1. The last time I interviewed you was a while back…in 2009. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to for the past few years?
I’ve been working on nonfiction book projects such as Frederick Douglass for Kids.
Also, I’ve worked on a couple of chapter book series with different publishers, both fiction and nonfiction. And I’m always writing new picture books…my first love!
2. Can you explain what your workday looks like?
My two sons are grown and gone, so my writing day is very different now than when they were growing up. Now I have the luxury of writing full-time from the minute I get up until my husband comes home from work about 6:00 in the evening. I used to have to fight to find time whenever I could, but now my day is an empty slate, just waiting to be written on!
My writing day is made of starts and stops. I’m a morning person, so I jump out of bed and start writing. I tend to work on my goal of personal fulfillment for an hour or two before breakfast, such as write a chapter for the middle grade novel I’m writing without a publisher in mind, just to hone my novel-writing skills. Or I spend time developing the website for a picture book I’m self-publishing. I also check my e-mail and correspond back and forth with editors and my agent during this time since most of them work Midwest or in the East.
Then I take a long break for breakfast. I sit outside on our patio nearly year round out here in sunny California. I meander through our little garden and take photographs of caterpillars and butterflies and birds who are visiting for the day. Sometimes I pull a few weeds. I know my eyes and wrists and back need a break from the computer because I have a long day ahead of me.
After that, I dig in on my goal of earning income for the rest of the morning and sometimes passed lunch. These projects are the ones I’ve already signed contracts for and have deadlines looming.
By mid-afternoon, I often take a nap and then work on the goal of getting published. I write for the no-pay/low-pay market such as magazine articles or a how-to-write column. This keeps my name in print frequently in-between longer book contracts. During this time, I’ll also do odds and ends of various writing tasks such as blogging or researching or contacting potential copyright holders for information I want to include in my manuscripts. I’m usually wrapping up my writing day around 5:00 when I start cooking dinner.
And just before I go to bed, I sit down and plan out the schedule for my next writing day. This planning helps keep me focused and writing with purpose.
A couple of days a month or so I host various writing workshops in my home, and that’s a wonderful way to stay connected with writing friends and the writing community. On those days, I tend to do writing-related tasks and answer e-mail before and after the group meets.
3. What kinds of writing are you currently pursuing for pleasure?
A group of writer friends, illustrators, and I are meeting to explore how to get a full-color 32-page picture book self-published for free on CreateSpace. It’s been an exciting journey! I’ve been working on self-publishing my new picture book, Butterflies in Hannah’s Garden and have been building a website for it as well. You can visit the website at http://butterfliesinhannahsgarden.wordpress.com
4. How many books do you currently have under contract?
I have six books under contract that are in some stage or phase of the writing/publication process but have not yet been published. They’ll hopefully all be released in 2014 if all goes as planned. All of these books were contracts I signed before I wrote the manuscript. Four of them are with a new publisher I’ve never worked with before.
I’ve been doing this ever since I was a beginning writer and signed the contract for my first book and I still do this today even after getting over 80 books published. I explain how to do this in my book, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career on page 80 in Chapter 5.4 “Write to Earn Income.” To order a copy of this book as well as my second how-to book for children’s writers, visit the website at
5. Do you work with an agent? Would you give any advice to any children’s writer looking for an agent?
Yes, I do work with an agent. And yes, I have lots of advice for children’s writers looking for an agent, too. In fact, I posted a series of blog posts with tips and strategies on the journey I took. You can follow those posts by clicking on the first in that series. Just go to the page on my blog “How to Write: Tips” and scroll down to the link I have there about Agents. You can find that page on my blog at
6. What inspired you to want to write Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books?
Over the years, I’ve written over 400 stories that are considered “beginning readers.” Among others, these include stories that have been compiled into teacher’s books, or have been published as their own chapter books.
Each step along the way, I had lots and lots of questions about writing for this market, but there were hardly any answers anywhere to help me. So I used my experiences to write this book to help every children’s writer navigate successfully in this market today.
Plus, with the new emphasis on readability levels and AR book lists and Lexile reading scores, it’s more important than ever before that we know, as children’s writers, how to write manuscripts kids in certain grade levels can read on their own. My book tells you how.
7. What is the hardest thing about writing children’s books?
After years of watching some very talented children’s writers give up and quit writing altogether, I’ve come to realize that the hardest thing for us as writers is to balance our creativity with the nitty-gritty world of business. We love the delightful world of children’s books! But it’s a tough tough world out there working in this industry. It’s a very delicate balance to achieve in order to experience success.
That’s why I developed the Triple Crown of Success to use in my own personal writer’s journey and am so passionate about sharing it with other writers. Working on three different strategies to meet three different goals keeps me smiling along the journey and happy at the end of my writing day.
8. What are your future writing projects?
I have a lot of ideas boiling in the stew pot! I think one of my main writing goals is to focus more on writing creative nonfiction picture books in the near future.
9. Any tips for aspiring writers?
I hope this doesn’t sound too much like a sales pitch, but I encourage every aspiring children’s writer to read my two how-to books. These will save you a lot of grief and will really help you understand the nitty-gritty world of children’s publishing from the get go. I bumbled around at the start of my career and made every mistake possible, wasting years of precious time in the process. Don’t waste your time, but read these books to help you get started successfully on your writing journey right now.
And to be blunt, I haven’t yet found many other how-to books that really show practical ways to build a career. Most tell us to spend our time writing the manuscript we’re passionate about until it’s perfect enough to get published. Then these books tell us to try to find a publisher for our manuscript. As far as I can remember, I’ve never sold a single book that way. Yet I’ve been able to earn a solid income as a writer for years and know writer friends who do the same. In my two how-to books, I tell you how.
If you can’t afford them right now, put them on your birthday list or Christmas list and ask others to buy them for you. Or you can get your library to purchase them and offer them on its shelves. Here are the links to the sites for my two books. Take a look at the chapters and sample text inside and you’ll see what I’m talking about:
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career
Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Beginning Readers and Chapter Books
10. Could you share your website with our readers?
Thanks, I’d love to!
And for a chuckle plus lots of helpful writing tips, my cats’ website: http://writingaccordingtohumphrey.wordpress.com
Thank you so much for spending time on my blog today. I love catching up with GREAT and inspiring children’s writers like you. All the best of luck, and I will be in touch soon.