Stacy Nyikos interview with David Alan Binder
Post date: Apr 22, 2016 3:10:59 PM
Stacy Nyikos interview with David Alan Binder
Her bio from her website: I've been a storyteller all of my life. When I was little, I acted out my stories. It was the only way to share. Then I learned to write. I wrote everything. Poetry. Short stories. A novella. Even a dissertation, which is a very, very, very, long book. I also played basketball, did Irish dancing (Michael Flatly was my teacher!), played guitar and violin, ran cross country, track, and was concert master of the Tulsa Youth Symphony. I was always busy and I loved it. My adventures are the stuff that feed my stories.
Travel is part of them. I've lived in different parts of the world and had friends from even more exotic places. All the while, I gathered their stories like a magpie. When I decided to write full time, they became the seeds for my stories.
I experimented with different forms of writing, but it was children's stories that hooked me. I get to create worlds as spongy and delicious as marshmallows, soar through green oceans with talking sharks, and float on misty currents with dragons. It's an amazing place to live in. And it changes on a daily basis. I can't imagine a better place to work and play.
My books have won various awards. One of the neatest has been the Read Across Oklahoma Book award. Both my books Rope 'Em! (Kane Miller 2011) and Toby (Stonehorse 2014) have been winners. The committee gives away over 2,000 copies of my book to pre-K to kindergartners, and then I get to read to them. We have A LOT of fun acting out my stories, and I don't have to do it by myself anymore. Yippee!
I've also collected a few degrees along the way, my most recent being an MFA in Writing for Children from Vermont College. I am represented by Stephen Fraser at the Jennifer di Chiara Literary Agency.
1. How do you pronounce your name (only answer if appropriate)?
Long “i” long “o” – Ni/kos
2. Where are you currently living?
3. What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?
Ooh, that’s a good question. Writing is a continuous learning process for me. In part, that’s got to do with never being satisfied with my status quo. I try out different genres, especially ones that really make me uneasy because I learn so much doing so. My writing improves across the board. Pushing the edge of my comfort zone as a writer makes me a better (if, at times, slightly angsty) writer. That’s my take away from what I’ve learned.
4. What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?
Just as reading a couple of different pieces at the same time keeps me from adopting any other writer’s style or voice, writing different pieces over the same time period helps keep me from hitting the proverbial writer’s wall. At any given time, I have 4-5 projects in all different stages of development. That keeps me fresh and moving forward.
5. Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?
a. Who is the name of your publisher and in what city are they?
I have worked with various publishers from publishing myself to regional presses, small publishers, such as Kane Miller, to New York houses, SkyPony Press. Regardless of the house or publishing style, writers must be ready to promote their work these days. This is not an industry for the promotionally shy. Larger houses have the advantage of readily reachable, and large, target audience. DIY publishing has the advantage of maneuverability and accessing marketing niches too specific for a larger house. In my case, that happened to be aquariums ten years ago. I did a picture book series that sold really well across aquariums from Maui to Mystic to Shedd and everything in between. It was a niche I happened to discover and was able to fill successfully. Not every book has that sort of marketability. It’s important to know who your target audience is once you’ve finished a piece. That will help you when strategizing either alone, with an agent, or an editor.
6. Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?
Embrace everything. Change is the norm. For kidlit younger than YA, eBooks are not usually the norm, but beyond middle grade, they work very well because the book is more often purchased by the end reader, rather than a gatekeeper. No doubt that will change as more and more schools acquire tablets. I personally like reading on both, although I do enjoy a book in my hands, especially an illustrated one. That seems to fit in with the current trend.
7. Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?
Everyone’s path to publication is unique. The one constant seems to be that the only way any of us get there is never giving up. It’s useful to research how other people got published – and try those venues or paths out. It will likely get a writer to that unique opportunity that works just for her a little faster.
8. How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent? Any tips for new writers on getting one?
Agents seem to be more and more necessary. I have one, whom I connected with the usual way – submission. The slightly unusual part is that I submitted a middle grade novel I had worked on with an advisor while doing my MFA in Writing for Children at Vermont College. That piece was cleaner and stronger than anything I’d done before because of the one-on-one editing work. It’s likely what got me out of the slush pile and into the represent pile.
9. Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?
In kidlit, I’d say, join the SCBWI – Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators. It’s the fastest, most efficient way to learn the 411 on the kidlit industry. In addition, the SCBWI holds conferences featuring editors and agents looking to acquire new work, so it’s a great place potentially to make the next step in a writer’s career. Finally, it’s a wonderful support network, which I found incredibly helpful not only in my early years as a writer but now as well. A career has so many different twists and turns. It’s so great to be able to share and discuss those surprises with others who have, or are, going through the same thing.
10. What was one of the most surprising things you learned your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?
There is a huge debate amongst kidlit authors about being a plotter or a plunger. In other words, do I put together a very detailed outline and then write, or do I just jump in and see where the story takes me. I outlined for everything else I ever wrote (I have a PhD in polis ci and am published in that field), but not fiction. Not until I started writing movie scripts. I like a decent outline, but I also appreciate how spontaneity can foster my creativity. So, sometimes I go one way and sometimes the other. There is no right or wrong…I hope!
11. How many books have you written?
I have 7 published works and easily as many on my hard drive that have not yet found a publisher, as well as 4-5 in various stage of creation at present.
12. Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be as specific and information as you possibly can)?
Again, I don’t know that there are any overall tricks that are the secret to success. It’s pretty straightforward. Just like with any other skill, it takes practice. Writing every day is the same as practicing free throws in basketball every day or scales for a musician. Practice makes perfect, or at least, publishable.
13. Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?
I try out lots of different plot lines in a first draft. Again, when I start to feel uncomfortable, when I’ve put my protagonist in a seemingly unwinnable situation – or a box – that’s when creativity takes over. I’ve got to go beyond what feels comfortable to create a story worth sharing.
14. What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?
I’d like to think it’s my own unique take on the world. All the stories to tell have already been told. What a relief! I don’t have to reinvent storytelling, I’ve got to figure out what I’ve got to add to it. So I mine my experiences, my feelings, my nuggets of whatever wisdom life has shared with me and then work to shape them into something new and unique.
15. What are some ways in which you promote your work?
I use all of the usual social media suspects. That’s pretty much expected today.
A few more unique things I’ve done include taking a book on a scavenger hunt across Europe, a sort of Where’s Waldo trip, and posting pics on Facebook. It helps to get away from the “look, this is me!” feeling one can get posting about one’s work over and over. And, for my first book, Squirt, a writing contest with local school districts.
Basically, it depends on the book. If it’s one I bring out, it’s all up to me to figure out marketing, which I enjoy. If it’s a book that’s sold to a traditional publishing house, it’s a collaboration. My editor and I had a conversation about publicity – what they’re going to do, what they expect me to do – I brainstorm and bounce ideas off of her re: things I could do. If she’s game, if it fits into and/or augments the house’s publicity plans, then I do them.
Each book is different. It’s all about finding the unique marketing angle to go with the book.
16. What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?
I’m not sure I’d do anything differently. I’ve learned more from my mistakes than anything else. Don’t get me wrong, making them wasn’t fun. In fact, it was pretty painful at times, and I’m nowhere near done. I’m not dead yet! But as one publishing veteran/friend told me, “the only mistakes that count are your own”. It took me a while to realize that they are the ones I internalize and learn from most.
17. What would you like carved onto your tombstone? Or what saying or mantra do you live by?
I strive to approach life – and my writing career – such that I don’t look back one day and regret not having taken on a challenge. If I had to sum it up in two words – no regrets – that’s how I’d like to look back on my life. I embraced every opportunity that came my way and tried it out.
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