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  • Writer's pictureLittle Thoughts Press

Interview: Meredith Flory


A photograph of Little Thoughts Press Issue Two: Natural Wonder with a sneak peek of the story "Rain, Rain Come to Stay" by Meredith Flory. The cover of the issue has a natural tree branch, rocks, and greenery against a pink and blue watercolor painted background.

 

Meredith Flory is a military spouse, mother, educator, and writer currently living in El Paso, TX. Her short stories and writing on travel, parenting, military life, and pop culture have appeared in various publications. She can be found at www.meredithflory.com and on Twitter @MeredithFlory.

 

Little Thoughts Press: In your story, "Rain, Rain Come to Stay," two children, Dylan and Tina, are thrilled to finally see rain again after their family moves to the desert. Their neighbors are less enthused, though, and the siblings end up going door-to-door delivering rain gear to convince the other children in the neighborhood to come out and play in the rain. I was struck by the community activism at the heart of this story and the effort these kids make to bring their neighbors out of their comfort zones and introduce them to a new experience. It's a message that feels very fitting for our current time.


Can you talk a bit about where the idea for this story came from, and how you balance imparting lessons with storytelling when writing for a young audience?


Meredith Flory: My kids love outdoor adventures, and so much of my writing is inspired by our play outside as a family. We are from the East Coast and love rainstorms, but we currently live in a desert with over 300 days of sunshine a year. When it rains here my kids always splash and play in the mud, and when we get the occasional inch of snow they are overjoyed. They are often the only kids outside because so many people here are not used to precipitation. When we do find other families to play with in rain or snow, it’s always fun to see all the ways people cobble together gear since we don’t need it most of the year here - socks on the hands, parents' oversized gear, etc…


I think my background in teaching and studying children’s literature academically helps me notice when I’m sounding too much like a mom as I write. Making sure to play and continue getting excited about learning helps me think about how the characters might make it a learning experience, rather than being told it is. Younger children are so excited to learn something new, and children’s literature should reflect that. It’s easy to lose that as an adult, but playing outside can help. I have another manuscript about a little girl who sees a porcupine in the wild for the first time that’s not based on my children, it's me! I saw one camping in my 30s and I was delighted, so I tried to think about how I would have reacted if I was my daughter’s age.




Little Thoughts Press: Issue 2: Natural Wonder is all about celebrating nature. Do you have a favorite spot in nature or a place you have visited where the wonder of nature was on full display?


Meredith Flory: Yes! As a military family, we move a lot and always try to visit different National Parks. A few years ago we went “glamping” outside of Big Bend National Park and it was the first time I saw the night sky in a place without light pollution. Seeing the Milky Way for real was amazing! In this month’s Muse Magazine by Cricket Media, I have an article inspired by that trip about ways kids can help protect dark sky areas and lower light pollution.


There’s also a waterfall in east Tennessee that’s really special to several generations of my family, and I always try to visit when I’m there. I love watching my kids skip rocks, hike, and play in the water in the same place I did as a kid.



Little Thoughts Press: What initially drew you to writing kid-lit and what do you find most challenging and rewarding about writing for a young audience?


Meredith Flory: I’ve been a bookworm for as long as I can remember, so children’s books are where I first fell in love with reading. That’s what is most rewarding! Your story might be the thing that helps a child fall in love with reading or a certain subject. My son is obsessed with sharks, and that happened after we read a picture book about them. I love watching him learn so much about this one thing because of a really cool book we read. My mom is a kindergarten teacher, so we always had tons of books. My husband and I both used to teach, and I’ve done work on literacy in other jobs as well. So, after a long time of teaching, book reviewing, etc., I decided that I wanted to try writing my own.


I think the most challenging thing about working in children’s lit is the expectation from people without a lot of knowledge of publishing and writing who assume it’s something easy or not as important as other kinds of writing. That’s a big bummer! Writing for kids is important and takes certain writing skills. Also learning to write in different ways was challenging since I write for adults too.



Little Thoughts Press: Which kid-lit authors and books were your favorites growing up?


Meredith Flory: I have always been a voracious reader, but there are a couple I can think of that really impacted my writing. I like to joke that I bookended my academic career with Roald Dahl’s Matilda. The first book report I wrote in elementary school was on Matilda, and my project that I defended to get my master’s degree in children’s literature was on Matilda. That character made me feel like it was awesome to be a bookworm.


My other favorite as a kid was Mary Downing Hahn. I love ghost stories and she was my go-to at the library for a while! She actually came and did a talk at my public library about writing when I was in elementary school, and I begged my mom to take me. I sat through it and then she signed all of the paperbacks I had bought at Scholastic book fairs by her. They are on a shelf next to my writing desk.


When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant was my favorite picture book and I still have my childhood copy. Its memoir, southern front-porch style storytelling is probably closest to what I do now from my favorites.



Little Thoughts Press: And what about today? Any kid-lit writers you love and want to shout out?


Meredith Flory: Ah! So many and I’m afraid I’ll forget someone. Jan Brett has been writing since I was a kid, but I really fell in love with her books as an adult. I love exploring her extra stories in the art, and her voice really appeals to me. Mindy Alyse Weiss is just the biggest champion of up-and-coming kid lit writers on Twitter. Matt Forest Esenwine has lovely books and has encouraged me personally - Flashlight Night is my favorite of his and goes really well with the Natural Wonder theme. Mo Willems and Lane Smith always make my kids and me laugh, and they both have amazing careers.


I’m going to also shout out a children’s illustrator. So often they don’t get the same attention as writers but they are half of the storytelling and make our books beautiful! My absolute favorite right now is Raissa Figueroa. I have bought two of her prints, and both of the Oona books she did with Kelly DiPucchio (a fabulous writer). Whenever I’m trying to develop characters, I try to think about what they might look like if she illustrated them for me. I found her because of my love of mermaids, which reminds me of Maggie Tokuda-Hall. I fell in love with her writing when I read The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, which is not children’s, but her new picture book Love in the Library is just lovely.


I post a lot of what we are reading on Instagram @merediththemom so follow me there because I could list authors all day! I try to connect books to homeschool lessons, holidays, or current events on there to be a resource for parents.


Also, when my critique partners get published I can’t wait to shout about their books! They are winning contests and signing with agents. I love their stories, and they keep me on track.



Little Thoughts Press: What advice would you give to young writers?


Meredith Flory: Read a LOT. Different types of books, lots of different authors. Think about what you liked and didn’t like in each book.


Fill up notebooks with lots of writing and doodling that you don’t have to share with anyone and doesn’t have to have grammar like you need for school.


Then, when you do write a story you are ready to share, know that someone telling you how you can improve it - a teacher, a friend, a parent - doesn’t mean you aren’t a good writer, it means they love your stories and want to help you get better. I still have to remind myself of this when I get feedback from other writers or my agent.


Also, if you are serious, there are lots of contests and places that can publish kid’s writing if it’s okay with your adults — like Little Thoughts Press! But also contests at school, the library, local newspapers… I volunteered for the library in the summer when I was younger and had an op-ed piece published in the local newspaper at 16. You are never too young to use your voice.



Little Thoughts Press: Is there anything else you wish I had asked? Any upcoming projects, publications, or other news you'd like to share?


Meredith Flory: In March, I signed with the Blue Ridge Literary Agency to represent my picture book manuscripts and I’m so excited to start this part of my publishing journey with my agent Dawn Dowdle.


Also, for Mental Health Awareness Month, I’m writing and doing some advocacy work I’m proud of to help other families. An op-ed on my experiences as a military spouse accessing mental health care appeared on Military.com this month and I’ll be doing some work with Partners in Promise as well.









1 comentario


Carrie S Fannin
Carrie S Fannin
05 jul 2022

I loved hearing about the true life inspiration for your story & your shoutout to illustrators.

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