Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meet Kathy Stemke

I was delighted to interview Kathy Stemke for this tour of VBT - Writers on the Move. Let's get to know Kathy a bit better. Her replies will be in bold.

Kathy, tell us something about your educational background that has made you a better, or more caring, writer.

My background is in physical education and early childhood education. After 38 years of teaching I have found what works for children and what works for the teacher. That’s why I always offer movement activities, and worksheets with my picture books. It’s one stop shopping for teachers. I have found that when children move as they learn, they learn faster and retain more. My books are full of movement!

I also have a degree in Christian Ministry. My books are full of good values without being too obvious. I want to enrich the lives of children by igniting a love of reading, moving, and creating.

Authors are often asked when they started writing or what triggered their interest in writing. I’d like to know that, also, but I would especially like to know what keeps you writing.

Because I was born with a passion for the arts, I’ve always been involved in creating. Writing poetry has been a lifetime activity for me. I hiked and photographed the Appalachian Trail, then wrote poetry at the rest stop. I’ve also taught photojournalism courses where children coupled their creative writing with photographs.

When I published some education articles, I realized that I had something to offer others. I created my blog to offer parents and teachers help with curriculum. I offer a free monthly newsletter titled, Movement and Rhythm. When my readers thank me, and tell me I helped them with a big problem, I’m inspired to write more. Recently, I was honored to be included in the Best 100 Blogs for Home schooling Moms.

What inspired you to write your book?

My first book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was a natural outgrowth of a blog post. I actually expanded a simple rhyme of the days of the week to a longer rhyme that teaches the children how to spell each day. This 32-page e-book includes a song, worksheets, movement activities for each day, and even a coloring book. I’ve gotten great reviews from teachers. It’s available for purchase as an e-book on Lulu.

What are your writing achievements and goals? Any books in the works?

Several of my articles have been published. As a contributing editor for The National Writing for Children Center, I write a monthly teaching tip article.
Gradually, I’m putting together a book of dance poems. My poem, "An Empty Stage," finished in the top ten of The 2009 Predators and Editors Poll. My poem, "Dance," is published in The Abandoned Towers Magazine.

My book, Trouble on Earth Day, is being illustrated, and set to be published this year by Cyberwizard productions, Toy Box Books. This fun picture book entertains and teaches kids about recycling. I’d like to write a series of environmental books with the same characters. Wonderful Water Explorers, the second book in the series, will spark discussion about water conservation. Both of these books offer several pages of projects and worksheets.

How do you feel when you complete a book?

The joy for me comes when I get positive feedback from the children and the teachers. When kid’s eyes sparkle, or they laugh out loud, I feel satisfied and eager to write more.

How do any writing groups benefit you and your writing, Kathy?

My involvement with the Children’s Writers Coaching Club has been very rewarding. I’ve learned my craft from published authors like, Margot Finke, Simon Rose, and Suzanne Lieurance. It also serves as a valuable critique group.

The Writers on the Move Virtual Book Tour has introduced me to more talented and kind authors with smart marketing tips and wonderful words of encouragement. It is essential to have support in the cruel writing business.

What advice would you have for a new author?

My first suggestion would be to read everything you can get your hands on in your venue. I took out 60 picture books a week for several months before I wrote my first story. Reread the excellent books that jumped out at you, and find out what makes them special. Sometimes it’s an unusual character, or an unexpected twist.
Then write, write, and write everyday. You’ll start to develop your own writing style.

If you can afford to, I suggest that you take a children’s writing course on-line. This will save you time and heartache. Find a good critique group, which has at least some published writers.

Research the market and submit stories to magazines and book publishers. Be flexible and use criticism wisely. Lastly, never give up. You can only lose when you give up.

Thank you for sharing information about yourself and your writing with us, Kathy.


The Old Silly said...

Enjoyed the feature post and learning more about Kathy. I appreciate also a Christian author whose "books are full of good values without being too obvious."

Way to go, Kathy - that's how you do it. No need to preach to the choir, get the message out to those who would not normally read a "Christian" book.

Marvin D Wilson

Nancy Famolari said...

Good to get to know Kathy better. I think her book is an excellent one for young children. Great post!

Liana said...

Hi Kathy,
I've enjoyed reading about you; you've achieved a lot so far but there are more to come! Good luck!

kathy stemke said...

Thanks for visiting. And thanks for the vote of confidence.

Deborah Weed said...

You are obviously a dynamo. All those years of teaching has made you an expert in knowing what works and what doesn't. Congratulations on writing a blog that has been nationally recognized. That in itself is a terrific accomplishment. Finally, it is wonderful to write books that not only move a child's imagination, but also create illustrations that are not static!

Suzanne Lieurance said...

Nice interview! I also interviewed Kathy on Book Bites for Kids not long ago. We're lucky to have her as a contributing editor for our teaching tips column at the National Writing for Children Center.

Thanks for hosting her on your tour, Vivian, readers get to know her and her work a bit more.

Suzanne Lieurance
National Writing for Children Center

Katie Hines said...

You sure sound like one busy lady. Coupling movement with learning? That's a great idea.

Vivian Zabel said...

The more I learn about Kathy,the more I'm impressed.

Helen Ginger said...

Kathy, you seem really busy, but your enthusiasm and love of what you do comes through. I'm very impressed.

Straight From Hel

Helena Harper said...

This is a fascinating interview, Kathy. Being a teacher myself, I'm really interested to learn about the insights you've gained from your long teaching career and about your future writing projects. Good luck with all of them.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Rah! Rah! Kathy! Cheerleading has to be a great training ground for marketing--and for leadership!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Tweeting writing tips at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo

kathy stemke said...

I so glad to have made so many friends while on the VBT. Thanks for your wonderful comments everyone.

Harry Gilleland said...

Great post, Vivian. Kathy's love for both teaching and writing comes through strongly. Nice job!



Vivian Zabel said...

Spread the word and return, Kathy has an article for us Thursday.

Karen and Robyn - Writing for Children said...

Great Q&A, Vivian. I'm very impressed with Kathy's writing talent - I know she'll continue on her present publishing road!


Morgan Mandel said...

It sounds like your books and teaching are great for forming children's values.

Morgan Mandel

Margot Finke said...

I received a GOOGLE alert about the comment you made about me, Kathy. thank you.

Great interview, Vivian. You dug out all Kathy's secrets!!

*Manuscript Critiques
*Children's Books
*Help for Writers
*C.W.C.C. Coach

Kate said...

Great interview ~ proves kids will enjoy reading if the writing is presented with them in mind. Kathy guides authors and the kids who read their work to explore each their creativity.

Thanks for sharing this experience and her blog is cool as well.

Dorothy Massey said...

Great interview. Kathy's books have a great focus and message.
Dorothy Massey www.kidsbooksuk.blogspot.com

Charlotte Phillips said...

Hi Kathy,

Nice to meet you. You shared some wonderful resources! I sent the link for this interview to serveral friends who home school their kids.

Best of luck with your books.

madcapmaggie said...

I've read Kathy's book as well as the worksheets and they are really terrific! They're sure to be a favorite in any classroom.

Margaret Fieland

Crystalee said...

I think Kathy's advice is key: read, read, read! Don't just read picture books if you want to write picture book (although, that may be the most helpful), read everything you can find.

Kathy sounds like a great writer and educator. Thanks for the in-depth interview, Viv.

kathy stemke said...

Thanks to my old friends and my new friends for the wonderful comments.