Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview Friday: Families Matter: Interview with author Bill Birnbaum-

This Friday I'm sharing an interview we did over at the SFC blog Families Matter. A bit different from my normal interviews, but I hope you like this one all the same.

Born and raised in New York, Bill spent his middle years in Southern California. There, he raised two sons and enjoyed a twenty-five year career as a self-employed management consultant. For twenty years, Bill published and edited the Business Strategies Newsletter. He authored two business books, including, Strategic Thinking: A Four Piece Puzzle. Published in 2004, that book is currently in its third printing.

In 2007, Bill and his wife, Wendy, were ready to write a new chapter in their lives. They sold their home, put everything they owned in storage and purchased one-way tickets to Arequipa, Peru. They spent the next eight months living in Peru, six of those months working voluntarily in a poor community in the Peruvian Andes. In 2008, the Birnbaums spent an additional four months traveling in Ecuador, Patagonia, Chile and Argentina.

Bill holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from The City College of New York, School of Engineering and a Master’s Degree in Business from California State University-Fullerton.

Thanks so much for your time!  You have a varied background that led you to write! 
Q: Tell us briefly about your book.

A: In my newly-published memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures, I relate my stories of adventure from my mischievous boyhood to my mountain climbing adulthood.  As a boy, I flooded the basement of my home – quite by accident, I assure you.  As a young man, I acquired the habit of picking up hitchhikers.  Fortunately, only a few of my passengers were seriously dangerous. 
In my memoir, I also relate my lessons learned.  I point out that we citizens of modern society are too busy  and too often concerned about things which aren’t important at all. 

About my writing style – I think of it as easy-going.  Others have described it as both humorous and friendly. 

Q: How did you feel the day you held the copy of your first book in your hands?
A: Holding my first book in my hands was an absolute thrill.  The feeling of elation was my reward for having spent all of those months working on the book.  I was especially pleased that I could finally share my stories and my thoughts with my readers.

Q: What type of music, if any, do you listen to while you write? Do you need the noise or the silence?

A: I’m one of those writers who prefers a quiet working environment.  I find music to be a distraction.  And it isn’t just while writing that I need quiet.  I even have trouble reading while a TV or a radio is playing. 

Q: I am always amazed when I see others doing several things while reading!  If you could live in one of your books, which one would you live in?  

A: If I could live in one of my books, I’d live in my recently published memoir, A Lifetime of Small Adventures.  And since it’s a memoir, I actually did live in that book.  My two earlier books are business books, and while I’m proud of having written them, they’re both descriptive of intellectual adventure, rather than physical and emotional adventure.  My business books describe my lessons learned as a business consultant.  But my memoir describes my lessons learned while experiencing life’s adventures.  Whenever I read a chapter in my memoir, I enjoy re-living the adventure.
Q: How great to live in one of your books!  How do you balance out the writer’s life and the rest of life? Do you get up early? Stay up late? Ignore friends and family for certain periods of time?

A: I confess that I’m an undisciplined writer.  I don’t really have a set writing schedule.  Instead, I catch a few hours here and there.  And I’ve drafted quite a number of my ideas and stories in hotel rooms and on airplanes.  Inspiration, at times, strikes me at some very odd moments – like when riding my bicycle or paddling my kayak.  I then play with the idea in my head for a while.   At my first opportunity, I sketch the idea on paper, and later draft the idea at my computer.  

 To read the complete interview, visit
SFC Blog: Families Matter: Interview with author Bill Birnbaum-

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Families Matter Show 06/27 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

BTR’s World of Ink Network show: Families Matter with hosts VS Grenier, Kecia Burcham and Irene Roth.
The Families Matter show airs live once a month on the 4th Wednesday of the month at 6pm EST - 5pm CST - 4pm MST - 3pm PST
The idea of this show on Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network is to have guests and listeners (adults or kids) share information to help empower children and their families.

Our June show topic is about homeless families and children on the streets.

This month we have a special guest...Deb Borys! She has recently released "Painted Black" a suspense novel that twists the reality of Chicago's homeless community. Borys has worked with the homeless, which helped with the research of her novel.

The hosts also understand the importance of this ever growing issue in our communities and look forward to sharing programs and ways we can help those in need; along with helping those who do not understand the need in homeless communities. There is more to homeless communities than the addicates many think plague them.

