Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meet Jessica Dimuzio VMD, Conservation Educator and Author!

by Tammy Burke




Hi Jessica,

The stories you must be able to tell...conducting research on elephants, rhinos and wild baboons in Kenya, Africa, visiting six continents and teaching field-based conservation programs in here in the states, Africa, and Asia. I am curious. What originally got you into this field? Was this a childhood  dream? What do you like best about it?  Also, how did wildlife preservation lead you to not only being published in veterinary journals and conservation newsletters but also writing children's books? 

Jessica Dimuzio: Both my husband and I read Thornton W. Burgess books about animals as children, a fact that obviously greatly influenced us. Our favorite thing to do is look for wildlife in their natural habitats. He became a conservation biologist and I pursued veterinary medicine,
specializing in wildlife preservation. Winning a scholarship, I had the opportunity to study wild baboons in Kenya, Africa. Soon after my studies ended, the land was sold to a cooperative of small farmers who regarded baboons as pests. The only way to save the baboons was to relocate them to a remote area of the country. The realization that land preservation was as vital as species studies led me, with my husband, Dr. Tim Halverson, to design holistic conservation education programs. We incorporated animal studies, land use, culture, and economics and conducted these conservation programs for college students and wildlife biologists in the United States, Africa, and Asia.

But it wasn’t enough for me. To create a lasting conservation impact, I believed I needed to reach youngsters, inspiring them to connect with the natural world and revel in its mysteries. The enthusiasm of students in naturalist programs I led in the U.S. and abroad encouraged me to engage even more children by relating true stories from my work, through writing and speaking engagements.

May I say, what a brilliant idea of grabbing children's attention while conveying conservation ideas by using Johnny Angel, a Papillon dog, as Bark! Bark! Bark for My Park!'s point of view character. And how exciting to have received a personal note of appreciation from celebrity Betty White and an excellent review from US Review of Books! Could you tell us the inspiration of behind the tale? Also, could you tell us a little bit about your new book "Bow Wow Wow! Green Beans Now?" 

Jessica Dimuzio: I have always considered myself a non-fiction storyteller, and one day I was relating to a friend of mine the fact that my 5 pound, not even 2 year old Papillon puppy saved a 700-acre farm park from being destroyed. She said, “Jessica, you write for kids. This is a great story.” You know, sometimes when it is in your backyard you don’t think it important or newsworthy? So the next day, I sat down and wrote “Bark! Bark! Bark for My Park!”

Bow Wow Wow! Green Beans Now? recounts Johnny Angel’s obsession with eating garden-fresh, mouth-picked green beans and I thought it would be a unique approach (and hopefully humorous one) to get kids interested in organic gardening and eating homegrown vegetables. But the ending was a surprise to me!

I understand Nature Tales and Trails, LLC came into existence in 2011. Could you tell us a little about it, its programs and what you do? What do you find most rewarding? What would you like to see in its future?

Jessica Dimuzio: Our mission at Nature Tales and Trails is to connect children to the natural world through classroom talks, nature walks, and books about our adventures working with wildlife at home and around the world. 

If you are interested in “Stories from the Wild—Programs for Your Child” contact me through Nature Tales and Trails, LLC at www.naturetalesandtrails.com .

In 2009 you joined Young Writers’ Day Program and began teaching persuasive writing and civic responsibility to elementary school children. What do you most rewarding? What do you find most challenging?

Jessica Dimuzio: Young Writers’ Day has been in existence for 30 years and writers of all genres teach their craft to elementary schools. I was hired as a last minute replacement (okay, I was given 12 hours) to come up with a writing exercise for third graders. I told the leader, Mary Beth Lauer, that I talk about writing a petition in Bark! Bark! Bark for My Park!, can I teach that? And I have been teaching petition writing and civic responsibility ever since. Through Nature Tales and Trails, I now bring persuasive writing, civic responsibility, and conservation programs to middle schools as well.

I’ve always struggled with discussing “adult” topics with kids but I have learned that there are ways that you can awaken their awareness in a positive way. With all the negative news they receive, when I show them they can make a difference in their world—whether home, neighborhood, school, and they see it and feel it, I know I we need to influence them that they can do amazing things. When I ask them “What is Johnny Angel’s message in Bark! Bark! Bark for My Park!, and they say: It doesn’t matter what size, age, or species we are, we can make a difference” it is truly rewarding and uplifting.

On your personal website you have "The destination: unchanged. The path: unpredictable. The journey: full circle." Could you tell us a little bit about how your activities have come full circle?

Jessica Dimuzio: My passion is wildlife preservation and that destination has never changed.
The path has been unpredictable, starting with single species research to saving habitats, to teaching holistic approaches to conservation, to writing for children, to sharing the work and the journey with children.

It was the children’s books about nature that I read as a kid that inspired me to love, respect, and ultimately want to protect wildlife. With my childrens’ books and programs, I feel I am reaching more people, having a bigger impact through my work—whether writing, teaching, or conducting nature walks. I feel I have come: Full Circle.

I understand you are the founder of Milestones Children’s Critique Circle. Could you tell us what it is and how it came into being?

Jessica Dimuzio: The course I took with Vivian Grey on writing for children had the most diverse and yet most compatible participants I’d ever had the pleasure of taking a course with. When the course ended, I offered to organize a monthly meeting. I founded this organization in July, 2006 and am proud to be the leader of such a diverse and accomplished group of people. Milestones Children’s Critique Circle is a support group exclusively for dedicated writers of all genres of children’s books. Our motto is: E=MC3  because the group generates so much energy, we beat Einstein’s equation!

To be invited as a guest, please contact:
dr.d@naturetalesandtrails.com

Out of curiosity, during your presentations what the best or most memorable questions or comments you have fielded from the children?

Jessica Dimuzio: There are so many wonderful, funny, surprising, and emotional interactions followed by incredibly touching communications through thank you letters. There are two that stand out for me.

After one school visit where I read Bark! Bark! Bark for My Park!, a third grader wrote me that we shared many things in common; love of dogs and a park near her that was closing. She asked for my help in saving it. I was so thrilled to find a third grader understanding the impact of losing open space, it gave me hope.

At a recent school visit, a student in a knee brace reminded me that if it wasn’t for boogie boarding, I wouldn’t be a children’s book author.

I was wondering if you could give us a teaser of what you'll be covering in "Whoops, I Did It Again!" and "How to Catch a Kid?"
 
Jessica Dimuzio: 
Whoops, I Did It Again!
I will be presenting my journey from moment of conception through the pivotal points that led me to become writer, illustrator, director, groomer, publisher, publicist, vendor, and speaker of an international award-winning children’s picture book. And learn, yes, I did it again. Through discussion of lessons acquired and questions to participants, I will help attendees determine whether self-publishing is the route to go or not.
 
How to Catch a Kid—Creatively Luring Children to Non-Fiction
5 key components + 4 tips + 1 small piece of advice=
10 criteria for creative non-fiction for children

Thank you Jessica for taking time out for this interview and sharing so many wonderful and thought-provoking answers. Looking forward to meeting you at the conference.  



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Jessica Dimuzio, VMD, will lead two Saturday sessions on non-fiction writing that grabs children's interest. Besides being published in the fields of veterinary medicine, veterinary education, and conservation, she is an award-winning children's book author. "In fact," she says, "during my school visits I tell children why should I spend the time making up characters and plots like a fiction writer when no one believes my true stories any way!"  In her conference session "How to Catch a Kid", she will explain the key to good non-fiction: there must be a compelling story arc, and a main character with which children can connect.  Dr. Dimuzio has lectured internationally, taught college classes, and currently leads a critique group for fiction and nonfiction children's book writers. She has published two picture-books. Her website is: naturetalesandtrails.com

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Monday, March 17, 2014

Meet Karen E. Quinones Miller, Essence best selling author!

by Tammy Burke



Hi Karen,

What an indomitable spirit you must have and what an impressive journey you’ve traveled: Staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer to self-published author to experiencing a literary auction with major publishing houses competing over your work to national bestselling author! Our attendees have so much to gain from your insight.

According to your bio, you were turned down by dozens of agents and publishing houses for your first book “Satin Doll.” Was there a specific moment which made you decide you were going to take your manuscript’s fate into your own hands and create Oshun Publishing Company?  

Karen E. Quinones Miller: My 12-year-old daughter was the one who encouraged me (forced, actually!) to write Satin Doll, and I had let her read the manuscript before I even sent it to agents and publishers. After sending out 35 query letters -- and receiving 50 rejections -- I asked her for reassurance that the manuscript was indeed good. When she said, "yes," we then decided that we would just publish it ourselves. This was in 1999, before the big explosion of self-published books . . . but my daughter and I celebrate Kwanzaa (African-American holiday Dec 26-Jan 1.) and the second principle of Kwanzaa is Kujichagula -- which means self-determination. We decided if we really believed in this principle we should put it into practice, and not rely on someone else to affirm me as a published author. And so . . . we self-published!

Being such a successful publicist – 3,000 book sales in six weeks and 28,000 in less than six months, attention from several major publishing houses, Essence bestselling author and the publisher of an another Essence best seller – our conferees are sure to gain a lot from your session “Guerilla Marketing.”  I was wondering if we might get a little teaser on how you do what you do.

Karen E. Quinones Miller: The most important thing is to train yourself to think outside of the box when it comes to marketing. One of the best things I had going for me, when promoting Satin Doll, was the fact that I had never taken a marketing class. If I had, I'd probably done just enough to sell the 3,000 books in a year -- which was my original goal. Because I had no idea how to sell 3,000 books in a year, I just did any and everything to sell those books. Everything I saw, every person I met, I immediately started thinking how they could be incorporated into my sales plan. So, I'll be sharing some of my own techniques during the workshop on Saturday, but the most important thing is for people to come up with their own . . . and to remember that nothing is off limits!

Your stories, for example “I’m Telling” contain thought provoking subject matters which society many times would just like to sweep under the rug.  What advice would you give to other writers who struggle to be brave enough to tackle the big subject matters?

Karen E. Quinones Miller: Well, I don't think a writer should tackle any subject -- controversial or not -- if it's not something that speaks to them. Don't write about something just because it's commercially advantageous to do it . . . but if there's something in your soul that you need to get out, do it! Don't be intimidated about the "bigness" or the "controversy" involved in the writing about the subject . . . a good writer is an honest writer. If it's in your soul, than the honest thing to do as a writer is to share it with others.

Could you tell us a little bit about the first time bestselling author Kwan Foye coined you as “The Aretha Franklin of Black Publishing?”  

Karen E. Quinones Miller: I was the Book Expo of America -- back in 2003, or so -- when Kwan first introduced me to someone as the Aretha Franklin of Black Publishing, and I think it was because I was so well-known for helping new writers with advice and resources . . . and sometimes being their voice when more "veteran" writers chose to unfairly target them.

Just curious....but is Oshun considering any manuscripts currently?

Karen E. Quinones Miller: Unfortunately, no . . . due to my health issues (first brain surgery, than multiple sclerosis), I've not published a book under Oshun Publishing since 2008.

What was the inspiration that brought you to writing? And is there anything you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?

Karen E. Quinones Miller: I write because if I didn't I'd be in prison. If I couldn't write I had have to go ahead and commit murder and mayhem in real life.

Thank you so much Karen for allowing me to interview you and being a part of our “Write Stuff” Conference!  Our conferees are sure to walk away enriched and inspired from not only your marketing session but also your “Showing versus Telling.”  

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Essence best selling and NAACP Literary Award Nominee, Karen E. Quinones Miller started her literary career in 1999 when she self-published her novel, Satin Doll, and sold 3,000 copies in six weeks, and ultimately 28,000 copies in less than six months.

Although Miller, who was formerly a staff writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, had approached dozens of literary agents and publishing companies about Satin Doll, it was only after her novel’s phenomenal sales success that major publishing houses stood up and paid attention. So many houses were interested at that point, that a literary auction was held and Simon & Schuster won the publishing rights to Satin Doll, and a second book, with a six-figure bid.

Miller subsequently published seven books through major publishing houses, but she also maintained her own publishing company – Oshun Publishing Company, Inc. – which she used to publish Satin Doll. Oshun Publishing went on to publish the novel Yo Yo Love, which became an Essence best seller and launched the literary career of Daaimah S. Poole who has since published six other novels with Kensington Books. Essence best selling author, Miasha – author of Secret Society, Diary of a Mistress, and Chasers – also considers Miller her literary mentor and says Miller was instrumental in her landing her first publishing deal with Simon & Schuster.

Books written by Karen E. Quinones Miller: Satin Doll, I’m Telling, Using What You Got, Ida B. (re-titled Uptown Dreams), Satin Nights, Passin’, Harlem Godfather, An Angry-Ass Black Woman

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Meet Kathleen Zakhar, associate agent at Harold Ober Associates!

by Tammy Burke



Hi Kathleen,

What a delight having you join us at this year's conference! And what an intriguing combination of things you have dabbled in. I was wondering if I could ask about missile engineering? It's not something you see everyday in a bio. :-)

Kathleen Zakhar: Thank you, I’m very much looking forward to the conference! I suppose I do have a bit of a colorful background. I had a job working metrics and program management on the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, which take down satellites with kinetic energy alone, no traditional warhead needed. While I’ve always loved science and math and really enjoyed the job, I think I’m probably better suited to reading science fiction instead.

It has to be pretty exciting working with such a respectable agency that's been around over 100 years and have represented legends such as Jack London and H.G. Wells. Can I ask what's one of the best things you like being part of Harold Ober Associates?

Kathleen Zakhar: While we’ve only been around about 85 years, I am definitely lucky to work at such a legacy agency where these names, and others like F. Scott Fitzgerald, J.D. Salinger, Richard Adams, James M. Cain stand on our shelves. In addition, I work on some of the film/TV deals we do in the office, so I’m looking forward to the miniseries reboot of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and the movie adaptation of The Giver by Lois Lowry. And, it goes without saying that the 14-year-old me would have loved the big wall of Tamora Pierce novels!

What do you find most rewarding as an agent? What do you find most challenging?

Kathleen Zakhar: Agenting provides me with the opportunity to pursue passion projects. There’s no marketing team, publicity department, or approval board to shoot down the books I want to represent. The challenges I face as an agent are constantly honing my list of editorial contacts so that I may draw up the perfect submission list in order to find the right home for a book.

Having a degree in Creative Writing (along with a degree in Finance) I was wondering what you enjoy writing most. How old were you when the "writing bug" first bit you?

Kathleen Zakhar: I’ve always enjoyed searching for the perfect word that captures exactly what I’m trying to make a reader feel. I had parents who encouraged creativity, so I must have penned dozens of short stories as a child which turned into the requisite embarrassingly angsty teenage poetry. It was in college that I realized I preferred editing and helping others to achieve their best work. Working in publishing, I can combine my background in business with my passion for the written word.

I understand you originally hale from Tucson Arizona. I was curious if you have ever been to TusCon (a SF, Fantasy and Horror convention) particularly since one of the things you are looking for are Science Fiction manuscripts. Also, out of curiosity what's your favorite SF story?

Kathleen Zakhar: No, I haven’t actually attended TusCon. But if you ever find yourself in the southwest, I highly recommend the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention and the Tucson Festival of Books, a wonderful convention that brings hundreds of authors and readers together.

As for my favorite SF story, it’s so hard to choose. Classics aside, I am particularly obsessed with Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos. It has everything I love in a great SF story: beautiful worldbuilding, a unique premise, and, most importantly, a diverse cast of characters that I cared about. More recent favorites include The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, John Scalzi’s Redshirts, and the science fiction and fairy tale blend that is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. 

In your bio it says you like "all things YA." In your opinion, how has YA grown, what makes it so "hot" and where do you see it going?

Kathleen Zakhar: It wasn’t so long ago that shelves dedicated to YA fiction didn’t even exist. Young adult fiction is being embraced more and more by a much wider demographic, where a significant portion of the readers are adults. There’s an energy, or perhaps a certain amount of recklessness, that accompanies being a teenager that I think readers really admire, regardless of whether that’s a contemporary or a high fantasy novel. Coming-of-age tales will never go out of style, despite whatever “trend” seems to be happening. It all comes down to good literature. Regardless of age, nobody likes to feel static, and I think reading YA embraces that feeling that anything is possible.

Do you recall a favorite book when you were a teen? Is it still a favorite? What are your favorite books now?

Kathleen Zakhar: When I was a teen I read both YA and adult fiction, so my favorites from that time period range from Jane Austen – Mr. Darcy was just one of many literary crushes – to Heinlein to Harry Potter. I recall that Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, and The Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee were among my favorites when I was younger.

Today, I’m a huge fangirl for Neil Gaiman and Stephen King. I probably reread The Dark Tower series once a year. Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is an absolutely brilliant novel that my friends are probably sick of me recommending. Living in NYC, I absolutely depend on audiobooks, so I’ve enjoyed Jake Gyllenhaal reading The Great Gatsby and the ensemble reading of Ellen Kushner’s Riverside series.

Could you give some examples on quirky and adventurous middle grade novels you have recently enjoyed?

Kathleen Zakhar: The Wildwood Chronicles by Colin Meloy and Carson Ellis is a great example of quirky middle grade novels with a precocious protagonist and a captivating story. Another middle grade novel I like is Caroline Lawrence’s P.K. Pinkerton and the Deadly Desperados, a western with a high-functioning autistic narrator. I see a lot of middle grade queries that I believe underestimate their reader and what middle grade readers face at that age, so I am always happy to see it proved otherwise.

Are there certain things when reading a manuscript that are apt to "spark" your interest? And what pet peeves do you have?

Kathleen Zakhar: One thing I definitely want is to be swept into a story within the first few pages. I was recently reading Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood and found myself truly admiring her first couple sentences: “Our mother was a witch, too, but she hid it better. I miss her.” Right away the author is creating a tone, while also presenting background information without being heavy-handed. There’s a lot packed into those 14 words!

Along those lines, if there’s any info dumping or the exposition is wonky, I’m going to have a hard time. Beginning with elaborate battle sequences and lengthy prologues can also be tricky, because I’m not yet invested in the characters or the world. Starting with too much or too little dialogue is also a pet peeve of mine.

And one last question...if you could share three pieces of advice of what to do or what not to do when pitching a book, what would they be?

Kathleen Zakhar: 
1) I know it’s been said a hundred thousand times, but make sure your query letter is perfect. It’s the first and perhaps only impression an agent will have of you, so why not make it the best it can be? That means no “Dear Mr./Ms. Agent” introductions (do you want me to reply “Dear Author”?), no spelling errors, and a concise and gripping representation of you and your work.

2) Be in tune with your readers. Classics ≠ comp titles. Do your research on what’s out there (including other media like TV and movies) so that you can answer any questions about how and why your book is different and appealing with alacrity.

3) Don’t jump the gun and start suggesting actors for a film adaptation, discussing media tie-ins, or weighing in on which imprints might be perfect for the book. There’s a cart, and there’s a horse, and they go in a certain order.

Thank you Kathleen for taking time out for the interview.  We really look forward to seeing you!

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An associate agent at Harold Ober Associates, Kathleen Zakhar is actively building her client list.  She graduated from the University of Arizona with a dual-degree in Creative Writing and Finance, and dabbled in journalism, real estate, and missile engineering before coming to Harold Ober Associates. She put in her time as an intern at Jill Grinberg Literary Management, Foundry Literary + Media, and McIntosh & Otis. Having grown up in the deserts of Tucson, she now lives in Brooklyn with her med school husband and a tiny potted cactus. You’ll find Kathleen on Twitter at @kzakhar and Harold Ober Associates at @harold_ober.

Looking for: I love all things YA and am also looking for adult science fiction, fantasy in all its varieties, historical fiction, and horror novels. I am also interested in representing quirky and adventurous middle grade novels. I’m not opposed to picture books, but I’m extremely selective.

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).


Friday, March 14, 2014

Meet Deborah Emin, owner of Sullivan Street Press!

by Tammy Burke




Hi Deborah,

It is delightful that you will be joining us for the "Write Stuff" conference this year. May I say what a fascinating way to differentiate from other publishers by going green and focusing on saving the planet!

I recently had a conversation with colleague about your company and it's intentions of going green. It made her pause before she admitted she must have a forest in her house and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Definitely something to think about. Could you tell us what originally inspired you to create Sullivan Street Press? 

Deborah Emin: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to sound off about my company. This has been and continues to be a long road of many wonderful discoveries and some serious set backs which your questions help me to go over. 

I began my company as a way to protect my intellectual property. All environmental focuses and "fights" are about the lessons learned along the way. Having been in publishing since 1978, I have seen all the internal publishing perspectives on what it means to be green. Unfortunately, the industry promotes and sells all we know about this important and necessary shift and does nothing to live by it. It's as if the industry lived on a desert island with all the information needed to survive but was illiterate and couldn't read the material. 

It's intriguing the options you offer readers...ebooks through Sullivan Street Press, Print-on-Demand copies from the Espresso Book Machine at McNally Jackson Books AND this iPad app for your Scags series. First could you tell us about this app and the "Living Book" approach? What was the inspiration? What do you like best about it? Could you tell us a little about your collaboration with the Espresso Book Machine?

Deborah Emin: As to the move to work both with MAZ Digital and the Espresso book Machine. The wonders of new technology are staring us in the face. With enough resources and support, they can offer publishers and writers the kinds of opportunities to do new things that the industry has also been slow to embrace or make the best use of. 

On Demand Books, the parent company of the Espresso Book Machine, begun by Jason Epstein a long-time publishing executive, faced real uphill battles. The first battle was the cost of their machine and the rising costs of paper. This has kept their beautifully produced books and the underlying technology which seems to have failed them from being a success. So, I'm moving on from them to work with Ingrams whose larger systems and delivery mechanisms will serve me better. 

MAZ Digital is another exquisitely built model that also isn't completely attuned to books. They offer writers an opportunity to do wonderfully imaginative things to enhance their books but the company is built on magazines and advertisers. With them I began to imagine what a Living Book could be. For that I am extremely grateful. I think my concept is sound but it requires a kind of author-centric focus with the book itself generating enough revenue to support what I had envisioned. An experiment that has not failed so much as been a stream of lessons about what is possible given more extensive sales and thus a reason to pursue this type of involvement by an author. I tried to have the people at MAZ work with me to teach writers and publishers some best practices with their outstanding technological breakthroughs. These talks went nowhere. They needed to find backers, ramp up their tech side. Their talks with the executives of the Big 6 led nowhere because those people don't live the daily lives of authors for whom this technology would be interesting. So again, great vision, great ideas that haven't yet found their best practitioners. Had they contacted someone like Margaret Atwood, who loves this geeky side of life, they might have forged a much better working relationship. But they don't know anything about the book world. They also didn't want to learn. Seeing the possibilities doesn't mean people understand what they are seeing. 

According to your bio, you are not looking for genre fiction but are looking for story which "is originally told and challenges conventional, contemporary fiction's strictures." Could you expand on this? What are you looking for?

Deborah Emin: As to my desires as a publisher, what I look for, I discovered from my earliest days of reading the "slush pile" that that sort of trial and error publishing is pointless. The waste of time and effort that goes into that form of relationship building is useless. I read almost anything. My tastes are varied. My interests expansive. But I will not spend time with writers who pay no attention to their craft, who are uninterested in challenging the reader or making the reader uncomfortable. So, I seek out what I'm interested in rather than hoping someone can sell me an idea. Or says they know how to write something but it's just a trite re-iteration of what others have done. I am a writer too. I know what it means to struggle with language and structures to build a story. I don't want to fall into easy traps or waste my limited time with people who think selling books is a get-rich scheme. 

Do you help your authors with marketing? Or is this something you allow each author to handle him or herself?

Deborah Emin: Marketing is a joint venture between me and the author. They sign an agreement to be involved in it. I also work with Vocus, an online marketing and public relations firm. They write our press releases, work on our newsletters, write marketing plans for our authors and the authors and I collaborate. 

I like the idea of offering more out-of-print books. How many are currently made available through Sullivan Street Press? And what gave you the idea to offer this?

Deborah Emin: The OP business side has died. Too long a story to tell here but the lessons learned were fascinating and gave me even more insights into how the state of publishing currently came to be in such dire straits. 

I think it's wonderful that you have a page on your website that offers links to more information about ebooks, e-readers and devices and how to use them.  In your opinion, how much has the ebook market grown?

Deborah Emin: I have been at war with Amazon from the start. They are a predatory corporation. But we had to sell our e-books solely from our site in order to maintain our relationship to our readers. The times for us are changing. Readers of e-books, while seemingly growing, aren't adept at using their devices and uninterested in learning their capabilities. I spend too much time providing customer service and that has meant I needed to find a way to shift our focus from selling e-books to educating about e-books. Just this week we launched a new part of our site, the E-Book Blog. This is exciting and forward thinking. It allows us to open up talks about the how and why of e-books without spending time trying to sell them from our site as well. Soon, and you heard it here first, all e-commerce will be gone from our site and we'll focus our marketing in many different ways. 

What do you envision in the future for Sullivan Street Press?

Deborah Emin: As to the future of SSP, it is a similar question seeking answers your conference attendees need to also ask: Why am I doing this very difficult work that must keep me at the forefront of what is possible? If I am not interested in the huge changes occurring in the publishing world, have I chosen wisely to spend my time pursuing a published author track? How much of a commitment am I willing to make once I have mastered the craft to really enter into a community that will value my work because I am willing to speak for it with them in ways that explore our common interests? 

And last question, what pieces of advise would you share with our conferees? 

Deborah Emin: This may seem like a huge assignment with no guarantees of financial success. But the fact is, success may not always be measured in dollars and cents. Sometimes there are many, many other and more meaningful ways to know you are hitting your marks, are in tune with your own self. That satisfaction is unbelievably exciting and rare in this world of commerce. 

I hope these answers help those coming to the conference. They have certainly given me a pleasure to share. 

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Deborah Emin is the sole owner and employee of Sullivan Street Press. 
I began Sullivan Street Press in order to change the publishing paradigm but 
soon discovered that the business model for this industry also reflected the 
larger, global problems of environmental degradation. That the printed book was 
part of the problem and was adding to the load this planet could not sustain. I, 
therefore, switched to an e-book only model, with all titles sold exclusively on 
the company's website. My novel, Scags at 7 was the first title I sold and as of 
2014, we will have 5 more authors working to help solve what I consider to be 
the major problem facing us--saving our planet and having an open heart to be 
able to do that work. 

What I look for:

In nonfiction, all titles focus on the ways in which we can actively help the 
planet to survive. Using the Eating Vegan in Vegas title as the cornerstone of 
this project, I am now searching for titles in local, sustainable food 
production, water preservation, urban gardens. And other ways in which we can 
sustainably exist. Titles on urban growth and development based on our new green 
needs are also welcome. In other words, a kind of how-to book for the 
preservation of life.

In fiction, I am always looking for a strong central character, preferably 
female, whose story is originally told and challenges conventional, contemporary 
fiction's strictures. Titles that are out of print are also considered.  I do 
not seek genre fiction of any kind.  

---------------------------------
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Meet Agent David Forrer from Inkwell Management!

by Tammy Burke



Hi David,

It is a delight to have you join this year's GLVWG "Write Stuff" Conference. The breadth of experience you bring...working as an assistance at Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency, a small boutique agency to becoming an agent for one of the world's leading literary agencies...is sure to be a wonderful boon for our conferees. Welcome! 

I am wondering...did you always know you wanted to be an agent or was this a decision you made later...perhaps as you were working on your Master's Degree in Creative Writing?

David Forrer: In 1996, I was accepted into the creative writing program at Boston University.  I had written some short stories but I had no idea how anything got published.  The more ambitious writers in my workshops were already “querying agents” – I didn’t know what that meant until the head of the department suggested I read manuscripts for a former student of his who had just opened her own agency on Newberry Street.  Well, I quickly realized that reading other people’s work was more satisfying than creating my own. When I finished at BU, I went through the job listings in Publishers Weekly and got an interview for an assistant’s position with an agent in Manhattan. I took Amtrak to Penn Station – it was my first time in New York.  I’ve lived here now for 17 years and I’ve worked as an agent the entire time.

Out of curiosity, was crime fiction something you enjoyed reading as a kid? What would you say some of your favorite stories were growing up? Also, do you ever get time to read just for enjoyment only? If yes, what do you like to read?

David Forrer: My life has always been full of books.  My mom was a school librarian and as a kid I used to make my own books by stapling pages together, drawing (awful) cover art and writing stories that were heavily derived from the authors I admired. Most of the reading I did as a child was classic young adult but I remember I had a book about the famous racehorse Man O’War that I read obsessively, over and over again – I wish I could remember why because that knowledge would be valuable to me today as publishing professional!

My relationship with crime fiction really started when I was representing books on behalf of some UK agents.  Val McDermid, Mo Hayder, Mark Billingham, John Harvey, Peter Temple, Minette Walters are some of the major crime writers who I’ve been privileged to work with through their primary agents and publishers overseas.  

I think it’s important to read for enjoyment – there’s a lot of rejection and disappointment in this business, but the pleasure of reading is what first drew me to publishing, and a really good book always inspires me.  I recently read Adam Johnson’s THE ORPHAN MASTER’S SON and I was like, How did he do that?  That came out of his imagination!!  When I’m reading a manuscript that I really love I start to imagine the thrill of sharing it with other readers as a finished book and having them feel the same way I do. Also I need to know what’s working in the market.  I once read a whole bunch of books by Debbie Macomber during my Christmas break because I wanted to understand the appeal.  She writes great contemporary romances – and I really enjoyed them!

Do you work on your own writing?

David Forrer: No, I think really successful writers are compulsive about it, and as much as I wanted to be “a writer” I never actually felt an overwhelming urge to sit in front of a blank page and fill it with words. To quote my favorite Kristen Wiig skit from SNL, “that’s a major red flag!” 

Could you tell us what type of historical fiction really "grabs" you? Also, what exactly do you mean by popular history?

David Forrer: For ANY work of fiction to really grab me it has to have a great story and great characters, particularly a protagonist that you can root for.  An historical novel that illuminates a way of life on an intimate, human scale (GIRL WITH A PEARL EARING) can be just as absorbing as one that’s written on a larger canvas (WOLF HALL). Also, if something sparks my interest in historical events – SHADOW OF THE WIND probably isn’t considered “historical fiction” but reading that book made me want to learn more about the Spanish Civil War.

You asked about “popular history.” I represent a writer named Vicki Leon who is a self-styled “historical detective” and she publishes very accessible portraits of life in ancient Greece and Rome that are meant to inform and entertain.  That’s what I mean by popular history.  One of her books explores career choices in the ancient world.  The working title was HELP WANTED: ORGY PLANNER but her publisher made her change it to WORKING IX TO V.  I still think that was a mistake!

It must have been an exciting time during the "birth" of Inkwell Management (the 2004 merger of Arthur Pine Associates, Carlisle & Company, and Witherspoon Associates). What has been some of your best experiences about the merger and/or agenting at such a prestigious agency? What would you say has been the most challenging?

David Forrer: I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of InkWell.  We work very collaboratively – I share clients with Kim Witherspoon (David Vann, Carol Cassella and Kaui Hart Hemmings) and Michael Carlisle (Elin Hilderbrand), and I spend a lot of time in Richard Pines’ office strategizing and talking about what I’m working on.  Every day is a “moment” but the best experiences always involve witnessing a writer’s success.  At the New York premiere of the film adaptation of THE DESCENDANTS, I was remembering the phone call with Kaui when said she was planning to expand her short story “The Minor Wars” into a novel, and it blew my mind that here we were with George Clooney and Alexander Payne bringing her imagination to life on the screen.  At the other end of the scale, I was recently working with a first-time author who was absolutely thrilled to get rejection letters from publishers – it meant that someone was actually reading his book! It reminded me that the whole point of writing is simply to make a connection with one reader – of course, you do that a million times and it’s called a bestseller. (By the way, we did get an offer and the book is publishing this summer.)

The biggest challenge is obviously all the rejection but I’m an eternal optimist so I keep putting one foot in front of the other – there’s always some happy payoff or a nice surprise right around the corner.

If at some point today your dream submission "fell from the sky and landed in your hands," what would it look like?

David Forrer: It would be fresh and innovative and if the ending made me cry that would be a bonus.  And it wouldn’t have any typos on the first fifty pages.

And last question, what three pieces of advice would you be most apt to share with would-be authors?

David Forrer: Write a book you’d want to read but also know who your audience is.

Don’t expect to make a living from your writing. Some writers do, eventually, but most writers need another source of income to give them the security to write.  

There is rejection at every level of the business, whether you are a writer, an agent, a publisher or a bookseller.  Don’t take it personally!

-------------------------------------------------
David Forrer began his career in publishing in 1997 after receiving a Masters in Creative Writing (fiction) from Boston University. He has been an agent with InkWell Management since it was created in 2004.

His areas of interest and representation range from literary, commercial, historical and crime fiction to suspense/thriller, humorous non-fiction and popular history.
-------------------------------------------------
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Monday, March 10, 2014

Meet Sunbury Press' Owner Lawrence Knorr!

by Tammy Burke


How delightful having you back at the "Write Stuff" conference again! And wow! Is it coming up fast. Anything new and exciting you can share regarding you and/or the Sunbury Press?  

Lawrence Knorr: Yes!  It is an honor to be asked back. It is hard to believe two years have passed since the last time! Sunbury Press just completed its best year ever from a sales perspective. We continue to grow and succeed in a very tough, competitive environment. We are celebrating our tenth year in business in 2014 -- but I can tell you it feels like 100 years! We've transformed ourselves twice in that span -- caterpillar, cocoon, butterfly --- what's next? Most recently, we have seen ebooks peak, their growth rate slowing, while independent bookstore sales have picked up. While our Amazon business has continued to grow, other channels are growing faster. We have dubbed 2014 our "Year of Collaboration" focusing on ways our 120+ authors can experience better results by helping each other and by working together in teams. So far, there has been a lot of positive energy. We also opened, February 1, our first company bookstore in Mechanicsburg, PA, where our headquarters is located. Our goal was to provide a storefront for all of our books -- and a venue for our authors to meet the public. We really want to be an important part of the local community for our local and regional authors -- and provide another option to our more far flung partners. It's a great place to meet prospective authors and to talk about books with the general public.   

Based on your webpage, I understand the your company holds a "Continue the Enlightenment" mentality from the 18th century and the "Age of Reason." Could you expand more what that means to you and to the Sunbury Press?

Lawrence Knorr: "Continue the Enlightenment" is a motto that represents our mission statement. Simply put, we are a publisher of diverse categories, but we are always seeking to bring new perspectives and voices to the marketplace. The Enlightenment was about a new order of things -- not unlike what is happening in publishing today. The old order governed by a strong center of control is being challenged by more democratic ideals. This is what the independent publishing movement is all about -- whether doing it yourself or with an independent publisher. We are experiencing an era of rapid democratization of the publishing industry. If only Hugh Fox had lived a little longer! I'll never forget the day he called me - Hugh Fox - one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize. He revealed he was dying of cancer and offered me the opportunity to publish his remaining works. He said Sunbury Press was exactly the kind of publisher he was looking for. I was very grateful for his offer, and encouraged him to spread the dozen or so works around to other presses, keeping two of them for ourselves. Hugh liked the motto, and we think it is very appropriate at this time.  

What was the motivation to start the Sunbury Press? What makes it different than other publishing companies?

Lawrence Knorr: I started the company in 2004 because I wanted to publish some family histories. I didn't want to pay someone else to do it, so I embarked on figuring out how. While this was only ten years ago, it was when vanity presses were a cottage industry and print on demand and ebooks were in their infancy. I just wanted to sell some books at cost to family members. But, I really enjoyed it and realized I could publish other books -- not just my own. Two hundred and twenty titles and one hundred and twenty authors later, we have really grown thanks to our business model and our philosophy. We are different for several reasons:

1) We are very tech-savvy. My wife and I both have long careers in IT and understand the Age of Content and the importance of search engines, ecommerce and mobile commerce.
2) We do NOT charge for services. Many publishers are experimenting with vanity, hybrid or subsidy models. We refuse to go in this direction, instead making our money by selling books. 
3) We have editors working for us as employees of our company. We take quality very seriously.
4) My wife and I are also photographers and digital artists, able to design book covers, marketing materials, graphic designs, web content, etc.
5) We are "generalist opportunists" -- working in a broad number of categories. We understand the advantages of breadth and scale to the economic sustainability of an enterprise.
6) We love what we do. I really enjoy working with authors to bring their work to the marketplace. It tickles the soul.

I was wondering...Is there anything in particular you are looking for in an author and his or her manuscript?

Lawrence Knorr: Quality Manuscript + Motivated Author + Publisher = Success

We are always looking for high quality manuscripts -- in a variety of fiction and nonfiction categories. Quality is more than just well-written / grammatically correct. Quality is about fresh ideas, new found truths and entertainment. We like material that brings value to our readers.

We like to gauge an author's motivations. Gone are the days of sitting at a typewriter, mailing a box of paper to a publisher and then waiting by the door for the checks to arrive. Authors need to be involved in their success. While we provide editing, design, formatting, ebook creation, printing, distribution, marketing, etc., we do best when authors are out and about advocating their work and promoting themselves. We are an ideal option for authors whose work is good enough not to have to pay to publish -- who want to be writers and not start their own publishing businesses. Most writers are not business savvy. We bring the business expertise to the mix.  

Anything you'd like to see more of? Anything you'd like to see less of?

Lawrence Knorr: Thankfully, the vampire craze has past. There's probably a metaphor somewhere in that regarding the publishing industry! We are always looking for more history and historical fiction -- more clever YA and more entertaining police procedurals and mysteries. We like good literary fiction too! We've had a lot of inquiries about poetry -- something we rarely publish. 

Do you work with authors to help them increase sales? Or do you allow them to do that for themselves?

Lawrence Knorr: We generate our revenue exclusively from selling books. So, we are ALWAYS looking for ways to sell more books -- whether a new channel to open, a new retailer to call upon, a new country to access, or an author's activities. As I stated in the opening, we have dubbed 2014 the "Year of Collaboration" and are seeking new ways to collectively leverage our scale. There are opportunities for Sunbury Press authors to go beyond our activities and their individual efforts -- to work together within a category or region.

I understand you have authored eight books on regional history. Could you tell us more about them? What were their inspiration.  

Lawrence Knorr: Where did I ever find the time? My early books: "The Descendants of Hans Peter Knorr," "The Relations of Milton Snavely Hershey," "The Relations of Isaac F Stiehly," "General John Fulton Reynolds," "The Relations of Dwight D Eisenhower" and "The Hackman Story" were family history / genealogy focused. I wanted to write about my relations -- a very deep and rich history linked to important people and events in Pennsylvania and the nation. While researching at the Lancaster County Historical Society, I also stumbled upon the journal and letters of my great uncle David Bear Hackman, describing his adventure to California for the Gold Rush. I edited and contextualized this treasure into the book "A Pennsylvania Mennonite and the California Gold Rush." My more recent works have been collaborations:  "Keystone Tombstones Civil War" with Joe Farrell and Joe Farley -- about famous people buried in Pennsylvania who played a part in the Civil War and "There is Something About Rough and Ready" about the village in the heart of the Mahantongo Valley at the center of that region's Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I have several other projects under way for release in the coming years: "The Visiting Physician of Red Cross" - about the career of Dr. Reuben Muth of Red Cross, PA (I have his collection of visiting doctor records from 1850 to 1890), "Palmetto Tombstones" -- about famous people buried in South Carolina, "Scheib of Shibe Park" -- a biography of the former Philadelphia A's pitcher -- and youngest American Leaguer ever -- Carl Scheib of Gratz, PA. 

Being born and raised in the Susquehanna Valley myself I was wondering if you've done anything regarding Sunbury, particularly the Hotel Edison or Lewisburg?

Lawrence Knorr: We borrowed the name Sunbury from the town in Pennsylvania because it was near the Mahantongo Valley -- and I liked the name. But, that's about as far as it goes. We have yet to publish anything about Sunbury, the town in Pennsylvania or nearby Lewisburg. However, our book "Digging Dusky Diamonds" by John Lindermuth is about Shamokin, PA and the nearby coal regions. Our best-selling "Prohibition's Prince" is about the famous moonshiner Prince Farrington from Williamsport, PA.  Our "Keystone Tombstones" series spans the entire state and often touches on historical figures from the Susquehanna Valley.

Do you have favorite time period and place regarding history?

Lawrence Knorr: I teach Comparative Economic and Political Systems at Wilson College once a year. I really enjoy teaching this class because it allows me to span economic history from classical times to present. My favorite time periods / places are the Roman Empire in the first few centuries AD and 19th and early 20th century America. I am intrigued by our industrialization in the early 1800s -- and the entrepreneurship and personal responsibility that was present. Most of the people living today would feel very insecure without their comforts, insurances and government safety nets. I long for that time when individual hard work and creativity could amount to something tangible -- and when we relied on ourselves, our families, our religious institutions and our communities. 

What did you like best about holding the office of president for MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)?

Lawrence Knorr: I was honored to be elected the President of MBPA for one year. I met a lot of great people, including my predecessor Mary Shafer. My goal was to make sure our organization survived the struggles it was going through and could become sustainable. The new team that formed was very motivated to do so, and they continue on without me. Unfortunately, the demands of my growing business prevent me from volunteering at this time.   

Your digital photography is quite beautiful. I particularly enjoy your vibrant use of color. How long have you been practicing this art and I'm curious...how many book covers have you designed?

Lawrence Knorr: Thank you! I've been a photographer since I was 12 years old. I began showing my work in 2006, after a local gallery liked my attempts at "Photo Impressionism." I was one of the pioneer artists who was trying to make photographs look like paintings. My work has been shown around the country and has won awards -- and is in collections and even a museum or two. While I have not been as active at showing my work, I have designed over 100 book covers over the last three years. My wife says they are getting better!  I really enjoy doing it, and most of the authors are very pleased with the results.

What are your thoughts on selling internationally? Do you find that foreign bookstores cater to the same reading choices as here in our area?

Lawrence Knorr: We sell our books in at least a dozen other countries -- UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia, India, Mexico, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan ... even Lebanon! We're developing expertise in foreign rights as well as foreign distribution. We have found the rest of the world lags the US in eBook adoption -- and still have a very strong book retailers. We've had the most success in the UK, for obvious reasons - but have also broken through where our titles touch on target markets. 

I want to thank you for taking time out for this interview, Lawrence. We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Lawrence Knorr has been involved with book publishing for fourteen years. His  company, Sunbury Press, Inc., headquartered in Mechanicsburg, PA, is a publisher of trade paperback and digital books featuring established and emerging authors  in many fiction and nonfiction categories. Sunbury's books are printed in the USA and sold through leading booksellers worldwide. Sunbury currently has over  120 authors and 200 titles under management.
Lawrence has taught business and project management courses for ten years, and is the author of eight books. He is also an award-winning digital artist, and has designed dozens of book covers . Lawrence is the former President of the MidAtlantic Book Publishers Association (MBPA)
Most interested in U.S. & World history and other nonfiction (sports,
professional, hobbies) -- also historical fiction, mystery/thriller.

Will consider YA fiction, contemporary and historical romance, horror (no
vampires), literary fiction.

Not looking for children's picture books and poetry at this time.
-------------------------------------------------
Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Meet Paranormal and SF Author Phil Giunta!

by Tammy Burke




Hi Phil,

How exciting to have one of our own teaching at this year's "Write Stuff" Conference and what intriguing sessions you're teaching!
I have to admit, the description for your "Time Management for Writers" session gave me a sheepish moment because...well...I admit it, sometimes I'm terrible about getting off FaceBook! I'm wondering if we might get more of a teaser about what you'll be sharing with us? I wouldn't mind a teaser about "The Differences Between Writing Novels and Short Stories" too...please. :-)
Phil Giunta: My focus with “Time Management of Writers” will be guilt. Yes, guilt…and why you shouldn’t necessarily feel it when you don’t achieve a specific word count per day or find yourself unable to spare time on a daily basis or the words just don’t flow when you finally find that hour or two.   Writing time can also be spent in other ways. Editing the previous day’s work or research are also valid uses of writing time.
“The Differences Between Writing Novels and Short Stories” seem obvious, right? One is short, the other is long and that’s all folks, goodnight!  Yet there are writers who have a challenging time keeping to word counts. Why is that? Well, there might be differences in the amount of characters needed to tell a story, the level of character development, character points of view, timeframe, pacing, and plotting. With novels you have a bit more elbow room than in short stories.
However, there are no absolute hard and fast rules for much of what we’ll talk about and I definitely look forward to audience participation. I stake no claim on omniscience. Every writer has his or her own unique methods and experience and I find that many writers are eager to share, which I encourage.  
Your first book "Testing the Prisoner" presents an interesting combination about a person's innermost psychology and the paranormal. Seriously creepy stuff here. How did this story idea come to you?
Phil Giunta: Testing the Prisoner began as a story of a broken family, child abuse, and—eventually—forgiveness. Suffice it to say that I have some personal experience in these matters and wanted to write a tale for all of those dealing with the same pain to let them know that they are not alone.  
However, as I began writing the outline, my fondness for the paranormal crept in and I realized that it would be more dramatically told as a ghost story. So we have Daniel, our protagonist, estranged from his abusive mother for over a decade. On the night he learns of her death, he finds himself haunted by an angel and a demon. He soon learns that each is a manifestation of his own personality. They battle for one purpose—to convince Daniel to either forgive his mother or not, thereby determining the fate of her soul. The victim has now become the judge, jury, and potential executioner.
Yes, it’s creepy. It’s also emotional and dark, but is not personal experience often the source of an artist’s creativity?  I recently read an article on The Creative Penn blog by Eric Praschan called “Using Real Life Fear and Pain to Springboard Your Story” and I firmly agree that if you can imbue in your characters the same emotions you felt while enduring a similar tribulation, the story will gain verisimilitude and truly reach your readers’ hearts.  
Out of curiosity, how did you first become interested with ghost stories and the paranormal? And may I ask, have you ever been part of a paranormal investigating team such as the one your heroine Miranda Lorensen had?  
Phil Giunta: I’ve always loved an atmospheric, suspenseful ghost story. Think of The Sixth Sense, What Lies Beneath, Stir of Echoes. By its very nature, the paranormal removes certain boundaries and in doing so, allows a writer to create scenarios and explore emotions not always possible in other genres.  
Ironically, other than Edgar Allan Poe and very few others, I rarely read paranormal fiction. SF is my first love and I am an avid reader of books from the golden age of SF (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, etc) and just beyond that era (Bova, Ellison, etc). In fact, I’m developing an SF novel right now.
I can count on one hand how many paranormal investigations I’ve participated in and even those were years ago. I was never part of an organized group, just a few curiosity-seekers with still cameras and voice recorders.
However, like any good writer, research was in order when it came to writing By Your Side. The television series, Ghost Hunters, and other shows provided some assistance to that end.  
Miranda had been a last-minute addition to Testing the Prisoner as Daniel’s old flame who also happened to be a psychic-medium. During a dinner scene, she mentions to Daniel that she belongs to a group of paranormal investigators. That, along with many other aspects of her character, led me to write By Your Side as a spin-off novel focusing on Miranda, her abilities, her team, and her life.   Daniel’s story ended, but Miranda’s continues.
  
I understand "Testing the Prisoner" is on Podiobooks and "By Your Side" is on Prometheus Radio Theatre. Can you tell us a little bit about what these are and the benefits you are seeing by being a part of it?
Phil Giunta: A bit of background: My publisher for both novels is Firebringer Press, started by Steven H. Wilson. Steve created The Arbiter Chronicles, a podcast SF audio drama featuring a full cast of voice actors and earning him both the Mark Time and Parsec awards. Since he loves audio and has been podcasting for years, Steve encourages his prose writers to record their own audio books.  
Prometheus Radio Theatre is Steve’s podcast site where listeners can, free of charge, listen to episodes of any full cast audio show that he has produced as well as audio books written and read by those published via his imprint, Firebringer Press.  Audio books are serialized; typically one chapter per week.
Podiobooks.com offers all audio books free of charge. The site was founded by Evo Terra and Tee Morris. Tee, also a Parsec award winner, was the first writer to serialize a novel as a podcast audio book and Evo coined the term “podiobook”. Hence, the site was born and now hosts probably thousands of audio books. Evo and Tee also wrote Podcasting for Dummies. Many popular writers have their work on Podiobooks such as Scott Sigler, Nathan Lowell, and others.
The largest benefit I’ve seen is promotion and exposure. Though we give away the audio books, they have generated sales of the ebooks and paperbacks from supportive listeners. As I’m still a newbie, I’m not yet seeing stunning sales as a result of the audio books, but like anything worthwhile, it takes time. I’m focused on the long tail.
Beyond the above reasons, reading for audio is simply great fun, albeit time intensive for longer works. Listener feedback is often immediate. So far, I’ve been fortunate to receive many positive comments on my audio books.
Testing the Prisoner’s audio book had its first run on Prometheus Radio Theatre before being uploaded to Podiobooks. By Your Side will eventually end up on Podiobooks as well.
  
I understand you wrote fan fiction in the 1990s. Could you tell us a little about how this helped your writing and career? Do you think this contributed to writing the short stories in the ReDeus anthologies?
Phil Giunta: These are two excellent questions and yes, they definitely relate. For those who need a definition of fan fiction (or fan fic), it is simply fans of already-established universes writing their own stories based on those characters. To me, fan fic was a great training ground to hone my writing and storytelling skills.  
Between 1995 and 2003, I wrote short stories in the universes of Star Trek, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and several others.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, but by 2003, I wanted to move on and pursue original stories with an eye toward getting published.
Couple that with the fact that for 20 years, I’ve been attending SF conventions in Maryland where many of my favorite media tie-in writers are guests.  In the early years, I would take my stack of Star Trek comics and novels and have them signed by folks like Peter David, Michael Jan Friedman, Bob Greenberger, Howard Weinstein, and others.
Many of these writers would take the time to offer writing advice to me personally as well as host writing workshops and discussion panels at the conventions.
Flash forward to 2012.  I received an email from Bob Greenberger in June inviting me, and several other writers that attend the Maryland conventions (including Steve Wilson as he and Bob are longtime friends), to contribute stories to the ReDeus series (more details about ReDeus in the next question). Bob knew I had published my first novel a few years before and was now including me on a dream project. I was, and still am, deeply honored.  
So in two ways, writing SF fan fic definitely helped me contribute to the ReDeus series. I was already adept at the short story format and I had become friends with one of the series creators, which leads us to…
Speaking of Crazy 8's ReDeus (the anthology depicting the world's mythological gods returning), mythology has always been one of my favorites! Do you have a favorite pantheon? Can you tell us how this anthology started?
Phil Giunta: I’m not sure of the exact year when the project began, but the series is the brainchild of Bob Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, and Aaron Rosenberg. The premise: what if all of the ancient gods from every pantheon returned at once? How would they look upon us now with our cars, aircraft, technology? How would they reinstate themselves as absolute rulers over their old domains?
I was only able to participate in the first two volumes (Divine Tales and Beyond Borders). By the time the third book was open for submissions, I was on deadline to finish recording the audio book for By Your Side, working on a novella, and about three months away from my wedding. Alas, I could not commit to Native Lands.
As for my favorite pantheon, I wrote about two: the Tuatha dé Danaan of Ireland and the little known Gaulish gods (of the Gaul Empire). I had so much fun with both stories that it’s challenging to pick a favorite. I will say that Irish mythology has a wealth of characters to choose from whereas much of Gaulish mythology has been lost in comparison.  
It is my understanding that ReDeus will continue. So I hope to have an opportunity to return.
  
I understand your anthology, which you edited and contributed to, is launching this August. Congratulations! Could you tell us what it's about?
Phil Giunta: I am so very proud of this. In 2011, I asked Steve Wilson if he would consider publishing a collection of SF, Fantasy and paranormal stories written mostly by as-yet unpublished writers. I had specific people in mind, some of whom started in fan fic, but had gone on to write original material.  They just needed an outlet. My hope was that Firebringer Press could provide that opportunity.
Steve and I would also contribute tales, along with fellow Firebringer author Lance Woods. The plan also called for one illustration per story provided by Allentown artist Michael Riehl, who would also create the cover art.
Steve agreed on the condition that I serve as editor. 2012 was spent gathering and editing stories and writing three of my own.  It was a wonderful experience and I could tell immediately that we had something special building here. We ended up with 13 fantastic stories from 8 writers.
The manuscript was submitted in February 2013 and accepted in October. The artwork is nearly finished as I write this, and Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity is set to launch at the Shore Leave convention on August 1 in Maryland.  
  
I love your blog, Phil, especially the blurb paragraph about what you'll find and then all these COOL links. How did you come up with that?
Phil Giunta: Thank you! Well, when I started my blog back in 2010, I simply needed material. I started with author interviews (including many of the aforementioned writers) and book reviews as well as SF convention news and announcements about my upcoming publications. Of course, I still do all of this, although the author interviews have dropped off a bit. Those will pick up again as part of promotion for our anthology.
At one point, I noticed that fellow GLVWG member Jon Gibbs had a feature called “Interesting blog posts about writing” each week on his blog. So, I stole the concept from him. Hi, Jon, hope you don’t mind!
I began scouring the interwebs for cool articles about the craft of writing, the business of publishing and the controversies that occasionally erupt (as when Joe Konrath takes someone to task or a vanity press like Author Solutions is caught fleecing writers...again).
Now, the collection of cool articles has become a weekly routine, though it’s potluck as to which day I post them.
  
And last question... so what's next on the docket for you?
Phil Giunta: I have a novella-in-progress that will detail the first manifestation of Miranda Lorensen’s psychic-medium abilities when she was six years old.  I consider it her origin story. The second draft is currently finished and awaiting revisions.
My medical SF story “First, Do No Harm” was accepted into a digital anthology called Local Magic by Antimatter Press.  It is their first publication and is due out in Spring 2014.
I’m just starting to outline a SF novel regarding the journey of a generational ship, carrying the survivors of a dying Earth, across the galaxy in search of another habitable planet.

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A Pennsylvania resident, Phil Giunta graduated from Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia with a Bachelor of Science in Information Systems and continues to work in the IT industry.  His first novel, a paranormal mystery called Testing the Prisoner, debuted in 2010 from Firebringer Press. His second novel in the same genre, By Your Side, was released in 2013. Phil has also narrated the audio version, available in podcast episodes at Prometheus Radio Theatre: http://prometheus.libsynpro.com.

In August 2012, he was among an exclusive group of authors selected to participate in Crazy 8 Press's new venture, ReDeus, a collection of anthologies depicting the return of all the world's mythological gods. The series was created and edited by veteran authors Bob Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, and Paul Kupperberg. Phil's short story about the Celtic gods, “There Be In Dreams No War”, was featured in the premiere anthology, ReDeus: Divine Tales.   He followed up with “Root for the Undergods”, a tale about the gods of the Gaul Empire in ReDeus: Beyond Borders.

Phil has recently finished editing an anthology titled Somewhere in the Middle of Eternity for Firebringer Press to be released in 2014, and is currently working on a paranormal thriller.

Visit Phil’s website: http://www.philgiunta.com

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Tammy Burke, GLVWG member, 2011 conference chair and past president, has published around 400 newspaper and regional magazine articles. She has interviewed state and local government officials, business and community leaders, everyday folk and celebrities, in addition to helping write scripts for over a dozen television commercials and writing various business communications. Currently, she is in the revision stage for her first YA fantasy adventure book, the first in an intended series. When not writing, she works in the social service field and is a fencing marshal in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA).