Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Top Tips To Increase Your Productivity by Beth Ann Erickson

I have a great article today from Beth Ann Erickson of Filbert Publishing. I hope you find it useful.

Top Tips To Increase Your Productivity

By Beth Ann Erickson

Writing is an odd business. Imagine a career solely depending upon pouring your mental output out on paper.

Never mind.

If you’re reading this, you’re intimately familiar with how we writers thoroughly examine life and are compelled to whip out our pens to comment.

However, the time comes in every writer’s life when words don’t flow as easily as other times. It’s during these times that the following tips will become indispensable to triggering a free-flowing stream of ideas.

So without any further intro, here are the techniques I routinely use to get words flowing into my computer….

1.    Focus On Your Project

When I’m writing, my project is tumbling through my mind 24/7. Never leaves, constantly bubbling in the back of my mind.

When I’m shopping for groceries, I allow my characters to “whisper” in my ear. When I’m waiting at the doctor’s office, article ideas tumble through my mind. When I’m waiting in line, a client’s wrinkly lead for their sales letter will magically iron out.

Although writers often appear present and ready to participate in life, in reality I know I’m rarely completely “there” at any one occasion.

Like Walter Mitty, my imagination continually takes me places where I never expected.

And that’s fantastic… as it should be.

2.    Invest In Technology

I know. The Internet can eat up WAY too much time.

However, used properly, this vast web of information can become your best tool in cultivating a thriving writing career.

Where else can you find an answer to a thorny question in the blink of an eye?

It’s a wondrous technology that will allow you to instantly find the full contact information of an expert in any particular field within minutes.

It also has the potential to become the hugest time-sucker of your entire day.

Every writer needs a website. Every writer needs to gather information that will help them earn the kind of income they desire.

However, you don’t need to frequent every discussion group. Forget about reading every zine that flits into your in-box.

Learn to skim.

Glean the information you need, snag the resources that catch your eye, pass on the rest.

But remain connected to your community, even if your connection may seem slim at times. After all, part of becoming a successful writer is to… write. This is non-negotable.

3.    Create A Schedule

Many writers practice their craft first thing in the morning. They’re up at the crack of dawn, chomping at the bit, ready to pour their hearts onto the page.

I’m not like that. In fact, I find myself fortunate if I can get much of anything whatsoever finished first thing in the morning.

My prime writing time begins late morning and extends until around supper time.

Get anything on the page before 9:00AM, and I’m quite positive it would look like gibberish.

I rarely watch television, instead opting for my favorite activity… reading.

Ah, slip a good book my way and it’ll get devoured faster than a bag of Twizzlers. In fact, I just ordered four more books for my collection today. Found a new author I like and got ‘em all. (Don’t mention this latest purchase to my husband…. My bookshelves are already bursting at the seams.)

But here’s my point: Create a schedule that works for you. Don’t try to emulate my life. Don’t take advice that you’re not comfortable with. Make your schedule work for your lifestyle.

But do create a schedule. You’ll get far more work done.

4.    Jealously Guard Productive Time

Forget the kids. Chuck The Drudge Report.

If you’re “in the zone” keep typing. Don’t stop.

Close the door. Bark at anyone who speaks at you. Tell them to eat peanut butter sandwiches for supper.

Right now, your top priority is WRITING.

Those “zone” moments can sometimes flit in and out of the creative process so when one graces you with its presence, do everything you can to nurture its arrival. Keep writing. Let the words flow. Don’t edit. Make that little burst of muse comfortable so it will visit on a regular basis.

And when you hit your stride and experience that “zone” on a regular basis, then you are truly a blessed writer.

Now, I realize this list is hardly exhaustive. However, I’ve found these four tips to top my list of activities I do on a daily basis to make writing nearly effortless. And (I’m speaking from experience here), you really don’t want to write your way into a situation where every word you nail to paper feels like an unbearable chore.

With just these few (and incredibly easy) modifications to your schedule, your words will flow like water and your productivity will skyrocket. Guaranteed.
Beth Ann Erickson makes it easy to launch a successful freelance writing career. Grab free articles. Take free e-courses. Learn the secrets to writing irresistible queries. To turbo-charge your writing career, surf to


The Elevator and One Sentence Pitch
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Simple as ABC: Writing for Children - Six Basic Tips Part 1

This is an article I had featured on the Savvy Authors site earlier this month. Since it's a bit long, I'm breaking it up into 2 parts.

Writing in general is a tough craft, although many may not think so. The writer has to take individual words and craft them together to create: interest, suspense, romance, humor, grief, fantasy, other worlds . . . the list goes on and on. And, it must be done with clarity.

Then, you have children’s writing. Children’s writing has its own set of rules and tricks of the trade, such as when writing for young children there should only be one main character. Another tidbit is to remember to use age appropriate words.

While there is an abundance of information about writing and writing for children, it can easily become overwhelming, and even confusing. So, what are a few bare-bottom fiction writing tips?

6 Simple and Basic Tips for Writing Children’s Fiction:

1. Your Characters Need Believability

Your characters, especially your protagonist, need to create a bond or connection with the reader. In order to create that connection you will need to care about your characters. If you don’t, you’ll never get a reader to care. Make your characters believable and interesting.

In addition to this, you need to know your characters and remember their traits, physical characteristics, temperament, and so on. I’m sure there are instances, if you’re writing by the seat-of-your-pants rather than from an outline, where your character may do something you didn’t plan, but usually it’s a good idea to know what makes him tick.

Even the choices your protagonist makes will help define him, and create a deeper bond with the reader. Does he take the high road to reach his goals, or does he sneak in under the wire? Does he create options to choose from, or is he sweep along by the current of the story, grabbing at lifelines for survival? Are his choices a struggle?

You can keep track of your characters’ quirky telltale marks, expressions, behavior patterns, and physical features by noting them on a page as they become unveiled.

2. Conflict is a must

A story’s conflict is like a detour or obstacle in the road from point A to point B. The protagonist must figure out a way over, around, under, or through it.

Conflict will drive your story forward and give the reader a reason to stay involved. Conflict is basically an obstacle between your protagonist and what she wants or needs. It may be a crisis, a desire, a relationship, a move, or other. It can be caused by internal or external factors. Does overcoming one obstacle/conflict lead to another? Does she have help, or are others thwarting her efforts?

Along with this, there should be more than one conflict. For children’s writing, there may be two or three conflicts; as one is overcome another takes its place. A good rule is to think in threes: three characters, three problems, and three solutions.

Here's the link for Part 2:



How to Write a Children’s Book in 14 Days . . . or Less!

Get in the game! Write your own children’s book. Mel McIntyre can show you how. Even writing coaches recommend this book to get a children’s book done.

Mell will show you how to write books for ANY audience, with a particular emphasis on that “golden age of reading” – 8 to 12 year olds, in a 180-page secret system.

Expert speed writer Nick Daws also praises this book, “This guide unveils EVERYTHING you need to know to write your own children's book - in just two weeks.”

Become an author or add another book to your creations. Get your own copy of How to Write a Children’s Book in 14 Days TODAY! Just CLICK HERE.



Writing in Rhyme
Finding Age Appropriate Words When Writing for Children


Karen Cioffi, Children's Freelance Writer

Don't want to write a book yourself? Or, need one edited or rewritten? I can help, just click the link!


Friday, October 22, 2010

A Review: A Necklace for Jiggsy

Title: A Necklace for Jiggsy
Author and Illustrator: Kit Grady
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.
Print ISBN 13: 978-161633-091-0
eBook ISBN 13: 978-1-61633-092-7
Reviewed by: Karen Cioffi

Kit Grady is an amazing artist, and she is also a talented children’s writer. In her newest book, A Necklace for Jiggsy, she takes a cute, scruffy looking junkyard dog and weaves a delightful story children will love.

All his life, Jiggsy lived in a junkyard. It was overcrowded with other mangy dogs, cats, rodents, and other critters, and food was scarce. Just to get a bit of food or a bone, he’d have to scrounge around, and sometimes even fight for it.

Along with the overcrowding and hunger, the sleeping situation wasn’t any better. But, the one thing Jiggsy did have was his beloved pillow; it was his only possession.

