Friday, July 7, 2023

Interview with Author Stephanie Shaw

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your writing career.


I offer up my early life as an explanation of the choice to write children’s books. I grew up in a time where the ‘electronics’ consisted of the radio. Television was something my family couldn’t afford until I was a bit older. And it was the stories told on the radio that my siblings and I would cling to. And, of course, books. We were read to every night. We had library cards at age five as a right of passage. Weekly trips to the library were treasured. I have to say, my fascination with books and my addiction to them started very, very early. I remember my sister and I discovering a string of Christmas lights in the attic that adjoined our bedroom. They were perfect for ‘under cover’ reading. And probably a fire hazard.


When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?


I always enjoyed writing. I was the kid in the fourth grade who was fascinated with diagraming sentences! And, I remember being praised for my writing. I wrote poems mostly and thank you notes (this was required writing but I didn’t mind).


In high school and college, it was the English classes that held my attention. Then when I began education studies, the required course ‘Children’s Literature’ just became my absolute favorite class. I dreamed of owning a children’s bookstore. I wanted to name it ‘Little Prints’ in honor of Antoine De Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. But the reality was that I needed more secure employment. So, teaching became my vocation. And fortunately, that kept me very close to children’s books!


As a teacher, a counselor and then a principal, I loved connecting kids with stories…especially those kids who did not have the privileges I had in a home that encouraged reading.


Also, in my career, I was required to do a lot of writing. Grants, newsletters, reports to public and parents…all took careful word choice and even humor at times.


Why are you a writer?


The actual writing for kids (stories to be published), came after I took an early retirement to care for my mom. There were periods in-between medical appointments or physical care. I suppose I could have just as easily (although ‘easy’ isn’t a word I associate with writing) taken up knitting or woodworking or even golf like my mom did when she was in her seventies! But all my life I found a comfort or a distraction or a belly laugh in children’s books. Why not try to write one myself? And I did.


What is your writing schedule like?


It is totally haphazard unless I am in the process of revising an acquired manuscript. Then I am laser-focused and will work without distractions until I complete what an editor asks. My family is very familiar with my raising my index finger but not looking up from my computer. They know it means, “Not now!”


But as for daily writing to develop new work, that just doesn’t happen. I do engage in daily pre-writing activities such as walking, reading professional journals, blogs, familiarizing myself with what is new on the market etc. If I get an idea, I’ll jot it down and then come back to it later. But there is no regiment to the creative process until I have a solid idea.


What advice would you give yourself if you could go back in time before you were published?

Oh, I would definitely tell myself to start earlier in life. Take classes. Join a writing and critique group…basically all the things I did once I started writing only do it at a much earlier point in my life.


What were the last three books you read?


The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingslover (pre-Pulitzer)

Nameless Serenade by Maurizio de Giovanni (translated from Italian)


Mysteries are my guilty pleasure. Once I find a series, I have to read every one of them…Agatha Christie, Richard Osman Elly Griffiths, Ian Rankin, Henning Mankel, Louise Penney. I just love them and I marvel how the authors weave the stories.

Do you read horoscopes?

I’m really obsessive about reading the newspaper every day. I may skim the political shenanigans but I thoroughly attend to the obituaries, the comics, the advice column and, yes, my horoscope. Then I promptly forget what it predicts for my day so I’m not sure why I read it. I love the obituaries that are often stories of wonderful well-lived lives and have terrific ideas for story characters’ names: Burl, Lydia, Clarence…names you just don’t hear any more.


What are your pet peeves?

Stickers on fruit and vegetables

Banquette seating in restaurants

The glacier-like speed of the publishing world

Fast Facts:

Coffee or tea? Coffee

Morning or night? Morning

Rivers or oceans? Oceans

White wine or red? White

Champagne or liquor? Scotch

Cupcakes or ice cream? Cupcakes

Laptop or desktop? Laptop

Casual or couture? Casual couture

Ponytail or headband? Baseball cap

Shower or bath? Shower

Summer or winter? Winter

Motorcycle or bicycle? Unicorn…I mean unicycle…I mean bicycle

* * * Connect with Stephanie * * *


Facebook: sgshaw50

Instagram: stephanieshaw830

* * * Fun Freebie * * *

If you visit Stephanie's website, you can download an Activity Guide for her newest picture book, ALL BY MYSELF

Friday, June 23, 2023

Debut Author Ed Mishrell on Writing The 5 Truths for Transformational Leaders

My name is Ed Mishrell, and last month my first book, The 5 Truths for Transformational Leaders: How Nonprofit Organizations Thrive, Grow and Make a Profound Difference was published. It was thrilling to hold the book in my hand after three years of working and thinking about it every day. I worked most of my adult life for nonprofit organizations, first at community-based organizations in Philadelphia and then at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) National Office. When I read Marisa’s email asking for blog posts for The Seymour Agency's blog, I reflected on my journey as a first-time author, what I learned and how I managed to complete a book. I identified five phases, each with its own challenges.

1. Clarify the purpose of the book

2. Get organized to research and write the book

3. Find an agent and publisher

4. Publish the book

5. Market the book.


Clarify the mission and purpose of the book: In the fall of 2019, I made the decision to write a book about leadership in nonprofit organizations. I made a few false starts but didn’t make much progress until I clearly defined my goals for the book. The question I needed to answer was “what difference can this book make.” While there are thousands of books about leadership, very few are based on the experience of successful nonprofit leaders. I believed nonprofit leaders needed a mission driven leadership model that met the unique challenges of leading a nonprofit organization. And I believed my experience uniquely qualified me to write the book. Writing a book takes a long time. A mission and clear sense of purpose kept me focused and motivated to spend time everyday writing.

Get organized to research and write the book: I began working in earnest on the book in January of 2020. The first couple of months were exciting but not very productive. I quickly became totally disorganized.  I wasn’t sure how to organize my time and make progress every day. I needed a process and strategy for how to proceed. I learned a couple of valuable lessons:

·   I quickly created hundreds of pages of notes from interviews plus hundreds more from books and articles I read. I couldn’t easily find anything. I needed to establish a system for organizing my research.  

·   I needed to work on the book every day even when it was a struggle to write anything meaningful.  When I worked on the book every day, it was always front of mind. Breakthroughs came at unexpected times. When I took a day or more off, it was very difficult to get restarted.

·   The book didn’t need to be written in order. If I had an idea for something I felt was important for chapter 5, I would spend the day working on that part of chapter 5. 

·   I needed to keep going back to rewrite and revise to make sure everything was in sync. My thinking often evolved from something I wrote early on. I needed to keep going back to make sure everything was aligned.


Find an agent and publisher: My sense of purpose and strong belief in the difference the book could make for nonprofit leaders kept me focused in spite of the rejections I received to my carefully crafted query letters. I am so grateful to be working with Marisa. From the first time I read her bio and talked to her I knew she was the perfect agent to represent me. Thank you, Marisa and The Seymour Agency. You are the best. And thank you, Wiley, for believing my book was worth publishing.


Publish the book: This went by very fast and while the editing process and then preparing the book layout was intense, it was exciting; after two plus years publication was a reality.

Market and promote the book: This is where I am right now. I am not always comfortable promoting myself and I need to keep pushing myself. Before publishing a book, I never had a web site, a YouTube channel, or a blog. I seldom posted on social media. I wasn’t on any podcasts.  I wasn’t speaking at conferences.  This is all new and I am still learning.  When I am having trouble, I reflect back on my mission to create a book that would help nonprofit leaders make a bigger difference. This pushes me to keep moving out of my comfort zone. The last of the five truths is to continue to grow as a Leader. What I learned from interviewing successful leaders is that the leadership they provided to grow the organization was often no longer effective when the organization became larger. Success means leaders need to adapt and change. Every leader I interviewed said evolving into the leader the organization needed after unprecedented growth was the hardest thing they ever did. And some of them were not successful.


This is the same lesson for me as a first-time author. I am switching gears and contacting people I know and don’t know to invite myself into their organization to talk about my book. What fun I am having.


Ed Mishrell

* * * CONNECT WITH ED * * *


The 5 Truths for Transformational Leaders – Learn how nonprofit organizations thrive, grow, and make a profound difference






Friday, June 16, 2023

Interview + Giveaway with Marie Tang

 What is your writing schedule like?

I hate to admit it, but it’s chaotic! With my first book out in the world, I now have 1001 ideas swimming around my head on how to promote it, all while thinking of what my next book might be. So when I’m not working my part-time gig at the senior center, helping my husband market his business, or trying to feed my teenager and her friends who always seem hungry, I am writing. If it’s not a new manuscript idea, it’s a blog post, a letter to a school, or an email request to friends to suggest my book at the library. Sometimes I’m updating my bio or writing content for the website updates I need to make. All and all, I am writing. It’s just not part of a schedule that I would eventually like to have. The one thing that I have been doing regularly is meeting (virtually) with a lady out in Cincinnati whom I met by chance during an online writing course. We spend an hour and a half 3 days a week working on our Middle Grade novels. I’m always telling her how grateful I am that she reached out to this introvert and got me on this schedule. Without it, I wouldn’t have the first draft of an MG novel to talk about!


What has been the most thrilling part of being published?

You know that book “The Secret” that talks about willing something to be? I feel like I willed being published to be. I don’t think I ever said it out loud the way I do now with my affirmations, but for years I would repeat in my head, “I will be a published author, I will be a published author…” It was thrilling to see that come to fruition (not without a lot of work and perseverance along the way of course).


The other thrilling thing is hearing and watching children react to my book. As a former teacher, I’ve always been tickled when a child reacts to a funny or sad, or scary emotion in a book. It’s a magical thing to witness and I feel honored when I hear a child has made a connection to my story.


What do you think makes a good book?

For me, a good book is all about the characters and how they move throughout the story. I love trying to guess how a character is going to react in a scene and what they’ll do next. This to me makes the book worth reading. I am also a big comedy fan so if a story has humor and heart, it grabs my attention.


How long does it take you to write a book?

I’ve been mainly focused on picture books. I would say it takes me an average of twelve revisions before I feel good about submitting to it my agent (although I’ve come out of my shell a little lately and tested sending something on revision 2 or 3, hehe) I tend to have lots of initial theme ideas too but those pretty much stay in my head until a second spark causes me to realize the potential for a story and there is no telling when that happens.


What's one thing you can't live without?

I’m going to give a corny answer here, but I couldn’t live without books. I didn’t truly discover reading until I was pretty much an adult. English was my second language and throughout grade school, I was turned off by the way recommended reading was presented to us. I also didn’t have the support I needed to love reading. That changed in my sophomore year of college. I fell head over heels for Harry Potter and my joy of reading began! I don’t stop reading now. It helps me in so many ways. I read everything from business books, to self-help, to children’s books, and all varieties of fiction. I usually have 3 to 4 books lying around that I’m reading at the same time at different times of the day.


Fun Facts:

Coffee or tea? BOTH! Coffee in the morning, tea at night.

Morning or night? Morning

Rivers or oceans? Rivers

White wine or red? Red

Champagne or liquor? Liquor

Cupcakes or ice cream? Ice cream

Laptop or desktop? Laptop

Casual or couture? Couture

Ponytail or headband? Ponytail

Shower or bath? Bath

Summer or winter? Summer

Motorcycle or bicycle? Motorcycle

About Marie

Marie Tang was born in Hong Kong, raised in New York City, and lived in Shanghai for more than a decade. The unique characters and neon lights of “The Big City” have been an ever-present source of inspiration for her. She proudly tells the tales of the grit, tenacity, and compassion of the Asian people. She is the author of YUNA’S CARDBOARD CASTLES, with three more books releasing the coming years.

* * * GIVEAWAY! * * *

Click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for a chance to win:

- a signed copy of Yuna's Cardboard Castles

- a pair of origami earrings

* * * Connect with Marie * * *



Friday, June 9, 2023

A B’nai Mitzvah Story by Stacey Agdern

When I was 12, I had my bat mitzvah. I studied long and hard, and on a Saturday morning in October, I stood in front of my family and congregation, read from the Torah, gave my speech and celebrated.

Not long after that, I went to a synagogue a few towns north of where I lived, to celebrate another Bat Mitzvah.  But there was something different. The celebrant was the mother of one of my brother’s friends, a woman in her forties.  Because for multiple reasons, she hadn’t had the chance to have her Bat Mitzvah at 12 or 13 like I did.

When I was younger, I didn’t understand what must have gone through this woman’s head, what made her decide to not only take this step, but also create the space in her life in order to prepare for it. Because as a 12 year old, the space in my life to study for my bat mitzvah was made for me. My parents facilitated this practice, and also made sure I stuck to the schedule created for that purpose. They drove me to lessons and told me when and where I needed to study. Even over the summer.

But my brother’s friend’s mom didn’t have that luxury. Her time, as a professional, a mother and a wife, was rarely her own. Which meant that if she was going to stand before her congregation and have her own Bat Mitzvah, she needed to carve space for that too.

Years later, I involved myself in conversations about what ‘adult coming of age’ books would look like. And that was when I remembered hearing stories about athletes and comedians having their own Bar and Bat Mitzvahs as adults. These people had taken the time, as a way of rediscovering or reconnecting to their Jewish heritage, to undertake the study necessary to prepare for the ceremony. 

As I thought about their stories, and what they had to do, I was reminded of my brother’s friend’s mom.


All of these stories, in so many ways, became the inspiration for what would become the B’Nai Mitzvah Mistake. You can see two different journeys towards the choice to have this ceremony as an adult in Judith’s and Asher’s story. And I hope that you also see love.

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Coffee or tea?

I can’t choose; I love both

Morning or night?
That weird space where night becomes morning :D yes I’m that kind of night owl

Rivers or oceans?

I live by the river but love visiting the ocean

White wine or red?

White when it’s sweet, red when it’s dry

Champagne or liquor?


Cupcakes or ice cream?
cupcakes :D

Laptop or desktop?

Laptop to write, desktop to edit

Casual or couture?

Casual :D

Ponytail or headband?


Shower or bath?


Summer or winter?


Motorcycle or bicycle? Uhhhh.

* * *


Stacey is giving away one copy of her new release to a random commenter!

Not sure what to say? Ask her a question or let her know if you've read another one of her books!

Winner will be chosen at random on Friday, June 16, 2023. If you do not include your email in your comment (not required to win), please be sure to check back here on Friday, June 16, 2023 to see if someone from the agency has replied to your comment letting you know you've won a copy of Stacey's book! See footer for giveaway terms and conditions.

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About Stacey

Stacey Agdern is an award-winning former bookseller who has reviewed romance novels in multiple formats and given talks about various aspects of the romance genre. She is also a romance writer. C. She lives in New York, not far from her favorite hockey team's practice facility.


Connect with Stacey!