nonfiction

Author Kirsten Larson: From NASA to STEM Kidlit

Posted on Updated on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author (and my friend) Kirsten W. Larson. Trust me, this woman is going to make her mark in the world of kidlit. Jois us as she discusses her new book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE published by Calkins Creek. 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I first researched and wrote WOOD, WIRE, WINGS in March 2014 as part of Susanna Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” class, so it took almost six years from first draft to published book. For two years, I revised with my critique group and in response to agent and editor feedback at conferences and from queries. In February 2016, I queried agents with the book and signed with my agent, Lara Perkins of ABLA, soon thereafter. This was the first manuscript we sent out. My editor, Carolyn Yoder, asked for an R&R (revise and resubmit) before offering in February 2017. After that, there were still two more rounds of revision. So my takeaway: The publishing process, especially for picture books, is slow.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts inspired this book. The name of Lilian Todd and a note that she was the first female airplane designer appeared in one of David’s illustrations. Though I’d lived and worked around airplanes my whole life, I’d never heard of Lilian. Neither had my husband, who’s a test pilot and aviation history buff. I knew Lilian’s story was one I needed to tell.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process has evolved quite a bit since WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, but for each book my research process is similar. I start with secondary sources and read widely about the person and/or time period I’m tackling. Secondary sources provide needed context for primary sources and also point the way to primary sources through endnotes and bibliographies. I typically have both a file box for books, copies of print sources, and drafts. But I also create a file in Evernote for electronic sources. I use the Evernote web clipper to clip journal and newspaper articles, online letters and diary entries, etc.

When I feel like I’m starting to see the same information over and over again, it’s time to write. Normally I start with a timeline or what I call my “kitchen sink draft,” which has all the names, dates, and details that probably won’t appear in the final draft. Then I can let all specifics go and be more creative with my structure, storytelling, and voice. I also carefully consider what must be said with words and what can appear in the illustrations.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, and my interest and experience has mostly been nonfiction, specifically journalism. I wrote a newsletter filled with articles about  my family when I was in high school. It included breaking news about birthday parties and trips to the dentist. In college I was a reporter and editor at the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and wrote for two different newspapers in my hometown. I also interned at NASA as a college student, working in the public relations department. (We call it Public Affairs at government agencies). That’s the career field I eventually went into. I didn’t turn to writing picture books until I had two children who devoured nonfiction children’s books about space, weather, and everything else imaginable. Reading those books, I realized I could write them and would probably have a blast doing it.

How did working at NASA influence your writing?
Working at NASA Public Affairs, I considered myself a translator for technical information. My job was to work with the news media providing the information they needed to inform the general public about NASA’s work. That often involved “translating” technical talk and engineer-speak into everyday language when writing press releases and newsletter articles, for example. This was great practice for writing STEM-based picture books where I often read journals and talk with experts. Working at NASA also influenced the subject matter of my first two picture books, which focus on women in aviation and astronomy.

Why do you write nonfiction?
I write primarily to satisfy my own curiosity. Whenever I tackle a new subject, it’s an excuse to become an expert in that field. If I can write a children’s book about the topic, then I know I truly understand the material myself.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have two more forthcoming nonfiction picture books, only one of which is announced. THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars are Made Of, is being illustrated by Katherine Roy and will be published by Chronicle Books. I continue to research and write nonfiction picture books but have also tackled graphic novels, another favorite genre. I’m revising a Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales-type graphic novel that marries history with fictional elements.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I’m a huge fan of mentor texts, and the books I use are tailored to each project. For WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I had Debbie Levy’s I DISSENT (illus. Elizabeth Baddeley, Simon & Schuster, 2016) by my side. That book really showed me how to provide just enough historical context in an interesting way. One of my favorites from childhood was THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, a Little Golden Book featuring Grover, by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin (1971). It’s such a perfect example of strong page turns propelling the story forward and a surprising ending. I still have a copy.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Because of the nature of publishing, I think the best thing we can do for our work is to enjoy the journey. We must make sure each book is the story we want to tell, even if it never sells. Finally, there are always people who can help us tell the story better, whether it’s a critique partner, an agent, an editor or an illustrator. Being able to really revise and reimagine a story in response feedback is perhaps the greatest skill a creator can have.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m a big fan of pistachio gelato, which I learned to make in Italy.

