Corey Rosen Schwartz is a picture book author and mother of two preschoolers. Her debut title Hop! Plop! was named an Eric Carle Museum “Picture Book of Distinction” in 2006. She joins me today to talk about collaborative writing.
Corey, some say writing is a solitary profession, but you co-authored Hop! Plop! with Tali Klein and now your writing partner is Rebecca J. Gomez. What do you prefer about the collaborative writing process?
Well, there is a great quote by E.M. Forster: “How will I know what I think until I see what I say?” That pretty much sums it up. I am an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs scale (despite what the Typealyzer claims!). As an extrovert I need to think out loud. In fact, I kind of have Joe Biden syndrome. I just blurt stuff out. If I had no partner to blurt to, I might not have any thoughts.
So how does the process usually begin? Blurting ideas to one another? Then do you write separately and compare notes, are or you writing and chatting the whole way through?
It depends. With Tali, we would brainstorm together in person. Then I’d go home and write the entire story, and she’d tell me it was good :). With Becky, it’s totally different. We’ve never met or spoken by phone. We do all of our writing through IM. We discuss and debate line by line and drive each other crazy. We can argue for two hours over one detail… but we keep exploring options until we’re both satisfied.
What is the best part of having a writing partner?
Even though collaborating can be very frustrating at times, I always feel that our final product is better than anything either of us could have produced alone. Becky and I really push each other. I insist we revise and revise until every syllable is perfect. She gets me to leave my comfort zone and try new styles and genres. Plus, my commitment to her helps me keep to a schedule and stay motivated.
What would your words of caution be to others interested in taking on a collaborator?
I don’t really have any. I have words of caution for parents thinking of having their kids fifteen months apart! But I don’t think authors have anything to lose by giving collaboration a try. Every writer brings something different to the table. I am very good with rhythm and rhyme and language, but I find plot development more challenging. I’ve written manuscripts with lots of people including my husband, and I’m always willing to try a story with a new partner. (Just holler if you want to take me up on this.)
How did you and Becky find each other?
Becky and I met in an online critique group about four years ago. She is from Omaha, Nebraska. I was a native New Yorker living in Manhattan. I liked both her writing and her critique comments and thought we might make a good team. We’ve finished a half a dozen PBs together and even sort of “shared” an agent. (Don’t ask! Our agent saga is whole other story.)
Uh, sorry, but I have to ask. How do you go about submitting to agents and editors as a team?
Submitting to editors is easy. We each sub to the editors that we have established relationships with. For example, Becky has gotten personal notes from FSG. So she would be the one to write the cover for that house. With an agent, it is a bit trickier. My former agent had submitted PB manuscripts that Becky and I co-wrote. (But she would not sub anything that Becky wrote alone.)
Are you both actively looking for agents now? Do you sell yourselves separately or as a pair?
I’m not actively looking at the moment, but if I got a good lead, I would follow it! This industry is all about contacts. You don’t pass up an opportunity if it lands in your lap! With agents, we kind of have to sell ourselves separately because we both have manuscripts that we have not done together. I would actually love it if she got representation this time. That would be the best of both worlds. Becky’s agent could sub “our” manuscripts, and I’d still be free to shop my other ones around myself!
What was it like to collaborate on a manuscript with your husband? Did you get into arguments? Did anyone spend the night on the couch?
Well, it was a lot better than having him as a Bridge partner! We actually had a blast. We left the kids with my mom one day and just sat at the pool with a notebook. We completed a draft of Never Ask a Dog to Watch Your Lunch, which we thought was hilarious (unfortunately not everyone gets our humor in that one, so we need to work on it some more).
David’s philosophy is to just get a draft down. Doesn’t matter if every line is great. You can fix it later. It was liberating for a perfectionist like me to work with someone with such a practical attitude.
And finally, what’s your favorite kind of chocolate candy?
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!
Thanks, Corey! It was interesting to learn about writing with a partner (without killing them). Ha!
Corey is generously giving away an autographed copy of Hop! Plop!
Just leave a comment to be entered into the drawing.
Blog or Twitter about the interview and you’ll receive another two entries.
I’ll draw a winner one week from today.