and that is silence. That's not to say I always get what I want, but it's what I strive for.
Having a cozy, peaceful place to write is also helpful. Let's take a tour of my office and I will show you a few things I keep close to inspire me. First, and most important, is Kira. She's my 18-pound ragdoll cat. Kira makes sure I take frequent breaks to tell her how wonderful she is and attend to her every need . . .
Here's my bookshelf where I keep most of my nonfiction titles. On top of the shelf I have laser-cut plastic cutouts of a few fiction characters. Here are Julep (from the Julep O'Toole series) and Scab (from The Secrets of a Lab Rat series) . . .
My husband, Bill, surprised me with this 20" X 30" wrap-around canvas print of my first Secrets book cover . . .
So that's a little glimpse into my writing world. If I leave you with anything it's that there is no right or wrong way to set up shop. Write in whatever way, in whatever atmosphere, that makes you feel most comfortable and productive. The main thing is to write.
Ah! It looks like Kira is down for her afternoon nap. Time for me to get back to work . . .