How long have you been writing and what inspired you to write?
I’ve been writing for almost five years now. I never thought I would be a writer, it just sort of happened. After the birth of my second child, I decided to stay home and quick working. At first, I was okay with being home all the time, but after awhile . . . well let’s just say you can’t go from working 50-hour weeks to not working. So that’s when I decided to write for a hobby and took a course at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Of course, my hobby became more than that.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I don’t have a typical writing day. Maybe it’s just me, but with children in the house, I find it hard to stick to a schedule. I write and check email when I can. I find I do most my writing when the older kids are in school and the baby is taking a nap. The other time I write is late at night when everyone is sleeping. I tend to run on about five hours of sleep and so far, I’m okay with that. However, I do look forward to the day with I can sleep in and longer.
What was the first thing you ever had published?
A short story about my father as a kid called “Flying Upside Down”. It was published in the Ezine Fandangle Magazine back in 2006. I had a lot of fun writing this story and never thought it would be published because so many people told me your first manuscript never sees the light of day. I guess I was just lucky and a good thing too because seeing my story published only encouraged me to keep going.
Have you had any training to become a writer?
Yes and no. I say no because I never went to college to become a writer and didn’t major or minor in anything related to writing. The only classes I’ve taken is the general course at The Institute of Children’s Literature, some workshops at conferences—both online and in person—and from being in critique groups. I have also being learning a lot being on the editor side. One thing I’ve learned about writing is you never stop learning. No matter how long you’ve been doing it.
Do your children inspire any of books, characters, or plots?
My children have inspired some of the short stories I’ve written and I do have one picture book based on my five-year-old. But, most of my writing is based off my own childhood, family members, or friends. It’s not that my kids don’t give me ideas for stories. I just haven’t used it yet. I guess I just need more hours in the day so I can write more.
Can you share with us a little about your most recent book?
My most recent book is Babysitting SugarPaw. This is also my first picture book. Babysitting SugarPaw was published in the late summer of 2009. It’s a picture book about a little bear named SugarPaw who hopes to get rid of his babysitter, Bonnie Whiskers, by getting her into trouble after making changes to his rules chart. As this loving story unfolds, SugarPaw learns about honesty and friendship.
Babysitting SugarPaw, with its child-centered plot on getting to know others, is the perfect book for little ones scared of being left alone with a babysitter for the first time and is endorsed by MommyPR.com. You can read the review at http://www.mommypr.com/index.php/2009/08/babysitting-sugarpaw-book-review-giveaway/
Kevin Scott Collier, who has won awards for his illustrations, did a wonderful job. Each illustration really brings the story alive for children ages 3 to 8, especially for those who like to create mischief.
Your readers can find out more about Babysitting SugarPaw at http://vsgrenier.com/BabysittingSugarPaw.aspx
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Sitting down and just letting my mind wonder. I love going back and reading what I wrote. Sometimes I love it and other times I hate it. Either way, I’m creating something that my family can look at after I’m gone. I guess you could say my writing is my way of leaving a bit of myself for future generations.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
Finding the time to write all the things I hear in my head. I find it hard sometimes to sleep because a character will be talking to me about a new scene or storyline. It’s crazy I know. I’m worried that if I don’t ever get it all down on paper . . . my family will lock me away in my old age because of the voices in my head.
What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Only you as the author know what’s best for your manuscript, and to look at critiques and criticism as a learning experience to help you hone your skills. You don’t always have to revise based on suggestions, however, if more than one person points out a problem area . . . then it’s time to take a workshop to help you fix it.
And here is some writing advice I give writers. The rules of writing are like the Pirates Code . . . meaning their more like guidelines and it’s okay to break rules if you break them in a way that only enhances your manuscript.
Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
I have two picture books and two YA novels I’m working on in whatever spare time I get throughout the week. One of the picture books is almost ready for submission. It’s about a little girl who can’t whistle. The story is based off my childhood. The others are still being fine-tuned so I don’t want to say anything about them in case I make some major changes.
Tell us about your writing space?
I have pretty big area compared to what most of my writing friends have. I’m lucky to have a bonus room in my house where my office is. Of course, that means the whole family likes to join me from time to time or I get to listen to the play by play of my son’s computer games. LOL. I have an L-shaped writing desk with drawers for all the SFC files, contracts, etc. Then, to my right is another computer desk tucked into a wall of bookshelves. This is where my kids do their homework, play online, and where my sisters or brother come to get their high school/college work done as well. Even my dad pops in to use the extra computer from time to time. It’s funny, hardly anyone, besides myself, my mom and husband, touch the books.
Behind my writing/computer desk is a futon couch, the TV with the Wii, my daughters’ dollhouse, the toy box with Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, and the air hockey table. You can say this office gets a lot of action and not all of it is writing! It’s also how you access our backyard.
The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?
Virginia, what tips can you give parents looking to share the love of reading and writing with their child(ren)?
Here are some tips I’ve written for Stanley Bookman to share in Stories for Children Magazine each month.
Visit the library often. Let your child pick out her own books.
Ask your librarian to suggest favorites.
Make book time a special time just for you and your little one.
Let your child see you reading.
Stop for a while if your child loses interest or gets upset. Reading should always be enjoyable.
Children who enjoy books will want to learn how to read and write!
Children learn new words by doing things with you, like talking with you about what is going on around you. Talk about how things work, feelings, and ideas. Reading together every day and talking about the story also helps your child learn more and understand words from their context.
Reading informational books on subjects your children like helps increase their vocabulary. Children with bigger vocabularies become better readers and can more quickly understand the meaning of words in context. Remember, children learn best when they are in a good mood.
Early literacy comes from knowing about reading and writing before a child can actually read and write.
The first words children learn to write often have emotional content. Ignore the niceties of spelling and penmanship . . . for now, at least. The mechanics of writing are taught in elementary school and if your little one isn’t learning this in school yet, don’t worry about it. If they are, then get a children’s dictionary and look up a few of the words together. However, keep in mind a child writes with a lot of personal feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Pointing out mistakes may make a preschooler or young elementary student self-conscious and reluctant to write.
Young children should learn that writing is a useful and enjoyable way to express oneself—and the rest will follow in good time.
What would we be surprised to learn about you?
I went to college to be a fashion buyer and did that for just over 10 years before giving it up to stay home with my children. I’ve worked for some really interesting places like Motherhood Maternity, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Hot Topic, Inc. (I opened the first 5 Torrid stores and helped design them.), L’Occitane, and Brighten Collectibles to name a few.
Also, in high school, I took freshman English three times and my highest grand in English was a C. However, when I did take exams and my S.A.T’s, I scored in top 10 for my class. My problem was I just didn’t want to do the work or go to class. The lesson I learned . . . If you don’t do it right the first time or really hate a subject in school . . . you just might find yourself doing it for a career.
To learn more about Stanley Bookman, the SFC mascot in the World of Ink visit us at http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org. The magazine is on hiatus until April 2011, but we have book reviews, tips, fun links, and some other free stuff currently on the site.
For those who love to write and want to learn, they can visit our newest site Stories for Children Publishing, LLC at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com. Your readers can also sign up for our FREE newsletter, SFC Newsletter for Writers which is sent out monthly and is full of articles on writing, markets, contest, workshops, conference, and much much more. It was voted one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2009 by Writer’s Digest.
If your readers would like to learn more about me, my writing services, school visits, and my books . . . they can visit me at http://vsgrenier.com
And lastly, there is the SFC: Families Matter blog. Here families can get information on just about anything. We talk about vacations on a budget to helping children in school. Visit us bi-weekly at http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot.com/
It was a pleasure sharing Babysitting SugarPaw and my writing with you and your readers. Thank you again for having me on your blog.