Author Kris Yankee
How did you start writing chapter books?
Originally I was signed by my agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, on a women’s fiction manuscript. I worked to get it in great shape for submissions, but she wasn’t able to sell it. This was a few years ago, and the women’s fiction market was flat. She asked me to try a different genre. Middle grade came easily to me since I have two young boys at home. Saving Redwind was the first middle grade chapter book that I’d written.
What is the targeted age range for chapter books?
There are two types of chapter books – early readers and middle grade. Early readers are usually targeted at high-first grader readers up to third grade readers. Middle grade chapter books are targeted at 9 – 12 years old. Some of my chapter books are targeted at the lower spectrum of MG, and one that I just finished is targeted at the higher spectrum.
Is the vocabulary, tense, person used in chapter books different from stories geared more toward MGers?
Early reader chapter books use lower level language skills than MG books. Typical tense in young readers is past and 3rd. In MG, you can use past or present, and 1st or 3rd person. 3rd person omniscient is not advised at either level. Kids just don’t get the whole omniscient pov. I can’t say for sure that there’s a trend for one tense or one point of view. I can say that I love writing in 1st person. I feel as if I’m the character and I think it brings the reader closer to understanding what the character is going through.
How does a writer approach an agent/publisher with a chapter book or series? Is the query process the same?
A writer should first verify that the agent indeed represents chapter books and that they are accepting queries. A quick check that a publisher accepts unsolicited/unagented queries should also be done. When querying a agent about a series, there is no need to send information about all books. The best is to state that the query is for a book that is first in a series about xxxx (in my case, a boy who is swept into a wallpaper world). I don’t believe that it’s necessary to describe all the books in the series. The first book has to capture the audience’s attention. If it doesn’t, it won’t matter what the other books are about.
How did you get your start as an editor, and can you give advice to any writer thinking of becoming a freelance editor?
I work for a small press in Michigan, so I’ve got an advantage over other writers who want to become editors. But that doesn’t mean that a writer can’t become an editor. Before I was hired, I took a few refresher courses: Grammar, Fiction Writing Basics, Advanced Fiction Writing. These classes helped me as a writer and as a editor. I would highly recommend any of the fiction classes at http://www.
writersonlineworkshops.com/ through Writer’s Digest University.
Fabulous information! Thanks for sharing that link.
Signature Graffiti Wall question: You're stuck on a subway for hours. The passengers want you to tell them a story, but you must use one of these reference materials - a phone book, dictionary, and physical map. Which resource do you use? Give us three items you'd include in that story.
Oh, Lord, you’re going to make me think on my feet (or butt, in this case!). Immediately I’m drawn to the map. Not sure why, but that’s what I’d use. The three things I’d include would be a hockey-player main character (of course) who’s a boy, a fellow teammate, another boy, and finally a rival player who’s a girl. They’d all be traveling, maybe on a train (no, not Harry Potter!) or in chartered buses, and there would be an accident. They’d have to use the map, since they have no phones or cell signals, to get to their destination, maybe State finals.
You have a fabulous BLOG--Adventures That Score. What do you highlight most?
You’re so sweet to say that! Insider Tip: The jerseys, hockey and lacrosse sticks belong to my oldest son. Cool, huh?
I have a mixture of topics that I talk about on the blog, but it’s mostly writing and editing skills. I give a writers’ workshop through the press I work for, and I find that many of the attendees have no clue about story question/problem, point of view, and scene and sequel. If I can help other writers, or at least entertain them once in awhile, then that’s good. I do love to join blogfests. I try to tailor those posts to writing, or my other favorite subject, hockey! J
Tell us a bit about Saving Redwind.
Saving Redwind is a story that came to me when we first moved into our home. My oldest son’s bedroom was covered in a horrible wallpaper- huge gray and pink flowers. When I say huge, I mean HUGE (like three feet in diameter). As I tore down that wallpaper, I started thinking about a boy who moved into a new house and how the wallpaper sucked him in. I’m not entirely sure I wasn’t under the influence of wallpaper remover fumes, but I can tell it was blistering hot in the room while I worked! Anyway, the story idea rumbled around for a few years –remember, I was writing women’s fiction. When I got the green light to start something new, I soon realized that MG was what I should be writing and this story came back to life. I developed the characters based on people and kids we knew, and I just had to include a hockey element. I’m a pantser, so I had a tentative plan as to how the story would flow. And flow it did. It turned out way longer than I expected! The next book will most likely be 50-60 pages less.
Can you give us a hint as to your next project?
I’ve just finished a story about a hockey team who goes on a team-building camping trip and their team-building activities includes surviving a forest fire. This would be the first in a series with this particular hockey team, so you know they all survive. I’m also working with a screenwriter on a YA book about a boy who learns to play hockey – what a surprise, right?
Thanks so much for hosting me, Sheri! It’s been a blast answering your really tough questions!
It's been my pleasure!
Interested in Redwind. Here's the official blurb: All eleven-year-old Nick Stevenson wants is an adventure like his dad's. Oh, and for the creepy ceiling in his new bedroom to stop storming and spinning. When he's asked to help save a world that exists inside his bedroom's wallpaper, Nick thinks he's found his very own adventure. But he has no idea it will involve talking rocks, dream-stealing birds, and
becoming friends with wizards. Can Nick save Redwind and his new friends before his mom calls him home for hockey practice?
Find Kris on Facebook and her Website. Purchase Saving Redwind: A Wallpaper Adventure at Createspace and At Amazon.