A book to rival a computer game

I would not have picked out the book called “Press Here” by Herve Tullet for my daughter. I would have thought that the concept was lame and she would never go for it.

However, she loves this book! She has gone through it several times, and it still has not gotten old. She still will press the buttons, tilt the book, and clap her hands to see the magic on the next page.

This interactive book smacks of a computer game. I wonder if that’s why the author decided to write it.

Three social media platforms that writers should consider using: interview with Carol Bremner

In part one of my interview with Carol Bremner, we talked about using social media in general. But I wanted to know more about which specific social media she thought would be good for writers.

Here’s part two of the interview with Carol Bremner of “Motivated to Learn”.


Is there one form of social media that you prefer over another? Is there one that writers should use?

“It depends upon who you want to target, your market. For instance for picture books, you probably would be targeting mothers and grandmothers, because they’re the ones who would be buying the picture books. Pinterest might be a good one, because you could pin the cover of your book. Or you could pin one of the images of your book, and then you could have it link back to your website, so that people could find out about your book.”

“I think everyone who writes any kind of a book should have a blog. And that can be a free blog on blogger.com or it can be a blog that you are paying to host. It’s a way for people to find you and find out more about your work. You can talk about some of the characters in your book, or how you got the idea to write the book. Any of those types of things that are around the topic, but aren’t necessarily giving away the book itself. As you get a little bit more well known and build a fan base, people want to know all about you, not just about your book.”

“Another possibility is a Facebook page, because that’s another way that you could talk about the same types of things that you could in a blog. People could come to your Facebook page and find out more about your writing.”


Stay tuned for part three in which we talk about how not to become overwhelmed by social media.

Connect with Carol Bremner on her Facebook page.

Connect with me on my Facebook page.

For more information on Carol Bremner, social media specialist, internet trainer, and consultant, go to her website.

The Importance of Education: African Books Tell the Tale

Since my father comes from Africa, I enjoy reading African books. I also like to read them to my daughter.

There are two recent books set in Africa that I’d like to share with you.

In “The Paper House” (grades 3 and up) by Lois Peterson, up for a silver birch express award, the main character lives in the Kibera slums close to Nairobi. Ten-year-old Safiyah collects items from the local dump, selling them to buy food for her and her grandmother. She longs to go to school like her best friend, but that takes more money than she can earn from selling the stuff at the dump. There is no money for the books and uniform that she requires for school.

Safiyah finds paper to fill the cracks in her house, hoping this will help her grandmother get well. After she fills the cracks, she papers the outside of the house and the results are extraordinary, attracting attention from unexpected places.

“Gift Days” (ages 6 and up) by Kari-Lynn Winters is about a Ugandan girl called Nassali, who has been put in charge of the household since her mother died. She is not able to attend school, not only because she has to do the chores, but also because there is no money for her uniform and supplies. When her older brother, who does attend school, sees how determined she is, once a week he does her chores and then does her educating himself. These days come to be known as “gift days”.

There are many similarities in these two books. Both children are parentless, although the focus is more on the fact that they are motherless, causing them to step into adult roles at a rather young age. They are both persistent in their goal of education. And both girls recognize that education is the key to a better life.

In many African books there is a stress on the importance of education. Here in North America we tend to take going to school for granted. But in Africa, there is not equal access to education.

Can you imagine not being able to attend school, because you lack the money for the necessary uniform and supplies? Probably not. That’s why I like books like these, books that open our eyes and show us how others live. Often they remind us how fortunate we are. But at the same time, the messages in these two books are positive, showing us that anything is possible if you work hard enough.

What about you? What books do you like to read to your children or students that teach them about others?

Social Media and Writers: Three Questions for Carol Bremner

It surprises me some of the reactions I receive when I talk to some writers about social media. I get everything from silence to hostility. I know one reason often cited is time concerns, but I am sure there are other reasons. I decided to consult one of my teachers, Carol Bremner, to ask her advice on the subject. I enjoy Carol’s style of teaching. Because she is a non-techie, she has a non-threatening way of teaching.

So here are the first three questions I asked Carol about social media.


1. Many writers are concerned about using social media, because they think it uses so much of their time. What’s your advice?

“When you think about it, social media to some people is just Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn,  but really social media is any platform on the internet that allows people to have a relationship with one another. So Youtube is also social media, because you can comment on Youtube videos. Blogs are social media because people can interact. It’s not just those few that I mentioned at the beginning. And there is Pinterest, which is more image oriented.”

“The best way is to think about it, instead of being intimidated about the amount of time it might take, just think about where the people you would like to build a relationship with would be. So it’s not very much different than if you were going to offline events to try and promote your writing. Where would you go that your market would be? It’s the same kind of thing, but it’s online.”

2. How can you find out where those people you want to meet are?

“There are forums, which are groups of people who are interacting and asking questions. You could go to Google or one of the other search engines and type in whatever your topic is, for instance picture books. Type in picture books with the + sign and then forum. You should get a list of different forums. Try to find ones that seem like they are fairly active.”

