Idea for writing come from everywhere. My children's book, Legs: The Story of a Giraffe, came from a newspaper article about a giraffe that had splayed and eventually died in an English zoo. I went to Africa soon after, and decided to tell the story of Imburugutu, a giraffe who had the same ending as the newspaper article. Another children's book came from a commission to write an easy reader. Most of my adult books come from my experience of being born in Boulder City, Nevada, next to the Hoover Dam; from growing up later in Las Vegas; from the experience of living in the West and trying to understand what that meant in the large scheme of things. I've also written about issues that were troubling me, as I feel that writing is a way to figure things out and heal them, if necessary.
How do you evolve your initial ideas into substantial material?
The generative process is a most important place to keep your mind fluid before closing in on the intention of the piece too soon. I think that the language we choose can teach us what we want to say in our writing. I write a very spotty, disjointed, free-form first draft, then gradually shape the piece as a sculptor would shape a piece of stone---always looking for what the language is saying and where it is pointing.
What's your writing process like? (do you have a certain workspace, do you listen to a specific kind of music?)
I wish I could listen to music while I write, but I was a semi-concert pianist (I've played recitals and a few concerts, but haven't soloed with a symphony). Therefore, when I hear music, I'm listening to the workings of the piece of music---a sonata, a concerto, for instance, and how it is put together---and my mind becomes engaged with that. Therefore, I can't listen to music while I write. I have my own workspace, but sometimes I like to write in the car, or in bed, or on the airplane when I'm doing both a first draft and the work of revision. Nature inspires me, so I also like to write outside or in the mountains when the weather allows. A lot depends on what I'm writing about and what might inspire a particular story or essay.
What parts of the publishing world have surprised you?
What's your absolute favorite part of the writing process?