Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Interview with Melissa Stagi-Zepeda: Artist and Crafts-woman extraordinaire

 I met Melissa on Facebook. I loved her creepy artwork so I asked her if she'd like to do an interview. She said yes. 

Her style is freaky, fearsome, and funny! She takes the everyday things, like returning a library book, and turns them into the spine-chilling monster world that only, until now, lives in a child's mind. 

I can see a bright future for her in children's picture books. Can't you? Think halloween and beyond! 

Below are the questions I asked her:

1.     You are a lover of Creepy. Why are you drawn to the darker side of art?

I didn't know that artists were out there doing this kind of art - and I really didn't start going into the creepy direction until Tim Burton came out and I was like - whoa...this is so ME!

I started seeing more and more dark art come out and now there seems to be a flood of's amazing.
2.     You sell art on Etsy. How hard or easy was it to start that business?

I've got to give props to my sister on this one. She started the Etsy side of the business and so far it's been working out great.

3.     What one word of advice would you give to a newbie illustrator/artist?

You just never know where your inspiration is going to come from.

Keep drawing, painting, whatever your craft is, everyday. Even if it's just looking at art. 

4.     Describe your artwork in 5 words.

Creepy. Cute. Funny. Interesting. Nostalgic.

5.     Who or what is your inspiration?

I have so many. My early influences were Stephen King, Mad Magazine and the art books my father 
had that included Frank Frazetta and Norman Rockwell. I wanted to be Normal Rockwell and do these great 
paintings. I just kept working at it for years, doing pencil portraits, regular cartoons and well, I was bored

It's fun to do something like this, but I didn't feel creatively challenged like I do now with the creepy slant to it.

6.     Have you ever thought about illustrating children's books?

I would love to! I work on my own book, but for some reason, it never works out. The universe keeps 
throwing other stuff at me. I just go with it.
7. How would someone submit a photo for you to change into a creepy scene?

You can just email me the photo, but most of the time folks don't have just one picture to work off of. 

I do it from several, listen to what the client wants/desires and I draw a pencil of it first, send it for approval 
and then get painting! 

8. Why draw? Why art? 

I honestly don't know. I just have a talent for it. I was always drawing on my walls, paper, doodling ever
since I could hold a pencil. 

9. What other hobbies do you have outside of your art?

I am a big reader. I read everything I can get my hands on. I also cook a lot. 

But I have a lot of kids, that kind of comes with the territory.

10. Do you and your sister ever argue over the business? Who usually wins?

No, we don't. We are so on the same page about everything we do. We are the only ones that understand 
each other in this respect. Our families laugh at us when we talk 'Art/Dolls.'

11. How long have you been working to create your artistic voice?


12. When and how did you realize that you had a specific niche?

I just kept working at it. And listening my gut - that is the biggest thing that took me a long time to realize. 

If you don't listen to that inner voice - you'll never try stuff. If you aren't a little scared, it's not worth doing.

13. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

My sister, my husband and my parents. 

14. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Spread the creepy word - feel free to post it on your Facebooks, Pinterests, etc....

15.  Do you belong to any art associations or critique groups? Why or why not?

I belong to Under the Juniper Tree. I usually use my family for critiques. They know me so well and are 
just a tad creepy themselves. 

16. Which one is your favorite piece in your collection?

Car Shopping.

17. What books are you reading right now?

A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore - this is the 6 or 7th time I've read it.

18. What's the funniest thing someone has said about your artwork?

There's something wrong with you...can  I have one?

Monday, April 23, 2012

First Line Madness

The first line of your novel means a lot. It can make or break it. It can pull the reader in or make them put your book back on the shelf. Ahhhhh, the pressure! To deal with the first line my advice is to take some time and come up with at least 20 of them.

REDWOOD BLOOD is in its final stages of revision. I love this story. I love the characters. But the first line is weak and boring. Here it is:

The black present sitting on my pillow startled me.

YUCK! It lacks excitement. Startled? Come on, I can do better than that. So I did. I set aside some time to come up with alternate first lines. I let my creative side go and rapid fire, typed them as they popped into my head. Here they are:

First Lines for REDWOOD BLOOD

1.             When Dad said my thirteenth birthday would be special, I doubt he meant that he'd go missing and a mysterious black present would end up on my pillow.
2.             My thirteenth birthday was supposed to be special. I thought special in a good way. Instead my dads been missing for seven days, my best friend, Trey, blew me off, and an odd black present showed up on my pillow.
3.             First my dad goes missing, then my best friend chooses baseball over me, and now a creepy black present shows up for my thirteenth, unlucky birthday.
4.             My dad is missing and it's all my fault.
5.             Whoever wrapped that thing should be told birthdays are supposed to be bright and colorful, not dull and black.
6.             At least the present matched my mood, dull and black.
7.             Did you ever feel something was so wrong that you knew it was right? That's how the dull black present felt in my hands.
8.             It was my fault dad was missing and I was going to find him.
9.             It was my thirteenth birthday and no one would give acknowledge it if they knew what was good for them.
10.          I made everyone promise not to say happy birthday to me today.
11.          If no one ever told you that your thirteenth birthday is cursed, let me be the first. 
12.          Its my unlucky thirteenth. My dads been missing for exactly seven days. My best friend cut all his hair off and joined a baseball team. And now this creepy black present showed up on my pillow. Things kind of suck right now.
13.          When I saw the black present something inside of me screamed. I knew it had something to do with dads disappearance.
14.          Everything up until now was perfectly normal, and then everything changed.
15.          I never believed in ghosts, the boogie man, or magic, that was until the black present showed up on my pillow.
16.          I believed I was safe, normal, and dull until dad went missing and a black present showed up on my thirteenth birthday.
17.          I jumped when I saw the black present on my pillow.
18.          All my friends promised not to celebrate my birthday until dad was found. So who left the black present on my pillow wasn't a friend.
19.          If someone would have told me that when I turned thirteen my dad would go missing, my best friend would stop hanging, and a creepy black present would show up on my pillow I'd have sprayed soda from my mouth.
20.          Hating your stomach, your name, and your backstabbing x-best friend are normal teenage ordeals, but add in a missing dad, and a mysterious black present on your pillow and things go from normal to ab real fast.
21.          Things in my life went from normal to ab real quick. 
Dad had been missing exactly one week when the black present showed up on my pillow.

Interview with Grier Cooper: Dancer, Writer, Photographer

I met Grier through SCBWI. She reached out using a service called critconnect here in the Bay area to start a writer's critique group. Critconnect links writers of SCBWI with one another. 
Grier is a multi-talented creative being. Once a professional ballet dancer, she uses what she learned in dance to enrich her writing and photography. 
The novel she is working on in our group has taught me a lot about ballet. Her work is refreshing and crisp. Look for her to be the one to read in the next year. 
Below are the questions I asked her.

1.     What age did you start dancing ballet?
I started taking ballet classes when I was five. However, it wasn't true love at first... I remember hiding and hoping my mom would forget to bring me to class.
2.     How has dance helped you with your writing?
It takes an incredible amount of dedication, discipline, persistence and confidence to make it in the highly competitive world of ballet, so there's a direct correlation there- those same things are necessary for writers. 
Dance often comes into play in most things I write, whether fiction or non-fiction. These days I blog about dance and write articles and monthly columns about all aspects of contemporary dance and the main character of my YA novel is a ballet dancer.
3.     Have you acted out a scene in order to make it more real for your characters?
I strongly believe in making things real, but I use other methods besides acting – I find pictures in magazines and create a visual world. I also write detailed character profiles and timelines/outlines.
4.     What is the title of the children's book you are working on now?
I am currently working on “HOPE”, the second novel of my Urban Ballerina trilogy.
5.     How do ideas come to you?
Some ideas percolate in my mind for a long time... Obviously, personal history influences a lot of what I write... as they say, “write what you know.” 
An idea often begins first with an initial vision, almost like watching a movie inside my mind (does this make me two steps away from being certifiably nuts? I'm in good company since many writers are...)
However, the creative muse is a flighty, capricious creature and there's no controlling her. You never know when she's going to come stomping out of the woods with her hair full of twigs and the next big idea. 
Good ideas come when they come (even sometimes in the middle of the night). In the meantime, I continue to do my part to keep the creative juices flowing by watching, listening and absorbing what I see out in the world and continuing to do things that feed my soul (like dancing, or exploring the world with my family).
6.     Have you ever experienced writer's block? If yes, how did you beat it?
Haven't we all? Yes, been there and done that. For me the biggest block to creativity is fear – fear that the work won't be good enough or something like that. But I'm a firm believer in the power of positive thinking, so when I catch myself going down that rabbit hole I switch gears and take a walk, dance, write some affirmations or go visit the chickens and make sure they haven't knocked over their food bowl again.
Anne Lamotte shares a great technique to move past writer's block in her book Bird By Bird – When she starts to write, she tells herself to write enough to fill a 1” X 1” picture frame... There's no mental pressure that way – no “I have to write at least 6 pages today and every day or else” and things usually just flow from there.  It's impossible to be creative when you're feeling stressed out.
7.     What time do you get up and what do you have for breakfast?
I am an early riser, since I'm a mom, so I'm usually up by about 6:30am. Breakfast often includes eggs since we have two chickens.
8.     What do you think about the state of publishing today?
It's a very interesting time to be a writer; there are many more opportunities available in our digital age. The advent of e-books and blogs makes it easier to put your name and your work out in the world, plus one book can have multiple lives, in both print and digital forms.
9.     Will you self-publish or try the original route first?
I plan to approach traditional publishers. Self-publishing requires lots of time for marketing and distribution – all of that becomes another job in itself! While all writers must set aside time for marketing and promotion I think the traditional route is a better fit for me at this time. In the future I may also look into self-publishing options.
10. Describe your book in 5 words. 
Will the ballerina's dreams manifest?
11. What genre calls you the most?
I like writing contemporary YA because I think that age group experiences a profound level of transformation that can be difficult to navigate. I choose to write stories that inspire people to trust their instincts, find power from within and live to their highest potential.
12. Have you ever used a professional editor? If yes, how did that work out? If no, would you consider it?
I haven't gone that route although I recently took a workshop that was offered by an editor and found it helpful. However, I do think it's important to have other people look at your work – so I belong to a critique group.
13. Do you have an agent? If no, will you be querying for one soon?
I do not yet have an agent. I am planning to query in the near future but will wait until I have outlined my 3rd book so I can present a complete package.
14. What books are you reading right now?
I have been staying up far too late recently and it's Jenna Black's fault! The cover for Glimmerglass really spoke to me, even though I don't usually read a whole lot of fantasy. I was hooked after I read that one. I just finished reading Sirensong last night. Her main character is awesome and the books have the perfect blend of strong voice, action, otherworldly elements and humor.
15. How has your critique group helped your writing?
My critique group has helped in so many ways – obviously there is the necessary constructive criticism about what I can do to improve my work and I always come away with a wealth of inspiration and ideas. Being a part of the group also helps me keep my sanity by balancing the open-ended periods of isolation that writing requires with time connecting and laughing with others.
16. Do you recommend writing classes to newbie writers? Why?
I recommend writing classes to all writers... because practice makes perfect. The more time you put in honing your skill set, the better your work will be. Writing classes are particularly beneficial for newbie writers because everyone needs to learn the tricks of the trade before getting started... like learning how to walk before you can run a marathon.
17. What one word best describes you?
18. Where was the last writing class or workshop you took? Did it help you? How?
The last writing class I took was Amy Novesky's On-the-Spot Children's Writing Workshop held at Book Passage. She is both a writer and editor and wears both hats well. Her input was very helpful as was the input from other members of the class. The variety of comments made for a very well-rounded critique.
19. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?
Visit my website: , follow me on Twitter or look me up on Facebook.
20. Who is the most famous person you've been able to capture in pictures?
I recently photographed Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen for HBO's production of Hemingway & Gellhorn.
21. What is the most fun or crazy subject to shoot?
I recently completed a dance picture book for 3-5-year-olds that is full of fun, colorful photographs of preschool kids. I absolutely adore that age group – they are completely uncensored, uninhibited and full of crazy wisdom. All of that totally comes through in the photographs. 
During one of my shoots, I turned on music and one little boy immediately started doing handstands and dancing with his head on the ground. All I could think was wow- that's the first move that comes to mind for you? Never would have thought of that myself... I had to laugh. 
22. How does photography help your writing?
When I photograph, I often work with people, so communication is key. If I'm a better communicator in person then it would follow that those skills will also improve on paper. 
The picture book project has also inspired me to find more ways to combine my skills of photography and writing in a meaningful way. For me, photography, just like writing, is all about finding the beauty of life in the moment.
23. What is the one most important thing you've learned through dance, writing, and photography that you would like to share with the readers?
My decisions to pursue dance, writing and photography have one thing in common: the love of doing whatever it is and the joy I experience in that doing. 

I think that has to be there for the rest of the work of success to happen. The love of what you are doing is the fire that urges the necessary dedication, discipline and persistence that helps anyone achieve whatever goal they have in mind.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Getting Re-Connected when You Move

Re-Connected when You Move
by Angie Azur 
-originally published by WPA SCBWI Newsletter 2012


Some of you may remember me from the Pittsburgh regional chapter of SCBWI. My first move away from home brought me to Manhattan Beach, LA. I felt isolated and lonely as a writer there, but I never made any attempts to change it.

When we sold our house in Manhattan Beach to move north to San Francisco I was excited. Growing up in Pittsburgh I had missed the trees and changes in weather during my time in LA.
After taking a few weeks to get settled, I needed to get back to my writing. But this time things would be different. Even though I didn't feel comfortable in my new surroundings yet, and I didn't know any writers in my new area, I put myself out there.
The first thing I did to get back to normal was to decorate my office. During a move, things get lost, papers shuffled, and space changes. I needed to feel like my office was a cave, a safe haven to let go and write.

            The important things for me to surround myself with were these:

My writing dream board: which has pictures and phrases about writing and the writing life that I wish and dream to accomplish. 

My stuffed monkey from childhood: which was given to me by my Grandfather and sits on my writing desk as a reminder that I can do anything. 

My files of books and ideas: instead of putting them inside drawers where I wouldn't see them, I keep them out on my shelves. 

Books: I love to surround myself with books: ones I've read, ones I'm waiting to read, and even ones I know I'll never read, but enjoy the company of in my office.

The second thing I did, to get back to my routine, was reach out to The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators . SCBWI has always been a great resource for me.

            I contacted the local regional advisor, and let her know that I was new in town, that I'd been a member since 2004 and that I was ready to volunteer. Volunteering is a great way to meet other writers in your area and to make new contacts.

            Now not only am I very involved with the Bay Area SCBWI chapter, but I am the critique group facilitator. That leads me to the next thing I did after moving. I sent emails out to other SCBWI members, asking them about critique groups.

            I wanted to find one that was close to home,  met in the morning and was comprised of serious writers. The easiest way to find a group like this, I found, was to use critconnect. This is an online site in our area where members looking for a critique group sign up. I met my wonderful critique group writers there.

            The last thing I did to get connected to the writing community was to visit local bookstores. My favorite one here is Book Passage. It's locally owned and small, yet it attracts notable authors for speaker series, and publishers and editors for writing classes.

            I signed up for their email newsletter, which makes me feel "in-the-know" when it comes to visiting authors and writer's workshops. And the staff has been great in helping me research books for my current projects.

            I've lived in the Bay Area for less than two years, yet I feel so connected to the writing community. I am thankful for all of the creative people I have met. But it didn't just happen. I had to get out there. I had to email people. I had to introduce myself.

            My advice to you is that if you are feeling isolated because of a move, do what I did. Use all of these great resources and you too will become dialed into your writing community.

Angie Azur is a middle grade and young adult writer. She has been a member of SCBWI since 2004. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband, two young sons, two geckos, and two dogs. She writes a blog, where she interviews creative people in all genres and gives advice to newbie writers. 

Her website showcases her work.
Please visit them at:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Interview with Dorit Sasson: Author and Creater of the program, "Giving a Voice to the Voiceless."

I met Dorit via my blog. She'd read one of the interviews and asked to be interviewed herself. After learning more about Dorit, I was glad she did.

Her warm smile drew me in, and the fact that she lives in my hometown, well, lets just say anyone from STEELER country deserves an interview! 

Dorit's life is a tale of two worlds. And because of this, she has a unique voice. One I'm sure you'll want to read. 

Below are the questions I asked her: 

1.     Why did you come back to the US after so long in Israel?

I left Israel after living there for almost 19 years because I experienced what many professionals call the "brain-drain." After teaching English in the classroom for more than 13 years, I felt "professionally dead" and burnt-out. it was time for a change.

2.     Why write?

I write to find the stories I care the most deeply and passionately about. As I write, I ask: "Am I willing to go where I need to go so I get people to care about such and such?" Chance are, if I don't care enough about a story, then my reader won't care about it either.

3.     Describe your book in 5 words.

Transformational. Painful. Authentic. Vulnerable. Practical.

4.     Living in two worlds can give an unusual perspective. How does this translate in your writing?

Great question. The message of my writing  that always seems to emerge is about listening to the voice that will allow you to feel. But believe me, it is damn hard to listen to that voice that will allow you to feel when you are trying to be that authoritative Israeli teacher in the classroom. Or when you are trying to stay calm managing paperwork of notorious bureaucracy Israeli society is known for, or living under the constant threat of another impending war by one of the neighboring Arab countries.
I guess the bottom line is that you learn to embrace ambiguity and tolerance of "living on two cultural seats." Very soon after coming back to the States, I realized that my 19+ years of living abroad was an asset even though I had a hard time reconnecting to life back in the States.

Whether your two homes are cultural or emotional and you feel disconnected from a world as you know it now, you have to adjust your world view to gain perspective otherwise you are "left high and dry." In my chapter for Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, "The Best Time to Get in my Way" I describe the journey of "coming home" back to the States after living so many years in Israel as "bittersweet." 
Sweet = back on familiar ground but bitter = not fitting in and not finding my "tribe."

For example, I would ask mothers with small children, "What's an SUV?" and "What's Target?" I felt everyone around me was speaking another language. this made me feel embarrassed because I knew it was a common thing to everybody except me or so it seemed at the time.  It's a hard thing to explain to somebody but yet, everyone can understand and relate to the feelings of being an outsider.
5.     Did the two worlds help or hinder your writing? And in what ways?
Another great question. During the first crucial six months, my life and my writing were two separate entities. I put a great deal of emphasis on the struggle and not on the words. I wanted to be able to go to bed at night feeling "I could make it here in the US." 

You could also look at it this way - did the writing help or hinder my adjustment to two cultural worlds. As an outsider, you are neither here nor there. And a big part of the Jewish experience has to do with our expansive history of coming and going. Look at our history. It is an integral part of it. 

When you are Jewish and live in the Diaspora, you are first Jewish. When you live in Israel, you are first Israeli. It took me (and it still does) a great deal of time to be both Jewish and Israeli here in Pittsburgh while raising a family and I'm still neither feeling here or there on some days. 

For example, at this time of year when it's Passover, I'll suddenly take a whiff of lavender out on the street, and in a second, I am transported to the garden of a neighboring kibbutz member and think of spending a Passover sedar with family and what that means in Israeli terms. 

Or I'll look of pictures of Jerusalem and feel immensely homesick. When this need to feel connected became so strong, I would turn to the journals and then really polish and refine the writing so as to put a final "voice" or "time stamp" to the emotional disconnect of what I was feeling at the time. And I still do this from time to time.  Some of these writings have even found homes with publishers.
 It's one thing to write about this perspective. It's another thing to live it. I experienced the role of the immigrant shoes twice - first as an "oleh" an immigrant to Israel and then as an "oleh

That's when the writing also became to be a source of therapy and healing, and from there, I was also able to find my tribe - through the pain. Luckily, there is a strong Israeli community and I get to eat homemade hummus (made of white beans, very yummy) almost all the time.
6.     Writers need to be great observers. Did your time in silence help you observe and record?

What is silence? Silence is the experience absorbed in words.

As a second language learner of Hebrew, I was also a silent one. I took in everything from my environment at the time so I could feel "safe." Those early years helped give voice to what I was feeling at the time.
 As I wrote about  silence in my chapter for Pebbles in the Pond, I was the American teacher who was never taken seriously and because of that, I stayed silent all throughout teacher meetings and pedagogical discussions of the students. I didn't allow myself to "speak" because I still needed to be that Israeli. I'm sure if I went back now, the experience would be slightly different, but not so much.

When I was in the Israeli army, my silence sometime resulted in punishment and ridicule from native Israeli peers. This is the stuff stories and movies are made of. Really. When I felt safe enough, I was able to step up and step out by giving voice to what initially, I couldn't express. The result has been my Stories.
7.     What is a life coach and why do you have one?

I hired a life coach with a strong astrological background in March 2011, to help me get clear on my sense of purpose and direction. I knew teaching was in my blood, but I needed help understanding what other options were there for me in life other than traditional ESL (English as a second language) classroom teaching. Together, we defined that I was meant to go forward with writing "pain stories" and my stories of "darkness and trying to find the light." That's when the book and program "Giving Voice to Voiceless" was born.

8.     What one word best describes you?


9.     What time do you get up and what do you eat for breakfast?

I'm fully present and conscious by 6am after meditating. On days when I need to get out of the door and teach, breakfast is at 7:15 am or so. Otherwise, I try to eat breakfast by 8am.

10. What one word of advice would you give to a newbie writer?

Read. read. read. And especially read the genres you also wish to write in.

11. Have you taken writing classes. If so, what one was your favorite?

I've "sampled" quite a bit from online fiction classes at Gotham (NYC) to poetry and non-fiction. I've also facilitated writing groups in the comfort of my own home. I guess I would have to say the Madwomen non-fiction classes at  Carlow University here in Pittsburgh were my favorite because non-fiction seems to be my favorite genre. For now.

12. What is a transformational author retreat?

Yep, I didn't know either before I had went on one either. Briefly, the transformational author retreat organized and spiritually guided by the amazing Christine Kloser, three time award winning published author, was organized on a Jewish farm  tucked away. For writers of the Pebbles in the Pond who met virtually and wanted to express and experience the calling to transform the world, we spoke through pain and struggle on many different levels.

Writing is a platform to transform our pain and struggle into sometime more positive and meaningful. Right now, we are experiencing great shifts at all levels and there is a great deep need for people to validate the experiences and feelings they are experiencing.  

13. Writers often write alone, retreating inward. How did you get the courage to promote yourself outward?

I basically will reiterate what Jane Yolen says, "BIC," which means, "Butt in Chair." I knew I needed to sit in the chair and write first. That's the physical and much needed part that people tend to overlook.

I also needed to set my intention. Setting my intention (i.e. describing how I want to feel) is another big part of the journey.

The third part is knowing that I have a unique enough story and emotional perspective that is part of my own pain that I write about in Pebbles in the Pond. That is something nobody can take away from me, from you. That propels me. 

14. Do you believe this book could translate to young people? If not, will you be writing for children anytime soon?

If you are referring to the book, Giving Voice to Voiceless: A Five Step Program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story," then yes. Educators can actually use sections of the book to help guide them when helping their students give voice to meaningful writing and their hopes, visions and dreams - sometime I wish my teachers had done when I was a student.
If you are referring to Pebbles in the Pond, I most definitely thing educators can use specific stories to reinforce a moral or lesson, activate or facilitate a group discussion and finally, encourage them to write their own "ripple" stories based on an experience of when they transform their own personal struggle into something meaningful.   

15. What are you reading right now?

Lots of non-fiction books by Mr. Deepak Chopra like The Seven Spiritual Laws for Parents and Creating Affluence (I need books that ground me) and lots of books in my area of Story expertise like Michael Margolis's visionary book, Believe Me: A Story Manifesto. But of course, I have more books than I have time for.

16. Who is your biggest cheerleader?

I guess I would have to say my Pebbles fans from the book, "Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time" - they are my backers and supporters and really seem to "get me."

17. Ever wanted to give up? If yes, what kept you writing?

All the time. That is a natural part of anything when you are constantly stretching and pushing through your comfort zone.

When I was stuck in the stage of "looking and feeling for inspiration," I was constantly living in a fantasy world, and consequently, I had more time to take self-pity on myself. But one day, I woke up one morning and said, "This is me. This is my life. This is what I need and want to do" and then I really didn't have time to sulk and give up so easily. I look for professional support. I got more training. I "pretended" to be serious. And guess what? It worked. 
What's that saying?

Failing is defined by the lack of trying.

18. How can my blog readers help you to become an even bigger success?

Good bloggers help to cross-promote each other.

 When there is chemistry, there is magic just like any relationship/partnership. I have benefited from my 40+ Pebble in the Pond friends because we are constantly cross-promoting each others' efforts and we are also hooking each other to other great content (like yours) to help promote other excellent blogs. (like yours.) 

It all really depends on your goals and what you want out of a blog and readership. With my blog site, "Giving Voice to Voiceless" - 

 I want to help give voice to peoples' stories by giving them the tools to honor the way in which the story needs to come out through that creative form of expression as they slowly step into their authentic voices of being and feeling.  

19. Did you use a professional editor when you finished your ms?

Many many times. I am now writing a teacher development book for Pearson education  on teacher collaboration for English language learners and peer reviews and editorial feedback is a big part of the process. You learn so much when you work with an editor. Editors are really your friends. I've learned to like them.  

20. Do you belong to any writers associations? If yes, which ones?

In the past when I wrote lots of children's fiction and non-fiction, I belonged to SCBWI (Society of Childrens' Writers and Book Illustrators).

Now I belong to the Working Writers Coaching Club -

21. Do you belong to a critique group? What do you think about them?

I have been in several. The best kind of critique group I have participated in is that where the writers themselves are published writers (see below) and time is used well and productively to support the writers. Oh, and let's not forget good chocolate and a good facilitator. A good writing group should always give each writer what s/he needs.

22. Any words of encouragement for struggling writers?

Struggle is really a natural part of the writing life. The most important thing I wish I did more as I was struggling as a writer while raising my son was to enjoy life. I know it sounds a bit crazy to some, but it IS possible to enjoy life and struggle at the same time. (Meditation really helped with that...)
Make sure you have an A+ writing group of writers who have been PUBLISHED and not just any writer who enjoys hearing him/herself read. 

Hire a professional editor. 

Read and read a lot.

Know the difference between online and "transitional book" writing - many people don't read these days and as a result, have the eye concentration of a flea. 

(Write shorter books than longer ones) For writers however, this means training oneself to not rush the writing process. Sometimes the learning curve can be very high, and it's important to account for this when planning a writing schedule for example.
It's also important to be aware of the amount of promoting and marketing one must do as a writer. Set aside time for these tasks as they are important, but first and foremost, remember to WRITE!
The publishing world moves like an elephant, and there are many things you won't be able to understand at first - i.e. the pace. So it's up to you to promote yourself and don't be afraid to toot your own horn.

Get busy studying the market and don't worry too much about what sells (that will inform your path) but also allow yourself to truly explore what it is that makes your soul sing. What is your passion? What will bring you the greatest joy? 
If you worry too much about money, you will loose the spark of creativity, (easier said than done, I know) so don't worry about "giving up" the part time paying job to be a full-time freelance writer, unless you have no time to write. (It pays the bills) and learn how one world can inform the writing world.

Don't be afraid to ask for help and above all, be persistent and don't be afraid to send work out. 

(Remember the writing rule - always have 13 pieces circulating at all times...)

Oh, and do create and stick to a writing schedule - create a writing schedule that fits into your life - not the other way around.

And last but certainly not least, do try to not be overwhelmed (easier said than done).. there will always be pressing life issues, but be sure to give writing the TLC and attention it need and don't be easily overwhelmed. You owe it to yourself to get the stories you want out to the people who need to read them.

23. What was your biggest learning moment during this writing journey?

How to write that story from that place where I am at my most authentic self.

24. What's the funniest thing a fan has asked you?
"When you served in the Israeli army, did you ever shoot anybody?" because it just doesn't work like that in Israel.

Author bio:

Dorit Sasson is the author of Giving Voice to Voiceless: A Five Step program to Transforming Your Life and Business in Story and a speaker. She uses the power of story to help others create their life and business in story. Download your free MP3, Story Manifesto: A Guide To Stepping into the Authentic Voice and Vision of Your Story, When you do, you’ll receive a complimentary subscription to the “Giving Voice to Voiceless” magazine, including a transformational tip of the week.