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26. Putting Words on Paper

erikaphoto-45Jersey Farm Scribe here, on….

Putting Words on Paper

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I mean, we’re writers. That’s what we do.

But most of us have been there… struggling to get to that next thought.

I may know what I WANT to happen, but I don’t know HOW to get there. I may know the tone I need to create, but can’t grasp the words to create it.

Or with no explanation I’m just… stuck on being stuck.

When clearing my mind isn’t enough… 

It’s time for plan B…. 

Instead of letting my lazy-instincts take over and killing an hour or ten on Twitter or (insert your own social-media black hole here) I have a few things I do to break the cycle.

Review critique partners’ work: This keeps me in creative-mode, without focusing on whatever project is freezing me out.

Okay. Check.  

Hmm… still nothing? No problem! There’s no greater excuse to curl up on the couch and….

READ READ READ! Important for ALL writers, I find it even more key for writing for children.

Reading for the target age group for my manuscript, keeps my brain thinking in the right rhythm. There is undeniably a pace, meter and natural ebb and flow to the way children’s brain’s take in their world. Reading the genre I’m writing, puts me in the right frame of mind.

Okay. I don’t think I can avoid it anymore. I have to go back to “that spot”.

Sigh. Okay. Fine! (slooooowly reopens the manuscript)

If I’m still hesitant to jump back in the first thing I try is….

Retreat. Regroup. And RE-WRITE:

Maybe the reason I’m stuck is because somewhere along the line, I took a LEFT when I should have gone RIGHT. I re-write the last section and make as many changes as I can think of. (I can always change them back later!)

If Bradley had pancakes, now he has cereal. If he rode the bus, this time missed it and was late for school. If Katie was after school for detention, this time it was because she forgot her math book.

A new lead-in can smoothly take me in the direction I wanted to go in the first place.

And other times….   Ugh. I’m right back where I started.   

Okay…. deep breath.  

First, I remind myself that thunking my head on the table will most likely not actually help. 

Time to buck-up, straighten my shoulders and JUST WRITE!

Write anything.

Ignoring my next plot point, I’ll throw my character in a completely random situation. It can help with character development, and gets my pen on the paper!

I wrote an entire chapter about my character randomly being told the family was moving. It got pulled, but I learned more about how he reacts in stressful situations, and actually came up with some funny lines I worked into other places.

Does this break me out and spur an idea of what how to bring things together? 

Well…. Sometimes.

If not… and I’ve done everything I can think of and gotten NOwhere…

Well then, I’m back to thinking that thunking my head may just be my best bet!  

(Honestly just picturing it is frustrating!!)


This is incredibly discouraging, horribly painful, and unfortunately… just part of being a writer!!!

So what NOW???  

There’s really nothing left to do accept…. FORGE THROUGH!

Time to write badly!!!

I use this when I know WHAT I need to write next, I just can’t figure out HOW. I know where my plot line needs to take me and I’ve done all the free-writing I can. I pick up the pen, and I write horribly (and I mean HORRIBLY).

I don’t worry about voice, or style. I don’t think about flow or if the reader will be confused. The more awkward, out of place writing, the better!

I’m like a Super-Villain from a new line of DC Comics. (oh yeah… I said it)

She uses run-on sentences and self-indulgent language to laugh in the face of all that is good and professional writing! 

She’s — The Agent Repeller!   MwaaahahahahaHA! 

I KNOW that I can’t write well all the time. So sometimes, I just don’t even try!

I write through it. I put words on paper.

Eventually, often without me even realizing it, things have smoothed out and I’m back to my natural style and flow of words.

Everyone’s process for how to work through these situations is different. All that really matters is that we have SOME way to deal with it, and don’t let it get us down.

What we do is HARD. Whether it’s picture books or YA, we’re creating entire realities that children have to believe in and CHOSE to visit.

No easy feat for sure.

We have to trust ourselves. Know that the story is in there and we will find it.

If we don’t put words on paper… sometimes even ridiculous, embarrassing words that we’ll never show another soul… then there won’t be anything to work with.

Anything written, can be fixed. (Even if that means deleting 99 percent of it!)

It sounds so simple, but sometimes putting words on paper, is the toughest part of the job.


Erika Wassall is a writer, a farmer and a liver of life. She is a member of SCBWI and a proud Mad Scientist, bringing science experiments right into children’s classrooms, and hearts. She has a small farm in New Jersey with sheep, chickens, pigs and vegetables. Check out her new website at www.TheJerseyFarmScribe.com where as a first generation farmer, she often takes the long way, learning the tricks of the trade on The Farm. On her website is also The Shop page with tips and a free Q/A from her husband’s mechanic shop, and The Writer page where she shares stories, experiences and characters from the heart. Follow her on Twitter at @NJFarmScribe. She’d love to hear from you!

Thank you Erika for another great post.

Talk tomorrow,



Filed under: Advice, article, Author, How to, inspiration, Process, Writing Tips Tagged: Erika Wassall, Jersey Farm Scribe, Putting Words on Paper

3 Comments on Putting Words on Paper, last added: 5/6/2014
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27. Thanks, Penns Manor Elementary!


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28. Author/Illustrator Interview: AJ Smith and Even Monsters

I'm really excited to share this interview with author/illustrator AJ Smith. His picture book, Even Monsters, came out earlier this month and it chock-full of monsters, cooties, and a silliness that kids and grownups alike will really love. So let's get right into the wit and wisdom, shall we?

G: I love the rich, layered look to your art for Even Monsters. What is your process like?

A: My process involves a hodge-podge of mixed media: pencil, ballpoint pen, sometimes technical pens or brush pens, acrylic paint, cut paper, a shoddy laptop (donations welcome!), lots of caffeine, with a dab of old school Crayola crayons! I work different depending on the client but the common denominator is always rough pencil sketches on 8.5 x 11" copy paper.

G: What came first for you with Even Monsters: the words or the visuals?

A: Mostly the words came first for Even Monsters (way back in 2006). As I revised it, I began to ping pong ideas back and forth: a written idea would become a sketch and then that would ignite some new writing brainstorms and 'round and 'round we go...

G: Could you share one sparkling nugget of advice for aspiring author/illustrators?

A: First, have a sound foundation in drawing and/or in writing. Practice often and always. If you want to write and illustrate picture books,you should be reading picture books! Beyond that, I think you have to bring something new to the table. Have a unique voice, unique style. Be yourself. Be different. Do the art you want to do. You will meet rejection at every stage of the game (I'm always surprised to hear how much Jane Yolen is STILL rejected) so be doing the art you want to be making, not what you think publishers/editors want to see.

G: You are one busy guy - speaking at events, creating fun videos, and throwing awesome monster book parties. What has been the best part of promoting Even Monsters so far?

A: To me promotion is something an author/illustrator HAS to do. It's part of the job. And that is not always something that's easy to grasp. The tricky part is that you don't get paid to promote your book. In fact, it's been quite the opposite in my empty-pocketed experience. That said there is a reason I do it: To help the book do well (I'm terrified and convinced that this cannot happen on its own unless you are already a bestselling author/illustrator) and to network: meet new people -- educators, librarians, parents, KIDS. Promotion is not just promoting your book. It's promoting and fostering literacy. And if that didn't answer your question, I'd say making videos where I dress up like this has been the best part:

G: What's your next project? And does it involve having the readers spot cooties? (I do love the cooties! They are little orange puffs with silly eyes. Can you spot 3 in the illustration below?)

A: My next book is Even Dinosaurs, which comes out in 2015. There might be cooties. If there are, they'll be Cave Cooties. Still toying with that idea, but I really like the idea of adding an "Easter Egg" element to the book that kids can hunt for on a second read of a book. I hope kids really like them... Really like them or say "eww, gross -- cooties!" Either would be perfect really.

*FYI: My kids LOVE finding the cooties. Like it's their job. And everyone at the book launch loved the way AJ kept 'finding' cooties.

Many thanks to AJ for his thoughtful answers and insight. Be sure to visit www.evenmonsters.com to see where you can buy his book, see more silly videos, learn how to draw Skeebu and Glubb, have your kids enter in his Monster Art Contest, and even design your own silly underpants. I know what my kids will be doing after breakfast!

0 Comments on Author/Illustrator Interview: AJ Smith and Even Monsters as of 4/22/2014 8:43:00 AM
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29. Super Quick Italian Bean Salad

Italian Bean Salad

This is my weeknightified version of a Foster’s Market recipe. It’s super simple and really hits the spot when I want a tasty deli-style salad with next to no work. You could dress it up as much as you like with fresh veggie add-ins. The original recipe is lovely, though not super fast (you cook the beans yourself and make their delicious dressing from scratch, among other things). Again, this is more a list of ideas than a real recipe, but it’s not hard to eye the proportions.


Rinsed and drained canned white beans (I like navy beans)

Italian dressing—-I like the Penzey’s mix


Sundried tomatoes

Chopped fresh parsley

Mix beans with enough dressing to coat and enough capers and tomatoes to give it a little color. Let marinate a few hours if you have time. Add parsley. Enjoy!

Got some more feedback on my nonfiction manuscript this week. Things are finally moving forward. So excited.

Still working on the last few chapters of my young adult novel. It’s slow-going, but I do think I’m getting somewhere.

And in other news this week, I’ve been talking to 4th and 5th graders about writing an early reader (i.e. Slowpoke). Fun times! Love getting their questions.

For more food-related posts, click here. Have a great rest of your week.


2 Comments on Super Quick Italian Bean Salad, last added: 4/10/2014
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30. I Started a Small Press (and Then Things Got Weird)


The author in repose.


I tried retail for a while, and that was fun, in the way that puking on yourself at a family gathering is fun: you have a story. After a time, though, it stops being a story you laugh at and starts being one that you cry over. Usually into a beer. Next came moving furniture. For a time, that was good, physical work. I genuinely enjoyed it. And the stories I heard there, man, the meat of my second novel is mostly that. My imagination’s not that good. But then here comes nature and that heavy time and all of a sudden my back is in ruins and I got sick of carrying marble armoires up three flights of stairs. Then came restaurant work. That was fun.

Through all of this, I wrote. My first novel dropped in that weird interim before I started the moving job, when I was living in my car. The second hit and I was getting these royalty checks, but aside from the first one (which paid my rent), it wasn’t paying my rent. It hit me: “I’ve gotta find a way to make a living off of words or I’m going to die.”

I’ve been a fan of crime fiction since before I can remember. It started with Ellroy. I read White Jazz and threw my hands up and hollered. You can say this much with so little? I was hooked. I got the classics in, then I got voracious with it: Mosely, Sallis, Willeford, Pelecanos, Westlake, Parker, on and on.

I loved the opportunity crime fiction presented to peer into the human condition, and the (usually) clipped, no-bullshit delivery. What I didn’t like were the formulas, the staunch sexism, the rampant racism. I really wanted to carve something out that could represent everything that makes crime fiction beautiful, minus the stuff that made me cringe. That, and I didn’t want to sell hot dogs anymore.

I gathered a nice group of brilliant writers, who for whatever reason decided to hook me up with some manuscripts. I started a Kickstarter (pause for groans) in which I detailed five books my new indie press would put out, and—wonder of wonders—people thought it looked cool. I got the money and I was off to the races.

Sort of.

The books were edited and designed and off to the printers. They dropped, and then there I was. Floating.

There were many times I’d go out to my porch and smoke a cigarette and my house would shake as the trains rolled by out across the road, and I’d wonder what I could do to actually get people to look at these titles, to pick them up. I’d gotten a massively talented artist (Matthew Revert

) to do all of the covers for them, and they really popped. I’d sent out some review copies to places I thought would dig them.

Still waiting to hear back from most of those places.

I got tired of sitting on my hands. I took the books and grabbed a friend and hit the road. We went from Oklahoma to Wichita to Denver to Salt Lake City to Boise to Seattle to Portland to Sacramento out to the Bay to Los Angeles to El Paso. We performed in punk squats and abandoned warehouses and bookstores and back alleys. At one performance we lit a mannequin head on fire while I paced the floor with paint on my feet, tracing a chalk outline of an eye, rambling about a cyclops. At another I read the audience the end of my first novel and ripped out each page and burned it as I went. Though I didn’t sell copies at every stop, I talked to as many people as I could about the books. And I noticed an uptick. We live in an age of social media noise and rampant void screaming. There’s only one way to get things going, especially if you live in Oklahoma: you have to get out there and talk to people.

You have to ask them to dance.

There are other things you have to remember, too. Running a small press, it’s important to utilize social media, despite my prior assertion that it’s a dying medium. You have to be a person online, first. I see folks every day, inviting me to their “book releases,” which are really just Amazon launches of e-books. That’s annoying. You’re more likely to see me posting pictures of my dog, or complaining about how I could really go for a cigarette (quitting is tough, but, hey! nine days) than you are to see me talking about the books or writing or editing. The first reason is that places like Facebook and my blog are my escapes. The second is that you just turn into a spambot and fade into the background, and good luck swimming out of that lagoon.

Another thing: finances. Be careful. Keep your receipts. Where I live, there are crazy tax breaks for small businesses. Make sure you know exactly what you owe your authors. If you don’t pay them right, everyone will know, and you will be ostracized. And rightly so.

On the topic of writers: they are, for the most part, a funny bunch. They care about this stuff. So they’ll have things to fix, last-minute requests, bizarre neuroses. You have to learn to bend, to understand that your voice is not the voice. And if they want changes, you make them. Mark Twain once said that a novel is never finished, only abandoned, and I think that’s true, but Broken River authors abandon their children with a packed lunch (complete with smiley face note written on napkin), surplus army jacket, mace, a Swiss Army knife, and one of those flashlights you put on your head. And a ‘mommy loves you’ and a peck on the cheek. God love them for that. They care. And you have to, as well. If you don’t, well … you know.

I’m not a father so I don’t really know what I’m talking about here, but I’m assuming there’s a feeling you get when you hold a baby for the first time. Does it get real? I figure it gets real, then. When you spend months and months eating tuna from a can and pecking at a keyboard and making sure the kerning and keeping and hyphens and headers look right in InDesign, and then you send it to a printer and they send you copies and they are physical, real objects, resting there, looking up at you, you can almost see these big blue cartoon eyes, these helpless things that need you. So, you start to feel an obligation.

When you start a small press, you lack resources, usually. And that should make you hungry. You need to provide for these babies. Your authors, they spent years writing these things, invested their lives into them. Now here they are. Your responsibility. You’ll want to quit, lord I know you will, because the whole thing is so big, like pressing your body up against the edge of everything. But you have to get out there, you have to keep your mind right, and you have to make people sit up and take notice. You didn’t pull a sword out of a stone; no one ordained you the Chosen One. You chose you. It’s your responsibility. So go do it. If you love something, take that big Christmas dinner in your heart and break it down into MREs and dish it out to every person you meet, in small, manageable doses. They’ll feel it. They’ll know you’re down.

And then, you ask them to dance.



J David Osborne lives in Oklahoma with his wife and dog. He’s the author of two novels, a freelance editor and the editor-in-chief of Broken River Books. Please query at jdavidosborne@gmail.com.

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31. Suzanne Lieurance

Suzanne LieuranceSuzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She is a former classroom teacher and was an instructor for the Institute of Children’s Literature for over 8 years.

Lieurance has written over two dozen published books and her articles and stories have appeared in various magazines, newsletters, and newspapers, such as Family Fun, Instructor, New Moon for Girls, KC Weddings, The Journal of Reading, and Children’s Writer to name a few. She offers a variety of coaching programs via private phone calls, teleclasses, listserv, and private email for writers who want to turn their love of writing (for children and/or adults) into a part-time or full-time career.

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32. Speaking Engagement Testimonial



I am pleased to recommend Tonia Allen Gould as a speaker for child related events -and adults as well.

I am a den leader for a group of Tiger Cub Scouts (first graders). Our meeting plan was how media is used to reach large audiences. I read about Tonia and her book Samuel T. Moore of Corte Magore on our neighborhood Facebook page and decide to contact her about speaking to the boys.

Tonia accepted and her presentation was more than I could hope for. The other dens (2nd and 3rd grade) joined us. She told the boys how she got the idea for her story, and how she turned the idea into an interactive and animated children’s book. She showed them the story that had music, narration and pictures. The story itself is wonderful for kids (and adults) about overcoming adversity to make your dreams come true and Tonia’s personal story is living proof. It was a great experience on many levels. All of the boys were engaged and interested. They were thrilled to meet an author and have signed books to take home.

I highly recommend Tonia and feel honored to know her.

Victoria Turk

0 Comments on Speaking Engagement Testimonial as of 3/17/2014 3:35:00 PM
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33. FOODFIC: Please Welcome Luke Murphy, Author of Dead Man's Hand


When I turned fifteen and started reading adult chapter books (Oh no, there is no way I’m telling you the year to show my age LOL), I always found myself asking the same question:

When do these characters eat, sleep, use the restroom, etc.?

There always seemed to be unanswered questions left by authors, those little things that we all do, but that rarely get mentioned in books.  It’s not that I want the author to go on and on about a character’s eating or bathroom habits, but some small mention would suffice.

So when I first contacted Shelley Workinger about a possible blog post, and she told me what her blog was all about, I thought it was a great idea. She was really on to something when she mentioned to me that a fictional character’s diet can really tell the reader something about that character. Some readers want to know these minor details.

My debut novel, DEAD MAN’S HAND, is an International bestselling crime-thriller that was released in October 2012. The novel takes readers inside the head of Calvin Watters, a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector, who was once an NFL rising-star prospect, now a fugitive on the run.

But for this post, I wanted to write about the new novel I’m currently working on, specifically the main character, detective Charlene Taylor.

To put it lightly, Charlene Taylor is a self-hating, alcoholic, one-night standing, tough but broken individual who never knew her father. She was the “boy” her father never had, and has decided to follow in his footsteps as a member of the LAPD.

So in order to demonstrate the kind of character Charlene is, I needed to really sell it with her diet and eating habits.

Charlene is an “eat-on-the-run” kind of gal. Grab a muffin or fruit on her way out the door. Living a fast-paced, almost carefree single lifestyle, she has take-out restaurants on her speed dial, and the local neighborhood sushi bar is familiar with her frequent post-sex phone calls for delivery. I felt that having a sushi restaurant on speed dial, where they are used to her “dinner for 1” orders, shows Charlene’s age (I think of sushi as a more youthful meal), health concerns (obviously sushi is a very healthy food), and her loneliness (ordering always for one and having it on her speed dial).

To me, this was the ultimate form of using food and diet to show who a character really is and allow a reader to make his/her own judgements and conclusions.

Food/diet is a very important tool that can be used by authors to “show” instead “tell” readers about a certain character and his/her traits.

My newest novel is still in the editing stages, but it has been a fun project.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Luke!

Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, three daughters and pug.

He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).

Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.

Catch up with Luke at these sites:

Back cover text for DEAD MAN'S HAND

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…

From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.

…and the cards don't fall your way?

When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.

What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?

Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.

"You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out." 
—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter

"Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one, 
but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice." 
—Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower

"Part police procedural, part crime fiction, Dead Man's Hand is a fast, gritty ride." 
—Anne Frasier, USA Today bestselling author of Hush

0 Comments on FOODFIC: Please Welcome Luke Murphy, Author of Dead Man's Hand as of 3/13/2014 2:49:00 PM
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34. Make your reservations now!

I am booking school visits in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015. Friday the 6th just got reserved this morning. If I can book the whole week, everybody gets me for 25% off the regular rate.

Contact Lisa— bookings@johnmanders.com

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Cropped Pic 2

Today I had the privilege of being a reader at a local elementary school.  I got to read one of my favorite books, The Bee Bully, and talk to the kids about being an author.  The energetic kindergartners made me feel very welcome and I really enjoyed spending some time with them.  We talked a little bit about what it means to be a bully and how important reading is.

Three reasons why reading is important to young children:

1).  Reading exercises our brains.  That’s right, our brains need a workout too.  Reading strengthens brain connections and can even create new ones so pick up a book and help your brain exercise.

2).  Reading improves concentration.  Kids have to focus when they read which can sometimes be a difficult task.  The more you read the longer you can extend that concentration time which will continue to improve.

3).  Reading helps develop imagination.  When you read your brain translates what is read to pictures.  Did you know you can create a movie in your head while you read?  We become engrossed in the story and we can connect with the characters.  We can sympathize with how a character feels and reflect on how we would feel in that same situation.

Now go grab a book and BEE A READER!


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36. Author Branding 101 by Louisa Clarkson

Today on the blog we have Louisa Clarkson of Indicated to give the 101 on author branding, an important step in marketing your words. Without any further ado here is Louisa!

No doubt you’re familiar with brands, their advertising slogans and logos (unless you’re a troll living under a rock bridge). Like McDonalds for example, is highly recognizable with the golden arches, the red and yellow and their branding statement “I’m Lovin’ it”.

From a marketing perspective, the colors and branding statements helps customers recognize it and influence them to buy the products. Red means passion and love, it stands out, and is used to stimulate people to make quick decisions. Yellow is bright and sunny, grabs attention and evokes feelings of happiness and joy. “I’m Lovin’ it” implies you will enjoy the food.

Branding is a brilliant and important tool for authors too. Our writing style, book themes/genre, covers, our author website(s), branding statements, and even our personalities, all shape our brand. Let’s look at these things in more detail, and start building a brand that knocks Stephanie Meyer from her perch!

Writing Style

Your writing voice, writing style, tone and even choice of words, is what a reader bonds and fall in love. No one else writes the way you do. These component make your author style unique, and helps your readers recognizes your writing.

Two examples of very distinct writing styles are Doreen Virtue, author of Healing With the Angels, who has a very motivating and inspiring style and tone, which compliments her self-help and spiritual brand. While Eion Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl children’s series, has a very tongue in cheek voice that tickles a child’s funny bone.

Books Themes and Genre

The genre(s) and themes that you write about is what readers will associate with you, and what they’ll expect from you in future. For example, Stephen King is synonymous for horror, supernatural themes, and a few drama novels. Readers would never associate Stephen with comedy. That would be like McDonalds selling pizza!

For those of you published in multiple genres, or if you’re planning to write in more than one genre, it’s recommended to use pen names to separate the brands, unless your books have a common element such as magic or fantasy that filter through them. Start small with one genre and build a fanbase, like Stephen did, then expand into other genres.

Book Covers

A book cover, its artwork, font and colors should reflect the tone, style and genre of the book(s). For example, on Suzanne Collins Hunger Gamesseries, every book features a Mockingjay, which is a distinct symbol for these books, and is even used for the film posters. Each book also uses the same square font for the book title and author name, and a different color to reflect the tone. Book 1 has a black cover representing a bleak society, hopelessness and oppression, typical of the dystopian genre. Book 2 is red which is symbolic of war and fighting back. Blue features on blue to show hope and freedom.

These elements need to be kept consistent when publishing a series to help the reader identify your books and brand. If you self publish, try to use the same cover designer to maintain the style. 

Author Website

The function of the author website is the same as the book covers. It should convey to any visitors the style and tone of your books, reflect aspects of your personality, hobbies or interests, and it can feature a logo to represent your brand. Here’s a cool website by paranormal romance author TF Walsh, which reflects the romantic and supernatural elements of her books, and her love of everything fantasy. The black gives a creepy and dark tone, while red highlights the romance and passion.

Branding Statements

A branding statement defines who you are as an author, the types of books you publish, aspects of your personality, who your target audience is, and helps readers to find you. For example, mine is “crafting whimsical, inspiring fantasy adventures that keeps tweens reading for days.” I could have used John Grisham’s Number 1 Bestselling Author, but it’s boring (zzzzz) and doesn’t tell me anything about his books.

Personality and Perception

Part of an author’s job is to build a public image that reflects their personality and brand. Aussie author Morris Gleitzman has a cheeky, fun brand, which supports his humorous children’s books. This is what draws readers to him and keeps them loyal. But if he were to go and post rude or adult’s only jokes on his social media accounts, there’d be public outrage. Always remember who your target market is and who might be reading.

Branding is such a huge topic, and this is but a small, but important part of it.

I’d love to know what your branding efforts you’ve made. Do you have separate brands for your books? Have you created any distinct features on your covers or logos? C’mon. Share you branding statements, so I don’t feel like such a dork! If you don’t have fun, then make one up. Promise I won’t laugh.

About Louisa Clarkson:

Louisa Clarkson is the author of The Silver Strand, the first in the Mastermind Academy tween fantasy series for 9-12 year olds. Creative endeavors called, and she left her Environmental Engineering career to study a Masters in Creative Writing and pursue her writing dreams. In the months she spent researching how to promote her novel, she found bits of information here and there, but no complete author resource. As such Indicated was born. Indicatedfeatures book promotion guides and a comprehensive database of where to find book promotional opportunities like book review bloggers, free and paid advertising opportunities, guest posts, authors interviews and so much more.

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37. $.99 Ebook Sale

99kindle sale

Get ready to load up those new kindles with some fantastic ebooks that will be specially priced at $.99 from December 26th through December 29th.  Loads of authors in various genres are joining in on this holiday sale.  Click the logo above to check out the main page for this sale and start downloading today.

Our children’s holiday story, The Christmas Owl, will be reduced to $.99 during this sale.  An Amazon best selling children’s story, The Christmas Owl , is sure to become a holiday classic. A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word. This colorful tale told in verse is vividly illustrated to capture the attention of children aged eight and under.


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38. SittieCates

SittieCates has been writing for more than ten years. She has covered topics about health, travel, recipes, writing, family, children and many more.  The author of Sleepyhead? NOT!, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry and Prose and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You,  she is currently working as a freelance writer.

Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Cates.

Cates photo2SittieCates: SittieCates is my virtual pseudonym. My real name is Jacqueline, which I mostly prefer my family, old friends and relatives to use. Most of my friends call me Cates. Online, a lot of people call me Sittie. I prefer having my pseudonym, “SittieCates”, written without a space to denote oneness or balance.

I have worked for traditional publishing firms as a Writer and Editor. I also taught English to Filipinos at a local school. I’ve handled students from Grades 3 up to 4th year High School. I was the Guidance Counselor and the Head of the English Department. Aside from those jobs I had at that school, I was also the adviser for the school publication and was in charge of the Theatre Guild.

After a few years, I became an ESL teacher for Koreans. Then, I had an offer at another publishing firm so I went back to writing and editing.

In between those full-time jobs, I tried to squeeze in time to engage in writing the stories that I love; not the articles that I usually spin at work. I’ve managed to publish a poem, a few short stories for kids and some articles in other local magazines published by other publishing firms. While my aim was to write about topics I really love in snippets of time available, I have to admit that there were lots of times when I was too tired to engage in that because of my hectic work schedules. You see, whenever I came home, all I wanted to do was collapse on my bed and pray that I would have a restful sleep so I could function well the next day.

When did the writing bug bite?

SittieCates: I’ve always wanted to write. My parents and siblings would scold me because I would write everywhere. They particularly hated it when I would write on the walls. It looked really messy, but all those scribbles were, in a way, special, because they held dozens of stories only I could understand.

I wrote my very first “nearly legible and more understandable” story when I was in kindergarten. It was part of an assignment. There was a blank page for that in the book, and we were tasked to write a story. We were encouraged to draw the characters, too.

So, I peppered the page with stick figures, the only drawings I could muster. J And I wrote a very, very short story about three girls who always wanted to sing. And when I say short, I really mean short because I only used a few sentences. The title was written as one word; it included all three names of the little girls in the story.

What particular genre/s do you prefer?

SittieCates: For the genre, I seem to gravitate more towards children’s stories. I published two ebooks for kids. One is Sleepyhead? NOT! and the other is Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. I have a third one that’s already with my illustrator. It’s about learning colors. It’s perfect for kids aged 3 to 5, but younger and older ones up to 8 would also love it.

I also love poetry. I’ve compiled a few of my poems and published them together with some essays in my ebook, 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose. The ebook is inspirational and autobiographical. If you read it, you’ll get to know a few things about me. I’ve created an ebook trailer for this at: http://youtu.be/31TfRehsfSU. One of my favorite poetry lines that I’ve written in the ebook includes this one: “In the evenings when the wind speaks softly in my ear… When the stars give out a shine so enchantingly clear… When the soft beams of moonlight leave a trail of shadows in sight… I listen to the sweet, melodious sound of your voice at night.”

What other genre/s are you interested in venturing in?

SittieCates: I have a novel. Currently, I’m polishing that one. It’s my first novel and it’s a romance story, but there’s a little bit of twist there. J I’ll just announce that when it’s ready.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

SittieCates: That’s a good question, Shelagh. When I started writing, just like most authors, I wanted to share my works with a lot of readers. I wanted my works to be read and, hopefully, bring something helpful, amusing or inspiring to the readers – whether the story is for kids or for grown-ups. I truly wanted to give my readers that experience. Even though they may not always have a smile on their faces after reading what I’ve written, I wanted them to feel satisfied or complete, with nary a nagging and confusing thought bothering them afterwards when they close the book.

Could you tell us more about your current book bundle promo for kids?

SittieCates: I’d love to, Shelagh!

The Sittie Case Book Bundle_SittieCates As I’ve mentioned earlier, I have published two ebooks for kids that are up at Amazon (at http://amzn.to/1dTolwE) and other retailers, priced and sold individually. These two are included in a book bundle at http://flipreads.com/sittie-bundle. The bundle, Sittie CASE, is offered at a very, very low price until January 31, 2014 only.

To give interested readers an idea of the children’s stories included in the bundle, here are the descriptions for both:

Sleepyhead? NOT!

Mabel Robbins is a bright, sweet and cheerful kid who likes to play make-believe. She faces no trouble during the day. But when nighttime comes, her problem begins. She couldn’t sleep easily like the rest of her family.

Thinking that she is different, she seeks help to correct her sleeping problem.

But nothing seems to go right!

Will Mabel Robbins be able to find the “right” way to sleep easily? Find out now at Sleepyhead? NOT!

Sleepyhead? NOT! children’s ebook trailer can be seen at YouTube.

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You

When Kaitlyn Zamorra learned to write letters to God from her parents, she started telling Him everything: the things that she likes and what she considers to be “no fun” at all. She also told God about a precious gift that was lots of fun.

But then, something happened. Her source of happiness seemed like it was going to be taken away from her.

Will she be able to save something that gave her lots of happiness? Or will Kaitlyn soon realize what’s truly “lots of fun”?

Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You Children’s ebook trailer is at YouTube.

While the denomination there is in Philippine Pesos, interested buyers can avail of it in dollars by choosing Paypal as a mode of payment. I would suggest that readers check the FAQ at the site to know more about the file reading formats before they purchase and download the bundle.

Since it’s my first time to have a book bundle, I thought of celebrating it while the promo was running. So, I created a worldwide event on Google Plus. But not everyone could join. So, I transferred the event to Facebook, invited some friends and encouraged them to invite others. The Facebook party, which I named, The Sittie CASE Book Bundle Party has already started, and would end by January 31. Others can still join the event if they like, provided that they do so before the last day of January.

How do you develop characters?

SittieCates: I’m a people watcher. I observe people of different ages, professions, etc. I’ve been doing that since I was like 6 or 7 years old. It was just like a game before.

People may think I’m naturally talkative. But I’m only like that online. In person, I’m often what you may refer to as “unusually quiet”, especially when there are so many people around. It’s not that I’m a snob, but I merely prefer to observe people and things around me. That is if my nose isn’t buried in a book.

Often, I listen to how people talk. I take note of how they carry themselves, what clothes they prefer to wear, their mannerisms and other things. I also try to feel the underlying messages that their statements try not to reveal because, as I’ve observed, there are some who would tell you one thing but mean another thing, and I could somehow feel and notice that even if they try really hard to keep that to themselves.

It’s amusing to observe people because I feel that by doing this, I would be able to create the possible lead characters and antagonists of the story, sort of like getting inside their heads and seeing how they think. In real life, I try to capture all that. I try to incorporate these things in my stories so it would adopt a “real” atmosphere, especially in my upcoming novel. (Other character sketches I’ve had are kept in a notebook and I’ll be using those next time.)

What about the setting?

SittieCates: When I created the story setting for my upcoming romance novel, Bookworm, I had to struggle for awhile. I was trying to decide if a serious mood would be best or not. With regards to where and what time the story would take place, I chose what I knew, what I was familiar with, and injected that in the novel. Hopefully, the readers would love it.

Do you have a specific writing style? Preferred POV?

SittieCates: For most of the articles I’ve written, I would say that I’d go for the first-person POV.

But with stories, I try to experiment. I used both the first-person and third-person POV for my stories for kids. Sleepyhead? Not! was written using the third-person POV while Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You used the first person.

However, for my upcoming novel, things are totally different. It’s not going to use any of the POVs normally used in writing novels. I wanted to try something else. So, I decided to use a different approach, which you’ll all see when my novel will be published. And I sincerely hope you would all wait for that.

How does your environment or immediate circle of friends, family and colleagues color your writing?

SittieCates: I find that a part of me seems to come out – regardless of whatever I create (poems, songs, articles, stories, etc.). It may be about the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had or the experiences that I knew someone had.

Sometimes, I find that helpful. Other times, no, because when I’m faced with a certain character, and I see that character as someone I know, it wouldn’t help the tale at all, especially if something happens in the story. What I mean is that being the real person that that character is, when he or she is faced with a dilemma, obviously, he or she would do the same thing that his or her character’s “real” counterpart would do. When that happens, all creative juices would be blocked, and that wouldn’t contribute well to the story because I wouldn’t know what else to write. As you can see, for me, when that story character thinks, feels and behaves like the real-life counterpart, that’s the end of the story. You can’t move past that because you would say that the real person wouldn’t behave, feel or think as such. So, there’s no more ideas coming in. You’re blocked! I’ve encountered that when I was writing the first few drafts of Bookworm. It was really hard to move beyond that. So, I changed the story a bit, and tried to see a story character as not being totally similar to a real-life counterpart.

Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve had.

13th_Breath_Book_Cover_1563x2500SittieCates: Delighted to do so, Shelagh! Some of the links for the book reviews I’ve received for 13th Breath: A Collection of Poetry & Prose” and “Sleepyhead? NOT! are at the tab marked as “Book Reviews Written by Others for My Works” at my two blogs.

I also loved this one that was posted on a retail site. It was for one of my ebooks for kids, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Kaitlyn Zamorra, Smiling at You. It reads:

“A wonderful and delightful story, adorably illustrated, about a little girl’s faith and innocence as she starts understanding about change and learning to love her baby brother. Well done! Five stars all the way (the stars seem to be missing on this review). My child loved it, too!” ~ Patrick Heffernan, Author of Greywalker, a novel

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

SittieCates: People can follow me in a number of ways:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SittieCates

My Blogs: http://www.myownwritersnook.blogspot.com and http://www.sittiecateslovestories.blogspot.com

Facebook Pages: https://www.facebook.com/TheMusingsofaHopefulPecuniousWordsmith and https://www.facebook.com/SittieCatesLovesStories

Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/114470887211929135419

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7415659.SittieCates.

Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/sittiecates

Thank you for joining us today, Cates.

SittieCates: Thank you so much, Shelagh! I really enjoyed the interview. All the best to you and your site! And happy holidays to everyone! J

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39. Welcome KC Blake–vampire fighter, werewolf hunter and creature of the night stalker (in a good way, not in that creepy way everyone else stalks creatures of the night)


This Fun Friday The Society of YA Storyteller authors are all interviewing fellow authors! I’m the lucky one who hosts KC Blake today. Interested in stories that will keep you up long into the night? Just read one of KC’s books and you’ll see why you’ll want to read them all. When you get to the end of the interview and want to read more, there’s links to all the author interviews. Stop by each of the blogs and read about one of your favorite or future favorite authors. Click here to check out the The YA Society of Storytellers website and check out the game zone, online book club, trailers and giveaways too.

