Peg366's Blog

Interview with Linda Skeers Part One and Two.

Posted on: February 16, 2010

Peg Finley at Work

My guest to be interviewed is the multitalented SCBWI member Linda Skeers, fiction and nonfiction author. Linda’s list of accomplishments is long with everything from having three books published to serving as the listserv moderator at SCBWI.

Peg:     Welcome Linda. I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your time and thoughts with myself and my readers. I am honored to have you.

 Linda: I’m happy to be here!

 Peg:    I have a confession which I have to get out. When we meet at Perkins in Marion, IA for a local “meet and greet” with SCBWI members, I was so in awe of you and the other ladies. All that talent at one table was a lot to take in. It took me two day to calm down. The energy from listening to all the accomplishment of the ladies was fabulous. If I had known what I know now from doing the research for this interview, I would have been speechless.  I still can’t believe I asked you for an interview. It must have been your friendly face.

Linda:  No need for flattery! I’m just another writer a little further along the writing path.

 Peg:    Tell my readers what kind of books you write.

Linda:  I write a little bit of everything! That’s one of the great things about writing for children – the amazing variety of genres and age groups. I love picture books, mg, nonfiction, even a little poetry.

 Peg:    I read that you wrote your first book at age7 or was it 9? Professor Snurklesnicklebop and the Cake that Flew? Was it then that you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Linda:   I knew I liked making up stories when I was young and I loved to read. But I never really thought of writing as a possible career. That didn’t occur to me until I was an adult.

 Peg:    Writers often talk about what influenced them to write.  For myself, The Velveteen Rabbit influenced me. It tugged at my heart and still does. I wanted to be an author who moved others to tears with the power of my words. Did you have a favorite book or author as a child?

Linda:  I loved the Trixie Belden mysteries and anything by Phyllis Whitney. PINK AND SAY by Patricia Polacco brings me to tears every time I read it. I wanted to be Pippi Longstocking’s best friend when I was a girl!

Linda's Work Area

Peg:    I’ve touched briefly on the fact that you are an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature. Tell me, how did that come about? How long have you been doing it? Did you start out as one of their students?

 Linda:  I took the ICL course back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth!

Peg:       Not true. You aren’t old enough for the dinosaurs.

Linda:  Without it, I don’t think I would have kept writing and submitting. About 5 years ago I took the training to become an instructor. I’m no longer taking new students but I still enjoy watching the progress and improvement in my students. Studying the craft of writing can really improve your skills and help you submit a more professional and marketable manuscript.

Peg:     Did you ever write for adults? Like for other writers? I read your articles that appeared on the Institute of Children’s Literature site. Can you share something about your experience?

Linda:  When I learn something, I like to pass it along – that’s why I wrote some articles of different aspects of writing for children. Other than that, I have no real desire to write for adults.

  Peg:   I did want to share the links to your articles for The Institute of Children’s Literature also known as ICL. They are so informative. Note to Readers: By checking out this link you can find the articles by Linda as well as a wealth of other talented writers.

http://www.institutechildrenslit.com/rx/ws01/webindex.shtml

Beyond Once Upon a Time                                                    June 2002

Bumper Crop                                                                          March 2002

Nifty Niches for Nonfiction                                                   May 2002

Presto Changeo!    

Plus you did two online discussions with ICL writers on their Writer’s Retreat.

“Children’s Books form A Librarian’s Perspective”  May 10, 2001 with Kristi Holl as Moderator

“Finding the Story in Nonfiction “                             July 10, 2003 with Mel Boring as Moderator

Peg:     Does that cover them or have I missed something?

Linda:  That covers it!

Peg:     I’m a graduate of two of the courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature myself and credit my instructors, Connie McAllister and Linda Crotta Brennan with so much of my growth as a writer. What would you say to a new writer about the “Institute” experience?

Linda:  It’s a wonderful way to learn all aspects of fiction and nonfiction writing for children with the help of someone who’s “been there, done that.” The instruction manual and books you receive with the course are worth the price of enrollment! I think it’s a fantastic way learn all the ins and outs of the publishing business so you can submit your best work to an editor.

Peg:     I know from my research that you were a librarian. Let’s give librarians a shout out. They do a supreme job of helping kids learn to read. How did that job influence you as you started your writing career?

Linda:  I loved (and still do!) talking to kids about what they like to read and why. If toy want to write successfully for children, you need to know your audience – their likes, dislikes, hopes, dreams, hobbies, interests, etc. I also like to read what’s currently being published in different genres. If you don’t keep up with what’s CURRENTLY being published, you won’t be able to successfully market your own work to suitable publishers.

 Peg:    I think many writers like you and I started out being readers. On your website,  you talk about going to the library as a child and bringing home stacks of books.  So I dug a little deeper and I hear you liked Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day. In the process of learning all I could I came across a comment to another writer where you said it was the book that made you want to be a children’s author.  I’ll bet you didn’t expect that one. Tell us what it was about that book that struck such a chord with you?

Linda:  Alexander and I are kindred spirits! I know exactly how he feels and the humor still makes me laugh out loud.

Peg:     Me, too.

Linda: The ending is heartwarming and uplifting. To me, that book is perfection because it touches people and makes them laugh. A winning combination!

 Peg:    My readers might not know it but you have two sons. What ages are they now?

Linda:  Ben is 28 and Cory is 23. I think being the parent of two creative, amazing, rambunctious boys made me realize that having a sense of humor helps you survive as a parent! They are both extremely talented writers and love to read – I hope I had a little something to do with that!

 Peg:    I am sure that your enthusiam made a different. I went on your website and checked out your pictures. I love the pictures of all the stuffed animals and related books. I can see how it would inspire you to write.

Note to readers. Go to http://linda-skeers.com.    Just curious, as I’m sure my readers are, how often do you write? Are you a writer that writes daily? Do you do a certain amount of words each day? What exactly is your writing style?

Linda:  My writing style? I’d call it haphazard at best! My ideal situation would be to write at least 500 words every day but that doesn’t always happen. I write more in little spurts and occasionally have a long marathon session. I’m constantly thinking about my characters and plots all day long and jot down notes so even if I’m not at the computer, I feel like I’m “working.”

Peg:     Another accomplishment that makes you such a great writer is the Picture Book Retreat that you and fellow author Jill Esbaum conduct yearly. I personally love the way the writing community embraces the newcomer to writing. By the way, when is it this year? How many participants?

Setting for Whispering Woods Retreat

The link for information on the retreat is www.linda-skeers.com

The Whispering Woods retreat is July 16-18th. It’s open to 7 participants. It’s an intense, yet fun weekend!

Peg:     Would you recommend new writers join a critique group and why?

Linda:  Having writing buddies is very important – especially when starting out. It’s hard to be objective about your own work so having honest readers point out the strengths and weaknesses of your manuscript is invaluable. Try to find others that are writing in your same genre or age group so you can discuss manuscripts and share books with each other. I can’t imagine submitting a manuscript without having someone else read it first.

Peg:     What project are you currently working on now? If you can you share a little about it?

Linda:  I’m working on a mg novel that’s been in and out of my desk for years. Yes, YEARS! It’s pushing me out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing. It’s the book I most want to write.

 Peg:    With all the wealth of knowledge you can share, I’m not sure there’s enough room in this interview.  You just might have to come back for a second interview.

Linda: I’d be happy to!

I had originally planned on doing this as a two parter and post the first part  on the day before Tutus Aren’t My Style’s actual release date on February 18, 2010, but changed my mind. Here is the rest of the interview. Tutus Aren’t My Style is available for pre-order as well.

  Peg:   Welcome Linda Skeers. Thanks for coming back and sharing more of your knowledge with my readers. You must be getting so excited. Only a few days before your third book hits the shelves.

Linda:  It’s a little like waiting for the birth of a child! Finally all the world can share your creation but without the labor pains.

Peg:     I am in awe of you and other writers. How do you juggle your busy life? You’re a wife, mother, a listserv moderator, a picture book author, a SCBWI member, a workshop presentator, and a speaker at conferences and libraries. That is a lot of have on one’s plate.

Linda:  Writing, reading and talking about writing and books is my passion so it doesn’t really feel like work. When I do feel overwhelmed, I curl up with a book and a bowl of popcorn. Instant relaxation!

