Lindsay Champion writes contemporary-realistic YA. She lives in New York City.
Lindsay Champion is a writer and editor living in New York City. She’s a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied West Side Story and jazz hands. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Time Out: New York Kids, the New York Press, Broadway.com and the lifestyle website PureWow, where she is currently Senior Editor.
When and how did you start writing?
I was going to college at NYU, majoring in theater and feeling totally out of my element. The competition was fierce. (How fierce? One of my classmates was Lady Gaga.) When I got to my dorm every night, I found myself writing stories instead of practicing dance steps. I took a fiction critique workshop as an elective, and I remember my first short story submission was really confusing and abstract. Everyone in class hated it and I cried when I got home. But I kept writing, and kept listening. After a few weeks, something clicked, and it started to feel like magic. I immediately knew this was what I should be doing.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you?
In fourth grade, I stayed up all night reading WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech. I’ve read it dozens of times since, and every time, it gives me goosebumps. But my hero is my mom, Joyce Champion, who wrote a series of picture books when I was a kid called EMILY AND ALICE. I adored her stories and read them over and over.
Can you talk us through the writing of your first book? What were the key moments?
I’ve always been totally fascinated by child prodigies. They’re like butterflies or lightning bolts—brilliant and beautiful, but only for a moment. Where does their talent come from, and how is it cultivated? Why does it usually fade before they turn 18? A story about a teen violin prodigy popped into my head, but I knew nothing about classical music. So for months, I did research. I talked to musicians and teachers and psychologists and musician-psychologist-teachers. The more I learned, the more inspired I was to tell the story of Ben, an intense violin wunderkind, and Dominique, a girl from a rough neighborhood who is captivated by his performance at Carnegie Hall.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
For me, getting an agent was the easy part. I submitted my manuscript to a select group of dream agents, and a few months later, I was signed with the fabulous Sarah Davies. I was lucky, because I got to choose between a few amazing offers, but Sarah ultimately had the total package: Insightful notes about my novel, a fantastic client list and a strong vision for my future as a writer.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a senior editor at the lifestyle website PureWow, so I spend most of my day in the office. I wake up around 5 a.m. and spend about two or three hours writing fiction before I go in—if I’m really engrossed in a project, I’ll come home and write some more before I go to bed. I’ll usually write on my couch or desk, but sometimes camp out at a coffee shop near PureWow HQ. When I’m uninspired (and this happens way too often), I read a few pages of a book I love to get my mind ready to write. The trick is to find a way to keep going, even on those days you feel like your writing is horrible and the only thing you want to do is go back to sleep.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
Fall in love with the process of writing, not the result. Create characters that really fascinate you, and do as much research as you can to get into their brains. Make them real to you. Writing a book takes practically forever, and if you’re just waiting around to get published, you’re not going to enjoy your life as a writer very much. If you’re getting that daily jolt of positivity every time you write a great line—just for you and only you—then you won’t be waiting around for something to happen. You’ll be creating something incredible every single day.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
1. Know it's completely OK to suck. According to Malcolm Gladwell, it takes at least 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a craft. And until you've hit those 10,000 hours, you're probably going to make tons of stupid mistakes. I definitely did. (And still am.) It's how you react to those stupid mistakes that's important. Do you let them cripple you? Or do you remember you're a writer-in-progress, learn from them and keep going?
2. Show up to the page, no matter how you feel. A lot of days (OK, most days), inspiration just isn't there. Ultimately, writing is a job, and it's tough to be creative on command. So on those blah days, I make a promise with myself to just open my manuscript on my computer and read the last chapter I've written. Within a few minutes, I can't help myself—I'm making changes. I'm writing a new page. I'm finishing the next chapter. It's not always my best work, but it's better than not writing at all.
3. Make friends with criticism. Getting bad feedback on a creative project is one of the most vulnerable, awful feelings, and at first, I really let it affect me. But it's a completely inevitable part of life as a writer. Your critique partners, your agent, your editors and ultimately, your readers, are all bound to be critical about aspects of your work. They might even tear it to shreds. But after getting a stack of form rejections, a three-paragraph letter explaining why an agent or publisher is saying no is so refreshing. A blunt, honest critique with no sugarcoating is one of the best gifts you can get.
Which favourite authors would you invite to a dinner party?
Judy Blume, Truman Capote and F. Scott Fitzgerald. (With those three, the party would last until at least 3 in the morning, guaranteed.)
Which fictional character do you wish you'd invented?
I wish I'd invented Boo Radley from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It's almost how he isn't written that's so incredible. He's so mysterious and compelling, mostly because Scout and Jem don't know anything about him—it's his absence that makes him such a powerful character. (Plus, when he's being played by Robert Duvall in the movie, he's also kiiinda hot. Watch it.)