Friday, February 25, 2011

The Hurricane

When a hurricane comes into your life and leaves with all you own but the clothes on your back, you remember her name…for the rest of your life.

Mine was Audrey. She came to Cameron, Louisiana in June of 1957 and left with over 500 souls. Luckily, she left mine and my family’s intact to live to face another storm. But none would match the scars she left on my young life. She took my home. She took my toys. But worst of all, she took all of our family photos and keepsakes. My father, who was a fisherman, had to get a job in New Orleans; my mother had to go to work. Our family got spit up, me staying with my grandmother, my brothers and sister gone to different relatives…for months until our family could reunite again in a small one room shack my dad built. For years after, and even today, folks that lived in Southwest Louisiana during 1957, measure time by using the terms before or after “the hurricane.” They all remember Audrey.
I know the children that lived through Katrina will remember her name as long as they live, and remember what she took away from them. Those that survived her wrath, will always measure time with before or after THE hurricane.

Has there been an event in your life that has left a permanent impression?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Interview with KC Frantzen, children's author

Tennessee author KC Frantzen is launching her debut middle grade children’s book, May on the Way: How I Become a K9 Spy in the summer of 2011, through RushJoy Press. She is available for author visits to your group or school.  May on the Way is for children ages 7 and up, and animal lovers of all ages.

Me: Tell us a little about you, KC. How long have you been writing? And what inspired you to write a children’s story?

KC: I've always spoken “critter,” since Dad is a veterinarian. I started writing in elementary school and even won the school-wide contest with a story on deep sea fishing. But though I kept writing, it was mostly just for fun.

In the early 2000's, I wanted to get serious and searched for an academic course to help me. I found it! Upon completion of the Apprentice Level of the Christian Writers Guild (CWG) course, I knew I wanted to write a book. But life intervened and I didn't quite get around to it then.

Though we only have four-footed children, I thoroughly enjoy the two-footed variety. I taught 5th grade once upon a time and continue to be interested in children's issues. I've been concerned about children's literature and its underlying "agenda" since the 1970's. I'll never forget a story about a young colt that needed assistance to stand. The owners were going to put it down, but after much pleading from the child, put braces put on its legs. Long and short of it, not only did the pony die (the child saw the carcass atop a trash heap, braces still on its legs) but the real kicker was the father lied to the child. We read it in junior high school (7-9th grades) and I ran out of school SOBBING. What an awful awful story for kids. Shudder.

What ever happened to a good story just for the sake of a good story? Something with redeeming values and respect for the founding principles of our country? Something with moral absolutes, i.e., there really truly is evil, there really truly is good? Something parents can read aloud with their children or feel comfortable letting the child read on his own?

Today, these seem few and far between. Some will think I have my own agenda. Perhaps I do! Kids need to know that all is not hopeless and dark and dystopian, with gore and crassness. There is hope and laughter and light, even in the tough times. That wayyy more often than not, parents are not the enemy. And that good guys (and K9's) DO win. 

Me: Tell us more about May and how she came to have her own book?

KC: Ah! Our May! Well, much of the story happened in real life. I admire the spunk of this little dog who lived a meaningless, hopeless life in a crate. She has much to teach all of us, especially those who are in or have been in an abusive situation. She is amazing. And quite honestly, this is a story God wants me to tell. That might sound hokey to some, but the story used to wake me up at night, "Write me… Write me…" and still does!

Me: What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome in completing this story? And how long did it take?

KC: I'm not an overly organized person, nor am I a good time manager. Life goes on and the world cannot stop for me to sit and write for hours on end. So, I'd say the issue of time, and feeling like I couldn't tell it like it needed to be told. External and internal conflict, as I've learned, is necessary in a great story!

I started in March, 2007, though the seed was planted during the CWG course. One of my great mentors, Sandra Byrd, complimented a particular lesson in which May was the protagonist. (What might be humorous to some perhaps, is that I never made it to that scene in this book. So… stay tuned!)

The other major obstacle was deciding whether to go the traditional publishing route or not. After much thought and prayer, my husband and I decided to take the plunge and form our own small publishing house. It's been a great learning process and one of the joys has been finding an amazing illustrator for May's story.

We asked around, looked at portfolios and reviewed information from the professional organization to which you and I belong – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Enter Taillefer Long from Charleston, SC!  http://www.illuminatedstories.com./

Taillefer is a pleasure to work with, I think partly because he is also a writer. His initial sketches for May On The Way were spot on. He is now creating all the illustrations which we should have finalized within the next month or so. He is also designing the book cover and laying out its pages. We are quite pleased to have found him.

We are also working on gift packs. We have partnered with a wonderful dog treat company http://www.joshuaspettreatbakery.com/ and we are working on plush toys and other items.

Me: Do you have plans for a sequel? Any other new books we can look forward to reading?

KC: Thank you for asking! Yes! Must get that scene in somewhere! May will continue her training and chase the bad guys. She's a K9 spy, after all, prone to get herself into all sorts of predicaments and adventures.

Me: Do you have any advice for new children’s book writers?

I'm not the one to ask. This is my first crack at it! But I'll share things others have told me.

LEARN all you can, anywhere you can. That includes reading in and outside of your own genre.

WRITE. Put pen to paper or fingers on keys! The only way to get better is to write. Why? Because it will be pretty awful when you first put it down. The genius comes in the revision(s). I'm NOT saying my work is genius, but after LITERALLY over 100 revisions, it's a lot better than it was at the get-go.

GET HELP. I hired Sandra as my writing coach last summer. After review, she suggested I completely rewrite the story. Every last bit of it… All in May's point of view. So anything that happens must be something she thinks, sees, hears, feels. Nothing happens otherwise. It's one of the most difficult things I've ever done, but so worth it… (Now that I'm done… ) Seek out other writers who are ahead of you in the craft and be respectful of their time. Help others who are struggling like you are. It's amazing the synergy that happens when a group of writers gets into a room to help one another. Find a good critique partner or group. (Thank YOU, Rita!!)

PRACTICE HUMILITY. This is good anytime, but especially when you write. You put yourself "out there" and you need to know that barbs and criticism will hit from the most unlikely places. Don't be blindsided. They are coming! Try to be objective, hear what was said, and decide if you need to make changes or if you want to stick with what you have. For myself, many times I needed to make the change.

PRAY. I'm a Christian who is a writer. God has given ME this story to tell. Like a wonderful Romantic Suspense writer at www.DebbyGiusti.com prays, "Lord, inspire me to write stories that touch reader's hearts. Breathe your spirit into my characters so they come alive on the written page. Help me develop intriguing plots full of twists and turns that capture the imagination and move the story to a satisfying resolution. Keep me focused and on schedule and take away any fear or sense of inadequacy that blocks my progress. Give me courage to step out in faith, to stretch and grow, and to be the writer you have called me to be."

That says it!

Thank you for inviting me. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and welcome comments and suggestions from your readers. And if I can help in any way, please let me know! We're in this together!

If the venue is fairly close, both May and I will be available for author talks and book signings. Just let me know and we'll work out the schedule! We (or I) would adore to speak to your group!

PS: Practicing her manners, May sends her BEST greetings. She thanks you for considering her book for the children (and animal lovers) in your life. How would you like your copy paw-o-graphed?

For more information on KC or May, visit their web site at http://www.maythek9spy.com/