Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This week the Writers-World Series visits with Amy Hendrickson, known simply as Ms. Hen to her fans.
          A mother and grandmother,  Ms. Hen started writing children's books in 2011 after attending the Iowa Writers Summer Festival.  She wanted to write books that featured a smart, spunky, principled, and interesting protagonist.
           "Girls are so much more than glittery princesses; they are self-reliant problem-solvers," Ms. Hen said. "Girls can be anything: scientists, mathematicians, astronauts."
          Add successful author to that list.

Ms. Hen perches on Mark Twain's desk in Hannibal, Mo.

Name: Amy Henrickson aka Ms.Hen
Hometeam: I live in Grandville, MI, between Lake Michigan and beer city Grand Rapids
Position:  Writer, painter, community gad-about
Batting average:

John Ball (biography);


Opening pitch:
When working as a library supervisor in elementary schools, I was discouraged by the many thin stories of goofballs, fairies, and princesses, so I wrote the Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books to inspire young readers to be curious, brave, and resourceful.
John Ball was the Forest Gump of early settlement days of West Michigan – an explorer, adventurer, land speculator, and philanthropist.  He gave the property for Grand Rapids’ zoo and park. 
Let’s Explore Mackinac Island is a guidebook with history, Q&A, walking tour, scavenger hunt, travel tips, and resources.

Considering the positions on a baseball team -- such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. -- which best describes the way you write and why? I would say Catcher.  I’m always on the look-out for ideas.  I catch ‘em, chew on ‘em, and then write about ‘em, and sometimes illustrate ‘em, too!

Tell us about scoring a home run:
My most recent book, Let’s Explore Mackinac Island, has been a pretty big hit on the mainland as well as on the Island.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? Although I do the writing and photography/illustrations of all of the books, my daughter, Abby Elizabeth, a graphic designer, does the lay-out and file uploading for me.  She’s a whiz and a half.
         My writing group of five people (FLAG—Four Ladies And a Gent) has been meeting faithfully for about six years.  We’ve celebrated publishing successes and continue to help and challenge each other with kindness, good humor, expertise… and snacks.
         Librarians have been a source of inspiration and encouragement.
         My friends and family --  I wish everybody had people like mine. They’re so great.

So what’s your game plan?

I’ll be selling books at Rockford,Michigan’s “Reading Rocks” event on Saturday. June 2 from 10 a.m. -1 p.m.

      I am also attending Princeton Seminary’s Frederick Buechner Writing Conference and Peninsula Writers' Writing Retreat at Glen Lake. And singing in the Grandville Community Choir at events in Grandville all summer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

True Blue Cub Fans

With baseball season in full swing, the Writers-World Series is proud to feature a book about the sport's beloved  2016 champs, The Chicago Cubs.
         Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team tells the story of divergent life paths – the roads taken, the failures experienced, and the successes reached – and how those paths all come together for a collective passion.
  Today we talk with Becky Sarwate who co-authored the book along with Randy Richardson.  "We make a great team," Becky says. "I’m the more outspoken and blunt executor. Randy is the thinker, the 'good cop' and strategist. If we were players on the Cubs, we might be known as Becky 'The Bull' and 'Professor' Randy. "

Names: Becky Sarwate and Randy Richardson.
Hometeam: Becky was born and raised in Chicago and lives within walking distance of Wrigley Field with husband Bob and two cats. Randy, who moved to the Chicago area from a Milwaukee suburb, lives in Evanston with his wife, son and two cats.
Position: Becky is Enterprise Marketing and Communications Advisor at TransUnion, an adjunct English instructor at Northeastern Illinois University, a freelance journalist, theater critic, blogger, political columnist and sports writer. Randy is an attorney, journalist and founding member/first president of the Chicago Writers Association.
Batting average: Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team is their first joint project. Randy is also the author of two novels, Cheeseland and Lost in the Ivy, both from Eckhartz Press

Opening pitch:
The Cubs are more than just a baseball team to those who root for them. From the heartaches of 1969 and 2003 to the pure joy of 2016, emotional ties bind fans of Chicago’s North Side ball club. Some of the team’s most famous fans, including Bob Newhart, Pat Brickhouse, Dennis Franz, Nick Offerman, Joe Mantegna, Scott Turow, Bill Kurtis, and many others, share just what it means to bleed Cubbie blue.

Considering the positions on a baseball team -- such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. -- which best describes the way you write and why? I would call myself an ace reliever. My work is quick, precise and usually effective. My sister has promoted me as the best content and copy editor in town. Randy is the experienced manager. He’s been to the publishing “big game” before and had much to teach me. He's also a terrific, multi-tasking project coordinator. I would want him leading any team of which I am part.

Tell us about your  surprise drafting to the big leagues:  I will never forget the March 2017 late afternoon that Randy and I sat enjoying happy hour drinks at the G-Man in Wrigleyville. I was excited about Randy's new Cubs book project with Eckhartz Press and thought myself bold in offering to serve as a manuscript reader. I was literally speechless when Randy countered with a question, "How about being co-author?" It's an unbelievable dream moment frozen in time. I can never thank him enough for trusting me and inviting me along to share this amazing ride.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? 
 It truly took a village to bring this project from concept to reality in just 12 months. After all, neither of us is a full-time author. The team at Eckhartz Press pitched the idea for the book to Randy and supported us by offering potential interview subjects and contact information, trusted us enough not to micromanage the project, and then of course published the manuscript.
My trusted and invaluable assistant Brian Walsh did so much leg work to make many of these amazing conversations happen. Randy and I always enjoy unbelievable support from our spouses and families, as well as the twin literary communities of which we’re both members – the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and Chicago Writers Association. And finally without the enthusiasm and participation of our interviewees, who shared their many Cubs hopes, dreams and heartaches, there would literally be no book.

So what’s your game plan?
As this project is a dream come true for Randy and I, we’re thrilled to pay it forward by donating all author proceeds to our three charity partners: Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities (CBCC), Scoreboard Charities (SC), and the Chicago Baseball Museum (CBM). CBCC and SC help fund cancer research and patient care programs at Chicago-area hospitals, and supporting services to empower kids with cancer. CBM’s mission is to collect, preserve, document, research, and interpret artifacts and events which are associated with the legacy, evolution and contemporary life of Chicago baseball. All three are federally-registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible charitable organizations.
We have a number of upcoming signings and events that will help us sell this unique book and raise all the money we can for these worth causes:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Remembering Walter

     I guess you could say Walter was my young grandpa. He was only 35 when he was struck by a train 91 years ago this month.
     Walter was headed to Irondale, Missouri, to pick up some cement. A freight train was stopped on a siding near a railroad crossing just south of town. Walter drove his small Ford truck through the crossing, not realizing the freight train masked his view of an oncoming passenger train.
     Walter left six kids and a pregnant wife. My mom, who was born four months later, never even met her father.
       I've imagined the train accident that took Walter's life 100 times, but it wasn't until I was working on my genealogy recently that I realized Walter lost his mother when he was just five years old. His sisters, 10 and 12, were probably left to care for the three younger siblings while their father tended the farm. For the first time I see Walter as a lonely, scared little boy.
        Walter knew what it was like to lose a parent. He would have hated leaving his poor kids behind.  As fate would have it, Walter's widow Bertha got cancer and died when my Mom was 7. My mother grew up at Missouri Baptist Children's home.  She said she turned to her heavenly father because she never knew her earthly one.
           As we celebrate Mother's Day this weekend I am reminded how lucky I am to have had the love and guidance of my mother through my entire life. And I remember my young grandpa who grew up without his mother and never got to know the joy of seeing his own children grow up.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Writers-World Series continues with "Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago's North Side Baseball Team."

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Writers-World Series

Writing books has become the new American pastime. Print-on-demand  publishers and online marketing have made it possible for everyone to tell  their tale. But with so many good authors in the writing game, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.
       That’s why this summer I'm offering the Writers-World Series, the inside track on authors of interest. The series starts today with Denise M. Baran-Unland, a journalist from Joliet, Il., who has written a vampire series set in a fictional Michigan town. 
       Programs! Programs! Get your program here!

Name: Denise M. Baran-Unland
Home team: Joliet, Il. (for Denise) Munsonville, MI ( fictional setting for the BryonySeries)
Position:  Features writer and editor, The Herald-News, Joliet
Batting average: The BryonySeries vampire trilogy ("Bryony," "Visage," and "Staked!"), The Adventures of Cornell Dyer chapter book series ("Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone" and the soon-to-be released "Cornell Dyer and the Necklace of Forgetfulness")  Bertrand the Mouse children's series ("Bertrand and the Lucky Clover," "Bertrand's Christmas Surprise," "Bertrand's First Book of Numbers," and "Bertrand Gives Back" ) Also, "Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony,'" a collections of recipes from the Victorian era and 1970s. All proceeds are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.
Website: www.bryonyseries.com.

Opening pitch:  A '70s teen trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time as his wife . Consequences follow.
       Note: The Adventures of Cornell Dyer spinoff series involves one character from the second book in the  BryonySeries vampire trilogy and the Bertrand the Mouse series features red herring from the third book.

Considering the positions on a baseball team -- such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. -- which best describes the way you write and why? I'm sitting in the stands trying to figure out how the game is played. Couldn't participate in sports as a child due to severe asthma, so I spent most of my time reading, writing, and observing others from the sidelines. As a result, I love reading (and writing) character-driven novels.

Tell us about your grand slam: I have a few loyal friends who found my books by chance and have remained loyal since the release date of the first book in 2011. Those are my home runs, for sure. But without a doubt, the "grand slam" is my one super fan, "Rose," who took a chance on the first book  ("Bryony") in 2013 after seeing my blog posted online. She later told me she didn't expect much and wound up leaving a glowing review on Amazon. She promptly ordered the second book ("Visage") and left a glowing (and the book's only) review on Amazon and then waited impatiently for the third book ("Staked!"), ultimately leaving a glowing (and only) review on Amazon.
         Rose also sent a copy of "Bryony" to a bestselling author with whom she has a decade-long correspondence.  He has not read the book yet, but it's on his reading list, and he wrote me a letter this past summer letting me know it. He also sent me one of his books, which I'm currently reading.
          Rose is my biggest cheerleader and biggest motivator. She constantly urges me to continue and increase marketing and promotion. She sends long messages about what she likes about the books and creates little memes based on the characters. She's called the series "a masterpiece," and said she won't stop pushing me until the series is a bestseller.
         I'm not a natural marketer . It took two years of Rose's unwavering exhortations before I considered doing anything of substance. So while I don't have the lofty goals for my series as Rose does, I set my hand to the marketing plow for this reason: to find the other Roses, whether they are five readers or five billion. Rose has said the BryonySeries is one of the few series she has ever read multiple times and that it ranks as one of her favorites. So I work hard at positioning the books in the universe so readers like Rose can find them.

At a book event in Joliet are author Ralph Carey, store owner Jan Staley, and authors Allie Rios, Denise M. Baran-Unland and Sue Merrell.
No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? It's a big team full of talented artists who cross market each other. Here's the roster by seasons:

"Bryony:" Kathleen Rose Van Pelt (cover art and illustrator), Stephen Tuplin and Josh Seigers (book trailer, music video, and other video promotional pieces), CAL Graphics (book cover, graphics), Serena Diosa (formatting), and Karen Bonarek, Tommy Connelly, and Dulcinea Hawksworth (marketing), Sandy Costa (introduction)
"Visage:" Matt Coundiff (cover art and illustrator), Vicki Thompson (editor and introduction), Colleen Robbins (editor),  Dragon Alexander and Sean Czaja (book trailer), CAL Graphics and Sarah Stegall (book cover, graphics, formatting)
"Staked!" Christopher Gleason (cover art and illustrator), Vicki Thompson  and Colleen Robbins (editors), CAL Graphics (book cover, graphics), Sarah Stegall (formatting and copy editor), Tom Hernandez (introduction)
"Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from 'Bryony:'" Sarah Stegall (project lead, copy editor), Kathleen Rose Van Pelt (cover art), Matt Coundiff (interior illustrations), Serena Diosa (formatting), Rebekah Baran (copy editing). Plus many recipe contributors.
"Snowbell:" Christopher Gleason (cover art), Sarah Stegall (cover design, formatting)
Adventures of Cornell Dyer series: Sue Midlock (cover art and illustrations), Rebekah Baran (cover design and formatting)
Bertrand the Mouse series:  Sarah Stegall (concept design), Rebekah Baran (cover designs and formatting)
Miscellaneous: James Onohan (pianist and composer for the official BryonySeries theme song and CD "The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons," Valerie Burkholder (creator of the BryonySeries homemade soy candle line in five scents), Michelle Roberson (creator of the BryonySeries K-cup holders), and Sarah Stegall and Rebekah Baran (web design and maintenance)

So what’s your game plan? This year, it's to schedule one event a month. So far, I've hit home runs (except April, but I had four events in March. And I took a couple days off work in early April to focus on writing).
For upcoming events and more about the series, visit the Fetes and Feasts page at www.bryonyseries.com.