Friday, April 20, 2012

The Writer's Block Top 10 Interviews

Why even do interviews?

Interviews serve many purposes. They afford you a way to tell people who you are, what you do, what you think, how to connect with you, and where to find your product or service. These are all critical components of your platform or brand. If people want to know more about you, an easy way is to do an interview and provide the link on your website, blog, or as part of your media kit.

Why do some posts get more hits than others?

My experience with the interviewees I have worked with up to this point tells me that (1) they have a good product, and (2) they promote it with social media presence and tools that they USE actively (website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Goodreads, email lists, etc.).

What are some other ways that I can build and expand my platform?

Hone your craft. Increase your involvement in online groups and social media. Make it easier for people to find you on the web. Be a guest blogger. Participate in forums. Start a blog and post at least once a week consistently. Focus on sharing information as opposed to just selling your latest creation. Building a platform is a marathon, not a sprint.

Are there any sites I can visit to learn more?

Here are a few that I have found especially helpful:

The Writer's Guide to Twitter by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

My Name Is Not Bob by Robert Lee Brewer

Rachelle Gardner by Literary Agent Rachelle Gardner

So, who are the top 10 interviews on The Writer's Block?

As of April 19, 2012, 9:56 am, here are the most popular posts! These talented people offer great advice and share intriguing stories about their journeys through the literary and creative worlds. Read one. Read them all. Share with a friend. Leave a comment. My hope is that you will learn something new, make a connection, and be inspired to keep reaching for your aspirations, no matter how big or small.

Joey Pinkney

Joyeeta Neogi

Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Kerry G. Johnson

Dianne de Las Casas

Braxton Cosby

Raychelle Muhammad

Melissa Foster

Katherine McCaughan

Damir Fonovich

Feel free to browse the archives for more interviews, articles, guest bloggers, book reviews, and artwork. Who would you like to see interviewed on The Writer's Block? Maybe you would like to share your work? Perhaps you would like to be a guest blogger? Would you like your children's book reviewed?

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Tamara Ramsay

1) Tell us how you became an artist/illustrator?

The earliest memory I have of drawing anything I was about 4 years old growing up on the island of Barbados. I got the great idea to start defacing my grandmother's walls (in the veranda, mind you, where it was in plain view and the first thing guests saw as they entered the house). Of course, that did not blow over too well with my grandma, but the upside of it is my mom decided to start giving me some of her paper sheets (which were reserved for the typewriter). Then I could draw without getting in trouble. This inspired me to just doodle away day in and day out.

That was really the development of my love for art. When I graduated from high school I immediately enrolled in the Graphic Design program at the Barbados Community College. It was actually the only program besides Fine Arts that was being offered with the closest relevance to what I wanted to do which was illustration. Afterward,s I went on to study in the United States, where I enrolled in a Game Art and Design program – shortly after graduation I started freelancing: creating artwork for comics, video games and books.

2) Do you specialize in any particular medium? Describe your style.

I would definitely refer to myself as a digital artist first and foremost. This was more of a choice of efficiency when creating artwork.  I do use almost exclusively pencil and ink when drawing traditionally as a result of my first major influences being comic books!

I’d call my art style crisp, classical, gestural, and colorful. It often reflects a marriage of Western comic art styles and Japanese manga. I place emphasis on human form quite a bit and am very focused on line art. I tend to experiment with the language and weights of line more than anything in my illustrations.

3) Where do you live and work?

I live in San Francisco and work as an artist at a company called Ngmoco creating next gen mobile games.

4) Who or what inspires you?

Wow! Where do I start?

I was always inspired by comics all of kinds. I created and collected a lot of them growing up: X-Men, Sonic the Hedgehog to name a few. Video games were also a HUGE inspiration. I would say one of my absolute biggest. It was really a life changing point for me when I got my first video game system, the Nintendo, when I was 9 years old. There was something so inspiring about seeing the art become movable and interactive, and it was that marriage of technology with art that compelled me most to seek out how I could jump into art as a career.

Books were also a big influence I read a lot as a child. My uncle used to take me to the library when I was a little girl and I would go nuts looking through as many books as I could- what used to be picture books when I was a kid, like Noddy and Peter Rabbit turned into my collection of art collectives like the Spectrum Series and D’Artiste.

My family and friends are also a big inspiration. Also, people like Brian Froud, Stan Lee,Akira Toriyama, Hiroaki Samura, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Frank Frazetta are, too. I’m also very intrigued by old cities, architecture, and tribal cultures. 

5) What was your first illustration job?

A short job creating character art for a cool whimsical game.

I used to frequent forums in search of teams that were creating projects, they weren’t paid but it was just for the sake of collaboration. Well, it turned out the lead of the team I was working with had a dad who was contemplating starting his own company and actually thought I was talented enough to pay!

That was the first time I learned about contracts, terms and all the stuff that goes with it! Was a great experience, I created the first concepts for the main characters of his title.

6) How do you promote your work? What strategies work best for you?

Self-promotion is actually relatively new for me. My current project Kyooms marks the first time I’ve started putting myself out there for all to see. Before, I just hosted samples of my art on my personal portfolio site and asked individuals I was interested in working with to visit.

I’ve recently started using sites like Kickstarter to try promoting, as well as Facebook and Google ads and Twitter.

I've also joined relative meetups here in San Francisco and groups on sites like LinkedIn.

I honestly haven't really been doing it long enough to truly say which works best, so far it still seems to be word of mouth or me directly contacting someone about my work seems to be the winner.

7) What is the Kyooms Project?

Kyooms is a series of character-based artwork that incorporates positive and inspirational messages.

I wanted to create art that adults could give to kids in the form of room décor. That way kids are exposed to positive messages simply by being in their rooms.

Kyooms also has a series of postcards. With Kyooms, it’s all about the value of sharing positive affirmations.

The project is currently in fundraising mode here or ,with just a few days left to go and over 20 people backing the project so far in trying to reach the $4500 goal.

8) What is your definition of success as an artist?

Becoming enough of an artistic influence to help change people's perceptions and make the world a better place.

9) What do you plan to accomplish in 2012?

I’d like to launch my first online store in July, and the Kyooms story book which I started writing in late 2011.

By October I’d like to partner with charities to distribute some of my artwork to children.

Artist Bio

Tamara Ramsay, is a Barbadian illustrator currently living in San Francisco. She brings a wide variety of art influences and backgrounds from comics, children's books, and video games. Her goal is to find unique ways in marrying technology, art, and cause to help change the world for the better. Her newest project launches in July at



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

6 Reasons Authors Self-Publish by Rachelle Gardner

Here is a great post by literary agent Rachelle Gardner that sums up the benefits of self-publishing. Enjoy!


On the heels of our lively debate the other day on my post “6 Reasons Authors Still Want Publishers,” today let’s look at the other side of the coin. Many of you are still trying to decide which path is right for you — or if maybe some combination of both might work. So hopefully these posts and the discussions in the comments will be helpful.

So here are six reasons writers choose self publishing:

1. To supplement an established writing career.

As we talked about a couple of weeks ago in our series on making a living as a writer, it’s a lot of work to be a full-time writer and be able to make a good income. These days many full time writers with traditional publishing contracts are self-publishing both new books and their backlist as a way to supplement their income and keep their work out there in front of readers, growing and expanding their platform and audience.

2. To revive a flagging traditional-publishing career.

Some writers get the bad news that their publisher doesn’t want to do a new contract with them. But they’re still writers and they already have experience with the whole process, from writing to editing to marketing. While this situation used to mean a writer was basically finished, nowadays self-publishing opens up whole new horizons.

3. They’d like a bigger piece of the pie.

Most self-publishing deals will pay anywhere from 30% to 70% royalties, which is much higher than traditional publishers pay. Of course, they don’t have nearly the investment or do nearly the work of the traditional publishers; nevertheless, many writers prefer to do the work themselves in exchange for a higher royalty.

4. They have the time, skills, and the money to do it well.

Some people have an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to be a good business person and a great marketer. Not everyone has these skills, but they’re pretty much a necessity for self-publishing. Some people are writing to a niche audience and they have the ability to reach this audience on their own without the help of a publisher — another good reason to choose self-pub. The ability to cover the upfront cost is also a big plus if you’re considering self-pub.

5. Frustration

Some people can’t get the attention of agents and publishers; or if they are, they’re getting rejections. This is a very frustrating place to be — and even very good books get passed over simply because of the huge numbers of books that are being pitched. Many writers get fed up with the “system” and decide to go it alone.

6. Freedom

In self-publishing, you don’t have to listen to anyone’s vision for your book but your own. You get to choose your cover, your title, and everything about your book. You don’t have to wait years to be noticed; you do not have to wait a year or two for your book release after the decision is made to publish it. You set your own pace, answer to yourself, and take responsibility for your own success or failure.

What other reasons might lead you to pursue self publishing?


Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Natasha Yim

1) Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you live and work.

I’m a children’s book author, freelance writer, and playwright. My first picture book, Otto’s Rainy Day, was published in 2000 by Charlesbridge Publishing. It was a Kids’ Pick of the Lists for that year. Cixi, The Dragon Empress, a picture book biography, was just released in October 2011 by Goosebottom Books. I have also written articles for adult magazines such as Vibrant Life, AsiaPacific, and Mendocino Arts as well as the children’s magazines, Highlights for Children, Appleseeds, and Faces. My ten-minute plays have been performed in venues around Northern California; Los Angeles; and Sydney, Australia. I live and work in Ukiah, a small town in Northern California.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an author.

My first love of writing came after receiving a creative writing assignment in my 7th grade English class. I've loved writing ever since and have wanted to be a writer since I was 11 years old. Throughout my teen years, I kept various journals where I wrote not only about my daily life, but poems and short stories. I attended Dominican College (now University) in San Rafael, California, a small liberal arts college. I started out with a Psychology major, but after a few creative writing classes, changed my major to English Literature with a Writing Emphasis to pursue my love of writing. But acknowledging that writing itself may not pay the bills unless one is as prolific as Stephen King, I then went on to attain a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology, also from Dominican College. After college I worked professionally as a counselor and social worker, and wrote when time allowed. I began with non-fiction articles for adult magazines such as Vibrant Life, AsiaPacific, and UnchARTed. However, I worked primarily with children in group homes, foster homes and through my work with Child Protective Services, and in the mid-1990s, children's stories started coming to me. One stormy, rainy afternoon, I thought of the story of a little boy called Otto, and my first published book Otto's Rainy Day was born. I submitted the manuscript to Charlesbridge Publishing. A year later, they contacted me and told me they were interested in publishing the book. I was ecstatic! It took another year to sign on the illustrator, and it was finally published 3 years after they accepted my manuscript.

3) What kinds of books do you write? Who is your ideal reader?

I write children's books. At one point, I thought that some day I would write an adult book, but have discovered that I actually have zero interest in writing for adults, so I think I'll be writing for kids for the rest of my career. I've written primarily picture books, but I am interested in writing for an older audience, and I have a couple of middle grade/young adult stories in mind. Right now, I've been working on outlining a middle grade novel.

4) Tell us about Cixi, The Dragon Empress? How was the concept conceived and how did you come to write it?

Most of the time, a writer writes a manuscript then submits it to publishers. Cixi, The Dragon Empress was an entirely different process because the publisher, Goosebottom Books (, a small, independent press that was established in 2010, has a very different approach. They publish biographies of powerful women in history that cover a span of countries as well as timelines. Their first series, The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Real Princesses featured 6 women in history such as Hatshepsut of Egypt, Isabella of Castille, and Sorghatani of Mongolia (the mother of Kublai Khan). The books in this series were all written by the publisher Shirin Yim Bridges who is the author of The Umbrella Queen (GreenWillow Books), and the Jack Ezra Keats award winner Ruby's Wish (Chronicle Books). However, for the second series Goosebottom Books wanted each book to be written by a different author so the publisher and editor (Amy Novesky, former editor of Chronicle Books) put out a call for submissions. They asked for a 1,000 word sample. I sent mine in, and was one of 6 writers chosen for the series. The publisher came up with the theme and title for the second series: The Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames, and she and editor Amy Novesky decided on the 6 women in history they wanted to feature: Cleopatra, Agrippina, Mary Tudor, Catherine de Medici, Marie Antoinette, and Cixi, The Dragon Empress. The writers were asked for their 1st and 2nd choices. Cixi was my first choice because in the last few years, I had become more interested in my cultural roots and my writing has reflected that. I was also very much interested in Chinese history because I did not study it in school (I went to an English high school in Hong Kong and we studied mainly European history). I was really glad to have been able to work on Cixi. The research was fascinating. She was a complex woman living in a male-dominated culture, society, and time period, but manipulated her way to becoming and remaining the most powerful person in China.

5) What other titles have you penned?

Otto's Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing) was my first published picture book. My picture book biography Sacajawea of the Shoshone will be released in October 2012, and Charlesbridge Publishing will be publishing my picture book Goldy Luck and the Three Chans, a multicultural twist on the Goldilocks story in January 2014.

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

I like the classic authors like Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, and William Faulkner. I'm also a great admirer of John Irving's works, and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book. Currently, I'm reading a lot of middle-grade and YA fiction because that's where my interests lie in terms of my writing. I love the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison, and I'm currently reading the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer (there are 10 in the series—so far). I've just finished book #8: The Wake of the Lorelei Lee. It's a fantastic historical, adventure series with a great voice. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins is also on my to-read list.

7) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

Promotion and marketing is still hit and miss for me. It's difficult to assess what is truly effective and what isn't in terms of book sales because there is no concrete way to track this and relate it back to your promotional efforts. For Cixi, The Dragon Empress, I did a blog tour through World of Ink tours; two book launches—one in my hometown and one in the San Francisco Bay Area; school visits and book events around Northern California, two interviews on BlogTalk radio as well as online and print interviews. I attended professional conferences such as the ALA (American Library Association) and the CRA (California Reading Association) and writing conferences where I could display, sell and sign my books. I also attended a Chinese New Year event hosted by Families with Children from China Northern California. Sometimes I sell a dozen books at an event, sometimes 1 or 2, so it's hard to tell what, if anything, draws more of a crowd than the other. I continue to look for ways to attain some exposure for myself and my books such as this interview. I also have a website:; a blog: which recently was awarded a Sunshine Blogs award; two Facebook pages, an author page: and a Cixi, The Dragon Empress page:; and Twitter:

8) What are your upcoming plans for 2012?

My new picture book biography for Goosebottom Books, Sacajawea of the Shoshone, is coming out in the fall, so I'm beginning to brainstorm ideas for promotion and marketing, book readings and signings etc. I have a ten-minute play in production at Mendocino Community College's New Plays Festival in May, and I'm currently writing a children's play based on the Thinking Girl's Treasury of Dastardly Dames series, a middle-grade novel, and re-working a picture book. I also have a full length play idea I want to flesh out into a script, but am not sure if it'll come to fruition this year.

9) What is your definition of success as an author?

It's interesting that you should ask me that because my friend novelist Jody Gehrman and I were just talking about this last month. It seems that the yardstick keeps moving up. First, you feel you've arrived as an author if you get something published, then if you get more than one book published, then if you actually make a living as a writer etc. You can read my blog post on this subject here:

But all musings aside, this is such a competitive business and it's quite challenging to get your work published and noticed in the first place that I consider every byline, every publication a success whether it comes with monetary compensation or not. We have to celebrate the little things in life. And I'm so appreciative and grateful to have the editors I've worked with, my agent, my writer's group, and my writing friends critiquing my work, giving me advice and helping me shape my stories into something publishable.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Never give up. Goldy Luck and The Three Chans went through several rejections, four editors, an offer of publication followed by a cancelled contract when Random House decided to close down Tricycle Press, the imprint that had offered me the contract in the first place before it found a home with Charlesbridge Publishing. By the time it comes out in print, it would have been a nine year journey for this story. And keep working on other projects. You can't let rejections derail you. It's all part of the process. And you can't mope around waiting impatiently for editors and agents to get back to you. It'll drive you insane. So you have to work on other projects while your manuscript is making its submission circuit.

Author Bio

Natasha Yim is an author, freelance writer, and playwright. Her picture book, Otto's Rainy Day (Charlesbridge Publishing) was a Kids' Pick of the Lists selection. She has published articles in Highlights for Children, Appleseeds, and Faces magazines, and her ten-minute plays have been performed in venues around Northern California, Los Angeles, and Sydney, Australia. Her picture book biography, Cixi, The Dragon Empress, was released by Goosebottom Books ( in fall 2011. Natasha’s upcoming books, Sacajawea of the Shoshone (Goosebottom Books) is due out in fall 2012, and Goldy Luck and the Three Chans (Charlesbridge Publishing) is slated for a January 2014 release.

Contact Natasha





Monday, April 16, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Stephanie Rodriguez

1) Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you live and work.

My name is Stephanie Rodriguez and I am a freelance illustrator and painter living in Miami, FL. I work in my home studio with my three crazy dogs Gaspard, Leo and Chi-Chi. I have had the opportunity to work with over one hundred books and magazines from all over the world in many different genres from horror to children’s art. Currently, I am focusing on more projects for the children's book field.

2) Describe your journey to becoming an illustrator.

Ever since I was a little girl growing up in Queens, NY, I would spend hours drawing my favorite characters from the books that I read. With the encouragement of my mom, I began to pursue my career in art when accepted into New York City's Fiorello La Guardia high school of art and performing arts. It was here that I decided to become an illustrator. I went on to study illustration at FIT (The Fashion Institute of Technology) where I began to develop a technique influenced by children’s book art with the inspiration of artists Alice and Martin Provensen, Arthur Rackham and Howard Pyle. When I graduated with my BFA in Illustration in 2002, I moved to Miami, FL with my husband. It was then that I began my freelance career. I started illustrating for all kinds of magazines and book companies.

3) Describe your body of work. Which have been some of your most meaningful projects?

Since I started illustrating, I have had the opportunity to create many different kinds of illustrations using different mediums and techniques including pen and ink, oil paint, watercolor and color pencil. I think the most memorable projects have been the ones for the children’s book market because I enjoy creating whimsical art for kids; especially if it has a musical theme or historical reference. One of my favorite projects was for Music K-8, a magazine for elementary music teachers. The assignment was to draw a group of “Jazz” cats jamming together.

4) Tell us about your current projects.

Currently, I am working on a few different projects. Some are assignments and others are projects I am working on for my portfolio. I just completed a cover illustration for Plank Road Publishing's Halloween song collection called "MWA HA HA And Other Monstrous Favorites". The assignment was to draw a group of classic monsters singing together in a chorus. It was a lot of fun for me to draw because I had the chance to create a whimsical Dracula, Frankenstein and Wolfboy. The other project was fora horror/sci-fi magazine called Revelation. The assignment was to illustrate five black and white interior illustrations as well as a cover, which I illustrated in pen and ink. I am also working on a new series of pen and inks that are illustrations from my favorite classic novels such as Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein. I like to work on a variety of different projects simultaneously.

5) Who are your favorite illustrators?

I enjoy the classic illustrations of Howard Pyle and Arthur Rackham.

6) How does an illustrator go about getting work? What methods have worked best for you?

There are a various ways that illustrators go about getting work. The ones that have worked the best for me have been a combination of mailing out portfolios as well as emailing. Another technique that works well is follow-up postcards after the initial mailing to remind the art directors about your work. You have to be persistent and professional.

7) Where do you find inspiration? Describe your creative process.

I find much of my inspiration from music and books. I also collect a lot of reference which consists mainly of photos of people that inspire me like writer Oscar Wilde and musicians Chet Baker and Yngwie Malmsteen.

I like to play some music while I start sketching out ideas and this really helps me to get my creative juices flowing. I create many rough sketches before the final drawing on tracing paper. I like to work out the drawing until I am satisfied with it. The drawing to me is the most important part of the process.

8) What is your definition of success?

I think success isn't about being famous but truly loving what you do and knowing that people appreciate the work you do.

9) What advice would you offer to aspiring illustrators?

The illustration market is rough, you have to be knowledgeable and professional. You need to research the market you are interested in working for thoroughly and create a portfolio that best represents you. Most of all be true to yourself and your work will speak for you.

Author Bio

Stephanie Rodriguez is an award-winning illustrator from Miami, FL. Creating art and sharing the beauty of it is her passion in life. Stephanie has experience working with many companies from around the world some including Plank Road Publishing, Arté Publico Press, Aurealis Australian Science Fiction and The Artist and Graphic Designer’s Marketplace. Currently she is working on developing a portfolio for the children’s book market.

Website and Blog Links: