Author Spotlight: Vivian McInerny
|Photo Credit: Brianna Baggett|
We are excited to feature author Vivian McInerny and her debut picture book The Whole Hole Story illustrated by Ken Lamug (Versify Jan. 2021)
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Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
When my children were young, I filled blank books with words and drawings about our everyday life. My artistic talents never developed beyond doodle stage but the kids got a kick out of reading about their extra-ordinary days. Like the time my little girl took off her swimsuit and discovered she had tiger stripe tan marks. Or my tween “sang on Broadway,” literally belted out show tunes on the busy city street. Or when we baked “rich” cupcakes imbedded with coins for April Fools’ Day. The joke was on us because the dog scarfed down the baked goods and “made change” for days!
At bedtime, instead of reading, sometimes we’d make up our own stories. The stories evolved. My now grown-up daughters remain my best beta readers.
Congrats on your debut picture book, The Whole Hole Story! Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you! The Whole Hole Story is about an inventive little girl named Zia who discovers a hole in her pocket and imagines all its possibilities from a fishing hole to an elephant trap and a tunnel to the other side of the world. Zia envisions the hole bigger, deeper, full of water, turned on its side, and rolled downhill. It’s an adventure full of silly word play. I hope inspires creativity and smiles.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
My road to publishing was either a breeze or an arduous mountainous trek depending on my mood, ha. I started writing professionally in my twenties as a journalist. Deadlines are a kind of muse!
I covered the fashion beat which led in all directions. I followed doctors into the operating room. (Not for the squeamish!) I wrote stories about a young shoe designer as he moved from Oregon to New York to Italy. And I cried writing about his death from AIDS. I attended fashion week in New York twice a year as it morphed from a glorified trade show to a celebrity-packed gala and had the chance to talk to Beyonce, Sarah Jessica Parker, John Legend and enjoyed in-depth interviews with Diane Von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta, and so many more. So I’ve been writing for just short of forever.
Before I submitted The Whole Hole Story, I applied all my reporter skills to research agents and meticulously tailored every pitch. I received lots of nibbles but nothing solid. I put the manuscript away for years, rewrote it, re-researched, resubmitted, over and over again. In case you didn’t know — agents are always slammed.
Then I read a few articles about author Kwame Alexander who was developing a new imprint with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. He had a vision and exuded an energy I admired. Even though I didn’t exactly fit his wishlist, I went with my instincts and sent it to him anyway. A young editor pulled it from the slush pile and made an offer a month later.
Tell us about the illustrator.
I love Ken Lamug's work! He provided several character sketches and the Versify team weighed in, kept me in the loop, and asked for feedback. It was a thoughtful, engaging, and positive process. I’m so grateful for that! And I think Zia is adorable.
The book released during peak Pandemic which meant no book store appearances, no live signings, no IRL school visits. But I now have an intimate relationship with Zoom. Someday maybe we’ll marry. It will be a simple ceremony.
What projects are you working on?
I always have multiple projects going at once, a habit from my newsroom days. I have three picture book manuscripts and a YA novel ready to go. I also write fiction and nonfiction for adults published in small literary journals, and I continue to write personal essays for online and print publications. Balancing several books and articles at once means if I get stuck on one thing, I can jump to another. That’s either brilliant strategizing or expert-level procrastination.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
All the cliches! Read, read, read, write, then rewrite.
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I was once adventurous. At age 18, I traveled overland through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to Nepal. I wrote letters home but didn’t see my family for more than three years. I met my Welsh husband in India.
We’re still together.
Where can people find you online
Vivian McInerny is an author and independent journalist in Portland, OR. She’s a Fishtrap Fellow and Metropolitan Arts Commission grant recipient for fiction. Her short stories are published in several literary print anthologies including 805 Lit+Art, Dunes Review, Cardiff Review, and Literature for Life, an online curriculum aid for underserved schools in Los Angeles.
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