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Blog: This Writing Life


  • Writer's pictureMelissa Stoller

3 Question Interview - VIVIAN KIRKFIELD

It's a fabulous day - my friend Vivian Kirkfield in a guest on the blog! Although I have never met Vivian in person, I feel like I know her. She is a talented and hard-working author and blogger, an excellent editor, and one of the biggest cheerleaders in the KidLit community. It's always exciting when good things happen to lovely people -- and 2019 will be very good to Vivian since she has four books releasing that year! Also, she gives back. Her #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge is opening soon. Try your hand at drafting a children's story in only 50 words or less!

Here's a link to the post with the guidelines: -- the actual contest post will go live on March 2 and the contest will close March 6th at 11:59pm.

One more thing . . . Vivian is generous! Comment below for a GIVEAWAY - one lucky reader will win a picture book manuscript critique from Vivian (under 1000 words please).

Read on for Vivian's ideas about stories . . . creativity . . . and connection.

STORIES – Discuss what inspires your ideas and stories and share the process about your latest projects.

Thank you so very much for the invitation to chat here on your blog, Melissa. For me, one of the most important things about our kidlit community is that we share what we know so that we can learn from each other’s experiences. I’ve been helped so much with each webinar I’ve attended, and each blog post I’ve read.

I recently wrote a post for Tara Lazar’s Storystorm where I outlined the many places and activities that inspire my story ideas. I watch TV shows like Strange Inheritance and American Pickers. I surf the Internet for gems of forgotten history that I can bring alive for young readers. And I let people know that I write stories for children. You’d be surprised how many pb manuscripts I have written that came from ideas people told me specifically because they know I am a kidlit author and they have an idea they think would make a great picture book.

In fact, just last week, I was chatting with one of my local librarians. She asked what I was working on. I told her about FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY WE MOVE, the compilation book for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I explained that the spark for the book originally came from my sister who had a friend from Sweden who knew the granddaughter of the man who founded Greyhound. He was a young immigrant who came to America with no English and only $60 in his pocket, but he went on to create a thriving coast-to-coast business that is an iconic part of American history.

WOW, I thought. That’s a great story. So, I did some research and wrote the manuscript. I contacted the granddaughter to see if she had any insider information that I could use. And my agent put that story out on submission. Last summer, an editor fell in love with it, but she had an idea for a compilation of a bunch of similar picture book stories…about visionaries whose inventions changed the world and still impact our lives today. Of course, I jumped on board!

There will be stories about the first passenger steam train, the first gasoline-powered automobile, the first bicycle, and more. I mentioned to the librarian that I was working on the last story, about the invention of the folding wheelchair and she began to tell me the true story of her great-aunt who had brittle bone disease when she was born. The doctors warned she would die in childhood—she lived to be in her nineties. Her father carried her to school and then fashioned a wheelchair for her by putting wheels onto a chair. She traveled the world as an adult and was an important advocate for parking tags for the disabled.

As the librarian wove the fascinating details of her great-aunt’s life, I knew this was a story that needed to be told. And I wanted to be the one to tell it. I asked the librarian to speak with her family and I eagerly await word that I can begin.

My process is simple…topic…research…write…revise…feedback…revise…polish.

CREATIVITY -- How do you showcase your creative side through writing/illustrating and other pursuits?

Many of my critique partners tell me that if they received one of my stories without my name on it, they would know it was mine. I think we all have a distinctive style of writing…some editors call it your voice. I don’t know if this is how I showcase my creative side, but I love to use the element of three in my picture book writing. I work hard on the opening lines…they are so very important…they need to hook the reader and bring the reader into the story. And I often try to write an ending that echoes or mirrors the opening lines. I try to have balance in my life and I hope that carries over into my picture book stories. I’ve always loved research, so writing nonfiction is lots of fun for me. I totally enjoy the challenge of uncovering gems that time has forgotten and bringing them alive for young readers.

I also love to cook (hubby is very happy about that) and connect with people. The Internet is such an amazing tool because it opens the world to us. I have critique partners on almost every continent and one day I hope to travel around the world, visiting every one of them.

CONNECTION -- How do you connect to your young readers through your writing/illustrating, and how do you stay connected to the KidLit community?

I hope that my books will create a connection with young readers because most of the stories I write are inspiring tales of kids who dreamed and, when they grew up, they followed their dreams, impacting the world with their vision. I try to find a way into the story that will engage my young readers so that they want to turn the page and keep reading. With nonfiction, I try to have fun parts, using sound words, lyrical language and repeating refrains which instill the important quality of rhythm. And with all of my stories, there has to be a universal theme that all children can relate to, no matter who or what the story is about.

The KidLit community is like no other I’ve ever experienced. My problem is that I want to connect with EVERYONE! It’s hard to ignore the Facebook notification dings…but I try to stay focused most of the time so that I can continue writing lots of stories. Because if you ask me, the more you write, the better you get. The better you get, the more agent/editor attention will come your way. I joined 12x12 in 2012 when I first decided I wanted to write picture books. And I wrote a lot of manuscripts. I joined critique groups. Lots of them. And in 2014, I realized I needed to take picture book writing classes. So, I took five that year.

On my 65th birthday, I took a leap of faith and went skydiving. Writing for children is a huge leap of faith also. We hope our stories will snag the attention of an editor and garner a book deal. More importantly, we pray that our books will find their way into children’s hands, and our words will find their way into their hearts.


Vivian Kirkfield constantly takes leaps of faith. She jumped from a perfectly good plane with her son, hiked to the summit of Pikes Peak with her husband, and parasailed over the Pacific Ocean with only seagulls for company. Vivian is passionate about helping kids become lovers of books. A proud member of SCBWI, she presents literacy programs that entertain and engage parents, teachers and kids. When she’s not writing, revising, or critiquing picture book manuscripts, Vivian plays epic games of Monopoly with her nine-year old grandson, shares stories on Skype with her four-year old granddaughter, and takes walks through the idyllic New England village of Amherst, New Hampshire where she currently resides. 2019 will be a busy year for Vivian with the launch of Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (PomegranateKids, Spring 2019), Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books, Fall 2019), Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House, Spring 2019), and From Here to There: Inventions that Changed the Way We Move (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall, 2019).


Twitter: @viviankirkfield

Blog: Picture Books Help Kids Soar:


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