June 1, 2011

Three Times ACharm with Author Margot Finke

Three Times A Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, reviewers, agents, editors, anyone involved in children’s publishing. 

This week we are honored to host the generous and talented author, Margot Finke. A little about Margot:

Margot Finke is an Aussie transplant who writes midgrade adventure fiction and rhyming picture books. For many years she has lived in Oregon with her husband and family. Gardening, travel, and reading fill in the cracks between writing. Her husband is very supportive, and their three children are now grown and doing very well.
Margot didn't begin serious writing until the day their youngest left for college. This late start drives her writing, and pushes her to work at it every day. Margot said, "I really envy those who began young, and managed to slip into writing mode between kid fights, diaper changes, household disasters, and outside jobs. You are my heroes! "
 "Wild and Wonderful," her first series of picture books, offers fun facts about animals from the US and Australia.  Educational and fun, these eBooks can be read on a computer, laptop, or various color e-Readers.  They are great for classroom or home schooling moms. Remember, kids today are computer savvy, and ALL Margot’s books (both hard copy and eBooks) can be viewed on Margot’ Magic Carpet.

Margot isn’t only an author, she actively coaches writers and is a staunch advocate of promoting literacy, especially for reluctant readers.

Margot’s Manuscript Critique Service attracts clients from all over the globe, and her website also offers a great deal of help for new writers: http://tinyurl.com/Critique-Service

Margot’s Magic Carpet -
Kids Books With a WOW Factor!

All 11 of her books, plus links to Trailers, Reviews, Teacher’s Guide, Samples, Illustrations, and where to BUY.  Her 3 latest books are:
* Taconoi and Claude – Double Trouble - mid-grade adventure










*Horatio Humble Beats the Big D – dyslexia  PB










*Ruthie and the Hippo’s Fat Behind – big change PB











Readers can also WIN a FREE (pdf) Bonus adventure story, specially written by Margot, and featuring characters from her 3 latest books.  Just leave an e-mail address with your comment, and YOU WIN this free illustrated story for your child.




Now for the Threes. Margot, share with us some of your top 3’s so our readers can know a little more about the woman at the keyboard.


  • Top 3 books you’ve read in the past year.

Aha, I AM known as a children’s author, but hey, a good book is a good book – right?  So many books are hyped in the press and then prove a disappointment. The following two are for adults, but surpassed all my expectations. Children’s writers could learn a lot from these authors’ use of powerful analogies, simple sentences, and evocative words that stir up hidden meanings and reminiscences.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. The delightfully insightful main character was a surprise package that became better-and-better as her tale opened and unfolded.  Author Alice Sebold knows how to grip a reader with descriptions, thoughts, and flashbacks that are never intrusive or overdone. Her deceptively simple sentences led to enormously complex outcomes. Susie Salmon, and all the other characters, lived on in my head long after I finished reading about them. When you long for a book to go on forever you know the writer is touched by genius.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.  I am reading this book right now. Author of the acclaimed Kite Runner, the story is set in Afghanistan, and there are emotional and physical descriptive paragraphs galore. I usually find this much embroidery smothers the plot and the characters.  However, in the hands of this master I feel no twitch of impatience.

Like a rare and beautiful necklace, he strings his achingly powerful and evocative words into exactly the right combination of shapes, colors and brilliance. They take me to Afghanistan, and into the hearts and minds of his characters. His potent phrases, fragrant with memories, sadness, and hopes for a better future, keep me turning the pages.

In less talented hands it might be too much. From Khaled Hosseini, it becomes a memorable tale that leaves an indelible imprint and a longing for more. The secret is in his choice of words, how he strings them together, and the way he weaves them into the plot. His words turn into mental pictures that are seared into my brain. I am in awe!


And finally, a picture book on a grand scale.  The Sign of the Seahorse, by Graeme Base, is a rhyming undersea adventure, where many of the characters are decidedly “fishy,” in more ways than one.  This is not your usual 32 page PB.  This is a grand tale of heroes, villains, and heroines, all trying to out-fish and out maneuver each other.  Anyone who writes rhyming picture books (myself included) knows how hard it is to keep the three necessary elements in such books running strong and smooth – a great story, fun rhyming words, and meter that is smooth and true in every verse.

 Graeme Base does this in spades – or should I say “sharks!” And this is no 32 page quickie.  There is an abundance of rousing verses that draw you into this fish chowder of a story. Each verse moves the fun forward and the villainous sharks closer to their comeuppance.  And the cherry on top is of course his fantastic array of illustrations.  I think his illustrations could tell this story all by themselves.  I have read and re-read this fishy tale, and each time I discover more that intrigues me, both in his masterful rhyming verses, and illustrations that are to swoon over.  Such rhyming talent.  Such illustrative brilliance.  It just isn’t fair!


  • Top 3 pieces of advice for people just starting in your business.

1 - Have patience.  That, and a little talent and luck will work over time. Standing watch over your mailbox will only give you fallen arches. Rejection is a part of your growth as a writer. Rewrite, rework and read, read, read.  THIS is what will get you that first acceptance.
2 - Join a really good critique group that has advanced or published members. Their comments and feedback, support and encouragement, will tide you over a ton of rejections, failed plots, and uninterested relatives.
3 – When you hit a wall with your plot or your characters, don’t fight it too long.  Close the file and put it away.  Forget about it.  Write something new.  In a month or two, when you reread it, you will be amazed at how fast solutions jump out at you.  Then, scale that “wall,” and thumb your nose at it as you write on and over it.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

Reading – writers must read. Gardening – a little dirt under the fingernails still leaves your mind free to solve plot problems. Manuscript Critiques – this is a pleasure I will never forgo.  I have been doing this for years, and my clients come from many different countries.  Helping writers write “tight and terrific,” or polish their manuscripts, is enormously satisfying. It is always a terrific WOW moment when I learn that a writer I worked with has had their book accepted for publication. 

Margot is so wonderfully supportive of fellow authors. She gives great advice, too. Plus she, like me, lives in Oregon! Smart, great taste…my kind of woman. Be sure to check out the links she provided and include your address in a comment in order to receive a free electronic Bonus Adventure Story pdf from Margot.

Thank you, Margot, for visiting Three Times A Charm. It has been such a pleasure hosting you here!

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