cookie jar

Today I’m delighted to have children’s author, Annie Silvestro, as my guest.  Annie and I met at the wonderful June NJSCBWI conference several years ago. She recently announced that her debut picture book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, will be published by Doubleday in Spring of 2017! Way to go, Annie! She’s joining us today with her thoughts on how to work through writing when the going gets tough. You are in for a tasty treat! Take it away, Annie!

Writers can spend hours in front of a screen or notebook, staring.

And after all those hours, we’ve finally got it! The right word. A strong sentence. A cohesive paragraph.

Those little successes can make us feel like a million bucks. But the time it takes? That can feel daunting.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not always that way. Sometimes writing is magical in how smoothly it flows and how quickly ideas take shape. But when it’s not, and particularly when you’re stuck on an idea, it can be very frustrating.

I’ve found that as part of my writing process, when my words get muddled, I make like Amelia Bedelia and bake. I think that’s because with baking, in a relatively short period of time I can accomplish a sure thing – something tangible, pleasant, and delicious that I can share (or not).

Plus, with baking, I follow a straightforward recipe. There’s no guesswork, no hair-pulling, no screaming at the screen. I grab butter, flour, and sugar without even thinking. I measure and mix precisely, then pour the sweet concoction into a pan or onto a cookie sheet. When the timer goes off, voila! Muffins! Banana bread! Snickerdoodles!

The best part is, while I’m baking, my subconscious is freed up to ruminate over the ingredients I’ll use in whatever story I’m working on. Ingredients like good characters, strong plot, tension, page turns, and the ever-important layers of emotion, humor, and heart.

We writers pull those ingredients from our imaginations, measure and mix as we see fit (revise, revise, revise), then pour them into a well-structured arc. Finally, and maybe most importantly, we let our stories bake.

Ideas need time to come together so we can see that their particular flavors and textures are just right. Just like too much flour can make your cake dry out, too much or too little of any story ingredient, and your manuscript can fall flat.

Time gives you the opportunity to read your story with fresh eyes so you can see more clearly what works or doesn’t work. Perspective helps you tweak your recipe so it’s absolutely delicious. And when the story is done, and the fork comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, you can bet you won’t mind sharing.

What do you do when you’re feeling unproductive in your writing? Share your ideas in the comments.

Annie Silvestro 5-2015Annie Silvestro writes, bakes, ruminates, and reads, reads, reads on the Jersey Shore where she lives with her husband, two boys, and a cat named Blinky. Her debut picture book BUNNY’S BOOK CLUB, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss, will be published by Doubleday in Spring of 2017. Twitter: @anniesilvestro

21 thoughts on “GUEST POST: WRITING, BAKING, RUMINATING with Annie Silvestro

  1. Annie, I love the idea of baking as a way to give yourself time to sort out your ideas. For me a run, walk, or just talking it out with someone else often helps. Wonderful post! I cannot wait to get my signed copy of Bunny’s Book Club!

  2. Mom would never bake to clear her head. Baking would mess with her head more than a stuck story. She gets help from me! We take a walk or a ride or have an adventure. Good luck with your Bunny book!

    Love and licks,

    • Brilliant, and also deals with all the senses(okay, maybe not hearing!), which is an added bonus. Like many of the others, I walk but with no music, no phone calls,(I keep my phone with me for safety, but try not to use if-your brain needs the quiet), and usually alone. I walk also with friends, the dog, etc, but not to ‘write’. Congrats on Bunny’s!

    • Thank you so much! And long walks definitely help me too, though I tend to stay away from cleaning… Ha ha 🙂

  3. Annie – I’m so glad you stopped by today to share what you do when the writing gets tough and I’m absolutely LOVING the bonus of hearing what some of the rest of us do when we get stuck. As for me, I like to take walks when I’m stuck with an index card and pen in my pocket in case I make a break through while I’m away from my desk. Thanks EVERYBODY for sharing your thoughts.

    • Thanks so much, Laura! I appreciate the opportunity! And good call on bringing an index card and pen on walks 🙂

  4. Congratulations, Annie! Great advice. I’ve been letting myself do other creative activities lately, but I haven’t been fueling my brain by reading a WIP before hand. I’m in a summer slump!!

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