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Interview and Great Writing Tips from Author, Linda Martin Andersen

“Interview and Great Writing Tips from Author, Linda Martin Andersen” by Joan Y. Edwards
Linda, thanks for agreeing to do a guest interview on my blog.
Thank you for inviting me to participate in your interview series.  I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from seasoned authors, and getting to know them and their works.
It’s an honor to have you here. I’m so glad I met you in 2005 on the email list of SCBWI-Carolinas. Thank you for being my friend.  I admire your writing skills and your ability to keep on going even when the times are tough. Let’s get started.

1.How did you do in English as a kid?
I loved literature, grammar, and composition.  The only thing about English that I did not like was poetry meter.  I think I must have been absent the day that was explained.  🙂  I jest because I had perfect attendance from 3rd-12th grade.  I remember memorizing the meter of poems we studied.  It got me through.

2. When did you decide to become an author?
I took a creative writing course through the local community college when my children were in elementary school.  The instructor encouraged us to write, share, critique, and submit.  I sent out a few submissions, but none were purchased.  At that point, I decided I must be fooling myself.  It was years later before I truly began my writing journey.

3. What’s your favorite book? Why?
Ferdinand the Bull, a picture book by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson.  As a kid, I admired that Ferdinand didn’t try to be like all the other bulls.  He didn’t act in the expected way.  I enjoyed the book’s humor and simple illustrations. I ordered a personal copy from a school classroom book club order.  I cherished it for years.

4. Are your characters based on real people?
Some of my characters are based on real people.  That’s because I’ve written some published nonfiction stories.  My fictional pieces may be loosely based on individuals I know.  Sometimes, I choose characters names based on people I know.  I hold out hope that one day my niece and grandsons see their names published in one of my stories.

5. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them?
I would label myself a flexible plotter.  My plot plan changes during the writing of a rough draft.  I like to print my first draft and revise on the hardcopy.  Many times, I do this for second and third drafts.

6. How much research did you have to do for writing and/or publishing your books or manuscript in progress? What helped you in doing your research that others could benefit by your experience?
I set a goal to be published in a magazine in the Cobblestone series.  To be considered for a nonfiction writing assignment, I had to write a proposal and reveal the research sources I would use.  I used online data bases available from the local public library.  I found keyword searches invaluable.  Fortunately, one of my three proposals was accepted.  I was pleased.  In order to write two other nonfiction stories, I interviewed the people and studied links provided by them.  Even fiction stories sometimes require research.  Fortunately for me, I enjoy conducting research.

7. Did you cry while writing one of your books?
I cried when writing a nonfiction story about a nine-year-old girl who asked that in lieu of receiving birthday party gifts, donations be made to a local orphanage.  The birthday girl even donated the gift of money from her grandparents.  I was touched by her sincere compassion for others.  I also cried when writing a fiction manuscript about a character with a terminal illness.

8. What feelings do you have as you do the final edit for a book?
It is very satisfying to be near the end of a writing project.  There is a little sadness mixed in because now it’s time to move on to something else.  It’s a little like sending your child off to college.  You’re happy for him, but will miss him, too.

9. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing?
I was contracted to write teacher guides to accompany a subscription year of Cobblestone magazines.  When I discovered that one issue of the magazine was about the Brooklyn Bridge, not a variety of bridges, I didn’t think I would enjoy the project.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Not only did I enjoy the project, I was almost mesmerized by it.  I went on to read David McCullough’s book about building the Brooklyn Bridge and I watched a documentary by Ken Burns.  I was hooked.

10. What is your favorite genre?
I love picture books.  I like reading them for my own enjoyment, reading them to students, and I enjoy writing them.  I like taking workshops on building picture book writing skills.  I also like biographies of all lengths.

11. What are the 3 purposes of distinctive voice? How can we create a distinctive voice in our writing?

  • Distinctive voice makes characters believable.  Their strengths and weaknesses are revealed.  Not all good or all bad.
  • Distinctive voice reveals characters’ interests—adventuresome, athletic, geek, or others.
  • Distinctive voice reveals characters’ reactions to situations in the story.

I think one way to show a distinctive voice is to pretend to be looking over that character’s shoulder or shadowing him.  What would you notice that should be included in a manuscript?

12. What is your pet peeve about characterization?
Writers are encouraged to make each individual distinctive.  Sometimes, I think that’s hard because we generally tend to associate with people who are very much like we are.  If we create like characters in our stories, readers become disinterested.  That seems like a sort of paradox to me.

13. What did you do to celebrate your first check for writing published magazine activities for children?
In 2005 when I received my first check for published magazine activities for children, I celebrated by taking a special ride in a 1929 Model A car.  I invited my family to join me. We were driven on our dirt driveway and on paved streets by the car’s owner.  What fun!  I especially enjoyed sharing the ride with my grandsons.

13. How do you know when a manuscript is ready for submission?
When it’s “done.”  Get it?  Can’t you almost hear the oven timer going off?  I couldn’t resist answering with a pun.  I do like to jest.
Jesting about cooking led me to think of recipes and we all know there’s really no “one recipe” for writing.  Okay, now for my true answer—when I read over a manuscript and no parts call out, “Fix me.”  Then it’s time to submit.  That’s only after numerous revisions and suggestions from a critique group.
14. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
My online critique group has been most helpful with my writing skills.  They inspire me to send my writing to them for critique and to submit for publication when my work is polished.  Joan Edwards, yes, the host of this blog and my very good friend, has answered many technology questions and helped me develop blogging skills. She has also encouraged me on my writing journey.  Thanks, Joan. (You’re welcome, Linda.)\

15. What are you writing now?
I am writing two picture book manuscripts about bedtime.  I plan to send one of them out soon.

16. Why do you like to write?
Writing fills me with joy.  I plan to make it a part of my life for as long as I live.  I have always enjoyed writing even when others did not.  I recall that one of my elementary teachers required the class to write a story each week using our spelling list.  Moaning erupted, but not from me.  I loved the challenge and looked forward to reading my story to the class.  Even though my teacher never exclaimed, “You should be a writer when you grow up,” I didn’t let that discourage me.  She didn’t say, I shouldn’t.

17. I love the picture of you and the cow. What’s the story behind this picture?
The Cow Parade of 2012 was held in the triangle area of N.C. –   Local artists painted 81 fiberglass cows to benefit N.C. Children’s Hospital.  The paratrooper cow was placed in Fayetteville, N.C. near Ft. Bragg.

A short bio
Linda Martin Andersen is married with two grown sons and two grandsons. Her work experience is in elementary education as a school counselor and as a reading teacher. Her passion is writing for children. She created stories and articles that were published in Pockets, Guide, and AppleSeeds magazines.  She is also published in Christian curriculum and teacher guides for Cobblestone magazines. She created pre-K and K activities, poems, and piggyback songs for Celebrate and Adventures Christian magazines.  For ten years she created activities for the children’s bulletin for First Presbyterian in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She wrote educational “Tips for Parents” for The Fayetteville Observer from 2005-2006.
She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and attends their workshops and conferences regularly. She is thankful for her SCBWI and writer friends..
Teacher’s guide “The Great Bridge” for Cobblestone magazine on the Brooklyn Bridge–March 2010
Linda wrote Cobblestone teacher guides for two subscription years.  This issue was selected because of her response to the question about something funny that happened.  See question #9.
Published magazine stories:

  • “Little Willie Sherman” for AppleSeeds magazine ( November/December 2011)
  • “A Different Kind of Party” for Pockets magazine (January 2012)
  • “Whistling in the Spotlight” for Guide magazine ( November 10, 2012)

Linda on the Web:
Linda’s blog: A Writer’s Playground – www.lindamartinandersen.wordpress.com
Here are three great posts on Linda’s blog:

Here are five blog posts that Linda believes you will enjoy:

  1. Tim Livingston—Forestry Fridays (topic—history of moving logs


  1.  Carol Baldwin—book reviews and writing tips
  1.  Joy Acey—Poetry for Kids Joy–a poem a day (topic—bullying)
  1.  Joyce Hostetter—book reviews, research, and interviews
  1. Joan Y. Edwards—writing tips, interviews, motivation, and more

Thank you, Linda for being a guest on my blog and sharing your sense of humor and writing tips with us.
Celebrate you every day.
You are a gift to our world
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

Answer the following question in the comment area: What would Robin, Batman’s sidekick, say if he saw this picture of me with the cow?


This giveaway is complete. Kathy Burkinshaw! She won a copy of Batman and Robin’s FRIGHT CLUB from Linda Martin Andersen. HOLY COWABUNGA! It’s her lucky day!