Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guest Post + GIVEAWAY with Margo Lanagan!

Today I have the incredible opportunity of being a stop on the blog tour for Margo Lanagan, internationally renowned Aussie YA author and recipient of the 2009 Printz Honor award for her book Tender Morsels. I'm in the middle of reading this book right now, and while it's far from an easy read, it's a beautiful book ripe with lots of points for discussion. I'm literally taking a pencil and underlining passages that struck me as beautiful or meaningful, and I rarely do that for anything other than school texts!

A review of Tender Morsels will be forthcoming, but in the meantime, you get to hear from Margo herself, and have a chance to win a copy of this ambitious and one-of-a-kind book! Welcome, Margo, to Steph Su Reads!

What I Do When I Get Stuck

Lots of people (including many schoolchildren) ask me what I do when a story stops working, or just stops - stops feeding itself through my brain onto the paper. Behind this question are many hours of suffering, and I have to say, behind my answer there's plenty of time being anxious and wondering “However will I fix this?”—this story, this plot problem, this knotted sentence.

Usually what’s happened when I get stuck is that I’ve lost perspective; I’m in too close to the story to see all the strands in the knot I’ve created. I lose the sense of a way forward, and that opens a little hole in my brain through which anxiety flows in freely. This leads to flooding of my problem-solving faculties. To sit in front of the story being anxious is fruitless. I need to go off and do something practical, unrelated to writing or story, preferably unrelated to any words at all. I need to put the problem so far out of my head that I forget the anxiety entirely, forget the details of the problem, and with them the details of the fears that are so expertly immobilising me.

Sometimes just time will fix things; after my break I’ll turn my mind back to the story and, because I’m no longer crouched tensely over it, the awkward story-bits will unlock themselves from their death-grip and let me push them around and find a solution.

Sometimes, if I’m writing to deadline and in a flat panic, there’ll be a clear need for me to get oxygen to my brain. In those cases, aiming for a state of relaxed disengagement is futile—there just isn’t time. What I do then is go for a swim, or a bike ride, or at least a very brisk walk. Breathe hard, focus on the exterior world, walk/pedal/swim ... and wait. Look at dogs, trees, other people’s faces, the sky; get a sense of how small I am, how slight this task is, how transient. You can do this, Margo; you’ve sorted out bigger problems before. It’s never as hard as you fear; take courage. Reassure myself with a bit of the real world. Ten minutes or so out from the end of the aerobic exercise, I’ll turn my mind back to the story, and make an answer of some kind happen. Again, having relaxed a bit usually lets some constructive thought in.

Sometimes I have to admit: Oh, that’s as far as this idea goes. There’s nothing more to it; it was simpler than I thought. This can be surprising, but it need not be disappointing. Hunting around for ways to reanimate an idea, to build a story with a longer tail, using all the extra material that I’ve already built onto the original idea, can be the most fun part of the project. Just how far can you take this?

I’ve learnt to recognise when I can’t take things further, when an idea has simply died on me, or I’ve fallen out of the frame of mind where I can make something of it. And again, this doesn’t have to be a disaster. Another idea will come, another story will nudge at me and start telling me how it wants to be written. If the spark of one idea has died, I won’t waste breath blowing and blowing on it, desperate for it to re-ignite. It’ll light up again - given time, given thought, given absence of fear - if it’s any good at all.


Wise words from a master storyteller to all of us aspiring writers. I'll keep Margo's advice in mind whenever I get so frustrated with my own writing that I just want to put the pen down forever. Thank you, Margo! If you want to get more of her writing, check out her blog at Among Amid While. The other bloggers participating in this tour are:

Monday, March 22nd: Through A Glass, Darkly www.throughaglass.net

Tuesday, March 23rd: Steph Su Reads http://stephsureads.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 24th: Bildungsroman http://slayground.livejournal.com

Thursday, March 25th: Cynsations http://cynthialeitichsmith.blogspot.com/

Friday, March 26th: The Story Siren http://thestorysiren.com

Saturday, March 27th: Shaken & Stirred http://gwendabond.typepad.com/bondgirl

I hope you check these other stops out!


Giveaway Opportunity

Thanks to the marvelous generosity of K at Random House, I have THREE (3) copies of Margo's book, Tender Morsels, to give to three lucky winners! This giveaway is open to US mailing addresses only, and ends Friday, April 9, 2010. To enter, please fill out the form below. Good luck!


  1. Sad that I am an international blogger. :( But I loved the post! :)

  2. This is such a fascinating interview to read. As a wannabe author, it's great to know that 'real' writers also experience that moment where an idea seems to fade away - and to get some wise words about what to do when that happens. Thanks!

  3. Great post, it was lovely to read. I've read a few review on Tender Morsels and have been wanting to read it ever since.

    from Une Parole

  4. Great post! They are very good tips, especially good for someone like me who gets impatient with myself far too easily.

  5. So many people are talking about this book, and so many of *those* people are saying how hard it was for them to read, which makes me know I want to read it. I love a good discussion provoker.

  6. Sounds like a great book. Thanks for the opportunity to enter.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

  7. Thank you for the giveaway! The book sounds interesting!

  8. [url=http://lecturer.elektrounesa.org/?u=videoseabraham5]Eyeline Video System[/url] [url=http://www.answerbag.com/profile/1238595]Color7 Tech Power Video Capture[/url]
    Bestel DVD Ripper 1.2.1 Aimersoft Video Converter 1.1.14
    http://www.answerbag.com/profile/1237259 Online TVx
    [url=http://www.stockpickr.com/members/port/videoseallycia8-Softstunt-Video-to-iPod-Zune-PSP-3GP/]Cheetah DVD Burner 2.21[/url] [url=http://citizenblogs.com/?u=videoseaddie9]VideoCharge Professional[/url]
    Frontcam EZ MPEG To AVI Converter
    http://www.answerbag.com/profile/1238230 VoD Maker
    Apollo No1 Video Converter 4.1.34
    my icq:858499940385

  9. http://znachenie.today.lc/?financegames=game-board-orginizer-12



Hello! I'm so excited to read what you have to say. Due to high amounts of spam, I'm forced to disabled anonymous comments for the time being. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes, and I hope you can understand and still appreciate the content here!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...