Hello everyone! First of all, thanks to Karin for giving me a place to ramble for a little while. I’ll do my best to make sense, but as I’m in the middle of editing a fantasy novel that’s longer than my last two books put together it’s possible I’ve just lost all ability to word. My deadline is in a month. I’ve had four cups of coffee today and haven’t left the house except to walk my dog since Tuesday. I just spent an hour laying upside down on my couch rereading Patrick Ness’s The Knife of Never Letting Go and trying to restore blood flow to my brain.
I’m Emma, and I’m the author of a bunch of novels, the most recent of which, Spindrift and the Orchid, came out at the beginning of May from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Spindrift was a joy to write and even a joy to edit, which is rarer for me. It’s full of all the things I love in books like The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter: magic and whimsy, heroes and villains. It’s about a girl in a fantasy version of Belle Epoque Paris who discovers that the single possession she has from her late parents—who died when their ship sank in an accident only Spindrift survived—contains a sentient flower with the ability to grant wishes. It’s one of a set of seven, and someone out there will do anything to unite the whole collection. Spindrift, along with her grandfather and two closest friends, must stop him before he succeeds and harnesses a great and evil power.
So, that’s Spindrift. While I was drafting (and editing) I knitted my first sweater and my thousandth scarf. I taught myself magic loops and achieved my first sock. I cooked dinner most nights, learning new recipes and experimenting with my new Instant Pot. My daily schedule went something like, coffee-dog walk-coffee-writing-dog walk-cooking-knitting-dog walk–reading-sleep. Every day. For months. My current schedule for the book I’m working on now is pretty similar, though I no longer have 100% of the cooking duties and I must confess I haven’t knitted anything in a couple of weeks. (I’m sorry, abandoned purple sock, I promise I’ll come back to you.)
Creativity is important for everyone, I think. There are a million ways to express it, but I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t have any ways they liked to express it. Almost everyone I know has many different creative expressions, myself included, and so I think a lot about the varied purposes those different expressions serve. Surely it would be easier to focus my creative energy on one thing—books—which I’m lucky enough to write full time.
But I’d write worse books if I did. I guarantee it.
Someone I know, who doesn’t enjoy cooking, asked me not too long ago what I get out of it, and how I summon the energy to spend an hour or two cooking a meal from scratch after all day at a computer. The answer is that, in some ways, that hour or two is what gives me the energy to write the next day. Anyone who has ever written a book, or anything else tens of thousands of words long, knows that at times it can feel like an endless and thankless task. Even after I’ve gotten to The End there’s still months or years of work before it ends up in a cover and on a bookshelf, and then it’s rare for me to see people reading it, or even to speak to someone who has. (By and large, middle-grade-age readers are not on Twitter or Facebook. I meet them in schools and bookstores, but not all the time. I talk to more adult readers of MG fiction, who are amazing, but even then, I encounter a tiny fraction of the people who’ve picked up the book.)
When I cook a meal—which, by the way, is always more complicated and fancy if I’m cooking for someone else—I get to see the thing come together under my hands in the space of very little time. It is a whole thing in an hour, not six months. And then I get to watch people eating it, the joy from the taste and the pleasure of having been cooked for. It’s a good feeling. Knitting almost anything takes longer than cooking almost anything, but again it’s a visual exercise, an effort I can see. (Oh, how much better writing might be if I could measure words in inches.) When I’m finished I can keep the scarves or socks for myself or make someone else happy with them. Together, these creative pursuits fill in spaces that writing doesn’t.
I’ll always be a writer, full-time if I can, and it will always be my main creative expression. The others, though, keep it alive and me (reasonably) sane while I’m doing it, though this very minute might not be the strongest argument in favor of my sanity. (Please, you enormous monster of a book, end.) Plus, the books pay for the yarn habit. You all know what I’m talking about.