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Member Spotlight: Darcy Marks

author Darcy Marks and an image of her book The Afterlife of the Party

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? I was the kid who devoured any book I could get my hands on. I’d get lost in the stories and my imagination would start blending all of the worlds I had let myself live in, mixing and matching characters and developing plots of my own. Art is what makes a culture, and books are always the format I felt most connected to. As a children’s author I want my stories to reach kids and create lifelong readers. I want them to pick up my books because they think the cover is cool, or maybe they just think its rebellious to read about kids from Hell, but for whatever their reasoning, I want them to read my books and develop a love of stories, a love of reading, because we know that reading widely creates empathetic people. Kids need to see themselves in books, but they also need to see others. We know that mirrors and windows are a really important concept that need to be put out there. But to do that, to create readers and get all of those benefits from books, reading has to be fun and engaging. Kids who read become adults who read, and I’m really hoping my books do that. The world would be a much better place with a whole lot more empathy (and a lot more fun!) with more lifelong readers.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? Writer’s block is the absolute worst! There are millions of suggestions on how to break through. I wish there was a tried-and-true trick that worked every time, but instead, I think there are a lot of ways that work for different people or at different times. Sometimes going on a walk or taking a shower can help. Other times watching a movie or reading someone else’s book can shake things loose. Writing a piece of fluff or fanfiction can be a great palate cleanser. But I find for me, what most helps is to just keep writing, even if it’s a scene that gets cut later. Making up a conversation between characters or sending them somewhere, can keep words flowing and even if I delete most of it later, it can help me find the plot again.

What is your favorite time to write? I used to write at night after my kids went to bed, but as they got older and bedtimes got later that was not going to happen anymore. My brain was mush that late! Thankfully my other job is working for myself and so I make my own schedule. My favorite time is to plan to write during the day in large chunks of time. So I’ll focus on my day job for a few days and then take a day or several to just write during my “9-5,” which, as a mom to three insanely busy kids is more of a suggestion than actual hours.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? Two pieces, not directly given to me: Terry Pratchett said, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” This has become a mantra for me, because let’s face it, the first draft kinda sucks! But you’re not going to get to the good part until you know what the story is, and to really know, even if you’re a great outliner (which I am definitely not), you have to write the first draft. You can’t edit a blank page, so just get it down. Tell yourself the story, so that you can then tell the story to OTHER people. The other piece is really just a quote that goes around the writing community: “What do they call a writer who never gave up? Published.” Writing is work. It’s continuously learning and growing and improving. You have to keep studying craft and becoming better. And if you truly do that, you’re going to be a stronger story teller and if your goal is publication, it’s going to increase your chances. I’ve seen a lot of writers get frustrated, and jump to self-publishing or fall to a vanity press, and I would urge patience. It’s a long process, with long periods of waiting, and if you want to self-publish, do it right. Study and learn as much as you possibly can. Don’t let impatience dictate your decisions, and don’t give up.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? There are so many possibilities for writers now. There’s traditional publishing and self-publishing, of course, but there are also multi-media options, and some really creative outlets like Story Loom. There’s also so much direct access to publishing professionals and other authors. I love being able to rave to another author about how much I loved their latest book, and knowing what’s happening in the publishing world is invaluable. The internet has meant that networking is so much easier and that conferences can be attended virtually. Anyone can participate now in workshops, not just writers who happen to live in big cities. Granted, the instant access can be a bit of a double-edged sword, so take advantage of all of those amazing opportunities, but STAY OUT of those review sections. Those aren’t for you; leave those spaces for the readers. You’ll thank me for it later.

Darcy Marks’s The Afterlife of the Party is out July 18 with Aladdin Books.