The Palace Rat - A Riches to Rags Tale by Lynne Marie
Interview by Lisa Horn
RYS: To start close to the beginning - what was your favorite book as a child? Why?
Tough one! I was a fast reader who loved to read. My mother used to bring me to the library every day to keep me occupied. I’d bring home five books a day and read them all by the next day. So I could hardly pick just one! But a stand out is definitely E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web as well as Stuart Little by E.B. White, Lyle Lyle Crocodile by Bernard Waber, Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (it’s where I first fell in love with France!), Runaway Ralph AND Ramona The Pest by Beverly Cleary, The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf, The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, and of course nursery rhyme and fairy tale and folk tale collections (including stories like City Mouse Country Mouse). I believe these books help create my love for animal protagonists and spunky characters!
Rate Your Story: What was your inspiration for writing The Palace Rat?
Lynne Marie: A rat - Yes! An encounter with a rat who ran across the Marble Courtyard while visiting the Palace of Versailles with my family.
For more on that story, check out my Interview here:
RYS: What Advice do you have for those writing from inspiration?
LM: I consider inspirations to be seeds or starting points. To use a metaphor, I water, fertilize and provide sunshine for the seed and maybe at times, a loosely-tied support stick. But other than that support to help it stand up, I always strive to let it grow where it needs to grow and become what it needs to become.
The Palace Rat, for example, could have just been about a rat living the high life in the Palace of Versailles. However, unfettered, it became so much more! It transformed into a story about storytelling and blooming where you are planted. If I had tried to keep it contained in the palace, the idea never would have come what it was meant to become. I share this because I feel it’s a very important aspect of writing not to tether the original idea – let it become all it can be!
RYS: What are your feelings about rats/mice?
LM: Well, funny you should ask, but I would say based upon my reading tendencies above, that I have an affinity for rats. In fact, when I was four, I had a stuffed lovey which was a rat. He was black with a green belly, and I named him Ratfink. I am actually on the hunt for this vintage stuffed animal. I also had pet mice when I was older, named Salt and Pepper.
RYS: What was your approach to revision for this story?
LM: Since I started this story early on in my journey, I didn’t expect it to be ready for quite some time. I looked at becoming a children’s author as a business, and I went back to school to learn the craft. During those times there weren’t as many kidlit options, so I took college classes in Children’s Literature, Writing for Children, Introduction to Poetry, The Holocaust in Children’s Literature, Folklore and Fairytales, Mythology, Short Stories, Magical Realism, Literary Theory and a few others, and I enrolled in ICL (Institute of Children’s Literature). I truly thought of writing a story as a process and I didn’t rush it. In 2000, when I believed I had a solid foundation, I joined SCBWI for more practical information about the business. And I learned more. I didn’t start really focusing on submitting until many years later. I believe that waiting until my stories were truly ready informed my success. And of course, I cut my teeth on magazine puzzles, activities, poems, book reviews, rebuses, crafts and stories first so that helped, as well.
But as I learned and grew in my craft, I would take out The Palace Rat (the title never changed) periodically and revise according to what I had learned. Again, I truly believe it was a process, and I didn’t submit until many years later, when I was certain it had become the best it could be. It did get an encouraging rejection from Bloomsbury saying, “we might have picked this one up, but we just took on a book about a dog in Versailles.” I didn’t truly believe that, but three years later, they released Moi and Marie Antoinette!
RYS: Who was your biggest supporter when you began your writing career? Why?
LM: Me. I had to believe in myself and my talent enough to invest the time, money, inspiration, and perspiration necessary to become a published children’s author. That being said, it is encouraging to be a part of such a passionate, helpful and supportive community.
RYS: What are the most common mistakes you see in writers and how can they correct it?
LM: Writers not taking the time to learn their craft and not waiting until their stories are ready to submit. Through my long-time critique/mentoring service (www.thepicturebookmechanic.com), and as the director of Rate Your Story (www.rateyourstory.org), I see this so often. But to be specific, I see stories that don’t have kid-appeal and have too much adult point-of-view. My RX is to read children’s books and to really get to know the sensibilities of a child of the target age group. I host a weekly Mentor Text Talk with Rate Your Story on Sunday nights at 6:30 PM EST. It’s a good place to supplement your picture book reading. More details here: (9) Mentor Text Talk by RateYourStory.org | Facebook A story must be a delight to listen to and flow from beginning to end, and this is a good place to see what stories do or don’t have appeal and discuss why.
RYS: What is on your horizon that you are excited about?
LM: So many things! I am currently an Agent Mentee at The Seymour Agency and am looking forward to working my way up to Literary Agent! I am very excited at the prospect of bringing good writing and storytelling into the world, as well as being a literary fairy godmother to a writer's dreams!
Regarding Rate Your Story, I can't wait to see who the finalists are when all the judging is completed for our Summer Contest (ends September 10th). It has been a discouraging few years in many ways and we are happy to provide hope and recognition to stand out storytelling.
I am also super excited (along with Heather Macht) about Seven Spooky Sentences and our Trick-or-Treat Event over at SeasonsofKidlit.com. I love celebrations!
About the Author:
Lynne Marie is the award-winning author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten -- art by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic 2011), Hedgehog's 100th Day of School -- art by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play -- art by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books 2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares -- art by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling / Scholastic 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World -- art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019), The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project and The Three Little Pigs and the Rocket Project Coloring Book -- art by Wendy Fedan (Mac and Cheese Press 2022), The Palace Rat -- art by Eva Santana (Yeehoo Press 2023), Broommates co-written with Brenda Reeves Sturgis – art by Nico Ecenarro (The Little Press 2024) and more, forthcoming.
She’s formerly an editor for a small press and currently an Agent Mentee at The Seymour Agency. In addition, she’s the Owner/Director of RateYourStory.org, ThePictureBookMechanic.com, the Creator/Host of March On With Mentor Texts (www.rateyourstory.org/march-on) and Mentor Text Talk by Rate Your Story), a Co-Host of #SeasonsOfKidLit (www.seasonsofkidlit.com) along with Heather Macht, a Cybils Judge since 2016 (www.cybils.org) and a Feature Columnist at Children’s Book Insider (www.writeforkids.org).
When she’s not traveling the world in search of story ideas, she lives in the heart of Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and a Mini Pinscher named Marlowe Charlotte. Visit her atwww.LiterallyLynneMarie.com. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland and Jonathan Rosen ofwww.theseymouragency.com.
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