Happy Monday, readers! I have a treat for you today. Imagine talking with a children’s writer who not only raised five children of her own (not to mention grandchildren and great nieces and nephews), but also brings a long career in early childhood education to the table. What insights might we gain into the writing life from such a person? Well, you don’t have

Children's author Margaret Arvanitis

Writer, Mother, Grandmother, Early Childhood Educator, and Author Margaret Arvanitis joins us today on Writing Like a Mother.

to imagine, because Margaret Arvanitis is here today to tell us about her writing life! Grab a cuppa and settle in. Don’t forget to read to the end, where I have some exciting news.

How many children do you have, and what are their ages?
I had five children within ten years. All of them have had the trauma of turning fifty.  I tell them that their life is just beginning.

If your children have moved away, how did you write when they were home?
As you can imagine raising five children with ages so close together left little time to write. I wrote mostly poetry when I could get at my typewriter  (no computer at that time). However when each one was little I told them fairy stories I made up as I put them to bed. I was a stay-at-home mom until my youngest one started to school, then I started my own preschool. I had time to write short stories that I shared with my preschool students. When I needed a story to meet my curriculum I developed puppet dialogues with “Back Yard” characters such as Merle Squirrel, and Bitty BlueJay, and Beebeau Bumblebee. I also wrote short stories. A few have been published in magazines.

What do your children think of your writing?
They are busy with their own lives raising their own children, but they are proud that I am writing and following through with the publishing of my books. Plus it keeps me out of their hair.

In which genre do you write? If you write for middle grade or young adult, do your children read your books?
I write for middle grade readers, books I call Fables. A fable is a tale embodying a moral using fantasy, legends, and mythical creatures, such as Mermaids, Elves, Pixies, Selkies, Leprechauns, Fairies, Imps, and other known characters. Each fable is an exciting adventure with a hint of romance. My Fables are for mid-grade reader, and for younger listeners. Written in short chapters they are perfect for teacher reading to students. I have published the first two, THE LEGEND OF ELPANDA PAWS, and FORBIDDEN WINGS: A MERMAID’S STORY, as e-books and print books. Number three, PIXIES OF THE FERNS will be on the market by early Spring.
And yes I think they have read them. They send the information out to their friends. I have eleven grandchildren, from ages 7 to 30, living in three states (not near me, I’m sorry to say.) My youngest granddaughter is reading the books and is loving them. She is so proud she can read Grandma’s books and she shares them with her classmates. The grown-up grands read the books to their young children, and the older greats read them and share them with their classes. So I have an admiration following not only from my family, but from nieces, nephews, and their children. One of my nieces, a proficient reader herself, is my beta reader.

How does your writing affect your family life?
Since I am not around my family (they all live in other states), I can allot all my time to writing.
I live with my twin sister, who illustrates my Fables and is an outstanding author herself. We each have our own writing space and meet in the evening for our evening meal and TV watching or whatever we find to do that isn’t writing. (Such as walking on the beaches, gardening, shopping, etc.)

What is your typical writing pace?
It has taken me a year since I e-published my first book. In that time I wrote my next book. I usually can put the story skeleton down in a month or so. Then there is a process of reading each chapter (three or four at a time) to my critique group. Since we meet monthly, this takes time. Next the story must be edited and sent to my beta reader. While she is reading it, the cover, illustrations, and all the rest that goes into a book must be finished before it can be published. My historical books have been written years ago, so it takes less time to get them into a publishing form.

Beginning, middle, or end? Which part of a book/story do you most like to write?
The beginning, where I can create the characters. They become my friends, and when I have to get them in trouble to push the story on, I sometimes feel bad for them.  The ending is the hardest, but they sort of drive me to the end … You know every writer has a muse, and I depend on mine to help me out of a block. I love to rewrite after the story is set in place, to add dialogue and action, like shaping a figurine after it has its shape. Maybe that is called, ‘tweaking.’

Where do you write?
In my room at my desk. I work on a desk Macintosh, in front of my picture window, and have printer and all the set up I need to do what I need to do. My window looks out at my flower bed, and a big tree, which either is motionless on our pretty Oregon days, or dances in our blustery, rainy days.  I can rest my eyes by looking at the hummingbirds feeding and the chipmunks and Oregon’s little squirrels sit in the bird feeder until the Steller Jays chase them away. I can also look out at our view of the Bay where fishing boats and sailboats (on warm days) dot the water.

Now I’m inspired! What a beautiful setting for writing. What inspires you?
Children and nature. All my fables come with thoughts of what children like to read: they like Mermaids, and Pandas, and Pixies, and even leprechaun ladies, which no one has ever seen. My next fable may just bring one to the light.

Do you write with background music? A soundtrack?
I seldom write with music or any other sounds. Unless I am editing my work. Then I will listen to my all time favorites songs I’ve downloaded to my Kindle Fire.
What is your beverage of choice when writing?
Just water. I always have a bottle of water within reach.

What’s next for you?
I am in the process of writing and publishing historical fiction, timed in the mid 1800’s. The protagonist is a boy, patterned after my sons at the age of twelve. This series is a coming of age story about a young boy growing up in the pioneer life in the Midwest. The first of a series of three, Hank of Twin Book One: Journey of Change, will be launched sometime in April.

Is there a story you think ought to be written, but not by you?
Interesting question.  I would like to see less violence in YA books; more history with true facts that would bring history alive to young readers. Books with a positive look at life giving them ideals for living a good life.

What are you reading?
I read a book a week. I like most genres. Thanks to Amazon and my Kindle Fire, I keep a backlog of books to read. Right now I am reading In Ruth’s Memory, from Kim Scott’s series, Regarding Ruth.

Who are some authors who inspire you?
Oh my, there are so many. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Series, Destinies by  Karleene Morrow, and The Mill River Recluse, by Darcie Chan.

You are the fourth person to mention Outlander to me in the past couple of months. I will have to read the series now! Which books have stayed with you long after you’ve read them?
Richard Bach’s Johnathan Livingston Seagull, and his other books, such as The Bridge Across Forever. Also Deepak Chopra’s, The Daughters of Joy.

Do you have a favorite color or palette that shows up in your writing?
Not really, I like to add humor in my characters.

What’s your background? How does it play into your writing?
I’ve taught both preschool and early grade students for many years, owning my own pre-kindergarten school in Nebraska while raising my own children. As a teacher I’ve read hundreds of books to my students, and if one book didn’t keep their attention, I never read it again to them. I know what children like to read and hopefully I carry that knowledge to my books.

Do you have other creative pursuits that feed into your writing?
If I had a dollar for every hour I’ve spent in PTA meetings and school boards, I would be rich. And I am still strongly interested in the education of today’s children.

Where can we find you on the web?
I hang out several places; You can find me on Facebook {here}. This is probably where best to find me.
To see my career in writing, check out my blog {here}.
To see my books, one can go to my Author’s pages at:  Amazon | Smashwords

Thank you, Margaret! I loved hearing about your writing life. I hope a lot of the readers are encouraged by your story. Best wishes!

Readers, if you are a writing parent (blogger or author) and would like to be featured in an interview, I would love to hear from you! Like my Facebook page and message me there, or email me at summerkinard {at} gmail {dot} com.

Now for some exciting news! This week begins the Authors in Bloom blog hop. Check back Wednesday morning for a chance to win a Kindle and other amazing prizes, and join me as I share my favorite scone recipe and garden tips! See you then!

Speaking of Kindle, don’t forget to pre-order Can’t Buy Me Love for Kindle!