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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview: A Twenty-Five Year Love Affair Writing Books for Children

Hi! I am Carolyn Howard Johnson, your trusty New Book Review blogger and author of the multi award-winning HowTo Do It Frugally Series of books for writers. This blog has heretofore been exclusive for reviews but I thought I’d do a special series of interviews after I chatted with Jeanie Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency – Where ‘can’t’ is not in our vocabulary! I thought sharing the interviews would help the many subscribers and visitors to this New Book Review blog, including authors, reviewers, and, of course, readers who just might find a new favorite author among the featured books and authors.

So, today welcome Ruth Wiseman.

Ruth Wiseman has been writing children’s stories since 5th grade, when her English teacher, Mr. Lavrov, inspired her talents. She has been writing children’s books for over twenty-five years and co-edited Broken Glass, Broken Lives: A Jewish Girl’s Survival Story in Berlin 1933-1945 by Rita J. Kuhn. She hopes to be published soon and to share her stories with even more children. She is a grateful mother of two young daughters and two step-sons, and lives in Passaic, NJ. 

What is your genre? Is it fiction or nonfiction? I write children's literature and I am trying my hand at a novel. I've only written the first chapter, but I have to start somewhere! I am also working on a midgrade. 

What made you want to be a writer? When I was twelve-years-old, I had a wonderful English teacher. He engaged my imagination by giving us pictures from which to write stories. Some of them were very silly. I found a whole new voice inside me when I wrote. I was a rather quiet student, but suddenly I found a world in which I could have a strong voice and I wouldn't be teased. My teacher provided feedback as though I were a serious writer. That experience stayed with me all these years. And need I say how much I love the feeling of a new pen and paper?

Of all the authors out there, who inspired you most? I love so many authors, it's hard to name just one. For children's stories I love Barbara Park, Mo Willems, Cynthia Rylant, Bracha Goetz. For middle school books, I adore J.K. Rowling, Sharon Creech, Andrew Clemens, Julie Kagawa, R. J. Palacio, J.R.R. Tolkien. In adult literature, Tolstoy is magnificent, Jhumpa Lahiri is lovely, Amy Tan has colorful, multi-faceted characters, Herman Wouk, John Grisham, Edith Wharton. Really an assortment of writers. I don't have a specific genre that I seek out, just pure, good writing.

What is your writing style? Do you outline? Linearly? By scene? Why? For my children's stories, I will sometimes be given the gift of a full story coming to me in one piece. That is exhilarating. Other stories, I need to massage and rewrite and rewrite. Each one has its own personality. The midgrade I am working on right now (and will probably complete when my current middle school child is in college!), I write by scenes. I think this is because I am seeing the images unfolding in my mind's eye, and it then develops into a narrative. This story, though, is giving me a lot of trouble because I started it in one style and changed the style midstream. I am going to have to go back and rework the first several chapters once I have moved the story line far enough along.

Do you write every day? How much? How long? Ha, that would be nice! I aspire to that. Somehow with a full-time job, an eleven-year old, and a six-year old, I just can't seem to find the time or energy to write every day. I also need a certain physical and mental space for my writing. If I can be in a quiet place—a library, a cool cafe, an empty park—then my concentration is enhanced and the words just flow out of me. But if I am sitting in my office in a slow moment, or waiting to see the doctor, or sitting in my room once my girls are asleep, those times are harder because my mind is on overdrive with other concerns. But those are also the ‘lost moments.’ It's a quandary. I am working on trying to use those moments for some creative purpose. My characters tug at me to listen to them, and I really suffer when I don't.

Do you think reading is as important to writing for an author? Why? Absolutely. It is an excellent way of distinguishing your own voice to read other people's works. I recently read a midgrade book similar in some fashion to the one I am working on, but I finished that book feeling that my concept and writing style is very different and, in my humble opinion, better. I don't always close a book feeling that way. Certainly not the Harry Potter series; Rowling is just sheer inspiration. I want to run and get my quill and go into my characters’ worlds, without thought for my style or my chances of publication. Some writers give me an artistic thirst for creating.

What are some of the things you would like to share with budding authors? Just keep writing. Try not to be your own editor. You have a unique voice, and you do not need to sound like anyone else. The imaginings and perspectives that you have will resonate with a certain audience. Trust in that!

Do you have any marketing and promotional advice, referrals, tips you would like to share? I don't have any just yet, other than the Yiddish word chutzpah. It means ‘you've got to have nerve.’ That is how I found my wonderful literary agent, Jeanie Loiacono. I walked up to a children's author and asked her for publishing advice. She gave me Jeanie's name. It took a year to build up the nerve to contact her, but when I did, I was not sorry that I did! Both those instances involved a certain amount of chutzpah. Any time you put yourself on the line, you are promoting yourself. Any time you tell your colleagues about your work, you are promoting yourself. Just keep believing in your stories, and you will come up with ideas. 

Do you think conferences are beneficial? If so, what have you learned? Which ones do you frequent? I haven't attended any conferences for purely logistical reasons. However, I love being in writing workshops. Any forum that is going to help you focus your creativity and make you take yourself more seriously as a writer is beneficial.

Where can we find you, your books and when is your next event? Keep your eyes peeled for my three children's titles scheduled for publication in 2016 with Saturn Moon's Press, an imprint of Cactus Moon Publications LLC. You can see more about me at: http://ruthcwiseman.wix.com/storywise#   http://www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com/authors/ruth-wiseman 


Jeanie Loiacono, President, Loiacono Literary Agency
A facilitator of dreams, Jeanie Loiacono represents over eighty authors. Her forte is mystery, romance, thrillers, historical/military/southern fiction, and all quality fiction/nonfiction. Her passion is to see her authors succeed.

“There is nothing more rewarding than to hold one of my author’s books and know I helped bring it to fruition. I am so blessed and privileged to be able to work with some of the most talented writers in the world.” Jeanie.L@llallc.net www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com


 The New Book Review is blogged by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers. It is a free service offered to those who want to encourage the reading of books they love. That includes authors who want to share their favorite reviews, reviewers who'd like to see their reviews get more exposure, and readers who want to shout out praise of books they've read. Please see submission guidelines on the left of this page. Reviews and essays are indexed by genre, reviewer names, and review sites. Writers will find the search engine handy for gleaning the names of small publishers. Find other writer-related blogs at Sharing with Writers and The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor.

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