Category Archives: Children’s writing

I’ll be touring

Here are the dates for my upcoming blog tour

October 29 Guest blog
Books in the Hall
http://www.booksinthehall.blogspot.com/

October 30 Guest blog
Lisa’s World of Books
www.lisasworldofbooks.net

Forget About TV, Grab a Book
forgetabouttvgrababook.blogspot.com

November 6 Interview
Michelle @ Mom With A Kindle
https://momwithakindle.blogspot.com

November 7 Interview
Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
www.creativleygreen.blogspot.com

November 9 Interview
Roxanne’s Realm
www.roxannesrealm.blogspot.com

November 10 Interview and review
Always a Booklover –
http://alwaysabooklover.blogspot.com

November 12 Guest blog
Fang-tastic Books
www.fang-tasticbooks.blogspot.com

 

And in honor of my blog tour, you’ll be able to download the book of poems that goes with the book, Sand in the Desert, FREE on October 29, 30, and 31!

It’s a Book!

Relocated goes live on publisher’s website
http://tinyurl.com/MuseRelocated/

Check out this excerpt from the start of chapter 1:

“What do you mean I must undergo a psi exam? The Terran Federation legislates against any use of psi.” The speaker, a human woman with wild gray hair, glared at the immigration official.

I gazed at the official. Like most Aleyni, he stood over six feet, slender, with extra wide hands, and thumbs able to bend all the way back. His head appeared more oval than humans, too, and he showed almost no external ears. His skin appeared almost black, like Dad’s and mine, and hers appeared pale. His dark skin provided a welcome spot of color against the general gray of the space port interior. The temperature felt pleasant enough, though; nicely warm instead of the chill of the Terran Federation space station circling above Aleyne.

He could have been reading a laundry list. “Madam, Aleyne is a sovereign planet, not part of the Terran Federation, and if you want to clear immigration you must undergo a psi exam.” He pushed a data cube toward her. “Either sign the consent form and undergo the exam, or go back up to the space station.” He added, “Take it or leave it,” in Aleyni. No one else noticed.

She threw the data cube on the floor, stomped, and it shattered into fragments. “I won’t do it. I don’t want any aliens screwing around in my head.”

The official stared at her for a moment. “It’s against our ethics to screw around.”

The woman crossed her arms. “I don’t believe you.”

“You can return to the space station and take the next ship out.” The official’s face revealed nothing, and his gray eyes stared straight at her. His hands hung loose at his side. I considered him a model of polite behavior, considering. I would have punched her.

The woman stared at him. Her head tilted up, because she barely made five feet. Her face, which wore a ferocious frown, turned bright red. Maybe she disliked dark skin, or maybe she simply hated Aleynis.

“I’m going.” She spat the words, turned, glared at us, and marched down the corridor. I glanced back and noticed her arguing with a Space Force officer. The expression on his face would have curdled milk.

Dad prodded me. “Keth, come on.” He grabbed two data cubes, scanned them, and signed both. The official passed both of them through his reader and put one through a slot. “How old is the boy?”

“I’m fourteen Terran standard years. That makes me sixteen in Aleyni years. The Aleyni year is shorter than ours.”

“You need to consent for yourself.” He passed me a new cube and I signed.

The official threw it away and handed me another. “Read first and then sign.”

I sighed loudly and read the whole thing, both the top half, in Aleyni, and the bottom, in English Common Speech. I started to compare the two, noticing how much clearer informed consent appeared in the Aleyni version, when Dad prodded me. I signed the form and returned the cube to the official. “Okay, I read it.”
The official smiled and pushed it through the slot after Dad’s.

I wasn’t scared, since Dad told me about the need to take a psi exam. The Aleyni checked for any kind of plant or animal, or whether we planned a terrorist attack. Dad said Federation anti-psi fanatics attacked a couple of times recently, so I understood why they checked carefully.

The examiner set me in a chair. He asked me again if I consented to the exam. When I said yes, the examiner put his hands on the sides of my face, looking into my eyes.

His hands burned hot against my skin. A thousand ants chewed through my brain and a voice whispered questions I couldn’t quite make out. I tried to take a breath, but my throat tightened, and I gasped aloud. I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to stop shaking. I shook my head, trying to make the voices go away, and the examiner removed his hands and stared into my eyes for a moment. The buzzing voices stopped, leaving my head feeling as though it would burst open. The examiner smiled at me and passed me through the checkpoint. A couple of minutes went by before my stomach stopped heaving, but hammers still pounded inside my head.

 

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

“Relocated” has a cover!

Cover of "Relocated," forthcoming from MuseItUp Publishing

 

 

Check out the cool cover for my novel, “Relocated,” coming soon from MuseItUp publishing.

Back Cover:

On planet Aleyne, a teenage boy foils a terrorist plot, only to discover an unexpected cost.

When fourteen-year-old Keth’s Dad is transferred to planet Aleyne, he doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not that Dad grew up here and that he studied and work with Ardaval, a noted Aleyni scholar. Keth discovers he’s developped psi, illegal in the Terran Federation,  and he flees to Ardaval, only to learn later that the Aleyni is his grandfather. When Keth’s friend’s father, Mazos, is kidnapped by the terrorists, Keth tries to free him but is captured himself. Will he succeed in freeing them both and catching the terrorists, and what will be the cost if he does?

http://museituppublishing.com/bookCstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&product_id=345&flypage=flypage.tpl&pop=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1&vmcchk=1&Itemid=1

Interview with L.M. Davis. author of the Shifter series.


Tell us something about yourself
. What is there to tell…I am a mystery, wrapped in an enigma…or maybe I am just a gal that loves a good story, whether I am writing it or reading it.

How long have you wanted to be a writer? For me, it’s more of a question of when did I stop running from the fact that I was a writer. I am of the mind that a writer is not something you want to be, it’s something that you are. I have been writing all my life (I even chose a career where writing was central), but only recently did I embrace the fact that writing is my calling.

What prompted you to write the Shifter Series? I first started writing the Shifters Novel Series with my cousin in mind. He, along with many of his friends, loves to read fantasy, and I wanted to create a fantasy series where he and others like him could see reflections of themselves. I think that there is something affirming about that. Also, I write fantasy because I love to read fantasy. I cut my readerly teeth on tales about vampires, dragons, shapeshifters, tesseracts etc… Almost all of the fiction that I write has a fantasy component.

The second book in the series is about to come out. How much plotting of the entire series did you do in the beginning/have you done subsequently? Before I started, I had the major arcs of each novel and the major arc of the series. That was about as much as I planned in advance because you know what they say about the best laid plans… When I first started writing the series, I thought that it would be three books. But as I was writing the first book, I realized that it was going to be four books. The major story arcs are still the same, I just realized that it was going to take longer to tell the story.

“Interlopers,” the first book, deals with secrets and the parent’s desire to keep their children safe, a theme that resonates with me. Any particular reason you chose this theme? Well, I knew that I wanted to tell a story where families were important. In so much YA these days, the parents and the family are nonexistent, but that is not my experience. My family and extended family are so important to me, so I wanted to write a story that would honor that. Also, I wanted to tell a story that was about people (not just kids but adults too) who try their best but sometimes made mistakes–and who get back up and keep trying, even after they get knocked down. Finally, I think that the notion of secrets is something that everyone understands. There is always some part of ourselves and our stories that we hold back from the world and sometimes from the people that care about us, for whatever reason. I think that many readers will connect with that idea.

“Interlopers” is written from multiple points of view, including that of the parents, Why did you feel it was important to do this? I could not tell the story that I needed to tell in any other perspective. Though a first person perspective does lend a kind of urgency, immediacy, and strength of voice to the narrative, there are also certain limitations. To tell this story, I needed to be able to see things that no single character would be privy to. Furthermore, if I can be a little academic, though it is the twins coming of age story, all of the different perspectives, which make up the series, are also a part of the twins’ story. So it’s important for me to include those voices and those experiences.

I’m working on an adult sci fi novel now with four main characters and an antagonist, and I’m struggling with balancing them. How did you find this played out in “Interlopers?” In “Posers?” In Interlopers the villain remained somewhat abstract until the end, and that was purposeful. I think that whichever choice you make, you have to be deliberate. I wanted to use the first book of the series to introduce the twins and really create a sense of who they are as characters. In Posers, I really flesh out villains. We get to know James, Blanche, and Hawk much better and to understand their motivations and their choices more. I hope I have created villains who are complex and will turn my readers expectations on their ears. By the end of this book, we have the entire Shifters Novels pantheon completely fleshed out.

Are you a plotter or a pantser, and has this changed or not as you continue to work on your series? I guess I am about half and half. As I said, I already know the major arcs for the rest of the series, and I have a general sense on where each book begins and ends. That’s about all I carry in to the writing process, and even that is subject to change. As I write, part of the work is to figure out how to get from the beginning that I envision to the end. For me, things change so much as I write, that even if I outlined the story before hand, the final product would not look anything like that outline–so, at that point, outlining is almost an exercise in futility.

Do you have a writing routine? I am not one of those writers that writes everyday (at least not on the same project). Though I am always thinking about my stories, I will only sit down to write when I have a sense of where I am going. One thing that is a always a part of my routine is writing by hand. The first draft of every book, every story, every poem that I have ever produced was hand written. People find that strange, but for me, it is much easier to face and conquer a blank piece of paper than it is to begin with a blank screen.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst? One of the best pieces of advice that I know, which I kind of figured out for myself and then saw in a lot of different places, is to write the complete draft before revising. This is the TRUTH. If you start revising before you finish writing the first draft, you may never finish. Sure, you will end up with a really good introduction, but if that is all you have, what’s the point? So that is definitely advice that I write to live by. I can not think of any bad advice that I have received. There is so much good advice out there, that I really just try to focus on that.

I understand there will be two more books in the Shifters series. Any idea when we can expect them? The plan is to release Book 3 in 2013 and Book 4 in 2014.

I’ve been to my local Barnes and Noble many times, and I have yet to find a single Octavia Butler book in stock, and only one by Samuel Delany. What can we do to increase awareness of Black writer of speculative fiction, and any ideas for prodding bookstore owners to carry more of them? I am of two minds about this. First, I think that authors need to raise awareness about the long, rich tradition of Black speculative fiction. We are not newcomers to this genre, some of the earliest texts that I have found so far date back to the nineteenth century. Beyond that, African American folk and oral traditions are ripe with speculative elements (if you read Morrison, Naylor, Walker, Hurston, etc…you are reading fiction with speculative element). These kinds of narratives have always been a part of the way that we tell stories. So the first part is to really get black folks to reclaim this genre. To this end, I have actually started publishing a Black Sci-Fi Primer weekly on my blog. The second part is we really have to get past this idea that only black people want to read stories by Black authors. I think that this cycle of literary segregation is perpetuated by the both availability and location. People are not aware of the depth of Black speculative fiction because it is not stocked in stores and thus they are not exposed to the rich and vibrant tradition of speculative fiction. On the other hand, if people are not buying these books, store owners don’t stock them. It really is a pernicious cycle.

What do you hope readers take away from your books? First and foremost, I want them to take away a wonderful reading experience. Beyond that, I don’t really like to define my books for my readers. I like to let them bring their own experiences and ideas to the reading experience and I get a real kick out of talking to them afterwards and hearing about which parts and aspects of the story resonated most with them (like for you with the parents/secrets/safety theme). Sometimes, they mention things that I wasn’t even aware of, which tickles me.

Where can readers purchase your books, and where can they find you on the web? Both books are available on Amazon and Interlopers is available on Barnes and Noble (Posers, hopefully, will be available soon). Both are on sale until the 30th. Also, they can check out my website (www.shiftersnovelseries.com) for excerpts from both.

Any last words? Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog!

ANNOUNCING 2 EXCITING CONTEST FOR THE SH SH SH LET THE BABY SLEEP BOOK TOUR!

ANNOUNCING 2 EXCITING CONTEST FOR THE
SH SH SH LET THE BABY SLEEP BOOK TOUR!

AUTHOR: KATHY STEMKE
ILLUSTRATOR: JACK FOSTER

CONTEST/DRAWING
There will be drawings at the end of the tour from those who comment or answer a superhero trivia question on this or any other site during the tour from June 13th-July 5th. Please include your email address in a safe format: dancekam1(at)yahoo(dot) com
The prizes include:
• $10 Amazon gift certificate
• Mozart in the Future by Tania Rodriges-Peters
• “The Wild Soccer Bunch” books 1 & 2 by Joachim Masannek
• “30 Days to a Well-Mannered Dog” by Tamar Geller
• Superhero figurines
• “The Green Bronze Mirror” by Lynne Ellison
• “The Face of Deceit” by Ramona Richards

COLORING CONTEST
Download a coloring page from http://educationtipster.blogspot.com for the book, “Sh Sh Sh Let the Baby Sleep.” Color it, and email a picture of it to Kathy Stemke at dancekam1 (at) yahoo (dot) com for a chance to win one of the prizes below.
• “Small Gifts in God’s Hands” by Max Lucado
• Superhero figurine
• “Making Memories” by Janette Oke

THE BOOK BY KATHY STEMKE IS AVAILABLE ON GUARDIAN ANGEL PUBLISHING, AMAZON, BARNES AND NOBLE, AND OTHER EBOOK SITES.

CHECK OUT REVIEWS OF THIS ACTION PACKED BOOK educationtipster.blogspot.com

Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature

Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.jennifer-turner.com to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: http://www.omnilit.com/product-voyagetovikingisland-527701-228.html )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!

Warmly,
Jenny:)

Meet author VS Grenier

How long have you been writing and what inspired you to write?

I’ve been writing for almost five years now. I never thought I would be a writer, it just sort of happened. After the birth of my second child, I decided to stay home and quick working. At first, I was okay with being home all the time, but after awhile . . . well let’s just say you can’t go from working 50-hour weeks to not working. So that’s when I decided to write for a hobby and took a course at the Institute of Children’s Literature. Of course, my hobby became more than that.

What is a typical writing day like for you?

I don’t have a typical writing day. Maybe it’s just me, but with children in the house, I find it hard to stick to a schedule. I write and check email when I can. I find I do most my writing when the older kids are in school and the baby is taking a nap. The other time I write is late at night when everyone is sleeping. I tend to run on about five hours of sleep and so far, I’m okay with that. However, I do look forward to the day with I can sleep in and longer.

What was the first thing you ever had published?

A short story about my father as a kid called “Flying Upside Down”. It was published in the Ezine Fandangle Magazine back in 2006. I had a lot of fun writing this story and never thought it would be published because so many people told me your first manuscript never sees the light of day. I guess I was just lucky and a good thing too because seeing my story published only encouraged me to keep going.

Have you had any training to become a writer?

Yes and no. I say no because I never went to college to become a writer and didn’t major or minor in anything related to writing. The only classes I’ve taken is the general course at The Institute of Children’s Literature, some workshops at conferences—both online and in person—and from being in critique groups. I have also being learning a lot being on the editor side. One thing I’ve learned about writing is you never stop learning. No matter how long you’ve been doing it.

Do your children inspire any of books, characters, or plots?

My children have inspired some of the short stories I’ve written and I do have one picture book based on my five-year-old. But, most of my writing is based off my own childhood, family members, or friends. It’s not that my kids don’t give me ideas for stories. I just haven’t used it yet. I guess I just need more hours in the day so I can write more.

Can you share with us a little about your most recent book?

My most recent book is Babysitting SugarPaw. This is also my first picture book. Babysitting SugarPaw was published in the late summer of 2009. It’s a picture book about a little bear named SugarPaw who hopes to get rid of his babysitter, Bonnie Whiskers, by getting her into trouble after making changes to his rules chart. As this loving story unfolds, SugarPaw learns about honesty and friendship.

Babysitting SugarPaw, with its child-centered plot on getting to know others, is the perfect book for little ones scared of being left alone with a babysitter for the first time and is endorsed by MommyPR.com. You can read the review at http://www.mommypr.com/index.php/2009/08/babysitting-sugarpaw-book-review-giveaway/

Kevin Scott Collier, who has won awards for his illustrations, did a wonderful job. Each illustration really brings the story alive for children ages 3 to 8, especially for those who like to create mischief.

Your readers can find out more about Babysitting SugarPaw at http://vsgrenier.com/BabysittingSugarPaw.aspx

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Sitting down and just letting my mind wonder. I love going back and reading what I wrote. Sometimes I love it and other times I hate it. Either way, I’m creating something that my family can look at after I’m gone. I guess you could say my writing is my way of leaving a bit of myself for future generations.

What is the most difficult part of writing?

Finding the time to write all the things I hear in my head. I find it hard sometimes to sleep because a character will be talking to me about a new scene or storyline. It’s crazy I know. I’m worried that if I don’t ever get it all down on paper . . . my family will lock me away in my old age because of the voices in my head. 

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Only you as the author know what’s best for your manuscript, and to look at critiques and criticism as a learning experience to help you hone your skills. You don’t always have to revise based on suggestions, however, if more than one person points out a problem area . . . then it’s time to take a workshop to help you fix it.

And here is some writing advice I give writers. The rules of writing are like the Pirates Code . . . meaning their more like guidelines and it’s okay to break rules if you break them in a way that only enhances your manuscript.


Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

I have two picture books and two YA novels I’m working on in whatever spare time I get throughout the week. One of the picture books is almost ready for submission. It’s about a little girl who can’t whistle. The story is based off my childhood. The others are still being fine-tuned so I don’t want to say anything about them in case I make some major changes.

Tell us about your writing space?

I have pretty big area compared to what most of my writing friends have. I’m lucky to have a bonus room in my house where my office is. Of course, that means the whole family likes to join me from time to time or I get to listen to the play by play of my son’s computer games. LOL. I have an L-shaped writing desk with drawers for all the SFC files, contracts, etc. Then, to my right is another computer desk tucked into a wall of bookshelves. This is where my kids do their homework, play online, and where my sisters or brother come to get their high school/college work done as well. Even my dad pops in to use the extra computer from time to time. It’s funny, hardly anyone, besides myself, my mom and husband, touch the books.

Behind my writing/computer desk is a futon couch, the TV with the Wii, my daughters’ dollhouse, the toy box with Thomas the Tank Engine stuff, and the air hockey table. You can say this office gets a lot of action and not all of it is writing! It’s also how you access our backyard.

The world of children’s book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?

Virginia, what tips can you give parents looking to share the love of reading and writing with their child(ren)?

Here are some tips I’ve written for Stanley Bookman to share in Stories for Children Magazine each month.

Visit the library often. Let your child pick out her own books.
Ask your librarian to suggest favorites.
Make book time a special time just for you and your little one.
Let your child see you reading.
Stop for a while if your child loses interest or gets upset. Reading should always be enjoyable.

Children who enjoy books will want to learn how to read and write!

Children learn new words by doing things with you, like talking with you about what is going on around you. Talk about how things work, feelings, and ideas. Reading together every day and talking about the story also helps your child learn more and understand words from their context.

Reading informational books on subjects your children like helps increase their vocabulary. Children with bigger vocabularies become better readers and can more quickly understand the meaning of words in context. Remember, children learn best when they are in a good mood.

Early literacy comes from knowing about reading and writing before a child can actually read and write.

The first words children learn to write often have emotional content. Ignore the niceties of spelling and penmanship . . . for now, at least. The mechanics of writing are taught in elementary school and if your little one isn’t learning this in school yet, don’t worry about it. If they are, then get a children’s dictionary and look up a few of the words together. However, keep in mind a child writes with a lot of personal feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Pointing out mistakes may make a preschooler or young elementary student self-conscious and reluctant to write.

Young children should learn that writing is a useful and enjoyable way to express oneself—and the rest will follow in good time.

What would we be surprised to learn about you?

I went to college to be a fashion buyer and did that for just over 10 years before giving it up to stay home with my children. I’ve worked for some really interesting places like Motherhood Maternity, Frederick’s of Hollywood, Hot Topic, Inc. (I opened the first 5 Torrid stores and helped design them.), L’Occitane, and Brighten Collectibles to name a few.

Also, in high school, I took freshman English three times and my highest grand in English was a C. However, when I did take exams and my S.A.T’s, I scored in top 10 for my class. My problem was I just didn’t want to do the work or go to class. The lesson I learned . . . If you don’t do it right the first time or really hate a subject in school . . . you just might find yourself doing it for a career. 

To learn more about Stanley Bookman, the SFC mascot in the World of Ink visit us at http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org. The magazine is on hiatus until April 2011, but we have book reviews, tips, fun links, and some other free stuff currently on the site.

For those who love to write and want to learn, they can visit our newest site Stories for Children Publishing, LLC at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com. Your readers can also sign up for our FREE newsletter, SFC Newsletter for Writers which is sent out monthly and is full of articles on writing, markets, contest, workshops, conference, and much much more. It was voted one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers in 2009 by Writer’s Digest.

If your readers would like to learn more about me, my writing services, school visits, and my books . . . they can visit me at http://vsgrenier.com

And lastly, there is the SFC: Families Matter blog. Here families can get information on just about anything. We talk about vacations on a budget to helping children in school. Visit us bi-weekly at http://familiesmatter2us.blogspot.com/

It was a pleasure sharing Babysitting SugarPaw and my writing with you and your readers. Thank you again for having me on your blog.

Meet Author and Editor Margo Dill

Tell us something about yourself
Like my Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/Margo_L_Dill) account says, “I wear many hats.” I am a children’s writer, writing instructor, freelance editor, book reviewer, blogger, and freelance writer.  I have run an editing business since 2006 where I edit and revise any written document. It’s called Editor 911 (http://www.margodill.com/editor911.html), and I love helping people improve their written work and also working on resumes! I also love going to schools and writing groups and presenting programs as well as teaching online classes and telecourses.   
 
Your historical novel, “Finding My Place,” has recently been accepted for publication. Can you tell us a bit about your book?
Finding My Place is the story of 13-year-old Anna Green and her family’s struggles throughout the Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi) in 1863 during the War Between the States. Anna lives in caves, eats rats, works in an army hospital, experiences her first love, and strives to keep her family together through this horrible battle. Anna learns where she belongs in more ways than one while Grant’s cannons shoot over Vicksburg day and night, causing misery and grief for Vicksburg’s citizens.

How did you become interested in writing historical novels for kids, and why this particular subject?
I actually came up with the idea while I was teaching fifth grade social studies in 2000. I was a classroom teacher in Missouri back then, and we read about the Battle of Vicksburg. This battle was particularly fascinating to me because the citizens were the ones being bombed. The Union Army hoped the citizens would convince the Confederate Army to surrender, but the citizens held on for over 40 days, living in caves and eating anything, including rats, they could get their hands on. The people showed an amazing strength, and I wanted to write about this for kids.

How did you go about doing your research? Any particular pitfalls you encountered in researching this book?
Well, one pitfall was that I was scheduled to fly to the south from St. Louis on September 14, 2001 to start my research. Obviously after September 11, 2001, I wasn’t going to be flying anywhere right away, and so I rented a car and drove to Vicksburg. Going there was the best research I could have done. I highly recommend visiting the place you are writing about. The people in the town were very helpful and led me to wonderful resources, including the vertical file at the library.

What are your favorite historical novels for middle graders? What appeals to you about them in particular?
I really like the Little House on the Prairie series–what girl doesn’t, right? I also think that Gennifer Choldenko is writing amazing historical fiction books right now about Alcatraz such as Al Capone Does My Shirts. A great historical fiction novel about slavery is Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall.  I think historical fiction for kids is so great because it teaches them about a time period while allowing them to get involved in characters’ lives. Half the time, kids don’t even realize they are learning history when they are reading these books.

You also review books, have an editing business, and teach workshops. How do you balance all of this?
That’s a great question! Well, I’m pretty disciplined and work just about every day–even on the weekends and when I don’t feel like it. I have a calendar where I schedule what I need to work on each day, and I just work until I get it done. I also have a family and friends; and so sometimes, I am working into the night or early in the morning in order to get everything finished.

Any particular place you write?
I write mostly from home in my office, but I really enjoy going to coffee shops. When I am feeling a little writer’s block coming on or a poor attitude regarding my work, a change of scenery really helps. The public library is also another great place–and you don’t have to feel like you have to buy anything to use their free Wi-Fi either!

Do you have a writing schedule?
As I mentioned before, I don’t really have a schedule per say–it sort of depends on the day. If my stepson is here and out of school, I usually write in the mornings and at night. In the afternoon, we do activities. Otherwise, I try to write mostly in the morning and afternoon and then use the evening time for other activities, chores, spending time with my husband, and so on. All of this is about to change, however, when I have a baby in December.  Then my writing schedule will be determined by her!


What are you working on now?

I am always working on freelance articles and book reviews. For my creative projects, I have a YA novel that I am just about finished revising and a few picture book manuscripts that I take to my critique group–they tell me what is working and what is not–and then I take them back. Soon, they will be sick of these, but hopefully, they will be ready for publication. I am one of those writers who is always working on a ton of projects at the same time. I just can’t help it!


What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The worst?

The best writing advice I’ve ever gotten is that persistence is what leads to success. Talent is important, and so is perfecting your craft. But the most important thing is definitely persistence. As writers, we can not afford to give up on our dreams. The worst advice–hmmm? That’s a hard question. It’s probably just a comment or two that I’ve received at critique groups that didn’t do my manuscript any good. I’ve probably heard bad advice, but I guess I tuned it out because I just can’t think of any right now.


How did you get started as a writer?

I have always liked to write as most writers have–creating “novels” as a young teenager. Then when I was in high school and college, my creative side took a back burner until in 1999, I saw an ad in Family Circle magazine that said, “You can write for children!” This was an ad for the Institute of Children’s Literature. I wound up taking their beginner correspondence course, found a local critique group, and the rest, as they say, is history.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be, and why?

Interesting question, and I think I would have to say–Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. These books, in my opinion, are brilliant. I’ve read them all a few times, and I just can’t get enough. I love Hermione because she is smart, does magic, wears her heart on her sleeve, and is a loyal friend and girlfriend. You can’t ask for a better character than that. Not to mention, I would have LOVED to go to wizarding school!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Figure out your writing goals, and figure out a way to achieve them. We all have busy lives and distractions. Don’t let your distractions get in the way of your writing dreams.

Where can readers find you on the web?
I have a website that tells about me and my editing and speaking services: http://www.margodill.com. I also have a blog where I write about children’s books, and I also have a special section on books and organizations that help women and children around the world. I have a lot of author interviews, book giveaways, ideas for parents and teachers to use with books, and some lesson plan ideas, too. That address is http://margodill.com/blog. I also teach online classes for WOW! Women On Writing. I currently teach three different classes: Social Networking for Writers, Writing Children’s Short Stories and Articles, and Blogging 101. You can find these classes at: http://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/WOWclasses.html. Finally, I am an instructor for the Children’s Writers Coaching Club (http://www.cwcoachingclub.com/).

Any last words?
Thank you so much for having me as a guest on your blog. Good luck to all the writers out there–go get ’em!

Interview with author Irene Roth

Tell us something about yourself?
I write for adolescent girls and tween girls about all kinds of different psychological and social topics. I have a blog devoted to adolescent girls at http://www.adolescentgirlsblog.wordpress.com. I am also in the middle of writing three MG novels and tween novels for girls.

Who is your favorite author? Favorite book?
Kristi Holl is one of my favourite MG writer for adolescents. I also enjoy reading Melody Carlson’s novels and Deborah Reber’s books. I ready widely and continually. I also have a book review blog that keeps me very busy.

Tell us a bit about your book?
I’m in the middle of three E-books about adolescent girl’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and happiness.

What are you working on now?
‘m revising a MG novel that I am planning to send off to a publisher in October. I am waiting for responses for three other novels.

Why do you think it’s important for kids to know about history?

I think that kids need to know what came before them in order to have a better appreciation of the present. But also, I think that there is not enough emphasis on history in schools. Schools have to find a way to really make history interesting and relevant for kids.

What can teachers and parents do to help kids become interested in
history and to learn more about it?

I think that parents can help kids by bringing history books home from the library and reading them with their kids. They should also talk about history after dinner or on weekends.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?
I hope that I could inspire girls to not worry about fad diets and outside appearances as much and focus on their inner beauty. Girls have to realize that they are much more than a physical body. They have a mind, and spirit that is worth cultivating. And one smile, if it is offered up genuinely, can make another girl feel so much better about herself. Girls have to be ambassadors for each other.

Any tips for aspiring writers?
I have a five tips for aspiring writers:
1. write consistently
2. try to do the best that you can to perfect your writing skills
3. have faith in the process of drafting and redrafting
4. never give up
5. send out queries often.

Where can readers buy your book?
My ebooks should be available at my adolescent blog www.adolescentgirlsblog.wordpress.com around the end of november of this year.


Any last words?

Thank you for interviewing me. I really enjoyed this.

Interview with EJ Wesley, my chapter buddy


Tell us something about yourself

Let’s see, I play the guitar/sing. I love to paint/draw, and particularly love comic book art. My wife is a physician (blood/cancer), and we’ve been married for 8 years. She’s also in the United States Air Force. We have to dogs that I love (a beagle mix and a chihuahua mix … both are rescues). I’m the youngest of 4 children, and my oldest sibling will turn 50 soon. Most people think I’m younger than I really am, because I refuse to act my age. I have degrees in psychology, and a graduate degree in counseling. I spent several years as a grant writer. That’s about it!

You started the Weekly Chapter Challenge group on the Writers Digest Community site. What prompted you to start it?

It’s not uncommon for writers to feel a certain amount of career isolation, which is ironic, because it’s what draws many of us to the pursuit in the first place. I’m no different. I had completely finished the draft of my first full manuscript in relative obscurity. (Only my wife and a few friends really knew I was attempting to write anything.) At any rate, I was feeling completely alone with my accomplishment. Furthermore, I wanted to start working on a new project while editing. The problem was that I was finding it hard to make time to write “new stuff”. I’d signed up to WD a few weeks before, and thought that maybe I could find a couple of more folks who’d like to partner up in a work exchange program. I created the Chapter Challenge as a tool to help keep me motivated and hopefully aid a few other writers as well. Now we’ve got 60 plus members and growing!

How have you found the experience of exchanging chapters so far?

As far as drafting the new story goes, it has become absolutely essential to my creative process. I literally write with the idea that Peggy will be reading my work imbedded in my mind. It pushes me in ways I hadn’t even imagined. Even more important to me is the idea that I’ll be reading her story in return. It creates such a reciprocal energy. If I’m fortunate to ever be successful at this writing thing, I think I’ll owe much of that success to my partnership.

How can readers join the group?

The only real qualifications are that you be interested in growing as a writer, have some kind of tangible writing goal, and be willing to read and offer feedback on the work of someone else on a regular basis. Whether that be polishing an existing work chapter-by-chapter, or creating new to content to share with a partner each week is entirely up to you. If you’re interested, then head over to the WD forum and check out the description of the group, and get some tips on advertising for a partner.

Here’s the link: http://community.writersdigest.com/group/weeklychapterchallenge

You write  YA fantasy. What were some of you favorite books growing up, and how do you feel they influenced you as a writer?

I was heavily influenced by Stephen King, which sounds odd for a young person, but he was the first writer that really grabbed me in my adolescence. His writing is extremely vivid and character driven. People generally think of King as the guy that comes up with all of these creepy ideas and scary books, but fans really know that the meat of his stories are all about the normal people that live through these incredible journeys. I remember reading The Stand, and weeping over the death of a character for the first time. I really try/hope to bring characters to life in my own work the way he did for me.

The other ‘watershed’ reading moment for me was Harry Potter. I was working with teenagers as a mental health counselor at the time the books first became really popular. I recall seeing some of the other counselors using these crazy wizard boy books in their treatment plans, and watching these kids from some of the worst possible situations eating them up! I read them, and instantly understood why young people would relate. That’s the moment I decided that I wanted to write for young people and try to make stories that would mean something to them.

I was probably also influenced subconsciously by a number of comic book writers!

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? The
worst?

The best is from Stephen King’s book, On Writing. In it he says that he received the following advice from one of his early writing instructors: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story; when you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are NOT the story.”

I keep that taped above my writing desk. Maybe someday it’ll sink in!

The worst advice I’ve ever gotten was to give up.

You have a day job. How do you find the time to write? Any special place or time you do your writing?

I tutor middle-school students during the school year, which leaves me with some unusual writing hours. I’ll squeeze my writing time in where I can fit it. Also, I try to write new material earlier in the day (before noon) as that tends to be my most mentally aware time. I write at home quite often, but I’m most productive when I leave the house and head to a local coffee spot or library. I can really focus when I’m out in public, but find myself constantly answering phones and checking e-mail when I stay home.

What do you like to read?

I’ll read just about anything! However, I spend most of my reading energy on keeping up with current YA content. In general, I’m reading whatever I see students walking around reading.

If you could be any character in any book, who would you be?

Hmm, I think I might like to be Hermione from the Harry Potter books. She’s so smart and brave! Sadly, I’m probably more like Neville … I also wouldn’t mind being Gandolf from the Lord of the Rings books. He gets to carry a walking stick, ride the best horse ever, and knows pretty much everything.

Have you had anything published?

Other than several grants, no. I’m working on a short story collection that I’d like to publish electronically on Amazon in the near (?) future, and of course I’d love to sell my completed manuscript once I’m finished editing.

Tell us a bit about your current work in progress. Care to post an extract?

The project I’m working on for the Chapter Challenge is a first-person paranormal action/adventure story about a teenaged boy named Abraham. Abe discovers that he is actually Abaddon, the Biblical being who’s going to bring about Armageddon, destroying the earth and everyone on it. It’s my version of an ‘angel’ story, and hopefully one that boys will want to read. Here’s an excerpt from when Abe learns his true identity from his grandfather:

Grandpa stood and walked over to his ancient writing desk. It was probably the only uncluttered surface in the room. He stooped to one knee, and began searching the underside of the desk for some unseen artifact.
“There it is,” he muttered. When he stood, I could see that he was holding a small yellowed envelope in his hands. After collecting the tobacco tin off the top of the desk, he returned to his chair. He handed me the envelope and began filling his pipe.
I held the letter with the tips of my sweaty shaking fingers, thinking about all of the things that could be inside. I turned it over once, then twice, trying to divine some clue as to its contents. There were no words on the outside, and no address. It was old, judging by how the once white paper had yellowed in every place but the very center. The paper it was made out of felt like nothing I’d felt before; it was thick—like animal hide—and had an incredible buttery smoothness. It was also evidently a formal letter for it had been sealed by wax, which had been parted at some point. I looked up at grandpa, uncertain what he meant for me to do.
He took a couple of puffs from his pipe, smiled gently, and said, “Open it.”
I parted the lips of the envelope. Only a single sheet of folded paper lay inside, which I opened. There were two sentences ornately scrawled in golden ink:
Watch over this child until he is of age. His name is, Abaddon.
“That letter was left on my doorstep fifteen years ago, along with a newborn child,” Gramps said, his words echoing to my ears like haunted shouts from a dream.
“Me?” I asked dumbly. I was begging him not to answer in my mind.
“Yes,” Gramps replied, his eyes filled with a terrible sadness.

Where can readers find you on the web?

My blog, The Open Vein, is here: http://the-open-vein-ejwesley.blogspot.com/

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Seeing as how I’m an aspiring writer myself, I’m not sure what I could offer other than what I tell myself every morning: If you stop dreaming, you stop trying. If you stop trying, you stop living.

Any last words?

Thanks, Peggy, for letting me share with your readers, and for being such an awesome writing partner!