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S Collin Ellsworth, Finding the Route 40 Phantom September 29, 2016

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review.
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41dcma-8gjlS Collin Ellsworth is one of the authors in the recently published anthology Where Rivers Converge. For the anthology, she wrote a gripping short story entitled Coward about a hit and run woman driver.

Ellsworth’s novels feature elements of life after death interwoven in the lives of women. She writes witty women and comical children that appeal to readers looking for relatable characters.

Her latest novel, Finding the Route 40 Phantom weaves two different women from different times: Natalie, an eighteen-year-old living in the 1950s with ambitions ahead of the era and Alexandra, a small town newspaper writer who constantly has to justify her contentment to her intellectual mother and sister. The two women’s lives intersect with the mystery of the Route 40 Phantom.

The Route 40 Phantom is a Southern Ohio legend. In the early fifties, a man terrorized the truckers of Route 40 by driving dressed as a skeleton. Despite not being an actual ghost, the Route 40 Phantom appears on many Haunted Ohio history sites. The real phantom’s identity remains a mystery. In her novel, Ellsworth gave him a persona of a beatnik mechanic with mysterious intention.

Filled with, suspense, and bucolic charm; Finding the Route 40 Phantom is a great fall read.



Success with Kickstarter, Do?U Adventures June 19, 2013

Posted by heidi skarie in Book Review, Writing.
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image-4Last year Anna Skarie did a guest blog on Kickstarter.  She and her mother, Joy Dey, wrote Just Another Monday (SWAK Publishing), a children’s book, and used Kickstarter to get enough money to publish it.  I wanted to do a follow up on their ongoing adventure.  Anna and Joy made their goal on Kickstarter and published their book! They are now selling and promoting the book thought fairs, museums, libraries, bookstores and schools.  They made a large copy of the book so all the children could see it when they read it outloud.  In the older grades they talk about publishing.  Here is a picture of Anna with the large sized book.


The adventure begins.

The adventure begins.

Anna and Joy call their book a DoU (do-you) Adventure and have an entire series in production. On each page the child decides what to do and turns to that tab.  There are 70 different adventures the children can have.

The story starts with:

A dragon lands right beside you! Yikes! Do you. . .

Run like crazy


Hop on?

The child then decides what to do and turns to that tab.

Children reading the story with their father.

Children reading the story with their father.

Here are all the paths the adventure can take.

Here are all the paths the adventure can take.

Anna and Joy at the museum, Joy is on the far right

Anna and Joy at Pease Elemary School , Joy is on the far right

The book is mainly for children who are old enough to choose their own adventures, but my grandson Asher who is only 5 months enjoyed the bright colors and turning the pages.  The book is made with heavy cardboard so it is sturdy enough for babies.

Asher looking at the book

Asher picking his adventure.

Good book!

Good book!

What is on the boat page?

What is on the boat page?

If there is a child in your life who would like to have lots of adventures with a dragon you can order the book off Amazon.

Their website is sitwithakid.com

Future Events

Saturday, July 6th – Twin Ports Bridge Festival event and booth

Saturday, July 20th – Two Harbors Chalk-A-Lot

Saturday/Sunday, August 24th/25th – Austin Artworks Festival reading and booth

Our Kickstarter Adventure June 12, 2012

Posted by heidi skarie in Uncategorized, Writing.
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Today I’m posting a guest blog by Anna Skarie on her experience with Kickstarter. Kickstarter is a great website for funding creative projects. Anna and her mother, Joy Dey, have written a wonderful, unique dragon book that allows children to chose what they want to do. Here is their description of the book:

“In a DoU Adventure, your child is the hero, making choices on every page that lead through over 75 possible pathways, out of the frying pan into the fire, until they get back home safely. Whew! Each choice has an icon that matches a tab. Kids use the tabs to navigate their customized adventures.”

As many authors know, finding a publisher is hard work, and self-publishing is hard work WITH a large cash outlay. We decided to go the hardest of these and start our own publishing company, because what is life without the adventure? “Just Another Monday” (the book that started all of this) is an interactive children’s picture book. In short, the hero chooses their own adventure by following tabs along the right edge of the book. If you check out our Kickstarter video or go to our website, there is a longer explanation with pictures.
We’re here to tell you the things we’ve learned so far on our search for the funding portion of this. If you have any questions after reading, please don’t hesitate to contact us (info@swakpublishing.com). In return, we’d like you to consider passing the word along via backing, facebook likes, following, pins, blogging, or whatever your preferred method is.


The basics…
First, if you already know what Kickstarter is all about, you can skip this paragraph. Kickstarter is basically a seed funding website. If you have a project (or a book), and you need money to get that project started (or publish your book), I highly recommend this approach, even though we’re only three quarters of the way through our journey so far. You can make an account to back other projects and/or upload your own. The idea is that each project has a monetary goal and “backers” try to help you reach your goal. They may do this out of the goodness of their hearts, or for the rewards. Reward tiers are decided by the project creator (you), and usually offer something extra (eg, signing or creativity). This last bit is important though: if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get any money. That’s the basics, and hopefully the following will fill in the gaps.

Our start…
Our journey began long ago (in May), surrounded by some brilliant minds, on my living room sofa. Every Tuesday, we have a “mastermind” meeting of brainstorming any projects we’re working on, and my sister-in-law, came to this meeting with this “Kickstarter” thing none of us had heard of. I have since learned that kickstarter is currently responsible for 10% of the venture capital funding in the United States. We had been racking our brains for how to come up with the $20,000 required to print a larger run of Just Another Monday. The larger run is required because the tabs need to be die-cut (ie, have their shape stamped out of the paper) and the heavy dies cost money up front. The larger the run, the more that cost is spread out over the books. Cue kickstarter!

Why kickstarter…
– little or no monetary risk (depending on how you market yourself)
– you will likely get “Kickstarters” who back you and are not part of your network
– succeed or not, it gets your name out and gives you contacts who are interested in your project
– it’s up to you to get the word out
– projects with previous followings generally have an easier time of it (maybe not a con depending on your project)
– you MIGHT be rejected (although you can resubmit easily and well thought-out book projects seem to have a high acceptance rate)

1. Your network – it really matters how much time/effort/interest/money you can drum up yourself. Kickstarter funders, although generous, won’t fund a project completely on their own, and you probably shouldn’t even count on “mostly”. Friends, current followers, family, friends of friends, anyone who can help you pass the word on (even if they don’t back you) is an important part of your network.

2. Social media is also important. If you don’t use facebook, twitter, pinterest, reddit, stumbleupon…you get the idea…you should find a helper who does. Getting higher on Kickstarter’s “popular” pages (and thus viewed more often) seems to be some combination of your backers, comments, % of goal, and such on Kickstarter; your links, facebook likes, and other buzz on the web; and the place your project is at (you get a boost at the beginning and end of your project)

3. It is a lot of work to keep buzz going through the life of the project. Be ready to have to flog for the length you set (30 days is usually the most successful), and have some fun doing it 🙂

What it has been like for us…
Some of this sounds so ominous, but really kickstarter is an amazing resource for anyone looking to fund a dream project (Like us!). We’ve fleshed out our idea the more we’ve blogged, facebooked, commented, and talked to people about it. One thing that really worked for us is a card with how to get to the kickstarter page on it. Since our project is a printed book, it made sense for us to try a few approaches for people who are less likely to use the internet. It also makes great “small” talk. We’ve had a lot of fun hearing people’s takes and opinions. It’s a great feeling whenever someone puts their belief in you. We really appreciate people doing whatever they can. Every time a friend or acquaintance wrote something like this we were very touched:

“One of my girlfriends and her mother made a children’s book. I have actually seen a copy of it and it is awesome. They are trying to get this book published with the publishing company that they created and need help. If you like the book and can pledge money towards it that’s great but she also understands that money can be tight. Even if you could just keep passing this along to others it would be a great help. The following links are to their Facebook page and to a kickstarter page (it is where you can propose ideas and get the word out to get funding).


All in all, it’s been a wonderful adventure. We haven’t succeeded yet, but here’s hoping and I still completely recommend the kickstarter journey. If you plan it, prepare it, and push push push it, they will come 🙂

Cheers, and happy adventuring!

~ Anna Skarie

co-founder of S.W.A.K. Publishing

(sit with a kid!)



We’re happy to answer questions. To contact us or lend us some support, here are the links…
our email: info@swakpublishing.com
our project: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1541772125/just-another-monday-2

facebook: http://www.facebook.com/SWAKpublishing
twitter: http://www.twitter.com/SWAKpublishing
pinterest: http://pinterest.com/sitwithakid
our blog: http://sitwithakid.wordpress.com