Saturday, September 30, 2023

IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START: An Interview with author, 5th grader, Brooke White and her "agent" mom, Colleen

I honestly can't remember where I read about Brooke White, but when I did, I knew she was someone I wanted to showcase on my blog.

Brooke is a fifth grader at Charlotte Preparatory School in my hometown of Charlotte, NC. You can read her first interview here when she was featured on her school's blog. Besides having self-published two books, Brooke is an avid reader, an animal lover, a competitive swimmer, and a Girl Scout. Her books include  Cupcake the Lying Unicorn (2019) and Cookie Cat and The Tagalongs (2023).

Brooke at her recent book signing at
Park Road Books, Charlotte


Without further ado, let's get to know this young author.

CAROL: I assume you’ve always wanted to be a writer, is that correct?

BROOKE: Not fully, but I did start my passion at the age of 5. In kindergarten, an author came to share her book with the class, and she discussed the story behind writing the book. That was my first spark of interest!

CAROL: What led you to write your first book, Cupcake the Lying Unicorn?

BROOKE: In first grade, a classmate told the teacher something I did that was irresponsible.  Even though what the classmate said was true, I lied to the teacher and said that I didn’t do it. I was too afraid of the consequences if I had told the truth.

CAROL: That's interesting that you used something from your own life in your very first book. Authors are often told to write what they know, and you did!

CAROL: How was writing and publishing Cupcake different than writing Cookie Cat four years later?

BROOKESince Cookie Cat was my second book, it was easier in the aspect of planning, but actually putting the book together was harder. The planning was harder with Cupcake, but the execution was easier. 

CAROL: What did you learn in your first publishing adventure that helped you with your second book? 

BROOKE: I learned that it takes patience because the process of publishing took a long while. It helped me to have realistic expectations.

CAROL: What age is your typical reader?                             

BROOKE: My target readers are 5 to 10-year-olds.

CAROL: How many drafts did you go through? 

BROOKE: I did a lot of drafts with the illustrations, but I didn’t really change the script too much. We did a few edits, but the illustrations were the hardest part for me.

CAROL: Who is your editor? 

BROOKE: Mr. Caleb edited the entire book.

CAROL:  Have you considered a traditional publisher, or were you set on self-publishing?                                             

BROOKE: I let my mom focus on that part. I just focus on the writing, illustrations, and editing.

CAROL: Please tell us more about your decision to have a blank cover.    

BROOKE: I’ve always loved the phrase, don’t judge a book by its cover. I don’t enjoy it when people get judged based on how they look on the outside. I truly believe it matters more on their character traits. I think that is an important message to be understood by everyone.

CAROL: Are you planning on marketing the book outside of Charlotte, if so, how?   

BROOKE: I’ve already started by using Amazon. I believe Amazon is a good place to start because it gives me time to plan what to do later on.  My goal is to get my book into schools, international bookstores, and libraries.

CAROL: Have you been pleased with the sales of your book? 

BROOKE: It does feel like an accomplishment when I get a sale. I’ve sold 120 copies so far. Thank you to my readers! 

CAROL: What are your favorite books?  

BROOKE: Books by Sharon M. Draper are always some of my favorites. A book series I enjoy is the Emmie & Friends series by Terri Lebenson. 

CAROL: Are you planning your next book? 

BROOKE: I have started some drafts, but I am still thinking of other ideas. My main focus right now is school, studies, and time with my family and friends. Sometimes, those things inspire me to write.

CAROL: What is your advice to other young writers? 

BROOKE:  Have the courage to put yourself out there because you deserve for your voice to be heard.

CAROL: Have you read any books on writing that have been helpful to you? 

BROOKE: In writing class, we have read and discussed books about grammar.  While reading sometimes I focus on the way other authors portray their story.


CAROL: What role have you taken in Brooke’s writing career? 

COLLEEN: Generally, my goal is to support Brooke, in whatever area she needs. I haven’t defined what that looks like in her writing career just yet, but wherever there is a gap or there are dots to be connected, that’s where I fit in. I help her bridge them. That’s my goal as a mother. And yes! I created her website. 

CAROL: How have you supported Brooke’s efforts? 


At age 6, Brooke said she wanted to become a published author. I somewhat disregarded her at first, assuming that she meant, in the future, but then she started to put stories together with passion and consistency. It was easy to realize she had a natural knack for writing. When she was happy, she carved out time and wrote complete stories. Stories that were well articulated, had a compelling narrative, and were ready to be edited. In times of sadness, she jotted down story ideas. Writing became the thing she did when she was happy and her comfort token in times of sadness. It became very difficult to ignore. It was easier to encourage and support her than it was to disregard her. I decided to accept that writing was something Brooke was serious about. I started to really pay attention to her habits, listened, and trusted her words. And then helped her connect those dots.

CAROL: What advice would you give other parents of young writers? 

COLLEEN: Hold tight.  First, you will need to buy a lot of sketchbooks, and writing materials. If they like to illustrate, add some Posca markers to the mix. Secondly, remember that your primary responsibility is to listen and examine the needs of your writer. Don’t focus on parents who think you are pushing your kid too hard. That’s their way of saying it’s hard to believe. But the truth is, it’s hard to believe for me too. Some things, however, whether hard to believe or not, are undeniable. Brooke’s ability and passion for writing are just that--undeniable.

CAROL: Any cautions for parents to heed? 

COLLEEN: Remember it’s their passion, let them do the hard part; the writing is theirs. As long as they continue to do the hard part, then you know they’re serious. If they're committed to working, then we need to get serious about meeting them where they are, supporting them, and advocating for them. Bridge the gaps for them, including building a website if you need to!

CAROL: Did you encourage Brooke to consult other writers? 

COLLEEN: No, I did not. I didn’t know that I should--it didn't come to mind.  By the time I realized just how serious she was, she had finished her first book! When my daughter handed me a completed manuscript at 6 years old, I had no real idea what to do with it. I sat on it for months! She kept asking “Mom, is my book published yet?" Then I realized she was not letting this go. I started to witness her passion begin to fade. It was heartbreaking! Her writing slowed down drastically, and there was an underlying feeling of disappointment that she carried around with her.  To avoid the repeated questions and to uplift her spirit, I found an editor and began the publishing process. I decided to support and encourage instead of silencing and dismissing her.

CAROL: There are a lot of books out there for young writers, have you consulted any? 

COLLEEN: No. Now that Brooke has completed book two, I may just have to do that. I plan on making sure she’s plugged into some good resources.  We will start with the resources you have already provided. 


Brooke is giving away an autographed copy of Cookie Cat and the Tagalongs. In the comments, please leave a personal message to Brooke or a question you'd like to ask her. Since Brooke is a fifth-grader, any parent or teacher of a fifth-grader, or a fifth-grader herself or himself, gets two chances! The giveaway ends October 4th. U.S. addresses only. If you prefer, you can email your comment or question to me. If you are new to my blog, please leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.

Congratulations to Barb Seregi who won Scary-O-Typed from last week's blog.

Don't forget to check out Greg Pattridge's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday blog!

Saturday, September 23, 2023

The ABCs of Self-Publishing Jobs by SCARY-O-TYPED author, Susan Pless


Today I have a special treat for you. My long-time SCBWI-Carolinas friend, Susan Pless, recently self-published her debut picture book. I challenged Susan to create the ABCs of self-publishing and she rose to the task. Here's the book that her illustrator--her daughter Hannah Smith created. It really brings this unique Halloween book to life!

But first, a word about the story:

Scary-O-Typed!  (HOWLO HOUSE, 2023) is a rhyming, spooky story of kindness and friendship for children ages 3 to 8.  This children's picture book follows a brave trick-or-treater on Halloween night through the creaky doors of a house rumored to be haunted by monsters.  After she encounters a ghost, a witch, a vampire, and a mummy, the stereotypes are broken.To her surprise, they are not scary at all but instead, need her help. In a fun twist, at the end of the night, she receives a whole lot more than a SCARE!

Order a copy here for your favorite trick-or-treater.

A to Z Jobs of Self-Publishing: Suggestions for Success

Creating a successful self-publishing venture requires much more than a manuscript and the desire to publish on your own. A traditional publishing company has a dedicated team to cover a wide range of roles. When self-publishing, you make up most if not all of the team. Although I am still new on this self-publishing journey, here is a list of jobs that I have added to my writing resume.

A is for Author

Write, revise, and edit your manuscript and maintain creative control over the work you have crafted.

B is for Business Owner

Start your own publishing company to publish your book. The steps involve choosing a business structure (usually an LLC), registering the business, obtaining an EIN, and setting up a business account. It can add credibility, protect assets, and provide a means to publish books for others as well.

 C is for Copyright Filer

Although authors own the copyright to their work when written, register the copyright to your book in the United States to provide added protection against infringements.

D is for Designer

Before printing, decide what you want for your book: size, look, cover (soft or hard), colors. In a crowded market, you want your book to stand out and flow smoothly from page to page. Each page and spread needs to connect seamlessly to the next and create a sense of coherence. 

E is for Editor

In order to ensure clarity and coherence, refine your manuscript before printing. Beta readers can provide valuable feedback and professional editors are a must.

F is for Formatter

Format your book properly before it goes to print and enlist help if needed. Whether making decisions with the page bleeds, covers, or spine, formatting can be one of the most complicated jobs. I was lucky to have an illustrator who worked closely with me.

G is for Graphic Designer 

Beyond the cover, you will want to design marketing materials such as banners, business cards, social media graphics, and your website.

H is for Head of Editorial 

After all of the edits are done, ensure the quality and integrity of the published book as a whole.

I is for ISBN Purchaser

Purchase an ISBN from the United States ISBN Agency to simplify the distribution of your book to bookstores, online retailers, and libraries.

J is for Juggler

Sharpen your juggling skills. In the realm of your self-publishing journey, you will face multiple tasks and responsibilities while managing time and resources.

K is for Keywords Researcher 

Carefully select keywords. Book discoverability can be improved through search engines and algorithms. Someone at Wix helped me to improve my discoverability.

L is for Layout Designer

In addition to the written story, format interior items such as page breaks, copyright page, author/illustrator page, and end sheets. Again, ask for assistance from your illustrator and/or printer if needed.

M is for Marketing Manager 

Implement marketing strategies to promote your book to your target audience. In addition to your website, this can be done on social media sites, at events, at bookstores, through local newspapers or television, by entering reputable contests, and by writing online or print articles.

N is for Narrator

If you are venturing into storytelling or audiobooks, turn your story into an engaging listening experience as a dynamic narrator.

O is for Outreach Coordinator 

In order to generate buzz and reviews for your book, reach out to book reviewers, bloggers, and influencers. Book reviews prior to publishing can be used on the back cover or dust jacket.

P is for Proofreader

Review and correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors in your manuscript before publication.

Q is for Quality Assurance Inspector

Before the final print, inspect everything. What costs in time saves in the future.

R is for Researcher

Research all printing options before publishing. There are reputable companies but plenty of scammers. Be cautious of publishers or printing companies who may charge large fees in addition to your printing costs. There are many companies who are ready to take advantage of your desire to publish your book.  The print-on-demand option (such as Lulu, IngramSpark, and BookBaby) can make it easier to get into larger bookstores but may have quality and customer service issues. The printer-only option may limit you in bookstores to consignment but provides higher quality and more freedom with design. In order to make the best decision, request a sample book (if available), decide what is important to you, keep a spreadsheet of all information for comparison, and always read the fine print.

S is for Sales Representative

Be ready to pitch your book to bookstore owners, librarians, and shop owners to secure distribution and sales agreements. 

T is for Trademark Expert

Before publishing your book, make sure that there are no trademark infringements. You can trademark logos or names to prevent future issues. 

U is for Underwriter

Assess the financial viability of publishing your book. You don’t want your dream to turn into a nightmare.

W is for Writer

Write. Write. Write.


My alphabet of jobs ends here for now but my work continues, not just with this book but the next. In the world of self-publishing, it takes dedication and hard work. Never hesitate to reach out for help with any job along the way. The true reward is seeing your story in the hands and hearts of the reader.

Susan Pless and Hannah Smith

Check out this article about this mother/daughter team!


I have an autographed copy of SCARY-O-TYPED for one of you. Leave me a comment (with your email address if you are new to my blog) by September 27. If you share this on social media or sign up for my blog, I'll put your name in twice. U.S. addresses only. 


Danielle Hammelef won a hardcover copy of The Impossible Girl and Emily Weitz won the E-book from last week's giveaway. 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

THE IMPOSSIBLE GIRL: A Middle-Grade Fantasy reviewed by Guest Blogger, Georgie Bartlett and 2 Giveaways!

The Impossible Girl (Monarch Books, 2022) by Ashley White is a beautifully written middle-grade novel. Fans of Harry Potter and Narnia will adore this magical story about a young girl who accidentally finds her way into the whimsical world of Xarcadia.


Ava Marie Jones is what the citizens of Xarcadia call a Lost One, meaning her parents sent her out at birth into the mortal realm, where she was adopted by an uncharitable family. One stormy night, Ava decides she must get away, and flees to the comfort of her familiar haven: the Cathedral Tree. Ava climbs into the tree, when, unexpectedly, the old, tangled roots beneath her give way and she plummets down into darkness. She soon finds out that she has just landed in Xarcadia, a society filled with supernatural beings. There is so much mystery surrounding Ava’s birth and powers, that the entirety of Xarcadia is in an uproar over her sudden arrival.  

On top of the exhausting, constant speculation of the public and struggling to comprehend the inexplicable occurrences of the day, Ava finds out that her new school, Linhollow Academy, will be hosting an annual event called the Lost One’s Ball. Here she will have the opportunity to meet her birth parents for the first time in thirteen years. But, on the night of the ball, when a tragedy occurs, Ava must decide if she should investigate, or focus on her studies and her school’s upcoming annual Assembly Games.  

The friend group in this book was made up of extraordinary characters who were fun to read about. Characters are such an important part of a novel, and I can honestly say that everyone in this fantasy is wonderfully portrayed. Ava is so considerate; it is refreshing to see. Not since I read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, have I found a middle-grade fantasy novel with such a lovable cast of characters.  

Ava makes a good role model for young readers ages ten and older and a relatable one for teens. I believe this will be a book that will spark a love for reading, as well as a fun adventure for anyone who loves middle-grade books.


Ashley White made Xarcadia feel real. This clean middle-grade book with friendship, and magic, has unique takes on the classic fantasy elements we know and love. For example, I loved reading and learning about the beautiful mythological creatures—especially the Kelpies. “For within the lake were large,  bronze boats attached to the backs of horse-like creatures. The creatures had the appearance of Clydesdales—if Clydesdales were fifty feet tall and had silver, scale-like skin that shimmered like diamonds in the sunlight.” These creatures were incredibly interesting and mystical, and the world-building was spectacular.  


The book starts out with a prologue that grabs your attention from the very start and keeps it until the epic climax. In the end, there were twists and turns, which made it an exciting conclusion to an excellent story. It would be a wonderful choice for a book club, and so fun for a discussion. I kept wanting to find out what was going to happen to Ava, and I highly recommend this book for all middle-grade fans. Going on this thrilling adventure with Ava was such a pleasure, and I hope others will enjoy reading it as much as I did.  

Click here to read a sample.

For another excellent review by teen reader, Georgie Bartlett, click here.



Georgie Bartlett is a teen living in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina with her family and two mischievous rescue dogs. She enjoys writing, crocheting, journaling, gardening, playing the drums, and above all, reading. 


Monarch Educational Services is giving away a paperback copy and an E-book of The Impossible Girl to two readers. That means even if you don't live in the U.S., you can still win a book. Please leave a comment by September 20 along with your email address if you are new to my blog. Share this on social media and I'll put your name in twice--just let me know where you shared it.


Esther Bandy won When Mama Grows With Me from last week's blog.


Make sure you check out other great middle-grade books on Greg Pattridge's Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday blog.



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