Friday, April 29, 2011

Interview Friday with SFC Education Writer Alice Knisley Matthias

Alice Knisley Matthias, Educational Writer of SFC, lives in the New York metropolitan area with her husband, children and floppy eared mixed breed dog. She holds a BA in Theater and a Master's degree in Elementary Education. Alice is the author of a newspaper food column and children's fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

VS: I want to thank you Alice 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'm 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?

Alice: I have two children who are nine and four years old.

VS: As a mom, what do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Alice: I try and find where I can mesh my writing and my family time as much as I can.  For example, I may read something in the newspaper and talk to my children about it so that we can learn something new and then I will roll it into something to write about. 

VS: When did you start writing and what inspired you to write?

Alice: When I got my Master’s degree in Elementary Education one of the required courses was basically researching and putting together the first chapters of a thesis.  But it wasn’t a requirement to finish it.  I did a ton of work for the course and I wanted to complete the thesis. I asked the new head of the Education department if I could finish it and I did. 

The inspiration to write comes from reading good work by other writers.  There is that feeling of reading a description of something that resonates with you that helps you with your craft.  Reading good writing makes your own skills better.

VS: Now you are also a member of the SFC Team. Can you share with us a little about what you do?

Alice: I am delighted to write about topics for SFC as the Education Writer.  As a parent, I am always reading about education in newspapers and magazines and watching news programs.

VS: What is a typical writing day like for you and is your family supportive of your writing?

Alice: Right now my youngest is in preschool and my older child is in third grade.  The preschool is a half-day program so I try to work on writing during that time. I always have ideas of what I want to write about and one thought may lead to another idea that takes me in a different direction.  I am always ripping articles out of the newspaper in the morning to use for research.
Nothing is more thrilling for me than to have my children excited about something I have accomplished with my writing.

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

Alice: The first piece I consider to be published was my Master’s thesis.  After all the work I did seeing my name in gold letters on the leather binding seemed like the real finish line.  When I wanted to get into writing children’s literature the first piece that I had published was a poem in SFC.  To see my words paired with a beautiful illustration was a great feeling. 
I enjoy writing nonfiction and poetry.  I love the “song” in rhyme.

VS: Can you share with us why you love writing and working with children’s lit?

Alice: Children’s literature is just such a magical genre to be a part of.  I loved to read as a child and a favorite book of mine was “The Secret Garden.”  I had this image in my mind of what the garden looked like and the scent of the flowers.  That’s what I love about literature.  In fiction writing each reader will have a mental image of a setting and the personalities of the characters.  That is the reason why I usually can’t watch a movie that has been made based on a book I enjoyed.  If the interpretation of the characters and setting are different it changes my perspective.  For children, good nonfiction should be able to hold the interest of an adult reader as well.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing? What is most difficult about writing?

Alice: The part of writing that I enjoy the most is editing something over and over again until I have that moment of satisfaction when I feel “yes, that’s it.” 
The most difficult part of writing, for me, is clearing my head and focusing on one thing at a time.

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

Alice: The best piece of advice about writing is to let something “cool.”  You can’t be objective about your own work in the heat of the moment.  Even if you think you have just finished a Pulitzer Prize winning piece you need to sleep on it.  Something can leap out at you in a new reading of your work the next morning. Good and bad.

VS: Tell us about your writing space?

Alice: I don’t have a laptop because I want to have one place where I am committed to work.  When I am there I am focused and when I walk away I am done. My computer is located in front of a window where I look out onto an old stone fieldhouse and a park across the street. I love to garden so I enjoy being able to watch the seasons pass and the view is constantly changing.  I keep some sort of flower on my desk at all times.  At the moment I have a glass vase with a cutting from the purple lilac tree that began to bloom yesterday.

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

Alice: I am working on many different things.  I have an idea for a children’s book that was inspired by my older child’s interest in birds. 

VS: What would we be surprised to learn about you?

Alice: I don’t text and I rarely use my cell phone. I communicate by e-mail and personal conversation.

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

Alice: For me, personally, a good read will always be a tangible newspaper, magazine or book in my hands. 

VS: It has been great having you here today Alice. And for those stopping by, you can always learn more about the SFC Team at and all the many things we have going on. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

WOI Guest Post with Renee Hand: Finding Time to Write

Finding time to write can always be a challenge. We have families and interruptions, jobs and children. Lives take over and, I can honestly say, I can get so busy that I can’t remember what day it is. But, in the early morning or late evening is when I can write for long periods of time without interruption. 

It is my time for myself to do what I need to do. It is peaceful. During the day with so much activity, it is hard to function. We must all find time for ourselves to write, but we also must find time for ourselves to take breaks as well. Believe it or not, for me, it brings more clarity. 

As writers, we can get so close to our writing that we miss some of our own mistakes because we are so close to it, so by stepping away for a little bit, we are able to see those mistakes. Now, I will also fit in a half hour here and there during the day. My boys and I have read time as well as quiet time for all of us to recharge our batteries. These times are great to get a few paragraphs in or to make revisions. 

Believe me when I say, if there is a will, there’s a way to fit writing in.

Renee Hand is an award-winning author, educator, tennis coach and various other things. Hand has been writing for over twenty years and has six publications. She also writes for various chronicles and newsletters, as well as reviews for various authors of children´s books on her blog,

Renee Hand's love for reading and writing started when she was a child. Renee always had a passion for it and remembers frequently wearing out the stone steps to the local library. When in a bookstore, she would sit in the middle of an aisle perusing a novel that she was eagerly going to purchase, but couldn’t wait to read. Often, when Renee has extra time, she will write stories that pop into her head...locking herself in her room for hours. Now that Renee is older, her love for reading and writing has not diminished. In fact, it has only become a bigger part of her. It is because of this that Renee chose to share her interests with other readers who love books as much as she does.
Learn more about Renee Hand's World of Ink Tour at  


Author Mariela Kleiner on Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: The Writing Mama –April 29, 2011

Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network Show: The Writing Mama with hosts VS Grenier and Marsha Cook will be chatting with author Mariela Kleiner about her recent children’s book, Meet Einstein.

Mariela Kleiner was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and came to the U.S. when she was 10 years old. She graduated from U.C. Berkeley, and went on to work in advertising at Google. Throughout her life, Kleiner has been involved in many projects that give back and focus on making a difference. She created The Giving Challenge with her husband (, which was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show. And most recently, she volunteered as a board member at the Palo Alto Children’s Museum and Zoo.

Kleiner is now looking to make a difference by introducing science to young kids through her new book, Meet Einstein (Meet Books, llc, March 1, 2011), after realizing that preschool kids can learn concepts of science, such as light and gravity that are normally taught at an older age.

Teaching little ones the basic concepts of science has never been easier or more fun with the help of Mariela Kleiner’s darling new children’s book, Meet Einstein.

Receiving much advanced praise from educators, parents, children and the book industry, Meet Einstein is the winner of the 2010 National Indie Excellence Award for best children’s picture book.
The Writing Mama show will air live, April 29, 2011 at 2pm PST- 3pm MST- 4pm CST- 5pm EST. Tune in at the BTR’s World of Ink Network site at You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you cannot make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A GOOD STORY IS A GOOD STORY with Host Marsha Casper Cook 04/26 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Have you ever wondered if you have an angel walking beside you through life? If you have never believed in Angels on April 26 at 6 PM -PST -7 -PM -MT - 8PM CST - 9PM EST you will. Please join Host Marsha Cook and Sam Oliver to discuss his new book "Angel Marie ". Sam has spent his life writing books to define what life is really about and how we can open ourselves to new experiences. The next time you think Heaven is a place you go to when you die just close your eyes and open your heart there’s a lot more to it. Sam will discuss his feeling about life and death, and when you listen to his voice you will feel the comfort he brings to those that need him.Sam Oliver can get into the Soul of life and explain soul life in an way that touches every loving emotion we as humans are so very capable of.

