I can’t tell you how excited I am to welcome such a special guest to my blog today – she’s my mentor, friend and a truly inspirational figure in the kidlit world. She’s also the author of three excellent picture books published last year, with more on the way. Please join me in a standing ovation for the fabulous… Vivian Kirkfield!!
Vivian’s latest picture book, entitled Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe and illustrated by Alleanna Harris, comes out on 28th January. It’s the fascinating true story of the relationship between Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe, and tells how these two famous icons each helped and influenced each other’s lives and careers, in the process developing a deep and long-lasting friendship.
Thanks to Vivian’s generosity, I’m able to offer my first ever *GIVEAWAY*! Everyone who comments on, reblogs or shares this post will be entered into a prize draw. The winner gets to choose from either a signed copy of Making Their Voices Heard or a manuscript critique by Vivian herself!
Hi Vivian! Tell us, where do you find inspiration for your stories? And where did the inspiration for Making Their Voices Heard come from?
Hello Helen…it is so great to be here. Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts and the news of Making Their Voices Heard.
Inspiration for stories is everywhere…whether I am traveling around the world or driving to the local grocery store or surfing the internet or watching TV…I can always find ideas of people or places or events I am excited to write about.
The inspiration for Making Their Voices Heard came from a photo I saw on the internet. There they were…those two icons…Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe…sitting shoulder to shoulder in a night club…and the vibe emanating from the picture was one of camaraderie. The caption spoke of their friendship and that Marilyn had helped Ella. Friends? That was something I’d never heard before…and I wanted to find out more.
That’s fascinating. I bet not many people know about their friendship, so I have no doubt Making Their Voices Heard will intrigue children and adults alike (my grandmother, for one, is looking forward to reading it!)! Did you face many challenges when researching for this book?
Yes, there are definitely challenges when writing a nonfiction picture book story because the information you are looking for is not always readily available. With this story, I was able to find many sources that told about Ella’s life and Marilyn’s life. There were books, magazine articles, and even video interviews. Video interviews (you can usually find them on YouTube) are fabulous resources for a writer of a nonfiction picture book biography because you can see and hear the person you are writing about – and really get a good sense of their character and personality.
But my focus was going to be about their friendship…and that information was not readily available. So, I became a detective and dug deeper! I found the email address of Dr. Lois Banner, the author of several Marilyn Monroe books. I sent her a note. But even though she knew a lot about Marilyn, she didn’t know if Marilyn and Ella had been friends. However, she suggested I get in touch with the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, Greg Schreiner. I found his email address on his website and contacted him. And, even though he didn’t know, it wasn’t a dead-end. He gave me the phone number of Audrey Franklin, the woman who had been Ella’s promoter/PR person for thirty-seven years. Gathering my courage, I called her. And she was wonderful. We spoke for hours and she verified that YES, Ella and Marilyn were friends!
Wow, that’s a wonderful example of how rewarding it can be if you’re persistent and explore every avenue during the research process! What advice would you give to authors who want to write a picture book biography?
The main piece of advice for authors who want to write a picture book biography would be to READ! READ! READ! Read lots of current (published in the last 5 years) picture book biographies. This will help give you a sense of the rhythm of a picture book biography. You’ll see how different authors approach the life of the main character…do they focus on one event or is it a life to death story?
I have to add that it’s important to choose a person whose story you are PASSIONATE about and that you have a connection with somehow – you will be revising a million times. And it’s important to RESEARCH carefully – the worst thing we can do is to give a child a book with inaccurate or inconsistent information.
Great advice! It’s always important for writers to read widely. And of course, if we’re not passionate about what we write, we can’t expect our readers to be either. Which message do you hope children will take away from Making Their Voices Heard?
I hope that children will turn the last page and be inspired to never give up on their hopes and dreams – the only failure is the failure to keep trying. I hope that children will take away the belief that they are of value: it doesn’t matter where you come from – it’s where you are going that counts. And I hope that children will cherish their friends and always stand up for what is right and MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD…just like Ella and Marilyn did.
What a beautiful message! How do you plan to celebrate the launch of Making Their Voices Heard?
I’m totally excited about all of the launch plans for Making Their Voices Heard. On January 18th, the first celebration is at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s at 11am and I hope everyone local to Amherst, Merrimack, Manchester, Milford, and Nashua will come out. What I love most about our kid lit community is the amazing support – someone I just connected with is from Saratoga Springs, NY…and guess what? She’s coming!
The day after, I’ll be flying out to Chicago and I have an Author Night at my granddaughter’s school on January 24th. There will probably be a couple of other events…maybe one of the Andersons Bookstores and also a few school visits in the Chicagoland suburbs. When I return, there will be a bookstore event at Books of Wonder in New York City and possibly at the Silver Unicorn and at the Blue Bunny Bookstore, both in Massachusetts. Those plans are still in the works. In March, I have a writer’s workshop for kids at our local library and in May, a full day of school presentations at the local elementary school in Amherst where I will be reading Making Their Voices Heard and chatting with the children about how they can make their voices heard.
It sounds like you’re going to be very busy – how exciting! Can you tell us about anything you’re working on now or any new releases that we can look forward to?
New releases? Funny you should ask. 😊
January 2021 is the launch date for my big compilation book: From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). I’m so excited about that book which contains NINE full-length, fully illustrated (by the amazing Gilbert Ford) picture book biographies of the visionaries whose inventions changed the landscape of our planet. From the Montgolfier’s hot air balloon and Karl Drais’ first bicycle to Raye Montague’s first computer design of a naval frigate, the stories will inspire young people to follow their dreams and build them into reality.
And we JUST sold another story…another nonfiction picture book biography…details to follow as soon as the contract is signed!
Plus, my agent just sent a revise and resubmit (R&R) to an editor – it’s the sequel to Pippa’s Passover Plate – fingers crossed that the editor loves it!
I can’t wait to read your compilation book and find out more news of your releases!
Well, Vivian, thank you so much for taking the time to appear on my blog and answer these questions for us. All the best for the release!
Thank you so very much, Helen, for having me on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity and hope one day we will meet in person so I can give you a real hug!
I hope so too!!
Vivian Kirkfield’s latest picture book Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe will be released on 28th January 2020 by little bee books. You can get hold of a copy of by clicking one of the links below!
***And don’t forget, to be entered into the prize draw and have a chance to win a signed copy of Making Their Voices Heard or a manuscript critique by Vivian, just leave a comment, reblog, or share this post!***
Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and traveling around the world to hug kid-lit friends. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at national writers’ conferences. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). You can connect with her on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.