Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Kelly Polark

I am dancing around the room with excitement to introduce you to Kelly Polark.   She's a wonderful blogger, writer, mom, and someday she's going to teach me to dance so I no longer embarrass myself!  Seriously, she's my number one pick of blogging friends to go clubbing with.  And, she might just be the next big singing sensation. She's just one of those people who you know that if you needed something, you could rely on her.  I'm so glad she's in the blogging world!  

Kelly, thanks so much for stopping by to do this interview!  Please, tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Midwestern married mother of three. I used to teach grade school, but have been fortunate enough to stay home with my children for the last ten years. I am easing myself back into education by substitute teaching occasionally. I have written manuscripts in the genres of poetry, picture books, and chapter books. I love to laugh. My entertainment of choice is a rock concert (where I sing at the top of my lungs)!

What are you currently working on?

In the last month I finished final revisions and the query letter for a chapter book titled, "Rock 'n' Roll Princesses Wear Black." I adore my main character! I have recently sent out a query to a few agents. I was honestly sweating when I hit send. While I anxiously await a response from agents, I want to work on a few magazine submissions and revisit a collection of poetry I started last summer.

What made you start to write seriously?

I've been a stay at home mom for 10+ years. About four years ago, I felt I needed something extra to stimulate my creativity. As a former teacher and a mom who loves to read to her children, I wanted to be a part of the world of children's literature. I joined SCBWI and started taking online writing classes and went from there.

What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you? Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I queried a few agents for the first time ever, and it is nervewracking. I have researched various agents and query letters for many weeks now. My critique group has helped me strengthen my story and my query letter. I sometimes find it surprising when my critique group suggests something to change and I think, "Why didn't I think of that?!" It is so beneficial to get feedback of your work from a variety of people.

If you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I have many blogs that I enjoy for different reasons, but my favorites are probably ones that make me giggle because I can be immature like that. I really enjoy the supportive blogging/writing community.

What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

I don't have a particular favorite, but the ones that have gotten the most traffic by far are the two where I posted a video of me dancing. If you make a fool of yourself, people will come see it! 

Come to think of it, my personal favorite is a post about my children's answers to questions I asked them about me. Some were so darn cute!  If you have small children, do this and save it for giggles later!  I printed their answers and have it in a keepsake box.

What online resource have you found most helpful?

I learned about Verla Kay's message boards at a local SCBWI meeting, and I have learned more there about writing and the publishing business than anywhere else. I continue to learn from different blogs on a weekly basis!

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Making time to do it. I really need to make a schedule and stick to it.

What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

I put on some Avenged Sevenfold or Motley Crue, headbang to a song, splash my face with ice water, go outside and run around the house once and sit down with my notebook and the ideas just start coming. I'm just kidding, I have no tricks except sometimes I set it aside for a few days (even a week) and go back to it and just make myself do it. I dreaded making a few major changes to my manuscript after my writing group critiqued it, but once I sat down to do it, it was much easier than I thought!

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

I would say "Where the Sidewalk Ends" by Shel Silverstein made the biggest impact on my life. I have read that book so many times as a child and an adult. I have several poems memorized from childhood. He is the reason I love poetry (and I really liked his Playboy articles as well...just kidding!).

What is your practical goal with your writing? Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

Last year my practical goal was to be published in magazines. I was very happy to reach that goal in a variety of magazines. This year's goal is to get an agent that loves my work and sells my book! My reach for the stars goal is to be on a daytime talk show for my book. There are so many stay at home moms that watch those shows (though I have to say I don't as much anymore as I did when I had infants). Why don't they cater to these moms with interviews with children's authors and book recommendations for children? Like once a week for five minutes?? And I'd love to hype my book on The Soup on E!, because it's my favorite show (and I don't even think they hype books on it, but this is my reach for the stars dream).

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

I feel very satisfied when I finish a manuscript, and it is submittance ready. Acceptances (on magazines so far) are fulfilling and help boost my confidence, but I have to say the supportive writing/blogging community is pretty freaking awesome. I sure do like my blogger buddies!

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

I love my life and wouldn't want to be anyone else ever. And I am a very cautious person so would not have any sort of crazy adventures like in many books. I know, I'm a chicken!

What are the other distractions in your life?

My family (not exactly a distraction, but my main focus in life!), Facebook, and the pile of laundry I'm ignoring right now.

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

I dislike coffee. My morning beverage of choice is a small OJ and a small chocolate milk or skim milk. But I do enjoy green tea occasionally too!

Thanks Kelly!  You are so right about the daytime talk show thing.  That's an untapped market of moms!   Everyone, show Kelly some love by leaving her a question in the comment section--she'll be stopping by to answer them.  And, make sure to visit her blog on the way out.  You won't be disappointed!  

And, after that, I'd love it if you stopped by Casey's blog, Literary Rambles.  Jon, Tina, and I are there to discuss the newest internet sensation, W.I.B.I.J.?!.  Everything you wanted to know (and more).


  1. Thanks for the great interview, Kelly! I was wondering how the agent search is going, and what you do to get through the anxiety of waiting to hear back about queries. (Other than making vlogs with funny outtakes!) I can't wait to see Joel McHale hype your book!

  2. Great interview, guys!

    Kelly, cute skirt! Also, at your blog you do tons of helpful things, share interviews with various agents, highlights of the Oscars, introduce us to new music. And your class: any more lessons from your comedy class that you can share with us?

  3. Ditto on The Soup dream! I'd spit my wonderfully delicious coffee everywhere if I saw your book featured. Of course you'd let us all know ahead of time.

    So, Kelly, your picture and personality are decidedly un-Midwest, which I can say since I am very Mw. Do you sometimes feel like you should be living in LA or NY and if not, what Midwestern qualities help you write, aside from our at-birth ability to perfectly pronounce words quite clearly and therefore spell flawlessly. (Ha!)

  4. I think I need to try the Motley Crue strategy! Thanks for the great interview! I love Kelly's joy for her writing and her life. An inspiration!

  5. Tina--I totally didn't introduce her blog effectively, did I? I agree, Kelly's blog is an enormous wealth of information. And so much fun. Great points.

    Jon--thanks for the great question, can't wait to hear the answer.

    KCA--That Motley Crue strategy would be awesome at getting the blood pumping! Kelly definitely is an inspiration!

  6. No, Heather you totally did introduce her perfectly. I almost wrote up there too, that I want to go clubbing with Kelly. She is so much about fun. My comment was purely selfish! I just want to hear about the comedy class!!!

  7. What was the biggest lesson you learned after talking with both the agents on the phone?

  8. Hi all! I am pulling up my gym shorts to my belly button and heading over to the elementary school to teach P.E. this morning, but this afternoon I'll be back to answer the awesome questions!!
    THANK YOU so much, Heather for interviewing me. I am thrilled and flattered to be featured today!

  9. Great interview! I love reading Kelly's blog and remember her first post about black fingernails. I am sure her novel is just as awesome. Love the title! And LOL @ splashing ice water on your face and running around the house one time before writing! ;)

  10. Fun interview! A mom who likes Avenged Sevenfold?!? Not bad ;) What are some of your favourite songs (by any band)? And could you tell me a little bit more about your collection of poetry? Do you write poetry for kids or young adults?

  11. Great interview! I can tell you'd be a lot of fun to hang out with! Best of luck with your agent search and I totally agree on the reading blogs that make me laugh!

  12. This is a lot fun! I'll have to read some aloud to Kelly's biggest fan, my Boy.

  13. Great interview! I'd love to hear a little more about your chapter book, the title is very catchy!

  14. Fun interview! I love these questions. The title of your book is wonderful, Kelly - perfect for a chapter book. I love Verla Kay's site. :-)

