Long and Short Reviews welcomes Mindy Hardwick, whose latest book Weaving Magic has just been released. She will be giving away an e-book copy of either it or Stained Glass Summer to one commenter—winner's choice.
Mindy spends a lot of time with her characters, getting to know them. She interviews them and has done collage boards where she sits down with magazines and cuts out pictures to represent the characters' looks, tastes, interests, or hobbies. When she's finished, she hangs them on her bulletin board to remind her of them while she drafts the story. The plot starts to emerge as she gets to know her characters.
"For example, in Weaving Magic, one of the questions I asked main character Christopher was, 'What’s in your closet?' His answer became a main scene near the beginning of the book," she explained. "I asked Shantel what her bedroom looked like, and her answers helped me set up two scenes which all take place in her bedroom—one between her and Christopher!"
Authentic characters are the most important thing for Mindy in terms of writing.
"I will follow a plot anywhere, as long as the characters are real and respond consistently. Authentic characters also means the character’s voice should be real and distinctive to that character. Character voice can be hard to capture, but when I’m writing or reading YA, I want to feel like I am inside that character’s head and reading their diary and they are telling me their deepest thoughts, hopes, wishes, secretes, and fears," she said. "I’ve also come to love secondary characters who are not cardboard, stock characters but have their own quirks and stories. Secondary characters can be challenging because I don’t want them to override the main character’s stories! But, I do want to set down a book and say, 'Mmmm…now, I wonder if the best friend has a story!' In Weaving Magic, secondary characters Michael and Marissa also have a YA romance story, and I’d like to develop that into a novella."
Mindy has been writing since the second grade when she wrote her first picture book story about her cat Sunshine. However, she's been calling herself a professional writer and selling her writing for seven years.
"As an adult, how do you keep your finger on the pulse of today’s youth?" I asked.
"I run a poetry workshop with teens in a juvenile detention. You can see some of the teen’s poems at www.DenneyPoetry.com. Many of my writing ideas evolve from the poetry workshop including Weaving Magic. For example, there is a scene in Weaving Magic in which main character, Christopher, is in a juvenile detention center poetry workshop. He has a big realization about his Dad in that workshop. This scene was inspired by the real life poetry workshop. Weaving Magic has elements of my own story, too. I also dated a young man who was a teen in recovery and I attended some open AA Meetings with him."
Mindy is currently working on a children's chapter book series as well as a YA novel told in flash fiction. The young adult novel is based on the poetry workshop and includes short vignettes told through the point of view of the teens in the detention center workshop as well as short vignettes from her own teenage years.
"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"One of the best things I’ve learned is to stop writing when I’m in the middle of a chapter or scene. Then, I’m eager to get back to writing. The other trick I do is I work on multiple projects. I write articles, short stories, and novels. When I’m stuck on one, I flip to one of my other projects which helps my brain relax and the other story starts to flow again."
When she was a teen, her favorite books were the "problem novels of the '80s."
,br> "These were real-life, contemporary stories about characters facing things such as teenage alcoholism, scoliosis, parents getting divorced, etc. In my own life, my parents were getting divorced and I didn’t feel it was something I could talk about at school," she told me. "But, in my YA novels, I found out how characters overcame struggles. I still love contemporary stories about characters facing and overcoming real-life struggles and that is what I write too!"
One of the books that influenced her the most was Cynthia Voigt and her series, Dicey’s Song and Homecoming.
"I loved Voigt’s stories as a pre-teen, and after I’d written a couple drafts of my novel, Stained Glass Summer, I realized there were a lot of similarities between Dicey and Jasmine," she said. "Both characters had parents who abandoned them, both characters go to live with another relative in the extended family, and both characters are survivors. I’ve always said Jasmine and Dicey would be great friends."
Her first short story, "Hurricanes," was published in an anthology titled Summer Shorts by Blooming Tree Press. It was based on the first summer her parents were divorced and she went to visit her dad. The story is about twelve-year-old Jen who visits her Dad and a hurricane strikes the area. The story shows Jen’s grief over her parents' divorce, coming to terms with that grief, and learning that she and her dad are a lot alike—they both like to take risks."
"What's the weirdest thing you've ever done in the name of research?" I asked.
"When I was writing both Stained Glass Summer and Weaving Magic, I took classes in stained glass and weaving. I had a really hard time with stained glass, but weaving I enjoyed, and eventually bought a small table loom and like main character, Shantel, wove scarves to give away as gifts!"
Mindy always enjoyed reading and her parents were both journalists, but it never occurred to her to be a writer.
"I wasn’t accepted to the high school newspaper staff, and I didn’t realize that there was a career behind those young adult books I loved! One of the reasons why I love talking to kids at schools, and give a Creative Writing Scholarship at our local high school, is I want teens to know that writing books is a career path!" she told me.
Getting the first draft on paper is the hardest part of writing for Mindy.
"The blank page is so intimidating—especially if I’ve just finished the editing process for a polished manuscript. It’s hard to go back to the beginning again!" she admitted. "One of the best things I’ve learned about first drafts is to write fast. I participated in NaNoWriMo for a couple years, and I discovered that the best course of action for a first draft is to set a word limit or page count each day and power through it! Don’t edit along the way. Editing shuts down that first draft discovery process."
"What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you ever received?" I asked.
"The best piece of writing advice I received was to learn to write short stories. After my first semester at Vermont College, Norma Fox Mazer came up to me and said, 'Spend this semester on short stories.' Sharon Darrow was my advisor for second semester and we worked on a short story around the epiphany moment of my novel, Stained Glass Summer. This was very helpful in that this work taught me the craft of writing a short story, and also helped me focus on my novel in a small, short segment. I sold short stories for six years before I sold my novel!"
About the Author: Mindy Hardwick is a published children’s and YA writer whose books include: Stained Glass Summer and Weaving Magic. She facilitates a poetry workshop with teens at Denney Youth Juvenile Justice Center and is the editor of their poetry blog. . Mindy is included on the Washington State Teaching Artist Roster and worked with the youth of the Tulalip Tribe in the 2011 New Directions Music and Art Prevention Program. Mindy holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College and is a member of SCBWI. When she is not writing, Mindy enjoys art journaling and is training her dog to be a Therapy Reading Dog.
Find the author online:
Twitter: @mindyhardwick Teen Poems From Behind Bars: www.denneypoetry.com
He loves magic. She loves romance. But the biggest illusion is the one Shantel and Christopher perform together. Sixteen- year- old Christopher fights to stay sober while fifteen-year-old Shantel struggles in the aftermath of her mother’s death and seeks refuge in a fantasy world. But the unacknowledged roots of their problems refuse to stay buried and soon, the two are headed toward a deadly magic trick. Can Shantel and Christopher move beyond magical illusions to find love?