And this week's guest made me fan girl to an embarrassing degree! (She put up with my gushing remarkably well.)
If you ask the kidlit community, who is one the kindest, most inspiring authors around,
Vivian Kirkfield would be one of the first names to pop up.
Always one to offer incredible advice, she is also a prolific author and host to the writing contest 50 Precious Words!
And lucky me! This wonderful weaver of words agreed to let me pick her brain. :)
So without further ado, the lovely Vivian!
I was going to say double chocolate dipped because I am a total fan of anything chocolate. But as I thought about donuts, I remembered the old-fashioned crullers I used to make with my grandmother when I was a little girl…fried to a golden brown, sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg, and eaten when still warm. I’ll go with the cruller because even thinking about it brings her memory closer to me.
Oh the feels! I love it!
You, my friend, are a very prolific writer! Can you share a little about your writing journey?
I started writing picture book stories seriously at the end of 2011 and when Julie Hedlund announced she was creating the 12x12 Picture Book Writing Challenge, I couldn’t hop on board fast enough.
I began querying agents in 2013, as part of that 12x12 initiative…but really didn’t understand what I was doing until the end of 2014, after I had taken several picture book writing classes and understood what type of agent I really wanted/needed. I connected with Essie White in late February of 2015 and sent her the Sweet Dreams, Sarah manuscript and she loved it, but I didn’t sign with her until September of that year because I was still looking.
In the end, I had four agents who were interested in my work and were looking at more, but I went with the agent who had been passionate about my work from the moment she saw it…and that was Essie.
"I went with the agent who had been passionate about my work from the moment she saw it…
So far, I have three picture books that have launched and two in the pipeline for next year.
Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Feb 2019) illustrated by Jill Weber.
Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate, April 2019) illustrated by Mirka Hokannen.
Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor (Creston Books, April 2019) illustrated by Chris Ewald.
Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020) illustrated by Alleanna Harris.
From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020) illustrated by Gilbert Ford.
What genre do you just love to write? Why?
When I started writing, I was working mostly on funny rhyming stories, with the occasional free verse or prose.
Then I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books and fell in love. My first manuscript sold was a nonfiction pb bio. And then I wrote nine more for a compilation book that comes out next year. And the other book that launches in 2020 is also a nonfiction pb bio.
I love writing those because I love uncovering stories about people that history has forgotten and then bringing those stories to life. I love digging deep, researching and finding out more about people who might only be known for one thing, but they were multifaceted human beings and I want to help kids learn about them and be inspired by them.
I love uncovering stories about people that history has forgotten and then bringing those stories to life.
In digging deep, I discovered that Marilyn was an astute businesswoman and was one of the first female movie stars to own her own production company.
She was also an early Civil Rights advocate, a very unusual stance to take for a young starlet under contract with a major studio in the 1950’s.
And Ella, although painfully shy, spoke up against racial discrimination in 1970 and sued the PanAm airline when she was bumped from a scheduled connecting flight in Hawaii while on her way to a concert in Australia. And she won! I want kids to know about what these women did…and how they helped each other in their careers – women standing up for women!
Wow, Vivian! How interesting and inspiring!
What is your favorite thing about the kidlit community?
THE PEOPLE!!! The fact that everyone is so GENEROUS, sharing what they know, eager to help others achieve success!
What inspired you to write Sweet Dreams, Sarah?
I discovered that Sarah E. Goode had gone from slave to inventor, but there were no books about her…in fact, there were only a very few lines on a couple of websites, yet she was one of the first African American women to own a patent from the U.S. government.
It didn’t seem fair to me that someone who had blazed this important trail had been forgotten by the history books. I knew it was a story that would inspire young kids, especially young girls, to build their dreams into reality.
If you had to choose a favorite line or part from one of your books, what would it be?
Hmmm…that’s difficult…because I have quite a few of them. But the last lines are definitely my favorite:
Staring at her name in print, Sarah proudly traced each letter. Her idea, her invention, her name in history. She had built more than a piece of furniture. She had built a life far away from slavery, a life where her sweet dreams could come true.
I'm not crying, people. You're crying.
What do you think was the hardest part of your path to publication?
I’ve learned that each manuscript has a different journey. For this one, the hardest part was making sure the illustrations were authentic and accurate representations of Sarah’s story. I reached out to sensitivity readers and passed their feedback along to the editor – this helped a great deal.
And now I’ve just discovered that Dreamscapes Media has created an audio CD of the book AND an animated DVD of Sweet Dreams, Sarah…with music and sound effects – it’s fabulous! Plus the editor told me that the book will be translated into French for countries in the Caribbean and Africa where French is the official language…WOW!
By clicking here you can visit Dreamscape's website and learn more details about purchasing Sweet Dreams, Sarah on audio CD!
I’ve learned that each manuscript has a different journey.
My number one revision tip is to record yourself reading the manuscript aloud…I use my computer. When I play it back, I’m able to hear when the words trip me up. I’m able to see when my mind stops paying attention. And I’m able to feel that wonderful chill that comes when I hear the last word…if I don’t, I know the story is missing something.
But I have to add three more things writers can do to help the revision process: 1. READ, READ, READ as many current picture books as they can,
2. WRITE, WRITE, WRITE lots of stories,.
3. Surround yourself with a good bunch of critique buddies. I can’t thank mine enough…they have encouraged me, supported, me, and helped me trim and polish my manuscripts – and I love each and every one of them, whether we exchange manuscripts online or meet in person!
- The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (first book I remember my mom reading to me when I was very young)
- The Rough Patch by Brian Lies (perfect book for dealing with loss, whether you are a child or an adult)
- The Journey/Return/Quest trilogy by Aaron Becker (totally in love with the concept of these wordless books)
- The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros (beautiful story that touched my heart)
- I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont (The humor is fabulous, the rhythm and rhyme are addictive, and the illustrations are joyful.)
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, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. 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 where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest. 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, January 14, 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.
Is anyone surprised that Vivian would choose inspiring and heartfelt books? Thank you for sharing with us your advice and journey, Vivian!
Visit with Vivian's by......
Checking out her blog
Follow on her Twitter
Friend her on Facebook
#50 Precious Words Writing Challenge
#50Precious Words for Kids International Writing Challenge