Writing Across Formats: Tanya Lee Stone

Learn about Tanya Lee Stone.

What first inspired you to write across forms in children’s-YA literature?

Since I didn’t set out to write across forms in a deliberate way, I’m not sure there was any one moment of inspiration linked to that outcome. However, I do recall having a moment in which I gave myself permission to switch gears.

My career began as an editor of children’s nonfiction, primarily for the school library market–and those were the kinds of books I naturally wrote first when I transitioned from editor to writer.

And then there came a point when I needed to stretch as a writer and find my own stories to tell–what was I passionate about–what was I yearning to say?

Then it became about the right form for the right story. Sometimes that is picture book, and sometimes it is a longer form.

What have you learned from writing in a variety of formats?

I tell my college students that all of your present writing will inform your future writing, and that has been true for me.

Fiction has taught me to embrace point of view in my non-fiction. If I’m investing tons of time and energy into telling a complicated piece of history, for example, there must be a compelling reason for me to do so. It is the “why is this story important to you?” question I always kept in the forefront of my mind for fiction that I now let be the driving force in my nonfiction as well.

And the short form of picture books has taught me how to capture an essence of a person or an emotion, which is certainly helpful in any form of writing.

What do you think about the pressure on authors to brand themselves by writing a certain kind of book?

Well, I’m resistant to pressure of any kind, so….

But for me, I suspect that some people do now connect me with a certain kind of book; for example, I often write about strong women or issues of female empowerment.

It’s not branding in the traditional sense of the word, and it came about organically, but that is probably the closest I will ever come to that concept.

Cynsational Notes

The Writing Across Formats interviews were originally conducted in support of a keynote address by Cynthia Leitich Smith at a fall 2009 SCBWI-Illinois conference.

In the video below, Tanya talks about engaging reluctant readers from Vermont Public Television: