It’s Black History Month 2011, and we’re kicking off the occasion with the talented, funny, and hot, hot, HOT Ms. Crystal Allen, debut author of, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy. Crystal’s schedule is pretty hectic, but she has generously agreed to slow down long enough to share her experiences with aspiring writers.
I’ve condensed this interview down to what I call Rita’s High-5; five basic questions most aspiring writers want to know. Namely,
1. What is your writing day like?
2. What is/was your biggest challenge?
3. Do you have an agent, and if so, how did you land one?
4. What do you wish you’d known about the writing business when you first started?
5. What is your advice to other writers?
SOME BACKGROUND, PLEASE…
The daughter of a military father, Crystal was born in Germany and grew up in several places, including Virginia, Rhode Island and Indiana. She loved writing, even back in elementary school. Her English teachers always complimented her work but never suggested that she pursue writing, and it wasn’t until she became the mother of two sons and began writing stories in which they were the MC’s (main characters), saving the world, that she began to crave writing and look for opportunities to hone her abilities.
Crystal still remembers the very first story she ever wrote, a sweet story about a fawn she’d seen on her grandparents’ farm in Indiana! She also still marvels over her first published work, which began as homework for a workshop she attended in Missouri. It was called, “A Purple Hat for Mom,” and as Crystal read it during one of the workshop sessions, a Scholastic Editor fell in love with it and eventually bought it! Isn’t that fantastic? It’s still on the Scholastic website, readandrisemag.net, so rush on over and take a look. Once you’re there, choose the magazine image with the three girls on the front entitled, “Here We Come.” “A Purple Hat for Mom,” is the first story.
And now, on to Rita’s High-5! Remember, RLH is me, CA is Crystal Allen.
RLH – What is your writing day like?
CA – I write as much as I can, but I try to get in at least four to six hours every day, if not more. That time may come in chunks, but at the end of the day, I want to know I at least got in that much time.
RLH – Yes, writing everyday is VERY important! But tell me, what is/was your biggest challenge?
CA – My challenges centered around allowing my characters to make mistakes and not trying to correct them. Also, some scenes were very hard to write because they were either tearful, painful or involved a wrongdoing on the part of my character.
RLH – And now a very important question that aspiring writers want to know: Do you have an agent, and if so, how in the world did you land him/her?
CA –Yes, I have an agent, but I didn’t when I first began writing this story. I met my agent, Jennifer Rofe, at a writer’s conference, where I submitted a few pages and she ended up with them. She liked my work enough to ask for the entire manuscript, and we spoke back and forth over the telephone and through emails for nine months. She helped me develop the story and eventually signed me as her client. Talk about a long dating process! So you see, being in the right place at the right time with a good manuscript is golden. I can’t emphasize how important it is to hone your craft and get yourself out there in front of agents and editors.
RLH – Thanks for sharing, Crystal. Writing your manuscript, FINISHING it, polishing it and being prepared to network is very important. So, on to the next question: Are there things you wish you’d known about the writing business before you got published?
CA – Yes! I wish I’d known that agents and editors don’t bite and they’re not rubber-stamp-carrying giants eager to pound “rejection” on my query letter!
I wish I’d known that this business is slower than snails in molasses! (though sometimes, it’s not long at all!)
And, I wish I’d known that it’s okay that my first and maybe even second draft looks like junk. As long as I keep writing and keep working hard, the story will eventually take shape.
RLH – Wow, those things are good to know. Do you have any other advice for aspiring and newbie writers?
CA – Yes: There’s no magic potion, no secrets or easy road. Even though writing is a wonderful way to express creativity, aspiring writers must remember this is a business. It’s all about hard work and honing your craft to present the absolute best manuscript you can deliver so a publisher can see a potential for sales and profit.
And for writers-of-color, my advice is… hurry up and join me. The time is so ripe for new voices and new angles. Children of all nationalities need to connect with our styles, our experiences as children, and hear from the characters that hang out in our heads.
Well said, Crystal. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with writers who dream of being where you are right now.
And that wraps up our time with the generous Crystal Allen, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview, and learned something in the process. To purchase your own copy of Crystal’s book, please click on the icon to the left.
To read my review of Crystal’s book, just surf over to YABooksCentral.
Until next time, best wishes and happy reading,