We invite our listeners to call-in or share through the chatroom questions or their stories.
Read a guest post by Deb Borys on our blog at

You can learn more about Deb Borys and her book at
Learn more at the Families Matter blog

You can find out more about us at

Listen to the show at the link below
Families Matter Show 06/27 by WorldOfInkNetwork | Blog Talk Radio

Guest Post Wed: Journaling and Personal Growth

Personal growth is the hot topic of the day. You'll notice that nearly every magazine you see, no matter whether it targets men or women, has one thing in common with all the rest: at least one article encouraging some kind of personal growth. These articles tell you about "empowerment," about growing as a person, about controlling your destiny, taking your life in both hands, and following your dreams. Do you need a magazine to tell you to take control of your life? Certainly not! You know deep in your heart whether your life is under control and moving in the direction you want for yourself, or whether you need to take measures to enable that self-control. Here is where you can use journaling to encourage personal growth.

Journaling is a very old practice. Logs and field notebooks have been used by scientists, explorers, and travelers for centuries. During the Renaissance of the 14th through 17th centuries, journaling was extremely popular, as a focus upon the image of the self became important. In the mid-20th century, journaling once again became fashionable. It is often used by people on a spiritual quest, and by many psychotherapists who ask patients to record their thoughts and feelings prior to therapy appointments. Aside from all these uses of journaling, the fact remains that journals do have healing properties for the individual who creates one. Anyone who keeps a journal for any length of time is almost guaranteed to experience personal growth, and a recognition of the part journaling plays in that growth.

The reason journaling works in encouraging personal growth is that it is effective in assisting a person to let go. Everyone has different issues that need to be resolved and dismissed, or problems that should be faced and dealt with so the person can grow up and move on. Many of these problems or issues are likely to be very deeply buried, since they originated in childhood. Others can be more recent, such as a broken relationship, concerns about work, or the death of a loved one. In any case, these issues are blocking our personal growth. We need to bring them to the surface, examine them carefully, allow our reaction to them to be fully experienced -- and then to let them go.

For real growth to occur, a person needs a forum where any anxiety, stress, or depression can be aired and dismissed. Only then will that person be able to open herself to new possibilities and new challenges. A journal provides that forum. When you write down your concerns in detail, as well as your feelings about those concerns, you leave rationalization behind and see the concerns for what they really are. Then you are able to begin your growth.

When you have cleared your mind of old issues, there is space within you for new ones. Journaling can help you deal with these as they arise, just as it helped you let go of old ghosts and demons. By continuing to write in a journal, you can continually assess your progress and note any problems that begin to affect you. Remember that when you air your issues, they will no longer trouble you. Journaling is perhaps the only satisfactory outlet for this, because your journal is the only place where you can pour your heart out without any problems of trust and confidentiality. It's almost like free therapy!

Finally, when you have come to terms with your old concerns, it's time to set yourself some new goals and targets. Writing a list of these in your journal will encourage your journey towards them every time you read the words. Writing goals down makes them achievable; for you to write them in the first place, you must believe that they are achievable. If they are written on paper, they are somehow real; they take on corporeality. Journaling in this way involves letting go of the past, living in the moment, and planning for the future, all at once! Only journaling can assist you in this process with no ulterior motive.

Copyright © Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grammar Monday: Colons

When I decided to start critiquing, and later do freelance editing, I realized I needed to hone my grammar and punctuation skill set. Unlike most people who set out to be writers, English was not my favorite subject in school. In fact, I have talked about how I repeated 9th grade English three times in high school. Not because I didn't understand the class, I just plan out hated English class and didn't go half the time.

I don't know about you, but I found learning the basic rules of English boring. However, here I am today much older and wiser with an understanding about how important it is to know the basic rules of grammar and punctuation when writing. Now I'm not saying you need to know all the ins and outs of grammar, style and punctuation. In fact, the rules do change from time to time and from publisher to publisher. But having a basic understanding will help you with your writing career.

One of the ways, besides going back to school to brush up on my English before beginning my writing career, I stay in the know and keep my grammar and punctuation up to speed is by subscribing to newsletters and blogs all about this craft. Yes, editing is a craft all its own outside of writing. This is why we have all different types of editors just like writers, and this skill needs to be honed just like your manuscript.

