Friday, May 18, 2012

A Big Announcement! At Least It Is for Me...

Those of you who regularly read Raychelle Writes know that I enjoy interviewing authors and artists. I love blogging about all things writing and hosting other writers. Oh, and I have a thing for children's books, so I write them, illustrate them, and review them, too. All and all, I see writing as a way to share what I am learning. It is cathartic and a true outlet for me.

There are many other subjects that I am passionate about and wellness is one of them. I am a certified personal trainer and I have a degree in the wellness and fitness field. For the last several years, I have been posting about health, fitness, and wellness on my other blog, Journeys Fitness. It has been said that we teach what we need to learn and I will admit that I am always on the quest for better and more balanced ways to live.

So, I am excited to announce my first project in the self-help genre! The Living Well: Taking Your Journey to a Balanced and Successful Life is a collection of original essays and published blog posts where I offer my take on success, conquering fears, atonement, finding your balance, setting goals, motivation, and happiness. My intention in writing this book is inspire each of us to consider our place in life, decide how to improve it, and then take action. My hope is that The Living Well becomes a resource for living which will be revisited as often as needed for years to come.

The Living Well is scheduled for release this summer. Stay tuned for other exciting news!

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Gary Bernard

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

I have been interested in illustrating stories since I was a child; Frank Frazetta probably the biggest catalyst in this. I had many Frazetta posters on my bedroom walls and absolutely loved comic books/graphic novels. There were many illustrated album covers that I tacked up among the posters, some being more interesting than the music itself. It wasn't until college that I decided to focus on illustration as a career path. Rhode Island School of Design had a huge amount of talented artists, all who inspired me one way or another. While taking a class with Chris VanAllsburg, he brought in a book that he was currently working on that really put my dreams into place.

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

Since I have just begun writing, I'd have to say that I don't gravitate toward any one specific genre. I tend to be more influenced by and drawn toward the older fairy tales. The main reason for this is that they can be enjoyed by all ages due to the more mature writing style. In this style, they can be interpreted in more than one way. My ideal reader is anyone who can enjoy and benefit from my words and illustrations.

3) Tell us about Pemba Sherpa.

Pemba Sherpa is a true story of the first female sherpa (porter and guide in Nepal) who saved her brother from a fall when they were children. It was a great gift to be able to begin my publishing career with a true story of strength and character and such an empowering story for little girls. It received a nod from the Junior Library Guild which was an honor and was recently included into the Amelia Bloomer Project (a feminist reading list). I had just come back from climbing Mount Whitney in California when the manuscript landed on my desk. The trip was fresh in my head and it really helped a great deal when interpreting mountains and surrounding areas.

4) What is Ollie and Tugg about? What inspired you to write it?

Ollie and Tugg is about a not too smart dinosaur (as if there were any really smart ones) and his desire to swim. He meets a pelican that becomes a reluctant friend and the story builds into a meaningful friendship. I wrote the story for my son when he travelled abroad with my wife. Before leaving we were having dinner and he asked me if Allosaurs could swim. I incorrectly answered that they couldn't, and the day that he left I began writing with the idea of a dinosaurs' quest to swim. Being a father for the first time, I wanted to incorporate a few important life lessons into the story, so when reading it to him, he would get a bit more out of it. Some of the lessons are, not to let go of your dreams, be persistent; it pays off, ignore those who laugh at your aspirations and that you can always try to right your wrongs. My daughter, who was practicing her alphabet with a brush and some watercolors, created the font that was used on the cover. I had gone back and forth with the publisher on what the best font would be, and when I saw what she had done by my feet as I was working on the finishing touches, I thought that it fit perfectly.

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

The most that I have done to promote my work has been to travel in the US and abroad to speak at schools. My last trip was to France, where I spoke to over 400 children in 3 cities. I think that I get much more out of it than the children sometimes. The feedback is similar, but always has slight cultural differences. When reading and speaking to the children in the Los Angeles school district, most of the children were coming from a Mexican background. When discussing my books afterwards, their culture came through as they would impose their surroundings and familial situations upon my stories. It's still the same message, but seen with a twist of something else. This, to me is working best. I have done a handful of book signings/appearances, but as far as promotion goes, I believe that it's not the best avenue unless you are well known.

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

My favorite children book authors books are, Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer, Edward Gorey and a handful of others. I need to include 6 illustrators, Lisbeth Zwerger, Frank Frazetta, NC Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, Jessie Willcox Smith, just because without them, the stories would not have been nearly as good. As far as what is/has been on my reading list now, it has been, Stieg Larsson, Cormac Mccarthy, Iain Pears and the most recent (yes, I did like it) Suzanne Collins (I stopped after the Hunger Games because Catching Fire lost my attention.)

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

Traditional publishing is a good avenue if you have never been published before or you have a great agent who can make it work for you. To have the clout of a "real" publisher behind you in the beginning, I believe, is very important for other future publishers to take you seriously. If you have a great agent, as I have met some who have one, having a traditional publisher can work very well. Promoting your work is necessary (as I am quickly finding out) for both self and traditional publishing. Self-publishing is a very interesting avenue for those who have the drive and the resources to get the work out there. Ebooks have already surpassed physical books on Amazon and if you can handle the idea of your book never being in a physical form, I would encourage any author to try it out to see where it takes them.

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

I am an Art Director and designer working in both digital and print media. I bought a burnt out shell of a home 5 years ago and it's not quite finished (my wife and I have done 95% of the work), and being a father pretty much take up my days. I have done some editorial illustration and I am still working on paintings (both large and small scale) and new book ideas. I am always looking for an opportunity to secure new illustration projects/books to do for others.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I am currently working on an ebook (picture book) and another idea for a YA book that I hope to put out within the next 2 years. I will definitely say more when they are ready.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Don't quit, listen to anyone, but don't hear the negativity. Stay positive and believe in your project. If anyone tells you that "it won't work", "you are not good enough" or no publisher will take your book see this link:

For my first book, it took me 15 years, thousands of mailings (postcards with samples), phone calls, emails, networking and one day I met someone who knew someone. Just keep going.

Thank you Raychelle for having me!

Contact Gary




Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Sherrill Cannon

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

A former teacher, all of my books are in rhyme and all try to teach good manners and consideration for others. In 2011, I was fortunate enough to win eight National Awards for my books, The Magic Word, Peter and the Whimper-Whineys, and Santa’s Birthday Gift. My fourth book Gimme-Jimmy has just been released. I also have written six published and internationally produced plays for elementary school children. A magna cum laude graduate of The American University, I have had a varied career including teacher and coach, newspaper photographer and columnist, Dinner Theatre Manager, and Business Administrator. My husband of more than 50 years and I are now retired, and travel in our RV from coast to coast each year, visiting our children and grandchildren... sharing my books along the way!

2) How did you become an author? To what do you attribute your many awards and successes?

I think I have always been an author, but only recently a published one. I have been writing poetry since I was four years old, when my mother would write down my poems for me. When I decided I wanted to write down a story that my mother had told to me and my brother, and later the grandchildren, (Peter and the Whimper-Whineys) since she just told it to us and it wasn’t in writing, I decided to combine my love for poetry with writing a book for children. I have been very fortunate to win as many awards as I have, but I attribute a lot of it to the lyrical poetry which children love – the music of the words. A reviewer just gave me what I consider my greatest compliment, when she referred to me as “a modern-day Dr. Seuss!” I also have an awesome illustrator, Kalpart, who has been able to capture my characters just the way I had imagined them to be, and brought them to life on the pages. I also spend a lot of time finding ways to share my books with children.

3) Why write for children? Who is your ideal reader?

