December 31, 2009

Nice Way to Wrap Up the Year

It’s official folks, my second picture book has been released. It’s a prose story called The Sister Exchange. It’s about a girl who wants to trade in her sister for another one. But these new sisters are not all they’re cracked up to be.
This was a fun book to write and is actually based on my nieces. One day my niece Brianna, asked my daughter if she would like a sister. Then she added, “Well you can have mine.” That line stuck in my head and I eventually thought about a scenario where you could trade siblings the way you traded stocks (a nod to my days in the financial services industry). My first drafts of the story included a mix of both brothers and sisters as replacements. But in the interests of brevity and simplicity, I made it just about sisters.

Kit Grady did a great job with the illustrations and I am very happy with the way this book came together. If you would like a peek inside at the story and illustrations, please go to and check it out. This book is also available at and ,or you can ask your local book store. If you want to go green, it’s available as an E-book as well.

Not a bad way to wrap up the year. May all of you have a very happy and healthy new year. See you all in 2010.


December 16, 2009

Ah, that New Book Smell

The moment that I have been waiting for has finally arrived. If I Could Be Anything has been officially published.

I’ve been scrambling to update my websites and get everything in place for this book’s release, so I haven’t been posting here too often. But I think that will be changing since I have the majority of my tech projects completed. I’m sure I will be tinkering with my websites here and there, and I’ll still be putting together new games as I go along. I’m also joining a virtual book tour in January. So I still have plenty to keep me busy. I just won’t be working at the same frantic pace. That makes me happy. I need to get back to the basics and all this stuff I’ve been working on has distracted me from what I really want to be doing, which is writing.

I haven’t really had time to work on any writing projects. I miss coming up with ideas, and watching as the story unfolds, and how the story sometimes takes me in entirely different directions from what I originally planned. My tech projects involved a lot of creativity, which made them fun to work on. But it’s not the same as writing.

I received my author copies for If I Could Be Anything, and plan to make signed copies available to any one who wants them. I've included links on the sidebar and on my websites for anyone who would like to pick up a copy. I’ve already sent some to family members and I’m donating a copy to my daughter’s school.

There’s nothing quite like opening up a box of books and to hold a crisp copy in your hands. What was once a vague idea now has form and substance, and it didn’t exist until I thought of it. That’s pretty awesome!
Although I do have a lot of people who helped make this happen as well, my family, friends, critique groups and publisher, to name a few.

The printer did a good job. The artwork pops out at you, and the pictures and words flow from page to page. Nice…very, very nice, even if I do say so myself.

December 7, 2009

Slush Pile Warrior - Gayle C. Krause

In this latest edition of Slush Pile Warrior, I'm pleased to present Gayle C. Krause. Slush Pile Warrior is a recurring feature which focuses on the trials and tribulations of pursuing publication.
Gayle is the author of Rock Star Santa. I've read it and it is a very enjoyable Christmas book. It's like a modern day Night Before Christmas and I think it would make a great addition under the Xmas tree this year. Without further adeiu, here's Gayle.

Please tell us a little a little about yourself

A Scrantonian at birth, I grew up on the West Side of Scranton, Pennsylvania in a section called Tripps Park. I was a super energetic, creative young girl, always gathering the neighborhood children in organized activities of one kind or another, which involved singing, acting or creative play. This natural leadership and creative energy led to a career as a teacher at a Career and Technical Center in upstate New York, where I guided young men and women in finding the key to successful Early Childhood and Elementary teaching careers. I served as Team Leader for the Education Department, Director of the Pre-K Laboratory School, and an instructor in the Early Childhood Education department of a local college.

As a Master Educationalist I’ve taught children’s literature, creative writing, storytelling techniques, and acting. My years as a creative role model for teens and pre-school children has led me to my new career as a children’s author. My current picture book, ROCK STAR SANTA, is available during the holiday season from the See-Saw (Pre-K -1st grade) and Lucky (2nd-3rd grade)Scholastic Book Clubs.

How many submissions do you have out there now?

This changes every week. I currently have an environmental rhyming picture book out at several publishers. I’m working on perfecting my query and polishing my Tween/YA novel as I am hoping obtain an agent in the near future. So my focus these days to sub to agents, though I am also working on two science related picture books.

How do you research where to send your manuscripts?

Verla Kay’s Blue board, CWIM, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Children’s Writer.

What was your biggest submission goof? What did you learn from it?

I’d say when I first started to write seriously I submitted the second book of a trilogy for publication consideration, hoping it would stand on its own because I felt it was better written than the first book. (obviously, it was my second manuscript) This was my first mistake. Live and learn!

I received a two page kind rejection with encouragement to revise, but not as I expected. The editor’s quote: “You have a 5-6 book series disguised as a single story. When you have revised it you may send it back.”

Her comment both encouraged and overwhelmed me. To this day I have not tried to break the story into 5 books, but it still lingers in the back of my mind. Someday I will.

What I took from that first editor’s comments was that I have a gift for storytelling.

Why do you want to be a writer?

To incorporate my creativity into tangible words so children and young adults may find new concepts to learn in a pleasurable medium. And so children can enjoy reading and exploring new worlds as much as I do.

What is your favorite style of writing? Why?

That is a close call. I enjoy integrating history in fiction. I have written three YA historical novels and one is currently brewing in my head.

Besides the high fantasy novel I mentioned above, I also have written a 2-book MG parallel world fantasy, a science fiction novel, and I have two YA WIPs, both paranormal. (Don’t worry….no vampires or werewolves!)

But I enjoy rhyming. It sings in my head. All of my picture books are fantasy-oriented. Most are rhyme. When I get an idea for a picture book it most certainly always comes in rhyme.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

Seeing more and more publishing house closed to unagented submissions. And getting form rejections back two years after I sent the manuscript out. (I’m NOT kidding.) By then I have no idea what manuscript even was.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Seeing the children’s faces as you read your story to them in school and library presentations. A close second would be the euphoric feeling you get from seeing your work published.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

I’ve learned that when I’ve completed my manuscript and I’ve shared it with beta readers or critique groups I find I am NOT finished with it. I then put it away for a period of 3 to 5 months. (I work on something else at this time.)

When I return to it with fresh eyes I’m better able to revise for a tighter, more professional manuscript based on feedback given.

Have you been published? If so where?

Yes. I have various articles published in the SCBWI National Bulletin, Chicken Soup for the Kid’s Soul 2, Fandangle Magazine, Stories for Children Magazine and Anthology, Volume 1, Diversion Press Meanderings: A Collection of Poetic Verse Anthology, The Blue Review, Kidzwonder Magazine, Hopscotch for Girls, and Boy’s Quest.

My debut picture book, ROCK STAR SANTA, was released from Scholastic Book Clubs in December 2008 and will be available again for the Christmas season 2009. (See the Scholastic flyers the children bring home from school)

How can people find out more about you?

My website is
I have a blog.

Last month Realm Lovejoy interviewed by at She did a great drawing of me, too.

I was the guest author at the ICL Website discussing seasonal picture books last December 2008, and the interview is on the site.
I was featured in Authors on the Verge, Cynthia Liu’s website last year.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

My affiliations in the world of children’s writing are varied. Besides being an SCBWI member, I am the founder of the Cliff House Writer’s Group, and I host an annual writer’s retreat every fall. I’m a member of The Poet’s Garage, the Wayne County Arts Alliance, a past member of the Historical Novel Society, a graduate of two Highlights Foundation Workshops, and I participated in two Rutgers University One-on-One Children’s Literature Conferences, where I met my editor at Scholastic.

My new endeavor, “First Peek Critique” Service, can be found at my website:, where I offer critique services for rhyming picture books. Further information may be obtained by emailing me at

December 3, 2009

Into the Home Stretch

Well it looks like the moment I’ve been waiting for is finally arriving. I approved the galleys for If I Could Be Anything and it’s been sent off to the printers. As soon as the copy comes back and is approved by my publisher, I am officially published.

To coincide with this monumental occasion, I’ve also just about finished my website. I have all the games and activities loaded and I’ve been testing the links, the look of the site, and everything else. This is actually the second site I came up with. I designed the first site and threw it up on my web server. It completely crashed and burned. But I was able to salvage some text and graphics for my new site.

If you would like to take a sneek peek, my new website, please go to

Please be warned that this site is still under construction and I am working furiously to get this site ready to coincide with my book’s release. I’ll let everyone know when this site is officially launched.

After this site is launched, I plan on doing some more writing and having some champagne to celebrate my book’s release, but not necessarily in that order. :-)

October 28, 2009

Sneek Peek at The Soggy Town of Hilltop

I’m still working on a web site, flash games, promotion material for my books and a new rhyming picture book, all which are in various stages of completion. But I should have something to show for it by next month. I’m glad we’re gaining an hour due to Daylight Savings Time, because I could use it!

