This week we’re congratulating Stacey Corrigan on her picture book debut, THE PENCIL EATER, coming out August 6th. This book is the answer to the age-old teacher question...where have all the pencils gone? We’re celebrating with an interview with Stacey, learning all about what makes her tick. Her writing method sure does make us long for an old-fashioned pencil with eraser top. Check it out!
Where were you when inspiration struck for your story?
About five years ago, I was teaching second grade and a student asked for a pencil. I had spent the morning sharpening pencils and told a student to get one from the pencil jar, but all were gone. In frustration, I said, “Second graders are pencil eaters.” My students laughed so I jotted the idea down on a piece of paper. I wrote my first draft that weekend and chuckled the whole time I wrote it. The experience felt like therapy and I was hooked.
That first draft was actually more like a character sketch--I didn’t know that at the time. It took me years to develop the idea into its current form.
Where do you find your ideas?
My ideas come from everywhere. Lots of ideas have come from students. Second graders are cool. They are old enough to be interested in the world around them and young enough to make unfiltered comments. That gives me lots to work with.
I also get ideas from my own family. My husband and our two sons are clever and witty and life with them is always an adventure. We are super interested in nature and you will often find us fishing on our pontoon, riding snowmobiles, or cruising through the forest in our Side-by-Side. Ideas always come during these excursions when I least expect them so I snap a picture or text myself my ideas and develop them the next morning.
What does your writing schedule look like on a daily/weekly basis?
During the school year, I wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 in the morning, I start my coffee maker, check social media until the coffee is finished, and then, write until my boys wake up at around 5:45. If I am tired or it has been a long week, I reset my alarm. I don’t sacrifice sleep to write but if I am able, I stick to that schedule.
I also write a ton while I wait for the boys’ practices to end or for games to begin.
During the summer, I am on a much more relaxed schedule. I still stick to mornings but get started when I wake up on my own.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
“Don’t submit yet!” Seriously, I submitted everything way too early. Writing is a process. It takes a long time to hone your skills. I am embarrassed by some of the stuff I put out early on. Some of the best writers I know still haven’t submitted their work because they feel it isn’t ready and their stuff is seriously good.
When you begin writing a picture book, do you know what the ending will be?
Not really. I usually have an ending in mind but I don’t think I have ever kept the same ending I started with. When I write the first draft, I write a super predictable ending. Then, I play for a while. I try all sorts of endings out. I have killed characters off, brought them back to life, turned them into a villain, a superhero, etc... Somehow, through that process, a good ending presents itself.
What would you like readers to know about you?
I am an alum and die-hard Michigan State fan. GO GREEN!