Archive for School

Another Excerpt from “Guts and Glory” Book 3!

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 12, 2018 by Jessica Crichton


I sat in the back.

I always sat in the back.

My little brother stood at the front, next to the teen spokesperson. I was torn between feeling left out (as always) and being happy I wasn’t noticed.

When us teens woke up in Nil, Mom barely noticed me as her kid. Instead, she said everything was okay and that Glory had saved us all. I love my little sister, but my mother is my mother too, not just Trevor and Tabitha’s. And as I sat and watched the meeting between the kids and the teens, I couldn’t push down the feeling that had been growing inside me for days now.

Like I wasn’t quite a Tate.

“We teens know the kids helped take the curse off us, so thanks fer that an’ all, but ya can’t ‘spect us ta follow kids inta battle!”

The teen spokesperson was not much more than a kid herself. Her name was Wendy. Mom’s work again. She’d told us all that we should choose names from Earth, even though none of us were from there. But Mom insisted that Earth names would give us independence, since none of us could remember our Nil names, and At Igh Schoo we were only named after our ranks. I was only a Mindseer for a short time, but the name had stuck more than “Emily” ever did. And my tattoo, like all the teen tats, remained on my face: a blood-red tear down my left cheek. Even then, I felt more like Mindseer than I’d ever felt like Emily Tate.

“I’m willing to work with the teens, but we are in command,” my brother said. His voice was a lot more powerful than I’d ever head it. He’d definitely grown up a little since we came to Nil.

Wendy laughed. “Yer in command ‘a the kids, sure. But the teens ain’t gonna follow ya. Why would we? We’re bigger an’ stronger an smarter than any kid could ever be.”

“Because we saved your sorry butts, that’s why!” Trevor said, leaning in to Wendy and squeezing his fists at his side. “And why are you talking for them anyway? You’re barely older than me!”

Wendy didn’t flinch. “Because, KID, I’m a leader.”

“Some leader!”

The crowd gasped and parted to make room for the new voice – a teen I vaguely remembered seeing somewhere, at a time that seemed long ago. His red hair was super short, shaved almost to his scalp, and as he looked around at the crowd of kids, teens, and zombies, his green eyes flashed in a way that made me shiver. His mouth was a thin, tight line, and he wore all black, with the exception of a red hoodie two sizes too big for his lanky body. Around his neck was a circle of black feathers, and his face was tattooed with a tribal spike down one side – the rare tattoo of a commander.

Then I heard my brother make the weirdest noise I’d ever heard, like a cross between a groan and a scream. I turned to look at him, and his face was so white I was worried he’d faint right then and there.

“F— Fist!” he gasped, his eyes wide. “What… how… where—”

The new teen stopped walking and, to my shock, bowed low at his waist, sweeping his arms back in a grand gesture like some kind of old-fashioned lord.

“Guts the mighty leader ‘a the Dark Crows! I salute ya!”

Trevor closed his mouth and shook his head hard. “H– hello Fist,” he croaked. Then he seemed to notice the crowd again, and cleared his throat. “What— what brings you here?”

Fist smiled, his thin lips rising at the edges just barely enough to notice. “Ta take my rightful place leadin’ the teens, ‘course.”

Guts blinked.

Wendy sucked in a sharp intake of air. “How dare—“

Before she could finish, Fist took two long, gliding steps to the front and shoved her roughly aside. “Move over, soldier,” he snarled at her. “Or didya think rank didn’t mean nothin’ nomore?”

“B— but Fist, you’ve never even wanted to be a teen,” Trevor stammered. “Why would you want to lead them?”

“Easy,” Fist said. His voice changed instantly back to nice when he spoke to my brother. “If a Tate’s in chargea the kids, then a Tate’s gonna be in chargea the teens, too.” He put his arm around a very uncomfortable Trevor and squeezed. “After all, brothers gotta work tagether, right?”


A Long Time Coming: 5 Reasons Why I Agree With the Closure of ITT Tech

Posted in ITT Tech with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2016 by Jessica Crichton


On Tuesday, September 6th 2016, ITT Technical Institute closed its doors forever.

Like the students, faculty and staff alike had no warning from the school beforehand — we were all planning our Fall quarter like nothing was different — but somehow it wasn’t a surprise.

Let me rewind a bit for context. I taught at ITT Tech here in Spokane for the past four years. My core classes were composition I and II, though I was also given to teach communications, group theory, research methods, and miscellaneous others over the course of my time there.  When I began, I was so excited. I was going to be a TEACHER! Of COLLEGE! I was going to use everything in my arsenal, from reading as a kid to graduate school, to get those students pumped for composition!

That… was optimistic.

Of course as a comp teacher at a tech school, I didn’t expect my math-loving students to embrace my class with open arms. I was willing to work for their interest. I wanted to inspire them to go beyond what they thought they liked. I tutored, stayed up late at night to give my students detailed notes on their papers, and worked out alternative curriculum that would both interest and challenge them.

Turns out, the school itself didn’t care about any of that.

Before I begin the obligatory list-of-things for blogs these days, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: my campus was amazing. The dean worked with us, supported us, and challenged us daily. He bent over backwards to give us the tools we needed to actually teach our students, and was always on our side. My fellow faculty members were kind and patient to a “T, and our students — for the most part — were eager and excited to learn. NOTHING about my campus here in Spokane has ANYTHING to do with what I’m about to tell you: this was all corporate. And now that I am free… I am free to tell you everything.

Here goes…

5) Faculty was the Bottom Priority


When I started at ITT Tech, I took for granted that I would have a desk. And a computer. And a phone. And supplies to do my job.

And I did.

And it was good. But also kind of expected. Yet, about a year in to my work there I found out that this was not the norm at all campuses. Not even at most. In fact, it was company policy that NO faculty members should have any of that. Yup. We weren’t supposed to have desks, or computers of our own, or phones… or anything, really. As for supplies, officially they grudgingly allowed us to use pens and paper.

Yes, you read that right: we almost weren’t even supposed to use company office supplies.

At my campus there were only three people with keys to the supply closet, none of whom were regular faculty, yet EVERYONE had keys to the faculty offices. In other words: ITT’s precious pens were locked safely away even from us, while our own personal effects could be taken by anyone with the wherewithal to follow a staffmember through the doors.

Staples were a precious commodity; we joked that they could be used as currency among us. When the corporate side of the campus decided they didn’t like their copier, they got a new one… and gave the old one to us. We didn’t like it either. Didn’t matter. It was ours. Oh — and we weren’t allowed to teach more than four classes a quarter — with four being rare — because full-time was too much of a commitment for corporate to make to their teachers.

If you’re curious as to how corporate expected us to do our jobs without desks or computers, I’ll tell you what was told to me when I asked that logical question: we were supposed to share a few communal computers and phones. That was all they expected us to need. After all, we didn’t have to do anything like prepare curriculum because…

4) The Curriculum Was Written For us… by a Madman


Composition was a train wreck of tangled genres, unrealistic deadlines, and homework expectations that would have been impossible for a full time student to fulfill, let alone working adults with families and jobs. There was no review of grammar or sentence structure at all; the curriculum jumped right into teaching the students to write a memoir on day 1. Why a memoir? Beats me. I STILL haven’t figured that one out. Assignments were often due before the curriculum had their lessons scheduled. The final research papers — due in unit 8 — weren’t even discussed until unit 6. Quizzes didn’t match their keys, and worksheets didn’t match the books. I was expected to lead my students through a quarter of curriculum that felt more like a minefield-laden labyrinth of words and terms than anything resembling a lesson.

I will never forget my first quarter teaching group theory, when the final exam was so off from its key that everyone failed. (Especially since they ALL got the last ten questions wrong by not writing any answers at all… because the exam didn’t ask anything… even though the key answered the questions it hadn’t asked.) I ended up correcting the exams myself — for each of the fifty students in my class — and most of them passed.

Two years in, my amazing dean gave me the freedom to fix the curriculum to work for the students instead of against them (you know, like most schools do). Things ran much more smoothly after that. Still,the official policy was to follow that unfollowable curriculum to a “T”. I have NO idea how teachers at other campuses did it without themselves and their students going insane.

I do know one thing, though: crazy or not, we knew exactly which students would be joining us on that train in each and every class, because…

3) You Lived and Died on Attendance 


QUICK! Guess what instructor paperwork mattered the most to corporate?

Assessments? No.
Gradebooks? Nope.
Homework corrections and notes for the students’ benefit? Nah.


Dingdingding! We have a winner!

Every once in a while I would forget to input the attendance during class because, well, I was kind of distracted by the whole teaching thing. (Weird, I know.) Every time this happened, I’d get an email first thing in the morning from my dean, asking me to get to it asap. He was always very laid back — way more than I would have been in his position — but I could read the urgency in every one of those emails like it was written in the simple words themselves. ATTENDANCE HAD TO BE INPUTTED ASAP.

We had meetings about how to raise our attendance practices. I kept detailed attendance records — double copied — both digitally and on paper. If a student was absent, we had to take their information to the front desk before the end of the first hour of class so that the receptionist could call them and see why they weren’t there. (Some instructors chose to do this calling themselves; I’ve always hated talking on the phone myself.) Emails had to be sent. Forms had to be filled out. Records had to be noted.

Every. Time. One. Student. Was. Absent.

We’re not talking about kids, here. We weren’t worried that little Timmy had been kidnapped or that little Suzy was skipping to smoke out back. We taught grown adults who were free to make their own choices, even if they were bad ones. In fact, students could literally come to class, tell me they had to go right then for whatever reason, and still be marked present, officially.

So why did it MATTER so much?

If you guessed money, you win. What you win I don’t know. Maybe a broken trophy with the word “JADED” scrawled across it in lipstick? Whatever. You win. Enjoy.

Anyway, yes. Every time a student was absent there was a chance they would remain so…and their financial aid money right along with them. Corporate was afraid that if we didn’t hound the crap out of them, they wouldn’t know how very badly we needed them in class… because we cared… about their education.

Yeah. About that…

2) The Finance Office Ruled All


I can’t tell you how many times I had to send students out of the classroom at the beginning of class to talk to the financial aid office. They missed lectures. They missed labs. They missed group activities.

They missed class. Sometimes hours of it.

But if a student got a red paper in my box, they had to go. No matter what. Classtime wasn’t as important as making damn sure their financial aid was in order so the school would get paid. If the finance officer needed them, they went. Even if that meant they waited outside the office for an hour while the rest of the class moved ahead of them.

Of course, that didn’t matter unless they actually wanted to know what I was teaching. They could pass the class even if they didn’t, because…

1) Academic Integrity was a Joke


Let me preface this one by saying that I had some amazing students. They worked hard. They wanted to learn. And that’s what makes me angry at ITT Tech especially: because none of that mattered.

Failing students wasn’t quite up there with failing to mark them present in class, but it was a close second. This had nothing to do with caring whether the students deserved to fail or not, just so we’re clear. The school didn’t care about that. What they did care about was that the students didn’t leave out of discouragement because they failed a class or two.

I had a conversation with a recruiter a few months ago, and he told me that they were discouraged from telling potential students that it was a school at all. In fact, they were to push emphasis on getting a job so hard that students came in thinking we were a temp agency of some sort, and were blown away that they had to do schoolwork in the first place.

Think about that in terms of academic integrity.

I never gave A’s where they weren’t deserved, but I am ashamed to say that fear of low retention scores drove me to raise some F’s to low D’s just to bump up my own passing numbers. Many of these students weren’t failing because the work was too hard, either — we were encouraged to do what we could to make it as easy as possible to pass — but simply because they didn’t care.

At all.

Let me say that again: students who didn’t care about the work they were doing were getting passing grades. Grades that told potential employers that they knew what they were doing… when they didn’t have a clue. And they didn’t care, because they knew the policies. They knew they’d get a degree no matter what because they were paying for it.

I was not the only teacher doing this. In fact, it was an epidemic because we had to. When you have a classroom of students who don’t want to be there, who feel duped into doing schoolwork in the first place, whose continued attendance is the only thing standing between you and your abysmal, but vital, paycheck — you do what you have to do to survive.

So let me make one thing clear: I FULLY SUPPORT the government’s decision in this matter. ITT Tech was a farce as a school. It contributed to the demise of secondary education in our country — education that I consider vital and honorable — and I’m glad it’s gone. Its death will pave the way to healing the value and depth of education in our country once more. I very much look forward to seeing that happen.

That said, I do hope that those students who worked so hard for so long to get degrees that are now worthless through no fault of their own, will be given a shot at proving that they are worth so much more than that POS of a school they attended.

Because they are.

And I want them to know that I am still here, cheering them on, from the other side of the crater ITT left in all of our lives.

By the way, I have worked for Gemiini Systems during the day for the past 6 months. When they found out about ITT, they stepped up and offered me more work. If you know anyone with children who have developmental disabilities please pass their website on. Thanks!

Magik of the Bards

Posted in Fantasy, Literature, Scholarly, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , , on May 25, 2012 by Jessica Crichton

It’s time again for me to start posting my graduate papers! And all the people say, ‘yay!’. This time it’s more of an historic paper, but if you like Celtic myths, lore, and history, you should like this, too. Because I said so. So there! Anyway, I enjoyed writing it greatly (there’s TONS I couldn’t fit into the five-page limit my prof gave me… pfft), and I hope you enjoy reading it, too! ~ MM

Magik of the Bards

An Overview of Ancient Celtic Culture and Faith


The Celtic people have always had a prehistory shrouded in mystery. This has not changed much, even with the use of modern archeological technology. In fact, it wasn’t until the 5th century AD that Christian monks began to record with paper and ink the history and myths of the Celts. Before this, with the exception of very few Welsh sagas, all Celtic lore was strictly oral, passed down through generations. (Cortrell and Storm 94) Perhaps this is why the early Celtic peoples have been considered by many to be especially mystifying, and their lore even more so. In this paper I will present an overall picture of that mystifying culture and history, starting with archeological and documentary evidence and moving on to fictional myths and lore from the period. As it is mainly concerned with Celtic mythological lore, the historic portion if this paper will parallel that theme in discussing the history of Celtic faith specifically, and the culture that faith carved out. For the sake of this paper, the terms “Celt” and “Celtic” will be used to identify the Indo-European people of modern-day Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Britain and their ancestors.

The vast majority of what little we know of ancient Celtic history comes from excavations of West Hallstatt cultural grave sites found in modern-day southern France, across Switzerland and into south-western Germany. Like many ancient cultures, Hallstatt society was situated in small, open villages, and mostly dominated by animal husbandry and agriculture, though metalwork was also highly prized. Bronze, iron and gold were used in the making of everything from jewelry to weapons. (Maier 13)  Due to the lack of early recorded evidence, it has been extremely difficult to piece together any solid image of Hallstatt religious rites: “Of the rites which may have accompanied burial, archeological remains… provide only a hazy picture.” (33) However, religious items such as stone effigies, scarlet burial cloaks, amulets and ceremonial chariots, among others found in early Celtic grave sites, all lead historians to conclude that the early Celts did believe in an afterlife, and that their chieftains and kings played a religious as well as a civic leadership role. (21)

It is not until the mid-first century AD that historians find any written evidence of the Celtic people whose prehistoric gravesites offer so much physical evidence — yet no recorded descriptions — of their culture and faith. However, even these recordings leave much to the imagination when it comes to culture and faith, as they only discuss the migration into the Mediterranean of a people who could have come from many different backgrounds, all listed under the description of ‘Celt’, and treated as more of a scourge on the population than a culture in and of themselves. (38-39) Later written details give accounts, both flattering and discourteous, of the Celts only as adversaries of war. (43) While they are often greatly detailed in armory, weaponry and battle tactics, these recordings, too, offer very little in the way of understanding the Celts as a cultural and religious people. Finally, certain classical writers and historians such as Diogenes Laertius and Posidinius did write about pre-Christian pagan/Celtic religious rites, and many of these observations are highly detailed and descriptive. In fact, these classical writings make up the bulk of what we know about Pagan religious practices today. However, the sources for these writings, which are generally believed to be far older still, are unknown, and the writers themselves are not Celts. Therefore these writings cannot be entirely relied upon as accurate or unbiased views into Celtic culture. (59-61)

Though it originated all over Europe and even as far east as Asia Minor, (Cortrell and Storm 94) Celtic culture as we know it today is centered around Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Britain, with Ireland and Britain having the most well-known histories of the four. Yet here, too, there are issues with archeological and documentary evidence of Celtic culture and religion. Like the earliest gravesites in France, Switzerland and Germany, most archeological excavations of Irish and British gravesites offer little in the way of descriptive documentation. However, archeological explorations of hill forts from the first millennium BC in south and west Britain have painted at least a partial picture of how some of the earliest Celts lived and what they believed: “On occasion the excavations [of hill forts] have… produced evidence of cult sites, which may have been a feature of all these settlements.” (Maier 117) Unlike British sites, however, early Irish sites have given little to no evidence of everyday Celtic life and beliefs, as most were abandoned, leaving behind no substantial traces of human habitation. (118) Grave sites, too, are far less yielding in Ireland, as cremation was a dominant practice in Ireland for a long while. (117)

And so there is little to be found of solid historic Celtic society and religion by the way of traditional archeological and documented/historic means. Still, as a people far more oral than systematic, the Celts did leave us with one very important source of their culture: their fictional stories and sagas, once recited generation-to-generation only by great bards and Druid priests/priestesses, and far more real to the Celts than pen-and-paper ever could be. (138) According to the classic geographer Strabo, who wrote about the Celts around the third century AD, among the religious elite in ancient Celtic society were a group of storytellers and poets called bards: “As a rule, among the Gallic peoples, three sets of men are honoured above all others: The Bards, the Vates, and the Druids…  The Bards are singers and poets…” (62) Considering that the Vates are then described as “overseers of sacred rites” and the Druids as “… natural philosophers… [who] practice moral philosophy…”, it can be deduced that singers and poets – those who recited and sang stories – were considered highly important to the Celts, and in relation, those stories themselves were also very important to their cultural and social identity.

Today, we see most Celtic stories in the form of fairy tales, and, of course, King Arthur’s quests. But these are only the tip of a very vast and deep iceberg. Generally, Celtic stories are classified into one of four categories: the Ulster Cycle, the Historical Cycle, the Finn Cycle, and the Mythological cycle, based on criterion such as characters featured, historical significance, and fictional probability. It should be noted that there are some which fall into more than one category, and some which do not fall into any, as well. (138) Some examples of these stories are, the tales of King Conchobor mac Nessa and his legendary nephew, the hero Cu Chulainn (Cortrell and Storm 118, 120), from the Ulster Cycle, the legends of Oisin and his son Oscar (156, 161), from the Finn Cycle, the stories of Conn Cetchathach and his grandson Cormac mac Airt (Maier 140), from the Historical Cycle, and The Battle of MagTuried (Cortrell and Storm 133, 172), from the Mythological Cycle. Of the four Cycles, perhaps the best-known is the Mytholgical Cycle, which stories deal with faeries rather than mortals as their central characters. These stories, too, are of great interest in Celtic Pagan religious study, as faeries, also known as the Tuatha De’ Dannann or “the people of the goddess Dana”, are often portrayed as god-like creatures, and were sometimes worshipped in Pagan rites and rituals. (172)

It should be noted here that even these stories can no longer be entirely relied upon as accurate representations of pagan Celtic beliefs and culture, as the modern stories we now know were written down by Christian monks after Christianity had already been instilled in the Celtic lands for several centuries: “Whether an accurate picture of the old pagan culture still survived at this time must, in view of the numerous anachronisms and projections of Christian notions and institutions in the past, seem questionable to the extreme.” (Maier 137) That said, these legends and others like them are still arguably the very best lens we now have through which to view pre-Christian Celtic culture and religion, from the point of view of the Celts themselves.

Works Cited

Cotterell, Arthur and Storm, Rachel. The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology. Wigston: Anness Publishing Limited, 1999. Print

Maier, Bernhard. The Celts: A History from Earliest Times to the Present. Trans. Kevin Windle. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2003. Print.

Cheap Marketing For Starving Writers

Posted in Books, Fiction, Publication, Publishing, Self-publishing, Writing with tags , , , , on September 9, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

I’m poor. Chances are, I’m poorer than you. As in I have five kids and am a full-time writer and student poor. As in I qualify for every social program under the sun poor. As in I just got a real bank account last year poor. As in the only people poorer than me are living in boxes under the freeway poor.

I’m poor.

I’m not telling you this to impress you with my glamorous state of poverty. I’m telling you this because I know 99% of writers are poor like I am. There’s a reason we’re called starving artists, after all. So if you’re reading this because you’re a writer, I want you to know that when I say these tricks are cheap, I mean even I can do them.

And if I can, so can you. Fact.

In these days of print on demand and e-book publishing, it’s so easy for a writer to be published that not to do it, even if only to build one’s platform for the big houses (like I’m doing), is almost asinine. Still, that doesn’t guarantee any kind of success. Writing is a multi-tiered career choice, especially these days when publishers and agents want a writer to promote themselves, and as I have said before it takes tenacity and professionalism to succeed.

But above and beyond all of that, it takes marketing.

After all, your book can be the most profound piece of literature since “The Dead Sea Scrolls”, but if nobody knows it exists, it’ll flop. Bad.

Still, short of word of mouth, which only works in bulk if you already have bulk to begin with, most traditional marketing takes cash. A lot of cash. More cash than the people who really need marketing have. It’s a catch-22 of epic proportions.

Or is it?

Below I have outlined a few marketing techniques that I have found are not only entirely affordable but actually work to boot!

Disclaimer: these may not take much (or any) money to do, but most of them do take a lot of time and effort. If you’re not serious about your writing career and are not willing to work hard to succeed, these will not work for you. That is all.

1: Become a Visiting Writer

Total Cost: $28 or less per visit ~ Total Reach: Anywhere between 30 and 1000 potential fans 

Depending on how well your local school district budgets for extracurricular academic activities, you could actually be paid for this one. Of course, even doing a school visit for free is a wonderful marketing opportunity and it only takes a few hours of your time. Not only that, but you’re helping out your community and promoting literacy to the children there. Win win WIN!

Here’s how you do it:

  • This one takes publication. Of course, this is easy to do these days. But if you’re not there yet, skip this option for now.
  • Put together a lesson plan and/or speech presentation. This can center around your genre, the moral of your book (though do this sparingly; kids don’t like being preached at any more than adults do), the storyline, creative writing itself, or whatever. A good idea is to speak with the teacher(s) and see what subjects they are currently teaching in their English classes that you could embellish on.
  • Contact the librarian / library media specialist / principal at your local schools. Depending on what age group you write for, this will be at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and/or even colleges. Offer your services as a visiting writer, but don’t mention payment unless they ask. As I said, some schools don’t have the funds,  and even if you are willing to do it for free, if you mention payment first they will assume it is mandatory for you and you could lose that school, and potentially hundreds or thousands of new fans.
  • Order extra copies of your book well before your visitation day. Use one to read from and sign the others, offering them to the school for their students in whatever way they see fit. I usually bring up to four copies for the school. Depending on the price of your book and your own author’s discount (CreateSpace does this… I don’t know if other self-publishers do as well), this is usually not expensive — for me it costs around $24 per visit — and is well worth it to get the word out.
  • Make bookmarks with your name, book title and website address that you or the teacher(s) can hand out to the students. I have four bookmark styles, myself: Guts, Glory, Books and Echo. Action illustrations are best for MG, and use colors… lots of colors. These bookmarks can be made in many ways, though my favorite is simply to buy multicolored card stock, design the bookmarks in Photoshop (or whatever image program you prefer), print them out and cut them into strips. There are also many companies online where you can design bookmarks and they will print them and send them your way for a small fee. Either way, this will cost you some money. However, it is exceedingly important that the kids bring home a reminder of your story and an easy way to find you online. Otherwise, your trip could be unsuccessful in the long run. Making bookmarks yourself costs around $40 for well over 1000. I take an average of 100 bookmarks per visit, though more for an entire school assembly and less for a single classroom reading.
  • Pick a chapter or scene to read from your book to the kids as part of your presentation. This should be fairly short — up to 15 minutes max — and exciting. Get your audience’s attention and keep it. And end on a cliffhanger so that they simply must know what happens next.
  • Have fun! Kids will react best to a writer who makes them laugh. I wear jeans and t-shirts, sometimes a baseball cap (though many schools don’t allow hats inside), and am laid back and comfortable, which makes them comfortable too. If possible, wear a shirt with your character(s) on it. (More on that later.)
  • You can visit as many schools as you wish, though of course set it up with the administrators first. It is a perfect way to directly connect with your reader base, and costs only few dollars and a little of your time.

2: Set Up a Merchandise Store

Total Cost: $0 ~ Total Reach: Immeasurable

If you write for kids, chances are you have some dynamic characters. Come to think of it, if you don’t have dynamic characters, why are you writing for kids anyway? These characters are your lifeline when it comes to merchandise marketing. Are you an artist too? Wonderful! But even if you’re not, you can find an illustrator (here and here are my favorite places to find them) who will help you bring your characters to life by offering a % of book and merchandise sales, and of course putting their name on the cover, too. Jessica and I have a wonderful professional and personal relationship, and without her illustrations I don’t know what I would do. Our set-up is perhaps unconventional, but it works for us: I get book royalties and she gets merchandise sale profits. I chose to do it this way because, after all, it’s her illustrations that make the store! And it’s free advertising for me, which in the end is worth more than all the sales combined as far as I’m concerned. For each person who buys a shirt, button, or bookmark with my characters on it, many more see them wearing or using them and ask what they’re about. It’s perfect! And costs… nothing. That’s right. This is free! (Unless you buy some of your own merch, which is a good idea but entirely voluntary.)

Here’s how you do it:

  • Create some crisp, dynamic vector images of your characters. You can do this yourself if you’re an artist, work with your illustrator (as I am doing), or have your illustrator do them themselves. Whatever way you chose to go about it, make sure they will print out well. This is vital. Vector graphics are best, and the .dpi should be at least 300 if not more. Jessica is drawing mine, and I am taking them into Photoshop, coloring and optimizing them for printing. I have a total of seven designs I’m using. You can have more or less, though I’d recommend at least three for variety.
  • Sign up for an account at a print-on-demand merch company. My favorite is Zazzle. There you can put your images on just about anything for people to buy while you earn a % of the profits. If this sounds familiar, it should. It’s a lot like print-on-demand publishing, only it’s been around a while longer. You can add words, too, which is often a good idea. Catch-phrases, character names, whatever catches a person’s eye. Do this on the website, not in Photoshop, as the words will come out far better that way.
  • Put a link to your store on your website, and viola! You may not sell many at first, but the point isn’t to make a lot of profit right away. It’s to get the word out! Remember that. 😉

3 – Social Networking

Total Cost: $0 ~ Total Reach: Immeasurable

This is probably a “duh” to most of you. After all, everyone knows about Facebook, Twitter, and blogging right? But see, that’s just the point.  Everyone knows about them, and everyone is on them. (OK not everyone, but you get my point.) The question, then, isn’t whether you should join social networking, but how to make it work for you.

The funny thing is, though I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress, I’m still learning how to do this myself. So rather than give you shoddy advice from the ameture that I am, I’ll direct you to an expert whom I myself am still learning from and move on.

4 – Join a Writers’ Group

Total Cost: $0 – $100 / year ~ Total Reach: Many, many inside publishing connections.

I’m a member of a few writers’ groups, though only one has cost me anything to join. That one is SCBWI, or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and it cost me $85 to join and $70 a year after that. This may seem steep, but we spend far more than that per year on coffee, fast food, and other things we really don’t need. And SCBWI is more than worth it. It’s an international group, and one that is known and respected by the big publishing houses and agents. Being able to say you belong to SCBWI in a query letter tells the agent/editor that you’re serious about your writing. More than that, SCBWI offers support in so many ways, from community message boards to conference scholarships to a quarterly magazine-style bulletin they send to every member full of the latest trends in publishing. To me, this is immeasurable if you are truly serious about your writing. Of course, this is more a marketing technique within the publishing community than the general public, but if you’re self-publishing to build your platform like I am, this is certainly something you should consider to make vital connections to agents and editors everywhere.

Below are some links to a few writers’ groups that I recommend (mostly inside the US… sorry I’m American so those are the ones I mostly know). There are far more than this, however. So if none of them seem like a good fit for you, click here to find more. 🙂

5 – Advertise

Total Cost: $5 + ~ Total Reach: 0 – 1,000,000,000… Relative to Payment

I know, I know. We’re doing this so we don’t have to advertise. After all, it’s so costly! But really, it’s only costly if you don’t know where to look. I myself have just put in my first advertising package to the Children’s Book Review, and I’m psyched! Here are a couple of cheap but effective places to invest your small but important advertising budget in:

  • Facebook Ads: Like many of you, I thought Facebook advertising would cost far beyond the boundaries of any possible payments I could make. But I was amazed to find out that it can be done with as little as $5 or as much as $5,000,000,000 depending on your own budget. Of course, you reach far more people the more money you can invest, but with Facebook’s pay-per-click  and maximum budget options, you can assure each dollar goes for a new fan and never have to worry about FB taking more money than you can pay. For example, if you set your maximum budget to $5 and chose pay-per-click, Facebook won’t take a dime until someone actually clicks on your ad, and will stop running the ads and charging your card once the $5 limit has been reached. My example doesn’t result in many fans, but you get the idea. Even a small budget can result in more and more fans on your fan page over time (personal pages can’t be advertized but fan pages are free to set up as well).
  • The Childrens’ Book Review: The Children’s Book Review does review books for free. However, it’s a very difficult and time-consuming processes. To make it easier and faster for writers, they have set up advertising options as well that are beautifully priced for what you get: Author Showcase:  ~ Giveaway: ~ and Traditional Advertising: I’m doing the Author Showcase and paid for the premium package which includes an advertisement banner that shows on every page of their site for a month and is linked to whatever URL you wish, a personalized interview highlighted on their featured gallery on the main page for a month, a dedicated page for your book blurb and/or book trailer, and multiple inbound links all over the place for your URL. This cost me $109, and will be worth every penny, as The Childrens’ Book Review is a huge name in the business, and a place where libraries and schools get their new book order ideas. Other packages cost $55 and nothing, depending on which you chose.

These are the two options I have found so far. I will update you on more as I find them, and of course if you know of any more please post them in the comments section so that we can all benefit from your knowledge as well. 🙂

OK, I have to go and work on my Guts and Glory Mercantile Store (coming soon!) now. I hope this helped you a little, and happy writing!

Sooo… How Ya Doin’ Today?

Posted in Family, Kids, Shiny Happy Musings, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 1, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

Busy, busy day for me today. First I have to do a few things to help promote The Crows’ Nest (yay!), then I have to work at least a little on Escape from Igh Schoo since it’ll need to be ready soon after people read TCN for reasons I won’t go into right now. 😉 Last but not least, I’ll have to work very, very hard on cleaning and prepping the house for the kids’ return on Saturday. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Finishing up their new school clothes folding.
  • Going through their dressers to re-fold, sort and re-establish junk clothes and hand-me-downs.
  • Adding their new school clothes to the newly prettified dressers.
  • Cleaning out the fridge (not really a kid-readying job per-se, but a GREAT time to do it!)
  • Cleaning my own room (since I won’t have ANY time when the kids are here!)
  • Organizing their school supplies and making sure they have everything they need.
  • Re-organizing the chore chart and homework chart for this year.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more things as I go, too.


But hey, it’s fall! And I’ve got things to do and places to go. 🙂 Happy school-readying to you, too! Or, if your school is already in session, happy school days!

The holidays are a’comin…

Entering the Fray… Again

Posted in Family, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2011 by Jessica Crichton

It’s August (as if you didn’t know), which means that a million children are bemoaning the imminent loss of Summer and a million parents are cheering the soon-to-be return of school.

Can you hear it? I can, even though my own little bemoaners are far, far away in a strange land called South Dakota at the moment.

In about three weeks my children will return to my fiance’ and I from their annual summer at Dad’s. Well, all except Emily who will be entering 8th grade, the year which their father has requested they spend with him in order to make an educated choice as to where they will live through high school. My eldest, Cisily, will be returning to me from that same 8th-grade-dad-time last year. She will be entering high school here in Spokane, having made her choice to attend the same school her father and I both did so long ago.

All that is to say I will have four of my five children home with me in less than a month. One will be entering high school, two will be in elementary school (5th and 2nd grades), and one will be going into her last year of preschool. Did I mention I’m also going to graduate school in October and have thrown my professional writing career into full gear this summer?

AND planning a wedding for June. A big wedding. With a theme.


But I look at everything I’ll be doing this coming year, and, once the dust from my head exploding settles, I realize one very important thing: it’s all good! I have five beautiful, healthy children, have been accepted into graduate school to study children’s literature which I adore beyond words, am a professional writer which for me as a child was akin to becoming a superstar, and am getting married to the man of my dreams in a big, family-and-friends-filled wedding extravaganza.

I am so very, very blessed.

So I decided to write this blog, so that when the poo hits the windmill (and it will, I’m sure, many times), I can read this and remind myself… it’s all good.

How is YOUR year looking? 😉

John M. Cusick

Write. Represent.

Dreamhaven Park

Gaming Park Event Center

Richard M. Ankers - Author

Author: The Eternals Series

Mongrel Christian Mathematician

reading, 'riting, 'rithmeticking

The intangible world of the literary mind

What secrets of the mind lurk beyond the mist enshrouded bridge

Chelsea Bolt

Write? Right.



Blue Belle Books... a Blog by Author Sherrie Hansen

Night and Day... Daybreak... Golden Rod... Sweet William... Shy Violet... Blue Belle... Wild Rose... Thistle Down... (The Wildflowers of Scotland novels) Stormy Weather... Water Lily... Merry Go Round... (Maple Valley trilogy) Love Notes... Night and Day...

Pat Bertram Introduces . . .

author and publisher interviews

Jay Duret

We Shall Not Cease From Exploration

JM Hauser's Blog

A Writer's Corner on the Web

Harry Margulies Author

Phoenix From Ash, llc.

Encouraging restoration, healing, and expression through writing.

Treble City

Cody, the Arang-a-roo and the Omni-zoo

Indigo Sea Press Blog

Indigo Sea Press Blog

Lou Treleaven

Children's author, writing coach and playwright

Young Kwak

I am a photojournalist, sports photographer, and sometimes a commercial photographer and videographer.

Kid Lit Reviews

Honest, Thoughtful Reviews