Author Spotlight: Linda Vander Heyden





April 15. 2016

Today we present debut picture book author, LINDA VANDER HEYDEN! Linda is the author of the picture book, MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHS. Don't forget to enter to win a signed copy of her book!


Welcome, Linda!


Tell us about yourself and how you came to write picture books.


I feel very fortunate that our mother read to us when we were kids. I fell in love with books the moment I heard my first nursery rhyme! I remember checking out stacks of stories from the library—stories that took me to magical places!


In the blink of an eye, I was reading to my own kids, giving voice to each character. I remember nodding off while reading, only to feel a little elbow jabbing me in the ribs… “Wake UP, Mom!”

I wrote my first story in grade school. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t until our kids were grown that I began writing more seriously. I took a formal writing class, focusing on research and essays. One night while writing, I began to feel tired and looked at the clock. It was 4:00 in the morning! That’s when you know you love what you’re doing.

I enrolled in creative writing classes and rekindled a love of poetry. I was over the moon when some of my poems were published. Writing picture books feels similar to writing poetry. Each uses spare, sometimes lyrical language. Every word matters. And each connects on an emotional level with the reader.


Congrats on your debut! Tell us about the book and what inspired it.


Thank you! In MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHS, Mr. McGinty and his dog, Sophie, are on a mission to save the monarch butterflies! 


All summer, they’ve watched the beautiful butterflies sipping nectar—and tracked the caterpillars as they munched milkweed. But one day, Mr. McGinty and Sophie find the milkweed cut and the caterpillars in danger! What will they do? With some creativity and the help of local schoolchildren, they’ll rescue the monarchs!


I was inspired to write MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHS after taking a walk and finding the lush milkweed on the sides of our quiet road had been mowed. Milkweed is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat and the only plant the butterfly uses to lay her eggs. 

Without milkweed, monarchs cannot survive. I gathered caterpillars, hoping to save them. I couldn’t imagine a world without monarchs.

Do you have a science or environmental background? What kind of research did you do for the story?

I don’t have a formal education in environmental science, but I’ve always had a fascination and respect for nature. I did a lot of research about monarchs before and while writing this story. I learned about their lifecycle, migration, and threats to their survival. 


Last summer, we raised monarchs (many from eggs), which was very educational (and fun). We raised and released over 60 healthy monarchs!

What are your next projects?


I’m working on new picture book manuscripts. I also have another nature story that has been nudging me for a long time. I think I’m ready to work on it again and see if I can find that emotional connection with the reader.


What is the hardest part about writing a picture book?


I love the process of revising—tightening and polishing a manuscript—but endings are challenging for me. Every now and then, the perfect ending pops into my head. Usually, though, it’s elusive!


What is the easiest part?


I’m not sure there really is an easy part. I think picture books look easy but are difficult to write. If I had to choose something that may come a bit easier to me, I enjoy writing stories using lyrical language – probably why I also love poetry!


What advice would you give to aspiring authors?


Writing to publish can be an emotional roller coaster. There may be times when you feel like giving up, but the only way to succeed is to keep working and keep trying. You’ll need patience—lots of patience. 


I’d recommend joining SCBWI for the many opportunities it offers writers and illustrators. Join a critique group. Read lots of books in their chosen genre. Attend SCBWI workshops and conferences. 

And most important, do not let your desire to be published overshadow your joy of writing.

What is one thing most people don’t know about you?


Hmmm…Probably, most people don’t know I rescue frogs from the horse paddock and take them to our neighbor’s pond. (Frogs seem a lot faster these days!)


Where can people find you online?


My website address is:  http://www.lindavanderheyden.com/




Linda Vander Heyden has always loved quiet country and woodlands. As a child, she spent summers at her family’s cottage, fascinated by frogs and dragonflies (but not the pinching ants). She hopes her story, MR. MCGINTY’S MONARCHS, will inspire others to protect and save the monarch butterflies. Linda Vander Heyden lives in Wisconsin with her husband, two dogs, two cats, and two horses.     





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52 comments:

  1. This looks like a delightful book and will put on my must read book.

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    1. I agree. They are amazing! I think more and more people are planting milkweed and trying to help them. Hopeful for their future!

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  3. This looks so engaging, and I always loved teaching my students about Monarchs- they are so magnificent! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Carrie! Kids have such an appreciation of nature. I love to see their faces light up while sharing about monarchs!

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  4. I love how relevant this book is--we do need to save the monarchs--and that Mr. McGinty has a practical way of saving these gorgeous butterflies.

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    1. Thanks, Wendy! Mr. McGinty is a gentle soul. :)

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  5. I got a peek at this book earlier this week when Miranda Paul brought it to a Highlights workshop! GORGEOUS message and book.

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    1. Thanks so much, Wendy! I was so excited to see Mr. McGinty at Highlights. I'm very grateful Miranda brought the book with her and so glad you liked it and found it relevant!

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  6. Linda - Congratulations on your new book. I liked what you said: "Do not let your desire to be published overshadow your joy of writing." So true!

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    1. Hi Darlene, thanks for your good wishes. I think after writing and submitting for a long time without finding that perfect publishing fit, it can become frustrating. That's when I think it helps to remember the joy writing can bring in and of itself. I am grateful we belong to this supportive community of writers!

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  7. Yes, the process of writing is the most important thing to me. I can't imagine a life without creating stories.

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  8. I love Monarch Butterflies and how they migrate. I've captured photos of them as catterpillars on milkweed and even made a photo collection for my mom for mother's day.

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    1. That sounds amazing. I'll bet your mom loved it!!

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  9. What a wonderfully sweet story! Congratulations and much success, Linda.

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  10. Congratulations! I look forward to reading this book.

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    1. Thanks, Melissa. I hope you enjoy it. I think Eileen Ryan Ewen did a beautiful job with the illustrations. It was her first picture book too!

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  11. Sounds interesting, thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Rosie. Hope you enjoy the story. :)

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  12. Linda,
    Congratulations on your debut and thank you for offering the raffle prize. The book sounds great. I love monarchs.
    Dee

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    1. Hi, Dee. Thanks for your good wishes. Happy to offer the raffle prize. Good luck in the drawing!

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  13. I love monarchs! Congratulations on your book!

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  14. I love monarchs! Congratulations on your book!

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    1. Thanks, Kristi! Monarchs are truly amazing. I can't imagine a world without them!

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  15. Agents are already usung your book in there classes. I just learned about MMM the other week and added it to my To-Be-Read list. Congrats and I can't wait to see what comes next.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this, June! I didn't know Mr. McGinty is being used in classrooms. Very happy about that. I hope kids love the story and feel they can help the monarchs too!

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  16. This is a wonderful topic for kids with great classroom tie-ins. I know many kindergarteners raise butterflies in the classroom. Congrats Linda!

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    1. Thanks, Kirsten! Last year volunteers reached out to nine schools in our district and taught many 2nd grade students about monarchs. "Monarch Monday" was a wonderful success! So much fun! I would love it if schools used Mr. McGinty's Monarchs as a companion book when talking about the environment.

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  17. Sounds interesting, thanks for sharing!

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  18. So happy for you! This book looks wonderful. I will be sure to read it.

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  19. Linda I so look forward to reading your book!It's so popular at my local library in California, I'm on a month wait list:).

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    1. Wow! I'm glad it's being checked out a lot. Hopefully, they'll get more copies in!
      I learned that San Antonio was named the first Monarch Butterfly Champion City by the National Wildlife Federation! Here is the link (hope it works) :)

      http://therivardreport.com/san-antonio-to-become-first-monarch-champion-city/

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    2. Hi, Theresa, I am very excited to hear your library has Mr. McGinty's Monarchs and that it's being read by lots of kids. Hopefully they'll make more copies available!

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    3. Sorry for some deleted comments. For some reason, it seemed to be duplicating some of my responses so I tried deleting the duplicates.

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  20. I can't wait to read this book! It looks like such an engaging story.

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  21. Loved this interview! Congratulations on your wonderful book!

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    1. Thank you, BJ! I hope you enjoy the story!

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  22. This will be an important book--inspiring children to make a difference in their own neighborhoods to help our environment. Looking forward to reading and introducing it to students.

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    1. Thank you, Lisa! And thank you for sharing it with your students!

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  23. Can't wait to read this book. Congratulations!

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  24. This looks like a book I'm going to love! We have a monarch preserve near our home - it's incredible to see thousands of monarchs 'hanging out' together. Congratulations!

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    1. That sounds amazing, Jill!! We don't have a preserve nearby. Mostly, I find caterpillars and eggs on the milkweed in our pasture. I'd love to turn one of the pastures into native plantings with lots of milkweed and nectar plants. I hope you enjoy the book!

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  25. This looks wonderful! My kids and I had fun last summer making milkweed seed balls and spreading them around.

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    1. That does sound like fun! I love how enthused kids are about nature! Thanks for helping the monarchs!!

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  26. Congratulations, Linda! Best of luck with your next manuscript. I'm so happy for your success.

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    1. Thank you so much, Debbie! Are you from Iowa? :)

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