Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guest Post: Walking Through Walls: The Back Story with Karen Cioffi

It’s always interesting how writers find ideas for their stories. Some may simply come up with an idea, others may see something that triggers a story, and sometimes a story is handed to a writer.

I had never thought of rewriting a folktale until I received a rough outline of an ancient Chinese tale, Taoist Master of the Lao Mountain. I belonged to a writing critique group and a Chinese nonfiction writer had a basic outline that he wanted to pass along to a children’s writer. This was in June of 2008.

After reading the outline, I loved the lessons it could bring to children. Folktales come from all over the world and usually provide morale messages geared toward doing right, rather than wrong. These tales are a wonderful way to teach children through an engaging and entertaining story.

Since the tale, as with many ancient tales, involved an adult as the protagonist the first thing I needed to do was rewrite it for today’s children’s market, meaning it needed a child protagonist. Wanting to stay as close to the original tale, I used some of its flavor, descriptions, and names, that’s how I chose the main character’s name, Wang. But, I wanted it to be engaging for today’s child, so came up with new characters, the dragon, enhanced storyline and plot, and so on.

Having an outline to guide me was a great help; I knew where I wanted to head. And, as I began to change the story, it took on a life of its own, but again, I made sure to keep bits of the original story included to keep it as close to the tale’s outline as possible, while still creating a new story for today’s children.

Working on the story, I knew it needed to take place in ancient China, so decided to use the 16th century as the backdrop for the story. To add an element of realism to the story, I researched ancient China, including foods, flowers, dwellings, and clothing. I also contacted the Chinese writer who gave me the outline for some additional cultural information.

I worked on the story for well over a year. I revised it, had it critiqued numerous times, revised some more, and had it professionally edited by Lea Schizas before beginning to send it out for submissions. Fortunately for me, the timing coincided with the 2009 Muse Online Writers Conference and I applied to have a pitch with 4RV Publishing. As nervous as I was, the pitch went well and the manuscript was accepted. For the next year, it was more revisions, tweaking, additional elements to the story, and editing to make Walking Through Walls better than before.

Then, the story was ready for a cover illustration. Aidona WillowRaven was assigned to my book and although the dragon in the story was described as “a shimmering golden dragon,” Aidona ‘felt’ the flavor of the story and created an oriental type dragon. We went back and forth a bit about the dragon’s size and shape, but Aidona’s vision of what the dragon should look like was perfect.

I now needed to correct the ‘golden’ description of dragon in the story. So, I changed the text to read, “Suddenly a magnificent dragon with shimmering red and silver scales appeared.” Done. The description of the dragon and the cover matched; we were ready to move forward.

Next came the interior design formatting, which includes the text. After blocking the text it was determined another six pages was needed to make the spine wide enough. So, I had to come up with more content. As the story was complete, to fill the page count I came up with an Author’s Note page, four pages of Reading Comprehension, an Activities Page, and after more research eight pages of information on the Ming Dynasty time period and the Chinese dragon.

Finally, Walking Through Walls became available for sale in August 2011.

Karen Cioffi is an advocate of education, reading, and the environment.  She loves how reading can spark a child’s imagination and bring him or her to new worlds and on amazing adventures.

Along with writing children’s books, Karen is a ghostwriter and freelance writer, and has several nonfiction books on writing and book marketing. She has lived in New York City all her life, and two of her favorite sayings are:

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” American proverb
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” M. Ghandi

You can visit Karen’s blog at:
For more about Karen’s books and ebooks go to:

You can find out more about Karen Cioffi’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Karen and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to the November 21, 2011 Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatted with Karen Cioffi about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Karen will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life.


  1. Virginia, Thanks so much for featuring my article and hosting my book tour!

  2. Always a pleasure to have you as a guest on my blog Karen.