Today RJ Palacio, author of Wonder, will talk to us about her writing process and her road to publication. Take it away, RJ!
I’m 48 years old, and Wonder is my first published book. When people hear that, they often take that to mean that I suddenly took to writing right smack in the middle of middle age, but that isn’t the case. I’ve been writing my whole life. I have a file cabinet full of half-written books, ideas for books, outlines for books, and even one almost-completed novel from my early twenties. I had lots of reasons why I never managed to finish those books, of course: lack of time, lack of focus. I used to blame my day job, the thing I did for a living that paid the bills, for sapping all my creative juices. Mind you, I loved my day job, but the more successful I became at that, the less energy I had to devote to
my secret life as a writer. And then I had children, the best excuse in the world for letting life get in the way of one’s writing. So I had lots of reasons why I never finished any of those writing projects that ended up in my file cabinet. But looking back, I realize now that all those projects were never really about the end result as much as they were about the process. I didn’t know that at the time, but now I see that what I was actually doing was quietly working away in my own apprenticeship, honing my craft, being my own worst critic, indulging ridiculous flights of fancy and whatever bad trends needed to work their way out of my system. In essence, I was finding my voice as a writer. Some people find it early on. But my voice, the voice that became Wonder—needed time to develop, needed to be a mom first, needed to have had a career doing something else, before it could say what it wanted to say. I no longer mourn those books that lived inside my head, half-explored and left abandoned inside my file cabinet. They served a purpose. They were part of an evolution, and followed the same Darwinian rules as every other creation in the universe, real or imagined. Some books are born and live and flourish. And some books are just never meant to be.
Thank you, RJ; that was inspiring! I’m sure a lot of readers and writers will be inspired, too.
R. J. PALACIO lives in NYC with her husband, two sons, and two dogs. For more than twenty years, she was an art director and graphic designer, designing book jackets for other people while waiting for the perfect time in her life to start writing her own novel. But one day several years ago, a chance encounter with an extraordinary child in front of an ice cream store made R. J. realize that the perfect time to write that novel had finally come. Wonder is her first novel. She did not design the cover, but she sure does love it.