Monday, November 28, 2011

The Stories for Children show 11/28 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network Show: Stories for Children withhosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Christopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Jan Britland about her Rodger Dodger Dog Series.
Jan Britland is an author and artist. She lives in Punta Gorda, Florida with her husband Bill. They have a bulldog named Madison, a parrot named Lola, three red-eared slider turtles named Sparky, Luigi and hale. And last but not least Goldie a pond fish. All of whom are portrayed in her stories. When she is not writing Children's books, she teaches oil painting to adults. You can reach Jan through her website, http://www.rodgerdodgerdog.com.

The show will air live November 28, 2011 at 2pm EST.

You can find out more about Jan Britland’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/RodgerDodger.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Britland and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

Listen to the show here... The Stories for Children show 11/28 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Utah Children's Writers: The Road to Writing for Children and Teens by VS G...

Utah Children's Writers: The Road to Writing for Children and Teens by VS Grenier...:
"It is the magic of fiction that allows the young reader to 'escape' from ordinary day-to-day doings and to live more fully in a heightened, highlighted version of life, with adventure possible at every turn of the page" —Lee Wyndham, Author
Every time I think everything has been said about writing, something new pops up. I don’t mind admitting I’m wrong. Heck, I think that’s one reason why I love writing for children and teens, but knowing the nuts and bolts is important before you sit down to write, especially for the children and YA market. Read more here http://utahchildrenswriters.blogspot.com/2011/11/road-to-writing-for-children-and-teens.html

Friday, November 25, 2011

Interview Friday with Award-winning Author Jewel Kats


Jewel Kats is an award-winning writer. She’s also one tough cookie. At the age of nine, Jewel endured a car accident. Her physical abilities altered forever. She spent weeks in the Hospital for Sick Children recovering, has survived eight leg surgeries, and currently walks with a cane. (Note: It’s fashionably handpainted!) Nothing stops Jewel. For six years, she penned a syndicated teen advice column for Scripps-Howard News Service and TorStar Syndication Services. Jewel has earned $20,000 in scholarships from Global Television Network and Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. She’s penned three children’s books, including: Reena’s Bollywood Dream, What Do You Use to Help Your Body? and her latest book Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair.

VS: Jewel, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. So to start things off, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Jewel: I’m very, very close to my family now at this point in life. I have a wonderful fiancĂ©, two younger sisters, a colorful brother-in-law, and a set of supportive parents. I communicate with most of them on almost a daily basis. I’ve often been teased about being both a “Mommy’s and Daddy’s girl!”

I keep my writing and family life balanced by including them in my creative process. I share illustrations with them. I talk about my characters. I reveal my dreams. I feel very blessed, and fortunate to have such loving people in my life.  

VS: That 's great you are so close to your family and even include them in your creative writing process. I try and do that with my kids, but they would rather play video games or watch cartoons. Now Jewel, how long have you been writing?

Jewel: If only I could sit here, and tell you that I’ve been dreaming up stories since I was a newborn! Well, I didn’t. I can wish, right? LOL. I actually didn’t start writing until my 20s. I started off as a co-playwright, then worked as a journalist, and finally as an author. Yay for my journey!

VS: No worries there about starting your writing career in your 20's. I didn't start writing or even think about it until the birth of my second child. Funny how things work out. Okay, so we know you include your family in your writing, but how are they supportive of your writing?

Jewel: I’m the only black sheep (a.k.a. artist) in my family. I’m different in my form of dress, totally-out-there personality, and creative cap. Yet, they still love me. Phew! My mother was especially supportive when I told her that I wanted to write children’s books. She encouraged me to take courses at George Brown College in Toronto, and even went onto pay for them! Talk about a sweet deal. Go Mom! 

VS: That's wonderful. If only everyone could have a mom like that. Can you share with us Jewel what was the first thing you ever had published?

Jewel: The first time I saw my words come to life was on stage. I helped write a touring musical about youth homelessness. I even starred in the show! Time-and-time again, I made audience members get emotional when I got into my character, Isabella. She’s a teen runaway who was sexually abused during her childhood. This show turned out to be my first leap into the artistic realm. I’ve never looked back ever since.

VS: What an impacting role and achievement at such a young age. What do you find to be the most difficult part of writing?

Jewel: If I’m really into one project, I find it hard to tuck it away in favor for another. I keep telling myself that I’ll just keep working on it for “ten more minutes.” Though, those golden ten minutes soon turn into hours!

VS: I have that same problem as well. What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Jewel: “Rejection is a part of the publishing game.” (Note: I can’t credit the person who told me this.)

VS: I couldn't agree more. I even wrote an article in my early years titled "Rejection is Part of the Game". I know you don't have children of your own but what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Jewel: If you want to write children’s books and have kids of your own, consider yourself VERY lucky! You’re sitting on a goldmine of ideas. Use every chance you get to listen to and observe your little ones. How do they resolve problems? How do they behave around friends and/or siblings? Do they speak differently with adults? Also, be sure to take notes of their adventures.

VS: That's such great advice, Jewel. I know you do everything you can to be around children for inspriation as well, so what do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Jewel: A) Problem  B) Build up  C) Conflict D) Climax E) Resolution

VS: Taking all those things into account, what is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Jewel: Every character should be three-dimensional. They should have a history, present-day experiences and dreams for tomorrow. Moreover, they shouldn’t be “all good” or “all bad.” By adding a “flaw” to an otherwise “flawless” character, you add a whole new dynamic to your story. Remember, to also describe your character with your five senses and their five senses.

VS: It's really been great having you here, Jewel. Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Jewel: I really admire parents who have the desire to write children’s books. I believe they have special eyes for understanding a kid’s reactions. In general, most parents have also been exposed to much children’s literature. This not only keeps us in business, but it helps create the talented writers of tomorrow!!

 You can find out more about Jewel Kats’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/JewelKats.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Kats and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to the November 7, 2011 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 chatted with Jewel Kats about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Kats will also be sharing  her writing background and experiences.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: Walking Through Walls: The Back Story with Karen Cioffi

It’s always interesting how writers find ideas for their stories. Some may simply come up with an idea, others may see something that triggers a story, and sometimes a story is handed to a writer.

I had never thought of rewriting a folktale until I received a rough outline of an ancient Chinese tale, Taoist Master of the Lao Mountain. I belonged to a writing critique group and a Chinese nonfiction writer had a basic outline that he wanted to pass along to a children’s writer. This was in June of 2008.

After reading the outline, I loved the lessons it could bring to children. Folktales come from all over the world and usually provide morale messages geared toward doing right, rather than wrong. These tales are a wonderful way to teach children through an engaging and entertaining story.

Since the tale, as with many ancient tales, involved an adult as the protagonist the first thing I needed to do was rewrite it for today’s children’s market, meaning it needed a child protagonist. Wanting to stay as close to the original tale, I used some of its flavor, descriptions, and names, that’s how I chose the main character’s name, Wang. But, I wanted it to be engaging for today’s child, so came up with new characters, the dragon, enhanced storyline and plot, and so on.

Having an outline to guide me was a great help; I knew where I wanted to head. And, as I began to change the story, it took on a life of its own, but again, I made sure to keep bits of the original story included to keep it as close to the tale’s outline as possible, while still creating a new story for today’s children.

Working on the story, I knew it needed to take place in ancient China, so decided to use the 16th century as the backdrop for the story. To add an element of realism to the story, I researched ancient China, including foods, flowers, dwellings, and clothing. I also contacted the Chinese writer who gave me the outline for some additional cultural information.

I worked on the story for well over a year. I revised it, had it critiqued numerous times, revised some more, and had it professionally edited by Lea Schizas before beginning to send it out for submissions. Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with the 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference and I applied to have a pitch with 4RV Publishing. As nervous as I was, the pitch went well and the manuscript was accepted. For the next year, it was more revisions, tweaking, additional elements to the story, and editing to make Walking Through Walls better than before.

Then, the story was ready for a cover illustration. Aidona WillowRaven was assigned to my book and although the dragon in the story was described as “a shimmering golden dragon,” Aidona ‘felt’ the flavor of the story and created an oriental type dragon. We went back and forth a bit about the dragon’s size and shape, but Aidona’s vision of what the dragon should look like was perfect.

I now needed to correct the ‘golden’ description of dragon in the story. So, I changed the text to read, “Suddenly a magnificent dragon with shimmering red and silver scales appeared.” Done. The description of the dragon and the cover matched; we were ready to move forward.

Next came the interior design formatting, which includes the text. After blocking the text it was determined another six pages was needed to make the spine wide enough. So, I had to come up with more content. As the story was complete, to fill the page count I came up with an Author’s Note page, four pages of Reading Comprehension, an Activities Page, and after more research eight pages of information on the Ming Dynasty time period and the Chinese dragon.

Finally, Walking Through Walls became available for sale in August 2011.


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

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 the November 21, 2011 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 chatted 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.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Stories for Children show 11/21 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network Show: Stories for Children withhosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Christopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with author Karen Cioffi

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

You can visit Karen’s blog at: http://karencioffiwritingandmarketing.com

For more about Karen’s books and ebooks go to: http://www.karencioffi.com/karen-cioffis-books-and-e-books/

The show will air live November 21, 2011 at 2pm EST.

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.

Listen Here: The Stories for Children show 11/21 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

American Chronicle | Get to know Rodger Dodger Dog and His Author, Jan Britland

In 1986, Jan was driving her children in a new town to start school. On their way, they would pass a beagle type dog chained to a huge Magnolia tree. Some days they would see the chain hanging down from the tree. "I think we just assumed the dog was in the house until one day we realized he was up in the tree. From that day on, Rodger Dodger Dog as we called him became a favorite. It was a 45-minute drive, which can become boring so as we passed him, I would start telling a story about Rodger Dodger's adventures up the tree and beyond. Because I am so dyslexic, the stories had to rhyme so I could remember them from day to day. They also started the same to get me going," shared Britland. However, it wasn´t until 2008 when Britland received a phone call from her daughter Kelly, who had young children of her own that the Rodger Dodger Dog started to even think about becoming a children´s book or series for that matter. "My daughter was complaining her son Dalton brought home a book from pre-school that didn't make sense to him or her. She wanted me to write down the Rodger Dodger Dog stories so she could share them with her children. I, of course, immediately sat down and started writing. Thank goodness, the stories had been in rhyme. I sent the finished copy to my daughter and waited to get the phone call that would tell me how much my grandchildren loved my stories. It never came. When I called her to ask her, she told me she was embarrassed to call me. Her children were so small they really needed to see illustrations to keep their interest. So being the good Gammy that I am, I set out to find an illustrator," shared Britland. And find an illustrator Britland did. She found Mike Swaim, who is known to be one of the best cartoonists in the industry. "Since the stories were called The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog, I wanted to have action in my illustrations. Mike and I connected right away and Rodger Dodger Dog was born," shared Britland. "When Mike was done with the illustrations I made up a book to re-send to my grandchildren. Needless to say, they loved it. They took it to school and the teachers loved it. They shared it with other friends and they loved it." Although Britland was getting a lot of positive feedback on Rodger Dodger Dog, she still wasn´t totally convinced about mainstream publishing. She only had 20 stories and the publishing industry isn´t an easy one to break into. Read more at: American Chronicle | Get to know Rodger Dodger Dog and His Author, Jan Britland

Friday, November 18, 2011

Interview with Karen Cioffi, Author of Walking Through Walls - Books - Blogcritics

Karen Cioffi has had an assortment of jobs; none of them she says has influenced or inspired her writing. What gives Cioffi’s writing a ‘kick in the pants’ was having to go on disability due to Multiple Sclerosis.

“After needing several years to get some health and strength back,” Cioffi shared, “I was able to write, and with the urging of one of my daughters, I turned a lullaby I wrote in the early 1970s into a children’s bedtime picture book, Day’s End Lullaby. Then I was hooked.”

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.

“I’ve been writing since I was in grade school. I’m not sure what inspired me; it was just in me to want to write. I think this is the case with most writers, whether authors or professional writers,” shared Cioffi.

Her most recently released book, Walking Through Walls, is a children’s middle-grade fantasy adventure published by 4RV Publishing. It’s based on an ancient Chinese tale and set in 16th century China. The protagonist is a 12-year-old boy who wants to be rich and powerful. He already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father. There are actually a few subtle messages in this book. The most important one may be that with the right guidance and hard work, we can see beyond ourselves and build inner strength and character.

The book’s theme fits right in with two of Cioffi’s favorite sayings: the American proverb “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”; and, in accordance with M. Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world."

Interview Friday with Jan Britland, Author of Rodger Dodger Dog


Jan Britland is an author and artist. She lives in Punta Gorda, Florida with her husband Bill. They have a bulldog named Madison, a parrot named Lola, three red-eared slider turtles named Sparky, Luigi and hale. And last but not least Goldie a pond fish. All of whom are portrayed in her stories. When she is not writing Children's books, she teaches oil painting to adults.

VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today, Jan. To get things started, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life? 

Jan: When my children were young, I was a single parent. When I wrote, I wrote my notes and ideas down and put them in the drawer. Then I needed an even bigger drawer. I never had time to even think of getting published. Now there are so many ways to get published. None of those early stories have been published.

VS: How long have you been writing?   

Jan: I have been writing stories down all my life. But I never took it seriously or had the time to even think of getting published.

VS: What inspired you to write start down the road to publication?   

Jan: I am very creative and have always had a vivid imagination I supposed it was inevitable the two would come together.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you? 

Jan: I don’t write like other people. I get the idea in my head and the rhyme starts rolling. I either have to write it down or tape it on a recorder for later. Because I write children’s picture books, age pre-school through first grade, it usually doesn’t take too long.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing? 

Jan: My granddaughter and her new husband came to help me film a Rodger Dodger Dog YouTube video at Best Friends at Walt Disney World while on their honeymoon. It is truly a family affair at this point. When I do school appearances, my daughter gets in the Rodger Dodger costume and plays the part as I read.

VS: What was the first thing you ever had published?

Jan: The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog, a three story picture book. It follows the adorable Rodger Dodger Dog as he meets a new friend up a tree, saves a stranded fish at the beach and as he battles the dreaded flea. Written in rhyme with colorful action-packed illustrations children love it.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your Rodger Dodger Dog book series?  

Jan: I am always coming up with new stories for The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog. There are 20 stories written with six in print in 4 books. I also have other stories with other characters that have not yet been published.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing? 

Jan: When I write the stories play like colorful cartoons in my head. I just start writing what I see. Sometimes the end is a surprise even to me. It is very entertaining.

VS: What is the most difficult part of writing? 

Jan: For me because of how my stories just pop into my head and I have to run with them, it’s the time factor. I don’t want to stop mid-stream for fear I will lose the connection.

VS: What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Jan: Never give up! Never listen to people who say you can’t do it. Just follow your heart and believe in your work.

VS: Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other job? 

Jan: I teach Bob Ross oil painting to adults so I don’t have a nine-to-five job. I can usually take the time to write something down when I have to.

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them? 

Jan: On my way home from a recent trip to N.J. for school appearances and book signings, while on the plane I started thinking about Rodger and his pals on an airplane taking their first trip. I have it written down but not typed yet. I also have several other stories that haven’t been published.

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication? 

Jan: Write what you can when you can. When you are through get a good editor and have it edited. When you are finished get a book consultant. They are the people who will review your work and tell you what you need to do next. They may be the down-sized editors of the publishers you may want to submit your manuscript to. They know the market and will be able to advise you what to do next.

VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book? What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction) 

Jan: You need a beginning, middle and an end. I know this sounds funny, but I have read several children’s books that are just illustrations and words on a page. It makes it very confusing to the children. The story must continue to move forward. Your characters need to be well defined.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?

Jan: Just keep writing.  Don’t ever give up! You can also contact me at www.rodgerdodgerdog.com

There is also the “Help Rodger Find His Friend Game” on the site. The children can click on the hiding friend and an animal fact will pop up about that particular friend.

Rodger Dodger also has a Facebook fan page where children can see where the Traveling Rodger’s are. They have been to China, Costa Rica, across the United States.  One of them is traveling to Lochelly, Scotland as we speak.

The Adventures of Rodger Dodger Dog, 1st. Book Trailer

You can find out more about Jan Britland’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/RodgerDodger.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Britland 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 Jan Britland about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Britland will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life. The show will be live November 28, 2011 at 2pm EST.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Stories for Children show 11/14 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network Show: Stories for Children will be chatting with award-winning authors Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer. Natasha Yim’s current book, Cixi, The Dragon Empress and Gretchen Maurer’s current book, Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary” are two of the six books (all written by different authors) in Goosebottom Books’ series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. The series profiles six women in history who have earned dastardly reputations. The show will air live November 14, 2011 at 2pm EST. You can find out more about Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/YimandMaurer.aspx The Stories for Children show 11/14 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Friday, November 11, 2011

Interview Friday: Natasha Yim & Gretchen Maurer

Natasha Yim is a children's book author and freelance writer. Her first book, Otto's Rainy Day was published by Charlesbridge Publishing in 2000. It was selected as a Kids' Pick of the Lists. She has written for Highlights for Children, Appleseeds and Faces magazines, and her new picture book biography, Cixi, The Dragon Empress was released by Goosebottom Books in October 2011.

Gretchen Maurer's writing has been published in Frances Mayes' The Discovery of Poetry, and in Adventure Cyclist and Highlights for Children magazines. She also co-wrote a short film, Alma, that has won multiple awards. Mary Tudor, "Bloody Mary" is her first picture book. She lives in Northern California with her family.

Natasha Yim’s current book, Cixi, The Dragon Empress and Gretchen Maurer’s current book, Mary Tudor, “Bloody Mary” are two of the six books (all written by different authors) in Goosebottom Books’ series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. The series profiles six women in history who have earned dastardly reputations.


VS: I want to thank you both for being my guests here on The Writing Mama today. Can you both share what you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Natasha: I try to get a work out at Curves after I drop the kids off at school, or fit in a Zumba class. I volunteer a lot at my kids’ school in the classroom and on field trips, so I can stay in touch with what’s happening at school. I have set writing times in the day when I try not to get distracted by the dirty dishes or laundry, but after the kids get home from school, it’s purely Mom mode (except when I’m on deadline), running them to music lessons, soccer games, helping them with homework, but we also read books and play card and board games. It’s been a little harder lately because I’ve been doing so many out of town events for Cixi, The Dragon Empress.

Gretchen: I’m not sure I ever achieve much of a balance. I have more time to write now than I used to, and I’m so thankful for that, yet still, things can easily get out of whack. (If someone has the balance thing all figured out, please let me know!) But I try. I think my kids and husband know it, and I know it. My messy house? It scoffs at me and spits out messes no matter how hard I try.

VS: How long have you both been writing?

Natasha: Since I was about 11 or 12. When I was a teen, I wrote a lot of poetry and short stories.

Gretchen: When I was in elementary school, I wrote long detailed letters to 4 pen-pals from around the world. I’d tell them all about my life, my travels with my family, little stories or things I observed …

VS: What inspired you both to write?

Natasha: It was in Mr. Harry’s 7th grade English class. We were given an assignment to create an island and name our own lakes, mountains, towns, then write a story about it. It was so much fun, and I loved creating this imaginary world. I’ve been writing stories ever since.

Gretchen: I loved magazine writing class I took in college. The teacher asked us to analyze The New Yorker for sentence structure and punctuation, and he showed us drafts of pieces he was working on … his enthusiasm for writing was infectious. After that, I started to take my writing seriously and worked hard at improving it.

VS: My days are really crazy between my kids and writing. What is a typical writing day like for the both of you?

Natasha: I write mainly between 5 and 7 am. before the kids get up for school, and for a few hours in the morning until I pick up my son from kindergarten at 1pm. Even if I can’t be at my computer when the kids are out of school, I’ll utilize times like waiting at doctor’s offices, sidelines of soccer games, grocery shopping etc. to think of plot, dialogue, work through problems in my writing projects.

Gretchen: During the week, I usually write for several hours each morning, before turning to everything else I need to do. In the afternoon, I shuttle my kids around and help them with their homework and music; sometimes I sneak in some writing time when waiting for them at sports practice or music lessons. If I’m       really on a roll with a project, I’ll write late into the night after everyone’s in bed and the dishes are done, or I’ll get up around 5:00 a.m. to work.

VS: Are your families supportive of your writing?

Natasha: Yes, very. My husband is not a good first reader, so I don’t really share my writing with him until it’s published, and he’s not much of a support in that way, but he is very supportive of my attending writing conferences and retreats so I can work on the craft of writing and get some uninterrupted writing time. This year, he’s had to juggle Opening day of soccer season with three picture times and three games on three different fields AND the last games of soccer with two games and two soccer parties in different locations as I was out of town for book events. My 11 year old is at an age when she actually helps me brainstorm ideas or plot challenges. And she and my 9 year old both love to write and create stories themselves, so they both understand the creative process.

Gretchen: Yes. My husband seems to have endless faith in me, and I’m so thankful for that. I don’t often show him drafts of projects, but we talk a lot about what I’m working on, and he has good insights and ideas. He’s fascinated by the creative process, like I am. My kids, siblings, and parents root me on, too.

VS: What was the first thing you ever had published, Natasha?

Natasha: I can’t quite remember. In College, I worked for a little while as a book reviewer for Asia Week magazine. That might have been the first. I also had some (not very good) poetry published in a couple of anthologies, but quickly realized that they want authors to buy the books, so it’s more of a vanity press. Besides, poetry, I decided, was not where my talents lay.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current books?

Natasha: Cixi, The Dragon Empress is a picture book biography that is one of six books in Goosebottom Books’ series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. The series profiles women in history who have earned dastardly reputations, but pose the question: did these women really deserve their dastardly nicknames? Or were they simply misunderstood? Cixi was the last empress of China who rose from the ranks of a lowly concubine to be the ruler of a nation. And she ruled for 50 years at a time when women didn’t have much say at all. In fact, as a woman, Cixi couldn’t be seen as governing, so she had to give orders from behind the emperor’s throne shielded by a yellow, silk screen. The book tells the story of this fascinating and complex woman, but also include a lot of historical and cultural details that educate kids on the country and time period in which Cixi lived.

Gretchen: Mary Tudor “Bloody Mary” is one of six books in the Goosebottom Books series, The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Dastardly Dames. The series profiles women in history who have earned dastardly reputations, but pose the       question: did these women really deserve their dastardly nicknames? Or were they simply misunderstood? The first first reigning queen of England, Mary Tudor, a devout Catholic, is best known for burning several hundred Protestants at the stake. She ruled from 1553-1558, during a brutal time in history when all European rulers had blood on their hands. Mary Tudor “Bloody Mary” tells about how Mary Tudor came to power (her childhood was not short on jaw-dropping drama), how she used her power, and why. It’d definitely a book that makes you think. I believe it’s important for girls to read books about powerful women in history, books that really flesh out their lives and explore the social/political times  in which they lived. A lot of children’s books have been published about influential men in history have been published, but not as many about women.

VS: What do you both enjoy most about writing?

Natasha: For fiction, I enjoy the process of creating characters and the world they people. I enjoy finding out about what makes these characters tick and I really like finding out what happens in the story because I often don’t know when I start out. For nonfiction, I’ve discovered I enjoy the research more than I thought I would. Instead of being dry and limiting, it has opened up a whole new world of learning, and really getting to know my subjects. Benjamin Disraeli has a great quote: “The best way to become acquainted with a subject, is to write a book about it.”

Gretchen: Writing suits me because I like thinking things through carefully and at my own pace. I’m not as good at arguing a point or telling a story in person. I love how time falls away when I’m writing. It’s meditative, in a way, like how I imagine fly fishing might be for some people. And I like how writing allows me to think about and tell the truth, as I see it, and to have fun with language. I enjoy writing non-fiction, because I learn so much while researching the topic. I also like puzzling through how to best organize the information and deciding which information to highlight, which to leave out, and so on. I enjoy writing fiction, because it’s fun molding pieces of my life or things I think about or observe into new shapes and forms.

VS: What is the most difficult part of writing for either of you?

Natasha: Trying not to get discouraged by negative feedback. Also, in longer works, I frequently struggle with Voice and plotting, so I try to read a lot about how to handle those.

Gretchen: The times when I feel like I’m spinning around and around on a section I’m working on, making it worse rather than better. But it helps to remind myself that somehow I always manage to get out of that mode, and that, as trite as it may sound, tomorrow’s another day.

VS: What is the best writing advice both of you have ever received?

Natasha: I’ve received many great advice from editors and other writing professionals I’ve met at conferences, but what sticks with me are a few quotes by some famous authors. Two of my favorites are: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach) And “Writing is like driving a car in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” (E.L. Doctorow).

Gretchen: This quote by Ira Glass inspires me, because it normalizes how challenging it can be to write something other people find interesting: “It's hard to make something that's interesting. It's really, really hard. It's like a law of nature, a law of aerodynamics, that anything that's written or anything that's created wants to be mediocre. The natural state of all writing is mediocrity... So what it takes to make anything more than mediocre is such an act of will...”

VS: Do eith of you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Natasha: I just completed the biography of Sacajawea for Goosebottom Books which will be added to their The Thinking Girl’s Treasury of Real Princesses series, and released in fall 2012. Charlesbridge Publishing just acquired a picture book, Goldy Luck and the Three Chans, but publication date has yet to be determined. I’m also working on a few plays, including a children’s one about the Dastardly Dames, a picture book about a picky eater, and a middle grade historical novel about Chinese pirates, a legend, and a treasure hunt. My article about an elephant sanctuary in Thailand and its founder, Lek Chailert, will also appear in the January 2012 issue of Faces magazine.

Gretchen: I’m finishing up a novel I’m co-writing with a friend, targeted at the women’s fiction market. We’ve been at it for a while, so I cannot wait to complete it and send it off. I’ve found I definitely have the “will” Ira Glass talks about in the quote I list above.

VS: What tips can either of you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Natasha: Break things up into measurable, doable chunks. I used to get frustrated because I didn’t get to accomplish my daily writing goals because, with kids, frequent and unexpected interruptions are inevitable. I discovered that “finish Chapter 4” was a huge, and somewhat vague task to set for myself. So, now I have goals like, “write two paragraphs on Novel A”; “mail submission to publisher A, B & C”; “revise narrative arc on picture book B”. They’re more specific goals, but also focuses on one aspect of the project rather than the entire thing. And I feel really good about checking things off.

Gretchen: When my kids were really young, and I was working part-time as a teacher, I had very little free time to write, so I didn’t get a lot of writing done. Still, it all added up, even though it didn’t seem like it at the time. (It took me several years to complete one article, for example, but years later, it was published in Highlights, and having that clip helped me move forward.) When I was too jangled to write, I read about the publishing industry or the craft of writing, or I checked out other writers’ websites, or I read just for fun. I also found it helpful to connect with other parents who like to write, and to splurge every once and a while and attend a writing workshop or conference.

VS: Have either of you received any awards?

Natasha: Otto’s Rainy Day was selected as a Kids’ Pick of the Lists, and I was awarded a grant by the Northern California/East Bay SCBWI this year to attend the SCBWI L.A. conference.

Gretchen: I co-wrote a short film, Alma, which my co-writer directed. It has screened in twenty-two film festivals and has won several awards.

VS: Is there anything else either of you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Natasha: Tune in on Nov. 2 & 3 to listen to Natasha's interview with host Don MacAuley on The Authors Show, www.theauthorsshow.com.

Gretchen: If you love writing, if it energizes you, keep doing it!

You can reach me by email at gretmau@yahoo.com, and I have a Facebook book page for my Mary Tudor book: http://www.facebook.com/MaryTudorBloodyMary. You can click here to order Mary Tudor “Bloody Mary” from the publisher’s website: http://goosebottombooks.com/site/BookDetail_s2b3.php, or the distributor’s website: www.ipgbook.com.

Also, you can find out more about Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/YimandMaurer.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Yim and Maurer, along with 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 Natasha Yim and Gretchen Maurer about their books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Yim and Maurer will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life. The show will be live November 14, 2011 at 2pm EST.