Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults. In this column, she blogs about the reissue of her biography of detective Allan Pinkerton as an ebook.

Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye

More than one hundred fifty years ago, when the Midwest was still young and rugged, a tough, burly Scottish immigrant named Allan Pinkerton founded the first detective agency in America. The Pinkerton Detective Agency vowed to catch criminals, recover stolen property, gather information, and investigate fraud. The agency’s motto was “We Never Sleep,” its logo a wide-open eye.

When I was a child, friends asked me if my family was related to this famous detective. That sounded exciting, but we were not relatives. Still my curiosity led me to write a biography of him, now newly reissued as an ebook. My research for the print book from Lerner Publications took me to Van Nuys, California, then the headquarters of the modern agency. I spent the day there poring over stacks of documents, letters, and photos. The methods Pinkerton used were simple, but in 1850, they broke new ground. Facts and codes were recorded in small black notebooks. His agents worked undercover, sometimes in disguises their own mothers wouldn’t recognize. I held Pinkerton’s codebook in my hands, gazed at the memorabilia in glass cases, and marveled at the massive Diebold safe that stood in the lobby. Much of what I saw came from a time when there were no armored trucks, no huge bank vaults, no safe places to keep money, no computers! A time when the first Pinkerton operatives chased railroad and bank robbers by train, horseback, or on foot.

SB_Allan Pinkerton_v3In the revised and updated ebook, I give details about how Pinkerton got into detective work, his work on the Underground Railroad, the famous outlaws and bandits he chased, such as the Jesse James and Reno gangs, and the formation of the first female detective department within his agency. Because of his friendship with Abraham Lincoln, Pinkerton and his agents protected Lincoln on the way to his first inauguration. I also wrote about Pinkerton the man—his habits, challenges, and his penchant for practical jokes, such as upending a fishing boat filled with his guests at his Illinois estate, the Larches.

The research for this book fascinated me. After the print book was published, public interest went beyond my target audience to older students and adults.  This enabled me to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery television programs. (My fifteen minutes of fame!) View clips of those appearances on YouTube: Judith Pinkerton Josephson, Author.

The Pinkerton Detective Agency made history. Its story began with a maverick Scotsman who helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. Located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the modern agency is in full swing today. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos. The words in these archives bring to life one of the most colorful men of the 19th century.

Check out the ebook on Amazon at  Allan Pinkerton: The Original Private Eye (for readers middle grade and up, plus older readers)

Visit me at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(The agency is now located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)— I pored over stacks of documents and actually held Pinkerton’s code book in my hand.

 

Today in the United States and other countries, a myriad of law enforcement and surveillance agencies exist. But it wasn’t always so. He didn’t start out to be a detective.  As a young man back in Scotland in the 1830s, he was part of a resistance movement called the Chartists fighting against British control over working people’s lives.  “I wasn’t on the side of the law then.”

When authorities put a price on Pinkerton’s head, he left Scotland for America with his young bride Joan. Back then, he was a cooper, a maker of barrels to hold grains, beef, beer, wine, and other goods. But in Dundee, Illinois, when he cracked a counterfeit ring making phony money, the local sheriff started asked him to solve other crimes. At the same time, Allan and Joan began operating as a safe house for runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Because he believed slavery was wrong, he justified breaking the law.

After Allan and his family moved to the fast-growing city of Chicago, he became its first private detective, a move that led to his founding his own agency in 1850. At that time, few detective agencies existed in the United States. Pinkerton decided Pinkerton’s central office looked like a backstage theater wardrobe room. Big trunks held hats, boots, suits, and other clothing. On a specific case, a detective might have to act the part of a bartender, a horse car conductor, a watchmaker, or a gambler. His agents were called operatives and each had a code name. Soon railroads began hiring him and his agents to catch train bandits; banks asked him to tackle gangs of bank robbers.

 

Because of Allan Pinkerton’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln,. Because of the initial publication of this biography, I had the opportunity to appear on the A & E Biography and Discovery programs on television.

 

The Pinkertons made history. Their story began with a maverick Scotsman who founded the first detective bureau in the United States and helped shape the meaning of the word “detective” for decades to come. The Library of Congress now houses Allan Pinkerton’s hundreds of letters, records, and photos.

The words in these archives and Allan Pinkerton’s legacy bring to life one of the most colorful men of the nineteenth century.

Check out the ebook at : (add bitly link)

Save

Save

Save

An American Saga: Tales of Five Generations Feuding through the Centuries

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Richard FitchenRichard Fitchen, BA MA MLIS PhD, was a firefighter and National Guardsman before teaching at the University of Washington and the University of California (Berkeley and Santa Barbara). He served as the social sciences bibliographer in Yale University’s Libraries and retired as bibliographer and reference department head at the Stanford University Libraries. He now writes full time and enjoys traveling with family.

 

AnAmericanSagaLogo

 

The final volume in the sweeping  An American Saga series has just been published! Imagine five stories that span the pageant of America’s national history, each story based on a new generation of two families locked in mortal conflict. These stories reveal how the protagonists exploit new technologies that dominated America’s development.  Use of wind power in the eighteenth century, steam power in the nineteenth, and internal-combustion engine power in the twentieth present a background against which America’s unique social, economic, legal, and political portrait is celebrated in this series.

Staircase to Liberty by Richard FitchenIn the first book, Staircase to Liberty: Joseph’s America, Britain still rules America. Joseph LaBarre’s parents and siblings are brutally massacred in Acadian Maine and Joseph is abducted into the Royal Navy. Starting anew in Philadelphia, he takes back a large schooner stolen from his family by the murderous Angus Cameron. Joseph arms his schooner with cannons, and French admirals teach him how to attack Britain’s powerful warships. When Joseph’s trading business is threatened by London, he convinces patriot leaders including Washington and Jefferson that unfettered trade is necessary to achieve liberty. Meanwhile, Cameron plots to destroy Joseph and to cripple the fledgling United States.

Justice on Trial by Richard FitchenIn the second book, Justice on Trial: Louie’s America, Louisiana is America’s booming frontier. Louie LaBarre makes New Orleans his base for steamboat river trade, a new bank, and grand sugar plantations. Domineering King Cameron launches military, political and legal attacks against Louie. Their rivalry is intense, but only one titan will control the rich cotton trade and thus decide the fate of slavery. Louie’s passion for a beautiful collared Creole and his daring intrigues in Cuba lead to trouble, and Cameron’s cronies move in for the kill.

United by Covenant: Ben's StoryBook three, United by Covenant: Ben’s America, opens with Ben LaBarre as a young minister in Connecticut. He was raised in the south and is burdened by circumstances of his mixed race but driven by purpose. In New York City, he launches crusading magazines that bring readers face to face with the most important contemporary figures defining America’s experience with railroads while overcoming civil war, adjusting to massive immigration, and managing ruthless industrialists. Despite his public achievements, Ben faces terrible personal loss and sacrifices that spill over onto a new generation.

Richard Fitchen Republic in TriumphThe fourth book, Republic in Triumph: Jessie’s America, brings readers to twentieth century growth of business and government. Jessie LaBarre is an indomitable and courageous attorney who advises presidents and CEOs, and she paves the way for America’s revolutionary development of automobiles and airplanes. She also spurs the growth of civil liberties, labor relations, women’s rights, and collective security. Readers meet leading men and women of the tumultuous decades from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. Subversive and racist Cameron men plot to destroy Jessie and her family.  She wins convictions against some of them, but a ruthless new generation of enemies extracts a terrible price.

Fitchen_Proof of Concept_Cover_FINALThe fifth and final book, Proof of Concept: Bibi’s America, opens with an insane serial killer stalking Bibi LaBarre, who also suffers the loss of trusted partners. But she perseveres as an angel investor supporting tech entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, and she promotes nonprofits and NGOs. Her personal life is blighted by tragedies and self-doubts that she must surmount to find joy. One of the Camerons appears to help her, though he’s really helping his family, but a next-generation Cameron rises to challenge Bibi’s vision for the future and to subvert humanity.

All five volumes in An American Saga series are available in paperback and ebook through Amazon. Richard Fitchen delights in making history come to life through story. Learn more about his writing in his blog post My publishing journey writing historical fiction and in a newspaper interview: “Encinitas author’s books portray sweeping story of America.” Visit RichardFitchen.com for more information.

Banish the Keys Talk! Welcome to Freewheeling

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

This week author and gerontologist Judi Bonilla writes about a topic of great concern to many–how to remain independent as we age. Freewheeling After Sixty is a book that provides answers from a well informed source. Read on for Judi Bonilla’s advice on a timely topic.

 

Banish Keys Talk

IS_ebookcover_FreewheelingMedDid you really say banish the keys talk? Why yes I did because “Let me talk to my parents about giving up driving,” said no one ever!

Freewheeling After Sixty is written with two readers in mind. First, the age forty-something adult child with seventy-year-old parents. Second, the sixty-year-old eager to stay independent in retirement.

 

One Message for Two Readers

For the adult child, this book gives insight into the subtle changes of aging. Information on resources and a system to develop a transportation strategy for a family member. In addition, this reader will benefit from learning how they can improve their community and lifestyle choices.

On the other hand, the book speaks to thoughtful adults who wants to maintain their independence in older age.  For this reader, the book introduces the concept of interdependence and the importance of connection. In addition, the reader will better understand the transportation infrastructure.

Changing the Conversation

Currently, many books take a paternalistic attitude toward older drivers. That voice no longer connects to older adults and their families. You see now we have a population of drivers who may have over seven decades of experience behind the wheel. They travel, they take Zumba classes, they date, and they also drive. Those now entering older age want to retain their freedom and mobility.

In Freewheeling after Sixty, both groups of readers learn the value and place community offers in their quality of life. With a community comes a built-in structure eliminating the keys talk. Freewheeling is a real solution for an emotional conversation that all participants dread. Click HERE for a book preview.

 

A  Resource for Families and Older Drivers

Each chapter of the book offers readers details and information on driving and senior transportation resources. Chapter titles include:

What you must know about driving

Alternative Transportation Resources

The Future of Communities and Transportation

In addition, Freewheeling After Sixty engages readers online and offers additional resources. Individuals who register the book have access to planners, templates, and an online private Facebook Group.

 

More than a Book

Freewheeling after Sixty is also part of a movement focused on changing the stereotypes of aging through connections. The goal of the Freewheeling Movement is to engage 40,000 older drivers by 2020 in their transportation options. The aim of this bold goal is to organically influence the generations connected to these drivers. Through raising, awareness, communities can build transportation that serves all its residents at any age.

About the Author

JUDI BONILLACurrently, Judi Bonilla is the Director of Program Innovation at Advocates For Aging. She is the first gerontologist to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW). Judi has also spoken at the American Society Aging and Certified Senior Advisors conferences. She served as a fellow for Hispanics in Philanthropy and Senior Service America. Judi is the author of Freewheeling After Sixty, a book for older drivers. In addition, the City of San Diego honored her for launching Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

 

Judi Bonilla
Aging Expert | Social Entrepreneur
619.742.3368 | Twitter: @judibonilla | www.judibonilla.com

Letters, Missives, Epistolaries . . . You’ve Got Mail!

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson loves to dig into the past. She believes that behind every person, every relationship, there lies a story. Today she tells the story behind the story of her latest historical fiction novel, Dear Heart: The Courting Letters. Her award-winning biographies, history books, and picture books include fiction and nonfiction for children.  She has also written for adults.

 

Dear Heart: The Courting Letters

Dear HeartA trip to my mailbox these days might yield bills, ads, and the usual collection of junk mail.  The sight of a handwritten letter nestled in the pile delights me. It was not always so. More than a century ago, letters and illustrated postcards were the main ways people communicated, be they friends, relations, or lovers. Phones were an expensive luxury.

Almost twenty years ago, when I discovered an antique writing box filled with courting letters from 1909-1910, even a cursory reading had me hooked.  Here were two people, Gertie and Fred, courting (a.k.a. dating, getting to know one another) via the written word and little packages they sent to each other. Separated between Ipswich, England, and St. Paul, Minnesota, a letter took ten days one way by train and ship. No instant communication was possible! The letter sent was usually not the one answered. I knew there was a story here, and it never let me alone.

