The Author Spotlight series featured on this blog showcases writers and their work. Writing can be a fulfilling but lonely journey - so why not have some fun and make a few friends along the way? Let’s get to know Chris Elle Dove (@ChrisDoveWrites):
What inspired you to start writing?
In 2005, I took a position as a community college instructor. I imagined myself teaching in the fall and spring, then taking summers off to write articles and books. It seemed like the perfect combination of professions, and a way to fuel my passion for learning while feeding my need for creative expression. Not to mention it was a great strategy for avoiding burnout.
There's a surprising amount of overlap between what makes a great teacher and a great writer.
To engage students, you must first grab their attention, pique their interest. Once they're listening, information must be presented clearly, and succinctly, using multiple examples and tactics that cater to varying learning styles.
Students want to hear about those topics that are not only intriguing, but also relevant to their personal and professional lives. To provide this type of experience, an instructor must become an actor and storyteller. I frequently found myself sharing my own experiences to provide illustration, draw connections, shatter preconceived notions, and invite students to question taken for granted assumptions.
For more than a decade, every January or February, when I was asked if I could teach over the summer, I responded that I could. It was predominantly a financial decision, but I also believe there was some small part of me that was afraid to try and fail as an author.
In 2018, I was at a crossroads, leaving my full-time position in academia. One path was paved, well lit, secure, different and yet familiar. The other path was mostly covered, dark, slightly foreboding, but extremely intriguing. In the end, I decided to take the leap into unknown and uncharted territory. I felt compelled by the agony that, as Maya Angelou so eloquently expressed, results from the bearing of untold stories.
Now, I spend my days trying to decide the best way to get those stories onto “paper” and out into the world.
What are common traps/mistakes for aspiring writers?
Everything is a distraction!
This “trap” has a million faces. Unfortunately, most of those faces are more friend than foe. It's not uncommon for writers to announce they need to “take a break” from Twitter, Instagram, and other social media, when what was originally welcome support and connection has become an obstacle to their writing progress.
If you write at home, like I do, you may be distracted by pets, children, significant others, the mail, weeds growing in the yard, unfolded laundry, or the pillow just inches from your head…
I've come to see writing the way I see the gym. If I don’t go first thing, there's a 50% chance I won’t go at all. Set aside the to do list, it won’t go away, and it will never get shorter. You have to prioritize time for writing. Clear your schedule, turn off your phone, find a sitter, relocate to a coffee shop. Find out what works for you and stick to it!
What is something you loved but had to edit out of this book that was like sawing off a limb (isn’t writing fun)?
The second half. When I started writing, I had no intention of creating stories for young children, even though I loved books as a child, and loved reading to my own children when they were young. Then, one day, while I was watching my dog play in the backyard, I thought, "I'd enjoy writing a children's picture book!"
Before I began, I did some research. I read numerous articles, and a few books, that talked about writing for children. I learned about reading levels, the appropriate amount of words for each age group, publishing, promoting, etc.
Next, I re-read all of my favorite children’s books, and began reviewing one or two newer children’s books each day (something I've continued to do).
After all this background research, one thing I felt I understood very clearly was that I had 32 pages to work with. As might be expected, I used each and every one. But this was a wildly incorrect interpretation of the information! Yes, there are 32 pages in the average children’s picture book. But that includes the inside title, the copyright page, the dedication page, and (if it's self-published) a final page containing printing press information (and pages are always added in multiples of four). In the end, there are actually only 26 to 28 "usable" pages.
Consequently, I had to cut out quite a bit of what happened after Gabby and Katie were reunited. Most notably, Katie telling Gabby about becoming a butterfly. The more I’ve thought about a sequel, the more convinced I am that I should also write a spinoff, to share some of Katie's experiences as a caterpillar, before she met Gabby.
This is one of two stories where I plan to "flip" the main character in a subsequent book of the series. Sadie’s Sea Turtle is the story of a girl who, in the final few pages, meets a baby sea turtle. The second book begins where the first leaves off, but from the turtle's perspective.
Tell us a little bit about your story and what inspired you to write "Gabby Makes a Friend".
I enjoy writing about wellness, including healthy relationships. I wanted to tell the story of two unlikely, and very different characters, who form a friendship. Their connection strengthens as they develop shared interests, and get to know one another, over time. Then, after Katie goes through a significant life change, they happily reunite. Gabby is still able to see the core essence of her friend inside her new outer appearance. Without missing a beat, their relationship picks up right where it left off.
If you had to describe the main character in three words, what would those three words be?
Gabby, the Golden Retriever, is: curious, devoted, and spunky.
How can we purchase your book?
You can preview it by watching its first virtual reading
Be sure to subscribe to my website for updates on the release of Mimi’s Imagination, Sadie’s Sea Turtle, and other upcoming publications!
Chris Elle Dove’s work can be found online at:
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