Friday, January 27, 2012

Interview Friday with Molly Nero, Author of Smarty Pig

Molly Nero loves to sing, dance and read. She spent over 18 years teaching elementary school.  Reading to her own children, she was inspired to write. The second book in the Smarty Pig book series Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror releases in Spring 2012.

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

Molly: My family has to come first. My daughter is a sophomore in high school, so the realization that she will be off to college in a couple of years is looming overhead now. I try to write during the day since I am not working at this time, so when the kids come home from school, I’m available to them. My husband is retired and helps keep things going around the house, so it’s a blessing to not have work because I finished not only Smarty Pig, but the 2nd in the series and have begun writing the 3rd one also. It’s not uncommon to find me writing at all hours of the night either. I’m a person who will get up at 4am just to work in the peace and quiet.

VS: How long have you been writing?

Molly: I began Smarty Pig seven years ago. One night after I read to my son, the idea for Smarty Pig began in my thought. I went to the computer and just began to write while the rest of my family continued their Christmas preparations and songs from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” blaring on the tv filled my ears. That truly was the beginning.

VS: What inspired you to write?

Molly: I have been inspired by many authors over the years. The ability to engage a child’s imagination, to captivate an audience of 4th grade boys and girls, or to develop a web of interrelated characters that all connect some way at the end of the story were all things that inspired me when reading to my children, my students or just myself.

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

Molly: I’m up at 5:30am to start the day watching the Pink Panther with my daughter and 2 dogs snuggled up in 1 chair. COFFEE! Get both my kids off to school.  Check on my mother who has her own house downstairs. Get on my treadmill to clear my thoughts listening to KLOVE radio. Then my husband and I discuss what the day will bring, and I’m on my computer writing. Some days I will work on only one story. Other days my mind jumps to ideas for other books. I’ve learned to just roll with it.  The one thing I must have is a window to look out of while I’m writing. The endlessness of the sky reminds me that ideas are just as endless.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?

Molly: My family is thrilled with my writing! My husband is my biggest fan and promotes the book everywhere he goes to anyone he can. He truly believes in the message that Smarty Pig brings to children and parents. My kids are actually helping me write the next book about bullying. Even my nine year old son starts to work out rhymes that I can incorporate into the book. It’s wonderful that they believe in me, especially since this is really a reinvention of my career.

VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?

Molly: The Smarty Pig series deals with issues and situations our youngest learners are dealing with. Smarty Pig is about a family of pigs that have given up on school. They don’t do their homework and feel it’s not important. The only one who does is teased and nic-named Smarty Pig. When Smarty Pig gets good grades and the others fail, they reach out to her to help them. She takes skills taught at school and puts them into real-life situations, for example, the kitchen becomes a grocery store with things to be purchased using play money. As the games are played, their grades improve too.  They begin to understand that learning CAN be fun, and it’s not just for school, learning is for life. 

Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror deals with the fear of tests that affects many students. Petey Pig shuts down when he is asked to take a test, so Smarty Pig models different strategies to help him calm down and feel more confident. This is another issue many kids struggle with especially with all the state testing that goes on now in our schools.

VS: What do you enjoy most about writing?

Molly: Developing the plot of the story is my favorite part of writing at this time. I know what I want to get across to my audience of children, but I want them to relate to my character and message. You start with an idea that takes you in many different directions while you make choices along the way to help it grow. You’re never exactly sure how it will turn out, but the process is delightful. In the end, I want my readers to enjoy the book, yet learn its message at the same time.

VS: What is the most difficult part of writing?

Molly: The difficulty with Smarty Pig is it’s all in rhyme which can be challenging. I don’t want to sacrifice my message or give up a figure of speech or something that I know kids will relate to for the rhyme. It becomes like a dance where the ideas and words must work together to create a story that the kids can read, understand, and enjoy.

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

Molly: Stories are abundant and in many different stages in my notebooks, laptop, and thoughts. I really wished for more books for little boys when my son was small to help with social skills, so I am working on a series specifically for that age. My daughter is developing the illustrations, so it will be a family production! Another story I’m currently finishing is My Come and Go Sisters which depicts the life my daughter has lived with 3 step-sisters, and all the laughter and frustrations that goes with a family whose members don’t all live together all the time. 

VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?

Molly: “To be patient and keep writing” would be my advice. I wrote whenever I could while I taught full-time with 2 young children going with me to the elementary school every day. Many lunch periods were spent talking into a digital recorder as I walked the gym track outside giving myself a chance to focus on the stories as they developed in my thought. I’m sure many school parents would drive by and think that I had lost my mind talking to myself, but that simply was the only chance I had. My stories have been tucked away in different places for many years. I was finally able to complete Smarty Pig and pursue its publication, but that brought rejection letters and disappointment. It’s tough, but if you believe in your work, and it’s the best you know you can do, don’t give up. I found a publisher that believed in my message, and it’s been an amazing ride.

VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours?

Molly: My characters must come to life for young kids. To have validity with my audience, I use details taken from my own experience as a music teacher of grades Kindergarten through 5th. Attitudes and situations that kids understand or experience themselves help create depth in the character. Smarty Pig‘s family has given up on school. They simply don’t care and show that by not doing their homework. How many kids give up on homework sometime? How many kids wish they could just not do it at all like the pigs do? This is relatable for young students and helps my characters come to life.

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

Molly: Being a “writer” gives you an amazing connection with your own kids. You are doing something that is also a big part of their life in school. What a great role model for your kids! Working with language is a gift that many don’t understand or use, so when you are writing, you’re teaching your own kids that it’s important to choose words carefully and to move beyond the overused, tired words everyone uses. Share your writing and ideas with them and you’ll be surprised at the support and sometimes even great criticism or suggestions that they might have for you.  It could spark a desire in them to become writers as well!

Smarty Pig
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number: 978-1-61244-048-4
Genre of Book:  Picture book
Publication Date: December 2011

About the Book:
The school year has started but the pigs have given up on school and aren’t doing their homework. All but one, that is. Smarty Pig is working hard. Although she gets teased, her report card shows her hard work, while the others fail. They reach out to her, and she becomes their tutor. By creating games in their home that practice skills, Smarty Pig shows them that they can learn, and it’s really fun after all. She helps them understand that learning is not just for school, it’s for life.

Smarty Pig helps again in Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror when the fear of taking a test shuts down Petey Pig. Available in Spring 2012.

Get a sneak peek of the book at

You can find out more about Molly Nero’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 Nero and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

American Chronicle | Spotlight on Maryann B. Sawka, Author of "Good Table Manners Made Easy"

Halo Publishing, Int. and the World of Ink Network have been touring a wonderful book "Good Table Manners Made Easy" written by author Maryann B. Sawka, which released in January 2012. "Good Table Manners Made Easy" is a quick, easy-to-read resource that teaches basic table manners in a delightful fun way. It also serves as a quick refresher for the table manners that we may have forgotten. You can get a sneak peek of the book at Maryann B. Sawka has been doing etiquette workshops for the past few years. Her presentations primarily focus on children, which led her to write "Good Table Manners Made Easy". The book has wonderful information for diners of all ages, but the illustrations and easy-to-understand cadence captures children. Sawka´a higher education consists of a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from California University of PA in 1993 and a Master´s of Science in Reading and Literacy for Elementary Grades from Walden University. Her career path includes work as an alumni director, technical writer, software trainer, special needs preschool teacher and owner of (her own company) Charming Manners. Read the full article here American Chronicle | Spotlight on Maryann B. Sawka, Author of "Good Table Manners Made Easy"

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Families Matter Show 01/25 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

BTR’s World of Ink Network show: Families Matter with hosts VS Grenier and Kecia Burcham.
Airs live 6pm EST - 5pm CST - 4pm MST - 3pm PST
The Families Matter show airs live once a month on the 4th Wednesday.
This months show topic is on Divorce. We will be talking about tips for parents and children dealing with this tough life changing event. When it comes to divorce, everyone is touched by its awful power.
The idea of this show is to have guests and listeners (adults or kids) share information to help empower children and their families.
Please post any questions or stories you would like us to answer or share on the show. You are also invited to call in and join the conversation.

Listen at The Families Matter Show 01/25 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

What It Is Like Being a Teen Author with Rachel Yurchisin

When I first got the notification that my manuscript was accepted by Halo Publishing, I was overjoyed. It was an amazing feeling when I got the first shipment of books and seeing my name on the cover and my picture on the back. It was really a dream come true. This whole experience has not changed my relationship with any of my friends- many of whom have bought my books for the holidays. 

I have found it very difficult to balance writing, the process of publishing, and publicizing the book, with my schoolwork and hobbies. I give Virginia a lot of credit with putting up with me not keeping up with deadlines etc. However, I believe that family comes first, and then school work, and then anything else. 

On the side I participate in the Zoo Crew at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which is a group that teaches the public about the animals on exhibit. I also am in involved with the Future Scientists groups at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History that does surveys of wildlife on various museum properties throughout the course of the year. 

In addition, since 6th grade, I have been participating in science fairs on the state level and last year I represented the state of Ohio in a national science fair. For school, I am on the varsity tennis team and hopefully on the varsity softball team in the spring. As you can imagine, it’s hard to have a social life when you’re involved with all of these extracurricular activities- thank goodness I have very understanding friends and family who support me through all of my endeavors.

Even some of my teachers have expressed interest in my book. Also, now since I am a junior in high school- the college search is currently taking place. When I visit various colleges, many are impressed with the fact that I am a published author and I hope that that will assist in my college acceptance probability.
If you haven’t written anything yet but you want to become an author, I would suggest starting to write about anything that you find interesting. For me in particular- I have always found inspiration in nature and past experiences. If you get a spell of “writer’s block” make sure you relax- in most cases there isn’t a deadline and if you relax more than likely you will be able to think of something. If you already have something written that, you feel has potential for becoming a published work- send it in as soon as you can! The worst thing that they can do is say no and suggest a few changes. It may make take a few tries but it is definitely worth it once you get the satisfaction of seeing your name on the cover of a book that YOU wrote.

Diary of My Days in Kenya is a fictional story loosely based upon the real life occurrences of a nomadic lioness who nurtures baby oryx as if they were her own young. A naturalist’s observations of the lioness and her adopted baby oryx offers the reader an interesting insight as to why this unique phenomenon has transpired. The story explores how the traditional relationship of a predator and prey is transcended, presenting a spellbinding account of how a parental bond, even a non-traditional one, can never be broken.

About the author: Rachel Yurchisin’s love of science and nature has inspired her to write her first children’s book in the hopes of passing on her passion to other young ‘budding’ naturalists. Yurchisin is a junior in high school and participates in educational programs at her city zoo and natural history museum.

You can find out more about Rachel Yurchisin’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 Yurchisin and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to the January 23, 2012 Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth chatted with Rachel Yurchisin about her book and writing.