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Interview with Pippa Bayliss

Today I’m talking with Phillipa (Pippa) Bayliss, an up-and-coming mid-grade writer who I met on Verla Kay’s message board (and really, who haven’t I met at Verla’s?).

Hi, Pippa. Thanks for joining us!

Thank you for being brave enough to have me.

You write children’s fantasy. Tell me about your current project(s).

At the moment I’m working on the revision that never ends (which shouldn’t be confused with the Neverending Story). It’s called ‘Ausmus Marney: 11 and 2/3’. Or, ‘Ausmus Marney: Eleven and Two-Thirds’. You see what I’m up against?

And the premise is just as tricky as the title: No one has been able to read a story, watch a movie or use their imagination for over ten years. When Ausmus Marney is taken – at the tender age of eleven and two-thirds – to the afterlife realm of the characters of fiction and make-believe, we find out why.

It’s lots of fun to work on, which possibly explains why I’m still polishing even though it’s already dazzling – (that gagging sound is me choking on my tongue-in-cheek). Seriously, the time I’m spending with Ausmus has absolutely nothing to do with the mess I made of a certain plot point, or my teeny tiny tendency to ramble. I’m so glad you asked so I could clear that up.

How long have you been writing for children? What made you want to be a writer?

This is an embarrassing question for someone like me who hasn’t got a word in print yet, Jody. But since it’s you, I’ll be honest and confess to ten years. I think that makes me addicted? I’m certainly obstinate, and an extremely slow learner. I’ve written plenty but have been very picky about which projects are ready for the world. Only one so far and, really, I’m not sure the world is ready for it.

Oddly, I have no idea what made me want to be a writer. I think at the beginning I wanted to get the stories out of my head, but now I suspect it might have been a generational madness and a touch of heat stroke.

I see you’re a member of The Enchanted Inkpot. What is that? How did you get involved?

Ah! The Enchanted Inkpot – a good question that is most blog worthy. I discovered the site through Verla Kay’s forum and won a swag of books for commenting on a post. I don’t think most of their followers became fans this way but it made me one. The Enchanted Inkpot is a group blog of fantasy writers who write for the juvenile market so its content was of huge interest to me. They let me join them after I begged and groveled a bit. And met their membership criteria. I’m honored to be part of such a talented group of fantasy writers and it’s a site full of wonderful interviews and useful topics. I’d hurry and bookmark it now if I were you.

What are your favorite resources for writing for kids?

I started with Nancy Lamb’s, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children’ and I still refer to it. There are a ton of resources out there – websites, blogs, Verla Kay’s Blueboard Forum – and really, I salivate over any writing resource I can get my hands on. One that I’d recommend for fantasy and science fiction writers is ‘Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy’ by Crawford Kilian. But by far the best advice you can get is from Snoopy.

I’ve read a ton of ‘how to’ books on the many aspects of good story telling, and inspirational books. If you go to my blog you’ll see that Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ has a very special place in my heart. She makes me laugh and cry and soldier on. My mind is a bit leaky so I go once a year to a writer’s conference to soak up good advice. There’s always something more to discover and my mantra at the moment is ‘Go brain cell, go! You can do it’.

Back to Ausmus Marney for a minute (which, by the way, sounds very fun). When will you kiss it goodbye and hustle it out the door?

My agent is waiting for it as I type so my intention is to have it back to her by May. Which means I should stop chatting and get onto it …

You clearly are committed to your work. What’s your best advice to writers who struggle to hang in there (that’s all of us, by the way)?

I struggle the most when I take my eyes off my own work and start seeing how brilliant everyone else is. A nasty little voice in my head tells me I’ll never be as good as them and I really should do something more suited to my talent – like worm rescue. It uses phrases like ‘waste of time’, ‘complete failure’, and ‘nobody cares’. So, my best advice is never, ever measure yourself against the success and popularity of others. You’re you, your work is yours and you can do what it takes to achieve your goals. Keep focused on the writing. And read the book that inspires you the most, over and over until you’re clear again about why you must write.

Thanks, Pippa. It has been fun chatting with you. Much success in your writing endeavors!

It’s been fun hanging out with you, Jody!

Readers, you can visit Pippa at http://pippa_bayliss.livejournal.com/. The Enchanted Inkpot blogs at http://enchantedinkpot.livejournal.com/. And Verla Kay’s Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board can be accessed at http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php.

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