Friday, December 11, 2009

Writer, Kristie Bernard

As promised, here is Kristi Bernard, another winner of the VBT November anniversary tour. Kristi is a member of a number of groups to help her hone her craft; she decided to prepare a guest article about Autism for today’s feature.

But, let me have Kristi tell you a bit about herself first:

I love to write. I come from a very artistic family of musicians, artists and writers. Other hobbies include, painting, needlepoint, quilting and working with clay.

I graduated from Wichita State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, with minors in Education and Minority Studies.

I aspire to write picture books covering topics that feature historical people of color, and subjects on famous women to empower young girls.

To help me achieve my goal of becoming a better writer I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), the Association of Children's Authors and Illustrators of Color (ACAIC) the Children's Writers Coaching Club (CWCC), the Kansas City Writers Meetup Group, and I am currently enrolled in The Institute of Children's Literature.

Kristi, you’re certainly taking all the right steps to get yourself moving along the writer’s road to publication. I look forward to watching your progression at CWCC.

Now, for an interesting article about Autism from Kristi:

The Other Heroes

by
Kristi Bernard

Most of us know about Autism. In 2007 a study confirmed that one child in 150 is diagnosed with autism and more recent studies show that it is on the rise. The cause at this time is unknown, but there is much speculation. What is known is that studies suggest boys are more inclined to develop autism than girls; and the average age of diagnosis is 8 years. Hearing this diagnosis for a child can be devastating; and parents have a lot to endure once the particulars of their child's diagnosis is set forth. The costs involved could potentially cause financial ruin, but with research they will find that programs and financial aid are available to help.

But, what about the children? For them, their parents are their heroes. And, what happens when the parents aren't around, when these children are in school programs away from home? Who are those other heroes who step in to care for these children? Where do these heroes come from, and why do they give their time and effort to help implement the various programs?

There are select government programs available to help parents and children with autism find financial support and treatment. The objective of these programs is to educate and develop children so that some day they will be able to function and maintain a quality life for themselves. The state of Kansas requires that caregivers should hold at least a bachelors or masters in speech therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, applied behavioral sciences and social work programs. They are the other heroes. They look out for the children with autism. Being there for the kids is a labor of love.

In my search to learn why these individuals took it upon themselves to follow this path, I interviewed two of these heroes.

My first interview was with Charla. She is a pediatric occupational therapist who works with autistic children in need of physical therapy, in their homes. The programs offered by her organization are occupational therapy, speech therapy, physical therapy, special instruction (for those birth to 3), and behavioral therapy. Charla is married with two small girls whom she loves to play games with. She recognizes that autism is a growing issue affecting children and can greatly impact a family's life. Her desire is to help the child, along with the family, learn physical therapy techniques to improve movement.

Charla has a bachelor degree in psychology and a masters in occupational therapy, both included training with autism. In regards to her experiences with autistic children, she feels each child she encounters is an individual. She sees how differently autism has affected them and their lives. Most need work on social skills, sensory integration and motor skills. In her professional opinion, each child in unique and requires unique treatment. Some may have mild cases while others are more severe. The rewards for her personally are when she sees that a child has gained a new skill, and that the family is able to handle the situation. Charla feels the best advice for parents is to research and to enlist help from someone they trust. She feels that some of the options cost lots of money and are not always covered by insurance. In conclusion, Charla is very happy with her career choice.

For my second interview, I had an opportunity to speak with Elsie. She retired from the banking industry after 33 years of service. She took the initiative to go back to school and earned a degree in social work. She has been married for more than 35 years. She has 3 children and 4 grandchildren. I asked Elsie why she wanted to work with children who were autistic, she stated that she has always wanted to do it. Her career as a bank manager was great. After she retired, she decided to go back to school to earn a degree. She wanted to serve families and children with autism. She works in the local high school and loves what she does. Every day she encounters new successes with the kids. She looks forward to going in everyday to see them grow, change and become more independent. She is always ready and eager to answer questions the parents may have about their child's progress. She keeps informed of new funding that has become available, and any new services or programs. Her advice to parents is for them to get informed and connect with their doctors, state agencies, and their insurance carriers. She wants parents to be aware that having children with autism is costly, but the costs can be managed.

