1) What inspired you to start writing children’s books?
I have been writing stories and poems since I was a young child. My grandmother, Leah Wilhelm, was a true inspiration for me. When she graduated high school, my grandmother was offered a college scholarship for journalism to Temple University in Philadelphia, however, she did not pursue this because 'back then, girls just did not go to college.' My grandmother felt I had a gift for writing and encouraged me to follow my dream to be an author. I named the main character in my stories, 'Lia-Ria' after my grandmother.
2) How important is early childhood literacy?
When I had my first son, my dad told me I should start reading to him every day. I took his advice very seriously and began reading to him each and every day. I recalled favorite stories that we read to me during my childhood and I wanted to instill a love of reading in my own children. As a teacher, there is nothing I love more than reading a great story to my little students. I have always felt that the most educational tools children need to succeed in life are the ability to read and write. In my opinion as a teacher, parent, and educator, there is nothing more important than early childhood literacy!
3) Which came first: a love of writing or a love of teaching?
Oh my! Which came first? The chicken or the egg? I believe I was a writer first; however, now that my goal is to teach lessons through my stories, I have to say that teaching comes first for me.
4) What books have you written? Where can readers buy them?
I have created a series called Lia-Ria Adventures. My stories are: Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill, Lia-Ria Meets the Angels, and debuting later this spring, Lia-Ria and the Ostrich Feathers. My books are currently available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
5) How did you find your publisher?
For my first book, Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill, I went with Publishamerica. I was concerned that there were absolutely no other children's books related to lockdown drills (an emergency drill now required by law in many states) and I wanted to put my story out there before anyone else did. After my experiences with Publishamerica, I probably would have waited and gone a different route.
My books Lia-Ria Meets the Angels and Lia-Ria and the Ostrich Feathers are published by Mirror Publishing. Neal Wooten of Mirror Publishing is fantastic and was referred to me by a friend Tammy Johnson (author of The Tangle Fairy.) Mr. Wooten is a writer himself and is helpful with both publishing and writing support/advice.
6) How have you promoted your work? What strategies have been the most effective?
Self-promotion is not only a never ending occupation, it also has been quite a learning process for me. As a full time kindergarten teacher, parent and wife, my time is very limited. Each day, I give myself one job or one goal to accomplish for my books. I accomplish most of my work during the summer when I am not teaching.
When I first started publishing, I was determined to find an agent. I sent out countless letters and researched many agencies. One evening, I drafted an email for an hour and a half to an agent that I thought would be the absolute perfect fit for me. Within minutes of my sending the email, the 'perfect' agent responded, 'NO THANKS! NOT FOR ME!' I had no choice but to laugh! I then decided to promote myself and will attempt to look for an agent at a later date.
Because my stories are related to a lesson, I promote myself to organizations that will benefit from my story. For the Lia-Ria and the Lockdown Drill story, I sent postcards, emails, and letters to schools, government officials, businesses that promote school and public safety, etc. For the Lia-Ria Meets the Angels story, I have sent out postcards to Angelman Syndrome organizations, doctors offices, special-needs schools, etc.
I love the Vistaprint website as they offer great deals on postcard, business cards, pens, etc.I have also used a local company, The Sign Company in Atco NJ, to help make promotional items for my book signings.
I am also learning to promote myself through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and my own website as well. I currently feel that distribution of my postcards and letters have been the most successful ways to promote myself.
8) What is your definition of success?
My dream is to become like Marc Brown, creator of Arthur the Ardvark stories. I have so many unique story ideas and envision my stories coming to life someday right on the PBS channel.
Recently, I took my son to a doctor appointment and he pointed out my Lia-Ria Meets the Angels story was on the bookshelf in the waiting room. I brought the book up to the receptionist and asked her if she would like me to sign the book. The whole office staff got very excited and came out to meet me! It was quite a surreal experience!
I have learned in the publishing world that patience is indeed the key so I am elated and overjoyed each time I am asked to visit a school, a library or I am asked for an interview. I am truly grateful for all that has happened so far and am looking forward to all of my ideas coming to fruition in the future.
9) What is next for you in 2012?
In 2012, I hope to have my 4th and 5th books completed by the end of the summer! I am on a roll and there is no stopping me now!
About the Author
Jodi Fiore is a kindergarten teacher who began writing stories and drawing pictures as a little girl. Each day she gets inspiration for a new story because of the brilliant imagination of her young students.
Twitter account. @jodifiore