Melissa Tosetti: Smart Spending, Rich Living

My interview with Melissa Tosetti, author of Living the Savvy Life: the Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living, will air tomorrow  at 1 PM and be rebroadcast Monday, Jan. 23rd at 8 AM.  Listen live at KRUU to hear Melissa discuss how to achieve financial security by avoiding both overspending and excessive frugality. After Jan. 23rd, this interview will be posted here, on Writers Voices, and on KRUU’s archives.

At businesswomen’s conferences in San Francisco and Sacramento, Melissa’s chaired panel discussions on balanced spending and financial security. She founded the online magazine, The Savvy Life and coauthored Living the Savvy Life with the magazine’s managing editor, Kevin Gibbons. Melissa teaches courses on savvy living in the San Francisco Bay area and also at Chabot College in Hayward, California. Melissa also teaches Kung Fu and Fearless Fitness classes. Her hobbies include traveling with husband Paul and son Dante, horseback riding, gardening, and cooking. She’s a lively, accomplished woman with lots of tips to share. Tune in tomorrow!

Linda Egenes: Writing Nonfiction Books

Linda Egenes

Linda Egenes

My friend Linda Egenes authored Visits with the Amish: Impressions of the Plain Life and co-authored four other nonfiction books. Her most recent release, coauthored with Kumuda Reddy, M.D., is Super Healthy Kids. Linda holds an M. A. in Professional Writing and has written over 400 articles for publications such as AAA Living, LA Yoga, and Family Fun. Linda occasionally teaches writing workshops and recently shared tips with me on how to write a nonfiction book. Here’s my summation of Linda’s advice:

1. Clear whatever you can from your schedule so you can focus on researching and writing the book.

2. Develop a general working knowledge of your topic. Decide on an angle pretty early on.

3. Develop a schedule and a timeline and stick to it.  Set reasonable goals.

4. Do research on an as-needed basis

5. Regarding recorded interviews, ask yourself, “What really struck me?” Then write from memory as much as possible. Afterwards go back to the recording for quotes and facts. “I start putting together the article [or chapter] from the things that grab me, that spark me,” Linda said.

6. Make a contacts list of everyone you interview. Note when the interview occurred and what you discussed. Later, you may need to contact your interviewees for permissions or follow-up questions. Consider creating a separate address book on your computer for each book you write.

7. To organize the book, brainstorm, using whatever technique works for you, such as clustering or mapping ideas. Formulate a working outline. “In a nonfiction book, you definintely have to have a roadmap,” Linda explained. “Things change as you go, but have as much of an outline as you can.” Think of it as a table of contents, she suggested. List subcategories. Some people use sticky notes on wall charts while outlining.

8. When you start writing, take Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird approach to heart. “You cannot write the whole book while you’re thinking about the whole book,” Linda stressed. “Once  you start, you cannot continue to think about the whole book every moment. You have to shut that off, and you have to think of one chapter. Treat that as if it’s an article. Forget that you’re writing a book. Trick your mind. Think, ‘All I’m doing is writing this article. I’m going to grab all my resources. I’m going to put everything I have into writing this article,'” Linda said.

9. Write the first draft quickly. “You don’t have to start with chapter one. Start with the easiest chapter,” Linda suggested. She sometimes prints chapters and puts them in a tabbed looseleaf notebook.

10. “To do a big project, to overcome all the doubts and the fears, which you will have, you have to plow through it and make it happen,” Linda emphasized. Starting first thing in the morning helps with this process.

Linda recommended two books, How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats by Dian Dincin Buchman and Seli Groves.

Thanks, Linda, for all the good advice!

Elaine Duncan – 100 Paintings Saved!

After fire ravaged the Fairfield, Iowa, building containing her art studio in November of 2011, artist Elaine Duncan at first believed all 700 of the drawings and paintings she stored there had perished. Two weeks later workers clearing debris from the building unearthed a soggy surprise. Last week I interviewed Elaine; my article about the miraculous recovery of 100 of her paintings and her efforts to repair the smoke and water damage they sustained will appear in the February issue of The Iowa Source.

elaine blue fire

Elaine Duncan with Recovered Art Work

Larry Brooks, Eve Heidi Bine-Stock, Sharron L. McElmeel

My interview with Larry Brooks, author of Story Engineering, airs today at 1 PM and again Monday, Jan. 2nd at 8 AM.  Listen live at to hear Larry discuss the six core competencies fiction writers need and how screenwriting principles can help novelists structure their books.  After Jan. 2nd, this interview will be added to the KRUU archives.

Larry Brooks

Like Larry, author Eve Heidi Bine-Stock has applied screenwriting principles to a seemingly dissimilar genre.  Her book How to Write a Children’s Picture Book: Volume I Structure demonstrates how classic children’s picture books, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, reflect screenwriting paradigms.  Eve includes detailed analyses of over two dozen classic picture books and even provides a graph of each book’s  structure.  The other books in this series are Volume II: Word, Sentence, Scene, Story and Volume III: Figures of Speech.  Each of these books is a great resource for picture book writers.

During her recent interview on KRUU, prolific author Sharron L. McElmeel provided great tips for people who want to nurture children’s love of reading and also for authors or educators who want to make the most of author school visits.  You can listen to Sharron’s interview here.  Her photo’s below.


An Idea Emerges

Friday, November 4, 2011

At 4:30 AM I wake up and think, I should I get up and write.  Instead I snuggle under the covers, nurturing sleepfulness by ticking off analogies author Larry Brooks uses in Story Engineering to convince aspiring writers to focus on structure.  Hollandaise sauce without butter . . . pilots who don’t use radar . . . bodies without hearts . . . baseball . . . kitchen tables . . . tool chests . . . PGA tours.  Ah, I’m almost asleep.

A galvanizing thought intrudes: I should write a biography about Dori Hillestad Butler.  Not a biography exactly, but rather a case study, a book about how Dori achieved publishing success.


Dori is a true friend and a good writer.  Despite E. B. White’s suggestions to the contrary in Charlotte’s Web, that combination pops up often.  At least it does among children’s writers, even in the Bunny-Eat-Bunny World of Olga Litowinsky.  Why?  Because of writers like Dori, writers who, while polishing their own skills, somehow carve out time to nurture all the emerging writers around them. Even among these special creatures, the nurturing writers, Dori is in a class by herself.  More on this later.

For now, here’s some info about Dori’s publishing success.  At 14 Dori spotted a gold seal on the cover of Joan Lowery Nixon’s novel The Kidnapping of Christina Lattimore. Inscribed on the seal were these words: “Winner, Edgar Award, Best Young Adult Mystery.” Dori hadn’t known mystery books could win awards and she began to fantasize: maybe someday she could win an Edgar.  On April 28, 2011 Dori’s fantasy materialized.  The Mystery Writers of America deemed her book The Buddy Files: The Case of the Lost Boy the Best Juvenile Mystery published in 2010.  When the book is reprinted, probably its new cover will have a gold seal.

How did Dori do that, make her dream come true?  That’s the question my book will answer.  It will be . . . a recipe . . . a blueprint . . . a roadmap–oops! Now I’m putting myself to sleep.  By exploring steps Dori took to realize her dream, I hope to help other writers take steps to realize their dreams, too.

But will Dori approve?  Will she like this idea?