Thursday, February 9, 2017

Book Giveaway and Student Success Story Interview with Robin Currie

Hello, Everyone! Today, I'm pleased to bring you a Student Success Story interview with my former student Robin Currie to celebrate the release of her picture book Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff. At the end of this post, you'll find instructions on how to enter for your chance to win your own autographed copy!

Before sharing my interview with Robin, I want to quickly mention "what I'm working on," since that's the topic of our current TeachingAuthors series. I can definitely relate to Bobbi's post about the challenges of revising historical fiction because I've been working on editing my forthcoming YA novel, Playing by Heart for several weeks now. It feels like a never-ending process! I'm also preparing my presentation on  "Coping with your Inner Critic" for the Catholic Writers Guild (CWG) online conference--which leads me to the reason I'm publishing this post today, instead of my usual Friday: I want to tell you about a pitch opportunity for those who write for young adults or adults.  A number of publishers, both religious and secular, will again be accepting pitches in conjunction with the CWG conference. I encourage you to check out the tentative list of publishers here. As I mentioned in my last post, I sold Playing by Heart to Vinspire Publishing after pitching to the editor at last year's CWG online conference. If you're interested in pitching to them, or any of the other participating publishers, you must register for the conference. And registration ends tomorrow, Feb. 10! Registration is only $40 ($30 for CWG members). For details, see this page.  If you do register, I hope to see you in my session on "Coping with your Inner Critic."

Now, back to Robin's new book. Tuktuk: Tundra Tale, is the story of Tuktuk, a collared lemming. As he prepares for the long winter night, he finds a furry kamik (boot) perfect for lining his winter nest. Can Tuktuk outwit Putak the polar bear, Aput the arctic fox, and Masak the caribou and convince them that one furry kamik is no good for anyone bigger than a lemming?

The book includes four pages of educational back matter containing information about polar seasons, arctic skies, vocabulary, and animal fun facts. A 34-page Teaching Activity Guide is also available from the publisher's website.

Robin with her assistant, Hairy Potter
Before we begin the interview, let me tell you a little about Robin's background. She's had two careers she's passionate about. As a librarian, she worked in and managed the children’s departments of several Midwestern public libraries, providing reference and literacy foundations to the smallest patrons and supporting their parents. At midlife, she was called to ordained ministry as a parish pastor. Although officially "retired" now, she is on the clergy staff at St. Mark's Episcopal in Glen Ellyn, IL. In addition to writing for young readers, Robin also volunteers annually to visit a developing country. There, she shares literature with the children and teaches them English skills. You can read more about Robin at her website and on her Facebook page.

Robin, you attended the first Facilitated Critique Workshop I offered at Mayslake in Oak Brook, IL back in 2009. At the time, you were already a published author of Christian picture books. Do you recall what inspired you to sign up for the workshop?
     After I was ordained, I stopped writing to focus on the needs of the parish. In retirement I wanted a jumpstart back into children's writing. As a preacher I was accustomed to deadlines (just try getting in the pulpit on Sunday unprepared!) so weekly class was perfect.

You must have found the course beneficial because you took it a second time. Do you recall any specific ways the class helped you?
     The class was great! There was a wonderful exchange between writers of all genres, but eventually six of us realized we were ready to meet and support one another on our own. That was the birth of our critique group, the Write 6!

Does the Write 6 still meet? If so, would you share the logistics of how you stay connected, since the members are spread over a large geographic area? 
     The Write 6 is still very much alive! Our members are spread across the Chicago metropolitan area, from near the Indiana border to the western suburbs. We meet monthly and keep in touch by email and other social media even more often, supporting each other's publications and going to conferences together. In total we have had one wedding, six children, numerous parental deaths, graduations, job changes and travels. Some of us flit from one short project to the next. Some are still working on the story that brought us together!

Four of the Write 6
I recall that your classmates often asked you to read their picture book manuscripts out loud to the group for critique. Your experience as a librarian really showed through in the way you read. Can you tell us how that experience influences you as a writer? Do you have any advice for picture book writers? 
     Library patrons at story time are very clear about when a story is not fun or engaging. They get up and walk away. Or punch their neighbor. Or TELL you!
      As a writer, I love library work! Each year, I join other picture book writers taking part in Read for Research Month (ReFoReMo), where we read five picture books a day. Not only does that give me a sense of what is selling and popular, but what is lacking. Writers, get thee to thy local library!

Please tell our readers about your new picture book, Tuktuk: Tundra Tale and how you came to write it? Can you tell us how long you spent working on the manuscript? 
     Tuktuk began as a small nameless arctic rat because I was fascinated by the arctic and wanted to write about all the land forms, sky changes, and climate. Everyone in the Write 6 learned a lot, but they encouraged me to give the character some ... well ... character! Over the next year they read and reread Tuktuk's story as he and his pals evolved into the charming occupants of the tundra. The publication of this book is a testament to the value of a critique group!

You have an agent to represent the Christian books you write. Can you tell us how you connected with him, and also, how you sold Tuktuk: Tundra Tale without an agent?
     Cyle Young represents both Christian and secular books now. I was recommended by another member of a different critique group and met him at a conference.
     Tuktuk was one of those magical "out of the slush" pile submissions. It actually had been rejected by Arbordale in an earlier version, but a different editor looked at the revision and made the deal. The editor contracted the amazing artist!

Would you like to share a bit about what you’re working on now? Do you focus on one project at a time or juggle multiple manuscripts?
     I belong to a variety of online challenges, including: 12x12 Challenge: complete 12 manuscripts and revisions in a year; Story Storm: generate 31 book ideas in 31 days;  Read for Research month (ReFoReMo): read and annotate five picture books a day for the month of March; and National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee): complete one manuscript every day for a week in May!
     I'm also active in SCBWI and submit to Rate My Story regularly. I am constantly working on numerous projects at once--creating new stories and revising as I get feedback. (Plus teaching and preaching at St. Mark's!) I appreciate the online and personal support I receive (and give) to stay energized!

Wow, Robin! I'm impressed by all you do to keep motivated. Thanks for sharing with our readers.

Readers, to enter our drawing for a chance to win an autographed copy of Tuktuk: Tundra Tale (Arbordale Publishing), written by Robin Currie and illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff, use the Rafflecopter widget below. You may enter via 1, 2, or all 3 options.

If you choose option 2, you MUST leave a comment on TODAY'S blog post below or on our TeachingAuthors Facebook page. If you haven't already "liked" our Facebook page, please do so today! In your comment, tell us what you'd do with the book if you win our giveaway--keep it for yourself or give it to a young reader?

(If you prefer, you may submit your comment via email to: teachingauthors [at] gmail [dot] com.)

Email subscribers: if you received this post via email, you can click on the Rafflecopter link at the end of this message to access the entry form.

Note: if you submit your comments via email or Facebook, YOU MUST STILL ENTER THE DRAWING VIA THE WIDGET BELOW. The giveaway ends February 22 and is open to U.S. residents only.

P.S. If you've never entered a Rafflecopter giveaway, here's info on how to enter a Rafflecopter giveaway and the difference between signing in with Facebook vs. with an email address.

Don't forget Poetry Friday. This week's roundup is hosted by Katie at The Logonauts.

Finally, remember to always Write with Joy!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Angie said...

Thank you for the interview!

Lisa Katzenberger said...

Congrats Robin! I remember meeting you at an SCBWI conference a few years back. So glad to see your new successes!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for sharing your writing story in so much detail. This book looks beautiful and I can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Robin, loved learning about your writer's journey. Tuk-tuk looks like a book I'd love to share with my granddaughter.
I'm working now on an historical-fiction journal of a not-well-known explorer team, just getting back into focus after a year of writing-drought!
Thanks for sharing.

Bobbi Miller said...

What a grand sounding book! And a very inspirational interview! I enjoyed learning about your journey. Thank you, Robin!

♡♥♬ Carolsue ♡♥♬ said...

This would be such a great book to learn about a new, unfamiliar land! My kids would both love it!
Digicats {at} Sbcglobal {dot} Net

Lydia Lukidis said...

What a wonderful interview, thank-you!

April Halprin Wayland said...

I loved hearing Robin's story and the number of projects and structures she sets up for herself.

The reason why it's so much fun to read this Carmela, is because you're such a fine interviewer. Thank you.

Carmela Martino said...

Just saw your comment. Thanks, April! I love your interviews, too.