Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Children's Author, Bill Kirk visits Write What Inspires You!
DMc: Congratulations! You have been quite busy with three books scheduled for publication in 2011 with another two under contract. How are you balancing all your book promotion tasks?
BK: Thanks, Donna. You are so right. Balancing is a good way to put it because it is a real balancing act between tending to the business side of book promotion and marketing and finding time for the creative side of writing. I must admit, I still haven't mastered the business side of things. But I should say right off the bat that the interview opportunity you have given me today is definitely a plus on the “promotion” side. Thanks for having me.
I suppose the approach that works best for someone has to be connected to whatever their goals or objectives are for their writing. It’s hard to tell what works best. But all I know is once a book has been released, the real time consuming work begins—the more time you put into promoting your books, the better the chances of meeting your personal goals and objectives. There are lots of ways for one’s writing to have meaning. So, I would say pick how you want your writing to be used and to have value, then promote it toward those ends.
As it turns out, last month was a good month for both writing and promotion. April is National Poetry Month and I participated in the Writer’s Digest Poem A Day Challenge, which was indeed a challenge. But at month’s end, I had 30 poems—some good and others not—to use as a creative starting point. Also last month I traveled to South Carolina and did book readings in four classes at the school our granddaughters attend. So, on balance, April was a pretty good month for both the business side and the writing side.
DMc: Please share with our readers something about the three books scheduled for 2011 release.
BK: All of my children’s books so far are written in rhyme. I find that format to be very fun to play with—I guess it’s the word play that I find most enjoyable. Maybe it’s my inner child trying to escape.
Likewise, the three releases in 2011 are written in rhyme and will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing as part of my anatomical series of rhyming picture books titled THE SUM OF OUR PARTS. The first two books in the series were previously published in 2009 (“No Bones About It”) and 2010 (“Circulation Celebration”).
The third book in the series is currently in production. “Muscles Make Us Move” about the muscles in the human body. I’d have to say working gastrocnemius and sternocleidomastoid into the verses was a bit of a puzzle but those challenges make the anatomical rhymes fun to write. Later in the year “The Skin We’re In” will be released, followed by a “two-fer” book combining the eyes and the nose (“Once Upon An Eyeball” and “The Nose Knows Roses”).
The production pipeline for the anatomical rhymes is a bit longer than for some of my other books. The reason is that the content includes the rhyming text, factoids about each system, a glossary, word search, word match and sometimes a bonus rhyme. Also, the technical nature of the content both in the verses and in the factoids requires three sources to be sure the information is correct or falls within acceptable factual variation. Only after the content is verified and matched with the illustrations can the book building process begin, followed by the review of the galleys.
I’m hopeful as more books in the series are published, readers will feel they have some choices about which books are of the most interest depending on where they are in their anatomical learning. The series will be ideal for late grade school and middle school students who are beginning their science studies.
DMc: Eugene Ruble is the illustrator on many of your books. Please share with us the collaboration process with Mr. Ruble.
BK: The anatomical rhymes pose an interesting illustration opportunity to stay true to the technical side of anatomy which capturing the interest and imagination of young readers. Being new to Guardian Angel Publishing, I didn’t have a good sense of who might be able to combine both aspects. But fortunately the publisher, Lynda Burch, had someone in mind who would be up to the challenge.
Eugene Ruble has deep background in technical drawing but also knows how to make a technical drawing both simple and quirky. So, his bone drawings have faces and the heart has a personality. I haven’t seen the muscle drawings yet but I know Eugene will put his artistic spin on them that will bring the muscles to life.
The collaboration process has typically been iterative from the time I submit my initial Book Information Sheet with illustration suggestions for each verse, until the final galley. Lynda has given me an opportunity up front to provide my basic thoughts to Eugene about what might work to support the content. For some verses, the possible illustrations are more obvious than for others. But in all cases, the artist is free to take my suggestions as a non-artist and interpret the content.
The first time I will see Eugene’s interpretation is in the initial galley Lynda sends me for review. I consider that point the start of the back and forth “tweaking phase” where I provide feedback to be sure the artwork and content are in sync—for example, does the number of pints of blood in the verse and the illustration match. During that phase, the publisher also has input based on her experience about what works and what doesn’t. The overall production process can take several months to a year. But when we stick a fork in the final galley, release happens shortly after.
DMc: Shifting gears a bit, where did you grow up and go to school and where have you lived over the years?
BK: I grew up as the oldest (and only boy) among four children. My dad was in the Air Force. So, we moved around a lot and changed schools a lot. We were known as military brats among kids in the local communities, which tended to give us a clear identity—and it probably created a certain defensive pride about who we were. By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in Germany (twice) and Bolivia, Arizona, Florida (twice), Georgia and Virginia. And I had attended six different schools in three countries.
As an adult, I continued to move around as a member of the Air Force myself. In addition to living in Florida (twice again), Texas (also twice), Virginia (again) and California, I also lived in Thailand and Italy. I think all those experiences have taught me to look for both commonly shared values and unique qualities of people wherever they may live.
DMc: How do you keep your ideas fresh and entertaining for our young muses?
BK: Good question, Donna. One validation point for me has been watching our grandchildren as they play and discover things. I suppose I saw the same things when our children were growing up but I was often too busy to notice the fine points then. In fact, now I find myself experiencing déjà vu moments that “suddenly” inspire me to write a certain story.
One example which led to a published book is seeing the reaction on our four-year old grandson’s face when he saw a spider in the sink in the bathroom one morning. Another is my own recollection of fireflies on a summer evening when I was a kid, reinforced when our own children and grandchildren had the same experience. And who hasn’t had ants in their kitchen? Some things seem timeless and yet they can be captured in ways that seem totally in the moment because they happen around us every day.
As for the anatomical rhymes, I’d have to say those are based on a personal interest in health and wellbeing and my own curiosity about how the body works. The challenge is to write about the subject in a way kids will find odd, funny, amazing, a little scary or even gross. I haven’t mastered “gross” just yet but I’m getting there.
DMc: How do you spend your time when not writing? And how can our readers learn more about your diverse writing career?
BK: I’m retired from professional life. But I have often found myself stretched further now than ever before with no end of things to do. I’m an Eagle Scout and am currently the Scoutmaster for Troop 259 in Sacramento, CA. I got back into Scouting about eight years ago when our grandson, Dylan, was old enough to join Cub Scouts. He is currently a Life Scout. The Troop is currently planning a 50-mile, six-day backpacking trek in July in the High Sierra. So, backpacking and camping are how I recharge. I am also active in my church and will start a three-year term as a Deacon next month.
As for my writing, it is something that I have always enjoyed as a creative outlet. I feel very blessed to be able to work with some terrific artists and to see some of our joint efforts in print, whether in magazines, newspapers or books. Readers can sample some of my written meanderings on my website at http://www.billkirkwrites.com/, on my blog at http://billkirkwrites.blogspot.com/ and of course via the Guardian Angel Publishing site at http://guardianangelpublishing.com/.
Bill, thank you for visiting with me today...it's been wonderful getting to know you even more.
Donna M. McDine
Award-winning Children's Author
The Golden Pathway ~ August 2010 ~ Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.