Renee interviews author Mark Wayne Adams

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18-Mark Wayne Adams-Headshot 5-www.markwayneadams.com

A prolific children’s author and illustrator, Mark recently published a new book, “King for a Day: the Story of Stories.”

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know.

Growing up in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, I wanted to be something. However, I had no clue what that might be. Other kids my age wanted to be doctors, athletes, and president. I wanted to draw. I remember watching Walt Disney’s Fantasia at age five. Right then, I realized that what I wanted was possible.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

King for a Day, the Story of Stories is a wonderful adventure about discovering your passion through friends and actions. Teachers and students continually ask me how to write books. I wrote this story to let young readers know how I do what I do, and to encourage them to create their own stories using the tools within themselves.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?

Many times, people tried to discourage my drawing dream. As I grew older, I learned to listen to the positive influence of people who told me I could. These people taught me to listen and to learn. I found many answers and kept notes along the way. Observing others meant it was possible for me.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

My biggest “aha” moment came when I hid family members as townspeople extras in King for a Day. With my author and illustrator successes, family and friends request to be characters in my books. By hiding my immediate family in one book, I’ll never need to draw them again. Ha! Ha!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

When illustrating children’s books, my best resource book has been How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books and Get Them Published. Many self-proclaimed authors claim they’re the best, but How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books is a timeless resource written by professionals. I keep my copy handy for every project.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

Yes! I carry writing tools with me everywhere. I never know where my next idea will be found! I carry these two things: (1) Something to write with (three Prismacolor pens) and (2) Something to write on (a Best Sketchbook). Using permanent ink and a hardbound journal to hold document my story ideas has created my library of over 100 journals. The ritual I follow is signing the start date, my contact info, and the end date. I do this in case I lose it, it can be returned.

I also never write or draw anything that I wouldn’t share with my parents. My name is the most important thing I own. Offensive drawings or harsh words diminish a person’s name.

What are your interests outside of writing?

For eight years I’ve traveled as a public speaker in schools and professional events. Approximately four months of my time is spent in hotels each year. I recently converted my Texas Trailer cargo trailer into a tiny studio. The cargo trailer mainly warehoused our children’s books, while traveling to book events. I felt the space could be much more useful as a working studio space and sleeping camper. The conversion will now allow me to visit state and national parks – an interest I’ve had since childhood.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

Listen to readers and professionals for writing inspiration. They request books based on topics that don’t exist or that interest them. Reader inspired books are my best sellers!

 

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her:  rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

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Renee interviews author Melody Dimick

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Melody Dimick

Melody and I met in a café writers’ group, where I discovered that she is President of the Florida Writers Foundation, Inc. a non-profit corporation formed to promote literacy, as well as enhance the writing skills of children, youth, and adults. Foundation volunteers visit elementary schools for reading days, sponsor poetry contests, donate books to underprivileged schools, and contribute funds to middle school writing contests. Her new book, “Backpack Blues: Inspire the Fire Within,” is a young adult story in verse.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I grew up on a poultry farm and graduated from Beekmantown Central School in the Plattsburgh, New York area. I am a Castleton State (now Castleton University) graduate. I met my husband, a Vermont native, while studying there. I taught at Northern Adirondack Central School, DeLand High School, and at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh. I am the proud mother of one son and live in Central Florida with my husband (and fellow writer,) Barry.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?

Three things inspired me:
• First and foremost, poignant essays from former students. As a teacher, I found my students believed their problems were singular, and they struggled alone.
• Second, Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters provided a format. My students loved reading and performing some of the poems from this book.
• Third, issues in the news and our society. For example, the spreading of the human trafficking of teens, the violence on school campuses, and the high rate of divorce and its effect on children.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Finding the elusive agent and writing the New York Times Bestseller.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?

Obtaining both a copy and content editor taught me how to better revise my books. My biggest “aha” moment came when I read their criticism. Chosen to speak on the First Books Panel at the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Miami Conference spelled success for me. Winning a Royal Palm Literary Award, being a finalist in this year’s contest, and being asked to serve as the president of the Florida Writers Foundation are also big moments in my life.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

I’ve been accused of reading everything, but the toilet paper roll. Janet Evanovich influences me to incorporate humor, even in serious writing. Carolyn Keene influenced me to write a series. I gobbled every one of her Nancy Drew mystery books when I was in middle school. The literary quality of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden helped me learn to use figurative language in my books. John Griffin, Carl Hiaasen, Daphne DuMaurier, Pearl S. Buck, Marge Piercy, Langston Hughes, Emily Dickinson, Dorothy Parker, and Maya Angelou influence me. Stephen King’s On Writing challenges me. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird taught me how to use similes, metaphors, and personification. Workshops conducted by Darlyn Finch Kuhn, Elizabeth Sims, Lorin Oberweger, Madeleine Kuderick, Adrian Fogelin, Alma Fullerton, and Peter Meinke pushed my writing forward. My good friend and mentor, Peggy Miller (Margaret Wolfson) taught me a new poetry form. Her poetry encourages me to aim for brevity.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?

After starting the coffee pot and putting a load of laundry into the washing machine, I turn to my computer every single day. I write until my husband Barry and I have breakfast. I return to the computer after breakfast and write until lunchtime (about 2:00). I’ve never written with a pen or pencil, except when forced. I used a typewriter before I started using Word.

What are your interests outside of writing?

Pickleball, playing Pinochle with my son and his lovely wife, traveling with my husband. My ultimate goal is a trip to the Canadian Maritimes. Going out to dinner with my college roommate and her husband once a week and watching a play at the Shoestring Theatre or at my friends’ house after dinner. Since my family owns a Sugar Bush (maple trees), I value trees. You may call me a tree-hugger. I feel like crying when someone cuts a live oak tree.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

• Attend writing conferences—make them mini-vacations.
• Learn what a platform is and get one.
• Join writing groups.
• Read as many books as you can in your genre.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers.  

To suggest an author interview, email her: rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

One year later

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computer website

Last August, I won a Gold Medal for my debut Young Adult novel, The Anchor Clankers. Since then, I’ve been writing a sequel, spending most days alone at my computer.

However, this year I understand that when the manuscript is finished, the hardest part begins: telling people about it.

My isolation disappears as I ask folks to read and edit my words, ask literary agents if they might represent me, ask readers for blurbs, post on Facebook (again and again), and eventually ask people to show up at some bookstore on a Wednesday night to listen to me read an excerpt from my work.

This author life is not for the timid.

I’m grateful to the people who read my book. And sometimes a friend from high school will surprise me by showing up to a reading or posting a review online. Sometimes a stranger will email me out of the blue and say they loved it, and in those moments, it feels like I’ve accomplished something impossible. Maybe not the Nobel Prize for Literature, but it feels better than I ever thought it could.

(Fortunately, the average age of Literature Laureates is 65 – I’ve still got time.)

Precious metal

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Daniel ring 2

There’s something startling about seeing a wedding ring on your child’s hand – a hand that never wore a high school or college ring, or jewelry of any kind.

It is a larger version of the pudgy little hand that so often reached for mine. The same toddler’s hand that dragged a chair across my kitchen floor to reach the counter and put pieces of bread in the toaster. (C’mon, we let him use a toaster, not fire up a barbeque grill.)

Today, his fingers are longer and carry more responsibility. They nurture a career, a home and a wife.

And now, they wear a ring.

 

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers.

 

 

Renee interviews author Angelina Assanti

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Angelina Assanti

Angelina and I laughed over a cappuccino together during the Florida Library Association’s Annual Conference near Walt Disney World last month. Her quirky sense of humor (full disclosure: my family is from Boston) should serve her well as President-Elect of The Florida Authors and Publishers Association.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.

I’m from a small town in Massachusetts that no one has ever heard of. I just tell people I’m from Springfield because everyone from New England knows where that is. I moved to Florida to attend college in Orlando, where I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business. I live in Fort Myers now. I went back for my high school reunion and was reminded how funny everyone is up there. Sometimes when I give a speech in Florida, people don’t know I have a background in radio and stand-up comedy and I deliver a funny line straight and they don’t know if it’s a joke or not. (Massachussians always get it.) I write the copy for the shows and always loved writing. I just never thought it was an actual career option. I’ve had several regular jobs in my life, but I would get bored and quit. I’m a quitter. My parents can’t believe I finished a few books. I guess I quit being a quitter.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I got cancer a few years ago and went I went to the bookstore at the cancer center and asked for a funny book. The woman I asked looked at me like I was an alien and snapped, “No one wants a funny cancer book!” I’ll never forget her saying that to me. I proved her wrong. What a sucker! Not only did Thank God I Got Cancer…I’m Not a Hypochondriac Anymore! go on to win several awards and become a #1 bestseller in three categories on Amazon, but that very same cancer center carries the book and a few months ago, they gave me a beautiful, large crystal award for it. The pages in this book are literally ripped from the journal I kept while I was in treatment. I was never close to anyone who had cancer, so I wrote it like a playbook for cancer.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
I hate to sound like a jerk but looking back, I didn’t really have many obstacles. I joined a writing group in 2012 when I realized I wanted to write a book and got lots of sage advice from people who had been both traditionally and independently published and asked people questions. I wasn’t afraid to admit I had no idea what I was doing. The writing community is very strange in that they want to help other writers succeed. You don’t find that in many professions. So, I’ve heard. I never stayed in one long enough to find out.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
I’ve had a few but my favorite was in 2014. I was writing a book about recovery and Betty Ford allowed me to tour rehab and talk to the counselors and residents. They made me promise in return that I would write an upbeat, funny story about recovery. No pressure, there! I did win a national award in humor for Mark Taylor’s Checkered Past: Recovery Road (The Lottery Heiress) (Volume 2) the next year. Many people have contacted me and asked me when and where I went to rehab because they wanted to know I was in with them. I reply that I only did the research there and am not in recovery. I know that seems strange but people thinking I was in rehab is the compliment of my life!

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I love anything by Dave Barry or Nora Ephron. I miss her. She was a great storyteller.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I don’t write in my manuscript every day. I do however carry a journal with me at all times and write in that every day. I used to keep digital notes in my smart phone until it crashed on me one day and I lost everything. I don’t chance it with technology anymore. I have heard several authors tell me their writing rituals but I’ve never heard any author have the same ones. We are all unique in our processes.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I used to be heavily involved with a rehab for homeless people but the cancer book has become the focus for my life right now. It’s hard to go through what I went though and come out the same person. When you’re in cancer treatment with the same people every day, some who are terminal, you wonder why it wasn’t you. It’s important for me to take the message out that early diagnosis saved my life and I had no symptoms of cancer. It was found on a routine exam. In Florida, someone is diagnosed with cancer every five minutes, so it’s important for people to know there are more survivors now than ever!

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The first thing you need to do is join a writing group. I recommend you go to an actual group and not an online one. You need to network and meet people. That’s a huge missed opportunity in the writing business. The second thing to do is hire a professional editor. I can’t tell you how many people tell me, “Oh, I don’t need an editor, my spouse said it was good.” An editor will tell you the truth but they will also know how to analyze things such as continuity problems, character development, point-of-view issues, etc. Your spouse will lie to you and say your manuscript is perfect to avoid being smothered. Then, hire a copy editor. They will make sure there are no glaring mistakes in the actual book format. You don’t want the same person doing those two jobs and most people don’t know that.
I wouldn’t say I’d do much differently than I did. One thing I do (that most people I know won’t do) is I travel two hours every month to go to one of my writing groups. It is filled with NY Times and USA Today Bestsellers. If you want to be successful as an author, you have to be with people who are more successful than you. They don’t mind sharing their knowledge. You can’t expect everything to come to you. You have to be willing to go after what you want. Lastly, I know an author who was in her 70’s when she wrote her first book and she has had several made into movies. It’s never too late to go after your dream!

