And let's add another interview to the pile today from another incredibly talented creator of incredibly beautiful books!
Here we go...
Loretta was raised in a musical family in Toronto. Her mother was a singer and piano teacher, her brothers all budding young musicians, so it was no wonder Loretta found the theatre. She then spent over 30 years performing in television commercials.
While working for a recording studio, Loretta discovered voice acting and loved it instantly. She went on to voice many commercials, CBC radio dramas and animated cartoons such as Madeline, Babar, Maxie's World, Julius Jr. and the ongoing show, Max and Ruby. She especially enjoyed the villains and daemon’s she voiced for the popular Sailor Moon series.
Loretta developed her keen understanding of the world of children’s books while working as a storyteller, bookseller and reviewer at Mable’s Fables Book Store in Toronto. Here she developed a passion for literacy and the thrill of putting books into the hands of tomorrow’s
Meanwhile, with all those animation and story characters in her head, plus a riveted audience, (her two children and husband), Loretta began writing stories and squirrelling them away for future young readers to enjoy.
A Stopwatch from Grampa.
Published by Kids Can Press, released April 7, 2020.
Rights bought by Trigger Publishing/Upside Down Books
Grandpa's Stopwatch will release November 2020 in the UK and Commonwealth.
Kirkus Star Review
School Library Journal Star Review
"It can be very hard to know how to talk to children about loss and death. This beautiful story provides us with an entry point to discuss these difficult topics. Grandpa's Stopwatch normalizes the sadness and grief children might feel after the death of a grandparent. It also shows young readers that these feelings can lessen over time and that we may be comforted by memories of loved ones we have lost." --Lauren Callaghan - Consultant Clinical Psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of Trigger Publishing.
Who are you and what do you write?
Hi there, I’m Loretta Garbutt and I love to write children’s picture books. I also love to
write short stories and essays, mostly about people who are trying to figure out their lives.
Where and when and how did the writing life begin for you?
I just recall always being keenly aware of words. One set of my grandparents was born in Ukraine, English wasn’t their first language but they had a good grasp of it. Sadly, my brothers, cousins and I never learned it.
Still, Ukrainian was spoken when family gathered. The adults all crammed into the small farmhouse dining room after a large meal, grandparents and aunties in chairs, my tall uncles, arms folded, leaning into the wall. Talk went late, serious dialogue with a lot of nodding then tears and suddenly laughter and jokes, it was fascinating. Watching their changing expressions, I yearned to understand what was being said and believed if I listened hard enough I would just get it, I loved the sound of their secret language. Who knows, maybe that’s where a love of words started, in the struggle for them.
I don’t know why we have these affinities for things, whether it’s born within us and something in our life experience triggers them or if they’re created from environment. But it’s such a strong image for me.
How has the journey to this point been? Can you give us a basic rundown?
Grade 4, first poem.
Grade 5, poetry competition, 2nd place!
First completed book read, Charlotte’s Web. I cheated and skipped a chapter or two because it was sunny out and my brothers were playing hockey without me.
I was a lazy reader.
My family was very musical though, mom a piano teacher, so although there were books in the house, I couldn’t be bothered. That said, I lost myself in song lyrics. Elton John/Bernie Taupin, Genesis, Yes, any song that had a lyrical hook. I think that developed my love of story. I can recite certain albums from beginning to end, not sure if that’s something to be proud of but for sure, my writing was born from there.
Essay competitions in school.
Found the theatre – woohoo!
But then, grade 13, we used to have that up until a few years ago in Canada, Mrs. Guthrie introduced me to literature and I was ready to hear it; the way she unravelled hidden meanings behind words blew me away.
I was a lazy student, bored, a brat, then The Stone Angel changed me, didn’t skip a chapter, read it twice in fact and devoured others.
I think we can count ourselves very lucky when we find a teacher that speaks to us and takes us out of our teen heads, makes us hungry for something different. Mrs. G opened doors into Tolkien, Thoreau, Dostoyevsky etc. etc.!
For years I just wrote, squirrelled away ideas, formulated thoughts, had a couple of essays published in our Globe and Mail newspaper but my writing didn’t really have a direction. I was a full time mom and actor, but I was nagged by not writing.
THEN, I took a job in a children’s book store, one of those iconic places, Mabel’s Fables, similar to the one in You’ve Got Mail. The door to children’s literature was flung open, best classroom ever.
After a year, without a doubt, I knew what I wanted to write: Picture books!
Began the journey, workshops, writing groups, conferences, the circuit.
What's been the hardest part of your writing/publishing experience so far? And the most enjoyable?
The hardest part was not knowing if I was actually any good and wondered if I was spending time and money on acquiring a mediocre skill, 10 years of frustration. “Was this a waste of time and would I actually ever be published?”
I was driven to become a good writer and I worked at it daily. Studied under good people, asked questions. I was thrilled to have the store; daily I was reading the best stories I could get my hands on, they blew me away. I loved their simplicity or how smart they were with just the minimum of words.
I was lucky to find a critique group where I we can still safely share stories and we trust one another to give helpful advice. This definitely made my work better. And some positive feedback gave me hope. It’s not easy to put yourself out there, to share your work and leave it open to criticism, but for me, It was one of the most important steps to getting better. If my story can pass the critical eyes of critique group, it will be that much better prepared for the sharp eyes of an editor.
The best response to my writing was a rejection from a UK publisher – “Your story is lovely and engaging but we can’t accept it at this time.” Woohoo, someone actually read my story and liked it!
I was extremely lucky to have a story plucked from a slush pile at Kids Can Press. That first story didn’t pan out but my first picture book, A Stopwatch from Grampa from Kids Can Press, was released on April 7, 2020. I have a second picture book coming out spring of 2022.
Would you go back and change anything?
The process has been a blast! Watching a book come to life from manuscript to illustrations to holding it in my hand. Amazing. I’ve learned so much from my editor Katie Scott, she’s been a fabulous teacher.
And I’d like to say be open to that, editors have the expertise and know the market. Trust them. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that someone has my back in this and only wants the best for my story.
Do I have to pinch myself? Yes.
I think the fact that I’ve been an actor, interpreting scripts, taking improv, has helped me with character creation and story and rejection. Rejection isn’t personal, it’s just not a good fit for a publisher. It still hurts but "never give up, never surrender!"
And if I would change anything it would be to trust myself sooner and not be so critical. Perhaps I should have started writing sooner but honestly, I’m not sure if I was ready. It had to happen organically. And don’t stay in a box, try new things, get out of your comfort zone. Growth in your life equals growth in writing.
Where would you like to be in 5 years time? And 10? Or, what are your plans for the future?
My plan, to write into the future and keep learning. My dream, to have a few more picture books published and maybe try my hand at a novel.
I’d love to find a quiet cottage somewhere in Wales and write for 6 months, not unlike Colin Firth in Love Actually, even though I think he was writing in France. One dream at a time but also, I plan to enjoy the process, not make it a chore.
What's one piece of advice you'd give to new writers just starting out?
Advice, I am honoured to give it: never say ‘no’, to yourself or to your work. Be open to change and to making your work better. It’s easy to hang on to our stories we love but always be open to finding new channels. We are writers, creators so don’t block yourself by saying ‘no.’
Also, it’s difficult to get published so understand the market. It’s difficult because there are many factors to think about and that’s stressful when we just want to write, but knowing what you’re up against will help. If you can somehow use that to make yourself better, then you will suffer less disappointment.
Above all, give yourself the benefit of the doubt. No one will do that for you. When you find yourself saying, ‘I’ll never get anything published, then add, ‘yea, but what if I did!’
Believe you can be better. Pat yourself on the back sometimes and don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as hoped. We all have a plan within and we have to let it unfold.
And most importantly, we want to know...
Ketchup or mayo? - Mayo - Duh
Night or day? - Day – mornings for sure. Fresh and frosty in winter – a slow unfolding in summer.
Inside or Outside? - Outside – walks, gardening, birds, trees.
Dogs or Cats? - Dogs or Cats are great – maybe cats, but depends on the personality.
Twitter or Facebook? - Twitter – FB gives me anxiety but love connecting with family.
Sun or Rain? - Rain mostly, it’s cozy and thoughtful.
Keyboard or Pencil & Notebook? - Keyboard with a little pencil and notebook on the side.
Comedy or drama? - Drama – Anything historical, Jane Austin, yes please.
Chips or Chocolate? - Chips – but it’s a free for all if they are in the house, no control.
Want to guest blog or be interviewed? Got a cover reveal or book coming out?
Get in touch today!