I must have sent out close to 200 queries to agents and publishers regarding The Legend of Koolura. Finally, Solstice Publishing accepted it in 2011 for publication. So my advice to other authors is to NEVER give up—Michael Thal, author of MG/YA Koolura Series.
Keep going, keep learning, keep developing. Manage your expectations. Only do it if you love it and want to do the best you can—Steve Griffin, author of the MG series The Secret of the Tirthas.
Write because you love it. Write even when you don’t love it. And never doubt that you can make a living doing what you love—Marti Dumas, author of the children's book Jaden Toussaint the Greatest.
Enjoy writing. Accept that it’s something very, very important to you, something you love doing. Don’t write to be successful or famous. You spend a lot of time, on your own, when you are writing, and you should only do it if it makes you really happy. Otherwise you can waste an awful lot of your life, being alone and feeling miserable—G. L. Wilson, author of Champion's Choice.
Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes back Colorado author and friend Teresa R. Funke. We first met through writers' events, and now we run into each other often. She is one of the most prolific authors I know. Her books—centered on World War II—appeal to a wide range of readers, not just middle grade. Teresa is a frequent speaker at conferences and in classrooms.
First, a bit about Teresa:
Teresa Funke is the embodiment of the modern artist/entrepreneur. She is the author of seven award-winning works of fiction for adults and children set in World War II, including Dancing in Combat Boots and War on a Sunday Morning. She is the owner of Victory House Press and successfully produces and markets her own books. She is a nationwide speaker and writer's consultant, and the co-creator of Self-Publishing Blueprint, the only tool you will need to cut through the confusion of self-publishing and save yourself from costly mistakes. Visit www.teresafunke.com to learn more about Teresa and access additional resources for writers of all kinds or read her motivational blog Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life.
Why did you pick to write books for MG?
I didn’t really choose to write books for middle-grade readers. The readers chose me! I’d never imagined I would write for children, but after my first two books for adults came out, I started getting invited to speak at schools, mostly to fifth grade classrooms about writing and World War II. We rarely got to talking about writing because the students were so fascinated by my stories of the war, a war they knew nothing about.
At one school visit, one girl raised her hand and said, “Mrs. Funke, this is so interesting. Why don’t you write books for kids so we can learn more about the war?” I dismissed her suggestion, telling myself, “I’m not a children’s author.” But within a couple of weeks, I had one of those lightning bolt moments. I knew instantly I was going to write a series of books for middle-grade readers, that it would be called The Home-Front Heroes Series, that each story would be inspired by real people I interviewed, and it would be set in America. I even knew exactly which woman and which story I wanted to start with. I’m grateful every day for the students who encourage me on this journey, the teachers who teach from my books, and the parents and grandparents who buy the books and read them with their kids and grandkids and share their own family stories about the war.
What types of books do you like to read?
All types of books. I read an equal amount of fiction and nonfiction, children’s books, memoirs, even poetry. I read about health and wellness, history, the brain, the spirit, the soul. My favorite genre, though, is historical fiction. If I were told I could only read one type of book for the rest of my life, I would choose that genre. And I read tons of books about World War II, of course, and never tire of the subject, not after twenty-seven years of studying the war. I love writers and writing, but I’m kind of odd. There are only a handful of writers in which I have read more than one of their books. There’s so little time, and I want to sample as many writers as I can.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
Travel. If I could, I’d travel every month. It awakens the senses, makes me more observant, takes my thoughts in new directions, introduces me to new stories and new people. I also love attending the theater and live performances. And if I don’t get my daily walk, I get very grumpy. When I need to unwind, I watch movies. Those are the things I love most, outside of spending time with my family, of course.
Tell us about War on a Sunday Morning and how the story came to be.
War on a Sunday Morning is the fifth book in my Home-Front Heroes series set during World War II. It’s loosely based on the memories of two people I’ve interviewed. The first, a woman named Peggy, Baccelli, was a thirteen-year-old Navy officer’s daughter who stood on her front lawn and watched the bombs fall on Pearl Harbor. The second is a Chinese American boy raised in Hawaii who is mistaken for Japanese after the attack in a dangerous encounter. These two children find their paths crossing in the first three tumultuous days following the attack. This is the first time in children’s literature we get the perspective of a military girl. Many Pearl Harbor stories feature male main characters. Even some of my writer friends suggested that what happened to the women and girls on the base after the attack lacked the “drama” of what happened to the men and boys. I knew they were wrong. Women’s history can be fascinating too. And to my satisfaction, both boys and girls are embracing this story and finding it suspenseful in a whole new way.
Here's a peek at War on a Sunday Morning:
Thirteen-year-old Rose Williams has trouble fitting in. Every time her family moves to a new navy base, she wishes she could be more like her fearless brother, Les, and not her usual shy and practical self. On the Sunday morning of December 7, 1941, Rose hears the roar of low-flying planes. From her front yard she watches as Japanese aircraft attack the US ships and naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While her dad rushes into battle, Rose and her mother take cover. Les is nowhere to be found. Later, with the whole island fearing an enemy invasion, Rose is told to stay inside with the doors locked. But when her friend’s Japanese American father is unjustly arrested and a wounded dog shows up on her doorstep, Rose realizes that—scared or not—everyone must be daring in times of war.
Tell us about your other World War II books.
My first book, Remember Wake, was a novel based on a true story from World War II. My second book, Dancing in Combat Boots, is a collection of short stories about women in the war, also written for adults. My other five books are all part of my Home-Front Heroes collection for children, a multi-cultural series that shows the various ways diverse communities navigated the constant challenges of life in wartime, and the various ways in which war affects the lives of even common citizens. Doing My Part features a young girl working in a war factory in Illinois, The No-No Boys is set in a Japanese internment camp in California, V for Victory features a Mexican American boy in San Antonio, and Wave Me Good-bye centers around a Jewish girl in the Bronx.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
I’m working on the next, and probably last, book in the Home-Front Heroes series. It will be set in Windsor, Colorado, and feature a farm boy whose family employs German POWs to work their fields. Like all my other books, it will be loosely based on the memories of people I’m now interviewing. I’m also working on a compilation of blog entries from my inspirational blog Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life. I hope that book will help people tap into their creative sides with no fear and with love and abandon.
What advice do you have for other authors?
Write what you love. Period. Don’t write for the markets, don’t write what other people tell you to write, don’t write what you think you should write. Write what you love. Because writing is hard enough. We need that passion to carry us through. We need to feel we are doing what we were put here to do in order to keep going when the blocks come and the rejections roll in, and the doubt cripples. If you are telling the story you fully believe you were meant to write, you’ll stay the course no matter the setbacks. And in the end, it won’t matter if anyone else thinks your baby is cute, you’ll love and be proud of her anyway. She’ll be your greatest accomplishment. Nothing else matters.
Anything else you want readers to know?
There are amazing stories in your own family. All you have to do is ask. The people I write about initially protest, “Oh, you don’t want to write about me. I just had an ordinary life.” Then they tell me their “ordinary” stories and I find gold. So ask. Ask your elders, ask your parents, ask your siblings, ask even your children. Then ask your friends and neighbors and the pastor at your church. Listen in grocery store lines, in coffee shops, on buses, because stories are everywhere. If we trust that, there will always be things to write about. We are the eyes, ears, and hearts of our generations. We writers make it possible for people in generations to come to understand how it felt to be alive. It’s noble work. Embrace it.
Where can readers find you and your books?
You can find me and my books at www.teresafunke.com. You can order my books on Amazon or most online outlets. Any indie bookstore can order my books. You’ll also find them in World War II museums across the country, including the gift shop at Pearl Harbor.