So this week let's talk about colons. Why colons? Because I see this misused just as much, if not more than commas. I think most of us don't really know when to use and not use a colon in our writing. I know I never really understood the real use of a colon outside of lists until I really started taking my writing career seriously. In fact, I don't think my English teachers really helped me understand its use in my writing or its true function. I hope today, I change that for you.

Punctuation Rules of Colons
1. You can use a colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items, however, you only do this when introductory words such as namely, for example, or that is do not appear before your list.

You may be required to bring many items: towel, bathing suit, sunscreen, water shoes and sunglasses
Can you get me the following items: butter, sugar and flour.     

2. You should never use a colon that precedes a list unless it follows a complete sentence; however, the colon is a style choice that some publications allow.

If a writer wants to make a good impression with a publisher, they should (a) join a critique group to hone their writing, (b) seek out a professional editor to examine their work before submitting, (c) research the publisher, and (d) read books by the publisher to understand their market.
Here are four ways a writer can make a good impression with a publisher:
(a) Join a critique group to hone their writing.
(b) Seek out a professional editor to examine their work before submitting.
(c) Research the publisher.

(d) Read books by the publisher to understand their market.

3. It is optional (and publisher choice) to use capitaliztion and punctuation when using single words or phrases in bulleted form. Basic rule: if each bullet or numbered point is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word and end each sentence with proper ending punctuation. Be consistent.

I want an editor who can do the following:
(a) look at story structure,
(b) correct grammar errors,
(c) suggest plot line points.

The following are requested:
(a) Cover letter with complete manuscript.
(b) 60 word bio, single spaces with contact information.
(c) SASE to mail reply.

The following are requested:
(a) cover letter with complete manuscript
(b) sixty word bio, single space with contact information
(c) SASE to mail reply

NOTE: With lists, you may use periods after numbers and letters instead of parentheses. 
4. A colon can be used instead of a semicolon between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates the first sentence and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the sentences. If only one sentence follows the colon, do not capitalize the first word of the new sentence. If two or more sentences follow the colon, capitalize the first word of each sentence following.

I personally try to avoid using this in my own writing: most the time it is better just to break up the compound sentence to avoid wordy sentence structure.

5. When introducing a direct quotation that is more than three lines in length, use a colon. Leave a blank line above and below the quoted material and single space the long quotation. Some style manuals say to indent one-half inch on both the left and right margins; others say to indent only on the left margin. Quotation marks are not used.

The authors of "Essentials of English" Vincent F. Hopper, Cedric Gale, Ronald C. Foote and Benjamin W. Griffith wrote in the perface:
          Just as expert carpenters must be thoroughly acquainted with the tools of their craft, and as artist must have expert knowledge of colors, so good writers must have a through understanding of the basic material with which they work: words. Thoughts and utterances, both simple and complex, require words of several kinds--of example, words that perform the functions of naming, asserting, connecting, or describing. One of the first steps to effective writing is, therefore, a knowledge of the properties and functions of the different kinds of words. This knowledge involves what a word looks like, where it appears, ans what it does within its context.

6. A colon is used to follow the salutation of a business letter even when addressing someone by his/her first name. Never use a semicolon after a salutation. A comma is used after the salutation for personal correspondence only.

If you know any other rules for colons or would like to share some examples, please do. Together we can hone our grammar and punctuation skills.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Interview Friday: Jo Linsdell author of "Out and About at the Zoo"

Jo Linsdell writes about Italy, pregnancy and parenting, marketing (She LOVES social media) and the writing industry.

Linsdell enjoyed writing since she could hold a pen in her hand but officially started her writing career in 2006. Since then, Linsdell has worked for numerous clients around the world and won a few awards along the way too. She has also published several books including the popular "Italian for Tourists" phrase book. 

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

Jo: It's not easy but I try to make time for both everyday. I always have a to-do list written up for each day and make sure it includes both work and family based tasks. A trip to the park with my kids is right up there with writing a new chapter or carrying out marketing tasks.

I think when you love doing something you make the time for it in your life regardless. 

VS: How long have you been writing?

Jo: Pretty much since I could hold a pen but seriously since 2006. 

VS: What inspired you to write your book? 

Jo: I wrote my children's picture book Out and About at the Zoo after taking my son to the zoo for the first time. He's always shown a big interest in my writing and asked me why I hadn't written a story for him. I figured he made a good point and so Out and About at the Zoo was born.

This experience has been completely different from my other writing projects as it's the first time I'm also an illustrator. Who ever thinks putting a children's book together is easy is wrong. In a way it's harder than writing a full length novel.

I started by writing the text and that was actually the easy bit. Next I sketched some ideas for the illustrations and made a paper draft of the book layout.

My son was a huge help as at 4 years old he is full of questions and very honest in giving his opinions. He made it very clear, both with the text and the illustrations, what he liked and what he didn't and I made changes until it reached his standards.

It was nice to be able to involve him so much in my work for once and has made the book even more special to me.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you? 

Jo: I don't have a typical day as such. Being a full-time mum to a 4 year old and a 9 month old means I have to fit in my writing time around them. I grab time when I can and make the most of it when they're napping. I tend to get most of my work done late in the evening after the kids are in bed.

VS: Is your family supportive of your writing? 

Jo: Very. My husband had told everyone we know about my book even before it was finished. He is my number one fan and very supportive.

My kids are great too and my 4 year old son is showing an increasing interest in what I do. He played a very active role in the creation of Out and About at the Zoo.

VS: If this isn’t your first publication, what was the first thing you ever had published? 

Jo: My first book, Italian for Tourists, came out in 2007. It's an English-Italian phrasebook designed specifically to cover only the language needed by tourists during their visit to Italy.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book? 

Jo: Out and About at the Zoo is a rhyming children's picture book with bold, colorful pictures. It's about a child who goes to the zoo with his mum and the different animals he discovers during the visit.

VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book? 

Jo: The most challenging aspect of this book was the illustrating part. The text flowed quite easily and didn't take long to write. 

As this was my first experience using an illustrating program, dealing with the technical stuff like transparencies, layers and embedding text was a real learning curve.
VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally? 

Jo: That's a tough question. The whole book is so closely linked to my kids from the idea to the text to the illustrations and so it's all special.

VS: If this is a work of fiction, what character is most like you? 

Jo: Probably the crazy monkey's :)

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

Jo: Yes several. I'm already working on another rhyming children's picture about a young fairy called May that dreams of one day becoming a tooth fairy.

I'm also working on a chick-lit and a non-fiction book about social media.

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

Jo: Make the time for working on your writing. Take advantage of moments when your kids are at playschool or napping. Put smaller kids in a play-box with a few toys to keep them busy so you can have a window of time to concentrate on your work. Do a 5 minute writing sprint or work on marketing when you get the chance. Make the most of the evenings after the kids are in bed.
VS: What do you think are the basic ingredients of a good book? 

Jo: It needs to keep the reader turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next. You need to make them want more. In the case of Out and About at the Zoo it's wanting to know what other animals there are and what they'll be doing.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? 

Jo: In Out and  about at the Zoo, the animals are seen through the eyes of the child. I asked my son what he remembered about the animals he'd seen at the zoo during our own trip and used his answers as inspiration for the text.
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success? 

Jo: Be supportive and encourage them to try new things. When they know your there for them no matter what they aren't afraid to experiment and in doing so can reach their true potential.
VS: Have you received any awards for your writing? 

Jo: I've won several awards for my blogs and was listed on the Literary World Who's Who in the writing industry in 2009. 

VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing? 

Jo: Readers can find more information about this book, me and my other writing projects at my website

About the Book:
Jo Linsdell picture book Out and About at the Zoo is a rhyming picture book with colorful pictures showing children a fun day out discovering different things in the world around them. This first book in the ‘Out and About’ series is a wonderful introduction to a day at the zoo for children young and old.

Linsdell, also the illustrator, has created pictures so adorable it makes you want to hug each animal in the book. Both the pictures and the text will entice a child's wonder and excitement during a day at the zoo.  

 The World of Ink Network has joined in helping to tour author Jo Linsdell’s first book from the 'Out and About' series of rhyming children's picture books, Out and About at the Zoo.

You can find out more about Jo Linsdell’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit