How a book is born: Author signings

March 2, 2010 at 3:27 pm | Posted in about life, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Authors always wonder if they should participate in book signings as a route to increased sales. I am not sold on the idea.

The other night my husband and I were in Barnes & Noble. A good cup of coffee and a good book for an hour of relaxation. (If a B & N manager is reading this blog, I do buy books…my credit card will attest to that.) At their entrance was a local author displaying her works and ready to sign her book. She is not a new author, by any means, but no one entering the store stopped at her table. It is true that the traffic was light that night, but that was an expensive night out for this author.

Gloria Smith Zawaski, the author of The Trunk in the Attic, loves meeting kids. But I feel that a book signing event for an author who is not well-known just doesn’t work.

Who would you wait in line for…Jeff Kenny, the author of the Whimpy Kids series or Gloria Smith Zawaski, the author of The Undercover Kids book series? Kenny wins hands down!

Last night I met the manager of our local B & N bookstore at a PTA event. She heard of our book through one of her employees. And she knew that we were not on the B & N online book site. But she said they do author signings for local authors, even if the store does not carry the book. My first questions was, ‘who would show up?’ Her response, “People show up for children’s author signings.” “I figure young children but the eight to eleven year old crowd?” I asked. We are going to meet next week to discuss the process, and then I’ll decide how best to proceed.

I will say that when Gloria participated in events, the kids who bought her books really enjoyed meeting her.  But in general, I don’t think book signings for unknown authors are the way to go.

In my opinion, you have to really work at promoting the author and promoting the book before you begin the book signing route.

Favorite Snow Day Book?

February 12, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Posted in about life, Education, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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With winter still hanging around I recently started thinking about my favorite winter activity: reading. Do you have a favorite book that you like to read on the snow day? I like to read a good scary story even though Halloween is long gone. With the snow falling outside, everything is grey and dark and it’s nice to cuddle up with a good read. I always make some hot chocolate too. What about you? What do you like to read? Leave a comment and tell us and don’t forget to keep reading!

HOW A BOOK IS BORN: Creating the story

September 14, 2009 at 5:53 am | Posted in about life, Book reviews, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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Now I had an author to write our story but what form should the story take? Gloria Smith Zawaski is unbelievably creative and has more ideas than I can keep up with. We met and shared.

At our next meeting Gloria mentioned that there would be a cemetery with a ghost near Aunt Jean’s farm. The kids meet the ghost who wants to return to the homeland of his ancestors in Africa. Great idea because our region has a number of black cemeteries. And Sojourner Truth was born about 1797 in Ulster County, which is the region where we live. So it would all fit.

Great idea Gloria, but I need to go back to Holland because of this Quadricentennial celebration coming up.  I want to use the celebrations being planned as a vehicle to sell the book. I figure the events will bring out many people, especially families, and that is the market I want to target.

So back to Holland we go. The kids would come from New York City to their aunt’s farm for a vacation. They would travel, through some kind of magic, to Holland where they would share adventures with Dutch kids. That would be the basis of the story.

As a publisher, you may ask, “What is my role?” I ask that all the time. I come up with ideas and share them with Gloria. Gloria develops the story and I provide feedback.

Gloria researches our stories and brings them to life on the printed page. My role make to make the sale of the book a reality.

 As we finish the first book, ideas for the next two books are coming from unusual sources.

 In the second book, Gloria takes kids to Mongolia. Why Mongolia? Gloria and I agreed that each book should visit another part of the world and possibly another continent.

I read the Wolf Totem by Jian Rong which takes place in Outer Mongolia. A beautiful setting for a people who are being overtaken by the Chinese. Then on NPR I head a story about a young man who uses throat singing to preserve the stories of his Mongolian ancestors. Gloria and I agreed to take our kids to Mongolia for 2010.

 And then, once again, we will visit Gloria’s ideas for an African adventure for 2011.

How is a book born?

September 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm | Posted in about life, Education, Educators, Publishing your story, Writing | 1 Comment
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It’s been 18 months since I had an idea about helping kids learn about the Dutch Heritage that finally led to our becoming a book publishing group. Want to learn how an idea goes from the light bulb going off in your head to a reality? Follow my journey.

 I have always been an avid reader which led me to publishing two regional magazines for the past 15 years. But is that enough experience to publish a book? I would soon learn that the road is never straight, and there is a strong learning curve every step of the way.

 Where do ideas come from?
Along comes 2009 and the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s sailing from the Netherlands to New York and everyone is a flutter with excitement about what will happen this year. I happened on a newsletter from Hugo Gajus Scheltema, the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York, who said in a newsletter that he hopes that the legacy of diversity and tolerance of New Amsterdam will be recognized by those living in New York as well as the broader public in the United States. He suggests that the emphasis should be on education.

