The ABC song is one of the first fun songs we teach our children to sing. Why? Because the alphabet is the backbone for learning to read and write. For some people, reading and writing is not fun at all.
My series, ABC’S OFF THE TOP OF YOUR HEAD offers a new way to have fun with the alphabet. Every week, a children’s author, illustrator, literary agent or editor will share their ‘top of the head’ answers to the ABC category list they were given, A to Z. Following their answers, I ask a few questions to gain a little insight into their world.
Today, Vivian Kirkfield, children’s author and curator of the top ranked Children’s Books blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar, joins us to play the ABC Game.
Her debut picture books SWEET DREAMS, SARAH, PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE, and FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: An Animal Counting Book are scheduled to release, spring 2019.
Below is Vivian’s list of categories from A – Z, and her answers off the top of her head. Feel free to play along. Maybe your answers will match hers. Enjoy!
ANIMAL: Horse – when I was a kid, I loved horses and always hoped I’d have one of my own. At the age of 10, I thought about horses, drew pictures of horses, and even wrote a poem about a horse.
BOOK MADE INTO A MOVIE: GONE WITH THE WIND – I read the book more than a dozen times and saw the movie at least that many. But with a big apology to Margaret Mitchell, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series has definitely moved into the #1 position in my movie queue. I’ve read the entire series (8 or 9 books, each one is about 800 pages) several times and am now enjoying the movie/TV series that starts its 4th season this November. And I’m a big fan of the Harry Potter books and movies as well. See what happens when you ask a lover of books/movies to pick just one!
CAPITAL: Boston…love the old world/new world feel.
DOG NAME: When the kids were growing up, we always had dogs…and cats…and bunnies…and gerbils. Favorite name would have to be Bandit because at the same time we had a cat named Smokey…as in the movie with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field.
EVERY CHILD…: Every child needs to know he/she is loved and is a person of value, worthy of respect. This impacts a child’s ability to love and respect himself/herself…which in turn, effects how they will interact and be able to love and respect others.
FLOWER: All of them…but if you force me to choose, I guess it has to be yellow tulips.
GENRE (MUSIC): Just like with books/movies, I can’t pick just one…folk/rock/pop/blues like Paul Simon/Billy Joel/Bob Dylan/Joan Baez…when I was in high school, I’d come home and sing Blowing in the Wind and The House of the Rising Sun to my mom while she ironed. And I still love singing those songs!
HAIRSTYLE: Mary Tyler Moore’s flip of the 1960’s was my dream hairdo…but for a girl with curly hair, that was mostly a dream. When I was a kid, my mom kept my hair cut short so it would be easier for her to take care of it, but in high school (1960-63), I let it grow long. I’d sit for three hours under one of those old-fashioned hair dryers with my wet hair wrapped around those huge rollers. Then I’d take out the rollers…and comb out my hair and it would be PERFECT…straight with the little up flip at the bottom…until I walked out the door into the humidity of New York City and then BOING!!!! My curls would come back with a vengeance!
ILLUSTRATOR: Tomie de Paola…I love the Strega Nona stories; Oliver Button is a Sissy; Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs; and my all-time favorite: The Clown of God.
JUICE: Watered down Mango-Orange…3 parts water and 1-part juice because it reminds me of the orangeade drink they used to serve at Nedicks, one of the original ‘fast food’ restaurants. I was a little girl growing up in NYC and as a treat, my parents would take me to Nedicks for a hot dog and a drink: https://recipereminiscing.wordpress.com/2017/03/25/soda-soft-drink-saturday-nedicks/
KITCHEN (FOUND IN A): Beautifully decorated china bowls to eat soup from. I love beautiful flower patterns on dishes and I love soup…I could eat it for dinner every night.
LUCKY ITEM: I don’t think I have one lucky item…I just enjoy wearing something that belonged to or was given to me by the people I love…it’s kind of a way to keep them close.
MOST LIKELY TO: Say yes if someone asks for my help.
NORTHERN HEMISHPERE COUNTRY: USA
OCEAN: Pacific – driving down the west coast from Vancouver BC to Mexico on my first cross-country trip with my husband in 1969 was awesome. I grew up in NYC and had spent summers going to Coney Island, but I’d never seen boulders and trees at a beach…and the driftwood was astonishing!
PLANET: Earth…and hopefully we will learn how to preserve and protect it before we destroy it completely.
QUOTE: My own quote from the #50PreciousWords Writing Challenge: Magic happens when you make every word count.
‘R’ ANIMAL: With a tip of the hat to Alice in Wonderland: Rabbit
SYNONYM FOR AWESOME: Stellar
TOY: When I was a kid, I had dolls and a coloring book and a round tin of crayons and a couple of board games like Parchesi and Scrabble. And even though I am not good at them, I love pinball machines. And although it’s not a toy, I LOVE LOVE LOVE ping pong.
UNIFORM (PROFESSION THAT WEARS): Navy
VIVID COLOR: Salmon
WOOD TYPE: Redwood
X WORD: Xylophone because I love the sound it makes
YOUNG ADULT BOOK: One book? Are you kidding? The Book Thief, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, the Harry Potter series and so many more..
ZANIEST THING YOU’VE DONE: Skydiving with my son the year before I turned 65. And after that, I knew I could do anything and that’s when I decided to write picture books!
ME: Do you have a fun story you would like to share about your Smokey and Bandit? Animal stories are my faves.
VK: Bandit was a wonderful dog, sweet-tempered and a lover of children. But Smokey, the cat, ruled the roost. And she delighted in chasing the ever-patient pup around the kitchen island.
ME: The cat chasing the dog! That is a new twist to an old tail. 😊 Is there a toy that you always wanted but never had?
VK: Is a bicycle considered a toy? I always wanted a bike, but we lived in the city and my parents didn’t have a lot of money and I guess bikes weren’t on the top of their must-have item list. When my older sister graduated from junior high, we moved to Brooklyn…still New York City, but a more country-like borough than Manhattan. My parents bought her a second-hand bike with a brand-new bike basket and handlebar ribbons. She was so proud of it. And one day, I ‘borrowed’ it and rode it down the street to the corner where a dirt and cobblestone road started (yes, Brooklyn in the late 1950’s was still pretty rural in places). Bumpity bumpity bumpity CRASH! Down I went! When the dust cleared, my knees were gashed and bloody. Worst of all, the bike basket was bent and mangled. I limped home. My mom wiped my tears, washed my knees and put iodine (OUCH!) on them. And my sister? Oh my gosh, she was so mad! I think I had to save my allowance to buy her a new bike basket, which I guess was only fair. When I got married and later moved to a small town in Connecticut, my husband and I bought bikes and loved riding up and down country roads.
ME: A lesson learned. And the sting of both having the iodine (OUCH! IS RIGHT!), and saving your allowance to buy something you broke, sunk right in. Life has a way of giving ‘teaching moments’ to each of us and it’s up to us individually how we handle it. You are thoughtful about more than just people, you care about the entire world. And, you are so right about our beautiful planet. If you had a superpower to put the human race on the course to save the planet, what power would you use and what would your first mission be?
VK: I think a large part of the problem is created by the desire to have MORE. Of everything. Biggie size fries. Larger houses. Several cars. Some kids get so many toys for a birthday, they don’t even have time to open them all. And we live in a throw-away society. We used to fix a toaster if it was broken. Now many people just throw old or broken things away and buy new ones. Often, age isn’t seen as a strong point even if something is well-made and still functional. (and that goes with humans, as well).
I’d be SUPER-DOWNSIZER…and my first mission would be to find people who have too much and get them to share what they have with those who have too little.
ME: Stellar answer! I would love to have that super power. Hope you have a story about this super power brewing in your arsenal of riches, ,and I want to read it when you write it. 😊 We also have the curly hair in common too. Do you have any tips for curly girls?
VK: I’ll be 72 on my next birthday and I’ve only just decided to try to come to terms with my curly hair. I had always wanted to have it straight, even though so many people (with straight hair, of course) would wax poetic about how amazing it would be to have curly hair. But with my big travel plans coming up in 2019, I want to be realistic – will I have time to be fussing with hair? Plus, I want to travel light…just one small roller bag for clothing and one small backpack for my laptop and essentials like travel docs, emergency snacks, and a bottle of water. I’d rather not have to tote along a flat iron. I’m trying to find a shorter hair style that is pretty much wash and wear…but that looks fashionable and fun. I know you asked for my tips, Traci, but perhaps I’m the one who needs advice.
ME: Actually, I think you just gave us the best advice…come to terms with it and do what your hair wants to do naturally. I believe a person’s hair is given to them because it suits them best. Don’t get me wrong, I always wanted the straight hair too but I find I am happiest when I just let my hair be and not fuss with it so much. I don’t think you can go wrong with that.
Do you like the book or the movie better? And why?
VK: Oh, that’s such a great question! I love the book because it lasts longer and I can envision whatever my mind can imagine. But if a movie is well-done, with the right actors, I am happy to watch it over and over again. In fact, some evenings, I’ll flip through the thousands of movies available on the cable channels (and I also have Amazon Prime which has lots of movie and TV series) and do you know what? I often opt for a movie I’ve seen before because after 5 minutes of the new choice, I wonder why I should waste 2 hours of precious time watching it to the end.
ME: Another thing we have in common! If you could give advice to the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, what would it be?
VK: How about: choose your friends wisely. 😊 The White Rabbit had some questionable associates. I think one of the most amazing things about the kidlit community is that just about everyone is helpful, kind, supportive, and encouraging. This is so important, especially in a business where there is so much rejection. And where lots of patience is needed to go from story idea to published book.
ME: That is excellent advice for all ages.
The release of your picture book, SWEET DREAMS, SARAH was originally slated to be released this autumn, but was pushed back to May 2019. PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE will be released February 2019. And in between these releases, you have another book, FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK, coming out. 2019 will be a busy year for you! What projects are you working on now that you can tell us about?
VK: Actually, SWEET DREAMS, SARAH was originally supposed to launch in March 2017. And that’s how this business is. You just never know. It might be illustrator issues. Or perhaps an editor moves from one publishing house to another. That’s why you need to always be working on something else….so that you can feel you are moving forward, even if one project is stalled.
In addition to the three books that will be coming out in 2019, I also have two so far for 2020: MAKING THEIR VOICES HEARD: THE INSPIRING FRIENDSHIP OF ELLA FITZGERALD AND MARILYN MONROE (Little Bee Books, Spring 2020) and FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020). I’m really excited about both of those. The Ella/Marilyn story is one of my favorites and it was almost picked up by three different editors in 2015, 2016, and 2017, but although they loved it, they couldn’t get their sales and marketing teams to buy it. I’m thrilled to have it with Little Bee Books and they’ve signed an amazing illustrator for it: Alleanna Harris. (word to the wise…never give up) And Inventions is really NINE individual full-length, fully-illustrated picture book biographies, compiled into one book. It is the vision of HMH editor Ann Rider and I love her for trusting me with this amazing project. Plus, I’m so thrilled that it’s being illustrated by the incredible award-winning Gilbert Ford!
My agent also has several other manuscripts out on submission, so fingers crossed for good news. Plus, as always, I’m writing more stories and revising the ones I’ve already written. Right now, I am working on a possible sequel to the PIPPA story. And I’m itching to start on another nonfiction that is calling to me.
ME: My fingers are crossed, though I believe you don’t need me to. Since I have read your delightful stories on your hosted short story contests, I know I will love your books as much.
Thank you for playing the ABC Game Vivian!
Readers, thank you for stopping by! You can learn more about Vivian on her website
And you can connect with her here:
New In Nineteen: https://newin19.weebly.com/
Have a fantastic weekend everyone!