Tell us something about yourself?
Many years ago, I owned a pet store in Australia, and sold tropical fish and goldfish. My husband, Alan, an American from New York, had set up a wholesale fish hatchery in Queensland, the state where I lived. I was his first customer – and the rest is history!!
We married, had 3 kids, and after 7 years, we packed up and came to live in Oregon. We’ve been here almost 30 years, now. Alan had gone to college here, and always wanted to live in Oregon. I love it here – the mountains, the snow, the rivers, forests and waterfalls – even the rain!
Our kids are now grown , and have presented us with four grandchildren: the light(s) of my life I confess!
I didn’t begin serious writing until our son left for college – then, I ran out and bought my first computer. It had a HUGE 1 ½ gig hard drive: and I wondered why it always crashed!!!
How did you come to write “Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind?”
Ruthie was a story that just popped into my head, like many of my stories, one night when I couldn’t sleep. I knew many children often suffered deep emotional trauma due to sudden changes in their lives – whether due to a death, a move, or a divorce etc. I tiptoed into the bathroom, where I kept paper and pencil, crouched on the toilet seat, and scribbled the bare bones of it down, so I wouldn’t forget it by morning.
Gems that appear to me in the night often fade by morning, so my midnight bathroom writing happen often. I thought Ruthie’s plight would make a fun picture book on one level, yet on a deeper level, also offer comfort, support, and guidance to both needy children and their parents – a two-fer if you will. Hopefully, the kids who need help will identify with Ruthie and root for her. And the Parent-Teacher guide provides a Q & A kids can answer about Ruthie and her behavior, plus links parents or teachers might find helpful.
Why did you decide to write it in rhyme?
I didn’t choose to write “Ruthie” in rhyme. That’s just the way the story flowed onto the page. I must confess. . . rhyme comes easily to me, and many of my characters choose to face the world in rhyming mode. The big PLUS, when using rhyme, is that it’s FUN. Children seem to absorb rhyming facts and details faster and easier: think of those old nursery rhymes we all still remember.
Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
A Broken Shard, Holes, The Sign of the Seahorse, Alice in Wonderland, The Lovely Bones
Gennifer Choldenk , Steve Young, Terry Prachett, Louis Sachar.
There are many more as well.
If you could be reincarnated as any writer you want, who would you pick?
Charles Dickens. I once went three stations beyond my own, and had to walk five miles home in the blazing sun, in high heels, because of him. “A Tale of Two Cities” has a lot to of blisters to answer for!!
How did you get started writing?
When we first arrived in Oregon, our kids were small. I didn’t want them to forget their Aussie heritage, so I put a National Geographic map of the Aussie animals on their bedroom wall. Each night, before they went to sleep, I would tell them a story about one of the animals, right off the top of my head.
After they went to school, I became a teacher’s-aid, and I often talked to classes about Australia, and it’s weird and wonderful critters. I told my animal stories to the classes as well. After a while, hands would shoot up, and kids would say, ” But Mrs Finke, the ending was different last time!!” My teacher friend said I should write them down, and I did. That was the beginning.
I bought a computer, joined the then fledgling Children’s Writer’s online list, and wrote some truly terrible stories. Like most beginners, I had no idea of pace, plot, or character enrichment. My stories waffled on for pages. But a small group of CW writers mentored me. They read and critiqued my pages, and helped me write tighter, with more focus and less waffles. Let’s face it, waffles go better with syrup – for breakfast – right? I wrote, wrote, wrote, joined SCBWI, and went to lots of their conferences.
I think one of the hardest things a writer can do is write a great children’s book – especially a picture book. A friend of mine has a mother-in-law who sniffs every time she has another of her picture books published. “That’s nice dear, but when are you going to write a REAL book” she always asks. I admire my friend’s restraint!
What are you working on now?
At the moment, I am giving a final once-over to my next book to be publishes – hopefully in July of this year. “Taconi and Claude – Double Trouble” is a mid-grade adventure for boys, and is set in the Australian outback, near where I grew up.
Taconi, a lone aboriginal boy on Coorparoo Cattle Station, and lives with his dad, the Station cookie. His only friend is Claude, a sulfur crested cockatoo, with a big mouth, and a fund of wacky one-liners. He hunts bush meat to save his dad’s job, and later, a disaster at the homestead, makes Taconi a hero of sorts.
Yet he is torn between helping his dad, plus a life on Coorparoo Cattle Station, or the call of the Dreamtime Spirits, and the magic of the elusive kingfisher feather. Will a visit from Dreamtime Spirits guide Taconi into making the right choice? And of course Claude is always on hand to offer advice, and poke his beak into everything.
This fun adventure includes danger, a crazed emu, Dreamtime Spirits, a midnight Corrorobee, and all the rattlesnake, yabbies, and witcetty grubs a boy can eat.
Do you have a set time for writing? A set place?
When the kids left home, I turned the old playroom off the kitchen into my work area. It has a large computer area set-up, a sofa, chairs, and a fireplace to keep me toasty in winter.
I work there every afternoon.
Of course this year, most of my days are spent doing the exercises that help my knee replacement surgery and eventual recovery. Unfortunately, complications have slowed this down, and I am still not able to get out and about. This puts a real kink in my ability to personally promote “Ruthie.” So far I am working the Internet and hoping for the best!!
What is the most helpful writing advice you’ve gotten?
Join a good critique group where you will get advice from advanced or published writers. Sometimes we work on something for so long, we completely lose focus. A set of fresh and knowledgeable eyes can pinpoint a weak plot area, a character that doesn’t ring true, or places where you waffle on unnecessarily. Critters can guide you into writing tight and terrific stories. “Secrets of Writing for Children,” on my website, offers helpful clues about crafting a great story: http://mysite.ncnetwork.net/restbcm8/Secrets.html#Sec
What is the least helpful advice?
I have never received bad advice.
Where can readers get your book?
“Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind”
Author: Margot E. Finke www.margotfinke.com
Illustrations: KC Snider www.KCSniderart.com
** Snider is a well known fine artist who regularly shows her work in galleries, as well as known for her book illustrations.
Print ISBN 13: 978-1-61633-059-0
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-61633-060-6
“Young Ruthie’s mood changed overnight, her smiles slunk off in gloom.
She wouldn’t talk to Mom or Dad. She refused to leave her room.
Her parents scolded, begged and coaxed, but Ruthie paid no mind,
Her moods grew big and ugly – like some Hippo’s fat behind.”
When Ruthie moved, she left all her friends and family behind. She left her old happy self behind too. She sulked, was rude to her parents, and threw tantrums. What had happened to their darling girl? Then, something unexpected surprised her, and the happy Ruthie returned. Find out what made Ruthie feel her old self again?
**Parent-Teacher guide included
Where to buy:
Guardian Angel Publishing (GAP)
OR – http://preview.tinyurl.com/GAP-Books
** A Personal Autograph comes with each hard copy bought from Margot’s website + a bookmark. Also view Trailer, sample verses and illustrations.
SOON – available from Amazon, B&N, Target and more.
It seems to take a while for them to put up new books + covers.
Any last words?
Just a sincere “thank you” for taking the time to interview me, and get out the word about “Ruthie”