I'm not new to talking, sharing ideas, or stating my opinion, especially stating my opinion! After all, I taught elementary school for 30 years! However, my audience has typically been smaller,just family, the classroom, or just talking to myself!

My blog has two goals: be an outlet for sharing thoughts on writing children's books and the path to publication (got my fingers crossed that I'll get there) and a place to chronicle my journey of losing my sight. Sometimes I imagine these two paths will overlap .

Monday, September 26, 2011

            Calling in the New Year 

 This week brings me to a journey.
      I'm off to the Boston area to celebrate the Jewish High Holidays (better known as Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur)  with my family. 

      Rosh Hashanah, for those not familiar, is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur is also known as the Day of Atonement and requires a 24 hour fast- no food, no drink, not even water. Seriously. They mean business.

       For almost 30 years I traveled first to Michigan, then when the fam moved, to Massachusetts twice within two weeks. Sounds crazy, right? 
       While I was teaching, I had to fly back to Georgia for the 10 days between the holidays. (Who knew the school system wouldn't view economizing on flying as a legitimate use of personal days!) Yeah, they did give us three personal days per year- which I promptly had to use for the High Holidays in September- but they drew the line at taking a week of extra days just for convenience.

       When I retired six years ago, I decided I would  go and stay for the whole two weeks; no more double flights for the holidays. My mom was thrilled; not sure if my sister and family were as thrilled, but they were/are tolerant. LOL

       The two weeks have provided a different sort of journey as well. It pulls me out of my everyday environment with all my "stuff" around, both physical and emotional,  and places me elsewhere with just  whatever I can bring. That means thinking through what writing I want to work on, which books to read,  and which beading projects to work on. After I've culled through all of it, I have to see what will fit into one suitcase, keeping in mind I also need two weeks of clothing including "nice outfits" for synagogue (which I will attend four times).                                                            

       Thinking about which clothes, books, and projects to bring is not the only thinking that goes on. We are told as children- and it's a theme of the holidays- that the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time to think about and 'fess up to any wrongdoings from the year (okay, they're technically called "sins" which is fine for grownups but a little over the top, in my opinion, for kids) and then make amends. No, it's not a 12-step kind of program, but the goal's the same. Admit to your mistakes, then apologize to the wronged person and make amends in any way necessary. That's legal. And not committing another "sin!"

 So here's my official pronouncement.....
to you and you, oh and you over there too.... if I've said anything or done something that upset you or angered you, or hurt your feelings, I sincerely apologize for it. As for the amends part, we'll have to  work that out when I get back into town!

      Wishing all my Jewish friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances a Shanah Tovah, a happy and healthy new year, and an easy fast. Not sure if I'll get out a post in the next 2 weeks, but check back just in case.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

                                   And the winner is....

Doraine Bennett!        *cheers*

You've won a copy of Bettina The  Bold by Fiona Page. 

Please contact me at: kidlitgail (at) gmail (dot) com with a snailmail address and I'll have Fiona send it lickety-split.

Friday, September 9, 2011

                                 Random Acts of Publicity- Friday

       Today I've another writer friend to share with you. 
 Larry Kahn is a retired lawyer who worked for a large New York law firm and then an Atlanta Fortune 500 company. In real life, he's a non-assuming, reserved kind of guy, but it only takes a few minutes of conversation with him  to recognize his wit, his intelligence, and his concern for social justice in the world.

Larry and Ellie Kahn
        I couldn't help but ask Larry a few questions.  

Did you always have a dream to be a writer?
 Earlier than you might imagine. I won an award from the local library for the most book reviews written over the summer between 1st and 2nd grade! My interest developed further in college, where I always had a writing class on my schedule and wrote sports stories for the Albany Student Press. Talk about long-held dreams, in my freshman writing class I wrote a short story called "The 20-Year Jinx" which later evolved into my first novel, THE JINX. The core idea of a family harboring a 140-year grudge against the presidency festered in my mind for twenty years, until the brink of the 2000 presidential election, when I realized the story would die unless I did something dramatic. So, with the approval of my always supportive wife, Ellie, I took a sabbatical from my legal job and made the dream a reality.

What led you to be a part-time writer and then switch to full-time writing? 

Some of my college friends went into journalism, a couple were quite successful, but earning a living as a writer was a risky proposition. While one of the characters in KING OF PAINE lives by the mantra "no risk, no thrill," I'm more of a calculated risk-taker than a thrill-seeker. Still, I might have gone for it except that my other option was Yale Law School. My law degree ultimately provided some financial security for us, and my career as an international tax lawyer in the fast-paced world of mergers & acquisitions yielded a wealth of experiences that fuel my fiction. I started THE JINX a couple years before I took my sabbatical but needed the larger blocks of time to really wrap my mind around it.

While that sabbatical year was an extremely rewarding experience, I had promised my manager at work I would return. I never considered writing to be a full-time gig. While THE JINX was not a commercial success, it garnered  nice reviews from reputable sources, and the writing bug never quite stopped biting. In 2006, after helping to engineer the sale of the line of business that kept me gainfully employed, I negotiated a severance package that was sufficient to finance our sons' educations and maintain a modest writing lifestyle. We don't live extravagantly, but I'm doing what I love, and Ellie and I enjoy our time together more than when I was bringing home Type A baggage from the office.

 While you were “lawyering”, was the creative person inside screaming to get out? 

Absolutely. Legal writing is so dry. As a young lawyer I would try to add a little pizazz to my memos, but my mentors took particular delight in beating that habit out of me. I have a serious defiant streak in me, but it didn't take many all-night rewrites to figure out that these acts of authorial civil disobedience were self-defeating. The senior lawyers were more tolerant of my long hair, their one concession to my creative spirit.

How did you decide to write thrillers/whodunits rather than another genre, say historical fiction or nonfiction? 

I grew up loving mystery and suspense novels--first Agatha Christie and then Ira Levin, Irving Wallace, Frederick Forsyth, and Robert Ludlum. I was a young lawyer when John Grisham invented the legal thriller genre, and I loved how he incorporated themes of social justice into page-turning plots. He spawned a long line of lawyer/authors, of which I am proud to count myself as one. Ultimately, I guess I wrote what I loved to read. As far as nonfiction, I don't consider myself expert enough at any subject to write a book, but I do blog about social issues on my website.
A defiant streak in you....hmm...I resemble, relate to that comment!

         As Larry mentioned, his most recent book is THE KING OF PAINESee if this description grabs your attention:

A desperate and dying patient.
A rumored cure.

How far would you go to find the fountain of youth?

Frank Paine is not your prototypical FBI agent. He’s an ex-Hollywood stud with a kinky past; an irreverent wise ass who craves forgiveness from the woman he loves. When a ruthless stalker uses Frank’s indiscretions to ensnare him in an erotic cat-and-mouse death match, his investigation points toward a missing biochemist. His hunt for her secret haven takes one tragic turn after another, until he finds himself facing an impossible dilemma. Someone will die as a result of his decisions, and it may be his soulmate. Or him.

Gotcha, didn't it! Who wouldn't want to read a book like this?

KING OF PAINE is available in paperback at  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and North Atlanta Press. The eBook version is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Buy. This. Book. It's awesome! 
(Disclosure, since I have a lawyer present... I am a little biased toward this novel. I was one of the beta readers.) LOL

Wait! WIN this book!( Not me this time, it's all Larry's idea.) LOL

All you need to do is sign up to follow Larry's blog here.
or you can "like" his fan page hereIf 5 people sign up, he will give away an eBook of KING OF PAINE; if 10 people sign up, it will be 2 eBooks and so on. More people = more free eBooks! You need to sign up by Wednesday evening, Sept. 14th to be in the drawing.

All this talk about KING OF PAINE makes me want to go read it again. I think I will! 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

                                Random Acts of Publicity- Thursday
                          Part II of interview with Fiona Page  

          Yesterday, we met Fiona Page and talked about her new children's book, BETTINA THE BOLD. Fiona plans to take some of the stories she told as a professional storyteller in schools and now turn them into chapter books for kids.

           Today we'll talk about how her life has (or hasn't changed) after losing her sight and about her memoir, MY NIGHTLIFE IS 24/7.                                   

What have you found that you can still do with no sight that you thought you'd have to give up?

Dance! I love to dance all kinds of dances. I also thought I would never read again because audio books were not widely accepted in 1987. Now there are many options for reading.

What do you miss the most as a person without sight?

The freedom to do what I want when I want.

( I can relate to this as well. No matter how hard we work at maintaining our independence, the bottom line is that life now takes more planning and arranging. Going and doing something spontaneously doesn't easily happen when you no longer drive and/or need someone else for assistance. I struggle with this too.)

Yes, coping with challenges is an ongoing process! 

As a visually impaired person myself, I find characters in my stories frequently have vision loss or another disability, or one of their family members has a disability. Do you find a pull toward those sorts of characters in your stories?

My mother was disabled. She had two prosthetic legs. I like to show others that we all have something which is a challenge but it does not make us different because we all want to be accepted and have friends. It only inconveniences us until we find a way around it. I think I will write about my mother now.  

Ah, you come by your strength of character naturally, then!
Let's talk about your memoir, MY NIGHTLIFE IS 24/7. Would you tell us about it?
MY NIGHTLIFE IS 24/7 is about going from a being a sighted person to a sightless one. It's also about overcoming challenges with courage and conviction and moving beyond them. You know, we all have obstacles in our lives, some of them we did not choose for ourselves. We can, however, make a choice about how we will deal with those obstacles. I hope it will show others that life does go on.

Was writing your memoir a part of the healing and acceptance process after losing your sight?

Most definitely. I became blind in '87. Life became a whirlwind of learning (using a computer, cane mobility training, daily living skills). It was not until 2000 that I started writing out of desperation--I couldn't talk for two months. Through this long process--years of writing--I realized I finally accepted the "new" me. Accepting my blindness took ten years and then it only came in stages.

(I understand. I call it my "new normal" because what I previously called normal responses or situations all had to change.)


Thank you Fiona for sharing your life story along with your written stories. You are truly inspiring and I'm glad to call you friend.

Remember.... leave a comment and an email address (unless I already have your address!) and there will be a book giveaway late Friday night. I'll post the winner on Monday.

If you're interested in purchasing a copy of BETTINA THE BOLD or MY NIGHTLIFE IS 24/7, you can click here

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

            "Random Acts of Publicity" week - Wednesday

     Three years ago, author, teacher, speaker Darcy Pattison created a program for writers to help other writers with publicity. A writer can choose any other writer friend to promote during the week following Labor Day. I decided to choose a new friend of mine, Fiona Page.

       Fiona is one remarkable woman. She is a professional storyteller, a motivational speaker, a radio show host, as well as a writer of a children's book and an adult memoir. Busy woman, right? Did I mention that Fiona is blind?

     Some 20+ years ago, Fiona went to the hospital to have some routine surgery. She left the hospital  sightless. She had to relearn how to do practically everything as a blind individual. That means dressing, grooming, cooking, cleaning,meeting and talking to people, and figuring out how to get around, just to name a few. I can totally sympathize and empathize with her as I am going through the lose-your-sight-journey myself.

      Fiona seemed like the perfect recipient for "Random Acts of Publicity". Let me begin by introducing you to her children's book, BETTINA THE BOLD.

       Bettina is a butterfly who discovers, upon leaving her chrysalis, that she is blind. This creates problems for Bettina, especially in making friends until a blind bat shares strategies for overcome challenges.  BETTINA THE BOLD is available in paperback and as an audio book. A portion of the cost goes to Vision Rehabilitation Services in Marietta, Georgia, a wonderful organization that helps individuals like Fiona (and me) with mobility training and other skills needed for daily living. 

       I asked Fiona to answer some questions for me and I think I wore out her fingers! Part I of the interview is today and Part II will be on Thursday. Fiona has generously offered a copy of her book for a giveaway. All you need to do to win is leave a comment after the post (today, tomorrow, or Friday) with a contact email included. A random drawing will be held Friday evening and the winner announced Monday morning. (Sept 12th)

Welcome Fiona! Thank you so much for joining me.
Gail, I am delighted to be here. Thank you for thinking of me with a "Random Act of Publicity"!  

Okay, a few questions:  

Was the transition from being an oral storyteller to being a teller of written stories easy or difficult for you?

A storyteller uses so much facial expression and gestures that I found writing difficult at first. Showing in print is so different from showing in person, on a stage, with an audience.

 Did you want to be an author before you lost your sight or was it a way to adapt your skills?

I've always respected writers and love to read. I never dreamed that I could write. I found, at first, that organizing the paragraphs was frustrating for me. Writing started out  for my own "venting" and entertainment. When I lost my voice, it was a natural thing to turn to the computer to keep my mind occupied. It became cathartic as I wrote of my experiences. Soon I realized i wanted to leave a legacy for my family. From there it grew.

You lost your voice as well as your sight? What a terrible double whammy!
Yes, I had severe bronchitis and needed to "rest my voice" (translated that meant no talking) for two months! Can you imagine anything worse for a storyteller? Or someone who was trying to cope with sudden blindness?

Are you still doing storytelling? If not, do you have plans to go back to it?

In 2007, I cut back storytelling a lot, only going to the schools who had asked me back year after year prior to my blindness. The past four years I have been writing two books and telling stories more in a volunteer capacity. Now I will take Bettina the Bold on the road. My storytelling buddy who recorded the audio version with me will drive and I will demonstrate to the students the process for writing as an individual who cannot see . (Hint: I use a talking computer!) Then we will read the story

There are more question and answers from Fiona, but I think they will need to wait until tomorrow.

Remember to leave a comment here, and your email address, and you'll be entered in the drawing for a copy of BETTINA THE BOLD.