SIX MINUTES WITH AVRA WING:
Joining LitPick for Six Minutes with an Author is Avra Wing. Avra is the author of After Isaac, which was the winner of the Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction at the 2013 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards! She is also the author of Angie, I Says, which was made into the feature film Angie, starring Geena Davis and James Gandolfini.
How did you get started writing?
I loved to read as a kid (still do), loved going to the library, so writing seemed like the natural next step to me. The idea of creating a world in words seemed like an incredibly exciting thing to be able to do. My first published piece was a story for our sixth-grade newsletter on the fad of wearing striped scarves. Not exactly great literature, but people liked it, and I felt encouraged to keep going.
Who influenced you?
I was influenced by every book and poem I ever read, and from every fairy tale I ever heard. When you read, you take in the writer’s voice, style, and rhythm, and unconsciously, you draw on some of that for your own writing. The person who influenced me the most was my middle school English teacher. She was tough, but she cared about good writing. She made us memorize poems, and they’ve stayed with me.
Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?
My vote for favorite book keeps switching between Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice. I love Jane’s strength and feistiness, her refusal to think of herself as less than because she’s treated that way. But Elizabeth Bennet is such a dynamic person, and there is something so delicious about the tension between her and Mr. Darcy. Jane stirs me up, but P&P soothes me: I treat myself to rereading it at least once a year.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?
Anyone who wants to be an author also has to be a reader. Reading expands your vocabulary, ideas, style. And, of course, you have to give yourself the space and time to write, make it a priority. It’s a good idea to keep a journal, or at least always have a pad or notebook (or your phone) handy to jot down something that occurs to you. The other main requirement is to start growing a thick skin: even famous writers get rejected, and most of us get rejected a lot. But you have to persevere, believe in yourself, keep writing and sending work out to be published.
Where is your favorite place to write?
I usually write in my study at my desk on my laptop. I also sometimes write by hand in workshops, then transfer what I’ve done onto the computer, editing as I go. I actually wrote some of my first novel on the subway.
What else would you like to tell us?
I lead writing workshops for the NY Writers Coalition, a non-profit that offers free workshops to underserved communities in New York City. One of my workshops is for poetry, the other is a general workshop for people with mental and physical disabilities. And I mentor a high school student for another organization, Girls Write Now. I have three children--two grown sons and a daughter in college--and a cat named Henry.
Avra, thank you for joining LitPick for six minutes! The NY Writers Coalition sounds like a wonderful organization! How nice of you to be a part of it!