As you know I am passionate about promoting our talented independently published and self published Australian authors but from time to time an international author will tap at my window, so I’ll let them in. But when they also have a beautiful, emotive children’s book where the proceeds go to a very worthwhile cause, I fling open the windows.
So it is my pleasure this week to welcome U.S. author, writer and adventurer, Pamela Bitterman.
Pamela is a published author, and in her own words, ‘ an explorer in every sense of the word’. She has been a mediator, a teacher of maritime history and seamanship at the San Diego Maritime Museum, a devoted mother, to name but a few. She sailed for many years of her life and has written about her voyages. Pamela has also spent some time working in Kenya, and her experiences there have been the inspiration behind her latest release.
So without further ado, Pam takes us on a journey to a small village in Kenya, and the inspiration behind When This is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read. A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan. She reveals why she decided to digitally publish this book.
Thanks Helen. It is a pleasure!
Did you always want to be a writer?
I think so, somewhere in my semi conscience. My mom always thought I would be, particularly of children’s books. Being an observer and a non-conformist from an early age has provided me with plenty of fodder for material in my later life. Working professionally with children in my early adulthood gave me the resources to identify children’s special gifts and needs, and to speak to those issues on a child’s level. Writing for them became a natural offshoot of this process.
When did you start writing?
I began writing my first manuscript for publication when I was in my forties. It was in the midst of a traumatic period in my life, and the writing became a catharsis for my tumultuous emotions. I imagine that incentive is not a unique one, as far as what stimulates writers goes; probably fairly common, as a matter of fact.
What genres do you write in/or have written in?
I have published two true adventure non-fictions, one traditionally published and one digitally. One homily for children published by World Vision, and this children’s book. I am presently working on another children’s book, and an adult fiction. The adult fiction is actually a collection of vignettes, which is emerging as precious less pure fiction than perhaps I had initially intended it to be. I’d guess that particular blurring-of-the-lines in the writing process is also likely not unique to me.
What writers do you think have influenced you?
I suppose I have been most influenced by the writers of my time and my personal experience. Among an expansive and diverse slew of other authors, I have read all of Salinger, and most of Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut, Kesey, Kerouak, and of course Melville. In recent years I have become a devotee of the works of Barbara Kingsolver, Ann Patchett and Ann Lamont. But my most beloved children’s book authors are Shell Silverstein, Judith Viorst, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, and most importantly, J.M. Barrie. I also had the uncommon pleasure of being certified to be an instructor in the Junior Great Books Program. And consequently was introduced to, and able to share with elementary school classes K-6, some of the most miraculous children’s literature the world has to offer.
What work have you had published?
I have had published two true travel/adventure/memoirs based on my own experiences entitled: Sailing to The Far Horizon; The Restless Journey and Tragic Sinking of a Tall Ship, and Muzungu; A-frican Lost Soul’s Reality Check, a homily entitled Child, you are Miracle, and the children’s book which is the subject of this interview.
You have recently published your moving story, When This is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read. A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan. What was the inspiration behind this book?
Juluis, the narrator and young protagonist of the story, was in fact the inspiration for it. The story is true. It is born of my own two months long experience in Kenya working for a mission hospital, mobile medical clinic and orphan feeding program. Julius is a real boy, and one that I had the privilege to know very well. His is the voice of the thousands of needy youngsters just like him all throughout Africa, and his message speaks for them all. My hope is that it will be heard, and heart-felt, and responded to on an astronomical scale, because the needs of these youngsters are astronomical.
Why did you decide to take the self-publishing path for this book? Have you self published before?
I had been only traditionally published prior to my two books on my African experience. I had never published in digital format. This technology was unfamiliar to me, and admittedly pretty off-putting initially. It was not my first choice, but it is growing on me. I tried for a few years to have my books picked up by traditional publishing houses. It didn’t happen but not, I truly believe, because they were not good enough. In fact, I was told repeatedly in numerous rejection letters that they were good enough! They were also, unfortunately, rife with some inherent impediments that are realities in the publishing business today. Publishers too have been hit hard by the economic downturn. As much as they may wish not to prioritize it, they still have a bottom line to attend to if they are to stay afloat. My African non-fiction book was considered potentially too full of hard but accurate politically incorrect truths, to guarantee a large enough audience to offset the costs of mass-producing it in hard copy. I still have hopes for that, however. My African children’s book, the subject of this interview, had other problems. Nearly without exception, every publisher who considered this book loved it. One roadblock lay in the difficulty (impossibility, actually) of securing permission from the parents of the children who created the pictures for the book. This iffy liability matter was more than publishers were willing to overlook. (I have since learned that there is a way around this issue.) Secondly, the cost of reproducing this book with the dozens of color images it has in it was deemed prohibitive. (I have since learned of a reasonable compromise that can be applied in this area as well.) Nonetheless, the information in both books is time-sensitive. And in the case of the children’s book in particular, lives depend upon it. So there was a limit to how long I was willing to wait. I yet have hope for this book making it into hard copy as well, but for now, I simply want it to be read. And with the advent of Smart or Promethean Boards in classrooms and auditoriums everywhere, the fact that this book is available in both digital and audio formats makes it a perfect fit for schools. My wish would be to see it in every one!
How did you get started, i.e. how did you go about self-publishing or gathering information?
I needed help. As I said, this technology was new to me. Luckily my children are extremely literate in this technology. I could not have managed this without their patient tutelage, expertise and reassurance.
How did you go about editing When This is Over, I Will Go to School, And I Will Learn To Read?
Initially, I relied upon the help of a woman who was an instructor in Children’s Book Writing at a local university. She in effect gave me the keys to the kingdom by teaching me the requirements and particular parameters for writing for children. Not as simple as it looks, as anyone that does this will agree! From there, I relied on my own knowledge from working with kids, for appropriate text and detail choices. Finally, my own wonderful editor gave it the text/edit once over, and off we went!
In relation to this book, how long did the process take ie. from the beginning to the release of your book?
If you subtract the couple years spent trying to secure a traditional publishing contract, the whole process probably took about a year, not including the months spent living with the children, collecting their illustrations, and taking the photographs, of course.
What obstacles did you encounter during this process, if any?
There were many. Choosing the target group and then formatting the language and the images for age appropriateness was time consuming, but crucially important. Continuously having to push to the back of my mind the unavoidable harsh and undoubtedly worsening reality for the real children for whom the book was created was a constant struggle. I needed to do the book well, but I also needed to do it as quickly as possible.
Do you have a preference ie. Print on Demand, eBooks or print runs?
I’m an old dog, and I’m afraid I still prefer hard cover publishing contracts. I don’t know many writers who would refuse a good one in deference to self-publishing of any kind. But as I said, I am coming around. I have been very happy with the company who EPublished my books – very professional, very business-like, multifaceted with publicist, audio technology, etc. options, and very easy to work with. I’ve learned a great deal and, low and behold, the books are doing quite well!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing/publishing independently?
My guess is anybody reading this here on your site, knows these only too well. The out-of-pocket expense of old-fashioned self-publishing-to-print would seem to be a huge deterrent. It was a deal-breaker for me. Using the Internet is a big boon for writers today. In cyberspace, the sky is literally the limit for exposure and distribution. I don’t know how much anybody out there is making off their books, but they can rest assured in the knowledge that I for one did not get rich off my traditionally published work, nor did I receive a call from OPRAH – yet!
What was your biggest learning curve or is there anything that you would have done differently?
The biggest learning curve for me was getting comfortable with the technology. Would I have done it differently? With the exception of accepting a decent publishing house contract, had one been offered, nope. So far so good, and getting better all the time, thanks largely to folks like you who make these wonderful opportunities available to me!
How are you marketing your latest release?
See answer above! Plus book events, writing contests, radio shows, write-ups in newspapers and magazines, photo contests, book cover award entries, whatever, wherever, to whoever will listen. It’s work, but it’s worth it, for this book particularly. Children’s lives are at stake.
What does successful self-publishing or successful independent publishing mean to you?
See answer above!
What advice would you give other authors who are thinking about self-publishing/publishing independently or setting up their own company?
I don’t feel qualified to offer advice. Just don’t quit, maybe. Giving up is the only sure-fire guarantee you have of never being published. And maybe don’t quit writing under any circumstances, if you can help it. Writing is good for the soul.
What attributes do you feel are necessary to be a successful self-publisher, eg. determination, patience, organisation, sales and marketing experience, self-belief …???
Yep, yep, and yep! And a little luck.
If you were offered a publishing contract with a mainstream publisher, would you accept it?
Would you ever consider self-publishing again?
Is there one person you can think of who played a significant part in your writing career?
My family has been my inspiration, my loudest cheerleaders, and frankly some of the most colorful characters in my stories. My parents instilled in me the faith that I could do anything I put my mind and heart into. My husband has paid the bills allowing me to indulge this obsession. The editor, who saw the book in my first story, made me a believer, too. Gosh! Sounds like I’m accepting an award, huh?
Where would you like to be in five year’s time, writing wise?
I’d like to still be doing it! I’d like to still love it, and feel that I’m maybe being heard. I’d like to know that my words have somehow made a difference, helped some folks, been influential, made a few lives better. If being renowned is required for that to happen, then yes, that too. But I hope not because my ego is too much in it. We writers get to have our ideas and our experiences. We get to write about them. All that is ours, we own it. And we can be extremely proud of these accomplishments. If we get published, well, that technically is someone else’s doing. If we don’t, we should never be any less proud of what we’ve managed to pull off.
What projects are you working on now?
I have a new children’s book marinating in my head, and a collection of vignettes about a girls evolution throughout the stages of her life. I’m pretty excited about this one. It wakes me up at night!
What words best describe you?
I wish I knew. (or maybe not…) I hope I’m still a work in progress. I hope I’m good and kind and strong. I hope I’m honest and clear-sighted. I hope I’m a brave adventurer who has and will continue to make the very most of this amazing journey.
Have you any other words of advice?
Advice? No. I really don’t presume to be qualified to offer any here. But can I instead make a plea? Can I ask everyone reading this to please buy this book, for the kids in Kenya? There is also an audio version. All my proceeds from the sale of this book are promised back to the children in the tiny village there who created the illustrations for it. You can share a beautiful story, learn about another culture, have a rare window into a very separate reality, and make a benevolent donation that will all go directly to seriously at risk real children just like yours and mine, with one click of the mouse.
And Pam, just to finish up, could you please complete the following:
At school I was …
A rebel. A spirited dreamer. A happy whole incredibly lucky individual hoping to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
When I was a child I wanted to be …
Someone who would someday change the world. I know, right? But that is the truth. And for better or worse, I have to admit that this hasn’t altered much over time, although today I have shortened up my vision somewhat. Now I find myself focusing primarily on the affect my own incredible children will have on their world. Me? I could be at peace with the knowledge that I may have touched, opened, and sparked a few hearts and minds with my writing. And not done any harm along the way. And okay, yeah, maybe still change the world.
I relax by …
Reading, writing, walking, biking, swimming, travelling, challenging myself, taking leaps of faith, meeting fascinating people, learning. Life is too good, and too short, to waste one day not charging out into it with our bright lights blazing.
And now for my review of Pam’s book, When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; The Story Of Hope And Friendship For One young Kenyan Orphan.
Review by Helen Ross:
When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; The Story Of Hope And Friendship For One young Kenyan Orphan.
Author: Pamela Sisman Bitterman
Published in eBook format by eBookIt.com
This emotive children’s book not only takes the reader on a journey to the small village of Maseno in Kenya, Africa, but also into the heart and mind of one little boy, Julius.
Author Pamela Sisman Bitterman spent two months working in Kenya, and states that during that time she got to know Julius very well. Pamela affirms that ‘his story is the voice of the thousands of needy youngsters just like him all throughout Africa.’ This story is a reality check for all of us.
Six year old Julius narrates the story. He takes the reader on a factual and emotional journey into his life, his family, the people who care about him and the villagers, his language, and his thoughts and dreams.
The book’s title is nicely interwoven throughout the book – a little like a chant, but one that has the whisper of sadness yet hope.
When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; The Story Of Hope And Friendship For One young Kenyan Orphan is a well written story. The language is straight forward but interwoven with beautiful descriptive passages. I could see and feel the last wavy gold of the sun being swallowed up by the black shadows of night. I could also feel the ‘jiggers’ in my skin. ‘Jiggers are bugs that crawl under the skin and lay eggs.’
This 1500 word non-fiction children’s picture book also offers the reader a little more insight into the world of the children by the inclusion of illustrations drawn by the Maseno North Sunrise Nursery School Children of Kenya, as well as original colour images. These colour images not only capture the physical harshness of the children’s lives, and their physical afflictions, but also the hope expressed in their smiles and laughter. Despite the harshness of their world, they can still smile and have hope.
When This Is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read; The Story Of Hope And Friendship For One young Kenyan Orphan is certain to pull at your heartstrings and make you stop and think.
And you can help make a difference.
All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the children of the tiny village school where the illustrations were created.
To purchase, just click on the following link:
For further information please go to:
For more information about Pam:
To purchase book, please click on:
You can purchase When This is Over, I Will Go To School, And I Will Learn To Read. A Story of Hope and Friendship for One Young Kenyan Orphan, read reviews, etc, and find out more information about Pam and her books on Pam’s website.
Her blog: Moleskin (Pam states that it is a work still in progress)
Book Trailer links: Please watch -
MUZUNGU; A-frican Lost Soul’s Reality Check
WHEN THIS IS OVER
SAILING TO THE FAR HORIZON
Thanks so much Pam for taking us on your journey. We wish you every success in your travels and your writing. Our thoughts are also with these children, and their future.