Friday, April 18, 2008

Lori Z. Scott's Writing Adventures

This week I am excited to welcome back author Lori Z. Scott.

Last summer Lori Z. Scott’s first children’s chapter book of her new Meghan Rose series titled, Meghan Rose On Stage, made a hit with my grandchildren. We read the book in one sitting because it was as my grandchildren phrased it, “So cool!” After reading this book that captivated our minds, I wanted to learn more about this amazing author’s writing journey. This is what Lori Z. Scott had to say:

Q: How did you get started in writing?

I started my writing career in a roundabout way! I taught elementary school for nine years, then retired to raise my children. One day, while the kids and I were at the library, I saw a flyer for an amateur science fiction/ fantasy writing contest. I decided to enter…and in the process of writing my tale, something sparked to life in my heart. My pulse raced, my mind wandered, and a whole new world opened up to me! I was hooked.

In the past, I enjoyed writing—I wrote for my high school newspaper and yearbook, and even had a poem published when I was sixteen. But I never really thought about freelancing until I spied that flyer and re-experienced the thrill of playing with words on paper.

At any rate, I entered the contest and won second place. Encouraged by my success, I entered a MOPS International story writing contest…and WON!

After that, I joined a writer’s group, started learning more about the publishing industry, and eventually landed a contract from Standard Publishing for a new children’s fiction series. The first two titles in that series—MEGHAN ROSE ON STAGE and MEGHAN ROSE HAS ANTS IN HER PANTS—are on the bookshelves. The books are funny (I figure, if it doesn’t amuse me, why write it?) and bursting with energy. The main character, Meghan Rose, is a strong, out-spoken first grader. Her bubble-gum blowing, best buddy Ryan and silly, duck-loving pal Kayla help round out the cast. So far, I’ve found that even though the stories are chapter books, most kids read them in one sitting because they just can’t stop!

Q: Meghan Rose On Stage is definitely full of humorous energy, what inspires or motivates you?

My children inspire most of my writing. I wrote the MEGHAN ROSE series because my daughter asked me to write them. In my publications, you’ll consistently find a touch of humor, a little bit of heart, and a lot of everyday faith…all inspired by my kids.

Q: Do you write other things besides children's themes?

Although my passion is for children’s writing, I also write for teens and adults. I have contributed to over a dozen books and published numerous devotions, short stories, poems, puzzles, and articles targeting various age groups from five to fifty years old. My first book is a devotional book, BUSY MOMS’ DEVOTIONS TO GO. Recently, I contributed a story to this anthology, a 2007 Eppie Award Winner in Science Fiction(although I attend a Protestant church), INFINITE SPACE, INFINITE GOD.

Q: You stated your passion is writing for children. Do you have a favorite children's story?

I have MANY favorite children’s stories. Remember, I’m a former first grade teacher! My list could go on and on and on and on… Of course I love books by my writer friends. That goes without saying! I also love fantasy books like The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) and The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), but I hold picture books close to my heart because I love the art.

Here are some of my favorites:

Jabberwocky (Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Graeme Base) (I love the illustrations in all Graeme Base books.)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle) (I love Eric Carle books for K-1 students)
Toot and Puddle (Holly Hobby)
Leo the Late Bloomer (Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Ariego)
Tacky the Penguin (Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger) (I’m a big fan of all the books put out by this team.)
Dog Breath (Dav Pilkey—the book is little known, but I think it’s hilarious!)
Where the Wild Things Are (Maurice Sendak)
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig (Eugene Trivizas, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury) The Polar Express (or anything by Chris VanAllsburg)
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Judith Viorst, illustrated by Ray Cruz) (I love the rhythm of the words in this story.)
Tuesday (David Wiesner) (I love all his books too!)
If comic books count, put Garfield and Calvin and Hobbes on the list too!

Q: Like most authors, the zeal for reading and writing seem to be a large part of your life. What do you do when you are not writing or reading?

I work part time supervising student teachers. I volunteer to work and teach in the classroom and at church. (Next year I plan on doing school visits—so please email me if you’re interested in an author visit!) I also enjoy running, swimming, and drawing.

One place you WON’T find me is in the kitchen. I’m a TERRIBLE cook! The kids are always happy when Dad cooks.

Q: What suggestions would you give to children who are interested in writing their own story?
Off hand, my suggestion is GO FOR IT!! On a more practical note, here are some ideas to get you going: First, THINK LIKE A WRITER. Writing is simply telling something. So lists, emails, poems, jokes, a report, a birthday card—these are all forms of writing. Some forms help us keep track of our thoughts. Others help us express our feelings, entertain, or learn new things. If you view writing as a valuable activity, you’re on the right track!

Second, COME UP WITH IDEAS to write about. The best ideas come from your own life. What is a regular day like for you? What foods do you like or dislike? What frightens you? These things can all serve as story starters. I would love to write a story sometime about all the different flavors of gum at a store, and what one flavor I would really like to try (chocolate)! Be funny too. Everyone loves to laugh.

Third, USE YOUR COMMON SENSES. You know…sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Including such details in a story makes a difference. For example, which do you find more interesting? “I went to a surprise birthday party” OR “When Michael clicked on the light switch, we yelled “Surprise!” so loud the windows rattled (sound). Michael gasped (sound), and his mouth fell wide open (sight).” Or how about this contrast: “We ate cake” verses “We ate chocolate cake covered with creamy frosting and those brown sprinkles that crunch in your mouth (taste/sight/touch). Michael’s mom plopped a big scoop of soft vanilla-scented ice cream on top of my cake, so my first bite tasted icy cold and warm-crumbly all mixed together (smell/touch/taste).”

Fourth, HAVE FUN with it! My children and their cousins like making up stories during long car rides. Each kid has a notebook and pencil; each starts a story, writing about three sentences. When everyone is ready, each passes his story to the person on his right, who reads the story and then adds three new sentences. The process continues until someone writes THE END. Each story is then read out loud. The kids laugh A LOT at all their crazy creations. (You can actually tell when someone stopped their part of the tale and another started.)

Fifth, SHARE your writing. Half the fun of writing is sharing your thoughts with someone else. Read your story to a stuffed animal, your dog, the fish, your parents, the piano, an old shoe…whatever handy thing you can pin down long enough to hear your tale. Which brings me to the final point…READ, READ, READ! The more you read, the better writer you are likely to be!

Q: How about teachers or parents do you have any suggestions on how to use your books as a learning tool?

Yes, yes, yes! Visit the web site ! I have a whole page of ideas for teachers and parents to use with the book. Also, at the end of each book, I provide some discussion questions and activities for parents or teachers to use with children.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?

Readers might enjoy visiting my illustrator’s (Stacy Curtis) web site. He’s a talented, award winning artist with a great sense of humor. I love looking at his thumbnail sketches…he really has a flair for breathing life into the characters he creates. Go to

Thank you so much Lori for talking with me about your writing endeavors. I wish you MUCH SUCCESS with your new children's chapter book series.

Come on back next week

Lori Z. Scott will be back to bring us up to date on what she has been up to since last summer.