How does a shower spark creativity? In today’s W.O.W., Ronni Arno Blaisdell talks about how the simplest things like taking a walk or even hopping in the shower can inspire new ideas. As Ronni explains, it’s the process of always thinking about the work, whether it’s writing, reading, or connecting with other authors that can help you learn and create.
Many thanks to Ronni for sharing her writing odyssey today…
Amy: At what age did you truly know you wanted to be a writer?
Ronni: I was pretty young; probably around 10 or so. I took Creative Writing classes all through high school, and started college as a Creative Writing major. I switched my major to Communications after my Freshman year, because I didn’t know what I’d do with a Creative Writing major! Although my heart knew what I wanted to do right away, my head didn’t catch on for a few decades!
Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?
Ronni: My first manuscript, a middle-grade fantasy, was completed at the end of 2012. I queried it, got a few requests, but that was about it. I ultimately realized it wasn’t going to be THE ONE. Shortly after that, I started on RENEE REINVENTED, which is the manuscript that eventually got me my agent and book deal.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?
Ronni: RENEE REINVENTED was my second queried manuscript.
Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?
Ronni: I love writing queries! That’s totally weird, I know. I have a PR background, so the fact that I have experience writing pitches definitely helps. In fact, I love queries so much that I write the query before I write the actual manuscript. I find writing the query first helps me to identify the conflict and the stakes, which are so very important for any story. Of course, I usually end up tweaking the query letter, so by the time it goes out it’s not exactly what I started with, but it’s close!
Amy: I love the premise behind your manuscript, RENEE REINVENTED. Where did the story idea come from?
Ronni: Thank you! The story idea came from a bunch of my life experiences. Right after college I worked as a publicist in Hollywood, so the idea of having famous parents seemed like an intriguing one. My husband’s from Maine, and my kids had been begging us to move there for years. We decided to look at schools, and although they weren’t boarding schools, we visited quite a few campuses in Maine. They were all so quaint, and seemed like a perfect setting for a story. Plus, the dichotomy of glamorous Hollywood and down-to-earth Maine provided instant cultural conflict. The fashion part of the story completely took me by surprise. I know nothing about fashion (I’m lucky if I remember to get dressed in the morning, let alone put an actual outfit together), but as I wrote the main character, her interest in fashion just appeared, so I went with it. Sometimes your characters tell you about themselves as you write them and you just have to listen.
Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Sarah Davies? How did you know she was the right fit for you?
Ronni: I did quite a bit of research before querying agents, and Sarah was very high on my list. She’s so knowledgeable about the publishing industry, and the fact that Greenhouse looks to nurture their writers really resonated with me. Sarah emailed me on a Friday, asking if we could talk on Monday. As you can imagine, that was one of the longest weekends of my life! But it did give me time to learn even more about her, so by the time we spoke on Monday I knew I wanted her to represent me. Luckily, the call went well, and speaking with her just solidified the fact that she was my top choice. As soon as I got off the phone with her, I pulled my manuscript for consideration with the other agents that had it. I knew Sarah was the agent I wanted to work with.
Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?
Ronni: My dad gave me this piece of advice years ago, and it’s true no matter what field you’re in: “Be a student of your business.” Never stop learning. Read books on writing, read blog posts on writing, follow writers on social media, find a critique group, enter writing contests (not necessarily to win, but to meet other writers), and read. A lot. Write as often as you can, and even if you don’t have a chance to write, spend your spare time thinking about your story ideas. I often get my best ideas taking walks or showering. So, in short, my advice to aspiring writers is to shower!
Ronni Arno’s debut RENEE REINVENTED publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in Fall 2015. Her second middle-grade novel, also with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, is scheduled for release in Summer 2016. In a previous life, Ronni worked as a publicist in Hollywood. She now lives in Maine, where she kayaks, eats chocolate, and stalks her kids for story ideas. Ronni is a SCBWI member and contributor to the kidliterati.com blog. You can visit her website, or find her on Twitter.