VS Grenier, Babysitting SugarPaw, is an award-winning children’s author, founder and owner of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC., award-winning editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine, and chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. She also hosts the blog talk radio show: Stories for Children on the World of Ink Network. Grenier is a member of the League of Utah Writers (HWG), Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), and Musing Our Children.
What inspired you to first start writing?
I started writing more as a hobby after the birth of my second child. I never really thought about being a writer when I was younger or even after I started taking courses later in life. I think it was after my first publication in an Ezine, Fandangle that I thought more about writing for a career. Since then, I’ve had over 30 short stories and articles published and a picture book, Babysitting SugarPaw.
How did you go from fashion buyer to writer?
To be honest, if my husband and I didn’t have any more children other than our son, I would still be a fashion buyer out in California. When we found out we were going to have another child, we made the choice it was time to move somewhere else so I could be home with our children. Our son was in private school and being raised in daycare. We hated it, but that is how life is in California. We didn’t want this for both children so we moved to Utah, so I could be home. Best choice we’ve ever made.
I do miss my old life. It’s pretty fast-paced, but that is where writing comes in. If fills that hole with a different kind of thrill … publication and watching new writers grow.
How did you end up with a niche in the children’s genre?
Oh, trust me…I’ll be branching out into other genres once my kids are older. Right now, I write for children because I love to read children’s books and I have kids who inspire me. However, I have kicked around the idea to write in other adult genres later in life.
What was your first published piece? How’d you go about getting it published?
“Flying Upside Down,” which is based on two events from my father’s childhood. It was also one of the very first stories I wrote for my writing course. My thought was if I couldn’t publish this short story … then I shouldn’t be a writer.
I sent the story out to few low and non-paying magazines. Not because I didn’t believe in it. I felt you need to start small and work your way up. Fandangle liked it and published it back in 2006.
What is your favorite part about being a writer? The greatest challenge?
What’s not to like about hanging out in your Pj’s all day? Seriously, I’m use to get all dressed up in suits or whatever the fashion trend was every day. It’s nice to relax and not worry about how my hair and makeup look. I also love to create things, which is what you do when you write.
The greatest challenge: sharing what I do with everyone I meet. I’m not good about sharing I’m a writer when taking with people. Not because I’m not proud of because I am. It’s just not something that comes up naturally in conversation and trying to find away to do it without sounding arrogant is hard.
Tell us about Stories for Children Magazine … What can people expect from the re-launch?
I started Stories for Children Magazine about 6 months after my first publication. The first issue debuted in April 2007. We had three very successful years before I put it on hold when I had our third child in February 2008.
The magazine is for children ages 3 to 12 years, and is considered an Ezine. You can purchase the issues online at our website. You can also read some things for free and print our crafts, coloring pages, etc. too for free. We will be putting the whole issue up for free around the 15th of the month.
We have interviews with some great authors and illustrators like Brandon Mull, Janet Halfmann, Kevin Scott Collier, etc. The re-launch issue (April 2011) is currently available. Please stop by and check it out. We’re really excited to be back.
What do people need to know about writing for children?
Don’t starting writing thinking you’re going to make it big right out the gate. It does happen, but only to very few people like J.K. Rowling. Most authors have been writing for years, even if you didn’t know their names until they made it big.
Don’t give up just because your first manuscript was rejected more than 5 times. Every author will tell you they have at least one manuscript that will never be published sitting in a drawer somewhere. You need to keep writing as you submit and not worry about rejections. They are not personal. Every editor has their own opinion on what is good and what isn’t. You just have to wait until you find the right publisher and right editor. This can take years for some manuscripts.
If you don’t want to wait on being published, then think about self-publishing. It does cost more money to go this route, but it is becoming a common choice for writers.
Don’t think any publisher (traditional or non-traditional) is going to do all your marketing. You have to market yourself and your work, too.
What are some mistakes new writers in the children’s genre make and how can they be corrected?
They don’t read guidelines! I’m not saying every new writer does this, but most do. This is just human nature. I say this in a kind and loving way. When I worked in retail, we had more people asking us if we were having a sale than people commenting on the sale going on. It didn’t matter if we had big red sale signs all over the store, people would still walk in and ask, “Are you having a sale?”
This is true with guidelines. Writers will go to the guidelines page and may even print them out, but they don’t really read them. They scan them on where to send their manuscript. But what you need to do is read them and ask yourself, “Did I do this?” “Is my manuscript formatted like that?” “Does is match what they are looking for?” Etc.
Guidelines are there to help you find the best fits and get your manuscript in the best shape possible for consideration. You use them.
How important is it to instill a love of reading and writing in children?
You know, I have found it really depends on the child. My oldest hates to read and write. He’s more into computers and illustrating. So I use those tools to bring reading and writing to him in ways he won’t notice. My two younger girls love to read with mommy.
Starting at a young age helps, but it doesn’t mean you’ll have a reader. You need to learn what your children like as subject matter and then focus on that when reading. As for writing, again you just have to use techniques that will reach your child’s interests.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
You know, I never really had any expectations and never thought about doing this as a career, so for me there isn’t anything. However, one thing I do find myself telling new writers is you have to have a thick skin and writing is more than creating. You have to learn to sell yourself if you want to go somewhere as a writer. Gone are the days you can just write and stay behind closed doors hiding from the world. There are too many people out there writing and you have to be willing to put yourself out there as a product because that is what you are as a writer … not just your books.