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!
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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