Susanna Leonard Hill – Author Interview

On joining the Write Campaign, I was thrilled to discover there were actually four people in my group whose blogs I visited regularly. Susanna Leonard Hill’s was one of them. I would like to point out that on her blog stats, FRANCE is the fifth largest group of visitors (though I guess that can’t all be just me!). I like to balance my blog visits between newbies’ blogs, like myself, and those further along the line in my genre, like Susanna. If you haven’t checked her blog out yet, please do so, as it is welcoming, lively, full of fun competitions (it’s not to late to enter her Halloween one!), not to mention her weekly Wednesday ‘Would you Read this?’ for anyone to try a pitch. Susanna has nine charming and funny published picture books to her name so far, and I was trilled when she accepted to be interviewed for my final Write Campaign post. Over to you Susanna!

Has your special Ed. training and experience influenced your writing?

Every writer strives to tell stories that touch readers in some way.  But anyone who has worked with readers who struggle can tell you that for them, it’s even more important that the story grab them and hang on.  In this day and age, there is so much competition for readers’ time – video and computer games, Iphone apps, TV etc.   Even good readers don’t have a lot of patience for a story that drags.  If reading is hard, it’s even more necessary that the child perceive it as worthwhile.  So if my Special Ed. training has influenced my writing, I would say it’s by making me realize the importance of good storytelling.

How has being an SCBWI member helped your writing career?

I’ve met a lot of wonderful and supportive people through SCBWI.  I especially love attending any conferences I can get to – still haven’t made it to New York or LA, but maybe this year… The SCBWI magazine is full of helpful information and tips.  I haven’t been able to attend Book Talk meetings as often as I’d like, but they are fun and helpful too.  SCBWI online also has a feature for school visits, and I think that’s an asset. (I do hope we get to meet at a conference one day)

Do you have a thing about groundhogs?

I do now! (me too after a couple of your books ;))

Any thoughts of moving into other genres, or is PB really your niche?

I would love to write in other genres – an MG or YA novel is my dream.  As yet, I haven’t had much success with that, though.  The story arc is so different, and the complexity of the story, requiring multiple layers, is hard to get right.  So I am working on it.  But for the time being, picture books are where it’s at.

Do you have a fun school visit anecdote for us?

You can’t do school visits without ending up with some anecdotes.  One time early on when I was presenting The House That Mack Built, we were discussing large vehicles and a little girl raised her hand and said, out of the blue, “One time we were driving in a car with my grandma and she was dead!”  Neither the teacher nor I knew quite what to do with that one!  Another time, I was reading April Fool, Phyllis.  The second riddle in the story asks, “What runs but has no legs?”  The kids were guessing things like a snake, a fish, some even guessed a clock (which is one of the things the characters in the story guess) but then one little boy said, “Your nose!”  I thought that was so funny! – I wished I had thought of it for the book!  Another time, I visited a preschool.  I sat down in the rocking chair, and one little girl flew out of the group and hurled herself into my lap shouting, “Mommy!”  That was a surprise! (sweet!)

I know you are part of this wonderful Write Campaign. I am interested that as an established author, something like this is still useful? How have you developed your platform over the past ten years?

I am pretty new to the whole online media thing.  I’ve only had my Face Book page for a year and three-quarters, and my blog is less than a year old.  I have yet to brave twitter.  The truth is that, in the current economy, publishers leave more and more of the marketing of books up to authors.  And let’s face it – no one in the publishing house is going to care as much about your book as you do.  Not that they don’t care, but it’s YOUR book.  There are so many wonderful books and talented authors out there.  For me, developing a platform is about reaching out and connecting with other people who enjoy the world of children’s books as much as I do, and hopefully reaching people who might actually buy my books.  But I have no background in marketing at all, so I’m learning as I go.  Rach’s campaign is just a wonderful way to meet other writers – a community I love.

I see you have won awards in several national writing competitions. Is submitting to such competitions something you would recommend to other writers?

I guess it really depend on the writer.  Some people aren’t interested in contests.  I like to enter them because it gives me a sense of purpose – I’m writing something, I’m submitting it, and I’m going to get some feedback about it even if I don’t win or place (which I often don’t J)  In the case of Not Yet, Rose, winning the Southwest Writers Contest was what gave me the courage to submit it to Eerdmans Books For Young Readers and, lo and behold, they bought it.  Many contests are not that expensive to enter and give you valuable feedback about your stories, so I recommend them for anyone who is interested.

Do you have a writing routine?

My routine is as follows: Write whenever I have time!  Even though writing is my career, my first duty is to my family, which takes a considerable amount of time, as I’m sure you know, since they insist on clean laundry and food and stuff like that.  I also schedule my own school and library visits, search out opportunities for blog, magazine and radio interviews, and spend time each day blogging and on Face Book to keep up my online presence.  Sometimes it feels as though writing has to be stuffed into the cracks.  I don’t have a daily quota, like some writers do.  That would make me feel stressed since my schedule is so unpredictable and would often fall short.  Instead, my goal is to write something every day.

What’s your secret edible or drinkable reward after/during a good writing session?

I don’t think I have any secrets.  If you’ve been to my blog, you know how I feel about donuts, chocolate, and coffee. 🙂

Can you tell us briefly how you got together with your agent, Liza Voges?

I was lucky to get together with Liza, and it was not the usual way people get agents!  When my daughter was about to start Kindergarten, we moved.  She didn’t know anyone, so I called the school and asked for the phone numbers of a couple kids in the area so she would at least have a familiar face or two on her first day of school.  One of the women I called brought her son over to play.  We got to talking and she told me she was a children’s literary agent.  I said, “Huh!  I write children’s books!”  She said she’d love to see them!  But I was afraid.  I hadn’t shown my work to anyone.  What if she hated my stories, and then I’d have to see her at every Kindergarten get-together?  Awkward!  It took me 6 months to get up the nerve.  My husband finally convinced me.  So I sent her some stories, she liked them, and the rest is history.

Can you give us any hints about your present project?

Hmmm….  I’m really never working on only one thing at a time.  So let’s say my current projects have to do with art, dogs, siblings, a ghost, and an unplanned baby.  As you may have guessed, not all my current projects are picture books. – I told you I was trying for a YA novel!

Thank you so much for having me, Joanna.  I really appreciate it!  Anyone who is interested can find me online at my Website: http://www.susannahill.com, Face Book Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Susanna-Leonard-Hill/246146107330, and Blog:  http://susannahill.blogspot.com

Thanks so much, Susanna, and good luck with all these projects! 

Warmly,

Joanna

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14 Responses to Susanna Leonard Hill – Author Interview

  1. Patricia Tilton says:

    What a great way to start the week with such a wonderful interview with Susanna. I am only beginning to get to know her and her books, so I was eager to learn more about Susanna. I have only read one of her books, but have viewed her five book trailers, and they are fun! She does have a warm and engaging website. I enjoyed her school visit anecdotes. And, I like that her family comes first and she still finds a way to work in her writing. Great advice on entering writing contests, although I was always under the assumption that if you entered, they owned the material — apparently not. What a blessing to find an agent like she did. Wow, life is full of surprises!

    Great interview! I enjoyed getting to know better Susan and plan to look at more of her books.

    Patricia

    • Joanna says:

      Pat,

      I really do enjoy author interviews and a chance to go a little deeper than the blog bios. I also loved Susanna’s priorities, that said she clearly manages to achieve an awful lot, including squeezing out blog posts at the end of epic days and hours of driving, just to stay on schedule!

  2. I so enjoyed reading this interview and getting to know Susanna better. Thank you! What an excellent way of deepening the connections begun with the campaign.

  3. Just in passing, the last couple of times I’ve tried to comment on your blog, I first get a message in large, bold, black letters telling me more than I care to read about a “fatal error”, yet when I go back and try to click on “post comment” it tells me I’ve already said that. ???

    • Joanna says:

      I definitely have a bug on my blog comments at the moment, Beth. I guess I shall have to contact WordPress!

      • Patrici Tilton says:

        I have gotten the same fatal error now twice. And, I have to completely enter all of info everytime I log in now. I had the same problem on another WP blog. Can’t remember who it was.

        Pat

  4. Janet Smart says:

    I really enjoyed the interview. It would be great to meet an agent that way. Where I live I don’t think that will ever happen, so I guess I’ll have to just keep querying. And, the donuts and chocolate sound great!

    • Joanna says:

      Janet, I am so glad you enjoyed finding out more about Susanna. I too love Susanna’s agent story. Heh, Janet you could meet an agent at an airport, a coffee shop, a garage sale, who knows, 🙂

  5. Susanna says:

    Hi Everyone – I’m so sorry I missed this whole thing! I’ve had no power since early Sunday morning, so never even got to read the post until now. Thank you all for your kind and supportive comments, and for anyone I may not have visited, I’ll try to catch up as I wade back into the online world. I can’t believe how much I missed in 4 days! 🙂 And Joanna, thank you so much for hosting this interview. It was really fun to do!

  6. Loved your interview with Susanna, and like the others I too loved getting to know her more. She has a great blog and website, lovely person.
    Enjoyed the Agent story and will definately look more of her books.

  7. Great interview! Susanna, I enjoyed learning more about you and your writing process. How amazing that you met your agent during a playdate! You just never know, huh?

    Very funny and sweet school visit stories too!

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