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If there was anyone who even deserved a gold star for being patient with me, it is Gail Hedrick. Life as a homeschooler, despite all my careful planning, side-swiped me two weeks ago and I was late in sending these questions to her. Gail, again my apologies. Thank you for your gracious patience 🙂

Not only is Gail a sweetheart, she is an award-winning author. Her book, Something Stinks!, was brand new in our house a few weeks ago and is now a little tattered looking as my three daughters have been reading it – and loving it! It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Gail Hedrick!

[applause]

Gail Hedrick

Gail Hedrick

I’ve spent quite a bit of time admiring your website. Did you put this together or did you go through a service?

Gosh, thanks! I was a total infant in the website process, but luckily knew how to ask questions and do research! I began by finding a ‘webmaster’—I tried to go it alone via Go Daddy, but it was over my head tech wise. One of the members of my critique group and pretty famous children’s author, Joan Hiatt Harlow, has a cousin who teaches IT for a living at the college level, and also has a website design business. I then looked at lots of writers’ sites for content. Neither my webmaster nor I are graphic designers, and I was doing this site on a small budget, so that would have been a nice addition to the team. It’s probably due for an overhaul, appearance-wise, but it has been fun to have and very much served its purpose.

Check out Gail’s website @ www.gailehedrick.com

Something Stinks! is wonderful! You set this in a specific region and then visited schools in that region. Is this an area near to where you live?

Again, thank you for the kind words. I am married to a North Carolina native, and his job took us to Southwestern Virginia. We lived there a number of years, developing many friendships and connections to the area. So, when we made the move to Florida for work, we still kept up with all things Virginia. Some of the news stories I read were about fish dying in large numbers in the Virginia rivers. (I now know, after research for this book, that, sadly, fish die in large numbers around the country for many different reasons, but at the time, I was only seeing the stories from Virginia.) The strange thing was, at that time, nobody seemed to be doing anything about this, either on the state or local level. With a writer’s curiosity, I began to wonder if industrial pollution were the culprit, could any of the many industries in that area of the state be the bad guy? I came up with a ‘what if’ and asked a contact in one of these industries if I was on the right track. He gave me several scenarios where ‘yes’ could be an answer, and I had the makings of a story. I kind of figured kids would care about the fish, and particularly, Virginia kids as this was where the fish were going belly up.
 Something Stinks! won the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Outstanding Science Trade Book Award. That is a wonderful accomplishment!

Again, thank you. And, what a huge surprise to me, a non-scientist!!

SSwithaward

Was this something you or your publisher submitted the book for consideration?

Well, my publisher, Tumblehome Learning is a Massachusetts transmedia company that helps kids imagine themselves as young scientists or engineers and encourages them to experience science through adventure and discovery. [More information at: http://www.tumblehomelearning.com] So, they submitted Stinks! for this award, and I all but yelled when the publisher personally called to tell me it had won! I really think not being a scientist helped me research through things like the kids would, and in the process, I really learned a lot. I recently posted an article on Middle Web on getting kids interested in science through fiction. This might be of interest to the home school folks, so here is the link: http://www.middleweb.com/14464/using-fiction-excite-middle-grades-kids-science/

 

What is your writing process/schedule?

Honestly, I am terrible at processes. I do write everyday. It might be a journal entry, writing practice -like pick a word ‘suitcase’ and free-write for twenty minutes. Or, go for a walk. I get ideas for things to write about on a walk, or work out a problem scene, or hear a rhythm that might work in a verse. But, for planning a big project, like another book, I find it difficult. I have an idea or premise, and then a loose outline like ‘what if’ and the characters. Then, I do a bit of research. It seems that if a subject interests you or makes you go ‘hmm’, it might be worth pursuing. I have written 4 full length middle grade manuscripts, but they remain in a drawer (s) as they are not very good. But, they served their purpose to give me practice, and this is a craft that needs lots of practice.

If you are someone who likes journaling, go for it. I do it in spurts, but nothing regular. I also do different kinds of writing, so that stretches me a bit, which is always a good thing. I write non-fiction pieces, activity verses, short stories, and poetry. My big dream is to write a picture book, so I mess around with the text from time to time. I probably will sign up for a class one day, as it is not an easy task, and I think tricky to tackle without some direction. (At least for me!)

Going back a time, what inspired you to begin writing?

I’ve written ‘something’ since elementary school. Speeches, poems, and greeting cards for our family to name a few. I think, though, it was reading to our kids when they were little that ‘pushed me over the edge’ to take my first class from the Institute of Children’s Literature. I took their Beginner’s and Intermediate classes. I could do it, and still be at home with the kids, so it was a great solution. Then, I took a community college Creative Writing class, and continue to take workshops at conferences. I may start an online class this summer with Joyce Sweeney if there is still room, and I can squeeze in the time commitment.

What has been your greatest moment in your writing career?

It’s a tie, between making a sale on the first piece of work I ever submitted, and receipt of the email from my publisher, Tumblehome Learning, for my first book. The editor/publisher and I had been working together for five months, and the email ‘We have a book’ and ‘We’ll get a contract out to you in the next few days’ still makes me smile. It was a very quiet reaction, more internal than shouting to the rooftops, as I had waited so long for it to happen. To make that moment shine more, can you also share your most difficult moment? Well, my most difficult moment has been kicking myself for not ‘getting serious’ about my writing twenty years ago.

photo 8

What is your publication story? Did you go through an agent or straight to a publisher?

I went directly with a publisher. My book was a bit different, so I had my antenna up for a publisher where my manuscript might fit. I subscribe to Writers Market Network, and the Institute for Children’s Literature newsletters, and of course, SCBWI. I saw a posting for mystery stories for middle-grade with a science component, and took a chance that mine had enough of the science for it to get a read. And, it did! The process for it to become a book took about 10 months of revisions, but that was fun as I like working with an editor.

Describe the perfect Spring Day.

I just had one this April, so it’s fresh in my mind. We were in Raleigh, NC, mid-seventy-degree day, with our son, daughter-in-law, and first grand, nine month old, Callum, sitting at an outdoor café. The sun was shining, but not hot, the dogwoods, daffodils, and tulips were nodding in the breeze. The baby laughed at something, so did we, and kind of, so did the day. It was one of those ‘pinch me’ moment to be sure!

Gail at a Va Book Sale

I’ve asked authors this question before, and I’ll ask it to you as well: Imagine you are the keynote speaker at a writing conference. The audience includes 500 writers at various stages in their writing, with a plethora of experiences. What would the final statement of your address to them be?

I wish this could be profound and epic, but here goes. Don’t wait-know that time is passing, and if you want to write and have a modicum of skill, don’t say ‘aw, I’ll try to write that piece next week’, or maybe I’ll read this article on writing the perfect ending tomorrow. Learn your craft, yes. But, if you really want to do this thing called writing for kids, then do it now. Find good/great readers or editors for your work, and do the work. I kept thinking ‘oh, I’ll do that next month’, and didn’t knuckle down until a cousin read an article of mine that had just been published in Kiki magazine. He looked at me, and said, “You have a gift, and should figure a way to do this full-time.” I listened, more importantly heard him, went part-time with my day job, and within two years had a book contract. Study your craft, get feedback, but mostly, do the work. And, have fun-remember, you are writing for the ultimate fun people-kids!

 

Something Stinks! is currently listed in the Goodreads Giveaway. Click Here to sign up. The entry to win ends on May 31, 2014 so don’t delay 🙂

 

Thank you! If you are an author or know an author and would like to be considered as a “Feature Author” contact me @ jessicaschaubwrites@gmail.com with a brief synopsis and form of publication.

 

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When I made the decision to become a writer, I will admit I had a very sunny image in my mind…

[wavy-dream lines have just obscured your vision]

There I am, sitting in my cozy (and clean!) house, poised daintily at my desk with my fingers flying over the keyboard of my laptop. I have a steaming cup of coffee on my left, a completed manuscript at my right, and quiet children at their own little desks busily working on their homeschooling. The ideas are just pouring onto the screen. The agent is calling again asking when the next manuscript will be ready. I have a book signing that evening and dinner is bubbling in the crock pot.

[Snapped awake by the jarring reality called…wait for it…Marketing!]

Oh, the dreams of fools. My house is clean-ish right now because I’ve not been writing. The coffee cup is on my left, but it’s cold and every time I take a sip I cringe.

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my 'soon to be released' children's book: Frog's Winter Walk

My new coffee cup featuring illustrations from my ‘soon to be released’ children’s book: Frog’s Winter Walk

There is a book – complete, printed and published – on my right and for that I’m celebrating! But that is also the beast I’m facing. Can you believe that people aren’t just lining up to read my latest release?

I know, humble pie served on a sparkling platter.

Not only must I write and manage my own household, I must now educate myself on the fine craft of using an ever-changing Internet to advertise my book.

If you are finding yourself in the same boat, here is a sampling of what I’ve learned:

1. Goodreads. They have a great forum for authors. I signed up as an author and now have an author page on Goodreads. I’ve also enrolled Unforgettable Roads for the Goodreads Giveaway. Once the giveaway is approved, I have to put the HTML code on my website. I don’t know how to do that, but I will learn. The Giveaway starts Thursday and my website host is down. Oh, happy technical difficulties!

2. Seeking Reviews. I made a list of people I’ve met via LinkedIn, Facebook, and past jobs and volunteer positions I’ve held. I sent each a paperback copy of the book with a kind request to read and review it. I hope that half of these people have time to read and review it. Perhaps I will gain some speaking engagements from it as well. I’ve discovered that people really do want to help the authors they know, but feel intimidated by ‘writing’ a review for a writer. It takes gentle assurance to ask for 1-2 sentences. Many feel that they should write a full book report.

If you are also an author and feel inclined to purchase Unforgettable Roads and leave a review, I will certainly do the same for your published work!

3. Media Pitch. This has been the most time consuming for me. The idea sounds simple – send a press release to local newspapers. Why it’s not simple: 1) I have to write the press release; 2) I have to find the names and contact information for the reporters who manage book reviews; 3) the newspaper websites are geared to sharing news, not their reporters; 4) no two newspaper websites are alike.

I finally do have five newspaper to pitch a press release to, but it has taken me four days to put this list together. (If you know more about how to streamline this process, I’m all ears!)

4. Press Kit. On my website I added a page for reporters to go to for my bio and pictures of me and my book. For this, I used high-resolution pictures and a fun, snappy biography.

5. Local Bookstores. This is next on my to-do list – visiting local stores with copies of my books. Despite my search of how to approach bookstores, I’ve found nothing definitive. Here’s my plan: I will check websites first to learn as much as possible before I make that first call. I am planning on calling each bookstore first and asking who I should speak to and scheduling a time for me to come in and meet them. With sell sheets in hand and copies of Unforgettable Roads that I will take with me to bookstores, I will speak to the person at each store who does the purchasing and leave a copy with them. My clothing will be professional, my attitude as confident as I can manage, my kids at home 🙂

With current trends of self-publishing and the smaller publishing houses with great eyes for talent and small budgets, learning to Market your own books is a necessity. I’m learning as I go and sharing what I learn so others can find ideas and encouragement. Below are a few links that I’ve found extremely helpful.

Ideas for Twitter from Author Media.

Making Your Book Launch Stand Out

How to Publicize and Promote Your Book

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Imagine that you are a writer with a brand-new book on the market. This is a first for you, and by far the scariest thing you’ve ever done. Now imagine handing your book to a New York Times Bestselling Author, who graciously accepts the gift, asks for a way to contact you, and is genuinely thrilled to meet a fellow author.

That happened to me tonight.

Brandon Mull came to our local bookstore. His books hooked my youngest daughter into the written word. Since finishing his Fablehaven series, she has read over fifteen books in the last month. Considering that she read three books last year, this is huge news in the Schaub house!

I returned to the line of adoring fans with a copy of my book, Gateways, faced the possibility of being “that author”; you know, the one who stalks famous people and slips books or screenplays into their bags in hopes that it will be read, liked, and endorsed. He made no promises as to what he would do and I completely respect that. As far as I’m concerned, the greatest hurdle for me was to dig up the courage to hand him a copy – and it took every ounce of my courage and some borrowed bravery from my twelve-year-old daughter.

This was my first experience meeting a successful author and thanks to his approachable ease with fans, he has encouraged me to keep on keeping on, to stay the course, and to fearlessly network.

Thank you, Brandon, for the time you spent with each reader, for making our first experience at a book signing so memorable. I am truly grateful for your kind response and acceptance of my book. My kids are still giddy from their evening with a star and I expect it to last for weeks!

If you haven’t read Brandon’s books, I highly recommend them. They are written for middle-grade children (and the middle-aged), filled with adventure,  fun sibling banter, fairies and monsters, appealing to boys and girls (men and women) alike.

The moral of the story: Believe in your writing and take chances.

Long live excellent literature for kids!

Note the incredible smile on the daughter in red 🙂

 

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