SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Get to Know Our Writer – Tim Burke

 

How long have you been a member of SCBWI?

I’ve been a member for eleven years.

What’s the most impactful thing you have learned from being in SCBWI?

That question is like asking “Who’s your favorite guitarist?” Depends—favorite jazz, rock, fingerstylist …?

I guess if I try to go all Yoda, it’s that children’s writing is a balancing act. Whenever Art tries to hang out and get all chummy with Business, all bets are off. Becoming a successful author is unpredictable, fraught with twists and turns, full of more and more ways to move forward. If you hear someone giving you rules for being creative, run for the hills. We tell one another lots of craft rules and industry dicta, which can be helpful up to a point, especially if you are just starting out. I’ve followed a LOT of advice over the years and it has helped me improve and maybe inch closer to marketable. However, ultimately you have to write what you hear in your head, what you feel in your heart. If it resonates with you, it will resonate with someone out there too. Just have to find them.

Hanging out with Steve Moose at winter conference

What genres do you write?

I write Young Adult, Middle Grade, and I’ve also sold short stories to two Adult Crime Fiction magazines: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. My shopping lists for the grocery store are some of my best work (tension mounts steadily as you go from fresh fruit to frozen aisle).

What is your writing process like?

I try to write every day, generally starting late AM after taking care of errands like walking and feeding our two comedian mutts.

Computer background for my website by my talented sister-in-law.

How long have you been writing? How did you first get into writing for children?

In college, I was hired to ghostwrite for a psychologist contributing to a self-help anthology. Then around 2004, as green and as clueless as they come, I tackled my first children’s novel. Actually, it was a great premise, but the writing not so much. It’s outrageous that the publishing industry wants decent writing as well; you’d think a good premise would be all you’d need. But the Man was determined to keep me down.

Did you go to school for writing or take classes?

I studied the Teaching of Writing, mostly applicable to the classroom to get kids over the fear of/excited about writing. That field was just burgeoning and getting its feet under it. Really awesome, exciting techniques and material were being developed, so I fell into it at the right time. I’ve never studied writing formally (it probably shows!).

Do you have a dedicated writing space?

My fabulous and long-suffering wife allowed me to have a home recording studio built in part of our unusually large garage. It’s not top-of-the-line or anything, and I’m not turning away Katie Perry or Sting, but it is a true room within a room (very close to completely soundproof). It’s basically my man cave, and this is where I do all my creating—music and writing.

What would be your dream book to write and get published?

A novel that shows kids reading is a blast, a party inside your skull, a laugh-out-loud adventure that leaves them wanting more. The cherry on the top would be if it could show kids they matter and that they have no reason to feel badly about themselves.

Thank you note from one of my ESL students

Are you working on any fun projects now?

I’ve just finished a Young Adult novel with monsters, humor, and a slow burn romance (‘cause nothing says LOVE like getting your spleen torn out). I’m wrapping up, with one of my fantabulous critique groups, the revision of my MG story of a girl who is raised by trolls and then reunites with her human mom and must now figure out all over again how to fit in.

 

Just diving into an MG which I’m pitching as a young Indiana Jones meets Dr. Doolittle.

This is by our member Steve Bjorkman as a RA retirement gift. It’s an illustration of the main character in my steampunk novel.

Do you illustrate as well or have any plans to do so?

I used to teach a second grader who openly mocked my drawings, so no, I don’t think I’ll strike out into Illustrator Land anytime soon. (Though I have been working through a How to Draw Cartoons book, which is loads of fun.)

Any tips for writers that are starting out?

Most of us probably won’t be waving from limos paid for by a billion dollar writing career (move over Musk and Bezos), so write because it’s in your blood. You simply have to tell stories or you’ll implode. Find readers (kids, friends, neighbors, critique groups) who will enjoy what you write because that will give you the shot in the arm we all need. Don’t compare yourself to other writers; that leads to unhealthy paths. Hang with other writers at least from time to time because they are invaluable resources as well as a support group since they are doing what you are doing and possibly going through what you are going through. Here endeth the sermon. Amen.

The logo and t-shirt for my critique group SCRIBBLICIOUS

Do you currently have an agent? If so, how did you end up with that agent?

Alas, not yet. However, I have just come across a more potent wing of bat and eye of newt … er, umm, recipe, so yeah, you never know.

Have you won any writer awards?

Not to speak of. I did just recently win the Tahquitz Writer Retreat Contest along with another super talented writer Laurie Young, so pretty chuffed to be in such exalted company.

List 3 to 5 interesting things about yourself. 

  1. Music is a major part of my life. I play guitar semiprofessionally and compose/record in my home studio.

My guitarist side.

  1. The children’s author who got me into reading is completely unknown today when I mention him, despite having written the 26 book Freddy the Pig series as well as short stories that inspired the popular TV show about a talking horse Mr. Ed: Walter R. Brooks. I wouldn’t be who I am without his influence. I’d love to be some kid’s Walter Brooks some day.

 

  1. In college, I chased down and turned over to the police a thief trying to steal my wallet out of my dorm room. A pretty fun story. I’ll share it with you over perfectly shaken martinis some day.

 

  1. Until the dreaded pandemic arrived, I had played ice hockey all my life. Hoping to get into that again. As a Buffalonian, it’s in my DNA.

 

Where can people find you? 

my website:     https://www.timburketales.com

Twitter (though who knows how much longer I’ll be on this now!)

@frankenstrat88

To see our Previous Get to Know Our Writers, click here.