Today is an exciting day because Patricia Wooster’s debut, IGNITE YOUR SPARK, arrives in bookstores! IGNITE YOUR SPARK is just the kind of book I needed as a teen — a book that asked me big questions, offered me personal guidance and gave me examples of young people doing amazing things to inspire. This book really promotes the idea that it’s okay to be different and pursuing what’s important and meaningful to you is what really matters. There is truly something for everyone in this book — it relates to the arts, sports, sciences, school, home, hobbies etc. It’s also interactive, with role playing exercises and short quizzes. I think teens are thirsty for a resource like this–something that speaks their language and helps offer them some guidance during a formative, often difficult, time. Seriously, I think every single teenager could benefit from a book like this!
Patricia is so lovely and is so genuinely inspired by young people. I know this book will be so helpful to so many and I hope there are more inspiring and guiding books from Patricia to come!
Here is my interview with her:
What inspired you to write IGNITE YOUR SPARK?
It was always in the back of my mind, because I thought my teen years were really tough. As I get older I keep learning new things about myself and wishing I knew them sooner. There’s so many great books for adults about identity, finding your passions, relationships, creating habits, etc.., and as I read them I’m always thinking about how I could’ve used that information in my youth.
Back in 2012, I was doing a couple of work-for-hire projects where I was interviewing successful young adults.The question that kept coming back to me was: How are these ordinary teens doing such extraordinary things? I decided I wanted to answer this question and write Ignite Your Spark: Discovering Who You Are From the Inside Out. In the process, I got to talk to some of the most inspirational, interesting, and unique people I’ve every encountered. They aren’t all geniuses, rich, or in private schools, etc.. In fact, many of them started at a perceived disadvantage with learning disabilities, low income, or social problems at school. The common thread among these super-amazing young adults was their foundation for success was built with a strong sense of self-identity, determination, and grit.
You interviewed a lot of young people for this book. Who are some of your favorites?
They were all special, so it seems a little disloyal to make a list, but I will tell you about one that was life-changing for me regarding how I view kids and education…
Adora Svitak is a college student, writer, and advocate who at the age of 12 gave a TED Talk titled “What Adults Can Learn From Kids”. She introduced me to the concept of collaborative learning where teachers and students work together to create curriculum and special projects. Instead of students only being consumers of education at school, they actually participate in the entire process. This is how I created the idea of students using school projects and research assignments to learn more about their interests. For example: My 7th grader lives and dies for basketball, so he could research the history of the game for Social Studies, do an experiment on speed and velocity for Science, and use text-based evidence in Language Arts to compare and contrast the difference between two NBA players. His grade improves because he’s interested in the subject and does more research, and he picks up a few pointers for his own game in the process.
What was your favorite part about writing your manuscript?
My favorite part was the research. I have a passion for the material, so it never felt like work. I read 50+ nonfiction books, visited a gazillion websites, and spoke to some amazing teens and youth professionals. I learned something new every day and couldn’t wait to restructure the information for a younger audience.
What was your least favorite part about writing your manuscript?
That’s easy…. annotations and footnotes. All of the technical details your publisher needs in order to make the book legal. If you do it as your writing the manuscript it’s easy, but oftentimes I had to go back and find the information again.
Where and when do you write?
I can’t stand to sit in any one place for long. I have a beautiful office, but I must constantly be moving around. Sometimes it’s at a table, propped up in bed, or at a coffee shop. Almost all of the quizzes were written at my neighborhood pool, while my kids ran around with their friends. It often depends on the logistics of motherhood. I once conducted an interview while sitting in a school carline … it happens.
What was the most surprising part about the editorial process?
The editing process was the most surprising. First of all, I was shocked that I wasn’t at all offended or defensive about all of the changes my publisher wanted to my original manuscript. They sent me a developmental letter with a ton of suggestions along with Post-it tabs with notes sticking out from many of the pages. They are so thorough. It’s amazing what a fresh pair of eyes can do for your work. By working together we were able to make the book so much better. It was fun to watch it all come together. The best thing an author can do is to be open for suggestion. You don’t have to take all of the advice you are given, but you should listen.
Who are some writers who inspire your work?
It depends on what I am writing. I always fully immerse myself in what I’m working on. It effects what I read, watch on television, and listen to on the radio. For this book, I read a lot of parenting books from amazing experts like Rosalind Wiseman, Katie Hurley, Dr. Carol Dweck, Jessica Lahey, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Dr. Michelle Borba, Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell, and Rachel Stafford to name a few.
I also got into the business development books from Malcolm Gladwell, Charles Duhigg, Daniel Coyle, Brian Grazer, Sarah Lewis, etc.. When I was reading these books I kept thinking … why didn’t I know this stuff when I was younger and had more time to incorporate it into my life?
What advice can you give to aspiring children’s book writers?
This sounds simple, but WRITE. It’s so easy to waste time preparing to write, learning to write, or researching the industry. I’m not saying it’s not important to do those things, but do them second. Schedule your writing time first. The words don’t have to be amazing, because you can change them in the editing process. I used to make sure each sentence was 100% perfect before I wrote the next one and it worked against me in two ways #1 it slowed me down #2 it made it so hard to edit the sentences out when they weren’t working for my story.
Every person is different regarding their approach to writing. Some people like to outline everything out, while others start with page one and let the story unfold. If you want help with structure then check out a book like Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, which is a screenwriting book many authors have used to help with creating a framework for their books. I’m using it now for my fiction series and I never struggle during my writing time. It gives direction without sacrificing flexibility of making changes if your characters decide to take you in another direction.