Writing/Righting History & Getting Toddlers to Eat – Author Delin Colón Three Random Questions Interview

delinglasses1aDelin Colón is a writer and freelance editor with a background in clinical psychology.

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Delin. You have had a number of career paths. Tell us a little about them and how they led to your writing.

Delin Colón: Thank you, Bonnie. Actually, I wrote my first poem at the age of eight (in 1958). Several were published in minor literary magazines during my high school and college years. Then came essays and short stories.

While I had majored in French and French literature in my undergraduate years, I turned to clinical psychology in graduate school which combined my love of research and working with people, and led to counseling children and adults in a variety of clinical settings such as psychiatric hospitals, halfway houses, walk-in clinics and a juvenile detention center. This background led to a job as a technical writer for Sociological Abstracts. I loved the challenge of reducing an experiment or study down to four sentences describing the essence of the article.

A decade or so later, as the co-owner and manager of a stairbuilding company, I saw a need in the marketplace for a clearinghouse of all kinds of writers and formed a company that matched freelance writers with jobs. But the real impetus for publishing my first book, Rasputin and the Jews, came from reading the memoirs of my great-great uncle who spent a decade as Gregory Rasputin’s secretary/manager.

Ferrante: You have written two very different books, a historical nonfiction called Rasputin and the Jews and a picture booked titled Zeke Will Not Eat. Let’s talk about the first one for a bit. How much research did that involve? Did you have the plot and then do the research or did you discover the plot as you researched?

Colón: Actually, Rasputin and the Jews: A Reversal of History is the culmination of 15 years of researching the writings of people who knew Rasputin. My father had always told me that his great uncle, Aron Simanovitch, had been Rasputin’s secretary. For years I tried to research my ancestor but with little luck until the late 1990s when I found, on the internet, an out-of-print copy of Simanovitch’s memoirs in French. It did not seem to have been professionally edited at all, as there was a lot of repetition and poor organization of the manuscript. However, what struck me about it, first of all, was that my great-great uncle was one of the few Jews permitted to live outside Russia’s Pale of Settlement where most Jews were confined. But even more importantly, his memoirs conveyed a completely different image of Rasputin than history and myth have recorded.

My second book was my English translation, with historical annotations, of Simanovitch’s memoirs, titled Rasputin: The Memoirs of His Secretary by Aron Simanovitch.

Ferrante: How do you organize your research and make it easy to find something you read later on? I read that you worked on the book for 15 years. You must have been buried in documents.

Colón: Most of the books I read about Rasputin propagated the demonic myth that had been fabricated by the Russian nobility to discredit him. But there were quite a few quotes and memoirs from those who knew him intimately, on a nearly daily basis (such as my great-great uncle and Maria Rasputin), that told the story of a humanitarian (who, okay, loved to party) who, contrary to government policy and to the wrath of the aristocracy, advocated equal rights for oppressed minorities as well a voice in government for all citizens.

With regard to organizing the research, I used a simple index card file with the subject and date of the quote or event at the top, the quote in the body of the card, and the title, author and page of the resource information at the bottom. The cards were then organized by subject matter and then chronologically within each chapter’s subject.

Ferrante: Can you give us a sentence or two about Rasputin and the Jews?

Colón: Rasputin and The Jews: A Reversal of History is the product of research providing evidence that the Russian nobility, clergy and bureaucracy conspired in a smear campaign against Rasputin because they saw him as dangerous:

  1. for advocating equal rights for Jews (in opposition to the laws restricting their lives)
  2. for the popularity of his upbeat sermons of a loving God (in contrast to the fear of God preached in the Russian Orthodox Church)
  3. for being anti-war and preaching peace during World War I.
  4. and for believing that all citizens should have a say in government…the biggest threat to the nobility.

Ferrante: Why did you challenge the tradition beliefs about Rasputin?

Colón: History is written by the victors, not by the common man.  It became clear to me that Rasputin became a collateral victim of, among other things, the virulent anti-Semitism of the aristocracy, bureaucracy and clergy. My research revealed that it was not only my ancestor’s experience that Rasputin was a generous man, a healer and a progressive humanitarian, but that others who knew him well witnessed the same traits, refuting the demonic image. For me, it was a matter of righting a century-old injustice. Interestingly, Rasputin and The Jews led me to a correspondence with Rasputin’s great-great granddaughter in France. She tours Europe and Russia lecturing to dispel the myths about Rasputin.

Click on the cover to buy Rasputin and the Jews

Ferrante: Your latest book is a picture book for children, Zeke Will Not Eat.  Why did you choose this subject?

