Monday, September 30, 2013

I'm honored to be invited on the Blog Tour. Thank you Joan Edwards,  for the invite. What fun it is to share and compare the ups and downs different writers experience. I hope my experiences will inspire and confirm your journey as much as the other authors on the tour have inspired me.

What are you working on right now?

Although I am working on an adult novel, my focus in children's literature is the return of one of my story-song picture books, Arlie the Alligator. After 22-years, I'm bringing Arlie back with all new illustrations and in several formats; paperback, CD, mp3 download and in a Kindle/Kindle Fire version.Within four months,  Arlie the Alligator will also be available on iTunes with surprise animations. Kindle Fire couldn't handle the animations and the music so we've had to delay that version.

Folks might wonder why I'd take a chance on an old story. To explain, please allow me share a little history.

Years ago, after completing the manuscript for Arlie the Alligator, I met Deborah Bel Pfleger, an extraordinary song writer who wrote four catchy tunes to accompany my manuscript. Since Deborah also owned a recording studio, we decided to produce the story on audio cassette using actors, sound effects and the music. With a completed manuscript and a fully produced audio cassette in hand, I began the search for a publisher. Finding a publisher proved difficult because the fully-produced cassette followed the story word-for-word and publishers couldn't change it. In addition, this was at a time when books-on-tape were a new concept and books-on-tape for children were just entering the market. Arlie the Alligator, an unknown character by an unknown author, was ahead of his time.

After seven years of receiving the most complimentary rejection letters ever, my husband and I decided to self-publish, even though marketing a self-published book, way back then, was next to impossible without national support. So, Arlie the Alligator, that curious young alligator who longed to speak to the creatures (children) at the beach, was born.

 Now, jump ahead 22-years to 2013 and the mass marketing potential of the Internet through Amazon and all other forms of social media. The temptation to try again was hard to resist. Still, I ventured forth cautiously.

I'm a huge fan of online FREE webinars. When one was offered on "Cashing In With Kindle," by Howard VanEs, a marketing expert from, I jumped at the chance. A half hour consultation with Howard resulted in my hiring him to help me revise and revamp Arlie the Alligator.

I'm thrilled to present the newly updated version of Arlie the Alligator: A Story and Picture Book for Kids Ages 4 to 8. 
         Kindle/Kindle Fire

     I think he's pretty cute!

Did I change the story at all? Nope. It's the same story and the same wonderful catchy songs, but, Arlie's got a brand new pair of ...well...a whole new facelift, updated for a new generation of children.

How does Arlie the Alligator differ from other works in its genre?

Well, there's simply few if anything else like it on the market. It's a story, its songs, its a mini-musical, its told from an alligator's point of view so there are things for young readers to figure out, its fun and entertaining, has a subtle communication theme, and the 4 catchy tunes will have children singing the first time they listen.

With it's fully-produced CD, Arlie the Alligator was ahead of it's time way back in the 1990's and with its animations in the ebook, it's cutting edge again. Amazon couldn't load it on Kindle Fire so we have to wait for iTunes.

Why do you write what you do?

I probably would be more successful if I stuck to one genre but that's not how my mind or my interests work. My published works are quite eclectic. They include things in several genres like educational activity books, children's, parenting the gifted, gifted education, "how to," poetry, journal, newspaper, magazine and adult biography as well as educational video production. I've also written and optioned screenplays. Check out my website for more detailed information.

Why do I write, you ask? Because I have to.

How does your writing process work? 

I wish I knew! I'd like to say that I have a well-orchestrated plan; that I write every day; that I outline before hand and know the direction I'm headed at the get-go; but that wouldn't be honest. My process is as eclectic as my interests. Although I try to write everyday, I don't always.

I do a great deal of mental writing; figuring things out in my head before ever committing words to my computer. I try not to get upset when life intervenes and takes me away from writing. Invariably, during that downtime, I'll learn something I needed to know for the work at hand. Writing delays for me always result in better work.

I'm in a "brutal" critique group and I highly recommend that kind of group to every writer. At the developing stage of the game, writers don't need the kudos. To grow in your craft you need honest, straight-forward, sincere, and yes, even brutal analysis of your work. Find writers who you respect and hang on for the ride. Your writing will be better for it and by the time your work is accepted and you get the rewrites from the editor, you'll be prepared to accept all those sticky notes in a professional manner without drama, trauma and tears.

Recently, I read a wonderful book that was poorly written. Huh? Yes, that's what I said. The author had the kernel of a wonderful story and I was envious of the way she was able to describe feelings and setting. The problems were, to name a few, too much description, too many adjectives and point-of-view changes two sometimes three times on the same page, often within the same paragraph. On the acknowledgement page, the author thanked a creative writing class at a certain university. When I saw that, I just shook my head and thought, what a disservice that creative writing class and that professor did to that writer. They had to know better. If they did or if they didn't, shame on them.

In addition to critiquing, my brutal writer's group is taking a 24-lesson class by Professor Brooks Landon, Professor of English at the University of Iowa, called, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft.  We all bought the $39 DVD set and are working our way through it together. It's been fun. The best part is we've all seen improvement in our writing since beginning the course.

Any departing words of wisdom for other writers? 

Believe in your work. If you don't no one will.
Study the craft of writing; take a class, attend a conference, take on-line webinars
Find that "brutal" critique group.
Be thankful for negative critiques. If someone doesn't "get" your story, then you're not telling it right.
Listen and learn, yet still believe enough in your story to know when to change something and when to leave it alone.
Save those rejection letters. You'll need them to inspire other aspiring writers to never give up.
Study proper submission formats and guidelines. Many rejections have more to do with how a story was presented than the story itself.
Never give up. If it was easy getting published, everyone would be published.

It's been fun sharing my newly revised Arlie the Alligator,  with you. I wish you could all join us at his Book Launch on October 5th, at the McDowell Public Library, in Marion, NC. We're going to have a lot of fun. I'll make an alligator hat for you!

Keep writing!

NEXT BLOG TOUR: October 7th
Meet: these three amazing children's writers:

Debbie Nance - and MG fiction writer, who, after surviving cancer twice has branched out to work on a memoir of her experiences.

Ann Eisenstein - - MG and YA fiction writer.

Becky Shillington - - children's writer working towards her first publication.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Last post, I talked about the rebirth of Arlie the Alligator, one of my story books. It's been a very long journey from the original idea to hardback to paperback, and now it's time to plan the Book Launch.

It's funny to think that when Arlie the Alligator first came out many moons ago, an introductory book party was called an Autograph Party. Now, a new dawn, a new day, a new book, a Book Launch.

Plans are underway but even as I make lists and think of things to do, there's an underlying concern about who will come? I don't remember feeling that way the first time around. So, I'll plan for an army and if only a troop shows up, so be it. We'll have fun no matter what happens.

Did you feel this way when planning your book launch? What did you do for your launch? Any suggestions? I'm looking for all the ideas I can get. But wait, maybe I'd better tell you what I've done so far:

I've got the place, the Marion Branch of the McDowell Library, children's room, of course.
I've got the time.
I've scheduled two presentations/readings for children.
I have a great Arlie the Alligator Hat for everyone to make.
Power point slides of the illustrations will be projected on the wall.
Vista print had a deal on postcards that will be mailed to friends, school librarians and a few others. Extras will be used as pre-publicity handouts at the library.
Refreshments will either be alligator cookies or a cake decorated with Arlie the Alligator, of course. Which do you think would be best? Juice boxes or punch bowl? Did you serve refreshments at your book launch?

So, what am I missing? Any thoughts? Come on now, I know you have ideas. Tell me about your does and don'ts. Don't let me reinvent the wheel or error by omission. I'd really like to hear your story.

And, if you're not doing anything on October the 5th, stop by the library and make an Arlie the Alligator hat. I know it would look smashing on you.


"Everything old is new again," or can be if you believe! 

I have a story that I believe in and I want to share its history with you in hopes that something in my journey might spur you onward with a story of your own, after all, if you don't believe in your work, no one will. 

Years ago I had an idea to write a story about a curious alligator who longed to talk to the creatures (children) at the beach. The idea evolved from an article a friend shared with me about tourists in Florida feeding an alligator marshmallows; not a wise decision for the tourists or the alligator. From that article, an alligator story I titled, Arlie the Alligator, was born. 

Shortly after completing the manuscript, I met songwriter extraordinaire, Deborah Bel Pfleger and she offered to write some songs to accompany the story. When the four catchy tunes were finished, she announced that she owned her own recording studio and suggested that we record the story with actors, singers and sound effects. I, of course, jumped at the opportunity. 

Then began the search for a publisher. With a manuscript and a fully produced audio of the book in hand, I queried and submitted to multiple publishers for the next seven years. And, for the next seven years, rejections came in with glowing accolades about my little story with audio cassette, but no one would take a chance on it. This was at a time when books-on-tape were just becoming popular and children's books-on-tape were an experiment using only the classics, Disney stories and Sesame Street. Arlie the Alligator was ahead of its time. 

And so, after much deliberation and agonizing over what to do, my husband and I decided to self-publish. I researched the "how tos" and we took the leap of faith. 

I interviewed four illustrators and chose the beautiful, soft, pastel images created by Ohio children's portrait artist, Deborah Thomas. And thus, Arlie the Alligator was born. 

Arlie the Alligator was and still is a very unique concept. The original book contained song lyrics interwoven within the dialogue in mini-musical style, a page that explained the difference between a real alligator and a pretend alligator like Arlie, and concluded with the sheet music for the four songs. 

Even before the manuscript was published, I began doing school visits. Intuitively I knew the importance of making a "classroom connection." Children loved thinking their way through a story told from an alligator's point-of-view and teachers enjoyed creating classroom activities around the communication theme. 

My work in gifted education led me to write the Arlie the Alligator Communication Guide for educators and include in it a full theatrical script, a full reader's theater script, the sheet music and multiple classroom activities keyed K-6+. I recognized early on that, although the Arlie the Alligator story itself was designed for primary aged children, when used as a theatrical production, it could be utilized by all ages, even adults. 

Initially, the Communication Activity Guide was published by Pieces of Learning, a wonderful mid-sized educational publisher whose products emphasize upper level thinking strategies, good for all students but essential for gifted learners. Those publishing rights have subsequently been turned back over to me. 

Jump ahead to 2013 and the evolution of the Internet and with its publishing arm, CreateSpace. Jump ahead also to the increasing popularity of free Internet webinars; one in particular on Kindle Marketing was given by marketing expert, Howard VanEs of That webinar sparked the idea of bringing Arlie the Alligator out on Kindle. And so, under Howard VanEs's expert guidance, a newly illustrated Arlie the Alligator: A Story & Picture Book for Kids Ages 4 to 8, was born

I'm thrilled to announce that a paperback, revised Arlie the Alligator is now available on Amazon. It's the same story and the same wonderful catchy songs with updated illustrations to capture the attention of a new generation of children. Soon to follow will be the fully produced CD, Mp3 Download and an animated Ebook for Kindle Fire. I'll keep you updated on my website,

I sincerely hope something in my journey with Arlie the Alligator inspires you to push forward with a story you believe in whether via the traditional agent/editor/publisher route or through self-publishing.

Like I said in the beginning, "if you don't believe in your story, no one will."  

Let me know if my journey started you thinking about one of your manuscripts. I'd love to hear from you. 

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About Me

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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