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WORDSMITHING WITH MARGOT WOOD

The idea of writing a book seems very daunting! What is your advice for emerging writers looking to give it a go and try to find a publisher?

You won't have a book until you sit down and actually write one. Starting and finishing a whole ass novel is a marathon, not a sprint, so focus on the individual miles rather than the finish line. What I mean by this is break your idea up into parts, then chapters, then scenes. You don't even have to write in order or even write every day but it helps to start with the fun stuff first to build momentum and get into the rhythm of writing. And if you get stuck, move on! You can always go back and fill in parts later. The most important thing to remember is to get that first draft done, it'll be a piece of shit, but it's done! You did it! And now you can polish it into a diamond!

As for finding a publisher, it depends on which publishing route you'd like to take. There are many options these days from a traditional publisher where you'll need an agent first, self-publishing, or vanity publishing. If you want to go the traditional publishing route (which is what I did), you'll need an agent first. There are tons of resources online which will help you learn the process of querying and submitting your manuscript to an agent, so you'll need to do your homework! But the best advice I can give right now is once your manuscript is ready to be sent out, work on your pitch! Take the time to craft a really solid 1-2 sentence pitch for your book that will hook readers/agents/publishers in right away.

How has your creative process evolved over the years? Any fun rituals?

A lot of authors write to music but I write to scent. Every time I'd sit down to write Fresh, I'd light the same scented candle (Ozone from a local candlemaker in the PNW, Particle Goods), and this ritual trained my brain to associate that smell with writing and my body would know it was time to hunker down and focus.

How has social media affected your interaction with your literary audience? Any insight you’ve gained that you’re applying to your next work?

Social is a weird place to be as an author, and an artist in general. On the one hand, interacting with readers is my absolute favorite part of this entire experience, but on the other hand, feeling pressured to "be on social" in order to sell my book is daunting, especially as algorithms are constantly changing, even for someone like me who has worked professionally in social media and book marketing for many years. I think the important lesson I've learned from my years in the social game is to establish healthy boundaries. Take breaks when you need to, only post when it feels authentic to you, if you don't enjoy it, then don't do it. I go through phases. There'll be weeks when I'm a content machine and then I'll go through a drought and never even open the apps for weeks on end. I think that's normal and healthy. Do what feels right for you and don't forget to have an identity outside of being an artist. You are more than just your art.

Your book Fresh was inspired by your time at Emerson, how did you navigate your own personal memories against the fictional elements? Any funny reinterpretations?

Oh man, I mined my freshman year completely for this book. I kept a journal when I was at Emerson and I'm so glad I did because all those sordid tales that seemed so unfortunate back then are absolutely hilarious to me now and provided the source material for a lot of the memorable moments in the book. While Elliot's story is her own in this book and doesn't mirror my own experience exactly, I did use a lot of the situations we were thrown into as freshmen as the setup for a lot of the scenes. Stuff like all the midnight fire drills, the freshman year dating auction, what it was like living in The Little Building dorm, the fact that Emerson kids are a very specific breed of college student, etc.

Faulkner has a quote about killing your “darlings“ as a writer, what’s something you cut that you were tempted to explore in your book?

I got lucky with my publisher, Abrams Books. They were so open to every boundary-pushing element in this book and I never had to cut anything or tone anything down, which is something other publishers wanted me to do. I don't know how many books I'll get to publish in my lifetime so I thought if this was going to be my only one then I wanted to do EVERYTHING with it, so I did. I really played with the structure of the book as often as I could by doing things like breaking the fourth wall through footnotes, choose your own adventures, bulleted lists, font changes, script changes, an intermission, end credits, a post-credits scene, etc. Most people will tell you that this book is A LOT, but that's the point. It's Elliot's story and she is A LOT, so to tone anything down felt like a disservice to her character. The only major change I made to the story was at first I had her relationship with her family be reflected through her dynamic with her older, more-successful sister. But then my dad died and I felt like I really needed to immortalize him on the page, so I downgraded the sister character and instead highlighted Elliot's relationship with her dad which was an homage to my own.

What are you in love with right now, anything you are especially inspired by at the moment?

Two photographers I am loving right now are Q. Sakamaki (check out his incredible collection, Tompkins Square Park) and Stacy Kranitz whose upcoming book, As It Was Give(n) to Me, I just pre-ordered!

Image from Q. Sakamaki's Tompkins Square Park

Image from Stacy Kranitz's As It Was Give(n) to Me

How can the ILYSM community support you or any causes or groups you’re involved with?

The best way to support me (other than buying my book 😘) and other authors is to shop from your local, indie bookstore. I know Amazon is cheaper and more convenient but shopping locally will always be a better way to support the literary community, not to mention a good way to support your local community as well!

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