Our August Member of the Month is writer and manuscript evaluator, Troy Howell. As you read through the interview and his professional profile, you’ll see why this freelance veteran continues to grow and thrive in his very competitive chosen field.
Because of his broad experience, Troy’s manuscript evaluations are particularly valuable, often sparking for the author an “aha!” moment that results in a stronger, more publishable manuscript.
Q: Please share a little of your professional history with our readers.
I’ve had the privilege of working with all the major publishers in New York over the span of my career, thanks to the editors and art directors who saw something in my work despite my own uncertainties at times. A couple of high moments have been sharing programs with greats like Barbara Cooney, David Wiesner, and Mary Pope Osborne. There is one light all creatives work in, and that is passion.
Q: How and when did you make this dream a reality?
My career as an author-illustrator began when I sent some of my poems, along with illustrations, to CRICKET magazine, then in its infancy. Trina Schart Hyman, Caldecott winner for Saint George and the Dragon, liked my work and sent me my first assignment. Shortly after, Trina’s assistant left the staff to become an agent and represent me, among others. It’s been fairly uphill since, with the largest portion of my work being illustration until the last seven years, to which I’ve devoted writing.
Q: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned thus far in your career?
Patience and perseverance are absolute necessities. Those, and the previously mentioned passion. The light of passion may dim, but you must not let it go out. Find something within or without, or someone, to inspire you.
Q: Are you working on any personal writing projects at this time?
Q: What are some of the books or authors who have influenced your professional life in a positive way?
The natural intimacy of Katherine Mansfield’s characters; the enchanting incongruity and bitter-sweetness of Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn; the teasing complexity of Nabokov’s novels and short stories; the poetic richness and varied structure of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; the story navigation through the suspense of John Le Carrés The Spy Who Came In From The Cold; and the experimental form of Robert Cormier’s I am the cheese.
Q: As a seasoned professional, what advice would you offer a writer who is just beginning a career?
Study what appeals to you most, to see what can be done and has been done and how. Go into a museum and notice what catches your eye, even if it’s other visitors, and ask yourself why. Compose sentences you would enjoy reading yourself, and if you don’t like them, if they don’t work, throw them out. And always, always, read your work out loud, have someone else read it out loud, then tuck it away for a long enough time that it will take you by surprise or disappointment when you read it out loud again. If you are not disappointed, you’ve got it.
Q: What inspires you?
My influences are broader than literature.
There’s music: the Beatles’ genre-consciousness that explored other cultures and times; the playfulness of the Incredible String Band, whose childlike wonder continues through the lyrical works of its founding member, Robin Williamson; the neo-classical calmness, beauty and solidity of Robert Casadesus; the humor and spontaneity of the original world-music group, Oregon.
Nature: the tender and harsh, domestic and wild, vast and minute, bold and delicate, mysterious and unfathomable works by the Creator.
Art: the graphic contrasts of Rembrandt’s etchings; the confident simplicity and immediacy of Degas; the multi-layered, austere collages of Fred Otnes.
You may contact Troy at his website: TroyHowell.NAIWE.com