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Interview with Children’s Book Author and Freelance Editor Margot Finke

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Author and freelance editor Margot Finke talks about her upcoming book, Rattlesnake Jam, as well as the difficulty of writing picture books and their future within the children's book industry.

Welcome to Blogcritics Magazine, Margot! It's great to have you here. Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Yes. From childhood I scribbled down story ideas and wrote short stories.

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?

Guardian Angel Publishing will be releasing my picture book, Rattlesnake Jam, in the first half of 2008, in soft cover and CD. This rhyming romp tells about Pa catching rattlesnakes for crazy Gran. She cooks and bottles them as her “cure all” jam, but Pa longs for rattler served up on rice – just once! Preview here. Artist Kevin Scott Collier’s illustrations are just crazy enough to make kid’s eyes pop! Rattlesnake Jam will be available from Amazon, the publisher, and through my website.

Tell us about your children's books.

I have a rhyming, six-book series, available on CD and download. Fun and educational, they tell about animals from the U. S. and Australia. Purchase through the BOOKS page on my website – Publisher: Writers Exchange.

Two of the illustrators for this series live in Turkey. One speaks no English, and has no computer. The other has a little English, and does use a computer. Both are celebrated illustrators and artists in Europe. Thanks to e-mail, and a generous English-speaking friend on a writing list, who acted as go-between and interpreter, Kangaroo Clues and Never Say BOO to a Frilly were delightfully illustrated. The other four artists come from various areas in the USA. They were chosen due to the marvels of e-mail and the Internet.

Kids who want to discover more fun information about the critters in this series, can go to either the “Down-under Fun” or the “Wild US Critters” on my website.

Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a café, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity?

Great writing thoughts usually pop into my head after I go to bed. I sneak into the bathroom in the dark, and close the door. I keep paper and pencil there – just in case.
So, enthroned upon the toilet seat, I scribble down my ideas lest they disappear with the dawn. There must be something about taking a shower, and cleaning my teeth each night, that prods my inspirational juices to flow.

Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style?

I got a late writing start, so now my kids are grown and on their own, I write every day in my office, slash flower room. This is where, every winter, I bring my delicate plants to survive the Oregon chill. My husband fitted Gro Lux lights to wall shelves, in what was once our family room. My plants and I enjoy a cozy winter together – helps mitigate all that gray Oregon drizzle!

Do you like to outline and plot ahead, or are you more of a stream-of-consciousness writer?

A general idea strikes me, and I develop it as I write.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

Margot Finke’s World of Writing for Children is my website. It has sprouted more pages on help for children’s writers than I can count – my BOOKS, Critique Service, Secrets of Writing For Children, WAHOO, School Visits, and much more.

What are you working on now?

Finding a publisher for two Aussie mid-grade boy’s adventures, a ghost mystery set in Oregon, and a letter-driven MG involving a Grandma and her grandson, and the troubling forces that draw them together.

What was your experience in looking for a publisher?

Writing books is the easy part. Finding the right publisher is frustrating. Lots of research, networking with other writers, and carefully reading many submission guidelines finally did the trick.

What was your experience in working with an illustrator?

Very positive. I found all the artists for my rhyming animal series through writing lists I am on. Our minds seemed to be in harmony. We swapped thoughts and ideas until each was perfected. I am thrilled with the resuls.

What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

A good press release helped me get interviewed by a newspaper + photo. School Visits have worked very well so far, plus purchases through my website, and being a member of AuthorsDen and FaceBook. Lots of networking over the years, plus my “Musings” column, great reviews, and my Website, gives my name an excellent Google presence. I also sell my books where I do conference Workshops.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read , read, read. Write, write, write. Go to conferences, and join a really good critique group. Stick-with-it-ness is vital.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Alice in Wonderland.

We hear again and again that picture books are incredibly difficult to write. Why is that?

Picture book writers need disciplined, sparse writing that makes the most of active and powerful verbs, and well chosen, evocative adjectives. The art of weaving in word clues for the illustrator, rather than whole sentences of descriptive clutter, is hard for many writers.

It’s all about choosing a few special words that paint unforgettable pictures in a child’s head. The craft of writing a really wonderful picture book comes with practice. Some writers “get it,” while others wisely decide their path lies with writing for older children.

How do you see the future of children’s picture books?

As long as there are children to delight and confound us, there will be picture books to do the same. In the near future, I think books read on light, easy to use, and affordable hand held readers, will come into their own. Kids today are computer savvy, and it is just a matter of time and technology, before books that talk and offer colored, animated illustrations, will be all the rage. The future is almost NOW!

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Someone wise once told me, “ Editors don’t make house calls!” Great advice.

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.