Monday, November 30, 2009

This week on Book Bites for Kids

This Week's Guests on Book Bites for Kids

The Children's Writers' Coaching Club brings you Book Bites for Kids every weekday afternoon at 2:00 central time on blogtalkradio.

Listen to the show at

Monday's Guests are David and Mutiya Vision
Authors of The Land of Expression
The Land Of Expression

Tuesday's Guest is Camille Blue Amy
Author of Marshall and His Green High-Tops
Marshall and His Green High-Tops

Wednesday is Promo Day on Book Bites for Kids
Call in to Promote your
own children's book or other writing event at

Thursday's Guest is Michelle Nelson
Author of Curly Top
Curly Top

Friday's Guest is TBA.

Be a Guest on Book Bites for Kids:If you're a published children's book author and you'd like to be a guest on Book Bites for Kids, send an email to Tyler, our program director, at:

How to Write for the Holiday and Seasonal Markets

Each week, the Children's Writers' Coaching Club sponsors a LIVE teleclass that covers some aspect of writing and/or publishing for the children's book and magazine markets.

This week's LIVE teleclass will take place on Thursday, December 3, 2009, at noon CST.

The teleclass will be presented by children's author Nancy Sanders. She'll talk about Writing for the Holiday and Seasonal Markets.

This LIVE event will be recorded and everyone who registers for it will also receive a link to the recording.

Click here to register for the teleclass now!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with children's author Lucia Gonzalez

It is my pleasure to introduce you to award-winning children's author, storyteller and librarian Lucia Gonzalez. Her classic Cuban folk tale, The Bossy Gallito, was awarded the Pura Belpre Children's Literature Honor Medal by the American Library Association, and selected for New York's Top 20 All Time Favorite Children's Books by the New York Times "Great Children's Read." Her second book, Senor Cat's Romance, a collection of popular folk tales from Latin America, also received immediate recognition. Her latest children's book, The Storyteller's Candle, is dedicated to Pura Belpre, New York City's first Latina librarian.

Thanks for being my guest today, Lucia. Tell us, when did you begin writing for children?

First, I was a storyteller and children’s librarian. As part of my job in the library I told many of the stories that were told to me while I was growing up in Cuba but that I could not find in books. While telling those stories I wrote some of them and sent them to Scholastic. They loved them and published my first two stories in an anthology, From Sea to Shining Sea: A Treasury of American Folklore and Folksongs, edited by Amy Cohn. This was in 1993.

Which one of your books was published first? Would you share with us how the publishing process was?

For me the publishing process has been a great gift from life. Among the stories I submitted to Scholastic in 1993, was one about a bossy little rooster on the way to the wedding of his uncle the parrot. The editor loved that story so much that she asked me if I wouldn't mind publishing it as a stand-alone picture book, illustrated by Lulu Delacre. Imagine my surprise. I wrote the story in Spanish and English, keeping the rhythm and internal music of the Spanish version in the English retelling. The book became The Bossy Gallito, published in 1994 by Scholastic.

Tell us about your latest book,The Storyteller's Candle, which, as I understand it, is a homeage to Pura Belpre, New York City's first Latina librarian. What compelled you to based one of your stories on her?

Yes, I wrote The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos dedicated to the memory of Pura Belpré, a devoted and talented librarian, author, and storyteller who was also a community activist and a visionary pioneer in providing library outreach services to immigrant families and who understood the importance of honoring the immigrants' languages and preserving their stories. I was also inspired by New York Public Library's storytelling tradition.

Would you describe your creative process when writing a children's picture book?

As a storyteller, I tell before I write. The audience is my first editor. I follow my instincts and my firm conviction that the books I write are needed. I do a lot of research, immersing my self in the culture, or the subject of the story so that I can capture its spirit and I can write a story that is faithful to it.

What makes an excellent picture book?

The most important elements are honest language and authentic voice in telling the story.

Wearing your librarian's hat, would you tell us what type of children's stories are the most popular with kids right now? Has the children's book market changed a lot during the last decade?

Children like series. They like the continuity of series. The Harry Potter books had a lot to do with the proliferation of series. Books that are made into movies also gain sporadic popularity. Fantasy is now very popular and many boys are becoming avid fantasy readers.

Regarding the children’s book publishing industry, it has boomed in the last two decades. Children are being bombarded, more than ever before, with mediocre books. Hollywood stars or prominent public figures think they can write for children. Without guidance, it has become a lot more difficult for children to find their way through all this nonsense and find those books that are going to become memorable.

Your performances seem to be very popular with students. What makes a great school presentation/performance. Any tips for new authors?

I perform with all my heart. When I go to schools, I want the children to enjoy the stories that I tell them. That is my number one goal. A great presentation is one that is not about the performer but about the stories and the children.

Is Caracolito Books your company?

My company is In Other Words: Multicultural Children’s Books and Consulting. Caracolito Books is a dream. My dream is to be able, one day, to publish those stories that I want to see published. There are many voices waiting to be heard and many stories that need to be told. I hope that Caracolito provides the way to publish those stories.

Your books are beautifully illustrated. Did you have any input on the artwork?

I am lucky that Lulu has illustrated my books. I’ve always admired her work and the authenticity with which she portrays Latino culture in her books. I give her the script and let her take over. I know she will find the most beautiful way to tell my story with her art.

Is there anything else you'd like to share with my readers?

It was a pleasure to have this opportunity to share with you and your readers. I will be happy to hear from them. My contact information is on my webpage

Thanks for the interview, Lucia!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Another wonderful review of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster!

Another wonderful review of my latest picture book, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster!

This time by Judy Mercado from Pilgrim Soul Blog.

"As a self-admitted bookworm, I had expected to find Calvani’s book interesting. What I did not expect was that this beautifully illustrated children’s tale would apply so resoundingly to my current life, particularly my blogging life. Since I began blogging, I have been struck by how much fun it is to write for my blog and also to read other blogs. I can be carried off for hours and, in the meantime, dinner is not prepared, clothes are not washed, my dear husband has not received a hug, and friends and family have not heard from me. Humberto is a powerful reminder that we are social beings in the flesh and not just on the page." --Judy Williams

Read the complete review HERE.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Twilight Times Books is having a sale!

This year consider buying books as Christmas gifts!

This year is the 10th anniversary of the founding of Twilight Times Books(1999) and the 5th year since they went to print (2004). Those aresignificant milestones.

In celebration, Twilight Times Books will have a print book sale from nowuntil Dec. 15th. Most titles will be offered to the general public at a 10- 30% discount.

For a limited time, and while quantities last, they are offering a 30% - 50%discount on selected titles.

Check out their newsletter for info on our latest releases.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review of Tiny Angel, by Nancy Carty Lepri

Things aren't looking too bright at the moment for 8-year old Macy. She's just moved into a new place, left her best friend behind, and in her new school there's a bully who makes her life miserable every chance he can get. But just when things can't seem to get any worse, she receives a visit from a special little friend: her very own guardian angel! This little angel is witty and has an attitude, and does her best to infuse Macy with strength and confidence. Finally an opportunity comes for Macy to prove herself at a bee spelling competition... Will she go for it and show everyone what she's made of, or succumb to her fear of success?

Tiny Angel is a well-written, delightful story that will entertain middle-grade girls. Macy, with all her doubts and insecurities, is a character young girls 8 and up will identify with. The story has a good message--there comes a time when we have to be bold and act in order to achieve our dreams--but it is not preachy; it's simply a good story about school, friends, being oneself, and achieving one's full potential. Highly recommended.

Tiny Angel

Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Nancy Carty Lepri

Print ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-94-8 ; 1-935137-94-8
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-935137-95-5 ; 1-935137-95-6

When her dad is transferred to a new town, ten-year-old Macy Carver leaves behind her best friend and everything she knows. Suddenly she’s the new girl…alone and bullied. An unexpected flash announces guardian angel Jody, who teaches her how to fit in and become a forever friend.

Chapter 1

“Hey, chubbo quit hogging the sidewalk!” Kenny Thompson yanked the front of his bike off the ground, circled around eight-year-old Macy Carver, and stuck out his tongue.

“Don’t!” She yelled.

Kenny cut the bike’s front wheel, covering her with dirty water. Laughing, he sped toward school.

“Creepazoid!” Macy brushed mud from her jeans, which made a worse mess. Mud had splattered her favorite top. Tears filled her eyes. Stupid North Carolina! Why did her dad have to move here? She hated being the new kid in class.

Thanks to Kenny, the kids either ignored her or were mean. To make things worse, she had to sit next to him.

Sighing, she trudged on, hoping that Kenny would have sprouted huge warts on his nose at school.

The first bell rang. Macy walked to her desk and tripped over Kenny’s outstretched foot.

“Hey four-eyes.” He laughed at her. “Are you a klutzo, too? Aw, poor Macy—dirty and klutzy.”

Macy grabbed the side of her desk to keep from falling. She glared at Kenny, ready to stick out her tongue, but decided he didn’t need anything else to tease her about.