Denise Spooner will open the chat room and she will be taking calls. Call in number is 714-242-5259

A GOOD STORY IS A GOOD STORY with Host Marsha Casper Cook 04/26 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Monday, April 25, 2011

World of Ink Interview with author Judy Snider and Illustrator Cady B. Driver

Judy Snider, Joan’s sister lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband, Gil, and two silly cats. She is the author of the CWA award-winning children’s picture book, Goldy’s Baby Socks, and on a team of authors of The Scared Purse.

The Writing Mama Interview with author Judy Snider

VS: What do you do to help balance your writing life with your family life?

Judy: It is easier now that my kids are in their 20’s and out of the home. I get up very early, and some of the best writing I do is in a sunny place with a glass of water or coffee and my silly cats nearby. When my oldest was a baby, I took a write-away-course, and would write when he took his naps. Some of my best writing was at a table while I waited in those days for them at parties, video arcades, etc.  I work out of my home on projects, so working with my sister on our latest book, and the phone usually did Cady Driver, our illustrator.

VS: How long have you been writing?

Judy: I wrote my first story when I was in third grade, then poetry, children’s books, etc…I was hooked on writing, and especially like writing children’s books…ones that speak to the heart and are humorous!

VS: What inspired you to write?

Judy: I was raised in a home with lots of books, and my two sisters and I would read magazines, comics, etc as a children. My kids had lots of inspiration to the world of kid’s books and funny stories; I felt that I could get my feelings out by writing poetry. I have a stack of manuscripts I have written through the years.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Judy: Yes, they always have been! My husband wrote a medical thriller, my kids love to read, and mostly they have always said, “Go for it!” My one son once said when I was hesitant to approach a publisher….
“Mom, what’s the worst that can happen…they may say, “NO”.

VS: What was the first thing you ever published?
Judy: Goldy’s Baby Socks, in English and later in Spanish with Xlbris Press in 2005.  It is a humorous and kind story about a family that adopts a stray cat and all the fun that follows. My illustrator on that book was Thomas McAteer (we won the Cat Writer’s Associations Muse Award) and we found kids still love to read that book, and it makes them laugh.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book?
Judy: Sure! Cady Driver our illustrator, my sister Joan and I wrote, I Love You, Be Careful. It is a gift picture book ideally for parents of daughters, fathers and mom’s of daughters, new brides, and new moms. Kids like it too; due to the repetition and blue bunny in each scene. It starts with a couple going to the hospital for the wife to have a baby, and the husband saying, “Be Careful”, and goes through a little girl's life of be carefuls (and her brother going off to the military in one scene) and ends after many scenes like the first time driving a car, first time with training wheels off the bike, etc. and the parents saying in each scene, “Be Careful”. The book’s last scene is the original couple in their middle ages at the same hospital, watching their daughter carrying her baby and her husband saying, “Be Careful”. The grandfather also says to his wife, “Be Careful”. No matter what language, or country, we all seem to say be careful to our loved ones as they do something or leave….our kids, our husbands, our girlfriends, etc.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?
Judy: I love the most working on a book with an illustrator, a co-author, etc. I am in The Cape Henry Collegiate Writers Group (I used to work in a lower school library for 8 years) and The Hampton Roads Writers Group. Getting together with other zany women has made writing fun--it is still hard work, but fun! The Cape Henry group did The Sacred Purse, a book of women’s stories, under the editorial guidance of Debi Wacker.

VS: What is the difficult part of writing?
Judy: Making sure you know who your audience is, editing over and over, and all the details that put a book together. Details are very important in doing a book. On ours, I conferred regularly with my illustrators and co-author/co-authors.

VS: What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Judy: Get used to rejections from editors/publishing houses. Not everyone will like your work.
          When you get a rejection, be sad, pick yourself up, and send it on to someone else…Don’t give up!

VS: Do you have any other works in progress? Can you share a little about them?
Judy: I am working with my sister and a talented woman in Chicago on a script Marsha wrote from our story outline. Cady is working on another book, and Joan is working on a picture book called The Porch Fairy.
VS: What advice would you offer writers who are oscillating between these two publishing venues-traditional vs. self-publishing or POD’s?

Judy: I give many talks on How to get Started Writing. I suggest they get Writer’s Digest Magazine, Get the Writer’s Digest book on publishing houses, agents, tips, and also join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators if they want to write children’s books. There are wonderful traditional publisher and wonderful ways to do self-publishing and POD’s. I suggest they approach some agents once their work is very ready to submit, then if no luck there send to editors they may meet at a conference or suggested in one of the magazines. It takes longer to get it done by a traditional publisher, so if you want your work out faster, I recommend Print on Demand or Self-publishing. You must have a marketing plan in effect before you even start your book: Who is your audience? Where do you see it being sold? Etc. With traditional publishers as well as self/pod’s you must market your book. I love marketing the book, and we are proud of it! Book signings are fun, and school visits really fun! We hope to get our current book in Hallmark Stores someday-our dream!

VS: How to do see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic, and print on demand?
Judy: More books will be POD’s, electronic books on the computer, kindle, phones, will continue
       To grow. My husband’s book seems to sell the most these days on Kindle, etc….

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Judy: Get a pad of paper, Ipad, computer, etc. and when you have the energy and free, time write a little each day…I raised two very active children, worked part time as a social worker, yet I loved writing and found it to be a relaxing wonderful part of my day. Of course, when the kids were ill or other life’s events popped up, I did not write. My course through The Institute of Children’s Literature was good for me. Now there are many courses available online, lots of writer’s tips, writer’s groups of mother’s online, etc……good things these days!

VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a story?
Judy: Good characters, main character goes through a crisis, crisis is solved, main character grows due to crisis and happy ending….I like happy endings…..I like fun  and nice characters who treat people and animals nicely! Our stories are heartwarming too…..this one makes people happy teary (I Love You, Be Careful).

VS: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama”?
Judy: Find a cozy place when you have a few minutes, while kids napping, etc. and work on your book. I always spent lots of time with my kids during the course of a day, read to them a lot, had them make up stories, had them draw their own pictures if they choose, and writing really was a part of my household…
Yet, loved those quiet moments by myself when I could sit in a sunny room, listen to music, eat some chocolate and just write a little….ah…..

VS: Thank you Judy for sharing some valuable information and insight on being a Writing Mama. Now we have a another wonderful interview to share today as well. I was able to ask Illustrator Cady B. Driver of I Love You, Be Careful a few questions as well. Here is a little bit about Cady. 

Cady Driver paints portraits and murals, teaches art and donates her work to charitable organizations. She has also illustrated Icky, Sticky Pancake World by Patrick Wynn. You can view more of her work online at or contract her at She currently resides in Raleigh, NC wither husband and homeschools her three children.

VS: What inspired you to illustrate?

Cady: Honestly, I never imagined that I'd be an illustrator, it just kind of happened on a whim that I had.

VS: Do you consider yourself a born illustrator?

Cady: Not really.  I hadn't really given it much thought until it happened, but after I got the job, I absolutely loved it!

VS: Have you ever suffered from writer’s illustrator's block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Cady: Oh, yes, definitely!  Most of my illustrator's block for me comes from not being able to find the time to start an illustration. I can overcome it pretty easily by just forcing myself to start sketching and then it all flows from there.

VS: Have you had any training to become an illustrator?

Cady: No, none at all. I am entirely self-taught in all of my artistic endeavors.

VS: What type of books do you mostly illustrate?

Cady: I love children's books that are sweet and have heart in them. My first book, Icky, Sticky Pancake World was a lot of fun to illustrate because of all of the fun imaginative elements that it had. I Love You, Be Careful was wonderful because I identified with every page being a mother and the book that I'm currently illustrating, The Gift by Bridget Knouse is close to my heart because it's about adoption.

VS: What is the most difficult part of illustrating?

Cady: The hardest part of illustrating is starting out with that blank white page. Sometimes, I sit there and stare at the page attempting to envision the scene that the words are describing. I approach the scene from multiple angles and with different emotion. Usually a certain pose or idea will strike me and if it fits in with all of my vision for that page, then I just go for it. I don't usually have to re-sketch anything after I find an idea that I like.

VS: Do you find it hard to balance your personal illustrating time with your other job(s)?

Cady: Yes, it definitely can be hard to juggle all the aspects of my art business with kids, a husband, a house to keep, etc. My art business has a lot of different branches. I paint murals, donate murals to sick children, paint portraits, donate portraits to parents that have lost children, teach acrylic and watercolor art to children and adults, and this Thursday is my first real large art exhibit. I'm really excited about that, but it took a lot of time to prepare for.

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

Cady: I am currently working on a children's book about adoption called The Gift, by Bridget Knouse.  Bridget and her husband have adopted two sons and have a heart for orphans and foster children and she wanted to write a book about how every adopted child is a gift from God to their adoptive parents. It sometimes makes me tear up just thinking about it. It's going to be a beautiful book.

VS: Tell us about your illustrating space?

Cady: My workspace is in our bonus room and that room is also our schoolroom.  My children are a little bit older and they are now able to do a lot of their schoolwork independently.  We spend a lot of time in the schoolroom doing schoolwork and painting while we listen to Story of the World or Jonathan Park.  It works out nicely.

VS: Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand?

Cady: Always by hand. There are a lot of illustrators that do all of their illustrations on the computer, but I love to have paint underneath my fingernails at the end of the day.

VS: What is your creative process like? What happens before sitting down to illustrate?

Cady: Generally, I do a whole lot of thinking and chewing on an idea before I even sit down with my pens and paints. I imagine the characters from different angles, the expressions that might be present on their faces and I even imagine what time of day it might be in the illustration. Sometimes, I browse through other children's books to get inspired or to get the feel of the mood of the book. 

VS: What well known illustrators do you admire most?

Cady: I have always admired Eloise Wilkins' style of illustrating. Her work is just so happy and really captures the innocence of childhood. You don't see that very often anymore.  I also really love Jan Brett's illustrating style. Her attention to detail is astonishing and as an illustrator, I am in awe when I read her books to my children. Sometimes I get so caught up in examining the details in her work that my kids become impatient and encourage me to:  "Stop looking, Mom, and turn the page!" 

VS: What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?

Cady: I attempt to get paint around one painting a week. It keeps my paints wet and it keeps my creative juices flowing. When our family got back from Vietnam last month, I got off of my schedule and didn't paint for almost a month! That almost killed me!  That is very unusual for me. When I finally picked up my brushes last week, I whipped out two portraits in a week. One came out great and the other was terrible, but at least I felt like I had gotten back into my groove again.

VS: What do you surround yourself with in your work area in order to help your concentrate?

Cady: I have a huge corkboard hanging above my desk and easel.  I like to hang my favorite pieces of work on it to admire for awhile before they get framed. After a while, I get used to them and I shuffle them around, frame some and hang some new ones up. I like to hang my older and newer pieces because it shows me how I've changed in style and technique. It's encouraging to know that even without training, with practice, anyone can become better when they are doing something that they love.

VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Cady: I think that in the grand scheme of life, it's not how successful you are with your craft, it's who you touch in the process. Some of my best work has been the work that I've donated to sick children or to families that have lost a child. I believe that God has a purpose for all of us and at the end of the day the only thing that will matter is whom we've reached out to and shown God's love to. 

VS: I thank you Judy and Cady for taking the time to share with me and my readers about being an author and illustrator in the World of Ink.

From the moment we are born, someone is telling us to be careful. No matter what country we call home or what language we speak, these words follow us our entire lives. You might hear parents, friends, family or children lovingly say this phrase at least once a day. Think about all of the times that a loved one goes off to school, play or work, and you say, “I Love You, Be Careful!"

I Love You, Be Careful is a heartwarming and uplifting book. There is a page to personalize it as a gift for adults or children. The book’s beautiful illustrations capture poignant memories and cause one to reflect on all the “Be Careful” moments in life and smile.

I Love You, Be Careful
Publisher: Xlibris
ISBN Number(s): softcover-978-1-4535-6115-7 and hardcover-978-1-4535-6116-4
Publication Date: Fall 2010 –I Love You, Be Careful
Publisher Website:

You can follow the I Love You, Be Careful World of Ink Tour at