Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Natalie Aguirre

Welcome to this week's Friday Feature.  I'm very excited to interview the fantastic Natalie Aguirre.  I first met Natalie at inkwell, a supportive writing forum.  Natalie is a kind, thoughtful, down to earth writer.  She has yet to start blogging, but I think it is only a matter of time.  She has lots of wonderful insight about the craft of writing.  Enjoy the interview, and then take a few moments to ask her a question in the comment section, as she'll be by to answer them.

Welcome, Natalie--thanks for being here with us today!  Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m married and an adoptive mom of a 13-year-old daughter adopted from China. I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan and work full time as an attorney practicing in consumer litigation and bankruptcy. I’m also a founder of an adoptive support group for Families from Children in China. I’ve been writing for about 7 years.
Natalie--what are you currently working on? 

I am writing a middle grade fantasy called THE THIRD TOWER.  It’s about twelve-year-old Jasmine, adopted from China as a baby, and her best friend Austin who follow a talking doorknob into a multicultural world where they are shocked to find out everyone believes she inherited her adoptive great grandmother’s magical powers. Their lives take a dangerous turn when they discover an evil man desperately searching for a hidden magical weapon needs Jasmine to use it to destroy the land’s magic. Realizing he’ll stop at nothing to make her help him, Jasmine and Austin must discover how her adoption unlocks her newly found magical powers or she’ll face a terrible choice: be forced into the man’s evil plot or lose Austin forever.

What made you start to write seriously? 

I am not one of those people who knew I wanted to be a writer as a child. In fact, I didn’t think I had a creative bone in my body until I started writing. I dabbled in writing easy readers when my daughter was three and then dropped it. I decided to read the first Harry Potter book on tape soon before the fourth one came out and it rekindled my love of fantasy. I had an idea about a girl and boy discovering a world through a fence in her backyard. I decided to start my story for fun and became completely hooked on writing.

I love everyone's different beginnings for writing.  How cool that you got hooked like that! Natalie, what stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication?  And--how is that going for you?  Has anything surprised you about this stage? 

Finally after seven years, I feel like my manuscript is finished. My query letter is almost done and I’ll soon start querying agents. I’m trying to steel myself for all the “nos.” I’m moving a little slow because it’s more fun to hope and dream before the realities of rejection set in. I’m following the advice to keep writing and am working on the second book in my series.

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

That’s way too hard of a question. I love so many. Here’s a few I really enjoy:

Guide to Literary Agents for agent alerts and interviews.
Literary Rambles for amazing Kidlit agent spotlights with lots of research on agents and other good writing tips.
The Other Side of the Story, Janice Hardy’s blog for amazing posts on the craft of writing.
Market My Words for great marketing advice, interviews and givewaya.
Elana Johnson for great advice, discussions, contests, and giveaways. 

That's a great list of blogs.  Natalie, what are you thinking about blogging right now? 

I haven’t started my blog yet. I have an idea for one. I’m debating whether I can handle it with working. I don’t want to spend all my time blogging and not have enough time to write. Do you know what I mean? I’ll probably decide this summer after things hopefully slow down a tad.

What online resource have you found most helpful? 

It’s definitely blogs. There is an overwhelming amount of helpful information out there.

What has been your biggest trial in writing? 

One of my biggest challenges has been learning to write. I’ve only finished one novel because I had to revise it so many times to get it right. It gets discouraging sometimes to see it take so long and to watch others complete a manuscript so much quicker than me.

The other challenge is squeezing in the time to write and read blogs with working full time at a demanding job, taking care of a sick husband and daughter, and volunteering a lot for the PTO at my daughter’s school. I try to write early in the morning around 6:30 and for part of my lunch hour (I walk for 25 minutes of it) if I’m lucky enough to take one, and on weekends. I’m usually reading blogs after dinner until about 9:00 pm.  

Natalie--it sounds as though you fit a ton into each day. And I can definitely identify with the revision process taking a lot longer than expected. What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing? 

I usually read what I’ve written the last few days and revise it to get back in the flow. If I’m really stuck, taking a little time off and reading helps.

Backtracking and revising to get back into the flow--very smart. Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life. 

Here’s a few: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin, and From the Query to the Call by Elana Johnson. I can’t recommend Elana’s book enough for when you get ready to write your query.

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

Of course I’d love to get published. But I’m trying to define my goals by things I can control. So my main goal is to keep writing and improve my writing skills.

That is such a great idea--to base goals on what we can actually control.  Love that. So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience? 

Discovering the creative part of myself, making writer friends through SCBWI and blogs, and reading blogs.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like? 

I’d love a room with a beautiful view, a computer, and lots of books.

