Behind the Scenes: “Creating a Compilation” by Vivian Kirkfield

Welcome back, Vivian Kirkfield! If anyone knows about going HERE to THERE, it’s Vivian who is always on the MOVE herself! Wondering how one picture book can become nine?  This has been a time of anthologies and compilations, and here’s Vivian’s take on hers.

Vivian is offering the final giveaway of 2020 for this blog – a year that was a little bit better for all the books that creators have offered. Leave a comment below for a chance to win your choice of  the anthology FROM HERE TO THERE – a total of 9 picture books packed into one beautiful book, OR a picture book manuscript critique!

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Thank you so much, Beth, for having me on your blog and helping to spread the word about my upcoming book!

Listen to your older sister! My mother told me this many times when I was growing up, but I am sure I ignored her advice. These days however, my sister and I chat on a daily basis. She often tells me things that spark my curiosity. And once my curiosity is sparked, that usually leads to a deep dive into research and then to a rough draft of a new story.

This happened back in 2015 when Rho told me about a friend of a friend who was the granddaughter of a Swedish immigrant who came to America in 1905, speaking no English and with only $60 in his pocket. After working unsuccessfully at many different jobs and failing miserably as a car salesman, Eric Wickman bought the showroom model himself and began giving shuttle rides to the miners in Hibbing, Minnesota. His shuttle service blossomed and, when buying more cars and hiring more drivers wasn’t enough, Eric built a bus! Who is Eric Wickman, you ask? The founder of Greyhound, the first interstate bus company in America.

Chapter 5 America Gets Moving Bus Eric Wickman

Fascinated, I had to learn more. I researched, read books, spoke with my local librarian, and reached out to the granddaughter who was thrilled to have her grandfather’s story told. I followed the usual steps, rough draft, revise, critique group feedback, and revise. After many rounds of feedback and revision, I sent the story to my agent. Essie shared her insights with me and I revised again. When we were satisfied the manuscript was the best it could be, it went out on submission. Some editors didn’t connect with the writing. Others didn’t connect with the subject. And then Ann Rider at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt received it.

Ann loved the writing. She loved the subject. But she wondered if Eric Wickman was famous enough – was the bus a popular enough vehicle for kids to connect with? Perhaps we could create a compilation book similar to Girls Think of Everything, one of their most popular offerings. She asked if I thought I could write 7 to 10 similar stories, exciting nonfiction narratives about visionaries who invented things that changed the way the world moves.

chapter 1 boys who dreamed of flying

Honestly, I believe that when an editor asks if you can do something, you say yes! And so, I did!

Ann tasked me with making a list of possible inventions, not just the car, the bus, the train and the rocket – but a more diverse group of things that move…or that help us move. I agreed with her – I added innovations like the first folding wheelchair, created by a mining engineer who had been a high hurdler in college, but became paralyzed in a mining accident. Or the first manned hot-air balloon, envisioned by a boy who ran away from home because he had ADHD and couldn’t function in a school setting. And when I read about Raye Montague who led a team of engineers to develop the first computer-generated naval ship design even though she’d been told as a child that she could never be an engineer, I knew that would be one of my stories in the book.

I gave the editor a list of eight things that moved: Hot-Air Balloon, Bicycle, Steam Locomotive, Industrial Robot, Gas-Powered Automobile, Bus, Computer Ship Design, and Folding Wheelchair. “But where is the rocket?” she asked. “Kids love rockets!”

And then there were nine.

Chapter 9 Raye Draws Her Own Lines Computer Ship Design Raye Montague

At this point, the contract was signed. It was early Fall and my deadline for the nine stories: May 1, 2018. I had about 7 or 8 months to complete the project. One manuscript was done…the bus story that she had fallen in love with. I already had a story about the Montgolfier brothers and their hot-air balloon that only needed to be tweaked to add the STEM sidebar information that the editor wanted for each story. That meant I had approximately one month for each manuscript…research, rough draft, and then revisions until each was submission-ready.

All I can say is THANK GOODNESS FOR CRITIQUE PARTNERS! And thank goodness I had quite a few of them. Critique partners are like precious gems – and I treasure mine! I’d research one story while writing a rough draft of another and revising a third and polishing a fourth. It was definitely a challenging time! I sent the manuscripts to the editor in batches of four via email. The first batch. Then the second batch. And she’d send them back with her suggestions…in printed out hard copies! Fortunately, there were very few changes needed…and most of them were minor. But then…

She raised a concern about the rocket story – were rockets too advanced for young kids? At this point, I knew I didn’t want to write ANOTHER full picture book story. And I knew she had been the one to request the rocket story. I did some research and found that even kindergarten age children attend Space Camps and learn the basics of rocket science. I sent the links to the editor with my thoughts…and she agreed that the rocket story should stay.

from-here-to-there-inventions-coverThis project was a fabulous experience.  Working with an editor, I believe you need to be flexible and willing to make changes. But I know it is also important to be ready to advocate for your work…and to be prepared with links, sources, and/or expert testimony to show why something needs to stay or go.

And now we have a book that we are all proud of – a book that will inspire young readers to have hopes and dreams and plans of what might be. FROM HERE TO THERE: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves launches on January 19th, 2021. I’ll be bopping around the blogsphere – and I hope you will join me for some of the posts. There will be many giveaways and lots of information shared. I don’t have most of the actual links, but I’ve listed the link to the blogsite and if you go there on that specific day (and I hope you do!), my guest post or interview should pop up.  

Thank you so much for having me, Beth! You’ve been a long-time critique buddy of mine and you are one of those precious gems I mentioned earlier – your friendship means the world to me.

Thank YOU, Vivian for all you do for the kid lit community! AND for offering a GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment below for a chance to win your choice of a copy of FROM HERE TO THERE or a PB manuscript critique. 

Vivian’s Book Blog Tour for FROM HERE TO THERE


24 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “Creating a Compilation” by Vivian Kirkfield

  1. Vivian’s book From Here to There sounds like it will be a wonderful book for both young and old alike. I would love to share this book with my grandchildren along with a nephew who uses a wheelchair.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Marlene. When editor Ann Rider asked for diversity in the vehicles, I knew I wanted to write one that had to do with a wheelchair…and in my research, I discovered that the inventor of the folding wheelchair was paralyzed himself…I knew that was the story I needed to tell.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Vivian ,it was a fascinating read to see your process of writing after an idea comes knocking. And an apt subject for a mover and a shaker like you. Can’t wait to read the book rockets and all! Congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fascinating story. And I love how you followed the lead to get to get the details — as you do so well! I never thought about how Greyhound began. And to think this all happened shortly after the Wright Brothers flew their first glider in 1903. The late 1890s onwards have led to so many remarkable inventions. Look forward to reading your new book.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am always on the lookout for high quality texts in competitions to add to my class’s book corner and From Here to There definitely fits the bill! We are desperately in need of new books, so here’s hoping I win one so I can share this with my 30 budding readers who are just beginning to see reading as fun at age 10… 🤞🏼

    Liked by 2 people

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