Category: children’s poetry & fiction

Jul 18

The Publish Driven Life


An impromptu book signing at a friend's baby shower. Yes, I always keep copies in my car!

“It’s not about you.” That’s the memorable first sentence of Rick Warren’s spiritual bestseller, The Purpose Drive Life. It’s a message worth repurposing for those of us who would like to call ourselves writers but still aren’t sure we’ve got what it takes.

The foundation for Julia Cameron’s groundbreaking The Artist’s Way  is the same; it’s not about us or what we, from aspiring to accomplished artists, do or don’t do. Rather, it’s about who our all-powerful creator, the Great Artist, shaped us to be. Cameron contends that creating is our gift back to God. It’s a liberating mindset, this powerful extraction of one’s ego from one’s art.

So then all that remains to be vanquished is our fear. At every turn and dark alley, shooting off even the most scenic streets, it lurks in the shadows telling us we’re not good enough, attacking pieces of us that we are working so hard to put together. With its intended fatal blow, fear tries to convince us that what we want to create is too difficult. It’s too hardour fear tells us. I just can’t do it. Or there’s the even more insidious lie, I just can’t do it now.

My personal procrastination, however, recently received a grande battement in the derrière. After hurdling over past creative blocks and working hard to complete two YA novels in less than a year, my fellow creative Chick Vivi Barnes–a.k.a. ticklingthemuse–landed an awesome literary agent! I was so inspired by Vivi’s efforts and success I even wrote her a victory theme song.

Suddenly the reality had hit really close to home: hard work is really all that’s standing between me and finishing the novel I’ve been chasing for so long. Hard work is the only wind that can blow the sails of any story. So I enrolled in a Writer’s Digest University online workshop, Build Your Novel Scene by Scene. And it starts tomorrow!

This exciting 90-day intensive course is exactly what I need. I’ve always worked better with the urgency of deadlines, the feedback of a teacher and the overall structure of a school-like setting. For starters, it will force me to outline the entire book in detail before being “allowed” to write. The latter is my favorite part, but in neglecting the former I’ve floundered at sea, drifting this way and that.

There is NOTHING more rewarding than seeing your story in the hands of a reader!

My final destination is indeed PUBLICATION, that is, getting my story into the hands of readers. The once intimidating and paralyzing prospects of “breaking into the publishing world” are changing dramatically in this modern electronic age. Fear of not getting published is now invalid. Whether in physical bookstores or only in online bookstores and e-reader apps, the best stories ultimately win. My own positive self-publishing experience with Lulu.com–getting my first children’s book out there— has shown me that the only barriers left to becoming a writer live in the mind.

So my immediate goal and focus for the next 90 days is to FINISH. Whether or not I secure a traditional literary agent and publisher once I arrive at my intended port is (almost) a moot point. It would be great, of course, but if I finish this story in which I believe so intensely, writing it to the best of my ability, then I’ve already acquired the real prize.


Dec 29

Book on a Hook

“Addie and Ollie” Now Available as Paperback or eBook

What’s your book hook of choice? Whatever your preferred portal, you can now find Addie and her purple octopus there, ready to soothe your big dreamers to sleep.

Amazon – printed

Barnes & Noble – printed or eBook for Nook (or any other EPUB reader, like iPad)

Lulu – printed or eBook for any EPUB reader

Apple – if you have an iPad, you can simply search within the free iBookstore app.


Nov 29

Meet the Real Addie

My niece Addie, "with blue eyes like the sea, yellow hair like the sun."

A friend who recently purchased the book told me how intrigued her son was that the story was inspired by a real person. In fact, this friend showed a picture of my niece I had posted on Facebook. Since this so interested my friend’s son, I thought other kids and their parents might enjoy the story behind the story, too.

Addie Marie is my first of now three nieces. Two years ago, when Addie was just three, my sister and her family had moved to Hong Kong. Wanting to give Addie something extra special to help soothe her transition to her new surroundings, I wrote her a much longer rhymed story about “Addie and Ellie” as a Christmas present.

For this first Addie story, I tapped my artistic daughter–eight years old at the time–to draw the pictures, right down to the Gymboree polka-dotted nightgown I had picked out for Addie. I even convinced my mom to sew a stuffed elephant toy from a pattern and fabrics I picked to match.

The REAL Addie is everything I say of her character: clever, fun-loving, brave, helpful, considerate. When we’ve Skyped over the past year, she’s enjoyed seeing the development of Bob Ostrom‘s colorful illustrations for Addie and Ollie. While I’m currently working on what I’m calling a Dream-Lib story to post soon, I’m hoping to adapt the original story in the future into one or more books in what I hope can become a series.

This year’s Christmas gift to my sister and nieces includes a printed copy of Addie and Ollie. Like my well-traveled niece, now living in South Korea, it seems that Addie the character has come a long way, too.



Nov 28

Big Values on Little Verses

So evidently repetitive, pushy salesperson is part of the whole self-published author job description. Yes, I feel like I’m constantly bombarding my friends and the online world at large with messages to buy, buy, BUY the book! I really just want to see my baby go out into the world and fulfill its purpose of being enjoyed by children everywhere. (Sounds like I’m entering a Miss America children’s writer’s contest, huh?)

Nevertheless, here’s the scoop. Besides a 15% discount on Addie and Ollie going on right now, you can plug in one of the following Lulu.com codes to get even more savings.

TODAY ONLY! (insert car-ad starburst here) – additional 35% on every book at Lulu.com, including mine. Code: CYBERMONDAY305

THROUGH DECEMBER 14th – additional 25%. Code: BUYMYBOOK305

I don’t make this stuff up, just relay it for those who are or might be interested in giving the special child(ren) in their lives a special gift this holiday season.


Nov 27

Create-Your-Own Children’s Story Coming Soon!

"The Nutcracker", my original inspiration for a fresh story of a child's dreams brought to life by a beloved, magical toy. Here, my daughter Cassidy as a party girl in Orlando Ballet's 2010 production.

The Addie and Ollie  adventure will soon continue with your own little dreamer and their favorite toy. For a preview of the inspiration behind my newest rhymed story in progress, check out this amazing real video: Crab riding a jellyfish. My upcoming “Dream-Lib” will let parents and kids work together to create their own personalized underwater bedtime story!












Nov 20

The Price of Self-Publishing

Signing the first copies for my supportive friends and family.

In 21 days I’ve sold 21 copies of Addie and Ollie. Despite this “initial flurry”–thanks to my mom and closest friends–I’m faced with the frustrating reality of self-publishing: on-demand printing is just much more expensive compared with a mass run by a traditional publisher.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Lulu.com. Without their expertise and resources, I wouldn’t have published anything! And I’m thrilled that through them the book will soon be available on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles. So if a modern Lord Tennyson might have asked, “Is it better to have self-published and struggled than to never have published at all?” I would answer resoundingly, YES!

But even the amazing Lulus can’t change the financial facts. The cost to print books as they are ordered is high. While I could commission my own print run to reduce the cost per book significantly (which I’ve had estimated), I would have no way to get those copies into the distribution channels I enjoy through Lulu. So even if I could easily afford an upfront investment to print books locally, I would really have no way to effectively distribute hundreds or thousands of copies other than trying to sell them directly, which would be difficult on any scale because it would run counter to “the system”.

So global distribution is the real challenge–and perhaps Lulu’s greatest strength. From schools to bookstores, “the system” works so well because of recognized and efficient channels. While the price may prove too prohibitive to compete with the Scholastic and Random House children’s books of the world, Addie and Ollie will still be available for order at a Barnes & Noble store or online through them or Amazon, in addition to Lulu. But as throughout this journey of self-publishing, every challenge is countered with an equal opportunity (see Finding the SELF in Self-Publishing).

Here's how the "Addie and Ollie" eBook version looks on my iPhone!

Once again, self-publishing fosters autonomy and creative problem-solving. So for those who might face similar challenges, I continue to share. Here are my early post-publishing learnings and ideas:

  • Make It Personal – This is a big one for me. Honestly, as a budget-conscious mom, I would never pay $15.95 for a 28-page children’s paperback book without a compelling reason. Hence I feel guilty when my friends do. I’ve very sensitive about not “profiting” from my friends, yet I know that I would myself be happy to buy a book written by a friend if they signed it, to give as gifts. So while the price is what it is, I can at least add value in personalization. I’ve signed almost every one of those 21 books so far (and intend to get the rest when I next go to S. Florida). And of those, most have been for gifts to others from the purchasers, for whom I’ve been thrilled to write a message to surprise a child this Christmas.
  • Share Sales – I’ll continue to pass along special Lulu promotions as I learn of them. I’m waiting until the next 20% off sale to buy my own next bulk copies, too.
  • Publish as eBook – Among their many services, Lulu makes publishing and distributing an eBook easy. Without costly ink and paper as hard cost, this is a much more economical option for readers, even readers around the world whom I’ve never met. While I have never yet read an eBook to my own kids, I hope to in the near future. (Hint, hint, Santa: a color Nook or iPad would be great). My children’s bookshelves are maxed out for space, and I love the neatness and convenience of always having all your books with you in a sleek, well-organized portal. I horrified an acquaintance at a party last night by suggesting that printed books might become more of “collectors’ items” in the future, sort of like 45’s now in a world of electronic music. Why buy when you can i?
  • Find a Sponsor – If athletes can do it, why not those of us wanting to compete with our literary muscles? If I had a sponsor that could also distribute a print run of say 1,000 books to reduce my cost for smaller events, that would be great. For me, I think I’ll start with the vitamin company that sponsored the contest I won for this book. If they say no, maybe some local Orlando resorts might be willing to fund a modest run, in return for weekly kids’ club reading/signing events. Universe, are you listening? 🙂
  • Pray for an Agent – While I remain grateful to Lulu for this entry into the world of publishing, I’m gaining a deeper appreciation of the key role an agent plays in selling your book/yourself to publishers. They’re evidently an essential element in “the system” which works so well–if you’re in it. So before the turkey leftovers are gone, I will be reaching out to children’s book agents for the first time. No doubt, there will be more rejection involved, but hey, what do I have to lose?





