Friday, January 2, 2009

Need a Little Inspiration?

Write What Inspires You Newsletter

By Donna McDine

Publication Frequency: Monthly

Distribution Method: Email with .PDF file attached

Length of Existence: One month

Coming off the inspiration of The 2008 Muse Online Conference, Donna is embarking on the maiden voyage of her debut FREE newsletter, “Write What Inspires You!” to be published December 2008 and monthly thereafter. It is my intent to deliver to you on a monthly basis a combination of:

  • Author, Illustrator, and Editor Interviews
  • Book Reviews
  • An essay column entitled, Reflections or Dreams (which can be non-fiction or fiction)
  • Proclaim Your Successes! Section, so we all can cheer one another on.
  • Audience: Peers in the Children Publishing Industry

Donna McDine Editor/Author

Donna M. McDine ~ is a native of Rockland County, New York and lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes, moms, and is a personal assistant from her home in Tappan. Donna is a 2007 graduate of the Institute of Children’s Literature, Writing for Children and Teenagers program and is currently enrolled in the ICL’s Advanced Book Course. She is also a member of the SCBWI and Musing Our Children Group. Donna’s publishing credits include over 15 print and online ezines. She placed 12th in the 77th Annual Writers Digest Writing Competition in the category Children’s/Young Adult Fiction and her cover letter to Boys’ Quest for ice-fishing article is published as a sample in the 2009 Magazine Markets for Children’s Writers issue. In addition, she has two accepted non-fiction articles pending publication with Boys’ Quest, December 2012 and Hopscotch for Girls, April 2014. She is also a children’s book reviewer for the Muse Book Reviews, The National Writing for Children Center, and the Stories for Children Magazine.

Learn more about Donna’s writing career at:, sign her guest book and receive a FREE copy of “Write What Inspires You! Author Interviews,” compiled by Donna M. McDine.

Although her background is in office management, she focuses her creative energies on writing for children and young adults. Using her children, extended family, and their friends as inspiration, she consistently studies the children’s magazine markets for submitting of articles and short stories. Donna also continues to participate in children and young adult writing workshops, conferences, and critique groups on an ongoing basis to sharpen her writing skills.


J. Aday: Donna, I have to admit I’ve considered writing a newsletter. It seems like a daunting task. What was your biggest concern about pulling it off and how did you lay that concern to bed?

Donna: My biggest concern at first was why would someone want to subscribe to my newsletter, what makes me worthy of putting out such a newsletter. I’m a list person and immediately wrote out my pros and cons. The pros heavily outweighed the cons. My gut told me, what do you have to lose…so I went for it. I went ahead and sent out Media Releases and posts to children writer discussion boards and my writing groups and my efforts resulted in positive responses. Even before the debut issue in December 2008 was released my opt-in subscriber list stood at a little more than 75 subscribers. To tell you the truth I was quite shocked and pleased. As of this interview I’m at 90 subscribers and momentum continues to build. Not as much at first, but steady enough. I feel like a child receiving the perfect gift and shout out a YIPPEE every time I receive in opt-in request.

J. Aday: In an email to me, you mentioned your copy editor. What is their job? How did you choose them?

Donna: I attended the Eastern NY SCBWI conference in June 2008 and without prior knowledge of her attendance, I met fellow Muse It Up Club member, Lori Calabrese. We immediately bonded face-to-face, after knowing each other through cyber-space and to our delight we met Stephanie Hoina at the conference. The three of us forged a positive bond quickly and we started up our own critique group. Since June we are continually in touch critiquing one another’s work and supporting one another in writing and personally. Stephanie is not a copy editor by trade, but her attention to detail is in-depth and concise. She not only suggests a change, but why…making it much clearer and positive for the change. Stephanie’s job is to read through the newsletter with a fine tooth comb before its release to make sure no sneaky typos find their way in and the flow of writing is understandable.

J. Aday: What purpose will your ezine serve your readers?

Donna: The purpose of my ezine newsletter is to provide interviews on a monthly basis from authors, editors, and illustrators, giving the reader a glimpse into the daily musings of the children publishing industry. Also, included is a submission column entitled, Reflections or Dreams (more detail below), one book review per month usually tied in with the author or illustrator interviewed and of course a Proclaim Your Successes column for fellow writers to announce their accomplishments. I’m currently booked through June and a sneak peak for the February 2009 issue includes interviews with author Lori Calabrese, editor Jon Bard of Children’s Book Insider, illustrator Jeff Miracola, book review of Welcome to Monster Isle, and Reflections or Dreams article by author L. Diane Wolfe.

J. Aday: How are you generating subscribers?

Donna: I am learning the marketing techniques as I go along and to date I have been successful with Media Releases, posting announcements at children writers discussion boards, including the newsletter in my signature line of my emails, having an opt-in selection at the top of my website, and of course word of mouth. Over the past several months I am becoming more comfortable with my abilities as a writer and have discussed my writing career and my newsletter more openly. Networking IS key!

J. Aday: Will you accept submissions from writers?

Donna: At this time I accept submissions for the Reflections or Dreams column. The guidelines for submission are: select to write a poem or an article (fiction or non-fiction) around the topic of “reflections of your writing” or “dreams for your writing.” No more than 500 words. The column will not include more than one article or a combo of one poem and one article for the Reflections or Dreams column. This is a non-paying market.

J. Aday: How will you determine its success or failure?

Donna: The best way to gauge the success of the newsletter is continued momentum of opt-in subscribers, interview subjects, and submission to the Reflections or Dreams column.

J. Aday: What goals have you set for 2009, the first year of publication?

Donna: The main goal set for 2009 is to continue with marketing, contacting interviewees, and growing the opt-in subscriber list on a consistent basis. I’d like to see the opt-in list grow to at least 200.

Jessica, thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed. I enjoyed your questions and look forward to our continued contact in 2009!

It sounds like you're primed for success. Good luck with your new venture. I hope it lives up to all of your hopes and dreams.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Making It - Goal & Plan of Action

Write a list of attainable goals. You should make most of your goals dependent solely on yourself (not publication, # of blog visits, # of book sales, etc...) Why? The answer is simple. If most of your goals lie in areas you control you’ll rack up more successes.

When you devise your goals for 2009, the goals should be neither to difficult nor too easy to achieve. Make them too difficult and you will be destined to fail. Make them too easy and you won’t stretch and grow as a writer, artist, etc…

Don’t write a list of goals without a plan to attain them. That will increase the chance for failure. Start with a basic outline. Next, create a calendar, with a day-to-day schedule of duties. Break it down into segments of time (an hour of writing 30 minutes of editing, etc…)

Look at your list of goals. Are there too many or too few? If your calendar seems too unwieldy, it’s time to trim it down. Ask yourself which goals mean the most to you. What will frame a successful 2009? Cut out the goals that don’t meet the criteria.

Does the order of your goals make sense? In the example provided, look at V 1 Book Reviews. The plan of action says to write letters to a list of people not found yet. Your list of goals will need to be adjusted to make logical sense.

The list below will be nearly impossible to achieve. Adjustments must be made. The plan on the calendar shows there are too many tasks that must be seen to. The best way to succeed will be to extend the deadlines for book marketing and focus on all of the other goals until a publication date is set and book publication is firmly placed on the horizon.

By stating your goals in written form you’re increasing the chance they will be reached. If what you have is a foggy ill-defined and unplanned idea, chances are you’ll be spinning your wheels. Make a list of goals with a plan to achieve them. In June evaluate your goals and action plan. Revise as necessary. Remember success is the best incentive to strive harder and believe your efforts will beget more success. Success is viral. I hope you get a serious case.

(J. Aday Kennedy’s secret to successfully reaching goals is her workspace. Come back next week and see how to set the stage, your workspace, for success)

2009 Goal/Plan of Action Rough Draft

I. Goal: Write two picture books and get a contract with a new publishing company

Plan of Action:

  1. Each time it is my turn to submit a piece to my critique group (approx 1x per month through August) post a draft of a picture book.
  2. Research markets for picture books
    1. Visit book stores & libraries – order them through talking books
  3. Read several books published by a house I want to submit to.
  4. Write a general cover letter to submit with all MS’.
  5. Submit completed picture books to a new market every the weeks

II. Goal: Complete my middle grade reader and a synopsis.

Plan of Action:

  1. Write 2,000 words a week on “Not so Perfect Patty”
  2. Review my course notes on “How to Write a Synopsis”
  3. Find and study an ebook on “How to write a synopsis”
  4. Read several MG readers (3 per month)
  5. After completing the book by August, begin submitting to critique group.

