Thursday, May 25, 2017

Want to Get Your Name in Print? Give Some of These Ideas a Try

by Leslie Colin Tribble

As writers, it can be a long process finding an agent and getting a book published. But you don't have to wait until your writing ship comes in to see your name in print. Here are some ideas to work on while you're waiting to hold that coveted book in your hand. Many of these writing gigs either won't pay well, (or even at all) but you do get a by-line and a chance to use that work as publishing credit. When you're trying to build your name as a writer, you'll need to have something for potential clients to assess your skills. It may not be kit-lit, but good writing for any audience is recognized and acknowledged.

1. Write locally
There are all sorts of agencies and businesses that are looking for good content. These folks need articles for websites, newsletters and social media posts. Take your expertise and go knock on some doors. Do you have a background in real estate? Talk to a realtor and see if you can provide articles for their publication. Maybe you can write about staging a home, or what makes your community special. Do you know something about nutrition? Write articles for your PTA about healthy lunches for kids in the summer.

Conservation agencies are always looking for local stories. Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Audubon, etc. appreciate having someone knowledgeable about local issues and events to provide filler for newsletters or better yet, a great, educational article about a particular plant, bird or animal.

Here are some other businesses you might investigate: animal shelter; hospitals, dentists, chiropractor, gyms, Chamber of Commerce, area museums or historical sites, fishing/hunting stores or outfitters, bed and breakfasts, motels, guest ranches, lawn services, hardware stores. These businesses need to get their name out there and they need help doing it.

My little town had a local magazine which was only published annually, but it won several awards and had a thriving life for several years. I Facebook messaged one of the owners and said if they needed any articles to give me a call. She did the next day - one of their writers decided to bail on an assignment and she asked if I could do it.

I'm currently writing hiking articles for our local outdoor shop. Although they offered to pay me, I asked for a store credit instead since all my hiking/outdoor gear is just a few decades old. See if you can barter your writing for some sort of credit in lieu of a paycheck. That might just tip the scale in your favor.

2. Write Regionally
Parenting magazines are all the rage now and even small towns have a free magazine to pick up. These are great publications to get featured in - you could write a kid-friendly article, get your name in print and probably get paid at least a little bit. These magazines get their income from ad revenue so it's possible there's compensation available. You could do a review of children's books to read this summer, or a round-up of back to school books for kids. Be creative!

I periodically write for a regional women's magazine. I found the editor's name on the publication mast head, and sent her an email saying I was a local writer and available for hire. I gave her a few ideas for articles and she responded favorably.

Publications usually start new writers with smaller articles that are tucked in at the back of the magazine. But submitting good writing on a timely basis can eventually work into a feature article, located at the front of the magazine. These are solid publishing credits you can add to your website.

3. Write Nationally
Not all of us will see our names in national publications like Good Housekeeping, Glamour or National Geographic, but you won't know until you try. Coming up with good ideas for articles and crafting a killer pitch are skills that flow over into writing for kids and querying agents and editors.
Do you have a really new angle on How to Keep Your Kids From Being Bored this Summer? Send it off to Parent Magazine - editors are always looking for a fresh take on a perennial topic. Maybe there's a wonderful, but little known local destination in your area - query travel magazines and tell the world about it.

What about your religious denomination magazine? A friend of mine got local quilters together to sew blankets for an orphanage in Mexico - we worked together to craft an article about the volunteer effort and it was printed in the national magazine. We didn't get paid, but a wonderful work was featured and I got another publishing credit.

Look for publications that aren't as well known as those big names at the front of the news stands, and don't forget alternative newspapers. Visit your local bookstore and browse the magazine aisle. You'll find all sorts of magazines you never knew existed and they're just waiting for your article. Do you kayak, fly fish, knit, crochet, do hand lettering, para-sail, hang glide, or own a garage full of remote-controlled toys? Maybe you're the grill master supreme of the neighborhood, know the best way to keep those stainless steel appliances fingerprint proof, or have the perfect trick for keeping your cat calm at the vet's office - there's a publication you can write for, you just have to search for it.

You don't have to be a published kid-lit author to see your name in print. Make a name for yourself before your book gets published. How have you gotten your name in print?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Debut View of Leah Henderson and ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL by Kathy Halsey

Author Leah Henderson's debut middle grade novel, ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, releases on June 6, 2017. I met Leah twice in April, first at the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature and then at the NESCBWI Spring Conference. We have mutual writer friends and talked about craft and life long into the night at NESCBWI. (You will see more about her again on writer friend Patricia Nozell's blog, Wander, Ponder, Write, in the near future.) 
Nalini Krishnankutty, Leah Henderson, Kathy Halsey, and Brittany Thurman @ Virginia Hamilton

Today I'm thrilled to feature her as we await her book's birthday. I was lucky enough to score a PDF "arc," and I am half way through the book now. I'm immersed enough in the story that I feel confident in recommending this novel. Leah graciously offered to do an interview with me, so read on for her writerly advice!
  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (June 6, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481462954
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481462952
Please note you can see the novel summary on the Amazon link above.
From Kirkus: In her debut, Henderson paints a detailed picture of life in Senegal. The author’s experience, research, and sensitivity shine, making this distinctive novel a valuable addition to the literature....A book that rewards patient, sensitive readers willing to dive in." (Kirkus Reviews May 15, 2017)
From me via a writer's lens:
  • First, the buzz on this book is amazing. I was raring to read this debut ASAP due to the social media buzz surrounding it. Any author would be thrilled to have Mr. Shu, Besty Bird, and The Brown Bookshelf in their corner! Being able to orchestrate good advance PR for a debut is priceless. Please, check out embedded links for more information. 
  • ONE SHADOW begins with an engaging prologue that sets up an integral piece of magical realism that pervades the entire story. In less than a page and a half, Leah introduces us to Mor, the eleven-year old main character who hears and feels the spirits of his dead parents. Writers, do not be afraid to break writing "rules" that will serve you story! 
  • Leah's intention for this book was to spark readers' interest in the beauty and dignity of Senegal and to share the plight of talib├ęs, religious schools that can produce street children. Many of these schools are above board, yet some create conditions that follow the path of Mor via poverty and lack of options for a better life. Writers, know your book's intention and make sure your plot adheres to it.
  • Remember that setting can be a character, too. Leah's lyrical, sensory language immerses readers in a world they learn to inhabit along with the characters. Leah also uses the Sengalese language while she lets context clues fill in the gaps to create authenticity. I learned many new Wolof words as I read.
  • Finally, find your main character's heart and follow your inner fire to create riveting drama. Mor's character is one we root for from page one due to the writer's craft in making him real and vulnerable. Leah has traveled to Senegal and is passionate about its culture and beauty. Readers feel that, too.
  • My verdict is that ONE SHADOW will be a book to remember this year. It is a lush, lively, page-turner of a book. I read it in big gulps as I made myself stop to linger over the beauty of Leah's words. 

Interview with Leah
K: Leah, I first met you at The Virginia Hamilton Conference and then at the NESCBWI Spring Conference this year. Why do you feel it’s important for writers to attend conferences? 

L: Writing is such a solitary pursuit, so conferences and workshops are a great way to connect with people who might be on a similar journey, or who at least have a similar love of writing and a desire to learn more about the craft. Plus, they can be so much fun!

K: What conferences do you recommend?
L: There are so many conferences out there: they all can serve  different needs. Research as many as you can and then ask yourself what your focus is at this stage of your writing journey: Are you just starting out? In the murky middle? Do you crave feedback? Or are you ready to find an agent? Targeted workshops like those at Highlights or one run by a local writing organization could fit the bill, or maybe an SCBWI event might make more sense. If your focus is the “Color of Children’s Literature,” maybe the Kweli Conference would give you the insights you’re looking for. Think about what would serve you best right now. Conferences can be pricey, so choose wisely.

K: Tell us about your writing process. Are you a plotter or a pantser?
L: I am a little of both. I generally have an idea of where I want the story to go (just no clue how I’ll get there). Sometimes I will create a very sparse outline early on and wander a bit from there. For ONE SHADOW ON THE WALL, I began as a pantser, because I wasn’t quite sure what story Mor wanted to tell. But as soon as I felt like I could outline and narrow the focus, I did. Still it took a lot of writing and rewriting to figure it out.

K: Is MG your preferred age group or do you write across other grade levels, genres? 
L: My heart lies with middle grade, but as a curious soul, I try writing in other genres as well. I don’t know if I’ll ever produce something those outside my critique groups will ever see, but I enjoy trying.  

K: What led to your decision to pursue you MFA? 
L: It’s pretty simple—I craved being part of a community that understood my love and need to write. My non-writing friends and family have always been supportive, but they do not really understand all the ups and downs and twists and turns related to this whole writing "thing." I also wanted to become a stronger, more confident writer by studying craft. I have always loved learning, so it was an easy decision. I needed to invest in me.   

K: I recently read your piece from The Brown Bookshelf  and these questions came to mind.  The origin of your debut came from a ten-page story you wrote for a class. What class were you taking, and what did your professor see in this story? 
L: It was a graduate school course on children’s writing. To be honest, I am not sure what she saw—maybe an opportunity for young readers to see another part of the world or an interesting character. Even while I doubted my story all those years ago, I always had a love for my main character, Mor, so perhaps she saw a glimpse of that love in my early work. 

K: You also said you approached ONE SHADOW with a larger concern from your past – hoping to read about a true-to-life character, yet finding “simply a stereotype, a caricature.” How did create Mor's individuality and voice?
L: I was very unsure when I started to explore the world of these characters, even though it was fictional. I remembered a time when I opened books hoping to see a likeness of myself, yet instead I was met by something altogether different. Those images and depictions left me feeling like the author didn’t care enough about my story and my experience to get it as accurate as possible. I did not want to do that with Mor’s world. 
Senegal is a wonderful place that many young readers know little about, so in no way did I want to mislead them. I wanted to write a story that readers familiar with Senegal could recognize in the spirits of the characters I created, and I wanted readers unfamiliar with the place to walk away knowing a little more and hopefully make them eager to do additional research.

K: Where did the seed for Mor originate? 
L: So when I thought about who I wanted Mor to be, I remembered the boy I first saw on the beach wall in St. Louis, Senegal who inspired it all with his quiet strength and poise. Then I watched, listened, and learned from the kids around me that inhabited a similar world to the one Mor was a part of. I drew him out of them.

K: What surprises did you find as a debut author? 
L: I think because I have attended so many conferences, lectures, and workshops, I was prepared. However, I still was a bit surprised by the quiet then the hustle of publishing. For months you don’t hear a peep about anything, then—BOOM—everything is due at once.

K: Please share a few writing tips for our readers:
L: Hmmmm, tips:
Be patient with yourself and your writing.
Trust in the power of revision.
Find a group of writers who have similar wants (because not everyone’s goals and needs are the same).
Always work on your craft. Read, attend conferences and workshops if you can, and continue to write.
Celebrate the little victories.
Always try and learn from each mistake.
Be open to constructive criticism, especially if it is meant to make your work stronger.
Be true to yourself and your story. And don’t let anyone turn you around.

    K: What’s next for you, Leah? Book launch, school visits, new novels? 
L: All of the above. My book launch is June 6th at the Black History Museum in Richmond, VA (so if you are in the area please stop by, I’d love to see you). I will also be speaking at my graduate school next week about my novel & debut journey, and am currently working on two other MG projects that are very different from this one, but that echo some of the same themes—family, friendship, grit, and possibilities.
Thank you so much for having me, Kathy, it’s been great! And hopefully I’ll see you at another event soon