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Results 26 - 50 of 544
26. In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm

In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm (Part 1):

Planning and Promoting a Book Launch and Signing
Guest Post by Karen Spafford-Fitz

karen-vanishI was thrilled when Orca released Vanish, my second middle-grade novel, in March 2013. As with my first book, I planned to hold a book launch and signing in Edmonton, where I have lived for 20 years. Upon realizing that many friends and family members living in eastern Ontario also wanted to help celebrate the release of my new book, we decided to launch Vanish in my hometown of Kingston as well.

In both instances, I was pleased with the strong turnout and the enjoyable launch days—especially when it can be challenge to pack a bookstore. I thought other authors might be interested in how I planned my book launches and signings

This “warts and all” account includes not just the steps that I found effective, but also those that possibly amounted to time-wasters. I offer them all in the hope that these strategies—or variations on them—might work beautifully for other authors.

To that end, here are some ideas for how to plan and execute a successful book launch:

 Seek Out the Best Venue (three to four months before launch)

  • karen-kingstonlaunchI prefer working with independent bookstores as they are so supportive of local authors and are experts in connecting the right books to their ideal readers. I was delighted that Audreys Books in Edmonton and Novel Idea Bookstore in Kingston agreed to host my launches.
  • As the launches approached, I updated the bookstores as best I could about the approximate number of guests. They then estimated the number of books we would require for the launch days.
  • Since Vanish would likely spark renewed interest in my previous title, both stores brought in copies of Dog Walker, which also sold well.
  • The bookstore owners were pleased with the number of people who visited their bookstores. They continue to take a personal interest in hand-selling my book.

Results: Highly effective

Choose a Strategic Launch Date (three to four months before launch)

  • Mid-April was my preferred date for the Edmonton launch and I began inquiring before Christmas. Audreys especially has ongoing commitments with book clubs, Stroll of Poets, etc and I was glad we pulled out our calendars early.
  • I chose Sunday afternoons for both launches as families sometimes have more downtime then. Timing the launch for the weekend was especially important for my Kingston launch as guests were travelling in from the Ottawa and Toronto areas—something they couldn’t have readily done on a weeknight.
  • I was careful to avoid long weekends but realized belatedly that my Edmonton launch fell on the final day of the Masters’ Golf Tournament. I know of one person who did not attend for that reason. (Thankfully it was not my husband.)

Resluts: Highly effective

Prepare a Guest List and Send Invitations (six weeks before launch)

  • karen-eviteI sought the advice of the marketing manager at Orca to determine which types of promotional materials would best support the launches. Orca created an e-vite that could be sent by email and a poster that could be printed and distributed.
  • This was not the time to grow shy about whether to invite this person or that person! I widely emailed the e-vite that Orca prepared. I included out-of-town people whom I thought might order a book even if they couldn’t attend.
  • I reached many people by email and replied personally as they responded with acceptances or declines. I did not use snail mail at all.

Results: Highly effective

Spread the Word via Social Media (four or five weeks before launch)

  • I relied extensively on Facebook, posting the e-vite plus creating a Facebook event for both launches. I responded personally as people replied with acceptances or declines.
  • Every week or 10 days, I reminded people about my launch. And because I wanted to avoid repetitions of “Please come to my book launch,” I looked for creative ways to do this. For example, I tied the reminders to food updates for my launch days or to wacky wardrobe choices I was presumably considering.
  • I also posted the invitation in the various writing associations to which I belong. In some instances, you can to post with other writing groups and associations that you have “liked.”

Results: Highly effective

Gear the Book Talk Toward Connecting Guests to the Characters and Story

  • karen-edmontonlaunchI provided guests with some back-story on Vanish so the characters and storyline would hopefully resonate on a personal level with them.
  • I chose readings that I hoped would encourage guests to want to hear more. My first reading was the opening chapter, which introduces my central characters and the basic situation (thereby avoiding the need for lengthy explanations to set the stage). My second reading was from a high-action scene where my protagonist realizes that a crisis is unfolding.
  • I wanted my book talk to last approximately 20 minutes (it was slightly longer)—long enough to make the event feel worthwhile for guests, but not so long they grew tired of listening. In that time, I acknowledged the bookstore, Orca, my immediate family, and the guests in general; shared some back-story; and did two readings, which were approximately eight minutes in total.

Results: Highly effective

Distribute Posters to Schools, Libraries and Small Businesses

  • Orca made posters to advertise the launches and I took them to schools, libraries, and various small businesses (eg. vet clinic, bakeries, small, local supermarkets).
  • I received particularly warm responses at the schools, whose responses included posting my invitation in visible places (parent drop-off spots, in libraries, by the front office), sharing it at staff meetings or morning announcements, and scanning it to the school’s website.
  • I drew in some people this way, especially at schools where teachers and students knew me personally from school visits.

Results: Moderately effective

Prepare Promotional Emails for Area Schools

  • Because Vanish is written for 10- to 14-year-old readers, I targeted both elementary and junior high schools within Edmonton Public School Board.
  • My email included a book synopsis and link to Vanish on Orca’s website, along with the e-vite to my launch. I also mentioned my past work within EPSB in the hopes that this might recall some previous teaching connections.
  • The only schools that replied back to me were those where someone in the front office or the principal knew me. Did the others simply hit the ‘delete’ key? Perhaps.

Results: Minimally effective

Submit Invitations to Online Community Postings

  • I relied on this step for my “away” launch in Kingston, posting the e-vite on an online guide in nearby Napanee. Because I am a Queen’s University graduate, I was also permitted to post on Queen’s Community Events page.

Results: Somewhat effective

Engage with your Audience:

This leads me to the final factor, which I feel was most significant in creating a successful book launch and signing. (Warning: This last factor is not splashy or sexy and can take years to accomplish. But the good news is that many people can put it into practice immediately.)

Talk to students. Engage with others. Tell people what you do.

  • In large part, the people who supported me at my launches are those whom I have come to know personally and professionally over the years.
  • My guests were primarily from the following groups: friends from my current and former communities; my daughters’ friends; my writing colleagues; my husband’s colleagues; friends from the dog park; students from my writing workshops plus friends they brought with them; family members; my grade 13 English teacher; my grade ten history teacher; and my high-school friends who gathered from the surrounding areas and treated my launch as a mini high-school reunion. I am grateful to all of them.



So did I create the ideal conditions for a successful book launch and signing? Did I find that “perfect storm” that I referenced in the title?

Yes and no….

Check back tomorrow for part 2 of Karen’s blog post, “In Pursuit of the Perfect Storm.” Tomorrow, Karen will reflect on the success of her launches and what she’ll focus on next time.

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27. Free Fall Friday – June Results

bookopenI’d like to thank Anna Olswanger from Liza Dawson Associates for sharing her time and expertise with us this month. Your first page is the first thing anyone sees of your story, so the more we can hone the beginning, the better off we will be in writing a successful book. I know we can all learn from these sessions. Even if it is not your first page, you can make note of the thoughts of an editor or agent after they have critiqued the page.

Here are the four first pages picked this month and Anna’s thoughts:

Hope Grietzer                    The Carousel Keeper                Middle Grade Novel

A parade of green swells rose and sank in the murky water beneath the boat. The deck of the ferry dipped again, and for a moment Sadie felt weightless.

“Just ten more minutes,” she thought, gripping the rail as the ferry climbed the crest of the next swell. A gusty wind tugged at her baseball cap like a passing pickpocket, and Sadie’s hand flew up to protect her cap. She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Bit choppy today,” a voice said.

The steward approached, the ends of his white jacket flapping in the breeze like seagull

wings. Red hair hugged his head, and his ears stuck out like pot handles.

“Anything I can do for you, Miss?”

“Can you send me back to Ohio?” Sadie forced a small grin.

“I would, except I promised your uncle I’d deliver you to the island safe and sound.” He

glanced around the crowded ferry. “Follow me.”

Sadie eased away from the rail. The mischievous deck sank before her sneaker could reach it, and then rose so that her foot smacked it hard.

“Feels like I’m walking on the moon,” she thought, hobbling after the steward.

The man paused and gestured toward a vacant seat. “The ride should be smoother here.”

A mother with a squirmy toddler shifted to make room as Sadie sank onto the bench. Across the aisle, a wiry man in a brown suit coat gave Sadie and the child a nervous glance and tugged his briefcase closer. Sadie gave him her best smile but he scowled back, his thick eyebrows drawing together like a blackbird’s wings.

Sadie wished her brother Jamie was here. He had a knack for making friends. But Sadie

traveled alone, sailing toward Summer Island while her parents flew to Brazil. They broke the

news to her last week.


The Carousel Keeper

I would keep reading beyond the first page to find out what life will be like for Sadie on Summer Island. (Will she find a friend? Will she see the steward again? What is her uncle like?)

I do think some minor details are distracting: the image of red hair hugging the steward’s head, for example. What is the point of that detail, or of the detail of his ears sticking out? It feels as though the author may be trying to fill up space. The deck being “mischievous” feels like overwriting, and what is it like to walk on the moon? The reader has been experiencing the choppiness of the ride, so would walking on the moon be “choppy?”

Is there a significance to the bird imagery? The stewards’s white jacket flaps like seagull wings. The man in the brown suit has eyebrows that draw together like a blackbird’s wings. Make it clear if an image is part of a theme. Otherwise, the details seem arbitrary.

The hint of Jamie at the end is nice.

Annina Luck Wildermuth

Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter & the Ghost with the Hooded Cloak Middle Grade (ages 8 – 12)

Ned was two hours into his watch, crouched behind the old elm at Walnut Hollow graveyard, when he spotted his first ghost of the night.  Of course, he’d seen all kinds of ghosts the week before when he was still in training with his older brother Tom, but this was different. He was alone now.

As his luck would have it though, he could already see that this one was a poor excuse for a ghost. All its potentially distinguishing marks were obscured by a voluminous hooded cloak.

The horse it rode was equally undistinguished, poking its way among the graves, slow as molasses.

How am I supposed to identify this ghost? wondered Ned, starting to worry. As Walnut Hollow’s new ghost spotter, he was supposed to identify and log in all the ghosts who came through the town and make sure that they were obeying the local haunting laws.

He fumbled now to produce Ghosts of the Thirteen Colonies & Their Classification from inside his vest. Satisfied that the horse and rider were making slow progress at best, he thumbed the book’s worn pages, his lantern flickering beside him. Ghosts were portrayed in great detail with identifiable characteristics.  There was General Whitelsby, the angry, old red-coat in his unmistakable British uniform and Abigail, the Quaker in her fancy white neck ruff. The mad horseman from Sleepy Hollow always carried his head under his arm. Ned’s eyes darted to the graveyard, and he groaned inwardly. Nothing.

And then the wind whipped up, blowing through the tree’s branches and whistling its way between the gravestones. It twirled around the ghost and lifted its cloak into the air to reveal a small, cross girl in the frilliest dress Ned had ever seen. She looked straight at him and wailed: “How am I ever going to accomplish my mission, now that I’ve been so rudely unmasked?”


Ned Bunting, Ghost Spotter

This first page ends on a nice note of suspense, so I would want to read further, but the first sentence is too long and clunky. Try to clean it up, since that is an editor’s first impression of your manuscript.

It’s not clear why you have the detail that this ghost was a poor excuse. Tom is logging in ghosts and making sure they obey the local haunting laws, so his luck is not that this ghost is a poor excuse, but that it has no distinguishing marks.

The use of a book implies that this is a contemporary story. Is that what you intend, or is the story set in the past? If it’s set in the past, then shouldn’t the book be manuscript pages with handwritten notes?

When Ned’s eyes dart to the graveyard, he groans. If he’s groaning because he still  can’t identity this ghost, then make it clear that he is looking at the ghost, not at the graveyard (in general) to eliminate any confusion.

The last paragraph is perfect.

Liliana Erasmus - Song Of The Sentinel - paranormal middle-grade.

What is father doing here? I told him to stay out of it. This isn’t his battle to fight. His glorious days of vigilance are over. Gone. It’s my turn now. Why doesn’t he get it? He is dead. I am not. And he knows I’m here, I can feel his light shifting closer. His presence. My lantern blows out.

“Go. Away,” I urge him in silence.

I don’t even turn around to look into his empty eyes, or at that ridiculous horse that carries him around, for what? To attract all the hungry creatures in the neighborhood and make my life more miserable than it already is? I have to keep position and here he comes, shimmering behind me like a lighthouse signaling, Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!

They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?

“Father, for God’s sake, leave! Let it be.”

Once again, he backs off, his light dimming and I know he’s further away, but never for long, never too far from danger… from me.

The September wind has fallen, the trees stand breathless, moonlit tombs lie in repose and I still get that paralyzing chill down my spine. The buzzing in my ears is getting louder, it’s growing until it becomes a constant whistle in my head, ticking me off. If I jump now, they’ll know what to do with me. I’m on my own. They are with one, five… eleven, damn! I have to wait for them to stick their tongues into the earth before making any sound. One of them is not sniffing the graves. It’s holding back for some reason, tilting its snout in the air, tail high and stiff, while that foul smell of decay reaches my nose, making me gag. I swallow the sourness without blinking. The furry carcass is staring right at me.


Song of the Sentinel

I would probably keep reading this manuscript, but this page is confusing. Here are my concerns:

The narrator speaks in both vernacular and formal language: “stay out of it” and “doesn’t he get it” don’t work with “His glorious days of vigilance are over.”

It also doesn’t make sense for the narrator to say, “he knows I’m here” when it’s the narrator who can feel the father’s presence.

The phrase “my life more miserable than it already is” is vague. The reader needs a hint of what has been going on. Miserable in what way?

Who says “Look here! You see ‘m? Now suck his life out!’ The reader can’t tell.

Who says “They’re coming. I’m not sure how many this time. Three? Four?” Again, the reader can’t tell who is speaking.

What does it mean for tombs to “lie in repose?” It sounds as though the author is trying too hard here to be literary.

What does it mean that the narrator “still” gets that paralyzing chill down his or her spine? Has this happened in the past?

“Ticking me off” sounds too slangy, and too trite.

What does it means to swallow the sourness “without blinking?” What does sight have to do with taste in this instance?

I like the images in the last paragraph, and I especially like the suspenseful last sentence. I would continue reading, but the author should clear up all the confusion on this first page so that an editor will feel that the author is in control of her craft.

Meg Eastman Thompson, THE TRUTH ABOUT JUSTICE. MG/YA novel

Restless as a yellow-jacket at a barbecue, I bounded down the sidewalk to fetch the bread and milk for supper as Mother had ordered, heading for the Piggly Wiggly. I was lonely, missing Effie more than ever. Wondering where she and her family had hidden. Not wanting to believe they’d never come back.

When Missy and I had promised Effie we’d stand by each other no matter what, we’d taken our vows seriously. It hadn’t mattered back then that Effie was colored. We three were true friends. As I passed Liberty High and turned left toward the grocery store, there was not a friend in sight. Most everybody had been sent away, what with the coloreds asking to come to our school.

My next-door neighbor and sometime friend, Missy Pridemoor, and nearly everyone else, was having fun at church camp. I had begged to go, but Daddy insisted I was too old to be a camper. When I’d protested, he made it clear that, three years away from college, I was too young to make my own decisions. As usual Mother stuck by him.

When I was little, she’d always say, “Amelia Justice Queen, your Daddy knows what’s best for you.” But it was 1963 now and I was changing, along with everything else in our country. Even Mother was starting to speak up. When she told Daddy that camp was nothing but a non-stop revival meeting, it got me thinking. I didn’t need to be saved. Nor did I want to waste the end of my summer vacation listening to some preacher baying like an auctioneer. I stopped complaining. At fifteen, going on sixteen, I was smart enough to pick my battles.

Besides, I wanted to enjoy my last days of freedom. I skipped along. Released from their impossible overprotectiveness, which had only grown worse since stopping integration was once again on the school board agenda, I was determined to make the best of my trip to the store.
The Piggly Wiggly’s deep freeze was heavenly. I lingered by the ice cream treats.


The Truth About Justice

Although I think this manuscript has potential because of the voice and content, I found the first page so full of exposition (and some of it confusing), that I don’t think I’d continue reading. Look at the first sentence and how long it is—the first page feels a bit like this (stuffed with information).

I don’t understand who the narrator is and what she wants: In the first paragraph, she is lonely for Effie; in the second paragraph, she seems to be missing her friends in general; in the third paragraph, she wants to go to camp; in the fourth paragraph, she decides she doesn’t want to go camp; and in the fifth paragraph, she seems just to want to enjoy her freedom. All of these motivations feel like too much for one page. The narrator has to have one overriding motivation that will take her (and the reader) through that first page—and on through the book.

It’s also confusing that in the third paragraph, the mother sticks by the father, but in the next paragraph she tells the father that the camp is nothing but a non-stop revival meeting.

And, finally, a fifteen-year-old protagonist is a bit too old for a novel that has the feel, at least in this opening page, of a middle grade novel (the narrator skips). If the author could lower the age and focus the narrator’s motivation, she should have a first page that an agent or editor would want to keep reading.

Thank you everyone for participating. Happy revising.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, Agent, Author, revisions, Tips, writing Tagged: Anna Olswanger, First Page Critique, Free Fall Friday, Liza Dawson Associates Literary Agency

5 Comments on Free Fall Friday – June Results, last added: 7/1/2013
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28. Lou Allin wins Arthur Ellis Award for Contingency Plan

Huge congratulations to Lou Allin, whose Rapid Reads title Contingency Plan has won this year’s Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novella!

The Arthur Ellis Awards honor excellence in Canadian Crime Writing. Lou Allin was previous shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Novel in 2003 for Blackflies Are Murder.

About Contingency Plan:

When Sandra Sinclair, recently widowed and the mother of twelve-year-old Jane, meets wealthy lawyer Joe Gillette, he wins her over with his kind and conscientious attitude. Falling in love faster than she ever thought possible, Sandra agrees to marry. But soon after they move into their new home, things begin to change, and Joe’s controlling behavior causes her to question her decision. When her new husband becomes seriously abusive, Sandra decides that she and Jane must leave.

When Joe makes it clear that he will not just let her walk away, Sandra discovers that it’s quite likely that he arranged his first wife’s death, and that she is now part of his “contingency plan.” She soon realizes that even the law is no defense against this meticulous and egotistical man. Fleeing to an old family cabin on a remote lake, mother and daughter prepare to live off the grid. And when Joe tracks them down, Sandra must come up with a contingency plan of her own. Buy the Book!

About the Rapid Reads series from Orca:

Rapid Reads are short novels and non-fiction books for adult readers. In our increasingly fast-paced world Orca believes there is a need for well-written, well-told books that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read. Each novel in the Rapid Reads series is written between a 2.0 and 4.5 reading level. The plots are contemporary and entertaining, with adult language and themes. More about Rapid Reads.


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29. Releasing on ITunes Soon

Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore, an animated and narrated children’s picture book releases on 7/1/13!

0 Comments on Releasing on ITunes Soon as of 5/26/2013 4:27:00 PM
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30. Best Books for Kids & Teens 2013

Looking for the best books for your kids and teens? Of course you are! Fortunately, the Canadian Children’s Book Centre  (a national not-for-profit organization founded in 1976) publishes just such a list. And we’re thrilled to share that sixteen Orca titles made the list for Spring 2013.

“All of the titles in Best Books for Kids & Teens have been handpicked by expert committees of educators, booksellers, and school and public librarians from across Canada. The reviewed materials include picture books, junior/intermediate fiction, graphic novels, and powerful teen fiction, in addition to a wide array of non-fiction, magazines and audio/video resources.” —Canadian Children’s Book Centre website

The following Orca titles were selected for the list this season. Congratulations to all the authors on their achievement!

Best Books for Kids and TeensClose to the Heel, Norah McClintock
Dead Run, Sean Rodman
Edge of Flight, Kate Jaimet
High Wire, Melanie Jackson
I, Witness, Norah McClintock and Mike Deas
Jump Cut, Ted Staunton
Kiss, Tickle, Cuddle, Hug, Susan Musgrave
Oracle, Alex Van Tol
Pieces of Me, Darlene Ryan
Prince for a Princess, Eric Walters
Pyro, Monique Polak
Redwing, Holly Bennett
Seeing Orange, Sara Cassidy
Shallow Grave, Alex Van Tol
Three Little Words, Sarah N. Harvey
Uncle Wally’s Old Brown Shoe, Wallace Edwards

CCBC members receive a copy of Best Books for Kids & Teens as part of their membership package, as do subscribers to Canadian Children’s Book News.

Best Books for Kids & Teens can be purchased at select bookstores or online at: www.bookcentre.ca.


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31. People’s Light Theatre – Stargirl & Jerry Spinelli

people light theatre

For all you Jerry Spinelli and STARGIRL fans, don’t miss out seeing STARGIRL on stage.


April 20—May 12, 2013

By Y York

Adapted from the novel by Jerry Spinelli

Directed by Samantha Bellomo

When an eccentric homeschooler arrives at Mica Area High School, hallways buzz with texts, whispers fill the air, and 11th grader Leo Borlock’s life is changed forever. Based on the critically-acclaimed young adult novel by Jerry Spinelli, the author of everyone’s favorite Maniac Magee, Stargirl celebrates first love, non-conformity, and the similarities that connect us all.  Best appreciated by ages 12 and up.

Join the actors after every performance to discuss the making of the production.

jerryMeet Author Jerry Spinelli!

Jerry is the author of more than 30 books including Stargirl, Crash, Loser, Milkweed, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, and has recently released a new novel, Hokey Pokey.  In 1991 he received the Newbery Medal for Maniac Magee and was awarded the Newbery Honor in 1998 for Wringer.

Join us for book signings with Jerry Spinelli before these performances of Stargirl:

May 11 at 1pm

There are 5 shows still available from Thursday May 9th – May 12th and Jerry Spinelli will be signing books at 1 pm, before the 2 pm Saturday matinee.

Mother’s Day: The theatre is having a buffet brunch or prix fixe dinner with a performance of Stargirl on Sunday, May 12th! Experience their award-winning gardens and the charming, historic setting of the 18th-century farmhouse. What a nice way to celebrate Mom’s Day. Reserve your table and tickets now!

stargirlCalling all Star-people! Only today to work on this:

Enter to win tickets to a performance of Stargirl at People’s Light and Theater, along with a chance to meet Stargirl and receive a copy of the book, signed by Jerry Spinelli!

Simply send us a 250-word essay or link to a 2-min video describing to us the person you are, just like Stargirl does in her “The Person I Am” speech.

Essays and videos can be sent via email to artsdiscovery@peopleslight.org and MUST be received by Monday, May 6th.  Winners will be contacted directly so please be sure to include your name, age, and contact information (email and home phone).

(Note: If any of the pictures in this post or other posts are squished, refresh your screen and it will correct.)

Hope you live close enough to take advantage of this.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Contest, Events, opportunity, Young Adult Novel Tagged: book signing, Jerry Spinelli, Malvern PA, Stargirl play, The People's Light Theatre

2 Comments on People’s Light Theatre – Stargirl & Jerry Spinelli, last added: 5/6/2013
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32. Another Avenue for Eileen Spinelli’s PB WANDA’S MONSTER

wandaIt seems more and more picture books and middle grade books are being picked up and brought to stages around the country. We all dream of seeing our books on the big screen, but more and more production companies are looking at children’s books to bring to the stage. I thought you might like to know that if you live in the New York area you can see Eileen’s Spinelli’s picture book “Wanda’s Monster” played out on stage.  It sounds like a lot of fun and runs through May 12 at Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, NYC (646) 250-1178, www.makingbookssing.org .

Here is a an article that appeared in Theater Review on April 25th.

Feared Fiend to Gentle Friend

Wanda’s Monster,’ With Laurie Berkner’s Tunes, at Theater 3


Anyone familiar with cable television knows that plenty of adults believe in monsters. But the parents of Wanda, the heroine of the new family musical “Wanda’s Monster,” must not be fans of series like “Finding Bigfoot.” Wanda can’t convince them or her brother that a creature lives in her closet.

Audiences at Theater 3, however, know he’s there. Looking more like a Honker from “Sesame Street” than like Nessie or Sasquatch, this fuzzy beast enters from the aisles. Like the children around him, he’s been enjoying the show’s opening, set at a rock club run by Wanda’s grandmother. Granny, you see, is Joan Jett.


Well, not really Joan Jett, though she does wear black leather and ride motorcycles. Mostly Granny evokes Laurie Berkner, a wholesome singer-songwriter who’s bigger than Justin Bieber, if you happen to be 4 or 5. Making Books Sing, which turns children’s books into musicals, commissioned Ms. Berkner to write the score and lyrics for “Wanda’s Monster,” based on Eileen Spinelli’s 2002 picture book. Ms. Berkner, who doesn’t perform in the show, has filled it with catchy, folk-flavored pop, arranged by the production’s music director, Kristen Lee Rosenfeld. The upbeat melodies include one of Ms. Berkner’s longstanding hits, “Monster Boogie,” which fans are invited to dance to.

Barbara Zinn Krieger, founder of Making Books Sing, wrote the script, one of whose most inspired touches is turning Granny, who wears sweat pants and sensible shoes in Nancy Hayashi’s book illustrations, into this kick-out-the-jams rocker. Vibrantly played by Jamie Kolnick, Granny alone takes Wanda’s side, acknowledging the Monster’s existence but persuading her granddaughter (Laura Hankin, a grown-up who makes a convincing 5-year-old) that monsters are really shy, gentle, misunderstood souls.

In this hourlong adaptation, briskly directed by Adrienne Kapstein, the Monster is not only sweet but also sublimely silly. Winningly portrayed by James Ortiz in a role greatly expanded from the book, he eats the flowers Wanda slips into the closet for him and attaches her artwork to the wall with his spit. While the hulking, horned Mr. Ortiz may frighten a few little theatergoers at first, most, like Wanda, will want to hug him at the conclusion. This charming musical brings home a point worth considering at any age: embrace what you fear, and you just may find a friend.

“Wanda’s Monster” runs through May 12 at Theater 3, 311 West 43rd Street, Clinton; (646) 250-1178, www.makingbookssing.org.

Congratulations, Eileen! It must be exciting to see your book come to life.

Everyone, please let me know if you get to see this show. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, children writing, Kudos, News, opportunity, Picture Book Tagged: Eileen Spinelli, NYC Stage Show, Picture book to NY stage, Wanda's Monster

2 Comments on Another Avenue for Eileen Spinelli’s PB WANDA’S MONSTER, last added: 5/3/2013
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33. The Stories for All Project: Latina Author Pat Mora on the Connection Children Make with Books that Include their Culture and Language

Our guest blogger today is author Pat Mora, whose book “Yum! Mmmm! Que Rico!”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

“Once upon a time . . .” A magic phrase that can change our breathing. As far as we know, humans are the world’s story-telling creatures. Let’s think about the unique period in the lives of children when they begin to savor that phrase, when in fresh ways little ones are experiencing their surroundings and deciding where they fit. For many youngsters, media is their main source of information and entertainment. Children lucky enough to become readers discover that they can read those once-upon-a-time words to themselves—and others. They discover the pleasure and power of words. Since words and books are powerful, how can we doubt that the images of children, families, and cultures in their books have a subtle and significant impact on young readers and their families? Who merits having their stories shared and who doesn’t? How does it feel not to see people like you between the covers of beautiful books? Are all our books created and valued equally?

0 Comments on The Stories for All Project: Latina Author Pat Mora on the Connection Children Make with Books that Include their Culture and Language as of 5/1/2013 11:53:00 AM

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34. First Chapter Musts – Anita Nolan

April illustration heather dentCat1

This illustration was sent in by Heather Dent. Since a little girl, Heather’s dream has been to become a professional author and illustrator. Now the time has come to try to make that dream come true.  Right now she works for a small business in Berea KY called Attic Light Studios that transfers old videos and photos into digital files and makes movies for special events like weddings, funerals, and anniversaries.  Her blog is:  http://heatherdentstudio.blogspot.com/.

Anita Nolan is doing a four hour intensive workshop titled, Creating Better Beginnings on June 7th at the New Jersey SCBWI Conference. Here is the description:

It’s vital to make the first pages of your manuscript the best they can be. After all, an editor or agent might read no more than the first few paragraphs before deciding to reject. In this intensive we’ll look at different ways to begin a story and what should be included in the first few pages. We’ll consider what you are revealing about your main character, (and whether it is what you intended!) and whether the character is sympathetic. You’ll rewrite your first paragraphs of your story in this workshop. Bring a printed copy of your first chapter (at least 5 pages, double spaced), paper and pen, (and your laptop if you’d like—laptop is not necessary) highlighter, and be prepared to dig into your first chapter.

I asked Anita if she could share some tips with the writers following my blog. Anita does a great job. You will learn a lot and advance your story if you sign up for her Friday session. Below are a few things from Anita on what a first chapter should accomplish:

As a reader dives into the first chapter, he searches for clues as to what type of story he’s reading. Is it a fantasy? Historical? A fast-paced adventure or a slower-paced coming of age story? Is the voice humorous? Sarcastic? Flowery?

A story’s beginning makes a promise to the reader about what type of story he’s picked up, the pacing, and voice.

Recently I read first pages from one story that promised a fantasy but had no fantastical elements, and from another that had no fantastic elements in the beginning, but the story had an entire secondary fantasy world.

Here are a few things the first chapter should accomplish:

1. Intrigue Reader. Hook them & keep them reading.

2. Introduce either main character/s or theme.

3. Identify what Main character needs/lacks/wants.

4. Identify the obstacles standing in the Main Character’s way.

5. Establish a bond (sympathy) between the reader & Main Character.

6. Present the world in which the story is set.

7. Establish the general tone of the novel.

8. Show Pacing.

9. Show the Voice.

Remember registration ends April 30th at midnight.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Conferences and Workshops, How to, opportunity, revisions, Writing Tips Tagged: Anita Nolan, Intensive Workshop, June New Jersey SCBWI Conference, Writing Better Beginnings

7 Comments on First Chapter Musts – Anita Nolan, last added: 4/28/2013
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35. The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color

Our guest blogger today is author Tony Medina, whose book “DeShawn Days”, from Lee & Low Books, is part of First Book’s Stories For All Project.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color“As a child in the Throgs Neck Housing Projects in the Bronx, I did not grow up with books. The only person I saw reading was my grandmother, who occasionally read mass-market paperback fiction and her Bible that was as big as a phone book. If the Bible fell from the top of the dresser where she kept it, it could take your kneecap off and crush your foot in the process! The only time I recall being exposed to children’s books was at school when the teacher took us to the school library and the librarian allowed us to take out Curious George books.

It was as an adult that I really began to appreciate children’s books. I remember being fascinated by the marriage of art and text. The stories and poems were depicted so beautifully and richly that it seemed as if they blended together seamlessly, creating a world by which even adults would be captivated. I knew right then that I wanted to be part of that magic. I thought, if I as a grownup can be taken with the majesty of these portable art galleries and museums, children must truly love them.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorSoon after, I began buying children’s books and taking some out from the library. I not only found myself interested in the wonderful stories and poems, I wanted to teach myself how to write them—by reading them. The more I browsed through shelves in bookstores and libraries, the more I noticed that many of the books I came across did not speak to or from the point of view of a kid like me from the projects. I yearned to read about what a child from the ’hood had to say about his life and his world. I remember reading an interview with the African American novelist and Noble Prize-winner Toni Morrison, She said she wrote the books she wanted to read. That nugget of wisdom stayed with me as I made my way to fulfilling my dream of becoming a writer.

By the time I decided to write my own children’s books, a child’s voice began to present itself in my mind. It The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Colorbelonged to a kid named DeShawn Williams, and he was talking about his life growing up in the projects. Not surprisingly, his words seemed to mirror my experiences as a child. Poems in DeShawn’s voice began to take hold of me and I began to write them down. Before I knew it, DeShawn was telling me about the people he loved and lived with: his mother, who was in college; his grandmother, who helped raise him; his uncle, who stood-in for his absent father; his cousin Tiffany, who was like his sister, even though they fought like crazy; and his best friend from school, Johnny Tse, who taught him Karate, which he assumed was from China, but finds out was from Japan. Thus, DeShawn Days, my first book for children, was born.

The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of ColorThere was no greater feeling than to see the publication of DeShawn Days, which was initially embraced in manuscript form by my editor and subsequently published by multicultural children’s book publisher, Lee & Low Books. At that time, no books like DeShawn Days were around. The only thing that topped seeing DeShawn Days out in the world was sharing it with children, particularly children who came from a world similar to DeShawn’s. I remember encountering a youngster who had the same name—DeShawn—who was also being raised by his grandmother. This boy exclaimed about me, the author, “How does he know about my life?”

This experience made me realize in a real way, outside of my own literary aspirations, the power of books: how they can matter and make a profound difference in a child’s life, especially when they speak to and from the child’s own experiences and validate his or her life.”

To learn more about our awesome Stories For All Project partner, Lee & Low Books, check out their blog.

The post The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color appeared first on First Book Blog.

0 Comments on The Stories for All Project: African American Author Tony Medina on Connecting Multicultural Books with Children of Color as of 4/24/2013 11:06:00 AM
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36. 19 Questions with Richard Van Camp

Richard Van Camp is the author of twelve books, including two board books with Orca: Welcome Song for Baby (2007) and Little You (2013).

He recently sat down (online) with Curtis LeBlanc to answer nineteen questions about books, writing and his life as an author. Some highlights: who are Richard’s top three authors? Which bands does he listen to while writing? And what will he be working on next?

Read the full 19 Questions interview here.

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37. YOUR NAME in print!

justgoneSee your name in print—and on a dedication page, no less!

William Kowalski, author of three titles in Orca’s Rapid Reads series is running a fantastic new contest through his website. The winner will have Kowalski’s fourth Rapid Read title, Just Gone, dedicated to them.





Contest Details (from William Kowalski’s website):

Have you ever wanted to have a book dedicated to you? Not just signed by the author, but actually dedicated to you, with your name in print for all eternity?

Well, your time has come. Your ship has come in. Your Eagle has landed. I’m running a contest for my readers, and the winner will receive this fabulous prize: my fourth Rapid Reads novel, JUST GONE, which is coming out later this year, will be dedicated to them and them alone. By name. Exciting? You betcha.

What’s the contest, then?


Take a picture of yourself, reading any one of my novels, in the most unlikely place or situation you can think of. Then, post it on my Facebook author page by May 1.

That’s it. How to define ‘unlikely’ is up to you. (Just be safe, please.) The title of the book must be clearly visible. You may not use Photoshop or any other kind of enhancement or alteration tool. Other than that, the sky’s the limit.

Then, post your picture on my Facebook author page. Tell your friends to come like it and lol at it. The winner will be the submission with the most likes.

Whoever is featured in that picture or owns the rights to it will earn the right to have JUST GONE dedicated to them by name.

I reserve the right to remove any pictures that are cruel or insulting to anyone. I won’t put anything obscene or disrespectful in the dedication. I really want this to be dedicated to YOU, the winner. So, you agree, by entering the contest, that if you win, you have the right to have the book dedicated to you by first and last name, or first name only if you prefer, and perhaps a brief message, such as “To John Smith, the hoopiest frood in England.”


Go forth and photograph yourselves. Have fun. Don’t get hurt. And make us lol.

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38. Doris Ettlinger – Book Launch Invitation

Welcome to America, Champ!


If you visit this blog on a regular basis, you know that I am a big fan of Doris and her art.  I have every book she has illustrated and I haven’t held this one in my hand, yet, but I already know I have to add this new book to my collection. I hope Doris will be attending the New Jersey SCBWI Conference in June, so I can get it signed.  (Doris, are you attending?)

Doris says, “The story begins with a wedding in an English village during WWII. While illustrating Champ! my father’s army uniform hung in my studio for reference and inspiration.” Written by Catherine Stier, this book is part of the Tales of the World series published by Sleeping Bear Press.

Clinton Book Shop – 21 East Main St., Clinton, NJ – on Saturday April 6.
If you live nearby, please join us. Doris will be signing books from 11 am – 1 pm.



The luxurious Queen Mary ocean liner once sailed with diapers drying on clotheslines suspended over the ship’s emptied swimming pool. Why? This was part of an unusual cargo transported by luxury liners in 1946: tens of thousands of “soldier brides” and their children who immigrated at the end of WWII to reunite with the U.S. servicemen they had married overseas. This entry into the Tales of the World series shines a vivid light on war’s upheavals by focusing on fictional Thomas, a nine-year-old boy who faces leaving home, friends, grandparents, and his beloved cricket for the U.S., a new father, a new school, and the strange sport of baseball. A wedding cake made by friends’ saving up sugar and powdered eggs for weeks and a view from the train into London of the Blitz’s devastation bring home war’s everyday hardship and trauma. At the same time, Thomas is moving into a hopeful future. Heartfelt watercolor illustrations bring to life the anxiety and tentative joys of this unique historical situation. — Connie Fletcher

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Book Stores, Picture Book, success Tagged: Author, Catherine Stier, Clinton Book Shop, Doris Ettlinger, Sleeping Bear Press, Tales of the World, Welcome to America - Champ!

7 Comments on Doris Ettlinger – Book Launch Invitation, last added: 4/1/2013
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39. I Can See Just Fine

A sneak peek of my upcoming book, I CAN SEE JUST FINE, due out this August and published by Abrams Appleseed. It's the story of a little girl who is absolutely certain she does not need eyeglasses... no matter what everyone else thinks.

25 Comments on I Can See Just Fine, last added: 4/8/2013
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40. Seven (the series) featured on Global TV!

Last Saturday on Global TV, Jill Daum from Kidsbooks discussed the latest releases for young readers. Check out the video below for her top picks, including our very own Seven (the series).

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41. Our Wonderful Women Writers

In recognition of International Women’s Day, we’re excited to share the cooperative efforts of some of our wonderful women writers! They’ve decided to review each other’s new spring titles in the spirit of collaboration. Here, Karen Krossing showcases four new YA titles from fellow authors Leanne Lieberman, Shelley Hrdlitschka and Robin Stevenson!

Check out Karen’s reviews on her website.

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42. Meet Children's Author Starr Burgess

Mrs. Burgess worked as an elementary teacher and school counselor for a total of seven years. She has a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling from Texas State University. Starr is busy working on her second children’s book: Counselor Dynamite Befuddles the Bullyville Crew. She currently resides with her husband, Clyde, and their daughter in Pflugerville, TX.

Thank you for this interview, Starr.  Can you tell us a little about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?
I am a former elementary school teacher and school counselor. I live with my husband, Clyde, and our daughter in Pflugerville, TX. I have been working on writing books for five years and finally created the main character, Counselor Dynamite, whom I lovingly refer to as the pioneer super hero of schools.

Can you tell us briefly what your book is about?
This book is about Counselor Dynamite, who is the superhero of schools. The story takes place the day before Christmas break. Teachers and staff members are tired and running low on patience and the students are full of unbridled energy. Counselor Dynamite notices that something is amiss and quickly jumps into action knowing that if something isn't done soon, students, teachers and staff will never be the same once chaos is unleashed.

Why did you choose your particular genre?
I choose this genre because I worked as an elementary school counselor and had the wonderful opportunity to work with a diverse group of students. I learned that a lot of students had difficulty in the areas of conflict/resolution, problem solving, and boundaries.  As a result I began writing stories that are amusing but instilled and reinforced positive character traits. I know that many children connect with and hold superheroes in high regard so I decided to create the first superhero of schools, Counselor Dynamite.

Where do you write?  Do you have a favorite place?
I write in areas of my home where there is an abundance of natural light. My most favorite place to write is in my living room by the window.

What was your greatest challenge writing this book?
My greatest challenge was not in the writing of the book but in how to market the book.

Are you a disciplined writer?
I am somewhat of a disciplined writer, however most times I prefer the spontaneity of being in the moment.

Are you published by a traditional house, small press or are you self-published?
I am self-published.

Was it the right choice for you?
Absolutely! I appreciate the fact that I retain control of the creativity and direction of the writing and how Counselor Dynamite is portrayed.

How are you promoting your book thus far?
I am a vendor at the Texas Counseling Association conferences; I participate in author readings/book signings in book stores and private schools; I utilize social media such as Facebook and Twitter, and I work with an online book promotion company, Author & Book Promotions.

How is that going for you?
It’s going very well; I really enjoy meeting people with inspiring feedback and hearing about their ministry and journey.

Do you have another job besides writing?
Yes, I am a Licensed Professional Counselor. My private practice is LifeMenders Counseling.

Have you ever gotten an inspirational book-related moment at work and had to go run and write and it down?
No those moments usually come in the middle of the night.

Do your co-workers know they have a star among them?  What has their reactions been? I don’t know if my co-workers think I’m necessarily a star but I do believe they think I am a visionary and a go getter. My colleagues have been a great source of support; they have given me words of encouragement, purchased my book and supplemental guide, and promotional products from my product line.

If you could give one book promotion tip to new authors, what would that be?
Utilize as much social media as possible, in addition to an online book promotion service company such as Author & Book Promotion.

What’s next for you?
My next book will focus on bullying and will be available in the fall along with a supplemental guide which contains lessons plans and activities for children. In the near future I will be publishing more Counselor Dynamite books, I would love to go on a book tour, be a regular on a talk and/or radio show discussing challenges children face and parent resources, and eventually partner with companies and build the Counselor Dynamite brand, maybe one day turning the adventures of Counselor Dynamite into a cartoon for children.

Thank you for this interview, Starr. Can you tell us where we can find you on the web? Of course, my website is www.counselordynamite.com. Please also check out and like us on www.facebook.com/counselordynamite as well as follow me on Twitter.

3 Comments on Meet Children's Author Starr Burgess, last added: 3/7/2013
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43. Author Spotlight: Alex Milway

Children's author and illustrator Alex Milway was born in 1978, in Hereford, England. After entering art college in Shrewsbury at the age of 16, and then continuing to Cheltenham art college, he earned a degree in fine art.

Though he now writes and illustrates children's books full time, Mr. Milway has previously tried his hand at a few other vocations. He worked for several years in magazine publishing, once had a summer factory job building air conditioning units for Range Rovers, and worked for a time in a WHSmith.

His books to date include the Mousehunter trilogy, and the Mythical 9th Division series.

In addition to creating children's books, Alex Milway runs school events and workshops. He lives in London, England, with his wife and family and Milo the cat.

Alex Milway official site
Alex Milway author page - Faber and Faber official site
Alex Milway - Laura Cecil (literary agent) client page
Interview with an Author: Alex Milway - tall tales & short stories blog


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44. Health Care for Writers

If you are self-employed, you are worried about health care. I know: I had surgery in July and it took six months to get all the bills cleared up.

The new Affordable Heatlth Care plan goes into effect in 2014, with enrollment beginning October, 2013, when self-employed persons can sign up for one of a tier of products. The Small Business Administration has just started a new website and blog about health care to help educate the public. Here are some places to start:

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45. Better Google Searches for Writers

Hands down, the Internet beats the old days when writers had to go to the library to research a topic. Now anyone can retrieve information with a few computer clicks. I frequently use Google in my searches and have discovered the following ways to improve results:

  • Use the asterisk (*) as a wild card with the words you’re searching. For example, if you wanted to search for me on the Web but couldn’t remember my last name but knew I was a children’s author, you could type Ronica * children’s author and related sites would pop up, providing my last name.
  • Use the minus sign before words you want to exclude from the search. Using a similar example, if you searched solely on my first name, Ronica, and a bunch of “Ronica Smith” sites showed up, you could eliminate Ronica Smith from your search by typing Ronica -Smith.
  • Put quotation marks around a word or two (such as “Ronica Stromberg”) to pull up sites only with the word (or words) as quoted.
  • To find the word you’re searching for on a Web site that came up, hit Control-F (Command-F on a Mac) and enter the word you’re searching for again. This will highlight the word you’re searching for. I’ve found this useful when a Web site has page after page of text but no clear indication where the word or phrase I’m searching for may be.
  • To restrict search results to a specific URL, add site: in front of the URL. For example, dognapper site:nytimes.com would pull articles printed about dognappers at The New York Times domain.
  • To find sites similar to one you’re using, type related: before the URL of the site (as in related:nytimes.com).
  • Use two periods between numeric ranges to find information about a range. For example, if you wanted to find information about gasoline prices between 1970 and 1980, you could type gasoline prices 1970 . . 1980. Writers of historical novels may find this particularly useful for research.
  • To use Google as a dictionary and look up the definition of a word, type define: immediately followed by the word.
  • To find the current weather in a town (in case you are about to set off on a book talk or other trip), type weather in followed by the town’s name.
  • To convert currency or measurements, use search formats such as 50 pesos in US dollars or 100 kilometers in miles.
  • To find the title of a song that lyrics come from, type some of the more distinct lyrics followed by :lyric. For example, when I type want to be a paperback writer:lyric, several sites appear, letting me know this line of lyrics comes from the Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” song.
  • To get alerted about breaking news on a topic, go to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the topic and your e-mail address. Google will then e-mail you the next time news on the topic appears on the Internet. I know a lot of authors type their name or key words from their works into this site to track online publicity and, also, to check whether their writing is being plagiarized.

Instead of doing a general search of the whole Internet, I may have only a specific area I want to search. The following are my favorites.

blogs     http://www.google.com/blogsearch

books     http://books.google.com/

finance     http://www.google.com/finance  This search of the latest financial news may be of particular interest to business and financial writers.

images     http://images.google.com  This site can be misleading. When I searched on “F. Scott Fitzgerald,” the name of one of my favorite authors, photos of him–and a bunch of other people–cropped up. Had I not already known what F. Scott Fitzgerald looked like, the site wouldn’t have helped much.

news     http://news.google.com/

patents     http://www.google.com/?tbm=pts

videos     http://www.google.com/videohp

0 Comments on Better Google Searches for Writers as of 2/2/2013 11:02:00 PM
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46. interview – Anna Alden-Tirrill

Kid Lit Reviews would like to welcome Anna Alden-Tirrill, author of A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Answered Prayer, which will be reviewed here tomorrow and can be read HERE! A Cat Named Mouse: The Miracle of Answered Prayer is a middle grade novel. Annie, whose cat is named Mouse, will discover a lot about faith and prayer while searching for her lost Mouse. Welcome, …

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47. Sara Cassidy on CBC’s All Points West

While many families in British Columbia enjoyed spending some time together as our province celebrated its first ever Family Day, host of the CBC’s Titles and Tate Nikki Tate-Stratton got in the Family Day spirit by discussing three novels focused on the same family: Sara Cassidy’s Slick (Orca Currents), Windfall (Orca Currents) and Seeing Orange (Orca Echoes) all feature the same family, although the protagonists are two different siblings.

Listen to Titles and Tate here.

Slick: Liza, determined to prove that her mother’s boyfriend is no good, starts researching the oil company he works for. Liza discovers a lawsuit against the company for compensation that is long overdue to Guatemalan farmers. She starts a group at school called GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources, Really!) and launches an attack on Argenta Oil. As her activism activities increase, her objections to her mother’s boyfriend become political. She is learning to separate the personal from the political, but when her mother discovers her plans for a demonstration outside the Argenta Oil head office, the two collide in ways Liza least suspected.


Windfall: Life is full of challenges for thirteen-year-old Liza. She is already having trouble coping with the death of a local homeless man when she learns that her family’s apple tree will need to be chopped down. If that wasn’t enough, the new principal at school keeps blocking her attempts for a positive outlet by refusing permission for every project that GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources, Really!) and BRRR! (Boys for Renewable Resources, Really!) proposes. Liza starts to feel like she needs to create change in her world without seeking permission. When she chooses the school grounds as the site for her latest endeavor, she may have gone too far.


Seeing Orange: Seven-year-old Leland has trouble writing, but he loves drawing. He so dislikes his teacher that he conjures up Delilah, an imaginary seeing-eye dog to help him into class each day. When a neighborhood painter recognizes Leland’s gifts as an artist, Leland grows more confident about the world as he uniquely sees it. And when his family’s cat goes missing, it is Leland’s keen observation skills that lead to finding him. Leland’s newfound confidence helps him both confront and sympathize with his teacher, who only wishes Leland could be a bit more focused.


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48. What Next? 15 Questions to Help you Decide Your Next Writing Project

I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Reader Copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s new book, DECISIVE: How to make better choices in Life and Work. You may know the Heath brothers from their previous books, SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard and MADE TO STICK: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They are adept at taking massive amounts of research on topics with widespread appeal and distilling the information into something that can be used in daily life. In DECISIVE, they discuss decision-making and make it practical. Here, I have applied many of their ideas in a simple checklist: What manuscript should you write next?

Courtesy of the Heath Brothers amazing insights into the applicability of much research, these are practical ideas to help you make the best decision possible. If you want to know more, DECISIVE will be released on March 26, available now for pre-order.

You just wrote, “The End.” And you hit the SEND button. The manuscript is off to the editor.

What now? How do you decide on the next project?

Build a Career

An agent once asked this question: What is the next logical book for you in terms of building an audience that will support your career?

Do you see the criteria embedded in that question:

  • Build an audience
  • Support your career

Is that what you want? A career with a growing audience? Then, you probably need to stick with the genre of your first book, and turn out a second book that will appeal to the same audience. If you wrote a mystery and it sold well, write another mystery—different, better, but definitely appealing to the same audience.

But it may not be that easy. Maybe several genres interest you and you want to try something new. But that might risk your career, because you aren’t building a consistent following. How do you sort out all your ideas and commit to the next project? Here are 15 questions to ask yourself.

15 What Next Questions

  1. Don’t Get Trapped in Too Small a Framework. The decision is rarely one like this: Should I do Mss A or not? Instead, try to look at a range of options. Here are ideas that I have, A, B, C, D, and E. Which of these would appeal to the same audience as my first success?
  2. What else you could write in the same time period. If it takes you six months to write a novel, what else could you get written in that time period? What project deserves that time commitment?
  3. What if you couldn’t write the Mss you had planned to write next? What would you write then? For example, if you were planning a picture book biography of Shirley Temple and one was just published to great acclaim, maybe it’s not the best time for this story. So, pretend something similar just happened to your pet idea. What would you do then?

  4. Could you write the openings of several different manuscripts and THEN decide which one excites you the most? Multi-tracking sometimes allows the cream to rise.
  5. Look at the career of someone you admire and want to emulate. At a similar point in his/her career what was the next book published? Or, look at a musician or actor/actress and find parallels in their careers. For example, Sean Connery could have gotten stuck in the 007 role and never found his way to new projects. Instead, he has regularly “reinvented” himself by taking risky roles that led to an expanded career. Is it time for you to write that “breakout” book you’ve been planning?

  • Looking over all the possible manuscripts and ideas—what has you the most excited? Which one are you scared to write—and therefore, will push you to write your best?
  • Ask the opposite question: if you have been writing mysteries, what if your next novel was a romance? Is this the time to make a switch or not? Can you carry any of your audience over to a new genre? Is there a way to work more romance into your next mystery, so the transition isn’t total, but pulls in readers from both genres?
  • Could you test new waters with a short story or a short ebook? Is there a way to TRY something new, without doing damage to your current audience? Once you decide on a new mss, you’ll have to commit wholeheartedly to write the best possible. But maybe you can take a couple weeks and try out a new market.
  • Are you too attached to the status-quo? Your publisher wants more and more of this one type story and you get paid. But somehow, you feel your passions are lessened. At what point do you need to shake up the status quo?
  • What would you tell your best writer friend to do in this situation?
  • What are you passionate about? What are your core values? Does Mss A or B or C or D allow you to express that passion better?
  • If you write this book and a year from now it fails(either not published or published to poor reviews), can you think why it would have failed to reach your audience?
  • If you write this book and it succeeds, can you discuss why it would make your readers excited about your work?
  • Do you set goals for your books? If this mystery doesn’t sell 10,000 copies, then I’ll try a different genre for my next project. Would a goal like that help you make the next career move?
  • Are there deadlines for this project, or can you create a deadline? You’ll devote six months to this fantasy story, and then, you must write your next mystery.
  • You have a choice to make and the choice will affect your future and your career as a writer. What will you write next? There are no right or wrong answers, only answers that please you. You’re in control. I know–that’s scary! But that’s another post.

    Hey, Chip and Dan–What will YOU write next?

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    49. A Defining A New Character


    “Welcome to the studio, Dahlia!  I am so glad to meet you!  Your entrance made me smile! Now let’s get down to business!  Tell me about yourself? “.

    When I create a new character I have to find out who they really are and what makes them tick! Will they be loud and boisterous?  Will they be shy and hold back? Will  they run to meet the world or hide behind trees and bushes?  It’s great fun to imagine!

    Since Dahlia is new, let’s walk this process together. Let’s get a good look at her and ask ourselves some questions.


    Here she is, in her great BIGness.  As you can see, Dahlia is running!  That gives us our first clue. She is ready to meet the world!

    (Another little tidbit you can use when creating a character.  It is a link to writing a character profile. I can get your wheels turning!)


    In order to decide WHO Dahlia is, I  look into her face. Her eyes are not like our eyes, but expression and body language are quite helpful.

    Dahlia is running.  Dahlia is laughing.  Dalia is carrying a flower. Dahlia is practically leaping off the ground!  I can almost hear the ground shaking!  So, she is a “ground shaking” happy elephant.

    But wait!  She has no tusks!  That tells me she is a baby elephant. My imagination is taking off now!  Dahlia tromps!  … but no…  I found out that tromp is not a word… (hmmm…it seemed so fitting).  So, Dahlia thumps, stomps, tramples and plows through!  Thank you dictionary.com!  Love all those words!

    Looking again at this picture, I see that Dahlia is also clumsy.  She trips, stumbles, tumbles, plunges, sprawls and topples. Even so, she is not bothered by falls.  She simply rolls over and gets back up to her feet laughing!  “What great fun!” she gigglies, “Let’s do it again!”

    This tells me that Dahlia does not take herself too seriously. She is playful,  but is she smart?

    More of her qualities may surface once the other characters in her story emerge.   Bring on the monkeys!

    Filed under: My Characters

    5 Comments on A Defining A New Character, last added: 2/19/2013
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    3 Comments on PRE-MADE COVER EXTRAVAGANZA!, last added: 2/25/2013
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