Author Erin Craig Visits Creative Writing Class
Last Thursday, bestselling author of House of Salt and Sorrows, Erin Craig, visited Mrs. Henry’s fifth hour creative writing class. From her cheery and kind demeanor, it is impossible to tell that she is a gothic horror enthusiast. Her first book, House of Salt and Sorrows, came out last August. It is a gothic spin on the Twelve Dancing Princesses and the poem “Anna Lise” by Edgar Allan Poe. Her second book, Together Apart--a story about meeting and falling in love during the pandemic--came out this fall. Craig specializes in spooky fairytale retellings, which is the category her next novel falls under; Small Favors is set to come out next fall.
Erin Craig joined the class Zoom meeting and introduced herself and her books. She then launched into the story of how her writing career started, before opening up for questions. Craig graduated from Spring Lake High School in 2001 and was in Mrs. Henry’s French class. After graduating, she went to the University of Michigan and worked as a stage manager. She had a deep interest in theatre and ended up as a stage manager for 15 years. Her work on plays, especially operas, helped her writing. Craig shared with the class on her experience with plays: “[The plays] have been going on for 300 years, there must be something compelling to retell them over and over.” Unlike many writers, Craig claims she never wanted to be an author growing up, although she enjoyed writing. She explains that, as a kid, writing was “just something fun to do.” Eventually, she came up with a story idea for a Peter Pan retelling, which she wrote and edited, but it didn’t get anywhere. After that, she started writing House of Salt and Sorrows after stumbling across a writing challenge that challenged you to write a book in the month of November. Craig shared the struggles of writing a novel, saying that she rewrote the first chapter twelve times.
After drafting the entirety of House of Salt and Sorrows (visit http://www.erinacraig.com to purchase), Craig entered a Twitter writing contest to find an agent. After choosing an agent, she got an offer from a publishing company for her book within one week. The book had six big revisions, one of them adding a key character to the novel.
Craig, now a mother of a young child, must carve out writing time. On a good day, she wakes up around 5:30 for dedicated writing time. This is her only chance to write during the day, which motivates her to get up and write. One unique aspect of her writing process that Craig shared is the fact that she likes to write all of her first drafts by hand. She then types the handwritten drafts and edits them. House of Salt and Sorrows filled five entire notebooks, while Small Favors filled four.
Students in Mrs. Henry’s class were given a chance to ask questions. They asked her favorite part of the writing process, to which Craig shared one of her favorite aspects: “I love worldbuilding!” She has a Pinterest board filled with aesthetic images to aid in this process. Unsurprisingly, her favorite stories are creepy, thrilling stories. She loves Riley Sager, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and the Grimm Brothers. When prompted about movie rights, Craig shared that she sold the rights to House of Salt and Sorrows to 1212 Entertainment last fall, but nothing is for certain. Although she couldn’t share much, Craig informed that there are “definitely things afoot.”
Besides telling her story and answering questions, Craig gave helpful advice for dealing with criticism. She received a terrible book review, but remembered her hatred for the writing of beloved novelist, John Steinbeck. If she doesn’t like Steinbeck when so many people do, then there will be people who don’t like her books, and that’s okay. She takes criticism with a grain of salt since not everything will appeal to everyone.
Perhaps the most valuable object Craig left the students with was a feeling of inspiration. After all, she didn’t see herself as a writer, and she ended up on the bestseller list! Craig even shared that she started out writing fanfiction. She encourages others to keep writing and achieve their goals: “Even if it’s 500 crappy words, 500 is better than zero!” So if you’re just some kid who likes English class and writes bad fanfiction, don’t give up, because you could be a bestselling author someday.