 And I thought, “Who better to carry out the legacy of understanding than our children?”

 Gloria, who eventually authored the first book we published, and I have been friends for many years. I also knew that she worked with the KLM Royal Dutch Airlines account as a copywriter when she was on Madison Avenue. Who better to call, if I am looking for someone to tell the story of the Dutch?

 We talked and she contacted her friends in Holland. I thought we were on our way. The discussions went back and forth.

 How should the story be told? What vehicle should we use?
I first thought this would be a short book, maybe 1,500 to 2,000 with separate pull out pages of dolls that kids could dress in clothing of the period when Henry Hudson sailed. I would include a carrying case for the dolls and the clothes. The dolls would be magnetic with magnetic clothing that adheres to the doll surfaces.

 I wasn’t sure about using magnetic dolls so I explored Colorforms. Remember Colorforms…where you stick and peel items on a page? I would print the stick n peel pages directly in the book and eliminate the need for carrying cases. But it was not so easy to find a printer who knew about the materials and could print it for me. I spent weeks looking for vendors until I happened on a group in California that publishes oversees. Not an easy process. Not quick turnaround. Not for me.  

 Now the tale was no longer a short story. At this point I was still negotiating with Gloria’s contacts and meeting with Gloria to discuss the project. I was not sure what direction we were going in.

 At one meeting I said to Gloria, “How about you writing the book? You know Holland and you know what I am looking for.” That was the beginning of our publisher-author relationship.

 While I can write, I do not consider myself a writer. I am better at conjuring up ideas and watching them fly.

Questions from the Classroom.

August 26, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Posted in about life, Book reviews, Community groups, Education, Educators, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’ve recently had the pleasure to be in the classroom at Bishop Dunn School in Newburgh, New York with Terrie and her staff. It’s been fun to answer questions from students about the book. Some questions have really made me stop and think. “Why didn’t you just write about yourself?” one fourth-grader asked. Why do some people write fiction (make believe) instead of non-fiction (real life things)? I don’t know the answer to that. For me, when I sit down and write about Katie and Jake, I get lost in their world and it’s not about me any more. In real life, I wouldn’t have had a chance to travel across oceans and time. I guess my fantasies and dreams have always felt very real to me. Sometimes I write magazine articles. They’re non-fiction. I don’t get lost in them in the same way. For those, I try to be as correct as possible about the subject. To do that, I step back and look at what I’ve written. Sometimes when I was writing the Trunk in the Attic, I felt like it was writing itself. Have you ever had that feeling about something you’ve written? And speaking of something you’ve written…are you thinking about writing a story using Katie, Jake and Cooper as characters? I hope so! I’d like to see where you take them!

3 puppeteers make a pitch to create The Undercover Kids

August 12, 2009 at 11:29 am | Posted in about life, Community groups, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Puppets | Leave a comment
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The Puppet Kitchen puppeteers I met three wonderful puppeteers today…Emily DeCola, Michael Schupback and Eric Wright. They call themselves The Puppet Kitchen. They were passionate in their belief that they have the abilities to bring  Katie, Jake and Cooper to life so that the kids will identify with them. Just as author Gloria Smith Zawaski and illustrator Karen Connelly brought Katie, Jake and Cooper to life in book “The Trunk in the Attic.”

 The puppeteers realize that it is their responsibility to create characters with personalities that the kids will readily identify with. And it is my team’s job to develop a script that gets the kids involved.

For those who have read the book, I would love to know what you think Katie and Jake should look like. What clothes do you think they would wear? Let me know, and we will try to incorporate your ideas into the newly created puppets.

I have given the three puppeteers a budget and am now waiting in a coffee shop around the corner from their studio to see whether they agree to be Katie, Jake and Cooper’s creators. They are in a pow wow in their studio trying to figure out if they can do the project  for the budget I quoted.

They told me that as a relatively new company (They are a year old.), housed in a moderately sized studio with limited overhead, they can offer more reasonably priced project costs than other shops in the region. But they also told me that the budget I quoted was on the low end of the spectrum.

I told them I would give them the project if they could give me an answer today. And that is why I am waiting in a coffee shop on Avenue B and 4th Street.

Whether they say “yes” or “ no” I have learned more about the world of puppets than I knew before coming down to Manhattan.

Here they come… Emily is smiling but Michael is more reserved. “We want to do your project, but I need some clarification on some issues,” says Michael.

I knew then that the Puppet Kitchen puppeteers were going to be the creators of The Undercover Kids. And let the adventure begin.

Author shares her horse TC with us.

August 4, 2009 at 8:47 pm | Posted in about life, Community groups, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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How to use books in school programs

July 26, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Posted in about life, Community groups, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups | Leave a comment
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Our goal is to develop programs that are fun for the kids that is provides an educational experience. This has not been an easy task and I will keep you informed as we move forward.

We tested our initial program with 60 kids from 4th to 6th grades. The program worked well for the 5th and 6th graders, but we found we needed to revamp the program for the 4th graders.

 The presentation encourages kids to write their own Undercover Kid story. We figure we can do it for classes up to 30 kids. After that we have to change our strategy.

Here’s how it works: The teachers are provided with a copy of the book together with a suggested list of pages to read before the author and our staff visit. They also receive a program guide to use after our presentation.

 We introduce the program by getting the kids to talk about their travels and then about the lead characters, Katie, Jake and Cooper.  We play a word game where kids get into groups and are given 5 Adventure Cards with words they must use to create their own their own Undercover Kids Adventure story. They get two more series of Adventure Cards to use to complete their story. And then kids get a chance to read their completed adventure.  

Then Gloria Smith Zawaski, our author, tells the kids how she developed the series and the kids get a chance to ask her questions. The kids are encouraged to post their stories online.

What do you think works best for kids, whether its in the classroom or as part of a community group?

Tips on how blogging can work for you

July 17, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Posted in about life | Leave a comment

Inviting bloggers to join us!

 We are delighted to invite bloggers to join our site and blog topics that are of personal interest.

 We are asked how often you should blog. As often as you like is the answer, but the more often you blog the more times people will return to read your information.

 It is important to note that a blog is not an article. An article is a one-way conversation – you share information. A blog, when successful, is a two-way communication – you state an idea and other add to your ideas. In a blog, when done well, the whole is better than the original blog because additional information has been added.

 Here are some blogging tips

  1.  Make each blog 150 to 200 words, no more.
  2. Include your main points up front;
  3. Use sub-head in sections of your blog to make the piece easy to read.
  4. Use short paragraphs
  5. Create a blog using lists like: 3 Best Ways to…, How to find…., Best Resources include…
  6. Develop a catchy headline (If you need help with this let us know)
  7. At the end of your blog elicit response from your readers. Ask a question, like “What resources would you suggest?” or “How did you find…” You want to encourage people to respond to your information.
  8. Last, when people respond to your blog you should respond to the blogger. That will encourage them to come back.

 If you would like to blog on our site, send an email to Include the name of your organization (if you want to do it as an individual, just give us your name.), the address, phone number, the topic you would like to blog about, and the email you will be blogging from. If appropriate, we will invite you to blog through WordPress, which is the blogging site we are using. When you get your invitation, you will be asked to sign up for your own blog or for a blog name only. Sign up for a blog name and then let us know when you have completed the setup. We will then include you on our site as a contributor. Our blog administrator is notified of all blogs and posts them.

 Do you have blogging tips that you think should be added to this list?

What a glorious day

July 14, 2009 at 5:34 pm | Posted in about life | Leave a comment
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We’ve all been talking about the weather here in the northeast. June was chilly and so rainy…and July has been too. But the great part of all the dreary weather, is the appreciation that comes when the sun comes out and it’s crystal clear. I had such a great day yesterday. I spent the morning giving my horse “TC” a spa day. I can’t ride because I took a fall in the gym…running backwards no less! It hurts right where I’d sit in the saddle. So I’m “grounded”. Rather than complain on a beautiful riding day, I decided to spend quality time with my horse. He doesn’t get to graze in the paddock he shares with other horses. They ate down their grass long ago. So I took him out and let him eat grass and clover growing in a field. I noticed that he always takes two swirls with his lips and bites the grass on the third. It was really relaxing listening to this rhythm. I watched a girl about 9 years old having a lesson with Suzanne Shepard. She and Bob Jeffries are trainers. They believe that horse and rider should be trained together so that both enjoy the experience. Sometimes kids just get on and ride, but Suzanne showed how to care for the horse, from cleaning Scout up to putting on his bridle and saddle. That’s an important part of building a relationship. I gave TC a bath and thought about how pretty he is. Then I went to the airport and my husband and I flew in his plane. We took a friend to dinner in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was his birthday, and I know he’ll never forget how crystal clear the flight was. We could see NYC and all the way to Mohonk. Would we have felt so happy on such a beautiful day if it hadn’t been so gloomy for the past month? I think things like rain…and falls…happen so you get to take time out. And get ready to go when the sunshines!

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