Sunday, January 30, 2011

Follow me on my February virtual book tour!

~World of Ink Tour Schedule~

In order to promote my latest books, How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event and Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, I'll be touring the blogosphere with World of Ink Tours during the whole month of February. I hope you'll stop by to say hello!

February 1st

The Product Review Place – Author Spotlight

February 2nd

Quadruple Z – Review of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

Frugal Plus-Review of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

February 3rd

The Maggie Project – Review/Giveaway of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

February 4th

Home School Blogger-Book Review – Review/Giveaway of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

February 6th

Utah Children's Writer Blog – Guest Post

February 7th

Book Marketing Network – Guest Post

February 8th

Families Matter Blog - Interview

February 9th

The Writing Mama – Interview

February 10th

One Zillion Books – Review of How to Turn Your Book Club

February 11th

Roth’s Inspiring Books & Products – Interview and Review of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

February 14th

VBT-Writers On The Move – Guest Post

February 15th

Health, Beauty, Children and Family – Review of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

February 16th

Writing to the Hearts of Children- Interview

February 17th

Families Matter Blog - Book Review of all three books

February 18th

Stories for Children Magazine FG Interview

February 21st

RRRadio-Stories for Children with hosts: VS Grenier and D.M. Cunningham.

Live Radio Interview at 11am MST (10am PST, Noon Central and 1pm EST)

Call in number (646) 595-4478

Putting Words Down on Paper – Review of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

February 22nd

KidsRead Blog – Review of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

February 23rd

Putting Words Down on Paper - Interview

February 24th

Bless Their Hearts Mom – Review of How to Turn Your Book Club

February 25th

Sweeps 4 Bloggers – Review of Humberto the Bookworm Hamster

Rambling of a Coffee Addicted Writer – Review of Frederico the Mouse Violinist

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Interview with Kathi Baron, author of the YA novel SHATTERED

What was your inspiration for Shattered?

In the past, as an occupational therapist, I worked with teens who have experienced horrific abuse. As they each worked to heal, it was inspiring to witness their transformations. I wanted to do a novel to honor their resiliency.

Why the violin and not something else? What about this instrument got your attention?

I started really liking the violin when I discovered the Dixie Chicks. I enjoy all the different ways Martie Maquire uses her violin within their different songs. I’m especially attracted to the versatility of this instrument and enjoy hearing and seeing it played classically as well as alternatively. Plus, I love the way it looks. I thought it would be interesting and fun to write about a teen violinist and it was a wonderful experience to get to enter a musician’s world via the writing of Shattered.

Tell us three words that describe your protagonist.

Cassie is passionate, gifted, and resilient.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this novel? Did you have to do a lot of research about violin playing?

The most challenging part of writing this novel was trying to figure out a structure for it. Since it’s about intergenerational child abuse, it’s Cassie’s story, her dad’s story, and also, her grandfather’s story. It was difficult for me to write it so the reader could experience it as Cassie’s story, but also learn about her father and grandfather. I wrote it in several formats and it wasn’t “nailed down” until I received guidance from my publisher, Evelyn Fazio.

I did do a lot of research about the violin which was my favorite part of writing this book. I knew absolutely nothing about the violin and had to start very basic, like learning the names of its parts. Very early on, I realized I wouldn’t be able to write this story unless I had a violinist to consult. I got very lucky when Jenny Cappelli of the Cappelli Institute agreed to help me. She’s a violinist and teacher of performers in the Chicago Youth Symphony and allowed me to email her any and all questions. She invited me to observe a lesson with one of her students and I took a lot of notes. I also visited a violin workshop at Kagan and Gaines Music Store to see the many ways a violin can break. (That was a sad day). The owner, Joseph Kali researched and chose the Carlo Bergonzi violin for Cassie. I also read a lot of bios of violinists on their websites and listened to a lot of different kinds of violin music. I attended a Chicago Youth Symphony concert and swear I saw Cassie on stage! I read Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt and The Soloist by Mark Salzman, as well as a lot of issues of Strings magazine.

What is your writing schedule like?

Currently, I work part-time in an outpatient behavioral health program for adults. I’m there Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. So I view Wednesday and Friday as my work days as well, except that I’m working at my writing. I try to journal every day to keep my mind in practice. On my “writing days,” I tend to work for 6-8 hours on these days. I’m not always writing though. Sometimes I’m researching, or interviewing a consultant, or reading craft or fictions books to support the work. I have been known to steal away to a hotel for a weekend so that I can totally immerse myself in the process. It allows me to get some momentum going or to do the real detailed parts of a novel that require intense focus/freedom from interruptions.

Please share with my readers a bit about your road to publication. How did you find WestSide Books?

My journey to this book took 13 years. Before Shattered, I wrote 2 novels, 5 short stories, 2 picture book manuscripts, many, many poems and a non-fiction essay. I’ve submitted all of these pieces to publishers, contests and literary journals over the years. None of them have been accepted for publication. However, each piece offered me opportunities to learn about pacing, page turning, plot, point of view, tense and dialogue.

After the 2 novels were rejected, I decided to attend the Vermont College MFA Writing for Children and Young Adults program. During the 2 years that I was there, I focused on writing Shattered. After graduation, I revised it and submitted it to 15 publishers and received rejections from all of them.

My classmate, Angela Morrison, had also written a novel that didn’t sell either. She invited me to join her in revising and so over the course of 6 months, we swapped manuscripts each month until we completed a new version of our novels. Around this time, WestSide Books sent a letter to Vermont College inviting alumni to submit young adult novels. From the description of the type of novels they were looking for, Shattered was a good fit. I almost didn’t submit it though because I didn’t want to deal with rejection. Angela encouraged me to send it and I did. Within a few months, an offer came from WestSide and within three weeks, Angela sold her novel, Taken by Storm, to Razorbill. It has been a pure thrill to see both of our books on shelves in bookstores!

What is your greatest challenge as an author?

My greatest challenge is choosing which details or scenes to use. As an occupational therapist, I’m a trained observer. In a therapeutic process, I never know which detail or situation that a patient shares with me will have meaning to the future process, so I tend to absorb as much as I can about a person as I work with them. This gets in my way as a writer, making it difficult for me to figure out which things are relevant to character development, scene creation, or the overall plot. So initially, I tend write a lot of words and eventually, I end up doing a lot of deleting.

What is the single most important tip of advice you’d give new writers?

Focus your energy on developing your craft—on doing your best work—and not on getting published.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

“Focus on doing your best work and not on getting published.”

What’s next for Kathi Baron?

I’m currently working on a young adult novel that I’m hoping to submit to WestSide Books in a few months (after I figure out what to delete!)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fridays with Irene: Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia

Rae: My True Story of Fear, Anxiety, and Social Phobia

Chelsea Rae Swiggett

Health Communications, Inc., 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7573-1527-5


Rae is a true story of an adolescent girl who really struggles with different psycho-social aspects of her life. She feels really uncertain of herself and everyone around her, and is unable to function socially. In addition, she is very shy, and awkward when she is around adolescents her own age.

Rae suffers from frequent panic attacks. For instance, Rae panics when a plane flies overhead. When she is called on in class to speak up or to make a presentation, this sends her over the edge. She fears the unknown, life, death, people, and even fear itself.

By the time Rae reaches ninth grade, she feels completely isolated, and convinced that everyone is mocking her, judging her, and picking her apart. What a painful way to live. No one can keep living this way for too long without some help and encouragement.

As I read this book, I started remembering how awkward I felt when I was an adolescent, and how difficult social interactions with my peers were for me. I found the book absolutely entrancing. The book is written in a style that adolescents will understand and be able to relate to. After reading this book, hopefully adolescent girls will take steps not to fall into similar patterns of destructive patterns and behaviours.

Reviewed by Irene S. Roth

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Interview With Simon Rose, Author of Science Fiction Fantasy For Children

Interview With Simon Rose, Author of Science Fiction Fantasy For Children
Interview by Carma Dutra

Carma: I thoroughly enjoyed The Heretic's Tomb and I liked the way you got Annie into the past and out of the walled up room at the abbey. What was your source of inspiration for The Heretic's Tomb?

Simon:I'm pleased you enjoyed the book. It was inspired by my own love of history and I have always enjoyed time travel stories. Many novels have medieval settings, but to me some historical periods, such as the era of the Black Death or the mystery of the Princes in the Tower depicted in The Sorcerer's Letter Box, for example, are the most fascinating and the most suitable settings for a good adventure story.

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

Simon: Yes I do. I always work extensively on an outline, determining all the twists and turns of the plot, before beginning the actual novel. This outline is usually at least one paragraph for every chapter and can be up to 5000 words.

Carma: What goes on inside the mind of the fantasy writer?

Simon: All kinds of things - ancient mysteries, the unexplained, the paranormal, science fiction themes, time travel ideas, parallel universes, alternate realities, weird and wonderful characters and a whole lot of 'what if' scenarios.

Carma: What advice would you give to aspiring writers who are trying to break into the fantasy genre?

Simon: Try to be as original as possible and not copy something else, even if it has been popular. Write about what interests you in this particular genre rather than jumping on any bandwagon.

Carma: Who is Simon Rose? Describe an ordinary day in your life.

Simon: I'm not sure there is an ordinary day. If I'm not traveling or at a local school or library, I do spend much of the day working on the current book project, as well as on marketing, correspondence and so on, but also have children to take care of, pets to feed, household chores to do and so on.

Carma: What type of books did you read as a child?

Simon: I became immersed in science fiction as a boy and read a lot of science fiction novels and collections of short stories, as well C S Lewis, Tolkien and other fantasy writers. At high school, I studied a great deal of history and have retained my interest in the subject up to the present day. I also read a tremendous number of comic books as a child. Pure escapism perhaps, but comic books were great for the imagination. On TV, the original Star Trek series springs readily to mind, along with many other influences.

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

Simon: I do some form of promotion every day, whether for the books or for myself, usually online though the website, blog or via e mail correspondence regarding author visits, summer camps, writing services, festivals and other events.

Carma: How was your experience in looking for a publisher? What words of advice would you offer those novice authors who are in search of one?

