by Vivian Kirkfield

It’s an honor to be here! Tara asked if I would talk about how I took SWEET DREAMS, SARAH all the way from idea to published picture book. But I kind of feel like an imposter because although the book was slated to pub in March 2017, I still have no book in hand…and the tentative October 2018 launch date may have to be pushed back again. However, I know it will be worth the wait. Plus, happily, in the last two months of the year, I got THREE new book deals. So I’m also going to share how I got the ideas for those books.

TAKEAWAY #1: You need an infinite amount of patience…and a goodly supply of chocolate…to take an idea all the way to published book.
In 2012, I turned the page to another chapter in my life. Just retired and ready to follow my dream of writing picture books, I joined Julie Hedlund’s newly-formed 12×12 Writing Challenge, dipped my toes into my first-ever critique group, and participated in Tara’s month-long idea-fest.

TAKEAWAY #2: Connecting with fellow travelers on this writing journey will provide you with support, encouragement, and joy!
Several years passed with no sign of a book deal. Determined, I refused to give up. Joined more critique groups. Took picture book writing classes. Attended webinars and conferences. And I wrote, revised, and submitted…over and over again.

TAKEAWAY #3: If you hone your craft, embrace feedback, and are tenacious…you WILL succeed!
I also kept filling those Storystorm notebooks with ideas. But where did those ideas come from?

  • The idea for SWEET DREAMS, SARAH came from an internet search of  “the first woman to…” Why not see if your next story is on this list of inspirational female pioneers?

TAKEAWAY #4: The internet is an unbelievable gold mine for writers and illustrators—a spiderweb that allows you to connect with people, information, and resources all over the world.

  • The idea for VISITORS TO DEEP POOL came from observing animals while fly-fishing with my husband on a pristine mountain stream. It was my Day 3 story idea for Tara’s 2012 challenge and guess what? I signed the contract on Wednesday.

TAKEAWAY #5: Get out into nature—there are many stories waiting there for you!

  • The idea for PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE came during Tara’s 2013 challenge when Kar-Ben editor Joni Sussman said she wanted more Jewish holiday stories. She passed on the rhyming story I wrote, but another house bought it…and guess what? I signed that contract last month and the editor is taking the book dummy to the Bologna Book Fair.

TAKEAWAY #6: Listen to editors/parents/teachers/kids—they will tell you what they want to read about!

  • The idea for INVENTING came from a conversation with my sister. She told me about the friend of a friend whose grandfather founded an iconic company in America. I contacted the granddaughter, wrote the story, and an editor loved it. The contract for that book arrived yesterday.

TAKEAWAY #7: Let people know you are a writer and that you write stories for children—you will have an endless supply of new ideas.

  • The idea for BRUSHSTROKES came from a New York Times article (my niece sent me the link last January) about an artist who had just died. An editor did make an offer, but before the contract was signed, another imprint of the same publishing house announced a book on the same person. The editor had to step back and withdraw the offer. But the manuscript is out on submission again and my fingers are crossed for another editor to fall in love with it.

TAKEAWAY #8: Peruse newspapers, magazines, journals—uncover forgotten stories and write them so you can bring history alive for kids.

  • The idea for SCULPTING STORIES: THE MAGIC HANDS OF JOSÉ DE CREEFT came from watching an episode of “American Pickers” on television. I entered the manuscript last month in the NESCBWI Peg Davol Manuscript Critique Scholarship…and won!

TAKEAWAY #9: Kick back and relax—but keep a pencil and paper handy when you watch TV or a movie. You just never know where the next story idea will come from.

In fact, keep a pencil and paper handy ALWAYS! If you are like me, unwritten ideas float back to the Universe from whence they came. But no worries…just kick back and relax…watch TV, read a newspaper, chat with family and friends, take a walk in the woods…grab those ideas and write, revise, and submit so that you can kick butt with book deals in 2018 and beyond.

Vivian Kirkfield constantly takes leaps of faith. She jumped from a perfectly good plane with her son, hiked to the summit of Pikes Peak with her husband, and parasailed over the Pacific Ocean with only seagulls for company.

A former Kindergarten teacher with a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, Vivian is passionate about helping kids become lovers of books. A proud member of SCBWI, she presents literacy programs that entertain and engage parents, teachers and kids. When she’s not writing, revising, or critiquing picture book manuscripts, Vivian plays epic games of Monopoly with her nine-year old grandson, shares stories on Skype with her four-year old granddaughter, and takes walks through the idyllic New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where she currently resides.

Her debut nonfiction picture book, SWEET DREAMS, SARAH, will be published by Creston Books in October 2018. You can find her on Twitter @viviankirkfield and Facebook, or visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar.

Vivian is giving away a picture book critique.

Leave ONE COMMENT on this blog post to enter. You are eligible to win if you are a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below. Prizes will be given away at the conclusion of the event.

Good luck!