Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Part II: Interview with Randy Robertson

Randy Robertson is the author of Finding Mary: One Family's Journey on the Road to Autism Recovery. He was kind enough to stop by the blog to share more about the book, as well as his words of advice and encouragement for other writers! Read Part I of the interview here.

Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?

My writing process goes back to my journalism training in that I write in a really structured manner. For Finding Mary I wrote a high-level outline first, basically writing what would become the chapter heads. This enabled me to see how the book would flow. I typed this directly into a Microsoft Word file on my computer. I then went through the outline and for each chapter head, I added anywhere from 2 to 6 sub-heads with more detailed information about what to include in that chapter. Finally, I left the chapter head and sub-heads for each chapter and started writing the contents of the book right into the outline. It grew from a 2-page chapter head list into a 200-page book over the course of a year!

I really don’t write much on paper or in notebooks. I’m so used to using the computer at work that I’m very comfortable writing outlines and jotting notes in Word files. One trick that helped me tremendously was to write myself a note each time I was done for the day. As I said, I only wrote on Tuesday nights, so when the juices were flowing and the words were streaming easily I often wrote well into the middle of the night. When I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I would write a few sentences to myself describing what the next few paragraphs would be about and what topics were next on my mind to discuss. Then I would shut down the computer and go to bed. The following Tuesday, instead of having to scroll through a dozen or more pages to get back up to speed on where I was at in the book, I could just read the last paragraph or two and the note to myself and pick right back up with my train of thought. It took me a few weeks to get into that habit but I found once I did it, I was able to get back into writing mode much more quickly and avoid writer’s block and keep the narrative going.

What's next for you?

Since competing Finding Mary, I also wrote a fiction book called The Sports Locker about some kids that time travel back to see famous sports events. The book hasn’t been published yet as I’ve been focusing on promoting Finding Mary for the past year. The idea for The Sports Locker came from watching my oldest son Charlie attend sports camps and seeing the camaraderie amongst the boys at the camp. I’ve also written quite a few poems and short stories. The writing subjects are almost always about my immediate family and the myriad of activities we experience together day after day. I do keep a notebook by my bed to write down ideas that come to me in the middle of the night. I heard many authors say they do this, so I started doing it too, and every so often I’ll flip through the notebook and see if one of my ideas sparks an interest to hunker down and develop the story.

Do you have any advice for other writers, especially young writers?

My biggest advice to young writers is to keep moving forward little steps at a time. You can’t expect to realistically sit down and in a few days write the next Harry Potter. It’s not like that. Writing takes time, but it’s a fun and rewarding time! It’s like when I ran my first marathon in 2000. At first I could barely run 3 miles, but I kept to a strict running schedule and gradually improved my speed and added distance to my runs. Six months later I crossed the finish line successfully. Writing should likewise be accomplished in a progression. Writing short stories and poems is a wonderful way to develop skills and techniques. You can write a short story and work on a particular technique, such as describing a character’s physical description, explaining the sounds and textures in a particular setting, or learning to incorporate appropriate metaphors. Once you have some of those basic skills mastered you should think about writing a book. Start with an outline, then sub-heads…

What are some of your favorite books?

For almost my whole life I’ve heard people talk about what a great book the Bible is, but I never really considered reading the whole thing. I mean, it’s thicker than a phone book! Also, I thought it was a cliché, that someone who said the Bible is the best book is just saying that to sound good. Then three years ago I decided to read the Bible from cover to cover. I made it a New Year’s resolution and just started on it. I determined that my goal each day would be to read enough to turn the page once. That’s it…just to turn the page once daily. I stuck with it and it took me almost two full years, but I read the entire Bible! And it turns out that the book is actually amazing! There are stories of heroism, power, great battles, geography, history of course, tremendous character development, well-known quotations and many inspirational tales. You don’t need to be Catholic or any specific religious affiliation to thoroughly enjoy the Bible. My other favorites include The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Pelican Brief (talk about a page-turner!), and The Da Vinci Code. I also loved The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, a book that truly encourages big ideas and the concept that anyone can accomplish anything if they are determined and focused.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to be a guest on the blog! Do you have any final words you'd like to add?

I am really amazed and pleased with how well Finding Mary was received. I continue to get positive feedback from people. Recently a special education teacher in Illinois read the book and liked it so much she bought copies for the parents of each of her students! And a few weeks ago I was playing golf in a tournament and one of the people in our foursome commented how much he liked the book. I had never even met the guy before, but he knew about me and Mary and my book and had read it. Knowing that I’ve helped people understand what autism is like on a daily basis, and helped share some success secrets with people going through the challenges of autism in their own homes, has been incredibly rewarding and amazing to me.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Interview with author Randy Robertson

Randy Robertson is an experienced journalist and author of the new book Finding Mary: One Family's Journey on the Road to Autism Recovery. He was kind enough to stop by the blog today and tomorrow to talk about his new book, his writing journey, and advice for other writers. Randy lives in New York with his wife Debby and his three children. In addition to writing, he is an avid runner and sports fan, having completed the New York City Marathon and currently training for the 2011 Mohawk-Hudson Marathon in upstate New York in October. He also coaches youth basketball and baseball in Queens, NY and is the Special Needs Coordinator for his Catholic Church.

How did you get started writing?

I was born and raised in San Jose, CA. Around the age of 12 I became an avid sports fan and daily reader of the San Jose Mercury News sports section. I knew then that I wanted to become a sportswriter, and I worked toward making that happen for the next decade.

During college I wrote for several Bay Area newspapers, including the weekly Milpitas Post, the daily Peninsula Times Tribune in Palo Alto and the Modesto Bee (internship). I was sports editor of the Spartan Daily at San Jose State and earned my BA in Journalism in 1992. Upon graduation I was hired as a full-time sports writer at the Tracy Press in Northern California. I later worked for the Oxnard Press-Courier and the Ventura County Star.

In 1996 my fiancée Debby and I moved to Chicago. In a competitive newspaper market I was only able to find freelance work, so at that point I decided to put my writing on hold and utilize my developing graphic design and layout skills in a corporate setting. I’ve been working in the multimedia/graphics department for the global consulting firm A.T. Kearney ever since.

In 2001 Debby and I had our first child, Mary. We later had two sons, Charlie and Marty. In 2004, Mary was diagnosed with autism. Our family spent the next five years trying many strategies for improving Mary’s condition – some successful, some not so much. I was often asked for advice from other families coping with autism, so in 2008 I decided to get back to my writing roots and write a book to share Mary’s story.

How did Finding Mary begin?

I think there’s a part of each of us, deep down inside somewhere, which wants to write a book and hold that book in our hands and see our name on the cover of that book. I’m no different I guess. For years I toyed with the idea but never seemed to have the right topic. Then, as Mary’s autism therapy continued and she started making incredible progress, I knew I had the ideal content for a book. In addition to satisfying my internal passion for writing I also would be able to share some really helpful information with other families.

With Finding Mary, I wanted to reach two audiences: families struggling with autism first-hand of course; and, also, any readers who had heard of autism and maybe had a curiosity about what it is really like. This second group was likely to include neighbors, friends and non-immediate family members of people with autism. That is, people who knew someone with autism but didn’t really know or understand what that meant on a daily basis.

How did you structure the book?

The book moves along chronologically, starting with Mary as a young and healthy toddler who interacted with her family. Then I describe how she spiraled into a deep regression for about two years, throwing tantrums, pulling back from interactions with everyone and finally encasing herself in a cocoon of self-stimulation (“stimming” such as spinning in circles, repeating the same cartoon dialogue over hundreds and hundreds of times, etc.). One of Mary’s favorite things to do in that darkest of times was to watch the movie Finding Nemo. She probably watched it 100 times. So the book title Finding Mary is a play on words, reflecting Mary’s obsession with Finding Nemo and also our own desperate search to find the daughter we wanted and never gave up on.

Throughout the book I discuss various treatments we tried with Mary, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), a gluten-free, casein-free diet, vitamin B shots, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). I also shared our experiences in dealing with the New York City school system to find the right placements for Mary and my thoughts on the impact of immunizations on children. (I believe kids are getting too many shots too soon, but I stop short of blaming autism entirely on immunizations. It is important to give the children immunizations, but they should start later and be spread apart instead of given in batches of 2, 3 or even 4 at a time.)

What has the response from readers been like?

Finding Mary shares some real-life success stories. These include Mary’s ability to learn to play the piano, her academic achievements at school and her independence to the point of being able to pack her own swimming bag, enter the women’s locker room by herself and go in and change out of her wet swim suit and back into her dry clothes on her own.

Readers have given me a tremendous amount of feedback on the book. Some are amazed at how many different treatments we’ve tried. Some are shocked at how difficult Mary’s behaviors have been at times. And others have commented on how down-to-earth and honest the book is. And almost everyone has asked when Finding Mary 2 will be available! I’m still thinking about that!

What have you learned through writing and publishing this book?

Through writing this book, I learned that self-publishing a book is actually quite easy and do-able. Yes, anyone can do it!! I didn’t spend a fortune on the book and I didn’t have to work 100 hours a week to make it happen. I actually wrote the book little-by-little, in the evenings, when the children were asleep, usually just one night per week. It took me a year to write the book, then another year to shop the manuscript, settle on self-publishing, edit the book and prepare the photos. Through my publisher, iUniverse, the book is available on amazon.com and has sold in countries around the world. Finding Mary is also now listed on the Autism Speaks website in its recommended books to read.

The other thing I learned is that people are incredibly caring and compassionate. Mary has become somewhat of a mini-celebrity in our little corner of Queens. The community has embraced her as a special little person and many more people understand her now, as opposed to seeing her as a quirky weirdo. She’s different, but because so many people in our community have read the book and gotten to know her, she’s better understood and accepted for who she is.

With such a busy schedule, how do you fit in writing time?

Once I decided to write Finding Mary, I knew I had to devote a specific time to writing. It would be the only way to get it done. With three young kids in the house and all of their activities and the daily chores around the house, there was and is little quiet time around here. However, on Tuesday nights Debby goes to a yoga class once the kids are in bed. So I decided that every Tuesday would be my writing night and I stuck to it.

Come back tomorrow for Part II of our wonderful interview with Randy Robertson!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Call for Submissions from Young Writers

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times for Teens
101 Stories about the Hardest Parts of Being a Teenager

Chicken Soup for the Soul is currently accepting stories from teenagers and young adults for a new book about the tough times that some teens experience. This book will be a support and a companion for teenagers looking for comfort and inspiration while they overcome hardships of various kinds.

Please send only true stories and poems written in the first person of no more than 1,200 words. Stories should not have been previously published by Chicken Soup for the Soul or other major publications. These must be your personal stories -- things that happened to you or someone you were close to.

Here are some suggested topics (but you are welcome to think of many more):
  • Loss of a friend, family member, or beloved pet
  • Mental illness and suicide
  • Overcoming disability
  • Being teased or bullied
  • Drinking or using drugs and the consequences of those actions
  • Eating disorders and low self-esteem
  • Physical, sexual, or mental abuse
  • Academic struggles
  • Seeing or taking part in violence
  • Homosexuality and coming out
  • Teen promiscuity and pregnancy
  • Divorce and other problems with parents
If your story is chosen, you will be a published author and your bio will be printed in the book if you so choose. You will also receive a check for $200 and 10 free copies of your book, worth more than $100. You will retain the copyright for your story and you will retain the right to resell it.

TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY: go to http://chickensoup.com
Select the "Submit Your Story" link on the left tool bar and follow the directions.

DEADLINE IS JULY 31st. The book will be published in February 2012.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Winner of Ninth Glass Woman Prize!

I am THRILLED and super honored to share some exciting news with you: my short story "Woman, Running Late, in a Dress" won first place out of 622 entries in the Ninth Glass Woman Prize! WOO HOO!!

You can read my winning story here: http://www.fictionaut.com/stories/dallas-woodburn/woman-running-late-in-a-dress

The Glass Woman Prize is run by the amazing Beate Sigriddaughter, a wonderful writer and an inspiration to me and many others. She created the prize and funds it with her own money. This is what she says on her website about why she started The Glass Woman Prize: I want to help along the cause of women expressing themselves authentically and fearlessly and passionately. It has something to do with a contribution to justice and soul growing in the world. One of my ex-husbands once said that women don't support each other. I want to either change that or prove it wrong. This is my small gesture of changing the world.

Learn more about The Glass Woman Prize -- and enter your own work in the next round -- at http://www.sigriddaughter.com/GlassWomanPrizeGuidelines.htm. There is no entry fee, and the only requirements are that fiction or creative nonfiction be under 5,000 words and written by a woman.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview with Ninad Mahajan

Ninad Mahajan is a 12-year-old sixth grader who lives in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. His essay "The Fantastic Trip" is featured in the Write On! Books debut anthology, Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing, which is available on Amazon here. In addition to writing, Ninad likes to play football and cricket, swim, and create games like "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in PowerPoint. He has also been playing the piano for 6½ years. Read on for Ninad's thoughts and advice about writing, reading, the creative process, and more! 

Describe your piece or pieces that were published in Dancing with the Pen. How did you get your idea for the piece? Take us through your writing process.

My piece is called "The Fantastic Trip" and is about my trip to India in the summer of 2009. I got the idea when I realized that I could write about a wonderful memory. I wrote a long, 14-page rough draft, shortened it and revised/edited the piece, and then typed it up.

Have you been writing for a long time? What do you like about writing?

Yes. I actually was selected to read an essay about veterans of America in 4th grade. What I like about writing is that you can express what you’re thinking about and change it as you go along. You can’t change what you say out loud.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book?

It means so much to have my piece published in this book. It was great to get the news that I won this contest. We went out to eat that weekend. I was really happy to get the news, but I especially want to thank my mom and dad for motivating me.

Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams?

Be patient with your writing! Never give up if your writing is missing something. A good tip to use if you are stuck on what to write about is to list down all the important or interesting things you can think of in 2-5 minutes.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors?

I am an absolute die-hard fan of Harry Potter! I also like any realistic fiction books.

What inspires you?

It is mostly the support and motivation that I get from my family. Also, any books I read give me inspiration as well.

What are you working on now? What’s next for you?

I recently won 1st place in the VFW Patriot’s Pen contest for a post in my nearby area, and then got 3rd place in the district. I also just finished writing a poem for the Barnes & Noble "Favorite Teacher Contest." I look forward to participating in many more essay and poem contests.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I would like to thank Dallas and also let everyone know that Write On! For Literacy is a great project. Everyone should keep reading and writing as often as they can!

  • Order Dancing With The Pen on Amazon. (It rose to a #2 ranking on Amazon.com in the "literature anthologies" category in its first week of release!
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

To the Class of 2011: Follow Your Dreams, No Matter What!

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to students at Lillian Larsen Elementary School in San Miguel, California. My wonderful boyfriend was sweet enough to come along and pose as my "publicist" (as the students called him) and film part of my talk, which you can watch on YouTube via the link below.

Teacher Carolyn Loughridge sent me a very nice note afterwards, writing:

Thank you for taking time to share your passion with children who truly need it the most. After talking with the other teachers, the only way we can describe how our students reacted was magical. I have never seen so many students here take pride in what they have written. I sincerely hope you find time next school year to pay us a visit.

I'd love to visit your school, club or community group! Schedule a talk by emailing me at dallaswoodburn@aol.com. Read more testimonials here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Summer Beauty Giveaway!

I had a great time putting together a basket of lovely pampering supplies for one lucky winner's summer beauty bliss.

For your chance to win, all you have to do is:
  • Write a 5-star review of Dancing With The Pen or   3 a.m. and post it on Amazon.com. It doesn't have to be long -- even a couple sentences is great!
  • Then email your name, address, and phone number to me at dallaswoodburn@aol.com and you'll be entered in the contest.
A winner's name will be randomly chosen out of a hat on Sunday, August 7. 

On behalf of all the young writers featured in the book, thanks in advance to everyone who writes a review and helps spread the word about Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Interview with Korina Chilcoat

Korina Chilcoat is a 19-year-old full time college student from southwest Florida. In addition to writing, she also dabbles in the performing and fine arts, as well as fashion blogging and design in her spare time. Korina's poem "What Makes You Happy?" is featured in Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing. Read her guest post "A Young Writer's Journey to Success" here.

Describe your piece that was published in Dancing With The Pen. How did you get your idea for the piece? Take us through your writing process. 

My poem “What Makes You Happy?” basically was formulated from the idea of as we grow older our optimism fades and we forget the simple joys that made us happy as children. After I conceived that idea the words seemed to flow from there. That’s how most of my pieces start. I get a flash of an idea and I immediately have to put it to paper or it escapes me. So, usually I always carry around a notebook no matter where I go so if I suddenly get an idea I can write it down. I suffer from writer’s block when the ideas don’t come at all. But that’s rare, usually I can’t write the words down fast enough.

Have you been writing for a long time? What do you like about writing? 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember but I originally hated to write, probably because I wasn’t very good. But, as I learned how to write better I discovered that it was actually quite enjoyable and another way to express myself, other than artistically. I love being able to convey stories, information, as well as to debate, discuss, and analyze current social and cultural issues and topics. Now writing is my vice, I can’t live without it and sometimes it controls and dictates my life. I’ve been known to write ideas in ink on the back of my hand before. People call me crazy but I would rather be crazy than normal.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book? 

I was thrilled when I received news that I was going to be published in Dancing with the Pen. I know all too well the sting of rejection so it was not only an honor but a relief to be published, validating that I was doing the right thing by continuing to write. If you don’t get reaffirmation about your work, no matter what you do, it’s a struggle to continue because you question whether you have anything to offer the world. Is your work good enough? Should you keeping working at it or quit? All I have to say about that is don’t ever quit. If it’s your destiny to work for five years until you get your big break, contemplate whether you would be willing to wait and work that long. Then you will truly know that you’re doing the right thing.

Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams?

Never let a single person convince you of anything you don’t believe. If someone rejects you or tells you no keep going and working until you get what you want. The only way you can truly fail is if you stop working altogether.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors?

I absolutely love Jeanette Walls’ memoir The Glass Castle. I’m also a huge fan of the works The Catcher in the Rye, Wicked, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. One of my favorite authors is Gregory Maguire.

What inspires you? 

You inspire me, all of the different life stories of individuals all across the globe are such huge inspirations for stories, articles, poetry, and every other form of writing. I love getting to know people for that reason because everyone has a fascinating story, even if they don’t think so. Stories of love, loss, longing, and life in general. I’m also inspired by locations. Whenever I travel to someplace new, whether it’s local or international, my mind creates a story around the setting, whether it’s sitting in a city diner, getting inspired to write a story about a waiter turned underground rockstar, or strolling down a boulevard, picturing writing a poem about the cracked pavement beneath my feet.

What’s next for you? 

Currently, I’m working on several projects including a novel and a collection of poetry that I hope to complete within the next few months.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Yes, please check out my literary blog “Louder Than Words” at http://korinachilcoat.blogspot.com or contact by email at korinachilcoat@yahoo.com.

  • Order Dancing With The Pen on Amazon. (It rose to a #2 ranking on Amazon.com in the "literature anthologies" category in its first week of release!
  • Please take a few seconds to "like" our Amazon page!
  • And, if you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic! 
  • You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook and Twitter. We're now featured on Goodreads, too!
  • Discounted bulk orders are available at the Write On! website: www.writeonbooks.org

Monday, June 13, 2011

Guest Post by Korina Chilcoat: A Young Writer's Journey to Success

Today we're kicking off the summer Dancing With The Pen blog tour with this beautiful essay by Korina Chilcoat, one of our contributing young writers. Come back tomorrow for an interview with Korina. You can read Korina's poem "What Makes You Happy?" in Dancing With The Pen.

A Young Writer's Journey to Success
by Korina Chilcoat

We are artists. Yes, we use the title “writer” to describe what we do but, in fact, we are artists who paint pictures with words. As artists, there is a far different connection with our work than individuals who perform a typical 9 to 5 job. Our work is an extension of our souls, so when we face rejection, are criticized, or don’t have our work accepted it’s not like someone is simply judging the quality of our work. They are judging and evaluating everything we are and who we stand for. It feels like they’re not saying the work isn’t good enough; they’re saying we’re not good enough.

As a fellow artist, I know as well as anyone the heartache that follows after a painful rejection. Like any breakup, the aftermath, for me, is usually marked by several tears shed and a bantering rage against the imbeciles who didn’t find my submission up to par, followed by cookie dough binge eating.

However, somehow I manage to pick myself up and dust myself off and continue on after each fall. To quote a line from the song “Moving Too Fast” from one of my favorite Broadway musicals The Last Five Years, the protagonist Jamie, also a budding author, utters, “Things might get bumpy but some people analyze every detail. Some people stall when they can’t see the trail. Some people freeze out of fear that they’ll fail, but I keep rolling on. Some people can’t get success with their art. Some people never feel love in their heart. Some people can’t tell the two things apart, but I keep rolling on.”

My writing journey started three years ago. Previously, I had written casually for fun and leisure but I thought to myself, maybe I have something important to share with others where they can read the words I write and feel the same way about the things I’m so passionate about. So, I began to research writing contests online. Amidst my busy schedule I would somehow find time to pen thought-provoking essays, emotional poetry, and scandalous short stories. Contest after contest after contest, I would eagerly mail in my carefully crafted literary pieces, ensuring each word rang out clear and vividly on the page.

Unfortunately, editors and judges weren’t as eager. My collection of rejection letters grew into medium-sized heap shoved into a shoebox under my bed, out of sight. But this only made me determined to prove them wrong, that my work was worthy.

I soon doubled the amount of submissions I sent out, sending work to any publication house or contest which I was eligible. My work consisted on everything from the dancing pattern of honeybees to poetry about heart-broken, distant lovers. Still, I wasn’t getting the news I desired. My unbridled optimism began to fade with the passing days and increasing income of rejection letters and worst of all no news at all. I began to doubt myself. Was my work good enough? Why didn’t anybody see potential in what I was producing? Should I continue to create or choose a more sensible, rewarding hobby? My submissions slowed and eventually nearly came to a complete halt.

Then, one ordinary day, in one ordinary week, of an ordinary month, I logged into my email account, like I did several times a day, to find an email from a Dallas Woodburn. Dallas Woodburn? That name seemed familiar and I kept repeating it over and over in my head. I decided not to simply sit there and continue to guess like an imbecile so I clicked open the email. To my shock it was a writing contest I had entered several months back and I was thrilled to discover that I had placed honorable mention in this national contest for my poem!

This was the news I needed and had waited so long to hear. Two years spent sending submissions around the country and the world to finally have the gratification of finally knowing that I did something right. My stall ended and I went back into writing full force.

So now, as I recently celebrated my nineteenth birthday, I am proud to say that I have been published in the national youth magazine Teen Ink (which my article made the cover), in several national anthologies of writing (one of which I won first place in the nation and received a congratulatory letter from my state's Senator), and one of my poems is in the final round of submissions to be published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, hitting bookstores across the nation July 2011. Looking to the past is bittersweet, seeing that teenage girl furiously typing away at her computer, ignoring the rejection letters stuffed in a pile.

But this story isn’t just about me -- it’s about you, too. This is the message, the mantra, the manifesto of the wanna-be writer: failure isn’t fatal and those who fall are only failures if they stay sitting on the ground. You do not know which unsuccessful attempt is the last one right before your moment of glory, your big break, your time in the spotlight. So keep pressing forward, do what you do, and you just might find out that your dreams can come true.

Korina Chilcoat's poem "What Makes You Happy?" is featured in Dancing With The Pen: a collection of today's best youth writing, the debut anthology from Write On! Books. To contact Korina regarding writing inquires and speaking engagements you can email her at korinachilcoat@yahoo.com. To find out more about her, check out her literary blog “Louder Than Words” at http://korinachilcoat.blogspot.com

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Interview with Michael Tabman, author of "Midnight Sin"

Michael Tabman is a veteran law enforcement officer and FBI agent turned author. He is the author of the business book Walking the Corporate Beat and the new novel Midnight Sin. Peter Giuliano, a producer of Law and Order, raves: "Midnight Sin is as good as anything that has come before it. Once you start reading you will not be able to stop. My heart was pounding. This is a powerful story told by someone who has captured the feelings of all of us, no matter what side of the law you happen to be on." 

Michael was kind enough to stop by the blog today to tell us about his new book, his own personal writing journey, advice for young writers, and more!

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

Most of my adult life was spent in law enforcement -- as a cop, then a career FBI Agent. I never expected to find myself writing books.

Tell us about Midnight Sin. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

Midnight Sin tells the story of a young rookie cop who walks on to the midnight shift. He finds that being a cop changes everything he thought he knew about life. Busting drug dealer and street thugs while trying to catch a serial rapist is nowhere near as challenging as watching his back from his fellow cops. Midnight Sin is look at the cop psyche as well as the dark side of human nature. The motivation and inspiration are the true life events and characters I encountered during my career.

What have you learned through writing this book?

I have learned that life can take many unexpected twists and turns – just like a well written novel.

How did you get started writing?

I started writing immediately after retiring from the FBI. I had a lot of mental energy that needed to be channeled and writing seemed to be the perfect outlet.

What is your biggest advice for young people reaching for their dreams?

First, do not give up. I had tremendous difficulty getting through creative writing in high school.
Second, be open to honest critiques, but do not be discouraged by criticism.
Third, learn to recognize the difference between constructive critique and baseless criticism.

What are some of your favorite books?

Although I write novels, I tend to read non-fiction. My favorite books are of the social/psychology genre, such as Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which explores the nuances of human behavior. I incorporate those concepts into my writing.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Yes: find your own voice. Only you can be you.
# # #

Visit Michael's website to learn more about his books and to watch the trailer for Midnight Sin!

Follow Michael on Twitter here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview with Jennifer Gladen

Jennifer Gladen is a children’s author, mother of three and teacher who lives and writes in Pennsylvania. She has written several children’s books, stories and articles, and started her own Catholic e-zine titled My Light Magazine. When not writing, teaching or mothering, she enjoys singing in her local parish choir on Sundays.

It's a pleasure to have you on my blog today, Jennifer!

Do you consider yourself to be a born writer?

Yes! Even as a child, I could always be found writing something. I wrote stories and poems for my teachers. I wrote in my journal every day. In short, it’s always been a part of my life. Growing up, I was a quiet little girl. Writing was my way of communicating with the world.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I sure did! It wasn’t until I took a few courses at the Institute of Children’s Literature that I realized this was something I really could do. I’m grateful that I chose to follow my dream. If I didn’t, I’d be missing out on the greatest career in the world!

Tell us about your children's books.

My first children’s book, A Star in the Night, was released September 30, 2010. It is a Christmas themed story about a boy, David, going home on Christmas Eve. David, accompanied by a shimmering star, encounters three experiences, which change his view of Christmas forever.

My second book, Teresa’s Shadow, was released October 2010. This is a fun bedtime story about Teresa’s furry visitor. Every child once in a while expresses a fear at bedtime. Some fear the dark. Some fear the possibilities of monsters. Some fear both! Teresa’s Shadow takes you through a little girl’s experience facing these fears.

How has being a teacher helped you with your writing career? 

Teaching helped me with my writing in many ways. It's the best research a writer could have. I interacted with children every day. I saw what problems they were dealing with, how they reacted to it, what was important to them. Also, I have worked as an after school leader at the Free Library of Philadelphia. There, I helped students with homework and designed a craft once a week. That has helped me get to know children of all age levels. Currently I work with infants.

My educational training helps me keep my characters real for fiction. I'm more in tune with what situations would apply to certain ages. I've learned how to "make learning fun," which I hope carries over in my nonfiction pieces.

How do you find time for your writing?

When I was home during the day I spent the time the kids were ni school doing my writing. I recently went back to work full time, so it’s a bit more challenging finding the time to write and to tend to the magazine (My Light Magazine). I find myself utilizing time after dinner and on weekends for writing.
However, I try not to waste any moments. Ideas sneak up on me when I'm walking and driving, so I started carrying around a mini notebook.

When my husband has off from work, he knows he has full supervision of the kids. These are my "power writing" days. I try to get as much done as possible because it's less likely I'll be interrupted.

What are you working on now?

My current project is a picture book about a little girl, Olivia, who needs a liver transplant and her brave journey to get it. While many children are wondering if they’ll learn to ride a bike, Olivia is wondering when that life-saving transplant will happen. We see the struggles and complex feelings in which she deals with daily.

This book was inspired by my own daughter who needed a liver transplant. When I looked for good books to read to her, I saw nothing which could help a child of her age cope with this situation. “There should be a book about this,” I complained to my husband. Voila—Olivia was born.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

My advice to aspiring writers is to stick with it. Be persistent in your dream. Don’t give up in the face of rejections. Just pick up your manuscripts, dust it off, revise (yes – for the umpteenth time) and send it out elsewhere. This is your dream and your goal. The only one who can assure your success is you.

Contact Jennifer:

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Blogging Awards in One Week!

Exciting news! I have been given two wonderful awards for this blog!

The first is the Stylish Blogger Award. Thank you so much to Karen Cioffi for honoring my blog with this award. If you haven't checked out Karen's blog before, do so now -- you're in for a treat!

Part of the gift of this award is that I get to pass it along to seven others. There are so many wonderfully stylish blogs out there that it was hard to narrow it down to only seven! But here they are, in no particular order -- my picks for the Stylish Blogger Award:

The second award I received this week is the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award, from my lovely writing buddy and long-time Write On! supporter Virginia Grenier. Virginia runs a sweet and insightful blog "The Writing Mama" at http://thewritingmama.blogspot.com. All writers, not only moms, can benefit from adding Virginia's blog to their favorites list.

Here are the seven blogs I am delighted to pass along the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award to (again, in no particular order):

The final requirement of both awards is to list seven things that you may not know about me. Here they are:
  • I was born three months prematurely, and weighed just two pounds, six ounces at birth.
  • My favorite writing spot is Simone's Cafe in my hometown of Ventura, along with a chai tea latte and a maple walnut scone. 
  • When I was sixteen, my mom and I hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States. 
  • My guilty pleasure TV show is Degrassi: The Next Generation.
  • I met my amazing boyfriend when we both taught a writing class for senior citizens in Lafayette, Indiana.
  • I love indie music! Some of my favorite artists are Amber Rubarth, Joey Ryan, Skyler Stonestreet, and The 88.
  • I'm named after my grandfather, whose middle name is Dallas.
That's it for now! Thank you again Karen and Virginia for the honors!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Interview with Carol Roth, author of "The Entrepreneur Equation"

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

I’ve spent 16 years advising businesses. Some of my notable accomplishments include:
  • Helping raise over $1 billion in capital for my clients;
  • Completing over $750 million in M&A transactions;
  • Secure high-profile licensing and partnership deals for my clients with companies like Disney, Paramount and EMI Music;
  • Creating 7-figure brand loyalty programs;
  • Appearing regularly in media, including on Fox News, MSNBC, Fox Business, WGN TV Chicago and more;
  • Having my blog acknowledged as one of the Top 10 small business blogs online;
  • And now, becoming a published author!
I’m known for my tough love approach -- I will tell you if you are being foolish and then give you a hug afterwards -- truly combining “tough” and “love.”

I also love to laugh and am a die-hard sports fan (especially of NFL football).

Tell us about your new book. What was your inspiration/motivation behind this book?

My book, The Entrepreneur Equation, came out of the frustration at the lack of realistic business advice available to new and existing entrepreneurs. Most books give you 7 steps to success and promise if you follow them, you will have the life of your dreams. I think that’s ridiculous, because we all have different definitions of success—not to mention different goals and circumstances. So, how could one path fit all? It can’t.

That’s why I wanted to create a framework to help aspiring and existing business owners do more planning, make better risk and reward tradeoffs and stack the odds of success in their favor, based on their own circumstances and objectives.

What have you learned through writing this book?

The process of launching a book is very similar to the process of launching a business. It’s one thing to have an idea, but another thing to launch it and then make it successful.

Deciding to start a business is different than deciding to start a successful business. The plans to open one store vs. a goal of creating a massive nationwide retail chain vary significantly. It is hard to know what steps to take if you don’t know your end goal.

The same goes for your book. What’s your end game? Are you using it as a calling card to get more clients? Are you seeking a label of achievement (like “best seller status”) for your brand? Are you hoping to make gobs of money from it or are you using it to spread a message (by the way, if your goal is make gobs of money, you might want to chat with a few industry professionals first)? These goals will significantly impact the planning and strategy of not only your manuscript, but the launch and marketing of your book.

And while you are at it, you might as well set the biggest goal that you can. Nothing happens if you don’t achieve your stretch goal, but as Wayne Gretzky says, “You miss 100% of shots that you don't take!”

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always been encouraged to write and have always liked to write. I remember writing as a child and then continuing through school. Even when I worked for a major investment bank, one of my favorite tasks was writing the materials we used to raise money or sell companies.

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you draw illustrations?

I tend to write prolifically in chunks of time. I will spend hours and do nothing but write, because when I get in the flow, I can go very quickly. I sketch out some ideas or bullets often on paper and then type the content as I write it in full. This has changed over the last ten years -- I used to have to hand write it, now I can barely hand write it.

I do not draw very well, but I did do the rough illustrations for my book on a computer and then a professional made them “pretty.”

How do you get ideas for what you write?

I usually am inspired by solving a problem. Most of what I write is to solve a problem -- either for others, or sometimes for myself.

With my book, I was truly frustrated at the lack of success for entrepreneurs and so I started writing-- a few months later I had 80,000 words and realized it was a book.

I also tend to pay attention to trends, and when I see the same issues popping up over and over, it often inspires me. Now that I am blogging regularly, I get inspirations almost everywhere.

What is your biggest advice for young people, especially young women, reaching for their dreams?

Set a goal -- and a big one at that! A goal is different than a wish. A goal is specific, measurable and has a plan and an intention. You can’t figure out a path to get somewhere if you don’t know where it is that you are going.

The times in my life when I have been most successful is when I turned dreams into goals. Since time is so fleeting, you want to make sure you are pursuing goals that have a big enough payday -- both financially and from a quality of life standpoint, so don’t limit yourself.

And particularly for women, don’t worry about being “nice” or liked as much as being authentic and respected. To do something interesting, you are going to inevitably make some people uncomfortable- that’s usually when you know that you are on the right track. This is very counter to what girls are typically taught.

What are some of your favorite books?

Probably my two favorite books are Pride & Prejudice and Atlas Shrugged, the latter being the most impactful book I have ever read. The funny part is that the first 100 or so pages were so grueling, I didn’t want to continue; but I was encouraged to, and boy, did it pay off.

I also think the Harry Potter series was one of the most entertaining I have read. As far as business books, outside of the fiction of Atlas Shrugged, I also am a fan of the E-Myth Revisited and Made to Stick.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Always keep in mind that there is an actual cost and an opportunity cost for the choices you make. When you do something with your time, money and/or effort, that is time, money and effort that can’t be spent elsewhere, so choose wisely and when you do, dedicate yourself to making whatever you want happen.

Also, you can do whatever you want that will make you happy. Don’t let other people’s narrow mindedness limit you.


Friday, June 3, 2011

Guest Post by Aggie Villanueva: Avoid Passive Writing!

Our friend Aggie Villanueva was kind enough to share this great video post about avoiding passive writing. Enjoy!

About Aggie: A published author at Thomas Nelson before she was 30, Aggie Villanueva published Chase the Wind, and Rightfully Mine, both Thomas Nelson 1980s, and is now a multiple fiction & nonfiction Amazon/Kindle category bestseller, also making Top Rated list in three categories for her how-to The Rewritten Word. Aggie founded Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services July 2010 and 6 months later was voted #2 at Predators & Editors in the Promotion category. Among other sites, she teaches author promotion at BookBuzzr Blog, Book Marketing Technoligies Center Webinars, Promotion a la Carte Blog and Promotion a la Carte Radio. Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. Contact Villanueva at aggie@promotionalacarte.com.