Saturday, November 8, 2014

Author Spotlight - Award Winning Author, Jennifer Gibson

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHY?: It wasn’t until after I graduated from Sheridan College in Illustration that I began to become more interested in writing. While attending school, I had been taking additional courses such as photography and creative writing. My writing professor loved my stories and had encouraged me to seriously consider switching full time to Creative Writing. I can remember thinking that I was very surprised that my professor would say that to me and I had always kept that in the back of my mind. I loved writing, but I also enjoyed art and photography.

After I had spent several years running my own business as a illustrator and photographer, I began to grow more interested in writing. Intrigued, I decided to go back to school and focused on Creative Writing. To my surprise, I found that I had a knack for it and it felt so right to do this. Then one day, I met the singer Michael Buble in Toronto. I just happened to be in the area where he was performing later that night and he decided to approach me. He was wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans with a baseball cap which cast a shadow across his face. I didn’t know who he was until he spoke to me. He asked, in a husky voice, “May I help you?” I knew that voice! I replied, rather shyly, “Are you Michael Buble?” He said yes, then leaned in and gave me a hug. As he took a step back, he held onto my hand and gazed at me, really slowly, from head to toe and exclaimed, “You look beautiful.” I’ve never had a man treat me with so kindness as he did that day. He made me feel right at home, like an old friend. At that concert a few hours later, as I watched him perform, something clicked in me. That was the moment that I realized that I needed to listen to my heart. He inspired me to go after my dreams. Call it a quirk of fate but I think that this chance meeting was meant to happen.

After that, I sat down and began writing the first book in the trilogy series, Sway, about a hearing impaired teen. I chose to base it on my life and incorporate actual scenarios so that the readers could make a strong connection. It worked, just a few months after I self-published it on KOBO, it became a TOP 50 bestseller. It was at that moment that I truly realized that I made the right choice.

I wanted to be an artist like my mother and a photographer like my father. Both were doctors but they had hobbies that they were passionate about which appealed to me. They taught me to go after my passion and follow my heart. They believed in doing something that was truly enjoyable and they were right. I love my job as an illustrator, book cover designer, photographer and writer - it doesn’t even seem like a job since I have so much fun doing it!

HOW DID YOU GET THE IDEA FOR YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?: The title Sway was from a Michael Buble song which is featured in the story. It signifies the importance of a very special moment where Jessie falls in love with Ethan. Sway is also part of a theme for all of the books in the trilogy series, it conveys a sense of direction where the decisions we make in life can have a monumental impact in the future.

TELL US SOMETHING RANDOM/INTERESTING/FUNNY ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A WRITER: I was recently on vacation in Florida and extremely ill from a sinus and double ear infection. I had to go to an emergency health care clinic and was standing at the nurses station getting my prescription when I noticed that one of the staff members was staring at me. She said, “I know you. Why is your name so familiar?” I reached in my purse and gave all of them my business cards which displayed the covers of my books. She looked at them, then replied, “I’ve seen your books online!” I was stunned speechless. Well, I had laryngitis at the time, but still, I was so surprised that I was recognized.

WHICH AUTHOR HAS MOST GREATLY INFLUENCED YOUR WRITING STYLE?: Several authors have made a huge impact on my writing. Growing up, I adored Madeleine L’Engle and her incredibly imaginative books such as A Wrinkle in Time as well as Gordon Kormon’s summer camp series, Bruno and Boots. That really instilled a sense of love for creative novels in me. JIm Butcher of the Dresden Files series and Janet Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum adventures is definitely a contributing factor to my writing style. I learned a lot from them and truly admire their stories.

WHAT BOOK HAS HAD THE GREATEST IMPACT ON YOUR LIFE?: I would have to say A Wrinkle in Time from my childhood. Growing up, I had a really tough time in school where I was struggling with my disability, books were always a safe place for me to retreat to when I got home. It gave me freedom to explore my dreams and expand my imagination.

WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST LITERARY ACCOMPLISHMENT?: Producing a trilogy series based on my life growing up with a hearing loss is a deeply personal achievement. For my books to have received so much recognition and numerous awards is simply amazing. I’m thrilled that so many readers are enjoying my books and discovering what it’s like to have a hearing impairment at the same time.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE THE PROCESS OF BECOMING PUBLISHED AND ANY TIPS YOU MIGHT OFFER FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS?: I had originally self-published Sway at KOBO. As I continued to write the series, I decide to send out queries to publishers across Canada, hoping that someone would pick it up. After I went ahead and self-published the second book, Compass, I decided to try sending the queries to US publishers. Within months, all three of my books were chosen by Black Opal Books! This entire process took nearly two years, it didn’t happen overnight or within weeks. I knew that I had to follow my dreams and didn’t want to give up. That’s why I decided to try a different approach and it worked. Trust your instincts and keep going, you never know what will happen.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY ADVICE FOR WRITERS ON HOW BEST TO PROMOTE THEIR BOOK? Definitely get involved with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and have your own website. Those are huge marketing tools to use right now. It’s a great way to reach out to the readers and stay in touch with them. It may seem scary to do that but it’s worth it in the long run.

Compass (Book 2)
Destiny (Book 3)
A Touch of Winter (Black Opal Books Anthology).

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?: There’s a reason why we have dreams, they inspire the passion within us and give us a sense of hope for the future. And that’s exactly what we need.

All three of my books have special messages in them, where the overall theme is hope. Each book has an inspirational quote: For Sway - “To reach the stars…all you have to do is believe.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?: I’ve been writing a series of short stories and hoping to publish them soon. One of my short stories is being featured in a local anthology which is slated to be released later this year. I’m also interested in writing a science fiction novel which is a very exciting prospect and an entirely new perspective for me.

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Award Winning Author Spotlight - Michelle Lord

Author Michelle Lord on her award winning book Nature Recycles, How About You?

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?  I wrote stories that I made into little books with pencil illustrations in 2nd grade. As an adult, I’ve been writing for almost ten years.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN WRITING? Probably my second grade teacher who used to read aloud to my class. She made unique voices for all the characters and read with such emotion. Charlotte’s WebStuart Little, and James and the Giant Peach all fueled my imagination. When I had my own kids I read to them too. These new books inspired me to start writing again. 

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?  I was and still am working on a middle grade novel that revolves around recycling. One of the scenes has an elephant and that got me to thinking about other animals recycling.

IS THIS YOUR FIRST BOOK?  No. My first book, Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin, was published by Lee & Low.

Little Sap and Monsieur Rodin  
A Song for Cambodia   
Tide Pool Trouble   
The Quick Quarterback  

I’m currently working on a middle grade novel—I hope to finish it someday!

Animal School [Fall 2014] from Holiday House
This is a NF book about animal classification in rhyme.

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I live in Texas with my husband, three kids and three dogs. I plan to write more biographies—so many amazing people inspire me!

TELL US SOMETHING FUN/INTERESTING THAT OUR READERS MIGHT FIND FASCINATING ABOUT YOU: I was an exchange student and lived in Brazil for a year. There, I visited the Iguazu Falls, more than 270 waterfalls located on the border of Brazil and Argentina. I learned to speak Portuguese. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten how.

WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY DOING IN YOUR SPARE TIME? I enjoy reading, writing, research, photography, movies, theatre productions and spending time with my family. I wish I enjoyed exercise!

WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE AS AN AUTHOR?  My biggest challenge is not letting rejection stop me or get me down. 

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS? Keep reading and writing-- don’t give up.

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS? Readers can learn more about me and my books on my website
Thanks to Literary Classics for honoring Nature Recycles!

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

Author Spotlight - Tracy Helixon on her award winning book

Author, Tracy Schuldt Helixon, on her award winning book: Little Isaac’s Big Adventure

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember! In fact, when I was five years old, my parents found me writing all over my baby brother. When they asked what I was doing, I told them he thought he was a piece of paper. My household had no shortage of creativity and imagination!
I’ve been a full-time writing teacher at Western Technical College in Wisconsin for the past fourteen years. About five years ago, I decided to become more serious and purposeful about my freelance writing. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and started attending conferences. I’ve learned so much since that time!

When I was a child, my siblings, cousins, and I would write and perform plays for our family. My parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles always encouraged us. The process of creating the plays was so much fun, and the encouragement we received when we performed them fueled the fire.
I truly believe that the imagination and creativity they fostered carries far beyond writing and helps me in countless areas of my life—both personally and professionally. As an adult, writing helps me to tap into that creativity and energizes just about everything that I do.

When my second son was a toddler, he used to ask me when it would be his turn to be the big brother and my oldest son’s turn to be the little brother. I realized that like so many children, he became frustrated when he couldn’t do all the things his older sibling could do. That concept helped to drive Little Isaac’s Big Adventure. And, in the book, my younger son DID get to be the big brother because I named the big brother character after him.

Yes, and working with Guardian Angel Publishing has been wonderful. I’m grateful to be part of such a supportive group of writers and illustrators. The publisher, Lynda Burch, is amazing. I’m still in awe of what she accomplishes to support her writers and illustrators.
I have short stories in three of Knowonder’s collections of short stories for children

Yes! I’m thrilled to share that my next picture book, Caleb’s Light, will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing sometime in 2014 or 2015.
Caleb’s Light is a story close to my heart. It was inspired by a visit to Eagle Bluff Lighthouse in Door County, Wisconsin. It’s a picture book about a forgotten time, when families lived in lighthouses to keep the light shining, rescue lost ships, and help sailors find their way. Everything changed when the lights became automated. Caleb’s Light is the story of a life-long friendship between a young boy and the lighthouse where he grew up.
The book will be available at Guardian Angel Publishing’s website, on my author website, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s websites.

I live in Wisconsin with my husband, Chris, and our three children. We love to read together, play together, and go on family adventures. I’ve also been an English teacher at Western Technical College in Wisconsin for fourteen years; currently, I’m chair of the Communication Skills Department. I feel blessed that almost every day, I get to do the things I love—read, write, and spend time with family, friends, colleagues, and students who inspire me.

I have kissed the Blarney Stone (after all, every writer can use the gift of gab!) and climbed the stairs of William Butler Yeats’s tower. When I was in college, I lived in Ireland for four months and met my relatives who still live there. Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, my family celebrates with homemade Irish soda bread and Irish stew.

I like to run, read, write, play board games, and watch movies—sometimes on my own, and sometimes with friends and family.

I have lots of favorites! The movie It’s a Wonderful Life and the TV series Little House on the Prairie are two at the top of my list.

My biggest challenge is making time to write. I’m blessed to have many good things happening in my life, and they all take time! I’m learning to be more purposeful about setting aside time for writing.

Read. Be open to feedback, and don’t be afraid to revise. You can always go back to the original if the changes don’t help your story, but you might uncover something wonderful in the process. Join a professional organization where you can learn from other writers and nurture the creative process.

First, enjoy the process! Never lose sight of the art of writing. The process of writing is like air for me. Getting published is a bonus.
Find a good critique group, and consider setting your work aside before sending it to a publisher. Then, you can look at it with fresh eyes and make it even better before you submit it.
If you are interested in a publisher, study what else the company has published to see if your story would be a good fit.
And remember--enjoy the process!

To Young Readers:  If you like to write, keep writing! You can bring ideas and perspectives to your story that nobody else in the world can bring. Have fun telling the story that only you can tell!

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

Author Spotlight - Beverly Stowe McClure

Beverly Stowe McClure on her award winning book: Life on Hold


WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN WRITING?  Seeing how much my sons enjoyed reading great books, I started wondering if I could write stories they’d enjoy.

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE? A newspaper article I read about a high school girl who had a baby and her parents wouldn’t let her keep the child. The girl and boy eventually broke up and went their separate ways. Years later they got back together and decided to search for their son that had been adopted. My novel is loosely based on their tender story.

IS THIS YOUR FIRST BOOK? No, it’s my ninth.

Secrets I Have Kept
Listen to the Ghost
Rebel in Blue Jeans
Just Breeze -
Frankie’s Perfect Home
Tumbleweed Christmas 
Caves, Cannons, and Crinolines
A Pirate, a Blockade Runner, and a Cat
And I have stories in two Chicken Soup for the Soul books

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR NEXT BOOK... My next book is a tween novel titled Star of the Team, the story of a girl that wants to be the star of her basketball team, Angels. Her dream is in jeopardy when her tooth is knocked out at one of the games. Her mother, who is also her coach says she can’t play until the tooth, which the dentist replants, is healed. The season will be over by then. What’s a girl to do?t

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF: I’m a retired teacher, now enjoying a second career: writing. I live in the country where deer, armadillos, skunks, and a variety of birds stop by for a handout. Genealogy, playing the piano, and teaching a women’s Sunday school class keep me busy.
My three sons are grown, and they’ve given me four granddaughters and two grandsons, also two great-grandsons and a great-granddaughter. My eldest son and a granddaughter are laughing and playing together in Heaven. Two cats have adopted me and much of my time is spent separating them from their little feuds. Life is good.

TELL US SOMETHING FUN OUR READERS MIGHT FIND FASCINATING ABOUT YOU: A nickname I’ve been given lately is the Bug Lady. Now I like that, and it is true. I adore some insects like the praying mantis, with its little hands folded under its chin, and walking sticks that truly look like sticks with legs. And moths are so beautiful. My favorites are the Hummingbird moth and the Crecopia moth. Monarch butterflies fascinate me, as do the beautiful swallowtail butterflies. I consider being called the Bug Lady a compliment.

WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY DOING IN YOUR SPARE TIME? Reading and playing the piano.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE TV SHOW/MOVIE? TV Show: The Big Bang Theory - Movie: Gone with the Wind

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS? Never get discouraged. Hang in there. Tomorrow is another day. (Scarlet O’Hara.)

CAN YOU OFFER ANY TIPS ON GETTING PUBLISHED? Write a great story. Have it edited. Search for the right publisher. And send it off. It won’t sell sitting on your desk.

I’m honored to receive this award and hope my story will inspire everyone that reads it. Thanks to everyone.

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval

Author Spotlight - Award Winning Author, Nancy Stewart

Nancy Stewart on her award winning title Katrina and Winter:  Partners in Courage and
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING?  Although I've written academic papers for my entire career, I've been writing children's books for eight years.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO BEGIN WRITING?  I taught Children's and Young Adult Literature in my career as a university professor.  During that time, I thought of writing for kids.  It was only after my first grandchild was born that I began my new career in earnest, and I have never looked back.  Writing for children has become my life. 

WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR AWARD WINNING TITLE?  Katrina Simpkins and Winter, the dolphin are the very definition of courage.  As the two of them have become fast friends, the title really named itself.  Girl and dolphin are truly partners in courage.

IS THIS YOUR FIRST BOOK?  No, this is my fifth book. I have written the Bella and Britt series of books for children as well.  


DO YOU HAVE ANY NEW BOOKS IN THE WORKS?  I have written my first YA novel, A Life of Lies, about a young teen who goes into Witness Protection with her dad and concerns the events that change her life forever.  This book has not been sold as of yet.

The fourth Bella and Britt book, Mystery at Manatee Key, will be will be released by Guardian Angel Publishing in 2014.  This is a true Bella and Britt mystery, where Britt must save the day.  It will be available at:  and

TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF:  I’ve been an elementary school teacher and a professor of education where I taught, among other courses, Children’s and Young Adult Literature.  I lived in London for ten years and was a consultant to the University of Cambridge.  I have three sons, all of whom gather in Clearwater Beach, Florida with their families at our beach condo. That very beach is where the inspiration came for the Bella and Britt books.  I am a frequent presenter at the annual Illinois Reading Council Conference, where I’ll present again in March, 2014.  I speak at SCBWI conferences and in June, 2012 was on the faculty of the SCBWI Orlando Mid-Year Workshop, where I co-taught an intensive workshop on non-fiction.
TELL US SOMETHING INTERESTING THAT OUR READERS MIGHT FIND FASCINATING ABOUT YOU:  I took a Cordon Bleu cooking course while living in London.  I am a total foodie and love cooking, particularly French recipes.

WHAT DO YOU MOST ENJOY DOING IN YOUR SPARE TIME?  I love to visit with friends, and that almost always involves lunch or dinner!  I enjoy walking Louie, our year old Bichon/Shih Tsu puppy.

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE MOVIE?  My favorite movie is Remains of the Day.  Having lived in London, I am partial to all things English.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO YOU FACE AS AN AUTHOR?  One challenge for me is to always stay fresh with a new and relevant story.  I always worry about basically writing the same story.  I want my books to shine with originality well rounded characters.  That takes a lot of thought and energy and research.

DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER ASPIRING AUTHORS?  Keep writing!  Try to make time to write every day.  More than anything else, this exercise will hone your craft.   Don't write in a vacuum!  Join a critique group where like minded writers support each other, and there are always those all important fresh eyes.  When the rejections begin, and they will, do not be discouraged.  It is a major part of the publication process, so treat them that way.  Learn, and move on.

CAN YOU OFFER ANY TIPS ON GETTING PUBLISHED?  Be true to your passion.  By that I mean, don't try to write what you think is hot right now, but it really is not what you love.  Passion in your writing must show through in an inspired manuscript.  If you can pull that off, you'll be published!

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH OUR READERS?  I would like to say thank you for reading about my books.  I so appreciate it.  And for those of you out there that are longing to write, keep working at it.  Success in this profession comes to those who persevere. 
Nancy Stewart  
Website:  Blog:
Member:  (Published and Listed) 
One Pelican at a Time: A Story of the Gulf Oil Spill, 18 weeks on Amazon Bestseller in Children's Books, Amazon Hot New Releases, Amazon Most Wished for in Children's Books, The Literary Classics Silver Award, 2012, Literary Classics Seal of Approval, Global eBook Award Nominee, Readers Favorite 5 Star Award (Guardian Angel Publishing, 2011)
Sea Turtle Summer: Amazon Bestseller in Children's Books, The Literary Classics Gold Award, 2012, Literary Classics Seal of Approval, 2011 (Guardian Angel Publishing, December, 2011)
Katrina and Winter: Partners in Courage: Amazon Bestseller in Children’s Books (Guardian Angel Publishing, May, 2012)
Bella Saves the Beach: (Guardian Angel Publishing, March, 2013)
Mystery at Manatee Key: (Guardian Angel Publishing, October, 2014)

LITERARY CLASSICS Book Awards & Reviews International Book Awards • Top Honors Youth Book Awards • Seal of Approval