SCBWI Authors Share their Wisdom

SCBWI Authors Share their Wisdom

As NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month) comes to an end today, the habits we formed from daily writing shouldn’t end. Getting support and advice from our fellow writers is key to keeping us motivated, but in the end it’s up to you to do the work and write your story.

SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) is a fabulous organization that I encourage any children’s writer or illustrator to join. The networking and knowledge  shared is vital to getting your work finished and published.

My local group which is run by the fabulous Nancy Castaldo and Lois Huey meets once a month at the Guilderland Public Library. This month we met at the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie and heard from four published authors: Nancy Castaldo, Rose Kent, Daniel J. Mahoney, and Eric Luper.

 

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Rose Kent’s books

Each author spoke about the path they took to become a writer, which only proves that anyone can be a successful writer if you have the dedication to write what you are passionate about and practice, practice, practice. Nancy was the moderator, but her love of science and learning led to her writing. Rose was in the Navy, raised a family, became a freelance writer, was published in magazines, and then wrote her novels pictured above. Eric wasn’t much of a reader as a kid, but he enjoyed stories. It wasn’t until he was in a college writing class, that he became interested in writing. Even though he earns his living as a chiropractor, his first novel came out in 2002 and he has published many for Scholastic and Cartoon Network. Dan began his career as an illustrator and sent samples to publishers. He was published immediately by Clarion Publishers, who asked him to write the story to his illustrations. Dan also works as an x-ray technician. The path to publishing is different for every writer and it’s not easy, but it’s the love of what you are doing that has to keep you going.

When dealing with challenges, Dan recommended to keep writing and put your heart into it. Even though he was published by Clarion, when the company downsized, they didn’t want his type of books any longer. He kept writing and illustrating and seven years later was published again. Rose explained that giving birth to a story is messy and takes a long time. It’s an internal process and she also has felt the joy of publishing and the rejection. Eric’s first book was rejected 100 times.  He still gets rejections after 20 books and looks for other paths.

Harry Potter was rejected 12 times.

A Wrinkle in Time was rejected 28 times.

Jane Yolen who has published 365 books is still getting rejections!

Learn from the process. Eric’s second book was in a different genre and was better because of his previous rejections.

All four authors absolutely love going into the schools and connecting with the children they write for. As Rose says, “It’s about hope. We don’t have answers to all the problems, but it goes back to hope.”

Their advice to writers:

Nancy–read, read, read and analyze like a writer. Keep a journal! Plot doesn’t always come when you want. You can refer to your journal later.

Rose–read and find the quiet space. Focus on the writing without the distractions. Write the story and make a mess.

Eric–try to write the book  you wish you had in your hands at that age. Write what you are passionate about. The most interesting things happen when he doesn’t know what will happen. Let it show up.

Dan–write about what happened to you or what you are familiar with. Push yourself to to work on your story every day.

It was a pleasure meeting the authors and listening to their stories and advice. Do the work. Sit and write. Network and learn from others. Grow your writing family by attending meetings such as this one. To find out more about SCBWI, visit their website at www.scbwi.org

For journal prompts to get the writing jitters out of the way, follow my blog www.writetobehealed.wordpress.com

 

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Ask Away!!

Ask Away!!

 

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My favorite part of promoting a new book is connecting with my readers and hearing their questions. I especially love watching kids burst with questions and ideas. The questions they come up with are interesting and sometimes mind boggling, because of their insightfulness.

One of the kids on my husband’s soccer team started reading Shimmer’s Eggs and had a ton of questions for Luke today at his game. Luke said he wished I had gone to the game just so I could answer them for him.

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I want to give kids and anyone who has questions a chance to ask away. Of course, I hope you come to my upcoming book events on November 18 from 3-4:30pm at The Book House at Stuyvesant Plaza. This is a book signing, but you can definitely ask questions and buy a book!

My book launch party will be on December 10 from 1-2:30pm at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. At this event, I will share the inspirations for my book, talk about my writing process, have a group writing adventure, and save a lot of time for questions. You can register for that at www.cphlibrary.org.

But if you absolutely can’t wait to ask a question, there are two ways you can get some answers. The first is to email me at j9camm@gmail.com and follow this blog. I will post the answers here with your questions in the title.

Another place you can ask questions and get the answer is on my Goodreads page. In addition to asking questions, you can check out my other books and until November 30, enter a giveaway to win one of five of my autographed books!

Comments, reviews, suggestions for book two, which I have already started, as well as questions are more than welcome! I look forward to hearing from you!

8 Steps to a Successful Book Fairs

8 Steps to a Successful Book Fairs

Today, I attended the Glens Falls Chronicle Book Fair at the Queensbury Hotel. Over 100 local authors writing in every possible genre and for every age group shared their books. It’s a great opportunity to sell books, meet new people, and network.

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There was a fairly good crowd, but with so many authors, it’s important to stand out and connect with the readers. Here is what I learned today to make my next book fair even more successful:

  1. Have an appealing and easily accessible table. I updated my table with bright signs with the prices. Once I did that, I actually sold more copies. It’s better to know the specials and prices right away without having to ask. Visuals attract. Many people were also lured to my table by the poster size cover of my book.
  2. Bundle books together. I sell my first two books, Warriors Within and Eyes of the Goddess as a bundle pack for less than they can be bought separately.
  3. Kid-friendly activities: When there are so many other books to look at, it’s helpful to have an activity for the kids. Not only does it involve the kids, but it allows the parents to talk to you about your books. I had brought a writing exercise, but most of the kids were a little too young. I did bring tattoos of Shimmer’s egg and a puzzle piece, which were very popular. Then the kids got excited when they connected the egg and puzzle to my book! Another author had handmade bookmarks or coloring pages that the kids really enjoyed.
  4. Have bookmarks or postcards to hand to people passing by. Even if they don’t stop at that moment, they have your information and can always order later.
  5. Engage the reader in conversation. You know that ‘elevator pitch’ you can say to someone the few seconds you have on the elevator? Have that ready for when someone asks you to tell them about your book. The author next to me was fantastic in connecting with people and pulling them into his story. He sold a ton of books! But also give people space to read the back of your book without constantly talking to them. It’s a balance.
  6. Provide promotional items–For The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs, I offered a free poster of the cover for the first 100 purchases. Everyone has loved these. Keith Willis, another author from Clifton Park, sells dragon pens with his fantasy book.
  7. Dress as a character from your book. There were a few people who were dressed like their character or dressed in a certain persona. It definitely sets you apart, but you have to be comfortable. Be yourself, share what you love about your book, and be authentic.
  8. Let people know you are going to be at the event! Social media, email, word of mouth. I texted and emailed friends who live in Glens Falls, and I was so happy to have Kacey stop by!

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So happy that Kacey came to see me!
There is never a guarantee on how a book event is going to go. I have been to events where I literally didn’t sell one book and others where I sold a bunch. Selling books is obviously a huge part of it, but networking and sharing your story are also great ways to build your business.

 

Creative Writing and Journaling

Creative Writing and Journaling

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My fourth and fifth grade workshop students worked on getting to know their characters. Figuring out what they love more than anything else and the reason is a huge part of their motivation. Establishing their fear and throwing them into a dangerous situation where that fear is right in their face helps them decide what kind of person their character is. What are their strengths, weaknesses? Brave, strong, scared, helpless?

They are ready to begin their stories if they know the answers to these questions.

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My middle grade writers had fun decorating their Grasping Gratitude gift boxes. This special box holds what they are grateful for.

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It’s an endless gift that we can always go back to when life gets too hard.

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When we grasp gratitude, we hold the goodness in life that makes it worth living. We heal from the pain and loss that we feel. We appreciate what we have.

This was their favorite part of the workshop. I hope they continue to grasp the positive.

The Joy of Launching a New Book

The Joy of Launching a New Book

Tomorrow is my first book event to launch my new book, The Puzzle Quests: Shimmer’s Eggs. It’s been 5 years since my last book came out. It’s amazing how fast the years fly by when you want to get a book finished. 

I started this book 10 years ago before my life drastically changed. Then I wasn’t in the right place to write it. 

Ironically, I wrote two book before getting back to this one. I can’t force a book but three years ago, I was ready. 

I’m excited to share this story with everyone. My whole heart went into writing it, and it brought back so many memories of my boys’ childhood. They are my inspiration. I love the interactions and conversations. 

Always willing to answer questions about my books and writing so leave one in the comments!

All Nuts Welcome!

All Nuts Welcome!

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Nuts have not been welcome in my house for the last 20 years. Let me clarify–peanuts, almonds, cashews, brazil, macadamia, hazelnut, and walnuts. For the whole time my son, Stephen, has been on this earth, I have not been able to eat any of these nuts. It all began when I had a reaction to candy coated chocolate while baking. Testing showed that I would have a severe anaphylactic reaction to peanuts and almonds, so even the nuts that irritated me were eliminated from my life.

A couple times in the last year, I accidentally consumed nuts. One time it was potato chips cooked in peanut oil and the other was almond flavored crackers (Thank, Colleen:^). I didn’t react with either. Then there was the time when I ate pistachios, which are a drupe, and I realized they had peanut oil. Luke, Stephen, and I were traveling to a soccer game. I was in the passenger seat and Stephen was directly behind me. When I realized what I did, I opened the car window and spit out the pistachios in the rain. The wind and rain blew it all over Stephen! But hey I was all right!

In addition to nuts, I had been positive for dairy, shellfish, tomato (in the spring), melon (in the fall) allergies. As a vegetarian this severely limits me and makes me a tough dinner date. I’m not the person you ask to go out for a pizza.

Finally, I became sick of not knowing and went to an ENT for some testing. Today I got back my shocking results!

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Dairy absolutely negative reaction.

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Nuts are a go with the exception of hazelnuts. This means that peanuts are no longer life threatening.

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Shellfish is on!

I was floored. All these years I haven’t eaten these foods and now I can. I immediately went to the grocery store and bought shrimp. Tonight I made a shrimp and rice fajita bowl. With trepidation and excitement, I tried it.

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Success! My first shrimp dish in years, and three hours later, I feel good!

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What’s next? Anyone want to meet for pizza? All nuts are welcome!

Fall into Writing!

Fall into Writing!

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Fall is here and my latest series of writing classes for all ages have begun! Back to back workshops tonight at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library were filled with creative minds just clamoring to get their ideas across. Sometimes it takes some prodding, but once the flood gates open, there’s no telling what they will come up with.

We talked about how important it is to figure out what a character loves and wishes for the most. Once that happens, then establishing a fear comes next. As a writer we want to place our character in the midst of their fear on their way to getting what they love. That is where the conflict occurs and keeps someone reading.

This creative group came up with some interesting combinations in addition to the usual physical descriptions. Their characters are coming alive!

The second workshop was journaling with middle school students. They were exhausted from a day of school, so sometimes it’s hard to spark their interest. Those who were there wanted to be. They wrote about their day and one girls said her day was boring. But when I asked her about something that interested her during the day, there was an incident. Then everyone remembered something and wrote about how they felt and how it affected them. Sometimes writing it down is all that’s needed, but if the incident caused anxiety or fear, then it might be worth figuring out why, so a change can be made. This is the deeper more therapeutic side of journaling.

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Then it was time for the creative, fun stuff. They shared some of the activities they like to do in the fall. Then they made their fall pages and marked with bullets everything on their list. Sometimes when it’s right in front of us, we are reminded of our priorities. Otherwise fall is over, and we never spent the time doing what matters, like playing football or baseball with the family or picking out pumpkins.

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Sometimes journaling is just creative fun, and Emily definitely enjoyed the washi tape! So many choices of what you can do in the world of journaling.