Author Erin Teagan will be presenting “Fast Drafting for the Not-So-Speedy Writer” at the Urbana Regional Library on Saturday, Oct. 19, 1 to 2:30 p.m. Teagan wrote the Luciana series (American Girl’s 2018 Girl of the Year), “The Friendship Experiment” and the recently released “Survivor Girl.” Following Teagan’s presentation will be a book signing, from 3 to 4 p.m.
For more than a decade, Teagan was a scientist in a research lab in Montgomery County, working in drug research and development. She couldn’t bring her work home with her, so she had a lot of time to write. Then she decided to stay home with her children when they were small. “But I started to really miss science,” she said. So she began writing children’s books, building science into all of her stories.
Teagan was excited when she had the opportunity to apply her love of science to an American Girl series. “The big surprise,” she said of writing for American Girl, “is that there is no formula to the American Girl books. They wanted a girl to go to Space Camp, and (the girl) wanted to be an astronaut.”
Teagan decided to give her character serious flaws. “Ultimately, (writers) want (their characters) to be perfect, but I like really flawed characters. American Girl really supported me in that.”
What Teagan never could have predicted is that “Luciana: Braving the Deep” would be read from the international space station. Astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor recorded a video of herself reading an excerpt.
“Getting to work on Luciana was an incredible experience,” said Teagan, “but the icing on the cake was for sure getting to watch an astronaut read from my book while in space!” Auñón-Chancellor read aloud “the scene where Luciana is working in the hydroponics lab, and then (Auñón-Chancellor) showed the real hydroponics lab from the international space station on the video. It was very cool.”
In “The Friendship Experiment,” the main character is Madeline, a future scientist who is dreading the start of middle school. “I wrote quite a few manuscripts before my first one was picked up,” said Teagan.
“‘The Friendship Experiment’ was the first one that was picked up. It was also my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) manuscript. That’s when I realized I might be a fast drafter. I’m a big fan of NaNoWriMo!”
An annual creative writing challenge, National Novel Writing Month encourages participants to write 50,000 words between Nov. 1 and 30. In Teagan’s latest release, “Survivor Girl,” middle schooler Alison is invited to be on her dad’s reality show, “Survivor Guy,” where she “faces important realities about her family, self-reliance, and learning to work together with friends.”
Teagan said of the story, “’Survivor Girl’ is about that line between reality and what you’ve created in your mind,” and the importance of truth. Truth, said Teagan, also means “checking yourself, and being open to the truth of a situation even if it’s different than what you expect.”
Teagan is originally from New Hope, Pennsylvania. “Some of my settings are based on the little towns (of Pennsylvania) and New Hope. … I constantly draw from real life, so a lot of my childhood comes into play. Even though I’m an adult, I can still remember the emotions of what I felt when I was a kid.”
The main character of “Survivor Girl” is a typical middle school girl. “She has body issues (like all middle school girls). She doesn’t really feel secure with her abilities or her body.”
Teagan had experience in fast drafting from her participation in NaNoWriMo, but she really found the skill important when she began to write the Luciana series. American Girl gave her just four weeks to turn in the first draft of the first book in the series, and she was simultaneously assigned the next two books of the series.
“The deadlines didn’t give me much room … because at the same time I had to juggle books two and three,” she said. “(Fast drafting) can be used during revision, as well,” she added. “It pays to try to learn the skills.”
Teagan serves as a co-assistant regional advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, MD/DE/WV region, and has been co-planner of the regional fall conference for many years. For more information about Teagan and her books, visit www.erinteagan.com.