Colón: I’m in the process of writing a series of books for 2 to 6 year-olds, addressing typical toddler issues. Zeke Will Not Eat is the second one. I’ve done some research on the most common problems parents of this age group face and not eating is high on the list. The first book, Katy Rose Likes To Say NO!, addresses that stage where children assert their independence and establish themselves as separate from their parents by saying “no.”

Click on the picture to buy Katy Rose Likes to Say NO!

Ferrante: Did the technique used in the book come from personal experience?

Colón: Yes it did. It was a technique I devised for myself as a child, using my imagination to make mealtime more interesting for myself. It was completely internal and not something I mentioned to my parents or siblings.

Ferrante: Do you have any other tips for parents having mealtime difficulties with a child?

Colón: At the beginning of each of these little books, there is a note to parents explaining the behavior and its purpose in the child’s development. With Zeke, I note that, barring medical issues, there are a variety of reasons for a child’s unwillingness to sit down at the table for a meal, from filling up on snacks and drinks too close to mealtime, to feeling excluded from the conversation, or simply exercising newly found manipulative abilities.

Click on the cover to buy Zeke Will Not Eat

In Katy Rose, my note to parents stresses that it is not only normal, but developmentally necessary for children to go through a “no” phase in order to assert themselves in the world and establish a Self, an identity separate from their parents. As powerless beings subject to adult authority, “no” is often a child’s first taste of power and individuality. But when it becomes routine defiance or is hurtful to friends, it is an opportunity to teach compassion and the unfortunate consequences of negativity. There is also discussion on when it is important to say “no.” One way to avoid “no” is to make statements rather than ask questions, reducing the possibility of options. Rather than asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?” saying, “Let’s go…” or “Now we’ll go…” assumes the event will occur and doesn’t give an option.

Ferrante: The illustrations seemed odd at first glance until I read how they were done using the same 150 shapes arranged and rearranged to create pictures. Why did you choose this technique?

Colón: I grew up in a small town on the east coast that was essentially an artists’ colony. My mother is an artist and we were always given art projects to do, in a variety of media. One of the most famous artists in our town was Ben Shahn. His teenage daughter, Susie, happened to be visiting at my friend’s house when I was about 7 years old. She sat us kids down on the floor, cut a huge variety of shapes from construction paper and had us arrange the shapes into an image on a blank piece of paper. It was like doing a jigsaw puzzle with no ‘right’ outcome; just whatever our imaginations could conjure.

I’ve been enamored of this technique ever since, and have a website of other images I’ve created, in addition to the book illustrations. (http://delin-colon.pixels.com/)

I have nothing in mind when cutting the pieces of varying shapes, lengths and sizes. The challenge is in turning them into illustrations that convey the text. One image might take a couple of days to a week to produce. By the way, all of the pieces used in Katy Rose were also used in Zeke, with a few dozen more added for the latter. Instructions for doing such a parent-child art project are at the back of each book. Alternatively, a child could color in the black and white images, as one would in a coloring book.

Ferrante: I don’t think people realize how challenging it is until they try it.

What are you working on now?

Colón: I’m conjuring the third book in the series which will be about telling the truth, a more difficult and abstract concept than the first two. Interestingly, my research revealed a study showing that children are more likely to tell the truth after hearing positive stories (like George Washington being praised for admitting he chopped down the cherry tree) than they are after hearing stories with negative consequences for lying (like The Boy Who Cried Wolf or Pinocchio

In addition, I have half a dozen rough chapters of an existential coming-of-age novel illustrating how Self and Identity are shaped and the conundrum that there is no absolute Self without outside influences.

Ferrante: Interesting. That’s similar to Buddhism.

Is there anything I haven’t asked that you would like to share with my readers?

Colón: This is the most thorough and in-depth interview I’ve done, with questions that pertain specifically to my work, as opposed to the general, stock questions that others ask every writer. I’ve really had to think about them. I just hope that your readers find some of my work of interest.

Ferrante: I’m sure parents of toddlers will appreciate your tips.

Three Random Questions:

Ferrante: What was the craziest thing you ever bought?

Colón:   I’ve never been a lover of shopping and have generally stuck to practical items but several decades ago I was intrigued by an ad for an electric device that could be set at various brain wave frequencies to induce alertness, memory, sleep, creativity, or relaxation. I was especially interested in increasing the Theta waves for creativity. At different times, I tried each different setting, wearing dark goggles that pulsed light flashes at different rates and head phones that played tones in the desired frequencies. They all tended to produce the same result for me: I’d fall asleep and have some very bizarre dreams. Not long after, I’d be awakened by one of my teenagers asking when dinner would be ready. Frankly, I never noticed any greater creativity, fatigue or relaxation in the ensuing meal preparations.

