Interview with teacher, Kinsy McVay
Tell us about what you write.
Actually, as an artist, I had always wanted to illustrate children’s books, and had never really given much thought to writing them. My wife and I have always had this grand plan: she would write the books; I would illustrate them, and although this dream has not yet come to fruition, it remains a definite possibility in our future.
When I decided to write my first book, Just Line Around, it came from a need that I was experiencing in my elementary art classroom. As early as Kindergarten, I begin introducing my students to the Elements of Art (the basic building blocks of all works of art: color, shape, value, etc.). The first of these elements that we learn about is the element of Line. As I began looking for children’s books to supplement my lessons (a must for any elementary teacher), I was unable to really find what I was looking for when it came to discussing Line, so, on a whim, I decided to come up with my own story.
The idea started out simply as a horizontal line that hiccups and discovers that he can do more than lie flat. After that, I added other examples of lines that can be found in art (or math), and eventually used a single, continuous line to mimic a Van Gogh masterpiece. Along the way, I tried to encourage my students’ creativity and positive self-esteem.
Do you have anything in print? If so, where can we get it?
I do have one book in print called Just Line Around. It is available at multiple online retailers such as Amazon.com and Barnes&Noble.com.
Do you have a favorite character or subject that you write about?
I definitely feel that any further stories that I write will focus on encouraging creativity in today’s children. With so much emphasis on fill-in-the-blank, standardized testing in our country today, the right side of children’s brains is being neglected. I have noticed that many kids become easily frustrated and discouraged when presented with a creative challenge (like art) that doesn’t involve step-by-step instructions to get them from point A to point B. I want children (and some adults) to understand that creativity and problem-solving skills are developed by the doing of things, and not necessarily by the end result.
Have you written anything else?
Not yet, though I do have some ideas that I am currently fleshing out.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone else. Does anyone inspire you?
As far as other authors go, I would say that I was definitely inspired by the children’s books The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds. The lessons that his books teach on trying and enjoying the act of drawing are ones that I use every year (repeatedly) in my own classroom.
Truthfully, though, the only reason that my book even exists is because of my students. It was by working and interacting with them that I came to realize that I even had a story to tell. I only hope that they learn as much from me as I do from them.
How long have you been writing?
I have only been writing for just over a year. I have always been more involved with creating images to accompany and enhance a story rather than the story itself. I am finding that I can see the images for my books clearly in my head, but the text is harder for me to grasp. Even my most simple sentences can go through multiple revisions as I try to get the words just right.
Do you participate in NaNoWriMo? Why, or why not?
I had honestly never heard of NaNoWriMo prior to this interview. If my books ever begin to exceed a few hundred words, I will definitely look into participating. It would be a motivating and exciting event to participate in.
Who drives the story, you or your characters?
My stories are definitely driven by the needs of the characters. The entire time that I am writing, I am trying to imagine what my character would do or discover next. What does he/she need to learn or to teach my audience?
Who proofreads and critiques your work?
Just about anyone that I can get my hands on! Since my book was designed for teachers, I had a number of them look it over and make suggestions. I also showed it to many family members, but I relied the most heavily on the input from my wife. I have a tendency to get tunnel vision when working on something, so I try to have her look at it regularly to help keep my perspective wider. I’m always asking her questions as I work, and many times I find myself answering her with “Oh, I didn’t think of that...” That’s not to say that we always agree (where would be the fun in that?), but I definitely couldn’t do this without her. Once I have assimilated all of the information from my friends, family, and coworkers, I then have it professionally critiqued before I begin looking for a publisher.
Where do you get your ideas?
The ideas for my stories have come primarily from the needs that I see in my students. I am always trying to think of stories that would, hopefully, have a positive influence on their lives, either to aid in their education or to help them make positive character choices.
Where do you write?
I will usually either write during my lunch breaks at work, or in the evenings at home after my boys are in bed. I begin by writing the story ideas in my sketchbooks along with rough sketches of the illustrations. Once I get the basic story hammered out, I type it out on the computer and begin focusing more on wording, sentence structure, and the overall flow of the story.
When do you write – set times or as the mood moves you?
I definitely write as the mood moves me. There have been many times that I have considered setting aside specific times to write and/or create art, but I have yet to do it. It is still something that I hope to become better at in the future.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would ask and why?
I have always wished that I could have spoken with J.R.R. Tolkien. I think that it would be amazing to sit down with him and discuss all of the effort and time that went into creating the worlds and characters in his many books.
Do you use the Internet to check facts, or the library?
I rely heavily on the internet, though I always consult multiple sources to verify information. Of course, since I work at a school, I have easy access to reference books that are appropriate for my target audience.
When you're not writing, what do you like to do?
When I have the time, I like to paint and draw, read, and spend time around the house with my wife and sons. Currently, my boys and I are torn between playing video games and running around the house shooting Nerf guns at each other.
Who's your favorite author (other than yourself) and why?
I don’t know if I could ever narrow it down to one favorite author. When I was in the 5th grade, though, I got The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks as a Christmas present from my parents. It was the first novel that I had ever read. I devoured that book and never turned back. Because of his books, I became enraptured with science fiction and fantasy novels and came to love authors like Tolkien, Herbert, and Asimov, as well as more contemporary authors like C.S. Friedman and Terry Goodkind.
What's your favorite book (other than one of your own) and why?
That’s a tough one... I think, though, that it would probably be The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks. It has a wonderful combination of action/adventure, drama, and suspense. Throughout most of the book, the main characters are being stalked by a vicious demon, and every time it got close to getting them, I could feel their fear seeping into me. That’s one of the reasons that books can be so enthralling to me. I find myself being drawn into the story and sharing in the experiences of the characters, and that just doesn’t happen with a movie.
What's the last book, other than your own, that you read and really enjoyed?
The Shack by William Young was the last book that I really enjoyed. It is a very emotional story about a man who tragically loses his young daughter, so, as a father, I related immediately. A few years later, he has still not recovered, until he receives an invitation from God to meet Him back at the shack were she died. It is a truly inspiring story that really made me reevaluate how God views me and my relationship with him. It is one of those books that I will read repeatedly throughout my life.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount of words every day. Do you do this? Why or why not?
No, I don’t set any kind of daily goal for myself when it comes to writing. My schedule is never the same twice, and between being a husband, father, and teacher, I’m just excited any time I have energy left to devote to being creative. It sometimes feels like I’m waiting for the stars to align...