Friday, May 6, 2011

Firsts Fridays: Featuring Children's Book Author Margot Finke and E-book Giveaway!

UPDATE: We have winners for Margots Giveaway!  They are....
Megan Frank, Kristi Bernard and Jeanette Larson
Congrats ladies!
Today I introduce to you 'Firsts Fridays', a series spotlighting those of us experiencing a first in the writing biz as well as the more seasoned folks who remember their humble beginnings like it was yesterday. 

My very first 'Firsts Friday' spotlight is an old hand in the writing biz and she remembers well starting out.  Let's do a little dance for Margot Finke...
One thing I have learned about Margot is she knows tons about the biz and she is always kind enough to stop and help little lost writer souls out.  She is also being quite generous and offering up an e-book to three lucky readers as a giveaway.  More on that after the interview.  Without further ado let us learn a little bit about Margot Finke.

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family.
Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, and their three children are now grown and doing very well.
Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! "
 Her 7x book, rhyming series, "Wild and Wonderful," offers fun facts about animals from the US and Australia.  Educational and fun, eBooks can be read on a computer, laptop, or various color eReaders.  They are great for classroom or home schooling moms.
Remember, kids today are computer savvy, and ALL Margot’s books (both hard copy and eBooks), including those in this article, can be viewed on Margot’ Magic Carpet.
Discover extra fun facts about the animals in this series as well as her other books.

Her Manuscript Critique Service attracts clients from all over the globe, and her website offers a great deal of help for new writers. Nothing gives her a bigger thrill that to hear that a book she helped polish has been published.  “This is always a huge YEA moment,” Margot says.

And now Margot will teach us what she knows...

DB: Can you tell us how you started writing?
MF: I had always written small things, but the books started when I was a teacher’s aide.  When we came to the US, I wanted our three children to remember their roots, so every night I asked them to pick an animal from the Australian map I had pinned  on their bedroom wall.  Then I told them a story about it,  right off the top of my head.  As a teacher’s aide, kids noticed my accent, and asked about it.  I began telling  them about Australia and their weird and wonderful animals.  My teacher friend suggested I write them all down – so I did.  My stories grew into “Wild and Wonderful, ” a 7 book rhyming series about animals from the US and Australia:
DB: Very cool! 
How long was the road until you were first published and how did it come about for you?
MF: My experience fitted the average time – approx ten yearsPatience and sticking with it is the main ingredient of publishing success – oh, and a little luck and talent really helps.

DB: Wow, ten years!  I'm running on three:)  
 In your opinion, what is the hardest part: writing, editing, querying or the wait for a published book?  And do you have helpful tips for any of those?
MF: Writing and polishing my manuscript  is the easy part for me. I actually find book promotion  the hardest part.  Even with a large publisher, and especially if you self publish, it is extremely time consuming.  There are so many different aspects you need to be on top of all the time. Writing Press Releases, contacting newspapers, bookstores, schools, is just a beginning.  Getting book reviews,  doing interviews (like this - grin!), keeping up a constant presence on Facebook, Twitter, website and blogs. Then there are Virtual Book Tours to negotiate: and somewhere in-between it all, a new book to write. HELP! 

Of course the second and third book is easier (I have 11 pub now), because you learn from previous mistakes and disasters. And if you self-publish there is a host of other stuff to add to this load.

DB: You critique work professionally, as well as write.  What are some major mistakes you find new writers making and how can we get past them?
MF: I have met some fascinating people thanks to my Manuscript Critique Service – writers from a variety of different countries.  I guess overwriting is what I see most.  It takes a while for writers to appreciate the idea of tight and terrific versus loose and waffling on. I tell them all, “Waffles are fine for breakfast with maple syrup, but keep waffles out of your manuscripts.” 

Wimpy verbs are also a problem I often see .  Active, powerful and evocative words paint vivid mental pictures that HOOK your readers.  Combine tight writing with powerful words, and you have a book worth reading.

DB: Tight and terrific...I really like that!  
 Have you had insecurities in the biz and if so what have you done to overcome them?
MF: In the beginning, I hung around the mail box a lot, waiting for that hoped for acceptance. Then I discovered that time went much faster if I began on a new story while I waited.  Rejection letters are never fun though, and I received my fair share. The saying goes,  that you have to get enough rejections to paper a small room before you can expect an acceptance – I can definitely state this is true.

DB:  What do you do to remedy writers block?
MF: I know many suffer from this scary malady, but I never have.  Wild and wonderful ideas come to me the moment my head hits the pillow each night.  I tiptoe into the bathroom, so as not to wake my husband, sit on the toilet seat, and scribble my heart out. If I don’t, by morning my fantastic ideas have faded into a blurry and useless miss-mash.

DB: No writers block?  I'm jealous:)
 You seem to be everywhere in the writing blogosphere, what would you say your best platform building tool is?
MF: Aha, it takes time to build a writing persona – nothing happens overnight, mate.  It is a combination of Blog, Website, Facebook, Twitter and other writing lists and blogs I have been an active member of for years.  My idea is to have the name Margot Fink instantly associated with Books for Kids.  It’s called branding, and unless you have big bucks to spread around, or are already famous, like Madonna, it takes lots of time, persistence, and know-how to accomplish.  I am not there yet.

DB: It seems like a huge key ingredient it time.
How do you time manage between writing and platform building/marketing your work?
MF: At the moment I am all out promoting my last three books.  I have others written, and as soon as possible I will begin the final edit of them.  My recent hip and knee replacement surgery  has meant an ALL ONLINE promotional push.  I have been unable, due to  daily physio sessions, plus the effects of both operations, to get out and about as much as before.  Being well organized is a blessing under these circumstances.  I make lists, notes, and plans galore.  I have reminder apps plugged into my computer.  I try not to pull my hair or scream too loudly when it seems everything will fall apart by midday – it never does!

DB: I do hope you get to feeling better soon.  You are too busy to stay down,
Last question for you Margot.
In this massive industry, full of writers trying to break out, is there any advice can you give beginner’s?
MF: Oh yes.
#1 - Learn the basics of writing: you can’t break the rules until you know them by heart.
#2 – Make the Thesaurus your best friend. This is where all those active and powerful words hang out.
#3 – Patience really is a writing virtue – nothing happens fast in this business.
#4 – Join a good critique group that has advanced members whose brains you can pick.
#5 – Network with other writers.  For centuries men have realized the value of networking. Women      in business also do it now.  It also applies to writers.
#6 – Treat writing as a business.  If you want to dabble in writing as a hobby – fine.  Just don’t expect to be published.  These days, publishers watch their bottom line, and so should you.
#7- Never underestimate the value of having the right book, at the right time, with the right publisher.  It’s called LUCK!
#8- Cultivate contacts.  The old saying, “It’s not what you know but whom you know,” still applies.

            DB:   Great advice Margot!  Thanks so much for being our very first test subject...I mean spotlight...for 'Firsts Fridays' and providing us with a great e-book for a giveaway. 

If you would like to learn more about Margot and her adventurous, inspiring and funny books check her out at Margots Magic Carpet.  If you'd like to contact her about critique services check her out at

MF: Deana, thanks for giving me this wonderful opportunity to speak to your readers.

It's giveaway time!!!

For my first giveaway (you catching the theme here?) Margot has been kind enough to give three copies of her book, Taconi and Claude's 21st Century Adventure

Because of a magical Boab Tree, Taconi and Claude find themselves marooned in the 21st Century. Ruthie and Horatio (2 characters from my other books) join forces to help Taconi and his cockatoo find their way back home to where they belong - the Aussie outback of the 1950's.

I'm going to make it really simple to enter:
1) Follow me with Google Connect or through Feed Burner email to stay up to date on some pretty amazing things we have in store for the future.

2)Leave a comment letting me know you did.  While you're commenting, (this part is optional) feel free to let me know if anything from Margot's spotlight helped you or what kinds of questions you might like asked in the spotlights.

This giveaway will run until May 19th and is open to anyone!



Robyn Campbell said...

Great interview, Deana. I actually know Margot from the CW listserve. And I have never had writer's block. I guess my farm is responsible for that. There seems to be a story everywhere I look.

Margot I think the MOST important thing you said is, "Treat writing as a business." New writers need to hear that advice more often. We always tell them, read lots, join a crit group, etc. which are all important things too, but I've noticed new writers never think about treating it like it's a business and they need to.


Debbie Maxwell Allen said...

Wonderful interview. A great glimpse into her life.


Meagan Frank said...

Wonderful interview with sound and applicable advice! This is going to be a fun Friday blog to follow!

Kristi's Book Nook said...

Great post! Margot is an excellent author.

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

WOW! You ladies are on the ball with comments. Thank you all so much for your kind words.

I tell you, it is always a huge YEA moment when a manuscript I helped someone polish gets published. The same with my own books. The thrill of publication never gets any less.

And I am dying to hear what the winners of my FREE adventure think of the story. I had such fun bring these three characters together for this story.

Margot’s Magic Carpet
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

I just wanted to add that I am happy to answer any questions you readers wish to ask me.

Margot’s Magic Carpet
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

Deana said...

I agree with you all, Margot is a great writer. I had a chance to read her short story which joins together characters from three different books in the adventure of a lifetime. It's a great giveaway so I hope some people will take advantage:)

Margot, you are a saint for giving of your time to my little ole blog. Your advice is gold!

Jeanette Larson said...

Great interview. I love the Australian stories.

Karen Cioffi said...

Deana, Great job! Margot is a wealth of children's writing knowledge. Any advice she shares is worth listening to! I love her books.

Deana said...

Thanks Karen! And I must say, I completely agree about Margot:)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

What a great interview, Deana. I'm a little late to the First Friday debut, but what a wonderful start.

Deana said...

Thanks Cynthia, come back next Friday for platform building. It should be fun:)

Magic Carpet of 16x Books said...

Thanks to all those who added comments after my last post here. I really appreciate your j-kind words.

Margot’s Magic Carpet
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

Kristi's Book Nook said...

Thanks Deana and Margot. I am very excited to have won and can't wait to read the book.

Deana said...

You are so welcome Kristi! Enjoy:)
And thanks again Margot for the great interview and giveaway!