Monday, February 28, 2011

Author Spotlight-Sherry Ellis

For Immediate Release

Author Sherry Ellis joins the
Stories for Children Publishing March ‘11 World of Ink Tour 

Stories for Children Publishing will be touring author Sherry Ellis and her children’s books, “That Mama is a Grouch” and “That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN!” all month long in March 2011.

You can find World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, and guest posts. Make sure to stop by and interact with Sherry and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. Sherry will be checking in throughout the tour.

In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s Robin Falls Kids show: Stories for Children on March 7, 2011. The hosts (VS Grenier, D.M. Cunningham and Kris Quinn Chirstopherson) will chat with Sherry Ellis about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Sherry will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life.

The show will be live, March 7, 2011 at 1pm EST (12pm Central, 11am MST, and 10am PST). You can tune in at the RRRadio’s site at or you can listen/call in at (646) 595-4478. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

Sherry Ellis is a freelance writer who writes articles for parenting magazines and children’s publications.  Her first book, That Baby Woke Me Up, AGAIN, was published in 2005.  Her second, That Mama is a Grouch, was published in May of 2010.  It was honored as a finalist in the Parenting/Family category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards. 

Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano.  Ms. Ellis lives in Loveland, Ohio with her husband and two children.

To learn more about Sherry Ellis visit  

Learn more about Stories for Children Publishing, LLC at:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bless Their Hearts Mom: Book Review: How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spe...

There won't be an interview here today, but you can check out this review and interview with SFC's World of Ink Guest Mayra Calvani. Bless Their Hearts Mom: Book Review: How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spe...: "Welcome to my stop on the World of ink Book tour for Mayra Calvani! This is my seocnd pdf book file review! Yes, I am Nook-les..."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

If Your Brain Was Up for Auction

I can't say anyone would want my brain currently if it was up for auction. I've been so busy with SFC and edits for Halo that I feel like I'm spinning my wheels in the mud. I know I've made head way on my To-Do list, but it doesn't look like it when the long list is staring me in the face weekly, daily and hourly. However, the light is starting to appear at the end of my tunnel and I'll be back to posting what thoughts along with the other wonderful guest authors here and featured interviews. And with that said here is fun writing prompt post to get those gears a turning.

If Your Brain Was Up for Auction
By: Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
This writing activity was inspired by Dido's song, Life for Rent. The song's 
chorus goes:
    If my life is for rent and I don't learn to buy 
    Well I deserve nothing more than I get 
    'Cause nothing that I have is truly mine 
[ Complete lyrics at ]
*If the link above doesn't work, try going to Google and searching for "life for 
rent dido lyrics" (without the quotes). You'll find plenty of sites that have the 

Read the chorus a few more times before continuing with this article. It'll get 
you in the mood :o)
Done? Let's forge on.
It's pretty straightforward imagery -- Life is likened to a commodity, one that's 
for rent, and that premise (or metaphor) is supported by the last line: thus, 
saying that if one's life is for rent (and one doesn't learn how to buy things), 
then nothing he (she) has is really his (hers). 
When we break it down, it's cause and effect, or an if...then relationship. One 
thing causes something to happen. Or this is the reason that thing happened. If 
you do this, then that is the result. You get the drift :o)
Now, here's what you're going to do. You'll play the "if-then" game. 
The resulting "if-then" fragments will be the basis of your creative pieces today. 
You can take them anywhere you want them to go. Consider this simple writing 
activity the sparkplug that inspired the lift-off, the conductor's baton that got 
the orchestra playing, the little grenade pin that slipped... Ok, I'm sure you get 
the drift ;o)
First, pick a number between 1 and 10:
1. eyes
2. vocal chord
3. brain
4. thumbs
5. skin
6. toenails
7. heart
8. lungs
9. legs
10. ears
Got a number picked? Good! Now, apply any or all of these to the body part 
that you picked:
- lease, auction, bargain/sale, barter, evaluation, adoption
You'll come up with something like these:
- If my brain was up for adoption...
- If my brain was up for auction...
- If I were to barter my brain...
- If I were to lease my brain...
- If anyone could get my brain at bargain price...
Next, add the second part -- the "then". What happens? To you? To the body part? 
To Donald Trump? To life on earth? Come up with not just one reason; come up with 
many! Preposterous reasons, serious reasons, wacky reasons, out-of-this-world 
If your brain was up for auction, 
- What would happen to you?
- What would happen to the person who'll own it?
- What would happen to the people who may or may not value
    the things (memories) in your brain?
- What would happen to your memories? 
- What would happen if none of the bidders met your
    minimum price or reserve?
Too weird for you? OK, then give this one a go. Pick a number from 1 to 10:
1. loyalty
2. honesty
3. summer
4. weekends
5. name
6. ambition
7. career
8. love
9. job
10. bachelorhood
Again, apply any or all of these to whatever you picked:
- lease, auction, bargain/sale, barter, evaluation, adoption
And you'll come up with:
- If my loyalty was up for sale...
- If I were to barter my loyalty...
- If my loyalty is up for evaluation...
- If I were to have my loyalty adopted...
- If I could lease my loyalty...
- If my loyalty was up for auction...
You know what to do next ;o)
That's it. Have fun auctioning off those body parts! :o)
Copyright (c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Shery created WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10
*million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite
for free -

Friday, February 18, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Poetry Editor Fred Marmorstein

I hope you all have been enjoying getting to know the different SFC Team members. It’s been lots of fun interviewing them and even finding out a new thing or two myself. Well this week I have our SFC Poetry Editor Fred Marmorstein with us. Fred taught secondary school Language Arts for seventeen years before devoting himself full-time to writing. He holds degrees from SUNY-Binghamton and New York University, and has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He currently lives in northern Virginia with his wife and daughter.

I want to thank Fred for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know you have a daughter and have to find time to write just like many of here who read The Writing Mama. Now some of us have younger children at home while others have grown up children and then still others have teens. So here is the first question…

VS: How old is your daughter? Toddler? Elementary age? Pre-teen? Teenager? 

Fred: I have a 13-year-old daughter.

VS: So a beginning teenager. I just went through those years now I have to worry about my son asking to drive the car or go on a date. I don’t think my heart is ready for either of them. Okay so as a dad, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Fred: I achieve balance through activities that provide me time to reflect like backpacking, gardening, and going to the gym.

VS: I can’t tell you how many of the women are thinking, “Would that be nice. Instead I have to find time to clean the house and make dinner.” LOL. But it is nice to hear a dad’s point of view to this question. Now Fred, how long have you been writing?

Fred: 38 years

VS: Okay, I think you have most of my interviewees beat. Not that it’s a contest. So what inspires you to write?

Fred: I’m inspired by other writers: Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Dickinson. I’m also exceedingly curious about human behavior. Why do we create stories? I’m inspired when I uncover something that I did not know was there.

VS: Just so you know…I have the whole Dickinson’s collection. Big fan myself. Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?

Fred: As the Poetry Editor, I review writers’ poems and provide feedback. I work with a wonderful assistant and give her, when necessary, the support she needs. I also have to approve the final draft of poems sent to SFC for the editor’s final approval.

VS: Okay now with SFC stuff to do and having a family life, what is a typical writing day like for you?

Fred: Sometimes, I get up at 5 am and write for two hours before work. Sometimes, I stay up until 1 am.

VS: A man after my own writing heart. Expect my day job is being a stay-at-home-mommy and Chef Editor at Halo in my home office. I know it can be hard finding writing time and sometimes family don’t always understand the need for us to write. Is your family supportive of your writing?

Fred: Yes.

VS: That is wonderful and very to the point of the question. Now here is a hard question Fred. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Fred: More like a mountain. There is no cure. If you want to work through your writer’s block, stop writing and do anything else. Give your mind and ideas time to percolate.
Set writing aside for a while.

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

Fred: I had a poem titled “The Frozen Tree” published in the local newspaper when I was thirteen. And I got a check for $5.00!

VS: Now you are the Poetry Editor, but what type of books do you mostly write?

Fred: I have just finished a middle grade novel.

