Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Margot Finke Interview

Update: Margot Finke PRESS RELEASE: Books from Guardian Angel Publishing now available ON your iPhone! Read about it here: Margot Finke's Blog

“We are excited with our newest venture,” said GAP President and Publisher Lynda Burch. “Licensing our picture books with iKids Play™ will allow for worldwide English distribution by Apple iTunes Applications of our books on the newest technology to hit the market.”

It is my pleasure to introduce Margot Finke, a wonderful author of children's books.

Every 10th person to comment or ask a question WINS a free link to Margot reading one of her books + the illustrations.

My first question was to ask Margot to tell us about herself, and when she started writing? Here is Margot's Bio.

Margot Finke is an Aussie who writes mid grade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years, she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family.

Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between her writing. Her husband is supportive, though not interested in children's books. Their three children are now grown and doing very well. 4 grandchildren are the delight of Margot's life.

Early on, several writers in an online group mentored her. Margot now like to return the favor by offering free writing advice and help on her Website, her Blog, and in her "Musings" column. Her Manuscript Critique Service specializes in personal guidance - a shrewd professional critique can help writers avoid the pitfalls that cause rejections. "I am always thrilled when a client of mine has one of their books accepted."

Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my Heroes!"

    "Margot's latest rhyming book is "Rattlesnake Jam" - a fun frolic with Gran and Pa, plus Gran's determination to cook rattlesnake jam, instead of Pa's favorite, rattlesnake pie:

    "Coming soon - "Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind" - Ruthie's parents move her far from the school and friends she knows. Ruthie doesn't understand why this happened, and becomes a horrible problem child. Then, something wonderful changes everything. Both Books: Autographed (paper) copies from my website, or Amazon, B&N, Borders, etc + Fictionwise for downloads.

    "7 Book Animal Series - Aussie and US :
    (Autographed CDs my website - Downloads: Readers Eden and Fictionwise)

    "Website - Writing Help, Manuscript Critiques etc:

    "Blog - Writing News, Trailers, Books:

    "Musings" column - Lots of writing tips and advice:

2) Have you ever thought of writing anything else but children's books?

If I could live to be 150 years old, I would definitely write for other genres. As it is, time is against me. My late start at serious writing demands I spend my time in the children's field of writing. And with the variety of ages to write for, it is quite enough for this late-start-Lizzy to cope with. I know many do cross the genre lines successfully, often using a pen name to differentiate between their books for children and those for adults.

I listened to you read your book "Mama Grizzly Bear" - A rhyming tale: introducing kids to Mama and her cubs, and I loved it, it's an informative delightful tale.

Thank you. Mamma Grizzly is a favorite of mine. The whole series (7 books in all) is available on individual CDs, or as E-Book Downloads. I am very proud of the quality, layout, and illustrations in each of these books. Yet, the poor quality of some e-books still taints all of them. People forget that there are many paper book out there that would have been a lot better if the editor had blue penciled more paragraphs - famous names included!

Children today are computer savvy, and love reading fun and informational books on a screen. I find it is the adults who are reluctant to try this new and increasingly popular book medium. In time, Book Readers will drop down to a more reasonable price, and offer color viewing. Then
e-Books will really take off. There IS room for both paper and electronic books - a time and a place for both.

E-Books are environmentally GREEN, and in today's bad economy, far cheaper than buying hard cover books. "Buy Green e-Books and Save Trees!" is a great global warming slogan.

3) Your books are about animals, do you do a lot of research?

Yes, I did research the ones I was unfamiliar with. Each book in the series offers simple facts about a number of animals from the US and Australia. I devised the books as fun reads: a sneaky way for children to learn about wild and wonderful critters. Parents, teachers, and older readers, can go to my Books page and view illustrations and sample verses: -
Titles Are: Kangaroo Clues - *Don't Eat Platypus Stew - *Never Say Boo to a Frilly - Mama Grizzly Bear - Prairie Dog's Play Day - Humdinger Hummers -Squirrels Can't Help Being Nuts. NOTE: Titles with stars (*) have 3 shorter stories.

They can also hop over to the two pages listed below, for extra information about all these animals + links to sites that offer more in-depth details.

Wild US Critters:

Down-under Fun:

4) Are children's books easier to market?

My marketing experience is with children's books, so I can only offer an opinion on promoting these. I suspect the same applies to any genre. Let me say first, that writing the darned thing is the easy part. Promoting your published book takes huge amounts time, effort, and planning. Unless you are Mick Jagger or Queen Elizabeth, the publisher leaves 97% of this in your nervous and unprepared hands. You have to learn how to write press releases and tee up newspaper and radio interviews for yourself. School visits, book signings and library visits, are a high priority. Designing business cards, postcards, bookmarks, and maybe even craft or writing projects for schools, all take chunks of your time. "Promote or Perish" is your daily mantra. Will you ever have time to write again? Some writers thrive in the hothouse scrimmages of book promotion. Others wilt, longing for the solitude of their computer, and a chance to follow the seductive scent of a new story idea. Bottom line - publishers want books that sell. So, if you want a happy publisher, who will accept your next masterpiece, PROMOTE and SELL!

5) Is it easier to find a find an agent or a publisher?
Aha. . . this is a classic catch 22 situation. Today, many publishers prefer writers who have an agent. Agents, on the other hand, like to represent writers who have already published a book. This often applies to the larger publishers and agencies. Luckily for writers, many editors who were downsized during past publishing house buy outs, have opened literary agencies of their own. They know the business, and they have excellent contacts. This is a good thing.

Look for an agent who has just opened for business: they are hungry for clients, and therefore more likely to take a good look at your manuscript. With publishers, begin by researching the smaller houses. They are newer, less set in their ways, and more likely to give a newcomer a chance. For both publishers and agents, make sure they are legitimate, and looking for books that feel like yours. Their online Submission Guidelines are where you will find exactly what they want from you. Finding the right agent or publisher often boils down to good research.

Beware of Agent and Publishing Scams: Check this link, for advice on how to make sure the publisher or agent you choose is legitimate:

6) Tell us about your blog and your website, do you think it is essential for the aspiring author to create a blog or website early in their writing career?

Once you have a signed contract for your book, you do need a Blog or a Website. I have both. Making the general public aware of you as a children's author, + the titles of your books, is called "Branding." Someone says Jo Rowlings, and we instantly think of Harry Potter.

My Blog is a kind of "Stop Press" way of putting out instant news about my books and the writing services I offer. It is also a way of posting opinions, book trailers and covers + the writing and book news I want to share - fast! My Website is where I keep a permanent display of my books, covers, and the details about other services I offer. Always link the two together.

If you set it up just right, your Blog news will be posted all over the web. Learn how to Ping after every new post, add the right widgets and links, and connect to Feedburner, etc. A Blog that is not hooked up simply sits there - dead news! I know, it does sound scary at first, but it really is quite simple. I use Research the Blog you choose, and start hooking it up to various Blog Readers. Take your time. As you learn more - do more!

7) Share any thoughts you may have on creative writing?

Writing for children is not something you can rattle off over a weekend, and expect to get published, ASAP. It is a craft that must be learned. The idea is to paint word pictures that stick in a child's head. A few evocative and fresh adjectives, mixed in with active and powerful verbs, works wonderfully. Focus on what is important to the plot, and prune back those long and waffling sentences. This advice applies to all ages of children's books, but especially so for picture books. Keep your writing as tight as your Granny's new girdle!

If it's been a long time since you sat in Ms Learnit's English class, take a writing lesson or two. These days, you can do this online, in your jammies, if you choose. Join a good online children's writing list, and make notes of all the great advice and information that flows there. Go to writing conferences. You can network there with other writers, pick their brains, and listen to guest editors and their words of writing wisdom. Write! Write! Write! Join a critique group for guidance, support, and helpful writing feedback.

Only those who refuse to quit will become published. So, don't allow rejection letters to stop you writing. Many of today's famous authors received loads of rejections before that first acceptance.

Perseverance is as important as talent and hard work. Keep researching those publishers and sending out your manuscripts.

Remember, mates, editors do NOT make house calls!

Thank you Joan, for asking me these gritty questions. Working with you has been a huge pleasure.

Margot Finke.

Thank you too, for taking the time to answer all the questions, and the wonderful advice you have shared.


  1. This is an excellent interview. Margot sounds like a wonderful person, full of energy and vision. The additional visuals of her books are very helpful. I also like the links you've provided so that anyone can visit Margot's blog or her website. Margot offers good insight into the world of writing. Her remarks concerning question # 5 are particularly interesting. I'm going over to visit her blog.

    wonderful job!


  2. Thanks so much Raven. Joan's questions were brain teasers!! I also love the illustrations in ALL my books.

    Did you know that two of my illustrators are Turkish and live in turkey? One speaks no English and has no computer. Thanks to a wonderful online friend, who acted as go-between and interpreter, his illustrations for "Kangaroo Clues" are a delight. He was able to capture the exact feeling and mood of this tale.

    Margot Finke

    Manuscript Critiques - My Books!

  3. Thanks Raven,
    Margot is also giving away a prize, which I added just now. She is a wonderful story teller and I love her books. Listen to one.

  4. Thanks for sharing the great interview. I've had the pleasure to work with Margot and all I can say is that she's a wonderful children's author and a phenomenal editor.

    Good luck with your tour, Margot!

  5. Thanks for stopping by Mayra, I too love her books, listening to them almost makes you want to be a kid again.

  6. Mayra, now you are making me blush. That leather cat suit will turn into a tu-tu and moment.

    Margot Finke

    Manuscript Critiques - My Books!

  7. Margot, you have so much information to offer. You are appreciated.

    April Robins

  8. Thanks for dropping by April; yes, Margot does have a lot of valuable information to share for those aspiring authors, whether it be children’s books or those studying the craft of fiction. Capturing a child’s attention, as well as their imagination takes commitment and fortitude, something Margot has a lot of.

  9. Hi Margot,
    As host, I do hope you don’t mind me putting you on the spot. You publish a monthly “Musing’s” column for your readers on the various elements of fiction writing, now the question I want to ask, is in starting out, what did you tell yourself after receiving your first rejection letter?

  10. Great question, Joan. My first rejection came long ago, before I formed my great crit group, or knew much about writing for children. Looking back, it is no surprise that I received that rejection. All the same, I felt very disappointed. The editor wrote, "Cute story, but needs work!" Beginner me had no idea what she meant, or what to do about it.

    I was like so many new writers, certain that writing a picture book was a snap, and that publication of my masterpiece would follow, ASAP.

    Being part of an active critique group is just one vital element leading to eventual publication. The writing feedback, comments and support they offer is a huge help. Like anything else, writing for children is a craft that must be learned. Being a critique group member, and on several online writing lists, gives you access to successful writers, and the words of wisdom they are prepared to share.

    And remember, publishers are in business to make money. Writers must also look at their writing as a business. Read lots of books in the age range similar to yours, write, write, write, and go to writing conferences whenever possible. This is where you will meet other writers, and pick the brains of established writers and editors who offer workshops.

    Networking is the name of the game these days. I even wrote a "Musings" column about this very thing:

    Happy to answer any new questions, mates. Doing this also gives your readers a chance to win a FREE reading of one of my books!! So jump in.
    BUY any Autographed Book from my website, and
    receive a FREE LINK to me READING that story!

  11. Thanks Margot for your response, as always very enlightening. You’ve touched on publication, what a beginner should be doing, what publishers as well as agents expect in today’s market, from the writer/author. Like you, other well established author’s are self-promoting, blog touring, there by pushing their work before the eyes the reader, and not sitting back on their laurel’s waiting for it to happen.

    Critique groups are essential for the wanna-be, and the one I belong to this week (Sweet Hearts of The Rodeo) are studying Endings, we are a literary group focusing mainly on such talented authors as Tobias Wolff’s “Bullet in the Brain”, “Awaiting Orders” and “Bible”, “Man and Wife” by Chase.

    How do you deal with the endings of your children’s novel? In your article “Writing Picture Books” you focus on tight writing, that Tight Writing Shows Rather Than Tells, this is much the same ingredient one would use in writing a novel or a literary short story.
    You said/What does tight writing and "show don't tell" really mean? It means don't waffle on with countless descriptions, or wander away from the main point of your story.

    In a literary short story, Nancy Kress in an article that she wrote for Writer’s Digest says, “Endings carry tremendous weight with readers; if they don't like the ending, chances are they'll say they didn't like the work. Failed endings are also the most common problems editors have with submitted works.”

    Jumping back to the endings of your children’s books, what types of ending are focusing on?

    1) Do you have an ending in mind, when you start?
    2) During your research, is there times that ending changes?

  12. Joan, quite honestly, I have more problems with beginnings than I do with endings. I rewrite beginning paragraphs over-and-over. So often an editor will quit reading if the beginning does not resonate with them, and keep them reading.

    I begin with a rough outline in my mind - beginning, middle, and an ending. Nothing is set in stone. A plot changing epiphany could hit at any moment- and often does. I am always willing to "change horses in mid stride," as the saying goes. But for me, it is the beginning that is more likely to suffer many rewrites. Others however, have the same problem with their endings.

    With many manuscripts I read, I find that often, writers don't know when to quit. They set up the plot and the characters, by giving them hurdles to jump over, situations to overcome, and an overall goal to reach. Then, like the mouse on a treadmill, they keep going, long after a reasonable ending has been reached. You have to know how to wind down from that high point, and END IT so the reader feels satisfied with the outcome.

    Make sure the loose ends are tied off nicely.
    Does the ending fit the situations that had to be overcome? Is the final outcome realistic? Are you leaving an opening for a sequel or a series? Has your main POV matured and grown in understanding of himself?

    If the ending does not fully deal with the plot scenario as written, then rework it until it does fit. Your first one or two books often need extensive reworking and rewriting. You are feeling your way. You lack confidence and experience. This is when feedback from a crit group that has published or advanced members can help and guide your choices: truly a lifesaver.

    Never be afraid to rework, change, or completely toss out any major part of your story. If you sense something about a few particular chapters does not jell with either the plot, or the way you have written your characters, CHANGE THEM. This applies to the beginning, the middle, OR the ending.

    Hope this is helpful to you.
    BUY any Autographed Book from my website, and
    receive a FREE LINK to me READING that story!



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