November finds us with another “CC’s Interview Series,” where I share the thoughts and hearts of writers and creators. After last month’s poetic conversation with Ann Christine Tabaka, across the states in Delaware, today I’m nestled into the heart of my own hometown. Seattle is the setting and we’re shifting the focus to fiction. I am eager to introduce you to Christine Grabowski, a dynamic YA author, editor, and speaker. So, wrap up in that cozy sweater. Pull up those big snugly socks. And surely, pour yourself a warm beverage because you are in for another sweet treat!
CC: Welcome! Can you please introduce yourself and tell us how long you’ve been writing?
Christine: I’m Christine Grabowski, and I live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and two teens. I’ve been writing young adult novels for five years. I published my first last year and have two in the works.
CC: What sparked your initial interest in writing? Or, how did writing find you?
Christine: I’ve always loved to read, but writing my own book was only a dream tucked in the back of my mind. But watching my daughter, who was in 4th grade at the time, write for fun got me thinking maybe I should just try it. And once I started, I couldn’t stop.
CC: I thoroughly enjoyed reading your book, Dickensen Academy. Would you share how the idea for the story came to you?
Christine: I wanted to write a young adult book with a unique premise, so I began brainstorming possible ideas. I knew some very famous authors found their ideas in their dreams, so each morning I would try to remember my dreams. But I didn’t have any good ideas. Then I began to wonder why I remember some dreams and immediately forget others. I began to wonder what if some dreams were meant to be remembered. That idea quickly led to creating a school with a dream telepathy curriculum.
CC: Would you call yourself as a pantser or plotter when you’re drafting? Or can you describe your writing process?
Christine: I feel like I should be a plotter because I’m one of those organized people who love to create lists. However, I’d have to say I’m somewhere in between. I start off with a short outline (with lots of blanks) but then get so excited to begin, I jump into the drafting but continue to add to my outline as I move forward with the story. Often some of my best ideas come to me as I get to know my characters and know they have to get from A to C to E, etc. But ideas B and D come later. After I am several drafts in, I seem to need to fix up the structure, so I hope one day I will be more patient and write a more comprehensive outline before starting.
CC: How might you describe a perfect writing day?
Christine: A day without any other commitments. After my kids leave for school, I will write a couple of hours, then go to the gym. Then write a couple more hours, then take the dogs on a walk, then write a couple more hours until the kids get home from school. If I could go to Starbucks for three hours during the middle segment, it would be ideal. But since I adopted my dogs, Max and Ruby, two years ago, I feel guilty crating them when I could write at home.
CC: Do you have any secrets to get through rejections or bad writing days?
Christine: Rejections are tough and I went through a lot since I began to query before Dickensen Academy was ready. (I thought it was ready, of course.) I tried to think of it as just a numbers game which got easier over time. If I’d get a rejection, I’d often turn around and send two more queries the same day. It made me feel like I was increasing my odds of winning.
CC: Do you have a writing group or community you belong to? If so, can you elaborate on how you found them and/or how they support you as a writer?
Christine: I have two, an online group and an in-person group. The online group I found through a friend who has a sister who is an author. I was hesitant to upload my story to a huge, anonymous group, but this one was much smaller. I honestly would probably never have brought up the quality of my writing to a traditionally publishable level without the aid of my online critique group. My in-person group I found while querying Dickenen Academy. The group was already in existence, but I met the members through a writing class and an SCBWI conference. They help me celebrate my successes and provide feedback as I edit my other books.
CC: You are also an editor. Can you tell us about that side of your writing life? Do you think this helps or hinders when you write your own books? Do you edit yourself or do you have an editor?
Christine: Learning how to be an editor definitely helps my writing. Becoming a professional editor organically grew out of critiquing pages in my critique groups and for authors I had met over the years. Once I had the credentials of being a traditionally published author, I launched that side of the business. Critiquing other people’s pages definitely makes a person a better writer, but being a detailed oriented person is needed too. A professional editor is the last step for me. I edit my books as much as I can and review them with critique partners first.
CC: I was lucky enough to hear you speak at the PNWA Writer’s Conference this year. I know you’ve also spoken at schools around the Seattle area. Can you tell us a little about speaking to groups about writing?
Christine: My speaking engagements fall into two categories. Speaking to readers and speaker to writers. I’ve spoken at many schools and libraries about what is involved in writing a book using Dickensen Academy as an example. My goal is to get kids excited about reading and writing. I also speak through PNWA and SCBWI to writers. These engagements vary from one another, but the goal is always to teach one or more aspects of writing.
CC: How has writing changed you as a person?
Christine: Writing has opened up an entirely new side of my life. I’ve met new friends and learned new skills. It has also given me the confidence that I can learn a new skill later in life.
CC: Who are a few of your favorite authors? Who are you reading right now?
Christine: One of my favorite authors is Marissa Meyer, the author of the Lunar Chronicles series. She has been an inspiration to me. Not only did she show me how unique a fairy tale re-imagining could be, but she demonstrated how YA can be appropriate for all ages (younger kids through adults). I also love that my son, who isn’t necessarily a strong reader has been reading the series non-stop since this summer. It’s taking a long time, but he’s read close to 2,000 pages and is excited to keep reading. Follow me on Goodreads to see hundreds of books and authors I have reviewed.
CC: Are you willing to share a few lines from your book (current or new draft), or a bit of writing advice? Or both? Share as much or as little as you like.
Christine: Here’s a little advice I heard somewhere and latched on to. Don’t give up. Often that is the only difference between a published author an unpublished author. Of course, you need to keep honing your craft as a lot of work is also involved.
CC: That is actually one of my favorite pieces of writing advice. I recite it regularly to keep me going. It’s what helps me return to my desk day after day, week after week, even when I don’t think I can do it.
Thank you, Christine Grabowski, for spending this time with us. I believe in lifting each other up, and your advice and inspiration has me soaring right now. I hope my readers have picked up on a bit of direction as well. If anything, perhaps we all might pay better attention to our dreams! Please check out Christine’s websites below.
And as always, happy writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, November 17, 2019
Links for Christine Grabowski:
Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/sgjRes7zPLQ
Photo Credit Links:
http://averykingston.com/pantser-or-plotter-igwritersoctday-12/ (pantser or plotter)
https://www.success.com/15-quotes-to-inspire-you-to-never-stop-learning/ (sweater and book – never stop learning)
https://www.amazon.com/Lunar-Chronicles-Boxed-Set-Scarlet/dp/1250113229 (Melissa Meyer, Lunar Chronicles)
http://bethanycadman.co.uk/myth-perfect-writing-space/ (writing space)
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