April 10, 2015
KidLit411 is proud to present the very talented Vivian Kirkfield in the Author Spotlight this week.
Was English one of your favorite subjects in school?
English was one of my favorite subjects! From the time I was a little bit of a thing, I loved books...and reading...and writing. I still have a couple of scraps torn from a tiny spiral pad of paper that held my first attempts at poetry. And in sixth grade, I won the Fire Prevention Week essay contest. I can even remember the first line...Clang! Clang! Clang! Down the street raced the fire engine on its way to the burning house. And I also remember writing it – sitting at my mom’s feet, pencil in hand, notebook on my lap. “Mom,” I said, “I don’t know how to begin.”
Fast forward to high school English where I had the same teacher for several semesters. I loved writing essays about THE SCARLETT LETTER and WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I wound up marking the papers of fellow classmates as part of my job as the teacher’s assistant. I guess they trusted me – I was also the monitor for the dean of girls, but have to admit that once or twice I took advantage of that position by getting friends out of class when the dean needed more helpers.
In college, I majored in Education, but continued to love my English classes – until I registered for a class called The Romance of Chaucer. I found myself surrounded by English majors and we were required to read and write in Old English. YIKES! And that was the LAST English class I took.
What have you written?
So in 2010, I took a leap of faith and self-published SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD'S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING, AND COOKING.
I jumped into social media with Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, a website and a blog – even though before that, I only knew how to send and receive an email. I worked hard to get the book ‘out there’ – connecting with mom bloggers who would review it (somehow I even got a review from Library Journal and so the book did get picked up by many libraries, even though it was self-published), doing school visits and blogging my heart out until I had no time to write the stories that were crying to get out.
Of course, the blogging was not in vain – I discovered an amazing kid lit community and, in 2012, joined up with Julie Hedlund's 12x12 and Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday...and the rest is history. I also connected with another lover and writer of picture books, Emily Lim. When she invited me to speak at the 2013 Asian Festival of Children’s Content/SCBWI conference in Singapore, although I had hesitations (having NEVER flown internationally before and having been for most of my life, although no one believes me, a very timid person), I took another leap of faith and went. Meeting authors and illustrators and other children’s content creators from all over the world was an amazing experience – an opportunity of a lifetime.
Last year in 2014, I devoted my time to taking several incredible writing classes – Susanna Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic, Kristen Fulton’s Non Fiction Archaeology, Jodell Sadler’s Pacing Picture Books to WOW, Renee LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab and Mira Reisberg’s Illustrating Children’s Picture Books. (I also won a seat in Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for Kids – I started the class and loved it – but life got in the way – and fortunately, it is a self-paced course – I will definitely get back to it and finish because I know Emma’s lessons are critical ones for every picture book writer to learn).
And because of the encouragement and accountability of 12x12, I wrote and revised and submitted many stories. I also participated in quite a few writing challenges: Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo, Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo, Meg Miller’s ReviMo and Kristen Fulton’s WOW week, as well as Julie Hedlund’s How to Make Money as an Author and Katie Davis’ How to Create Your Author Platform – because being an author is so much more than writing your book. ☺ In addition, KidLit411 and Rate Your Story are go-to resources for writers like me.
So for 2015, I vowed to devote myself to writing, revising and submitting, as well as participating in the free writing challenges (this year, Carrie Charley Brown added ReFoReMo to the mix) that abound in this wonderful community. I’m on a path to find an agent because I want to see how life is for an author who has an agent and is traditionally published. I’m happy to say I’ve had some positive interest in a couple of my stories – please stay tuned for future developments.
Up until last year, I thought I would be a picture book writer – front and center! But then an opportunity came along to participate in an anthology of short stories for middle graders. I wrote one and loved it. And this year, a similar chance appeared on the horizon and so I wrote another. And when there was a seat available in Jodell Sadler’s new Innovate Action Pacing to WOW for MG/YA, I jumped aboard...and who knows where that journey will lead me.
Where do the your ideas come from?
The universe is generous, don’t you think? Although they say there are only seven stories in the entire world, there are an infinite number of variations. My ideas come from many places...recollecting events and feelings of my own childhood, observing and connecting with young children during school visits, spending lots of time with my six-year old grandson, challenges like PiBoIdMo, and everyday occurrences.
My husband is hilarious...he is constantly coming to me saying, “Hey, honey....here’s a great title for your next picture book!” And guess what? They are pretty darn good titles!
How do you deal with rejection?
Rejection sucks! My worst experience with rejection was many years ago. It had nothing to do with writing. But perhaps it helped me to understand that rejection is, as Donald Trump would say, only business...not personal.
My husband had left teaching to go into the financial planning field and asked me to get licensed for insurance, investments and annuities so I could be his back office support person. I decided that one of the products his company offered would be perfect for young families. I was so passionate, so enthusiastic, so naïve. Because I was very active in the PTA, I had a list of all the parents’ phone numbers and I started calling. Most of them knew me – all of them listened – none of them were interested. After a dozen phone calls, I’d had enough. I felt defeated. I felt deflated. I felt rejected.
But although it was a difficult lesson, I learned from it. I learned that it helps to have, not only enthusiasm for your product, but also confidence in yourself. I learned that they weren’t rejecting ME, they were rejecting what I was offering because I hadn’t shown them how it would benefit them. And I learned that you have to keep on trying.
So now when I get manuscript rejections, I see them as necessary steps to the ultimate goal of acceptance. If the agent or editor gives feedback, I pay close attention and look to see how I can incorporate their suggestions in order to strengthen the manuscript. I research agents and editors to make sure I am sending a manuscript that has a good chance of being the right fit. And I share my joys and disappointments with my critique partners who understand and support me and cheer me on!
Vivian Kirkfield loves being surrounded by picture books and children. A former kindergarten teacher, she has a master’s in early childhood education...and when she isn’t scribbling stories, she is hiking and fly-fishing with her hubby, reading, crafting and cooking with kids, and sharing self-esteem and literacy tips with parents and teachers. Although she is not a fan of heights and was a rather timid child, Vivian is constantly taking leaps of faith. In 2010, she self-published her award-winning parenting resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking...three years ago, she went skydiving with her son...in May of 2013, she flew half-way around the globe to speak at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore...and she is amassing a respectable pile of lovely picture book manuscript rejections. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a lover of books and reading, you can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, like her Show Me How page on Facebook, visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar or contact her by email.