Girl Zone

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I’ve had the luxury to recently team up with Erica Portillo from GirlZone is a wonderful website for young teen girls. The site covers a variety of topics on relationship advice, boys, fitness, and fashion along with blogs,  fun featured quizzes and book reviews all catered to the lives of teenage girls.

Here’s a brief interview to learn more about the lead editor Erica and cruise 2 (245x350)

What is your role at GirlZone?

Erica: I get to do a  little bit of everything, which I love! I was just named editor, which was quite an honor. I also run all the social media, so I send out tons of tweets a day. I have a bit of an addiction to FB & Twitter, so this works out perfectly. :) The best part is I get to write, which is my passion and fills me up. I write a blog, Erica’s Inspirations and am the GZ Advisor.

How did GirlZone get started?

Erica: MJ Reale, the GirlZone president, wanted to create a place for teen girls to read about all the issues important to them, as well as help them to discover their identity and learn how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Have you worked for GirlZone since it first launched back in 1997?

Erica: No, I was actually in high school when GZ began. :) I started writing the GZ Advisor column about 3 years ago. Girls send me their questions about boys, friends, family, etc, and I give them my heartfelt advice. I have my masters in school social work and provide counseling to teens at schools in Chicago, so I have an understanding of some of the issues teen girls face today.

What is the range of age groups that visit and benefit from GirlZone?

Erica: 12-17 years old

What are some of GirlZone’s most popular features?

Erica: We have quite a variety of topics on our site! Whatever you’re feeling that day, fitness, book reviews, fashion, relationship advice, we’ve covered it! I would say the most popular features are our quizzes, advice columns, and blogs.

What is your personal favorite feature on the site?

Erica: I love the “Your Body/Mind” section because it gives tips on how to manage stress, has healthy recipes, and works to motivate you!

When you write for the advice blog, what are some of your favorite topics to respond to and why?

Erica: The most common questions I receive are about crushes and boy problems. Relationships also happen to be my favorite topic to give advice about, probably because I went through a lot of the same issues as a teen. Boys are complicated! I want to share what I’ve learned through much trial and error over the years.

What were some of your own issues that you struggled with as a teen?

Erica: I was painfully shy in middle school, so I had to come out of my shell and learn to speak up for myself. Relationships definitely had their ups and downs. I was sensitive, so if someone didn’t like me, it would take a knock at my self-esteem. I used to think, “Well, maybe if I were skinnier, he would like me.” Thinking back, that sounds so dumb! I realized that I had to build up my confidence and self-image, so if a boy broke up with me, it wasn’t the end of the world. I just had to cry, wipe my tears, and move on. Time and friends heal all. :)

Does GirlZone have any current advice on what you struggled with in your youth?

Erica: Yes, absolutely! :) I think a lot of teen girls struggle with their confidence, self-image, speaking up for themselves, and of course, boys. We have advice and articles on it all!

If someone wants to share a life story or get some advice from GirlZone, how would they connect the website?

Erica: Life/Love/Family/Friend Questions email:

Health/Body Questions email:

If you want to share a life story email:

Also, please feel free to follow us on Twitter: @GirlZoneGZ

Check out Erica’s latest video on how to get over your first love. :)

Interview with Deanna K. Klingel

Personal: Getting to know the Author: Deanna K. Klingel Deanna

How long have you been a writer?

DK: I’ve been a compulsive writer all my life, but only writing for publication since 2009.

Which topics do you enjoy writing about most and why?

DK: I love writing historical fiction for young readers. I enjoy learning from the research I do, amazing facts and stories that are stuck in the pages of old books. I like to put young people in the middle of the action without their cell phones or GPS systems. I like to show them how their imagination would work if it were the only tool available.

What do you write?  What draws you to this genre?

DK: I’ve written historical fiction, non fiction and biography, as well as pure fiction. I also like to write short stories. Historical fiction is my favorite, probably because it’s my favorite to read.

Have you won any awards for your writing?

DK: Yes, thanks for asking. I have two short stories that were award winners, then the two Civil War historical fictions for middle grade each won a nice book award. The biography was up for the Orbis Pictis, which it didn’t win, but was in great company; Cracks in the Ice, the fiction, was a Selah Finalist. Three of my books have received the Seal of Approval of the Catholic Writers Guild.

