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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Meet Lori Z. Scott, A Much Published Author!









I met Lori on the RealWritingTeachers' message board. She was on there promoting her book and of course, I told her I was an author too with a YA novel coming out in September. She offered to be my guest here and between the two of us we settled on a date months from the day we were talking. Now it's here and I am very pleased to introduce you all to Lori Z. Scott, author of the Meghan Rose series. She is a second grade teacher, a speaker, and a best selling author as well as the author of ten published books:

Unlike all of my other interviews the questions on here are not mine. Lori sent me an interview she had prepared for someone else. I am reprinting it here, though I don't think it was ever published anywhere else. I apologize beforehand for this, since I always like to have the interaction with my authors. However, this is very thorough and I think you will all enjoy learning about Lori. Here is a little bit about Lori before the interview:

Lori Z. Scott Bio:

Lori Z. Scott remembers three main things about growing up: laughter, prayer, and Super Cat.

As a child, Lori spent hours around the dinner table giggling at lame jokes, puns, and punch lines. Laughter is still a vital part of her everyday life and her writing. (No joke!)

Prayer played a key role in Lori’s life too. After all, with three boisterous sisters, talking to God was about the only place she held a prayer of getting a word in edgewise.

Lori wrote “The Adventures of Super Cat” in the margins of her high school science notebook. This daydreaming/doodling phenomenon has occurred several times throughout her life, but that information remains strictly confidential.

Laughter, prayer, and Super Cat all show up in Lori’s children’s fiction series. The books are funny (she figures, if it doesn’t amuse her, why write it?) and bursting with energy. The main character, named after her own daughter, is a strong, out-spoken first grader. Her best buddy Ryan and duck-loving pal Kayla help round out the cast.

As a speaker, teacher, and bestselling author, Lori Z. Scott has published ten books, contributed to more than a dozen other books, and published over a hundred short stories, poems, puzzles, articles, and devotions for children, teens, and adults.


How does your experience as a teacher help your 
writing?

One big advantage to being a teacher is that I’ve worked extensively with my target audience. I understand the challenges they face, the jokes they enjoy, the way they talk and act, and how they play. I believe that understanding gives my writing authenticity. I know the kids I’m writing for…and that better equips me to reach them.

The Meghan Rose series is geared for an age group that has shared a huge part of my life. I taught primary grades (K, 1, 2) for nine years before retiring to raise my own kids. But I’ve also worked with kids this age on a volunteer basis as a leader for VBS, Sunday school, AWANAS, Pioneer Club, and Team Kids at church. I also helped with an Outdoor Education camp, worked at a children’s museum, and ran an after school art club.

The teacher in me also enjoys extending my stories. That’s one reason why I included activities and discussion questions at the end of each book. I put even more ideas, games, and jokes on my web site, www.MeghanRoseSeries.com .



Tell us about your path to publication. I understand you started by entering contests and writing for 
magazines. Do you recommend that path for beginning writers? Why or why not?

After retiring from teaching to raise my kids, I felt content to be just a mommy.

But God is full of surprises, and he had something fun in mind for me. Step by step I feel like God led me to where I am now. It started with contests. I saw a flyer for an amateur science fiction/ fantasy writing contest, entered, and won second place. Encouraged by my success, I tried MOPS International story writing contest…and WON! After that, I joined a writer’s group, learned more about the publishing industry, and eventually landed a contract for the Meghan Rose series.

I think sometimes it’s hard for people to call themselves a writer when it’s not what they studied to become. I know it was hard for me since I got my degree in Elementary Education. Yet somehow here I am. And I love writing because it thrills my heart much the way music thrills the performer, a horse its rider, or a child her mother. Plus I love playing with and wrestling with words. I also find it curious how I can both lose myself and find myself between the inky lines I pen.

But I’ve wandered way off track! Let me go back to contests. I’ve heard mixed thoughts about entering contests. In their favor, contests help writers learn how to meet deadlines and write tight (within set word counts). Many contests have themes, which is another great way to help develop your craft. Some contests offer critiques, which is an especially valuable tool for beginning writers, while others offer a chance for publication or prize money (such as Highlights magazine’s yearly fiction contest). Plus placing in a contest can serve as a great encouragement.

However, contests have some pitfalls. You have to research the contest diligently…it’s easy to run into scams. Also, if a contest has a stiff fee and low pay-off it’s probably not worth your effort. Some writers I know won’t enter unless they know they’ll receive feedback on their submission.

Like contests, writing for magazines forces you to write tight, meet deadlines, and (often) address a theme. My experience writing short stories for Pockets magazine gave me the confidence and skill I needed to tackle writing chapter books for kids.

Perhaps the best way to break into a magazine is by submitting poems, puzzles, or fillers. Writers would do well to study the magazine’s style and writer’s guidelines before submitting.

Now, to finish answering your question. Do I recommend writers follow the path of writing for contests and magazines on the road to book publication?

Maybe.

I see contests and magazine writing as one a viable option among many. For example, I’ve heard Sunday school take home papers are a great way to build up writing credits and hone writing skills (perhaps for the same reason it’s good to write for magazines). I know some people who developed a speaking platform and used that to launch their writing career. So I guess my recommendation would be to examine your skills and interests, take note of the opportunities open to you, and take advantage of both. Develop your craft, never stop learning, be the best writer you can be, and, no matter what road you take, enjoy the trip. 

I

I understand you wrote the story for your daughter never intending it to be published. What made you pursue publication?

When my daughter was in first grade, her teacher started reading the Junie B. Jones books in class. Since Meghan liked them, I picked up a few copies. Well, I enjoyed the humor in those books, but when Meghan started acting and talking like Junie B., I started editing out those grammar slips, name calling and bad attitudes…and looking elsewhere. I thought there had to be an alternative choice—a book that was just as funny, but also had a good take-away value. I scoured the Christian bookstores. I couldn’t find any fiction for her age group, only devotional books and Bible stories.

Still, I kept going back and asking about chapter books for K, 1, and 2 grade children. Owners often commented that they wished they could offer such a book. In fact, they’d had numerous parents come to the store, all wondering the same thing: Do you have a fiction book my young child will enjoy reading? Like me, they all walked away empty handed or turned to general market series available for that age group…like The Magic Treehouse, A-Z Mysteries, Judy Moody, and Nate the Great.

Eventually, at my daughter’s urging, I wrote the book I couldn’t find—a book just for her. I put in everything she wanted—an interesting story filled with giggles and characters worth rooting for—and everything I wanted—good moral values (but with nothing preachy about the story at all). (I hate preachy, I love amusing.)

I was preparing a VBS program to pitch at a writing conference when my bookstore conversations came back to mind. Almost on a whim, I wrote up a proposal for a whole series based on the book I wrote for my daughter. After all, I knew there had to be an untapped market because I WAS part of that untapped market.

I see now that bringing that proposal along was God’s leading. All the writing I had done up until that point—the short stories, puzzles, poems, articles—prepared me for that moment when the contract came.

What was your reaction to the illustrations when you saw the finished product, being that your character was based on your daughter?

First, let me say that my illustrator, Stacy Curtis, is amazing, absolutely amazing. He’s an award winning artist and all around great guy. He was very patient with me when we first hooked up. He sketched adorable picture after picture for me, but I kept shaking my head and saying no. The problem was I had the REAL Meghan Rose living with me, so I had a very clear idea of what she should look like. That made me very picky. Finally I found his email address and sent him Meghan’s Kindergarten picture. He said, “Wow! Her personality seems to pop right off the page,” and then he captured that zingy, bouncy, big-smiled energy perfectly.

All the other character illustrations came right out of Stacy’s creative mind, and I’ve been just tickled with them. I also really appreciate Stacy’s sense of humor, generosity, and kindness. Though I wrote the text, he’s the one who designed the Meghan Rose web site…and I’ve gotten oodles of compliments on it. 
 


Barbara: Yes, I was captivated by the website. It is so perfect for the age group and bright and colorful.

I understand you drafted 3 more stories past the 4 that are included in the series. What can you tell us about them, and when can we expect to see them?

I can’t tell you too much because they are not under contract yet! But I will tell you this…as much as I enjoy the first four books in the series, I like the next three even better! The characters’ personalities shine stronger than ever. Meghan’s friend Kayla is a complete side-stitching HOOT. I laugh even thinking about the punch lines she delivers. And I introduce a new character named Sophie, a perfect foil to all of Meghan’s clever plans.

The titles of those books are Meghan Rose Takes the Cake (published ), Meghan Rose Knows it All, Meghan Rose Is Out of This World (published)*. In them, Meghan explores helping others, humility, and honesty (by title respectively). But, of course, no preaching, only lots and lots of laughs and very subtle life lessons.


*At the time this interview was given these books were not published. They are now available.

Lori's books are available on her website: www.MeghanRoseSeries.com
Also you can find them on Amazon.com.

Thank you for being here, Lori and I look forward to speaking with you on my Blog Talk Radio show, RRWL Tales of the Pages in April. Look for more about this show in coming blogs.

Events
  • My March show is going to feature two wonderful Muse authors, Terri Main and Lindsay Below. Please tune in on March 24th at 3PM Central, 4PM EST to learn more about these very talented authors. In keeping with my highlighting Muse authors I will be having Terri on my blog as a guest too.:)

  • It's getting close to St. Patrick's Day and The MuseItUp Bookstore is having a contest!!! Click on the banner on the top of the page to learn all about it. I'll just say that you could win $25! Unfortunately, I can't participate, since no one from The Muse family can take part. Darn!!! So I hope one of you wins!
Thank you to all my new readers and also thank you to my readers who continue to enjoy my meanderings. Please leave a comment or question for Lori. She is giving away a free book to the lucky winner of the drawing. Only people who comment are able to win.:) Anyway, you know I love your comments!

15 comments:

  1. Hi, Lori!
    I haven't enjoyed your success, but I've followed a similar career path here in the UK and I also discovered the poor quality & lack of choice regarding stories suitable for primary age children.
    My solution was the same as yours, following a Staffroom challenge from another teacher to "Put [my] money where my mouth was" - so I wrote a story, which was accepted by a local publisher, and sold quickly. I'm now working on developing a series (because all kids seem to like pirate stories!)
    Also, IMHO, you don't HAVE to "preach" in a story in order to present a Christian values viewpoint - but as you pointed out, many of the "heroes/heroines" in childrens' books at the moment seem to have a darker side to their nature ...

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  2. I enjoyed the interview. It was nice learning about Lori and her books. I've not read any of these books, but will be sure to add them to my TBR book list! I think the covers are fantastic.

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  3. Oh boy, I would LOVE to win a Meghan Rose book!

    Terrific interview about Lori. I loved reading how the books came about.

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  4. Paul, I think pirates are a great subject for kids. I have a beautiful picture book by Drew Lamm about pirates. Keep writing and thank you for visiting:)

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  5. Hi Suzanne,
    I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I think it's fun to find another author in a group in which you have both been members for another purpose. RealWriting Teachers is a resource group started by Robert Redmund so teachers would have a way to teach writing using writing workshop. I've been a member for years and it is a great group for teachers, librarians and authors. We have quite a few authors too. We only allow promotion one day a month.

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  6. Hi Beth,
    I hope you do win! I think you and Lori would enjoy swapping stories:)

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  7. Loved the interview, even though these were not your questions. I'd also like to win a copy, just for the illustrations ... lol.

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  8. I know your stories will be interesting to the primary age kids because you have been so involved in this age group thru teaching and volunteering. So many times, as a former third grade teacher, I look at books for children and think the author doesn't know kids! Thanks for making reading fun for kids!

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  9. Great interview. You have encouraged me to pick up a series that I started long ago and get it finished. Thank you,

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  10. JQ you are right! It is always better when you have experience with the age group for which you are writing!

    Thank you for visiting and I'm glad you enjoyed the interview:)

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  11. Christine, thank you. I'm so happy you visited and I'm very glad the interview inspired you to go back to your writing. I put my writing away and when I go back to it the story flows so much better. I hope this happens to you:)

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  12. Hi all! I'm packing in a bunch of comments in one post.
    Barbara, thank you for posting the interview!
    Paul, best of luck to you with your pirate series. It sounds like you "arrrrrr" on the right path!
    Susanne, thank you for your kind words. I will pass them on to my illustrator.
    Hi Beth! Thanks for stopping by to visit. :)
    J.Q. Rose, I think the good Dr. Seuss put it best when he said, "These things are fun, and fun is good!"
    And Christine, have some "series-ous" fun with your writing.

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  13. Lori, thank you for being here and sharing your thoughts and feelings about your writing:)

    It's wonderful you were able to participate in the comments.

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  14. Sorry to anyone who decided to comment after today, but the contest is over. I will be drawing the lucky person's name and announcing it soon.:)

    Thank you to all who participated and commented. Lori will be my guest this Thursday on my radio show. You can talk with her then. I think we might even do the drawing on the air for a change.:)

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  15. Okay, it took a couple of months, but we are definitely having the drawing for the free book today on my radio show:

    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/rrradio/2011/04/28/rrwl-tales-from-the-pages

    The show is on 3PM Central time, 4PM EST. The winner will be notified on the air and on Facebook. Good luck to you all!

    ReplyDelete

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