Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Meet Our 2018-2019 Mentors: Picture Book Writers!

Meet our mentors from our Mentorship Program 2018-2019

Here’s what our Picture Book Text Mentors - Peggy King Anderson and Lois Brandt have to say.


Tell us a little bit about what you are working on now and your current projects.

Peggy: Right now, is an exciting time, as my new middle-grade historical fiction novel, Two-Moon Journey just came out three weeks ago.  So I am busy with the Book Launch party, guest blogs, and planning new school workshops to tie in with the book for the coming year.  But, of course, I still am writing, working on my monthly fiction series for Pockets magazine. The series is called Tree Frog Trail and features 4 different 11 and 12-year-olds (Nate, Marcos, Zoe, and Callie) and their adventures.  This month’s issue, titled “An Unexpected Welcome” features a computer-controlled quadcopter that accidentally activates inside the house. Needless to say, chaos ensues! 

Lois: I just finished up a picture book draft I am very excited about. It’s another odd book where I anticipate the response will be: “You wrote a picture book about WHAT?”  But I’ve come to accept that I write odd stories. Not odd to me. To me I’m writing about issues and events that let me expand as a writer and explore issues of social justice and friendship.  

How does being a mentor influence and inform your work and why do you do it?

Peggy: I love working with my picture book mentees!  Their writing projects are so varied, so often filled with humor and unexpected twists, I feel my own creativity expanding just working with them. And the questions they ask challenge me to learn more everyday about the picture book market, both growing trends, and unexpected pitfalls. Just this weekend I attended a writing conference, choosing a session with a picture book agent, specifically to gain new info to share with my mentees.  It turned out to be a delightful session, crammed chock-full of great ideas that I can’t wait to pass on to them. 

And yes!  The ideas I get from their picture book stories, often springboard me to find new possibilities and topics in my own middle grade writing. It’s amazing how this mentoring sparks idea back and forth, and in all directions.

Lois: Being a mentor renews my faith in the power of story to transform not only the reader but the writer. I love working with other writers and focusing all of their good energy on shaping a story that they love and are excited about.

We all have stories and ideas that we hold close to our heart and need to share. Shaping our stories after those first few drafts is an act of discovery and exploration.

What are some challenges you have encountered in your writing/illustration journey? How did you manage to survive through them and achieve success?

Peggy: I went for 16 years without having a new book come out.  My last book was 2002, and now, here I am in 2018 with a new book out, one that I love dearly, truly a book of my heart.  I did keep writing all through that time and was publishing pretty regularly in Pockets Magazine. But after my husband Ken died in 2006, I just couldn’t seem to get myself to do the marketing of my books.  I survived because I continued all through that time to love writing, and to keep doing it on varying levels: journaling, doing the magazine stories, and plugging along on at different times on two partially finished novels.  All through that time I had the love and support and encouragement of my dear writing group, the Diviners, who accepted me where I was, but kept me accountable to write, even if I wasn’t doing the marketing I should have been doing.

Lois: My biggest challenge is the internal editor. That little voice that tells me that my story isn’t good enough or, maybe the story is good but I’m not talented enough to write it. 

I belong to two critique groups. It is such a help to bring a story in and get feedback that supports your writing. The more you work with other writers, the more you realize that we all go through the drafting process, and hit some of the same roadblocks in trying to shape a story.

You can also have great discussions with other authors by asking them what their internal editor looks like. I think we all have different versions of the same fears, and it’s fun to describe and compare these little monsters.

What advice would you give to your beginner self who is just starting out to make a creative career? 

Peggy: Write something every day, even if it is just in your journal.  Allow that Chicken Soup of your life to simmer, as you scribble out your journal entries. Keep living life every day, keep those writing antennae up, to sense all the ideas, all the joy and sadness, and unexpected beauty in each day, and dump that into your journal soup pot as well. It will all keep simmering, and eventually you will have a rich broth, which you can ladle out to create all sorts of wonderful stories and books.  It will happen, if you persist!  As my 11 year-old grandson, Josh, has posted in his garage workshop: “Never, never, never give up!”

Lois: Pay attention to the stories close to your heart. The stories that make you laugh or cry or smile when you write them. These are your stories to tell.
Write to a schedule. I know that this doesn’t work for everyone, but try to write even a little bit every day. Keep the creative juices flowing.
Finish what you start.

For more details of the mentorship program check here.

For 35 years, Peggy King Anderson has taught writers of all ages. She loves it!  She was awarded the SCBWI (W. WA) Lifetime Achievement award in 2012. She’s taught creative writing both in colleges, and in conferences ranging from SCBWI, to the Highlights Foundation Writers Workshop in Chautauqua, New York. She has four published books, including THE FALL OF THE RED STAR (co-author, Helen Szablya), featured on Children’s Book TV. Her MG historical fiction novel, TWO MOON JOURNEY, is due for publication in fall of 2018. She writes a monthly fiction series, TREE FROG TRAIL, for Pockets Magazine. Check out Peggy’s website at www.peggyking.com

Years ago, Lois Brandt peeked into her best friend’s refrigerator and found empty shelves and one small carton of milk; her friend’s family didn’t have enough money to buy food. Maddi’s Fridge, Lois’ first picture book, is the result of that moment. Maddi’s Fridge has been universally praised by teachers, librarians, parents, and –most significantly — young readers. It is the recipient of a 2014 Christopher Award and the International Literacy Association’s 2015 Book Award for Primary Fiction, among other honors. When she is not working on her own projects, Lois teaches writers of all ages, helping her students tell the stories they hold close to their hearts. Learn more at https://www.loisbrandt.com/.

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