Interview with Author Heather Vogel Frederick
Before I became a writer, I was a reader—and still am.
I was born inPeterborough,New Hampshireinto a family of bookworms, and spent most of my childhood holed up in the library or in my bedroom, reading. My mother used to say that if Heather had her nose in a book, the house would have to burn down around her before she’d sit up and take notice! Those are the best books, though, aren’t they? The ones that take your imagination by storm and spirit you off into a different world?
My father was an elementary schoolteacher and principal, and every night before bed he’d read to me and my two younger sisters. He’s a talented actor (he performs in plays on Cape Codall the time) and always came up with great voices for the characters. I think his finest role was as Aunt Sponge in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, performed in our living room.
I was also fortunate enough to be born into a family of what my grandmother called “big talkers”—talented storytellers, especially the women. I loved to hide behind chairs and sofas when my mother and grandmother and aunts got together and eavesdrop on their stories. My grandmother’s were the funniest and the best, and I begged to hear about her childhood in ruralNova Scotia over and over again.
I wrote lots of stories growing up—including a whole novel during rest hours at summer camp one year—and my sisters and I would often put on plays. Since I was the oldest and bossiest sister, I always got the lead. Our middle sister, who was skinny and had short hair (the dreaded “pixie cut”), always got stuck with the boy parts, and we made our little sister take the animal roles. Once, memorably, she was even a vegetable (the pea in “The Princess and the Pea”). We had a lot of fun.
The summer after I turned 11, my family moved toEnglandfor a while, where we lived in a 400-year-old stone cottage on the edge ofCharnwoodForest. To this day I dream about that house—its cheerful pink kitchen, two-foot-thick walls, and especially its thatched roof full of birds. I still think it’s the perfect house. Just down the street inBradgateParkwere the ruins of the birthplace of Lady Jane Grey, who at sixteen ruledEnglandfor a mere nine days. I loved to wander in those ruins, then sit in my bedroom’s deep windowsill and write stories about castles and knights in shining armor and doomed teenage queens.
I continued to write stories for my own amusement throughout middle school and high school. Later, in college, I majored in English Literature and German. As a lark during the final quarter of my senior year, I signed up for a children’s literature course. The instructor, a wonderfully passionate children’s librarian who quickly became a dear friend, rekindled my interest in this genre, and it was then that I decided I would write books for young readers some day.
To read more visit http://www.heathervogelfrederick.com/about/about03.html
Interview with Heather Vogel Frederick author of Babyberry Pie
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read? “Jane Eyre” — I just re-read it because my fictional book club will be reading it in the next mother-daughter book club installment.
What were your earliest memories of writing? I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t write! I have a very clear memory of one of the first stories I wrote in school, though. I was in the second grade, and my teacher put up pictures of familiar product advertisements as a prompt, and had us choose one and write a story using it in some way. I wrote a story called “The Clever Giant” that somehow combined Spaghettios and Bosco the clown (he advertised a syrup used in chocolate milk when I was growing up). My literary debut!
What was your favorite children’s book? Oh wow, I had so many. Half-Magic. The Wolves of WilloughbyChase. The Borrowers. Mr. Popper’s Penguins. The Four-Story Mistake. Charlotte’s Web. Mary Poppins. There’s no way I could pare it down to just one.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came naturally? My father was a huge influence in my life — he taught me to read when I was four, and he read aloud to me and my sisters just about every night until we were in college! He also encouraged me to write, and kept me in paper and pens and notebooks. He put a copy of Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” into my Christmas stocking when I was 12. At the same time, writing also came naturally to me — telling stories is just something I’ve always loved to do.
Are you working on a new book? I am! I just finished final revisions on “Once Upon a Toad,” a middle-grade novel that’s coming out this spring. It’s a fractured fairy tale, which is something different for me. And I’m in also in the process of writing the sixth mother-daughter book club installment.
What inspired you to write Babyberry Pie? There’s a funny story behind this book. I was picking boysenberries a couple of summers ago, for jam and for a pie. I got to thinking that “boysenberry” was an odd name for a berry. Then I got to wondering why there weren’t any “girlsenberries”? From there my mind leaped to “babyberries,” and then right on that thought’s heels came the words “babyberry pie.” I knew instantly that this was a great title. (Writers tend to do this — noodle around with words and language.) At any rate, I had the title first, and had to come up with a story to go with it.
What is the most difficult part of writing? Making myself sit down and do it. There are a bazillion distractions in life, many of them quite legitimate. There’s always a load of laundry that needs to be thrown in, or dogs who need walking, or meals that need preparing, and so on. Once I finally sit down and focus, things start to flow. But it’s the getting there that’s often difficult.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your books? I love to hang out with my husband and my family. I garden and read and hike and go to movies. Walk the dogs. Just very ordinary things.
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block? I’ve had my share of bad reviews. They sting, there’s no denying that. But I also reviewed books myself for many years, and I know for a fact that a review is simply one individual’s opinion. So I pull up my socks, as my mother would say, and get over it. As for writer’s block, it occasionally shows up on my doorstep, but I try not to buy what it’s selling. I can’t afford to! I’ve been writing for a living for many moons now, first as a journalist and now as a novelist, and I have a very practical attitude about my job. I need to show up at my desk and write. Not everything that spills out my pen on a given day is going to be deathless prose. Some of it will end up in the trash. Maybe a lot of it will end up in the trash. But I show up, and I write.
If I get stuck (which is the term I prefer, as “block” sounds so permanent), I tend to do something physical: walk the dogs, do some housecleaning, swim some laps. There’s something about physical activity that, for me at least, almost always jars an idea loose, and then I’m ready to go again.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book? The feeling that they are loved and safe. I hope they laugh, too!
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.? Again, I’ve been making a living by my pen for over 25 years, so I am extremely disciplined about my work. This is my job. Yes there’s flexibility, and yes sometimes I show up for my job in my pajamas. But I always show up. I’m a morning person, so am usually at my desk by 8 or 9. Mornings are reserved for creative work; afternoons for the business work. As for my goal, it’s always to write the best book I possibly can.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read? Take them for a test drive (the books, not your kids). Go to the library or bookstore. Browse. Pay attention. What attracts your eye? What tickles your ear? Chances are that the books that appeal to you will also appeal to your kids. Also, make friends with your local librarian. They know EVERYTHING and are fabulous resources. “My son loves stories about trucks — what can you recommend?” No problem. They’ve got it covered.
What advice you would give to new writers? Be patient with yourself. It may take a while to get published, so enjoy the journey. Take the time to learn your craft. Take yourself seriously, and invest in yourself. I have a whole shelf of books on craft that I’ve accumulated over the years. Take a workshop or two. Join SCBWI. Also, read for pleasure, but read analytically as well. I re-read “Charlotte’s Web” every year just to look over E. B. White’s shoulder and see how he does it. I learn something new every time.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers? The best gift you can give your child is the gift of YOU. And what better way to share YOU with your child than by taking the time to read together? Whether it’s a picture book or a novel, when you enter the world of the story together, something magic happens. It’s powerful, and it’s memorable, and it’s unique.
Thank you for this interview.
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
My goal is to giveaway at least 300 books to children each year.
Books Given in 2011: 315
Books Given in 2012: 380
Books Given in 2013: 330
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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