Friday, March 4, 2011

HIGH FIVE #5: Debut Picture Book Author, Niki Schoenfeldt

Niki Shoenfeldt is a picture book author. Her second book is due out this year. She is also working on a YA novel.

So you have a picture book out, and another one coming out soon. Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you, Niki! Welcome to my blog today. Thank you Christie! Let’s do the happy dance together.

Question ONE: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you really have way more than three)? I love YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT AMELIA BLOOMER by Shana Corey, I AIN’T GONNA PAINT NO MORE by Karen Beaumont and BEAR SNORES ON by Karma Wilson. Of course there are many more on my bookshelf but those are the ones that came to mind first and are among the top faves.

I’ll definitely have to check out the first two. They sound like loads of fun! Bear Snores On is certainly a new classic.
Question TWO: How did you come up with the idea for your debut book? My first book, NATURE’S LULLABY (Orchard House Press) was actually written for a contest that was looking for a bedtime story. I thought back to my own childhood and how safe and comfortable I felt lying in bed at night and listening to the summer sounds outside my window. Although I didn’t win the contest, I did manage to find a publisher. My new picture book, DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE! (Shenanigan Books, 2011) is based on the old adage which I spouted to my own daughter one night. Needless to say, it took her hours to fall asleep after that. So I decided to make bedbugs a lot more fun and a lot less scary. Of course at the time bedbugs were nearly wiped out of existence. I had no idea they’d be making a comeback! Do you have anything in the works that is NOT a picture book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it? Yes, I am currently writing my first YA novel and also have the beginnings of an MG ghost story. My YA novel is about a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. His father is in jail, his mother is an alcoholic and his little brother is a pint-sized Goth freak. Life ain’t easy for Talon Cooey. So when his dad calls for money to save his worthless life, what’s a guy to do? As if that isn’t enough, neighborhood pets begin disappearing and an arson roams the area. All the evidence points to Talon and in an effort to clear his name he unwittingly initiates a risky game with a dangerous drug lord.

Wow! It all sounds so amazing!

Question THREE: Will you share your top three tips for writers about writing, publishing, or whatever you have learned along the way that stands out as being very important, but no one ever tells you about? 
I’ve learned lots of things along this journey, but the ones that stand out to me are:
  1. Don’t overwrite. Keep it simple and to the point. Say as much as you can with as little words as possible. Don’t bog down the story with unnecessary description or character movement.
  2. Watch those adverbs! Nine times out of ten your sentence works just as well, or better, without them.
  3. Polish your manuscript. Write it and rewrite it and make sure it is the best it can be. Then, SEND IT OUT. You’ll never get published if you keep your work hidden in a drawer.
Good advice all around.

Question FOUR: Can teachers use your book in the classroom? NATURE’S LULLABY can certainly be used in the classroom. It is like a field guide of nocturnal creatures. Do you have any additional resources available for teachers? At this time, I do not. Although I guess it is something to think about. What advice can you give teachers to help children love reading and writing? I don’t feel qualified to advise teachers, although I definitely encourage parents to read to their children. Take the time to read to your child daily. Not only are you instilling a love of books and a love of learning, but also a love of togetherness. Reading time can be that perfect quiet moment spent with your child in an otherwise too busy day. Are you available for school visits? Absolutely. If so, what are your lessons like? I try to gear my visit to fit the age range of the children and the school I’m visiting. For the really little ones I read from my book(s) and discuss any important values in them.  I want to make them laugh and share an emotional connection with books. For middle grades, I like to talk about writing and the creative process. I want to excite them about their own imaginations. For even older kids, I like to discuss the business end of publishing. I want to point out the effort and rewards of hard work. 

Your school visits and lessons sound amazing. I like how you differentiated the content for the different age groups.

Quesition FIVE: What is your biggest challenge in parenting? Remembering that my children are individuals with their own thoughts and ideas and not an extension of me. In other words I have to work really hard at letting them do their own thing, even if it isn’t what I would do. What is your greatest joy? Watching them succeed in a task they’ve worked hard at. What advice can you give to parents about life, parenting, or creating literate children? Guide your children with love, not criticism and lead by example. Do you read picture books to your own children? Of course! I am addicted to picture books. We visit the library weekly and have an extensive collection of our own. My little one looks forward to reading at bedtime and can often talk me into two or three books at a sitting. My big kid is well past the age of bedtime stories but is an avid reader on his own. Even after my kids are grown, I know my bookshelf will still be home to numerous picture books. There is something magical about a picture book. Something beyond the words and even beyond the wonderful art. Picture books are like an open window where you can journey back in time to the innocence of childhood.  

Niki Schoenfeldt is a wife, mother, and children's writer. In that order. You can visit her at her blog, The Fractured Keyboard. Thanks so much for joining me today! It was a pleasure.

Keep on keepin' on...


  1. Great interview! I'll be keeping my eyes open for your books, Niki!

  2. Terrific interview! Good luck with your books, Niki!

  3. Great interview! I love finding writers who write in all genres :) Congrats on your books Niki.

  4. Thanks everyone for all the kind words. Best wishes to all of you. In these hard economic times it is more important than ever that we support each other's efforts. Thanks again!

  5. Splendid interview seem really happy in life and that's awesome! Keep following your dreams and let me know if you would like to go to Maui or somewhere exotic someday for "research" purposes, I will be your "wingman". :)
    Congrats! ~Laurie


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