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Meet June Guest Guru - Sarah Hovorka



1. What do you LOVE about children’s books? 


I love that children’s books are about such a wide range of topics. From picture books about the life of a rock or dealing with the loss of a loved one, to middle grade books about being the only human left on the planet or attending a summer musical camp, there’s something for everyone. And there’s a lot for people who like to read everything.



2. What brought you to children’s books? 


I started writing adult fiction, which I occasionally still do, but at the time I was getting serious about writing I had been reading children’s books with my kids for many years. Picture books, especially, were very prevalent in our daily routine as I used them extensively while homeschooling. I think my brain received a lot of “training” to think that way, so stories started popping out of my head in that format. I found that my voice works really well for children’s literature, and I love writing it.


3. Name something you loved / enjoyed as a child?


I was the kid (and adult) who took a book everywhere with her, walked to school with my nose in a book, and loved going to the school library. Besides reading, I enjoyed roller skating as a child and would make up dance routines on skates.


4. What do you look for in a project to make it a favorite?


I love books that make you think, offer a new idea or different perspective, or is told in an interesting format. I value the way a story is told just as much as, maybe more, than what a story is telling.



5. Share a story that you love and why.


Right now, I’m loving The Wild Robot trilogy by Peter Brown. It’s an unexpected mash up of a robot story and a survival story, and I love that the story is so thoughtful.


6. What are common issues in manuscripts that don’t work. 


I’ve critiqued a lot of stories and the most common issues I’ve seen fall into two camps: writing and storytelling. On the writing side, the most common issue (and an easily fixed one with practice) that makes a manuscript fall flat is not using strong words, especially verbs, or evocative language. On the storytelling side, the most common issue is not having one main plot, message, theme, or structure from the very beginning of the story that carries through all the way to the end. 


7. Our Rate Your Story 2024 Word of the Year is Professionalism. In terms of becoming a writer, what does this word mean to you?


To me, professionalism means being polite and thoughtful towards others. In terms of becoming a writer, one of the hardest hurdles towards professionalism is learning to take criticism of your work and objectively deciding how to address criticism. Your work will be constantly criticized starting with other writers critiquing a first draft to editor critiques when preparing for publication, and eventually reader critiques in the form of reviews. It’s important for a professional writer to take all this criticism politely and thoughtfully.


8. Please share a Submission tip with our Members. 


Don’t worry too much about the author bio section of a query letter or submission package. Many new writers try to fit in any possible writing related credential in their author bio and worry that it’s not enough. Editors and agents understand that new writers won’t have a lot of credentials in their bio. Instead, focus more on the pitch of your story. Nailing that not only helps sell your story but helps sell you as an accomplished writer.


9. Please share a Revision Tip for our Members. 


Consider all comments or critiques of your story in depth while revising, even the ones that seem to have completely missed the mark. Something did not flow right for that reader, and even if their suggestion isn’t the direction you want to go, look further back in your story to figure out why the reader felt compelled to make that comment. If you are revising before reader feedback, look especially closely at any misgivings you may have about your story, even if you think readers will probably get it. If you, as the author, aren’t sure about something, even if it’s something small, readers won’t be either. 


10. Name subjects you would like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box. 


I want to read more realistic science fiction in the chapter book realm that doesn’t lean heavily into action or humor. There are so many wonderful science fiction picture books and increasingly more middle grade science fiction, but the science fiction chapter book space is still mostly silly and unrealistic (think space battles). Those are great, too, but science fiction is an opportunity to meld high interest topics, like robots and space, with thoughtful messages that children of all ages can appreciate.


11. Name subjects you would not like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.  


This is only a personal preference, but I don’t often want to read sword and sorcery type fantasy. It’s an oversaturated market and the storylines tend to be very similar. There has to be something very unique about a sword and sorcery fantasy to catch my attention.  



12. Share a fun fact about YOU! 


I am surrounded by boys! I grew up with a single father, I have three brothers and no sisters, and now I live with my husband and three sons. I’m used to being “weird.”


Also is there anything in particular you want or don't want to give rating and

feedback on?


I would love to see disability representation but I’m pretty open to providing feedback on most things. I would not be a good fit for providing feedback on poetry, though.






Sarah Hovorka is the author of picture books, novels, and short stories for children. In addition to writing, Sarah works in the public sector and spends her free time reading, homeschooling, and playing video and board games with her husband and three sons in California. You can find out more about her, her books, and follow her blog at www.SarahHovorka.com or connect with her on:


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