Wednesday, July 11, 2018

My 4RV Favorites

When searching for a publisher for your work, it's important to get to know them; see what they publish, read some of their books, figure out how your work might fit. I followed 4RV Publishing for years before I sent them my manuscript that became A Christmas Kindness. This gave me a chance to review several of  their titles. Here are a few of my favorites.


Eighth grade starts out the same as every other year for Breeze Brannigan. Then she meets Cam, the new boy in school whospeaks with an accent and must be from another planet, for none of the earthling boys she knows are so polite. He also has a secret, a secret that could mean life or death for Cam and his mother and that Breeze must help him keep.


For months, Breeze Brannigan has heard nothing from Cam, the prince she met at school and who disappeared one night without telling her goodbye. The night she graduates from middle school, however, he contacts her and invites her to visit Isla del Fuego, his home. Who could refuse such an invitation?

Breeze, along with her whole family and best friends, Amy and Allison, soon sail to the island, where she and Cam renew their friendship. But, danger lurks; a legend comes to life; and Breeze finds herself in the middle of a battle that can have only one winner.


Which has the better chance of helping, a wish or a prayer?


Joseph and his wife, Mary, expect a baby. With all that is happening, including the government requiring a census, Joseph feels a little overwhelmed and a bit left out of the preparations for the baby. Is there something he can do?



Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Monday, July 9, 2018

New Release - Why Does That Star Follow Me?


     4RV Publishing released a new children's book Why Does That Star Follow Me? written by Wayne Harris-Wyrick and illustrated by Andrea Grey.

      Many stars brighten the sky at night, so does every person have one? One child finds his own
stellar companion that follows him everywhere. Thus, a story is born.


     After 40 years as the director and staff of a planetarium, Wayne Harris-Wyrick retired to become a full-time children’s book author, and later joined the staff of 4RV Publishing as the Non-Fiction and Tweens and Teens Imprints editor.

     Wayne has been writing a monthly astronomy column for the Oklahoman since 1984, and has published a dozen astronomy and science fiction articles or short stories in various national publications. Wayne uses his astronomy and science background in his children's books, several which have been released by 4RV.

     Andrea Gray grew up sketching and painting and later earned a graphic design degree at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. She draws inspiration from other cultures, music, and folklore. When she’s not illustrating, Andrea can be found behind a camera lens or finding tranquility in the Oklahoma wilderness.  Andrea lives in Broken Arrow with her loving husband Brandon, son Benjamin, and two dogs.

     Why Does That Star Follow Me? is the first book she has so far
illustrated for 4RV. But, hopefully, it won't be the last.

      
    This children's book can be found and purchased from the 4RV Online Bookstore, through brink and mortar stores, and other online stores.



Sunday, July 1, 2018

Point of View and Children’s Storytelling

By Karen Cioffi

Point-of-view (POV) is the narrator's view of what's going on. The POV is who's telling the story. This will determine what the reader 'hears' and 'sees' in regard to the story. And, it determines the ‘personal pronouns’ that will be used.

Having this element of the story consistent throughout is essential.

There are three main POVs in young children’s storytelling: first person, second person, and third person (limited). And, in each of these POVs, the protagonist (main character) must be in each scene – the story is told through his five-senses. If he doesn’t see, hear, smell, taste, or touch it, it doesn’t exist in the story.

1. First person.

This POV has the protagonist personally telling the story. Pronouns, such as “I,” “my,” “me,” “I’m,” are used.

Example from “Because of Winn-Dixie:”

That summer I found Winn-Dixie was also the summer me and the preacher moved to Naomi, Florida, so he could be the new preacher . . .  (The protagonist, Opal, is talking to the reader – italics are mine for clarity.)

Notice the above isn’t in quotation marks for dialog. Dialog would be used if the protagonist talks to another character in the story or another character talks. See examples below:

“But you know what?” I told Winn-Dixie. (Opal is talking to her dog.)

“Well, I don’t know,” said Miss Franny. “Dogs are not allowed in the Herman W. Block Memorial Library.” (The librarian in the story is talking to Opal.)

Children’s books in first person POV:

“Because of Winn-Dixie (Kate DiCamillo)
“Green Eggs and Ham” (Dr. Suess)
“The Polar Express” (Chris Van Allsburg)
“Fly Away Home” (Eve Bunting)

2. Second person.

This POV uses “you” as the pronoun, referring to the reader and isn’t used that often in young children’s writing. But, there are some authors who pull it off very well.

An example of this POV from “How to Babysit Grandpa:”

Babysitting a grandpa is fun. If you know how. (The protagonist is talking to the reader, involving him. Italics are mine.)

Children’s books in second person POV:

"How to Babysit Grandpa" (Jean Reagan)
"Secret Pizza Party" (Adam Rubin)
"The Book That Eats People" (John Perry)

3. Third person (limited).

This POV is probably the most popular in young children’s writing. Pronouns, such as “he,” “she,” “its,” “they,” and “their” are used.

While this is similar to the other two POVs, in that they’re all told from the protagonist’s point-of-view, in third party, the narrator, is telling the story. He’s privy to all the senses and emotions of the protagonist.

Here’s an example from “Walking Through Walls:”

"You will practice by walking through this brick wall. You must repeat the magic formula over and over as you go through it.”

Wang looked at the wall. He tightened his fists, clenched his jaw, and wrinkled his forehead. This is sure to hurt.

“Uh,” he paused, “Master, what will happen if I do say the words to the magic formula out loud?”

“Wang, you are trying to delay your task. It is a good question though. Your tongue will cease its movement if you speak the words to the formula.”

Wang's eyes opened wide and he flung his hands on top of his head. Never to talk again! I am sorry I asked for the formula. What if I slip?

The narrator is telling the reader what’s going on. Again, he’s privy to the protagonist’s thoughts, senses, and feelings.

Children’s books in third person POV:

“Walking Through Walls” (Karen Cioffi)
"Owen" (Kevin Henkes)
"Tops and Bottoms" (Janet Stevens)
“Stephanie’s Ponytail” (Robert Munsch)

Be consistent.


When writing for young children, it’s the author’s job to make sure the story is engaging and CLEAR (easy to understand). One quick way to lose the reader is to mix and match point-of-views within the story. Even if you slip just once, you may very well throw the reader off.

One easy error is to slip in a second person POV within a third person story. How this might happen:

The third-party narrator is explaining what the protagonist did then throws in something like, Can you believe it?

That one little sentence has switched POVs and can cause confusion.

Remember to choose one POV and stick with it throughout your story.

There you have it, the three main points-of-view in young children’s storytelling. Which do you prefer?

Sources:

http://literarydevices.net/point-of-view/
http://www.childrensbookacademy.com/mondays-with-mandy-or-mira/second-person-point-of-view-in-picture-books

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A FAMILY FOR LEONA, by Beverly Stowe McClure (@beverlymcclure) & 4RV Publishing (@4RV), has won 1st place in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards Historical Fiction category!

Published by and available at 4RV Publishing
Some very exciting news came my way a few days ago from one of my favorite authors. A Family for Leona, by Beverly Stowe McClure (published by 4RV Publishing), has taken FIRST PLACE in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards under the Historical Fiction category. And guess who created the cover art? Yep: yours truly. 😀 Isn't that awesome?

The contest is sponsored by Story Monsters LLC, which is home to the award-winning Story Monsters Ink® magazine, the literary resource for teachers, librarians, and parents — selected by School Library Journal as one of the best magazines for kids and teens.

They also help authors of all genres strive for excellence through their marketing and publicity services, Dragonfly Book Awards contests, Story Monsters Approved! awards program, and opportunities to connect with schools and the media.

Not sure where I can fit another award seal, lol, but there's no reason I can't show it here. (The gold seal you see on the cover right now is 2017's Children's Literary Classics Award -- Their top honor.)







Blurb:

Ten-year-old Leona Chapter doesn’t understand why her papa left his six children at the Brooklyn Home for Homeless Children after their mother’s death in 1921. Each day she prays he’ll return and take his children home. God, however, isn’t listening. Her brothers and sisters are either adopted or run away, leaving only Leona and Baby Mildred in the orphanage. Leona promises she and Mildred will be together for always. A promise she cannot keep, for Leona, along with her friend Noah, who she defends from the bullies Hiram and Jehu, and several other orphans, are soon on a train headed to Texas, while her sister stays at the orphanage. Leona vows she’ll go back to Brooklyn, the first chance she gets.


Be sure to check out these other great books from Beverly and 4RV Publishing





Onto wrapping up the next book 😁
Until next time ...
Aidana WillowRaven
Art Director and AP of Operations at 4RV Publishing
http://WillowRaven.weebly.com

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Finding Inspiration in Everyday Life



William Faulkner once said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o'clock every morning.” Gosh, I wish it were that simple for me. Honestly, I don't believe writers wait to be inspired before they write. The challenge might be more that they ignore the everyday happenings in their busy lives that can inspire their writing.

Imagine this..

A young mother at the end of a hectic day has at least one more chore to do before she can plop into bed for some much needed rest. It's bedtime for her little girl; the one who wants to be sung to sleep every night. Weary, the woman trudges upstairs for their bedtime routine: go potty, change into pajamas, brush teeth, read story and say prayers. Along the way, the little girl has asked about going to the zoo soon, shared every single thing that happened at preschool that day, and asked for a drink of water.

Finally, it's time for bed. The woman stifles a yawn and plunks into the rocking chair beside her daughter's bed. She hoists the little girl with the binky planted between her pouting lips and a pink blanket in tow onto her lap, and settles into that one special position that is comfortable for both of them. Then she begins to rock and sing. She sings of frogs going courting and tiny little Thumbelina. The woman sings songs her mother wrote when she was just a little girl. She rocks and sings until her legs ache and her throat is horse, yet, the little girl's eyes are still peering up at her pleading for more. Now what will she sing? She's gone through every nursery rhyme and childhood song she can think of.  The woman's mind wanders to Christmas, which is still months away. She knows decorating, baking for the neighbors, and the sending of cards will be added to her overloaded schedule. But then, she remembers the music. The wonderful hymns of peace, love, and joy that fill the season. So she pushes her feet against the floor once more and, as the rocker goes back and forth, she sings of stars at night and the night wind speaking to a little lamb and a little drummer boy who visits a special baby and gives him the gift of his music.

In the days that followed, the woman would use Christmas music to lull her daughter to sleep time and again. Each time she sang of that little drummer boy, her mind would wander to a young shepherd in the fields on the night of Christ's birth. He would be afraid to leave his sheep and join the other shepherds who were eagerly seeking out the baby the angels had just told them about. Then, in a moment of great faith, he agrees to go with them and, as a result, he saw the Holy Family and his life was forever changed.

Years passed. The little girl with the blanket and binky started school. The woman turned her attention to her life-long love of writing. In those early days, she sought inspiration and found it in the image of that young shepherd who stepped out in faith and left his sheep behind to visit a baby in a manager. That story becomes her first published book for children.

All around us, in the mundane and the extraordinary moments of living, inspiration is there. We only have to open our minds to all it has to offer us as writers.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Strengthening Writing with Power Verbs: Letters A-G




         As writers, we want our readers to be drawn into and enveloped by our short story or novel, by anything we write. Boredom loses their attention quickly. Showing, using active voice, creates reading excitement. To avoid passive voice and to have active voice, writers use power verbs. To know some power verbs, I discovered a list, author unknown, and added to it. Now, I will share the list I have to date, from A through G this article.

         Let's begin with some verbs beginning with the letter A:
• Advance
• Advise
• Alter
• Amend
• Amplify
• Attack
An example of using such verbs includes using advise rather than tell, when the verb advise fits: Mary told John not to skip school; Mary advised John not to skip school.

         Next, we will look at a few starting with B:
• Balloon
• Bash
• Batter
• Beam
• Beef
• Blab
• Blast
• Bolt
• Boost
• Brief
• Burst
• Bus
• Bust
Again an example, the mortgage interest increased; the mortgage interest ballooned.

         Some verbs start with the letter C:
• Capture
• Catch
• Charge
• Chap
• Chip
• Clasp
• Climb
• Clutch
• Collide
• Command
• Crackle
• Crash
• Crush
Writers often over use take or took. When possible, we can use more powerful verbs: Mary used her camera to take a photo of the scene; Mary used her camera to capture the scene. Not only is "take" avoided, but the sentence become tighter, more concise.

         Next, we add a few verbs that begin with D:
• Dash
• Demolish
• Depart
• Deposit
• Detect
• Deviate
• Devour
• Direct
• Discern
• Discover
• Drain
• Drip
• Drop
How often do we have someone run? Perhaps we can have a person dash across the street rather than run.

         Now comes some verbs commencing with the letter E:
• Eavesdrop
• Engulf
• Enlarge
• Ensnare
• Erase
• Escort
• Expand
• Explode
• Explore
• Expose
• Extend
• Extract
• Eyeball
He led her through the maze; he escorted her through the maze.