What inspired you to write your first book?

DK: The first published book was Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of theTherapy Dog. This is the true story of my own two golden retrievers whose therapy dog ministry humbled me and left me in such awe, I had to share their stories.

What do you think your books offers that others in the same genre do not?

DK: I’m going to talk now about Cracks in the Ice, my latest book. I am passionate about getting it into the hands of young readers. This is a story of Gina, a young figure skater with dreams of Olympic gold. What happens to her when she can no longer compete is what happens to many of our sidelined athletes who lose grasp of their identity and purpose in life. They are often addicted to their pain medication, and despair leads them into alcoholism.  Two people who never give up on Gina are able, with the help of Al-anon and AA, to show her she is still a loveable person who can reinvent her life for a higher purpose. My passion comes from the fact that there is another YA book that deals with drinking. It’s written by a well-known, award-winning author. It’s received a prestigious award that has put it into libraries, and schools and is even required reading in some schools. This book is about four teens who are left alone over the holidays at a boarding school. Three guys, one girl. There are no adults, no accountability. They are breaking every rule, promiscuous, and drunk. Okay. Those are YA themes. I don’t have a problem with that. What I have a problem with is this book betrays the readers. There are no consequences here. The drunken behavior is lively, life-of-the-party, funny. The word alcoholism isn’t used. As adults reading this book, we know: if you can’t start the day without ransacking your dorm room to find your vodka, you are an alcoholic. But do young people know that? Not necessarily. What kid reading this book wouldn’t go, “Whoa, this is the life!” No accountability. No consequences.Sleep eat, drink,break all the rules.Kids can buy into that. The subject matter isn’t the issue. These are important issues. We need to talk about them. Do you know there are eleven year olds binge drinking? We have to talk about this. But this book doesn’t address this. Even the ending where the girl dies after crashing her car into a barricade, doesn’t address the truths of the issue. Instead the police say her blood alcohol level was normal and drinking wasn’t a cause for her accident. I find that outrageous. The girl’s been drunk since Chapter 2. Of course alcohol had something to do with it. There are always consequences and there needs to be even if it’s fiction. Maybe especially in fiction. My book hits it right in the gut. Just as the readers learn to love this girl and share her dream, they watch her death spiral and know what’s happening to her even before she does. We call it what it is. It’s alcoholism. It’s addiction. It’s deadly. It has consequences. But we also see there is a way out. It’s not easy, but worth the struggle. The readers can still cheer for her. We see that life can offer us second chances, but we have to reach out for them. The end of my book has discussion questions. I hope parents will read this book, too. And I hope together with their young readers they can use those questions to start the discussion. Talk about the consequences of behaviors and the seriousness of addictions. There are way too many teenagers addicted to alcohol. I’m passionate about this. My book tells the truth.

What is your favorite aspect of the writing process?

DK: I love the rewrite. Especially on the computer. I love to see how many different ways there are to say the same thing and decide which way says it best.

Where do you find your inspiration? What motivates you?

DK: Well, I told you what inspired me to write Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog. You’ve just heard my motivation for Cracks in the Ice. Other stories are like gifts. Sometimes it’s something someone says that niggles away at me, wanting to know more about it, the history behind it. Other times ideas are kind of born within me. I’ve no idea about those.

Who are your favorite authors? Why do they inspire you?

DK: I love how John Jakes in his Bicentennial Series recreated insignificant moments in history, showing us how those insignificant moments become the footprints of great moments as generations come and go. I loved that! Herman Wouk, I’m amazed how he can keep a story thread, a plot line going for 900 pages in Winds of War. An amazing story. Lalita Tademy wrote one of my favorite books, Cane River. I’m in awe of how she can make a place come alive with her rich details. I don’t know if she ever wrote another but if I could write one like that, one would be enough.

Is writing your career? Are you writing full time or part time?

DK: I write full time. Whatever that means. For most of my life I’ve been a full time mother and homemaking engineer. When our seven kids grew up and went off to save the world, then I turned to writing and started a new career. But, I’ve never been a part-time anything. Whatever I do, quilter, dog trainer, Girl Scouting, whatever it is, I’m in full time.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not writing?

DK: I’ve had lots of things I’ve enjoyed doing: quilting, sewing, crafting, dancing with dogs (called freestyle), animal rescue, dog training, golfing,aerobics, swimming, teaching faith formation, home decorating.  I guess I’m getting old. Now, when I’m not writing, I’m walking with the dog, marketing, and traveling with my books.

Books, Writings, and Routines:

What books have you written? Do you have a favorite?

DK: Naming a favorite book is like deciding which child I love the best. Probably my favorite is the one I’m working on at the moment; whichever one needs me the most at that time. I’ve written Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, Avery’s Battlefield, Avery’s Crossroad, Bread Upon the Water and Cracks in the Ice. I have a series of three or four Little Beth books, the first will be out this fall. I’ve written Waiting With Elmer, The Mysterious Life of Jim Limber, Walker Hound of Park Avenue, and Rock and a Hard Place, a Lithuanian Love Story. However, those last four haven’t been published yet. Patience. More patience.

When you write (books) do you have a specific regimen? If so what is that routine?

DK: I start writing. Writing and writing until I run dry. Then I let it sit for a day or two while I write something unrelated, and go back to it. I rewrite what I wrote, then I continue on, adding more. I repeat this over and over and over.

In your latest book, is there a specific message that you want readers to grasp?

DK: In Cracks in the Ice, yes.  Consequences, Alcoholism, Recovery, Resurrection, second chances.

Cracks in the Ice Cover FINAL FRONT

Do your books seem to revolve around the same morals and themes?

DK: My books are all Christian and Judeo-Christian in values. I can’t write any other way because that’s who I am.

Are experiences in your works often based on someone you know, or events you have personally experienced?

DK: Bread Upon the Water is the biography of a boy from South Vietnam who escaped as a “boat person” in order to follow his calling to the priesthood. I know him; he was our priest for a few years here in Sapphire. He told me his story in a series of interviews over a couple of years.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

DK: No. I’m happy with it.

What was the hardest part of writing your book?

DK: The hardest part of writing all my books has been knowing when to stop. Where does the story really end. When can I say this is it; this is the best I can make it?

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing your latest book to life?

DK: My biggest challenge with Cracks in the Ice has been the marketing. I struggle to find the teen market.

How is your day structured? Do you set aside a specific block of time everyday to write?

DK: I like to write everyday, but life often gets in the way. I’m an early morning person, so I do a lot first thing. I usually know early on what the best time for writing that day will be. In the summer I know I won’t write from 1-3. The sun is above the ridge line in the middle of the summer and hits me smack in the face! So I plan to do errands and domestic chores in the afternoon in summer.

Do you write every day? If not what days do you write and why have you discovered this works best for you?

DK: I write something everyday. Sometimes it might be a synopsis or a guest blog, maybe work on my travel journal to create a blog for Selling  Books. Maybe it’s something for my writers group. I don’t always get to work on my work in progress, but I do write. Sometimes that’s deliberate because after writing a few chapters I like to let it rest a day or so before I read it. Then I rewrite where I see it needs it, then I move on with it.

Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

DK: No. No I don’t. I’m amazed when I see on Facebook how many writers know exactly how many words they wrote that day, or what their goal for the day is. I think my mind works differently. I’m less concerned with how many words there are, and more concerned with words I’m satisfied with. I might spend an afternoon picking and shining and fine tuning one chapter, but the next day write several more brand new chapters. I don’t start keeping track on words until late in the process when it begins to matter.

How structured are you when writing? Do you draw an outline before beginning or do you enjoy writing freely from scratch? Or do you use another method?

DK: My first draft is totally unstructured. The structure happens when I have enough done to write (for my eyes only) the first synopsis. I pretend I’m submitting it. Make it the best I can. Ah Ha! Now I see what I have to work on. Now I can structure.

Do you develop your characters first, or the plot and events?

DK: I usually have a character in mind, probably even named. I know some things about that person, what I think will happen to him, what events will be life altering. But usually those things unfold as I write. When other characters are introduced and I follow the conversation. I “hear” what my character has to say, and “see” how he feels about things. Sometimes understanding my character better changes what I thought might happen. My character often writes his own life.

How long (on average) does it take you to write a book?

DK: Long time. From beginning, meaning the concept, to the end, which means publication…long time. But here’s the worst story you ever heard, I’ll bet. The Little Beth books that are coming out are picture books I wrote for my youngest daughter when she was four years old. They went to contract the week she turned 34! But, to be completely honest, that was the first time I’d submitted them.

Do you believe there is such a thing as writer’s block?

DK: No. I think there’s writer burnout, writer distraction, writer overload. But no writer’s block. Writers have to write. If you can’t write on your project, then write something else. If you aren’t writing it’s because you are doing something else.

Do you set your work aside for a certain amount of time before editing and rewriting? If so, for how long and why do you find this effective?

DK: I call it rising; like yeast dough. And I do it frequently. I work on something else while I’m letting it rise. I often have two projects going simultaneously for this reason. It lets me take my head completely out of the dough. Then when I read it I can read it like a reader instead of the writer. It’s not a certain amount of time; it’s whatever is needed. Like children, your work sometimes needs a lot of attention, and other times grows on its own.

Who edited your latest book and how did you select him/her/them?

DK: My latest book, Cracks in the Ice, was edited by Tracy Ruckman of Write Integrity Press. I submitted my work to Tracy, she offered the contract.  She, and I think her staff, edited the book.

Tell us about the cover. Did you design it yourself or have a team do that for you?

DK:  I didn’t design the cover, Write Integrity Press did. I had a concept I thought I really loved and had an artist I wanted to do it, but Tracy didn’t agree and she came up with this one. And she was right. It’s stunning! I love it. Editors do know their business!


How are your books published? Do you self-publish or go through a publishing company? In your opinion, what are the advantages and/or disadvantages of each?

DK: My first book, Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog, is self published. My dogs were getting older and I wanted them to be with me when the book was published and marketed. I couldn’t wait for the long process. I’d not been published before, didn’t have the requisite platform, didn’t even know much about one. But I knew the book would sell. The disadvantages of self publishing, in my opinion, is the hurried process. I, too, was in a hurry. But we took our time and researched the different companies. There’s actually a guide, like a Consumer’s Digest, for self publishing. We studied it before making our decision. We chose one who was choosey. One that only took edited work. When Dog Ear Publishing accepted my book I had it edited by Steven Manchester. I’m proud of the book. That was in 2010 and the book still sells well and I still get notes from readers who just discovered it and loved it.

If you self-publish do you use print-on-demand?

DK: I don’t self publish now because the kind of books I write are books for libraries, schools, museums, and book stores. With that market, you can’t have self-published books. Those markets have to have the books available through their distributors. Most places where my books are sold won’t stock print on demand books.

Do you have any e-books? If so, how does the e-book process differ from getting hard copies published or put together?

DK: Avery’s Battlefield and Avery’s Crossroad are both available on kindle and on Kobo. These books are published by Bob Jones University Press, Journey Forth. Their catalog is used by foreign missions; missionaries use Kobo, thus the publisher’s choice. Bread Upon the Water is published by a small conservative Catholic press. It took them a few months’ of my complaints before it was available on kindle. The ebook market is new for them. Much of their reading audience is probably slower to move to e books. Cracks in the Ice is available on kindle and Nook. This publisher does a lot with e books and markets entirely on social media. Several places that stock my books have turned this one down because they are print-on-demand. Just for the Moment: The Remarkable Gift of the Therapy Dog is now available on kindle as just this year I asked the publisher for that service, which I paid for.

Social Networking and Marketing:

As an author, how do you feel about social networking? Have you been able to use it to your advantage? If yes, how so?

DK: Oh boy. How long do you want this to be? What I’ve discovered about social networking is that it is terribly addictive and time consuming. I’ve taken several seminars on this subject, on line and at conferences. I get the part about “being out there,” but I haven’t figured out how that translates into sales. I understand, finally, I think, how far-reaching it all is. But does it mean more sales? I don’t think for me it does.

Which website or social networking site is your favorite to work with? Have you had the most online success with this website?

DK: Facebook is certainly the most entertaining.  And the most time consuming and the most disruptive. But the most success I’ve had with meeting people who were really interested in my books has been Linked In.

What other ways have you marketed your books?

DK: Almost every weekend I am somewhere attending a Civil War reenactment where I dress as a period bookseller and sell the Avery books. While I’m in that town I visit bookstores, libraries and schools with my other books.

Where and how are your books sold?

DK: All my books are available through independent booksellers. I have their badge on my webpage so you can find the one nearest you. They are available in libraries and schools and sold in museum gift shops and bookstores. All are available on Amazon, of course. The dog books are available at some dog boutiques and pet specialty stores, I’ve sold them at dog shows and events. Bread Upon the Water is available in Catholic gift shops and bookstores as well. Cracks in the Ice I’m trying to get placed in high school libraries and with teen book clubs.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

DK: Put your other “hobbies” on hold. No one will sell these for you.

How much time to you devote to marketing your books?

DK: Every bit of time I can. It’s time I create for myself.

What do you do to get book reviews?

DK: I ask people I hand my books to, if they enjoy it would they write a comment. Some do. At conferences people will volunteer to read a book for a review. I give them my books.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales?

DK: You should check my blog, Selling Books. I post on Monday and Thursday and the post usually includes the technique I learned at that place. The earliest posts are what I learned straight away. Be there. Make eye contact. Your customer is the most important thing to you.

What do you think of “trailers” for books? (Most online trailers include a brief “movie” or slideshow of photos, music, and text to intrigue readers about a new and upcoming book, much like movie trailers do for films.)

DK: BJU Press Journey Forth made the trailer for the Avery books. It’s wonderful. I show it in schools on big walls in their auditoriums where the kids hold their breath. This 48 second trailer sells books.  It works because it makes you want to read the book. I’ve seen some trailers that have nice music, pleasant relaxing tide coming in and out, very serene and lovely but tell me nothing about what the book is about. If the trailer doesn’t make you want to read the book, it probably isn’t very effective, beyond entertaining.

Do you think that giving books away free works and why? Not for me it doesn’t. I have downloaded free books when authors have asked everyone to do that at a special time to help them out. But, I don’t like to read on kindle. If it looks like a book I want to read I go to the bookstore and buy it. I give books away to charity causes, door prizes at speaking engagements, that sort of thing. But I don’t offer my work free to the world on Amazon. Friends who do this are making a lot more money than I am. They’ve learned the solutions to the amazon number puzzles. I’m happy for them.

Books Signings:

Have you had a book signing? What all did the signing entail? ( What are some of the “do’s and don’ts” at a signing?

DK: I’ve had signings for all my books. I’ve had them at bookstores, libraries, restaurants, dog events, schools, conferences, Barnes and Nobel, Borders, private parties, book clubs,Red hatters, and even an outdoor skating rink. At reenactments I’m there all day for two days. Book stores usually a 2-3 hour block; conferences 1 hour. Everyone has been different. To follow them all, go to my  Selling Books. They are all very different experiences.

In Conclusion:

Do you have any advice for other writers or new authors?

DK: Be nice to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Follow your editor’s advice.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

DK: I hope you enjoy the book and will remember it when you are grown and will want to share it with your children.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

DK: Being alone so much of the time is hard. Not doing a lot of other things I also enjoy.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

DK: Writing it. Just letting it leak out all over the paper.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

DK: Get started. Don’t wait.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

DK: I have a web page, Each book has a tab and I’m just in the process of adding a Discovery Page for each book. More than the sales info & synopsis, it will be a page for students to learn more about the subject  matter of the book, background information, recipes, websites, all that pertain to the book. I hope it will be fun and interesting. I plan to change it frequently. My webpage has a blog, Selling Books. There you’ll find the stories of the places I go, the readers I meet, and what I learn about marketing. I have a facebook, Deanna K. Klingel is a social page, BooksbyDeanna is my book’s fb for readers and writers. I hope you’ll visit and leave a comment. I’d like to meet you.