Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Time to Start Writing is Now! (1st published on Utah Children's Writers)

I teach writing for my local college's continuing educational program. I love meeting with beginning writers each week and sharing the basics. However, I'm always surprised to find many of them haven't even sat down to write the story building inside them or at least log the ideas they have for story lines.

So my advice to you today if you want to start down the road of becoming a writer...The Time to Start Writing is Now!

Some Idea Starters
For beginning writers (and something I learned when I studied at the Institute of Children's Literature), I have found using visual aids to spark an idea is always a great way to begin the process of writing. You can do this to draft an actually short story or book for submission to just using it as a writing exercise. 

Study the pictures I have below or pick one of your own from a magazine, old photo album, etc. Study the pictures and select one that appeals to you most. 





Also, keep in mind your target readership with picking a picture for inspiration. Young readers’ age groups may be roughly broken down into youngest listeners/readers (ages 3-7), intermediate readers (ages 8-12), and teen readers (ages 13-18).

Things to think about as you sit down to write:
  • Why are the characters doing what they are doing?
  • Can you find something in the picture that suggests a problem?
  • What do the other details in the picture suggest about the setting, the time, the events, etc?
  • What might you infer about the character respective moods and personalities? Their relationship to each other?
Building Your Story Idea:
Begin speculating about what’s going on in the picture you’ve chosen. Keep in mind the picture only exists to help you get started on your story. You can expand beyond what you see—and that your potential young reader will not have seen it. With that said, your story must stand on its own. Don’t feel you must everything you see in the picture or even “match” the scene. Use your imagination and go from there.

Getting to know your main character is important.  
How old are they? As a children’s writer, you’ll write stories with different aged characters all the time for your readership age levels. For this writing exercise or if this is your first time actually sitting down to write, think of the age level where you feel most comfortable. A rule of thumb is youngsters want to read about characters their own age or a bit older.

Don't forger to make trouble for your main character. 
No one wants to read a story where nothing happens. As writers, we get attached to our characters, but we have to remember we need to throw road bumps and trials in our main character's way. It’s how they learn, grow and conquer. Just like our own lives, nothing comes easy. Make sure you also don’t bring in an adult or older character to solve the problem. Young readers like seeing the main character solve the conflict of the story. It builds self-confidence where they think, “Wow, if Harry can do that…so can I!”

Time to Start Writing
If you haven’t started writing your story, now is the time. Don’t worry about spelling or minor editing. Just get your thoughts down. I love to tell my new authors in class, "Just take that idea, chew on it for awhile and then spit it out on the page." As you gain experience, you’ll learn how much advance planning is right for you but for now, getting your idea down is the important part. Every published author/writer will tell you it's called a "rough draft" for a reason. It's the beginning of the writing process, not the end. 

Keep in mind the words may not come easily at first but don’t be discouraged by a few dry runs…you’ll have an opening, ending or a wonder scene idea in no time. You don't have to start writing your story from the beginning either. Start where you feel most inspired and build around, from or backwards from there.

Note: Some writers start from the end of the story and work backwards. Others from the middle building scenes and piecing the story together like a puzzle. Don’t worry about where you start…just start!

Your story’s length is important. 
You are in the home stretch now. Do a rough estimate and see how many words your story is. You can do this in Microsoft Office under the “Review” tab. You should find a “Word Count” button in the “Proofing” section.

Most short stories for youngest readers (ages 3-7) range from 300 to 600 words. Intermediate readers (ages 8-12) range from 500 to 800 words, and teen readers (ages 13-18) range from 500 and up to 2,000 words. Book lengths can vary by publisher and type of book genre.

If you are over your readerships word count, get out your red pen (or delete key) and start cutting unnecessary details.

Once you think your done it's time for the "Check List."
  •  Read your story aloud—what you hear in your head is very different from what you’ll hear when your story is read aloud.
  • Does the story proceed logically from beginning to middle to end?
  • Is there a problem or conflict in the story—a challenge for your main character to meet?
  • Have you included dialogue?
  • Is there a clear sense of the story’s time and place?
  • Is the story within the word count for your readership? (You can be over by 10 percent.)
  • Does it read well aloud?
  • Have you given it a title?
 Now that you made it this far, it's time to start revising. This process can take a long time so don't give up. Most writers don't succeed because they give up too early. To help keep you focused and moving forward, join a local or online writing group. Find a critique partner or group locally or online. Keep reading articles on writing and take a few workshops. All of this will keep you moving forward and most important...Start Writing when you get another story idea even if you haven't finished working on the current one. Some times it is best to take a break from your current story and come back at it with fresh eyes later.


~~~~~~

VS Grenier is an award-winning children’s author, founder & owner of Stories for Children Publishing, LLC., award-winning editor-in-chief of Stories for Children Magazine and chief editor for Halo Publishing, Int. In addition, to running her own editorial and critique services, she is a writing instructor for Dixie College's Community Education program and host on the World of Ink Network at Blog Talk Radio.


VS Grenier learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature and is a member of the League of Utah Writers (HWG) and its current president, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and Musing Our Children.
 
Her works include: Babysitting SugarPaw (a 2011 LUW Silver Quill Award-winner), the Best of Stories for Children Magazine Volume 1 anthology, and over 50 short stories, articles and crafts for children, along with newsletter articles for writers.

When she isn't busy talking with authors and illustrators on her radio shows, working for Stories for Children or Halo Publishing and spending time with her children, VS Grenier is busy writing new adventures in the World of Ink. 
 
Follow VS Grenier On
Facebook http://www.facebook.com/vsgrenier
Twitter http://twitter.com/vsgrenier.com
The Writing Mama blog http://thewritingmama.blogspot.com
Blog Talk Radio's World of Ink Network
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork
 

Monday, February 27, 2012

American Chronicle | Meet Award-winning Author Hope Irvin Marston

Award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston recently release her newest book Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling´s Quest, which is a biography written as an autobiography and published by Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company). Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling´s Quest is Marston´s thirty-second children´s book. "It´s a biography of Aisling (pronounced "Ashley") Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska," shared Marston. "Born legally blind, from the time Aisling was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven. That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss and achieved victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod." In 2008, when Aisling was ten years old, she was one of three girls chosen from 8,000 nominees for a Real Girl of the Year Award, by American Girl. The award was given in recognition of her "demonstrating initiative, effort, impact and personal growth" toward reaching her goal of someday running the Iditarod. She exemplified those qualities by her dedication to rescuing, training and racing sled dogs. Marston shared, "I learned about her from an article in an online Maine newspaper my husband continues to read each morning. Since she lived in Norway, a town near Buckfield, I contacted her, went to see her and felt led to tell the world about this remarkable young girl with a broad vision, figuratively, if not visually." Marston also has two other books recently released My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing. She also has a current project, which is an historical middle grade novel, Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey. "It´s local history. I had hoped to find a publisher for it a couple of years ago. After over 20 rejections, I realized it must have major faults. I learned to identify them after attending Darcy Pattison´s Novel Revision Workshop in the fall of 2010. Since then I´ve spent considerable time re-writing the story. I had it professionally critiqued by respected children´s editor Paula Morrow (good decision on my part) and am now working through her comments and suggestions. Because it´s too late to find a main stream publisher in time for the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration, I am bringing this one out as an e-book," shared Marston. Read the full interview at American Chronicle | Meet Award-winning Author Hope Irvin Marston

Friday, February 24, 2012

What Is Success Show with VS Grenier and Marsha Casper Cook 02/24 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Join hosts VS Grenier & Marsha Cook on February 24th at 1PM EST – 12PM CT – 11AM MT – 10AM PST.
This is a discussion based show. Marsha and Virginia will be happy to take your calls if you have questions.
Call in number - 714-242-5259 

Writing a book can be a challenge enough but when you're looking for a place to start when searching for a writing coach, editor, publisher and someone to help with marketing, the choice are endless and many cost more than you can afford. What is a writer to do? Marsha Casper Cook and Virginia (VS) Grenier have become experts on this very subject and both know there great new companies and people out there who can help. Between them, they have over 50 years of experience with the publishing and marketing world. 

Call in, post your questions in our chat room or email your questions to us here at Blog Talk Radio.
Call in number - (714) 242-5259

Info at http://www.michiganavenuemedia.com/ or Visit our blog and learn more about us and our guest at http://worldofinknetwork.blogspot.
Listen to the show here What Is Success Show with VS Grenier and Marsha Casper Cook 02/24 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mom (or Dad) Prefers...Author Spotlight: Hope Irvin Marston, Award-winning YA and Children's Author

Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.

In addition to writing 32 children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.

Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print. She has a new release, Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, which is suitable for ages 8-14 and was released by Windward Books on December 1, 2011. It’s a biography of Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska. Born legally blind, from the time she was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. Marston shared, “My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven, which is the year after I met her. That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss, and achieved victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod. Any young person interested in mushing, will find Aisling’s experiences engaging, informative, and entertaining, whether they are a bit younger than she is in the book or considerably older.”

In 2008 when Aisling was 10 years old, she was one of three girls chosen from 8,000 nominees for a Real Girl of the Year Award, by American Girl. The award was given in recognition of her “demonstrating initiative, effort, impact and personal growth” in reaching her goal of someday running the Iditarod.  She exemplified those qualities by her dedication to rescuing, training and racing sled dogs. “I learned about her from an article in an online newspaper published near where we used to live in Maine. Since she lived in Norway, a town near Buckfield where I taught, I contacted her, went to see her and felt led to tell the world about this remarkable young girl with a broad vision, figuratively, if not visually,” shard Marston.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Stories for Children Show with VS Grenier 02/20 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio


Come join VS Greiner each Monday on BTR’s World of Ink Network's The Stories for Children Show.

Airs live 2pm EST - 1pm CT - 12pm MT - 11am PST

The idea of this show is to bring children's authors together with their readers. Each show our listeners will learn about a new or award-winning author, their books and the inspiration behind their writing.


This week Kasey Crawford Kellem, creator of the Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Books will be joining the show. Kellem, a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her life to helping children facing adversity. She has earned a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. 

The Mind Over Matter Books are geared towards young children to help them learn how to be resilient. These books are designed to also serve as decorations in a child’s bedroom or playroom on book shelves, nightstands, or desks.


BELIEVE is the first of five books emphasizing the important factors for resiliency. In this book, children will learn to BELIEVE in their possibilities.

Published by Halo Publishing, Int.
Visit us at http://worldofinknetwork.blogspot.com or http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com

Listen to the show here
The Stories for Children Show with VS Grenier 02/20 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview Friday with author Kasey Crawford Kellem

Kasey Crawford Kellem, a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her life to helping children facing adversity be resilient. Kasey created Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) books to teach children skills to overcome life’s challenges. She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. She is a devoted wife, stepmother, sister, daughter and counselor.

Kellem is touring her first book in the Mind Over Matter (M.O.M) Books, BELIEVE, which just released and is the first of five books emphasizing the important factors for resiliency. In this book, children will learn to BELIEVE in their possibilities.

You can get a sneak peek of the book BELIEVE and listen to an interview with Kasey Crawford Kellem at http://youtu.be/L_PPnSHXzzY.  The additional M.O.M Books are due to release soon later in 2012: LOVE; LAUGH; RELAX and DREAM.

VS: Kasey, it is wonderful to have you here with us today. Can you share what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Kasey: I usually work on my book and marketing for an average of 4 hours a day after work. My husband and I are pretty much empty nesters with college age kids, so I gratefully have a lot of time. I am very good with balancing time and making sure I work out each day, have down time with my husband and make time for my books after working all day.

VS: That is wonderful you have time each day to devote to your writing and marketing of your books. Many authors don’t have that. Now you’ve been working with kids for a long time, but how long have you been writing?

Kasey: Not long. I worked with my niece about 5 years ago in brainstorming for these books and then revisited them last March. I spent most of my summer writing the books.  I had Believe in print in about 8 months.

