Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Tracy Edward Wymer

I am very happy to introduce Tracy Edward Wymer to this week's Friday Feature. I find Tracy to be quietly hilarious. (I guess if I experienced his blog as loudly hilarious, I'd be as confused as this student of his).

Many days I end up chuckling to myself when I read through posts on his blog.

Hi Tracy--Thanks for doing the interview! Why don't you start by telling us a little about yourself.

I was raised a Hoosier. I bleed Crimson, but don't we all? Small towns and basketball. What more is there to life? Apparently a lot. Because after graduating from Indiana, I jetted for the left coast and I'm still here. Honestly, Los Angeles is not my kind of place, but I've got a great job teaching something I'm passionate about: Reading and Writing. I do miss wide open freeways, fields of nothingness, and campfires. But at least I have a rockin' wife and a blonde ambition daughter to make me feel at home. Oh, and we have a boy on the way (in April).

What are you currently working on?

A middle grade novel. Contemporary. Working title is Bird-Man Street. I posted the first chapter on my blog last month and gathered some valuable feedback. I rarely put new (unedited) work out there, but the first couple chapters are too important not to. It's the foundation to build on, and if it's weak, the building will collapse.

What made you start to write seriously?

When I was younger, I read this book called Highpockets, by John Tunis. It's an old book and the language is antiquated, but for some reason I really connected with it. I played baseball, so that helped. Also, I took this awesome creative writing course as a freshman in college. It was my only A first semester, so it made me think, "This writing thing is fun. Why not?" So I started writing prose in notebooks during boring lectures.

After graduating I landed a job as a fourth grade teacher. I started reading every middle grade book I could find. Then I started reading Newbery winners because I wanted to learn from authors who were considered the best. Shortly after the "taking in words like a sponge" stage, I wrote my first middle grade novel.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I go through severe phases, but I've most recently come to like the Crowe's Nest. It's interesting and well done. I read a ton of blogs, from published and unpublished to agented and unagented writers, but comment on only a few.

What is your favorite blog post that you have written?

Last year a young teacher at my school died unexpectedly. We were friends and talked a lot about sports and beer and life in general. I coped by writing about it. The words fell together in an eerie way. It was therapeutic and healing.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

For writing: When I first started, I hit up The Purple Crayon and joined SCBWI to receive their monthly newsletter. Now many agencies have posted toolboxes for writers, which give you all sorts of clickables.

For agent search: The Guide to Literary Agents blog is full of agent insight and interviews. Literary Rambles is also a great place to find agents who might be a good fit for your work.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Refining point of view. My first novel was all over the place. After much research (reading more novels) and enough revisions to fill a dumpster, I learned how to channel my voice through consistent point of view. Still learning. Every day.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I sit-down with the laptop and open my WIP. I stare at it for a while and then type something awful. I delete it. Type something else. Delete it. Slump shoulders. Check email. Browse blogs. Comment on a few. Read the first few pages of a novel on Amazon for free. Tell myself I can write something just as good. Go back to WIP. Black out the background (Scrivener function) in Full Screen mode. Type a sentence. Read it half a dozen times. Sit up straight. And go.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

A Moveable Feast (Hemingway): because he writes about the struggles and act of writing and all the pains that come with living a writer's life. The much-needed alone time, away from the real world, away from friends and family, in order to complete something. He also writes about the pull from your stories and characters, which beg to be written NOW, not later.

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

I know this is far-reaching, but I'd like to make a living from it someday (wouldn't we all?), because then I'd have more time to write. That being said, I teach writing full-time, and it keeps me learning every day. I discover things about myself and constantly learn from others. The learning never stops, and I don't expect it to. You've got me thinking. I wonder if I'd actually give up teaching. Great benefits. Part-time sounds good to me.

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

A sense of accomplishment after completing a novel. Meeting people (through cyberspace or otherwise) who love to read and write. Learning. It's invigorating.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Jonas, from The Giver (by Lois Lowry). In a world of Sameness, it would be a moonshot to be Different. I don't know what that means, but it sounds good.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Coffee. Until my students' noses fall off.

Thanks for answering my questions with such candor, Tracy!

Everyone, please make Tracy feel welcome by writing a question for him in the comments. He'll stop by as his schedule permits.


  1. Tracy--Thanks for the great interview, and thanks for taking the time to stop by today to answer questions. I know your schedule is busy.

    I liked your answer about point of view--it's something I've struggled with as well. I think if you do it well, a reader doesn't necessary pay attention to it. I started reading books with new eyes, looking for POV after I realized that I had some issues with it in my writing.

    What POV are you using in your work-in-progress, and did something help you stay on track with your point of view (a writing resource), or did you figure it out on your own?

  2. POV is a good one. I should have said that. Everything I've written in third person has made me unhappy. There are just too many options in third person. I like invading one character's head and telling the story that way.

  3. Great interview! I love that Tracy mentioned posting the first chapter of his work online since that's the topic of my blog post today. He is a brave soul!

    Tracy, would you really want to be a character in The Giver? Wouldn't you be a little scared of being "Released?" *shudder*

  4. Nice to learn more about you, Tracy. I have never read A Moveable Feast but it has always sounded interesting and sometimes I'm insecure about whether I give in to the pull of the stories as much as I should. I think I spend too much time on blogs.

    And the POV thing, any tips about point of view would be helpful! How do you teach your students point of view?

  5. Hey, nice interview.
    Thanks Heather and Tracy.
    Was Tracy the singer at the SCBWI LA conference two years back?
    Oh, and thanks for joining in the Comment Challenge - see, it's already working... I'm here, and commenting!

  6. I'm on PT here, so I'm a little behind. Good thing I'm giving a huge Shakespeare test today. Students' eyes are saying, "Can you type quielty?!"

    @Heather - Thanks for the great questions. I wrote my first novel Crossing Chalk in third person, and it nearly killed me trying to get hold of the POV. I reread novels that I thought worked particularly well in third person. Keeping Score, by Linda Sue Park. The Giver. Some Spinelli stuff, some Sid Fleischman. You can tell I lean towards the cream (of the crop), partly because I'm familiar with their works inside and out from teaching them. My current WIP is first person/present tense. I dig it.

    @Anna - We all go at some point. :)

    @Tina - In my creative writing class I teach it with examples from novels. To me, it's the only concrete way to go. In third person, I encourage students to avoid words like (He) sees, looked, turned, because it takes out of the third person close perspective and makes the reader feel like an outsider. I learned this through my own writing and reading great third person novels.

    @Lee - We met in Linda Sue Park's workshop last August at SCBWI in LA. I was a Blue Cheesehead this year at the "ball." I've never sang in public and never will.

    Thanks, everyone, for the questions so far. I'll be back later.

  7. For the record, one student in my class is reading (post-test) on a Nook, another on a Kindle. I love technology that promotes reading.

  8. It's great to see a male teacher, blogging and writing for kids. Cool!

  9. Great interview! I love your answer to the writing tricks question. I do ALL of that as well (why do you think I'm reading blogs right now? Ha!).

    Thanks for introducing me to Tracy, Heather!

  10. Oh, hey! I've been to your blog a couple times before, Tracy. I didn't realize that was you. Awesome. So let me rephrase... thanks for allowing me to get to know Tracy better, Heather!

    : )

  11. I love all things MG and am sure Tracy will be standing on a platform someday giving his Newbery acceptance speech. I've read his blog and seen glimpses of his work. It's good stuff.

    great interview.

  12. @Tess - Thanks for the compliment. If that ever comes true, I'm thanking you first for your prophecy.

  13. Okay, The Giver is going immediately on my must-read list.

    @Lee--Welcome! I'm not quite sure what I signed up for at your blog, but it seemed like harmless fun.

    @Tracy--I just assumed that most electronic devices weren't allowed to see the light of day in class (phones, MP3 players, etc.). I'm glad e-books are allowed.

  14. Laura--I agree. And there seems to be this whole subset of male teachers writing for kids out in the blogosphere!

  15. @Casey--No problem--my pleasure. I love these interviews, and Tracy's was well done.

    @Tess--Welcome, and I agree--Tracy's going places! And, you have a great blog. I'm going enjoy the backreading there. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Great interview - found you through Lee's comment challenge

  17. Heather, I didn't know Tracy before your interview. I'm glad this is corrected. His blog is hilarious. I especially like his Teaching Shakespeare series. :D

  18. I agree about the sense of accomplishment after finishing a manuscript. It is very rewarding!
    Great intervew Heather and Tracy!

  19. Thanks, everyone, for stopping by to read the interview and ask questions. There's a tight community of writers out here in cyberville, and I'm proud to be part of it. Cheers!

  20. Interesting interview! I'll have to check out Mr Wymer's blog and writing. I think male teachers play a huge role in getting young guys interested in reading. I'm in high school and I wish my teachers were more like that.

  21. This type of interview is an interesting idea, and I think there's a need for it. Published authors, or writers who have found agents, are interviewed all the time. But I want to hear stories about people who are still working on getting published or have had a particularly difficult time finding an agent. Those stories, to me, are inspirational.

  22. Difficult it is, Lisa. Still charging forward, and won't stop.

  23. Charlie--Thanks for stopping by. Tracy seems to hold the bar high for other teachers!

  24. Lisa--Welcome! I find these interviews uplifting as well. We're not alone in this struggle towards publication.

    And some of these writing struggles continue after a writer is agented and even published. I find the whole process fascinating.

    And, oddly reassuring.

  25. this is a great interview - ill check him out! I mean, Ill check out his blog..;)

  26. Shelli - Lucky you, you're already following my blog so you won't have to go far.