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!