Saturday, February 27, 2016

Interview With An Inspiring, Spiritual Author

Carol Richardson
Mornings with the Masters


1)      What inspired you to write Mornings with the Masters? In the fall of 2013, I followed my inner voice that told me to stop looking for a job, and I spent many of my mornings in prayer and meditation. This led to having numerous experiences of connection with the Ascended Masters who guided me, including Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mother Mary, Paramahansa Yogananda, Mary Magdalene, Lady Kwan Yin, and High Priest Melchizedek, and since then, Lao Tzu. I realized that the lessons were so important, and that the Ascended Masters intended these messages to be heard by everyone. I that I felt I needed to share these lessons, honestly, and vulnerably. The miracle of the story is that the Ascended Masters reached down to teach me even in the midst of my own struggles in life. 

2)      You have more than 20 years of experience helping people – as a life coach, spiritual leader, and healer.  With all that you’ve encountered, what is the one piece of advice that you have for someone looking to change his or her life? Accept responsibility for changing yourself.  No one else can change you or your life. Ask for help. God, angels, and Ascended Masters are basically waiting for people to ask for help; not for help changing the world, so much as help changing ourselves. Have faith that you will receive the help you need. Un-prioritize everything else except for connecting with God in order to be transformed into a better person for everyone’s sake. 

3)      In the face of tough challenges, what are a few key strategies to help someone press onward?  What tactics can someone utilize to help them remain strong? The Divine is within you.  Know that you are worthy of success, and becoming who you are meant to be in this life, and in this world; not in an egotistical sense, but in the sense of being the beautiful person you are on the inside. Do not ignore that part of you that the world seems to miss, to dismiss, and to stomp on. To give up on yourself and your life is to deny that God is in you. To give up on yourself and life is to give up on God. But, even in the act of giving up you are trying to save yourself from pain. That too is the reality of love in you, that no matter what you think you are doing, you are seeking to reconnect yourself with the love you need. So, why not reconnect yourself with love in a happy way? Keep believing that you will be guided to try something new, and eventually, something will work out for you? Keep on believing in yourself, loving yourself, and maybe do something different that you have not yet tried before.

4)      You discuss various techniques to increase happiness and reduce stress, such as meditation, yoga, and visualizations.  What benefits have you found personally and professionally from these methods? I use a short routine that I call “The Power of Breath Routine” which I learned at a place called Power of Breath Yoga, in Portage, Michigan (with their permission). It involves stretches, cross-body movements, and breathing which de-stress both body and mind. I give it to clients, who report that the method does reduce stress. I also lead the spiritual community in guided meditation classes in order to help people become tuned into Divine Presence. Raja Yoga meditation helps me get into a zone of peace, which is like no other state I know of in our culture.  Kriya Yoga meditation helps me sense connection with higher states of consciousness and higher energies, as well as Higher Beings. In the Inner Harmony (Light Worker) classes I teach, the meditations and affirmations help people experience the benefits of group meditation. This shifts and elevates the energy to a beautiful, loving, peaceful, healing energy. 

5)      Can you explain how visualizations work and why they are useful? Visualizations, when performed with faith in oneself, and a sense of connection with the universe, and engage the mental powers of the Third Eye. Therefore, they engage the power of the mind both to change oneself, and to extend the energy of that possibility out into the world. Visualizations draw on our creative mental capacities, transforming what we see into new possibilities that we envision, setting in motion our conscious and subconscious minds to align with the intention of that vision.  The power of intention is activated when we repeatedly envision possibilities, truly believing they can occur, and enjoying the visualization of these possibilities. This is not to say that they come from sheer desire (lust, greed, etc.), but from a deep sense of purpose and of fulfillment of that purpose.

6)      You have been meditating for about two decades.  What advice do you have for someone interested in starting this practice?  Create a space in your home for meditation. Light candles, set-up a place to sit where your spine can be straight, if possible sitting on cushions on the floor or a yoga mat or meditation stool. Don’t worry about how long you do it, and do NOT beat yourself up for your wandering mind. Just start with two clearing breaths – in through the nose, and sighing out through the mouth, and then breathe naturally in-and-out through the nose. Start by following your breath and becoming mindful of how you feel- first your body, and then your emotions, and then watching your thoughts come and go in your head. Choose a mantra if you do not already have one. You may choose a word that is sacred to you, or a word such as ‘peace’ or ‘love.’  Breathe gently and be grateful. 

7)      Mornings with the Masters discusses spiritual leaders across many faiths.  What is the advantage of an interfaith approach? Truth.  Truth is often disguised underneath the dogmas of various religious traditions. The path to truth is a mystical path, because no one else can truly teach us truth unless we are ready to learn.  Truth can be discovered within each tradition, but only when we let go of dogma and practice spiritual disciplines to seek, and find the truth within ourselves by connecting with God in our own hearts, minds, and souls. An interfaith approach can also open us up to guidance from more spiritual teachers who have truly experienced the truth within themselves, and not just read about the “truth” in a book.

8)      Your book draws on teachings from eight of the greatest spiritual leaders of all time.  What similarities do you find across their insights and wisdoms? Just Be. All is well, and the path to that state of being in which we experience “all is well” is the path of peace – inner and outer peace. Knowing the truth of who we are. Trusting that the Divine is within us, in everyone, and in the entire Universe, for we are One. Love yourself and love others, for without love there is no wisdom, and there is no peace. Give that which we should receive. Let go of how your ego may see the world. Trust that we will be provided for and get busy providing for others, loving others, seeking to understand others, and serving others. All will be well.  Or, as I’ve apparently trained my future son-in-law to remind me, “Buddha says, everything’s going to be okay!”

9)      Stress, pain, and overworking are rampant in today’s distraction-driven environment.  How has the cyber reality made us lose touch with ourselves? Cyber reality has changed our values, and our sense of what is important. We connect superficially most of the time, unless we get bold enough to say, “Do you want to meet for coffee or tea/lunch/dinner?” Cyber reality makes it more difficult, and potentially easier to get together to create community. The busyness of our lives separates us and therefore fragments our sense of self. We are souls in animal bodies having a human experience within families and communities in a natural world that is our home. Given the distractions of cyber realities we often forget, or never get the message, that we are souls on a journey. We minimize the idea that our bodies are of the earth, we forget that the earth is our home, and we lose the ability to create community in a holistic, and integrated sense. The internet actually gives us a beautiful analogy for the reality that the Universe is all connected and that consciousness in one place can be connected with consciousness in another place instantly. But, while the internet connects us and allows us to learn many “things” about the world, it does not lead us to the soul food we need any given day, and it does not help us learn to look into the eyes of other people, and bask in the beauty of one another’s souls. That is soul food for which we may be starving, and just do not know it.

10)  How can we regain that inner focus that might have been lost through such distractions? Set aside even just five minutes twice a day for meditation.  Practice a form of exercise, without music, that enables your mind to be set free to wander, to imagine, and to feel what’s truly important to you. Connect with nature. Nature is our home, and if we are willing to observe nature closely we can learn a lot of wisdom. By observing nature, pets, animals, babies, children, we can open our hearts and learn compassion. Take time to do something that is not about struggling to survive, and is not about material well-being. Whether it is art, music, or dance that gets you out of your focus on surviving, competing, striving, acquiring, getting, having, or taking, and instead gets you into a state of just being and enjoying; please do it. 

11)  You talk a lot about healing.  Most people understand healing from a physical perspective.  If someone breaks their leg, they wear a cast and until the bone repairs.  But what does healing mean from an emotional and spiritual perspective? All true healing brings in the energy of love, the energy of life. Deep healing heals not only the physical self, but old emotional wounds as well as emotional traumas. True healing reconnects us with who we really are, and empowers us to fulfill our life purposes. True healing also empowers us to believe in ourselves, and to overcome all the negative tapes we may have stored in our heads of the hurtful things people have said to us over the years. True healing eliminates our limiting beliefs, and connects us with the energy of love and of infinite possibility. An experience of energy healing brings us the energy of peace, relaxation, love, and a sense of well-being that medicine just cannot give. 

12)  For someone looking to find their sense of self and purpose, what is one step they can take to begin that journey? Love yourself, and accept yourself as you are. Let life be your teacher. If something is working; great. If something is not working; make a change. Reflect deeply on all the way you want to help people, and the world become a better place. For your true life purpose is never about getting something for you, but about doing something for others. Reflect deeply on what you enjoy doing, especially what you experience as meaningful and brings you joy when you are engaged with others. If you feel that you have not had a strongly, positive impact on others, then try different ways of helping people, or the planet until you find one you love. Life becomes your oyster when you believe that oysters have the ability to create pearls. So, please ask yourself, what are the pearls you would like to help others create in life? And who has an amazing ability to create those ‘pearls’ if you would only work with them to do so?

Please note, Carol is promoted by the PR firm that I work for,

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Friday, February 26, 2016

What Do Book Publishers Value?

What do you believe are the values of book publishers?  

Most publishers probably struggle to balance the value of pursuing a profit with publishing books they believe deserve to be published.  Sometimes the book you want or believe needs to be published will also be quite profitable, and that is the win-win they all should seek, but often it seems publishers have to choose the book they believe will be commercially viable over those that may be better, more important or more useful to society.  Some will purposely pick the book to publish that is socially redeeming over its commercial counterpart, even at the risk of losing money.  

So what drives publishers to make such decisions?

Before we fully entertain this, let’s ask the same question of writers:  What values do they believe in?  Many writers are driven by their passion and artistry.  They feel they have something to say, perhaps unique and worthy of sharing.  For them, they need to press forward almost out of obligation and need.  But many writers know that it’s an uphill battle to convince a publisher to publish their book if sales potential is limited.  Authors have the option of self-publishing, but that requires some money and more importantly, a different skill set and frame of mind than just pursuing a writing career.

So, to what degree does an author let commercial potential influence how he or she crafts a book?

Money, aside, how do publishers really decide what’s worth publishing? When it comes to publishing books, some publishers have specific restrictions or goals as to what they’ll print and circulate.  The litmus test could be genre -- some may only publisher non-fiction or only poetry.  Others may be wide open but exclude a handful of subject areas, such as politics, religion, or sexuality.  More specifically, certain publishers or editors will reject books on topics like abortion, atheism, or gun control, regardless of which side it supports on these issues.  But what guides these value judgments?

The book marketplace should be big enough so that every viewpoint has representation but on a daily basis, publishers make editorial decisions as to which books will see the light of day.  Their thinking collectively shapes America’s thinking.  Will we entertain all potential ideas, stories, histories and predictions – or will the reading public be cut off from exploring controversial areas simply because the values of publishers conflict with certain books?

We know in the past that we were deprived of books that covered certain viewpoints or topics, whether it be due to prejudice, ignorance, restrictive laws, or intolerance.  Books about black people rarely existed until the 1960s.  Not many on Hispanics, gays, or other minorities existed then either.  Which topics, people, or groups are being ignored today?

A lot of what book publishers publish is influenced by the news media. First, publishers and authors are inspired by the information and ideas circulating in mass media.  Second, politics and media influence each other, both of which impact book publishing. Third, publishers pay attention to what the media covers, in hopes it will be open to giving coverage to their books.

Are there taboo topics that book publishers tend to avoid? You don’t see too many books praising pedophilia or glorifying terrorism.  But who knows what’s missing and what the public has been denied a chance to read, contemplate, and deliberate on.  How many books that would’ve exposed something big never got to press due to the influence of money, violence, blackmail or plain choice of the publisher?

When books with outrageous plots or purported exposes do get published, they often get dismissed because they seem too outlandish. Maybe the public isn’t ready to handle such things.  Do we really want to hear things that shake the foundation of our existence?

Book publishing has its set of values and those values clearly influence what we are exposed to as readers.  What we read is based not just on our own values, but those of the book publishers.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Great Writers Could Be Lousy People

Great authors write well and often.  They write from the heart, even a broken one.  They write from experiences, especially bad ones. They write in reaction to the world they live in, imposing their vision of how things should be.  They write from a deep sense of feeling, of knowing.  They are a gift to a society that needs more leaders, philosophers, and visionaries.  But what happens to the writer who sacrifices his body or life to his craft?

Maybe sacrifice is the wrong word.  I don’t know that writers willingly abuse their bodies so that they can write better but they certainly know they are slowly killing themselves as they seek to self-medicate against life’s misfortunes, losses, or mere ordinariness.  We know of many great writers who suffered addictions to various behaviors, substances and lifestyles that proved harmful to their long-term health.  The latest one to fall in this dark zone is Pat Conroy.

You may not recognize his name immediately, but several of his novels were turned into two of the best movies of the past 30-35 years - The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini.  He was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  A few years ago he reportedly quit drinking after being hospitalized for a failing liver and high blood pressure.

Which one comes first – booze, brilliance, or behavior?  Does he drink in reaction to a certain behavior or circumstance in his life, and as a result, he finds his only true outlet – writing – or does he write in reaction to his life experiences but turns to booze to kind of regulate himself?

The order may not matter  I would find it interesting to see how many talented writers actors, singers, dancers, comedians, and artists rely on at least one significant addiction – drugs, booze, food disorders, gambling, sex. Heck, a big chunk of the population abuses something or someone, but I believe creative people are drawn to these things. They are curious, sometimes dangerous people who test boundaries while seeking a cure for life.  Some fall short and miss the dose.  See Elvis, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, etc.

So is one at a significant disadvantage if they don’t abuse their bodies, minds, or souls? Is it harder to compete with a writer who gets high every night?  Can you write as well as the person who slaps his girlfriend around while on a bender?  Can you create a book that’s better than the troubled young man who is down $30,000 to a loan shark after a bad night at the craps table?

Let’s look further into this.  Who is the likely better writer – the girl who stared down the face of a gun she pointed at herself at age 17 or the person who grew up in a nice neighborhood with a good family?  Does it take bad experiences for one to be a great writer?

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who suffered traumatic experiences where they were victimized or where they committed crimes or where they were around dysfunctional people – and none of them became writers.  There are millions of addicts, criminals, and people who suffer from a disability, loss, or life-altering event and not one has even picked up a pen to draft as much as a poem.

So having problems or witnessing terrible things is not a guarantee for writing success. Addiction and violence do not make an equation for automatic creative genius.

But somewhere in there is a formula for artistic prowess.  It would seem that the more one directly experiences, observes and witnesses or hears about third-hand, the more likely this person could be in a position to convey a great story.  Throw in some chemical balancing with drugs and the like and you may have designed the ideal candidate for producing a terrific book.  But you still need inner talent and drive, something that allows you to see what others don’t, to do what others can’t, to feel what others won’t let themselves feel.  Plus, you need to educate yourself about life, language, and certain waiting techniques.

Writers can’t just come from the factory.  They come from all kinds of experiences and from people with all kinds of abilities. What seems like the making of a writer for one’s life experiences may not work for a person with a similar background.

Still, it seems almost cliché to hear about writers who succumb to an addiction, but maybe the news just reports on them disproportionately.  For every creative type that lives on the edge, maybe there are plenty who live a relatively clean or normal life.

Maybe the author who drinks himself to death by age 60 is the best he could do for himself.  If he didn’t drink he may have hurt himself, in a different manner at a younger age.  Or he could have hurt others.  Or maybe he wouldn’t have been a prolific writer.

I can’t judge these writers for what they do in their lives.  That’s up to the law and to the people they directly impact.  If you suck as a husband and cheat or binge-drink and live a lousy home life, consequences will be had by his family.  But as a writer, I have no issues with you living the way you do.  As a writer/reader, I understand and appreciate that whatever a writer does could translate onto the written page.  Sometimes the lousier the life or the person, the better the book or writer.  Do I enable the reckless writers?

They’ve already scripted their destinies.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Can Authors Help Elect A President?

The political debates filling the TV airwaves for the past few months have educated the voters about the presidential candidates.  Citizens hear a little about policies, but see a lot more on personalities. We are left to judge based on just a few elements, trying to determine our fate based on a nasty exchange, a campaign slogan, an empty promise, or an inaccurate quoting of a statistic.

What we haven’t seen – but need – from the media is a real roundtable discussion of the issues.  The problem is the political arena is so polluted that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction.  Everything is party-imposed or personality-driven, but the American public needs to understand what each candidate’s record is, where he or she stands on things, and what policies they plan to put forward – and which ones can be executed well.

What role can authors play in this?  Are there any authors who won’t immediately be labeled left or right, undermining whatever it is they have to say?  How can a writer appear neutral, or in fact, be neutral?  To be a writer is to have opinions and to conduct research. How do you remain outside the world you live in?

Is there a way to get people to even agree on what the facts are?  If we don’t start from a foundation of truth we can’t move beyond there to determine a plan.  Maybe an author can help things by writing about the areas we have agreement on.

Another area authors can go to is by quoting things the candidates publicly stated.  The problem is that they often contradict themselves or show a change in views over time.  So which quote do we hold them accountable to?

Authors could quote statistics that show where things stand on certain problems or issues and then work backwards by showing what a candidate says he or she will do to address that problem.  But who decides on which problems should be discussed and who can say with certainty how a candidate’s proposal would actually play out, given there are other unknown factors that come into play over time?

Maybe political books can’t be written by a single author.  You need at least two or three writers, each representing different demographics or backgrounds, where each can bring a unique perspective to looking at things.

What we have now in the book world is candidates writing their own books.  The problem with this is the book exists in a bubble and is biased from the get go.  Do voters need to read 10 different books and then try to reconcile the rhetoric?

Authors should come out with a series of books based on different voter needs or views.  If you’re 60, white and wealthy you may not vote for the same person a 21-year-old Hispanic woman would – at least not when it comes to economic or social justice platforms. If foreign policy weighs more on you, then you’ll find a split in the electorate on that issue. Now, take domestic and foreign policy – and a candidate’s ability to motivate the nation – and you have a concoction of views and styles that needs to be just a little better than the rest.  We are always looking for a great or perfect candidate but one never shows up.  All that we can do is choose the best of the bunch.

And authors need to help us do that.  They need to go beyond what the daily media reports.  They have to give us a comprehensive, narrative and present a reasonable scale by which to weigh the candidates.

Are authors up to the task of uncovering the truth?  Will they even recognize truth when they see it?  Will they be able to effectively convey such a truth?

Our nation’s future depends on it. 

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Friday, February 19, 2016

Where’s Leadership For Literacy Today?

Although there have been many studies, media reports, and grants dedicated to eradicating illiteracy from society, we have fallen short as a nation.  Teachers at schools have been targeted for blame.  Should we increase the number of charter schools, reduce class size, and hold teachers accountable for progress?  Must we make school days longer, change teaching methods, revise our text books, or give everyone a tutor?

The Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (ALER) believes it offers an alternative for accomplishing high student literacy achievement.  Its approach entails broadening the base of literacy leadership.  A white paper from April 2011, issued by ALER, entitled “Leadership for Literacy in the 21st Century,” attacks this issue and “suggests how the contributions and roles of those on the ground, including teachers, school administrations, reading teachers, literacy coaches and curriculum supervisors, might be modified to take full advantage of their literacy knowledge.”

The ALER set about to examine some fundamental questions, including these:
·         What do we know about effective school leadership?
·         What does effective leadership for literacy achievement look like?
·         Who might be able to provide such leadership?

So what’s the conclusion here?
·         What’s being done either doesn’t work or doesn’t appreciably improve literacy skills compared to earlier approaches and methods.
·         Literacy leadership cannot be shouldered completely by designated district or building leaders – it takes a village to raise a reader.

The report stated:

“Stakeholders outside the school, family members, caregivers, universities, civic groups, religious organizations, and the business community, can provide literacy leadership by becoming more visible and participating in this endeavor by collaborating on initiatives and sharing expertise.

“Toward this end we recommend that each constituency examine how to best serve the literacy needs of our school children and determine what role it can play by providing literacy leadership.”

The report made 18 specific observations and recommendations, including:

·         “Classroom teachers play a pivotal role in literacy leadership since they directly interact with and instruct students on a daily basis.  However, their expertise is underutilized and undervalued; it can be extended beyond their individual classrooms when teachers collaborate with peers and parents/families to ensure an appreciation of literacy routines outside of school.

·         “Administrators such as principals and curriculum supervisors have direct responsibility for what is taught in their schools, designing effective instructional programs that are aligned with curriculum and standards, and providing information to the public. As observers and evaluators of teachers, these administrators must be able to determine whether teachers are providing effective instruction and equitable learning opportunities for all students.

·         “Parents/caregivers must be empowered to participate in decision-making that will affect the kinds of literacy experiences their children will have in school.

·         “Universities can serve two major leadership roles:  (1) outreach, in which they maintain literacy-focused partnerships with local skills by providing professional development for teachers, workshops for parents, and work toward grant acquisition for schools, and (2) research, in which they serve as a nucleus of exemplary scholarship, especially in teacher preparation programs.”

It’s hard to believe there are tens of millions it illiterates in the United States, but there are. Though it’s sad to see at any age, it’s especially hard to accept that young people today are leaving or graduating school and are unable to read a bus schedule, fill out standardized forms, comprehend a  blog for the reader, or speak English well enough to get a job.

But denying the problem exists or dismissing it as a problem of minorities or immigrants, we miss an opportunity to speak candidly about an issue that really could define America in a few years.  The illiterate not only fail to contribute to society or even hold their own, they become takers, victims, and in some cases, victimizers when they turn to crime.

Everyone should feel obligated to solving the literacy crisis plaguing America, for truly everyone will bear some of the burdensome results that come from a nation that fails to raise self-sufficient, intelligent youth.  We need to embrace white papers like this one – and to heed the concerns and conclusions of those who have actively fought the problem.  Our nation’s future depends on it.

2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Thursday, February 18, 2016

12 Steps To Grow On Twitter

Authors ask me all of the time:  “What can I do to grow my followers on Twitter?”

There are many ways to answer it, but let’s look at the core basics first:

1.      Say something controversial.  Offer something for free. Help a charity or good cause. Say what hasn’t been said. Praise an issue.  Expose a secret.  In short, write an interesting tweet – others will then circulate it.

2.      Make sure you are on Twitter.  Fill out your profile and share your Twitter handle on all of your branding tools:  blog, website, business card, email signature, other social media profiles, and on press releases.

3.      Tweet daily, preferably five to eight times a day.  Like the lottery, you need to be in it to win it. If you don’t tweet, no one pays attention to you.

4.      Be present on Twitter.  Monitor what people are saying that you are following.  Seek out tweets to retweet or ones that inspire you to direct tweet the original sender of that tweet.  Be engaged.

5.      Set goals to build up your number of followers.  Take note each day or week of your progress. If you get 10 new followers a day, you’ll hit 3,650 in just a year’s time.  As you build up your follower numbers people will perceive you as being worth following, so numbers beget numbers.

6.      If you want more followers, follow more people.  A certain percentage will naturally follow you back.

7.      Make quality tweets.  Some tweets should link to your blog and if people start liking what they read, they’ll agree to follow you. Additionally, if your tweet cites useful resources or great content, people will come to see you as a good source and follow you.

8.      Direct tweet people on a regular basis.  Do searches and twitter for categories of people who could be your fans.  Let’s take a topic like dieting.  Maybe you are a nutritionist who wrote a book about weight loss.  You can search for fellow nutritionists, authors, doctors, dieting, health and a host of other topics.  Tweet those people something they’d find of interest, such as a relevant blog post.

9.      Email people that you know and ask them to follow you on Twitter.  Then ask them to tweet about you to their followers.

10.  Give people incentives to follow you.  If people want to download a free white paper or book chapter or a perceived asset/resource, ask them to follow you on Twitter. Even better, have them bring three more followers as well.  Marketing is a number game – keep asking people to do things for you and never stop asking.

11.  Seek out an influencer. Check hashtags and see who writes on topics related to you.  See how many followers they have.  For a select few, seek to befriend them. Think of what you can give to or offer them, from a support and great ideas to partnering on a project.  Simply ask how you can help them and they may just help you.

12.  Don’t forget to tweet images.  I love words, but I admit that an image is worth a thousand words – or at least 140 characters.  Images have a better chance of going viral.

Twitter can help you grow your digital footprint, and in turn, raise book sales and increase traffic to your blog and website. The above 12 methods, if followed loyally, don’t guarantee anything – but they are the foundation for positioning yourself to have a chance at growing your platform.  Be authentic, aggressive, and creative and you’ll tap into a formula for Twitter success.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Is Free Speech Not Honored On Twitter?

It’s been said many times that real free speech doesn’t exist in America.  Try telling your boss what you really think of him or just ask your teacher why you can’t write about his or her sex life in the school newspaper.  We hope, however, that free speech exists when it comes to people being able to speak against the government without retribution, i.e., jail.  But what are we to make of Twitter’s crack down on posts by those it deems as extremists?

Twitter just announced it suspended 125,000 Twitter accounts associated with extremism since the middle of 2015.  It says it is protecting Twitter from being used to promote terrorism.

On the surface this may sound good. If Twitter has a member solely dedicated to recruiting ISIS members and using its service to have beheading videos displayed so that members can raise funds for its criminal operations, we’d probably say shut it down.  But like all free speech measures that are well-intentioned and seem limited in scope, they tear away at what free speech is all about.

Protest speech is exactly what needs to be protected. When Republicans criticize our president as unethical, illegal, worst-ever, and power-abuser, how far off is that from a Muslim saying he or she supports those who don’t like America?  You see where I’m going: Where do you draw the line?

Offensive statements, hate speech, or calls for a revolution are protected by the First Amendment.  Terrorism is no different.

No, I don’t want to help terrorists kill innocent people and threaten America, but I don’t want the treatment of pro-terrorist speech to kill and destroy the high American ideal and value known as free speech.

Social media sites are a bit different than most businesses.  It’s one thing if McDonald's says it won’t post a pro-terrorism essay in its company newsletter but it’s another thing when FB, YouTube, and Twitter start to censor speech and content that technically is not criminal. For instance, Twitter won’t allow someone to post a naked photo of a 13-year-old-girl. Why?  It’s deemed child pornography by the government.  But if I stood on a street corner and got a permit to hold a pro-ISIS rally, I have such a right. So if I write about that peaceful, legal, rally on Twitter, should Twitter have the right to shut me down? 

Do we expand beyond terrorism and ISIS and now Twitter shuts down other political talk?

Let’s look at books. I have the right to publish a book in support of ISIS and listing ways people can join the group.  So why would Twitter not allow me to do the same – or to talk about that book?

This is one of those topics that most people won’t look too deeply into.  Their reaction is: “good, let’s crack down on terrorists.”  But they need to think about First Amendment consequences.

Outside acts of extreme violence (define those, please), how do we know where to draw the line on what people have a right to speak or write about?

I firmly believe that truth always wins out.  Rather than yank a Twitter account off the grid, keep it there. Let law enforcement move on to it and use it in a way that leads to capturing terrorists, protecting against future attacks, and to gain insights in how they operate. Further, let the good people who oppose ISIS counter these negative accounts by creating messages that oppose them and that educate people against them.  If something is obviously good, better, and truthful it should win out over false propaganda.

Trust me, I don’t defend terrorism or ISIS.  But I don’t defend ignoring the principles of our Constitution.  Free speech is what keeps us a civilized, strong and great nation.  We can’t censor what we disagree with or don’t like.  In the process, we’ll throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Dead Journalists Should Make Headlines

49 journalists were murdered in 2015 – a lot more than the average of 33 per year from 1992-2014.  90% of the nearly 800 journalist murders in the past 23 years have gone unsolved, unprosecuted.  It is open season on those seeking to expose the truth, keep the rich and powerful honest, and protect the First Amendment.

The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that it’s not in the war zones that the majority of journalist deaths can be attributed.  Instead, the most dangerous occupation appears to be journalists covering politics.

We are fortunate, in the United States, to be a book writer, blogger, or journalist.  Few people are hunting those who write for a living here.  But just because it may be physically safer for one to be a journalist in the U.S. than in other parts of the world, doesn’t mean the job doesn’t come without challenges, risks, or threats.

Real journalism is under attack in many ways – financially, legally, politically, technologically – but when the media has to worry about real life and death circumstances it makes it very difficult to do the job it is taxed to do.   When our free press is compromised, our faith in the society that holds us together is compromised. Who else is keeping a check on the government, the rich and powerful, and the police?  Who else is paying attention to the forces that shape our lives?

It’s hard to believe, but being a journalist can be a risky occupation.  People with powerful interests don’t respect a free press any more than they respect the police and legal system.  They operate under their own self-interest rules, using money, threats, coercion, blackmail, and muscle to enact their wishes.

It’s actually amazing that the journalist murder rate isn’t higher.  You’d think if even one journalist was killed per country, there’d be an annual death toll of 200 worldwide.  Or if one was killed per state, there’d be 50 annually in the U.S.  So even though one murder in the world is one too many journalists killed, I’m amazed the toll is not higher than last year’s 49.  Warzones, gangs, organized crime, the police, the military and big business won’t let journalists get in the way of their corrupt, illegal or violent practices.  So it makes me wonder:  Are journalists doing something to avoid being killed on the job?

Perhaps better legal protections, technology and journalist training contribute to the death toll containment – or are journalists no longer the unbiased guardians of truth?  Are they becoming corrupt or avoiding certain stories out of fear?  Have journalists changed, no longer risking it all to get the big scoop?

Make no mistake, journalism is under attack.  We must stand tall and protect the people who protect us and the truth.  Journalists are the true soldiers in the war to protect society and human decency.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

An Introduction To The Revolutionary Whole Book Approach For Children's Books

Megan Dowd Lambert is an exceptional woman.  She has developed a new approach to children’s literacy called The Whole Book Approach Method. In association with the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, she has published a new book (Charlesbridge) called Reading Picture Books with Children: How to Shake Up Storytime and Get Kids Talking About What They See.  

Megan’s innovative approach to storytime really does shake things up and not only does it make these valuable moments more interesting and fun, kids hone their cognitive thinking skills at the same time.  

“I began envisioning an approach that would invite children to engage with great picture book art on their own terms,” Megan says. "Like so many others, I appreciate the ease and convenience of screen readers, but a Kindle can’t hold a candle to the love I have for a book in hand,"

She has the right credentials to write this book. A senior lecturer in children’s literature at Simmons College, where she earned her master’s degree in children’s literature, Megan served on the 2011 Caldecott committee and now writes for the Horn Book Magazine. In 2009, Mass Literacy named her a Massachusetts Literary Champion.

As a reader, a mother, and a teacher, I know that we carry picture books about with us, not just as physical objects in our hands with pages that we turn, but as remembered experiences with stories and art, and with each other," says Megan. "I pick up a single picture book, and I recall not only the specific story and art on its pages but also the myriad insights that it provoked through Whole Book Approach readings that invited children to read words, pictures, and design along with me."

She writes in her book:

"During Whole Book Approach storytimes, children’s active participation in making meaning of all they see and hear during a picture book reading takes precedence over moving through the pages at the pace of the adult’s oral reading of the text.  The word “approach” is crucial – this is not a prescriptive method that would have you asking specific questions about picture book illustration and design in a certain order as you read aloud.  Instead, the Whole Book Approach simply stresses inviting children to react to the whole book – its art, design, production, paratextual and textual elements – in ways that feel natural and enriching to them and to you as the adult reader.  This method requires that storytime leaders – be they teachers, librarians, parents, or other adults engaged in reading picture books with children – immerse themselves in understanding the picture book as a multi-modal art form (one that uses both visual and verbal modes of communication) in order to consider how not only text and illustration but all design and production elements might contribute to the shared reading."

A spokesman for her publisher says: "The Whole Book Approach is a practical guide for reshaping storytime and getting kids to think with their eyes.  Whether storytime takes place in the classroom, library, or home, The Whole Book Approach serves as an elegant primer on the picture book art form for readers of all ages.  you will learn how the size and shape of a book influence how we perceive its content; how the jacket, casing, endpapers, and front-matter pages set the stage for the story to come; and how typography and page design impact the reader’s experience.

Megan began laying the foundation for the Whole Book Approach when she was working for the education department of the Eric Carle Museum. Several years – and about 25,000 students and 3,000 professionals – later, Megan is ready to share her groundbreaking technique for reading picture books with young children.

Chapters cover subjects like trim size and orientation, jackets and covers, endpapers, typography, and more.  With examples from well-known books, discover how a picture book’s design, illustrations, and words work together to tell a story and how incorporating these elements into the reading of the story enhances a child’s learning and love of reading.

As a result of reading Megan's book and employing her method, you may end up being part of a revolutionary approach to literacy. They should make a children's book to illustrate her success story.

Here is an interview with the author:

1.   Megan, why are you proposing we change how books are consumed by children?
It’s not so much that I’m proposing a change, it’s more that I am asking us to consider our intentions when we read with children. Literacy experts identify performance-based storytimes and co-constructive storytimes, and I’d place the Whole Book Approach in the latter camp. Shared readings can be a great source of entertainment in performance-storytimes in which the text is read aloud, uninterrupted. Children get a lot out of immersing themselves in the book’s words and pictures at the pace of the adult’s oral reading—especially if the reader offers a truly engaging performance of the text. I absolutely do not suggest abandoning such shared readings, but I offer the Whole Book Approach as another way to read with kids, or as a source of new idea that adults can add to how they’re already reading picture books with children in their lives.
Adults often act as mediators or gatekeepers in children’s reading lives, and with the Whole Book Approach, I’m advocating a child-centered approach to shared reading that makes children’s responses to picture book text, art, and design integral to storytimes at home, or in classrooms and libraries. This means there’s a lot of stopping and starting in the reading of the text in order to facilitate a discussion of words, pictures, and design. I think there’s another kind of pleasure that is derived from this sort of co-constructive reading. With the Whole Book Approach, I hope to inspire critical thinking, especially with regard to art and design, and to foster an appreciation for printed books in the digital age, not to mention great conversations about books between adults and children.

2.   How did you come to develop what you have coined The Whole Book Approach?

Julie Danielson at the children’s literature blog,  Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast wrote to me after reading my book and said, “with the Whole Book Approach storytime is a cooperative (ad)venture between reader and listener that joins dialogic reading with Visual Thinking Strategies.” I first learned about VTS in 2001 from the Founding Director of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Nick Clark, when the museum was still under construction. I was finishing up my last semester as a graduate student in Children’s Literature at Simmons College by earning my final four credits in an Independent Study I designed that let me support The Carle as it developed its Reading Library collection and drummed up interest with local educators, families, and libraries in the year before its grand opening. Nick told me about VTS and how he planned to implement it in The Carle’s gallery programs and materials, and I was intrigued.

I liked how it took an inquiry-based approach to looking at art by turning the typical museum docent tour on its head: instead of having a guide tell a group tour about a picture, the docent asks the group open-ended questions to invite them to make meaning of what they see. The following overview is adapted from the VTS website.

The following three questions guide the discussion:

  • What's going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

And then the group leader uses these three main facilitation techniques:
  • Paraphrase comments neutrally
  • Point at the area being discussed
  • Linking and framing student comments

Throughout, the group is asked to:
  • Look carefully at works of art
  • Talk about what they observe
  • Back up their ideas with evidence
  • Listen to and consider the views of others
  • Discuss many possible interpretations

After learning about VTS, I started rethinking how I was leading storytime in The Carle’s information office and in outreach visits to area schools and libraries. First, I decided that instead of structuring storytime around a theme, I wanted to simply structure it around sharing a broad range of picture books with children, and I wanted to use VTS questions and techniques to invite them to critically engage with the picture book as a visual art form. I drew on my studies of the picture book at Simmons and started asking kids to reflect on endpapers, layout, why some pictures cross the gutter and some don’t. It was very exciting! In many ways storytime started to feel more like the reading I did at home with my son—it was playful and interactive, and it made children’s responses to art, design, and story central to the experience.

After leading storytimes with over 8,000 children in Western MA, I started travelling farther afield on behalf of The Carle, and the teachers and librarians who hosted me began asking for professional development about the picture book as a visual art form. One librarian in Vermont said that what I was doing reminded her of the PLA & ALSC’s use of dialogic reading in their (then brand-new) Every Child Ready to Read @ Your Library initiative. This was my introduction to dialogic reading, which some describe as “Hear and Say” reading because it uses a series of prompts to ask children to respond to texts as they are read aloud. I realized that the storytime model I was developing might be thought of as “see, hear, and say” reading because I was integrating a focus on the visual elements of shared reading by focusing on illustrations and design.

So I integrated influences from VTS, dialogic reading, and my graduate study of the picture book as a visual art form and started inviting kids to make meaning of all they saw and heard from picture books at storytime. In workshops, talks, and professional writing, I started calling my technique the “Whole Book Approach” because I wanted to highlight the potential for all of the parts of the picture book—text, art, design, and production elements—to be sources of meaning and delight in shared readings.

3.      What evidence do you have that such a methodology works – and that it is as good or better than any current approach? I’d never say that the Whole Book Approach is a “better” way of reading aloud—there’s too much to be gained from other approaches (like performance-storytimes) to assert that one way is better than another. But since there are many kinds of learners and learning styles, I just think that there’s room for many approaches to sharing picture books. The Whole Book Approach is an intentional way to engage children with talking about art and design during shared readings of picture books. It’s also child-centered as it makes their responses integral to a reading. The adult’s job is to provide the facilitation needed to keep the experience engaging, enriching, and fun for everyone.

Along with my academic study of the picture book as a visual art form, VTS and Dialogic Reading are the main sources of inspiration for the Whole Book Approach, and their proponents have data and documentation to highlight how their pedagogy supports learning. I do not claim that the Whole Book Approach is the same as VTS or Dialogic Reading, but I encourage readers to investigate their work documenting the great potential of co-constructive, inquiry-based learning.

I also take great inspiration from the work of veteran early childhood educator Vivian Gussin Paley, whom I heard speak when I was also asked to present at the 2008 Kindergarten Conference at Lesley University. “I call on you to be foot soldiers in an army of anecdotes about the importance of play in children’s lives and learning,” she remarked, and I heard that call loud and clear. While recognizing the contemporary need for hard data about pedagogical methods that raise test scores and document children’s learning across the curriculum, Paley was adamant that we must also speak, write, read, and listen to stories about individual children and the stuff of their imaginative, creative lives. In essence, she argued that speaking to and about the heart in our advocacy on behalf of children is just as important as speaking to the mind.
In my book, rather than focusing on the central place of play in children’s lives and learning, my contributions to an army of anecdotes center on reading aloud and all of the cognitive play involved in children’s interactions with picture books. Where Paley works to document and explore children’s storytelling and dramatic play, I explore children’s active engagement with stories, pictures, and design as readers, listeners, viewers, thinkers, and as emotional beings.

4.   What did you learn about the beauty of children and their love for books while working at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art? I don’t know if this quite answers your question, but time and again, I learned that children saw and noticed things in picture books that I did not, and so I learned to slow down and let their questions and responses guide the pacing of the reading. Children come to picture books with their own experiences, strengths, and perspectives, and I want to give room for them and their resulting diverse responses to encounters with words, pictures and design.

“The beauty of children” that I see is the beauty of humanity. There is a humanizing potential in literature, and in all art, and in our encounters with it. By sharing experiences of and in these encounters we can explore what it is to be human. I know this sounds rather lofty for storytime fare, but literature and art, in all of their forms, are representations of human experience, and of our hopes and values and beliefs and questions. Picture books can therefore engage children with the human project of representing life in art. In my work I want that engagement to position the child as an active participant in making, interrogating, and exploring the meanings that picture books can offer.\

5.   Why are kids still slipping through the cracks and entering adulthood without strong functioning literary skills? This is a big question! I’m afraid I am not the best person to give a thorough answer, but I will say that I have learned a tremendous amount from Jonathan Kozol’s books—especially Savage Inequalities, Illiterate America, and The Shame of the Nation. I also want to recommend that everyone listen to this episode of “This American Life”. I am sure that systemic racism, continuing segregation arising from myriad historical and contemporary factors, and entrenched class stratification have a lot to do with the complex problem you cite, and this episode helps to expose such underlying factors. These sources just scratch the surface; there many, many scholars, activists, teachers, librarians, caregivers, and students themselves who are working to expose and address inequities in our educational system.

My book is not focused on school reform; nor is it overtly about dismantling racism or addressing class inequality. It is about empowering all children to think critically and it’s about giving their voices space in interactions with adults.

6.   By putting a greater emphasis on the visuals of a book, are you not emphasizing the words enough? The Whole Book Approach is founded on the recognition of the picture book as a multimodal text in which words and pictures work together to tell a story or convey information. So in my storytimes I say that we read the words but we also read the pictures. Words don’t get short shrift, but art and design get more attention than they would in a performance-storytime.        

7.   What are some of the best children’s books that you recommend children read with their parents? There are too many to name! I purposefully did not include a book list in my book because I didn’t want readers to think that the Whole Book Approach only works with some picture books. Try it out with any picture book! But, I love to direct people to the We Need Diverse Books website as a resource for finding books, and I will take this opportunity to highlight books I have recently used in Whole Book Approach storytimes and trainings and others that I am eagerly anticipating after seeing them at ALA midwinter in January:

Picture Books Used in Recent WBA Storytimes and Trainings:

·         My Father Is Taller than a Tree, by Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin
·         Freight Train by Donald Crews
·         Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de LaPeña, illustrated by Christian Robinson
·         Hush, Little Baby: A Folk Song with Pictures by Marla Frazee
·         Waiting by Kevin Henkes
·         Shhh! We Have a Plan by Chris Houghton
·         Big Red Lollipop Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
·         This Is Not My Hat by John Klassen
·         A Crow of His Own by Megan Dowd Lambert, illustrated by David Hyde Costello
·         Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr., illustrated by Eric Carle
·         Just a Minute! A Trickster Counting Book by Yuyi Morales
·         This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, illustrated by Julie Morstad
·         The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
·         Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka
·         Bully; Green; and I Used to Be Afraid by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
·         Roger Is Reading a Book by Koen Van Biesen

Anticipating in 2016:
·         Thunder Boy, Jr. by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
·         Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian, illustrated by Mike Curato
·         Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Stream of Ideas by Chris Barton, illustrated by Don Tate
·         The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith
·         Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by Rafael Lopez
·         Blocks by Irene Dickson
·         Old Dog Baby Baby by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Chris Raschka
·         When Green Becomes Tomatoes by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Julie Morstad
·         In Plain Sight by Richard Jackson, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
·         Real Sisters Pretend by Megan Dowd Lambert illustrated by Nicole Tadgell
·         Emma and Julia Love Ballet by Barbara McLintock
·         School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson
·         There Is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith
·         Ideas Are All Around and Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
·         Sing with Me! by Nakao Stoop
·         Home At Last by Vera B. Williams, illustrated by Chris Rashka

As I look at these lists, I am sure I am leaving out wonderful ones, so I hope readers will regard them as starting points. And, yes, I did include my own picture books in a bit of shameless self-promotion but also to highlight to work of my amazing illustrators.

8.   You point out that ebooks may have their appeal or convenience for some adults, but why are children’s books best enjoyed through a paper edition? The picture book as a visual art form. Digital platforms will evolve to make the most of how they can be used to tell stories and engage readers, but the picture book codex (bound at one side with paper pages to turn) is a perfect technology unto itself. I think there are reasons that transcend the sentimental or nostalgic for why the picture book is not only surviving, but thriving in the digital age, and I believe it will continue to do so. These reasons are based in the physicality of the book, and in what its design affords all of us, children and adults, when we meet in its pages. Page-turns, pacing, the size of the book, all of these elements, and more, contribute to how we experience the stories that picture books tell. And ultimately, every picture book holds, not just its illustrated story, but memories of shared readings and thus have the potential to become part of the material culture of our lives.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2016