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Writers@Work: How I Self-Published My Children’s Book by Elaine Blanchard

September 29, 2015

Note From Rochelle

Greetings, writers!

My favorite part of my job comes around just twice a month—when I head to the library to teach writing to children as part of my Write Now! Dream Keepers program. Every week I meet children who challenge me to communicate more clearly and teach me about their lives. You can read about our fall writing projects at the Dream Keepers blog.

52879_1590457315041_7113083_oToday’s tip talks about how one writer found success through self-publishing. I met Elaine Blanchard almost ten years ago, when we both attended a writing retreat at Washington National Cathedral. I was immediately drawn to Elaine’s quick wit and wise stories. She’s been a great friend to me ever since! I’m delighted to welcome her to the blog! Enter below to win a copy of Elaine Blanchard’s new book, Maggie Scott’s Head Got Stuck.

Happy Writing!  Rochelle, the Write Now! Coach


My daughter, Jennifer, has worked for many years with children in preschool and public library settings. She shares stories with me, funny quotes, sad things, and crazy experiences. It was nine years ago when Jennifer first told me about Maggie Scott’s head getting stuck. The actual event was quite a crisis and, I’m sure, very frightening to all involved. The emergency medical response team had to be called in order for Maggie’s head to be released! Like so many family crises, the humor in this story was appreciated only after it was all safely resolved.

20150814_140419The story caught my attention because it was so ironic. Maggie Scott was the oldest child of three in a nice family. She considered herself to be an authority on most things. I asked for permission to interview Maggie, to give her a chance to tell the head-stuck story from her own perspective. I am told that Maggie cleaned the house before my arrival for our interview. The seven-year-old girl set up a special place for our interview, two club chairs and a floor lamp. She wore a black, floor-length, velvet dress and met me at the door. I was surprised and delighted by the formality!

After the interview, I stood to leave and simply reflected, “Maggie, you must have been so afraid with your head stuck, and so many people unable to set you free.” She looked me over, from head to foot, and with the air of royalty, she replied, “You might have been afraid, but I was not.” So funny! That line had to be in the story, so I invented a character, Daniel, who could inspire that same response from Maggie after her head was released from the granite towers.

I initially wrote the story in 2008, Maggie Scott’s Head Got Stuck. I submitted it to Dial Books for Young Readers and to Spider Magazine. Neither picked it up. So I chose to self-publish because I think the story begs to be told and shared.

Maggie is now sixteen years old, and she recently got her driver’s license. She has allowed this story to be published along with the permission of her parents. They helped by contributing five hundred dollars to the cost of publication. It is my hope that the book is a delight for all of them, for their extended family and friends.

I teach a course, “The Art of Storytelling,” at Memphis College of Art. One of my students, Robby McElhaney, is an illustrator, and his senior exhibit was so charming and fun that I was inspired to ask Robby if he would enjoy doing a project with me. I wanted to self-publish the Maggie Scott story, and I wanted Robby to illustrate it. We both enjoyed the work and the process. The story is ten pages and Robby created ten illustrations, one for each page of text.

I chose Archway Publishing because the organization seemed professional and helpful. I have had a good experience with them. Every contact I had was friendly. The publishing package I chose cost $1600.00, and that is a lot of money for me and my budget. I do not regret having spent the time and the money on this book. I strengthened my relationships with Maggie and her family. I had the chance to dedicate a book to my daughter. I enjoyed the chance to work with one of my students and to create something new together. I learned a great deal about self-publishing and I really like the look of my new book!

My only complaint about Archway Publishing is the high cost of their marketing package. The $1600.00 I paid for publication did not include marketing the book. When the marketing agent called me, I felt high pressure to purchase the package, and I felt the way I feel when I am at a car dealership, pushed to buy as though not buying would be an unintelligent choice. I did not appreciate that encounter, and I did not buy.

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Elaine UpstanderAbout the author Elaine Blanchard is a storyteller, writer and teacher. She lives in Memphis, Tennessee, where she teaches “The Art of Storytelling” at Memphis College of Art and “The Preacher as Storyteller” at Memphis Theological Seminary. Elaine’s first book, Help Me Remember: Bible Stories for Children, was published and recorded by Pilgrim Press in 2005. Elaine leads storytelling retreats for groups around the country, giving participants the opportunity to find and share their own best stories. Learn more about Elaine on her web site at

Meet the author Burkes Books, a local independent bookseller in Memphis, will host a book signing on Wednesday evening, November 11, 5:30-6:30. I’ll read the book at 6:00. Robby, the illustrator has been invited to join me there, and it would be a real joy if Maggie Scott and her family were able to return to Memphis from where they have moved to be part of that book signing event! The book can be purchased at Archway Publishing.

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