  15. Great interview. It was nice to see a bit more of the 'mysterious rocker-writer', Kelly!

  16. Heather - The agent search is slow. I've gotten a few no's and a few fulls, and haven't heard back from some so far. I've been substitute teaching a lot more lately plus taking an online class, so my usual writing output has been much much less lately. But that's what I've been doing while waiting to hear back. I also am planning to make more revisions to my manuscript after some of Marietta's wonderful suggestions. So I will tackle that next, and then submit to more agents if needed after that!
    Tina - Thanks! I have to wear leggings under that skirt though;it's SO short! My husband and I are loving that Get Funny class. I am posting a Part Two of what I'm learning next week!
    Jon - I am actually a very stereotypical Midwestern I think (except for my headbanging ways ;). I really am a homebody, and home with my family is my favorite place to be. Though I guess, I do like to get out for fun every once in a while, too, but it's usually only once a month, if that! I have never wanted to live anywhere else, but I would LOVE to visit LA or NY one day. That would be awesome! My sis lives in Chicago, so I go there every once in a while, but I always feel like a country mouse in the city when I do. She is definitely a city girl! Thank you for thinking I'm more mod than I really am! :)
    Oh! And the Midwestern thing...except for the speaking clearly thing :), I do like that where I live, I can get a feel for the rural community but be close to a city community within an hour so I can relate to both worlds personally and in my writing.

  17. Thanks, KCA!
    Oh! And to clarify to all, I really don't do the turn up music, splash water and run around strategy. I was just kidding :)! But I do turn up the tunes at other times in my house!
    Laura - Good question. Probably that MG's are what agents are getting the most contracts for currently, plus that editors are being very choosy right now. I also learned that WOW! Agents REALLY know the business in and out. I knew they did, but to hear both speak so intelligently and passionately about the business was really informative, fun, and confirmed to me that I want an agent to help me submit instead of doing it on my own.
    Rena - Thanks for being my blogger buddy from the very beginning!

  18. Charlie - I love most rock music. I can name twenty much loved songs but I'd say my top favorite tunes are "Unholy Confessions" by Avenged Sevenfold, "Famous Last Words" by My Chemical Romance, "Somebody Told Me" by the Killers, "To Be Loved" by Papa Roach and "Afraid" by Motley Crue.
    I write poetry for kids. I have completed four collections of poetry (topics are birds, Halloween parodies, Plug into Poetry - (electronics), and Rockabet (an ABC's of rock n roll). I am about halfway through a sporty collection. I just wish poetry was more marketable and sold more....not many agents or editors take it.
    Lisa - Thank you, you are too sweet!
    Anita - Boy is awesome. Give that guy a hug from me!

  19. Paul and Shannon - Thanks! The short synopsis is: Stefani Lucas loves rock music and the very cool color of black, in fact that’s all she wears. When classmates tease her about her wardrobe and even double dare her to (gasp!) wear another color, Stef wonders if she should give in and try something new. New clothes and a surprise performance by her dad’s band at the grade school help Stef and her friend Gabi realize it is better to just be yourself.
    Angela - I don't know about mysterious, but thanks! :)

  20. Three words: I love Kelly. Okay, two more: Great interview.

  21. I'm a HUGE Kelly Polark fan! Thank you SO much for the interview. And as for my favorite blog post of hers, it's definitely the video of her dancing. It's priceless!

  22. Awww, thanks Debra and Suzanne! You all are making me smile big today!

  23. Great questions Heather and fun answers Kelly. That is an *awesome* photo! I'd want to go dancing w/Kelly, too. Best wishes w/your querying, Kelly. I enjoyed reading about your writing process and the tips you have for us. Thanks to you both!

  24. Great interview. Kelly = fun!


  25. Great interview! Kelly is such a doll. :) Great things are going to happen for her this year...

  26. Great interview! That Kelly Polark sure is fun. : )

  27. Thanks so much, Sharon. I hope for all of us!
    Denise - You know it, sistah!

  28. Hi Kelly - Great Interview!! Good luck with your agent search - I think this is your year! I think you should dance with your book on Ellen!

  29. Kiki--Hi! Right back! Kelly book dancing with Ellen would be perfect!

  30. Great interview! I adore Kelly P.! She's one of my favorite blogger friends too!

  31. Thanks Kelly H-Y! Kelly P. is awesome!


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