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Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
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Questions for Anna Quindlen

Do you have a question for Anna, not related to any of the discussion topics? Reply to this message to start the conversation.
Stephanie
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HPSeeker
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Registered: ‎12-30-2006
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Hello, Anna :smileyhappy:

Unfortunately, for me, I have only had the pleasure to read an article you wrote (or perhaps it was your column) on being a mother. I received it in an email, actually! I was so moved by its message and impressed by your style and skill at writing that I googled you. Somehow I made my way onto your own site and eagerly bookmarked it.

As a long-time member of B&N, I receive regular email notices. I'm glad I perused this one because as soon as I saw your name, my interest was aroused and clicked into the group. Sorrowfully, the timing doesn't work for me because I'm in the midst of rereading the Harry Potter series before the release of the last installment in July, only this time 'round, I'm taking notes! It's been quite a ride and will always be a cherished part of my life :smileyhappy: Books are a precious gift (the well-written ones, that is), and I intend to make yours a part of what I cherish.

Meanwhile, since you're here, if you're so inclined to share, I'd love to know your writing process. You seem very prolific and you have such a gift with words and depicting messages so skillfully and artfully, I'd love to know how you typically go about it. Do you have any tips you could impart as far as what techniques or steps you find make the process work best for you? Do you plot first? Do you start with character? Things like that. Is it different every time?

I'm curious because, as you may have surmised--I also write, my main focus on novels (fantasy, middle grade and up). Several years ago, I sent out my first version of a chapter book series, and one agent requested the full manuscript after reading the first three chapters. The timing wasn't right for that either since, during the course of the six months it took for her to request it, I had already made the very big decision to rewrite it, though not as a simple chapter book, but as a complex novel! Once I'm finished, I'll be querying her first :smileyhappy:

Anyway, whatever you're willing to share, I'd LOVE to hear! I have a wonderful book: Writers on Writing: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times. Regretfully, you're not one of the authors included in the collection. If you were, I wouldn't be bothering you with the questions! :smileyhappy:

Thanks, Anna!

: Donna
Author
aquindlen
Posts: 22
Registered: ‎05-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen



HPSeeker wrote:
Hello, Anna :smileyhappy:

Unfortunately, for me, I have only had the pleasure to read an article you wrote (or perhaps it was your column) on being a mother. I received it in an email, actually! I was so moved by its message and impressed by your style and skill at writing that I googled you. Somehow I made my way onto your own site and eagerly bookmarked it.

As a long-time member of B&N, I receive regular email notices. I'm glad I perused this one because as soon as I saw your name, my interest was aroused and clicked into the group. Sorrowfully, the timing doesn't work for me because I'm in the midst of rereading the Harry Potter series before the release of the last installment in July, only this time 'round, I'm taking notes! It's been quite a ride and will always be a cherished part of my life :smileyhappy: Books are a precious gift (the well-written ones, that is), and I intend to make yours a part of what I cherish.

Meanwhile, since you're here, if you're so inclined to share, I'd love to know your writing process. You seem very prolific and you have such a gift with words and depicting messages so skillfully and artfully, I'd love to know how you typically go about it. Do you have any tips you could impart as far as what techniques or steps you find make the process work best for you? Do you plot first? Do you start with character? Things like that. Is it different every time?

I'm curious because, as you may have surmised--I also write, my main focus on novels (fantasy, middle grade and up). Several years ago, I sent out my first version of a chapter book series, and one agent requested the full manuscript after reading the first three chapters. The timing wasn't right for that either since, during the course of the six months it took for her to request it, I had already made the very big decision to rewrite it, though not as a simple chapter book, but as a complex novel! Once I'm finished, I'll be querying her first :smileyhappy:

Anyway, whatever you're willing to share, I'd LOVE to hear! I have a wonderful book: Writers on Writing: A Collection of Essays from the New York Times. Regretfully, you're not one of the authors included in the collection. If you were, I wouldn't be bothering you with the questions! :smileyhappy:

Thanks, Anna!

: Donna






I tend to begin with theme rather than plot. In fact, of all the elements of creating a novel, plot is the one that's least important to me--or at least the one I think is most likely to take care of itself. In other words, if I have an idea of some of the themes I want to explore and begin to feel them embodied in characters whose personalities, connections and motivations begin to seem clearer and clearer to me, it is inevitable that plot will follow. After all, plot is no more than what characters do when they're hanging around brushing up against one another!
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HPSeeker
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Anna, thank you for your response :smileyhappy: Your themes and characters must be more clear-cut from the beginning and I'm thinking your plot may lurk between the lines of your theme somehow and rises to the surface as you write(?), allowing you to write a story that will ultimately make sense and work so well. Your talent is so obvious :smileyhappy:

As for me, my themes, plot lines and characters weren't fleshed out quite enough, so what ultimately happened is I neared the end of my first draft, and too many good/better ideas kept cropping up, forcing me to have to rewrite and reconfigure too many things. I love rewriting, but more for the refining aspect, not having to so dramatically change big components. It becomes too confusing for me, and wastes too much time. That's when I stopped writing and went back to the writing board, so-to-speak. Of course, I have major brain fog (severe neurotoxicity) and it's hard to pull so much together, but it doesn't keep me from trying! lol

Thanks again for your response, and I hope to be able to pick up your books some time in the near future. Meanwhile, I'll keep up with your posts to this board and at least get to enjoy that!
: Donna




Aquindlen wrote:

I tend to begin with theme rather than plot. In fact, of all the elements of creating a novel, plot is the one that's least important to me--or at least the one I think is most likely to take care of itself. In other words, if I have an idea of some of the themes I want to explore and begin to feel them embodied in characters whose personalities, connections and motivations begin to seem clearer and clearer to me, it is inevitable that plot will follow. After all, plot is no more than what characters do when they're hanging around brushing up against one another!



HPSeeker wrote:
Hello, Anna :smileyhappy:

You seem very prolific and you have such a gift with words and depicting messages so skillfully and artfully, I'd love to know how you typically go about it. Do you have any tips you could impart as far as what techniques or steps you find make the process work best for you? Do you plot first? Do you start with character? Things like that. Is it different every time?



Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
Posts: 2,613
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Anna,

I was on your site, reading the Conversations section for your novel Blessings and you stated that you reread a Dickens novel every summer. Not sure when that was posted, is it Dombey and Sons this summer? I think that's such an interesting tradition- what prompted you to it? Have long have you been doing this?
Stephanie
Author
aquindlen
Posts: 22
Registered: ‎05-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

It is indeed Dombey and Sons, although I probably won't start for another week or two. (Right now I am reading a galley of the new Alice Sebold, The Almost Moon, her first novel since The Lovely Bones. It's due out in October. What a wonderful writer!) Dickens has always been the most influential writer in my life. He manages to combine a compelling plot line with social commentary, humor, and lovely prose in a way I so admire. I always learn something from his work. Sometimes I think I've been a bit too influenced--notice all those larger-than-life secondary characters with idiosyncratic names in my own novels? But both his work and his life have always been so interesting to me. He started as a reporter and became a star, a man so popular that his readings were routinely mobbed. I tend to reread the big novels: Bleak House, Little Dorrit. But the smaller ones are excellent as well. And as a family we all read A Christmas Carol aloud on Christmas Eve day. It takes us about five hours. Luckily there are five chapters, since there are five of us. My husband and I have been doing that since before we married or had children. Neither of us can quite remember why but it is an absolutely sacred tradition now. One of our sons posted on Facebook that he was doing it at college, and his brother and sister were both very put out!
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Anna,

I'm so glad you told me about Alice Sebold's latest- can't wait for that. I thoroughly enjoyed The Lovely Bones and was planning on rereading it this summer. Have you read her memoir Lucky? I haven't yet - I need a lot of peace for that one, uninterrupted time. I've a feeling I won't be able to stop reading it once I start.

Funny - we have a tradition with A Christmas Carol also. It started when I began doing a Christmas Classics group here on B&N about four years ago. It was the central read, and some of the most common remarks were about Dickens' conversational style and his humor.

I just completed an interesting series by Scott Westerfeld Uglies, Pretties and Specials are the three titles - (actually, I believe there's a fourth coming) --one in which I'm trying to interest my son - he's a little resistant at "going on twelve" to anything Mom thinks is worthy. Of course, he's reading a futuristic sports novel I found for him! Your remark about social commentary made me think to tell you about these books - they're fantasy, but what a premise! In the future, we'll all be made "pretty" at age 16 - eliminating all kinds of prejudice. If you get the chance, check them out. They'll be very engaging to teens, I think, there's quite a bit of action.
Stephanie
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homereader
Posts: 101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Hello, Anna,

What are you working on right now? Do you have any novels that we can look forward to?

Janet
Author
aquindlen
Posts: 22
Registered: ‎05-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

About two months ago I did a Newsweek column on our old dog, Beau. The mail was overwhelming, thousands of emails and letters. I am expanding the 800-word column to between 8000 and 10,000 words and Random House will be publishing it as a smallish book with photographs. As soon as I'm done with that, I will be starting a new novel.
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LaurenKondrat
Posts: 31
Registered: ‎06-06-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

I was just wondering, in Rise and Shine you write the story from the younger sister's point of view. Do you have any siblings, and if so, are you the younger one? Do you put any of your own traits in the sisters?
Author
aquindlen
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Registered: ‎05-18-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

That's an interesting question. I do have a sister; she's 11 years younger than I am--three brothers come between us--and she's a public school teacher. And I drew from her experiences in that she has sometimes been my sidekick through the more public aspects of my own life. But I actually chose to have Bridget be the narrator because I think she's so much more self-aware than Meghan is. And she's a watcher. I think that's more likely to happen with younger children. The eldest child tends to be a doer. The younger ones grow up watching the elder and therefore become people who watch the world and are better equipped to tell the truth about it. Plus you spend so much time with the narrator of your story that it helps if you happen to like her. That's what got me through Black and Blue, which in terms of subject matter could have been a difficult novel to write. But because I loved Fran Flynn so much, it was easier than it might have been.
Inspired Wordsmith
Stephanie
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Anna,

As the youngest of seven, I can tell you you're right- I was a watcher, and to my older sisters and brother, it might have seemed that I didn't get "spoken to" as much as they did. It was only because all the rules were already well established before I came along, and so I just followed them. (Most of them, anyway!) I think I related to Bridget as a narrator, knowing how that can-do older sister operates. I was pleased that although Bridget didn't think so, Meghan had handled Leo's arrangements. It let us know that Meghan wasn't completely broken, just nursing wounds.
Stephanie
Author
dotfrank
Posts: 222
Registered: ‎06-13-2007
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Re: Questions for Anna Quindlen

Anna - you are my heroine. I read your Times column for years and then all your books. If you ever come out to Montclair again, please let me know and the dinner is on us! Best wishes, Dot Frank dot@dotfrank.com


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