Peg:     In this section I want to talk to you more about your books and specifically your newest picture book. Are you ready?

Linda:  Fire away!

Peg:     My readers are dying to know where do you get all those great ideas from?

Linda:  That’s a hard question to answer. Ideas are all around us, we just have to be open to them! Writers are generally inquisitive, curious and occasionally nosy people. We want to know WHY things happen and how people will react. Just paying attention to the little things in life can help you come up with new ideas to explore and write about.

Peg:     Many writers start out by submitting to magazines before they get a book contract. Did you go that route? What are some of the magazines that your stories appeared in?

Linda:  Yes, I did. I’ve been published in TURTLE, GAMES, HUMPTY DUMPTY and POCKETS. It’s a great way to break into publishing.

Peg:     Unfortunately those who are not writers some times think that anyone can sit down and write a picture book and have it magically be published in six months. We know that is not the truth. Can you give new writers some kind of time frame for the whole process?

Linda:  I’ll use THE IMPOSSIBLE PATRIOTISM PROJECT as an example. It took about 6 months to write a draft I was happy with (and that’s very quick for me!) I submitted it and heard from my editor 8 months later. And that’s not unusual – it can take up to a year to hear back from an editor. Next comes the  revision process. I did 4 sets of revisions that took about 4 months. Then the editor chooses an illustrator – this can also take several months! The illustrator usually has 12-18 months to complete the artwork. (are you doing the math?) Finally the book goes to the printer and that process takes 7 months. The average picture book comes out 4 years after you sell it to a publisher. If the editor is waiting for a specific illustrator that’s booked up, it can take longer.

 Peg:    Linda has three books published, Toy Maker,

Linda's First Book

published in 2004. The Impossible Patriotism Project Dial Books May 2007 which I have an autographed copy of and her most recent book, Tutus Aren’t My Style. Congratulations on all that your hard work paying off.

Linda:  It is hard work and unfortunately there are no short-cuts. But if you keep working on improving your writing, study current children’s books, join a critique group and submit your work, you CAN get published.

 Peg:    In your first book, ToyMakers for Lucent Books, you write nonfiction. My readers would love to know what prompted you to do that?

Linda:  I had decided to take my writing seriously and gave myself one year to sell a book. Ridiculous goal but I studied the market and knew that writing for the educational market was a good way to break into publishing. I found a series I liked (History Makers) published by Lucent Books and submitted a proposal for a collective biography of toy makers. They loved it and the rest is history!

 Peg:    Linda has a delightful picture book coming out February 18, 2010. Talk to me about Tutus Aren’t My Style and working with illustrator Anne Wilsdorf?  By the way, I love the book’s plot and the cover is darling.

Linda Skeer's Newest Picture Book

Linda:  There’s a common misconception that picture book writers choose their own illustrator – not so. It’s the editor and art director’s job to choose an illustrator for their vision of the book. I was kept in the loop but had no say in the decision making process. I got to see black and white sketches along the way and then color artwork as it came in. I’m thrilled with the illustrations but have never met or talked to Anne Wilsdorf. The text is my domain, the artwork is hers. 

 Peg:    Can you share with me how the idea for Tutus Aren’t My Style started?

Linda:  Ha! I’d love to. I fell down the stairs, somersaulted into my son’s bedroom and when I finally got up said, “I will never, ever be a ballerina!” That was the germ of an idea for a little girl that gets a ballerina costume as a gift and has no idea what to do with it.

 Peg:    From the idea’s conception to a finished draft that you were satisfied with, how long did it take for you to write Tutus?

Linda:  I worked on Tutus on and off for a few years trying to find the main character’s “voice” and how best to tell the story. It finally all fell into place and I submitted it the same editor that had bought IPP (Liz Waniewski at Dial) After one revision, she bought it.

 Peg:    With picture books word counts are a factor. How many words was THE IMPOSSIBLE PATRIOTISM PROJECT when you first wrote it? How many words after it was printed?

Linda: IPP started out at a whopping 1,200 words – way too long! It ended up less than 800 words.

 Peg:    I’ve heard that even the best of books occasionally need revisions. Was that the case with Tutus? If so how long did those take?

Linda:  I don’t know anyone that doesn’t need to do revisions for an editor – it’s an important part of the writing process. And it takes as many revisions as it takes… my editor never gave me a time limit. It’s more about quality than speed. If someone is serious about writing for publication, they need to embrace revision! Many times an editor will ask for revisions before they offer a contract so make sure you’re willing to consider their comments and suggestions and make changes. Chances are the manuscript will be much better for it!

 Peg:    I am wondering how long it took once the book was ready to print before it went onto the book shelves in the places where it can be purchase. By the way, let’s tell our readers where they can get a copy of your books.

Linda:  The actual printing process takes 7 months. My two picture books can be found at most bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Also, online at http://www.amazon.com.

Peg:     There is a lot of buzz going around about the importance of being available to your readers via the various social medias like Facebook, Jacketflap, Twitter and blogs like WordPress.com to name a few. Are planning on launching your book on one of them? I’m asking because one of my friends, Jean Reidy, is doing that.

Linda:  I’m on facebook but I don’t use it as a marketing tool. Honestly, I’m not good at self-promotion! I’m not savvy when it comes to book launches; I’m more comfortable working on my next project.

 Peg:    Thanks so much for sharing your time with us. I have had a blast getting to know more about you. I wish you luck with Tutus Aren’t My Style, not that you need it, and all your other writing endeavors.

Linda:  Thanks so much – it was fun! And good luck with your own writing projects!

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5 Responses to "Interview with Linda Skeers Part One and Two."

[…] View original post here: Interview with Linda Skeers Part One and Two. « Peg366's Blog […]

Hello Peg,
I loved this interview! It was so interesting and in depth… just gave me a burst of new motivation to get writing… thank you and Linda! 🙂 Dy

Dy,

Thanks for your sweet comments. I’m glad you thought the

interview was interesting and in depth and that it motivated you.

Peg Finley/peg366

Thanks for an inspiring post with Linda that got a fire under this blocked writer. Thanks! I went to ICL also, Linda. I took 2 courses from them. They are very encouraging to the newbie. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Linda’s upcoming books!
Deb 🙂

Deb,

Hi there. I’m an ICL graduate as well. I took 2 courses, too.

Thanks so much for the comments. Linda is someone that

will inspire others to write. I’ll pass your comments on to

Linda.

Peg Finley/peg366

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peg366


I am an aspiring picturebook writer with some magazine credits just no picture book contract yet. I know it is coming and I am more than willing to work for it.

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Twitter.com/peg366

My Favorites:

I love the children's movies Wizard of Oz and the Neverending Story. Both movies make me feel the lesson that hope is alive and well. After seeing UP this past week, it just might have a chance at being added to this list.

I love the cool colors of blues and purples.Those colors are peaceful for me.

I love The Velveteen Rabbit. Even as an adult, I still feel the urge to cry when he becomes real. I know, silly, but a good book can make me laugh and cry as it takes me on a magical journey.

Authors and Illustrators:

Authors, Author/Illustrator, Illustrators that I know and/or Like.

Catergories:

C= Children

MG= Mid Grade

T= Teen

YA= Young Adult

A= Adult

Names:

Bonnie Adamson *

Kathi Appelt *

Tedd Arnold

Avi

Natalie Babbit

Molly Bang

Bonnie Becker

Jan and Stan Berenstain

Judy Blume

Tracey M. Cox

Linda Crotta Brennan *

Jan Brett

Janie Bynum *

Eric Carle

Pam Calvert

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Jerry Spinelli

Diane Stanley

Chris Van Allsburg

Rick Walton *

Lisa Wheeler

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Karma Wilson *

Audrey Woods

Jane Yolen *

Favorite Websites:

http://www.institutechildrenslit.net/

http://www.cbiclubhouse.com/

http://www.scbwi.org/

http://www.underdown.org/

http://www.verlakay.com/

http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com

Favorite Blogs:

• ShelfTalker: A Children’s Bookseller’s Blog
• Alice’s CWIM Blog
• A Fuse #8 Production
• Cynsations
• Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent
• Editorial Anonymous
• Miss Snark’s First Victim
• Writing for children and teens

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