Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman

Last October I attended the workshop "Books that Rise Above," presented by the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, PA. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming being under the same roof (in the cozy yet spacious "barn") with the esteemed presenters, Patricia Lee Gauch, Linda Sue Park, Leonard Marcus, Betsy Bird and
Deborah Heiligman. Also in attendance were some of the editors of Highlights for Children magazine; Kent Brown visited often, and the staff and other attendees were inspirational. Tours of the magazine headquarters and Boyds Mill Press were fun and enlightening.

Sign up for a Highlights Foundation Workshop

This series is drawing to a close this month with only a few posts left. Before I delve into this month's topic, "Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman," I'd like to encourage readers to attend any Highlights Foundation workshop possible. It will be well worth it. Prior, ample information was sent by staff members on details of our stay. The warm welcome, delicious food, comfy private cabin and more, were second to none. Included were biosketches of the presenters with some of their book titles. I read as many as I could before attending. That was a big help in understanding the topics they discussed. I have continued to read their work long after the workshop, now for pure enjoyment.

Window into the Life of a Biographer

Deborah Heiligman's award-winning book, Charles and Emma: Darwins' Leap of Faith, is one of my all-time favorite books. First, I couldn't put it down. I loved it so much, perhaps because of the love Deb infused in each word, that I identified my own special relationship in Charles and Emma's story. Though a children's book, oddly I found Charles and Emma in the Adult Biography section of my local library.

Having dabbled in biography myself from biosketches I wrote for the library journal Biography Today, I had an inkling of Deb's monumental task. Her research was based on personal journals and letters and two versions of Darwin's autobiography; in addition to  databases, websites, and reference and secondary books. Also, she gathered information while visiting the Darwins' home in England. Deborah's feat, in my mind, is how seamlessly she wove dialogue together with explanation. It is as if her book was written from modern-day interviews, not from passages written during a bygone era.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Anyone who has approached such a big topic as Charles Darwin might find the sheer bulk of material overwhelming. Indeed, all of the material was so fascinating Deb wanted to include it all. Focusing on one guiding principle or theme helped to narrow the subject down. Once she decided to make her book a love story her job became clear. Thus, the weaving began of piecing Charles and Emma's stories together.

Deborah's take-away:  Every writer has a theme, Deborah quoted Tom Wolfe as saying. His is status. Mine is love. Charles and Emma is a love story. Write a book from your heart, about the particular person you are. Mine: I feel fortunate and privileged to have had the opportunity to hear the behind-the-scenes approach on how Deborah writes her biographies. After what I learned I have nothing but admiration for the great amounts of love, devotion, tenaciousness, effort, attention-to-detail--have I forgotten anything?-- Deb goes through to arrive at her incredible works.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Deborah Heiligman's Biography
Deborah Heiligman's Blog

Next month: Part Seven: Deborah Heiligman's Casual Scream
In future posts: A link to the complete list of "Books that Rise Above" will appear at the end of this series.

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio. Follow Linda on Facebook. 

Paths to Becoming a Successful Writer

Becoming a successful writer is hard work. Many months or years may go by before your work is published. Writers take personal ownership of success through diligence and perseverance. It's not easy to work at something regularly for a long time and not receive a monetary reward right away. 

But then there are those times in life when we seem to be in the right place at the right time. An opportunity comes along when we weren't expecting it! (or working for it). I think it's a good thing to anticipate those moments.

We're all on a path.

We know our destination, but what the scenery looks like on the way isn't always predictable. We're human and there is only so much we can accomplish. We have to be careful we don't bury our heads in so much work, we become anxious, frustrated, exhausted, and even depressed when success seems out of reach.

Whatever your belief system, I am sure we can agree, the moments of being at the right place at the right time comes to all of us now and then. A breakthrough, a connection, an idea, someone who knows someone - just "happens" to come our way. It's not luck for a certain few. It's a gift sent to us in different ways and meant to encourage, inspire, and yes, even clear the path for success. 

The important part is to remember and be grateful for those moments. It will give you a healthy, balanced perspective.  

By all means, work your hardest. But don't forget to revel in the expectation of being in the right place at the right time. Enjoy your path!

How about you? Have you had a moment that seemed to come out of nowhere, helping you succeed in your writing career? What was it and what did it do for you?


Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer.  You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -

Photo Credit: Etrusia UK / / CC BY-NC-SA


In earlier time poisoning was a very common way to commit murder by both men and women, though probably more often by women. Then as time moved on it became mainly a woman’s murder weapon. But now, with such advances in technology, weapons, and the advancement of women in this modern world, it is rather rare to see poisoning as a murder weapon. We do see ricin used by terrorist/mentally ill to send via mail, but it is not your everyday poison.
            However, we, as writers, can still use poisons as a murder weapon, especially if we can come up with a unique murder plot. It never hurts to have the information on hand just in case. Also, those of you who like to write mysteries set in Victorian days or even into the early 1900, it would be most appropriate to use a poison. Five poisons you might want to keep in mind are as follows:
            1.  Arsenic -- used since the Roman times in ancient history. It is tasteless, making it easily administered in a drink. In the 1800’s it was put in weed killer, fly papers, and rat poisons. It was used frequently in domestic murders and cited in many murder cases. Used as a yellow oxide or a white oxide or vapor, which smells of garlic. White oxide is virtually tasteless and easily masked by food or drink. It can be given accumulatively. The fatal dose builds up over time slowly. Symptoms can resemble food poisoning. The symptoms of white oxide starts with throat irritation, nausea, faintness, and depression. Then you have vomiting, tinged with blood and mucus, severe abdominal pain exacerbated by touch tongue is white and furry, throat is constricted. Diarrhea comes after 12-18 hours, cramps in leg, weak pulse, rapid but regular. Cyanosis (blue color) of extremities. Death comes when victim is conscious.
            2. Strychnine -- Used to poison rats and other small animals, giving it easy accessibility. It has been cited in only a few domestic murders, and its availability suggests it could be used in many undiscovered murders. It is a colorless solution with a very bitter taste that is noticeable even in a very weak solution. Symptoms come on within 2-3 hours, sometimes faster. The symptoms are: restlessness, feeling of suffocation, contraction of facial muscles (victim looks as if he is grinning), violent and distorting contractions followed by a period of rest, then an attack of even more violent contractions. The victim is conscious, in agony and unable to speak. Pulse is very high, and death occurs during a convulsion from paralysis of the respiratory system.
            3. Atropine -- (aka belladonna) In small doses it causes hallucinations. It has been used since ancient Greece. In larger doses it was one of the favorite poisons of would-be murderers in medieval Europe. The juice of only a few berries would be fatal. It can be absorbed through the skin as well as ingested. Symptoms are dry mouth and tongue, difficulty swallowing, flushed skin leading to rash on upper body, headache, giddiness, hallucinations, delirium, fast respiration and pulse, dilated pupils (most distinctive feature as the victim appears to have black eyes). Later there is paralysis, coma, and then death.
            4.  Cyanide -- Sodium cyanide is used in industrial chemicals and in mining. It has been used in mass murders, the 1980’s contamination of Tylenol capsules in the Chicago area being one of the most famous. It has been used in some domestic murders also. It causes death within minutes and is the fastest acting of all poisons. For this reason, it is the poison of suicide pills, such as the type carried by secret agents. It has also been used in executions. Cyanide (or Prussic Acid) interferes with the blood’s ability to absorb oxygen and has a faint smell of bitter almonds, though less than mystery writers indicate in their writings.
            5.  Thallium -- discovered in the 1860’s, it has been used in some domestic murders. In some countries it is used in rat poison, but it has been more widely used in assassinations. It is water soluble and tasteless. It takes several days for symptoms to develop and are generally attributed to other illnesses. This poison was used by Sadam Hussein and Russia’s KGB. Symptoms can easily be confused with the flu. The most distinctive symptom is hair loss.
            These five are only a few of the poisons out there. The list is long. A writer can be quite creative with these resources at their hands.

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

Create an Infographic

Infographics are a fun way to promote yourself and your brand. They come in various shapes and sizes and if you're confident in using presentation software like PowerPoint or Open Office, they are quite easy to make.

How to Create your Infographic

To create an infographic in PowerPoint, first select the size of slide on which you wish to work.

From the Design tab, click on Page Setup, first icon on the left of the toolbar and in the drop-down menu presented, choose your size. It can be slide size or as I have chosen for this example, an A4 page size, with portrait orientation.

Back on the Home tab, choose New Slide. You can use a layout with the title or as I have, select a blank slide.

The insert tab allows you to insert pictures, clip art, graphs, text which you can move by right clicking with your mouse to drag wherever you like on the slide.
I like playing with the rotation options –find rotate on the formatting tab. Choose options and you can watch your chosen picture or shape rotating as you increase or decrease the degrees in the selection box.

For this infographic, I inserted a bar chart--simply done by clicking on the chart option and filling in the figures you want to show, lots of book cover pictures from my computer, a logo, and a post-it note made from one of the shapes in the shape option--just love those curled edges. I then used the fill option to color the shape yellow.

Insert a text box into the shape and hey presto, you have a notelet. Again these can be expanded to fill the whole space if required.

Mini warning. Best rotate your shape into position before adding text. I had loads of upside down and sideways text before it dawned on me what I was doing wrong!

When happy, save your file as a jpeg and you can insert it into your website and promo material.

The finished slide.

 Anne Duguid is a senior content editor with MuseItUp Publishing and   her New Year's Resolution is to pass on helpful writing,editing and publishing tips at Slow and Steady Writers far more regularly than she managed in 2012.

What Are You Doing on Your Summer Vacation?

I recently returned from an out of town vacation and am trying to catch up. It’s been a busy month.

While on my trip, I conducted some research at a library and at an archive, studying local history.  I looked for inspiration while shopping too. I love going to antique stores. There are all kinds of interesting items that can spark a story idea. I took alot of notes throughout my visit, as I walked, ate and shopped. Site seeing also provided some ideas as I studied museum exhibits and marveled at the beauty of nature. I wish I could have stayed longer. I’m sure I would have found more inspiration. It all went by so fast and then it was time to return home.

I wanted to do more during the summer months so I found some additional writing opportunities.

In May, I signed up to do the “100 Days of Summer Writing Prompt Challenge” by Shannon Abercrombie, Each day, I receive an email with a writing prompt to complete. Some are more challenging for me than others and it can take awhile to put my thoughts together. As a whole, the exercises have been helpful. I was not able to keep up with it while on vacation (I don’t always use the internet when away from home), but I’m working on what I missed.

I also signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo, I haven’t been to camp since I was a child. As a 4-H’er, I attended camp for a week one long-ago summer. (I got homesick.)  For NaNoWriMo I will be in a “cabin” but I don’t know yet who I am “sharing” it with. Camp takes place during the month of July. I’ve got the hot dogs and the s’mores ready to go!

What are your writing plans for the summer? Will you be doing anything new or different? Will you finish a book or start a new one? The possibilities . . . .

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 working on her first children’s book

Increase Your Productivity with a Writing Challenge: WOW - Week of Writing Non-Fiction Picture Books

My critique group keeps me motivated.  We meet every other week and are expected to submit something (no matter how short) for review.  As summer rolls around, we're all ready for a break and take July and August off. 

This year, I feel the need to keep working.  I’m most productive when I have external structures built in to help push me along, so I’ve decided to participate in WOW.  From July 1st to July 7th WOW (Week of Writing) participants are challenged to write a new picture book manuscript every day.  Kristin Fulton, author and organizer of WOW challenges writers to spend one week in which they “perfect, hone and produce great Non-Fiction Picture Books. This includes True Non-Fiction (Biographies and Historical events as well as How-To books and information or reference books), Faction (Facts presented in a fictitious way), and of course Historical Fiction (totally fictitious story based on real people, real events or real places).”  The challenge has daily check-ins to help keep you writing.

I'm spending this week brainstorming, so I’ll be ready to roll…or write on July 1st. How about you?  Are you up for the challenge?  For more information about this challenge check out .   Let's WOW!

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach. For more information check out   or folllow her at:  

Positioning Mom

Over the past three months my geographically-challenged mind has received a fresh set of eyes. Actually three sets.

It is a family joke that Mom can get lost anywhere.

Only a couple of months ago, I wasted over an hour trying to negotiate my way between the slacks section of an average-sized clothing store and the fitting room. Each time I arrived at one point, I lost my bearings to return to the other.

When my family learned of my pending book tour, as well as an increasing number of speaking appointments, they decided the time had come to address the problem.

The first phase came the day after a major car accident. We were at our eldest son's home about four hours from our own. He set up a GPS on my cell phone. I learned the initials GPS stand for Global Positioning System. Satelites in outer space would track where I was in the grand scheme of things. He showed me how to insert my desired destination into the gadget and explained that it would not only tell me how to get there, it would also show me the way home. This, he felt, was becoming increasingly necessary.

I hasten to explain I do not, as far as I know, suffer from senile dementia or Alzheimer's. I simply switch off and don't pay attention to my surroundings. I have a husband who never gets lost—so why do I need to pay attention? Unfortunately, he isn't always with me.

The following day, my husband and I set out for our home town of Port Elizabeth. Eager to experiment with our new toy, we set the cell phone to tell us how to find our home address. Sure enough, a pleasant sounding lady spoke out from my phone, telling us to turn left at the next corner. From then on, she gave us clear directions.

Once we got over the spooky feeling of being tracked by 24 satellites, we enjoyed knowing that "someone" knew where we were along the lonely South African highway.

The first hitch came when we turned off the national road to take a short bathroom break and drink some coffee. Our cell phone lady took it in her stride, however, telling us that she was "Recalculating . . ." A few seconds later she said, "Turn left and then turn left." That would get us back on track.

When we arrived in Port Elizabeth, we made a slight detour via the police station to sign forms in connection with the accident. I shoved my cell phone into my purse and we walked into the offices. As a tall policeman came up to greet us at the counter, his eyes widened as a bored-sounding voice announced, "Make a U-turn—now!"

One of the problems with using a GPS on a cell phone!

As writers, do we really need a GPS?

  • As writers we often get asked to speak or to attend a book signing in an unknown location. If you're like me, it doesn't even help if you live in the town. If it's a few miles from home, you've had it. 
  • As writers, we're regarded as professionals. The last thing we want to do is arrive at our location an hour late because we got lost along the way—even if the host's directions were faulty, as once happened to me. (No, I wasn't an hour late, but that was no thanks to her wrong directions that had me touring the suburb before getting directions from a passerby at a shopping mall.)
  • If you come across road works and need to take a detour, you can end up completely lost. The beauty of having the GPS on your phone is that even when you didn't anticipate needing satellite navigation, you're likely to have your cell phone with you. If you're on your own, pull over and enter your destination into your phone system. Then get instructions before you get even more lost. (I know you wouldn't use your cell phone while driving.)
  • If you're traveling alone, you can't drive as well as juggle maps and possibly a flashlight. Then again, if you're travelling alone you don't want to rely on a GPS on a cell phone. Maybe investigate other options, and read next month's thoughts on the topic.

How about a GPS for our writing?

  • Always carry a small notebook. You never know when you're going to want to jot down phrases, descriptions, words or even ideas before they get lost in your ever-busy mind. The notebook, plus a pen or pencil, needs to be small enough to slip into a purse or pocket. Unlike the cell phone GPS, you need to transfer the information to whatever form of storage you prefer (journal, notebook, computer file, etc) as soon as you get home.
  • Every publication, genre, or publishing house has its own GPS: its very own guidelines. Follow the instructions closely if you want to be sure of arriving at your publishing destination. Otherwise your prize-winning article won't even reach the slush pile.
  • You may be in familiar territory and think you can manage without the guidelines. Keep them available, and check in from time to time. The beauty of a GPS is if you go off track, it will help you find your way back onto the correct route. The guidelines do the same. But you can waste a lot of time by driving / writing blindly without following instructions.
  • There will be other occasions when you'll need to use your own initiative and intuition. In The Office, Michael Scott drives his car into a lake, because he's determined to follow instructions. ( That's taking guidelines way too far.
I am grateful I now have a GPS on my cell phone. I haven't yet had to use it to find my way home from some obscure location, but I'm sure that's just a matter of time. Meanwhile, if you know of one I can use inside a department store, I sure would be grateful.

Please come back same time, same place, next month, and read Phase #2 in the GPS saga:"Driving Mom Right."

OVER TO YOU: Do you have a GPS on your cell phone? If so, do you love it, hate it, use it? If not, do you think it might be a good idea?

SHIRLEY CORDER lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and now that she has a GPS, she may even follow you back.

All Those Little Ideas

This last week I made the decision to "spring clean" my office, even though, in Arizona we are well into the summer already. Clutter be gone, I'd decided. Which meant it was an opportunity to review and organize everything. I always think this effort will take a few hours and then I open one drawer in my desk. We'll call it my idea drawer. It's where I keep the short stories I've written, but never rewritten, the snippets of conversations I've overheard at the store, the coffee shop or the park I've jotted down on receipts, napkins and envelopes. And suddenly, the moments turn to hours as I realize the wealth of  wonderful material I've squirreled away.

As a beginner, I remember experienced writers telling me not to throw any of my writing away. They told me to carry a notebook and pen and write down the ideas. Even after decades of writing stuff, I still have challenges remembering to write the thoughts down. I'm not always consistent. In fact, just the other day I came across an article in a journal. I read it in between some work I needed to get done. Now sitting here, I can't for the life of me remember what it was I'd read, and worse yet, what my amazing idea for a novel was.

Here are some tips to keeping and organizing your ideas:

1. Carry paper and pens, use the recorder in your phone, or find a really great electronic notebook to use to put your thoughts down.

2. Organize your thoughts into folders. Your files might be titled conversations, metaphors, and ideas for pieces.

3. Keep these files at your fingertips for ease of retrieval, whether it be in electronic format or paper.

4. Review whenever you find yourself stuck. You might not find what you are looking for, but you just might realize how creative you are and that might push you through.


D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.  

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at

You can also follower her at or on Facebook

What is a Sidebar?

by Suzanne Lieurance

Many new freelance writers are confused or intimated by sidebars. But that’s usually because they just don’t understand what a sidebar is and what its purpose is.

What Is a Sidebar?

A sidebar is nothing more than a separate companion piece to a main article in a magazine or newspaper. Usually, a sidebar is set in different typeface from the main article, to set it apart. It may be boxed off and appear at the beginning of the article, within the article, or at the end of the article. A lengthy main article can even include several sidebars, if necessary.

What Is the Purpose of a Sidebar?

A sidebar can be used for several reasons. First, a sidebar can be used to encourage the reader to read the more detailed main article. For example, a sidebar can be made that lists the major points of the main article or asks questions about information that will be given in the main article as a way to entice readers to read the entire main article.

A sidebar can also be used to provide additional information that relates to the main article but doesn’t quite “fit” in the article itself. For example, if you write an article about healthy eating, and the article includes recipes for a week’s worth of healthy meals, a sidebar could be created from a list of ingredients needed to make these meals. The sidebar would be, basically, a shopping list for the reader.

Other Reasons for Sidebars

A sidebar also serves to make the information in the main article easier and faster for the reader to read. To keep a main article from being too lengthy or too complicated, the writer might include one or more sidebars that give additional information without overwhelming the reader. Since the sidebars should make sense on their own, readers can learn a lot from reading ONLY the sidebars to an article. In fact, many readers do read just the sidebars.

Here are some tips for creating a sidebar.

• List additional resources that relate to your main article in a sidebar.

• Create a sidebar with quotes from experts on the topic or main idea of your featured article.

• Create a sidebar to explain procedures mentioned in your main article. An article about quick & easy foods to serve at parties might include a sidebar with the recipe for a quick & easy party dip, for example.

• Create a quiz. An article about healthy eating might include a sidebar quiz called How Healthy Do You Eat.

Editors LOVE sidebars because they can make featured articles more interesting, more detailed, and more helpful to readers.

Now that you know all about sidebars, be sure to include a sidebar idea with your next magazine query.

Suzanne Lieurance is a full time freelance writer, author, speaker, and writing coach. Get your free subscription to her Morning Nudge for writers now at

A 'Not to Miss' JV Opportunity: List Building

This is a special Joint Venture (JV) opportunity for those who want to build their health and wellness lists, and have the opportunity for prizes and more. I joined for my site Health Tips to a Healthier You list and already started getting new subscribers.

Here are the basic details:

Stephanie Mulac, Carolyn Hansen, and Joe Rubino just unleashed the flood gate on their Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Gifts 3 list building launch and it’s really worth joining.

Last year this FREE list building event averaged hundreds of new subscribers for their JV Partners... and it attracted a record 27,000 members!

For full detail and to join FREE: CLICK HERE

This is a no-brainer that has NO risk. This is one list building opportunity you shouldn't pass on if you have a health and wellness site.


Here's To Your Summer of Success!


P.S. I do NOT get an affiliate commission for sharing this with you or if you sign up. It's just a great opportunity and worth sharing.

If you haven't yet, please sign up for The Writing World newsletter (top right sidebar).


ACX Update and a n Tutorial

The last known activity on both books - State of Successes and Finally Home - was that the books were submitted as finalized by me on June 4.  The note you get from ACX is that they have to validate the books.  I searched the site, al the FAQs and every place I could think of to search for the answer to the question, how long does it take to validate and go live with projects?, to no avail.  I finally emailed support and was given the answer of it takes 10 to 20 days to validate.  Suffice it to say, the process can be longer on their part than on the author's part once all the edits and revisions are made. 

Overall, if you are planning on going the audio book route with any or all of your books, expect the process from finding a narrator to approving and validation by ACX to take up to 3 months or longer, depending on the length of the book, the amount of editing/revisions needed, and of course the time you have to dedicate to get the book out there in another format. 

I did email my narrator for the state book to let her know that I had posted on my blog about the books, et cetera and she did get back to me stating that she has told all her friends and family, a good many of them who are teachers, and the responses so far has been that everyone is anxiously awaiting hearing/reading the books in the series.  I've also posted in several places about the books going live soon.  I hope this will generate some interest and that the series will start picking up.

I will start the process for another state book once the first one goes live, so hopefully before the end of June, State of Wilderness will be on its way to the narrator and by end  of August or the first part of September should go live barring any complications on my end. 

I know once the books go live they will be available on,, and itunes.  Audible will set the retail price and the price will vary from all three depending on whether discounts are offered to members or if each site decides to price differently.  Remember that there is a good bit of work that goes into producing an audio book and that is why the price can be a lot more than print or ebooks.  The coolest thing about the audio books is that if you have a kindle (and this is true for all of them, not just the newer ones out) you can buy the ebook and the audio book and listen and read while the book is actually being narrated.  So for those of you who like both sensory stimuli, you can as long as the books are available in ebooks.  In the case of my state books, they are only available as print books and soon to be audio books for now.  Maybe when I get a sponsor or have more books out in the series, I will consider putting them up as ebooks.

How works: is a subscription service.  Basically, you sign up, start an account, pay the monthly fee (when I registered and started, my fee was $7.49 for the first 3 months and then will go up to $14.95 thereafter) and earn credits that are good towards the books available.  What I've seen so far in searching for various books in various genres is that no matter what the retail cost of the book you can get the books for 1 credit (which is basically your month's credit).  I picked up The Help which is an 18-hour+ recording for 1 credit while it retails for $26.60 and is available to members without credits for $18.62. As you can see, I got a $27 retail book for $7.49 or my 1 credit for the month of April. also runs specials like in April it was purchase qualifying books for $4.99 (I think you had to buy 4 during the 2-week period) and receive extra coupon monies (I don't remember what I purchased during that special deal but I have available to me 2 credits (May and June monthly member payments) as well as a $10.00 coupon.  I don't know if once my books go live that they will be automatically put in my library or if I have to "purchase" them or what, but once I know that, I will let you all know.

I hope my little bit of insight into the overall process of producing audio books has been helpful to all you authors out there who are thinking of going this route.  E :)

EARN TWO CHANCES FOR THE CROCHETED RED/WHITE/BLUE AFGHAN DRAWING:  For everyone who comments on this posting or any posting on either of my blogs (see below for links) between now and the end of June, you will receive 2 entries in the afghan drawing which will be done December 1, after all my events are completed for the year.  The chances normally sell for 2/$1 or buy a book and receive 5 chances, but I will put everyone's name who comments in the drawing.  Please make sure you provide me with an email address to be able to contact you for information on where to send your chances and/or afghan if you are the lucky winner.  Good luck to all.  E :)

Elysabeth Eldering
Author of Finally Home, a middle grade/YA myster
Elysabeth's Blog
Elysabeth's website

Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad (JGDS), 50-state, mystery, trivia series
Where will the adventure take you next?
JGDS blog
JGDS website

Guest Post: Sharing Your Life Story - Creating a Memoir

Memoirs: They’re Not Biographies by Dennis Milam Bensie

I just returned from the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans where I was a presenter. I, along with a couple of dozen other writers, was given the opportunity to do a ten minute reading from one of my published books (you were timed and honked if you went over ten minutes). 

This was a big weekend for me because I had never been to the three day festival, which took place at the famous Hotel Monteleone on Royal Street. The hotel was the perfect setting for a writing conference because it had been a hub of literary personalities. The literary guest list also included Tennessee Williams, WIlliam Faulkner, Ernest Hemmingway and more recently Ann Rice and John Grishman. Truman Capote claimed to have been born in the Hotel Monteleone (a fact that was disputed; his mother was merely pregnant with him while living in the hotel).

I write memoirs. Most of my short stories could be considered memoirs. One of the many panel discussions I attended at the festival was called From Life to the Page: Turning Memory Into Narrative. I took many personal notes during all the seminars last weekend, but the most important notes I took came from quotes I heard during this memoir driven class.

“...All memories are fiction.”

It’s true. Everything you remember is fiction because it is your unique perspective. Your memory of an event is as individual as a fingerprint. Truman Capote probably wasn’t intending to lie about the site of his birth. Is it too much of a stretch for the Capote to think he was born in the symbolic hotel? It’s a better image to think of him being born at the Monteleone, rather than in a nearby hospital. A writer of memoirs has permission to rethink the literal usage of the word “born”.

“...Worry about the truth. Not the facts.”

A memoir is not to be confused with a biography. Facts are sometime crucial but should not completely dictate the Art.

The two quotes I list completely resonate with me as a memoir writer. I am sometimes asked how I can write more than one memoir. It’s not that I have had a long life of travel and adventure. It’s tone, style and perspective on certain events that give birth to memoirs, not merely where I was and what I did on a certain day.

Another thing that was discussed in the memory discussion from Saints and Sinners was that sometimes the best writing can spring from the smallest of events. Its possible to write a wonderful memoir story from something as simple as watching your mother brush her hair or the neighbor child tying their shoe. It’s not always necessary to know what Mom’s hair or the kid’s really looked like in memoir writing. Save the facts for the biography.

I wrote my first memoir, SHORN: TOYS TO MEN more linear in style. Everything ties together without any breaks in the book’s theme. It’s approach to storytelling reads like a fictional novel. Not to say that it reads as untrue or false. I use an emotional tone to tell the story of growing up with abuse and mental illness. 

ONE GAY AMERICAN,  my second memoir, proved challenging. The book is a bunch of vignette’s about my life growing up gay in the USA. In a few passages I told the reader the same story from SHORN. But it was my job to write the overlapped stories in a different way for each book, despite the fact that the facts were the same. 

One of the biggest story overlaps in both of my memoirs surrounds my three year marriage when I was nineteen. I couldn’t just leave it out of the second book because I already wrote about it in the first. 

I spent a simple paragraph or two in SHORN talking about giving my wife a heirloom bride doll for our wedding. My approach in ONE GAY AMERICAN was to be more poetic or symbolic and concentrate on smaller details of the event. I got to elaborate and write more about what the doll meant. It turned out I was able to expand and turn the story of the bride doll into a whole vignette of it’s own in my second memoir using metaphors and other dramatic techniques that I didn’t bother with in the first book.

My biggest advice for someone who wants to write their memoir is to
find a great style of storytelling that suits your life and what you want to say. Try an experiment: 

Take one event or fact and write three treatments of the same story trying to make it as different as possible each of the three times. Don’t worry so much about the facts: worry more about what you want your reader to remember when they finish your story. A good memoir will stay with it’s reader a long time after the last page is read and inspire them to think and feel rather than teach them facts or information.

I happen to choose as my reading selection for the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival the haunting chapter from ONE GAY AMERICAN about the heirloom bride doll. I was impressed that all the memoirists that read from their books each had very different styles of telling their personal stories.

I wonder if Ernest Hemmingway or Tennessee Williams worked on or ever read their memoir at the Hotel Monteleone. The two author’s styles are, no doubt, very different. 

(Dennis Milam Bensie reading from ONE GAY AMERICAN at the Hotel Monteleone on Sunday, May 26, 2013)

About the Author: 
Dennis Milam Bensie grew up in Robinson, Illinois where his interest in the arts began in high school participating in various community theatre productions. Bensie’s first book,  Shorn: Toys to Men was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award, sponsored by the American Library Association. It was also a pick in the International gay magazine The Advocate as “One of the Best Overlooked Books of 2011″. The author’s short stories have been published by Bay Laurel, Everyday Fiction, and This Zine Will Change Your Lifeand he has also been a feature contributor for The Good Men Project. One Gay Americanis his second book with Coffeetown Press and it was chosen as a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards and the Indie Excellence Book Awards. He was a presenter at the 2013 Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans. Dennis lives in Seattle with his three dogs.

You can find out more about Dennis Milam Bensie, his memoirs and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

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