Friday, August 20, 2010

Interview Friday with Karen Cioffi

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, editor, and reviewer. She is on the team of DKV Writing 4 U; manager of VBT – Writers on the Move; co-moderator of a children’s critique group; and an acquisitions editor intern. You can contact Karen at:

karenrcfv AT yahoo DOT com.

VS: I want to thank you, Karen for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard, but you do more than just write and raise a family. You also host authors on your blog and run a virtual blog tour group, so to start here is the first question . . . how many children do you have and what are their ages?

Karen: Hi, Virginia, thank you for featuring me; it’s certainly an honor. As far as question #1, I have two grown daughters, 30 and 34. And, I have two grandsons, 4-years-old, and 20-months-old. I babysit them two days a week, so I’m still in the trenches as a writing grandmamma. J During the summer, my 10-year-old great nephew is in the mix also.

VS: Wow, sounds like you are busy with kids even after yours have grown-up. What is a typical writing day like for you?

Karen: My typical writing day is spending an awful lot of time on the computer, except Tuesdays and Thursday (they are my babysitting days). After watching my grandsons for 8 or 9 hours, I often just crash.

On most days, I try to take care of household chores in the morning when I have some energy. Then, I go on the computer. First I check my email (including my groups’ daily digests), and respond to mail that needs to be answered; I also look into any interesting newsletters or information.

After that, I spend my time writing one thing or another; with ghostwriting, editing, copywriting, and my own articles for my blogs and article directories my day flies by with writing and research.

VS: After reading what your day is like, I had to go take a nap. LOL. I totally understand days flying by with writing, research, and taking care of kids. I think it is great you watch your grandkids. My mom helps me out as well when I need a break. So is your family supportive of your writing and other ventures?

Karen: My husband is very supportive of my writing, although every now and then he feels I’m on the computer too much. My girls are supportive, but for some reason they always laugh when I say I’m busy working. And, my 4-year-old grandson is starting to become interested in my writing. He recently asked if I write books, and wanted to write one with me.

VS: That’s wonderful to hear. I think husbands sometime view our writing as a hobby. At least mine did until was paid for my work. He doesn’t say much now about how much I’m on the computer because he’s on more than me. However, if the kids are climbing the walls . . . he has no trouble pointing out I need to get off. J Have you had any training to become a writer?

Karen: In college, I minored in English Literature, but no real formal training to become a writer. After I became disabled with multiple sclerosis in 2000, and had to give up my accounting career, I entered the writing arena. First, I took several years to get healthy enough to function better. Then, I joined The Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club (CWCC) with Suzanne Lieurance. My training, in respect to writing for children, is through Suzanne and her instruction, guidance, coaching, and motivation. I’ve been a member for over 2 years now, and I know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without Suzanne.

I also put in the time and effort; I did, and still do, a lot of research and reading about learning to write and marketing.

VS: That is so amazing Karen. I have to tell you I forget you have MS. You do so much and never seem to slow down and I’m sure Suzanne is there motivating you every step of the way. She’s great and her programs from what I hear are wonderful. I haven’t taken one yet, but I do get her newsletter and chat with her from time to time. Okay, so what type of books do you mostly write?

Karen: I seem to be all over the place. J I started with children’s picture books, then moved on to children’s chapter books (which I really like writing), and I’ve written 3 nonfiction e-books on writing and marketing; the most recent one is over 100 pages. And, I know I have a novel in me somewhere . . . someday.

VS: I think it is great you’re trying all the different genres. I think one should never limit their choices and once you find the niche you do best in . . . really hit it hard. Karen, I would love it if you would share with us a little about your current book.

Karen: My current book, Walking Through Walls, is a children’s chapter book geared toward ages 8-11. It’s in contract with 4RV Publishing, and is in edits. It takes place in China around the 15th or 16th century, and is loosely based on an ancient Chinese tale. I want to start on a sequel to it, but with my workload right now, it’s difficult.

I also have another children’s chapter book in the works (on the back burner for the time being) about two boys lost in space and a children’s pb (also on the backburner).

VS: Your book, Walking Through Walls, sounds interesting. My family live books based in other countries. You’ll have to let me know when it is out. I also know what it is like having WP’s on the backburner. I finally pulled two of my pb’s out of the drawer to start working on them again after two years. As I mentioned before, you don’t only write, but also host and run a blog tour group. Can you share a little about this group and what a blog tour is?

Karen: Yes, VBT – Writers on the Move. I started this group in October 2008, as a direct result of the 2008 Muse Online Writer’s Conference. I participated in a workshop with Denise Cassino that prompted the group.

Basically, we are a group of authors and writers who use cross-promotion to increase visibility. Our strategies include ongoing blog tours, promotion of the tours, link exchange, twitter retweets of not only the tours, but any other blog post a member requests we visit and comment on (I call it Marketing Plus), and a group blog site where contributors have another site to post content. I don’t think I’m forgetting anything, but can’t remember at the moment—let’s see, I can blame it on my age, or the MS. J

A blog tour is a strategy for creating or increasing visibility. I wrote an article a while ago explaining tours and VBT; it’s more detailed than I can add here. Anyone interested can check it out at:

VS: VBT is such a great group. I’m really enjoying being a part of it. It does take a lot of work, but it is worth it. Now you also do ghost writing. I’ve looked into this kind of work before, but wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to try. Can you share with us what it is like working on someone else’s book?

Karen: I like ghostwriting. To me it’s a win-win situation – the author gets a story and you paid for it. J I usually work from an outline or rough draft provided by the author.

As long as you don’t have the need to have your name on the book, it’s a practical way to earn money from your writing. I’ve done several children’s books so far, and turned down a paranormal novel because I’m not familiar enough with the genre. I’m currently working on editing/rewriting a 320 page memoir (once some rewriting is involved I consider it a form of ghostwriting). The key is to make sure you get paid enough for your time, and sometimes you don’t always know how involved, or how long it will take.

VS: Yes, I can see that being a downside to ghostwriting. Besides writing your own books and ghostwriting . . . you also do reviews. What do you like about reviewing?

Karen: The first is the reading part; I’ve read so many interesting books from reviewing. The other thing I like about reviewing is helping authors out by bringing attention to their books through reviews. Unfortunately, with my workload, I have slacked off on reviews.

VS: Totally understandable. You do a lot Karen, so slacking off on a few things is bound to happen. One reason why I took a break from Stories for Children Magazine last year. Okay, with all that you do what type of book promotion works for you? Any special strategies you’d like to share?

Karen: Without hesitation, article marketing for article directories and my blogs works.

Readers want information or entertainment; providing what readers want draws traffic and creates visibility for what you’re offering, whether it’s your books or your services. This is why in the VBT tours I’m trying to steer the members toward featuring more guest articles rather than pure promo.

VS: A very smart move indeed. What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Karen: There are two bits of advice that I think are invaluable to a writer, and both came from Suzanne Lieurance:

1. Don’t compare yourself to other writers and their accomplishments.

2. Persevere.

VS: Great advice Karen. It is so true that what works for one writer may not work for another so comparing yourself to others is just asking for failure. Sine you mentioned persevere, do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?

Karen: YES! I struggle with this all the time, and my personal writing time is losing big time. But, as a freelance writer, you need to take the jobs when they come.

VS: I’ll second that! Okay, a publishing question for you . . . the world of book publishing is extremely competitive, with many authors hesitating between trying their luck with a traditional publisher or self publishing. What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues?

Karen: I think self-publishing is an option, as long as you take the necessary steps to make your book ‘publish ready’ (professionally edited, and if it’s a pb, professional illustrations). And, with e-books on the rise, and more and more companies such as CreateSapce, Smashwords, and Lulu, it’s easier than ever to create a book.

But, whether right or wrong, I think there’s a certain feeling of accomplishment when your manuscript is accepted by a publisher. And, book promotion is a lot of work, even if you’re traditionally published, with self-publishing it’s even more difficult and time consuming.

VS: Yes, I think a lot of writers who take the self-publishing route don’t realize how much hard work marketing is and more so because you don’t have a publisher’s support (most of the time.) Karen, what would we be surprised to learn about you?

Karen: I’ve been promoting myself for almost two years now; you all probably know more about me than I remember myself. J

Okay, I’m not sure if anyone knows this, but I recently joined the staff at 4RV Publishing as an acquisitions editor intern.

VS: That’s wonderful news. Congrats! Karen, is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?

Karen: I think in closing, I’d just like to emphasis that anyone interested in self-publishing should take the time to do it right. I’ve read a number of self-pubbed books for reviews, and it was obvious the authors jumped in without learning to swim first.

VS: Karen, thank you again for sharing your busy writing mama life with us. It is always a pleasure to have writers like you who are so multi-talented on The Writing Mama.

To sign up for Karen’s free monthly newsletter, A Writer’s World, and in the process get two free e-books: The Self-Publisher’s Guide, and The Blogger’s Checklist. Go to: or

To learn more about Karen’s book Day’s End Lullaby visit:

You can learn more about Karen and her books at:


  1. HI, Virginia. I just got home; I was by by daughter's (helping out with my grandsons while my son-in-law was away on business) all week so my internet access was very limited.

    Thank you so much for featuring me today. I'll get busy letting other know now.

  2. Great interview Karen. Grand kids and write do have a tendency to keep you pretty busy I am sure.

  3. It was great having you on Karen. You have so much great info to share with writers.

    Memelynne, thanks for stopping by.

  4. I enjoyed learning more about you, Karen. You dabble in a little bit of everything! I always find you a huge inspiration for those of us living with chronic illnesses.

  5. I miss participating in VBT, but I shall return some day.

    Karen, you are such an interesting person. I'm glad your book is in the hands of 4RV.

  6. Karen you are so inspiring! I always learn new things from you. Thanks for sharing your marvelous treasure chest of info with us all!

  7. Interesting interview and it's great that you find time to work on your writing with your busy schedule!


  8. Hi, all,

    Sorry for the delay in getting back here. Thank you all so much for taking the time to leave a comment.

    And, Vivian, so am I!