Marcy Back is The Author of The Week

I discovered the talented author Marcy Back on Instagram while searching for new reads. The cover of her children’s book, ‘Flannel Fred,’ immediately caught my eye, compelling me to explore its contents further. The narrative beautifully navigates themes of grief, empathy, and kindness, offering young readers valuable lessons and enriching their understanding of these essential aspects of life.

Hello Marcy, welcome to BrandEducation!Where are you from and what do you like doing in your spare time?

I am from a sweet and friendly small town called Murray, Kentucky. I have lived there all my life and graduated from our local Murray State University. I am a retired elementary school teacher of 28 years. I fill my days with volunteer work at my church, reading books by my favorite authors, walking with my friend, hiking in the Smokey Mountains, and best of all spending time with my wonderful family. I live on the same childhood family land as my precious parents and aunt. I am married to a supportive and loving man who I love going to Kenny Chesney concerts. We have an outstanding young adult son who makes us very proud. My life is small but completely full!

What initially drew you to the craft of writing, and when did you realize you wanted to pursue it as a career?

I often created little stories and poems when I was a child. I clearly remember a teacher in elementary school after reading a short story that I had written encouraging me to keep writing. I always had a strong sense of fantasy as a child. I also would use writing to work out emotions whether in a diary or in a poem. Writing for me is not about a career. It is more about helping others through words and books. When I realized I had an idea for a book on an important topic that could help others was the moment I decided to become an author. 

Can you share a bit about your journey as a writer? What were some of the challenges you faced along the way, and how did you overcome them?

I really feel this journey has just started. In all honesty it almost did not happen. Challenge number one was doubt. I was terrified that my book wasn’t good enough, that people would make fun of me, and that I would be a failure. Yet once I shared my dream of becoming an author with trusted family, close friends, and an author friend who took me under her wing, their support and encouragement was all I needed to begin. I had found my support tribe. Challenge number two was publishing. I knew once my book was ready if I wanted it published, I would have to dive into the world of self-publishing. I mean let’s face it, I am a no one in the realm of writing so traditional publishing was out of the question. I researched and talked to so many companies. I finally found one I could trust and felt comfortable working with. Challenge number three was marketing. I had no clue where to even start. I had precious friends who had a book sighing for me and local businesses that graciously allowed me to sell my book in their establishments. I have a business Instagram account to promote my book. Yet still, I search for ways to get my book out there to be noticed. It is a large market to navigate and as most authors know, just getting reviews can be a tedious job.

Many writers have a favorite part of the writing process. What aspect do you enjoy the most: brainstorming, drafting, editing, or something else?

Personally, my favorite part of the writing process is “brainstorming”! Once an idea gets into my head I brainstorm it everywhere. I brainstorm in the shower, in the middle of the night, driving down the road, walking outside, and about everywhere I am. Sometimes the ideas come so fast I stop whatever I am doing, wherever I am, and must write them down either on paper or on my phone. I have several sheets of paper stored away in various places and random notes on my phone for future book ideas. It is so exciting though, to feel the book forming and almost coming to life and that you are the one who created it.

What inspires your storytelling? Are there particular themes, experiences, or sources of inspiration that frequently find their way into your work?

What inspires my story ideas is when I see a need. I want to help others through my writing. I use emotions as my themes in my story ideas. Being a teacher for so many years gave me so many experiences to use in my storystelling. I have used the experiences of students from my past as my inspiration, especially for my characters. 

As an author, you must create characters that feel real and compelling to readers. How do you go about developing your characters, and do they ever surprise you during the writing process?

My characters are a mixture of real kids. They are characters who you want to root for in the story. They are characters you can find a piece of yourself in some aspect of their story. One of my favorite parts of being a teacher was read-aloud time. I always searched for books with characters that would generate a sense of empathy within my students. I believe once you empathize with a character you then carry part of them with you. It is creating a relationship even though they don’t exist. I would say what surprises me about characters in the writing process is how attached I become to them. I am fond of my characters and feel they are an extension of myself.

Your latest book, “Flannel Fred,” has been generating a lot of buzz. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind it and what readers can expect from the story?

The idea for my book came from having students over the years who would lose a loved one and would struggle in that grief. There were not many books about children who were grieving that would be easy to relate to, so I knew there was a need. I also wanted the book to encourage resilience, empathy, kindness, and acceptance. All of which are important emotional needs of children. Flannel Fred is a rhyming story about a young boy dealing with the grief of losing his father. He carries a red flannel shirt to school to keep his father’s memory close to him. Fred is looked at differently by his peers and often plays alone. He is finally asked by another classmate, Jack, about the flannel shirt. After learning the truth about Fred, Jack hatches a plan to let others know why he carries the flannel and let Fred know he is cared about. One thing I did not expect was how adults have also responded to the book and have needed it just as well.

Writing can be a solitary pursuit, but publishing involves collaboration with editors, agents, and other professionals. Can you share a bit about your experience working with others in the publishing industry?

I lucked up in my self-publishing search and partnered with Palmetto Publishing Company out of North Carolina. I experienced the best professionalism and respect in our collaboration. Since I knew nothing about this process, they walked me through always being available for me if I needed them. My collaborating illustrator, Deb Johnson, had a vision for what I wanted my book to look like from cover to cover and my beloved characters. My experience was so positive. I do not have a literary agent yet, but you never know. I do have a couple of books brewing in my back pocket but that is another adventure for another day.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are just starting on their writing journey?

There are going to be challenges, but I like to think of Mr. Rogers’ famous quote, “Look for the helpers…” Find those people who support and believe in you. Then believe in yourself! If you love what you are writing and want to share those characters with the world, do not let anything hinder you. I think Beverly Cleary summed it up best, “If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it.”

Where can our listeners find you online?

You can find me on Instagram @flannelfredbook

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