VS: Wonderful and I hope you’ll share with us how submitting process goes later down the road. Okay, Fred can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Fred: Writing for me is like laboring through a jungle; hacking for days, weeks, months until I discover – unearth – some monument, some idea that has not been there before. Success comes very slowly, and I wait to find that sense of achievement. I work with children’s lit for the same reason: the effort, the strain, the conflict of finding the right story and the right words.

VS: I guess this next question is going to be like a repeat. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Fred: The freedom to choose any idea and make it my own.

VS: Good save to a possible repeat question. So what is the most difficult part of writing?

Fred: Knowing that revision is just around the corner.

VS: So true Fred. So can you share with us the best writing advice you ever received?

Fred: I met Maxine Kumin at a writer’s retreat I was lucky enough to be accepted to.
She asked me how old I was. When I told her I was 23, she said “Go out and live your life some more.”

VS: That’s great advice for anyone of any age. You can’t stop living no matter what is happening in your life. Do you find it hard to balance your personal writing time with your other jobs?

Fred: No. I love doing both.

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

Fred: After two and a half years, I’ve completed my first novel. It’s a tall tale set in America’s Old West mythology about a ten-year-old boy who wants to rid the world of vegetables.

VS: Sounds like a book kids will want to read. I don’t know any kid who likes eating vegetables. LOL. Can you share with us about your writing space?

Fred: Dining room table. “Quiet Room” at library. My car. Sitting on top of Brown Mt. in the Shenandoahs. Wherever I can.

VS: Lots of inspiration with so many different writing places that is for sure. Fred, what would we be surprised to learn about you?

Fred: I’ve worked at least 15 different jobs.

VS: Wow, we’ll have to have you back just to talk about the different jobs you’ve had. With that, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?

Fred: I’d like to believe that the physicality of a book provides some sort of comfort or reassurance that we haven’t lost touch, literally and figuratively, with the immediacy of reading. The revolution of the microchip distances ourselves from the tactile form of connecting. I guess hugging your Kindle as you drift off to sleep is already a reality.
The electronic age of publishing will continue to miniaturize. We will soon have books on 3D glasses.

VS: I’m afraid you might be right. I still love cuddling up with my kids and I don’t see a computer being the item of choice to read that way, but what do I know. Kids today won’t know any different nor will their children. Okay, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Fred: Don’t give up. 

VS: I love it. Straight to the point again, but very true statement as well. Fred, we’re getting to the end of this interview I would love to know what well known writers do you admire most?

Fred: I mentioned some already. But I also admire Stephen Donaldson, Keats, Richard Peck, Wideman, Shel Silverstein, and PD Eastman.

VS: You should get together with my hubby. You like many of his authors. I have shelves of books by most of these authors. Another writing question, do you participate in competitions? Have you received any awards?

Fred: I’ve entered but never won.

VS: But you most likely agree that the practice is worth it. Okay, last question; is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Dad”? Had to change that from ‘Mama’.

Fred: Love what you write no matter what.

VS: Fred, I thank you again for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing dad and SFC Team member. It has been fun having you.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

VBT-Guest Author Shelby Patrick

Before we jump to our VBT-Writers on the Move guest author Shelby Patrick, I wanted to say thank you for following this blog. I started this blog almost ten months ago and I can't believe how fast the number of followers and views climbed over the months. I really enjoy doing this blog and it has helped me get back into the swing of writing after the birth of my baby girl a year ago. Hard to believe it's been a year since she graced my life.

There are many things I have planned for this year here on the blog and with Stories for Children Publishing. I will as always update you on what is going on. I know lately I haven't posted any personal updates and I plan to be better over the upcoming months. Again thank you all for your support and now to our guest today author Shelby Patrick.

Instead of a interview, Shelby has offered a guest post on writing and keeping your spirits up when everything falls on your shoulders as the author of a book.

About Shelby Patrick: Shelby has published various articles throughout the Internet and created several e-books that are currently in circulation.

Not only does she work avidly with thrillers, but she continues to work with her other favorite genres: Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is currently working on a supernatural novel involving a serial killer.

Shelby was the founder of the now-defunct Michigan Horror Writers and the editor for several newsletters. Besides writing and dreaming, her other interests include martial arts, animals, and astronomy.

