Saturday, May 5, 2012

Updates from a Whirlwind of a Week!

I hope you all had a happy Friday! After an exhausting day spent in the real world, I promptly collapsed into deep slumber. I did very little posting, but here are some updates for those of you who are interested:

Pending Book Reviews: I will be reviewing several books this weekend that have been submitted over the last month or so. I typically prefer to do them in batches--it just helps me focus on them a bit better. I will email the authors when I have posted to Amazon and Goodreads, as well as provide the dates they will be featured on this blog.

NaPiBoWriWee 2012 Update: This challenge has been one of this week's highlights for me. I am right on schedule and story ideas are a-flowin'! On day 3, I wrote about the joys of a toddler who has the flu, and last night I penned a silly take on the big sister-little sister relationship. Who knows what today will bring? Come back for more updates!

Sketch the Story! Contest: I am grateful to those who took the time to enter my first contest or share the information with someone else. Stay tuned for judging next week!

Author Interviews: Look forward to some great author interviews to run over the next several weeks as part of The Writer's Block series. I am scheduling run dates today and will be notifying authors who have submitted completed interviews. Read some of the more popular posts and take a look back through the archives. You might even recognize a name or two. Maybe you will be featured next?

Thank you so much for your support! I started Raychelle Writes on July 13, 2011. In the time since the inaugural post, my blog has creeped over 13,000 page views and has 67 members! We have conducted over 75 author interviews since January of this year, hosted several guest bloggers, helped promote a few Kickstarter projects, and even reviewed a few children's books. I have many, many ideas for new content, but I would like to hear from you. What do you want to see on Raychelle Writes?

Okay, I have papers to grade (I'm a homeschooler), a guest blog to write, and four articles to crank out (for the "day job") on top of some illustration work and everything listed above. Gotta' run!

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Smart Girls Like You: Sneak Peek!

(Smart Girls: Able to complete tall piles of homework in a single hour!)

(School supplies are a must-have accessory!)

(Surely this sort of thing never happens in a classroom!)

Since I am close to completion, I thought that I would share a few illustrations from the 5th book in my "Like You" series, Smart Girls Like You. This book and its companion, Smart Boys Like You, will be released this summer in time for back-to-school. Enjoy!


Update! I already have Day #3's manuscript in the can, more or less. I have committed to trying a different theme each day. So far, I have written about a moody baby, a hungry bird, and a sick toddler. Who knows where tomorrow will take me? This challenge has been a great creative departure from my current projects and I am having a ball! Who else is taking the NaPiBoWriWee 2012 challenge?

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Marketing: Why I Gave Up Trying to Build a Big Social Media Following

This is a fantastic post. I've learned that quality over quantity reigns supreme. If the point of social media use is to network, then it does me no good to play the "Follow Back" game with online personas that have nothing to do with what I am trying to accomplish. Social media is time consuming, so I try to be strategic in my approach to it. I share information, promote projects and people I believe in, and let relationships build organically. I like a tight circle of people who matter as opposed to a big circle of those who don't. Well done, Mr. Miller.

The full post appears on Joanna Penn's "The Creative Penn" at


Problems with Building a Social Media Following
First, building a following consumes lots of time.

Social media guru Chris Brogan recommends a minimum of two hours a day. Think of J.R.R. Tolkien, who taught full time and hung out with his family after work, writing books after his children went to bed. Had he spent those two hours blogging and Tweeting, we may have never read The Lord of the Rings.

Second, there’s no proof that building a large following can work for every author.

Granted, it works for some authors, but that’s not the proof we need. Compare social media to the California gold rush. Had I lived in New England in 1849 and read regular newspaper reports of people striking it rich, I’d need better evidence to warrant selling the farm and moving west. I’d want to know, “out of the last thousand people who made the move, what percentage struck it rich?” If eight out of ten, I might move. If one out of 1,000, I’d keep the farm. But that’s precisely the statistical information we lack concerning authors trying to build social media followings.

Third, when I studied low profile authors who sold a lot of books, I found very few taking this approach.

When authors reported on book marketing forums, “Twitter works for me,” I’d ask, “How many books are you selling as a result?” Typically, they sheepishly replied “a few” or clarified that they were defining “success” in terms of how many people they drew to their blogs through Twitter.

Read the full post here:


NaPiBoWriWee Update!
Yesterday, I wrote my first of 7 picture books for this challenge. Already, I am tired of meaningful, warm and fuzzy stories. Today, I am going for something silly and fun with no lessons--maybe even rude and irrelevant. Time to shake things up! Won't you join me?


Sketch the Story! Contest

Deadline for entries is Friday, May 4, 2012! Enter my illustrator's contest today! Details here!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why Are Published Authors So Busy?

In her blog post, "Life As A Published Author", literary agent Rachelle Gardner addresses why signing a publishing contract means more work, more responsibility, more challenges, and added pressure. So much for the limelight, glitz, and glamour--life on the other side requires that you roll up your sleeves and really get down to business. But, I bet that the rewards are worth the sacrifice! Read on and then decide for yourself.

Life As A Published Author

This week I’m answering questions from readers, and today I’m responding to Megan, who was curious about why published authors always talk about being so busy. What’s taking up so much of their time? Megan’s trying to decide if she’s really ready to take on everything publication would entail, since her life is pretty full already.
I think Megan’s smart to consider this. Sometimes the dream of finally being a “published author” is different from the reality. So here are a few hints.

Life is going to get harder, not easier. There will be so much to do that you never really thought about. The minute that publishing deal is done, you might begin receiving requests from the publisher. Do you have a video we can show our sales reps? Can you send us your thoughts on cover design? Do you have any other ideas for your book title? And that’s just the beginning.

You’ll be busier than you can imagine. If you’re contracted for multiple books, consider that 18 months from now, you may be simultaneously trying to promote book #1, edit book #2, and write book #3. All on top of your current job and family responsibilities.

The writing itself can be more challenging. This may be the first time you’ve written under contract and under deadline, especially in book-length works. If you’ve always written on your own schedule, with no one to please but yourself, it could be a rude awakening.

The necessity for marketing can be daunting. You already know you’ll need to be doing everything you can to engage your tribe, using social networking and anything else at your disposal. Around the time of a book release, the time commitment can be overwhelming.

Did you get an advance? Staring at a blank screen is a totally different thing when people have already paid you money for words you haven’t written yet.

Are you ready for the pressure? Are you ready for the demands on your time and energy? What are you doing to prepare yourself for your dream coming true?

What does the “dream”of being a published author look like for you?

Read the original post here:

Don't forget! National Picture Book Writing Week (NaPiBoWriWee 2012) starts today. The challenge is to write 7 picture books in 7 days! I'm in! Are you?

Sketch the Story! Contest deadline for entry is Friday, May 4, 2012. Details here!

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Roseanne Kurstedt

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?

I live in a New Jersey suburb with my two boys, husband, and dog Dorothy. I love to play tennis but really only play in the summer. I also enjoy skiing and photography. I grew up in New York and went to college at Tufts University in Massachusetts. I’ve had quite a few jobs. I’ve been a waitress, hostess, bartender, and encyclopedia sales person (yes, you read that correctly). My more professional jobs have been in advertising and schools. I was a print media specialist at Young and Rubicam and I taught 4-6th grade in NYC. I’ve lived in Hong Kong and while there, helped start Hong Kong Academy Primary School, where I was the Director of Curriculum. I have a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction and I am currently an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. Throughout all that learning and traveling, I always wrote. I’ve actually been writing since I was a child. My college essays were excerpts from my journal and one of the first presents my husband gave me, which was also one of the best, was a beautiful leather bound writing notebook.

2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?

I guess I gravitate to personal narrative or memoir as all my books stem from real life experiences, like a childhood memory or just something that happened in the course of life with my family. Since I write picture books, my audience is both adults and children. I want the adults to delight in the story as much as the children. After all, it’s the adults who are reading and re-reading the books the children choose. I think my ideal reader is someone who appreciates words and language, celebrates childhood and the joys of being a kid, but also values simple, quiet stories of family.

3) Tell us about Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000). What will readers learn from it?

Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models was one of the first professional books for teachers solely dedicated to discussing using picture books as a way to support students’ writing development. Picture books are so accessible to students since they parallel what students own writing looks like. Therefore it’s natural to use picture books to demonstrate various craft strategies, voice, and story elements. The book is very user friendly and illustrates how teachers might introduce picture books into their own writing curriculum to support student growth and an appreciation for language and the written word.

4) Who or what inspired your newest book, And I Thought About You?

And I Thought About You
was inspired by a bedtime routine my son and I created while we lived in Hong Kong. Every night, after reading books together, we would talk about what we had done that day. After sharing what we did, we’d say “and I thought about you.” Even though the events of our day would typically change the one constant was that we were in each other’s thoughts throughout the day.

5) Describe your road(s) to publication. Was the approach for your new book much different than that of your current work?

The road to publication has been a long one. I initially sent the manuscript to some traditional publishers – and while there was significant interest – one publisher even had me do some re-writes – but in the end they passed. Another publisher loved it and held onto it for over a year and then passed as well. I really didn’t want to self publish so I just put it away. Then one afternoon while sitting in my neighbor Lisa’s backyard, she shared with me her passion for art. I told her about my passion for writing children’s books and she agreed to illustrate And I Thought About You.

After three years, a new baby, and many changes on the job front, Lisa completed the illustrations. The publishing market had changed quite a bit with smaller hybrid publishing companies popping up. So we decided to do some research and that’s how we found Mascot Books. They are similar to a traditional publisher (it’s not print on demand) but we own the books that are printed. Mascot Books provides editorial and design services, as well as some marketing. It’s really been great to work with them.

This process was drastically different than the road to publishing Teaching Writing with Picture Books as Models. For that book, I had a meeting with some editors at Scholastic and presented the idea. They loved it and gave us a contract (I co-authored the book with my colleague Maria Koutras). Then, we wrote the book. Working with Scholastic was also a great experience. I still keep in touch with my editor and we even work on some projects together.

6) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

We’ve been promoting our book by attending Book Festivals, sending press releases to various local papers, scheduling book signings and school visits, and sending review copies to various magazines, blogs, and organizations. Our publisher also does some promoting through their channels as well. Since the book has just come out – not sure which has worked best.

7) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

My favorite children’s book authors are Libba Moore Gray, Patricia Polacco, Patricia MacLachlan, and Peter Reynolds. On my reading list is the Hunger Games and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. One of my favorite books is Kate Morton’s Forgotten Garden.

8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

When I’m not writing I’m doing work for my local school board, spending time with my children and husband or playing with my dog. I don’t really have a typical day since I wear so many different hats. Sometimes I have meetings at 8:00 am and other times I stay in my sweatpants all day writing, marketing, reading, or catching up on my favorite TV shows. When I’m teaching a class at Fordham University in New York City, I go into the city at least once a week. I grade assignments and plan for subsequent classes during the semesters I teach. I also do project work for Educational Publishing companies so when I’m working on a project, I’m often doing research or writing. I try to go to the gym 3 times a week and in the summer I play a lot of tennis.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

I have a few manuscripts I’m working on. One I’m hoping will be a series is centered on a curiously inquisitive boy who seems to get himself into precarious situations.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Find time to write. Find time to talk with other writers. Participate in writing and reading groups. Don’t give up. Live life to the fullest – I find that’s when I’m most inspired.

 Author Bio

I am a former teacher and currently an Adjunct Professor at Fordham University. I've written a professional book for teachers titled Teaching Writing With Picture Books as Models (Scholastic, 2000), as well as write professional development guides that support teachers growth and learning. I helped start Hong Kong Academy, an international school in Hong Kong, and I am the founder of Writers Experience, a summer writing workshop for children ages 7-11. Additionally, I am a School Board Member for my local school district.


Twitter: @AndIThoughtAbU



Book Review: And I Thought About You 

Roseanne Kurstedt took a daily ritual with her son and turned it into the delightful children's story, And I Thought About You. I have been a working mom, a homeschooling mom, a student/mom, and a work-from-home mom. I have always cherished the time that my daughter and I spend "catching up" even when I have been working only 1 room away from her. Rosanne's story resonates with me--loudly. It matters not whether a mom works outside the home or is a stay-at-home mom. Her job as a mother never ends. There are no days off, sick time, financial compensation, etc. Mothers have a never-ending connection with their children, so it is not unusual that they think of their children often.

Throughout the story, the author juxtaposes the working mother's daily activities against what she believes her son is doing. At the end of the day, they recap. And I Thought About You is a story of unconditional love and it teaches us how every mother is capable of giving it. It is well-illustrated capturing the essence of the story well.

And I Thought About You is a great read that working moms and children should share and emulate.


Sunday, April 29, 2012

NaPiBoWriWee 2012: 7 Picture Books in 7 Days! I'm In! Are You?

National Picture Book Writing Week was founded by author Paula Yoo. Starting on Tuesday, May 1, 2012, new and veteran children's picture book authors will accept the challenge to write one picture book per day for 7 days. I am thrilled to be participating in my first NaPiBoWriWee and I invite you to join the fun! You can get all of the details on Paula Yoo's website.

So, forget about editing spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and lousy mechanics. Throw caution to the wind and let your imagination fly! Write the stories you always wanted to read as a child. It's NaPiBoWriWee! Are you in? Game on!

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...