A Writerly Blog
And now for something completely different. Do you love to share newsworthy articles? Love to inspire your readers? Or, are you a history buff, but sadly, with very little time to read? Do I have news for you! Apps you'll love. Since I am a Mac girl, these three are found at the app store. If you are an android user, good news - it's available for you as well.
Today, I will be interviewing a good friend and fellow author at Ambassador International, Mary E. Sandford about her debut middle-grade historical novel, Unwanted! She was my Word Weavers critique group leader a couple of years back, but moved to Texas recently, so we don't see each other often unless we connect at a conference.
When I visit a new city, I like to see it from a writer's point of view. Greenville, SC was no exception. I was here for a conference, book signing and a school visit, but more about that next time. Today, I want to share this burgeoning city to which people of all ages are flocking. It is one of the top ten cities to live in, a mecca for senior citizens, and a model for downtown rehab success -- other cities use the Greenville model when reviving a dead downtown district.
Whew! This week, I was involved in four events as an author -- each unique in its own way. Being a former teacher and school librarian, my very first school visit was a favorite! You can see me above, sharing my PowerPoint presentation.
It was Labor Day, and surprisingly, we had no plans as a family. Whoo Hoo! Time for a road trip. My goal was to visit a town less than two hours away, so we could come and go in one day. And so we did - to Rockford, Illinois.
My wanderlust posts are winding down. This Fall promises to be extremely busy for me . . . I have school visits and a coffee shop book signing, but more on that later. Today, I'm reliving our trip to the Yorkshire countryside (Think: All Creatures Great and Small). Come join us!
We couldn't believe all the surprises in store for us. The day began with a wasp sting, as I tried to remove him with a Kleenex. The fella had stayed in our room all night. No redness or swelling. . . God's grace.
A couple at the guest house offered to take us and our luggage to the train station to pick up our car. Another surprise.
Olivia and I prayed for wisdom, attentiveness and safety before starting the engine of our rented Vauxhall. I drove out of the lot (yes, the driver's seat was on the right side) and onto the York city streets at rush hour. I took to left-hand driving with all its turnabouts with aplomb. And oh, did I tell you that a garmin was waiting for us, an hour earlier than expected? Grace upon grace.
We took off as our GPS instructed us. The voice had a lilting British accent, gently instructing us as we went along. I was thinking of a name for her. Of course, it had to be literary. Then it came to me - Mary Poppins. Perfect! "Take the second exit at the turnabout and, while we're at it, let's go fly a kite!" You get the picture. Olivia and I began singing that song as we gaily drove down the road.
I had been admiring these brilliant yellow fields along the way, which I am told, are Rapeseed, used in industry. Hard to believe such a sweet fragrance, almost like honey, could come from a flower used in such a way.
Our itinerary was full. I wanted to take time to visit the coast, but was having a hard time fitting it in, since it was in the opposite direction to our Brontë tour. But, the thought came to me to head there today, and to focus on Whitby. It has a literature connection as well (naturally), as the Whitby Abbey inspired the novel, Dracula. Not that I have read it or endorse it, but, I am always fascinated with where writers get their ideas. See for yourself in the slideshow below:
We had to pay for parking everywhere, but each time, we were able to see the sights in the allotted time. Here is the charming town of Whitby.
We then took some time to park and walk along the Moors road. So beautiful and wild. The wind was mournfully blowing across the landscape, searching for Catherine and Heathcliff. Now isn't that a fitting name for someone who wanders the moors??
This is what heather looks like in the spring. It doesn't bloom until fall:
Then, we headed for our lodging near Ripon, but first we needed a good cup of Yorkshire tea (strong, full bodied, but not bitter. . .such a pleasure to drink!) Well, we learned something these past few days. Afternoon tea begins and ends in the afternoon. Don't dare go into a tea shop after 4:30pm, or you will be sorely disappointed, or worse. . .turned away.
Two of the shops were closed by 4:30pm, one had just closed, and the fourth was just turning the 'open' sign around when I quickly walked in and asked (actually pleaded) for the owner to sell us a cuppa. I told her our sad story. Well, more grace. She agreed! And after we had paid, and I thanked her most profusely, she said with a smile, "Well, I've done my good deed for the day." And I'm grateful she did!
We made it to Ripon safely, and stopped for a bite to eat. Olivia noticed pigeon on the menu, and said she'd like to try it. I told her I was 'game', too. (I hoped they weren't imported from Chicago.)
Ta da! It actually tasted almost like duck, but tougher, similar to the texture of beef. So, as we chewed, I bit down on something hard. I extracted what looked like a BB pellet. When we asked what it was, sure enough, the waitress said nonchalantly, "Oh, that's shot. They can't use a large bullet, because it will tear the bird apart."
Like it was no big deal to find a stone in your meat! I'm just thankful I didn't break another crown. Another sign of grace today.
We arrived safely at this charming 1300’s (believe it) farmhouse called 'Mallard Grange'. I thought I was transported to France. So idyllic. . .even the smells were present. Wish we could have stayed for more than two nights!
Maggie, the owner, was explaining the marks on the sheep. She said they identify the mothers with their babies, and their date of birth, in case they are parted from one another. The herders search for them if lost at the end of a day. We caught a couple of lambs sneaking under the fence to cross the road, but skipped back to mother when we drove by!
Look at our adorable room. . .
We had a restful night, and an elaborate homemade breakfast. Because of our food intolerances, the owner prepared a portion of fresh salmon for us. What a treat! We were refreshed to move on, resting in God's grace and mercy.
Hope you were refreshed, too, by our travelogue. A change in scenery always inspires me. Do you have a location you love to visit? Tell me in the comments below!
If you've been following my blog this summer, you know that I am plagued by wanderlust. So, to relieve it, I'm posting one of my favorite trips to date. My daughter and I took a self-guided "Chasing the Janes" tour, visiting the homes of Austen and Brontë (Jane Eyre) and the movie locations of our favorite film versions. Of course, we couldn't leave England without visiting Bath. This was the setting for Austen's Persuasion.
Ready for another flashback from our "Chasing the Janes" tour of England? If so, the next stop will transport you into a famous playwright's world!
Missing the tour of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre due to misinformation, we returned again today for a visit. The performance of 'As You Like It' was fabulous. Well acted and the costumes were perfect for the time period. Here is a photo of the set . . .
Since travel is not an option this summer, I'm continuing with my wanderlust summer series. This time, it's a medieval city in England - the quintessentially historic York. After we toured this famous town, Olivia and I agreed its one of the places in England we'd love to live!
I am honored to finally host Vivian Kirkfield on my blog today – a stellar and prolific debut author who has a heart for kid-lit authors of all kinds. I admire Vivian's generous spirit, and wanted to give back, even in a small way, I've been amazed at her swift rise to authorship, and it is well deserved!
So on with the interview. . .
You have truly been on an incredible author’s journey these last six months, Vivian! Can you give us a brief account of your adventures, as you hopped from one continent to the next?
Right you are right, Jarm! It has been an incredible adventure, especially these past six months. I’d been asked to speak at the Australia/NZ SCBWI conference, so I flew out to Sydney on Feb 19 and spent three days touring around Sydney with Maria Marshall, a kid-lit friend and critique buddy from the States who was also going. The conference itself was awesome! I gave a presentation, and got to spend time with my agent, Essie White, who was the keynote speaker.
And then I flew to Auckland, NZ with another critique buddy, Diane Tulloch, who had attended the Sydney conference also. She opened up her home to me and took me around that beautiful country for three weeks. Diane also organized a wonderful library book event for me and a school visit where I read FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN to 100 six-year-olds.
From there I flew to Geneva to hook up with Julie Abery, another critique buddy (do you see why I love to have so many critique buddies? 😊) and was honored to spend two weeks with her and her family. We flew to London for a weekend and WALKED EVERYWHERE, from Covent Garden to Soho Square to Fleet Street. It was amazing! (And I just discovered that my phone has a pedometer and has been keeping track of the distance I walk every day - in London I walked about 7 or 8 miles each day). She also arranged a visit to the International School where we both read our books to the three and four-year-olds. WOW!
And then we took a train from Switzerland to Bologna to attend the Bologna Book Fair. Maria Marshall again flew over from the States and met us there. She and I stayed after the fair to take one day train trips to Milan and Venice. Then finally, on the last day of my round-the-world trip, we traveled to Florence where we met up with yet another kid-lit friend and Lyrical Language Lab mentor, Renee LaTulippe. My head is still whirling with joy!
I'm a bit envious, Vivian! ;-} Did you see this coming, or was it all a big surprise?
I totally expected that eventually, I would get a book deal. It was a thrill to sell my first book so quickly at the end of 2015, only a couple of months after signing with my agent. Then it was a bit disappointing to sell nothing else for almost two years. And that’s why I say we can never give up because, at the end of 2017, we sold three more books to three different publishers. And one of them was for that nine-story compilation from Houghton Mifflin. THAT was pretty awesome! Then a few months later, in the beginning of 2018, we sold another.
Incredible. Not the typical author's journey. Did you feel prepared?
Yes, I think I felt prepared for the journey. I had made a decision at the end of 2011, that I wanted to write picture books and also that I wanted to be traditionally published. And so, everything I did was intentional. I participated in challenges, joined critique groups, took online classes, went to conferences, and wrote and revised and wrote and revised…and submitted. I truly believe that there are certain ingredients and steps we need to take if we want to succeed in book publishing. I think we need Passion/Purpose, Productivity/Practice, Patience, and above all, Persistence.
Those words are Perfect to describe what it takes to become a published author, Vivian. What, if anything, do you wish you would have known or prepared for before the “big events”?
I wish I’d known more about the actual publishing process and timeline. And I wish I’d been more confident in the very beginning with the first book - more aware that I had a voice and could use it if things weren’t proceeding correctly. But, when you are a newbie, you don’t know what proceeding correctly looks like. That’s why now, when I give presentations at conferences or speak with other authors and illustrators, I share my experiences so that they will be more informed and better able to advocate for their books!
Which is exactly why I look forward as a debut author to sharing my story. Is there one event or experience that stands out among the rest as you look back?
The experience that stands out most is when we signed the deal for the nine-story compilation. The editor wanted nine nonfiction picture book stories about visionaries whose inventions changed the way the world moves. I had two stories written and only had eight months to write seven more. From idea to research to rough draft to polished submission-ready manuscript. And I had it on her desk by the deadline. This really boosted my confidence in my ability to write. And I thank all of my critique buddies who helped so much in getting those manuscripts submission-ready.
That is quite the project, Vivian! We look forward to reading it. What is the next big event in your author’s journey?
I recently spent a week in Chicago where I had four school visits and one bookstore event, plus I was able to visit the gravesite of Sarah Goode, the main character in SWEET DREAMS, SARAH. That was a very special moment.
The next big book event will be the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Conference in Baltimore, MD in November. I’ll be on a panel of authors talking about Using Picture Books to Inspire Self-Advocacy and Student Led Learning. I just found out that my cousin, who lives near Philadelphia, invited me to come for Thanksgiving right after the Baltimore conference. So I am now involved in planning a school visit, or maybe two in the Philadelphia area.
And I have a family trip to Colorado with one day in Denver and I am currently making plans to do a book event there and connect with some of my Colorado kid-lit friends. I’ve learned that when the doorway of opportunity swings open, you need to be ready to step forward.
Whew! The excitement never ends. With all this activity, you must be exhausted! What do you do to unwind and relax?
Hahaha. That’s funny. I am not exhausted, perhaps because I am living my dream. Truly, I am so very fortunate. But I do take time out – meeting with local kid-lit friends and critiquing with them. And my daughter and grandson live only five minutes away – I get to spend time with them also. Plus, in the evening, I sometimes make a big bowl of air-popped popcorn and watch a movie.
That is so true, Vivian. When we enjoy what we are doing, it enlivens us. What encouragement can you give to those of us who are still plodding along, looking for that perfect agent or editor who will fall in love with our manuscript?
Most of my advice will be what you’ve all heard before:
- Read lots of books in the genre you want to write.
- Write lots of stories and embrace revision.
- Connect with the kid-lit community and participate in challenges and contests.
- Join critique groups and help others with their manuscripts.
But the most important thing I can tell everyone is: don’t give up. The only failure is the failure to keep trying! Remember — nothing is impossible if you can imagine it, so keep following your dream!
You are such an encourager, Vivian, and it's been a delight to interview you at long last! Your swift road to publication has been a wondrous thing to watch, and it couldn't have happened to a more compassionate author. We will follow your career with interest! Thanks for taking the time to share your latest adventures. . .
"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.
How about you? Do you have questions about the joys and challenges of an author's journey? Post them below in the comments!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuts Spring of 2019 with Ambassador International.