Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why Attend a Writing Conference?

by Vivian Zabel 

     Thursday I leave for the OWFI (Oklahoma Writers' Federation, Inc) Writing
Conference 2013. I do my best to attend every year, and for the past 12 years or so, I've been able to do so. I also attempt to participate in at least one other book event a year and the Muse Online Writers Conference. Why? Let me count the ways:

1. I get to meet other authors, rub elbows with the pros. Yes, I'm a professional writer, too, but I enjoy being with the "big" ones, such as J.A. Jance, Steven James, Debbie Macomber, Bill Bernhardt,  Marcia Preston, Jordan Dane, Merline Lovelace, just to name a few. Most on that list I can call by their first names because they have become friends.

2. Speaking of friends, I get to reconnect to those I haven't seen or visited since the last conference. 

3. I learn something that helps me improve as a writer, as a business person (writing is a business), as a professional. All professionals attend workshops, classes, and/or continuing education courses each year. They must to improve knowledge of their craft and to prove their commitment to their profession. To be a professional writer, we must do the same.
     Yes, I know much about writing, even taught it, still do as an editor and the head of a small press, but I'm still learning, improving. We all need to continue to hone our skills, learn about the business end of writing, and the writing market. We never know all there is to know about anything.
     This year at the OWFI 45! Revive! Strive! Thrive! conference, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, will be a speaker. I have the opportunity to learn more about electronic books, how to format, how to expand the number of eBooks 4RV can produce.

4. Conferences offer the opportunity for writers to meet and pitch to editors, agents, and publisher representatives. A way is provided to "breach" the wall around agents and publishers that can't be found otherwise.  Now that I head 4RV Publishing, I take pitches from other authors, but I remember giving pitches to "famous" agents and editors. I enjoy visiting with them now that I'm a member of their ranks, even if maybe not as famous as some of them, yet.

5. I'm inspired and ready to jump in and write enthusiastically again. Conferences help recharge my writing batteries after being around people who actually understand what I do because they do the same thing -- write. Speakers give me hope that success can and does happen. I return home ready to prop my seat in my chair and pound my fingers on the keyboard again.

6. Some conferences have writing contests, which I enter. Entering means I have a chance to win something. The OWFI conference has a writing contest with 33 different categories and one low entry fee that covers all the entries you send. The deadline is February 1, and the results are announced at the big banquet Saturday night of the conference. I entered four categories this year, so I'll be sitting on the edge of my chair waiting to hear my name called. Yes, I have won in the past, even first place at least twice.

7. I can learn about different genres. This year's OWFI conference focuses on fantasy, which I know little and care for less. Oh, I enjoyed Anne McCaffrey's work and still get to read new works by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, but I don't know enough about the genre to really understand it. This conference I have the opportunity to learn more since Patrick Rothfuss is the keynote speaker. I have a copy of his first book for him to sign, too.
    Jordan Dane will speak about writing young adult novels. One year I attended her session about writing thrillers. She's a great writer and speaker.
8. Visit with other writers at all levels of ability and experience -- make new friends and find kindred spirits.

9. At some conferences, a writer can have a few pages of writing evaluated by a professional. 

10. According to Susan Denney (WritingWorld.com), a good reason to attend writing conferences is you can write off the trip and entry frees on your income tax as a business expense. Of course before doing so, you should check with an accountant to be sure you qualify.

     I'm excited to have the opportunity to attend this conference later this week. I get little sleep, much excitement, and work hard the whole time, especially since 4RV Publishing will have an exhibitor table this year. However, I'll return tired, exhilarated, and already thinking about entries for next year's competition.



Sunday, April 28, 2013

Tips for Early Chapter Books

Joe reading First Flag of New Hampshire.

By: Stephanie Burkhart

My son, Joe, is now a first grader, and he loves to read. The reading program they use in his school is called EXCEL. His reading teacher says Joe is an advanced reader for his age, and her focus is reading the children early chapter books. Now more than anything, Joe wants to be flat like Flat Stanley.  What's a mom who is an author to do? Wink.  Write a book for him!

