I thought I would do something a bit different over the next few months. As you all know, I have reopened Stories for Children Magazine and have also added to the SFC Team at Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. Each team member at SFC has an interesting background, not just in writing, but in general and I thought how fun would it be to really get to know these wonderful people who help me bring Stories for Children to you.
So to start off, I have asked our Assistant Nonfiction Editor Randi Lynn Mrvos to be the first SFC Team guest interview. Randi has been a contributor to Stories for Children Magazine since the beginning and I cannot tell you how exciting it is to be working with her behind the scenes now. She has shared some very interesting topics in the past with our readership and is one very talented nonfiction writer.
Randi Lynn Mrvos writes for children's and writers' magazines. She is an award-winning picture book writer, a columnist for the writers’ newsletter Extra Innings, an editor for the educational website www.Viatouch.com., and my assistant nonfiction editor for Stories for Children Magazine. Her publishing credits include Scholastic Books, Gryphon House, Highlights for Children, Byline, Mothering, and The Christian Scientist Monitor.
VS: Randi, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question…
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Randi: I have one daughter, who will turn sixteen next month.
VS: As a mom of a teenager, I’m sure you are very busy. I know I am. What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Randi: My family comes first. So I write during the weekdays when my husband is at work and my daughter is at school.
VS: You sound so much like me. I can’t wait until our last is in school, giving me more writing time. However, spending the time I do with family is so important. It is so true that family should come first. Randi, can you share with us how long have you been writing?
Randi: I’ve been writing for sixteen years.
VS: What inspired you to write?
Randi: When I was a teenager, I took a creative writing class and loved it. But with college and a full-time job, writing took a back seat. Many years later after my daughter was born, my husband read to her every night. I discovered that some of the picture books were beautiful masterpieces, while others missed the mark completely. I thought I could do better, so I took writing classes, got published in medical journals, joined SCBWI, and began writing for children.
VS: Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?
Randi: I receive submissions, check to see if they’ve followed the guidelines, ask for revisions if necessary, and determine if the content is appropriate for SFC.
VS: Randi, I know your busy with writing and SFC stuff. I’m wondering, what is a typical writing day like for you?
Randi: My writing varies every day. Usually, after I drop off my daughter at school, I sit down to write. To begin, I check my three e-mail accounts: SFC, Viatouch, and my personal email. If I have a Viatouch submission, I may have to edit a piece. For SFC, I may need to write to an author to revise. For my own work, I focus on pieces which have a deadline and then move on to other pieces that need editing. Some days I research markets and other days, I build content for my blog.
VS: I still don’t know how you do it all. Is your family supportive of your writing?
Randi: Absolutely. My husband is my first reader and editor, and my daughter makes suggestions that improve my work. They share in the joys of my success.
VS: That’s wonderful. I’m so glad you have a very supportive family. Many writers do not. Now, have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?
Randi: I don’t usually have writer’s block, but on rare occasions, my muse fails to appear. So I may get some exercise or take a walk. Taking a break from the computer helps start the flow of creative ideas.
VS: Great tips. I tend to take the baby for a brisk walk to help clear my head or take the kids for ice cream. For some reason, ice cream always helps my muse. LOL. What was the first thing you ever had published?
Randi: The very first article I published appeared in a medical journal. My first published children’s article was a nonfiction piece titled “The Amazing Barkless Basenji” for Wee Ones magazine.
VS: Now, you also writer books…what type of books do you mostly write?
Randi: I write picture books.
VS: Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?
Randi: I like to research topics (maybe it’s the scientist in me) and then find creative ways to weave my discoveries into pieces that educate and entertain children.
VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Randi: I like the solitude, the quiet house, the click of the keyboard, the taste of coffee, my cat purring while sharing my chair, the thrill of getting the words down just right.
VS: What is the most difficult part of writing?
Randi: Dealing with rejection is difficult, but it’s a part of the writing process.
VS: I don’t think any of us like rejections. Okay, so what is the best writing advice you ever received?
Randi: An editor at Dial Books for Young Readers once told me that when you speak about or pitch your book, do so with passion.
VS: So true and wonderful advice for all those writers out there currently pitching their books. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job(s)?
Randi: I’m lucky that I was able to retire from the medical field. But, I still have to carve out time each day to write.
VS: You are lucky, but I would say the two editing jobs are like jobs in the way you have to work your writing around them. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Randi: I’ve written Maggie and the Third Grade Blues, a funny picture book about a girl who’s afraid she’s going to be sent back to the second grade because she doesn’t have a topic for a summer vacation report. Another picture book, In Search of Awe, is the story of a young boy who helps look for his grandfather’s hometown others say has vanished.
VS: I do hope you’ll let us review them at SFC, too. They sound wonderful. Now Randi, can you tell us about your writing space?
Randi: I write in my husband’s study, the tiniest room in the house. The walls are covered with crayon pictures, diplomas, and posters. Bookcases are stuffed with books, pictures, DVD’s, music and photo albums, and a variety of lighthouses. The writing desk faces a window, where I look out and gaze at a majestic oak tree, playful squirrels, and squawking blue jays.
VS: That sounds very inspirational. So Randi, what would we be surprised to learn about you?
Randi: I was a Medical Technologist for over 20 years, used to take ballet, wasn’t sure I wanted to be a mother (OMG, how that changed), and I make a mean Chicken Marsala.
VS: Okay, the ballet I didn’t even know about. I took it as well when I way younger and wan’t very good. With all the changes going on in our world, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?
Randi: It’s hard to predict, but I can envision more advances with electronic publishing.
VS: I have to agree with you on that. Okay, so what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Randi: Find time to write every day, even if it’s only for twenty minutes. Have a first reader review your work. Edit your work. Read writers’ magazines. Study the publications for which you wish to pitch. Always follow the publisher’s guidelines. Start building your credentials by writing nonfiction—trust me, it’s easier to get published than fiction.
VS: Very true about how there are more chances in nonfiction than fiction or even poetry. Now I would like to know what well known writers do you admire most?
Randi: Kate DiCamillo, Mem Fox, Jane Yolen, Lois Elhert, Theodor Seuss Geisel, Jon Scieszka to name a few.
VS: You named a few of my favorites, too. Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Randi: Every year I participate in the Writer’s Digest, the Tennessee Mountain Writers, and the Alabama Writers Conclave contests. I’ve won two awards for Maggie and the Third Grade Blues as well as other awards for other picture books.
VS: I think everyone can see why you’re on the SFC Team. I’m so lucky to have you. So is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Randi: Let nothing get in the way of your passion for writing.
VS: Randi, thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member.
You can learn more about Randi Lynn Mvros at the follow places:
Randi’s blog, The Maggie Project is also part of the World of Ink Tours. Stop by and learn more about Randi, her books and writing, along with book reviews and interviews with others.