Author Interviews,  Creator Interview Series,  Grow Your Writing,  Writing Journey

GrowYourWriting Creator Interview: Sara Kruger, Children’s Picture Book and Middle Grade Writer

Hello and welcome to my new blog series, ‘#GrowYourWriting Creator Interviews’. My goal with this series is to shine a spotlight on kidlit creators and their fabulous projects and allow them to share their tips and tricks to grow your writing. Today I’d like to welcome picture book and middle grade writer, Sara Kruger. She’s been writing picture books on and off for nearly a dozen years, and actively querying for the last four years. One of her stories, Waiting for Faith, was featured in the winter 2023 edition of Little Thoughts Press and her MG micro fiction story, The Glitch, won third place in the 2023 Kids’ Choice Kidlit Writing Contest. Sara loves reading, writing, editing, and baking, and if she could survive on Fair Trade coffee and s’mores she totally would.

Welcome, Sara! Can you tell our readers what inspired you to pursue a career in children’s literature, and when did you start creating?

I was inspired to write picture book stories nearly twelve years ago, when my husband and I brought our son home from the adoption agency. There were very few adoption-themed picture books available at the time (thankfully, that has changed!) and none that reflected my son’s experience as a baby adopted in country. All those available reflected the international adoption experience. Several years later, I was inspired again when we brought our daughter home as there were no books about an adopted child awaiting a sibling through adoption. This is the story I wrote that is featured in LTP. I continue to write because I’m passionate about the themes of adoption, kindness and generosity and because I want my grandkids to be able to hold my books in their hands. 

Can you please tell us what genres you write and a little more about your current projects?

 I write picture books, and I recently drafted my first MG novel as part of 2022 National Novel Writing Month. I’m actively querying a handful of picture book stories. One is about sisters who pretend they’re in a sky band and another is about a little girl who longs to be a magician. And I am deep in revisions for my MG, which is a birthday portal fantasy that hits on the themes I love most: adoption, kindness, and generosity.

I love your First Lines series you host on your blog! Can you tell our readers a little more about what inspired you to start the series?

Almost two years ago, a CP and I did a month-long challenge of studying picture books and keeping a spreadsheet of a few elements: first line, synopsis, themes, and literary features. Once the month ended, I decided to keep going with just the first lines. (The rest was…a LOT.) I’d seen so many tweets and blog posts about how important that opening line is for picture books. I thought it would help me improve my craft to keep studying them. And since I was going through all the work, I figured I might as well make it available to others. I also enjoy it because it forces me to stay current with the market. I find it personally helpful for finding comps, for me and for others. I scroll quickly through each collection and remember broadly what each story is about. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to tag the stories to make that info accessible to visitors to the site.

How do you think that creators can grow their writing skills by studying PB first lines?

Studying PB first lines helps writers see what works so they can revise their own! Crafting a great first line is crucial to grab reader interest. We want to keep our readers reading! Studying published first lines gives insight into what makes for a successful opening. During the last nearly two years of putting together PB First Lines, I’ve discovered 18 elements of a great first line. (And there are more to be discovered!) My collections offer published examples of how these elements are used and serve as a monthly reminder of the heavy lifting a first line can do. We can get lazy with our opening while we’re drafting because we’re eager to get on with the story. But each collection serves as inspiration for how to make a first line work hard for a given story. It also can be overwhelming to consider revising a whole story. Studying first lines gives permission to focus just on that first line, experimenting with different versions. And I have a new feature that offers further revision inspiration, a unique behind-the-scenes peek at how the featured author revised their book’s first line. 

What part of the process, from the first draft to submissions, do you find the most challenging?

Definitely querying. I find it incredibly discouraging and draining. 

What is your favorite part of the creative writing journey so far?

I love fast drafting! I have participated in many of Hollie Wolverton’s #FirstDraftFriday challenges and I loved NaNoWriMo. And the people. The kidlit community on twitter and the PB Workshop Dicord server are lifelines. I honestly don’t know how writers persist solo. Oh, and I love micro fiction contests. Honestly, I love everything but the querying. But I want to be tradionally published, so here we are. 

What advice can you give aspiring kidlit creators to grow their writing? 

Take the time to study recently published books, cover to cover, not just the first line. See what’s out there. Take note of the stories you love and figure out why. It’s one thing to read a story and think, wow, that was so good. It’s another thing entirely to really parse it to see why you thought it was so good. This practice can’t be encouraged too much. We all read picture books. It’s probably why many of us got started writing them. But reading picture books does not prepare you to write them. Studying them does. It takes time. But that’s where the learning happens. And it’s entirely free! You can create your own free Master Class! Go to your library, check out 30 recently published picture books, take the two or three (If it’s more than that, I’d be surprised; there are tons of great books out there but no book is for everyone) you are happy to read a second, third, and fourth time, the ones you slyly ignore the due date reminders for, and figure out what it is about them that makes you excited to re read them, what it is that makes you add them to your online shopping cart. Is it the poetic devices (alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhythm, rhyme), the story itself, the arc, the main character, the problem that’s addressed, the structure, the page turns, the humor, the heart? Decipher how the author achieved these elements, and then apply what you learn to your own writing. And check out my PB First Lines collections =) It’s a great way to find those 30 recently published books. You don’t have to search the shelves at your library: I’ve done it for you. Just put a collection on hold and pick them up! 

Click here to view Sara Kruger’s First Lines Collection!

Click here to read Waiting for Faith by Sara Kruger in LTP Magazine

Guess What? It’s giveaway time! Sara has graciously offered to host a giveaway for our readers.

**A PB manuscript critique or a query critique or an MG first ten pages critique.**

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post below! Entry period closes on May 2nd at 12am PST. One Winner will be announced May 3rd!

1 Bonus entry is available for anyone who shares this post on twitter and tags @SaraKruger and C_Alemshah. 

Find out more about Sara at:

Instagram: @SaraLynn923 

Twitter: @SaraKruger


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