We're welcoming Kelly Bingham-- and her lovely pushy pal Moose at the Launch Pad today. Kelly is a January 2004 graduate of VCFA- a member of The Zoo. How appropriate for the author of two great picture books that feature a whole menagerie-- lead by our friend Moose! Kelly is a former Disney storyboard artist and director. She lives in Georgia with her husband and children.
Moose loves shapes. Circles! Squares! Triangles! Hooray! So when Moose mysteriously finds himself in a shape book (oh, please don't ask) he is the very picture of a happy Moose. Life is great!
Until, well, until he wrecks everything.
Now, don't you worry!
Zebra will handle it.
Zebra always fixes Moose's messes.
And what thanks does Zebra get?
Really....does anyone ever think about Zebra?
What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?
The best piece of advice I've had was given to me by Jane Resh Thomas, who was my advisor during VC. She said "trust in the process." Over the years I have come to realize that I do have a process, and that it is unique to me, and that it is pointless to compare myself to others and their way of doing things. I often apply arbitrary expectations on myself and then get frustrated or worried when the words do not come as fast as I randomly imagined, or the revisions drag on, or things are murky and hard. Jane's simple advice has done wonders to keep me focused, rather than waste time getting all angst-ridden about my work. There IS a process, and I have to trust in the ups and downs of that process, knowing that there IS light--and a finished book--at the end of the tunnel.
Tell us about how you sold this book. What was it like when you found out? Do you have an agent? Were there a lot of revisions along the way?
This was a unique situation, in that I already had sold and published Z IS FOR MOOSE with Greenwillow. The book sold really well and got a lot of positive attention. Still, imagine my shock when my editor contacted me and offered me a contract to write two more Moose books. A two-book deal was something I had heard about (with great awe) while a student at VC. I mentally put it on my "bucket list" as something I wanted to have happen some day. And to get this e-mail...it was a proud, happy moment. And it came late at night while I was in bed--I was getting ready to read a book and go to sleep, but decided to check my e-mail one last time on my phone. And there was the offer! I told my husband and we both set our books aside and just stared at each other in stunned happiness. After that I was too wired to go to sleep!
I did not have an agent at that time, but I got an agent very soon afterwards, who negotiated the contract for me. She is wonderful and I am very happy and grateful to her, to my editor, and to Paul O. Zelinsky, the amazing illustrator of the Moose books.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?
I had to research lots of gruesome things for my novel, SHARK GIRL. I remember reading lots of accounts of shark attacks, which were awful. And looking at pictures, which was also awful. But I guess the weirdest thing I googled was, "How much blood loss before you are in a coma?" Because my character needed to be put into a coma and be near death, but not actually die. It was not the cheeriest research material in the world.
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
Ellen Howard, Liza Ketchum, Alison McGhee, and Jane Resh-Thomas.
What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?
I wish I'd understood ahead of time how precious and singular the experience would be. You will never have another time like this in your life. When I go back and visit, it's wonderful, but nothing is the same as when you're a student there. Savor every minute. Buy all the recordings of every lecture, save every handout, etc. Just put them aside and know that someday you'll revisit them and they will be just what you need to hear as you work on your books. Make friends while you're there and keep those friendships strong, because they will be priceless to you. Writing is a lonely business, particularly once you graduate. Having friends in the same boat is a wonderful thing. I'd also suggest that new students go into the program with permission to relax and experiment with different forms of writing. Don't view the two years as a make-or-break on one particular project. This is a time of learning. Embrace that time and learn all you can. Don't argue with your advisors--just listen. They know a lot that you have yet to learn. Work hard but have fun along the way--go to the dances, the auction, the cafeteria, etc. Understand that some people will be published before graduating and some won't. It's not a competition. Recognize how far you've come in your writing and be proud, and keep the big picture in mind. What you learn in these two years will last you forever.
Thanks so much for dropping by, Kelly! Moose's second book is already collecting stars-- our astrological prediction is that it will be just as successful as the first!