Ferrante: In your opinion, what song has the most beautiful chorus?

Colón: That’s a tough one. I guess the one closest to my heart would be Helen Reddy’s “You and Me Against the World:”

You and me against the world,
Sometimes it seems like you and me against the world,
When all the others turn their backs and walk away,
You can count on me to stay.

It describes perfectly the close relationship I had with my older son, a musician who, even at the age of 27, before his death eight years ago, proudly described himself as “mama’s boy.”

The song continues:

And when one of us is gone,
And one of us is left to carry on,
Then remembering will have to do,
Our memories alone will get us through
Think about the days of me and you,
Of you and me against the world.

Ferrante: Oh, I am so sorry. I can’t imagine losing my son. My deepest condolences.

Last question. Do you like your first name? What would you like to have been called?

Colón: I do like my first name (accent on the second syllable: de-LIN) mostly because I created it. It is not the name on my birth certificate, but a mash-up of my names that I’ve been using for over 50 years. I was given a Hebrew name, Chana Dvora, and though I like it, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, especially with the guttural “ch.” But if I had it to do over, from scratch, I always thought “Kate” suited me.

Again, Bonnie, thank you so much for this opportunity. I don’t think I’ve ever given such a heartfelt interview … probably because I was never asked such well-considered questions.

Ferrante: Thank you. I try to make my interviews unique to the interviewee. You’ve shared a lot of information with us. This is, by far, the longest interview I’ve printed but it is chock full of value and cool ideas. Thank you for participating.

Zeke Will Not Eat was reviewed on this blog March 20, 2017.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Three random questions are from a Bit of Banter, the Game That Gets You Talking)

Guest Post: What’s the Motive?


Tuesday’s Tales: Bonnie Ferrante


I believe a positive attitude is essential for happiness. This includes being mindful and grateful. In Buddhism, there is a saying, “We make the world with our minds.” I could write an entire book on what that means but basically what we focus on influences the internal and external world in which we live. I keep this in mind in my writing for adults, young people and children. I was a grade school teacher for 33 years, 10 of those years as teacher librarian. I believe it is important to create picture books that help them develop interpersonal skills and internal strength.


Authentic & Important Environmental Mysteries: Author Bonnie J. Doerr Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie J. Doerr writes eco-mystery novels for tweens. For over thirty years, she taught reading and writing skills to students of all ages—from kindergarten to college. Her mystery/adventures are based on true events. Her books have received recognition from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric administration. She has been an Epic  e-book award winner for an outstanding children’s book and one of six finalists for the YA Green Earth award.

author by mangroves more light

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Bonnie. I’m looking forward to this interview. Your book has inspired some important questions.

Bonnie j. Doerr: Thanks, for the invitation. This Bonnie is happy for the opportunity to reach out to you, Bonnie, and your readers.

Ferrante: You used news accounts of the killing of an endangered deer as the catalyst for your book Island Sting. Other books have been fueled by a sea turtle caught in a net and the pelican with a slashed pouch. How do you take such tragic and brutal events and change them into a story that leaves young people with a sense of hope?

Doerr: Wow. You jumped right into the meat of these stories. Yep, I use actual heartbreaking events as motivation for my plots. Some are even personal observations. But hope arises from observing the real life heroes featured in my books who rescue, rehab, and release injured and abused animals.

Watching the selfless work of everyone involved in these organizations leaves me, and if I’ve done a decent job, readers with a deep appreciation for the greater kindness and loving hearts most humans have. These heroes inspire my characters’ actions. And what reader doesn’t want to see themselves in the hero?

The tragic facts are all background for the young teens who solve the mysteries by asking questions, discovering clues, participating in dangerous and devious events, arguing about tactics, taking wrong turns, until finally, just before things get brutally dangerous for them – these heroic teens crack the crimes. They were never without hope!


 Click here to buy Stakeout

Ferrante: Sounds both inspiring and fun. When did you decide that you wanted to merge your passion for preserving nature and your educational skills into fiction writing?

Doerr: I was teaching middle school science years ago when my search for a fun read to support my environmental curriculum came up empty. I thought then maybe one day I’d take my shot at writing such books. But it was many years before I found the time to study the craft and go for it.

TL cover 2

 Click here to buy Tangled Lines

Ferrante: After writing your first mystery, did you change the way you approach writing a book?

Doerr: I think writers are always learning what works better for them. But many habits remain. I’m constantly reading news in every format, human interest stories, conservation magazines, books in many genres. Add to that listening all while awaiting the spark of an idea to research. I keep lots of short notes for plot events, character ideas, plot scenes, snippets of conversations, people to interview in a notebook. Very sloppy notebook, I might add. It’s hard to predict how it goes beyond that point, but some combination of panstering and plotting takes place on my laptop. I can’t seem to change being a “planster.”


 Click here to buy Kenzie’s Key

Ferrante: That’s probably the method that gets your creativity flowing.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the senseless destruction of the environment and the animal world?

Doerr: To be overwhelmed is to feel helpless and hopeless. Such surrender would demean and deny the work of those who are saving and protecting our environment around the world every day (http://bit.ly/1TC8udQ). NASA’s Commander Bolden says this about collaboration in outer space, “… we’re traveling together as a human race that’s looking to expand the outer bounds of human possibility and progress.”  I believe his words can be applied to working for the health of our planet right here on Earth.

Ferrante: What do you do to refuel yourself?

Doerr: Science tells us everyone can refuel by spending time in nature (For example, this reference: http://bit.ly/1pfM8hq). I live surrounded by woods along a lovely greenway path and park. So this escape is easy for me, and truthfully, if I couldn’t easily commune with nature I’d likely go nuts. Escaping into the world of a book is also a major refuge. Recently, I read that for those who can’t easily get outdoors imagining the experience is doga worthwhile retreat. Research has proven nature scenes alone provide comfort and healing to hospital patients (http://bit.ly/1pjF4Fn). Imagine what immersion in an outdoor adventure book can do for people who spend too much time indoors. My novels offer just that kind of experience. I also recharge by traveling to new places, experiencing other cultures, and by spending time with friends and with my rescue dog, Salty (named after the dog in my books), who always puts a smile on my face.

Ferrante: I, too, love being outdoors (except when it’s 30C below). My favourite sound is listening to leaves rustling in  the wind.

Have any of your readers ever expressed their involvement in an environmental group because of what they have read in your books?

Doerr: My former editor told me she learned one reader established a green teen club at school as a result of reading Island Sting, but I never learned more about it. I wish I had. My readers are just under the age group that’s active online so I don’t often hear from them directly.


 Click here to buy Island Sting

Ferrante: Please tell us about your research methods. 

Doerr: Most of my research is done in the field. I maintain contact with people I meet during my research and often refer to them when my memory fails, my notes are incomplete, or I need more detail. The field research is the most fun for me. The people I meet always show up on the page as bits and pieces of the good guys. Besides who wouldn’t want to spend weeks in the Florida Keys?

Ferrante: I would! I would!

What other topics do you think you might tackle in the future?

Doerr: I’m trying to boil down my ideas. Since I’m a bit superstitious, I don’t want to say more than my setting will be geographically different. I may even take a break from environmental issues.

three random questions

Ferrante: Aside from any family, friends, or pets, what would be the most difficult thing for you to give up in your life?

Doerr: I wouldn’t be me if I had to give up living with trees, flowers, plants – all things nature.

Ferrante: Me too. I love visiting big cities but I love coming home even more. Next question. Forget about soft sounds like babbling brooks, gentle showers, and warbling birds. What is your favorite loud sound?

Doerr: Dang, you took away what I’d most hate to give up. Truth. There is no loud sound I like. Loud sounds make me tense and hyper. I cover my ears at concerts, and thank goodness for closed captioning on TV. But the loudest tolerable sound I can think of is a seventeen-year cycle of singing cicadas. But how often do I have to hear that chorus?

Ferrante: I’m not a fan of loud either but I think I’d like to hear those singing cicadas at least once.

If you could live in any state other than the one in which you currently reside, which state would you choose?

Doerr: Gosh, I’ve lived in ten different states. Other than North Carolina where I live now, I can rule all of them out. Maybe I’d choose Vermont, but no, I can’t tolerate winter. So… hmm… has to be warmer than Vermont … but green… Oregon! It would be Oregon. Wait, maybe Washington. But it’s cooler than Oregon. Except I need frequent blue skies, so neither one. Wyoming – big blue skies. No, too landlocked and cold. You made it hard. No fair. I like the state where I now live. It may be cheating, but I’m going say Virginia. It’s only an hour’s drive to the state line from home. *wink*

Thanks for the fun, Bonnie!

Ferrante: Thank you for your thoughtful and inspiring answers. It’s been great getting to know you. It seems these two Bonnies have a few things in common.

Bonnie Doerr’s website


Tangled Lines will be reviewed Friday, February 10, 2017 on this blog.



Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-1

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-2

2012 Green Earth Book Award Short List-3

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Jayne Barnard’s Great Tips on Reading Your Work Aloud

Posted on Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop Blog


“We’ve all seen them, and many of us have been them: authors standing up front with their nose in the book, mumbling, inaudible beyond the second row. The audience isn’t fidgeting because they don’t like the writing; often it’s the delivery that’s killing you. Yet you can land the basics of good delivery in a few minutes of practice a day. You’ll give better readings and enjoy them more (or dread them less)…”


Jayne will be interviewed on my blog March 22, 2017.

Click on the book cover for information on her latest work.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

We Make the World With Our Minds – Interview


It feels like Christmas when I was a kid. I finally ordered a computer project, which I’ve wanted for a couple of years. It’s arriving today. The prices have dropped considerably. My head is buzzing with all the things I could do with it.

I’ve always “squeezed the juice out” of experiences and interests but I’ve become a bit obsessive. I don’t know if it’s aging, Parkinson’s, or the freedom of retirement. My husband coaxed me to bed at 4:00. I was making Lego structures to go with a video I want to make.

Now I’m waiting for the door bell to ring. Thankfully, it’s being delivered by Canada Post. Purolator just dumps packages on the back step and doesn’t even ring the doorbell. Not great when it’s below freezing.

So, I’ll have one more “craft/interest/compulsion” making a mess of my sewing room for a while.

Fortunately, I can buy more building blocks under the guise of providing activities for my granddaughter when I babysit. 😉


Today I’m putting the shoe on the other foot and sharing an interview I did on Kasper’s blog Hunters of Reloria through the Fantasy Sci-Fi Network. The interview is below the sample of my book, Leya.


Feeding the Minds of Kids While Keeping Them in Suspense: Author Gail Hedrick Three Random Questions Interview

Bonnie Ferrante: Gail Hedrick is a middle-grade fiction author, freelance writer, editor and proofreader.

Welcome, Gail. Tell us a bit about your writing and your most recent work. Is it a departure from your usual writing?

Gail Hedrick: I write for kids and their parents. I’ve written and sold articles on subjects from grandparents to organizing your underwear drawer or your locker, to why socks were invented, underage drinking, cinnamon, decision-making, and more.  My published poems and activity verses have been on subjects like bedtime, setting the table, holidays like the 4th of July and Groundhog Day, smells and school. I enjoyed the challenge of short stories and published pieces on fitness, fears, and change, and most recently, completed and sold two middle-grade mystery books to Tumblehome Learning.

Actually, I had written two other middle-grade fiction books, but they remain in a drawer, and I look at them as my practice books. I don’t really think of my books as a departure from my other writing, just where I’d always been heading.

Gail Photo

Ferrante: It seems you write both fiction and nonfiction. Do you approach them differently? Which one do you find more challenging?

Hedrick: I am probably not the best one to ask about process, but it feels like I approach both kinds of writing about the same. Lots of gathering of information precedes anything I write. It may be newspaper clippings, articles, bookmarked pages on my computer, maybe a phone interview or photos, and once I have a folder of stuff to refer to, then some fleshing out gets going. It’s kind of an outline, or rough idea of where it seems like I should begin, stuff I might include, and potentially, where I’d like to end up. I like writing both fiction and nonfiction, but I find nonfiction pretty challenging as it’s more than ‘just’ data. You are trying to assemble a collection of facts into a fun, interesting story. You also want to let kids see what excited you about this information in the first place.

Ferrante: What research did you do for this novel?

Hedrick: For Something Stinks! – I had to learn what might have killed fish in large quantities in fresh water in a climate like Southwestern Virginia. I needed to find out if it was environmental, industrial, natural, and man-made. Depending on the answer, I then might need to find out things like if it was industrial-what kind and how it might occur. I had to research water testing, how county law enforcement and newspapers worked, different types of fertilizers, farming practices, and water quality issues.

Gail Hendrick book

 Click here to buy Something Stinks!

For The Scent of Something Sneaky – I had to find out how drug trafficking can occur, especially through the southern US, how steam engines, septic tanks, and smells work and affect us, how bed and breakfasts operate, labor laws for kids, drug testing options, retail operations, residential electricity/wiring, beekeeping and hives, levers, and home or residential fires.

Ferrante: A lot of work but worth it for authenticity. Why did you choose this genre and age?

Hedrick: Seventh and eighth grades are pretty vivid in my memory. There are friend issues, parent issues, striking out on your own-in that you want to, yet you are scared, you’re a kid one minute and sprouting body parts the next. I also loved mysteries from mid-elementary on-those and biographies. I could barely finish one before I’d start another and still love them.    

Ferrante: How many versions did you write?

Hedrick: For Something Stinks! there was really only one. I just kept expanding the scenes, and when it looked like it was becoming a science mystery, some additional work had to be done to flesh out the science to help to tell the expanded and more complex story. There were five line by line revisions.

For The Scent of Something Sneaky there were three (and two were awful!) versions. When I finally got the third version, then there were a number of revisions, perhaps six or seven. About mid-way through this whole process, I sat down, did an outline, and wow, it saved me!

Gail 2

 Click here to buy The Scent of Something Sneaky (An Emily Sanders Mystery)

Ferrante: Yes, if you make a lot of changes it’s necessary to do a new outline.

What do you feel makes your writing original?

Hedrick: I think it’s my dialogue, which is kind of funny as I’m pretty shy, and not much of a talker. And, even worse, in real life, I’m a terrible story teller, and usually forget the punch line.

Ferrante: What is the most important thing you have learned about writing?

Hedrick: Hmm, that it’s hard, but fun; that it leads you on a journey, and even if you get lost, the travel was always worth the trip.

Ferrante: Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

Hedrick: It’s probably a good idea, even if no one else interviews you, to ask yourself some questions like these. It reminds us why we get up in the morning!

three random questions

Ferrante: What do you think is the best conversation piece in your home?

Hedrick: Our photo wall, of our immediate family, grandparents on both sides, our kids from birth to adults, us when we were young(er), and now our grandchild.

Ferrante: Which particular historical document (or portion thereof) do you think every American should know by heart?

Hedrick: The Preamble to the Constitution.

Ferrante: What is something you forgot once that you will more than likely never forget again?

Hedrick: When running errands, with list in hand of what needed to be done/purchased, I forgot to look at the list before going home. Trust me, if you make a list – read it, use it!

Ferrante: Ha! Good advice. I usually lose it.

Thank you for sharing your ideas and books with us. Something Great Happened Here.

Something Stinks will be reviewed on this blog on February 25, 2017.

rThe Scent of Something Sneaky was reviewed on this blog on December 5, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

Should Disabled Pets Be Put Down? – Author Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf Three Random Questions Interview

Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf has written newspaper articles and features, poetry, and the picture book. She is also an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Independent Book Publisher’s Association (IBPA) and the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA).

Lauren and Penny Medium Sized

Bonnie Ferrante: Welcome, Lauren. Your first book was a collection of poetry. What was the impetus for your switch to writing a picture book? Did writing a book of poetry help you prepare in any way for writing a picture book?

Lauren Kramer-Theuerkauf: Writing Priceless Penny was actually my husband’s idea.  After watching Penny scale our three foot pet gate, he told me that I should write a children’s book about Penny and how amazing she is.  I do feel that writing a book of poetry better prepared me for the children’s book.  I had already established a brainstorming and outlining process that I used for the poetry book, which came in very handy for Priceless Penny. I also had a more clear idea of how I wanted the book to look based on the look and feel of my poetry book.

Ferrante: Your picture book is entitled Priceless Penny. It is about an abandoned dog with the deformity. If it is not adopted quickly, it will be put to death at the shelter. It is based on your dog who has a severe overbite and a stumpy front paw. If you had not encountered this dog, do you think you would have written a picture book anyway? Or would you have continued in poetry?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: Had I not met Penny, I believe that I would have still ended up writing a children’s book, eventually!  My mom was an elementary school teacher and I always loved getting to come and read the children stories or help with activities.  Watching them really get into a story is truly an amazing sight to behold.  I feel that I have always been drawn to the idea of writing for children and Penny helped me realize that dream.


 Click here to buy Priceless Penny

Ferrante: You own a number of rescued cats and dogs, several with disabilities. Are you going to write any more picture books about any of these pets? Do you have a project in the works now?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: I am so glad that you asked!  Priceless Penny is actually the first book in a series of children’s books that will star Penny.  The second book is entitled Penny Meets Miracle.  Penny’s world gets turned upside down when her parents bring home a two week old kitten that they found in the middle of the street.  In Penny Discovers Hope, the third book in the series, Penny gets a new furry sister.  Hope is differently-abled, just like Penny.  She was born without eyes and is completely deaf.  Penny soon learns to see the world through Hope’s perspective.

I also have two additional books in the works for adults.  The first is entitled Adriel’s Adventures:  Life as a Therapy Dog.  This book will chronicle Adriel’s journey to becoming a certified therapy dog.  The second book is entitled Having Hope Always: How My Blind/Deaf Dog Taught Me to See the World.  This book is dedicated to our mini double dapple Dachshund, Hope, and tells the tale of how my husband and I learned to adjust to life with a blind/deaf dog and all of the lessons that Hope has taught us.

Ferrante: What advice do you have for people considering adopting an abandoned, abused, or physically challenged pet?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice when it comes to adopting any animal is to realize that having a pet is a full time commitment.  This is especially true of abused and physically challenged animals.  Abused animals need more time to adjust to their new surroundings and need kind humans to show them what it means to be loved.  Animals that are blind or deaf or have other physical complications may need to have special accommodations which can include medications, training or therapy sessions.  It has been my experience that my rescue animals have taught me as much as I have taught them.


Ferrante: James Sell is the illustrator for Priceless Penny. How did you connect? Did you collaborate on the illustrations?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: James Sell is such an amazing illustrator!  He actually lives in England.  We met through LinkedIn when he responded to a post I created seeking illustrators for my project.  The illustration creation was so much fun!  I actually sent James photos of Penny as well as some of the other animals featured in the book and he worked his creative magic.  We had a very open dialog if there were any changes that needed to be made.

Ferrante: What have you enjoyed the most about creating your first picture book?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: What I loved most about creating my first picture book was seeing it all come together.  I actually made a binder filled with items from the project including multiple versions of the manuscript as well as all of the storyboards that James sent me.  To be able to flip through the binder and literally see the story come alive before my eyes is truly breathtaking.  I cannot wait to begin production of the second book!

Ferrante: What advice would you have for other writers starting their first picture book?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: My advice for other writers is to never give up on your dream. If you are passionate about something, write about it.  If you want to create a picture book, be sure to select an illustrator that has the same vision for the story as you do.  You should always be able to work with your illustrator as a team.

Ferrante: What you find the most difficult about writing and how do you manage it?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: The most difficult aspect of writing is the dreaded writer’s block.  It can be very frustrating to feel stuck in your writing.  When this happens to me, I usually take a break and go outside for a walk.  You would be amazed at how much inspiration is all around us.  I also find that listening to music helps to clear my mind and allows the ideas to flow more freely.

three random questions

Ferrante: If you were a multimillionaire, where would you be and what do you believe you would be doing at this very moment?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: If I were a multimillionaire, I would buy acreage within my current town of Freeburg, Illinois.  My husband and I would then build our dream project, which is an animal shelter that would be named The Duchess of Spots in honor of our first dogs.  I would then spend my days rescuing animals and writing about my adventures.  I would also donate money to some of my favorite animal rescue groups so that they can also continue to do their life saving work.

Ferrante: If you had to come up with one question for national opinion poll, what question would you most want to pose to the American public?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: This one is a stumper!  My question would be: Do you believe that the city/county should have the right to limit how many pets you are allowed to have?

Ferrante: Of all the great success stories that you have ever heard or read about, which one do you find the most inspiring?

Kramer-Theuerkauf: Actually, the most inspiring success story is that of my dad.  When he was in high school, a devastating tornado ripped through our town of Freeburg.  At that time, there were no outdoor warning sirens to alert the community about the impending storm.  In the wake of the tornado, my dad wrote a petition demanding that the town procure the life saving sirens.  He and his friends would walk around town on the weekends collecting signatures.  Our mayor was so impressed by all of dad’s hard work that he was later appointed to the position of Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (E.S.D.A.) Coordinator.  He has been serving in this position for over 30 years.  I am so proud every time that he performs the monthly siren test.  Because of my dad, our town will receive the advanced warning it needs to keep our townspeople safe.

Ferrante: Thank you for such an interesting interview. It’s wonderful how you have opened your heart and home to these special pets.

Penny’s Official Website:  www.pricelesspennyp.com

Author Website:  www.theuerkaufstails.com

Penny’s Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/PricelessPennyPooch

Penny’s Twitter page:  @PricelessPennyP

Penny’s Instagram account:  @PricelessPennyP

Priceless Penny will be reviewed on this blog on December 12, 2016.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Note: the three random questions are from “Chat Pack – Fun Questions to Spark Conversations”.

The Secret of Atalaya: A Carolina Cousins’ Mystery by Rhonda S. Edwards. Book Review.


The cover of the book is intriguing and draws one into the story. It gives a promise of mystery and discovery.

The premise of this story is fascinating. The history of the Gullah slaves and the Florida Seminoles was new to me.

There are a few sections where the history of the area is related in interesting detail. The author has obviously done a great deal of research.

The editing, as far as spelling and punctuation, is flawless.

Unfortunately, there were some serious problems:

The germ of this story could have made for a fascinating mystery especially if the author had chosen to write it from three viewpoints, the modern viewpoint of the children discovering the relics, the historical viewpoint of the person who hid them in the 1930s,  (We never really find out why) and the historical viewpoint of the escaping slaves whose identity tags are found. We get a snippet of this on pages 39 to 42 when the author writes a few paragraphs from the point of view of Archer in the 1930s.

I would love to give everyone fours and fives but for my reviews to have any credibility, I have to be honest and forthright. I hope that I’m also being helpful. Read below for details on suggestions to improve this book.

The author was interviewed on November 2, 3016.

A copy of this book was generously donated by the author to my Little Free Library.

Areas That Could Be Improved

The book opens with a long page and a half of telling, basically an info dump. (Pages are 10 x 8 in size.) In the first one and a half pages, we are introduced to Eric, Aunt Savannah, dad, Ashley, mom who was also later called Winni, Katie, Cally, Nick Junior, Anne, grandma Prudence, and grandpa. Most of these characters are not essential to the story.

Here are some tips on how to deal with this.


I was hoping this was a early pages mistake but it actually was stylistic. In most of the book, nothing much happens. There is too much unnecessary detail about things that have nothing to do with the mystery. For example here is a section from chapter 2.

Eric and his mom said goodbye to Ashley. Ashley not only worked as a cashier at a local grocery store, but had and rolled into summer courses at Northeastern community college. She would not be coming except for the occasional weekend visit.

None of that information is important. Neither is Ashley. Here are two excellent sites on dealing with info dump.



Every arrival and departure is told in painstaking unnecessary detail such as, Eric jumped out to grab his MP3 charger that he had left earlier in the week. Then he checked to see if he placed the cooler in the back, closed the passenger door, and finished loading his mom’s car.

Halfway through the book we are still spending time on such things as this: Savannah grabbed her purse, Katie grabbed her book bag, and they moved to the door with Eric and Cally. “We’ll see you later. Buy, Jesse,” called Savannah and she closed the door behind her.

As they travel, the story turns into  family reminiscing and a history and geography lesson. We spend an entire chapter collecting seashells. By the end of Chapter 5 (out of 12), all we have done is seen a glimpse of Atalaya. Nothing about the “mystery” has unfolded. When readers see the word mystery in a book title, they have certain expectations. The mystery solvers need to be challenged, have goals and obstacles. Unfortunately, the actual mystery took about five pages.


On page 27 (out of 45) we finally get a hint of a mystery when Katie is overwhelmed by a feeling that there was a presence in the room. On page 29 the mystery finally begins. The children accidentally film a ghostly image in the master bedroom. They believe that there is a reason for it and a mystery to solve that is theirs alone. No one questions the existence of a ghost contacting them. We expect things to take off from this point on but on page 31 we pause for a trip to the beach where they pack two bottles of frozen water per person placed in an insulated bag. Since Eric and Katie didn’t care for water, Crystal Light tropical punch was added to some bottles before freezing. This helps everyone stay hydrated during the day.

Characters use unnatural dialogue such as 12-year-old Eric saying, Hey this thing has a built-in microphone and a memory stick so that you can transfer to a computer for emailing, printing, or sharing. This will be super to use when we go beachcombing, on the daytime tour of Atalaya or our trips to the educational center at the State Park.

I describe these not to embarrass the author, but to help others avoid these mistakes and, hopefully, help the author to avoid them in the future. Most writers have been guilty of many of these in early drafts. I know I have. The trick is to fix them before publication.

I recommend buying and using a couple of good books on plotting such as those mentioned here.

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages


Switch is Coming

After five years of working on my young adult historical fantasy I can finally predict that it will be published early in 2017. I am putting the first chapter on Amazon to get feedback as well as soliciting beta readers. I’ve also been working on book covers. Please give me your opinion. Yes, the space between the s and w is deliberate.



To give feedback on the first twelve pages or just get a peek, go to:


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

NANOWRIMO Plotting Tip

I’m not actually writing a novel in a month. I’m rewriting one I started in 2010 called Switch. It has gone through many rewrites and has been professionally edited several times. I still wasn’t happy with it, so I ignored it for more than a year. I’m starting by summarizing each scene.

Don’t cheap out on post-it notes. Buy them from the dollar store and you risk a frustrating surprise in the morning, like this.


So now I’m doing it a little differently on computer. I’m writing points for each scene under these headings:







This is really helping me see which scenes need a rewrite or to be tossed. I’m colour coding several things as I go along. I’m about 1/5 of the way through my novel. It’s going to be a beast to print.

Then I’ll cut out each scene and plot them on my graph on which  I will have marked with significant stages such as the inciting event, pinch point, midpoint, etc. should happen. I will arrange my scenes on the chart and see if my plot is working. I will examine each point for the details. I’ll cut extraneous details and add in anything important that’s missing in point form.

Writing on the computer makes it more compact and far more legible. I can use speech to text and not have to struggle with handwriting which is a real challenge with Parkinson’s disease. However, I don’t get the big overview which is why I will still tape the scenes onto chart paper.

It’s slow going but I think it will be worth it in the end. These are the two most helpful books I’ve bought for this work.


Click on the covers for more info or to buy the book.


Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages