Courtney Sheinmel grew up in California and New York. She is a graduate of Barnard College (part of Columbia University) and Fordham School of Law. After working as a litigator for several years, Courtney decided to focus on her first love: writing. She is the author of My So-Called Family, Positively, Sincerely, All the Things You Are, and more. Watch for her new book, Stella Batts: Pardon Me, releasing July 2012.
Where do you get your ideas?
Anywhere! Everywhere! I think because I’m a bit of a control freak and a bit co-dependent, I hang onto stories longer than other, normal people do. This is the way I once described it to a friend: I might be walking down the street and hear a snippet of someone’s conversation. Then as I continue past them, I’m thinking of the snippet and making up a whole life story around it. Sometimes, that’s what gets turned into a book.
Advice for young writers?
Read a lot–every day. Write every day. Write about what interests YOU, whatever that may be. And keep a journal.
Best writing advice you’ve ever received?
It wasn’t specifically writing advice, though it was advice from another writer, who happens to be a dear friend. I was upset about something, though now I can’t remember what it was, and she said, “You just have to try and be the best Courtney.” I think about that a lot, when I’m writing: I just want the words on the page to be MY best.
Outliner or seat-of-the-pants?
I always start my books out in a seat-of-the-pants sort of way, but as I get toward the middle of a story, I have tons of notes about things I’ve thought up for later on. By the time the end rolls around, I know most of what is going to happen.
I’m pretty obsessed with my friends–in fact I write about them all the time on my blog! I am quite certain they are the most amazing group of people in the world: funny, kind and loyal, and also life-changing, world-changing, and all-around awe-inspiring. Being with them lifts me up and recharges my creative batteries for sure.
What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?
Ugh, they’re all hard. I’m waiting for that book that just flows right out of me! But POSITIVELY, about a teenager living with HIV who lost her mother to AIDS, was the most emotionally draining to write. The subject matter was so sad, and because I have a couple close friends who are HIV-positive, it was also very personal, and the pressure was on to do right by them.
Ever let anyone read your work-in-progress?
I don’t keep it secret–at least not from the people I know in real-life. For the first couple books, my friends Amy and Lindsay read along, chapter by chapter, as I wrote. Now that I write full-time, and they have kids to tend to, I don’t send them quite as much material. But even if the girls aren’t reading every draft of everything I write, they always know what I’m working on, and they’re thankfully available for consultations (and to quiet the occasional bursts of hysteria).
If you could only write one more book, what would it be about?
I better get to write more than one more book! But there is one in particular that I’m determined to get to one day, and that is something based on my grandmother.
What initially drew you to writing?
All I know is that I always did it. I read a lot as a kid, and when I wasn’t reading, I stapled pages together and sat at my desk to write my own stories. These days, whenever I doubt myself, I remember books were my first love, and then I think I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.