March 9, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We’ve all seen the signs of distracted driving in one form or another. How many times has the vehicle in front of you swerved from side to side or stayed at a standstill even after the traffic light turned from red to green? While these are relatively harmless occurrences, the reality is that distracted driving – and especially texting and driving – can have deadly consequences.

Distracted driving is particularly dangerous among teenage drivers as their inexperience behind the wheel makes them more likely to be involved in an accident.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers is the under-20 age group. A full 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

More notable facts:

  • Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or…

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What does it mean to teach kids manners?

December 12, 2011 at 10:54 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yesterday, my husband Clay and I had lunch at a local diner with the kids and grandkids. Much of the time both the grandkids played with their games on their computer tablet but there was some conversation. I mentioned to my daughter-in-law, Caroline that last summer the kids were big on manners at the table. Things like:

  • Don’t put your elbows on the table when eating!
  • Don’t talk with food in your mouth!
  • Chew with your mouth closed!
  • Don’t begin eating until everyone is served!

But now that the summer is over, everything returned to “normal” and table manners has never come up again.

Caroline said that they were learning manners because the group was going out to a restaurant to eat and the counselors wanted to make sure that the kids learned the basic rules of eating out.

What a good idea. But it only good if we parents and grandparents continue to remind our kids what good manners is all about.  

Do we share the basics like how to properly use a fork and knife? Put a napkin in your lap? Eat small portions so that your mouth isn’t stuffed?

My grandmother use to take my brother and I out…separately. She took me to The Plaza on 5th Avenue in Manhatten where we had tea and small sandwiches. We went to Bergdorf Goodman’s and enjoy a drink and something small to eat while fashion models walked around the tables with the latest clothes. We never brought anything ,but my grandmother showed me how to act like a “lady.”

For my brother it was a different story. He went out with my mom, aunt AND my grandmother. He had to hold the door for them, pull out the chairs at the table and make sure he used the right fork, spoon an knife with each course. He definitely got a workout.

Although we have become a very informal society where women no longer wear white gloves and hats, etiquette and manners still makes a difference.  Take advantage of those small teachable moments like when you serve dinner everyone should wait until you have been served and are seated before they begin eating.

Hope you have a etiquettely wonderful day.

“I am a great writer. I am sure I can get my book published,” says unpublished writer.

October 28, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“I am a great writer and I have always loved reading children’s books. I am sure I can get my book published.” That is the feeling of many “wanna-be” authors. For those who have tried it they can tell you  it is not that easy.

It is like saying “I know history. I am sure I can write a great historical novel.” Then you think of the 15,000 words  you would have to produce, and then you realize that it is a daunting task. But young children’s books, which average 32 pages and maybe 25 to 50 words a page seems more manageable.

The problem is, if you are thinking that, then so are thousands of other “wanna-be” authors.

Hopewell Junction writer Karen Kaufman Orloff  was one of those “wanna-bes” . “I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Karen, “since my children were babies. I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking ‘I could write stories for kids.’ But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Iguana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

But Karen was different from many other writers. She decided to learn the book business. “I attended conferences, took classes, met other authors,” she said,  “and then I submitted my stories to publishers.”

She experienced rejections. Many of them. Karen, who now has four books published, says, “You really need a thick skin.” Even now that she is published she still gets those nasty rejection letters. She says one of the secrets to this book business is perseverance.

“When I first started I would think of cute rhymes… no stories, just a list of fun things. But I learned that I needed a really good, solid beginning, a climax and an ending,” says Karen.

As a teacher in junior high school, I remember teaching kids these same techniques. But after years of not drumming this into our head, we get sloppy. We need to refine our skills whether it is for the historical novel or a children’s book. The same rules apply.

Karen shares  this advice for writers who are working with picture books: You need to understand the visual image you’re creating. It is a 32 page book. Each page must be a different scene. You need to create different visual scenes with your words to sustain the reader.

She  also suggests using humor or some type of emotional connection that tugs at the heart.

 “How do you know if your story has merit?  It is like your baby whom you really love. Share it with others. (In this case it would be writer friends.) It is good to get other people’s opinions. People you trust. Other good writers.

Karen says to remember that sometimes your manuscript gets rejected not because it is not well written, but because it is not a topic of interest for that publisher at that time or they have already published something similar.  

I have published two books by Middletown author Gloria Zawaski. Learn about some of my experiences.

https://theundercoverkids.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/how-a-book-is-born-the-independent-book-stores/

Dream of becoming a children’s book author?

October 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Posted in Book reviews, Community groups, Educators, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | Leave a comment

Learn the secrets from a professional. One of a two part series

 
Meet author Karen Kaufman Orloff.  With four children’s picture books under her belt she has enough experience to give those of us who dream about being published authors the inside scoop. After graduating college with a degree in English, journalism and publishing, Orloff became an editor for a Manhattan magazine group. She currently is a columnist for the Poughkeepsie Journal.

“I have been writing for over 20 years,” says Orloff. “Since my children were babies.

“I remember reading story books to the kids and thinking I could write stories for kids. But once I got into it, I realized it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

It took Karen ten years before she published her first book I Wanna Igwana with the G. P. Putnam publishing group.

“It was a fluke,” says Orloff.  She went to a conference armed with her manuscript.  The Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrator’s offered one-on-one sessions with editors. The rest is history. Then and there, the editor was interested in acquiring the story.  “That was the best money I ever spent,” says Orloff.  I Wanna Igwana has been nominated for 16 awards since it was first published in 2004. In fact, she was given an all expense trip to Nebraska to make a presentation about her book.

5  common misconceptions writers have?

  1. If I write a good story it will get published
  2. It is easy to get published
  3. Must use rhyming for easy reader children’s books
  4. Writing is a great way to earn a living.
  5. You must get an agent to get published.

 “I see many well written stories,” says Orloff. “But they are stories that have been around forever. It is critical that the story be unique. Some stories are way too long, or too adult in their theme or use of language.

 According to Orloff, you must have a thick skin to get published. And even now that she is a published author, Orloff still gets rejection letters. “Putnam rejected the manuscript for If My Mom Had Three Arms. The book finally found a home at Sterling Publishing and was published in 2004. Good luck follows Orloff. Sterling was bought by Barnes & Noble and now she has the benefit of their extensive distribution network.

In terms of rhyme, the author says that good rhyme is very hard to create. That is one of reason she suggests only using that technique is you a really good. She sees lines that don’t rhyme or meters that are off.  She emphasizes that rhyme must be good rhyme to work.

 According to Orloff, you shouldn’t count on quitting your current job if you need this money to pay your rent and put food on your table. Advances can run between $3,000 to $5,000 but getting two books published a year is considered good.  Even with royalties the money accumulates very slowly.

 Orloff does not have an agent and even as a published author she would have a hard time finding one.

There are so many writers now writing for the young market that it is very hard to capture the attention of an agent. So learn the industry and go it on your own.

 Her one word of advice? Persevere!

Want to learn more from this seasoned professional? Attend her upcoming class now forming.

Are books really dead?

March 21, 2011 at 10:35 am | Posted in Book reviews, Education, Educators, Librarians, Publishing your story, Uncategorized, Writing | 1 Comment

I am always looking for the next book to read. One night I took a business book off my shelf called Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte. Just getting through his introduction was a shocker.

“Early in the next millennium your right and left cuff links or earrings may communicate with each other by low-orbiting satellites and have more computer power than your present PC…the digital planet will look and feel like the head of a pin.

As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation-state will give way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will socialize in digital neighborhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant and time will play a different roll.”

This was published in 1995…sixteen years ago.

 I was so fascinated by rereading Negroponte’s book I went online to see what other pronunciations he may suggest. And there it was… “The physical book will be dead in five years.” He shared this bombshell at the August 6, 2010 Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, CA.  

Over the past three years, I have worked with author Gloria Smith Zawaski, publishing our first children’s book called The Trunk in the Attic. We are about to print our second book in the series called Mongolia Bound. Our purpose is to introduce kids to other kids around the world, first Holland and now Mongolia. The series helps kids learn from other kids’ adventures. But I now think I have to consider another way of delivering the information, one that will be meaningful to this new generation of youngsters who may no longer use books as I did.

 This revelation really hit me when Eliot and Amy took to me to this huge used book warehouse in Washington, DC.   I looked at the 1,000s of books surrounding me and realized that I was looking at the death of an industry as I know it.  

It’s time to embrace the new ways and see how to make this online system of sharing information and books a more encompassing way of learning.

 For someone like me who loves books and the written word, catching up is not going to be easy. Not only do I have to stop thinking linearly but have to learn new skills. Who will I turn to in order to learn how the new computer widgets work?

Where are your kids racing to now?

November 5, 2010 at 10:14 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

In the film “Race to Nowwhere,” first-time filmmaker Vicki Abeles delves into the issues of the consequences of overscheduled children. The film was recently shown at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh to a crowd of parents, teachers and kids.
The medical and emotional problems of Ms Abeles own three children spurred her to find out what is going on in the world of our kids. Through interviews of kids, their teachers and parents and other professionals, she asks whether our kids are being pressured by too much homework and over scheduling.
Many professionals interviewed, from educators to physicians, suggest that our kids are so stressed that they have no time to just be kids. Clubs. Practice. Homework. Community Volunteering. Does it leave children time to ride a bike, have fun running around or to do nothing?
Although the film brought to light many important issues, it tried to cover them all with one broad brush. For example, Abeles asks several teachers about their role in the classroom and gets the classic “I am being encouraged to teach kids how to pass tests.” From that the filmmaker leaps to teaching for tests encourages too much homework which causes too much pressure on our kids which leads to stomachaches and headaches. For me there were just too many leaps.
According to Mount Professor and Hudson Valley Parent columnist, “The greatest stressors for kids, especially for teens, are relationships not the stress of school.” Dr. Schwartz says that 90% of kids love what they are doing, including school.

How a book is born: Sales at special events

March 2, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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My first idea for getting attention for our newly published book, The Trunk in the Attic, was to encourage local parenting publications to write reviews. But it offered a poor yield. If you have read my past blog, you know my motto:  Be ready to make mistakes and move on with confidence.

The Trunk in the Attic, our first Undercover Kids adventure takes our characters to Holland. The celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s sailing from the Netherlands to New York was celebrated in 2009. That is what inspired me to commission the writing of the first Undercover Kids adventure.

I was told that New York was investing millions of dollars to promote events up and down the Hudson River. And each event would attract 1,000s of people. Great! My next great marketing idea was to attend these events. After all, this would attract families and everyone would be interested in Henry Hudson. We developed a wonderful booth and were ready to roll out our book.

Along came the crashed financial market and the slashed housing market. New York was broke. And with the crashing and slashing the quadricentenial money disappeared.

We attended five events. Our booth worked well. Our staff was well-trained. And our author, Gloria Smith Zawaski, was well-received.

We sold up to 40 books per event. Although others in the industry say that is a good number, as far as I was concerned it was a bust. Too much time invested. Too much staffing required. Too little return.

Back to the drawing board.

A note about events: There is an annual children’s book fair held in our region, which I was hoping to attend. Our application was rejected because space is limited and they don’t invite first-time authors. I will try again next year.

How a book is born: Who prints books?

December 9, 2009 at 11:07 am | Posted in Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Now I am really immersed in the book, the copy, layout and illustrations. It is time to find a printer. The printer we use for our magazines does not have book printer contacts. Many of the publishers I spoke to used niche printers that were not appropriate for me: like soft cover printers, picture book printers and oversees printers.

I looked on the web, but felt that it would be a crap shoot picking someone blind, even with references. So I kept looking. Finally, I found Woodstock Press with offices in upstate New York and in Manhatten. I was lucky to be referred to Olivia Blanchflower from Overlook Press. She put me in contact with printers that Overlook Press uses. Her support was invaluable.

I found that the book publishing industry is a new world with a new language. Trade book page. Linen embossed gloss. Head and foot bands. Bar code labels. Burst casebind. Kappa board. And the list goes on.

Some printers do covers only. Others only do paperback or the inside guts. I chose two printers who could do it all. And then I tried to get the best deal. I was told that the best prices come through China but I decided to stay in the states so I could have more control over the process.

I used Berryville Graphics in Virginia. They delivered what they promised. There were several things I learned. First, the output of the pages for books is very different from magazines that are printed on newsprint. The copies from our printer look great. But the proofs we got back did not match. Their output is more sensitive to the blending of grays, and we had to change our pages so the grey backgrounds for captions did not overwhelm the copy. And second was the issue of price and how many books to print. But that I will deal with in another blog.

How a book is born: Working with a distributor

December 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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I looked for distribution houses, even though I knew the liabilities associated with them: small financial rewards and many book returns. The larger groups don’t accept publishers like me with only one book under our belt. I was referred to Greenleaf Book Group. They work with newcomers. To be considered, you must complete a series of questions, which is essentially a business plan. Once you submit the information together with your manuscript, they promised to get back to you.

And they did. First a received a series of emails telling me they were very interested in my manuscript. I was wary of this email communication approach and asked to receive a call. It took a while but finally a pleasant young man called saying they were very interested in sell my book and they will develop a comprehensive marketing plan. Great thought.  There is always a but. All promotional expenses are mine. I pay all shipping costs. I am responsible for returns. And the percentage they take (sorry, I don’t remember the numbers) is huge. So huge, that after I figured the numbers, I would owe them money for selling my book. No earnings for me.

Now I am curious how this works. Who signs up for such a program? According to their website, the numbers are substantial.

So I looked for answers to three questions:

1.  How many children’s books have they promoted?

2.  What would my marketing plan look like?

The answer to the first question was, “Not many.”

“Then how do you know your marketing strategies will work?”

“We can’t offer any guarantee, but it has worked before.”

“Not for children’s books!”

“How about referrals? I would like to speak to someone you have worked with recently.”

It took a while, but finally I spoke to an author in California. He confirmed my worst fears. He was spending promotional dollars and had not seen any return.

I called Greenleaf back. “I would like to speak to someone in your marketing department to understand their approach to my book.” After all they are the ones who said they really liked the manuscript. The rep said he would get back to me.

I’d like to insert a note: I own a marketing and public relations company. In my 36 years in practice I never found that a client stole my marketing plan ideas after I introduced the program. If they could do it on their own, they wouldn’t bother contacting me.

The Greenleaf rep never got back to me. I let Greenleaf go. Or, maybe they let me go.

How a book is born: Reaching out to other publishers

November 25, 2009 at 11:08 am | Posted in Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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My book is taking shape. I hired two people to proof copy. We worked with an editor who helped improve the story. (I’ll tell you about that later.) The layout looks great. The illustrations are almost complete. But I wondered how other small publishers get their books in front of their readers.

Here is what I discovered:

  1. Two publishers only work with authors who are will to spend their time promoting their books. They feel the author will be the primary sales person. For example, one author is a psychologist who speaks at large conventions. She sells the books are the conferences. Another author does the school circuit and puts books in the trunk to sell.
  2. All the publishers list their books on Amazon.com and BN.com, but they do not get a great return.
  3. One sells through Scholastic Books. They order large quantities, 12,000-15,000 books, but the money he makes has been diminishing.
  4. One sells through a book distributor, but there is a small return on investment and they have to worry about book returns.
  5. One publisher would only speak to me if I paid her for her time. Oh well. You can’t win them all.

I learned two things:

1.Very small publishing groups have a really rough hall. As I am writing this blog, two of the publishers I spoke to have closed down their operations.  

2. There is not one distribution channel. I will have to try a number of different ways to get my book into the hands of readers before I realize what works for me and what doesn’t.

 

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