Publishing Seminar!

Come Join us at Mercer County Community College on

Thursday, August 12th from 7-9 PM for our informative Publishing Seminar!

Three Women, Three Authors, Three Approaches to Publishing

You finally finished “The Great American Novel.” Maybe you’re putting the final touches on that children’s book you’ve been penning. Perhaps you want to publish your memoirs for posterity.
How do you go from typing on your computer to holding the finished book in your hands? Join authors Mary Fran Bontempo, Carmen Ferreiro Esteban and Chrysa Smith in this two-hour seminar as they share their interesting, maddening, but ultimately fulfilling experiences about writing and publishing their books using traditional, print-on-demand, and self-publishing methods.
Tuition and fees: $65

We’d love to share our hard-won knowledge with you!  This seminar will give you essential information to help you to get your work published.

For registration and more information, click on the link below.


Springtime Thaw on March 20

Bears aren’t the only warm-blooded animals to hibernate. It seems to me, after the Christmas holidays, my world goes into a short state of  hibernation.  Now some of it is of my doing—enjoying the cold weather, gray skies and fluffy, white stuff less and less as I get just a bit older. But some of it, for sure, is set into action by others. There are just these inactive periods when emails don’t get where they’re going, connections get lost because of winter sniffles, aches and pains, and the frenetic activity of ordinary days is lost, as the world slowly arises from its holiday slumber. At this time of the year, my world is the polar opposite of a great sports car—-it goes from 60 to 0 in an instant. Or so it seems.

So, not surprisingly then, our publishing seminar—-the really wonderfully attended event produced by MaryFran Bontempo, Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban and myself, has also gone into hibernation, and somehow that email to sign up for the spring semester, never arrived—-in any of our inboxes. So, just a little plug as we wind up once again to empower ourselves and others to get out there and ‘just do it’, we will in fact be offering another publishing seminar on Saturday, March 20th, from 10am-noon, somewhere in Central Bucks. As soon as we are assigned a location, we’ll let you know. And we promise to come, packing even more of experiences gained from the writer’s life with us.

Check the website for details as the date gets closer:


Wrapping It Up

It’s that time of year, isn’t it? Wrapping it up seems like a good headline to sum up this seasonal time of wrapping presents, wrapping up projects, wrapping up another 365 days. 

So, let me leave you with a bit of end-of-year news and wisdom.

1. Book signings are tough. Without celebrity status or an incredibly long list of devoted friends and family members, book signings can be excruciatingly lonely, boring and disappointing. So, instead, why not come up with a way your knowledge can help others? A talk, a seminar, a workshop is much more rewarding and often a better use of time. When you offer people something, you always gets more in return.

2. Keep the most important things, the most important in your life. It’s easy to lose yourself in all the flurry of activity that writing and publishing books bring with it. But every so often, life comes along and smacks us in the face with the realities of how we spend our time, and sometimes a lesson on how we should.  A child leaves for school, a husband struggles in a business, a parent passes away, a friend becomes ill, couples get divorced, families with kids at home become empty-nesters. These life passages seem to run faster all the time, leaving us square in the path of the cliche, where has all the time gone? Lesson learned: time goes by quickly—-make sure you’re making time for what is truly important in your life.

3. Trust in yourself. Know when to listen to the outer and inner critics. Some are valid; some are not. If instinct tells you to keep plugging, keep plugging. Myriads of editors, publishers, agents and others have been proven wrong over the ages. Proper persistence often pays off.

4. Enjoy the journey. You never know where writing is going to take you. It has taken me to places I’ve never been—introduced me to people I would have never met—exposed me to topics I would never have known anything about. It’s a journey, not a marathon. Plan to enjoy it. If you don’t, take some time to think about your path. Maybe it needs tweaking or a complete makeover. Either way, it’s progress toward where you should ultimately be.

Whatever your genre, whatever your denomination, whatever your status in life—-enjoy this wintery, slow-down of life—this pause to reflect on what is truly important in this life, and focus yourself once again for another 365 days of lessons to wrap, unwrap and maybe even re-gift.

Chrysa Smith

An Unexpected Gift

See full size imageA friend once told me that he never got disappointed because he had no expectations. That’s an interesting theory and one I’ve come to adopt myself in light of certain unpredictable situations like cocktail parties and book festivals.  So, I wasn’t completely disappointed that sales were lower than low at the Collingswood event this month. And although I had gone there with some desire to sell books,  I came home with  empty pockets and a blessing—a bit of grace and wisdom which tends to show up in my life (and maybe yours) at the most unexpected of times, in the most unlikely places. This day, it showed up in the person of Thomas E. Pierce.

Pierce is the author of The Last Rose—A True Celebration of Eternal Life.  I was captured by the kindness of Thomas and his wife Lillian, as they offered to share their tent with me if the skies opened. But I was truly captivated as the author explained his book to me. Five years ago, you may remember the news story about the Baltimore Water Taxi that was struck with an unexpected gust of wind that flipped the boat over in Baltimore Harbor.  That day, Pierce lost his wife of 37 years and his 35 year old daughter.  As he so bluntly put it, “What’s an overweight, bald man in his 60’s supposed to do now?”

One of the many things he did was to write and write and write. He wrote about the events, his feelings and finally, what led to the publication of his book, his faith trail, which led him through the darkest of times, the unknown and the unexpected, as his life began to take on a whole new direction. He met with priests, old friends and with a ‘medium’ who brought Pierce visions of the past, the future and an uncanny  foreshadowing of names, numbers, coincidences and connections which seems to invisibly guide us to the place where we need to go.

So Tom, who brought his wife one yellow rose each month on the date of their anniversary, for 37 years lost her unexpectedly, in a most tragic way—and his daughter too. Yet today, he is happily remarried, to the first girl  who caught his eye as a school boy in Philadelphia—-the girl the ‘medium’ brought to his attention during their session. Lillian, who had moved west many years earlier, was newly widowed herself. She lost her husband after many years of marriage, and returned to New Jersey. The two reconnected, and Lillian actually had to leave early that day, for a school reunion with ladies she’s known for decades. Tom’s other daughter  Kathy, is married with two young girls—-seemingly, the lights of Tom’s life which keep him going and laughing.

So, Tom gave me a copy of his book and a reality check that day—something we all need when we tend to get caught up in the minutia of our lives. And I gave Emily and Kayla—his young grandaughters,  copies of my children’s books. Tom’s message is summed up in the line “All the kindness a person puts out into the world works on the hearts and thoughts of mankind.” He’s right. It worked on me that day, and reminded me to pass it on.


Chrysa Smith

In Search of The perfect Query. Or How Far Would You Go to Get Published?

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban






Dear Publisher to Be,

Zamparo, this guy I met last night over at the Emporium, asked me to contact you if something bad happened to him. He’s dead now, back at the hotel, so I guess that qualifies as bad, and that’s why I’m sending this e-mail to you.

He said you might remember him as you two met last month at the Writers Workshop in Philadelphia and, I quote, “you were impressed with the first chapter of his manuscript, Publish or Perish.”

I’m attaching the complete manuscript to you now as he instructed me to do. Afterwards I will send a press release stating that you have it.

From then on, its fate and yours will be in your hands. Meaning that once they—the men that killed Zamparo—know, they will try their best to stop you from reading the story that would uncover them was it ever to become public. So, it seems, your best protection would be to publish it as soon as possible.

I would if I were you.

You see, Zamparo’s death will give the book free publicity. And with him being dead and all, you will be making all the profit.  What is there to lose except your life? As it will be at risk if you don’t publish his manuscript.

Besides, Zamparo deserves to be heard. He was a nice guy, and he really wanted his book published even if he had to perish to make that happen.

As for me, don’t worry, I’m nobody, just a messenger that never existed but in your mind, and soon will be

Gone forever,


For those of you who wouldn’t want to go that far to get your book published (dying is after all kind of irreversible), here is a link to the Preditors and Editors’ website where you will find expert advice on what an editor is looking for in a query:

From my own experience:

The perfect query is the one that sells your book, whether it’s perfect or not is a matter of opinion.

Make your query professional, but not boring. 

Make it engaging, original, AND specific to your story. To do this, you may try to:

            Write the query in the voice of your character,

            Start with your first paragraph,

            Or ask the question(s) your book answers (this works best for non fiction).

And when you are absolutely, positively sure that your query is ready, send it to Query Shark ( for a critique.

Good luck and Good Writing

Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

To Blog or Not to Blog?

Thoughts on writing, publishing and other things.

j0438487To blog or not to blog?  That is the question.

Actually, it’s only one question in a seemingly endless list of questions when it comes to electronic mediums and writing.  Specifically, just how much time should one spend mining technology when you’re trying to be a writer?

Anyone who has written a book, or anything for that matter, feels the triumphant surge of euphoria when you’ve dotted your last “i” and crossed your final “t.”  Your masterpiec is finished!  Now you can sit back and wait for the money and fame to start rolling in and transform your life.

Well, not so fast.  Unfortunately, for writers, the completion of a written work is only half the battle.  Actually, if someone were to do a statistical analysis, it’s probably only one-tenth of the battle.  Because if you want anyone to read your stuff, your real work is just beginning.

As Chrysa, Carmen and I found out first-hand, the act of publishing your work can be time-consuming and confusing.  There are multiple options available and each must be evaluated for you to find what’s best for you.  But even that can look easy next to the marketing of your work.  Where, oh where to begin?

Which brings us to the technology quandry.  With blogging, social networking sites,  websites and internet organizations for writers, book review sites, and on and on and on, the possibilities for trumpeting your work are endless.  And that’s precisely the problem.  You can get lost in that mess.  If your true love is working on your craft, what’s a writer to do?

The answer is a little bit of everything–the operative words being “little bit” and “everything.”

You should have a website–almost a given for any writer.  Use the networking sites to build contacts and steer traffic to your personal site.  Search out a few sites that cater to writers in your genre.  Many offer marketing tips as well as ways to increase your contacts.

And blogging, despite bearing the occasional stigma of being an excuse for anyone to blather on about anything (not here, of course), can actually be a great way for you to write short pieces regularly, giving your readers a more personal glimpse into your personality and keeping your skills sharp while you try to make that first million from your book. (Since blogs attract the most traffic by being frequently updated, try joining forces with a few writer friends, as we have.  Takes the pressure off any one writer and broadens the audience for all.)

So by all means, blog, tweet, update your website and embrace that technology.  But don’t forget to write.

Mary Fran

Gearing Up—The Chestnut Hill Book Festival

Go to fullsize imageThere’s a new book festival in town, and next week, Carmen, MaryFran and I will be there–at the signing tent, at a gallery, and yes, even at a closed car dealership. (What can I do to put you and this book together today?)

As a juvenile fiction writer, I’ve got to get my groove back on. Once the school year ends, my work comes to an abrupt halt. If you’re a teacher, you get it—and I suspect, you’re glad. You get a well-deserved break from the routine; a chance to recharge the batteries. But as an author with a new book scheduled for release later this summer, the silence is unnerving. I can tell the press. I can tell bookstores. I can tell my email contacts. But I must wait to talk to my main audience—the teachers who are lying on the beach, in Europe, in their yards with their phones off the hook.

Waiting is not my strong point. So, I will take myself, my books (so glad I will soon have two titles)to the Chestnut Hill Book Festival and talk about the new, soon-to-be released title, as I wait to tell the world. I can hardly wait!

If you go: The Chestnut Hill Book Festival runs Friday night, July 10th through Sunday, July 12th. MaryFran, Carmen and I will be there on Sunday afternoon, July 12th, between 1 and 4pm; at the car dealership, at the gallery and at the signing tent, respectively. More info:


Chrysa Smith

On Women, Mothers & Writing

View ImageAlthough I live at home with a husband, son and two male poodles, I spend most of my time communicating with women, moms, young girls–the entire spectrum, if you count regular conversations with my 86 year old mother, of the female population. Lots of it revolves around my writing career, since that is my life’s work, my professional pursuit and my joie de vivre. But, actually, so much of my time is spent on women’s stuff—the routines, errands and experiences we encounter daily that delight, tickle, amuse or just keep me engaged in life—especially during these weather patterns bereft of sunshine.

Just yesterday, as I was sitting in my dentist’s office, reading yet another new women’s magazine, I was struck, first of all, by the guts of two Philadelphia area women starting up a new magazine in the midst of a terrible economy and terrible time for print media. Good for them, I thought. It’s targetted to mothers in the region, and contains a good bit of mother humour—which also happens to tickle me. And then I thought about all the women, just in the Delaware Valley, who are doing incredible things that are being communicated, and those which are not. I thought of the women I meet on my book tours who run around with that idea for a great picture book; a collection of family stories; tales of incredible life events. What happens to these stories? Only a fraction are told to others; only a fraction make it to paper; only a fraction go further on to create a final piece for all to read.

We all have stories to tell, and I want to encourage women to tell them. From the simplest of events, a story rises out, connection happens and networks form. It’s one of the great things about being a woman—we’ve got friends and we’ve got stories. If we could only learn to put them together, have a little faith and take the same advice we give to our children, our friends, our family members—Don’t be afraid to speak up.

Chrysa Smith

A Killer Beginning

Pearl DSC_0015

by Carmen Ferreiro Esteban

A killer beginning doesn’t guarantee publication but may be your only chance to catch the editor’s attention.

With publishers receiving thousands of manuscripts/queries every month, it is a mathematical impossibility that they read them all. If you are lucky, an overworked editor will pick yours and read your first line. In those precious seconds the future of that novel you worked so hard to create hang in the balance. It is that first line that will determine whether he/she will read more or discard your submission to the reject pile together with your dreams.

The importance of the first page is no secret. First Page readings are a part of most Writers conferences and workshops. In them, editors/publishers read different first pages and explain why or why not they would keep reading.

Over the years, I have collected a list of things editors look for on a first page. Among them: memorable, relatable characters, engaging story telling, and a good sense of place. Editors, tell us, want to be tickled, surprised, transported to another place and time. They want to know by the end of the first page to whom, when, where and why this is happening and they want to care enough about your characters that they cannot stop reading.

Also, I almost forgot, they want the piece to have a voice, that elusive element “they recognize when they see it.”

Not bad, for a mere 250 words.

Never to be discouraged, last year I decided to create a perfect first page following all the advice above and send the resulting creation to a local workshop. It worked. They chose my piece and, apart from some minor tinkering the three editors like it well enough.

But my triumph was short lived. My first page was perfect, thank you very much, but I had no idea where to go from there.

So this year I decided to go the traditional way and write the story first. I sent my first page to the same workshop. This time they didn’t choose it. I didn’t mind. Not too much, anyway. I know I am on the right track. The story is strong in my mind, the characters are speaking to me, and the setting is gorgeous. I have even found my voice.

So, for now, I’ll stick to the writing and worry about creating that perfect beginning when I’m done.

In the meantime, I leave you with several killing beginnings taken from published books I and other readers have added to a thread I started some months ago at Goodreads. You can check them at:

You are welcome to add yours there or here as comments.

And don’t forget to keep writing.

Will the Real Mrs. Flout Please Stand Up?

Will the Real Mrs. Flout Please Stand Up?

Mrs. Flout & Posse

I once lived in reality. I really did. Non-fiction features kept me focused on the real world at hand, at least until the next assignment.

But since I have become an author of a juvenile fiction series, everything has changed. And now I’m beginning to wonder, just who is leading who?

Back in 2007, my poodles became the subject for my series, with their slightly older and plumper owner, Mrs. Flout, loosely based on my personality. As my feature writing had kept me from the harsh reality that my poodles had their own world of adventures that I was too busy to notice, so Mrs. Flout is rarely aware, of the adventures that carry on all around her. When I stopped and watched a stolen steak bone caper that unfolded in my home, before my eyes, the wheels of progress began to turn. It tickled me and I wanted to tell this story to others. And that was when The Adventures of the Poodle Posse was officially born.

Now, in 2009, I find myself engaged in all sorts of interaction with the current poodle posse. Some of it is quite ordinary; some of it, well, maybe a bit questionable. For example, just the other day, my senior redhead, Daisy, looked sad to me, as she lay on the leather sofa. Her younger, bouncier brother, Bobby, was going for his usual robust walk. But Daisy’s blindness, old age and ailments keep her frozen in fear, and unable to walk on a leash any longer. So, a lightbulb moment: I’ll tuck Miss Daisy into a large tote bag, throw it over my shoulder and take her along. She loved it. She poked her little face up toward the sun, as we doddled along the walking path. I had to make a few explanations to neighbors, as to why I had a poodle in my purse. That would have bothered me a few years ago. But now, it just made me chuckle. Am I that crazy dog lady that everyone reads about in the paper, or knows in the neighborhood? Maybe. Am I based on Mrs. Flout or is she based on me? I don’t know. All I do know is that I made an old gal happy. And those messages of care, love and hope told through the lens of funny situations, are the essence of what I want to tell through each and every one of my stories containing Woody, Archie, Daisy, Bobby and Mrs. Flout.

Well, I’ve gotta get up now. Time for a walk.

« Older entries