Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 21, 2015   The DJ Is Playing Walk Like An Egyptian.....
Welcome to the first day of The Writers' Soiree! We've got some rockin' tunes playing, punch is swirling in the punch bowl, and snacks are out and ready, so let's get this party started!
Please welcome our first guest, author Vivian Kirkfield! Thanks for coming, Vivian, what a lovely party dress you're wearing! I know that you're just back from the Wow Retreat, so thanks for joining our Soiree! Take it away, Vivian....

Thank you so much, Beth, for allowing me to participate in the Writer’s Soiree.
How did your interest in writing start and what inspired you to write your first book?
Even as a young child, I loved words...books were magical treasure boxes—you could open them up and discover...the world!!! And it wasn’t long before I was scribbling my own words and creating my own little stories. Then, when my children were little, I carried a pad of paper and pencil EVERYWHERE—a long wait in the doctor’s office could turn into a delightful adventure as I drew a story to entertain them.
But it wasn’t until after my kids grew up and got married that I thought seriously about writing a book. A book I wished I’d had when my kids were small. A book to help parents and teachers. A book filled with picture book recommendations, craft projects and simple recipes—all geared to building self-esteem, developing literacy skills and strengthening the parent-child connection.
How long did it take you to see your work in print and did you have an agent before you published?
 I started writing Show Me How in 2005, after my husband encouraged me to JUST DO IT! I did quite a bit of research, picking the stories and pairing them up with appropriate activities. And I read a couple of books on finding an agent and sent out query letters to several dozen. Now remember, this was 2005—the internet wasn’t what it is now. Some of the agents wanted the letters by snail mail and some by email. I got back about half a dozen positive responses, asking to see a proposal. Proposal? I had no clue what a proposal for a nonfiction book was. I was not yet a member of SCBWI. I had no critique group or writer friends. And I was a bit timid. So I picked the agent who seemed safe, non-threatening, and kind. NOT the best vetting for an agent. I passed on the bigger agencies (Jennifer DiChiara was one...Rosemary Stimola was another...and I am still kicking myself).
There was no contract—and for a full year or more, I honed that proposal. No internet presence or emails for this agent, so everything was via snail mail. Back and forth. Forth and back. Until she finally deemed the proposal ready to shop around. And then another year of that, with no communication to me unless I called to find out how things were going. Finally, I decided to go it alone. My husband and I had published a second edition of a book of his...so we thought we would give self-publishing a go. And by the end of 2010, the book was in indie bookstores and on Amazon. And that’s when I discovered social media and the kid lit community. A bit backwards, I’m afraid.
As a member of a multiracial family I've noticed a very deep need for more diverse characters and books for children. How do you choose subjects that include diverse characters/story lines and how are these manuscripts generally received by publishers?
Beth, you are so right. It is so important for young children to see themselves in the books they read and listen to. This validates their self-worth—it empowers them! I do have several diverse nonfiction picture books and also several diverse fiction picture books. Unfortunately, as of yet, I haven’t garnered a book contract with any of them—but I am ever hopeful.
The recent renewed push for more diverse books is definitely long overdue—and I hope some of my manuscripts make the cut.
Do you have a favorite character or book from your work?
When I first started writing picture books in 2011, just about everything I wrote was in rhyme. And The Boots of Dylan McGee, a tale about a little cowboy-in-training who refuses to take off his boots, is still one of my favorites. More recently, I’ve been writing nonfiction, and the main character of my Sweet Dreams, Sarah story moves me to tears each time I read the manuscript.
Where or when do you get or have gotten your best inspiration for stories?
Oh my goodness, Beth—my brain is CONSTANTLY thinking picture book story. Anywhere and anytime! Online challenges like Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo and Kristen Fulton’s NonFicPic Week are major story sparkers. My six-year old grandson is always ready to play a board game with grandma—I only need to be open to it and I will have a treasure trove of ideas by just listening to him. And one of the best times for me to hear my muse is in the early morning hours—just before I am truly awake. I keep a pad of paper and a pen by my bedside, but unfortunately, I have such a sloppy handwriting (especially in the dark), I can barely make out what I’ve written.
Have you ever really disliked something you wrote that others loved?
Hahaha...it usually works the other way, I think. I might love something I’ve written, but my awesome critique buddies, although totally supportive and encouraging and loving (YES, I do have the BEST critique partners in the world), do their job by being honest and constructive. And sometimes that means they might not be crazy about something I think is pretty fine. But I welcome their feedback—without it, my stories would never grow stronger and sing.
When you are working on a manuscript, do you direct your characters or do they direct you?
Hmmm...very good question, Beth. I think, early on in my writing, I was the writer, director, producer...the whole kit and caboodle. But I’m finally listening to my characters and I think this will help them develop as they need to.
Do you work on more than one genre or manuscript at a time?
When you look in the dictionary under multi-tasker, I can guarantee my name is there. Yes, I do work on lots of things at the same time. Right now, I’m revising quite a few to get them ready for the WOW Retreat. But even without a special event, I’m usually working on a new nonfiction picture book, a new fiction pb and revising several others.
How do you organize your research, manuscript drafts, etc.
Not well enough! I’ve taken Kristen Fulton’s Non Fiction Archaeology class—she is a WHIZ when it comes to teaching how to organize everything. I do use index cards on the little metal rings—a different ring for each nonfiction story. I also use EasyBib for keeping track of my bibliography. And I also have cardboard magazine files and file folders. And a pile of notebooks. But I cannot tell a lie. Sometimes I just grab a slip of paper or turn to a page in any notebook and jot down an important piece of information. Getting ready for the WOW Retreat has helped me somewhat—can I keep the momentum going when I get back? I hope so.
Is writing/art your only career? If not, what else do you do professionally?
Back in the Stone Age, I was a kindergarten teacher. But I’ve worked in a library, typed catalogues for a used book store, was a registered representative helping my husband in his financial planning business, and now I’m doing a bit of freelance writing. Since I’m retired, I’ve got lots more time for writing than most others. (or I should) And, since I’m retired, I’ve got to stick to a budget. (or I should)

If you could be a superhero, what would your powers be and why?

If I could be a superhero, I would zap people with a ‘believe in yourself’ ray. I think one of the biggest problems in our world is that people don’t really believe in themselves. Therefore, they are constantly trying to feel better about themselves by putting others down. If people believed in themselves, they would step out of their comfort zones, step up to make needed changes and step in to help others.
Thanks again, Beth! This was lots of fun. Happy writing, everyone!

Vivian has spent her entire life surrounded by picture books and children. A former kindergarten teacher, she has a master’s in early childhood education...and when she isn’t scribbling stories, she is hiking and fly-fishing with her hubby, reading, crafting and cooking with kids and sharing self-esteem and literacy tips with parents. And definitely eating chocolate. Although she is not a fan of heights and was always a rather timid child, Vivian is constantly taking leaps of faith. In 2010, she self-published her award-winning parenting resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking...three years ago, she went skydiving with her son...in May of 2013, she flew half-way around the globe to speak at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore...and she is amassing a respectable pile of picture book manuscripts that she hopes will one day make children smile. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a lover of books and reading, you can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, like her Show Me How page on Facebook, visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar or contact her by email.


  1. Vivian's book, SHOW ME HOW, is a wonderful example of her wish to zap children with a 'believe in yourself' ray. As one of her many appreciative critique buddies, I can affirm that she's also good at zapping adults with confidence. I hope the WOW retreat will reward her Sarah with a well-earned publication.

  2. This is kinder teacher at her best! As a retired teacher/counselor...I so appreciate these amazing multi-tasters who are able to translate the chaos into such user friendly terms:)

  3. Great post Vivan! You already have that super power. You are constantly helping others believe in themselves. Your experiences and advice give me hope to some day touch a child with a special picture book. I really appreciate your critiques in our Nonfiction Archeology group.

  4. Thank you Beth and Vivian for a great post. Vivian's book is not just chock full of self worth activities, but fun and adventure as well. Vivian's generous, insightful, and honest critiques and encouragement have touched many throughout the community.

  5. Thank you Beth and Vivian for a great post. Vivian's book is not just chock full of self worth activities, but fun and adventure as well. Vivian's generous, insightful, and honest critiques and encouragement have touched many throughout the community.

  6. I was fortunate enough to meet Vivian at the WOW retreat. She is a lovely person, inside and out!

  7. I was fortunate enough to meet Vivian at the WOW retreat. She is a lovely person, inside and out!

  8. I was fortunate enough to meet Vivian at the WOW retreat. She is a lovely person, inside and out!