April 22, 2018

Recharge Your Writing Battery: 
Pay Attention to the Squirrels 

Children's Writer's World warmly welcome a post 

by children's writer Regina Montana

Believe it or not, squirrels can provide an introduction to your publisher and mentor.  I know because a poem about a squirrel helped me gain entrance to the wonderful world of Kids Imagination Train, our online magazine.  I owe my squirrel a debt of gratitude.  

Here is his story.  During a class picnic at Congress Park in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. about five ago, my husband and I decided to help our daughter with the school outing for her third-grade class. At one point, an unsuspecting boy decided to put his ice cream cone on the ground by a tree to join a baseball game that had just started up. All of a sudden, I noticed a squirrel scamper down the tree, grab the ice cream cone and high tail it back up the tree to enjoy the treat of his life. I quickly reached for my phone just in time to take a picture. 

Over time, I knew there had to be some kind of story, or even a poem about my squirrel.  And so “A Squirrel’s Lucky Day” was written and accepted.  I believe there are so many “squirrel” stories all around us if we remain open to them and pay attention.  Mother Nature is always ready and willing to provide ample material when we look and listen for what she has to offer. Just like our phones need charging, we writers must also recharge our batteries. 

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron recommends going on an artist’s date weekly in order to “replenish our inner well of images and inspiration.” Taking a solitary walk outdoors might provide the perfect opportunity to feed one’s soul and become inspired and who knows, you might even encounter a squirrel performing an amazing feat. 

Regina Montana is the Promotion Manager for Kid's Imagination Train ezine.   She has a Master of Education Degree and has tutored and taught privately.  Regina contributes pieces to KIT, is a member of SCBWI and subscribes to Children's Book Insider, where she enjoys taking webinars on writing picture books.  She has been on the journey of writing children's picture book stories for approximately eight years. 

You can visit Regina's website: www.reginamontana.wordpress.com

April 15, 2018

12 Ways to Have a Fabulous Career Day Presentation 



Last spring, I was invited to the School of Creative and Performing Arts in Lexington, Kentucky for a Career Day school visit.  My goal was to tell students what it's like to be a writer. 


As giggling students entered, I asked them to have a seat and scoot closer so that we could interact better. Then we discussed education paths, salaries, a daily routine, how to get published, and the pros and cons of being a writer. 

The session ended with a question and answer period.  The students had been prepared and asked thoughtful questions.  They really wanted to understand the writer's life. 

I had fun meeting these young writers. I hope you will consider doing a school visit, too.  Here are some ways to guarantee your Career Day presentation will be a hit.  
  • Communicate with the career day coordinator beforehand about when to arrive at school.  Find out how many students will be in each session.  Find out how long each session lasts.
  • During your presentation, keep an eye on the time.
  • Allow a few minutes for students to ask questions at the end of the presentation.
  • If students don’t have any questions, ask them questions.  For example, ask them what they like to write.
  • When students ask a question, tell them that’s a great question before you answer it.
  • Jazz up your table. Bring writing books, a fancy fountain pen, framed writing quotes, pictures of your writing space. Make your presentation inviting and interesting.
  • Invite students to scoot chairs close to your presentation table. 
  • If students prefer to sit to the side, be sure to address them as well as the students sitting in front.
  • Keep note cards of your presentation handy in case you need to glance at them.   
  • Be aware that the school intercom may interrupt.  (This happened two times during each session for me)
  • Have something on the desk that is interactive and will make students curious.  I had a box with a card on it that read: What’s the secret to getting published?  When they opened it, they found the answer: be unique and never give up. (Their faces lit up when they read that)
  • Thank the students for coming and give them your business card to contact you if they have more questions or hand them a bookmark. 



April 1, 2018

10 Tips on Handling Disgruntled Workshop Participant 

Last year, I gave a workshop at the Carnegie Center for Literacy in Lexington, Kentucky on publishing with a small press. The turnout was great and the group was attentive and eager to learn.  

Throughout the lecture, most people asked thoughtful questions—with the exception of one individual.  His comments were unnerving.  He put me on the spot.  He challenged and put down my ideas and recommendations.  

I had never experienced anything like this in other workshops I had given or at workshops I had attended.  It was shocking to me that anyone could be so bold.  Luckily, my thoughts were on the lecture, delivering important information and sticking to the schedule, so his rude behavior did not distract me too much. 

Most people who attend workshops are eager to learn.  But sometimes, there's an individual who is provocative.  Here are some tips in handling a disgruntled participant:

  • Be aware that not everyone is going to like you or your workshop.
  • Be aware that an argumentative participant may be present.
  • Take note that your expertise may be challenged.
  • Don't argue. 
  • Take a drink of water to calm your nerves and to gather your thoughts.
  • Listen and be polite.
  • Give a short reply and move on.
  • Defer comments to the end of the presentation.
  • Thank everyone for coming.
  • Take solace in knowing the majority are present to learn, not challenge. 

Don't let a bad experience keep you from giving workshops.  Presenting valuable information is a win-win situation because you can teach other writers and it allows them to get to know you and your work.  Consider presenting a workshop to build your writer's platform.

I'd ♥ to hear from you.  Be sure to leave a comment.




March 15, 2018


8 Topics and 10 Tips on Presenting  a Workshop 

If you are a published writer or an aspiring writer, you should think about presenting a workshop.  Giving a workshop benefits other writers and helps to introduce yourself to the public.  Workshops can be held at a local library, a literacy center, bookstores and even gifts shops and local restaurants.

So...you have some excuses.  You say you're too shy and you have nothing to talk about.  If you talk about a topic you feel passionate about, you will feel comfortable giving a workshop.  And it you're stuck for ideas, then here are a few topics worth presenting:

  • How to get published: traditional presses versus small presses
  • How to write a picture book
  • How to build an author platform 
  • How to give a school presentation
  • How to get published in children's magazines
  • How to develop a website or a blog
  • How to query agents
  • How to edit and proofread your work

Tips on presenting a workshop:
  • Practice beforehand and time yourself
  • Practice using inflections as you speak (avoid flat monotone speaking)
  • Look in a mirror as your practice
  • Start the workshop with a brief intro which includes your credentials
  • Start the workshop by asking participant's experiences and goals
  • Begin with a personal anecdote
  • Have visuals
  • Bring water 
  • Get the participants involved by asking them questions or their opinions
  • Handout a list of resources the participants can use at home
Presenting a lecture builds your platform. And building a platform should ideally begin before your book is published.  Believe me, you will be plenty busy trying to market you book when it is released, so if you can present workshops as well as get on social media, create a blog and develop website beforehand, you won't be as frantic.  Presenting a workshop is a smart and easy way to begin to develop your platform.  It is a perfect stepping stone for people to get to know you. 










March 1, 2018


How to Use Pinterest to Market a Book

I never realized how difficult it would be to market my book Maggie and the Summer Vacation Show-and-Tell.  It's been promoted in bookstores and on Facebook and Twitter. Sales at bookstores were reasonable, but the online strategy wasn't working. 

A writer friend suggested that I look into Pinterest.  I couldn't understand how this platform could be beneficial. Reluctantly, I opened an account and found that in just a few months, Pinterest worked very well in promoting a book. 

Why?  With Pinterest, you have the opportunity to create marketing pins that will attract people who will repin your pins to their boards. This process keeps multiplying and results in having your pins seen by thousands of people.  

I spent hours and hours researching how to use Pinterest.  That does not make me an expert, but I have learned a thing or two.  The following tips may help you promote your book.
  • Follow at least 5 people a day and pin at least 5 pins a day
  • Sign up for Pinpinterest for a trial period and get more followers
  • Sign up for Tailwind for a trial period and let it help schedule your pins at peak times
  • Pin with take away value in mind
  • Create a Pinterest board with tips from your blog  
  • Link your pins to your blog and website
  • Study other pinner's boards to get ideas on the use of color and graphics  
  • Use key words in board descriptions
  • Join group boards (this requires you to send an email request)
  • Create a pin of an illustration from your book that evokes emotion 
  • Make sure your graphics have a font size of least 20 
  • Use an attractive cover for your Pinterest boards
  • Pin pages from your book with a link to Amazon
  • Upload photos from your book signing
  • Upload photos of people reading your book
  • Create an inspirational quote with an image of your main character 
  • Create a board that ties into the theme of your book
  • Take a picture of your book with a cute pet, upload it and pin to a board
  • See which of your pins get the most impressions, clicks and saves and develop similar pins  
  • Use the analytics page to find out about your followers interests and create pins that address those interests 
After joining Pinterest and Pinpinterest, I have lots more pageviews and visitors to my website www.randilynnmrvos.com and blogs 
The Maggie Project www.themaggieproject.blogspot.com and 
Children's Writer's World www.childrenswritersworld.blogspot.com 

One of the drawbacks to Pinterest is it requires time to figure out and develop pins which will inspire people to repin them.  But when you get the hang of it, pinning will get easier and faster.  So, what are you waiting for?  Give Pinterest a try.  See how well it will help you spread the word about your blog, your website, and your book. 



I'd ♥ to hear from you.  Be sure to leave a comment.

February 15, 2018

12 Ways to Avoid Rejection

Why was your children’s story (the one you loved and slaved over) rejected by a magazine editor? Maybe the editor wrote:  it's not right for us or I'll have to pass. These replies make matters worse because you have no clue as to what (if anything) was wrong with your work and you don't have any idea how to revise it. 


But here are some tips to help you avoid rejection:
  • Create a main character that the audience cares about and can connect with.
  • Create a true conflict that pulls at the heart of the main character.
  • Place the conflict early on in the story.
  • Establish a good flow (no stumbling over words when read out loud).
  • Have the main character solve the problem.
  • Close with a satisfying ending that is not predictable.
 And a few more tips:
  • Give your story a unique plot.
  • Make sure your story is not preachy.
  • Shy away from scary when writing for younger kids.
  • Keep the vocabulary at the grade level of the intended audience. 
  • Check for spelling and grammar.   
  • Aim to stay within the expected word count. 

Judging a story is subjective and there can be many reasons why an editor rejects fiction.  Some things are out of your control.  Maybe the editor has published or has a similar piece on hand.  Maybe she has a particular vision for what she likes to publish and thinks your story wasn’t a good fit for the magazine’s audience.  Or maybe, she was just feeling grouchy and rejected everything that came her way that day.  Who knows? 

So read over the tips again.  Did you find the reason for your rejection?  If so, revise your work.  But, if your story passes the check list, then simply submit it again to another publication.  What are you waiting for?  You love your story. Find out if a different editor will love it, too.   

I'd ♥ to hear from you.  Be sure to leave a comment.

February 1, 2018

Going from Magazine Story to Picture Book


When I work with writers, some tell me that they want to take their published magazine story and submit it to a book publisher.  To accomplish that, they think all they need to do is to cut words.  In truth, a magazine story needs to be re-thought and revised if the writer envisions it as a book.

Both picture books and magazine stories center around a theme and have takeaway value.  They have engaging plots, strong characterization, a specific setting, and lively language.  

However, when it comes to magazine stories, there can be more character and setting description and more conversational dialogue.  In addition, magazine stories can be understood without illustrations and usually cover one scene.

For picture books, the focus is on one character, his want, and the conflict that results.  Writers must consider pace and page turns.  Less description is needed because the details are expressed through illustration.  Everything is about word choice—word play, rhythm, things like alliteration, and metaphor because picture books are generally 500 words.  Dialogue is shorter and snappier.  

A short story is usually read just once.   A picture book resonates with kids, parents, and teachers and is meant to be read again and again.  

I'm all for those who want to pursue writing a book based on a magazine story.  Writers can use the same protagonist, setting and conflict, but the story has to be told more succinctly as a picture book.  It takes time, patience, and dedication to make that transition.  It takes reading books on the craft of writing and studying published picture books to understand what is required of the genre.  Because going from story to book takes a lot more than just cutting words.  


January 15, 2018

Advice on Planning an Author Event

Last fall, a new book store opened in my hometown, Lexington, Kentucky.  I went to the grand opening and was totally impressed.  Brier Books is located in a convenient area close to downtown.  When you go inside, you feel like you've found a special place for books.  The interior is warm and bright and the layout of the building invites you from room to room.

At the grand opening, the co-owner and I chatted about the possibility of having an author event.  She was interested!  Several months later we met to discuss the details. After an hour, we had laid the groundwork for "Happy Tails Craft and Story Time."

Listed below are suggestions that can help you plan an author event, too.
  • Meet with the owner at the bookstore or for coffee.
  • Wait on business chat. Get to know the owner.
  • Get down to business. Chose a date and time.
  • Come up with a catchy title for the event.
  • Partner with a nonprofit organization and donate part of the proceeds.
  • Communicate with the manager of non-profit to decide her role.
  • Discuss an advertising plan.
  • Design an eye-catching invitation for social media and an email list.
  • Discuss book ordering.
  • Determine the percentage of proceeds that will be donated.
  • Find out about the space and set-up arrangements.
  • Plan the details of the event (reading, signing, games, craft)

Begin working on your plan several months in advance.  Gather art materials and have them prepped in such as way as to help kids do the craft easily.  Purchase wipes for clean-up, pens for signing your book, and have bookmarks or other giveaways.

When you plan in advance and spread the word, you should have a significant turn-out.  The most important thing to know is, this event is for the book store, the non-profit, and for kids.  It's not about how many books you can sell (though that's always on an author's mind).  Put your effort and heart into meeting your fans.  Allow them to get to know you and your book and your author event will be an amazing success.









January 4, 2018

All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise*


I like to write in the study during the day when it’s peaceful and quiet.  Most of the time, I’m surrounded by silence.  The only sound is the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard or the purring of Ozzie, our cat.  Throughout the day there may be a few noises—the ticking of a clock or the humming of the clothes dryer.  But these sounds don’t interfere with my writing.  It’s the outside noises that put my writing to the test.    

For every season there is a noise.  During the fall, leaf blowers blast leaves into piles. In winter, snow plows rumble down the street.  When spring arrives, spray-cleaners drone on and on, driving dirt from decks and house siding.  Throughout the summer, lawn mowers roar and children scream.  

So you say, lighten up.  You're too sensitive.  Deal with it!

But noise distracts me.  My brain stops working.  My fingers freeze.  My muse packs up, taking inspiration and ideas along with her.  There’s no other choice.  I’ve got to stop writing until the outside world calms down.

I long for peace and quiet, but the fact is I can’t change my neighbors’ habits.   Noise happens.  (I just wish it didn’t happen while I write).  Meanwhile, my picture book manuscript stares at me.  I can almost hear it whisper, “Come back.”     

But it's useless.  I consider turning off the computer.  Maybe writing isn’t for me.  With a sigh of resignation, I gaze out the window at kids riding bikes up and down the sidewalk.  Then, I glance around the study and look upward.  The ceiling fan catches my eye.  The study is stuffy, so with a flick of a switch I turn it on.  

Suddenly, the fan begins to drown out the noise.  A gentle calmness washes over me.  I am able to return to my manuscript, to the sentences that need revising.  The words are powerful.  Like magic, they cast spell over me, and I am writing because writing IS for me.  My fingers click on the keyboard, Ozzie purrs, and the outside noises get dim and slowly fade away.

Check out Ozzie's cute video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLvQ5cCVQPw&t=5s
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess
All the Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise previously published in the Creativity Connection, 2005.