Interview with the Authors of Writing Kidlit 102: A Self-Guided Course

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The writers of Writing Kidlit 102: Your First Draft explain that it’s the book that will help you wrangle that story out of your heart and onto the page. On your terms. In your time. In the way that works for you.

I interviewed authors Victoria J. Coe and Cheryl Lawton Malone by email about their new book, which offers tools to combat the mental challenges of the writing process.

As Victoria says, “Because who doesn’t need a little help holding yourself accountable? Kicking writer’s block to the curb? Calling out your procrastinating self?”

Interview with the Authors of Writing Kidlit 102

Melissa: Why did you decide to write the book?

Cheryl and Victoria: While we worked on our first book, Writing Kidlit 101: A Self-Guided Course, we quickly realized we had Way Too Much to Say for one book. It was a no-brainer to stick to the basics in that one – an overview of the kidlit world and a practical guide to craft. 

We believe – scratch that, we know – that if you arm yourself with the right information, hone your skills, listen to your heart, and do the work, the sky’s the limit. This second book is a guide to DOING THE WORK.

Melissa: How is it different from – or how does it work together with – the first book?

Cheryl and Victoria: The two books really go hand in hand. In this second book, we assume the reader has up-to-date knowledge of the kidlit marketplace and a good understanding of craft. Having said that, the second book also offers a clear look at the practical elements of writing – namely scenes, subplots, and structure – the essentials for completing your first draft.

And rather than giving the reader writing exercises at the end of each section, this time we give tips and techniques to overcome the many mental challenges of writing. We all face them!

Melissa: Who is this book for?

Cheryl and Victoria: It’s for anyone and everyone who’s ever had a love-hate relationship with a first draft. See us raising our hands? 

And by that, we mean unless you sit down and the words just pour right out of you (does that actually happen?), first drafts can be super intimidating. What to write? How to say it? 

Not to mention how to stay motivated… all the way to The End.

Melissa: What do you hope writers will gain from it?


Cheryl and Victoria: There’s no one way to write. So by offering our insights and sharing a variety of strategies and approaches to the drafting process, we hope writers will find the way that works for them. The way that will get them started, keep them going through the muddy middle, and power them through for as long as it takes.

And we also hope everybody learns that the goal of a first draft isn’t to be perfect. It’s to finish.

Because seriously, the high you get from completing a picture book or full-length novel is blow-your-mind amazing. Even if you end up rewriting your draft multiple times (BTW, we all do), the thrill never goes away. Ever.

Melissa: Will you offer workshops to go along with this?

Cheryl and Victoria: Funny you should ask! We’re actually developing a 3-part series, The Secret Sauce to Writing Kids’ Books. The first class – which covers the basics in 60 minutes – is so important that we’re excited to offer it for free.

The next two classes – clocking in at 90 and 100 minutes – will offer a deep dive into bigger craft elements. Think: character, story problem, stakes, and emotional arcs, as well as a master class in writing compelling scenes.

Everyone who signs up for the free class will have the chance to enroll in the next two classes at budget-friendly prices. We suggest joining our mailing list at so you don’t miss out!

Melissa: What’s your best advice for new writers who are feeling discouraged by any of the process of writing, finding an agent, and selling a book?

Cheryl and Victoria: First of all, we both pursued our dreams of writing books for children while juggling careers, kids, and life. For years. Many!

We know how hard it is. And we also know how important it is to keep writing, to dedicate yourself to improving, and to find a great support network. Those three things are really the key.

In this tough, tough business, bonding with other writers not only gets us through, but is actually the silver lining that nobody tells you about. We met in a critique group 10+ years ago and our friendship is more valuable to us than all the publishing contracts combined!

Writing Kidlit 102 Your First Draft

About the Authors

Victoria J. Coe

Fleischman Honor Award winner Victoria J. Coe is the author of numerous books for children, including the uber-popular Fenway and Hattie series from Putnam Young Readers. A sought-after workshop presenter on POV and perspective, she created and taught a highly regarded writing course at the Cambridge Center in Harvard Square for 3 years, where she first became known for the practical “Tips and Tricks” that she now regularly shares on social media. Visit her at or online @victoriajcoe.

Cheryl Lawton Malone

Cheryl Lawton Malone earned her MFA in Creative Writing for Young People from Lesley University, and went on to author acclaimed picture books, including Dario and the Whale from Albert Whitman & Co. A former teacher of Writing for Children on the college and continuing education level, Cheryl is an in-demand manuscript consultant at Grub Street Boston. Connect with her at or on Twitter @MaloneLawton.

Author interview with Victoria J. Coe and Cheryl Lawton Malone


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