Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thankful for These Children's Classics


This time of year, we focus on what we can be thankful for, like our family and friends and our health. One of the other things we writers might be thankful for is the books we grew up with. Some, like myself, may have been inspired by these books to begin a writing career of their own. Today, I would like to share three classic children's series for which I am thankful. 

A little girl grew up in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. Her pa had itchy feet, and he didn’t like how crowded the Big Woods had become, so the family—which comprised Pa, Ma, and three little girls—rode west in a covered wagon and started over. There were many more trips by covered wagon until one day Pa settled in Dakota Territory. 

The girl, now a young woman, met a dashing farmer, got married, and had a baby. When her baby had grown into a toddler, the young woman said goodbye to her Ma and Pa and made another trip by covered wagon to the Ozarks, where she and her husband built a house and watched their daughter mature into adulthood.

Their daughter became a famous writer and kept pestering her mother to write the stories of her childhood. When she finally wrote those stories and submitted them to a publisher, despite America being hit by the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the editor knew she held in her hands, "the book that no depression could stop." Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder became an overnight success. The Little House series went on to include eight books, with the final one published after Wilder's death.

This next writer, known as Maud to her friends and family, is most famous for writing about a red-headed orphan girl who gets adopted by an elderly brother and sister living on Prince Edward Island.

Born in 1874, her mother died when Maud was only a toddler. So, her father sent her to live with her maternal grandparents. She created imaginary worlds and friends to cope with the loneliness. She furthered her education after grade school and earned a teaching certificate. Anne of Green Gables, the first book featuring Anne spelled with an “e” Shirley, was published in 1908. Lucy Maud Montgomery published twenty novels and hundreds of short stories and poems in her lifetime, many of them set on Prince Edward Island. She also published an autobiography titled, The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, and a book of poetry. 

Born in Pennsylvania, this famous writer spent most of her years growing up in Boston and Concord, Massachusetts. Educated by her father and by family friends, she became a supporter of women’s rights, temperance, and abolition thanks to her mother’s influence. She had three sisters: Anna, Elizabeth, and May.

While she started her career writing poetry and short stories for magazines, she soon published two novels for adults. It would, however, be the book about four sisters growing up in New England during the Civil War that brought her the most recognition.

Based upon growing up at Orchard House in Concord, Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women at the request of a Boston publisher looking for a book for young girls. Its brilliant success prompted the publisher to request a second volume, which became known as Little Men. She completed the trilogy with Jo’s Boys. Alcott published over thirty books and short story collections before her death in 1888.

Interestingly enough, all three of these writers used their life experiences to influence their fiction. These stories have been brought to life in television and move adaptations, and their books continue to gain new fans. 

Have you read any of these classics? Which classic children's book is your favorite? Did reading inspire your writing career? 

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 http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Tackling a Large Project During the Holiday Season


The last quarter of the year seems to fly by. Besides writing projects, holiday planning and family activities fill the calendar. Despite how the pandemic has changed our plans, a mountain of tasks remains. What happens if a large writing or editing project comes your way?

In October, an author asked me to edit a 117,000 word manuscript. Since then, two more authors have inquired about my services. I’ve also looked at a couple more projects. Now, how to figure out what I can add to my already jam-packed schedule.

If you’re facing the same dilemma, the first thing to do is take out a piece of paper or fire up your computer—I go the paperless route because it’s one less thing to lose—and make three columns:  family/home, work, volunteering. Under each heading, list all you have to do for the next two months, noting deadlines where necessary. Then the actual work begins. 

Review each item on your to-do list to see if it’s something you must work on, can delegate, or change the deadline on. You must also discipline yourself by eliminating distractions and interruptions and consider if you have the time to dedicate to volunteering. 

Let’s talk more about these and see how to create that realistic schedule you’re looking for. 

Delegate What You Can 

The easiest way to remove things from your to-do list is to delegate what you can. Gasp! You mean I am expected to allow someone else to handle things I only trust myself to do?  

I know how tough it is to give up control of things, because I struggle with it every day. Unless you want the entire holiday season to pass you by without enjoying a minute, you need to ask for help. You can delegate household chores, errands, and meal preparation to other members of your household. Even small children can help keep the living areas of your home clean by picking up their messes before bedtime. Family might gripe when you ask, but they will enjoy a less stressed you and appreciate more time together during the holidays. 

Are These Firm Deadlines? 

If a large project comes your way that you want to add to your already jam-packed schedule, it might mean you have to consider changing deadlines on smaller projects. You should not do this without giving it a great deal of thought. Some things to consider are: 

  • What is the impact to the relationship with this client if I ask for an extension?
  • Have I asked this client for an extension in the past?
  • What is the impact to my business if I can’t meet this deadline?
  • What is the impact to my business if I take on this larger project? 

Once you’ve damaged a relationship, it takes a tremendous amount of work to repair it, if the client even allows you that opportunity. On the flip side, if the new project will have a positive impact on your career, it is worth finding ways to make it happen. 

Going with less than five hours of sleep for a month is not the right way! 

Talk to your clients, keeping them informed of your progress. If it becomes necessary to move a deadline, let them know in plenty of time and be ready to offer them a new “firm” deadline for the completion of the project. 

Planning Ahead 

Planning ahead is vital to creating that realistic writing schedule you’re looking for. Here are some tips:

  • Spend a few hours preparing menus for each week of November and December, including your holiday menus.
  • If your holidays include baking, prepare cookie dough ahead of time and freeze it.
  • Shop in bulk so you can cut back on the number of errands to pick up food, household items, and office supplies.
  • Shop online. I complete over 90% of my holiday shopping online, and I take advantage of gift wrapping services when they are available.
  • Consider pre-printed holiday cards. Remember, your time is also worth something.
  • Ask a family member to bring a side dish to your holiday meal. 

Many of these suggestions will work year round. 

Distractions, Interruptions, and Time Wasters, Oh my! 

Distractions, interruptions, and time wasters can threaten any project, no matter the size. It is especially important when approaching a large project during the holiday season to eliminate all things that steal time away from your writing/editing. 

Setting aside a time during the day to return phone messages and emails will keep you focused on work. It is important, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects and family or volunteer activities, that you discipline yourself not to check email or surf the Internet instead of writing. Don’t fool yourself by saying it will only take a few seconds. It rarely takes a few seconds.  As you train yourself, you can also train your family to respect your writing time and not interrupt your work schedule. 

With many students learning partially or fully remote, you may have less time available in your schedule. Take time at the end of each day to plan the next day’s schedule and write out your to-do list. While you can’t plan for every interruption, put in frequent breaks so you can help with online learning. Post your schedule where family can see it. That way they will know when you’re available to help. In addition, have items readily available to entertain children once their school day ends: books, crafts, and maybe an hour’s worth of television or video games will help.  

Do I Have Time for Volunteering? 

We all like to give back to our community. It sets an excellent example for our children and makes us feel good about ourselves. The problem is we may find it hard to say no even when we don’t have the time. 

Look at your list and see how many items are under the volunteering column, then ask yourself if involvement in all those activities is realistic this time of year. That two-letter word, “no” can be difficult to say, but you’re not saying no forever, just for now.  

Rest Up 

One thing that will reduce stress around the holidays is getting the right amount of sleep. Burning the candles at both ends helps no one, and won’t make you more productive. Get the required amount of sleep each night so you’ll have a well-rested mind to tackle your projects and anything unexpected that comes your way.

You can have a realistic schedule around the holidays that will allow you to consider taking on new projects. Use these tips to help create the balance that works best for you.

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 http://ccmalandrinos.com and her children’s book blog at https://childrensandteensbookconnection.wordpress.com

Sunday, November 1, 2020

5 Basic Rules to Becoming an Author

 Contributed by Karen Cioffi

It may seem like becoming an author today is a no-brainer. You just write something, get it up on Kindle, and you’re an author.

Well, that’s true, but I wouldn’t consider you an author. And, neither would any other experienced authors. And, chances are, if you get any readers, they wouldn’t call you an author.

To be an author, you need to create a quality book. You need to write a story that’s well written, that’s engaging, and that you can be proud to have your name on. Before this can happen, you have to have some knowledge of what you’re doing.

Below are five fundamental rules for ‘new to the arena’ authors.

1 Learn the craft of writing. Even seasoned writers are always honing their skills.

You can take online courses or classes. You can enroll in college classes. You can read, read, read books on writing. And, just as important, you should read books in the genre you want to write.

Tip: Don’t read exclusively in that genre, read in a number of genres, but focus on the genre you want to write in.

In addition, there are many writing blogs that offer great tips on the craft of writing. Take advantage of them.

Tip2: Learning the craft of writing includes learning how to self-edit your work.

2. Join a critique group and writing groups with new and experienced writers.

Even seasoned writers have trouble finding the trouble spots in their own stories. For this reason, you must belong to a writing group and critique group.

Critique groups see what you don’t. They spot: holes in your story, areas where you’re lacking clarity, grammatical errors, and so much more.

It’s essential to have your story critiqued or edited before you submit it for publication. This includes self-publishing. Just because you’re by-passing the publishing house gatekeepers, doesn’t mean you can forego having a polished story.

3. If you can afford it, work with a writing coach.

This really does make a difference. You get answers to all your questions, along with guidance and advice. Just be sure the coach knows her business.

There are lots and lots of people claiming to have the ability to teach you the ropes. Check them out first, before paying them. A good way to find reputable writing coaches is to ask other experienced writers.

4 Learn about marketing and book promotion.

Yep, this is a requirement of being an author. Even if you’re traditionally published, you’ll need to know the book marketing ropes. Look at heavy-hitter James Patterson’s TV commercials. He knows he has to market his own books.

Obviously, most of us can’t afford TV commercials, but if do online searches, you'll find many free articles, webinars, and even courses on how to promote and market your books. Take advantage of them.

The internet is severely overcrowded. There are thousands, more likely millions, of authors trying to sell their books. This means you need an edge. You need knowledge. You need something that will bring you to the forefront, or at least close to it.

Tip: If you’re thinking of hiring a service to help with your book marketing, be sure they’re reputable and know what they’re doing. Ask questions, such as:

- What’s the total cost?
- What distribution outlets will they use?
- Are press releases included? If so, which ones will be used?
- How long will the campaign last?
- What type of social media promotion do they use?

In other words, find out exactly what you’re paying for. And, ask around if anyone knows of them and if they’re reputable.

5. Pay it forward.  

Help other writers who are starting out. Okay, I know this isn't a prerequisite to becoming an author, but it should be.

Established authors have always taken the time to help other writers. I’ve benefited from this and now I do the same. I even created a blog with other experienced authors and we share writing and marketing tips. You can check it out at Writers on the Move http://writersonthemove.com,

Then, what you learn, pass along.

These are five of the basic elements of becoming an author. I hope they help you reach your writing goals.

Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter, and author/writer online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move.

For more on writing, stop by Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

And, if you’re looking for an easy-read, middle-grade fantasy adventure, check out WALKING THROUGH WALLS.

Or, you might be interested in a fantasy picture book geared to bring awareness of our environment to children: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman.

You can check out Karen's Books at: https://www.4rvpublishing.com/karen-cioffi.html