Northwest NEWS

November 27, 2000

Entertainment

Writing children's books is fulfilling endeavor for local author

* by Deborah Stone
   Features Writer
   Local author Kirby Larson leads a busy life that fulfills her in many ways.
   As a second term school board member, she is involved in educational issues, helping decide the future of Northshore schools and the impact they will have on the next generation of students.
   As a writer for the past fifteen years, she has fulfilled her personal dreams and aspirations to become a published author.
   With the recent release of "The Magic Kerchief" (published by Holiday House), Larson has three books available in stores across the nation.
   Her genre is children's literature, an area she has been drawn to ever since she began reading books to her children twenty years ago.
   "When my kids were little, I saw how fabulous the book offerings were and I just knew I wanted to be a part of writing for children," comments Larson. "Kids are so important and what they read or what is read to them stays with them for so many years. I wanted to write quality stories that would be read and reread for years to come."
   Writing has been a part of Larson's life for many years, but about fifteen years ago she began taking it seriously. She wrote magazine articles, short stories and did a wide variety of freelancing, until she noticed that all her main characters were children.
   "I knew then that my heart was in writing children's books, so I decided to focus on doing just that," explains Larson.
   In 1994, her first book, "Second Grade Pig Pals," was published and noted as a Seattle Times Best Book for First and Second Graders.
   In 1996, "Cody and Quinn Sitting in a Tree" was published and nominated for a Missouri Young Readers' Award.
   In addition, Larson was a ghostwriter for two Sweet Valley Kids books.
   "The Magic Kerchief," published in September 2000, is her first picture book and it is beautifully illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.
   The story tells a tale of a woman who doesn't have friends due to her unpleasant behavior towards others.
   She is given a magic kerchief one day by a stranger and suddenly finds herself speaking kind words to everyone she meets.
   "The idea for this story came to me about ten years ago," says Larson. "I was in the car taking my daughter to her flute lesson when two words, 'noodle noggin,' came into my mind.
   "I don't know where or how they popped up, but all of a sudden, I knew I had to do something with these words. I started jotting down ideas about a character that would say these types of words and I had a strong feeling that the story I was going to write needed to be a fairy tale of some sort."
   Other projects displaced Larson's idea and she had to set the project on hold until 1994 when she decided to complete it, making it into a short story which was sold to Cricket Magazine.
   Later, she shortened it to make into a picture book and in 1997, Holiday House accepted it for publishing; however, the book wasn't released until this fall.
   "It was exciting for me to see the illustrations for 'The Magic Kerchief,'" comments Larson, "because I had never met Rosanne, the illustrator, before and didn't know what type of artwork she was going to do for the book.
   "I was so delighted with the end product and it was obvious to me that she had spent time on creating such beautiful drawings. The research she did was incredible!"
   Larson has been delighted with the reactions to her book and the positive reviews it has garnered from such notable publications as Horn Book, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.
   The book won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, as well as was selected to be an American Booksellers Association Pick of the List/Fall 2000.
   "My favorite reviews are from children," adds Larson. "These are the most rewarding and meaningful to me. Just the other day I received a packet of letters written by children at Woodmoor Elementary School and they were so touching.
   "A teacher there had read the story to her class and then had the children write their reactions and also tell what they would do if someone gave them a magic kerchief."
   Larson diligently writes daily for several hours or does extensive reading to research her subject or time period.
   The hard part of the process for her is filtering out all the ideas she has and then choosing one area of focus on which to spend her time.
   "I'm pretty slow as a writer," explains Larson. "It can take me up to two years to complete a book because I have so many other commitments in my life.
   "It's a challenge to balance everything. I can get blocked too, but that's why I have different things to work on, so I can set one aside and work on another when that does happen. I'm also occupied with sending my stuff out to various editors and that takes time, lots of time."
   According to Larson, it also takes persistence and patience. She says, "For every book I send out, I probably get seven rejection letters. You have to tell yourself not to give up and not to get down about it. You need a tough skin to survive."
   Larson currently has two other books at Holiday House, including a folk tale picture book and a chapter book for young readers, as well as another picture book with a different publishing house.
   She is busy at work on another project which involves research for a historical novel, geared for sixth graders and older. It will be set in the 1920s in the U.S. and will involve a character who becomes a homesteader.
   "I can't tell you much more than that because I still am in the research stage," explains Larson, "but the idea is very exciting to me because this period of time is fascinating. I just keep reading more and more information and I know at some point I'll have to stop and start writing. This is what I love about being a writer. The process is so interesting and there's so much room for creativity."