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Guest interview-Mayra Calvani

Today I have a special guest visiting-Mayra Calvani. I meet her through my Latino writers Yahoo group. She's going to be talking about her newly released book, THE MAGIC VIOLIN (Guardian Angel Publishing), November 2007. I'll be posting a review of her book on December 22.


I love the illustrations in your story! THE MAGIC VIOLIN has an old fashion feel to it. What was the inspiration behind your book?

My young daughter and I both started playing the violin about five years ago, so I know very well how difficult it can be at times, especially when learning a new piece. The violin is a very difficult instrument to master, requiring lots of discipline, perseverance and commitment, and this can be hard for a child at times. My love for the violin and watching my daughter play were my inspiration for the story. I wanted to create a tale which would be fun and magical, yet one which would encourage children and teach them about self esteem at the same time.

Tell us about your publisher?

Lynda Burch, editor/owner of Guardian Angel Publishing, has been wonderful to work with. She works very hard to distribute our books, which are available from all online retailers and brick and mortar bookstores. She’s one of several traditional publishers today who use the POD technology. By this I mean that she’s like any traditional press—selective with submissions (I believe only 3% of submissions are accepted), meticulous with editing and layout, etc.—but the books are printed one at a time instead of offset. She also accepts return from bookstores like most traditional publishers.

What is a typical writing day for you?

I get up early to take the kids to school, then come home and tidy up a bit. I’m unable to sit and work surrounded by chaos. I prefer ‘organized’ chaos. If I’m lucky, I’ll write for two or three hours. The internet and email is very tempting and I try to avoid it. It can be a big distraction when I write. So I try to concentrate on the writing first, then on answering emails, group posts, etc. There’s always some kind of promotion to do for my books. I also edit a newsletter, co-edit another one (with mystery author Anne K. Edwards) and keep two blogs, so I’m always looking for new material, articles, authors to interview, etc. Plus, there’s also the reviews. I’ve been reviewing books for a few years now and I always have a book to read or a review to write. After 3pm, the afternoons are for my family. In the night I get online again, but not for writing. My mind is sharper in the morning and I find I’m always too tired at night to work. Days are always full and I’m always pretty busy. There are days when I have too many errands to run so writing is impossible. I also have to find time to practice violin and walk the dog… the list is endless! But I try not to use lack of time as an excuse. There’s ALWAYS time to write, if you MAKE the time. The truth is, there’s never the perfect time to write, but you just have to do it; procrastination in writing always brings up bitterness and self loathing, at least for me, and this reflects itself in the time you spend with family and friends. As I always say, ‘A mom who has written today is a happy mom.’

What are some ways you are promoting your book?

I sent The Magic Violin to about 25 reviewers, contacted about 200 violin/music shops (this was very effective), and organized this virtual book tour. Since it’s a Christmas book, time was crucial. The book was released in November, so it’s been pretty hectic. I also started a blog exclusively for violin-related books and authors/violinists. This was a good move, I think, because the response has been very positive. The link is www.violinandbooks.wordpress.com. I’ve joined several violin-related groups and forums and next year plan to send flyers to about 1,000 libraries and independent bookstores.

What is your favorite book?

Hmm. It’s so hard to have to choose just one! For children’s books, it would have to be The Velveteen Rabbit (though it always makes me cry!). For adult books, probably The Awakening.

What writer inspires you? Why?

For a long time I was very influenced by the rich, baroque writing style of Anne Rice. I still find it very evoking and get immediately inspired when I re-read her work. I’m not an avid fan of her late books, but I love her early works—Interview with a Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, and The Witching Hour. I also love Kate Chopin, especially her book, The Awakening. I always want to get up and write when I read that book, which I have read many times, by the way!

Diet Coke or regular?


Do you have any future projects?

I’m currently looking for a publisher for another violin-related picture book, The Doll Violinist (a collaboration with talented illustrator Amy Moreno, www.amycullingsmoreno.com). I’m also polishing a tween novel and preparing/writing a proposal for Harper Collins. I have another picture book coming in spring 2008, also by Guardian Angel Publishing.

Where can readers find out more on you? Website? Blog?

I have two websites and several blogs:

My official website, www.mayracalvani.com
My children’s books website, www.mayrassecretbookcase.com

My newsletter, The Fountain Pen, www.thefountainpennewsletter.blogspot.com

Mayra’s Secret Bookcase (the blog), www.mayrassecretbookcase.blogspot.com
Violin and Books, www.violinandbooks.wordpress.com
The Dark Phantom Review, www.thedarkphantom.wordpress.com

What advice do you have to those you want to write a picture book?

Read as many picture books as possible. As you read, study the book, dissect it, and think about what made it work (or not). Join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and the Children’s-Writers Yahoo group . Join a good critique group, either locally or online; sometimes authors fall in love with their own stories and it’s hard to be objective. Feedback from other writers can be very helpful. Don’t let anything get in the way of your dream. And of course, write, write, write!

If you are looking for a special Christmas book, this is the one! Comment either on this blog or on Mayra's for a chance at winning a $20 Amazon certificate on Christmas Day.


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2007 10:12 pm (UTC)
The Magic Violin
I love your VBT. I'm learning a lot about interviewing and reviewing books.

How do you get authors to interview and the books to review?

Jessica Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
Dec. 18th, 2007 01:53 am (UTC)
Re: The Magic Violin

I interview authors I know or someone asks if I can interview them. In August I had a virtual book tour of my book EARRINGS OF IXTUMEA. Dorothy, who's in charge, has asked me to host a couple of authors with their own book tours.

On the book reviews, I was lucky last year to apply to be a panelist for the Cybils. This year I did the same thing. Also some publishers have been sending me books to review too. I love to read so this has been fun!
Dec. 18th, 2007 02:09 am (UTC)
Re: The Magic Violin
Thanks for your quick reply. I'm trying to learn how to generate more visits to my blog and my website which debuts.
Jessica Kennedy
The Differently-Abled Writer
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 18th, 2007 01:54 am (UTC)
I loved her book and think it would be a great Christmas gift! My review will be up on the 22rd.
Dec. 18th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)
I was surprised to see she posted something in Manuscript Exchange on the SCBWI blue board. I guess she wasn't kidding about getting feedback!
Dec. 18th, 2007 03:25 am (UTC)
Mayra's book
This is a great idea to promote a book. I like the art work too.
Good Luck with the book.
Dec. 18th, 2007 05:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you all for your comments! What a nice surprise!
I had to go and take care of a bad tooth today (I'm terrified of dentists), so I was away.

Yes, I posted a story on the SCBWI forum but I just took it off. I kind of expected more feedback (I do understand people are very busy now with Christmas around the corner) and, to be honest, was a little apprehensive to leave the story there permanently for public view.

Your encouraging comments have made this vbt a very enjoyable experience! And it's so nice to see you here, Jenna!

Jess, I'm so glad you're learning all about VBTs with mine.

Hapy holidays, everybody!

Dec. 21st, 2007 05:04 am (UTC)
The Magic Violin
How clever to contact music related stores. I know this book will do well!
Merry Christmas
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )