Friday, May 25, 2012

"Each One Teach One" Interview: Non-fiction and MG Author Kathleen Reilly

Hi Friends. I see many of you popping up here on Friday evenings eagerly looking for the new interviews.  Thanks for that! Alas, as you may have noticed, the "Each One Teach One" Author interviews are now posted by Saturday morning, not Friday night.  Friday nights were a bit tricky in my busy work week.  So, the new interviews will always be up here by Saturday morning! Come on by then to read them! Thanks!

This week's Awesome Author Interviewee is my good friend, Kathleen (Kate) Reilly, (photographed above, while on a camping trip with her husband and kids. :)!)  Kate's a non-fiction book, magazine, and MG fiction book writer.  She's one of those select few authors who decided one day that she was going to write full-time, for a living, and she has been a great success story in doing what she loves (writing) while pulling in a living wage as an author ever since.

Kate was a huge help to me when I first started writing non-fiction for magazines.  She taught me the basic in's and out's of the trade, and I will always be grateful for her guidance. Kate's written 10 books, seven of them non-fiction, including two of my favorites, PLANET EARTH (A book that teaches kids about the earth through hands on learning, science experiments, and fun,) and WALT DISNEY WORLD EXTREME VACATION GUIDE FOR KIDS (a book that does that same thing for Disney world that PLANET EARTH did for the planet : ) -- I'm sure most parents out there don't know half of the wierd science, fun experiments, awesome craft and fundraising ideas, and historical facts that make this book a great resource for any kids and parents planning a Disney Vacation in the next 6-8 months. I know when I reviewed it, I certainly learned a lot!  Kate also writes non-fiction for various national magazines, and her first middle grade novel, a hilarious (yes, I've read the manuscript,) tale for middle graders is currently in the hands of her agent and making it's rounds to publishers.

So, welcome, Kate! You've helped many others learn the craft already.  But who was the author who "reached back" to help you when you were first starting out?

I’d been freelancing for only a year or so when I realized I needed to be part of a larger community of writers. I’d known writer Vicky Mlyniec in passing from a small, quirky online writing group, and I’d heard her talk about a group of professional freelancers she belonged to, Freelance Success (FLX). I asked Vicky about it, and she encouraged me to consider joining. I did, and it was the best decision of my writing career. I’ve met more good friends than I can count, and the advice and camaraderie have been phenomenal.

Vicky continued to be a quiet-spoken but steady friend throughout my early writing years. She was always one of the first to respond to my questions on FLX, always offering simple words of advice or support, always passing along information I could use.

She was never a flashy, outspoken, or in-your-face kind of writer…she never took anything for granted or flaunted her success. My lesson from Vicky is that you can blend the art of writing with the craft of writing, and do it without theatrics or leaching off anyone else. You don’t have to step on anyone else to reach your goal; you don’t have to wear a big sign that says, “Look at me!” You just learn what you can, apply it honestly to your work, and stay the course when things get rough.

That sounds like great wisdom that you learned from Vicky Mlyniec!  She obviously not only  linked you with a great network of other writing professionals, but also led by example with her quiet know-how and steady work ethic. Thanks for mentioning her!

You obviously have successful relationships now with a number of very diverse editors who you have worked with over the years and continue to write for today.  Would you say that implementing Vicky's wisdom that theatrics or 'look at me' fanfare are not needed has helped your career?

Oh yes. I think editors and agents appreciate working with someone who is down-to-earth and not needy or constantly in need of ego-stroking. Publishing is a funny industry because you’re combining the touchy-feely art of writing with the cold reality of business. You’ve got to find a balance if you want your work to be shown and shine. Pour your heart and soul onto the page, but then pull on your working boots and handle the business side of things with professionalism. I guess it’s like finding the balance between your inner child and outer adult.

That's great advice, Kate.  I know I've heard from many editors at conferences that they much prefer calm, rational writer/artists to those who need a lot of extra emotional stroking to stay happy and productive.  Writing is an art form but publishing is a business, as well.  Well said.

I've already mentioned how you helped me start my own free-lance magazine work, a number of years ago, Kate. How else have you reached out to help other writers, now that you've found your own success in the biz?

I’m still part of the FLX community, and I’ve fielded emails from strangers who have contactedme to ask for my suggestions on getting started. And of course, as part of the fabulous Goalies writing group locally, we’ve been able to reach out to other up-and-coming writers in our local community. I’m always happy to talk with anyone who has questions about the business or the craft – although I still feel like I’m in a constant state of growth and learning, too, so we’re kind of learning together.

It is only the wise, Kate, who have learned enough to concede that they are still learning new things all the time.  Thanks for reaching out to help the rest of us learn new things too!

We know you're not new to this business. But how old were you when you first started writing?  And was it fiction or non-fiction (since now you do so well at both)?
I guess this is another story of someone reaching out to help me. I started writing when I was five (“The Rabbet and Dog and Cat”), but when I was in third grade, I got my first real assist. My teacher, Mrs. Jane Bull, set up a special desk for me and stuffed it with paper and writing prompts. If I finished my work early, I could go sit at that desk and create my masterpieces. She even entered one of my stories in the high school competition, where it tied with two others for first place. (I still have a copy of that five-dollar check she brought over to my house and presented to me with the most proud, broad smile I’ve ever seen.)

Ah, what a great story! And I love that you still have the original copy of that story and have so sweetly posted it on your website with all of your later published works.  That's great!  And hooray for Mrs. Bull for seeing your passion and talent for writing early on and going the extra mile to encourage and affirm you.  I suspect that almost every author today can point back to a teacher who somewhere along the way affirmed their writing and thus gave them the courage to press forward in this craft.  For me it was Mrs. Tetor, in 8th grade English.  : )  Thanks Mrs. Tetor and Mrs. Bull! For those out there reading this, who was it for you?

So Kate, tell us about a recent project you've been working on that has your passion all fired up?

Since I write for a living, there’s a pressure to PRODUCE. Sometimes, that pressure completely blocks me, because I can’t see the art—the business bully is standing in the way. Instead of pounding my head against the keyboard (tried it; doesn’t work), I step away from the computer. I’ll either do some writing by hand (you know, pen and paper? ’member those?), read, or leave the office completely to seek inspiration. Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. I don’t look for ANYTHING. I just let go of whatever I’m trying to think of, and do something like scrub the bathroom or walk on the treadmill (I call it my “brainstorming machine”). Lately, I’ve been building a Rube Goldberg machine with my kids (video to come; watch for it!). That’s helped loosen the ideas by doing something creative other than words

I think that's a brilliant strategy, focusing on something other than writing sometimes, to help get those creative juices flowing!  Also, what a wonderful example that is of doing something both fun and educational with your kids! (And for those who don't know this, Kate's sons helped her write and illustrate her Walt Disney World Extreme Vacation Guide book -- another way-cooler-than-normal mother son project. Kate is famous for these - though, being a non-flashy, quiet, calm, soft-spoken author and mom, she would never tell you.  So I'm blowing her cover!)

Alright Kate, here's a fun question, who was your favorite author when you were a child?

My fourth-grade teacher gave me the Phantom Tollbooth, and I still have that copy (although it’s in a plastic baggie because the spine broke long ago and it’s in sections). I absolutely loved Milo as a character. (For years I told people my middle initial stood for Milo…I can’t believe I just admitted that…while I’m confessing, I also had an imaginary dog named Oil. He was a Great Dane, so I walked around all day with my arm stuck up in the air, holding his “leash.” But I’m drifting from your question…) I also loved the setting of that book, and how cleverly he combined numbers and language into the setting and plot. Such a great book.

Yes it is - a great book! And somehow I have no problem at all picturing you walking around with with your imaginary Great Dane. Hee Hee.  

So, one final question.  Why do you think it's important for experienced authors or illustrators to reach out of reach back to teach and assist those who are newer to this profession?

