In today’s competitive and ever changing publishing industry, versatility is a necessity -which explains the success of Houston resident Doris Fisher. Former kindergarten teacher turned author, Doris has published multiple books, articles and mind-stretching puzzles in a variety of genres. Recently I caught-up with Doris and chatted with her about life, inspiration and her advice for debutant writers.
How did you become a writer?
Belonging to a book club in the 1990s, I ordered a book by Barbara Seuling, How to Write a Children’s Book and Get It Published. As a former kindergarten teacher who read six picture books a day to my classes, I devoured this book and thought how much fun it would be to write for wee ones, ages 9 and under. And that was it. When the empty nest arrived, my husband saw a class at Rice University focused on writing for children. Now it was 2000, I took the class and have been writing picture books, magazine article, poems, puzzles and games ever since. I found my first critique group and it’s been a journey of amazing people, books, reading and writing.
Where do you find inspiration?
Inspiration more or less finds me when I least expect it. Something happens in my daily life – – I read a word, sentence or see an action that gives me a book title idea, I hear a TV article about a specific subject that makes me think a book about it would be perfect for kids, I even listen to conversations in stores and at social settings. I just never know. Blogs are also full of ideas that create sparks of inspiration. The “Picture Book Idea Month” on Tara Lazar’s blog is a sensational idea. It makes me stop working on my eternal “must do” list to think, imagine, and dream of picture books. Unfortunately ideas don’t drop out of the sky like falling stars, but they do arrive if I concentrate, sit still and listen.
Describe a normal "writing" workday.
I work on writing every day, but every day is different. Besides actually typing on my own book or writing project, I work on promotion, schedule school events, consider conferences to attend, finish freelance writing assignments, read blogs about picture books and writing, study publishers and agents, and help my critique buddies when asked for my opinion on their writing efforts. When I write on my own items, I like a block of time longer than thirty minutes. I find one-half hour is not quite enough time to get my juices flowing and ideas percolating.
As for a writing time of the day, I like the afternoon the best. I try to run errands and go to the gym in the morning. In fact many times at the gym, when I’m bored on the treadmill, I’ll think about my writing and ideas develop. This is usually about writing I’ve already started.
If I write after 8:00 pm, I’ve discovered it keeps me awake. All night long I end up concentrating on finishing a story, rhyming a stanza, creating a character or coming up with a super-duper book title. It’s exhausting slumber and I’m exhausted the next day!
You’ve written extensively for magazines. What are some of your secrets for getting published in such a competitive field?
I really don’t have any secrets. I always follow submission guidelines, submit, and hope for the best. The magazine trio of Boys’ Quest, Fun for Kidz, and Hopscotch has accepted and published many of my articles and puzzles. So did Guidepost for Kids online, when it was a website. My first poem was accepted by Babybug when I was just beginning. This was such an encouragement for me, since that magazine has so few items and pages. Once I realized I love, Love, LOVE making puzzles, this helped. I added puzzles to my articles which was a bonus format, like a sidebar of fun. In fact I was interviewed for an article, “Decoding the Puzzle Market” found inside the 2005 Children’s Writers & Illustrator’s Market. And I am very pleased that three of my puzzles were published in Highlights for Children. As always persistence, determination, networking and following directions all lead to publication in magazines.
Of the books you have written, which is your favorite?
This is like asking me to name my favorite child. I can’t possibly choose. I write my books because I love the subject and idea before I ever start to create. And this includes the many, many books in my computer that are not published. Oh, WHY? I always wonder. They are great, in my humble opinion! Oh yes, now I remember, it’s that word I hear all the time, REWRITE!
Who are your favorite writers and why?
Doreen Cronin – Click, Clack, Moo is my favorite picture book. Simple, to the point and hilarious. Her Diary of a Worm is an earth-turning good time!
Karma Wilson – what terrific rhyming skills in Bear Snores On, a wonderful winter adventure.
Kelly Bennett – Spider Spins a Story is a gorgeous book for older children. The tales and art are amazing. Not Norman makes huge waves as a great goldfish tale, and her two books on fathers, Dad and Pop, and Your Father was Just Like You, both detail the fun of childhood and fathers.
Layne Johnson is my favorite illustrator. Farmer George Plants a Nation is spectacular with George Washington images. Christmas for a Kitten has one of the most perfect Santa faces I’ve ever seen in a picture book.
And my bookshelves are full of many other wonderful writers and illustrators. I love my picture book collection!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Don’t assume you know how to write a book and never read a book on writing for children or young adults. This seems like common sense to me, but I know many writers never study the craft of writing. Read all about the genre you write and “how to” books. And then keep reading them. And read them again. Join SCBWI and become active in the organization. Take online classes, go to conferences, network, join a critique group…it only takes two people, reach out. Push yourself. Sometimes it takes you to toot your own horn to be heard. All children’s writers love to talk about their writing journey, the craft of writing, and their next writing project. Don’t be afraid to ask well published authors questions. You’ll be amazed how nice they are. Children’s writers are the greatest. They rock!
Be sure to check out Doris’ website at www.dorisfisher.com. Every month she runs a contest!
You can find Doris’ multiple books via the publisher’s website at http://www.sylvandellpublishing.com or at your favorite bookstore.