The Road So Far…
By Shelby Patrick

Writing is exhausting, especially when you do it alone. If you don’t have an agent, a marketer, or a publisher lined up, it all falls on the author to write and sell the book. How does one find the time?

Careful steps are necessary to keep one’s sanity during the writing process.

I spent years just writing before I even considered putting my stuff out there. I was under the impression that an author’s job is to WRITE. The rest would take care of itself, eventually. However, competition is fierce to grab an agent, editor, or publisher’s attention. I got a few offers, but none of them panned out, so I took my books on the road myself.

What did I find out?

Nothing comes easy.

I was lucky enough to find a really good editor, Richard Buchko, although he’s busy and takes his sweet old time.  It takes months to write, rewrite, and then rewrite some more before I can feel like my work is good enough to compete with the market today.

I write under a pseudonym, but the disadvantage of that is your friends and family don’t know you wrote something and there is no glory – so now everyone I know is aware of my pen name. Unfortunately, I wish I had kept it a secret now because some of the people I know comment on the nature of my writing – such as I used a lot of bad language or there’s too much sex and they don’t want to recommend it to anyone else. Therefore, I won’t tell them about my hot erotic vampire novel I just finished, which I’ll publish under a different pen name, of course. J

My first novel, WHEN ANGELS SING, came out in December 2010. The main male character, Blaze Kerrigan, is a typical young guy (with sex on the mind most days), but with one peculiar problem – he has a psychic link to a serial killer. So when Jenna Michaels shows up at his door unannounced and bears an uncanny resemblance to his dead fiancĂ©e, it’s Blaze’s job to keep her safe, especially when the body count starts to rise.

To see the trailer for WHEN ANGELS SING, please visit:

WHEN ANGELS SING can be purchased at or

Shelby Patrick

** Find Shelby Patrick on Twitter (@shelbypatrick) or Facebook **

And don't forget to visit the next guest on the VBT Feb '11 Tour on February 16th. Kevin McNamee is featuring author Darcia Helle. This is one post you don't want to miss!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Biblio Reads: Babysitting Sugarpaw (Ages 4-8)

Biblio Reads: Babysitting Sugarpaw (Ages 4-8): "+ + + + Babysitting Sugarpaw Author: VS GrenierIllustrator: Kevin Collier Reading level: Ages 4-8 Paperback: 32 pages Publ..."

Set Up Your Characters by Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Got one (or two) of your characters stuck? Don't know what to do with 
him/her? Is he/she getting too boring or predictable? Want to know more 
about his/her personality? Or maybe you have a story forming in the back 
of your mind but you don't know what to do with it just yet; you have a 
character but he/she isn't clear at this time. 
Here's a quick, but fun, fix -- set your character up for a surprise and 
find out how he/she reacts.
A. First, choose a number from 1 to 5 -- quick! Done? See what you chose:
1. a pearl anklet
2. a bottle of expensive perfume
3. a silk shirt
4. a plain gold ring/band
5. a high-end cellphone
B. Next, choose another number from 1 to 5. Now see what you picked:
1. moldy bread
2. a used toothpick
3. a bottle of dead cockroaches
4. cotton buds drenched in blood
5. a dirty sock
C. Next, pick another number from 1 to 5. Here's what you picked:
1. a knapsack
2. a laptop bag
3. a plastic bag
4. a gift-wrapped box
5. a gym bag
D. Finally, pick yet another number -- yes, from 1 to 5. I promise this 
is the last time :o)
1. a convention
2. election day
3. Thanksgiving
4. a high school reunion
5. a store opening
Now put the plain gold ring/band (A) and the bottle of dead cockroaches (B) 
in a knapsack (C). Your character discovers the knapsack in the car of the 
incumbent mayor's chief of security on election day (D). Your character 
opens the knapsack and...
What's your character's reaction when he/she pulls out the "good" item, 
followed by the "bad" item"? Write it out. Get the emotions out of your 
character. Continue by exploring your character's thoughts -- What are 
his/her assumptions for the presence of those items in the knapsack? How 
does he/she connect the items with the circumstances?
Pick the items at random and experiment with your character's reactions. 
You have at least 500 "set ups" for your character at your disposal by 
combining the items in the 4 lists above. 
Copyright (c) 2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ
Shery created WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 10
*million* Story Sparkers for Writers. Download WriteSparks! Lite
for fr*e - 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011

SFC Blog: Families Matter: Interview with Bree Ogden

SFC Blog: Families Matter: Interview with Bree Ogden: "If you are new to writing for children or are an aspiring author feverishly working away, there comes a time when you finally finish th..."

Interview Friday with Stories for Children Magazine Fiction Editor Lori Alexander

Lori Alexander, Fiction Editor of SFC, lives in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and two young children. After working in Human Resources for several years, and drafting many serious and stuffy emails, she is pursuing her passion for children’s literature. She enjoys writing picture books and magazine stories (none of which are serious or stuffy).

VS: Lori, I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know being a parent and writer can be hard and I find myself asking if I giving my three children enough attention throughout the day. I am sure you have been in my shoes from time to time. So to start here is the first question…How many children do you have and what are their ages?

Lori: I have a son, Max, who is six, and a daughter, Nora, who is 4 ½.

VS: I’m sure your home is as busy as mine with little ones. As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Lori: My son started Kindergarten this year, and my daughter goes to preschool a few days a week. Those hours are precious and that’s when I write and edit for SFC.

VS: I know what you mean. Nap times and school hours are my writing and SFC time as well. Now I’ve only been writing for a few years. How long have you been writing?

Lori: For children’s genre, about two years. But I’ve always enjoyed writing and did a fair amount in college, during my graduate work and during the years when I worked outside the home (before I was a mom).

VS: Wow, that’s great you’ve always been writing. What inspired you to write?

Lori: The kids, of course. And all of the wonderful picture books and chapter books we read together.

VS: Reading does have away to inspire many to become authors/writers. Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do, Lori?

Lori: I started as the Assistant Fiction Editor and now I am the Fiction Editor. The fiction desk is a busy one! Lots of submissions have been rolling in these past few months. I read the stories and decide which ones are a good fit for the magazine. Many are sent back to the authors for slight revisions. I enjoy seeing their work return, more polished. Looking forward to reading the re-launch issue in April!

VS: Yes, I am busy at work with our proofreader and copyeditor to get our re-launch issue ready for April 2011. We have some fun stuff to share with our readers in this issue. Now, I know my family has a hard time with all the time I do spend on SFC and my personal writing. Lori, would you say your family is supportive of your writing?

Lori: Yes, although I’ve found the most helpful support through online critique groups and writing partners. Those are the folks who really know the business, understand what we love about writing as well as the struggles.

VS: I have made many writing friends online like you. I don’t know where I would be with my writing without your support and encouragement. However, I still have days where I stare at a blank screen wondering what to writer. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Lori: Definitely! I like to step away from my work for a few weeks to let it breathe. We just got a puppy, and she’s taking up all kinds of time. But during that break, standing in the backyard waiting for her to pee already, I’ve come up with a better approach for a middle grade novel I’ve been working on.

VS: Maybe I need to stand in my backyard more with my dog. Of course he barks a lot at the dogs on the other side of the fence. Not sure my ‘muse’ would like that much. Now Lori you have several publications, but what was the first thing you ever had published?

Lori: A fiction piece in Stories for Children Magazine. I was thrilled it was accepted and loved the illustration that was created for my story.

VS:  And now you work behind the scenes with us. What a real treat for all of us. I know you also write book manuscripts. What type of books do you mostly write?

Lori: Picture books are my first love and I’ve tried my hand at quite a few. But their simplicity is insanely difficult to reproduce. Recently, I’ve started a middle grade novel. I’m enjoying my characters, getting to know them and not having to wrap up at 500 words.

VS: Yes, picture books are very difficult to write because you have to keep the word count down and detail of the scenes. So Lori, can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Lori: I rediscovered all of my favorite picture books through my kids. Reading to them before bed is my favorite time of day and it’s something we never skip. Right now, it’s Love of Reading Month at the schools, a time when parents get to come in to read to the class. I never miss it. I always pick humorous books that get the kids laughing.

VS: I have to say I’m like you in that regard as well. I love reading with my children and sharing the books, I loved as a kid. What do you enjoy most about writing?

