Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Book Buzz 2.0 - Tyora Moody

Marketing for the Younger Audience

Over the past ten years, I have had the opportunity to build websites, animations and online games for K-12 students. It's exciting and fun to build interactive components that are used in school districts across the country. There are certain safety measures to keep in mind whenever you create online products for children. Authors of children's and young adult books share a similar responsibility when it comes to marketing to this unique audience. In this month's column, I'm going to address some traditional forms of marketing as well as online routes.


• Bookstores - Book signings are not the most fun method, so check around your local bookstores to see if they offer special events for children. Everybody can't be a J.K. Rowling (author of the Harry Potter series), but be creative. See if you can generate some buzz and host your book release party at a bookstore.

• Library - Okay, you are not probably going to sell a book at the library, but there's nothing quite like "word of mouth." If a parent notices their children checking out the same authors, it's a good chance they may consider purchasing the book for their bookshelves at home. Great to keep something in stock for those rain days.

• Schools - Schools love for authors to come visit. It's quite possible to advertise your visit months in advance and a school representative maybe able to help you sell copies to teachers or parents prior to your appearance at the school event.

Book Fairs/ Conferences - I remember when I was in school, Scholastic always had a book fair. You can check with your local schools to see if the sponsor book fairs in their district. Another cool resources is to check-out teacher or school administrative conferences. Teachers always want to add new books to their classrooms since year after year, books can get worn-out.


Now the big question when it comes to online marketing for the younger audience - is it possible? Let's examine the age groups.

Early Childhood and Elementary (ages 3-10)

Parents, guardians and teachers are probably going to the be the main audience you will target since they have the buying power. Your typical social media outlets like Myspace.com and Facebook.com may not be effective. Twitter.com has some possibilities, but you will have research potential customers and hope they are interested enough in your profile to follow you back.

Tweens and Teens (ages 11-17)

It's normal these days to see teens and tweens with a cell phone or PSP. The most popular form of communication for this age group is texting. Not exactly a great marketing tool. Now once again you don't want to market directly to anyone under age eighteen, but you can research online sites where this age group frequents. It's probably best to seek sites created especially for the teen bookworm who has a short attention span. :)


With some ideas in mind about your audience, here are some online tips to get you started.

Book or "Mommy" Bloggers - Definitely connect with book bloggers. GRITSKidz.com is a great site. GRITS Kidz are real students blogging about books. Visit About.com for a great list of other Children's Books Blogs. If you have Christan-related books, check out aKidzfaith.com and aTeenzfaith.com

Other sites you may want to consider are what I call, mommy-based blogs. Usually a mom or a group of mothers run the blog and are enthusiastic about sharing tips. Bloggers are always in search of new content, so new book releases might be of great interest.

Don't forget homeschooled based blogs too!

Book Blog Tours - This method kind of goes along with the one above. With some networking, you can organize a book blog tour with several bloggers for your book release. Try to set-up a tour for your book during a particular month using a theme.

Author Alliances - Sometimes marketing in numbers helps you feel not quite so alone. The Brown Bookshelf is a great example of authors marketing their books as a group. Is there a common thread in your book with another author?

Youtube.com - Over the past few years, book trailers have become popular. Now not all book trailers are created equal. If you are going to do one, make sure it's appealing to the age group. Visuals are very important, especially for the young reader, which is why good illustrators are highly touted. Recently, I viewed The Ark, the Reed, & the Fire Cloud trailer. The author, Jenny L. Cote, has a great musical soundtrack, graphics and captures the intended audience well with her message to parents.


These are social networks especially for the children's book or young adult authors.

JacketFlap is a social networking community where you can connect with more than 3,100 published authors and illustrators of books for Children and Young Adults

Facebook.com - Children's Book Writers and Illustrators - If you have a Facebook account, this group is 2,000+ members strong and was created by illustrator Diane Evans.

Ning.com - Kid Read - This network is for teachers, librarians, children's book authors, and children's literature lovers who believe that worlds open when kids read.

This article was posted right before Christmas, so I wanted to take the time to say "Have a Blessed Christmas and a Joyous New Year!" I'm looking forward to sharing more marketing tips and ideas with you in 2009.

Monday, December 22, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Derrick D. Barnes

Derrick D. Barnes is a native of Kansas City, MO., although he spent a good portion of his formative years in Mississippi. He is a graduate of Jackson State University with a degree in Marketing. He is the author of the children's books STOP DROP AND CHILL, and THE LOW DOWN BAD DAY BLUES published by Scholastic (2005). He is also the author of a young adult novel entitled THE MAKING OF DR. TRUELOVE (Simon Pulse 2006). But his mega, super, Scholastic series RUBY AND THE BOOKER BOYS is what he hopes be known for eventually. He is also known for writing best selling copy for various Hallmark Card lines and as the first African American male staff writer for Hallmark. Derrick recently relocated from New Orleans, LA to Kansas City, MO with his wife, Dr. Tinka Barnes and their sons, Ezra, Solomon, and Silas.

Brand New School, Brave New Ruby

Eight-year-old Ruby Booker is the baby sis of Marcellus (11), Roosevelt (10), and Tyner (9), the most popular boys on Chill Brook Ave. When Ruby isn't hanging with her friend, Theresa Petticoat, she's finding out what kind of mischief her brothers are getting into. She's sweet and sassy and every bit as tough as her older siblings. She sings like nobody's business; she has a pet iguana named Lady Love; her favorite color is grape-jelly purple; and when she grows up, she's going to be the most famous woman animal doctor on the planet. She's the fabulous, oh-so-spectacular Ruby Marigold Booker!

In Book 1, Ruby is leaving her old school and headed to a new one where nobody knows her--and where her older brothers rule. But that's about to change, because Ruby Booker has BIG plans! Although things don't go according to plan, Ruby manages to grab the spotlight when she sings a song over the P.A. system during announcements. By the time school lets out, one thing is clear: Ruby Booker isn't "the Booker Boys' baby sis" anymore.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

The Ruby and the Booker Boys series is kind of like the Cosby Show meets the family from Spike Lee's "Crooklyn" meets Punky Brewster. I want readers to not only fall in love with the magnifcent, talented, sassy character that Ruby Marigold Booker is but also to see that the series is about community, family and self love most of all.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

In every book of the series, I make sure I have at least two scenes where the family is together. In particular, a scene at the dinner table. I think its so important for families to sit down, converse, and share a few minutes out of the day together. I thought it would be cool to see Ruby, her parents and her brothers' individual personalities and ideals bounce off of each other.

Why did you elect to write for children?

The cool oppurtunity that you have as a children's book author to forever etch that love and passion for books is so powerful. I take it as a honor and a gift from God to impart possitive ideas, stories and characters on children.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned how characters can suddenly create stories, attitudes, twist and turns on their own without the authors intervention. Our jobs are to create the initial scenarios and allow them to grow and do what they are intended to do for the particular story.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

We have to have our minds and immediate environments set just right before we can create. Its not like a regular nine-to-five. Our minds work differently.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?

Push and promote your own work and never wait on someone else to do it. I think that the Ruby and the Booker Boys series fills a huge void in children's lit; there are essentially no book series published by major publishers that star and feature a Black girl and her family. But I should not expect the publisher or any other entity to be as passionate as I am to spread the word and make this series a huge success. It won't get done if i don't ask God to help me.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

Landing national exposure. As an author you are responsble for promoting your books to the fullest. But if you are limited by resources and your lack of celebrity ties, you have to get creative with it, and be persistent.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I am addicted to caffeine, in particular Diet Mountain Dew. I can't stop drinking the stuff!

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

1)This is not like signing a multi million dollar singing or sports contract.

2) Don't edit while you're writing-let the story roll.

3) I should have learned how to illustrate my own stuff.

How do you reach new readers?

I do a lot of online promotion; posting on blogs, discussion boards,etc. I also reach out to non african american schools and bookstores. Add a little flavor to their collections.

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

1) Jacqueline Woodson 2) Bryan Collier 3) Shane Evans 4) Walter Dean Meyers 5) Andrew Clements

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

1)Langston Hughes-he really inspired me to create characters and to develop dialogue amongst characters that was distinct. 2) James Baldwin- The way he captured human thought processes, ideals, and emotion with a keen sense of perception was amazing to me. His prose and essays was always penned like poetry. 3)Zadie Smith-her story telling ability is very full and entertaining...plus she's gorgeous.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Please, read a lot of books in the genre or style that you are pursuing. Look for a literary agent that represents authors like you. Don't limit yourself to one type of story, setting, or group of characters.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

derrickbarnes.com or derrick@derrickbarnes.com

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

The next book in the Ruby and the Booker Boys series, book four, is entitled Ruby Flips For Attention. In it, Ruby attempts to put together a drill team for all of the wrong reasons. I also have a middle grade novel set to release next year with Scholastic.

Trivia Queen, 3rd Grade Supreme

Eight-year-old Ruby Booker is the baby sis of Marcellus (11), Roosevelt (10), and Tyner (9), the most popular boys on Chill Brook Ave. When Ruby isn't hanging with her friend, Theresa Petticoat, she's finding out what kind of mischief her brothers are getting into. She's sweet and sassy and every bit as tough as her older siblings. She sings like nobody's business; she has a pet iguana named Lady Love; her favorite color is grape-jelly purple; and she has BIG plans. She's going to be the most famous woman animal doctor on the planet. She's the fabulous, oh-so-spectacular Ruby Marigold Booker!

In Book 2, a zoologist is coming to visit Ruby's school, and there will be one representative from grade levels 2-8 chosen to compete in an animal trivia contest. The winner will land season passes to the Chill Brook Zoo for everyone in their grade level. Ruby, who can absorb factual information quickly and recall it at any time, is the third grade delegate, and her brothers are on board to help--or hinder--her preparation.

Slumber Party Payback

The last time Ruby hosted a slumber party, her big brother Roosevelt pranked and frightened the girls all night. Now it’s payback time! With a little ingenuity and a lot of lipstick, Ruby and her crew come up with some hilarious high jinks that are sure to teach Roosevelt a valuable lesson. Bottom line—don’t mess with Ruby Booker!

Friday, December 19, 2008

FEATURE AUTHOR: Varian Johnson

Varian Johnson is the author of My Life as a Rhombus (Flux/Llewellyn, 2008) and the the Essence Magazine Bestseller, A Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid (Genesis Press, 2005). Varian now lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Crystal, and is a member of SCBWI, the Writers’ League of Texas, and The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN). Varian is also the co-founder of The Brown Bookshelf, an online community charged with highlighting established and up-and-coming African-American authors of children’s and young adult literature.

My Life as a Rhombus

Staying on track at school means a boy-free equation for Rhonda Lee, who spends most evenings doing homework and eating Chinese takeout with her dad. While Rhonda needs a scholarship for college, some kids at her private high school, like beautiful Sarah Gamble, seem to coast along on popularity and their parents' money.

When forced to tutor Sarah in trigonometry, Rhonda recognizes all too well the symptoms—queasiness, puking, exhaustion—that Sarah is trying to mask. On a sudden impulse, Rhonda shares her past with Sarah. Exchanging their secrets adds up to more truths than either girl would have dreamed.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I’ve always been hesitant to suggest what my readers should take from my novels. With My Life as a Rhombus, my goal was to present the novel in a way so that readers could come to their own conclusions about the subject matter.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

My favorite scene is probably the scene in the novel where Rhonda finally confronts Christopher, the boy that got her pregnant.

Why did you elect to write for children?

I love looking at life through a teen’s eyes. Teenagers see the world through such a clear lens—before things like work, bills, and family begin to clutter their landscape. Also, teens know crap when they see it, and now-a-days, they aren’t afraid to tell you so. You’ve got to get the story—their story—right, and in the process of telling their story, you have to respect them.

What did you learn while writing this book?

When I first began the novel, I had hoped that through the process of writing, I would sort out my own position on abortion. If anything, all I’ve realized is that it’s a lot easier to be pro-life or pro-choice when you aren’t the one that can get pregnant.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I don’t think enough non-writers realize that although most authors enjoy speaking at events, authors have to be selective in how they spend their time. We can’t speak at any and all events, or volunteer to participate in every school visit. Doing so would take time away from the actual job of writing books.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another children book writer?

I’ve learned that children are a lot smarter than we sometimes give them credit for. They can handle serious topics just as well as many adults.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

It’s always tough balancing the business side of writing with the actual writing.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Most of my readers are surprised to discover that I’m also a licensed civil engineer.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I wish I had known just how important the craft of writing was. I wish I had realized that not all literary agents are created equal. And, I wish I had known to take more time to savor my earlier successes.

How do you reach new readers?

I find that most of my new readers find me via librarians.

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

I admire the following authors: Rita Williams-Garcia for her ability to tackle difficult situations in novels, Cynthia Leitich-Smith for her ability to be so giving and supportive of new writers, M.T. Anderson for challenging young readers, Walter Dean Myers for writing books about teenagers like me when so few authors were doing so, and John Green for writing literary fiction in a way that’s appealing for most young adults.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

Walter Dean Myers, Virginia Hamilton, and Judy Blume. I grew up reading novels by these legends, and I’d love to pick their brain about the state of the industry.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

DO: Read as many children’s and young adult books that you can get your hands on.
DON’T: Don’t ever give up. Good writing will eventually be recognized.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

The best way to get in contact with me is via my website – http://www.varianjohnson.com/.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Sure. My next novel is titled Saving Maddie (Delacorte, 2010). The book is about a preacher's son who has to make some big decisions about who he is and who he wants to be when his childhood crush returns to town.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Philana Marie Boles

Philana Marie Boles has a BFA in Creative Writing/Theater from Bowling Green State University and is the author of Little Divas (HarperCollins)-- a popular novel for tweens that was just re-released in paperback after two years of success in hardback. She is also the author of two novels for adults: Blame It on Eve (Random House) and In the Paint (HarperCollins). She lives and writes in New York City.

Little Divas

Cassidy Carter has let everyone push her around long enough. Before seventh grade starts she will become independent.

Life is changing fast for Cassidy: Her parents just got divorced and she's moved in with her dad. Even things between her and her strong-willed cousin and constant best friend, Rikki, are different. All Rikki seems to care about are boys and how to sneak past her preacher father to meet up with them. When a new girl, Golden, moves in next door, Cassidy sees a chance to make a change. With help from her two friends she will learn to test her own limits and summon her inner diva—because sometimes having a little attitude and respect for yourself is the only way to get what you want.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

Reading should be a fun experience more than anything, so hopefully an enjoyable time. Also, because Little Divas is an ode to confidence, a little boost of self esteem after reading it would also be cool, too. Even us grown-ups need that sometimes.

What is your favorite scene from Little Divas?

Oh that is not easy! OK. Hmmm… I suppose the part where Cassidy and Rikki meet Golden for the first time. It’s such a simple scene, I know, but it’s also the most pivotal. Nothing, for each of those girls, is ever quite the same again after that moment.

Why did you elect to write for children?

Some of our most celebrated and beautiful literature has young protagonists—Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, The Outsiders by S.E.Hinton, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume for example—so it’s always been a genre that I’ve just simply enjoyed reading. Because I choose to write what I love reading, writing for younger readers has always been a goal.

And I have never wanted to be classified as a genre writer, just a writer. I write poetry, screenplays, non-fiction, journalism, short stories, love stories… But having been an educator and being so close with my God children also, I’ve always been inspired by the kids. It’s very rewarding when a kid approves something, you know! They can be critical and will tell you because they don’t yet know life’s option to be phony. I love that because genuineness is a delightful thing.

Also, just to note, one of the reasons that I’m so happy that Little Divas has resonated is because there is a definite void with multicultural protagonists for younger readers, which is why so many of our girls have been gravitating toward adult fiction.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I can’t honestly say that I “learned” anything but it was definitely a re-affirming experience for me to write something without pretense or attempts at contrived situations, to just simply let the story evolve from the characters and to then be reminded once again that an honest approach always resonates more so than a contrived plot. I had an amazing editor, Leann Heywood, who truly saw Little Divas through to its fullest potential and I wholeheartedly appreciated her willingness to, right along with me, just let the characters come to life in their own ways. The Little Divas writing experience was all about letting the story evolve naturally and fine tuning it after that, which is how I prefer to write.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Hmmm… I have actually never put thought into that. I guess the only thing that comes to mind would be to respect that writing is a “real” job. It might not be your chosen profession, per se, but it takes many different people in various careers to make the world go round and we all need to respect that more.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another children’s book writer?

From Judy Blume I learned very early on, as one of her loyal readers, how important it is to service the reader and to always just make sure that the reading has a strong element of good-old-fun! The minute you write to please anyone else but your readers—as author—you end up coming across on the page and it’s just not as enjoyable to read. A reader should be fully engrossed in the characters and not see the author manipulating the story.

Also, Judy Blume was so admirably unabashed in subject matter and her characters spoke so candidly to the heart, that those of us who grew up reading her books now consider her stories timeless. I can still envision some of her scenes! Mothers of my readers grew up reading Judy Blume books and understand, more than anyone, what I mean.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

The editorial shuffle. Three of my editors left their positions prior to my book’s publication and that wasn't easy. But I’ve got a lot of heart and an unrelenting faith, so while it was quite a ride I did not waver in my goals. To God be the Glory for that!

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Well, to know me is to easily recognize that I am such a kid at heart, and definitely by choice, so maybe it’s not such a surprise that while I recognize that life is hard, sure, and that the real world is tough, yes, and while I am a shear professional in terms of my career—whoo hoo—I also just really love to run around the park with my God children, play laser tag, order pizza and watch That’s So Raven marathons or Finding Nemo, rewinding and laughing at the same parts over and over again. My aunt Rosie gave me great advice when she told me to always play just as hard as I work in life! And I do.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

Honestly, these “wish I had known” questions are always a bit of a challenge for me because I choose not to regret things. Life happens as it happens so that we can fully experience our journeys. Had I known things then that I know now, I wouldn’t fully appreciate the blessing of progress like I do. I’m pleased with where I am and feel prepared as I go forth and continue to learn and grow.

Having said all that, however, three things that I’ve had to learn that will forever more shape my decisions are also easy to identify:

#1) Being humble does not mean being modest. It is okay, for example, to let people know that I’m a published author. I used to really shy away from that in social circles, not wanting to alienate others and that was so foolish. I’m wiser now.

#2) When something (or someone) is foul, it’s okay to call it so! A simple “Hi hater” with a smile and a wink does fine. Ha! Big up to T.I…

#3) When God is for you no one can ultimately be against you and win.

How do you reach new readers?

Mostly through angels and messengers, like yourself, good people who are in various media outlets that care enough to let their readers/audiences know about an author who is just doing the best she can to use the talent that God gave her in order to provide quality fiction for enjoyment. I appreciate you!

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

Sure! Judy Blume, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ann M. Martin, Shel Silverstein, Ellen Conford, Jacqueline Woodson, Phyliss Reynolds Naylor… Whoops! That’s seven, isn’t it? Sorry… I’ll stop.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

Janet Fitch, because she is, in my opinion, our most gifted living writer and also, from the brief conversations I’ve had with her, she is really humble. Strength of character plus talent equals out as marked for sheer flyness to me.

I would also invite Eric Jerome Dickey. Beyond his admirable and deserved success he is also a really fun guy to be around and I love hearing his anecdotes. It amazes me how completely unaffected he has remained in this business and he's just an awesome guy to be around.

And lastly, to round out the table, and because you said “living or deceased” I’d like to invite Langston Hughes. When I was fifteen years old I first read his poem “ Dreams” and I still cling dear to those words. That poem has made all the difference in the life choices I’ve made and for that, I would like to toast some after dinner bub and tell Langston thank you.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Do study the craft and read a lot no matter how raw and immense your natural born talent might be. Michael Jordan studied the game, focused and practiced, no? It amazes my how many people want to write but don’t, well, write…

Oh and don’t look to other authors to help get your book published. We are not publishers. Instead, do what we did… Study the craft, study the business, write… and once you have a solid manuscript primed to go, submit accordingly.

How can readers get in contact with you?

My official website is http://www.pmarie.com/ and my blog “The Love Spot” can be found by going to http://www.philanamarieboles.com/. Readers can also drop me an email at contactphilana@pmarie.com

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Well, I am finishing up my debut YA, which I’m so thrilled about. It’s a little premature yet for me to provide your readers with a sneak peek—we have yet to get through edits—but I hope readers will check my website for updates! I’m also working on some non-fiction material which I also look forward to announcing more details about soon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Thank You


Thank you so much to everyone who stopped by for our Open House. We so appreciate you and all your support.

Check the doorprizes to see if you're one our lucky winners and if so don't forget to send me your mailing address - sormag@yahoo.com

For those of you who work like me but can't get to the computer. I'm giving away four goodybags to four lucky posters. So drop a comment if you come in after six. I understand what it means to have to work and miss the fun.

Happy Holidays everyone and don't forget to buy some books.



Welcome to our OPEN HOUSE (9am - 6pm).

I’m excited that you took the time to stop by. I love a good party especially with good friends.

Pick a hot drink from our Chocolate Bar (Hot cocoa with whip cream and marshmallows with a cherry on top, or a Chocolate Carmel Latte)

Grab a few snacks from our breakfast bar in the morning (glaze donuts, and bagels with cream chesse) and in the afternoon from our dessert bar (Christmas Cookies, Homemade Caramel Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Split Lemon, Triple brownies )

Mingle with the other guests who drop by. Tell us how your holiday plans are going.

Listen to some music with us.


Type in Christmas Song – Select Brian McKnight

Now you’re listening to the music at our open house - Enjoy

We have a wishlist room for authors to tell us about their books. Please make sure to leave your info there and not in the open house room. Cl
ick HERE to add your books to our wish list.

Come on in and have some fun.

SORMAG’s Editor/Hostess

P.S. I have doorprizes every hour. You have to leave a comment to win.

DOOR PRIZE WINNERS - Send me your mailing address - sormag@yahoo.com

First Guest - Rebecca Myers - Mini Christmas stocking of bookmarks and a book thong from Simply Said

Wendi - $20.00 Gift Certificate (Barnes& Nobel or Amazon.com - your choice)

Sean Young - eBook from Red Rose Publishing

L Martin - Book by Bettye Griffith

Elaine Cantrell - $20.00 Gift Certificate (Barnes& Nobel or Amazon.com - your choice)

Shelia - Book By Bettye Griffith

Michelle Sutton - SORMAG Goody Bag

Patricia - A Preacher's Passion

Vanessa - $20.00 Gift Certificate (Barnes& Nobel or Amazon.com - your choice)

Claudia - Mother Eternal Ann Everlastin's Dead

Rhonda - Cruisin' On Desperation


You know how much I love giving away prizes, so if you want to join in on the fun. Send your donations to sormag@yahoo.com and I'll send you the winners names.

Thanks for your donation:

eBook from Red Rose Publishing - http://www.redrosepublishing.com/ - WINNER: Sean Young

Mini Christmas stocking of bookmarks and a book thong from Simply Said

Three books by Bettye Griffin

1 Sister Betty! God's Calling You, Again
1 Mother Eternal Ann Everlastin's Dead
1 Cruisin' On Desperation
1 Somewhat Saved
from Sister Betty -

2 copies of Zuri Day's Lies Lovers Tell
3 ARC copies of A Preacher's Passion.
from Luishia Lovely - www.LutishiaLovely.com

Her Captain's Heart from Lyn Cote - http://www.lyncote.net/

Six books by Marcia King Gamble

Christmas Trivia

We will be having a Trivia question each hour to see how much you know about Christmas.

First to post the answer is our winner. Winners please send your address to: sormag@yahoo.com

1. Jesus was born in what town? - WINNER: Debra - Simply Said
ANSWER: Bethlehem Matthew 2:1 “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, . . .”

2. How did Joseph and Mary get to Bethlehem? - WINNER: Lauren
ANSWER: On a donkey

3. What Christmas song includes Glory to the newborn king? - WINNER: Melissa W
ANSWER: Hark the Herald Angels Sing

4. In the Polar Express movie what was chosen as the first Christmas gift?





Monday, December 15, 2008


A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Carla Sarratt currently calls Charlotte, North Carolina her home. After graduating from Wittenberg University, she used her degree to teach high school English for five years. It was in her last year of teaching that she combined her love of literature and her experiences as a high school student and teacher to give birth to the Carter G Woodson High School series.

Freshman Focus

Four high school freshmen walk the hallways of Carter G. Woodson High School with a different focus in mind. Kendra is focused on making good grades in high school. Lamar’s focus is to make the basketball team and have as much fun as possible in high school. Destiny is focused on maintaining her superiority over everyone around her. New to Charlotte, Steven is focused on shaking off his past.

Freshman year is tough, but these four are intent on finding their way as they navigate the hallways, demands from teachers, tests, extra curricular activities, friendships, and parents. They have to navigate their journey all while maintaining their focus on what’s important to them.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

While reading my first book Freshman Focus, I want readers to see themselves as students at Carter G. Woodson High School and decide which of my four main characters would be their friend or their enemy.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

My favorite scene is the classroom scene in chapter ten of Freshman Focus. The four main characters are in English class and you get a sense of the friendship dynamic and their individual personalities.

Why did you elect to write for children?

It wasn’t a conscious decision that I made. I just picked up my pencil and began to write. I think it was a natural fit since at the time I was a high school English teacher plus as a teenager, I loved young adult fiction, i.e. Sweet Valley High, and am happy that I am able to contribute to the genre.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned a lot of different Black history facts. Each chapter begins with a fact from Black history to honor Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black history.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

It takes a lot to go from a computer document to the final version of the book that you buy at the store or check out from the library.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another children’s book writer?

Since I am self-published, I’ve learned a lot from traditionally published authors who have agents, editors, and publicists to help them prepare the book for publication and market it to the masses.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

The toughest test for me is to actually write when I would rather curl up with a book and read.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I don’t do anything out of the ordinary like bungee jump or sky dive, but they might be surprised that I love cartoons and animated movies. Some of my favorites include The Proud Family, Recess, Jimmy Neutron, The Fairly Oddparents, Mighty B, Cars, and all three Shreks.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I wish I had known to keep writing more books before the first one was published because it is hard to juggle writing, promoting, and reading. I learned that it takes more to promote the book than it does to write it, but you don’t fully realize that until you’re out there doing it so I wish I had been better prepared to promote my books.

How do you reach new readers?

I reach new readers by going on school visits, through my website and work with The Brown Bookshelf, and through word of mouth.

Can you give us five children’s book authors you admire?

Absolutely, as a disclaimer, I admire any writer whose books are on the shelves, but the five authors that I most admire are Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Mildred Taylor, Paula Danziger, and Francine Pascal. All of these are authors I read growing up and even read again as an adult.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

Oooh, I would love to have dinner with Rita Williams Garcia. I interviewed her earlier this year for The Brown Bookshelf but would love to be able to invite her over for dinner and talk more at length. I would definitely include my dear friend Paula Chase who also writes young adult fiction and is a great writing mentor to me. Not to leave men out, I would invite Walter Dean Myers who has been writing books for young adults for over thirty years. I would love to pick his brain about the stories he’s told and how he keeps telling stories that readers love.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Definitely read and research other children’s books as well as the craft of being a children’s author. Don’t give up on writing your book even if it means several rewrites to tell the best story.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Readers can visit me at my website http://www.carlasarratt.com/ and on Myspace at www.myspace.com/writeon1913.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

Just Be is the sequel to Freshman Focus that came out in May 2008. It centers around homecoming at Woodson High plus we get to see more of Kendra figuring out boys and the aftermath from a decision that Kendra, Destiny, and Cidney made in Freshman Focus.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

EXCERPT: The Christmas Kite

The Christmas Kite

by Gail Gaymer Martin

Women’s fiction

After her in-laws paid her to disappear, single mom Meara Hayden moved to Mackinaw Island to start over. With her faith and her disabled son's enthusiasm, she knew she could do it. But she never thought one simple kite would lead her to love again.

Jordan Baird felt as aimless as the kites he made. After losing his family, he led a reclusive life. Then, unexpectedly, a mother and her special son made him see new possibilities, the happiness of love and faith. Did Jordan dare dream of the riches life had to offer?

Chapter 1

“Be careful, Mac.” Meara Hayden’s heart rose to her throat as her son wandered toward the white-capped waves.“Stay back.”

He turned toward her, his mouth bent into a gleeful smile. “Birds.” He pointed upward where seagulls curled and dipped above the rolling waters of Lake Huron.

“Yes,” she yelled, forcing her soft voice above the dashing waves, fear gripping her heart. “Come back, Mac.”

A new crest rose, its frothy cap arching high above the surface. Meara dashed forward. But too late.

The surging water thundered upward, crashing to the shore, then siphoned back in a powerful undertow. Mac staggered against its strength, and as the swell washed the earth from beneath his feet, the water dragged driftwood, debris and Mac into its roiling depths.

As a heart-wrenching gasp tore from Meara’s throat, she dashed into the retreating wave, grabbing him by one flailing arm, and lifted him to safety.

“Mac,” she whispered, her voice quaking with fear. She clutched him to her side and guided him back to the dry sand.

“Wet,” he moaned, pulling at his soggy shorts. Tears brimmed in his eyes.

“It’s all right. They’ll dry.” To distract him, Meara pulled a wrapped cookie from her blouse pocket. “Here, Mac.” Her ploy worked. “Cookie,” he said, brushing his moist eyes with a finger before grasping the treat.

Meara captured his free hand and continued their journey along the warm sandy beach. Glancing over her shoulder, she estimated the distance they’d wandered from the rough, rented cabin. Obviously her choice was a poor one. She hadn’t considered the inherent dangers of the water...and her son.

Mac paused and gazed above his head. “Birds,” he said again, waving the sugar cookie in the air.

“They’re seagulls. You’ll see lots of them around the water.”

“Sea...gulls,” he repeated, his face lifted upward toward her watchful eyes. He waved the cookie, again in the birds’ direction.

Without warning, a cluster of gulls soared over them and swooped down. His body shaking, Mac gasped and grabbed the leg of her slacks, knocking his glasses to the ground, and buried his face against the denim. She held him tightly as the birds gathered on the ground around them and fluttered toward the sweet clutched in his fingers. “Drop the cookie, Mac. That’s what they’re after.”

It fell to the ground, and she snatched up his glasses and pulled the child away. The birds flapped their wings and screeched at one another, pecking and vying for bits of the scattered pieces. She knelt at his side and pulled a tissue from her pocket to wipe his tear-filled eyes. “It’s okay, Mac. Mama should have thought. The birds like cookies and bread, all kinds of food. We’ll be more careful next time.”He nodded, dragging his arm across his dripping nose. “Next time,” he agreed.

Meara pulled his arm away from his face and wiped the moisture with a tissue. “What about your hanky? What does Mama tell you?”

He looked thoughtfully, his dark-brown almond-shaped eyes squinting into hers. “Use a hanky.”

“That’s right. Not your arm, remember?” She used another tissue to clean the sand from his glasses and popped them on his blunt, upturned nose.

He grinned, and, having forgotten his fear of the birds, he scuttled off ahead of her.

Waves. Birds. She hesitated, wondering if they should return to the gloom of their cabin. The late spring sun lit the sky, but did not quite penetrate the foliage of their small rental--two rooms and bath--that lay hidden amidst the heavy pines. Only a few small windows allowed in the sun’s rays, and they were situated too high to enjoy a relaxed view of the lake. Their only entertainment was a fuzzy-picture television--nothing really to occupy Mac’s time. She looked ahead at the shoreline. We’ll walk to the bend and see what’s around the corner, she thought.

A warm gust whipped off the water, and she lifted her eyes to the blue sky dotted with a smattering of puffy white clouds. She felt free for the first time in her life. Free, but frightened. How could she survive alone with Mac? When she first left her deceased husband’s parents, the thoughts of where she would go or what she would do barely skittered through her mind. Freedom is what she’d longed for. Freedom and a chance to raise her son as she wanted, not chained by the Hayden family’s shame.

Meara focused again on her son. Mac’s short, sturdy legs struggled through the sand, his curiosity as strong as her sense of release. He neared the bend in the shoreline, and she hurried to shorten the distance between them.

“Mac,” she called, dashing along the curve of the beach.

When she rounded the evergreens that grew close to the shoreline, Mac appeared far ahead of her, rushing away as fast as his awkward legs would carry him. His arm extended, his finger pointing toward the sky. Expecting to see more birds, she looked up, but instead, she saw what had lured him. A kite. An amazing kite, dipping and soaring above the water. The brilliant colors glinted in the sun, and a long, flowing yellow- and-red tail curled and waved like pennants in a parade.

She halted to catch her breath, clasping her fist against her pounding heart. Her fear subsided. Mac was safe, a generous distance from the water’s edge. He turned toward her, waving his arms above his head. She waved back, pointing toward the kite, letting him know she saw the lovely sight.

He turned again and trudged forward toward the distant figure of a man who apparently held the invisible string.

©2008 Gail Gaymer Martin

Saturday, December 13, 2008

EXCERPT: Words to Write By

Words to Write By
By Robin Bayne

“Words to Write By"

Each day I receive devotional writings by e-mail, and read them on desk and wall calendars. I often wonder how to apply that day’s “lesson” to my writing, and how to share my own favorite verses with other writers.

Many writers keep a favorite quote or Bible verse taped to their computer monitors, or as part of their e-mail signature or website theme. Why do they do this? For the inspiration, they might tell you. As a constant reminder of a principle or value which aids their writing production or their sanity.

The words can serve as task-master, guidance counselor or just plain comforter.
I find this practice fascinating, and have many quotes and verses tucked under the laminated covering on my desk. Each one reflects a bit of my personality and beliefs, as do every writer’s choice selections. I have asked some of the best writers in the business to share their inspiration with us, their favorite words of wisdom, and explain why they find them so special.

So take a moment and enjoy the collection, see how many of them also speak to you. Make a copy and tape one to your own monitor, or even better, be inspired to find your own special quote or verse.

Friday, December 12, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons is a children’s book author and freelance writer whose mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery. Her books include CCBC Choices honoree One Million Men and Me (illustrated by Peter Ambush) and chapter book, NEATE: Eddie’s Ordeal. She has two forthcoming picture books with Penguin/G.P. Putnam’s Sons. Kelly’s articles and essays have appeared in many publications including Ebony magazine, The News & Observer, The Christian Science Monitor and books in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. A native of Pittsburgh, Kelly lives in NC where she facilitates a book club for African-American girls.

One Million Men and Me

The Million Man March was a movement like no other. It brought black men together for a day of inspiration and empowerment and it captured the attention of media across the U.S. and the world. Now, this heartwarming picture book shares the story of the March in a new light. In One Million Men and Me (Just Us Books, 2007) experience the strength, unity, determination and legacy of that powerful day through the eyes of a little girl who was with her daddy the day black men made history.

What would you like readers to take away from your book?
I hope readers feel inspired to learn more about Million Man March. It was such an affirming and transformative event. As Nia shares what it was like to be there with her daddy, I hope readers get a sense of the beauty and power of the day. I hope it rekindles fond memories for those who were there or who had loved ones who went. I hope it fosters pride in children. Sadly, so many young people have never heard of the Million Man March. I would love for my book to inspire children and adults to celebrate the mighty Million Man March and its place in history.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

One of my favorite scenes is when Nia and her father see the amazing view of a sea of men at the Million Man March. Nia calls them one million black kings and feels like their princess. That's one of my favorite pictures too. Artist Peter Ambush created a portrait of Nia dressed like an African princess walking with a group of African kings. Another of my favorite images is the picture of Nia snuggling into her dad's chest on the way home.

Why did you elect to write for children?

I write for children because growing up I didn't see kids who looked like me in picture books. I fell in love with stories like Miss Nelson Is Missing and Where the Wild Things Are, but something was missing. I discovered what it was years later when I saw the book Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth. In the story, a girl goes around her city neighborhood searching for something beautiful. She learns what it is for her neighbors then decides to create it for herself by cleaning up the graffiti and trash around her home. That story touched me and helped me to see children's books in a new way. Children's books have the power to move, affirm, inspire, heal. I knew that one day I would add my voice. I wanted to write for kids to give them reflections of their lives and dreams.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned that the story will come when it's ready. One Million Men and Me began to take shape more than a decade ago when I was at the Million Man March interviewing young people about what the event meant to them. I didn't know it then, but seeing a girl holding hands with her father as they walked past the Reflecting Pool would inspire my first picture book.

A few months before the 10-year anniversary of the Million Man March, I thought of that little girl and her father again. I knew I wanted to tell their story and share the March with children. But I was stuck. The March was such a huge and important event. Where did I start? I kept pushing and trying to write something, but the story wouldn't flow. Then a while later, I went to a black fatherhood conference and saw men embracing like brothers and talking about ways to strengthen the community and I was taken back to the March. The draft for the story came together in a matter of hours.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

Having a great idea is just one part of writing. You have to do research, hone your craft, revise. I believe that everyone has a story to tell. But you have to put in the work to make it the best it can be.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?

Study children's books for lessons. Some of my best writing tips have come from deconstructing my favorite books. The first time I read a story, I read it for joy. The next time, I study it. How did the author put it together? What structure did the author use? What symbols and images? What language resonated most? Why did it work?

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

As a children's book author, one of my toughest tests has been learning to be patient. There's so much waiting -- waiting for responses from publishers, waiting for edits, waiting for reviews. Whew. I thought I was a patient person before I started writing for kids. But publishing wheels can move so slowly that waiting it out can be a real test sometimes. I've found that the best way to keep from watching the clock is to get to work on other stories.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

Hmmm. They might be surprised that I love to dance, especially Chicago steppin' style. I lived in Chi-town before I moved to North Carolina and took classes at the Y. I used to drag all of my friends to steppin' spots like the Fifty Yard Line and Mr. Ricky's Note. Even when I moved to NC, I kept steppin' with my husband in our living room.

Something readers might be surprised to learn that I used to rap. In middle school, I had a group with friends and cousins -- Fresh Fly Girls. At an author visit once, kids called me out on it. I shocked myself by remembering one of our raps. It was a lot of fun.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

- That even award-winning authors have stories rejected.
- That the work doesn't stop with writing the book and getting it published. Promoting can be just as hard.
- That I would feel so fulfilled writing stories for children. I wish I would have started sooner.

How do you reach new readers?

I rely on word of mouth a lot. I hope that people will enjoy my books and author visits and share my books with others. I also send information out to schools, churches and community organizations about my availability for signings and programs. I participate in book events too like the Multicultural Children's Book Festival at the Kennedy Center and African-American Children's Book Fair in Philadelphia. I also owe a lot to generous people like you who give me the chance to share my book with their readers. Thank you.

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

Jacqueline Woodson
Angela Johnson
Virginia Hamilton
Patricia McKissack
Walter Dean Myers

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

Lorraine Hansberry - Her autobiography, To Be Young, Gifted and Black, left such an impression on me. I'd love to talk to her about her journey to playwriting.

Langston Hughes - His poetry is amazing. I've learned so much by reading his work. Langston Hughes was a poet, novelist and even wrote for children.

Virginia Hamilton- I'd love to talk to her about her books and how to create a career in the field. She wrote brilliant picture books, middle-grade novels and young adult novels. They were each so distinct and special. I marvel at her genius.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Do put in the work and believe your story will find a home.

Don't just dream about writing a children's book. Dare to make it happen.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

email - email@kellystarlinglyons.com
website - http://www.kellystarlinglyons.com/

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book

My next book was inspired by researching my family tree. I discovered a document that touched me and shined a light on an important chapter in African-American history. My picture book explores that history and a family's special journey. It will be published by Penguin/G.P Putnam's Sons. Please check out my website for updates.

Thanks so much LaShaunda for featuring me. I feel blessed to have the chance to talk about my book and writing. I wish you continued success. Happy Holidays to you and your readers. God Bless.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


In No Mush Today, one determined little girl is tired of having mush for breakfast, tired of trying to make herself heard over the squalling of a new baby brother. Maybe Mom and Dad won’t listen, but Grandma will, and Grandma’s house isn’t far away….

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

I want them to remember Nonie as a happy, bright little girl from a loving family who knows how to make her needs known.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

Nicole Tadgell's love for her mother shines through in the picture of Grandma embracing Nonie.

Why did you elect to write for children?

I write for children because they love and devour a book the way a grown-up never does.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I thought I was writing a book about Nonie, but when I finished, I realized I was also writing about "listening," how we all need to listen to one another. In the book, you realize that it's probably because Grandma has always listened that Daddy is willing to, and that by the end of the day Nonie has learned to listen too.

It's also a book about speech patterns. I love it that people don't all speak alike. I love all sorts of "non-standard" speech-- Yorkshire dialects, mixtures of Yiddish and English, the "Pennsylvania Dutch" my great-grandmother spoke-- as well as that of my Black friends whose speech is often both colorful and musical. In the original text of "No Mush Today" Nonie's speech was even more her own, but there is such a prejudice against "ungrammatical" speech I was advised only to hint at Nonie's inventive way of talking. I respect my editor's judgment (One critic already has said that Nonie's occasional grammatical irregularities add nothing to the book, a judgment which saddened me and with which I wholeheartedly disagree) but I loved my original text. (As did Nicole Tadgell).

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I do wish people would realize that it's every bit as hard to write a good picture book as it is to write a longer piece.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?

I meet regularly with a few other children's book writers. We gently but honestly critique one another's work. The best thing I have learned from them is that each writer has her own strengths and weaknesses, so you need to be aware of your own. For example, I need to remember my tendency to over-explain, to "mother" my readers.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

The hardest thing for me was to work with a strong-minded editor whose vision for my book didn't agree with mine. The book as it finally came out was a disappointment to me, and since then I've learned to be more assertive.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I correspond regularly with Sylvia Waugh of England, author of the Mennym books and the Ormingat Trilogy, Space Race and its sequels.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

1. Someone will always think your book is wonderful.
2. Someone will always think your book is dreadful.
3. If you think it's wonderful, then you've succeeded.

How do you reach new readers?

I just write the best books I can and hope.

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

I could name 100--but here are some whose recent books I've admired-- Marilyn Nelson, Andrea Cheng, Eva Ibbotson, Gary Schmidt, Janice Harrington.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

I'd invite Terry Pratchett, Sarah Ellis and Helen Cresswell because I love the humor in their books.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

One, learn to accept that the book you write will never be as good as you thought it would be when the idea first came.

And two, Don't worry about whether there's a market for the book you want to write, Just write it, and it will find its readers.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

My website, http://sallyderby.com/ gives my email address and the rest of my contact information.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

My next book, Kyle's Island (Charlesbridge 2010) will be my first middle-grade novel. The island of the title is in the middle of a small Michigan lake, and like Kyle, when I was growing up I was determined to explore it someday. An important character in the book is modeled on my Uncle Dick Derby, who was a prisoner of war during World War II. Next, Lee & Low will bring out another of my picture books, Sunday Shopping, If all goes well, it may be illustrated by Shadra Stickland, illustrator of Bird, a beautiful book. So exciting!

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Lisa McCourt’s books have sold over four and a half million copies. She likes saying that, especially on blurry Monday mornings at her keyboard when she’s convinced she’ll never have another creative thought in her life. Lisa worked for ten years in children’s publishing as an editor and a book club director before trading in her power suits for flamingo-print jammies to become a real author.

Soon Yummiest Love (Orchard, Jan. ’09) will join her thirty-three books, which include Granny’s Dragon, I Love You, Stinky Face and its four sequels, The Most Thankful Thing, and the Chicken Soup for Little Souls series. Her books have won five awards, appeared on PBS’s Between the Lions, received starred reviews in ALA Booklist and Publishers Weekly, and garnered praise from over 200 other reviewers. A former LMP Award finalist, she has appeared on CNN’s Showbiz Today where I Love You, Stinky Face was featured. None of the above has gotten her a fat head. It has been remarked, in fact, that her head is quite small.

Lisa’s most recent honor was winning the Importance of Books in Translation contest sponsored by SCBWI and Bologna Fiere, which scored her a trip to Bologna, Italy for the International Book Fair. She rode a gondola in Venice but her gondolier couldn’t sing so he whistled for her.

Lisa’s current passions include writing spiritual novels for young adults and presenting her highly-acclaimed creativity-unleashing programs for all ages. She lives in South Florida with her husband, son and daughter. Visit her at http://www.lisamccourt.com/.

Yummiest Love

Following in the footsteps of the bestselling modern classic, I Love You, Stinky Face, this new title from Lisa McCourt is sure to inspire an endless supply of cuddles and smiles. Share Yummiest Love with your yummy ones to remind them how incredibly special they are!

What would you like readers to take away from your book?
So many parents write me to say that my books help them express love to their kids. I can’t imagine anything better for a reader to take away! So I’d have to say that for Yummiest Love, as with my earlier books, I Love You, Stinky Face, its sequels, Good Night Princess Pruney Toes, and The Most Thankful Thing, my best wish is that it will help children deeply experience the immense unconditional love their parents feel for them.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

I have to admit when I read Yummiest Love at events I still get a little choked up near the end when the parent says, “It seems impossible that I could love you more each day but that is what happens. You keep changing and growing and that will never stop. All I can do is hang on for the ride.” This book has more personal details than my earlier mom-love titles. Most of those details are now cherished memories, but that line about watching them change and grow and me just hanging on for the ride still resonates for me.

Why did you elect to write for children?

I write now for teens but most of my earlier books were for younger children and all my future writing plans are in those two areas. I respect the world of childhood so much. I think of kids as more perfect, natural specimens of humankind than adults – they don’t have all those layers of societal conditioning wrapped around them yet. Kids’ honesty, raw enthusiasm, and the ever-evolving nature of their day-to-day lives make them the perfect audience for the kind of writing I like to do.

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned that parental love is a limitless source of inspiration for me. And I learned that it’s okay for me to be a little more serious with that subject than I’ve been in the past.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I think there’s a misconception that writing requires some kind of inborn, DNA-encoded talent, like double-jointedness. I believe everyone can write and it’s the cheapest, most effective form of therapy for anyone with any issue to work out. I’m a die-hard journaling advocate! Instead of buying the world a Coke, I’d like to buy the world a good pen and a pad of recycled paper.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?

There have been so many! My fabulous friend Lauren Myracle taught me that even egregiously bad first drafts can evolve into spectacularly good books. She is a fine lady and that was a fine lesson.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

Transitioning from prolific picture book writer to novelist! It’s not so much that the novels have been hard for me to write. It’s more that I’m having a hard time feeling confident enough to ever let one go. There’s always something that can be improved, a different direction I could try. I look at the published books I’ve been most successful with and think, “What ever gave me the idea I could write a novel?”

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

When the first novel comes out this won’t be such a surprise, but at this point my readers might be surprised to know how spiritual I am and how extensively I’ve studied world religions, philosophy and metaphysics.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I wish I’d known that writing what is truly in my heart is all I ever need to do. I wish I’d focused sooner on fulfilling myself as an author, instead of focusing on writing lots of books and selling lots of copies. (I’m proud of my combined sales of over four and a half million books – but I’m more proud of the newer material I’m writing, even with its uncertain success.) I wish I’d known that one touching, heartfelt letter from a fan would mean more to me than a starred review in Publishers Weekly.

How do you reach new readers?

I do a lot of school visits and give workshops at conferences and libraries. My programs are all about instilling creative confidence and making the creative process exciting for kids at different grade levels, from Pre-K all the way up through high school and adult. My presentations aren’t focused on my books to the degree that most authors’ are, but I do talk a little about them (especially when there’s a new one) and that’s probably my best venue for reaching new readers. I’ve already been talking up a novel that doesn’t even have a publication date yet!

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

I’ve buried myself lately in Young Adult material. There are so many authors I love, but I will single out Angela Johnson, Lauren Myracle, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, and Tim Wynne-Jones.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

I would first choose Maya Angelou, my very favorite author of all time, just for the chance to bask in her radiant spirit! It would be fun to party with the brilliantly innovative Kurt Vonnegut and saucy William Steig, too. They’d keep dinner lively and interesting for me and Maya.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

Good writing is extremely personal. Don’t write to try to please an audience, to show off how clever you are, or to fill some niche you’ve identified in the marketplace. You have to completely put yourself on the page, the beautiful and the ugly. If you read what you’ve written and wince self-consciously over what it reveals, it’s probably good writing.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

There’s a button on the home page of my site that says, “chat me up.” My site address is http://www.lisamccourt.com/.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

I thought you’d never ask! My first novel (which is not even with a publisher yet but is all I really want to talk about anyway!) is called Just One Soul. It’s about living your spirit and finding your joy, even through bleak circumstances when your teen world seems to be crumbling all around you. It’s about forgiveness and perspective and self-love and taking ownership of your destiny. It’s by far my favorite thing I’ve written. (Okay, TECHNICALLY, my next two books published will be two Stinky Face readers from Scholastic, but look for the novel after that!)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Purposely Said – Dr. Linda F. Beed

What about the Children?

Within this short time I have with you I would like to speak somberly about our most precious gift, our children.

Children are a blessing entrusted to us for only a short period of time. In that time it is our honor, privilege and responsibility to nurture them toward purpose, the reason for their being sent to this earth. A large part of that responsibility has been neglected for various reasons; and exploited for others.

Below are statistics I have gathered that I would like you to seriously consider regarding not only your children, but any child set under your authority.


Did you know that:
• In 1998 it was reported that 68% of fourth-graders living at or below the poverty level failed to reach the basic level of achievement?
• 64% of Blacks and 60% of Hispanic fourth-graders read below the basic level compared to 27% White and 31% Asian.
• In 2002 – More than half of African-American and Hispanic students graduated from high school.
• In 2003 – The National Center for Education reported that only three-quarters of high school students graduated in four years.
• In 2004 – The National Assessment of Educational Progress reported that only three out of ten eighth grade students read above their grade level.
• In 2006 – Only eight million American students from the fourth through twelfth grades could read, write and comprehend at satisfactory levels.


• In 2005 – Five states spent more on prisons ($49 billion) than they did on colleges. An $11 billion increase from 1985.
• 2005 rates show that 30% of men between the ages of 20 and 34 were incarcerated. Among black males the rate was 1 in 9.
• State general fund budgets over the last 20 years were adjusted up to 127% while education expenditures rose only 21%.
• The biggest downturn in the educational process occurs in the fourth grade.
• Today 40% of American fourth graders read below the required national level.
• It is in the fourth grade that documentation begins in terms of state standardized testing.
• Quote from Coalition Principal in Residence at the U.S. Department of Education, Paul Schwartz in 1998: “In California based on this year’s 4th grade reading scores, if the child isn’t reading on 4th grade level when tested they will plan to budget building another jail cell.”
• Quote from Kathleen Cushman’s 1998 work Democracy and Equity: CES’s Tenth Common Principle: “California is already planning the number of new prison cells it will need in the next century.”


• Statistics report that children reading below level when they enter the fourth grade rarely reach their full potential.
• The approximate life span is 70 years x 365 days = 25,550 days of life.
• A school year is theoretically 30 weeks.
• This is 150 days minus 10 days for illness, holidays and teacher in-service days, which leaves 140 days.
• Kindergarten through the end of third grade is 4 years.
• Multiply 4 times 140 days = 560 days.
• The partnership of parents and teachers has 560 days to equip a child for how he/she will spend their remaining 24,990 days on earth.

The good news amid such harrowing data and processes is that we can make a difference. We can do this by beginning to read to our children NOW. Regardless, if they are one or seven, begin reading aloud to them and with them at least thirty minutes each day. Allow this time to be interactive by asking questions and encouraging them to do the same. Create a word of focus that will help to increase their vocabulary. A strong vocabulary lends to a child’s confidence. That confidence is an essential tool that aids in a child’s educational success. It is the continual giving of this gift that perpetuates success.

As you go out this holiday season, consider giving the gift of a book that will entertain as well as educate a deserving child. As a parent make reading to your children top priority. As a concerned citizen consider volunteering time to help a child in need with their reading skills. Do so remembering that their future to a large degree IS in our hands.

Until next time, remember—Purposely Said words can destroy or create a life. Linda!

Dr. Linda Beed is an educator, speaker, children’s minister and author of Business Unusual. She co-moderators BWChristianLit, maintains its sister online blog and is the Review Editor for KDGospel Media Magazine.

You can find her on the web at:

lindabeed.com / MySpace / On Assignment Reviews / BWChristianLit

Monday, December 08, 2008

FEATURED AUTHOR: Brittney Holmes

Brittney Holmes is a recent graduate from Redan High School in Stone Mountain, Georgia, where her outstanding GPA earned her the title of Salutatorian of her senior class. For her outstanding academic and extracurricular status, she is recognized in Who’s Who Among High School Students. A gifted journalist, Brittney is a youth contributing writer for Global Woman magazine. Published through Urban Books (Urban Christian imprint), her debut novel, Living Consequences gained recognition from the African American Literary Awards Show where she received the 2007 Open Book Award for Best Young Adult Fiction of the Year. Her second novel, Testing Relationships, was released in June 2008. Brittney is currently a full-time student at the University of Georgia in Athens, where she is majoring in Journalism.

Testing Relationships

After years of dating and raising a daughter together, Shimone and Marques find that their lives seem to be heading in two different directions. And as Ronald and Nevaeh pray that their best friends’ relationship can be salvaged, trouble taunts Ronald’s own family and he wonders if prayer alone can mend the broken ties. While her friends’ relationships are tested a time zone away, Sierra is living a fairly good life despite her health, but she desperately longs for a lifetime commitment with the man she loves and happiness for the best friend she cares deeply for. When these relationships are put to the test, will these families be able to grab onto God and allow Him to bring them through the storm?

What would you like readers to take away from your book?

In reading my books, most of my readers will find themselves in one the characters’ situations. It is my hope that by finding themselves in the situations presented in “Testing Relationships,” they will see that, like my characters, they too can make it through any situation with God on their side.

What is your favorite scene from your book?

In “Testing Relationships,” there are several scenes that I really like, but I think the one I favor the most is the scene where Shimone leads Alexia to Christ. I really like this part of the book because it shows that no matter our relationship with others—whether they are our best friends or, in this case, our worst enemies—it is still our job as Christians to show them God’s love. Shimone understood that and took it upon herself, despite the fact that she and Alexia weren’t on good terms, to make sure Alexia knew of God’s gift of salvation.

Why did you elect to write for children?

I’m not really sure why I chose to write for teens. I believe that since I started writing when I was 14 years old, I began writing what I was more familiar with. At that time I knew a lot about teens and what they went through simply from my friends’ and my own experiences.

What did you learn while writing this book?

In writing, “Testing Relationships,” I realized that while Christians do strive to live a godly lifestyle, there will be times when they will fall. And while falling is okay, getting up and resuming your walk is what’s most important. If you fall and remain in your fallen state, the spiritual walk will only get more difficult. Many of the characters in this book messed up while walking with Christ and it took most of them going through their toughest trials in order to realize that they needed to make-up with God if they wanted their lives to be filled with the peace they’d once had. I try to remember this when I make mistakes in my own relationship with God and I hope that my readers receive the same message as they read my novels.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?

I personally believe that writing isn’t something you just suddenly decide to do. I think it’s something that is given to you as a gift or something you take the time to craft; it’s not something you wake up one morning and decide to do. So when you are reading a book that is truly enjoyable and contains a sincere message, know that the author took his/her time in making the novel that way.

What is the best lesson you have learned from another Children book writer?

Stephanie Perry Moore is one author, who has penned several children/teen novels, and I have learned that in writing for children, you have to write about situations that they can understand. With my audience ranging from young teens to young adults, I have to make sure that I write in a way that every reader within that range is able to understand and relate. Stephanie Perry Moore does a very good job of doing that within her novels and I’ve learned to do the same.

What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?

I believe the toughest challenge I’ve faced as a writer would have to be making sure that I live the lifestyle that is portrayed throughout the messages in my books. I write Christian fiction because I am a Christian, but as a young adult it’s not always easy to live that lifestyle. My beliefs, morals, and values are always being challenged but I’ve learned to pray that I remain focused on the blessings that God has given me and remember that I am only in this world and not of the world.

What is something readers would be surprised you do?

I think since most people who know I’m a writer, and don’t know much else about me, they’d be most surprised with the fact that I don’t sit in my room and write books all day long. I do go out with my friends, I love to dance, sing, and shop until I literally drop from exhaustion. I tend to do those things more than I write, even though writing is probably the one thing that brings me the most happiness.

What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?

I definitely wish I would’ve known how to speak better in front of audiences. I was very shy coming into this profession and having to speak in public didn’t sit well with me until very recently. I also wish I would’ve known how to promote myself as a writer. It took a while for me to be comfortable with letting people know that I am a published author; sometimes, it still doesn’t come up unless my friends or peers mention it. Finally, I wish I would’ve known more about developing my craft, which would’ve helped me grow as a writer before actually being published.

How do you reach new readers?

I reach new readers, first, by keeping in contact with fans who have already read my previous works. They are usually teens who will share their book with their friends or tell their friends how much they enjoyed reading my novels. I also make myself available for various reader groups to contact me so that I can meet with the members of their book club or organization. I also keep my website (http://www.brittneyholmes.com/) updated so that those readers looking for more information about me will always have the latest news.

Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?

Stephanie Perry Moore, Victoria Christopher Murray, Jacquelin Thomas, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, and Michelle Stimpson. These women are all excellent and inspiring young adult writers.

If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?

I would definitely like to talk to Maya Angelou. She is just a wonderful writer and I would like to understand her personal methods and motivations that have kept her doing what she’s done for so long. The other two authors I’d like to talk to are women I have had encounters with already. They are Victoria Christopher Murray and my mother, Kendra Norman-Bellamy; I’d like to hear about their experiences as writers and see what advice they’d give me as I mature as a Christian fiction author.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?

DO be sure that this is something you not only want to do, but something you love to do and be persistent in your aspirations.

DON’T enter this profession only for monetary reasons because disappointment will be your reward.

How can readers get in contact with you? (mail, email, website)

Readers can contact me through my website at http://www.brittneyholmes.com/, on Myspace at www.myspace.com/authorbrittneyholmes, or they can reach me by email at brittholmes2008@yahoo.com.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?

My next book is entitled, “Grace and Mercy,” and it will be released in June 2009. The most I am going to reveal about the book is that it’s a story of a young girl who risks losing her family and friends for a love that continuously hurts.

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