Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – JL Metcalf #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – JL Metcalf

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

Becoming A Writer

Write what you know. Don’t write what you know. Write about things that scare you. Don’t write about anything that you don’t fully understand, do lots of research. Don’t do research, be inventive, be creative. Writing’s not that hard. Anybody can do it. That’s not a real profession.

I’ve heard all of these various opinions and pieces of advice over my 30+ years on the planet. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I kept my dream to be a writer silent for so long. The idea of hearing one more person tell me that “writing isn’t hard” made me want to scream and I’m a nice person, I don’t want to scream in someone’s face but I will if provoked.

I’ll turn 37 this year and for the past year I have finally allowed myself to call myself a writer. It took me years to realize that yep, I love writing. I love it so much that sometimes I get lost in my head thinking about what I want to write about next. That is how I am now. How I used to be a little over a year ago was much different.

What changed? I lost my lousy office job. I was upset and scared and then my boyfriend, a freelance artist and illustrator for over 20 years, looked at me and said, “Now’s your time to finally do what you love, you need to take this chance. Everything else will fall into place.”

He was right. I finished the book I had started seven years earlier and researched options for self-publishing. I created a website for myself. I began to do all the things I needed to do to create the business that was going to be me.

It was everything you imagine it would be. It was terrifying. It was also the best thing I’d ever done for myself. All those years of doubting my ability, my talent, all those years of tamping down my creativity because I was told it would never make any money, it all began to disappear from my mind. I began to see that yes, I can write, yes I can make money from it and most importantly, it is the most fun I’ve ever had working. A year later and I am happy and doing what I love every single day.

Are there scary days where I’m afraid the rent won’t be paid? Sure. Of course there are. I’m not making Stephen King kind of money, but it all works out in the end. I have support from my family, my friends and most of all my partner. Together we do the work we were meant to do.

I have now self-published three books, The Last Daughter of LilithComing Undone: Musings on Life,Love & Hobbits, and Menagerie of the Weird. All are available on Amazon and all are my precious babies. I hope to publish at least two more books in 2016 and you know what the future holds? For me, it holds a lot of writing and a lot happiness.

Find out everything you want to know about author JL Metcalf  at her website
email: jessicaleemet@gmail.com

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Laura Crisafulli Kennedy #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Laura Crisafulli Kennedy

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to write a children’s book. As a child, among many other things, I was an avid reader. My choices of books were and still are varied, covering many genres and writing styles. I love the mystery, the adventure, the joy of flipping to the next page. I admired those who could take seemingly random words and string them together to elicit such feeling and response. I still do.

When I arrived at the University of Vermont, I found a card from my parents tucked away in a suitcase. “I can’t wait to read your children’s book” were words that inspired and encouraged me forward, reminding me often of my very important dream. A few years later, I took a course at New York University on children’s literature and how to write and publish children’s books. After that course, the task seemed daunting and overwhelming. But, all things in due time.

Moving forward a few (well, more than a few) years to motherhood and another dream achieved. What better time to write for children?! Crazed by the thought of what to write about and how, and possibly even my timing, I asked myself, “What is it I want to teach my children so they can best face challenges and difficulties and believe in themselves?” It is amazing how an idea grows, develops, and takes a journey, so far different from how it started. What a fascinating challenge to envision and write a sentence that says exactly what you want it to say, expressing the sentiment you feel, while touching the hearts and imagination of others.

Moving forward yet again, ten-plus years, when the timing and a series of circumstances were just right for achieving a dream. What a wave of excitement, sense of accomplishment, and a sigh of relief when I held that proof in my hands the very first time!

I strongly believe in the power of “positivity.” I believe positive words can spark positive thoughts, helping create a positive attitude and positive actions, and the circle perpetuates. I strive for this cycle and for balance. To help inspire and empower another individual is an awesome and gratifying feeling. Equally gratifying is the feeling of being inspired and empowered. To teach a child to be strong and brave, confident and independent, is well worth the challenge, hard work, and effort. My children constantly amaze and inspire me, reminding me of what is important and good.

As I get older, the importance of finding and maintaining a sense of humor as life’s challenges and adventures occur has not escaped me. My book is a reminder for me to embrace the important moments, knowing that this amazing journey is evolving and continuing…

Laura Crisafulli Kennedy is the author of Lolly’s Picnic and is currently working on two other children’s books. For more information, please visit Laura’s website or contact Laura at info@LauraKennedy.info

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Sean Fay Wolfe #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Sean Fay Wolfe

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

I originally self-published the first book of the Elementia Chronicles, Quest for Justice on the first day of 2014. As a junior in high school with no experience in the publishing industry, I wasn’t really sure what to do first. My parents had suggested a marketing blitz through social media, but I still knew there was more that I could be doing. How could I spread the word about my action-adventure series set in Minecraft? I pondered this question until one day, a month or so after publication, I received a letter from a child in a local Cub Scout Pack. That’s right… not an email or a text, a handwritten letter, and from an elementary schooler. In the letter, the student explained that he loved Quest for Justice, and that his school was going to be having a Reading Week in April that he would love for me to come and speak at it.

Naturally, I immediately contacted the librarian of the school, who agreed that a presentation about a Minecraft book would really get the kids excited about reading. I was ecstatic, I finally had the opportunity I was looking for to spread the word about my book. But what was I going to say in this half-hour presentation? The first thought that came to mind was to just wing it. After all, I knew the story of how I had published the book, and what the book itself was about, so how hard could it be? Luckily, I had landed another presentation in another school before the big Reading Week presentation, so I decided to try out my idea. A few days later, in my first-ever school presentation, I stepped out in front of dozens of kids to tell the story of how I turned my Minecraft fan-fiction into a published book. What followed was an extremely uncomfortable half hour of an unfocused and unprofessional talk which told the students almost nothing about me or my book. Everybody walked away feeling disappointed. It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my entire life.

Realizing that going off the cuff was something I could not do, I set to work preparing for my next presentation. A week later, when I gave the Reading Week presentation, I didn’t just step out with an ill-formed presentation. Instead, I had a written speech in my hand which  I had practiced over and over beforehand. I talked not just about me and my book, but also about the writing processes that I used and advice on how the students could write a story. The kids were hooked from start to finish, and the teachers told me it was a great presentation. Since then, I have given countless other presentations using that speech as my template, always working to improve upon each presentation. Most importantly, I  returned to the first school to atone for my mistake. Now I know how important it is to prepare.

Sean Fay Wolfe is the bestselling author of The Elementia Chronicles, an unofficial Minecraft fan-adventure series. Visit his websitelike his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter, and find his books on Amazon or through your local bookstore.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – John W. Grisham #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – John W. Grisham

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

“We are only young once. That is all society can stand.” –Bob Bowen

Full disclosure: I am not the author of The FirmThe Client, or the Theodore Boone series, though like my literary namesake I am an attorney by profession, having practiced locally for many years. (While the rewards can be quite satisfying, the encounters with armed thugs and hair-breadth escapes from death are fortunately less common in real life.)

Few experiences are as humbling as sitting down to write a first novel. Like other aspiring authors, I’d heard the old saying that you write a million words of dreck before starting to turn out publishable material. By my estimate, I’ve paid my dues twice over just trying to get the story right. Along the way, I often identified with James Joyce’s famous lament that, “I got seven words today…but I don’t know what order they go in!”

In University, I take the reader on a four-year jaunt through a fictional New England institution of higher learning. The novel is set in the 1980’s—everyone’s favorite pop-culture decade, with background details ranging from the ubiquitous (Pac-Man) to the obscure (remember Pepsi Free?). Inspired by my own undergraduate days at BU*, it is the story of that brief, mostly bygone period in everyone’s life when breaking the rules and questioning authority were the norm, with liability concerns of secondary importance. You will relive the experience of pulling all-nighters (sometimes studying, more often not), and waking up 12 minutes before your first freshman exam. Together, we will cheer on a video game-playing dormmate’s attempt at a world record, and watch with a mix of sympathy and Schadenfreude the clumsy, on-and-off-again efforts of an earlier generation’s Leonard Hofstadter to win the girl of his dreams. While behind the scenes, the school’s ambitious president consolidates his power on campus, achieving absolute control of his domain before a desperate craving for higher office leads him to become separated from reality.

In the end, it’s the characters that carry a novel, and here I had no shortage of inspiration. A shout-out to the boys of Towers 6 West and the girls of 7, who made this a labor of love, and a story I hope you will find entertaining.

*Boston University, not Baylor. With apologies to our friends from Texas.

John William Grisham is a practicing attorney in Providence, and a member of the Association of Rhode Island Authors. A 35-year resident of Middletown, he is a former Secretary and past Chair of the local Library Board, and has previously served on the Town Charter Review Commission. Find his book University here.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Buffi Wixted #riauthors


Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Buffi Wixted

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

Does the thought of having to answer your child’s questions about Santa make you realize how fast they are growing up?

A few years ago my son Dixon caught my husband off guard during a walk in the park with the statement, “ Dad, Santa can’t deliver all those presents by himself. It’s just not possible.” My husband told him Santa has lots of helpers and quickly changed the subject to basketball. I think having to answer your child’s questions about Santa causes fear and anxiety for most parents. After hearing about the trip to the park, I decided to write Dixon a letter putting my explanation of Santa’s magic on paper because I feared disappointing him and I didn’t want to stumble over the importance of what I wanted to tell to him. Yes, it had been wonderful experiencing Santa’s magic by receiving all those gifts over the years, but Santa’s magic is much more than mysterious presents that appear under the tree. Santa’s magic is really about celebrating the kindness and generosity of the human spirit. Telling Dixon the truth about Santa was more than revealing a secret; it was a big step moving him away from the innocence of childhood and closer to adolescence.

While writing my letter, it occurred to me that learning the truth about Santa should not be a disappointment, rather it’s an honor for a child to learn the history Santa and why we work so hard to keep his magic alive for each new generation to enjoy. When a child is ready to understand and appreciate the joy of giving, allowing them to participate in the process of keeping Santa’s magic alive, it signifies that he or she is maturing into a kind, generous, and loving individual. At this point my letter changed from explaining the end of one of the most beloved childhood mysteries to becoming a well-deserved invitation for Dixon to become one of Santa’s real elves and join us as members of the secret society who keeps Santa’s magic alive.

After putting up our Christmas tree, my husband and gave Dixon the letter I had written. It explained a little of Santa’s history and gently revealed that we had been the elves sharing Santa’s magic with him in honor of the generosity St. Nicholas had shown centuries ago. To mark this milestone we presented Dixon with a special elf ornament engraved with his name and the date. As he added his new elf ornament to the other milestone ornaments on the family Christmas tree, he became Santa’s newest elf and now shared the important responsibility of keeping Santa’s magic alive for future generations to enjoy. A few tears were shed, but the importance of helping keep the centuries old tradition of anonymous gift giving alive soon outweighed the tears and became a new challenge.

Over the next few years, as the letter was shared with family and friends, it slowly evolved into Elf Pledge Book and became part of the “The Fellowship of Elves Membership Kit” under the pen name Edwin Lionel Flynn (E.L.F.). The educational and interactive membership kit now contains all the items necessary to share the secret of Santa’s magic and make your child an official Elf Fellow – one of Santa’s real helpers.

To learn more about the Fellowship of Elves, please visit our website, our Twitter page, and our Facebook page

Buffi Wixted is a wife, parent, and teacher with 22+ years of classroom experience. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Ashley Richer #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Ashley Richer

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

Many ask me the question, “what made you want to write a book?”

Well, like most artistic professions, writing was, and always will be, a natural gift that I am blessed to have. The writing part came easy…it was taking the leap into publishing that needed a push.

I decided to pursue publishing after battling a rare medical condition. At 24 years old I survived a dissection of my carotid artery and multiple TIA strokes. This life changing experience will forever hold a bittersweet spot in my heart. The bitter…I battled a tough and long recovery, took a permanent medical leave from my job, and had to give up hobbies that I enjoyed my entire life.

However, after four years I found the sweet… I teamed with award-winning local illustrator Ryan Maguire to create the first book in the series. We fell in love, published our first book, and just welcomed our first child into the world in August. I hope to inspire everyone to believe that there is no obstacle too large to overcome, and sometimes the toughest obstacles lead to the biggest miracles!

Ryan and I are now preparing to launch the second book in the series. The first book in the series, titled Tyler’s TALL Tales: Chasing the moon, has a Rhode Island setting and focuses on teaching children about local Narragansett landmarks. The second book, Tyler’s TALL Tales: Journey around the world, will take readers on a global adventure and focuses on raising awareness of animals found all over the world. We hope to continue to educate children in schools and the community through literacy and illustration.

Ryan and I have a crowdfunding website to help offset costs for local schools and community establishments that wish to have us visit for one of our custom workshops. Together we have combined our teaching experiences to develop innovative workshops, which enforce creative thinking, artistic discovery, and movement. To learn more, or donate to our cause, please visit our  GoFundMe page.

You can contact Ashley via email (tylerstalltales@gmail.com), visit her on Facebook, and catch up with Tyler’s Tall Tales on her blog.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Rachael L. McIntosh #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Rachael L. McIntosh

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

I graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a B.A. in painting in the mid 1990’s. I lived in a non-live-in painting studio in Boston’s North End when mafia were still huddled at the coffee shops and before the place was gentrified.

That’s when I started Entropy Press to make my artists books and zines seem more legit. Entropy Press grew. My artist’s books appear in the collections of MIT professor Noam Chomsky, jazz musician John Scofield, and Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Library. The online version of the zine was getting more hits than the satire site The Onion at that time. Soon a real bricks and mortar gallery, with a digital recording studio, and a black box theater cropped up under the EP brand.

In 1995, my father was in a plane crash and although the Coast Guard searched for days, they never found him. The only thing to confirm his death was a running shoe and his business ledger checkbook. Those things were found floating in the water and collected by a lawyer on his yacht on his way to the Bahamas.

It was around this time that I was suddenly afflicted with a mysterious malaise which turned out to be Multiple Sclerosis. I left Boston and my loft and sought out a “normal” life in Connecticut.

I ended up working as a marketing director in Hartford, Connecticut. I also worked part time as the Urban Artist Initiative Coordinator for Norwich and New London. Ultimately, I secured a full time job, via a temp agency, at a defense contractor agency because I knew how to use email. (I kid you not.)

Then things got sticky. 9/11 happened. My job at the defense contractor became more defense-y. Generals and mercenaries were floating through. I was the youngest person there. My world became almost schizophrenic. Between not feeling my feet and legs and not knowing how to defend my day job to my artist friends, my marriage was falling apart.

Long story short: I was unexpectedly pregnant and became hugely concerned about the future. Maybe it was to avoid thinking about my miserable state of affairs, but I threw myself with all my creative and intellectual might into the Ron Paul campaign. I wanted to end the war and fix all the stuff I had seen at the defense contractor’s. I was elected to be an alternate delegate for the state of Rhode Island and attended the Republican National Convention.

My experiences at the RNC prompted me to write the Security through Absurdity series. I wrote every night for almost two years to produce the equivalent of 4.8 novels. I submitted it to a publisher who told me that they were going to break it down into a trilogy. They also told me to get life insurance. The books, although closer to Contemporary New Journalism, are funny in parts and are listed as fiction so that I don’t get thrown in jail.

The Security Through Absurdity series is #1 on Goodreads Best New Series. The books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks, as well as in libraries and high schools in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Visit Rachael’s website, her Facebook author page, and follow her on Twitter.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Elda Dawber #riauthors


Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Elda Dawber

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

Got secrets? Of course you do! Like it or not, our lives are rich with personal, professional, and family tales that could keep readers awake deep into the night. But do we dare risk the telling? If there is a story that needs to be told, then perhaps the time has come to listen and give it voice.

In writing my novel Wait Until Im Dead!, I placed my main character in the center of this dilemma. A successful romance writer, Donna Jean Brava, has written an autobiography which provides the backstory of how she dealt with her own childhood abuse by her father and uncles while suffering the cold indifference of her mother. Her recovery shows how love and friendship bring about her healing even though evil acts still lurk behind the door. As her family reads the manuscript and begins to unravel buried family secrets, the title of the novel becomes painfully appropriate. Hate and love vie for the upper hand as victims and perpetrators fear the same fate: What if people findout?

The book is also filled with humor—which works as comic relief in the classically tragic sense—mystery, unexpected plot twists, revealed secrets and intrigue. Presented as a memoir within a novel, readers move through the main character’s history. But it is her actions in the present that propel the story through a series of compelling revelations affecting numerous characters in unforeseen ways.
Secrets often beget more secrets. So, why go there at all, one might ask? Well, like everyone else, I’ve had secrets, told secrets, kept secrets, and even spilled a few. But nothing on this earth prepared me for the damage and long term suffering visited upon children when secrets about abuse prevail.

I am, by profession, a clinical social worker who has been working with children and their families affected by childhood trauma. When I retired—or, semi-retired as it turned out—I felt compelled to do something to honor the courage of the youngsters I had worked with who had faced overwhelming situations and yet had prevailed. And so grew the concept of a novel that could both educate as well as entertain. I wanted a book that professionals would value, but that the average reader could respond to as a page-turner full of compassion and hope.

I have finally come to understand what people meant when they said, “Write what you know.” What I know—from years of working with children in trauma—is hard stuff. Getting it onto paper took time (almost six years), and it also took a good deal of emotional energy. I once had a Creative Writing professor in college who told me I had to choose between social work and writing because social work would take over my life and render me unable to commit the time and focus needed to become a “real” writer. Social work did, in fact, consume me for decades, but eventually it also gave me this story of secrets from all the children whose voices I am trying to honor. And another gift as well: the much deeper understanding that secrets revealed can also heal.

Elda lives in Rhode Island, surrounded by an amazingly loving and diverse family, covets a good mystery, gardens in milk crates on her back deck, loves to travel, still trains her fellow social service professionals, and – truthfully – hates secrets that keep children unsafe. Her novel  Wait Until I’m Dead! recently won the Independent Publishers of New England 2015 award for literary fiction. She is currently hard at work on the sequel. Find her on FacebookLinkedIn, and here.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Debbie Tillinghast #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Debbie Tillinghast

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

Changing Seasons

The wind has shifted overnight, hurling itself across the bay from the Northwest. Gone are the gentle summer breezes, replaced by winds with winter’s bite lurking on the edges. The temperature hovers near forty and the air is crisp and invigorating as I begin my morning walk. The tide is high and waves are breaking over the rocks; one small dinghy rolls on the swells as they dash towards the shore. The waves are the only sound I hear this morning, and if birds are singing, they are drowned out by the relentless pounding of the surf. A seagull perches on a rock that is peeking from the water, and he shrieks his morning thoughts. I wonder if he is sad to see the summer end, taking the visitors who might leave behind an occasional stray quahog, or happy to have solitude return and the bay to himself. Again I listen for the morning calls of resident song birds, but all I hear is the wind and one solitary crow.

My life began on this small island in Narragansett Bay, called Prudence, where daily existence was guided by the changing seasons and the tides. Summer meant the opening of my dad’s general store which kept both my parents busy, as Prudence was predominantly a summer colony. My family lived here year round, but the winter population dwindled to about fifty, and the rhythm of life changed after Labor Day. The ferry now runs daily, and the schedule makes year round commuting a possibility, so the island seems less remote even in the winter.

I’m here on Prudence to help my friend Judy close her summer house for the season. We are always reluctant to say goodbye to the carefree island summer days, and sometimes the warm October sun tempts us to linger for one last swim and postpone this task a little longer. The wisdom of the decision to close is reinforced, when the frosty night reminds us that winter will soon embrace this little island and, without heat or insulation, the disaster of frozen pipes will be real if the winterizing is not complete.

When Judy and I board the ferry in the late afternoon, her house is all tucked in for the winter. I know it will be waiting when balmy spring days entice us to return to Prudence Island, and the bay beckons us for our first chilly swim of the year. Perhaps because of my island childhood, my senses are tuned to the change in seasons and as each begins, it becomes my favorite. Though I will delight in snowy winter days, I will anticipate the time when the song birds serenade my morning walks once more.

Debbie Kaiman Tillinghast is the author of The Ferry Home, a memoir about her childhood on Prudence Island, Rhode Island. Her book is available in local gift shops and bookstores and online at Indigo River Publishing and  Amazon. Visit her on Facebook.

Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz #riauthors



Rhode Island Author Expo Spotlight – Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz

This post was originally posted on Martha Reynold’s blog and has been reposted here with author permission, minor revisions have been made.

I wasn’t quite sure how to dress up for my fourth-grade Career Day. I had borrowed multiple books from my elementary school’s library in an attempt to research exactly how one goes about becoming an author, but most of the information I uncovered related to finding work as a freelance writer and lacked the step-by-step instructions and list of appropriate tools and attire that I had hoped to find. So I settled on an outfit that made me happy: my favorite pink shirt, a pair of comfortable pants, and my white Keds, with a cloth-covered journal – one of several from my collection – and pen my only real props.

Years later, after drastically altering my career path and enrolling in medical school, it was that same principle, doing what made me happy, that brought me back to writing. As fascinated as I was by my studies in anatomy and physiology, by the end of my first year I full of facts but empty as a person. When I learned of an opportunity to incorporate an independent writing project into my medical curriculum, I felt a surge of excitement, which was quickly washed away by abiding apprehension. I waited until the night before the deadline to submit my application. In truth, I spent half of that night trying to convince myself that I might actually have something to say.

When I was accepted to the program and awarded a fellowship to help support my efforts, words began to flow from my fingers into my journal, onto my laptop, onto any scrap of paper within my reach. What I had dismissed during my pre-medical studies as a childhood hobby suddenly emerged as an integral ingredient in my efforts to survive medical school and eventually to thrive as a physician. I filled the blank pages of journals that had sat on my bedroom shelves for so long, untouched yet unable to be parted with. And I finally recalled the sentiment that had first sparked my interest in medicine: the desire to understand, to bear witness to, and to offer a hand to hold throughout patients’ stories as they unfold.

Becky MacDonell-Yilmaz earned her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Public Health from Dartmouth College and her Doctor of Medicine from Stony Brook University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in pediatrics at Brown University/Hasbro Children’s Hospital. Her work has been published in Pediatrics, Annals of Internal Medicine, The New Physician, The Writers Circle, and Paumanok II, an anthology of poetry and photography by Long Islanders. Her first chapbook of poetry, Tools for Survival, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press. You can explore more of her writing at  The Growth Curve: ruminations of a pediatrician in training. She lives in Providence, RI, with her husband and son.