Spring is here, and what better time to let your writing bloom. As we think about the earth reawakening, pushing new shoots through the detritus of fall and winter’s layers, and unfurling the vibrancy of new leaves, it seems appropriate that we should return to our budding creativity, open our manuscripts to the light, and grow our writing craft.
That’s what the SCBWI-MI mentorship is all about. This year, we focus on picture books, one for verse, and one for prose. All current SCBWI-MI members are eligible, as long as you have a completed PB manuscript to submit. The submission window opens in a few months, so now is the time to get it ready. For more information about our mentorship program, click here.
To inspire you, we’re sharing the first in our two-part series of interviews with the mentors. In part one, read about Kim Rogers, our prose mentor. You can find her bio on her website here, but we thought members might want to know more about who she is as a writer and person.
In part two, you can read about Leslie Helakoski, former SCBWI-MI co-RA and our verse mentor. Stay tuned for that, and in the meantime, enjoy part one with Kim!
-Jay Whistler, Mentorship Coordinator
Mentorship Interview with Kim Rogers
What do you like best about writing picture books?
I love the challenge of writing them—playing with rhythmic and lyrical language and finding the right onomatopoeia that elevates a manuscript. And I love that feeling of figuring out a story that finally comes together and creates an emotional response that makes my critique partners say, “This is ready to send out.”
What do you like least?
Although they may look easy, picture books are difficult to write. It can be hard for me to hone in on an idea because I have so many of them! My agent says to write where the heat is, meaning to write where my burning passion lies, and that’s what I try to do. This is some of the best advice I’ve received! It helps me prioritize what to write and doesn’t steer me wrong. Also, it can take years to write picture books because I write in my head before I ever sit down to write at my laptop. And some stories are more difficult to figure out, but they are well worth the long and oftentimes arduous effort.
Describe a typical writing day.
I don’t have a strict writing routine and tend to write at various times depending on my schedule. My favorite time to write is in the mornings. I start the day off with a cup of Earl Grey tea with sugar and a splash of milk, or a cup of coffee fixed the same way. Then I sit down at my laptop. When I’m working on a new manuscript, the blank page is less intimidating when I’m not fully awake. Plus, writing early makes me feel accomplished and then I’m ready to tackle the rest of the day.
Which of your books was the most fun to write? Why?
My books are like children. I can’t say that I have a favorite one. It wouldn’t be fair to the other books. Just like my boys, I love them all the same.
When you’re reading for pleasure, what features of a book typically impress you the most?
I’m always drawn to lyrical voices. That type of voice keeps me longing for more. I also love funny voices. Laughter is the best medicine. I love heartwarming and humorous stories. I think of a book like a new friend that I want to get to know. Those voices are the most impressive and intriguing to me. They are the ones I want to sit down and have a cup of tea or coffee with and then walk away feeling uplifted and energized and/or with my sides hurting from laughing.
What brings you joy?
Spending time with family and friends brings me joy. Relationships are incredibly important to me. Spending time in nature brings me joy. Connection to Mother Earth is essential and soul healing. Traveling brings me joy. I love exploring places I’ve never been. A satisfying meal brings me joy. I especially love food my dad cooks. And reading and writing picture books brings me joy. They are my favorite art form.
What inspires you?
Good people inspire me. Life experiences inspire me. Good books inspire me. Music inspires me. They all influence my writing. My mind sifts through them and the most meaningful things end up on the page.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I’d travel back to Europe. My husband is a retired Air Force officer. Our first duty station as a married couple was in Germany. I’d take our children and show them all the places we’ve traveled. I’d take them to our favorite German restaurant, Gastof Peters. I’d take them to the hospital where our eldest was born. I’d take them to our favorite Liege waffle place that happens to be in a town center in the Netherlands. I’d take them to our favorite gelato place in Italy. And I’d introduce them to the wonderful European friends we’ve met along the way.
If you could have dinner with any person throughout history who would it be? What would you discuss?
I’d want to have dinner with my paternal Wichita great-grandmother, Jessie. Many people don’t know this, but in my story “Flying Together” in ANCESTOR APPROVED (Heartdrum, 2021) the main character is named in honor of her. I’d ask what inspires her and about the people and about the things that she loves most. In fact, I’d want to have dinner with each of my ancestors. I’d want to get to know them all. There are so many questions I would ask each of them.
What aspects of being a picture book mentor are you most looking forward to?
First off, thank you so much for the opportunity to be a mentor. I’m so honored and excited! I can’t wait to read the mentee’s work. I can’t wait to see how their work evolves. I can’t wait to see what exciting things the future holds for them on their road to publication.