BIO
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020) and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives near Los Angeles with her husband, lhasa-poo, and two curious kids. Her house is filled with LEGOs, laughter, and lots of books!

Social Media
Website: www.kirsten –w-larson.com
Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @KirstenWLarson
Facebook: @KirstenLarsonWrites

Author Annette Whipple on Creating Compelling Nonfiction

Posted on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Annette Whipple as she discusses her new book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. It’s nonfiction, which I love!

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

Oh, it’s been a long journey! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide began with the idea in 2014. In 2016 I had an offer from Chicago Review Press, but we put the contract on hold until I received all the permissions needed from the Little House people. We moved to contract in 2018. I turned in the manuscript in May 2019. It’ll be published in July!

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were my biggest inspiration. There’d be no book without them. However, I got the idea for the companion guide when I was reading Roar!: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia. My kids loved it and so did I.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

I read each the Little House books a few times and took notes in a chart I created. I noted the plot and events, people, food, and activity ideas that I might want to include in my book. I also noted words that might be included in my book as pioneer terms.
In The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, I help the reader understand the Little House story and especially the complicated history at that time. All of that took a lot of research! One of my favorite features are the “Fact or Fiction?” sidebars. My kids and I got hands-on experimenting for the 75 recipes, crafts, and activities included!
For those interested, I wrote an entire blog post last year about the writing for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. https://www.wildercompanion.com/2019/03/manuscript-process.html

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was well into my thirties before I realized I love to write. In 2009, I began blogging to share with family about my daughter’s progress overcoming a speech disorder. Soon I realized I wanted to share with a larger audience and began a new blog. After a few years I took a few writing classes and wrote a few magazine articles. And then I attended my first writing conference in 2015.

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide is my sixth nonfiction book. I plan to keep writing for children, especially nonfiction because facts are fun. (That’s something I emphasize during my author visits as well as professional development workshops for teachers.) In the fall Reycraft Books plans to publish my book (tentatively titled) Whooo Knew?: Discover Owls. I’m thrilled Reycraft plans to illustrate the picture book with photographs. I also have another book under contract, but I can’t talk about that one yet! I can tell you it’s about some important people in American and world history.

6. Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

Obviously, I think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are full of inspiration for good storytelling. But Little Women by Louisa May Alcott strikes me differently every time I read it (which is just about every year). Terrific Tongues by Maria Gianferrari is a picture book that I’d love to use as a mentor text—though I haven’t yet. It’s fun and full of great facts.

  1. What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Every writer needs a good critique partner (or two or a group) they can depend upon. It’s best if they have experience writing in your genre.

Here’s a quote I find inspiring: “I write alone, but I depend on others to help me write well.”

Here are two posts I’ve written about the value of feedback.
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/01/writing-success-is-art-part-1.html
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/09/the-value-of-feedback-for-writers.html

And a bonus question just for kicks!
If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Ha! Maybe pecan. The pecans add just a bit of nuttiness to the vanilla…a perfect combination!

BIO
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of five published books. In 2020, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls (Reycraft Books) will be published. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. She explores the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder at WilderCompanion.com. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at AnnetteWhipple.com.

Social Media:
Book Link: https://amzn.to/2R3QPiD
Also, about the book:  https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/11/the-laura-ingalls-wilder-companion.html and
https://www.annettewhipple.com/
https://www.wildercompanion.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks
https://www.facebook.com/LittleHouseCompanion/
https://twitter.com/AnnetteWhipple
https://www.instagram.com/annettewhipplebooks/
https://www.pinterest.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks/

A Nonfiction (and free) Festival!

Posted on

Attention all nonfiction writers! Whether you’re a newbie or experienced in the world of nonfiction, this new festival is a must-attend. You can participate from the comfort of your home. Plus, it’s absolutely free!

What is it? Here’s a snippet from the NF Fest website, https://www.nffest.com/

About NF Fest

NF Fest, organized by the Nonfiction Chicks in February, is a month-long crash course in writing nonfiction for children. Participants will learn the craft from 29 authors and others in NF publishing through daily posts. Daily activities will get you writing and researching in small steps. It’s all free, and there will be prizes!

Join our NF Fest Facebook community at https://www.facebook.com/groups/NFFest/ for updates and discussion. You can also sign up for email notifications in the sidebar of this blog so you don’t miss a post. We hope you’ll join us in 2020 for this fun and educational event!

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

It’s organized a group of veteran nonfiction writers who are ready to share their knowledge with you.

Who are they?

Pat Miller
Linda Skeers
Lisa Amstutz
Nancy Churnin
Peggy Thomas
Stephanie Bearce
Susie Kralovansky

You can read up on them here:
https://www.nffest.com/p/meet-nf-chicks.html

This year’s bloggers will include:
Karen Blumenthal/Candace Fleming
Beth Anderson
Carla McClafferty
Melissa Stewart
Heidi Stemple
Barb Kramer
Sophia Gholz
Nancy Turminelly
Donna Bowman
Mary Kay Carson
Traci Sorrell
Cynthia Levinson
Jen Bryant
Jill Esbaum
Kerry McManus, Marketing Director
Don Tate
Meeg Pincus
Lisa Schnell
Susannah Deevers
Vivian Kirkfield
Kelly Halls
Stacey Graham, agent
Bethany Hegedus
Alice Duncan
Rob Sanders
Lesa Cline-Ransome
Chris Mihaly
Steve Swinburne

Registration begins TODAY and will go on until January 31, 2020.
Click HERE to register.

See you there!

Lydia

Author-Illustrator Rachel Dougherty on Building Engaging Nonfiction

Posted on Updated on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author-illustrator Rachel Dougherty. Her picture book Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge was published by Roaring Brook Press. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Rachel is generously giving away a FREE PB critique! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (ends Nov 9, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
First I worked on the manuscript with my agent, and after several rounds of edits, we settled on something that seemed strong enough for pitching. When she sent it out to 14 publishing houses for consideration, we had some strong interest early on from Roaring Brook Press, as long I was open to some revision. I was thrilled at the prospect, and even happier once I got to talk about the project with my soon-to-be editor. She was so excited about Emily’s story, and I could tell from our first call that her edits would make the story smarter and sharper. We went back and forth on several rounds of revisions before Roaring Brook Press officially offered me a contract. I feel very lucky to have been paired with an editor whose guidance made my book stronger at every turn.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I first learned about Emily’s story while reading David McCullough’s wonderful book The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fantastic work— he’s so dedicated with his research and so nimble with his storytelling. I’d certainly heard about John Roebling before, and about his son Washington, but it struck me as so strange that no one had ever mentioned Emily to me. After reading The Great Bridge, I wanted to know more. The more I read about Emily, the more I felt like her story should be told to as many little girls as possible.

Also, and maybe lots of writers say this, but I think we all can’t help but create books for the readers that we were most like as kids. As a kid, I always wanted to know how things worked and why they worked that way. So I knew in writing Emily’s story, I wanted the bridge mechanics to be part of it. I was really excited by the chance to let readers learn how the bridge works just as Emily’s figuring it out on her own in the story.

Please share some of your writing process.
Since I came to writing later than I came to illustrating, I think the manuscript starts to come alive for me once I can envision the art. So I sort of write and draw in tandem in the early stages, with tiny scribbled thumbnails and captions scattered all around the text. It usually takes me four or five rounds of this thumbnail/book-map mess before a proper dummy comes to life.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
It’s funny, because I don’t think I ever really had a dream to become a writer, or the realization that I wanted to become one. Someone once asked me, “where did you find the courage to start writing?” and I sort of just laughed. It didn’t seem courageous to me at all at the time. I started writing because I was so impatient. I had illustrated a few picture books with historical topics and I was so excited about them that I didn’t want to wait for another project like that to come around. I was so impatient that I figured I’d have to make the project myself, and that’s how I got the idea for the first book I wrote.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
Honestly, I hope I can make something as great as Secret Engineer over and over again. I am in the early stages of a project right now that I have high hopes for. It’s really out of my comfort zone. I think it’s still too primordial to talk about, but I hope I’ll have more news soon!

Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
From an illustration perspective, I always return to Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius. It’s one of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve ever seen. I just want to live inside those pages—particularly the illustrations of Miss Rumphius’s house. From a writing perspective, I’m floored by Amy Novesky’s Cloth Lullaby: The Woven Life of Louise Bourgeois. The illustrations are also stunning, but Novesky tells Louise Bourgeois’ story so tenderly and poetically. Right from the opening, the words just wrap around you: “Louise was raised by a river. Her family lived in a big house on the water that wove like a wool thread through everything.”

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Find your team. Writing can be isolating, and self-doubt gets louder and louder in a quiet room. You need other writers to critique your work, to vent to when you’re stressed, and to high-five when you succeed.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Coconut ice cream – it tastes like summer at the beach, and that makes me happy.

BIO
Rachel Dougherty is a Philadelphia-based author/illustrator driven by a love of nonfiction for young readers. She is the illustrator of several educational picture books, the author of one nonfiction early reader, and the author/illustrator of Secret Engineer: How Emily Roebling Built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Social Media:
Web: www.racheldougherty.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/r_dougherty
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/racheldoughertybooks/
Secret Engineer:
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250155320
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/secret-engineer-rachel-dougherty/1128119432?ean=9781250155320
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250155320?tag=macmillan-20
To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/See-Sea-Food-Creatures-That/dp/1541554639

Author Jenna Grodzicki on How to Create Unique Hooks

Posted on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome Jenna Grodzicki. Her debut nonfiction picture book I See Sea Food published by Millbrook Press (a division of Lerner) has a unique hook. She explains her journey below.

But first, YAY- Jenna is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a comment below. (US residents only, ends Oct 25, 2019)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I See Sea Food went through MANY rounds of revisions before it was submission ready. I can look back and see that clearly now. However, I submitted it to a lot of agents before it was at that point. Needless to say, I racked up lots of rejections. The one comment I heard over and again was that they loved the topic but not the execution. It wasn’t until early 2018 that I found the right format and voice. Then, Lerner editor Carol Hinz posted an open call for nonfiction manuscripts that would best be illustrated with photographs. I had always envisioned this story with photographs, so I submitted it right away. Less than a month later, I received an offer. It was a dream come true.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came from a website I just happened to click on while researching lemon sharks (for what would later become Finn Finds a Friend (Clear Fork Publishing)). It was an article about marine animals that looked like foods we eat. It was a total OMG moment for me. I knew that kids would be as fascinated by these creatures as I was. I never planned to write nonfiction, though, so I didn’t do anything with this idea for a few months. But I couldn’t stop thinking about these sea creatures that really did look like food. So, I decided to go for it and began the research process. And I’m so happy I did.

Please share some of your writing process.
I write both fiction and nonfiction. I See Sea Food was my first attempt at nonfiction, and now I’m hooked. I love finding a new and interesting topic. I tend to be drawn to weird animals, so that’s what I’ve been researching and writing about. But I also really enjoy writing fiction.
My writing process is similar for both. I have the hardest time with the first draft. I have an unfortunate habit of agonizing over EVERY SINGLE WORD. I constantly have to remind myself that I just need to get a bunch of words down on paper, and they don’t have to be perfect. That’s what revising is for.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I first started dreaming about writing picture books when I was teaching first grade. My favorite part of the day was when I read to my students. I loved talking about and sharing amazing books with them. Slowly, I came to the realization that I wanted to try writing picture books. It remained only a dream for several years, something I would do “some day.” Finally, I took the leap and haven’t looked back since.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to continue to create picture books, both fiction and nonfiction. I’m a full-time writer now with no plans to stop. I have two books coming out in 2020. HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing) is about a girl named Harmony who learns that her special Perfect Pets collection is even more special when shared with friends. The second book is nonfiction. It hasn’t been announced yet, so I can’t say much more about it. I also have several WIPs, and my agent is getting ready to send a couple more manuscripts out on submission. Lots of exciting things happening, and I’m thankful every day that I get to do what I love.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
Wow, this is a difficult question. So many books have served as mentor texts for me. I’d have to say one of my absolute favorite picture books is Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola. This was one I read to my first graders every year. It certainly influenced my dream to become a writer.
When I was working on I See Sea Food, I used many of Melissa Stewart’s books as mentor texts. Two of the most helpful ones were Feathers: Not Just for Flying and No Monkeys, No Chocolate. I’m a huge fan of all of her work.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Immerse yourself in the Kidlit community. No one understands this crazy journey like other writers. And join a critique group. These will be your people. They’ll be there for you every step of the way, and their support is invaluable.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’d be the rainbow sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Rainbow sprinkles make a dish of ice cream more cheerful looking. I’m naturally a very happy person, and I try to spread that positivity to everyone around me.

BIO
Jenna Grodzicki has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Boston College, and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of New England. After spending 15 years as an educator, Jenna is now a full-time writer. She is the author of Pixie’s Adventure (eTreasures Publishing, 2017), Finn Finds A Friend (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017), I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures that Look Like Food (Millbrook Press, 2019), and HARMONY HUMBOLT – PERFECT PETS QUEEN (Clear Fork Publishing, 2020). Jenna lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. She is represented by Victoria Selvaggio of Storm Literary Agency.

Social Media:
www.jennagrodzicki.com
Facebook: @jennawritesPB
Twitter: @jennawritesPB
Instagram: @jennawritespb

To purchase: https://www.amazon.com/See-Sea-Food-Creatures-That/dp/1541554639

Q & A with nonfiction author Laura Purdie Salas

Posted on

Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Laura Purdie Salas, whose engaging nonfiction books serve as mentor texts for me (and countless others). Check out what she has to say about her new book Snowman-Cold=Puddle:

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I had been submitting manuscripts to the awesome Alyssa Pusey at Charlesbridge for several years. A couple had come close, but nothing had been the perfect fit.  I first sent her just the equations–no sidebars, though I envisioned sidebars from the beginning. After she expressed interest, I did a revision (maybe two) and added the sidebars (an early version of them). Then Alyssa took the manuscript to an acquisitions meeting, and I got the good news that I would finally get to work with her. (“Good news! Equations + poems + science = high publisher interest!”) I got to have a lot of input into the choice of illustrator and the concept of how the book would look. It was such a great collaboration between illustrator Micha Archer, the Charlesbridge team, and me, even though of course Micha and I never talked directly with each other. (I also share more about the path to publication for this and my other two spring 2019 books in this video: https://youtu.be/iOUtTtQKDRY)

Where did you first draw inspiration the book’s inspiration?
The inspiration for this book came strictly from the format. I was brainstorming different ways to share nonfiction content with kids, and in my picture book ideas list, I wrote: “___ + ___ = _________. Bees + flowers = honey. Short equation. Then longer prose explanation. All science-related. BECAME SNOWMAN – COLD = PUDDLE!”

Please share some of your writing process.
Because the format came first, my writing process started with spewing out dozens and dozens of equations on tons of different topics. Eventually, I realized I needed to narrow things down. First, I tried a year in a park–all four seasons. It still felt too jam-packed. So I decided to focus on spring. So much transformation happens in spring, and equations are all about how different elements change each other to create some new result. I did a lot of research to get the chronology of these spring events in a typical, logical order. And I spent a lot time on the language in the sidebars, too. I wanted the prose there to be just as playful and inventive as the equations themselves.

Why are you drawn to nonfiction?
I like to write all sorts of things, but I do think nonfiction calls to me because I’m 1) curious and 2) constantly amazed by our incredible world. I hope introducing kids to how cool the world is will lead to their loving it and valuing it.

Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I hope to keep having more and more picture books come out–and maybe some easy readers, too, though those are very hard to sell! In the next 12 months, I’ll have three books come out: Snack, Snooze, Skedaddle! How Animals Get Ready for Winter (rhyming non-fiction, Millbrook, 2019); If You Want to Knit Some Mittens (humorous nonfiction, Boyds Mills Press, 2020); and Clover Kitty Goes to Kittygarten (fiction, Two Lions, 2020).

Please share your favorite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts.
I’m going to call Dav Pilkey’s 1999 God Bless the Gargoyles my “classic” book. Does that count? When I read that melancholy story full of yearning and fell into its saturated art, my mind spun with the possibilities of the kinds of moods and stories picture books could share. Lola Schaefer’s An Island Grows is a book that made me see nonfiction picture books in a whole new way and introduced me to the idea of rhyming non-fiction. So many other books have inspired me, of course, but those two I clearly remember making a little bell ding in my head. An Island Grows was definitely a mentor text when I wrote A Leaf Can Be….

What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers?
You learn more from writing five different picture books than you do by polishing the same picture book manuscript for five years. Don’t be afraid to let go of a manuscript (even a good one) and move on to the next one!

Bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Amaretto with toffee bits–because it’s a good mix of the familiar and the unexpected. I’m a pretty ordinary, everyday person, but I’m of course weird in many ways.

Portrait of Laura Purdie Salas on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Plymouth, Minn. (HMH/Andy Clayton-King)

BIO
Laura Purdie Salas has written more than 125 books for kids, including Meet My Family!, If You Were the Moon, Water Can Be…, and BookSpeak! Her books have earned the Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notables, starred reviews, and more. She offers resources for children’s writers at https://laurasalas.com/writing-for-children/ and has a Patreon community with extra resources for Patrons: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas  She enjoys teaching and speaking at writing conferences around the country.

site: https://laurasalas.com/
Twitter: @LauraPSalas
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LauraPSalas/
Newsletter for kidlit writers: https://laurasalas.com/sign-up-for-a-writer-can-be/
Patreon community: https://www.patreon.com/LauraPurdieSalas
Writing for Children Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/WritingForChildren1/

Q & A with author Vivian Kirkfield

Posted on

Hello all!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome the talented author Vivian Kirkfield. Her engaging nonfiction book SWEET DREAMS, SARAH is one of her many new releases. I was grateful she took the time out of her busy schedule to answer some of my questions.

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The manuscript was written the month after I took a class in writing nonfiction. I was excited to tell the story of one of the first African American women to secure a U.S. patent…I turned to librarians to help with the research and I turned to critique buddies to help with polishing what I had written. As soon as I signed with my agent, she sent out the story to about a dozen editors…and one of them bought it. The editor asked for a few revisions/changes here and there…nothing major. Unfortunately, the illustration process took quite a long time…over three years…but that is how it happens sometimes. However, the finished product is beautiful and SWEET DREAMS, SARAH has been receiving glowing reviews!

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
I love to write nonfiction stories about people who have struggled, people whom history has sometimes forgotten. When I discovered that Sarah E. Goode had been a trailblazer, but that she hadn’t been properly recognized in her own time, I knew I wanted to tell her story.

Please share some of your writing process.
When I am writing nonfiction, I find a topic (watch TV or listen to people or surf the internet in order to find ideas) and then I research it. Then I decide what is the focus of the story…what do I want young kids to take away from the book. I fashion a pitch…that helps me to find the thread/heart of the story. And then I write the first line. For me, the first line is really important. It is the way into the story and sets the tone for the rest.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing…but never considered writing a book until my children were grown and I wrote a parent/teacher book…the book I wished I’d had when I was younger. And then I discovered a world of writers who wanted to write picture books and I realized that was what I wanted to do also…it was right after I went skydiving at the age of 64.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I just turned 72…and I tell people that I need to live to be at least 100 because I have another 30 years of stories to write. I’ve got three debut picture books that just launched this year…with two more in the pipeline for 2020: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020) and From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin, Fall 2020). My agent has two or three other manuscripts out on submission and I have many more stories ready to go. We also just sent a nonfiction picture book manuscript to one of my editors who requested a specific book…fingers crossed that I have written the book she is looking for.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I’ve always loved The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton…I loved the story of a house that felt out of place…where change was happening all around her…and then finally, she is rescued and brought to a new surroundings where she can start a new life all over again. Newer picture books are mostly nonfiction: Laurie Wallmark’s Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine; Nancy Churnin’s Irving Berlin: The Boy Who Made America Sing; Hannah Holt’s The Diamond and the Boy. The writing in all is so lyrical…and the characters make a hero’s journey. I love them because they are inspiring stories for children and adults.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it!

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
Moosetracks…chocolate with nuts and caramel!!!! And you ask why? Because I LOVE chocolate and the nuts and caramel only make it better!

BIO

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing and banana-boat riding. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found