The Real Profit in Poetry

Common wisdom holds that there's no money in writing. And let's be honest, what little there might be for most of usassuming we're not Stephen King or the celebrity of the dayrarely if ever finds its way into the hands of poets.

Consider the image of the starving poet, huddled in his lonely garret, warming his fingers over a stubby candle so he can scratch out a few more inspired lines by that same meager light. With each word, he leaves another bit of his soul on the page.

Romantic, isn’t it?

Only if you’re inspired by your own suffering. I prefer to take my cues from outside influences.

The natural world is rich in inspiring imagery, from the humble resting place of a slowly melting snowflake to the panoramic reach of the Rocky Mountains. No detail is too small to warrant your attention. And nothing is too large to be captured with a few carefully chosen words.

Strangers are another fine source of ideas. The less you know about them the better. Simply graft your imagination onto their physical attributes, and you’re well on your way to creating something unique.

With its brevity of form, poetry excels at capturing a moment in exquisite detail. And somehow, magically, poetry sees past even the ugliest fa├žade to the beauty within.

While poetry probably won’t pay the bills, it will most certainly enrich your life.

Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which has three new books available and several more in the works for 2012.

End procrastination and get started on your writing project today

End Procrastination in Just Seven Minutes

Procrastination is an insidious habit that makes you feel as if you are accomplishing things while you remain stuck, paralyzed by fear and anxiety.  At some point, most of us procrastinate about writing.  Many people procrastinate about starting a diet or beginning an exercise plan.  It is very easy to say that you are going to start writing that new article tomorrow.  The trouble is that tomorrow never comes but your feelings of powerlessness, shame, and guilt stay with you in your subconscious mind.

There is hope!  The first step to ending procrastination is to focus precisely on what you have been procrastinating about.  Make a list of all the things you have been avoiding.  Allow this task to be simple and liberating. Remember, you are simply writing down all of the things you are avoiding. You are not requiring yourself to take any action steps right now.

Choose one item that you procrastinate about that causes you the most pain.  Perhaps you chronically procrastinate about writing an ebook and long to get your work published.  Make a decision to stop procrastinating about your writing today and get started on your dream life.  Obtain a kitchen timer or set the timer of your cell phone for seven minutes.  Write for seven minutes or until the timer goes off.  I guarantee that the first three minutes will be the most difficult.  Your mind and body will urge you to quit.  Observe how something truly magical happens around minute number four.  You feel yourself start to get into the flow. Fully experience this feeling of flow and be aware that you accomplishing this task.  Use the seven-minute timer to jump start any area of your life in which you find yourself procrastinating.

Aileen McCabe-Maucher is the author of the book "The Inner Peace Diet" which was published by Penguin Books and released in December 2008. Aileen is a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who has helped many people find inner peace and discover their unique life purpose. Aileen has worked for over fifteen years as a licensed psychotherapist and registered nurse providing individual and group counseling to a diverse client population. She is a graduate of West Chester University, Widener University, University of Delaware, and The Gestalt Therapy Institute of Philadelphia at Bryn Mawr College. Aileen studied yoga and the chakra system at The Yoga Lifestyle Center in Paoli, Pennsylvania and is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Pennsylvania and writing her third book.

To sign up for Aileen's completely free Inner Peace Diet ecourse, please visit


There are a number of websites where you can find a bookcover for your book. I'm talking about the pre-made bookcovers, which can range in price anywhere from $150.00 to $600 at best. The biggest advantage  of this type of bookcover is you can get them quickly and do not have to wait for an illustrator to create it. So what is the disadvantage of these bookcovers? They do not reflect your story. Generally generic, they can be used for any genre. Of course, if this is what you want, then you will probably be quite satisfied with it. But if you are wanting your book to stand out from the rest, a bookcover that reflects your story will be much more satisfactory.

Stop and think about it for a moment, and you will see what I mean. The first thing a person looks at when searching for a book is the title. If the title doesn't grab them, they move on to the next book. Once they find a title that draws their interest, they pick up the book and look at the bookcover. Now you can see why it is important to the sale of your book. The title and the bookcover are the first two things that will give the reader a good idea what the book is about. Those two items will convince the reader to read the blurb on the back cover and even open the book and read the first page or two.

Now I have seen a number of well-known authors' new books on the shelf with bookscovers so plain and boring that it is a good thing they have already made a name for themselves. Otherwise they probably would not sell very many books. But when you are starting out, you are not well-known so you have to take further measures to help promote the sale of your book.

People who read are visual. We, as writers, learn to write in such a way as to draw a visual picture in their minds. That is what the bookcover picture should do for your title. It should draw a visual picture of the written title as well as the basic story, hence giving the reader a better idea of whether or not they would be interested in buying it.

What do you want in an illustrator? Well, your illustrator should be someone who is willing to work closely with you to achieve the perfect bookcover for you. If they are not willing to do this, they are probably not worth the money you are paying them. Once you find the right illustrator, you will find satisfaction on several different levels. One, you will obtain a bookcover with which you will fall in love, and you will know immediately that it is the one for you. Two, you will have a bookcover that will help sell your book. Three, you will have a good friend who will, the longer you work together on different projects, know just what you like or dislike; and you will develop a good working relationship.

At this point, I would like to give credit to my most wonderful and talented illustrator who has put up with me with the utmost patience. Her name is Heather Paye. She has amazed me with her talent. If you are interested in her work, you can find her here:  Heather Paye.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of: To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books: The Bible Murders
                            Sarah's Secret

Member of: Sisters In Crime
                  Writers On the Move
                   Books In Sync

Color and Imagination

I shouldn’t be entitled to speak about color frivolity as my profession, graphic design, makes me a manipulator extraordinaire of information through color. The only redeeming factor of my biography is that I spent most of my adult life questioning color in society.

I grew up in communist Bulgaria during the late70s and 80s.  Back then color was scarce, products were homogenous and stores were bare. The only tone that permeated the retina of my childhood was a certain kind of brown. That is, if we talk about commercial display of color.

Brown bags, brown buildings, brown candy wrappers, brown TV. The color bacchanalia spilling over products, fashion, awnings, plastic bags and food in America that I now take for granted, was once source of unattainable cravings and dreams. As my senses were so color malnourished, brown came to signify not the presence of color, but the lack of it. I found out the difference the day my father brought home some plastic bags from Vienna. They were filled with all sorts of candy and gum, but that didn’t even interest me. What intrigued me the most and propelled me to stash them away in secret piles in the closet, were their glossy textures and luminous hues. There was the lipstick-thick magenta that wooed like a vixen, the pale blue that opened up gates at foreign airports, the ochre yellow that smelled of Camel cigarettes, the shocking silver that hovered like a UFO.

After the West decadent colorization stained my mind, there was no going back. I dreamt of color every waking hour of my life until I was old enough to escape Bulgaria.

The colored plastic bags I saw - they weren’t colors, they were places and archetypes and life-styles. They were the Western culture encapsulated. On a subconscious level, this capsule of forbidden experience became the reason for my migration to America years later. Such was the effect of color deprivation and color control over my pliable senses. 

Because I was used to consuming color in small doses in times of communism, I now associate it with fleeting happiness. And even though neither of my present surroundings, social or seasonal, preclude me from basking in color (I live in capitalistic America and sunny California) I’ve learned not to trust color in society.

But the story of the color brown goes farther than communism, scarcity and deprivation. It is also the color of coffee, which my father drank incessantly. And if we move down the color scale towards its creamy tints, we arrive at beige. Beige was the clothing he wore and the car he drove. You see, my father was the epitome of sophistication and intellect for me. Thus brown and beige became emotional guides to elegance, love, safety, culture, civilization, literature, tenderness, language and so many other things that connected us.

Then there was the story about cyan. Cyan was the color of love and melancholy, because it hung in our kitchen when I was a child, and the kitchen was a sponge for my mom’s bitter-sweet loneliness. On the other hand, cyan had some sentimental relatives in the realm of exclusivity, privilege and social status. It marks the so called “blue phase” of my life, during which the communist party pronounced me a “little pioneer”. Back then I was to wear a luminous, silky, cyan neck scarf which symbolized freedom and peaceful skies. 

 I can go on about many other dual influences of color and emotions; like yellow and orange autumn leaves which signified euphoria, because autumn was the time of my birthday; at the same time yellow and orange meant scarcity because they translated into bananas and oranges which were imported in Bulgaria only in limited quantity during Christmas.

I can almost distinguish two emotional patterns in relationship to color – a whimsical pleasure when related to colors of people and places I love, and distrust when related to colors of material things and society.
Human beings take color from his/her surroundings and turn it into emotions. Lover’s green sweater, parent’s blue car, trees’ lime green, seasonal pink watermelon, pet’s black eyes, water’s aquamarine depth, earth’s brown translate into love, safety, relaxation, summer laziness, loyalty, thirst, death. These emotions are often slippery, inconsistent and have millions of grades and binary oppositions within them. That makes the corresponding colors open to interpretation. Basically, there are as many color sensations on earth as there are human beings.

Society, on the other hand, takes color from its surroundings and turns it into discourse. All of a sudden it communicates cheerfulness, peace, luxury, status and chosen-ess through a red scarf, green logo, neon sign, blue napkin, silver watch. The culturally assigned colors are less open to interpretation. It’s a make believe system, a form of a personal mythology bestowed upon us.

Only when you have to leap between two cultures or ideological systems, do you realize that color is a phantom. The more humans limit it (communism in Bulgaria), or abuse it (capitalism in America), the more apathetic it becomes. By that I mean that humans around it become color numb as well.

It may be a while before corporations and autocratic regimes adopt dynamic spectrums of hues as their brands, but meanwhile we can play with what’s in front of our eyes. I propose that you take an experience and create your own personal mythologies, systems, brands, French novels, logos, Nikes, food, sounds, textures, odors, color wheels.

I propose that you treat color as a living thing that loves freedom – the way it meshes with tastes, textures, places, sounds and emotions. Sadness, jazz and blueberries, for example. Take that acid trip of myriad of cross-sensory undulations.

Swim in color, use it, abuse it, abstain from it, explain it, entrench it, taste it, rationalize it, kill it if you wish, but don’t be ignorant about it. Compare cultural, political and commercial discourses in order to understand color applications. Don’t hold back. Color can take just about anything, except cluelessness.

Here’s where you can start to play: 
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “100 Years of Solitude”
your dreams
Bigfish Smallpond Design (
Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire”
your childhood
Art Nouveau
Alphonse Mucha
prehistoric societies
non authoritarian cultures
the movie Waking Life
…just to name a few. 

Have a bouncy cerise day!

To read the full article on color and imagination, visit

Fani Nicheva is a graphic designer and a writer, who lives and works in Santa Cruz, California. She has written the book "Type Talks" and is in the process of finishing her first novel "Mental Immigrant". 

Writing Means Commitment

This morning I had messages from two students. Both have important exams this week. 

One emailed to say she had not  time to do anything but revise. 

The other, who is studying for several exams at degree level, sent me the final revisions for her noir novel, due to be published in August. 
That was commitment: commitment to her  book, to her editor, to her publisher.

Commitment to writing for publication means taking on board all aspects of the job--and yes, it is a job. It may be creative, it may be an art, it may allow you to work flexi-time. 

But writing has all the same pressures as any other business--research and development, selection of the best materials for the job, deadlines, attention to detail, scrupulous checking and discarding when necessary to ensure a perfect product.

No matter what is happening in your life, writing and the commitment to completing projects with set deadlines has to come first if you want to be seen as reliable.

Writing Communities
Dublin Writers Festival 2007
Dublin Writers' Festival 2007 by Letcombe on Flickr
One way to develop accountability and start building a writing platform is to join a writing group.  

Writers pass through various on- and off-line  communities in their writing journey. Cyber-writing-friends, met at the start of the adventure, will disappear and re-appear at various points along the way.

Each and every writing group has something to teach as regards developing talents, finding an authentic writer's voice. Each satisfies a particular need at a specific  stage of a writing career. 

These writing communities develop the sense of writing commitment so important to writers both at the beginning and throughout their career. 

 But commitment needs to be more than logging a set number of words per day--though that's a pretty good start. Commitment needs to be two-way. And it's the sharing and the genuine interest in promoting the success of everyone in the group that's the key to the most successful writing communities. 

 We may all at some time have joined a group which seems to be a mechanism for its leader's shameless self-promotion. We have all suffered from crits which are showy stylistic gems proving the awesome cleverness of the critter but which give no constructive help to the beleaguered author. 

Some groups are victims of their own success, grow too big and writers drift away.

Writing means Marketing   

Choose your writing communities carefully. Your writing friends are your family for the duration of your writing journey. 

Choose friends whose focus is akin to your own. Banding together will make you stronger. Always arguing about products and promotion will not. 

Choose a group where you share ideals and if possible genre. Promote each other and your enthusiasm will increase sales exponentially.  

Thousands of followers on FaceBook and Twitter will not sell your book any better than a group of family, best friends, workmates and writing communities who support you and who buy your book and recommend it to everyone they know.

It won't happen in a day. Marketing like writing needs consistent effort. Commit to your writing and to your writing friends and watch your sales increase. 

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to blog with helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2011.

May Workshop from Writers on the Move - Breaking through Writer's Block

Writers on the Move has another helpful workshop geared for writers.  Here's the basic information you'll need:

Title: Breaking Through Writer’s Block
Date: May 11, 2012 (Friday)
Time: 7 – 7:45 PM EST (U.S.)
Presenter: Mary Guglielmo
Offered by: Writers on the Move
Format: Live Webinar
Handout: Yes 
Cost: Free 

Workshop Description: 

Most writers experience a time when they are stuck and can’t get their creative juices flowing.  This creative block can be a paralyzing and frightening landscape.  If a writer is unable to break through this block, it can derail their career.   If you have ever smacked into a creative wall and felt stuck in the writing process, this workshop is for you. 

This session will help you identify the root causes of your creative blocks.  We will focus on the creative process and fool proof block-buster techniques designed to help release your creative muse.  Strategies for increasing productivity and organizing your creative life to avoid blocks will be explored.   

Join Mary Jo Guglielmo as she discusses breaking through writer’s blocks.  She is an intuitive life coach that has helped writers move their writing careers forward.  See Mary Jo’s post on Tips for Smashing through Writers Block on the Writers on the Move website.

To register for “Breaking through Writer’s Block” email Karen at: karenrcfv AT *yahoo* DOT com. Please put "Writer's Block Webinar" in the subject box.

Details to attend the LIVE WEBINAR will be provided upon registration.

There will also be a bonus PDF workshop handout included that registered attendees will receive after the webinar.

For the full details  CLICK HERE.


Writing to Connect

Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying, "There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

Isn't it true that there are times when writing is a breeze? We sit down, put our fingers to the keyboard, and off we go. Isn't it also true that those times are all too few?

So often we struggle with inspiration. What should we write? What should happen next to that character? Where's the plot going to? You promised the reader 7 ways to improve their blog and you can only think of 5. Perhaps we can't think of what to write about at all—or perhaps we know exactly what we want to say, but the words don't come out the way we want them to.

One of the most basic, but often overlooked tips is: Write to connect.

  • Don't write to satisfy yourself.
  • Don't try to impress your family.
  • Don't try to be someone else.
Write for your readers.

To do that, you have to know who your readers are.

  • What sex?
  • What age?
  • What family situation?

Now write what they want to read.

Wait, shouldn't that be "write what they need to know?"

No. Write what they want to read. Then include information you think will help them. But if they don't want to read your book or article, guess what? They won't.

Visualise your readers as people who will really benefit from what you have to share. Give them faces. Perhaps even write to a person you know--but choose someone you know won't read your article to prevent your preaching at them! Then write in such a way that they will want to read . . . and keep on reading.

Now that you know who you're writing for, you'll find it much easier to write . . . and keep on writing.

I remember listening to a tape recording many years ago. The speaker, Mike Warnke, was sharing of his experience as a new Christian and speaker. He determined to be the very best . . . and studied the top speakers in the field.

He imitated Billy Graham as he thundered out an evangelical message. He spoke with the authority and passion of Kathryn Kuhlmann, as he preached to the sick and invited them to come forward for healing. He urged people to step out in faith in the style of Oral Roberts. Yet he had little or no response.

One day, in frustration, he asked the Lord, "Why don't I get results when I preach?"

To this, he said, the Lord replied, "I don't know. Who are you?"

We can laugh, but isn't that what we do as writers? We long for the inspirational writing ability of Karen Kingsbury, the gift of story telling of Jerry Jenkins and the creativity of J.K.Rowling. We try to use the poetic prowess of Helen Steiner Rice, the tension-creating techniques of Brandilyn Collins and the light-hearted approach of Max Lucado. And we wonder why we don't get results!

Each one of us have our own abilities and gifts. We have strengths unique to our own writing style, and we have weaknesses. When we compare ourselves to other writers, we have no hope. We can't be as good as them. Chances are we won't make the same mistakes as them either. We can't write like them. We're not them.

As you read, admire the writing style of the author, but don't try to copy it. Develop your own style.

  • Study writing techniques.
  • Edit and polish your work until it's the best you can do.
  • Look for advice, critiques, and professional input.
  • Become the best writer you are capable of being.
But always remember: There are millions of writers in the world today. There is only one you.

So sit down in front of the keyboard, put your fingers to the keyboard, and let it rip. Write what your reader wants to hear. Write to make contact.

SHIRLEY CORDER lives in South Africa with her husband Rob, a hyperactive budgie called Sparky, and an ever expanding family of tropical fish. Hundreds of her inspirational and life-enrichment articles have been published internationally. She is contributing author to nine books to date and her book, Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer  is available now for pre-order at or at Barnes & Noble (B& You can contact Shirley through her writing website, her Rise and Soar site for encouraging those on the cancer journey, or follow her on Twitter  

Conflict in Your Story

How do you use or deal with conflict in your story? Is it difficult for you to write about?

I’m taking an online children’s writing class and my current assignment is to write about conflict in my story. I’m stuck. I don’t know what I want to do. I have to be mean to my character. Oh no!

What is conflict? There are three basic types:

  1. Internal, which is conflict with one’s self.
  2. Relational, which occurs between two or more characters.
  3. External, which occurs between a character and another force.

External conflict is broken down into subtypes. Below are some examples.

  • Character and nature - surviving a snowstorm or tornado.
  • Character and the supernatural - living with a ghost or poltergeist.
  • Character and technology - dealing with a computer or robot.
  • Character and society - being involved in a riot or facing a scandal.
  • Character and destiny - deciding between fate and free will.
  • Character and group - resisting or fighting a government or religion.

Some of these may not apply to children’s books, but I wanted to appeal to a greater variety of writers.

What other examples of conflict can you think of or have you used? How did you resolve the conflict?

Now back to working on my own story.

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is currently working on her first children’s book.


The Lazy Way to Be a Great Writer
Publishing Takes More Than Good Intentions
So You Want to Write a Book - Now What?

Writing for yourself

The point of writing for yourself is to write the book that you want to read and hasn’t been written yet.

This is easier said than done. It may involve hours of research,hours combing the library and internet for knowledge, and inspiration to write the book.

There are people that say, write what you know. Why listen to them? With the number of self-published books available and authors self-publishing more every day, who is the audience?

If authors are passionate about a project, they need to write it the way they would like to read it. Will it sell? If there is a good story, characters, and synopsis triggers something in the person reading it, it will sell. A synopsis is like writing on the dust jacket of a hardbound book in the past, which I still prefer when reading for pleasure, but that is just me.

Reviews also help readers know that a book is available,worth reading, and waiting for them. There are many alternative sites to Amazon,who decides which review they will allow to be posted, as they are the800-hundred pound gorilla throwing its weight around.

For this reason, authors need to market their book via social media. Traditional publishers aren’t doing what they once did, which isa reason for so many self-published books hitting the various sites that sell books.

As a reviewer, I just wish that authors would edit their manuscript before publishing their book. It is disheartening to read books that need editing, I never give a five star rating when there are basic errors like grammar, punctuation, and typos.

Authors need assure that their manuscript is the best quality writing possible. Readers deserve the best work possible. They are spending their money for the author’s book and their reward should be something special, just like any product from a business which writing is.

Authors are entrepreneurs just any business. Authors should treat writing as what it is, a business.

Robert Medak

So You Want to be a Writer.....?

So, you want to be a writer... and let me say it is a wonderful person to be. But as you dream of your writing career, don't for a minute be blindsided into thinking you will soar to publication without WORK, hard work.

Some of you may be more successful and be quicker at succeeding than others but even J.K. Rowling worked years before becoming successful as did James Patterson, Stephen King, Luanne Rice, and all the others who are now household names.

Here are some of the steps in the process of becoming the writer you want to be and there are very few shortcuts.
  • Learn to write- that includes grammar, spelling, using active verbs, descriptive nouns, and weaving in the five senses- taste, touch, smell, sounds, and seeing everything around your story.
  • Understanding the mystery of publishing- traditional, self-publishing, print on demand, E-books, the whole enchilada.
  • Finding your audience, your niche, and what fresh way you can reach the reader.
  • MARKETING- this is such a big part of being a writer and an underestimated aspect of becoming a success. Learn to market yourself, network, join writing groups and study the business of writing.
  • Blog- get over your fear of blogging because a writer needs a place to get the words they write out to a reading audience. Blogs are the first step in becoming published and it is great place, cost effective, and easy to see your words in print.
  • Write- a writer writes. So while you are honing your craft, learning about publishing, networking, blogging, and handling the business of writing a true writer must WRITE.
The writing life is a wonderful experience where you visit places in your dreams and put those dreams on paper so others ( your audience) can visit as well. You make all kinds of wonderful supportive friends and touch elbows ( even if it only in the cyber world) with famous writers who you dream of emulating. But remember, you cannot soar there on a magic plane without the work it takes to keep the engine running. But those of us who write wouldn't have it any other way.

Terri Forehand
Author of The Cancer Prayer Book and a soon to be released PB titled The ABC's of Cancer According to Lilly Isabella Lane. Blog editor at Stories for Children publishing and author of numerous articles on nursing and health related topics.

Spring Cleaning for the Creative Mind

The winter has come and gone where I live and even though we could have some late cold weather the fruit trees have bloomed and gardeners are in full swing cleaning out and planting for the new growing season. It's that way in my home office as well. Time spent in my garden grounds me and inspires me. Likewise, I look through my "idea file" and add to it with fresh thoughts. The sounds of birds and watching the robins who have returned as they drink from my bird bath feeds my muse.

One of the things about warm weather is that we do spend more time outside whether it is in our garden or by the pool or on vacation. Isn't it wonderful that we can enjoy all of that and take an iPad or laptop with us and write where we are. Instead of being confined inside, it feels good to take my imagination outside on the swing and let my characters take me to another place and time.

A few things that help me transition from season to season with my writing and my other activities are:

1.  Sort through my "idea file" and get rid of old ideas that don't appeal to me any more.

2.  Review my goals for the year and see how I'm doing reaching them. Adjust them where needed.

3.  Brainstorm with fellow writers to help me develop story lines that are works in progress if I feel stuck.

4.  Take some time out to recharge my batteries.

5.  Refocus my efforts when I am writing by getting away from distractions.

Dianne G. Sagan, author and co-author of 18 books, speaker and presenter.

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing: Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believabi...

Interesting is that this came to my email right after I finished visiting with Mr. Hughes' class and the topic today was "Get Real".  Probably means my karma is up or the stars are shining where they're supposed to be or the planets are aligned as this is the second thing today that has been hopefully useful information for the folks I've passed the information to - E ;)

(no reposts count as far as comments for the bookworm on my blog)

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing: Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believabi...: Writing Fiction for Children – Character Believability and Conflict Writing in general is a tough craft, although many may not think so. Th...

Writing: A Collaborative Project

Writing for me, and for most of us, is a solitary endeavor. We sit for long hours alone and pour emotion and ideas on the page. So it is interesting to me those writers who break out and collaborate. Authors such as Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston have  written 18 books together. I had always wondered how they were able to do it. It seems counter intuitive to me, and then I had an idea for a science fiction series.

From the beginning, I knew that this was something that would require collaboration and so I found myself searching for the right-write person to work with me. I cannot remember when the idea first formed, but it was years ago. The niggling feeling of needing to write the story never left and yet, I knew somehow the end result would be incredibly better if I had a co-author. So I never started writing it.

Finally, in 2010 I was able to find that ideal person who saw my vision of the story and wanted to add her own to the mix. And mix it did. Here is what I learned in the process:

1. When a story has numerous different characters, in our case, aliens and teenagers, (okay, maybe not so different) it was beneficial to share the load creatively. Each of us took a group of characters to form and write about. In the end, though, we each could write any of them, because they'd been so well drawn by the other. I think this helped us to create so many completely unique beings. Also, the research was split and so we were able to get right to writing a bit faster.

2. As a solitary author you have complete control of your project. When you agree to take on a collaborator you must release some of that control. As a control freak, I was surprised how this was not an issue. We each listened to the others thoughts and found ways to work that allowed us each to feel in control. Not only that but we each learned things in the process.

3. Which brings me to number three. As writers we have strengths and weaknesses. Find the right collaborator and your weaknesses are helped by their strengths. This was the part I loved the most.

4. Okay, well not the "most" most. The most was that we met over coffee every Saturday morning. We gave ourselves assignments and did our best to "turn" them in on time. This was something else that was great actually. We had accountability to each other. And the coffee was delicious.

It has been two years now. The coffee shop still sees us each Saturday morning where we work on our writing for 3-5 hours together. Our first book in the series will be released this week and we are working on our second in the series. For both of us, the collaboration process has been a smooth and enjoyable process. One that, we both agree, will continue.    

As a devout reader, D. Jean Quarles spent her young years with a book in hand. Later she owned a bookstore and while writing was something she did, it wasn't until her children were grown that she completed her first women's novel. Currently she is working on a young adult science fiction series with co-author, Austine Etcheverry.

You can find her at: Her website
And them both at:  The Exodus Series
                                   The Exodus Series Blog

"How to Set Writing Goals with a Family," by Mayra Calvani

“Nothing has a stronger influence
psychologically on their environ-
ment and especially on their children
than the unlived life of the parent.”
--C. G. Jung

You want to start your career as a writer, and you have young kids at home. How do you find the time to write and actually produce something while your children ask you for sandwiches, demand you play with them, or refuse to take a nap. Writing with kids at home isn’t easy, but it can be done.

The following are 7 tips to setting writing goals with a family:

Be realistic

If you set your goals too high, you’ll crash and you’ll be left with feelings of failure, frustration and bitterness. This will have a strong impact on the way you feel about yourself as a mom and wife, and will affect the time you spend with your loved ones. Face it, unless you have a nanny, you won’t have a lot of free time until your kids are old enough to go to pre-school. If you’re not able to set your writing goal to one hour a day, or even half an hour, what about 15 minutes? Start small. Take baby steps. Persistence is vital: If you stick to it, a lot can be accomplished in just 15 minutes a day over a long period of time. In 15 minutes, you can plot a scene, profile or interview a character, write dialogue, do research on a specific topic for your book, etc. Everybody can set aside 15 minutes of writing time.

Get organized

This is the key to succeed! Buy a planner or calendar and schedule your week in advance every Sunday. This way, come Monday morning, you’ll know what to do. What’s the best time to set aside those 15 minutes? Does your child take a morning or afternoon nap? Do you have the type of child who would be happy playing in a playpen by himself while you write? Could you hire a teenager to look after your child twice a week for an hour, while you write in the next room? Perhaps you know other moms who are in a similar situation and who would be interested in taking turns taking care of the kids? Brainstorm various possibilities. When there’s a will, there’s a way.

Stay flexible

You might not always be able to follow your daily writing goals. You know what? That’s perfectly fine. Life often gets in the way. In fact, it feels as if life always gets in the way when you have a family, doesn’t it? The planner is there to keep you motivated, focused, and steered in the right direction. But those words aren’t set in stone. If you can’t meet your writing goal for that day, just try to get back in track the next. Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, “I tried my best.” It’s like with a diet. You don’t have to quit the whole diet just because you broke it one day by eating pizza.

Be consistent

Books are made of words, sentences, paragraphs. Depending on how fast a writer or how inspired you are, you can write words, sentences and even a whole paragraph or paragraphs in 15 minutes. The key here is to keep doing it regularly over a long period of time. You have heard it many times: write a page a day, and one year later you have a 365-page book.

Stop procrastinating

If only I had more time!
I’ll write when my kids start school.
I’m always so busy!
When I’ll retire, that’s when I’ll write that book.

Blah, blah, blah. Listen: there’s never a perfect or right time to write. You just have to stop whining and you have to do it. Why leave for later what you can start doing now? Life is short and unpredictable. You have no control over the future. But you have control over the now.

Love yourself

You work hard. You’re always there for your children, husband, parents, relatives and friends. Why is it that you so often forget about yourself? Treat yourself like a precious jewel. And I’m not talking about being selfish—though being a little selfish is often the best thing you can do to be able to give yourself to others. Reward your accomplishments, however small. When you love yourself, you’ll find the time to set aside those writing times because you know your goals and dreams are important. When you do what’s important to you, you feel accomplished and fulfilled emotionally and intellectually. When this happens, you’re able to give yourself to your family without reservations. Mostly importantly, the quality of those family moments will increase because you won’t resent them.

Set Your Priorities

How badly to do want to become an established author? Can you live with your home not being spotless or dust-free at all times? Or with letting the laundry accumulate once in a while? Because this is exactly what will happen once you’ve made your decision of becoming an author. You’ll face times when you’ll have to choose between writing or doing the laundry. I’m not saying you should neglect your family and put your writing first. What I’m saying is you don’t have to be a ‘super’ mom at all times.

You have the potential to make your dreams come true. But you have to believe in them and you have to follow a plan. You also have to make them a priority in your life. Keeping these tips in mind will help you achieve your dreams and become a happier writer. As I always say, a happy writer is a happy mama.

© Copyright 2011 Mayra Calvani.

 Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults.  Her nonfiction work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She’s had over 300 stories, articles, interviews and reviews published. Visit her website at For her children’s books, visit

Teacher's Guide for your Children's Books

After I signed the book contract for The Golden Pathway I took the time out to discuss with teachers what sparks their interest in children’s books for their classrooms beyond what the school provides. Many times over I heard they are under strict confinements with their curriculum and books need to fit into their daily teachings. I then took to task to research state curriculum guidelines and learned the creation of an teacher’s guide for The Golden Pathway needed to be a comprehensive across the curriculum guide. After meeting homeschool specialist, Amy O’Quinn through the Working Writer’s Club I approached Amy about hiring her to write a teacher’s guide for The Golden Pathway. The end result was beyond my expectations!
The teacher’s guide is a teaching tool for English, Social Studies, Math, Science, and Art teachers, as well as Homeschooling families. Activities include:

  • Language Arts: Writing/Vocabulary
  • Integrated Language Arts/Social Studies: Topical Study/Presentation Boards
  • Social Studies: Timeline, Mapping and Geography
  • Math: Map Work Mathematics, Calculations, Time, Recipe Math, Quilt Math
  • Science: Astronomy, Skin, Plants and Crops, Alcoholism, Five Senses
  • Role Playing, Disguises and Escape/Safe Houses
  • Toys and Games of the 19th Century: Make a Rag Doll, Make a Nettie Doll, Information on Games/Toys
  • Songs of Slavery and the Underground Railroad: Background Information and Lyrics
  • More Fun Art Projects, Activities, and Resources: Coloring Sheets, Printables, Juneteenth, Make A Tin Can Lantern
  • Author and illustrator interviews to make a personal connection with the teacher and students
It is in my opinion well written children’s books have a better chance of finding their way into schools when it is accompanied with a teacher’s guide. By having this guide for The Golden Pathway it has certainly helped spark additional interest with school visits. I have also hired Amy to create educator’s guides for my future books. 

To learn more about my writing career or to order an autographed copy of The Golden Pathway visit, Gift with purchase: The Golden Pathway Teacher’s Guide.

Donna McDine is an award-winning children's author, Honorable Mention in the 77th and two Honorable Mentions in the 78th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competitions,  Preditors & Editors Readers Poll 2010 Top Ten Children’s Books, Global eBook Awards Finalist Children’s Picture Book Fiction, and Literary Classics Silver Award & Seal of Approval Recipient Picture Book Early Reader ~ The Golden Pathway.
Her stories, articles, and book reviews have been published in over 100 print and online publications. Her interest in American History resulted in writing and publishing The Golden Pathway. Donna has three more books under contract with Guardian Angel Publishing, Hockey Agony, Powder Monkey, and A Sandy Grave. She writes, moms and is the Editor-in-Chief for Guardian Angel Kids, Publicist for the Working Writer’s Club, and owner of Author PR Services from her home in the historical hamlet Tappan, NY. McDine is a member of the SCBWI. Visit

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