by Rhianna Urquhart, UK North Blogger jaBlog!
Michelle Barker is a mother of four and an author of books and poetry. She is also an editor. You might have read her newest book for young adults, The Beggar King, about rebellion and sorcery. Michelle Barker will also be doing a workshop at the Junior Authors Writers Conference in Canada this year. I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview her and ask her some questions about writing, and what she is planning for the conference.
What started your passion for writing?
I’ve always written, from the time I was very young. It has been my way of working things out and making sense of the world. And as far as I can remember, I have always loved to read.
What is the most valuable lesson you learned as a writer?
I’m going to cheat and give you two. First, writing is rewriting. No one gets it right the first time. Stories are developed and perfected through rewriting, re-visioning, re-thinking. The second equally valuable lesson that I’ve learned is the importance of persistence. In this business, people will say no to you a lot. You can’t let that stop you. Keep writing, keep revising, keep sending out your work. The writers who get published are the ones who don’t give up.
If there is one piece of advice you’d give to a young writer, what is it?
Read. It kills me when I hear young people who want to be writers tell me that they don’t read. Reading is one of the best ways to learn how to write. You absorb effortlessly all the important lessons about how to create effective characters, how to write good dialogue, how to work out plot. Plus, it’s the most pleasant way I can think of to spend an afternoon.
Onto the conference. Have you spoken at a conference like this before?
I was at the conference last year, speaking about dialogue. Last summer, I gave a series of workshops on fantasy writing at the annual BC Youth Writers Camp held in Penticton, and I will be returning this summer to speak to young writers about poetry. I also spoke a few years ago at Writers’ Block, a conference for South Okanagan high school students.
What drew you to the LTC conference?
I love the idea of supporting young writers. I wish there had been conferences like this when I was their age. I think the encouragement is fabulous.
What is your talk going to be about?
Creating characters that come to life. It’s easy to make a CV-style list of character traits, but how do you translate that list into a living, breathing character that readers can identify with? That’s the question we’ll be wrestling with.
What do you hope young writers will take away from your talk?
I hope they will pick up some tips on effective physical description, learn something about the importance of character motivation, and learn ways to show the reader who their characters are rather than simply telling them.
What would you say to a young writer who is unsure about going to the conference?
Go! You’ll learn a ton, you’ll be inspired, and you’ll meet other kids who share similar interests.