Monday, June 1, 2009

VBT - Writers on the Move - Karen Cioffi

Karen Cioffi is an author and freelance writer. She is also the creator and manager of VBT - Writers on the Move as well as co-moderator of a children's critique Yahoo group, Intense Writing. She has two grown daughters and two very young grandsons. She spends much of each day learning her craft, researching and writing, and following up on things. She is a member of the Children'sWriting Coaching Club where she does some of that learning. Author Cioffi lives with her husband, Donald Ventrice, in New York City. Come along for this interesting and insightful interview with Karen. Please feel free to leave your comments and questions. Karen is more than happy to respond to you.
Q: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became a children's book?

KC: I am a former accountant. In 2000 I was diagnosed with MS and had to give up my profession. I have been writing stories and poems since I was I grade school, but never took it seriously. After going on disability I eventually began thinking of writing as a career. Writing specifically for children came about when my daughter was majoring in Children’s Literature.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for the book?

KC: I wrote the lullaby to the story over 30 years ago. My firstborn didn’t like sleeping. I sang it to her as I paced the hallway carrying her in my arms to get her to sleep and again when she’d wake in the middle of the night. I did the same thing with my second daughter and it became a family lullaby. Now my family sings it to my grandson and we will also sing it to my grandson due mid November. How it became a book is, after my first grandson came my daughter and co-author, Robyn, thought it would make a great bedtime story and here we are.

Q: What is a typical writing day like for you?

KC: I do most of my chores or other things that need to be done in the morning. When I’m done with that, I go on the computer. I would say I spend anywhere from 4-8 hours a day, sometimes more, writing and researching and learning to write. But, I definitely need to create a better time management plan and stick to it. I am usually all over the place. It seems the groups I belong to, and emails can take up a lot of my day.

Q: What influenced you to create Virtual Book Tours.

KC: I was fortunate to be able to participate in The Muse Online Conference in October 2008. One of the workshops I took was Denise Cassino’s Book Marketing. She suggested the attendees do virtual tours for each other. I decided to create a group that would be organized and include other marketing tools and strategies - a group in which each member helps every other member by participating in those strategies put in place.

Q: What do you enjoy most about writing for children?

KC: Children are such a joy and source of inspiration. My co-author, who happens to be my daughter, and I are both advocates of education and reading. Reading opens new worlds to children. It can enlighten them, it can open their imagination and it can teach them. Being a part of that is just a wonderful feeling.

Q: What is the most difficult part of writing for children?

KC: I have a couple of problems that I’m working on. One is I need to use age appropriate words. I tend to use words that are too difficult for the age group I’m writing for. I also need to work on my “show, don’t tell,” although that one goes for all writing.

Q: What are a couple of your best tips for aspiring children’s authors?

KC: The first tip I would give is to learn about writing for children. You can do this by taking courses or by researching online, reading books geared toward that topic, and reading many, many, many children’s books.

Also, you can join a writing coach’s class/club.

Next, I would advise the aspiring author to join a good children’s critique group. There is so much that is caught by those extra eyes.

Also, it is important to join groups such as The Society for Children’s Book Writing and Illustrating. I personally also joined the Chidren’s Writers Coaching Club with Suzanne Lieurance. This is when I began to learn about the business of writing.

Finally, I would say if possible attend a conference. My first conference was October 2008, the Muse Online Writers Conference. It was amazing. I’m looking forward to this year’s.

Q: What are you working on now?

KC: I am currently working on two picture books (around 1000 words each). One is about a child’s imagination and the other is based on colors.

I am also fine tuning a fantasy chapter book geared for ages 8-12; this is based on an ancient Chinese tale. It is about a 12-year-old boy who wants more than anything to learn magic.

In addition, I am working on another fantasy chapter book geared for ages 8-12. This one is about two boys lost in space.

I am also writing articles for ezines as well as children’s and trade magazines.

Q: What’s in the future pertaining to your writing?

I have ten years experience editing college papers. I am planning to offer services for that sometime soon. I am also looking into ghostwriting and copywriting.

Q: What three words do you think describe you as a human being?

KC: That’s a tough one.  I would probably say loyal, caring and dependable. 
Q: How do you think others would describe you?

KC: For this question I went right to the sources. I asked my husband and he said: sweet, level headed, and a nice person to be around. Then I asked my younger daughter and she said: hardworking, caring, and dedicated

Q: Please tell us what you are passionate about outside of writing.

KC: Right off are the obvious ones, God and family. After that I am passionate about injustices, senseless violence to innocent people, and people who recklessly endanger others’ lives. Then would come the environment and after that drawing and music.

Q: Do you have any pets?

KC: I use to have a sweet German Shepherd, but she passed away several years ago. I am now allergic to cats and dogs so I don’t currently have a pet. But, I am grandmother to a beautiful black Cocker Spaniel named Luna. We call her Luna Bin because she’s hyper.

Q: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing with your life?

KC: Prior to writing I was an accountant. If I didn’t have Multiple Sclerosis I’d still be in the accounting field. I was an assistant controller for a number of years and I truly loved it. If I wasn’t a writer now I’m not sure what I would be doing.

Q: In two paragraphs or less, write your obituary.

KC: That’s actually funny. Prior to being diagnosed with MS, I was told by a two doctors not to worry about my symptoms, it was just anxiety. I was told to take a warm bath or go for a walk. It got to the point where I told my sister that if I died to make sure they put on my tombstone: Don’t worry, it’s just nerves.

As for my obituary, I’m not sure. Maybe… Karen was a woman who always tried her best, who took care of others, and who loved God and family unconditionally.

Q: Do you have a personal philosophy about life?

KC: My personal philosophy is based on words from the Bible: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These are two simple sentences that if the world adhered to would eliminate all wars, murders, violence and theft.

And, life to a large degree is what we make of it. Try to be content with what you have while striving to achieve your best. I am also a firm believer in positive projection.

Q: If someone were looking for you what is the first place they’d look?

KC: That’s easy, either at the computer or the kitchen sink. I don’t have a dish washer so I’m often washing dishes.

Q: Where do you get your ideas from?

KC: I get ideas from my grandson and my great nephew. Children are such an amazing source of inspiration and joy – ideas just blossom. They can also come from the sights and sounds all around me as well as my imagination.

Q: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

KC: Being in the writing business means more than just writing – you also need to take steps to promote your works. To do this and help other authors I created and manage the yahoo group Virtual Book Tours. We are a group of authors who through the use of ongoing virtual book tours help each other gain visibility and promote our books. If anyone reading this is interested in joining our group or if you’d like information about the group, you can contact me through Facebook.

To learn more about Karen and her work, visit:

Join us again on Friday, June 5th when we share with you a synopsis and book review ofKaren's book, Day's End Lullaby.


  1. Enjoyed this interview and feature post on our group's illustrious leader, Karen. :) And this-

    "I also need to work on my 'show, don’t tell,' although that one goes for all writing."

    Very true. While in adult fiction "telling" is sometimes - check that - oftentimes appropriate, say for a fast paced fist fight, a scene where the movement must be of quick pace, "showing" the story is always more illustrative and fascinating.

    The Old Silly from Free Spirit Blog

  2.'s a pleasure having you here today. I too find age appropriate words difficult. Especially the 3-6 range. I'm working on it. I can't agree with you more that writing is much more than writing. We certainly do need to become our own pr spokeperson at the same time.

    Best wishes,

  3. I very much enjoyed Karen's interview. I have to agree that time management is important for writers. We have to be involved in groups, but they can eat up an enormous amount of time. When you get the solution, please share it, Karen! I also think your husband and daughter are on target with their descriptions. VBT is quite an achievement!

  4. Thank you for helping us know more about a talented woman.

  5. Excellent post about our VBT Leader.
    I learned a lot both about Karen and about writing for children. Thankfully, I write for adults. I have enough trouble doing that! I'm glad Karen is so dependable and hard-working; the VBT group sure benefits from it.



  6. Karen is a caring and talented person. Through our interaction on VBT, Working Writers Coaching Club, and our critique group I've come to call her a true friend. She has encouraged me many times when I was down about my skills.

    Her sweet spirit and dedication to writing for children is sure to catapult her to success.

    Thanks for a great post.

  7. Hey, All,

    Sorry I'm late. I was babysitting. Ah, shucks, you made me blush...oh, wait a minute - that was a hot flash. (hee, hee)

    Thanks for everyone's comments. And, thanks, Donna and Virginia for preparing such a wonderful post.


  8. Wonderful interview!
    I can sympathize with wanting to be more organized. I tend to be 'all over the place' too, and yes: groups and emailing can be SO distracting!

  9. Glad to learn more about Karen :-)



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