Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writing Tips from Children's Author Michael Selden

My guest today is Michael Selden, author of the children's middle-grade novel, The Boy Who RanThe scenery is what he sees from his study window at 8500 ft. in the middle of a million acre park in a town called Woodland Park, Colorado, where he writes. 


Writing Tips.  I’m not sure I have many writing tips, its always been a fairly intuitive process for me, I don’t have a single process—sometimes I just start writing and sometimes I plot everything out.  I’m writing a book called I AM and have plotted or described eight other books in the works to different levels of maturity.

For I AM, I sat in a chair for two hours contemplating a plot. The story involves a comet, of sorts, on a collision course with the Earth, so I worked out the orbital elements of the comet, so I would understand where it was during each day of the story, then plotted other elements to parallel the course of the comet.  I put a lot of up front work into this and even plotted the orbit well enough to know what day it would strike the earth.  I also wrote down facts and characteristics for every character. This was unusual.  For THE BALANCE, I had an idea and a general plot; I knew what the forest looked like, but not the placement of specific trees and started with an incredibly literary chapter that needed to be toned down many times. The boy was a kind of theme-based story that evolved as I wrote, but with a deliberate rhythm to the sound of what was originally written—all different.

The main thing is to try to be true—true to the characters, to the story, and to make things as consistent as possible—beyond that, have fun.


Written by: Michael Selden
Publisher: Woodland Park Press LLC
Paperback: 160 pages
Ages: 8-12
ISBN-10: 1940640008
ISBN-13: 978-1940640006

Buy from AMAZON

About the Book

He was the sole survivor when his village was massacred. The boy spends his days alone in the woods feeling more of a kinship with animals than with the villagers who took him in but never really accepted him.
“To The People, he was an unexceptional looking boy, not especially tall, nor obviously talented. Few paid much attention to him if they thought of him at all. But the boy could move through the forest in a way that seemed almost magical – and he could run very, very fast.
For the boy, running was what was best in life. He sometimes ran across the wide open pastures to the west, even the wild animals might pause to look on at this strange human; to watch the lithe, smooth motion as he hurtled the rocks that seemed to grow from the soil. But it was in the woods where his talent was really special. He could run amazingly fast and in absolute silence through the densest forest without slowing. His body seemed to defy gravity as he slid between trees and through brush as though it were not there – a ghost. The boy saw and used his environment in three dimensions rather than the two that most people and animals perceived. This expanded vision provided him options the others didn’t notice, and he was as comfortable ascending and moving along paths high in the trees as he was on the ground.
There was a freedom and joy in his stride that belied his demeanor in the village. Nothing in the world was better than to run; and there was no place as special to run as the forest. It was his greatest pleasure and could lift the weight of his long sorrow like nothing else. No one could run like the boy, and no one but the boy knew this – it was his most important secret.”
THE BOY WHO RAN is a Middle Grade novel about a native American orphan finally attempting to find his place in the world. The story is set 6000 years ago in the mid-archaic period of North America.

Michael Selden has lived all around the world and has been an eyewitness to numerous historical events such as the building of the Berlin Wall. His father was a non-commissioned officer in the United States Air Force. Mike was graduated from St. Mary’s High School, Colorado Springs Colorado and later earned a degree in physics from the University of Florida.
He has worked as a research physicist, program manager, and principal investigator on numerous scientific and engineering efforts his career. He first developed technologies and techniques that helped expand our understanding of the earth and the earth-moon system and even to validate the relativity principle of equivalence.
Later, he led a number of advanced research and development efforts for key technologies and systems for the department of defense. Clients included NASA, ASI (The Italian Space Agency), the Japanese Space Agency, the Department of Defense, and the military. He also led two major efforts for DARPA, the Department of Defense’s advanced technology and systems development agency.
Besides his work in physics and the publications in technical journals, he has always had a keen interest in literature, particularly fiction, and he began writing short stories when he was twelve years old.
Having achieved the goals he set for himself in science and technology, Michael retired from his first career to pursue his other passion, writing, turning what had been a life-long avocation into a full-time pursuit.
In July 2013, Michael moved from Baltimore, Maryland to Woodland Park, Colorado, returning to the region where he went to high school, to write and publish books.
When he is not writing, reading or staying abreast of the latest developments in the world of physics, he likes to travel and hike, cook, and ride motorcycles, meet up with friends. He is learning how to fly-fish and hunt.
Find out more about Michael Selden and his book at

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Interview with Alinka Rutkowska, author of "Maya & Filippo"

Alinka Rutkowska is a "Reader's Favorite" Five Star Picture Book Author. She writes the "Maya & Filippo" Book Series for Children - travel books for kids with a positive attitude. She takes inspiration from her own travels while cruising with her husband and daughter around the world. She is positive, appreciative and happy 95% of the time and during the miserable 5% she thinks to herself quickly: "things always work out for me" and they do.

Alinka's doesn't really have a "to do" list but she does have a "fun things to do" list. It usually consists of writing, reading, reading her writing, writing in her diary, blogging, reading other blogs, commenting, breathing deeply, meditating, feeling the warmth of the sun on her skin, closing her eyes, breathing some more and thinking what a wonderful world she lives in.

Sometimes she takes a few minutes to pause and instead of doing something from her "fun things to do" list she just daydreams a little. She thinks of all the great things that she wants for her to happen and imagines how wonderful it will feel to be interviewed about them in the future. She's already preparing the answers to those interview questions in her mind. She especially loves the part, in which she says that she achieved all these things because she spent a considerable amount of time visualizing them first.

Alinka loves to ski while listening to music at the same time, she enjoys an occasional glass (or bottle) of Barolo with dark chocolate, she loves cuddling with her husband and daughter. Alinka really likes tea, especially that last sip which is usually the tastiest.
You can visit Alinka’s website at, where she blogs daily for parents, travelers and authors.

Connect & Socialize with Alinka: TWITTER * FACEBOOK  * GOODREADS

Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it? 
Back in 2010 I stepped out of my comfort zone and left my well-paid corporate job for a one year sabbatical. I took off for the other side of the world, which for me was New Zealand. I was traveling all by myself so I had plenty of time to observe and reflect. I noticed that the more positive my attitude was, the better experiences I was attracting. I went on a cruise from Auckland in New Zealand to Sydney in Australia and I was shocked when I found out that it was almost all couples and families traveling on board. I quickly reset my thinking and started to expect the best from that cruise. And guess what? I met my husband on that journey! 
Through my children’s book Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland I want to convey this positive outlook to the little ones. The two main characters, Maya and Filippo, visit Auckland and discover a funny thing: the more they complain - the worse their day turns out. They try to change their thinking to check if this would change what happens to them. In the meantime, they also see the main tourist attractions of New Zealand’s capital city. 
Tell us about your children's books. 
Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland is only the first of a whole series of Maya and Filippo’s adventures. Each story takes place in a different port and the children always learn something positive while discovering a new city. 
I am proud to share that the first two books of the series, Maya & Filippo Make Friends in Auckland and Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea, received five star reviews from Readers’ Favorite and are being printed with their seal of excellence on the cover. 
I have great faith in this series. I am submitting the books to various competitions because I strongly believe that they are gold medal material. They will also be displayed at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in March, where I hope to attract foreign publishers and get the series translated into several other languages. 
I know that my enthusiasm might seem excessive at times, but if I don’t believe in myself, then who will? 
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it? Some writers go on long walks, others keep a journal, write at a cafĂ©, or listen to music. What do you do for inspiration and unleashing your creativity? 
First of all, I let an idea for a book marinate in my head for several days or weeks before I start writing. I always know what my characters will learn and which places they will visit. 
My routine is always the same. First I arrange for an undisturbed writing session, which usually means that my daughter has to be asleep. Then I make sure that I have a clear mind. In order to do that I have a little meditation session before I get to work. I sit with my spine straight and take several deep breaths or I watch a little video I made myself for inspiration: it’s got music that raises my spirit, images that I love and some very powerful affirmations. When I feel ready I turn on the type of music that suits me at the moment and I pour everything on paper, errr, screen. 
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works? 
I blog daily about exceptional living at The site is clearly divided into sections for parents, travelers and authors and each of these groups will find some great material. 
What are you working on now? 
Writing, publishing and promoting. I love what I do and I want to do more of it. I will be writing more Maya & Filippo episodes. 
The first batch to be published will be books from my travels in New Zealand:
Maya & Filippo Play Chef at Sea
Maya & Filippo Look for Happiness in Tauranga
Maya & Filippo See Impossible Things in the Garden City
Maya & Filippo Learn about Careers in Dunedin
and Alaska:
Maya & Filippo Talk Business in Seattle
Maya & Filippo Look for Whales in Ketchikan
Maya & Filippo Visit a Glacier
Maya & Filippo See Things Differently in Skagway 
I’ve already written these and the artwork for the covers is also complete, so they will all have been published by mid 2015. 
I am now going to Hawaii and I will definitely not come back empty-handed. I think I will also include a few European ports in my future books. We are talking about 2015-2016 here. 
Each book requires copy-editing, illustrations, coloring and graphic design. I have a team of people with whom I work closely to get each book ready for publication. After that I spend my free hours spreading the word out. I want this series to get to people who will appreciate it and that’s a full time job! 
Where are your books available? 
Amazon and all the other portals, in brick and mortar stores and - this is new and this is huge - I landed a deal with one of the biggest cruise lines - they will be carrying my titles in their boutiques on board! 
What was your experience in working with an illustrator? 
I was lucky - I immediately liked my illustrator’s work. Since Maya & Filippo is a picture book series, the drawings are a major component. We sat side by side as Konrad, my illustrator created the artwork for the first two books and we discussed everything that should be in the pictures. Now we understand each other so well that I just send him the text and he sends back the final illustrations. They are nearly always even better than I would have imagined. 
What type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share? 
This is a new series, with the first book released at the end of November 2013, but I’ve been doing plenty of promotion. Most of it still “behind the scenes though.”
The visible stuff is:
-   Readers’ Favorite Five Star seal of excellence on the cover.
-   First Virtual Blog Tour (this interview is part of it).
-   Book trailers - I learnt to create my own.
-   Blogging.
-   Social networking.
-   Soliciting reviews.
-   Joining SCBWI.
-   Joining a writer’s group.
Behind the scenes:
-   Contacting retailers and getting my book into various book stores.
-   Going digital.
-   Getting ready for book fairs.
-   Participating in book contests.
-   More blog tours, interviews and guest posts.
You can check out my article Book Marketing 101 to deepen your knowledge on this subject. I also regularly report out on what’s working and what’s not - you are a welcome guest at my blog at
About the Book:

Embark on a one-of-a-kind, unprecedented, breathtaking adventure with Maya and Filippo as they travel around the globe on board the “Fun Princess” — a cruise ship full of surprises. Discover their fascinating ports of call, find out what the local customs and traditions are, join the kids in activities at sea, and explore the remarkable world they create through the power of their positive outlook.

This time Maya and Filippo discover Auckland and meet different kinds of people depending the book to find out! Spoiler alert: the kids ride a big hop-on, hop-off explorer bus, where strange things happen. They stop at the famous Sky Tower, where they do something very exciting.


Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Writing Tips from Children’s Author Susanna Leonard Hill

Today I’m hosting Day 4 of a 5-day virtual tour for Susanna Leonard Hill's new book, Punxsutawney Phyllis. In this post, Susanna offers some tips for writers.


As with all things, writing comes easier to some than others.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with lots of kids on their writing, and it’s shown me that kids have a lot to share and many of them are very talented at expressing themselves.
But all of us – even professionals – can use a little help from time to time J
Whether you’re someone who loves to write or someone who needs a little help when it comes to writing, here are some things you can try:
Try to think of writing as something fun.  When you write stories, you can make everything the way you want it to be (something most kids don’t get to do in real life J)  You’re in complete control!  You create the characters.  You build the world.  Whatever you say goes!
Just as there are lots of different kinds of reading, there are lots of different kinds of writing.  Some people like to write about factual things (non fiction).  Others like to make up stories (fiction).  Still others like to write comic strips or graphic novels or poetry.  Some people like to write long novels and others like to write short magazine articles.  Some people just like to keep a journal or diary of their everyday life.  Try everything and see what you like best J
Writing can be a way of expressing yourself and your feelings, just like music or art can be.  Sometimes writing can help you process something difficult, like a fight with a friend or the loss of a pet.  Other times writing can be a way to try out something you’d never actually do in real life – you can make your character do it J  You can also write things that are scary or funny or sweet depending on the kind of mood you’re in.
Write what you want to read.  Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written, then you must write it.”
Keep a journal when you go on vacation or to camp or to visit your grandparents.  Going somewhere new can give you great ideas for settings and plots in your stories.  But write down details.  You think you’ll remember everything, but you probably won’t – at least not in the detail you need for writing well.
Write about something you love or find fascinating – dinosaurs, pets, adventure, fantasy etc.
Story Starters from Scholastic ( – ideas to jumpstart stories!
Scribblit ( – write and publish your own book!
StoryJumper ( – write and illustrate your own story!
SPILLING INK: A YOUNG WRITER’S HANDBOOK by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter is a great book about writing.
Have fun! J

Susanna (Leonard) Hill is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)
Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean. Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015.
Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Some Writing Tips from Children’s Author Sally O. Lee

Today I’m hosting Day 4 of a 5-day virtual tour for Sally O. Lee’s new book, Pop! Pop! Bam! Bam! In this post, Sally offers some tips for writers.
Sally O. Lee’s Writing Tips
If you are interested in writing a book, go for it! That is my first bit of advice. It doesn't do any good to have the manuscript and/or illustrations sitting in your file cabinet forever. No one can read it there.
* There are many ways to go forward. You can send your manuscript to a big-time publisher(s) and wait and see and hope for the best. If you are frustrated and want to get going on your project, then try a self-publishing company. There are many of them out there to choose from. I use Createspace, and I have been very happy with them. Because I do my own writing and illustrations and know how to do layout, then I can upload the print-ready files myself. They also have a-la-carte items like illustrators, editors, reviewers, etc. that you can pay for that can help you publish your book. The initial upload is free but the rest costs money.
* Once you get all these details ironed out, now you have the book on- line and you think, now what? To sit back and wait for millions of copies to be sold on Amazon most likely won't happen. This is where you need to give a little blood and sweat to get the ball rolling.
* Some of the things you can do are library readings, school readings, mailings, a gnarly web site, etc. Libraries love to promote local authors and will do everything they can to help you. It doesn't hurt to give a copy or two of your book to the library.
* If you do mailings, I suggest Vistaprint. They are inexpensive, very professional, and you can either upload your own files or choose from many selections on their web site. I have made postcards, posters, banners, t-shirts, hats, mugs, business cards, flyers, and more from them.
* Invest in a nice web site. This promotes your books and if it is clean and easy to read and fun, it is a great way to get the word out. You can design a web site on your own. I use, and I am very happy with them. But there are many of them out there to choose from.
* If you want to copyright your book, you can find the Washington, DC Copyright office on Google, and it only costs about $30, and you just send them 2 copies and the form.
* Submit your book to various award submissions. There are a ton of them out there, and the Caldecott is not the only one! Once you get on a few mailing lists, you will be plugged in.
* I think this sums it up. Good luck. It is very satisfying and gets it off your coffee table.
With all the publishing options today, it is not hard anymore to get your book published. And you can basically publish it for free! It is also important to note that after you publish your book, you can’t sit around and wait for miracles to happen. You need to get your book out there and no one else is going to do it for you unless you have a publisher. So books readings and mailings can be very important. 
About Sally O. Lee
Award-winning author, Sally O. Lee earned her BA in Studio Art and Art History (with distinction) from Colby College and then went on to study graphic design and painting in Boston (Art Institute of Boston) and in New York City (New York Studio School). She has had several shows of her work and received an art grant from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology to conceive and create a series of paintings, and from this came her 2002 exhibition- A Journey Into Abstraction. Some of Ms. Lee’s paintings are in various private collections in the US.
In recent years, Ms. Lee has begun to write and illustrate children’s books. Some of them deal with the struggles of living with some form of handicap…or, as the author prefers to call it, imperfection. Many of her illustrations have been published and she has earned both academic and public recognition for her important work in children’s books. She has had illustrations published in Worldlink Magazine, IEEE Magazine, and several other publications. Sally has illustrated and written 29 books for children.
About the Book
School shootings are a topic no one wants to talk about, especially with young children. Yet, they do occur, so many young children are fearful. This is the story of an angry man who goes in to a school with a gun and hurts people. It is also a story about those who survived and how they coped.
Find out more about Sally O. Lee and her books at

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interview with Elizabeth Woodrum, author of 'Maisy and the Missing Mice'

Elizabeth Woodrum is a full time elementary teacher in Ohio. She began writing as early as when she was in elementary school, but more recently began writing material for use in her classroom. From that writing, grew the desire to write books for the general population of children and adults alike. The Maisy Files, a children's series, is the first series that she has published. The series currently has one book, Maisy and the Missing Mice. Elizabeth plans to add more books to the series, and would also like to publish books for adults in the future.

As a reader, Elizabeth prefers the fantasy genre, but she enjoys realistic fiction as well. Some of her favorite authors include JK Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Rick Riordan, Veronica Roth, Suzanne Collins, and Nicholas Sparks.

Originally from Indiana, Elizabeth currently resides near Dayton, Ohio with her two pets: a cat named Butterscotch and a dog named Reese Cup

You can view more about Elizabeth Woodrum at

Connect & Socialize with Elizabeth!
Congrats on the release of your book, Elizabeth! Tell us, do you consider yourself to be a born writer?
I do consider myself to be a born writer.  Writing is something that has always come naturally to me. 
Tell us about your recent release. What was your inspiration for it?
My first book in my new series, The Maisy Files, is called Maisy and the Missing Mice.  It is the first in a planned series titled The Maisy Files.  I am a fourth grade teacher and my inspiration actually came while creating materials for my classroom.  I had had created a short text with questions and really liked the character, who was actually named Millie at that time.  So, I used that short text as the inspiration for my book.  I was also inspired by my little dog, Reese Cup.  Maisy’s dog in the book, Reesie, is modeled after my own dog. 
Are you a disciplined writer? What is your working style? I would not say I am incredibly disciplined.  I do have a process in which I map out the major plot points, but then I just write and insert the major points at a natural place in the story. But, I have to be in a creative mood to write.  If I force myself to sit and write with a goal of getting to a certain point, I find that I rush.  So, I tend to organize my thoughts and then I work at a natural pace.  I do always have an end date in mind, but I’m not too hard on myself if I miss it.  I’d rather be happy with my work than meet a deadline. 
Do you have a website/blog where readers may learn more about you and your works?
I do have a website at  My website has information about The Maisy Files, including sample chapters and a sample of the audiobook. There are also Maisy games that can be played.  
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on the second book in The Maisy Files series.  I hope to have it out in late February or early March. 
Where are your books available?
My books are available through at  It is available in paperback, Kindle, and audio book editions.  It can also be found at and other book selling sites, such as 
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?
I just want to say that I hope you will all check out Maisy and the Missing Mice! It’s a great, short read for elementary aged students.  They might be a little biased, but many of my own students have read it and told me that they enjoyed it.  It’s mostly aimed at girls in grades 2-5.  It’s a great little mystery with unique twists that haven’t been seen before.  If you or your children enjoy books like The Nancy Drew books or The Boxcar Children, then you’ll enjoy The Maisy Files!

Maisy Sawyer is not your average fourth grade student. She is a detective with a special skill for solving mysteries. She loves black and white mystery movies, cherry lollipops, and her dog, Reesie. When a thief known as The Black Boot steals the school's mascots and her lollipops, Maisy sets out to solve the case. Can she help return the mice to their home in the science lab? Will she ever see her beloved lollipops again? Find out in the first book in The Maisy Files series.


Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE.