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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lori Scott - Guest Author at Write What Inspires You! Today



I am excited to welcome author Lori Z. Scott to talk about the Meghan Rose series.


Since 2000, award winning author Lori Scott has published about 100 short stories, devotions, puzzles, poems, and articles for children, teens, and adults. This includes contributions to over a dozen books including Real Moms, Cup of Comfort Book of Prayers, and 2007 Eppie Award winner http://www.amazon.com/Infinite-Space-God-Karina-Fabian/dp/1933353627/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1208493564&sr=1-1> Infinite Space, Infinite God.


Lori is a graduate of Wheaton College. When she’s not busy driving her two children to various church, sporting, and artistic activities, she moonlights as second grade teacher.

Lori, welcome. Thanks for taking time to be with us today.


My pleasure.

You often introduce yourself as first a mother, then a teacher, and finally a writer. Why is that?

I feel like being a mother is my highest calling in life. And that means I’m a caregiver, nurse, tutor, cheerleader, counselor, transportation expert, and nutritionist. I often put my own interests on hold because being a mommy trumps all.

I call myself a teacher second because…well, I am a second grade teacher! Working with kids has always been a major focus of my life. (Maybe I’m just not ready to give up comic books yet!)
I call myself a writer last because I often feel like writing too much fun—and pays too little—to be a real job. But then again, writing is another interest in my life I have felt called to pursue. God blessed me there too. How does your experience as a teacher help your writing?

One big advantage to being a teacher is that I’ve worked extensively with my target audience. I understand the challenges they face, the jokes they enjoy, the way they talk and act, and how they play. I believe that understanding gives my writing authenticity. I know the kids I’m writing for…and that better equips me to reach and entertain them.

The Meghan Rose series is geared for an age group that has shared a huge part of my life. I taught primary grades (K, 1, 2) for nine years before retiring to raise my own kids, and now I’m back in the classroom full time. I’ve also worked with kids this age on a volunteer basis as a leader for VBS, Sunday school, AWANAS, Pioneer Club, and Team Kids at church. In addition, I helped with an Outdoor Education camp, worked at a children’s museum, and ran an after school art club.

The teacher in me also enjoys extending my stories. That’s one reason why I included activities and discussion questions at the end of each book. I put even more ideas, games, and jokes on my web site, http://http://www.meghanroseseries.com/.

Tell us more about those extensions.


Those came about as a desire to bring the lessons home. I mean, how many times have you as a mother read a book and thought, “There’s a good lesson in here” but didn’t know how to draw your child into a discussion about it? I remember reading Where the Red Fern Grows with my daughter and wanting to talk about the tender topic of death. But since I didn’t know where to start, I couldn’t fully take advantage of that teachable moment. (Instead we both just cried all the way through the last few chapters.)

That’s why I included questions for parents or teachers to use after they read the story, so they can capitalize on each book’s underlying message. (Although I hope people laugh through the last few chapters of Meghan Rose instead of cry!)

And the activities are all for the kids. They love extending the story experience by creating their own volcanoes or whatever. I also put a ton of other ideas for parents and kids on my website under the BLAM (Brilliant Little Activities to Make) link (http://www.meghanroseseries.com/).
So each book has an underlying message? Tell us about that.

I wanted the stories to do more than entertain. I wanted them to have takeaway value. Each book’s message is very subtle but still evident throughout the book. While Meghan Rose on Stage! talks about discovering your talents, it’s ultimately about friendship. Meghan Rose Has Ants in Her Pants explores the idea of patience. Meghan Rose All Dressed Up and Meghan Rose Has a Secret address inner beauty and kind words. But none of it is preachy. It’s heavy on the humor and very, VERY light on the lesson…yet neither quality is lost on the child.

Why would parents like your series?


A good question—one that I have to answer from my own experience. When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies.

Well, I enjoyed the humor in those books, but had to edit out some of the grammar slips, name calling and attitudes. I thought that there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value. I scoured the Christian bookstores. I couldn’t find any fiction for that age group, only devotional books and Bible stories.

When I asked about it, bookstore owners often commented that they wished they could offer such a book. In fact, they’d had numerous parents come to the store, all asking the same thing: Do you have a fiction book my young child will enjoy reading? And, like me, they walked away empty handed.

So I wrote the book I couldn’t find—a book for my daughter AND for all those other mothers just like me. I put in everything she wanted—an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for—and everything I wanted—good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). And because I don’t believe I’m alone in those desires, I’m convinced other parents (AND THEIR KIDS!!!) will like the series too.

Are the books just for girls?

Not at all! One mother of two boys emailed me about how much her sons enjoyed reading them with her. She said they could hardly read for laughing so hard—they were all HOWLING!! The youngest one loved it so much he started sleeping with the first book under his pillow at night.
In fact, the comment I hear most from people who read the books is, “I laughed out loud.” The second comment I hear most often is about how much kids (and parents) like the discussion questions and activities. How can all that just be for girls?

Where do you get the inspiration for the humorous parts of the books?

Most of that comes from my upbringing. My dad was always coming up with puns and jokes. He made them up on the spot, and they were hilarious! I can’t tell you how many hours we spent laughing around the dinner table. I think dad influenced all my sisters. Plus I grew up on a steady diet of comic books. Peanuts and Garfield were my favorites, and later Calvin and Hobbes. And we’d also watch comedy on television, especially The Carol Brunette Show.
That said, some of my inspiration just comes from everyday life. My kids crack me up. They both have a great sense of humor.

The main character in the Meghan Rose series shares your daughter’s name. Why is that?

She was the foundational basis for the character. When I started the series, I needed someone likable, outrageous, clever, spunky, and sensitive all rolled into one. Well, that’s my Meghan. And since I originally wrote the books just for her, I simply used her name. You’ll also see the names of other people I’ve met, although the character they’re named for is totally fiction. Mrs. Arnold, for example, was the name of Meghan’s real first grade teacher. But she’s not like the Mrs. Arnold in the book.

Are any of the characters like you?

I think maybe there’s a little bit of me in all of them. Certainly a lot of me is reflected in the teacher, Mrs. Arnold. Then Ryan shows the jokester side of me, Kayla has the goofy side, Lynette has the rule-following, show-off side, and Meghan’s Mom has the practical side. The Meghan character herself is about 80 percent of the “real” Meghan, 10 percent of me and my creative musings, and 10 percent total fiction.

Can you share one idea for mothers to help their children be more creative?

Sure. Hmmm. Hard to pick one. I guess one great idea is to encourage your children to be involved with artistic endeavors. That can include a whole variety of options, like drawing, painting, or making things out of shoe boxes. Children can listen to or dance to music. Or make their own music. They can dress up and put on a show for family or friends, or memorize a silly poem. And it should be fun, not work.

Where can readers learn more about you and the Meghan Rose books?

They can visit my website at http://www.meghanroseseries.com/. My award-winning illustrator, Stacy Curtis, designed it. It offers jokes, puzzles, and activities for kids and great ideas for teacher and parents (on Mrs. Arnold’s BLAM page). It also introduces the books and characters, provides links to book reviews, and gives ordering information. I posted a retold fairy tale reader’s theater that gives visitors a good feel for the style of humor found in the books at www.meghanroseseries.com/teachers_LittleRed.asp .

The books have been on the market for a year. How have they fared? And are there more on the way?

I think they’ve been well received. All four have consistently stayed on Amazon’s top 25 bestsellers for Standard Publishing. Plus I was recently invited to showcase them at the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, Texas. (All I can say about that is WOW. My books were in good company and I feel very humbled!)

As far as more books goes, I can’t tell you too much because they are not under contract yet! That’s up to God and the editors at Standard. But I will tell you this…I drafted the next three books in the series…and as much as I enjoy the first four books in the series, I like the next three even better! The characters’ personalities shine stronger than ever. Meghan’s friend Kayla is a complete side-stitching HOOT. I laugh even thinking about the punch lines she delivers. And I introduce a new character named Sophie, a perfect foil to all of Meghan’s clever plans.

The tentative titles of those books are Meghan Rose Takes the Cake, Meghan Rose Knows it All, and I don’t have the last title yet. In them, Meghan explores helping others, humility, and honesty (by title respectively). But, of course, no preaching, only lots and lots of laughs and very subtle life lessons.


That sounds great. Well, thank you for your time!

Thank you for letting me visit with you.

9 comments:

  1. Great interview, Donna and Lori. I remember reading Where the Red Fern grows when I was much younger. I cried through it, too. I loved the book, but was unfortunately not able to get my kids interested in it, although they read widely in other areas.

    It's always great to meet another author. Lori, I wish the greatest success.

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  2. Great interview questions and answers. Lori I agree wholeheartedly with how you've chosen to prioritize your life. I wish all parents made parenting their op priority. It's such an honor to raise children.

    The Jonas brothers' parents say, "We're raising young men,tomorrow's fathers & husbands." It's a huge responsibility and I admire all who seek to do it well.

    On a lighter note, I love Junie B. Jones. I'm happy to hear there's a similar Christian series. Good luck.

    Blessings,
    The Differently-Abled Children's Author
    J. Aday Kennedy
    www.jadaykennedy.com

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  3. Donna, ineresting interview with Lori Scott. I really agree with her goal of being a mother first.

    Tried to add this note to the Comments, but they would not upload it??

    Margot Finke

    * Manuscript Critiques - Writing Help
    http://www.margotfinke.com
    http://margotfinke.blogspot.com/

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  4. Thanks for another informative interview, Donna!

    I participated in Lori's blog tour awhile back and was able to check out the Meghan Rose series. The series is wonderful and I highly recommend it.

    All the best,
    Lori
    www.loricalabrese.com

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  5. Hi Katie! Thanks for checking out the interview. I bet I would cry every time I read about Little Ann and Old Dan. SNIFF.

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  6. I'm with you, J.Aday and Margot. Mommy first and always. :)
    And, HI Lori! Good to hear from you again. Thank you for your kind comments.
    Lori

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  7. These sound like delightful books. Just the kind of books I would like to write. Definitely the kind of books kids would like to read.

    Shari
    http://sharilyle-soffe.com

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  8. I enjoyed reading about you, Lori. I'm a former teacher and love to meet other teachers, as well as writers. Your books sound like something I'd like to send to my grandchildren. Will check in to them.

    Another super review, Donna.

    Beverly

    http://beverlystowemcclure.wordpress.com

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  9. Great interview. What a good idea to incorporate teaching moments in your books - these can be brought into the classroom and used as curriculum.

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Thank for you taking the time out to visit with me and to learn about my writing career.

Please be sure to leave your blog address so I can reciprocate.

I look forward to visiting you too.