How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Mistakes That Make Writers Look Like Amateurs... and How to Avoid Them

Friday, July 5, 2013

HIGH FIVE Interview #28: Nancy Viau

Nancy Viau already has a book out, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, but it's not a picture book. Her debut picture book is Look What I Can Do! out just four months ago. And a second picture book only a mere one month later, Storm Song. Nancy has been patiently waiting for me to post her interview. And all you lovely readers who noticed that I skipped last month, and missed the High Five, it's here, it's here, it's here! Please welcome the the lovely, patient, talented, and wonderful Nancy Viau with us today!

Title:  Look What I Can Do!
Author:  Nancy Viau
Illustrator:  Anna Vojtech
Publisher:  Abrams Books for Young Readers
Release date:  March 12, 2013
Word count:  250

Slither like a snake! Leap like a frog! It’s not easy to learn new things, especially when you’re little. Look What I Can Do! celebrates how baby animals in the forest overcome challenges. The refrain sends a positive message, encouraging children to keep trying even if things seem difficult at first. With rhythmic text and extraordinary artwork, Look What I Can Do! affirms the important milestones that children achieve each day, and is the perfect story hour or bedtime read.

Title:  Storm Song
Author:  Nancy Viau
Illustrator:  Gynux
Publisher:  Amazon Children’s Publishing, formerly Marshall Cavendish
Release date:  April 16, 2013
Word count:  120

As thunder and lightning approach, a family gathers inside to play, sing, eat, and snuggle together until the weather clears. This sweet story captures both the excitement of a thunderstorm and the reassurance needed for children. The lively, rhythmic text mimics the storm sounds while the bold, playful art shows this special family time.

Question ONE
What are three of your favorite picture books? Just three mind you.

This list changes every week, but here are my answers right this minute.  

  1. This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers
  2. Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli
  3. The Butt Book by Artie Bennett

Weekly, huh? Wow!  I love moose books and butt books and Eileen Spinelli, too!

Question TWO
How often did you read to your children when they were younger; do you feel like you have an extra special bond with your children because of books? Did you read to them once they were teens?

When my kids were young, I’d always read to them here and there throughout the day—signs at the grocery store, billboards, food labels(!), but bedtime was a special time that we shared books. It didn’t matter if it was a book on bug eyes or a fairy tale, we’d ooh and ahh over the words and the art until we were too sleepy to see any more. Sure, we bonded over the stories, but it was the ritual that meant so much. No matter what kind of day we had—terrific, terrible, annoying, happy, cranky, sick, etc.—we always snuggled together and ended it with a good book. As teens, the kids read on their own, but every once in a while we’d read the same book (or magazine article on anything from cool surfing spots to hot make-up tips) and compare notes.

Sounds wonderful! I agree that the book ritual makes it easier to strengthen that parent/child bond. And that's why we need SO many awesome children's writers.

Question THREE
How might teachers use these books in the classroom?

Both spring releases have excellent tie-ins to curriculum and can reinforce preschool to grade two lessons on science (habitats), nature (weather), character education (self-esteem, growing up, fears), and families. Since both are in rhyme, educators can use them to introduce rhyming words, alliteration, onomatopoeia, and plenty more! On my website, www.nancyviau.com, there are comprehensive cross curricula guides for all my books, and they’re FREE.

Sounds wonderful! I think educators need as many curricula tie-ins as they can find, especially science!

Question FOUR
What was your road to publication like?

I have such a convoluted, long journey to picture book publication. Are you sure you want to hear it? I don’t want to scare anybody! : ) When I began writing over ten years ago, it was picture books that stole my heart. I loved fiction and was particularly fond of rhyming stories, sweet stories, and anything with a science theme. But submission after submission led to rejection after rejection. A critique partner suggested I try writing for an older audience, and voila—as luck would have it, a middle grade book, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head, was born. However, I never stopped working toward having a picture book on the shelves. Several manuscripts went to acquisitions, but as it turns out, a really simple rhyming story I started years before, Look What I Can Do!, was destined to be my debut. Prior to Abrams acquiring it in 2009, it went through numerous revisions (too many to count), rejections (20 +), and title changes (6). To my surprise, a second picture book, Storm Song, sold a year and a half later. I seriously thought it’d take another ten years! Currently, I have one picture book and one easy reader out on submission (agented), and I’m caught between working on several new story ideas that inspire me during the day and rewriting a few older ones that keep me up at night.

I don't think that's convoluted at all. Sounds like the "average" writer's journey; just read through my list of other High Five interviews! It is so awesome!

Question FIVE
What are your top three writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?

  1. If you love a story, don’t give up on it. Take those rejections and use what the editors suggest to make it stronger, but try not to sacrifice what you love about the story.
  2. If it’s not in you to write every day, don’t do it. Write when you are inspired because that’s when you’ll create your best work.
  3. Make connections with editors at conferences and submit work to them!

Thank you, Nancy, for all your wonderful answers, for sharing your journey, knowledge, and insight with us. I hope my readers buy your books and that you find a home for all your future books. 

10 comments:

  1. Great interview, thanks Christie and Nancy. I especially like your writing tip #1, Nancy. I've got a rhyming story that I just love, but have been having all sorts of trouble with rhythm and meter. I will never give up on it! :0)

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    1. Rhyme looks easy and is soooo hard to perfect, but you love what you love, right?! I'm glad you're not giving up on it, Donna!

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  2. Boy do I love those three tips! Great wisdom, Nancy, and your books look great! I'll be looking for them for my library. Thanks for sharing, and for the interview Christie!

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    1. You're welcome! Number 2 is my fave. Sometimes writers are sort of pushed into writing every day, because that's what a lot of people tell us we should do. Doesn't work for me. Much like a kid, I need to go out and play and that usually leads to inspiration. :)

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  3. Love this interview, Christie and Nancy! I was privileged enough to attend Nancy's launch party for her picture books at Children's Book World.

    Nancy, I'm so happy to hear you say we don't have to write every day. Thank you! I can't write seven days a week and I can't write just because I feel obligated. But I'm always thinking about my WIP. Thinking counts, true? Playing is a great idea also.

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  4. I'm with Joanne - always thinking if not writing!

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  5. I certainly don't write every day, either. Thinking DEFINITELY counts! We're writers after all, right?

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  6. Nancy, thank you for sharing your path to publication! This Moose Belongs to Me is also my current favorite. I don't think the library is getting that back until my 3 renewals are up!

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  7. Congratulations, Nancy! You're books look wonderful. Reading your path to publication was inspiring. Great tips too-- lately, I've been hearing more & more writers say they don't write everyday... especially PB writers... makes sense. Everyone needs to find their own rhythm.

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  8. Great interview! I love your road to publication story, Nancy. It is the perfect example of why we should never give up!

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