New-to-the-Wp’ instructor Tempany Deckert is one of those multitalented artists that is blessed with the ability to both write well and speak well. In addition to being an author of 18 middle grade and young adult novels, she is also a formally trained actress and motivational speaker. And while she won’t teach you to recite Shakespeare or speak to a crowd of hundreds, in her fall course she will guide you through completing a novel in 10 weeks (no easy feat). Read on to learn more about Tempany, writing quickly, and the joy of working with an editor.
Writers’ Program: Tell us how you first got into writing. Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to be a novelist, or did you dabble in other forms before it clicked?
Tempany Deckert: At 13 I was extremely lucky to join a ‘gifted’ young writers group. Not only did we skip regular school to write and listen to each others’ stories, we also met professional novelists who showed us how they worked. It was very inspiring and illuminating to see into the professional world of a novelist at such a young age. But I was told in school that creative writing was not a real job so I abandoned the idea and became a professional actress. A much more secure profession! It wasn’t until a short playwriting course appeared within my acting school curriculum that writing came back into my life. From there I’ve never stopped. Novels are my main genre but occasionally I write plays, screenplays and animated TV scripts.
Wp’: In your fall course, you’ll be guiding students through the process of writing a novel in 10 weeks. How do you approach what seems like an impossible and daunting task?
TD: Writing a novel is seen as a very romantic endeavor, and that is why so many people rarely complete one. It’s really about having a plan, sticking to it, and not quitting. It’s a bullheaded, fearless and determined dive into the unknown. My exercises, homework and structure make sure you don’t get lost and give up when writing no longer feels ‘romantic’. It’s very much like renovating a house–many of the activities are creative and satisfying, but several are horrible, boring, hard and exhausting. I’m the project manager who keeps you going when the going gets tough.
Wp’: As a prolific writer, how do you know when a novel is “done”?
TD: It’s done when I can no longer work on it and it bores me to tears. This is also why I encourage new writers to write fast. If you spend years on a book, you will often lose interest and find it hard to complete. I also always give myself a time frame to complete my work. That makes me write to a deadline and doesn’t give me a chance to continuously rewrite. The fact of the matter is, a writer can always keep writing–it can always be better. But you must release your work to the world and let it be shared. Plus, working with an editor is such a joy. I love editors! They bring to life elements of your book that were previously buried or confused. It’s lovely to collaborate after so much time writing on your own. You only get to experience working with an editor when you give up working by yourself. So that is also a great incentive to be ‘done’.
Wp’: Do you ever miss your characters when you move on to the next project?
TD: I feel like all my characters continue to live on even when I’m not writing about them. I do miss them. Once I cried when I finished reading a book I’d written because I didn’t want the character to go away. Crazy and slightly embarrassing.
Wp’: Who are some of the writers that inspire you most? Do you have any “go-tos” for inspiration?
TD: I love books and have several literary heroes. Chekov and Tolstoy are my oldies and Haruki Murakami, Lily Brett and Tom Robbins are consistent favorites. Lately I have been inspired by Maria Semple, Reif Larsen, Marisha Pessl, David Benioff, John Green and Markus Zusack. I am also very inspired by playwrights and think my friend, Martin McDonagh, is a modern master of the written word. Generally I love writers who have a nice little edge of comedy to their writing along with hopeful innocence.
Click here to learn more about Tempany’s fall course, Write a Novel in 10 Weeks. If you have any questions about the course or would like general advising, please call the Writers’ Program at 310-825-9415.
Katy Flaherty is the Program Representative for Creative Writing (Onsite).