Author Kirstie Myvett resides in the rich cultural city of New Orleans with her family. She is a cofounder of KidLit in Color and believes that representation matters in all places and spaces, especially in the pages of books. She is a frequent contributor to Black New Orleans Mom blog, and her work has been featured in Country Roads Magazine. Her debut picture book, Praline Lady, was published in November 2020 by Pelican Publishing. Find her online at Instagram!
1. Tell me about your latest project. How did you get the idea? How long did it take to work on it? Did you hit any stumbling blocks along the way?
My latest project is a middle-grade story I started fifteen years ago! The idea came to me after researching 19th century Blacks in New York. I stumbled upon a historical event that literally would not let go of me, and vice versa. I spent close to a year researching and filling a binder with information to help me draft the book.
I’ve had many stumbling blocks along the way. When I started this book, I had a toddler and two school-age children that required most of my time, so it was always on the sidelines or, honestly, forgotten while life and living happened. There were also stumbling blocks related to the writing itself. I collected lots of quotes and later realized many didn’t apply because it was outside the timeframe I chose for the story.
2. Tell me about your creative process. Do you write every day? In spurts? Take me from an idea to a first draft to a finished product
I do not write every day. I write most days, but every day isn’t doable for me. When I get an idea, I pick one of my many notebooks and write it down. Then I research because 98% of my stories require research before I’m ready to start writing. I add historical information to the notebook in labeled sections: main characters, location, quotes, etc.
More recently, I’ve created outlines of chapters with a sentence or two describing what might happen in each chapter. I follow that loosely because once I start writing, sometimes my characters go in different directions or they make new discoveries.
Once I finish the first draft, I let it sit for a week or longer. During this time, I usually write in my notebook holes I need to fill or questions I need answers to. The second draft is just me going through it with a colorful pen and noting things that don’t work or more questions I may have. I do multiple drafts before I share with a critique partner. (No one ever sees a first, second, or third draft from me.) Once I get feedback, I go through the manuscript again and usually by now it’s ready to be sent to my agent. I have a hard time letting go in my quest for perfection so I probably stay with a project longer than I should.
3. What are the things in your life that keep you busy and that potentially take you away from writing?
When my kids were younger, I didn’t have as much time to devote to writing. They are older now and no longer what keeps me away from writing, but other things pop up to take their place.
For example, last year I resigned from a demanding position and that certainly kept me away from writing, as I had very long hours coupled with having to write and be creative in my position. This resulted in me not having any energy to devote to my own projects.
Nowadays, I take breaks for my own mental well-being. I need space to let projects germinate in my mind and sometimes that means I don’t write at all for weeks at a time, and I’m okay with that.
I don’t write on a schedule, but I write most days and think about writing projects every day, and in my opinion, it all counts.
4. What specific tools do you consider essential in your writing career? They could be aps, technology, even specific stationery items.
I have several lineless notebooks for each project I’m working on where I can fill with all my ideas and thoughts. Technology wise I really appreciate ProWritingAid and thesaurus.com. Google docs, post-it notes… basic writing tools. But I also LIVE on Google Books where you can access books, journals, and magazines in the public domain for free (publications 100 years and older). Since most of what I write is historical fiction, this is an invaluable resource for me as is chroniclingamerica.loc.gov where you can access historic newspapers for free. Both are essential to my writing projects.
5. Do you have a specific place you write? An office? Coffee shop? Or do you write wherever you are?
I usually write at home at my kitchen table or at a small desk in my bedroom.
6. How do you handle a writing slump or the dreaded “writer’s block”?
When my creative juices aren’t flowing, I take that as an opportunity to do other things. I read more during this time also because reading is always inspiring and sometimes is just what I need to clear the blockage.
7. Do you have any specific rituals related to your writing?
No, unless you count making a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea before I get started in the mornings. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a danish or sweet treat, but really the only ritual is a warm beverage must be nearby.
8. Do you ever get overwhelmed or drained between your writing career and other responsibilities? How do you handle this feeling?
Yes, of course. But I’m really big on self-awareness and recognizing when I need to slow down, breathe, go for a walk and just pause. We’re expected to exist on a spinning hamster wheel in our society and plagued with feelings of guilt when we’re not, but that isn’t sustainable. Feeling drained or overwhelmed is a sure sign you need to slow down. The Nap Ministry helped reinforce my thinking about this rat race life we live in America. Resting is vital to restoring your energy so you can do the work you’re here to do.
9. How would you advise someone beginning their writing career to stay on task, persevere, and be productive?
Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonesome endeavor. We have to be purposeful in creating community so that we’re not alone and discouraged. I encourage writers to find your community and tap into the resources and support that will encourage you to keep going through the good and difficult times.