Promoting the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

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This past weekend was very busy for me! Both Friday and Saturday, I manned a table at two very different events to promote the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and next Friday I will do the same at ComicCon, for which I am very excited!

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On Friday, my cohort, Jodi Carmichael (author of Spaghetti Is NOT a Finger Food) and I talked to English Teachers attending the annual SAGE conference. We also shamelessly promoted our books! (By the way, next spring she will be launching her teen novel, Forever Julia, so stay tuned for that book launch.) During the conference, we had one person renew her lapsed membership and sold one of our Writer’s Blocks – our infamous fundraising gimmick. I sold 2 of my books (Jody sold most of the ones she’d brought with her!) and I  gave away all but one of my business cards, so I’m hoping to be asked into many classrooms during this school year.

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On Saturday, fellow board member, Donna Besel, and I attended the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Conference. On the table, we had a sign I created that read, “Everyone has a story. Let the Guild help you tell it.”, which became our theme for the conference. We took turns popping in to the conference room to listen to what some of the survivors had gone through and how they courageously chose the difficult road to recovery, ‘turning their demons into diamonds’, which was the conference theme for this year.

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Those of you who have been following this blog for the last couple of years will recall me telling you my brother-in-law’s story and how he came to live with us after he was badly burned when his van caught fire. The organizers of the conference asked him to talk about his ordeal on a panel with three other survivors. He told his story with his usual wry sense of humour, knowing that laughter is the best medicine.

Donna had been asked to give a talk and was prepared to get everyone started with writing exercises, but she had no idea how many people she would be speaking to – over 80! She thought that only those who really wanted to write about their experience would be in attendance. While she was a little nervous at the change in expectations, she took it in stride and had many compliments about her workshop. Many attendees were interested in our programming and we gave away a lot of brochures and a few membership forms.

This coming Friday, I look forward to rubbing shoulders with celebrity guests and authors at ComiCon. It should be a blast. As another fundraiser/promotional gimmick for this event, we are creating a Colouring book with sketches of Manitoba Authors with which the attendees should be familiar – and if they are NOT familiar with them, they will be by the time they colour in all the faces! We at the Guild are trying hard to promote our many local writers of all genres.

Oh, and one last tidbit of information! By Friday, my writers group and I are hoping to have our chapbook, In The Woods, published in e-format so it will be available on-line, as well as sell hard copies at ComicCon. As soon as the e-version is available, I will pass along the details.

So, how was YOUR weekend?

Sunday Interview – Jodi Carmichael

Spaghetti has Arrived!

Today, I’d like to introduce you to Jodi Carmichael, author of Spaghetti is NOT a finger food (and other life lessons). If you haven’t read my review of Spaghetti, yet, you can read it here. I’ve run into Jodi on many writing-related occasions and enjoyed every encounter. I hope you will enjoy meeting her, too. Please welcome Jodi Carmichael.

Hi, Jodi! Glad you could join us, today!

To begin, would you please introduce yourself and tell us what makes Jodi Carmichael tick?

I am a children’s writer, a mother of two wildly imaginative daughters, and a very part time school secretary. I am incredibly curious about people and what motivates them to do the things they do and act the way they do. I am constantly asking, “Why?” followed by wondering, “And what if this happened…”

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Pretty much. I knew in 7th grade I wanted to be a writer but was too scared of failure to follow my writing dreams. It took my mom enrolling me in an online writing course that got me hooked. That was 7 years ago and I’ve been writing since.

I love that you are an advocate for Asperger’s Syndrome and I really enjoyed your character, Connor. What prompted you to write his story?

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food and Other Life Lessons

When I wrote the first draft, Connor’s voice was very clear in my head. Once I finished it became obvious to me, that he was quite unique. I explored the possibility that he had ADHD, but it didn’t fit. I was somewhat knowledgeable of Asperger’s Syndrome, and that seemed a better fit. I then had two child psychologists review the manuscript to ensure his character traits were accurate.

How difficult was it to find a publisher and what was the process like for you?

I sent it to 6 publishers in Canada and the States prior to Little Pickle Press. One small Canadian publisher asked to read the entire manuscript after I queried with the first chapter, which was very exciting. Funny enough, I received their rejection long after I’d signed my contract with Little Pickle.

Glad it worked out so well for you! 🙂

What sorts of things have you done to promote Spaghetti?

I’ve done newspaper, TV, and Radio interviews, which were so much fun! Our local journalistic community embraced Spaghetti, which was thrilling. Early on, my publisher arranged a Twitter Spaghetti Party, which was a blast as well.

Spaghetti posters, taken at the C4 Literary Festival where we were both guests.

This past March, we ran a Spaghetti Potluck Dinner for Asperger Manitoba, which was really well attended. We expected 80 and served over 150 people. We were fortunate that DeLuca’s donated the pasta and Little Pickle Press donated book posters which we sold at the event, with all proceeds benefiting AMI. I tweet and facebook quite a lot, although as I get to the final revisions of my next book, that is falling off.

And, of course, the book launch at McNally Robinson, which is every Winnipeg author’s dream come true. We sold all but 5 copies of Spaghetti, which was totally awesome.

I do have one more promotional event coming up on Saturday, August 10th. I am reading 3 to 4 chapters of Spaghetti on MagicBlox Radio, which is an online radio show. You can follow along here:

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/magicblox/2013/08/10/the-earth-a-mariachi-and-spaghetti

That spaghetti party sounds awesome! Good luck with the radio interview, That sounds very exciting! 🙂

Do you only write stories for younger children or do you write for other age groups/genres?

I write the story that comes to me, regardless of age group or genre. I have a picture book that I am shopping around, a Young Adult story in revision and my next novel is an older middle grade.

Sounds like a typical writer to me! 🙂

Are you working on anything new at the moment that you would like to share with us?

Yes! My current work in progress is a Young Adult story about a 16 year old girl who is struggling with depression and a verbally abusive boyfriend. It is both funny and poignant and I absolutely adore the main character, Julia. She’s working hard to find the strength to become the young woman she’s meant to be.

Sounds like a great story! I can’t wait to read it! 🙂

And now for the fun stuff! What is your favourite comfort food?

Chocolate. Chewy caramel en-robed in chocolate. Strawberries dipped in chocolate. And cookies, as long as they are soft and as large as your face.

Please describe what your writing workspace looks like. Feel free to include a picture, if you like.

My writing space changes based on where I am. As I type this I am sitting at my dining room table at the cottage, staring out the screen door to sparkling Lake Winnipeg. In my big yellow house in Wildwood Park, I either sit at the dining room table among the kids’ homework or in my office/spare bed room upstairs next to Pink and Floyd, our gerbils.

I love the names of your gerbils! And writing at the cottage must be wonderful! 🙂

Do you have any rituals or objects that help you bring out your muse?

I sign off all internet. No facebook, twitter or email. I am VERY easily distracted, so I have to eliminate those distractions.

Yes, I know what a HUGE distraction the internet is! 🙂

Are there any social media sites you would like to share with my readers?

Sure!

Blog: http://www.jodicarmichael.com

Twitter: @Jodi_Carmichael

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jodi.carmichael.3

Thanks for joining us, today, Jodi. Hope all my readers enjoyed our little chat. 🙂

Friday Review – Spaghetti Is NOT A Finger Food (and other life lessons)

Click on the picture to link to Little Pickle Press

Spaghetti Is NOT  A Finger Food is a chapter book for early readers ages 8 to 12. While I don’t normally review books aimed at this young an age level, I was intrigued by Jodi’s character. Not only that, I think this is a book that all ages can enjoy and appreciate because, I’m sure we’ve all met people like Connor.

Working with Special children within my local school division, I have come across many Connor-like kids and, sadly, have also met teachers who just don’t get kids like Connor. I love that the author, Jodi Carmichael, is donating the proceeds of her book’s posters to Asperger Manitoba and that her publisher, Little Pickle Press, produces many books that deal with similar subject matter. 

Spaghetti gives us a humourous, yet sensitive, peek into the life of a child who is dealing with some impulse control issues. Connor is a sweet little boy who makes some unfortunate choices that land him  in trouble. His teacher and principal don’t seem to be able to connect with him and always seem to be disappointed in him. Connor does have an advocate in Mrs. Rosetti, his resource councilor, who helps him understand his impulses and how to make better choices. 

The story is written from Connor’s perspective, giving the reader some delightful insight into how his brain works. I especially liked the way he innocently suggested his teacher try a particular product – an anti-wrinkle cream – that he’d seen advertised on TV because of the way her face was all scrunched up and wrinkled with stress over Connor’s antics. In this way, Jodi shows that he is not being malicious in his actions, he just hasn’t learned how to react in certain social situations, much like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory.

While most children with Asberger Syndrome, or any of the Autism Spectrum Disorders, are extremely intelligent, their ability to pick up on social cues is a little different from ‘the norm’ and they must learn the protocols in order to function well in our society. They need rules of conduct, very SPECIFIC rules to follow, so their actions are not considered ‘bad’ by others.  In Connor’s case, he has a vast knowledge about dogs, but can’t understand why his friend won’t let him use a stool she’s sitting on so he can reach a dog book in the library. He needs the stool because, as everyone knows, they are what one uses to stand on, unlike a chair which is used for sitting. The end result is a bit of a scuffle between the two children and, ultimately, an accident. Connor is very sorry for the consequences, but he needs Mrs. Rosetti, through the use of specifically worded questions, to figure out how to deal with a similar incident in the future. 

I think Spaghetti would be a great resource for any school because I haven’t been in any that don’t have their own versions of Connor, who are regularly misunderstood and end up in trouble if they do not have advocates such as Mrs. Rosetti standing in their corner. Teachers and classmates need to learn what makes these children tick and how to act towards them, making the educational experience better for everyone. Spaghetti, because of Jodi’s whimsical informative writing style, has won both the 2013 Gold Mom’s Choice Award and 2013 Silver Benjamin Franklin Award.

I highly recommend picking up a copy (it’s available in all formats) and getting to know Connor because you never know when you’ll meet someone just like him. Oh! And drop by on Sunday to learn more about the author, Jodi Carmichael. 🙂