Creative Writing at The New School

Caron Levis is the author of the picture books, Stop That Yawn! (Atheneum, 2018); May I Have A Word? (FSG),  Stuck with the Blooz (HMH), and Ida, Always (Atheneum) which the New York Times Book Review calls, "an example of children's books at their best." Forthcoming titles include Mama's Shoes (Abrams 2019); This Way, Charlie (Abrams 2020.) Her stories for teens and adults have been published in magazines and anthologies; plays have been produced inher hometown of NYC and adapted for film. Caron is an adjunct professor and the coordinator for The New School's Writing for Children/YA MFA program, where she earned her degree; she has an LMSW from Hunter College. After many years as an arts educator, Caron now loves using acting and writing to teach social, emotional, and literacy skills to students of all ages through her author workshops. Having trained in acting and dabbled in playwriting,  Caron also enjoys turning theatre techniques into writing tools for groan-ups through her workshop Act-Like-A-Writer and helping shy writers unearth their public speaking voices through Page-to-Stage. Visit her at www.caronlevis.com

1. Who is your favorite villain, and who is your favorite protagonist in literature?

Indecisive by nature, forgetful, and swayed by moods I tend to rebel against ‘favorites’ but the first villain popping into my head right now is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, From Perfume, by Patrick Suskind which is an awesome example of taking one of the five senses to an extreme. As for protagonist, oh, spunky Ramona Quimby created by Beverly Clearly will always be my first favorite and the kid who got me into this writing mess.   

2. When did you know you were a writer?

Hm. I knew I was a writer last week when I had one of those moments of writing where time disappears.  I knew I was a writer that time I spent hours of joyfully frustration looking for a word with the right second syllable sound for my book Ida, Always. I knew I was a writer when I was snippy and blue once again because I hadn’t written in a week. I get nervous and wonder, am I really a writer? I get freaked out by the daunting business side of things and wonder, do I really need/does the world at all need me to be a writer? I Give Up on Being-A-Writer at least once a year…and usually am writing the next morning, and sigh, I know I’m a writer. When I was a kid I lay on the carpet of my room, for hours, reading and writing and imagining and not once thinking about being a writer, just writing. 

3. What are you currently working on?

In the drafting stages I mostly try to keep things coming out my fingers by plugging up my mouth, but I’m researching a new picture book project among other things; I just made some last round edits on two upcoming picture books: Mama’s Work Shoes (Abrams 2019) illustrated by the fabulous Vanessa Brantley Newton and This Way, Charlie (Abrams 2020) illustrated by the amazing Charles Santoso. 

4. How has your writing process changed over the years?

Every project still has a kind of similar process: Initial Excitement…Delusions of Simplicity…Struggle & Self-Doubt…Give-Up & Get Blue…reVISION & Restart. Repeat as needed until something feels Good Enough to show someone or needs to be sent to a drawer. The difference is that when it comes to picture books I can now trust-ish the Struggle & Doubt section ….and believe I’ll likely get to the other side at least with one of my ideas. Each fall I get better at remembering to use the exercises I teach in my Act-Like-A-Writer workshop myself in order to out of my head and into a sense of play. 

5. Describe your writing style in one sentence.

I don’t feel like I have a style, unless maybe it’s the same as my style of dressing: keeping a closet full of somewhat random pieces of material I like in one place and yanking and throwing them together until I have something I feel I can walk out of the house in. 

Five Questions, by Nicole L. Drayton. Nicole is a writer, screenwriter and independent filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY.  She holds a Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts from The New School, and currently works for the university in the MFA in Creative Writing Program office.  

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