Valerie Harmon is a voracious reader, a teacher of Shakespeare and Essay Writing, a free-lance editor, a children’s e-book blogger, and a Mom. So, of course, she writes children’s books! She lives in the Western United States with her children and husband and more books than bookshelves.
What inspires you to write?
A child’s giggle. I love to read aloud to my children or visit a classroom and listen to the children laugh at all the right parts. Sometimes parents misunderstand my Wants To Be series because it’s not the typical “be content with who you are,” (I like those, but do we really need another?). My Wants To Be series is rather about “Setting a goal, working hard and accomplishing it transforms you into something more.”
This is a tough world. And our children are going to struggle in it–we all do. I want to empower them with the strength of doing hard things and pushing through obstacles to accomplish their goals. And get them to laugh while learning!
Tell us about your writing process.
I don’t think my writing process is typical. My illustrator, Carol Stevens, and I have worked out a way to write our books that I think is unusual. We actually outline the book together. Then she illustrates it based on the outline and then I write it. Then she goes back and polishes her illustrations to match more exactly the text.
We didn’t begin the writing process this way. It came about because I take longer to write a book than she takes to illustrate it. And she’s WAAY ahead of me. We’ve published five children’s picture eBooks on Amazon and I’m in the middle of writing the sixth (about a t-rex dinosaur who wants to be long neck so he can keep his temper) but Stevens has already finished the initial illustrations for the last four books (we’ve laid out ten books in this series). She’s very relaxed about my pace. But since she wants to keep going, she’s almost finished creating an app for our fifth book (The Chipmunk Who Wanted To Be A Bear).
How do I write? Using the outline I write the book from start to finish. Then I go back and edit. And edit. And polish. Then I hand it over to my Great Aunt (who happens to be a retired children’s literature professor) for her edits. Then I email it off to my beta readers to read to their children and give me detailed feedback. And after I’ve polished the book with all of their feedback, I send it over to my illustrator again and she makes all the changes. And THEN it’s ready for publishing.
Often I’m asked to review children’s eBooks and I’ve encountered an interesting belief (I review children’s picture eBooks at http://valerierichardsonharmon.blogspot.com). Some authors believe that their eBooks are ready for self-publishing–just because they’re finished writing it. If we’re going to have a successful genre in eBooks, then we need to create, encourage, and support quality eBooks. And that takes re-writing and editing!
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I read my books aloud and think about how a character would say something. One of my characters is a snake, so he hisses when he speaks. One of my characters gets stung so her words slurr a bit. Another of my characters is frightened of everything, so at first he stutters. My books are children’s picture books, so they’re meant to be read aloud, and children really enjoy it when the character’s distinct voice can be heard.
What advice would you give other writers?
Be a finisher!
I teach novel writing to youth ages 11-17. They have the most amazing story ideas and I could see those ideas turn into published books. But they have to finish them first. And that is so difficult! Finishing a story idea is what separates the wheat from the chaff, NOT merely coming up with a fabulous story idea. People discover I’m a writer and they’ll tell me their story ideas. And the ideas sound great. But the big question is, will they write it and finish the story?
How did you decide how to publish your books?
My illustrator and I decided we’d self-publish our books first, before we even shopped them around to publishers. We liked the freedom and control of self-publishing. And we wanted to polish our series up, and test the audience before we showed them to publishers. It has been a fabulous experience. We’ve published five books in seven months and have had some wonderful responses from a lot of people who’ve enjoyed them. This week we are submitting the series to a publisher to see if we can find a good fit for our books to emerge into hardback.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
With the explosion of eBooks we are seeing portable libraries, not replacement libraries. Technology isn’t going to replace reading, and I think we’re seeing that. People have hardback books at home and then they carry devices with libraries of eBooks and audio books. This is an incredible time to be both a reader and an author. We are even seeing a segment of literature become more interactive with Apps and iBooks. I think that the number of titles is going to continue to expand. I think that self-publishing will expand and that traditional publishing will keep themselves from shrinking by snagging more of the eBook niche and by signing up successful eBook authors.
What do you use?
Co-writer, Professional Editor, Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
Children’s Fiction, Fully-illustrated Picture Books, Children’s,
What formats are your books in?