Monday, January 23, 2012

Interview: Children's Author- Maryann Sawka

What age range is your book for?

A: My book has been published as a children’s book, but as the title indicates, it includes quick tips for all ages. The illustrations are geared for children as they exemplify the passages being discussed on each page.

Can you share a memory of yours or a story of you from when you were within the age range of your target readers?

A: I’m pretty sure as a child I read everything that Judy Bloom wrote including Freckle Juice, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Are you there God, it’s me Margaret.  I also remember being a fan of The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.  Both were very popular when I was in grade school.  I remember that I enjoyed the stories very much, which helped me to develop such a strong love of reading.  I would usually finish one book and ask my parents if I could get another when we went shopping or ask if we could visit our library right away because I needed another book!

How has life changed for children today than when you were that age?

A: I think when I was a child our culture was different in that most families didn’t have both parents working outside of the home.  Usually one parent was home with the children while the other left the home to go to an outside job.  When the parent who worked outside of the home returned at the end of their workday, families typically sat down together to a home-cooked meal and enjoyed the company of one another.  Conversation included sharing stories from everyone’s day, current events and similar topics. 

Today, it is not unusual for the family dynamic to not include two parents living in the same household or to have both parents working outside of the home.  With that in mind, the nightly family-dinner of the past is not always a daily occurrence.  Our emphasis is not always placed on family conversation and sharing our days with one another.  More often, we eat our dinners at a drive-thru while driving from one activity to another.  Our culture is more “on-the-go” today than in the past.

How is life still the same?

A: Our children still need our time, love and attention.  Because of our rushed society, they probably need us now more than ever.  They need us to teach them proper manners and etiquette.  We need to look at this instruction as a gift that we are giving to them that helps them to grow and develop a strong character.  It is a gift that will carryover into other areas of their lives including school, extra-curricular activities, relationships at home and behavior in public, to name a few.

Our sharing of good manners does not need to be boring or stuffy.  My book exemplifies good manners using a fun, lively approach with tips that are demonstrated in the accompanying illustrations.  The tips are straight-forward, short and easy to implement.

What was your favorite toy or activity when you were that age?

A: When I was a child, I loved to read and play outside. I used to ride my bike with friends in the neighborhood, play jacks on our front porch and play hide and seek at dusk with friends. I remember being able to play outside all day, coming in for lunch and dinner.  Being a child then was fun!  Kids have a lot of pressure put on them today.

What inspired this book and how did you decide on this age range for your book?

A: I was inspired to write this book because I value good manners.  Teaching my own children to use good table manners has been a fun activity and I would like to share it with others.  Learning manners at a young age allows a child to develop a strong character that will continue to flourish as they continue to grow and mature.

Finally, I have four kids. Over the years, they’ve attended a lot of birthday parties. I love the idea of building a theme gift around a book. If you were to give a gift basket to a child based on your book, what else would be in the basket besides (your book’s title)?

A: If the gift recipient were a girl, I would envision my book in a basket with some snacks, fancy gloves and a tea party set.  I love to throw tea parties for my daughters and their friends.  This is a great opportunity to teach manners in a fun way.

If the gift recipient were a boy, I would envision my book in a basket with some snacks, juice boxes and maybe a card game or matchbox cars.  The theme could be built around enjoying a snack with friends, encouraging appropriate play and conversation.

What a fun idea!  I like the idea of including a book in a gift basket for children!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Book Review: Good Table Manners Made Easy

Good Table Manners Made Easy

Author: Maryann B. Sawka

Illustrated by: Amy Rottinger

Halo Publishing International

ISBN: 978-1-61244-046-0

From the Back Cover: Good Table Manners is a quick easy to read resource that teaches basic table manners in a delightfully fun way. It also serves as a quick refresher for the table manners that we may have forgotten.

My Review:  Excellent and fun way to teach kids about manners especially when at the table. With families so busy and meals often on the run, kids may need a refresher on what good table manners really mean. This cute book will help parents reinforce good manners without being preachy or naggy. Kids will enjoy the illustrations and will gain good solid information about how to be polite. A great little book to refer to as children grow and learn.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Interview with Author, Rachel Yurchisin

1.      Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.

I was born in Cleveland, Ohio and I’ve lived there my whole life. I’ve gone to school in the Parma, Ohio region for both grade school and high school. I wrote my book because there was an assignment in 5th grade to write a book. It was very official (for 5th graders) with pictures and binding. Last summer I was looking through some old grade school boxes and came across this book that I made. My mother and I decided to send it to Halo Publishing and they accepted it right away- I’m very fortunate in that regard. The rest is history!

2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.

My current book is entitled,“Diary of My Days in Kenya.” It is a fictional story loosely based upon the real life occurrences of a nomadic lioness who nurtures baby oryx as if they were her own young. During a drought, a naturalist, Susan Polling, and other professionals, are sent on assignment to observe and document this special pairing. The book’s spirited protagonist, Polling, offers the reader interesting insights as to why this unique phenomenon has transpired. The story explores how the traditional relationship of predator and prey is transcended, presenting a spellbinding account of how a parental bond, even a non-traditional one, can never be broken.

Halo Publishing International is a great publisher. Being a young author who does tons of extracurricular activities, such as sports and clubs, it was pretty difficult to find times to have meetings over the phone. Lisa Umina, an author and founder of Halo Publishing, is extremely understanding and helpful. Also, when it came to publicizing my book, the process was quite simple and easy to accomplish. When I write another book- I would definitely go back to Halo Publishing!

I got the idea for “Diary of My Days in Kenya” from a true story of a lioness who adopts baby oryx that was reported about in the Plain Dealer in their Saturday edition of “World Watch” column.  The basis behind the book is true, the characters and the occurrences are created by me.

3. What is a typical writing day like for you?

I am quite the procrastinator so usually it would be a day that I don’t have anything else planned other than writing. There would be periods of time that I would be sitting in school and get an idea and would just have to write it down. It is great to have an epiphany but not so great to get behind in what the lesson was about in class!

4. What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love being able to express myself in the written word. If I didn’t have that outlet I don’t know what I would do. If I feel like I can’t control anything else in my life, I know that the second I pick up that pen or pencil, I have the power write out how I feel and express my feelings in a positive way.

5. What is the most difficult part of writing?

I can start writing and just keep going and going. The hardest part for me is figuring out an ending. I never want my stories or anything I write, even essays for school, to end.

6. Why do you like working with children and teens?

I wrote “Diary of My Days in Kenya” while I was in the fifth grade, so the book was written in the mind-set of that age-group. I’m only a junior in high school now, and I’m feeling like publicizing my book and having this much success already is helping me reach-out to some of my class mates that have been writing and are looking into becoming published authors themselves!

7. Do you make school visits or do speaking engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.

I haven’t made any school visits or anything of the like as of yet. I hope to go to my grade school where I wrote the book and publicize the book. I would like to speak to the middle grade school students who might have similar thoughts about the books that they had to write in fifth grade.

8. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?

I don’t have a website of my own- however anyone who would like to order my book they can go to . You can also learn more about me on Halo’s website in their Authors CafĂ©.

9. What are you working on right now?

I’m working on school work and getting ready for the state competition for my tennis team at school! I hoping to audition for my school’s fall and winter plays this year as well.

10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

Don’t be afraid to send a publisher what you wrote. Most of the time people don’t send out what they’ve wrote in fear of being rejected. It is an understandable fear; however with a few changes it will eventually be accepted. Just go for it!

11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?

Try to find something that you enjoy; find a passion of yours and find an occupation that fits those requirements. If you accomplish that goal, you will find that you’ll never feel like you’ve worked a day in your life because you’re doing something that you love!
12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?

I want to thank my mom for doing everything in her power to help me succeed not only in my writing, but also in my life. To my dad for always believing in me, and saying,“ I knew you could.” To my papa who added color to my book and to my life. Finally, to the readers, I hope you enjoy the book and thanks for all your support!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Book Review: Diary of My Days in Kenya

Rachel Yurchisin

Diary of My Days in Kenya

A Naturalist's Observations of a Lioness and Her Adopted Baby Oryx

Diary of My Days in Kenya is a fictional story loosely based upon the real life occurrences of a nomadic lioness who nurtures baby oryx as if they were her own young. During a drought, a naturalist, Susan Polling, and other professionals, are sent on assignment to observe and document this special (relationship) pairing. The book’s spirited protagonist, Polling, offers the reader interesting insights as to why this unique phenomenon has transpired. The story explores how the traditional relationship of predator and prey is transcended, presenting a spellbinding account of how a parental bond, even a non-traditional one, can never be broken.

Paperback  $11.95

ISBN 978-1-935268-89-5

About the author: Rachel Yurchisin

Rachel's love of science and nature has inspired her to write her first children’s book in the hopes of passing on her passion to other young “budding” naturalists. She is currently a sophomore in high school residing in Cleveland, Ohio. She feeds her interest in animals and the natural world by participating in educational programs at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Museum of Natural History
My Review: This is a warm and interesting story from a young writer who I think will do big things in the future. The illustrations compliment the text and the package reads like a smooth National Geographic tale. A very good story.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Children's Author, Molly Nero

Welcome Molly Nero to the blog today. She is an award winning children's author and her new book is Smarty Pig.

1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.

Beginning my 18 year career teaching elementary school, I found myself in the 4th grade classroom which became my training ground for writing. Writing rough drafts, editing and revising to model the process for my students allowed me to grow in my own abilities and desire to write. After 5 years, I became the music teacher giving me the opportunity to work with hundreds of kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade producing grade-level musicals each year. Stepping out of the “classroom” teacher role also enabled me to work with kids in a different way. With the lights off, I would play “Danse Macabre” very loudly on the stereo. My students were on the floor with their eyes closed as I narrated what was happening during the piece to help them understand and begin to appreciate the stories behind classical music. Students began to talk about their frustrations concerning different things to me, and that has given voice to my writing.

2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.

Smarty Pig is the story of a family of pigs that have given up on school. They don’t do their homework and feel it’s not important. The only one who does is teased and nic named Smarty Pig. When Smarty Pig gets good grades and the others fail, they reach out to her to help them. She agrees but asks them to try. She takes skills taught at school and puts them into real-life situations, ie: the kitchen becomes a grocery store with things to be purchased with play money. They begin to understand the learning CAN be fun, and it’s not just for school, learning is for life.

Halo Publishing saw the value in this message and has been incredibly supportive of me as I enter this new career. Lisa Umina has worked with me through each stage of this process, making sure I knew what was going on, what was expected of me and helping me brainstorm ideas for the best way to market this book series.

The idea for Smarty Pig came from hearing students express their apathy toward school after several days of taking state tests. During the year, it’s worksheet after worksheet preparing kids for the tests. Then you have intense review right before it’s given. They even have pep-rallies to try to excite the kids about taking the tests! The kids didn’t understand why it was necessary, and the pressure was undermining all the joy of learning for them. As the years passed, I heard this from younger and younger students. My object in Smarty Pig is to uplift our youngest learners early in their academic life to see the value and fun in learning.

3. What is a typical writing day like for you?

I’m up at 5:30am to start the day watching the Pink Panther with my daughter and 2 dogs snuggled up in 1 chair. COFFEE! Get both my kids off to school. Check on my mother who has her own house downstairs. Get on my treadmill to clear my thoughts listening to KLOVE radio. Then my husband and I discuss what the day will bring, and I’m on my computer writing, building the website, emailing… Some days I will work on only one story. Other days my mind jumps to ideas for other books. I’ve learned to just roll with it. The one thing I must have is a window to look out of while I’m writing. The endlessness of the sky reminds me that ideas are just as endless.

4. What do you enjoy most about writing?

The plot of the story developing is my favorite. My daughter is an artist, and she amazes me when she begins to paint a new picture. It’s the same anticipation and excitement when writing a story. You start with an idea that takes you in many different directions while you make choices along the way to help it grow. You’re never exactly sure how it will turn out, but the process is delightful.

5. What is the most difficult part of writing?

Smarty Pig is all in rhyme which can be challenging. I don’t want to sacrifice my message or give up a figure of speech or something that I know kids will relate to for the rhyme. It becomes like a dance where the story and words must work together to create a message that the kids can read, understand, and really enjoy.

6. Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.

 I was known as “Mrs. Nero the Hero” to my Kindergarten students to help them learn my name. This is how I continue to introduce myself to school children. Bringing in my musical theater background to the visits, I incorporate music, cheers, and a visual, relatable message of Smarty Pig to the kids that “all they learn in school, they’ll use in life.”

7. Is there any book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?

Holes by Louis Sachar. I love it when a writer introduces numerous characters and situations and weaves them together by the end of the book. The creative process that must take place to even begin such a story inspires me.

8. Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order? is my website and is another site to order the book right now. After December 2011, the book will be available through all stores as Print On Demand.

9. What are you working on right now?

Smarty Pig and the Test Taking Terror is heading to the editor. I had a smart 4th grade boy put his head down on his desk when the state test was administered. He became so distraught; he couldn’t even write his name. I’ve never forgotten him. This book is for those kids that shut down when they take a test. Smarty Pig models strategies for breaking down the fear and panic.

Bullying is the next topic in this series. Both of my children have dealt with bullying situations. It is such a national problem and the ramifications are becoming more and more frightening. Kids have to learn to talk about what is happening.

10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?

You need to edit and revise until you are certain it’s your best work. Ask others to read it. Be open to criticism, but don’t lose your voice. Then you just keep trying. You’ll find a way to get your idea out there.

11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?

Slow down! It’s ok to be 6 or 9 or even 13. There are experiences at every age to enjoy and learn from, and that’s how you grow to become an adult. It isn’t worth it to rush ahead of yourself and try to be older than you are. Remember, there is always an answer, always a solution, and always someone who will help you.

12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?

Parents are a vital part of their child’s education nowadays. Include them in every day to day activity that you can. It will reinforce skills they are learning at school and give them a sense of value in all they know. When you are together, stop and look at the leaves changing in the trees, listen to the crickets, talk about the colors of a sunset. Be a role model who appreciates the little things that help make up this amazing world.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

World of Ink Tour for Molly Nero, Author of Smarty Pig

Halo Author: Molly Nero

Month of World of Ink Tour: January 2012

Title of Book(s): Smarty Pig                       

Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.

ISBN Number(s):978-1-61244-048-4

Genre of Book(s): Picture book

Publication Date(s): December 2011

Places where your book(s) are available for sale: for pre-publication sales; all other bookstores POD after Dec.

Author Website:

Facebook URL: Molly Costen Nero

Book Trailer:

Author Bio :

Molly Nero grew up in Texas loving to sing, dance, and read. She spent over 18 years teaching elementary school. Reading to her own children, she was inspired to write. Molly Nero recently moved to Pennsylvania where she resides with her family, 2 dogs, and a leopard spotted Gecko and enjoys writing, cooking, and making snowmen.


The school year has started, but the pigs have given up and don’t do their homework, except Smarty Pig who is working hard. When the others fail, she becomes their tutor. By creating games in their home that practice skills, Smarty Pig shows them that learning is fun and not just for school, it’s for life.

This book is so fun, great characterization relating the main character as a pig and a whole pig classroom to children. Children will be excited to read about school, about homework, and about what it feels like to do the right thing when friends don't agree. This story has so much fun and laughter. And it has a life lesson weaved throughout. Students won't  recognize the fact that the book is educational because it is filled with kid friendly fun. I loved this book and can't wait to read more about these pigs who go to school.
For more on this fun story visit tomorrow.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Guest Post by Award Winning Author Karen Cioffi

It is the first day of the New Year and I wanted to start off with a bang with useful information to jump start your writing for 2012. What better way than a quick lesson on rhyming by award winning author and founder of Writers on the Move, Karen Cioffi.

Please give Karen a warm welcome and bookmark this post. It is filled with useful information and helpful links for those of us who want to try our hand at writing in rhyme.

Writing in Rhyme

By Karen Cioffi

Rhyming, when done right, is a wonderful way to engage children. Children, as soon as they’re able, love to rhyme words . . . and this can begin as early as two-years-old: cat-hat, mouse-house. But, to write a rhyming story . . . a well written rhyming story . . . is difficult; you need a good story, rhyme, rhythm/beat, meter, stresses, and more—all this in addition to the already unique rules and tricks in writing for children. And, some writers just don’t have that innate ability to do rhyme well. But, it can be learned.

According to Delia Marshall Turner, Ph.D., the elements of poetry are: voice; stanza; sound; rhythm; figures of speech; and form.

Voice (the speaker)

Stanza (the format of lines grouped together)

Sound (rhyme and other patterns)

Rhythm (the beat and meter – the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables)

Figures of Speech (types of figurative language)

Form (the type of poem, its design)

Along with this there is perfect rhyme, and approximate rhyme:

Perfect rhyme: tie/lie; stay/day

Approximate rhyme: top/cope; comb/tomb

And, there are many more bits and pieces that go into writing poetry/ rhyme. But, the foundation that holds your rhyming story all together is the story itself—you need a good story, especially when writing for children.

According to the article, “To Rhyme or Not to Rhyme” by Dori Chaconas, in the Writer Magazine, October 2001:

“You may write in perfect rhyme, with perfect rhythm, but if your piece lacks the elements of a good story, your efforts will be all fluff without substance. I like to think of story as the key element, and if the story is solid, and conducive to rhyme, the rhyme will then enhance the story.”

This is a wonderful explanation because it mentions “if the story is solid, and conducive to rhyme.” This means that not all stories will work in rhyme, and the writer needs to know whether his will or will not.

So, if you’re interested in writing in rhyme and/or poetry, there are a number of sites and articles online that can help, there are also books available, and classes you can take. Do a Google search for the tools that are right for you.

For a head start, you can check out the sites below:


Type in a word, it gives you rhyming words



Offers tips, information, dictionary, and rhyming words

Poets and Writers


Poetry Foundation


Karen Cioffi is a published author, freelance writer, and marketer, and to start the New Year with a BANG, from January 1 through February 28, 2012, she is offering all her writing and marketing e-books (purchased directly from her site/s using the Paypal SHOPPING CART) for a $1.19 each. And, this will include new titles added within that time period.

For a complete list of the available titles and links to more information:

For a complete list (with brief descriptions of each ebook) go to:

Please leave a comment and cruise on over to Karen's sites for some great deals on ebooks this month. Her expertise will amaze you and will definitely be a boost for to your writing and marketing skills for the New Year. Enjoy and Blessings for your writing success.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year.

My wish for you includes success as a writer, health, and prosperity.

Whether you wish for a publisher, a completed manuscript, more writing time, or an agent, I wish you all of this and more for 2012. Writers rock!

May 2012 be your best writing year yet.


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