Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Jon Arntson

What to say about Jon? One day, he was just EVERYWHERE in the blogosphere. Leaving comments on everyone's blogs. Kind, amusing, supportive, and interesting comments. Glittery comments. So, I followed him back to his blog, and I found it an intriguing and fun place to be. A place I always want to visit. For the surprises. For the humor. For the friendship. His blog has an energy attached to it. And is clearly fueled by enthusiasm. If most blogs gain momentum like a snowball, his has gained momentum like an avalanche. Every time I go back to visit, I find something different and new. And, different and new in a way that makes me think about the world, and my writing with new perspective.

A thousand welcomes, Jon! Please tell us a little about yourself.

In September of 2009, I moved back to my childhood hometown, after leaving seven years ago, to pursue a writing career. I moved from a congested, frantic mid-sized city in the Midwest back to Ludington, Michigan. Ludington is located on the shores of Lake Michigan, abound with those little nooks off the road for regaining my focus and taking a deep breath. I am the fourth of five kids and I have eight nieces and nephews, ranging in age from nine months to fourteen years. My imagination runs wild like a cheetah. I am a habitual rambler and genetically a klutz. Also, my fingers move so much faster than my poor brain.

What are you currently working on?

I am going to sound like a freak, but I am actually working on, um, like thirty things. Okay, elaboration: my ADHD-self is working on those (picture books, middle grade, and young adult), I am working on a YA bildungsroman about two boys who become stepbrothers shortly after they both realize/accept that they are gay. I don't want to say too much about where their relationship goes, but I can tell you that they help each other deal with a lot crap, and there's a cool road trip involved. I also have three picture book manuscripts completed.

Recently, I began using the Snowflake Method to write a MG novel titled The Lemonade Stand. It's about a pair of twins who are mysteriously instructed to build a lemonade stand. They find themselves wrapped up in a war between two rivaling secret societies. The twins quickly become rivals amongst themselves. I am in the earliest stages, but the Snowflake Method has been helping a great deal!

Jon, What made you start to write seriously?

In July, I was bitten by a wasp for the first time ever. I had spent my whole life running from bees and wasps, whimpering like a little kid. Immediately after it happened, I thought, that was it? I went two days without anything more than a small, itchy bump. But, then, three days later, I woke up to a huge and achy hand. I went to my retail job, took my first Benadryl ever (there are a lot of firsts in this part), and proceeded to nearly pass out. I left work early, drove home, got stuck in a summertime traffic jam for an hour and a half, walked into my house, sat down and wrote my first book. The 920 word picture book has changed little since my medication-induced brainstorm and that also led me to realize several things. I like to write, I hate working retail, and sometimes the thing you fear the most (change, in my case) ends up saving you.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication?

I believe my answer to question #1 overlaps here, but I can also tell you that I have queried a few, very few, agents and received rejections from them all. Those rejections actually led me to the internet and the formation of my blog.

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

I am always seeking out new blogs and, therefore, finding new favorites. However, I can tell you that Bryan Bliss has made me laugh the most at Jedi! Ninja! Homeboy! and I have used up the most blogging hours at Paul Michael Murphy's blog Murphblog. Also, no one should miss Desperately Searching for my inner Mary Poppins.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Oh, gosh. Can, I shamelessly plug my contest that is going on there right now? Why is it my favorite post? Because I created all those covers on Wednesday morning and I really enjoy them and the fact that they are helping me to focus.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

Nathan Bransford's blog has provided so many answers to my lingering questions. While I don't envy the responsibility he has taken on for his followers, his network is where I found almost every blog I enjoy. I also like to be unconventional and visit Wordle, The Vlog Brothers, and SCBWI, where I have yet to invest, but hope, in the next few months, to get ideas and a grasp on the literary world. I also spend years a week at Goodreads.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Getting over the fact that I, a twenty-four year old gay guy with no degree or noteworthy paper from high school to my name, have no idea what I am doing. Instead, I have been trying to focus on the fact that I love to write.

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

Geez, I am redundant, but aside from the resources mentioned above, I love to just grab a book from my WIP's genre and see what that author did right (and wrong). Specifically, I target the Lois Lowry, Trenton Lee Stewart, and John Green titles on my personal book shelves.

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

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy literally changed the way I think. The honesty of his writing takes my breath away and the fact that his omission of general punctuation from this novel actually adds to the book is one of the most talented things I have ever witnessed.

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

Practically, I would like to find an agent for one or more of my picture books this year and have a published work in 2011. As for reaching for the stars, black holes, and tiny little space particles, I would like to publish a picture book, middle grade novel, and young adult novel, simultaneously.

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

Honestly? This part. This network of enthusiastic and appropriately pessimistic folk has opened my eyes, and heart, to the writing world. Six months ago, that wasp would've laughed at me if I'd told him he had crippled a writer's hands. These days, he's at my doorstep begging for a cameo.

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

I would love to be Tally Youngblood from Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld (at hero status in my eyes). Her world, filled with hoverboards, maglevs, and bubbly for everyone, is for me.

What are the other distractions in your life?

I am so glad you asked. Recently, we had nine puppies at the house, but eight of them were permanently shipped off to boarding school a few weeks ago. Belle, the one we are keeping, is in the picture with me. I work at a movie rental store and we are required to view a million movies a week, of which I usually have time for one. Oh, and Facebook.

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

Ugh. I have to be so complicated about everything. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon (rarely), and coffee in the evening, but only with Carolans in it.

Oh, and Jon has been threatening to one-up me ever since the whole award boomerang fiasco. He's given me the head's up that TODAY is the day. So, after you ask him an awesome question in my comment section, (he'll be stopping by here to answer them) head on over and see if he really managed the feat!

Edited to add: Jon's one-up is an interview, a friday feature, of ME at HIS BLOG. Go check it out!


  1. Thanks for the fantastic interviw, Jon. Can I be like the bee, and ask for a cameo?

    Also--I promised this one. If someone wrote a song about you, what would it be titled and give us a chorus. (If anyone is wondering why I asked Jon such an impossibly hard question, go check out his blog!)

  2. Awesome interview... yikes about the wasp, but it turns out somethings happen for a reason!

    I too struggle with the fact that I really have nothing to show as a writer as far as a degree or a good High School paper, but I love to write, and not everyone can say that!

    Great post!

  3. And, Jon, thanks so much for the Friday Feature of me at your blog--I'm so excited to be interviewed. And, did you see where I conceded defeat? This time.

  4. Heather, thank you so much for having me! I may have 'won' the 1uppage, but you are the real instigator of creativity and progress. Okay, a song. Let me think.

  5. Jen - Thanks! Being able to relate to a lot of other bloggers, like you, has definitely helped me grow in my writing and accept that I may not be great now, but I have to suck before I can be good. We are in this together.

  6. Really enjoyed your interview with Jonathon. The YA bildungsroman about the two boys sounds like something I'd love. I don't think not having a degree should stop anyone from pursuing their dream, it may take a little longer, but talent and a unique voice is much more important :) Belle is a cutie!

  7. Charlie - Those are some seriously excellent words of encouragement. I thank you. I look forward to finishing STEPBROTHERS sometime this summer. And, Belle, well, she's twice as big as she is in that photo, but I still hold her like that.

  8. Great interview! And here's to finding an agent in 2010! :)

  9. Laura - Thank you. It's going to happen, I can feel it.

  10. Awesome interview you two! (as I knew it would be!) Loved learning new things about you, Jon! Good luck to you, I know you will succeed! Thanks for the daily glitter in our blogging lives.

  11. Thanks for the great interview. It was fun learning about Jon as I've only just discovered his blog.

    A couple of my writer friends, one published and one not, didn't go to college. You've got the desire,and you're going for it!! That's an inspiration for all writers.

    Best of luck to you on your journey!

    And, have fun walking rambling w/that puppy on the shores of Lake Michigan. Fun. Fun. Fun.

  12. You WIPs sound fabulous and very different. I like that. Love the word bildungsroman.

    Okay, I will finally go check out The Snowflake Method. I love the wasp by the way, not so much for biting you, as teaching you a lesson and hovering around afterward. Seriously, the wasp story is fun. Glad he got you here.

    So, tell me your writing schedule, when do you write on WIPs(and how do you chose which?) and when do you blog?

  13. Ooh, I used Snowflake on my first YA- finnished just before Christmas.

    Jon's blog is awesome. I'm so glad he popped up in my blogosphere.

  14. Kelly - I like spreading glitter. Thanks for receiving it!

    Paul - Yes, fun, when it's not 16 degrees. Okay, still fun.

  15. Tina - My writing schedule? Uh, well, right now I am trying to actually create one. Let's do that right now. Here's on my to-do list. Write, revise, blog, critique group, other critique work, W.I.B.I.J.?!, and... I know there's more. I am sure life is supposed to fit in there somewhere.

    I started blogging to help me with my writing. And even though blogging is taking up all my writing time, I think that's okay. Maybe that's what is meant to happen right now. I am excited about the YA story, but trying to write it is like trying to force myself to read a biography when I have a shiny, new copy of BEAUTIFUL CREATURES on my nightstand (It calls to me at night). If you try too hard to do the less pleasant activity, it'll show in your compromised perspective. So, that's why my blog is so shiny and perky, I put most of my writing efforts into that one project. In a few weeks or months, maybe I will put half the amount of time into my blog and use the other half of my time for writing in my WiP, I do not think my blog will suffer, it will just change.

    So my schedule for next week:
    Sunday - Read, read, and read some more. Finish LONE SURVIVOR
    Monday - rewrite MYLAR, post weekend recap on blog
    Tuesday - Send back critiques, post review of LONE SURVIVOR on blog
    Wednesday - Start GOING BOVINE, read first half by 1 AM. Blog post is about awards.
    Thursday - Send MYLAR rewrite to critique group and send second wave of my critiques to group. Blog post, not decided yet.
    Friday - WIBIJ?! test run?!?! Eat.
    Saturday - Free day?

    I'd say i spend about twelve hours a day on the activities above.

  16. Lily - Is there any insight regarding the Snowflake Method that you'd be willing to share?

  17. Great interview - and I just love that puppy! The Road is at the very top of my reading pile right now. After hearing how much it inspired Jon, I'm even more excited to read it.

  18. I totally agree about The Road. J, I loved what you said about punctuation. I want to read it and yet I'm terribly afraid of the content. Is it too hopeless? It's on my bookstand calling to me along with so many other things, I have been ignoring its call for awhile.

    Jonathon, you are so brave, putting your whole schedule out there!!

  19. Anna - Thank you.

    Tina - Do not ignore its call any longer! I read the book in three hours and even after a year, I think about that book at least once everyday.

  20. Major points for the why I started to write seriously answer...most original answer ever!

    Glitter everywhere!

  21. Anita - Thanks! I am still looking at the traffic data for my blog, but your face pops up each time I do. It's very stern.

  22. This was too great! You're right. He really did just APPEAR one day and we are all so much better with Jon in our circle.

    Thanks, Jon. You are awesome! :-)

  23. The wasp says it all. Agents, readers, publishers, readers, kids, YA's, fellow writers... we'll all be banging on the screen door.

  24. Shannon - Thanks and you're welcome! I cannot get the image of me popping out of a computer screen out of my head.


  25. Robert - It's a good thing I have no screen door!

    I really like that you put readers in there twice, whether that was on purpose or not, it made me smile.

  26. While previewing I noticed "readers" twice & decided that that was how it should be. It's all about the readers, the readers.

  27. What a cool guy and the YA and MG sound really interesting. Thank you Jon and Heather for the interview. I've seen the Snowflake Method, but have trouble following it. I'd like to know if Jon outlines.

    So, off the check out Jon's blog now.

  28. Hey, Jon and Heather and Everybody, Lori W.'s comment has me thinking and I'd like to leave a posting suggestion! After looking at the Snowflake Method I have a few questions about it and I would like a discussion with folks that have tried it. This may require a two parter? Initially a post giving folks an assignment(maybe this serves?), then a following post where we all come back to discuss what worked and what didn't. A place for suggestions and questions. What think you?

  29. I don't know which is more interesting. Reading about Jon on your blog, or reading about you on Jon's blog.

  30. Hello everyone! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such great comments and questions for Jon.

    Hi Robert! *waving at the West Coast*

    Tina--if you post a blog question and answer thing about the snowflake method, I could see if I could round up some folks who use it. I have used pieces of it, but never did it from start to finish.

    Kate--I'm glad you found both interviews interesting. It's so much fun to get a peek into another writer's life!

  31. Lori - I do not outline...yet. I like using the snowflake method, which I've only been doing for two weeks. It really helps you to broaden your scope of the story you want to write, instead of trying to contain it to a little outline. There are several different techniques I'd like to try that can help you accomplish the same thing as the snowflake method. We should definitely experiment together and compare notes.

  32. Tina - I suppose my comment to Lori def applies to you, too. It'll be interesting to see what we learn.

    Kate - It's so a tie! I absolutely learned a lot from Heather's answers and I found plenty of inspiration.