Newbery winner Linda Sue Park on writing: #LA14SCBWI interview

Linda Sue Park, photographed by Sonya SonesLinda Sue Park is one of the most beloved authors writing for children today. Her many awards include a Newbery for 2002's A SINGLE SHARD, which I saw performed on stage in Seattle, where it was every bit as powerful as on the page. Her recent title A LONG WALK TO WATER was a New York Times bestseller.

In addition to being a top-notch writer and storyteller, Linda Sue is also a fantastic speaker and teacher. I took one of her intensives a few years ago at a summer conference, and the revision I did based on her advice became my first published novel.

She'll give a keynote this summer in Los Angeles on how we can make every word in our manuscript count. I can't wait to hear what she has to say.

If you haven't signed up yet, and you're thinking about it, the earlybird discount ends June 15. You can register here.

On the fence? I get it. These conferences are a big commitment in every way. But they're worth it. I also came up with the idea for THE DINOSAUR TOOTH FAIRY after my first Los Angeles conference. At another LA conference, I heard my agent speak for the first time (and thought then how much I would like working with her). And, as I mentioned earlier, Linda Sue showed me exactly what I needed to learn to sell my first novel. In all, six years after my first national conference, I have five children's books either on the shelves or under contract. I know that would not have happened had I not taken that leap of faith.

Linda Sue was kind enough to answer a few questions. Here's hoping you find some useful information and inspiration to tide you over until August. 

What's the best piece of writing advice you've ever received?

I’ve read and received all kinds of wonderful *inspirational* advice, but by far the most important tip was PRACTICAL. From the great Katherine Paterson: When working on a novel, write two pages per day. Every day. That’s it. Idiot simple. I actually begin my daily writing session by editing the two pages from the day before (sometimes throwing away the whole dang thing), but I don’t get up until I’ve written two new ones. They don’t have to be good. They just have to be done. Because I’m going to start my next session by editing them, right? I’ve written all of my novels that way—two pages at a time—and if I hadn’t read Paterson’s advice way back when I first started out, I’m convinced I never would have finished even one of them.

How do you know when your writing is working?

When I feel excited to get to work every day. I’m not saying it’s ice cream and balloons every time I sit down to write, but if I don’t have an overall feeling of eagerness to get at the story, I know something isn’t working.

What sort of research do you do before a project, and when do you stop with that part and start writing?

I try to do the lion’s share of the research before I start writing. Of course, there are always holes I have to fill in along the way (hopefully small ones…). But I think of research as revving up my engine. It helps create excitement for the project (see above). I let the story itself guide me regarding the question of when to start writing. I reach a point where I feel I have a good handle on the topic, and I know this by the fact that my use of post-its slows considerably. (I stick post-its in place while I’m reading, then transfer that info later to typed notes.) At the same time, my eagerness to start writing grows until I can’t rein it in any longer. Reaching that stage has varied for every book I’ve written. Sometimes a couple of months, sometimes years!

Linda Sue Park online 
on Twitter: @LindaSuePark