Friday, May 27, 2011

Meet Donna Peterson, author of The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn, and Pip's alter ego

Hello, my name is Donna L. Peterson, I am the author of The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn, and Pip's alter ego. I've been writing stories since I was 7 years old. The first story I wrote was a very somber, heart-wrenching tale about a lonely Christmas tree. My mother had me read it at our Christmas family gathering. Even though I was quite shy at that time, I was determined to be an author after the sound of their applause. As a teen, I kept a diary and wrote angst filled poetry that helped me get through those awkward years. In college I majored in journalism, but I soon found out that I preferred to make up my own stories rather than report the news. For 5 years I worked for a newspaper writing feature stories and I even wrote an Erma Bombeck style humor column called Kaleidoscope. I've since been working for the last 12 years for the Weiser School District at Park Intermediate School, where I enjoy writing stories about and for the children I work with on a daily basis.

About the author

Donna Peterson has enjoyed writing stories and poetry since the second grade. She has been published four times in the Idaho Magazine; wrote a weekly humor column, "Kaleidoscope," for the Three Rivers Chronicle; and she continues to write short stories for the children at Park Intermediate School, where she has been employed for the past twelve years. Two years ago, Donna took a children's literature class, which inspired her to finally publish her own stories.

Donna lives in Weiser, Idaho, with her husband, Brad, and her three-legged cat, Sam. Her son, Erik and his lovely wife, Shawna, live in Murray, Utah. Her other son, David, will be attending college in Japan next fall.

Writing has always been Donna's favorite pastime, so having her first children's book published is a dream come true.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Journaling Techniques for Writers with Tina M. Games

Welcome to day four of Tina M. Games’ 6-day NWFCC April Author Showcase tour and learn journaling techniques for writers.

Hi, I'm Tina M. Games, author of Journaling by the Moonlight: A Mother's Path to Self-Discovery.

Many writers will say to me, "I don't know how to begin writing in my journal. Do you have any techniques that are especially helpful to a writer?"

Before we begin the act of writing, of any kind, it's important to understand how we receive and process information. Everyone has a particular learning style, and it holds true even in the journal writing process.

How do you sort through your thoughts? What's the best way for you to work through an idea - from beginning to end?

Are you a visual processor? Or an auditory processor? Do you need to touch and feel things, perhaps engaging in some form of movement in order to work the ideas through your mind and body?

The actual act of journal writing involves both a visual and kinesthetic process. We see the words as we write them. We feel the flow of the pen to paper - or the movement of fingers touching the keyboard. It's also helpful for a kinesthetic processor to go for a run or a walk before writing, to allow the thoughts to move through the body.

For an auditory processor, try speaking your ideas into a recording device. Then take some quiet time to listen to what you said - and honor what's coming to mind as you hear your own voice. You may also consider getting some type of speaking software, where you can speak your ideas into your computer and it documents your thoughts and ideas into words - words that you can play around with, when crafting your piece.

Here are a few journaling techniques that are helpful for capturing and working with the best ideas:

Clustering - Write every idea down on a journal page, putting each one in its own circle. Color each circle with colored pencils based on the emotion that you feel when you read the idea. Notice any circles that have the same color and ponder any ways that you could thread the ideas together. If you don't see a common thread, just sit with the circles for awhile - and see which ones jump out at you. Which ones give you goose bumps when you ponder its possibilities? Take those and write about them. Just ramble until you feel you've gained some clarity - and are feeling pulled toward a particular direction.

List of best ideas - Make a "grocery list" of your ideas and let it be as long as you need it to be. Sit with this list. Does anything jump out at you? If not, number your ideas beginning with the number one. Then randomly pick a number and journal about that idea. If it feels good, go for it. If not, pick another number (for another idea).

Visual journaling - make a collage of images that represent your ideas. Put your collage in a place where you can see it. What jumps out at you? Is there one image that grabs your attention more than the others? Do you see a common thread - perhaps ideas that can be weaved together? If so, journal about it.

What journaling techniques are good for overcoming writer's block? Here are a few:

Mind dump - If you feel yourself stalling, pull out your journal and dump out the mental clutter. Don’t worry about making sense. Just dump it all out onto the page. Then sit with your jumbled thoughts for a few minutes. Read over them a couple of times. What jumps out at you? Ponder it for a moment. Then just write – and see where the words take you!

Writing from quotes - Pick a quote that resonates with you in the moment - and sit with it for a few minutes. What does it mean to you and how can you apply it to your writing? Take some time to ponder and then write.

Dialogue - Have a dialogue with a character, a concept or a thought. You can even have a dialogue with writer's block. Open up your journal and write a script (a dialogue between you and whatever it is that's blocking you in the moment). Begin in your voice by asking, "Why are you in my way?" or "how can I get past you?" - and continue the dialogue until you've reached a resolution.

How can you use journal writing to map out a story, article or book? Here are a few ideas:

Clustering technique (a form of mind mapping) - This is a cluster of circles - with your main idea or your main character being in the center circle and your points or your character traits or your supporting characters being in little circles (drawn out from the main circle via a line). Once you have this mapped out, create an outline and begin to write.

Dialogue technique - In your journal, create a conversation with a character, a topic or an idea. Act as if you're the interviewer and ask lots of questions!

Character sketch - Journal from the point of view from a character in your book - or from your intended reader (what would they want to know about this topic - or what would they want to gain from reading your book or story).

Visual journaling - Make a collage of images that represent your story, article or book. Let it be the focal point for mapping out your storyline or creating your character - or targeting your ideal reader. Allow the images to guide you into the stages of writing your piece.

Thank you for allowing me to connect with you here today! Join me tomorrow as I share 12 tips for maintaining a satisfying journal writing practice.

Follow Day 5 of Ms. Games' tour tomorrow at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Writing Tips from Children’s Author Renee Hand

Welcome to day four of Renee Hand’s 6-day NWFCC April Author Showcase tour and join Ms. Hand as she discusses knowing your audience.

When writing for children, one must always keep in mind their audience. Developing ideas for appropriate topics to write about and keeping them at a certain age level, can be challenging. I view writing for children as something that is fun and educational. I put a lot of effort in making my books unique and different. As a writer we must find a niche and fill it. Writing for children is making sure you get your message across. The children’s market is flooded with books. As a writer we have to create storylines that stand out from the crowd and get noticed, not blend in with the rest and be forgettable.

Follow Day 5 of Ms. Hand's tour tomorrow at

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Latest news!

Hi all,

I'm thrilled to announce that my children's picture book, Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, is an Award-Winning Finalist in the "Children's Picture Book: Hardcover Fiction" category of the 2011 International Book Awards! Yeepie!!!

Also, I'll be going on a virtual blog tour with Pump Up Your Book this June to promote it.

Here is a list of the blogs I'll be visiting:

Monday, June 6

Interviewed at Blogcritics

Tuesday, June 7

Book reviewed at 4 the Love of Books

Wednesday, June 8

Book reviewed at Healing Hearts

Thursday, June 9

Book reviewed at Ellis Reviews & Life

Friday, June 10

Book reviewed at Write for a Reader

Monday, June 13

Book reviewed at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, June 14

Book reviewed at Library of Clean Reads

Wednesday, June 15

Guest blogging at Literal Exposure

Thursday, June 16

Book reviewed at Virginia Beach Publishing Examiner

Friday, June 17

Guest blogging at The Book Faery Reviews

Book reviewed at Booksnatchers

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"How To Write A Novel for Children Or Young Adult Readers," by Heather C Matthews

Every newbie author dreams of becoming the next J.K. Rowling or Roald Dahl. However, writing a children's book can be harder than it seems. Creating a story that resonates with kids or young adult readers is a challenging task. If you're determined to create a true work of art (and to get your book published!), this article will be a great way to start. Here are some tips and tricks you'll need to master before you become the author you dream of being!

* Write A Detailed Outline - Most fledgling authors simply sit down and begin to write...often, this approach can lead to frustration. Since half the battle is actually finishing a novel, you should get organized - right from the start. Crafting a full outline, which includes character names, plot twists, settings, and a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the storyline, can be the best way to organize your thoughts and make your ideas more cohesive. By working through issues at the outset, you'll be able to put together a working outline that allows you to research, refine, and brainstorm your artistic vision.

* Consider The Marketplace - Look at what's does YOUR potential storyline fit into the current marketplace? Obviously, novels like the Harry Potter series, the Twilight Series, and the Lemony Snicket series are hot sellers that meet young reader's needs. Do a little market research, and be certain publishers are interested in your story type. There is always room for a great novel, no matter what it's about, but your chances of getting published skyrocket when you take the marketplace into account. Be smart and get your ducks in a row...choose characters and settings that are proven winners. Then, add your own originality and special writing style into the mix!

* Learn About Queries - Once you've begun to write your story, you should also start to think about what you'll need to do to get it out there in front of the public. Part of being an author is understanding that getting published and promoting your work is largely your responsibility! Today, getting an agent is tougher than ever before. You need to know how to write a concise, engaging query letter to agents and/or publishers. Luckily, the Internet is a rich resource - Google and learn more about the best ways to get the attention of the publishing industry. By the time you're finished your masterpiece, you'll be ready for action! Remember, rejection is part of the business. Even Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone was rejected 12 times before it found a home! Believe in yourself and don't give up.

* Find A Critique Partner - Lots of writers use author's groups, message boards, and critique partners to go deeper into the writing process. Look for a fellow author who can act as a sounding board for your work-in-progress! Once you've found a great person to work with, send sample chapters and ask for honest feedback. Even kids can be wonderful test readers for your first novel! Of course, if you really believe in your story, you should stay close to your original vision! However, valuable feedback can help you move forward and create something every child wants to read!

Being a children's book author can be fulfilling and just takes a lot of work and passion. You can do it!

About the author:

Heather C. Matthews is a published author and freelance writer based in Vancouver, BC. Her current children's novel, a young adult fantasy book, The Secret Of The Emerald Sea, is for sale at Amazon, Fictionwise, and OmniLit.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Guest review: "Dyslexia and Horatio Humble," by Karen Cioffi

Title: Horatio Humble Beats the Big "D"
Author: Margot Finke
Illustrator: Ellen Gurak
ISBN: 13: 978-1-61633-101-6
eBook ISBN: 13: 978-1-61633-102-3
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing

Horatio Humble Beats the Big "D" is a children's rhyming picture book that tackles dyslexia. For those who are unfamiliar with the term dyslexia, according to the Mayo Clinic, it is a brain impairment that hinders the "brain's ability to translate written images received from your eyes into meaningful language." And, it is the most common learning disability in children.

Margot Finke, in her usual insightful and playful way, shows the academic and emotional affects that dyslexia carries with it. Horatio, like all children with dyslexia, wants to read like his peers, but just can't. "Something was wonky within his poor head, so words in his books stayed a mystery instead."

The author captures the emotional impact a child feels when he can't read like others, which leads to: the need for special resources, tutoring, low self-esteem, and even anxiety.

With vivid full page illustrations Finke brings Horatio through the process of 'special class' and shows the outcome that can be attained with proper instruction. "Words came unscrambled and flowed smooth and clear. "

I've mentioned it before, and I'll do so again, I'm a fan of Margot Finke's work. She has a unique talent for approaching topics that children can use help with, such as moving away from familiar surroundings and friends, as in her book Ruthie and the Hippo's Fat Behind, and now with dyslexia. What's wonderful about Finke's books is she addresses these issues with lighthearted rhyming fun.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big "D" is a book every parent of a child who is struggling to read should get. It's important for children to know they're not alone in their struggles, and that dyslexia is a problem that CAN be overcome.

Included at the end of the story is a resource page that provides information on dyslexia and also offers links to pertinent articles, along with book suggestions. Listed in the information is the advice that encourages parents of children who have or are suspect of having dyslexia to let their children know it is not a sign of a lack of intelligence. These children should be told that actors/celebrities such as Tom Cruise, Orlando Bloom, Oprah Winfrey and Magic Johnson overcame dyslexia, as did Bill Gates and Albert Einstein.

According to statistics, one in five students (around 20% of the population) has a language based learning disability. And, less than one-third of the children with reading disabilities receive school services to help with their disability.

Reading Horatio Humble Beats the Big "D" with your dyslexic child is a valuable strategy to help with your child's self-esteem and motivation.

About the reviewer:

Karen is an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. She is on the team of DKV Writing 4 U; the creator and manager of VBT Writers on the Move; moderator of a children's writing critique group; and an acquisition editor intern.

Karen is a member of the Professional Writers Alliance; the International Association of Professional Ghostwriters; and the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors. She is also a member of SCBWI, Children's Writers Coaching Club, Writer's Market, Author's Den, and Jacket Flap. Here books include: Day's End Lullaby (a children's bedtime picture book) Walking Through Walls (a middle-grade fantasy chapter book) Writing for Children One Step at a Time (a 100+ page e-book) Writing, Publishing, and Marketing - You Can Do It (a 36 page e-book)

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.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Writing Lesson Plan - A Children's Writing Lesson Plan For Beginners," by Laura Backes

Since many aspiring children's book writers are also teachers, it might be a good idea to offer some advice in a familiar format -- a writing lesson plan. We'll develop this plan step-by-step.


Let's start our adventure with a look at the categories of children's books:

* Picture books -- In its broadest definition, a picture book is a book in which the illustrations play a significant role in telling the story. Under this umbrella are several types of books:

1. Baby Books -- For infants and young toddlers, these books are generally lullabies, nursery rhymes, fingerplays, or wordless books. The length and format varies with the content.

2. Toddler books -- Very simple stories for ages 1-3 (under 300 words) familiar to a child's everyday life, or concept books (teaching colors, numbers, shapes, etc.) Books are short (12 pages is average) and the format can be board books (sturdy paper-over board construction), pop-ups, lift-the flaps or novelty books (books that make sounds, have different textures, etc.) See the "Max" series of board books by Rosemary Wells (Dial).

3. Picture books -- Traditionally, picture books (also called "picture story books") are 32-page books for ages 4-8 (this age may vary slightly by publisher). Manuscripts are up to 1500 words, with 1000 words being the average length. Plots are simple (no sub-plots or complicated twists) with one main character who embodies the child's emotions, concerns and viewpoint. The illustrations (on every page or every other page) play as great a role as the text in telling the story. Occasionally a picture book will exceed 1500 words; this is usually geared toward the upper end of the age spectrum. Picture books cover a wide range of topics and styles. The list of Caldecott Medal winners, available from your library, is a good place to start your research. Nonfiction in the picture book format can go up to age 10, 48 pages in length, or up to about 2000 words of text.

4. Early picture books -- A term for picture books geared toward the lower end of the 4-8 age range. These stories are simple and contain under 1000 words. Many early picture books have been reprinted in the board book format, thus widening the audience. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (Philomel) is an example.

As we continue our writing lesson plan, we step up to a slighty older age group:

* Easy readers -- Also called "easy-to-read", these books are for children just starting to read on their own (age 6-8). They have color illustrations on every page like a picture book, but the format is more "grown-up" -- smaller trim size, sometimes broken into short chapters. The length varies greatly by publisher; the books can be 32-64 pages long, with 200-1500 words of text, occasionally going up to 2000 words. The stories are told mainly through action and dialogue, in grammatically simple sentences (one idea per sentence). Books average 2-5 sentences per page. See the "Amelia Bedelia" books by Peggy Parish or other "I Can Read" books published by Harper Trophy.

* Transition books -- Sometimes called "early chapter books" for ages 6-9, they bridge the gap between easy readers and chapter books. Written like easy readers in style, transition books are longer (manuscripts are about 30 pages long, broken into 2-3 page chapters), books have a smaller trim size with black-and-white illustrations every few pages. See "The Kids of the Polk Street School" series by Patricia Reilly Giff (Dell) or the "Stepping Stone Books" published by Random House.

* Chapter books -- For ages 7-10, these books are 45-60 manuscript pages long, broken into 3-4 page chapters. Stories are meatier than transition books, though still contain a lot of action. The sentences can be a bit more complex, but paragraphs are still short (2-4 sentences is average). Chapters often end in the middle of a scene to keep the reader turning the pages. Look at the "Herbie Jones" books by Suzy Kline (Puffin) and the "Ramona" books by Beverly Cleary (Morrow).

* Middle grade -- This is the golden age of reading for many children, ages 8-12. Manuscripts suddenly get longer (100-150 pages), stories more complex (sub-plots involving secondary characters are woven through the story) and themes more sophisticated. Kids get hooked on characters at this age, which explains the popularity of series with 20 or more books involving the same cast. Fiction genres range from contemporary to historical to science fiction/fantasy; nonfiction includes biographies, science, history and multicultural topics. Check out some middle grade novels from the list of Newberry Medal winners at your library to get you started.

Our final stop for this writing lesson plan is one of the hottest areas of publishing:

* Young adult -- For ages 12 and up, these manuscripts are 130 to about 200 pages long. Plots can be complex with several major characters, though one character should emerge as the focus of the book. Themes should be relevant to the problems and struggles of today's teenagers, regardless of the genre. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton defined young adult when it was first published in 1967; the Newbery Medal award list also contains many worthy titles. A new age category (10-14) is emerging, especially with young adult nonfiction. These books are slightly shorter than the 12 and up category, and topics (both fiction and nonfiction) are appropriate for children who have outgrown middle grade but aren't yet ready for the themes (fiction) or who aren't studying the subjects (nonfiction) of high school readers.

Back with Step 2 of our writing lesson plan soon! In the meantime, visit to learn about the right way to write stories and submit them to children's book publishers.

Laura Backes is the Publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Book Writers. Want to learn how to become a successful children's book author? Come hang with the Fightin' Bookworms at Whether is writing picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, finding children's book publishers -- or anything else -- you'll find all the answers at the CBI Clubhouse!

Monday, May 9, 2011

And the winner is....

Hi all,

The Spring Blog Carnival has finally come to an end. Thanks to all who participated!

The winner of my giveaway is.......................................

Mary Nellie!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Congrats, Mary! I'll be contacting you via email to get your mailing details so I can ship your prize.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Welcome to the Spring Blog Carnival!

I'm thrilled to participate in the Spring Blog Carnival!

The Spring Blog Carnival will run from May 1st to May 8th. Two hundred participating blogs will be offering book-related giveaways. If you're a book lover, don't miss it! There will be plenty of opportunities to win prizes. Winners will be announced on May 9th.

The carnival is being hosted by:

Candace’s Book Blog
Reading Angel
Pure Imagination
The Book Swarm

My giveaway will be an autographed hardcover copy of my latest children's picture book, Frederico, the Mouse Violinist!

To enter, become my blog follower and leave a comment at the bottom of this post. Additional entries:

'Like' my Facebook Fan Page

Subscribe to my blog (at the top of the right sidebar under my photo)

Good luck!

Here's a list of participating blogs: