Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
— William Shakespeare
Miranda Paul’s new book, Mia Moves Out, is a delightful sibling story with hidden nooks and adventure, all within one starry house. Every sibling will find something to smile about in its energy, its wonderful illustrations or its empathy for a diverse family of chosen children. To top it all off, Miranda Paul herself answers a few questions below from this aspiring author!
My Interview with Miranda Paul
Is MIA MOVES OUT an #OwnVoices work?
No, Mia Moves Out is not an #ownvoices work, because I was not adopted or a part of the foster care system growing up. Many students who I’ve shared the work with recognize parts of their own lives in Mia’s experience, or are finding validation, which is satisfying on many levels.
How important is community to your writing — with respect to beta readers, critiquers, member organizations like 12×12 and SCBWI, as well as industry professionals.
I just returned from a weekend retreat with my critique group. We met about nine years ago at an SCBWI meeting, and none of us were agented or published at that time. All of us who stuck with the group are now published; in fact, we lined up 20 of our books on the fireplace! Getting feedback and having honest and thoughtful partners to push your writing to the next level has been an influential factor for all of us. Though I think learning to find one’s own motivation, learning the ropes through experience, and self-editing are important, a community helps give an isolated writer doses of reality and companionship when celebrating or commiserating the ups and downs of the journey.
You’ve published 10 books, do you still need a “day job” or family support or is writing enough income to support you?
I worked as a teacher and a freelance writer for many years while writing. Several years ago, I was able to step away from that and I now make my living as a writer. This includes my books but also some speaking and teaching fees—I visit schools and serve as an instructor of writing for places such as The HighIights Foundation.
What is your favorite revision technique?
I write mostly picture books, and picture books are meant to be read aloud. Printing off my manuscript and handing to someone who hasn’t read it before is one technique I use to get “fresh ears” on my work. Listening to another person read a book of mine out loud is always eye-opening. I take notes of where the reader stumbles, or places where my mind gets bored or wanders. I listen for words that don’t give off the right tone or sound. This is doubly important for any book that rhymes or hinges on lyrical or rhythmic language.
I also have another somewhat quirky revision technique—when something is still in “draft” mode or “play” mode, I keep it in the computer default font. Only once I’m sure I’ve found the best format and the overall big picture is clear or focused enough will I change the font and double space it. Then I begin revisions. This makes me feel less pressure and not get too attached to my ideas or words in an early stage. It’s important that a book’s concept, format, and structure are as strong as possible before I begin smaller revisions on the details. A writer could waste a lot of time revising and polishing a manuscript that wasn’t strong enough in its concept, format, or focus from the beginning—you could end up revising for months but not really making a work any better.
How do you know when a manuscript is done and ready to submit to your agent?
I have a whole presentation on this, in fact! It’s not always easy to know. It often boils down to 1) Trust your gut, and 2) Trust other people’s guts. Often, the manuscripts with the most promise are the ones you can’t stop thinking/talking about, but it’s also the ones that other people continue to comment on or find remarkable. If you’re able to pitch it concisely, you’re excited about it, and you don’t want to change much after putting it away for some time and pulling it back out, that might be the one to send. Over time, your sensibilities will get stronger on all of this as well.
What is the single most successful market tip you can share?
Don’t write to the market! Write what matters to you, and consider very carefully the child who will be reading it so that your passion or knowledge is transferred to them. Always, always make the books with the children in mind. Remember that kids don’t have the same nostalgia or complex way of viewing the world and people as grown-ups do. Honor children’s experiences and emotions by writing books that speak to them directly and begs to be read more than once.
I hope these answers give you encouragement, hope and food for thought. Have a magical week!