Series like Flat Stanley and Magic Tree House are a big hit with him. The main characters in those books are about his age and always seem to go on a great adventure.

Ways to Appeal to Children

As I prepared to write my first early chapter book series, my research offered some valuable tips/advice:

Write the main characters close to the age you're targeting. Flat Stanley appeals to my son because they're both young boys.

Use everyday experiences. Going to school, making friends, trying to fit in, getting along, playing sports (don't forget dance classes and gymnastics) tend to draw those young readers into the stories.

Don't forget – children need adults in their lives to give them guidance.

Target your genre to appeal to children such as mysteries, school, friendship, science fiction, or animals.

Think of the message you want to send – for example, responsibility, heroism, citizenship, respect for others or respect for the Earth. Then take these messages and bring it down to a simple concept. Flat Stanley helps other people and solves mysteries.  He wants to fit in despite being flat.

Focus on character voice. Make your characters sound age appropriate.

Make sure your ending is clear and resolves whatever problem or message you were trying to communicate.

Consider using pictures/graphics. At this age the children reading want to be able to visualize the young heroes they're reading about.

I've noticed Flat Stanley's books fall between 50 and 100 pages and have about 10 chapters. Keep that in mind as you prepare to write.

Now…how do I make son flat?

Question: Do you have tips to share when it comes to writing early chapter books? What types of early chapter books do you notice appeal to young readers?

Author Bio: Stephanie Burkhart is a 911 dispatcher for LAPD. She enjoys exploring California, volunteering in her sons' classrooms and being a taxi service. She's addicted to coffee and adores chocolate. Her books with 4RV Publishing include The Giving Meadow and First Flag of New Hampshire.







Friday, April 26, 2013

Dealing with Tragedy

Boston Marathon Finish Line.1910. Author: Unknown.
Boston Marathon Finish Line.1910. Author: Unknown. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a resident of Boston, MA, and have been since just after the blizzard of 1976. The recent, tragic, bombing at the Boston Marathon this past Monday reminds us all of the fragility of life.

It takes some time to process an incident like this, and I am still sorting things out.  I'll probably end up writing about it, since that's one of the ways I deal with grief.

Many years ago, a friend lost his wife and all four of his children in a house fire. He had been working on some renovations. Something caught fire during the night, and he alone survived.

I fell into fiction writing around 2005. Before that I'd only written poetry. The first few stories I wrote were for children, in part because I could make them shorter. Length intimidated me, especially as I tend to be terse. In any case, a few months after I started writing fiction, I sat down and wrote a 5000 word story about a boy who loses his mother in a house fire. Several years, many revisions, online classes, a writing partner, and the ICL course in writing for children, I had a publishable manuscript, The Angry Little Boy, which will be published by 4RV later this year.

The book was my way of coping with my friend's loss. While the boy in my book loses his mother, he and his father come through. We all pray the victims of Monday's bombing will do the same.
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Writing Children’s Books: Genre Differences P2

Writing Children’s Books:

Genre Differences Part Two

By Karen Cioffi

Part One of this two-part article discussed books for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers: Bedtime Stories, Board Books, and Picture Books. If you haven’t read it yet, please CLICK HERE.

Part Two moves on to school age children.

Chapter books for the 6 - 9 or 7 – 10 year old group: Children in this group are learning to read. The vocabulary and storyline is expanding, but clarity is still a must. These books may be labeled as ‘early readers’ or ‘easy readers’ by educational publishers and are designed to be read by the child. The word count is usually between 5,000 and 12,000.

An example of a chapter book is Clarice Bean, That's Me by Lauren Child, another is Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

In regard to Because of Winn-Dixie, the protagonist is ten years old. Since children tend to read-up (the protagonist will be 2 – 3 years older than the reader), the target audience is around 7 – 8 years old, placing it within this genre and possibly the younger end of middle grade.

Middle grade books: The middle grader is between 8 and twelve years old. The middle-grader will go for stories that he can associate with and characters he can form a bond with. The word count is usually a minimum of 20,000.

As the child is able to comprehend more and is maturing, so should the stories. Stories and conflict can be more involved and you can now introduce more than one protagonist or point of view. This age group can also be introduced to science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries.

An example of a middle grade book is Walking Through Walls by Karen Cioffi. The early Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling are also middle-graders.

Young adult books: This genre encompasses the twelve to sixteen and up age group. YAs can be edgy; plots and characters can be complex and serious issues addressed.

An example of a young adult book is An Audience for Einstein by Mark Wakely. The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer is also in the YA genre.

A useful way to get a better idea of what the different genres consist of is to visit your local library and talk to the children’s section librarian. She’ll be able to show you books in each genre and give you tidbits of information on which are the most popular, which are classic, and much more.

One final note here, each publisher will have his own criteria for categorizing a book and its minimum and maximum page length within a category.

What are your favorite books within these categories?

Boost your writing and marketing efforts with Karen Cioffi and The Writing World newsletter. To find out why you should sign up today, CLICK HERE.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Life on Hold receives CLC seal of approval

     Life on Hold by Beverly Stowe McClure received Children's Literary Classics seal of approval. The cover image (designed by Aidana WillowRaven) above shows the seal on the cover of the young adult novel.

      The next step for Beverly's book is the awards process. Hopefully, it will win a gold or silver award and be able to wear an award seal. We'll know later this year.  

      Life on Hold is the second CLC award winner from 4RV Publishing; Walking Through Walls by Karen Coiffi was the first and received both the seal of approval and then the silver seal award.

      Both books can be found on the 4RV Bookstore, as well as through other online book stores and brick and mortar stores.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Steps to More Energy for Writing

Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards and Her LicensorsNeed More Energy?Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors
Need More Energy?
"Steps to More Energy for Writing" by Joan Y. Edwards

Do you need more energy for writing? Here are 12 steps to help you re-energize yourself. 
  1. Accept yourself as being okay,  if you're tired. Also, accept yourself as being okay if you're not tired.
  2. Be open to more energy. Don't keep saying, "I'm tired. I have no energy." Those words themselves, zap your energy. Stand up. Hold your hands up high in the air. Hold your fingers apart. Spread your toes apart. Ask God to send you energy.
  3. Drink a glass of water. Water hydrates your body and makes it work better. It grounds you. When you're feeling edgy, nervous, or listless, drink a glass of water. Savor every drop.
  4. Eat protein: peanut butter or nuts, like cashews.
  5. Dig in the dirt. Garden. Get back to nature. Sit and watch the birds and squirrels. Walk around your yard or a nearby park.
  6. Exercise for 1 minute of exercise, alternate with 1 minute of resting, for five minutes. It'll get your pituitary gland in your body to send endorphins to your brain that give you a feeling of well-being and lessen your pain. We get endorphins from exercise, excitement, laughter, love, and orgasm. They said you get endorphins from eating spicy food. You can do yoga, too.
  7. Breathe in deep through your nose and breathe out through your mouth three times. Relax. Then breathe in shallow through your nose 3 times quickly, and exhale through your mouth three times quickly. Repeat this until you feel calm. This is a good way to do it if you have trouble sleeping. At least it's worked for me.
  8. Complete a Task. Finish a task or work on a task as long as you set your timer. If you do as you say you're going to do, you'll build up an "I can do this" attitude. Next time set the timer for 10 minutes longer and see if you can make that. Completing tasks sends a level of excitement to your brain. It sends endorphins to your brain that gives you a feeling of well-being. Make an effort to finish any task you begin. Even if you have to break it down into only 5 minutes at a time.
  9. Declutter, recycle, clean up, straighten, and Feng Shui. Even picking up only 5 things that are out of place and putting them where they belong, can make a difference in your mind and body.
  10. Take a nap - a power nap or a regular nap, especially if you are sleep deprived. A little nap will rest your body and might give you renewed energy to last you four hours until you can sleep through the night. That has been my experience.
  11. Be thankful. Write down or say aloud three reasons you are thankful. a litany of reasons you are thankful will fill you with more endorphins and a feeling of well-being. Meditate.
  12. Celebrate you. Get a cupcake. Put a candle in it and celebrate you. Think about all the good things you've accomplished in your life. Get a big poster and write your name in big letters. Underneath it write good positive words to describe you: Loving, kind, talented in many ways, determined, etc.
Copyright 2013 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors When you're tired, just a little exercise might be better or a nap.. 
Copyright 2013 Joan Y. Edwards and Her Licensors.  
When you're tired, just a little exercise might be better or a nap.

If you're without energy for a month or more, perhaps a physical checkup with your health care provider would help. You could be anemic and need iron or have a thyroid that's not working full power.

If none of these ideas seem to work, brainstorm your own or ask your friends what helps them. Start writing, perhaps that will energize you even more.

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards

"Joan's Elder Care Guide" 4RV Publishing, Release June 2015

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Blog Tour for Boo's Bad Day

     Boo is going to have a month of good days. He, with his author Penny Lockwood and illustrator Deborah C. Johnson, is going on a blog tour. Everyone is invited to go with him.

     Below is the schedule and links to the blogs where Boo will be found:


Q & A – Questions and Answer
GP  - Guest Post
R - Review
Media – Blurb, Cover Art, Buy Links, author photo, bio

DATE     BLOG LINK                                                                                         Q & A                     GP           R             Media   

4-22        http://wendylaharnar.blogspot.com/au                                                          x              x
4-23        http://terri-forehand.blogspot.com/                                                                                 x
4-24        http://maggie-lyons.blogspot.com                                                                   x
4-25        http://jolinsdell.blogspot.com                                                                                                                           x
4-25        http://virginiajennings.webscom/apps/blog/                                                                  x
4-26        http://virginiajennings.webscom/apps/blog/                 x
4-27        http://virginiajennings.webscom/apps/blog/                                                  x
4-28        http://www.ckvolnek.com/the-minds-eye-blog.html  x                                                                              
4-29        http://www.jqrose.com                                                                                       x
4-29        thru 5-6
                http://suebookreviews.blogspot.co.nz/                                                                            x
5-1          http://kaistrand.blogspot.com                                                          x
5-2          http://hazelnutt.com/category/picture-book-reviews                                                   x
5-3          http://sgcardin.blogspot.com/                                                           x                                              x
5-4          http://nancymariebell.blogspot.com                                                                                                               x
5-5          http://irenesroth.wordpress.com/                                      x
5-6          http://sueperkinsauthor.blogspot.com                                            x
5-7          http://1sttimemums.com/                                                  x
5-8          http://www.karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com/                                       x
5-9          http://barbaraehrentreu.blogspot.com                                            x                                              x
5-10        http://renajones.blogspot.com/                                        x
5-11        http://www.melanierobertson-king.com/wp02                                              x
                                                                                                                                x                                              x
5-13        http://rosgemmell.blogspot.com/                                     x
5-14        http://www.dreamseekeradventures.com/blog                                                                              x
5-15        http://carpinelloswritingpages.blogspot.com                  x
5-16        http://mgddasef.blogspot.com/                                        x                                              x
5-17        http://albertaross.wordpress.com                                     x
5-18        http://www.consciousdiscussions.blogspot.com/          x
5-19        http://writersandauthors.blogspot.com/                                                          x
5-20        http://4horsemenseriesbr.blogspot.com/                         x                              x
5-21        http://www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com/                                                      x
5-22        http://snugglewithpicturebooks.com/                                                                                              x
5-22        http://dawnprochovnic.blogspot.com                                                                             Sign Language
5-23        http://juliedobbins.blogspot.com/

     The x's didn't show up in columns in the email sent me, so I'm not sure where they go or what they mean. However, we have the schedule, and I hope everyone will stop by each blog stop and say hello.