Finding Your Audience

Finding Your Audience

by Patricia Grady Cox

Just write a good book, and your audience will find you. Ever hear that advice? I have. But I don’t believe it. I believe you have to actively market and promote your work if you want anybody to see it. However, you can’t target the entire world with your marketing / promotional / advertising budget.

looking through binocs

Just as when looking for an agent, a publisher, or a bookstore into which to put your Great American Novel, you must describe it. You have to – let’s face it – put it into a pigeon-hole. If you’ve written a book with a 95-year-old female protagonist who spent decades married to a gay man, it’s probably not going to fly with readers who prefer Thriller, Nonfiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Poetry, Romance, or YA. So you don’t want to waste your time with agents, publishers, bookstore buyers, or readers interested in those genres. Your goal is to put your book in front of the people who are actually interested in it.

Now, depending on your story, perhaps it could be labeled Historical, Humor/Comedy, Inspirational, Mystery, Paranormal, Western, or Women’s Literature. Or maybe . . . not! You have to choose. Unless and until you determine your genre, your marketing will remain scattered and ineffective.

But how to choose?

I looked at a dozen different websites and found a dozen different lists of genres. Some have sub-genres. Some, like “crime fiction,” didn’t seem to make any list at all. I did not come across any reference to “mainstream” which always seemed to me to be a good catch-all category. Perhaps they call it “General” now. But, really, how helpful is that to your marketing efforts? Not at all.

frustrated writer

A couple years ago, I signed up as a vendor at the Payson Book Festival. It’s a great event, very professionally done, and the author tables always sell out quickly. Who wouldn’t like an excuse to spend a day in Payson, mid-summer? I shared a table with a fellow author who had two YA/Sci-Fi books. I was there with my historical novel set in the American West and an anthology of flash fiction and essays.

My table partner could recognize her audience by looking at them. Every time she saw someone come through the hall’s doorway that looked to be between, say, 12 and 20 years of age, she went after them. Literally. She would leave our table and go get them. Several times she came back dragging an apparently “Young Adult” reader with her. She was successful. She sold books.

I did not sell one book that day. So what was I to do? I had written a novel set in Territorial Arizona. Historical. Western. A little paranormal, a little Native American. People who like this kind of book are hard to pick out based on appearance. I was reading historical novels of the West when I was a teenager. Now I have white hair and I still read them. That left my target audience: potentially everybody. As cool as it was there, compared to Phoenix, I didn’t have the energy to pitch to every single person who walked by my table.

Step 1.

If in-person determinations of potential readers won’t work, maybe online information will, especially since I figure most of my marketing will be done via social media. I decided to take another tack: metadata. I went to Amazon and pulled up books I thought were either similar to mine or that I wished I had written and noted the categories those authors had listed as keywords for searchers.

  • Larry McMurtry: Westerns, Literature & Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Classic Literature & Fiction
  • Pete Dexter: Westerns, Literary Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Historical Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, Action & Adventure, Historical Literary Fiction
  • Cormac McCarthy (I looked only at Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West): Westerns, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Literature & Fiction, Classic Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, Western Fiction Classics, Western Horror Fiction (an interesting category that included Stephen King’s Dark Tower books and several of Larry McMurtry’s).
  • Thomas Cobb: Westerns, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, U.S. Historical Fiction, American Literature.

Then I looked up my own book, Chasm Creek: Westerns, Native American, Historical, Literature and Fiction. That looked right. Now I felt armed with some areas of interest to target on social media.

Step 2.

I went to Facebook and spent two days making a spreadsheet of every Western, Writing In Notebook On Laptophistorical, writing, and reading group.

Column 1: name of group.

Column 2: focus of group (Do they allow ads? Do they want posts? Do they want links to blogs?).

Column 3: the group’s rules for posting (some restrict ads to certain days, some limit subjects for blogs, etc.).

Column 4: date I posted.

Column 5: results (by which I mean: Did I get any feedback?).

asleep at computer

Step 3.