“Now in that case it would probably be people who are in the industry themselves and they may be asking questions about it. Another way to look at it is, if you wrote picture books and you wanted to connect with grandparents, because that’s who would buy picture books for their grandchildren. Or parents. So then you could target those kinds of forums instead and just get on some of the forums and see what are some kinds of things people are asking about. As well as building relationships, it also might give you ideas for things you could write about.”

3. Now do you see any cons to using this method?

“Not really unless you are spending most of your time trying to promote yourself rather than building a relationship. So you can indirectly say things about your book, but if you are always just trying to sell it’s the same as if you were at an offline event and someone was coming up and trying to be salesy all the time. You would just try to avoid them.”

“With some of the forums there might be certain rules that they have, so you have got to check out their guidelines, because it might be a little bit different for each of the forums. But most of them will allow you to at least have a link back to your website or say a little bit about yourself at the bottom of your comment. It’s another way of getting people to come to your website. If you’re just giving good advice, then people are going to start thinking this person knows what they are talking about.”


Stay tuned for more insights from Carol on this blog.

In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts about whether or not you are embracing social media and why or why not.

For more information on Carole Bremner and her services visit her blog at Motivated to Learn.

Word games for readers and writers

Play is so important for both children and adults.  It is a good way to enhance anyone’s creativity. For writers play can do all sorts of things: solve writer’s block, create new characters, generate new ideas…

A new tool for me is the magnetic poetry series. This kit is great for when I am having trouble coming up with some story ideas or writing prompts.

There are many ways to play. I like making haiku poetry. And I never try to rhyme. Prose can sound just as lyrical.

My favourite way to play is to pick up a handful or two and see what I can come up with in a short time. That is, I try not to think too much about crafting a sentence. A princess dog bikes to a castle and gets mud feet? Could become a story.

I also like coming up with adjective noun combinations, ones that I had never thought of before. That “pink star like bird” may become a protagonist one day.

My daughter also loves to play. She really loves to make nonsense sentences, much like she loves to make nonsense words. It’s a great way to discover the beauty in language. But it also helps her to review the words she already can read. And at the same time she learns to read new ones.

So here are a few sentence prompts I came up with if you are looking for something to inspire you today:

1. Because a bug is family, a frog loves you.

2. I remember a ghost bird with no name. Together we always dug the summer garden.

3. I saw a wonderful balloon pig in the morning sky.

Feel free to use them. And let me know the results. Or leave a prompt of your own.

Self-publishing: Guest Blog by A.A. Riley, Author of “Introducing Sophia Firecracker”

I admire the author A.A. Riley. When faced with the lack of black heroes in children’s books, she set out to write her own. And so “Introducing Sophia Firecracker” was born.

In order to follow her dream, Ms. Riley decided to self publish the book. Then she set out to give away 3000 books across Canada and the U.S. to ethnically diverse students. The superkid tour was born. Wow, she’s as energetic as her main character, Sophia!

I had three questions for the author about self publishing. Read further for some tips and inspirational words from her.

1. Why did you decide to self-publish?

I worked  on and off on “Introducing Sophia Firecracker” for eleven years, sending the book out to publishers many times during those years. Sometimes I received excellent feedback and many times nothing. Funny enough, after watching the movie “The Social Network”, I realized that I could do it myself. The message that I got from the movie was that I didn’t have to make myself fit into the conventional way of doing things. The world, especially technology had changed, and I was no longer dependent on anyone else believing in me to make my publishing dreams happen. I had a vision for my book and could pursue it on my own.

2. What are the pros of self-publishing?

The pros of self-publishing are making your own decisions and working with who you want. I hired my own editor, illustrator and book designer to make the book something I was proud of. I hired the right people, told them what I wanted and then left them alone to do what they were good at. Nadja (designer) and Christine (illustrator) took the book further than I could have dreamed and imagined.

3. What are the cons of self-publishing?

There is a huge learning curve! There are many opportunities that I missed out on just because I didn’t know about them. Things such as awards and contests that would have gotten the book recognized and out there. Also, there is a lot of work. 90% of my days are promotion and marketing. There is also a reluctance of some (publishers, contest, writer’s organizations, bookstores etc.) to recognize the quality of some self-published books. If you are going to self-publish, prepare yourself to work.

Ms. Riley has created a loveable and unconventional character in Sophia, a nine-year-old who thinks that she is a superhero.

I enjoyed reading the book to my daughter and know that it will appeal to both children and adults. As a mother, I appreciated the little truths that are peppered throughout the book, such as how best friends feel about each other or on taking responsibility for yourself.  My daughter became enamoured by the “hush-hush book of secrets” and so made her own. What was in it? Well that, my friends, remains a secret even today…

For more information on Sophia Firecracker, A.A. Riley and her superkid tour, visit the Introducing Sophia Firecracker website.