Any works in process that you are passionate about?  I am working on Warrior right now.  It is the third in the Order of the Spirit Realm Series, and I’m having a blast because I know these characters so well.  It will be hard when I finish and have to say goodbye.

Werewolf or Vampire? Vampire or Zombie? Aliens or Mole People?  Werewolf (pasty white boys don’t do it for me).  Vampire (easier to kill).  Aliens (the other is too weird).

Which of your characters is most like you?  Bay-Lee Van Helsing from Bait.  I don’t give up no matter what (I’m just stubborn that way), and I keep going no matter what life throws at me.  I’m also driven (to write, not to kill werewolves).

Which of your characters is least like you?  Lily from Witch Hunt. The girl never knows when to shut her mouth. She is constantly talking about stupid things and doesn’t notice when her friends want to slap her.

Which of your characters would you like to be friends with?  Kristen from Crushed because she is a witch with crazy powers, but she isn’t irresponsible so I don’t have to worry about her turning me into anything weird.  She would use her magic to help me out.

Which of your characters do you like writing about most?  Nick Gallos from Bait because he was an undercover rock star slash vampire slayer.  He’s angry and bitter, until he falls for Bay-Lee.  Definitely my favorite.

Tell us about your favorite Christmas tradition.  On Christmas Eve we drink hot cocoa and open up one present.  We also watch a Christmas movie.  Then on Christmas morning we eat breakfast before opening presents.  The rest of the day is spent visiting family, maybe watching another Christmas movie, and playing in the snow if we are lucky enough to have some.

Paperback or eBook?  Depends.  I love my Kindle, but I want my books in print if they are keepers.

Future plans?  After I finish up the Order of the Spirit Realm series, I am going to finish my vampire series.  Then I would like to move on to a series about other worlds and dragons.

Check out the other YA Storyteller interviews:

K.C. Blake
Bryna Butler
Heather Hildenbrand
Patti Larsen
Quinn Loftis
Liz Long
Melissa Pearl
L.M. Preston
Stacey Rourke
Christy Sloat
Heather Sutherlin
Suzy Turner

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40. The start of the festive season with Children’s laureate Alison Lester!

Sarah Davis award winning illustrator with keynote at CBCA Christmas dinnerAlison Lester Children's Laurete Australia with author Laurine Croasdale Alison Lester Children’s Laureate and Sarah Davies award winning illustrator and friend were the keynotes at the Children’s Book Council Christmas dinner. Heaps of authors and illustrators celebrated with the community of book lovers.

Society of Women Writers (SWW)  in the Mitchell Library – with its heritage sandstone columns and magnificent rooms – addressed by Professor Yerbury – introduced by historian and author Maria Hill, who’s the President of the Society of Women Writers.

Wonderful event.

Unleased Festival with festival convenor Jodie Wells Slowgrove – who organised a weekend festival of authors and publishers. it was a buzz!  Linda Jaivin gave insight into her travels and life in  China – she was so entertaining. Read her books!

Tim ferguson comedian author who manages his MS with style and humour.  Publishers including Paul Collins Ford Street Publishing, Zoe Walton RandomHouse, Heather Curdie Penguin.

But BEST fun was being won by Maureen Johnson (author of Boofheads and many other books)  to give her a mini mentorship. Love doing it and watch out for her new series!

authors Meredith Costain, Paul Collins, Tracey Hawkins, Libby Gleeson and brian Cook


The post The start of the festive season with Children’s laureate Alison Lester! appeared first on Susanne Gervay's Blog.

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41. The Christmas Owl


We are thrilled to announce the release of our latest children’s book, The Christmas Owl.  This ebook is available at a special discounted price of $.99 through November 14th on Amazon.  We have also released this book on Barnes & Noble.  A Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.

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42. That would be excellent


I've been a very bad blogger this year, mainly because of this, of course. But G's treatments are now done, and we're working toward getting our life back to our "new normal." But first, we're moving apartments this week and packing is exhausting!

As always happens, while packing I've been finding forgotten things, like this letter Grace had sent me back when we were both seniors in high school. I had brought this with me from my parents' house in California a while back because I wanted to quote some of the letter in a talk I was giving, I think.

In it, we talked about boys, of course. I had asked her to send me a boyfriend, so she sent me this guy:

Cute, huh? She named him Roger.

And here are a few snippets from the letter:

"I'm going to illustrate children's books, y'know. That would be so cool. One day when we're all grown up, you'll see in a book store: Illustrated by Grace P. Lin. That would be excellent."


"I wish I could show you my portfolio. Then you could tell me if you think I'm talented. Or then you could lie to me and tell me you think I'm the bestest artist in the world and of course I will make it into RISD."

I wonder if Grace has the letter I wrote back to her. But I'm sure I said something like:

I think you're talented, Grace! You are the bestest artist in the world, you will make it into RISD, and you will become a famous children's book author and illustrator.

See, I can predict the future!

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43. The Christmas Owl Trailer



Well, we’ve attempted our first book trailer for our latest creation, The Christmas Owl.  Click the cover to view our trailer.

This story follows a Barred owl becomes injured and must ask others for help. He promises to give back to those who have a generous heart and he is true to his word.

COMING NOVEMBER 2013 to Amazon. 

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44. Theater Poster Sketches: Click Clack Moo

Easily one of the things I love most about working with theaters is the chance to offer my interpretation of my favorite stories. I've done many of the classic public domain stories, but I love being able to have a go at more contemporary books. I love, love(!) Betsy Lewin's illustrations for Click Clack Moo, but still had a blast giving Doreen Cronin's story my own take. Here are the rough sketches for the theater poster.

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45. Theater Poster: Mark Twain's Mississippi

Might have taken this project simply to play with the "Mississippi" type. But had a great time working  Twain's handwritten manuscripts into the image

1 Comments on Theater Poster: Mark Twain's Mississippi, last added: 8/17/2013
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46. Interview: Patrick Flores-Scott

So many people have been commenting about how eager they are to read Jumped In that I thought an interview with author Patrick Flores-Scott might be a good thing. Jumped In is his first novel.
Macmillan, 2013

Sam has the rules of slackerhood down: Don’t be late to class. Don’t ever look the teacher in the eye. Develop your blank stare. Since his mom left, he has become an expert in the art of slacking, especially since no one at his new school gets his intense passion for the music of the Pacific Northwest—Nirvana, Hole, Sleater-Kinney. Then his English teacher begins a slam poetry unit and Sam gets paired up with the daunting, scarred, clearly-a-gang-member Luis, who happens to sit next to him in every one of his classes. Slacking is no longer an option—Luis will destroy him. Told in Sam’s raw voice and interspersed with vivid poems, Jumped In by Patrick Flores-Scott is a stunning debut novel about differences, friendship, loss, and the power of words.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small town called North Bend, in the Snoqualmie Valley, just east of Seattle Washington. It’s where the show “Twin Peaks” was shot.
Do you have any pets?
Not yet. My wife and I have two little boys and they have a bunch of stuffed animals. I’m quite certain there will be a dog in our not too distant future.
What do you enjoy watching on television?

My wife and I are seriously amped for the next installment of Sherlock. It’s too long of a wait. We got sucked into the soap opera that is Homeland and we watch Modern Family regularly. It feels like it’s time for something new, so if your readers have suggestions (any genre), we’re all ears.

Meat or vegetables? 
I have to say meat. Both of my grandfathers were meat farmers (sheep and cattle). I was destined to be a meat eater. However, I love grilled and roasted veggies.
Are there any books that stand out in your memory from your childhood?
I struggled to finish books as a kid. I could read, but I had some massive concentration issues. However, I loved reading the Sports section and reading sports biographies. I read one about Jim Thorpe and one about Pele that come to mind. I was fascinated by those guys. I had another book that had one or two page biographies of a bunch of American sports legends. I saved up for that one and bought it myself at B. Dalton. I kept it by my bed for a long time.

What book(s) are you in the middle of reading right now?

I’m totally into How You Lose Her, by Junot Diaz, and Blasphemy, Sherman Alexie’s short story collection. I just got through a John Green marathon. I hadn’t read any of his books. Too popular, or something. I finally had to give in and see what the fuss was all about. I read The Fault in Our Stars, An Abundance of Katherines, and Looking for Alaska. I loved all three and they have me fully inspired heading into the re-write of my second novel. 

Would I be correct to assume you’re a big Nirvana fan? Their music played such a huge role in Jumped In.

I love Nirvana. But I didn’t really get into them until I was in my late thirties. I was actually in Seattle attending the University of Washington just as Nirvana was becoming big. I remember one of my best friends going to a show at the student union building dubbed “Four Bands for Four Bucks” and the next day telling me about this incredible band called Nirvana. I thought they sounded like amazing performers, but I just wasn’t into punk or loud music so I didn’t give them a chance. Years later a co-worker gave me Incesticide and that album got me going. I got Bleach after that and was hooked. 

Sam became a Nirvana fan pretty late in the process of writing Jumped In. A lot of editors were passing on the book, saying that they couldn’t connect to Sam. He was just too glum to like. So many kids these days love Nirvana the way kids were into The Ramones and Sex Pistols when I was in high school, so I kept the glum but gave Sam this passion that turned him into a character that folks seem to want to root for. After that re-write, the book sold pretty quickly.

Were you able to share any of parts of the book with your students? If so, what were their reactions?
In the beginning, I was teaching in the middle school that inspired the book. I almost exclusively shared Luis’ poems. I was a theatre major, so I’m a pretty enthusiastic reader of my own writing. I was never sure whether kids were engaged because of the writing or if they were just bemused by a whacky teacher getting all dramatic. 

After the book sold, I worked with elementary kids and did some lessons on accepting feedback. I showed kids my rejection letters and showed them how I took feedback from editors to improve my writing. Kids seemed pretty excited about the whole deal. 

I eventually got the opportunity to read portions of the book to older students again, as well. They had a lot of feedback on details I could add to make Sam more real. It’s neat to read to kids when they know things are still in play and that maybe their feedback might make it into the book. 

If you were to write another book about Sam how would his life change? Would his mom come back? Would he have deeper friendships or perhaps be composing music?

I spent some time feeling bad about what I did to Luis, and I thought that maybe I’d get the opportunity to write a version of the the story in which (SPOILER ALERT)     Luis makes it to the poetry slam and he and Sam are able to go on as friends.

I never really thought it through any more than that.

If I did write a sequel, yeah, I would love to see Sam go through the ups and downs of longer-term friendships with Julisa and maybe even Carlos. It’d be interesting to have him in a band with Rupe and Dave (maybe Julisa would be the lead singer?) and to have them go through the difficult process of rekindling these idealized boyhood friendships after having been apart for so long. There’s a lot to go on there. And I’d love to have song lyrics play a similar role (in this new awesome book you’ve encouraged me to write) as Luis’ poems in Jumped In. And you’re right, mom would have to come back. It’s too messy to not explore that relationship. 

So glad I could encourage you in that way! It is sounding so interesting!I

Is there a real life Ginny and Bill, or are they completely fictitious? As grandparents left to take care of their grandson, they seemed to be giving Sam just about everything he needed.
My sisters and I were raised by loving, present parents. We also had a grandmother who lived close by who was almost like a third parent. I think there’s a bit of her in Ginny and Bill. I wanted it to be difficult for Ginny and Bill to talk to Sam in a deep, emotionally honest way about his issues. At the same time, they are truly there for him. That felt true to my upbringing. I think Ginny and Bill were even more inspired by so many loving grandparents, I see as a teacher, who are raising their grandkids. The generation gap makes communication rough, but so many of them seem to make it work. Not what I envision for my retirement years. Ginny and Bill are thrust into a role that they didn’t choose, but they handle the role with a grace that I guess I would hope to have if I find myself in that position someday. Ginny and Bill, Cassidy, Carter, Luis’ mom, Graves… I admit, they’re all fairly idealized; they’re the kind of grownups I hope I could be someday. 

I couldn’ t help but look at the young man on the cover of Jumped In in that hoodie and think of Treyvon Martin in his hoodie. I think that hoodie is becoming a symbol for young men who we really don’t know, perhaps a generation we’re losing. Do you know how the hoodie got chosen for the cover?

jumpedinWhen writing  Jumped In, I wasn’t thinking of the hoodie as a symbol, but as a practical means for Sam to hide in school. After the fact, I can see it as the symbol the way you describe it, sure. I don’t know if the artist was thinking of Treyvon Martin, but I know that when I made sketches of the cover, years ago (it was looooong process from first draft to publication), it was always Sam and Luis standing there in their hoodies, their faces obscured. No one had heard of Treyvon at that point. I don’t want to hide from the fact that that connection is going to exist in people’s minds. I’m just pretty certain that the cover was based on the description of Sam in the book. 


Luis was there, but not there. Giving him a voice through the poetry really foreshadowed some of the ending. How difficult was it to create this character?
The book I set out to create was going to be a collection of poems written by a kid who has passed away, Luis. In the world of the book, everyone had thought/assumed Luis was a gangbanger and definitely not a poet.  Sam was just going to be the kid who found a box of Luis’ poems and his narration was just going to be, like, “I found this box of poems. They were written by Luis. I was moved by his poetry and the story it tells, and I wanted to share it with the world so you could get to know the real Luis, as opposed to the kid we’ve made all these assumptions about.” I had never written any sort of prose before, so I thought that that would be about all I could handle. Well, I started writing Sam and it turned out I liked writing prose as much as I liked writing the poems and pretty soon, it became clear that I was writing my first novel. At one  point after it had become a novel, there was a poem or two after every single chapter. Then the poems were judiciously trimmed and Luis became this stronger character, somehow. Luis is there but not there, but I still feel like this is his story, as much as it is Sam’s. He sees where his future is headed, and he makes this decision to bust out of the role he’s been playing and the role the community sees him in, and he makes Sam the sidekick that enables him to share his true identity to with the world. 

Luis, as a character, as a voice, came out of a bunch of kids who don’t want to be in gangs, but who don’t have/can’t see a better alternative. Being a teacher, I get the opportunity to see these kids as real, normal people with real, normal hopes and fears. And in the school where I was working, I got to see kids, including wannabe gangbangers and posers, read poetry in Ms. Cassidy and Ms. Christenson’s class poetry slams.

Thanks, Patrick, for such a nice interview! Good luck with Jumped In!

Filed under: Interview Tagged: author, interview, patrick flores-scott

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47. Author Dorit Sasson Talks About Writing

The Writer's Life with Author, Dorit Sasson Today, I’m pleased to be hosting Day 2 of a 5-day virtual book tour, sponsored by the Working Writer's Club, for Dorit Sasson’s two new books: Speaking and Writing for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success with K-6 Reading and Listening for English Language Learners: Collaborative Teaching for Greater Success for K-

9 Comments on Author Dorit Sasson Talks About Writing, last added: 9/12/2013
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48. Book Give-A-Way & Dianne Ochiltree Interview

dianneflwrscroppedDianne Ochiltree has been writing stories and poems since she was a child growing up in a small Midwestern town. Today, she is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her picture book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE has been a selection for the Dollywood Fourndation’s national literacy program, and her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter received the Florida Book Awards Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012. Her earlier books have been translated into foreign language and Braille editions as well as audio versions. For more information about Dianne and her books, go to http://www.ochiltreebooks.com. Dianne lives in sunny Sarasota, Florida with her husband, Jim, and the family pets.

betsyfireflyHer books have appeared on several recommended reading lists nationwide, including the Bank Street College Children’s Book Committee ‘year’s best’, and the Dollywood Foundation’s national childhood literacy program, ‘imagination library’.

IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT is illustrated by Betsy Snyder who was featured last December on Illustrator Saturday. If you would like to see that post, here is the link: http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/illustrator-saturday-betsy-snyder/

Dianne has agreed to give everyone a chance to win one of three signed copies of IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT. All you have to do is leaves a comment to get their name in the hat one time. If you would like to collect more entries in the hat, you can increase your chances by do the following:

1 entry everything you tweet this link (One a day).

1 entry for putting this link on facebook

1 entry for putting up this post on your blog.

2 entries if you reblog this post.

5 entries if you talk about the book on your facebook page or blog.

Please come back and leave an update on what you did by Friday October 5th in the comment section, so I know how many times to put your name in the hat for the drawing. I will announce the winner on Sunday October 7th.

Here is the interview I had with Dianne.

I know you have been writing since you were a little kid, but how did you hone your writing skills as a serious writer?

Great question! First, I made the commitment to write something very day.  Depending on the particular day, some days it was 20 pages and other days it was only notes on a future project.  The important thing was to make the writing a daily priority.  Second, I made a list of what I didn’t know about writing for young readers and the children’s publishing  industry.  (Initially, a very long list!)  Then I set off on a crash course to gain the knowledge I needed to write effectively for this market.  I read books, magazine articles, and blogs on the topics.  I took a couple of in-person and online classes.  Most important, I joined SCBWI.  The first year in the business, I attended eight regional and national conferences, where the workshops and presenters shared valuable tips on the craft and business of writing for children.  I networked with fellow beginning writers.  I found experienced writers who generously offered me guidance from time to time.  I joined two critique groups where I could not only bring my own writing skills up to speed, but also learn from evaluating other writers’ work.  Oh yes, it ‘takes a village’ to raise a children’s writer!

Were the first things you wrote, poems?

Yes, little poems about pets and flowers and that sort of thing.  Also scripts for puppet shows.  I made hand puppets from paper lunch bags and construction paper.  My third grade teacher let me do puppet shows for my book reports because I was so shy!  Before learning to actually read or  write, I drew little ‘picture books’ using recycled paper sheets , bound with punch holes and yarn.

Did you start out knowing that you wanted to writer for children?

Not at all.  I just wrote things without thought about intended readership or publication at first.  It was just for fun.

Have you done any other type of writing?

My first job was as an advertising copywriter.  My first writing career, as staff writer and freelancer, was in marketing/advertising/public relations. I have written poems and personal essays for adult readers, too.

When did you get your first picture book published?

My first book for children, CATS ADD UP!, was published in 1998 as a title in the ‘Hello, Reader!’ series from Scholastic.  This was especially exciting to be published by Scholastic, because when I was a kid, most of my reading material came from those monthly book club offerings.

How did that happen?

I’d applied for the Rutgers One-on-One Plus Conference with a writing sample, an early draft of that first published book, and was accepted.  My mentor that day was Paula Danziger.  Not only did she give me priceless writing advice…she introduced me to an editor at Scholastic who agreed to look at my manuscript once I’d made revisions based on her input.

Are all your picture books in rhyme?

No.  All three of my ‘Hello Reader!” series titles are in prose, as is my 2012 Calkins Creek/Boyds Mills Press book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter.

Do you have an agent? If not, would like to find one?

No, I do not currently have an agent.  And YES, of course, I’d love to have representation.  It’s not just the negotiation for the initial contract in which a literary agent makes a key difference—it’s the on-going interface with the publisher on issues such as subsidiary rights in which having an agent on your side can make a big impact.

Not counting your latest book, which book are you most proud of?

Now you’re asking me to name the equivalent of my favorite child—tough question! So, while I love all my books, I am proud of LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2006) for being on the Dollywood Foundation’s ‘Imagination Library’ list for many years running.  Because of this, thousands of families with infants have received a free copy of the book in the mail for their own little ones.  These are parents who could not otherwise afford books for their kids.  Also proud that the ‘Molly’ book won the 2012 Florida Book Awards bronze medal in the children’s literature category.

Do you have a regular writing schedule?

The only regular thing about my writing schedule is that I write something each day:  a journal entry, a blog post, or chunks of a manuscript.  It’s all good.

I see you do yoga. Do you feel that helps you write better?

Yes, I’m a Yoga Alliance 200-hour RYT instructor and devoted lifelong learner.  And yes, it helps tremendously.  As an instructor or student, my observational skills need to be engaged at a high level.  This also helps make writing shine, taking notice of all the details.  There is a meditative state that practicing yoga and writing share.  By connecting with your true self, or your creative self, your work on the mat and at the keyboard will exceed your expectations.  There is also an element of non-judgment of effort and non-attachment to results that frees up a yoga practice and writing efforts alike. I believe so strongly in the corollary processes that I teach a ‘zen and the pen’ workshop from time to time.

Can you tell us the story and journey behind your new book, It’s a Firefly Night?

It’s been a long and happy journey with that manuscript.  I think my first draft of the story dates to 2003.  It was prompted by my memory of sharing ‘firefly nights’ with my own father.  From him, I learned an appreciation of—and a respect for—the natural world. That’s a lesson as valuable today as it was in the 60’s.  Catching fireflies on a summer night was one of the rare times I had one-on-one time with my father. My father passed away when I was 18 years old, so of course working creatively with any ‘daddy memory’ is a special pleasure for me.  It has also been a joy to connect with that childlike sense of wonder while crafting this manuscript.  My goal was to share the feeling of magical, barefoot, starry summer nights of long-ago with today’s kids.  I also hope that the book inspires today’s parents to get out there  and share some nature outings with their children.

What number of books does this book bring you up to now?

I think it’s 11.

Have any of your books been put out as an e-book?

Yes, some of my Scholastic books are now offered as an e-book.  Both original Scholastic publications and picture books that were subsequently sold to Scholastic for paperback and other rights.

Do you have any thoughts on why some writer’s get published and others do not?

Some writers do the homework and some do not.  Some writers can receive editorial input and utilize it effectively, some cannot.  Some writers can handle rejection, others cannot. Some writers give up, others do not.  The biggest difference?  Published writers are not quitters.

Do you have any suggestions on how to market yourself to editors and publishers?

Simply, be professional.  Know what they do or do not publish.  Ask informed questions.  Use appropriate communication channels for your queries and pitches.  Only present your most polished work.

What are you working on now?

A book proposal for a juvenile biography, plus a narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript.

Do you have any words of wisdom for unpublished writers?

I’m not really qualified to give anything as profound as words of wisdom…but I will mention that it’s important to find out what makes your writing stand out from other authors, which is another way of saying what makes you unique, then go for it!  Let your writing express your viewpoint on life, as well as your personality.  You were called to be a writer because there is something you really need to say to young readers.  Make that connection with every word on the page.

Thank you Dianne for sharing your time to answer todays, interview questions. I have your book and it is a great addition to my picture book collection and thank you for your generous offer to let three people win signed copies of your book.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, authors and illustrators, bio, Book, Interview, Picture Book Tagged: book give-a-way, Children's Book Author, dianne Ochiltree, It's a Firefly Night

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49. When It Comes in Threes: Chapter 3 “Meet My Daddy”

This is Chapter 3 of the new novel I’m working on.  This book is a piece of Young Adult Fiction.  Young readers should be particularly advised that this chapter is harsh, and if this were a movie, it would be given a PG-13 rating.  Chapters 1 and 2 are published here also at www.toniaalengould.com. I’m uncertain how many chapters I will publish here on this blog.  Your feedback is welcomed and appreciated, and please kindly note that this is only fairly edited to this point.

Meet My Daddy

Last night, when the house was quiet and nothing was keeping the room lit but for the dime store digital alarm clock Mama got me and Bartlett for Christmas last year; my sister broke the night’s calm by shifting her weight and turning over in her bed to face me in mine.  “Barley, you awake?” she whispered.  Not waiting for me to answer she continued, “It’s real late and daddy ain’t home yet. When he gets in, I don’t want you to make one single, solitary sound in here, no matter what happens.  You hear me?” Bartlett pleaded.  I shivered and pulled the covers tighter over my body and used the top of them to wipe the tears that already began to roll as big as dimes down my cheek and said, “Uh huh, I hear you,” I said, knowing she was right and that the shit was about to hit the fan.  I tried to muster a voice inside me big and loud, but what came out of my mouth squeaked like one of those kangaroo mice that we occasionally caught meekly poking their heads out of our paneled wood walls, disappearing as quickly as they came, here and gone again, just like my tears now.  My whole body began to tremble and shake and my feet were so cold, it felt like I had popsicles for toes.

Bartlett rose up out of her bed looking like a ghost or something, looming over me like that in her cotton white nightgown; her face was nothing but a shadow in the darkness, and for a second, I thought I was dreaming or having a nightmare or something.  I pinched myself sharply and only when I felt the pain was I certain she was real and not a figment of my imagination.  Finally, she sat down on the edge of my bed.  “Sit up for a second,” she said, as she pulled back the covers and tugged at my arms, effortlessly bringing me up next to her.  I couldn’t make out her face in the darkness, although her white cotton nightgown seemed to illuminate the whole bedroom.   She stroked my long, dark hair and whispered in my ear.  I know she could feel me trembling beside her, and even though sometimes I hated her, I was so grateful for my sister’s warmth tonight.  “Shhh,” she said.  “Maybe it won’t be so bad this time.  Give me a hug and try to go on back to sleep now and remember that no matter what happens, you stay in this here bed and don’t get outta it for anything, until Kingdom come if you have to, or at least until I say so” she said, as she pulled me tighter in next to her body.  I hugged her limply, like something had sucked the bones out of me and I was nothing but a gob of dangling, cold skin, but it weren’t for but a second, before she got up and paced across the room to check on Graham, who was sleeping soundly in his own bed.  I knew Bartlett would be by his side stifling him, muzzling his mouth if she had to, if things got really ugly.  So I just laid there—cold and limp, a lifeless, waiting, trembling, hoping and praying mass-of-a-child.  If you’ve never had the experience, waiting for something bad to happen feels like all the oxygen has been snatched-up outta the air, your throat and lips feel awfully dry, you can’t hardly swallow your own spit for the lump in your throat won’t let it go down, and it’s as if the Earth collapsed and shattered to giants chunks of rubble around you, pinning you in and leaving you breathless.  Yes.  Waiting feels like something big and looming and enormous like that.

Another hour or so must’ve passed as we laid there in silence before the headlights from daddy’s ’59 Impala finally ricocheted off the walls and reflected from the mirror that sat on top of our dresser.  The light was so bright, it was blinding, and it felt like Lord Jesus had come to take us home.  I could hear the tires spitting-up gravel from the driveway and the pistons rumble and fade away into the darkness once Daddy turned off the ignition.  Moments pass and he finally gets out of the car, slamming the door forcibly as he exits.  Then the thud, thud, thud of his feet comin’ up the porch steps, tromping the whole way.  Suddenly, I became consumed by each and every sound my father was making, each noise was a siren, a warning call that rang loud and true and into the stillness of the night.  It was almost more than I could bear, waitin’ for my Daddy to find his keys and enter the trailer.  I wasn’t breathing, but I wasn’t holding my breath neither, it’s like I had my foot stomped on and was punched in the belly all at the same time.   Rattle, Rattle, rattle; he fumbled with the doorknob, turned it, and then finally fell into the kitchen which was right outside our bedroom.  He was struggling to find the light switch; I could hear him grasping at the walls, groping the wood paneling, and scraping the dinette chairs across the floor as he clumsily made his way to the light switch across the small kitchen.

From where I was laying, I could see the dark outline of his body through the crack in our bedroom door.  I screeched a bit when he finally turned on the light, it surprised me so much, since I had become particularly fixated on all the sounds he was making and due to the suspense of it all. Bartlett shushed me again, but fortunately Daddy hadn’t heard me. Bartlett was right, it was best to pretend I was asleep, but I couldn’t help but watch through that small opening in our bedroom door.

I wanted to roll over in my bed and face Bartlett, but it was too darn late, I had to lay still, or I might’ve caught Daddy’s attention, so I watched as he tried to navigate around the kitchen. Daddy has knocked over a chair, and I watch as he stumbled and fell forward, trying to pick it up.  When he finally brought the chair upright, he heaved his body into and lit himself up a Marlboro, and thankfully the whole trailer fell quiet again.  We can hear Mama as she slowly eased herself up out of her bed through the paper thin walls leading to the bedroom next to ours.  The rickety old box springs from the cast iron bed Mama and Daddy got from a flea market, is the only thing to break the silence.  “No Mama,” I prayed.  “Please don’t get up.  Let him be.  Don’t go in there,” I prayed.  But I  knew God wasn’t listening to Barley Sullivan tonight, because I watched as Mama drowsily entered the kitchen, wiping the sleep out of her reddened eyes.  I could see that mom had been crying, and guessed probably she had cried the whole night long.  The stench of the alcohol on Daddy’s breath, and what smells like a somewhat familiar perfume now permeates the air throughout the entire trailer.  Mama is ten shades of mad because Daddy has been out so late.  She glances around the kitchen in disbelief. “Earl, it looks like a God-damned circus ran through here,” she says as she stoops to pick up an errant chair up off the floor.  Mama’s right.  It was a circus in there and unbeknownst to her; she just stepped into the lion’s lair.  Like I’ve said before, Mama didn’t have too much common sense.

“You think ya can just saunter on in here, any old time ya God-damned want, drunker than a skunk and smellin’ like June’s cheap-ass perfume all the time?  I’m getting pretty fuckin’ sick and tired of it, Earl!” she yells.  “If my brother John gets a hold of you, he’s gonna kill you for runnin’ around with her like that.  What?  You think I don’t know?  I’m not fuckin’ stupid,” my Mama laughs. The argument ensues, both of them screaming back and forth at one another, but some of what they are talking about makes absolutely no sense to me—like what does Aunt June have to do with any of this, anyway?  It’s all over my head, and Daddy is so belligerent, I can’t make sense of what he is saying at all.  Their voices rise another octave, and the neighbor’s dog, George, begins to bark and that beckons other dogs in the trailer park to wake and come alive with their unrelenting barking.  Daddy’s voice suddenly shifts to a dangerous tone, and I can feel it in my gut.  It’s too late, there’s no undoing what’s Mama’s done.  She has incensed my father.

Despite Bartlett’s admonishment, I sit up on the side of my bed, my legs dangling, holding on tightly to the stuffed monkey I got from that time I got put in the hospital when my appendix almost burst.  Doctor Cooper gave him to me.  I loved that stuffed monkey because he reminded me of a special time.   For two weeks, while I was in the hospital, I got to eat all the ice cream I ever wanted, there weren’t any televisions on blaring loudly twenty-four-hours a day, and Daddy and Mama weren’t there fighting about things I just didn’t understand, like they were doing tonight.  Hell, Mama and Daddy barely even came to see me when I was in the hospital back when I was only just nine-years-old, and oddly enough, I was okay with that. Those two weeks were the first time in my life I had ever experienced what silence was.  I could think there in the hospital.  I wasn’t all wound-up and scared all the time.  In fact, it felt like I had boarded a plane, and landed in some faraway perfect place.  For a kid like me, growing up in a trailer park, staying in a hospital feels something like staying at one of those fine resorts I read about in one of those magazines Jeannie Bell had down in her parlor shop in town.  Bartlett breaks me away from my reverie and whispered loudly again, “Lie back down and pretend that you’re asleep!  If Daddy sees you, he’ll up and come on in here and whoop us both.  Do it now!”

But I don’t listen to Bartlett.  My body feels possessed by someone bigger and braver than me.  Instead, I continue to rock myself gently back and forth, trying to will away the feuding coming from the other room.   Daddy is cursing something fierce, and then I hear him push a chair out of his way as he crosses over to Mama where I can’t see them anymore.   I knew better, and despite all of Bartlett’s warnings, I got up and tip-toed myself across the floor to the door and stepped quietly over to the other side of it to peer through the crack to see where my Mama and Daddy are standing on the other side of the kitchen.  Daddy’s already got her pressed right up against the wall, his arm pinned across her throat and he is yelling directly into her face.  He’s so mad, I can see little droplets of spittle flying into the air as he screams at her.  And then, before I can digest what I am seeing, I watch in outright horror as Daddy leans over and picks up one of those fallen chairs and busts it right across my Mama’s head.  She falters and falls hard to the ground, moaning in anguish, her body is now a lifeless heap strewn clear across the floor in a pink, cotton-candy-colored, terry-cloth robe.  With a grumble underneath his breath, my Daddy steps over her body, like she’s nothing more than the day’s trash, and stumbles into their bedroom.  I watch him hoist his fully-clothed body onto that old bed, the sheer weight of him causes those box springs to creak and whine again, and almost immediately, the sound of his snoring breaks the dead quiet silence of daybreak.  The morning light is already filtering in through the windows, casting morning sun on my poor mother, splayed out on the floor in her pink robe.

Mama was lying perfectly still on the floor, and I was almost certain she was dead.  A thin, red trickle of blood oozed from a wide, deep gash on her forehead.  I was crying, but my sobs were coming from some subterranean part of myself.  Even if I wanted to, I could not project any noise; I had learned so early on in life to stifle my emotions and to filter my own pain.  My stomach was heaving in and out while a steady train of new tears rolled down my face.  It took every ounce of my courage to walk over to Mama to see if she was breathing or dead.  Just as I crossed over the kitchen and came to her side, my mother looked up at me, surprised to see me and immediately placed her right index finger next to her lips and mouthed the word “Shhhhh!”  I leaned over her and gave her my hand, which she gratefully took, and I helped her up off the cold, hard linoleum tiles.  Without saying a word, she led me back to my room where Bartlett stood crying at the door, holding Graham in her arms; he was almost too big for her carry.  He was buried deep in her bosom and I knew Bartlett hadn’t let him see anything that went on in the kitchen.  “Go on back in there now, you three.  Ain’t nothin’ more to see out here tonight,” Mama said as she motioned us back into our bedroom. “I’m ok,” she said, “It’s just nothin’ but a little bump on the head.  Y’all go back to sleep, and stay good and quiet in here, you hear me?” she whispered.   Mama led me back into our room, where she tucked me into bed, checked on Graham who rolled over immediately and went back to sleep, and then looked thankfully towards Bartlett.  Then with some degree of dignity, she straightened her back and walked out of our room and back into the kitchen.

The door to our room was left cracked open again and I watched as she lit herself a cigarette, inhaling the smoke deeply into her lungs where she savored it a moment until she finally exhaled, and then she sat down at the dinette table, drew her feet up onto the chair and rested her head on her knees, her body trembling from head-to-toe as she silently watered her lap with her tears.  I wanted to go to her again, but I knew if I did, she would retaliate on me just to prove she was still strong and in charge, like she had done so many times before after a beating from Daddy, so I just laid there and saw her arms heave up and down as she cried, watching as the early morning light cleansed and clarified the kitchen, hoping for a new and brighter day.

0 Comments on When It Comes in Threes: Chapter 3 “Meet My Daddy” as of 9/29/2013 9:16:00 PM
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50. Example of Great YA Discussion Guide & Promo Piece

I am posting this because I think all of us should be thinking past having a website, blog, and a facebook page and start thinking about selling our books. This is an excellent discussion guide for Lauren Oliver’s fabulous book, PANDEMONIUM. With this one piece she is showing that she is a true professional, generating interest in reading her book, and providing content for teachers to encourage them to invite her in to their school. Are you putting out something this high end? Next week I will share an excellent middle grade discussion guide and a picture book discussion guide. I hope these will get you thinking about doing more than just putting up a website and hoping someone calls.laurenoliverflyer

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Author, Book, How to, inspiration, Marketing a book, Young Adult Novel Tagged: Book Discussion Guide, Getting school visits, HarperCollins, Lauren Oliver, Panemonium

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