Welcome back, dear readers!
I'm pretty sure by now that you enjoy visiting the Oasis ― it's always great to have you here! Remember, this is the place to refresh your spirits, recharge your creativity, and get a literary mood boost!
Now, jump for joy because you're in for a triple-treat! Our guest today is one of the nicest, most generous and supportive people in the kidlit community, author and human being extraordinaire, Vivian Kirkfield, stopped by to chat with me. Vivian never ceases to amaze me with her kindness! And besides giving us huge inspiration, wisdom, and insight, Vivian is also giving away a signed copy of her latest picture book, Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe illustrated by Alleanna Harris AND a picture book critique! I told you you're in for a triple-treat!
But wait, that's not all... Today also happens to be Vivian's birthday!! (And she's the one giving out gifts -- you see what I mean about her generous heart?!) So this makes our chat even more special and I'm honored to host my lovely critique partner on my blog.
So without further ado, let's welcome Vivian and wish her a Happy Birthday!
Thank you for joining us, dear friend. Please briefly describe your journey to publication.
A: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Rosie. I love to share my defining moment – the event that plunged me into the kidlit world – because it definitely caused me to turn the page to a new chapter in my life and I always hope it will inspire others to follow their dream.
On my 64th birthday, my son took me skydiving and my view of the world changed. 😉 When my feet touched the ground, I knew that if I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I could do anything. And what I wanted to do at that point in my life was to be a writer for children. So, I jumped into the kidlit world the same way I had jumped out of the airplane…with my whole heart.
That was 2012…I joined 12x12, did Storystorm, participated in every writing challenge and contest I could find. I wrote, revised, joined critique groups…but the feedback from agents told me I was missing something. One agent said my OTTERS story (it had a different title at that time) was pure poetry…but not for him. Another agent liked the idea of my DYLAN MCGEE story, but he wondered if maybe I should write it in prose, not in rhyme. And still others didn’t like my voice. VOICE? What was that?
And that was when I decided it was time to take some picture book writing classes. I signed up for Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic, Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab, Mira Reisberg’s Illustrating Children’s Picture Books (no, I didn’t want to become an illustrator, but I thought it might help me with pacing and page turns and with understanding the role of the author and the illustrator 😊) as well as two other classes. Yup, five writing classes in one year…I was definitely a student in 2014…and you know what they say…when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
But honestly, that paid off because my writing improved. My voice became stronger. And I developed more confidence and submitted more. Submitting more was a key ingredient in my search for agent. But there is also an element of luck on this path to publication…Essie White created a submission list for Sweet Dreams, Sarah and within two months, by December 2015, we had a signed book deal. However, even though she continued to submit more of my manuscripts, we didn’t get another book deal until the end of 2017…and then we got three. That’s how this business is…you need patience and perseverance. Perseverance because you just have to keep trying. And patience because sometimes the path to publication takes a very long time…that first book didn’t launch until April 2019. Happily, it recently received a Eureka Honor Award and also has been selected for the 2020 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People. Plus, it was made into an animated DVD and is being translated into French.
Q: Could you share any craft tools or techniques that you find most helpful to you when working on a project? What does your revision process look like?
A: Because I write a lot of nonfiction, I love YouTube for interviews, especially if the person I am researching had some celebrity status. Watching an actual interview of your subject can give you such a great picture of their personality. For my rhyming stories, I love Rhymzone.com. And of course, Thesaurus.com is a constant companion. My favorite technique is to write my pitch and/or one sentence AFTER I research my topic, but BEFORE I do much writing of the manuscript – it’s important for me to know what focus/direction my story will take. And I spend a lot of time crafting the opening lines – they are the doorway into the story – often providing a peek at the flavor/voice of the rest of the story. And my closing lines often circle back around and echo the beginning.
Revision? I embrace it…although sometimes it is painful. It’s difficult to make major changes once you get comfortable with your text…so I rely on critique buddies to point out places where change might make the story stronger. I revise LOTS of times…with the Ella Fitzgerald/Marilyn Monroe story, I did three major revisions, each for a different editor who had fallen in love with the manuscript, but wanted changes before they acquired it. And because of how this business works, even though you may revise successfully, the editor still might not be able to acquire the story. This happened to that story twice. Just the other day, one of my long-time critique buddies emailed me a copy of my first iteration of that story. Some things remained the same, but many were different.
Here's the first page of the original manuscript written in late 2014/early 2015 (Title: Standing Up for Friendship) and the first page of the revised one that became the book (Title: Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe).
And here’s another tip – something I do without fail – read the manuscript aloud…and record myself. Then I listen back and can hear where I trip up or become disengaged from the story. If I lose attention, so will my young readers…and I can make revisions to ramp up the drama and improve the page turns.
Q: What's coming up for you next? Please tell us about any new releases, exciting news, upcoming events or anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
A: When I returned from last year’s round-the-world trip, I thought for sure that this year would be quieter. After all, last year I had three picture books debut almost at the same time…and this year I only had Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, illustrated by Alleanna Harris) that launched on January 28. But things are still crazy busy…in all the best of ways. VOICES launched at a local Barnes and Noble in Nashua, NH and then the next day, I flew out to Chicago for an Author Night at the Lycee Francais Chicago where my granddaughter goes to school. Then I had an author chat and Q&A event at Andersons Bookstore in Naperville, IL and several school visits. Later this week, I leave with my son and his family for ten days in Barcelona and Madrid – and what luck…I have a manuscript about a Spanish sculptor who sold his clay figures on the steps of the Cathedral of Barcelona when he was eleven. It will be so much fun to do research in the field…I don’t often get to do that! There are also several other book events coming up…March 21 at the Silver Unicorn in Acton, MA and April 4 at Toadstool Bookshop in Nashua, NH…plus one coming up sometime in March at the Books of Wonder in NYC. Oh, and the Children’s Festival of Stories in Denver, CO on April 25.
An event I would LOVE to share with your readers, Rosie, is my #50PreciousWords Contest which I will hosting on my blog February 29-March 5…the prize list is PHENOMENAL…three editor critique opportunities, seats in writing classes, and lots of author critiques and picture books…there are over 20 prizes already! Last year we had 300 amazing entries…and I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s precious words. You never know what doors this contest will open…several entries from previous years are already on bookshelves all over the world. So please, everyone, follow your dream…because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it!
Encouraging as always, thank you so much, dear Vivian! What a great way to inspire everyone as we end our chat on a high note!
Please support our featured authors/illustrators by following them on Twitter, requesting their book through your local library, posting reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and of course, purchasing their books.
Comment on this post and share it on social media for a chance to win one PB critique ans one copy of our guest's book. Two lucky winners will be announced next week!
And the winner of our previous giveaway is... Shauntrell Leaks!
Shauntrell gets a copy of Nancy Churnin's Beautiful Shades of Brown, illustrated by Felicia Marshall. Congratulations!
Connect with Vivian:
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 kidlit friend 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, where she hosts the #50PreciousWords and #50PreciousWordsforKids Writing Challenges. 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
If you'd like to support my work, please order one of my books and/or invite me to your elementary school for an author visit.
About Rosie J. Pova
Rosie J. Pova is a multi-published, award-winning children's author and kid lit Writing Coach. She's the creator of Picture Book Mastery System™ that is proven to help emerging children's writers advance their career and get closer to their publishing goals.
Rosie's latest picture book, Sunday Rain, was featured in The New York Times and recommended by Parents magazine. Her upcoming picture book, The School of Failure: A Story About Success will be released in the spring of 2022 in both China and the USA.
Rosie also loves to visit schools and her interactive workshops empower students to unleash their creativity and grow in confidence through reading, writing, and creating. Teachers and librarians love Rosie for her bubbly, upbeat personality which captures students' attention, encourages them to think creatively, and motivates them to pursue big dreams.
She has been featured on TV, radio, podcasts, and print media, and also speaks on women's and moms’ topics, sharing her journey from a Bulgarian immigrant to a published author.
Find out more about Rosie's online courses, mentorships, and her work by visiting her website: RosieJPova.com
Check out her Critique Services here, her Workshops here, and her school visits page here.
Rosie is represented by Jennifer Herrington of Harvey Klinger Literary.