As part of our continuing series of 2010 Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference (www.foryoungreaders.com) faculty interviews with interviewer Carol Lynch Williams.
Advanced novel faculty Alane Ferguson was born in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1957. Her mother is children’s author Gloria Skurzynski. Ferguson is the author of many novels and mysteries, including the Edgar Award-winning Show Me The Evidence. Rumor has it that there will be two more books in Alane’s forensic series staring Cameryn Mahoney!
Carol Lynch Williams: Why did you decide to become a writer?
Alane Ferguson: I became a writer because my mother, who is a successful author, showed me that it was possible to actually live out your dreams. (While working in your pajamas with a baby on your lap, no less!) From the time I was twelve I watched the process up close, and I think those observations gave me the key to what makes a writer successful: hard, hard, HARD work and the ability and humility to revise. My personal journey as an author began a bit strangely because I never thought about becoming a writer until I put pencil (literally, it was a yellow notepad) to paper to create a story for my daughter Kristin when she was less than enthusiastic about the arrival of a second child. My mother caught wind of the story and convinced me to send it in to New York for a possible book sale (after a revision, of course). So with great trepidation I popped my story in the mail. Believe it or not, the first place I sent it, bought it, and I’ve been writing ever since!
CLW: Please introduce yourself—but do it as the opening of one of your mystery novels.
AF: Alane Ferguson looked nothing like her sister Joni, whose angularity exuded an almost bird-like quality while Alane seemed softer, rounded both inside and out, like river rocks smoothed by time. Looks, though, could be deceiving: it was Alane who possessed the flair for finding trouble….
CLW: What book has most influenced you?
AF: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It was the first time I realized the soul-churning power of the written word.
CLW: You’ve been faculty at this conference many times. Why do you keep coming back?
AF: I keep coming back to this conference because of the talent that attends—I’ve met the most amazing aspiring writers! It is a thrill to become a part of their accomplishments, even if it’s just the smallest link in the writing chain. I get great joy from watching them succeed, and succeed they do!
CLW: What will students learn in your class?
AF: My students will learn how to structure their thoughts, and by that I mean the nuts and bolts of framing their stories in a way that will make their writing ‘pop’ right off the page! It’s actually fun to see the light go on as a writer hones his or her skill. My job is to show authors how to construct their work so their words can flow organically. I call my class a ‘boot camp’ because writing is work, but it in the end they’ll have some nice, strong writing biceps to do the heavy lifting.
CLW: What is it like to have a mom who is also published?
AF: Having a mom who is also published is cool because she understands both the frustrations and the delights of the writing process. Joyous at my triumphs, Gloria Skurzynski is my most unwavering champion, which can get a bit embarrassing when we’re in a group of other writers and editors. “You think J.K. Rowling can write?” says she, incredulous. “Why, you simply must get a copy of my daughter’s book if you want to see real craftsmanship.” Bear in mind my mother actually said this to an editor who had in fact worked on J.K. Rowling’s books. Hear the internal scream of MOTHER! (And, big surprise, that editor did not ask to see my work.) But seriously, you can’t put a price on that kind of support—she has been invaluable to me as a mentor. The best part is that my mother will not hesitate to tell me when I’ve missed the mark, which is, counterintuitively, writing gold. I trust her input and adjust accordingly, and my reward has been 32 published books, halfway to my mother’s amazing total of 60!
CLW: What book do we have to look forward to?
AF: My next book is my most personal work of all, a paranormal mystery filled with love and loss and the question of life and its meaning. Dragonfly Eyes is the novel I’m most excited about completing, which should be very, very soon!
Alane Ferguson will lead a breakout session on Monday, June 14, 3 p.m. and Friday, June 18, 4 p.m.