Once upon a time, there was an author who wanted to visit her grandmother in the woods…and ran into a big, bad editor?
Welcome back to First Stories, where we discuss the very first stories that inspired writers to, well, keep writing, keep revising, and keep…editing. Today, I’m so delighted to welcome Rebecca Kraft Rector to my website to talk about everything from her first story to her latest picture book, LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR, which releases on September 6!! If I could throw confetti and do a dance online, I would. Just imagine the gif for that! I can’t wait to dive into this conversation with a talented writer who obviously has a knack for fracturing fairytales…and for humor.
Rebecca Kraft Rector is a retired librarian and the author of more than thirty fiction and nonfiction books for children. Her cats Ollie and Opal keep her company while she writes. When she isn’t writing and eating chocolate, she’s trying to keep deer out of her garden.
LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR is Rebecca’s second picture book, coming from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster on September 6, 2022. Visit Rebecca at her website: https://rebeccakraftrector.wordpress.com.
Me: Rebecca! Welcome to First Stories!
Rebecca: Thanks for having me!
Me: So, tell me about your first story? The one that really pushed you to consider publishing. What inspired you to write it? What was it about?
Rebecca: The first story I can remember writing was in elementary school–an apocalyptic story about fleas on a dog (the flea powder kills them all off). I continued to write many stories but it wasn’t until I was working as a librarian that I met a published author. I realized my colleague—someone just like me—had been able to get her stories published. She kindly sent one of my stories to her editor and I received my first rejection. It was a story about a magical horse that I’d written as a bored child.
Me: So many of the writers who have been guests were writer as children! I love that! I still have my folder of stories from when I was little. Maybe I’ll do something with them someday. I love that someone was willing to help you get your foot in the door! Writing community is so critical.
Where is that story now?
Rebecca: That story has been rewritten, work-shopped, and rewritten again. I still love it and I’m trying to get the nerve to send it out again!
Me: YES! I love that you didn’t give up on this story and that we may see it in print one day!
Are there any themes in that story that you can see in your writing today?
Rebecca: Friendship, family, and the love of horses are often themes for me. As a long-time horse lover, I often include horses in my stories. My first published middle grade novel included a robo-horse. Sadly, none of my picture book stories with horses have been published. (yet)
Me: AHHH!!! A fellow horse-lover!! I have adored horses for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to take riding lessons and to have my dream come true – to own a horse (my sweet quarter horse, Sugar) for eight years. It’s a love that never really goes away…I still hope to ride regularly again and maybe even have another horse. 🙂 Sooooo, I REALLY hope I get to read one of your horse picture books one day!
Looking back, what elements of that first story made it unmarketable? Did you receive feedback on that story? What did that feedback teach you?
Rebecca: The editor who rejected that first version of the story was kind enough to give feedback. She said she wished that the magical elements had been explored more thoroughly and had added to the complications of the plot. It was my first rejection and it showed me that everyone sees a story differently. I had no idea how to implement her advice without changing my story completely, so it was many years before I was able to re-imagine my story with her words in mind.
Me: The dawning comprehension that not everyone reads your story the way you do…it’s wild, isn’t it? What a gift to have received targeted feedback from an editor on that first story!
Why is that “first story” special to you? How was it important for your writing journey?
Rebecca: That story is still so special to me! It holds all the childhood yearning I had for a horse (I lived in the suburbs and was an adult before I ever took riding lessons and eventually got my own horse). Comparing that first version of the story and its journey (and mine) to the story it is today shows me how a story can change with feedback and still keep its heart. But you have to be willing to listen and revise and try again.
Me: I love that our “horse stories” are flip-flopped! I want to talk more about your horse and where you ride…but I guess we should stick to your First Story…this time!
Tell me about your upcoming book release – LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR! What can you tell us about this book? How did you come up with the idea for this book? Does it relate at all to your “first story”?
Rebecca: Here’s part of the publisher’s blurb for LITTLE RED AND THE BIG BAD EDITOR:
In this clever and playful fractured fairy tale picture book, the Big Bad Wolf is so distracted by Little Red’s poorly written thank you note to her grandmother that he keeps missing the chance to eat her!
I came up with the idea when I wanted to try a new slant on an old tale. I’d unknowingly done that with my first published picture book. SQUISH SQUASH SQUISHED has been called a modern twist on TOO MUCH NOISE. LITTLE RED’s original title was Little Red Writing Hood, but it was changed during revisions. I immediately knew that Red needed to write a thank you note to Granny for that red cape. The story took off from there. The story itself doesn’t seem to relate at all to my first story, except perhaps to the ideas of family and a spunky girl. However, they both share the idea that a story has to be revised a million times to make it ‘right.’
Me: Rebecca – thank you! It’s been wonderful to have you as a guest on First Stories! I am thrilled to celebrate the upcoming release of your second picture book!! Woo hoo!!
Anything else you would like to share about your writing journey? (More upcoming release news, awards for previous books, etc.!)
Rebecca: Like everyone else, I had to learn to keep going and never give up. That’s still hard to do. One tip that helps me is to keep it fun. I try to make myself laugh when I write. Or cry or be nervous along with the character.
I laughed a lot writing LITTLE RED and it seems to have paid off. In LITTLE RED’s first professional review, Kirkus called it “funny” and “deliciously satisfying.” Kirkus also loved Shanda McCloskey’s fabulous art. They called her vibrant, colorful images, filled with character and humor, “aesthetically appealing.” I call them fun! Take a look below:
Me: What fantastic reviews!! I’m super excited to welcome Shanda to First Stories early in 2023. You’re right – her artwork is so vivid and fun. Thanks again for stopping by First Stories!
Rebecca: Thanks for having me!
First Stories will return in two weeks when I welcome the awesome Ana Siqueira! We’ll talk about delicious food, writing, and…of course…her very first story!