Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Meet Author Kimberly Pauley!

My guest today is Kimberly Pauley, a writer living in the Chicago suburb of Grayslake. Kimberly is the author of Sucks to Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (maybe) (Mirrorstone / 2008), which was included in 2009 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and ranked #5 on the Fall 2008 Kid’s Indie Next List – “Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers.”

NPR correspondent Margot Adler recently praised Sucks to be Me in an article titled “For Love Of Do-Good Vampires: A Bloody Book List”.

The sequel – Still Sucks to Be Me – is scheduled for publication in May 2010. Kimberly has also written for a number of online and print publications, and is the founder and owner of Young Adult Books Central, one of the leading YA (& Kids!) literature sites on the Internet.

To read more about Kimberly and her books, visit her web site at .

Welcome to It Happened in Chicago, Kimberly!
Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.

KIMBERLY: Well, we moved to the area just three years ago, but my husband had been working in the area for at least the last 10 years. He traveled here all the time and when it got to the point he was traveling every week...well, we decided it was time to move!

We now live in Prairie Crossing, a conservation community filled with amazing, wonderfully friendly people.

Q: How old were you when you first realized that you wanted to be a writer?

KIMBERLY: Oh, geez. I don’t know if I ever had the Eureka! moment, but really, as far back as I can remember. I always loved books.

Q: Please describe one of your earliest works (go back as far as you can remember). Who or what inspired you to create it?

KIMBERLY: My older sister actually sent me my first “book” last year. I’d sent it to her when she was in college. I would have been 6 or 7. It’s cute...but I can’t say that I had much to say! Of course, I did my own illustrating... It was, apparently, about a dog. I’m not sure why, since we didn’t own one at the time!

Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?

KIMBERLY: Jim Warford. He was my Television Production and Drama teacher when I was in 9th and 10th grade. He read some of my (rather odd) writing and really encouraged me. And trust me when I say it was really odd stuff, so I’m happy he did even with that going against it!

Q: I understand that you quit a corporate job to become a full-time writer. What was that like? Do you have any advice for people who think they might want to do that?

KIMBERLY: Quitting my corporate job was the best thing I ever did. We were also moving, so it was kind of extra incentive as I wouldn’t have wanted to transfer anyway. I was a manager and it was very stressful, especially with all of the constant layoffs we had going on (I worked for a really large telecomm company). However, I was really only able to do this because my husband’s job paid enough for us to live on. It wouldn’t have worked out otherwise. It was tough to cut our income so drastically, but doable. Ha, though I guess it would follow then that my advice would be to marry well...

Seriously, if you want to do something like that, just be realistic. At this point, I’ve got one book out and one book about to be released and my income is still far less than I made as a development manager.  Income, of course, isn’t the most important thing for me (and we’ve also got a son now), but you obviously have to consider it. Even if you get a book published, it isn’t instant riches. It wasn’t instant for most of the writers we hear about every day.

Q: For you personally, what is one of the easiest things about writing YA fiction? What is one of the most difficult things?

KIMBERLY: I love writing for teens. I think they are, in general, more open about their emotions and also more accepting of fantasy. That said, you have to be authentic -- they can sense if you are condescending. But, as long as you stay genuine and have respect for them, it’s wonderful.

Q: Of the characters mentioned in Sucks to Be Me, please tell us about one you would like to meet and why.

KIMBERLY: Probably Uncle Mortie, because I envision him in my head a bit like Grandpa from The Munsters...and who wouldn’t want to meet Grandpa?

Q: Can you tell us a little about Young Adult Books Central – how and why did you start it? What have been some of the most difficult challenges? What do you enjoy most about it?

KIMBERLY: I started up Young Adult Books Central (YABC) back in 1998. It was kind of a side project, really, while I was working. I’d studied adolescent lit in college and really missed that type of thing while working in the corporate world. It was a way for me to stay connected. Well, it grew from there and is one of the leading teen lit sites on the Internet today. I’ve got a wonderful staff of reviewers that include librarians, former teachers, and published authors. There have been kids that have literally grown up with the site.

However, it’s been more a labor of love than anything else. Even though we’ve had the traffic, I never really tried to capitalize on it -- so over the years I’ve spent a lot of my own money on it. Recently, after talking it over with my husband and balancing it against my own writing career, we figured out that we either need to make it sustainable/profitable...or else. So I’m working on that now. That’s really been the most difficult of the challenges -- and is still underway. We’ve connected so many readers and authors over the years (and I’ve made some great friends), so I really don’t want to give it up.

I really enjoy all of the authors and publishers I’ve met through it. I’m sure it helped me to get published myself, both from a “who you know” standpoint to just having taught me so much about the industry. It’s been a huge learning experience. And, I got to interview Clive Barker on the phone once!

Q: What would you like us to know about your current work/s in progress?
KIMBERLY: I’m working on a non-vampire related novel right now about a teenage girl who has a “superpower” (that she calls a “stupidpower” since it’s kind of useless) and stumbles into a celebrity kidnapping plot that only she can solve. It’s kind of an urban fantasy, but also really funny.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

KIMBERLY: I’ve really loved living here far more than I thought I would! Of course, I do miss Florida when Winter sets in, but the people up here are wonderful. There’s a lot to be said for the Midwest!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Meet Author Lori Degman!

My guest today is Lori Degman, author of the picture book 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster / 2010). The book is illustrated by Colin Jack. If you want to learn more about Lori and her books, visit her web site at .

Welcome to It Happened in Chicago, Lori!

LORI: Thanks so much, Scotti, for having me as your guest author!

Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.

LORI: I've lived in the Chicago area all my life. I grew up in Wilmette, about 15 miles north of Chicago and currently live in Vernon Hills, which is about 30 miles north of Chicago. I enjoy taking the train down to the city, though I don't get there as often as I'd like.

Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

LORI: I've always enjoyed writing in rhyme and often wrote poems and song parodies. I also enjoyed telling stories to my younger cousins and other children I'd babysit, but I never thought of writing them down. Years later, when I began reading picture books to my sons and I saw how much they enjoyed them, I decided to try writing rhyming stories.

Q: Please describe one of your earliest works (go back as far as you can remember). Who or what inspired you to create it?

LORI: The first story I remember writing was a chapter book called Susie Goes to the Moon when I was in third grade. I had three chapters written and my friend's baby brother got his hands on it and ripped it to shreds. I was too upset to start it again. I'm not sure what inspired it - it might have been all the space talk in the 60's.

Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?

LORI: My twin sister, Julie, has been my biggest supporter - and critic! She has spent countless hours listening to and reading my stories and helping me with the plots, characters and rhyme. My other family members and critique group buddies have also been a great help!

Q: Please tell us how 1 Zany Zoo came to be published by Simon & Schuster.

LORI: My story (which was called 1 Wacky Zoo, at the time) won the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories contest in 2008. As part of the prize, they offered the book to Simon & Schuster and they offered to publish it! A mini version of the book, written in English and Spanish, will be inside boxes of Cheerios this March/April and the hardcover will be in stores July 20th.

Q: What was one of the easiest things about writing 1 Zany Zoo? What was one of the most difficult?

LORI: The easiest, and most fun thing about writing 1 Zany Zoo was coming up with zany situations for the animals and writing the rhymes. The most difficult thing was rewriting it to make it a counting book - a suggestion I received from an editor that I am very glad I took!

Q: I understand that you work as an “Itinerant Hearing Teacher.” Can you tell us a little about that? How does this job influence your writing?

: An itinerant teacher goes from school to school working individually with students. My students are hard of hearing and need extra support in areas such as listening skills, reading, and self-advocacy. I think time spent with children keeps me in touch with my inner child.

Q: What would you like us to know about your current work/s in progress?

LORI: I have two stories that my agent is submitting to a variety of publishers - There's a Cow in the Kitchen and Company's Coming and Rooster Flew the Coop. I have several other stories started but none are ready to submit yet.

Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

LORI: I just want to say to aspiring writers - keep writing and don't give up! To non-Chicagoans, I want to say - come visit - it's a GREAT city!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Meet Author Suzanne Slade!

Today’s guest is Suzanne Buckingham Slade, author of over 70 books for children. Her works include picture books, biographies, and titles about animals, sports, and nature. Upcoming titles include What's the Difference? (Sylvan Dell Publishing, Spring 2010), Climbing Lincoln's Steps (Albert Whitman, Fall 2010), The House That George Built (Charlesbridge, 2011), and Multiply on the Fly (Sylvan Dell, 2011).

To learn more about Suzanne and her books, visit her web site at .

Welcome to It Happened in Chicago, Suzanne!

Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.

SUZANNE:  I was born in Park Forest and moved around quite a bit in the years that followed, but have been living in a northern suburb, Libertyville, for 14 years now.

Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?

SUZANNE:  As is the case with many children's writers, I decided I wanted to write children's books while reading stacks of picture books to my children when they were young.

Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?

SUZANNE:  I've received encouragement (and lots of help) from many writing friends--Jeff, Tina, Kellie, Barb, Lorijo, Lori, Hal, Laura, Shawn, and lots more, but the one name that stands out for me, especially in the early years, is Mary Dunn.  She was the instructor of my first writing class and then welcomed me into her critique group.  She patiently helped me improve my writing year after year after year.  Mary is a good friend who always has a kind word of encouragement for every writer she meets.

Q: I understand that you worked in the engineering field several years before starting your writing career. What caused you to change professions?

SUZANNE:  Basically, I had my midlife crisis a bit early when I turned 30.  I enjoyed engineering, but I really wanted to do something more creative.  Shortly after my children were born in 1993 and 1994 I decided writing was for me and never looked back (even after eight solid years of rejection letters!)

Q: You have a series of “Chain Reaction” books coming out in 2011. Can you tell us a little about those?

SUZANNE: It's funny you ask about those books because of all the non-fiction titles I've written, they were the most challenging.  But they challenged me in a good way, causing me to really dig into my research and contact many experts to make sure my information

was correct.  These four books take a look at four different ecosystems and how the loss of one animal might affect the other living things around them.  What's exciting about these titles is that they were written in "storybook" form, rather than traditional non-fiction text, and have wonderful illustrations.  I especially enjoy writing projects which give me the opportunity to share a story which can change the way children think about, and take care of, our world.  This seems to be a recurrent theme in many of my book titles lately, as my latest picture book, What's the Difference? releases from Sylvan Dell next month.  It's an encouraging story about how people can make a huge difference in helping endangered animals. 

Q. What type of books do you read for pleasure?

SUZANNE: You'll find me either reading picture books, or poring through big non-fiction titles as I do research for my latest picture book idea. 

Q. What would you like us to know about your current work/s in progress?

SUZANNE:  I have a picture book coming out this fall with Albert Whitman, Climbing Lincoln's Steps, which I'm very enthused about.  This title shares how the actions of several brave individuals led to significant changes in the past, and it also encourages children to take their own steps of change to help improve our future.  I was especially pleased when Albert Whitman selected the perfect illustrator, Colin Bootman, for this title.  He's won more illustration awards than I can remember, and his sketches for this title are outstanding!   

 Q: Anything else you'd like to share?

SUZANNE:  I've been doing something new with school visits--virtual author visits.  I'm not very tech-savvy but these visits have been very easy to set up.  As a result, I've really enjoyed meeting students around the country and answering their questions--all from the comfort of my office.  My dog, Corduroy, has been a big hit with kids too!