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Sam Staley

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Author Staley Informal

I spent time with Sam at the Decatur Book Festival, where he was promoting “Unsafe On Any Campus?” The book about sexual assault won first-place awards in both the 2017 Florida Authors and Publishers President’s Book Awards in the Adult Non-Fiction category and the Royal Palm Literary Awards. (I encourage parents of college-bound students to read it.) Sam is a professor at Florida State University and I’d like to be the first to wish him a Happy Father’s Day!

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
I currently live in Tallahassee, Florida, but grew up in Ohio. In fact, until moving to Florida, I had a virtually uninterrupted legal residency in Ohio for 50 years. I raised my kids in a house one street away from the house I grew up in my hometown of Bellbrook. I had a job that required me to travel nationally and globally, but all my job needed was access to the internet and an airport. So, I did not have to move my family for my job. My work has taken me to China more than 30 times, nearly 100 cities in the U.S., and 43 U.S. states. This global perspective informs my writing which draws on multicultural themes and issues of identity. At the same time, virtual work allowed me to reap the benefits of a raising my children in a stable environment within five miles of two sets of grandparents, numerous cousins, and with friends they have known from elementary school through college.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
I am the author of six novels and seven nonfiction books, so this question is a bit tricky! Each book has its own inspiration. This summer, SYP Publishing will release “Calusa Spirits,” the third book in the Pirate of Panther Bay series. This series was inspired by my desire to stretch my brain by stepping outside of nonfiction–I am an economist by profession—into a more creative space through writing fiction. At the time the series was conceived, I had a literary agent who challenged me to come up with a young-adult romance. I thought a series about pirates would be pretty cool, and I became really excited about it when the principle protagonist became a female pirate captain who was also an escaped slave. St. Nic, Inc., my second published novel, is a re-imagination of the Santa Claus myth prompted by the “big” question all kids ask when they become certain age: Is Santa Claus real? Santa Claus, in this case, is the great, great, great granddaughter of the original Santa Claus and a Millennial. The story is based in reality and takes place at the North Pole. Essentially, I found a real-world analogue for the elements of the mythology, and then threw international intrigue in to make it a real adventure.
My most recently published book, Unsafe On Any Campus? College Sexual Assault and What We Can Do About It, was prompted by the trauma of campus rape survivors that I got to know at Florida State University after I joined the faculty in 2011. Sexual assault is much larger and broader problem on college campuses than most people realize, but the solutions are not as straightforward as many assume (or hope). I felt the voices of rape survivors needed to be heard and coupled with practical solutions. The book is really a primer on campus sexual assault targeted toward parents of college-bound students in the hopes it would provide important information to a broad audience in a non-judgmental way, promote a wider discussion of the issue, and point toward practical ways we can address the problem. Unsafe On Any Campus? received a significant boost in visibility when it achieved first place finishes in the Royal Palm Literary Awards as well as at the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards in 2017.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
My biggest challenge has been managing my various writing interests—just ask my publisher! I have been fortunate in that I have not suffered from writer’s block. So, my biggest challenges are carving out time to do the marketing necessary to make my books as successful as they should be, balancing my writing with my teaching course load at FSU, and getting enough sleep.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
My biggest “aha” moment, and the one that keeps me focused and sane, was when I realized I can only control what I can control, and I stopped trying to control the events I could not. I can control when I write, and what I write about. I can’t control how people will react to my writing, or whether they will be inspired to write a review. I can control how I relate to friends and colleagues, but I cannot control their behavior or how they react or interact with me. This has allowed me to stay much more focused on the things that matter most—being authentic, respecting and supporting the people I interact with, honoring people for what they bring into a relationship with me (not what I might want them to bring), and following through on the commitments I make. This perspective also provides opportunities for self-reflection and grounding myself in my core values. This mindfulness allows me to really focus on what’s important in my life without getting too distracted. I try to see all challenges as opportunities I have to discover.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I’ve given a lot of thought to this over the years. I don’t have a favorite author. I like good, authentic stories. I tend to gravitate toward those authors being vulnerable in their writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. I also tend to evaluate authors on a book-by-book basis. I love Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice but don’t feel beholden to liking all her books. I also think Veronica Roth’s Allegiant, the third book in young adult Divergent series is underappreciated for its depth and nuance. Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game is a fantastic story, both in depth and the way he tells it through the point of view of a uniquely gifted six-year-old, but I don’t particularly like science fiction as a genre. I also really enjoy reading memoirs written by ordinary, everyday people experiencing extraordinary events.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
My only ritual is meeting my deadlines! I have so many writing projects going at any one time that I have to write every day, whether for my job at Florida State University (writing commentary, policy studies, or marketing materials) or on my “own” time writing about pirates, Santa Claus, movie reviews, or contemporary film. I currently have regular contributions to several blogs with international platforms.

What are your interests outside of writing?
My main hobby outside of writing is snow skiing. I come from a long line of skiers–I have a picture of my mother on skis in 1948, and my father was one of the early presidents of the Dayton (Ohio) ski club. My family owned a small ski area in Ohio for 25 years, where I worked full-time before going to graduate school. I was also a volunteer member of the National Ski Patrol, becoming one of Ohio’s youngest patrollers to achieve the rank of Senior Patroller before heading to college in Maine. Florida has made this hobby difficult to sustain, but I can’t get it out of my blood. Outside of skiing, I have a black belt in the martial art of To-Shin Do, a self-defense-oriented form of ninjutsu that is the foundation for my self-defense workshops and seminars I lead at Florida State University. I have really enjoyed developing widely accessible martial arts curricula for student organizations ranging from one-hour introductions to a 12-week semester-long curriculum.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
The single most important decision I made to improve my writing was joining a critique group. Care should be taken in joining a group–you have to be vulnerable and be in a group respecting that vulnerability while setting the right bar for quality–but the objective feedback and “tough love” pushed me in directions that ramped up my writing quality immeasurably. I have won more than 10 literary awards over the past six years, and I have no doubt the discipline and insight provided by my critique group is a reason why. In fact, I cite them in my book acknowledgements.
A second recommendation is to join a local writing group that holds regular programming on the art, craft, and business of writing. I did most of my fiction writing isolated and alone. This definitely held me back as a writer and understanding the business and marketing necessary to develop the following I need to be commercially successful. In Florida, I am an active member of the Tallahassee Writers Association, Florida Writers Association, and Florida Authors and Publishers Association. These groups have fantastic programming for writers, particularly those starting out or early in their career.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Nancy Beaule

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Nancy Beaule

I met Nancy at a Writer’s Conference in Tampa Florida, and was impressed with her entrepreneurial career prior to writing her first children’s book. She’s working on a new young adult novel – welcome to MY genre, Nancy!

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up. Where you live now. Education. Work Experience. Share some things about yourself.

I was born in Lewiston, Maine, a mill town with a population of about 36,000, although it is the second largest city in Maine. My claim to fame is that I grew up a couple of towns away from Stephen King and was born in the same hospital as Patrick Dempsey!
I graduated from Monmouth Academy and worked as an administrative assistant for 12 years before starting my first business, a print shop. I sold the printing business in 1993, then invented a product called the Pie Saver, which are foil rings that prevent pies from burning (based on my previous frustration of cutting strips of foil, only to have them fall off!) We made them in Lewiston for ten years and were in most of the Wal-Mart distribution centers. It was an exciting time, with many highs and lows – similar to Chutes and Ladders! One time I was on QVC and had to do a live demonstration on a table outdoors, next to the ocean. The wind kicked up and was blowing the foil rings all over the place. I had only 3 minutes to do the spot, (it was very nerve-wracking) but we sold out anyway.
I sold that business in 2006 and went on to create a new food called Pizzania, a hybrid of pizza and lasagna. Kids and teenagers loved it, and I felt it would be a perfect new frozen food item in supermarkets. We had some success getting it into Sysco and other distributors, however, producing small batches and delivery from Maine was cost-prohibitive and required too much capital to sustain a frozen food business.
And now I have published four children’s books, geared toward ages 3 – 10 (K – 3rd grade). My background is a bit uncommon for an author, but being an entrepreneur has given me the opportunity to wear many different hats along the way.
My husband and I (married 42 years) are now snowbirds, living in Florida during the winter months and spending summers at our camp on Tacoma Lakes in Maine. We have two children, a son and his family in Maine and a daughter and her children in Orlando, so feel blessed we spend equal time with each family, and especially the grandchildren!

What inspired you to write this book. What is the story behind this story?

I have always believed in healthy eating, especially amongst children. I’ll admit I cringe when I see a family with kids in the grocery store and their cart is piled high with junk food. I believe in the 80/20 rule, both for adults and kids — if you eat right 80% of the time you can still indulge in something sweet, or whatever treat you enjoy. For instance, I live a healthy lifestyle, but don’t take my daily ice cream away!
I started writing for my grandchildren and came up with a carrot named Chompy who gets super-power eyesight from drinking Chompy Juice, made from carrots. The kids love the exciting adventures of Chompy and his Munchy Bunch pals, especially the evil Candybar. The books also have a subtle nutritional message (carrots give super eyesight; Candybar loses a tooth from eating jelly beans, etc.). I sometimes bring a food group wheel to schools, which is very popular with the kids. They spin the dial and place the food they select into the proper food group.
I am also currently writing my first YA novel, a romance mystery based on a summer camp in Maine in 1972.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle.

Marketing! I am a natural introvert, so networking is a struggle for me. I am most comfortable in my office writing, rather than going to meetings or attending social functions. I know I am not unique to this challenge, as many writers are introverted. But I keep working at it!

What has been your biggest “aha” moment and success.

I would have to say when one of the schools made Chompy Juice for all of the kids, and they were pretending their eyes were bugging out. They were so excited about the stories and telling me how much they loved them. It was fun.

What author do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence in you and your writing.

For fiction, I like mysteries by James Patterson, Nicholas Sparks, John Grisham; I also love biographies such as John McCain’s “Faith of my Fathers” or Christopher Reeves’ “Nothing is Impossible,” – I find peoples’ stories fascinating!

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals.

Almost every day! I created my own reward system — if I have time to watch a favorite TV show, then I have time to write; in other words I can’t watch the show until I have written a certain number of words each day. I also think about the characters and story of my YA novel, even when I’m not writing.

What are your interests outside of writing?

I love nature and anything outdoors — fishing, camping, swimming. I go on every roller coaster with my grandson, even went sky diving for my 50th birthday! Also enjoy baking, reading and anything with the grandkids.

Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors. Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

I started my writing journey two years ago and took very helpful on-line courses through “Writestorybooksforchildren.com” — They occasionally offer deeply discounted rates, so I took advantage of those rates at the time. I also find a book called “The Emotion Thesaurus” invaluable — it’s becoming dog-eared so we know it’s getting used. I also got my first book illustrated very inexpensively through a site called Fiverr.com — they offer all kinds of services starting at only $5.

 

Renee Garrison is the award-winning author The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her at rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

Renee interviews author Katrina Kusa

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Katrina KusaI met 13-year-old Katrina with her proud parents, Joe and Luba Kusa, at a Florida Authors and Publishers Association awards luncheon. She’s been propelled by a sense of purpose since she turned her playroom into a library at 8 years old! Katrina makes many of us wonder why we didn’t begin our writing careers decades earlier…

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up. Where you live now. Education. Work Experience. Share some things about yourself. Something to know about.

I was born in Boston, Massachusetts. After kindergarten, my family moved to Naples, Florida, where I attended Royal Palm Academy. My family and I have three furry friends, Max, Penni, and Jacque Bleu (two Boston Terriers and a French Bulldog). They are a very big part of our family and we try to take them everywhere, especially when we are traveling up and down the east coast during my school breaks and holidays.

What inspired you to write this book. What is the story behind this story?

As long as I could remember, I loved to create magical stories, playing with dolls and Littlest Pet Shop toys. And when I learned to read at an early age, I became obsessed with books.

When I turned eight years old, I watched a movie called “Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events” which inspired me to write my first short tale, Strange Happenings. Since that day, I have become closer to writing my own original stories. At 10 years old I wrote my first published story, The Kingdom of the Lizards, which won two bronze medals in the FAPA President’s Books Award Program, a national competition.

Living in Florida, there are lizards everywhere and I sometimes saw beautiful black-colored lizards. Also, I observed and recognized that a bit of bullying that was going on at school. I gathered my thoughts together and wrote a story that was half reality and fantasy which later became a magical piece of literature for all ages to read.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle.

As a 13-year-old, I have a lot of challenges! First and foremost is studying all my academics to achieve good grades while balancing my household duties. But as an author, time is my biggest challenge. I want to write more stories to show more meaning to the world that everyone can follow
I am now looking for a publisher for my next two books, “There Once was a Cat” and “The Girl in the White Dress.” I am so excited to get these books published as quickly as possible. I have a wonderful artist, Pavel Kulsha, who illustrated “The Kingdom of the Lizards” and he has also done the illustrations for my new books.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment and success.

When I Entered the 2017 FAPA President’s Book Award Contest, I had no idea of the honor that would come with winning. I received two Bronze Medals for “The Kingdom of the Lizards” in the category of juvenile fiction, both for the State of Florida and the overall National Award.
Then in October 2017 I submitted a short story to be considered for this year’s “Young Writers” creative writing contest, Spine-Chillers – Spooky Sagas. The Contest was organized through school for children ages 11-18. I never told my parents I was entering the contest until I found out that I was a finalist. I wrote a short story (just 100 words) that incorporates atmosphere, tension and suspense. There were over 4,500 entries and from these the publisher produced a collection of special anthologies. I was so excited to hear that I was a finalist. The name of my story is “The World Beyond US.” The anthology was released on Feb. 28, and will be submitted to the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. as well as the British Library in London, U.K. The two libraries are the largest and second largest libraries in the world in terms of catalogued volumes.

What author do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence in you and your writing.

As a book lover, I love to read books from all different genres and authors. Here are some of my favorite authors: Mark Twain, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Hans Christian Andersen. Along with having beautiful works of literature from these amazing authors, there are a few stories that are astounding to me, too. The examples are: Sherlock Holmes, Tom Sawyer, and especially the magic of The Little Mermaid and The Snow Queen. With these amazing stories, I can get put my writing to the next level that will help me in the future.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals.

For the lack of time because I am a student (and someone who does a lot of activities,) I don’t write every single day. But I do write thoughts that I get from my deepest temples into a notebook for future ideas of books and characters. If I have a few hours for myself, I go to my room, shut the door, and travel into the magical world of literature.

What are you interested outside of writing?

I love to spend time with my family and my three dogs, especially during traveling. I love to invite my friends over to my house and do funny and weird things with them. Besides writing, I love to compose my own music and songs and play the piano. I also like fencing and western-style horseback riding.

Share some tips for other authors or aspiring authors. Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.

Every author has a different style and he or she writes in their own way. I wouldn’t try to copy any famous author or try to follow his style to write. All I can say is I would just go with my gut and believe in myself.
I would like to share my thoughts that all authors can benefit from. If you just have your momentum, don’t stop writing. Don’t worry about mistakes or wording, you can always edit it later. After a long writing spurt, take a little break to clear your thoughts and read your story out loud. Hearing your story out loud makes mistakes glaringly obvious. My favorite advice is to believe in what you’re writing. Live in your story, love your characters, no matter if they are good or bad. I wish the best for your writings ahead!

 

To suggest an author interview, email rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

 

Renee interviews author Jen Swanson

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Jen Author Photo-2017

Jennifer Swanson is the award-winning author of over 25 children’s books, including “Astronaut Aquanaut,” which received the 2018 Gold Standard Award from the Junior Library League. We met at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association Annual Conference, where Jennifer was a keynote speaker.

Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
If you told me when I was a kid that I would be a successful children’s author, my response would have been, “Cool.” I didn’t start out wanting to be a writer. I wanted to be a Doctor, a pediatrician to be exact. I studied chemistry at the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated in 1990. But organic chemistry and I didn’t see eye-to-eye, so I did my 5 years in the Navy and got out. Then I was a stay-at-home-mom for about 10 years and raised 3 kids. I started writing about 10 years ago and I’ve been lucky enough to do that from home, too. I am also employed by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth as a middle school science instructor. Aside from being a wife and mother, being a children’s author is the BEST job in the world. And I’m so thankful that I found this path.

What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
“Astronaut Aquanaut” was developed from my own curiosity. I was researching a book about space and had a conversation with one of my editors. We were talking about astronauts and how they train and then we started talking about how that was probably very different from how a deep-sea diver trained. I got to thinking and started researching. To my surprise, I found out that they do a lot of things in common when training. Since most of my books start with a “Wow! I didn’t know that fact.” I was off and running.

What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Like all authors, facing rejection is difficult. And it still happens. Whether you have written 5 or 50 books you still have the ones that don’t sell. It’s tough sometimes to keep going, but when I get a rejection, I use that to spur myself onward. Kind of like “okay, you didn’t like that one, but I’m going to write something even better that you’ll love”. And I keep going. You have to have a thick skin in this business.

What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
The hardest part about writing for me is finding the right hook and the right structure for the books. Most of my hooks are also my titles. When I find a title that resonates with me or is just plain cool, I know the book will work. I read A LOT of other kids’ books in my genre. That gives me an idea of how I want to structure the book. I try to think out-of-the box and do something unique. So when those two things match up — the hook and the structure, I usually write very quickly. It’s my “aha” moment.

What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I read a lot of mysteries– both adult and children. The bigger the adventure and the more difficult the mystery to solve the better. That kind of makes sense, because science is a lot like solving a mystery. You have to keep going and keep trying until you figure it out. I read a ton of authors, my favorites are Elizabeth Peters, Cleo Coyle, Rick Riordan, and of course J.K. Rowling, just to name a few.

Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I work every single day. Not every day is spent writing. Some days I’m marketing, other days I’m editing, some days I’m writing to a deadline. I usually work to whatever has the most imminent due date. My ritual is to be in my chair in my office by 9am and I work through til about 5pm.

What are your interests outside of writing?
I love spending time with my family. I enjoy biking, running, and walking along the beach. I was born with a travel bug so my husband and I take 1-2 big trips a year. Sometimes in the U.S., sometimes abroad. I love learning about and experiencing new places and cultures.

Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
My best advice is this; everyone has their own path to publication. Whatever you choose to do, is great. Keep at it and don’t give up. In this business it’s easy to keep comparing yourself to others and if you do, you may feel as if you come up short. Try to avoid that. Everyone is different! There is no one path to success. If you’re happy and moving forward, give yourself a pat on the back. Celebrate every success! You worked hard to get here.

 

 

To suggest an author interview, email rgarrison@bestversionmedia.com

A hug in my hand

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My college experience included membership in a sorority which promised to “establish a perpetual bond of friendship” among its members. The promise turned out to be true.
Back then, my “Little Sister” gave me a pansy handkerchief (our sorority flower) which I carried at my wedding as the traditional “something blue.” Since then, it has traveled to college graduations along with Arlington National Cemetery to bury my parents.
Next week, my son will be married in Texas and I have scrupulously tried to follow the unspoken rules established for the mother of the groom: “Simply show up, shut up and wear beige.” It is a role which is the least important and the most invisible.
This is a destination wedding (with a limited guest list) so few friends will be with me to watch my son become a husband. Instead, my emotional support will lay folded inside my pocket, in the form of a pansy hanky. Along with drying tears, it will serve as a hug in my hand and a reminder of the friends who care.
Delta love and mine, Roxanne.

 

 

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Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of “The Anchor Clankers.”