One day, Jiggsy found a beautiful necklace. He slid the necklace on his neck and found his life transformed. People stopped to stare, neighborhood stores gave him choice treats, and the other animals treated him with respect – he became “King of the Yard.” Jiggsy loved the attention and special treatment.

Then, he read that thieves stole a diamond necklace from a rich widow; he knew this was the necklace he found. Rather than give the necklace up, he hid.

When he went to the junkyard to get some much needed sleep, he found his pillow missing. Who would have done such a thing? How could someone take another’s belongings? That night Jiggsy dreamed his pillow was stolen by mean dogs who would not give it back.

Jiggsy’s life was transformed again. Seeing things differently, he returned the necklace to the widow. While returning it, the widow showed kindness toward Jiggsy and adopted him.

A Necklace for Jiggsy is a beautifully illustrated children’s picture book that touches on four issues that will help enlighten little ones about those less fortunate and about morals. These issues are very subtlety woven throughout the story with simple text and outstanding full page illustrations.

The first lesson is brought about by Jiggsy’s difficult life of having to fend for food and a safe spot to lay his head.

The second lesson deals with Jiggsy’s realization of the loss and hurt that comes with having something beloved taken from him.

The third lesson shows Jiggsy making the connection between his feelings and how the widow might feel about her stolen necklace.

The fourth lesson demonstrates the power of doing the right thing, and the power of kindness.

While it has a wonderful take away value, it’s the vivid illustrations, along with a fun and engaging story that will have children wanting to read A Necklace for Jiggsy over and over again.

To get your own copy of Kit Grady's latest book, A Necklace for Jiggsy, jut click the url below:

Like this review? Please share it!


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Promote Your Books Through Article Writing

I have a wonderful guest post by the Book Marketing Maven, Dana Lynn Smith:

Easy Ways to Promote Your Book With Articles
by Dana Lynn Smith

An ongoing article marketing campaign is a terrific way to promote your book and yourself. Some of the benefits of article marketing for authors include:

•    Generating direct links to your website or book sales page through the resource box at the end of the article.
•    Establishing nonfiction authors as experts in their field and enhancing the author platform.
•    Contributing to search engine optimization by providing incoming links to your website.
Here are some ideas for leveraging content that you have already written:
•    Compile a list of the best articles from your blog and ezine, along with short excerpts from your book that could be used as articles.
•    Contact bloggers and ezine editors that cater to your target audiences and ask if they would like to use any of your articles as a guest post. When you send the requested article, include a low-resolution photo of yourself. If you use Word 2007, save your articles in Word 2003 format so that anyone can open the files.
•    Submit your articles to a leading article site such as Ezine Articles.  Plan to submit one article every week or two. Incoming links from the article directory sites are given low value by the search engines, due to abuse by spammers and scraper sites. But when a website or blog finds your article and reprints it on their site, you gain a link on a relevant site which can drive direct traffic to your own website, in addition to providing search engine optimization benefits.
•    Join a blog carnival. Blog carnivals are a collection of links pointing to blog posts on a particular topic, or topics of interest to a particular group of people.
•    Post articles on expert sites such as HubPages, Squidoo, eHow, and Google Knol. HubPages and eHow are probably the easiest to get started with.

Be sure to write a good "resource box" or bio to place at the end of your articles, which succinctly showcases you and your book and provides a link to your website and/or book sales page. Keep the resource box to about 50 words, and be sure to include your book title and website address. It's good to offer a free bonus to encourage click throughs to your site.

Don't post the exact same article on your own blog or website that you are posting elsewhere. I recommend posting an article first on your site, then creating a somewhat different version to post elsewhere. This will help avoid duplicate content penalties by search engines.

You can also research the submission requirements of print newsletters, trade publications and consumer magazines that cover your topic or cater to your target audiences, and submit queries or articles where appropriate. Try Wooden Horse Publishing for magazine research.
Resource: Just the FAQs: Articles is a 19-page ebook by MaAnna Stephenson that includes step-by-step instructions for posting on seven popular article directory sites, including

Dana Lynn Smith is a book marketing coach and author of the Savvy Book Marketer Guides. For more tips, follow @BookMarketer on Twitter, visit Dana's blog at, and get a copy of the Top Book Marketing Tips ebook when you sign up for her free newsletter at


Even Tiny Action Steps Can Produce Huge Results
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For very helpful online marketing ecourses and eclasses, visit:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Article Reprinting Beef to Grind

I am always pleased when a blogger or business chooses to reprint my articles on their sites. It’s a win-win situation. The site gets fresh content, and I get visibility.

In the past I have come across sites that have used my articles (I should say plagiarized my articles) and didn’t include my byline. While this is problematic and unethical on the site owner’s part, it’s not as bad as what I encounter last week.

As a somewhat savvy writer and marketer, I have my name, site names, and some of my articles in Google Alert. If my name, or a site name, or an article title is published on the internet, Google Alert informs me. All writers should take advantage of this free service.

The other day, I received an alert listing a blogsite that is using my article, “Foods to Avoid with Multiple Sclerosis.” As I mentioned above, this is usually a positive thing.

When I am alerted a site is using my article, as a precaution, and to stop by and say “hi,” I usually visit the site. When I visited the site that posted my article, I got a shock.

The blog owner, or other party who is able to post to the site, edited my article. The site is in French (I think), but the articles are in English. My article resembled mine, but it now lacks clarity; it’s actually a mess. It was poorly edited and makes it look like I’m a VERY POOR WRITER.

I study and work hard to hone my craft, and while I know I have much more to learn, I am a pretty good nonfiction writer.

I left a comment on the site requesting the edited article be taken down and replaced with my own version. I explained that I would rather not have my name associated with their version.

As a freelance writer and ghostwriter, having my name attached to that article is damaging. I can honestly see that having a blogger steal my article is much better than having my name attached to a poorly written article.

I’m not quite sure why someone would take another author’s article, edit it, and leave the author’s by line attached. To me, this is worse than plagiarism – this is damaging my reputation as a writer.

If a potential client goolge’s my name and finds that article, I’ll lose a client.

I’m just hoping that the blog owner understands my dilemma and takes down the article.

Have any of you had experiences such as this? If you have, how did you handle it?

My original article is at:

In trying to find out if I had any recourse, I came upon a site called Reputation Defender. I contacted them, but they only provide favorable content for their clients. I had to laugh because that’s what I do for my clients.

Adding to this post, on Saturday, October 16th, I received another Google Alert. My name is now being used on another site that is blatantly using my name to sell products. At the end of the post, it has a list of links to my articles, but they all lead back to a different page on that site using my name again. It's crazy!!!

What on earth is going on?

And, Yahoo has my email targeted as a spam account. I'm now wondering if this is all connected.

Just color me angry and frustrated.


Friday, October 15, 2010

A Review: Family and More - Enemies or Friends?

Title: Family and More - Enemies or Friends? A collection of poems
Author: Helena Harper
Publisher: Pen Press Publishers Ltd; first edition (August 31, 2010)
ISBN-10: 1907172645
ISBN-13: 978-1907172649
Reviewed by: Karen Cioffi

Family and More – Enemies or Friends? is more than a collection of poems, it is a story I enjoyed and learned from. As you read this book it becomes clear that the author put a great deal of time and effort into the choice of every word used. Each poem has a melodic flow that moves smoothly into the next.

Family and More enlightens the reader to the conflicts and confusion that exist in a family divided by war. Being the child of a German mother and English father in the aftermath of WWII, the author delves into her family’s history by examining the lives of several family members as well as other personal relationships. Each poem is an intertwined life. With descriptive imagery these people come alive; you see their struggles and triumphs.

This wonderful poetic story goes beyond a family history; it depicts the futility, frustration and hardship of war, along with the frailties and strengths of the people that make up each of our families.

Family and More – Enemies or Friends? is a beautifully written book. I highly recommend it.

Other reviews you may find of interest:

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Book Review – When Teachers Talk


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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Marketing with Video - Amazing Young Guitarist

Today, my post is a little different. I happened upon a YouTube video of an amazing little boy guitarist. While watching it, I noticed a music instructor was promoting his business with a bit of content at the bottom of the video.

In marketing, one of the best ways to sell a product or service is to SHOW what it can do for you. Well, this music instructor had the right idea in using  one of his students (I'm assuming) to demonstrate how a child could learn to play the guitar.

Granted, not all children or adults have the same capabilities or talents, but this is an excellent marketing tool. And, note that just listening to the audio wouldn't have the same affect. It's the video of this little boy with amazing talent that makes you want to run to the instructor's home and get lessons for you or your child.

So, without further ado, here is one outstanding little guitar player:

Sungha plays 'C*ome Toge*ther' arranged by Michael Chapdelaine

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I love listening to the guitar, violin, and cello.



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Content Marketing – What Does RSS Stand For?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Striving to Be a Better Writer by Writing More

Do you write everyday? Do you spend a great deal of time each week writing? If you answered yes to these questions, you should have noticed an improvement in your writing, and possibly an improvement in the speed at which you are able to write. But, that’s not all; you will also find it easier to think of topics to write about.

This is especially true if you do article marketing, or ghostwrite articles for other writers, blogs, or businesses. The more articles you write, the better you’ll get at it. The more writing of any type you do, the better you’ll get, just like the adage, ‘practice makes perfect.’

But, what does it mean to get better at writing?


One aspect of writing improvement is the ability to create a well structured article or story. It should begin with an interesting or hooking introduction. The beginning lets the reader know what the piece will be about. And, it should move smoothly into the middle. You might think of the beginning as the appetizer to a meal.

The middle is the content substance. You let the reader know what the story will be about in the beginning, the middle follows through and embellishes on the topic. The middle is the meat and potatoes of the story or article, and it should move smoothly into the ending, or conclusion.

The ending wraps things up. It should wrap up any loose ends and tie the piece up into a nice package. It needs to leave the reader satisfied. You can think of the ending as the dessert.

The more you write, the easier it becomes to create content that is well structured and smooth.


Another aspect writers strive for in their writing is clarity. Along with a well structure piece, you need it to be clear, easily understood. It needs to have focus.

Think of your story as having a road map. You need to get from point A to point C (beginning, middle, and end) with as little deviation as possible. Your reader is following you down the road and you don’t want to lose him. I

f you give your reader any reason to pause or divert his attention from the main point of your story, you’ll lose him. People have a short attention span today; they want the information as quickly as possible with as little effort as possible.

If your topic is about health, don’t go off on a tangent about today’s political climate, unless it’s in regard to the stress it adds to your everyday life, and thus the harmful effects it has on your health.

The more you write, the easier it becomes to create content that is focused and lean.

Wrapping it Up

There are a number of writers who give themselves daily writing quotas. Some may choose thirty minutes a day, others 500 to 1000 words per day. There are also those writers who feel too pressured having to fulfill a daily writing quota, so they choose to create weekly quotas.

One problem writers face is time. Even if you work from home, by the time you read and respond to your emails, keep up with your blogs, do your social networking, and keep up your family and household duties, the day can just slip away. It might be helpful to a create weekly writing plan or schedule and do your best to stick to it.

If you’re a writer it’s important to write regularly, if not every day, as often as you can. As with any craft, the more you practice or work at it, the better you’ll get.


Writing Tip – Don't Leave Your Files to Chance, Back Them Up
A Ghostwriter’s Uses


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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Finding Age Appropriate Words when Writing for Children

Writing in general can be a tough business; writing for children is even tougher. Writing for children has its own unique tricks, processes, and rules; one of those rules is using words that are age appropriate.

How this differs from writing in general is that the children’s writing arena is divided into specific age groups.

There are picture books and rebus stories for the very young child. The story line and text are simple; they need to tell a story including basic conflict and action, but they are geared toward the comprehension of young children.

Next comes early readers. Again, the words used and plot are relatively simple to help the child learn to read.

The next genre is chapter books. Here the plot and words grow just like the child has. The story can be more involved and geared to hold the child’s attention with mild mystery, suspense, and fantasy.

Then it’s on to middle grade. At this point, the child has grown and has greater comprehension and vocabulary, so should the stories for them. The plot and conflict can be more complex than the earlier chapter books.

Finally, it’s on to young adult. This genre’s stories can be sophisticated and involved enough to attract adult readership. But, it obviously should still be written avoiding hard core subject matter. While it can deal with just about all topics, it should be void explicit adult context.  Writing for adults is simpler; the writer usually writes with the vocabulary he/she is use to.

The question is: How does a writer know which words are specific to a particular age group? Unless you are an experienced writer and have become very familiar with the different age group vocabularies, you will need help in this area.

Three Sources/Tools for Finding Age Appropriate Words

1. A source that I’ve found very useful is Children’s Writers Word Book, 2nd Edition, by Alijandra Mogilner and Tayopa Mogilner. It lists specific words that are introduced at seven key reading levels (kindergarten through sixth grade). It provides a thesaurus of those words with synonyms, annotated with reading levels. In addition, it offers detailed guidelines for sentence length, word usage, and themes at each reading level. I find it a valuable tool in my writing toolbelt.

2. Another great source is which utilizes Spache and Dale formulas. This is an amazing site that allows you to input 200 words, choose a readability formula (what grade level you are writing for), and click for the results. The program, OKAPI (an internet application for creating curriculum-based assessment reading probes) will return a readability analysis of your text, indicating what grade level the particular content is appropriate for. This particular webpage is for 4th grade words, but there's a link to find lower grade words.

3. Next is This site provides printable wordlists for each grade level. The lists are limited, but it does give a good indication of appropriate words for the particular age group you are writing for.

All three of these resources are useful in finding just the right words for the children’s writer. There are also other books and sites available that will help you in your search for those age appropriate words for your children’s book, just do a search.



Finding Children’s Story Ideas
Creating and Beefing Up Conflict


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Friday, October 1, 2010

Want to Start a Spectacular Book Club? Mayra Calvani Tells us How

The first of October, and it's my great pleasure to feature multi-published author, Mayra Calvani, and her book, How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event.

Before I get to a review of Mayra's book, let's learn a bit about Mayra.

Mayra Calvani is an award-winning multi-genre author for children and adults. A reviewer for more than a decade, she’s a regular contributor to Blogcritics Magazine and the Latino Books Examiner for She’s a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators, the CBI Clubhouse, and the Children’s Writers Coaching Club. Visit her website at

Okay, on to the review:

Title: How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event
Author: Mayra Calvani
Publisher: Twilight Times Books
First edition, September 2010
Electronically published in the United States of America
Reviewer: Karen Cioffi

The title of How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event doesn’t quite give the full scope of this detailed e-book. This book is a tool and guide for any young person who yearns to start from scratch and actually create a book club.

I was an avid reader as a child. While I didn’t belong to a book club, thinking back it would have been a great idea. If there was a book such as How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event, it might have inspired me to take the initiative and create one.

For a 46 page e-book, Calvani has managed to make it very comprehensive; it’s a step-by-step guide explaining how to create, get members, and run a ‘spectacular’ book club.

The book is divided into two parts: Points to Keep in Mind, and Main Book Categories or Genres.

The first part includes: the type of books to read; the size of the group; choosing a name for the book club; recruiting members; including snacks; where to have each meeting; and how often to meet. One of the subheadings in this section is The First Meeting’s Got to Be Cool. In this section, Calvani offers suggestions on how to create a cool first meeting, links to finding books to read, and even includes some leadership responsibilities.

Another section in Part 1 is Reading Smartly Is In Style! “The main purpose of a book club is to talk about books—whether you hate them or love them. For this reason, it’s important to read smartly.” Herein the author outlines the elements of reading a book to discuss it. She also provides thoughtful questions and ideas on how to do this.

From beginning to end, How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event is a great guide for those children who want to take the initiative and create a book club. It provides all the information needed, and even a breakdown of book genres, along with examples of books. And, it ends with a list of popular authors who write for young readers, including the title of one of their books.

Any book that helps guide children on the reading path, and encourages them to read, is a book that should be recommended. How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event is one such book.

For you own copy of How to Turn Your Book Club Into a Spectacular Event, go to: