Thursday, July 5, 2012

Let's Ask - Question 10

This week's Let's Ask question was for the talented Rena J.Traxel.


RJT- Thanks Jenn for having me on your blog today.


Me- Hi Rena! I'm so glad you agreed to help me out - thanks so much for the fantastic answers.



Me- You are a writer of more than one genre. Would you advise others to try to write in a totally different genre to improve their craft ? If so, why would that be constructive? 





RJT- YES! Take a look at the books on your shelves. I bet you that some of the books you own mix genres and form.  The Wolves of Mercy Falls by Maggie Stiefvater mixes fantasy with romance with a dash of poetry. The Hunchback Assignments by Arthur Slade mixes historical fiction with fantasy. Frankie Pickle series by Eric Wright mixes the graphic novel with the chapter book. Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick mixes the art of the picture book with the art of a novel.  I could go on. The point is all these books are bestsellers.  Perhaps that picture book, or whatever project you are working on, needs a touch of horror or romance to make it stand out to publishers.  Perhaps your picture book would be better if it was a novel. Studying other genres will help you add in dashes here and there and will likely make your writing better.





Plus dabbling in other genres will help you assess your strengths and weakness. I can’t write romance to save my life unless of course it’s a satirical piece or a poem for a loved one. You will learn what you like to write. Maybe you have knack for writing humour or romance, but you’ll never know if you don’t give it a try.





Me- Which genre do you find to be more challenging to write for? Why?  





RJT- Every writing project comes with its own challenges.  One of the challenges I face is switching between projects. Most of the picture books I write involve animals and pre-school age kids while the novel I’m working on is for eight-and-up and is a fantasy novel/graphic novel hybrid. Going from the mindset of a three year old or a dog, to a mindset of a thirteen year old, or going from a picture book where you don’t typically tell the illustrator what to do to writing a graphic novel where you are suppose to give instructions to the illustrator can be disorienting.  Recently I was working on a concept series involving sounds. While I was writing this series, my novel set on the sidelines because I was stuck in non-fiction mode and couldn’t get into fantasy writing mode.





Writing for adults is much harder than writing for kids, at least when it comes to writing fiction. I find that there is more room for creativity when writing for kids versus adults.  Trying to find the balance between what a parent wants and what a kid wants to read in a picture book can be difficult versus MG novel where I’m only thinking about the kids.  Writing fantasy is much easier than writing non-fiction. I can stretch the truth when writing fantasy, but in non-fiction you have to stick with the facts.





Fantasy of the fairy tale variety is my preferred genre with poetry coming in second. Writing anything outside my preferred genres presents a challenge for two reasons—1) I don’t get enough practice writing in other genres. 2) Most of the books I read fall under the fantasy or poetry genre.



Me- Where does your inspiration come from while writing for children? Older audiences?


RJT- My inspiration comes from three places. 1) From the material I read. I generally like to spend a bit of time reading in a particular genre before writing in it.  I mentioned above that I had a hard time switching from non-fiction to fantasy well this usually doesn’t happen because reading in a genre before writing in it helps get my head in the game.  2) My husband. He is my muse.  I’m constantly bouncing ideas off him, which usually sparks new ideas.  3) Being challenged. Writing to me is about solving a problem akin to algebra (I know I’m one of the few writers out there that actually likes math).  Recently a writing friend posted a picture of basket full of socks. She said something along the lines of I bet you will think of some sort of monster story. Sure enough a week later I had produced a poem about a sock monster.  





Bio: Beware of the fiery haired writer that calls herself Rena J. Traxel. She spends her days brewing up a batch of fantastical stories. She also blogs about writing, shares poetry and downloadable activities @ www.renajtraxel.com


Thank you for your visit today!


25 comments:

  1. I am just stretching my wings and attempting things other than picture books and kids' poetry, so I really appreciate these reflections about mixing things up from Rena!

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  2. Thanks for this, Jenny and Rena! As someone who writes in multiple genres, it's good to get thoughts from another mixer-upper. I particularly found intriguing Rena's words about writers who combine genres in one novel or series, especially since I've just read The Invention of Hugo Cabret and found it a fascinating mix. Thank you!!!

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    1. I love that book. I would love to see more mixed-genre books out there. Beth, do you ever have trouble switching between genres?

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    2. Last summer I experimented with trying to work on my adult novel a couple of days a week, and my middle grade novel a couple of days a week, and it took me so long to switch gears each morning, that it really did not work out well at all.

      I find it's best to concentrate on one genre for a while, then move to another, and not try to go back and forth too often. I don't have too much trouble switching that way.

      I'm not trying to switch between things as disparate as fantasy and non-fiction, though. That gear-shifting would be more major than switching between a picture book about the arts, a middle grade novel about the arts, and an adult novel about a different facet of the arts. I'm usually telling a particular person's story, so I just need to get myself into that "skin" and I'm off to the races, so to speak.

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  3. I have trouble switching between my newspaper articles and PB stories, too. It's exercise for your already tired brain! Thanks, Rena, for your sound advice... I've been wanting to branch out into other genres, but am not sure I'm brave enough quite yet!

    Thanks, ladies!!

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    1. Thanks. Fortunately, I was exposed to many different forms and genres while getting my professional writing degree. It made sampling genres much easier. If you want to try writing in a different genre write flash fiction piece that way you don't have to spend too much time trying a different out.

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  4. I love the idea of mixing up genres and your in-house muse. Not everyone is so lucky as to have a hubby willing to do this. :)

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  5. Yeah, you are lucky to be able to 'bounce around' in the house! I often get eyes that roll or "later", not just from one, but all those settled in on the couch! But I like your never know til you try attitude Rena! Thanks Jen, for asking some good questions!

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    1. Thanks. I never thought I would write for children, but once I started I fall in love.

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  6. I love where you got your sock poem from, Rena! I agree everyone should experiment with genre. I started with Middle Grade and have dabbled again in it. I'd love to do it properly one day but I fear it is not my forte at all lol. I think it's great you do both so well.

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    1. Thanks! Now I need to find the time to finish all the projects rolling around in my head.

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  7. Thanks for the great Q&A, Jennifer!! I admire you, Rena, for being able to write in different genres! LOVE the bio!

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    1. Thank you . Thank you. I really hope to see many more mixed genre novels in the future. Hugo Cabret blew me away.

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  8. Fabulous interview! I loved hearing from Rena! And, I totally agree about writing different genres. You can learn so much!

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    1. Thanks! Even if a piece sucks there is still so much that can be learned from experimenting.

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  9. Ditto to all the wise ladies above...this was very helpful and very timely. I'm doing a little switcher myself and it's new and weird and exciting all at the same time:)

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  10. Extremely helpful, I agree. Thanks, Rena.

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  11. Excellent questions for Rena! I think she's so right - you don't know what you're really great at until you try it all!

    Thanks for following me - new follower back atcha!

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  12. Love the question and answer! I haven't ventured to another genre yet. I have toyed with the idea lately and it seems overwhelming. Rena, I like that you said writing in different genres helps you assess your strengths and weaknesses. Great point :-)

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Love to hear what you have to say!

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