Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Reading - With Love - A Guest Post by Sue Kotchman

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome Sue Kotchman. A former educator and school administrator, Kotchman continued her passion for education after her retirement by writing children's books, including Sam, With Love,From Grandma and With Love, From Grandpa,and Mason's This and That Day. Her newest book, School Dazed, was released in January, 2019. Kotchman was our featured writer on September 3, 2016.
When I retired from the Pinellas County School District, I left behind thirty-two years of working with students, teachers, parents, grandparents and wonderful colleagues. My last stint, as an elementary school principal, was probably the most challenging, yet wonderfully rewarding, position I held, with the exception of teaching young children to read and write. My retirement was sudden, due to an unexpected brain bleed which miraculously healed, leaving me with a second chance at life, a grateful attitude toward God and a new purpose to fulfill. I knew my purpose was to continue to promote literacy and use my abilities to reach young children in a new way – write books for children that tell realistic stories, through characters they can relate to and situations they often encounter in school and daily living.  

Everything is constantly moving and changing around in our world and I needed to roll with the changes. BUT some of those changes I find very threatening to our young people. As I continue to do research, I’m alarmed with amount of time our young children are spending on digital media and other screen time devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics has posted articles mentioning this, and there are dangers of our children being challenged with sleep problems and obesity as a result. I was speaking to a colleague a few days ago, and she mentioned her niece had to be taken to an addiction counselor because she could not put down her phone! She actually had withdrawal issues if the phone wasn't at her side. I was on a cruise ship and I witnessed  a toddler on an i-pad, refusing to listen to her parent’s directions because she was busy! I know we all see this in the restaurants, as well.

I remember my mom using dinnertime as a great communication session with our siblings. They weren’t always pleasant conversations, but we learned to speak with a variety of vocabulary words, make eye contact and become active listeners to one another. These are very important social behaviors our young children are missing because they aren’t given enough opportunities when the media devices are in their hands. How rude is it when you are at a checkout register and the person is gabbing on their phone? Wouldn’t it be great to make eye contact with the clerk, give them a smile and ask them how their day is going? I think everyone loves a good compliment and a smile. Research also states eight to twelve year-olds are spending an average of over four hours a day on screen media. Some of this is school work done at home, but I’m a strong believer that our children need to read, read and read more, to keep their minds healthy and develop their ability to communicate with others in a healthy manner. I hate to think, when the power goes down during a hurricane or storm, our young children won’t be able to find solace in reading a good book. 

All of this brings me to why I write heartwarming books, with lovely illustrations, for children. Each of my books provide deep meaning with value for life, and the realistic characters portray ordinary young people our children will relate to. Mason’s This and That Day is the story of a fun-loving young boy who is easily distracted and often overwhelmed with the decisions he has to make. He can’t seem to focus, but oh what fun he has. It is recommended for ages 6-9. My newest book School Dazed, is a story about three classmates, coming from diverse backgrounds, who wonder if they will survive another school year of stress and disappointments – only to discover life is not always as it seems. School Dazed is a great read for the first day of elementary school and reread as new students move to a new classroom.  A new teacher, as well, will love this book, because it actually has examples of classroom set-ups and a discipline plan. This book is also ideal for a jump start lesson to teach poetry and descriptive writing to children. Learning and Loving It is an activity book containing ideas to enrich stories, as well as art activities to compliment them.  

For more information, visit Sue Kotchman Books on Facebook or

Monday, April 1, 2019

Reading, Research, and Movies Helped Me Write: "The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley" - A Guest Post by Nina Romano

This month, Fabulous Florida Writers is pleased to welcome guest blogger Nina Romano.
Romano has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks. She was nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry and has co-authored Writing in a Changing World.  She is the author of the Wayfarer Trilogy: The Secret Language of Women; Lemon Blossoms; and In America. Her latest novel is The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradley, a Western historical romance. Romano was out featured writer on November 8, 2017.

Research is a given when writing an historical fiction. In order to write The Girl Who Loved Cayo Bradly, I read the history and geography of New Mexico and St. Louis, Missouri in the time period I wanted to write about before I decided to set my novel in these locales. I also studied many novels written by wonderful Western authors for background information and style. Some of these are: Willa Cather, Jack London, Zane Grey, Larry McMurtry, Charles Frazier, Cormac McCarthy, E. Annie Proulx, Louis L’Amour and many others.

Westerns have always been considered a genre that offers enthralling and spellbinding ways to integrate old ideas into modern literature. A well-portrayed Western novel should comprise what a reader expects of our old-formed ideas and traditions, but must also have a compelling plot. In order to drive the story, the motivations of strong characters with deep-seeded emotions must be employed, but settings, diction, customs, rituals, and behaviors should resonate in a way to make the story seem timeless.

My story began with a young boy being captured by Jicarilla Apache and being raised as an Indian in New Mexico in the 1870’s. His challenge was to conform to white society once he left his tribe. I used the technique of alternating chapter POV’s and flashbacks for back story in order to reveal character development, change and reversal.

To sound like an authority, it’s important to remain faithful to what has preceded and has been accepted as Western literature. To paraphrase author Frederick W. Boling, as a writer you should be reading whatever genre you’re writing in—good and bad alike. An author learns from the well-written novels but also discovers how to avoid pitfalls from the poorly expressed ones.

I read for background study purposes, and not only the classics. In order to craft a story or novel, I agree with Boling—read everything. I continue to read this genre: everything and anything. There are always lessons to be gleaned from anything written.

However, I was also fortunate enough to be able to travel to the places where I wanted to set my novel. Not every author has the wherewithal to travel—this is a huge perk—but again, I say that if you cannot travel then research and media can render what seems far-removed familiar.

Settings and descriptions play an integral part in devising the Western story. How else can one picture what happened in the glorious past of our Western Frontier and Expansion? Do what I did. For context and background, I watched and continue to view Western movies—old and new—classics and even B movies, including every decade of Western films produced by Hollywood and a few of those “Spaghetti Westerns,” too!

One of those old films might just deliver something to intrigue—action, lingo and dialect, clothing, settings, weapons. Movies are scenic. They show action and render dialogue envisioned for us on the big screen. These scenes are pictorials to learn from and utilize in writing. Cinema and moving pictures give us ideas of how to describe action from various positions in order to paint vivid images for readers.

For more information, visit the author's website at
You can also find her on Facebook at  or on Twitter at