Q&A With Author Diana L. Smith

One of my absolute favorite things about being a writer is having the opportunity to meet so many talented, hard-working authors, creatives, and artists. It has been sheer joy reading/reviewing some of the most original, imaginative, award-winning, unforgettable stories on the planet. Kind of like this recent book I’ve had the pleasure of coming across, Pete the Pancake by Diana L. Smith.

After reading this entertaining, heartwarming story, I just had to know more about Pete and the author behind this adorable, five-star tale! So, without further ado, let’s meet debut author, Diana L. Smith!

Welcome, Diana, thanks for stopping by! Please share a bit about yourself. 

My name is Diana L. Smith. I live in Florida with my husband and best friend, Kevin. I was originally an Ohio girl and moved in 2000 for work. I loved Ohio, and it was a wonderful place to grow up, but here in FL, you do not have to shovel sunshine!

Tell us more about Pete the Pancake. How did he come to be? What inspired the title? 

Well, Kevin and I were at our friend’s house (Colin and Michelle – yes, the same names in the book) and Michelle was making pancakes. Most of the pancake makers in the world know that the first one turns out a little wonky. Sure enough, that happened, and Michelle was getting ready to throw it out. I told her, “awww don’t throw it away. It’s cute. I will take him! We could even call him Pete.” And, so it began! What is really funny and may sound odd because I never really thought about it in this way but, I am Pete in a way! I have neurofibromatosis. It is a genetic disorder that causes nervous system tumors, so I look different than most people. So, I know what it feels like when people stare. It is just what I have and not who I am, which is an important distinction. I am a happy-go-lucky person and feel blessed in this life!

Very cool how Pete was created…and thanks for sharing why you relate to his character, and choosing to spread humor, positivity, and gratitude through books and reading. 

The illustrations are fabulous. Who designed/illustrated the book?

Max Alnutt is the illustrator. He is so talented and really brought Pete to life for me. I sent him my sketch of what I wanted Pete to look like (which was terrible) but he got the idea and voila – Pete!

Do you have a favorite writing/creative space?

When I was in 5th grade, we had an assignment to write a short story. I wrote, The missing 10-million-dollar stamp. I was so proud of that story. I somehow found that my favorite place to write was in the laundry room, sitting in front of the dryer with the lid down like some sort of desk! No idea why I chose that but, I was 10! Now, I enjoy sitting out on the pool deck writing.

Pool-side writing sounds very relaxing! What’s your favorite part about being a children’s book author?

I love to be creative. My husband always said that I should have been in marketing or advertising rather than IT, which I have been for years and years. I am proud of the message that Pete delivers to kids and adults alike. All too often, people shy away from people or things that are different probably for many different reasons. They fear someone that looks different. They may not know how to react. Some people are just judgmental.  

What’s next for Pete? What are you working on at the moment? 

I want Pete to make it to the buffet. I figure that he will be introduced to other foods and hear their stories. For example, I see Pete meeting foods that people are afraid of without even trying them. I remember being a little girl and my family and I were having dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. My father wanted me to try the octopus and I was scared, even brought to tears! I finally tried it and loved it!!!  It is really the same lesson but, in another way that kids can understand. I believe that people need to think about who they shy away from or ignore. They could be missing out on getting to know someone that was meant to be their best friend until the day that they die. You never know. Don’t make assumptions.

I couldn’t agree more. Do you remember the first book you read?

I remember being in love with the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene. I could not get enough of those.

Who are your all-time favorite authors?

There have been so many different ones…that is a tough question. I have read so many different authors from Tolstoy to Gary Larson. All over the place, right? That is what makes it fun!

My favorite poem is by W.B. Yeats – ‘The Pilgrim Soul’ and Sidney Sheldon was a guilty pleasure for sure. I genuinely enjoy songs and consider songwriters as authors. Some of my favorite lines from songs are:

The Beatles – “In the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.”

Rolling Stones – “You can’t always get what you want but, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”

Any advice for new indie writers?

First off, believe in yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back. It is an incredible feeling to get your physical book in your hands for the first time!!!!  I cried.  It is a lot of work but completely worth every minute!

Great advice, indeed. What are your hobbies when you’re not writing?

My husband and I are travel nuts! We love exploring new places. We have been to six continents and are only missing Antarctica. The pandemic has kept us at home like everyone else, but we’re really looking forward to getting back out there. We love to cook and especially like to bring home the flavors and recipes of the different countries that we have visited. We love movies and are one of those couples that love different movie quotes!

Six continents! I’ll bet you’ve had some pretty amazing, unforgettable experiences. Thank you so much, Diana, for hanging out at the blog and for sharing Pete the Pancake with the world! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for him.

What would you like readers to know?  

I hope that they enjoy Pete and really understand the story. There are many feelings that are contagious. Chose kindness, acceptance, and love. And if those emotions and actions dominate our lives and outlook, just think what a wonderful world we could have!

Well said!

Where can readers find your books?

Pete is available on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited, Kindle eBook, and paperback. You can find Pete in every market that Amazon has all over the world.

Buy Pete the Pancake

Join Diana L. Smith and Pete the Pancake on social media

Pete on Facebook

Diana on Facebook

Thanks again and have a great summer!

For more information on Neurofibromatosis awareness:

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KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is an award-winning, multi-genre author, poet, blogger, book reviewer, and human rights activist. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she continues to share her love of storytelling, all things 80s, and tries to stay out of trouble.

Love the 80s? Read award-winning young adult comedy, Mall Hair Maladies

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Q&A With Soulla Christodoulou

Hello, and welcome to my blog! Today I’d like to introduce the delightfully charming Soulla Christodoulou. 

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Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hello, Kristy and thanks for having me! I’m an adult fiction author and poet and a mum of three boys. I live in a North London suburb, very close to where I grew up as part of a big Greek Cypriot family. My aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents were a huge part of my life and they still continue to be. I was the first in my family to go to university and I have graduated three times with a university degree, a Post Graduate in Education and a Masters.

I’m a fun-loving, giggly person who has learned to accept who I am in my later years and since “letting go” of other people’s expectations I have found that life just gets better and better. Being older definitely makes you wiser and I look at the world and all it has to offer not just with my eyes but with my heart too.

I am passionate about my Greek Cypriot roots, love my family and enjoy eating, travelling and of course writing. I am an advocate of young people and entrepreneurship and put lots of energy into supporting and nurturing young people to make the right choices for them and to push outside the boundaries of their comfort zone; after all, it’s outside the familiar and the comfortable that we find our best selves and our best opportunities.

My mother’s illness a few years ago prompted me to support others with cancer and I write monthly letters to women, through a charity called Girls Love Mail, based in California. One of my original letters is featured in a book called Dear Friend. Writing the letters reminds me how lucky I am to have my mum, my health and how privileged I am to be able to offer comfort and hope and strength and love to women through my words.

When I’m not working on my latest book I teach privately, offer editing services, both fiction and non-fiction, and ghost blogging on a variety of subjects.

What inspired you to write Broken Pieces of Tomorrow?

I’d always enjoyed writing and kept a diary through my teenage years. Then my life situation, as an adult, forced me to look outside of my career and my home; I joined a creative writing class in January 2015 as a way to clench back some “me” time and some control over my life. The feedback I got from my fellow writers on the course encouraged me to look at my writing more seriously. Out of that came my first novel Broken Pieces of Tomorrow; a semi-biographical story based on my own experience of marital breakdown which translates as “my whole world and my future shattered into a million pieces overnight”. It is a “coming of age” story where the main character, Georgia, goes through a life-changing journey which impacts on her emotionally, intellectually and socially. It was a book, that looking back, healed me. It is a story that many readers, on many levels can relate to. Readers have contacted me to thank me for sharing Georgia’s experience and to say that reading the book gave them strength, hope and a new way of looking at their own situation. Many have laughed and cried with Georgia and it is the emotions her journey evokes in my readers that I am most proud of.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I love the fact that I can write anywhere and at any time; it’s not a restrictive nine to five occupation. I like the way my day can be as long or as short as want it to be, that it can start as early as 6 am or continue long into the early hours as I tap away at my laptop when my house is cloaked in silence. It is also a way of expressing myself, my inner thoughts and ideas, without being judged. I can write down the words and emotions I have inside of me which would perhaps remain unsaid or which I believe might be received differently if I utter them out loud.

Who designs your book covers?

Both book covers to date have been designed and formatted by two students whose designs won a competition I launched across Instagram. One student lives in the UK and I have actually since met her and her mother at my book launch of The Summer Will Come. The second student lives and studies in Athens. I am hoping to meet him when I visit Athens in October later this year. Both designers have been acknowledged in my books for their creative contribution.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a story about two people who meet across social media; their friendship blossoms and they quickly become ‘virtual’ lovers. It’s a story about crossing the line, about emotional connections, dependency, relationships, and trust. The title of the book currently, though this may change, is Trust is a Big Word.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I would say go with your gut instinct when writing, when planning your journey. Write what resonates with you and fills your heart with joy. Writing is difficult and if you’re forcing yourself to write in a genre which doesn’t feel right or which interests you then it will become a chore and we all know what it’s like to be faced with a pile of ironing we don’t want to do!

Also, set yourself goals in a way that will motivate and encourage you to keep going…I tend to use SMART objective setting. This allows me to set my goals in such a way that they can be measured and achieved within a given time frame. Mostly this means a word count to be completed in a day or sitting or a chapter to be edited or, in the case of marketing, a set number of projects to be planned and executed.

Writing can be quite isolating (you can’t be writing if you’re chatting in a room full of people) so build a network of people who can support and advise; writers, authors, publishers, marketing experts, readers. I use my social media in such a way that the community I have built is one I can collaborate with and one in which I can seek help when I need it. I think, as in any career, it is the people who are in your “A Team” who can make all the difference. I have connected with some wonderfully generous, kind and insightful people many who I have met up with too. Social media, if used correctly, is a powerful tool and I wouldn’t be without it.

Reading and writing go hand in hand too so I would say read as much as you can and not only in the genre you’re writing in but push yourself to read books you may not usually read. Over time, it is the reading that will help to develop your own style and what is often referred to as “voice”.

Joining a creative writing class can help motivate you to write too. It means that you are accountable to someone else and so you will more than likely keep writing and reach those magic words “The End”.

I would also say when looking at publishing your work look at all the options and choose what suits you. I waited for a long time to be published traditionally but actually, I feel like my Indie publishing journey was meant to be. I’m entrepreneurially-minded, I have marketing knowledge and I’m a go-getter. Indie publishing has taught me so much about marketing, promotion, connecting with people and managing my time as a writer. Not all the options available suit everyone so it’s important to do what sits most comfortably with your personality, expectations and your instinct.

What kinds of things do you like do for fun? Hobbies?

I absolutely LOVE dancing and in the past have done belly-dancing lessons. I love to travel and in the past three years have travelled to seven different countries. Each time my writing has been inspired and new stories and story ideas have awakened within me. I also enjoy reading and watching video blogs relating to positivity, mindfulness, heartfulness and generally how to be in a constant state of “happiness”. My birth name, Anastasia, in Greek means the positive one and I am a positive person. That doesn’t mean I don’t get down but I always get back up by looking at the plus side of anything that happens in my life. EVERYTHING happens for a reason. I always believe that reason brings with it better understanding, an opportunity for growth and the ability to trust patience in my life to become the best I can be.

If you could choose any destination in the world to spend six months writing, where would you go and why?

Oh gosh, that’s a tough question to answer Kristy. I suppose somewhere away from the constant barrage of media, the noise of city living and the demands of day to day life. I’d be happy anywhere as long as I know my family is safe and happy without me. I can quite easily lose myself anywhere but if I had to name a place, and based on one of my most recent escapes, I would have to say India. It was a place full of magic, deep spiritual presence, and color which touched me both emotionally and intellectually. The culture from the people to the food to the lifestyles and the landscapes filled me with absolute wonder; a wonder I don’t think will ever be satiated. If I had to choose somewhere closer to home then I would say Cyprus; the birthplace of my parents, grandparents and those before them. Cyprus pulls at my heartstrings and helps me understand the people my parents are and the person I am too. Cyprus is a country of contradictions; bustling cities and simple villages, mountains and seas, hot and cold, barren landscapes and green forests, modern and ancient, east and west, art and music, and a people who are as passionate about their culture and traditions as they are about their families and their food.

What would you like your readers to know?

I suppose that I’m an ordinary person who has made a conscious decision to write. It’s not a hobby or a pastime. I have chosen to write every day and to use my experiences and the experiences of those around me to weave fictional stories that will evoke real emotions and thoughts that will remain with the reader long after they have reached the end. I’m a “happy ever after” person and this reflects in my writing and the way I live my life. No sadness lasts forever, it fades, it changes, it lessens and we move on. I love meeting my readers and connecting with those in my community; without them, I wouldn’t have anyone to share my words with other than myself. I enjoy talking about my writing at book club events and local fundraisers and public presentations. As a mother, and former secondary school teacher and Middle manager, I look for opportunities to support young people.

Where can we find your books?

Currently, all my books, including my historical fiction novel, The Summer Will Come and my poetry collection, Sunshine after Rain, is available on Amazon.

Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Instagram

Pinterest

My books, Amazon

 

#FastFunFacts:

*Last movie you watched
Goodbye Christopher Robin – on a flight to India which left me bawling my eyes out.

*Favorite place to write
At my dining room table, in the summer, with the French doors open onto my back garden

*Three things you can’t live without
Music, laughter and green tea!

*Last book you read
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Cherry Radford which I read sunning myself in Cyprus.

*Top three favorite bands of all time
I love dancing and I honestly cannot narrow it down at all.

*Favorite colors
Pinks, blues, and greys.

*Favorite season
Early summer when the days are not too hot and you feel the relief of the breeze through your hair, blooms colour the garden and the skies are blue.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, Soulla. Wishing you all the best! 

 

 

Summer Reading 2018

Summer vacation is almost here and that means lots of sunshine, campfires, baseball games, road trips, roller coasters, fireworks, barbecues, cannonballs into the pool, and Summer Reading 2018! Encouraging your child to stay on top of their reading maintains literacy, strengthens critical thinking skills, keeps them from falling behind, supports their reading development, builds vocabulary, and nurtures a lifelong love of books. All great stuff, right?

VISIT THE LIBRARY

Getting kids involved in their local library is important for many reasons. In addition to the various Summer Reading Programs, access to free books, magazines, audio books, music, and internet, there are opportunities to volunteer, find a reading buddy or tutor, and be in an environment where other kids are reading for fun. Most libraries have some sort of Summer Reading Program so stop on in and let the fun begin!

“A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.” Lilian Jackson Braun

“I have found that the most valuable thing in my wallet is my library card.” Laura Bush

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein

“Getting my library card was like citizenship: it was like American citizenship.” Oprah Winfrey

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SUMMER READING GOALS

Whether kids are getting their books from libraries, bookstores, or online apps, setting aside 20 minutes or more for reading should be an essential part of their daily routine. Create a snazzy chart, graph, or poster to record daily, weekly, or monthly reading goals, use incentives, and reward progress. A promised shopping spree at Barnes&Noble or Half Price Books goes a long way!