I did see some illustrations from The Soggy Town of Hilltop and I’m very happy with them. Eugene Ruble is the illustrator for this book and I think he did an excellent job. Eugene was an illustrator for the Voltron cartoon series for those of you old enough to remember it. Now Eugene is one of the talented artists at Guardian Angel Publishing(GAP). He is also doing the illustrations for my counting book titled, Lightning Strikes, that GAP is publishing. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On a side note, I am old enough to remember Voltron. Unfortunately, what I remember most about Voltron is my attempt at assembling a three foot tall replica of the robot that my mother bought for my nephew. Enlisting the help of my sister and brother-in-law, we managed to put this thing together, but it did take most of Christmas morning to do it. My nephew was about two years old at the time, and could have cared less about Voltron. He proceeded to play with the box it came in. The box was quite a hit.

Anyway, for your viewing pleasure, here is a sneak peek at The Soggy Town of Hilltop. This book is scheduled to be released in January 2010.

October 7, 2009

Prose vs. Rhyme

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything new. So I’ve taken a short break from creating online games and websites, and have been trying to get back to basics. I’ve framed out the idea for a new picture book, but now I’m left with one nagging question. Should it be in prose or rhyme?

I’m leaning towards rhyme for no particular reason other than it seems to be the best way for me to tell the story. It also means that I’ve picked the most difficult route to travel. To write a rhyming picture book, I still need all the elements of a story, I need a clear beginning middle and end; a strong plot, a likeable character, maybe a villain or two, some sort of conflict, and a good, believable resolution of the conflict, all while paying attention to rhyme and meter.

I’ve heard it said that a story shouldn’t be told in rhyme unless it absolutely has to, but I’m not exactly sure what that means. What’s the method for determining whether a story should rhyme or not? All of Dr. Seuss’s work could have been written in prose, but it wouldn’t have been the same. I think it’s just a plain judgment call.

I know why people say this though. Writing a story in rhyme is hard to do well. I’m sure that many otherwise promising stories have been sunk by faulty rhyme or meter, or that they were missing a necessary element of a true story.

I actually started writing this story in prose, and then I wrote another rhyming version. I like the rhyming version better. It has a certain character that the other version doesn’t. So for this reason alone I am taking the more difficult route. I don’t know where this will take me. Hopefully, I’ll wind up with a completed, polished piece. But I could also wind up with an unfinished, abandoned piece, which has unfixable problems.

A challenge…sure. But I’m not intimidated by a challenge. A rhymer it is.

September 21, 2009

Some More Things Coming Together

I think I have enough games and activities to start assembling my kid-friendly website, so that’s the next thing on my list. I need to put together the opening page and figure out how I want to organize the games. I’m thinking about organizing them by the game type and having a puzzle page, word game page, etc. But I’ll have to see how that works out. It’s still going to be a lot of work though, between designing the pages and testing the links. I’m going to be glad when the website is launched and I can get back to the business of writing again. I’m itching to write some new material. I did get a chance to submit some more work though and that makes me happy. I have five more submissions making the rounds out there.

On the publication front, I received the cover for my book, If I Could Be Anything. Marina Movshina did the illustrations and I’m very happy with them. She was a pleasure to work with and I’m looking forward to the book’s release. The latest word I’ve received is that the book will be coming out in November. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover.

Happy Writing.


September 7, 2009

Interview of me at The Storyteller's Scroll

Just starting to dig out from the long holiday weekend. I went to the Jersey shore for a much needed vacation. I did bring my laptop with me and wound up working on another game for my website though. My intenet access was sporadic so I didn't get a chance to blog about my interview at The Storyteller's Scroll. After I won the contest, Gayle asked if I could do an interview. It explains my particular path to publication and what's been going on afterwards. If you get a chance, stop by and say hello. The link to Gayle's blog is below.

August 31, 2009

Whoo Hoo Again!

Coming through once again, Guardian Angel Publishing has accepted my picture book manuscript, My Brother, the Frog. There’s no release date yet, but my publisher already has an illustrator in mind. I’ll post more info on this, if the illustrator accepts the project.

In other news, I’ve still been working on online games and have reached a decent sized inventory of games and activities. I plan to launch my site in the fall when my first book, If I Could Be Anything, is released. Right now, I’ve been loading and testing games, but it’s not a working website yet. The following game isn’t going to be on my kid-friendly site, but I couldn’t resist making it once I found out that I could switch the target pretty easily. I figure that adults might get a kick out of this so I’m posting this here. It’s based on whack-a-mole and you have to click the mouse to register hits.

Also, I wound up winning the contest that Gayle Krause, hosted on her blog

The grand prize was an autographed copy of her picture book, Rock Star Santa. Gayle autographed it for my daughter, who was thrilled to see that the book was personalized for her. Rock Star Santa is a modern day “Night Before Christmas. The verse and the illustrations are great, and this would make a fine addition to any child’s library. It’s published by Scholastic for anyone who would like to put a copy under the Christmas tree this year.

August 17, 2009

More Tech Stuff

I must have spent the past two months up to my eyeballs in technology, while I tried to piece together some online games. I managed to get a working matching game, puzzle and online coloring book. I also reserved the domains and, that I’ll be using to host these games. I’m not quite sure which domain I’ll eventually use, but I figured that I should probably reserve both.

Most of the games I came up with are based on The Sister Exchange, illustrated by Kit Grady. But now I’m waiting on some graphics from Marina Movshina who illustrated If I Could Be Anything. After, I see what I can do with the new graphics, I think I’ll be close to finishing the new website. Because, then it will just be a matter of creating the main page, along with any links. That should be a piece of cake compared to what I’ve been trying to teach myself lately. I’m planning on officially launching this site in the Fall to coincide with my first book’s release. I’ll be posting more information when I have a firm date.

On to other things, I actually wrote something new. It seems like forever since I’ve actually written anything and it felt terrific to exercise the creative portion of my noggin again. But Gayle Krause, a member of my poetry critique group, came up with a contest that was too much fun to resist. It was about creating a poem blending characters from two different fairytales. My entry is called “The Date”, and you can see that and others on her blog at,

And you can always post one of your own if you like. The grand prize is an autographed copy of her picture book, Rock Star Santa.

July 30, 2009

Whoo Hoo!!!

I’ve still been researching promotional possibilities for my books and have been trying to develop some online activities for kids. As a result, I have been up to my eyeballs in tech stuff and not writing much. I’ll talk about that some more in a later post when my new website is up and running and I can show you some results.

But right now I’d like to share some good news. Guardian Angel Publishing continues its streak of being my dream publisher and has accepted another picture book of mine. It’s a rhyming picture book titled, Just For Today. It’s about a child dealing with separation anxiety. I don’t have a release date yet, but I will keep you posted when I have more information.

This makes book number seven for me and it feels both great and strange to be saying that. I guess that’s because none of my books have been released yet. I guess it won’t be entirely real for me until my first book, If I Could Be Anything, comes out in the Fall. Meanwhile, does anyone know how to center a flash file in html?

July 16, 2009

Slush Pile Warrior - Michael Sullivan

Welcome to another edition of Slush Pile Warrior. This feature focuses on the trials and tribulations of pursuing publication for both the novice, and experienced writer alike. This month, it is my pleasure to feature the talented, Michael Sullivan.

Please tell us a little about yourself:

I’m the father of two beautiful boys, the husband of an amazingly creative and understanding wife, and someone who has been lucky enough to find love in his work – as a writer and as a pediatric nurse. It’s not every day you find jobs that make use of so many of the seemingly useless things you’ve done in life.
I’ve been writing since elementary school, when an English teacher made the mistake of putting out a stack of writing projects for extra credit. I think I ended up with an A++++++++++++ in her class. I still have those papers. I’m thinking of submitting them for publication under a pseudonym, but I’d be really embarrassed if the third grade me did professionally better than I am doing.

How many submissions do you have out there now?

Not enough.
I had probably 7 or 8 running around, doing their thing, but they’ve slowly been coming home lately. I’m finding more and more responses like “We are no longer accepting submissions, get an agent.” It may be me but I didn’t see this information in any of my research, which leads to your next question…

How do you research where to send your manuscripts?

I use CWIM and Jacket Flap and Writer’s Market. When I remember to I also like to jot down the publishers who’ve taken some of the stories I like to read to my children. If I feel the style or humor match with mine, I’ll do some more research on them. I’ve spent most of my time looking at book publishers, but I’m coming to realize that there’s a lot of things I’d like to write and it’d be good to have a wide and varied collection of clips. My nose gets too high, though, and all of a sudden I get this attitude that nothing but publication of a picture book will do. DON’T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?
And there’s the sound of crickets chirping because you don’t know who I am because I haven’t published very much because I’ve closed myself off from those markets because I fear that what I’ve written is really good and it may not get better and shouldn’t it therefore be in book form instead?
So maybe how I really research things is I sit at my desk and IMAGINE what it will be like when my piece is accepted. I research in my mind what it would feel like to sit in the publisher’s office with an illustrator and editor and my agent and masseuse. I research this feeling and take it out into a book signing attended by hundreds of adoring children. I slyly stand in the children’s section of Barnes & Noble, just nearby my book, waiting for someone to pick it up. I think up what all these moments would be like, and then place the stamp on the envelope and send it away.
I didn’t say this was a good method.

What was your biggest submission goof? What did you learn from it?

I tend to take on this very meek, “please publish me” persona at times. It’s really quite pitiful to look upon, I imagine. Eyes are probably drooping, shoulders slumped, a manuscript limp and torn in my hands. It makes me try even harder, which then just adds this look of intense anguish to my face. I mostly get this when I’m reaching too far beyond what’s in front of me. A very good friend – also a publisher – told me it’s all about numbers and credits. My biggest goof is forgetting that you have to start somewhere… and that’s not usually at the top!

Why do you want to be a writer?

Ha! Someone asked Stephen King something like this, I think. “Why do you write the kinds of stories you write?” His response was, “You think I have a choice?”
I am a writer would be my first response. Part of the angst of writing is forgetting that being read by others does not mean being a writer. When I’m miserable with my writing it’s usually because I’ve placed that condition on considering myself a writer. I’ll always lose that argument because there will always be rejection slips coming in. I feel like and know I am a writer when I’m sitting or laying down with a notebook in front of me and doodling. Or when I’m driving along and a thought for a story pops in my head. Or just typing away at this cool questionnaire. Words and sentences and the art of finagling them together so that you create “this” feeling, it’s addictive. And there’s just some part of me that can’t put that down, that needs to struggle to say something and say it perfectly.
Bottom line, I love it and always have. It’s who I am, not really what I am.

What is your favorite style of writing? Why?

Forward works well.
Seriously, I think that changes. I like a sense of ridiculousness or just oddness to my stories – like what would a boy do born with a leg on top of his head, for example. I don’t really know, never actually thought about it, but it’s something I’d flop around for awhile, just having fun seeing how he would interact with the world. So fantasy and fiction definitely. I also like things that are a bit scary, or, again, just odd enough that you’re not quite sure how scared to be. Whether this comes out in prose or poetry depends on what I hear. Mostly it’s been prose but occasionally a character let’s me know he thinks verse would sound better.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

Looking at my list of writing things to do, which I’ve posted right beside my computer. That’s one. Probably the worst is writing when there seems to be nothing to write about, when you sit there and start story after story, maybe only a sentence or two, and then move to the next. It’s like no one wants to talk to you anymore, or at least no one interesting.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Huh. I feel connected to the world in a way I don’t normally feel. It’s an incredibly freeing thing. Regardless of what I’m writing I also get this sense, perhaps soon or perhaps long, after I’ve finished that I’m also doing something wonderful for myself. It could be as big as tackling something like, “Why am I here?” When I write and what I say is so alive I’m inside it, then I have part of the answer or maybe all of the answer to that question. Or it could be smaller like, “I wanted to give someone a serious case of the willies with this story and I succeeded.” Feeling like what I wrote accomplished what I wanted it to is very rewarding.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

It’s more than I ever thought it was. It heals on levels beyond what I can understand.
Also, you can’t do it alone. Or, better, that you don’t have to. I’ve learned more about writing through participation in my critique groups than I ever did from reading a book about writing. When you have a group of strong, honest writers working with you it can transform your work into something leagues better than what you imagined.

Have you been published? If so where?

I spent about 5 years as a fulltime reporter and editor in the New York area, working for several newspapers and then for a magazine. While doing this I also freelanced and had a few humor pieces picked up by Bridal Guide Magazine. I converted to the children’s market 5 years ago, while at the same time having a few kids and going to nursing school. I’m extremely happy to say I recently sold several pieces to a spooky anthology due out from Marshall Cavendish in 2010.

How can people find out more about you?

I finally got a website up and running. It’s at
Besides the writing, I put some video up there of my wife and I making fools of ourselves at our son’s school. We actually did that professionally for about 10 years. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to sneak in some more gigs.
I also have a blog at The blog contains the amazing, the wonderful, the mostly pointless fun of THE BLOB CONTEST! Please come check it out.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

This peanut butter cookie is pretty good, but my Wonkavision machine is broken. Sorry.

I would like to share a big thank you to you, Kevin! You’re an amazing, gifted and giving writer. Your dedication to the craft is admirable and I’m glad it’s paying off.

Thanks for stopping by Mike. Great interview, it's always fun to hear your humorous and unique perspective on things. Best of luck to you in your writing career.

July 7, 2009

Some Tech Stuff

One thing I didn’t realize when I set out to be a writer, is how little time I’d have to actually write. After I received my first contract, I began learning about the business end of writing and it was a real eye opener. I needed to spend a lot of time setting up the promotional aspects of my writing career. After all, nobody will be able to buy my books if they don’t know that they’re out there

My first endeavor was creating my website. I needed to get some name recognition and begin building my brand as a writer. I remember tinkering with the settings on my web editing software for what seemed like forever. Finally, I came up with a design I liked that would be fairly easy to maintain and update.

My second project was my blog which I launched last year in anticipation of my book releases. I designed the blog, put all my various links and widgets in it, joined a virtual book tour group, and started promoting. The only problem was that my book releases were taking longer than I thought, so there was nothing to promote. I took a leave of absence from the virtual book tour group and will probably have to do a complete overhaul of my links before I become active again. Also, I’m going need some fresh interview material, book information and some press kits as well. I should have started on some of this stuff already, but I’ve been sidetracked by my latest project…online games.

I decided that I needed to have something for kids besides my books. My website is not very kid friendly. Mostly, it introduces me as an author and has background information geared to adults who would like to find out more about me. Frankly, I know that kids could care less, so I wanted to have a site dedicated to entertaining them and have games, coloring pages, and other activities based on my books. The website is but don’t bother going there. I haven’t loaded any pages yet. I’ll post an announcement when this website is ready to launch.

I started by teaching myself different computer languages. Building my website gave me a working knowledge of what code is supposed to do, so I took it to the next level. I taught myself Java and wound up developing a decent interactive coloring page. The problem with Java is that there it is an older technology and some people turn it off entirely because of security problems. I asked a few people to test my coloring page on their computers and a few of them couldn’t see my page at all. I decided to scrap Java in favor of Flash technology.

Flash games will run on any flash player. Just about everyone already had one loaded on their computer, plus flash doesn’t have the security problems that Java has, so it seemed like a good choice for game programming.

It was a steep learning curve, but with the help of two “dummies” books and some online tutorials, I was able to come up with a jigsaw puzzle based on the Sister Exchange that didn’t crash and burn every time I tried to run it.

I still need to design a web page for this puzzle. When I’m done I’ll post a link for it, feedback will be appreciated. I’m still trying to put together an online coloring book and a drawing pad for kids. I think I’m OK with the drawing pad although I’d like to add some more bells and whistles to it. The coloring book is giving me some problems but I’m still plugging away at it.

I’ve sort of been out of the loop lately, but I just wanted to let everyone know what I’ve been up to. I figure that as soon as I wrap up this tech stuff, I’ll be able to get back to get back to the business at hand, which if I remember correctly … was writing.

June 26, 2009

Poetry Anthology - Eyeball in my Garden

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was included in a poetry anthology but all the details weren’t worked out yet. It looks like everything has been finalized and we got the green light from the publisher to promote it all we want, so here it goes.

First a little background.

The members of my poetry critique group got together and decided to write a poetry anthology. We decided that the theme would be “Spooky”, probably because Halloween had just passed and a few of us wrote Halloween themed poems. We wrote and critiqued “Spooky” poems until our eyes crossed. The monumental job of assembling Project Spooky went to fellow members, Laura Wynkoop and Jennifer Judd, who then edited the project until their eyes crossed. They were also the ones who researched the markets and sent out queries, and I can’t thank them enough for their efforts. Marshall Cavendish read the sample poems and asked to see the entire thing. A few months of nail biting passed, then lo and behold…a contract. (insert sound of cheering and thunderous applause here)

Marshall Cavendish edited a few poems out and asked for some additional material. It was a tight schedule but we were able to come up with some more “Spooky” poems. I actually had about half a day to come up with a complete rework of one of my poems. But it was worth it. They took the final revisions and gave us a release date. Project Spooky is now titled…(drum roll please)

Eyeball in my Garden and Other Spine Tingling Poems.

This is coming out on Marshall Cavendish’s Fall list and will be available on July 15, 2010. I have two poems in it, Our Neighborhood and The Gargoyle.

When I get a copy of the cover I’ll post it here.

June 17, 2009

Cover for The Sister Exchange

Just a quick update, I received an email from my publisher the other day with the cover art for The Sister Exchange. So without further adieu, here it is. I haven't seen the rest of the illustrations, but I really like what I've seen so far. I think Kit Grady did a great job.
The book is finished but won’t be released for another five or six months. But another book of mine, If I Could Be Anything, should be coming out before that. So it looks like two of my books will be out before the end of the year. (Insert a “yippee” and the sound of clicking heels here) To check out my publisher’s upcoming releases, go to

June 3, 2009

Slush Pile Warrior - Charlene Haukom

Slush Pile Warrior - Charlene Haukom

Welcome to another edition of Slush Pile Warrior. This feature strives to highlight the trials and tribulations of pursuing publication. This month, I am delighted to present Charlene Haukom.

Charlene, please tell us a little a little about yourself:

I was lucky enough to have a great teacher in high school that encouraged me to take an advanced writing course. I’ve been writing ever since. I had another great English teacher in college who told me she’d see my name in print some day – she was right. Soon after she made that comment, I was published in the school newspaper and then the literary magazine. Fueled by my early publishing success, I majored in Mass Communications with a Concentration in Journalism (not knowing of any other kind of “writing” degree), though I preferred writing literary fiction over news reports. Over time I was drawn more and more to children’s writing, and here I am 9 ½ years later still trying to break in!

How many submissions do you have out there now?

Hehehe. Believe it or not, I only have two picture book manuscripts out right now. After a recent round of rejection, rejection, rejection, I started putting everything back in the file cabinet rather than sending them out again. While I’ve definitely developed a thicker skin, it still hurts to get the famous “not right for us” letters. When I find myself hitting a wall over and over again, it’s time for a change of pace. Right now I’m sitting on my rejected picture book ms’ and focusing on a mid-grade novel. It’s baseball season, after all, and that’s when Jake (the MC) likes to come out to play.

How do you research where to send your manuscripts?

I like to target where I send my manuscripts (to cut down on those letters mentioned above). I start with the basics, CWIM, the online version of Writer’s Market, the book and magazine market books that ICL puts out, etc. When I find editors or agents that I think might be a good fit, I search the net for anything and everything I can find on those people and rule out those that I think aren’t the best matches. At this point, my head is usually spinning, so I stop searching and just monitor some of the major boards (blue, of course)/blogs/interviews and bide my time. Sooner or later, someone I’m interested in will show up at a conference nearby. Then I beg and plead my family to let me go, which of course they always do because they’re super-supportive and wonderful. Even so, conferences are expensive, so I don’t get to go all that often. If I’m lucky, more than one of the people I’m interested will be speaking at the conference I’ve chosen. If I’m luckier, one of them will spark enough interest to pursue. Once upon a time, I was great at rationalizing and twisting and doing whatever was necessary to convince myself that so and so was a great fit. Eventually I realized that all that did was waste their time, my time, and earn me one of those dreaded letters! Now I only send to people that I’m convinced are a good match, and I usually send it exclusively out of respect - is it any wonder I only have two subs out right now?

What was your biggest submission goof? What did you learn from it?

Hahaha! LOL. Oh, dare I say? My very first submission broke every rule in the book, I think. Let me just remind everyone that I’ve been doing this for nearly a decade, so it was a LONG time ago. This was before I joined SCBWI, and before I even joined a critique group. TWO VERY BIG NO-NO’s for any newbies out there that might be reading this. So let’s see, after doing my homework and researching (or so I thought), I sent off my delightfully long and charming cover letter with RHYMING picture book manuscript enclosed. The manuscript that I proudly co-wrote with my 2-year old daughter, and didn’t mind saying so (still don’t, by the way). The manuscript that contained…oh no, say it isn’t so!...a stick figure drawing in the corner because that stick figure is what made the book so darn funny! While it’s true the stick figure is quite funny, I must admit I’m not a trained illustrator. And I’m not a poet, either. And yes, I do know that this paragraph is riddled with sentence fragments.

So what did I learn from this shameful experience? I learned how to be very, VERY embarrassed. LOL. No, seriously, I learned a lot. While I waited for a response (yes, a “not right for us” letter), I kept reading and researching. I joined SCBWI and a critique group, and very quickly learned about the very big mistake I had just made. I quit sending out manuscripts and just focused on learning more about children’s writing and improving as much as I could. I also learned to be very sympathetic toward editors and agents. They get hundreds of submissions like my first one EVERY WEEK, and yet they’re still in the business!

Why do you want to be a writer?

LOL! This is fun. I sure have laughed a lot today. While many, many inappropriate and sarcastic thoughts come to mind, I can’t think of anything to say here. I don’t know. There’s something magical about books, and especially children’s books. When you walk into a bookstore, you feel it. You’re surrounded by magic and your nerve endings start to tingle as you decide where you’re going to look first. Do you let your fingers brush lightly across the beautiful, satiny images bursting out of picture books? Or do you go to mass-market paperbacks and read the tantalizing description on the back to see if it’s going to draw you in? Hmmm…I think I need to go shopping now! It’s been too long since I’ve been in a bookstore!

What is your favorite style of writing? Why?

Oh, I like everything. I don’t know that I can answer this question. OK, I got one. No two. These are things I DON’T like, since I really do like pretty much everything. I don’t like MG/YA that tries too hard to be current. Like when they use BFF every other sentence because that’s what people are saying now. Who knows what people will be saying in the future? I prefer things to be more timeless. I’m also not wild about present tense writing. It seems unnatural to me. Just a personal preference, folks; I know it’s very popular.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

“Though your project sounds interesting, I don’t feel it’s quite right for our list.”

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

“By Charlene Haukom”

No, no, just kidding. The most rewarding thing so far is something my daughter did recently. She pulled out one of my picture book manuscripts (one of the ones parked in the file cabinet) and read through it. I didn’t know what she was doing until she went over to the table and asked me what “level” of book she just read. Then it occurred to me what she was doing – her reading homework! She’s supposed to read every day and fill out a log that includes title, reading level, and time spent reading. I was so honored that my daughter considers my manuscripts “real books”. Hopefully someday I’ll be able to convince someone else of that!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

How to overcome obstacles one small step at a time.

Have you been published? If so where?

Yes, I was a content writer for where I published over 65 games, articles, and book reviews. I’m also a freelance writer for The Community Voice, a local newspaper.

How can people find out more about you? (website, etc.)

My website is currently under construction and will eventually be, but for now, the only place to learn about me is through these wonderful interviews and by reading the Internet articles I’ve written.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Thanks for this opportunity. I’ve had a lot of fun answering your questions. For any other slush pile warriors out there who haven’t joined SCBWI or a critique group, DO SO NOW!

Thanks for stopping by Charlene. That was a great interview.

May 26, 2009

A few things taking shape

I mentioned awhile back that I was included in a poetry anthology due out in 2010. I found out that another poem I submitted was accepted, so I'm pretty excited about that. Although I have a few rhyming picture books under contract, this will be my first poetry anthology. So, I really feel validated as a poet. I'll post more info about this once the revisions are finalized

Also, I heard from Kit Grady about my book, The Sister Exchange. She posted a sketch of one of the illustrations. It's a cute character and I'm psyched to see the rest of the illustrations. To take a sneek peek of The Sister Exchange, go to Kit's blog at

I've already seen sketches for If I Could Be Anything which is being illustrated by Marina Movshina, so I already have a decent idea of what the final copy of the book will look like. The only books that are still a mystery to me are Lightning Strikes and The Soggy Town of Hilltop. These are being illustrated by Eugene Ruble and I haven't heard anything about them yet. But I've seen Eugene's work and he's a talented guy. I'm sure he'll do my books justice.

May 19, 2009

Virtual Book Tour Hiatus

I took a leave from the Virtual Book Tour group that I belong to. The illustrator for my first book, The Sister Exchange, crashed her computer and won’t have the artwork ready until July. Three of my other books are assigned to illustrators, but my publisher can’t give me a release date for any of them until she’s received the finished artwork. Originally, when I joined this group, I thought my book would be out by now. But with the unforeseen delays, it doesn’t make sense to be on a virtual book tour with no book to promote. So I’m going to sit out a few tours until I have a better idea of what’s going on. The moderator of the group, was very understanding of the whole situation and granted me the leave as long as I check in with her and let her know that I’m still interested in being a member. That definitely works for me. I found this group following last years Muse Online conference and I have definitely learned a lot since joining.

The authors there are serious and professional, and the group is still looking for new ways to promote its authors. So I definitely like the knowledge and the energy that I’ve found there and would hate to have to go looking for a new group once my books are out. I know that all groups are not created equal, so I want to stay with what works for me.

So right now I’m going to keep writing and be patient. Hopefully things will start moving along soon.

May 7, 2009

Virtual Book Tour - Harry Gilleland's - Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man

As promised, here is more information om Harry's book, Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man.

Title: Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man

Author: Harry E. Gilleland, Jr.

Date of Publication: 26 March 2008

Publisher: Lulu Press

ISBN: 978-1-435712423 (1-435712420)

Pages: 172 pages, paperback, 6” x 9”

Price: $12.98

From Publisher:


From Barnes & Noble:

Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man is the third published collection of poetry written by poet Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. This new collection of 81 storoems and poems will engage its readers by making them think about life and leaving them pondering their emotions and beliefs. It will also bring smiles and maybe a tear or two.

Contained within this collection are forty-seven rhyming poems and "storoems", a format coined by Gilleland. A storoem is a hybrid between a story and a poem, i.e. a story told with poetic techniques. The collection also contains twenty-eight free-verse poems, four acrostic poems, and two limericks.

These writings are poetry for the thinking person, be he/she someone who is a poetry lover or someone who normally does not read poetry. This poetry is easily readable and accessible to all -- poetry for the poet and the common man alike. A wide variety of subjects are addressed, including everyday life events, observations of nature, tales of fantasy, expressions of love, and much more. This wonderful collection will surprise and delight all readers.


“Thoughtful, funny, & full of wisdom …I thoroughly enjoyed "Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man" from start to end. I was a little surprised at my reaction to this book, because while I enjoy poems, I am usually not as enthusiastic about books of poetry as I was about this compilation. The third collection by this author is definitely one not to miss reading. Harry Gilleland is a very talented writer, … The collection of poems includes stories about every aspect of life. Some of the poems left me with tears in my eyes, while others had me laughing about life's lighter side. … I applaud Gilleland on creating such a well written, thought provoking book. It is one that I will definitely read again. I highly recommend "Poetic Musing of an Old, Fat Man" to anyone who is looking for an enjoyable book to read this summer or for someone who is looking for a gift to buy for that person who has everything.” By Cherie Fisher for Reader Views

“One of the true purposes of poetry for a reader is not just to discover what the poet was intending to convey, but to find how you relate to the poem. Gilleland does a superb job of presenting an array of poems that are easy to understand and will certainly capture the attention, and the heart, of every reader. …. Verse after verse, this poet is to be commended for his true talent with words.” By Shannon L. Yarbrough

“Harry Gilleland often uses his storoems and poems to reveal life in its glory and its despair. This collection is not different. … ‘Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man’ offers something for every one in over 150 pages, which contain rhyming poems and storoems, two limericks, acrostic poems, and free verse poems.” By Vivian Zabel

“All in all, I highly recommend this book. Not only will the poems entertain you, but they will also stimulate your mind, as you begin to ponder some of the lessons they put forth. … Very insightful!” By Kristina N. Fountain

“This book illustrates my point that seniors should consider expressing their lives and their thoughts in poetic form. This book provides an interesting tour through the author's mind. … Gilleland's observations about life … ring true.” By Marlys M. Styne

“These are poems that often feel like having a light bulb switched on in your brain and after reading the poem you unconsciously cry out ‘eureka!’…
Probably one of the most outstanding qualities of Gilleland's poetry is his ability in proving that any topic or theme, if handled skillfully, can be transferred into persuasive poetry. This is effectuated with his balancing of his personal convictions and fervour with imaginative meticulousness that speaks to us at another level and touches us in a similar way as music. Moreover, Gilleland employs very little ornamentation in his poetry, which is one of the prime reasons why they contain meaningful content that leave a lasting impression. … Most of poems have a conversational rhythm containing a great deal of bluntness and a clear expression of emotions that brilliantly portray the work of a mature self-confident gentleman who knows what life is all about.” By Norm Goldman, Publisher & Editor Bookpleasures

“I must admit that poetry is not my favorite medium. Too often the author rambles on, not conveying his/her point. However, ‘Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat, Man’ is an awesome book. Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. has a talent for poetry. He conveys his message with a unique style that is easy to understand and that brings emotion to his readers. I was hooked from the first poem, … I will long cherish ‘Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat, Man’ and highly recommend it to others.” By Debra Gaynor for

“I have to admit when I first saw the cover of the book I wasn't too intrigued. However, the old adage holds true to not judge a book by its cover. Once I started reading the book I was hooked. Gilleland's writing is very readable and thought-provoking. … ‘Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man’ definitely has something for everyone and, if you enjoy stimulating writing, then I highly recommend this collection!” By Kam Aures for RebeccasReads

It was a pleasure hosting Harry. I wish him much success with his work.

May 1, 2009

Virtual Book Tour - Poet, Harry Gilleland

For his month's Virtual Book Tour, I am please to be hosting poet Harry Gilleland.

Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. is a 64-year-old southerner. Born and raised in Macon, Georgia, he earned a B.S. (1966) and a M.S. (1968) in Microbiology from the University of Georgia in Athens. Following three years of service in the U.S. Army as a captain, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, he returned to earn a Ph.D. in Microbiology from UGA in 1973. He then headed north to complete a two-year fellowship at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. In July of 1975 he joined the faculty of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in Shreveport, Louisiana. After twenty-nine years of teaching microbiology to medical and graduate students and performing vaccine research, Harry retired in July of 2004. Today Harry lives in Shreveport with his wonderful wife Linda. Harry enjoys being able to engage in his passion for writing full-time.

Lets get to know a little more about Harry.

Harry, can you describe the time you realized you were indeed a “real” writer?

Actually, this happened the first time while I was a graduate student studying for my Ph.D. A journal article I had written for the Journal of Bacteriology, a highly prestigious journal, was accepted with minor changes required. I knew then I could write scientific material well.

It happened again when I started writing poetry. After learning more of the craft required, I knew I was a real poet when I started getting readers on Internet poetry forums telling me I needed to publish my work since it was good enough to be published.

What is going on with your writing these days?

I write poems as they come to me, not as often as in the past. I have an action-adventure novel in the starting phase.

What are your future goals for your writing?

To get better and better as a poet and to get my novel finished within the next year.

Can you describe a typical writing day for you?

Since I am retired, I write in spurts throughout the day. I will write whenever the mood hits me during the day from early morning until late at night after midnight. I write for several hours, then have to move around to loosen my arthritic joints and back. Essentially, I have no set schedule or output requirements for each day. I write as I am driven to write.

Why do you write?

Writing is pure pleasure to me. Using words well so that I deliver my message precisely as intended gives me such a feeling of satisfaction on those occasions when I feel I have accomplished this.I have so much I want to say that I have to write. It fulfills a need deep inside me. Plus, I want to leave behind something to represent who I was for posterity. I want my grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be able to know what sort of man I was once they reach adulthood. Even if I am dead by then, my writing will be their window into my mind.

What writer most inspires you? Why?

Poe (and Tennyson) I have loved their rhyming poetry since high school English classes. They are my idea of great poets.

How do you define your writing?

I see myself primarily as a poet whose storoems and poems address everyday topics in a way that speaks to the common man, people that don’t normally read or like poetry. You don’t need a M.F.A. to understand and enjoy my poetry. Yet some of my poems address profound subjects. I’d call my writings thought-provoking and engaging.

In one sentence—what do you want people to say about your writing in fifty years?

This fellow had a lot of wisdom and insight into the world we live in and human nature.

Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

A sampling of my poetry and the covers of my five books are available at Gilleland Poetry:

Information about my five books is available here:

I have poetry posted at and at and I have a blog at, Facebook, and WordPress.

Is there a place where readers can reach you?

Sure. I can be reached by emailing me at .

For new readers—what can they expect when they read your books?

To be engaged emotionally and mentally, as well as being entertained. I want them to laugh as well as cry as they read through one of my books of poetry.

Is there anything else that you would like to add?

I try to be as honest as I can in my poetry, whether the subject is highly emotionally charged, a routine everyday event, or a humorous piece or even fantasy. I want you as a reader to think in a different way than ever before about the subject, to maybe gain new insight, or to revive old memories. I want you to be well entertained and to feel reading my work was a good investment of your time and money.

Thanks for letting us get to know you Harry. Below is more information on Harry's books and other work.

Harry has previously published three books of his personal poetry:

Poetry For The Common Man: Storoems and Poems (2003, ISBN 1411600649),

Gilleland Poetry: Storoems and Poems (2005, ISBN 1411629272), and

Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man (2008, ISBN 978-1-4357-1242-3).

In addition, Harry has published two books of prose, a tale of fantasy entitled Bob the Dragon Slayer (2005, ISBN 1411633156) and a contemporary romance story entitled White Lightning Road (2006, ISBN 978-1-4116-8693-9).

Harry Gilleland’s poetry recently won two cash awards in the 2008 Tom Howard Poetry Contest associated with Winning Harry’s rhyming storoem The Old Salty Poems won 2nd Place with a $1,000 prize, while his free-verse poem The Assembled Waiters earned $200 for a High Distinction award. Harry was the only poet to win two cash awards in the contest.

Harry Gilleland’s poetry has been included in four multi-author print anthologies of poems and short stories, in several poetry e-zines, and on numerous Internet poetry forums, in addition to his own three published collections. His storoems (story-poems) and poems are readily accessible to all readers, including those who do not regularly read poetry. Harry views the world with a poet’s eye.

Again, to see Harry's books please go to:

To see Harry's book covers and samples of his poetry:

Next week, we'll find out more about Harry's book. Poetic Musings of an Old, Fat Man.

Personally, I think that's a great title.

April 28, 2009

Picture Books on Apple iPhone

My publisher, Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. (GAP) has branched out into the ever evolving world of publishing and now has its first GAP picture book available for Apple's iPhone technology. One of the many things I love about this publisher (besides the fact that they'll publish my books) is that they're willing to take chances and to distribute books in whatever format that people may want. I'm very happy to be associated with a publisher who's willing to make that extra effort to get our books out to a viewing audience. Please see the press release below.


April 2009

Contact: Lynda S. Burch

(314) 276- 8482

Guardian Angel Publishing Licenses and Releases its first Picture Book to iKids PlayT which provides an alternative to gaming by introducing educational opportunities for children with books on the go.

St. Louis, MO, USA: Publisher, Lynda S. Burch has licensed and launched Guardian Angel Publishing's first picture book, Maybe We Are Flamingos to iKids PlayT for its iPhone application, which allows kids to color, paint, rub and read along on touch screen technology.

"We are excited with our newest venture," said GAP President and Publisher Lynda Burch. "Licensing our picture books with iKids PlayT will allow for worldwide English distribution by Apple iTunes Applications of our books on the newest technology to hit the market."

The users can order print book copies directly from their phones. Children can interact with the stories and artwork and entertain themselves while waiting with parents in countless situations. These applications provide an alternative to gaming by introducing educational opportunities for children with books on the go for busy lifestyles.

"Keeping up with rapidly changing book marketplace has been a rewarding experience and we look forward to successful launches of many more GAP books in other new applications for iPhones and iPods with iKids ReadT and iKids StoryT, too." Burch continued.

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc. was launched in late 2004 featuring a unique series of musical eBook download books-Angelic Harmony. Their books expanded from picture books to storybooks, fiction and nonfiction, and chapter books for older beginning readers.

Guardian Angel publishes exceptional and educational books for children 0-12 years of age. They expanded with Academic Wings- with a wealth of teaching aids for teachers. Angel to Angel where kids write and illustrate for kids, Littlest Angels, Guardian Angel Animals and Pets, Guardian Angel Chapbooks for Tweens and Wings of Faith-faith- based stories, which are available as eBook downloads, CDs, print paperback, and video books for TV or mobiles.

More information on Guardian Angel Publishing can be found at

April 22, 2009

To Do List

I have about eight different projects which are in various stages of completion (translation: they still need a lot of work).

Now I’m not counting the random thoughts, the first paragraph or stanza of an idea that I’ve had and then abandoned. I have too many of those to mention. But I keep them around in case the idea bears fruit one day. I’m talking about work that actually has taken on form and substance and could actually see the light of day… not today, but one day. Here they are…

• The shortest of them is a poem that I originally was trying to turn into a rhyming picture book. But I decided that there’s not enough of an idea there to support an entire story, so it’s staying a poem. I just can’t come up with the last stanza though. I’m trying to wrap it up and I’m just not happy with anything I come up with. So occasionally, I open the file, blow the dust off it, and try to come up with an ending. I’ve been doing this for about a year.

• Two middle readers. These are more ambitious projects for me. Until now, I’ve been mainly focusing on picture books. So I’m stepping out of my comfort zone here, but I think that as a writer, I owe that to myself. If I don’t challenge myself, there’s no way I can improve. I have the stories framed out and I think I know where I want to go with these. I just have to fill it out. I think I might be working on these next. I think that these books will serve as good creative outlets for me.

• A coming of age piece that I’ve been discussing with an old friend of mine, he want to write a book about our exploits growing up. This book will be turned into a movie, but the book needs to be written first. This will be a challenge since I’ve never tried writing a collaborative piece before. I’m curious to see how our different styles will mesh and how this will eventually come together.

• The first rhymer I’ve ever written. It was a cute idea with one major flaw. It lacked any kind of plot whatsoever. I’ve spent quite some time trying to surgically insert one into it.

• Another rhymer that is full of stanzas and random lines serving as markers showing where I want the story to go. Now if I could only connect the dots.

• A prose story that needs major revision and restructuring. It’s something that could work, but it would be the literary equivalent of raising a house off of its foundation. I need to brace myself before I take on this project.

• The last one is a prose story that could probably be publisher ready with a minimal amount of effort. The problem here … I just can’t bring myself to work on it. I’m not excited about it any more. So I’m letting this one stew for awhile. If I’m not into it, I’m sure that it will show. I’m not about to become lazy with my writing just so I can complete a story.

So I thought that in coming up with this literary “To Do List” I would be inspired to start working on one of these projects. Fat chance, I think my Muse is on vacation. All I’ve accomplished is opening some files that I haven’t looked at in a while. (Well that, and I got a decent blog entry out of this  ) I’m not giving any excuses here. Writing has always been a cyclical process for me and if I’m not actually writing, there’s always some writing related business to attend to. That should keep me busy until my Muse gets back from the Bahamas.

April 16, 2009

Slush Pile Warrior - Susie Sawyer

Slush Pile Warriors is a new feature which showcases both unpublished writers, established authors, and everyone in between. It focuses on the struggles of pursuing publication, and the things that different writers have learned in trying to make their way out of the slush pile. I am happy to begin this feature by introducing a very talented writer and poet, Slush Pile Warrior, Susie Sawyer.

Please tell us a little a little about yourself.

I grew up in northern Wisconsin surrounded by a family that loved words and music. I have no doubt my desire to write was influenced by daily exposure to song and written word. I attended college in southwestern Wisconsin, where I met my husband, started a career as a legal secretary and started our family. In 2003, we moved back to northern Wisconsin and have since expanded our family to five.

That's when I decided to seriously pursue my interest in writing for children. I spent much of the first year or so learning the business and reading stacks of "how to" books. I found web sites like SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators), Write4Kids and JacketFlap extremely helpful. I also found a slew of information and support at the sites of Harold Underdown and Verla Kay. But it was my involvement in two amazing critique groups that benefited my writing the most: The Poets' Garage and The Prose Shop. Of course Kevin, you are well aware of these groups.  The in-depth critiques and advice I get from these groups continues to be an invaluable part of my writing process.

How many submissions do you have out there now?

According to my submission tracker, I have four manuscripts (a couple are submitted at more than one house), and at least six contest entries being considered.

How do you research where to send your manuscripts?

Every year I buy the CWIM (Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market) and rely mostly on that to begin my research. Beyond that, I use JacketFlap, Harold Underdown's site, Write4Kids and SCBWI, not to mention the information shared with me by fellow writers. Of course, my final research takes place at the web site of the targeted publisher. With the industry changing so fast and frequently, you have to make the publisher's site your final stop before submitting.

What was your biggest submission goof? What did you learn from it?

As I look back at my early subs, I can see that my manuscripts were not nearly polished enough, or well targeted. I made the mistake of sending out my work too early, and to every possible publishing house. The onslaught of rejections was a clear indication that I was doing something wrong. Eventually I learned the art of carefully making a list of potential publishers and organizing it into those that were the best fit, the next-best fit, and the last resort.

Why do you want to be a writer?

What a great question. I really had to think about my answer. I guess I have always been the creative type, so it's certainly an outlet for me that way. But mostly, I think it's the thrill of having a chance to get inside the heads of all those wonderful, amazing kids out there - and being able to plant an idea that makes them smile or say "Wow!" … or just feel something they would not have otherwise. It's a huge responsibility, writing for children, and I don't take it lightly. I want children and the people who read to them to put down my book and feel that it was time well spent.

What is your favorite style of writing? Why?

Poetry, because of the "music" of it. I love the feel of it, the sound of it, the movement of it. When it's done well, it can be incredibly powerful and a great teaching tool. And if it's funny, even better!

I also love the freedom of writing fiction, especially for young children (0-12). I've never liked doing research so I indulge myself in fiction, where I can make anything happen.

What is the most frustrating thing about being a writer?

Striking a balance between what I want to write and what an editor wants to buy. If I write what I think will sell, it's often not what I love to write. But when I try to sell what I love to write, I sometimes struggle to find a home for it. I think we writers needs to be true to our hearts, and continue to write what we love to write. It will show in the quality of our work and eventually will be noticed.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a writer?

Sharing my work with children firsthand. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing a smile of the face of a kid who just read or heard something I wrote. School visits are the best!

What is the most important thing you’ve learned about writing?

Not to give up. Also, to make connections with other writers. I have the most wonderful people in this business. Many have become friends that I know I'll keep for the rest of my life. Nobody understands the struggles of being a writer better than another writer.

Have you been published? If so where?

Why yes, I have!!  My poem, The Mermaid was a winner in the Delaware Art Museum's "Art of Storytelling Contest." That same poem is being developed into a picture book, to be illustrated by the amazing artist, Angel Dominguez. My poem, Ask Yourself a Question, won the grand prize in the 13th edition of "Say Good Night to Illiteracy", published by Half Price Books in 2006. I've also been published in the SCBWI "Bulletin" with The Assignment, and online at with two "Adventure Tales" (A Camping Trip to Remember and Just a Matter of Time). I've also had several poems published in "KidzWonder."

How can people find out more about you? (website, etc.)

Please visit my website: You can find out more about me, the works mentioned above, and my other projects there. I LOVE hearing from visitors - please take a moment to sign my Guestbook!

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

Just that I strongly encourage anyone considering writing for children to pursue it. Follow the advice of seasoned writers, join the writing groups, read the "how to" books, go to the seminars and workshops if you can. But most importantly, read as many books as you can that are similar those you want to write, and write every day.

Thank you for stopping by Susie. It was a pleasure hosting you on my blog.

Thank you so much, Kevin, for giving me a chance to introduce myself. I've really enjoyed answering these questions. I feel like I've gotten back in touch with why I do this, and just how far I've come since I began writing for children.

April 8, 2009

Things Humming Along Nicely

I’ve been digging out from the virtual book tour and other assorted matters, but here’s what’s been going on with me lately.

I received the artists’ agreement for two of my picture books, Lightning Strikes and The Soggy Town of Hilltop. Eugene Ruble will illustrate these books. Lightning Strikes is a counting book and Eugene has experience with illustrating his own counting book. Also, The Soggy Town of Hilltop has a certain wackiness factor and Eugene does wacky well. So I’m excited to see what he comes up with.

Also, I’ve seen the draft sketches for If I Could Be Anything. Marina Movshina is illustrating this and I really like the illustrations she came up with. I look forward to seeing the finished artwork. I think it will compliment the text nicely.

I haven’t heard anything about The Sister Exchange lately. That book was originally slated to be my first release. I’ll have to check to see if that’s still the case.

I’ve got some more good news to report. A poem of mine called “Welcome to My Neighborhood” is going to be included in a poetry anthology being published by Marshall Cavendish. The anthology is due out in the fall of 2010. The project is still in the editing phase and is currently being expanded. I submitted another poem to be considered for the anthology. I’ll have to see if it makes the grade. I’ll talk about this a little more when I have some details.

So things are humming along nicely, no finished products or release dates yet. But I’m getting there. I definitely feel like I have some accomplishments that I can be proud of.

April 1, 2009

Virtual Book Tour - Lea Schizas' Book - Bubba and Giganto

Lea, please tell us more about your book, Bubba & Giganto:Odds Against Us.

Bubba hates it when his dad gets a contract for a new project. That means uprooting the family from one city and moving to another. Attending a new school is a major pet peeve of his. His smart alecky nature attracts the bullies in every school he’s attended.

On the first day of school, Bubba bumps into this rather large student. Fearing a confrontation, he wears his tough guy attitude and waits for the punches to begin. Remarkably, the new student apologizes, and Bubba and David (aka Giganto as Bubba eventually nicknames him) become best friends.

Bubba and Giganto try out for the high school soccer team, and that’s when trouble begins. Bubba knew eventually he’d meet the bullies of the school, and he was right.

In the first initial weeks, Bubba learns about a death that occurred the previous year; faces the bullies on several occasions; helps Giganto practice soccer before tryouts; and challenges the bullies to a scrimmage.

Little does Bubba know Giganto holds a secret - one that will place Giganto in a deadly situation.

You can find Lea's book, Bubba & Giganto:Odds Against Us at:
4RV Publishing
Barnes & Noble
The Reading Warehouse

March 31, 2009

Virtual Book Tour - Lea Schizas

It is with great pleasure that I welcome Lea Schizas to my blog.

Lea Schizas is a mother of five and tenderly referred as ‘Mother Hen’ by many writers.

Many have asked me where I find the time to do all that I do. Easy, when you have a deep passion for your work, you will always find time to complete your projects.

Lea Schizas is the founder of The MuseItUp Club, an online critique community, the Muse Online Writers Conference, and co-founder of Apollo’s Lyre. Each of these venues has consistently been in Writer’s Digest 100 Top Writing Sites since 2005.

For more information on her blogs, upcoming books, zines/newsletters, go here:

What or whom inspires you to write?

I’ve joked on several interviews that I mistook my umbilical cord as a cool writing implement and that’s how my writing career began. In all honesty, it was my dad’s love for the penned word that set me on my path. As a young girl I remember hearing dad’s speeches at weddings, meetings, get-togethers, and how he captivated the audience with his words.

Along with dad’s talent, it was my collection of comic books that really moved me to write. I loved the cliff-hanging endings, pushing me to buy the next comic book to find out what was going to happen. And that is exactly how I set up each of my chapter endings, thanks to comic books.

Where do you work? What is your ideal writing environment?

I’ve worked wherever I can get peace and quiet, alone time with my laptop. Right now I’m in a corner in my living room. The ideal writing environment would be my own office, where I can close the door to the yapping of my five kids and friends, to have my own shelves in front of me with my stack of writing books instead of having them spread throughout the house. But, this is one lesson writers need to adapt to – writing whenever and wherever you can, regardless of your surroundings. So, I’ve adapted quite nicely.

How many hours do you devote to writing and how long does it take you to write a book?

Donna, I am involved with many writing commitments so I work looonnng hours on my laptop. My day usually starts at 6:30am and doesn’t finish until midnight strikes. Now, I do clean, cook, and all the other motherly things so my time isn’t spent leaning over my laptop constantly.

Each day I devote to moving my own writing and editing forward, and then give one or two other writing aspects (updating sites/blogs, preparing zines/newsletters/reviews) my devotion as well. This slows down the time to complete my own work but I can safely say that I can finish three books in a year.

What do you most enjoy about the creative process? Are your characters based on people in your life?

I enjoy the freedom of no fear. What do I mean by that? I don’t fear being locked up in a nuthouse for stepping into my characters shoes while penning their stories. I become a teen with visions of past murders; an alien who finds himself tried for treason; a girl who discovers she is a princess to this whole new world she never knew existed. Writing allows you an escape, along with your reader, to leave your own safe domain and live another person’s life. This exhilaration can’t be felt in another profession as it is felt by those who write.

My characters are not based per say on anyone in my life but each do possess characteristics of family members. By keeping it ‘in the family’ it’s easier for me to flesh out their personalities, reactions and actions, to their fullest potential. And it doesn’t matter if my characters are human or animals; characters need to ‘feel’ real.

Do your characters crowd your conscious and sub-conscious thoughts? If yes, does it become difficult to keep them quiet?

In my previous answer, I wrote that I step into my character’s shoes so my answer would be yes, they do crowd my conscious and sub-conscious thoughts. How can they not? Until their story is finished, they are my buddies, telling me where they want to go, what they want to do. Some who are in a series have started their own blog, and quite popular as a matter of fact. They’ve now jumped out of my head and communicating with readers. And this is what it’s all about- leaving a memorable impression on your reader, connecting them to your characters.

Please provide us with a glimpse into your current project.

I have one big project that needs thought to successfully pull it off.

“Rock Kingdom” is the first in a series of books based within the land of Rock Kingdom. This is an unusual piece of work for me in the sense the villain is given as much attention as the main character, Alexandra Stone, a young teenager who discovers she is the princess to this whole new world her parents kept from her for a reason. The villain has a dilemma, and in each book not only will I offer glimpses into his past life to discover this ‘dilemma’ but also offer the panoramic portrait of Rock Kingdom, each book hosted in a different part within this world. So I am mapping out each book, each area holding a purpose and revealed secret to the ‘villain’, and introducing new citizens of Rock Kingdom along with the regular cast of characters in the whole series.

But this isn’t the only book I’m fleshing out. I have eight books in the works right now and each one is given equal time for me to complete. Every book needs to stamp its mark into a reader so I try not to rush anything.

What do you find to be more challenging: editing other writers’ manuscripts or developing your own?

I don’t have a hard time developing my ideas into penned words, nor the editing stage. I do have a hard time figuring out if I’m objective enough and deleted inconsequential passages to the fullest extend. That is why a critique partner or an editor comes in handy. We need another pair of eyes to catch things we are too involved with to see.

I have absolutely no difficulty editing other manuscripts because I am totally objective to this work and can spot plot holes, passive writing, weak dialogue easier than its creator.

Do you maintain your numerous websites on your own? Or do you have assistance?

I’ve been accused of being twins, possessing a magical wand, or totally nuts. I agree with their last sentiment. I have no assistance. I do them all as I wrote earlier, devoting/splitting my time each day to one or two projects besides my writing and editing. I always say determination and perseverance are two qualities a writer must possess in order for them to complete their projects. Passion has to be, however, within you, as well, and I do possess passion for the written word.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Editing, reading…oh, you mean ‘out of the writing sense’. Hmm…play with my three-year-old dog, Daisy. She’s in one of my books, naturally. Go to the movies, visit Chapters for a good book (they must think I’m the owner with the amount of times I visit), garden, or sit outside and do absolutely nothing. Rare but it happens.

What has been the most memorable experience in your writing career?

Besides being published, there are many memorable experiences in my career but two stand out for me. Kathe Gogolewski, a MuseItUp member and dear cyber friend, surprised me for the Muse’s second year anniversary. She went behind my back and contacted several writers I know and they made a tribute to me, each writing a small thank you as to how I touched their writing life in her site, It wasn’t the tribute nor the thank yous that touched me than the fact they went to the trouble of doing something special for me. This meant the world to me.

The other total surprise was when I met with another Muser, Shelagh McNally, at a cafĂ© here in Montreal and she presented me with a plant and a very special card that I treasure to this day. It was from all the writers in the first anthology project I set up, co-authored, edited and had published by Double Dragon Publishing, “The Muse On Writing”- These writers live all over the world but each one signed, wrote a special note to me, then sent it off to the next person to sign until it came to me. We’re talking this card went around the world until it finally came into my possession. And I had no clue. Again, this gesture, I can’t tell you what it meant and continues to mean to me.

My parents taught me that you never do something if you are expecting thanks. You do what you can for others within your means and time constraint. And that’s what I do so whenever an email of thanks comes my way, or the above two gestures, these are my favorite toppings to add with my ice cream. They move me to pay it forward to the next writer.

Tomorrow, please tell us more about your book, Bubba and Giganto:Odds Against Us.

March 19, 2009

Time to Recycle

I just wrapped up a rhyming picture book manuscript, but I’m still itching to write some more. So I started off by opening some files that contain works in progress and I took a look at what I had come up with so far, no luck there. But in doing that, I did realize something. When it comes to story ideas and works in progress, I’m an electronic pack rat. I don’t toss anything away. What’s funny to me is that I never thought of myself as a pack rat before. But when it comes to my writing, I am.

Thank goodness that I keep everything electronically, because otherwise I’d have stacks of paper from the floor to the ceiling. I even have two or three work-in-progress versions of the same story. Sometimes a previous idea might be the best one. I just hate to throw ideas away. I always feel that I’ll have a use for them someday. Believe me, it’s not because I think all of my ideas are golden, they’re not. I think that it’s because if an idea doesn’t work here that doesn’t mean it won’t work in another story.

So I keep them around, hoping to recycle them one day when I’m stuck on another story or when I think I can fix whatever doesn’t work with them. Most likely though, they’ll just stay unworkable ideas in unworkable stories. But who knows, I’m an optimist at heart. Otherwise, I would have quit long before I ever had any success at this.

Now what else do I have here? …

March 12, 2009

First Virtual Book Tour-Postmortem

My first Virtual Book Tour appearance was an interesting learning experience. Even though my book isn’t out yet, I can definitely see the appeal of it. It allowed me to connect with other people regardless of their location and to reach a larger audience since different blogs have different readers, all this without leaving my keyboard, sweet huh?

It’s also nice to meet other writers. Writing is a lonely business, so it’s great to meet others who have similar interests and have them share the tricks of the trade. It’s also great to know that you’re not the only one willing to toil away long hours without ever knowing if anything will ever come of it.

I didn’t quite know what to expect but it all went quite smoothly. For my guest spot, all I needed to do was conduct a fresh interview and provide a picture. Kathy Stemke took care of the rest. For my hosting duties, I spent a little time beforehand preparing all the material to post. Then it was just a matter of posting everything and advertising it everywhere I could. Then I basically made sure I showed up at both sites to answer any questions and to keep things humming along. I think that it’s all a matter of being both a gracious host and a gracious guest. All in all, I have to say that it was a positive experience.

If you happen to be a published author or soon to be published author with a book to promote, my virtual book tour group is taking on new members and I am happy to pass on the following message:

Get your book visible with the yahoo group Virtual Book Tours – the ONGOING
tour. We're a group of authors who promote each other through tours and other
marketing strategies. To find out more contact: Karen at: Please put VBT-KM in the subject box.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll be hosting you here.

March 1, 2009

Virtual Book Tour - Ransom Noble

Today, my first foray into virtual book tours begins. My guest author is Ransom Noble. I'm being interviewed by Kathy Stemke. If you get a chance, please stop by at and say hello.

But is with great pleasure that I welcome Ransom to my blog.

Ransom Noble has always loved stories. She’s been an avid reader and writer as long as she can remember. Believing determination can help one attain any goal, she set her sights high and achieved many goals. Her love of the sciences led her to a career in mechanical engineering and often pushes her imagination into the speculative fiction realm.

Ransom and her husband enjoy watching movies and playing games with their friends. She likes to go see local bands play and occasionally attends sports events at her alma mater. Her live-and-let-live policy extends to stinging insects and spiders, which earned her the nickname the Wasp Whisperer.

Ransom currently resides in Des Moines, Iowa, though she’s lived several other places. She's sure she isn't fond of snow since she was born in Modesto, California, and didn't learn what it was until she was eight. She graduated from engineering at the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

Her work includes “Qui’s Contract,” a short story that appeared in Ruins Metropolis in June 2008 and The Art of Science, which will be published in 2009.

Ransom, so we can get to know you, please answer a few questions for us.

What is going on with your writing these days?

Working on my second YA novel and I just finished a submission to a science-fiction anthology.

Why do you write?

Because I love it and I can’t stop. Ideas pop in my head, even while writing other things. I don’t want to let them escape and I enjoy sharing them with others.

How old were you when you first started writing?

I’m not sure. I remember in 4th or 5th grade I was chosen to be part of a journal because of my story about a dragon and a mouse. I think they took the best elementary submissions from all over Iowa, but it’s been awhile. I know I started making up stories around 1 year old, because we got a TV around that time. Mom would catch me watching it (when it was off) and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I told her it was more fun to watch when it was off because I was making up my own shows. Through junior high I made up several stories to fill the required journals for English class and continued because my classmates loved to read them (and I loved to write them and thrived on their participation). Somewhere toward the end of junior high and into high school I switched to poetry, then back to prose when I began college classes (during high school). I had to keep my first Physics notebook from college because it had too many story scenes where I got bored during lectures. When I got out of college, I took a couple correspondence courses because I wanted to learn more and give myself an excuse to write, but work often made me too tired to do it on my own. Still, I finished my first novel while working as well as several short stories and some unfinished novels. Now I write full-time, as well as being a stay at home soon to be mom.

Who are your influences?

Judy Blume, Robert Heinlein, Mercedes Lackey

Where is your favorite place to write?

Somewhere quiet without many distractions. I can write with distractions, it’s just easier when they’re not around. I also like music going while I do, sometimes.

Can you list all your book titles so people can look for them?

Science Fiction and Fantasy Anthology: Ruins Metropolis, by Hadley Rille books

Upcoming: The Art of Science, YA novel by 4RV Publishing, LLC.

Can you tell us where to find more information on you? Website? Blog?

Is there a place where readers can reach you?

Thank you for stopping by Ransom.