Kid Lit Author and Advocate

Tag Archives: boys’ books

I happen to be the mom of a kid who doesn’t really care for reading. An irony not lost on me, since I am a teacher/children’s author who has read to him every day of his life since birth, in a home overflowing with books.

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If you are the parent of a “reluctant reader” (PC term for my kid would rather chew glass than read for pleasure), you may find some fresh ideas in Jane McFann’s article, Boys and Books. 

Please feel free to post a comment and share book suggestions or advice for parents of reluctant readers.


Traveling the indie publishing road can be a daunting and lonely journey. For the novice, there are plenty of opportunities to take a wrong turn, stumble, or lose sight of your destination. The entire experience practically begs you to throw yourself an occasional Pity Party, or two, or three.

Birthday boy having a tantrum

I have hosted some killer woe-is-me celebrations. Instead of a hangover, these blow outs always leave me in a funk. My last, and most impressive, fete was a month-long celebration after the rush of my book launch abruptly came to a halt. I won’t liken it to post-par tum depression (not out loud anyway), but it was pretty miserable.

Sad Pink stick figure sitting on a white chair

Everything leading up to the launch of my book was exhilarating. I had the launch party to plan, books to order, swag to buy. The launch party was a huge success. I sold hundreds of books that month and scheduled a handful of author visits. I received scads of 5-star reviews, and my book was featured on a few blogs. People were buzzing about my book, and I was on cloud nine. Then…crickets. Nothing happened. I went from living and breathing my book to staring at a pile of them. Cue the Pity-Party music and back-up dancers.

Revival

Gloom and Doom became my BFF’s. I beat myself up for not selling more books. I couldn’t think of anything to write. And, to make matters worse, I had spent a lot of money on self-publishing a book I was sure would never again see the light of day.

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Since I couldn’t write, I read. I went to the library. I started reading picture books again. I found solace in the kid lit community. I read blog posts and articles, tweets and memes.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

One of the articles I stumbled upon helped me kick those heifers, Gloom and Doom, to the curb.

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The author’s message helped me alter how I perceive my success and allow myself to appreciate the little moments as much as the big ones. That paradigm shift removed a huge roadblock in my writing career-a roadblock constructed by me.

Original image courtesy of Flickr Creatinve Commons, courtesy of Ali Samieivafa.

My Pity-Parties are now (mostly) Pinch-Me Parties.

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Instead of complaining that only 5 people showed up at my Barnes and Noble author event, I pinch myself. I look around and think, “OMG! My book is on the shelf at Barnes and Noble!” Rather than beating myself up that my online sales are not in the thousands, I take pride knowing a book I wrote is in the hands of hundreds of people around the world.

Not that I’m a masochist, but I kind of like this whole pinching thing. It seems the more I do it, the more “pinch able” moments come my way. My book is on the shelves of several book stores and libraries (pinch). I’ve been interviewed by our local TV and newspaper (pinch, pinch). The Horn Book Magazine reviewed a collection of indie books for the first time in the history of the magazine, and my book was included (bad pinch on that one-Roger Sutton is not a fairy fan). School children in the UK chose to dress up as Dust Fairies (complete with matching dust bunny dolls) for World Book Day (pinch). My book has been a #1 Kindle on Amazon (pinch). I started a successful literacy initiative, and we’ve collected more than 300 books for children of incarcerated parents (pinch).

But, the best “pinches” by far, are all of the incredibly kind, gifted, generous people I have met on this journey. Thanks for your inspiration, humor, and support.

I love hearing from you. Tell me your best pity or pinch party story!

Thank you written in hands

Here’s my original blog post from last December:

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I am a writer.  I have met a lot of writers.  Most of us are very hard on ourselves.  Working in solitude affords us the time to self-reflect, which often leads to self-loathing.  For many of us, our goals start small…finish a novel, get a book published, get a review, etc.  Unfortunately, rather than savoring the small fruits of our labor, we are compelled to reach for the next branch.  This New York Times article is a fitting reminder that those clusters of fruit, we take for granted, are a delicacy some will never taste.

As the Eagles proclaimed, “…Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can’t get
Desperado…”

Don’t quit your day dream.  Pull up a chair, heap your plate full, and enjoy your fruit-no matter how small.

Thanksgiving Weekend Blues

RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — THANKSGIVING weekend in 1990, I spent two hours at the loneliest place in the world for an obscure novelist — the book-signing table at a Waldenbooks in a suburban New Jersey mall.

I sat at the table smiling like a game show host. Store patrons scurried past me, doing all they could to avoid eye contact. I kept smiling. I straightened out my pile of free bookmarks for the umpteenth time, though so far none had been taken. I played with my pen. Authors at signings like this get good at playing with their pens. I pushed it to and fro. I curled my upper lip around the pen and made it into a makeshift mustache. I clipped it to my lower lip, pinching said lip in an almost masochistic way, and was able to click the pen open by moving my jaw and pressing it against my nose. You can’t teach that skill, by the way. Practice. At one point, I took out a second pen, rolled up a spitball, and then let the two pens play hockey against each other. The Rollerball beat the Sharpie in overtime.

During the first hour of my signing, a grand total of four people approached me. Two asked me where the bathroom was. The third explained his conspiracy theory linking the J.F.K. assassination with the decision by General Mills to add Crunch Berries to Cap’n Crunch breakfast cereal. The fourth asked me if we had a copy of the new Stephen King.

I kept smiling. Four copies of my brand-spanking-new first novel — Waldenbooks knew not to order too many — stood limply on the shelf behind me. I missed the Barcalounger in my den. I longed for home and hearth, for stuffing my face with leftover turkey, for half-watching football games in which I had no rooting interest. Instead I slow-baked under the fluorescent Waldenbooks lights, the Early Hipster booksellers glaring at me as though I was some kind of pedantic squatter. I had become the literary equivalent of a poster child — “you could buy his book or you could turn the page …”

Time didn’t just pass slowly. It seemed to be moonwalking backward.

Then, with maybe 15 minutes left before I could scrape up the scraps of my dignity and head home, an old man shuffled toward me. He wiped his nose with what I hoped was a beige hankie. His eyes were runny. Odds were this was going to be a where’s-the-bathroom question, but this guy had all the makings of another conspiracy theorist.

The old man’s gaze drifted over my shoulder. “What’s that like?”

“Excuse me?”

“That’s your novel, right?”

He gestured at the four books on the shelf behind me.

“Right,” I said.

He shook his head in awe. “That’s my dream, man. Seeing my book on a shelf in a bookstore.” He lowered his gaze and met my eye. “So what’s that like?”

I paused, letting the question sink in, but before I could reply, the old man lifted his eyes back to the bookshelf, smiled, and shook his head again. “Lucky,” he said, before turning and walking away.

He didn’t buy a book. He didn’t have to.


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“Write a book, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.” It all started innocently enough. A children’s picture book, about fairies…what’s the worst that could happen? No, the fairies didn’t transform into zombies and begin eating children. It’s much, much, worse. I self-published a children’s picture book. Not scary, you say? Try promoting it.

Yes, book promotion is the dark underbelly of the kiddy-lit world. It makes seemingly normal people do very un-normal things (like make their own bookmarks). If you are at all squeamish, it may be best to change the channel. The ending is pretty graphic.

You might assume, as I did, that a children’s author lives in a land filled with only rainbows and butterflies (yes, once in a while a unicorn pops by). Clicking away at the computer, she releases musical notes with each keystroke. That’s how it started (except in my story, the unicorn is actually a hairless cat perpetually curled up on my lap). Anyway, it was all good; I birthed that first story in record time. I connected with an illustrator, who brought my story to life in a way words alone could never do. I found a “publisher”. No, not a real publisher. I am self-published via a Print-on-Demand service called Lightning Source. So, I am able to order print copies, and my book is available on Amazon. It’s actually a pretty cool thing. But, I digress.

Was it scary to approach a complete stranger, online, and ask him to illustrate a book about dust bunnies and fairies? Yes, yes, it was. Was it frightening to reveal to him that I am just a mom, from Iowa, with absolutely no experience writing or self-publishing? Abso-freakin-lutely!  But that’s nothing compared to the horror that is book promotion.

(Insert Twilight Zone intro music, Rod Serling voice, optional) Imagine being born prior to 1970. Now imagine your only experience with social media has been email and Facebook. I know, freaky, right? You’ve just written and self-published a pretty darn good kids’ book. The good news is that people like it; they actually really, really like it. The bad news is that you are related to, or acquainted with all of those people. The walls begin to cave in as you realize YOU have to convince other people that THEY will really, really like it. Yes, you have to promote it, “duhn, duhn, duhn” via the internet.

Thus began my horrifying journey into the realm of social media. Remember, I am a child of the 70’s. When I hear the word troll, I think of the fuzzy-haired, bubble-eyed dolls we all collected back in the day. You charge me with the task of creating a blog, website, and Twitter account…and I’m instantly transformed into one of the crappy tributes from the Hunger Games-the ones who get picked off in the first battle. But, crappy or not, I must fight to survive.

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Finding my way around building a web site was a bit like an ape teaching herself how to tie her own shoes (not pretty to watch, nor is it necessary, but it can be done).   With shoes tied, Gorilla-girl went on to create a blog (imagine the ape teaching herself to tie her shoes, blindfolded). Twitter, I’m still trying to figure out that whole mess.

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Fast forward a few months. I’m blogging away, dutifully updating my website, and haphazardly tweeting. Oh, and I’ve got my book as a giveaway on Goodreads to boot (shameless plug, self-publishing made me do it). I’m so busy bopping around, online, that I lose sight of the fact that I have my book launch party scheduled for November 13. I am thrilled to be holding the event at our local animal shelter. I want to make it special, and I want it to be a fun night for the kids and their families. Oh, and I want to give out some freebies. Reality check…I just spent a small fortune to get this book made. Sorry, sister, no money for freebies.

What’s a girl to do? Here comes the scary part…”Go ahead”, says one of the voices in my head. “Check out some ideas on Pinterest. It won’t hurt, it’s just a look.”  I know, I know, I should have known better. I’ve been sucked into the Pinterest vortex too many times to mention. But, like the clueless chick in the horror movie, I wander into the darkness.

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What’s the worst that can happen?  It’s not like Pinterest can devour my soul.   I know I can never duplicate the absolute perfection I see proudly displayed on the Pinterest boards, but I’m drawn to them, like a moth to the flame.  Each time, I enter, it’s the same routine.  I flit from one pin to another, soaking up the warmth.  Hours later, I extract myself, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. But, with slavish-trust, I repeat the cycle again and again.

Yes, Pinterest devoured my soul, and all I got was a lousy bookmark….and a few other crafty ideas for my book launch party.


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It’s Raining Books, Hallelujah It’s Raining Books!  At long last, the first shipment of The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale books has arrived!  Is it wrong to dance around, in the garage…in my pajamas?  The doors are closed, so what the heck?  I am dancing with joy, and a whole lot of relief, since I scheduled my book launch party before I actually had books in hand.  The hardcover books are still in route, so I am not entirely out of the woods.  But, the paperback books are beautiful!  Please check out my free book giveaway on Goodreads or get your copy at Amazon

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If you’d like to learn more about my self-publishing journey, check out this short book preview video:


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As I make my way through the self-publishing world, I continue to be amazed at the kindness of strangers.  I have been touched by individuals I call “Cyber-Samaritans”.  From gestures as small as a website “like”, to those as grand as spending their hard-earned free time tutoring me…I am blessed.  As I stay the course, I hope to pay my blessings forward and back.  My first shout-out goes to fellow self-published children’s author, Aaron Peters. http://www.heavenisblue.com

“I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ books!”

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Prissy, from Gone with the Wind, didn’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ babies, and a year ago, I certainly didn’t know nothin’ about self-publishing a book. I also didn’t know nothin’ about twitter, blogging, tags, categories, hashtags, trolls, or the true value of caffeine.
I thought once I had my manuscript polished, I was on my way to realizing a lifelong dream of being a children’s author. I quickly discovered that notion is like finally getting pregnant and expecting to hold your baby a few weeks after. Well, a baby typically takes two people to create, and the woman’s body takes care of the rest. A book, not so much. I created this new being, but I needed a heck of a lot of help to get from conception to delivery of my book.
First, I had to figure out how most picture books are put together. It turns out there is a pretty standard format as far as length and layout. But, there’s a slight problem…I can’t draw. Kind of hard to put out a picture book with no pictures. Mission Impossible…find an illustrator. Mission made Impossible-er…find one who will work with a first time, self-publishing, stay-home-mom, from Iowa, with a budget barely breaking 4 digits.
Time to throw in the towel.

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Not an option. I’ve already told my 8 year old son that his mom is going to be an author. Time to consult YouTube, the all-knowing Yoda/Oprah of everything. Search for self-published children’s authors who have actually survived the process and are willing to tell their tales.

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Enter Aaron Peters. I found and watched his You Tube video about how he self-published a kids’ book for his niece, Proof that I’m a Princess, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hflNjz-HZfI After watching his video, I’m thinking: What a cute book. I sure wish I knew this guy, so I could ask him some questions. Hey, look at that, below his video it says,If you have any questions send me a comment or check out my website for other cool stuff.” http://www.heavenisblue.com I’ll type him a note, but I probably won’t get a reply.

Well, I was wrong about that. Aaron did reply. Not only did he answer my questions, he provided the framework for what would become the path to getting my book published. Oh, and remember my Mission Impossible-er? Aaron helped me solve that problem as well. Thanks to him, I connected with illustrator, Kevin Richter, via a service called Elance. How does a mom, from Iowa, team-up with a South-African guy, living in Great Britain, to create an awesome children’s picture book?

To be continued…


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I don’t know why the Row your Boat song popped into my head. Truth be told, I don’t know why any of the random thoughts pop in or out of that squishy blob. But, pop in it did, and the next thing you know I’m off on another one of my metaphorical musings about how the lyrics reflect my self-publishing journey. I have been rowing the “S.S. Self-Publisher” nonstop. She and I have not necessarily gone “gently down the stream”, but we’ve had one heck of an adventure. Just when I think I can’t dig that oar in one more time, I close my eyes and envision the “dream”. Life is but a dream, and we each chart our own course. My dream is to publish a beautiful children’s book, and I’m looking forward to my “merrily, merrily, merrily”.


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Remember the story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf?  Well, my book’s release date has been pushed back so many times that I am beginning to feel like “The Girl Who Cried Book”.   Self-publishing for the first time has been an awesome and exhausting experience.  Initially, I had hoped my children’s picture book would be launched around Easter.  Unfortunately, I told people.  Spring leaked into summer, and still no book.  While I diligently posted book updates to friends and family, summer slipped into fall. Nope, no book yet. Oh, I’ve had 3 rounds of proofs, but no “real” book. Today, I’ll order what I hope and pray is the final, final proof copy. I’m so looking forward to trading my “Girl Who Cried Book” status for “The Lady Who Worked Her #@* off and Created this Awesome Kid’s Book” moniker.

UPDATE!!

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It took much longer than anticipated, but my very first book is finally published.  Self-publishing has been quite a balancing act.  As a first-time author, I had to teach myself each aspect of the process, then I had to go back and complete each step.  All the while, countless stumbling blocks cluttered my path.  Exhausted, but undaunted, I forged ahead.

It turns out that writing and building the book is just the beginning of this crazy journey.  Book promotion and the business side of things is a whole other marathon.  Most days I feel like I am climbing a waterfall, but once in a while, I find the perfect rock.  I regain my footing, take a breath, and press on.

I was looking forward to trading my “Girl Who Cried Book” status for “The Lady Who Worked Her #@* off and Created this Awesome Kid’s Book” moniker.  But, since I am gearing up for my next publication, I’ll have to stick with crying book!

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