Tips and Thoughts from Author Lynne Marie
Our Owner and Administrator (as well as our Resident Guest Guru), Lynne Marie, shares her insights about children’s books, writing for children, and more!
1. What do you LOVE about children’s books?
Oh, so much! I view books as rabbit holes filled with shared experiences of a variety of inaccessible or accessible things – whether they be mythological creatures, wonderful worlds, familiar or exotic places, wild animals, extinct creatures, fantastical occurrences, superheroes, amazing monsters, alternate lives, emotions, and inspiring events – the possibilities are endless and the opportunities are there!
2. What brought you to children’s books?
Hmmm. I love reading all genres, but I am drawn to an age where the world is still wondrous and has endless possibilities – the magic and imagination of childhood. I love the strong words and evocative phrases in picture books. These can create important images, whether personal or universal, that can miraculously be experienced on a page or series of pages, rather than in the course of reading an entire novel. Children’s books may be short, but speak volumes.
Also, I love kids and being a kid so writing for children is such a fun vocation to have.
3. Name something you loved / enjoyed as a child?
I loved when we would gather on my parents’ bed on a weekend morning and my father would tell stories about himself growing up as a child. I loved feeling like I was there in his world and then could come quickly back to my own world of stuffed animals and toys. But as far as things, likely my favorites were crayons, coloring books, books, games and my loveys. Other favorites were my Winky Dink Magic Window, Colorforms, Playdoh and Fun Factory, Little Kiddles, Creepy Crawlers Thing Maker, Droodles, puppets and Farbs. Sorry if that’s more than one “something” but there is so very much I loved about being a child. Oh, and my pets. I had dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils and mice. I wish I could have been one longer! I would have definitely gotten a guinea pig :) But also monsters! From an early age, my favorite shoes were The Addams Family and The Monsters!
4. 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?
As an Editor for a small press, the most important things I look for is a child’s door into the story and also story, including story structure and conventions. And flow. Of course I have favorite topics, but if an author can pull me through the kid door toward a topic I didn’t even know about or think I liked, that is amazing! I’m also enthralled if it’s a recycled story, but new and different – a fresh and unique take on a favorite topic or theme.
5. Share a story that you love and why (or if you are an Editor or an Agent, a book you simply had to acquire).
One story I acquired is a cowboy tale with a female cowgirl, which reads like a folktale about the origin of chili and is chock full of southern culture and good food! This was new and different and yet had a favorite familiar theme – necessity is the mother of invention.
6. What is a common issue with the submissions you receive?
We see so many repeated issues over at Dancing Flamingo Press and also at RateYourStory.org. But I recently discussed this with a colleague and we agree that the primary concern was that the stories weren’t kid-friendly and were infused with adult pov, rather than the POV of a child. The next might be that even if it is a good idea, it was poorly told. To help with both of these issues, I recommend reading a picture book a day, attending RateYourStory’s Mentor Text Talk (for Non-Member information, e-mail RYS.CyberOffice@gmail.com with MENTOR TEXT TALK in the subject line), and also reading your story aloud before submitting. Preferably, having someone else read it aloud ;)
7. Our Rate Your Story 2022 Word of the Year is Professionalism. In terms of becoming a writer, what does this word mean to you?
There are so many necessary facets to this word in this industry, but primarily, it means the ability to take, be open to and navigate feedback in an adult and gracious manner. It makes me sad that I don’t always see this.
8. Please share a Submission tip with our Members.
From my point of view (and I’ve always had this thought), a poorly-written or rushed submission is a wasted opportunity. You should always put your best foot, and your best work, forward. If it’s not ready, it’s just not ready, and you’re helping to contribute to why many editors and agents only take solicited or agented submissions. Plus the editor or agent may remember you in a negative, rather than a positive light. SIGH.
As to knowing when a manuscript is ready, I do think that Rate Your Story can be helpful. But I wouldn’t rely on just one Judge giving it a 1. I would recommend polishing the submission and submitting to up to two more Judges to get a true consensus. Just recently, a Judge rated a story a 1.5 (it was a truly promising and unusual story, which is a rare gem), but it really, in my opinion, needed a lot of work, and it got a considerably lower score from me. So was it a good idea? YES!!! Was it ready to send? NO. The way to navigate feedback when you get differing opinions like this is to see if the feedback from the lower rating objectively makes sense. Think of it like this – it’s a critiquer now, or a reviewer later. So take care of potential issues on the back end and make your story the very best it can be! Read Fred Koehler’s January interview and give the editor or agent all the rests to say Heck YES!!!
9. Please share a Revision Tip for our Members.
Once you feel you have gotten your manuscript in tip top shape, put it away - for a week, a month, or even longer, and work on something else. When you reapproach it, do so with objective, open eyes.
Also, try the feedback even if you don’t necessarily agree with it. You have nothing to lose and perhaps a better story to gain.
10. Name subjects you would like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.
I love fractured folktales, fairy tales and myths, and stories about culture and/or set in different countries. I would love to see more diverse stories, and by that I mean the true meaning of diversity, as follows:
1. the state of being diverse; variety. "there was considerable diversity in the style of the reports"
2. the practice or quality of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, etc. "equality and diversity should be supported for their own sake"
So ALL the valuable, share-worthy stories with kid-appeal from all over the world. No parameters – the sky’s the limit. Maybe not even the sky – I do love stories about planets and alien life, too! And, stories about food LOL
11. Name subjects you would not like to read about, or, if you are an Editor or an Agent, see in your in-box.
I’m not a big fan of stories without a story, without plot and/or character arcs, or preachy stories. I particularly don’t enjoy stories that have a heavy-handed adult agenda or POV.
12. Share a fun fact about YOU!
I have been all over the world, including, the Bahamas, Belgium, Belize, Canada, Cuba, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Grand Cayman, Great Britain (England), Greece and the Greek Islands (Iona, Poros, Santorini), Haiti, Hawaii (The Big Island, Oahu & Maui), Holland, Honduras, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico (Cabo San Lucas, Cancun, Cozumel, Puerto Vallarta, Yucatan), Monaco, Nova Scotia (and Cape Breton), Puerto Rico, Romania, Russia, Scotland and Islands (Mull, Iona, Orkneys), Spain, St. Barthelemy, St. Maarten, Sweden and MORE! My next trip will include Italy, Israel and Greece (Rhodes, Santorini and Mykonos).
The reason I share all this, is when I travel, I am always asking people about their stories and trying to learn about the culture through them, and even find story ideas to share with others.
My latest offer from a publisher is for a story that I wrote in 1998 after three weeks in France. Like fine wine, every story has its time and it isn’t always quick! So don't give up -- work hard, read, do your research, read more, revise and re-vision, and stay on the path!
ABOUT LYNNE MARIE:
Lynne Marie is the 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 and Scholastic 2019) and Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World -- art by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books 2019), American Pie (Dancing Flamingo Press 2022), There Was a Blue Whale Who Tangled with Plastic (Dancing Flamingo Press 2023) and more forthcoming. She’s also the Owner and Administrator of RateYourStory.org and ThePictureBookMechanic.com, as well as a Travel Agent. Lynne Marie is represented by Marisa Cleveland of www.theseymouragency.com
ON TWITTER: @Literally_Lynne
AUTHOR FACEBOOK PAGE: Children's Author Lynne Marie
VISIT THE AUTHOR’S BLOGS:
My Word Playground (Writing and Reading for Children)