From the extinction of California’s Grizzly Bear, environmental destruction, and racist atrocities to situations engendering multi-cultural cooperation, Gary Noy links California’s haunting past to contemporary issues still playing out today.
Currently, the disconnect between necessary knowledge in the workplace and skill sets developed by higher education institutions is a ‘global migraine,’ says Tremaine du Preez.
With big data mega-trends and AI on the verge of transforming business, production, and services into something no parent or educator has ever seen, how do we prepare our children for the future?
du Preez, a critical thinking instructor, executive coach, and mother has a few ideas. “I’ll help you help your child to think in alternative ways about information.“
In her book, she shows parents how to construct ‘cognitive Swiss Army Knives’ for their youngsters.
Topics include; identifying mind traps such as bias and groupthink, GROW coaching, Socrates Questioning Method, and learning the art of failing…well.
du Preez offers suggestions for fostering environments to ignite innovation, risk-taking, and emotional intelligence.
I tested the techniques on my tween – and they work!
“If every one of us could raise our children to be good decision makers, the world will be a better place,” comments du Preez.
Like Dr. Who with his Sonic Screwdriver, helping your child develop creative, outside the box thinking, might be the best navigation tool for going places where no one has been before.
I had so many requests to borrow this book that I bought multiple copies to give away to teachers, parent friends, and homeschool cohorts.
“If you want to be serious about writing, treat it like a business,” says Jordan Fisher Smith, a conference keynote speaker.
Joyce Wycoff, a event board member, says that when a writer attends a conference, “You are showing up for your writing.”
A writing conference is a place to;
hone your craft
make connections, and
establish an action list
“Agents and publishers often say that writers’ who attend conferences are more serious about their craft and are more likely to succeed,” Wycoff comments.
This year’s conference was on the same day as the Women’s March.
Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.
“A writer is not outside of what is going on,” said Molly Fisk. “People recognize themselves in our writing.”
“Being a writer opens a door,” she continues. “It is permission to think.”
“Art happens when people get together to share their struggles,” Jordan Fisher Smith, commented. “You write because you are called to it.”
Following my current interests, I attended Marketing and Publishing and Guided Critique break-out sessions.
Catharine Bramkamp, a writing coach and social media expert discussed a variety of platforms, member demographics, and analytics. “Know where to spend your time on social media. Be aware of the results that you want to achieve. Keep yourself from getting sucked in, but do enough to have a presence online.”
Bob Jenkins, is a professional storyteller with a PhD in criticism. “Criticism is theanalysis of art; what works and why it works, as well as what doesn’t work and how to fix it,” he explains.
Jenkins delighted his listeners, and the brave souls who pre-submitted writing samples, with dramatic readings of their work. His suggested improvements were striking and gratefully received.
In this first article of the Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors series, we’ll talk about the purpose of a media kit and provide a list of questions that you can use to get started making a Question and Answer sheet for your kit.
A media kit — aka. press room, media or promotion packet— is a collection of items that make it easy for someone from the media to do their job. In this case, that job is to write about you and your book. It’s like chefs on TV or YouTube teaching how to make a recipe. By the time they are filming, they’ve already got every item on the ingredient list premeasured and ready-to-to.
Press kits are everything that a media person needs (in resume quality) right at their fingertips. Who might want access to your press kit? Book reviewers, bloggers, literary agents, publishing houses, newspaper or magazine journalists, podcasters, talk show and radio producers or YouTubers… anyone who is a content creator.
Press kits are also dynamic; they change and grow with you and your career. Start with one piece and add to your kit as your awards, accomplishments, and media coverage grows.
Below is a list of 100 unusual questions, categorized, for you to pick and choose from to create a Question and Answer Sheet for your media kit. The purpose of the question and answer sheet is to provide enough information so that a reporter could write a complete piece about you, using direct quotes.
At the end of the post, you’ll find a downloadable PDF of the 100 questions, links to websites with more questions, and a link to my Author Question & Answer Sheet for an example of a completed press kit item.
Around the house – bare feet, flip flops, clogs, fuzzy socks or slippers?
Do you make your bed in the morning or leave it in a rumple?
Do you kill bugs or leave them alone?
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Describe a time when you felt like you were being watched.
What is in the backseat or trunk of your car right now?
If you could eliminate one task from your daily schedule, what would it be?
Name something you dislike doing so much that you’ll pay someone else to do it.
What internet site do you visit the most?
What is your favorite social media site and why?
What is your ideal pet and why?
You’re about to be dropped in a remote spot for a three-week survival test. Where would you go? What three tools would you take?
You are a member of the tourist board for your town where. Name five things to do that would appeal to visitors.
Do you play a musical instrument?
If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
What is the craziest thing you’ve done in your life?
Describe a strange habit.
When was the last time you were in a situation that was difficult to get out of? What did you do?
Name some of the things that have the strongest distraction pulls.
What do you do for exercise?
What do you eat for breakfast most of the time?
You’ve won a second home anywhere in the world. Where is it?
Name something you’d like to get rid of but keep putting off.
Tastes / Preferences
What is your favorite love story?
Describe a special or meaningful object that you have in your house.
If you could visit the past or future, which one would you choose? Why?
You can go out to dinner at any restaurant, which one do you choose?
Do you have a coffee shop that you frequent? Why do you go there?
What are your three favorite animals?
What is your favorite spectator sport?
What is your favorite sport to play?
Which holiday is most relaxing and fun?
Pen, pencil or…?
TV, Movies or Binge watching?
It’s a special celebration date. Would you rather go to dinner and a movie out or stay home?
What is your favorite drink?
Name and describe a living person that you most admire.
You’ve just won an office make-over. What color do you choose for your workspace?
Where was a place you’ve visited on vacation that you’d go back to tomorrow?
What type of coffee do you order most often?
Do you have a favorite brand of tea?
If you had to choose an animal to represent you as an avatar, mascot or spirit totem, which animal would it be?
What makes you run screaming?
If someone gave you a boat, what would you name it?
Describe a personality trait of someone in your family.
If your life was a movie, would it be a drama, comedy, action/adventure, or science fiction?
Are you a summer, fall, winter, or spring person?
You are about to get a tattoo. Where will it go and what will be the design?
Name something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
You’re about to live through a natural disaster or other traumatic experience. What kind of disaster or experience is it?
Think about punctuation marks. Which one would you pick to describe your personality and why?
One being the highest and ten being the lowest, rate your happiness level right now.
If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
What is the most important part of a sandwich?
If you were a car, what make and model would you be?
You are a teacher for a day. What is your subject and who are your students?
Tell the story about one of your scars.
Sing in the rain, dance in the streets, hum in the shower or…?
Describe your handwriting.
You are the guest of honor at a large event. When you arrive, the room is already full. How do they react when you come in?
Describe your first crush.
What qualities do you most admire in your friends?
If you were an animal in a zoo, which animal would you be?
Name something that makes you cry.
What types of situations make you angry?
What strikes your funny bone?
Wishes / Thoughts / Dreams
What is the best thing you’ve accomplished in life so far?
Does Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother exist?
You’re about to get a superpower. What is it and why do you want it?
Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
You’ve just been bitten by a vampire / werewolf / zombie / charmed snake. What do you do next?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
You remain perfectly healthy and have unlimited financial resources but you only have the next six months to live, what do you do?
You just won twenty million in a state lottery, what is the first thing you do?
What adventures are on your bucket list?
Which talent would you most like to have?
You’ve just been elected President, what is the first problem you plan to solve?
List something you’d like to accomplish before you die.
How old were you when you first started writing?
If you had to describe an author platform in three sentences to a six-year-old, how would describe it?
What year did you complete your first book?
If you could do a book over again, what would you do differently with the story arc, plot, characters, scenes, production or marketing?
What was your favorite scene or character to write?
Have you re-edited and re-released any titles?
Is there a time frame or subject area that you’d like to work with?
Have you traveled to research writing projects? Where to?
After you’ve spent a long time cranking out pages, do you feel energized or exhausted?
In what situations, do you grow tired of reading?
Describe some of your author friends. How do they help improve your writing skills?
After you published a book or two, how has your writing process changed?
What was the best financial investment you made as an author?
What is your definition of being a successful author?
Describe your research process.
What time periods of life do you find yourself writing about the most? (childhood, teen, adult, elder)
What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
Do you hide any secrets in your writing that only a few people know about?
What are the most difficult types of scenes to write?
If you could live as one of your characters for a day, which one would it be?
What happens when a psychotic fat-obsessed killer crosses paths with a tough-as-nails public health nurse, a struggling overworked single mom, and an obese teenager in a ‘Fat Slayer’ program? Eating Bull.
Between gruesome murders and a Voice in the killers head, author Carrie Rubin explores the social stigma and pervasive poor treatment that obese people endure.
Her story revolves around a fifteen-year-old boy who suffers from asthma and other health complications caused by excessive weight.
Jeremy uses food to drown his emotions. Video games are an escape and he is fascinated by his Native American heritage.
He successfully avoids the challenges in his life until a deadly situation arises that causes him to make a stand.
Rubin keeps the action moving. Her characters are interesting and varied. She includes fat inducing food industry facts in a lawsuit sub theme.
About the Author:
Carrie Rubin is a physician, public health advocate, and author. She is a member of the International Thriller Writers Association.
Eating Bull won a 2016 Silver IPPY Award for Best Regional Fiction (Great Lakes).
Rubin lives in Ohio with her husband and two sons.
Underneath: a merfolk tale, is captivating right from the start.
It takes the reader on a journey through secret societies, conspiracy, investigation, parental love, and coming-of-age. [Click here to read an excerpt.]
The author, Michelle Arzú is a graphic designer who lives in Guatemala City, Guatemala. A driving force behind her writing is, ‘what-if’ curiosity about first contact with an intelligent species.
I first found Michelle on Writeon (an Amazon story-lab). Her work in progress (Underneath) was trending like a tsunami. Wanting to find out what the buzz was about, I settled in for a long read and quickly discovered why she had gained so many enthusiastic readers.
Arzú tells a unique story. It’s about an injured merman who washes up on a beach. He is a member of one of New York’s elite families. Confined to a hospital bed, the merman is not talking no matter what anyone tries.
Arzú has a strong narrative voice. She has a solid command of plot structure and pacing and she’s not afraid to think outside of the box.
Her debut novel, The Librarian, was chosen as a Writeon staff pick in August of 2014 (currently available on Amazon). It’s a short story about a woman whose husband – a college professor – has been apprehended by the military because he’s suddenly become highly radioactive.
Wanting to know more about the person behind the magic pen, I asked Michelle if she’d answer a few questions. I know you will enjoy learning more about this creative story teller…and you’ll be glad that I introduced you to your next good read!
Do you have a typical writing schedule?
I’m a night owl. However, Nanowrimo has taught me that any fifteen minutes in the day are valuable, so I’ve learned to write at lunch time in the office. You will never catch me writing in the morning, though.
As a graphic designer, what aspects of your work do you most enjoy? Do parts of it spill over into your writing?
I love challenging projects, and I love to see my work displayed on billboards in the city, or printed somewhere other than the office. Designers work on deadlines, so that has helped me to be disciplined in writing my stories. I’m lost without deadlines.
What is the best advice you have ever received about writing?
Let me tell you a little story about the worst advice I ever received about writing:
When I was about twenty, I had been writing for four years and an older friend told me I shouldn’t start writing until I knew what I was doing. Until I had life experience. Thinking that made perfect sense, I didn’t write for the next six months, and I can honestly tell you something died inside of me. Finally, my brother asked me why I was following advice that was obviously making me unhappy. I returned to writing the next minute.
So, the best advice?
Everything else will come with time.
What kinds of activities do you like to do when you aren’t working or writing?
I love gaming, especially Zelda and recently Splatoon. I’ve been known to get lost in a good story, be it books, or a TV series.
First Contact themes: What influences contribute to your interest in this topic?
My favorite theme in stories is a double identity. Spy stories, princes as commoners, superheroes, fairy tales, and of course, aliens. What I love the most is the reveal part, when the secret is told. First Contact stories have that element of the unknown. They are filled with what if’s and have all the ingredients for everything to go wrong fast.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many first contact stories where the aliens don’t want to invade us. I decided to write about that. I love the whole idea of aliens hiding among us.
Investigation captive / study scenarios: What books, TV shows or personal experiences shaped your skill in creating these tense, edgy scenes?
I’m a diehard fan of the TV show Roswell (1999 – 2002). That’s basically teenage aliens without a clue about where they came from, hiding in plain sight. They run from the FBI a lot!
Over the years, I’ve picked several ideas from different places, from cartoons like Batman the animated series, to dramas like ER, and then I add my own logic to it. Would the military really shoot the only enemy captive and source of information they have? If you know you’re going to a hostile planet, what precautions would you take?
And of course, research. There is a lot of US jurisdiction stuff you wouldn’t believe. It’s a tangle when it comes to first contact scenarios, not to mention the medical/biological questions. At some point, you realize you need to focus on the characters and the scene, but if you mention details, they better be the right details.
Describe the series of decisions that led you to independently publish your book(s).
I’ve written a lot of stories over the years, always thinking of them as a hobby, something to share with friends. But when I finished The Librarian, I knew I had something I could publish. The problem was that the story has less than 20K words, which was a hard sell. Everywhere I looked they wanted either shorter than 7k or longer than 50k.
So, I started researching self-publishing. Being a graphic designer I could do the cover and interiors. Fortunately, I have an American friend who edits my manuscripts. No matter how good my English might be, it never compares to a native’s English.
Now that I have Underneath, A Merfolk Tale with over 100k words, I’ve also looked into the long process of searching for an agent and selling the manuscript. Since I’d still have to market my book (the hardest part of the whole process for me) and have to wait for months, if not years, to find someone willing to invest in me, I’d rather take that route myself. I might never sell thousands of books, but at least I’m in complete control of everything.
Writeon: What aspects of working in a ‘read-as-you-write’ forum work well for you? Does it create challenges? Over time, has the way you use the site changed?
The best thing about “read-as-you-write” is that you learn how to do cliffhangers. If you want people to come back next month when you have the next part, you better leave them wanting.
Feedback is a double-edge sword: some people tell you how good your work is, and some will tell you how much you’re messing things up, and to fix it a certain way. Somewhere in the middle of that scale, is valuable insight that makes your story better.
The thing is, you will never please everyone, and not everyone will tell you what’s wrong with the story (either because they don’t really know, or they don’t want to offend). The real challenge is to know your story well enough to keep it from getting hijacked. Take the suggestions that make sense, and leave everything else behind.
Thank you, Michelle for taking the time to chat and to share.
A fresh new voice in First Contact science fiction.
Jane and Nick have been married over a decade. They are comfortable in their routines and they trust each other implicitly.
Jane is at home watching a movie while her husband (a sociologist professor) does a day hike in the mountains near Seattle. He’s late returning home and Jane is starting to worry.
She is unprepared for the knock at her door. A man in uniform tells her that she has to come with him immediately. It concerns her husband.
Nick has been called. Suddenly, he’s a lot more than he ever imagined. It is imperative that he speak to Jane before he answers that call, even if it is through a hazmat suit and a thick wall of glass… His time is running out.
Arzú gives her story a conclusion that is as surprising as it is pleasing. It’s a short but satisfying read. And it’s a great introduction to this author’s writing style. If you’re like me, you’ll follow her and look forward to what ever she writes next.
The Age of Adaline is a story about a young woman who stops aging in 1937. The theme – immortality or the fountain of youth – is twisted in ways that make this tale unique and different.
The film has a beautiful cast, lovely costumes, dramatic music, and moody cinematography. Its ‘Twilight Zone’ style narration gives it an additional level of tension and mystique.
On the night of the accident, Adaline goes into a state of hypothermia. This stops her aging process. The narrator describes this in a long-winded technical fashion, but it gives the viewer a sense that something scientific and otherworldly has happened.
“She can be killed, but she will never die of natural causes or succumb to the usual ravages of time… (It’s sort of a vampire film minus the bloodsucking.)” – Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com
The story is set in San Francisco. We see how times have changed from the 1930s through present day; for the city, in women’s clothing styles, culturally, and for Adaline.
Adaline is deeply lonely. She moves to different apartments, changes identities, and experiences the loss of many pet dogs – the only true friends that she keeps.
Adaline has a single long-term relationship – with her daughter who now looks like her grandmother. Then, she meets Ellis.
If you are familiar with my stories, you will understand why this one sucked me in and captured my heart. I enjoyed The Age of Adaline so much that I wanted to dive in deeper, crawl around inside the character’s heads. So it was disappointing to learn that the movie is not based on a book!
Second Sight paints pictures in the mind’s eye…and is entertaining to read. “I am a narrative nerd,” says Klein.
With each topic (delivered as a transcript from blog posts or lectures given at various writer’s conferences) Cheryl provides examples of how it was used in publishing projects. As an editor for Arthur A. Levine (a Scholastic Inc. imprint), she gives glimpses into the workings of the editorial mind that are as valuable as the mechanical and organizational techniques.
Topics Include; Author / Publisher / Editor Relationships, Creating Empathy for Your Characters, Hooks, Flap Copy, Chapter and Story Arc Maps, and Action vs. Emotional Plots.
Manuscript editing has always been a dreaded chore. Now, I’m almost as excited about editing as pile-o-presents day. This book is a gift to writers everywhere.
Click here for my entire collection of editing and marketing books.
A copy of the author’s Newbery Medal acceptance speech is at the back of my copy of The One and Only Ivan. In it, the author says,” We live in a world where children are bullied into despair and even suicide; where armed guards in a school hallway are considered desirable; where libraries are padlocked because of budget cuts; where breakfast and backpacks, for too many children are unaffordable luxuries.”
“What makes children better than the rest of us is that they are buoyant, unrepentant optimists.”
When my 11-year-old finished reading this novel, his first statement was, “I LOVED that book!” With an endorsement like that and because it was the first instance where he ‘stopped time,’ I had to read the book too.
As a writer, reader, and lover of words, I make it a habit to ‘stop time’ whenever I come across sparkling phrases that deserve homage. A ‘stop time’ is where we stop whatever we are doing to read out loud and to listen; we listen to both the author’s words and to what made that phrase so meaningful to the reader.
Although my son and I read the same book, our reactions to it were as different as a carefree stroll through the park and being caught in a traffic snarl in the city at rush hour. Where my son delighted in the animal conversations, I sobbed.
Pixar uses humor with double meaning brilliantly in their storytelling. Katherine Applegate uses the same technique, but in a more realistic vein.
I sobbed because the adult world my son will live in doesn’t have easy answers. It isn’t colorful, silly, and happy all the time. The innocence of his childhood is beginning to seep away.
While Ivan and Ruby soothe each other and tell stories to help them sleep, the author communicates the ache of loneliness, coping skills, feeling boxed in, and the power that is found when helping a friend…or your own child.
The first ‘stop time’ that my son called happened when Ivan makes an impossible promise to Ruby, the baby elephant.
I’ve been waiting and watching for this moment. A maturity level that notices deeper concepts. An opportunity to share family ideals and values. An easing into the world of adulthood – or at least into the turbulent teens.
“Children know all about sadness,” comments Applegate in her speech. “We can’t hide it from them. We can only teach them how to cope with its inevitably and to harness their imaginations in search for joy and wonder.”