CAROL GORDON EKSTER: Lindsey McDivitt is part of my marketing group, PBRockiteers22. Groups are a wonderful way to meet other #kidlit authors who have books coming out in the same year you do and get the support needed for this exciting time. Lindsey has Christmas Fairies for Ouma releasing with Familius on October 11, 2022. Join me in finding out more about her journey and her new title.
Lindsey, tell us about your journey into becoming a PB author.
LINDSEY MCDIVITT: Well, I was laid off from my job in healthcare after many years working with stroke survivors. I’d always wanted to write and suddenly had plenty of time in the middle of a Minnesota winter. I think writing saved my life. But it took years to learn the craft of writing picture books and more than six years to get a publishing contract.
CGE: Your picture book, A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation got starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal. That’s wonderful, Lindsey! It came out with Eerdmans Books for Young Readers March 30, 2021. Can you tell us how you came to write that title and what it was like to release it during the pandemic?
LM: Thanks so much Carol! It was tough timing in the pandemic—no launch event or readings, but a huge relief that A Plan for the People was well-received.
I’m of white South African heritage—my family emigrated here when I was small. The book has a strong theme of racial justice which I expanded on in my author note by sharing my personal journey recognizing the evils of apartheid. I think it shares a sense of hope in these highly divisive times. Eerdmans brought in award winning fine artist Charly Palmer to illustrate—he also has personal ties to South Africa. The illustrations are bold, beautiful and colorful.
The book was born after my return trip to South Africa after a gap of 25 years. Apartheid was gone and South Africans of all colors were grieving the death of President Mandela. I began reading everything I could about him, never dreaming I’d write about the great man. But it began to seem a story more focused on his 27 years in prison needed to be out in the world for young people. Nelson Mandela purposely educated himself during those long years, changing himself to become the leader South Africa needed.
CGE: Christmas Fairies for Ouma releases with Familius October 11, 2022. Can you tell us the story behind this story? What are plans for promoting this title?
LM: Christmas Fairies for Ouma is fictional, but based on a true tale told often by my mother. It’s also partially set in South Africa. My sister and I missed our grandmother, our Ouma, enormously after moving to America. We made a Christmas card for her and actually mailed it with just Gold Bond stamps. Remember Gold Bond stamps? They were more like rewards coupons in the 1960’s. Her address was simply “Ouma,” no name, and only her city and country. But miraculously it reached her!
The book features my sister Tessa and has a theme of kind acts reaching across the world. The homemade card is passed hand to hand with “no name, no address, and no real stamps.” A chain of kindness inspired by other kind acts. Kindness that felt like magic. I’m really excited for its release as a Christmas title in October. The art by Polish illustrator Katarzyna Bukiert is whimsical and gorgeous! Tiny fairies peek from every page.
Promotional plans may apparently include magazine ads—something very new for me. And I’ve been asked to approach others for “book blurbs” in response to pre-release readings of the ARC. Also new for me and rather intimidating.
CGE: You have an interesting website, “A is for Aging, B is for books…” Why the focus on aging? How do you address it in your website?
LM: For decades I worked with amazing older adults, many who had to remake their life after a stroke. So many inspiring older role models. When I started writing for kids and reading hundreds of picture books I was actually horrified by the many negative stereotypes the books used. So many times to grow older is simply equated with decline, dementia and death. Ugh!
My website and blog “A is for Aging” showcase picture books that avoid stereotypes and show kids more Age Positive images. I review them on the blog and keep a resource list under “Picture Books.”
Ageism flies under most people’s radar, but is every bit as harmful as racism and sexism. Every one of us will experience ageism in our society and it actually harms our health and longevity. We all take in aging myths and stereotypes daily, from childhood. More info at my website, but there’s a new book out by a preeminent Yale University researcher Becca Levy, Ph.D. that is a must read. You’ll be astonished! Find Breaking the Age Code: How Your Beliefs about Aging Determine How Well and Long You Live.
CGE: Do you only write picture books? Tell us about your process and writing schedule.
LM: Yes, only picture books—I’m in love with the lyrical sound of the text matched with amazing art. There’s also the incredible challenge of making every word count in the interest of brevity!
I’m generally at my desk in the mornings, but work at all kinds of hours. I start with an idea and an absolutely awful first draft. It’s astonishing how stories change in the process of many drafts and with the help of my critique group.
CGE: Do you have any advice for new writers wanting to break into the world of publishing children’s books?
LM: Perhaps to submit queries to literary agents you have researched just as enthusiastically as subbing manuscripts to publishers. I wish I had started sooner as so many publishing houses are now closed to unsolicited manuscripts and it took me a long time to find my wonderful agent Kelly Dyksterhouse.
Also, conference critiques are a wonderful way to meet both editor and agents as well as obtain excellent feedback. And sometimes you get lucky! Two of my books found publishing homes via a conference critique.
CGE: What does the future hold for Lindsey McDivitt?
LM: I have hundreds of ideas and I love the idea of never really retiring from writing. I’ll certainly be focused on the elusive perfect picture book conveying Age Positive ideas to kids, along with an understanding of ageism. One that an editor will finally feel compelled to publish!
CGE: Thank you, Lindsey! I love your mission and your books. Thanks for joining us here at Writers’ Rumpus!
Readers, you can connect with Lindsey here: