Special Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving a day away, I am filled with awesome gratitude. My associates, editors, interns, teams and scores of people have propelled Sunscribe™ to the edge of our launch in January…and that’s barely a breath away! Not only am I excited, I am truly humbled at this opportunity!

We’d love you to stop by and see what’s happening on our networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Bēhance.

On our Facebook page, we’re looking at all those serious and not-so-seriuos issues, such as, “Should Public Libraries Have Cats?” What is your immediate reaction? Allergic? Awww how cute! fondly remembering Dewey? Do you know which 10 libraries have cats?

Join us on LinkedIn where we will announce freelance opportunities to partner with us: graphic designers, artists, illustrators, photographers, editors, and writers. Discover who’s in our artist spotlight and more by linking with us professionally to stay in the know!

We’re actively tweeting about all things publishing and more. Did you miss Charles Schulz’s birthday? Don’t miss the opportunity to tell us what you’re looking for in a publisher here. Follow us @SunscribePub to know when we begin counting down to open for submissions!

Into Pinterest? We’re there, with some unique boards, everything related to books, from tips for Teachers/Bloggers/Parents to Holiday Decorations For Book Clubs, from Stay in Bed and Read Kind of Day to Purses Roomy Enough to Hold Books, 35 Boards in all so far! On our Friends board, meet and give a shoutout to our Facebook Friend of the week, Laura M!

Over at Bēhance, we’re connecting with artists, illustrators and photographers. Visit often, we’ll post who we have an eye on as emerging talent. Interested in working with us? Stop by and message us!

Want the latest on our three imprints? Sign up for the updates where we’ll cover writing issues, editing dilemmas, agent questions, manuscripts submissions, and more. Subscribe to Sunscribe!

Many thanks to you, my friends and Happy Thanksgiving!! And cheers, as I celebrate our first with granddaughter, above, pictured with my lovely daughter…

Spotlight: Teen Phenom T.L. Spencer

T.L. SpencerT.L. Spencer was born in Lincolnshire, England, traveling frequently due to her father’s membership in the armed forces. As a child, she lived in places such as Reading and Salisbury, taking advantage of being a short drive from the mystical Stonehenge – one of her favorite places. At the age of 11, T.L. was diagnosed with epilepsy while living in Germany, and turned to writing as a way to cope with her condition. She is now studying at a university with plans to one day teach. Her debut paranormal, Blood Prophecy , a three part novel, won Apostrophe Books’ Fiction Fast-Track , appropriately enough on Halloween, in 2012.

Q) Share with us, T.L., how you developed your debut novel: where your idea for the three-part series began, and how you knew you had to create this paranormal piece.

A) The initial development of Blood Prophecy started when I was sixteen. Though I was diagnosed with epilepsy when I was eleven, for many years it had been controlled with medication. At sixteen, my illness became quite severe; I was unable to walk and therefore not able to attend my local college. Originally a form of therapy, writing then became a way for me in which to keep my mind active.

The idea for Blood Prophecy stemmed from Celtic mythology and of course vampires and witches. However, the initial writings were adapted from several of my own personal scribbles. There is a bleak tone at the start of the novel, and this is why; the mood of the book follows my own in many ways. As the characters take their journeys, I was taking mine. By the end of the novel, the tone is much happier, reflecting my own state of mind and of course, my health. It also reflects the satisfaction of completing my novel after nearly two years of hard work and dedication.

Q) What an inspiration you are, T.L.! Let’s talk a minute about the writing process. If you could pick one thing that’s been the most fascinating part of penning and publishing your work, what would it be, plus what advice would you offer other emerging authors?

A) The most interesting part in writing the story is creating the plot and characters; they are what drive the story. Without them, you Blood Prophecyhave nothing. The publishing process is simply overwhelming. The entire thing, the proof-reading, the cover design, the marketing; all of it is incredible.

I have only one piece of advice to offer for aspiring authors and this to write, write and then write some more. Enjoy what you do; if you hate what you write, it isn’t writing, it’s just scribble.

Q) Excellent advice. And speaking of passing along information, I read in your bio that you’d like to teach: how important is reading to you, as a writer and a future teacher, who’s been the most influential novelist in your life, and what would we find on your reading table?

A) Reading is such an important skill to have. It enables you to think and act more clearly and improves your vocabulary and communication skills. Not only this, you need it for every subject. Reading also stimulates the mind in ways a television never could; you have to use your imagination when you read, you have to picture the characters, immerse yourself in the fictional world. As I hope to become a primary school teacher, I will want to pass on my enthusiasm.

The most influential novelist in my life is of course J.K Rowling. My generation was raised with the Harry Potter books. Even at the age of twenty I am still hoping for my Hogwarts letter (maybe the owl got very, very lost).  The world she created is so detailed; you are immediately immersed in the magic and mystery of the stories. It is true escapism.

Q) I like that, escapism, which brings me to the last question and a great dose of reality: Since Blood Prophecy won the Fiction Fast-Track competition at Apostrophe Books, look ahead a few years and tell us what your crystal ball reveals for your next releases: are they trilogies, stand-alones, or will you take a break from the craft of writing?

A) If I were to write a book which follows on from Blood Prophecy, I would be tempted to delve in to the perspectives of the male protagonists. They are fabulous characters and the vampires all have a lot of history. However, moving on from that, stories about witches and maybe even a tale more close to home could be expected in the future. My epilepsy is a sensitive subject but many people suffer from far worse things. Perhaps, to inspire others that, even with difficulties, people can achieve their goals, a story of uplifting happiness is due?

That sounds perfect, T.L. Hope is always welcome, and inspirational. Thanks again, and good luck with Blood Prophecy!

Follow T.L.’s blog, find her on Facebook, and on Twitter, purchase her book, and contact her at: T.L. Spencer

Read more Spotlights…

Spotlight: Artist, Poet and Short Story Author Leon A. Walker

Leon WalkerLeon A. Walker writes various forms of creative literature, and collaborates with artists and photographers worldwide on a variety of artistic images.  He is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in both the public and private sector, plus he is a retired Officer in the United States Navy.  Leon has two published collections of poetry and short stories, the first, “Work Wonders” became available in 2009 and the second, “Life Lines” released in 2011.  A third collection, entitled “Equinox” will be available soon.

Q) I know you for your poetry, but you’ve written short story collections, too. Share the difference in your writing styles and how your voice has developed with these projects.

A) My first book, “Work Wonders” can best be described as an artistic memoir. I did not consider that I actually wrote this book in the traditional sense.  First, because I did not initially set out to develop or present an organized collection of poetry and short stories.  Secondly, because the purpose for writing all of the verse in this book was intensely personal to me and primarily, they were only intended to be preserved and later shared with my children and those closest to me in life. 

Therefore, I do not consider this a simple collection.  It is my way of describing transitions, life lessons, and a vast array of thoughts and reflections that shaped a son, a father, a brother, and a friend.  The stories, poems, and quotes in this volume are in large part the story of a man’s cognitive and emotional life.  At the end of the day, I realized that if making a gift of these works was that important to me, I might be able to accomplish some measure of good by sharing it more broadly.  

It is a decision with which I am now very pleased. And I sincerely hope that those who take time to read this work will find it very enjoyable and perhaps even helpful or insightful on some level.  “Work Wonders” is a glimpse into the far reaches of the heart and mind.  

Work Wonders by Leon Walker

Although it is creative in its presentation, it is a candid story of one man’s life.  Yet, it is also no less a story about life in general.  A story—in specific parts—that any number of us will be able to fully appreciate and identify with.  Rest assured, you will encounter a portion of your life’s story in this book.

The second book, “Life Lines” is the result of my continu

ing drive and desire to provoke thought in readers.  I seek to do so by providing works that are creative in presentation and also intellectually and emotionally stimulating.  My primary focus has been to share insights into my personal thoughts and opinions, but over time, I have been pleased to discover that readers are often compelled to examine my stated views from alternative vantage points.  

I am hopeful that my writings continue to inspire rational and welcoming platforms for further discussions or perhaps new motivations to broader considerations.  I have long been troubled by what I perceive to be a limited effort to elevate literacy or to cultivate critical thought in far too many social quarters.  I believe that more writings and other 

options should be presented which enhance the availability and appeal of literature of any variety, and this book represents my effort to make a positive contribution to that undertaking.  

“Life Lines” is one man’s attempt to seize upon an opportunity to provide constructive insights and thought provoking subject matter in an enjoyable and creative literary form.  I frequently present candid views of both my learning and many life experiences, and I hope and believe this may encourage readers to embark on similar reflections. “Life Lines” will guide you into areas of thought and emotion that may range from extremely pleasurable to perhaps somewhat disquieting.  

There are no forbidden topics in this book, and as a result, you may realize some measure of learning or gain new perspectives on varying views of life.  “Life Lines” is a beautifully crafted work of compelling and creative literature.

At the outset, as I wrote, I found myself collecting and sharing my inner most thoughts and emotions in creative verse; and I began doing so primarily with my children in mind.  So that they might have a true impression of who their father is intellectually, culturally and emotionally.  

I wanted to record things about me and my life that they could always have, and which perhaps I had not directly shared or clearly communicated to them.  For some reason I was intensely driven to do that for my children and my family members.  This is where my poetic writings initially seemed to flow from.  And because these poetic endeavors are very emotionally charged, I wanted them to flow in a classic style that was both a reminder of the classics that I so loved and also a lesson in literature for them.  

So the stylistic difference between the way I develop poetry and prose, versus the many short stories I have written is very dramatic.  In writing short-stories, I am aware of the need to provide an emotional signature but my focus is to draw the reader into an event which is in some way a reminder of a familiar event in their existence; or a lesson in living that is interesting or appealing even if it is vastly different from anything that they have ever experienced.  I want readers to not only read the story, but rather to re-live it with me as the storyteller. 

Q) That’s truly important. As a storyteller, when you look back, who would you credit as your inspiration, how important was it for you to put pen to paper, and what advice would you offer other writers?

A) I have appreciated books all of my life, both as a form of enjoyment and also as a collector.  No doubt some of this was instilled by my father, who possessed a deep appreciation for literature and who from my earliest memories, read and regularly quoted everything from Chaucer and Kipling to Hughes and Baldwin to me and my siblings. I found myself reading and writing for entertainment purposes from a very young age. 

 Later I began to dabble in poetry and continued to write creatively on and off for years but never shared any of those works. Many were not preserved and are now lost.  Since I traveled extensively before the advent of wireless email and cellular phones, and it was my mother who frequently commented on the creative and unusually descriptive nature of my letters.  Over a long and varied professional career, I was also compelled to write a great deal on a broad cross-section of topics.  

What very few actually knew, was that I tremendously enjoyed writing.  Nor did they know of the passion I felt when creating written works.  It should be no surprise then that I had intended to write a book for many years.  “Work Wonders” and “Life Lines” simply presented the first publishing opportunities because I had so much completed material on hand.  My next project——entitled “Equinox”, will available in early in 2013.

Life Lines by Leon WalkerFor me, writing has always been all about really touching people with a lasting memory. I began developing the ability to reach people with words when I was very young. I am convinced that this all stemmed from my love for books and reading as a child. For reasons that remain inexplicable to me (even today) I had a propensity for becoming fully absorbed in stories and characters.

When I began to write, I found it a necessary aspect of style to draw people in. To provide them with both a clear vision as well as a personal emotional experience. From as far back as primary school, I still recall that I looked forward to written assignments, like writing book reports, because I felt I could say things in written form in a way that was convincing and even attractive. I had that presence of mind even then. What I have become today as a writer is certainly no quantum leap.

In developing a story, I feel that the reader must be able to experience the event that I describe, almost as if it were in real time. As it relates to my inspiration or motivations, there will frequently be a powerful emotional message or lesson tied to the events I write about that, hopefully, create a lasting impact. It may be a happy or a sad response that I seek to achieve, but the writing must include that powerful emotional signature which elicits an appropriate emotional reaction. I call this writing with purpose. That purpose being to provide a glimpse of life through words, in a way that is filled with lessons and emotions that are as powerful as the concept of life itself.

In my style of writing, the telling of a story almost always requires a significant amount of personal emotional daring. I believe that, in order to provide a clear snapshot into my own reflections, the feelings that are at the core of the experience which I am attempting to describe must shine through. By habit, I find a way to approach most writings emotionally unconstrained.

If, in a particular story’s setting, I was happy or confused or heartbroken, I have to find the words to clearly convey to readers exactly what those emotions felt like. And this must be done within the context of a story in a way that justifies such emotions. So, in my view as the storyteller, I am obligated to provide a fearless and truthful impression of the emotions that were present.

This sort of personal emotional daring can be daunting or perhaps even frightening to a writer. It is a very powerful tool when you find the courage to let your inner-most feelings be known. Think of it like a scene from a movie. There are the actual visual effects, and then there are the words. Often, it is also a musical score that provides the most emotionally compelling impact. In my writing, the words must create the scene; but they must also create the emotional music. And I am acutely focused on this as I write and as I edit my work.

My advice? Tell your stories, and do so beautifully and fearlessly, letting your soul flow through your pen. If you can find the courage to do that, and also to truthfully assess and appreciate what you have created, then you can call yourself a writer.

Q) Pairing courage with truthful assessment, a very good point Leon. Say someone believes he has a story to share, and comes asking your advice, what would you tell them about your publication path, your discovery of how your writing impacts readers, and how much of a learning curve, if any, you’ve experienced with each book release?

A) When I began, before the advent of email and the internet, I found myself traveling to Europe and Asia quite extensively (during my military service). During those years, it became a minor obsession of mine to write long letters home to my parents. I wrote to them with the hope that I might somehow make them see, or in some small way understand, the excitement and fascination that I was experiencing in my travels (writing with purpose).

Although I did not realize it at the time, those letters were an exercise in writing that helped hone my skills. The message here being (like anything else) practice is essential. It was some time later that my mother told me how much she and my father had looked forward to those letters; and she also made a point of telling me that she shared them with friends and family. But, more importantly, she told me that I had a talent for writing that I should consider exploring. It was at that point that I did two things.

First, I began to dabble in poetry and short stories, and second, I began to pay close attention to everything I wrote. Even if it were only a note or a birthday card; absolutely everything I wrote, I wanted to be appropriate, but with a unique or special wit or flare. I wanted it to be appreciated (writing with purpose).

Later in life, like many of us, I experienced my share of trying times. And during those times, I began to record stories and poems about the events themselves, and the emotions that I experienced. I can certainly say that there was a personal catharsis woven in this exercise; but I also wanted to record this period of time and preserve it as a season of learning.

My initial intention had been to simply preserve these writings and perhaps, at some point, share them with my children and family members so that they might have a true impression of all that my life had been (writing with purpose). The written works from these trying times became the basis for my first book.

I have had many things published and recognized via traditional means.  However, I have opted to self-publish my first two books for several reasons. Let me say from the outset, that self-publishing can -and probably will- require a substantial financial commitment on the front end. 

The benefits I have received in professional copy-editing, copyrighting, Leon Walker  registration with the Library of Congress and having the books made available in all formats (hardbound, paperback and eBook) made it a very worthwhile investment.  Additionally, you have broad input into all aspects of the book layout and design (including the cover).  Finally, self-publishing provides the author with total control over their work and the associated distribution and royalties.

It is important to note that the self-publishing process is a daunting undertaking…There will be many hours spent on organizing your book in a way that presents the most professional and compelling presentation.  

Be ready to put in the same amount of energy preparing and organizing your book as you committed to writing it.  It is slightly easier after the first book because you understand the process; but the workload does not diminish with each succeeding book release.

Your story is inspirational, Leon, and I believe will spark many to pick up their pen, composing stories of their own. Thanks so much for joining me today! I look forward to your third collection, “Equinox.”

Sample Leon A. Walker’s books at his Website

and find him on Redbubble – Collaborative Art,   Twitter,

Pinterest,   LinkedIn,   and   Facebook.

Spotlight: Humorist Barry Parham

In the Spotlight today: Barry Parham, the award-winning author of humor columns, essays and short stories. He is a recovering software freelancer and a music fanatic. A busy man, he’s published five books, the fifth released in April, contributed to My Funny Major Medical  which came out October 24th, and Open Doors: Fractured Fairy Tales available now (December 1).

Just announced: 
sing a song, write a review, help out this anthology, won’t you?
free download tomorrow with strings: please be kind enough to go back there to post your thoughts🙂
get your copy My Funny Major Medical here …

Q) Full Frontal Stupidity , a collection of your columns, is book five for you, Barry. From where do your humorous topics develop, and how long does a piece take to complete?

A) Actually, I never intended to write books. I always wanted to write a weekly humor column that eventually would grow up, move out, and go live with many newspapers. Unfortunately, I picked the worst time in about three decades to try and get newspapers to spend money they didn’t have to spend.

To that end, in early 2009, I took on the self-inflicted hobby of writing a minimum of 625 words, every week, and submitting the column to various dailies. I was extremely successful, unless you’re one of those purists who define “extremely successful” as “published.”

Then, somewhere along the way, I read that enclosing a book along with one’s pitch to editors might help generate a little more interest. So, in September 2009, I built and published my first book, Why I Hate Straws. And to my very grateful surprise, people started buying the book. (though it didn’t budge the ‘newspaper excite-o-meter’ needle in the least…)

And now, nearly four years later, I’m still writing at least a column a week (which, effectively, is a book chapter a week), and every so often I’ll gather up the syllables and lob another collection at the public, with hopes that one of the columns, one day, will carom into the lap of an editor out there who’s one humor column shy.

Q) Your writing style is admittedly a take-no-prisoners one: what do you mean by that, and are there any topics you would not tackle, or some you wish you hadn’t?

A) I’ve always tried to live by two simple rules: never intentionally hurt anybody, and always call a jerk, a jerk. (You don’t have to analyze that philosophy very long to discover its gaping flaws…)

So I’ll write about nearly any topic that one group or another considers sacrosanct. Some events, traditions, and interactions, in and of themselves, can be horrible, but people’s responses to them can be hilarious.

Politics, of course, is almost too easy — but we’ve lately gotten so defensive about our politics that a writer risks losing half her/his audience simply by pointing out that dedicating a ‘Clinton Bedroom’ in the White House would be redundant, or mentioning that ‘Orrin Hatch’ sounds like a debilitating dental condition. (did I say that out loud?)

Are there topics I wouldn’t touch? Absolutely. I don’t write about private citizens, by name. I don’t carve columns out of people’s physical problems, intentional violence, racism, or vulgarity simply for the sake of being vulgar. But then, as a humorist, that’s an easy decision for me, because I don’t find such things funny in the first place.

Q) Give us a run-down of your four other works, how they’re different yet unique to your writing style, and reveal what’s next in the pipeline for you.

A) We’ve touched on my first collection (Why I Hate Straws), and my latest (Full Frontal Stupidity). The middle three children’s names are:

Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny

Blush: Politics and other unnatural acts

The Middle-Age of Aquarius

Although Blush represented a conscious (and partly successful) attempt to stick to a single theme, all five collections are broad, rather than deep (oh, count on it).The Middle-Age of Aquarius contains more than a few essays related to growing old, occasionally gracefully. And then there’s this insider tidbit for your readers: Sorry, We Can’t Use Funny was the actual text of a rejection letter I received from one newspaper editor.

As it turns out, not being bound to newspaper-column guidelines has allowed me a flexibility – to write longer pieces, to create some recurring characters, places, and situations, things like that. And increased exposure, such as your ‘Spotlight’ series, has helped land some of my stuff in three national humor anthologies.

What’s next? Hopefully, each collection has gotten a bit better…a touch smarter…a smile funnier. I’m very proud of my ‘kids.’ And thanks, Roxie, for letting me show them off a bit.

My pleasure, Barry, thanks for hanging out with us!

Discover more about Barry’s Books

Find Barry on his Blog      Facebook      Twitter

More Spotlights…

Spotlight: Children’s Author Leigh Anne Hoover

Leigh Anne W. Hoover is the author of The Santa Train Tradition and Festus and His Fun Fest Favorites, and is a native of South Carolina and a graduate of Clemson University. With a Bachelor of Arts degree in secondary education/English and a minor in general communications, Leigh Anne has worked for over 25 years in the media, has extensive writing and public relations experience in the region, and has published articles encompassing personality and home profiles, arts and entertainment reviews, medical topics, and weekend escape pieces.

Before we dive into the Q and A, let me share with you what others are saying about Leigh Anne’s work:

“It is so important to bring accurate facts and details to light in an amusing, poignant manner to inspire children’s creative minds. Leigh Anne Hoover does both in The Santa Train Tradition as she describes an actual event in her community. Leigh Anne is as warm and engaging as her books.”

 –Mary Alice Monroe, New York Times bestselling author for adults and children

“I believe strongly that one of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a love of reading. Leigh Anne Hoover’s children’s books incorporate historical fiction to exemplify how community bonds can also connect children to actual events and tie them to literacy. Reading aloud instills this while also creating special one-on-one time with your child.” 

 –Nancy Samalin, MS, Parent Guidance Workshops parenting speaker, author, and pioneer in the field of parent education

Q) Leigh Anne, tell us about the inspiration for you book, The Santa Train Tradition, why you wanted to capture the story in a children’s work, and how much history is behind this amazing event.

A) Since 1943, the Santa Train has been winding its way through the mountains of Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee, distributing over 15 tons of donated gifts, toys, candies, and clothing from individuals and organizations across the United States. This year marked the 70th running of the Santa Special.

Beginning in Shelby, Kentucky, the Santa Train travels 110 miles making 13 stops in route to its final destination in Kingsport, Tennessee, for the annual Christmas parade. Some stops are in small train stations in places with comical names like “Toms Bottom.”

The Santa Train originated as a way for Kingsport, Tennessee, to thank the surrounding region for their continued patronage. As a shared program of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, CSX Transportation, Inc., Food City, and Dignity U Wear, gifts are collected throughout the year, and the train always runs on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.

Many heard of the Santa Train through an “On the Road” segment with the late Charles Kuralt.  The train has been featured in numerous other television specials, articles, and even on the front page of the New York Times, which prompted gifts and donations from all over the world.

Since then, many country music stars, including Patty Loveless, Alison Krauss, Travis Tritt, Kathy Mattea, and Naomi and Wynonna Judd, and Thompson Square have been celebrity guests on the Santa Train.

Several years ago, I was able to ride the Santa Train as a journalist. I was writing an article for US Airways Magazine, but it was only about the facts.  When I got off the Santa Train, I talked to the people. I spoke with grandparents who remembered coming to the Santa Train when they were children and parents who were now bringing their children. These were the “real stories” of the train, and I knew then that what I had learned would be much more than just an article.  I just didn’t know what…

Q) Remarkable! These real stories impacted you in a pretty profound way. Share how you began to create the book, what your expectations were when you first began this project, and how the process unfolded, including any stumbling blocks or miraculous moments.

A) Along with the facts, I knew that the people’s story had to be told.  So, I incorporated an imaginary family that could be representative of what I had heard and what was shared with me. From there, I wove the facts in as a journalist for accuracy.

I searched local publishers and thought that I would end up with one that had done some regional books that included children’s literature.  During this process, I stumbled upon the person who would become my artist.

Carol Bates Murray is from Marion, Virginia, and The Santa Train Tradition is actually her eighth published children’s book.  Carol does everything the old fashioned way.  Each page is an individual watercolor painting, and when I am in schools, I share some of the actual pages with the children.  Before we even read the first word, children tell me how a particular original painting makes them feel. In sharing the paintings, this also connects them to another art form and truly depicts the job of an illustrator.

Other than connecting to reading, the most important goal for me was for this little book to also give back— just like the Santa Train.  So, we approached our regional grocery store chain, Food City, which also happens to sponsor the Santa Train, about partnering. For the first three years, the hardback book was sold exclusively in their stores along the train route throughout the holidays.

My hope was that a donation could be made to the Santa Train Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a graduating high school senior along the route. I never imagined that 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of the $11.99 hardback book would be donated by Food City Grocery. To date, this amount is over $10,000, and the sale of the book also benefits the Literacy Council of Kingsport.

Q) Above and beyond your hopes, that’s awesome, Leigh Anne! I want to shift a bit to another topic. You began writing this piece as an article, yet it became a stand-alone book. When you consider your publishing experience both with this book and your second one, Festus and His Fun Fest Favorites, what advice would you offer to other writers, and what suggestions would you make about marketing books?

A) Many are familiar with the beautiful children’s book Silver Packages by the very prolific writer, Cynthia Rylant. It’s about a train that runs through the Appalachian Mountains each year with a rich old man dressed in a green blazer who gives out packages wrapped in silver.  The book is actually loosely based on our Santa Train, yet I never knew about this book.

The text does not mention the Santa Train or CSX Transportation because both are actually protected with a copyright. If had known about this little book, I would have never attempted mine. I would have assumed that if Cynthia Rylant had not written about the actual Santa Train, there would be no way that I could!

However, I prayerfully forged ahead with the endeavor. CSX not only required seeing the manuscript before agreeing, but they also had to approve the illustrations. Once I found myself working with the CSX legal department, we hired an attorney just to make sure that everything was handled correctly.

I have been taking my program into schools.  In addition to sharing my little book, I talk to the children about the history of the Santa Train, and we also talk about how many volunteers help pack the train and the actual sponsors of the Santa Train. The book has been an excellent way to connect children to research based, factual information and to share volunteerism and literacy.

In 2010, I was honored to be a presenter at the Tennessee Association of School Librarians (TASL) Conference, and my program was titled, “Connecting to the Community through Literacy.”

My second children’s book, Festus and His Fun Fest Favorites, celebrates an over 30-year summer tradition in Kingsport, Tennessee, and the story is told through the eyes of the festival mascot, Festus. Festus takes readers through a week of Fun Fest and looks at events both past and present.

With this little book, Food City partnered again on a smaller scale, and proceeds have benefitted Fun Fest, which is a program of the Kingsport Chamber Foundation, and also the Literacy Council of Kingsport (LCK). In fact, the book won a regional public relations Pinnacle award and two International Festivals & Events Association Pinnacle Awards.

I serve as a past president of LCK, and I am also an adult volunteer tutor.  I know firsthand that one of our adult students was able to “pretend read” my book to his child, and this connected them in a way that they had never experienced together in the past.

In fact, I am currently writing my third book, Reading with Ralph – A Journey in Christian Compassion, which is an adult book that sheds light on illiteracy. As you know, Roxie, the key is connecting. There are many “keys” that we can use to open the literacy door. However, we need to be mindful of which one will open it for our communities, our adults, and our children.

It’s important to also become a marketing professional and utilize every avenue, including local television and radio talk shows and various available speaking engagements, to tout your book and talk about your passion.

For me, partnering with a regional grocery store chain, and making sure that a portion of the proceeds could benefit education/literacy, was the perfect marketing opportunity. It truly created something that others could identify with and feel passionate about.

As writers, together, we are all connecting to reading. When we are also passionate, we are truly creating a lasting literacy legacy!

You are so right, Leigh Anne! You are an inspiration, and your suggestions to connect writing with education and literacy are spot-on. Thanks for sharing this wonderful project and your time with us.

Purchase Leigh Anne’s Books at

Word of Mouth Press   or   The Santa Train Tradition

The Santa Train runs on the Saturday before Thanksgiving…view a video of November 17, 2012 trip:

more footage…

More about Leigh Anne Hoover: She’s done extensive features including one-on-one interviews with actress Andie MacDowell, artists Bob Timberlake and P. Buckley Moss, author Jan Karon, Grammy-winner, singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins, and Clemson University President James F. Barker. Hoover currently serves on the Clemson University Parents’ Development Board and the Literacy Council of Kingsport and Friends of Allandale board of directors. She is also a past president of the Literacy Council of Kingsport, the Junior League of Kingsport and past co-chair of the Clemson University Parents’ Development Board. Hoover is a member of First Broad Street United Methodist Church, and she volunteers as an adult reading tutor. She and her husband, Brad, reside in Kingsport, and they have two adult children.

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Spotlight: Author Caroline A. Shearer

Caroline A. Shearer is the founder of Absolute Love Publishing, which was born out of a mission to create and publish projects promoting goodness in the world. Known as a fresh, distinctive, spiritual voice, Caroline’s visionary leadership is uplifting, gently blending love and inspiration. She is regularly featured as a luminary in print, broadcast, and online media, offering guidance and sharing positive stories of her personal spiritual journey toward a more abundant, joyful, and light-filled life. Intuitively guided, Caroline has a remarkable ability to unite others along a path of progressing and celebrating the experience of humanity.

Q) Caroline, your nonfiction work, Women Will Save the World, has a compelling title. Tell us about why you chose to write this book now, and why the women’s stories are important.

A) It all started when I came across a quote from the Dalai Lama. At the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009 he said, “The world will be saved by the Western woman.” I randomly came across the quote somewhere on the internet but it really struck me and stayed with me. I kept turning it over in my mind until finally I said to the editor of my publishing company, “I want to write a book about this.” And so we did.

The timing of the book was something helped along by the Universe rather than planned. However, I think it’s important that we explore the implications of this profound statement now. Western women have an excellent opportunity to make a difference because of the position we have in the world. We have the platform to make the change. And we can do this by being authentic to the virtues we are naturally blessed with—by collaborating with each other and staying true to our creative nature, by following our intuition and believing in our own wisdom. We have so much to offer and it is time now to explore that and it is time now to define it.

Q) How did you select the voices to include in this collection, which touched you the most, and what has been the greatest joy for you during the gathering and selection process?

A)  Well, it is quite amazing what the Universe will give you once you figure out how to ask for it! Once we cemented our idea for Women Will Save the World and put the call out there for submissions, people just started appearing. Suddenly I had stories pouring in from these remarkable women, highly-esteemed women—celebrities and experts in their fields, who were open to sharing their words of inspiration. The essays started to fall into categories and we chose the seven—collaboration, creativity, intuition, nurturing, strength, trailblazing, and wisdom—based on common themes we saw.

I honestly do not have a favorite essay because I can relate to them all. Each one represents a little piece of myself which was healed through the process of publishing the book. I am so grateful to have been a part of this, to have provided the vehicle and the platform for these remarkable words to be read by women everywhere. That, for me, is my greatest joy and the reason I started my two businesses, Absolute Love Publishing and Spirited Press.

Q) This seems like a mission that will continue: what are your hopes post-publication, how has this influenced your writing in general, and if you could glimpse into the future, what projects are on the horizon? 

A)  My hope is to bring the light and the inspiration and the message from within the pages of Women Will Save the World to as many women as possible. Publishing this book has allowed me to do my part in saving the world. I want women everywhere to realize what we—and the women who came before us, and the women who will come after us—are capable of.  This is why I chose to include the historical profiles. So many great things have been accomplished and it is up to us now to take the proverbial torch and do what we can before passing it on to the next generation.

As for future projects, I am currently working on a couple of New Thought min-e-books™, and the second book in the “Adventures of a Lightworker” metaphysical murder mystery series. (For more info about the first book, please see the official “Dead End Date” book page here…)

A bestselling author, Caroline’s popular books include, “Dead End Date,” the first book in the Adventures of a Lightworker metaphysical mystery series; “Love Like God: Embracing Unconditional Love;” “Love Like God Companion;” “Raise Your Vibration: Tips and Tools for a High-Frequency Life,” a min-e-book™; “Women Will Save the World” and “Raise Your Financial Vibration: Tips and Tools to Embrace Your Infinite Spiritual Abundance” a min-e-book™. In addition to her own projects, she founded Spirited Press, an assisted self-publishing imprint that operates under the umbrella of Absolute Love Publishing. Spirited Press supports authors in sharing their own messages with the world. 

Find Absolute Love Publishing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and their blog.

Purchase Women Will Save the World

Spotlight: Poet John Lavan

One of the internet’s most prominent poets, John Lavan, presents a new book of collected poems. John’s distinctive voice, enjoyed by his hundreds of thousands of blog and Twitter followers, carries effortlessly from the personal to the pastoral.

Q) John, your collection of poetry, Familial: Selected Poems is distinctly personal, drawing from relationships in your life. Tell us about those inspirations, and how you chose the poems for this book.

A) I discovered my poetry passion about 8 years ago when I met my wife – I used to leave little scraps of verse around on post-its – and I found we both liked what I’d penned. I started studying poesy, avidly reading other poets and writing more and more.

And then there was a moment when I started to write about my son, Andrew, who has Down’s Syndrome. That’s when really big, inner feelings welled – happy, sad and lots in between! My best poems are with, and for, Andrew. As Frost said ‘a poem starts with a feeling of lovesickness or homesickness’ and I aim to express deeper feelings between father and son through words. There’s not a lot of art created from the feeling of love between father and son but the love runs deep.

I started blogging, at Poems from Reality, aiming to write a poem every day. At the moment, you’ll find over 600 poems on there, with over a 1000 followers and I’m closing in on half a million hits! I selected the poems for Familial (published by Apostrophe Books) by choosing posts with the largest number of hits and comments – in a kind of digital global democracy.

It’s a book to help readers feel. As Frost also said – ‘no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.’

Q) One poem of yours I really enjoy is ‘An Eden Conception’. In the video you describe the birth of this piece:

Using it as an example, describe your writing process, how many edits you may go through, and how you know when a work is finished.

A) A poem starts with the kind of feeling that Frost describes. It’s an inner ache or pulse. Sometimes it can start with an idea, paradox or mental construct – like focusing on a particular modern word or idiom. My best poems start with that inner pulse and are not mentally constructed.

The pulse then gains momentum, the feeling gets stronger as I contact with it; and a moment of voltage arrives when I pick up the pen, computer, iPad – whatever’s available.

Out come the words!!

Typically, I’ll have a draft poem 15 minutes after I start the writing process. Frankly, at this point the poem will be rubbish – but have an essence of feeling in there. Then I immediately go into editing because, when I read through what’s emerged, it’s not good enough – full of repetition, dull words, cliche. As I edit, I’ll look for many forms of ‘poesy-like’ crafting, using rhyme, word and letter choice, image sequence, meter (particularly), line length, stanza, punctuation, breath, alliteration, reading out loud etc. etc.

The art is to make a finely crafted set of intense words that can retain the feeling. Of course, as my mind gets busy in the re-editing, the feeling might get lost – so there is a fine dance going on between head and heart!

I’ll always re-edit over a dozen times, leaving days between the work to let the poem ripen. Because of this mental-emotional dance and balance, a poem is never finished – only abandoned for a while.

Q) Given that, when you read your work aloud, what surprises you the most: your reaction, or the reaction of the readers? Share with us some memorable events and why they struck you as such, and then offer us a peek into where your ultimate reading audience would take place.

A) I’ve only recently started reading out loud in public. Andrew and I performed at the St Ives’ literary festival – so I can talk about that. I work as a management consultant and I’m quite used to standing up talking to groups of people.  Reading my own poems out makes me nervous, though, because my heart’s vested in there and I’d like to touch other hearts – so it’s like we’re all potentially exposed!

Once I got started in St Ives, I was fine – although I’ve found that, every time I read, emphasis was different – and I like that – because the poem is emerging in a newly nascent voice-form. Having Andrew alongside is amazing because he’s exuberant and he got to be included in performing every poem. I found it most fun when the audience was also included – repeating some lines and making actions – so that we had a collective, fun and shared experience. Andrew enjoys including as many people as possible in such strange fun.

I guess my ultimate reading experience would be the Albert Hall with Andrew and me, a few thousand people all gesticulating, singing and speaking to a funny and heartfelt poem or two. We got near there in St Ives last month but with 50 people. We received grand feedback – ‘a moving part of the Festival’ people said and Andrew was a little celebrity on the streets as he met people eating ice-cream later. He would give out his own little gifts – in the form of a hug!!

Thanks, John! Appreciate your time, and wish you much success with Familial along with abundant continued inspiration. Andrew is a delightful celebrity, congratulations to you both!

Familial: Selected Poems

Purchase from: Amazon US     Amazon UK     Apostrophe Books

plus in other stores (Kobo, Nook, iBooks and more).

Also discover on Goodreads,

and on Pinterest.

Read more on John’s website.

Follow John on Twitter.

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