As the mother of four children and nine grandchildren, not to mention having been a teacher for many years, my focus is on the children. I also see a need to try to help children learn about good manners and consideration for others, disguised as fun stories. My goal is to get my books into the hands of as many children as possible. It’s all about the children! My ideal reader is every child…

4) Tell us about your current release, Gimme-Jimmy. What was your inspiration for this story?

Actually, the title inspired me to write this story. One of my children was in the “it’s mine” stage – and he had a little friend whose name was Jimmy who kept saying “Gimme”- so I would tell them both to not be a Gimme-Jimmy! The story evolved from there.

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

I promote my work as much as possible, which takes quite a bit of time in this era of social networking as I’m sure everyone knows. I keep up my website ( ) frequently, and have tried to make it as diverse as possible. I also have a Facebook page, as well as a Facebook Fan Page ( ), and a twitter account (@sherrillcannon). I have found BookBuzzr to be quite helpful, since I can offer my books there with whatever portion of them I choose to share (differing from the amazon look-inside-the-book feature which I also use, but they seem to only show the copyright pages and back covers and very little of the book itself.) I like my readers to be able to sample my rhyming! BookBuzzr also allows me to schedule Tweets during the week, and offers some book giveaways that allow readers to bid on the books with points. Another helpful source of contact is through the Google Alerts – which allow me to follow up on questions about whining, good manners, bullying and similar traits that are on various blogs, with suggestions about my books. I’ve joined a lot of blogs and interacted with a lot of new readers doing this, by the way!

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

My favorite children’s author is Dr. Seuss. I also liked the Berenstain Bears books, as well as Shel Silverstein (do you see a pattern here?) For my own reading, having majored in Literature and spending way too much time with the classics, I stick to light, entertaining books that don’t require much “thinking”! Give me Nora Roberts, Barbara Delinsky, Susan Wiggs, and quite a few others – and I’ll just go escape for awhile!

7) Tell us about your work as a playwright. How did you get started?

My daughters were very active in Dinner Theatre as children, and in an attempt to stay involved in their lives, I became a Stage Manager – so I was very familiar with plays. My oldest daughter is an elementary school teacher and she decided that she wanted me to write a play for her first grade class – so that each child would have at least one line, and a chance to be a star. So “Have You Seen My Little Lamb?” was the first of the plays that I wrote (and had the fun of watching being performed…several times!) That was also the first accepted for publication – and seems the most popular with many international performances and many more still scheduled throughout the year. It’s already been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany,United Arab Emirates, Botswana, Ireland, Cambodia and others. The other plays were all co-written with my daughter, Kerry E. Gallagher. She comes up with the ideas and staging, and I write the scripts. It’s been very rewarding for both of us. Our sixth play was just accepted for publication! The plays can be found on , just look by author for Sherrill S Cannon.

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

Most of my time is taken up with marketing, which is the other half of writing. There are lots of sites to update, and possible contacts to make, and it really takes a lot of time. Fortunately I am now retired, so it keeps me busy. My husband of 52 years and I spend about six months of the year traveling in our RV. We are now in CA with our family here, heading back to PA and our family there in June. We both like to stay active, too, and enjoy walks and bike riding. The bike paths in Long Beach are awesome!

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I have several other books ready to publish, but just recently wrote one that I am anxious to get out as soon as possible. It was nice to actually write a story again, instead of marketing, updating, and blog interviews (not that this isn’t fun for me as well…thanks Raychelle!) My first book was published in November 2009, then one in March 2010, and then April 2011, now May 2012 – so my 2013 book will be out before you know it!

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

My most important advice is to decide where your book really belongs. Find your niche, and write in that genre. It will make finding a publisher, as well as marketing, much easier for you. Even though you may have a superior book, a publisher that likes children’s books will probably not make an exception for a steamy novel, no matter how good it is. Another point is to be careful with rhyme. Just because the end of each line rhymes, it doesn’t mean it is acceptable. The meter, or cadence, of the words is just as important, if not more so. In fact, one of my professors suggested I try some “slant-rhymes” – words where the sounds are the same, but not exact, (like self and help) – to keep the reader interested, and to prevent a story or poem get too singsong-like, while still maintaining the meter. ALWAYS read the story out loud, and have someone else do the same, to test the meter.

Contact Sherrill


Facebook Fan Page

Twitter @sherrillcannon


Links to Sherrill's Books (NOTE: The Magic Word has just received its 5th award: 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards FINALIST! Congratulations, Sherrill!)

My SBPRA Link – Press Reviews for all four books

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Jan Latta

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

I live in Sydney, Australia but I travel half the year to talk at schools and literary festivals and to countries where I follow animals in the wild for my next book. I've been to Africa eight times, China and Borneo twice, Sri Lanka and India.

2) You are an author, a wildlife photographer, and a book publisher. Which came first?

Wildlife photography came first.

3) Tell us about your True to Life Books series.What inspired you to write for children?

I was inspired to write children's books after coming face-to-face with a mountain gorilla in Rwanda, Africa. When my guide said there were only 600 mountain gorillas left in the world, I thought that was very sad and decided to create books for children so they could learn about endangered animals.

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

School presentations and talking at literary festivals in Australia and Asia.

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

David Attenborough and Cynthia Moss. I read all books on Africa – fiction and non-fiction to help me understand animals I will encounter in the wild.

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

I have to self publish my True to Life books because each book costs an enormous amount of money. I follow wild animals in their natural habits so the cost of air fares, tented camp, guides, etc is very costly. Then the additional costs of creating a video on each animal. No publisher is going to give upfront costs for that. On the plus side, I receive all the revenue for my book sales. This usually pays for the printing costs within a year.

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

I don't have a typical day. I have to spend a lot of time marketing my books. I'm also the designer, photo editor, and print production. For my videos I write the script, do the voice, edit the images, choose the music and work with a production house on the final video.

8) What projects do you have in the works?

Promoting my new DVD with 12 True to Life books and 10 videos I've created so children can see animals in action in the wild.

9) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

If you have a passion for writing, just do it. It's a tough business with digital publishing now. Try to get a mentor, join writer's groups and discussions on Facebook.

Author Bio

Jan Latta was born in Sydney and worked in advertising as a creative director in Sydney, London, and Hong Kong.

In 1994 she came face-to-face with a mountain gorilla in Rwanda, Africa. The experience changed her life. When her guide said there were only 600 gorillas left in the wild she was determined to do something to help.

She decided to publish books for children on endangered animals. But first she became a wildlife photographer so she could tell the animal's stories in pictures as well as words.

Grandy the Gorilla, was the first book and twelve True to Life books followed.
Lennie the Leopard, Mia the Meerkat, Gerry the Giraffe, Chimaka the Chimpanzee,
Chipper the Cheetah, Elle the Elephant, Lena the Lion, Timba the Tiger, Ping-Ping the Panda, Rufus the Rhinoceros, Kolah the Koala, Ollie the Orangutan

Each book is a true-to-life adventure with stunning photos of animals in their natural habitat. The books are also full of facts, maps, links to interesting websites and suggested readings. All twelve of Jan's titles are on the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge list.

The ABC commissioned Jan to write the Diary of a Wildlife Photographer. This is a journal of 14 years in the wild creating the True to Life Books – and a lot of adventures along the way.

Jan is a popular speaker at schools and festivals in Australia and New Zealand. She has been selected to speak at the Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Ubud Literary festivals.


Lennie the Leopard
Chipper the Cheetah
Ollie the Orangutan
Gerry the Giraffe
Elle the Elephant
Diary of a Wildlife Photographer
African Safari with Jan Latta

Contact Jan

Monday, May 14, 2012

Drumroll, Please. And the Winner Is...


