Kathleen Doherty – Author Interview and Book Giveaway of Don’t Feed the Bear

As I found an open seat on the last day of the three-day, Marvelous Midwest SCBWI Conference last month, I had the joy of sharing a table with picture book author, Kathleen Doherty. As children’s writers, we fell easily into conversation and talked about the stories we love to write, what we’re currently working on, and she shared some of her “behind-the-scenes” journey for writing Don’t Feed The Bears (like receiving her publisher’s acceptance for her manuscript while enjoying an Alaskan vacation!) Then, I asked if I could interview her and follow up the next week with a review of her book.

She said, YES!  

When I came back home, one of the first things I did was purchase a copy of Kathleen’s book, read it (of course), laughed like crazy at the zany antics between the bear and park ranger in the story while I wondered how a picture book could be written in such few words and tell such a thoroughly entertaining story.  I LOVE IT!!!

From Kathleen’s website –

Kathleen Doherty is a Reading Specialist and an Educational Specialist in Curriculum and Instruction. She’s written standardized test items for Pearson, Inc. in alignment with the Common Core Standards. She’s also won the Highlights Pewter Plate Award, the Highlights Celebrate National Poetry Contest, and received a letter of merit from SCBWI’s Magazine Merit Competition.

Kathleen donates 100% of her author earnings to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

THE INTERVIEW

Me: Some writers have always known they wanted to write picture books while others stepped onto this path after having children. Can you take us back to the moment when you knew you wanted to write for children? 

Kathleen: The idea to write a picture book sparked years ago while I was working on my master’s degree in reading and taking a children’s literature class. My professor’s love for children’s books was palpable. I remember wondering why he never wrote a book . . . and I told myself someday I would.

Me: What were the first steps you took to begin your writing journey?

Kathleen: I was first published in TIME Magazine with a letter to the editor. It was so much fun seeing myself in print, I started to pursue writing. I took classes from the Institute of Children’s Literature, Highlights Foundation workshops, and joined SCBWI.

Me: What is the most challenging aspect of writing a picture book? 

Kathleen: It’s difficult to write a tight story using creative language  . . . to make sure there are 14 different page spreads . . . and to include a twist at the end.

Me: For each manuscript I’ve written, I remember the Ah Ha moment that sent me running to type up my ideas. Can you tell us what inspired you to write your picture book, Don’t feed The Bear? 

Kathleen: While visiting Alaska, I saw signs that said Don’t Feed the Bears. I began to play “what if.” What if campers were feeding a bear. What if the bear could read and got angry seeing the ranger pound a Don’t Feed the Bear sign into the ground. What if the bear retaliated….?

Me: What surprised you most on your writing path from the book idea to its publication? 

Kathleen: I had an agent at the time who turned down my manuscript. She said Don’t Feed the Bear was a cute story, but she didn’t think it would sell. So I was free to submit it myself. It sold to the first editor I sent it to.

Me: If you could go back to the first months on your writing journey, what important advice would you love to give yourself?

Kathleen: Play with words, experiment, and take risks. Confidence, skill, and voice will develop with practice.

Me: Where do you most love to write and what makes this place special to you? 

Kathleen: I have a comfy leather chair with an ottoman and a tray for my computer. It’s a special place because it’s my favorite room. Can you tell I love clocks?

Kathleen Doherty-sm

Me: Some authors take one year to write and polish a picture book manuscript while others write and edit over many years. What was the time frame for writing Don’t Feed The Bear? 

Kathleen: It took about six months to write and revise Don’t Feed the Bear.

Me: In your story, Bear’s favorite grub campers leave him are mac and cheese, carrot cake and meatball stew? What are your favorite foods to snack on while you’re writing? 

Kathleen: Ha! No crunchy Cheetos. No chocolate covered peanuts. No chewy caramels. Just fruit. Boring.

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Me: What was the best comment/reaction you have received from a child about your picture book? 

Kathleen: At one school visit, a little girl was waiting in line to get her book signed, and she was jumping up and down saying, “I just love my mother! I just LOVE my mother! She bought me a book by a real live author!” [as opposed to a dead one]

Me: I’ve often imagined sipping coffee in a small café when an author I admire breezes in and happens to sit at my table. Which author would you love to chat with over coffee? 

Kathleen: Kevin Henkes. . . Kevin, if you’re reading this, I’d even buy lunch.

(On a side note, Kevin Henkes is the picture book author and illustrator of Chrysanthemum, Lily’s Big Day, A Weekend With Wendell, Owen, and many more. And frankly, I’d love to chat with him over a cup of coffee, too.)

Me: Can you share something interesting or unexpected most people don’t know about you? (A hobby? Something on your bucket list that you did or hope to do? An unusual pet you had or have?)

Kathleen: Years ago, I ate fried mealworms and a chocolate covered cricket at Purdue Lafayette’s Bug Fest. I wrote a story about the experience and sent it to Highlights Magazine. But the story never sold. Blech.

If you’re interested in reading other interviews with Kathleen or reading reviews of her book, click on the links below. 

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathleen-doherty/dont-feed-the-bear/

https://picturebookbuilders.com/2018/04/dont-feed-the-bear-a-giveaway/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHRjxfThM4k

https://redreadinghub.blog/2018/06/19/dont-feed-the-bear/

http://literallylynnemarie.blogspot.com/2019/01/ppbf-dont-feed-bear-by-kathleen-doherty.html

https://www.nightbuddiesadventures.com/childrens-literature/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-world-of-bookstagram/

https://readitdaddy.blogspot.com/2018/06/dont-feed-bear-by-kathleen-doherty-and.html

You can connect with Kathleen on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

And now for the Giveaway!

One lucky person who leaves a comment will receive a copy of Kathleen’s picture book, Dont’ Feed The Bear. I’ll announce the winner on next Friday’s Perfect Picture Book review of this very book!

See you then!

Interview with Picture Book Author Vivian Kirkfield and a Giveaway!!!

I met Vivian Kirkfield a number of years ago through the 12×12 picture book challenge group. We’ve taken online writing webinars and classes together and cheered each other along on our writing journeys. Anyone who knows Vivian will agree that she’s a talented writer, an enthusiastic cheerleader, and a valued friend. And although our friendship has never ventured beyond the invisible boundaries of the internet, I know one day I’ll have the joy of meeting Vivian in person, and there will be smiles and hugs. Please welcome my dear friend and beloved picture book author, Vivian Kirkfield!

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. Vivian - Banner

Me: Welcome, Vivian!!! I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to have you visiting my blog today. I have a handful of questions about your writing journey and book, Four Otters Toboggan. Let’s get started.

Some writers have always known they were destined for a life of writing while others embarked on this journey after their children or grandchildren were born. Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to write for children?

Vivian: Although I scribbled stories and poems as a child and always loved writing, I never seriously considered writing for children until I went skydiving at the age of 64. It empowered me to start blogging to spread the word about my parenting book, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking (Money Penny Press, 2010). And as I blogged about picture books because that is what my parenting guide was all about, I connected with people who wanted to write picture books and I realized that was exactly what I wanted to do.

Me: Tying into the question above, what were the first steps you took at the start your
journey?

Vivian: The first step, luckily, was joining in with Julie Hedlund as she started her 12×12  Challenge to write twelve picture book drafts in 12 months in 2012. Perhaps you’ve heard this saying which is attributed to Confucius…when the student is ready, the teacher appears. 2012 was the year I was ready to learn…and 12×12 came along. The 12×12 Picture Book Writing Challenge gave me a fabulous foundation in productivity which I think is one of the four key elements needed to find success in book publishing. The other three are patience, passion, and perseverance. In addition to joining that challenge, I also participated in Tara Lazar’s story idea challenge, Storystorm (PiBoIdMo in those days), found critique groups so I could get feedback on my manuscripts, and read dozens of picture books. And of course, I wrote and revised and wrote and revised and wrote and revised.

Me: Although I’m not as far along on my writing journey as you are, I wish I could go back to those first days and share some powerful advice with my younger self. Knowing all you know now, what changes would you have made earlier on if you could go back?

Vivian: I probably would have taken some picture book writing classes right away. Instead, I waited until 2014…and then I took FIVE in one year. Hmmm…I would tell my younger self: don’t do that!

Me: I read an interview in which an author said she wrote in her car while parked on her driveway as it was the only quiet place she could find. Other writers write in a coffee shop or home office. Can you describe the place where you love to write and also share what makes this place special?

Vivan: My small round dining room table is my favorite spot to write. On the left, there is a big picture window that looks out at the woods behind the house. On the right, there is the kitchen with a window that faces the front of the house and the road…in the winter, I can see the cars go by…in the summer, the trees and bushes leaf out. But I feel like it is the hub of the house and I like that feeling. I don’t usually need silence to research or write. Vivian-writing table

Me: Every book begins with an inspiration. We might overhear a conversation that sparks an idea, see a clever illustration, read a news item in the paper, catch a child’s comment, participate in an activity, and more. When did you receive your ‘AH HA’ moment for your book, Four Otters Toboggan, that sent you rummaging for paper and a pen?

Vivian: That’s an easy one, Leslie. Four Otters Toboggan was inspired by my many fishing expeditions with my late husband. Stuart and I would hike into pristine wilderness areas and fly-fish. And when I’d get tired of casting, I’d sit quietly on a boulder…so still that the woodland creatures would start venturing out. River otters splashed, butterflies hovered, and falcons circled overhead. But sometimes we’d find trash left behind or we would discover that industrial or residential development had ruined a formerly untouched area. When I filled my PiBoIdMo notebook in 2013, one of the ideas was about a lake where endangered animals came to visit…I wanted to encourage young children to learn about these creatures and cherish them and protect them.

Me: You’ve shared your books in many classrooms with kids across the world. What was the best comment/reaction you received from a child?

Vivian: The best comment: WOW…how do you write so neatly? And of course, I had to explain, that the book is printed by the publisher who has machines that write so neatly. I bring the little book dummy I made for OTTERS years ago and they can see the stick figures and messy handwriting…and I assure them that their art and writing are probably much better than mine!

Me: Imagine you are sipping coffee in a fabulous café. The bell on the door jingles, and a
children’s author breezes inside. To your joy, the only available place to sit is at your
table. Which author would you love for this to be, and what do you most want to ask or say to them?
Vivian-London

Vivan: I’m blessed because I have gotten to sit and chat with many wonderful picture book authors. Just last week, I attended an author panel at the Blue Bunny Bookshop and was able to meet the owner, author/illustrator Peter Reynolds. He is just like his books, filled with light and love. And I’ve spoken with Brian Lies, whose book, THE ROUGH PATCH, is one of my favorites, especially for times of loss. But, going back in time, I guess I’d love it to be Louisa May Alcott because I was so enamored with her books when I was younger and now, as an author, I so admire how she wrote what she knew and managed to throw rocks at her heroes before she allowed them to succeed, which is an element of storytelling that I struggle with. I don’t know that I would need to ask anything…I would just want to chat. Vivian - Louisa May Alcott

Me: If I remember correctly, you once stepped out of an airplane into the big blue sky to experience skydiving. Is there anything on your bucket list, relating to your writing or not, that you would love to experience and check off?

Vivan: Traveling was definitely on my bucket list and although I’ve certainly done quite a bit of it in the first few months of the year, I would love to do more. Now that I’ve gotten a taste of how much fun it is to visit with kidlit friends all over the world, I want to do it again.Vivian-Lausanne

Thank you, Vivian, for taking the time to share your writing journey with us. I know you’ve probably got lots of projects you’re working on and more that you’re excited to jump in and begin.

Here are Vivian’s books with links to Amazon.

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) Target available date – Spring 2020; 

and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) Target available date – fall 2020.

You can connect with Vivian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people where picture books are found.

And now for the Giveaway!

One lucky person who leaves a comment will receive a copy of Vivian’s picture book, Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book. I’ll announce the winner on next Friday’s Perfect Picture Book review of this very book!

See you then!

Welcome Viviane Elbee, Debut Author of the picture book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski!

I apologize for posting late today, but life has tossed me a curve with the sudden loss of my father-in-law. I’m out in California with my family, helping to plan his celebration of life while trying to keep up with my writing projects and blog.

Last week for Perfect Picture Book Friday, I reviewed debut author,  Viviane Elbee’s book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski. As promised, here is the interview.

Welcome, Viviane, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions about your debut picture book and road to publication. I’m excited to have you here today.

Viviane Elbee's Profile Photo, Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

 

Me: Who were your favorite authors when you were a child and why did you love their books best?

Viviane: Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary were my favorite authors in elementary school. SUPERFUDGE and TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING and RAMONA made me laugh so hard. I remember reading THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE and loving the idea of having a pet mouse with a motorcycle.

I also have fond memories of the librarian reading THE SNOWY DAY at story time and just enjoying the wonder the little boy felt in the snow.

Me: Was there a book you never tired of hearing or reading when you were a child?

Viviane: I could re-read all of my favorite books over and over. Well, to be honest, I even read cereal boxes over and over. If I see words I just can’t help but read them.

Me: Can you describe the moment you knew you wanted to write for children? (Or how you came to write for children?)

Viviane: I’ve always loved writing, but for a long time I thought I would write novels. After my first child was born, I fell in love with picture books. That’s when I decided I wanted to write for children.

Me: If you could go back in time to when you began your writing journey, what advice or words of wisdom would you tell yourself?

Viviane: If I could go back in time, I would tell myself that it’s important to be a prolific writer. I spent my first three years of serious children’s writing on one picture book manuscript. At the end of three years, I had one submission-ready story (which hasn’t sold yet!), but one of my critique partners had written many stories within that same time period – and she got published! Quality is important, but if publication is your goal, it’s best to work on several ideas at a time.

Me: Describe the spot in your home where you write and at what time of day you write best. 

Viviane: I get a lot of first drafts done at a nearby Barnes & Noble where I meet up with a writing buddy. It’s very inspirational to be surrounded by books and it’s also great to have someone you can bounce ideas off of while writing. I also love sprawling out on the floor of my den, in front of large floor to ceiling windows, and writing there. I write best in the morning or daytime.

Me: What inspired the idea for your debut picture book, Teach Your Giraffe To Ski?

Viviane: I got the idea for a ski story during my family’s very first ski trip. My kindergartener and preschooler helped pack, so a menagerie of stuffed animals joined us on the trip. During the day we took lessons and at night the stuffed animals became “jumping ski champions,” sliding down pillows and leaping through the air. My husband and I started making a lot of jokes about the skiing giraffe, which made our kids laugh.

After my book was acquired, my editor suggested digging deeper to better bring out the little boy’s fears of the big scary slope. To do this, I reflected back on my own experiences. I learned to ski at the same time as my kids. They were fearless and I was scared. After getting lessons, we took the kids on the ski lift to the top of a green slope (an easy slope). It was so much bigger than the bunny hill. I remember looking downhill and being petrified. I couldn’t move. But the kids took off. Obviously, I had to follow. And it turned out to be fun!

Me: How long did it take you to write this book?

Viviane: From the time I got the idea to the moment the publishing house said it was “ready” it took nearly 4 years. I spent about 2 years on it before querying it.

Me: Were there any surprises along the way from the point you started writing your book to the moment it was published?

Viviane: Yes, there were a lot of surprises. The first surprise was when I took my manuscript to an SCBWI conference critique and met an editor, Annie Nybo, who loved the story and who asked me to submit to her. (I was expecting her to give me lots of suggestions for improvement, but I was not expecting a submission request!). I sent the manuscript off and heard nothing. Months later, when I decided to nudge, I discovered Annie Nybo had left her publishing house. More months passed, and one day my friend texted to tell me that Annie Nybo had joined Albert Whitman. So I emailed her. I wasn’t sure she would remember my manuscript, so I attached a copy in the nudge email. To my amazement, she responded the next day with an offer.

Me: What is the takeaway message you hope readers hold on to after reading your book?

Viviane: Be adventurous and try new things.

Me: What is your favorite moment or page in your book?

Viviane: It’s tough to pick a favorite moment, but I love the illustration of the little boy hugging his giraffe.

Me: Can you share something interesting most people don’t know about you? 

Viviane: I’ve seen giraffes in 6 different zoos – Columbia SC, Atlanta GA, Ashboro NC, Bordeux-Pessac zoo in France, Zoo-Parc de Beauval in France and Singapore Zoo in Singapore.

Thank you, Viviane, I enjoyed having you here today.

Vivian’s book will be available on November first.

Amazon link to Viviane’s book can be found HERE.

Visit Viviane Elbee’s website HERE.

Until next Friday.