Thursday, July 21, 2011

Christmas in July with Karen Cioffi

Karen Cioffi is an author and ghostwriter. She is currently on tour for her new MG/YA fantasy book, Walking Through Walls, which is based on an ancient Chinese tale.

Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

I’m a former accountant who is now an author, ghostwriter, and freelance writer. I am also the founder and manager of Writers on the Move, acquisitions editor intern for 4RV Publishing, and moderator of a children’s critique group.

I live in NYC with my husband.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

As with most writers I enjoyed writing stories as a child, but never thought of actually becoming an author until later on in life. When I had to leave the accounting profession due to multiple sclerosis, I put down my pencil and took up the pen.

What genre(s) do you write and why?

Interestingly, I began with children’s picture books because I wrote a lullaby over 30 years ago that I wanted to turn into a picture book, primarily for my grandchildren.

I also wrote a children’s middle grade story, Walking Through Walls. I was given an outline of an ancient Chinese tale in 2008, and saw the potential in it for a children’s book. And, it turns out I really like the chapter book and middle grade genres.

Along with this, I’ve ghostwritten one memoir, several children’s books, and a few hundred health and business articles, which I’m very comfortable doing – I think it’s because of my accounting background and my interest in a number of health issues.

What's a typical writing day like for you? 

I don’t really have a typical writing day. The only aspect of it that’s certain is I put my clients first and make sure their work gets done on time.

I also make time for managing Writers on the Move. And, try my best to be active in the groups I belong to.

And, with the promotion of my new book, I have much less time for my own writing than I did before.

But, I think this is becoming a problem for a number of writers who have to handle everything themselves.

Do you outline before you write?  If not, what's your initial process?

I don’t usually outline before writing; I’m not sure why. I begin with an idea and start typing.

What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?

I think the toughest part of being a writer is trying not to compare myself to other writers. It’s so easy to fall into this pattern, but it’s really not productive. After that, the toughest part is all the marketing and social networking, reading and responding to emails, and attending teleseminars/webinars on writing and marketing, it’s just time draining and takes away from writing time. This is such a difficult aspect of writing – how to manage it all effectively. Anyone have any solutions?

What are your top three favorite books and why?

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I love everything about this MG/YA story; the time period (with honor and respect), the storyline, and the author’s writing style.

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. It’s a short story, but I love it. Chopin weaves such an intricate story that delves into an unhappy woman’s married life and it all takes place within an hour.

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. This is a wonderful example of a children’s picture book. It has repetitiveness, predictability, and an engaging story.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

It seems the last two years I’m just busy most of the time with one form or another of writing and marketing, but aside from spending time with family, I enjoy watching a little TV – it helps me unwind. I watch about an hour before I go to sleep, otherwise my brain doesn’t’ shut off and I can’t sleep.

If you could have coffee with anyone (living or dead, real or fictional), who would it be and why?

Boy, thinking of this question so many names ran through my head; it’s just too difficult to choose just one. But, something that’s been on my mind for a while now is my family history, so I’d love to have coffee with my grandmother. With my parents and all my aunts and uncles gone or not remembering our family history, I’d love to find out everything I could about my grandmother and her family history back in Italy. I think as we get older it seems more important to know these things . .  to pass on the information to our children and grandchildren.

Do you set daily, weekly, or yearly goals for yourself?  If so, what are some of your goals?

I do set yearly goals and occasionally set monthly goals. I know the importance of weekly goals, but of late I just can’t seem to catch up with myself and neglect to do it.

My yearly goals include what I want to happen in regard to the progression of my WIPs or my marketing strategies, or my submissions. One of my goals for 2011, when I found out Walking Through Walls would be available in July, was to organize a virtual book tour and do school visits.

Do you have any unique ways to market your book that's different from how other authors are marketing their books?

With the internet it’s very hard to have something unique in marketing. I’m basically using the same strategies just about every other author is using.

What I may be doing slightly different is I attend a number of marketing teleseminars and try to put the information I get form them into my marketing strategies. I also share the information through posts, articles, ebooks, and workshops.

I also do article marketing as a means of widening my visibility. And, I’m the founder and manager of Writers on the Move. As of May, we started offering free workshops on writing and marketing. Along with this, I’ve put together and edited one Writers on the Move ebook so far; it’s now available for free on our group blogsite ( and Smashwords. When I get some time, there will be others – I have the content, just need to edit and create them.

The ebooks are a compilation of writing and marketing articles, book excerpt, poems, essays, and other forms of writing from our members, including, Lea Schizas, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Vivian Zabel, and Dallas Woodburn. I wish I could list all the members, they’re all talented writers.

I’ve also created a few of my own ebooks on writing and marketing that I’ll get on Smashwords and Kindle, again when I get the time.

These are all tools authors can use to broaden their reach, and they are also a way to earn some money.

What are you currently working on that readers will have to look forward to in the future?

I’m working on a sequel to Walking Through Walls, something that will stand alone. I also have two picture books I need to revisit and revise so I can get them into submissions. And, I have an idea for a nonfiction book, and a novel.

Do you have any final thoughts to share?

My final thoughts are in the form of advice. For authors who are thinking of self-publishing their own books it’s so important to take the necessary steps to create a quality and polished product. Read a lot of traditionally published books in your genre and gage your book by them. Is your grammar on the mark? How about your formatting? Are your words and storyline age appropriate? Do you know the writing for children rules?

And, try to budget for an editor before you actually publish your book – this holds true even if you’re going the traditional route and submitting to agents and/or publishers.

Walking Through Walls, a MG/YA fantasy chapter book, is based on an ancient Chinese folktale set in 16th century China. 

The main character, twelve-year-old Wang, does not want to work in the wheat fields as his father does.  He finds the work hard and tiring.  Instead, he has higher goals of being rich and powerful.  He also longs to be an Eternal.  Wang wants to learn the magic of the Eternals, so he can use it for his own personal gain, by stealing from those who are rich. 

Wang must go on a long journey to find the Eternals.  Becoming an apprentice to the Eternal Master, he finds that the work is much harder than what he had to do at home.  Growing tired of the training, Wang decides to leave the Eternals, but not before, he learns a bit of magic.  He learns the magic formula for walking through walls.

Will Wang use this knowledge of walking through walls for good or evil? 

At the end of the book,there are questions, activities, and information to give you more of a feel for the time period.  This is to help the reader get more from the experience of reading Walking Through Walls.  Using the book in a classroom setting, the questions would make for great discussion.  Besides the classroom, I think this would be a wonderful addition to any library or home book collection. 

Wang longs to be rich…and powerful. At twelve-years-old, he already knows more about the Eternals and their way of life than many of the adults in his village. Learning about these mystics takes his thoughts away from the possibility of working in the wheat fields all his life, like his father. Wang has far grander goals.

Walking Through Walls will be available through online retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and book stores by July 15, 2011.

You can also order Walking Through Walls today at:

To learn more about Walking Through Walls and check out some reviews visit:

To find out more about Karen and her books visit:

And, sign up for her newsletter, A Writer’s World, at:

Today's daily giveaway is being provided by Karen Cioffi.  There will be (1) winner.  It is an ebook copy of Writing for Children One Step at a Time.

This will be available for U.S., Canada, and International


Dianne K. Salerni said...

Sounds like an interesting premise for a book -- with a self-serving main character who (we hope) grows and changes through his experience. Cool!

I wonder what it's like to ghost write for somebody else.

Nicole weaver said...

Great interview ladies. Wow! Karen, you wear many hats. I enjoyed learning a bit more about you.

Nicole Weaver
Trilingual Children's Author

Stephen Tremp said...

Those are great parting thoughts. Aspiring writers sacrifice so much and invest so much time into making their dream come true, then fall short by not polishing the finished product, which is vital to their success.

4RV Publishing said...

Stopping by to let you know I'm following the tour.

Walking Through Walls is an interesting book for all ages.

Aidana WillowRaven said...

Karen is having such a wonderful tour. I've enjoyed every stop.

I am also tickled to hear there will be a sequel ... lol. (Should I be boning up on something, Karen?)

Aidana WillowRaven
illustrator of Walking Through Walls

kathy stemke said...

I'm excited to hear about all your works in progress. Can't wait!

I love your book, Walking Through Walls-It's a classic!

I hope I win a signed hard copy!! If not maybe we can trade books??

Your friend,

Laura Ann Dunks said...

I would love to learn more about writing for children. I'm currently working on a YA novel.

Your novel sounds wonderful, I wish you the best of luck with it!


avomnia said...

Indeed it sound like Ms. Cioffi has all the tedium all writers suffer from. I especially like her advice to new or aspiring authors regarding polishing their work. Very important.

And as Dianna stated, the premise for Walking Through Walls is intriguing.

Marlena Cassidy said...

Hi Susanne, Karen!

Can I ask a quick question, Karen? How did you get into the ghostwriting business?

Your final thoughts are so true. Self-publishing is just as difficult as traditional publishing, and it really falls onto the author to make sure that everything is perfect.

Good luck on the rest of your blog tour!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Very good interview and review. sounds like an excellent book.


Cheryl said...

Great learning more about you, Karen. It's great that you write and market full time.

Keep up the good work.



Karen Cioffi said...

Susanne, Thank you so much for being a part of my book tour and featuring me today. And, thank your for the wonderful review and interview!

Watching my grandkids today, so getting online to respond to comments is a bit difficult. :)

Karen Cioffi said...

Dianne, Yes, the MC does grow. Thank you for stopping by!

Nicole, At times I think I wear too many hats. :) Thanks for dropping by!

Stephen, you said a mouthful. I've seen if often, writers jumping in before the manuscript is publishing ready. It's worth it to just slow down a bit and get it polished. Thanks for stopping by!

Karen Cioffi said...

Vivian, Thanks so much!

Aidana, Thanks for your support and wouldn't that be cool if we can work together!

Kathy, Thanks for your ongoing support. I love the idea of swapping signed copies of our books!

Walking Through Walls isn't a prize give away for the tour - It's not a good marketing strategy to use your book as a prize. But, there are other great prizes!

Karen Cioffi said...

Laura, There are so many place online to learn about writing for children. I've been a member of The Children's Writing Coaching Club for over 3 years now - it's helped me tremendously. Thanks for stopping by!

Avomnia, It would seem that no writer can escape the writing business time consuming aspects of writing, publishing, and selling books. Thank you for dropping by!

Karen Cioffi said...

Marlena, It's interesting that I didn't start out intending to ghostwrite. First I started a freelance business for editing, proofing, etc. Then clients just started to ask if I'd rewrite their stories or create a story from a draft. With the memoir, one of my business clients asked if I'd ghostwrite his mother's memoir.

As far as the business and health related ghostwriting, the clients found me through guest posts and I think one through Linkedin. That's why article marketing is so important.

Thanks for dropping by!

Karen Cioffi said...

Yvonne, Thank you! And, thank you for stopping by!

Cheryl, Writing and marketing full time certainly keep me busy. :) Thanks for stopping by!

hotcha12 said...


Scarlett Jo said...

Sounds like an amazing novel and I loooove the interview.

Joylene Butler said...

I never get tired of hearing how other authors live and work. Thanks, Susanne and Karen.

MarthaE said...

Thanks for the interview and the review. The book looks cute and Karen gives good advise too.
I'd love to win Writing for Children One Step at a Time - sounds like a great resource.

Karen Cioffi said...

Hotcha12, Thanks for stopping by!

Scarlett Jo, I'm so glad you liked the interview. Thanks for stopping by!

Karen Cioffi said...

Joylene. I also like to learn about other writers; it's often a good way to get tips and ideas. Thanks for stopping by!

MarthaE, Writing for Children One Step at a Time has a lot of useful information in it. I'm so glad you liked the interview - thanks for stopping by!

elysabeth said...

Great interview ladies. Karen, I agree - you wear many hats and trying to keep it all straight - not sure how you do it and deal with MS too. I have about half of what you do on my plate and some days find it very hard to keep up with everything - lol. Looking forward to seeing more of your work - E :)

Ma America, The Travelin' Maven (Elysabeth Eldering)
Author of the JGDS, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

Where will the adventure take you next?

Karen Cioffi said...

Hey, Elysabeth, LOL I'm not sure either! Thanks so much for stopping by!

Susanne Drazic said...

I'm forever trying to catch up on my blog reading/commenting.

I wanted to thank everyone for stopping by to check out the great interview with Karen. I enjoyed getting to know her a little bit better through this interview.

Thanks for all the great comments everyone left!

Karen, thank you for participating in Christmas in July! I wish you much success with the rest of your book tour.

Susan Hornbach said...

Thank you Karen for sharing your life,work,and writing information with all of us. You are inspiring to say the least. Susanne, this was a great interview and informative post. I did enjoy it.


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