Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Cynthia Reeg

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Cynthia Reeg, welcome to the blog! Cynthia is the author of the spooky middle grade novels FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS.

First things first, Cynthia, enjoy a complimentary coffee on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes and…step inside the Baby Author Me Time Machine.

We’re heading all the way back to the day after you sold your first book. Remember the joy, the celebrations with friends, the cake? Oh, so much cake. If only you had known the trials and tribulations to come.

Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You and offer her some sage advice. What do you wish you would have known? What would you have absolutely avoided? What did you spend weeks worrying about that ended up being no big deal?

The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom. So let’s dive in!

What would you tell Baby Author You about…

Book promotion: It’s pretty much non-stop from the moment you become a serious writer. Yep, even before there is a book! You need to create a website and start connecting with authors, teachers, librarians, editors, and agents on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You need to join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators to meet all of the people mentioned above—as well as learn how to both write and promote your book. Once you do have a contract, be sure to join an authors’ group—I was in the Sweet Sixteens debut group and am now part of the Spooky Middle Grade authors. In these groups, you’ll share marketing info and join together for promotional ventures like Skype visits, conference panels, book giveaways, and so much more. Be creative with your promotions. Look for local tie-ins. Make yourself known to local bookstores and libraries. Get the word out about school visits. Do your best but don’t wear yourself out because you need to keep writing!

SkypePromo (2)

Book blurbs: As I mentioned above, I joined numerous groups along the way, so when it was time to ask for book blurbs, I was fortunate to be in good company. Many of my Sweet Sixteen friends offered lovely blurbs and reviews. Remember though, be generous with your time and reviews/blurbs of others books as well. It’s true that in giving we receive. I did also reach out to a couple of celebrity authors who I met for blurbs, but those didn’t pan out. Your publisher may also solicit blurbs for you, but I’d advise you to be an advocate for yourself on garnering book blurbs. I don’t know that the blurbs are instrumental in bumping up sales, but they are lovely on (and perhaps) inside your book for browsing readers. I also used one or two on bookmarks.

Writing first drafts: First drafts are like climbing a mountain. At first your idea is like the glorious peak you see in what seems the not-too-far distance and you set out with light feet (and speedy fingers.) But the more you hike, the steeper the mountain becomes. You get lost along the way numerous times and have to backtrack. You run out of water and energy and enthusiasm and you stumble across the skeletal remains of an earlier hiker (okay, so it was only a sickly cow. But you get the idea.) Somehow though—usually with the unending help/support/advice of your amazing critique group—you continue on, until the wind-blown summit is underfoot and you type “THE END.”

Whew!!! Your story is awesome! It’s unbelievable! It’s breathtaking … and then it’s time to start revising.

Words of advice: Be persistent. Believe in yourself but keep asking for help. Celebrate each milestone along the way.

Friends and family: I am probably one of the luckiest children’s authors I know in that I’ve had nothing but strong support and encouragement from so many family and friends. If your family isn’t supportive, look elsewhere for support. Carve out time for your writing. Find other children’s authors or close friends who realize how important this venture is to you. For me, writing is pretty much like breathing. I don’t know how I’d survive for long without it. Find a support group who understands that and it will make all the difference in helping you achieve your writing goals. Most of all—enjoy the journey!

Cynthia Reeg, an intrepid librarian, ventured from behind the book stacks to contend with quirky characters and delightful dilemmas in her very own picture books and middle grade novels. While she has had her share of worldly adventures—fishing for piranhas in the Amazon, climbing the Great Wall of China, and white water rafting in New Zealand—she grew up in the Midwest and now splits her time between Missouri and Florida. Cynthia enjoys tennis, hiking, reading, and hanging out with her family. For more information, visit

Twitter: @cynthiareeg

Facebook: @cynthiareegauthor


Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — Jennifer Latham

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Today, I am excited to welcome Jennifer Latham to the blog! She is the author of the YA novels Dreamland Burning and Scarlett Undercover

Now sit back and enjoy these words of wisdom from Jennifer Latham to her wee Baby Author Self. She may not have done it right the first time around, but maybe you can learn from her mistakes 😉 Over to you, Jen:

Hey you. Yeah, you—the one who’s been revising that manuscript for over a year, playing footsie with an editor who won’t even end up being the person you eventually work with.[1] Remember that time your last manuscript made it to acquisitions at Scholastic after a year of preliminary revisions over there? And remember how your agent called you after the meeting to tell you they’d passed?

That sucked, huh?

Well, here’s the thing: Scarlett Undercover is going to sell. And that does not suck at all. In fact, it’s pretty freaking amazing. But before you get all caught up in celebrating, I’m going to tell you a few things about how it’s going to be. And since you’re me, I’m not going to sugarcoat any of it because you’ll see right through me.


Here goes.

1. You are going to feel like you have to build an amazing website and develop your brand and get fabulous swag and churn out clever Tweets in order to be a real author.

You do not.

In fact, you’ll realize very quickly that when it comes to brand building, you’re just not that into it. Yes, you’ll always feel a pinch of insecurity when you see the amazing stuff other authors do to promote their work. And yes, if you were to go ova-out and pour yourself into marketing with all your heart, you might possibly move the needle on sales a tiny bit. But overall, you will end up deciding that your time is best spent on making books. Because you, my dear, write at the speed of molasses in the pre-global warming Arctic Circle.

2. You will have many different editors. Two for Scarlett Undercover, in fact, and three for Dreamland Burning. Because the editing business is wicked hard and wears a whole lot of people out very quickly. But each of the lovely people you’ll work with will contribute something valuable to your manuscript. Just remember that they are no more infallible than you are, and that, in the end, your name’s the only one that ends up on the cover.

3. Which brings me to the next thing. Reviews.

You will read them and take all but the most over-the-top bonkers ones to heart. And that’s okay, because you are going to grow a thick hide and learn how to cope. And sometimes you’ll go read all the awful reviews you can find for books you LOVE, and you’ll feel better because there are a lot of readers out there and you can’t please everyone.


4. You are going to hate school visits at first because you’ll know you’re terrible at them. Eventually, though, you’re going to figure out that historical fiction makes your light blink. And you’ll write a book about something you care about so deeply and think is so important that you will make yourself a better speaker. You will work and re-work that slideshow so that kids don’t fall asleep or pick their nose or text while you’re talking.[2] And, in the end, you will LOVE getting to spend time in schools.

5. People will always want to know what your process is, and you will eventually learn to say, “Hell if I know!” and have it be mostly true. You’ll be a hermit and shy away from critique groups, which is okay. You’ll say you hate drafting, but when you have a good couple of hours at it, you’ll know it’s a lie. You’ll end up liking that stupid Alphasmart that Ally Carter told you to try for, like, two years before you actually did. You’ll re-read and edit and stress over word choices too much.[3] You’ll feel selfish for not paying enough attention to your kids and frustrated that you don’t dedicate enough time to your work. And you’ll remind yourself over and over that it’s all good, that you’re a person and not a bot.

6. You will one day decide that there are three main things at which a writer can excel: plot, characters, and voice. Some people are good at one. Some are good at two. And a few assholes nail all three, which will make you jealous and give you potty mouth. So just be grateful you’ve got one in the bag and keeping working on the others.

7. Finally, here’s the real scoop: good writing is a combination of aptitude[4], hard work, and craft. You think you’re pretty hot stuff right now (or you will tomorrow when you find out Scarlett sold), but you’re about to learn that every manuscript is tough. Nothing in publishing is easy. You are not as good at craft as you thought, but craft is a thing that can be learned. So dig in, babe. Grab a laptop. Start typing. Because this is the only job you’ve ever really loved, and as long as you write today, you can always quit…


[1] Note: I’m playing along here and pretending to be talking to myself on the night before I find out I’ve sold my first manuscript—even though it was such a bizarre, circuitous path that I don’t actually remember the moment I found out I was going to be published.

[2] This is a lie to keep you optimistic. You can’t stop them from texting.

[3] Please note previous comment about molasses, Arctic Circle, global warming, etc.

[4] As in, you have to be able to string words together coherently to have a chance at getting published

Wow…can I just say how much I LOVE the fact that Jennifer Latham included footnotes! Footnotes!!! Yes, that deserves all the exclamation points. Thanks so much for stopping by, Jen.

Jennifer Latham is a grown-up army brat with a soft spot for babies and poorly-behaved dogs. She’s written Scarlett Undercover, Dreamland Burning, and more unpublished manuscripts than she cares to admit. She lives in Tulsa with her husband, two daughters, and several of the aforementioned dogs.
Twitter & Instagram: @jenandapen
Writer Interviews

Book Birthday — Gutsy Girls Go for Science

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Karen Bush Gibson, welcome to the blog, and congratulations on your new books in the GUTSY GIRLS GO FOR SCIENCE series!

Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.

The GUTSY GIRLS GO FOR SCIENCE series is all about…

…how fun science, technology, engineering, and math can be. STEM is all about discovery, exploration, and questioning. About those “Eureka!” moments. The four books being released in the new series today (Paleontologists, Programmers, Engineers, Astronauts) are visually interesting with amazing illustrations. They also feature STEM projects that kids can try.

While the series is written for readers 8-11, it concentrates on girls, because girls have traditionally been left behind in these subjects. The books highlight females who made significant contributions in their fields even while facing resistance from scientific communities and society at large.


I hope that readers will…

…enjoy these books and start asking questions and considering possibilities. Many people face adversity. Life is often more difficult if you come from different cultural or racial groups or if you’re female. But some people succeed despite life not being fair. Learn from them. Look for mentors and role models you can identify with.

Teachers and librarians will…

…find ideas for discussion and projects to encourage students to explore their interests. Hopefully, they will also realize the importance of including diversity in everything they teach.

The research for this series was…

…challenging, but fascinating. I’m kind of a research junkie. I wrote two of the four books in this first group being released—Paleontologists and Programmers. Each book includes five women who made important contributions to their field. Think about it. Can you name five notable women in paleontology? Programming? Few people can. I couldn’t before I started researching.

The reality is that there are many, but their stories aren’t well-known. Research allowed me to uncover some of these stories to share with readers.

paleo book cover

How did you get started writing non-fiction for kids?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started college as a journalism major. Even though I ended up changing my major midway, I never lost that desire to write. I’ve also always been a curious person, so asking questions and looking for answers comes naturally to me. That’s a good fit for non-fiction.

When I started writing for publication, I focused on articles, soon drifting to juvenile markets. I became aware that non-fiction books for kids was a growing market because of school libraries and curriculum standards, so I began focusing more on book-length non-fiction, which I’ve now been writing for about 18 years.

Any tips for aspiring authors?

Explore what interests you. You’re more likely to be passionate about it in your writing. And if you’re writing non-fiction, make certain that you’re using reputable sources in your research. Higher education (.edu) and government (.gov) websites are usually good options. And no, Wikipedia is not a reliable source. However, follow the trail from the Wikipedia bibliography and you might strike gold!

Can you share one of the STEM projects?

A fun paleontology project you can do without field tools is to create a new name for a dinosaur. Dinosaur names are usually combinations of root words from Latin and Greek. The words might describe their appearance, like “cerat” (horn) or “saurus” (lizard). The word might also recognize a place or the person who discovered the fossil, like “anningae” is used for famed fossil finder Mary Anning.

Come up with 12 different words to describe a dinosaur (notable body part, color, size). Then use translation apps or websites for Greek and Latin to translate the words into these languages. Put these words in one container. In another container, come up with six place names and six people names (definitely include your own). Change these words as needed to make them look and sound more scientific!

You want to use three words for your dinosaur. If you want “saurus” to be one of the words, then choose one word from each container. If not, then choose two words from the description container and one from the place/person container. Experiment and have fun with the different combinations. After you discover one you like, draw a picture of a dinosaur that goes with the name you’ve created.

Love it! Thanks so much for stopping by Karen!

kbgibsonKaren Bush Gibson is the author of 30+ non-fiction books for children, from picture books to young adult. She also writes travel articles and has published an adult novel. She particularly likes going down the research rabbit hole to discover fascinating women in history or learn more about the environment. Karen also works in education as an instructional designer and curriculum developer. When not writing or educating, she enjoys hanging out with her kids, traveling, and reading. Sometimes, she fantasizes about how cool it would be to live in a huge library or bookstore.

Follow Karen online:



Twitter: @Gibson4writing

Instagram: @karenbushgibson