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Meet the Guru: Lynne Marie



Our February Guest Guru loves so many things about Kidlit and has enjoyed learning many perspectives -- Writer, Author, Mentor, Editor, Agency Intern and Readers!


Lynne Marie serves as our back-up Guest Guru each month, but this month, is our Featured Guest Guru. That means she will personally be taking up to eight (8) Member submissions for rating and feedback. But Member or not, please read her Interview and take advantage of all the underlined takeaway tips and more. 


What do you LOVE about children’s books?


For me, children’s books provided a fun and interesting escape from boredom or even, at times, the real world. I was blessed with being an early reader, and since my mother worked at a library, she was happy to indulge my love for books.


But speaking as an adult reader, I still love the same things about them. In just a few pages of a picture book, we can travel somewhere else, learn something new, feel something unfamiliar, and befriend strange creatures – there’s endless possibilities of what the imagination can conjure in a picture book! 


Of course, I also read and enjoy chapter books, middle grade, young adult, new adult and adult novels, too! But I’ve always dabbled in art and have a passion for pictures, so picture books hold a special place in my heart. 


What brought you to children’s books? 


Despite my love for picture books, I started off with writing screenplays when I got my computer in 1992. I wrote drafts while reading books on writing them. However, my computer crashed after writing a difficult scene in Pictures of You that had required a lot of medical research, and I was done! Having lost all the hard work and passion I poured onto the pages left a bad taste in my mouth. So, I decided to write something of a length I could print out with each revision and reverted to my passion for picture books. Also, I had a young child and we read all the time, so it made sense. And here, I’ll share a tip for readers – use Google Docs so you never lose anything due to a hard drive crash


Share a little bit about your latest book. 


The Palace Rat (Yeehoo Press, 2023) was just one of the stories I wrote early on in my pursuit of learning to write for children. I embarked on my journey by going back to school for Children’s Literature / Writing for Children in about 1995 and wrote this in 1998 while vacationing in France. Along with Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (formerly School Bus Buddies), and The Star in the Christmas Play, it is one of the early ideas that bloomed into an actual book. 


This is important to note, as not all of our ideas at the onset of our journeys should or would become books. But this was a favorite idea because it combined so many things that I loved – folktales, rats, travel, France, the monarchy, strawberry picking, friendship, surviving the transition from one life to another, and storytelling. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that gave it many hooks


Henri is a unique and entertaining character who takes us on a journey and there’s much to like about this book with its nod to French History and love of storytelling, so I really hope readers will pick-up a copy and enjoy it! It also demonstrates several of the principals of picture book storytelling, so there’s a lot to mine! 


To learn more about which ideas to mine, Members and Non-Members should check out our Idea Forum: Putting Your Ideas On Trial.



Name something you loved / enjoyed as a child.


This is a great question and I hope that our readers will all answer it for themselves, as well! Lots of idea-fodder to be found here! I am going to take it one step further and share a few things I didn’t like. 


Likes: In no particular order – Books, dinosaurs, holidays (all, but particularly Halloween and Christmas), pets, dogs, cats, mice/rats, stuffed animals, games, my Grandmother, German Spaghetti, Disney World, pizza, Disney movies, cheese, Italy, Frankenstein, collections, rocks, spooky things, school, school projects, pigs, love, fairy tales, folktales, myths.  


Dislikes: Being adopted, meat, death, boredom, bullies, sickness, sharing a room (LOL - Broommates: A Bitter Boundary Battle comes from The Little Press in August 2024). 


Anyone who knows me or my books can see that I drew from many of my childhood likes and dislikes for my books. 


What do you look for in a project to make it a favorite, or if you are an Editor or Agent, to add a writer to your list?


Just to give some background, I have spent time as an editor for two small presses, as well as interned at two literary agencies. The answer is three-fold - it has to be an idea that I love, that is well written, and marketable/saleable. So if it’s a trifecta, it’s a favorite! 


But like many editors or agents, sometimes, I don’t know what I like until I see it. So being surprised by a manuscript and being made to feel something can make a favorite. 


For example, I love animals and hate death, so it’s surprising that I really loved the book The End of Something Wonderful: A Practical Guide to a Backyard Funeral by Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic and art by George Ermos. When something is unique, well written, and has an important message and/or the reader can connect with it in some way, it doesn’t actually matter whether they had a predisposition for it


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


I am open to almost anything except for books that are one note or agenda-driven. But I do tend to love books which are unique and funny and incorporate great storytelling. 


Share a story that you love and why. 

Another story that I love is Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman. This story deals with getting a new sibling. I am really able to connect with this as I was a spoiled 2.5 year old when I got a baby sister and since it upset my world, I remember not being happy about it. And I love the main character’s journey to looking at the sibling differently and coming to love it. So, there’s a connection with the main character and problem, it’s entertaining, has an important message, and lots of humor! These things are very important, and often overlooked in the stories we see. 


What is a common issue with the submissions you receive at Rate Your Story? 


As mentioned above, many of the submissions lack those qualities. Sometimes, a story is very gratuitous, meaning that it serves one master - the writer. It’s really important to appeal to the child reader and allow them to connect with the main character and problem (not just you)


Other common issues are that it is clear that the writer has not studied the craft nearly enough and is not reading in the genre enough. I’m not sure where the misconception began, but so many believe that they can decide to be, for example, a picture book author, and then just write what they view as a solid picture book. But it’s not so – and if you submit too early, you will get a “no” from someone who may have been a “yes” if the project had evolved to where it should be. Learning the craft of picture book writing takes time, energy, effort – blood, sweat and tears!


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


It means that there is so much more to writing a picture book than wanting to write, or even writing one. A well-written picture book is a diamond with many facets – writing, grammar, punctuation, storytelling, characterization, pacing, plotting, tension, deep dark moments, setting, a story problem or goal, action, poetic devices, scenes, sequels, page turns, marketability, and more! If you don’t know what any one or more of these terms are, it’s a good idea to roll up your sleeves and learn your craft. 


Please share a Revision Tip for our Members. 


Like in our upcoming webinar, How to Put Your Idea on Trial, you need to put every word of your manuscript on trial. Does it move the story forward? Does it accurately characterize the main character? Is it a strong word? Does the string of words flow when put in a sentence? Have you made good use of poetic devices? Do the scenes easily transition from one to the next? Are there engaging page turns? Is there tension? Have you told the story in as few words as possible without losing anything important? Is there a child door in? Would the child reader identify with the character and/or problem? Does the main character sound / feel like a child? Is the story one that needs to be told? Is it a fresh or unique telling? These are some things to consider. 


Please share a Submission Tip with our Members. 


I have always been a big fan of comp books and publisher research. So I would recommend reading 50-100 books on similar topics and then make sure that your book objectively stands up against and out among the best books on these topics. If not, you have to work with the story until it does. This may be according to the story’s timeline for growth, not your timeline, so keep that in mind, and perhaps allow it to ferment while you create another story. 


What are the benefits to submitting to a Guest Guru?


One big plus is that you can actually request a Guest Guru if you think your story or genre or writing style aligns with theirs. Of course, we can’t guarantee a spot if your story isn’t actually a fit, or if their spots are filled, so get your request in early. 


But another reason is that you can more easily filter feedback through the lens of the guru knowing their strengths and experience – and perhaps more readily try it on for size. 


It’s also a great way to learn more about Authors and their books, as you should surely explore their interviews, bios and books before requesting them. 


Tell us About Your Next Story


I have so many stories in my treasure chest of tales to pull from, but my “next” story hasn’t been written yet. In that I am a travel agent specializing in European Travel and Cruises, I am hoping to be inspired by my next trip to Holland / England / Scotland / Ireland / Wales, or to pull from one of my previous destinations, like Italy, Sweden, Romania or Russia to craft a new tale, perhaps something like The Palace Rat. But, now that I am mulling it over, I do have an idea for a story set in both America and Italy that I have been meaning to work on. Hmmm…


Share something you wish we had asked you about but didn’t! 


How many stories have you written – Hundreds! Writing is a craft and as such, it must be practiced. Some stories are just that – practice. And they are still valuable for that as they help you learn and grow in your craft through your mistakes. I see so many that have one story and do what I call “die on that hill.” It’s important to write and explore and find your path. How will you know it’s the best story you can write if you have only written one and don’t try other things? That’s something to think about. Exercise your muscle – write funny stories, sweet stories, serious stories, folktales, fairy tales, concept books, etc. Think of it like shopping and try many types of stories on for size to see which is the most comfortable / best fit! Enjoy the process!


Share a fun fact about YOU! 


I wanted to be an Author since the first grade and won my first writing contest when I was eight! For some reason I pursued becoming a Legal Secretary / Paralegal as Law is one of my interests, but the important thing is that I found my way back and paved my path to success. 


Bio: Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten (Scholastic 2011),

Hedgehog's 100th Day of School (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play (Beaming Books 2018 and 2023), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares, (Sterling/Scholastic 2019), Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World (Beaming Books 2019), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project (Mac and Cheese Press 2022), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project Coloring Book (Mac and Cheese Press 2022), The Palace Rat (Yeehoo Press 2023), Broommates, A Bitter Boundary Battle (The Little Press 2024), and more forthcoming. 


She’s the Owner/Administrator of RateYourStory.org, ThePictureBookMechanic.com, and a Travel Agent. In addition, she’s the Creator/Host of March On With Mentor Texts and Mentor Text Talk book chat on Sundays, and the Co-Host of #SeasonsOfKidLit (www.seasonsofkidlit.com).  She lives close to the magic in Central Florida with her family and a Schipperke named Anakin. Visit her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of www.theseymouragency.com. Follow her on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

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