Friday, May 11, 2012

Sketch the Story! Contest: And the Winner Is... Plus Other Updates!

I am sure that you are dying to know who won my first-ever blog contest! Stay tuned--the winner will be announced on Monday, May 14th!

I successfully completed my first NaPiBoWriWee writing 7 picture books in 7 days. Many thanks to Paula Yoo for hosting this event and helping me to find my "inner Zen". I learned that I can shut out the world and be creative under even the most undesirable circumstances. Need a boost to your creativity and/or discipline? Take a writing challenge!

 lal log

My daughter was just notified that she is a 2012 State Finalist in the Letters About Literature Contest for the third year in a row. She is pretty excited, but has informed me that wants to win next year. I am really proud of her. She loves to read and is turning into a great little writer. Onward and upward, Halima!

Next week, there will be more great interviews, guest bloggers, and book reviews. I hope that you will stop by to see who is visiting The Writer's Block! (There will also be an exciting announcement about a project I've been working on!)

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Review: Janie and the Magic Box Christmas by Julia Dweck, M Ed.

Janie and the Magic Box Christmas is a wonderfully-written children's Ebook by Julia Dweck. The story must be set in Houston, Texas where I'm from because the month of December is generally warm and very green!

The story begins with Janie making some disappointing revelations about the unseasonal weather and its effects on, what should be, a wintry holiday. Even the decorated tree inside is fainting from the 100-degree heat. But, a magic box contains an unlikely solution to Janie's problem: a storm of wild bubble-like freckles!

You have to read Janie and the Magic Box to see if the freckles save the day, or just create more chaos. It is a wild roller coaster ride that children will really enjoy! The fabulous illustrations by the very accomplished "humorous illustrator" Terry Sirrell add humor, whimsy, and fun to the story.

Janie and the Magic Box Christmas is available on uTales NOW!

Learn more about the author, Julia Dweck, in her interview on The Writer's Block.

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Kathryn White

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?

I live in the tiny city of Wells in the South West of England. I wrote When They Fight, an autobiographical picture book on conflict in the home when my youngest daughter, Charlie, was six years old, she’s now eighteen. It’s strange how stories come to you. But I suddenly wanted to express the trauma I felt when very young, during the breakdown of my parent’s marriage. I sent the book away and Oxford University Press made an offer. Writing wasn’t something that I had ever considered as a career. My writing came out of a need to say something about something and I think that is the key; don’t’ write what you think people will want to read, write about things that interest you or hold meaning. The book was selected as a Notable Social Studies Book in the US. Following on, I’ve written a variety of stories including, Here Comes The Crocodile; shortlisted for two awards and I’m proud to say that Ruby’s School Walk was shortlisted for the Boston Globe Best Read Aloud Award. My books are always well received in the US, which is so encouraging.

2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?

I always seem to incorporate animals into my stories. I believe animals have real personality; they’re funny to watch and exhibit fascinating behavior. They just make great characters.

My ideal reader is any child prepared to sit down and put the time into reading my stories. I always want them to come away satisfied; having had fun but taking something from the experience of reading the book. I think children are very discerning and write with that in mind.
3) Describe your body of work. Which projects have been the most rewarding?

I’ve written nearly thirty books, consisting mainly of picture books. However I’ve also written ghost/horror stories, historical fantasy and cultural tales. The ghost story goes down well in schools; I love to see the children really get into the tale, listen in silence and hold their breath until the end; that’s satisfying. In contrast, I love the new Ruby series coming through. I think Miriam Lattimer has done a fab job on the illustrations and when your character comes to life through a series of books, you kind of get attached.

4) Tell us about your newest release, Ruby’s Sleepover.

Ruby’s Sleepover is about Ruby’s first night sleeping in her back-garden in a tent with her best friend Mai. They are visited by giants, pirates and even dragons. I’ve produced a power point of the story and it’s wonderful to see the illustrations on a big screen, they are so vibrant. The third book is coming out next year. Ruby’s School Walk, the first in the series has been extremely well received in the US. There is a great review of Ruby’s Sleepover on the Kirkus website. Ruby is all about being a small child with a big imagination.

5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I attend festivals and have a website. I also ask people to write reviews of my books anywhere on line, from Amazon to Goodreads; reviews help immensely. I find that the market is often cornered by the big names and shelf space is scarce and frequently allocated to the high sellers, already up there, which keeps diversity out. I think if anyone discovers a good book, it’s a public service to let others know about it. I always review my book purchases if they’re good. If they’re dreadful, I keep quiet!!

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

Children’s author has to be Roald Dahl; his writing is so irreverent, so child-focused, and his evil characters are fabulously nasty. It makes the read so rewarding when they get their comeuppance. Classic story is Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, dark stuff and the animal characters are chilling. Adult authors are Stephen King, I think he’s the master of horror and Arundhati Roy, her title:The God of Small Things; what beautiful language she uses.

7) What are your views on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

I believe there was a time when publishers could be depended upon to source good books and publish them, finances permitting. Nowadays, they source best-sellers which doesn’t always mean they’re good; they just sell, like high-end trainers and designer stuff. Self-publishing gives a platform to good writers who haven’t made it into the best sellers list yet, but one day! I think it’s wonderful that writers have the opportunity to showcase their work, the problem is, that it takes a lot of money and online savvy to get your work noticed.

8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

Dare I describe a typical day? You’d fall asleep. What’s interesting about cleaning and cooking and getting in the groceries, uh! But these activities are interspersed with writing about dragons and demons and great Pharaohs, so that keeps me going. I write in bursts between other daily tasks and the balance seems to work. I’m not a nine-to-five desk person. The phone and email insures that I write in patches.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

Terror Tales is currently out with a couple of publishers. If it’s taken on then I’ll write more horror. I adore writing horror. I’m also working on another picture book and two young reader books, but it’s very hard getting them past editors to contract state. These are tough times, I have to work harder and not take anything for granted.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

The key is writing something highly original that’s yours and speaks with your voice. That’s the best way to get noticed. Take chances, be brave in what you produce, don’t be put off by rejection either, what one editor rejects another will grab with open arms. Be prepared to cut and slice and rework your first book until it becomes unrecognizable. Why? Because it’s by sacrificing the first one and getting it published that you obtain access to editors and publishers when offering your next best seller. Don’t be possessive or precious about your text. I know you put a lot into it, but it’s about getting on the road to publication.

Author Bio

Kathryn has written a number of children's books, including Here Comes the Crocodile (shortlisted for the Sheffield and Nottingham Children’s Book Awards 2005) and The Nutty Nut Chase for Little Tiger Press, as well as many books for Harcourt Education including, The Tupilac, (used in literacy world) Ghost Thief & PITCH POND CURSE. She has also written for Egmont, SNOWSHOE THE HARE (Banana Books) and Oxford University Press, GOOD DAY, BAD DAY, which was selected as a notable social studies book in the US under the title WHEN THEY FIGHT. Her latest book Ruby’s School Walk was shortlisted for the Boston Globe Best Read Aloud Book Award.

Kathryn has been involved in the HOW TO READ A MILLION WORDS CAMPAIGN in Bristol, raising literacy standards in Bristol City Schools and the Get Hackney Reading Campaign. She has also worked as a creative writing tutor for HM Prison Service.

She is also a qualified in TESOL. She uses her own texts and experience in creative writing to help students of other languages gain confidence and enjoy building a relaxed and natural command of English language in everyday use.

She has been involved in nursery and school care both as an educator and presenter. She worked as a visitor in schools discussing and encouraging healthy eating.

An in-depth bio and further information is available on Wikipedia:

Contact Kathryn


Twitter @kathryniwhite


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Linda Hatton

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work.

I grew up in Seattle, lived in New York briefly, and then moved to Southern California where I now live.

When I was very young, I had a fondness for writing. Then in high school, I focused on watercolor painting; I had my art displayed at a mall in Seattle when I was in high school.

Then I went on to study acting at New York University and to pursue a career in acting and theater, including a little producing and writing. I also had my first poem printed in a literary magazine back then and made hand-crafted jewelry, hats, and handbags that I sold around Seattle (as well as working at Seattle Art Museum after I finished my degree).

Later I became a stay-at-home mom and have been keeping myself busy with varying side projects and a constant dose of classes.

I’m working for a web design certification, but it’s slow going because I have to work around my kids’ schedules. Additionally, I take every writing class I can get my hands on that fits into my budget and schedule. I have had some outstanding teachers both at UCSD Extension online (poetry and novel writing) and College of the Canyons (creative writing and screenwriting).

Oh, and besides writing, my daughter started creating sock dolls when she was about 7 years old. Word spread about them up until last year when we finally started a Facebook page, Sock Doll Surprise, ( to sell her dolls. We were running monthly fundraising auctions; we had one for her school, one for the Red Cross efforts for Japan after the Tsunami, and one to support bicyclist Kirsten Salvador for her participation in the California Coast Classic to raise money for Arthritis Foundation. We’ve gotten a little side-tracked due to school activities, although we are donating one to support medical expenses for Ruby Owen’s Charity Fund. We have purchased the domain ( and I have been building a website for it.

2) What is Mouse Tales Press? Why did you start it? How did you choose the name?

Mouse Tales Press is an online literary magazine that publishes poetry and short stories. I wanted to make a website where I could use the skills I had learned in my web design classes and challenge myself to keep my knowledge up-to-date. Inspired by my writer-daughter, I initially started it as a place where emerging writers could have a chance to display their work. Mouse was my childhood nickname given to me by my father who had died not long before I started the website, so I named it in his honor.

3) Tell us about your submission process. What kind of writers should submit?

Mouse Tales Press publishes work by both emerging and established writers. I love experimental works, those written outside traditional format. While I receive mostly free-form style poetry, I also appreciate poems written in form. However, I usually choose works that bring out an emotional response in me when I read them.

Writers should send submissions to In the subject header, write “Submissions” and indicate to which category they are submitting (poetry or short stories). Also, we appreciate the stories to be formatted as stated in our guidelines on the submissions page (

4) What is your vision for Mouse Tales Press?

I would like to one day produce a hard copy version of the magazine. However, I envision making handmade books rather than mass-produced copies (I have pondered creating issues through Mag Cloud though). I am still learning the fine art of book-making, so it will be a while before I turn out my first set.

Adding a store to the site is another option I have thought about. It would most likely be a store of handmade books (although my wheels are always churning!), and whether or not I open it up to outside artists, has not been decided at this point. Stay tuned!

5) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

I have been immersing myself in novel re-writing books over the past several months. I was once addicted to reading Ridley Pearson books. However John Steinbeck is also a favorite. Most recently, despite my apprehension at the subject matter, I am now reading Catching Fire of The Hunger Games series. I could barely put the first one down. (Catching Fire is just as good, I’m just a little busier now so it’s taking me longer to read it.)

6) When you are not writing/editing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

I write, work on Mouse Tales Press, exercise, and create foods from vegetarian and raw food recipes while my kids are in school. When they are home, my schedule usually revolves around their many activities: soccer, volleyball, track meets, and horseback riding lessons. Favorite places I like to take my kids are hiking, biking, to museums, the science center, and the beach.

7) What projects do you have in the works?

I have been working on a cozy-mystery called Do Not Disturb for longer than I would like to admit. Initially I wrote it during National Novel Writing Month; it needed heavy editing and re-writes, which I am now in the final stretch of. The story is about a hotel maid who finds a hidden package in one of the rooms she is cleaning. The contents change her life forever. When one of her co-workers is found beaten, clues surrounding the package lead her to believe the sender is the attacker. Afraid of being arrested for theft and fearing for her safety, she sets out to find the culprit.

When I was 14-years-old, a teacher had me read, The Greatest Salesman in the World (by Og Mandino) and when I was 16 my dad gave me How to Win Friends and Influence People (by Dale Carnegie). Having been influenced by positive thinking type ideas from a young age, I have included bits of this philosophy in Do Not Disturb.

I tend to write stories that have a spiritual twist (currently, I am also working on a screenplay called Reincarnation Saved My Life). The subject of death seems to pop up in my writing a lot, too, though. Besides that, I have two other novels I am working on, one of which is a Young Adult novel, and various other poems, short stories, etc.

8) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Always carry a journal and pen with you, or use the notepad in your phone if you have a thought and you don’t have the paper to write it on. Sometimes it’s hard to recall those fleeting thoughts hours later.

Also, set a regular time every day to write whether you feel like it or not. If you feel you have writer’s block, get outside of your head by recording what is going on around you through your senses. Write what you hear, smell, feel (the clothes touching your skin, twitches, whatever).

And find a class to take. There is nothing more important than feedback by other (experienced) writers. Also, check your local library or bookstore for writers’ groups.

About the Author

Linda Hatton has a BFA in Acting from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. She has produced, written, and acted in various theatrical productions since 1982. Most recently, her play, “A Human Being”, was produced at the West Hollywood Black Box Theatre in September, 2009. Her writing has appeared in Rainy Days, The Writing on the Wall, on, and in Cul-de-Sac literary magazine, Volume I and Volume II. Linda also runs her own online literary magazine, Mouse Tales Press.

Contact Linda

Twitter @MouseTalesPress.

Facebook Writer Page

Mouse Tales Press Facebook Page

Linda's Blog the whatnot shop

Mouse Tales Press Blog

Monday, May 7, 2012

Guest Post: How to Feature Your Book in a Video Trailer! by Jo Ann Kairys

I've received a lot of questions about how I made the video trailer for Sunbelievable, so I thought I'd describe the steps I used to create and share it. Video trailers are a great way to promote books 24/7! The steps may appear somewhat linear, but it's more a back-and-forth, fluid process between one step and another. If you have an idea for the "gestalt" of the video, go with your instinct for starters.

1. Write the script. Since trailers are generally less than 2 minutes, there's a lot to pack in. Some of the free video creation software programs (mentioned below) allow only a 60 second video for free, but that may be just the right amount of time for your trailer. Mine is just under 2 minutes. What impression do you want to make that will entice viewers to read your book? It isn't necessary to "tell" the story, per se. A good, crisp script highlights the essential story elements and builds interest quickly. Notice that I used very few words and let the images do the "talking." It helped to read the script to willing listeners who offered constructive feedback. I wanted the first sentence of my script to draw attention in sync with the images and sound. Once the script is drafted, you can always revise it after adding graphics and music.

2. Select graphics and images. I used illustrations from Sunbelievable for the video, since I created them and own the raw files. However, there are free sources for good quality images. Depending on the overall look and feel you want to achieve, search Google or Bing for free photos and artwork. Make certain your selections are copyright- and royalty free. Another source is iStock Photo for a library of high quality, royalty free stock photography and images. Though not a free source, there are pricing options and millions of images. I added digital elements from scrapbooking kits I purchased online. For my video, one source was StudioGraphics.

I have no formal training as an artist, but discovered how to create illustrations in Photoshop. The process involves blending my own (original) photographs with digital elements sold online. Be sure to check the company's policies on “commercial use rights” for digital artwork, as some require a license. I went a step further and obtained written permission from individual artists via signed contractual agreement.

3. Choose music. I was fortunate to have a talented young musician, Jeffrey DiLucca at MrFilmScore, create an original score for my trailer. After I completed Steps #1 and #2, we sat together and looked at the sequence of images. We thought through the musical accompaniment -- style, rhythm, pace -- that would complement the image layout. If you don't have a musician handy, a fantastic source for music is 300Monks where you can find royalty-free music to suit any type of trailer -- from children's books to documentaries. Another source is Creative Commons that allows you to legally use "some rights reserved" music, movies, images and other content -- all free.

4. Create the trailer. Putting it all together is challenging, but if you've worked your way through Steps #1-3, you're ready to make the trailer a reality. I used a sophisticated software program purchased from Photodex ProShow Producer. I'd been doing some promotional videos for different types of companies and found the software well-suited to those particular needs. But, there are free video creation programs that produce very good quality trailers. For MAC users, iMovie is built-in software that's easy to navigate. PC users have access to Windows Movie Maker with many video capabilities. Other free sources are available. Check out these 5 great sites: Animoto, Stupeflix, Muvee Cloud, FlixTime, and Masher. Each has its own unique features and options, including upgrades and music.

5. Share it. YouTube is one of the most popular online communication sites, allowing users to upload and make videos available to the public -- for free. You can post videos to your own "channel," embed them on your blog, and share with others (great PR/marketing!). There are other video upload sites, but since YouTube is owned by Google, you'll get more traffic by posting your video there. Maximize YouTube exposure even more by writing a strong description of the video, tagging it appropriately, and linking to your blog and social media sites!

It took me about 5 hours to create my trailer. The hardest part was squeezing it all into 1:53 minutes. Because I already had the book's illustrations to use, I didn't spend upfront time images or music. However, if you plan on doing one or more videos, it may be worth the effort to explore the website resources mentioned above. Another option is paying someone to make the video for you, if you have the budget.


Jo Ann Kairys is the co-author and co-illustrator of Sunbelievable—a Mom’s Choice Gold Medal 2012 award winning children’s picture book and 2 First Place Royal Dragonfly 2012 Awards for Illustration.