Jo Ann's Story

My name is Yuceli
And I sure am in a hurry.
Baby Marco's in the park,
Gotta get him before dark.
Mama wants us home
To celebrate her birthday
So I'm on my way
Quick as I can run!

Jo Ann is the winner of an interview on The Writer's Block which will be accompanied by a 7-photo portfolio spread of her artwork. Her interview will be promoted on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Raychelle Writes, Raychelle's Place, The Hive, Goodreads, Jacketflap, email subscribers, etc. As an added value, Jo Ann may also receive a review of her children's book Sunbelievable which would be posted on this blog, Goodreads, etc.

Congratulations, Jo Ann!

Learn More About Jo Ann
Co-Author and Co-Illustrator of Sunbelievable - A Children's Picture Book






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

Guest Post: Dr. Aisha Bailey, MD Submitted by Jo Ann Kairys

(Raychelle, you have my permission to re-post this article. It was featured in my blog tour on March 26, 2012: Bloggers Read Across the Globe – Promoting Children’s Reading and Literacy. Read the original post here. ~Jo Ann)


“Play Therapy: The Spontaneous Ramblings of a Pediatrician, Toy Designer, and CEO”
Written by Aisha Bailey, MD

I am on a never-ending quest for truth. That is what compels my fascination with medicine and my patients. I love being a doctor and interacting with my patients, mostly because I know that they will be frank with me. When I ask one of my toddler patients what’s wrong, I know they will tell me. I don’t presume to be the pied piper – I just know how the system works.

Whenever I walk into an examination room, I look at the parents first and know full well that my patient is sizing me up. I am always thrilled when my patient decides to start speaking with me directly. In all my interactions, my primary goal is to speak directly to my patient and establish a connection. My secondary goal is to make the parents aware that they are part of a larger team that has been put together to care for their child. I also want parents to know that no request is too big or small if it concerns the care of their child. I do this because I remember what it was like to be a child.

I used to love roaming around my back yard exploring the vast expanse of sky. I could create floating clouds of dirt; watch the ground slip through my fingers; or adorn my clothes with stains of grass while I slid down lush green hills. My favorite pastime was grabbing one of my plaits and twirling it around like a bumblebee… buzzing in my ear ever so softly. I never dared to stop dreaming and life was truly my canvas.

One of the fundamental truths for me from birth was that I was different. That difference had little to do with my being a little girl with plaits and much more to do with my being able to really see people. Growing up, I felt invisible at times and was subsequently treated as such. However, it was during those invisible times that I was able to stop and look at the world around me. I became very good at seeing who the people surrounding me were. I listened to their hopes and dreams as I observed their treatment of themselves and others. From this, I learned that each person is an individual who should be respected for his or her own unique talents and purposes.

Over the years, I have been able to channel my love of drawing and celebration of difference into the creation of my Ishababies® line of 16 vibrant characters. I have no unique process for creating the many different “flavors” of my characters; they come from a greater inspiration. With the creation of my babies, I hope to rekindle the spark that we all felt in childhood – the safety of a hug and the comfort of a close friend. This is not mere reminiscence of simpler times, but a way to reconnect to the world, our purpose, and respect for others – no matter who they are. I wanted to create characters that were as individually unique and compelling as each child. Overall, my hope is that my creations will help my patients grow up to become conscientious citizens who cultivate their own talents and celebrate others.

I am honored to have my Ishababies® characters featured in Sunbelieveable – a book with tremendous creativity and vibrance which also celebrates wonder and diversity. Those same tenets sustain me in being a doctor and compel me to thrive in toy design. I will never stop dreaming.

About the Author


Dr. Aisha D. Bailey is the CEO of Aisha & Co. LLC, a toy/gift/stationery manufacturing company. In addition, she currently resides in NJ as a resident physician in pediatrics. Dr. Bailey founded Aisha & Co. and her signature product line Ishababies® in 2004. As a pediatrician, she sees the beauty in every child and wanted all children to see and respect the beauty in all people.