Teachers Write! 8/1 – Q and A Wednesday

Wednesday is Q and A Day at Teachers Write! Virtual Summer Writing Camp, so if you have questions about writing, ask away!

Authors are always welcome to drop by and answer questions (you never quite know who you’ll run into here!) But today’s official author volunteers are Gigi Amateau, Lynne Kelly, Lisa Schroeder, and Caroline Starr Rose.  They’ve promised to be around to respond to your questions today, so please visit their websites & check out their books!

Teachers & librarians – Feel free to ask your questions in the comments!

25 Replies on “Teachers Write! 8/1 – Q and A Wednesday

  1. Can you share your formula for running your book signing?

    Do you read an excerpt of your book or another book? Do you share some background information? What do you do before you actually sit down and start signing?



    1. Like Lisa, I find readers want to know the human aspect behind a story — what drew the author to a topic, how a character formed, what experiences or questions helped weave things together. Since I write historical fiction, I love to share things I learn as I research (and have developed a program called Bloomers, Buckboards, and Buffalo Chips as a frontier fun-fact interactive event to be used at libraries and schools).

    2. Good question, Marquin! My answer’s similar to Lisa’s & Caroline’s; I talked a little about my road to publication, showed a couple different stages of the manuscript, like the first one I got back from my editor all marked-up and bestickynoted, and showed some cool things I learned along the way about elephants and India. I’d also made a poster showing the evolution of the cover design, with early sketches, the color draft, and the final cover. Then I answered questions from the audience before the signing.

  2. Hi Marquin!

    I think people love to hear how the book came to be – where did you come up with the idea, anything special that happened while writing the book, good or bad, that kind of thing. I usually start with that and talk about the book a little bit, summarizing the plot (not giving anything important away, obviously). When I do signings, I don’t read from the book very long at all – usually a couple of pages at most. I just don’t think it’s that interesting, personally. After the short reading, I open it up to questions. Often the audience will have questions about writing, which is great, and I think Q&A can be fun and interesting. To encourage questions, you could bring candy along and toss a treat to anyone who asks one.

    Hope that helps!

    1. Hi Donna,

      I remember when I started writing I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, I was so worried about whether I was doing it right, what people would think, etc. Remember a first draft is a first draft, no matter how you are trying to write it. Get the story down and remember it’s for your eyes only. Play and have fun – see what happens.

      Do check out Caroline’s blog, she has lots of great stuff. I also like this blog post as well as the one following it that Kelly Bingham wrote about writing verse novels (click next entry when you are done):


      Happy writing!

    2. Hi Donna,
      Coming back to your good question from earlier today. I queried Allan Wolf to see if he might be willing to share some tips for the Teachers Write QA today about writing in the verse novel genre. As always, he responded with generosity and charm!. Check out Allan: http://www.allanwolf.com
      Here are six tips from Allan Wolf:

      “Tip One:
      Read books by the people who do it well, and have adopted it as a genre that they have been exploring over a few books (Allan Wolf, Karen Hesse, Ellen Hopkins, Paul Janezcko, etc). Consider reading books that are written as a “cycle” of poems. These are collections of individual pieces that can typically “stand alone” outside the context of the collection, yet they are still linked by theme, character, plot line. Consider A Wreath for Emmet Till by Marilyn Nelson or Braid by Helen Frost.

      Tip Two:
      Pay attention to line breaks. An “enjambed” line (run-on or wrap-around) reads differently than and “end-stopped” line (which pauses at a natural break, or breath, in the text). I write in verse because I love the way the lines break, how that draws the readers eyes downward on the page.

      Tip Three:
      Use opportunities to create shaped verse (or concrete verse) but don’t get too cute. And don’t overdo it.

      Tip Four:
      Each “piece” should have an individual impact on the reader, like a short chapter that poses a thought or leaves a question lingering.

      Tip Five:
      Consider linking pieces together by picking up on the last phrase of one piece by placing that same phrase at the beginning of the next piece. You can get very intricate with this as in A Wreath for Emmet Till and Braid, listed above.

      Tip Six:
      There is a fine line between prose stacked in lines (versification) and free verse (a poem whose form, meter, rhythm, and shape is dictated by the organic needs of each individual poem rather than by a prescriptive set of rules.) You would do well to read contemporary poets who write in a free verse (almost vernacular) style. Thomas Lux comest to mind but there are many.”

  3. Hi Donna!
    Oh, I wish I had some good writing tips to share with you. I think Allan Wolf’s NEWFOUNDLAND is masterful. He has this amazing ability to create images and atmosphere while keeping the action going. I also really love Kelly Bingham’s SHARK GIRL. While not entirely in verse, she really effectively uses verse, letters, diary entries to spotlight different aspects of the story. That’s a great book, too!

  4. I’ve heard a lot of advice about things writers can do to get a book ready for query, like workshops and professional critiques. The trouble is those things are pretty expensive, and, let’s face it, educators and unpublished writers are not exactly famous for having tons of cash. Can a new writer really produce quality work without investing thousands of dollars, relying primarily on critique partners for feedback? And of those opportunities that writers must pay for, what do you think is the best to choose? With little money to invest in this kind of thing, how should one spend that money wisely?

    1. I was able to publish with only critique group suggestions, conferences, and personal study under my belt. It’s possible, but can take time. I started writing in 1998 and only this year have had something published. Others have a faster experience; some have journeys that are even slower.

    2. Hi Connie – I didn’t have a lot of money early on, either. But I did join SCBWI and found their conferences extremely valuable. I also had critique groups I was a part of for a number of years before I was published. Like Caroline, it took me a long time to get published. I think of those years of writing and writing and writing some more as my schooling. Reading a lot and writing a lot are really the best ways to learn. I wrote four novels before I finally wrote one good enough to be published.

      I would definitely try to find a critique group to get some feedback on that novel, and see what happens. And keep writing!

      Also, if a conference is out of your price range, there are some great book out there. I highly recommend Donald Maass’s books, like THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST, and for revision, SELF EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Browne and King and THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman and NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS by Darcy Pattison. Most of these have exercises for you to do with your manuscript, and they can be really helpful!

      Good luck!

    3. I love SCBWI too! Regional conferences are reasonably priced, and you get a discount for being a member. Plus you can get a critique from an editor or agent for a small additional fee. But no, you don’t have to attend workshops or hire a freelance editor in order to get your manuscript in shape. A great critique group is so valuable. And I love all the books Lisa suggested, plus James Scott Bell’s writing books and THE WRITER’S JOURNEY by Christopher Vogler. Oh, and there are lots of online courses about writing, too; some are pricey but there are plenty with really low fees.

      Good luck!

  5. Hi Connie!
    Caroline said it well. Every book follows its own journey! I believe one of the best investments is membership in an active professional association, such as Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Such organizations exist for mystery writers, biographers, historical fiction, romance, and more. These groups offer networking, access to agents & editors, page critiques, and continuing ed. I personally am member of SCBWI, The Authors Guild, James River Writers in Richmond, and Writer House in Charlottesville for a combined total of about $250 annually. I get a lot out of these 4 organizations in terms of the craft and business sides of writing. Good luck!!

  6. I am working on a YA fiction novel, and I have participated in several webinars offered by Writer’s Digest. These are usually offered on Thursdays at 1 p.m. EST. The topics vary and are hosted by agents and writers. I have found them to be informative and encouraging. The cost is usually $89. My CPA told me I could write off all professional conferences, webinars, and professional membership fees even though I am not published. I know it is not much, but it makes me feel better about spending the money. 🙂

    1. Hey, Georgia! I agree; the Writer’s Digest webinars are excellent. Are they also recorded so you can re-visit the material for up to a year? Good tip!

      1. Gigi,
        You can receive the material for up to a year. Also, if you can’t attend a session live, you can still get all the information.
        Best of Luck!