The Musings, Notes & Book/App reviews of a Children's Writer

Why is it that people think Authors & app developers should work for free? Would they?

The Speech Dudes

In this article, I’m, not just on a proverbial hobby-horse but whipping it frantically as I gallop wildly into the Valley of Death. I may even end up offending some readers but hopefully make some new friends along the way. So saddle up and join the posse!

One boy and his horse

Imagine getting the following e-mail from someone who wants you to provide therapy services for their child.

Dear Therapist

I am the parent of a child who cannot speak and really needs help. I saw that you offer therapy services to people like my child and I’d love to have access to them. However, I am really surprised that your therapy services are so expensive and think that you should provide them free of charge. Other people provide free therapy services and there are also many people who are not therapists who provide free therapy services in their spare time.

I’d be happy…

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I’ve recently discovered a book that brought back memories of my homeland in Jamaica, titled Justice pon di Road. It is wonderfully written with great cultural lessons and introductions for children.  Meet Aliona L. Gibson, the writer and aspiring globe trekker.

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JUSTICE PON DI ROAD Children’s picture book.

Book trailer 

Q: Hello Aliona, tell us about yourself and your career as a writer?

A: First, thanks for interviewing me and helping me spread the word about our book! I am a single mom living in Oakland, California. I took a trip to East Africa as a high school graduate many years ago and it sparked a desire to travel and see the world. A desire that I have yet to shake! After college I lived in New York where I first experienced Jamaican food. It would be many years later that I would make it to the island. I went for the first time in 2008…to Port Antonio and it was an amazing experience. I am now focused on being the best mom I can be to Justice and trying to figure out how I can write more. I published a memoir about issue of self -image and identity many years ago and a “how to” book which explained how I landed a publishing deal with no prior published writing. Justice pon di Road is my first book for children. I don’t write as much as I would like to…not enough hours in the day!

Q: Tell us about your picture book. What is your favorite feature and what would you like to convey to the reader?

A: I was inspired to write Justice pon di Road when Justice called his scrambled eggs ackee after one of our trips. I was surprised that he remembered ackee and that he made the connection! It made me think about all of our trips and how much love he got while in Jamaica. I am always so amazed at how much attention he gets from total strangers when we are in Jamaica. I didn’t expect it and it was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea how much Jamaicans love babies and kids until I went there as a mother. I love the story but my favorite feature of the book has to be the back matter. I love all the factual information about the island and the patois glossary and the list of notables. I love that the first Grandmaster of chess is in it and a Scripps National Spelling Bee champion and the youngest person to fly solo around the world. I love the photos and the way they are laid out with the text. My favorite page is the Fact About Jamaica page with the currency, Prime Minister and Reach Falls. Oh and that the cloud on the cover image is the shape of the island…my illustrators idea.

Q: What makes this picture book unique?

A: I don’t think there are many books that show a travel experience from the perspective of a child. There are so few books which feature children of color and even fewer which feature a boy as the main character, particularly an African-American boy! I would like to do another one on a different country. It’s a book about real people and the kindness of strangers. A place with a strong sense of community and where, apparently, children are held in high regard.

Q: What age range would this book appeal to?

A: I say the book is for ages three and up. I saw 3 & Up on a book we love which I thought was a pretty sophisticated book with a complex story and was sort of long so I decided to use it. It’s broad. Can be read by an older child but mostly to be read by an adult to children. The back matter makes it more appealing to older readers.

Q: What sort of feedback have you received so far?

A: So far the reviews have been great. I am always very flattered when a Jamaican likes it. That means I got it right! People love it and most of my supporters have been people who have ties to the island. The response up to now has been great.

Q: Have you considered offering ‘Justice pon di Road’ in other formats such as an app or an eBook?

A: I would LOVE to offer the book as an ebook and an app. I will…in time. I am feeling like I need to sell more books before I can take on anything else. I do want to offer both and I plan to…not sure when but it’s in the back of my mind.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of publishing a book? Promoting the book has been really hard.

A: It’s an ongoing process and in my mind, a never ending one. Getting people to do stories or review it has been a bit of a challenge. Also, I need to work on doing more book events. Direct sales have been slow. Distribution…I would like the book to be available in other cities.

Q: Once your book was published, was there any unexpected surprises during the marketing process?

A: I have people whom I sent the book to MONTHS ago who have yet to review it. That is frustrating. I have been sending reminder emails for months…sometimes they go unanswered. Even local organizations have been unresponsive. Justice’s school didn’t respond. If I were the principal of an elementary school where a parent wrote a book for children I would do everything in my power to share the book with the students and help get the word out. I think JpdR is important because I hope it encourages kids to be curious about the world we live in. What educator would not want that?

Q: Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

A: I say keep writing and reading. Do not be discouraged or let criticism and negativity stop you from telling your story. Be prepared to self-promote. Even if you go with a traditional publisher you have to go above and beyond to get the word out about your book. There are lots and lots of books on the market and getting the word out is probably more involved than actually writing the book. Take the job of promoting and marketing seriously and be creative in ways to get the word out. I left book marks for our book at pediatric clinic waiting rooms and pediatric dental offices. Know your target audience and figure out creative ways to reach them. But more importantly write, write, write, and write some more to develop your craft (I am talking to myself on this one!) I need to research writing workshops and groups to join to help.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

A: I used Kickstarter to raise the money to print the book. I was reluctant but SO happy I did it. I raised over 8K in thirty days. Use crowd funding to support your projects! I didn’t think I could do it! Kickstarter is only one, Indigogo and Go Fund Me… and there are many others.

Aliona L. Gibson

Aliona L. Gibson

 

View the Book trailer 

Connect with Aliona L. Gibson and learn more about her books @ website

Social Media links:

Facebook

Twitter: @AlionaGibson

 

 

a writer's blog by: Tracey M. Cox

Summer Sparks

The Power of Doodling
By: Alison Hertz

When Tracey asked me to create a blog post for the Summer Sparks Challenge, I knew that I had to share the power of doodling. I am a writer and an artist and over the years whether I’ve considered myself “a writer who likes to draw” or an “artist who enjoys writing” has flip flopped many times. What has been consistent throughout my life is using the art of doodling to both help spark creative flow and to “see” my characters and my story develop.

Whether or not you’ve ever used your writing tools (pen, pencil, computer) to doodle, it’s not too late to start. There is no drawing skill required for doodling and you might surprise yourself. You may have seen Sunny Brown on TED talks about the Power of Doodling and if you missed it, you can click on this link: 

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Apps day out

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Book Apps on exhibit at the NSSLHA conference

Grendel’s Great Escape and Axe’s Monster Fest aka Monster Jam were some of a select group of book apps on display at at the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association (NSSLHA) conference at Sacramento State University on February 1st. Thanks to exhibitor and therapist Jackie Bryla, SLPA. the apps were tested by the students while other attendees watched on monitors.

Jackie uses kid’s app in her therapy sessions to help children with their individual needs.

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Grendel’s Great Escape on display

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Axe’s Monster Fest being tested by a student

 

You just never know

As the year comes to a close I reflect on the friendships and relationships made this past year. The writing and teaching field has the most supportive people I’ve ever met and I’ve met a lot of people. They’re always willing to share information, opportunities and advice which is always valuable.

I recently met Monica Babaian in a twitter chat Story app chat that meets on Sundays at 8pm central. She’s a Tech savvy Librarian and i’m a Digital Author/aspiring Art Teacher. We even live in the same state but our paths might never have crossed had it not been for this chat. Her site is a great resource for parents and teachers which I plan on visiting often. The result of our meeting was an amazing app review with educational tie-ins and resources. It’s a great way to end the year and  as I look forward to the New Year, my resolution is to keep looking forward because you just never know where the next friend, opportunity or great idea will come from.

The review below was re-blogged from: http://innovativelibrarianship.blogspot.com/2013/12/storybook-app-grendels-great-escape-by.html

Storybook App: Grendel’s Great Escape by Michelle Anaya

Grendel’s Great Escape is a storybook app for both iPad and Android by children’s author and creator of Blue Sandpiper Imprints, Michelle Anaya (@bluesandpiper).

Grendel’s Great Escape is about a boy named Martin, who takes his pet ferret, Grendel, to school for show and tell. But when it’s Martin’s turn to present for show and tell, Grendel is missing! The entire school turns into a chaotic mess as Martin and his friends try to find Grendel while avoiding the wrath of the school’s principal, Mr. B.

What I really like about this storybook app is that it includes a long list of ferret facts at the end of the story. The storybook app also has its own curriculum for helping students develop reading strategies, which teachers and school librarians will find handy. For those teachers and school librarians who are allowed to have animals in their classrooms and libraries, a pet ferret would be a great way to make text-to-self connections with Grendel’s Great Escape.

Grendel’s Great Escape includes two screens of ferret facts!

Another possible way to use Grendel’s Great Escape in the classroom or library is to extend the storybook and reading strategies lesson into a science unit from Discovery Education (@DiscoveryEd), which has a couple of videos on ferrets and animal habitats. Yet another way – let students use online databases and encyclopedias to create their own list of ferret facts. Activities like these help students create text-to-world connections.

The storybook integrates interactive features throughout the book, including one page in which the reader can squirt ketchup or mustard all over the screen — something kids will surely enjoy. Readers have the option to turn the narration and music on or off. Blue Sandpiper Imprints recommends this storybook app for ages 4 and up. The Android version of Grendel’s Great Escape is $2.99, and the iPad version is $3.99.

For more information about Grendel’s Great Escape and other fun storybook apps from Blue Sandpiper, please visit their website.

 

This post is a little late this month but life happens. It’s been hectic to say the least with work, family and getting ready for the holidays etc.

Author Visit with 1st gradersIt’s always a nice surprise to stumble across a really good Christmas story. A few days ago I walked into an elementary school library for a story-time visit with a group of the cutest first graders. There it was laying precariously on the top of a stack of returns, just waiting to be discovered.

 

 

 

 

 

Snowmen at Christmas by Carolyn Buehner is happy little tale that’s cleverly told in rhyme and asks an interesting question. How do snowmen celebrate? I had to find out, so I read it to the children and satisfied my curiosity and theirs. This book is a real treat and I highly recommend adding it to your holiday reading list.

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Excerpt: One Christmas eve, I made a snowman, very fat and jolly. I dressed him up in red and green and trimmed his hat with holly. I saw his arms trembling as if he couldn’t wait. It made me start to wonder, how do snowmen celebrate?.

These snowmen really do Christmas in a big way. You’ll find out just how much while enjoying a great holiday read with your family.

Happy_Birthday!

It’s been a whole year since my first book app landed in the app store , googleplay and the Tabeo 2 tablet. Time does go fast when you’re having fun. Writing and developing Grendel’s Great Escape was certainly that, plus a lot of hard work. It was trial by fire as I ventured into this relatively new field. Great friendships and relationships were formed while sharing resources with other authors, teachers, librarians, bloggers and app developers.

Since the launch date, there has been updates, enhancements and accolades.

Updates and printable:

Most of all, It’s reached it’s goal to create a fun reading experience for children globally. They’ve responded to the multimedia interactivity that this app features while parents appreciate the productive screen time.

What’s next? why it’s the printed picture book with added pages and enhanced storyline.

To the parents and teachers who’ve downloaded Grendel’s Great Escape; thank you for your support, downloads, feedback and iTunes reviews. It’s your constructive feedback that makes this app better. Please continue to recommend and share.

Got Grendel’s Great Escape?  let me know what you think about this hide and seek themed adventure.

Grendel's Great Escape

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