Friday, February 11, 2011

Interview Friday with Stories for Children Magazine Fiction Editor Lori Alexander

Lori Alexander, Fiction Editor of SFC, lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and two young children. After working in Human Resources for several years, and drafting many serious and stuffy emails, she is pursuing her passion for children’s literature. She enjoys writing picture books and magazine stories (none of which are serious or stuffy).

VS: Lori, 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?

Lori: I have a son, Max, who is six, and a daughter, Nora, who is 4 ½.

VS: I’m sure your home is as busy as mine with little ones. As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Lori: My son started Kindergarten this year, and my daughter goes to preschool a few days a week. Those hours are precious and that’s when I write and edit for SFC.

VS: I know what you mean. Nap times and school hours are my writing and SFC time as well. Now I’ve only been writing for a few years. How long have you been writing?

Lori: For children’s genre, about two years. But I’ve always enjoyed writing and did a fair amount in college, during my graduate work and during the years when I worked outside the home (before I was a mom).

VS: Wow, that’s great you’ve always been writing. What inspired you to write?

Lori: The kids, of course. And all of the wonderful picture books and chapter books we read together.

VS: Reading does have away to inspire many to become authors/writers. Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do, Lori?

Lori: I started as the Assistant Fiction Editor and now I am the Fiction Editor. The fiction desk is a busy one! Lots of submissions have been rolling in these past few months. I read the stories and decide which ones are a good fit for the magazine. Many are sent back to the authors for slight revisions. I enjoy seeing their work return, more polished. Looking forward to reading the re-launch issue in April!

VS: Yes, I am busy at work with our proofreader and copyeditor to get our re-launch issue ready for April 2011. We have some fun stuff to share with our readers in this issue. Now, I know my family has a hard time with all the time I do spend on SFC and my personal writing. Lori, would you say your family is supportive of your writing?

Lori: Yes, although I’ve found the most helpful support through online critique groups and writing partners. Those are the folks who really know the business, understand what we love about writing as well as the struggles.

VS: I have made many writing friends online like you. I don’t know where I would be with my writing without your support and encouragement. However, I still have days where I stare at a blank screen wondering what to writer. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Lori: Definitely! I like to step away from my work for a few weeks to let it breathe. We just got a puppy, and she’s taking up all kinds of time. But during that break, standing in the backyard waiting for her to pee already, I’ve come up with a better approach for a middle grade novel I’ve been working on.

VS: Maybe I need to stand in my backyard more with my dog. Of course he barks a lot at the dogs on the other side of the fence. Not sure my ‘muse’ would like that much. Now Lori you have several publications, but what was the first thing you ever had published?

Lori: A fiction piece in Stories for Children Magazine. I was thrilled it was accepted and loved the illustration that was created for my story.

VS:  And now you work behind the scenes with us. What a real treat for all of us. I know you also write book manuscripts. What type of books do you mostly write?

Lori: Picture books are my first love and I’ve tried my hand at quite a few. But their simplicity is insanely difficult to reproduce. Recently, I’ve started a middle grade novel. I’m enjoying my characters, getting to know them and not having to wrap up at 500 words.

VS: Yes, picture books are very difficult to write because you have to keep the word count down and detail of the scenes. So Lori, can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Lori: I rediscovered all of my favorite picture books through my kids. Reading to them before bed is my favorite time of day and it’s something we never skip. Right now, it’s Love of Reading Month at the schools, a time when parents get to come in to read to the class. I never miss it. I always pick humorous books that get the kids laughing.

VS: I have to say I’m like you in that regard as well. I love reading with my children and sharing the books, I loved as a kid. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Lori: Putting together the puzzle. Creating interesting characters and getting them into all kinds of trouble.

VS: That is one thing we authors get to do…throw all kinds of trouble at our characters and if one thing doesn’t work, we try another. Okay, so what is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Lori: Finding the time. But my youngest starts Kindergarten next year—yeah!

VS: I have four more years before I have more free time, but boy am I looking forward to it. Just don’t rub it in too much come next year. LOL. Lori, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Lori: I don’t know if this counts as advice, but having a writing buddy, someone who understands the business/craft of writing, has been priceless.

VS: It counts all right. I don’t know where I would be without my first writing buddies Lisa and Roxanne. They really motivated me. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Lori: I have one picture book going to acquisitions at a small publishing house and a middle grade novel in the works. Plus a list of PB ideas I’d like to work on in the future.

VS: Well we can’t wait to hear how things turn out with your submitted books. You are a very talented writer and I’m sure book publication is just around the corner. Now Lori, can you tell us about your writing space?

Lori: It’s sort of a mess. My computer is in our great room, so I can write and still keep an eye on the kids. They’ve actually wiggled the arm of my chair loose, asking me when I can play. That’s when I know it’s time to close my email.

VS: LOL. My kids have moved into my office. I find it hard to work when their having fun on the Wii. So I understand the whole time to close the email thing. What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Lori: My daughter has a rare genetic disorder that has caused major difficulties in her left leg. At four years old, she’s had five separate surgeries to try to correct her tibia. She’s spent the majority of her life in a long leg cast or brace. Watching her climb stairs or ride a trike takes on a different meaning for us. She’s taught me a lot about strength and persistence.

VS: You are a ‘Super’ mom and your daughter is an inspiration. I think children are here to teach us vs. the other way around sometimes. Now with you working as SFC, which is a virtual office and Ezine, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?

Lori: I’m not quite up to speed on that debate. I know there is a place for both types of publishing. For me, I love holding a book in my hands and rummaging the shelves at the library, coming away with a huge stack of great finds.

VS: I agree, but I wonder if our children will have the same love. I guess we’ll have t wait and see. Lori, before we go, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Lori: Find a good critique group—in person or online. Join SCBWI. Keep up with the business and craft through editor/agent blogs and writers’ forums, such as Verla Kay’s Blueboards. And read, read, read! Keep up with the current publications, be that PB, Chapter Books, MG or YA.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Lori: I hope to be a Writing Mama for many years to come! Thanks for having me.

VS: Lori, I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member.


  1. What a great interview! Thanks for letting us get to know Lori better.

  2. Wow, Lori you sound alot like me. Except I'm not a mother but I got a new puppy. Does that count? Anyway, I worked in HR for years and did alot of writing then. You know newsletters, brochures, procedures manuals so I knew I had the ability. It wasn't until 3 years ago that I decided to start writing childrens picture books. My first one comes out this spring/summer!

    Anyway, I enjoyed your interview and wish you lots of luck with your writing.