VS: I know you have wanted to teach resiliency to children and work with children as a counselor, I can see why. However, what inspired you to write?
                       
Kasey: I have been intrigued by resiliency since I began teaching. I even went back to college for another degree beyond my masters to study resiliency. I wanted to further my studies at the doctorate level to learn HOW to teach kids resiliency, but ran into some contractual roadblocks. I was still determined somehow to teach kids how to be resilient, so I later came up with the book idea.

VS: Having a writer in the home can be hard for a family since we keep strange hours and a lot of the time, it doesn’t really look like we are work. Is your family supportive of your writing?

Kasey: My husband is very supportive and often reminds me of how proud he is of me. I don’t think my father realized I was really going through with this until the books came out. I think he was quite surprised and proud. My sisters were great supporters throughout the entire process. My nieces and nephews were especially supportive and often asked to see my progress. I think the family was most impressed when they each received a framed illustration of the page I made for each of them. Each family member and close friend is in one of the five books. This really helped connect each of them with the purpose and mission of my books!

 VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book, BELIEVE?
           
Kasey: My book, BELIEVE, is not only a children’s book, but also a decoration. It has a unique shape and size, which allows it to stand up on its own and be utilized as a decoration on a shelf, desk or nightstand. It gives children ideas of what/who to believe. It also gives parents advice on how to help children to BELIEVE.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?

Kasey: It is very relaxing and allows me to use my brain and my creative side. Sometimes when I am at work, the paperwork stifles my thinking and creativity, so this is a nice outlet. Also, I feel like I am doing something good for others, which is my goal in life.

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

Kasey: Not at all. I am a school counselor and am home by 4 most days of the week. I have 6 hours to work on my books, work out and spend time with my family. I am blessed with time, which many people do not have. I am also fortunate to have summers and holidays off. Most of the books were completed in the summer. I worked daily on the books while making time to run my golf league, entertain at our pool and travel.

VS: Kasey, you have any other works in progress for the Mind Over Matter Books. Can you share a little about them?

Kasey: Yes, I wrote 5 books for this series. They are all a part of my Mind Over Matter (MOM) book collection. They all have the same format, whimsical illustrations and ability to serve as a decoration. The other resiliency books are entitled: Love, Laugh, Relax, and Dream. They are all pretty much completed. I just need to go into print with the next book.

VS: Kasey, what do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Kasey: I personally feel the book should have a purpose or a message to make it meaningful. I think a person should be able to walk away from a book with more knowledge or a better understanding of themselves or others. A children’s book needs to have whimsical and vibrant illustrations and easy to read wording.

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

Kasey: Follow your dreams! If you have had aspirations to write a book, do it! Start with writing blogs if you want to start smaller. Writing can be a nice stress reliever and outlet. Parents need to take care of themselves so they can take care of their children. Don’t make excuses like time, children, or household chores. Instead, make TIME! If you need to go to the library once a week to just get away and write, make those arrangements and just do it!


You can find out more about Kasey Crawford Kellem’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/KaseyKellem.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Kellem and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. You will be entered into the main the Book Giveaway each time.

In addition, come listen on February 20, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatting with Kasey Crawford Kellem about her M.O.M Books, writing, helping children to be resilient and her experiences. The show airs live February 20, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit: http://worldofinknetwork.blogspot.com  

To purchase any of Kasey Crawford Kellem’s books, visit Halo Publishing: www.halopublishing.com

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

American Chronicle | Spotlight Interview with debut author Kasey Crawford Kellem

Kasey Crawford Kellem, a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her life to helping children facing adversity be resilient. Kasey created a series of book for kids titled Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Books to teach children skills to overcome life´s challenges. She has earned a Bachelor´s Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. Many may wonder if this counselor turned author truly follows what she teaches others. Kellem shared a little about the process of finding publisher. She said, "I followed my own resiliency philosophy of BELIEVING I will find someone who believes in me! After one publisher declined my book despite a few months of correspondences, I simply put out a facebook post and one of my former students set me up with his sister´s publishing company. Lisa Mina from Halo Publishing International loved my books and their purpose! She focuses on children´s books, Christian books and books that help others! My book could have fallen under all three of those categories. I am grateful for social media!" Kellem grew up in a "traditional nuclear family" as she put it, which included her mom, dad and three sisters in Fairview Park, Ohio. She said she played sports and percussion instruments in the band, and was pretty much the class clown. After attending Magnificat High School, she went on to earn her Bachelor´s and Master´s Degrees. She now is a counselor at Normandy High School and has created a wonder book series for not only children, but those who work with them as well. Read the whole spotlight at American Chronicle | Spotlight Interview with debut author Kasey Crawford Kellem

