Monday, February 27, 2012

Are You Listening?

As the nonfiction editor for a children's magazine, I like to help writers get their work published.  But some submissions need a little editing before I send an acceptance.  I encourage writers to revise and then to re-submit. 

Most of the time, contributors are willing to edit their work.  Once however, a writer got a little huffy upon reading my suggestion.  I had asked her to reformat her manuscript as specified in our guidelines.  She wrote back to say that it was my job, not hers to make that edit.  Needless to say, her submission was not published.  Pity, it would have taken her less than five minutes to make that revision.  I wasn’t asking her to do anything unreasonable.  All publications expect writers to follow the submission guidelines. 

In a Writer’s Digest interview, genre-bending bestseller James Lee Burke encourages writers to listen to what an editor or publisher has to say.  He said:  “They’ve done it lots of times and usually even if you disagree, if you will listen, you show respect for the person who is trying to help you and you learn that there is at least an element of viability in what you’re being told.”  

I agree with Burke.  It all comes down to two words—listen and respect.  That’s how you learn.  That's how you improve as a writer.  That’s what it takes to see your work published. 

James Lee Burke couldn’t have said it any better.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Letter from the Editor

Dear Children's Writer,

Thank you for your submission.  I think your article has potential, but before I can consider it for publication, it needs a few edits.  Here are some reminders:

1. Spell out abbreviations.
2. Watch out for homonyms (for example: a horseman is a lone rider, not a loan rider).
3. Capitalize proper nouns (check The Chicago Manual of Style when in doubt).
4. Put movie titles, book titles, and scientific names of animals in italics.
5. Avoid fancy dialogue tags (he/she snorted, grimaced, etc.) Use: he/she said.
6. Make your writing lively and kid-friendly.  
7. Format the bibliography correctly.
8. Use apostrophes correctly (for example: plural possessive is cats’; singular is cat’s).

You’ve taken time to research and write your manuscript.  Now take the time to edit it.  Put your work on the back burner for a few days and then read it again with fresh eyes.  Revise your work.  Now, have a trusted friend read your manuscript.  Have an expert check your facts.  Edit again if necessary.  Remember: researching, good writing, and revising are all part of the submission process.

Send your work back to me with the subject line reading: Revision, nonfiction, title, and age group. I appreciate your hard work and look forward to reading your revision.  Please allow several weeks before checking on the status of your manuscript.   

Randi Lynn Mrvos
Nonfiction Editor

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mind Over Matter Books

Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) Books are geared towards preschoolers to help them learn how to be resilient. Life comes at us fast and children have to be prepared with the right tools to face the challenges, adversity and obstacles that may become a part of their life. BELIEVE is the first of five books emphasizing the important factors for resiliency. In this book children will learn to BELIEVE in their possibilities!

Kasey  Kellem guest blogs today and shares the message behind her Mind Over Matter books: 

In my first book Believe, children will learn to use the Mind Over Matter techinque of BELIEVING they can overcome anything! Through whimsical illustrations and simple wording children are given ideas of what to believe in life. The goal is to have children believe they can overcome any obstacle, challenge, or adversity they face. From this book, children will hopefully learn to believe in their potential and believe in themselves.   

The best part about my book is that it was created in a unique and creative way that allows it to stand on its own and serve as a decoration on a shelf or a desk. This allows for the child to be constantly reminded to "Believe" just like I am reminded in my home and office with the wooden motivational words that say "Believe," "Love," "Relax," and "Dream." 

Another bonus of the book is that hidden on each page is a caterpillar who also illustrates how to believe. This makes the book interactive for young children as they search for the caterpillar and see how he believes! Finally, included in each book is a page of simple parental advice on how to help children to believe in themselves.

As a school and a former special education teacher, I have always been intrigued by childrens' resiliency skills. My Mind Over Matter books help teach young children the fundamental of being resilient. Through much research and a few college degrees, I've learned that the characteristics of resilient people include the ability:
To BELIEVE they will get through the circumstance
To realize that people LOVE them
To LAUGH at the funny things in life
To RELAX and make time for themselves
To have a DREAM or goals in life 

My mission in life is to help children to be prepared for all that life is going to offer them. I hope my book Believe gives children one tool to use when facing any challenge or adversity. The additional books, Love, Laugh, Relax, and Dream will offer the same kind of supportive message and purpose.

Get a sneak peek of the book BELIEVE and listen to an interview with Kasey Crawford Kellem at

About the Author: Kasey Crawford Kellem, a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her life to helping children face adversity.  Kasey created Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) books to teach children skills to overcome life’s challenges. She has earned a Bachelor’s Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. She is a devoted wife, stepmother, sister, daughter and counselor.

You can find out more about Kasey Crawford Kellem’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Kellem and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. You will be entered into the main the Book Giveaway each time.

In addition, come listen on February 20, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatting with Kasey Crawford Kellem about her M.O.M Books, writing, helping children to be resilient and her experiences. The show airs live February 20, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259.(Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit:

To purchase any of Kasey Crawford Kellem’s books, visit Halo Publishing:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


photo by James Bowe

Maggie and the First Grade Blues is the not the first picture book story that I’ve ever written.  There have been several others.  I am very proud of those stories and many have won awards.  One of the stories, When Sheep Won’t Leap, was written in rhyme.  This picture book manuscript was critiqued by an editor at Dial Books for Young People following an Editor’s Day conference.  One of her suggestions:  make sure that the rhymes are spot on.

After revising it accordingly, I submitted it to many publishers.  But as the rejections rolled in, I finally decided to shelve it.  This piece was going nowhere.  No one was interested in it; no one would ever read it.  Then many months later, I learned about a poetry contest sponsored by the Institute of Children's Literature (ICL).  This respectable establishment offered a poetry contest.  I thought about my rhyming picture book.  Maybe, just maybe it might be worth editing again for this contest. 

The guidelines stated that the word count should be less than 300 words.  That meant a few stanzas needed to be omitted.  But this threw off the rhyming scheme, so I referred to a synonym dictionary (once more) to make sure I had perfect rhymes.  After several revisions, I thought it was complete.  Then I asked myself:  would this entry stand out above the others?  That’s when I took a critical look at the stanzas.  The lines were ordinary.  Nothing special.  I needed to create a unique look.  So, I started toying with the shape of words and found that I could illustrate action by using different sized fonts and by arranging letter placement. Afterward, the poem took on a new life.  A reader could envision the movements of Ella and her sheep. 

Regardless of the outcome of the contest, I was proud of this story.  I put it out of my mind until the the unbelievable happened.  Three months later, two emails, and one contest winner.  When Sheep Won’t Leap won first place.  This month, an interview and my rhyming story appears in the ICL newsletter, The Children’s Writer. 

This is what I learned from the experience. 
Never give up.  
Edit, edit, edit. 
Continue to showcase your work.
Make your work unique. 
Believe in yourself.   

I never would have guessed that my story would be read by others. Now, thousands of people will read it and learn how the story came about.   I’m leaping with joy, just like Ella’s sheep!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hope Marston's Inspiration

Author Hope Marston reveals her many sources of inspiration:  

I was inspired to become a writer by my mother, an inveterate reader. My interest grew when my oldest sibling, who also read voraciously, gave me my first two books. Further nourishment came when the county bookmobile visited the country school that I attended. That book buffet, served up by the driver, created an appetite for more. I decided right then that someday I would write a book.

In high school I volunteered as a student library aide. When I wanted to read a book that our library didn’t own, I sneaked down town on my lunch hour to the public library. I went off to college with very limited funds. I worked my way through four years of undergraduate studies doing most every campus job available. I enjoyed being a library aide most.

About forty years ago I began taking writing courses by correspondence. One of the instructors encouraged me to find a local outlet for my writing. I became a “stringer” for the Lewiston (ME) Daily Sun. My first stand-alone publication was a child’s daily devotional booklet published by Child Evangelism Fellowship.

While I was studying with the Institute of Children’s Literature, my husband and I moved to New York State. When I became a school librarian, my junior high students asked for books about trucking careers. Trucks, Trucking and You was written for them (1978). That book spawned eight more books about big machines.

My Little Book Series introduces children to nature. The first title was inspired by a line drawing I saw in an Animal Rehab Newsletter. My Little Book of Bald Eagles is the eighth one.

Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson features Margaret Wilson. Margaret lived in 17th century Scotland and died for her beliefs which conflicted with King Charles II. I “met” Margaret when I was proofing a manuscript for a publishing house.

My husband learned about an eleven-year musher named Aisling Shepherd, when he was reading the online daily newspaper from back home. I worked with Aisling to tell her inspirational story of courage and resolve. Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest was released this past December.

Where do I get my inspiration? From other readers, writers, and interesting people whom I meet when I read.


About the Author: Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.
In addition to writing thirty-two children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.

Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print.

You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

 In addition, come listen on February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth will be chatting with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show will air live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

 To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit: