Friday, May 11, 2012

Give it up for Hamline grad - Naomi K. Downing!!!

It's not everyday that I get to interview a Hamline grad that's out in the world getting paid for their talents. So, today I'm very proud to proud to post this blog to inspire and encourage you, my peers. When I met Naomi, she was one of the "big fish" graduating, and lil' ol' me (new fish) was in awe of her spirit and the fact that she had a publishing deal before graduating. Here's to you, Naomi!

Can you give a backstory on how your pub deal come about while still a student?

During my third semester, while I created my critical thesis, I began a personaltransformation. I’ve always believed, deeply, that by playing artists access their creative best. Play is a word that has been diminished to the point that most define it as frivolous activities done by children. However, play is an essential creative skill that involves above all, the willingness to let go of control. In my critical thesis, I wrestled with learning how to play, meaningfully, as a creative adult.

My willingness to let go of control was stretched to its limits when I attended an SCBWI conference and an editor pointed out that I was writing with my head and not my heart. The minute the words were out of her mouth, I knew she was right. The ideas in my book mattered to me, but I was using clever characters and heady metaphors to hold true raw emotion at bay. At the same conference, another editor read a memoir I’d written a number of years previously. She looked at my life material and asked me to propose a series for Zondervan’sFaithgirlz brand.

Now I had a choice. I wanted to keep writing my fantasy, to finish what I’d begun and go about becoming an author in the way I’d always planned. But a new path had opened for me, a challenging path, one I wasn’t sure I could navigate. Still, the challenge excited me.

Over the next few months, I proposed a variety of series ideas, and then we decided on a series to follow a manuscript I’d written prior to the Hamline program. I revised the first book, sent it in, and my publisher offered me a four-book deal. And then… the real work began. The books were contracted in August 2010, and by this August all four will have come out. The deadlines have been fast and furious, and have meant that all my other writing has had to take a backseat. However, I’ve learned so much through the process of writing one book after another, and I know my other books will be all the better for it.

Many writers feel that life is perfect and they'll be rich once they get a deal, can you speak to that myth? I know you still have to market, right?

Marketing is one challenge writers face—promoting one’s own book requires a skill set that most creative people don’t naturally possess. Also, marketing a book feels a little like marketing a piece of your own heart. Rejection feels personal, so the courage required to walk into a bookstore and ask if they’d like to carry your book is enormous.

Silence is another challenge. Friends ask innocent questions like: How are your sales?Authors don’t receive sales statements from their publishers until three months after a quarter ends. So, I’m only finding out what I’ve sold in January-March at the beginning of June. This makes answering the sales question hard.

Time management is another big issue. Once writing starts taking a larger role in your life, the rest of your life is still in motion. Important things, like say, your job, are still there. . . You can’t quit and just write, not yet, probably for quite some time. So finding ways to balance the old life with the new responsibilities requires creative juggling and patience.

For me, the biggest challenge has been that my private creative work is now a very public, collective process. No longer can I write whatever I feel like on any given day. I have a deadline and I have a certain book that comes next in the cue. I can’t leave a narrative problem for a month while I move on to something else, and then come back and solve the issue. Even though I thrive on taking creative leaps, when a book is due in a short amount of time, I don’t have time to try an inventive new structure, or a beyond-my-comfort-zone point of view.

This is not to say that having a book out in the world isn’t a grand adventure. Just a few weeks ago, I received an email from a girl who was doing a project on my books because she connected with my main character, Sadie, and loved her story. It’s thrilling that the books are circulating, being read and enjoyed.

What is the greatestpiece of advice you've learned from Hamline/advisor?

From my fellow Hamline students, and my advisors, I’ve learned that the way I can give most in the world is by learning to be authentically myself. Creativity stems from deep inside us, and the work of the artist is as much learning to open up, to accept the positives and negatives that make up who we are, as it is to create beautiful works of art. Writing a story when you’re ignoring yourself, your most important tool, is like trying to paint with a muddy paintbrush. This is not to say that I must be perfect, or in a perfect emotional place, to write. Exactly the opposite, I think. What I must do is be honest with myself, in both good times and hard times, and let authentic emotions flow through me onto the page.

I’m on a blog tour right now, and at each stop, I’m giving away set of the first three Sadie books: Shades of Truth, Flickering Hope, and Waves of Light. To enter the drawing, send an email to A winner will be drawn on June 15, 2012.

Also, if you have any young writers (ages 9-12) in your life, please pass along this information about the writing contest my publisher is running in connection with the books. The deadline for entry is June 1, andthe grand prize is a Kindle Fire.

To find more information or to order the series, check out her website:

No comments:

Post a Comment