This month’s spotlight is on Beryl Reichenberg, Beryl has been with Nightwriters for quite a while, but I for one, do not know her as well as I should. I’m sure this is true for our newer members. So with great pleasure, let’s get acquainted with, or re-acquainted with Beryl.
NW: “Who are you?”
Thank you for this opportunity to introduce myself. Many of you probably know that I write and illustrate children’s books. You may not know that I am also a fiber artist. I have lived in San Luis Obispo for nearly 50 years, spending most of my life in California.
NW: Who is your greatest inspiration?
My greatest inspiration is my grandfather. As a young child, I remember listening to his stories about the adventures of the three jolly fleas as we sat in an old rocking chair by the fireplace. Sadly, none of these stories were preserved. They only survive as warm memories from my childhood.
NW: Do you have a blog or website?
NW: What genre do you like to write?
I write and illustrate children’s picture books both fiction and non-fiction. Recently I began writing a chapter books for older children, ages seven to ten. Although I usually illustrate my books, I do collaborate with other artists, including a talented, eleven-year-old girl. Her delightful dragons in my picture book, A Real Dragon, are exceptional and well liked by my readers.
A small publisher, Oak Tree Press, published six of my books, and I self-published the rest of my stories.
NW: Tell us about your favorite story that you have written.
My favorite picture book is Ants on a Log, partly because it is a retelling of my son’s childhood and his dislike for vegetables. In my rendition, a young rabbit named Jack also hates vegetables until he eats a school snack, called ants on a log. (For those who don’t know, ants on a log is a celery stick, with peanut butter inside and raisins on top.) Eventually, Jack learns to like salads, vegetable pizza and even cooked carrots.
NW: Tell us about your latest project.
I usually have several projects going at once. I am reworking a picture book to self-publish with CreateSpace. Dancing Critter in the Trees is written in rhyme for young children three to six years old. In writing this story, I was inspired by watching a squirrel swinging through the trees attempting to grab peanuts from a bird feeder.
I am also s co-author on another picture book, Slideville Critters Become Champs. This story is about a unique baseball team, featuring a kangaroo, a cheetah and an elephant. These animals use their special skills to help their team win a championship. Our manuscript is finished, and we are currently collaborating with an illustrator.
My third project is a chapter book for children, ages six to ten. My Secret Kid Sister is a ghost story. It is a retelling of my nine-year-old granddaughter’s recent visit to the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. Like several other hotels around the country, this hotel is said to be haunted.
NW: Do you have a day job?
Fortunately, I am retired and can create to my heart’s content, although writing, publishing and marketing can seem like a full-time job.
NW: How does your family support you in your writing?
Charlie, my husband, is my in-house editor. He once worked for McGraw-Hill as an editor. His editing experience is of tremendous help, especially with proof reading my manuscripts and discussing story ideas.
My four grandchildren, ranging in age from six to eleven, represent the biggest inspirations for stories. Sometimes I ask them to read my manuscripts and offer suggestions from a child’s perspective. They are my biggest fans.
NW: How does NW help you?
NightWriters is invaluable. Early on, I joined a NW critique group and met several talented children book authors. They provided both useful advice and support. The general meetings are important learning experiences, especially the pre-program critique group. I also find the Cuesta Writer’s Conferences and the Society of Children Book Authors and Illustrators helpful.
NW: How do you handle rejection letters?
At first, I dreaded rejection letters. But over time, I realized that I had a number of options. I could send the manuscript to another agent/publisher,let the story ferment, revise my manuscript or publish it myself.
NW: Tell us something surprising about yourself.
I have a twin sister, but we are not identical.
NW: Besides writing, what are your other hobbies?
I am a fiber artist working mostly in paper and mixed media. I usually create three-dimensional, sculptural and book-art pieces. I belong to both the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art and the Gallery at the Network participating in many of their exhibits and juried shows and also exhibiting in other galleries and museums. On a regular basis, I teach local children paper craft and bookmaking. I enjoy traveling to foreign countries and have been all over the world. Charlie and I usually take two or more trips a year. For relaxation, I like to read, usually mystery stories or non-fiction history, archaeology and science.
September if a full month for my kids’ paper Craft Classes including making books about summer fun and a flag book. I’ve been teaching these classes for a couple of years at various locations along the Central California Coast. I started holding these classes as a way of marketing my picture books and collecting a mailing list, but they have turned out to be fun and a way of interacting with kids and their parents. I now do several classes a month, usually an hour long.
Sometimes I have only a couple of kids and sometimes a class of 20. I prefer smaller sessions with four or five children as these give me more time to help individuals. Because some cutting, coloring, drawing and folding is involved, children under six need the help of an adult. Normally I also ask the parents if they would like to make a book as well. I bring all the supplies necessary for the project and cut the paper, etc. before the sessions.
I started holding these classes as a way of marketing my picture books and collecting a mailing list, but they have turned out to be fun and a way of interacting with kids and their parents. I now do several classes a month, usually an hour long. Sometimes I have only a couple of kids and sometimes a class of 20. I prefer smaller sessions with four or five children as these give me more time to help individuals. Because some cutting, coloring, drawing and folding is involved, children under six need the help of an adult. Normally I also ask the parents if they would like to make the project as well. I bring all the supplies necessary for the project and cut the paper, etc. before the sessions.
Usually, these classes are an hour long. Sometimes I have only a couple of kids and sometimes a class of 20. I prefer smaller sessions with four or five children as these give me more time to help individuals. Because some cutting, coloring, drawing and folding is involved, children under six need the help of an adult. Normally I also ask the parents if they would like to make a book as well.
I bring all the supplies necessary for the project and cut the paper, etc. before the sessions. I try to provide a variety of colored papers, punched out shapes, pens, stencils, and other supplies to excite their imagination and creativity. The internet is full of projects especially Pinterest but because I am a handmade book artist, I have done many of these forms before.
You might try this marketing technique and see if it works for you.
All my Oak Tree Press Books are now available for Nook, Kindle and Apple Products (with Kindle App). Go to my web page for ordering ebooks WWW.berylreichenberg.com.
Click on the appropriate link or order from Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Oak Tree Press and enjoy.
Earth Day is coming on April 24 and I have a couple of events schedules.
For the 20th, I’ll be showing children how to make a Garden Book at the Atascadero Library from 3:30 to 4:30, I’ll also be reading my story “Backyard Birds” and we’ll talk about what the kids have in their own gardens, plants and creatures. Because I’ll be doing this session for the San Luis Obispo Botanical Gardens and the Atascadero Library’s Know Your Community day, I’ll also be talking about the Botanical Gardens and passing out their brochures as well as my own brochures. The public is welcome.
On April 24th, I will be attending the Earth Day Celebration at the Botanical Garden’s booth showing children how to do same the Garden Book. I will highlighting my two children’s books about butterflies published by Oak Tree Press, When Caterpillars Dream and Butterfly Girls. We’ll talk about the importance of butterflies in that they help pollinate plants. We’ll also discuss the necessity of preserving the micro-environments that Monarch Butterflies use to winter over on the Central California Coast and preserving milkweed plan that Monarch caterpillars eat.
The organizers anticipate a big crowd and lots of children. For those on in San Luis Obispo, California the celebration will be held at a county park near the Botanical Gardens on Highway one just north of town across from Cuesta Community College.
What do you do when you want to send your books to a third-world country halfway around the world?
During my December trip to Southern India, I visited a local village school near Mysore. Usually on overseas trips, I bring copies of my children’s picture books to give away, but this time I left them home not knowing we would be visiting a local school.
The school’s one-room library was basic. There were few books, many of which were picture books even though the school taught children up to age 14. The principal explained that pupils learning to read English found picture books helpful regardless of their age. When I offered to send them some of my picture books, the staff was delighted and gave me the school’s address.
How best to send my books to the school? From previous experiences sending packages abroad, I knew that some foreign mail services were unreliable. Looking at the school’s address again, I was puzzled by what all the words meant. Which word was the name of the school, the principal, etc.? What was the string of numbers at the end, the school’s phone number, the principal’s number or maybe a zip code?
Using regular mail also would be expensive. In addition to the postage, the books had already been purchased at wholesale prices. I decided to investigate other options.
I checked out Amazon, a source for all of my books, both published by Oak Tree Press and self-published and discovered they had an Indian outlet. Amazon India did indeed carry some but not all of my books. They listed a wide variety of prices. Some books retailed $30, while others were under $10. Their price did not seem to correspond to the prices in the U.S. An added benefit by using Amazon India was there was free shipping. This option would cost less than my original estimate of sending wholesale priced books via regular mail.
Using Amazon might also guarantee delivery. If the address were wrong, I’d be alerted. The last thing I wanted was to have my package of books forgotten in some post office warehouse somewhere in India or returned to me as undeliverable. I took the added precaution of emailing my Indian tour guide that the books were ordered, so she could alert the school.
On December 30, I ordered seven books, some published by Oak Tree Press and some self-published. I crossed my fingers that I had the right address. There were two different Indian companies handling the books for Amazon. Each having their own inventory so I was dealing with two separate orders and companies. It was hard to tell how long the order might take to arrive. I wasn’t sure if the books would be shipped from the U.S. to the distribution companies in India or whether a PDF file would be sent to an Indian printing house.
On January 18, I received an email from Amazon India that the books were on their way to the school from New Delhi. I had a tracking number with a possible delivery date, January 30. Every couple of days I checked the tracking number to see how the delivery was progressing. Even after January 30, I still received the same delivery estimate with assurances that the packages still were on their way.
I envisioned the delivery van winding its way across the unpaved roads of India’s interior searching for a tiny school in some obscure village. As long as there was no word from Amazon India that they couldn’t find the address, I felt confident.
Then came the message, “Oops. It’s not going to be delivered by January 30 but on February 20.“ To my relief on February 20, I received a message that the package had been delivered on the first of February.
The moral: Don’t always believe messages coming from the tracking service. They can be incorrect. Do have faith in Amazon. They deliver!
Mary likes to dance but when she tries to dance with the Fall leaves in her yard, she is mysteriously carried away by the wind. Her trip takes her far into the forest where she lands on a tall tree top. Climbing down and then finding her way home seems impossible, until she meets two forest creatures who help her.
My new picture book will appeal to kids up to the age of eight. It includes a brief description of why Autumn leaves turn color and a space for children to draw their own pictures or write their own adventure.
This story is available from my website: http://www.berylreichenberg.com, from several bookstores, museums and toy stories on the Central California Coast and from Amazon. com.