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Elizabeth Wein on Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

From the May/June 2012 issue of The Horn Book Magazine: Roger asks Code Name Verity author Elizabeth Wein about writing books and flying airplanes. Read the full review of Code Name Verity here.

Roger Sutton: You’re a pilot—what has flying taught you about writing?

Elizabeth Wein: As a student pilot, the lengthy “outside aircraft checks” and “cockpit checks” before takeoff used to drive me crazy. I was just anxious to be in the air. Then one morning I made a conscious readjustment of my brain to acknowledge that these things were part of the process. You have to get the groundwork done so that you are free to concentrate on the most important task, which is to fly the plane.

In the air, you check every fifteen minutes that you have sufficient fuel, that your engine is operating efficiently, and that your radio and altitude and heading instruments are all set correctly. Only then can you marvel at the snow-capped Scottish Highlands with the low winter sun gilding them pink and gold.

In writing, the groundwork consists of background reading, fact-checking, drawing up timelines and outlines, taking in suggestions and criticism, and finally the long chore of actually putting all this together and writing the book. Flying has taught me to embrace the entire process. Fly the plane—write the book.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. I like this analogy of flying and writing. Two activities I that I apparently obsess about. I love flying in planes, being around planes, and fantasize one day being a pilot.

    The planning however methodical and objective anyone person claims, thinks or says it is… it’s essential to staying on task with pristine focus.

    Only thing that not-planning something does is leave you spinning your wheels (behind “road” blocks, writer’s blocks, brick walls blocking your creator flow). And eventually wasting more of your precious time. I’ve done this, planned nothing and wasted my time writing in circles with no real story. At least, I learned (albiet it the hard way).

  2. Cecilia says:

    This reminds me of the section in THE VIEW FROM SATURDAY where Noah learns that filling the pen “isn’t what you do before you begin. It is the beginning.”

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