Introducing, Vivian Kirkfield...Our Newest Judge

Sweet Vivian literally needs no introduction! She's known for being a helpful and encouraging person in the kid-lit community and renowned for her books! We're so grateful to have this former Rate Your Story Member back on the other side of the fence to share her expertise with you all!

What brought you to children’s books? How long have you been writing?

I’ve had a love affair with books all my life. Growing up, I loved scribbling poems and little stories. As a kindergarten teacher and as a parent, I read picture books on a daily basis. But I never seriously thought about writing books until my son took me skydiving for my 64th birthday. When my feet touched the ground I knew that if I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I could do anything. At that moment I decided that I didn’t only want to read picture books...I wanted to write them. And the very next year, in 2012, I jumped into the kid lit world, joined 12x12 and began writing picture book stories.

Has your publication journey direction changed at all from the onset?

My first manuscripts were little rhyming stories about cowboys and animals and sibling rivalries. But in 2014, I took a class in writing nonfiction and fell in love with that genre. Now, most of the stories I write are narrative nonfiction biographies. However, this year, I’ve revisited some of those earlier manuscripts to revise them and hopefully have my agent send them out on submission.

Please tell us about the first book you published.

I’d written SWEET DREAMS, SARAH back in July of 2014, right after I finished that nonfiction picture book writing class. I sent it to Rate Your Story in September 2014 and got an 8. The manuscript definitely needed work. I revised and sent it again in November and got a 3. Making progress! I revised again and submitted it to the Rate Your Story contest in March 2015...and won second place!!! At that point, I knew I had a ‘winning’ manuscript and I submitted it to agents over the next few months. When I signed with Essie White in September 2015, she immediately sent it out and we had a book deal with Creston Books by the end of that year.

What genres of books will you be open to rating for Rate Your Story?

I’ve been very fortunate in having books in various genres published - so I feel comfortable giving feedback on fiction and nonfiction, either prose or rhyming.

List five things you look for in a successful story.

Opening lines that hook me in. Characters I can connect with. Pacing that keeps me engaged. An ending that satisfies. A topic that a child can relate to and that is kid-appropriate.

Name five subjects you love to read about.

Real people in history - especially those who overcame great obstacles and who were not properly recognized in their own time.

Little-known facts about famous people in history

Fractured fairy tales


SEL stories

Name five subjects you don’t want to read about.

Potty humor

What author has inspired you most on your journey?

Louisa May Alcott - I’ve read and reread Little Women over 100 times.

What do you feel is an important preliminary step before actually writing a story?

To be passionate about the story you want to write - and then to research the story, even if it is fiction

Please share a writing Tip for our Members.

Only one tip???

Use Mentor Texts

Create an ending that echoes the opening lines

Record yourself reading your manuscript and listen

Share a fun fact or two about YOU!

I went skydiving and climbed Pikes Peak even though I’m afraid of heights.

I walked under the sea and rode on a banana boat even though I’m afraid of the water and can’t swim.

Click On the Links to Buy Vivian's Books:

Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor

Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book

Pippa’s Passover Plate;

Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe; From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves; Pedal, Balance, Steer: Annie Londonderry, First Woman to Bike Around the World (2024).


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