Lori: Putting together the puzzle. Creating interesting characters and getting them into all kinds of trouble.

VS: That is one thing we authors get to do…throw all kinds of trouble at our characters and if one thing doesn’t work, we try another. Okay, so what is the most difficult part of writing for you?

Lori: Finding the time. But my youngest starts Kindergarten next year—yeah!

VS: I have four more years before I have more free time, but boy am I looking forward to it. Just don’t rub it in too much come next year. LOL. Lori, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Lori: I don’t know if this counts as advice, but having a writing buddy, someone who understands the business/craft of writing, has been priceless.

VS: It counts all right. I don’t know where I would be without my first writing buddies Lisa and Roxanne. They really motivated me. Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?

Lori: I have one picture book going to acquisitions at a small publishing house and a middle grade novel in the works. Plus a list of PB ideas I’d like to work on in the future.

VS: Well we can’t wait to hear how things turn out with your submitted books. You are a very talented writer and I’m sure book publication is just around the corner. Now Lori, can you tell us about your writing space?

Lori: It’s sort of a mess. My computer is in our great room, so I can write and still keep an eye on the kids. They’ve actually wiggled the arm of my chair loose, asking me when I can play. That’s when I know it’s time to close my email.

VS: LOL. My kids have moved into my office. I find it hard to work when their having fun on the Wii. So I understand the whole time to close the email thing. What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Lori: My daughter has a rare genetic disorder that has caused major difficulties in her left leg. At four years old, she’s had five separate surgeries to try to correct her tibia. She’s spent the majority of her life in a long leg cast or brace. Watching her climb stairs or ride a trike takes on a different meaning for us. She’s taught me a lot about strength and persistence.

VS: You are a ‘Super’ mom and your daughter is an inspiration. I think children are here to teach us vs. the other way around sometimes. Now with you working as SFC, which is a virtual office and Ezine, how do you see the future of publishing, both traditional and electronic?

Lori: I’m not quite up to speed on that debate. I know there is a place for both types of publishing. For me, I love holding a book in my hands and rummaging the shelves at the library, coming away with a huge stack of great finds.

VS: I agree, but I wonder if our children will have the same love. I guess we’ll have t wait and see. Lori, before we go, what tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Lori: Find a good critique group—in person or online. Join SCBWI. Keep up with the business and craft through editor/agent blogs and writers’ forums, such as Verla Kay’s Blueboards. And read, read, read! Keep up with the current publications, be that PB, Chapter Books, MG or YA.

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

Lori: I hope to be a Writing Mama for many years to come! Thanks for having me.

VS: Lori, I thank you for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama and SFC Team member.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book blog and review: Kathy Stemke

Book blog and review: Kathy Stemke: "Encouraging Movement to Music By Kathy Stemke All of us have enjoyed dancing around the living room to music when no was looking. These a..."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interview with Award-winning author Mayra Calvani

Award-winning author Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She’s a reviewer for The New York Journal of Books and co-editor of Voice in the Dark ezine. She's had over 300 reviews, interviews, stories, and articles published in print and online. Mayra is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Children's Writer's Coaching Club.
VS: I want to thank you for being my guest here on The Writing Mama today. I know you’ve been busy touring your recent book Frederico the Mouse Violinist and your other books this month with the World of Ink Tours and through other marketing opportunities. It is always a pleasure to have you here Mayra and so to begin can you share with my readers how long have you been writing?

Mayra: I wrote my first stories when I was about 12. I have been writing ever since.

VS: That is so great. I only started writing stories over the past few years. However, I did write some poems as a teen. Since you have been writing for so long what would you say inspires you to write?

Mayra: Reading great books; books about writing and creativity; violin music; falling snow; grey, cold, misty days; walking by myself, alone with my thoughts; a cabin in the woods; a balcony or terrace with a lovely view; a glass of wine; vacationing in a French chateau…

VS: You had a lot to inspire you and your writing for sure. It also shows in your books, which I just love and so do my children. Okay, so what was the first thing you ever had published?

Mayra: A short story in a literary magazine. I was nineteen, in my second year of college. I screamed and jumped up and down. Nothing like that first publishing credit.

