The first in a series of interviews with (particularly women) writers about where they experienced creative inspiration as children and rockin’ talk about books and writing.
Alda and I are writing partners. We complement each other well, and I’m so thankful for her sharp brain and insights as well as our shared enthusiasm for books and words.
First trained as an engineer, Alda has been actively writing fiction for six years while raising two small children. Currently she’s putting the final touches on an historical novel for middle grade readers and waiting for an upcoming story to be published in Highlights magazine.
We had a wonderful time talking about our experiences as girls growing up craving stories, the positive influences in our lives and a shared love of libraries.
Pivotal writing moment / moment you knew you wanted to be a writer?
There was a time in school when Alda was inspired to make up a story on the spot when a teacher asked the class what they’d done during the Christmas break. Alda hadn’t done much of anything but sitting there listening to others’ answers it occurred to her that a couple of them were not being completely truthful. So when her turn came she made up a story about a trip to New York City. It was entertaining and detailed enough that her listeners hung on every word, so she kept, “feeding it and acting out things.” And in the process discovered the thrill and satisfaction of sharing stories with an audience.
Were there books when you were a girl that showed you a different way of life for women? That you think might have impacted you as a female?
Stories that Alda heard from her mom provided enough material for a book. Thanks to her mother, she has the beginnings of the novel she’s now working on.
What encouragement did you receive growing up? Creatively or otherwise?
In fourth or fifth grade, Alda remembers loving book fairs. It was her favorite time of year. She’d pore over the order forms, circle books she wanted, and daydream about getting them. When the shipment of books arrived she’d browse the shelves, cracking open the fresh, new books and smelling the new smell, loving the thrill of a new story there waiting in the pages. She never bought any books though, because the money wasn’t there.
Before that time Alda remembers liking the pictures in the books when her class would visit the school library. At that time she was still learning English. She grew up speaking Spanish until third or fourth grade.
Your favorite book when you were 10 years old or thereabouts?
Alda liked the Tales From the Darkside books because they were packed with suspense. She liked “feeling in the moment” and the transporting effect of the stories.
What advice do you have for young girls who love to read, love words, might be future (or present) writers? (Or work in other creative professions.)
“Follow, pursue your dreams and work hard at them, no matter what people say. Listen to advice — but ultimately it’s your life; and you decide what’s best for you.”
In high school Alda entered a short story writing contest in her area district and won. But her win was seen as a fluke, and she was told it was, “tough [enough] for Americans” [in literary fields]. “I was told by teachers I was good in math, and to pursue that.”
What kinds of things do you know of, to encourage and teach young writers?
1) Find writing contests online; check your local newspaper for opportunities; ask schools or teachers who might know of resources.
2) “Keep your muscles developing.”
3) Keep a journal and of course, read.
She also says, “Let your imagination just flow. Don’t be afraid of that. If you have a dream, follow up on that.”
Do you have a favorite quote?
Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. ~ Lao Tzu
Who is your favorite girl character in literature and why?
India Opal in Because of Winn-Dixie and Katniss in The Hunger Games (both read as an adult) were favorites because, “They have a strength but at the same time a compassion – they’re brave enough to show that compassion. Not afraid of mixing them both.”
Talk about libraries.
They’re my sanctuary. Libraries are always first on my list to go to when I visit a new town. Every time I’m on my way to discover a new one, I feel as excited as if I were going to Disneyland. (Alda was in the military as was her husband, and they’ve moved often.)
The inspiration that music offers…
Alda listened to operas when she was in middle school. She didn’t understand the words, but she “felt the story” within the music.
The connection between music, story and creating is strong for her.
She spoke about the thrill of solving E=mc2 in a physics class in college. The professor set the problem without telling them that it was the classic equation. The thrill of creatively exploring and discovering her way to the mathematical answer compares to the high Alda feels when experiencing certain music.
In her own (written) words:
Ideas are everywhere! When I was a kid and even now I get ideas from listening to music (from Spanish, to classical, to Beatles) and from nature walks. There’s always a story behind every music note, every sunset, and every star. When you do get a good idea, run with it and work as hard as you can to turn it into a good story. Writing is not easy. It is hard, hard work. But when you do finally write a great sentence or paragraph, you get a certain “high” — your brain feels numb and you get this tingling feeling in your body knowing you’re getting closer to something great.