Carma: There are lots on resources on line and elsewhere with regards to publishers, but a good thing to do is to research which houses are publishing the same type of material that you are writing. If you are writing fantasy for ten year olds, see who is doing that and then check their website to see if they are accepting submissions, Similarly, if you are writing teen fiction, see who is doing that and again be sure to check out their submission policies. There are also publishers who only deal with non fiction, prefer to specialize in regional issues, those who only do picture books or who do picture books, but don't accept stories about animals and so on. It can be a long process, but is well worth it.

Carma: What type of book promotion seems to work the best for you? Any special strategies you'd like to share?

Simon: All authors have to be prepared to do as much as they can to promote their own work. Get a website or blog or both, even before your first book is published, forge a good relationship with your local bookstores in order to secure book signing events, look into ways to talk about your work at festivals, other events and especially at schools and libraries. You may produce the greatest book ever written. However, no one else is going to see it if your book doesn't become known to potential readers.

Simon is available for presentations, workshops, Author-in-residence programs in Canada and the United States. Simon's upcoming book due in Spring of 2009 is Doomsday Mask.

Thank you for this interview, Simon.

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, January 25, 2011

Review of The Wedding Planner's Daughter, by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Finally, 12-year-old Willafred Havisham, or Willa as she likes to be called, believes with her whole heart and soul that she and her mom, Stella, are finally in the right place at the right time? Willa's dreams of her first best friend ever and the major connection between her mom and her English teacher, Sam clinch it for her. Could it be her thirteenth birthday wish just may come true this time around? But as long as she can remember Willa dreads the day the armor of steel surrounds her mother. It could only mean one thing, another move.

In the efforts to secretly help the weddings that her mother Stella organizes, Willa always includes a secret thirteenth ingredient until the day everything comes to an ending no one ever suspected.

"Mother, your weddings were perfect, but you were sewing your sadness into them, like a spell. I know you didn't realize it, or do it on purpose, but the day after the wedding your brides would start crying and..."

The hopes and dreams of Willa will cast a spell over the reader. Add in co-conspirators, you will cheer Willa on with every action she takes for the one thing she ever wanted. However, sometimes what you wish for is not actually what you are looking for.

There is no wonder "The Wedding Planner's Daughter," has sold 1/2 million copies and is now a series. Visit Coleen Murtagh Paratore at: to learn more about her exciting writing career.

Title: The Wedding Planner's Daughter
Written by: Coleen Murtagh Paratore
Soft cover: 200 pages
Ages: 8-13
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN-13: 978-0-689-87340-9
Publication: February 2005

--Reviewed by Donna McDine

Donna's publishing credits include Stories for Children Magazine, Stories for Children Newsletter for Writers, Kid Magazine Writers, Long Story Short, Institute of Children's Literature Rx for Writers, SCBWI Metro NY Newsletter, Once Upon A Time, Mom Writer's Literary Magazine, and Cross & Quill ~ The Christian Writers Newsletter. In addition, forthcoming non-fiction articles with Boys' Quest to be published in December 2012 and Hopscotch For Girls to be published in April 2014. She is also a children's book reviewer for the Muse Book Reviews, The National Writing for Children Center, and the Stories for Children Magazine.

Visit her at: or

Review of Harvey the Hungry Dog, by Lise Dominique

Harvey the Hungry Dog
(from The Adventures of Harvey the Wonder Dog)
by Lise Dominique
Illustrations by Chrissie Vales
State Street Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9760216-7-4
Children's book, iPad app
Website: Harvey the Wonder Dog

This delightful children's book tells the story of an adorable Labrador named Harvey. From the time he is a cuddly puppy, to his adventures throughout winter, spring, summer and fall, to his friendship with his best dog friend Karma, Harvey is a doggy who takes food VERY SERIOUSLY! However, there's one thing that Harvey hungers more than anything in the world: love.

I had the opportunity to review the iPad application and I have to say that it was a throughly enjoyable experience. With just a tap of my finger, the pages open fluidly and smoothly, giving the impression that I have a real book in my hands. The tale is written in an old-fashioned style, with mostly narrative and very little dialogue. The prose has a quiet tone, making this a perfect little book to read to a young child at bedtime. I'm one of those people who believe there can never be too many dog books. I found the illustrations charming with their simple style and soft pastel colors. Harvey will steal the hearts of young and adults alike and I look forward to his next adventure.

And just in case you're wondering... yes, Harvey is based on a real dog named--you guessed it--Harvey!

Find out more on Amazon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

More Tips for Teachers from Author Ardys Reverman

Thank for your following me on Day 4 of my 6-day virtual tour for my books, heart2heart and Turning Points. Yesterday, on Day 3 of my tour, I shared some tips for teachers to help them see how to use my books in the classroom. Today I'd like to give more tips for teachers or anyone interested in how we learn. Just go to to find out more about courses available there, accredited through our partner Portland State Universty. Here are just a few of the course titles we offer:

Creative Brain – Multiple Intelligence Classroom
Intelligence Reframed: MI Learning Stations
Transformed Anger: The Surprising Purpose of Anger
Managing Innovation-How Great Teachers Inspire Their Students

You can also take our self-quiz to learn more about your own learning styles or have your students or your own children take the quiz. Just click here to take it online right now:

And here's a short video to watch with more information about my books and the work I do:

Follow Day 5 of my tour tomorrow at Leave a comment every day of my tour and your name will automatically be entered to win a Gift Box Bundle - filled with books and other goodies - at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Writing Tips from Children’s Writer, Dr. Laurie Zelinger

Welcome to Day 4 of the 6-day virtual tour for my new book Please Explain "Anxiety" to Me! I believe you to have to know kids to be able to write for and about them. When a child is referred to me and I meet him or her for the first time, I tell the child that I know all about children. I know what kids think about and dream about and worry about. I am a mommy and I am also a psychologist. I help kids, teachers and parents figure out how to help a child feel happier. I also tell the child, very frankly, that I know he/she has a problem with ______ and that I know how to talk about it since I’ve heard things like that before. You need to forge trust with a child in your care in order for that child to share his inner most thoughts with you. Then, when you have a true grasp of the issues and can talk about it with clarity and ease, you can begin to write about it from a position of authority but in language that is familiar to the child.

I saw my task in Please Explain Anxiety to Me as the attempt to de-mystify a complex concept (anxiety) so it could be understood better by a child experiencing symptoms of anxiety. That is how I came upon the notion that the sympathetic nervous system is like a switch that flips on and off depending upon our perception of danger, and it is that “switch” image that I use throughout the book to explain when anxiety is adaptive and when it is unwelcome.

When I was a student studying personality testing, we were taught that children typically infuse animal characters in their stories and play, and as they grow they incorporate more human figures. Remembering this, I wrote my second book with dinosaurs as the theme characters. I feel it is important to scaffold information you present to a child, so that you start with something the child already knows or can identify with, and build from there, introducing new concepts as the child actively modifies his existing fund of information to incorporate the new material.

It is also important to be conversant with typical vernacular for your target age group and to use shorter sentences with younger children, as their attention and receptive vocabulary are limited in the early years. Books that teach should utilize everyday language so that children are not put off by both words and concepts that are unfamiliar. You don’t want a child to have to work hard at untangling vocabulary in order to understand the message. Some children will lose interest if the effort required is too great. However, there is definitely a place for books with lovely and descriptive language, but those are best enjoyed during relaxing moments when the pressure to learn is reduced and the modality of language can be appreciated.

Illustrations are also a powerful form of communication and often re-appear as “day residue” in a child’s dreams. In my experience, when children are referred because of particular fears, they often cite books or movies with scenes that contain haunting visual details. I sometimes wonder if illustrators recognize the enduring effect of their creative imaginations upon the sleep habits of their young readers. The written word, the reader’s voice and the color and detail of an illustration are the synergistic triplets that form an indelible imprint in the mind of the child.

Find out more about me and my book at the National Writing for Children Center, where the book is showcased all this month.

Follow Day 5 of my tour tomorrow at Leave a comment every day of my tour and your name will automatically be entered to win a Gift Box Bundle - filled with books and other goodies - at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Writing Tips from Children's Author Jewel Kats

Welcome to Day 4 of the virtual tour for my new book Reena's Bollywood Dream. Today I'd like to share some of my best writing tips.

Writing comes from the soul. It’s an art form full of passion and intensity. Not necessarily a lot of money. Satisfaction, though, is guaranteed.

Writing for children is tricky business. You have to be entertaining and creative, yet careful with your words. After all, you’re dealing with impressionable minds. Moreover, there are parents, teachers and librarians looking out for your audience’s benefit. In this sense, you have a lot of people to satisfy.

The biggest rule of thumb in the world of children’s literature is: DON’T TALK DOWN TO YOUR AUDIENCE. This refers to your whole audience. Kids especially like to be treated in high-esteem. They may be young, but don’t insult their intelligence.

Learn to make your settings believable. Create a world or place that kids would like to be in; or at the very least see themselves in. Remember, to use your five senses when describing things. Don’t use generic descriptions or euphemisms that are overdone. Make it a point to think outside the box.

I personally love to get to know my characters. I go as far as charting their physical attributes, habits, hobbies, etc. I’ve even heard of some writers “interviewing” their characters to get to know them on a more intimate level. It’s important that your characters are three dimensional.

It’s also really important to create dialogue that’s real. If you’re writing a present-day story listen to and observe modern-day children. How do they speak? Listen with an open mind, and heart. Use current word choices. If you’re delving into the past, and writing a manuscript from another era do your research. And, do it accurately!

Speaking of research, take a look at what’s currently being published. Look up the publishers you’re targeting and see what they’re putting out in the market. Log onto their websites to gain access to up-to-date writer’s guidelines.

I always encourage aspiring writers to join critique groups, children’s writing workshops or organizations. Feedback from peers always helps, and offers another perspective. Guidance from experts is priceless. Besides, it’s always great to network with like-minded people.

I’ve learned to accept that rejection is a part of this business. Go back to the drawing board if refusals come your way. Try to figure out what went wrong with the manuscript, and perhaps even—dare I say?—finish writing another masterpiece. Maybe this time around, someone will spot your gem.

Lastly, never give up on yourself. Even if you do get published—such as in my case—speed bumps still can come your way. Sometimes the nasty ol’ writer’s block plants its big butt in your corner. What are you supposed to do? Get up, brush yourself off, and get back in the ring. Even if that means you have more bruises going in this time around!

Find out more about me and my book at the National Writing for Children Center, where the book is showcased all this month.

Follow Day 5 of my tour tomorrow at Leave a comment every day of my tour and your name will automatically be entered to win a Gift Box Bundle - filled with books and other goodies - at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Writing Tips from Kerin Bellak-Adams

Welcome to Day 4 of the 6-day virtual tour for my new book D/HD Success! Solutions for Boosting Self-Esteem The Diary Method Ages 7-17. Today I'd like to share some of my best writing tips.

Interesting ideas stem from experiences one has had with their own children, other people’s kids, or as a teacher, or mental health provider. Keep the material all under one file on the computer and think carefully what each one will be labeled. The heading should have careful thought put into it, and direct all other entries. There is no perfection, just progress. Write from the heart –not just the head. Do some research too in the field. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish and get across that this will make a REAL difference to the reader. It pays to do research to make sure no one else has written on exactly what you have in mind, and in the way that you present the material. Readers want new material and publishers look for why they should select your work rather than someone else’s. Publishing is a very competitive world and now more than ever, so authors have it harder than ever.

Find out more about the book and read some sample pages at Also, don't forget to visit the National Writing for Children Center, where my book is showcased all this month. You can listen to my recent interview on Book Bites for Kids there, plus find out what people are saying about my book.

Follow Day 5 of my tour tomorrow at Leave a comment every day of my tour and your name will automatically be entered to win a Gift Box Bundle - filled with books and other goodies - at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

"More about Our Books from Loving Healing Press," by Victor Volkman

Welcome to Day 4 of this 6-day virtual tour to promote the wonderful books I am fortunate enough to publish. I'm Victor Volkman, CEO of Loving Healing Press, the fastest-growing publishing company devoted to self-growth, recovery, psychology, and social work books.

Today I'd like to tell more about our abuse recovery books for children. We have a variety of authors contributing several different points of view. There are usually a few key goals of the literature. First of all, to make sure the child reading the book (or having it read to him) knows that the abuse was never his fault, he is not to blame for what happened to him. Secondly, to let him know that he is not the only person in the world that this has happened to; he is not somehow uniquely bad or different. Thirdly, to focus on prevention of further incidents, for example by educating about boundaries and what to do if they are not respected. Last, there is an emphasis on discovering feelings, recognizing them, and building on self-image through affirmations and recognizing the positive.

Some of our books build on specific incidents or scenarios. Annabelle’s Secret deals with abuse from an older neighborhood boy. Reena’s Bollywood Dream features an uncle who grooms a girl to make inappropriate movies of her. REPAIR for Kids aged 6 to 12 and the brand new REPAIR for Toddlers are a pair of books by Marjorie McKinnon, a leader whose abuse recovery network has more than 50 chapters worldwide. Her books are largely educational in terms of prevention, what to do in an emergency, games and activities to restore self-esteem and optimism all within a prescribed seven stage program.

I could write or talk about our wonderful books all day. But several of our new books are showcased all this month at the National Writing for Children Center. Please visit the center at to learn more about them. And, to find out more about ALL of our books, please visit our website at

Follow Day 5 of my tour tomorrow at Leave a comment every day of my tour and your name will automatically be entered to win a Gift Box Bundle - filled with books and other goodies - at the end of the month, provided by the National Writing for Children Center.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Blogger: Characters or Story - Which Comes First? by Karen Cioffi

A number of articles about writing for children, and other genres suggest knowing your characters inside and out before beginning the story. In fact, information suggests that the author build the story around the characters once they are fully developed. While this is good advice, and many experienced authors recommend this technique, there are some authors who occasionally watch their characters unveil themselves right before their eyes.

This is such an interesting method of writing. Your character introduces himself and gradually reveals bits and pieces, and blossoms as the story moves along. Sometimes a story doesn't begin with this intent, it just happens. This is known as the seat-of-you-pants method of writing.

You do need to be careful with this method though, you may lose track of all the bits and pieces that make up the character. So, a good way to keep track of those quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features is to note them on a separate page or character card as they become unveiled. You wouldn't want your character to have brown eyes in one chapter and blue eyes in another - unless of course, it's a science fiction or paranormal and part of the storyline.

So, is there a right or wrong answer to the question of which comes first, characters or story? That depends on the writer.

While it may be important to know your characters, and even have a family and background established for them, even if they are not used in the story, you can also become acquainted as you go along. As your story develops you may find out if the character is fearful in certain situations, or if he is heroic. Sometimes it's impossible to know this about a person, let alone a character, until circumstances create the possibility of the question.

It is one's environment and circumstances that help develop his or her characteristics, fears, hopes, and so on. The same holds true for your character.

Using an example: How would a child who never saw a mouse before react to one? There's no way to answer that question until it happens. So, having the story help develop the character can be a useful tool. But, again, be sure to keep track of all the new features your character unveils along the way.

For more on writing, ghostwriting, freelance writing, and promotion visit: While you're there, be sure to sign up for Karen's FREE monthly newsletter, A Writer's World; you'll get TWO FREE e-books on writing and marketing in the process. For writing services visit:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Latest reviews of Frederico, the Mouse Violinist

Frederico, the Mouse Violinist is an absolutely wonderful children’s picture book. Through a delightful story, the author teaches about the world’s most famous violin maker, Antonio Stradivari, along with various parts of the violin.

But, what has a mouse to do with Stradivari and violins? Well, Calvani cleverly weaved a story that has Frederico living in the home where Stradivari creates his masterpieces.

Loving the violin, the mouse wished he could play. At night while the master slept, Frederico would play among the violins and move the bow across the strings, making sweet sounds. Hearing the music and seeing Frederico’s appreciation for the violin, Stradivari created a special tiny violin for the mouse.

Adding dimension to the story are full page illustrations that are vibrant and fanciful, making Frederico, the Mouse Violinist an engaging, kids-will-love-it picture book. The book also provides information on Stradivari; a glossary for words related to the violin, such as bridge, peg, and scroll; and two activity pages. It is an enjoyable and fun tool that parents and teachers can use to introduce the violin to young children.

I happen to love the sound of the violin, cello, and other stringed instruments. My appreciation for music came from my musical family, as well as school music education programs. In 7th and 8th grades my school offered violin instruction which I happily accepted.

Research from the 1950s through to today, demonstrates the benefits music has for children and even societies. Here are some of the benefits children can reap from music education:

Increases memorization capacity
Improves reasoning capacity and comprehension
Helps children learn and/or improve time management and organizational skills
Helps develop team skills, as well as math skills
Helps improve coordination and concentration
Is a universal language and encourages self-expression

Aside from the above mentioned benefits, you never know what will spark a child’s appreciation and love for music, it could be hearing a song, seeing musicians play, or learning about various instruments and their creation.

--Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. For writing and marketing information visit, and sign up for her free newsletter: A Writer’s World. You’ll get 2 free e-books on writing and marketing in the process, and two more free e-books just for stopping by.


Do you know any curious, young, music lovers? If so, introduce them to "Frederico, the Mouse Violinist."

Mayra Calvani combines the curiosity and playfulness of Frederico the mouse with the history and genius of Antonio Stradivari, the famous violin maker, to tell a delightful story of kindness and friendship. Children will learn music vocabulary and the parts of the violin as they follow Frederico’s nightly escapades.

Curious Frederico peeked into the f-hole and looked inside the violin.
“This is the secret, magical place where sound comes out!” he squeaked.

The realistic, yet whimsical, illustrations by K. C. Snider add to the fun. The surprise ending of “Frederico the Mouse Violinist” will fill your heart with “warm fuzzies.” It may just inspire you to follow your dreams.

As a retired teacher, I would recommend this book as a fantastic way to introduce stringed instruments into the classroom. A biography of Stradivari and his accomplishments are included in the back of the book. The activity pages will reinforce the new vocabulary introduced in the book as well.

--Kathy Stemke, Education Tipster


Do you have a budding violinist on your hands? Then he or she will definitely enjoy Frederico, the Mouse Violinist by Mayra Calvani.

Frederico is a little mouse with a big name. He lives in the workshop of a famous violin maker named Antonio Stradivari. During the day, the mouse watches Stradivari make his celebrated violins, but at night, Frederico explores the workshop and its wonders. But it's the violins that capture Frederico's attention the most. Frederico longs to play, but since he's so little and the violin and bow are so big, playing seems an impossible task. However, the determined mouse practices night after night and when he captures the attention of the famous violin maker, the mouse violinist has a mouse-sized present in store for him!

This is an endearing tale that will introduce young readers to the classic string instrument. Not only is the tale inspirational, but it's educational as well, introducing young virtuosos to the parts of a violin and the famous luthier, Antonio Stradivari. As Frederico learns that if you tighten a peg on a violin, the pitch will be higher and if you loosen it, the pitch will be lower, so will your own virtuoso. And just as Frederico learns that with a little passion and practice, he can play, Frederico will inspire anyone to strum their own tune to this delightful story.

--Lori Calabrese, National Children's Book Examiner


What an unexpected source of delight this picture book is. This sweet story is about a young mouse who lives in the workshop of the most famous violin maker of all. With tender wording and sensitive illustrations, we see how the master violin maker makes yet someone else's life change as a result of his musical genius and creativity. This is storytelling at its best.

Every violin student and every violin teacher will treasure this book for its precious story about Frederico, the mouse, as he follows his dreams. Yet behind the tender story is an excellent explanation of the parts of a violin as well as a peek into the life of violin virtuoso Stradivari. The fantastic illustrations add a sense of wonder and delight to the telling, bringing the story to life.

I highly recommend this book for every child whether a violin student or not. Their heartstrings will be tugged and they will yearn to hold a violin in their hands and play it themselves. This is also a great classroom book for teachers to read to students during those young formative years when they are choosing whether or not to play an instrument.

Truly a new classic in picture books!

--Nancy I. Sanders, children's author


"Frederico, the Mouse Violinist"
Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrator: K.C. Snider
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Hardcover: 978-1-61633-113-9
Paperback: 987-1-61633-114-6
EBook 13: 978-61633-125-2
Copyright 2010
Picture Book: 26 pages

Purchase from Amazon.
Purchase from Guardian Angel Publishing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Secret of My Success - An Interview With Children's Writer L D Harkrader

The Secret of My Success - An Interview With Children's Writer L D Harkrader
Interview by Suzanne Lieurance

Is there some secret for success as a children's writer? Inquiring minds (i.e., yours and mine) want to know, so I interviewed L.D. Harkrader whose first middle grade novel, Airball: My Life in Briefs, was recently released by Roaring Brook Press.

Harkrader doesn't seem to have any real secrets, but she does offer some insights into the writing process and a look at what an author needs to do to promote a book once it is published.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your writing background. What kinds of things did you write along the way to publication of your new middle grade novel, Airball: My Life in Briefs?

A: I've been writing seriously for thirteen or fourteen years. My first short story, "Prunella Thigpin," was published in Guideposts for Kids in 1994. Since then I've published over 200 short stories, poems, and articles in magazines and anthologies, as well as eight nonfiction books and three ghostwritten novels in the Animorphs series.

Q: How long did it take you to write Airball? What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you?

A: I started Airball in 1998, and it was published in 2005, which adds up to seven years. I'm a slow writer, it's true, but in my defense, I also wrote seven nonfiction books and three Animorphs books during that time! The most difficult part of writing the novel, besides all the stopping and starting between other projects, was maintaining confidence that I could actually finish it. First drafts are always the hardest part of any writing for me. I second-guess every word, sentence, comma, keystroke I make, which is something all the how-to-write experts tell you not to do, but something I can't seem to avoid. On top of that, I knew that this story walked a thin line between reality and fantasy, and I worried that I wouldn't be able to make it enough of either to be believable.

Q: Many writers stress the importance of a regular, daily writing schedule. Is that how you work? Why or why not?

A: Well, I certainly get more written when I maintain a regular, daily writing schedule. Unfortunately, it's not always possible. I also have to be the mom and chauffeur for my kids, as well as my son the sports addict's main cheering section. I'm a substitute teacher one or two days per week and also take on other writing and design projects occasionally just to pay the bills, so my time is not always (and sometimes not ever) my own. Plus there's that whole procrastination/avoidance problem I battle constantly. But work on my fiction definitely suffers when I don't write every day.

Q: What kinds of promotional activities has your publisher expected you to do to promote Airball? Have you found it helpful or necessary to do other promotional activities in addition to the ones the publisher sets up?

A: Roaring Brook has been great at promoting Airball. Their publicist has set up local booksignings and radio and newspaper interviews for me, which are things I probably wouldn't have been able to do (at least not as successfully) without them. My publisher also sent out review copies so that Airball has been reviewed in all the major children's book review sources, of course, and they also sent reviewers and book buyers a calendar that includes excerpts of all the books, including mine, they're publishing this year.

On my own I've done a couple school visits and spoken at local writers' conferences. I sent copies of Airball to local reviewers and to the director of the Kansas Center for the Book, an organization affiliated with the state library that promotes Kansas books and authors. I've talked to local independent bookstores, such as The Raven in Lawrence, to let them know about the local appeal of my book. Approaching bookstore owners face-to-face took courage for this not-always-recovering shy person, but turned out to be one of the most enjoyable things I've done.

When Airball came out, I overwhelmed myself for a few days trying to think of all the ways I could or should promote it. I realized I could spend an awful lot of money and time on promotion, and much of it could be ineffective. I decided the smartest thing I could do for my career and for Airball was to do local promotion that only made sense for me, rather than my publisher, to do and concentrate on finishing the next book.

Q: You have an agent, but do you think it's absolutely necessary for today's children's writer to have an agent? Why or why not?

A: I think it's more important today for a children's writer to have an agent than it was even ten years ago. It's still possible for children's writers to be published without an agent, but more and more houses are closing their doors to unagented manuscripts, and it's difficult for a writer to figure out which editors are open to which kinds of stories. Plus, selling the manuscript is only the first step. An agent then negotiates the contract, retains and markets sub rights, and generally looks out for the writer's interests.

Q: What advice do you have for beginning children's writers who want to publish a MG novel?

A: First of all, read MG novels. They've changed a lot since most writers were middle graders themselves. Then start and keep going. The first draft won't be perfect, no matter how much you try to make it that way, so be completely open to changing what you've written for the better.

Q: Could you share your best writing tip?

A: My best writing tip is to remember that a story is a journey, one that will change your main character forever.

For more helpful tips for writers, visit and sign up for the mailing list. When you do, you'll receive a free ebook for writers, plus every weekday morning you'll get The Morning Nudge, a few words to motivate and inspire you to get a little writing done.

Visit the National Writing for Children Center at and find out how you can learn to write for kids. Suzanne Lieurance is a fulltime freelance writer, children's author, and founder and director of the National Writing for Children Center.

Suzanne Lieurance - EzineArticles Expert Author

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest blogger: Writing With Clarity, by Karen Cioffi

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines clarity as lucidity, clearness of thought.

Writing with clarity can be a difficult aspect of writing. There isn't a GPS for clarity. And, no matter how clear you think you are conveying a particular sentence, paragraph, or theme, the reader may not be able to see what you intend - you've missed the clarity mark.

How does this happen?

Missing the clarity mark may happen even if you have clearness of thought; if that clearness of thought or intent doesn't translate onto paper, you will have missed the mark.

As the author, you know what you're thinking, what motives are involved, what you assume the reader should be seeing, or understanding-this knowledge may cloud your perception of what is actually being conveying. This clarity cloud can at times create a gap between what you think you're saying and what you actually say. This happens because as the author, you're too close to your own writing.

Think of a color. Now, think of a very specific hue or shade within that color. Now, try to write what you see or explain it.

This is what can happen with your story. You can see what's unfolding clear as day, the scene, the characters, and the intent. But, your vision may not translate with clarity onto paper. You may think it has, but that doesn't mean it actually has.

An example of this is a children's picture book I reviewed. The content and illustrations were well done, but there was one problem. The story ultimately was about the main character having to go through a metamorphosis in order to be accepted by others. This is what a reader, a child, might take away from the story. While the story had a number of good points, this one flaw was problematic. The authors knew what they intended, but that intent didn't show through. And, because they were so sure of their intent, they couldn't see that the take away value of the story could be anything but what they intended.

Fortunately, there is help in this area: a critique group. Every writer who is writing a manuscript should belong to a critique group. Having three, six, or ten other writers, who write in the same genre, will help you find many of the pitfalls in your story. They are the unknowing audience. They have no perceived conception of your story, so they will be able to see where it goes astray and where it lacks clarity.

For more on writing, ghostwriting, freelance writing, and promotion visit: While you're there, be sure to sign up for Karen's FREE monthly newsletter, A Writer's World, and get TWO FREE e-books on writing and marketing in the process. For writing services visit:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Fridays with Irene: I Want Your Moo

I Want Your Moo:
A Story for Children About Self-Esteem
By Marcella Bakur Weiner and Jill Neimark
Illustrated by JoAnn Adinolfi
Magination Press, 2010

This is a great book about a very important, and sometimes difficult, topic for kids. It talks about the importance of developing self-esteem from a very early age in kids.

Self-esteem is a topic that isn’t usually talked about with young kids. But the authors present this difficult topic in a fun and refreshing way, that both young and older kids will be able to appreciate and learn the importance of developing self-esteem.

The book has several themes. These are as follows:

 We are all okay just as we are;
 We don’t need to be anything that we’re not;
 We don’t need to sound different in order to accepted;
 We don’t have to look different than we are;
 We are unique and great just as we are.

The overall message for kids is that they are meant to be EXACTLY who they are right this very moment. What a great message for kids!

In addition, there are two sidebars in the book. The first is about how kids can most successfully develop self-esteem, and how caregivers and educators can help them do just that.

The second sidebar discussed some of the reasons why kids have low self-esteem. It also provides some practical tips for parents to guide their children toward self-acceptance and developing positive self-esteem.

Rating: 4 out of 5 roses
Reviewed by Irene S. Roth

Ways that Educators and teachers can use this book in the classroom

Divide the class into groups of three to five and ask them to discuss the following questions:

1. What is self-esteem?
2. Why is it important to develop self-esteem?
3. How would you rate your self-esteem?
4. Do you have a good idea of whether you have healthy self-esteem?
5. Does your self-esteem fluctuate, depending on the situation you’re in?


Irene S. Roth is a freelance writer for teens, and tweens. She has published over 150 Ezine articles on different topics that are relevant to self-esteem and self-confidence for adolescent girls. She has also reviewed over 300 books, written dozens of articles for teens and tweens, and has a blog devoted to adolescent girls at and a blog devoted to different aspects of writing at

She reviews books for Blogcritics, SimplyCharly, The Muse, Stories for Children, Voice in the Dark, Booksneeze, and Tyndale Publishers. She also is a review editor for Humane Medicine International, a Medical Journal for Doctors in Canada and the U.S. Irene also writes consistently for the Voices in the Dark, an Ezine magazine, and the Beacon Herald.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Review of Shattered, by Kathi Baron

By Kathi Baron
WestSide Books
ISBN: 978-1-934813-08-9
Young Adult

Shattered is the compelling story of a violin prodigy teenaged girl who runs away from home after her father shatters her beloved violin in front of her eyes. Thus, the word ‘shatter’ has a dual meaning in the novel. As Cassie learns to survive in the streets, she gradually learns the reason her father, a former violinist, behaved so explosively. While away, she meets a series of interesting—and sometimes dangerous—characters that indirectly help her grow and become a more mature and understanding human being. Cassie also searches for her elusive grandfather in an effort to learn more about her own father.

Human emotions are brought to vivid life in this first novel by talented new author Kathi Baron. Baron writes from the heart, with passion and sincerity. The prose flows beautifully and the story kept me engrossed all the way till the end. Cassie is a genuine protagonist most teenaged girls will identify with, especially young violinists. One aspect of this book that got my attention is that the descriptions of music and the violin sound very real even though the author isn’t a musician. This is a peeve of mine with violin novels: if the author isn’t familiar with the violin, the writing comes out as fake. But this didn’t happen with Shattered, so I have to congratulate the author on her research.

Shattered is a coming-of-age story. It is also about the healing power of music and the complexity of family relationships. A must read for young violinists, especially girls!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The latest issue of Guardian Angel Kids magazine is out!

Hi all,

My children's article, "Coqui, Island Singer," appears on the latest issue of GAKids,

The link to the article is:

This is a paying market, so if you're interested in writing for children, this is a great place to submit to!

Happy reading and Happy New Year!