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Every issue, IN presents INside Authors, a look at authors from around the world who have significantly caught our attention and deserve a little space and recognition. The following two authors are this month's choices, based on the heat arising from their corners. Our hope is to provide a glimpse, a snapshot, an overview of some of the finest writers of our time making waves both tidal and ripple.
Background INfo: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like to write. As a child, I filled spiral notebooks with dramatic epics that I shared with friends. While growing up near Birmingham, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida, I often visited my grandparents in a company town similar to the one in Ghosts of Whitner – a children’s novel, published by WordWright.biz in 2004. I never saw ghosts in the old company town, but my imagination created several for the book.
After receiving my master’s degree from the University of North Texas, I taught reading and writing to sixth graders in Dallas for many years. In the meantime, I took a writing course from the Children's Institute of Writing. The course not only helped me to become a better teacher, but also a writer of children’s novels. I have read voraciously all my life and I still do.
Internet Presence: Get that website up even before you get published. Publishers like to see a web presence. Mine is www.jalevitt.com. At the moment, I am polishing two children’s novels to send out soon, ghost stories, of course. While I still haven’t seen any real ghosts, they seem to create themselves in my mind. I sincerely hope they always will.
Background INfo: I always loved to write but never found the time, working in the corporate world with a business degree from Philadelphia University. When I became treasurer for a family business, it lent me greater time and flexibility to pursue my passion.
I received the calling to be a writer about five years ago while tutoring elementary school students in reading. As an avid reader, who always had my head buried in books, it bothered me that some of these children didn’t like to read. I thought to myself, “If only I could write books that kids would enjoy reading—I’d make a difference.”
So I took a two-year correspondence course with the Institute of Children’s Literature, learning to write for children and teens. I joined a writers’ group and became president for two years, which opened doors for me through networking. Soon, I was writing for anthologies, newsletters, local magazines and newspapers. A family article was published nationally. Then came an opportunity to serve as a local historian, chronicling the 90-year history of El Paso’s county hospital, Thomason General.
I began writing a novel as my last assignment with the Institute. The idea of a novel both thrilled and intimidated me. What would I write about? My twelve-year-old son, Nick, came up with the idea of writing about the Tower of London. I spent two years researching and writing a novel set in contemporary time about an American girl with an anger problem who visits her uncle, a Beefeater at the Tower of London. Through the tales of the Tower and its ghosts, my protagonist learns anger management. When WordWright.biz Publishers conducted a workshop for my writing group, the publisher agreed to read my novel and soon offered me a contract to publish it. Dark Tales of the Tower made its debut in October 2005.
Advice: I can’t stress enough how important it is to read in your genre. Reading became my research, although I try not to model anyone else’s style. Don’t follow fads; follow your heart’s passion. I love blending history with fiction, so that children may learn while being entertained. In children’s fiction the challenge to impart a lesson is met with not sounding preachy. Let them learn subliminally, while enjoying what they read.
Join a writers’ group and get constructive feedback from your peers. Keep an open mind and don’t get defensive; that’s how we develop and hone our craft. Continue your education with writing conferences and workshops. The Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators offers two invaluable conferences each year, featuring authors, editors and publishers from New York publishing houses. Each time I attend a conference, I walk away enlightened.
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