Monday, May 29, 2017

Why The Little Events Can Make A Big Difference

As an author it's hard to balance your time spent writing against your time spent promoting. Most of us get into this business because we like to write, not because we're salespeople and want to sit behind a table trying to hand sell our books.

It's a package deal, so you learn what events work best for you.

I tend to say yes to everything, even things I know probably won't be lucrative. I have reasons for this, and I explain in this month's podcast roundup.

As always, if you find the podcast helpful, rating and reviewing on iTunes is much appreciated!

I'm happy to report that the Go Fund Me to eliminate school lunch fees in my local school district is over halfway to the goal! If you are willing and able, please consider donating to my cause. Hitting our goal will free every student in the district from lunch fees, and enable all to receive hot meals at the beginning of next year.

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Cause Close To My Heart

Whenever people ask me where I'm from in Ohio, I tell them the middle.

That's because you've heard of where I'm from, and if you have it's because you know someone from there, and chances are I know them too. They're probably my cousin.

I love being from a small town. I love where I'm from, and I stay here for that reason. I wrote about rural poverty in THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES and will be revisiting that theme in future books, with good reason. My county is poor, my school district is poor, and many of the families living here are poor.

I've been lucky in my career and am looking for ways to give back. With school lunch fees in the news lately, I decided this would be a good avenue.

Cardington Public Schools- where I graduated from and worked at for 15 years - allows the children to have an alternative lunch (PB & J, juice, fruit or vegetable & a milk) after accruing $25 in charges. Children do not go unfed.

However,  fees do follow the children throughout their school careers, often accumulating into an unsurmountable debt for struggling families.

My community has supported me unfailingly throughout my writing career, so I contacted the school to see if I could assist in paying some of these fees at the end of the year. Another community member had felt similarly, and the fees at the Elementary had already been covered.

This leaves the 5th graders through high schoolers, whose debt was much more than I expected. 

Often when help is offered to schools the money, services or donations go to help the younger children - understandably. However, I'd like to wipe out the lunch debt of the entire district through this campaign.

Currently, 32% of the High Schoolers are on free or reduced lunch, 40% of the Junior High, 47% of the Intermediate, and 49% of the Elementary. 

We can help these families by alleviating  unpaid lunch fees and ensuring that all children receive hot meals at the beginning of next school year.

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: MIDNIGHT AT THE ELECTRIC by Jodi Lynn Anderson

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Adri has been picked to start a colony on Mars. In the year 2065, the coastal cities of Earth are flooded as the ice caps melt, and much of civilization has moved inland, to Kansas. Adri heads there to be near the headquarters for the colonization project, and to stay with the only living relative she has left, a woman over 100 that she has never met.

Always quiet and reserved, Adri worries that her new relation will misunderstand her as rude, but Lily talks enough for both of them. Though age is catching up with her and she is beginning to forget things, Adri finds a connection with Lily, and with Galapagos, her pet tortoise. Adri also makes a connection with the previous residents, through a package of letters she finds stashed away.

Through them she learns of the Dust Bowl that drove so many from the plains over a hundred years ago, and the friendship of two girls forged during World War I that persisted through personal and global tragedies, as well as the origin of Galapagos, and the strings that tie them all together.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Janet Ruth Heller On Querying Publishers

Today's guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is Janet Ruth Heller. Janet is a poet, literary critic, college professor, essayist, playwright, and fiction writer. She is a past president of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and is currently president of the Michigan College English Association. She has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago, and has published three books of poetry: Exodus (WordTech Communications, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011).

She is the founding mother and former editor of Primavera, a literary magazine. Primavera has won awards from Chicago Women in Publishing and the Illinois Arts Council and grants from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines and the National Endowment for the Arts. Primavera was among the first journals to publish work by writers like Louise Erdrich.

Are you a Planner or Pantser?

I usually think about an idea that I have for a story for a while, planning in my head, and then start writing. When I have a decent draft, I take the story to my writers’ group members to get their reactions. Usually, the group wants me to develop the characters and the situation and to add more dialogue. I also think about new aspects for the story. Then, I make revisions and eventually show the revised work to the writers’ group again. Often, the group wants further revisions, so I work on the story more. This process gets repeated many times. When my writers’ group and I are satisfied with the manuscript, I send it out to potential publishers.

How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?

If I count all of the revisions, it takes me at least a year to write a novel, sometimes up to seven years.

Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?

I usually have more than one project that I’m working on. I’m usually working on a poetry book, a children’s story, a scholarly article, and my memoir. I also do writing for nonprofit organizations to help them with publicity for events.

Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?

I was lucky because my elementary school teachers gave creative writing assignments and recognized my writing talent. For example, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Messias, dittoed a poem that I wrote and gave copies to all of the students in my class. I guess that was my first publication. And I have been publishing individual poems, stories, scholarly articles, and essays since the mid-1970s. So I am not fearful when I write.

However, some writing projects are more difficult than others. For my doctoral thesis at the University of Chicago, I wrote a history of the idea that tragic dramas should be read, rather than performed. I had never done a history of ideas project before, so I had to learn how to trace concepts across centuries.

How many trunked books did you have before you were agented?

I do not have an agent. I have found publishers for all of my books myself by doing research about various editors and publishing companies. I have eight children’s story manuscripts that I’m trying to find presses for right now.

Have you ever quit on a manuscript, and how did you know it was time?

I rarely quit writing a manuscript. But I have some unfinished stories that I may return to in the future. Often, I take very short poems and later combine them into a longer, more polished piece.

Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?

I do a lot of research before sending a query to an agent or a publisher. I make sure that the agent or editor is interested in the type of work that I want to send. I look at websites, essays that the person has published about his or her preferences, the list of books that the individual has agented or published, etc. I read newsletters for writers and magazines like The Writer’s Chronicle, The Writer, and Poets & Writers magazine. 

For example, I found out on the listserve for the Michigan chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators that Arbordale Publishing was looking for picture book manuscripts related to science. I sent Arbordale two science-related stories, and one got accepted two weeks later: How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; 4th edition 2014).  

This book about bullying and about the solar system has won four national awards:  a Book Sense Pick in 2006, a Children’s Choices selection for 2007, a Benjamin Franklin Award for 2007, and a Gold Medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards for 2007. In 2009, How the Moon Regained Her Shape was one of five finalists for the Patricia Gallagher Picture Book Award given by the Oregon Reading Association.

How did that feel, the first time you saw your book for sale?

I was very excited to see my revised doctoral thesis, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (University of Missouri Press) in print in 1990. However, my books for children have more readers and give me more opportunities to share my work with the public. When my picture book about bullying How the Moon Regained Her Shape came out in 2006, I went to many schools, libraries, bookstores, and conferences to talk about my book and about thwarting bullies. Because I had been badly bullied as a child in elementary school, I found it very healing to help other children understand bullying and to teach them how to stand up to abusive people. Also, I brought How the Moon Regained Her Shape to my family’s holiday gathering and listened as my nieces and nephews passed the book around, each reading a page or two. I love watching children read my books to themselves at my speaking and autographing events: they are reading my words!

How much input do you have on cover art?

I had one bad experience when the publisher, without telling me, put artwork on the cover that I had designated for the middle of the book. The cover illustration looked good, but it did not fit the overall subject matter of the book. After that frustrating situation, I have insisted on approving the cover art for all of my works.

What's something you learned from the process that surprised you?

Because I began my career publishing poems, essays, scholarly books, and articles for adults, I had to learn from Donna German, the editor at Arbordale Publishing, that children’s books have to fit a small range of reading levels. For example, authors write picture books for children in first, second, or third grade. I had to revise some of my sentences in How the Moon Regained Her Shape to shorten them and to use fewer polysyllabic words. Similarly, my middle-grade chapter book The Passover Surprise (Fictive Press, 2015) is written for children in third grade through eighth grade.

How much of your own marketing do you?  

I do a lot of my own marketing. My website is here. I am also active on LinkedIn and Facebook. There are groups for writers and illustrators of books for children on LinkedIn and Facebook.  

I speak at many schools, book fairs, libraries, and bookstores every year.  I also attend many conferences to speak about my books and issues related to my books, such as bullying, multicultural literature, and creative writing.

When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?

I think that writers should build their platforms early in their careers so that people can find out information about each person’s work. Publishers like authors who have their own websites and are comfortable using the social media to publicize their writing. Most publishers expect writers to help with promoting books.

Do you think social media help build your readership?

Yes, I think that social media help to increase the number of people who read my books. Many individuals have seen my posts on LinkedIn, Facebook, or my website and then ask to connect to me. Some of these people are librarians and teachers who may choose to share my books with their libraries and schools. Other readers are parents or grandparents who may purchase my books for their children and grandchildren.

Some authors are already famous actors or artists before they write books, but most writers begin as unknowns. Arbordale Publishing’s Lee German told me that most people need to see information about a book seven times before they purchase that book. Therefore, we unknown authors need to use any legal tool at our disposal to increase our name recognition, explain the concepts in our books, and maximize publicity for our work. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

Barbara Claypole White On Writing Through Personal Tragedy

Barbara Claypole White author of The Unfinished Garden, The In Between Hour, The Perfect Son and Echoes of Family joined me to talk about finding inspiration for her fiction in real life, writing through personal tragedy and how to write characters with mental illnesses.

If the blog or podcast have been of any assistance to you in your writing life, I would very much appreciate monetary support so that I can continue to produce them. The crowdfunding site provides award tiers for donors at each level, starting at $1 a month.

Want to support me but don't like the idea of a monthly charge? I understand. You can support me by buying me a coffee in exchange for my content through Ko-Fi or giving a one time donation to me through the PayPal button below.

New episodes will go up every week! Please follow the podcast to be notified of each new episode, or subscribe through iTunes!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Book Talk & ARC Giveaway: THE HOLLOW GIRL by Hillary Monahan

My book talks are coming at you from a librarian, not a reviewer. You won't find me talking about style or craft, why I think this could've been better or what worked or didn't work. I only do book talks on books I liked and want other people to know about. So if it's here I probably think it won't injure your brain if you read it.

Bethan is meant to follow in the footsteps of her Gran, to be the healer for her band of Romany people. With half of her face covered in a wine scar, Bethan is happy to fulfill that role, knowing that a good marriage would be hard to make. Then she meets Martyn, the farmer's son who sells their wares at the local market while she's selling charm pouches. Martyn doesn't mind her mark, or her Romany blood. He finds Bethan fascinating - and she doesn't mind the attention.

But when Silas - the chieftain's son - sees their flirtation, he's angry. Accustomed to having whatever wants, Silas has decided he wants Bethan - mostly because she's not interested. Silas and his friends attack Bethan and Martyn, raping her and beating Martyn nearly to death. When her Gran finds her, she has Bethan pull Martyn's last breath from his body and hold it in her own, explaining that there is a way to save him - and revenge herself - but it will mean setting aside their green magic for something much darker.

Broken and bruised, Bethan agrees, and sets out on a journey to avenge herself, and save the boy she loves.

Want to help me with all the mailing costs? I do giveaways at least once week, sometimes more. It can add up. If you feel so inclined as to donate a little to defray my mailing costs, it would be much appreciated! Donating has no impact on your chances of winning.


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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Wednesday WOLF

I'm a nerd. In fact, I'm such a big nerd that I tend to look up word origins in my spare time because I'm fascinated by our language. The odder the origin, the better. I've got a collection of random information in my brain that makes me an awesome Trivial Pursuit partner, but is completely useless when it comes to real world application. Like say, job applications.

In any case, I thought I'd share some of this random crap with you in the form of the new acronym-ific series. I give you - Word Origins from Left Field - that's right, the WOLF! Er... ignore the fact that the "from" doesn't fit.

Ever wonder where that yummy old pile of crumbly, the Snickerdoodle, got its whimsical name? As with most word origins, there are a few different answers, so pick the one you like best. I'm going with the German one, because the mother country still has its hooks in my heart, and because it makes the most sense.

The Joy of Cooking attributes the cookie to Germany, suggesting that the name is a corruption of the German word schneckennudeln, a type of cinnamon dusted sweet roll.

Because of the holiday connections involved with the snickerdoodle, some think that the name originated from the Dutch language contraction of "Saint Nicholas."

My thoughts?

They taste good.