VS: Donna, thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, we have worked together in the past at Stories for Children Publishing, however, I hear you have a picture storybook coming out this year and possibly another book in a year or two. Since working with Stories for Children Publishing and its many divisions, you seem to be even busier than before. What is it like being a writing parent with kids still in the house?
Donna: Balance, balance, and some more balance. To find it at times with (as many fellow writers) the responsibilities of wife, mother, daughter, friend and my work as a virtual assistant can be quite daunting at times. Even though summer vacation is in full swing I find it essential to rise at least two hours before my children, so I can get my exercise, shower, and writing in. By the time the girls rise, I’m all set to have breakfast with them and then I’m ready to switch gears to my virtual assistant position with International Business Leaders Forum. This way I can remain much more focused on my VA work when I get my writing session in first. Oh and yes, this isn’t the army, so there are times my schedule gets thrown out of whack depending on what the day throws me (i.e., basketball camp and F.I.T. camp car pools).
VS: Wow, Donna sounds like you have system down to help keep those busy days manageable. I think I will have to try the getting up a couple of hours before my kids once I get a better night’s sleep with an older baby in the house. Still have a few sleepless nights if you know what I mean. Now I know your girls are older like my son, if you do not mind, can you share how many children do you have and what ages?
Donna: Nicole – 15 (she’s the fashion designer/artist) and Hayley – 12 (she’s the basketball player and fanatic)
VS: I did not know Nicole was into fashion. I would love to answer any questions you or she has about the business, being an ex-buyer of some major companies. Okay, back to the business of writing. LOL. I know this business can be tough. Do you find at times that you just want to throw in the towel?
Donna: Ah, yes. Virginia, I know you can relate to this. In the winter, I had the swine flu and it threw me for a loop. The weeks of body aches and exhaustion put me in a tailspin, both physically and mentally. Not having much energy, I did the bare necessities of my writing and felt I was losing ground rapidly. Until the day I had a major melt down (not unlike a 3 year old not getting their way) and sobbed to my husband. While my husband is a man of few words, he said stop being superwoman, the girls and I are handling everything around the house, your job right now is to get well. He banned me from my computer (shhh, don’t tell him I snuck in email check-ins) and writing, so I could solely focus on getting well. And you know what, he was right. It took me several more months to get back in a real groove and when I look back on it . . . I’m glad I listened.
VS: Yes, I can relate all too well. I think we were both sick with that darn flu around the same time almost. I’m we both recovered from it. Donna, besides writing you also do book reviews and media marketing. Can you tell us a little bit about the hats you wear and how you work these other activities into your family and writing life?
Donna: Early on, I would select to my liking what books to review and now authors seek me out for reviews, which I find exciting. Many of my book reviews are published at the National Writing for Children Center and I also post on B&N, Amazon, and my blog. Many times I publish my reviews in my bi-monthly newsletter, Write What Inspires You! Newsletter. For more information on book reviews visit: http://donnamcdine.com/bookreviews.html.
As for media marketing, I gained my experience through trial and error to publicize my own writing career and then as Marketing Manager at Stories for Children Magazine; where I found a niche for writing media releases. I offer a media release writing and posting service, Dynamic Media Release Services, which frees up valuable time for an author to write. For more information visit: http://donnamcdine.com/dynamicmediareleases.com.
I blend these two services into my weekly writing/marketing schedule.
VS: Before I ask my next question, I have to toot your horn about how great you are at marketing. Donna, you are one of the best people I’ve worked with on marketing. Anyone would be crazy not to have you help them out with their marketing. Okay now, you seem to mostly write children’s books, stories, and articles. Would you say your children have inspired any plot lines, characters, or ideas?
Donna: My children, nieces, and nephews have definitely inspired me. My recent Guardian Angel Publishing contract for The Hockey Agony comes directly from the sport team stories each have shared with me or I witnessed throughout the years.
VS: I have also felt children are the best places to seek ideas and it sounds like you have many to help inspire you. Donna, I would love it if you would share with us about your current children’s book due out this fall, The Golden Pathway.
Donna: Actually, The Golden Pathway is scheduled to be released August 2010. History has always fascinated me and when I had the chance to outline a book idea, for my last ICL assignment, the Underground Railroad immediately came to mind.
Synopsis: Be transported through time to the Underground Railroad, where high-pitched screams echo each night. David’s cruel Pa always chooses the same victim. Despite the circumstances during slavery, David uncovers the courage to defy his Pa. Raised in a hostile environment where abuse occurs daily, David attempts to break the mold and befriends the slave, Jenkins, owned by his Pa. Fighting against extraordinary times and beliefs, David leads Jenkins to freedom with no regard for his own safety and possible consequences dealt out by his Pa.
VS: Wow, what a great storyline to help children understand what The Underground was like and to live in those hard times. Donna, I’ve been lucky to read a lot of your writing over the years and I feel you are very talented. However, I always wonder what writers think of themselves. Do you consider yourself a born writer?
Donna: When I was a child, I enjoyed watching the television program, Lou Grant with my dad, and became mesmerized on how a reporter put a story together and I dreamed of becoming a reporter one day. For some reason or another, I did not follow this early dream and worked in administration for several Fortune 500 companies for many years. Not until I came across the Institute of Children’s Literature aptitude test in 2006 did my dream of becoming a writer reawaken.
VS: I have found more and more most writers didn’t start down this road at first. Funny how we fall into from such diverse backgrounds, but I can see why you are so good a marketing now. Working at several Fortune 500 companies is a great way to learn the ropes of what works and what doesn’t. Since you do a lot with media marketing, what type of book promotion are you planning for your book? Any special strategies you’d like to share?
Donna: I am scheduled for a two-month virtual book tour coordinated by Pump Up Your Book Promotion for September and October 2010, and I plan on coordinating my own virtual book tour in January and February 2011 in celebration of Black History Month.
I am scheduled to appear:
August 28th: On an author’s panel at the Harry Bennett Library in Stamford, CT (coordinated by the SCBWI Writers of Lower Fairfield and Children’s Author, Lori Calabrese). I’ll be appearing with fellow members of Indie-Debut 2010 group created by Amy Allgeyer Cook.
September 17th and 18th: St. Louis, MO – Lynda Burch, publisher – Guardian Angel Publishing is coordinating several author and illustrator events. The specific events are in the process of being planned and fine-tuned.
VS: Sounds like you have a lot of work ahead of you. Please keep me informed of your tour dates, I would love to come to some of them. Now Donna, can you share a little about your other book you have in contract? Do you have any other books you’re working on?
Donna: The Hockey Agony – Synopsis: Peer Pressure and Honesty many times go hand-in-hand. What is Larry to do when his teammate asks him to cheat when he is given the responsibility to run the clock during the big hockey game? Outwardly, it may seem he will follow suit, but his conscious tells him otherwise at the moment of truth.
I’m also working on a middle grade historical fiction manuscript entitled, Images of the Past. Synopsis: Two young girls separated by 200 years, experience similar traumas of unspoken abuse. The long ago occupants find the strength to fight against negative forces with negative results. Will the current day occupants have the same outcome? Images of the Past takes you on a unique journey across time as each attempt to break free from the shared experiences which bind them.
VS: Both books sound very interesting. I hope to chat with you again when they are close to coming out. I’ll also have to put them on my buy list along with your debut book, The Golden Pathway. All right, Donna, I know you’re a family person from many conversations we’ve had over the years. What tips can you share with us about how you share your love of reading and writing with your children?
Donna: From the time my girls were born, we always read to them. We also make sure to this day, they see us reading. As for my writing, I discuss my plot lines with them. Their frank input always astounds me. There is definitely no filter in their opinions.
VS: I know what you mean about teenage opinions. I get the same thing from my son. Donna, you are also really active with writing groups. Do you find being so active has greatly helped you as a writer and even as a mom?
Donna: The constant networking solves the problem of becoming too isolated. As a mom it is essential for me to be connected to others, it makes me feel whole.
VS: I hear you. I really miss Stories for Children, not only because it was fun to do, but because of the constant chatter with you and the rest of the staff. You can only have so much of a conversation with a baby and five year old. LOL. Well Donna, we’ve made it to the end of the interview. Before we go, is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Donna: Follow your writing dream. An important job we have as mothers is to show our children we are human, have dreams of our own, and are capable of achieving anything.
VS: Donna, thank you for taking the time to share with my readers and me about being a writing mama. It has been a real treat to chat with you outside of SFC and the social sites.
To learn more about Donna McDine visit her website at http://www.donnamcdine.com if you sign the guestbook, you’ll receive a FREE e-Book Write What Inspires You: Author Interviews. You can also follow Donna at her blog http://www.donna-mcdine.blogspot.com and http://www.thegoldenpathway.blogspot.com