Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Interview with Jane Friedman

by Jerry Waxler

Jane Friedman is the web editor for the national-award winning Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), where she oversees online content strategy and marketing. Before joining VQR, Jane was a full-time assistant professor of e-media at the University of Cincinnati and the former publisher of Writer's Digest.

Jane's Keynote speach at lunch on Saturday will be on "The Future of Authorship." Jane will also be teaching two Saturday sessions on Platform, and two preconference workshop on publishing--Traditional Publishing on Friday morning, and Independent E-Publishing on Friday afternoon.

GLVWG member Jerry Waxler got in touch with Jane to ask her some questions about her sessions, workshops, and her view on the industry in general, including using social media to promote your writing.

Jerry: Seeking soothing reassurance

Not only are publishing strategies changing all the time, but they seem to be increasingly urgent, making many of us feel that if we don’t catch the latest wave we’ll fall behind. This might be why I enjoy reading things you write. You seem to be able to convey information without an out-of-breath sense of urgency. How do you feel about keeping up with all the changes? Are you constantly frantic or have you found a way to stay balanced in the midst of radical change?
Jane: Thank you! I do try to adopt a reasonable tone and illustrate how publishing strategies are becoming increasingly nuanced and individual.
It is very easy to get caught up in the “revolution”—whether we’re talking about the technology revolution, the publishing revolution, or the author revolution. While it’s very real, it’s also confusing and counterproductive for most authors to follow. You’ll find conflicting attitudes and opinions that leave you wondering how to proceed.
What I recommend is this: Find the 1 or 2 advanced, professional sources with perspective on this change whom you trust—the people who have the same values or goals as you, or have a voice that has always resonated. Keep yourself updated on the change through them. It’s good to have a filter so that you limit your exposure to the daily ups and downs of the industry. Check in with these trusted sources to stay current. While you don’t want to stick your head in the sand about the industry, or become ignorant of business concerns, at some point you have to put career productivity first.
On my own blog, journalist Porter Anderson writes a weekly round-up called Writing on the Ether, which recaps the most important news, opinions, and developments in the book publishing and media industry. If you have no place to start, you might start there for a weekly education. I also do a monthly round-up of Best Business Advice for Writers, which links to about 10 articles from various sources. I keep it very practical, but it’s also trend driven (e.g., how to use GoodReads effectively).
Jerry: Are social skills learnable?
In the modern publishing world, authors must come out of hiding in order to find readers. However, not every writer starts out loving to reach to the public. Here’s my two part question: a) Is it true that to succeed, writers must make the effort to reach readers, and b) if we are by nature, introverted, how do you recommend we overcome our inward turning tendencies and extend toward our future readers?
Jane: It depends on your definition of success, but I believe you do need some level of reader engagement to see your career grow. One example of an author who has done this successfully, and on her own terms, is CJ Lyons. Another is Bob Tarte.
When reader interaction did physically involve “getting out there,” e.g., going to events, it probably was limiting to be an introvert. And if that’s what reader interaction were actually about—today—I myself would be the most terrible marketer on the planet.
So, speaking as an introvert myself, we should be over the moon at how lucky we are to live in an age when we can effectively reach readers by:
·        staying at home
·        using whatever tools suit our communication style best
        (e-mail, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
·        crafting and controlling messages to our own satisfaction
·        limiting interaction when needed

But these tendencies of introverts …

·        bad at small talk (but not necessarily shy)
·        preference for small group conversation
·        avoidance of huge social gatherings—or being drained
        by them

… these tendencies don’t significantly impact our ability to be effective at reader interaction, not when we can control where, how, and when we communicate.
Furthermore, when you consider that a true introvert dislikes talking about himself, you have the makings of an author who is wonderful at reader engagement! These days, there’s far too much bad marketing and self-promotion (that amounts to talking, in a very uninteresting way, about oneself), and not enough good marketing and self-promotion, which is about serving readers. Knowing your readers and engaging with them is more about listening, understanding, curiosity, and good communication skills—not “extroversion” or “introversion.”
Jerry: Famous? Careful what you wish
You are one of the most famous people I’ve ever talked to. (At least you’re famous to me.) This is a strange thing about being a writer. We are all striving to be known by potential readers. But few if any of us knows what that would feel like. Could you tell us if it’s weird being “known” – what should we do to prepare for the “problem” of becoming known, ourselves?
Jane: The biggest problem of being known is probably the demand on one’s time. Usually, you have to protect yourself from a steady and growing stream of requests—whether from friends, fans, or strangers—who make both reasonable and unmanageable demands of you. A lot of people whom you’ve never met want to pick your brain, get your feedback, or meet for coffee. Or they just have this one simple question they want answered, not realizing that dozens of other people also have one simple question, too.
But I put myself in this position, and I wouldn’t be who I am now, or where I am now, if people didn’t value and seek my advice. So I try to help as much as time allows, and I try to create clear paths for people to find the answers themselves. (See my writing advice archive.) And sometimes I do meet strangers for coffee because I think wonderful and unexpected things can happen when you say “yes.”
Jerry: Your Two Publishing Workshops
Thank you for offering two pre-conference workshops, one for traditional and one for e-publishing. I suspect that many of our attendees could benefit from both. What do you think? Why might an author aspiring to ePublishing want to take the traditional publishing workshop? Why might an author aspiring to traditional publication want to take the ePublishing one?
Jane: I agree. Every author should be educated about both traditional publishing and e-publishing. That’s because your choice is no longer either/or. It’s both/and. Some of the most successful authors, like CJ Lyons who I mentioned above, have a hybrid approach. They partner with traditional publishers for some books, but self-publish (e-publish) others. More than ever it’s imperative that authors learn the basic framework of the industry so they’re making informed decisions over the course of their career. You have to learn to call the shots.
Jerry: How can social media help readers find good writers?
In the “old days,” to build platform, we were told to spend years developing a thick file of publication credits. To do so, we needed to impress magazine editors with our writing skills. Nowadays, platform building requires a following on Facebook and twitter. So help me understand how this change in entry requirements affects readers. How can readers find great writers, and how can writers use the quality of their writing to help build platform?
Jane: Readers are finding great writers in many ways, including (but not limited to):

·        Amazon bestseller lists (print and e-book)
·        Other Amazon features (e.g., readers who bought X also
         bought Y)

·        Goodreads and other reading community sites
·        Social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc)
·        Physical bookstores
·        Book clubs (offline and online)
·        Traditional media coverage (public radio, magazines,

·        Old-fashioned word of mouth

Everyone knows that the best way to sell your second book is by thrilling readers with your first. It’s almost become a cliché (at least in the online publishing community) that you should focus on building platform by writing your next fabulous story that gets people talking.

However, and I’ll use CJ Lyons as an example again, there’s nothing wrong with nurturing that word of mouth and giving readers more tools to help spread the word. In the Q&A I did with her at my website, she shares some of her most essential strategies for engaging readers. I also think it’s interesting that while she puts story quality front and center, she also took time to train herself in online marketing and promotion. (She reveals her sources in the Q&A).

Jerry: The New Social Pleasures of Writers Sticking Together

Recently, writing seems to have caught on in a big way. So many of us seem to be flocking together in groups, in the region and online. Since I began to apply myself in earnest to this activity, writing has turned into a groundswell of collective enthusiasm. As a writing popularize, you are in the epicenter of this wave. How is it affecting you? What sort of changes have you seen in the ethos of the writing community since you first became involved with it? Where do you think it’s heading?

Jane: The biggest change by far is the growing voice and footprint of the self-publishing and e-publishing community, and the associated explosion of services for the independent author. While some of these services are much needed and welcome, it’s difficult for a new writer, without a history of experience, to distinguish between a service that’s worth her time or money, and one that is not. When in doubt, look carefully at the background and qualifications of the people who provide the service, and avoid those that don’t clearly identify who you’re working with.

Also, there’s been a greater polarization of attitudes—or more strident attitudes—associated with the revolution mentioned at the very beginning of this interview. This creates the confusion for any writer walking into the current environment. Should you self-publish or traditionally publish? Do you need an agent or not? Should you blog or not? Do you really need a platform? Should you focus more on writing or more on platform? Does an e-book really have to be polished, or can it be just good enough to pass muster with a 99-cent price tag? Do the traditional publishers really offer value? Do bookstores really matter?

I could probably continue for several paragraphs about the many questions that divide writers, as well as people inside the publishing industry. My advice is to take the long view and seek those who avoid going to extremes in their pronouncements. Discussing the gray areas within an issue—parsing through all the intricacies—shows more wisdom given the times we live in.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview with Ramona DeFelice-Long

by Jerry Waxler

Ramona DeFelice-Long is an author, independent editor, and writing instructor. At the Write Stuff, Ramona will be teaching a session on short stories and a double-session, called "Hard Truths", on creative nonfiction and memoir writing. She'll also be teaching a preconference workshop on self-editing. GLVWG member Jerry Waxler got in touch with Ramona to find out more about her and the sessions and workshop she'll be teaching.
Jerry: You are teaching a combination course of memoir and creative nonfiction. That sounds like a rich combination with two intimately related types of writing. To help potential attendees understand your workshop, please say a few words about what you hope an attendee would gain from these two interrelated hands-on sessions.

Ramona: First, the workshop will address the similarities and differences between memoir and creative nonfiction. We’ll touch on how to write about memories and personal experiences (memoir) and how to explore and recreate actual events using fiction writing techniques (creative nonfiction). There will also be information about marketing both genres for publication.

Jerry: The more I write nonfiction, the more intrigued I became by the enormous differences between smaller pieces like articles and longer pieces like books. Please comment on your own writing passion. What are your favorite features of short forms and long forms?

Ramona: I like the challenge of working within the confines of a set word count. In short fiction, that means (usually) a single setting, a lean cast, a well-defined story problem. When I teach about revision, I talk about using language economically—writing in a sharp, succinct style so that overwriting and over-explaining don’t happen. Now I am working on a novel, and it is a new adventure to understand scene goals and story arcs in a larger story landscape. There’s more to juggle in a longer work, fiction or nonfiction, while keeping to the theme and story concept.

Jerry: It seems to me that the book length form has a much different structure than the short story. What is your passion when it comes to writing creative nonfiction, the short or the long form, and why?

Ramona: I love and find comfort in the classic three act structure for both novels and short fiction. When writing fiction, long or short, the author is concerned with plot points and character consistency, as well as a plot that remains logical and moves toward a satisfying conclusion. There is no single way to construct a story. Stories can be linear or chronological, or the action can be presented episodically, or told by multiple narrators from varying points of view.

Creative nonfiction is the same. The author will need to make choices on the best way to present this nonfiction story meant to read like a fictional one.

I am happy you bring up length. How often do writers tell of starting a novel with great gusto, only to hit a wall at 100 pages? One reason this occurs is size confusion. Not all story ideas fit into a book-length format; some are more appropriate as shorter works. This applies to fiction and nonfiction. I will address the size of a story idea in all of my workshops.

Jerry: I usually associate creative nonfiction skills with full length books and literary journals. I wonder if you could or will offer suggestions for how creative nonfiction principles could also be used to help improve blogs or other short informal writing.

Ramona: I have written blog posts that are as memoir and/or creative nonfiction: about the murder of a small town police officer; about how a local pediatrician got away with being a longtime pedophile; about how I double-dated to my high school prom with a young man who, years later, murdered his date. I’ve also crafted essays about motherhood. The key is recognizing a viable topic for exploration. What is intriguing about a small moment that makes it something to ponder? If an idea has broad appeal, how do you personalize it to reach a single reader? What in a particular event or experience has depth or a message? Is there some humor or irony in a mundane event that will make a reader feel connected? Think about human experience and hone in on a particular area where the subject of a post can address that.

Jerry: You are teaching a pre-conference workshop on self-editing. Thank you! That’s an important topic for writers. I notice in the description that it is listed as a workshop for fiction writers. I know from experience that nonfiction writers also need to edit their work. I wonder if you could suggest why or why not a nonfiction writer would want to sign up for your preconference workshop.

Ramona: I originally developed the workshop for a group of fiction writers, so the description continues to reflect that. The workshop will include writing with economy; good grammar and engaging style; active writing; and bad habits to be conquered. Those apply to writers of all genres, so the workshop would be beneficial to nonfiction writers who want to sharpen their storytelling skills. But I will address topics such as character consistency and plotting, and those may be of more value to a fiction writer. No matter what you write, learning good writing techniques has good value, correct?

Jerry: From your bio, I see that you belong to a number of writing groups. Why are groups such a big part of your writing life? If you can tell an anecdote about some powerful moment in your writing-group life, that would be even better.

Ramona: I belong to a monthly critique group. We turn in 20 pages for critique and discussion. The value of my critique group is: a) it makes me write at least 20 pages a month! b) I get good feedback from experienced critiquers; c) I evaluate works in progress and see the progression month by month, as the story grows (for novels) or is revised (for short works). For the past year, my group has been critiquing my novel in progress, so while I continue to work at my job as an editor, I have to keep up with my monthly submissions. That keeps me from saying, “I’m so busy now, maybe I should put this novel aside.

