Friday, April 21, 2017

Nancy Lee Badger Interviews Author Donna Gephart

*Donna will be a Guest Speaker at this year's WRITE NOW writer's conference in Raleigh, NC on April 29th. (more info below)

Donna Gephart writes humorous, heartfelt novels from her home in South Florida with the help of her canine assistant, Benji.  Some of her award-winning titles include LILY AND DUNKIN, DEATH BY TOILET PAPER, HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL and OLIVIA BEAN TRIVIA QUEEN.  She’s a popular speaker at schools, book festivals and conferences, which is why she will be guest speaker at the 10th Annual WRITE NOW Conference on April 29th. She will present Creating Quirky Characters From the Outside In as well as sharing closing remarks. Donna, please tell my readers a little bit about your latest book.  
Donna- LILY AND DUNKIN is a dual narrative about a transgender girl who tries to save a beloved tree and Dunkin, who moves to a new state and tries desperately to fit in with the very boys who are tormenting Lily while he deals with bipolar disorder and a terrible secret.  While the themes are serious, the story is gripping and contains many genuine moments of humor. 
Nancy- Describe the genre, and is it the only genre you write in? 
Donna- Most of my books are upper middle grade fiction – ages 10-14
Nancy- When did you start writing toward publication? 

Donna- I’ve been writing since I was ten.  My first sales were of funny greeting cards, then I moved onto humorous essays for magazines, then onto stories, poems and puzzles for children’s magazines like “Highlights for Children,” then, when I was 40, I sold my first book for children, AS IF BEING 12-3/4 ISN’T BAD ENOUGH, MY MOTHER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT, which won the Sid Fleischman Award for the funniest children’s book of the year. 
Nancy- Did you have several manuscripts finished before you sold? If so, did you send them out yourself? 
Donna- I’ve written, revised and submitted at least five full-length novels before I published my first book.  I have a name for those books now:  I call them “Practice.” 
Nancy- What is your writing routine like? 
Donna- I like to write for a few hours first thing in the morning before tackling other tasks like planning school visits or conference talks, answering email, working with educators and librarians to promote reading, running a critique group, etc. 
Nancy- What sort of promo do you do? Do you have help? 
Donna- I attend and speak at many conferences, book festivals, schools, etc.  I also write blog posts, articles, etc.  I give out bookmarks and do giveaways for teachers and librarians throughout the school year.  
Nancy- Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing? 
Donna- I love being able to live a creative life, work with inspiring people, help and inspire young people on their journeys and being part of a wonderful community of other creative people. 
Nancy- Are you a member of any writing organizations and, if so, have they helped? 
Donna- SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) www.SCBWI.org has been part of my journey from the beginning.  I recommend anyone who wants to write for children join the organization and get involved at least at the local level with critique groups and conferences. 
Nancy- Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?  
Donna- Write what you love, what matters to you.  Enjoy the process/the journey.  Focus on the things you can control and do them with great confidence and joy . . . and let the rest go.

You can find more information 
about Donna Gephart at: 

WEBSITE       TWITTER       FACEBOOK

Meet Donna and meet her and other wonderful speakers at:


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Friday, April 14, 2017

Nancy Lee Badger Interviews Redbook Editor Sarah Smith


Please welcome Sarah Smith, who will be the keynote speaker at the 10th Write Now Conference April 29, 2017, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Please tell our readers a little bit about you, such as why did you become an Editor?

Sarah- When I was 8, my older brother and I launched the Gunderson Gazette, a hand-written two-page newspaper we created for the families on our block and photocopied at the local library. We charged 25 cents for a 3-issue subscription, and I’m sure it was both terrible and charming (sadly, no copies exist today). While I enjoyed interviewing my neighbors and writing about back yards and impending births, what I really loved was figuring out what we were going to write about, how much room each article should get, and what on earth we should do about reluctant sources. I definitely didn’t know it at the time, but that was the start of my career packaging and problem-solving. The other reason I’m an editor is also because of my background: My mother is a writer, and I grew up steeped in the tricky, time-consuming, exhilarating process of reporting and writing (how many times did I have to say, “Mom? Mom?” before she heard me when she was on deadline? A million). I always admired her hard work, and wanted to be a part of that process in a way that made sense for what I was best at.

Nancy- Please tell our readers about the magazine you represent. 

Sarah- REDBOOK is a magazine for the kind of woman in her 30’s and 40’s who cares
about her hair and about her health. Smart style advice lives alongside the latest medical research; beauty how-tos are followed by heartfelt personal stories. Our millions of readers live in the real—and sometimes messy—world, so we give them clothes that fit bodies that aren’t model size, home ideas that don’t make them feel guilty, money advice that works whether you’re a CEO or a nurse’s aide, thoughtful essays that make them think, and myriad ways to feel smarter, confident and more in control.

Nancy- What is your weekly routine like?

Sarah- We’re always working on at least two issues at once, but where we are in the cycle determines whether I get home for dinner with my family, in time to read my son his bedtime stories, or miss all of that entirely. On quiet weeks, some of the things I do are attend planning meetings, put together our issue lineups, assign articles, help staff editors with the stories they’re responsible for, write revision letters, write display, and edit copy. Busy weeks mean I’m approving art and final drafts of stories, writing all the things nobody thinks of as needing to be written (look at the spine of a magazine; are there words there? Someone like me wrote those), and solving myriad tiny but crucial problems that get us closer to getting the magazine to the printer on time. It sounds like the quiet weeks are busier, and in some ways there’s more actual work then, but there is nothing quite like the drama and excitement of wrapping everything up.

Nancy- For authors or prospective authors: what influences your decision to read a submission: the query letter, synopsis, the plot, etc.

Sarah- I can never say this enough: Your query letter is a writing sample. And the biggest thing I’m looking for is style. What does that mean? Two things: One, that you have read my magazine and have a sense of the tone we take. REDBOOK is smart but not egg-heady, funny but not goofy, and down-to-earth but not boring. And two: That you have style. There are writers who can “put a sentence together,” as we like to say, and then there are ones that bring a little sparkle to anything they write, no matter what the topic or publication. As a huge magazine working to stay relevant in a vast field of content, REDBOOK relies heavily on the quality of our writing on every page: feature stories, yes, but also captions and short items/blurbs (which should never, ever be referred to as “filler”—it’s a huge pet peeve of mine, since writing short and snappy is absolutely the hardest thing to master). Story ideas matter too, of course, but someone with wit and verve with a close-but-not-quite-right idea is always going to get more encouragement than someone with a solid idea but flat writing. We cover the same things year after year: The difference is in the writing. How do you be the person who writes with style? I have two pieces of advice, both of which I’m sure TAF writers know, because my understanding is that they are a smart and hard-working bunch: Write, and read. You have to practice to get good, but you also have to immerse yourself in all kinds of writing in order for your own to improve. 

Nancy- What is the biggest no no you see in submissions that makes you reject them?

Sarah- Besides writing that doesn’t grab me, the easiest way to get turned down is to suggest you write a regular column. It’s not because you couldn’t do it: There are many people who have 10-12 illuminating, unusual, and different things to say over the course of a year of issues, but this kind of gig is something you really have to build up to. Here’s another minor pet peeve of mine: Telling me the exact word count of the story you have (“I’d like to submit my 1,137 word piece on…”) because there’s very little chance that I (as an editor of a women’s magazine, notorious for requesting changes and shaping things in our vision) will buy it as-is. So implying the piece is complete at this very specific length says to me that you are not open to being edited. And the thing that gets you a second assignment is a willingness to revise.

Nancy- What do you see ahead in your career?

Sarah- I love being an executive editor—it’s what I wanted from the day I met the woman who become my third boss, the then-executive editor at Parenting. She is an enormously talented and sane editor, and I wanted to keep the ship humming along like she did, making the words great and the staff happy. I hope jobs like mine still exist in five or ten years: My title and work might not look just like it does now, but I hope I’ll still be helping writers, editors, and designers find just the right way to tell a story that resonates with readers. 

Nancy- Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first submission contract?  Also, how can our readers find your submission guidelines?  

Sarah- Let me tell you a little story. A writer pitched me an essay that I enjoyed reading, but the topic just wasn’t right for us. So she pitched me another, and I said no again—better topic, but in this case, the piece didn’t really go anywhere. She tried me again a couple months later with a pitch for a reported story, and I was pondering that one when I suddenly had a need for an essay on a very specific topic (the boss wants what the boss wants, you know?). Who was going to write it?? I shot her an email to say, “Does this sound like something you could write about?” She said yes, and wrote a beautiful piece and was so incredibly lovely to work with that I now am so delighted whenever I hear from her. You might think, “I’ll never get lucky like that,” but I guarantee you, that kind of “luck” happens a lot. You’ve got to keep trying, because you need to be top of mind when editors need something. If you get feedback, heed it. If you don’t, try to figure out why not on your own, and do better next time. Do not give up: No article is done on the first draft, and no writer gets picked up on the first pitch. On your fiftieth pitch? Change something up: The outlets you’re trying, the topics you’re pitching, the way you’re writing. You will get a hit, and all the effort is absolutely worth your time. You’re getting writing practice, which is essential, but you’re also building your stamina for hard work, which is what editors value at least as highly as top-notch writing. (A great writer who won’t do a revision is not actually so great a writer.)

REDBOOK doesn’t have traditional writer’s guidelines anymore. Why? I’ll be honest: It’s because they were for people who weren’t real writers, people who maybe had one great, personal story to tell and wanted a chance to reach out and share that idea. Professional writers who get assignments have always come to us more directly: They read the magazine carefully, they look at the masthead to find an editor to reach out to, and then they try to build a relationship that way. This is good news, because if you go to all that trouble, it means we will take you seriously in a way that was a real challenge for writers of “slush pile” submissions.

More About Sarah
Sarah Smith is the executive editor of REDBOOK, the 113-year-old magazine named Adweek’s Hottest Women’s Magazine in 2015. Under Sarah’s direction, Redbook has won several MIN Awards as well as a Clarions from the Association for Women in Communications. Prior to her time at REDBOOK, Sarah was the editorial director of Kiwi, and a member of the senior staff at Parenting. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and son.
Insta: @redbookmag
Twitter: @redbookmag


You can find even more information 
about Sarah Smith at: 




Find out more and register HERE

Friday, April 7, 2017

Nancy Lee Badger Interviews Author Barbara M. Britton

I interviewed Barbara M. Britton, and discovered some interesting things. Her book, Building Benjamin: Naomi’s Journey is a work of Biblical fiction and was released on April 1st. Barbara, please tell my readers a little bit about your book.

Barbara- Naomi’s story was inspired by the last three chapters of the Book of Judges where the tribe of Benjamin is almost wiped out by the other tribes of Israel. The remaining Benjamite men have to abduct wives for the tribe to continue. I wondered what it would be like to be one of the girls kidnapped.  

Nancy- Describe the genre of this particular title, and is it the only genre you write in?

Barbara- I write in the genre of Biblical fiction. I like to take little known Bible characters, or events, and bring them to light. I had no idea of the abduction story in Judges until I was hunting for my next story to write. I was shocked that I had never read this account before in the Bible. I have written in other genres (YA, Historical), but those stories don’t have book contracts, yet!  

Nancy- Do you have any rejection stories to share?

Barbara- Oh boy, do I! I had been writing for eight years before I received my first book contract. I sold the fourth book I had written which was the first book in my Tribes of Israel series—Providence: Hannah’s Journey. I amassed over two hundred rejections between those four books, and I even had rejections on Providence. I tell inspiring authors to keep writing even if your book doesn’t sell. By the time I sold Providence, I had almost finished Building Benjamin. I am so glad I had another book to offer my publisher, or my life would be even busier than it already is.

Nancy- Having achieved your goal to be a published author, what is the most rewarding thing?

Barbara- I enjoy meeting readers and talking about books. Since I write in the genre of Biblical fiction, I can also talk about my faith and my relationship with God.  I hope my novels inspire people to read the original story in the Bible.

Nancy- Will you share some encouraging words for authors still struggling for that first contract?

Barbara- Definitely! When my first book was released, I had been on my writing journey for nine years. My mantra was the same as Dory’s in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming.”  I would heartily recommend joining and getting involved in professional writing organizations. It helps to have friends who understand the business of publishing and can encourage you along the way. There is a lot to learn about the craft of writing and the business side of publishing a book, so I attended writing conferences for knowledge and networking opportunities. I also didn’t follow the traditional path to publication. My story was noticed through the mentoring program Pitch Wars (#PitchWars, check it out), and I don’t have an agent (though, not from lack of trying). I love writing Biblical fiction, so I guess I was really stubborn that my characters would have their day in the universe.

Please Share three fun facts about you that most people don’t know.
1) I raised a guide dog for the blind through a 4-H program in California.
2) I was afraid of cats until we adopted a stray.
3) I got over a fear of crickets when my son bought a gecko and it was still alive when he left for college. I inherited the duty of feeding the lizard live crickets. 

Nancy- What’s next for you?

Barbara- After Naomi gets her day, I will be promoting my third book, Jerusalem Rising: Adah’s Journey. Currently, I am writing another book set in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures.

BOOK BLURB   Love Grows Where God Grafts the Tender Shoot.
Naomi desires to dance well enough to catch the eye of a wealthy landowner. Her father needs a substantial bride price due to the deaths of her brothers at the hands of the tribe of Benjamin. But when Benjamites raid the Ephraimite feast and capture young girls, Naomi is bound and carried from her home by Eliab, a troubled shepherd who needs a wife.

As Naomi awaits rescue, she finds Eliab has a strong faith in God and a just reason for abducting her. A reason that affects all the tribes of Israel. The future of the tribe of Benjamin hangs in the balance, but if Naomi follows her heart and stays with Eliab to rebuild his lineage, she must forfeit her family and become a traitor to her tribe.

You can read the first chapter of Building Benjamin here: Excerpt Link  
How can my readers buy your book?
Readers can go to the publisher’s home page at Pelican Book Group. com
Check out my Book Trailer.
Buy Links…. AmazonBN, Target
  ,
MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR Barbara M. Britton was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, but currently lives in Wisconsin and loves the snow—when it accumulates under three inches. She writes Christian Fiction for teens and adults. Barb has a nutrition degree from Baylor University but loves to dip healthy strawberries in chocolate. Barb kicked off her Tribes of Israel series in October with the release of “Providence: Hannah’s Journey.” Naomi’s journey, “Building Benjamin” is out now. Barb is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Romance Writers of America and Wisconsin Romance Writers of America. You can find more information about Barbara M. Britton here:

     

Monday, April 3, 2017

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