7 Questions With Award Winning Author Barbara Ann Mojica
Barbara Ann Mojica, M.A. S.A.S., S.D.A is a historian and retired educator. Her education career spans more than forty years serving as a teacher, special educator, principal, and school district administrator. Barbara writes monthly historical articles for the Columbia Insider under the banner “Passages.” Using the whimsical Little Miss History character to narrate her book series, Barbara hopes to educate, entertain and inspire children to learn about historical people and places. Little Miss History’s antics make reading nonfiction a fun-filled adventure for all ages. She firmly believes, “If you don’t know your history, you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
The Little Miss HISTORY book series has garnered more than twenty awards including B.R.A.G. Medallions, International Book Excellence Awards, International Readers’ Favorite Awards, Eric Hoffer, and Independent Author Network Awards.
Barbara was born in Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Ridgewood, Queens. She is the mother of two children and six grandchildren, including two sets of twins. The author currently resides in the historic Hudson Valley of upstate New York with her artist husband, Victor, who created the Little Miss HISTORY cartoon-like character based on a younger version of his wife.
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Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Oh, I am a plotter. Once I set my mind to do something it’s full steam ahead. From a very young age, I always managed to get way ahead of deadlines. I was able to graduate college a year ahead of schedule, and usually, finish my historical articles for the news magazine I work for a way ahead of deadlines.
As far as my children’s books go, there are several manuscripts pretty much ready for illustration way before my next book is released. I like to know everything is finalized well in advance for any commitment that I make to myself.
How does a day in your author life look?
That is a good question. To be honest, there is no typical day. Because I am in theory, “retired,” I don’t have a daily commute or commitment. Most weeks, I work all seven days averaging seven or eight hours a day.
Part of that time will be spent actually writing, sending and answering emails, reading and reviewing books for my blog, using social media to communicate with fellow authors and fans, researching and setting up book signings and appearances, marketing my books, learning new skills through webinars and online research and collaborating with my husband/illustrator on the design and layout of my books. I juggle these activities and allocate the amount of time depending on my current project.
What are the steps you usually take from writing your first draft to publishing?
My process is probably different from many other authors. All of my books are nonfiction so the first step is to do meticulous research. Because my books focus on historical people and places, wherever possible I visit the site in person. My husband and I take our photographs.
Then I research and verify the information. I don’t use an outline. Instead, I write a draft on my computer. Next, I decide the best way to make the story flow. My Little Miss History character will be narrating each adventure. On average, I go through ten or twelve drafts because my books are picture books which rely heavily on illustrations to flesh out the story.
That facilitates their suitability for a wide age group. About three months before publication, my illustrator designs thumbnail sketches for each page. Then he fleshes out and draws the final illustrations for each page. Sometimes his artistic vision doesn’t work with the text as written.
Occasionally I will rework the order of a couple of pages to make it work seamlessly. Most of my books end with a question for my readers to answer. Usually, there is a glossary at the end of the book, followed by a preview of my next release on the NEXT STOP page. Finally, my illustrator uploads the book and we hit the publish button. We wait for the proof to arrive from the printer before releasing it to the world.
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
I am a voracious reader. My blog centers on reviews of what I like to call family-friendly books or those appropriate for all ages, rather than one specific genre. I read biographies, historical fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, adventure, mystery, picture books, chapter books, just about anything not inappropriate for families.
Generally, I avoid anything too scary or explicit. I enjoy reading the classics, Pulitzer prize winners, and contemporary writers like James Patterson and Clive Cussler. Of course, fellow contemporary children’s book writers are high on my priority list.
What’s the best way for authors to approach self-promotion?
First, don’t overextend yourself. Many authors try to do it all. Get your website set up and promote your brand there. Then choose one or two platforms on social media with which you feel comfortable. Build up a following and develop relationships there while you learn how to use that platform effectively and get advice from the contacts you make. There are two books geared to indie authors that I wish I had when I first began to write.
Navigating INDIEWORLD by Julie A. Gerber and Carole P. Roman covers almost any question a new writer can imagine from the beginning to end of the process and the recently released Marketing INDIEWORLD by Angela Hausman, Carole P. Roman, and others focuses on the marketing aspects.
My advice to new authors is to keep in mind the three P’s, patience, persistence and perseverance. Hitting that publish button does not guarantee overnight success. I have been publishing for seven years and I learn something new each day. Not to mention the fact that once you finally learn how to do something well, the technology changes or Amazon develops a new algorithm and it all goes out the window. My best advice is to recognize there are lots of variables outside of your control. Take a deep breath and learn to roll with the punches.
Do you have any advice for authors who are looking to get more reviews?
This is one of the most difficult tasks for a new writer. One of the first steps is to create a press release. Have this professionally done or research online templates. Then go to your email list, however small, and prepare an advance copy. Seek honest opinions.
Google bloggers who do book reviews for your genre. While this is a time-consuming process, you may also find people to organize blog tours for your genre. Use social media to announce your title for prospective reviewers. Look for Facebook groups related to your theme. Seek out charities with links to your topic and send complimentary copies of your book. Offer a giveaway on Goodreads or your blog, if you have one. Keep track of your results and contacts on a spreadsheet.
You can also seek paid reviews from Foreword or Kirkus reviews. These are hard to get and very expensive. Reader’s Favorite offers free reviews. Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal review books for free, if accepted. Ask David is another online site that allows you to work up a profile for your book and gives readers the opportunity to post reviews on their site. If you enter book award contests, some of these will include a review of the book in the entry fee. Always check with a site like the Alliance of Independent Authors to see which of these book award sites is legitimate and trustworthy.
What should readers expect from your next book?
My next release will be out this September. Little Miss HISTORY Travels to Hyde Park, Home of FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT Presidential Library & Museum focuses on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s home and presidential library in Hyde Park, often called “The Summer White House.”
Readers learn about FDR’s life, hobbies and accomplishments, his family, and service before the presidency. His wife, Eleanor, picked up her husband’s mantel as a champion of the poor and underprivileged and served as a delegate to the United Nations.
Visitors view the site of many of FDR’s “Fireside Chats” to the nation. He was the first president to give his papers to the nation and the library is now one of the finest research centers in the world. Readers will learn how the New Deal programs revolutionized the role of government in the life of American citizens. In F.D.R.’s own words, “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today.”
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