Friday, September 9, 2011

Firsts Fridays: Multi-talented, Lisa Cottrell-Bentley

Today’s Firsts Fridays guest is the definition of go-getter…and man do I love go-getters. Read on to find out more about the multi-talented Lisa Cottrell-Bentley.

Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley has been writing since she was a child, winning her first writing contest at age 9. She’s been writing professionally since 2002. Lisa is an active member of RWA and SCBWI.

Lisa and her daughters spent many hours searching for children’s books about homeschoolers, but found very few. So, they decided to create their own. As they discussed their dream storylines, the Wright on Time series took shape. While they haven’t found any mysterious devices yet, they have done lots of field research trying out many of the activities described in these books.

Lisa lives and learns while writing in southern Arizona with her husband Greg, two happy always homeschooled daughters Zoë and Teagan, and three cats. Her desire is for all people to live their own personal dreams, now and for always.

DB: You started writing when you were a child. Have you always known this was the route you wanted to take?
LB: Deep down, I always dreamed of being a published author, but the practicalities of “adult life” led me to follow my more scientific interests through college and my early years as an adult. I received a degree in Mathematics and became a computer engineer for several years. Once I had my first child, my passion for writing was unleashed again—I haven’t stopped since.

DB: I’m glad you found it your passion again!
With all the writing you do, does it come easy for you? For example do you go about writing all your books in the same amount of time, the same way, etc?

LB: This is an interesting question. I don’t have a process for writing. Sometimes I’m so inspired that a story comes out faster than I can type. Sometimes I have to struggle a bit—usually because of a deadline. Those can either freak me out, or give me a “forced” inspirational all-nighter. J
I prefer to keep several writing projects going at once, so that there is always something I can work on.

DB: I would think the dead lines would either force inspiration or insanityJ
You have created the Wright on Time Series which are books where a homeschooled family takes many adventurous trips throughout the US. What else can you tell us about these books?

LB: The Wright family, originally from Arizona, decided as a family to live on the road for a few years in order to facilitate a really fun homeschooling adventure for the children. The kids, Nadia and Aidan, start out as 11 and 7 year olds in Wright on Time: Arizona. The family plans to stay one month in each of the 50 U.S. states and explore as much as possible (corresponding to all of the Wright on Time books). Each book shows one day in a particular state, taking the family on an adventure as well as a unique educational theme.
The parents, Harrison and Stephanie, are very active in the books. Harrison works as a freelance writer and Stephanie telecommutes as a software engineer. Their pet turtle, Prince Pumpkin III, is along for the ride.

As well as being fun individual books, there is an overall science fiction story arc to the Wright on Time books involving a mysterious device that the family finds on their first adventure in Arizona.
I’ve received a lot of fan mail from both homeschooled kids (who like reading about other kids like them) and school kids (who also enjoy them and find them packed with facts to use in book reports).

DB: You had me hooked at sci-fi. What a cool way to experience the world for kids!
Are these the first books you have had published and could you tell us about that journey?

LB: The Wright on Time series are my first published books. The first was Wright on Time: Arizona, Book 1 and was published in August 2009.
I started trying to get published about eight years before I became published. I joined writers’ groups and critique groups and went to conferences. I specifically started writing children’s books since my older daughter (then around seven or so) begged me to after she had gotten fed up with everything she’d been reading.

I followed all the traditional advice: boned up on query letters, learned how to pitch, and was told the same advice over and over… “Get rid of the parents, send the kids to school, make the siblings not like each other, and then we’ll talk because your writing style is very good.”
Since the sole reason I started writing children’s books about homeschoolers was to appeal to the millions of homeschoolers (and their families) who have no role models in fiction, getting rid of those details wasn’t going to happen in my books. (See the next question for the rest of the story.)

DB: Tell us about your publishing company Do Life Right, Inc. and why you decided to start your own?
LB: After spending over eight years trying the “traditional” route to publication, I decided to turn my consulting company into a publishing company. I wrote up a business plan and a marketing plan, figured out expenses, and found an angel investor who loved my vision as much as I do.

DB: So you kept the family values in your books and the brother and sister like each other? That is cutting edge! Good for you to stay true to your vision!
I read on the Do Life Right Inc., site that you recently published a book a child had written. I have to say that is the neatest thing I have heard. Can you tell me how and why that happened?

LB: At Do Life Right, Inc., we are open to publishing books by people of any age. We’re about to publish two collaborative books, actually: one by a group of teens, and one by a Girl Scout troop.
Our choosing what to publish next process is fairly straightforward:

(1)   Write a book that has a realistic homeschooler of today as the main character. Have your critique group help you make it the best book possible.

(2)   Submit a query letter to query@doliferightinc.com

(3)   I currently personally read every submission. If I love it, I ask for a partial or full manuscript (depending on the length and my personal interest level).

(4)   I read those. If I love them and/or think kids or teens will love them, I pass it along to my group of readers. These readers are pre-teens and teens who love fiction. If they love it and DLR has the funding available, we start talking publishing details.
I don’t give potential DLR author names out to my readers, just the story. This helps them choose what they like based solely on what they read. Once a manuscript has met all of this, and the author (and possibly the parents of the author) have signed a contract, then we go through the professional publishing process with them. While small, Do Life Right, Inc. is steadily growing and we publish in a very similar way as traditional publishers (just faster and with only print on demand and electronic formats).

DB: Very cool!
Where do you see things going from here with your writing and publishing company?

LB: Growing! It’s my plan to have Do Life Right, Inc. publish at least four more books this year, and at least a couple dozen next year. We’re on a steadily growing path, putting all our proceeds directly into new books, and marketing endeavors.
I personally have several more books in the Wright on Time series written, waiting for illustrations, and I plan to have them published as soon as possible (after DLR has at least 12 books in our catalog). I also have many new ideas that I’ve been working on in draft form, especially picking up new ideas from my travels and conferences that I’ve attended. J

DB: It sounds like you are on a road straight up.
Thanks so much for the wonderful interview Lisa. Do you have any parting words for us?

LB: Follow your dreams! They might seem big and impossible, but they aren’t. Every day we can do something to help us get where we want to be. Those tiny steps really work!
If you would like to learn more about Lisa’s publishing company, Do Life Right, Inc. go HERE and if you would like to learn more about Lisa and her books go HERE.

Until next time…
Keep writing. Keep learning.

5 comments:

Angelina C. Hansen said...

What a great idea! I love the attitude--if it doesn't exist, invent it! Thanks for sharing and best wishes for continued success!

Loree Huebner said...

Nice interview, ladies.

Nice to meet you, Lisa.

Congrats on your success. Such an interesting story.

E.R. King said...

It's great to hear from Lisa about her writing and publishing company. Thanks, Deana!

Sarah Pearson said...

This was great. I love that Lisa was able to turn her dream into a reality and that the company is going from strength to strength.
Best of luck for the future!

Deana said...

Angelina- I'm right there with you on that one:)

Loree and Emily- You are welcome:)

Sarah- It really is a cool idea isn't it?!