Hi Math is Everywhere Readers!
Today we have a super special interview because not only is it Inventors Day, it’s Vivian Kirkfield’s birthday, too! And we get to chat with her about her book, illustrated by Gilbert Ford, that’s all about inventions: FROM HERE TO THERE: INVENTIONS THAT CHANGED THE WAY THE WORLD MOVES. It’s our lucky day! I hope you enjoy as much as I do, and stay tuned until the end to find ways to support this wonderful and inspiring creator as well as get in on an awesome giveaway!
Kaitlyn: Hi Vivian, thanks so much for celebrating this super special day with us! Happy birthday and welcome back to the math is everywhere blog!
Vivian: Hello Kaitlyn! Thank you so much for having me back. I’m super excited to be here for this double celebration…National Inventors Day and my birthday!!! And Math Is Everywhere is definitely the perfect place to party!
Kaitlyn: Thanks for coming back to the blog, and you’re so sweet! We do try to party hard here, especially on Inventor’s Day and your birthday! Speaking of, what are your plans for your birthday this year? Will the traditions stay the same or will the new house bring new traditions?
Vivian: I’m not sure about my plans. Yesterday, I was lucky enough to get my first Covid shot…kind of a pre-birthday gift, I guess. In New Hampshire, people aged 65 and over have been invited to schedule their vaccination…and since I turned 74 today, I am well-qualified! So, I’m not sure if I’ll be having any side-effects. But I’m sure my daughter and son-in-law and grandson have something special planned. As long as there is chocolate cake and ice cream, I’ll be smiling!
Kaitlyn: Super congrats, what a lovely birthday present, and I can’t wait to hear about the chocolate cake–make favorite, too! Inventor’s Day is all about celebrating inventors, can you share a bit about some of the inventors you included in your book FROM HERE TO THERE?
Vivian: That’s a dangerous invitation, Kaitlyn. I’m so passionate about ALL of the visionaries I included in FROM HERE TO THERE, I could probably talk all day. But I’ll just touch on a few of the highlights:
I loved finding out about how important Bertha Benz was in helping the automobile gain worldwide acceptance. You see, it was her husband, Karl, who invented the first gas-powered car. But the head of Germany at that time, Kaiser Wilhelm, hated anything that made a lot of noise because he loved his horses and was afraid the noise would scare them. And so Karl was afraid to take his invention out of the workshop. He actually did take it out once, for a spin around the driveway…and he crashed it into a wall. Meanwhile, Bertha, who had invested all of her inheritance on his inventions, was getting tired of waiting for a return on her money and she finally snuck out one morning, left him a note that she was taking the kids to their grandmother’s house, and proceeded to drive 65 miles through the Black Forest, from Manneheim to Pforzheim. When she returned, the newspapers were full of how safe and reliable and simple a car must be if even a woman could drive it…and Bertha shared her experience with Karl and how she had dealt with various problems encountered along the way and he added a gas tank, brake pads, gears to climb hills, and more.
I’m happy to say that in 2016, Bertha Benz was inducted into the Automobile Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI for her contributions to the invention of the automobile.
Another fascinating story is about the first liquid fuel propelled rocket. This is a wonderful story for kids who are told – that’s impossible! Everything is impossible until someone does it, right? That’s why I tell kids that nothing is impossible if you can imagine it. When Robert Goddard was 12 years-old, he climbed up a tree, looked at the moon, and decided he was going to build a vehicle that could go there. At school, he asked his teachers. They told him he was crazy. And even the New York Times published a front page article mocking him but Robert never gave up. The liquid fuel propelled system he used for his first rockets are the foundation for our current day space program. And in 1969, after the astronauts walked on the moon, the New York Times issued an apology to Robert Goddard, admitting that they were wrong and he was right. Sadly, he had died 20 years before that…but happily, his journals and diaries and copious notes are available to anyone, free of charge, on the NASA website. How lucky we are to have access to such exciting primary sources!
Kaitlyn: Wow, wow, WOW! I could listend to you talk about these wonderful, inspiring people all day! Did you learn about inventors you didn’t previously know or did your favorite inventor change because of your research for this story?
Vivian: What a great question, Kaitlyn. I never knew anything about robotics…but I learned so much when I discovered that George Devol, known as the Grandfather of Robotics, invented the first mechanical arm, used in factories. He’d always loved taking things apart and putting them together…and one day he saw a picture of people on an assembly line and wondered if there was a way to free up people from such monotonous and sometimes, dangerous, jobs. He created a mechanical arm that could pick up burning hot metal handles and weld them onto car doors. But people were afraid of ‘robots’ because movies usually portrayed them as evil beings from another planet, coming to destroy humanity. When his UNIMATE appeared on the Johnny Carson show in 1966, putting a golf ball and pouring a glass of beer, public acceptance of robots grew. Here’s a fascinating YouTube video about George Devol and the birth of robotics:
I also learned about Herbert Everest and the folding wheelchair. Herbert had been a medal-winning track and field athlete in college. Graduating from the Colorado School of Mines, he became a mining engineer, but in 1919, the young man was paralyzed in a mining accident. Refusing to be homebound (wheelchairs in those days were heavy and cumbersome and could not fit in a car), he asked a friend, who was a mechanical engineer, to help him design a lighter more mobile wheelchair and together, Herbert Everest and Harry Jennings invented the folding wheelchair which became the prototype for the sports wheelchairs used in the Paralympics. Everest and Jennings wheelchair company employed many differently abled workers…and they also manufactured the first motorized wheelchairs.
What all of these stories show is that need drives invention – and visionaries are ordinary people who look at things differently and say, ‘Why not?’ I believe that any one of these stories might inspire a young reader, spark her curiosity, and lead her down a new pathway of thinking.
Kaitlyn: Yes! I adore how you do such an amazing job, not just sharing these stories, but inspiring everyone as you do! I loved learning about so many wonderful inventors I had never heard of, especially Raye Montague, can you talk a bit about Raye, why you chose her for this book, and how you learned about her?
Vivian: My editor had tasked me with writing 9 stories about visionaries whose inventions changed the way the world moves. I knew I wanted diversity for the book. And when I was searching for someone who had invented something in the field of boating, I discovered Raye Montague. The thing is that each story needed to showcase the inventor’s AHA moment. That’s not always an easy thing to find. I also wanted to tell a bit about the childhood of each inventor – and that background information wasn’t readily available for many visionaries. But when the information about Raye Montague popped up, I knew I had found what I was looking for. Raye was still alive when I started researching the story and she had given several interviews that were on YouTube. I watched and listened and was amazed to discover that when Raye was seven-years-old, she took a tour of a submarine and decided on the spot that she wanted to be an engineer. Of course, that wasn’t going to be easy. It was 1942, and she was an African American girl living in the deep South. But she ran home and told her mother that she was going to be an engineer and in the 1970’s, Raye Montague was the first African American and the first female program manager for the Navy, leading a team of engineers to create the very first computer-generated ship design.
It’s stories like this that our children need to hear!
Kaitlyn: I full-heartedly agreed! We all need to hear these amazing stories, and I’m so proud to know you and be able to share this book with my daughter! Thanks so much, Vivian! Why do you think it’s so important for kids to learn about inventors and their inventions, and why do you think kids love learning about inventors so much?
Vivian: Ah, what a wonderful segue from my last comment in the previous question. It’s important because kids need role models – and inventors show that even if you think differently, you are still of great value. Their process of inventing shows that failure is necessary for success. Inventors embrace the FOUR P’s which I think are vital to the success of any project or any goal a child might have: Passion, Practice, Patience, Persistence.
And I think kids love learning about inventors because they are also trying new things, learning new things…and thinking about new things. Sometimes parents and teachers can be a bit ‘stick in the mudish’…wanting things to go along ‘smoothly’ the way things have always been done. But inventors…ah…they do things differently – they often go against the accepted worldview – they don’t conform. They are a bit like rebels, don’t you think? And perhaps kids feel a connection there…because they are often rebelling against what they are told to do.
Kaitlyn: I just had a mind-blown moment, the rebel analogy could DEFINITELY be it! If you had to choose a favorite spread from FROM HERE TO THERE, what would it be and why?
Vivian: Asking about a favorite spread is like asking a parent which is their favorite child. I can tell you that Gilbert Ford, the illustrator, is a genius. I loved his color palette the moment I saw it. And I loved the artistic style that he chose for this book. If I HAD to choose a favorite – it might be the spread with Bertha and her sons on that three-wheeled car. She epitomizes the forward-thinking woman – a trailblazing pioneer. And I also love the final spread in the Raye Montague story where she opens the door for others after she has gained success. I truly believe all of us are tasked with doing that!
Kaitlyn: Haha I love the parent analogy, and I totally agree, the beautiful way Gilbert Ford portrays the characters and, like you said, with such an eye-catching pallet is just wonderful! Can you share who your agent is, how you connected with this agent, and why you love working with this agent?
Vivian: My agent is Essie White from Storm Literary. I connected with her in 2015 when a kidlit friend, Katey Howes, tweeted that she had just signed with Essie. I was smack dab in the middle of my agent search and I tweeted back my congratulations and mentioned that perhaps I should send a manuscript to her new agent. And Essie tweeted back, yes, you should. I sent her Sweet Dreams, Sarah which I had written a few months before. She emailed me an hour later to say how much she loved it. And that evening, she emailed again, “Did I tell you how much I love that story?” It did take me till the end of that summer to decide because I was considering other agents…several were ‘big’ ‘NY’ agents with ‘big’ agencies behind them. And Essie was only starting out and she was a one-woman show. But I fell in love with her ‘about’ page on her website. And I spoke with many of her current clients. I wanted an agent who was kind and compassionate, a savvy business networker, a good communicator, an organized person, and someone who was passionate about my stories. Essie checked off all the boxes. And she still does. Her agency has grown…she has a partner now and several other agents and I love being a Stormie. Essie continues to champion my work…she currently has several of my manuscripts out on submission, another one going out shortly, and another as soon as I polish it up.
Kaitlyn: That’s so wonderful to hear, and readers, take note, when choosing an agent, you’re choosing a partner for life. Make sure to be super thorough like Vivian was; you won’t regret it! Thanks for being such a great role model, Vivian! Can you share who your editor is for FROM HERE TO THERE, and what it was like working with this editor?
Vivian: Ann Rider at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been an amazing editor to work with. So respectful, so thoughtful. She loved the BUS story and it was her idea to create a compilation book. She asked for a list of the things that moved that I wanted for the book…and we had both phone and email conversations. It’s interesting because I’ve had a different editor/publishing house/illustrator for each of my books…and although they all have their own specific process and procedures, they were all respectful when it came to asking for changes or revisions. I think if you are willing to be flexible, adhere to your deadlines, and are a professional, editors will respect that. And they will also respect that you are an advocate for your stories.
Kaitlyn: Thanks for sharing that, Vivian. To many people who aren’t published yet, editors are enigmas, so I’m sure our readers are so elated to hear that editors are just awesome people trying to help get beautiful books into the world! Can you share some advice for up-and-coming writers?
Read – Write – Submit
Believe in yourself and in your stories.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Participate in critique groups and embrace feedback.
Take part in kid-lit challenges and contests – for the experience and for the camaraderie.
Kaitlyn: The best advice! And for those of you wantin to get in on challenges, Susanna Hill’s Valentiny contest is almost here, Vivians #50 Precious Words is right after, and then Ciara O’Neal and my Spring Fling Writing Contest is after that, check my Contests page for more info. Vivian, can you share a bit about your next book and/or what you’re working on now?
Vivian: Thank you for asking that question, Kaitlyn. I am so excited for my next book which launches Spring 2023 with Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills & Kane. PEDAL, BALANCE, STEER: ANNIE LONDONDERRY, FIRST WOMAN TO BIKE AROUND THE WORLD, illustrated by Jana Christy is a story about a young woman with three little kids who, in 1894, decides to accept a wager and a chance to win $10,000 by becoming the first woman to ride a bike around the world. I got to meet her great grand nephew who wrote a nonfiction adult novel about her: Around The World On Two Wheels. He was really helpful and I will be excited when I can send him a copy of it.
I’m working on three manuscripts right now…two of them are R&Rs (revise and resubmit) for an editor. And the other is a story I wrote after attending a 4th of July BBQ at my niece’s home where I met her father-in-law and his brother and sister. They told me the story of how they were refugees for ten years, unable to return home to the United States because the world was at war and their mother was a Greek citizen and they were sent from one camp to another in Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Africa. The most amazing thing is that I’ve been able to speak with all of them…they are now in their 80’s…and it’s a heartwarming story of a family that stood united and returned home together.
Kaitlyn: Wow, I can’t wait to read PEDAL, BALANCE, STEER: ANNIE LONDONDERRY, FIRST WOMAN TO BIKE AROUND THE WORLD, illustrated by Jana Christy, and sending you super good luck on your R&Rs and your beautiful, heartwarming draft! Finally, if you could spend a day with your favorite author or illustrator, would you sit by a fireside and chat or go out on an adventure together?
Vivian: My favorite author is Louisa May Alcott…I think I’ve read Little Women and Little Men and Jo’s Boys and Rose in Bloom about 50 times each, if not more. They were important books for me when I was growing up. I didn’t realize it then, but I see now that she gave me strong female characters who struck out on their own and sometimes made decisions that were different from the norm of the time. Unknowingly, I think I embraced that and took it to heart.
I believe I’d love to go on an adventure with her…maybe travel to some of the places she’s been to that I haven’t. And at the end of the day, I’m sure we would sit by the fireside with a cup of hot chocolate.
Oh, is that cheating…can I only choose one thing to do with her?
Kaitlyn: Hahaha, there’s no cheating; you’re a writer and you just created a beautiful story; the only catch is that you’ll have to invite me too! 😉 Thanks so much again for joining us today, Vivian!
Vivian: And thank you so much, Kaitlyn, for having me!
Kaitlyn: It was my absolute pleasure!
Book description and Links to Buy
Celebrating the invention of vehicles, this collective biography tells the inspiring stories of the visionaries who changed the way we move across air, water, and land. Perfect for fans of Mistakes that Worked and Girls Think of Everything.
In a time when people believed flying was impossible, Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier proved that the sky wasn’t the limit. When most thought horseback was the only way to race, Bertha and Karl Benz fired up their engines. From the invention of the bicycle and the passenger steam locomotive, to the first liquid-fuel propelled rocket and industrial robot, inventors across the world have redefined travel. Filled with informative sidebars and colorful illustrations, this collective biography tells the story of the experiments, failures, and successes of visionaries who changed the way the world moves.
Vivian’s books are available at Barnes & Noble and indie bookstores, as well as Bookshop.org and Amazon. If you order from her local indie, Toadstool Bookstore in Nashua, you can get a signed copy. If you order from anywhere else and would like a signed bookplate, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Here to There: Inventions That Changed the Way the World Moves: https://www.toadbooks.com/book/9781328560919
Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe: https://www.toadbooks.com/book/9781499809152
Sweet Dreams, Sarah: From Slavery to Inventor: https://www.toadbooks.com/book/9781939547316
Four Otters Toboggan: An Animal Counting Book: https://www.toadbooks.com/book/9780764984358
Pippa’s Passover Plate:
Pippa’s Passover Plate (paperback)
Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking
This 252-page parent-teacher activity guide is available directly from Vivian for $15. Please email for payment and shipping information: email@example.com
Writer for children—reader forever…that’s Vivian Kirkfield in five words. Her bucket list contains many more words – but she’s already checked off skydiving, parasailing, and visiting kidlit friends all around the world. When she isn’t looking for ways to fall from the sky or sink under the water, she can be found writing picture books in the picturesque town of Bedford, New Hampshire. A retired kindergarten teacher with a masters in Early Childhood Education, Vivian inspires budding writers during classroom visits and shares insights with aspiring authors at conferences and on her blog where she hosts the #50PreciousWords International Writing Contest and the #50PreciousWordsforKids Challenge. Her nonfiction narratives bring history alive for young readers and her picture books have garnered starred reviews and accolades including the Silver Eureka, Social Studies Notable Trade Book, and Junior Library Guild Selection.
To connect with Vivian and learn more about her books:
Kaitlyn’s Review of FROM HERE TO THERE
From Here to There is an inspiring and wonderfully illustrated book for all ages. The book takes a deep and interesting dive into the background of some little known inventors and their amazing and important inventions into the world. It will blow your mind to learn about the stories behind these inventions. Sharing this book with children in your life will not only inspire them but it will inspire you too!
Vivian has generously donated a 30-minute Zoom chat! It can be about a WIP or anything related to writing or publishing or my books for a writer, fora teacher wins, she could do a school visit to the class, and for a parent, she could do a virtual meet and greet the author with the family!
Here are all the ways to get into the giveaway (each one is an extra entry):
- Comment on this post
- Share in the comments below that you added FROM THERE TO THERE to your Goodreads “Want to Read” list and/or your Amazon Wishlist
- Share in the comments that you ordered a copy of FROM HERE TO THERE
- Share in the comments that you did a purchase request for FROM HERE TO THERE at your library
- Quote retweet my tweet about this blog post on Twitter and tag three friends.
Thank you all for joining us today for Vivian’s birthday, please send this incredible woman who is always so encouraging to others, a super happy birthday on her social media sites!
Kaitlyn Leann Sanchez
PS. The exciting news is allllllllmost here!