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J. Aday Kennedy Writing for Crumb Crunchers
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Jennifer Reed Interview: Magazine Articles/Stories and Books

Multi Published Author of Magazine Articles & Stories & Books

Jennifer Reed started writing for children when her two children were toddlers. It was a slow process, as family always came first. Soon, with the kids in school full time, she was able to focus more on her writing. Today, she has published over 100 stories and articles in magazines, websites and anthologies (Chicken Soup, Heartwarmers), and has published over 20 children's books, both fiction and nonfiction. She was the creator/editor of Wee Ones Children's Magazine, which after an 8 year run, will be shutting down at the end of 2008. Jennifer also teaches at the local high school part time and for the Institute of Children's Literature. She is a part time SAT Essay scorer for Pearson. A full bio can be found at her website:

Jessica: You say you primarily write nonfiction. Can you give us some examples?
Jennifer: I started writing nonfiction for magazines back in 1998 with the idea that those magazine publications would lead me to writing books- they did and now I mostly write nonfiction books for children and teens.

Jessica: What have you had the easiest time publishing in magazines?
Jennifer: Mostly history because I love it and I look for themes in magazines that require history. However, I've written on all subject from animals, crafts, biographies and science.

Jessica: Who published your first nonfiction piece for children?
Jennifer: Skipping Stones. I had been submitting my work for about 4 years with no bites and I was about to give it all up. Skipping Stones although a nonpaying market, also wrote me a letter. The editor specifically commented on my article, how beautifully written it was etc. and that gave me the boost to continue writing and submitting.

Jessica: Do you have an education that helps establish you as an expert?

Jennifer: I have a BA in English and Business Management. My focus was on journalism. After college I worked on several newspapers and magazines and this experience was invaluable. I also volunteered to write for newspapers just to get the experience. I'm not an expert say in history, but it has been a part of my childhood and adult life- my parents were curators of a museum for a while and my dad was the president of the historical society. If you have a passion about something, you learn about it and probably can write easily and with some knowledge about the subject.

Jessica: What children’s magazines have you had your work published in?
Jennifer: Highlights, Boys' Life, Aquila, Hopscotch, Boys' Quest, Fun For Kidz and I worked 2 years as the staff writer for Crinkles Magazine.

Jessica: How long did you write for children before you were published?

Jennifer: When I decided to stay home with my kids I gave up being a career editor at a newspaper. But, I still wanted to write and publish and pursued children's publishing. I had a lot to learn! It was not an easy transition from writing for adults to writing for kids. When I finally got serious, it was another four years before I published anything.

Jessica: What is the most challenging part of writing nonfiction?

Jennifer: Research. It takes time and patience, but you have to do it right if you want to publish your work. It's important to know what kind of material you can use, what the publisher's like to see and what is available.

Jessica: Was there a magazine you wanted badly to get published in? Have you succeeded yet?

Jennifer: I focus on one magazine at a time and put my energy into it- I research the magazine, read back issues, visit them online and try to get a good idea as to what they are looking for. I did this with Highlights and after many attempts, finally had an article accepted. I did this with Boys' Life. My one and only submission to them was accepted. I don't submit to magazines so much anymore, but I do have query out with Cobblestone. We'll see!

Jessica: How do you decide on subject matter for articles and books?

Jennifer: I mostly write for magazines that have a theme list- the subjects are given and I see if I would am knowledgeable about the subjects or have an interest in them. Because I have written many books for Enslow, they usually let me pick the subjects I want to write about, depending on their available titles within a series. Otherwise, I write what I know and study the markets and hope that what I've written fits!

Jessica: Do you have any tips for locating children’s markets?
Jennifer: Really, the market guides put out by Writer's Digest or the Institute of Children's Literature are what I use, however, I do use the Internet to further my understanding of a magazine or publisher.

Jessica: What pointers can you give a new writer of nonfiction children’s literature to get published?

Jennifer: If you have a strength in a particular subject, then use that to your advantage. Write what you know. Studying the markets is vital too. See if there are theme lists posted on magazine websites that look for articles on the subjects you love to write about. Start with magazines. It is very to sell nonfiction book ideas to publishers if you don't have some kind of experience in nonfiction writing. Magazines are a good place to start.

Jessica: Are your books mostly fiction or nonfiction?
Jennifer: Nonfiction

Jessica: What ways were your books published (traditional, self, POD)?
Jennifer: Most of my books are with traditional publishers. I have a nonfiction book I published via Tangerine Press/ Becoming a Children's Author. I chose this route because I knew I had a solid base of writers I could approach to sell the book AND, this subject is popular- every one thinks they can write for kids. I have a middle grade fiction that I self published through IUniverse. I don't recommend self publishing though unless certain criteria can be met by the author- can you market your own book well?

Jessica: At what stage in your writing career did you get an

Jennifer: I had an agent about 8 years ago and dropped him because he was new in the industry. I found I knew more about the industry, new more editors etc. than he did. I now have an agent who handles my middle grade novels and with whom I enjoy working and trust!

Jessica: What are the pros and cons of having an agent?
Jennifer: The pros are that you can spend more of your time writing and not submitting your work to a zillion publishers. Agents focus on those publishers they know and think your work will do best with. They also often have inside connections to publishing houses that authors don't have. The only con is that I wish my agent would also handle my picture books.

Jessica: Give us a short description of a few of your books?
Jennifer: I wrote 6 books for Capstone's Pebble Plus Imprint. These books were for grades K- 2nd grade and the some of the hardest books I've ever written- even though they were only about 100 words each. They were focused on military careers and jobs- one was called Submarines, another- The Marines. I've written books on Leonardo Da Vinci, The Wright Brothers, And a book on American Women Inventors.

Jessica: Describe your writing process from conception to completion.
Jennifer: This would take a book to write. Generally, I don't just sit down and write off the top of my head. I do what I call "think writing" where I lay out the book in my mind. Sometimes, this can take up to a year, sometimes just a week- depending on the book, the subject, the publisher etc. I jot down notes in a brief outline as I go along, but when I am finished with my "think writing" I can usually write out the story (picture book), or a solid outline easily. With nonfiction, once I have the general idea of the subject matter, I work for several weeks on the research. I gather all my research before I even create an outline. Then, I write a detailed outline and write down all my resources. The actual writing of the chapters or different pages for nonfiction books is quite easy once the research is done. When I have the first draft, I put it down for maybe a week or two. I don't look at it. I don't think about it. Then, I go back with a fresh, open mind and start editing. I edit my fiction many times before I submit it. I edit my nonfiction once or twice before it goes to my editor, who then checks my facts, and edits the manuscript. It comes back to me with corrections, which I make and then I submit it again for the book to be finalized.

Jessica: Are you a member of a critique group?

Jennifer: I am the moderator of the Children's Christian Writer's List at I have been co-moderator and now moderator for over 10 years of this. I have been involved with various critique groups over the years, but now, I don't send my material to anyone but my agent or my editors. It's very important to have a knowledgeable person in children's writing to critique your work early on. I encourage this for all new writers. As you write and sell more material, you find that one trusted person (maybe 2) is all you need and really care for to "critique" your work.

Jessica: If so, what impact has that group had on your writing?
Jennifer: I think initially, it helped me to get published. I learned from other writers- writers who had already published. Today, one of my biggest mentors is a very well-known children's book publisher. I can turn to her with issues I have, doubts, fears, concerns and she always cheers me up and gives me hope about writing and publishing!

Most of my books are available on or at the publisher's website. Some of the books are not out yet but have been written and contracted.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 8:41 PM CDT
Saturday, 16 August 2008

Josh’s Halloween Pumpkin by Kathryn Lay
Pelican Books Sept 2008
picture book for ages 4-8
ISBN 978-1-58980-595-8
$15.95 at,,
Crown Me! by Kathryn Lay
Holiday House 2004
middle-grade humor novel for ages 8-12,
ISBN 0-8234—1845-6
$16.96 at,
Kathryn Lay is the author of two recent children’s books, CROWN ME! (also published as HOW TO RULE THE SCHOOL at Scholastic Book Clubs) and JOSH’S HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN, as well as a writing book, THE ORGANIZED WRITER IS A SELLING WRITER. She has had over 1500 articles, essays, and short stories published in magazines, anthologies, educational publishers, coffee cans and more. She teaches online writing classes. Check out her website at Email
Kathryn Lay's Road to Publication
Jessica: Can you name the first children’s publication you wrote for?
Kathryn: It was Teen Power, which doesn’t exist anymore. But it was a Sunday School take-home paper for teens.
Jessica: What children’s magazines have you had your work published in?
Kathryn: Highlights for Children, Cricket, Spider, Boys’ Life, U.S. Kids, Pockets, Hopscotch for Girls, Wee Ones, Children’s Playmate, Encounter, Devo’zine, On the Line, HiCall, Teen Power, Spellbound, With!, Touch, Brio
Jessica: How long did you write for children before you were published?
Kathryn: Probably a year. I marketed a lot wrong in the beginning and didn’t really study publications, finally sold to some adult publications and then to Teen Power.
Jessica: What magazine was especially difficult to get an acceptance from? How many times did you submit?
Kathryn: Highlight took 2 times to get an acceptance. About six years of submitting before I finally sold to an anthology they did years ago and then about ten years of submitting to get into their magazine, a story that was published Nov. 2007.
Jessica: Do you scout out the magazines and their guidelines before you write and if so, how?
: I have rarely sold to a kid’s magazine I haven’t seen at least once. Some I find at libraries or bookstores. Others I send off for a sample issue. Others I find at friend’s houses. I used to write off for guidelines, but so many are found online these days. Though there are some I still have to write away for, especially the religious ones.
Jessica: What do you attribute your success for publication in kid’s magazines?
Kathryn: Persistence, reading a lot, writing a lot.
Jessica: How did you learn about the children’s anthologies?
: A friend who had published in Highlights told me about hearing about that one. Another friend read in a newsletter about Bruce Coville looking for unicorn stories. I read in a SCBWI newsletter about Blooming Tree Press (published in Texas) looking for stories for a Summer Shorts story collection. Because a lot of people in my local writer’s groups as well as online know I write short stories and such, they tell me about markets they hear and I almost always submit something as soon as possible.
Jessica: Do you have any tips for locating other children’s markets?
Kathryn: Be a part of SCBWI and take the Bulletin and local newsletters. Get involved in an online writer’s group for kids writers. For religious publications get Sally Stuart’s Christian Market Guide (updated annually), get the SCBWI Magazine Market Guide (the paper version has the 2007 update I did, I don’t believe the pdf at the site has been changed to the new version yet.)
Google: Children’s Magazines, Writer’s Guidelines.
Jessica: What pointers can you give a new writer of children’s literature?
Kathryn: Always write your best. If you find it boring, so will a kid. Use the same techniques for adult writing – plot, characterization, scene, sensory details, etc. in children’s writing. Rewrite a lot. Read a lot of children’s lit of all kinds and age groups. Be around children to see what they are interested in NOW, not 20 years ago.
Jessica: Tell us about your four children’s books
Kathryn: All are fiction. Two of them were work-for-hire and are books that are novelty type, where at a location a kid can buy the book with their name and friends listed in it. I’ve seen a few of these still around.

The other two are royalty based. CROWN ME! is a middle-grade humor novel published in 2004 with Holiday House in New York. It is about a boy who wants to be president someday, but for now, Student Council President. His history teacher begins a project in class where 2 kids are king and queen for 2 weeks. The idea is to learn about leadership. They use a medieval theme and chaos ensues. Dungeon in the classroom, PTA disruption with kids in costume, etc.It was republished in paperback through Scholastic Book Clubs in 2006 with a new cover and title, which I love: HOW TO RULE THE SCHOOL.My new picture book coming out Sept 2008 with Pelican Books out of New Orleans, JOSH’S HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN is for ages 4-8 and is the story of a brother and sister who make their annual visit to their grandfather’s farm to help sell pumpkins for the town fall festival. The boy finds an enormous pumpkin that he wants for himself and hides, yet later gives up unselfishly with an idea to rescue his lost sister. The illustrator did a stunning job and I’m very proud of how it has turned out.
Jessica: Do you use multiple publishers?
: Yes, at the moment, though I do have 2 projects my agent has submitted to Holiday House that I’m waiting to hear back on.

Jessica: How many times did you submit your first book before it was accepted?
Kathryn: I don’t count my work for hire in this type of question.CROWN ME! was submitted for 5 years with lots of nice letters, but no sale. Then a friend introduced me to my agent who took me on. Although a publisher was currently interested and had held onto it for a year, my agent ended up pulling it from them. She had me rewrite it from 3rd to 1st person and up the humor. Then, it sold to the first publisher she sent it to. Submitted 20it in November and it was accepted in early February.
Jessica: How long have you had an agent?
Kathryn: Yes, for the last 5 years.
Jessica: How many submissions to agents did it take?
Kathryn: I sent off to several agents many years ago and got very nice responses, but gave up for awhile. Then an online friend asked if she could tell her agent about me. I checked out the agent and found she has been around a few years, first as an editor, and sold several books. She asked to see some samples, so I sent her a notebook with my bio, copies of published short stories for kids, samples of 3 novels (including Crown Me) and a few copies of rejection letters. She took me on within a few weeks.
Jessica: At what point (what experience) did you get your agent?
Kathryn: I had had about 1000 short pieces published at this point as well as the 2 work-for-hire picture books. I’d been writing to sell about 12 years.
Thanks Kathryn for taking the time to be interviewed. We've learned so much about the publishing process. I hope you'll consent to being interviewed again about your success in the religous adult markets.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 8:12 PM CDT
Friday, 8 August 2008
Barbara Techel Interview: Frankie the Walkj and Roll Dog
Topic: school visit
Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog
ISBN: 0-9800052-0-5
Copyright: 2008
Author: Barbara Gail Techel
Artist: Victoria Kay Lieffring
Available for Purchase at
Contact Information: email:

The book chronicles the life of a dog that overcomes a mobility problem by using a cart to hold up her back end. It’s not a book only for dog lovers or children. It can be enjoyed by all.
Frankie looks a little different, but she’s the same dog she was before her accident. She was not able to do things like she used to, she has to have her cart to get around, but she still craves fun and love.
Barbara Techel”s book sales have been great. Check out her marketing and promotion ideas. Her intended audience were 8-12 year olds, but it has appeal for younger children and adults.
The kids will enjoy the illustrations by the artist, Victoria Kay Lieffring. They capture Frankie's cart and her warm brown eyes. She captured Frankie. The fcombination of her artwork and the sto9ry told in Frankie's voice compliment each other and make the reader fall in love with the pup that faced tragedy and overcame it.

Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog Book Interview

Q: How is your lovable pup?
A: Frankie is amazing and an absolute joy! As I write this interview she is sunning herself out on our deck while I work in my writing studio. I can see her through my periwinkle, white and green Victorian screen door. Her eyes are half-closed and her nose is twitching with all the smells of summer floating by. She brings a balance and calm to my life just by observing her.

Q: Is this common for this breed of dog?
A: Yes, sadly this is common in this breed. It is called Intevertebral Disk Disease. There are many theories to why this occurs and one strong belief is that it is a disease that comes from over breeding.

You self published your book. I know many authors are choosing to do so. Let’s talk about your experience.

Q: What company did you use?
I did not use a specific self-publishing company if that is what you mean. Initially I was going to go with a POD (print-on-demand) company. As I researched them I began to find information that some were not suitable and quite frankly, were out to get your money and really not help the author. I do believe there are reputable Pod’s out there now, but it is not the route I chose to take. Another reason I did not go with a POD was due to cost per book it would have cost me to have a full-color children’s book printed. In the end I would have had to charge over $25.00 per book to sell them. I wanted my book to be affordable for as many children as possible because of the message I am sharing.
I ended up creating my own publishing company and naming it Joyful Paw Prints. That means I have handled everything an independent publishing company would handle for you. My illustrator did the illustrations and laid the book out for me. I then hired a graphic designer to take my book to print since my illustrator was unfamiliar with how that process worked. Taking a book to print is a lot of checks and balances and you want someone with experience who knows how to do this. I also had my book edited by two different editors. Being that I was going the self-publishing route I wanted to surpass the stigma that SP can sometimes have. I was very conscious of my name being on my book and wanted it to be the best it could be. So to answer your question in a short sentence: I hired myself and created my own company to publish my book.

Q: What were the pros and cons of self publishing?

A: I think you have to be very aware of what you are getting into when you self-publish as I did because you will have many hats to wear and many things to learn. It can seem very daunting some days with all the details, but I believe if you are really passionate about your book and your message it will carry you through the days you want to maybe throw in the towel. It is a full time commitment. I have read many, many books on SP, plus listen to many teleseminars on SP, attend writing conferences, subscribe to newsletters about writing and SP, etc. I am continually educating myself. My overall feeling about SP is that it is very exciting. With the internet and technology these days I personally feel it is a very amazing time to be part of the SP world. There are some major changes happening in the publishing world and I think you will see SP becoming a very viable, positive option for authors. I absolutely believe there is this positive shift happening with SP. I personally love the aspect of being able to control what happens with my book and you may not always get that with a big publishing house. Also from what I have learned, publishing houses now look for authors who have SP and have built a platform for themselves and sell books. Then they (publishing house) may just take you on.

Q: Was there something that surprised you?
A: Though I knew from everything I studied that SP was a big task, one never knows how big until you get into it. My most difficult thing to do is planning my days out. When you SP you have so many tasks (especially marketing) to attend to that I sometimes don’t even know where to begin or how to schedule things. I tend to be a person who wants to go with the flow and work on what suits me that day, but you can’t always do that.
If you could tell someone 3 things to help them when they self publish what would they be?
-Read, read, read and study all you can about SP.
-Talk with others who have SP.
-Attend writing conferences where you can network and meet others to learn what they have done.
-And although I know you only asked for 3 I just have to say, BELIEVE in yourself and your story. I think there are so many out there that have incredible stories to tell and they get frightened because of potential rejection by a publishing house or feel they can’t SP. But, I would encourage you to believe in you and your story and know that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Q: How did you find your artist?
A: It was meant to be. She actually happens to live in the same small town that I do (our population is about 1,200). Three years ago I hired Diane Krause-Stetson ( who is a life coach and through my coaching sessions with her it led me to writing and doing my first book. She actually knew of Victoria (illustrator) because she had done a leadership class at the highschool where Victoria had attended and Victoria was in Diane’s leadership class. Diane knew she went to school for design and gave me her name.

Q: Did you hire someone to edit the book?
A: Yes, I worked with two separate editors. One editor was a woman who led women’s writing circle that I attended once a week. The writing circle was also instrumental in providing me with constructive feedback about my book. Because everyone in that circle, including the editor, knew me quite well I wanted someone who did not know my background or story, so I hired another editor to get a different point of view. For me it worked, and I was glad I went the route of two different editors. I wanted to be sure it was as good as it could be before going out into the world.

Let’s talk about Book Promotion.

Q: What type of book promotion(s) did you do?

A: I was fortunate enough to have the wonderful support of my local friends of the library. Each year they like to sponsor an author and do an event for them. They approached me and offered to sponsor my book launch. I was so touched and honored. They did all the promotion and most of the work and Frankie and I had to just show up and do our thing that day. It was a huge success with over 200 people attending and 160 books sold. Three local papers did a feature story on our book launch also which the Friends of the Library arranged.
I also promote myself to the area schools offering visits with Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Dog. I sent out about 200 postcards last winter to area schools, though honestly, most of the bookings I got were by word of mouth. So just getting yourself out there I believe will lead you to more presentations to do.
I also am always on the lookout for blogs, like Jessica’s who are looking to do book interviews.
I have also done radio interviews which I think are very fun! I get a big kick out of being on my phone in my writing studio and talking to who knows who out there.
This summer Frankie and I have done presentations for nursing homes to get our name out there. Every Saturday (if not at another event) I also set up a table at our local Farmer’s market in our little town. Frankie comes with me and I let people ask questions about her. I sell 10-25 books each time, plus I have had many people taking my business card that are teachers who said they will be contacting me.
I also speak with local charity groups and women’s groups and share my story of my journey which led me to writing.
I want to do more internet marketing and am just beginning to explore that avenue and am considering a Virtual Book Tour.
Also, I continually work on getting reviews for my books.
One very fun promotional thing I recently did with Frankie was take her to a festival called German Fest which was held in a big city near us. They sponsored a costume contest for dachshunds. We dressed Frankie as a train. Her cart served well as the engine so she could be the train conductor. My husband made a coal car and a caboose and hooked that up to the back of her cart and she became a train. It was a huge success and drew so much attention the announcer gave out my name and website and mentioned my book. And Frankie won 1st place in the contest and our local paper wrote up a feature story on it.
Overall, I think you just have to be creative and look for different ways to promote your book and just have fun with it!

Q:What did you find to be the most difficult part of selling the book?
I have not had too much difficulty to this point. I do what I can to promote it and I also have a strong faith that whoever Frankie’s story is to touch God will lead us in that direction.

Writing -The Process

Q: Do you have a critique group?
A: I did while I was writing my book, which was the women’s writing circle I belonged to. When I write my second book, I will join a critique group which will be specific to critique and children’s books. I feel it is crucial to do this in order to produce the best book possible.

Q: Tell us about your previous writing experience.
A: I didn’t really begin writing until over three years ago. Before that I always enjoyed writing letters and poems to family and friends and was always told I could write from the heart. When I came to a cross roads in my life when my chocolate lab Cassie Jo was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, I really wanted to do something with my life that mattered. It led me to writing about animals. For two years I wrote a monthly column for our local paper called, “For the Love of Animals.” I also submitted a story for a contest sponsored by Linda and Allen Anderson, best selling authors. I won honorable mention for a story I wrote, “Cassie and Frankie Inspire a Writer.” My plans were to continue writing for my local paper and venture into writing an adult non-fiction book based on my spiritual journey from the life lessons I learned from my dogs. But, when Frankie became paralyzed and I realized the blessing of sharing her message, I decided to write her story instead.

Q: Are there picture books you enjoyed growing up)?
A: Charlotte’s Web is my all time favorite book. I also enjoyed Curious George, Pippi Longstocking, and Three Little Horses at the King’s Palace.

Q: What is key to appeal to children through your writing?

A: For my book it is the character. Kids fall in love with Frankie and the fact she is in a dog cart teaches them so many valuable lessons. I’ve also been complimented on the fact I told the story in Frankie’s voice. Kids can relate and connect with dogs on a level that is hard to explain. By having Frankie tell her story “in her own words,” I feel it really reaches kids on a heart level. There also are not many non-fiction children’s books out there and I think that has great appeal and potential.

Writing Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog

Q: What did you do in preparation for writing the book?
A: I read and studied tons and tons of children’s books. I also read many books about writing in general. Also belonging to the women’s writing circle also helped me with my writing.
Q: How long did it take you to finish writing it from initial concept to final manuscript?
B: I began in mid March 2007 and my book went to print late December 2007.

Q: How many edits?

B:I lost count… but lots and lots and lots!! I thought I would hate the editing process, but I liked it. It was fascinating to watch it evolve into a better and better story each time an edit was done. By the last edit, the words and the heart of the story literally popped off the page for me. It felt completely right. That and when my books arrived were the two moments I will never forget!

Q: Did you let it sit between edits?

B: Yes, I would usually let it sit a day or two.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to share with us?
B:I would just like to say to all those out there wanting to get their story out there, to go for it!! Don’t be afraid. Believe in who you are, persevere, and know you can do it. Never give up hope that there are others who want and need to hear your story. I absolutely believe that we must share our stories and our hearts in order for our world to become a more peaceful place. I really also believe there are so many good stories out there, but writers become afraid of rejection. Be brave and face the constructive criticism and leave the rest of what you don’t want, behind. I knew if my book was to be the best it could be I had to open myself to critique, but I also knew if I felt strongly about something I wanted in my book that that was okay too. Just get those words onto paper, promote yourself and share your story and it will have a positive impact not only on your life, but many others.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 7:22 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 8:04 PM CDT
Tuesday, 24 June 2008
N. D. Hansen Hill Author of ErRatic
Topic: YA author interview

Title: ErRatic
Author N.D. Hansen-Hill
ISBN 9781594146435
Publisher Five Star
Places to purchase
(or request it at your local library)
Cost US $25.95 (hard cover edition)
Pages 335
Contact information.

Are you a Stephen King, John Saul or Dean Koontz fan? I am. I’ve been hunting for a new author. They don’t write fast enough, and I’m a horror novel snob. I’ve not been able to find one until now.
I have to admit when I offered to interview the author of ErRatic and asked for a book she had written, I fully expected to be unimpressed.
I was pleasantly surprised. Her rich descriptions make you feel like you are in the middle of those terrifying scenes. The head hopping between one character’s mind to the next is natural. The reader is always able to easily determine in which person’s head they are inside. (point of view).
I encourage anyone that wants their spine to tingle or stand on end to pick up a copy today. If you want to write horror, you could learn much by reading and analyzing ErRatic.

Q: What do you find difficult/challenging about switching point of view? Your book flows from one characters POV to another's and is seamless. Can you share your secret?
A: I understand POV is one of my faults, LOL, and I have to credit the editors of ErRatic for helping me in that respect! I learned a great deal about keeping in one person's perspective from them. I also learned a bit about "grounding" my characters. It's not enough to have them speak - they must be somewhere. Sounds silly, but as a reader I know I appreciate being able to picture a character in a physical location, whether a room, or a forest setting - whatever is called for.

Q: Do you have a timeline you follow many words per day, per week, per month, time spent writing goals and plan of action?
I try to write a 1000 words per day, and if I'm working on multiple projects, as is usually the case, I'll try to do 1000 words on each. That said, I have another job, plus there are always edits from publishers and other demands on my time. Usually, I'll carry out with 1000 to 3000 words/day when I'm trying to finish something up, then when I get under the 20,000 words remaining mark, I'll abandon everything else and rush to finish. At the moment, I have 4 projects in edit, so I'm working on rewriting and getting them out to publishers instead.

Q: Do you write and edit as you write? Do you let a book rest before the final edit?
Usually, at the start of each writing session, I'll reread what I wrote the day before and edit what I can. This usually smooths things enough that come final edit time I have fewer mistakes to correct. I almost always let a book rest before the final edit. If, for any reason, I can't, I'll play that old editor's trick of completely changing the font type and size, so it looks "different". That's good for catching mistakes you failed to see the first time through.

Q: Can you describe your "writer's area" ie desk, books, etc...
Messy. Disordered. Useless to almost anyone but me! My Inbox is a stack of papers, and my place is rather small, so I'm content if I have room to sit, and move my feet. The only time I get frustrated is when I rearrange the furniture and don't leave myself a place to push back my chair. I never realized how many times a day I slouch back to consider a scene until I tried to do it and couldn't! That lasted about 2 days before I rearranged things. I have boxes of my books here and there, and keep promising myself I'll do something about them, but...

Q: How do you make a scene scary? What's the key?
A: I'm there. When I'm writing a scene I'm actually there. I am the hero/heroine, fending off the demons. I reproduce the things that would/do frighten me onto the monitor - try to describe what I'm visualizing. I think I must have a vivid imagination. There are times I even scare myself !

Q: What is your main obstacle in writing and editing?
A: I hate editing. I think most writers do. When you're writing, you feel as though you're being creative, but when you're editing, you're tearing down, attempting to fix what you found difficult to "fix" the first time around, and there's no more putting off till tomorrow the mistakes you made yesterday!

Q: How did you/do you market your books?
I belong to a number of Yahoo groups, blogs, and visit forum sites. Unfortunately, I don't do these things nearly as often as I should! I don't like to be a "hit and run" group visitor (it makes me feel guilty), but it's difficult to find time for much more.

Q: Can you walk us through your journey to publication?
This depends on the book. SF books have a much more limited number of places to submit than romance novels. I'll do the edits, check and double-check the formatting requirements for the particular publisher, then submit online. I prefer online submissions because I live in New Zealand, which is so far from most publishers, and shipping of manuscripts costs. If the editors comment, or offer me feedback, I look at it seriously, particularly if I hear the same criticism from several sources (it may mean something of a rewrite is called for). That hasn't happened for a while, though, and I generally sub to several publishers at once, but advise them if they ask for the entire manuscript that it is also being considered elsewhere. If a manuscript is rejected because it doesn't fit into one publisher's program, I'll turn around and sub it elsewhere the same day. There's no point in dwelling on rejection. Publishing is a business, and they may not be publishing/promoting your kind of book, or they may have filled their lists, etc.

Q:-How many publishers did you submit to?
A: Over the years? Hundreds. I have 6 publishers at this point, with 30+ books/novellas contracted.

Q:-How long did it take from acceptance to publication?
That depends on the book. Some can publish within several months, but some take over a year. ErRatic was the longest, followed by some of my Cerridwen Press novels. ErRatic took around 15, 16 months, I believe, from acceptance to release. Most independent publishers don't leave sufficient time to garner reviews from the larger magazines, because at the time of release, the book is released as an ebook, rather than print. ErRatic was for the library markets, and was released in hard cover.

Q: Is there anything you would like to share with us about writing in this genre?
A: Think scary, and be scared! Put yourself in the situation, and do your research. Research is absolutely vital - it's not good enough to claim "I know about ghosts because my house is haunted". That may help render effects, but you need to know your stuff, from parapsychology to the many different ways a haunting can present itself, so the situations your characters face can become increasingly more dire. Readers like a buildup to the finale.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 7:13 PM CDT
Saturday, 31 May 2008
Mayra Calvani Release of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing
Topic: book reviewing
June is ‘Book Reviewing’ month at Blogcritics Magazine! To promote the release of The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, co-author Mayra Calvani will be interviewing 15+ reviewers and review editors during the month of June. Learn all about the business of book reviewing and what’s in the mind of some of the most popular reviewers on the internet today. Some of the guests will include: Alex Moore from ForeWord Magazine, James Cox from Midwest Book Review, Irene Watson from Reader Views, Andrea Sisco from Armchair Interviews, Magdalena Ball from The Compulsive Reader, Sharyn McGinty from In The Library Reviews, Lea Schizas from Muse Book Reviews, Linda Baldwin from Road to Romance, Hilary Williamson from Book Loons, Judy Clark from Mostly Fiction, and many others! To see the complete lineup, visit: The Slippery Book Review Blog.Between June 1st and June 30th, stop by Blogcritics and leave a comment under the reviewer interviews for a chance to win a Pump Up Your Book Promotion Virtual Book Tour (coordinated by book marketing guru Dorothy Thompson), OR, as an alternative to a non-author winner, a $50 B&N gift certificate!

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 6:59 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 7:19 PM CDT
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Carol J. Amato Interview: How to Start and Run a Writer's Critique Group
Mood:  not sure


Carol J. Amato is the author of 19 books and 175 articles. Her many memorable books for young people include the acclaimed series Breakthroughs in Science (The Earth, Astronomy, Inventions, and The Human Body), 50 Nifty Science Fair Projects, the Super Science Project Book, and 50 More Nifty Science Fair Projects.Firmly believing that kids’ fiction can be educational as well as entertaining, Ms. Amato has applied her Master of Arts in Anthropology to creating an exciting middle-grade mystery series, The Phantom Hunters™. Each mystery takes readers to a different culture. The first book, The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun, published in 2005, takes place on the Navajo Nation. Book #2, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, set in Lincolnshire, England, will be out this fall. Her other recent titles include How to Start and Run a Writers’ Critique Group and The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun Teacher’s Guide, both of which came out in 2006. Her articles have appeared in national magazines, such as PC Novice and Smart Computing.Ms. Amato is a board member of the Writers' Club of Whittier, Inc., a professional writers’ critique group, and a member of the Children’s Literature Council and California Readers. She is listed Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the West, the World Who's Who of Women, and Who’s Who in America.

Carol J. Amato Interview:
How to Start and Run a Writers' Critique Group

Q: What topics are covered in your book?
A: The topics covered in the book include how to find original members, organize the critique group (decide the level or writers to include and how many), find a location, establish critique group rules, critique manuscripts, admit new members, and deal with difficult people. It also covers how to grow into a formal club, sponsor events, and get publicity for those who are interested in expanding to this level. The appendices include checklists, a sample set of critique group rules, and, for those who want to organize a large formal group, a sample set of bylaws.

Q: Where can your book be purchased?
A: Through any major wholesaler, from Borders and Barnes & Noble through special order, on, and through Since the book is carried by the major wholesalers, most bookstores can order it, even independent ones.
The ISBN of this 128-page book is 0-9713756-8-2, and the retail cost is $14.95.

Q: How will a critique group benefit writers?
This is a great question. The tangible benefits of a critique group are readily identifiable:
- Outside reaction to your writing
Did you communicate what you thought you did?
- Listening to and analyzing others' work (phrasing, plot and character development, book and article structure, etc.)
This exercise in thinking is very growth-producing and you'll pick up many tips for your own work.
-Camaraderie with other writers
No one understands a writer like another writer.
-Intellectual stimulation
You’ll hear a lot of great ideas presented.
- Exploring new genres of writing
Once you hear manuscripts from another genre, you may decide to write one yourself!
- Reputation extension
-Other writers can recommend you to agents, editors, etc.
-Opportunity to hear some great stories

You’ll be entertained while you work!

Q: Do you belong to any writing groups and has it increased the marketability of your writing? Can you give an example?
A: Yes, yes, and yes! I have belonged to several groups over the years and am currently in four. One group is a large formal club, the Writers’ Club of Whittier (WCW), to which I have belonged for many, many years. The group itself was originally formed in 1953, so it’s been going a long, long time. It had several different critique groups at the time: fiction, nonfiction, juvenile, drama-TV, and poetry.
At the time I joined, no unpublished people had ever been admitted. I was the first one. The club had changed slightly to accept people whose writing was of publishable quality. I applied to both the fiction and nonfiction groups. The first thing one member said of my fiction was, “Do you realize you say what you’re going to say, then you say it, and then you say what you just said?”
The minute she mentioned that, the lightbulb went off in my head, and I realized how repetitious my writing was; I was saying the same thing in several different ways. I went through my manuscripts and deleted all the excess words. That’s one major help I got way back when.
Lo these many years later, I still get great feedback; for example, people point out word choice, perhaps a better plot twist, and concepts that might be made clearer. On my current novel, I am running into a problem in the next chapter. I know I will get some great ideas from my critique groups on how to get through that problem.
Over the years, I have picked up hundreds of tips, such as subleties of plot, characterization, dialogue, and theme in fiction, and how to write better article leads and closes. I completely attribute the fact that I now have published almost 175 articles, eighteen non-fiction books, one fiction book, and two short stories to the critiques I received and others to which I listened. I say "listened," because writers can learn just as much from hearing discussion about others' work as they can from hearing about their own.
That group is so valuable that despite moving to different cities in the SoCal area and the high price of gas for that 60-mile round-trip, I continue to attend the critique group three times a month.
I belong to three other local ones, one of which is strictly for children’s writing. In that group, we have all become such close friends that I know this group will last a lifetime, too.

Q: At what point in your writing career did you begin using one?
A: Almost from the very beginning. While I knew I wanted to be a writer from the time I was in the 4th grade, I didn’t begin writing seriously until I was out of college. I was lucky enough to be able to travel aboard an oil tanker for a year (the subject of yet another book, so I won’t go into any details here), and that’s where I wrote my first novel, a western that never sold.
When I returned to the United States, I immediately looked around for a fiction-writing class. I found one through adult ed called “Writing for Publication.” I knew this was right up my alley, so I signed up. The teacher of that class was the person who recommended that I and another student apply for membership in the WCW. I have been in that group ever since.

Q: What is your view of online critique groups? Pros? Cons?
A: I think online groups are great! I have no experience with online critique groups, but I do teach writing classes online, and many of the pros boil down to one concept: convenience. These are the pros and cons I can see based on my experience teaching asynchronous classes:


Let’s restrict this discussion to people who are writing and publishing/hoping to publish in English.
With the rising price of gas, the idea of not having to drive to a group is very appealing.
People with childcare issues don’t have to worry about getting babysitters, because they can log on at their convenience.
A person can attend via the comfort of her/her own home no matter how foul the weather is.
People who are unable to for whatever reason (no license, disability, illness, etc.), can also belong to the group. An online group levels the playing
Members can belong no matter where they live. For example, in my classes, I have students from all over the globe. Some are Americans living overseas; others are foreign students proficient in English. A critique group might not be available or feasible in those countries for people writing in English. I also have student who live in rural areas where no universities are within any kind of driving distance. The ability to belong to a group online erases all geographical boundaries


There are only a few cons that I can see:
The Internet is not secure. A writer’s material is floating out there and available to who knows whom. While no one in the actual group may be doing anything untoward with the writer’s work, hackers could get to it.
Without being able to interview the people who want to join the group and verify their backgrounds, it may be hard to tell if people are truthfully representing themselves. This is a stretch, but a con artist in prison may want to become a writer, but unless the e-mail address provided stated it was from a prison, the organizer of the group would have no way of knowing that. Extra care would have to be taken to ensure that all members are reputable people.

Q: How would you suggest recruiting members?
A: Start by contacting groups that are reputable, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the National Writers’ Club, Sisters in Crime, the California Writers’ Club, etc. If the organizer belongs to any lists, checking with the members would be a good idea, too. If the organizer doesn’t belong to any, he/she should join some, as this avoids going to the Internet at large. The organizer should be a member for awhile to get to know the other members before asking for potential members.
Once the request is made, however, ask for writing samples. You want to make sure the writers recruited are at the same writing level. If this is a beginner group, it’s expedient to have an advanced writer in the group to offer more professional feedback.
All of this information is detailed in my book, How to Start and Run a Writers’ Critique Group.

Q: What elements should be considered when setting up a critique group?
A: There are several. The size of the group, where it will meet, the level of writers it will include, and how manuscripts will be read and for how long. This latter means such things as whether or not the writers will read their work out loud to the group, ship manuscripts to the members in advance of the group so only the critique is presented at the actual meeting, bring copies for the other members to mark up as the writer reads, etc.

Q: How long does the writer get to read?
A: In the WCW, we are allowed 20 minutes to read. We’ve learned that more than 20 minutes can lead to people getting bored.

Q: How do you think a group leader should be chosen?
A: Generally, the group leader should be chosen by consensus of the group once it has been formed, but this is not a hard and fast rule. An experienced writer may want to mentor beginners, for example, and so organizes a group in which he/she is the leader.

Q: What qualities should a group leader have?
A: The group leader should be chosen based on his/her writing experience, his/her level of diplomacy, and his/her ability to keep the group on track.
The WCW has very strict rules about no one interrupting the writer while he/she reads and the members critiquing in turn with no defense from the writer or interruptions from the other members.
I’ve been to groups in which the leader allows the members to start a free-for-all debate over issues that have nothing to do with the manuscript or cuts the writer off midstream because he/she has “heard enough.” I never went back for a second meeting with these groups.

Q: What do you think the most important elements are for writing nonfiction for a specific audience like writers?
A: As in any type of writing, the audience has to be the first priority. Let’s say you are writing for writers. Beginning writers? Intermediate writers? Advanced writers? The level is going to determine the content and the amount of detail presented. If you are writing an article about how to write a lead, for example, beginning writers may not know what a lead is. The writer would need to explain it. Overlook this and the reader will not know what the writer is talking about. Explain it to an audience of expert writers and they will tune out because the material is to elementary.
If you are writing about a topic that is technical but the writing is aimed at a general audience, avoid jargon. If some has to be used, be sure to explain what it means.
Any scenarios or examples presented should relate to the subject matter at hand.

Q: How many critique groups have you participated in and how many have you quit?
A: As I mentioned earlier, I have been in the Writers’ Club of Whittier for many years. I have participated in at least seven or eight more over the years, but I’ve stayed in only three others besides the WCW for the following reasons, some of which I’ve already mentioned: quality of the critique, the order maintained in the group, the closeness I’ve developed with the other members, and perhaps most importantly, the seriousness with which the writers consider their craft. This means they consistently attend the group and have manuscripts to read. They heed the critique and their writing improves over time.
If those characteristics don’t define a member—if he/she doesn’t come regularly or write consistently because “life gets in the way”—think twice about retaining that person in the group. The quality of the other members’ own development as writers depends on it.

Q: What are some examples of reasons for leaving a group?
I think I’ve already covered this, but to reiterate:
1. The members aren’t committed to attending.
2. The group is not run efficiently: there is too much off-topic discussion, arguing about the merits of the manuscript, defense on the part of the writer, dictatorial behavior on the part of the leader, and tension between the members as a result.
3. The manuscripts being read aren’t geared for publication if that’s the direction the group is headed.
4. The critique isn’t helping out the writer.

Q: Why have you stayed in some?
A: I’ve stayed in the WCW and the other three groups because of the quality of the critique, quality of the manuscripts being read, the well-run nature of the groups, and the friendships I’ve been able to develop with the other members.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 6:50 PM CDT
Monday, 19 May 2008
Carol J. Amato Interview: Writing a Teacher's Guide
Topic: writing a teacher's guide


 Carol J. Amato hosted an online chat at the October 2007 Free Muse Online Writer’s Conference on writing a Teacher’s Guide to accompany a fiction or nonfiction book. She held a chat on "How to Start and Run a Critique Group" in 2008. 



Why not write a teacher's guide? It seems like a no brainer. If you can get your books into schools, your sales will increase.

Carol J. Amato is the author of 19 books and 175 articles. Her many memorable books for young people include the acclaimed series Breakthroughs in Science (The Earth, Astronomy, Inventions, and The Human Body), 50 Nifty Science Fair Projects, the Super Science Project Book, and 50 More Nifty Science Fair Projects.
Firmly believing that kids’ fiction can be educational as well as entertaining, Ms. Amato has applied her Master of Arts in Anthropology to creating an exciting middle-grade mystery series, The Phantom Hunters™. Each mystery takes readers to a different culture. The first book, The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun, published in 2005, takes place on the Navajo Nation. Book #2, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, set in Lincolnshire, England, will be out this fall. Her other recent titles include How to Start and Run a Writers’ Critique Group and The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun Teacher’s Guide, both of which came out in 2006. Her articles have appeared in national magazines, such as PC Novice and Smart Computing.
Ms. Amato is a board member of the Writers' Club of Whittier, Inc., a professional writers’ critique group, and a member of the Children’s Literature Council and California Readers. She is listed Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the West, the World Who's Who of Women, and Who’s Who in America.

Here is this accomplished writer’s advice about writing a Teacher’s Guide.

Q: What is a benefit to writing a teacher’s guide?
A:Writing a 32-page teacher’s guide can open whole new markets for your K-8 books; teachers and home-school parents are the major one. They will want the kids to read the book because you have created ready-made activities, which saves them time from creating them.

Q:You can take the setting from your book and the time period and create a teacher’s guide that goes beyond the story itself.
For example, The Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun, which is the first book in my middle-grade mystery series, The Phantom Hunters, takes place on the Navajo Nation. I created a teacher’s guide that not only had activities about the actual story, but also had activities and information on the Navajo Nation, Navajo culture and language, the Code Talkers, the Grand Canyon, Arizona geography and history, Arizona deserts and desert animals, other Arizona tribes, and American Sign Language (one of the characters is deaf).

Q: What steps should you follow to see how to write a guide?
A:This is really a multi-step process. The first thing is to go to a teacher supply store and look at all the teachers’ guides that are currently out on the market. You will want to create activities across the curriculum, so look at all types, such as history, math, social studies, etc., to see what kinds of activities they include.
The second step is to research the educational standards to see what curriculum matches the target age group and the subject of your book.
The third step depends on whether or not you have any teaching background. If you do, you should be able to determine what other kinds of activities you can include to make your teacher’s guide different from those on the market. If you don’t, you want to find a teacher at the grade level to which you are aiming to cowrite with you.

Q: Should a writer conduct research standards for the state and area and stage of mental development it is designed to strengthen?
A: This is absolutely critical. Ideally, a writer would research the standards first to find out what is in them, then create a story that incorporates them. I lucked out writing a middle-grade book about the Navajo Nation, since I didn’t discover until after the fact that kids in Arizona study the Southwest in the 4th grade and California kids study it in the 5th. What if this had been a 7th grade topic? I would have had a novel geared for ages 8-12 but a teacher’s guide for grade 7. That would never have worked.
I had already had the idea for the second book in the series, The Secret of Blackhurst Manor, which takes place in England, before I looked at the standards. I didn’t start writing until I did research them, however. I discovered that kids don’t study Great Britain per se in grades 4-6, but they do study Ancient Rome. The Roman Empire extended to the Scottish border, though, and the Romans built many English towns. Julius Caesar was a silversmith in Britain before he became emperor.
I changed my original setting of Yorkshire to Lincolnshire; specifically, Lincoln, the town my ex-husband came from and which was founded by the Romans in 46 AD. The castle and cathedral there date from Norman times. The castle’s dungeon provided a super opportunity for some great scenes and plot twists, and of course, since my main character can see ghosts, the book had to have some who were Roman soldiers. This will allow me to create activities and research projects that deal with the Romans in Britain.
These days, in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers must teach to the standards. Anything that will help them to accomplish this task more easily will be welcomed.

Q: Should you reference the curriculum covered by exercises that support specific state guidelines or mental development?
Doing so is absolutely critical. You will probably notice that a lot of teacher’s guides have the standards referenced at the front or the back of the guide. Teachers to whom I have spoken state that this is useless to them, since they can’t tell at a glance what activity is for what standard or development level. Instead, they want to see the standards printed on the page to which they apply. I have included mine in the footer of each page.
In addition, you need to include activities that not only target the average student, but also the gifted students, the slow learners, and the students for whom English is a second language. I have coded my pages with G for gifted, R for Resource (slow learners), and ELL (English Language Learners). It’s assumed that all the activities can apply to the class in general.
Also, put the word “Reproducible” on each page that the teacher can freely photocopy and distribute to students.

Q: What types of exercises will work?
The types of activities can include word games (like word searches and crossword puzzles), quizzes, and art, writing, and research projects. In one activity, I have the students creating a newspaper with articles about “trips” they’ve taken on the Navajo Nation and things they’ve seen there, researched from the Internet. Having a technical component (using the Internet to conduct research or software programs to create projects) is also critical.

Q: How would you promote the guide?
A: If your publisher publishes it, it will no doubt be sold through the same channels as your book. The publisher should also offer it to teacher supply stores. Bear in mind that public libraries will not buy it (though school libraries might), since it’s considered a “consumable” book; that is, it falls in the workbook category. Libraries don’t want to carry anything that might tempt a young reader to mark up the pages.
You can offer it on your website, but if your publisher agrees to publish it, be sure not to violate any terms of your contract; e.g., are you allowed to sell it on your site via a shopping cart or do you have to refer buyers to the publishers’ website?
You can also buy a list of teachers and send them direct mail. I would avoid e-mailing them. Many teachers don’t even have e-mail, and even if they do, many school district servers filter out most e-mail from the outside. Your publisher should also let the buyers of your book know that it’s available.
I exhibit at trade shows and book fairs, and another step I intend to take is to get the book and teacher’s guide adopted through the school districts. Once a book is adopted, it will be on the curriculum list for all the schools in that district.

Q: Can a book be fiction and still be a teacher’s guide?
A:Yes, it certainly can. Mine are, as I’ve mentioned above. It’s a great way to get the students to learn about the setting of your story, other famous people who lived there, historical incidents that have taken place in that area, etc.

Q: What do you do if your publisher won’t publish it?
A: The answer is simple: Publish it yourself. How you do so depends on your budget. I’ve seen freebie teacher’s guides that consist of a few typed pages. Don’t be this simplistic. Get a program like Nova Development’s Publisher Pro, which is a very user-friendly page layout program that makes you look like a graphics genius. The program is cheap—about $80-$90—and the technical support is terrific—and free. You can also use MS Word, but it doesn’t handle graphics as easily as a program like Publisher Pro.
If your budget is limited and/or you don’t want to spend the money getting it printed until you find out that there’s a demand for your teacher’s guide, considering making it into a .pdf file and selling it as an e-book. Your cost will be free, if you’ve created the pages yourself. (You can find lots of free information on creating e-books on the Internet.) You can sell the guide for a minimal cost, such as $4.95, and every penny will be profit.
You can also have it printed, if you have enough outlets to which to market it.
Either way, have a professional cover designed. You want the book to look like something the teacher could purchase in the teacher supply store, even if it isn’t being sold there.

Q: Can you give some examples of exercises?
A: Certainly. As I mentioned before, you want to include activities across the curriculum: history, writing, reading comprehension, math, social studies, geography, science, technology, and art.
Here is a page by page rundown of what I included in my 32-page guide:
1 – Inside front cover
2 – Copyright page, which includes a letter to the teachers telling them about the guide.
3 – Table of Contents
4-5 – Story Summary
This is provided for the teacher’s use, so that if the students are doing book reports, he/she doesn’t have to read the whole book to find out if the students’ statements are correct.
6-7 – Story Quiz
This is a fill-in-the-blank quiz about the story, geared for reading comprehension. There is also a section discussing the theme of the story.
8-9 – Another quiz in which the kids guess who said what. The character is talking and the kids have to guess who it is. For example, “I like to tease people. I’ve been riding horses all my life. I also want to be an artist.” The kids have to guess which character this is and write his/her name in the blank below the quote.
10 – A word search using words from the book.
11 – This page is a word matching game. The kids have to match the word to its definition. Again, the words are from the book.
12-13 – These pages have some more quizzes on the story: putting events in chronological order, a true-false quiz, and a section allow the students to state their own opinions of statements about the story.
14 – This page is a recipe for Navajo fry bread. This activity requires parental/teacher supervision and states so at the top of the page.
15 – The American Sign Language Alphabet and the numbers 1-10.
16 – Background information about the Navajo Nation.
17 – An activity in which the kids plan a trip to the Navajo Nation. This incorporates the math element in that it has them calculating a route from their home to the Navajo Nation and finding out how many miles they have to travel.
18-19 – Background information on the history of the Navajo tribe.
20 – Different activities concerning a “trip” to the Navajo Nation. The kids refer to several Navajo websites, then create a newspaper with stories about the places they “visited.” They also draw pictures, make display boards of them, write an e-mail to a friend about the Navajo Nation, and write one-page descriptions of the places they “visited.”
21 – Page on the Navajo Code Talkers and some writing activities on this topic.
22 – Information on Navajo Clans and some writing activities on this topic.
23 – Word matching game on the Navajo words used in the book.
24 – An art activity on making a sand painting.
25 – Word search on more words from the story.
26-27 – Background information on Arizona as a state.
28 – Facts about Arizona as a state (state bird, motto, flower, etc.)
29 – Writing projects on the other tribes in Arizona.
30 – List of other research projects that the teacher can assign.
31 – A quiz about Arizona, based on the other information in the teacher’s guide.
32 – Answer key to quizzes and puzzles.
Be sure to come up with snappy, kid-friendly titles for your activities. If possible, relate them to the theme of your book. For example, my teacher’s guide for the Lost Treasure of the Golden Sun has a southwestern theme: “Research Roundup,” and “Tribes, Trails, and Treasure-hunters” are two of the titles I used. Other kid-friendly ones are “Let’s Make Fry Bread” and “Let’s Learn Sign Language.”

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 11:01 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 6:50 PM CDT
Saturday, 16 February 2008
The Rock of Realm by Lea Schizas: Interview II
Topic: YA author interview

Title: The Rock of Realm

Author: Lea Schizas

ISBN: 1-932993-08-8 (Trade Paperback)

Young Adult Novel The Rock of Realm can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Lea Schizas is promoting her young adult novel The Rock of Realm in a blog tour this February. I had the opportunity to ask her questions about her book and her creative process. By reading Lea’s interview, I hope you will become intrigued with this author’s journey to publication. The book is an excellent example of fantasy fiction. A writer can learn a lot about character development (discussed on this blog the 15th of this month) and plotting.

The book can also be enjoyed for it’s entertainment value . Give the readers what they love; the good guys and the bad with a twist at the end. Everybody loves a surprise. Want to know what it is? Pick up a copy today and learn from a master story teller.


Q: What planted the seed for the idea of The Rock of Realm?
A: I’m not sure if there was any ‘one’ particular seed as much as having read and bought so many books for my five children as they grew up that the need to offer my readers a different slant to the villain became almost an obsession with me. I polled middle graders along with the over fourteen age group, asking them what they considered a villain to be. From their answers, which were basically all the same (someone who is bad, who can’t become good, who likes to do mean things), I began to outline Dread, the villain in The Rock of Realm. I wanted to give him a back story, a reason for being who he was, and bring the reader to a point where they need to ask themselves if Dread really is a villain or simply a complex character surrounded by circumstances. This, in itself, is a lesson to tell them that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Q: How did you start?
A:I started with the title. Most of my stories are conjured in my head once I have a title.

Q: How did you begin with your characters?
A: The first person I created was my villain because I felt he needed the most fleshing out. Next came my heroine. I knew I couldn’t just place her as the princess to Rock Kingdom but needed to place her in an obstacle course of discovery in order to bring out various emotions in her: anger, disappointment, fear, bravery.

Q: How did you come up with the plot?
A: The plot created itself as soon as both villain and heroine came to life. I knew I needed to draw a bit of the Wizard of Oz magic into my plot but without the lion, scarecrow, and tinman. Instead, I created a blend of animals and magical beings to bring Rock Kingdom to the surface.

Q: Did you write it on paper first?
A: All of my writing is done on paper first then transferred to the computer. This helps me continue the story without having to sit by the laptop all the time.

Q: Do you freewrite?
A: I do freewrite in the sense that I never look back from where I’ve left off in the book as I’m writing it. The most I’ll look back is the last paragraph and then I take off from there. I used to go back and edit while I wrote a novel but found this slowed my process and never really moved my characters anywhere. So now I simply write the book and once ‘THE END’ is penned only then do I begin the editing stage.

Q: How did you come up with the climax?
A: Without revealing too much, there needed to be a point in the story where Alexandra Stone, my character, had to face a decision about Dread, the villain. I needed it to be dramatic, to pull at the reader’s heart so I came up with a fight scene that finally reveals Dread’s real purpose and reason for being. That scene is one of my favorite parts in the book.

Q: Did you work with a critique group and if so, at what stage?
A: I did work with a critique group but only half way through the book. At that point I had a publisher who was interested in it so I decided to continue on my own otherwise the critique group would have put me behind about a year. Their help with the first part of the book helped me see the areas I needed to spruce up.

Q: Did you submit it as you wrote it or did you tweak it as the crits came in or did u hold them and do it at once?
A: I sliced, diced, and dissected before, during, and after crits came in. I worked on The Rock of Realm diligently for over a year.

Q: Did you write it in its entirety first?
A: I wrote the whole thing first before I subbed to the critique group.

Q: When did you begin the editing and do you continue to edit this way?
A: As I explained above, the editing stage comes after I finish a novel. I cannot go back to edit because it slows down the story for me the way I’ve conjured it in my head. I need to get it out of my thoughts, down on paper, then go back and tweak. I’ve always worked like that and always will. So when I have critiques, I’ll glance at them then store them in a file when I’m ready to begin editing.

Q: Where were you when the muse hit?
A: My usual hideout- on my computer. My family joke that I care more about my laptop than I do them. Hmm…

A million more questions are dancing through my head. I'll save them for the next time I am given the opportunity to interview her. This is the first in her planned series on Rock Kingdom. Be on the look out for those that follow. I'm sure they will entertain and teach all of us how to create our own fantasy worlds. Be sure and leave a comment or question for Lea and get a chance to win an ebook of The Rock of the Realm.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 5:44 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 5:59 PM CDT
Thursday, 14 February 2008
The Rock of Realm by Lea Schizas: Interview
Topic: YA author interview

Title: The Rock of Realm

Author: Lea Schizas

ISBN: 1-932993-08-8 (Trade Paperback)

Young Adult Novel

The Rock of Realm can be purchased through Amazon or Barnes & Noble online.

Lea Schizas, author of the award-winning Young Adult fantasy/adventure The Rock of Realm will be stopping by on February 15, 2008 and February 17, 2008. She'll be available to answer questions on the making of The Rock of Realm or even to answer any writing questions you may have. Two lucky winners (one for each visit to my site on her blog tour) will receive her ebook as a door prize for leaving a comment or question.


Q: Your character’s voices are very strong. What would you suggest to others as the key to writing memorable characters?

A: Characters are like humans- they need to have their own likes and dislikes, their tics, their emotional upheavals. When I develop a character I read the dialogue. If I find I need to write ‘said so and so’ in order for the reader to know who is talking, then I go back into that character and flesh them out more. That’s not to say I don’t put tags, but the taglines are there to add more of a scene description or the character’s body language at the time to emphasize the happening and his/her reaction.

Q: Let’s talk about the characters in your novel. How would you describe three of them in 7 words or less?

A: Oh, I can describe them in less than that:

Butch: the brave and courageous protector
Pops: sarcastic, spoiled, pessimistic, yet sensitive
Jinx: starves for affection, a hidden hero

Q: Which 2 characters were the most challenging to create and why?

A: Dread was the hardest to develop because I needed to show various sides to this enigmatic man. His complex situation gave me the opportunity to begin Book Two of The Rock of Realm, where I now will explore Rock Kingdom’s background, more into why Dread had become the man everyone feared, and who or what is the cause behind this man’s mask.

Sarah Breckinridge was another hard one to develop. She is a secondary character yet also plays an important part in the book. She is the friend we all have, the one who looks up to us, who draws her strength from our own, the friend who tries to put a brave front. I needed to give something to Sarah that would pit her against Alex at some point, that would finally show why Sarah reacts to a certain situation the way she does. What that situation would be was my dilemma at the time.

Q: Can you tell your readers about a favorite scene or one you enjoyed writing without giving away too much and why?

A: My favorite scene in the book is that fight scene I mentioned earlier. In that particular scene, Alex displays humor, fear, bravery, and a mixture of total confusion when the ‘true’ villain reveals his identity. Two other unexpected characters join her as allies in this fight against these skeletal creatures, the Braks, which I find pulls on a reader’s heart, or at least it did to me, and deepens the whole book’s message I’ve subliminally placed: nothing is as it appears to be. This fight scene gave that message its clarity to the book and that is why I love that scene.

Q: Did you intentionally refrain from describing her physical characteristics and, why?

A: I’m glad to see you noticed this. Yes, I avoided giving Alex any real descriptive details because I wanted readers to visualize her in a different light. Not for her physical descriptions but for her characteristics and traits I gave her personality. I wanted them to place themselves as Alex, to step into her shoes as the hero and see themselves traveling through these adventures. There were mention of her hair color and birth mark, otherwise, the rest I allowed the reader to conjure.

Q: She acts as Sarah’s rock? Why?

A: Alex is Sarah’s strength as true friends go. She follows and compliments Alex, wants to please her friend and support her. This characteristic gives Sarah the realistic bond true friends have.

Q: Why was her character’s timidity important to the forming of Alex?

A: In order to show Alex’s strength I needed to give Alex a reason to hide her fears. For this reason Sarah’s weaker presence and fears had to be stronger than Alex’s to explain the reason for Alex’s adamant stand to get her friends back home safe and sound. If they both displayed their fears openly then neither would be distinct.

Q: What purpose does he serve?
A: Larok’s character is an introduction to Dread’s dilemma. More of Larok will be revealed as the series continues but for this first book he is like the storyteller behind the villain. His character is as enigmatic and full of purpose as Dread. They have a history together that goes back into their childhood. Consider them as two opposites, each believing they know the other yet never truly understanding each other’s motives. They are at a constant battle with each other like two spoiled kids who won’t back down because they each believe they are right.

Q: I love that the pet has a pet. Where did that idea come from?

A: Well, I figured I had Alex traipsing through Rock Kingdom with her best friend, and although Pops is Butch’s best friend, I thought I’d put a twist to this relationship and have Pops as Butch’s pet instead. This gave Butch more of the human characteristic I was looking for.

Q: Jinx – Cracks me up. Is his personality modeled after someone that’s quick witted and sharp tongued?

A: I’d be lying if I said no. Jinx is modeled after all five of my kids. I took a bit out of each of their personality and whipped up one solid and very entertaining hamster. His quick-witted humor comes from my son; the sarcasm comes from…well, any of my four girls.

I needed to have Jinx as close to Pops personality to have them clash and gnaw at each other yet also give Jinx his own trait to separate him from the squirrel. Glad you enjoyed him.


Q: Did you create a map or have you for the sequels?

A: Yes, I’ve created a huge map of Rock Kingdom all the way through to book four. Each book centers on a different area within Rock Kingdom to give you the scope of its landscape, climate, people, and animals. For the first book, I offered a view of Dread’s Forest, The Qulany River, and a bit of the tunnel of mazes, the wall, tumbling rocks, and glimpses of the gardens around Rock Kingdom. In the other books, some of these areas will go into greater detail, exploring their depths, how they came to be, and their purpose for existence.

Q: Where did you get the ideas for the landscape?

A: The landscape came to me as I looked out from my sister’s small villa in Greece. You step outside into her gardens and all you see is greenery, mountains, blue skies…a peaceful tranquility. At that moment I knew this was the vision to create for Rock Kingdom.

Q: Why and where do the Braks come from? What inspired them?

A: Besides their physical traits- skeletal creatures with oozing slime that binds their prey- the Braks have a parallel comparison to the Indians and ‘white man’. The Braks occupied that part of Dread’s Forest before the humans discovered it. I gave them almost a cave-man entity- primitive yet resilient and forceful to take what they want. When the council built Rock Kingdom, the use of their magic tempered the Braks to become who they are now. I won’t go more into their existence not to spoil their story in the series.

Order your copy of The Rock of the Realm written byLea Schizas,. It's a Young Adult fantasy/adventure that can be enjoyed as entertainment 0r serve as an educational tool on a writer's journey to becoming a fantasy fiction author. Come by on February 17, 2008 and learn more about the CREATIVE PROCESS that birthed The Rock of Realm.

She'll be available to answer questions on the making of The Rock of Realm or to answer any writing questions you may have. If you are not the lucky winner of her ebook today, you can try again on February 17, 2008. Just leave a comment or question for her.

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 11:01 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 6:02 PM CDT
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Carol Parenzan Smalley Children's Nonfiction Author Interview Part II
Mood:  not sure
Topic: school visit
Carol Parenzan Smalley Interview Part II
Children’s Presenter at Schools & Libraries

I'll reintroduce Carol Parenzan Smalley. Today we're examining her presentations to children.
Carol has published 16 books and is working on 17-19. She has written books for preschool age children through college. Her specialty is creative nonfiction. To see her books visit

She was recognized and honored by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) for her work-in-progress on a nonfiction book about mathematical concepts at an amusement park.

Carol is a regular contributor to Children's Book Insider, where she authors articles on the business of children's book publishing. Carol Parenzan Smalley is a consultant to the Mohawk Valley Library System and Southern Adirondack Library System (New York), she has a wealth of information on the subject of presentations to children to share. To familiarize yourself with her children’s presentations go to

Writing is only a small piece of what she does. She is an entrepreneur, college instructor, business consultant and start-up specialist. She’s a jack of all trades and master of many. Let’s see what she has to share about her presentations for children.

Q: Where was your first presentation/speaking engagement and how did it come about?
About six years ago, I volunteered to coordinate the family summer storytime program at my local library. It ran for six weeks, and each week had a different theme and guest. This experience gave me good insight into the patrons that the library served and possible other programs for them to attend. I did this on a volunteer basis, and the experience was priceless. About 100 people attended the program each week. It was incredible. (The town's population is less than 8,000.)

Q: How did you market these services in the beginning?
I started with my local library first, offering a free program to gain experience and collect recommendations for future marketing. Our library service quickly asked me to present to a consortium of libraries, which I did. It resulted in about 15 paid presentation bookings that summer.

Q: New authors and illustrators struggle with the question: what should I charge? What would you recommend in the beginning? How should a person decide?

The answer to this is two-fold. Charge what you think you are worth; charge what libraries can afford. Not every library can afford my programs, and they quickly are removed from my possible customer set. I'd love to present at every library for free, but that's not practical. As an author, one must remind oneself that this is your business. You are not in it for free. Your time is quite valuable. Sites like Performers and Programs are wonderful market research for writers. Everyone's prices are right there for all to see!

Q: Do you perform at schools as well as libraries? What other places?
Yes, public and private schools, community organizations, museums, and even amusement parks!

Q: Do you supply the librarians, teachers or coordinator with a kit, books or anything to prime your audience?

I supply them with a one-page information sheet for their promotional purposes. The rest is up to me when I arrive.

Q: How did you get involved with Performers and Programs?
This is the official program site for the public library system. For the school system, it is Arts in Education. The libraries asked me to submit information for the first. I have yet to do the second, as I am maxed at the moment with commitments (teaching, writing, presenting, consulting).

Q: How do you gauge the success of a presentation?
My programs are very interactive. If the children and I have a good time sharing and growing through the experience, it was a good program. I don't really present as much as I guide. Of course, sometimes, they guide me! That's always the best. I get invited back often. That's a good sign my programs are well received.

Q: How do you keep your audiences attention?
I empower them to make the time with me the best it can be. I allow them to get what they are ready and able to get from the program. I may go into the program with one idea and switch directions midstream. That's OK! The program is for them, not for me. Each group is different. I need to be flexible.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Carol Parenzan Smalley’s creative nonfiction writing and her presentation s for children.

If you have comments or questions for Carol email her at or call 518-568-3450.

She is an online writing instructor through ed2go. I became acquainted with Carol through her course Writing for Children .It was essential in teaching me how to write for children. You can register fort he course here^for^Children&departmentnum=PW

Her books can be purchased at here

Posted by j.adaykennedy at 5:19 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2008 6:06 PM CDT

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