Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me — David Neilsen

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(Full disclosure: this baby photo of David may not be 100% accurate)

David Neilsen, welcome to the blog! First things first, enjoy a complimentary soda on the house. Now sit back…close your eyes…

I want you to go on a journey with me, back to your newborn authors days. Remember all the joy, the self-delusion, the crippling fear and anxiety? Think of all the things you would have done differently. Now imagine that you could sit down with Baby Author You the day before your book sold and offer him some sage advice on the road to come? Guess what? It’s too late for you–sorry David!–but it’s not too late for all the other Baby Authors out there. So let’s dive in. The wee Baby Authors of the world need your words of wisdom.

What would you tell Baby Author You about…

drfellBook promotion:

David. The year is 2016. Last April, your agent called you out of the blue to tell you he’d sold Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom. You did a happy dance. Now the book is a few months away from coming out this August.

Start promoting like mad. This is your job. The publisher will not do it for you. Get on blogs. Get folks to review it. Contact people you haven’t contacted in years to see if they can help you promote it. Do you know some teachers (you do), get them to bring you to their school.

You thought being a writer meant you job was to write. You were wrong. It is to promote.


Don’t read reviews. And when you do read reviews, don’t pay any attention to them. And when you do pay attention to them, don’t let one person’s opinion get you down or raise you up. You believe in your books, so keep believing in your books. And when you read the reviews anyway and get upset that they don’t like you, don’t punch anything solid.

And seriously, ignore Kirkus. They just don’t like you.

School visits:

School visits are possibly the most important thing you can do to help your book and your career. Do them. Do a lot of them. Contact a zillion schools. Keep contacting them year after year. You are a children’s author, therefore you need to be introduced to children. There are lots of children at schools (it’s kind of a law thing).


Listen to your editor. She is all-knowing. Trust me. All-knowing.

beyondWriting first drafts

Stop trying to be perfect with your first draft. It’s annoying and pretentious. Just get the story down on digital paper, because then you will begin…


This is where you’re gonna do the work. Fix all the little things that need to be fixed. Fix the big things. And above all, CHARACTER, CHARACTER, CHARACTER. Plot is nice, but give the reader a character who grows or is changed by the events of the story. Without that, your book is pointless and won’t get published.

Critique groups:

Have other people read your work. Let them tell you what they like and don’t like. Listen to them and pay attention to things that keep coming up. Once you’ve done that a few times and have a draft you like, send it out again to more friends. Then pretty much ignore any negative criticism at that point because you’re too far along in the process and what do they know anyway, right?


 That was a lovely advance. It is all you will ever get for your book. Deal with it.

Hahahaha, so true!!! Thanks for stopping by, David, and for sharing your words of wisdom.


Screen Shot 2019-08-26 at 6.00.42 PMDAVID NEILSEN is the author of two Middle Grade horror/comic/fantasies published by Crown Books for Young Readers. His debut novel, Dr. Fell and the Playground of Doom, was named an Editor’s Pick by Amazon, won the Silver Falchion Award for Best YA/Tween Horror or Fantasy of 2017, and was a Semifinalist for Best Middle Grade / Children’s Book in the 2016 Goodreads Choice Awards. His second book, Beyond the Doors, was published in August, 2017.

Before turning to slightly-creepy children’s literature, David spent a dozen years working as a writer in Hollywood, culminating in optioning a pilot to 20th Century Fox (that went nowhere), and penning the screenplay for the Straight-to-DVD film “The Eliminator” (rent it, he dares you).

A classically trained actor, David works as a professional storyteller based in Sleepy Hollow, NY and spends much of October spooking the bejeebers out of people or performing one of his one-man shows based on and inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft. He lives with his wife, son, daughter, and two very domineering cats.

Learn more about David on his website.

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me w/ Lija Fisher

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I’m excited to chat with the amazing Lija Fisher, whose new book, The Cryptid Keeper, comes out today! Welcome, Lija! And congratulations on the new book!

More about Lija: Lija Fisher is an author of humorous adventure novels for kids. Her debut novel, The Cryptid Catcher, was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan. The book received a starred review from Booklist and was a Junior Library Guild selection. Her follow-up novel, The Cryptid Keeper, was written while Lija was a Writer in Residence with Aspen Words through the Catto Shaw Foundation. She holds a BFA in Performance Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder and when she’s not writing you can find her acting in theatres across the U.S.

Now it’s time to step back in the Baby Author Me Time Machine. Lija, what words of wisdom would you offer to your wee Baby Author Self? Over to you:

Dear Baby Author Me!

Here are the things I would like to tell you now that I am more seasoned and wise!

You will get some fabulous reviews for your debut novel, but you won’t land on any lists. Don’t let this get into your head! Don’t try to next write an ‘award winning book,’ because it will stink. Trust me, I tried. Write what you love, write what makes you giggle, and your best work will always come from there. Plus, it’s more fun!

For book promotion, stay local! I know you’re saving your money to travel around to bookstores to peddle your wares, but your time will be much better spent cultivating buzz in your own community. There are tons of bookstores, amazing ones, in driving distance, so make connections there. And be sure to do a signing when there’s some other fun event happening at the same time, like a farmer’s market or art walk, because you’ll have lots of foot traffic!

Social media is a beast that will take up a lot of your time, but it’s a lovely way to connect with others. Finding your ‘voice’ on how you present yourself in social media will be hard, so allow yourself the gentle time to find it. And don’t tweet after wine! All you’ll talk about is your love of Liam Neeson and nobody wants to hear about that.

Finally, your launch parties will be so much fun! But don’t buy any food. Seriously, nobody ate the Cheeto Puffs (but you will, for like the next five days, and they are so good but oh so bad.) And whatever you do, don’t try to bake cookies in the shape of Bigfoot! You can’t bake, you know you can’t, and this will not change just because you’re published. 

To learn more about Lija and her books, visit her online at:

Baby Author Me, Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Lessons for Baby Author Me w/ Angie Smibert

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This week, I’m welcoming author Angie Smibert to the blog!


Angie Smibert is the author of the middle grade historical fantasy series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, which includes Bone’s Gift (2018), Lingering Echoes (2019), and The Truce (2020). She’s also written three young adult science fiction novels: Memento Nora, The Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague. In addition to numerous short stories, she’s published over two dozen science/technology books for kids. Smibert teaches young adult and speculative fiction for Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing M.F.A. program as well as professional writing for Indiana University East. Before doing all this, she was a science writer and web developer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. She lives in Roanoke with a goofy dog (named after a telescope) and two bickering cats (named after Tennessee Williams characters), and puts her vast store of useless knowledge to work at the weekly pub quiz. Find her online at: 

Now, Angie, it’s time to step back in the Baby Author Me Time Machine. Strap on your seatbelt and hold on tight! What advice would you like to share with Baby Author Angie and all of the other wee baby authors out there?

My first book—Memento Nora—came out in 2011. Since then, I’ve published five novels (with a sixth on the way) as well as a veritable library-cart-load of nonfiction for kids. So what advice would I give me back then? First of all, I did do some things right. I joined a debut group (or two)—Class of 2K11 and the Elevensies—as well as a group blog devoted to YA science fiction. And I had (still have) a good in-person critique group. Having a community of other kidlit writers to share the ups and downs of that first book is extremely important. However, fair warning baby-author-you, it’s hard to keep up the level of participation all that demands beyond the debut year—especially if you’re an introvert and/or need to work to pay the bills.

Okay, so what would I do differently? Let me count the ways. Well, we only have time for one or two things … like marketing and reviews!

Social media / blogging / author platforms. In 2010/11, I was a total noob at all this (except designing websites, which I’d done in a past life). And everyone seems to tell you that you need to be on these social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, yada yada yada) doing this or that. Or you need to be blogging, YouTubing, or whatever. But, for me, trying to do all this drained my energy, patience, and creativity. Of course, your mileage may vary, and it totally depends on your temperament and situation. But what you really need to be doing is writing the next book! Bottom line: These activities have their place but shouldn’t take up an inordinate amount of your time and energy. Write the damn book!

Reviews. With my first book, I read all the reviews—and shared the good ones on social media—in the beginning, probably annoying the heck out of everyone. It’s gratifying to read the good ones, and a bit depressing to read the bad ones. But reviews—good or bad—can frankly start messing with your head, creatively speaking. When you’re writing, you shouldn’t (or at least I don’t want to) be thinking about what a reviewer might think! Besides, reviews really aren’t for us writers. They’re for the readers and gatekeepers. Bottom line: Don’t read reviews unless your agent or editor sends you a blurb.  Then go back to writing the next book.

Envy. Veronica Roth was in one of my debut groups. I wasn’t necessarily envious of her success. (Ok, maybe a twinge here and there.) Divergent is a really good book, and I’m happy for her success and others’. But we’re human. Sometimes you do get more than a twinge of envy when one of your peers gets a movie deal, a half million dollar advance, a shiny sticker (Newbery or Printz), or even just shelf space in your local Barnes & Noble. And everyone else’s author life always looks perfect on social media. The thing is: nobody’s author life is what it seems, especially on social media. One of our debut groups had a bit of a reunion on Facebook last year—in a closed, secret group—and we caught each other up on what our lives had really been like over the past 7-8 years. Nobody shares the bad stuff in public, not the dropped deals, divorces, health scares, money problems, agent break-ups, and so forth. Bottom line: Don’t be envious of other writers’ achievements.  Just work on yours!

Ugh, Angie, so true! I am right there with you, especially on that envy thing. Thanks so much for stopping by, and, readers, don’t forget to check out Angie’s books.