Allison's Book Bag

Her Sons Got Her Into Writing

Posted on: July 14, 2014

CrystalAllenCrystal Allen is a wife, mother of two young men, and a writer living in Texas. Like Lamar, the main character of her debut novel, Allen had asthma. She grew out of it at the age of sixteen. Her husband’s side of the family are from Tennessee. According to Allen’s website, when they come to visit, the family has a Texas/Tennessee bowling war where they all talk trash and try to bowl like Lamar.

EARLY LIFE

The youngest of five children, Crystal Allen was born in a military hospital in Germany because her dad was in the Army. According to her website, Allen spent her childhood in Indiana where she was corn-shucking and multiplication queen of her third grade class. In fifth grade, she wore a wig the entire school year because she hated her hair. A candidate in eighth grade for Sweetheart Queen, she ended up with two dates to the dance because one had asked her very early and she had forgotten about the invite. In high school, she taught everyone in her choir to do the root and the choir performed it in a concert. Obviously, Crystal Allen has a unique and vibrant take on life, traits which shines through her debut book: How Lamar’s Bad Prank won a Bubba-Sized Trophy.

Allen wasn’t a big reader as a kid. She told Teen Writers Bloc that reading felt synonymous with school assignments. So Allen grew up believing the library was full of books she didn’t want to read. Since that time, Allen has learned how wonderful reading is and does a lot of “catch up” of books.

ADULT LIFE

She also didn’t have an early interest in being a writer. This came later, Allen told The Brown Bookshelf, when Allen was a mother of two sons who acted tone deaf. Getting her sons to do chores and homework was an everyday struggle. So, she decided to write an ongoing story, using them as the main characters. After a few weeks of that, Allen wasn’t sure which of them were enjoying it the most. At any rate, she began to search the internet for writing organizations and conferences, and to think about making writing a career.

However, after investing lots of time and money into boot camps, conferences, workshops and of course, endless writing, Allen had no solid interest from the publishing world to show for it. She considered quitting, believing that she didn’t have what it took to be a children’s book writer.

Fall of 2006, Allen received needed validation. She contacted an editor whom she’d met at a writing conference several months prior. Allen emailed her, hoping she would give me some direction on a story I was working on at the time. The editor immediately emailed back, told Allen to send her the story, but informed Allen that she had lots of things on her desk that needed her immediate attention. THEN the editor mentioned a story Allen had written during that conference where they’d met, a story that was actually a class assignment for a class I’d signed up for, and expressed interest in publishing the story if it were still available.

WRITING LIFE

How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy actually began as a ghost writing possibility. Allen didn’t get the job, but she loved her characters so much that she wanted to do something with them. At that time, it was a chapter book, written in third person, with multi-cultural characters. However, something didn’t feel right about it.

One day, in the middle of a CSI episode, a teenage, African-American boy began walking around inside Allen’s head like he owned the place! Soon the mental scenery changed as this boy took her to a bowling alley. The smells, the sounds, and the kids bowling, made it clear who was strutting around my brain. That moment switched her story from third-person to first, everything came together.

Not that there still weren’t challenges ahead. For instance, Allen reveals, Lamar and her fought a lot. One time, she even hollered at her computer screen, flipped the hard drive switch to off, yanked the curtains closed, and shut the door to my work station! All because she didn’t want Lamar to do something that he, as a thirteen-year-old boy, needed to do in the story.

Allen even states in Teen Writers Bloc that the most surprising, almost scary realization of the writing process was “when I thought I’d heard Lamar breathe. I’d revised many times to make him stronger and allowed his personality to drive the story. In the final days of revision, I got a visual of Lamar, in my head, inhaling and exhaling. I’d brought his story to life and, as a writer, it was the most gratifying moment ever.”

Today Allen is a full-time writer, trying to write at least four to six hours per day. She likes to write in the morning and has a writing room. However, her favorite place to write is on a cruise ship, where there’s something about being on the water that boosts her creativity. Her faith and family are a constant source of joy, as is finishing a particularly troublesome chapter or scene. She plans to write more humorous stories for middle-graders. I’ll be interviewing Allen and reviewing her book, How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won A Bubba-Sized Trophy, later this week. Save the dates: July 15-16!

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