I have to say that I’m in love with the premise of the middle-grade novel written by today’s debut author Jennifer Trafton and can already envision it as a film. The character names alone — Persimmony Smudge and Worvil the Worrier — bring a smile to my face. Consider it added to my Amazon Wish List. :)
Name: Jennifer Trafton
Name of book: The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic
Book genre: Children’s fantasy
Date published: December 2010
Publisher: Dial Books (Penguin Young Readers Group)
What is your day job? Freelance editor
What is your book about? Ten-year-old Persimmony Smudge leads a very dull life on the Island at the Center of Everything, weaving baskets and sweeping floors. Until, that is, the night she overhears a life-changing secret. It seems that Mount Majestic, the rising and falling mountain at the center of the island, is not a mountain at all. It’s the belly of a sleeping giant. Now it’s up to Persimmony and her new friend Worvil the Worrier to convince all the island’s other quarreling inhabitants—the Rumblebumps, the Leafeaters, and most of all, the stubborn young king—that a giant is sleeping in their midst and must not be woken.
What would you say is the most challenging part of the writing process? Sylvia Plath said, “The worst enemy to creativity is self–doubt.” The process of writing is a constant tug-of-war between potentially crippling self-doubt (which every writer experiences occasionally in their darkest moments, if they are being honest with themselves) and the sheer pleasure of unselfconscious creativity that must keep propelling us forward despite those fearful voices.
What motivates you to write? Having a story inside me that is pounding so hard to get out that I will explode if I don’t sit down and give it utterance. Also, reading great works of literature that make me fall in love with words all over again.
Did you experience writer’s block? For me there are two kinds of “block.” One is the inevitable wall I hit occasionally in the middle of a book when my ideas are running dry and I’m not sure what comes next, or there is a plot problem I don’t know how to fix. And the best solution, which has never failed me yet, is to take a break and read. Reading stirs up that part of the brain where ideas come from.
The other kind of “block” is fear, which goes back to the Sylvia Plath quote above, and there’s nothing to do but accept it and press through it until the words come again. I’ve got a number of books on my shelf that provide writing inspiration and encouragement in those “I can’t do it!” moments: The Courage to Write by Ralph Keyes, Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and The Writing Life by Annie Dillard.
How long did it take you to write this book? It took approximately a year of writing and revising to get as far as I could on my own, but it took another four years (little by little, on top of working full-time) to do further revisions for my agent and my editor and get the manuscript ready for publication.
Do you have an agent? If so, how helpful would you say having an agent was to landing a publishing deal? I can’t imagine having gone through the process of getting my first book contract and navigating the world of publication for the first time without my agent. He was the first person in the industry to believe in my book and my potential, he gave invaluable editorial suggestions, he was able to get the manuscript in front of great editors at top publishing companies, and he’s been an advocate and career counselor ever since.
What is the biggest misconception about writing a book? That quality and speed can exist together. Writing is slow. Getting published takes time. Patience is a virtue that must be cultivated by anyone attempting a career in this field. As one of the characters in my book says, “You can’t rush art.”
What was your favorite aspect of the writing process for this book? It was simply the most fun thing I have ever done. The joy of being in the center of a story, like the eye of a hurricane with my imagination whirling around me each day, was well worth the challenges along the way.
What tools/methods have you employed to promote your book? I am very blessed to have a large network of friends and relatives who have amazed me with their enthusiasm for promoting the book to their friends and relatives. Facebook, Twitter, blogs and word of mouth have been tremendously important in this regard. As a children’s book writer, I also have the privilege of visiting elementary schools and libraries, which functions indirectly as promotion but is primarily about connecting personally with kids. Their imaginations inspire mine, as I hope mine inspires theirs.
Oprah has famously said that there is no such thing as luck, without preparation and a moment of opportunity. Would you agree or disagree with regard to your own success as a writer? I began writing deliberately when I was ten. I began sending my stories and poems to publishers and agents—and getting rejections—when I was eighteen. I published my first novel at age thirty-five. I’m thankful the process took that long, because in between I not only learned how to write but I gathered up the life experiences and creative ideas that would give me something to write about. When the moment of opportunity came, I was ready for it.