A native of Australia, Margot Finke is a freelance editor and children's author. She specializes in fun rhyming books for kids, as well as in stories for reluctant readers, especially boys. Her latest picture book is the hilarious Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind, recently released by Guardian Angel Publishing. She now lives in Oregon, where she continues creating entertaining stories for children. To find out more about her work and manuscript critique services, visit her website.
Thanks for being my guest today, Margot. Tell us, what got you into writing for children?
Many years ago, when we first arrived here in Oregon from Australia, my three children were young. I became a grade school Teacher’s Aid.
The kids thought I talked funny, and I told them it was because I was an Aussie from Down-under. They asked about OZ, and so I started telling them about the fantastic variety of unique Aussie critters. I would pin a map of Australian animals on the classroom wall, and make up stories about various ones. I also did this for my children each night, right off the top of my head.
After a while, I found I had to write them down, because the kids asked for story repeats, and I had no idea what I’d said the first time around. My writing grew from that small beginning, into my “ Wild and Wonderful” rhyming series, about animals from the US and Australia, and two other books: “Rattlesnake Jam” ( for boys), and my latest, “Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind,” for girls. Nine picture books in all + another PB coming, and a mid-grade adventure in the Aussie outback ( for boys) due late next month.
Tell us about your latest children’s picture book, Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind. What inspired you to write it and how did you come up with that title?
Like my other picture books, “Ruthie” is in rhyme. Now I have a confession to make – rhyme is easy for me. I think I double dipped when they handed out the rhyming gene! Kids today deal with a lot of change – divorce, a move, the death of a loved one etc.
So the idea for “Ruthie,” and that scene stealing pink hippo, came to me late one night in bed – like many of my nuttiest story ideas! These two lines, from the first verse, set the story in my mind:
"Her parents scolded, begged and coaxed, but Ruthie paid no mind,
Her moods grew big and ugly – like some Hippo's fat behind."
I wanted a fast paced rhyme that was fun to read and visualize, yet also kid and parent friendly. As a teacher’s aid, I discovered that words in rhyme stick with children longer than those in plain text, especially if there is humor involved. Hey! Don’t all authors want their words to be remembered?
Ruthie is an entertaining, fun story told in rhyme yet it offers an important, powerful message. What will children learn from this book?
I am so happy you think so. Yes, I do admit to being a bit sneaky when I wrote “Ruthie.” The disruption of “big change” often plays a huge role in family life. Children and parents cope far better if they talk together about any coming changes: or encourage children to share their feelings after a sudden big change.
Adding the Parent-Teacher guide opens a window for parents and teachers to ask children how they feel about Ruthie, her parents, and her bratty behavior. If children identify with Ruthie, and share their feelings, the frustration and anger that big change often brings, will shrink to a more manageable size.
I understand the book comes with a Parent-Teacher guide. Is this guide included in the book or available from your website?
Yes, the Parent-Teacher guide is included in the back of the book.
There is an excellent review for “Ruthie” on Jill Osborne’s “Writing and Play Therapy” Page: http://www.jillosborne.org/
Jill is a licensed child therapist.
The artwork in the book was done by award-winning illustrator and fine artist K.C. Snider. How was your experience working with an illustrator?
K.C. was a joy to work with. We chatted back and forth about every illustration, and she was very open to the suggestions I offered. And this is not always the case. Some illustrators like to live in their ivory tower: incommunicado! K.C’s talent is awesome – as is the cool pink hippo that steals the whole book. Her cover art says it all!!
You also offer manuscript critiques to writers. How can readers learn more about your editorial services?
Thanks to the internet, my website, and two blogs, I receive Manuscript Critique requests from clients in many different countries. Unfortunately, some are not ready for a professional critique. These I advise, as gently as possible, to keep writing and rewriting, read many more books, and learn basic grammar and writing skills. Join a private critique group if at all possible.
However, many clients simply need some guidance, or clues about tightening and polishing their chapters or pages. Some critiques are done quickly, while other manuscripts take time and patience from both myself and my client. Yet it is the end result that counts. Nothing gives me more of a thrill than to hear that a client’s book has been published. Manuscript Critique Service – details:
Do you have a website and/or blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?
Find Books, Writing Help + Manuscript Critique Service, on my WEBSITE DIRECTORY.
HOOK KIDS on READING:
Margot’s Book for Kids + Writing News: http://margotfinke.blogsopot.com/
Any last words to our readers?
Boys are more likely to be reluctant readers. They WILL read, if you find them fun stories with macho action and great humor. I discovered this years ago, when my son did not want to read. My HOOK KIDS on READING offers boy friendly titles.
AND: “Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble,” my coming Aussie adventure, offers action, danger, boy style humor + plus a crazed emu, and all the yabbies, snake, and witchetty grubs a boy could eat.
Thanks for taking the time to interview me, Mayra.