Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Monica Kulling, Author Extraordinaire

By Janie Reinart

We are honored to have the charming, resourceful, award-winning children’s author, Monica Kulling visit with us on the GROG today. Monica is the author of over 50 books for children including  picture books, poetry, and biographies. 

Her straightforward storytelling incorporates colorful anecdotes, exquisite details, and authentic voices. I love this story and own my own copy.  Monica has graciously gifted us with a copy of Mary Anning's Curiosity for a giveaway. (Rafflecopter will pick the winner.)

1.   Who is your agent? 
I don’t have an agent representing my work in Canada. The publishing community in Toronto is small and one can approach them on one’s own; however, in the United States, I’m represented by Red Fox Literary Agency.
2.   How did you get the idea for your story?
I was reading Tracey Chevalier’s engrossing historical novel Remarkable Creatures. Chevalier imagines Mary Anning’s adult life—her friendships with the famous geologists of the time and with Elizabeth Philpot and including Mary’s further significant fossil finds. That set me off on the road to reading everything I could about Mary Anning.

I was drawn to Mary Anning’s native intelligence and tenacity—to be this way at such a young age amazed me. When you consider the poverty in which Mary lived and her lack of formal education, what she accomplished is astounding. Mary’s story seemed perfect for kids, given that she made her first major discovery, the Ichthyosaur, at age twelve, and that her curiosity remained with her all her life.

3.   What is your favorite part of the story?
As strange as it may sound, I’m fond of the back matter. Maybe because it took me so long to write!

I also enjoy the scene where Mary comes home with a goodly coin for an ammonite she’s sold to a tourist and Joe bursts in with news of his great find, the eye of the mythological Lyme Regis dragon.
4.   How long did it take to write? Get to a publisher?
I had a working relationship with the publisher at Groundwood Books, Sheila Barry. I pitched the idea and she liked it, but wanted to see it as a novel rather than another picture-book biography. Because I’d never before completed a novel for kids, it took me some time to research, draft an outline, and revise several times. It took about a year, and because I knew that Groundwood Books wanted it, I didn’t have to peddle it anywhere else.

Monica's workspace.

5.   What is your writing routine?
I’ve been writing regularly for decades now, so it’s become habit. I find mornings the best time for fresh writing, and afternoons for editing what I’ve written the day before. Writing flies when you’re inspired, but I’ve found that showing up encourages inspiration.

6.   What is your favorite writing craft book?
Collecting books about writing was once a hobby of mine, so I have many such books on my shelves. I still purchase the odd one here and there, but a book about writing has to offer me more than “story starters” and cheap advice.

I am encouraged by the struggle other writers have faced in getting words on the page, and there are many great classics on that theme. I’ve reread the following four books a few times:
Louise DeSalvo, The Art of Slow Writing
Bonnie Friedman, Writing Past Dark
Ralph Keyes, The Courage to Write
Brenda Ueland, If You Want To Write
7.   What inspires you to write?
These days, character—that is, the quirkiness of human nature—is a catalyst for me. How people interact with one another is grist for my mill.
8.   What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a sequel to Happy Birthday, Alice Babette. The new story depicts another chapter in the life of the lovable American expats Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.

I’ve also been trolling through my archives of material I wrote decades ago and found the first three chapters of a novel that actually has a spark, which I may complete this summer. I’m fond of middle-grade fiction.

9.   Words of advice for writers.
Show up on a regular basis. Don’t wait to be inspired. If you’ve got a passion for writing, you’ll write despite the rejections. Or you might not wish to push publication. No harm in that. Publication isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Writing for oneself has a certain joy that publication often tramples on.

Monica Kulling
Thank you, Monica for your words of wisdom and inspiration. I look forward to reading the craft books you recommended. You can find Monica on Facebook. 

From Kids Can Press: Monica Kulling was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and grew up in the Fraser Valley, surrounded by mountains. She studied creative writing at the University of Victoria, where her focus was poetry. When Monica enrolled in a course about children's literature, she was immediately hooked. 
You can purchase Mary Anning's Curiosity here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great interview, Janie, Monica is so inspiring. love her work space, too.

    1. Thanks, Kathy. Check out the craft books Monica suggested.

  2. Congrats on the new book! I've always loved the story of Mary Anning. I love the orange wall in your office! Great interview!

    1. Hi Tina, I love Monica’s work space too!

  3. "Writing for oneself has a certain joy that publication often tramples on." -- love this line!

    1. Such wisdom. Have to write for the joy of writing.

  4. Thanks for this great interview, I'm looking forward to reading this book.

  5. Great interview! What a fascinating book by a very cool author!!!

  6. Janie, appreciations for this visit.

    Monica, Viva! Canada.
    Your bringing Mary Anning's story of poverty & fossil finding
    achievement to young readers in a novel is going to be wonderful to read.
    I am embarrassed to say I only came to know your work only when
    our family visited the Grant Wood exhibit this past March in NYC.
    Then I also found your Mother Jones book, ideal for us, with two children's
    rights activists in our family. In Toronto we stopped by the Anansi shop (weekend day - enjoyable window peeks) & will expect to schedule our roaming better, next time. We love the ferry to the islands, your Bata museum emphasis on children in the shoeblacking business,
    the respect for Indigenous/First Peoples we found in many places &
    so much about your vibrant city.
    I too, find a boost in Brenda Ueland, vibrant news gal & I am interested
    in knowing/sharing the other titles.

    (no raffle for me, I've ordered my own copy of the Mary Anning.)

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support, Jan. It means so much to me.

  7. Ooh! Somehow I missed this book! I’m adding it to my TBR list. Looks great.

  8. I loved that Monica loves the back matter. As a teacher, I find that part of the book extremely interesting. Children come to love the additional information to the story as well. This was a good interview. So glad I dropped by. I was gifted, The Art of Slow Writing (my Kidlit friends know me well), and can't wait to read the other craft recs.

  9. Great interview, Janie -- Monica has many great insights for fellow writers. Love that you have to show up regularly for inspiration to flourish! Lovely office - a great work space.

    1. You are welcome. Monica’s insights are spot on.

  10. Thank you, Janie and Monica, for this insightful interview and giveaway. Looking forward to reading this new title!

  11. I find Mary Anning fascinating, too, Monica, and I'm really looking forward to reading your novel about her life. Your body of work is impressive and so helpful as mentor texts, especially for those interested in writing biographies. Congrats on the new book! And thanks, Janie, for featuring Monica today.

    1. It was my pleasure, too! Thank you Janie! And thank you, Patricia!

  12. Fantastic interview! And what an exquisite book cover.

  13. I too am looking forward to reading this book. Great interview Janie! Thank you so much for sharing, Monica!

  14. This interview is inspiring. I especially like Monica's words, "Writing for oneself has a certain joy that publication often tramples on."

    Thank you, Janie, for featuring Monica Kulling.

    1. Happy to share the book love.

    2. And I'm so happy you did, Janie. Thank you, again!