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“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

This is why I love literature. Examining lives. Reading allows me to live beyond my own skin and time, stepping into a different world, exploring what it’s like to be someone else, with different expectations, different family, different abilities.

When I meet people who don’t read, I feel nervous. Not only do they not appreciate the hobby I hold dear to my heart, they also are lacking all the experiences gained from reading stories, biographies & autobiographies. They know nothing of making friends, or the art of communication, and becoming an influential person because they’ve read nothing on how to be great. The political world, the history of the world, the scientific studies…all are lost on those poor souls who don’t read.

But they watch TV and are informed, they say.

Yeah, right. That’s like saying, “I watched a documentary about Adolf Hitler and now know everything I need to know about leadership.”

Books, be it on paper or an electronic device, offer a different type of education. It requires the reader to do just one thing – read. In our society of multi-tasking – one of the worst things to happen, in my opinion – reading requires stillness, peace, and dedication. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or studying for a greater depth in understanding about a particular subject, reading is a focused skill that is the heart and soul of the human race.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

It’s likely that Plato wasn’t talking about reading when he wrote this. I imagine that he is expressing a need for the individual to spend time each day reflecting on our actions, words, conflicts, triumphs and plans for the next day.

The advantage to adding reading to this examination of life is looking into other hearts, minds, and goals of other people. Whether they are fictional or historical, the nature of the human heart is to find happiness. Without a proper examination of life, how can we discover what will make us happy?

A few years ago, my two oldest daughters read Pride and Prejudice. It’s fiction, not a scientific study. It’s not an adventure or a fantasy. It’s a novel about manners. It’s an examination of different types of women and their role in family, society, and grace. From that reading, my daughters decided to practice self-control when talking to boys, lest they sound like Lydia and end up with her lot in life…which wasn’t much. My daughters were captivated by the language, the intelligence of their communication, the patience they exercised. They saw the happiness the characters gained at the end of the story and knew that that’s what they wanted for themselves.

In my hopes of raising daughters, I have often spoken (and try to model) self-control, patience and the virtue of purity. But my words are just words; and while actions do speak louder, there is something about it being spoken by a parent that renders the lesson moot. It takes an outsider to cause the lessons to stick; someone who has earned their trust, someone who doesn’t tell them to pick up their dirty socks or to make their beds. Outsiders can, for better or worse, teach children far better than parents. If the outsiders are the characters from books, readers can extend their experiences, their knowledge, and their friends (personally, my greatest lessons in friendship came from books – the most difficult lessons from my own life.)

In the moments spent between the lines of a story, readers can practice behaviors without actually hurting anyone. The behaviors of characters, of historical figures, even of creatures in books (think Gollum), shadows our own. But what do we do with those characters in our reality?

In the Catholic faith, we are encouraged to do a nightly examination of conscience: How did I do today? Did I live for God? Whom did I serve? What did I sacrifice? What did I give? Did I spend time in prayer and with scripture? Where did I fall short? What can I do differently tomorrow?

Regardless of faith, these same questions crack open a whole new way of looking the way people live. As we examine our days, we discover our weaknesses. Knowing our weaknesses leads us to overcome them in strengths. Exercising our strengths allows us to understand that we need proper information to become better people. Better information leads us to Wisdom. Wisdom will save the world.

An exercise that fell short:
 Years ago, in high school I believe, I was asked where I thought I would be and what I would be doing in 10 years. I don’t remember my answer specifically, but I’m sure it was something to the tune of: good job, happily married, a baby, nice car, nice home, annual vacations.

If I ask myself that question now – Where do I see myself in 10 years? – I’m looking at a 50-something year-old woman. While the question is a starting point, it doesn’t examine the deeper questions: What do I want for that 50-something year old woman? Am I robbing that older woman of her gifts and talents by the things I’m doing today? What I can save for her that will help her in the future? What can I do that will make that older lady happy, secure, and strong?

In examining my future, I can focus my plans for today. If I picture myself in 10 years as a woman living completely off the choices I make each and every day from now until then, how different do you think I will choose to live?

What I do today will determine my success in the future. My goals for today, this week, next month, and the coming year will all add up into something great…or, if they exist in an “unexamined life”, will lead to a failed existence.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato

I was invited to take part in this Blog Tour by Jennifer Chow, a fellow author Martin Sisters Publishing, author of The 228 Legacy, and a woman who understands the power of books reviews as she took the time to read my book, Unforgettable Roads, and leave a review on Goodreads!

I started reading Jennifer’s book and was immediately intrigued. Her style is fresh and thought provoking – you won’t be disappointed!

In doing my due diligence to see just where this blog tour has stopped, I’m humbled. There are some really great authors out there who have taken the time to make a ‘stop’ on this tour, and many more whom I can’t wait to meet – both in terms of a face-to-face encounter and within their writing.

Blog Hop – Writing Processes

What am I working on?

I will admit here that I’m slightly ADD. When people ask this question, I usually keep it simple and just share that I’m still writing. In truth, I have 4-5 different writing projects going. I don’t think that that I’m unique in this – I can think of no career where a person would only work on one project until it’s finished. For some reason, people are surprised to hear that writers don’t write just one book at a time.

Currently, I’m editing and polishing the sequel to my first book, Gateways. I’m still working on a title, but I have been calling it Maps but I’m leaning towards, The Elder’s Circle. I have a wonderful writing partner that I’m meeting with twice a week to work on a book titled, Retreat, a woman’s survival story in the back woods of Northern Wisconsin. After hours of editing or Retreating (our term for our work on this book), I switch gears to another novel, Circle of Pride. Using the seven deadly sins, I’m working on a series (yep, 7 books) about two foster brothers who are targeted by people possessed by these sins. Wanna sneak peek?

Why do I write what I do?

I write to bring Christian values to teens and young adults without the preachy, shoved down the throat lessons. As difficult as failure is, I really do think it is the best lesson and my characters all suffer good-intentions turned bad as the means to become the person they are meant to be. Let’s be honest, if every character acted on 20-20 maturity, there would be no story. The mistakes we make add to our character, our understanding, and our compassion.
As a mother and a reader, I’m disheartened by the amount of fantasy available that makes death look appealing. A young girl at our church, who comes only because she wants to spend that time with her grandmother, told me that she really would love to become a zombie.
What?
I know nothing of the current trend of zombie books and movies, but it’s my understanding that zombies are dead and quite horrifying. The fact that she wants to become one…well, needless to say, I’m confused about her life goals.
I am saddened by the changes happening in the world. I’m sure we can all agree that the world we live in now is not as healthy as the world into which we were born. Perhaps it appears a bit lofty for me to hope that my writing can make a difference in that, but that’s exactly what I hope. Stories are the language of the soul. If we feed our soul on dark stories, we become burdened. If we inspire our souls with stories that lead to truth (even difficult truth) and hope, our souls become light.

How does my writing process work?

Here is what I wish I could answer honestly:
I start with a scene in mind, a skill that is uncannily simple for me, and with a glass of something bubbly in hand, I sit on the deck of my vacation home and plan out the story in its entirety. With my insanely organized mind, I plot each chapter with character notes, plot, and theme. Then, as the waves roll up on the beach outside, I click away contentedly on my laptop, laughing at my jokes, crying at the emotion of scenes. About three or four months later, I submit my work to my agent, who prepares to battle the onslaught of publishers who are knocking down her door for my latest work.

Here’s the truth:
Sometimes I do start with a scene in mind and toil for months to create a story that develops from that. Mostly, I start with a theme or a purpose for the story first. Once I’ve established setting and a basic plot, I turn to research to enhance my understanding of that time period and location.
I do use an outline to plot points, but it’s an outline that inspires fear for any Type A personality – giant sheets of paper that I tape to the wall of my dining room, I sketch out the story as the ideas come and link them together with lines. In education, it’s called brainstorming. To my family, it looks like a mess. To me, it’s perfect.
Being a homeschooling mom of four and a wife who also runs a business with her husband, my time to write is the only strict schedule I follow. I squeeze in an hour every day for writing or reading, but every Thursday afternoon, my husband is home and I disappear. In order to make the most of that time, I do have to keep a running To-Do List with deadlines. It’s this To-Do List that determines the success of each week of writing. If I know what scenes need work, have a few resources to read to keep me motivated and in the loop of the writing and publishing world, then my time that is dedicated to writing is much more focused and effective. If I just sit down to write, I accomplish nothing.
It’s possible that I’m in the running for being the slowest writer, needing several years to complete a manuscript.
Currently, I don’t have an agent. I have been published through a small publishing house, Martin Sisters Publishing. I have also self-published a two other books. The process for both of those avenues to publishing is very different, but both were fulfilling.

Meet Virginia Ripple

I’m tagging Virginia Ripple as the next author in this Blog Tour. She’s an incredibly gifted writer and a true support for other writers. You can check out her writing and mission at www.virginiaripple.com.

 

 

Over the last several months, and for months to come, I’ve been interviewing authors who have self-published their work or have published through small publishing houses. From each, I’m amazed by the mission behind each book and the hopes of the author to share a theme. I have learned something valuable from each – and the trend continues this week with Virginia Ripple.

If you are a fan of fantasy and also appreciate authors who include their faith, then Virginia’s books are certainly for you!

2Apprentice Cat Toby with mysterious eyes

1. In your biography on your website, you shared something that really struck home – While working part-time as a Religious Education Director and writing the other half “the teeter totter of passions unbalanced” your life and you found yourself writing less. Many people reading this will find encouragement that they are not alone in feeling frustrated with not having enough time to write. What changes have you made to your life-style, your career, and your passions that open up the 24 hours to more writing time?

I learned a lot during my time in ministry about what it means to be Called into God’s service. Sometimes others see our hard work and think, “Wow! She really has a heart for (fill in the blank). She should do it full-time.” If we’re not aware of what our true purpose is, then we might go along with their well-meaning suggestion and then suffer because we’re not doing what God planned for us to do. It took me the better part of seven years to figure that out and another four years to understand what doing my particular ministry meant in terms of what I spent time on.

I’m still learning and evolving as a servant writer, and sometimes I fail miserably, choosing to do something as mundane as doing a marathon watch of a particular television show instead of spending that time working toward the goal of producing another book. However, I now divide my work days between writing (and all those things involved in being an indie author) and the daily tasks I need to do in order to live like anyone else, such as going to my part-time day job. No matter what self-imposed deadline I have, though, I make sure to spend the evenings with my family and force myself to leave writing in my office during the weekends, especially Sundays. I take my Sabbaths seriously, because without that rest, we can’t accomplish what God has planned for us.

 

2. Tell us about your novels, Apprentice Cat, Journeyman Cat, and Huntress of the Malkin.

Secrets-of-the-Malkin

When I was in seminary, trying to find ways to make a little extra money so we could survive, I was naturally drawn back into writing. Although I wrote several short stories (none of which ever made me any money, btw), one stuck with me. The story was about a young tom who had entered a Harry Potter like magic school and was paired with a human that never wanted to do his homework like he was supposed to. This human always wanted to race ahead of what he was being taught and it constantly got the pair into trouble with the head masters of the school. It was just a scene, really, nothing very deep or meaningful went on in it, but for some reason, Toby and his partner Lorn kept coming back to me whenever I sat down to write anything new.

 

Flash forward a few years to just before my eldest was born and I decided to dive into this new thing I’d heard about — self-publishing. It was no longer a vanity thing. People were actually making money. Ereaders were starting to become a big thing and I thought, “What have I got to lose?” Still, I didn’t know what I could write about and I was still trying to figure out how to blend my desire to write with the Call I felt on my heart to serve in ministry. The first book I wrote was actually a Bible study, something that came about from a need my church had for an adult VBS class. I’m glad I did it, but it wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I was left wondering if I would ever find that balance.

 

Then one night, as I was going through some old stories, Toby padded into my life again. Why couldn’t I expand his story? Of course, the original didn’t have any of the Christian hallmarks. It was straight fantasy. But who was to say it couldn’t become a Christian fantasy? So I started working on it. It took a year and a half to finish, but when it was done, the pieces sort of fell into place. Now I knew how to blend my Calling with my passion.

 

Since then, I’ve worked toward weaving Christian themes into each of my books. For instance, Toby’s story is ultimately the story of learning forgiveness. This tom has a lot of tragedy to deal with from the disappearance of his father to the terrible thing that happens to his mother. Add to that the things he himself must do in Journeyman Cat, things his very soul rebels at, in order to complete his mission and you have a cat that has much to learn about forgiveness — for himself and others. In Master Cat, we get to see how all this weighs on him and what he must ultimately do for his own spiritual peace.

 

Nadine’s storyline is about taking a timid she-cat and showing her how to follow the path God has planned for her. She’s expecting someone else to solve the problems she sees around her in the post-plague world. God, on the other hand, has a different idea of how it should be dealt with.

 

In many ways, both these characters are living out and working through issues I’ve dealt with myself. I wish I could say I’ve come out on the other side of these challenges and now I know exactly how to face all the problems life throws at me, but I’m still learning. I think that’s part of this whole ministry. While I’m serving God and, hopefully, helping others find a way to work through their own life challenges, God is working in my own life, changing me in ways that make me more like the person God knows I can be, the one God wants me to be.

 

3. The pool of Christian Fantasy writers is sadly, quite small. Does this fact provide an obstacle or a boon to publication and marketing success?

 

Both.

 

I don’t write what’s considered typical Christian Fantasy. Generally speaking, magic is frowned upon in Christian literature, so what I write isn’t always deemed acceptable in those circles. However, fantasy, with magic and all the other bits of wonder it includes, is what I love to read. Growing up, it was nearly impossible to find Christian Fantasy with those fantastical elements in it that didn’t seem childish at best. Yet, the regular fantasy lacked the positive world-view I yearned for. It wasn’t until I read about how C.S.Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien wrote their wonderful stories and called them Christian that I began to see that there was something more.

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen Lord of the Rings labeled as Christian Fantasy, but, according to Tolkien, it is. I think it’s a disservice to Christian Fantasy as a whole not to call a story what it is, but often, for one reason or another, what would otherwise be labeled as such is simply stuck in the pot with all fantasy. I know other writers who do that because they fear they won’t sell as well with the Christian Fantasy label, which is a shame.

 

The niche I’ve chosen is smaller, but so are the sales. That means that, while it might be easier to find in the CF category, most of my sales will be primarily from people who are acquainted with me or that niche.

 

As with all things in life, you thank God for the good and ask God to help you meet the challenges.

 

4. Imagine you are standing in a room of young people that have just read your book. One of them asks who inspired you to write. What is your answer?

 

I’ve always been a story-teller, so I don’t know who my original inspiration was. However, every author I’ve read and movie or television series I’ve seen has influenced the progression my writing has taken.

 

In high school, I read a lot of Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar series. Her book , By the Sword, particularly inspired me to write in strong female characters. I don’t create shrinking violets or male-dependent love interests. My characters have their flaws, yes, but it’s usually not the screaming meemies or the weeping willows.

 

The Christian turns in my writing were heavily influenced by Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both of these books scared the daylights out of me when I was a kid. I loved the depth and reality of the spiritual forces, as well as the nail-biting “will he/she survive this encounter” as the characters faced the opposing human force. The best part of either of those books was the enduring hope you’re left with at the end. God loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done. It’s a message I hope readers pick up in my works, too.

 

The mystery elements of my writing come from various mystery books and shows from the Joe Grey mysteries to Sherlock on BBC television.

 

And I have to admit that Toby’s story originated from my fascination and love of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. That’s not to say I tried to mimic her wonderful world, but I did borrow a few things for Apprentice Cat, like the magical boarding school idea and the beloved head master taking a student under his wing.

 

5. What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? Speaking personally, I’m always looking for new ideas and am eager to learn from those who have succeeded. What have you tried, what didn’t work, and what does work for you?

 

At first I tried to cram everything into whatever free time I could carve out for myself. That’s a recipe for frustration and procrastination. After my eldest was born, I tried squeezing it all in a scheduled hour or two before spending time with my husband just before we went to bed. That led to being over-tired and cranky.

 

After my daughter started half-day’s in preschool, I was able to get four solid hours of work done before I had to go to my day job. This, so far, has worked best, especially since I pretend that I’m going to a regular 9 to 5 job as soon as I walk in my front door after dropping her at school. On my days off from my day job, I spend the mornings doing the highest priority work, like drafting or editing the next book, and the afternoons on more business tasks, like marketing and administrative tasks, and research.

 

The next step I took was purchasing a Galaxy Tab 10.2 in 2012 with a bluetooth keyboard. That has been the best business purchase I’ve made to date. I can now extend my writing time to the afternoons at my day job and kill the down time between customers with some massive productivity. In fact that’s what helped me win the 2012 and 2013 NaNoWriMo. Combined with my smartphone, I can work on both writing and business anywhere, anytime.

 

As for the actual drafting of any of my books, it wasn’t until I read James Scott Bell Plot & Structure and Conflict & Suspense that I really got the hang of it and the process got faster. I’m a plotter by nature, so Bell’s various ways of plotting made getting my ideas down so much quicker and efficient. And while the old adage “chase your character up a tree and throw rocks at him” might be one way of creating suspense and conflict, it just didn’t make sense to me. It wasn’t logical. When I read Bell’s Conflict & Suspense the “ah-ha” moment arrived with a giant Acme lightbulb. It’s not just throwing your character into challenging situations; it’s about finding the tension point — the “what’s the worst that could happen” moment — and then building the next scenes from that. I highly recommend both these books to anyone wanting to stuff some more tools in their writer’s toolbox.

 

6. Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

 

I sort of had this “If you build it, they will come” image in my mind. I wouldn’t say that’s a bad thing because if I’d known then just how much work getting in front of an audience is, I might not have finished Apprentice Cat.

 

Since then, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that goes on for an indie author to succeed that has nothing to do with writing or editing. The writing and editing, for me, is the easy part. It’s the marketing and social networking that’s tough. Over time, though, I’ve managed to make some great friends who have helped me figure it all out and who continue to inspire me to greater things.

 

7. You also have written two bible studies titled, Simply Prayer and Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives. Who would benefit from these books? Why did you write them?

 

Fear Not! Discovering God’s Promises For Our Lives is a basic Bible study I put together when I was asked to teach an adult vacation Bible study class several years ago. Someone wanting to get a deeper understanding of the scriptures might find it useful, especially after doing the meditation exercises, which I designed with different learning styles in mind. I’ve posted several of the lessons on my blog for people to use for free.

 

It’s part of my mission to aid others in developing a closer relationship with God, and I believe accessing the scriptures is an integral part of doing that. That’s one of the main reasons I wrote Fear Not! and later Simply Prayer, which is a guidebook on different methods of prayer and what real prayer looks like. When it comes to knowing God, people often see not a loving Being wanting to have a close relationship, but rather the white, bearded man on the Sistine Chapel. I would like to help others realize there’s more to God than a wrath-filled judge or magic genie.

8. Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

 

Be still and know that I am God. — Psalm 46:10

 

In our hurried lives, we so often forget to breath. I love this scripture because it reminds me that stillness is part of balance, that to hear God, we only need to quiet ourselves and listen. I suppose that’s why I love the labyrinth my husband mows into our backyard every year. It offers me a chance to find a moment of quiet in the middle of the rush of life. If I had one wish, it would be that everyone could find a quiet place they could retreat to every day.

 

9. You blog is a eclectic collection of thoughts, scripture, writing and marketing tips. I noticed you do a ‘Wordless Wednesday’ post, which I really enjoyed! How has blogging contributed (or not) to your writing, marketing, and in building a platform?

 

My blog has evolved over the years as I’ve worked to discover how my Calling could reach out to others. As my tagline suggests, it is a glimpse into the heart of one of God’s servants. For a while, I spent so much time on the blog, I lost valuable time producing books. It wasn’t until I realized how unhappy I was that I decided to slow down and re-think the direction I was taking.

 

About two years ago, I decided to switch gears and blog irregularly, focusing mostly on book reviews, as a way for my readers to find good books to read and as a service to other writers. I struggled during that time with a desire to do what would be called sermons in an church setting. I didn’t know how to go about it or even if it was worth doing, not to mention the fear of letting the world hear my voice outside the pages of a book or blog post.

 

Then this year, I decided to take the plunge. I researched podcasting methods and drew up a plan for a once a month inspirational message. I also added the monthly Bible study. I don’t know the exact numbers for my audience on those particular posts, but the number of downloads have been promising. To me, that says I’m on the right track for building a platform that will help me reach out to others who are hurting or simply want to see God in a slightly different way.

 

I’m always looking for new ways to show God’s love to people, so I’m sure my blog, as well as my newsletter, will continue to change and grow. I think that’s what’s important. Do what you’re Called to do and the rest will follow in God’s time.

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Connect with Virginia!

When I first started the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview Series, I knew I would meet all types of writers from all over the country and the world. I’ve been amazed by the stories they write, their candid honesty about the writing process, and their willingness to share secrets of their craft with others. How often in other businesses do you find people in the same business so willing to help one another? The ‘secret sauce’ and the ‘family recipe’ are well guarded to keep that something special an exclusive right.

Not so with stories.

I am amazed by the writers who have come to share their work – and now I am humbled by Nikki Rosen, author of In the Eye of Deception: A True Story, Dancing Softly, Twisted Innocence, and No Hope? Know Hope: A Healing Journey.

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Nikki has won awards for her writing, and rightly so. Her story captivated me, and it will do the same for you.

Nikki, thank you for writing! Your story, In the Eye of Deception, was a heart-wrenching and beautiful roller coaster. With a website titled Write 2 Empower  you clearly have a message and a mission. Would you share with us the birth of your writing and what you are accomplishing with your work?

I never met to write and publish a book. Something happened that threw me back into the memories. I wrote to get the images out of my head. Strangely, I connected with an award winning author who believed in my writing and in my story. She wanted me to publish but I didn’t want to at the time. Her and I went back and forth for six months before I decided if I were to write my story, it has to be something that would give hope to others who are where I was, living in the darkness, with no hope of anything ever changing for the good. I found that writing gave me my voice, a way to ‘speak’ what I hadn’t been able to say.

 

Not only am I amazed by your story, but your writing style is obviously an incredible gift. What kinds of resources or training did you have in preparation (or to improve) for writing?

I had no training to write. I just wrote my heart. I wrote what I couldn’t speak. Now however, I discovered how much I love writing and have taken a few online courses and also a few locally. I also try to read everything I can on the craft. Especially from writers I adore like Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Eli Wiesel.

 

In the Eye of Deception won the The Word Guild Award and received an Honourable Mention of The Grace Irwin Award. First of all, congratulations! What was the process to submit to these awards and how has this boosted your writing and your platform?

Thanks Jessica. A friend nagged and pushed me to submit the book for an award. I struggled with that b/c I didn’t think what I wrote was any good. I actually submitted it the night before the contest closed. The process involved submitting the full manuscript (2 or 3 copies) and paying something like $40.

It boosted it in that many members of The Word Guild, immediately bought the book and although the book had already been selling well, I think it gave credence to my writing.

It didn’t change my platform as I already had established one and knew who the book was aimed at – women who had a history of abuse, or/and trauma and needed hope.

 

What is your writing process/schedule? Or what have you tried and revised? 

Writing process – I usually like to write early in the morning when the house is quiet. But the place that pumps me the most and inspires me to write is when I’m in the woods. It’s there my heart speaks the loudest. I need emotions to write and images. And when I’m out in nature, I’m not afraid. I feel alive and free. After I listen and hear, I run home and type it all up. Then I agonize over edits. I’m also part of a writing group now. We’ve been meeting for three years once a month. I value their input on my work.

 

Many writers, especially those just starting on the path to authorship, have a glossy image of what it means to write, edit, and publish. What did it look like to you when you started writing your story? And what does it look like now?

When I started writing, I had no method. All I wanted was to get the memories out of my head. Writing became a way for me to have my voice. I wrote all day, late into the nights. I sometimes forgot to feed the kids. I felt compelled. Looking back now, it was very cathartic. And very healing. What shocked me in the beginning was people, women and men, young, middle-aged and older identified with my story. They told me my book came to them as a message of hope and that if I could overcome, they could too. I loved that.

I self-published my book through my university. Once I got it in my head I wanted to use what I lived to give others hope, I wanted it out as quickly as I could get it out. There was a lot of negative talk about self-publishing but the book has done incredibly well. It’s sold throughout Canada, the U.S., England, Australia, Hawaii and India.

 

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career? To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment?

Winning the award was a definite wow for me. But I also won a couple of short story contests and have been published in a number of anthologies (5).

Another couple of highlights – December 2013, someone donated $5000 to put my book into a small pocket sized edition and distribute it free to women in prison or living on the streets. 5000 copies were printed and have been shipped across the country and overseas.

A few months ago someone approached me to have it translated into Russian for the women there. That’s happening now with the goal of getting it to the Ukraine by Christmas.

The most difficult moment was when I was at a writing conference and a well known editor who didn’t even know my story, told me memoirs don’t sell and my book will never sell. I wanted to go home and give up. My friend was there at the conference and she wouldn’t let me. I’m very grateful to her for that. One person’s opinion is just that – one person’s opinion. A great learning looking back.

 

Do you attend writing conferences? If so, which ones do you recommend? What internet or book resources can you recommend?

I’ve only attended one writing conference – The Word Guild 2009 – in Guelph, Ontario Canada. I’d love to attend more but it’s been hard to get away as I still have kids at home and my kids are my priority.

My absolute favorite writing book is Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Love her style of writing and love what she says.

I used to read through Rachelle Garner’s page a lot. http://www.rachellegardner.com. There’s a ton of other sites but can’t think of them right now.

 

Please share a quote or saying that inspires you. If you have two, share two :) We can all use more inspiration!

Okay…..here’s a couple of favorites.

 

  1. “Every little thing wants to be loved.” Sue Monk Kidd.
  2. “Writing is not like painting where you add. It is not what you put on the canvas that the reader sees. Writing is more like a sculpture where you remove, you eliminate in order to make the work visible. Even those pages you remove somehow remain.” Eli Wiesel
  3. “I spent five years suffering from writer’s block. Then it came to me…just write a book I’d love to read. Not “like” to read. But love. Not for my mother, my acquaintances, critics, even readers. Just for myself. I needn’t worry what anyone else thought. I needn’t even worry if it was published. All it needed to be was written.” Louise Penny

 

Looking for more from Nikki? Check out her other books:

my books1

 

Connect with Nikki:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GentleRecovery

http://write2empower.webs.com

https://www.facebook.com/Write2Empower

http://write2empower.wix.com/write2empower

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3311275.Nikki_Rosen

http://www.amazon.com/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nikki-Rosen/e/B00A7HFPPQ

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/in-the-eye-of-deception/9990006606270-item.html

If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience :)

Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!

[applause]

Gail Hedrick

Gail Hedrick

I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?

Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask questions and do research! I began by finding a ‘webmaster’—I tried to go it alone via Go Daddy, but it was over my head tech wise. One of the members of my critique group and pretty famous children’s author, Joan Hiatt Harlow, has a cousin who teaches IT for a living at the college level, and also has a website design business. I then looked at lots of writers’ sites for content. Neither my webmaster nor I are graphic designers, and I was doing this site on a small budget, so that would have been a nice addition to the team. It’s probably due for an overhaul, appearance-wise, but it has been fun to have and very much served its purpose.

Check out Gail’s website @ www.gailehedrick.com

Something Stinks! is wonderful! You set this in a specific region and then visited schools in that region. Is this an area near to where you live?

Again, thank you for the kind words. I am married to a North Carolina native, and his job took us to Southwestern Virginia. We lived there a number of years, developing many friendships and connections to the area. So, when we made the move to Florida for work, we still kept up with all things Virginia. Some of the news stories I read were about fish dying in large numbers in the Virginia rivers. (I now know, after research for this book, that, sadly, fish die in large numbers around the country for many different reasons, but at the time, I was only seeing the stories from Virginia.) The strange thing was, at that time, nobody seemed to be doing anything about this, either on the state or local level. With a writer’s curiosity, I began to wonder if industrial pollution were the culprit, could any of the many industries in that area of the state be the bad guy? I came up with a ‘what if’ and asked a contact in one of these industries if I was on the right track. He gave me several scenarios where ‘yes’ could be an answer, and I had the makings of a story. I kind of figured kids would care about the fish, and particularly, Virginia kids as this was where the fish were going belly up.
 Something Stinks! won the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Book Award. That is a wonderful accomplishment!

Again, thank you. And, what a huge surprise to me, a non-scientist!!

SSwithaward

Was this something you or your publisher submitted the book for consideration?

Well, my publisher, Tumblehome Learning is a Massachusetts transmedia company that helps kids imagine themselves as young scientists or engineers and encourages them to experience science through adventure and discovery. [More information at: http://www.tumblehomelearning.com] So, they submitted Stinks! for this award, and I all but yelled when the publisher personally called to tell me it had won! I really think not being a scientist helped me research through things like the kids would, and in the process, I really learned a lot. I recently posted an article on Middle Web on getting kids interested in science through fiction. This might be of interest to the home school folks, so here is the link: http://www.middleweb.com/14464/using-fiction-excite-middle-grades-kids-science/

 

What is your writing process/schedule?

Honestly, I am terrible at processes. I do write everyday. It might be a journal entry, writing practice -like pick a word ‘suitcase’ and free-write for twenty minutes. Or, go for a walk. I get ideas for things to write about on a walk, or work out a problem scene, or hear a rhythm that might work in a verse. But, for planning a big project, like another book, I find it difficult. I have an idea or premise, and then a loose outline like ‘what if’ and the characters. Then, I do a bit of research. It seems that if a subject interests you or makes you go ‘hmm’, it might be worth pursuing. I have written 4 full length middle grade manuscripts, but they remain in a drawer (s) as they are not very good. But, they served their purpose to give me practice, and this is a craft that needs lots of practice.

If you are someone who likes journaling, go for it. I do it in spurts, but nothing regular. I also do different kinds of writing, so that stretches me a bit, which is always a good thing. I write non-fiction pieces, activity verses, short stories, and poetry. My big dream is to write a picture book, so I mess around with the text from time to time. I probably will sign up for a class one day, as it is not an easy task, and I think tricky to tackle without some direction. (At least for me!)

Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written ‘something’ since elementary school. Speeches, poems, and greeting cards for our family to name a few. I think, though, it was reading to our kids when they were little that ‘pushed me over the edge’ to take my first class from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took their Beginner’s and Intermediate classes. I could do it, and still be at home with the kids, so it was a great solution. Then, I took a community college Creative Writing class, and continue to take workshops at conferences. I may start an online class this summer with Joyce Sweeney if there is still room, and I can squeeze in the time commitment.

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career?

It’s a tie, between making a sale on the first piece of work I ever submitted, and receipt of the email from my publisher, Tumblehome Learning, for my first book. The editor/publisher and I had been working together for five months, and the email ‘We have a book’ and ‘We’ll get a contract out to you in the next few days’ still makes me smile. It was a very quiet reaction, more internal than shouting to the rooftops, as I had waited so long for it to happen. To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment? Well, my most difficult moment has been kicking myself for not ‘getting serious’ about my writing twenty years ago.

photo 8

What is your publication story? Did you go through an agent or straight to a publisher?

I went directly with a publisher. My book was a bit different, so I had my antenna up for a publisher where my manuscript might fit. I subscribe to Writers Market Network, and the Institute for Children’s Literature newsletters, and of course, SCBWI. I saw a posting for mystery stories for middle-grade with a science component, and took a chance that mine had enough of the science for it to get a read. And, it did! The process for it to become a book took about 10 months of revisions, but that was fun as I like working with an editor.

Describe the perfect Spring Day.

I just had one this April, so it’s fresh in my mind. We were in Raleigh, NC, mid-seventy-degree day, with our son, daughter-in-law, and first grand, nine month old, Callum, sitting at an outdoor café. The sun was shining, but not hot, the dogwoods, daffodils, and tulips were nodding in the breeze. The baby laughed at something, so did we, and kind of, so did the day. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moment to be sure!

Gail at a Va Book Sale

I’ve asked authors this question before, and I’ll ask it to you as well: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

I wish this could be profound and epic, but here goes. Don’t wait-know that time is passing, and if you want to write and have a modicum of skill, don’t say ‘aw, I’ll try to write that piece next week’, or maybe I’ll read this article on writing the perfect ending tomorrow. Learn your craft, yes. But, if you really want to do this thing called writing for kids, then do it now. Find good/great readers or editors for your work, and do the work. I kept thinking ‘oh, I’ll do that next month’, and didn’t knuckle down until a cousin read an article of mine that had just been published in Kiki magazine. He looked at me, and said, “You have a gift, and should figure a way to do this full-time.” I listened, more importantly heard him, went part-time with my day job, and within two years had a book contract. Study your craft, get feedback, but mostly, do the work. And, have fun-remember, you are writing for the ultimate fun people-kids!

 

Something Stinks! is currently listed in the Goodreads Giveaway. Click Here to sign up. The entry to win ends on May 31, 2014 so don’t delay :)

 

Thank you! If you are an author or know an author and would like to be considered as a “Feature Author” contact me @ jessicaschaubwrites@gmail.com with a brief synopsis and form of publication.

 

 

The world is full of writers, from devoted list-makers to poets and short stories to novels and beyond. For as many writers there are, it’s not too far fetched to claim that there are as many purposes behind the writing. Personally speaking, I write because it helps me organize my thoughts…I just happen to think in a story format.

Once the decision is made to take writing from sketching little stories and poems for our own enjoyment to the next level – that elusive publication. With Self publishing making waves in the industry, these stories are sometimes mistaken (sometimes not) as lesser in quality. As such, self-published authors have come together as a community in several different formats and in online forums. Aviva Gittle is one such author with a heart for helping other self-published authors.

Aviva is my next featured author. Along with amazing stories for children, Aviva has a talent for working with others to bring stories to life and to help other authors share their work. It’s this kind of writer that makes me smile with admiration! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Aviva Gittle:

Feb 2014 Photo 1 Cropped

Q: Your website is amazing. From what I can see, you have a talent and desire to work with other writers, promoting their work. What was the inspiration for your website and how has it enhanced your writing life?

Aviva: First, thank you for the kind words. My website is a mix of self-promotion, how-to articles for writers and a platform for, mainly, self-publishers. I want to transition to less interviews and more articles. I have much to share about the process of self-publishing. My website (www.GoToGittle.com) is really an experiment in marketing. Often I forget that I’m supposed to be marketing my books and not creating an online magazine. Which isn’t a bad idea, but then I’d have to market the magazine, too! I could call it, “Aviva.” How’s that for self-promotion?

Q: I found six books listed on Amazon: Moon Jump, In Nana’s Arms, Bagel Boy, Kitten and Butterfly, Mort the Fly, Snack Attack. Share a little with us about the origin of these stories.

MoonJumpKindleCover4Upload2KDP

Aviva: In Nana’s Arms is a poem to my first grandchild, Louis. I was holding him with one arm while he slept and wrote a rough draft on my iPhone with the other hand. Bagel Boy, and you’re going to love this, is based on a story idea from my ex-husband. Moon Jump and Snack Attack! I wrote with my writing partner, Mark Megson. An amazing young man whose website I stumbled upon last year. (http://www.readingjuice.co.uk/) There I found dozens of story ideas. I asked him to partner with me. Our writing styles mesh so well, I can’t always remember who wrote which parts of a story. Mort the Fly I wrote in 2005; it was the impetus to my becoming a self-publisher. (Because I prefer to do things my own way even when I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.) Kitten & Butterfly is part of the Kitten and Friends series. I wrote all 7 stories in a couple of months. But, it took a year to get the first story published. I’ve got a cute book trailer for it that I’m very proud of.

KindleCover4Upload

Q: What is your writing process/schedule?

Aviva: I’m not a schedule person. A former burnt out IT project manager; I yanked my watch off my wrist September 16, 2004, got in my car and drove away from my corporate life. I’m a writer for a reason. LOL! Something has to inspire me to sit my butt down and write. Kitten and Friends was inspired by an illustration of a kitten and butterfly I saw in an artist’s portfolio. I would jot down ideas for other creatures Kitten could make friends with. I was in a manically productive phase that has yet to be repeated. (Bummer, man.) I have ideas for stories all over the place. In notebooks, on my computer, iPad, iPhone. I even have photos of paper scraps with ideas scrawled on them. Like my brain, my writing process is very scattered. Fortunately, through years of college and work experience, I have learned to write very quickly. So, when I can finally sit still, I get a lot done.

Q: Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

Aviva: Preteen angst. I wrote my first song at age 7. I don’t remember the words, but it was a sad love song. At age 11 I started writing poetry. I’ve been battling depression for as long as I can remember. And writers know that anger, sadness and love are the great motivating emotions. It’s great when you’ve got all three storming around your head at once. LOL! I wrote my first children’s story in 1995 at a very low point in my life. It was called Chloe and the Belly Beast. It was about dealing with fear. I went as far as hiring an illustrator last year with the intent of self-publishing it. When the initial sketches came back from the artist, I knew it was way too dark to be a children’s story. I then tried to make it a tween novel. To date, I just haven’t found a way to make it work. That’s when you put it on the back burner and move on. I did make a fun greeting card with one of the sketches.

Chloe-Falling-Sketch

Q: What lesson in writing has been the most difficult but the most effective? (For example, early in my writing career, I realized that the novel I was writing was in need of a major overhaul. Overwhelmed by how much that would take, I decided the best (and yet most painful) solution was to delete it all and start over. Best move of my life. Well, I married a great guy, but that has little to do with writing :)

Aviva: You need to hire an editor. It’s the first thing I talk about in my Birth of a Children’s Book column (about my experiences as a self-publisher). 
 You should listen to others, but not blindly follow their advice. If you find yourself reacting strongly to feedback, set it aside and go back to it in a few days. Once you put your ego aside, you open yourself up to some great opportunities to make your stories better. Like, a lot better than you can do all alone. Unless you just want to sit in your room and read all your stories to yourself.

The best decision I made was to partner with Mark Megson. I think of myself as a loner, but working with Mark has improved my writing and my production. In addition to Moon Jump and Snack Attack! (technically I’m the senior editor on that, but we really wrote it together), we wrote Mary’s Magic Word which will be published later this year. We are also working on a tween sci-fi novel, Quentin and the Quantum Quilt. Your feedback on the first very short chapters is greatly needed and appreciated: http://goo.gl/VQhSMD (It’s posted on Wattpad.com; real easy to leave comments and vote.)

Q:  When you walk into a bookstore or library, what is the first section you browse?

Aviva: I haven’t walked into a bookstore in a very long time! When I browse Amazon.com, it’s usually for children’s books. Either I’m trying to find self-published children’s book to review or I’m looking to buy children’s books for my grandchildren.

Q: Describe the perfect birthday. Why? Because it’s fun :)

Aviva: The perfect birthday would have me surrounded by my grandchildren playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, “Musical Chairs” and other birthday games of my youth. Oh, and a piñata stuffed with individually-wrapped pieces of fudge. I love fudge. My grandson, Louis, would strike the winning blow and I would stand underneath the poor, battered, paper Mache creature with a giant bowl.

Q: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

Aviva: Life is a balance. You can’t just write for yourself and you can’t just write for others. Okay, you can do whatever the heck you want. But, one will leave you lonely and the other will suck the joy out of your writing life.


 

Credits:
Moon Jump illustrations by Carlos BritoMoonJumpScene8WithCredits

 

Kitten & Butterfly illustrations by Tekla HuzárKitten-Butterfly_Interor

My links:

Buy or borrow an Aviva Gittle Publishing book: amazon.com/author/avivagittle
Website: http://gotogittle.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Aviva-Gittle-Publishing/262156237258544
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AvivaGittle
Wattpad: http://goo.gl/VQhSMD
Submission guidelines for The Gittle List 2014: Top 10 Self-published Children’s Picture Books: http://gotogittle.com/the-gittle-list-2014-guidelines/

 

Author Visits, Guest Speaking, and School visits are the bread and butter of an up-and-coming author’s income. While your royalty payment per book might peak at 17%, what you make on the speaking circuit is all yours. It’s not just good for income, it’s a great way to share your message, share your writing, and network with like-minded people.

The days of BICAW (Butt in chair and writing) need to be tempered with SIFOP (standing in front of people). Okay, enough of the acronyms :) Lol. Sorry. Below is a list of steps to consider to focus your thoughts in preparation for a presentation of a school visit.


 

Now that the books are on the shelf... what's next?

Now that the books are on the shelf… what’s next?

 

STEP ONE:
Narrow your target audience and purpose. You’ve written something, and maybe it’s published, maybe not. Either way, you have something to share with others. Or do you? Here are a few questions to consider before you take your show on the road:

1. Who is the intended reader for your book?
2. Write down the message that you can share with them. Is it in a church, a school, a business?
3. What other messages are out there that are similar to yours?
4. How is your message unique?
5. Are you an expert in your field?

In my case, the intended readership for my books are Christian families looking for stories that aren’t filled with vampires or zombies. Yeah, there are those of us who love a good story that doesn’t involve the un-dead.

My message deals with sharing stories – the premise for Unforgettable Roads. For elementary students, I offer writing workshops that parallel Frog’s Winter Walk. I also share a presentation that is a humorous look at stories, how they grew from campfire mythology to the 3-D spectacles we pay $15-$20 for at the theater.

I also talk with parents about reading with their children, how to bring books into the spotlight. This is my area of expertise as my Master’s Degree is in Education with an emphasis on reading instruction. These are my tools, not my story. I use these tools to bring my published (and soon to be published) stories to new readers.

 

STEP TWO:
Prepare your presentations. Obvious step, huh? This step needs to be solid before you move to step four – looking for places to speak.

Outline your thoughts. Then write out everything you think you’ll say. You won’t use it all, but you will benefit greatly from organizing it all onto paper.
• Decide if you are in need of props, a power point presentation, etc. Know your limits or skills with technology. Stay within your comfort zone, but also work toward improving your abilities with technology, or going without.
• With a recorder, practice your presentation with your notes and then without. Practice does make perfect…or at least better.
• Once you have your presentation smooth (and it won’t be the same twice – which is what you want. It leads to a more natural approach) video tape yourself. Watch for ticks, frequent phrases, anything that makes you cringe.

On your website, narrow down your presentation to one sentence and three bullet points. Why? Summarizing the overall idea in one sentence is the flashing banner that potential schools and organizations look for in a guest speaker. The three bullet points are just a sampling of what they will receive. We all like free samples…use them.

 

STEP THREE:

thecolorofmoney
Determine your price. Oh, how I despise this part. It’s extremely difficult for me to put a price on something I absolutely love doing. However, the grocery store has no problem marking up foods and my kids have no plans to starting eating less, so I need to charge what I’m worth.

Don’t take this step lightly. Do a google search of local authors, go to a local author event and find out what people charge. The prices will be all over the board. The second and third questions will help narrow down a comparable price for you: 1) How many speaking engagements do other authors do in a year? 2) How many years have they presented professionally?

 

AN IDEA! If someone charges $1000/day to be in an elementary school giving back-to-back assemblies to school children and have five years experience, he can charge that. If you want to start small, say a few classrooms at a time, consider a barter while you’re getting your feet wet – if you can sell a certain number of books prior to the speaking engagement, you’ll speak for free. If that sales quota isn’t met prior to your date, then the organization meets the difference. Anything above that, and you can consider a small donation back to them.

Note: There is much debate over how much new speakers should charge. Offering to speak for free might cause the organization to think you are not worth anything. Just be honest – let them know you are new at the speaking, but your expertise is solid. You are trying to launch a new aspect of your business and in exchange for the early practice and networking, you are willing to exchange cost for time.

I did do this and I have no regrets. I had fun, learned a great deal about speaking, asked for comments, reviews and recommendations. I decided I would do three school visits at no cost before charging a set rate. I do not include my speaking fees on my speaker flyer. Instead, I include a note that states that I consider each proposal separately and create a quote based on the list below.

  • What to consider in your pricing rubric:
    Milage/ Travel Time
    Time spent in preparation
    Time spent in presenting

 

STEP FOUR:
Once you’ve established your message, it’s time to start talking to managers, librarians, teachers, business owners…anyone who has a group of people who would be interested in your insight. Prepare a speaker information sheet. Keep it simple, colorful, include cover art from your books, or a picture of you speaking at an event, or simply a professional head shot from your back cover.

Your speaker sheet is fun to put together. No, really! Think of it as a one page picture book about you. Be creative. Include your expertise, intended audience, photos, contact information, and links to your website. (If you don’t have any of these, I highly recommend you put it together. As a public speaker, you are now considered a business. Where do people go to check on the quality of a business? Yep. Websites.)

This is the time to play the ‘Who You Know’ card. Talk to friends, co-workers, fellow parishioners, and provide them with the information you’ve put together. Couple that with a free speaking offer, and you are certain to get a bite.

A Success Story:
I offered an Author Visit to an Elementary School and three books as an auction item for a church fundraiser. A mom won it, her child’s first grade teacher eagerly contacted me, and I presented a short writing workshop to three first grade classrooms. I learned how to use some of the new technology that is common place in schools but new to me. I met almost 80 children, and had a wonderful morning.

While I was in town, I attended a breakfast event at that church and met up with my former kindergarten teacher. She still volunteers at the school and helps arrange Author Visits.

Right place + right time + who I know = networking.

I didn’t, sadly, have any business cards left, so I came across as being unprofessional. I did order 1000 more cards the very next day. That will not happen to me again.

 

STEP FIVE:
What will you need for your presentation?

Aside from your notes, props, computer and books, you should also consider the following:

• A bottle of water
• Hot tea to soothe your throat
• Snacks or a lunch if you are working a full day
• Table cloth and possibly flowers, bookmarks, business cards if you will have a vendor table. If you don’t have a table, bring the bookmarks, business cards and speaker flyers with you in a nice looking folder. Be prepared to meet your next connection and it will happen.
• A camera to have visual documentation that you were really there ;)
• A digital recorder. Record your presentation for two reasons: One, to hear it again and make notes on weak areas, and Two, to use sound bytes on your website. Those free samples again. (True story – I’ve brought my recorder every time and have either forgot to use it or it didn’t record clearly, which is why my website is missing this feature. On my list is to purchase a microphone I can wear so I will remember to turn it on and hopefully have a usable piece. See? I’m learning.)

 

STEP SIX:
Ask for a review.

Provide the teacher, leader, or the CEO with a short comment and review sheet. Ask them to either fill it out right after your presentation or provide a stamped and addressed envelope so they can return it to you. This will provide you with immediate feedback and quotes that you can use on your website and marketing sheets (be sure to ask permission first).

  • A few quick questions to ask:
    Did this presentation meet your expectations?
    What is one thing I said or shared that you enjoyed?
    Is there anything I can add to my presentation to improve it?

 

I hope these six steps help you as you prepare or revamp how you are doing your presentations. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have more suggestions or a personal success or dum-dum story to share, please do!

Jessica

Becoming a writer is just that – a becoming. Like our 18th birthdays when we become an adult, we know that despite the fact that we are legally recognized as an adult, we are too young to drink and we don’t know anything about what it means to be an adult. It takes years of being of age and feeling the pride, the sting, the work that is required to truly become an adult. Despite all the years of practice, some people never become adults.

Writing is the same. We slowly grow into a writer by studying the craft, learning from successful writers, and practice.

Loads and loads of practice.


We write short stories, try our hand at poetry, launch into a novel. We stumble, fall, are rejected and hopefully, we try again.


Just as infants first roll over, then crawl, stand, and the finally walk, learning the craft of writing (or any craft) is the same. Start by watching others, reading the works of authors who have successfully published again and again. Make this first activity a goal:


Make a list of book you want to read this year. How many books can you read in a month?

Put the list into alphabetical order (or in order according to publication dates).

Start today.

Keep notes on what you read, reflect on why the stories are wonderful

(or not, and you scratch your head wondering why that dribble was published and not your own work?

…this comment based on personal experience :)

books

In between reading, and working your other job, making meals, and finding time to exercise, you should find time to write. I suggest this next exercise with a little hesitation:

For a week, track how many words you write.

At the end of the week, reflect about what you did on the days when your word count was excellent.

What did you do on the days you didn’t write much at all?

Remember you are human and there are people in your life who need you.

This is the basic principle of NaNoWriMo.com. National Novel Writing Month (November for Novelist) is a month-long challenge that provides daily inspiration and motivation to write as much as possible – the goal being a 50,000 words. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this.

Benefit – this is a BICAW (butt in chair and write) challenge. It breaks through some of life’s distractions and focuses efforts into one thing – get the words on paper.

Drawback – The result of BICAW stories is more of a ‘diamond in the rough’ than a polished gem.

If you want to challenge yourself to write a much as possible in one day, one week, or one month, I highly recommend you invest the time beforehand to prepare your story as much as possible. Outline, brainstorm, collect snippets of ideas to have by your side before your BICAW adventure.

The purpose of this challenge is for you to go into writing prepared, but to also keep track of what prevents you from writing. It’s more of an exercise in scheduling and lifestyle; an intentional examination of what works and what doesn’t.

Find the balance to be a present human being and a prolific writer. Yeah…good luck :)


Take a break from the story you are working on and work on the query letter to an agent or publisher.

(For help with query letters, spend some time reading www.queryshark.com )

I discovered a hidden benefit when I work on a query letter – it sharpens my purpose in writing that particular story. Every story need a purpose, a lesson, theme, moral, statement – whatever you wish – but it must be there. Many books on the shelves have less than desirable purposes and morals. That is up to you to decide if you are writing a social justice statement (i.e. To Kill a Mockingbird), a tale of to-die-for teenage lust (Twilight), or expressing Christian values (anything by C.S. Lewis, but particularly The Chronicles of Narnia).

When a story starts to fall flat or when I just need a break from writing, I switch gears to work on the query or the synopsis. It’s a nice break from writing scenes, it keeps me focused on the story, and quite often leads to a story break-through.

confidence

If there was a common, and yet thin, connection between these three exercises, it’s that writing does not always include writing. Reading, thinking and, people watching. Seek balance, seek mentors, seek to be successful. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise confidence!

 

There is something incredible about writing a book. Not only do I spend time reading and researching, writing and rewriting, there is the moment when the book is finished and I expect a ticker-tape parade. Every time I’ve finished a manuscript, there has been no trumpet blare, no pat on the back, and I am always alone. Writing is a solitary activity – for the most part.

That’s why I’m enjoying these interviews so much! I can offer a virtual celebration of work well done, an Internet pat on the back, and we can come together, however briefly, as members of the writing world.

I’m thrilled to introduce you to Julie Krantz, fellow writer, mother of four, and author of several books geared toward our world’s youth. I feel like I’ve meet a kindred sprit! We have much in common. Julie shares her story, her writing, and her experiences with us. Enjoy! You are going to love her!

Moms Headshot - 4 x 6

What inspired you to begin writing?

Oh, boy, that’s hard to pinpoint. I’ve always loved to read—as a teenager and an adult. And I guess that’s what inspired me to write—admiring those fictional worlds created by the amazing writers I read as a youth—Madeline L’Engle (especially A Wrinkle in Time), Carolyn Keene (yes—Nancy Drew’s author!), JD Salinger (everything he wrote, not just Catcher in the Rye), among others—and wanting to create some of my own.

 

I loved reading as kid, I think, because I grew up in a small town on the Delaware River in South Jersey. We didn’t have a library in Palmyra, so I’d ride my bike to the Riverton library. I loved going in that tiny yellow Victorian house and heading for the children’s room—followed by forays into adult fiction, poetry and reference books. (Remember when we had to go to the library to research stuff? Wow—that seems so antiquated now!) I also loved stopping in the ‘Sharon Shop’ with my girlfriends for ice-cream sodas on the way home.

 

What keeps you motivated?

 

I’m not sure how or why or what, but I am motivated—and hope to stay that way! I guess it’s got something to do with loving to read, wanting to write my own stories, and being fascinated by human nature, especially characters I met in fiction. Some of my favorites were, for instance, were Pip and Ms. Havisham in Great Expectations, Jerusha Abbott in Daddy Long-Legs, and Francie in and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. And, of course, Holden Caulfield and Franny and Zooey and the rest of the Glass family.

 

Can you share a favorite quote or a mantra that you might have posted near your workspace?

 

Oh, boy, this is embarrassing. I don’t have anything posted near my workspace because my workspace is in a nice, cozy recliner next to big windows overlooking piney woods and a rushing creek.

I did recently come across a quote I admire, though. It’s by fellow-North Carolinian Daniel Wallace, the author of Big Fish:

 

“I wouldn’t advertise my experience as one I’d want anyone else to have – to write for 14 years before you publish a book. That’s absurd perseverance. If your son or daughter were working on something for 10 years, wouldn’t you say, ‘Maybe it’s time to work on something else’? But “perseverance really is an outgrowth of passion and desire. … I knew I could succeed at something else. But [that] wasn’t important for me…. I would rather fail at this than succeed at [anything] else.”

 

I guess this pretty much sums up how I feel about writing, too.

 

 

In terms of marketing, what have been some of your more successful efforts?

 

Hahaha—now that’s a funny question! I’d say I’ve spent the better part of the past two years trying everything and anything I could (within reason and on a zero to none budget) to market my books—only to meet with great—shall I say—un-success? But it’s been fun. Now I know about how to leverage categories and keywords on Amazon, how to use Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and WordPress. Sad thing is, there’s something new to learn everyday. So I hope my efforts pay off at least a little soon so I can get back to writing!

 

Did you make a business plan for yourself and your writing?

 

The only thing I’ve ever made a business plan for was a kitchenware store a neighbor and I were thinking about opening in New York. I thought I did a pretty good job, even though we never opened the store—my neighbor wanted 51% share of the company without making any sort of monetary contribution at all. Hmmm. Maybe it wasn’t such a good plan after all.

 

As far as writing, I’m not a very business-oriented person (as you can probably tell from the above scheme), but I do have to thank my husband for supporting me in all my writing efforts. I keep telling him they will pay off someday….

 

Tell us about  your book, Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero.

 

Ah, now that’s my favorite question! Stella Bellarosa (that was the original title. I added ‘Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero’ to increase its discoverability on Amazon. Keywords, remember….) is about two teenage girls who get caught returning a stolen wallet (which is already kind of a silly thing—one of them didn’t even steal it) then decide to run away to midtown Manhattan rather than tell their parents they’ve been suspended for 3 days (they devise a story to tell to cover-up their suspension/disappearance). The novel is set in the 1960’s, which was totally fun for me to write about—as were Stella and Pin Pin’s adventures in midtown.

Stella Bellarosa Watercolor Orange Arch Option 3

 

I guess you could say the story came to me for a few reasons—like Stella and Pin Pin, I went to Catholic School and had vivid (sometimes silly, sometimes scary) recollections of the discipline code as well as the nuns and priests and religious rules in general. Secondly, I wanted to explore certain issues I’d encountered as a teenager—isolation, alienation, uncertainty-of-being-loved, etc.—as well as other things I knew were (and still are) important to kids today, like prejudice and immigration and poverty.

 

If I had to sum up what I want readers to walk away thinking about, I guess I’d say it’s mainly about familial love and acceptance, as well as love from other sources—like friends and friends’ families. And it’s about doing what you believe in even if it’s not always the ‘right’ thing to do, as is, sadly, sometimes the case. I also want kids to laugh—at Stella, at me, at life—really laugh, because I think that’s the best way to handle tough situations.

Isabel Plum Cover 11-16-2013

 

Your stories have appeared in various publications, including an early version of YOSHI’S YUCCA, in Spider Magazine. What kind of prep work did you do before writing and submitting to Spider?

 

Well, nothing for that submission in particular, but I did spend lots of years writing other stuff before Yoshi’s Yucca. I also spent lots of time before (and mostly after) Yoshi’s Yucca reading books about writing, reading and studying all the great fiction I could, and taking all sorts of courses and workshops—online and at graduate school. Oh, and getting rejected. Yes, lots of time getting rejected.

 

How has your family impacted your writing? With four children, I’m sure they always inspire ideas.

 

Oh, my family has impacted my writing in huge ways. The kids were fun to raise and I think that’s why I started writing for children. I love little kids—who they are, what they do, how they think. I’m a little like Holden Caulfield that way—wanting to catch them and keep them like that before they leap into the affected fields of adulthood.

But my family-of-origin has played a big part in my writing, too. I remember Pat Conroy talking about Prince of Tides, I think, and saying something about all writers coming from interesting—read ‘dysfunctional’—families. I don’t believe mine wasn’t as dysfunctional as his, exactly. But let’s just say—they were ‘interesting.’

After two of my maiden aunts died without anybody in the family knowing, I decided to dedicate all my books ‘to my family—on both sides of the river,’ by which I mean those who lived east and west of the Delaware.

 

Are you published through a publishing house or have you taken the role on yourself to self-publish?

 

I came to self-publishing reluctantly, though I have to say I’m a real proponent of it now. And I don’t think it’s sour grapes. I’ve always been a bit of a rebel, renegade, iconoclast, whatever-you-call-it (like many folks who grew up in the ’60’s), and have enjoyed seeing traditional publishers get shaken-up. I don’t dislike them, per se, I’m just glad e-publishing has leveled the playing field a bit by opening publishing up to the non-celebs and non-paranormal-dystopian-romance-writers.

 

What is one writing tool that you believe is a must have?

 

Wow, I have to think about this. I guess the first thing that comes to mind is the computer (especially the laptop, since I umm-errr write in a recliner). I also love my i-Pad, though I don’t use it for writing. I’ve written a bunch of children’s poetry and picture books, and, new to illustration, I’ve been having lots of fun drawing pictures on my i-Pad. I’m not sure they’re fun for people to look at, but they’re fun for me to draw. I know it goes against conventional wisdom to illustrate your books if you’re not a trained illustrator/artist, but I don’t care. I love doing it and think it’s good for me. Plus—who else would illustrate my books for free? Natalie Goldberg’s got a new book out on this very subject, I believe.

 

Julie, thank you for sharing your writing and your life with us! To learn more:

Visit Julie’s blog @  juliekrantz.wordpress.com/

Follow her on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/juliekrantzbooks

Visit her Amazon Author page: www.amazon.com/Julie-Krantz/e/B00996YNZ4

 Julie has more than Stella Bellarosa: Tales of a Teenage Superhero. Her other books include:

Isabel Plum: Ichthyologist

Tip & Oliver: BFFs

Stella Bellarosa: Tales of an Aspiring Teenage Superhero

Forthcoming this summer on Amazon is

Yogabets: An Acrobatic Alphabet

 

A message to the reader: If you are an Indie Author or are published by a Small Publishing House and would like to be considered for an interview, click on the picture below…

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

Do you have a published book? Click on this pic to read about an opportunity to receive and share in a marketing group.

 

Welcome to the second installment of the Pay-It-Forward Author Interview series! If you are an author or have a book being released in the next year and would like to join this interview series, click here for details.

This week I am featuring a fellow homeschooling mom and writer. Emmy Gatrell took the plunge and published her first book on her own – a feat that has brought in 4 & 5 star ratings on Amazon.

If you are a fan of fantasy, love secrets and new discoveries, the Meanmna is the book for you. Read on to learn more about Emmy Gatrell and then give her book a try.

emmy gatrell

Meanmna is a fantasy novel for teens. What are some other authors who inspired you to write in this genre?

I could easily name a hundred authors that inspired me to write in the fantasy genre. I tend to read more series than standalone books. There was one in particular that had the biggest impact on what I read and write about.

  • The Dragon Prince Series by Melanie Rawn—I found this trilogy at a used book store when I was fourteen (it’s not necessarily for teens, I just read it when I was one.) I have re-read it every couple of years since. It’s an Epic story, which requires you to reference maps and family trees to navigate at times. It’s one of my all-time favorite series in any genre. I still have my original copies. They’ve been read so many times they’re completely worn out.
  • The Grey Wolves Series by Quinn Loftis— Hysterical (could have one of the funniest characters I’ll ever read) and heartbreaking (there are several parts that require tissues.)
  • A House of Night Series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast— One of the best, scariest, evil, bad person’s, ever.
  • Seven Years: A Seven Series Novel by Dannika Dark—I wish I waited to read this one, it was really, really good and I am really, really impatient. I can’t wait for the next one, whatever characters the story focusses on next, I want to know more about. That’s great story telling.

Describe your writing schedule. Are you strict with your writing, do you write when inspired, or are you somewhere in between?

I have to be strict with my writing for several reasons. As a mother of two kids, I know there is no guarantee of getting any writing done once the house wakes up. I also prefer working in quiet because I can become distracted easily, so I wake up extremely early to write almost every day. I like to get up two or three hours before the kids start getting up. I write if I can during the day, but it’s sporadic at best and I really don’t get much accomplished. I sneak both reading and writing in whenever I can, but early morning writing is my writing time.

The cover of your book is amazing! As a self-published author, this is a rarity. Who did your cover art?

Thank you! I love it, it’s so beautiful and I totally got lucky on that one. After I tried a couple different folks for the cover and just wasn’t quite happy with the results. My husband asked Norman Wong, someone he works with if he could give it try as a last ditch effort. He was wonderfully kind to turn it around quickly and what an end product! I knew Norman was really good at what he does, but wow, when I saw my cover, I knew he was an artist. It’s so much better than I imagined it could or hoped it would be.

meanmna cover

What was important for you in your book production? Share some successes, obstacles, lessons…

If I was going to take the risk of people reading my work and either liking it or hating it. I wanted to make sure I put the best product out there I could. I researched what made a self-published novel successful and the biggest recommendations were to hire a development editor and a copy editor. I used Writers in the Sky for both and also had my sister copy edit it.

Yvonne Perry, was my development editor. She pointed out the holes, asked for more or less, and asked the questions that propelled the story into what it is. She also took the time to really teach me about writing. I learned so much from her and while I am under no illusions that I am a perfect writer, I am a much better one because of her. That’s why you need a copy editor. I’m convinced that you should have as many people as possible to do a copy edit, everyone that went through it found something we all missed and a couple mistakes were found after it was published too. Whether you hire them or have a friend take one more look at it, you should. Things get missed, try to have as few as possible. A new set of eyes never hurts.

So much of being an Indie Author depends on not only your own creativity to write a book, but to sell it. What tips about marketing you can share?

The launch went far better that we had hoped, I’m still figuring all of that out. Social media is the biggest tool you can have, but we didn’t just use online media I did old school signs in supermarkets and local stores (I live in a small town) which amazingly enough, did actually work. Even one of the shop keepers gussied up the flier after she read it and even left a review, so I know it at least influenced one person!

Of course shamelessly ask your friends and family to read it. Create an author page on Facebook and post on there, I’m not so good at that one yet.

We ran some ads on Facebook which had success, specifically ones which incorporated the geography in the book. The Facebook page and orders had a nice spike after I ran an ad targeted people in Lenawee County Michigan, where the story starts and another one targeted to jam band fans. The biggest risk I’ve taken was to have it available for free for a day. Since I am planning on possibly seven books, I was more interested in having as many people read it as possible, than profit right now. In twenty-four hours over five hundred people downloaded my book, that is so freaking cool, I’m honored. The book’s done well over all but I don’t think I can truly rate success until the release of book two.

 Is writing your only career? Or are you ‘doing research’ as a paralegal, a doctor, teacher, student, or construction worker?

The only research I’m doing is how to be a better mom. I’m a stay at home mom to two boys. I recently started home schooling my kids because we’re going to be splitting our time between our home in North Georgia and vacation home Costa Rica. My husband travels for work a good deal, so I’m pretty much on duty 24/7 when he’s on the road.

Can we expect another book from you? Will it be a follow up to this one or are you starting something new?

I am planning on six books in this series and a possible pre-quell. I’m currently finishing up the first draft of Beinn-Theine: Book Two of the Daearen Realms. I’m planning on publishing it this summer.

Do you belong to a writing community? (i.e. NaNoWriMo, a writing group, or anything through social media)

No, not at this moment. I’m still in the ‘I can’t believe I wrote a book’ phase and think of myself as someone who wrote a book, not necessarily an author, yet. I’m just not sure what I’d have to offer at this point.

Please share with us something about the following topics that you think is so important that our lives will be forever changed. No pressure, right?

Writing and why it’s important:

I don’t really know what to say. Writing is important to me because it makes me happy. I love sitting back and creating something only I can see until I can find the right words to let someone else see it. I didn’t realize how much I missed writing until I started doing it again. So I guess my life changing thoughts are not really necessarily about writing it’s about happiness. You should find that thing that makes you happy. Don’t let fear stop you, don’t let anything stop you. If you do stop, don’t take eighteen years to try again. Work until you get to the point that you wake up excited and go to bed fulfilled even if that means waking up at 3:30. Finally, judge your own success, set your own goals, and don’t forget all the other aspects of your life that matter too.

Social Media and Face-to-face marketing:

I haven’t really had any face to face marketing yet, unless you count me announcing it to my Zumba class, but I have had write up in various papers and blogs and this interview I’m sure thankful for and I plan a more formal launch on my first book, when I get the second book done, since I think some people are hesitant to buy a book in a series with only one book released, at least I know I am.

A recipe you love:

I love cooking. This is one of the simplest easiest recipes that you can’t mess up even if you tried and it is so yummy. I make this and serve it with all kinds of foods. Burgers, hot dogs, tacos, fish, steak, the possibilities are endless. It might sound weird, but the reaction the lime juice has to the red onion is just magic.

Red Onion Lime Relish

Ingredients:

Red onion(s)

Limes

Salt & Pepper

Fresh chopped cilantro (optional)

 

Directions:

Cut as many red onions as you want. Squeeze cut limes over onions until mostly covered with juice (typically two small limes per red onion.) Grind some fresh salt and pepper on the top, add cilantro if using. Mix, cover, refrigerate for two hours, mixing occasionally. Enjoy!

Check out Emmy’s book, Meanmna, and remember to leave a review. This entire series of author interviews is all about paying-it-forward. What you do today out of kindness for someone will reward you greatly in the future.

Connect with Emmy on Facebook: http://facebook.com/emmygatrell

emmy gatrell

Bio:  Emmy is a stay at home mom to her husband, 2 kids and 4 dogs and just self-published her first book, Meanmna – Book One of the Daearen Realms. She splits her time between the North Georgia Mountains and Costa Rica. Currently, she is actively finishing Beinn-Theine: Book Two of the Daearen Realms, and is looking forward to writing all the stories of the Daearen Realms.

 

indie and small press

 

Previous Interviews:

Theresa Jenner Garrido

Other Articles of Interest:

Marketing

Journal Writing

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