Saturday, July 30, 2011

Author Promo Tools - What's a Sell Sheet? by Stephanie Burkhart

Just recently I had a one of my friends share their sell sheet with me on her recent release and I was very impressed. When my story, "The Giving Meadow," came out, I prepared a sell sheet for the book as well. So what's a sell sheet and why is it an important promotional tool?

A sell sheet is a one page flyer that includes all the information on your book in a "compact" format that's quick and easy to read. Think of it like a baptism annoucement - it lets you get the word out about your "baby." It can be easily mailed to bookstores, and handed out at writing conferences, conventions, or public appearances. It's a tool that's very helpful to promote your book and very inexpensive.

As an author, I designed my own sell sheet. Remember you want to keep it simple, yet eye-catching. Use only one or two different font and colors. Another tip: Don't cram too much information onto the page. Only put the important stuff on there.

Some items I included on my sell sheet:
About the Book (a 1 or 2 sentence blurb)
About the Author (use a small bio)
Any Reviews - try to use 1 or 2 sentences that are the "catchiest."

Most Important: Information on how to order the book.

The sell sheet is an annoucement that the book is out and available so don't hestitate to send it out.

Here's an Example of my sell sheet:

The Giving Meadow (This information is next to a picture of the cover)

Trade Paperback
Publication Date: May 2010
Price: $12.95
Author: Stephanie Burkhart
Illustrator: Stephen Macquignon
ISBN: 978-0982588697
32 pages

Available from Ingram Book Group or 4RV Publishing


About the book:
The Giving Meadow is about a caterpillar who hatches from his egg in the middle of a meadow. As he travels through the meadow, he meets new friends who learn the value of sharing.

About the Author:
Stephanie Burkhart lives in Castaic CA and works for LAPD as a 911 Dispatcher. "The Giving Meadow" is her first children's book. The story was written for the Blessed Kateri Little Church Easter Play in 2009.

Reviews: "The Giving Meadow", author Stephanie Burkhart presents her readers with a charming fable about kindness and sharing. 5 Stars, Regina Andrews, Author of Destiny's Designs and Spotlight on Love.
The caterpillar's insect and animal friends demonstrate positive character traits of mercy, compassion and caring. The Giving Meadow is perfect for the innocent years of early childhood. Toddlers and preschoolers will love to snuggle up before nap or at bedtime to hear this soothing story read to them. 5 Stars, Beth Beinke, Author of In My Bath, and A Wish and Prayer.

How To Order: 4RV Publishing, Vivian Gilbert Zabel, President, Daniel Hay, Editor in Chief, Phone: 405-225-7298. Website:

Ingram Book Company: Ingram Books, One Ingram Bl., La Vergne, TN, 37068. To place an order: 1-800-937-8000 or or


I welcome any comments, feedback, and suggestions. Tell us what's on your sell sheet. Have you used a sell sheet?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Does the latest digital software mean no need for art school or to hire a pro?

by Aidana WillowRaven

I have lost count how many times I've seen on Twitter: "Anyone can be an artist/illustrator if they own Adobe Illustrator or Daz/Poser. You don't need art school or to hire a pro."  I'm sorry, but WRONG!

I agree that most anyone can buy, and learn to utilize, almost any software. And I agree that there are some amazing tools out there to help one create great works. What I disagree with is that these programs and tools can be acquired by a novice and used to replace a crucial aspect of publishing ... the cover artist or illustrator.

These programs take practice ... months ... years of practice, before attempting to do your own cover art or illustrations, unless you have a strong art background already. Of course, as with anything, there is the acception. But odds are, you're not it ... lol.

Even for a 'digital artist,' an understanding of composition, light, balance, and form, is only learned through practice and training (even if it's self-training trough tutorials or online classes). And these things make a difference in your final product. Let me give you an example.

I was formally trained in fine art and design for six years at two universities. Even so, when I started playing with Daz Studio ( a 3D rendering software), I had A LOT to learn, and still do. To prove that these programs do not make you an instant artist, I'll share an early piece, done about a year and a half ago, and my latest pieces. Trust  me, you'll see a huge difference (and keep in mind, I am formally trained).

On the left here, you see an early practice render. You can probable see what I did wrong right away, but first let's go over what I did right.

My training tells me the composition is balanced by the pose I have chosen, as well as my placing the fan staff on the left, to balance the tree on the right.

My training also told me the 'S' curve in her pose is more prefered than a straight pose, and placing that 'S' to the left also puts more weight there, to further balance that big tree.

So what's glaringly wrong? The lack of light and shadow. Real life, even at night, has light and shadow. Without it, the Sarangheti slave girl, looks like a maniquine or waxed figure. Plus, the environment looks contrived.

So regardless of my six years of training, I had to take a year plus to learn how to simulate light and shadows. I know the artists in the Daz forum felt like they were beating their heads into the wall trying to help me, but it has been an ongoing lesson.

Let's see what I did this morning to this same scene. I changed nothing in the pose or scene except I applied what I have learned so far about lights and shadows. Of course, if I were doing this image fresh, I would have changed so much more, but the fact that it's taken me this long should tell you that it's not something you pick up when it's time to slap a cover on your book.

If I were to do this full scene now, I'd add animals, or more textures, or SOMETHING to make this more life-like and unique. Because thousands of 3D artists have this model, this hair, this backdrop, this costume, this prop. I'd want to make it unique in some way. But, at least now you see real life shadows and terrain.

Yes, all it took to make her look 'real' was learning to use the lights and buying a higher powered system (these renders take loads of RAM), but that took me a year. And the new render still doesn't have the brushstrokes and nuances I add to my published cover art in Photoshop. Those are whole other lessons that had to be learned. As is, this revised image is NOT cover ready and is NOT publish worthy. But you get the idea, I hope.

With each new project, just like for writers, my craft should grow and improve, and going through my portfolio every-so-often shows me where I have improved. And browsing portfolios of my favorite artists shows where I still need work. Both are crucial if I want to create good covers worthy of publication.

So what makes authors, whether self-publishing or working with a PH that allows self-illustration or cover art, think they are qualified to buy a program and whip up a cover and not trust the task to a professional? Bad advice and ego, that's what.

Now, I know I am not the best cover artist, but I thought you may like to see a what a pro, who's been formally trained, and practices her craft every day, does with the software...

Emperyeal Fate ~ Being released by 4RV Publishing in Spring 2012

Today's point? Don't cut corners on your cover (or on any aspect of publishing, for that matter). Trust in those who do that craft for a living. Trust your publisher. Trust your editor. Trust your artist. If you've done your research, you'll know who to trust.

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Promotion: Making a "Pitch"

by Vivian Zabel 

         Someone asked me to share some promotion ideas, which I've been doing for the past couple of months. This issue will concern making a pitch. A pitch in the book world is a quick presentation of your book to an agent, a publisher, an editor, or a group. This can also apply to illustrators "pitching" their portfolios to agents, editors, groups, or publishers.
         The suggestions below can be adjusted for different time limits, but the basis is for a three minute pitch.

Making a 3 minute book pitch

         I had an appointment with an agent, and as I prepared for that few minutes to “pitch” my book in a way that she would want to know more, to read it, maybe to represent it, I wrote notes and practiced my speech so that it flowed smoothly but still seemed spontaneous.
         Knowing how to prepare and present a three-minute pitch should be a tool in an author’s selling kit, to be used for agents, editors, and public presentations. If a writer has more than three minutes, everything can be adjusted accordingly.

1. Start with an attention-grabber. This is a must. If you lose the audience, whether one person or 100, at the beginning, you can’t get them back. Just as the first paragraph in a story, article, or novel must attract the reader, the first words out of your mouth must do the same.

         I started my spiel with the statement: “When life steals something important from a person, she either gives up and dies, or she finds a way to rebuild her life.”

2. Don’t give a complete summary of your book. Give just enough information that the audience/agent/publisher/editor wants to know more.

         I continued my pitch by saying, “Torri had things stolen from her life over and over including her marriage destroyed by an unfaithful husband and her best friend by cancer. Each time she gathered her courage and rebuilt her life. However, when her children are taken by their biological father and not found, she didn’t know if she could continue.”

         I gave a bit more information from the book when the agent asked for more. For an agent or editor, the ending for the book may be required. For a presentation to a group, the ending should not be revealed. Also if presenting to a group and more than three minutes should be used, read a portion of your book to create interest.

3. If asked, be prepared to tell why you wrote the book – be sincere and know who the intended readers are.

4. Rehearse so that you don’t ramble. You don’t want your speech to sound memorized, but you need to know the main points and the order in which to present them. I always had a small file card with a brief outline only. With practice, I seldom have to refer to the card, but it's there if I need it.

5. If the book is already released (which if the pitch is meant for an agent or editor, it will not be), be sure to let the audience know where and how they can buy your book.

6. If the presentation is for a group after the book is released, be sure to take copies of the book to sell and autograph.

         Be prepared for any questions from the agent, publisher, or audience.

Please do visit the 4RV website and 4RV catalog.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Promotion: professional bio and photo - a must

           Since I'm filling in weeks where we have few contributors, readers will see me twice this week, both articles dealing with different components of promotion. This issue, I want to discuss the need, no, the requirement of a short professional bio and a professional appearing photo.

           Personally, I have several photos I can use for publicity, author pages in books, and my media kit. One was taken by a professional photographer in a Target studio, with the most expense being the cost of the copyright for all poses (needed for my using any I want to use for whatever reason I want). The others were taken with a digital camera, downloaded to my computer at 300 dpi and high resolution, cropped, and saved. Which is which?

          Yes, two of the above began as "snapshots," but ones that were set up carefully so they could be cropped and used as publicity shots. All publicity photos should look professional, not amateurish. 

          Next, authors, illustrators, and other professionals should have at least three biographies: a long one to be used an for long article or such; a medium length one for media kits and festival publicity; a short bio for author/illustrator pages. 

          For a short bio, the information should relate to the purpose, not give information that readers don't care to read. Unless the book is about dogs, why take up valuable space writing about owning sixty dogs? If the book is your first one or first one with a particular publisher, mention that. If the book is part of series, mention that. Let the reader know why you wrote or why you illustrated the book, if that's pertinent. If it's important to give a bit of personal information, make it short and interesting. Yes, include your website. Only include other book titles IF those are from the same publisher.

          An important part of promotion is to have a professional bio and photo. Both may take some effort, and maybe a little money (look at WalMart and Target studios for price breaks and be sure to pay for copyright), but both are necessary parts of promotion.

Please visit the 4RV website and the 4RV Online Catalog.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Promotion: A Review of Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective

by Vivian Zabel     


          Since we often have days without any articles scheduled, presenting recent book reviews and book trailers might interest readers. I can post such material without it being self-promoting, too, where if the authors involved did, they would seem to brag.

          Katherine Boyer recently posted a review for Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective (written by John Lance and illustrated by Diana Navarro), the first in John's series taken from fairy tales. The review has appeared on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million. It will appear in the Midwest Book Review in September. She graciously gave permission for the review to be posted here.
  • Title: Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective
  • Author: John Lance             
  • Publisher: 4RV Publishing LLC
·Publisher's address: PO Box 6482
Edmond, OK 73083
  • 13-digit ISBN number: 978-0-9840708-7-9
  • List Price: $13.99
Priscilla Holmes, Ace Detective by John Lance is a very funny, imaginative children’s book that calls on many familiar fairy tales, such as the Muffin Man, Cinderella, Rapunzel and others, to tell the story and solve the crime.  It will make adults want to reminisce about their childhood and retell their favorite stories. 
            The mystery loosely follows the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears as they return home and find someone has been in their housePriscilla is hired by the Bear family to find out who broke furniture in their house and ate their porridge.  She begins her investigation and finds the following clues:

                        “1. Shoeprint (small)
                         2. Long blonde hair
                         3. Pink bow”

            With just these three clues and her ‘greatly honed detective skills’ she investigates and solves the mystery.  The solution will not be a surprise to those who are up on their fairy tales.  However, following Priscilla through her detecting process is unanticipated fun for all ages.  The penalty for the perpetrator is one that is in line with the offense.
            I really enjoyed the book and Mr. Lance has a great knack for relating fun stories for children.  The illustrations by Dianna Navarro are wonderfully imaginative and telling.  Children are going to have a lot of fun with this story and laugh at the insertion of other familiar stories and nursery rhymes.
            In an interview with Tracy S. Morris, Mr. Lance discussed the origin of this story: 
“Priscilla Holmes is one of those rare cases (for me at least) where the character came first. I was sitting in my study one day and looked out the window to see my daughters playing in the backyard and that was when a girl detective popped into my head. Priscilla is smart and determined (like my daughters) and has a distinct dislike for cleaning her room (also like my daughters).”
John Lance lives in Massachusetts with his wife, two daughters and two slightly-crazed Labrador Retrievers.  He enjoys spending time with his family and reading, writing and working in his garden.

Name: Katherine Boyer
E-mail address:

 The book may be bought from the 4RV Publishing Catalog, as well as found on other online bookstores and through any physical bookstore.



Friday, July 22, 2011

Creating a Detailed Character & Setting Outline Doesn't Just Help the Author.

by Aidana WillowRaven

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a writer. And, if I ever do successfully write a book, I doubt I'd consider myself one then, either ... lol. I also completely stink at outlines. I hated doing them in school, and hate them today. Good thing I'm not a writer, huh? But, for a writer, I've read over and over how crucial they are to the writing process, whether it be before or after the story is written. Do you know who else can benefit from your character or setting outlines? The cover artist or illustrator in charge of giving your book a visual 'life'. 

If the author is writing well, a lot of character and setting description, unless you're building an alternate world, tends to get twiddled away with editing. The more the author slips into 'show not tell,' the more the repetition of character or setting detail should disappear. This is a good thing, unless you are the cover artist having to literally dissect a manuscript trying to figure out if the main character, who's being recreated for the cover, has long or short/straight or curly hair. 

Even if you're one of those authors who just sees the whole story in her/his head before setting pen to paper, try to remember that the artist doesn't have your entire story and back-story engraved in her mind, too. It would be a great help to them, while saving time and potential misrepresentation of your character, if they were presented with an outline of the characters, scenes, and settings.

I bet your thinking, They should read the manuscript.

Truth is, except for very short books, like picture books, very rarely does the artist get to read your manuscript. In most cases, they are handed a rough outline or description by the publisher, or only get to see a scene or two before starting a project. This goes a long way to explain why a cover will often not match the text.

At smaller PHs, we may be allowed to see the MS, but rarely have the time to pick apart a manuscript for that one line of text that may tell us what the main character's hair should look like.

Not to pick on my friend Beverly, but the latest cover I did for her for a book coming out soon, is the perfect example of what I mean. First, let's compare the new book to the previous cover I did for her.

With the book Just Breeze, the entire premise of the story was based on the main character's looks, and how she perceived herself vs how others perceived her.

The book itself acted as an outline. I knew EXACTLY what Breeze looked like, and exactly how to show her personality through gesture and pose.

She has vivid, wild, gorgeous red hair, chews her nails (lacquered in blue nail polish, to match her toe nails), feels tall and gangly, and has blue rubber-bands on her braces.

I drew Breeze in less than hour, I was so confident I knew her.

When I was presented with Beverly's manuscript for Life on Hold, I was excited to be working with Beverly again, but also wanted to be sure I didn't mimic her covers, since I knew this was not a series.

I couldn't have had less reason to worry. The two books are COMPLETELY different. Not only are the characters different, but the book's focus was different. Looks were not the main topic. Emotion was.
Now, illustrating emotion wasn't my dilemma. That is done through gesture, expression, pose, and believe it or not, color.

Besides being conflicted as to how much detail to add to the scene, or even what scene to use that portrayed not just one event, but the book's mood as a whole, I didn't have a blaring detail from the text as to what my main character looked like.

I did see early on that she had 'camel' colored hair:
  • I opened my eyes and weighed the possibilities. My father was my father. I was tall like him. I had his hair—caramel brown, Mom called it. Okay, he had blue eyes; I had gray. Wasn’t gray a shade of blue? My mom’s were brown. Did eye color prove anything, anyway?

That's good, but I needed a little more.

I gathered that she was of average weight and height by the fact that it wasn't really mentioned otherwise.

But was her hair long or short? Was it curly or straight? I hadn't the foggiest. And, I had the advantage of having the rough copy of the MS, and still didn't know.

After reading and re-reading, I found it:

Cass eyed me. “You have to get ready for the concert.”
“And with your long hair, it’ll take awhile to make you glamorous,” Taffy said.
I held up my hands, palms out. “Just a sec.”
Taffy looked at her wristwatch. “A sec is up. Do you want me to curl your hair or leave it straight?”
“I’m not going to the concert. Someone misinformed you.”

 Finally. Months of trying to visualize this character was finally going to result in cover art. Whew! I was starting to sweat this one.

Once I had those two sentences (in red for you to see them better), it took one late night to do up Beverly's cover for Life on Hold. One night after months of uncertainty.

So the lesson for today?

Creating a character outline, no mater whether you need one to write or not, is a very helpful tool to have in your tackle box, when it comes to publishing.
  • It helps some authors gather their thoughts prior to writing. 
  • It helps other authors be able to pitch their books easier. 
  • It also helps the artist who has the important task of attracting 70% of the book buying population to your book in a much more efficient manner.
So what ya waiting for? Go get that outline ready for me ... lol.

Aidana WillowRaven

Art Director & VP of Operations
4RV Publishing

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference

How to Get the Most Out of a Conference by Joan Y. Edwards

Here are ideas to help you get the most out of a writing/illustrating conference. Whether you’re attending a one or two-day conference or one that lasts longer, you can take action to learn as much as possible. Planning ahead of time will enable you to take advantage of every opportunity to get you closer to publication. I hope that by reading this blog post and/or attending a conference, you’ll learn a writing or illustrating skill or technique to inspire you to believe in yourself as a writer and/or illustrator and never give up.

Before a Conference

1. What skill do you most want to improve? Attend the workshop that you believe will help you improve that skill the most.

2. Visit the webpages of at least three of the presenters that interest you. Check out their books at the library or on

3. If you have specific questions for presenters, write them down and ask them at the conference.

4. Get business cards printed. Put an image and title of your books on the back:,,

5. Get bookmarks printed:,,

6. Buy a new spiral or composition notebook with a bright colorful design. This way all of your notes are in one place. When you get home, you can transfer your handwritten notes to your computer. You can use a scanner to copy your notes and meaningful handouts.

7. Buy a folder with 2 pockets and prongs. You can put handouts here. Punch holes in them when you get home. This will keep the handouts all in one place.

8. Buy two pens that write just the way you like a pen to write. Put them in your pocketbook to take with you.

9. Write a pitch for three of your manuscripts. Read my blog: "How to Entice an Editor/Agent with a Pitch (Logline). You can print out your pitches on 3x5 cards, 4x6inch cards, or plain 8.5 x 11 printing paper. Carry the pitches with you to the conference. Put one copy in a folder. Put another copy in your pocketbook. Practice giving your pitch in front of a mirror. Use eye contact.

a. Pitch Part 1 Regular Pitch. In screenwriting and movies they call it a logline. You can read them in the TV guides or movie reviews.

My name is _______________. (Meeting a real agent or editor can do strange things to your speaking ability.) My GENRE for this book is __________. My WORD COUNT is ________.

This is a story about Hero______________ with a FLAW_________________
Whose GOAL (Life Changing Event) _________________ is Opposed by _____________ and ASSISTED BY______ in the BATTLE between _________ and __________.

b. Pitch Part 2 - Changes in Hero
Log Line 2 is Linda Rohrbough’s invention that she shared at Pike's Peak Writer's Convention in 2010. She says to add a second log line to further pull the editor/agents into your book.
Tell the character who changes and how they change (the character arc).

HERO CHANGES from__________________ to _______________ BECAUSE OF _____________ AND BY USING ___________________.

c. Pitch Part 3

What is the universal theme or premise of this story. The universal theme or premise answers the question: What did the main character learn from striving for this goal in this situation?

The Universal theme or premise of this story is _______+ _________ = ______________.

10. If your book is published, take 10 copies with you. If they allow participants to sell books in the bookstore during the conference, contact them way ahead of time to see if yours can be included. If not, take the books with you. Take one with you to each conference session. Someone seeing it might want to buy it or look at it.

11. Take hard copies of three of your manuscripts and/or a portfolio of ten of your illustrations that you want to do more of, that you enjoyed doing best. There might be a chance to have someone look at your work. You will be professional and feel professional.

11. Take comfortable clothing to wear in your favorite colors to keep your spirits high. Take a sweater or blazer, in case the air conditioning makes the conference room too cool for your inner thermostat. If you're hot, you can take off the blazer. Jeans, a shirt, and a blazer are good work attire for writers. Linda Rohrbough says that you want the editors to think you just left your computer to meet with them.

During the Conference

1. Hand out business cards with your name, address, phone number, email address, website and/or blog. If you don't have any business cards, type up the information on your computer, print them out, cut them out, and hand them out to as many people as it seems comfortable to you, then add 10 more.

2. Do you feel lonely and out of touch with people? Plan to talk to at least 3 people who sit beside you in a workshop at the conference. Exchange names, email addresses, and business cards with everyone with whom you talk. Here are possible questions to start your conversation:

"What are you writing?"

"Are you in writing group? Is it online or face-to-face?"

"How do you find time to write?"

"Do you write best in the morning or at night?"

3. Meeting an agent or editor
a. If you happen to meet an agent or editor in the elevator or at lunch, remember he/she is human, just like you. Ask one of these questions or one of your own:

"What is your favorite project right now?"

"How do you know when a book is right for you?"

"What's your advice for writers?"

b. After you ask your question of an editor or agent, there's a great possibility that you'll be asked, "What kind of writing do you do?" This is a perfect lead in for your pitch. Hold your head high, look the editor/agent in the eye, and tell them your pitch like he/she is your best friend.

4. Read over your notes and organize them into your computer
a. If you have a laptop or iPad, take notes with it during the conference. When you get home, edit your notes and add information from your handouts.

b. Use your spiral notebook or composition book to take notes. Put handouts in a folder.

5. Take a short walk for exercise in between sessions.

6. Get plenty of sleep.

7. Eat as healthy as possible during the conference, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. This will keep you alert and help you focus.

8. Enjoy yourself and learn as much as you can.

9. Write a litany of things for which you are thankful each morning before you begin your day.

10. Thank the presenters and the organizers for what you like about the conference. Make suggestions for change to make it more beneficial to writers and/or illustrators.

11. If you find a book that inspires you at the workshop, buy it if the price meets your budget. If not, wait until you get home and order it from the library or purchase an inexpensive used copy from Amazon or other source. See if it's available in an ebook format that's less expensive.

After a Conference

1. Sleep if you are tired. Accept yourself as you are and where you are. Accept others as they are. Focus on what you want. Be thankful for what you have and where you are. Put the fun back into your writing/illustrating.

2. Read and organize your notes and handouts from each workshop. If they're on paper, scan them into your computer, if possible. Write at three major things you learned from each workshop. Add more details, if you want.

3. Make a top ten list of things that you learned at the conference.

4. After all this information soaks into your mind, body, and spirit, write/revise three goals for your writing/illustrating using what you learned. Be patient with yourself. Here are three categories and possible actions:

a. Writing Skill/Genre

1) Read 10 books in your chosen genre and 3 books on the craft of writing.

2) Revise your favorite manuscript and submit it to an editor or agent.

3) Learn a new technology.

b. Marketing

1) Submit manuscripts/sample illustrations to different agents and/or editors on a regular basis. Participate in Publisher Submission on the Third Friday of the Month (PubSub3rdFri).

2) Prepare a book presentation for a school/organization.

3) Prepare a proposal to present a workshop for a writing conference.

4) Prepare a pitch for a manuscript. Go from a page summary and then focus on the words to hook readers. Keep shortening your pitch: 200-100-50-25 words. The ultimate goal would be to have a pitch that is 140 characters long to fit in Twitter. If you have all these, you can use them in your query letter or cover letter. If you want a blurb to put on your book, you'll have it. If a teacher asks you about your book, you'll have a pitch to get them to want to buy your book.

5) Prepare or update a post card, business card, bookmark, signature for email to promote you and your writing. Use your book titles and pitch blurbs.

6) If your book is published and you took it with you to the conference, is there something you plan to do to improve the promotion of your book at the next conference you attend. Write it down in detail. Educate and motivate yourself to carry it out.

c. Networking

1) Website, Blog, Critique Group

2) Book Presentations for schools and organizations

3) Facebook Author/Illustrator Page; Twitter; Linked-In, others

4) Contact at least three of the people who gave you a business card. If you remember your conversation with them, remind them of how you enjoyed talking about "their love of horses" or "their sadness at being rejected." Thank them for sharing a resource. Congratulate them on their manuscript. Compliment them for being brave and reading their story at open mike. Thank them for giving you a new way to look at a problem you were having. Visit their websites or Facebook pages, they might refresh your memory and/or give you new information to mention to them.

Below are articles with more ideas for gleaning the most out of a writing conference:

1. Kristen Lamb, "Getting the Most Out of Writing Conferences:"

2. Yvonne Russell, "Getting the Most out of a Writers’ Conference:"

3. Margo L. Dill, "Writers Conferences: Five Reasons Why You Should Go NOW, and How to Get the Most for Your Money:"
4. Marita Littauer, "Four Keys for Writers Conference Success:"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Walking the Farm ~ an illustrator's journal

Not to far from my in-home studio is a piece of heaven called the Friendly Farm. Farmer Bruce Fox and his family care for the animals who are lucky enough to be residents in a sprawling country setting.  For me, as an illustrator, any visit to the farm is an opportunity to gather information for the books I am honored to be assigned.

Open from late May until Labor day and then on weekends until mid September the farm hosts a variety of loveable animals. This is the perfect spot on a summer day to photograph or sketch the many friendly creatures.  No matter how many art books, nature catalogs, google searches, one may have there is still nothing like the real thing.

At the end of a slightly up hill trail is a welcome bench. This is the perfect spot to sit and sketch the piglets and their huge mama. The close observation of ears, hooves and noses is something I wanted to study in particular.  Now I have to figure out if I can turn a piggy into a boar.

Researching animals online or in the library is never quite the same as being face to face with pigs, goats, geese, horses, chickens, sheep and a scattering of happy children and adults.

If you forget to by a bag of feed at the entrance, you can find a quarter machine near the hungry geese. I bribed them with a bit of corn to get some needed photos.

Along the pathways one can find chickens....all kinds,  colors and sizes.


If you have a bag of feed in your hand, the goats will obligingly follow your all along their fence.  The more industrious ones will find a way through the wire mesh and try to grab your bag of feed.

Sheep...same thing here, except that we are allowed to walk among the sheep. They seem to be less forward than the goats.

A beautiful horse was just getting some fresh hay along with two friends.  These animals are fenced off while visitors are at the farm, but they are still close enough to sketch and photograph.

There under the canopy I spied a bull.  I was not too keen on getting very close, however.

Farmer Fox's four sons help out with the feeding, the clean ups and the general care; Mr. Fox himself is always on hand with a smile, a wave and time to chat a bit.

I was in for a treat when one of his son's came to feed the llama.  The llama posed so patiently I am sure he is used to having his picture taken time and time again.

As an illustrator for children's picture books and beyond, I find outings like this not only worth the time and mileage ( in this case not far at all) but necessary for the soul.  Getting out of the studio is important for writers and illustrators . The change of scenery, the human and non human contact is refreshing.

Farmer Fox took a bit of time to pose for one last photo and we chatted about the fire that took place one winter not too long ago.  Because the farm is right off Route 101 in Dublin, NH many people saw the fire and reported it right away.  The damage was fixed and the farm is a good as new.   If you are looking for something bright and beautiful, something warm and friendly, something inviting and inspiring, the Friendly Farm has it all.
Bruce Fox is also a teacher and has recently retired.  I have a feeling after seeing him interacting with the people and the animals that he is going to wonder how he ever had time to go to work.  His smile says it all!  You are invited to visit and you will certainly find a friendly welcome. I am sure I will need to use him in an upcoming picture book.

If you live in the Dublin, Keene, Peterborough, Nashua, Jaffrey, Rindge,  NH area be sure to visit. Bring a camera, a kid or two, or just your notebook. The farm will draw you in and bring you back time after time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The wonderful, terrible power of words

by Jean James and Mary James

There is no more important work in this world, no greater duty, than to help others to keep up their courage. He is our best friend whose words of cheerful confidence give more life to the heart; and he is our enemy who, by his words of doubt and his spirit of fear, saps this ardour, and take from us our courage.
(Nineteenth century writer)

The wonderful, terrible power of words:
There is no work on earth as challenging as creating something. It generally involves risk taking, thinking out of the box, and, at times, stepping out of the box. The more daring our venture, the greater our chance of setbacks and discouragements. But what if everyone gave in to doubt and fear? What if everyone did everything alike? What a dull world this would be.

How many times have we heard, “It’s too late for anything now,” or “It’s never going to happen,” or “Just resign yourself, it wasn’t meant to be”? How can anyone succeed when they're loaded down with doubt? It's like when a computer picks up a virus and gets slower and slower as it's bogged down with spam.Too much discouragement from others can be death to our faith and our will to accomplish, just as our own dismal words might kill someone’s bright dreams. We might be surprised what effect our words have on others.

Give the gift of words, spoken from the heart:

As we go out to conferences, book fairs, and other public events this last half of 2011, we want to remember we’re not just there to receive, we’re there to give. The more we give, the more we will come home with when it’s all over.

Below is a partial list of literary events coming up in the next few months. Try to attend a few. They can be a wonderful help and a great opportunity to give and receive encouragement.

Upcoming secular writing conferences:

July, 2011, 25th Iowa Summer Writing Festival, Iowa City, IA,

September 23-25, 2011, Southern California Writers' Conference, Los Angeles, CA

Nov.3-6, 2011, Sanibel Island Writers Conference, Sanibel Island, Fla

November 11-13, 2011, New York Writers Workshop Perfect Pitch Fiction Conference, NY, NY

Upcoming Christian conferences:
July 24-29, 2011: Montrose Christian Writers Conference, Montrose, PA

August 10-13, 2011: Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, Langhorne, PA

Sept. 8-10, 2011: Catch the Wave Writer’s Conference, Atlanta, Georgia,

Oct. 7-8, 2011: Susquehanna Valley Writers Conference, Lewisburg, PA

November 2-6, 2011: CLASS Christian Writers Conference, Ghost Ranch, Albuquerque, NM

Book Fairs and Festivals:
These are generally inexpensive or free to the public and are a great place to find new books and make valuable contacts in the writing industry.

9/23-25 2011, Baltimore Book Festival,

10/14-16/2011 Southern Festival of Books (Nashville),  

10/24-25/2011National Book Festival (Washington, DC),

11/13-20, 2011 Miami Book Fair International,

We intended to post the live-action book trailer of our new novel, Sparrow Alone on the Housetop, in this blog, but we’re hopelessly behind schedule. We have taped most of the scenes, but the editing is still before us, and we’re working on four other projects due to come out in the same month. Now I know how it feels to stand under a giant tsunami! Guess we should run a little faster. The trailer will be out shortly, along with more info on how to handle the final stages of that type video production.
By the way, we could use a couple more reviewers or influencers for the novel. If anyone is interested in this, please email us at: