Friday, June 5, 2020

Breaking Old Reading Habits: Modern Classics for Genre Readers

Breaking Old Reading Habits: Ten Literary Works That Might Convince You to Love Literary  

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Multi award-winning writer of fiction, poetry and author of
the much-honored #HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers

Because I so often hear, "I don't read literary novels," or even, "What's a literary novel?" when I taught at UCLA Extension’s esteemed Writers’ Program or when I’m talking to clients or writers a conferences, I've compiled a list that I hope might convince those who think they hate literary to try reading them--at least every so often. Those of you who already love literary, will find at least one or two books that aren’t already in your library.

None of these books are real classics--the kind you may have detested in high school. You know, a little hard to read (though perhaps worth the trouble!) Most have been popular in relatively recent history and a couple are books that Oprah should have picked if she had been doing that when these books were released.

Why not give one or all a try?  Sandwich them in somewhere between the romance, crime, and psycho-stuff that we tend to keep on our nightstands.

Here goes:

"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee. This is one of my favorites of all time.

"A Painted House" by John Grisham. A recent favorite that few called "literary" but got blasted by Grisham’s fans anyway because, I think, they were all expecting his specialty, legal thrillers.

"The Chinchilla Farm" by Judith Freeman. It’s been around awhile but it one of the few good pieces of fiction set in Utah where I set my first novel.

"Dear Corpus Christi" by Eve Caram. This is a lovely little piece by my first writing teacher at UCLA. It deserves wider readership.

" A Child of Alcatraz" by Tara Ison who is relatively unknown because no one ever gives screenwriters much credit so very few are famous regardless of the fact that their talent or the lack thereof can make or break a movie. She has taught writing at UCLA and at Antioch University.

"The Sixteen Pleasures" by Robert Hellenga. Apart from an occasional lapse in drawing his female characters truly, this book, set in Florence during the Arno’s infamous destruction, is a winner.

"Angle of Repose" by Wallace Stegner. You can’t go wrong with this one or any other title written by this novelist and journalist.

"The Wedding" by Dorothy West. This was West's first and only novel because she didn’t get around to storytelling until she was in her last decade. She breaks rules and makes it work. She also makes us understand a portion of black history and black intolerance that many of us didn’t know existed.

"Travels with Charlie” by John Steinbeck is not fiction but it is literary. You might enjoy seeing nonfiction written with passion and style and artistry. Charlie was the last book Steinbeck wrote, the culmination of years of honing his craft.

"Dandelion Wine" by Ray Bradbury is a touching novel that will be loved by those who consider themselves science fiction fans. He is my ideal author of literary cross-genre.

"Dr. Zhivago" by Boris Pasternak. This book is worth the struggle required to sort out the Russian names. Hundreds of thousands of readers did it a few decades ago when we weren’t all so spoiled by authors who too often now cater to short attention spans and formulaic writing.

Okay.  So that's 11. I'll make it a baker’s dozen. 

“Anna Karinina” by Leo Tolstoy. This is a novel that holds up over the decades, especially for women (and men) who still suffer from gender prejudices.

And a little brag. My "This Is the Place" is no longer in print. I get no royalties so that fact  A review is always a lovely gift to give an author and it sure doesn’t get as many as any of those listed above. But, assuages my conscience a little to mention it. It is still available with Amazon’s new and used feature, usually for less than $1. Set in Utah and New York City, it's a little romantic, a little memoirish, a little historical, a little women's. They're all good categories but I prefer “a little literary.” If I didn’t include this book among my favorites, I wouldn’t be giving you the truest list possible. Maybe my next novel should examine the mirror image twins of false pride and false modesty as its premise. If you love it, feel free to review it on Amazon at

Readers' Tip: A nonfiction book, West of Kabul, East of New York, is much like the world’s best literature. The author is Tamin Ansary.  The publisher is Farrar, Straus and Giroux.



Carolyn Howard-Johnson is was named first Woman of the Year  in Arts and Entertainment by members of California’s legislature.  Rolf Gompertz, UCLA professor and Author of “Abraham, The Dreamer” says, “Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a magnificent writer.  Her book is a joy to read. It is a work of literary art.  It is an important book. It is a book that touches the heart, mind, and soul.” 

Learn more about her work at her new website,

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Monday, June 1, 2020

Your Book's Front Matter - Before the Story Begins

I get lots of questions from my clients as to what comes after the story is written.

While a lot of the questions are about illustrations, what’s been coming up more and more is about the pages that come before the story text begins. The pages before the story are called the front matter.

Just this week, someone asked me about a Dedication Page.

So, here is a list (in order of appearance) of the pages that will or may come before the first page of your story. Some examples are included.

1. Half title page – this is a page at the very beginning of the book that has ONLY the title of the book. It’s usually only used if pages are needed to thicken the book.

2. Frontispiece – this is a page that is an informative or decorative illustration that faces the book’s title page. It appears on the opposite page of the title page. This page is optional.

3. Title page – this is the page that lists the title, subtitle, author, and publisher. I may include the publisher’s location, year of publication, a description of the book, and either the cover illustration or other illustration.

4. Copyright page – this is the page that lists the copyright notice and the “All rights reserved” warning. It should also include the publisher’s name and address; printing details; the edition of the book; and the ISBN(s).

It may also include ordering information, your website URL, disclaimers, and the CIP Data Block from the Library of Congress.

In regard to the CIP Data Block, explains:

"The Library of Congress issues a CIP data block to you. It is not something you can create for yourself. However, if you’re a self-publisher, you are not even eligible to have a CIP data issued to you by the Library of Congress.

"You can, however, pay to have a P-CIP (Publisher’s Catalog-in-Publication) data block generated for you, if you truly desire. Having P-CIP data can make your book look more professional. It costs anywhere from $60-$100, and can be done by Quality Books, Inc. or" (1)

5. Dedication – this is a page that explains the author’s source of inspiration and/or who she is dedication the book to. It can be a single name or it can be a paragraph or two. This page is optional.

6. Epigraph – this is a page that includes a quotation, sentence, or poem. It can face the Table of Contents or the first page of the text.

I had ghosted a book series had an epigraph in each book.

Epigraphs can also be used at the beginning of chapters, on the same page the chapter begins or on a separate page opposite the beginning of each chapter.

According to

"An epigraph can serve different purposes such as it can be used as a summary, introduction, an example, or an association with some famous literary works, so as to draw comparison or to generate a specific context to be presented in the piece." (2)

This page is optional.

7. Contents Page, also known as the Table of Contents – this page lists each section and/or chapters within the book. It helps the reader navigate the book in longer works, like middle grade and young adult stories.

You would not use a Contents Page in a picture book.

8. Foreword – this page has a short piece written by someone other than the author. Its purpose is to introduce the author and the book. It most often includes the writer’s name and signature.

Usually, the writer of the foreword is noteworthy.

This page is optional.

9. Preface – this page is written by the author and usually tells about how and why the book came to be and the process. It may also include what the book is about and why you think it’s important. This page is optional.

10. Acknowledgments – this page lists the people or entities the author is grateful to for help in the creation of the book. This page is optional.

11. Introduction – this page discusses the purpose and goals of the book. This page is optional.

12. Prologue – this page sets the scene for the fiction story. It can include backstory and should be told in the protagonist’s voice. This page is optional.

13. Second half title – this page helps set off or end an extensive front matter. As the name implies, it’s identical to the first half title page and is added before the beginning of the story text. It is used when needed.

Other pages in the front matter that you may find in some books are: List of Figures and List of Tables. But, for the majority of authors self-publishing children’s books they aren’t needed.

I just want to note here that most of the front matter isn’t necessary until after the story is written. And, if you have a picture book, it won’t be needed until after the illustrations are done.

You’ll need it when you’re ready to get your book formatted to upload your book to sites like IngramSpark and Amazon KDP or when you’re ready to hand it over to a service to upload it for you.

That’s about it for the front matter of your book. The story itself is considered the ‘body of the book.’ I have an article on the 'back matter' of your book. I'll post it here next month.

Hope this is helpful in your self-publishing journey.


This book was originally published at:


Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and a working children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children. Check out the DIY Page!

And, check out Karen's new picture book: The Case of the Plastic Rings – The Adventures of Planetman


Being a Writer – Learn the Craft of Writing 

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Diversity in Writing - Is Research Enough?

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Help for Self-Published Authors

 Publishing takes lots of determination and a little luck, too.
Anyone who has read my February 2020 post knows that I had bad luck with a “vanity” publisher and closed my account. I’d been working with the publisher for two years. So, I suppose losing sleep only two nights fits. Two days isn’t that long for an author to think the world had come to an end. On the third day I began writing emails to my colleagues asking for advice. Immediately, I found the help I needed and haven’t looked back since.

First Concern: The Book Itself
In the throes of feeling like a swimmer lost at sea, I realized that I could quite possibly turn this experience of what seemed like an extreme case of bad luck—witnessed by the condolences I received from people who have been waiting for this book to be published for years—into a silver lining.

What better time to take advantage of a professional edit to get any kinks out of the book, if there were any. Ha! There were plenty. So, already I saw one big advantage of having my book cut loose from the publisher.

My professional editor: Chris Eboch, a prolific author and editor:

Kinks Out. What Next?
Viewing progress in stages, I thought the next feat would be to create a website that would shine. I had admired the website of an author who is in my Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators chapter, SCBWI-NM, Kit Rosewater. View Kit's website here:

I contacted Kit’s website designer, Danika Corrall, and the rest is history. It was great fun working with Danika. Fortunately, I already had artwork that had been created by the illustrator of my book, Tiffany Tutti. And I had created a website with the help of Karen Cioffi. Danika and I worked together to use what we already had and for her to create the look I wanted. She did a terrific job and was wonderful and fun to work with.

My website designer:
My website: 

Companies Willing and Able to Help
Now I was on my own. So, I turned to the self-publishing company I knew: KDP. Luckily, the files from my publishing company are my property and I have them all, front and back covers and interior illustrations. The first brick wall I encountered was not being able to use these files. I tried to fit the illustration files into the interior text pages. They didn’t fit! I needed a formatting company who could create the interior using my files.

My rescuer: Karen Cioffi, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Writers on the Move,
Children's Author, Ghostwriter, and Online Marketing Instructor.
How to get in touch with Karen:

Karen told me of two companies who could help: and

The team at Formatted Books has created files complete with the illustrations and front and back matter for the paperback and eBook. The team at 100 Covers has re-created the front and back covers and the spine. Both companies’ customer service is exceptional.

So, Who Will Publish My Book?
The book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, paperback/eBook, is not yet ready. But it will be soon. I’ve opened accounts with three self-publishing companies and as soon as the files are ready, I plan to get started:

Draft2Digital, a print-on-demand company, recommended to me by author and editor, Chris Eboch. D2D offers self-publishing with support. I’m very excited to begin working with this company. Any questions I’ve emailed to them have been answered immediately even though I haven’t sent them my files yet. D2D hosts a YouTube channel (among many other services they provide) that is chock-full of information.

IngramSpark, a print-on-demand self-publishing company that offers many benefits, including a large global reach.

Amazon’s KDP: From what I read it is a good idea to publish with KDP as well.

Since I haven’t started this last process of working with the self-publishing companies, I can’t speak to that. But I can tell you what I’ve learned so far.

ISBN Numbers: A Big Subject!
I spent an entire Friday evening studying what to do about obtaining an ISBN number for Secret in the Stars. Don’t worry, it was fun! KDP offers a free ISBN when you publish with them, however, author beware. From what I read this number is not transferable. In other words, KDP does not allow the number to be used with other publishing companies. So, I decided to purchase my own ISBN number, and went with the 10-number option, as these numbers never expire and can be used for different editions of your book, and for future books. Please note: ISBN numbers are not required for eBooks, and for books that will not be available in stores or libraries. Acquiring an ISBN number for your book is a study in itself. I opted to purchase my numbers from the ISBN source, Bowker.

While filling out my purchases with Bowker, I included with the ten ISBN numbers, one bar code, and one other item: a Book2Look Biblet. There are additional options you can purchase such as registration of a copyright, a QR code, and more.

Book2Look: Learning about this marketing tool was better than watching TV! I am very excited about creating my Biblet for Secret in the Stars. The caveat for me was that the children’s author who is featured on the YouTube video about Book2Look is Karen Inglis. I didn’t realize I knew her—she’s from England—until the Biblet for one of her books, The Secret Lake, was described. I have read that book and found it on my bookshelf. It truly is a small world!

Though the process for publishing my book took more time than if I had published with my original publisher, the time has been well spent. And it’s been a fun learning experience only to be matched, I would imagine, when my book is finally published!
Credit for introductory image:
Credit for the social media image: 100Covers
 Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 150 articles for adults and children, and several short stories for children. She has recently become editor of the New Mexico SCBWI chapter newsletter, and is working on several projects for children. Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, Linda's first book, will be out soon. Follow Linda on

Monday, May 25, 2020

Write It With Research

Write It With Research

We strengthen our writing by using descriptive details with specificity and authentic topics. Thus, we enter the zone of building our research and descriptive skills.

Observation skills are essential for every writer. Attentiveness leads to relatable writing.
Research assists observation gathering:

-Need to expand your topic with more details of interest?
-Lacking information for a particular project?
-Keep looking. Search books, magazines, articles and pose questions to a group of writers.
-Consistently qualify the sources you rely on.

Topical ideas can help guide your research and launch a story or essay:
1)    Current affairs compared to times and seasons of human history.
       a.    Transportation, information technology, art history
2)    Social issues to champion.
       a.    Children and music
       b.    Young and older exploring art through painting
3)    Present day hero’s—caring for others
       a.    A four-year-old boy that saves his Mom by dialing 911 for help
       b.    First Responders
4)    Unusual aspirations
       a.    A young girl dreams about auto racing and ultimately finds a way to do it
       b.    A hiker journeys the length of the Pacific Crest Trail

Have more Ideas? Please leave a comment.

Use life experiences?—add research:

    Can you pull a short period-of-time, like a move or relocation, or an event? Build on it by researching applicable situations of others.

•    Is the setting a place you have traveled or lived?

    Describe a scene in real time to bring your reader along for the ride, or use time-travel noting the differences of lighting, travel, rural or urban, and geography.

•    Is the scene at the shore of an ocean or lake resort? What are the sounds there? What did you buy for lunch, hot dogs smothered with chili? Describe how it tastes. Did you watch children chasing waves coming and going? Was it hot or rainy? How does the water feel? Slimy, muddy or clean?

Boost your descriptive writing with these elements:
•    Use detail to express areas of importance; big picture, specific purpose, or differentiation,
•    Use words that are vibrant, essential, and focused,
•    Use metaphors, similes, and comparisons to tell the story,
•    Use sense words to articulate a picture,
•    Stay on point and write with clarity and economy

Post links in this series—Descriptive Writing for Fiction and Non-Fiction:
1)    Make it Personable & Tangible:
2)    Make it Realistic:
3)    Make it with Specificity:

Deborah Lyn Stanley is an author of Creative Non-Fiction. She writes articles, essays and stories. She is passionate about caring for the mentally impaired through creative arts.
Visit her writer’s website at:  
Visit her caregiver’s website and read the Mom & Me memoir at:
Facebook: Deborah Lyn Stanley, Writer

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Breaking Old Reading Habits: Modern Classics for Genre Readers

Breaking Old Reading Habits: Ten Literary Works That Might Convince You to Love Literary   By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Multi award-w...