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Thursday, June 25, 2009

SRS Lash Flash #4: Mitali Perkins

For our final Lash Flash here at Holly's blog, we have the one, the only Mitali Perkins in the house! Don't forget to check out MG Lash Flasher Kristin O’Donnell Tubb at CuppaJolie today!

Besides being the brilliant author of MONSOON SUMMER, RICKSHAW GIRL, THE NOT-SO-STAR-SPANGLED LIFE OF SUNITA SEN, and her latest, SECRET KEEPER (which I highly recommend, Smackdowners!), Mitali blogs about life between cultures and issues in children's literature at her very popular blog, Mitali's Fire Escape. If you haven't seen her article for School Library Journal, "Straight Talk on Race: Challenging the Stereotypes in Kids' Books," read it here. See more about Mitali at her website, and follow her on Twitter!

Mitali is a keeper of revision secrets, too - here's the one she shared with us:

Revision is a key part of writing for me because it actually gets me all the way through a killer-hard first draft.

It takes about year for me to write a book. I begin by brainstorming in my journal (and/or during long, hot showers), letting characters and a narrative arc form themselves in my mind. Once I have that story arc and a strong character, I start writing by taking Jane Yolen’s BIC (Butt in Chair) advice. That chair for me is usually in a local cafe. I tell myself I can’t leave the place until I write at least 1500 words. I am only allowed brief bathroom breaks and one latte refill, and I give myself permission to write garbage because I know my strength is revision.

The next day I head out again (usually to another coffee shop as I don’t want to wear out my welcome), and start by revising those 1500 words. Then I try to add another 1000 or so new words. The day after that, I revise those 1000 words, and try and write 1000 more, and so on, and so on, until I’m done with a very, very bad first draft. But once I have that lousy first draft done, the revision becomes more fun. I go back and hone and cut and polish and carve and paint and decorate until it’s finally ready to send to my agent.

Thank you, Mitali! Stay tuned tomorrow, Smackdowners, for the Week #4 REVISION REPORT! (There will be a separate, final check-in for making your case for the WHIPLASH AWARD next week.)


  1. Mitali,

    It's nice to know other writers use the coffee shop office technique. :) I'll have to try the 1,500 word goal. Thank you for sharing your tips!

  2. Thank you, Mitali! Great advice!

  3. Okay, Mitali. Which cafe? I may have to sit near you and get good revision vibes.

    Back to the Butt in Chair. Good advice!

  4. I usually start at Peet's Coffee in Newton Centre. Thanks, guys!

  5. VERY inspiring--and practical-- tips. Thanks oodles!