Author Spotlight no.137 – Robin O’Bryant

Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and thirty-seventh is of non-fiction author and first-place winner of the non-fiction Shirley You Jest! Book Award (of which I’m a sponsor) Robin O’Bryant.

Robin O’Bryant is a humor columnist and stay-at-home-mother to three daughters born within four years. She finally figured out where babies come from and got herself under control.

Her first book, Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves, has been rated #1 by reader reviews on Amazon in two genres: Humor Essays and Parenting & Families since December 2011.

Robin won the South Carolina Press Association’s award for Best Humor Column for 2012. She was a Circle of Mom’s Top 25 Funniest Moms 2011 and 2012. Babble has listed Robin’s Chicks as Top 10 Funniest Parenting Blog and her work has been featured on Huffington Post.  She uses her blog and newspaper columns to teach women helpful tips such as: how to breastfeed behind your back (only applies to lactating women with a DD cup or larger), how to talk to your daughters about man parts, and how to write a proper gold fish obituary.

And now from the author herself:

I’ve been an avid reader and writer my entire life. As a child it was common for me to have dark circles under my eyes from staying up into the wee hours to read. I’ve journaled since I could write a complete sentence and throughout my life I have been told repeatedly, “You should write a book.”

I wanted to, I really did. I wanted to be a writer but I had no idea what to write about. I was good at expressing myself in words but I wasn’t creating new worlds or going all J.K. Rowling in my free time. Reading and writing were private passions until my third child was born. Three daughters in four years, it’s all a blur. Do the math, people. That’s a lot of crazy.

I was writing about my kids extensively, because that’s what I do. I am compelled to write about my life. But because my husband and I lived hundreds of miles from our families, I was also sending out mass emails on a daily and weekly basis to update our families on our shenanigans. And I heard it again and again, “You should write a book.” (Please note: this doesn’t always mean you should and I realized that this was my mom and she might be a little biased.) I realized I might have an audience when my family members started forwarding my emails to everyone in their contact lists and I began receiving feedback from people I didn’t know. I started a blog and somehow convinced the editor of our local paper to let me write a weekly family humor column.

I started outlining Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves and wrote like a mad woman. I signed with Jenny Bent in July of 2009 and began the arduous process of editing and revising. Because platform is so important, I had a lot of work to do in building my blog readership and expanding my humor column. Jenny has been a great source of information, an editor, advocate, writing teacher, butt-kicking motivator for me for the last three and half years.

We decided to take a calculated risk and self-publish Ketchup (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble) to further expand my platform. It worked. I’ve sold a fair share of books and Ketchup has spent almost 11 months rated #1 by reader reviews in two categories on Amazon: Humor Essays and Parenting & Families.

Due to the success of the book, we published a separate e-book only collection of my best humor columns titled A Second Helping (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble). I’m currently working on the proposal for my third book.

You can keep up with me online by reading my blog, Robin’s Chicks, liking my Facebook Author page or following me on Twitter. November 30th is Ketchup’s first birthday and I’ll be giving away signed copies on my Facebook page for the next few weeks!

Morgen: Congratulations. Thank you, Robin.

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The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with writer and publisher Rosemary Kind – the five hundred and fifty-fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: Lessons in Failure by AJ Race

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of perseverance, is brought to you by multi-genre author AJ Race.

Lessons in Failure

I’ve come to an interesting realization regarding failure, we all know that many people are terrified of failure, but it’s kind of curious as to why? Why are people so afraid of failing?

I think part of the reason people are afraid of failure because in school we are taught that failure is the worst possible thing that could happen to us. And in school, failure is bad, if only because failing means you have to retake a class. In life, failure is simply something that happens. Failure is something we all have to deal with at one point or another. There is no successful person on this planet who didn’t fail at one time or another in their life. The difference between a successful person and a ‘failure’ is that the successful person NEVER GAVE UP. The only way you can truly fail is if you stop trying.

Let me give you a real world example. My very first blog through Blogger, had no readers, except me. I’m not even sure if anyone even knew it existed. Then, I got a website, ajrace.net, which again could easily be considered a failure. In fact, even my earliest Cult of Racewood blogs were not as successful at all. But I pressed on. I refused to give up and now I have an amazing group of readers and commenters, for whom I am beyond grateful for.

Even in my writing life there have been many quote unquote ‘failures’. During the last decade I’ve failed to secure an literary agent and publisher at least a hundred times over. But I refused to give up, so much so that I decided to take matters into my own hands and self publish my first novel Bridge of Memories. But will it prove to be a success or a failure in the end? I don’t really know. Statistically most books will fail, whether because of the author’s giving up on them or because it just wasn’t a good book, it doesn’t matter. What makes a successful author is someone who will continue to fight. Who will continue to write no matter what anyone says, and maybe you fail the first time out, but if you get up, if you continue to get back into the ring, then you can never really fail at anything.

One of the best quotes on failure, came from J.K. Rowling, my single greatest writing role model. In 2008, she spoke at a Harvard Commencement Speech in which she explained the benefits of failure:

“So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” –J.K.Rowling

Thank you, AJ!

A high-strung, type-A personality, LGBT rights activist and twenty year old multi genre author, A.J.Race first found his love of books and writing with the Harry Potter series in 2001 after the first film came out in the fall of that same year. Growing up A.J. had not been much of a reader, in fact the first chapter book he’d ever read was at the behest of his fourth grade teacher, and it was in his fourth grade year that he really found a love for reading.

In 2002 he wrote a short story that at the time he had been convinced was an entire novel, and sent it off to a major publisher. This was his first experience with rejection.

Over the course of the next nine years A.J. experienced many rejections in his writing career. Then at the tail end of 2011 A.J. Rejoined NaNoWriMo.org (National Novel Writing Month) and in a matter of 30 days re-wrote one of his original novels: Bridge of Memories. In December of that year, one of his good friends offered to design for him a hand drawn cover while his former creative writing teacher offered to edit his book for him.

On February 12, 2012 the first novel in the Secrets of Witches Trilogy, Bridge of Memories was released to the public. AJ’s website is website www.cultofracewood.com. You can also read AJ’s interview and spotlight.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with romance, paranormal erotica and young adult author Linda Palmer – the five hundred and second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me. I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

Guest post: What kind of writer do I want to be? by Saskia Akyil

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of a book’s, and writer’s, target audience is brought to you by novelist Saskia Akyil.

What kind of writer do I want to be?

We’ve all heard that J.K. Rowling’s upcoming book is intended for adult readers.  Why is this big news? Because all of her previously published books were intended for young readers.  Her first book was written for middle-grade readers, though it clearly appealed to young adult as well as adult readers.  Ms. Rowling’s second book was also for young readers, as was her entire 7-book series.  By writing a series of books for young readers, she established herself as a superstar writer for them… so what’s she doing?  Leaving her readers behind, or growing with them?  Taking a risk because she wants to and because she can afford to?  Perhaps she’s tired of writing for children?  Maybe these are all reasons that led her to write a book of a different genre as her previous ones, but one thing that is certain is that she can afford to take a risk.

My first published novel is also intended for young readers.  The majority of my readers have been adults, however, and as I plan my next book, I wonder if I should write another YA book, or if I should attempt writing another genre.  In other words, what kind of writer do I want to be?  Book 1, ‘Secrets of a Summer Village’, is a coming of age mainstream fiction / YA crossover.  It’s fairly light-hearted, upbeat, and positive.  The feedback I’ve gotten is that it makes readers feel good and learn something at the same time.  It also makes you feel good when you’re writing happy, positive stories.  That said, I don’t want to write fluff.

I have a storyline for my second book, but it could go either way – YA or general fiction.

The feedback I’ve gotten from young readers is that they enjoyed the story and they learned something new at the same time.  I don’t want to disappoint them – I want to give them something accessible and intelligent, I want to take them on a pleasant adventure and for them to learn something new – that’s what I like best about my book, too. Whoever I write for, I want the book to teach the reader something new.  I was thinking of making the main character of my second book 13 years old, but then I was told that 13 is a black hole because it’s considered too old for Middle Grade novels and too young for YA.  So my main character needs to be either 12 or younger… or 15 or older.  Which is a shame because I think that 13 is a fascinating age.  It only makes things more complicated that so many adults have enjoyed my book…

So, what kind of writer do I want to be?  Should I continue on the path I’ve taken with my first book, or should I try a new route?  This is a dilemma that all authors must have at some point in their careers!

Having written four novels, all of different genres (lad lit, chick lit, general, crime), I’m still working that one out myself… 🙂 thank you, Saskia!

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Saskia E. Akyil, like many writers over the age of 25, began her art by keeping a journal and writing letters to her friends, pen-pals, cousins, and grandparents.

After receiving a B.A. in International Studies from Emory University and an M.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) from the University of Minnesota, her writing took on a more formal tone as she wrote articles for academic publications.

Saskia gained incredibly diverse experiences while simultaneously working three jobs in Olympia, Washington; as a community college ESL professor for immigrants, as a state program administrator for displaced homemakers, and as a Spanish-language medical interpreter. She has also taught numerous cooking classes in the United States and in Germany.

As a hobby, Saskia collects languages, and has studied French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Turkish, and German. Her first novel, ‘Secrets of a Summer Village’, was published in September 2011.  She now lives in southern Germany with her husband and two young children and has been writing stories ever since she learned how to write words, though her stories have significantly improved, as has her handwriting.

‘Secrets of a Summer Village’ is available from Amazon, received some great reviews on goodreads, and you can find out more about Saskia from her blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Authonomy.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with travel and short story author Vic Heaney – the four hundred and twenty-second of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything… and follow me on Twitter where each new posting is automatically announced. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at SmashwordsSony Reader StoreBarnes & NobleiTunes BookstoreKobo and Amazon, with more to follow. I have a new forum, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, connect with me on LinkedIn, find me on Tumblr, complete my website’s Contact me page or plain and simple, email me.  I also now have a new blog creation service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.