Today I am thrilled to introduce you all to Karen Orloff! Not only will you get to meet her, but at the end there will be a contest and you could be the lucky winner of a signed copy of I WANNA NEW ROOM!
Karen is an ex-magazine editor, currently the author of four picture books: I WANNA IGUANA, IF MOM HAD THREE ARMS, I WANNA NEW ROOM, and the forthcoming TALK, OSCAR, PLEASE! She also writes two columns for The Poughkeepsie Journal and teaches classes for adults interested in writing for children at Merritt Books in Millbrook, NY.
Welcome, Karen! Thank you so much for joining us this morning!
SLH: How did you get interested in writing for children?
KKO: When I left my full-time editing job to be a stay-at-home mom, I naturally got interested in children’s books. Since I’ve always loved to write, I thought I could try to do that! Of course, it was easier said than done.
SLH: What made you choose picture books?
KKO: When I first started, I had no idea I could write picture books, since I wasn’t an illustrator. So I wrote a middle-grade novel! I got some nice feedback from a couple of publishers but it was ultimately rejected. Discouraged (I also hadn’t yet learned about resilience!) I shelved it. A couple of years later, I went to a conference and discovered I didn’t have to be an artist to write picture books after all! That freed me up to work on stories for younger kids.
SLH: How did you get your ideas for I WANNA IGUANA, IF MOM HAD THREE ARMS, and I WANNA NEW ROOM?
KKO: The iguana book came from my real life situation: My kids wanted a dog and we had allergy issues. So we opted for iguanas, something I wasn’t exactly warmed up to. The idea of the letters just sort of popped in my head as a cute format. And I walked around with the title “I Wanna Iguana” on my tongue for weeks before I actually wrote anything down. The companion book, “I Wanna New Room” went through many transitions before I got it right. I knew I wanted to do some sort of sequel but the actual story was hard to pinpoint. When my editor, Susan Kochan, said some eye-opening words – “It doesn’t have to necessarily be about the iguana – you can put Alex into another situation where he wants something” – all of a sudden, I had lots of new ideas. Of course, it still took a while to come up with the idea of having a new baby in the house, forcing Alex out of his room. In one draft, I had Alex asking for a new bike. Susan finally liked the brother dynamic of I Wanna New Room the best.
As far as If Mom Had Three Arms – I think this just came out of the fact that I was a busy mom. I mean, what mom wouldn’t love to have an extra arm to do more things?
My newest book, "Talk, Oscar,Please!" (Sterling, to be released March 1, 2011) probably came out of my relationship with Bailey, our dog. Yes, we did finally get a dog and no one is allergic to her, thank goodness!
SLH: What (if anything) do you wish teachers, librarians and/or parents knew about writing for children and/or do you have any advice for beginning writers?
KKO: People are always surprised to know that my books are not always published by the same publisher. They want to know why I’ve “switched.” I tell them I didn’t switch, but for whatever reason, my first editor passed on a manuscript and so I tried to sell it to others. They don’t realize that having one book with an editor doesn't mean every single thing you write after that will get published! It’s that whole perception that writing for kids and getting published is easy that drives me crazy! It’s a struggle. There are many reasons why manuscripts get rejected. It may be too similar a story to something already out there, it might be too “slight” to be worthy of the investment of a picture book, it might just not be that particular editor’s taste, etc. I always tell new writers that you must be persistent! Getting a few rejections is nothing! It’s all part of the process. It actually makes your writing stronger. You must have a thick skin and keep on going if you want to get published in this tough market.
It literally took me ten years of writing, going to classes, attending workshops and conferences, sharing my work with critique groups, and revising my stories over and over before I got my first acceptance. After that, it gets a little easier because you’ve learned so much about your craft. But you are always still learning, still improving, etc. You’ve got to just keep with it!
Thank you so much, Karen!
If anyone is interested in learning more about Karen, her books, and her classes on writing for children, please visit her website. Her books are available on Amazon, but if you'd like signed copies you can order from Merritt Book Store! (search Karen Orloff or her book titles)
And now, for the CONTEST! I'm going to make this one easy for you :)
If you'd like to win a personally signed copy of I WANNA NEW ROOM, all you have to do is:
1) be a follower of this blog, and
2) leave a comment about why you'd like a copy of the book
on this post by Friday, Feb. 12 at 9 AM which is when I will conduct a random drawing for a winner!