Meet Author Marjorie Flathers!
I have been a free-lance writer for over 25 years. Although my work has appeared in print over 300 times, in a variety of magazines, newspapers, and anthologies for writers and knitters, I’ve yet to achieve that elusive book contract! But I’m still trying! I’ve been married to my husband, Wayne, for 47 years. We have three adult children and five wonderful grand-children. I’m grateful for my 12 years of Catholic education, which gave me a solid foundation for my writing. In high school, I worked on the school newspaper for three years and was editor in my senior year. When I graduated, I wasn’t able to go to college because of my father’s illness, but 23 years later, I did start going to classes at San Bernardino Valley College and spent 4 great years there, enjoying every minute and graduating with an AA in English. I found something of interest and value in every class and have been able to use a lot of this knowledge in my writing. Knitting is my special hobby and source of relaxation, but I’m never happier than when I’m surrounded by books!
Featured Story: Jacaranda Tree series in the Los Angeles Times
Q: What inspired you most to write this story?
A: The beautiful jacaranda trees that bloom everywhere in Southern California in mid-May, many near my house. As I watched the lush purple blossoms unfold each year, I became more and more intrigued and began to read all that I could about them. That led to an idea for what at first I thought would be a picture book, but after many revisions, it became the five-part (serialized) story, “The Secret of the Jacaranda Tree,” that the Los Angeles Times accepted as my first story on that page. By that time, the only “character” left from the original story was the jacaranda tree itself!
Q: What is one of your favorite topics to write about when writing for children?
A: I like to weave in nature themes, but mostly I like to write about friendships and the problems children have as they grow and learn how to relate to others.
Q: Describe a highlight of your writing career.
A: Being accepted as a regular contributor to the Kid’s Reading Room page of the Los Angeles Times was definitely a high point! This page first appeared in the Times in 1999, with five-part stories appearing Monday to Friday and shorter stories on Sunday. When I attended an SCBWI Writer’s Day that year, I received some tips, including the Kid’s Reading Room editor’s name, on submitting from two writers who had already had stories on that page. I sent in my story, “The Secret of the Jacaranda Tree,” but didn’t hear anything back. Then, in early 2000, I received a letter from the new editor of that page who said she had no record of receiving this story, but she was intrigued by the title and would love to read it, if I cared to resubmit it. Would I? I worked and worked at revising this story, tightening it and fitting it to the exact word requirements she listed and also added the necessary daily “cliff-hangers.” Shortly after, I received an e-mail saying she loved the story and a contract would follow by mail. This story proved so popular that I was asked to do 4 more yearly sequels, plus many other stories for the page…17 and counting! The daily kids’ page has now been eliminated, but I still write shorter stories for the Sunday page. I found that I liked working within their structure and enjoyed plotting and writing each and every story. As a long-time reader of the Times, appearing on its pages was something I didn’t even dare dream could happen!
Q: Share one tip you would like to give to a children’s author about the importance of joining a critique group.
A: Critique groups are valuable because we are often so close to our work that we fail to see obvious mistakes, of all kinds, and critique group members will usually spot them. Better that a critique group member find them than an editor! A writer can then use the suggestions, or not, as she sees fit. It’s still her story! However, members who are critiquing should take care not to make demeaning or hurtful remarks and not allow their personal feelings to get in the way of constructive criticism.