I was very excited that I had the opportunity to interview these ladies. In my opinion, they are the other heroes. They work with and for the kids. If I had a child with special needs, I would want to know that my child is safe and receiving the same love, respect and attention as if I were there. I would like to offer a special thanks to all of the other heroes who take the time to give and care for the children who need them.

Kristi, I agree that those who dedicate themselves to helping others, especially children and the elderly are heroes. Thank you for writing about such an important issue. Autism is definitely on the rise and I thank those heroes along with you who give of themselves and help make a difference in the lives of children with Autism and their families.

It has been a delight to host you today.



Till next time,



Karen Cioffi, Children's Writer


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Holiday Story: S'agapo, I love you


Every holiday season I like to post this short story of mine to give hope and a time of reflection to one and all. I hope you enjoy.





S'agapo...I love you
by Lea Schizas


The lights of the nursing room were unusually bright this Christmas Eve night. An outsider had visited Mrs. Sophia Adamopoulos earlier in the day. She brought a Greek dish, pastitsio, filling the halls with its aroma of cinnamon and pasta…a welcome change from the lingering odors of Lysol and urine.

The nurses greeted her, comforted her and explained the state her mother was in.

Armed with the latest update, Maria Adamopoulos stepped into her mother’s surroundings. Childhood memories hit her hard. The vision of her mother combing her beautiful long tresses and hugging her as she said, "Maria, s'agapo, I love you", enveloped her heart. Her mother cheering her at every track meet, making sure she was never late. Her mother’s laughter filling the house with joy as Maria practiced her words for Saturday's Greek school. All these images flashed before Maria as she faced the cold aberration she stepped into. No embroideries hung on the walls like in their family home. Mom's cassette player playing the cherished Greek songs she sang to, was missing, as well.

But the single picture that broke her heart was to see her mother sitting by the window, emptily staring, not outside at the panoramic garden view but at the empty walls within.

"Hello, momma." As Maria approached to hug her, Mrs. Adamopoulos flailed her arms in front of her, terrified.

"Who are you? Help me!"

The nurse ran in and immediately soothed her.

"Sophia, Sophia, calm down, you have a visitor. This is your daughter, Maria. She's come a long way to see you." Maria felt like running and shaking her mom to the present, to try and get her out of this Alzheimer stupor that gripped her.

Guilt rose in Maria. She thought I should never have listened to my brother. I should have stuck to my guns and brought mom back to Greece. Her brother had stopped visiting. He told Maria mom doesn’t recognize me, so why bother. Maria was here to bring her mother back home.

Sophia stared at Maria as if trying to bring about a memory forever lost in this mind disease. The nurse left them alone once more.

Slowly, Maria again approached her mother. "Look, ma, I made your favorite dish." She gently lifted the tinfoil and let her mother take a look.

"Maria?"

"Yes, momma. It's Maria."

Tears flowed down Sophia's cheeks. "Where is my memory when I really need it," she cried.

That night the dim lights magically lit brightly as if Sophia's memory and those dim lights were one.

Maria had entered her mom's hospital room as a stranger, but for one magical moment her mother embraced her like she used to, a long time ago, whispering the words Maria needed to hear once again.

"S'agapo, Maria. I love you."


I'd like to wish everyone a joyous and safe holiday season.
Lea Schizas

Monday, December 7, 2009

Author, Joylene Butler

In November, we had our 1 year anniversary tour. Each day there were daily prizes and we had a number of winners. One of the choices the winners had was to choose a book or a guest spot right here on the VBT site. Joylene Butler was a winner and chose a guest spot. It’s my pleasure to bring Joylene and her book to you.

