Friday, May 31, 2013

Carroll County Service Guide

Malachi Marketing, LLC - Uhrichsville, OH

Check this out!

I worked with Sarah Grezlik and the folks at Malachi Marketing, LLC to put together this newest edition of the Carroll County Service Guide, OUT & AROUND CARROLL COUNTY. It's a directory of businesses in Carroll County, Ohio. I wrote the articles for the guide (see pages 4, 5 & 12) and helped edit the finished product. See, my name's right there in the Malachi Marketing ad on the bottom of page 2, where it says "Editor". Cool, huh?

Click here to go online where you can view the guide.

You can also pick up a FREE copy of the service guide if you're in the Carroll County area.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

What Do Writers Do?

Those of you who are not writers might very well wonder: What do writers do? The obvious answer to that question is....

They write. Since there are many different types of writers and many different things to write about, a writer might write books, stories, articles, essays, speeches, blogs, recipes, web content, press releases, letters, etc. After these have been written...

They rewrite. Writers are notorious for being perfectionists. It's not enough to simply write something. What is written must be as perfect as possible. To this end, writers will rewrite, once, twice or a dozen times until they feel the piece is finished. But, of course that's not all. Then...

They proofread/edit/correct. Proofreading, editing and correcting entail going over the so-called "finished" piece and checking it closely for misspellings, incorrect grammar, incorrect punctuation, and overall readability. Writers will fix a spelling error here, correct grammar and punctuation issues there, change verbs and nouns, and tidy up the whole before...

They post/submit. If a writer is a blogger, they will then post the finished and polished piece online. If they are writing for a publisher or agent, they will then submit their writing for consideration of publication. Then...

They wait. If the finished piece has been submitted for consideration of publication, the writer must wait for an answer. Sometimes they wait, and wait, and wait some more. But while they are waiting...

They write. Writers are busy people. They can always find something to write about so they can rewrite it, proofread/edit/correct it/ and post/submit it.

But, that's not all writers do. No, not by a long shot.

They read. Good writers are good readers. They read anything and everything related to their subject or genre so they are up-to-date on current trends in their business. They also read for pleasure.

They research. Writers who write non-fiction must research their topics thoroughly to be sure to give their readers accurate information.

They connect. This is the golden age of the Internet. Writers take advantage of this wonderful tool by connecting with other writers on social media sites, through their own websites and blogs, and through professional websites.

They learn. Good writers are curious creatures, and I don't just mean they're odd (though some of us can be). I mean they are curious about the world around them. They want to learn more so they can write more.

They experiment. Some writers write in only one genre or on only one topic. That is fine, if that's what they want to do. But many writers like to branch out and experiment with different types of writing styles in different genres.

And, while writers are reading, and researching, and connecting, and learning, and experimenting...

They write.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Do You Twitter?

I know Twitter has been around for some time, but I'm just now really learning the basics of it. I set up an account a year or so ago, but did nothing with it other than post an opening "Tweet". Then, I left the Twitter account alone until recently.

I had the opportunity to participate in a "pitch fest" yesterday's (please see previous post) on Twitter, and I previously participated in another one about two weeks ago. I can see the value of "tweeting" for those events, and to keep in touch with friends and such, but I'm still trying to figure out how to make it work for me as a writer - as a way to promote myself and to connect with fellow writers and those in the publishing industry.

Which brings me to the main purpose for this post. If you're still learning about Twitter, like I am, here's an excellent guide to Twitter, from a writer's perspective. Even though it is geared to writers, there is still a lot of basic info about the Twitter process itself.

The blog is called Inky Girl and it's written by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pitch Fest on Twitter

I just participated in another "pitch fest" on Twitter. For those who have never heard of such a thing, it's when writers get to "pitch" their book ideas to editors and/or agents who are participating. It's a great way to get an editor's/agent's attention, but it's also difficult. You have to be able to describe your book/idea in less than 140 characters, including spaces and hash tags. Let me tell you, there's not a lot of wiggle room for beating around the bush with your book description.

Let me show you what I'm talking about. Here is a paragraph from a cover letter for a story I wrote called The Reddle Badge. This paragraph describes the story. Sounds okay, doesn't it?

Long ago, Hardy Thomasin roamed the wild heaths of Wessex.” So begins my story, The Reddle Badge (word count – approx. 3900), which I have enclosed. In this adventure, Hardy comes face-to-face with the dreaded and feared “Reddleman” whom he befriends. Hardy is then a hero to all those who know him. The story is geared for children six to ten years of age. I have also included a page titled “Author’s Note,” which gives a brief explanation of the book’s topic and why I chose it.

Now, here's the same idea reduced to "Twitter" size:

MG - Hardy Thomasin comes face to face with the much-feared Reddleman & lives to tell about it. THE REDDLE BADGE

With the hash tag (which I deleted from this sample), I used 120 of my allotted 140 characters. That's quite a bit different, now isn't it? The "MG" stands for "middle grade."

I pitched several of my stories, but I didn't get any nibbles. There were literally hundreds of pitches (probably over 1000) made during the pitch fest which ran for 12 hours. I'm disappointed, but not too surprised that none of my entries were chosen.

Not to be discouraged, I will keep sending out my manuscripts to editors and agents, and keep honing my "Twitter pitches" in case an opportunity like this comes around again soon.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Celia Lee, Assistant Editor at Cartwheel Books, Open to Unagented Submissions from Inkygirl Readers for a Limited Time

Attention Writers:

Celia Lee is an assistant editor at Cartwheel Books, Scholastic’s 0-5 imprint. When she’s not reading, she’s talking about reading. And when she’s not talking about reading, she’s thinking about reading. You can follow her on Twitter @VitellusD.

Read her interview with Debbie Ridpath Ohi on the Inkygirl website.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

I've Been Busy

If you haven't visited my website before, welcome to you! Make yourself comfortable and get acquainted with my site. 

If you are a returning visitor, welcome back! You will notice I have been busy since your last visit. I've rearranged and updated my blog by adding pages and adding content. You can visit ALL my pages: About me; Kids; crafts; Book reviews; For Writers; Web Credits; Resume; Home; and Contact Me. I've got lots of good "stuff" on my page now. "Help yourself" and let me know what you think!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

From Idea to Print: One Series' Tale, Part Three (It's a long story)

Part Three of the Three-Part Series: I told you it was a long story...

Anyway, before I was finished with the first four books in the series, a couple of things happened. Mark Friedman left Grolier, Inc., so I no longer had any contact with him. And, since things were progressing so well with the first four books, I was offered a contract for another for books. Woot! That was in April 2000. The contact was for EGG CARTON MANIA, PAPER CUP MANIA, PIPE CLEANER MANIA, and PIE PAN MANIA.

I can't find the records, so I don't know the actual dates, but a couple of other things happened before all of the books were done. As mentioned before, my original idea was for a series of craft books for 6-to-12-year-olds using ordinary, household items for each craft. Sometime after the series was approved, Grolier Publishing was taken over by Scholastic, Inc. Sometimes when things like this happen, contracts that have been signed by the previous publisher become null and void. The publisher still has to pay the writer the agreed-upon advance royalties, but the books will not be published. That's a real bummer and I was afraid that would happen to me. It didn't, but Scholastic wanted to make some changes. They decided the series should be for 2nd-4th graders, and the books should be suitable for classroom use. And, they wanted to emphasize recycling in the series.

So, even though I was relieved my series hadn't been cancelled, I had additional work to do. First, I had to change the age level for the projects in the books, so some of the ideas I had come up with wouldn't work for the newly-chosen age group. I had already finished one book in the series, and was starting on the second one when the changes were made. I had to throw out some of the activities I had already written up for the first two books, and adjusting my ideas for the rest of the series meant a fair amount of re-writing was involved to bring all the activities into line with the new guidelines.

And, my original idea was to use more than one type of material to make the same type of craft project. For instance, I had ideas for making different types of flowers using different materials like egg cartons, paper plates, and paper cups. But the publisher didn't want the same type of project repeated in any of the books, even if the materials used were different. That meant I could include ONE flower project, but I had to choose whether to have it for the egg carton, paper plate or paper cup book. I couldn't use the idea in all three books. What this really meant was by the time I got down to the last two books in the series, I was having a hard time coming up with ideas for making things that I hadn't already used.

Oh, and the publisher also decided that instead of having four books come out at one time and then four more books a year or so later, they would launch the series with all eight books. Because of all the changes that were made along the way, the books weren’t actually published for nearly four years after I signed the original contract! Four years!

There were times when I questioned whether or not the books would ever make it into print, but they did. They came out first in hard cover editions, in 2002, and then in paperback, in 2006.

It was a long journey (and a long story!) from idea to the finished product. I learned a lot. Now, I’m ready to do it again!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

From Idea to Print: One Series' Tale, Part Two (It's a long story)

Part Two of a Three-Part Series (I will post the last "episode" tomorrow):

My initial contact with Mark, the editor, was through snail mail. We both had email addresses so we corresponded mostly by email after the initial contact was made. Through a series of back-and-forth missives, the book proposal was sent to the publisher's editorial department for approval. In September 1998, five months after the first letter from Mark, I got an email saying my series concept had been approved by the editorial department. He said the next step was for him to submit a formal budget proposal and wait for its authorization before he could officially offer me a contract. The approval was given October 30, 1998, and I was offered a contract!!!

I received the actual contract a few days later, but some changes needed to be made to it before it was ready for both parties (myself and the publisher) to sign. This is not usual. Just a note: A writer should ALWAYS read the contact, ANY contract, carefully before signing. Often, things are entered incorrectly, or not entered at all. And, some things in a publishing contract are negotiable.

I didn’t have much experience in this area, so I asked a couple of my friends, who were seasoned, published writers, to review it. They pointed out a couple of things that needed to be changed. Through a series of emails, the changes were proposed, approved and then implemented into the contract.

When the contract was finally signed, I had work to do. I had four books to write. Each one was to have 10-12 craft ideas. I was entitled to a royalty of $1000 per book. The first $300, for each book, was paid to me when the contract was signed and returned. The next $300, for each book, was to be paid to me when the rough draft of each book was finished. And the final $400, for each book, was to be paid to me when the final copy of each book's manuscript was approved.

The publisher assigned me an editor to work with, Wendy Mead. I submitted my ideas and written instructions to her. If she didn't approve them, she would send them back to me for more editing and revisions. If I was stuck on a particular craft project, she would help me come up with ideas for it. She was very helpful. Together, we worked through the first four books in the series.

 to be continued...

Monday, May 20, 2013

From Idea to Print: One Series' Tale, Part One (It's a long story)

I am the proud author of a series of children's craft books, published by Children's Press in 2002, known as the "Mania Craft" books. They were given this designation as each title in the series has the word "mania" in it, as in MILK CARTON MANIA, CRAFT STICK MANIA, EGG CARTON MANIA, PIPE CLEANER MANIA, PIE PAN MANIA, PAPER CUP MANIA, PAPER PLATE MANIA, and CARDBOARD TUBE MANIA.

Here's the story of their creation:

Once upon a time I dreamed about writing a series of children's craft books. Okay, it wasn't a fairy tale, although at times it seemed like one. I thought about writing a series of craft books for kids. My mom had always encouraged me to express my creativity by doing crafts such as knitting, sewing and crocheting. But, she also was an early supporter of recycling (this was in the 1960s) and making things with ordinary household objects, like the paper tubes that are used for paper towel and toilet paper, empty paper milk cartons, used aluminum pie pans, etc. So, I thought it would be a great idea to have a series of craft books that used ordinary, household objects so parents wouldn't have to go out and buy expensive things for their kids to do the crafts with.

My original idea was for a series of four to six craft books. They were aimed at ages 6-12, with the idea that the crafts would be interesting for the entire age group. The oldest children could do the crafts all by themselves, while the younger ones would need help from parents and/or siblings.

I did some research on publishers who might be interested in such a series. I had six publishers on my list. When I "queried" them, in January 1998, I sent a letter saying I had an idea for a series of children's craft books that would use everyday, ordinary household items and be targeted to 6-to-12-year-olds. I included a couple of titles for the series, as well as some craft ideas for one of the books, MILK CARTON MANIA.

A few weeks after I sent out my query letters, two publishers rejected my idea outright. One sent me a letter saying they did not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries. One I never heard back from. And I withdrew my proposal from one because I had received a letter from Mark Friedman of Grolier, Inc. saying they were interested in my idea.

He wrote: "I do like your idea, and I am interested in pursuing the initial stages of development with you. I presented the basic idea today at an editorial meeting, and my staff greeted it enthusiastically. It is now obviously just a concept, and the next step would be for you to submit a more fleshed-out list of titles. For us to launch a series like this, we would need about five or six individual titles as a minimum (I do not see the series containing more than ten or 12 books)." 

He then asked me to send him:

* a list of possible titles in the series;
* a sample table of contents, showing all the craft projects that would be included in one of the titles;
* and two or three sample chapters showing the complete texts of a few projects themselves.

Needless to say, I was thrilled with the letter. A real, live editor from a major publishing company sent me a personal letter saying he not only liked my book proposal, he wanted to pursue the concept and see if it could work as a real series. Also, I was thrilled that I had a least a better-than-average chance of actually getting my ideas into print.

But, I knew from reading articles about other writers' experiences that just because a publisher likes your idea doesn't mean it will go anywhere. I also knew that even if I sent all the requested materials, Mr. Friedman could still reject the project if he didn't like what I sent him. And, I knew that even if he liked what I sent, that was just the first step in the process. I was very excited to receive such a letter, and thrilled to be given such a wonderful opportunity, but I was nervous about my ability to actually produce the series and scared that nothing would come of it after all my work.

But, I was optimistic. So I got right to work on the requested materials. No deadline was given, but I knew the sooner I sent it to him, the better.

The first book I had an idea for was MILK CARTON MANIA. So, I sent the publisher a list of 12 possible book titles for the series (so they'd have plenty to choose from), a sample table of contents with the names of 30 possible craft projects to make with milk cartons - bird feeder, cat, Halloween pumpkin, etc. - as well as the directions for five projects, complete with line drawings and step-by-step directions. I even included an introduction for the book.

to be continued...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fishing Haiku

Here's a poem I wrote about fishing for Children's Author David L. Harrison's Blog for Poetry Theme for the Month of May. The theme was "fishing" so I wrote a short haiku for it. For those who are not familiar with haiku, it is a very structured, and very short, type of Japanese poem with a total of three lines. The first and third lines have only five syllables each, while the second line has seven. Here's my haiku:


Just baited the hook.
Sitting, waiting for a bite.
What lies will I catch?

Profound, don't ya think?

Monday, May 13, 2013


I realized after I had made the list of books with their descriptions (see older posts below), that I forgot to include these three: CRAFT MANIA, ISAAC THE FROG and THE LITTLE LIGHTHOUSE.  So, here they are.

First, CRAFT MANIA: CRAFT MANIA is a bind-up (a combination) of three of my craft books, PIPE CLEANER MANIA, MILK CARTON MANIA, and PAPER CUP MANIA. Gramercy Press, a division of Random House, purchased the rights to publish one book that combined the contents of the three books mentioned (see descriptions of each in previous posts). It's like buying three books in one! I haven't been able to find it on the Web, so I'm not sure if it's still available for purchase, except through and sites like that.

ISAAC THE FROG: Isaac is a little boy who wakes up one morning and pretends to be a frog. He goes through the whole day with this routine, driving his mom crazy when he answers with nothing but frog sounds (like "ribbit") all day long. So at the end of the day, when mom tucks him in, she has a little surprise for him.

THE LITTLE LIGHTHOUSE was "born" when my friend, Lee Ann Dunlap, decided she wanted to write a book with me. We came up with the idea of a little lighthouse that thought it wasn't very useful because all he did was sit on the shore and look out at the sea. He didn't think there was much use in that. But, he found out how useful he really was when there was a problem in the harbor. Our mutual friend, Sarah Koch, did the illustrations for this book.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Tribute to Moms

Here's a poem in honor of Mother's Day. It's not the greatest poem in the world. But, at least I hope it expresses something about the way we feel about our moms.

A Tribute to Moms
   by, Christine M. Irvin

Moms who work.
Moms who play.
Moms are there
Every day.

Arms to love.
Arms to hold.
Arms we run to
When we're cold.

Even those
Who've passed away.
We think about them
every day.

Young and old,
Short and tall,
They're our moms.
We love them all.

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Good New and Bad News

Well, I have good news and bad news.

The bad news first: My previous blog entry was part of a contest called the "The Write Voice" for middle grade and picture book writers. To be part of the contest, you had to first be picked randomly from other entrants. There were 247 entries, and 150 open slots. I was picked to get one of the slots. If you were given a slot, you had to post a query letter and the first 250 words of your manuscript (or a description of it if it was a short picture book). That's what the previous blog entry was for. After all the letters and manuscripts were posted, then a couple of "writing coaches" were to read through all the entries and select those they wanted on their team (much like on the TV show, "The Voice", hence the name of the contest). The last day to be chosen for a team was yesterday, May 10. I wasn't picked to be on a team so I'm out of the contest. The lucky ones who were picked get to work with writing coaches to improve their submissions. Then a group of literary agent are going to read over those entries and choose the ones they want. Since I didn't get chosen for a team, I'm out of the contest.

But, thanks to the good folk who came by, read my entry, and wished me luck. I appreciate it.

Now, for the good news: I learned a lot from this contest.

Blogging - part one: In order to submit, you had to have a blog of your own. I had a blog of my own, this one I started years ago and neglected. I hesitated to use it for my contest entry as it needed so much work, but I went ahead and used it anyway. After making my post, I visited the sites of some of the other contest entries (there was a list posted of everyone who had entered, along with links to their blogs). Yes, I had a blog, but my blog was rather pitiful in comparison to others that I saw. That's when I decided to update and upgrade my blog. Since the initial contest entry, I've done a total revamp of my blog. It looks incredibly better than it did when I first started (if I do say so myself!). The look of the blog wasn't supposed to make a difference in the coaches' choices for team members, but maybe, unconsciously it did. At any rate, I have a better blog to use for any future contest entries.

Blogging - part two: The second part of blogging deals with the actual act of blogging. Something else I've learned from all this is that most of the successful writers have blogs - and they keep up with them. I have resolved to do a better job of using and maintaining this site in the future. As stated in a previous post, I plan on posting at least once a week. I've got all kinds of topics I'm considering for my blog entries, so stay tuned and see what I post. Also, please feel free to leave a comment on this post, or any blog post, with any questions you might have, or any suggestions for future entries.

Query Letters: A big part of this contest dealt with the query letter. For those of you who are not too familiar with writing lingo, a query letter is the cover letter you send to an agent and/or editor "querying them" about your story, article, book for idea. The query letter is used to describe your project, tell the agent/editor a bit about yourself, and ask them ("query them") if they would be interested in reading more. In comparison to other query letters I've read as part of this contest, I think my query letter is descriptive, and maybe adequate, but it doesn't have a whole lot of "zing" to it. I need to revamp it to make it more exciting.

The first 250 words: It's important to grab the reader's attention to your story in the first 250 words. That's all we were allowed to post for this contest. 250 words sounds like a lot, but it really isn't. In terms of a manuscript, 250 words is equivalent of roughly one type-written, double-spaced page. So that means you need to grab the reader's attention, and peak their interest, by the time they've finished reading the first page. That can be difficult. I thought I did pretty well with my first 250 words, considering the nature of the story, but I would certainly be open to any thoughts, ideas and suggestions as to how I might improve the beginning of this story. Thanks!

Now, it's time to put this contest behind me, and get ready for what's coming up ahead. I'm eager to improve my writing so I can sell more stories.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Query Letter and First 250 words of THE RIDDLE OF THE RAINBOW

This post is part of a contest that I'm entering.

Dear Agent,

First, let me thank you for taking the time to participate in this contest. It’s a great opportunity for writers like myself and we greatly appreciate your time and effort.

Brother and sister, Rhonda and Kenny, discover a magic crystal. Touching the crystal together transports them to the Carnival of Color. Each scene of the Carnival of Color is presented in a different color, starting with red and ending with violet, using all seven colors of the rainbow. The children must solve the “riddle of the rainbow” in order to find their way back home by choosing the proper door (the violet one – the last color of the rainbow) in the last scene of the Carnival.

RIDDLE OF THE RAINBOW (word count –  approx. 6740) is a middle grade chapter book with a total of ten chapters. The story incorporates the idea of prisms and the concept of “Roy G. Biv,” a technique for remembering the colors of the rainbow.

Christine M. Irvin


By, Christine M. Irvin


            "Hurry up, Rhonda.” Kenny Burton tried to get his sister, Rhonda, to move a little faster.
            "What's the big hurry?"
            "I want to get there, now! I don't want anyone to find the crystal before I do." The children lived close to Crystal Park, reclaimed mining land, now covered with trees and flowers.
            "There isn't any crystal." Rhonda claimed.
            "Yes, there IS!"
            "No, there isn't!"
            "Yes, THERE IS!"
            "No, there isn't!"
            "Is TOO!  The old miner said so." Kenny insisted. "They named the park after the magic crystal." And he had come to the park to find it.
            “They named it Crystal Park because they used to mine quartz crystal here. And, besides, there's no such thing as a magic crystal." Rhonda retorted.
            "But the legend - "
            "Do you believe that silly legend? The old miner just told us a story. Only babies believe that stuff!"
The children had met an old man at the local museum yesterday. Their parents had taken them there to see a rock exhibit, as their father was a geologist. While their parents read all the little signs and looked at everything under the glass, the children had wandered away for a moment. An old man, standing in a corner, had motioned for them to come near. “I have a secret,” he said.
“What kind of secret?” Kenny asked. He loved secrets.
“About a magic crystal.”
“There’s no such thing as magic,” Rhonda pointed out, “and besides, we’re not supposed to talk to strangers.”

A Long Over-Due Update

Hi Everyone,

As you can tell, I haven't posted on this blog for a very long time. There are a lot of excuses, I mean reasons, for that, so I won't elaborate. Suffice it to say I will try to do better in the future. (That shouldn't be too difficult, should it?)

First an update: I started this blog to promote my craft books. I didn't do much of anything with it once I got the initial information up about my books. The books were initially printed in 2002. In 2012, six of the eight books were taken out of print (sniff, sniff). I'm sorry to see the end to my series, but it was fun while it lasted. You can still order autographed copies of ALL my books, except for PIPE CLEANER MANIA (I ran out of extra ones). Just email me for more details (

Much has happened in my writing career since I last posted. I haven't secured any more book contracts, but I have been writing - a lot. In addition to children's books and stories, I have written web articles, journalistic-type articles, recipes, restaurant reviews, and a whole slew of book reviews (for children as well as adults). You can read some of my book reviews by going to these websites: Christian Children's Book Review; Book Reporter; TeenReads; and KidsReads.  I have also written a lot of articles for the Internet and various websites. However, I did not get a byline for many of them so you could read them and not know I wrote them. However, you can read a few of my articles on this website, Amish Shop Online.

Although I haven't had much published recently in regards to children's literature (besides book reviews), I still have plenty of stories and books I'm working on. That's part of the reason why I've decided to start blogging. I'm hoping it will attract more traffic to my site and encourage me to keep writing for kids. My dream is to have at least one picture book published that becomes a classic, the type kids want to read - or have read to them - over and over and over again.

To that end, I have enrolled in the 12 x 12 challenge with Julie Hedlund (wonderful opportunity), added new writer friends on Facebook, entered a couple of contests, and submitted a couple of stories to agents (so exciting)! I'll keep you posted on my progress as I go along.