Writers@Work: How I Self-Published My Children’s Book by Elaine Blanchard

September 29, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Greetings, writers!

My favorite part of my job comes around just twice a month—when I head to the library to teach writing to children as part of my Write Now! Dream Keepers program. Every week I meet children who challenge me to communicate more clearly and teach me about their lives. You can read about our fall writing projects at the Dream Keepers blog.

52879_1590457315041_7113083_oToday’s tip talks about how one writer found success through self-publishing. I met Elaine Blanchard almost ten years ago, when we both attended a writing retreat at Washington National Cathedral. I was immediately drawn to Elaine’s quick wit and wise stories. She’s been a great friend to me ever since! I’m delighted to welcome her to the blog! Enter below to win a copy of Elaine Blanchard’s new book, Maggie Scott’s Head Got Stuck.

Happy Writing!  Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach




My daughter, Jennifer, has worked for many years with children in preschool and public library settings. She shares stories with me, funny quotes, sad things, and crazy experiences. It was nine years ago when Jennifer first told me about Maggie Scott’s head getting stuck. The actual event was quite a crisis and, I’m sure, very frightening to all involved. The emergency medical response team had to be called in order for Maggie’s head to be released! Like so many family crises, the humor in this story was appreciated only after it was all safely resolved.

20150814_140419The story caught my attention because it was so ironic. Maggie Scott was the oldest child of three in a nice family. She considered herself to be an authority on most things. I asked for permission to interview Maggie, to give her a chance to tell the head-stuck story from her own perspective. I am told that Maggie cleaned the house before my arrival for our interview. The seven-year-old girl set up a special place for our interview, two club chairs and a floor lamp. She wore a black, floor-length, velvet dress and met me at the door. I was surprised and delighted by the formality!

After the interview, I stood to leave and simply reflected, “Maggie, you must have been so afraid with your head stuck, and so many people unable to set you free.” She looked me over, from head to foot, and with the air of royalty, she replied, “You might have been afraid, but I was not.” So funny! That line had to be in the story, so I invented a character, Daniel, who could inspire that same response from Maggie after her head was released from the granite towers.

I initially wrote the story in 2008, Maggie Scott’s Head Got Stuck. I submitted it to Dial Books for Young Readers and to Spider Magazine. Neither picked it up. So I chose to self-publish because I think the story begs to be told and shared.

Maggie is now sixteen years old, and she recently got her driver’s license. She has allowed this story to be published along with the permission of her parents. They helped by contributing five hundred dollars to the cost of publication. It is my hope that the book is a delight for all of them, for their extended family and friends.

I teach a course, “The Art of Storytelling,” at Memphis College of Art. One of my students, Robby McElhaney, is an illustrator, and his senior exhibit was so charming and fun that I was inspired to ask Robby if he would enjoy doing a project with me. I wanted to self-publish the Maggie Scott story, and I wanted Robby to illustrate it. We both enjoyed the work and the process. The story is ten pages and Robby created ten illustrations, one for each page of text.

I chose Archway Publishing because the organization seemed professional and helpful. I have had a good experience with them. Every contact I had was friendly. The publishing package I chose cost $1600.00, and that is a lot of money for me and my budget. I do not regret having spent the time and the money on this book. I strengthened my relationships with Maggie and her family. I had the chance to dedicate a book to my daughter. I enjoyed the chance to work with one of my students and to create something new together. I learned a great deal about self-publishing and I really like the look of my new book!

My only complaint about Archway Publishing is the high cost of their marketing package. The $1600.00 I paid for publication did not include marketing the book. When the marketing agent called me, I felt high pressure to purchase the package, and I felt the way I feel when I am at a car dealership, pushed to buy as though not buying would be an unintelligent choice. I did not appreciate that encounter, and I did not buy.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elaine UpstanderAbout the author Elaine Blanchard is a storyteller, writer and teacher. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she teaches “The Art of Storytelling” at Memphis College of Art and “The Preacher as Storyteller” at Memphis Theological Seminary. Elaine’s first book, Help Me Remember: Bible Stories for Children, was published and recorded by Pilgrim Press in 2005. Elaine leads storytelling retreats for groups around the country, giving participants the opportunity to find and share their own best stories. Learn more about Elaine on her web site at www.elaineblanchard.com

Meet the author Burkes Books, a local independent bookseller in Memphis, will host a book signing on Wednesday evening, November 11, 5:30-6:30. I’ll read the book at 6:00. Robby, the illustrator has been invited to join me there, and it would be a real joy if Maggie Scott and her family were able to return to Memphis from where they have moved to be part of that book signing event! The book can be purchased at Archway Publishing.



Posted in Publishing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writers@Work: How I Found a Writing Job at a Nonprofit by Ed Makowski


You don't Have to Write For Free FOrever

When I started college I hoped that someday there would be a writing position at one of the nature centers in my city. Two came to mind right away, Urban Ecology Center, which has three locations and is a stunning example of how to immerse oneself in the nature of a post-industrial landscape. The other was Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, a 185 acre sanctuary where 100 years previous Schlitz Brewery horses went to relax. Both are non-profit organizations.

To my surprise, about two weeks into my second semester, a position opened for a Communication Specialist at Schlitz Audubon. They were looking for someone who would write, edit, generate social media content, and help out with any other communication-related needs. The position was part time and could fit in with my school schedule.

I should add, I wasn’t a 19-year-old freshman when applying for this job. It turned out the 10 years of poems I’d sent out in the ether of the internet made a difference. People listened to the public radio internship I did for fun. There were some people who’d read my poetry books. I’d been working in writing for quite awhile, but finding a permanent position doing so was proving difficult without a degree. When you’re toiling away trying to create a resume through internships and publishing credits, all that stuff no one pays you for can eventually provide a cache of legitimacy.

Working at a non-profit hadn’t occurred to me until I went through a 10-month program with an organization called Public Allies. They place candidates with locally based non-profits whose skills and needs provide a good fit. Four days a week you work at your placement and on Fridays you attend non-profit training.

I was placed as a volunteer coordinator at a 90-acre farm which freely donates all of its harvest to the hungry throughout greater Milwaukee. In this new context I was a part of many varieties of communication. In all of those instances my coworkers seemed surprised by my ability to quickly turn around ideas or plans into words. Having this experience gave me the confidence that writing could actually be a career. I became certain that poetry wasn’t going to be a career, I didn’t want to write copy for retail store chains, and wanted to work in a pretty place.

At Schlitz Audubon, I work in a very collaborative environment, and our marketing department consists of only three people. There aren’t several managers who need to approve of our decisions. We come up with an idea, throw it to a few people and see when they think, then run with it. We’re light on our feet and often execute ideas within the same day.

Fall Panorama Cover 2015Prior to my starting with the organization they produced a quarterly report. It had black and white photographs and a couple of random articles, but definitely felt more like a report than a celebration of the location and it’s natural gifts. The marketing team decided to begin creating a small full-color magazine highlighting each season’s bounty, along with descriptions of three months of programs taking place. Panorama, as we call it, has been a big success with our membership and guests.

Working at a non-profit isn’t for everyone, but it can definitely be a great place for a person who is driven by a passion or mission. For me, I just decided I didn’t want to be making buying “stuff” sound good in the retail world. I’m marketing the idea that people should develop a deeper connection with nature- which I believe very strongly.

For writers interested in non-profits, I’d recommend becoming familiar with grant writing. I haven’t written any grants yet, but I’m told the skill is sought after and always desirable. One of my colleagues told me she has used some of my copy in grant proposals already, leading me to suspect that I may have a talent for that direction.

Now when I arrive at work there are different birds to listen to depending upon the time of year. I take a second to notice how tall the prairie grasses have gotten, or if the trees are yet waning from greens to oranges, and gobble at the turkeys (they gobble back—it’s hilarious!).

Working in such a beautiful and unique setting has also influenced my writing outside of work. I’ve started writing poems that often have more of nature flair. Recent topics have included turkey vultures, how males in the animal kingdom are the pretty ones, and the symbiotic relationship between squirrels and oak trees. If I ever feel a little worn out I go for a walk on the six miles of trails. There’s always something worth finding.

by Jennifer Tomaloff

by Jennifer Tomaloff

About the author. Ed Makowski is a writer and poet living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s into motorcycles and anything that involves the outdoors. He’s been a bad poet lately, and despite writing lots, rarely sends work out for publishing. He’s got two books of poetry out under the former pen name Eddie Kilowatt. Ed has two books ready for publishing (someday…when there’s time) and is also working on a series of history poems. https://edmakowski.wordpress.com




Posted in Writers@Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Five Questions to Ask Before Launching Your Blog by Rochelle Melander

September 15, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Fabienne Fredrickson

Fabienne Fredrickson

Last week I traveled to Chicago and took part in Fabienne Fredrickson’s The Half-Day Solution workshop. It was helpful to spend a day with other entrepreneurs, visioning and brainstorming together. My big lesson? I can build a business alone, but I learn more and grow faster when I connect with others!

One thing I heard multiple times from the people I met in Chicago was: I know I should start a blog, but I’m overwhelmed by the whole idea of it! I hear that from writers, too. They’ve heard that in order to build a platform, they need a blog. But what should they blog about? Who should they write for—other writers or potential readers?

Today’s tip talks about how to find your blog’s niche. Understanding what your blog is about and who you are writing for is a key step in creating your blog. If you finish the article and feel like you need more help with starting your blog or evaluating it, I can help! Together, we can vision how to make your blog more engaging for your readers.

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach




If you want your blog to succeed, you need to find a niche and fill it brilliantly. Great blogs have a distinct point of view and audience. One look at an engaging blog, and readers know who the blog is written for (and who would hate it). Great blogs do not cater to the masses (EVERYONE loves it). Instead, these blogs root themselves in their own niche and then proclaim their message exceedingly well.

Here are five questions to ask before you start a blog. They’ll help you determine if your blog’s niche works—or needs more work:

Can you state your blog’s niche in one sentence or short phrase? Think about the most popular and interesting blogs online—their niche is easily articulated:

Smitten Kitchen: Delicious home cooking from a small kitchen in NYC.

Nir and Far: Behavior and the brain for business.

Terrible Minds: Frank writing advice with bad language and no coddling.  

Can you explain why you are the perfect person to blog on this topic? Most writers are smart enough to blog on lots of stuff, from handbags to hummus. But tell me this: why are you specifically qualified to blog on this topic? Readers today want authenticity. Your blog’s niche and point of view must fit who you really are—or your blog will fail.

Can you describe your ideal reader? We want desperately to write for everyone—to be so popular that we appeal to the masses. But creating a blog that appeals to everyone is rare. It’s better to define who will read your blog and then create a great product for your crowd. Define your reader in great detail. Ask: What is my readers’ age and gender? What do they value? What are their biggest challenges? Where do they shop? What do they buy? Why would they seek out this blog? (Don’t forget: if your blog is going to succeed, NOT everyone will like it!) Pro Tip: Once you’ve identified your ideal reader, list 3-6 places they hang out both on and offline. You’ll need this information to market your blog to potential readers!

Can you articulate how you will meet the needs of your ideal reader? In more traditional marketing language, what will be your unique selling proposition? Let’s go back to one of the blogs mentioned above. Smitten Kitchen teaches readers how to make great food in a small space. It doesn’t require the reader to be a Le Cordon Bleu trained chef to make the dishes. Smitten Kitchen provides readers with step-by-step instructions for making delicious food with photos. Now it’s your turn. How will your blog help readers? In what ways will it inspire, teach, encourage, or nudge?

Can you list (at least) 25 potential blog topics? You will need to have enough unique material to sustain a reader’s interest over a long period of time. Otherwise, what you thought was a great blog idea might be better suited to an article.

Whew! If you can provide detailed answers to each of my five questions, you are well on your way to finding a blogging niche that works!

If you’re still feeling confused, then think about booking a single-session blog brainstorming session. We’ll review your blog’s niche, define your ideal reader, and create a brilliant plan for helping you launch a blog that rocks! I’m offering this 45-minute session at the special price of just $100. Sign up soon—I’ve got just three spots available.


Posted in Promotion, Social Media | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Is Your Website Missing These Three Essential Elements? by Rochelle Melander

September 8, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

Last week I wrote about taking time on the balcony to dream and plan. That’s what I’m doing this week. I’ll also be taking a day to travel to Chicago and take part in a business-development workshop. So if you email me and don’t get a quick response—that’s why. Don’t worry—I’ll get back to you soon. And when I do, I’ll have even more good stuff to offer you!

Today’s tip talks about something I’m passionate about—helping authors think about creating websites that engage their readers. Take a look at the article and then consider your own website. Are you missing any of these key elements? If you are, you may want to contact me to help you think about how you can make your site more engaging! (Scroll down to the end of the tip to learn how!)

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



I frequently invite authors to guest blog at my site or appear at my Write Now! Mastermind class. This fall, I’ll be starting up my Always Write! podcast again—so I’ve been visiting more author websites in search of guests. As I do, I’m often frustrated and disappointed by what I find. Here are three essential elements every author website needs:


1. MIA: Contact information

I usually meet authors through social media and can contact them via Twitter or LinkedIn. But sometimes, I meet authors at conferences. When I get home, I visit their websites to connect with them but guess what? Many of these author websites contain absolutely NO CONTACT INFORMATION. Yup—no way to call, email, text, or connect through social media. Their lack of contact information means that they’re missing opportunities to connect with readers and the media (and presumably editors and agents). I wondered if these were the same authors that whined about their websites not providing any return on their investment (ROI).

PRO TIP: After adding contact information, make sure you respond to fan and media requests! When you ignore the people who want to connect with you, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build reader engagement and connect with new readers. Plus, it makes you look like a jerk.


2. MIA: About you

When I visit a website with a missing or slight “about you” section, I think: Maybe they’re shy. Maybe they’re private people. But then I wonder, Aren’t they qualified to talk about this topic? If you want to build trust with your readers, then sharing information about you is essential. We want to know why you’re qualified to write this book, speak on this information, or help us with our lives. Tell us! Do it in a way that’s appropriate for your audience. So if you’re a comic book writer, make it funny and add pictures. But if you’re an expert on overcoming trauma, then it might be more appropriate to provide your credentials and experience in a more traditional biography statement.

PRO TIP: Offer a separate page for the media with information they can download and use: third-person bios in several lengths, media clips, and several photographs of you.


3. MIA: A way to stay connected

Years ago, I attended a reading by novelist Elizabeth Berg. She passed around a sign-up sheet for her annual newsletter. Once a year, she sent out a letter about her life, her upcoming books and appearances, and a recipe. Many authors today offer readers a chance to sign up for their online newsletter. In exchange for email addresses, they promise to send cool goodies—a free novella or interesting photos from their book research. If you don’t have a sign up form so that your website visitors can stay connected with you, you’re missing a big opportunity to reach your faithful readers with information about speaking gigs and future books.

PRO TIP: After collecting email addresses, connect with readers regularly and share quality information with them! Give them a reason to stay on your list by providing something of value to them.


YOUR TURN: What else do you think an author website needs? Stop by the blog and let me know!

Need help figuring out how you can maximize your website’s effectiveness? Are you wondering what kind of content your readers want? I’m offering single-session website reviews at the special price of just $100. You’ll receive a 45-minute consultation geared to helping you improve your readers’ experience of your website. We’ll consider how you can engage with your specific audience.  I have just five spots open. Claim yours now.

September 21



September 22








Posted in Social Media | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The Key Tool for Writing Success by Rochelle Melander

1 September 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

When I go back-to-school shopping with the kids, it’s tempting to fill the cart with products to help me be a more organized writer! But over the years, I’ve discovered that the perfect notebook, calendar, or pen doesn’t really add to my writing success. As a business owner and freelance writer, one of the best back-to-school gifts I’ve given myself is time away from my desk to dream and plan. Today’s tip talks about that key tool for writing success—balcony space. Enjoy!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


Vantage Points

Business leaders have to be able to view patterns as if they were on a balcony. It does them no good to be swept into the field of action. —Ron Heifetz and Donald Laurie, The Work of Leadership in Harvard Business Review (December 2001)

Balcony space happens when we set aside the large and tiny tasks of our day, let go of the emotional dramas that threaten to overwhelm us, and climb up to the metaphoric balcony, where we can get a better view of the whole. From the balcony, we can see the patterns of both our writing and our life. From that view, we can decide what works, what doesn’t work, and how we might make positive changes.

For me, balcony space creates the space and energy I need to ask questions, dream up possibilities, and discover solutions.

As a writer and writing coach, I try to make time for balcony space every quarter. Often, I can only manage to get a way for an afternoon—but spending just two hours on higher ground can teach me something valuable. This time of year is perfect for balcony time because it’s filled with both the energy of new beginnings (School!) and the urgency of endings (Eek! The year’s almost over!).

If you’re a professional writer or wannabe, you will be more successful if you regularly examine your writing career from the balcony. Here’s how:

Step One: Get out of the space where you regularly work. Find a place where you are away from your day-to-day life (and won’t be interrupted)—a coffee shop, library, park, restaurant, art museum, or spa.

Step Two: Get a big-picture view of your work.

+Review goals. Write down or review all of the goals you set for this year and the plans that you made to accomplish them. These questions might help:

*What were your goals for your writing career?

*What writing projects did you hope to finish by the end of the year?

*How much money did you expect to make from your writing this year?

*What other writing related tasks did you plan to take on (e.g., writing workshops, reading, research, and so forth)?

*What sort of a plan did you set up to help you meet your goal?

+Compare your goals with your daily schedule and writing products. Use these questions to reflect:

*How have you been spending your time?

*Do your daily actions match up with your goals?

*What work have you produced so far this year?

*Are you making satisfactory progress on meeting your income and writing project goals?

*If not, what other projects have emerged as priorities for your work?

*Are there any energy drains or unexpected commitments that have taken up your time?

+Reevaluate. For some of you, your actions will match the goals you set at the beginning of the year. Congrats! For many of us, though, we will need to reevaluate our goals and how we spend our time so that we can get back on track. Ask yourself:

*What goals do I want to accomplish before the year ends?

*What am I doing that is working?

*What am I doing that is not working?

*What do I need to do differently in order to meet my goals?

*How will I put this plan into action?

*How will I know if I am achieving my goals?

Step Three: Implement the new practices you created while on the balcony.

In order to benefit from balcony space, we need to let go of our old habits and invest in new practices. That can be tough. Most of us are pretty attached to our daily routine, and it often takes courage and a big kick in the pants to change. Now that you have been to the balcony, you know what you need to do. So do it!

A Final Note I hope your time on the balcony is fruitful for you. If it is, leave a comment below and let us know:

*Where you went for balcony space.

*What helped you get a new view.

*What changes you made or will make because of it.

IMG_0091About the author. Write Now! Coach Rochelle Melander is an author, a certified professional coach, and a popular speaker. Melander has written ten books including Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (And Live to Tell About It). As the Write Now! Coach, she teaches professionals how to write books fast, get published, and connect with readers through social media. Get your free subscription to her Write Now! Tips Ezine at http://www.writenowcoach.com.

Posted in Writers@Work | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Writers@Work: Make Money with your Life Story By Emma V. Webb

25 August 2015

Dear Writers,

I’d like to welcome Emma Webb to the blog. Today and tomorrow, you can get a copy of her new book at no charge at Amazon: Coming To America: How To Use The Three Golden Keys Of The Relationship Formula To Fit In, Get Along, And Get Ahead

Read on to hear how she decided to make money by telling her story!

Happy Writing,

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


“Everything that has happened in my life is worth money. Now, say it loud. Three times. Done? Do you believe it? Well, you soon will.” —Dr. Mani, author, “Think, Write, And Retire” and “Passion, Profit & Purpose”

Dr. Mani is one of my favorite mentors. But when I read that, my thoughts were, Oh yeah? Show me the money. A lot of things has happened in my life but my bank account is near zero.

After reading, “Everything that has happened in my life is worth money” a dozen times, I finally realized money will not come unless I got off my couch. I decided to let my fingers do the walking.

I sat down in front of my computer and with my two index fingers stepping over each other, wrote three books. Well, I did not write all three books in a weekend. It took longer.

How it began

When I was seventeen, I dreamed of being a writer. I studied to be a doctor instead.

When I was eighteen, my dream of being a writer was still alive. I got married instead.

At age twenty four, with two young children and a Pharmacy degree, my dream of being a writer was just a flicker, barely alive.

Before I turned twenty five, I moved to the United States of America from the Philippines. Life happened in my medical and business world for the next five decades. My dream of being a writer? What is that? What are you talking about?

Igniting a dream

Year 2014. That’s me on the couch. Older. The body moves in slow motion. The brain still works. I decided to revisit “Everything that has happened in my life is worth money”.

Igniting my dream to be a writer, I sat down in front of my computer and with two nervous fingers set the keyboard and the screen on fire.

If your goal is to write and publish books, here’s a list of suggested steps.

1. Find a quiet place, close your eyes, and breathe (inhale, hold to a count of 4, exhale). With continued practice, you’ll experience clarity of mind.

2. Write down everything you remember about your life. Here are some memory teasers:

+Anecdotes about your family, friends, enemies, jobs, career (s), etc

+Think of all the people who inspired you.

Some of my mentors I personally met and drew inspiration from are:

  • Tony Robbins. If you see Tony coming, watch out! His drive, energy, and strong desire to empower others is highly contagious.
  • Deepak Chopra. From him, I learned that life is an inside job.
  • Robert Cialdini. In his book, ” Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”, he wrote about proven, effective, peaceful, and fun uses of what he refers to as the six weapons of influence.
  • Dr. Tony Alessandra. I follow his Platinum Rule which in essence says, “You                                   can please all the people all the time. Allow them to tell you how.”

3. Categorize the information. Place each category in separate folders.

4. Research.

+Who is looking for the information?

+What kind of information are they looking for?

+Where can you find those that need and want the information?

+How can you reach them?

+Are they willing and able to pay for the information?

+How are you going to sell to them?

5. Crack the marketing door wide open. Tempt their curiosity so they’ll want to see, hear, and feel your virtual product (s).

6. Set a deadline. Organize the information. Stroke the details. How much time do you need to get your book done?

7. Write

+Keep writing. Do not read and reread. Do not edit until your first draft is finished.

+Polish, polish, polish, and polish.

+Do a final check of the manuscript.

+Wow! Deadline!

8. Stop writing. Time to hand your baby to the editors. Let the editors have a go at it. Get out of their way.

9. Publish.

I self-published. It’s cheaper, faster, and rejections didn’t even get a chance. I was in control of every aspect of the publication process. And, kept most of the money made in sales.

10. Start on your next book.

A final word

It took me almost two years to write and publish the three books. The first two were written for readers searching for a way out of their emotional and physical bondage. The books were based on this belief: Meditate. Look within yourself to find the magnificent center of your personal power. We all look outside ourselves for peace and happiness but the real source is locked inside our inner psyche waiting to be discovered and released.

The third book is intended for the people coming from other countries who caved in to the pull of the mighty, magnetic force of the American lifestyle. It is filled with stories, as well as content on communication and relationships, designed to help readers make their way around the maze of challenges, changes, and opportunities.


Copy of EmmaAbout the author.  Emma V. Webb is a writer and an author with enlightening experiences drawn from a life span of more than seven decades. She was a Philippine board certified registered pharmacist when she arrived in America, worked in the medical field as a registered medical technologist and later transitioned to the business world as an owner/partner of a multimillion dollar real estate company, and as a vice president of a results-oriented marketing corporation.

Her funny and entertaining anecdotes about the “behind the scenes” of her life in the medical and business world delight many readers. Her books, Heal Your Pain: How I Use 3 Easy Meditation Steps in 2 Minutes to Reduce Anxiety, Depression, and Other Side Effects of Stress; 3 Easy Meditations Steps in 2 Minutes for the Busy Executive: How You Can Reclaim Your Personal Life and Emotional Power From The Tight Grip Of Your Joband Coming To America: How To Use The Three Golden Keys Of The Relationship Formula To Fit In, Get Along, And Get Ahead, are sold worldwideOn August 25 and 26, you can receive her newest book at no charge from Amazon.


Posted in Writers@Work | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writers@Work: An Interview with Lauren Fox

18 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m delighted to be back in the office! But, as you may guess, when I opened my email—there were hundreds of messages waiting for my attention. If you sent one of them, don’t fret—I’ll be in touch with you soon!

Today I have a special treat for you—an interview with Lauren Fox, author of Days of Awe, a gripping story and an emotional roller coaster ride through the landscape of loss, love, and loyalty. Read the interview and then enter to win one of five copies of the book!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach




+I’m delighted to welcome Lauren Fox to the blog to talk about her new novel, Days of Awe. Welcome! Tell us about your new book, Days of Awe.

LaurenFox_DaysofAwe_New2Thanks so much for asking me to do this. These questions were fun to answer, and gave me lots to think about. Days of Awe is the story of a woman whose best friend dies, and then, over the course of the following year, her marriage falls apart, her relationship with her grieving daughter becomes fraught and difficult, and her relationship with her aging mother changes and frays. It’s just a little upbeat beach read! I think this book is about grief, about the inevitable losses we all face as we get older – and about to you put yourself back together in the face of it.



+What books inspired you before and during the writing process?

5941033As I was thinking about the book and the story I wanted to tell, I read Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann, which I found absolutely beautiful and mesmerizing. On the surface, it’s quite dissimilar in scope and tone to Days of Awe, but I admired it so much in part of McCann’s ambition, the way he took on disparate timelines and intersecting stories and how delicately they all came together in the end. Reading it, I felt like a world of possibility opened up for me in terms of how to tell a story. It felt serendipitous, reading that novel when I did.

I was also inspired by Falling to Earth, by Kate Southwood, a novel about a devastating 15812219tornado that strikes a small town in Illinois in 1925, and the one family it seems to spare. It’s a complicated and beautiful novel about sorrow and resentment and betrayal.

+One of the reviews praises Isabel’s wonderful voice—especially her use of surprising metaphors. Can you talk a bit about how you developed her voice?

I find so many things challenging about writing novels – plot, pace, setting, character development, to name a few! But voice is the one thing that tends to come fairly easily to me. I find I just get immersed in a character, and she sort of moves into my head. It’s definitely the most fun and magical part of the writing process for me – when a set of ideas and quirks and psychological traits and back stories alchemize into a character. Isabel’s voice fell into place for me when I recognized that the core of her struggle was about how to move through the changes and sadness in her life with the dark sense of humor that was already in place because of how she grew up.

+I write a lot about productivity and writing. One of my biggest challenges is juggling writing and parenting. What are some of your secrets to staying productive while parenting?

Oh, yes, that’s a good… wait, sorry, I had to unwrap a string cheese. What? Yes, juggling writing and parenting. I… oh, sorry, it’s three days later now. Where were we? Yep. It’s a tough one. I recommend having a partner with a flexible schedule, and absolutely devoted parents who live ten minutes away and are willing and eager to take your kids for as long as possible, whenever you want them to. Also, school. Truly, this is a constant juggling act, and I remind myself daily that it’s a good problem to have – a family I love and a job I love. But it’s not easy.

17847097+What books are you reading and/or recommending to others right now?

Some of the books I’ve read and loved over the past few months are Jenny Offil’s Department of Speculation; Time Present and Time Past, by Deirdre Madden; Thunderstruck, by Elizabeth McCracken; and Euphoria, by Lily King. I adored each of these books, and each is really different in tone and style, from an experimental novel to a collection of short stories. I highly recommend them all!



a Rafflecopter giveaway



UnknownAbout the author. Lauren Fox, who earned her MFA from the University of Minnesota, is the author of the novels Still Life with Husband, Friends Like Us, and Days of Awe. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Marie Claire, Parenting, Psychology Today, The Rumpus, and Salon. She lives in Milwaukee with her family. Visit her online at: http://laurenfoxwriter.com


Posted in Writing Process | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

WritersRead: Books that have Spoken to Me by Gayle Rosengren

11 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m enjoying my time away from work, finally reading some of the books I’ve been collecting all year!

I have a confession to make about the books in the stack. Some of them were written for children. I’m not alone. Adults purchase 55 percent of young adult books. At book groups, in articles, and on Facebook, I’ve heard many adults criticize this practice as part of the decline of adult intellectualism.

Seriously? Remember what Madeleine L’Engle said: “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children.”

ColdWarMaplewoodStreet_Rev2Far from being childish, children’s literature tackles challenging topics. In these books, I’ve found well-developed characters and brilliant writing. But don’t take my word for it—read these books yourself! Today’s post is filled with delicious reads, hand picked by Gayle Rosengren, author of What the Moon Said and Cold War on Maplewood Street. After you’re done reading the post, enter to win both of her books!

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



With so many amazing books for children and teens being published every year–not to mention all the titles I’ve read in my lifetime–the prospect of shining a light on a few of my favorites at first seemed almost ridiculously easy. Covers and characters and storylines come rushing to mind. The problem was, they kept on coming. Six became a dozen and a dozen became 24 with more still trickling in. Each one was special, each one had something meaningful to say, a few long-time favorites were particularly dear to my heart (think Little Women). How could I possibly choose just a few out of what seemed to be a growing mountain of titles?

But like diamonds sprinkled among bits of gold and silver, some sparkled just a little brighter than others. One by one I set those to one side. A couple of them I first had to hug. They were that special. My favorites are not all recent publications. For me, the true test of a book’s success is whether or not it stays with me afterward, haunting me (in the nicest possible way), lingering and prompting further thoughts, realizations and admiration in the days, weeks, and months that follow.

11594337One such book is Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. If you haven’t already read it, you are missing out on a remarkable experience. Ivan is a gorilla who lives in a cage at a failing shopping mall. He is also the narrator of the story. But instead of this making it more of a simplistic “animal story” his voice and observations elevate the novel to a level of thoughtful awareness and compassion that is lacking in many a human. Through his friendships with the animals around him, and his interactions with humans–especially Julia, a young girl who inspires the artist within him–Ivan’s life changes; and as you read, you will be forever changed too. Published in 2012, this book earned the Newbery medal. The jacket says it’s for ages 8-12, but don’t believe it. There’s no limit on the love this book will find with an audience of all ages.

15942671“Unique” hits a whole new level in Nancy Cavanaugh’s This Journal Belongs to Ratchet. One-of-a-kind main character Ratchet (real name Rachel) captures your imagination and your heart in this wonderfully fresh take on a young girl’s experience growing up with a dad who loves but doesn’t understand her. Ratchet’s quest for a friend and to find her own “style” without the help of a mom is a roller coaster ride of ups, downs and twists that she captures in her home-school journal. Smiles and heartaches abound when you join Ratchet on her unforgettable journey of self-discovery. This is an entertaining and thought-provoking middle grade book. The character of Ratchet and her voice (in this book in diary form) was the best part of this novel.

439288When Laurie Halse Anderson’s YA novel Speak was published in 1999, I was working in the young adult services department of my local library. I read it and immediately wanted to make it required reading for every girl and boy entering high school. Of course, I couldn’t do that, but I did the next best thing and put it at the top of every recommended reading list I created for teens and I told every parent and teacher I knew about it.

The book conveys such a simple message; so obvious. Heck, it’s right there in the title. Nothing subtle about it. But sometimes it is the simplest messages that are most difficult to act on. Caught between fear and anger, high school freshman Melinda is effectively paralyzed and does what many a girl before her has done in her circumstances–absolutely nothing. Instead, she buries a shocking and painful experience deep inside herself and tries to go on. But it is such an enormous and emotionally charged event, by keeping it stuffed inside she prevents herself from doing the very thing she most needs to do in order to heal–speak. This is another highly recommended read for writers because it demonstrates how a painful topic can be made more readable by the judicious use of humor.

64481My final recommendation is A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly. This is a YA novel set in the early 1900’s about a girl who dreams of leaving behind life on her family’s hard scrabble farm, going to New York to attend college on a scholarship, and becoming a writer. But it’s not as simple as that, of course. Mattie has big dreams, but she’s also a big sister to her brother and sisters, and that’s taken on enormous weight since her mother’s recent death. Her father doesn’t understand her longing for an education. He expects her to stay on the farm, mother her siblings and keep house for him. She could accept Royal’s offer of marriage and have some measure of independence while being near enough to watch over the children. After all, how will the little ones get on if she selfishly flees to New York? Still grieving for her mother, she wrestles with these question all through a summer that begins ordinarily enough but is upended by a drowning that will have a surprising impact on Mattie’s decision. The story is compelling, the characters are distinctive and real, and above all, the writing is beautiful. Not to be missed.

Each of these four novels–whether contemporary or historical, middle grade or YA, first person or third–possess the “something extra” that distinguishes these books from their peers. That special something is voice. All of them resonate in a way that pulls the reader into the story immediately, easily, naturally.

Most writers understand that voice is an elusive quality, nearly impossible to pin down with words. We just recognize it when we read it. The books I’ve recommended here are some truly excellent examples, definitely worth a read.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gayle Rosengren 100x100About the author. Gayle grew up in Chicago, attended Knox College, and worked first as an advertising copywriter and later as a Young Adult Assistant at Fountaindale Library in Bolingbrook, Illinois, enthusiastically sharing her love of books with young patrons. Eventually, she moved to Wisconsin and worked in children’s publishing. Now she lives just outside of Madison and is thrilled to write full time.

WhatTheMoonSaid_presalesHer debut book, What the Moon Said, historical fiction for ages 8-12, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, a CCBC recommended title; and an Illinois Reads selection. Her second book, Cold War on Maplewood Street, will launch on August 4, 2015. Both are published by GP Putnam’s Sons/Penguin-Random House and both are or will be soon, available as audiobooks. You can follow Gayle on Twitter at @GayleRosengren  and visit her online at http://gaylerosengren.com




Posted in Writers Read | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

#Writers Read: Is God Funny? Humorous Spiritual Writing by Elise Seyfried

4 August 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’ve taken off the next few weeks to read and spend time with my family. I’ll be back in the office on Monday, August 17!

LaurenFox_DaysofAwe_New2If you happen to live in Milwaukee, don’t miss tonight’s event with Lauren Fox at Boswell Book Company.  Fox will be my guest at the blog on August 18 to talk about her brand new book, Days of Awe. In the novel, Fox brilliantly portrays a woman who must somehow find a way through her grief. But Isabel Moore faces more the death of her best friend. Her marriage has fallen apart, her daughter is becoming a teenager, her relationship with her mother is changing—and she discovers that she didn’t know or love everything about her dead best friend. Days of Awe is both a gripping story and an emotional roller coaster ride through the landscape of loss, love, and loyalty.

Today’s tip comes from my friend and colleague Elise Seyfried, who is the author of several books on spirituality. She’s here to share with you her favorite funny spiritual authors. When you’re done reading, hop on over to the blog for a chance to win a copy of her book, Everyday Matters. Enjoy!

Happy Writing! Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



Can God-talk be funny-talk?

I have wrestled with this for much of my life. Certainly, my understanding of the Bible has been that it’s not a real knee-slapper. As a young Catholic, I found the Baltimore Catechism to be 100% chuckle-free. It seemed to me that the Almighty was not a subject for levity, not at all. Candles, incense, communion? Yes! Pratfalls, puns and punchlines? Not so much! And life pretty well bore me out, with its terrible tragedies and everyday disappointments and general crosses to bear.

So when did I decide to write humorously about my faith? And who are my literary partners-in-crime?

Everyday Matters front coverAs a newly-minted Director of Spiritual Formation at a Philadelphia area Lutheran church in 2002, I made the decision to use my own, sometimes a bit irreverent, voice when talking about my relationship with the Divine. I have come to feel that my very existence proves that He/She must have a sense of humor. So I began writing stories about my crazy mixed up life, and God’s presence in the midst of it all, and found that people actually related. Three books and many articles and blog posts later, I still regularly reference the Lord in a light-hearted vein, and I haven’t been struck by lightning yet.

I soon discovered, I was not alone in the spiritual humor writer category.


Anne Lamott

10890“I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” –Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott has been an inspiration to me for years. Anne is brutally, refreshingly honest about herself and her world. She is a recovering addict and a single mom and an incredibly gifted writer whose books include Traveling Mercies, Plan B, and Grace (Eventually). She talks to, and about, God, in very witty, very personal terms, and I, and many many others, can definitely relate.



Nadia Bolz-Weber

17333440 “He said that there would be more information available in the narthex. I leaned over to Matthew and whispered, “The Narthex? Isn’t that a Dr. Seuss character that speaks for the trees?”—Nadia Bolz-Weber

Another terrific humorist, a pastor and former standup comedian (and fellow Lutheran) is Nadia Bolz-Weber. I saw Nadia in person at a speaking gig in suburban Philadelphia. The event included raffling off a ham, just because. Nadia is the minister at the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, and I am betting her sermons are a riot. Nadia is the author of Pastrix, and the upcoming book Accidental Saints.


Jana Reiss


“Psalm 20: May G grant your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans. Except that scheme about meeting Angelina Jolie. Give it up, man.” –Jana Reiss

Jana Reiss is one funny lady. She is the author of Flunking Sainthood and The Twible (which is the Bible in tweets, believe it or not). In Flunking Sainthood she fights her way through twelve spiritual practices in a year (the practices win). In The Twible Jana illustrates the point that God’s message adapts well to the language of the digital age–and hilariously, too.


David Wilkie

17861701WWJS? What would Jesus say if you met him over coffee? That is the premise of a wonderful series of comic strips by David Wilkie. The online comics have been collected into two books, Coffee with Jesus and A Second Shot of Coffee with Jesus. A recurring cast of flawed but very recognizable characters bring their questions and concerns to Christ, who answers them bluntly but lovingly, no matter how ridiculous some of their comments may be.




Father James Martin

12073134“Preparation for heaven forms the basis of a great deal of Christian theology. Life, in this understanding, is not so much a test as it is a rehearsal….in that case, why couldn’t earthly joy, humor and laughter be a way of preparing for a lifetime of happiness? …Engaging in those virtues, then, is not simply to live a fuller spiritual life now, but to orient yourself to your future.”—Fr. James Martin

And finally, James Martin, S.J. The Jesuit priest (and prolific author and speaker who has often appeared on The Colbert Report) has written a book, Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor and Laughter are at the Heart of Spiritual Life. From the ancient saints to modern popes, to writers of every faith tradition (including the Bible), Martin makes the case that God not only has a sense of humor, but delights in us laughing and making others laugh.

So those are some of a chorus of literary voices reminding us not to always take faith matters so deadly seriously. As much as life can be heartbreaking, life can be side-splitting too. It is wonderful that many spiritual writers are tapping in to their funny bones these days, giving us glimpses of the Divine that are very down-to-earth indeed, and very entertaining.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elise SeyfriedAbout the author. Elise Seyfried is Spiritual Formation Director at Christ’s Lutheran Church in Oreland, PA. She is an author, actress, and mom of five. She writes a regular column for The Chestnut Hill Local. Her work has also appeared in such diverse places as The Philadelphia Inquirer, Metropolis, The Lutheran Digest, Guideposts Magazine, Simul: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, and the Wittenburg Door. Elise is the author of the books Unhaling: On God, Grace and a Perfectly Imperfect Life, Underway: Reflections on Everyday Grace and Everyday Matters. Elise was lyricist for the Stanley Drama award-winning musical Flight and has co-written (with her husband Steve) 15 plays for children. Elise’s website is www.eliseseyfried.com. She blogs at www.eliseseyfried.blogspot.com.


Posted in Book Reviews, Nonfiction Books | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writers@Work: Getting Started with Graphic Novels by Lisa Walker England

July 28, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Dear Writers,

I’m getting ready for my annual August Internet sabbatical. I’ll be offline starting Sunday or Monday and (hopefully) won’t be tempted to tune back in until August 17th. During that time, you’re free to send me a note via email or social media—just know that it will take some time for me to answer you! While I’m offline, you’ll still receive my weekly Write Now! Tip.

Alethia-Grey-Vol-1-Cover-FINALToday’s tip comes from my friend and colleague Lisa Walker England. She’s a fantastic businesswoman and artist—and has stopped by to talk about one of her recent projects, a graphic novel that she’s releasing on her blog: The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey. If you’ve ever thought you might be more suited to visual storytelling, read on! (And if you just want more tips about what graphic novels to read, you’ll find that below, too.)

Happy Writing!

Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach



We’ve all heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” If that’s true, then a graphic novel must be priceless. Many writers consider visual storytelling intimidating, but transitioning from prose to pictures can be easier than you might think. I made the leap. You can, too. Here’s what you need to know to get started.

Graphic novels have been called “the poor man’s movie.” To me, this is their biggest appeal. As visual media becomes ever more prevalent in our culture, the graphic novel format enables individual writers to capture new audiences without a huge production budget.

So what is a graphic novel exactly? At its simplest, it’s a novel-length story told primarily in visual format. Often the final product is a compilation of smaller comics (28 – 32 pages each) that each unfolded a piece of the running storyline.

Many, if not most, graphic novels are told in comic panel format, but increasingly, new releases borrow techniques from picture books, fine art, collage and even multimedia. Graphic novels can be in any medium, any genre and any subject matter. They can be written for any age group.

As you’re planning your graphic novel, keep one rule in mind. I call it The 80/20 Rule: tell your story 80% visually and 20% (or less) verbally. Never tell your audience what you can show them through pictures or symbols. While prose often focuses on a character’s thoughts and emotional arc, a graphic novel expresses these internal elements through action and facial expression, or sometimes through voiceover. The camera angle of each image and arrangement of images on the page also speak volumes.

Every graphic writer’s process is different; I can only speak for mine. Currently I’m releasing a steampunk mystery graphic novel called The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey on my blog. I have no formal art background other than some lessons as a child, but I write and draw the story myself.


Most graphic novels start out with a written script that looks similar to a screenplay. The writer’s artist partner then uses the script to plan all the necessary images or panels to tell the story. S/he also must decide how many panels fit onto each page. My case is a bit different, however. Because I’m both writer and artist, I skip the script step. The original story was captured in a notebook; I revise it during the drawing process.


In most cases I have a strong idea about how each page should look. Most of my pages have no more than 6 panels, sometimes as few as 2 or 3. Each two-page spread is a scene or a complete scene segment with conflict and a twist of its own. In a longer graphic novel, a scene might last for multiple page spreads.


Personally I enjoy adding filigree designs, animals or other decorative elements onto the pages to communicate subtle meanings related to the story. All this sifts into the reader’s subconscious much more organically than the written word, which must be processed in the logical portion of the mind.

As I draw, each page comes together bit by bit with light sketches. Then I add the dark tones, midtones and light tones, “sculpting” each image as I draw and adding details where needed. Sometimes I have to start over—but very rarely. I work with the page as it unfolds.


IMG_9016One page per week might not sound like much, but every little bit adds up fast. I draw all the images by hand in charcoal and pencil on 11”x17” Bristol board. Then I import the image into Photoshop for cleanup and formatting. I add talk bubbles and narrative text (in rectangular boxes) right before releasing the page to my readers.


If you’re interested in trying a graphic novel, go for it! You don’t have to be a fantastic artist to communicate well. At the very least, you’ll learn to lean on visual cues rather than having your characters or narrator tell everything. If you don’t feel up to the drawing, barter services with an artist and tackle the project together!

If you’re looking for great graphic novels to inspire your work, try these:

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Watchmen by Alan Moore

Mouseguard (series) by David Petersen

Kabuki (series) by David Mack

Dark Tower (series) by Stephen King

Sandman (series) by Neil Gaiman

The Leaning Girl by Benoît Peeters


Also check out the many free web comics that run each week. I enjoy:

Boston Metaphysical Society by Holly Rosing

Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

I hope you’ll stop by my site, too, and read The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey.  I’d love to hear from you about your story and how your first graphic novel project goes!


Cameo_BlogAbout the author: Lisa Walker England is equal parts brand strategist and serial storyteller. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband Nathan and two cats. The (Re)Invention of Alethia Grey is her first graphic novel. Visit her online at her business site or her blog.



Posted in Writers@Work | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment