Suzanne Williams, Author of the Month: Brief Reflections on a Writing Career, Plus Advice for New Writers

The just-launched MEDEA THE ENCHANTRESS is Book 23 in the popular Goddess Girls series.

Thirty years ago I saw my very first published piece of writing in print. It was an article for an educational magazine with nursery rhyme-based creative writing ideas for kids.

After that first success, I wrote many other magazine articles over a period of a year or two, none of which sold. Eventually I decided to abandon magazine writing and pursue what I really wanted to write — namely children’s books. When I announced this decision to my ever-supportive husband, he said, “Why not? Your articles are being rejected, you might as well write a book.” Believe it not, I am still married to the guy.

Fast forward to today and no one is probably more surprised than I am (except maybe my husband) to find that my list of published books for children has grown to over seventy. Admittedly, more than half of those are books I’ve written in the last eight years with my incredibly talented and hardworking coauthor, Joan Holub, but that’s a topic for another time.

Though there’s always an element of luck involved in selling a book (or a series of books!), I’d like to think I’ve learned some things during the past thirty years that are worth passing on. So here goes…

Advice for New Writers: Five Tips

1. Take the first baby step. Begin by doing ONE thing.

My first one thing was taking a class in writing for children. The structured assignments with feedback from an instructor, plus basic information on how to submit my work, were all extremely helpful, giving me a good scaffold to build on.

2. Keep on taking baby steps.

Why baby steps? Because trying to do too much at once or looking too far ahead can lead to frustration, or worse, make you want to quit before you even get started. Take it one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter, one story, or one writing assignment at a time.

Writing one article a month was another of my small steps when I was first beginning to write. So was the decision to write a book, page by page and chapter by chapter, and then one more book, and another, and another.

3. Surround yourself with resources and connect with other children’s writers. 

Read and analyze books that are like the ones you hope to write. Read books about writing. Become a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attend local chapter meetings in your state. Attend a writers’ conference. Join a critique group.

I’ve done all of the above. Besides learning a lot in the process, I’ve become friends with some really wonderful fellow children’s book writers. Joan Holub and I first met at a local SCBWI conference as a matter of fact!

4. Don’t give up.

I’ve cried or raged over some rejections, especially early on in my career. But over the years I’ve learned to develop a thicker skin. As Issac Asimov wrote: “A rejection of a story is not a rejection of the writer. It is no crime to be rejected or even a sin. Editors do not hate a writer when they reject a manuscript and do not therefore plot the writer’s destruction.” Comforting to know, right?

5. Celebrate small victories.

Each baby step is a victory of sorts. Even your first form rejection. Because it means you got up the courage send something out. When you graduate to personal rejections, where editors actually comment on a story while still rejecting it, that’s a victory too. Editors generally won’t take time to write a personal note unless a writer shows promise.

Setting up a regular writing schedule and sticking to it is also a victory. So is completing that first story or article. Celebrate those moments. (In all honesty, I should follow my own advice here more often. Life should be a series of little celebrations, don’t you think?)

Recently, I was interviewed by a blogger who asked me this unusual question: If someone made a movie of your life, would it be a drama, a comedy, action film, science fiction, or other genre of film?

I answered, “a slow-moving documentary, maybe?” Because even though I’ve been writing for thirty years, I am still taking baby steps. With each new book I break down the actions I need to take to finish that book, from gathering ideas to making an outline to writing the first draft, and so on. I chart my daily writing goals (like drafting four to five pages a day, for example) on a calendar, and monitor my progress.

If the above makes me seem a bit like the tortoise in the Aesop’s fable, well, that’s okay with me. I’m a firm believer in “slow and steady wins the race.” Baby steps not only keep me on track with my writing (and in a way that doesn’t overwhelm), they also help me to live a balanced life with time for other activities I value, like reading for pleasure, visiting with family and friends, walking, yoga, and travel.

What baby step will you take today?

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GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment to enter for your chance to win a FREE paperback copy of Goddess Girls: Medea the Enchantress by Suzanne Williams and Joan Holub! Suzanne will hold a drawing and announce the lucky winner January 30.

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Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor displays true awesomeness in this response to being included in Joan Holub‘s board book This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer.

This Little Trailblazer_Sonia Sotomayor

Also new from Joan and Suzanne Williams in December: Goddess Girls: Medea the Enchantress for ages 8–12.

Goddess Girls Medea the Enchantress Joan Holub Suzanne Williams copy

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Dori Jones Yang had a busy fall season with 25 book talks at schools, bookstores, museums, and teacher workshops, introducing her new book, The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball. The book won three awards: the Freeman Award for children’s books about Asia (winner, high school), USA Best Book Award (winner, children’s fiction), and Moonbeam Award (gold, historical/multicultural). A happy season!

 

Pub Day Dori

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Dana Sullivan is super excited to see the jacket of My Red Velvet Cape, which launches February 11, 2018, ON HIS BIRTHDAY!!! The birthday/launch party will be from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. at Brick and Mortar Books, 7430 164th Ave NE, Suite B105, Redmond, WA 98052There will be CAKE!

RedCapeJacket

CantWaitToLaunch

Around the Web with OAV Authors: September 2017

Note: Please enjoy this rerun of last year’s Back to School post.

You already know that you can find our team’s individual profiles right here on the OAV site. You can also find links to their websites in the right-hand sidebar of every OnlineAuthorVisits.com page. We try to make it easy for schools, libraries, and other groups to get to know us so you can select the right publishing pro(s) for your important virtual events.

So, for this Back to School edition of “Around the Web,” we thought we’d make it even easier to connect with our authors and author-illustrators by rounding up direct links to each OAVer’s primary public social media pages. Think: Facebook author pages, Twitter profiles, and writing blogs. You’re on your own for Instagram, Google+ Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, YouTube, and others — but do let your fingers do the typing in those platforms’ search fields. You will get OAV-member results!

Ready? Let’s go!

10493030_748213755313635_638216203708108958_o
Row 1, L to R: Patrick Jennings, Janet Lee Carey, Joan Holub, Dia Calhoun. Row 2: Dori Hillestad Butler, Lisa L. Owens, Trudi Trueit, Suzanne Williams, Deb Lund. Row 3: Erik Brooks, Clare Hodgson Meeker, Laurie Ann Thompson, Dana Sullivan, David Patneaude. (Missing: Dori Jones Yang.)

 

Dori Jones Yang (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Dori Jones Yang

Suzanne Williams (author): Goddess Girls series Facebook page

Trudi Trueit (author): Facebook page, Twitter

Laurie Ann Thompson (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Dana Sullivan (author-illustrator): Twitter, blog

David Patneaude (author): Twitter, blog

Lisa L. Owens (author): Twitter, blog

Clare Hodgson Meeker (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Deb Lund (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blogs

Patrick Jennings (author): Twitter, blog

Joan Holub (author-illustrator): Facebook page, Goddess Girls series Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Janet Lee Carey (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog 1, blog 2

Dia Calhoun (author): Twitter, blog

Dori Hillestad Butler (author): Twitter, blog

Erik Brooks (author-illustrator): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

Martha Brockenbrough (author): Facebook page, Twitter, blog

That covers the whole crew!

And, while you’re out and about taking a peek at our wonderful team’s various profiles, don’t forget to connect with OAV’s official Facebook page. We’d love to see — and hear from you — there!

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Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

Martha Brockenbrough has two new books coming out in September: ALEXANDER HAMILTON: REVOLUTIONARY, which School Library Journal gave a starred review, and LOVE, SANTA, a picture book about the deeper magic of the holiday.

 

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Need a new back-to-school picture book for 2017? TOOL SCHOOL sends Hammer, Screwdriver, Pliers, Saw and Tape Measure on the tool bus to Ms. Drill’s class, where cooperation is the key to building friendships and a surprise project! New from Joan Holub, James Dean and Scholastic, creators of the New York Times bestseller, MIGHY DADS!

1 Tool School Joan Holub James Dean Scholastic image

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fairy_tale_largeSuzanne Williams’s chapter book, A FAIRY TALE GONE WRONG, a personalized book that accompanies the fabulous American Girl-like dolls at Starpath Dolls, has just been published.

Story summary: After making the exact same birthday wish, you and your best friend accidentally find yourselves inside the Cinderella fairy tale! Now it is your job to keep the story on track so Cinderella will wind up with her prince and you can return home safely to your family. A visit by the Fairy Godmother, a trip to the Royal Ball, and a ride on a magic swan await you on your adventure.

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Dori Hillestad Butler‘s  THE UNDERGROUND GHOSTS just launched on August 15. She wrote about the significance of that here. This book, set in Seattle, completes her Haunted Library series. If you’re in the Seattle area, come to her book launch party at Secret Garden Bookshop (2214 NW Market St. in Ballard) at 2:00pm Sunday, August 20. Everyone is invited!

KING & KAYLA AND THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS MOUSE, book 3 in her King & Kayla mystery series for beginning chapter book readers, launches on September 1.

 

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Dana Sullivan has gotten approval on all sketches for his book, MY RED VELVET CAPE, which means he now has to create FINAL ART! Dana reports that this always freaks him out, so he’s doing a lot of deep breathing. His media is Sharpie Ultra Fine Point and watercolor and his plan is to ink a bunch of illustrations and then color them in batches. We’ll check in with him later to see how he’s doing. Publication is scheduled for spring of 2018, so he’d better start painting faster than a speeding bullet!

 

 

AlonzoDrag

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Forbidden Temptation coverDori Jones Yang is delighted to announce the publication of her new middle grade novel, The Forbidden Temptation of Baseball, on August 15th. A novel for readers aged 10 to 14, it tells the story of two fictional Chinese boys who were sent to the United States by their government in 1875. It is based on a real historical event and deals with cross-cultural adaptation and how Americans respond to foreigners in our midst. Dori is currently planning school events in the Seattle area for the fall and a book tour of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York Oct. 14 – 31.

 

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Lisa L. Owens wrote two biographies in Lerner’s brand-new-for-fall Primary Source Explorers series: A Journey with Hernán Cortés and A Journey with Sieur de La Salle. The hardcover and publisher e-book editions launched August 1, and special Kindle versions of each title will become available August 22 through Amazon.com. Written for ages 8–11, these books encourage young readers to consider point of view and context while learning about each explorer’s life (and life’s work) through the lens of primary source materials such as letters, journals, maps, and other period-specific artifacts. To learn more and read a recent Q&A with Lisa, visit her author page at the Lerner site.

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twotruthsandalie-hc-convertedLaurie Ann Thompson is thrilled to announce the release of Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! (co-authored with Ammi-Joan Paquette). It’s a Junior Library Guild selection and received a starred review from Booklist.

Laurie has also been doing a lot of speaking lately. She appeared in person as a member of the faculty of the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association, at the Seattle Central Library to present a Seattle Writes workshop, to a class of students visiting from Japan, and to a summer class of young reluctant readers in Everett, as well as via Google Hangouts to a group of teachers in WI!

Around the Web with OAV Authors: July 2017

Our latest roundup of OAVer cyber sightings is best described as a virtual Cool Covers Show-and-Tell, featuring images from our talented members’ publication histories that make you want to dive into all the books!

This striking cover is from Trudi Trueit’s extensive nonfiction list.

ADHD

 

Here’s the adorable cover of a chapter book from author-illustrator Patrick Jennings.

rattlesnakes

 

How about this beauty covering a novel by Dori Jones Yang. (It’s brand-spanking NEW, by the way — the book comes out next month.)

Forbidden Temptation cover

 

This covers the German edition of Martha Brockenbrough’s The Game of Love and Death.

German GOLAD

 

The cover of this picture book by Deb Lund is a monstrous delight.

monsters

 

Lisa L. Owens counts this piece of cover art from her retold-classics series as a fave.

sherlock copy

 

Video alert! Watch author-illustrator Erik Brooks preview his picture book Polar Opposites. (Naturally, he starts with the cover!)

 

Here’s the spooky-cute cover of a picture book by OAV’s founder, Suzanne Williams.

witch

 

An evocative entry from a reprint edition of a David Patneaude novel.

ThinWoodWalls

 

What an engaging image on Clare Hodgson Meeker’s retelling of a classic Buddhist folktale.

A Tale of Two Rice Birds

 

This stunner is from one of Dia Calhoun’s novels.

avielle

 

Dana Sullivan created a darling illustration for the cover of Digger and Daisy Go to the Zoo, shown here on the book’s French edition.

DiggerZoo

 

Audio alert! A YouTube reading of Janet Lee Carey’s Wenny Has Wings features a sweetly spare cover image. (Note: To listen to the reading, you’ll need to head on over to YouTube, an option you’ll see and be able to click on in the lower right when you view the file embedded below.)

 

The photo on this Dori Hillestad Butler novel really sets the scene for the story to come.

truth

 

This early reader by Joan Holub sports a fun depiction of the Woodstock setting.

woodstock

 

And, finally, here’s another perfect representation of the story within, this time on a sweet picture book by Laurie Ann Thompson.

Good News from the Online Author Visits Team!

 

That covers all of us here at Online Author Visits!

Reminder: The back-to-school season is right around the corner — so be sure to check out our Author Profiles page to learn more about hosting an illustrious OAVer for a future Skype visit in your classroom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the Web with OAV Authors: May 2017

How about another themed edition of our “Around the Web” feature, this time with a Throwback Thursday flavor. Our Online Author Visits members are always busy creating new works, but their earlier ones are just as fun to discover (or rediscover, as the case may be). The following roundup offers a clickable gem from each OAVer’s storied past!

Erik Brooks wrote and illustrated The Practically Perfect Pajamas, an adorable picture book about being true to yourself. It came out in 2000, and one teacher reviewer noted that it’s a perfect read-aloud for Pajama Day at school!PerfectPajamas

Kirkus called Dia Calhoun’s 1999 YA novel Firegold (her first!), “A heartfelt, emotionally trenchant coming-of-age adventure with a lightly mystical bent.”

Speaking of first novels, Patrick Jennings published Faith and the Electric Dogs in 1996, and Publishers Weekly said he took “a soaring flight into magic realism in this captivating tale narrated with brio by a Mexican street dog.”

For the October 2011 issue of Odyssey magazine, Laurie Thompson wrote the super-fun science article “Wanted for Breaking the Law (of Viscosity).” (It’s about non-Newtonian fluids. Activity included!)

Visit Dori Jones Yang’s website to learn the story of her collaboration with Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz on their popular 1997 business book, Pour Your Heart Into It.

Did you know that Martha Brockenbrough wrote a humorous book chronicling her pregnancy (and more) in 2002? It’s called It Could Happen to You: Diary of a Pregnancy and Beyond.

Here’s where you can find Suzanne Williams’s first-ever book, Mommy Doesn’t Know My Name. It launched in 1996, and according to School Library Journal, “It’s a fun, crazy book that works extremely well.”

Clare Hodgson Meeker’s lovely picture book Who Wakes Rooster? was a 1997 Bank Street College Book of the Year selection.

Talon, published in 2007, was the first novel in Janet Lee Carey’s Wilde Island Chronicles series.

Dori Hillestad Butler is known for her mystery series. Check out her 2003 nonfiction title Whodunit: How the Police Solve Crimes for a glimpse at a real-world process that informs her work.

In 1995, Booklist said, “Readers too young for Stephen King will find satisfaction” in David Patneaude’s eerie book Dark Starry Morning: Stories of This World and Beyond.

Former weather forecaster Trudi Trueit wrote Storm Chasers — one of her many, MANY informational titles — back in 2002.

Deb Lund published the sweet Tell Me My Story, Mama in 2004. Visit her author site for help tracking down a copy for a young one you know who’s about to become a sibling for the first time.

This looks like lots of fun: a 2004 picture book by Joan Holub called Geogra-Fleas! Riddles All Over the Map.

Click over to Lisa L. Owens’s website, then scroll down to see Booklist’s turn-of-the-21st-century comments on American Justice: Seven Famous Trials of the 20th Century.

And here you’ll find info on 2013’s BOB Books: Rhyming Words boxed set featuring Dana Sullivan’s always fetching illustration work.

That covers our whole crew. If you’d like to learn more about our members and consider booking one of us for a virtual or in-person visit, be sure to check out our Author Profiles page.

Happy #TBT, everyone — hope to see you again soon!

 

 

 

Joan Holub, Author of the Month: How a Night Owl Gets Day Things Done

Do you get up early, feeling immediately creative?

If so, I’ve always wanted to be like you. Alas, I’m a night owl. To me, the evening hours feel all cozy and less interruptible by outside forces. My energy peaks and my brain sparks with creativity. I get a lot done…


Coming in 2017:
Tool School  Scholastic picture book
Vampoodle  Random House early reader

But I can’t live out of step with most of the world. I have to get started earlier than comes naturally. So I begin my day working on something that doesn’t require me to be at peak creativity. Research. Emails. Designing a book postcard.

Then I ease into writing–the kind that doesn’t require me to dig deep. Morning is not the time to start a new story or make critical creative decisions on one I’ve begun. Instead, I might do revisions on a first draft Goddess Girls series manuscript—not the final-stage fine-tuning kind. No, the easy kind, like perusing Google images to get a consensus on a new mythology character’s hair color, or moving hunks of story around for better logic. Organizing facts is easy and fun for me in the mornings–probably one reason I write nonfiction in addition to fiction.

I’ve been thinking about what it is to be a night owl a lot lately because Nyx is a night owl. She’s the star of Nyx the Mysterious, the newest book (#22) in the Goddess Girls middle grade series I co-author with the amazing Suzanne Williams. Nyx is the bringer of night in Greek mythology. An important job. Yet no one at Mount Olympus Academy seems to get that. (I do, Nyx! Honestly, would they really want it to be day all the time?) Evening and night have beneficial qualities. Darkness serves us as a time to dream, both creatively and in a rejuvenative sense.

For us naturally-night-owl authors, the point is to find things we can do in the early part of our day that will act as bridges to what we hope to accomplish every afternoon or evening—create something new and surprising on the page.

Whether you’re a morning person or a night owl like Nyx and me, it’s really all about getting started. About finding a way to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be!

* * * GIVEAWAY * * *
Nyx the Mysterious
Book birthday: April 4, 2017
Goddess Girls series
Middle grade, ages 8-12
Simon & Schuster / Aladdin
Giving away two copies signed by Joan Holub & Suzanne Williams.
Please post a comment to enter (with contact so winners can be notified win).

Joan Holub is the New York Times bestselling author of Mighty Dads, illustrated by James Dean. She is the author and/or illustrator of about 150 books for children. To read more about Joan and her books, visit:
http://www.joanholub.com
http://www.facebook.com/goddessgirlsbooks
http://pinterest.com/joanholub/
https://www.goodreads.com/Joan_Holub