by Vivian Kirkfield

Oh my gosh…just a few more days for Storystorm! The Good Thing about posting on the back end of the challenge is that I had a lot of time to think about what I would write. But the Bad Thing is that 27 creative people already shared their techniques for generating ideas. As day after day of amazing blog posts appeared, the tricks and tips in my Felix-the-Cat magic bag became old news. It’s kind of like when you’ve got a wonderful manuscript sitting in your file/desk/notebook and then someone announces a book deal for that same topic.

And that thought connected some dots and made me realize that since we are blogging about ideas, perhaps I could address the topic of what happens when someone else writes a story about YOUR IDEA—can-more-than-one-book-about-a-person-or-event-or-subject find happiness and success in the publishing world?

I believe the answer is YES! I’ve had experience with this. We sent MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe to an editor in January 2018. And then, another Ella and Marilyn book hit the bookshelves in February. I was sure Little Bee Books would pass on my manuscript because not only was the book about the same two people, it was about the same moment when their lives intersected. Much to my surprise…and joy…the editor moved ahead with my story and it was published in January 2020.

Another example which also took place in 2018 concerns Nancy Churnin’s IRVING BERLIN: The Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing launched in May of that year—alongside TWO other books about Irving Berlin. And the editor probably knew that there were other books in the pipeline when she acquired the manuscript. But that didn’t stop Nancy or her publisher—they moved forward—and the book won awards and accolades.

I think what we need to remember is that we each have our own unique voice when we write. The words and style we use imparts a certain flavor to our stories. Do you employ alliteration? Always add a repeating refrain? Are you a rhymer? A lyrical language lover? Do flowery phrases or short staccato sounds pepper your pages?

Also, although the story may be about the same person or topic, your focus can be different. Will you hone in on one specific moment or event in the life of your subject? Will it be a birth to death account? Will you stick to reality in a sibling story or will you create a fantastical tale?

And listen…if you need to reinvent your story in order to snag a book deal, you can do it! An editor asked me for a story about women in the 1890’s– and how bikes helped their fight for suffrage and independence. I wrote a manuscript about three women. The editor didn’t like it and asked for a story about just one of them. I completely rewrote it. The editor didn’t like that either. We sent it to another publishing house—that editor wanted revisions. Three times. I finally decided to study other books that particular editor had worked on, using them as mentor texts to discover how those authors opened their story, set the pacing, created a satisfying ending. When the editor received my newest revision, she acquired the book. PEDAL, BALANCE, STEER: Annie Londonderry, First Woman to Bike Around the World will launch in Spring 2024 from Calkins Creek/Astra.

This month, we’ve heard so many inspiring ways to generate ideas. Whether you use a word list, long walk, or butterfly net, snag yours, start writing, and always be ready to reinvent.

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more words—but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, and visiting kidlit friends all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the picturesque town of Bedford, New Hampshire. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. Her nonfiction narratives bring history alive for young readers and her picture books have garnered starred reviews and accolades including the Silver Eureka, Social Studies Notable Trade Book, A Best Stem Book K-12 for 2022, and Junior Library Guild Selection. To connect with Vivian and learn more about her books, see, Facebook, TwitterLinkedin, & Instagram.

Vivian is giving away a prize of the winner’s choice: a signed copy of FROM HERE TO THERE, a PB critique, or 30-minute Zoom call to chat about anything writerly.

You’re eligible to win if you’re a registered Storystorm participant and you have commented once below.

Prizes will be distributed at the conclusion of Storystorm.