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

It would be Hermione Granger. She’s smart, brave, and great with a wand. Oh would life be so much easier with a wand.

I agree--oh to have a wand to wave at the mess right now! What other distractions are in your life? 

Work, family, and volunteering at school.

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

It’s definitely coffee. I confess that I’m a total addict. Ever since college, it’s what helps me keep being productive through my long days.

Natalie--thanks for the great interview.  I especially identified with the time you took to polish your book--it can feel like that takes forever. :)  I'm so glad to hear that you are on the verge of querying!  Everyone, please take a moment to leave a comment or question for Natalie in the comment section, she's planning on stopping by to answer them.


  1. Natalie--I know it took you a while to craft this last book. How long drafting vs. revising? And, have you started querying? What is your timeline for that? Thanks again for being here today!

  2. Great interview you both!

    Natalie, I love the premise of your novel and how adoption plays such a role in it. It sounds great. And like Heather, it is reassuring for me to hear how much time that you spent on it. And, Heather I love your drafting question. You definitely need to get some drafting in soon! Let's get something new started!

    I guess I wonder where you find the time to write between working and everything else. Are you a morning or evening writer?

  3. Natalie, the book sounds awesome and inspiring. I'm so impressed you have an adopted child. I think there is no greater love than when someone reaches out in that way. Kudos for you.

    Great interview, Heath. Nicely done, as always. Enjoy your weekend.

  4. Heather, thanks so much for inviting me.

    I probably spent 9-12 months on the first draft and the rest of the time revising. It has been SO long since I've seen a totally blank page.

    Tina, squeezing in time to write is a challenge. I usually get up between 5:30 & 6:00 am and try to write some then, maybe 20 minutes at lunch if I'm lucky, and a few hours on the weekends. At night after dinner, I try to read my blogs since I'm too tired to write.

    Sheri, have a great weekend too.

  5. Awesome interview! I've Natalie's name commenting on blogs! And I can't believe she is able to write and work full time - I'm in awe of anyone that does!

  6. Natalie, I loved this chance to learn more about you.

    I think holding off on blogging until you feel you have the time and are ready is wise. I'm glad I didn't start earlier than I did.

    Keep us posted on your progress!

  7. Laura, I'm even more amazed at the authors who work and get published.

    Caroline, thanks for the advice. I am going to hold off until it doesn't feel like it's going to make me too overwhelmed with too much to do.

  8. Nat, so looooved this interview. I love learning about fellow writers and you have an amazing story. I always look forward to your visits to my blog. Keep working hard and keep the faith. And don't doubt yourself.

    Heather, great feature on your blog. Love, love, love interviews that tell us something about our virtual friends. Blessings, Buffy

  9. sweet tea! :) thanks for the shout out! :)

  10. Hi Buffy & Shelli, thanks for visiting.

  11. Natalie,

    It's so great to learn more about you! I've only had tidbits in the comments.

    Your MG sounds fabulous! I can't beleive you've been revising it for six years. How inspiring! I think it's great, personally. So many people rush and query too soon.

    Good luck to you as you start querying. It's going to be so exciting and nerve wrecking, I imagine. If you ever need to talk about agents (or just talk!) you know my e-mail.

    Thank you for your kind words about my blog. Oh, and coffee FTW!


    Okay, I know we've already established the fact that we live in the same state, but it still blows my mind.

    Your journey is cute, I love how you started writing and found your creative outlet, and that you even had one. Ha.

    I could not agree more about Elana. She's like the Hilary Clinton of the Kidlit world.

    Good luck and hopefully I'll get to check out your blog more frequently.

    Oh, and GO BLUE!!!!!!

  13. For clarification's sake, the go blue is re: the University of Michigan, not a proclamation of political stance.

  14. Wow, I'm awesome today.

    I meant I will follow your blog frequently ONCE YOU HAVE ONE.

  15. Hi Natalie. It's great to learn more about our fellow writers. Thanks for sharing.

  16. She needs to start a blog. Really. Thanks for sharing---especially looking forward to Googling her list of books. The children's characters one sounds perfect for me.

  17. great interview, Kelly and Natalie :)

  18. Thanks for your support everyone. You're making me feel good about my writing. Have a great holiday.

    Thanks again Heather for having me.

  19. Natalie, I'm sorry I wasn't able to tune in earlier. This was a great interview and really inspirational. Love the idea of writing to reach goals we can control. That would take some of the pain away. ;D

  20. Thanks, Victoria, for checking out the interview. It was such fun finding out more about Natalie!

  21. great interview! And great getting to know Natalie better and learning about what she's writing!

  22. OOoh, great post. Natalie is one of my favorite online people. I *heart* her. :)

  23. Thanks Victoria, Terry, & Elana for checking in and for your kind comments.