A Little About Joylene Butler:

Joylene was born in Manitoba, grew up in Haney (Maple Ridge), and raised their five sons in Pr. George, BC. She and her husband built a cottage on Cluculz Lake in 1992. The jury is out whether they'll retire there or not. Canada is a beautiful place and they could end up anywhere. Which is good because life should be an adventure. Joylene's second novel Broken But Not Dead will be released by Theytus Books in 2011

Wow, a cottage on a lake sounds wonderful!

Please tell us a little more about you and your writing journey.

When I was 8, my mother gave me a diary for my birthday. I didn’t have anything very interesting to write about, but I remember the joy I felt while filling it. As I grew older I looked for journal with more space because I wanted to prolong the experience. By the time I reached high school, I realized that writing made me feel alive. I entered the University at Simon Fraser with the goal of obtaining a teacher’s degree and passing along that joy to my students. It never occurred to me that I should write. It wasn’t until my dad died that I finally did. And that was only because I thought by writing a fictional story of his life I could make him live forever.

That first book Always Father’s Child, immediately shelved, took 7 years to write, and turned out to be a learning tool and catalyst. As soon as I typed “the end”, I started work on Dead Witness.

It’s so interesting how and why writers decide to jump into writing, or are driven to do so.

Now for a little Q and A

Why this book? What prompted you to write it and what do you hope your readers will get out of it?

One day, my brother (he’s a PI) was on the phone talking to one of his employees, when this question popped into my mind: If I disappeared and was presumed dead, would he investigate. Dead Witness grew from there. Honestly, I was such a new writer that I didn’t give much thought to my readers. It was only through years of rewrites that I finally hoped whoever they might be, they’d connect with Valerie and relate to how much love and pain is involved in loving a child.

Tell us a bit about your protagonists, Valerie McCormick and Mike Canaday, and how they came about.

Valerie showed up in my mind as a young Cheryl Ladd, completely in love with her children to the point that she had lost sight of who she was as a person. Not until she’s taken from her family in Canada and made to live as a single woman in the States is she forced to stand up and be accountable for her own life.

Mike Canaday is a VN vet, FBI, divorced and someone who grew up in the system. He’s alone because he doesn’t trust anyone. Because he has few friends and no family, taking Valerie from hers and faking her death is easy for him. All that matters is finding the killer. But it’s through Valerie that he learns what really matters in life.

Please share with our readers a little about the plot, the characters, the setting, of your novel.

Valerie lives in central BC, Canada with her husband and 3 girls. She wins a free trip to Seattle through a writing contest. While there she witnesses the execution of two FBI agents by a Canadian-born drug lord from Colombia. When the FBI uncovers the Mafia’s plot to kill her, they work with the Canadians to fake her death. Canaday flies her to the States, then later is in charge of her WPP; all this while hunting for the killer.

Meanwhile, Valerie’s brother doesn’t believe she’s dead and he starts his own investigation. This alerts the Colombian Mafia and they set up surveillance on him and Valerie’s family. Slowly, Valerie rebels, until finally she takes back control of her life and goes after the killer herself. Besides, Seattle, the story takes place in Nevada, Baja, Berkeley and Pr. George, BC.

Please describe the greatest challenge you faced in writing this book, why it was difficult, and how you resolved it.

Three months into writing Dead Witness we experienced a great loss. I couldn’t write for 6 months. I remember wondering if I ever could again. In the end, I returned to the manuscript and it became a therapeutic tool. I used Valerie’s situation as an outlet for my own range of emotions.

How much and/or what kind of research went into writing this book?

I was lucky because I didn’t know what I could or could not do when I first started writing Dead Witness. When I returned to the ms, I approached anyone who would listen. I talked to lawyers, police, and investigators, and asked question after question. I did a lot of research on line. I even called the FBI in Seattle; they were a big help. I also bugged the heck out of my brother. In total I probably did three months of research.

What do you find the most difficult part of writing in general and what do you do to overcome it?

Good question. I wish I could say there is nothing difficult about writing any more. I mean, remember those early days? The fear in the pit of your stomach that you knew there was something you were missing, but you just weren’t sure what it was? Who would want to go back there? I see it in the faces of new writers, and I’m so relieved that I have confidence now. I can say without hesitation: I am a writer. But writing is still work. I struggle to get the sentences just right. When that’s harder than normal, I walk away from my computer and sit somewhere quiet. Then I run the story through my mind like a video. I close my eyes and get as close to the scene as I can … until I’m there. Then I return to the computer and start writing.

How do you balance your time to make time for writing?

I treat it like a job. I’m up at 6 AM and on the computer by 6:25. I work until breakfast. Yes, My DH makes breakfast every morning. I’m back at it by 7:30, then I work all day until lunch. I stop periodically, see to grandma, throw in a load of wash, or vacuum. Moving around like that helps my back. There’s no rhyme or reason to what I do, other than to share my time between editing, revising, blogging, reading, commenting, critiquing and taking care of my family. I turn the computer off by 6:30 PM, then spend the rest of the evening with my DH and grandma.

What impact would you say completing Dead Witness has had on you personally and on your writing?

It changed my life. I finally understood why I was here and what I was supposed to do. In the early years before I was published, I thought being published would answer all my prayers and make sense of my life. Now that I am published, I realize that nothing but me can do that. Being published or not being published isn’t what it’s about. The secret is in the writing. The simple joy of it.

Who has been the greatest influence on you with respect to encouraging you to write and become a published author?

Besides, my family, my best friend Judith Geib and my dear online buddy Keith Pyeatt have been encouraging and believing in me for many years. I can’t imagine pushing myself as hard as I had to without them cheering me on. Writing is a lonely solitary experience and I’m very fortunate to have such forces of nature.

With respect to your writing, please give us some insight into your writing process. In other words, did you outline the chapters? Did you think about the plot for a while before writing it? What steps did you take before you wrote the first sentence?

My protagonist comes to me. I know they have a problem, but it’s sometimes weeks before it made clear what that is. . It can begin with just the protagonist wandering about, doing every day things, but quickly her or his goal is made clear. The only reoccurring characteristic right up front is they’re all sad.

What are you working on now? What's next?

My current WIP is called Dead Wrong. It’s the story of Jason Sinclair and his estranged daughter Ava. Before Jason can have any peace, he believes he must find out why his wife, Bridget was deliberately run over. Ava blames her dad for not saving her mother. Together they’re on a journey of self-discovery, one in the past and one of them in the present.

Any words of wisdom and advice to aspiring writers?

Although the Internet is an addictive and habit-forming place, concentrate on your writing. Leave the networking for after you find your publisher. Write, write, write. And when you’re not writing read. Learn everything you can possibly learn about the art of writing effectively. Think of it like driving a vehicle: if you’re not absolutely capable, if you don’t practice every minute you can before you head out on the road, you’re in for a possibly serious altercation.

Thanks for sharing with us, Joylene. I completely agree that it’s important to make time for writing. The internet, emails, groups, social networking, and research can be so time consuming; every writer needs to be sure to pay attention to the amount of time being spent on it.



Format: Trade Paperback
Publisher: Joylene Nowell
ISBN - 10:0981030505
ISBN - 13:9780981030500

Other Books by Joylene Butler:

Broken But Not Dead set to be released by Theytus Books 2011
"Man's heart away from nature becomes hard." Standing Bear

To learn more about Joylene go to:


Joylene, it has been a pleasure featuring you on VBT - Writers on the Move. Your books sound great and I wish you much success. 



Karen Cioffi, Children's Ghostwriter







Friday, November 13, 2009

Avoid Negativity

Yesterday I blogged about No Sugar-coating. Today I want to discuss something personal that you may connect with in your own lives: dealing with negativity.

Everyone gets bogged down at some point in their lives with negative energy from others. Whether it's put downs, 'smarter than thou' attitudes, it doesn't matter. It happens to all of us and actually to be totally honest with you I had a spell this summer where I almost tossed my writer's pen in the can and was about to email and say the muse conference was not going to happen ever again. I was in so much stress, had so many writers emailing me with nasty remarks about the conference I sat down, cried, and asked myself why I bothered spending so much time when it wasn't even appreciated...and it's free to boot!

A few days later I remembered why I bothered with one particular email from a lady who is disabled who wrote me to say how much she was looking forward to the conference because it's the only one she can attend not only because she's disabled but one she can afford. That was my turning point where I realized those who don't get what I'm trying to do don't deserve the time of day from me.

So don't allow negativity to ruin your writing passion the way I almost did. Only one other writer knew what I was about to do and she emailed me several times to see how I was doing. So telling others how you feel at times is the best thing a writer can do. Wish I could have done that and avoided the stress and close to a nervous breakdown this summer.

Even though I try 99% of the time to avoid any negativity to enter my life, it's that 1% that does manage to enter your bloodstream and cause a 'bad' ripple effect to your Muse.

For those curious what emails I was getting:

1- Why don't you have the conference all year round. I think you're being unfair to writers.

2- I'm not registering because I know I'm going to get what I paid for.

3- You say you're doing this for writers as I've heard so many blogging lately but I'm sure you're lining your pockets with dough.

4- Why do you offer so many workshops? You're really giving me a headache. I can't choose and I think next time you should only offer maybe ten.

Are these disgruntled writers? Whatever they are I can assure you they are out of my system and I'm back to my old self. This post was simply offered to let you know that many of us might seem as though we are untouchable but that's not so.

So avoid negative energy and always look toward the positive as much as possible.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No Sugar-coating

I want my book on a bookshelf. That’s great, however, is your book finished? Is it contracted? Are you prepared to work your butt off to get it on a bookshelf with tons of legwork? No? Hmm…not going to happen then.

But before you get your tutu all wrinkled with worry there are other things to consider, like:

What’s your genre? Have a clue?
Who’s your target audience?
Have a particular publisher in mind? Checked their published books? Their guidelines?

Have you read several books in the genre you’re writing? Studied famous authors? Picked up on what makes their books tick?

Have you prepared your ‘pitch’ in case you are ever stuck in an elevator with a publisher or that agent you are hoping to get a contract with?

Have you prepared your query and synopsis?

Now comes the biggie: have you fully fleshed out your characters, plot, and edited to the hilt?

Answer all of the questions above and perhaps you are now ready to submit.

The next step in a writer’s life is patience. When you send out your manuscript don’t twiddle your thumbs or wait around. Begin your next writing project.

One thing before I wrap up – be patient when you do get a contract. Some publishing houses don’t release until a year, even two years, down the line. That’s why I wrote begin your next project asap because once a book is contracted comes the other fun…marketing and promotion. Tons of legwork but necessary steps in order to get the buzz about you and your book out to the general public.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Julie and Julia


Yesterday my wife and I went to see a matinee. The kids were in school and we had a few hours before we had to pick them up. The only two movies we could see during this time slot was The Informant and Julia and Julia. Guess which one my wife selected?

My mind immediately fast-forwarded three hours later when I would write on Facebook, "Just came home from watching Julie and Julie with wifey. Next time, I'M picking the movie."

But lo and behold, a funny thing happened on the way to the movies. Julie and Julie turned out to be a pretty darn good show. I really liked it. Two things captured my attention.

First, I can appreciate Julia Child's roller-coaster ride from being an obscure yet normal and talented-laden 37 year-old individual to publishing a best-selling book. She had a love and a passion for cooking food. She wanted to cook good food for her husband, Paul. Then, she decided to write a book about French cooking for American. Six years she endured the ups and downs, the rejection, the frustration, and the crazy unforeseen events that accompany writing and publishing a book. But the day arrived when a publisher said that word each one of us wants to hear, "YES."

Second, I can relate to Julie being an average person but having a dream and thinking big thoughts. Julie wanted to cook 524 of Julia Child's recipes in 364 days in one very tiny and crowded kitchen. She started a blog to recorded her journey and share it with the rest of the world.

In the movie, after some time, she finally had a comment. She was so excited to open and read it. But it was from her mom. Hilarious. Fast forward to the end of her journey and Julie was receiving countless hits, interviewed in the New York Times, and eventually wrote and published her own book.

This movie has inspired me, given me the motivation to move forward with big, big, big thoughts. Like you, I have had many successes and numerous challenges on this journey of writing and publishing a book. I thank my wife for dragging me to see this movie. I feel rejuvenated and ready to go.

Question Posed: What events have inspired you to move forward in the face of adversity? Please share with us as we can all benefit from examples from other writers and their words of encouragement.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials

The October VBT - Writers on the Move Viewpoint

This month the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) updated their Guide concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising, including bloggers. This update has a number of writers, specifically book reviewers, a little concerned.

When I first heard of it I thought it was a means of the government reaching out to create havoc with online reviewers and the books they receive in their work. Any product a reviewer receives must be disclosed along with the review. As compensation was mentioned, I figured it wouldn’t be long before the government decided reviewers needed to list the review books or products as income.

After reading the FTC’s 12 page document, I think I had it wrong. I have no problem with a reviewer having to disclose the source of his or her review product. Receiving a product to review does not ensure the reviewer will give a good review. And, I’m not sure the FTC is concerned with book reviews.

Here is the FTC’s Press Release pertaining to the changes. What do you think about it?

FTC Publishes Final Guides Governing Endorsements, Testimonials
Changes Affect Testimonial Advertisements, Bloggers, Celebrity Endorsements

http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm
October 5, 2009

The Federal Trade Commission today announced that it has approved final revisions to the guidance it gives to advertisers on how to keep their endorsement and testimonial ads in line with the FTC Act.

The notice incorporates several changes to the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising, which address endorsements by consumers, experts, organizations, and celebrities, as well as the disclosure of important connections between advertisers and endorsers. The Guides were last updated in 1980.

Under the revised Guides, advertisements that feature a consumer and convey his or her experience with a product or service as typical when that is not the case will be required to clearly disclose the results that consumers can generally expect. In contrast to the 1980 version of the Guides – which allowed advertisers to describe unusual results in a testimonial as long as they included a disclaimer such as “results not typical” – the revised Guides no longer contain this safe harbor.

The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers. The revised Guides specify that while decisions will be reached on a case-by-case basis, the post of a blogger who receives cash or in-kind payment to review a product is considered an endorsement. Thus, bloggers who make an endorsement must disclose the material connections they share with the seller of the product or service. Likewise, if a company refers in an advertisement to the findings of a research organization that conducted research sponsored by the company, the advertisement must disclose the connection between the advertiser and the research organization. And a paid endorsement – like any other advertisement – is deceptive if it makes false or misleading claims.

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised Guides. While the 1980 Guides did not explicitly state that endorsers as well as advertisers could be liable under the FTC Act for statements they make in an endorsement, the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement – or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

The Guides are administrative interpretations of the law intended to help advertisers comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act; they are not binding law themselves. In any law enforcement action challenging the allegedly deceptive use of testimonials or endorsements, the Commission would have the burden of proving that the challenged conduct violates the FTC Act.

The Commission vote approving issuance of the Federal Register notice detailing the changes was 4-0. The notice will be published in the Federal Register shortly, and is available now on the FTC’s Web site as a link to this press release. Copies also are available from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,700 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

MEDIA CONTACT:
Betsy Lordan
Office of Public Affairs
202-326-3707

STAFF CONTACT:
Richard Cleland
Bureau of Consumer Protection
202-326-3088

You can read about the changes in the document itself at:
http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf

We'd love to hear what you have to say about this. Speak your peace!

Karen

Carolyn Howard-Johnson Shares How to Make Reviews into Marketing Workhorses

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