Blogcritics Interview: Spotlight with Kasey Crawford Kellem, Creator of M.O.M. Books

Kasey Crawford Kellem is a school counselor and a former Special Education teacher. She has recently devoted her life to helping children who face adversity to be resilient. Kellem created a series of children’s books titled Mind Over Matter, or M.O.M Books, to help teach preschoolers to be resilient. Kellem believes by starting at a young age we can teach our children the skills to overcome life’s challenges.

“Everyone faces tumultuous times in their lives,” Kellem shared and this couldn’t be more true. Kellem said she grew up in a traditional nuclear family that included her mom, dad and three sisters. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Special Education. She also has an Educational Specialist Degree in counseling. While growing up, Kellem said, “I played a lot of sports and percussion instruments in band. I was pretty much the class clown. I knew then laughter helps people get through some rotten times.”

Read more: http://blogcritics.org/books/article/interview-spotlight-with-kasey-crawford-kellem/#ixzz1mNViNPJ1

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Guest Post: Precision in Writing

As writers, we write to be understood. To get our message across without any hitches. To express what we really mean in clear and un-vague terms. That's why we have to use precise words. And this is achieved by using accurate and expressive words.

When someone asks you, "How are you?" What's your normal reply?

You probably say, "I'm OK."

OK, well, most of us tend to give a reply along that line. But the thing is, with that kind of reply, do you think the person who asked you will have a clear idea of how you really are? I mean, if someone sincerely wanted to know how you are, she would expect a clear answer.

Let's face it, "OK" is a vague term. How OK are you exactly? OK as in really great? OK as in, "I'm getting by..."? OK as in "Gosh, I'm dying here!" Well, you get the picture.

People tend to be lazy to express exactly what they mean. Words like, "OK," "Nice," "Fine," "Not good," and such are "blanket words"...they cover a lot of territory but they really don't tell you anything.

As writers, we write to be understood. To get our message across without any hitches. To express what we really mean in clear and un-vague terms. That's why we have to use precise words. And this is achieved by using accurate and expressive words.

English is abundant with vivid words...use them. Don't settle for the vague ones. Make your writing more exact and vivid!

Here are some very easy exercises to help you get rid of vagueness:
A. Think of at least three vivid and specific verbs for each general verbs given.
1. run
2. walk
3. ask
4. reply
5. look
6. say
7. jump
8. cry
9. hate
10. eat

B. Using the specific verbs you came up with in A, write a short story, article, or news (fictional).

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ


Download an excerpt of The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between below:
authenticself-sampler.zip OR authenticself-sampler.pdf

If you want 3 writing *sparks* delivered to you every day for 31 days, check out WriteSparks!™ Daily HERE for info on how to get started -- it's free :o)
Thank you for reading. Keep writing!



= = = = = »» NewsFlash: My book is OUT! «« = = = = =
Kick start your imagination, ignite your creativity, and begin your journey towards becoming an outstanding writer with the help of my book, WEEKLY WRITES: 52 Weeks of Writing Bliss! (ISBN: 0-9710796-7-6; Trade Paperback, 182pp; Filbert Publishing, Minnesota; March 2004)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview Friday with Award-winning Author Hope Irvin Marston

Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.
           
In addition to writing thirty-two children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.
           
Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print.

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

Hope: It’s not too difficult to balance my writing life with family life because my husband and I are retired senior citizens and our families live in New England and Pennsylvania. His activities are limited due to his health so he watches a lot of sports.  That keeps him occupied most evenings and gives me time to spend at my computer.

VS: I can’t tell you how nice it is to have a time already carved out to write. Many of us reading your interview will be jealous. How long have you been writing?

Hope: My very first published piece was a poem, a tribute to my Sunday school teacher, published when I was in about sixth grade. My first stand-alone publication was a small devotional guide for children in the Daily Bread for Girls and Boys series, published by Child Evangelism Fellowship in 1972.  Precious Moments characters were added to the cover in 1993 and the booklet stayed in print for many years.  In 1978 Dodd, Mead published my first hardcover book, a career guide for junior high students interested in trucking careers. 

VS: That’s wonderful. I know you’re a reader so what inspired you to write?

Hope: My fascination with books and the ones who wrote them and the stories my teacher read to us when I was in the middle grades. I still have fond remembrances of “Evangeline” and The Great Stone Face.”

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

Hope: Because I believe writers must write every day, I begin my writing day with Morning Pages, a habit I developed many years ago after reading a book by Julia Cameron. I used to keep these writings, but the stack of journals became so tall and took up so much room, I started disposing of them a few at a time in the weekly trash pickup.  They had served their purpose in the original writing in that they primed the pump for whatever I was going to concentrate on later in the day.

VS: That’s wonderful. I love doing writing prompts to help get my blood flowing to write. It is hard to write everyday so I’m glad you found a way to do that. Hope, can you share with us what you write?

Hope: What do I write?  It depends on what is on my mind.  Sometimes it is two pages in which I try out ideas for a problem in some manuscript. Sometimes it is a rant about someone of something that upset me.  Sometimes it is gloating over an unusual blessing or circumstance that came my way.  My third page is a prayer journal of sorts.  A page of pondering, asking, thanking, worshipping the Lord because I know my talent comes from Him.  All of this serves to clear the writing pipes and make room for the “good” stuff to flow through later in the day.

Unlike most of my writing friends who feel freshest and want to get right to work on whatever manuscript is at the top of their work pile, I can’t settle down until I take care of major things on my daily “to do” list. If I don’t take care of them first, they keep distracting me until I give them the attention they are demanding.  That means I spend my mornings doing my other things. Sometimes I don’t get to my writing until after the evening meal.  But when I do settle down to write, I give it my full attention. My goal is to spend at least three hours a day writing.
    
VS: I hear many writers taking about how their families don’t understand the long hours that we put in on projects. Even though they love seeing the finished project and support our love, they also find it hard looking at the back of our heads so to speak. Is your family supportive of your writing?

Hope: My husband is my greatest supporter. It blesses my heart when I hear the pride in his voice as he shares something about my just released book, Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, with his friends.  My sister Roberta took my new book as well as My Little Book picture book series with her to Florida to show the “snowbirds” down there.

VS: That’s wonderful. Nothing like free marketing for your books too. Can you share with us a little about your current books?

Hope: Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, my thirty-second children’s book, was released by Windward Books on December 1.  It’s a biography of Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska.  Born legally blind, from the time she was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven.  That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss, and achieved great victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod.  

In 2008 when Aisling was ten years old, she was one of three girls chosen from 8,000 nominees for a Real Girl of the Year Award, by American Girl.  The award was given in recognition of her “demonstrating initiative, effort, impact and personal growth” in reaching her goal of someday running the Iditarod.  She exemplified those qualities by her dedication to rescuing, training and racing sled dogs.  I learned about her from an article in an online newspaper published near where we used to live in Maine.

Windward Books had been one of my publishers for many years.  I am the author of an eight-book series of wildlife picture books called My Little Books. To date there are over 125, 000 copies of these books in print.  The most recent one in the series is My Little Book of Bald Eagles.  Because of the satisfying relationship I have with Al Krysan, the publisher, I asked if he’d consider publishing Aisling’s story.  Gentleman that he is, he agreed to read the manuscript and was hooked.

Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson, published by P&R Publishers, is an historical novel of the life of a young Covenanting Presbyterian in17th century Scotland.  Its target audience is 9-14 year-old readers. It deals with the persecution of devout believers who chose death over being forced to worship in their kirks where the immoral King Charles II claimed to be head. 

VS: They sound wonderful and I can’t wait to finish reading them. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read so far. Now Hope, what do you enjoy most about writing?

Hope: I love refining my manuscripts after I have a reasonable first draft.  One of my joys is finding the precise word I need in a particular passage.  That’s especially challenging when I am writing historical fiction, which I am doing right now. I have to find the right word for the context and then make sure that word was in use at the time.  Two of my well-worn reference books are The Synonym Finder and English through the Ages.

VS: What is the most difficult part of writing?

Hope: The most difficult part of writing for me is choosing what to write about from a long list of things I find intriguing. What makes it challenging is determining which ideas have the most universal appeal to my chosen audience.  When I began my publishing career nearly forty years ago, I couldn’t think of suitable topics. Now I can’t decide which of my ideas I should pursue. 

I learned years ago when I was writing and submitting to magazines that just because something pushes my buttons, the whole world isn’t necessarily interested in that subject.  I did a lot of “practice writing” until I became savvier in that regard. On the other hand, those pieces that were never published were good practice.  Each one was a step forward in my pursuit of getting a book published.

VS: Thank you for sharing all that wonderful insight, Hope, and with that, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Hope: That I should write what is important to me because it touches my heart rather than writing for what I think will sell. Also, I should write about that topic that has been inserting itself into my thinking for long periods of time.  For example, I first read about Margaret Wilson about thirty years before I was able to gather the information (and enjoy two trips to Scotland) to write a sensible accounting of this devout teen-ager and her faith.

VS: Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other projects and/or jobs?

Hope: Not with my other jobs since I have been retired, but with my other interests and commitments.  Things needing my attention tend to pile up in the same proportion as the paper stashes on my worktable.  During the month of January, I was mentally stretched with making revisions on an historical novel about the War of 1812 that I was professionally critiqued by a respected children’s book editor. At the same time, I was answering the Interview Questions for this World of Ink Tour and having two interviews concerning the publication of Eye on the Iditarod. I didn’t spend much time twiddling my thumbs and I never watch television.

VS: Yes, it can be hard to find the balance sometimes. There are many things I also seeing piling up around me and I have to stop and say, “Okay, time to get this done before it gets out of hand.” Hope, do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Hope: Yes. My current project is an historical middle grade novel, Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey. It’s local history.  I had hoped to find a publisher for it a couple of years ago.  After over 20 rejections, I realized it must have major faults.  I learned to find them after attending Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Workshop in the fall of 2010. Since then I’ve spent considerable time re-writing the story.  I had it professionally critiqued by Paula Morrow (good decision on my part) and am now working through her comments and suggestions.  Because it’s too late to find a mainstream publisher in time for the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration, I am bringing this one out as an e-book.

Once the powder monkey book is completed, I will get back to another historical novel of a Vermont family settling in New York in the early 1800s. Hannah Brown:  Pioneer Girl is the working title. The story is based on the settlement of Pulaski, New York.    During a difficult winter move from Vermont to central New York in 1806, a plucky 12-year-old Hannah proves her maturity in hopes of being given the new calf that will be born shortly after the family arrives at their destination.   

VS: Hope, I would love for you to share with us what you think are the basic ingredients of a good book?

Hope: Intriguing, unique characters, doing something non-routine that is fun, dangerous, important, or helpful to others that are believable. It must be written in such a way the reader can visualize every scene and action so much he feels he is right there watching it happen. 


VS: Now Hope, you have received awards for some of your books. Can you share which ones?

Hope: I’m glad you asked. Here they are:


My Little Book of Bald Eagles
     2010 Next Generation INDIE Book Award
     Best Children’s/Juvenile Non-Fiction
     
My Little Book of Manatees
     Adirondack Literary Award
     Best Picture Book 2007

     Adirondack Center for Writing
     Picture Book of the Year 2007 Finalist
     ForeWord Magazine
    
My Little Book of River Otters
     Charlotte Award 2006 Finalist
     
Isaac Johnson: From Slave to Stonecutter
     Charlotte Award 2006 Finalist
     
My Little Book of Whitetails
     Picture Book of the Year 2004 Finalist
     ForeWord Magazine
     
Salmon River Odyssey
     Certificate of Commendation
     American Association of State and Local History (2003)
     
Isaac Johnson: From Slave to Stonecutter (First Edition)
     Notable Children's Trade Book in the Field of Social Studies (1996)
     
Big Rigs (First Edition)
     Junior Literary Guild Selection (1981)
     
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Hope: Though my husband and I have not been blessed with children, I come from a family of nine and have lots of extended family.  It’s rewarding when they express interest in my writing and when they share their writing with me.

It’s a natural high when I do school presentations or book signings and a child comes to me and confides that he has his own copy of one of my books and tells me “it’s the best book I’ve ever read!”

The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books. Her most recent release Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest (ISBN: 978-0-89317-071-4) is a biography, but was written as an autobiography. Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) released the book December 1, 2011. The other two books on tour are My Little Book of Bald Eagles also from Windward Publishing (An imprint of Finney Company) and Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson from P & R Publishing.

You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/HopeIrvinMarston.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

In addition, come listen the February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth chatted with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show aired live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST.