PAL Author interview of the month
Welcome to Clare Vanderpool, our April KS/MO SCBWI PAL author of the month. Clare’s education was in English and Elementary Education, but she says her “best education has come from reading, listening to family stories, looking out the car window on road trips, pretending to be pirates with my brother, and just plain imagining.” She writes adventure and historical fiction for middle grade readers. Her book Moon Over Manifest won the 2011 Newbery Award., and her newest book, Navigating Early, was a 2014 Michael L. Printz Honor Book.
Can you tell us a little bit about your road to publication? Were there challenges along the way?
To borrow a line from the Beatles, it was a long and winding road. Long in that from the time I started writing with the intention of publishing a book to the time my first book came out, it was a 16-year journey. Winding in that during that time I had four children at two year intervals. I had people ask me, “Haven’t you figured out what’s causing this?” To which I would reply, “Yes, but I can’t quit drinking the water!”
The writing happened in fits and starts and often got put on the back burner. But with the support of a few key people I plodded ahead, read lots of books on writing, attended an SCBWI conference in Kansas City, then two or three in New York, and joined a writing critique group. Even when I wasn’t actually writing I was always dabbling one way or another in the art and craft of storytelling.
SCBWI was a big part of my journey. I loved going to those conferences and being surrounded by people who were on the same path. I listened to the workshops given by agents and editors where they would talk about the kind of stories they were looking for. They often used words like quirky, edgy, contemporary – in other words, none of the things I was writing. But they usually added a postscript to their comments. Mainly they were all looking for a good story – one with voice and character and heart.
With that nugget of hope, I stayed the course and tried to give voice to the story I had percolating within me. It was a long road and I have over a hundred rejection letters in my file, but I remember that incredible day when the phone rang and I heard those words I’d been waiting years to hear. Your book is getting published! SCBWI was and still is a wonderful part of my writing journey and certainly helped me get across that publication finish line.
Where and when do you write?
Over the years, I’ve had to be a bit of a vagabond writer. When my kids were little, it was challenging to write at home so I would go to the bookstore or my sister’s house, or sit in my car with my laptop. As for the when, I would write in little snatches of time during Sesame Street, long stop lights, and church homilies. (I’m only slightly joking about the church homilies.) The truth is, for me, a lot of writing takes place away from the typewriter. When I’m working on a story I like to keep it simmering on the back burner even when I’m away from my desk. It’s during those daydreamy moments folding laundry or driving or stirring a pot of soup that some of my best writing has taken place.
What books were among your childhood favorites and why?
I’ve always been a big reader. My mom was a teacher and reading was something highly valued in our house. We would take frequent trips to the library and come home with grocery bags full of books. Some of my favorites are: A Wrinkle in Time, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Half Magic, Charlotte’s Web, and of course, I always, always, always, had a Nancy Drew book on hand and a spare at the ready. Didn’t you love it when they’d give the title of the next book in last chapter of the one you were reading?
I did a great deal of research for both books but, fortunately, I enjoy that part of the process. My first book, Moon Over Manifest, took place in two different time periods, 1918 and 1936 so I read books on the Great Depression, World War I, bootlegging and prohibition, immigrants coming through Ellis Island, and on and on. I was able to get microfilm through the library and pull up newspapers from both time periods. Also with library assistance, I found old yearbooks and first hand sources from southeast Kansas where the story takes place.
For Navigating Early, I read books on boats and rowing, the number pi, the Appalachian Trail, constellations, and the life of a savant. The amazing thing is, once I have a story in the works it brings about a sort of creative magnetism that seems to attract all kinds of interesting and relevant information that feeds into the story in ways I hadn’t anticipated. I’ve heard other writers describe their research in a similar way. There’s a certain amount of research and information that I seek out and there’s another part that just finds me. That would be an interesting workshop topic at a future SCBWI event: Creative Magnetism: The Things You Find When You’re Not Even Looking.
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about writing?
The best advice I’ve ever gotten about writing is really the best advice I’ve ever gotten about life in general. And it came from my mom. Growing up, we went on a three-week vacation every summer in a travel trailer. We saw all the sights around the country and we often heard my mom encouraging us to, “Pay attention.” It might come in words like look or listen or remember. But it all pointed us in the direction of being present and attentive – to the people, places, and experiences all around us. They’re wonderful words to live (and write) by.
What is your favorite book on writing?
Hands down it is Eudora Welty’s book called One Writer’s Beginnings. Her three chapters are Listening, Learning to See, and Finding Your Voice. When I first set out to write it was scary and daunting. It still is sometimes! But her approach to writing made it seem less scary, less daunting. Almost familiar. Listen… Look. Those are the same words I grew up hearing from my mother. They’re simple. Direct. I grew up learning to pay attention. Eventually, I began to think if I can do those things then maybe I can write. And I put pen to paper and set out to find my voice.
Thank you for sharing a little bit about your writing life with us here, Clare.
Clare lives in Wichita, Kansas with her husband and four children. Visit her website to find out more about Clare and her books at www.clarevanderpool.com.
NAVIGATING EARLY – Delacorte Books/Penguin Random House 2013
ISBN – 0385742096
FORMER Authors of the Month
Claire M. Catererhas been a freelance writer and editor for more than a dozen years. Her short fiction for adults has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Woman’s World. She lives in Shawnee, Kansas, a suburb of Kansas City, with her husband, daughter, and two dogs. Find more about Claire and her books on her website at http://www.clairecaterer.com/
Sue Lowell Gallion writes picture books, early readers and chapter books for children from her home in Leawood, Kansas. She is the former Regional Advisor for Kansas SCBWI, and is currently Co-Regional Advisor with Kim Piddington for Kansas/Missouri SCBWI. Sue has been published in children’s magazines and educational publishing. PUG MEETS PIG, released in September 2016 from Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster), is her first picture book. You can find out more about Sue on her website at www.suegallion.com
Lisa Wade McCormick has written eighteen non-fiction books for children, and her stories have appeared in several children's magazines. Besides being a children's book author, Lisa is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than 20 years experience as a newspaper reporter and television producer. She is currently the investigative producer at WDAF-TV in Kansas City. You can find out more about Lisa and her books on her website at www.lisawademccormick.com
Rita Arens is the author of the contemporary realistic young adult novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME (InkSpell Publishing, 2013), a 2016 Library Journal Self-e Selection. Rita is also the editor of a parenting anthology, SLEEP IS FOR THE WEEK (Chicago Review Press), winner of a 2009 gold National Parenting Publications award (NAPPA) and winner of an honorable mention in the 2012 New York Book Festival. You can find our more about Rita and her books at www.ritaarens.com
Patricia J. Norton is the author of phonics-based beginning readers and narrative non-fiction for children. In 2006, she started a new publishing house, Short Vowel Phonics, to provide phonics-controlled short stories for beginning and struggling readers. You can find our more about Patricia and her books at http://shortvowelphonics.com/phonics/
Amy Houts, Maryville, MO, is a freelance writer and former instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. She enjoys writing fiction and nonfiction books on assignment for educational publishers, as well as working on her own projects. She is the author of over 60 books, many for young children ages 3 to 7. You can find out more about Amy and her books on her website, www.amyhouts.com, or follow her blog at http://www.houtsandhome.com/amys-blog.
PEGGY ARCHER, O'Fallon, MO, loves to talk to students and adults about writing and her books. Readers can learn more about her author presentations on her website at www.peggyarcher.com. They can also check out her author blog, Peggy’s Pages, at http://www.peggyarcher.com/blog.htm. NAME THAT DOG! ( Dial Books for Young Readers, ISBN# 978-0-8037-3322-0) is also available through Scholastic Book Club and Scholastic Book Fairs.
JANIE CHEANEY is the author of novels for middle-grade readers. Her book, THE MIDDLE OF SOMEWHERE, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, was named a 2008 Kansas Notable Book by the Kansas State Library. Janie is also a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and co-publisher of RedeemedReader.com.
HOLLY SCHINDLER's first two published works, A Blue So Dark and Playing Hurt, were both YA novels. Her debut MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, released with Dial / Penguin on February 6, 2014, and her next YA, Feral, is forthcoming from HarperCollins. Find out more at hollyschindler.com
BRIDGET HEOS is the author of Mustache Baby (Houghton Mifflin, May 2013, ISBN-13: 978-0547773575) She lives in Kansas City with her husband and four children. Check out her Facebook page, Author Bridget Heos, or website www.authorbridgetheos.com for updates!
BONNIE HINMAN writes non-fiction books for children. She lives with her husband in Joplin, MO, close to their children and grandchildren. You can find out more about Bonnie and her books at http://www.bonniehinman.com.
SHANNON MOORE is the former Assistant Regional Advisor for Missouri SCBWI. You can find out more about Shannon on her blog, Great Books for Children, where she reviews children’s books. http://greatbooksforchildren.com/index.php/about/.
JODY FELDMAN lives in St. Louis where she writes middle-grade contemporary novels for young readers. The first book in her series, The Gollywhopper Games, was an ALA/YALSA Best Books for Young Adults nominee, and received the Midwest Bookseller’s Choice Award Honor Book for Children’s Literature. The second book in the series, The Gollywhopper Games: The New Champion, recently made the St. Louis Post Dispatch Best Sellers list for kids' books. http://jodyfeldman.com
NANCY POLETTE of O’Fallon, MO is the author of picture books, fiction and non-fiction for middle grade readers, and has four easy readers coming out this year. Nancy is a former teacher of students in K through 8th grades, and is currently a professor of education at Lindenwood University where she teaches Children’s Literature.
ANN INGALLS was born in Cleveland, grew up in Detroit, and now lives with her husband and three children in Kansas City. You can find out more about her and her books, including J is for Jazz, on her website at: http://anningallswrites.com/ann-ingalls/
CYNTHIA COLLINS, from Jefferson City, enjoys writing for the teen and young adult audience. Her debut novel for teens, THE UNICORN TREE, was released by Mockingbird Lane Press in 2012. Two of her short stories published in the quarterly writers’ journal, The Storyteller, received a People’s Choice Award for 1st Place in Fiction. You can find out more about Cynthia and her writing on her website at www.cynthia-collins.com, and you can contact her at email@example.com
KRISTIN BAIRD RATTINI, Foristell, Missouri, is a freelance writer who has written for children’s magazines for 17 years, Kristin has enjoyed the challenge of introducing young readers to a wide range of topics and the thrill of hooking their attention with writing that’s both educational and entertaining. You can find out more about Kristin and her books at: Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/kristin-rattini/5/900/33a and MediaBistro: http://www.mediabistro.com/fm/PD.asp?user_id=6628
MARGO L. DILL, of St. Louis, Missouri, is the SCBWI Missouri webmaster and a children's and YA author. She currently has three books out: Maggie Mae, Detective Extrordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies (picture book), Finding My Place (middle grade), and Caught Between Two Curses (young adult). She is also a freelance editor and writing teacher. Find out more at http://www.margodill.com
SUE BRADFORD EDWARDS writes from her home in Florissant, Missouri, where she lives with her husband and son. You can find out more about Sue and her work on her website at www.suebradfordedwards.com, and on her blog, https://suebe.wordpress.com/
VEDA BOYD JONES is the author of 47 books and over 500 articles and short stories. She writes children’s picture books and middle grade novels, fiction and non-fiction, and has been published in children’s magazines. She also writes romance novels for adults. Find out more about Veda and her books on her website at www.vedaboydjones.com
CYNTHIA REEG writes picture books and middle grade novels. Her writing includes fiction, non-fiction, short stories and poetry. Her books have been published by Guardian Angel Publishing, and her work has been published in anthologies, magazines and newspapers. Her newest book, BUNNY BUSINESS, was released from Guardian Angel Publishing in September 2014. http://www.cynthiareeg.com/index.html
STEPHANIE BEARCE is the author of non-fiction for children and she also writes middle grade fiction. She is a past SCBWI Regional Advisor and is a full member of the Missouri Writers Guild and American Christian Fiction Writers. Find out more at www.stephaniebearce.com
BARBARA STUBER, from Kansas City, brings visual art and writing together as she weaves artwork into her stories for young adults. Her latest book, Girl in Reverse, was an NPR (National Public Radio) pick for the Best Books of 2014 in five categories. Her earlier book, Crossing the Tracks, was an ALA Wm. C. Morris Award Finalist in 2010. Find out more at http://www.barbarastuber.com
JEANIE FRANZ RANSOM, from O’Fallon, Missouri, sold her first story to Seventeen magazine when she was a teen, and has been writing ever since. She is an award-winning author of children’s picture books, and her books have received starred reviews from Booklist and Publishers Weekly. She is also a former elementary school counselor. Find out more at www.jeanieransom.com
JODY JENSEN SHAFFER is the author of 26 fiction and nonfiction books, which include titles like NINJA WARRIORS, INSIDE MY MUSCLES, BLACK-FOOTED FERRETS, and FREDERICK DOUGLASS. Her debut picture book, ROCKY, releases in 2017 from Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin. Find out more at: http://jodyjensenshaffer.blogspot.com/
ANOLA PICKET is a former teacher and school librarian and writes historical novels for middle grade readers. She is also the author of an I-Can-Read book for younger readers, and co-author of a book for teachers and parents, Multiple Intelligences and Positive Life Habits. Anola lives in Kansas City but loves to travel and finds ideas and inspiration in her travels. You can find out more about Anola and her books at www.anolapickett.com, or meet her on Twitter at anolamarie.
AMY SKLANSKY, University City, is a former editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books, Amy writes picture books and board books, and is the author of children’s fiction, non-fiction and poetry. Her books have received many awards including the Bankstreet College of Education Best Books of the Year, Outstanding Science Trade Book by the National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council, and have appeared on the St. Louis Independent Bestsellers list. You can read more about Amy at: www.amysklansky.com.
CATHY GILMORE, St. Louis, is a picture book author, and freelance editor. Her goal is to help children discover the joy of God’s love through her books. A Certified Catechist of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, she creates stories that bring the gospel to life for children. Her newest book, LITTLE LAMB FINDS CHRISTMAS, won the 2015 USA Best Books Award in the Children’s Religious books category. Read more about Cathy and her books on her website at www.catherinecgilmore.com.