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Mikey+Pic+1.jpgChildren book authors are some of the most fun people on the planet. They know how to connect with young readers with words and illustrations.  But very few authors can illustrate and write their books too. Mikey Brooks is right near the top of the list of talented authors. Here are some fun facts about him. Mikey Brooks has a degree in English from Utah State University. His love of art is his passion. He works full-time as a freelance illustrator and cover designer.  He has had several awards for his work. In 2014 he won the Huge Howey Award for Best Children’s Book Author and recently won the Best of State 2016 for his artwork in Ice Cream U.S.A. One other fun fact about Mikey is that he was an indie author for a few years before he landed an agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret LLC. He is also a member of The Emblazoners – http://embazoner.com/. A website devoted to writing on the hearts of children.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

“Definitely energizes! If writing ever exhausts you then you might be doing something wrong (maybe working on the wrong project? wrong genre?). I feel empowered when I write. I do it first thing in the morning (I wake up at 4:30am well before the kiddos get up) and it really starts my day off on a high note.”

What are common traps for aspiring writers?

“The biggest one is comparing yourself to other writers. We’re all on different levels. Some writers can crank out book after book, month after month, and some seem to trudge along at a snail’s pace maybe finishing one manuscript in a year or two. Both are great! Both are writing. Never compare yourself to others. Write at your own pace. Write the way God intended you to write. He meant you to be YOU, not someone else.”

If you could tell your younger writing self-anything, what would it be?

“Just write, Mikey. And write what you love!’ I could’ve saved myself years (and thousands in tuition) if I’d just headed these words back then instead of writing to please my professors. It doesn’t take a degree in creative writing to write creatively. I’m not saying school is bad, but universities have a tendency to try and make you the type of writer they think you ‘should be’, instead of allowing you to be the writer you are meant to be.”

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

“It didn’t change it much. I mean I had deadlines, which I never had before, but I pretty much wrote the same way. I’ve tried different approaches to try and speed up my writing process but I always go back to what’s familiar.”

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

“I’d have to say, The Stone of Valhalla. It’s a standalone so it doesn’t get the hype that some of my other books get because of their sequels. It’s my favorite because it was actually the first story I ever wrote. I started it when I was 17 and it was written as a YA fantasy. After finishing it, I sent it out to several publishers but never got any offers (except some interest from Harlequin Romances who was disappointed in the lack of adult themes—yikes!). I put it in a file and forgot about it for ten years or so before I pulled it out, rewrote it, and published it as an MG book.”

What’s the best way to market your books?

“The best way to go directly to my readers, which are kids, so I do a lot of school visits. My favorites are to do classroom sizes because it’s a little easier to keep them involved, but I also enjoy doing large assemblies. Visiting schools is the best part of my job as an author. I love kids. I love working with them and seeing how reading can bring magic into their lives.”

How many hours a day do you write?

“I’m a stay at home daddy and work part-time as an illustrator and cover designer so I have to really make time to write. I get up super early and get about 2 hours a day, Mon-Sat. I take Sundays off to sleep in (if you call sleeping in until 6:30-7am sleeping in). Sometimes my wife will take the kiddos to their grandma’s and I can get more writing time in then.”

What is your favorite childhood book?

“I’m super jealous of the kiddos nowadays—they have so many awesome children’s books to choose from. When I was a kid there wasn’t a middle-grade genre (oh, how I wish there would’ve been). The first book I ever read cover to cover was Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon, which is a YA fantasy and probably as “children’s book” King ever got. It was illustrated and I was drawn to the pictures in the book. It was that book that gave me my love of fantasy books.”

Could you give us a list of your books?

                    The Dream Keeper         The Dreamstone        The DreamMakers

 

 

 

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The Stone of Valhalla

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The Gates of Atlantis: Battle for Acropolis (book 6 in the Atlantis series written by 6 other authors).

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Museum Adventures: The Maya Mystery    Museum Adventures: A Night in Nottingham

 

 

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The W.H.O. Files: Potions in the Pizza

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“I also have picture books. 3 which I author/illustrated and 9 more I illustrated for other authors. Ice Cream USA won 2016 Best of State as well as a finalist in the 5th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards. Princess Pricilla Enough is Enough took finalist in the 6th Annual Beverly Hills Book Awards.”

What can your fans look forward to next?

“I have several projects in the works and one book with my agent right now. As of now, I don’t have anything scheduled to release this year but I hope that changes soon. I am transitioning from an indie author to a traditional author and I have come to find the traditional route a lot slower than I’m used to. Don’t worry, everyone, I have books coming—I promise!!”

For more information on Mikey Brooks and to see his complete portfolio please visit his website at http://www.insidemikeysworld.com/

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I love to hear other authors ideas about writing or publishing. In a setting where you can bounce ideas of each other and get great feedback, there are many places to do this. There are writing forums, writing critique groups, and of course writers conferences.  So which one is right for you?

Do you like to get together with large or small groups? If you answered large groups than a writers conference sounds like the place for you. How do you get started with attending a writers conference?

  1.  First, join a writing group or organization. If you don’t want to pay annual fees that’s fine. Most conferences allow non-members to attend but pay a little more for the event.
  2.  Check out local, regional and national writers conferences. Many are in New York City. But hey that’s where all the publishers and editors are mostly at.
  3. Subscribe to newsletters so you can keep apprised of the conference dates.
  4. Attend a conference and make connections. This is your moment to have fun and make friends. If you are shy that’s okay because most writers are also shy.

Writers Digest publishes a lot of great information about their conferences. Here is the date of their annual one: August 10-12, 2018 at  New York Hilton Midtown

1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10019 . Look up more about this event at http://writersdigestconference.com/   
Besides Writers Digest there is SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators). They also have a large conference in New York City and one in Los Angels twice a year. Find more information about them on their web page at https://www.scbwi.org/
If you feel that a large conference is too much well, there are other options.  Now you can attend virtual conferences. Here is one I found recently that will be happening soon.
If you’re just not ready to attend a conference than start small. Build yourself a small community of fellow writers or lovers of books. Follow the organization, you want to join, on social media. Find any other publishers or agents on social media and follow them too. This is a great way to see if they are a right fit for you. Being informed is the best thing in this business.
Have fun and enjoy the creative process of writing.

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This is the longest debate about reviews for authors.  Some people on Goodreads, or other sites where you can leave reviews of books, do not understand we are reviewing a book and not the author.  Author’s should not let these reviews feel like a personal attack. But how do you not?  Read more in the article below.

 

How Many Times Do I Have to Say This? Reviews Are for Readers, Not Authors | Mike Mullin.

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1468803_10151725873696533_2066499872_nIf you haven’t read “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books” then stop reading now.  I read it and somewhat loved it.  The no-nonsense way of telling writers who they can query and who would give a flip is awesome.  I always thought that companies like Scholastic would be open to new authors.  Well they are not.  Even though they might look at your work, they are really closed to new work.  Theses companies want to publish only the authors they have had for years.  The same authors and the same series.  It is their bread and butter.  Sure J.K. Rowling was a new name over ten years ago and sure Scholastic picked her books up.  But does that mean you have the next “Harry Potter” series?  I am pretty sure it’s a “no”.

So the book breaks down what is trade, mass market and independent publishing.  It also breaks down what an agent does and doesn’t do.  Some of the things is pretty standard stuff.  But reading it I thought I would find a golden nugget instead I found flakes of gold through out it.  This is a good thing.  After reading this book you will see that you do have to have connections and everyone in the publishing industry are human and want to be treated as such.  Common sense, right?  Well it should be, but for some writers I know, they tend to think they should do something to stand out in the slush pile.  Big mistakes are made and bridges burnt.  Instead try to learn who is working where and see how great the company is doing.  Is the company getting bought out or the agency closing down?  Is an agent retiring or focusing on their own career?  I looked up an agent once.  I Googled him, facebooked him, and even read his Tweets.  He sounded really good and seemed to be the right fit for me and my work.  Well what I didn’t know until after I queried him was that he just wrote a book.  He asked for my manuscript but was more interested in how his new baby was doing in the market.  Researching agents is tricky because sometimes they are focused on things you don’t know about until they make an announcement.

Publisher’s doors are closed and special invitations are needed to attend the party.  Trying to get in the “in-crowd” is about as difficult as pulling your own wisdom teeth out.  So for all the pain, worry, work, and research you do on your own sometimes it might be best to read a book, like the one I am suggesting above, to give you a clue about what to do next.  This book tells you to join a writing group (I’ve done that), to find writing critique groups (done that too) and to read (done) and write (done) until you have perfected your craft before you query (sigh*).

Well read the book and then tell me what you learned from it.  I’d love to see new advice.

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Cover of "The Awakening: And Other Storie...

Cover via Amazon

Nathan Bransford, Author.

I agree with this article but there is a big misconception about authors.  There are good authors who are not recognized because their work is not mainstream popular reading.  The decisions to read and study certain literature in a canon is determined, in my opinion, by political and cultural preferences.  Whatever is popular now is what people want to read about.  There were books held back from the public (like Kate Chopin‘s The Awakening) because of people in power found their work offensive.  Literature is a fickle thing.  I don’t know a lot of people that can actually agree about what should be studied in college literature classes or read as entertainment.  As a society we are like a leaf apt to go where the wind blows us.

The new writers and authors are flooding the market with self-published books and e-books.  There are all kinds of writers.    Sure we don’t have a lot of Mark Twains or Edgar Allen Poes’ anymore.  But shouldn’t we find some that are still worthy to quote?  Obviously the Noble Prize in Literature is still finding candidates to hand out the award to.  Even the Newberry Award is given out every year.  So there is still some talent out there.

Mark Twain statue

Mark Twain statue (Photo credit: stevebkennedy)

People will read what they want to read.  As writers we just need to write what we feel.  Whether it will make it into a canon or not is up to those who select it.

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Children’s books can have a deep effect on us as readers. Whether we read the Laura Ingalls Wilder series or books by C.S. Lewis, our depth of understanding comes from what we read and learned. Now years later, looking back I have noticed I missed reading some classics. Not Black Beauty or Charlotte’s Web but books by other authors.

Here are a few examples:

Series were not high on my list of books to read.  Now I see I have some catching up to do.  Books should capture every young heart and start them down a path of reading.  If we didn’t have books to read then what would we do with ourselves?  What would occupy our minds?  What would we be learning?  Nothing but facts according to Charles Dicken’s Hard Times.  That sounds pretty boring.  Imagination is a freedom we should all savor.

Anyone else have a list of books they want to read?

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If you ever felt that the world is full of people giving advice, then you might be right.  A lot of people do know a lot of different things.  One of my favorite places to get advice is from Nathan Bransford‘s blog.  He gives great advice on how to write a novel, to how to write a query letter.  Here is one of my favorite posts by Nathan which is the best query letter examples written:  Good Query Letter

There are many different formulas out there.  But just follow the one that is repeated and accepted by the publishing companies.  Bransford gives a good formula for creating a query letter.  But maybe you don’t want to take this guy’s word for it.  Here is some other sources from some credible authors and agents: How not to get an agent  and Before you query

I love to use Writers Digest books.  Their newest addition is 2013 Children’s Writer‘s & Illustrators Market.  You can buy it on Amazon: Writers Digest 2013 .  This book gives writers advice on how to write a query letter to what publishing company is actively accepting query letters.  There is a helpful section from authors.  Their advice for new authors and how they received their big break is worth the read.  I know I just want to skip to the back and start making my list of potential companies and individuals I want to query.  But the sections on writing are very helpful.  From the editor he says, “If you flip through this book’s pages, the first thing you may notice is a whole ton of upfront instructional articles.” – Chuck Samuchino, editor of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market/ Guide to Literary Agents

There are a lot of writers in my own critique group who says this is “the time to become published”.  I know I have also heard this at writers conferences sponsored by SCBWI.  Agents, editors and authors all agree this is the time to become self-published with either an e-book format or paper.  The e-books are hot right now.  And if you Google which publishing company has the most e-books out then you would find Random House at the top of the list.  They have a lot of e-books that are selling like hot-cakes.  Take a look at their new reformated website and see: Random House .  There is advice given from different publishers who want to see books only through agents.  But there are a lot of authors/agents that are saying that you can do it yourself.  You don’t need an agent.  Take it from Maria Lamba who said:

“For a LONG time we have plodded along with certainties. And the main truth was that a big publisher = big success.  Signing with big publishers meant contracts with great advances, reviews in prominent publications, your book would appear in all bookstores, you’d have tons of publicity and promotion, and you were well on your way to a long CAREER as an author.

Then this “given” started to erode as all the publishing models began to shift.  A large number of editors were laid off in 2008. Authors were suddenly expected to do more of their own promotions. Book reviews in many print publications began to disappear. There was no guarantee that your book would appear in the major chains or indies (even before the demise of Borders). And now we hear a lot from authors about low advances, or no contracts being offered on a next book.

Yes, the economy has a ton to do with all of this. And Ebooks have come in at an especially crazy time.  We fear they may pose a threat to print books. The pricing of Ebooks is a huge issue.  Brick and mortar stores feel threatened by Ebook sales.

And let’s pile onto this, indie publishing, which is on the rise.

All these factors together add to an overall sense of instability in what was once a fairly predictable business model for publishers, booksellers and authors.”

The only thing a writer needs to take away from the overwhelming advice from so many different venues is: “Does it matter to me?”  We are all in charge of our fate and we decide if we want our careers to soar like an eagle or fall like a lead balloon.  There is always going to be someone out there who will have some great advice.  But do you really care?  And if so, are you willing to follow that advice?

As for me, I just want to keep on writing. Teddy%20Bear%20Reading01

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