Spotlight on Writing

Mini Interview with Rhonda McCormack

photoI had the pleasure of meeting Ms. McCormack at a SCBWI get together a few years back. We have remained friends over the years, and not only is she a writer and artist, but also a wonderful lady who always has great insights on wellness and life. Her book Wildflowers was released in August 2012, and one lucky visitor will get an autographed copy!! (To enter, please leave a comment below. The winner will be picked at random next Thursday, June 6th.)

1. What is your favorite YA book?
 Oh boy.  This will be impossible to nail down.  But after a think, I do have a favorite novel about two young girls who transition through many living situations before coming into a unique arrangement with their mother’s younger sister.  The book is Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, and though it’s not officially put in the YA genre, it is some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read on the young adult experience.  Another amazing (amazing!) book not in the YA genre but featuring young adult characters is Atonement by Ian McEwan.  These books have more adult themes and situations, but again, speak to the honesty of young adulthood.
As a young reader, I was drawn to authors like Judy Blume and Lois Lowry, who wrote the Anastasia Krupnik novels that still make me laugh today.  I also recall that the family’s copy of The Outsiders had smooshed corners and rumpled page edges from the many (many) reads it got.  Two others worth mentioning are The Chocolate War (Cormier) and The Last Unicorn (Beagle).
As for contemporary YA, I was deeply touched by A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park, though this is more middle grade than YA.  I also felt moved by The Book Thief (Zusak) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian (Alexie), and most recently, I read Endangered by Eliot Schrefer and found the story so thoughtful and powerful that I’ve been referring left and right.  Oh, and there’s Hattie Big Sky (Larson) for good YA historical fiction, and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick My Ass (Medina) for a powerful narrative on bullying, and there’s John Green and Tom Leveen for authentic teen voices.
See how hard this is?  I could go on and on and on…
2. How does being an artist enhance your writing?

In any and every way I can think of.  The long and the short of it is that both can be meditative or generate energy, but moving away from words, sentences, structure and getting into the studio allows me perspective.  My art is less formal than my writing, and working on a painting while also working on a novel can open me up to that space where the writing flows.  It’s not always the case that I have both going at the same time, but I’m moving more towards that end.

3. Your book Wildflowers focuses on environmental issues. Tell us one change you have made within your home to be more environmentally friendly?

My interest in being a good environmental steward proceeded Wildflowers, and over the years our homes have just grown more and more Eco-friendly.  Some of the cooler things we’ve done include using insulation made from recycled blue jeans and installing a tank-less water heater, and I swear by using less toxic paints and cleaners.  I’ve also enjoyed finding product manufacturers who have an environmental philosophy outlined as part of their business model.  Room and Board and Flor are two companies I’ve found that are dedicated to using Eco-minded materials and production practices, as well as being committed to quality products and fair treatment of labor.

4.  What is your favorite thing about indie publishing?
The creative freedoms.  For writers, artists, and illustrators who would love to see the book they’ve imagined in their heads come to life exactly as they see it, Indie is a super cool option.  I’ve written a lot about the importance of quality writing, design, and marketing when deciding to enter the Indie movement, but if the creator is up for it, it’s a fascinating (and challenging) artistic experience.