How an award-winning author deals with stress and deadlines
March 2021 … Lesa Cline-Ransome, an award-winning children’s book author living in Rhinebeck, N.Y., was interviewed by reporters on the staff of the William Cramp Fit Flyer in Philadelphia. Responses have been edited and condensed.
Q. What is a typical day like in your life as a writer?
A. I don’t spend my whole day writing. A lot of my books require a lot of research — I probably spend more time researching than writing. A really good day will be five hours of writing. When I’m writing a novel, instead of thinking of it as hours of work, I try to aim for 1,000 words a day. I take a ton of breaks. Breaks help my brain to relax. I feel clearer and I have a little more energy when I come back after a break.
Q. Is writing books stressful for you?
A. It’s not stressful, but there are certain aspects that make it stressful. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to start a story; that’s stressful. What’s stressful is feeling like there’s not enough time in the day. For the most part, once I get into the writing it’s not stressful. [But] oh my goodness, the deadline makes it incredibly stressful. I had a book due on Nov. 1 and I missed that deadline, so I had to ask for an extension and I think I might miss that deadline, too. Each day or hour that I’m not writing I can feel myself getting incredibly stressed.
Q. How do you handle stress?
A. I usually take a walk. I love being outdoors. Also, I love to read. When I read, I’m transported and instantly calmed. I love music and dancing, and I love doing puzzles and playing board games.
Q. What advice do you have for kids when they are stressed out?
A. Get outside; get some fresh air. When my own kids tell me that they’re stressed or having a bad day, the first thing I say: Go outside and take a walk. A journal is a great way to relieve stress. Spending time with family is a great way to feel supported and nourished and know you’re surrounded by people who love you and care about you.
Q. We noticed you wrote a book about germs.
A. I wrote it because my kids were not great handwashers. So I thought, “I’m going to write a book to scare them into washing their hands.” It was horrifying, the things I learned about germs. I wanted to scare my kids, but ended up scaring myself!
Q. What did you learn about germs that has been meaningful to you during the pandemic?
A. One of the things I learned is that if you simply wash your hands, you can eliminate most germs. Knowing that has been incredibly helpful, especially now during the pandemic. Handwashing.
Q. Does the pandemic have a silver lining?
A. Recognizing the importance of spending more time with family and staying connected. Also reaching out to people in my community and checking on them. In the day to day, you can forget about that. See if your neighbors need something.
Among a host of honors Ms. Cline-Ransome has received are NAACP Awards, Kirkus Best Books, School Library Journal Best Book, New York Public Library Best Book, and an ALA Notable. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, illustrator James Ransome, with whom she frequently collaborates.