Leslie Lindsay is the author of award-winning Speaking of Apraxia (Woodbine House, 2012). Leslie blogs regularly at www.leslielindsay.com where she interviews bestselling and debut authors, shares excerpts of her work, and tips and meanderings on the writing life. She lives in Chicagoland with her husband, two daughters, and one chubby—but adorable—basset hound. She’s also working on a novel, Zombie Road, based on an urban legend set in St. Louis, Missouri. What happens when housing developments are slapped up on this so-called haunted ground? Most of all—what if those ghosts aren’t just metaphysical, but a result of your own demons?
How did you become a writer?
It’s more like how did I *not* become a writer. From since I can remember, I have had a love for the written word. Curled up in my closet reading Babysitters Club books, or Nancy Drew, the clothing from above dangling onto the top of my head—this is where life was safe and secure as I escaped behind the cover of books.
Then, sometime in elementary school, tried my hand a few very bad attempts of books. Something about Ellican the alien who came to Earth and did what…I can’t even remember?! Of course, I had a diary where I penned everything from my nightly dreams to which boy I was crushing on. As I got older I was invited to attend special Young Author events hosted within my school district.
But then, I got these ideas that writing was a hobby, and I’d better pick a “real career.” I gravitated toward architecture for awhile, drawing floorplans like there was no tomorrow. But there was. And so I shifted my sights from architecture to medicine. All the while, I read voraciously—Lois Duncan and Joan Lowry Nixon—books I purchased with hard-earned babysitting money at B. Dalton. I always said, “someday I’m going to write a book,” not really knowing if it would be fiction, or nonfiction, or perhaps both!
I went to college. I majored in nursing. Neverminding that I found the vernacular and word-study of Latin body parts more fun than the actual healing of them. I got a degree, sat for the boards. Practiced child psychiatry at The Mayo Clinic for more than five years. All the while, I thought about writing. I even had my patients keep detailed journals. I wrote smallish, educational brochures for in-house hospital use. I started a memoir about a child’s perspective of a parent’s mental illness, pounding out pages before my evening shifts started. And then, it became too emotional to carry on.
Fast-forward a few years. A baby is born. Mine. She’s beautiful. She doesn’t talk. She barely babbles or coos. I worry. Another one comes along. And I write a book for her in the form of letters while I’m expecting. The first baby is diagnosed with childhood apraxia. I know nothing about this disorder. While raising two young kids, I research like mad, culling all of the information a can get my hands on, all while taking notes. I’m told, “You should write a book.”
“Nah…I couldn’t possibly. It’s *me* who needs a book!”
And then I do. Speaking of Apraxia is published in 2012. The baby is now 9. Her sister, 7. They won’t stop talking. Now.
And then, the fiction bug came back. Writing, it seems won’t leave me alone.
What gymnastics do you go through to get your writing done?
The creative life is often riddled with questions, lack of confidence, and everything in between. So sometimes there are “mental gymnastics,” my brain must hop through all day. But when the time comes to actually sit down, roll up the sleeves, and get to work…well, it’s a matter of just diving in. I often begin by reading yesterday’s work. What seemed brilliant at the time may need some real work. I do that. Then, I get inspired to start something new. A chapter, a blog, whatever. And usually that gets me “warmed up” enough to really get into the flow.
What one thing have you done to progress your writing the most?
Working with a critique partner, hands down. I’ve gone to plenty of writing groups over the years and while a community like that is helpful, it’s often too global for me. One person likes what you share, another doesn’t. Still yet, another will offer suggestions for a completely different premise, and you’re like, “Huh?” Don’t get me wrong: there’s a time and place for group feedback, but for me, subbing a group with a single partner who knows my quirks, habits, problem areas, and most of all—the full story I am trying to tell has made all the difference.