Posts Tagged With: Children’s literature

MWN Author Feature- Ms. Hen

Amy HenricksonThis week the Motown Writers Network features Ms. Hen. Ms. Hen has been writing all her life, but has been writing children’s books since 2011 when she began to annually attend the Iowa Writers’ Summer Festival.
She began writing the Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books when she worked as an elementary library supervisor and was disappointed in the offerings for girls and boys. She — and her students — wanted to read books that featured a smart, spunky, principled, and interesting protagonist. Ms. Hen says, “Girls can be anything: scientists, mathematicians, astronauts. Girls are so much more than glittery princesses; they are self-reliant problem-solvers.”
John Ball is a biography of the man who donated the land to establish the Grand Rapids, Michigan park and zoo that bears his name. His life was amazing — he had Christmas dinner with a king, traveled across the United States, and walked unannounced into the White House to have a chat with the U.S. President.
Mackinac Island is a place that many wish to visit. Even those who have been there may not know how it’s history helped to shape the United States. The book includes a walking tour, travel tips, and a bit of a scavenger hunt as well as historical and current information that will prove interesting and helpful for visitors as well as students who are writing a report on the special island.
Ms. Hen lives in Michigan, the Mitten State. She has two grown children, two grandchildren, and two kitties. Her favorite color is orange and she loves to travel.

Where are you from?  

Grandville, MI
Latest News
I just published “Let’s Explore Mackinac Island,” and will be speaking at the Michigan Reading Assoc. Conference in Detroit — March 2016
When and why did you begin writing?
I was an English major in college and taught English for a couple of years.  I also did some proofreading and editing. I had never written creatively but always wanted to, so in 2010, I went to the University of Iowa for the Summer Writing Festival and have been writing creatively ever since.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?  
When my first book, Lucky Lottie, was published in 2012 and my library (KDL Grandville) hosted a book-signing party.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Originally, I thought I wanted to write Memoir, but found that I have a knack for writing for children.  As all authors do, I incorporated some of my own story into the character of Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I enjoy writing fiction and poetry, but I think my forte is researching and distilling information in non-fiction.
How did you come up with the title? 
The Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books are a series of 4 books with rhyming(ish) titles that give a hint of the story:  Lucky Lottie, Spotty Lottie, Rocky Lottie, and Lakey Lottie.  My great aunt’s name was Lottie and I loved her to pieces.  My writing group helped with the series title.
Is there a message?
Each book has not only some nuggets about science, but also information about Michigan and some character lessons, delivered in a light-hearted way.
How much is realistic?
The Lottie stories could happen to any curious child.
Experiences based on someone or events?
I believe every author inserts some of him- or herself in all of their fiction writing.  I would say that Lottie is the girl I wish I had been.
What books have influenced your life most?
The Bible, My Antonia, Pippi Longstocking, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Blessing, The Gifts of Imperfection, To Kill a Mockingbird, Whistling in the Dark, One True Thing
Which writer would you consider a mentor?
Willa Cather
What are you reading now?
Sapphira and the Slave Girl; The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Torah
New authors who have grasped my interest?
Katie Van Ark, Wendy Booydegraaf
Current Projects?
Just published “Let’s Explore Mackinac Island.”
Entity that supported you outside of family members?
My writing group:  FLAG (Four Ladies and a Gent)
Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but not a dependable financial path
Would you change anything in your latest book?
No — but it’s fresh.  I’m sure I’ll see/think of something as time goes on.
How did my interest in writing originate?
I loved books and reading for as long as I can remember.  I’m sure that influenced my interest in writing.
Share a little of current work?
I’m revising a novel that has been in the works for a few years.  It’s a project close to my heart. That’s all I can say about that right now.
Anything particularly challenging in my writing?
I get impatient to publish, but I find if I let the manuscript simmer a bit, the revisions are better.
Favorite author/why?
I would have to say that Frederick Buechner is my favorite author.  He writes beautifully with great candor about life, faith, doubt, and hope.
Do you travel much concerning your books?
I have traveled in West Michigan to promote my books at various author events and libraries.  I traveled to Mackinac Island to research and take photos for my latest book.
Who designed the covers?  
I illustrated the books and took the photos, but my daughter, Abby Bedford, is a graphic designer and she professionally formats the covers.
What was the hardest part?
Ignoring distractions of life to hunker down and get ‘er done.
What did you learn from writing your book?
I learned to trust my “muse.”  The stories unfold and characters appear and sometimes I’m surprised to see what I’ve written.  That’s the best!
Any advise for other writers?
Write as much as you can,  keep a notebook for ideas (you never know when something will inspire you), join a writing group,  engage in social media,  be an extrovert about your writing, read, be a constant observer/listener, don’t quit.
Anything specific to say to readers?
In my work in elementary libraries, I found that many books for children are pretty silly or fluffy.  That’s okay in small doses, but in the Lottie books, I wanted to portray a girl who wasn’t a princess or a fairy, but spunky, real, and full of curiosity.  Science is not only interesting, it’s important.  Kids can enjoy reading fun stories that also teach.
Lucky Lottie
Rocky LottieLakey LottieSpotty Lottie
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New #MichLit Radio Show w/children’s authors: @superdaddieslit & @MarquinParks #mwn [PODCAST]


Feb 13, 2013 Guest Backgrounder

1. Guest:  Anita Gibbs     

Guest summary: Anita Gibbs is the author of two children’s books, “Daddy, I Broke My Snowball” and “Daddy, I Can Read It For You.” Her newest book is “Daddy’s Magic Stamp” part of her Super Daddy’s series. Anita’s definition of a SUPERDADDY (noun, plural – dies) 1. Any man who makes a deliberate attempt to enrich the life of a child, especially his own.  


Author bio:

Anita T. Gibbs is a seasoned sales professional who was raised to believe in herself and her dreams.  Inspired by her own father as well as raising her son as a single mom, the creator of “Superdaddies The Series™”, aspires to create a positive perception and motivation in the relationships between fathers and their children in this children’s book series.


Her freshman release in Nov. 2009, “Daddy, I broke My Snowball” was well received, as illustrated by the following editorial comment:


In times such as these, we need reminders about the fact that “quality” men and fathers do, indeed, exist and how they provide security, love and reassurance to their children. “Daddy, I Broke My Snowball” reminds us of the vast influence that committed fathers provide for their children, ESPECIALLY girls, as is depicted in this heart-warming story. Such simple things as building a “snow-woman” provide unique opportunities to bond and reinforce the sacredness of fatherhood; this is a touching example of how empowerment and self-esteem is cultivated in both boys and girls.

–Dr. Kathy A. Morrow, Clinical Psychologist

 The sophomore offering, “Daddy, I Can Read It For You,” is the story of a middle aged divorced father of two who has a very “special” relationship with his gifted son and precocious ‘tween’ daughter.  This Superdaddy only attended school through the eighth grade.  He values healthy eating and the family’s favorite but healthy guilty pleasure happens to be sweet potatoes.


About the book Daddy’s Magic Stamp:

Daddy’s Magic Stamp is a PreK-2 children’s book about a dog and his twin puppies. They can’t hide from Daddy Dog!

2. Guest:  Marquin Parks    

Guest summary: Marquin Parks is an educator, consultant, interventionist, and author of the new book “Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School”.

Author bio:  Marquin’s goal is to inspire, motivate, and promote writing and reading to a larger audience. Honestly, he just wants to write and write and write and write (yeah, that much writing) books that humor and help kids.

About Wrinkles Wallace: Knights of Night School

Follow the zany adventures of Wrinkles Wallace and his classmates who have to come together as a team to outsmart their teacher and pass 5th Grade. After all, they’ve failed it a number of times–so many that Wrinkles is already 28-years old. The students deal with real-world issues and themselves in order to overcome the antics of their diabolical teacher, Mr. Sittin’ B. Quiet. (By the way, he’s only ten.) Join them in this upside-down world where non-stop humor serves as a guide to character-building and success.



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ARTICLE: Tips for Writing Good Query Letters VIA Irene Watson @bloggingauthors #mwn


Expert Author Irene Watson

A good query letter is not difficult to write if you remember to leave out the irrelevant. Over the years, as a literary agent and someone who publishes other authors’ articles on my websites, I’ve seen some serious mistakes in query letters that have made me quickly think otherwise about publishing an author’s work. Following are a few tips on what you should and should not include in a query letter.

Do not offer unnecessary information: If it isn’t relevant to your book or article’s topic, I don’t need to know it. Unnecessary information can include where you live, all the places you have lived, how many children you have, your marital status, why you haven’t published anything yet, anything personal like your divorce, how long you have been writing, your religious affiliation, and on and on and on. I don’t need you to tell me about where you live-I can get that from the return address on the envelope. If you’re writing a fantasy novel, I don’t need to know about your children, your divorce, or what religion you are. If you are writing an article about religion, it might be relevant to tell me about your religion, but that is not necessarily always the case. If you are writing a children’s book, telling me about your children and how they love your book is not going to convince me-of course your children love Mommy’s book.

Do not try to wow me with your experience: I don’t need a list of every publication you’ve written for and the name of every article published. Most publishers are not impressed by degrees, careers, or experiences because while those things may show that you are an expert in your field, they do not necessarily prove that you know how to write well.

Do not tell me what is wrong with your book: I can’t believe how many people will list all the publishers who have already rejected their books. If your book wasn’t good enough for them, why would it be good enough for me? You want to present your book in the best light possible so don’t mention the rejections. Similarly, don’t in any way belittle yourself or your book such as “I know the opening chapter is not that interesting, so I hope you will help me to make it more intriguing.”

Do not send query letters with typos in them: Proofread, proofread, and proofread. If your query letter has punctuation and grammar errors, trust me, most likely, so does your manuscript, so you’re hurting your chances. Yes, publishers have editors on staff, but they want to begin with someone who can write well and turn him or her into a great writer. Mediocre writers who can’t spell take a lot more effort to turn into great writers and the competition is fierce.

Do not tell me your terms for publication: It is up to the publisher to offer the terms. For example, don’t make the mistake of saying, “I am offering you the North American printing rights at a ten percent royalty while I retain the right to publish the book in Europe. Please note that my work is copyrighted.” The publisher and you will negotiate once the publisher decides to publish your book. Offering terms upfront is like going to an employer and telling him how much you want to be paid before the job interview. Stressing the copyright of the work is a defensive turnoff that makes it sound like you think the publisher is going to steal your work.

Write an engaging opening sentence or paragraph about your book: Keep the opening brief, and focus on the conflict, suspense, or cliffhanger. A bad opening would be: “Laura lives with her mother and sister in South Dakota. She is eleven years old when her Uncle George comes to visit. He brings her a present from Australia. At first, Laura is shy around Uncle George but she soon warms up to him when she sees what the present is.” In other words, we don’t need a blow by blow description of the story’s opening. Write a brief cliffhanger or something that evokes mystery or suspense, such as: “Eleven-year-old Laura McAdams never knew she had an Uncle George until he showed up on her family’s doorstep one day with a gigantic present for her. Her curiosity over why her parents never told her about this mysterious uncle was only superseded by what could be in the box that was as large as her. When it turned out to be a baby kangaroo, accompanied by an invitation from her uncle to travel with him to Australia, Laura began the adventure of a lifetime, even though her parents refused to let her go.” The second example raises all kinds of curious questions for readers: Why don’t Laura’s parents like her uncle? How does she end up going on the trip if her parents don’t want her to go? Is the baby kangaroo going along on the trip also?

Tell me briefly about your writing background: If you have never published anything, no need to mention it; your silence implies it. No need to mention you’ve written six novels all of which have been rejected and you have the ninety-six rejection letters to prove it. If you don’t have an impressive writing background, leave out that information. If you have written for a newspaper or a magazine, or have published or self-published other books, go ahead and mention them briefly. For example: “For the last six years I have written a weekly column for the local newspaper about parenting, and I have previously published my novel, Martha’s House, with Writers Press.”

Be clear who will be the book’s audience: No publisher wants to hear that your book will appeal to readers of all ages. The publisher wants to know that your target audience is girls ages twelve to sixteen, or divorced middle-aged men. To think everyone wants to read your book is to make it obvious you know nothing about the publishing industry. Remember, you, not the publisher, will be primarily responsible for marketing the book, so if the publisher is going to take the time and spend the money to publish your book, it wants to know the book is marketable and who is going to buy it.

Always be polite and professional. Do not demand anything from the publisher, such as “I wish to hear from you no later than May 1st or I will find it necessary to look for another publisher.” Instead, simply end the letter by stating, “Thank you for your consideration. If you require any additional information, please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you.” You will have your contact information on the letter-mailing address, email address, phone number-if the publisher feels the need to contact you.

A good query letter is necessary for getting a publisher’s attention. Before you can sell your book to the public, you need to sell it to the potential publisher so it needs to be as professional and attention-grabbing as possible. Spend time on it. Rewrite and rewrite it until it is as perfect as you can make it, and don’t forget to proofread it multiple times. Good luck!

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.

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