Friday, January 6, 2012

Interview Friday with Maryann B. Sawka, author of "Good Table Manners Made Easy"

About the author: Maryann B. Sawka is an educator and parent, who has always embraced the notion that good manners are stylish and timely in every situation. She founded Charming Manners, a training company that educates all ages in the quest for civility and self-confidence. Sawka introduces good manners with a fun, engaging approach that makes the pursuit for knowledge an enjoyable experience.


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

Maryann: Balancing family life, my children’s activities, writing and everything else is challenging. I find myself doing a lot of writing/planning in my head, phrasing passages, envisioning layouts and visualizing illustrations. It may take a few weeks or months for me to get everything planned out in my head before I begin the actual writing. But, I find that I am more organized and work better that way.

VS: I do a lot of my planning in my head too. I find if I write things down too early, I forget them or I’m not organized enough to begin writing. With that thought, how long have you been writing?

Maryann: I have always had an appreciation for the written word and have been an avid reader since I was a child. Along with the love for reading has been a love for writing. 

VS: That’s wonderful. What inspired you to write and become a published author?

Maryann: As a technical writer, I documented software programs for end users, which was very process-oriented. When I started my own company, Charming Manners, I began writing my own curriculum after much research in the area of manners and etiquette. My book was born from my etiquette workshops and curriculum into a collection of tips for diners of all ages. While still somewhat process-oriented, the writing of my book allowed for some creativity mixed in with the processes.

VS: A wonderful book, too. Is your family supportive of your writing?

Maryann: My family is very supportive of my efforts. My daughter’s help with household chores and my husband takes over the kitchen when I’m really involved in something. My mom helps with driving our daughters to their activities if I have something scheduled. Having a supportive family helps!

VS: Yes, it really does. What was the first thing you ever had published?

Maryann: When I was a teenager, I had a poem published. We always vacationed at Bethany Beach, Delaware, and I wrote a poem about the beach. It was published in our newspaper (at the time), the Brownsville Telegraph.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book Good Table Manners Made Easy?

Maryann: Good Table Manners Made Easy is a collection of tips and tricks for using good table manners during a formal or informal meal. The book grew out of the many etiquette workshops that I have presented to children in the area of table manners. I found that the parents who enrolled their children liked being involved in the workshop through the materials that I sent home after each session. The book grew from the “tip cards” that I used to send home.

Good Table Manners Made Easy
talks about meal-time hygiene, appropriate conversation topics versus inappropriate conversation topics, the mechanics of using your silverware and napkins. It also includes ideas about “eating with style” so that everyone can enjoy the meal. Good manners includes making others feel comfortable, something that the book focuses on, along with encouraging self-confidence for a successful interaction.

VS: Authors can always share what they love about writing, but hat is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Maryann: Writing a book is hard work! There are many drafts, revisions, new ideas, thoughts of ‘I wish I had included this or omitted that’ that go with the process. Writing for children is different because you have to put yourself in the mind of a child. You don’t want the book to be too long so that it loses their attention, but at the same time there is a point that needs to be expressed. Finding the balance between the right information and too much information is challenging.

VS: I will have to agree that writing a book, especially a children’s book is hard work. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Maryann: Now that Good Table Manners Made Easy is in publication, I am working on another book in the series that relates to using good manners when entertaining others. This book tackles the appropriate manners and behaviors when you are hosting at your home or by inviting someone to share an excursion with you or when you are the guest. “Learning how to behave appropriately in a variety of social situations helps you to secure a repeat invitation, as well as leaving a positive impression of you with others,” a passage from the book that I am writing at present. 

In many instances, we, as adults, think that children will know how to behave appropriately if we just put them together and let them figure it out on their own. I think that the rise in our national bullying epidemic would indicate a need exists for us to teach our children, teens and others how to get along, and consider the feelings of others in order to restore a feeling of civility to our society. 

VS: Sounds like another great book. What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication? 

Maryann: I think it’s important to keep everything in perspective. For me, writing is part of my business, so I tend to plan portions of my workday for writing. But, inspiration is fickle. It can really strike at anytime. I find myself jotting down notes on a napkin in the car while sitting at a traffic light. Most of my actual words-on-paper writing happens when my family is otherwise occupied. Sometimes, my youngest daughter will be playing dolls in my office while I am writing. I keep paper near my bed so that if I have an idea as I am falling asleep, I can jot it down and not lose it. The best advice I can probably give is that you have to be flexible. My family needs me and depends on me for certain things. I have to balance their needs with what I am trying to accomplish. Finding a supportive publisher is key! Lisa Umina with Halo Publishing has become a friend, not just my publisher. She is so supportive and nurturing of her authors and helps you to realize your dreams. Finding a support system in the industry will help you to reach your goals.

VS: Yes, all of that is very important. What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Maryann: I tend to picture myself reading the book to a group of children, which allows me to better determine whether I will hit my target audience with something that they will enjoy. I picture illustrations that can compliment the passages for a cohesive flow of information. Keeping the book at the right length is important as a child’s attention span is typically short. You have to capture their interest and keep with something entertaining.

VS: Thank you, Maryann for allowing me to interview here at The Writing Mama.

You can find out more about Maryann B. Sawka’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/MaryannBSawka.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Sawka 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 Maryann B. Sawka about her book, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. Sawka will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and the tribulations of the writer’s life.

The show will air live January 16, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can tune in live at the World of Ink Network site at http://www.blogtalkradion.com/worldofinknetwork.

Get a sneak peek of the book at http://youtu.be/CGGKkxa9qSQ

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