Miranda Paul’s Studio Tour

Thus far I’ve featured illustrators and artists on Tuesday Tours,  but today I’m excited to share the first writer’s studio tour featuring children’s book author Miranda Paul. I met Miranda this past October at the SCBWI Fall Conference. After a day of seminars and critiques, I ended up in Miranda’s dorm room with a bunch of other writers. It was my first conference and I didn’t know many people, so the opportunity to have a pseudo slumber party was a lot of fun! In addition to writing picture books, Miranda has a number of other roles: she volunteers with Books for Africa, a foundation that collects, organizes, and ships books to the continent of Africa; Miranda founded RateYourStory, which is a website that allows writers to submit their stories and have them rated by other published authors; and recently, Miranda worked with a group of writers and professionals in the kid lit world to organize the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign in early May.  skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

MirandaPaulTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m a writer, so I suppose my creative medium is spiraled notebooks. I write many of my ideas, storyboards, and first-drafts on cheap, lined paper. I’m often more productive getting raw ideas down in notebooks, because it’s harder to edit myself (no delete key!). Notebooks allow me to feel free to experiment or think up alternate possibilities that come with the creative “play” stage of writing. When I type up drafts, I use the default font. Once I’m getting close to a final draft, then I change the font to Times New Roman and double-space it. Now it’s time to look at the story in a different way—more editorial, professional, technical, serious.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
My amazing husband built me this dedicated space in late 2012, but it took me a while to really settle in. I’ve been using it for almost a year and a half now.

Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating?
My office is literally an “Underground Lair” and I live in Wisconsin. So, I turn on the space heater 8-9 months out of the year. I cannot work if I’m cold—my fingers turn white, which is actually a condition I have dealt with for years.

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Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working?
I relish the sound of absolute silence. My brain is generally a very noisy place. Having the quiet around me allows for a sort of osmosis. The point, really, is for things to flow out from me. As a mom, a wife, a reader and a teacher, I have enough input and distraction. My office is a place where I pour things onto paper or screen. Cleaning my office is a different story: I crank the music as loud as possible. I listen to rock, hip-hop, reggae, pop, and even Celtic and folk ballads—a well-rounded mix of everything.

Miranda Paul 11 Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Back in 2012 I attended my first SCBWI national conference in Los Angeles. One night, my friend and I went down to the boardwalk and saw the original Zoltar machine from the movie Big. For $1, I got a little yellow card that read, “You have a very fine mind, and if you cultivate it properly, you will be very successful.” I sold my first book three months after that. I also have a copy of a picture book I made in second grade. Lastly, since my brain didn’t come with the proper “neat and organized” genes, I have a plaque above my desk that reads: A Clutter Desk Is A Sign of Genius.

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A page from one of Miranda’s first books—written in second grade.

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If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Install really large windows. My office would no longer have that secret-underground-lab feel, and I wouldn’t be able to hide as easily, but I love sunlight.

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After countless library fines, Miranda’s come up with a crate system for keeping library books separate from the books she owns.

Miranda Paul 1What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Don’t stress out if you don’t have an office or space. There’s something to be said about learning to adapt and work in different environments. Lucille Clifton, my first professor in children’s literature, wrote at her kitchen table with six kids buzzing around her. When I need a change of pace, I take the laptop upstairs to the sunroom (with huge windows on all sides). I’ve written a few stories on airplanes, too. That said, having a dedicated place to work has improved my routine and established a much-needed separation for my family regarding “Mom’s job.” My office is in a faraway corner of the basement—perfect for a writer with young kids who needs a place where there is no laundry, no dishes, and four solid walls. I can’t even hear the upstairs phone or the doorbell ring from in here.

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What are you working on now?
I’m always working on something new, and continually revising my older manuscripts. I have several forthcoming books, but two that release next year (2015) I am particularly proud of— One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of The Gambia (Lerner/Millbrook) and Water is Water (Macmillan/Roaring Brook Press/Neal Porter Books). The second one was written right here, on the floor of my office, using a mix of pens, notebooks, and computer paper before working out the final draft on the computer.

I also love helping other writers through critiques, and a site I run called Rate Your Story. I meet a lot of new writers each week who are looking for a fresh pair of eyes on their manuscript—and many of them connect to me via my website http://mirandapaul.com.

Miranda’s daughter made her a sign a few years ago, which Miranda keeps on her bulletin board pinned to her rejections folder so she can remember her daughter’s good advice.

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Thanks for sharing your writing lair with us, Miranda. I’m looking forward to reading all of your new books when they’re released!

22 thoughts on “Miranda Paul’s Studio Tour

  1. Clever crate system…I think I need one even for me! I also prefer total silence when I’m working (I usually end up singing or humming along with music and my brain just can’t multitask like it used to). Thanks for letting us peek into your work space, Miranda! So much fun to see how other creative types surround themselves.

    • A note: The crate system is not foolproof…especially when you have young children who sneak them out and don’t put them back…

      But isn’t the sound of silence something incredible??

    • I am writing this comment with the light off…and only a sliver of remaining daylight coming through the tiny, rectangular window. This deserves and evil MWAHAHAHA.

      🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    • My office is in the farthest corner of the house from our room. Literally. If my husband wanted to bother me, he’d have to go to the kitchen, down the steps, and across the entire basement (which is a full length of our really long, ranch-style home). Once in here, he’d have to dig through my cluttered desk (see sign) if he wants to use the computer. It’s no wonder he opts to use the laptop upstairs if he needs something. He’s not much of an online person, anyway, and I love him for that. (There’s nothing like real human interaction and offline family time!) My underground lair is a miracle, and it’s mostly all mine.

  2. Thanks for sharing your space, Miranda. I like your sign for cluttered desks *YAY! I’m a genius ~ cough cough* 😉 and I think I better get a big envelope for rejections going…which means submitting more…

    • I think that envelope in the picture only houses about 1/3 of my print rejections, and none of my e-mail rejections (which are at least three times as many). I’ve been thinking of starting a binder, actually. Rejection comes with this business. It’s not fun to be rejected, but it makes those acceptances mean a lot.

  3. Oooh, Miranda, love your crates. Where did you get them? I currently have a mishmash of baskets and bins for various projects, but those look like they’d fit my bookshelves. 🙂

    • My husband gets them from work. People just throw these things out after emptying trucks, apparently. Those who know me know I’m a recycle fiend…dumpster-diver…what’s the nicest term for this?? 🙂

  4. Andrea & Miranda, great tour! Thanks for sharing with us. I am a clutter addict too…but every once in a while I need a good wind to clear things out. That helps. My writing space tends to overflow into other ‘areas’ of my life, and I’m inspired by the way you have packed in to your space. That would benefit me, to consolidate it here. Thanks. Excited about your upcoming publications.

  5. Thanks, Damon. Yes—a good cleanout every now and then is a great way to reboot my creative energy. Having an office has helped me de-sprawl my belongings, which once roamed the house. I appreciate you stopping by!

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