Monday, October 1, 2007

Margot Finke sings "Waltzing Matilda"

Margot Finke is well known for her rhyming books, her informative website, her critique service and her school visits. I am delighted to have the opportunity to interview her here.

Shari: My first question is prompted by difficulties I had with rhyme when my crit-partners came from different places. We don’t all pronounce words the same. Does the fact that you are Australian make it more difficult to rhyme?

I don’t think so Shari. Many countries have regional language differences, including Australia. England particularly has many different areas where the language for centuries has developed it’s own words, and individual ways of pronunciation. For rhyme, you need to follow the accepted language of a country, not dialect. Of course, if you are writing for a specific region, then it is fine to use the local dialect or pronunciation.

Shari: You have so many wonderful rhyming books for children, what made you go with the e-book format?

I wanted all seven books to be marketed as a series. This was not happening for me with traditional publishers, so when Writers Exchange was recommended to me, I contacted Sandy Cummins, the CEO, and we ended up coming to a mutual agreement about my books being published as a series. I also noticed how computer savvy kids today are, and I felt that quality e-books would be a better choice for caring parents – better than trashy computer games, or dumb comics on TV. Also, teachers are always looking for books that are a fun read, as well as educational. My rhyming series, about animals from the US and Australia, offers facts that kids can easily absorb. MY BOOKS:
I also have two webpages that offer more information for kids who are interested.
Down-under Fun -
Wild US Critters -

Shari: Your publisher, Writer’s Exchange E-Publishing is in Australia, is that just coincidence?

Yes. Although later on I discovered that CEO Sandy Cummins lived in Atherton, a town up near the Daintree rainforest in northern Queensland, where I lived many years ago when I was young. The Daintree is shrinking, thanks to global warming and the encroachment of humans. It is a fantastically beautiful place, and houses some of the rarest animals in the world,

Shari: Your Australian background and subject matter must make you very popular at schools. Will you tell us what you do for a school visit?

School visits are such fun. I come into the class wearing my Aussie Swagman garb ( hat has brim trimmed with corks to keep away flies) my “swag” ( clothes etc) on a stick over my shoulder, and holding a blackened “billy” for making tea over an open fire, plus a well used frying pan. I walk in singing Waltzing Matilda! Boy, does this get their attention ASAP.

I have three separate programs; all of them are tied into a fun PowerPoint Presentation that includes the sounds of the various animals in my books.

Kindergarten and grade one kids have short attention spans, so half an hour is usually just right – this includes fun Aussie words they can use on friends and family, a little about Australia and its animals, and then reading one of my stories and showing all my books (and sounds) via PowerPoint.

Grades 2-3 get all of the above, plus a more in depth look at Australia and its animals, and some details about how my books were illustrated. I also answer any questions.

For grades 4-5, as well as what’s previously mentioned, I also offer one or two fun writing exercises, and go into more detail about all aspects of the writing and illustration of my series. These kids have lots of questions.

I also bring gifts. Bookmarks for older classes, and “Great Answer” stickers for the younger kids, to encourage them to put up their hands and ask questions. I promise to answer all e-mails they send me. Make your presentation fun. Go in a costume that fits your story. Wear bunny ears and a fluffy tail if your book is about rabbits!

Shari: Do you find e-books to be a hard sell?
Yes. This is a relatively new technology. Parents from this generation are conditioned to think of reading as holding a hard-copy paper book. Kids are flexible. They will try either way. If a book on CD is fun, hooks their interest, and has a high quality look and presentation, they will read it. When kids of today are parents, books on download or on CD will be a far easier sell.

You have to get out there and promote your book – local TV, radio, newspapers, books stores, or other places where your book fits in. Do readings in your local library, and donate a CD copy of your book to them. But you have to promote no matter who publishes your book. – unless you are famous, and your publisher is actually willing to fund a national TV and radio blitz. I find school visits a great way to promote book sales and reach my target audience.

Shari: Besides school visits, what other methods of promotion have you tried and how successful have they been?

Apart from all I mentioned above, a website is vital. Kids and parents want to know about you, so make it easy for them. Make it fun, interesting and easy to navigate. Have a separate page for your books. Polish up you bio. Create business cards and give them out wholesale – with your web address and e-mail + the fact you write books for children. I do workshops for several writing conferences, and I always take my PowerPoint (on laptop) and a supply of books with me. I join others selling their books in my downtime. Handing out postcards is another way of promoting your books.

Shari: What do you think the future is for e-books?

It will take time. Readers are slow to change ingrained habits. And a good e-book reader that accepts picture books would help a LOT! They need to be reasonably priced, light, and easy to use. This is in the works, but as we all know, nothing happens fast in the world of writing and publishing.

Shari: I know you do a lot of networking, attending writer’s conferences, etc. What would you recommend to a writer who can’t attend conferences for financial or other reasons? Are there other ways to network?

Aha, now I can plug Lea Schiz’s FREE writing conference. This is their second year.
The Muse Online Writers Conference
will take place on
OCTOBER 8 - 14, 2007Bookmark this site
and come back often to see the latest presenters.

This year I am proud to be presenting a workshop on “How to Self-edit Your Mid Grade Novel” There will be many other writers, editors and agents, happy to chat with you and answer questions, either via e-mail, or in private chat forums. Don’t miss this one mates!

Another easy and free way to network is to join one of the many online children’s writing lists. There you will find writers willing to answer your questions, entrĂ©e into one or more private critique groups, and the realization that you are not alone in your desire to write for children. Many members of these lists are established and well published writers. Check out their websites. These sites are chock full of hard earned writing and publishing insights and information. For a list of my favourite sites go here:

Shari: Thank you for giving me this interview. Before we end this please tell us what you are working on now?

It’s been fun, Shari. Thank you for having me. At the moment, I am working on researching publishers. I need to find homes for two mid-grade adventures for boys and a ghost mystery for girls.

For Margot’s writing advice, critique service, school visits, or to purchase her wonderful e-books go to


Rachel said...


Great interview. Margot critiqued one of my stories about a year ago and gave me some great tips. Thanks Shari and Margot for sharing.


Shari Lyle-Soffe said...


I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. Margot is a wealth of information. I feel honored to have her on my blog.


Jewel Sample said...

Enjoyed the interview Shari! Great information on promoting and e-books.

Mayra Calvani said...

Thanks for the great interview! I found it interesting and informative!