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Author Q&A's > [Closed] Author Q&A: Barbara Shoup

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message 1: by Kathy (last edited Nov 06, 2014 12:18PM) (new)

Kathy | 905 comments Our next Q&A is with the lovely Barbara Shoup! She penned Looking for Jack Kerouac among others.
Looking for Jack Kerouac by Barbara Shoup
Here is the synopsis:
It wasn't Duke Walczak's fault that I took off for Florida, like Kathy thought. The truth is, we started getting sideways with each other on our class trip to New York and Washington D.C. nearly a year earlier—which, looking back, is ironic since she was the one dead set on going.

From the author of Wish You Were Here andStranded in Harmony (American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults), and Vermeer's Daughter (a School Library Journal Best Adult Book for Young Adults).

In 1964, Paul Carpetti discovers Jack Kerouac's On the Road while on a school trip to New York and begins to question the life he faces after high school. Then he meets a volatile, charismatic Kerouac devotee determined to hit the road himself. When the boys learn that Kerouac is living in St. Petersburg, Florida, they go looking for answers.

Barbara Shoup is the author of seven novels and the co-author of two books about the fiction craft. She is the recipient of numerous grants from the Indiana Arts Council, two creative renewal grants from the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the 2006 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, and the 2012 Eugene and Marilyn Glick Regional Indiana Author Award. She was the writer-in-residence at Broad Ripple High School Center for the Humanities and the Performing Arts in Indianapolis for twenty years. Currently, she is the executive director of the Indiana Writers Center.
Please post questions by November 9.


message 2: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 905 comments If you could have lunch with your favorite author, who would it be and what would you say?

How did you begin writing?

Where do you draw your ideas from?

How does one overcome writers block?


message 3: by Kathy (new)

Kathy | 905 comments The answers:
If you could have lunch with your favorite author, who would it be and what would you say?

I don’t have one favorite author—and if I had lunch with author I admire, I’d be having lunch out every day for the rest of my life. So I’ll say that, at the moment, I’d like to have lunch with YA author, E. Lockhart. I admire the way she tells the truth about being a
teenager with both humor and wisdom. I loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Laundau-Banks, and We Were Liars totally blew me away. I’d like to talk to her about writing and share thoughts about the YA books we like. I’d love to know how her adolescence shaped the wonderful writer she’s become.

How did you begin writing?

I started writing before I could read, making squiggles on the page. I wrote, secretly, through elementary school until I wrote my first novel, Slave Girl, when I was in the fifth grade—about a girl escaping from the south by Underground Railroad. I copied the final version very carefully, found the address of a publisher in a library book, sent it off to New York—thus, receiving my first rejection. But the real problem was that I had thought the Underground Railway was a subway. When we got to the unit in social studies not long afterward and I found out what it really was, I didn’t write again for nearly 20 years. Seriously. I felt that dumb.

In my late twenties, one of my students asked me if there was anything else I had thought I might want to do other than teach. Reluctantly, because I thought it was important to tell students the truth, I admitted that I once wanted to be a writer. “Why aren’t you?” he asked. I couldn’t answer the question in any way that didn’t seem a cop-out to me, so I figured I’d better get up my courage and try. I’ve been writing ever since.

Where do you draw your ideas from?

Ideas “gather” for me by way of these four elements. My material—every single life experience that shaped me, all the questions about life I can’t answer, but feel compelled to try to answer anyway. Observations from the outside world. We notice what we notice because of who we are, because it relates in some way to our material, so we have a gargantuan
archive of details inside our heads. Sometimes they trigger a story, sometimes they’re just there, waiting for the right moment to appear in one.

Combustion, an inexplicable, usually unpredictable mental connection, an intuition that crystalizes into an idea, bringing a sense of form or structure that makes a place in which a story made of fragments of your material and personal observations can grow. You might be tempted to call it inspiration, a gift from the muse. But combustion isn’t caused by an outside force; it’s made of your life, it happens inside you.

Imagination, which asking “What if?” again and again until the story you’re writing comes as close as possible to filling the gap between the story in your head and the one it’s possible on create the page.

How does one overcome writers block?

Writing is problem solving. Every story, novel, whatever presents its own series of problems to be solved in the process of getting it from your head to the page. In process, writers block is no more than a problem that, for whatever reason, is just more difficult to solve than the others you’ve faced. If that happens, you might just keep going, writing badly, until you have a breakthrough; ask yourself “What if?” and free-write about possibilities to try to shake it loose; leave it to “cook” and move on to write a part of the story that seems possible; and/or look at the story analytically to try to discover if there’s something wrong with it structurally, logistically, or psychologically.

If the problem is that you can’t think of anything to write at all, try free-writing about why you can’t write; ask “What if I wrote about…” and free write about why that subject is a good or bad idea; similarly, free write about something you’re afraid of writing about; do writing prompts that are easily available online and in many writing books. In either case, the only way to overcome writers block is…to write. Thinking will only make it worse. Avoid melodrama at all costs!

Writers block is just a problem to solve. Persistence in solving those problems is what makes you a writer, after all.


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