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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Using Family Tales to Create Great Stories: Author Interview with Children's Writer, Angela Graham

You’ve recently published your first children’s picture book entitled What Is Growing out of Your Ear? Who or what inspired you to write this story?
In general, all my writing is inspired by my children. I have one child at each end of the reading spectrum: one is an avid reader and one has a self-diagnosed allergy to reading. I write to entice my children to read and hope to nurture in them a love of reading. 

The story for ‘What is Growing Out of Your Ear?’ is based on my own childhood. My parents and grandparents alike continually fired at us old wives’ tales. It was the mode of parenting at the time. Here's some of their truisms...
"Eat your carrots. You'll see better in the dark."

"Don't swallow your gum. It will stay in your stomach for seven years."
"Eat your oatmeal. It will stick to your ribs and keep you warm."

"Don't cross your eyes. Your face will stick like that."
“Don’t swallow the pits. A cherry tree will grow out of your ear.”

My active imagination conjured up some ludicrous images when I heard these old wives’ tales. ‘What is Growing Out of Your Ear?’ shares what I thought would really happen if I didn’t listen to my Grampsy when he warned me not to swallow pits.
Are you active in any writing critique groups?
As I am still very early in my writing career, I have not yet joined a critique group, but plan to in the near future.

When did you start writing?
For the past decade, I have been writing books for my children, nieces and nephews for birthday and Christmas gifts. I wrote stories that star the children and incorporate personal interests and topics. What is Growing Out of Your Ear? is one of these books, as is the next book I am publishing, a middle-grade adventure novel called, Escape from Killarney.

Did you try the traditional route of seeking a publisher and/or agent to market your book? When did you decide to self-publish?
Once I decided to publish a book, I opted right away to self-publish. My day job’s demands left me little time to devote to querying for agents or publishers and the business woman in me wanted to directly test the market. With self-publishing, I was able to develop my book, and with minimal investment, release it to a larger reading market. It is exciting to receive feedback on the story. With the lessons I am learning, these will feed my future decisions to either continue to self-publish or try the traditional route.
Tell me about the process. How did you decide to go with AuthorHouse?
A few years ago, I looked into publishing and had engaged in discussions with AuthorHouse. I was intrigued by the self-publishing process, but did not have enough time to dedicate at that moment. Time passed and on New Year’s Day this year, I set out a lofty goal to publish one of my books. The next day, as fate would have it, AuthorHouse followed up with me to see if I was still interested in publishing with them. And the game was on.

I polished the manuscript, prepared the submission material, including art instructions, and sent it to AuthorHouse. Once everything was in their hands, the design and production cycle evolved at an astounding speed, resulting in me having my finished book within three months from my New Year’s Resolution date.
The marketing domain is the trickiest to learn about and, in my opinion, takes the greatest amount of time. AuthorHouse, however, has a dedicated team supporting each stage of the process, so it isn’t very overwhelming at all.
What are some of the promotions that you’ve done for the book that have been the most successful? What would you tell other authors to avoid?I have promoted my book via online social media, press releases, Google ad campaign, Goodreads giveaway, and word-of-mouth. I will be participating in The Word on the Street Book Festival in Toronto, Canada this September and expect this to be a good promotional event. As it is still very early, I reserve my opinion on what has been successful and what should be avoided.

What has pleasantly surprised you in the process?
I have had an entirely enjoyable experience with this book so far. The most thrilling part was seeing the illustration designs. It was a sensational feeling to see the artist’s interpretation of my story. I was elated.

What advice would you give someone who wants to publish their own book?
Don’t let your own hesitation or self-doubt prevent you from actualizing your dream of publishing a book. Keep taking steps that will bring you closer to that dream. Write the best story you can. Polish your writing and craft. Decide on the route you will take. Seek out an agent or a publisher, or make an arrangement with a self-publisher. Just keep moving forward. The results are eternally rewarding.

What is the writing best advice you’ve been given?Stop talking about writing; just write.

What message would you like parents and children to take away from your books? 
I would like children and parents to challenge their own imagination when they read, What is Growing Out of Your Ear? In this story, the main character, Angela, eats a bowl of cherries and happens to swallow the cherry pits. What unfolds tests the limits of the readers’ imagination and I think there is a fun opportunity for parents to ask their children, “What do you think would happen if you swallowed a cherry pit?”

That's all for today's interview. If you would like to learn more about Angela's writing and what is coming up next, here's a link to her website Or got to her Facebook page

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