I’m Erin Dealey, and I write books for kids. I’m a teacher, presenter, rhymer, blogger, and proud Drama Mama.

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Happy #BookBirthday to PEDAL. BALANCE. STEER + 5 Qs for kidlit author Vivian Kirkfield

February 27, 2024

Today we welcome Vivian Kirkfield, whose new nonfiction picture book released last week and is cycling onto bookshelves everywhere! (Let’s keep this #BookBirthday celebration going!) #Kidlit cheers to:


Annie Londonderry, the First Woman to Cycle Around the World 

Illus. Alison Jay (Calkins Creek).

A fascinating, larger-than-life personality is deservedly brought to readers’ attention in this fine offering.


Perseverance and a willingness to try new things win the day in this lively picture-book biography. 

The Horn Book

Meet Vivian Kirkfield

Passionate about helping kids become lovers of books, Vivian is the author of board books, picture books, and a middle grade compilation of illustrated biographies that brings history alive for young readers.

Her #50PreciousWords contest for adult writers in March garnered over 750 entries in 2023, while the #50PreciousWords Literacy initiative has provided over 700 brand-new books for local schools in need over the past two years. In addition, since 2018, the #50PreciousWordsforKids International Writing Challenge, which takes place during Children’s Book Week in May, invites students from around the world to share their 50-word stories and illustrations.

Leaps of faith!

Vivian Kirkfield constantly takes leaps of faith—she jumped from a perfectly good plane with her son, hiked to the summit of Pikes Peak with her husband, and parasailed over the Pacific Ocean with only seagulls for company.

Time to jump in with some Questions:

Q 1. What surprises did you encounter during your research? for PEDAL. BALANCE. STEER. ?

Vivian Kirkfield: I was surprised – and delighted – to learn that Annie’s great grandnephew was alive and the author of a book about her: Around the World on Two Wheels. I reached out to him and he invited me to an event he was doing the very next week at a bike shop about an hour from my house. We met – and Peter Zheutlin has been extremely helpful all along the journey with this manuscript.

Interior Illustration by Alison Jay for PEDAL. BALANCE. STEER. written by Vivian Kirkfield (Calkins Creek).

Writing nonfiction and deciding on your focus…

Q 2. It’s such a huge giant task to sift through all the fascinating facts of a life like Annie’s and choose just the right ones to move the story forward. Are there any scenes/facts that didn’t make it into the book?

Vivian Kirkfield: Oh, I love this question! Because that’s what I LOVE and that’s what I HATE about writing a nonfiction PB Bio. There is so much information…I love that. But deciding what to focus on, that’s the Mission Impossible.


Annie herself provided the ‘outline’ for the manuscript…she authored a column in the New York World newspaper when she returned…and laid out her trip with fascinating details. Of course, I couldn’t include everything and I tried to pick out details that kids would relate to like:

  1. taking a couple of lessons because she had never ridden a bike before –  children can relate to that.
  2. having her bike confiscated by French officials and having to ask for help from someone who spoke French – children can relate to having something precious taken away.
  3. the robbery attempt on the road to Marseilles and the accident on the California mountain road added some spills and thrills – and I believe those incidents will keep kids engaged.

What didn’t make it into the book were lengthy descriptions of her tall tales…I mention those briefly. And my original quotations were also very lengthy – the editor loved them, but asked me to trim them down.

Interior Illustration by Alison Jay for PEDAL. BALANCE. STEER. written by Vivian Kirkfield (Calkins Creek).

Q 3. What surprises did illustrator Alison Jay bring to the book?

Vivian Kirkfield: It’s been a joy to have illustrator Alison Jay on the team! Her art and color palette are perfect for this book. I got to see several cover mockups early on…and the wrap-around of the world and Annie cycling spans the front and back cover – that  just knocked our socks off! Plus, I love how she has the male journalists running to keep up with Annie on the inner title page…and how the quotes are placed on the illustration pages. And how she managed to show images of Annie as a child to the child reader.

Q 4. I see that you got the idea for your #50PreciousWords contest, which has inspired so many writers, in 2016: “writing/revising/submitting. I believe that if we do those three things enough times, our writing improves and agents and editors get a chance to see our work. And as much as I am thrilled with my own success, nothing makes me happier than to hear about the success of others in our kidlit community.”

How has this event inspired your own work?  

Vivian Kirkfield: Whenever I participate in a webinar or podcast or conference presentation, folks mention how inspired they are to hear the story of how I jumped into writing for children after jumping out of that plane in 2011. And for me, I’m inspired by the excitement and effort and enthusiasm of this kid-lit community as they come together for #50PreciousWords.

As the tagline for the contest states: Magic Happens When You Make Every Word Count! When I read the entries, it’s evident that writers are embracing that advice…so many of the entries have gone on to become real books…and that inspires me also.

And so, I’m grateful to everyone who participates. And now, with the Literacy Initiative, we are helping schools and students in yet another way. 

Vivian on her bike!

What’s next?

Q 5. What’s next in the #kidlit queue for you? Anything you can share?

Vivian Kirkfield: Next in the #kidlit queue? We are only getting underway with 2024 and the launch of PEDAL…but I’m happy to say that I’ve got another nonfiction pb bio coming in Spring 2025: ONE GIRL’S VOICE: How Lucy Stone Helped Change the Law of the Land, illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon (Calkins Creek/Astra)…and I’ve already seen the pdf book dummy of sketches and LOVE THEM!!

PIPPA’S PASSOVER PLATE by Vivian Kirkfield, illus. Jill Weber (Holiday House).

Plus, there will be a sequel to Pippa’s Passover Plate in Fall 2025 which isn’t announced yet, but the illustrator, one of my dear friends and CPs, Jill Weber, is working on the art right now.

AND, and I also have a board book coming in 2026 with a different publisher that is also unannounced. Truly, I am so blessed to be living my dream.

That’s wonderful news. Congratulations!

Thank you for joining us on the blog today,

and congrats on your wonderful book,


To learn more about Vivian and her work follow these links:

Linkedin: www.linkedin.com/in/viviankirkfield

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