Guest Post by Tricia Springstubb: Writing for All Ages (and Typing with Two Fingers)

Posted on 20 June 2011

I’m thrilled to introduce Tricia Springstubb to all my blogging friends. Tricia is a fellow Cleveland writer and a fabulous author who writes for both kids and adults. I gave a copy of her middle-grade novel, What Happened on Fox Street, to a young relative who promptly started drawing (and searching for) foxes. Those who followed Mo’s story on Fox Street are awaiting the sequel, Mo Wren, Lost and Found, which is set for an August release.

In this guest post, Tricia shares the story of her writing beginnings and what it’s like to write for adults and children. (She also takes me back to my old typewriter days.) You can get to know Tricia a little more through her charming blog. Thanks for the post, Tricia!

My daughter just finished a massive grad school paper, and as she wiped the sweat from her brow she marveled, “People really used to do this on typewriters?”

Oh yeah. Typewriters, Liquid Paper, carbon copies—I was there. When I began writing, I literally cut and pasted, snipping out sections and repositioning them with Magic Tape. Back then, my early drafts were so ugly I often thought of the advice to sausage lovers: if you like to eat them, don’t watch them being made. Once when I took my typewriter in for repair (the place is now an Easy Dollar General) the guy gave a low whistle. He’d never seen such a beat-up paten. When I told him I only type with two fingers, he was really impressed.

Back then I had no agent. In fact, I had no clue. I lived out in the country, with no one to read my work but my husband, and if he offered any criticism, I wouldn’t speak to him the rest of the day. A Headstart teacher, I spent my days with little farm kids and my nights hunched over that typewriter. From the very beginning, I wrote for both children and adults. If that was unusual, I had no one to tell me. Every week or so I’d walk to the P.O. and post a manila envelope and S.A.S.E. to The Ohio Review or Highlights for Children. An editor at Redbook took an interest in me—this was in the glory days of women’s magazines, when they all published at least one short story per issue (moment of mournful silence). By the time she finally accepted a piece, I’d also published some short work for kids which, of course, I inserted in my author bio.

What happened next still happens, but I think it’s rarer now, and whenever I tell this part, I feel surrealistically lucky. A children’s editor at Little, Brown somehow read the Redbook story and called me up. She wondered if I had anything full length for young readers. “Oh,” said I, “I just happen to have a novel!” And as soon as I hung up, I began writing it.

Melanie turned out to be a dream editor. A true and generous mentor, she saw me through that young adult novel and then two more. My husband negotiated the contracts, since I would have said yes to anything.

Ever since–through a move to Cleveland, three daughters, other jobs—I’ve kept writing for both audiences. By now I know it’s unusual, possibly slightly schizo, to write for “all ages”, and yet I still love spreading myself around that way. Plot is always torture for me, but writing novels for kids demands I tell a real, what-happens-next story. That’s helped curb my tendency to muse and murmur on the adult page, just as my love of a beautiful, nuanced sentence spills over into the language I use in my kids’ books. I’ve written a couple of picture books, the closest I will ever come to poetry: every word matters, each one plays off the other, and a slip in tone is lethal. Writing for children lets me pin my heart to my sleeve, and writing for grown-ups lets me be depressing.

And the really interesting thing is, my themes stay much the same. I always set my stories on the family stage. Family is the place we come from, the force that defines us from the very beginning, and yet to truly become ourselves, we have to escape it. That’s rich drama whether you’re eight or eighty.

Someone told me Pottery Barn sells fake vintage typewriters to accent your office. Mine got left behind in a move years and years ago. Now I Skype with classrooms, I edit on Google docs, I blog! I belong to a wonderful writing group (see Laura’s many generous references) and I even have an agent. Sarah called me up on a Sunday night to offer representation. A proper Brit, she apologized for the unorthodox hour. Somehow, I managed to forgive her.

As they say, much is changed, but far more remains the same. I still write to find out what I think. And I still type with only two fingers.

Tricia’s adult work has appeared in The Iowa Review, where it won the 2009 Fiction Award, Hunger Mountain, Brain, Child, and other places, and is forthcoming in Limestone. HarperCollins will publish her new book for kids, MO WREN LOST AND FOUND, this coming August. Oh yes–she has two cats. You can visit her at www.triciaspringstubb.com.

 


4 responses to Guest Post by Tricia Springstubb: Writing for All Ages (and Typing with Two Fingers)

  • Teri says:

    Liquid Paper and Carbon Copies. The clackety-clack of the keyboard. These all bring back good memories for me. I had a typing teacher – Mr. Rainey – who cracked the whip of his ruler on exact spacing and proper typing. Truly one of my favorite teachers ever. I wonder where he is these days.

    Thanks for sharing your stories, Tricia.

  • Lyra says:

    Tricia,
    This is such a fantastic story about putting your stuff out there and how you never know where it will lead. My favorite part was, “I just happen to have a novel!” and then I went home and began writing it.
    Brilliant.
    You and your two-finger typing taking them by storm.

  • Tricia says:

    Two-fingered-typing my thanks to you and to Laura!

  • Downith says:

    What a lovely post! Reminds me of when I was doing my BA back in the late 70s – used to bring my cut and paste draft to a little old lady who would type and use white out.

    And you tell the kids today . . . .

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