A Woik of Art (Part One)
One of the greatest things about belonging to this ‘writing tribe’ that exists in the universe when you start looking is getting to meet like-minded individuals who have a passion for sharing their art with the world. A person who personifies this is best-selling children’s author Julie Woik who, through her pixie-like protagonist Lilly the Lash, teaches kids aged one to 101 life lessons about character and doing the right thing. I sat down to chat with her about her writing approach and where her inspiration comes from. She had so much to share this will be a two-parter, so be sure to check in to read next week’s blog and pick up a few more writing tips along the way!
In your books you describe Lilly as being formed from your eyelash. Was it really that type of epiphany, or had you been thinking about creating Lilly’s character for a while before you put her on the page?
Actually, this story is a story all of its own! Lilly the Lash came to be during a late night trip to the bathroom. On my way to the bathroom I wiped my cheek and found this tiny eyelash. As soon as I saw it, I knew it was Lilly the Lash. A poem about a friend who’d been having a tough time immediately began to fill my head. I wrote it all down, and printed it in order to give it to her for her birthday. About a week later, quite by accident, a lady who’d worked in the publishing business overheard part of the poem. She loved the message, she loved the rhyme, and she loved the idea of an eyelash fairy. She encouraged me to somehow transform the poem in a way to be fitting for children. So I did. Who would’ve thought that an eyelash could change someone’s world in the blink of an eye!?!?
You had an interesting career outside of writing before you ever sat down to create Lilly the Lash. Did your work in mental health help you create Lilly’s persona?
When I started working in the psychiatric field I realized very quickly that not everyone came from a safe and loving environment like me. I worked with so many people suffering from low self-esteem, and as a result didn’t feel valued. Often this feeling leads to bad choices. I always believed it was important to make the clients I worked with feel valued. When they did, the transformation was obvious in their attitude, voice, body language, and everything else they did. When given the chance to bring life to a children’s book character, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to make her empowering. She could help someone feel good about their actions; even if they’d made a poor choice. She would show them how to set things straight through using good character, and this in turn, would give them the self-esteem needed to move through life happily and successfully. In the end, it’s a win-win for everyone!
How do you go about the creative process?
In regard to my series, the creative process is a tad pre-set, as each book in the series has a pattern that breaks down into seven sections. So once I have my location, characters, problem to be solved and solution in mind, I follow the pattern of the previous books. When I’m writing an article for a magazine, or a speech for an organization, I focus on my main concept, and build around that; always making sure I’ve got my audience in mind. Different audiences read/hear/see things differently. It’s important to know who you’re talking to, when writing a presentation that will be well received.
Do your themes come to you slowly, or do you have an inspired moment?
The themes come in different ways. I want the lesson to be something that needs to be learned by all of us, no matter our age. I may get inspired by a particular situation. For example, my fifth book is about BALANCE. I chose that life lesson because of the recession that began in 2007. I feel that greed is a HUGE problem in our society, and we need to look around and start making sure our choices help keep people, the planet and the universe in balance as a whole! Sometimes I get a theme because so many people have asked me to. I’ll then develop my idea from there.
Once you know the lesson Lilly is going to teach, do you write the verse all at once, or do you take your time to create her adventure?
To the point of actually sitting down to write it, I’ve already had thoughts of things that might be fun and entertaining. When I’m ready to write the book, it usually only takes me only a couple of weeks to finish it. I turn off the music, television, and phone. Complete silence works best for me to make it all come to life.
Be sure to check back next week to read the second part of Julie's interview, where she gives some sage advice about finding an agent versus self-publishing!