Monday, March 21, 2016

Mid-Career Monday: THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY author Cat Winters on panicking and managing


It's been in print less than two weeks and Cat Winters' latest, THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, has already been named a Junior Library Guild Selection and amassed an impressive collection of starred reviews. So, I asked her...

You write for teens and adults. As your career builds, how do you manage your projects and deadlines (as well the whole being-a-parent thing)?

HERE'S WHAT CAT SAID:

I admit, it hasn't always been easy balancing both the YA and adult fiction careers. The opportunity to write my first published adult novel, THE UNINVITED, fell into my lap after an editor at HarperCollins read and loved my first YA novel, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS. I never expected to be writing two books a year, and I'm not certain I can continue to keep up this pace much longer. But for now I'm doing my best to make everything work . . . and to still take care of my kids and remember that I have a husband!

The tool that saves me the most is my Google calendar. When I look at all that's due in the next six months, I find myself hurtling toward chaos and panic attacks (the latter of which I've started experiencing since becoming a published writer). However, if I list everything that's due on my calendar and focus on what I should be working on day-by-day instead of month-by-month, it helps keep everything under control.
In 2015 Nova Ren Suma wrote an excellent blog post in which she said that she asked herself, "What kind of author do I really want to become?" (http://distraction99.com/2015/08/08/the-surprises-the-failures-the-new-chapters-in-this-author-life/) It got me thinking, what type of author do I want to become?

In some ways I'm already the writer I wanted to be: I'm writing full time, traveling a bit for promotions, and I have fans and literary awards. However . . . I don't have much of a life aside from cranking out the books and making sure the kids have what they need. Family vacations are difficult, if not impossible, because I always have something due. The deadlines are intense, plus I have a problem of telling people "no," which makes the deadlines compete with other deadlines.
Ideally, I would love to write only one book a year--maybe even one book every other year. I'm worried about burning out and losing the sheer joy of writing that's been a part of me all of my life. I'm worried about my quality suffering. Plus I'm interested in teaching through writers-in-residency programs, so I can make a difference in the lives of young writers; so I'm not so focused on my own work 100% of the time. I would also like to be able to read more books, something I don't get to do much at all. Reading and exploring the world around me always refills the creative well, and that's just not happening when I'm parked at my desk seven days of the week.

The reality is that most authors can't afford to write full-time unless they're constantly selling and working. Financial security and the fear of never getting published again (publication is never guaranteed, sadly) fuels most of our needs to continually produce new material. However, I'm looking at the future and finding ways to cut back, so I don't lose myself in this crazy, challenging business. 

INSIGHT: THINK OF THE KIND OF WRITER YOU WANT TO BE
(ALSO: GOOGLE CALENDAR!)