Celebrating Seasons, Chapter Books and More with Heather Macht
I’m throwing confetti in the air to celebrate fellow #SeasonsOfKidLit Co-host (and creator) Heather Macht and her latest releases!
One of the many things we share, besides our love for holidays, is a love for monsters, so you can imagine I was howling at the moon over her chapter book series entitled, Woodlot Monster Mysteries!
Mark your calendars as Heather will be our special Guest at our January 29, 2023 Mentor Text Talk and she will be reading a chapter of one of her books. I know many of you are curious about this genre and Heather is happy to share her insights. You can join us here: Mentor Text Talk by RateYourStory.org | Facebook for updated information and Zoom Link. As a reminder, replays are available (with unlimited access during the year) to 2023 Rate Your Story Members only. Click the link to get your benefit access.
Lynne Marie: First of all, please share a little bit about yourself and your writing journey prior to landing your first chapter book deal for The Woodlot Monster Mysteries.
Heather Macht: Thanks so much for having me, Lynne Marie! I’m thrilled you invited me here.I knew I was going to be an author ever since I was a senior planning to graduate high school in the year 2000. I remember announcing it to my entire art class. Of course, no one believed me at the time. I was a gothic girl who wore a spiked leather necklace to school! One classmate quipped: What are you going to write? My first nightmare?! I have to laugh…it’s honestly a catchy title. Maybe I should take him up on that. Lol
After graduation, in between work and college, I studied picture books (primarily) and practiced writing whenever I could. I remember checking out stacks of picture books in my twenties, and getting a few glances over my book choices. :)
The research definitely paid off many years later when I had time to seriously start writing and querying. My first book, You May Just Be a Dinosaur, was published in Fall 2015, and two more of my picture books followed shortly after. When writing, I felt my voice at times spoke more to a slightly older crowd, so I was eager to try chapter books. I’m so glad I went for it!
LM: Circling back to your most recent monsters, what was the publisher’s criteria for the series?
HM: The publisher’s criteria were pretty specific. It was an extremely fun writing project to work on. Each book in the series needed to be 900-1,000 words, 4 chapters, have strong characters, and fit into the Hi-lo category. Where this may sound simple, it’s quite challenging coming up with a full story in four short chapters.
LM: What inspired you to tackle this subject matter? Did you choose it? Did the publisher? Did you pitch several ideas? Inquiring minds want to know!
HM: As you know, I have this thing for monsters. So, I actually came up with the idea and pitched it to ABDO. This was my first idea pitched to them, BTW.A little background to this: my ultimate writing goal that I set for myself when I first started writing for children (over twenty years ago) was to have a dinosaur book (mission accomplished!) and a monster book published one day - one fitting for the Halloween displays in the bookstores. On top of that, I had always wanted to write about Chupacabras. I’m so excited ABDO said yes! And I’m so excited my Chupacabra idea found its way into print, along with other cool and lovable monsters including yetis, alicorns, swamp monsters, sprites, and aliens. This is seriously a dream come true.
LM: What was your process like in pitching these books? Did you complete one and give pitches for the others? How did the project change from submission to acceptance?
HM: Initially, I wrote the first book and came up with three short pitches for the next three I envisioned. I then sat on it all for a few years without submitting it to anyone.
When my awesome agent, Lynnette Novak, announced that she sold a series to ABDO, I asked if she wouldn’t mind submitting my pitch to them. She was happy to but asked me to add another two books to the pitches. That was really the only thing that changed from submission to acceptance (what an awesome change, too.) Still pinching myself that this fun series includes six books!
LM: What experience and resources did you draw upon to be able to effectively pull off a series like this?
HM: So, I may have watched way too many scary movies and The Labyrinth (shoutout to the Goblin King!) way too many times as a young girl. ;)
In all seriousness, I read and studied a lot of books like this. We all hear this echoed in every writing event we listen to or attend - but it’s seriously the best way to learn. Read what you want to write.
After reading and studying books for years, I felt I could write something similar, and I had just the idea in mind. I’m SO glad I went for something different (before this, I was solely focused on picture books).
LM: How does writing chapter books differ from writing picture books? How is it similar?
HM: The main difference for me is flow. When structuring chapter books, you really need to make sure the text flows as smoothly as possible. You cannot rely on or leave room for illustrations; you must rely solely on your text. Another thing to keep in mind is chapter books have older themes and more character development. Like picture books, you still need to have lovable and/or intriguing characters - especially when writing a series. You need to give readers a reason to pick up book 2, 3, and so on.
LM: Please share a tip with our readers for deciding on whether a book should be a picture book or a chapter book?
HM: This is a great question. I think it all comes down to concept. Do you have a lot in mind for your characters to accomplish in a book? If so, it may be better off written as a chapter book. For example, in The Peculiar Pawprints, book one in The Woodlot Monster Mysteries, Finley and Eva’s neighbor finds his chickens mysteriously sucked dry one morning (EEK!) and strange pawprints that lead into the woods behind his home. Finley and Eva set out for a hike to locate what animal, or monster, created these prints. Once they find it, they concoct a plan to keep any future chickens safe… their plan may be bologna-sandwich themed.
As you can see, I had a high concept in mind that would be challenging to fit into 500 words or less.
LM: Please share a writing craft tip with our readers.
HM: Jumping from picture books to chapter books, especially with a specific grade requirement in mind, can be challenging. It’s easy to start off writing too young or old for the target age group you had in mind. I love using readability calculators to help you make sure your writing is where you need it to be.
Bonus tip: If there’s a comp book you have in mind, but you can’t find its readability score online, you can type several pages into one of these. I’ve done this plenty of times and it’s been so helpful (and eye opening). Readability Calculator (wordcalc.com)
LM: What is on the horizon for you?
HM: I am so excited to announce that I have an announcement coming soon! Lol.
As you know with publishing, I can’t share too much yet. What I will say is my upcoming announcement involves something bigger! And, it features a wacky scientist and wackier creatures. I can’t wait to share more when I can. #StayTuned!
LM: Please share something special about you!
HM: I have a full-time day job at an IT company. Balancing work, being a mom and wife, and writing is difficult at times but totally worth it. Most of my writing (and blogging - shoutout to #SeasonsOfKidLit.com) occurs late at night after the kids are asleep, or early in the morning before the kids are awake.
LM: What is one question (and the answer) that you had hoped I had asked of you that I did not?
HM: You asked SO many amazing questions, so this is a tough one. How about:
Q: What’s your favorite grown-up book? What’s your favorite movie?
A: Simple! Same answer for both: Jurassic Park, of course!
Bio: Heather Macht, author of THE WOODLOT MONSTER MYSTERIES (ABDO, 2022), + more, is an active children's author who has been creating wild stories since the third grade!
She earned a degree in fine arts from Florida State College at Jacksonville and holds a career as an I.T. professional and a full-time mom. Macht’s an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, is the Owner/Creator of #SeasonsOfKidLit, and is a volunteer judge for Rate Your Story.
Macht is happily married and lives with her husband, kids, dog, and pet snake in sunny Florida.
When she's not writing, she dwells in poetry and picture books, and enjoys helping small creatures in need, painting beach scenes, and watching scary movies.
Facebook: Author Heather Macht | Facebook
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