Lily Unleashed Is a Winner!

Lily Unleashed

Front Cover

Jo Anna Dressler Kloster has written a heart-wrenching and compelling middle-grade novel which addresses the ever-present angst and problems of being on the cusp of teendom, such as finding oneself feeling physically attracted to a close friend, or understanding the changes her former best friend is dealing with.

The main character, Lily Grabowski, who loves her English class and her extraordinary teacher, Ms. Stadler, is dreading discussing a story she wrote for a class assignment because it’s about her beloved German Shepard agility dog who died just after winning their last agility competition. She thinks it’s her fault the dog died. But she ends up finding a new dog that needs her love. Unfortunately, the dog is from a puppy mill and has severe emotional trauma issues. With the love and support Lily gives the dog she names Cagney both learn to grow stronger and more confident.

The book is well written and quite compelling, showing plenty of growth for all the characters in the story, both two and four-legged. Even the bit players in the story show compassion and emotional change, with much grace and charm. There are pithy study questions at the end of the book to help teachers further discuss the topics with their students.

The story takes place in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where Ms. Kloster and her husband lived for many years. They now live in the much warmer climate of New Bern, NC, though they still root for the Green Packers football team.

BIBLIO: 2022, Empty Cages Press, Ages 8 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Grade Fiction

ISBN: 979-8-9855316-0-2

Jo Anna Kloster and Cagney
  1. What prompted you to incorporate a story about Puppy Mill dogs into your coming-of-age story? Answer: The story was always about dealing with the residual behaviors that my puppy mill survivor, Cagney, had.  This story was completely inspired by Cagney.  Over time his behaviors became more challenging including extreme separation anxiety and being very protective of me and of our property.  I started writing about Cagney during Writer’s Workshop with my elementary-age students.  In every writing class I had ever taken, I was always told to write about what I know. So that’s what I did.  And the students had so many questions and concerns about Cagney and this thing called “puppy mills.”  I decided a book needed to be written to help them understand why puppy mills exist (to feed the pet stores that sell puppies) and what we can do to help end this pipeline and cruel industry of factory-farming of dog. As far as the storyline goes, that was all made up.  Yet, so much is based on my life and experiences.  I needed to create a book, a vehicle, that would inspire young people to speak up for these voiceless dogs and victims of greed. 
  2. Tell us the process of writing this book. Answer: I don’t know if I had a process. I did extensive reading of middle-grade novels to find ones I loved and then I dissected them to see what the author did that drew me in and made me like the book.  Some of my favorites are Kate DiCamillo and Barbara O Connor as well as Sheila Turnage.  I love humor and animals, especially dogs, so I read lots of books about dogs.  I also read lots of research about puppy mills and about how living in horrid conditions at the mills affects dogs emotionally. I also took lots of writing classes, found coaches online, as well as critique groups, to guide me and offer suggestions.  My home library has a collection of books devoted to the writing process and how to create conflict and storylines that pull the reader in.  I guess you could say I am self-taught and earned a seat-of-the-pants writing degree from the school of many mistakes. 

3. How long did it take you to finally get it published? Answer: Ten years!  I guess I’m a slow learner.  Or a late-bloomer, just like Lily.  But I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to writing.  I worked 12-14 hour days as an elementary teacher who planned a lot of special projects that took lots of time.  So, each summer I’d spend hours working on my manuscript.  When it was all said and done, I had written six full revisions.  According to Newberry Award-winning writer Sheila Turnage, that’s about right.  So, I feel like I’m in good company.  I actually enjoyed seeing the story evolve and finding ways to create greater challenges for my characters. 

4. Did you have other writers look at it to tell you what was good about the book and what needed fixing? Answer: Absolutely! When I was living in Wisconsin, I belonged to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and had several critique sessions with editors and accomplished writers.  And when I retired the state chapter of SCBWI for  North Carolina directed me to a local critique group that had room.  And my husband, Patrick, was my first and last editor.  Poor guy was subjected to multiple revision readings of each chapter. He was there every step of the way. 