INCENTIVES

Reward them with the key to a locked treasure chest filled with surprise goodies. The wonder and anticipation of what’s inside is a huge motivator. Fill it with stickers, baseball cards, bookmarks, ear buds, sidewalk chalk, crayons, markers, UNO, Crazy Eights, Old Maid, or Go Fish cards, Jacks, a journal, shiny marbles, colored stones, beads…the possibilities are endless!

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  • A magazine subscription for Highlights, National Geographic Kids, Story Monsters Ink, or any subject of particular interest (dance, science, sports, fashion, cars).
  • Tickets to an upcoming sporting event, concert, or movie they’ve been wanting to see.
  • A gift certificate to Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Half Price Books, or Record Exchange.
  • Something specific they’ve had their eye on (video game, skateboard, jewelry box).

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SUMMER READING PROGRAMS

 Your public library 
* Carnegie Library Summer Reading Extravaganza
* Barnes&Noble Summer Reading
* Half Price Books Summer Reading Program
* Scholastic Summer Challenge
* Sylvan Learning’s Book Adventure

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FREE BOOKS/STORIES

Let’s face it, reading lots of books can get pretty pricey. Luckily, there are a ton of places to score some free ones. School, online apps, and the public library are always great places to start.

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International Digital Children’s Library 

Oxford Owl

The Library of Congress

Freechildrenstories.com

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Free Kindle Unlimited Amazon

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REMEMBER:

  • Get them a library card.
  • Take them book shopping.
  • Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.
  • Encourage them to donate/share used books.
  • Laugh! Reading should be fun.
  • Discuss the story and characters; encourage questions.
  • Prompt them to bring stories/books along for trips, car rides, waiting areas, and picnics.
  • Create decorative bookmarks together for every season.
  • Be an example! They need to see you reading too.
  • Do a Summer Reading Challenge with them.

HAPPY READING, HAPPY SUMMER!

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FREE for Kindle Unlimited! 

KRISTY JO VOLCHKO is a multi-genre author and blogger. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she continues to share her love of storytelling. 
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Nurturing Your Future Bookworm-Inspiring Kids to Love Reading

Getting children to be enthusiastic about reading can sometimes be a challenge. Compared to the television, with all of its stimulating jingles, colors, and characters, reading may seem quite boring. That’s why the earlier they begin their lifelong love of books, the better. Books with vibrant art, rhyming, and lively characters is a great place to start. Soon they’ll be hungry for new words, worlds, and of course, special time with you.   

*Make sure to read with them daily. Although schedules get hectic, carving out 15 minutes for a story goes a long way.  

* Take turns reading aloud, alternating pages.

*Use funny voices or accents sometimes just for fun.

*Get them a library card and show them how to use it. Spend time there together and allow them to choose subjects of interest. You may also want to participate in some of the activities/programs that your branch has to offer.     

*Bring them to the used bookstore for new reads and encourage them to donate or share books they’ve outgrown.

*Make story time your uninterrupted one on one time together.

*Laugh! Reading should be enjoyable and fun.

*Discuss the story and characters- always encourage questions. Rouse their imagination by asking how they would’ve chosen the story to end or what happens afterward.        

*Have lots of literature at home and available to them. Make it a fun project to build and decorate a bookcase for their bedroom filled with favorite books.

*Prompt them to bring books along for trips, car time, waiting areas, picnics, etc. 

*Teach them to respect books, their pages, and to take good care of them. Allow them to develop a bond with reading in general.  

*Create decorative book markers together for every season for some craft time fun.

*Be an example. If kids see that reading is your norm, it’ll be theirs.

*Most of all, inspire them to make books and reading a part of their everyday life. Read signs, menus, games, flash cards, magazines, comic books, etc. Take them to libraries, bookstores, annual book sales, and flea market tables. Sound things out together, teach alternative meanings, challenge, and praise them often.

“What is another word for mommy?” Bibliophile. Bibliophagist. Logophile. Bibliomaniac. Bookworm. Happy.