Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Linda Hofke

By Patti Buff


Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is our very own Linda Hofke, a writer living in Germany to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Jill Esbaum.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Linda Hofke


We’d love to get to know you a little bit, so please tell us a bit about how you got into writing, how long you’ve been writing and what your preferred genre is to write?



I’ve been writing since childhood. I would make up stories or poems, write them down, and give them as gifts to relatives. In junior high I started writing for the school newspaper. My English teacher liked my creative writing style and gave me some advice, “When you go to high school, don’t get caught up in boys. Focus on writing. You have talent.” Well, though I didn’t go boy crazy, I had a crazy schedule. I took a double major of college prep classes and business classes, was on the newspaper and yearbook staff, secretary of student government, cheerleading captain, and played lacrosse and tennis. There was no time to write. And my new advisors spoke about how risky the writing life can be. I took the safer route and got my Bachelors degree in Elementary Education.

Then I became a mother. You know how that goes. My daughter is the joy of my life, but five years ago I decided to get back to writing. I started writing poetry and flash fiction for literary journals. One editor even nominated me for a Pushcart Prize. But the passion was missing. I took a step back and listened to my heart. It said write what you love most. Write children’s books. So I joined SCBWI and started learning and writing. Picture books are my favorite (both fiction and nonfiction) but I also write children’s poetry and magazine articles and have started a middle grade book.



Where do you like to write? What does a typical writing session look like for you?

Remember that school schedule I mentioned? Well, my life schedule is sort of the same. So my writing session is scattered here and there. I jot down ideas while on the bus, plot in between my various appointments, and write very late at night while my husband and daughter are fast asleep. But my favorite writing spot is anywhere in nature. I often get the best story ideas or figure out key points of works-in-progress while hiking in the woods.


Linda's inspiration?
Can you tell us about the story you submitted to the mentorship program and the reason why you thought a mentor would be able to help you?


It’s a chase story. My young MC must find a way to rid her house of a cute, home-invading squirrel whose funny antics aren’t so funny when her precious school competition invention is threatened.

What’s funny is I wasn’t aware that one of Jill’s first books is a chase story. Estelle Takes a Bath came out in 2006. I haven’t read it yet but, apparently, as Estelle is enjoying a nice bubble bath, a warmth-seeking mouse appears and the chase begins. The house gets trashed but all ends well. There are many similarities between the two stories. In fact, we seem to think along the same lines when it comes to story ideas. I am writing a spoof off the character Frankenstein and this year her book Frankenbunny was published. Last year Jill’s Teeny Tiny Toady was released. I have a frog story. Jill also writes books for National Geographic Kids, and as a nature and animal lover, that caught my attention.



What attracted you to the mentor that you chose? Out of the other three mentors available, what was it about her that made you think ‘that’s the mentor for me’?


Last year I attended the WOW Retreat in Helen, GA. Jill was one of the authors on staff. I found her to be both professional and friendly. But the winning factor was Jill’s story characters. I love scaredy-cow Nadine from I Am Cow, Here me Moo!, her brave toad Teeny, and Stanza, the thug who writes poetry. But the real kicker was when I read Elwood Bigfoot. I fell in love with Elwood, a creature with the same bird-loving heart as me. And so funny. With such fabulous characters, I knew that Jill could guide me in adding an emotional element to my stories through character development. She does it so well and I feel this is something that I need to improve upon in my stories.


Hopefully every writing path is as
lovely as this one. 


And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship?


Fame, fortune, and the big movie deal. But seriously, the reason is simple. I want to improve my writing. By doing so, I am one step closer to my larger goals—finding an agent and being a published author.









Thank you for joining us, Linda! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next spring. And thank all of our readers for joining us on this fun, new adventure. I hope you're just as excited to catch up with all three of our mentees next year! Until then, keep writing!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Meet our 2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee Tara O'Dowd

by Patti Buff


Taking part in a mentor program is a wonderful opportunity to "up your game" by working intensively with a publishing professional. Joining us on the blog today is Tara O'Dowd, a writer from The Netherlands to talk about her work and why she chose to apply for a mentorship with Janet Fox.

2017 SCBWI Europolitan Mentee
Tara O'Dowd



Welcome Tara! We’d love to get to know you a little bit, so please tell us a bit about how you got into writing, how long you’ve been writing and what your preferred genre is to write? 


I’ve been writing since I was a child, sometimes inspired by history, by my beloved dog, or by my cousins. Three years ago when I moved from the US to the Netherlands, I went back to fiction for the first time in many years. Middle Grade feels like my sweet spot as far as age range goes, but I’m not ready to stick with one genre.

A college of images used for inspiration

Where do you like to write? What does a typical writing session look like for you? 


I write in my bed, with chocolate and coffee nearby, or on the train. I usually start with an idea of what I want to write or revise. I may stop in the middle to look at images online or to research. I end when I feel as though I can’t sit still any longer. Sometimes that’s after one hour, other times I can work for eight hours.










Zombie Tara and son as a result of a
scene in her book.

Can you tell us about the story you submitted to the mentorship program and the reason why you thought a mentor would be able to help you?


Think The Princess Diaries meets MacGyver. My son and I have spent hours trying to convince my daughter that being a princess would be horrible—the worst thing ever. This story is my counter-argument in favor of princesses. (It has nothing to do with makeovers, if you’re wondering.) When I learned about this program, I knew I wanted to apply, if any of the mentors seemed to suit me. I felt that I would be better able to see where I need to go with this story and my craft with the help of a thoughtful mentor.





What attracted you to Janet Fox, the mentor you chose? Out of the other three mentors available, what was it about her that made you think ‘that’s the mentor for me’?


I was excited as soon as I read Janet Fox’s bio, particularly by the description of her forthcoming book THE LAST TRUE KNIGHT, described as “a tale of alternative facts and gender identity set in a magical Elizabethan England.” That description covers a number of my obsessions, as well as sounding as though it could go on the same shelf with my story. So I read one of her books, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, and I knew she was the one.



And finally, what do you expect to achieve by the end of this mentorship? 


I’d like to be done with all the big picture work. I suspect that my story still contains too many sub-plots and too many characters, and at times deviates from its strongest points. I’m also hoping to be better at analyzing my work, both at the scene level and overall.


Thank you for joining us, Tara! We wish you lots of luck on your new adventure and we'll check in with you again next Spring.