Judy Schachner, author of the "Skippyjon Jones" series, discusses her writing process, what she likes best about writing, and her advice for young writers. This video is part of the NBC Learn original series "Writers Speak to Kids."
Writers Speak to Kids- Judy Schachner
JENNA BUSH HAGER, reporting:
Where do you get your ideas?
SCHACHNER: Many of my ideas, most of them, come from my family or my pets. I believe in exploiting your family and pets for fame and fortune. But, Skippy came from, definitely, my cat - I had a Siamese cat with large ears that looked very much like a Chihuahua. He had a little argument with a bumble-bee in our basement and he was stung several times on his head, and when he came upstairs he began to speak and he sounded an awful lot like Antonio Banderas. That's exactly how it started.
BUSH HAGER: What is your writing process?
SCHACHNER: One thing I do is, I create a journal before every book I do. I will go through newspapers, magazines, old National Geographic's, if I'm visiting or shopping anywhere - post cards. I fill a journal full of all kinds of visual things. Then when I stick something in the journal it'll make me think of words, vocabulary words. I'll make lists of words like - exciting, dashing, daring - and I'll just make a list of them and then I'll go on to the next page. But what happens is, by the time I'm finished with my journal, my brain is so full of vocabulary, images, and I've solved problems.
BUSH HAGER: How do you start a story?
SCHACHNER: In the very beginning you can set up a problem or an issue. The best way for me to explain this is in the newest book Skippyjon Jones Cirque de Ole - he starts out - he's walking and balancing on the telephone wires out in front of his house. That sets up a problem right there because he's a cat, he's walking on telephone wires - not good. But, what is he doing up there and why is he doing it? Most stories in the Skippy series, the first sentence will sort of give you a clue as to what issues are going to take place in the rest of the book.
BUSH HAGER: What do you like best about writing?
SCHACHNER: I get to stay in my room, stay in my pajamas, drink hot chocolate, get out my crayons and my paints and my pencils. I get to break up arguments between my cats, who literally are fighting on my artwork. I get to live in a world that - and I get paid to live in my imagination. That's my favorite part.
BUSH HAGER: What advice do you have for young writers?
SCHACHNER: I have to say that everything I've learned about writing is from reading, and reading so many picture books to my daughters growing up, that's really kind of - you get that rhythm in your head. So I recommend reading a book out loud 50 times to yourself that has the rhythm and the tone that you like, and then sit down and start writing your own.
Kathleen Benner Duble is an author living in Boxford, Massachusetts. She writes books for children and adolescents and specializes in historical fiction novels, which are made-up stories based on true events in history. Her young adult stories take place in a wide range of time periods, including the Salem witch trials, the French Revolution, the Age of Exploration and more.
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