Marion Dane Bauer is the author of more than 80 books, ranging from board books and picture books through easy readers, both fiction and nonfiction, and middle-grade and young-adult novels, including her Newbery Honor title in 1987 for On My Honor. She was one of the founders and the first Faculty Chair of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. To learn more, visit herwebsite.
Let the conversation begin!
What initially drew you to writing?
I seem to have been born with my head full of stories. I used to come home with a line on my report card under a category called “deportment,” which said, “Marion dreams.” It was not a compliment. But I went on making up stories in my head, and gradually, gradually I gathered my courage and began to try to write them down.
Outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?
I’m something in between the two. I rarely outline, but I never start out writing without knowing who my main character is, what his or her problem will be that precipitates my story, who the surrounding characters are who will either help or hinder the main character, and–this piece is crucial–what a resolution to the story problem will feel like. (When I know that, I know why I’m writing my story, though I have never expressed that knowledge as a theme. That’s for teachers and other literary critics to do after the fact.) I usually also know what the story’s climactic moment will be, the crisis which will bring my character very close to failure and, ultimately, to that feeling resolution I have already set as the bull’s eye I’m aiming for.
Do you begin with character or plot?
The two are inseparable in my thinking. Plot is a created from a character who struggles with a problem. A dramatic plot rises out of that character, out of her history and her psyche and her relationships. A melodramatic one is imposed upon him from the outside.
Tell us about the book you’re working on.
I have just finished a novel in verse called Little Dog, Lost to be published by Atheneum in the summer of 2012. Now I am working on two projects: One is a young-adult novel called Blue-Eyed Wolf, which will bring together the destruction of the wolves in northern Minnesota in the mid-sixties with an older brother who enlists and goes off to the Vietnam War. The other is a second-grade-level early reader on the state of Florida, the first of a series. I move between the two. I set the novel aside when I need to gather my ideas or solve a problem in the story movement and turn to the more mechanical research for the small nonfiction book.
What would you like your life to look like in ten years?
I am 72, so that simple fact narrows my ideas about ten years from now. I would like still to be healthy, still to be writing. And I would like my world still to be here and to hold even a fraction of the rich possibilities for my grandchildren that it once held for me.
If this was your last day on Earth, what would you do?
I would sit down to write the deepest thoughts of my heart for all the people I love.