Love, Laughter, and Life

Adventures With a Book Lover

Author Interview: Meet Vivian Kirkfield & Giveaway


Welcome, Vivian Kirkfield! Welcome, readers! Let’s get this party, I mean Author Interview, going!

Happy Universal Music Day! We decided to celebrate Universal Music Day by introducing Vivian’s new picture book, Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. Read more about Universal Music Day here.

I met Vivian Kirkfield online through the wonderful kidlit community. She is a fascinating online friend. I can only hope our paths intersect some day so we can meet in person. Think WASHINGTON state, Vivian. Yakima Valley.

I’ve enjoyed reading about Vivian’s new picture book releases and her fun travels and adventures. To celebrate her newest picture book release, I’ve invited Vivian to visit and answer a few questions. But first, here is her new book.

*Be sure to read all the way to the bottom. Vivian Kirkfield is offering a bound ARC of Making Their Voices Heard to one reader. Be sure to comment below to get your name in the hat!

cover 2

Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe

Written by Vivian Kirkfield

Illustrated by Alleanna Harris

Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020


The Interview

I was so excited to read Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee, January 14, 2020). I had no idea Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe knew each other. How did you find out about this special friendship?

At the end of 2014, soon after I took a class in writing nonfiction picture books, I was surfing the internet, looking for ideas for stories (a homework assignment for that class) and came across a photo of Ella and Marilyn, sitting together at a nightclub. The blurb under the photo talked about how Marilyn had helped Ella get a booking at a top nightclub in Hollywood. I was intrigued…and I started digging deeper to find out more about it. But, as is the case with many story ideas, I couldn’t find anything to substantiate whether or not Ella and Marilyn were friends. So, I had to get creative.

I discovered that one of the books on Marilyn Monroe was authored by a former professor at a California university. I went to the school’s website and found her email. I contacted her and she suggested I ask the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, Greg Schreiner. I was able to get his email on his website and he gave me the phone number of the woman who had been Ella’s promoter for thirty-seven years. I called her – we spoke for hours – and she verified that Ella and Marilyn had been friends and both had a tremendous respect and admiration for each other.

What was your inspiration to turn this friendship into a picture book?

They say we need to make a book relatable for kids. Kids help their friends all the time. I thought it was important to show how Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe helped each other. Marilyn put her career on the line to a certain extent because in those days, there was a lot of racial discrimination and movie studios controlled what their actresses could and couldn’t do. By calling the nightclub owner and insisting that he book Ella, Marilyn stepped up and spoke out. The Civil Rights movement was just in its infancy…in fact, the nightclub incident happened in 1954 and it wasn’t until the end of 1955 that Rosa Park refused to give up her seat on the bus.

I also wanted to show how we are all complex individuals. Most of us know Marilyn as a sexy Hollywood star…and kids probably don’t know her at all. Similarly, most kids may never have heard of Ella, but her music was genius…in fact, at the first Grammys in 1959, Ella Fitzgerald won for best female pop vocalist and best improvised jazz performance. I thought it was time for kids to discover these two special women.

What was your writing journey for Making Their Voices Heard? How long did it take? Did you work with others or share your manuscript with a critique group or other writers?

As I mentioned, I wrote the story late in 2014/early 2015. I researched – using online sources and lots of library books. When I felt I had enough information to craft the narrative around these two icons, I began writing. By June 2015, I had a polished rough draft. Hahaha…that sounds like an oxymoron, right? I had the story…but it wasn’t there yet. I submitted it to Rate Your Story, an online service of kid-lit professionals who give a rating from 1-10 (1 is the best…it means the story is just about ready to submit). In June 2015, Ella and Marilyn…at that point titled: A FRONT ROW SEAT, received a ‘3’ and the judge suggested I add something about how Ella helped Marilyn to balance the story out. GREAT ADVICE which I took!

I worked on the story, gave it to some of my critique buddies, along with the feedback from the judge. And then I revised and polished it some more and brought it to a writing retreat where an editor fell in love with it and asked me to revise and send it to her. I did revise it and submitted it to Rate Your Story again in August 2015 with the title: STANDING UP FOR FRIENDSHIP. It received a ‘2’. Then I signed with Essie White as my agent and she submitted it to that editor. But even though the editor loved it, she couldn’t get acquisitions to buy it.

In the summer of 2016, I went to another writing retreat and pitched it to a different editor who asked to see it. Essie sent it to her and she asked for revisions. I revised and gave it to critique buddies again. And in August 2016, I sent it to Rate Your Story one last time with the title: DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. And it received a ‘1’. The editor loved the revision, but that acquisitions’ team wouldn’t buy it either. That’s the thing about this business…you can have a fabulous story but if it doesn’t get to the desk of the right editor…or, if it does, but acquisitions doesn’t think they can make enough money…or if the publisher isn’t looking for a book about that topic…they will pass on it. You just have to keep on writing other stories and submitting that one.

Early in 2018, the manuscript was still circulating (Essie really believed in it) and the editor from Little Bee Books asked for a revise and resubmit. I revised (are you seeing a pattern here…no matter how polished your story is, every editor or agent sees it with their own eyes and from their own perspective of experience…and we have to be willing to make changes as per what a particular editor is looking for), with the help of my critique buddies, and the editor bought it. And the week after she made the offer, we spent five days of back and forth emails as she made suggestions for a few minor tweaks and additions. Every day, my inbox would have her marked up manuscript…every evening, her inbox would have my revision. On the fifth day, she said…We’re done! It’s time to get the illustrator.

And she did. The illustrator, the fabulous Alleanna Harris was signed on almost immediately and the publication process began.

Which just goes to show that if you believe in your manuscript and your writing is good, your story will find a home!

What special plans do you have to celebrate the book birthday of Making Their Voices Heard?

I have several thoughts…the book launches January 14th, 2020. And the NYSCBWI conference is the first week in February. If Little Bee Books can arrange a book launch at Books of Wonder or some other NYC bookstore for that week, I might do that. One of my dear friends, Maria Marshall, is going to interview me for her Picture Book Buzz blog series on January 13th…and she’ll also do a Perfect Picture Book Friday review on January 17th. Several other friends are already doing posts (like this one here on Angie Quantrell’s blog!). I don’t have a book birthday post yet…but I think maybe Kathy Temean might have said she wants to do that. The mid-winter ALA is at the end of January in Philadelphia…I’d be happy to go there if I could sign the book at the Little Bee booth. And of course, the Grammys are January 26 – that’s a special day for this book because, as I mentioned earlier, Ella Fitzgerald won Best Female Pop Vocalist and Best Improvised Jazz Performance in the very first-ever Grammys in 1959. I’d also love to attend the LASCBWI next summer – Greg Schreiner, the president of the oldest Marilyn Monroe fan club, thinks Hollywood is the perfect place for this book. 😊 And I am always open to suggestions – if anyone has a great idea, I’m all ears. 😉

What else would you like to share about this lovely book, your writing, or your life as an author?

I feel like I am the luckiest person in the world…I am truly living my dream…and best of all, I’m able to work with other writers, both old and young. At every conference presentation, I encourage writers to never give up – the only failure is the failure to keep trying. And at every school I visit, I hope to inspire children to follow their dreams—because nothing is impossible if you can imagine it.

inside spread 1

About Vivian

Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more than five words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, banana-boat riding, and visiting critique buddies all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the quaint village of Amherst, NH where the old stone library is her favorite hangout and her young grandson is her favorite board game partner. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog, Picture Books Help Kids Soar where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. She is the author of Pippa’s Passover Plate (Holiday House); Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book (Pomegranate); Sweet Dreams, Sarah (Creston Books); Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe (Little Bee Books, January 14, 2020); and From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Fall 2020).

You can connect with Vivian on her website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, or just about any place people with picture books are found.

ella and marilyn in nightclub

Thank you, Vivian, for the wonderful interview! I’m fascinated by the journey of this book on its way to publication. Great job sticking with it! Congratulations and Happy Book Birthday!

Don’t forget to comment and share some love with Vivian! Comment by Friday, October 18, to get your name in the hat to win a bound ARC copy of Making Their Voices Heard.


Author: Angie

I live with my husband and crazy kitty. Much of my time is spent writing, reading, and playing with the grands. You can usually find me sipping tea or coffee, nibbling on dark chocolate, and contemplating what to plant next in the garden. If not those pursuits, then I am probably trying to figure out how to cook and live in an RV, creating cards with rubber stamps, walking, hiking, or out snapping photos with my camera.

54 thoughts on “Author Interview: Meet Vivian Kirkfield & Giveaway

  1. Thank you so much, Angie. I’m honored to be the opener for your Q&A blog series. I’m grateful you asked these questions because I can see I have the makings of a future PowerPoint presentation for kids and adult writers on the progress of a manuscript.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, nice! That’s a great idea! You are full to bursting with great ideas! I love how generous you are with your time and creativity and encouragement. Thank you from all of us!


  2. Thank you for sharing your story, of how this book came to be, of how it was part of your writing journey, and most of all for giving all us hope. It would be an honor to win your book about friendship when you are such a friend of the writing community!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for sharing the origins and journey of this story, Vivian! So fascinating! Congrats on your success!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for your inspiring story of perseverance. Just read Sweet Dreams, Sarah and can’t wait to read Voices.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What an incredible story! Both the friendship you uncovered and the journey it took to get published. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for an inspiring interview. I’m sharing this with my new critique group of aspiring PB biography authors.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Really can’t wait to read this. Such an interesting take

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I got goosebumps just seeing the few pages of the book here. What an incredible story this is- how two people from two totally different backgrounds, come together in friendship. I love the premise as I LOVE all of Vivian’s Books!!!! Beautiful. I cannot wait to get a copy to add to my “books by Vivian” collection ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow! I love the backstory of how this book came to be! I’m excited to read it and introduce it to my students.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow. I replied to your comment, but I must’ve hit the wrong button. I love the backstory of this book. So much fun! Glad you will enjoy using it with your students. Thanks for stopping by!


    • Oh thank you, Nadya! Where do you teach…and what grade? My school program right now focuses on Sweet Dreams, Sarah and Follow Your Dreams…but I’ll be putting together a Powerpoint for the Ella/Marilyn Book…and it will be about Friendship and Making Your Voice Heard as you stand up for what is right.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. What a wonderful interview, Angie! Vivian, I love how you discovered the idea for your new book and the work you put into excavating the details of the story. You are tenacious and such a great role model for picture book writers. I can’t wait for your book to arrive at my door.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The progress of your manuscript was fascinating to read about Vivian, and a lesson in persistence and flexibility! Thanks for sharing her journey Angie!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I cannot wait to see this book, Vivian! We have been talking about it for such a long time 😊.Excellent interview you two!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. So much the chew on here. For a start: how differences make up the rich tapestry of our world. And then there’s the ever-helpful, ever-true Kirkfield exemplification of You Haven’t Failed Until You Stopped Trying. Thanks to everyone who had a hand in this book!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What a fabulous interview! Thanks for sharing your process, Vivian. And I can never hear the advice of, don’t give up, too many times!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I had the pleasure of meeting Vivian at NESCBWI in May, 2019, one of the most generous members of the kidlit community you’ll ever ‘meet’ either online or in person (if you’re lucky!).
    Vivian, thanks for answering Angie’s questions in such depth and with so much passion for your story!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Vivian you’re the queen of inspiring interviews. I love your positivity, tenacity and encouragement. Thank you Angie for the great interview.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. And the winner is KAYLYNN JOHNSEN! Congratulations, Kaylynn! I will let Vivian know so you two can connect and share particulars. Kaylynn won the ARC of Making Their Voices Heard. Yay!


  18. It’s the 19th. Crushed. 😞 Great interview, nonetheless.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Throwback Thursday: Making Their Voices Heard, The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield #TBT | Love, Laughter, and Life

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