She’s an amateur photographer, Rochester native, and the award-winning author of more than thirty books for kids and teens. You may have met her at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival, Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival, or other literary events nationwide. She’s Vivian Vande Velde (yes, that is her real name) and she’s here to chat with us today.
Vivian Vande Velde
Q. Thanks for being here, Vivian! What three things would you like readers to know about you and your writing process?
1. I think the author is not so important as the story.
2. A writing process that works for one author doesn’t necessarily work for another.
3. A writing process that works for an author for one story doesn’t necessarily work for that same author with another story.
Q. What advice do you have for kids and teens who want to write professionally? What advice do you have for their parents?
Kids and teens: The more you read, the better your writing will be because, as you read, you will absorb good writing without even realizing it.
When you read a story you like, notice how the author could make you instantly like and trust a character (or dislike and distrust him); or maybe the author made the character grow, or made your perception of the character change. Be aware of how the author can set a mood without using words like “gloomy” or “happy” by showing rather than telling.
Now look at a story you don’t like. If you think the story is too long, what specific parts would you cut out, and what would you put in their place? If you don’t believe anyone would act the way the character acts, what should he do that’s believable but still makes the story move along?
Write the stories only you can write. What questions are important to you? What scares you? How would you react if faced with what your characters are facing?
Parents: It isn’t being published that makes someone a writer—it’s writing that makes someone a writer. So encourage the young writers in your life, but don’t put too much emphasis on being published now. This is a time for your child to explore different writing techniques and styles, writing from the point of view of someone not themselves, trying out different genres, perhaps using bits and pieces of their own experiences. Any time someone starts a story, that’s an accomplishment. Be proud and supportive—even if you don’t quite get it.
Q. The Rochester Children’s Book Festival (www.rochesterchildrensbookfestival.com) will be celebrating its 19th year this November! What changes have you seen in the Festival during this time?
When I first started the Festival, I had no idea how grand it would become. The various people who now run the Festival have implemented ideas like: One Busy Bookworm Place, where kids can do crafts related to the featured books; more simultaneous author readings and presentations; additional activities throughout the day, including singers, characters in costume, puppets, and therapy pets; and Festival to Go, our outreach program bringing Festival authors into city schools. We started with about two dozen authors and illustrators from the Rochester area. Now each year sees about 40 authors from all over the country.
Q. Your first book was published in 1984 – over 30 years ago! What changes have you seen in the publishing business since then?
You mean like that we no longer use papyrus and scribes? You make me feel so old. But, yes, things are different today. Many of the publishers who were in business when I was first starting are no longer around. On the other hand, there are a lot of newer publishers.
I started just as personal computers were coming out. I think this helped my writing (because I could make last-minute changes without having to re-type the page or—worse yet!—the whole manuscript); but it also made the publishing market tougher. Since authors could generate however many copies they wanted, they could submit their manuscripts to multiple publishers all at once, which meant publishing houses were inundated with manuscripts, so many of them closed their doors to submissions from people they didn’t know. Therefore, authors have had to hire agents to represent them. (Thirty years ago, very few children’s authors had agents; now, very few do not.) There is a feeling among authors that today’s publishing is much more about making money than about making fine books.
And now we’ve entered another era, that of on-line publishing and e-books and social media. Lots of people make forecasts about the future of publishing, but really no one knows.
Q. You have published dozens of books for middle grade and teen readers, but only one picture book. Do you plan on writing any more picture books? Why or why not?
Q. What do you do for fun when you aren’t reading or writing? What are some of your favorite things to do in Rochester?
I like to knit and crochet blankets that I then donate to various charities. I play hand bells at my church, which is a wonderful way for someone who is not especially musical to make music. There are lots of festivals I enjoy in the Rochester area: the Lilac Festival, Park Avenue Fest, and town Canal Days. GeVa puts on some interesting plays, and there are wonderful productions put on by area high schools.
Q. Your latest work, Frogged, is a humorous fractured fairy tale. Are there more fairy tale retellings in your future? What are you working on next?
I do like fairy tales. My very first book, A Hidden Magic, was a fairy tale, with a shy-and-not-beautiful princess having to rescue a handsome-but-arrogant prince. They did not end up together. (I figured she deserved better.)
I’m sure I will be using fairy-tale-motifs (wishes, transformations, magical creatures, princes and princesses) in more stories, but not in my next book, which will be published in spring of 2016. At the moment it’s called 23 Minutes (although book titles often change between the writing and the publishing). It’s a story for older kids about a girl who witnesses a bank robbery gone deadly, and how she uses her limited ability to play back time to try to keep people from getting killed.
Q. What were your favorite book(s) as a child? How about your favorite recent read(s)?
As a child, I loved to read fantasy, science fiction, and historical books. Same holds true today, except now I would add mysteries. My two favorite books were T.H. White’s The Once and Future King and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.
Recently, I read Rebecca Stead’s Liar and Spy. It has enjoyable characters, humor, and various story lines—none heavy-handed. As soon as I finished it, I turned back to the beginning and reread it because it’s the kind of book where you learn things toward the end that make you say, “Wait a minute. I didn’t realize…” But on second reading, you see there were clear hints and clues.
To learn more about Vivian Vande Velde, visit her on the web at www.vivianvandevelde.com
Deena Viviani is a Rochester-based Young Adult Services Librarian. Read her book reviews at www.deenaml.livejournal.com or send her a note at DeenaViviani@hotmail.com – she loves to hear from readers!