It’s important because this path is so, so twisted and tough (unless, apparently, you’re writing erotic ebooks or helpless heroine tales). If someone with experience can answer some questions or hold out a helping hand to someone who’s starting out, it gives the newcomer hope and a small light to guide them to their next step. However: Those starting out have to realize there’s no magic pill – it’s still about learning and trying and a whole lotta butt glue to stay in your chair!

Ha Ha, Kate!  And just when I was about to run off to write an erotic helpless heroine tale I realized that your last sentence means we still have to keep our butts in our chair and do the work, no matter what we're writing!  Yes, that's definitely the hard part on many days.  But you're another great example of how all the hard work is worth it in the end.  Of course, the end of one book or project is really just the begining of another, for those of us, like you, who aspire to be full-time, successful writers!

Thanks for all your wisdom on how to keep our art and our business skills aligned with each other as we go quietly along in this profession!  This has been a fun interview!

Next Saturday morning our author guest will be award-winning MG Historical Fiction Author Joyce Moyer Hostetter.  See you all then!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Each One Teach One" Interview: Author David Greenberg

Sorry for the late posting this weekend, everyone! Apparently I've got a bit of the flu. : ) But fear not. Here is the good stuff! 

Our “Each One Teach One Interview” this week features PB and MG author David Greenberg, from my childhood home-state of Oregon.

David has written 9 picture books and one middle grade novel, and he has another picture book on the way  - The worst smell of all – a collection of poems about school, from Scholastic in early 2014. His MG novel A TuggingString won the Oregon Spirit award and was a finalist for the 2009 Oregon Book Award. His picture book The Great School Lunch Rebellion was the 1990 recipient of the Children's Choice award.  David does many school visits to classes of various ages throughout the year, and throughout the country, to talk about writing, books, and poetry.  He is the founder of the Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writers Workshop, an annual week-long workshop for serious children’s book/YA writers that I had the opportunity to attend a few years back. The OCCBWW brings together editors, authors and an agent, for a week of training in the craft, writing, revising, and camaraderie in beautiful Oceanside Oregon.  David also teaches an online picture bookwriting course. 

So David, tell us, who was the more established author who “reached back” or “reached out” to teach you something about the craft or the profession, or to support you, when you were just starting out?

At the very start of my career I contacted about two dozen established children’s book writers seeking advice from them on how to proceed.  None bothered to get back to me except for Maurice Sendak who wrote me a gracious letter than advised me to persevere.  I’ve always appreciated this immensely. It made a great different that such a mighty one took an interest in one so puny.

That’s a great story, David. Go Mauric Sendak! And what truly wonderful advice he gave you!  That’s a great example by Maurice of how to reach back to encourage new authors, and how important that is in the life of the new authors.  I know if I got a letter from Maurice Sendak I'd probably frame it and post it in my writing room! 
Can you give an example of how that advice from Maurice Sendak has helped you in your writing career since that letter arrived at your door?

Yes. Most of my early books were rejected innumerable times by different publishers. Sendak’s admonition to persevere helped me to keep my bow pointed forward.
That's great, David.  We all get turned down and it’s such a crushing feeling – especially the first few times it happens. But it’s such a good reminder to all of us that you were turned down multiple times early on as well, but now you’re on your 10th published book! That's wonderful!
I know that you’ve done a lot to help new writers over the years.  Tell us, why you have intentionally “reached back” or “reached out” to other new authors to help them learn new skills and give tips.  Why do you think doing this is important?

I always give aspiring authors (even children) as much of my lights (however dim they may be) as possible. I think it is a moral obligation not only for writers, but for all of us who are somewhat further ahead on life’s journey.

That point about “moral obligation” is so true, David.  I quite agree, and I’m so glad you look at it that way! If we were all just independent little ships floating around, where would we be as a profession?

 I know one way in which you’ve definitely helped a lot of new writers is through starting the “Oregon Coast Children’s Book Writer’s Workshop (OCCBWW)” which I highly recommend to any aspiring authors. (The OCCBWW is helpful to authors at various levels of the craft because of the daily opportunity to have 1:1 critiques and to get daily 1:1 advice from editors, an agent, and a bunch of well-published experienced author-presenters from Nonfiction PBs to Fiction YAs.)  So David, give us a bit of background on why you decided to start the OCCBWW.
I started OCCBWW because I felt that I floundered needlessly for years when I began writing. If only I could have met with and learned from caring, accomplished authors and editors I could have figured out this biz far sooner. I presumed that other aspiring writers must feel as I did, and so was inspired to start the course.  For those who attend they can meet with a working children’s book editor who will kindly, yet frankly, tell them what’s right with their writing and where they’re off track. Likewise, they can meet with a children’s book agent, and all the writers to whom they listen and with whom they meet, can give them the considerable benefit of their lights.

That does sound exactly like my own experience at the OCCBWW, David.  I felt that the 1:1 interaction with so many industry professionals who willingly read and critiqued and then re-read and re-critiqued my writing after I’d edited it there by the ocean, was extremely helpful. It was something that you just can’t get at a lot of conferences or workshops.  I’m sure all participants will have a wonderful experience there in Oceanside again this July!  Thanks for starting such a great workshop for children’s and YA writers!

Here's a photo from a prior year's class at the OCCBWW, taken on the porch of the classroom building! Wow. What a beautiful setting for a wonderful writing experience!

I know that in addition to hosting and leading the OCCBWW, David, you’re still working hard on your own writing too.  Tell us about one of your favorite current projects.

Scholastic asked me to write poems about school. This was my first chance to write a collection within the realm inhabited by writers such as Shel Sylverstein and Jack Prelutsky, viz short, pithy poems with twists. A lot of fun! (This is the book “The Worst Smell of All”coming out in 2014.)
That sounds like fun, David! I’ll look forward to reading it!  And for those who have any interest in Martin Luther King Jr, I’d definitely recommend reading David’s MG novel
A Tugging String, about he and his father’s up close and personal experiences with the day to day life of the civil rights leader.

Here’s are just a couple of quick, fun questions, David, to finish us off.  First, if you could have written any book that's already been written by someone else, what book would it be, and why do you wish you had written it? 
I'd say any poetry by Rudyard Kipling. He's a genius and extracts more of the potential energy of language than any poet I've ever known. 

Yes. Kipling is brilliant! Good choice. : )

And what is it that you personally like most about being a writer?

I love doing something for a living that’s amazingly fun, cool, gratifying. Can’t think of anything better. You sit down, you think, you write down your thoughts, someone draws pictures to go with them, children read your writing, they smile!

Well put, David!  We definitely are lucky to be working in such a wonderful, though certainly not easy, profession!

So what advice would you give to all the struggling new writers out there?

Even though things may look bleak today, if you keep putting one foot in front of the other, they may be much brighter tomorrow.

That's great advice, David, and goes right along with the "perseverance" wisdom that Maurice Sendak shared with you.  Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today!
I hope to be back in oceanside sometime soon myself!

Our guest author next weekend will be Nonfiction Children's Book, nonfiction magazine, and fiction MG writer Kathleen Reilly. She'll be sharing tips from the varired experience she's in multiple arenas of children's writing and publishing. See you all then!

Friday, May 11, 2012

"Each One Teach One" Interview: Author & Writing Instructor Kami Kinard

It’s Friday! This week in our “Each One Teach One” Author Interview, Middle Grade Author and professional writing instructor Kami Kinard, of South Carolina, shares with us tips, plus thoughts on “mistakes that new authors often make."
Kami has taught professional writing classes to adults for years at Technical College of the Low Country and the Arts Council of Beaufort County. Her classes include courses on writing for children, novel revision, and how to critique, and she has led many poetry writing workshops across the state.  Her recently released middle grade novel The Boy Project is already receiving rave reviews.  On May 18th she’ll be teaching a Master Class on "The Road to Publication for the Children’s Market" at the SC Book Festival in Columbia SC and she’ll be a panelist in the discussion on YA and MG books. She’s also a featured speaker at the SCBWI New Jersey Conference this coming June and a panelist at the SCBWI Carolinas Conference in Sept. 2012.

So Kami, tell us, who was the author who “reached back” to help you when you were first starting out?

  When I was first starting out, I was living in Morehead City NC, which is a fairly remote area on the NC coast. I couldn’t find any other children’s writers to share things with, but I knew I had so much to learn. Then I heard about a writer named Joan Carris who lived in Beaufort NC, the next town over. I looked up her number and called her cold. Joan had written a lot of things, including the first ever book on how to improve SAT scores called SAT Success. She was nice, but told me she was straying away from children’s writing. A few months later I called her again. I begged her for help. I offered to pay her. I think she heard the desperation in my voice and said, “Come on over.” From that time until I moved away a few years later, we met regularly in Joan’s kitchen, overlooking the beautiful Bogue Sound. She never took a penny from me, but she gave me so much! A master wordsmith, Joan helped me learn how to edit my own work – how to take out words and phrases that weren’t needed in order to make the remaining words more powerful. I will always be grateful to her.  Joan, in fact, did not give up writing for children. She has three adorable books out in her Welcome to the Bed and Biscuit series with Candlewick. I was lucky enough to read the first one as part of our early writing exchanges. Her website it packed with information:
Doing those difficult edits is definitely an important skill that we all have to learn!  Kudos to Joan Carris for taking time to help you learn that skill.  And hooray for you for being persistent in seeking a partner to help you improve your craft!

So, how have you used those revision skills you learned back then on your more recent writing?

When I finished revising my novel THE BOY PROJECT, I took self-editing a step further than I ever had before. I went through the revised manuscript (and by revised I mean that I thought it was ready to send out) and I looked back at every single word. Then I made a decision about whether or not to keep it in. That’s over 40,000 decisions, folks. I ended up shortening the manuscript by about 2,000 words. Sometimes I deleted entire paragraphs. Sometimes whole sentences. Sometimes just a word. When I sent it back to my agent, she was very pleased. She said the writing was much tighter. And the manuscript sold shortly thereafter. I think Joan helped give me the vision to cut the unnecessary.

You cut 2000 words after you thought it was already perfect! Wow. That’s a great lesson for all of us who love our extraneous words too much to chop them out and make our chapters better.  What a great example!

Now, as your writing career continues to progress, how have you intentionally “reached back” or “reached out” to other new authors, to help them learn new skills and give tips?  Why do you think doing this is important?

I was born to be a writer. But I was also born to be a teacher, and I had a successful teaching career before I started writing full time. I still love to teach and now I teach writing classes. I also do pro bono work. Recently I met with a high school writing club and shared some of the things I have learned, and answered their questions. I try to answer all questions directed to me by aspiring writers. And every critique group I have formed (there have been a few because we’ve moved a lot) has included a mix of new and experienced writers.   This is important because writers must learn their craft, and they can’t learn it if no one is willing to teach them. 
 I absolutely agree!  Newer writers can’t learn if no one will teach them!  And we’re all at different points in our careers, so there’s always something new that we can learn about writing or the publishing industry, from those who are ahead of us on the path.

That’s definitely the idea behind these “Each One Teach One” interviews as well.  I hope that we’ll all keep learning great strategies for improving our writing and publishing success via these interviews. So many great writers have signed on to be interviewed and give tips! (Alan Gratz, Kelly Starling-Lyons, David Greenberg, Kate Reilly, and Joyce Moyer Hostetter, are just a few of the diverse authors who will be showing up here over the next few Fridays.) So it’s getting very exciting!

So Kami, is there an additional gem of wisdom that you’d like to give to other authors about writing, or logistics of the profession?

Invest in your career. Take Classes. Join SCBWI. Go to conferences. Purchase books like Hooked and Novel Metamorphosis.

Great advice.  I’ve not read “Hooked” or “Novel Metamorphosis” yet, but I plan to go look them up immediately. Anything with “morphosis” in the title has got to be good! : ) The idea of “change” (aka morphosis) as we move from first drafts to subsequent drafts is so essential in making our manuscripts ready for the bookstore shelves.
One special question I’d love to ask you, Kami, is this: since you’ve been teaching professional writing classes for so many years, what is one of the most common mistakes you see new writers make?

One of the biggest mistakes I see some (not all) new writers make is being too close to their subjects. Every time I teach a writing course I have at least one writer in my class who wants to write fiction, but who also insists on sticking to his or her own life experiences. THE BOY PROJECT is based on my own life experiences, but it is fiction, so I reached beyond my experience to create situations that never happened to me and to create characters I had never really met. I see many new writers who are married to their own experiences and ideas, and because they are unwilling to expand those ideas into unknown territory they are crippled.  These writers never get published UNLESS they overcome this. Not all do. So new writers need to be open to learning and to trying new things. They also need to be open to suggestions, but this doesn’t mean they need to take every suggestion offered!

Oh boy… so true. Those last two sentences are exactly how I would have said it!
So, one last FUN question: Who was your favorite author when you were a child, and who are 2-3 children’s or MG/YA authors/illustrators whose books you love now, as an adult? Why?
I’d have to say my favorite author as a child was Carolyn Keene, author of the Nancy Drew series. (Whether she was one author, or many authors writing under a pseudonym, didn’t matter to me as a child.)  I think I had read every book in the series before entering fourth grade.

As an adult, this probably changes for me from week to week and I tend to have favorite books without loving all of the books by a given author. I just read Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater and I loved it. I thought it was beautifully written.  She does a wonderful job of creating a setting that is integral to her story. I also really liked Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi. I was introduced to this book at a writers’ workshop and I was the only writer in the group who liked it. I couldn’t believe this because I thought the book was great! If you want to read a book by someone who has mastered the art of writing a scene, you should take a look at Ship Breaker!
I was right there with you with the Nancy Drews – finished them all in the 4th grade myself! Ship Breaker and Scorpio Races will go on my reading list now, for sure.

Thanks so much, Kami, for your great thoughts on revision and being open to critique and change to make our manuscripts stronger!
Here’s a link to a fun youtube post by a middle grade girl who doesn’t actually know Kami (or me,) but who apparently has discovered and begun enjoying sharing Kami’s recent book with the online world. : ) Ah…hooray for young readers! There's another great link below it posted by another middle grade girl as well.  Both show different aspects of what middle graders love about this book. Go Kami! In many ways, youtube-love from your readers is the highest form of praise!
2nd Video: "My Favorite Book: The Boy Project"

Thanks again, Kami, for sharing this book and your wisdom!

 We'll see everyone next Friday again for our “Each One Teach One” Interview with experienced Children’s nonfiction book and adult magazine and MG fiction writer Kathleen Reilly, right here, on writermorphosis.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"Each One Teach One" Author Interview: Stephen Messer

For this week’s “Each One Teach One” Interview we’ll be hearing from Middle Grade Author Stephen Messer.
For those of us authors, editors, and agents who secretly feel that “using imagination and thinking outside of the box” on plot and setting in children’s lit, especially in fantasy, is extremely important but that thinking so far out of the box that readers might not be able to wrap their minds about your fantasy world is a bit crazy

Well, to those people, I present, StephenMesser. He’s an author who obviously understands that the minds of middle graders do not function within the same silly limits as the minds of adults.
Stephen is currently working on his 4th novel. His first three – all with his succinct, distinctly recognizable “authorial voice” have featured 1.) a boy who lives in a world of kites (Windblown),  2.) a boy who is murdered on the first page and is immediately roped into life as a not very successful ghost (The Death of Yorik Mortwell,) and 3.) kids commanding giant robots who must fight to determine the future at the end of time (Colossus).  He knows how to make “outside the box” just perfect for middle grade readers.
 He’ll be on the panel of authors critiquing first pages at the upcoming SCBWI Schmooze in Raleigh, NC, May 20th, 2012. And for anyone who wishes to make sure that Stephen knows how to write a good first page, I suggest an immediate trip to to read the first pages of Windblowne and Yorik Mortwell. J  I was hooked at line 1 with: “Twelve year old Yorik Mortwell lay on the hard, cold ground, dead.”

So Stephen, what author or other industry professional reached out to help you improve your craft when you were just starting out in Children’s literature?

Josh Adams, now my agent, provided me with a generous critique of my eventual debut novel, WINDBLOWNE, when it was still in an early draft. I did a complete revision based on this critique, eventually signed with Josh, and am now working on my fourth novel as a client of Adams Literary. I credit him with a willingness to work with me in spite of my rather unpolished initial offering.
             It's definitely so hard to do those major revisions, Stephen, yet we all learn over time how 
            important that is. It’s great that Josh took the time to work with you in the early stages – to              give you suggestions on what to improve!

So what did going through that detailed revision process, and the more recent major revisions with your other books teach you?  
I think that since then I’ve been better able to approach my work as a reader, as opposed to a “writer” who has read a lot of how-to books and is focusing too much on craft and not enough on engaging and entertaining.
Ah. Good point, Stephen. We’ve all been there.  We want to use the most in-vogue plot and genre and the most effective tricks of the trade – so the book will sell. Yet somewhere along the way I guess we have to pause to remember that it’s really all about letting the reader enter the story -- allowing them to forget that they’re reading a book at all, and to instead lose themselves in the character’s journey, becoming part of the story themselves

 So, your first book was published in 2010, and now in 2012 you’re working on your 4th.     that’s a great row of books coming out back to back! As your writing/illustrating career has progressed how have you intentionally “reached back” or “reached out” to other new authors to help them learn new skills and give tips?  Why do you think doing this is important? 
I stay involved with SCBWI and engage with other writers via online forums and Facebook. There’s a continuity of writers and mentors stretching back through to the mists of children’s literature, and it is a privilege to participate in that.
Here’s a fun question.  You write for middle graders.  How old were you when you first started writing?
I’ve written stories since before I can remember. Once, in junior high, I wrote the first page (first page only) of a horror novel, inspired by Stephen King. I promptly forgot about it. Later, my younger brother found it and came to me to ask eagerly what happened next. This gave me the impression that I could interest people with my writing.
Go little brother!  So, do you now give him half of your writing earnings to thank him for his help in pointing you toward the right profession early on? : ) Ack! And there I’ve just gone and put the idea in his head, well, um…. moving on.
So tell us about your 3rd book, which will be released into the hands of happy readers soon.
I’m currently in revisions for my Fall 2013 release, COLOSSUS. It’s a scifi/fantasy adventure set at the end of time, in which children commanding giant robots are battling for a key which will determine the nature of the next universe to come. I’m quite excited about it.
                Like I said, ya’ll.  Kids and giant robots determining the future of the universe. Awesome!
So tell me.  How have writing conferences, your critique group, SCBWI Schmoozes, or other chances to network and discuss the craft with other writers helped you in your career as a writer.  Is there one particular experience you’ve had that you’d like to highlight?
I participated in a First Pages panel at an SCBWI Carolinas conference in 2007. The first page was from WINDBLOWNE, and the feedback was enormously helpful. This is why I’m excited to be on the panel for the Quail Ridge First Pages event.

And everyone’s excited to have you as well! Just one final question:  Who are a few children’s or MG/YA authors whose books you love, now, as an adult. 
I’m excited about John Claude Bemis’s new release on May 22nd – THE PRINCE WHO FELL FROM THE SKY, which has been called a post-apocalyptic Jungle Book. It’s a fantastic book that is getting great reviews. I’m also looking forward to J.J. Johnson’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, a follow-up to her exemplary debut. And there’s going to be a third book in Hilary Wagner’s NIGHTSHADE CHRONICLES series, which is excellent news for anyone who likes adventure and rats. 
Adventure AND rats?  We’ll have to check those out!
Thanks so much, Stephen, for your thoughts on the importance of revision and keeping the focus of our writing on “engaging and entertaining” our readers! Thanks for your books’ examples of some great first pages too!
We’ll see you at Quail Ridge Books on May 20th at 3pm. Remember the 1st pagesrules everybody!
Our next “Each One Teach One” author interview victim will be author and professional writing teacher Kami Kinard on Friday, May 11th.