Monday, September 30, 2013

Interview with Author & Illustrator Patti B. Jefferson

Patti Brassard Jefferson lives under a palm tree in sunny Florida with her husband, Ken and their 2 rescued mutts. How Long Will You Love Me is the first children's book that PBJ has written and illustrated. She began drawing when she was a little girl and forgot to stop when she grew up. She thinks doodling is a lost art and has a special place in her heart for the smell of a new box of crayons.
You can find out more about Patti Brassard Jefferson, her work and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary. (You can follow this up with any points you hope readers will take away with them)
How Long Will You Love Me? is a book about answering a scary question with some whimsy and reassurance. Children ask this questions of parents and grandparents. Spouses ask it of each other. I think its safe to say that each of us has at least wondered about it at some point in some relationship. This book takes the serious answer of love being endless and makes it a little silly and fun.

Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?
The book was started years ago but it wasn't until  2010 when I got married & moved to Florida, that I was inspired to move forward with it. I sent a query and samples to an independent publisher who liked it but told me they wouldn't look at it seriously until it was completed. By the time I had it finished, that publisher had stopped taking any outside submission and I was stuck with no idea what to do next. An author friend of mine released her first book in Jan 2013 by self-publishing and so I did some research and decided to take that same path. I launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project. A friend saw that I had written a book and referred Halo Publishing International. I shall be forever grateful for that introduction! Publisher Lisa Umina is an award-winning author herself and she just has a passion and talent for helping first-time authors. The process of editing, proofing, production and marketing can be daunting but Lisa has been there holding my hand the whole way. It's been a great partnership and I look forward to releasing my second book with Halo Publishing in February 2014.

How did you get the idea for this book?
Actually it was inspired by a remark overheard at a party: "I promise I will love you 'til this freckle falls off." I thought that was really sweet and I created a Valentine's Day card later with the poem it inspired. The rest of the poems just popped into my head slowly over the years. I actually ended up with too many pages for one book so there will be a sequel book, Forever and a Day, out in the fall of 2014.

What is a typical writing day like for you?
Ha! Most of my initial thinking about the story is done on the fly during the day while doing something else or late at night when I should be sleeping. I scribble notes on little pieces of paper and then transfer them over to a very grown-up looking, polka-dotted spiral notebook. Once the story is basically complete in my head and my notebook, I have been known to spend all day everyday between tweaking the wording, counting syllables on my fingers and sketching (and re sketching) the illustrations until it's done.Then I stick it in an envelope and walk away from it for awhile.

What do you enjoy most about writing?
I have written things that make me laugh every time I read them and I know that other are going to laugh at that part too. I get a real kick out of that. I crack myself up so writing, for me, is always fun.

What is the most difficult part of writing?
I think one of my challenges is that I know that I am the illustrator as well and so I fight the urge to not write anything that I can't easily draw. I think that can stifle my story and I make a concerted effort to not do that. I try to challenge my illustrator-self by letting my author-self just write the best story & characters I can and then stepping up my game to match it with the illustrations.

How has publishing a book changed your life?
Right after the book was released, someone sent me  a picture of his young daughter sitting in her mother's lap reading my book together. Her expression is one of wonder and I think that was when I realized that I had created more than a book. I had created a memory for both of them. I wrote and illustrated a book and thats great and quite an accomplishment. But I feel even more responsibility now to make sure that my books are worthy of the time that a family like that is reading them & making those memories. 

What are your plans now?
Right now I am focusing on promote this book. They aren't kidding when they say that "writing it is the easy part, marketing it is that hard part". One of the best things about self-publishing is that I know my "marketing team" (me with guidance from my publisher) is totally focused! I am also working on my second book which is called "Stu's Big Party" which is scheduled for release in Feb 2014 through Halo Publishing. It's the story of a lovable hippo who learns that people are all the same in spite of appearances.

What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
There is a Chinese proverb that sates "If you have something worth sharing, you are morally obligated to share it." I think aspiring authors need to have that "aha!" moment and realize that most authors do not write to hear themselves talk. They write because they have to share their story. They are morally obligated. When you are looking at it that way, you find the drive to make time for writing. You make time for illustrating. You aren't ever going to "find" the time - you have to "make" it. Once it's out of your head and on paper,  find a publisher that has the same vision for your book that you do but is honest enough to tell you when your book looks too fat in its jeans.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership? (Here you can share about characters, historical facts, setting or whatever else you would like our readers to know about your book.)
I was read to as a child and I read to my daughter when she is little. One day, I will read to my grandchildren. I believe when you are reading to a child - especially an affirmation of your relationship with them - you are doing more than reading words on a page. You are giving them roots and wings - that's a powerful thing that can shape their lives. That's what I hope How Long Will You Love Me will be for the families who read it.

Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL. If not, where can readers go online to learn more about your book(s) and to order?


Halo site:

Amazon Author Page:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Interview with Author and Emmy Award-winning Reporter Denise Zarrella

Denise Zarrella is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who has spent the past two decades covering hard news. She has met with historic figures, including U.S. Presidents and roc stars, but the people she has been most touched by are the children at the center of many of her stories.

Zarrella began her career at Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted,” where she researched cases involving unsolved crimes and missing children. From there, she shifted gears to news and headed to Atlanta, where she became an Associated Producer at CNN’s World Headquarters. While at CNN, she began reporting for TBS’s morning show “Interact America,” and her on-air journey began.

She left CNN and TBS to become a full-time Anchor/Reporter at WBBJ, in Jackson, Tennessee. She has also world in Champaign, Illinois, and Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, which returned her to her hometown in the Poconos.

You can find out more about Denise Zarrella, her book and World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

1) Tell us about your book.  Give a short summary.
"Not even the Sky is the Limit," is a book that shows readers what people with Down Syndrome can do.  There are kids and adults golfing, dancing, playing soccer, painting, sewing, graduating from high school and, of course, jumping out of planes.  The point is people with Down Syndrome are capable of doing anything anyone else can - in some cases they are doing more and getting more out of life than people I meet without disabilities. 

2)  Can you tell us about your publisher and how the process worked in getting published?

My publisher, Lisa Umina of Halo Publishing is out of this world.  She came very highly recommended.  I knew I wanted to self-publish this children's book because I wanted to be the one to call the shots, but I wanted everything done right.  I wanted this to be a first class product.  I needed someone who knew what they were doing.  Lisa was able to help, "take me over the finish line," as one of my friends who recently published put it.  I also admire her as a person and get great joy from knowing that the money I spend with her to publish my book goes to doing even more good works.  Lisa has a heart of gold and donates much of her time and resources to helping orphans. How do you top that? 

3) How you did you get the idea for the book?
My daughter Gianna has Down Syndrome.  I found out what her challenges would be while I was still carrying her.  She had open heart surgery at three months old, and is one of the most amazing little girls I've ever met.  Very early on, when I met and talked to other parents of children and adults with Down Syndrome I realized what I wanted to know most was what their child was capable of doing.  Did they enjoy playing sports? Did they go to the movies together?  Did they pal around?  Did they have fun conversation?  These were all the things I longed to know as I looked forward to my future with Gianna.  I also did some research before she was even born and was shocked to see how many people decide to terminate their pregnancy when they find out that they are carrying a child with Down Syndrome.  If only they had my book in my hands before they aborted that beautiful human being; I'm convinced that they would chose life.  Anyone I meet with a child with Down Syndrome, anyone I meet that knows someone in any way that has this chromosomal disorder, lights up when they talk about that person!  They talk about how spectacular they are, how loving they are, how much better they are in so many ways than the rest of us.  People with Down Syndrome don't judge, they love unconditionally, and they live in the moment.  How many of us know how to do that very well?  A slim few.

4) What is a typical writing day like for you?
I am a Reporter and Anchor for a local television station.  I've been writing stories for television daily for the past two decades - I can't believe it's been that long!!  This is my first book.

5) What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy connecting with others and telling a story that may make someone think twice about how they feel about something.  If I change or affect just one life with, "Not even the Sky is the Limit," then my mission is accomplished.

6) What is the most difficult part of writing?
My thoughts run so much faster than my fingers on my keyboard or my hand when I'm free writing!

7) How has publishing this book changed my life?
I have learned a very powerful lesson.   When you listen to your inner voice and tune out things like fear - especially when what you are setting out to do something that can help someone - the end result is so amazing.   I cannot believe how excited everyone has been about this book from start to finish.  People have contributed their time and their talents to help me accomplish this dream of mine to get the rest of world to sit up and take notice that my child's life is just as valuable and fulfilling as the child's life, who doesn't have a disability.  It seems so funny to say that though, when you consider that all of us have disabilities - some are just more visible than others.  Anyone who disagrees with that is not being honest, and none of us who are parents can say we truly know what lies ahead for any of us.  We just have to be dedicated to making sure everyone has the same opportunity to live their lives and grow to meet their greatest potential. 

8) What are your plans now?  I just want to enjoy this moment.  I want to take every opportunity like this one to talk about my enthusiasm for elevating and empowering people with disabilities.  I truly believe this was a book I was meant to put out there.  Many parents and people who work with children and adults with special needs keep telling me they don't think there is enough out there like this book to educate people about what our kids are doing. 

9) What is your best tip for aspiring writers?
Get busy writing!!!  We are so lucky that we live in a time where there are so many opportunities for writers to get their work published and seen by an audience of millions - thanks to the internet.  There is no excuse not to go for it and get that book you've been wanting to write or publish all these years out there. 

A portion of the proceeds of my book is going towards organizations that help children and adults with Down Syndrome.  "Not even the Sky is the Limit," is even being used as a fundraiser for some groups.

Please go to Halo Publishing's website: to learn more or to order my book.


*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive.