I met Margot through my Facebook children's writer's group: Teazurs. She'd been posting a lot of interesting blogs. So I reached out to get an interview.
She's got a lot of writing advice to share. Pay attention, this could help you, even balancing writing and time with your spouse. You can learn from this amazing writer.
Below are the questions I asked her:
1. How many books for the children's market have you written? Which one is your favorite and why?
I have written eleven books. 10 are rhyming picture books, and my latest is a mid-grade adventure,
Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble, set in the Aussie outback. This is my favorite book, because my latest is always my favorite.
Wild and Wonderful - rhyming e-series
4x Soft Cover Books -
My website has Video links to me reading snippets from each of my books + great reviews and trailers.
2. Why do logos help promote books?
A Logo is a STOP PRESS notice, or a sassy tease that points readers to your book. I love making logos for everything. They are fun to make, and really draw attention. I have one or more for each book + my critique service. They are terrific promo tools.
3. What is the funniest thing a child has ever asked you about writing?
During a school visit, one small boy asked me if I was old. When I told him I didn’t FEEL old, he said, “But you have white hair, you must be old.”
4. What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?
I am retired and so is my husband. So to compensate for the small aches and pains that maturity often brings ( note: I did not say old age!!) I go to bed late and get up when I feel like it. I am more of a night person, so retirement allows me this luxury.
Breakfast is whatever I feel like that morning – French toast, lox and bagels, oatmeal or scrambled eggs. I love my morning coffee and orange juice too. If the weather is warm and sunny ( you never know in Oregon), I sit out in the garden and admire 32 years of our handiwork, on approx an acre of land. The birds, bees, skunks, squirrels and deer know me intimately. The deer and I fight over the rose bushes, and whether they should be on the deer’s breakfast menu or not. If I am late out of bed the deer dines on rosebuds!
Awesome Down-under adventure for boys.
I wrote Taconi and Claude with the idea of HOOKING boys on reading. A sequel to it will be out later this year. Boys want action, fun and a fast pace.
6. Which one of your books has sold the most and why?
I am not sure at the moment. I think my rhyming, Horatio Humble Beats the Big D-dyslexia, might be the winner, but the new Taconi and Claude is catching up.
So many kids today have dyslexia or reading problems. Teachers and parents find Horatio encouraging and helpful – especially the included parent/teacher guide. It is a fun book even for kids who read well.
7. What is your favorite thing about visiting a school?
Asking kids about what they like to read and what they write. Then answering questions about what it’s like to write books, do research and find a publisher.
The older grades ask really in-depth questions. And it’s always fun to help them write a story if the teacher wants that.
8. When did you start writing and why?
I have written since grade school. The answer is simple: to not write is absolutely unthinkable!
9. If a newbie writer wanted manuscript help, what do you offer?
I have run a Manuscript Critique Service for years. Thanks to the Internet my clients are global. Most come recommended, or after finding my website and reading about my Manuscript Critique service.
I am also on Linkedin, a terrific place for contacting those with similar interests. I have a raft of recommendations from happy clients on my page there. If prospective clients have nor looked over my M.C. page I send them the link, and they can see what I offer, + a basic list of my fees – subject to change if a lot of extra time and work from me is needed.
This is the link to my M.C. page: http://myplace.frontier.com/~mfinke/Manuscript%20Critique.htm#crits
VIDEO Introducing my Manuscript Critique Service http://myplace.frontier.com/~mfinke/Manuscript%20Critique.htm#crits
Prospective clients e-mail me, we chat, and I ask them to send me their MS as a Word document attachment. After I read and evaluate their MS, I quote a fee for my services, and the help and guidance I can offer them. I work with picture books, easy readers, mid-grade books, YA and adult books. It is always a thrill when I hear that a book I worked on has been published. YEA!
10. How successful have you been in using SKYPE for school visits?
I spent some time researching how to go about it. I joined Edutopia and the Skype Newsletter. I also set up a Google Alert for anything to do with Skype. The Google alert sent me a ton of information, and combined with what I already know about actual school visits, I am ready to “rumble” as they say.
I have one school wanting a Virtual School Visit in October, and I am working on finding more schools that might be interested. Teacher and Librarian lists on some of the Social Networking sites have proved a good source of information.
Skype Virtual Visits are great for out of the way schools, or those not on the big name author routes. Be prepared to fit in with class needs and times. Negotiate everything, so that both the class, the teacher, and you get what you need from this fun way to reach out to future readers and writers. This is a link to my Blog page about VIRTUAL School Visits: http://virtualschoolvisits.blogspot.com/
11. What's the oddest thing a fan has sent to you in the mail?
Well, one little girl e-mailed that she had named her new doll after me.
Mostly e-mails that say they love a particular book. One daddy had read “Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind” to his daughter, and then asked if I would read a story he wrote for her. I did: and with a little help from me it ended up tight, terrific, and so cute it was eventually published.
12. How many rejections did you receive before you got published?
Way too many to count. Not all on the one book, I hasten to add. There is a saying among writers that you never become published until after you receive enough rejection letters to paper a small room. My bathroom wallpaper is a great conversation starter – all those rejections are now where they belong!
13. Do you have an agent? If so, would you recommend having one and why?
No, I do not have an agent. When I was first published I longed for an agent, and sent out reams of query letters begging to be taken up and touted to publishers everywhere. No takers. Now that I am well published and have Critique Clients popping into my IN box daily, I don’t have time to look for one. My spies (other writers) tell me that agents are harder to snare than publishers. They now have their own slush piles, and are so picky that Shakespeare, Charles Dickens and Khaled Hosseini would probably receive fast rejections.
If you write YA or adult books, I think having an agent is vital. It also helps for some midgrade fiction, especially if you have a series. If the right agent came along I would definitely be interested, but so far I have done pretty well without one. An agent can help you get a better deal in your contract, and possibly more overseas interest and book translations. But a bad agent is NOT like a bad haircut – fixed in a couple of weeks. You can have a book stuck with them forever. The right agent, one that has the same goals for your career, is a treasure to hang onto – truly golden.
14. What do you think of the state of publishing today?
I love all the new innovations and technology – may it grow and prosper. Of course for anything great to develop there are upheavals in the establishment, and publishers that balk at the thought of change. But there is room for ALL to survive and thrive – paper books, eBooks, eReaders, POD and traditional. It will just take time to shake out. Look at the industrial Revolution. Or when Ford brought out the first automobile. “Ye gads. What twaddle is this? Nothing will replace the horse and buggy!” Talk about famous last words: – but it WILL take a while.
15. Do you own an e-reader?
Now that my young teen adventure “Taconi and Claude” is on Kindle Fire and my Rattlesnake Jam (PB) is on Nook - YES!!
16. What's your blog about?
HOOK Kids on Reading – http://hookkidsonreading.blogspot.com/ is where parents can find great books for their kids, and writers can pick up a few clues about writing books that will HOOK kids on reading.
Margot’s Magic Carpet – http://perfectmagiccarpet.blogspot.com/ is where all my books, irrespective of publisher, can be viewed on the one page.
17. How can my readers help you to become an even bigger success?
That’s easy, mate. Buy my books, read them to your kids, and then e-mail me what they loved, and what went right over their heads. Constructive criticism from kids is really eye opening. I wish publishers had a panel of kids they ran prospective books through, before they published them. Those editors might get a rude surprise.
18. What do you do outside of writing for fun?
Travel, garden, spend time with my wonderful husband and 7x grand kids, and of course read, read, read. It is so easy to become immersed in your writing, promoting etc… that all else fades from your consciousness. So my husband and I have a deal. I quit every night at 8pm and spend the rest of the evening with him. He in turn (now retired) takes a lot of the daily chores off my hands so I have more time for my passion. It must be a good plan, because it has worked for 40 happy years.
19. Who is your biggest cheerleader?
Not my kids or my husband. They think it is great I am published and happy helping others become writers, but you won’t find them helping me promote my books.
Writing is Mom’s thing! Other children’s authors make up my cheering squad. Writers I have known for years. We support and celebrate our successes, and mourn every rejection letter and book that fails to sell as we had hoped. A terrific band of mates who are very generous with the time and effort they put in on behalf of others.
20. What authors would you recommend to your readers?
Dotti Enderlie, Madeline L’Engle, Bev Cook, Roald Dahl, Nicole Weaver, Avi, Mayra Calvani, Kevin Collier, Mary Jean Kelso, Bill Kirk, Jane Yolen, Tomie DePaola, Kate DiCamilo.
There are many more...
21. What one word best describes you?
Thanks for letting me visit with you and your kind readers.
Books available through Amazon, B and N, Target etc.
*Autographed books through my website.
*HOOK Kids on Reading: http://hookkidsonreading.blogspot.com/
*Margot’s Magic Carpet: http://perfectmagiccarpet.blogspot.com/
*Virtual School Visits SKYPE makes it happen: