This summer, my children and I had the opportunity to read the delightful children’s fantasy book, TALL TALES WITH MR. K. We are so thrilled to have had the opportunity to ask the author, Kathy Sattem Rygg, some questions about herself, her book TALL TALES WITH MR. K, and her experiences writing and publishing. Please check out our review of TALL TALES WITH MR. K for more information about this fantastic book. Also, make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to win a print copy of the book by entering our BOOK GIVEAWAY.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am currently the editor-in-chief for the children’s online magazine knowonder!, which publishes a free, short story every single day for kids ages 3-10. I am also the author of the kids iPad app “Magic Story Factory,” which helps kids create their own interactive ebook. I am from Omaha, NE, and currently live there with my husband and two young sons.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
When I was four years old, I went to the circus for the first time and was determined to be a flying trapeze artist! That’s probably why there’s a circus adventure in TALL TALES WITH MR. K! Then in kindergarten I wrote my first short story, complete with illustrations, and I’ve been writing in some form ever since.
What are some of your favourite books from when you were a child and did any of these inspire you when writing TALL TALES WITH MR. K?
Absolutely! I’m so glad you asked that question. As a child I loved the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. I loved the mysterious, magical Mrs. Piggle Wiggle character and the creative, humorous ways she helped the children in her town.
TALL TALES WITH MR. K is my modern-day version of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. He is Coyote Run Elementary’s new third grade teacher, and he has some rather unconventional ways of running his classroom, including the “chatter box” noise deflector, the “sticky seat,” and the giant ball of ABC (already been chewed) gum. The students aren’t sure what to make of their new teacher. But as problems arise for each of them, they discover Mr. K’s magical side as he whisks them away on amazing adventures in a very unlikely place–the teacher’s lounge!
I began writing this book in January 2011. I had just joined a new critique group and brought them the first chapter without telling them what it was about. They had no idea what to expect with the story, which made it fun! They loved it and really helped me shape it into its final form. Since it’s only 13,000 words it only took me 3 months to write, but then I spent another 3 months revising and editing.
How did you come up with the ideas for where the students went for their adventures?
That was the most challenging part! Each adventure relates to the particular problem a student is facing. I had all of those outlined first and had to come up with a way for Mr. K to apply that in each situation. As a right-brained, creative type, I had to check with my left-brained husband to make sure each adventure “made sense.” Cayden’s science fair project was the most difficult—that story changed several times before I “got it right!”
Can you tell us about the challenges you faced in getting TALL TALES WITH MR. K published? How have you marketed the two books? What works? What’s a bust?
Chapter books are a strange animal. Most traditional publishers don’t want them—they’d prefer true middle grade books, which is why I chose to self-publish. Smashwords is an amazing opportunity for authors in terms of distribution. I think combining that with the market reach of Amazon is a great way for authors to publish their work. However, make sure you’ve still gone through the traditional editing outlets before doing so!
Of course, marketing proves to be the part of the business that requires the most work. The best marketing methods have been my blog, especially participating in giveaway hops, and Twitter. Not only for promoting my own book but for discovering other really great books as well. I also love Triberr. This is a site where you belong to groups and automatically tweet each other’s blog posts. It really increases exposure. Facebook has been the least effective method for promotion. The click through rate just doesn’t seem to be as high as it is for Twitter.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
I think the most frustrating aspect of being a children’s author is trying to get through the adult filter. I’ve seen so many adults leave negative reviews for children’s books, yet kids love them! I once heard an entire panel of editors criticize J.K. Rowling for a number of craft mistakes, yet kids obviously love those books (I do too!)
The best compliments are the ones from those who matter the most—kids. A second grade class read TALL TALES WITH MR. K and invited me for an author visit. Hearing 20 children tell me how much they loved the book was the most rewarding and confidence-boosting moment a children’s author could have!
What book are you reading right now? What do you like to do when you are not writing or reading?
When I’m not writing or reading (or cleaning, or grocery shopping, etc.) I’m hanging out with my incredible husband and our two sons. They are the reason I started writing children’s books in the first place!
(From the Kids): Could you please write another book about Mr. K or about another interesting teacher?
I have had so many requests to write a sequel and would love to title it TALLER TALES WITH MR. K! I have already brainstormed adventures for a new class at Coyote Run Elementary!
(From The Kids): Could you please include more pictures in the next book?
That is a great idea! Most traditional chapter books do have one or two photos per chapter, so I will have to incorporate that with the next TALL TALES book!
What advice would you give someone aspiring to write a children’s book?
I will pass along the best advice I’ve heard—to be a great children’s writer, you need to be a great children’sbooks reader! Whether it’s picture books, chapter books, middle grade, or young adult that you aspire to write, read as many books in your genre as possible. Figure out what it is about the ones you enjoy and work on that aspect in your own writing.
*** TALL TALES WITH MR. K is currently available both in print and for Kindle on Amazon (US).***
Kathy Rygg’s new middle grade novel, ANIMAL ANDY, releases Aug. 24th with MuseItUp Publishing.
“Through the magic of an antique animal carousel, a boy helps save a zoo and its animals.”
Kathy Rygg can be found on the following site:
Facebook Author Page: KSR Writer
TALL TALES WITH MR. K BOOK GIVEAWAY
** Make sure to enter our BOOK GIVEAWAY for your chance to win a signed print copy of the fabulous children’s fantasy book, TALL TALES WITH MR. K by Kathy Sattem Rygg. **