ES: Welcome to The Corner, Deb! Could you share some of your favorite books with us...any title in particular inspire you?
DS: One of my favorite non-fiction authors is Barbara Kerley – “Those Rebels, John and Tom” and "What To Do About Alice" is the type of fun non-fiction I am aiming to write! For fun rhyme, I tell everyone to read Kwame Alexander's "Acoustic Rooster."
ES: Those are some great starting points for parents hoping to get their children excited about non-fiction topics! How about some advice for writers now - you have had some success breaking into the magazine market. Any thoughts you’d like to share?
DS: My advice is: if it interests you, do it! When I took a children's writing course with the Institute of Children's Literature, they encouraged new writers to consider the magazine market as it can be easier to break into. Plus, there’s an active market for non-fiction articles. I decided to give it a try and discovered that research ROCKS.
For example, in The Washington Post I read about a researcher who discovered that marine iguanas, a non-verbal species, actually "eavesdropped" on mockingbird calls to know when a hawk was nearby and they should flee for safety. I found the researcher's contact info, started corresponding with her, did some more research, and wrote an article. "Eavesdropping Iguanas" was published in the July/August 2011 issue of Spider. Since then, two other non-fiction articles I wrote for that course are under contract, and an article I wrote after the course is also under contract. They'll be appearing in Spider, Boys' Quest, and Fun for Kidz.
ES: Congratulations! That’s wonderful news. Can you tell us about your writing process...and how you find time to write despite having three kids?!
DS: Great question! I'm a slow writer who jumps around from project to project. . . . and yes, with three boys 8, 10 and 11, it is hard to find time to write! Fortunately, so much of writing is not actually writing, but thinking. Most mornings I open up the latest manuscript I'm working on and do a quick read. Then throughout the day grab a few minutes here and there to jot stuff down. It's pretty surprising how a manuscript can come together in bits and pieces. I always have several manuscripts going at one time so if I get stuck on one, I have another one to attack. During the school year, I am certainly more productive.
Two website "challenges" that have helped me with my picture book writing are Tara Lazar's PiBoIdMo and Julie Hedlund's 12x12.
ES: That’s some serious inspiration for those of us who feel we don’t have time to write! What about folks who want a jump-start by attending a retreat? You recently attended one in Georgia…would you recommend it to others?
Before the Week of Writing Retreat in July, I had only been to SCBWI Conferences. Conferences are great, but if a writer has the time and funds to attend a retreat, I definitely recommend it. I can't speak for all retreats, but this retreat focused much more on the craft of writing than conferences seem to. Four agents, two editors and several published authors presented to just 33 attendees. The entire faculty was accessible, eating meals with us, providing critiques, and hanging out in the evenings. In the end, at least 7 or 8 attendees signed with agents from the retreat. It's already sold-out for next year!
ES: Well that's a ringing endorsement - next year's event sold out as soon as the current one is concluded.
Thank you again for chatting with us at The Corner, Deb, and good luck in your publishing endeavors!
Visit Deb by clicking here.
Follow her on Twitter @ShumakerDebra