Some of you may know that I've recently taken a personal interest in writing in verse, so I'm extra-excited to be welcoming Thalia Chaltas to the blog today. Her verse novel, Because I Am Furniture, is lyrical, beautiful, and moving - a wonderful example of how strong, well-paced narrative can be woven from elegant poetry.
Anke’s father is abusive. But not to her. He attacks her brother and sister, but she’s just an invisible witness in a house of horrors, on the brink of disappearing altogether. Until she makes the volleyball team at school. At first just being exhausted after practice feels good, but as Anke becomes part of the team, her confidence builds. When she learns to yell “Mine!” to call a ball, she finds a voice she didn’t know existed. For the first time, Anke is seen and heard. Soon, she’s imagining a day that her voice will be loud enough to rescue everyone at home—including herself.
Her book is also a perfect pick for this month's theme, Hope. Don't believe me? Here's what Publishers Weekly had to say:
“Incendiary, devastating, yet—in total—offering empowerment and hope, Chaltas’s poems leave an indelible mark.” (starred review)
If you're wonder what it's like to craft a novel from poetic vignettes, you're in luck! Thalia has offered us a glimpse into her writing process:
Writing a novel in verse is such a different animal than prose. It starts out similarly. I like being still and listening to a character’s voice and what she has to say. Then I hate the process of dumping it on the page - that first draft is always physically painful for me. These two steps are the same for me in verse and prose. But writing a novel in verse means the editing step is enormous, and I absolutely love that process.
In my novels, each poem in free verse is the main character’s experience, a short written out video clip of the character’s perspective. The “clips” are put in chronological order to show the story. The problem is, I don’t necessarily write them in chronological order; I write them as they come to me via the character. There is an amazing amount of moving poems around to see what fits where, a frustratingly beautiful ache of a puzzle.
Because of this, I have a sticky tab technique where each character has a different color. For each poem, I apply characters’ sticky tabs to the page if they are in the poem. Then I turn the manuscript edge-on, to see whether the characters are well dispersed throughout the novel – are the pink Yaicha tabs clumped together somewhere? Is there too much space between Jed’s appearances so we forget where he is at times? Do I need to write another poem? This visual technique is helpful when moving poems around to create a better story line.
Thanks for having me, and good writing to you all!
Fascinating! I love the idea of having a visual cue to the progression of a story arc. Here's a shot of Thalia's tab system in action:
In addition to being incredibly organized, I just think those bright colors look so pretty! I'll have to try out this technique with my next project, which will also probably incorporate some verse.
So readers, what do you think of Thalia's process? And if you're someone who likes to write across different formats and genres, what are some of the ways that you make the transition from one to another?