Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Cocoa Bear and Bennie Boy, Ellie Meglio, plus #giveaway

AUTHOR:  Ellie Meglio
BOOK TITLE: Cocoa Bear & Bennie Boy: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Woofs
PUBLISHER: CreateSpace
BUY LINK: amazon.com
GIVEAWAY?:  Yes. Please leave contact information to be entered into the drawing.

Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

I have been trying to write all my life: poetry, journals, essays, screenplays, plays.  Lots of starts and a few finishes.  I began writing this book about a year ago.  The second in the series is about to be published, probably next month.

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

I don’t think I am even a part-time writer.  Because I was inspired to write my first children’s book, which I self-published through CreateSpace,  I can humbly call myself an author.  I am retired, so I have a pretty flexible schedule.  I usually write the “creative” or new parts in the morning.  Late at night I like to edit and re-write.  I am not on a schedule to write every day.

What influences your writing?  

I love books, of all kinds, and really good movies.  I admire the talent that it takes to actually create something that can influence or move someone in a good way. That influences me.  I think of myself of a “creative” person, but I may lack the discipline that must be part of the process.

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

Yes, my first.  As I said above, all kinds of writing, to keep the creative juices flowing.  Most seriously, before this book, I tried to develop some screenplays.

Why did you choose to write a children's story?

I wrote this book because I love my two Bernese Mountain Dogs, they are great and beautiful.  Everyone loves them, especially children. When children stop to pet them I tell them their names are Cocoa Bear & Bennie Boy.  Eventually, I thought – what a great title for a children’s book.  And thus, the first book.  Right now, it is the first in a series of three.

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

The day after I expressed the thought: “Cocoa Bear & Bennie Boy – what a great title for a children’s book!” I sat down to write it. I wrote the outline of the story I had in mind.  Then, since it is a picture book, I began to review all the pictures of Cocoa & Bennie that I had in my computer.  The narrative directed me to photos, the photos inspired new and more precise narration.  It was fun.  I loved sorting and viewing all the beautiful pictures, matching them up like a puzzle that had a beginning and an end.  I placed the photos directly into the narrative to illustrate a particular passage.  Then the hard work began.  I was using our “family-album” photos; not all were shot in high resolution; they had to be cropped to the right size; I needed a variety of expressions, ages, activities.  I used the CreateSpace process to test and amend the photos.  Finally, I worked with a former colleague, a graphic designer, who helped convert the pictures and fine-tuned the layout and the cover art.  She also created a logo for me.  I learned a lot writing the first book.

With the second book (“Cocoa Bear & Bennie Boy – The Tale of Cocoa’s Tail) the narrative came just as easily, the choice of photos was dwindling, and I decided to send the photos directly to my graphic designer friend and skipped the months of photo editing at my end.  For my third book, which I have titled but not yet begun, I will shoot the photos I need for the narration.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

When I wrote this book I never thought of having it published or publishing it myself.  It was a labor of love for family, friends and a tribute to my dogs.  Everybody loved it (of course they are probably biased in my favor) so I decided to go with Amazon’s CreateSpace.  I never considered seeking a traditional publisher.  Since I have now been trying to market and sell the book (and hopefully the series), I have come to feel that self-publishers are the “poor cousins” in the industry.  However, it is a new industry, provides access to amateurs like me, and is continually widening its outreach.  I am glad that self-publishing exists or I would not have been able to enter this literary arena.

What is your marketing strategy?

I am not very actively marketing this book.  What I have done is write to bloggers (thank you for responding – not many have!); request reviews; pay for review; place book, for a fee,  in the new title sections of the largest book fairs.  With the second book I am considering taking my dogs – the stars of the books – to local fairs.

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

I certainly wish that I had an agent.  Like everything today, publishing children’s books is highly competitive and the market is over-saturated.

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

I don’t really have a lot out there about me and my very new writing career.  I do have a website about the books and my dogs:  www.cocoabear-bennieboy.com  

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

Find your inner child which is buried in you somewhere and write for him/her.

Please give us a brief synopsis or excerpt from your current book and when and where it will be available.

The book is available now at Amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com and for wholesalers it is at Ingram and at Baker & Taylor.  I have not converted the book for ebooks or Kindle because as a picture book it is a fixed layout and it is an expensive process.  Maybe later.

The following is a review of the book from Kirkus which describes the book so well:

KIRKUS BOOK REVIEW (March 29, 2013)“In Meglio’s debut children’s picture book, a 6-year-old dog moves to a new home and becomes a big sister to a new puppy. Change can pose a great hurdle for children. Meglio’s story presents a positive view of life transitions that adults may use as a springboard for conversations with kids. Children will likely relate to Cocoa Bear’s conflicted feelings; she’s jealous that the spotlight is no longer on her and upset that her territory has been invaded (“He took over my favorite chair and my special blanket”). Cocoa Bear grumbles….But young readers will sense that Cocoa Bear has actually taken to Bennie and is quickly growing into her new role as older sibling.” Cocoa Bear is depicted as an expressive, sympathetic character, and her humorous observations and remarks will likely have children laughing. Accompanying photographs illustrate the two dogs’ irresistible antics…well-chosen clip art adds a fun dash to the visuals.”   
“A delightful children’s tale about a dog adapting to change.” 

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