Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside the Writing Life -- Kay Winters' Wisdom

12 October 2009 Kay Winters talks about the writing life!

Whether you're an aspiring writer, a published writer or a book lover, it's pretty much a given that you are stimulated and inspired by what writers have to say about the writing life be it about the craft, publishing, rejection. We can never get enough of it. We always want more, more, more--one more bit of advice, one more magical moment of success. Here now in the Halloween season is a little magic and writing wisdom from Kay Winters' pen:

Q. Where did you get the idea for the Teeny Tiny Ghost?
A. We have a dollhouse. One day I came down the stairs and found everything upside down--the Christmas tree knocked over, the forks and knives on the floor, the baby out of the cradle. . . and I thought maybe a teeny tiny ghost lives in the dollhouse. I wanted to write about a character who was so frightened that he scared himself!
My new book, Whooo's That? was my daughter Linda's idea. She works with pop-up books, and came up with the concept. Really fun to do a book together. We are doing a Christmas one for next year!

Q. When did you start writing?
A. I always wrote from the time I was 7. In the 1960's when I was home with the baby, I tried doing it on a freelance basis, but quickly saw that $5. from the Instructor Magazine or a thank you note from a reading teacher didn't buy enough baby food. So I went back to teaching, which I loved. And did that until I took early retirement. I started writing full time the next day. Two years later, I made the first sale to HarperCollins.

Q. Tell us about that first important sale.
A. I was away at a friend's, and my husband called and said, "The Editor at HarperCollins would be very pleased if you would call her back." My hair still stands on end when I tell that story! She offered me a contract for the Teeny Tiny Ghost!

Q. Are you part of a Writers' Group?
A. Yes! We have a great writers' group. All published authors. We've been together for 16 years. We meet monthly at the Doylestown library.

Q. Once you're published do you still get rejections?
A. Of course! It's part of the process.

Q. Does it get easier once you're published?
A. In many ways it's harder today. I don't have an agent, and so many houses are closed to anyone without one. Also, there seems to be less interest in literary picture books--much more focus on block-busters. I try to do a mix of humor and historical fiction.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your writing process?
A. I don't make outlines. I have an idea, and I sit down and see where it goes. I listen to the characters speak. I revise and revise and revise.

Q. What advice or writing tips can you offer aspiring writers?
A. You need to know that it's not easy. So many people think because they were children once that writing a children's book should be a cinch. Guess again. You have to be willing to keep working at it, go to conferences, take classes, read new books constantly, write constantly--regard it as seriously as you would if you were a lawyer or a teacher. Develop marketing skills; you will be the one doing the marketing.

Q. What are you working on now?
A. I am working on the 15th revision of Voices of the Oregon Trail.

Q. Do you do School visits or speak at conferences?
A. Absolutely! Having been a teacher, I love going back to schools and see what's going on now. There's far too much testing now. Can't teach students to love reading, when all they read are workbooks and answer questions in preparation for tests. I do think we are very busy turning students today into non-readers, non thinkers. No Child Left Behind has a lot to answer for! My goal as an author is to show students the magic of story and creating enthusiasm about reading and writing!

Thanks, Kay, for joining us and for taking time out of your busy book signing/conference schedule to share about your writing life!

Thursday is the drawing for three of Kay's Halloween books--The Teeny Tiny Ghost; The Teeny Tiny Ghost and the Monster; and her featured title, Whooo's That? There's still time to leave a comment here, dm me on Twitter or FaceBook, or e-mail me:


  1. I love to see that you are working on the 15th revision of a book, and you are published! I hope a lot of writers in all stages of their careers see this. It gives me hope and inspiration that I am doing it right, and hopefully, it will give beginning writers a look at what they will need to do to get published. :) Good luck to you and I hope number 15 is it.


  2. Wise words, Kay! Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love that her writer's group has been together for 16 years!

  4. Thank you Margo, Marileta, and Kristin for taking time to comment on Kay's interview. Thank you Kay for sharing insights into the writing life.

  5. What an inspiring author- so REAL- truly a great lady. I find myself identifying with a lot of what she says and thinks. I will definitely look for Kay's books as an inspiration for my writing. Thanks for doing this interview, Clara.

  6. I agree, Jennifer. Kay is inspiring and so honest about how hard it is to succeed in this business of writing. I know you'll love her books! Thanks for your support!

  7. I think these books look great- can't wait to get them for School!

  8. Thanks, Susan,for writing in! I know Kay's books will make wonderful additions to your school library!

  9. I agree with everything everyone posted! I also love the idea that Kay is on her 15th revision for her latest...I am still trying to get through my first writing for that first book! Anyway, always a pleasure to read this blog.
    And, I will be checking out Kay's Halloween books at my next visit to my local book store!
    Happy Halloween everyone!

  10. Hi Kate,
    Thanks for your kind words. It's nice to hear that you're writing and reading! Kay will be delighted that you'll be looking for her books! Happy writing to you, Kate.

  11. How true and scarey a comment Kay Winters makes about what is happening in the public schools right now. Not only are children being hindered in learing to love reading but hindered in learning to love learning and developing a desire to be a life long learner.
    Kay Winters' comment on the reality of public education at this time says a lot to we teacher librarians and media specialist who still have the flexibility to inspire but unforutuantley some of us only have a 15 min. instruction window. Thanks,Ms. Winters, I will keep this in mind as I prepare lessons for my library students.

  12. Previous post, Blogger didn't allow me to fix my spelling mistakes in the preview.