Friday, June 15, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: Fail Up ~ 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

Fail Up really drives the message home that failure is one of the most important parts of the journey to success. Being persistent, learning from your mistakes, being reflective, and staying true to yourself at any costs are all critical to making progress. Tavis shares poignant and honest anecdotes about his life that we can all relate to. There were times as I read this book that I cringed at some of his "teachable moments". But, I learned how valuable those moments can be if you work to redeem yourself. My elementary school principal told me that life is 10% of what you make it and 90% of how you take it. That quote taught me that perception and attitude map out every man's journey. And this quote is teaching me to never ever give up:

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." ~Samuel Beckett

Well done.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Raychelle Reviews: Off the Couch! by Adriana Cerrotti

Adriana Cerrotti's Off the Couch! is a story that encourages children to make healthy food choices, turn off the television, and become more physically active. As a wellness and fitness professional, I applaud Adriana for using her platform as an illustrator-turned-author to stress the importance of healthy living.

Adriana is a very talented cartoon animator as evidenced by the vibrant and humorous illustrations she created for her story. She does a good job of depicting the unlikely friendship between her main characters (a cat and a mouse) and their quest for fitness by eating better and skateboarding. Growing up, I remember how much fun I had riding skateboards with my brothers and sisters.This added a bit of nostalgia for me.

Some of the word choices may present challenges to younger readers, but the overall message is a positive one: stay away from junk food, find a physical activity that you like, and get Off the Couch!

Off the Couch! is available as an ebook at Barnes and Noble.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Adriana Cerrotti

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

I am a children’s book author, and former traditional cartoon animator. Animation brought me out of my original country, Argentina. I worked as a senior character animator in a few countries around the world, before I arrived in the USA. I had the privilege of working for renowned companies and animating Disney star characters such as Little Mermaid, King Triton, Timon and Pumba and others. I also worked for Hanna Barbera, and had the pleasure to give life to popular characters such as Scooby Doo, The Snorts, and many others.

Currently, I live in Atlanta, GA, with my husband and two lovely dogs. From the quiet and beautiful environment of Duluth, I work on my children’s books. I enjoy my work very much. I am building a nice collection of books for children, which I develop completely from the beginning to end.

The first book I published was Never Give Up, which had been having a good reception on Barnes & Nobles. It reached a satisfying sales rank in a few months. Recently, I published 4 books more, being Ady’s Alphabet the last one from this list. Most of my books are for children 2 to 6 years old.

2) Which came first: writing or illustrating? Why do both?

Illustrating came far before than writing. I’ve been drawing since I was a girl. And entered the animation business when I was a teenager. I also painted, studied photography, ceramics, design, etc. I very rarely did any work in my life that was not related to some form of art. Later in my life, I had the need to write. So, I started my studies at the academic level.

3) Tell us about your children’s books.

My children’s books are for small children. They are made with the intention of helping children to increase their ability to identify component sounds within the words. This is why, Never Give Up and Beautiful!!! Inside and Out have both been written in rhymes. Also, it is my hope that children will motivate themselves to read more and better by engaging with the books’ fun and colorful images. In addition to that, it is my goal to attract parents and adults because it is essential that they participate in their children’s intellectual development. It is important that they read with them and be physically present and part of the process. Lastly, I intend my books to promote positive thinking and an optimistic outlook.

4) Describe your path to publication. Has this experience met/exceeded your expectations?

Publishing today gives us, creative people, a lot of freedom. My path to publication was fluid and easy. I publish all my books on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle) and on Barnes & Noble. My husband, a computer man, helps me with the process. So far, my experience on Barnes & Noble exceeded my expectations. However, I should mention that I am a very fast and hard worker. I could accomplish a lot in short segments of time. It is also important that I am my own critic and supervisor. And this makes my work more enjoyable.

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

I do not do any paid promotion. I could not do anything that would approximate to the massive amount of promotion the companies such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble do. My books’ prices are very low (except for the paperback version). So, making any promotion would imply having to do a massive campaign. In other words, it would mean investing huge amounts of money. And I am not ready to do that at this time. So, I take what I can from monsters such as Barnes & Noble, which seem to be doing quite well selling children’s books. And hopefully Kindle will expand its children’s market too with the new incorporation of color.

6) Describe a typical day in your life.

I wake up early, feed my dogs and have breakfast. I have a big backyard, so I let my dogs run free for a bit. Then we all move to my studio where I divide my time between studying and working. I am a Penn State student. I stop at lunch, for us to eat again and have a break. And then, I work until 4 pm. Around that time, I am ready to exercise, which I do daily. Then, if I have some time in between, I do some reading until it comes the time to make dinner. By then, my husband is already at home, so we make some time to talk about his day and the country’s news. After dinner, I do my 20 minutes of daily meditation. And after that, if I have the time, I do some more reading or computer work until I go to bed. This is pretty much my daily schedule from Monday to Friday.

7) What projects do you have in the works?

At this moment I am working on two books simultaneously. One of them is about a bird and the process of growing up. The other - which I am currently illustrating -is about two creative and distinct cats. They will be also for 3 to 6 year old children.

8) What would you like to accomplish as a writer?

I would like to keep enjoying what I do. I believe this is by itself a privilege and the path to success. However, I am also getting trained, so I expect my writing skills to evolve. Plus, learning is a big part of that bigger joy. Both, my husband and I do university study. Studying as an adult is a very interesting and fulfilling experience. Especially when, like in my case, it is in a second language.

9) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Go for it! This is the right time. You are the one that sets the limits.

About the Author

Adriana Cerrotti is an artist with multiple skills. She worked as a traditional animator for many years and was sponsored to work as a senior cartoon character animator for several projects, in a few countries throughout the world. She worked for Walt Disney and Hanna-Barbera, among other renowned companies, and animated the main characters of the very first Walt Disney Academy Award Nominee for Best Short Animated Film: Redux Riding Hood. Adriana also gave life to characters such as Melody (Little Mermaid II), Timon and Pumba (Walt Disney Series) and an innumerable variety of Hanna Barbera characters. Cerrotti is also a character designer, illustrator and children's book author. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband and pets.

Contact Adriana



Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Ryan Afromsky

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

I grew up in both New York and Los Angeles and attended college at the University of Miami. I started a grilled cheese restaurant at 26 and then proceeded to write a children's book about it. Currently, I own a sustainable commercial carpet cleaning business.....random, I know.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author.

I was reading a few books to my nephew and thought some of the books he liked were terrible. That same night I couldn't sleep and thought if these people can write children's books then I can, too. So I did. The idea of writing about a restaurant seemed natural since I was in the business. I never had dreams of becoming an author because I don't consider myself a good writer, but strange things happen sometimes. It says "author" on my business cards and one of my friends makes fun of me because we both know I'm really not.

3) Do you gravitate toward any particular genre in writing?

This is my first and only book so far. I wrote about the restaurant because that's what I know. I've been trying to figure out what else I know really well but I find I don't know that much!

4) Tell us about your recent release, I Have a Restaurant. What inspired you to collaborate on it?

I had this idea for a children's book and I wrote it all down in one night. I'm a terrible artist so I drew these stick figures with the writing underneath. I asked a few people if they knew an illustrator and a friend of mine pointed to me to Ron. When I met him I kept telling him to be brutally honest with my book idea and was very embarrassed by my crude drawings. I should have told him a 5 year old drew it. Regardless, Ron took on the project and kids really like the book. I constantly get emails from parents saying its their children's favorite book. The illustrations really make it what it is.

5) Describe your path to publication. Has this experience met/exceeded your expectations?

