Kris Quinn Christopherson is not only one of the many Stories for Children book reviewers; she is also a wife, mother, children's literature lover and reviewer, writer, and proudly known as “Kris the Reader” through weekly story times in her community. A Southern-born girl who lives on a farm in the Midwest, she is raising confident readers who adore a good story, and working hard to create her own good stories. Kris has edited and written for the National Military Family Association (NFMA) online publications. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, and is a member of SCBWI. Her essays have appeared on iParenting.com and cribsheet, an online column from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She blogs about her journeys in reading to and for others, writing what she knows, and raising her family…not necessarily in that order on http://kqchristopherson.wordpress.com/ .
VS: I want to thank you Kris for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent, SFC book viewer and writer can be hard. So to start here is the first question…
How many children do you have and what are their ages?
Kris: I have three children: my son, Jakob will be 11 in February, and my daughters are Shelby, age 7, and Ellie, age 5.
VS: As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Kris: I am not sure that I really do balance the two very well, so I appreciate the fact that you asked, “how do you HELP”, not HOW do you balance. My writing is done whenever I can steal some time from family life. I carry a notebook around that I jot down ideas, I use my laptop during my girls’ ballet classes, and I have scribbled a scene while studying spelling words with my son.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Kris: For as long as I can remember! I remember writing and coloring a book called “My Friend the Rainbow” when I was in elementary school. I have always enjoyed writing–even papers for school. I didn’t really focus on writing other than in my journals, until about 10 years ago, when I enrolled in the Institute of Children’s Literature. My writing was put on hold for a few years until my children were a bit older, and I was able to find the time for my writing again.
VS: What inspired you to write?
Kris: My love of reading inspired me to write. I love a good story, and I delight in getting lost in a book, and I wanted to create a story other could get lost in as well.
VS: Now you are also a member of the SFC Team as one of our book reviewers. Can you share with us a little about what you do?
Kris: I have a fantastic time reading and reviewing books for SFC. Publishers and authors contact me with recently published books for review. I have also had the privilege to review a few testing programs that help students prepare for tests. Once I have read and reviewed the books, I donate the books to my local schools or library, and/or to the program where I conduct story times at local daycares.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Kris: My typical writing day is more of a typical writing night. I seem to find the easiest time is in the evenings when my children are in bed and then I can really concentrate on my writing. I am a list person, so I will make lists during the day of things I want to work on, deadlines I need to meet, etc. Throughout the day, I am reading blogs, newsletters about writing, perhaps thinking of an opening that will hook the readers, but the majority of actual writing is done when daytime duties are done.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Kris: Very! They are my best audience, albeit, probably a tad biased one. At my son’s parent-teacher conference he told his teacher how his mom was a writer – I loved that!
VS: What was the first thing you ever had published?
Kris: It was a personal essay about a favorite grandparent memory on iParenting.com. I wrote about a picture of my son and my dad walking across a wooden bridge with my dad looking down at my then two-year-old son. I adore the picture.
VS: What type of books do you mostly write?
Kris: Picture books. I have not attempted a young adult novel or an early reader chapter book – I feel that my strength lies in capturing the imaginations for younger children. I also write personal essays regarding my life as a mom.
VS: Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?
Kris: I absolutely adore books, but children’s literature is such a beautiful and enchanting genre. You can teach lessons through children’s lit, you can create different worlds for children to imagine through children’s lit, and you can connect children with others through children’s lit. It is so gratifying and just plain fun to see children’s faces light up when reading a great book. How vital reading and language is, is also a reason I love writing and working with children’s lit. My son struggled with reading and I could see how he was transformed when it finally clicked and he became a reader. A whole new world opened for him reading street signs, menus, pictures books, Harry Potter, and just the confidence he acquired with being able to read in class without feeling embarrassed. Children’s literature is HUGE, and so important.
VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Kris: I enjoy being creative. I enjoy taking a snippet of an idea and working hard to turn it into a story that will make a reader smile when it is done.
VS: What is the most difficult part of writing?
Kris: I think it can be extremely difficult to find just the right way to tell my story with a strong voice, and not be preachy, or bore the reader. You do not want to talk down to the young readers, but you want to entertain and capture their imaginations with characters they can relate to.
VS: What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Kris: To call myself a writer. It sounds simple, but I still have to remind myself that I am a writer, not just someone who likes to write. And, to make the time for writing… simple, but it is easy to push my writing aside when life gets busy.
VS: Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?
Kris: Yes! I do the accounting for our family business, and am a stay at home mom. Along with the obligations that come with a business and with a family, I work hard to do things I enjoy, and as with everyone, it can be hard to make the time for other than what needs to be done right way…the immediacy of life gets in the way of my writing, but I just keep plugging away as best I can.
VS: Tell us about your writing space?
Kris: My writing space is mainly my laptop in my favorite chair in the family room. I do have a desk, which I do work at, but I am at my most creative and productive when I am at my laptop and not at my desk. My desk is usually reserved for the bill paying, the permission slip signing, and the accounting for the farm. I have a tote filled with books, notebooks, and my writing folders that I can carry easily to wherever I am. I am definitely a portable writer!
VS: What would we be surprised to learn about you?
Kris: That I live on a farm! Maybe that just surprises me still! When my husband got out of the Navy, we moved back to his hometown and joined the farming world with his dad and uncle. We do not have animals, just crops, but it is a very different world than I ever knew growing up in Alabama and Florida.
VS: How do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?
Kris: I feel that there is enough room for both traditional and electronic publishing, but realize that the electronic publishing world is big, I do own a Kindle, and love it… but I think that actual books will always be vital for children – bedtime stories will always be a part of our culture, and schools need books, children need books. I enjoy websites that provide stories for kids, but I still think that kids will always need, and want, to experience holding books and turning pages for years to come.
VS: What well-known writers do you admire most?
Kris: I recently read the Ramona books with my daughter again…Beverly Cleary can tell such a lovely story! It was great fun to be introduced to her again.
Laura Ingalls Wilder…. Mo Willems…. Maeve Binchy…. Jodi Picoult…. Robert Munsch….Eric Carle….
VS: Do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?
Kris: I have entered a few, but have not received any awards. I will keep trying... I think competitions are good for me, as they give me a deadline.
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Kris: I was fortunate to take a writing class, Mother Words, from an amazing and supportive mama writer/teacher who quoted some other mama writers – telling how it takes courage to write about motherhood, which I find true, but I think it takes courage to write in general. You put your thoughts, ideas, and creations on paper for others to read, criticize, and hopefully fall in love with… that takes courage! I hope I always will have the courage to write, and I hope all of us Writing Mamas will.
VS: I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member.