III. Goal: Increase website visits to 7,000 hits (currently at 2,568)

Plan of Action:

  1. Add new content at least one time per month
  2. Add & verify links
  3. Add new pdf downloads for writers, teachers & kids.
    1. Ex. Press Releases
    2. Book Marketing Plan
    3. Crafts for kids
    4. Short stories and lessons for teachers
  4. Design contest/drawing for website

IV. Goal: Increase blog activity (3,000 hits)

Plan of Action:

  1. Post 2 or more times per week
  2. Interview people outside my direct circle
  3. Post 1 time (or however often allowed in my groups) about new blog posts
  4. Update my email signature with the new blog post information
    1. Example

Happy Holidays,

J. Aday Kennedy

The Differently-Abled Writer FOR WRITERS - markets, writing tips and links FOR EDUCATORS - crafts, lessons, activities and links FOR KIDS - links, crafts and markets for kids that write Interview with illustrator Kim Sponaugle book signing ideas and tips.

V. Goal: Formulate Book Marketing Plan

Plan of Action: Every 3 weeks focus on a different area


  1. Book reviews
    1. Design form letter (with a section that can be customized to book review targets)
    2. i. Prepare letters in anticipation of book launch.
    1. Research and locate contacts and unusual places to get reviews.
  1. Blog Tours
    1. Locate unusual blogs, teachers/home school blogs & writer blogs in anticipation of book launch.

i. Create form email/letters to contact blog owners.

  1. Design Media Kit
    1. Media Release for book

i. Cover letters to accompany release

ii. Contact list for TV, radio, magazine, newsletters, newspapers

    1. Author resume’
    2. Speaking Engagement/Author visit promo

i. Contact list

ii. Cover letters to schools, civic organizations, libraries, etc…

  1. Increase visibility in online groups (post helpful comment one or more times per week in each group).
  2. Book Signings
    1. Formulate contact list

i. Rehab hospitals, veteran hospitals, children’s hospitals, senior citizen centers, book stores, toy stores, teddy bear collector stores, hospital gift shops, military bases, airport gift shops

ii. Cover letters

i. Make book promotion materials

1. Giveaways - bookmarks, stick horses, chocolate bear suckers, tattoos, cookies, pom pom bear magnets

2. post cards, fliers,

VI. Goal: Two or more stories in a Chicken Soup for the Soul books

Plan of Action:

  1. 1. Check their website monthly for more proposed books.
  2. 2. Review writing course selling stores.
  3. 3. Write one essay every two week, let it sit and edit three times.
  4. 4. Submit one or more essays to the following proposed books:
    1. a. College Campus Chronicles December 31, 2008
    2. b. A Book of Miracles June 30, 2009
    3. c. All in the Family June 30, 2009
    4. d. Christmas and Holidays no deadline date for story submissions
    5. e. Teachers June 30, 2009
    6. f. Thanks Dad June 30, 2009
    7. Thanks Mom June 30, 2009

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Illustrator Book Signing Interview Kim Sponaugle

Kim Sponaugle

Blog :


Kim is a South Jersey girl at heart and has lived in Salem county most of her life.

In 2007, Kim started Picture Kitchen Studio and has not looked back, illustrating more than 20 children's books with more on the way.

Kim comes from a family of storytellers. She remembers the roar of laughter around the supper table as her father unpacked stories from his youth. Now, Kim feels very grateful to God that she has been given the opportunity to tell stories for kids through illustration. Kim and her husband Jerry have one son Josh, and a little bug-eating westie, named Casey.


J. Aday: You’re the first illustrator I’ve interviewed about book signings. I have a feeling, I’m going to be envious of some of the things you, as an artist, do that me, an author that is all thumbs, can’t. Let’s jump into the interview and learn some of your book signing strategies.

Kim: First, Jessica, I have to say that I usually attend book signings with an author. I am happy to promote the books I am part of, but I believe the responsibility of promotion and sales which takes time, rests mainly with the author.

J. Aday: How do you prepare for your book signings?

Kim: I think handbills, advertising in local free paper and small town papers, posters in local supermarkets and book stores and even in your church events bulletin board are a help.

But I think the best way to spend your time is to create an experience your reader would enjoy. One thing that worked well for author Pam Halter and I, was that we a held dress-up tea for little girls, (Beatice books) with authentic table settings and real tea cups. We collected many tea sets for these fun events. They were held in churches and public libraries with a very delightful response. An age appropriate craft along with coloring sheet and of course the book reading, were included. I think offering an experience where the girls could dress up in their best with their favorite bear or dolly made it a memorable for all of us! This was reflected in sales – especially in the public libraries.

J. Aday: How do you lure your customers?

Kim: I think contacting ahead and thoughtful planning are the most important. The embellishments are necessary (posters, table cloths, big bunnies, silly hats, etc.), but even more essential is to know who you are trying to reach, how you will reach them and what impression they will walk away with (hopefully along with your book) after spending time with you.

J. Aday: What steps do you take to insure a successful signing?

Kim: Yes, newspapers free and paid are helpful, trying to tie your signing to a major event- (Market street day, festivals, library author days, community days, etc. are very helpful) plus they connect you with others that might be interested in what you are doing.

Good signage, any free publicity, radio and T.V. invitations to churches Sunday schools, all will give you a boost. But a winsome personality that likes people will be a great asset. I am a natural introvert – so it takes me a bit more effort than authors I have worked with that are natural extroverts – but it can be done!

J. Aday: What are some lessons you learned about book signings?

Kim: Be yourself, enjoy the moment and speak about what you know. Warmth cannot be manufactured, it’s something that makes the book signing experience all the more special. Prepare well, have everything you need packed. Be generous, offer free bookmarks, coloring sheets, and if your handy, a little craft or a little segment on how to write a simple tale or how to make a flip book for kids to do with you.

J. Aday: What would you say was your most successful book signing? Can you describe the elements that you think were responsible?

Kim: One memorable visit was to a Quaker Friends School with author Colleen Buckley who is a registered nurse. She had been contacted by a teacher that knew her daughter about a visit. Because the book deals with cancer, Colleen does not always get invited to schools – it is still a somewhat taboo subject, believe it or not. But in this case the teacher prepped her students about cancer (2,3 & 4th graders), took advanced books orders, had them write questions for us. We were warmly welcomed. Colleen read “Grandma Kathy Has Cancer” and fielded some wonderful questions from the kids about what causes cancer, spoke about healthy eating, the importance of exercise, gave out oranges and some of the children even chatted about their families experiences battling cancer! Then I explained to the children the process of illustrating the book by showing them pencil sketches and finished art and we had a wonderful time discussing the many different types of art and careers available.

Elements- Talk about what you are passionate about- invite folks into the conversation,

And be thankful that people are interested in your work. Just a note: A month later Colleen and I received some awesome letters from the student at Friends school – the experience had ignited them to write and illustrate their own books – it was thrilling news to hear.

J. Aday: What suggestions would you give someone embarking on a book signings?

Kim: Know that it is not the end-all, but a piece of the puzzle. It will take a compilation of many efforts to move your books into little hands.

J. Aday: What is the most and least number of books you’ve sold?

Kim: 24 most and 3 the least

J. Aday: What, other than books, should someone take to their signings?

Kim: Business cards that have your email address and website info, bookmarks, coloring sheets, a marvey marker or quality pen, a notebook for emailing addresses, a smile, a firm handshake and some hand sanitizer? LOL

J. Aday: Thanks for your time and sharing your knowledge.

Ki m: You are very welcome and thank you for the invite!

“Randy Kazandy! Where Are Your Glasses?

By Rhonda Fischer

Copyright 2009
ISBN: ISBN 978-0-9820163-0-5
Price: $19.95

Kim's illustrated books to be purchased on line

A Very Dragon Christmas

An Angel's First Job

Angel Eyes

Anna Banana

Beatrice Loses Her Doll

Beatrice's New Clothes

Benny & Marshmellow - A Day of Mischief

Corey's Story

Curley and Q and Me, too!

Grandma Kathy Has Cancer

Jamie's Dream

Mike Duffy and his Adventure with the World's Smallest Person: Judgement Day!

Mike Duffy and His Adventures With the World's Smallest Person

Stubby's Destiny

Tales of Henry

The Gift of Love

Tickle Land

Natalie’s Ark – to be released this year from GAP

The Little Swan – to be released this year from Keene Publishing

A Smile for the King – by Mike Yoist – Xilibris 2009

One Noble Journey – Dixie Phillips, 2009 GAP

The Purple Elephant – Donna McFarland, 2009

For a visual treat stop by Kim's Picture Kitchen Studio and look at her illustrations.