         Shall we explore some power verbs with F?
• Fish
• Frown
• Function
• Frustrate
• Fancy
John dislikes the color brown. John frowns on the use of brown.

         One more list of verbs for this time, power verbs beginning with the letter G:
• Gaze
• Glare
• Glisten
• Glitter
• Gobble
• Govern
• Grasp
• Grip
• Groan
• Growl
• Guide
Mary looked at the valley below. Mary gazed at the valley below.

         I keep the full list handy when I write because the thesaurus found with MS Word often doesn't have the best list of synonyms, and it doesn't have any suggestions if I can't express what I need in one word. I will add power verbs from the next seven or eight more letters in a month.


 

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How to Work When the Kids Are Home Too





School is winding down around here, so that means the kids will soon be home for two months. For a writer, that can bring with it challenges. During the school year, the kids are gone for six or more hours a day. Summer comes and suddenly your time is no longer your own. You want to spend time together. They want you to drive them places. How can the work-from-home parent manage it all?

Working from home, while the kids are there too, doesn’t have to mean burning the midnight oil just to keep up with your to-do list. Here are a few ways you can remain productive, keep the kids occupied, and still leave room for family time.

Adjust Your Schedule

I'm a firm believer that productivity is tied to finding a work schedule that is best for you. With the kids home, however, that schedule might not be practical.

Consider getting up a bit earlier than usual. While this might not be easy all year long, it is a temporary solution that can help you accomplish your weekly goals. Make sure you continue to take advantage of time spent in waiting rooms or at your child's practice (for us it's soccer) to get additional work done.

Take More Frequent Breaks

While it might seem counterproductive to take more breaks during the day, you’ll get more done if you don’t have to listen to, “I’m bored!” every five minutes.

Set a timer. When it goes off, put your work down and spend time with the kids. Read, have a picnic lunch in the backyard, or play a game together.

Easy Arts and Crafts

Nowadays, there are so many arts and crafts kits available, and ideas on blogs or Pinterest, that there is bound to be something your children will like.

A good way to transition from family time back to work time is to have arts and crafts set out for the kids. When you’re done playing, let them choose what they want to create. Read the instructions together and then let them know you need to work until the timer rings again. Make sure to have other simple activities such as molding clay, paints or coloring books and crayons available in case they get bored with what they are working on.

If they distract you, remind them that you can’t be interrupted until the timer goes off. As long as you consistently get up and spend time with them when promised, the kids will learn to respect your work schedule.

Mommy’s or Daddy's Little Helpers

Young children love to help out. Take advantage of this by allowing them to dust or sweep the floor. Will it be perfect? No. But it will be good enough. Older children can do the laundry, wash dishes, empty the trash or clean the living areas so that you can spend more time together later.

Play Dates

I wasn't always a huge fan of play dates. Spending time dropping off the kids and then driving home, not to mention wasting time talking with another parent during drop off and pick up, seemed counterproductive. But even one hour of uninterrupted time can make a difference in how much you accomplish.

Schedule regular play dates throughout the summer. This will keep kids in touch with their friends, and parents who take turns hosting play dates at their houses get some much needed relief. Day camps can also be a chance for your children to interact with their peers while allowing you the freedom to work without guilt.

Summer is a fun time for families. It can also be a productive season for you. With a few simple changes, you can work at home even when the kids are there too.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Ingredients for the Perfect Picture Book

Writing for young children can be tricky. It’s not as straight forward as writing for adults. You can’t use your own vocabulary and you need to be careful of age appropriate storylines. You also need to introduce your main character immediately.

It’s also important to keep in mind that children don’t have the same comprehension level as an adult, so all aspects of the story need to be clear and geared toward the age group you’re writing for.

So, what exactly does a children’s writer need to include in a picture book?

Let’s go over the basic ingredients of picture books:

1. The story should include: a surface level, an underlying meaning level, and a take-away level. This means young children should be engaged by it; older children should get a little deeper meaning or realization from it; and parents or the reader should be able to see the take-away value.

2. The story should be written with a 50/50 formula. Be sure to allow for 15 or 16 illustrations (a picture book usually has 32 pages). And, allow the illustrator to tell part of the story. Picture books are a partnership between the author and illustrator. For example: Instead of telling the reader that John grabbed his favorite blue shirt with red and yellow footballs on it, just write that John grabbed his favorite shirt. Your illustrator will know how to show the scene.

3. Children love action and need to be engaged so be sure to include action. As children are used to TV, videos, and movies, writers need to account for their waning attention spans.

4. Show rather than tell. The ‘powers that be’ in the children’s publishing world frown upon telling a story.

5. The story should have a flow or rhythm and structure to it.

6. The story should have predictability. This pulls children in. They think they know what’s going to happen next based on what’s happened before in the story.

For example: In the story Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, a group of monkeys took a peddler’s caps and put them on their heads. The peddler tried to coax the monkeys to give back the caps, but every action the peddler took, the monkeys mimicked. They stomped their feet, shook their hands, but they wouldn’t give the peddler back his caps. Finally, in anger, the peddler threw his own hat from his head to the ground.

Can you see a child's mind working and thinking each time the peddler does something else? She is going to guess that the monkeys will mimic each action.

7. Finally, the story should have an unexpected ending relating to something that happened in the story. We'll go back to Caps for Sale. The peddler tried everything and finally, in anger and not realizing, he threw his hat to the ground. What do you think the monkeys did? Down came all the caps.

"Ah," the reader will say, "he should have done that in the first place."

Along with these basic ingredients, there are a couple of toppings needed:

1. Use age appropriate words.
2. Use age appropriate storylines.
3. Be sure to have your main character (point of view) speak first so the child/reader will quickly know who the protagonist is.
4. Use proper grammar and punctuation.
5. Have only ONE point of view.

Now you can cook up a top-notch picture book!

This article was originally published at:
http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2015/11/22/ingredients-for-the-perfect-picture-book/

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online author platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.








Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tips to Balance Writing Time and Marketing Time



One of the things I often hear from fellow writers is that marketing takes a substantial amount of time, which means less time for writing. Many feel there is no easy way to balance writing time and marketing time.

Here are a few tips that might help:

Add Marketing Time to Your To-Do List

Without a list, you can lack focus and organization, which means time slips away and you’re not even sure where it went. Daily and weekly to-do lists keep you on track, and they motivate you to keep going.

See where you can add fifteen minutes to half an hour of marketing time to your daily schedule. I find that after I drop the kids off in the morning is my best time because my phone isn't ringing with real estate calls and there's no one in the house except me and the furry beasts.

Create an Online Media Kit

Every published writer needs a media kit. A media kit should include: a long and short bio, author photographs, novel covers, book trailers, excerpts, audio clips, links to previous interviews, and a schedule of events. If you write articles, it should include a list of those articles, where and when they appeared, and direct links to any articles that appear online.

By having this information available on your website and in PDF format, you’ll save time when you contact people for interview and book review requests. Even if you’re still waiting for that first sale, it’s a good idea to have a biography and quality photo available for those who request them.

Use Social Media Effectively

I have numerous social networks that I post to multiple times a day. Can you imagine how long it would take if I had to post to each site separately? By using Buffer, Hootsuite or TweetDeck, I can create one post that is submitted to all my social networks at once.

Support Local Schools and Events

Who says marketing can’t be fun and fulfilling? With tightening budgets, schools are often looking for guests to come and interact with students. When my girls were younger, I held writing workshops at their schools. I would speak to the teacher about their current course of study and then tie my workshops into that.

One year, I visited during National Poetry Month, which is held in April. The kids had also been studying Colonial America and the America Revolution. My two-day workshop was on using your senses in writing and on how to develop your powers of observation. We started off by reading excerpts from classic children’s books and seeing if the kids could point out the senses the authors used. Then the students pulled items out of a bag and had to use their senses to describe it. On the second day, they observed me reciting “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and we discussed their observations. Finally, they put all they learned into practice by using their senses and power of observation to write a short story based on a field trip they had taken earlier in the year to an early American settlement. The kids enjoyed it and they shared it with their parents, many of whom asked about my work. It was great exposure to teachers as well.

When my first book came out, I held a book signing at my church during their annual Christmas Bazaar and Tag Sale. I got a chance to sell my book, and a portion of the proceeds went to the church--a win for both of us.

Marketing is part of the business of writing. Using these tips will help you strike a better balance between the business and creative sides of your career.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Understanding How Book Reviews Make You A Better Writer

Back in 2010, I wrote an article titled The Elements of a Good Book Review. Working in online book promotion at the time, my hope was this would encourage more bloggers to review our clients' books.

A review is one person's opinion of a book they have read. It is not a play-by-play description and it shouldn't contain spoilers. The information contained in a review can also give the author a glimpse into her strengths and the areas that might need some attention.


Here are two of the blurbs from reviews of A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing in 2012:

I appreciated the simplicity of the story that had such a powerful message wrapped up inside it.

It is not often that a simple children's book can nearly bring me to tears, but this one succeeded.

These reviewers appreciated the simplicity of the story, but were touched by its message. What did the author (me) learn? Keeping it simple for first time readers is important, while the adults are able to understand the message behind it and use it as a teaching point.

Here's a review blurb from my first book:

...this is the type of book that I would read to little children versus letting them read the book themselves. Only because there was a lot of words and children do not have a huge attention span to read all those words. 

Compare the two: one is said to be a simple story and the other was found to use too many words, therefore, making it harder for young children to read by themselves. Did I consider that reviewer's feedback when I wrote future books? Of course, because my market is children and those who buy for them.


 Here is part of a review I wrote about The Brain Sucker by Glenn Wood:

There is so much to enjoy in this novel: the well-developed characters, the neat inventions, the antics of Lester’s bumbling thugs, the craziness caused by Jinx's “little problem,” and so much more... It didn't take me long to finish this one because I never wanted to put it down. I also really felt the selected font was perfect for the story, so kudos to the book designer.

Wood got to know the age group he was writing for and it showed in every page of this story. This book was so fun to read. Then the designer used a font that matched the vibe of the story perfectly. Should the author consider what the designer is doing? I think so. He might not have the final say, but a book is a package deal from outside to inside.


Here's a blurb from my review of The Undercover Kids' Holland Adventure - The Trunk in the Attic by Gloria Smith Zawaski:

The one thing I found confusing is that the book starts in present tense, then changes to past tense and occasionally switches through the story. This interrupted the flow of the prose at times.

This is a middle grade adventure story, so complexities are expected. You just don't want to lose your reader over them. Sometimes when you're working on a manuscript, you've read it so many times you don't see some of its challenges. It happens to all of us. That's why critique groups and editors are so important.

Reviews, while subjective, can be helpful to the writer who uses them to build upon her strengths and fine tune areas that come up as challenges for readers time and again.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of Little Shepherd, A Christmas Kindness, Macaroni and Cheese for Thanksgiving and the recently released, Amos Faces His Bully. A blogger and book reviewer, she lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two daughters. She also has a son who is married. Visit Cheryl online at http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Marketing and the Query Letter



If you are contemplating writing a book or you’ve already written one, and intend on going the traditional publishing path, you’ll need a query letter and a cover letter.

This is true whether you’re an author, a writer, or a business owner who wants to build his authority with a book.

Wondering what a query letter has to do with book marketing?

The query is the second step in your book marketing journey. Think of it as the beginning of a hopefully rewarding relationship with a publisher or agent.

The first step is writing a great story. The second is getting a contract – this is where the query comes in.

If you’re not sure what a query letter is, Jane Friedman notes that it’s a stand-alone letter and has only one purpose. Its sole purpose is “to seduce the agent or editor into reading or requesting your work. The query is so much of a sales piece that you should be able to write it without having written a single word of the manuscript.” (1)

The query letter is your foot in the publishing door. So, you can see how much rides on this one or two page letter (preferably one page).

The query letter usually has 8 elements to be aware of:

1. Do your research. Have you gone to the publisher’s or agent’s website to make sure your manuscript topic is something s/he handles?

You can do an online search for publishers or agents that will be a fit for your story. Or, you can use an online service, like WritersMarket.com.

2. Know what you need to do. At the site, did you carefully go over the submission guidelines? I mean really, really, really, carefully!

3. Is your opening (in the query) grabbing? Will it get the reader’s attention?

4. Edit, edit, edit. Have you checked for grammar errors? Have you checked for redundancy? How about spelling? Don’t rely on a word processors speck check feature alone. Edit your letter manually.

5. Keep it short and sweet. Eliminate non-essential personal information.

6. Include credentials, and/or pertinent background information, if any.

7. Include your book marketing strategy for promoting your book. In this section, include your social media following, only if significant: 500 followers, 1000 followers, 5000, 10,000. Obviously, the more the better. And, it’s essential that you have an author website and include the link in your heading.

8. Have you studied the query letter format?

The format consists of several paragraphs:

a. Your introduction, mentioning that you’ve visited the website and why you’re querying.
b. A very brief gist of what the manuscript is about and the intended age group.
c. A very brief synopsis of the story.
e. Your background, if pertinent. Include your marketing intentions.
f. Thank the editor/agent for her time. Mention that you included XXX pages (the number the guidelines said to send), if applicable.

Taking the time to do it right and write an optimized query letter may make the difference between the slush pile and a contract.

The query letter is the portal to a contract. If the reader says NO at the letter, your manuscript may be great, but it won’t have a chance.

References:
1) http://janefriedman.com/2014/04/11/query-letters/
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter

This post was originally published at:
Book Marketing and the Query Letter


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. For must-know writing and marketing tips, get free access to The Writing World.

Also, be sure to check out Karen award-winning children's middle-grade fantasy, "Walking Through Walls."





Thursday, April 19, 2018

When the Creative Stream Stops Flowing




            So often people complain they have writer’s block. They stare at a page, whether paper or computer, and nothing comes. Their brain matches the page – blank. I never had that drastic a problem because my mind keeps working but perhaps can’t find just the right words, can’t get that just right description, or can’t decide how to create a word bridge between scenes. So, all authors need ways to turn those creative blocks back to a full stream again. First, we need to consider a few reasons for any block before we look at some ways to overcome the problem.

            Jeff Goins lists the main reasons he discovered for the creative stream stoppage:
  • Timing: It’s simply not the right time to write. Your ideas may need to stew a little longer before writing them down.
  • Fear: Many writers struggle with being afraid, with putting their ideas (and themselves) out there for everyone to see and critique. Fear is a major reason some writers never become writers.
  • Perfectionism: You want everything to be just right before you ever put pen to paper or touch a keyboard. You try to get it perfect in your head and never do, so you never begin. 
Although, Goins wrote about blogging, writing is writing. Most ideas cross between all types of writing to a certain extent.

Goins also gives suggestions of what not to do to try to overcome writer’s block:
·        You do not overcome writer’s block by refusing to write until you feel “inspired.”
·        You do not overcome writer’s block by wallowing in self-pity.
·        You do not overcome writer’s block by procrastinating or making excuses.
·        You do not overcome writer’s block by watching TV.
·        You do not overcome writer’s block by reading articles on how to overcome writer’s block.

The strange thing is one way to restart the muse working is to distract oneself from the problem and watching TV distracts. Interesting.

            Now, let’s discuss some ways to restart the creative stream. Both Goins and Pete Croatto suggestion moving away from the situation. Croatto says to change location to find inspiration. Goins says to go for a walk. By removing ourselves from the “blank” page, our minds can be sidetracked from the problem and have an opportunity to find stimulation or inspiration. 

            Another way to unblock the block would be to eliminate distractions. Here is where a writer should avoid watching TV: When one tries to write, distractions can provide a mental block to creating. Therefore, when we try to write, we should avoid visiting someone, watching TV, texting, and other activities that take our mind off writing. Sometimes, though, when we can’t write, watching a TV show could actually help us mentally relax and discover the writing begins again.

            Ironically, another way to unblock the logjam in the creative stream is to do other things, to be distracted. Croatto states the following activities could help get the words flowing again: run errands or do chores; talk to another writer; research. Some ways Goins suggests include: go for a walk; spend time with someone who makes you feel good; play (a game on your computer, a card game with a friend or friends, a basketball game with a child or grandchild). One idea I use quite often is to begin another project or go back to a project I laid aside.

            Some people can relax the creative muse by listening to music, pushing the blank page or stopped page to one side. After the mind relaxes, the words may begin to flow again.

            When I can’t decide how to transition from one scene to another or from one event to another, I sit back and run the “movie” of the story through my mind. Letting myself remember and rewind the story often gives me the needed words to continue.

            Are these the only ways to motivate the creative stream to flow again? Of course not, but they are a few that worked for others. When anyone gets stuck, he needs something to unblock the logjam and to allow the stream to flow.


Sources:
     Croatto, Pete, “Parallel work,” The Writer, May 2018, page 10.
     Goins, Jeff, “How to Overcome Writer’s Block: 14 Tricks that Work,” https://goinswriter.com/how-to-overcome-writers-block/
     Zabel, Vivian, experience and methods from the past