It’s a glorious Monday in August, and that means it’s time for another Monday Morning Author Interview.
Today we have a visit from a relative rarity, a non-fiction author, but one with a very timely message! Pamela Evans has written The Preschool Parent Primer, a guide for everyone who is involved in the massive production which is preschool: parents, caregivers, and teachers! But you don’t want to hear from me; you want to hear from her!
Pamela Evans is an award-winning educator, early childhood specialist, and school director. She works as a consultant for preschools and music programs for children, focusing on young families. New parents have a lot to navigate and preschool is just one of the many new challenges that face parents. This is why Pamela has written the resource guide, The Preschool Parent Primer, with advice and helpful links for parents. She is also the author of The Preschool Parent Blog and The Preschool Parent Book Review at IvyArtz.com Featuring brief useful posts for busy parents!
Q: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
A: For the Preschool Parent Primer my information came from decades of working with young children and their families, as a teacher and co-director of a school. I wrote a list of best practices and parent concerns that we used at the preschool every year for parent orientation. My co-teacher asked for a copy of that list and the book really came from that. Although it took a couple years before the book was fully formed.
I have worked for years as a storyteller and musician as well. For years I have been writing fiction works for children and I am finally getting those out too. Ideas for those books come straight from working with children.
Q: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
A: This is interesting, in that I thought once I left the school, I would be up early in the morning and write for 6 hours and be done each day. The reality is a bit different now that I’m a full-time writer. I usually write from 8am to 10am. Then I need to move. After decades of chasing children all day, I find it difficult to sit for long periods of time. After my first writing stint of the morning, I take a break every hour to stretch and exercise a bit (even if it’s just getting a household chore done – as long as I’m moving). I generally stop writing around 4pm. It is not unusual for me to write a bit more in the evening and on occasion I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, so I get up and write.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
A: I like to paint. I also play alto clarinet in a local band, which qualifies me as a real band geek. And I like to be outside learning about local plants and bird watching.
Q: What does your family think of your writing?
A: My family is very supportive and helpful. It’s a house full of creatives and young adults. If I need help with an idea, a proofreader, someone to explain a current trend to me, or IT advice, they are here to help. I’m very fortunate in that respect.
Q: Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
A: I do hear from my readers. Because I have taught so many children over the years, both in preschool and music lessons, people contacting me goes beyond emails. It is not uncommon for a parent to stop me downtown and tell me how a certain chapter in my book, or a blog post was helpful. That means a lot to me. I write to provide behavioral context and resources for parents, so it’s always wonderful to know it’s useful.
Q: Do you like to create books for adults?
A: Yes. My writing for adults is nonfiction and practical. I like sharing my expertise if it can be useful. Over the years I have also enjoyed doing presentations for parents and teachers. I especially enjoyed these times with adults while spending my days with young children! Now I am enjoying a bit of a switch. Writing fiction for children.
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: My short answer is a good balance between adventure and details. I like to really feel that I’m there. I want to know what they’re eating. What does the town look like? What do the election posters in the school corridor look like? Little details really draw me in. I need at least a couple characters I can identify with, adventure and quick thinking, and lastly, I’m a traditionalist in some ways. I want a satisfying, mostly things are okay ending. I don’t mind a few lose ends that keep my mind working.
Q: What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
A: My favorite literary adventure was meeting James Herriot. I was a huge fan of the “All Creatures Great and Small Books.” My mother gave me a copy of “James Herriot’s Yorkshire.” I was studying abroad in Oxford. On my spring break I had a Eurail pass. I use the book as a travel guide. I figured out that the one place in the book he didn’t describe as a place he had to travel to was Thirsk. I thought he must live there and I was correct. I can’t tell you how wonderful the people of Thirsk were to me – but long story short I got to spend an afternoon with my favorite veterinarian author and met some of his furry clients as well. I literally like to know the lay of the land of the stories I read. I will never forget my time in Yorkshire.
On the children’s book side, I got to visit the haunts of the fictional cat Pelle Svenlös (tailless) while in Uppsala Sweden. The town provides markers to help tourists find Pelle’s favorite spots. I hope to visit Sweden again once covid is past and this time get to Astrid Lindgren’s home in Vimerby.
Q: What are common traps for aspiring writers?
A: I think the biggest one is buying into too many classes and programs. To be a writer you need to write. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really helpful to take a couple quality classes and conferences can certainly inspire you as well as help you make contacts. Because it can be difficult to make ends meet as a writer so many writers (and even want-to-be writers) actually make their money selling courses. There’s a real glut on the market. It’s easy for aspiring writers to get caught up in the hype. A good critique group and just spending your time on writing will be the most beneficial.
Q: Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
A: Yes, my children’s books will be under the name Anne Darelius. I actually picked this name when I was 8 years old. It’s a family name so it works for me as still being my name. That said I wouldn’t use a pen name, except my name comes with a couple problems. First of all, my name is very common. Many writers have my name. Secondly, and the one that really settled it for me, the most famous author with my name is a best-selling romance author. I don’t want my young child readers accidently drawn into that. No offense to the other Pam Evans intended!
Q: Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
A: This is a great question and for me the answer is to try to do both. It’s definitely not easy. As a reader I like some predictability and a satisfying ending…but I don’t want to be bored. Now writing for children really isn’t that different than for adults in that way. They need certain expectations met, but if you can weave in something new and unexpected – that makes a book exciting.
Q: What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
A: Over a few years I have gathered a couple groups of author friends. Some are published, some are aspiring authors. They have proven to be invaluable. These are people you can run ideas and questions by. From co-working groups to critique groups to lunch with a friend who is a published author – you learn a lot from other authors. Frankly, this is how several authors I know got published. You need to meet people in the field.
Q: What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
A: I think this is important for the Preschool Parent Primer. I wrote about my decades of experience with young families. I use actual examples of situations that are common concerns for parents. That said, I never used a situation that was unique. In other words, every example I used of a learning moment, was a composite of several families and all the names were changed. It was necessary to use examples of certain behaviors that are common so the book would be useful, but I would never want to invade anyone’s privacy. I feel very strongly about that.
How can readers get in touch with you?
My preferred method is through my website, http://ivyartz.com/. But I’m also available on other social media sites.
Great! Thanks for coming by; I’m sure that there are going to be many people who need this book!
Excerpt from Preschool Parent Primer:
Here’s the excerpt…
From Chapter 5: What is Developmentally Appropriate?
Educators and parents alike discuss and praise the virtues of a preschool program being developmentally appropriate. It would be hard to find a preschool that wasn’t described by its promoters as developmentally appropriate. Even though some schools are clearly not what most educators would consider on target for 3- to 5-year-olds. How can you find the right level for your child? It’s all about listening to people in the school community and, if possible, visiting the school.
Open-ended projects are an essential element of a developmentally appropriate preschool. Projects should allow for different interpretations and skill levels. Professional teachers have training and experience to allow them to gauge development in many areas of learning, to include motor, language, social, and cognitive skills. They are familiar with learning patterns in children.
No two children develop all these skills at the same age. So, being developmentally appropriate is all about flexibility and observation. Look for open-ended toys. Lincoln Logs are fun, but they are designed to be put together in specific ways. In contrast, building block sets of various sizes can be made into anything your child imagines.
If you enter a preschool and see rows of bright, colorful projects that all look neat and alike, this is a red flag. It is a sign that the teachers did most of the work. Most schools do pre-cut or prepared projects occasionally, but if cookie cutter projects appear to be the norm at a school, it’s a sign that the program is not developmentally appropriate.
Here are some reasons you might find these types of projects at a preschool:
1. The teachers or administrators are in a competitive school environment. They believe more parents who are looking for a quality preschool will enroll their child if it looks like the children’s work is of a higher quality. These pre-cut projects are only thought of as higher quality by people who are unfamiliar with what quality preschool work looks like.
2. The school may have inexperienced staff. They may put the physical appearance of the finished product over the importance of the process and allowing children to experiment. These teachers do not understand and appreciate what hands-on preschool learning looks like. They do not realize that creative exploration is how children will develop the skills the teachers are trying to encourage.
3. It can be a sign that a teacher is too controlling and does not allow children to explore materials or follow their own creative instincts. There certainly are times when a teacher is hoping to focus on a specific task, but if all creative projects are micromanaged, they are no longer creative.