I was so worn out by the time I finished all this that I have yet to post to these groups. I’ll save my results for another blog . . .

Please share your method for categorizing your book and then finding your audience on social media!

Patricia Grady Cox
is a member of Western Writers of America and Women Writing Trish Coxthe West. Her nonfiction work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, and ghost-written memoirs. Patricia has volunteered at the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum where she experienced, first-hand, the realities of life in the 1800s. Her love of the Southwest – the landscape, the history, the culture – infuses her work with authenticity. Originally from Rhode Island, she moved to Arizona 24 years ago and currently lives in Phoenix. Her novel, Chasm Creek, is available on Amazon or through her website. Patricia blogs weekly at Patricia Grady Cox, Writer. Her second novel, HELLGATE, is now on sale.

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Help! I’m Having A Flashback

Help! I’m Having A Flashback

by Beth Kozan

Depressed and sad woman sitting on the floor in the empty room. Low key.

Dateline: 2-15-2018. I can’t quiet my mind. All the television channels are playing and replaying yesterday’s coverage of a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seeing the students leave their classrooms, drop their backpacks in a heap, and walk single file to a safer place makes me remember . . .

I am reliving the shooting at Catholic Social Service more than 20 years ago, step by step. It wasn’t until the 10 o’clock local news that night in 1997 – seeing the yellow paper designations of each ammunition shell on the stairs we climbed multiple times every day – that the seriousness of our experience hit me.

It was a Thursday in mid-April. Carol, Sheryl, and I were the only ones there in the Pregnancy, Parenting, and Adoptions Unit, on the second floor. We took our lunches to Connie’s office (the only office in our program with a table). As we prepared to eat, we heard a single loud noise on the street. Carol and I thought it was a car backfiring, but Sheryl insisted it was a gunshot.

A few minutes later, we heard a shot fired inside our building! We turned the table on its side to barricade the door, then hid behind Connie’s desk, near the window. From the floor, Carol reached up and pulled the phone down and called 911; they had already received the report. Then she called her husband at work; he had heard the news on the radio and was worried. We heard a helicopter close above us. Two male voices in a foreign language argued, and then shots began ringing out – many of them! Then silence. After a bit, a policeman announced his presence at our door and told us to stay in place and wait for an All Clear signal.

That day, Elliot had dropped me off at work in the morning and used my car to run an errand. Per our plan, he returned to the office at noon to have me drive him home. As he parked on the west side of the building, he watched a man enter the building carrying an assault rifle. He thought: “He must be going in to try to sell the rifle to someone.” (Elliot would later kick himself for not recognizing the danger.)

Elliot entered the front door and saw the man with the gun at the receptionist’s window. The gunman pivoted, aimed the weapon at Elliot, and said: “You have to go now!” Elliot put his hands up and backed out the door; the interruption gave the receptionist a chance to seek help from the agency director. Elliot crossed through traffic on Northern Avenue into a pizza place and told them to call 911 –  a man with a gun was inside Catholic Social Service!

Then Elliot ran back across Northern to the parking lot on the east side of the CSS building so he could further observe the man with the gun who went around that corner of the building. As he crossed the street, he saw the mass of workers exiting the building through the west door, near where he’d parked the car.

Elliot knew about the girls’ home, Casa Linda Lodge, behind the agency and he wanted to be able to tell the police where the gunman was. He’d heard the gunman shoot out the window to gain entrance to the main building, then watched as two policemen drove up in a patrol car and entered the building, guns drawn. He heard the multiple shots fired inside the building.

When the gunfire ceased, Elliot entered the CSS building through the shot-out window beside the back door. He walked up the stairs through the pall of gun smoke that hung over the stairs. He went to my office, saw my purse there, and assumed I was in the group he’d seen leaving the building through the west entrance. He returned the way he had come in and went to the front of the building. As he walked under the portico, Sheryl saw him, and called out: “Elliot, what are you doing here?”

For our part, as soon as the shooting stopped, we opened the windows. Sheryl called out to the police who were stringing yellow Crime Scene tape across the bushes in front of the building, “Did anybody get shot?” The reply came: “Just the bad guy.” We watched as the injured man was loaded into the ambulance on a gurney and whisked away.

We cautiously opened the door where we waited and saw a policeman in the hallway working his way to each closed office door on the second floor. We were told to go to the back building (Casa Linda Lodge) where we would be interviewed. On the way past my office, I grabbed my purse and we walked through the pungent haze of gun smoke still on the stairs, and joined the people assembling at Casa Linda. Elliot was there.

It took until 5 p.m. for everyone to be interviewed; no one could leave until everyone had given their statement. We were told to go home; no one was allowed to reenter the main building. The office would be closed the following day, and we were all invited to meet at the Phoenix Diocese office the next day. A memorial service would be held for Simon, the shooter, who we learned had died at nearby John C Lincoln hospital, and counselors would be onsite.

As I recall, most employees were stoic with shock, and they expressed very little emotion – until they learned they couldn’t re-enter the building to get their car keys! There were no exceptions, and several people had to call relatives or friends to come pick them up.

The next day at the Diocese office, we sat quietly in the chapel for a small service asking rest for the shooter’s soul. We learned that he was from Sudan, had once been a client of the Catholic Social Service refugee program, and he left the program with bad feelings. Simon came to the CSS office armed because it was taking too long for a visa to come through for his friend in Africa, and he wanted to see the workers he knew. We learned that the arguing voices we had heard were those of Simon and a worker from the refugee program.

Counselors from the Fire Department split us into three groups: (1) people who knew Simon through their work with the refugee program; (2) those who were in the building at the time of the incident; and (3) those who were not in the building and were not allowed to enter the building when they heard about it on the news.

There were about 20 in our group of those who were in the building at the time of the shooting. Guided by counselors, each person gave their personal account. The first to speak were those who had been on the first floor and exited the building by the west door. One woman described hearing the shots and fearing each shot meant someone was dead. The most common feeling expressed was helplessness. Some expressed anger, and some people seemed insulted that the shooter was given respect by the service held for him. No judgments were made by the counselors for any of the feelings expressed.

On Monday, when we returned to the office, you almost wouldn’t know any incident had taken place. A new paint job covered bullet pockmarks, even on the file cabinet that had been shot through by a bullet. Blood-stained carpet had been replaced. Most of the shots, we learned from the television coverage, were on the stairs where the police encountered the shooter. “It was the first time I was glad to be short!” the policeman joked on the news tape about the confrontation on the stairs. All evidence of the spray of bullets had been plastered over and painted. It was almost as if nothing had happened there.

Seeing the school shooting replayed again and again on television through the weekend of February 17-18, 2018, brought a flashback. It gives me sympathy for those who’ve experienced trauma and helps me understand Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome in a personal way.

eth Kozan is the author of the book Adoption: More Than by Chance and the forthcoming Beth KozanHelping the Birth Mother You Know. Beth worked in adoption for 35 years and retired to write. She has many more books than these titles to write and will emphasize and explore the concept of community in her additional books. “Growing up in a close agriculture-based, rural community in Texas, I felt the comfort and bonds of caring for others which is often missing in our busy lives today. Exploring and building communities for today is my writer’s goal.” Follow Beth on Facebook or visit her website, where she reviews books and films featuring adoption.

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The Effective Author: Get More Done by Taking Breaks

The Effective Author: Get More Done by Taking Breaks

© 2018 Kebba Buckley Button, MS, OM. World Rights Reserved.

Take brakes to be productive

One of the great ironies of life is that we can actually get more done by taking breaks! A timer, movement, and napping may be your best tools to increase productivity. And who doesn’t love getting more done – by “trying” less each day?

To really benefit from your breaks, start by eliminating stalling with a timer. Consider how you may hate to sit down and actually get started, so you stall. That’s a huge way to rob your own productivity. Try this: find an analog kitchen timer (the twirl-the-dial kind), and set it for, say 45 minutes. This style of timer shows you how much time you have left out of your 45 minutes. But any countdown timer will do. From now on, you are only allowed to work for 45 minutes at a time!

Then you take 15 minutes for a break. Your brain’s prefrontal cortex (PFC) literally needs a break, to process your thoughts, conclusions, and memories. So give it a chance to do that by trying any of the following pointers. Then re-set the timer and go for 45 minutes again.

The only exception you might make to stopping at the 45-minute mark is if you are in The Flow. Then you can “cheat” by enjoying your writing productivity awhile extra. If you go over your current timer period by, say, an extra 45 minutes, make your next break a double, or 30 minutes in duration.

Here are several of the easiest breaks you can take to achieve the greatest effects:

  1. Do something kinesthetic. Move! Stand up and stretch, roll your shoulders, or run in place for a couple of minutes. Bat a tennis ball, plant a few of those petunia sets, trim that front bush, handwrite a thank-you note, wash dishes by hand. Eat: get a healthy snack, brew a favorite beverage. Focus: look at things 100 to 300 feet away to refresh your eyes. If you have a garden, sit outside staring at the garden and beyond.
  2. Just walk. Some famous authors have walked a lot, including Dickens, Thoreau, Woolf, and Wordsworth. Also, a Stanford University study has shown that writers who walk are more creative than those who don’t. This goes for walking outside, inside, or even on a treadmill.
  3. Have a power nap. Studies show an afternoon nap can make you more alert, as well as improve your thought processes. Target 20 minutes, set a timer, and enjoy.

Try the systematic use of breaks for a week, and see how much more effective and competent you are. Admire your productivity and congratulate yourself: you’re The Effective Authorsm!

Kebba Buckley Button
is a stress management expert. She also has a natural healing 20180301 3-Book Collagepractice and is an ordained minister. She is the author of the award-winning book, Discover The Secret Energized You, plus Sacred Meditation: Embracing the Divine, available through her office. Just email Kebba’s newest book is the full-color Inspirations for Peace Within: Quotes and Images to Uplift and Inspire, also available through her office. For an appointment or to ask Kebba to speak for your group:

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by Rita Goldner

The concept of renewal might be contemplated in the context of Easter, or the Resurrection. Although I give deference to this religious significance, my blog musings, as usual, are about animals and nature. Last month, the illustration to accompany my post was of a pangolin, which some may consider ugly. I find it cute in a weird and interesting way, but today’s animal is undeniable gorgeous, in every way.

Swan by Rita Goldner.jpg

I have been researching Trumpeter Swans to illustrate a work-in-progress picture book by Barbara Renner. These beautiful birds, about three times the size of the swans we’re used to seeing, are endangered, which brings them close to my heart. I’m encouraged by the efforts of the state of Minnesota to raise awareness of their plight, and I applaud education as a solution, as in Ms. Renner’s new book.

The Easter egg (of which I saw a plethora on Easter Sunday, with nine grandkids) is a symbol of rebirth in many cultures. Ditto for bunnies. The word Easter comes from Eastre, or Ostera, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility. Rumor has it that Eastre found a wounded bird, and to save its life, changed it into a hare. But the hare kept its egg-laying ability, and would decorate its eggs and gift them to Eastre.

Somehow, we’ll manage to work some chocolate and some Peeps into all this mythology. Americans eat 600 million marshmallow Peeps, and 90 million chocolate bunnies for the holiday, so I hope you did your share! But I digress, back to the rebirth of endangered species.

Scientists estimate that we lose one species every 60 seconds, and that by 2020, the number of wild animals will decline by two-thirds. Some of that gloom and doom can be mitigated or delayed by donations to rescue foundations, wildlife activist organizations, and credible zoos, like the Phoenix Zoo, which is famous for rescuing the Arabian Oryx from extinction with a breeding program, and then re-introduced herds back into the wild.

I heartily endorse these endeavors, yet I don’t think they’re enough. The permanent solution is education, especially for our younger generation. Toward that end, here are a few tips to teach children (and everyone else).

  1. Loss of wild habitat is the biggest factor. Don’t use products that contain non-sustainable ingredients, like palm oil farmed in rainforests.
  2. Visit wild refuge parks and learn about the wild animals near you.
  3. Don’t pose for pictures with wild animals, interact with them, or take one for a pet.
  4. Recycle in every possible, practical way.
  5. Use eco-friendly alternatives to pesticides. Here are some ideas.

I hope you’re enjoying spring and Mother Earth’s renewal! Please sign up for my newsletter, Orangutans and More, at:

Rita signature

P.S. Your comments and questions are welcome!


Rita Goldner
is the author and illustrator of the children’s picture book, Orangutan: A Rita Goldner2Day in the Rainforest Canopy. Rita has also written and illustrated two eBooks, Jackson’s History Adventure and Jackson’s Aviation Adventure, in the Jackson’s Adventure series.For orangutan facts and images and to purchase the book (also available as an ebook), visit Or by the Kindle version here. Rita’s newest book, Making Marks on the World: A Storybook for Left- and Right-Handed Coloring, is available for purchase here. Works in progress: H2O Rides the Water CycleThe Flying Artist, and Rose ColoredTo view additional illustrations and Rita’s books in progress, visit Rita’s website. Contact Rita here. Follow Rita on Facebook. Subscribe to Rita’s newsletter, Orangutans and More! and receive a free coloring page of today’s illustration.

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What It Takes to Write for a Living, or Who Needs to Eat Anyway?

What It Takes to Write for a Living, or Who Needs to Eat Anyway?

by Marcus Nannini

young journalist

If it had been easy, my parents would not have discouraged the hell out of me. They termed my pursuit of any manner of writing career to be a “dead-end profession.” Despite the discouragement, I truly desired to major in journalism and write for a career. There was only one person in my family who encouraged me: my grandfather. I have dedicated my second book, to be published later this year by Casemate Publishers out of Oxford, UK, to him.

Bowing to parental pressure, I majored in political science instead, though I did accumulate 21 hours of journalism courses, garnering a perfect 4.0 in said courses. I worked as a research assistant to journalism professor Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D., over a period of three semesters, which was a major learning experience for me. He was instrumental in guiding me to fully develop my writing style, a style first acknowledged by my eighth grade English teacher.

I paid my way through my senior year by writing for the university newspaper and a local daily. In the process, I became adept at conducting interviews, which would prove to be a critical skill.

I could have pursued a writing career, but the lure of free room and board at home while I worked toward my MBA was too good to turn down. In a way, it was the path of least resistance. The MBA came in handy, but I have always believed I should have pursued a career in journalism and regretted my career path diversion from the start.

As the years passed, I kept my hand in writing, but never considered it more than a fun hobby. For a couple of years, I wrote a series articles for a hockey publication, but those efforts were gratis. Then, over Thanksgiving dinner 2009, I had an idea for a movie.

The idea came from out of the blue, just popping into my head. I researched the movie concept over a four-month period, bought the appropriate software, and wrote a screenplay, which garnered a number of requests. However, in the midst of the Great Recession, it didn’t appear to be going anywhere. At least not quickly enough to cover any bills. Life was interfering I needed to earn money. Eventually I realized I could turn the screenplay into a compelling novel and began to write, part time.

Before I go further, I should acknowledge the spur to dedicate myself to writing did not occur overnight. The complete switch in careers evolved over a seven-year period, during which time I went from writing whenever I could make the time to writing every day.

My new career is not yet covering the monthly overhead, but it is happening. For example, my UK publisher has asked me to write a second book. I sometimes wonder what would have evolved had I ignored my parents and, instead, listened to my grandfather and Professor Carlson. Better late than never? Yes!

I was fortunate to have a great deal of formal education in the art of writing, but I don’t consider education to be a mandatory criterion, per se. I consider the prerequisite to be a personal matter.

Writing is personal. Writing is emotional. Writing is painting with words. When I view a great work of art, I want it to reach out to my emotions, while simultaneously establishing a visual stage. Writing should do the same.

I was taught by more than one professor to always determine my beginning and my ending before I write the first word. They all said what goes in between would take care of itself. If I didn’t know where I wanted to begin and end, I should take a step back until I knew where I was heading.

Their advice applies to all manner of writing, whether it’s a news article, novel, poem, essay, screenplay; it doesn’t matter. Above all, they stressed, I must know where I want to start and end. It was drilled into me, and I have found the advice to be true.

When I know my opening scene and my closing scene, all else falls into place. Writers’ block is a term I have heard of, but thanks to my collegiate instructors, I have not been its victim.

Formal education in creative writing and journalism is very helpful, but hardly a prerequisite. Anyone fairly new to writing would do themselves justice by researching the composition elements for a good novel. Pacing, character development, stumbling blocks, and proper use of an inciting incident are among the requisites for a successful or, at least, readable novel. If you never took formal courses covering the foregoing, a little bit of online research will fill probably the void.

I know I have said this before, but never be hesitant to throw away entire paragraphs if you can’t make the words sing. There are times I look at a paragraph, even long after I originally drafted and re-drafted the same, and wonder if I could do better.

Use the read aloud test: Read your passages aloud. Do the words flow? Are there duplications of words, or is the information too much, too little, or maybe redundant?

Script writers read their scripts aloud, often in front of, or in conjunction with, a small audience. If you find the dialogue is forced or the narrative awkward, it is easier to fix it by reading it out loud to yourself. Play with the words until they flow from your lips. Writing takes time. There are no shortcuts to a good novel, book, or screenplay.

So you say you are not good at grammar or spelling. So what? Microsoft Word is the standard for publishers and literary agents. It has both spelling and grammar checking. All you need to do is run the programs. The industry leading screenwriting program has similar checks. They are not the end-all, but they are helpful. The built-in thesaurus in Word is a godsend. Use it!

Grammar check does not necessarily identify run-on sentences. When you realize you have drafted a three line sentence, you must find it and break it up yourself. Nor does the program identify repeated use of the same word or phrase within a paragraph or page. I tend to read the paragraphs backwards when I sense I have overused a word or phrase. Or I run the “find and replace” feature.

The other night I woke up and remembered I wrote the term “flight jacket” somewhere within my current book. I realized the correct term was “battle jacket.” How did I find the wrong term in 10 seconds? I used the find and replace feature and breathed a sigh of relief as I was able to confirm I had used the wrong term only once. The features are there to make writing easier.

I began writing in the days when everything I wrote was on paper. Later in high school, I bought a partial electric typewriter and learned to type, formally. Since then, I only wrote long-hand if I had no access to my typewriter.

As a rule of thumb, do not write long-hand. You are only creating more work for yourself and creating unnecessary delay. Delay is the enemy of every author. Use Word or Pages or another word processing program.

It’s never too late to start, but you must take the first step. When you do, remember the following:

Be Consistent,

Be Persistent,

Be Relentless,

And, above all:

Be Resilient!

Marcus Nannini began his journalistic career when he published his own newspaper in the Marcus Nanninisixth grade, charging 25 cents for the privilege of reading the only printed copy of each edition. During his undergraduate years, Nannini was a paid reporter and worked three semesters as the research assistant for journalism professor and published author Richard Stocks Carlson, Ph.D. Nannini is a life-long history buff with a particular interest in World War II and the Pearl Harbor attack. His continuing curiosity over several Japanese aerial photographs and the turtling of the U.S.S. Oklahoma lead him to write Chameleons, first as a screenplay and now as a full-length novel.

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Movies Help Bring History Alive!

Movies Help Bring History Alive!

by C.K. Thomas

3 films

Recently I watched three movies: Trumbo, The Majestic, and The Dish. I got to thinking how much my classmates and I loved watching a “film” during class. In elementary school during the 1950s, the teacher would roll in a huge projector on a cart with one empty film reel on the bottom spindle and another full reel from a box labeled with the film’s title on the top.

She had a long pole with a hook on the end that she used to hook the blackout blinds over the tall classroom windows and pull them down. One of us got to stand by the light switch and turn it on or off as the teacher directed. It was a magical time – a way to avoid things like spelling tests and lessons played out in chalk on the blackboard.

When the lights went off and the projector started, the room instantly went quiet of children’s chatter as a clicking, whirring sound took its place. Then, a triumphant blast of music, light, and color filled the room, splashing moving pictures across a big white sparkly screen. I especially remember two films, one about Eskimos living in real igloos and one about the proper way to brush your teeth (I still use that method!).

As I watched the film Trumbo about the McCarthy years of Hollywood vigilantes and threats of Communist plots, I thought how much more real the film made that era seem than when I learned about it from the written page. Seeing history in action gives me a better memory of an event and a more enjoyable way to learn about it.

I hope schools today take advantage of the multitude of video and film to be found on the internet and then assign the students to research the actual facts surrounding what they’ve seen portrayed on the screen. See it, say it, hear it, and write it seems like a perfect four-pronged way to learn anything. The film The Majestic was historical fiction, but it also showed how the McCarthy Era affected both ordinary people and celebrities.

The Dish brought with it the excitement of the1969 moon landing. My youngest daughter had just been born on July 7, and on July 20 (my wedding anniversary), we heard what has become a hugely famous phrase from the television speakers: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for humanity!” What a day that was!

The movie’s namesake, The Dish, a huge radio telescope in the middle of a sheep paddock in Parkes, New South Wales, Australia, would catch the television picture and audio sent from the moon’s surface! Not only the excitement of that historic day leaps out at us from the screen, but the realization of what a small determined group of scientists in a tiny community of like-minded people can accomplish. “Believe,” it says! “Persevere,” it exclaims! And, never underestimate the capabilities of a person, no matter how you may perceive their looks, how they speak, or where they come from. Most of all, it reminds us of our own built-in prejudices and how we must learn to put those aside in order to see the real value of the person in front of us.

It’s astonishing what film can teach us. If we as writers can make our prose come alive with word images that come anywhere close to what plays out on a movie screen, then we’ve more than succeeded in satisfying our readers.

“Flip the light switch, please.”

film projector

C.K. ThomasC.K. Thomas lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Before retiring, she worked for Phoenix Newspapers while raising three children and later as communications editor for a large United Methodist Church. The Storm Women is her fourth novel and the third in the Arrowstar series about adventurous women of the desert Southwest. Follow her blog: We-Tired and Writing Blog.

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Honoring Women

Honoring Women

by Barbara Renner

Tucson - Rita, Joanne, and Barbara

Rita Goldner, Joanne Grady, and Barbara Renner at a Tucson book event

In 1980, President Carter issued a Presidential Proclamation declaring the week of March 8 as National Women’s History Week. In 1987, Congress declared March as National Women’s History Month. To this day, departments of education across the country have encouraged school and curriculum celebrations to recognize, honor, and celebrate the achievements of American women. Celebrating the achievements of women from the past is a commendable practice, but I would like to honor a few contemporary women I know who demonstrate their strength and individuality, just as much as an Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Susan B. Anthony.

The idea for writing on this topic was sparked by a fellow author I met in a Facebook group. Debbie Manber Kupfer will be launching her new picture book, Adana the Earth Dragon, on Earth Day, April 22, 2018. She will be featuring other authors’ picture books on her blog in exchange for promoting her new release. The blog’s theme is “April’s Blogging from A to Z April Challenge,” and my book, Quincy the Quail Saves a Life, fits nicely into the “Q” slot. With this campaign, Debbie demonstrates her willingness to help other authors through this unique marketing strategy. Debbie grew up in London but currently lives in St. Louis with her husband, two children, and a very opinionated feline. She’s the author of the Young Adult fantasy series, P.A.W.S. and a number of children’s picture books. The presale page for Adana the Earth Dragon’s explains how you can pre-order her book. I admire Debbie for her ingenuity and would like to pay it forward by honoring other authors.

Author/illustrator Rita Goldner is a member of my critique group. She wrote and illustrated Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy and is working on a rhyming book about Rhonda the Rhinoceros and Agent H2O Rides the Water Cycle, a story about the journey of a water droplet. I love Rita’s passion for science and creating illustrations and stories for children that are educational and understandable. She thoroughly researches her topics to ensure her stories correctly mirror the facts. In addition, she studies her craft by reading books, attending classes, and learning new technology to enhance her picture book writing skills. I had the pleasure of sharing a booth with her at the Tucson Festival of Books (#TFOB) and learned fascinating details of her life before she became an author. She served in the Navy during the Viet Nam War (I told her she needs to write a book!), she owned her own business creating character costumes, and she taught elementary school. This woman is unstoppable.

Another author from my critique group who shared our booth at the TFOB is Joanne Grady. Her involvement with her grandchildren inspired the writing and publishing of her first picture book, The LoveBugs Welcome Party. This is the first in a series that emphasizes sharing one another’s joy and working together for the common good, qualities she learned from her Midwest upbringing in the Chicago suburbs. We chatted about driving in Chicago – something I would never be brave enough to tackle. Joanne is tenacious about publishing fun books for small children. She attends the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup and children’s literature networking groups; studies books on how to write picture books; and collaborates with other authors. She created an LLC, found an illustrator, and self-published, all while holding down a full-time job in the nonprofit industry. I admire Joanne for being a strong, independent woman.

Before I started writing children’s books, one of my hair stylists who highlighted my dark locks showed me a book she published about dealing with fine hair, a trait I’m plagued with. Fast forward a few years to a book signing event at the Tempe Library where I met Caren Cantrell. Much to my amazement, I discovered she had coauthored the stylist’s book about fine hair. Caren is the owner of 102nd Place, LLC, a company she founded that specializes in helping authors who want to self-publish to bring their books to market. In addition to writing picture books, educational photo picture books, and a book about the golf swing, Caren is a member of the Literacy Committee for Southwest Human Development. Just reading Caren’s profile makes me tired; she is like the Eveready battery that keeps on going. Caren has always had the entrepreneurial spirit, especially in her previous careers in the corporate world, which included several years in the banking industry.

I’m honored to be in the company of strong, ambitious women who demonstrate entrepreneurism, individuality, and tenacity. There are so many more women I could mention whom I’ve encountered in my life, but for this brief space I chose to write about these four whom I admire and learn from. Maybe they haven’t flown solo across the Atlantic (Amelia Earhart), won a Nobel Peace Prize (Marie Curie), or served as the first female prime minister (Margaret Thatcher), but each of these women is contributing to children’s literacy by writing stories about nature, caring for each other, and overcoming challenges. Which strong women do you admire and want to honor?

Barbara Renner
and her husband have lived in Phoenix for more than 40 years. As “Sun Barbara RennerBirds,” they fly away to Minnesota to escape the summer heat – and to fish. While in Minnesota, Barbara became fascinated with its state bird, the Common Loon, and was prompted to write four picture books about Lonnie the Loon, because everyone should know about loons. However, books about loons don’t sell very well in the desert, so she is writing a new series of picture books about Quincy the Quail. Barbara visits elementary schools as a guest author to read her books and share interesting facts about loons and quails. She’s working on other children’s books and a special book about her yellow lab, Larry: Larry’s Words of Wisdom. Learn more about Barbara at, as well as on TwitterFacebook, and GoodReads.

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