Monday, July 23, 2012

#LA12SCBWI Pre-Conference Interview: Dan Gutman

Not many authors publish their rejections letters. Not so for Dan Gutman. He shares several on his website, and says he’s received hundreds of them. Gutman has also published over a hundred books for kids, including the very popular MY WEIRD SCHOOL series. Not too shabby, eh?

So, Dan, you've received hundreds of rejections, but you've also published over a hundred books. At this point, for each rejection letter, do you now have a book?

No, because a lot of books have been rejected repeatedly.  "Honus" was rejected ten times.  "Johnny Hangtime" was rejected twelve times.  "Casey Back At Bat" was rejected TWENTY times.  It took ten years to get that one published.  Man, now you're getting me depressed!

Ha! Sorry ‘bout that, Dan. But it seems you’ve made peace with rejection being part of a writer’s life. Was there any one thing that helped you let go of the upset that comes with rejection?

It must have simply been blind arrogance, on my part.  I just convinced myself that my writing and my ideas were good ones that kids would really like.  I never assumed that just because somebody was an editor working for a major publishing company, they were a better judge than I was.  I trusted my instincts.  Also, I was motivated to succeed because I wanted to show those editors how wrong they were.  Success is the best revenge!

Love that! And thanks for the reminder.

Your journey is an interesting one. Your original desire was to write humor, but it took you a while to figure out that your writing sweet spot was writing for kids. Do you have any advice that might help people find their own writing sweet spot?

Everybody is different, of course.  But I'll tell you what worked for me--TRY EVERYTHING.  This was not my plan, but first I tried writing short essays for newspapers.  I tried writing longer magazine articles.  I tried writing screenplays.  I tried writing non-fiction books for adults.  I failed at ALL those things.  But by failing, I figured out what I was NOT good at.  And then, when I tried writing for kids, instantly I felt, "This is what I'm good at!  This is what I was meant to do!"  My only regret is that it took me ten years to get to that point.

You are amazingly prolific, having published over 100 books. Many writers, especially those just getting started, find finishing a project one of their biggest obstacles. Any advice for getting to “The End”?

Hmmm, for me, it's always the MIDDLE that is the hard part.  When I start a book, I usually know how it will begin and how it will end.  Then I struggle with what comes between.
I play little mental tricks on myself.  I will make a false deadline, a date by which a project must be finished (even if it's not due yet).  I will set the day before I'm going away on trip as the day I have to finish a project.  I'll limit the number of hours in a day I work on a project, because I find I get a lot done when I have to do it in a short period of time.  That kind of stuff.

Find Dan on Facebook

Follow Dan on Twitter @DanGutmanBooks

As alway, SCBWI Team Blog will be live blogging from the conference floor. Mark your calendar for the August 3rd kick-off.


Linda Johns said...

"Honus" is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have handed it to so many young readers -- who come back for more from "that Gutman guy." Also, great interview, Jolie!

Cuppa Jolie said...

Thank, Linda. I'm looking forward to hearing him in LA.

Unknown said...

Can't wait to hear him at SCBWI. Thanks for the interview!

Wyman Stewart said...

Nice to see you back posting again! Great way to start too! Enjoyed Dan's replies to your fascinating questions. Good job!

Barbara Davis-Pyles said...

Great interview! Thanks so much for the "cuppa" inspiration -- I'm needing it today.

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Dart Wooden's EmpowerNetwork Blg said...

I alway admire someone that just keep going until the no become yes!

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