VS: I think your first publication is one you never forget and doing the ‘Happy Dance’ is something we all do, too. Mayra, can you share with us a little about your current books?

Mayra: My latest books are How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event and Fredrico, the Mouse Violinist.

How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event is a 50-page chapbook for girls ages 9-12 on how to start and manage a book club from start to end. It also includes an explanation of the various genres and a resource section with a list of popular authors who write for young readers, including the titles of one of their books and website links. The book encourages a love of books and reading and also social and leadership skills.
To find out more about it, readers can visit my website at:

Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, is a 24-page picture book that teaches the parts of the violin to beginner players and entertains them with a fun, educational story.

Blurb: Frederico is a little mouse with a big dream: he wants to become a violinist. Each day he watches as Stradivari makes his famous violins. Each night, he sneaks into the workshop to play. But the violins are too big! Then, unbeknown to Frederico, Stradivari sees him playing and begins carving a tiny device. Could it be a famous Strad especially for Frederico?

It is available in eBook, hardcover and paperback.

VS: Both are wonderful books and I really enjoyed the book trailer for How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Even. If any of you would like to see it, you can go to and view it under our “Featured Trailer” section. I’m always curious to learn what a writer enjoys most about writing. What would you say you enjoy about the writing process?

Mayra: Nothing beats being able to work in my pajamas all day. J

VS: I second that! I find myself in my P.J’s for hours each day. Once I even forgot about my dog groomers appointment and dropped him off in my P.J’s. Good thing the groomer is a close friend and only lives 5 minutes from my house. LOL. Okay, so we know you love being a writer so you can hang out in your P.J’s, what is the most difficult part of writing?

Mayra: For me, following a disciplined schedule, fighting procrastination and shutting down my inner critic.

VS: Again, I can agree with that. I think one problem about being a writer is we are home and it is easy to say, “That can wait until later.” However, if we do…who knows when we’ll get the job done. Okay, with that said, what is the best writing advice you ever received?

Mayra: “Leap, and the net will appear.” I have a sign on my desk.

VS: I like that a lot. Thanks for sharing. I bet some our readers today will be posting this up by their computers. I know I will be. Mayra, what do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?

Mayra: The very, very basic?

  1. A sympathetic protagonist. If you don’t like the character and can’t identify with him, you won’t care what happens to him enough to keep reading.

  1. A compelling conflict. Give your protagonist a big problem, the bigger the better. A strong conflict forces the protagonist into action so that those good and bad qualities I mentioned come through for the reader.

  1. Rising action. As the protagonist tries various ways to solve the big problem, other obstacles or smaller problems arise, thus creating escalating tension. This is what keeps you turning those pages late into the night.

  1. A satisfying ending. Just when you think all will go wrong, the protagonist solves the problem, everything falls into place, and we can sigh, relaxed, knowing all will be well (well, at least, in most cases!).

VS: All very good points and ones we can’t turn a blind eye to. So what is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Mayra: Any believable character must have a combination of both good and bad qualities, just like a person in real life. No one likes a character that is all good. The same goes for villains. A villain who is all-evil is a flat, non-dimensional character. That said, great protagonists, are also bigger than life and possess a few admirable qualities that come through at the climax of the story. This quality is what makes heroes and heroines stand out. As readers, we want to see protagonists do things that we wouldn’t have the guts to do ourselves.

VS: All very true, Mayra thanks for sharing. Now we know you’re an award-winning author. Can you share what awards you have won?

Mayra: My nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. It was also nominated for three other awards.

My children’s picture book, Humberto, the Bookworm Hamster, was nominated for an EPIC Award last month. Winners will be announced this spring.

I intend to enter Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, in several awards this year.

VS: Mayra, I thank you again for taking the time to share with my readers about being a writing mama.

Mayra: Thank you, Virginia! It was a pleasure being on your blog!

For more information on Mayra Calvani and her books, visit her World of Ink Tour page at and her websites listed below.

 Blog Address:
 Twitter URL:
 Publisher Website:
Mayra Calvani’s next stop on her virtual author tour is February 10th at One Zillion Books where you can read a review of How to Turn Your Book Club into a Spectacular Event.