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!

Prompts & Inspirations + Contest!

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I’ve decided to revive my Prompts and Inspirations posts, dust them off, and give them a good shake. “Why?” you might be asking. Because my good friend, Vivian Kirkfield, is hosting a WRITING CONTEST over at her blog, and having come up with a formula for her contest, I was encouraged to post my formula here.

Do you remember when I entered Susanna Hill’s Halloweenie contest? I complained at having to scrunch my story into 100 words. Had the contest been to write a story for children using my best 500 words, I would have thought, no problem. But 100 words… Impossible! However, nose to the proverbial grindstone, I grabbed a cup of minty tea (with honey), sat at my computer, and pulled out a story.

On to Vivian’s challenge! Is her contest to write a children’s story in 100 words?

Not even close.

And don’t guess a more generous number.

Seuss-3Vivian’s inspiration for this contest came after reading that the great Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was given a challenge by Bennett Cerf, one of the publishing giants of Random House. The Challenge was for Dr. Seuss to write a story using 50 unique words. Granted Green Eggs and Ham comes in at a whopping 775 words, but he wrote that timeless classic using only 50 frequently repeated words.

Vivian’s challenge cranks the difficulty up a few notches. I wonder if Theodore Geisel were alive today, what masterful and amusing story he would write with such limitations as these. Are you ready for this?

Write a story in 50 words flat for kids ages 12 or under. It can be prose, rhyme, free verse, silly or serious, and the title doesn’t count toward the word count. You can find the contest details here at Vivian’s blog.

presents

Prizes? Oh, yes! Vivian has outdone herself, and I’m not going to spoil it. You’ll have to hop over to her blog to find out what the winners will receive.

THE MAKINGS OF A STORY. Whether writing a picture book or novel, the writer begins by bringing the main character on stage and offering a look into his/her ordinary world. Something happens, better known as the inciting event. This event  is often disturbing to the main character and causes him/her to make a change. The Main character decides to make the change. Enter the new special world from which there is no turning back. He/she faces several trials and challenges and fails them all. The low point comes when the main character feels all is lost. In a moment of inspiration, he/she rises to the challenge once more. More trials and challenges come as he/she grows stronger. The turning point comes when our main character must defend what he/she values most. Enter the climax. Evil + main character + what main character values most come together. The main character triumphs and the story closes with the denouement, showing how the main character will live better because of the changes.

“But how am I going to get all of that wrapped up in 50 words?” you ask.

MY 50-WORD STORY FORMULA

For 50 words, you’ll have to abbreviate my instructions above. Here’s how I do it.

Break the 50 words into four lines of about 12-13 words each.

1. Introduce the MC and problem.

2. Offer details and insights into the problem.

3. Either add another layer to the problem or lead up to a resolution.

4. This is where you bring the story home with a clever twist!

 

I hope you’ll follow my blog to read my 50-word story. I’ll be posting soon!