1) Describe your journey as an author/writer. How did you get started?
Hi Raychelle, thanks for the invite to be here today! My idea for this series came about over 10 years ago when my daughter was just eight years old (she’s now 21!). My search for a publisher spans over a decade and it’s an interesting story that I hope is an inspiration to all budding authors out there. For anyone who wants to read about it, from ‘idea’ to book, I’d like to suggest that they go to http://www.gmlmseries.wordpress.com and delve into the archives. My first ten or so posts are about this journey, how I felt, how I gave up, etc. But I knew, deep in my gut, that this series was meant to be published. I made some bold moves and kept the end result in my head. I had no clue that I had any ability as a writer. I tell people that prior to this series; the only thing I’d ever written was an excused absence for my children from school! And yet, when my fingers touched the keyboard, I was typing faster than what my brain could think. I believe I knew then that it was meant to be.
2) Do you specialize in any particular literary genre(s)?
New Thought, spirituality for children, which is not religious and many people get confused about that. It’s about having children connect with Source; that ‘something bigger’ that resides inside each of us, which is deeply spiritual but not religious, so to speak.
3) Tell us about The Grand Master/Little Master Interactive Series. What inspired you to write it?
The Grand Master/Little Master Series was written out of a need I felt to create a character that was alive. I wanted my children to work on their own fears, concerns, and daily challenges, rather than read stories about how other children handled theirs.
This game/story came into being one morning in 1998 upon the realization that there was little I could do to calm my eight-year-olds fear of a karate competition. Wishing I could give my daughter some confidence, a sense of Self, I began a game that showed an immediate transformation. Unlike any other books of its kind, this series is interactive. Minimal parental participation allows children to address their own childhood fears, concerns and self-esteem issues. Universal Laws are presented in ways that give children an opportunity to experience their magic rather than simply hear about it. This series promotes conscious parenting through the interaction that is stimulated by the weekly lessons.
Grand Master is a wise and wonderful character who symbolizes the Divine Master-Teacher that lives within each of us, waiting only to be recognized. The books don’t have to be used in an interactive way, but if so, there are three letters from Grand Master to the subject child (that can be printed from my website) that deal with the lesson/topic for each story ; each one suggests something different to do during the week. I recommend that parents/guardians place letters, one week apart, under pillows. Parental Guidelines can also be printed from my website.
To date, there are three completed stories in the series. Book one is titled, The Karate Tournament and addresses the basic fundamental universal law of Cause and Effect; what goes around comes around. You create your life. This story is also the child's introduction to Grand Master; it is therefore recommended that you read this book first if used interactively. It is not necessary to read them in order after this. At the end of book one is a letter to the subject child. “It is no mistake that this book is in your hands, Little Master. You have also been chosen to be a Little Master-in-training. Let us begin our adventure . . .”
Book two is titled Sink or Swim and addresses fear, how to view it a bit differently, and then move through it. Book three, Love Has Many Faces, is about the 'less than loving' people in our lives, specifically a cranky teacher in this story, and suggests that this behavior is nothing more than a "bottled up version' of a love they don't know how to demonstrate. This might be because they're sad, deeply hurt, or they feel unloved. The point is, their behavior towards us has nothing to do with us.
4) Describe the steps you took to publish your novel. Who is your publisher?
Again, in the archives of my blog, one can get all the details and it’s a very cool story, but in a nutshell for this interview I’ll say that originally I sent all my manuscripts ‘snail mail’; it was time consuming and costly. Also, back then, there weren’t any publishers who focused on spiritual, new thought books for kids so I was sort of shooting in the dark, trying to find something that might make a fit. I received many hand written letters from publishers, telling me it was ahead of its time and encouraging me to keep trying.
I also had the support of Neale Donald Walsch’s non-profit organization, ReCreation. Before I even started my manuscript, I contacted them to see if it might be a fit with his NY Times Best Selling series of books, Conversations with God, except that it was for children. They took a liking to the idea and encouraged me to put it in manuscript form. Once completed, I emailed it off to them and they loved it. They weren’t a publishing house so they couldn’t publish it but they were so much of a help in keeping me motivated.
I finally put the manuscript away and some nine years later, pulled it out of a drawer. I decided to search one more time for ‘children’s spiritual publishers’. To my surprise, I found Pick-a-Woo Woo in Australia. I sent it off, they loved it and the rest is history. But talk about Divine Timing, just two days after my acceptance with PWW, I got a call from Linda Lee Ratto who (at the time) had been working with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade and was co-leader of his School of the New Spirituality. Apparently my manuscript had been sitting on her desk for years! ReCreation never threw it away and it drifted around. Anyway, they finally started a small publishing house for Neale’s work and wanted to publish my series to be used as part of their teaching curriculum for the school. Tough choice for me but it was decided by all that PWW had more to offer as a larger publishing house. Linda graciously offered to write the foreword for my series and include a picture of her with Neale!
5) Tell us about your illustrator. How much creative input did you have in the final product?
Lauren Wilhelm had been asked on many occasions (so I’m told) by PWW to illustrate some of their books. She declined until she read my series so that was a nice thing for me to hear! I loved her work and after looking at a number of other illustrators, she had it ‘hands down’ for me. She sent me sample pages and it was uncanny. She got everything right, other than the color of one of my children’s hair (which she changed!). She had a gray cat in the pictures (how could she know?) and a series of other things that made my whole family chuckle . . . even my husbands ‘larger than average’ nose!
6) Is being an author a career choice for you? Why or why not?
I would love nothing more. I’m holding the vision of sitting in my moderate ‘log cabin type’ home in the mountains, continuing my series. Why? Because it’s the first thing I’ve ever done that doesn’t feel like work. If I can earn a living doing it, then yes, absolutely.
7) Tell us about your current projects and what is next for you.
I want to work on some deeper issues for children involving trauma such as loss of a parent or close friend, childhood disease and physical handicaps, this type of thing. I believe we are all here to learn and make a contribution. Faith in something bigger and a nurtured soul are key elements to moving through tough times gracefully and knowing that if we pay attention, we’re all guided. Grand Master is that guide for children and while he/she/it is a fictional character, I believe he/she/it is real!
8) How do you promote your work? What strategies have been the most successful?
I’m just beginning so it’s tough to tell you what’s working or not. I believe social media is the best thing these days. There are ways to market that I haven’t even thought of yet. I spend every available hour I have on the computer, searching for outlets. Reviews are good and interviews such as this are helpful too.
9) What advice would you give to budding writers?
Don’t give up if you have something good. Have other people read your work and get honest answers from unbiased people. It’s a competitive business these days with so many self-published authors. You’ll spend an immense amount of time marketing, make sure your work is worth the hours you’ll spend marketing it.
10) What is your definition of success as a writer?
I don’t know if this is the best answer, but I’ll feel successful when I can give up my day job because my writing income can sustain me. It’s certainly not all about money, there is so much more that excites me about writing. But for me, that’s when I’ll have become a successful author; when I can live from that income.
Patricia Merker is a wife and the mother of two great kids, Haley and Jordan, who inspired her to write The Grand Master/Little Master series. She was disillusioned with the lack of spiritual, New Age material available for children. There was no shortage of parenting books, but little for children, on an interactive level, that was stimulating enough to hold a child’s attention. Her wonderful family and supportive friends told her that the parents and children of the world needed to meet Grand Master; that the world would be a better place.
Patricia was born on November 20, 1956 in Columbus, OH. She graduated from Ontario High School and went directly into retail sales, then retail management. She served on the Board of Directors for a new charter school, Love of Learning, in Largo, FL. Additionally, she was the Children’s Program Director at The Center for Conscious Living in Largo, FL. She wishes that she could boast some impressive educational credentials, but the truth is, she has never written anything other than an occasional note for an excused absence for one of her children from school. It is precisely because of this, that she feels she was an instrument; a messenger of sorts; to introduce parents and children of the world to The Grand Master/Little Master Series. It is her belief that she is no more an instrument than you, the reader. The goal of this series is to make you believe it too.
Website link: www.TheGrandMasterLittleMasterSeries.com