Sep 28

Finding the SELF in Self-Publishing

Tonight, as I emailed final approval for “Addie and Ollie” to Lulu.com, I thought I’d share some of the wonder, and irony, I’ve discovered in my self-publishing voyage.

First, if you follow my shared creativity blog, 4 Chicks and a Muse, you’ll know that the other Chicks and I continue to be very inspired by Julia Cameron. I only recently learned, however, that this bestselling author of the groundbreaking Artist’s Way series of books has always herself self-published. She vows it’s the only way she’ll ever go.

The truth is, I always thought of self-publishing as the easy way out. You know, those who can’t get published, self-publish. I mean, anyone with enough cash on hand to buy a knock-off laptop can publish their own book. Where’s the honor in that? How can you call yourself a REAL author if you publish yourself, right? Well, Julia certainly proves those assumptions wrong.

But for me, the real answer came some months back. Throughout this journey, my primary contact at Lulu.com has been a friendly and patient gentleman by the name of Gannon H. No, I’m not reserving his last name for privacy; that’s how his emails come. It’s all very efficient, and yet mysterious.

Anyway, after Gannon H. forwarded me a Lulu editor’s comments last spring, I was completely lost. He (or she) had said kind things in the general remarks. But when it came to specific feedback, I panicked.

It’s not like there were a lot of remarks, or that they were drastic. Nevertheless, I pored over the dozen or so relatively minor suggestions for days, maybe weeks. I’m sure that in between I worked very hard to avoid looking at the document at all.

Ultimately, I came to understand that the thinking and purpose behind each remark was very useful. However, I was torn because I didn’t necessarily agree with the exact words with which to accomplish each objective.

Mostly, this had to do with my rhyme scheme. I’m pretty picky about rhyme and rhythm. As a mom, I know I most enjoy re-reading books to my kids that are easy to speak. Dr. Seuss couplets roll off the tongue like happy little musical refrains. You feel where accents should be, even if there were no punctuation at all. I think children understand the music of books before they understand their meaning.

Thus entrenched in this dilemma, I suggested to GH that I speak with said mystery editor directly. If he (or she) knew my reasoning, perhaps they would approve of another solution. My contact informed me that this was not part of the process. What he told me next was nothing less than an abomination to this lifelong people-pleaser.

“It’s up to you,” he explained earnestly. “It’s your book, so it’s whatever YOU want.”

This was not acceptable. I had to get off the phone. How could I work under these conditions? (Diva hair flip)

I needed direction. I needed approval. I needed someone else to tell me what was best!

Gannon was, of course, right. Pondering his simple statement of the facts, I realized the full value of the gift I had been given to be able to self-publish first, if not always. It would force me, at least for a moment, to stop obsessing about what other people thought about what I wrote. I had to trust my voice, and my decisions. I had to approve of my words. Worse yet, I had to approve of myself.

It’s a lesson I don’t claim to have mastered but one I had to act on–or else. If I didn’t, the book wouldn’t get published. It was that simple.

I did (eventually) make those tough decisions. Tonight I made the last of them when I told Gannon H.–and Tracey J. S.–that the book was good to be printed. It was I who gave final approval, and it felt frightening/foreign/wonderful/empowering.

I can only hope this is the beginning of a trend.

And as you forward your own creative work–from writing, dancing or sewing to painting, singing or redecorating the living room–feel free to learn from my mistakes.

Seek out good advice wherever  you can, but not approval. You know what feels right. Now go with it!


Jun 18

Cover Girl

Maybe you can’t judge a book by its cover, but with children’s books at least, it certainly does give an idea of what’s inside. This week I saw a first look at the cover layout for “Addie and Ollie” that was sent over by the friendly self-publishing elves at Lulu.com.

How excited was I to see my characters and Bob Ostrom’s fun illustrations make their cover debut? Well, kids, this is called a rhetorical question, one to which you and I both already know the answer: I was thrilled!

If you’re wondering about the white rectangle on the back, as I was at first, that’s for the ISBN number and bar code allowing the book to be made for sale on Amazon.com and bookstores I can convince to carry it. The magic number was emailed to me last week. ISBN#: 978-1-257-82101-3. It’s my new favorite number.

I couldn’t resist, however, one nostalgic glimpse back. As you can see from this computer-generated cover layout I originally created, Addie and her toy octopus have journeyed a long way since winning the Nature Made Sleep Bedtime Stories contest. I can’t wait to see where the little girl with big dreams will go next.