5. Why did you decide to go the “Indie” route instead of the “Trade Publisher” route? Answer: I actually submitted the manuscript to quite a few trade publishers.  But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed control over this story.  It has a purpose: to educate young readers about puppy mills and to inspire them to action.  I wasn’t ready to release it to someone who would start changing it  – to what they think it should be and possibly dilute the message or change the story.  And also, to be gentle, it’s not one of the topics that seem to be “hot” in the market these days.  This was my baby, I knew what it needed to do, so I became incorporated as Empty Cages Press LLC and published it myself. Now it’s all rolled into a campaign, Empty Cages Press, whose goal is to educate others “until every puppy mill is closed.”

6. Is your style of teaching similar to that of the main character, Lily’s favorite teacher, Ms. Stadler, who is very inspiring to anyone reading about her? Answer: Yes, Ms. Stadler and I would get along well.  This is one area that is very close to home.  I was a teacher for twenty-five years.  And spent lots of time learning how to be a better teacher.  So, yes, I had the chimes in my room.  We did lots of group work.  And I used lots of music and lots of humor that my students seemed to like. I was a marshmallow when it came to discipline just like Ms. Stadler. I get that from my mom. 

7. What do/did you teach and are you still teaching here in New Bern? Answer: I started as a Special Education resource room teacher, then split my day as resource room teacher and Reading Recovery teacher after getting certified for that. This reading program is amazing and has nonreading first graders actually reading inside of twenty weeks with solid skills to last their lifetime. Then I moved into the classroom as a general education teacher moving among first to fifth grades.  Finally, I ended my career as a teacher in the gifted and talented department working with grades K to 6th.  Presently, I am an ESL tutor working at our local high school with students who are classified as refugees.  It’s very rewarding. 

8. Campaigning to get rid of Puppy Mills has become a passion of yours because of your dog Cagney. Answer: Tell us a bit about Cagney and how you came to get him. That’s an interesting story. Some close friends had recently acquired a dog from a mostly reputable breeder.  It was a Maltese which we had never heard of. We fell in love with Bogey.  And then this couple adopted a tiny seven-pound puppy-mill-rescue named Cooper. He had been used as a breeder male.  He was quite timid and insecure – and didn’t take to new people.  Well, the Smiths needed doggie sitters one weekend. We watched Bogey and Cooper and had a great time.  In fact, Cooper really took a shine to Patrick.  Well, when the Smiths saw how well Cooper did with us, they shared that good news with Mary Palmer, the president of the North Central Maltese Rescue that saved Cooper when she called to see how the little guy was doing.  You know where this is going.  So the next day, in our email inbox was a picture of the brightest shining face of a tiny Maltese named Cagney.  And the rest is history, as they say.

9. Tell us what you did to socialize him and how successful were you. Answer: We tried doggie training classes at our local PetSmart.  Cags was always the smallest dog there and usually the most timid.  I also had people come to the door and play the game Lily plays with Cagney, the Go to your bed game when the doorbell would ring.  It was somewhat successful at first. But you must be consistent which is not easy for me.  And, of course, the biggest mistake I made was babying him….just like the way Lily refers to herself when she gives treats to Cagney after he barks at someone. I guess there are just some dogs that will always be hesitant with strangers or be protective when people come to their home.  Cags was that way. 

10. What can other people do to help get rid of Puppy Mills?  Answer: STOP BUYING PUPPIES FROM PET STORES. That’s the first and foremost thing you can do.  Dry up the demand.  And tell others why they shouldn’t purchase puppies from pet stores. Also, people can write editorials to newspapers, and post this info on their social media. It’s the only way.  And then our elected officials will hear this rumble and be more receptive to requests to ban the sale of puppies at pet stores. 

Lily Unleashed is available at Next Chapter Books, 320 S. Front Street, New Bern, NC 28560, https://nextchapternc.com.

Amazon Books. I had a problem just adding the link to the page here, so just look it up at: https://amazonbooks.com

Ms. Kloster’s website is: https://www.emptycagespress.com/ and her Facebook page is: https://www.facebook.com/EmptyCagesPress

An interview with the Amazing Joan Y. Edwards

Joan Y. Edwards smaller web AE9Z7443

 

Joan Edwards is a very encouraging person. Feeling down about your work, or yourself, or life in general? Let Joan know. She’ll do her best to perk you up and urge you on to reach higher. Her latest book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide, came out recently, so she’s busy promoting it.

But I’m sure she’s also working on her next project. Let’s see what that is.

SMS: Please tell us about how you came to be a writer, but first let’s get the details about your early life.

Were you born in South Carolina?

JYE: I was born in Wilson, North Carolina. However, I never lived there. My parents lived in Georgia and came back to Wilson so my Grandmother Sue Bruffey could help Mother with me. We lived in Tucker, Georgia until I was 7 years old. Then we moved to Falls Church, Virginia. I lived there until I went to Western Carolina College in Cullowhee, North Carolina in 1958.

SMS: Are you one of many siblings or did you get your parents all to yourself? If you have any siblings, where are you in the line? How many boys in the family and how many girls? Describe a bit of your family life. Chaotic? Joyful? Strict? Laidback?

JYE: I was one of four children. I had one brother and two sisters. My older sister, Judith, died in 2012. I was the middle child until my younger sister, Janet was born fourteen years after me. My brother, Butch, is five years younger than I. We lived on a farm in Georgia for a short time. My mother had a chicken house in Falls Church. My daddy bribed her with that to get her to move to Virginia. I jumped Double Dutch jump rope, played hopscotch, hide and seek, read books, and put together jigsaw puzzles with my siblings and friends. Our family played the alphabet game, finding license tags from each state, and counting red convertibles when traveling. We made up plays and acted them out.

SMS: What kind of school system did you have? I, for instance, spent most of my grade-school years in 3-room school house. Was your school bigger? Did you have good teachers?

JYE: I went to St. James Catholic School in Falls Church, Virginia from second to eighth grade. It was a very good school. They gave us exams at the end of each school year. At the end of the third grade, I got the mumps and contracted a sleeping sickness. I missed the end of year exams. It’s funny because I didn’t remember that until it was time for the fourth grade exams. I told my teacher: “You can’t give me the fourth grade exam yet. I haven’t taken the third grade exam”

I asked her why hadn’t I taken the third grade exam. She didn’t know. So Mother explained what had happened. Probably the fever I had from the mumps instigated it. After two weeks, I was fine.

SMS: I believe you were a teacher for a number of years. What inspired you to do that? How did the teaching spur your desire to write stories? Or did it? I know you wrote one picture book about a duck who liked to play music. Did you read it to your students? Tell us the name of your book. And what inspired you to write it?

JYE: When I was a teenager, I loved babysitting with young children of school age. I planned parties and activities. I babysat a lot. I also enjoyed teaching my cousins how to do things. In school the teachers would ask me to read the geography book because I made it come alive for them. I took care of my brother and I also took care of my younger sister. We wrote plays and acted them out for our families and friends.

When I lived in Tucker, Georgia, my environment was great for hearing stories and telling stories. Mother read to us from Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Andersen’s Fairy Tales. These were thick books with only an illustration at the beginning and a few sparse black and white illustrations in the middle. There were no picture books back then. People who babysat with me told me stories. I made up stories. When I was five years old, I made up the story of Flip Flap Floodle.

When I taught school, many times I would tell them Flip Flap Floodle. They loved it and begged me to tell them other stories. So I had to do spur-of-the-moment stories for them. I made up characters and put them in weird situations. I made up the ghost stories The Golden Arm and The Day I Turned My Brother into a Monkey. They laughed and laughed. Afterwards I had them write stories and draw illustrations for them.

web 96 res red Flip cover color

I tried off and on for many moons to get Flip Flap Floodle published. I got many rejections. After I retired, I promised myself I would submit it to publishers for 5 years. If at the end of 5 years, no one said, “Yes,” then I would self-publish it. Everyone said, “NO.” So in 2004 I self-published Flip Flap Floodle through BookSurge. Luckily for me, color print-on-demand came out just in the knick of time for me. I have made many presentations to elementary school students explaining the process of how I changed the illustrations and how I used the internet to help me improve my drawings of a frog and Mr. Fox. I drew a rocking chair for Flip’s grandmother to sit in. The proportions and slant of the rockers were all wrong. I took a rocking chair that I had and placed it in front of me. I said, “Rocking Chair, you’re gonna sit there until I can figure out how to draw you right.”

And it did.

I’ll share this with you. I had all my illustrations and text formatted for “landscape” view. After I paid my money and signed my contract, BookSurge said, “We don’t do landscape books.”

Horror of all horrors. Talking about pep talks. I had to do quite a bit of talking to myself to get the energy to redraw all the illustrations in “portrait” view. This was what I said to myself, “Joan, each time you redo an illustration, you’re making it better and better.”

SMS: Tell us how you came to write your current book, Joan’s Elder Care Guide. web 96 res cover Joan's Elder Care Guide by Aidana WillowRaven

Did you consult geriatric care providers? A lot of it is personal experience, I’m sure. Do you feel that experience gave you a way to make your guide more relatable?

JYE: I took care of my mother, Ethel Darnell Bruffey Meyer for fourteen years. Through trial and error I found ways that worked. For at least two years, I wasn’t able to go anywhere out of town. There were no books about elder care. The internet wasn’t like it is now where you can put in almost any medical condition and find a definition and possible cures. My teaching experience helped me realize that I wasn’t leaving the substitute caregivers enough information. Once I started to leave them what my mother could and couldn’t do and things to watch out for, things went better. I put what I did plus I added other things I discovered through research so that caregivers would have the information they need at their fingertips.

SMS: How are you marketing your book? And are you just marketing locally or are you using contacts around the country? Any chance of having it translated into other languages to help families with their elderly relatives?

JYE: I’m marketing Joan’s Elder Care Guide on Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and through conferences that I attend. I also do presentations for groups that work with the elderly. Our church has my book in its gift shop. Oh my, that filled my heart with joy. Editing the book left me exhausted. I’ve spent the last three months spending time with my family and friends to regain my inner strength.

I’m willing to travel to promote my book, but that hasn’t happened yet. I feel sure it will in the future. I have not heard anything about its being translated into other languages, although that would be quite an honor. It will come out as an E-book at the six months or one year mark. I think that will help many people access the parts they need quickly with the E-book’s search capabilities.

SMS: Tell us something about your publisher. How did you find her? And what kinds of books is she looking for?

JYE: I found 4RV Publishing during Muse Online Writers Conference in October 2010. I pitched Joan’s Elder Care Guide to Vivian Zabel the owner. She asked me to send a proposal and the first three chapters. They offered me a contract in 2011 and said they would publish it in 2015. It is a small traditional publisher in Edmonton, a suburb of Oklahoma City. http://4rvpublishing.com/. It was named the Best Edmond Book Publisher of the year for four consecutive years: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. Submissions are closed for Children’s books now. Submissions are open for Artists, Illustrators, Short Stories, Tweens & Teens, Young Adult, New Adult, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Biblical Based. They used Ingram’s Print on Demand service for Joan’s Elder Care Guide.

SMS: You encourage lots of people with your blog, not just to continue writing and submitting, but also to expand their writing horizons by starting blogs or doing other things related to writing. How do you find the time? What blogs do you have other than “Never Give Up”? Do you cut yourself slack when you don’t finish all your projects for a given day? What are your comfort food and/or activity?

JYE: Thank you for saying that I encourage lots of people with my blog. When I first started my blog, I didn’t know what I would write, but I did know that it would come from the heart to help those who read it keep on going and never give up. I’d like to inspire them to learn what they need to learn to get where they want to go towards their life goals. In 2010 after I came back from a writing conference and an all week workshop, I wrote about what I learned. That’s when my readership spiked upwards big time. It’s a great idea to give yourself some slack when you don’t finish all your projects in a given day. Loving, forgiving, and accepting yourself is what I believe God would want you to do. I try to do that. Sometimes I am harder on myself. I believe it’s important for you to control your blog, not for your blog to control you. While I worked editing Joan’s Elder Care Guide, I didn’t write as many posts on my blog. I plan to get back into writing at least four posts a month. It is healing for me to write posts for my blog.

SMS: How did you come to start the PubSub group? And how did you find all the people who’ve signed up? I know there are people from all over this country, but also in England, who are members. Are there members from elsewhere?

be-smart-submit-pub-sub

JYE: In 2009, I realized that I had about ten manuscripts written and that I hadn’t submitted many of them. Only one or two. Of course, I was concentrating on the care of my mother, so that was a good reason for not submitting. But I wanted to submit. I thought if I could get a group of writers to submit a book at the same time as I did, that it would encourage and challenge me to submit my manuscripts, too. That’s why I had a certain date in mind (third Friday of the month) for the group…PubSub3rdFri. That was good for me, but then people said they didn’t want a specific day to submit their work. So I knocked out the words – 3rd Fri – for the group and started calling it, “Pub Subbers.” When you submit your work, you are Pub Subbing.

For a while, we only had about 4 members. Now we have 30 members! Only 2 or 3 have left the group. Pub Subbers is on my blog. That’s where people found our group.

Members believe that the more manuscripts they have in the hands of editors, agents, and contests, the better chance they’ll have at being published. Each time a member submits, he improves his skills in writing, submitting, and marketing. Each submission gets him closer to publication.

In this group, members ask others for suggestions about writing and marketing. Members rejoice with you when you receive a “YES.” They also encourage you when you get a “NO.”
Automated reminders are sent for Week 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Pub Sub process. Automated reminders are sent out to ask members for their goals at the beginning of the month and a recap of their progress on the last day of the month.

For an invitation to join, please send an email telling why you’d like to join Pub Subbers to joanyedwards1@gmail.com/.

Pub Subbers

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

SMS: What’s next on your agenda? Are you working on another book? Planning a trip to Jupiter? Touring the world in a hot air balloon?

JYE: I love your questions! I’d love to fly in a hot air balloon. I rode in one that was tethered to the ground one time. I am working on the illustrations for chapter book Larry, the Terrifying Turkey. I have several choices for the project to check for necessary revisions before submitting to a publisher or agent:

  1. One young adult novel: Immigrant Heart
  2. Two screenplays: Against the Odds and The Perfect Couple.
  3. Picture book, Aunt Sophie’s Biscuits, Porky Wins the Race
  4. Chapter books: The Golden Arm, The Day I Turned My Brother into a Monkey and Messy Marvin

SMS: Thanks, Joan, for taking the time to fill us in on your projects.

JYE: You’re very welcome. I am honored to be a guest on your wonderful blog. It’s fun to read your reviews of books. You give the essence of the stories and make us want to read them.

SMS: I know you have FaceBook and LinkedIn accounts, but what others do you use?

Readers, if you’re interested in following Joan and her endeavors, please check out her blog by following the link I’ve provided here. Please be sure to check out her books on Amazon at her author page:

web 96 res red Flip cover color

Flip Flap Floodle Will Flip’s song save him from Mr. Fox? Will he give up or keep on playing his flute?

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

web 96 res cover Joan's Elder Care Guide by Aidana WillowRaven

Joan’s Elder Care Guide

Empowering You and Your Elder to Survive

4RV Publishing

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Blog: https://joanyedwards.wordpress.com

Facebook Author Page

Facebook Group for Bloggers, Authors, and Illustrators: To Market To Market

Goodreads

LinkedIn

Twitter: @joanyedwards @tomarketsuccess

Website: www.joanyedwards.com

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Next week I’ll have more reviews.  Let me know if you’d like me to do an interview of you and your work. Sarah Maury Swan