It’s time for another Writer Spotlight on this edition of The Mitten!
Today I’m happy to welcome one of my friends (and critique partners), Wendy BooydeGraaff. Wendy was born and raised in Canada, on a fruit farm in Southern Ontario (which, she says, is almost a full degree latitude south of Grand Rapids where she lives now). She’s been in Michigan for over twenty years and is still shocked by all the snow.
Wendy writes, “Where I grew up, close to Lake Ontario, the lake effect kept us in a little warm bubble and the other side of the lake (Buffalo) got all the snow. Here in Grand Rapids, lake effect means SNOW, and lots of it. I looked it up because I thought maybe my childhood memory was wrong, but guess what? Grand Rapids receives an average of 20 more inches of snow per year than my hometown.”
Let’s dive right in, Wendy!
Mitten: When did you start writing for children or otherwise, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do?
Wendy: I started writing fiction in earnest my first year out of college when I was teaching fifth and sixth-grade students with learning disabilities. I had long been an avid reader but it had never occurred to me to write for publication until then. I latched onto the idea and have never let go.
Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?
Wendy: Though I don’t remember exactly how I found out about SCBWI, I’d guess it was through an author’s blog, I’ve been enjoying membership since 2009.
Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?
Wendy: I write fiction, mostly picture books, middle grade and YA. I read a lot of fiction (picture books through adult) and nonfiction, though lately nonfiction has been particularly inspiring for my writing life.
Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?
Wendy: I have a picture book out with Ripple Grove Press called, SALAD PIE, illustrated by Bryan Langdo. The two best events that helped (and are still helping) me on my way toward publication were the Nevada SCBWI mentorship program and Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature One-On-One Plus Conference. Also, I received a first runner-up prize from Michigan’s SCBWI for a picture book manuscript.
Mitten: Many of us have a job other than writing for children. Tell us something about what you do outside of writing.
Wendy: I contract for an educational research foundation, which puts me in schools and working with children on a regular basis. I also work for an international company, providing settling-in services to professionals who move from various countries around the world to the Grand Rapids area for work assignments.
Mitten: How does this occupation inform your writing?
Wendy: Writing is solitary, so my jobs get me out and working with a wide variety of people. This gives me balance, and also, income. Also, both jobs are detail-oriented, and so I’ve developed skills of organization and checking things over from all angles, which are great skills for writing fiction. It’s also nice to meet a steady stream of new people, because they remind me how unique every individual is.
Mitten: Where do you get most of your writing ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?
Wendy: All of my writing ideas come from my imagination. I’ve always had a vivid inner life. While people, places, stories might spark an idea, it’s imagination that runs away with it and pushes the spark into a story.
I usually write down ideas on a scrap of paper. I have file folders both on my computer and in my cabinet, full of half-baked ideas. The ideas that really won’t let go, I spend more time with. I spend a lot of time thinking before I begin writing, especially for novels and I never talk about what I’m writing until it’s ready to be seen.
Mitten: We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.
Rather than pick writers, I’m going to pick books. THE DARK, by Lemony Snicket and Jon Klassen is one of my favourite picture books because it’s so good at setting the creepy tone we are all taught to believe about the dark, and then, the book shows us that the dark isn’t so bad after all. You can read more about some of my favourite picture books on this post and this other post for Nerdy Book Club.
Mitten: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children? Why?
There is so much great advice out there about writing and revising, but in writing for
Thanks so much for stopping by, Wendy! It’s always fun to get to know our Michigan SCBWI family members better. You can find out more about Wendy at her website, and you can read about many other debut picture books at On the Scene in 2016. Wendy would also love to connect with you on Pinterest or Goodreads.
And remember, you never know when the Writer Spotlight will shine on you!