I began by transcribing the letters. Fred wrote sixteen-page letters single-spaced. Gertie’s handwriting was creative, often spilling over onto play programs and church bulletins.

At my daughter Kirsten’s suggestion, I interwove a fictional modern couple’s story to add contrast. I chose 2010 in Chicago and Spain as the setting. Some elements—emotions, needs, hurdles, obstacles—are universal. But most young people in love today don’t write letters.  Multiple other vehicles for communication exist. The restraints that existed in 1910 have softened, but not disappeared entirely.

My research entailed digging deeper into the historical events mentioned in the letters and in the two eras.

I purposely highlighted the contrasts between the two stories—modes of communication, technology, transportation, dissemination of information, fashions, speech. One of the most interesting contrasts involved women’s rights and freedoms.

My modern heroine, Lisa, despite her troubles in the dating world, has the freedom make choices, to be an independent woman. My 1909-10 heroine, Gertie, though she admires the suffragettes, hesitates to tell Fred her true feelings; people criticize her for refusing to marry someone else she doesn’t love.

A peek at Lisa: “With the click of computer keys, the Internet made it possible to communicate with more than one person at a time. Lisa crawled into bed and clicked off the lamp. I’m just one small soup can on a grocery soup aisle filled with an array of brands. Why pick me?

A peek at Gertie: “Men had the best of it. Women, relegated to loving someone, but not showing it, must wait to put their true feelings into words until asked to be someone’s wife.” At another point, Mr. Jones, who rents a room from Gertie and fancies her, is off to a men’s-only meeting at church. Gertie writes, “How I wish I were a man.”

My vision for this book included illustrations. So I enlisted my artistically/graphically talented daughter Kirsten to turn photos, paintings, postcards, luggage tags, and letters into 27 vivid chapter openers and 17 interior illustrations.

Writer Wallace Stegner once said, “Any life will provide the material for writing, if it is attended to.”

So in Dear Heart: The Courting Letters, I attended to the lives of these two real people and invented two other fictional ones. Of the twenty-two books I’ve written, this one is close to my heart.

I hope readers will become as fascinated with history as I am and be inspired to listen to their hearts and persevere despite obstacles.

Persistence is the key to writing success. If an idea won’t let you alone, then follow it. Learn about the craft, research, revise, and read. Above all, write what you love!

Dear Heart is available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and bookstores.

Visit Judith at www.judithjosephson.com, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest.

 

 

Mother Jones: Mother to America’s Workers

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Josephson loves to dig into the past. People’s lives, especially that of people who have made a difference. Today she reflects on the life and accomplishments of Mary Harris Jones that she researched for her updated ebook: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights. Her award-winning biographies and history books include both nonfiction and fiction for children. She has also written for adults.

 

MotherJones Cover Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there, as well as those who mother and mentor young people—aunts, grandmothers, friends, teachers, youth leaders, coaches! One Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a paperback book, Important Women of the Twentieth Century. It held a section on Mother Jones, a.k.a. Mary Harris Jones, which inspired me to write one of my most intriguing biographies for young people. For the next several months, Mother Jones figuratively stomped around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity.

Mary Harris Jones’s path in her early life was seared by tragedy. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

 

Workers Became Her Family

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that barely sustained them. She hiked up mountains just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” Mary Harris Jones became known as simply Mother Jones.

She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers. Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents, Mother Jones had a simple message—rights for workers.

For sixty years, Mother Jones’s mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills to bottle washers in Milwaukee breweries.

 

Activist to the End

Toward the end of her life, she received a telegram: “MOTHER THERE IS A STRIKE AT THE SILK MILLS HERE   WILL YOU COME AT ONCE   I KNOW YOU CAN DO LOTS OF GOOD   COME IF POSSIBLE    FROM A MINER.”

One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Her feisty, unyielding determination makes her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, my ebook, Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights, is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.  Contact me at www.judithjosephson.com.

New Biography of Mother Jones: Feisty Fighter for Workers’ Rights

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015

JJosephsonPhoto1_crop2Judith Pinkerton Josephson has taught at various grade levels, and has written books for children—biographies, picture books, and childhood history books—and co-written two zany grammar guides for adults. She believes that behind every person and every relationship, there lies a story. Capturing the essence of that story in the space and time it took place makes writing fascinating. Visit her website for more information.

 

MotherJonesCover1As I was writing my biography of Mary Harris Jones, a.k.a. Mother Jones, I visualized her stomping around my office in her long black dress, hat, and boots, looking over my shoulder to make sure I captured her spirit and tenacity. Every once in a while, her words would hover in the air: “Get it right. I’m not a humanitarian. I’m a hell raiser.” “I was born in revolution.” “I reside wherever there is a good fight against wrong—all over the country. . . . Wherever the workers are fighting the robbers, I go there.” “Women can do so much if they only realize their power. . . . Nobody wants a lady. They want women.”

Childhood in Ireland

As a child in Ireland in the 1830s, Mary witnessed deadly clashes between British soldiers and peasant farmers, including members of her own family. After immigrating to the United States, she did well in school, becoming the first in her family to graduate from high school. Along the way, she acquired skills that would serve her well— teaching, dressmaking, giving speeches, and debating.

Family Tragedy

But Mary’s path in life was not to be an easy one. In Memphis, Tennessee, after the Civil War ended, she watched helplessly as her ironworker husband and four children all died of yellow fever. Out of the ashes of those sorrows, a fierce compassion for the downtrodden grew.

Champion for Workers’ Rights

Figure17b

In narrow tunnels alongside underground ribbons of coal, boys tended the mules that pulled coal carts.

Mary took up the cause of American workers, adopting them as her family. Workers—adults and many children—who toiled away in coal mines, textile mills, and other industries, often labored for long hours under dangerous conditions for wages that could barely sustain them. She hiked up mountains wearing hip boots and her trademark long, black dresses, just so she could talk with miners. She spoke to crowds using peppery language and a folksy tone, “Listen boys . . . let me tell you.” She stood on picket lines with mothers, whose young boys toiled twelve hours a day underground as mule tenders or breaker boys. Of young girls working in cotton mills, she said, “I’ve got stock in these little children.” In the March of the Mill Children, she took three hundred men, women, and children to speak with then-president Teddy Roosevelt and to plead the case against child workers.

Figure35_med

“I’ve got stock in these little children,” Mother Jones said of young mill workers like these girls.

Unintimidated by railroad barons, mine and mill owners, governors, even presidents of the United States, she brought a simple message to all, rights for workers.  From that moment on, Mary Harris Jones became known, beloved, and called, simply Mother Jones.

For sixty years, Mother Jones crisscrossed the nation, urging men, women, and child workers to fight for their rights through labor unions. Her mission took her from the poorest coal miner’s shack to the halls of Congress, from the ragged children in the textile mills all the way to presidents of the United States.

A Long Life

Mother Jones always went “wherever the fight was the fiercest.” One of her last wishes was that she could “live another hundred years in order to fight to the end that there would be no more machine guns and no more sobbing of little children.” Mother Jones’s feisty and unyielding determination make her one of American labor’s most unforgettable champions.

Mother Jones—her indomitable spirit, stirring words, and bold actions— is a role model for young people to emulate today. Filled with thought-provoking photographs, this biography is appropriate for readers from sixth grade on up, but it also holds inspiration for adults as well.

Note: Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter for Workers’ Rights is part of A Spotlight Biography series for young people and is available as an ebook for only $1.99 through October 31.

Writing Biography for Young People

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

Edith Hope Fine

Paulsen and McClintock: So Different, So Alike

My two Spotlight Biography subjects—Barbara McClintock and Gary Paulsen—bring to mind Malcolm Gladwell’s assertion that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to reach expertise in a field. Think Yo-Yo Ma and his cello, for example—there’s a guy for whom practice was a joy.

In her eighties, geneticist McClintock was still working twelve hours a day in her lab. And famed children’s writer Gary Paulsen says “I’m totally, viciously, obsessively committed to work, . . . I still work that way, completely, all the time. I just work.”

 

Barbara McClintock: Nobel Prize Geneticist

Barbara McClintockFor the McClintock biography, I visited the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, across from the Liberty Bell. Imagine the experience of heading into the archives with nothing but a pencil, pad, and piece of Kleenex! Imagine holding old family photos, awards, and honorary degrees. If all seventy feet of her records, including detailed 3 x 5 cards, were put into a single file drawer, it would be two school buses long.

Before the 1950s, scientists thought that genes had set positions on chromosomes. Working solo, McClintock studied maize (Indian corn) and made the startling discovery that genes are mobile and some actually control other genes. The press dubbed them “jumping genes.” That was huge, and just one of her major discoveries that changed the world of genetics.

At Cold Spring Harbor on Long Island, her research home for forty decades, I met with colleagues and others. Helpful geneticists checked to ensure that my simplification of her complex findings was clear and accurate for young readers. What fun digging out details like her favorite color to paint a picture of this charming genius: “She loved the color red. Red canisters, dish rack and drain board, bowls, dishes, and breadbox brightened her kitchen. Her sugar scoop and other utensils had bright red handles.”

In 1983, at eighty-one, she received a Nobel Prize, the first woman ever to receive an unshared Nobel in Physiology or Medicine.  A set of Nobel stamps came out celebrating discoveries in genetics. “As far as portraits go, I share honors with the fruit fly,” McClintock observed wryly.

This book took two years to write, but all that research paid off. One reviewer wrote, “This is what every good biography should be.”

 

Gary Paulsen: Adventurer and Author

Author Gary Paulsen works magic with words. His more than 200 books turn students into eager readers. Millions of copies of Hatchet have sold. This award-winning tale of a city boy trying to survive along in the wilderness after a plane crash has been translated into more than fifteen languages.

For this biography, I read as many Paulsen books as I could get my hands on. The tone varies widely. Some are laugh-aloud funny. Some, particularly his Civil War books, are so poignant, they bring tears. His range is wide. Picture books are beautifully illustrated by his wife Ruth Wright Paulsen. His adventure books are designed to pull readers in, to “thoughty” (my mum’s word) young adult books for which he was honored with a Margaret A. Edwards Award. His adult Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, is an elegy to farm life—my book group gave it a ten!

From childhood on, Paulsen’s mind worked like a recorder, storing away things he saw, heard, and felt. And he remembered. Deep in his mind, he tucked away details. There were the hard parts—his rough home life with alcoholic parents, bullies who taunted him, and school troubles. There were the good parts—kind adults, amazing adventures, a growing love of nature. And dogs—a lifetime of dogs that became his friends.

Can you imagine running a dogsled solo in the wilderness for even a day? Paulsen has run the Iditarod, the grueling 1,049-mile Alaskan dogsled race two times. If he’s thrown a stick at a bear, nearly drowned in an icy pond, survived a violent Pacific storm in a twenty-two foot sailboat, been hit by a seagull while riding a Harley, broken bones, gotten lost in a snowstorm, been blown off a mountain, chased by a moose, or caught in a flash flood, Gary Paulsen has written about it, opening the doors to books and reading to millions.

Although their fields are wildly different, both McClintock and Paulsen demonstrate how taking joy in one’s work can move the world forward in remarkable ways. I’m glad to have these two books available to young readers as ebooks through eFrog Press.

So You Want to Write Romance: Hybrid authors will share their publishing journeys

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015
HeraHubLogoHera Hub, a spa-inspired coworking space for entrepreneurial women, will host an Authors’ Salon featuring two Southern California romance writers discussing their paths to publishing. Through eFrog Press I have had the opportunity to meet many authors and helped select the speakers and will lead the panel discussion on writing process, publishing, and marketing.  Details: Tuesday, October 20, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. in Carlsbad. Register online at http://tinyurl.com/authorsalon. Can’t attend? A follow-up blog will share their wisdom.

 

There are so many ways to get published in 2015. Jan Moran and Judith Lown have published  traditionally as well as indie. Both also write romance but Moran writes historical and contemporary fiction and Lown focuses on the Regency Period. Both know how to write a compelling tale that keeps their readers turning the pages. They will be featured speakers at the October Authors’ Salon on writing and publishing romance (see details above).

SCENT OF TRIUMPH by Jan Moran_medMoran will talk about her historical novel, Scent of Triumph (St. Martin’s Press). A very long plane trip to Paris seemed much shorter as I read the ebook edition. I began to understand so much more about the perfume industry that, of course, I had to purchase a very special new scent. I was in Paris after all! As Moran said:

“I write stylish books for smart women. My characters are often running a business, and juggling their love life and family responsibilities. Like real people, they make mistakes, but they always save themselves in a creative manner. In both my contemporary and historical novels, I write for the modern woman who wants to enjoy all life has to offer.”

Much like her characters, Moran draws on her international travel and business experiences, infusing her books with realistic details. She also writes contemporary women’s fiction (Flawless, Beauty Mark, Runway) and nonfiction books (Vintage Perfumes, Fabulous Fragrances). I enjoyed Moran’s presentation at the SDSU Writers’ Conference in San Diego and invited her to be part of the Authors’ Salon. She also presented at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) earlier this year.

Judith Lown began reading historical Regency romance during a stressful time in her life when she was a social worker helping disintegrating families. She needed to escape during her free time, and began reading historical Regencies. Lown said:

“This genre was created by Georgette Heyer and her Regencies were marked by heroines of taste and courage and heroes who could more than hold their own with ladies who knew their own minds. Heyer despised sentimentality, cowardice, and both mindless conformity on one hand, and self-indulgent non-conformity on the other.”

BostonTanglefinal10.11.2015_medIn her newest title, Boston Tangle: Regency Comes to America, Lown transports three of her English characters from previous books to Boston where they interact with the upper class and, of course, there is a love story—a tangled tale. Lown’s heroine Drusilla Fortesque is a lady who knows her own mind and Lown laces her writing with wry wit and avoids sappiness. Heyer would be proud.

Judith Lown has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and her understanding of family systems theory helps her develop rich, character-driven plots. She is a dog lover and an active volunteer for the Greyhound Adoption Center which has inspired her to include a canine character in each of her novels.

During the panel discussion, authors will share their writing process (very different), their publishing paths, and advice to aspiring authors. If you do not live in San Diego County and cannot attend this stimulating evening (did I mention wine and dessert?), watch for a follow-up blog where I will share all their practical advice!

So You Want to Write for Children . . .

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Edith Hope FineOne of our favorite books we have worked on is Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips by Edith Hope Fine. We asked her to blog about her book (available in print and as an ebook) because it is a treasure trove for new authors. Her years of experience in a variety of genres are shared generously so newbies can learn from a veteran. Edith Hope Fine is an award-winning children’s writer with eighteen books. She runs the published members’ group of the San Diego chapter of SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), a non-profit organization that offers support to beginners and pros alike.

 

 

Jump, Froggies! CoverHow many times while reading to kids have you thought, “I could do this—I could write a children’s book”? If you love playing with words, still relish memories of books from childhood, read widely, and are open to hard work, you could be right.

Do you know the joke about the frogs? Five froggies sit on a log. One decides to jump. How many are left on the log? Five, because deciding isn’t doing.

It’s one thing to think about writing articles, stories, or books for children and quite another to do it. Accumulating the knowledge and skills you’ll need is a process.

You do need to know today’s books. If you’re aiming for the young adult (YA) market, read in that genre. Study the riveting The Maze Runner to discover how author James Dashner built a unique, surprising world where teens must unlock a secret, but the rules change every day. Tune into today’s important thrust toward diverse books so that all young readers can find themselves in books. (Check out the “We Need Diverse Books” website—the front page says it all: http://weneeddiversebooks.org/  and #weneeddiversebooks.)

Where to Start?

If you find figuring out where to start seems dizzying, take a look at my new Jump, Froggies! Writing Children’s Books: 89+ Beginners’ Tips (eBook or paperback) to take you on a step-by-step journey through the world of children’s publishing.

Here’s a quick dip into the Table of Contents—just six of the many topics covered:

• Learn from What You Read

• Your Space, Your Schedule, Your Tools

• Quick Tips: Honing Your Skills

• Revision

• THE Call—“We want your book!”

• To Market, To Market . . .

Three Beginners’ Tips: Contests, Digging In, No Art!

First, hone and polish your work, then enter contests. Lee & Low Books, known for its award-winning multicultural books, nurtures new writers. Writers of color should check out their New Voices Award and New Visions Award. (The deadline is Sept. 30 for the former, Oct. 31 for the latter.)

Second, read, read, read.  Dig into the sorts of books you want to write—nonfiction? middle grade mystery? dark YA (young adult)? Study what draws you in. Check out specifics such as structure, characters, tension, foreshadowing.

Third, if you’re goal is to write a picture book, don’t send art—that’s not your job. Seriously.

Persist

You may try your hand at picture books (easier said than done) or focus on middle school humor. You may, like me, hop across age levels and try your hand at both fiction and nonfiction. There’s no one right way. The trick is finding what works for you.

You’ll take classes. You’ll practice. You’ll accumulate rejections. You’ll keep on.

One thing’s certain. If you persist, your writing will become stronger and stronger and you’ll have a real chance to make that dream of holding in your hands a children’s book with your name on the cover.

Two words, my friends: Jump, froggies!

How to Get the Most Out of a Writers’ Conference

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

I organized large conferences for many years, so I look at conferences a bit differently than the average person. Some participants would skip the luncheon (paid for by their employer) to go shopping. Others would skip sessions and stand in the halls to snack and chat with colleagues.

But as  a writer paying your own conference fee and attending to improve your writing, make connections, and learn how to get your book published; you need to be strategic.

A writers’ conference is an investment of time and money so be sure to use both wisely.

Money

First, money. Preregister so you get the lowest rate. Make your hotel reservations early so you can stay in the conference hotel. You’ll save on transportation and won’t miss out on evening networking opportunities. Blocks of rooms at the reduced conference rate run out early. Reserve as soon as you consider attending, and if you aren’t 100% sure you’ll go, mark your calendar so you can cancel by a certain date without paying a fee.

Plan Your Schedule

Review the conference program and highlight any workshops or events of interest. Then go back through time slots where you have more than one workshop highlighted. You can often make the decision the day of the workshop but now you are armed and ready with your finalists identified.

If consultations are offered with agents and editors, do your homework. Read their biography statements and make sure they work with your genre. Note any deadlines for advanced readings.

Network

At meals and breaks don’t just chat with your friends — you can talk to them at home for free. This is your opportunity to connect with the new people around you. If you are shy by nature, know that many writers are and most do want to network at conferences. Just smile at your neighbor and ask, “Tell me about your writing.” What writer could resist such an invitation?

If there are receptions, breakfasts, happy hours, or other types of networking events, attend. You might meet your new beta reader or even your future agent!

And don’t sell too hard. Yes, you have refined your elevator pitch until it is irresistible but give it a rest. When editors, agents, and other writers are mingling they want to relax and get to know you so it may not be the best time for your spiel. Unless, of course, an editor turns to you and says, “Tell me about your book.” Go for it!

Collect business cards from your new connections and make notes each night so you don’t confuse the fantasy author with the biographer. Send followup emails a few days after the conference to those you want to keep in contact with. Follow, friend, and link up with any people you enjoyed connecting with in person.

Work the Workshops

Divide and conquer. If you attend with friends, you can share notes from different workshops. Even better, share the costs of purchasing recordings of the sessions. I am still listening to the sessions I couldn’t attend at the recent 31st Annual SDSU Writers’ Conference. Some of the sessions I did not even highlight have been packed with useful information.

Wondering which conference to attend? Chuck Sambuchino’s post on “Which Writers’ Conferences are the Best to Attend,” lists a nice selection complete with links.

Above all, go, enjoy, and learn!

Share

Please share your conference strategies and your favorite writers’ conferences.