Karen Cioffi is an advocate of education, reading, and the environment. She loves how reading can spark a child’s imagination and bring him or her to new worlds and on amazing adventures.
Along with writing children’s books, Karen is a ghostwriter and freelance writer, and has several nonfiction books on writing and book marketing. She has lived in New York City all her life, and two of her favorite sayings are:
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” American proverb
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” M. Ghandi
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Karen. To start things off, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?
Karen: My family life keeps interrupting my writing life. J Obviously, family obligations and responsibilities must come first. And, with MS, it’s not always easy keeping up with everything. When I get overwhelmed, I tell myself the only writing obligation that I have to meet on a timely basis is my work related writing – it helps pay the bills. And, of course, editing work that is time sensitive. Telling myself this seems to ease the pressure.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Karen: As with most writers/authors, I started at a young age. I took a long break when my children were young and when I attended college and then went into accounting, but happily got back to it.
VS: What inspired you to write?
Karen: I’m not sure what inspired me to write – it was just a feeling of wanting to write. Now that I’m older, it’s inspiring to know an author can enlighten, bring entertainment, knowledge, encouragement, excitement, suspense, humor, and other things to readers. For writing children’s books it’s especially inspiring to know you can help mold a life, you can broaden a child’s mind, bring a child to new worlds and adventures, spark excitement – it’s just a thrill.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Karen: My days vary a lot, so I don’t really have a typical writing day. I do write or do writing related work five days a week. I do most of my business ghostwriting on the weekend.
VS: Would you say your family is supportive of your writing?
Karen: My husband is very supportive of my writing. My children are supportive, but thought it was funny at first. Now, I think they’re finally realizing I’m a writer. They’re very impressed with Walking Through Walls.
Unless you’re in the writing world, it’s hard to understand what’s involved. The time involved in writing, marketing, researching, learning – it’s never ending.
VS: What was the first thing you ever had published?
Karen: My first book, Day’s End Lullaby, is a children’s bedtime picture book. The lyrical and rhyming text has a rhythmic flow that helps sooth a baby or young child. And, the parent can read or sing to a child – the sheet music to the lullaby is included in the back of the book.
More information, including a singing video review is available at:
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book, Walking Through Walls?
Karen: Walking Through Walls is published through 4RV Publishing, was just released this summer, and is a children’s middle-grade fantasy adventure. The story is about Wang, a twelve-year-old boy who longs to be rich and powerful. He studies the legend of the Eternals, a group of mystics known for their amazing magical feats. Certain they are real he journeys to the Loa Mountain and begins an apprenticeship with the Master Eternal. Lacking the patience and moral fiber needed for the long and arduous undertaking, Wang decides to leave. But first, he persuades the Master to teach him one magic formula – walking through walls.
More information, including reviews, illustration, and a book trailer is available at:
VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Karen: I like the writing itself, creating a story or article and bringing it into existence. I also like the research, learning new things. With Walking Through Walls, I learned about the 16th century Chinese culture and about the origins of the Chinese dragon. When I do business or health articles, I learn about the topic. I love learning.
VS: What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing?
Karen: Keeping focused and keeping in alignment with my writing goals is probably the most difficult part of writing. Second to that would be the ongoing marketing and learning needed to keep afloat in the writing/marketing world.
It’s not enough to just write a book, you need to market that book. This means learning the book marketing ropes, and keeping up with new marketing trends. It also means being active on social networks and increasing your visibility. It’s an awful lot of work.
VS: With that last thought, what is the best writing advice you ever received?
Karen: The best advice I’ve received is from writing coach Suzanne Lieurance. It wasn’t directed to me specifically, but it hit home: don’t compare yourself to other writers or their accomplishments.
In this business, it’s so easy to feel you’re just not good enough, especially as you see others reaching their goals while you’re not quite there. Don’t get into that rut. If you diligently keep your goals in front of you and work toward them, you’ll reach them.
VS: Karen, you do a lot of other things besides writing books. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?
Karen: I find it very hard to balance my ‘writing work’ with my personal writing. But, just to keep some sanity and alleviate some guilt, I keep focused on my paying gigs (ghostwriting and editing) as top priority – they have to be the focus since they help pay for my health bills and my writing habit.
I also manage Writers on the Move, which is a group of talented writers and authors who use informational marketing to create and increase visibility and readership. While I thought, moving from ongoing virtual book tours to an informational content marketing strategy would be less time consuming and easier – it’s not really. But, that’s my fault; I keep adding more and more marketing strategies to the group.
Then there’s the marketing end of writing, along with all the webinars, teleclasses, and seminars on writing and marketing that I always want to attend. On top of that are the social networks that writers need to be involved with.
It’s no wonder us writers ever get to do personal writing.
VS: Which makes me wonder if I should even ask my next question. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Karen: My WIP is a ‘stand alone’ sequel to Walking Through Walls. While I started it and know that Wang and Chen will journey to find Chen’s sister, and the boy’s sisters will become part of the story, I’m still not sure of all the outline details.
VS: With as busy as you are, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Karen: Take it from a ‘writing grandmother,’ it doesn’t necessarily get easier when your children aren’t at home. LOL
Although, the teenage years you’re usually invisible to your kids. Aside from the constant worry, you should have some writing time.
But, where there’s a will there’s a way. I know some authors who rise at 5am to write before the family is up. Others write after the kids are asleep at night. There’s always naptime too (if the children are in that age group). Wherever you can sneak some time, write. And, be sure to submit!
VS: You have written a picture book and now a Middle Grade novel. Karen, what do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?
Karen: There so much written about this, but I guess the basic ingredients to a good book are an engaging story (including setting and plot) and characters that the reader can connect with. I think they go hand in hand. Whether it’s a plot driven story or character driven story, it’s the combination of story and characters that will keep the reader turning the pages.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?
Karen: I think a sense of realism is needed to make a character believable, even if it’s a science fiction story.
This realism can be created through your character’s interactions with the other characters in the story, and his reactions to external influences. These interactions and reactions to external surroundings or occurrences add layers to your protagonist, making him fully rounded and believable.
A bit more on character interactions, as with actual life, we interact differently with different people in our lives. A boy will not react to a friend the same way he does a brother. He will not react the same to a sister as he does a brother. The same holds true for all other relationships. All these different interactions help create a fully dimensional protagonist.
VS: Karen, have you received any awards for your books or your other writing work?
Karen: Unfortunately, if you don’t submit to contests and awards, you won’t win. So, no I haven’t won any awards yet. But, hopefully by the time this is posted I will have begun submitting.
Although, I did submit to one award, Dan Poytner’s 2011 Global eBook Awards. My e-book How to Write Books for Children: Writing, Publishing, and Marketing Children’s was nominated.
VS: That's wonderful news and you're right, you have to submit your work or no one will no about it to review it for an award. Karen, is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Karen: Thank you; I think we covered it all.
You can visit Karen’s blog at: http://karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com
For more about Karen’s books and ebooks go to:
You can find out more about Karen Cioffi’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/KarenCioffi.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Karen and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.
In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Karen Cioffi about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Karen will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life. The show will be live November 21, 2011 at 2pm EST.