Biting her lip, she sat at her desk. She wanted to go home—fat lot of good that would do her. She knew she wouldn’t feel better there. (continued)

For more information, visit Guardian Angel Publishing!

Teacher's resource: "Yes! You Can Teach K-12 English language learners Successfully"

When it comes to teaching English language learners successfully, teachers express frustrations with classroom management, finding the right materials, differentiating lessons and time management for purposes of lesson planning and other administrative responsibilities.

As a teacher of ELLs, author Dorit Sasson knows how challenging it is to keep the learning continuum at a high and discipline problems at a low. But still how is this all possible if students can’t read and understand the lesson? Or how is possible to meet each student’s needs when they are not catching up with their native English speaking peers? Just how is it possible to correctly assess students’ needs so that lessons match their learning styles and needs?

Sasson's work begins with the 97 tips you’ll find in her electronic booklet or ebooklet, “Yes! You Can Teach K-12 English language learners Successfully” on how to teach ELLs more effectively. Here, you’ll find bite-sized tips for a bite-sized price on differentiated instruction, teaching vocabulary, improving reading comprehension and lessons and oral instruction among others.

For more information, visit:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with children's illustrator Kit Grady

My guest today is talented illustrator and sometimes author Kit Grady. Grady has worked for Windswept House Publishers, Kaeden Books, Guardian Angel Publishing, The United Methodist Publishing House and Kicksclub Books. In this interview, Grady talks about her road to illustrating, her style and working with children's books. To learn more about her work, visit her website.

Tell us a little about yourself and how you started illustrating children's books?

I have always enjoyed drawing and expressing myself on paper. I attended Virginia Commonwealth University majoring in art, and later many SCBWI Conferences plus all the writing an illustrating classes I could find. My first book, Jiggsy’s Necklace, I wrote and illustrated, was published with Windswept House. Later I wrote and illustrated one for Kaeden Books. I have had many types of projects throughout the years and learned so much. (Yet always finding more I need to know) I currently work with Guardian Angel Publishing as one of their illustrators and illustrate for Kicks Publications. I have several projects in the wings. I stay busy which is a good thing.

How would you describe your style?

I strive for a more painterly style even though I use photoshop on the computer to do the art work. I try to keep my illustrations colorful, with lots of expression and action.

What excites you about a picture book manuscript?

I love the process. When I first get a manuscript, I look through it for a great story, good pacing and picture possibilities. When you find these types of manuscripts it really gets you excited. You may have a story you enjoy doing the illustrations and know the pictures will be of the subjects you do well, but if deep down you know the story is not what it should be, it can be a problem. I have been so fortunate to have many good stories to work with. I strive for a great book.

Which picture books are hard to illustrate? Which ones are easy?

This is hard to say. I begin my work on the sketch pad before scanning it into the computer to design, color, and complete. Sometimes you are just working, working, working on a character or creature and you cannot get it the way you want — maybe the equivalent to writer’s block — when, out of the blue, you get the image you like and it moves quickly. Some parts of the book can be so easy and then you find another illustration to be challenge. Each book has its own unique set of problems and solutions.

Do you get into 'The Zone' often when you work on your art? How would you describe 'The Zone'?

I’m sure it is the same feeling as in writing, sports or whatever one does, when it is coming together and you feel all is working so well you want to just keep going; losing all sense of time and the things happening around you. I love that place.

Do you have a website and blog where readers may learn more about you and your work?

You can find me at and stop by my blog and leave me a comment at

Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

Illustrators and writers keep writing or drawing, and strive to be their very best.

I feel blessed to be doing what I love.

Thanks, Kit!

Reviews of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

"This lovely picture book will show your children that selfless acts of kindness are more important than worldly possessions. They'll also learn that reading is a gift that can be shared. Humberto proves to be every bit a hero, just like the ones he reads about in his books. Your kids will enjoy the story and the colorful illustrations too." --Kathy Davis,

"Young readers will enjoy the colorful illustrations of Humberto’s stories coming to life in his mind–from sipping tea in Paris, escaping from fire-breathing dragons, and soaring through outer space. And any bookworm will relate to Humberto, not only in the joy of reading, but the joy of sharing a story with others... Hooray for Humberto!" --Lori Calabrese, National Children's Book Examiner

"As a self-admitted bookworm, I had expected to find Calvani’s book interesting. What I did not expect was that this beautifully illustrated children’s tale would apply so resoundingly to my current life, particularly my blogging life. Since I began blogging, I have been struck by how much fun it is to write for my blog and also to read other blogs. I can be carried off for hours and, in the meantime, dinner is not prepared, clothes are not washed, my dear husband has not received a hug, and friends and family have not heard from me. Humberto is a powerful reminder that we are social beings in the flesh and not just on the page." --Judy Mercado, Pilgrim Soul Blog

"Storytelling is an important means of teaching children; they absorb what they hear and see. This in turn enables them to process subtle lessons without realizing it. Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is a wonderful children’s picture book that utilizes this very process. Calvani cleverly weaves an engaging story that conveys two very important messages for children.

"The first message or lesson is that reading can bring a child on fantastic adventures, and it can open new and unknown worlds…it can ignite the imagination. The child can be a hero on a huge white steed, with sword in hand; he can be a space traveler soaring through the universe; he can fight a fire-breathing dragon with the aid of his magical lance; he can travel to far away places; a child can be anything and do anything through books.

"The first is that reading can bring a child on adventures, and it can open new and unknown worlds, it can ignite the imagination. The child can be a hero on a huge white steed; he can be a space traveler soaring through the universe; he can fight a fire-breathing dragon; he can travel to far away places; a child can be anything and do anything through books.

"The second message in Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster is that of friendship. Through outstanding story telling, Calvani demonstrates the importance of balance. Humberto limits his entire world to reading until he is awakened to the fact that there are other things in life as important, sometimes even more important. Choosing between saving his books during a flood, or his neighbors, Humberto chooses his neighbors. He realizes having friends fills a part of his life that books cannot. And, the best part is that he can share his books with his new friends.

"In addition to a charming story, the illustrations in Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster are amazing. They are bright, bold, and fanciful. They are sure to capture every child’s attention and imagination.

"I am an advocate of children reading for learning, inspiration, and for sparking the imagination. As a grandparent I look for books that not only tell an entertaining story, but ones that also provide an uplifting lesson or moral element. I have two young grandchildren and this is definitely a book I will be reading to them." --Karen Cioffi, Writing For Children

"HUMBERTO, THE BOOKWORM HAMSTER, for readers 4 - 8 years old, is a wonderful book with a message about priorities and friendship. Children will not only learn about the importance of reading, but will also come to see that it's much more enjoyable when books are shared with friends. Kit Grady, the illustrator, enhances this lovely book with beautiful, colorful drawings of Humberto and his friends. This is a book that children will want to read again and again." --Liliana Monteil-Doucette, LA Education Examiner

“Humberto the Bookworm Hamster explores the joys of reading and friendship. Humberto’s gift of imagination will delight children as much as his kindness towards others will inspire them.” – Cheryl C. Malandrinos, The Kids Book Connection

"Humberto the Bookworm Hamster is suggested for readers from 4 - 8. Mayra Calvani's text explores the joys of books, the fun of an active imagination, and the inspirational effect stories can have on our behavior. When Humberto chooses to help the animals who suffered from the flood, he does so in the best tradition of the storybook heros he admires... Kit Grady's illustrations are charming, positive, and full of expression. All in all, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster is a fun book with a heartwarming message delivered in a subtle way that is never preachy. This book should entertain kids through several readings." Vicky L. Smith, Amazon Reviewer

"Ms. Calvani has written a lovely story about learning what’s important in life. Ms. Grady’s illustrations capture the characters' personalities perfectly, down to the spectacles perched on Humberto’s nose. This is a great book to share with your little ones at bedtime or anytime they want to cuddle with you. Be prepared, parents, to read the story over and over again. I recommend Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster for children, parents, grandparents, animal lovers, and everyone who enjoys a fun read with a gentle message." --Beverly McClure, YA author

"Wonderful drawings in vibrant colors enhance the storyline. Parents and teachers can use this delightful picture book as a starting place to discuss important issues with children. Is Humberto doing too much reading? Is he ignoring "real life" for the fantasy life of books? What is the proper response when disaster hits? This is a book children will want to hear over and over." --Lila Guzman, Ph.D., children's author

"This is an adorable tale of friendship sure to delight young readers. I loved the story and also the cute illustrations. A fun read aloud. My eight-year-old also loved reading about Humberto and his love of books. A must add to any children's collection." Kim Bacciella, YABooksCentral

Monday, November 16, 2009

I was interviewed by Kit Grady today

Hi all,

Today I'm thrilled to be a guest at Kit Grady's blog.

Kit illustrated my latest book, Humberto the Bookworm Hamster. She's marvelously talented!

Stop by if you have the chance and read the interview HERE.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Featured book: Where Are Your Glasses? by Rhonda Fischer

About the book: Randy Kazandy! Where Are Your Glasses? is a sweet story set to rhyming verse that would make a wonderful gift for a child who is about to visit the eye doctor for the first time, or just getting a first pair of glasses. The storyline, though simple and easy to understand, holds a profound, positive message for children. The illustrations are colorful and extremely pleasing to the eye – they make the story come to life.

For many children, getting the news that “you need glasses” can be traumatizing. But adorable Randy Kazandy reminds kids (and parents) that putting on your first pair of specs is not only an adventure, it opens up a whole new world. Beautifully illustrated and wonderfully told, this book is a must-read for any child—bespectacled or not.

Jennifer Cho Salaff - Editor, Parenting OC Magazine


Watch the Video HERE.

And the winner is...

It is my pleasure to announce the winner of Carolyn Howard-Johnson's ebook, The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success!

And the winner is.... MAUREEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thank you all for all your comments!

Maureen, the moderator of VBT will get in touch with you soon to send you your prize.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Post: On Editing and Ways to Get Answers to Your Questions, Free! by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Today I have a wonderful guest post from author and freelance editor Carolyn Howard-Johnson! Leave a comment for a chance to win an ebook copy of The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success!


Every once in a while I like to remind writers about how much information can be had by subscribing to blog. Free information. Most have a place to subscribe so you automatically get a copy of the blog in your e-mail box. But more than that, most blogs are set up so that you can comment or ask questions.

Some, like my The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor. even prefer a question and answer format. I came up with the idea of doing a blog a la Ann Landers when I started getting so many letters from readers with grammar and formatting and editing questions.

I am often thought of as The Frugal Book Promoter because that is the name of the first book in my HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. But I consider editing the single most important aspect of promotion. After all, a well-edited query letter is the first thing most agents, editors, publishers and producers ever see from an editor.

Though there are times when an author absolutely must edit her own work, only a foolish writer trusts the editing of her book entirely to a publisher. So knowing how to edit is important. And that means a whole lot more than being good at grammar.

I get letters from people on the subject of editing, especially arguments about why they don't need to hire one. Here are my answers to a few of them:

I don't need to worry about an editor. My book will be traditionally published.

• You can't rely on the editor provided by your publisher—any publisher. I've seen even the biggest publisher let boo-boos in books slip through. And many small publishers hire inexperienced typo hunters, not real editors.

I'm hiring an experience editor. I'm letting her do the work. That's what I'm paying her for.

• You can't rely on even the best editor you hire. You need to be a partner with your editor. If you know little or nothing about the process, how can you know what to accept or what to reject? You need to know when you're sure you want to break a rule. You need to know when you want to consider what the agent is telling you, even if it goes against your pattern or makes you uncomfortable. "Partner" is the key word here. You want to be able to do that even if you're publishing with Harper's and your editor turns out to be a channeled Jacqueline Kennedy.

I'm just publishing POD for my family.

• No matter how you publish, you need an editor before you go to press. Regardless of how you are publishing or what you call the process. (By the way, many terms used for publishing these days have become almost unintelligible because so many are using them incorrectly. That adds confusion to an already confusing process! I guess that could be considered an editing problem of sorts.)

I know I should have an editor but I keep procrastinating...

The Frugal Editor gives you guidelines for the way to find a good editor. Those guidelines are there for people who have the best intentions and just don't get around to it. It's there for all of us who tend to put off this process. We tend to make a thousand excuses to ourselves for not doing it. Well, OK. I know I made excuse or at least one excuse. (-: My excuse was, I AM an editor! Ahem!

I've already been over this book 15 times. If there is an error in it, I'll eat my hat!

• One pair of eyes is never as good as two different pairs (or three or 10!) of eyes. Two pairs of eyes on people who got As in English or teach English are never as good as one pair of eyes on an editor with years of publishing experience.

I've had lots of people read my book to help clear it of errors. Even my husband who is an engineer and catches every misplace comma!

• People who are good grammarians or good typo hunters aren't necessarily good editors. A good editor will also spot errors in the way you've set up your table of contents, your index, how you spelled the kind of foreword used in a book's front matter. She'll even have ideas for you about the titles of your chapters.

I had my college English teacher check my book. If she can't do it, no one can.

• Good editors will be good grammarians, spellers and typo hunters but they bring a whole lot more to the table than those skills. Most teachers have had no publishing experience at all. Thus, they won't know much if anything about frontmatter, backmatter as an example. So start saving your pennies for a good editor and in the meantime, read up on the process for yourself.I

Some ask me why I am so passionate about this subject. "Editing really doesn't have anything to do with content," they say. Well, my passion comes from my experience with my first novel. When my new editor saw This Is the Place, she told me it was the "cleanest" copy she ever saw. OK. I'm an editor. But, I have to tell you. She missed much that I'd missed so that made two of us who had missed things that any good editor would surely have found! I'd love to go back, review that book myself and then have another editor look at it. Too late. It's in print.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and two how to books, The Frugal Book Promoter: How To Do What Your Publisher Won't and The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success She is also the author of the Amazon Short, "The Great First Impression Book Proposal" Some of her other blogs are and

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Featured Holiday Book: Secret Service Saint, by Janet Ann Collins

Loosely based on legends about a famous saint, this book tells the story of
Nicholas, who discovered the fun of doing secret good deeds. Kids who read or
hear the story at any time of the year will be challenged to do the same.

Visit the author's website at and her blog at

Watch the trailer!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Featured Holiday Book: Baby Jesus is Missing, by Dixie Phillips

The annual Christmas decorating contest left no room for Jesus until little Josiah Carr teaches his mommy and daddy the true spirit of Christmas is finding Jesus. This captivating story is guaranteed to warm the coldest heart and become a Christmas favorite for families everywhere.

Available in print or e-book.

Find out more at:

Visit the author’s website at:

Visit the author’s blog at:

Baby Jesus is Missing Trailer:

Here's a review by Cheryl Malandrinos of The Kids Book Connection...

Dixie Phillips has written another Christian children’s book that will touch hearts and open minds. In Baby Jesus is Missing, Mommy and Daddy are all tied up with winning the neighborhood Christmas decorating contest, but young Josiah is worried about something else–Baby Jesus is missing from their wooden manager scene, and you can’t have Christmas without Jesus. What will they do?

I’ve quickly become a huge fan of Dixie Phillips, and every book I receive impresses me more than the last. In this heartwarming tale of the season, readers are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas through the innocence of a child. Josiah knows you can’t have Christmas without Jesus, and sets out to find the missng figure from their manager scene despite what Mommy and Daddy have deeemed as more important and even though he gets yelled at for interrupting his parents in their “important” work, teaching his parents a lesson in the process.

All of Phillips’ books can easily be coordinated into Sunday school curriculum, and I will certainly be using Baby Jesus is Missing with my class this year.

Award-winning artist K.C. Snider illustrated this book. She is very much in tune with authors’ stories and the messages they are trying to impart, so her illustrations are once again, a perfect compliment here.

An excellent book to sit down and read during Advent as your family prepares their hearts for Christmas, Baby Jesus is Missing will leave its impression on you and your children long after Christmas is over.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Interview with author & educator Kathy Stemke

Author and educator Kathy Stemke writes fun, educational books for children. Her titles include Moving Through All Seven Days, Trouble on Earth Day, and Sh, Sh, Sh, Will the Baby Sleep? She's also the author of the Wonderful Water Explorers series. In addition, she's a regular contributor to Helium and Associated Content. For more information about her work and her books, visit her website.

Thanks for the interview, Kathy. Did you always want to be a writer?

Yes, I’ve been writing as long as I can remember. I write poetry for self-expression. I’m working on a book of poems about life from a dancer’s point of view. Here’s an example:

An Empty Stage

Coiled torso frozen on an empty stage,

a living sculpture trapped in place

with no gown of tulle to hide her age

only weeping knees below her waist.

Framed in light, her insides groan

with pent up passion poised for release,

she now waits long and alone

for rhythm to carry her to peace.

But I remember her unencumbered

prance, so light for one held down

by unfulfilled dreams remembered,

floating above her tattered gown.

Tell us about your children's books.

My first book, Moving Through All Seven Days, was an outgrowth of a blog post. This book inspires movement as children learn about the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

I plan to write a series of picture books with environmental themes. Trouble on Earth Day is almost ready to be released. This is a fun and educational story about a Squirrel who helps a new friend while learning to recycle. This book is full of great recycling ideas, craft projects, and worksheet pages.

I recently completed the second book in this series titled, Wonderful Water Explorers. This book opens up conversation about water preservation with a story of a thirsty bluebird named Charlie, who has lost his ability to sing due to a lack of water. When he meets up with his squirrel friend, Shelby, they set out on an adventure to find fresh drinking water and to bring back singing to the forest.
Guardian Angel Publishers will publish my book titled Sh, Sh, Sh, Will the Baby Sleep? In this action packed story a boy named Zachary must keep his new baby sister asleep. In the process he finds out that he loves her very much. This book and the activities included in the back focus on teaching children about consonant blends. Teachers will love it.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on my third book of the environmental series, which is about air pollution, as well as a picture book about dancing wood fairies.

I’ve also started my first YA fantasy novel. Although I’m still fleshing out my characters and plot, I’m very excited about this story.

What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

Because my books have teacher activities in them, I belong to several teacher groups online. This is a great way to keep in touch with what teachers are looking for in the books they buy for school, as well as develop friendships.
My free Movement and Rhythm Newsletter reaches over 350 teachers and parents each month. I continue to add subscribers everyday.

I belong to a wonderful virtual book tour group, Writers on the Move. This is a good way to develop an online presence, and develop friendships with other authors.

I do library and school visits in my community. I plan on writing a teacher tips column in my regional newspaper. While giving away great educational activities to the community, I will let them know about my books.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Take an online course on writing, which will teach you the basics of writing, and give you support. There are several great authors who offer coaching clubs and even critique your work as you learn. There are also week-long online conferences with several brilliant teachers to inspire you.

Read good books in the genre you want to write. Explore what makes those books so special. Take what you like from these successful authors and develop your own voice.

Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?

My blog is I also write for Helium and Associated Content. You can also find me at

Thanks, Kathy!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Author Interview - Suzanne Lieurance - Children's Author, Writing Coach and Radio Host

Interview with Suzanne Lieurance

Interview by Carma Dutra

Carma: I ran across your Working Writer's Coach Blog back in March 2007 and I kept being drawn back to it. Actually I think it was when I subscribed to the Morning Nudge that kept me going everyday and still does. Tell us how The Morning Nudge came about.

Suzanne: As a writing coach, I like to encourage my clients to get a little writing done every single day. When I first started coaching, I was sending out a weekly newsletter, but I suddenly thought how much more helpful it would be to my clients and other writers by sending them something every week day. That's how the Morning Nudge came about.

I have a friend who calls it "The Morning Shove" because some days I just want writers to stop making excuses for not creating the writing life of their dreams. The only way to become a writer is to write! And the purpose of The Morning Nudge is to remind readers of that every day.

Carma: What are your writing habits? Do you work on an outline before starting the actual story?

Suzanne: I write something every single day. When I'm working on a book length manuscript I work from an outline whether the book is nonfiction or fiction. However, even with an outline I find that many surprises pop up as I'm writing. And that's part of what makes the writing process so much fun.

Carma: Is one genre easier to write than another? Why or why not?

Suzanne: For me, fiction is more difficult to write than nonfiction because I have to really, really focus on the world I'm creating when I'm writing fiction. I have to sort of enter this world, and it takes me a while at the keyboard before I'm able to do that fully. But once I'm there in my fictional world, I don't want to come back to the real world, so I try to write for hours at a time.

When I'm working on nonfiction, I'm able to do that in short bits of time here and there. So it's easier for me to get a lot of nonfiction writing done in a short amount of time.

Carma: You always have a project or two in the works. The Locket just came out so tell us a bit about your other soon to be published stories. What was your inspiration for these stories?

Suzanne: Right now I'm working on another historical novel for Enslow. I'm also working on a nonfiction book with two other coaches, and I'm reworking several picture book manuscripts. I also write my own materials for my coaching programs, including materials for the Working Writer's Summer Bootcamp that starts June 2.

What inspires me the most - for anything I write - is people who do incredible things. I want to write things that show everyone how we can ALL do incredible things if we follow our passions and believe in ourselves.

Carma: Which element of historical fiction writing comes more naturally for you-plot, characterization, description, dialogue? Which one gives you the hardest time?

Suzanne: Characterization comes easiest for me. I have to "feel" what the character is going through in order to write about this person. But I can generally do that.

Description is sometimes difficult with historical fiction because every detail about the time and place must be accurate even though the actual events are not all true.

Carma: What advice would you give to aspiring children's writers who are trying to break into the field?

Suzanne: First, take a course or workshop to learn the basics about writing for children. Next, join or start a critique group for children's writers and be sure there are at least a few published children's authors in the group. Third, read, read, read all the children's books you can. Finally, write, write, write!

Carma: Who is Suzanne Lieurance, the lady? Describe an ordinary day in your life.

Suzanne: I think the essence of who I am involves teaching, coaching, and motivating others every single day. This may sound strange, but I don't think I have ordinary days. To me, every single day is special because every day I wake up and get to do what I love to do most - write, coach, and help others in some small way.

But the best part is, I get to do all this no matter where I am, so I can work from home in my pjs if I want - and I often do want to write in my pjs. I think pjs are totally underrated.

Carma: Have you ever suffered from writer's block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Suzanne: I don't have trouble being creative. What I have trouble with sometimes is staying focused on ONLY the project at hand. My mind can get to racing a mile a minute if I don't control it. So, I meditate and write in my journal every morning in order to get focused before I work on the day's writing project.

Talking with other writers and other coaches unleashes my creativity.

Carma: What type of books did you read as a child? Did you like to do book reports on them?

Suzanne: I always loved books about animals when I was a child. My favorite book was called The Magic Pin and it was about a little girl who found a pin that was shaped like a horseshoe. Whenever she put this pin on her shirt or dress she could talk to animals. I just thought that having a pin like that would be the coolest thing since animals were everything to me when I was a kid - dogs, especially.

Carma: How do you set about promoting your books? How many hours a week do you spend on book promotion?

Suzanne: I promote my books in a variety of ways. Mostly through school visits and speaking at writers' conferences and other events, plus through my websites and blogs. However, I probably spend more time every week promoting my coaching than I do promoting my books. Nowadays, I seem to be a coach who also writes, even though I started out as a writer who also coaches.

Carma: What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you?

Suzanne: Speaking at conferences and making author visits to schools seems to work best for me as a means to promote my books. But I also like networking with other children's authors, illustrators, and editors to help get the word out about all sorts of books for children, not just mine.

Carma: Thank you Suzanne.

Learn more about children's writing tips and award winning book reviews by visiting Carma's Window at - Download the free EBook, "Unite to Write," a compilation of thirteen top expert authors as read on Ezine article directory and "Free Tips on Freelance Writing."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"And They Lived Happily Ever After! by Lea Schizas

Fairy tales, no matter how young or old you are, captivate an audience. The 'Once Upon A Time' beginnings told you some moral and dilemma would unfold. Readers love and continue to enjoy these tales, disappointed when they come to "and they lived happily ever after" part.

But how many writers out there have considered or used an outline from a fairy tale to come up with your own storylines? For example, let's take The Three Little Pigs:

3 little pigs = 3 upcoming musicians
wolf = their agent who swindles them at some point of their earnings
straw hut = their small apartment
brick house = their mansion when they make it big

You've now used a fairy tale to come up with your own storyline by altering the characters, their setting, and added a motive for a conflict with the antagonist-the agent. Let's dig deeper.
The three musicians are childhood friends or brothers a la 'three pig' theme. They've been playing as a band since high school. During college an agent signs them up and takes them on a tour. The boys are inexperienced in finances and trust their agent explicitly. During the story, however, seeds are dropped that this agent is a bit on the shady side prompting the readers to wait for the bomb to drop eventually on the boys. Although the readers have an inkling what's going to happen, the questions keeping them posted to the book are:

  • How will the boys react?
  • What will they do?
  • What's going to happen to the agent?
  • What's going to happen to their musical careers?
  • Will the band ever make it?

Readers love drama, action, happenings that take protagonists to a lower level of no return, especially when they can identify with a crisis relevant to their own life. That's not to say we need to be musicians to understand the characters plight, but as general people we've had someone who may have disappointed us in one way or the other. When you can connect a social issue or relevant emotional event to a reader, enough so they can place themselves in your character's shoes, then they are drawn deeper into your story world.

Using the same fairy tale above, you can come up with literally tons of good storylines to expand and use.

*-3 spinsters on a road trip to get away from the stress of work

-1 man comes into their lives
-1 cheap hotel fling with one of them causes a rift between the ladies
-1 secret the man is guarding will have these women on the run

*3 lawyers defending 3 men for the same crime

-1 lawyer bribes a witness to lie for his client
-1 house holds the key to this crime
-1 twist near the end will have the witness charged with the crime

As you can see from the examples above, one simple fairy tale has now the potential for three different storylines, characters, and settings.

So...Once upon a time when I had nothing to write about, I sat down and remembered my childhood fairy tales...

And my page filled with story ideas...

And my Muse lived happily ever after.

Author's Bio: Lea Schizas is an award-winning author and editor, Submissions Editor for Red Rose Publishing, and founder of two Writer's Digest Top Writing Sites since 2004 and recipients of several Predators and Editors awards, The MuseItUp Club and Apollo's Lyre. She is the author of the Young Adult paranormal/thriller "Doorman's Creek", and the middle grade novel, "Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us." She is also the editor and co-author of "The Muse On Writing" a writer's reference book, and the fantasy novel "Aleatory's Junction".

Lea Schizas along with Carolyn Howard-Johnson are founders of the annual Muse Online Writers Conference where over 2000 Attendees and Presenters take part each year.

For more information on Lea Schizas, link here: