If you’re writing a novel, you have something you want–or maybe need–to say. Something that’s important to you. Keep going! Keep writing, listening to your heart and letting the words flow from your heart to your fingertips, and out into your pen or your keyboard.
When you’re writing a first draft (or editing a second or fifth or tenth draft), there’s often a point about mid-way or three-quarters of the way through when you start to feel exhaustion from working so hard, or you may even start doubting your work. But don’t listen to that. You have something you need to say. Something that will matter to other people. So keep writing. Keep letting the words spill out onto the page. Someday, that novel may reach other people and change their lives for the better. Someday, your words may help others know that they’re not alone, or things can get better, or they may just help someone else escape from something painful in their life for a while and gain a little good feeling.
So keep going. Don’t stop now. You can do it!
Love from a fellow book lover and writer.
This was my first year taking part in #NaNoWriMo (though I’ve written and published 6 books), and I LOVED it.
I love writing quickly. I always write first drafts of my books quickly; I think it keeps me firmly in my writing mode, where I’m deeply connected to my creativity, inner voice, and what I need to say, rather than my editor mode, where I’m looking at the language and content and picking it apart to make it stronger and better. I think first drafts are meant to be written quickly, so we stay in the hearts and minds of our characters and the writing. At least, that’s what works best for me.
So whether you normally write quickly or not, #NaNoWriMo may be the perfect time to jump into writing flat-out fast, getting all the words out on the page before the editor in your head chimes in. The perfect time to keep the words flowing forward.
Write what you want, what you need. Enjoy it! And if you reach your 50,000-word goal for #NaNoWriMo this year, take heart in seeing “winner” pop up after you validate your manuscript, or watching the video of other writers cheering and clapping you on. Writing can be such a solitary endeavor; I wish we always had “winner” pop up and a cheering crowd for every new book and every new draft we completed. But we can imagine our own cheerleaders, or let our friends know and celebrate with them.
Keep writing. Enjoy the process. You can do this!
And then take a well-deserved break. I know I am. (smiling)
Its Author Interview Thursday! Woohoo! Ladies and Gentlemen I’d like to let you in on a secret.
I’ve been trying for the last 5 months to get today’s featured guest in the hot seat. I met him at the London Book Fair in April and have had the privilege to have him critique my work and he’s offered useful advice to help improve my writing and publishing efforts. He’s worked with the best of the best and founded a successful publishing company in the North of England. Do you remember my interviews with Stuart Reid
and Beth Dexter-Smith
? Well, they’re successful authors at his publishing firm. Books published by his company, My Little Big Town
can be found in the big bookstores in the UK and could soon be coming to a bookstore near you. He has a lot to share with us today, so without further ado, please join me in welcoming Calvin Innes.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into the publishing world?
I’ve been an illustrator and designer for about twelve years, having worked for loads of companies all over the world including Cadbury’s, Nestle, Sony, RSPB, The Brownies, Girl Guides on all sorts of different projects. I’ve story-boarded TV commercials, I’ve worked on advertising for the Smurfs Movie and Slush Puppies, I’ve designed toys and games as well as illustrating books and comics. Basically if it’s drawing, I’ve probably done it at some point. It was working for other publishers that lead me to set up My Little Big Town. I became disheartened with some of he work I was getting (it was all a little sickly sweet for my taste) and wanted to set up a company that published fun, silly, quirky children’s books.
What can a reader expect when they get a book published by My Little Big Town?
We publish books that are written and illustrated with children in mind. Many publishers target the parents (they are the ones who actually buy the books after all) but My Little Big Town works hard to create books that children really WANT to read. They are often disgusting, scary, silly books. We like to take risks when it comes to our titles and pride ourselves on publishing fun books, with great authors behind them.
What is your first love: writing or Illustrating?
Illustrating. It’s hard to explain but for me illustration is just who I am. It’s what I’ve always done and would do it whether I was doing it for a living or not. Writing is kind of the same but if I absolutely HAD to choose one or the other it would be illustration.
Who has been an inspiration to you in your journey as a writer/illustrator and what do you love about their work?
The two biggest influences for me happen to be children’s literature’s greatest team. Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. Roald Dahl is in my opinion the best there ever has been or ever will be. He just had a way of writing that worked perfectly for children’s books. He understood on a wonderful level how children think and see the world. Quentin Blake has the same talent with illustration. He draws how children think. His illustrations are free and loose and energetic and exciting. He doesn’t worry about making mistakes or getting everything precise, it’s more about how the illustration makes you feel. They’re always fun. As a duo they had something very special.
People talk a lot about writer’s block. Is there something similar in an illustrator’s world and what do you do to overcome it?
Yes, of course. I can sometimes stare at the drawing board for hours struggling to get something down on paper. When that does happen I tend to work on something else to just chill out and take my mind off it for a bit. I have quite an odd way of working where I usually have at least three or four illustrations on the go at any one time, side by side. These illustrations are usually vastly different. One might be a children’s book illustration while another might be quite a dark comic book illustration, another may be something quite technical. I have a very large desk/work space and have a drawing tablet and two drawing boards all side by side, allowing me to work in this way.
As a publisher, I imagine you must get a lot of manuscripts on your desk. What key elements make you stop and take notice in a manuscript?
It’s very hard to say. It has to be different and have something special, but exactly what that ‘special thing’ is… well, it’s not an exact science. I may like a general concept, or I may like a particular character, or even a style of writing. I’m always looking for that ‘something’ that gets my attention, but that something can often be very different things.
Can you take us behind the veil and explain the process from when you (or one of your authors) get an idea until it gets published and seats on a shelf in a local bookstore?
It’s a pretty long process… usually from us receiving the initial manuscript or story it’s about 12 to 18 months until it hits the shelves. In this time the book is edited, an illustrator is sought for the project and the illustration process begins. Marketing of the book begins a long time before it actually hits the shelves, often 6-8 months before. This is to allow time for the stores to stock the books, buyers to pre-order copies and for us to make sure as many retailers as possible have the book on their shelves (or websites). We make sure that the author and illustrator work closely together but the final decision on the style of illustrations is primarily based on the market and what we think will work for the book buyers. Once the book is edited, illustrated and ready we go ahead with an initial print-run, with numbers based heavily on pre-orders and potential sales. At the same time the book goes to print we are editing and producing the eBook versions across all formats as well as often producing interactive versions for tablet computers and phones.
How critical is marketing in the success of a book and what three marketing paths have proved the most successful for you?
Marketing is everything. You can produce the best book in the world but unless people know about it, they’re not going to buy it. The key to successfully marketing a book is to target ALL areas, from social media, to print advertising and real world promotion. In the past we have had great success with real world marketing including a launch campaign involving hundreds of pupils and dozens of schools across the UK through to photo-shoots with the New Zealand cricket team. The key is to spot these opportunities to gain exposure in interesting and original ways, then to pounce on them and make the most of those opportunities to gain newspaper/magazine space or radio and TV time. In the past we have successfully worked with thousands of pupils, hundreds of schools, gained national, regional and local newspaper, TV and radio coverage and we continue to promote our books in new and exciting ways. This year will see us launching books at haunted houses, we will be taking part in the World Porridge Championship and organizing a series of writing and illustration workshops across the UK and Scotland. It’s this variety and innovative way of marketing our books that has helped us establish ourselves in the industry.
What mistakes do authors make when they approach publishers that you have noticed?
There are a number of sure fire ways to get a submission rejected as far as I’m concerned. Firstly, not reading the terms and conditions. We have very clear guidelines on our website for authors wanting to submit manuscripts to us. There are a number of points, but they are very simple to follow. Not following them is the first mistake. (it’s always amazing how many people don’t follow the guidelines).
Sending in incomplete manuscripts or ‘ideas’ is never a good tactic. A good idea is pretty easy to come across. A good idea doesn’t however make a good author. We want to see that an author can actually write and develop their good ideas into great stories. Possibly the most frustrating submission we’ve ever received was an envelope stuffed with glitter. The person submitting the manuscript obviously thought that the idea would make them stand out, and it did… just not in a good way. After spending half an hour cleaning up glitter from the office floor we weren’t exactly in the best mood to read the new submission.
How do you handle bad reviews to any of your work?
If the bad reviews come in the ‘testing phase’, and it’s suitable to do so, we edit the books. All of our books are tested on children before publication to make sure they work, and appeal to as many people as possible. It’s how we built the business and it’s a key part of how we work. We genuinely value what children think of our books, so we listen and take action. Some bad reviews can always be expected after publication and to a certain extent it has to be taken on the chin. Not everyone is going to like all of our books all of the time, especially with the sorts of books that we publish. We like to take risks and publish books that other publishers may not always take on.
If a number of bad reviews come in for a particular book then as a group we would sit down and figure out why, and where these reviews came from and what changes would need to be made to future publications to ensure the books were seen in a better light. We are a tight knit company who are passionate about producing high quality children’s books, and as such we take reviews very seriously. They are the best way to see what the public think of our titles, and are directly related to sales so we always take feedback seriously.
What were your favorite books growing up?
Anything by Roald Dahl. He was a genius when it came to children’s books. I have always been a huge horror and science fiction fan. The Riverworld series by Phillip Jose Falmer is my all time favorite set of science fiction stories. I have always loved anything scary too, from classics like Frankenstein and Dracula, to The Shining and Pet Cemetery.
What has been the craziest request/question a child has asked you at a school event?
I always end my sessions with a question and answer session. Questions are always entertaining (and often nothing to do with books). Where did I get my trainers from? How tall am I? What’s my favorite food? are all questions I’ve had from kids. I often sketch whatever children want me to sketch too… just a quick scribble of whatever is shouted out. The strangest has to be a monster that had the head of a dragon, legs of a horse, ears of a lion, fifteen eyes, a snakes tongue and wings of a pigeon… that was a fun one to draw.
What is your favorite Disney/Pixar Movie and why?
I love loads of Disney/Pixar films and watch them again and again. For me though it has to be, Up! simply because it’s one of the best all round films ever made. From a storytelling point of view the first ten minutes of the film were amongst the best cinematic sequences, animated or otherwise, ever put together. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen that film.
Most of the visitors to this blog live outside the United Kingdom. Where should they go or do when they visit the North of England where you’re based?
They should visit us at our new offices and stop by for a coffee on the balcony. We have a fantastic space complete with a ‘chill out zone’ (bean bags, computer games, TV and snacks). We’re also in the process of setting up an ‘art cafe’ and an art gallery on the bottom floor our building!
What can we expect from Calvin Innes and My Little Big Town in the next 12 months?
Lots of fantastic new books, both printed and digital. We have ten new printed titles and over twenty digital titles being released over the next twelve months. We are also launching two new imprints, ‘Room 110′ which will be publishing comic books and graphic novels and ‘Last Door On the Left’ which will be publishing books for teens and adults, including our first non-fiction books. MLBT is also venturing into TV with My Little Big TV and Radio with the My Little Big Radio Show. It’s going to be a busy year.
What advice do you have for authors who have received multiple rejections from publishers and are at the brink of giving up?
Just keep going, it’s as simple as that. Even the best authors get rejected (often a lot). If you’re getting the same feedback or advice on how to improve again and again, don’t be too proud to take it. Even great writers improve over time and sometimes need to take a step back to assess themselves and their writing. Get feedback from people who aren’t related to you. Just because your kid’s like your book doesn’t mean other people will.
Wow! There’s just so much good stuff you’ve shared with us today Calvin, I’ll definitely be coming back to read this interview. I love what you said about Marketing being everything. While it’s a bit frustrating to see average or poorly written books sitting at the top of best-seller lists, the sad reality is that if a writer/publisher does not grasp the importance of marketing their books, then they could very well admit they’re pursuing a hobby and not a professional endeavor. You can discover the latest news and giveaways at Calvin’s firm by following them on Twitter at the link below
You can also discover all the books in his company’s catalog and all the wonderful authors at My Little Big Town by visiting the link below
START YOUR NOVEL
Six Winning Steps Toward a Compelling Opening Line, Scene and Chapter
- 29 Plot Templates
- 2 Essential Writing Skills
- 100 Examples of Opening Lines
- 7 Weak Openings to Avoid
- 4 Strong Openings to Use
- 3 Assignments to Get Unstuck
- 7 Problems to Resolve
The Math adds up to one thing: a publishable manuscript.
Download a sample chapter on your Kindle
This week, I have been Frederick. The classic children’s book talks about a mouse who watches all the other mice gather seeds and grains for the winter, storing them away for the cold days. Frederick is a gatherer, too, but he gathers the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feel of summer. When dreary days of winter come, Frederick is ready with poetry to remind the others that good days would come again.
My daughter delivered her second son, my fourth grandchild this week, and I’ve concentrated on just living. On being a Frederick who soaks up life at it grandest and stores it in the depths of my heart to be brought out in a written form when needed.
Here are some of the images of the week:
Mr. GFR weighed in a 7 lbs, 20.5 inches.
Big brother marched into the hospital and literally charmed the entire nursing staff. They were all hanging over the desk to get a look at his fedora and glasses.
Mr. EIR stole the show from his little brother.
And while the household slept, I took early morning walks, just rejoicing in the richness of our lives.
Heron on the Lake on the day that GFR was just two days old.
Sometimes, every once in a while, it’s good to be a Frederick! When is the last time you just lived and enjoyed the fullness of life?
2013 GradeReading.NET Summer Reading Lists
Keep your students reading all summer! The lists for 2nd, 3rd and 4th, include 10 recommended fiction titles and 10 recommended nonfiction titles. Printed double-sided, these one-page flyers are perfect to hand out to students, teachers, or parents. Great for PTA meetings, have on hand in the library, or to send home with students for the summer. FREE Pdf or infographic jpeg.
See the Summer Lists Now!
I just got home from ten days in Europe and I am ready to write. Why?
Because getting out of my writing cave makes me bump up against people, against history, against emotional struggles.
Belzec Death Camp Memorial, Poland
One place we visited is a memorial for the Belzec (Bee AWA zhek) Death Camp in eastern Poland, the first and worst of the Nazi camps which tried to exterminate Jews, gypsies and handicapped people. Over 600,000 people died here in 1941-1943. Then, the Germans flattened the camp and planted trees, in an attempt to hide what they had done.
This is history and deep emotions rolled into one poignant visit. For example, there was only one survivor of the camp–only one!–and his stories are heartbreaking. One quote was from a young boy who had entered the gas chambers and was heard to cry out, “It’s dark, it’s dark. Mama, haven’t I been good?” His last words.
For a writer to experience a sobering memorial something like this is to plumb the emotional depths to which a character might be forced to go.
Barn Swallow Nest
One place we stayed was a horse farm in eastern Poland and one morning I walked out with my camera to see what was around. Under the eaves of the horse barns were nest after nest of barn swallows. I like trying to find the small, hidden things to photograph, because as a writer, it reminds me to pay attention to the landscape, to notice the “telling details” that could make a story come alive.
"Beware of Dog" in Polish
I snapped this photo while we were stopped for a break along a country road. Writers need to remember that there are common emotions and thoughts across all languages and cultures, they are common to humanity. Fear of dogs is one of those things.
Window in Zamosz, Poland
And you can find beauty across the world, too, beauty in the common things of life such as a window.
The trip was amazing: as a writer, the trip reminded me that stories are universal, that evoking emotions–both happy and sad–is universal, and that beauty is found in the common things of life.
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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
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
- 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?
When you write an author bio, what you include depends on, well, you.
Bio for Query
Writing a query letter requires a compressed bio of just a couple sentences.
Here, you want to touch on the highlights of your career. I might write:
Published in eight languages, I have books with Greenwillow/Harpercollins, Philomel/Penguin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Sylvan Dell. My website, www.darcypattison.com, has half a million visitors each year.
Just as you need a bio ready for multiple purposes, you should have author photos ready. I try to have a photo in 100x100 pixels, 250x250, 500x500 and at least one with a 300 dpi (high resolution) for print situations.
What if you have no publishing credits or background? Not to worry. Say nothing, unless it directly relates to the manuscript you are submitting. In this case, the manuscript will stand on it’s own, without the ever-so-slight prop of a bio.
Include work history? Probably not, unless it directly relates to your story.
I might write:
The main character is hearing impaired and I hold a Masters Degree in Audiology (doing hearing tests) and have worked for the Arkansas School for the Deaf.
Otherwise, your lips are sealed. Nothing about grandchildren who love your story; nothing about jobs that don’t directly relate; nothing about the newspaper who interviewed you about your invention that has nothing to do with this manuscript. Everything must relate to THIS manuscript. Otherwise–mums the word. Absolutely, no padding.
There are times for a longer bio, on your blog or when you send out press releases about your new book, that’s the place to list everything–if you like. For example, when my new picture book Desert Baths (a story about how desert animals take baths) comes out in late August, I’ll be ready with standard bios to send around with the press release.
I try to condense everything into a one-page document, because, really, who will read every word? I keep an updated bio that has a letterhead with all my contact info (email, phone, fax, mailing address), and just print this out and slip into an envelope or attach to an email. If appropriate, sometimes, I’ll take a yellow highlighter and make something jump out. For a picture book submission, I might emphasis that The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman was an honor book for the 2003 Irma S. and James H. Black Picture Book Award from Bank Street College.
Bios, in this sense, aren’t curriculum vitae, which are academic biographies which list all your publications, your speaking engagements, work history academic history, etc.. I keep one of those up to date, but rarely use it because it’s too long to send around easily; if any one asks, though, I’ve got it and don’t have to create it.
What you’re trying to do is establish specific credentials, highlight relevant
Widely acknowledged, as well as one of the games most vocal anti-violence and anti-racism campaigners, Dougie Brimson has acted as an advisor to both the British governments working group into soccer disorder and the European commissions’ soccer group. He has also written extensively for various magazines, newspapers and websites including The Sun, The Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, Loaded, Four-Four-Two magazine, About.com and Soccer 365.
In 2003, Dougie made the move into screenwriting first with the critically acclaimed short movie, “It’s a Casual Life”, and then with his first full length feature, the Hollywood funded, “Green Street Hooligans”, starring Elijah Wood.
Please tell us a little about yourself, Dougie.
Dougie: My name is Dougie Brimson and I’m a former RAF serviceman who was fortunate enough to have my first book published in 1996.
Since then I’ve written a further thirteen books in a variety of genres as well as a couple of movies including the Elijah Wood film, Green Street.
When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
Dougie: I actually never set out to be a writer at all, it happened by accident. I had left the RAF in 1994 with no real idea of what I wanted to do other than I was intent on avoiding any more engineering for a while and somehow ended up working as a television and film extra with my younger brother.
Anyone who has ever done any of that kind of work knows how much sitting around you do and inevitably, discussions turned to football and the forthcoming EURO 96. That’s when the idea for a non-fiction book about football fan culture was born. That book became Everywhere We Go, and it was a smash as, to be fair, we knew it would be.
It was very much a case of ‘right book, right time’ and went so well that I wrote a further three non-fiction books with my younger brother before branching out on my own into fiction. Since then I’ve written two best-selling thrillers (The Crew and Top Dog) and a number of comedy books as well as more non-fiction.
I’m very lucky in that I have a very loyal readership who seem to like the varied nature of my list. Someone recently called me the Forrest Gump of literature as they never knew what they were going to get next. I hope that’s what they meant anyway!!
When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Dougie: Initially I had one clear goal, to make as much money as I could as quickly as I could and then retire. Simple as that.
I know that sounds mercenary, but you have to remember that my first book was the first thing I’d ever really written, so it never occurred to me that it would end up as any kind of career. I was also well into my thirties when I started writing, so I wasn’t exactly looking for a fresh challenge!
These days it’s all about keeping my readers happy because, without them, I don’t have a career of any kind. And if I write something they don’t like, they’ll soon let me know.
How do you develop characters? Setting?
Dougie: That depends on the idea but how it tends to happen is that as the idea unfolds in my head so will a mental image of that character. Once I have that, then the character traits roll out, and then I need two final elements. A name, which has to suit both my character and the subject matter, and finally, I need to hear the character’s voice. Literally. So to do that, I’ll find someone who is as close to my profile as I can possibly get, and from that point on, that becomes my character.
The GalleyCat Facebook page has become an important part of our community outreach. In the upper right-hand corner of our blog, we’ve added a new permanent link to our page on the world’s biggest social network.
If you want to share your new book with GalleyCat readers, you can do it at this Facebook link. If you want to Facebook your upcoming literary event on GalleyCat, follow this link for directions.
We’ve also collected a number of resources for writers, readers and publishing professionals on the social network. Check it out…
New Career Opportunities Daily: The best jobs in media.
Blog: Kid Lit Reviews
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Today, Kid Lit Reviews is thrilled to have award-winning author V.S. Grenier here to discuss her book Babysitting SugarPaw. This book won the pretigious Mom’s Choice Silver Honoree for Excellence, and the 2011 League of Utah Writers Silver Quill Award
1. Is Babysitting SugarPaw your first book, or first children’s book?
Babysitting SugarPaw is my first children’s book and my first book as a standalone author. I have a few short stories, articles and crafts published in anthologies such as The Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1, but there is something very different and exciting about having your name on the cover of a book. I would say writing and seeing this book published is the next best thing to bring my own children into this world and finding the man of my dreams.
However, this won’t be the last book by me or about SugarPaw. I have a couple of manuscripts I’m currently working on and fine tuning for publication, which SugarPaw will create mischief in along the way.
2. Tell us a little about your book, Babysitting SugarPaw.
Well I won’t quote what the book blurb says already about the book as readers can go to Amazon or read your review to learn that. So I will share a few facts readers wouldn’t know unless they decided to shrink in size and climb into my head.
Babysitting SugarPaw actually started as a writing assignment back in 2005 when I was taking an online writing course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. The illustrator for the short story is also the same illustrator for the book, Kevin Scott Collier. He really liked the story and we started talking about how it could be trimmed down and turned into a picture book. It took a couple of years for that to happen. Almost three years from revision to publication to be truthful, but a great learning experience nonetheless.
The idea of the assignment turned short story to picture book came from a picture of little bears making a mess of a bathroom. From there I started thinking about the crazy things I used to do when I was left with babysitters. I also love watching the Max and Ruby cartoon on Nick Jr. with my kids and from there we discovered the wonderful books the cartoon is based on by author/illustrator Rosemary Wells. I took all that inspiration and crated the picture book. SugarPaw is little like me (from when I was kid) and Rosemary’s Max character. Bonnie Whiskers (the babysitter) is mirrored from Max’s big sister Ruby and my younger sister Alexandra.
The storyline is a combination from things I did as a kid and my kids. However, the lesson I hope children take away is honesty and learning to make new friends. This wasn’t planned but seems to shine as the words appeared on the page as I wrote.
3. What made writing a story about babysitting so compelling? (interesting, needed)
I really didn’t set out to write a story about babysitting exactly. The idea hit me after watching an episode of Max and Ruby with my kids. When watching the cartoon I realized their parents are never around and Ruby is always watching her brother Max. It made me wonder a bit about the relationship between Max and his sister Ruby. I didn’t want to write a story with the same type of characters so I decided SugarPaw would need someone other than a sister or brother to cause trouble for. This was when the idea of a babysitter hit me. Believe it or not, but I had a babysitter only a few years older than me growing up and she was later a bridesmaid in my wedding. We are still close friends today.
4. SugarPaw is a little stinker. He says, “I don’t want a babysitter!” Other than thinking he is too old, is there any other reason SugarPaw dislikes a babysitter that makes him act so mean?
This part of SugarPaw’s personality is exactly what I was like as a kid. I was around 10 or 11 when Sheri (age sixteen) became my babysitter. I was stocked (sic) my mom felt I wasn’t old enough to stay home by myself when she was working late, etc. I also resented the fact Sheri was close to my age and bossed me around. I would go out of my way to make things difficult for her. This is where the relationship between SugarPaw and Bonnie Whiskers comes from.
SugarPaw doesn’t just feel he is too old for a babysitter, but also feels he should be able to go with his parents. Another thing I used to think as a kid when my mom headed out for the night. When I think back on my childhood, I was when my mom a lot and went almost everywhere with her. Even places most kids wouldn’t think very fun to go and would opt to have a babysitter. SugarPaw is the same way in thinking he should always be able to go with his parents or stay home by himself, when the fact is this isn’t really true because he is a kid and needs to be left with someone once in awhile. I guess you could say SugarPaw and myself wanted to grow up a bit faster than we were really ready to do. Much like kids try to do today with how they dress and act in certain situations.
5. What advice do you have for your readers on accepting and handling a babysitter?
Great question, as I wasn’t the best at doing this when I was younger. I’m happy to say my children are much better than I ever was. First, children (especially older ones) need to understand the babysitter is there to help and make sure they are safe. By letting your child know you trust them but want another person around that is there to help them take care of the house while you are gone will encourage positive behavior between them and the babysitter.
Second, if you can, let your child meet the babysitter a day or two before you plan to leave them alone with them. If you cannot arrange a meeting before hand, have the babysitter come an hour earlier only if this is the first time they will be watching your kids. Most kids act up or cry when parents have someone strange show up to watch them as the parents leave out the door just like in my story. If you think about it, this is very frightening to kids and causes anxiety.
Third, ask your child to show the babysitter around the house and share the house rules. This not only helps them get to know the babysitter but also has them helping in sharing information on what does and doesn’t happen in their home.
Lastly, listen to your child and watch how they react to the person watching them. Some babysitters seem nice when the parents around but are totally different once the door closes. I know as I have had some really nasty babysitters as a child. Some really bad things happened I still remember just as if it was yesterday. I was lucky to have a mom who listened and was good about finding someone else fast. This helped to build trust between us and helped me understand she needed me to let her know what happened when she wasn’t there so she could provide a safe environment for me at those times.
6. Your intended reader age is from three to nine, which covers two age groups. (2-5, 6-9). Can you give me your thoughts on why the intended reader age is so wide and is this why your main characters are cute animals instead of children?
The book covers a wider age arrange because this is the age arrange of most kids being left with babysitters or in daycare. Fewer kids 10 and up are with babysitters and in fact are helping to watch their own sisters and brothers or are latch key kids. (I have been both.)
I also would like to say this book is good for older kids, ages 10 and up to bring when babysitting others. It is a great way to open conversation with the children you are watching.
The reason why I used a bear and bunny is that age is less likely to be tied to the main characters. When you use people, their age shows. I wanted the book to cover a bigger age group and therefore animals seemed the better choice. I also loved the Max and Ruby characters and wanted my characters to have the same feel as Rosemary Well’s characters. I didn’t want both my characters to bunnies like Rosemary so SugarPaw and his family are bears and Bonnie Whiskers is a bunny. I will have other animal characters in future book SugarPaw books too.
7. How long have you been an author? Why are you an author?
I have been an author since 2006, so a little over six years now. I have been writing longer than that, but this is when I was first professionally published and decided to make this my new career/calling in life.
8. Tell us about your educational background. When did you know you wanted to be an author?
Actually, before 2006, I had written a few poems (which may or may not see publication one day) and a monologue I also performed for my drama class in high school. I used to write songs when I was a young child and short stories too. However, I never really considered writing or publishing my work until 2004.
My educational background is in Marketing and Merchandising. I’m a Merchandise Marketing Major to be exact. Basically, I know how to advertise, display and package things in a way people will want to buy them. I also have training as a Fashion Buyer and used to be one of the people who helped set the clothing trends we see each year.
However, I did in 2005 go back to school and took online courses to hone my skills as a writer. I started down the road all authors take and where it ends…I have no idea, but I know I’m in good company and I’m always learning.
9. What advice do you have for your readers (kids 3 to 9), should they want to become an author?
Read books like the ones you want to write. Read interviews like this one to learn how authors became writers and what steps they took to see publication. Go to your local library and see if there is a writing group in your area. Go to workshops, conferences and book festivals to learn as much as you can about writing and the publishing industry.
But most important, take time each day to write down the ideas popping into your head. The rest can wait once that is done.
10. Is there anything else you would like to say to your Babysitting SugarPaw readers and future readers?
I invite you to learn more about me and my books at http://vsgrenier.com
Also, for those interested in writing, you can learn more at my company website The World of Ink Network at http://worldofinknetwork.com
We have radio shows with authors, tips with experts and much more on the site and sister sites.
Thank you Sue for having me and hope your readers will join me in The World of Ink for many more adventures by me and my fellow authors.
Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day. A review of V.S. Grenier’s book Babysitting SugarPaw is what I am working on next. You can see it after midnight tonight HERE!
Kevin Scott Collier
No. Pages: 32 Ages: 3 to 9
If you would like to learn more about Ms. V.S. Grenier, and her career, here are the links.
For Kids: http://www.sfcmagazine.com/
The World of Ink: http://www.worldofinknetwork.com/
Halo Publishing: http://www.halopublishing.com/
Kevin Scott Collier: http://kevinscottcollierhomepage.blogspot.com/
Filed under: Children's Books
, Debut Author
Tagged: advice to kids
, author interviews
, children's books
, kevin scott collier
, picture books
, vs grenier
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Merry Christmas everyone!
Today I have author Laura Hunter on my blog for her book tour. I met Laura on facebook some time ago, she is an amazing and wonderful woman! Please enjoy this interview and be sure to check out her new release! It is available at Amazon ,
Barnes and Noble (paperback only at this point- if you want a nook copy please click on “request from publisher” and
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m 24 years old and I live on the central coast of NSW, Australia with my family. I enjoy writing, reading, acting, singing and directing. With my dramatic arts class I have written, directed, and starred in two original plays.
2. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
I first began writing when I was 15. I wrote a lot of song lyrics as a way to get my thoughts down on paper. I then switched to writing fan-fiction at the age of 19. I finished my first book about September this year.
3. How did you choose the genre you write in?
I have always loved reading the paranormal/ urban fantasy/ YA fantasy fiction genres, so its only natural I began writing this genre, it chose me lol
4. Where do you get your ideas?
I get my ideas from anything I experience and my friends and family, but mostly my ideas come from dreams.
5. Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Yes, I am currently having a little bit of writer’s block at the moment, mostly due to not plotting properly so I need to go and do that for my next few books.
6. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
As a teenager I remember walking into my school library and searching through the YA books. I picked up Phillip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife and my love affair with YA fantasy fiction began. Cassandra Clare and Kathy Reichs also inspire me every day.
7. Can you tell us the challenges in getting your first book published?
The first real issue for me was money. As I am not particularly rich and a self published author, I found investing my own money into my first book quite taxing, so I hope it will be worth it in the end. Everything else has been a breeze.
8. How do you market your work? What avenues have you found work best for your genre?
As a self published indie author I feel marketing is the biggest challenge for us, but I have found social media is the biggest help in creating a platform and reaching my target audience- Facebook, twitter and blogs (I have read several eBooks on the topic and they said this was the best way) Also I am addicted to goodreads! I recommend that every author get a Goodreads account as you can add the books you want to read to shelves and keep up to date with upcoming releases and have people rate and review your work.
9. Can you tell us about your upcoming book?
The Chronicles of Fire and Ice is a New Adult urban fantasy set in Melbourne, Australia. It deals with the fact the human race is becoming over taken and out- bred by angels. It features Scarlett, a 21-year-old half Nephilim girl who finds out she is also half archangel and she has a frightening new ability to go along with it. She enrolls at an Academy for angels where she meets the handsome, yet mysterious Dyston Blackbell, the youngest son of the owners of the Academy, whom she discovers has been sending her weird dreams for years. Some of the story also deals with the backstory of Dyston’s dashing yet egotistic older brother, Lakyn.
10. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
Some things in my book are from real life experiences, like some of Scarlett’s dreams, they actually happened to me. Some of my characters are based on my friends, certain qualities. Most of the fantasy parts are all from my imagination.
11. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
One of my favorite scenes that I loved writing was when Scarlett first met Dyston. I also loved writing Lakyn’s backstory. He is one of my favorite characters to write as he has two sides.
12. How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title, The Chronicles of Fire and Ice a few ways. I wanted something catchy and unique (aspiring authors, I recommend googling possible titles to see if there are any similar already out there, or doing a goodreads search) and also I played around with the elements of my story and tried to fit them into the title. Some might say fire relates to Scarlett, and ice to Lakyn, yes they do, but the meanings run deeper than that.
13. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
Probably the toughest and most offending compliment given to me was criticizing my marketing plan, saying social media isn’t good enough. They are not authors so I didn’t really listen. As for the best compliment… I get more beautiful messages and compliments about my book every day and it almost brings me to tears, it means a lot to me.
14. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
Yes, believe in yourself and believe in your work. If you think negative thoughts then that will be reflected in your work and it will suffer.
1) If you were a superhero (or villain!) what would your power be? Would you wear a cape?
I love superheroes! I think I would like to the ability to heal. And no cape for me.
2) Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?
Chocolate all the way. I am a self- confessed chocoholic!
3) The light side or the dark side?
I love all things dark but I live on the light side
4) Do you have deep dark secret? How about a shallow grey one?
Hmm had to think about this one… I have a crush on someone I shouldn’t.
5) What sort of coffee would you order? Simple coffee, complicated soy-non-fat-extra-espresso-half-caff-nightmare?
My poison is a soy latte. And sometimes if I’m feeling like a sugar hit, I order a soy hazelnut latte.
6) Have you ever given someone who asked for decaf, regular coffee just to see what would happen?
No because you can taste the difference. But I have given someone full cream milk when they have asked for skim.
7) Is there any food you refuse to eat? (Other than brussel sprouts because NO ONE likes them)
8) If you could live off of chocolate would you? What kind?
Totally! Chocoholic here! Dairy milk or the dark and nutty kind would suffice.
9) What do you think the coolest pet to have would be?
I have always wanted a pet Panda.
10)If you could visit any world (real or imagined) where would you go?
Hmm, The House of Night school, or Narnia (before and after the white witch’s rein)
11) What kind of person drives you nuts? (personality trait)
Loud, obnoxious people, and smokers.
12) Have you ever gone out in public with your shirt on backwards, or your slippers on, and when realizing it, just said screw it?
All the time. And I’ve had to leave it until I could find a bathroom to fix it lol
13) Do you prefer fuzzy or tub socks?
Fuzzy but then my shoes don’t fit lol
14) Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning, or do you not see much point?
No point because it’s a known fact that bed bugs love made beds.
15) Be honest, how often do you wash your hair?
Once a week, I have the worst frizz prone hair
16) Do you get road rage? What pisses you off the most about other drivers?
I don’t drive but I hate slow drivers and tail gaters
17) Do you go out of your way to kill bugs? Are there any that make you screech and hide?
Cockroaches, spiders and flies. I have a phobia of bees and wasps.
Stalk me the following ways:
I am an Australian author who began writing when I was fifteen or sixteen, originally song lyrics, but then moved onto fanfiction when I was nineteen. Having published over 20 stories online. One of which was nominated for an award. I have also written, directed and starred in two original plays entitled, “No Frills Airlines: Flight 123,” and the sequel, “No frills Airlines: Come Fly with Us.” The latter of which was a musical.