Getting published is not an easy road. Unless you are famous or know somebody, getting published is very frustrating. I sent out all these copies of my book to agents and never heard back from anyone. A friend of a friend knew a literary agent so he took on my book but I got rejected by all the major publishing houses so we agreed to part ways. A different friend of a friend (it sounds like I have millions of friends but I don't) put me in touch with a small publisher in San Diego and she agreed to take on my book. It's a lot of work and a lot of rejection but it's nice to know someone believes in me.

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

The best way to promote my book is by networking. I meet a lot of people and often set up events through people I meet. If I were a celebrity then it wouldn't be a problem,but I'm not. I'm trying to get a food/restaurant celebrity to promote my book but that doesn't happen so easily. I have a crush on Giada DeLaurentiss from The Food Network and want her to do something with my book but she's not so quick to get back to me.

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

I don't really read children's books anymore but I do read a lot. I like fiction and biographies. I've read all of the Grisham's books and right now I'm reading Baldacci's latest book. One of my favorite biographies is Richard Branson's Losing Your Virginity. I like the way he does business.

8) Describe a typical day in your respective lives.

Sleep, eat, work, eat, pretend to work, eat, watch one of my New York sports teams, eat again. I work a lot and carpet cleaning is not that interesting so I won't bore you with the details.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

Ron and I have talked about doing a book together but that might not happen for a while. Ron is very busy working and promoting his own book so our joint book is not a high priority. As for me, I would like to turn my book into a series. In the first book I introduced everyone to myself and my restaurant and now I would like to have stories about things that happen in and around "Ryan's Place".

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors/illustrators who plan to collaborate on a book?

It's good to have a partner. That applies for books and any kind of venture you do in life. It's nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of and motivate you when you just don't feel like working. Also, with first time authors like myself, someone like Ron is invaluable. He knows a lot more about how children think and react than me so someone's knowledge of the industry is crucial. It's also fun to work with someone else. It's not work all the time and I don't take myself very seriously so Ron and I have had fun. We actually became friends from working together so that's just an added benefit. Ron has an Emmy award and I like telling people my book is illustrated by an Emmy Award winner. My best piece of advice, find an Emmy Award winner to work on your book.

About the Author

At the ripe old age of 26, author Ryan Afromsky started a grilled cheese concept restaurant in Culver City, CA called meltDOWN etc. Always the entrepreneur, Ryan used his experience at meltDOWN etc as inspiration for his first book I Have A Restaurant. He loves to travel and eat (really loves to eat), but most importantly Ryan loves to dream up new ideas and just have fun. Ryan currently lives in Los Angeles, CA, and has no desire to be an actor.

About Ron Noble, the Illustrator

Originally from Rockville, MD, Ron Noble started drawing cartoons shortly after birth and never stopped. Besides being an illustrator, Ron also won an Emmy Award for directing Rugrats in 2003. He’s a filmmaker, songwriter, surfer and snowboarder. Ron is happiest when he makes people laugh and loves sharing his work with the world. Ron also currently resides in Los Angeles, CA, and he secretly hopes he might be immortal…so far so good.

Contact Ryan 




Raychelle Reviews

Today's review is a great little story called I Have A Restaurant by Ryan Afromsky. The story takes the reader on a guided tour through the daily operations of owning and operating a restaurant called "Ryan's Place". It is personable, informative, and insightful.

Readers will learn some valuable traits about being an entrepreneur: 1) Be the first to arrive and the last to leave; 2) provide great service; 3) keep your storefront and support areas clean, neat, and stocked; 4) take care of your staff and they will take care of you! Ryan makes his book a great teaching tool by including some critical thinking questions and a maze (a little art mixed with a little problem-solving).

Emmy-winner Ron Noble does a great job at illustrating the story. The book is visually appealing, animated, and colorful.

It is never to early to educate young people on the inner workings of being a business owner, and Ryan does a great job of covering all of the bases. Reading I Have A Restaurant made me feel like both an intern and a welcomed guest. If Ryan writes a sequel, I'll be back.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Cynthia Chin-Lee

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

I write multicultural children's picture books and I live in northern California, Palo Alto, to be exact which is about 45 minutes south of San Francisco.

2) How did you become an author?

I've always been a "writer." My first book was for adults and called It's Who You Know. Then I became a parent to two children and after reading thousands of children's books (or was it a few books hundreds of times?), I became a fan of children's literature. I love the collaboration of words and images and I wanted to see more multicultural books.

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

Children are our hope and our future so it's very important work. I've faced racism and prejudice and wanted to introduce young people to different races and cultures through my work. My ideal reader is between 5 to 11, curious and open-minded.

4) Please describe your body of work. What do you want your legacy as an author to be?

I have four non-fiction picture books (all alphabet books) and two fiction picture books. All of them are multicultural. A Is for Asia and A Is for the Americas (co-authored with Terri de la Pena) are a fun romp through Asia and North, Central,and South America. The other two alphabet books are short biographies about men and women who have changed the world. They have met big challenges and overcome them.

Both the fiction picture books, Almond Cookies and Dragon Well Tea, and Operation Marriage are based on true stories, but liberally fictionalized.

I hope that my legacy will include opening hearts and minds to new cultures.

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

I don't have much time for promotion sadly as I have a full-time job and a full-time family! I love doing school visits and talking to kids. I'm willing to Skype with classes but so far no one has taken me up on the offer.

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

Some of my favorite authors and illustrators are Antoine St. Exupery, Christy Hale, Peggy Rathmann, Nancy Farmer, Patricia MacLachlan. I just finished reading Holes. I also read tons of non-fiction.

7) How did you get started as a public speaker? What is your advice for others who desire to do the same?

Toastmasters! I've been a Toastmaster for many years and it's been a wonderful learning experience. I've started one Toastmasters club myself.

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

I love to swim and walk and hit the gym. I like reading, playing with my son and my cats. I spend way too much time on the computer.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I'm working on a multicultural religion manuscript right now...

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Read tons of books and try to write in your journal daily. Join Toastmasters ( and if you write for children, join the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (

About the Author

Cynthia Chin-Lee and her four older siblings were born and raised in Washington, D.C. by a medical-doctor father and a homemaker/artist mother. Cynthia began writing for fun when she was in the sixth grade. "I liked writing poetry and scribbling in my journal because I found it comforting and therapeutic. I still write for that reason and because I like playing with words."

Cynthia attended Harvard University, where she studied East Asian Languages. She spent her junior year abroad at the Mandarin Training Center of National Taiwan Normal University. After graduating from Harvard magna cum laude, Cynthia accepted a graduate fellowship at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, and studied at the University of Hawaii.

She began a technical writing career by writing for banks and high-tech companies. She has also written freelance articles for magazines and newspapers, as well as taught writing classes at community colleges and universities. She currently works as a publications manager at Oracle.

Cynthia's first book, Almond Cookies & Dragon Well Tea (Polychrome Publishing 1993) is an autobiographical tale of friendship. She is also the author of A Is For Asia (Orchard Books 1997), which Ruminator Review called one of the "Best 100 American Children's Books of the Century," and A is For the Americas (Orchard Book, 1999), which earned an award from the National Council for Social Studies and Children's Book as a Notable Children's Book in Social Studies in 2000 and earned recognition as an Americas Award Commended Book. Amelia to Zora: Twenty-six Women Who Changed the World, and Akira to Zoltan: Twenty-six Men Who Changed the World, both illustrated by Megan Halsey and Sean Addy, are alphabet books that describe men and women who have made a considerable impact on the world. Her most recent book is called Operation Marriage (Reach and Teach, PM Press). Based on a true story, the book looks at what it takes for two children to convince their mothers to get married before California's Prop 8 passes and bans gay marriage.

Cynthia is an active member in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), which can be found on the web at The San Francisco Bay Area local chapter's web location is

She lives in Palo Alto, California with her husband and two children.

Contact Cynthia