Less than a week to ReviMo! Alayne Kay Christian Pre-ReviMo Interview

Monday, January 6, 2014

Less than a week to ReviMo 2014! Hooray hooray! Who's totally freaking out? excited?? :D Today I'm interviewing Alayne Kay Christian. Welcome, welcome Alayne! 

First, I would like to thank you, Meg, for inviting me to do this interview and for starting the fabulous ReviMo - Revise More Picture Books Week challenge. Thank you Alayne!

Can you tell us about yourself?

Let’s see . . . I was born in a log cabin ;-) Actually, I was born in a hospital, but our home was a cabin in the Colorado Mountains. I come from a large family with seven children. Having grown up in Chicago, part of my heart will always be there with family and friends. But this city girl has a country heart and prefers country living. Nevertheless, for now, I live in a busy Dallas, Texas suburb where the homes are packed together as if there is no land to spare, which is so not true. Get up on a hill and all one sees is a sea of roofs. I have been married for 35 years to the most perfect man for me. We have one child and one grandchild.

I recently hung up my life coaching hat after twelve years of helping women work toward their desired life. I wanted my focus to be writing. I am bouncing around the idea of offering a writing coach and picture book critique service. First, I need to learn what life as an agented author brings my way.

In addition to getting as many books published as possible, I currently have seven things on my growing dream list: 1) See the northern lights. 2) See the monarchs return to Mexico or wherever they gather. Blue butterflies would be cool too. 3) Learn art and illustrate my own picture book. 4) Live on our sailboat for one year. 5) Live in an RV for at least one year, traveling the U.S. 6) Travel around Europe. 7) Speak at an SCBWI conference.

Can you tell us about your picture book writing journey?

I probably caught the true writing bug back in the early 80’s when I took my first college course in English. I spent a lot of time writing poetry, which I recently learned was not so good from a technical standpoint. I illustrated and wrote greeting cards for a couple years. I sold the cards in craft stores, craft shows etc. I attempted a couple of adult books, which I still haven’t given up on. Then, in 2005 my granddaughter was born and so was my first picture book. It was a long, three-year process from the time I began writing my granddaughter’s birthday book to the day that the beautiful hardcover book was released. But it was well worth it.

The above experience, sent me down a path of learning more about writing for children. I started reading books, taking courses through the Institute of Children’s Literature, and I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. From there, I started getting involved in the children’s book writing community with my focus on picture books. My first step was the 2010 Picture Book Marathon. I joined my first critique group through this challenge. I did the Marathon in 2011, and then I discovered Julie Hedlund’s 12 x 12 in 2012. My writing community world has grown like crazy since then. I have learned so much through my various writing groups and made some very close friends. I belong to several online critique groups. One of my groups is so close that it feels strange not to be in touch on a daily basis. These groups and their support inspire and encourage me through the ups and the downs of the rollercoaster ride that the writing journey has put me on. Some other challenges that I have participated in are Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month; Kristen Fulton’s WOW nonficpic week; Allison Hertz’s Doodle Day challenges; Becky Fyfe’s Chapter Book Challenge and my own Sub Six. I am looking forward to participating in your ReviMo - Revise More Picture Books Week!

Over the years, I have taken more courses, read more books, and written over 100 manuscripts. In 2013, I set a goal to submit at least six picture book manuscripts. I sent to a few publishing houses, but I focused mostly on agents. And in November, I signed with Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio. Still celebrating that one!

I continue to work to improve my writing skills. My new goal is to have at least one book sold in 2014.

What is your revision process?

My revision process varies from story to story. This is because I am a pantster more than a plotter. I write my stories as they come to me. Some stories come to me with a strong plot but weak character. Some come to me with strong characters but the story arc is lacking. Some stories have too much dialogue – some too little. And so on.

  1. Initial draft: I let the story flow naturally.
  2. I read through and correct anything that doesn’t seem to flow smoothly. I always try to read aloud.
  3. One of my final steps is to look for any areas where I might be able to cut words.
  4. For a list of things I look for when polishing my manuscripts, please visit my blog.
  5. I submit the story to critique partners and start editing based on their comments. Because I belong to several critique groups, I might submit the story several times. Some of my critique groups tend to give more general comments, others give a more detailed analysis, and others fall somewhere in between. I submit to the group that seems to work best for the level of my manuscript. For example, if it is a first polished draft, I might send it to the group that gives general comments. If I think it is near ready for submission, I might send it to the group that does detailed analysis. If I am struggling in a certain area, I might send it to the group that will give strong opinions on how they might solve the issue. And then I revise accordingly.

How has having an agent altered your revision process?

I have only been working with Erzsi Deak since November. Based on my first couple of experiences with revising manuscripts, I would say for now, my initial revision process will remain the same. But now I have some extra steps as I revise based on Erzsi’s recommendations. Currently, I see it as having a critique partner that I feel I must listen to. With critique partners, I take comments that resonate with me, and I let go of the comments that don’t work for me. With Erzsi, I feel like I have to respect her advice. I want her guidance. So far, I have been surprised at how much revising has been required on stories that I previously thought were submission ready. It is an eye opener. I think in the end, my initial revision process will change because I will learn from Erzsi. I will learn what her style and preferences are. I will learn what editors are looking for. I can already see that my writing style will be changing in the future. I think some of what I have learned in the past will be replaced with new and better knowledge, and making revisions will continue to be an exciting part of my writing process.

You have a wonderful group called Sub Six. Can you tell us a bit about it and how you came up with the idea?

After two years of the Picture Book Marathon and a year of 12 x 12, I realized I had been doing a lot of writing and not much submitting. I had a desire to have another picture book published. I knew that couldn’t happen if no one ever saw my work. I set a goal to submit at least six picture book manuscripts in 2013. I know from my life coaching experience that accountability and support play a big role in achieving goals. I also thought that I was probably not the only one who had been writing and not submitting. So, I reached out to the writing community and Sub Six was born. It has been growing since. We encourage and support each other as we work toward our individual submission goals. We have a monthly tally sheet to report all our submissions to the group. Each month, I post the group’s total submissions and all the names of the people who reported on the tally sheet go into a hat to win a prize. This year, I am working to develop a team of writers to do a Sub Six series on my blog where we will share our tips and answer questions about the submission and query process. People can join the group by sending me a Facebook friend request (if we are not already friends) with a message saying you would like to join or by going to the Sub Six Facebook page and request to join.

LINKS for Alayne:

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa   http://tinyurl.com/m2oh7vy 

Thank you Alayne! I love your dream list. If your 7 aren't on mine, I'm adding them!


Alayne Kay Christian said...

Thank you Meg! It has been fun. Feel free to borrow any of my dreams :-)

Marcie F Atkins said...

Alayne--I've known you since that 2010 Marathon and I didn't realize you liked to draw as well. Wow! So now I'm even more compelled to tell you to come to my neck of the woods and get your MFA at Hollins in Writing and illustrating for children. :)

Stacy S. Jensen said...

I know it's not the big one, but you should return to your roots and speak at the Colorado (RMC-SCBWI conference, so we can have a huge 12x group!). Good luck meeting all your goals. I always respect your advice and information. Great point that once you get an agent the revising doesn't always end. Good luck meeting all your goals in 2014. Thanks for the Sub Six. It keeps me moving forward.

Vivian Kirkfield said...

Meg...Thanks for spotlighting Alayne...I learned so much more about this amazing lady!
Alayne...I love your dream list...the year on a sailboat sounds exciting...and the Monarch butterflies would be magical. Congrats on becoming agented with Erzsi! Best of luck with all that you are doing and planning...I'm so appreciative of Sub Six...it has pushed me to climb out of my hesitation-to-submit shell...this year I WILL do many more.:)

Teresa Robeson said...

I didn't know you were a fellow pantser! ;) your revision tip number 5 is brilliant and points to why it pays to have more than one trusted critique group.

I miss being in Sub Six but I could not keep up with all the groups I was/am in. I feel guilty when I don't participate in them fully. And guilt...who needs that? ;) I used 12x12 (since I was already in it) to push me to submitting as many times as I could during the year and it was as much as I could handle (my sci fi group also had its own accounting system so I had to be accountable on at least 2 fronts).

But, I am thrilled we keep in touch in other ways so it's not like I don't "see" you and, hopefully, get some of your brilliance by proximity. :D xo

Alayne Kay Christian said...

I understand,T. As you know, I sometimes tend to get in a little over my head and have to back down. Must be the nature of a panster ;-) I, too, am thrilled we get to "see" each other in other ways. I believe just the other day I was thanking you for your brains.

Alayne Kay Christian said...

Thanks, Vivian. I have absolutely no doubt you will do more this year, because I know you did 'more' last year. It is a snowball thing. Here's to 2014 revising and subbing!

Alayne Kay Christian said...

Thanks, Stacy. You are too kind. I'm so glad Sub Six motivates you. Colorado - hmmm - now there's a thought :-) I don't need a big conference, because I know once I speak at a small one like our North Tx conference, people will be knocking down my door to book me as a speaker, ha, ha! That is, if I didn't have a heart attack before my first speaking engagement :-)

Alayne Kay Christian said...

Wish I could, Marcie. Do you think I could bunk with your kids? Ha, ha. They might not mind, but you and the hubs might not be real thrilled to have a third child :-) I like to draw but have no real skill or knowledge. Maybe one day.

Teresa Robeson said...

My brains?! Hahaha! You're funny! ;)

Pamela Courtney said...

Although I've not submitted, I am so grateful for Sub Six. The environment you created there is filled with great support and wild enthusiasm. That's needed for a shy gal like myself. I like the specificity of your process in going through the various critiquing sessions. Insightful post. Thank you!

MegMillerWrites said...

I'm a pantster too! I am in excellent company. :D Kid lit writers are the best, that's why we have such rich online communities! When I went to the Highlights Retreat and the KS SCBWI Conference, I wasn't in the least worried about whether the people would be nice because of all the lovely kid lit writers I'd already met online.

MegMillerWrites said...

Me too Vivian! :D Thanks for coming by!!!!

MegMillerWrites said...

ha! That'd be my fear too Alayne, I'm nervous about ReviMo and no one will ever see me. Speaking in person, gulp ACK! :D

Thanks for popping by Stacy, my favorite Georgia peach! :)