DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Business Strategy Author Robert Skrob

“Your Association Shortcut” authored by Robert Skrob, CPA, CAE , helps businesses and entrepreneurs  navigate the insider society and internal processes used by more than 100,000 professional and trade societies .  It is a complete guide on how to find associations, identify the best ones for your brand and position yourself to be of value to an association and communicate effectively so that the association in return endorses your company or product to their members. “Your Association Shortcut”,  www.YourAssociationShortcut.com  reveals the strategy and tools for succeeding when entering the world of America's extensive association community explaining in detail the mind- set, who is in charge, finding ways to be of value to an association and enhance their membership before a business requests an endorsement. 

Skrob has run numerous successful trade shows and witnessed the phenomenon first-hand. His company, Membership Services Inc., is an association management company that during the past 10 years, has worked with over 20,000 associations in boardrooms and classrooms. Robert has coached a diverse range of associations, some of the largest in the world, including: medical, manufacturing, fraternities, chambers of commerce at the local, state and national levels.
He has also led sessions, facilitated strategic plans, and conducted operational audits for associations. Robert has helped thousands of companies tap into the power of associations to generate customers for their own business. Robert began coaching exhibitors on best practices so they were prepared to understand how to best benefit the association and be a valued company to the, He developed a handbook of ‘shortcuts’ for working with any kind of association in order to grow a customer base.

“Associations are the affiliate partner you never knew you had, promoting your company as a member benefit,” says Skrob. “Plus, association marketing gives you more credibility as everything you do carries the implied endorsement of the association.”

 Q) Are associations and what is association marketing?

A) Associations are groups of people with a similar interest.  They are often organized around industries (such as the Air Conditioning Contractors of America) or professions (such as the American Medical Association).  They may also be organized around interests (such as the American Running Association or the American Diabetes Association) or around a demographic (such as AARP.)

There are 5 ways to market to the members of associations. 
Join- Get yourself into the same stream of information your customers enjoy, and learn as much about the industry as the individuals you are marketing to. As a member of the association, you’ll receive newsletters, email notices and, often, access to the association’s members-only website with additional resources.

Participate - Association events provide a lot of ways for you to meet and interact with your prospective customers. For many, attending events provides the opportunities they need to interact with customers. For additional exposure, exhibiting or sponsoring events elevates your presences and brings you to the attention of your best prospects.

Contribute - Take advantage of the opportunities that associations provide you to contribute to the community by submitting articles for association publications as well as making presentations at association events.

Affiliate - Develop an endorsed provider relationship with associations to provide them with a membership benefit they can promote to their members.

Partner- Build a platform where the association can recruit and retain members while you grow your company.

Q) Who should be thinking about marketing through associations?

A) Any company, small business owner, entrepreneur or blogger that could benefit by marketing to a group of people with a defined industry, profession or interest.  If you are able to tailor your message to a particular niche interest group, then associations provide you with a great way to reach that group.

A lot of companies already market through associations, every day there are thousands of people attending association events, trade shows and contributing to association newsletters.  There’s never been a step-by-step guide for showing how to do it until now.  

Q) You say there are 1.9 million associations within the United States; shouldn’t we be marketing to them as potential customers?

A) Sure, but the people offering products and services that associations consume is a lot more narrow than the number of people who could benefit by marketing through associations to their members.

Q) What do you mean when you say, “Associations will do all of the marketing for you?”

A) Member benefit programs – Associations are always looking for new incentives they can give their members to get new members to join and encourage current members to renew.  By offering a product or service that’s exclusively available through the association (usually done with discounted pricing for association members) the association will endorse your product to its members.   In these programs the association promotes your product or service to its members together with the members only pricing.  The association uses its media, emails, magazines, website, and events to promote you along with its other benefits.  You are promoted as the solution to the association members’ problems and you get customers without all the upfront marketing expenses.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Romance Author Zee Monodee

Zee Monodee was born and continues to live on the island of Mauritius in the southern Indian Ocean with her husband and family. As such, her stories of love and relationships cross many cultural borders and include insight only a person raised in the exotic can provide.

Holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Science, Zee soon learned the corporate world wasn’t for her, and she set course to find her place as an author. Eleven books to date tend to make it clear that Zee intends to be around for a while.

Though Zee’s stories find global locations, I urge readers to take a look at her Island Girls Trilogy. The setting for each is Mauritius and exposes the reader to cultural nuances unfamiliar in current day America, such as how a divorced woman is automatically subjected to gossip, ridicule, and a societal expectation that she remarry immediately – love not required.

The first in the series is “The Other Side,” a story focusing on the divorce predicament and one woman’s struggle to negotiate the maze of harassment and matchmaking while trying to find happiness. “Light My World” explores how embedded the old cultures are in modern Mauritius, and a young woman’s plight to evade her mother’s requirements of marriage. “Winds of Change” follows a widow with children who has abided by the expectations heaped upon her. Still, there’s a woman inside her with needs, and she wonders if she can break out of the shell of life she has become.

Zee writes with a flair for life and love. Her stories can be intense, though always enjoyable, and, since they’re romance, the happy ending is guaranteed, though sometimes the reader won’t see it coming.

Q) You’re fearless. Have you encountered any backlash from your stories tackling Mauritius society?

A) Lol, talk about being fearless – thank goodness I knew nothing of how virulent Mauritian media could be before I had this book released! While most women-centered media welcomed the foray into society and getting behind its closed doors, the other, male-oriented and patriarchal media had tons to say, and fling at me, for daring to treat this kind of subject. Remember – when this book first came out, it was 2007, and divorce was still a hush-hush, taboo matter. How dare I tackle such a concept and bring it out in the open?

Then, of course, this was Mauritius, where sectarian differences still thrive in – thank goodness! – only a small slice of the population. Just my luck one of the reporters who reviewed and covered the book’s release was of a different religion, and he made his beef very public that I, as a Muslim, should’ve written about Muslims and nothing/no one else.

But the point this reporter missed – or refused to see, maybe... – is that I write about culture, not religion. People from the same country/region/diaspora will find echoes of their culture in others, despite whatever religious or ethnic belonging ‘separate’ them.

Still, I stuck to my guns, and then later used this ‘feedback’ to carve myself another niche – I actually wrote a Muslim romance (Once Upon A Second Chance; 1NightStand series, Decadent Publishing) and wove threads of religion, culture, and what it means to be Muslim into a tale of reunited lovers. Most readers who’ve read this tale have mentioned it’s been an eye-opener for them about Muslims and their culture/beliefs/way of life. I just hope I did a good job portraying a world that is often misunderstood.

Q) What has been the greatest difficulty in seeing your work published?

A) That it’s “different” and “different” is not everyone’s cup of tea, especially on the publishing side.

Many of my books, especially when I started writing, focused on Indo-Mauritian culture and were set in Mauritius. First slam into the wall: what the heck/where on Earth is Mauritius? Many agents and publishers shy away from taking on something so ‘exotic’ it’s a relative unknown worldwide.

Next up was my culture slant. How many Indian-culture authors do you know? I know only 3 – Nisha Minhas, Monica Pradhan, and Shobhan Bantwal. Minhas writes popular fiction about Indian-origin girls in Britain (so huge market already in the UK). Pradhan, though still popular fiction, is more book club material – think Amy Tan’s ‘The Joy Luck Club’ on an Indian twist – with a slight literary slant. Bantwal writes outright literary, though she tackles heavy issues of Indian (as in from India itself, not the diaspora) culture like forced abortions of girls even in our contemporary world.

Enter Zee Monodee with popular fiction veering on the lighter, rom-com end of the spectrum, with stories about islanders whose ancestors – twice to thrice removed – came from India, and their story is set in a country that is a melting pot of almost every race/culture/religion of the world. See, I told you – waaaay too exotic!

In a way, I think the market wasn’t ready for my particular brand of culture back then, and I bided my time by writing more mainstream stories (regular rom-coms set in England, as well espionage tales happening all over Europe). Until I found the call for 1NightStand stories at Decadent Publishing, which encouraged ‘worldwide locations’. Jumped in with my first contribution to this series (Once Upon A Stormy Night), and this has been my springboard to unleash my brand of writing on the – unsuspecting *grin* - world.

Q) You have said your stories are as much literary fiction as romance due to your heroines’ strengths and plights. Women coming to terms with themselves and their worlds are important to you. What first caused you to write about them?

A) In my bio, I mention that I’ve always felt like I lived on a fence. I grew up as a Muslim girl of Indian origin in one of the most rapidly developing countries of Africa that also happens to be an island dubbed the ‘rainbow nation’ for the harmony that exists there between all races and religions. That’s a lot for a girl to take, lol! Jeans from Western culture v/s the kurti and churidar of India/Pakistan, not to mention the djellaba and occasional head scarves from the Muslim culture – knowing which clothing to pick for whatever occasion is a minefield, trust me!

The local tongue is Creole, a language derived from French. I spoke mainly French at home, Creole with my friends, learned English at school, and spoke/understood Hindi & Urdu (the languages from India) thanks to so many Bollywood movies that we watched, my mum and I, right after we downed hefty doses of Falcon Crest, Dallas, & Dynasty –dubbed in French! – and EastEnders or Neighbours (that we got in the original English versions).

Fast-forward to teenage years. A good Indian girl (never mind if she’s Muslim, Hindu, Tamil, or any other religion!) keeps herself pure and pious for the ‘good’ marriage she is expected to make. Step out to go to school, lessons, tuition, hanging out with friends, and what happens? Boys, of course! How to reconcile your upbringing with peer pressure, with your own yearnings for adventure and just something ‘more’?

So it thus happens that I’ve always striven to find my place in the world, to find where this ‘me’ would figure out her equilibrium point. And frankly, isn’t that the struggle of every teenager out there? With globalization blurring geographical and regional barriers, and more and more population displacement across the world, how many young women today are striving to find their place in this new, dynamic, societal setup?s

They say ‘write what you know’, and I knew what it feels like to stand on a fence and feel like you don’t or can’t belong to both sides at the same time. The rest, as they also say, is history.

Q) You survived a devastating car crash, only to learn later you had breast cancer. How did those events change your outlook on life?

A) Lol, yep. Two crushed vertebras in my spine – result of that accident – put me in the world of chronic back pain sufferers, and this decreased my scope of action for the future. Like, my range of action was compromised, and travel exacerbated the pain. A desk job seemed like the only solution, and that’s how I entered the corporate world. Being so ‘restrained’ physically made me start to dream big, to really think of those aspirations that had been simmering at the back of my mind for maybe forever. Like, write, for example.

Then I got married and had my son, and dreams got shelved while I became a stay-at-home-mum. Barely two years into this stint, and bam, there it is – the diagnosis for rapidly-developing malignant breast cancer. At age 22! Yeah, I, too, thought it never happened before the 40s. My cancer care team got that tumor out in the nick of time; another week and I’d be toast – the cancer would’ve probably spread to my whole system. I realized I came close to death...but at the same time, God had granted me a second chance. I was still alive, still given the possibility to build a future with my husband, for us and our son, to watch my kid grow and be there for him the way I’d promised that just-born baby I would always be for him.

Life can stop at any given moment; we never know when. It made me appreciate the moments I get to be alive, to feel, to know that, maybe, I’ll get to see another day. Trust me, that kind of wakeup call changes you – you never under-appreciate a single moment of your life from there on.

And you decide that the ‘one day’ when you’ll fulfill your dreams is not in 20, 30, 40 years’ time, or when you’ll retire, or when the kids will be out of the house, etc. ‘One day’ is right now – make your dreams a reality; do not wait!

Q) What’s next for Zee Monodee?

A) More writing, growing existing series, and more new series? I just cannot stop the replicator sequence on the plot bunnies in my head. *grin* Oh, and yeah – dealing with a teenage kid at home (well, 2 actually, when you add my stepson, lol) and making sure those growing boys do not eat the kitchen sink after they’ve finished raiding the fridge a few times a day.

Q) Any parting comments for fans and readers new to your work?

A) I’d say, Thank you! It’s because of you people – readers and fans – that we authors get our validation. Make yourselves known; don’t be shy! We blabber all day long and almost hurl word vomit through our keyboards and screens all day long, more often than not in extreme solitude. We authors would love, love, love, to blabber with you, the people we write for, so please, don’t be afraid to get in touch with us! An email, a comment on a blog post, a PM or wall post on FB, a Tweet – we’re just waiting for you to reach out to us. I know I am.

And another thing – when you’ve read a book of ours that you have enjoyed or even loved, please post a rating, if not better, a review, for us on places like Amazon and Goodreads. Help us this way, because it’s thanks to your involvement that we can become known and our work reach more others – you, readers, are the driving force behind this process! Don’t underestimate yourself there, please. We don’t ask for lengthy reviews; even 1-2 lines will do. But please, become involved with us so we can do more for you.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Freeport, IL, Children's Dyslexia Center is hosting a Valentine's Dessert Mystery Theater & Wine Tasting. Eat, drink, laugh, and help us solve the ultimate who-done-it of love. This is a live theater performance from America's Most Unique murder mystery companies "Random Acts" - www.random-acts.net.

Before, during, and after the performance will be the Dyslexia Center's yearly wine tasting as well - must be 21 with a valid I.D. to participate in the wine tasting. Sample multiple wines from one of Freeport's top distributors, or buy a bottle while you are there. The wine tasting will be open to the public 1 hour before the performance begins.

Random Acts will be performing "My Deadly Valentine". A cabaret singer, a long lost love, and murder. Filled with romantic music, mystery, and laughs; My Deadly Valentine is the perfect romantic after dinner show you are looking for for your Valentine's Day date.

Desserts are being created by Addi Cakes! The one of a kind bakery is opening it's heart and doors to this event. These will be desserts to die for!

100% of the proceeds support the Children's Dyslexia Center - NWIL. We are a not-for-profit organization that tutors children with learning disabilities that are specific to literacy.

 $30/person or $50/Couple
Each Ticket includes 1 ticket for the wine tasting!

Author, Educator James R. Nuttall, PhD

Dr. James Nuttall is a success story. He overcame not just a condition that hinders learning, but a society that still doesn’t understand or have much patience with dyslexia – a condition that inhibits reading and comprehension. Dyslexia does not affect intelligence. Let me say that again: Dyslexia does not affect intelligence.

The grandson of a one-room school teacher and the son of a physician, many would tend to think that learning would be easy for James. However, on a sixth grade reading test it was discovered he was reading a mere 27 words a minute. In addition to being born legally blind, James was diagnosed with dyslexia. James decided not to surrender, but to fight, and to become educated. When he achieved the education he sought, earning a PhD, he worked within the Special Education Unit of the Michigan Department of Education for thirty years. Retired now, he continues to enlighten and educate those with dyslexia, and those who need to learn about the condition.

His first book, co-authored by his wife Linda, is “Dyslexia and the iPad: Overcoming Dyslexia with Technology.” This is a book designed to explain what causes dyslexia and how, by merging tried and true methods with today’s technology, families and teachers can help those challenged with dyslexia to make strides in advancing their learning abilities. To that end, James constantly researches the latest technology as he believes every advantage should be used to its fullest capacity.

My personal latest interest in dyslexia came about when I learned our local learning center, the Freeport (IL) Children’s Dyslexic Center, was having a fund raiser to help keep the doors open, and very few people seemed interested. I am confused and confounded as to why the general populace has turned its back on a condition so significant and for which assistance is available.

Whether you are dyslexic, know someone who is, or just want to educate yourself about dyslexia, I recommend picking up a copy of Dr. Nuttall’s book, or, at a minimum, check out his blog.

Q) Why do you believe so many people know so little about dyslexia?

A) Every day in America there are school children who do not succeed very well in school. We euphemistically called these children the lower third of the class. Year after year this lower third of the class slogs their way through school. We think that they do not read well because they are unmotivated or not very bright. But it turns out many of these children have dyslexia. Dyslexia is a neurologically based disability that affects one's ability to read, write and spell. Many school officials think that dyslexia is a very rare condition. But it turns out that dyslexia is the most common disability in our society. Research studies which image the brain while children read have discovered that dyslexia is a neurological processing difference. Only recently has this scientific research begun to be recognized by school officials, teachers and parents. Fortunately, there are ways to help dyslexic students succeed in school. One of these approaches is called a multi-sensory approach to learning to read. The multi-sensory approach is called the Orton-Gillingham approach to learning to read. This approach of instruction is most often used by dyslexia centers.

Q) What is it about the iPad that caught your attention?

A) A second way to help dyslexic students and adults is to provide them with technology that can actually read books, newspapers, and magazines aloud. Most dyslexic students have no difficulty understanding what is read to them. They may struggle with deciphering print, however they do not struggle with language. For example, most dyslexic students who attend college have their textbooks read aloud to them. Apple's iPad can read books, webpages, newspapers and magazines aloud to a dyslexic individual. The first machine which could read books aloud to dyslexic people was invented by Ray Kurzweil. This machine cost $50,000. But with the advances of technology, the iPad can now function as a reading machine. In order to get through college and graduate school I had to have individuals read all my books and journal articles to me. But now that I have an iPad which can read aloud to me, I can read everything to my heart’s content. I like to say that my iPad is a miracle for me as a dyslexic person. The Apple App Store also has a large number of apps that help teach reading to children. Additionally, the iPad can help with writing. The iPad allows a person to dictate what they want written. As a student dictates the iPad types out what they have said. This is a great help for dyslexic students.
Q) What can be done to help raise awareness about dyslexia?

A) Many parents are becoming aware that when their child struggles with reading  that they might have dyslexia. We no longer have to look at struggling readers as if they were unmotivated or not very bright. One of the first things that we can do is to help train school psychologist and reading teachers about dyslexia. When students are struggling with reading, they should be tested for dyslexia and offered a multi-sensory approach to learning to read. States like Texas now have passed legislation saying that struggling readers need to be tested for dyslexia and offered specialized instruction.

Q) What is the first step a parent should or can take when they suspect their child might be dyslexic?

A) When a parent has a child who struggles to read this is a heart wrenching experience. Parents should know that there is help for their children. They can often take the children to it dyslexia center to be tested. This testing is often done by a psychologist who has been trained in diagnosing dyslexia. Again parents should understand that their child is intellectually bright and normal in every respect. Their child simply has a difference in how he or she processes written language for reading. With specialized instruction their child will learn to read. Their child can succeed in school. Also for further information contact the American Dyslexia Association. They can help you locate help for you and your child. You can also read Dyslexia and the iPad, which gives lots of advice on how the iPad can help your child. Dr. Nuttall is also writing a book explaining how the Amazon Kindle Fire can help dyslexic children and adults.

Q) Any parting comments?

A) If you have any questions please feel free to write or call me.

Support your local Dyslexic Center! In Freeport it’s: Patricia L. Ludewig, Director
Masonic Temple, 305 West Stephenson Street, Freeport, IL 61032 Telephone: 815-801-1274 director033@gmail.com

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bestselling Author Kristin von Kreisler

Kristin von Kreisler is a well-known voice for animals. Her books, articles, and journalistic skills have shared her passion with readers around the globe. She has also traveled the country advocating for the welfare of the creatures, both furred and feathered, with whom we share this planet. To interject, how we treat the world around us is a reflection of how we treat, or mistreat, ourselves, and a barometer for our own future.

Her novel “For Bea,” the memoir of her beloved beagle once rescued from a medical laboratory and who became Kristin’s personal inspiration for helping animals, captivated readers. Betty White and Mary Tyler Moore both acknowledged the poignant story. Her work has appeared in numerous periodicals including the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Reader’s Digest, to name a few. Her articles have found homes in anthologies and textbooks. Yes, textbooks. She’s taught English and Journalism, and currently resides with her husband in Bainbridge Island, Washington.

In her latest novel “An Unexpected Grace,” Kristin has shifted her focus to fiction in order to tell the story of two survivors who won’t get past what has brought them together, unless they can uncomplicated the unimaginable. Lila Elliot survived a shooting rampage that left many of her coworkers dead. What she left in the bloody office was her ability to trust and live without fear. Grace survived abuse, but the Golden Retriever can’t seem to find the key to wanting to recover. Both need courage, both need to move on, both need to learn to trust all over again. One of them will have to make the first move, and I promise that move won’t come from where or how readers think it will.

Yes, keep the tissues close when reading this book. It’s good. Really good. And, the ending is so very worth the journey.

Q) The obvious question: You are so well known for your nonfiction work, why jump into the fiction
pool? The water there can be deep and dangerous.

A) Deep and dangerous water, yes. But very pleasurable! I’m so glad I dove right in, though making the change several years ago was complicated. A publisher had offered me a contract to write another animal nonfiction book, and I kept trying to get myself to sign on the dotted line. But something was stopping me, though I wasn’t sure exactly what. One day as I was walking along a street in Seattle and brooding about the contract, a question suddenly came to me: If you don’t want to write nonfiction, why not write fiction? How about a novel about an animal? In that instant, I knew I’d found what I was meant to do. The freedom was delicious. There was nothing to do but dive into the unknown fiction pool, and I’ve never regretted it.

Q) I have to ask, what was the inspiration behind Lila and Grace? The insight/life you give them is incredible.

A) I knew I wanted to write an animal novel, but I wasn’t sure what it should be about. Then one afternoon after picking up my mail at the post office, I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Grace happens.” I have always loved the idea of grace, which I define as the unsought, undeserved good that comes to us. And I thought, Grace! What a great idea for a story! I decided to write about a dog named Grace, who would become a grace in someone’s life. From that simple beginning, the story evolved. It’s not just about the grace of Grace the dog, but also about the grace of healing.

Q) Your love, appreciation, and knowledge of animals cover many species. Why did you choose a dog for your first fiction story when you could have gone a more exotic or unexpected route?

A) I chose a dog because I adore dogs. It’s as simple as that. I’ve had dogs since childhood, and I can’t imagine life without them. I also believe that dogs have much to teach us if we only open our eyes and see. I’ve learned important lessons from my dogs about loyalty, kindness, patience, and courage. Grace teaches all those things to Lila, the woman who adopts her in my novel. I hope readers will learn from Grace, too.

Q) So many questions, so little space. Will you continue in the fiction genre, and, if so, what’s next?

A) Absolutely, I will continue writing fiction. It’s hard work, but I love it. And, of course, I will keep writing about animals because showing their importance in our lives is my personal mission. I’ve started another novel about a dog who helps people forgive each other and reconcile. I’ve already fallen in love with that dog. I love him as if he were sitting at my feet right this minute.

Q) I almost sense a desire to expand into romance. The location you reside, the scenes around your home life (living on an island, the ocean, ferries, seals, etc) scream for it. Has that thought, along with incorporating animals as key components, crossed your mind?

A) Yes, it’s crossed my mind. I suppose that romance will come into some of my stories because it’s a beautiful thing – and you’re right about my island being a special place. But romance won’t be the major purpose of my books because my interest is always in the animals and their ability to heal us and influence our lives. If the animal’s story fits in the context of romance, then I welcome it. Animals first, romance second.

Q) With this new venture, are you stepping away from, or at least slowing down, your work in animal welfare?

A) I am committed for life to helping animals in any way I can. That means being open to whatever comes my way in the form of a needy creature or of a request for me to serve in some capacity. I feed birds and squirrels and rescue lost dogs and kitties. When invited, I give talks on writing about animals and on animal compassion and emotion. I’ve served on boards of animal welfare groups, organized an animal photo exhibit for our local wildlife shelter, and “manned” booths for animal charities at fairs. Certainly, I am committed to answering all the calls for help that I can manage. That’s part of my vocation.

Q) Any parting comments for fans and new readers?

A) Be kind to animals! If you come upon a starving squirrel or a desperate kitty, stop and help. You’ll
be glad you did -- not just because you’ll feel like a Good Samaritan, but also because there is little that’s so satisfying as reaching out to underdogs, whether canine, feline, finned, or feathered. No matter our species, we are all connected on our planet, and we must watch out for each other.

Thank you for this interview! I appreciate your interest!
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net