Friday, September 27, 2019

Artist Spotlight: Jeanne Conway

     Jeanne Conway joined 4RV Publishing on September 27, 2016. She has created the images for several books since then, several of which have won awards. Her books for 4RV include Louie Finds a Friend - A Louie the Duck Story (2nd in the series) and Wave Excitement - A Louie the Duck Story (1st in the series) by Vivian Zabel; This Isn't My Bed! by Mike McNair;  Storm Sentinel by Tony LoPresti; Merry Tilda: A Winter Fairy Tale and Wild, Wild Wind by Jodi Heaton Hearst; and, her first for the company, Kindertransport: a child's journey Kena Sosa.

     Jeanne, an artist, illustrator, children’s book writer, and art educator lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The following is a portion of an interview from the Kansas/Missouri SCBWI since she was the featured illustrator, where she talks about two books illustrated for 4RV:

Question: What would be your dream project? Or what was your favorite project?

Reply: Recently I illustrated a children’s book about the wind called The Wild, Wild Wind by Jodi Heaton Hurst.  The main characters are swept up by the wind and this was terrific for me as I could play around with the various figures (human and animal) as they move through the air. The locale was in the country so I could use a palette of daylight colors.  It was so much fun to do that book.

Question: What’s next for you? Any upcoming book releases we should be on the lookout for?

Reply: Louie Finds A Friend (A Louie The Duck Story) by Vivian Zabel is another children’s book featuring the ongoing adventures of Louie the duck and how he finally makes a friend who understands him.

For so many years I’ve loved art in all kinds of medium. I’ve painted in oil and acrylic but found that watercolor was the one I loved the most. As a child in St. Louis, Missouri, my mother would often take all of us to the Art Museum. And I have to thank both of my parents for the endless paper, pencils, and paints which they provided for those of us who loved to draw and paint.

I got a degree in Art Education from Webster University in St. Louis and went on to teach art for 35 years in St. Louis and London, England.  In 2013 I started illustrating children’s books part-time and when I retired from art teaching in 2016 I started full time illustrating.  I’m a member of SCBWI and would highly recommend this organization to anyone who is interested in writing and/or illustrating children’s books.

My husband Tom and I have been blessed with three children: Adam, Julie, and Suzanne. I am so grateful to them for their constant encouragement for my art.

You can view my art on my website, or on my portfolio page on the SCBWI website.

     Thank you, Jeanne, for bringing 4RV books to life with your art.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Editing Resources for Writers

Whether I am editing my own work or someone else's, there are resources and tools I've come to rely on. Here is a list of some that are kept close by.

Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, co-founders of the Writers Helping Writers site, have released a series of thesauruses to help writers find the right words or phrases to make their writing come alive and to make their characters real and memorable to readers. Now in its second edition, The Emotion Thesaurus discusses different types of emotions and the body language someone might use when experiencing a certain emotion or trying to suppress it.

Tired of people saying you need to "show, don't tell?" Looking for new ways to describe characters and their actions? Then Master Lists for Writers can help. It will also assist you with plot and setting ideas, dialogue, character names, and more.

I've owned a copy of Roget's Thesaurus since high school. (I won't tell you how long ago that was.) This third edition of Roget's Super Thesaurus from 2003 added new entries and expanded on some existing ones. It also contains sample sentences.

These three little books still get pulled from the bookshelf when I need them. Stephen King once recommended all aspiring writers take the time to read The Elements of Style. As I sat down to write this article, I realized updated versions of the first two had been released since I purchased my copies. Guess who is running out to grab them? 

ProWritingAid is an online editing tool I use regularly to easily find overused words and readability issues. 

I hope you find this list helpful. Now, it's time for you to share. What are editing resources and tools you use?

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. 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 and her children’s book blog at

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Effective Book Promotion is about Building Relationships

Our local library asked me to speak on the topic of book promotion. The program covered such topics as:

  • Press releases
  • Websites and blogs
  • Virtual book tours
  • Video trailers
  • Newsletters
  • Social media
  • Local events
  • Promotional items

At the end, we had a Q&A session. One person asked me what is the most effective type of book promotion. While I feel social media is the easiest way to reach the masses of people out there who might be interested in your book, it's most important to make personal connections.

Whether we are connecting with people face-to-face or online, promoting yourself and your work is about building relationships. We build relationships with readers, with librarians, with booksellers, and with other authors. Being authentic and relating to people builds those relationships that are so crucial to our success. No amount of time and money spent on marketing will make a difference if we don't build and nurture relationships.

Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of four children’s books including, A Christmas Kindness, released by 4RV Publishing. 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 and her children’s book blog at

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Characteristics Used to Create Believable Characters

It’s noted that you should let the reader see your protagonist’s characteristics within the first few pages. This enables the reader to quickly identify with him. This connection will determine whether the reader continues to turn the next page.

Unless you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, your protagonist will have ordinary strengths (possibly extraordinary, but within the realm of reality); he will also have weaknesses. These qualities need to be conveyed early on.

Here are 15 characteristics that may pertain to a protagonist or main character (MC):

1. Intelligent: Is your MC smart? If so, how smart: is he a genius, did he finish college, does he get all As in school?

2. Handy or Crafty: Maybe your MC isn’t great at academics, but is he handy, musically inclined, or crafty?

3. Arrogant: Does your character think he’s better or smarter than others?  Does he let others know it? If so, how?

4. Trustworthy: Is your MC the kind of individual that others feel they can trust?

5. Determined: Does your MC know what he wants and strives to obtain his goal?

6. Greedy: Is your MC the kind of person who wants everything he doesn’t have? Is he the type of person who wants much more than he actually needs? Does he make it obvious?

7. Dependable: Is your MC the kind of individual that others know they can count on?

8. Brave: Does your MC do what he has to even if he’s frightened? Is he known for his bravery?

9. Cowardly: Is your MC afraid of his own shadow? Does he try to avoid any kind of confrontation or adventure?

10. Caring: Does your MC demonstrate kind and caring qualities? Does his family and friends think of him as a caring individual?

11. Selfish: Does your MC think of only himself? Is he known for this unsavory quality?

12. Strong: Does your MC have great physical strength? Is he strong emotionally?

13. Weak: Is your MC weak either physically or emotionally or both?

14. Athletic: Is your character into sports? Does he excel at it?

15. Artistic or musical: Does he draw or paint? Does he play a musical instrument?

These are just some of the characteristics you can give to your protagonist. There are many others though, such as: shrewd, cheap, a liar, a thief, a go getter, beautiful, awkward, loyal, kind, lazy, introvert, extrovert, irresponsible, and cruel.

It’s up to you as the creator to give your protagonist a set of characteristics that will allow him to connect to the reader – whether the reader loves him or hates him there must be a connection. This connection is what will cause the reader to keep turning the pages.

Be cautious though, if you are giving your protagonist unsavory qualities at the beginning, be sure to include at least one redeeming quality otherwise your audience may not find that connection and decide not to read on.

And remember, you can always have the protagonist change characteristics through the momentum of the story. He can start out as a coward and through various occurrences within the story he can evolve into a hero, or whatever you choose. That’s the amazing thing about being a writer – you create something from nothing. You give your character breath and dimension.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

You can connect with Karen at: