Baby Boomers Tackle Bullying as Co-Authors
Have any of you baby boomers fantasized about writing a book or pursuing another lifetime dream during your retirement years?
Today, I’m interviewing two successful children authors, Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell, who did just that. The two baby boomers recently co-authored a powerful tween book that tackles the important issue of social bullying in an entertaining way amidst a charming mid-west farm setting. These inspiring women both began writing books after retiring as teachers and are enjoying life to the fullest as they accomplish their dreams and goals.
As a beta reader, I was privileged to have a sneak peek at their awesome book. If you’re looking for a great book for your pre-teen grandchildren, look no further. I’m happy to let my readers know that at the end of this interview, you’ll have a chance to enter a contest to win a free copy of their brand new book, Just Between Sam and Me, just released yesterday.
So, let’s get started as these two lovely ladies share their story about writing their new book together and how they created exciting encore careers for themselves. Enjoy!
You both took up writing later in life. What led to that decision?
Rosie: Everyone should do what they love and not worry about age. To those thinking about something new, go for it. I had been working in our school district for 15 years. When our first grandson was born, I was needed to help with him. Who could pass that up, right? In my spare time, I started writing and illustrating a children’s book, based on our sons’ growing up. It struck me that I was doing what I always wanted to do. When teaching, one of my favorite things to do in the classrooms, was reading to the children and investigating the stories and artists who illustrated the book.
Cat: I’ve actually written stories since the fourth grade, Julie. I also wrote professionally in marketing and PR in the private sector and then later as a writing coach in higher-ed. I left the 9-5 grind in 2013 to re-career as an Indie authorprenuer and haven’t looked back.
So, tell me how you two baby boomers met even though you live 1500 miles from each other.
Rosie: Julie, Cat and I kept seeing each other online in different Kid Lit group’s way back in the day. We both enjoyed the same aspects of children’s literature, so we started following each other and featuring each other on our blogs. It’s been a great joy knowing Cat all these years, and I’m so happy we’ve continued on with our friendship and our journey to co-writing.
Cat: What Rosie said -:D!
What made you decide to write a book together?
Rosie: I was interested in an image Cat shared on her Facebook page of a little girl who was walking in the snow toward a distant barn. Cat asked her readers to build a community story about the child by dropping plot threads in the comments. Each follower added a little bit here and there. I was having so much fun, I just took off with my story, and Cat told me she thought I had something going with it. I worked on the story off and on over a few years until I eventually approached Cat about developing and cowriting that child’s story. She said, “Yes!” So here we are.
Cat, you’ve written five books and Rosie, you’ve penned nine books. How is the process of co-authoring a book different than writing alone? Which do you prefer? Why?
Rosie: Yes Julie, I have nine titles for younger readers. This new book with Cat is my first middle grade book, and I’ve learned so much about writing. The process of writing alone is all on you to make decisions. It’s still hard, but the process goes faster. In cowriting, we both wait on each other to make decisions. After we created our characters, which was a lot of work, we then had to develop a plot and those ideas changed throughout book. The good thing about cowriting, you are held accountable on the time you spend writing and meeting deadlines.
Cat: I’m a charger, so it’s often difficult for me to be patient (especially during lock down!) and take the time needed to sort out/communicate a gazillion details. On the flip side, cowriting is great for brainstorming as well as splitting the time and expenses of the book business.
Why did you choose to write a book for tweens – an older audience than you both typically write for?
Rosie: Again, it goes back to Cat’s posts. I never thought I’d write above early readers and picture books. Once I started writing our book, the ideas started flowing, and I wanted to learn more about writing for higher-level readers.
Cat: I like to change things up. (My next book is a women’s fiction, so Just Between Sam and Me is my last children’s book.) I started with chapter books because they’re short and colorful. I moved up to kids ages 8-12 for the challenge of adding depth to my characters and plot.
Cat, I know that bullying is an issue close to your heart. Can you explain why you decided to tackle this important issue in your book?
Cat: From the years we worked in the classroom, Rosie and I witnessed what children experience when they’re excluded and mocked at school. This issue of social bullying smacked me over the head again recently, when my sweet fourth-grade niece was the target of a mean girl clique in her class that taunted her. My little niece was devastated. She cried continually and was anxious just thinking about school. Fortunately, her parents and teachers immediately picked up on the bullying behaviors and stopped them.
I still wanted to learn more about how I might help as a writer. I turned to research and asked friends to share their experiences and wisdom. I dreamed of writing a story for tweens that delivered a strong message – bullying in any form is NEVER okay. When Rosie and I started plotting our narrative, we began brainstorming obstacles to throw at our 11-year-old protagonist, Olivia. We wanted action to keep middle graders engaged while we stirred in discreet social messages to help them grow. Shy Olivia’s arc quickly became her struggle to speak up for herself and overcome the behaviors of a trio of mean girls. In fact, several of the bullying incidents in our book, and especially the seminal event that causes Olivia’s greatest heartbreak, are based on encounters that actually happened to my young niece.
I noticed you chose an older illustrator for the artwork inside your book. Love that! How did you meet her? How did you make sure your vision matched her illustrations?
Cat: Irene Jahns is a great-grandmother! She and I were on staff together at a community college, where she was head of the graphics department while I was a writing coach. This is our fourth book together, so we have a rhythm. I provide her with a draft, and we discuss its highlights. Then she shows me sketches that we review together to synch up our vision for a final product. We use just four pen-and-ink sketches in Just Between Sam and Me because tweens don’t want to read ‘baby books’ with pictures. (Plus, B&W is less expensive to print than color!) My fave drawing is Irene’s map of our fictional town of Spring Hope, Missouri.
What tips do you have for baby boomers who want to take up writing during their retirement years?
Rosie: I would tell them to give it a try, for sure. Being older, is actually a wonderful thing as the experiences we all carry will come out with crafting a story. Starting is the hardest part, but once you get going, you won’t want to stop.
Cat: It depends. If you’re dreaming of writing a story or memoir as a one-off book for your family, go for it! Shameless plug: I used my North Carolina-based print-on-demand company to create a book about our parents just for my family. Lulu is a solid printer with excellent customer service and none of Amazon’s rigmarole.
If you want to publish wide, you can do it, but it’s a challenge with a huge learning curve. Things to consider before diving in:
- Are you going Indie or traditional publishing?
- What’s your genre?
- Who’s your audience?
- What’s your comfort level with technology or budget for hiring people to build your author website and maintain your social media platforms?
- Are you willing to spend years honing your craft to establish your author presence and profitability?
- New authors are often surprised to find that writing the book is only half the battle. Whatever publishing path you choose, marketing is HUGE, even if you’re with a traditional publisher.
What advice do you have for those who want to co-write a book together?
Cat: Honestly, I don’t recommend co-authoring to first-time authors. It has its rewards, but the experience is more complex than writing solo. Rosie and I knew each other before we collaborated, but it was still challenging and time-consuming to continually communicate and reach consensus. Plus, I’ve seen the business/financial side of other partnerships explode even when meticulously planned. First-time authors would be better served finding someone who wants to write in a similar genre and write in tandem to support each other throughout. Like a mini-critique group on steroids!
My thanks to Rosie and Cat for such an insightful interview! Now, as promised, here’s your chance to win a free copy of Cat and Rosie’s new book for tweens, Just Between Sam and Me!
Beginning at midnight, ET, on 3 December you can enter a giveaway to win one (1) Advance Reader Copy (ARC) of Just Between Sam and Me (Continental US: paperback; OR one (1) International: digital download). Giveaway ends at midnight, ET, 9 December Winner has 24 hours to respond when contacted before another winner is chosen.
CLICK HERE TO ENTER.
Contest details are as follows:
One (1) author-signed paperback of Just Between Sam and Me – Continental US OR One (1) ARC digital download of Just Between Sam and Me– International
Giveaway begins: 3 December 2020, midnight , ET
Giveaway ends: 9 December 2020, 12:00 am midnight, ET
Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Must be 18 years or older to enter, have a valid email address and USPS address (US), or current Amazon account (international). One (1) winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget from among all eligible Entries received throughout the Sweepstake period and will be contacted by Cat Michaels via email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 24 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 48 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Prizes are provided by Cat Michaels and Rosie Russell, who also host and manage this giveaway. Host is not responsible for technical/internet difficulties. If you have questions, email to Cat Michaels: firstname.lastname@example.org
To learn more about author Cat Michaels, click on the links below: