What's Your Story?-Vivian Kirkfield
Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end. But within that bigger story are lots of little ones, chapters, scenes and volumes… the best stories have twists, turns and surprises and this is certainly one of them!
Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words.
Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting kidlit friends around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Contest in March and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge in May. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.
Vivian Kirkfield, what’s your story?
The Beginning -When I was a kid, I had a dream. I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher. My dream came true when I graduated from college and started teaching my first class. I loved everything about teaching kindergarten, especially reading the picture books. I also penned a few little stories of my own for the kids, but I never seriously considered travelling down this pathway to publication until my son gave me a very unique present for my 64th birthday…he took me skydiving. And, when my feet touched the ground, I knew that if I could jump out of a perfectly good airplane, I could do anything! I jumped into the kidlit world – joining writing challenges, taking classes, attending conferences, reading lots of picture books, writing lots of manuscripts – and I haven’t looked back since. Three years into my journey, I signed with the incredible Essie White of Storm Literary Agency, she sent out the first manuscript I had given her, and we had a book deal within two months, Sweet Dreams, Sarah. It was definitely a sweet dream come true.
Before I had that first book deal, I was like many other writers…I thought that when I got that contract, I’d be home free. But that’s not how this business goes. We signed at the end of 2015…and even though Essie had several of my stories out on submission, there were no bites. For more than a year, I wondered, was I a one-trick pony? It wasn’t until the end of 2017 that…BAM! BAM! BAM! And landed three contracts in the closing months of that year which led to three picture books debuting early this year: Sweet Dreams, Sarah, Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book, and Pippa’s Passover Plate.
And in only one month, on January 28, 2020, MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, illustrated by Alleanna Harris) will launch. Then, another book, a compilation of nine full-length fully illustrated nonfiction picture book biographies, FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, illustrated by Gilbert Ford) will launch in January 2021.
But with all this awesomeness, the best part for me is connecting with other kidlit folk. I was fortunate to be invited to speak at the Australia/NZ SCBWI conference earlier this year…and then travelled around the world, to Auckland, NZ, to Geneva, Switzerland, and to the Bologna Book Fair in Italy…staying with critique buddies I’d never met and seeing places I’d never been to.
The End, (which is always actually a new beginning!)
I never imagined that when I retired, I would be turning the page to a new chapter in my life. But that is exactly what has happened. I wake up every morning, excited for the possibilities of the day. As a child, I was very timid…but at this point, at the age of 72, I figure I need to walk through every door of opportunity. I was asked to be on a panel for the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) conference in Baltimore – not only did I say yes, but I also arranged last month’s itinerary to include a stop in Philadelphia for school visits and several days with family, plus a jaunt to NYC to sit down with a couple of my editors, meet up with a couple of my kidlit friends, and hunker down with a cousin I hadn’t seen for a decade.
On the writing front: Sweet Dreams, Sarah received a Eureka! Honor Award from the California Reading Association and was also produced as an animated DVD.
I just presented a webinar for the Hawaii SCBWI on Writing Nonfiction. One of my manuscripts is in the process of being acquired, I’m working on an R&R (revise and resubmit) for another editor, and I’ve got journals filled with ideas for stories that are waiting to be written. I love visiting schools and presenting at conferences. My message to all is simple: I’m living my dream. Please follow yours. Nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.
WOW! Thank you so much Vivian- this is inspiration and motivation plus ! And for one lucky reader it'll be even more inspirational- Vivian has generously offered to donate a picture book critique to a randomly chosen reader- all you need to do is leave a comment and tell us where you've shared the blog on social media. This is a brilliant opportunity have your work critiqued by someone who really knows their stuff- not to be missed! We are so grateful to Vivian for giving her time, energy and expertise.
The winner will be announced just in time for Christmas on 22nd December so you have a bit of time to get sharing...
Thanks for popping in, talk to you soon!