I found the picture book “I’m Not”(Schwartz & Wade 2010) at our local book story I was so charmed by the story I asked the author Pam Smallcomb to share a little more about herself.
Here is a brief bio:
Pam Smallcomb is the author of I’m Not (2011), Earth to Clunk (2011) and other books for children. She is a member of the SCBWI and the Children’s Book Guild of Washington, D.C. A transplanted Californian, she now lives in rural Maryland with her family and assorted critters. When she’s not writing, she sews plushies and makes art dolls. You can find them at http://www.etsy.com/shop/yoborobo.
WOTS: What was your road to publication?
PS: My road to publication was long and winding and definitely needed better signage. I hit far too many potholes, and clipped a few mailboxes on the way. I have begun to see a theme in my life. It is this: “You are a late bloomer and nothing will come easily.” I didn’t begin to seriously try to write until after I left work to be at home with my kids (after starting my family late, in keeping with the theme). Some delusional part of me thought that staying home with four small children would make it easier for me to find the time to write. HAH. I wrote in the evening hours, bleary-eyed and in the same clothes I had been wearing for weeks, possibly months. A dear friend introduced me to the SCBWI, and I began to attend conferences every time I could sneak away (in clean clothes, of course). Several years and many rejection letters later, I sold my first book. I thought that it was all going to be easy-peasy from that day on. I was going to be selling books to editors like hotcakes. Um, I was wrong about that. I firmly believe that if you want to be a published children’s writer, you must have pitbull determination. As with most things in life, friends help a lot.
WOTS: Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? Do you plot or not?
PS: I do both. I have plotted a couple of middle grade novels, and it is very nice to know where I am going. It’s like having a roadmap that I can choose to follow, or take a detour if I feel like it. I have also written stories without plotting at all. Sometimes that works, and other times I have found myself in rewriting hell, or with a story that just quits. When I do plot, I have used Celtx (a screenwriting tool) and, for me, it seems like a natural way to define characters, and plot the action of a story.
PS: Does thinking about writing count? If it does, then I am working on several projects right now. Actual-writing-wise, I have a couple of stories started (because we all know it is easier to start stories than to finish them). One is a fictional memoir, and it’s the one I am having the most fun working on. I am also trying to pound several picture books into shape, but they are not cooperating in the slightest.
WOTS: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.
PS: I, sadly, do not have a studio. I usually write upstairs in my bedroom, because it’s quiet there, and I can’t hear the explosions coming from the Halo battles in the basement. I sit in a decrepit recliner, with duct tape on the arms (think of Fraser’s Dad’s chair), and work from my laptop. I’m not very good at getting actual writing done at places like Starbuck’s because I distract too easily. I eavesdrop. I talk to strangers. I interrupt my writer friends who are trying to get real work done. So I do most of my writing from home. Maybe some day I will get a recliner without duct tape. It is something to strive for.
WOTS: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
PS: I would love to be an artist. My degree is in art, and I have always fantasized about having a big barn for a studio, where I go each day (coffee in hand) to slap paint on to canvases, or to create mixed media pieces. It’s another way to create, and I would love to have more time to explore art.
If I couldn’t be an artist, I would love to be an archeologist. I can’t think of a more interesting way to spend the day than looking at pieces of the past. Besides you get to dig in the dirt. That appeals to me.
WOTS: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?
PS: Honestly, I think I might possibly be the most boring person on Earth. I have had this question thrown at me before, and I come up with zilch. I wish I could tell you about some nefarious chapter in my life, but there aren’t any. I do have a fear of clowns (thanks a lot, Stephen King). Oh! There is one thing… I would love to have chickens.
PS: I think it’s human nature to compare yourself to a friend (or a sibling). A kid might have a friend who is really good at sports, or ballet, or a friend who is really funny. It can make you feel like you come up short. For example, I have terribly witty friends and there are times when we get together that I want to put my head down on the table and say, “I’m not worthy!” I wanted to write a story that points out that a friendship is based on both people getting something from the relationship; you enjoy each other. You see strengths in your friend, and she sees strengths in you. You each bring something to the party. I wanted to say that without hitting a kid over the head with it.
WOTS: Did you work closely with the illustrator Robert Weinstock?
PS: No, I didn’t, but when I saw his website (early in the project), I jumped up and down for joy. I just knew he would knock it out of the park, and he did. He is, quite simply, brilliant. I got very lucky when our editor teamed us up.
WOTS: We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate with our writing, where do you fit in Procrastinator or Proactive?
PS: Proactive? What does this word mean? I am unfamiliar with it. I think it’s very safe to say I am a procrastinator. I love distractions. They make me feel like I have legitimate reasons for getting nothing at all accomplished. At dinner, I can turn to my husband and say things like “I would have had more time for writing but the lint trap in the dryer was a mess!” Procrastination is like an onion. Maybe on the first layer, you tell yourself “I really need to pay these bills before I sit down to write.” Legitimate excuse, after all the power needs to stay on, right? But then, as you are paying the bills, you see a coupon for dog food that is going to expire TODAY! You hop in your car and drive to Target, buy the dog food and $300 of other essentials, go home, put it all away, clean the kitchen, which reminds you the bathrooms are disgusting, and oh my gosh they need repainting, and then you are tired, so you take a nap, make dinner, watch TV and go to bed. All because you had to pay the power bill. Procrastination encourages distraction. It’s like your mind equates writing to homework, which in some ways, I guess it is. But it feels really good when you do actually write, and you make progress on a story. Why we fight it is beyond me.
Pam’s newest book “Earth to Clunk” is coming this summer. If you would like to know more about Pam and her books you can visit her site pamsmallcomb.com.
Thanks for visiting with us,
Writing on the Sidewalk