I maintain membership in professional organizations such as Pennwriters and Sisters in Crime because these big groups offer a plethora of opportunities for networking, online courses and conferences, and peer support. On a local level, I belong to the city arts alliance and state literary groups to support the artist community in Delaware. In all of these groups, I’ve found opportunities to share my experience but more so, to learn from the community of other writers. Recently, in Delaware, we’ve started a writers’ breakfast club. Once a month, we meet and chat for a few hours. It’s great to enjoy that camaraderie of like minds.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Interview with Jean C. Gordon

by Charles Kiernan
Jean is member of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and its Published Authors Network and Faith, Hope, and Love Inspirational Chapter, as well as, the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She’s also a founding member of the Capital Region (NY) Romance Writers RWA Chapter.
She holds an M.A. in Public Law from the Nelson A. Rockefeller School of Public Affairs (SUNY Albany) and the Certified Financial Planner®designation. While Jean is as at-home writing tax and financial advice as writing novels, she finds novel writing more fun.
Charles Kiernan: You will be doing two workshops during the Write Stuff Conference. The first of these is Romancing the IRS. I have heard about things called “deductions”, but I am going to guess there is more to it than that. Do I need to be a published author to take advantage of your advice?
Jean Gordon:  No, you don't have to be published to benefit from my workshop. Unpublished writers who are actively pursuing paid publication may be able to deduct many of their writing expenses as business expenses for federal income-tax purposes, as can paid speakers deduct speaking expenses. I'll be discussing deductible business expenses and the requirements for deducting them. Also, for anyone, I'll talk about contributing to a retirement plan as a way to reduce federal income taxes. Retirement planning is another of my specialties at my day job. And I'm open to questions on either subject.
C: What sorts of questions do people typically have when talking about deductions? Do you find people don’t really know what can be counted as a deduction?

J: The typical questions are: Can I deduct [fill in the blank]? Or how much can I deduct for [fill in blank]? Most people use the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, so they may not be familiar with claiming deductions or keeping records to claim itemized deductions. Recordkeeping is an important part of tax planning. You might be surprised at the number of items an average family may be able to deduct. Many people also are not familiar with the business deductions they may be able to claim for their writing and how to know if they are qualified to claim business deductions. My workshop concentrates on business deductions, but I'll be happy to answer questions on other deductions, as well.

C: Does a writer have to stop writing to retire? That sounds like a stupid question, but perhaps it is not.

J: No, not at all. A fair number of authors look forward to the day they can retire from their day job to devote more time to writing books. Full-time novelists may want to slow down in their later years and write only select books or make fewer speaking appearances. It's good to have a retirement nestegg to supplement writing income, which we all know can be sporadic, and Social Security benefits.

C: Your second workshop is Gone in 60 Minutes Synopsis Workshop. I find that title intriguing. What is meant by it?

J: This workshop is an exercise I developed to hit the key points in a romance novel needed to write a selling synopsis. Handouts will include my completed exercise and synopsis for one of my published books. Once the writer has completed the exercise, s/he should be able to write the actual synopsis in about an hour. I think it could be used by other genres, as well. It requires active participation by the attendees. As an incentive, I'll be giving away copies of some of my books to participants who are willing to share with the group.

C: Oh, a free book, good. What is the elevator pitch for your latest book?
J: This is my pitch for Small-Town Mom, which will be out in July: The military gave Eli Payton life. It took Jamie Glasser's heart. Now, can she trust him and God to help her find it again?

C: What project are you working on a present?
J: I'm working on my fourth Love Inspired Romance set in Paradox Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Here's the lead paragraph from my synopsis, written using my Gone in 60 Minutes Synopsis exercise: After an unforeseen tragedy, midwife Autumn Hazard feels her purpose in life has deserted her. Dr. Jonathan Mitchell Hanlon sees his new position as director of the Ticonderoga birthing center as a stepping stone to achieving his. What neither realizes is that they can’t move forward without each other.
C: Thanks so much, we look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Interview with Sara D'Emic

by Daisy Willis
Sara D'Emic is an Associate Agent with Talcott Notch Literary and is actively extending her client base. She will be taking pitches at this year'sWrite Stuff conference and is interested in adult or YA mainstream fiction, fantasy, horror, sci-fi, mystery, and any and all sub genres of those categories.
GLVWG member Daisy Willis got in touch with Sara to ask her some questions.
Have you always wanted to be an agent? Have you ever been a writer?
It's the other way around: I've always wanted to be a writer, and I didn't seek out agenting specifically. I always wanted to work with authors and their books, so when the opportunity to become an agent came I took it. I still write in my spare time.
How have your internships prepared you for your career as a literary agent?
My first internship was reading the slush pile for a literary magazine, at my second I edited a manuscript. Both helped me develop a critical eye and a business sense.
As a relatively new agent, how do you build a great client base?
With less clients I have more time to spend on reading submissions and editing, and so I can find authors who might otherwise get skipped over. Plus I mostly attract authors who are just starting their careers, who have a lot of books in them.
What have you sold recently that you're excited about?
To sort of twist the question, there is a sequel in the works for R.F. Sharp's No Regrets, No Remorse which I'm very excited about. Because I love working with series. You connected with certain characters and their world and it's so fun to revisit them. I didn't sell the original but came on to negotiate Sharp's contract which I'm glad for since I love his work. He always has a classic hard-boiled tone with an unorthodox cast.
What do you wish you would find right now in your submissions?
An awesome fantasy, adult or YA. I also want, and this is a little abstract, stories with morally ambiguous, conflicted, or anti-heroic characters.
What really catches your attention in a query letter (good or bad)?
In a good query it's something that makes me really want to read the book. It's the same feeling you get when you start a good mystery: you know enough to be intrigued and are curious enough to continue. On the other end of the scale, usually when someone is trying to get my attention it ends up being bad. Just because I remember it doesn't mean I'll represent it. The worst are queries with that informercial feel: "this book will sell a centillion copies, but wait there's more, my mom said she loved it."
What are the benefits for writers going to a boutique agency like Talcott Notch Literary?
We give the same level of service as the big agencies! I'd say we're more willing to work with new writers; a lot of what we do is going through the slush pile. We also work as more of a team, so you're not just getting one individual's expertise.
Best piece of advice for writers?
Do research, use social media for it, google everything. A lot of people shoot themselves in the foot at the query stage because they don't know what to do or who to query or even what an agent does. There are ins and outs and facets of publishing in general that authors should know about to make the best career decision. For example, most people realize self-publishing is an option but don't know how to be successful at it, or if their work is better suited for a traditional deal or not. A novella about a talking cuttlefish told partially in iambic pentameter won't sell to the Big Six, but that doesn't mean it won't do well on the kindle store. There's no shortage of information about publishing, and you'll only help yourself by seeking it out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Interview With Don Helin

by Mark Meier

Don Helin writes fast paced thrillers with intriguing villians. Don gets some of his ideas and material from his years of military experience, including the three tours he served in the Pentagon.
GLVWG member Mark Meier recently got in touch with Don to ask him about his writing  and about the two sessions he'll be teaching at the Write Stuff conference.

Mark: When did you start considering writing as a possible career, and what was your first big break?
Don: When I left the Pentagon and Washington D.C. to return to Pennsylvania, I signed up for an eight-week travel writing seminar from The Washington Post. I worked as a travel writer for about four years until I got the bug to write fiction. I've always enjoyed thrillers so I thought, hey I can do that. It turned out that writing thrillers was much harder to do than I thought. It took me about four years before I got that wonderful call from the Acquisitions Editor at Medallion saying they wanted to publish my book. My wife thought I was crazy dancing around the kitchen with the phone in my hand. After that call, it took almost two years before the book actually came out.
Mark: How does your military experience inform your books?
Don: My protagonist works for the president's national security advisor with his duty station in the Pentagon. I'm able to paint a factual picture for my readers on life in the Pentagon and life in the military.
Mark: In one session, you'll be discussing the villain's journey. How did you come to start thinking about villains as on a journey, and who are some of your favorite villains and why?
Don: I've always been concerned that the villain is a match for my protagonist. In seminars, actually at The Write Stuff conference, James Frey and Donald Maass convinced me that a believable villain has to face off against the protagonist. Also that I should develop a biography sheet for each of my characters, particularly the villain and the hero. That biography sheet outlines the villain's journey:  How did he get where he is and why does he want what he does? There are many wonderful villains who nearly beat the hero, but of course, not quite. The godfather is a classic. And, who could forget Hannibal Lecktor?  John Sanford is probably my favorite thriller writer and one of his best villains was Carla Rinker. She is a killer, but had such a difficult youth that it almost makes the reader root for her.
Mark: In another session, you'll address pacing. What are some of the most common problems you've encountered with pacing?
Don: The most common problem I see is authors piling up a stack of back story in the first chapter. They feel the reader needs to know everything about the character before they will be involved. I've learned you must trust the reader and drop in bits of back story slowly over the novel. Only give the reader what he/she needs at that moment. The second thing I've learned it to try and leave the reader hanging at the end of a chapter or section. Make them want to keep reading.
Mark: In the thriller genre, which kinds of details must be absolutely true and which can be fudged a little?
Don: Thriller author Jim Rollins always talks about the telling detail. If you plant enough actual fact in the story, the reader will ride with you on the fictional parts. This is where my experience in the Pentagon helps me. I can write factually about weapons, communications, organizations, etc.
Don's first thriller, Thy Kingdom Come, was published by Medallion Press in March, 2009. His latest thriller, Devil's Den, was published by Headline Books in September, 2012. Don is hard at work on his next thriller, Red Dog.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Interview with Jon Gibbs

by Phyllis Palamaro

Our first interview for the 2013 conference is with GLVWG member and YA author, Jon Gibbs. Not only does Jon write fun characters and exciting adventures, he is a skilled and humorous presenter.
Phyllis Palamaro contacted Jon and asked him these questions.
How did you become involved in writing?
I started in 2003, about a year before I moved here from England. I used to make up stories for my son as we walked to school. One day, I decided to have a bash at writing a novel. I have no idea why, because up until then, I hadn’t written a word of fiction since leaving school in the 1970s…unless you count tax returns.
What age group are you targeting with your book, Fur-Face and its sequel, Barnum’s Revenge?
Officially, they’re aimed at boys aged 10-13, but I wrote them for anyone with a slightly twisted sense of humor.
Why Middle Grade?
I like to write about quirky, unusual characters in strange situations. The older Middle Grade genre (often referred to as the Tween market), seems like the perfect fit.
What caused you to found the New Jersey Author’s Network (NJAN)?
I got the idea back in 2008. A writing group I joined had just put out an anthology. I wanted to help them sell more copies. When a writing group hosts a guest presenter, I often buy his/her book afterward – especially if I enjoyed the talk. I thought, why not put on meetings ourselves, only hold them at other venues?
I’d seen the panel/Q&A format at the Write Stuff conference earlier that year. It seemed a perfect approach, since it puts less pressure on the speakers and makes the events themselves more appealing to potential attendees (and hosts). From there, it was a small leap to the idea of making the system open to any published writer. As for venues, libraries have proved to be great partners. We put on dozens of events each year, as well as providing speakers for book clubs and even literary luncheons.
You are a delightful and interesting speaker. Does public speaking come easily to you?
Thank you. These days, I love giving presentations and workshops, but when I started, the thought of public speaking terrified me. I remember my first ever presentation (a talk on blogging at a GLVWG meeting, back in November, 2010). I spent the 80-minute drive there imaging every possible thing which might go wrong. By the time I arrived I was a mess.
I sat in the parking lot outside Palmer Library, trying to think of a good excuse to back out. Then I imagined my old gran, talking to me from the back seat. ‘Fine, go home if you want, but if you quit, know your ancestors will be ashamed of you…again.’
It gave me the motivation I needed. As it turned out, once the initial panic died down, I was fine. The talk itself went well – leastways, nobody threw anything, which is usually a good sign.
How did you get involved in school visits?
After Fur-Face came out, I knew I needed something to help me reach my target audience, so I developed Fun with Fiction (a series of classroom sessions for kids in grades 3 and up). I’ve been very lucky so far, because schools contact me, rather than the other way around, either because someone involved has been to one of my other writing workshops, or the person responsible for organizing visits found me online somehow.
What do you tell the kids about writing when you visit them at their schools?
When I give my school assembly talks, I show them my ‘I are a writer!’ mug. I tell them it reminds me to get the story done first, then fix the grammar and other stuff.
What advise do you have for beginning writers?
Figure out what works best for you, then do that…a lot.
Born in England, Jon Gibbs now lives in New Jersey, where he gives writing presentations and workshops in schools and libraries around the Garden State (one of his talks, GETTING PUBLISHED: 10 Things Every Writer Should Know, was broadcast on local television in 2012).
The founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network (, Jon’s middle grade fantasy, Fur-Face(Echelon Press), was nominated for a Crystal Kite Award. The sequel, Barnum’s Revenge, is scheduled for release in February, 2013.
Jon has a website:www.acatofninetales.comand a blog: When he's not chasing around after his three children, he can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.
Thanks, Phyllis