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.

Dressing up for storytime

May 14, 2010 at 11:59 am | Posted in Community groups, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents | Leave a comment
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One of the great things about books is how they open up entirely news worlds and how you can often find traits you can relate to in certain characters. It’s especially fun if you pretend you are one of those characters. Think about it. While reading Twilight who didn’t imagine that they were Bella in love with the mysterious Edward. Or in The Undercover Kids who wouldn’t want to be Katie or Jake traveling to another country whenever they wanted.

There are certain community events that encourage this type of imaginative play. Tomorrow, May 15th, there will be a “Fancy Nancy Fashion Show and Storytelling” event at the Albert Wisner Public Library in Warwick. Put on your favorite outfit and visit the library for a dressy show. Hear a story, make a craft, and enjoy a snack. For ages 3-6. Starts at 1:30pm. Keep on the lookout for more events like this. Even if you don’t find any other dress up events locally, try to make a storytime/dress up night of your own at home. It really helps bring books to life.

The Undercover Kids’ Adventure Series Author Speaks to Students

September 30, 2009 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Community groups, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Publishing your story, Writing | Leave a comment
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“You were once four years old?” the young girl asked with wide eyes. She could not believe that the picture of the young girl that was up on the PowerPoint screen was the same grownup woman standing in front of her.  The grownup was the writer, Gloria Smith Zawaski the author of The Trunk in the Attic. She was speaking to a group of 150 students at the Emma Chase Elementary School in Wurtsboro, NY. Her presentation was sponsored by the school’s PTO.

Gloria was at the school speaking to the students about how an idea becomes a book. The presentation consisted of Gloria describing why she wanted to become an author, what goes into publishing a book (who is involved, the roles they play, etc.) and how the children can stimulate their own imagination through writing. Overall, the children were highly engaged and enthusiastic about interacting with a real life author and many of them seemed to want to become budding authors themselves. Kelly Creighton, from the school’s PTO, coordinated the event. Hear Kelly speak about the importance of children learning to read and write their own stories here!

Gloria encouraged the students to write their own stories and offered four suggestions:

  1. Start with what “if ideas”…What you could did to China? What if you met an alien on your way home?
  2. Get someone else to read it and see if they understand it.
  3. Ask someone to proof for spelling and punctuation
  4. And post them on The Undercover Kids’ website for others to read.

The kids really enjoyed having Gloria sign the books they had purchased. Every student in the audience was given an Undercover Kids purple band which is meant to encourage creativity. One student asked, “Can I go to Africa with this band?”

Gloria meets her fans at Emma Chase Elementary!

Gloria meets her fans at Emma Chase Elementary!

The Undercover Kids’ puppets come alive

August 28, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Posted in Community groups, Educators, Kids and reading, Mystery books, Parents, Puppets | 1 Comment
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The Puppet Kitchen puppeteers create Jake.

The Puppet Kitchen puppeteers create Jake.

In order to engage kids we are sending author GloriJake front view 2a Smith Zawaski to visit schools with her new puppet friends….Jake, Katie and their dog Cooper.

Gloria created Jake (Katie and Cooper) in her new book The Undercover Kids’ Holland Adventure. The wonderful folks at The Puppet Kitchen are making The Undercover Kids jump off the pages of Gloria’s book and on to the stage as “live” puppets.

“Here are a bunch of photos of Jake – we’ve started with him,” say Emily DeDeCola, one of the principles at The Puppet Kitchen in New York. Jake side view

“I think the little guy is pretty cute, although clearly, he has no arms,” continues Emily.

According to puppet group, Jake’s arms are coming next week and they plan to fatten him up. (I wonder if we will have to put him on a puppet diet?)

Share pictures of your favorite puppets. And visit often, as we post updates on the creation of The Undercover Kids.

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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Giving birth to puppets

August 3, 2009 at 10:03 am | Posted in Community groups, Education, Educators, Fundraising, Kids and reading, Librarians, Mystery books, Parent Teacher Groups, Parents | Leave a comment

My team and I are busy creating great programs for school kids that will introduce students to other kids from around the world as well as to the world of creative thinking.

My job is to organize the school presentations. We originally developed a classroom program for 25-30 kids but as we spoke to principals they told us that they organize programs for groups of classes…from 60 to 90 kids and more. So we went back to the drawing board and decided to have fun with this for our sakes as well as the kids. So here come the puppets.

Today is Sunday and two New York City puppeteer groups have graciously agreed to let me meet the stars of their puppet studios so that I can understand how to best develop our Katie, Jake and Cooper puppets to go into Hudson Valley schools. Will Katie take on that “I’m going to organize things” look? If you meet Jake will you know instantly that he is always coming up with new ideas to try out? And will  Cooper be that mischievous dog always getting into trouble?  Because I am not sure how to create puppets with personality I am visiting some of the experts in the field.

While I am taking responsibility for developing the program for schools, Bridget, a member of my team, goes full steam ahead with The Undercover Kids Teacher’s Guide. This 32-page guide provides games, exercises and programs that the teachers can use after we leave the school. Bridget is organizing the guide so that it can be used in conjunction with the book, as well as independent of the book. Our goal is to encourage kids to have fun writing their own Undercover Kids’ story. When given a chance to let their imaginations roam, they develop story ideas that are not hampered by adult rules or regulations. That is the joy of childhood that we want to foster.

Invite us to your school. Your students get a chance to meet a local author, as well as our puppet kids who have wonderful stories to share. The program lasts about 45 minutes. It is interactive, and your kids will walk away with a better understanding of how to write their own stories.

The program costs $300 per performance. And schools get $6 a book for every book that kids buy. It can be a great fundraiser and is educational as well. I was always in favor of my kids buying books rather than selling candy or wrapping paper.

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?

Creating effective program for kids in the classroom

July 21, 2009 at 12:33 am | Posted in Community groups, Education, Educators, Kids and reading, Parents | Leave a comment
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Right now we are creating and testing school presentations. Our goal is to develop programs for 4 through 6th graders that introduce The Undercover Kids’ Holland Adventure and use their knowledge of the book to create their own stories.  We want to encourage kids to read as well as to write.

I mentioned in my previous blog that we went to the Bishop Dunn Memorial School to test out our initial school presentations.

We visited three classes with kids from 4th to 6th grades. The author, Gloria Smith Zawaski, came to the first class with us. We introduced the characters and the book. Then we played word games where we handed out cards with 5 words in a group. The kids were asked to use the assigned words as a basis for their own Undercover Kids adventure. Once one kid read his story, it encouraged others to get up and read as well.  In their reviews, they said they liked the program.

They really enjoyed talking to the author. I was fascinated with their questions: Is Katie based on you? If you found a hole with a cover on it, like the Undercover Kids did, would you go down the hole? Those were two questions I hadn’t heard before.

But one thing we realized is that the program we designed worked great with 5th and 6tth graders. They didn’t need much coaching to develop story ideas, but the 4th graders require a more structured approach.  So for us it is back to the drawing board.

We are looking for new approaches for classroom presentations. What can you suggest?

By the way, if you would like us to come to your school send me an email at publisher@excitingread.com

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