I was a guest on Mavens Do It Better!

“I always wanted my books and stories out there, but I hadn’t actually done anything about it, hadn’t really focused on it. But then I finally started thinking, all right, I’ve got to do something—anything—just do it!” -from my interview with Heather Newman


Heather Newman does many wonderful things, among them being the founder and CEO of Creative Maven, and the co-founder and CMO of Content Panda. Along with being a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP), which is how we met, she has a wonderful podcast called Mavens Do It Better, where she showcases experts—mavens—in their respective industries and fields who live their passions and spark up the world.

You can imagine how thrilled I was when she wanted to do such an interview with me!

You’ll hear (or read via the transcript) how I got started with technology and worked my way up to where I am now, and then we go full-tilt into the children’s book world. Enjoy!

EPISODE 37: Tech and Children’s Book Maven, Becky Benishek 

And remember: Always carry a pen and an eating utensil, and you’ll be fine for life.

Author Interview: Harsha Sheelam

“It is so important to teach children about all the obstacles they might face and how they can overcome them.” -Harsha Sheelam

When’s the right time to become an author? Can you really write entertaining stories that still teach children important values? How do you respond to those well-meaning but doubting remarks about following your dream? Find out all this and more when you—

Meet Author Harsha Sheelam!

Introducing Harsha:

Harsha Sheelam always had the passion for writing. In the year 2016, she practiced writing more extensively. This led to her recognition in newspapers, magazines, blogs, and digital content. She possesses versatility in writing stories, debatable topics, politics, social, fashion, entertainment, reviews, fashion, and lifestyle.

Today she is a children’s book author. She debuted in 2017 with the book Beautiful Inside and Out, which is a collection of short stories. She launched it with the aim of empowering young girls and boys. She has the dedication to her craft which makes the children believe that they are beautiful inside and out. The same year her juvenile fiction novel, Good Exists In All That Exists released. As the title suggests, the book is based around the theme of good overpowering the bad. There is a hidden meaning for every action. The book does not fail to enhance the enchanted experience of the reader.

Beginning of a new year, in 2018 The House of Terry Atterberry made it to book-selling portals. Terry’s tales champion hard work, perseverance, honesty, and compassion. The riches that kids gain through this book are overcoming fear, not undermining people, understanding no one is perfect, knowing your true friends, and more. The book is a collection of 15 inspiring fables from the life of a fictional character.

Today, 3 books old, and anticipating more, this is Harsha Sheelam for you.

Let’s get started!

You’ve always been a writer. What made you decide that it was time to publish your stories and become an author? 

I knew I wanted to expand my horizon. Before publishing my debut book, I was a professional writer. But I didn’t want to restrict myself and always knew I wanted to be a published author. Fortunately, an opportunity came knocking, and I didn’t think twice before accepting it.

Beautiful Inside and Out is a collection of 10 moral stories for children, based in lush fantasy lands. Which theme was the first one you wrote? Did you find it difficult to choose only 10 themes?

The first story that I wrote from Beautiful Inside and Out is “Little Felicity of Barrowfield.” It was about loving people irrespective of their color.

It’s always difficult to welcome new themes in your book. A little research, and more imagination helps me with ideas.


What made you choose fantasy as the backdrop for these stories over another genre?

I am not a non-fiction writer. But, if the story is related to a child, and could be interesting to read and relatable, then I would give it a try. I haven’t given much thought to other genres, but I am sure that romance is not for me.

The House of Terry Atterberry is your second collection of meaningful stories for children. How did you come to choose the name of this young boy? Is this character based on your own childhood, things you’ve observed in others—or something else?

I was looking for short names of little boys. And I came across the name ‘Terry.’ I wanted a rhyming world for his last name and could only thing of ‘berry’ but that seemed too small. I still remember how I decided on his last name.

This character isn’t based on my childhood, but certain themes of this book like bullying for being fat does come from my childhood.


Do you have any favorites among the moral themes you write about?

I can’t decide on my favorite theme. Funny, it feels like asking a mother to choose who is their favorite child. But I can say that most of the characters who play the father in my stories are bakers or own a bakery shop that serves the best desserts. I think that comes from my love for desserts that I can’t decide on any other occupation.

Good Exists In All That Exists came in between your children’s books, and is written for young adults. Did the protagonist, Claire, spring to mind with the story lurking behind her, or did you have the suspenseful setting first? Was this a story that had been building in you for a long time?

I never had a setting. I never brainstorm or have a layout for my stories. It all happens through the flow of imagination. Fortunately, for me the story came out with many twists towards the end and there were many revelations about why certain things happened previously. It made the novel much more interesting, leaving young adults in a sense of amazement by the end.


What do you hope people will take away with them the most after they read each of your books?

The books are a rich mine of so many diverse morals for children of today. It would also be helpful for parents to engage with their children better and make them understand about not letting themselves down due to failure, being un-put-downable by others, being who they are, and accepting others for who they are without any judgments.

In contemporary times, it is so important to teach children about all the obstacles they might face and how they can overcome them with a strong mind.

You clearly enjoy writing books for both children and young adults, and melding real and fantasy worlds! Do you ever see yourself branching out into other audiences and genres?

I might branch out to poetry. Short poems, which tell so much in a few words, are my forte.

The poems will cater to young adults and adults.

What’s surprised you the most about the publishing experience?

When I went to the producers for my children’s TV show, one of the heads asked me, “Do you know children’s books don’t make a lot of money in India?”

I said, “Yes, I do. But there are a few who do, and a global audience.”

Also, all the people who say, “Oh, you’re so young for an author.”

I felt like authors are stereotyped to be old. Funny.

What are you planning to launch next?

I am planning to launch a short story book of four friends, and a poetry book. Whichever makes their way quicker to the market.

Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…

What type of book do you reach for to relax?

I love Archie comic books. I got that from my grandfather.

Which celebrities, dead or alive, do you admire the most, and why?

As an author I’ve always admired J.K Rowling. I am a Potterhead, and I will watch a Harry potter movie every time I come across it on TV, or when I feel like. I think she worked so hard to be where she is, and I love people who work hard.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or bad ones?

I do read the reviews. Everyone is entitled to an opinion. I don’t like dark chocolates, but there are many who do. So we just have to accept the good and bad ones, and not let them get to your head.

When you get a story idea, do you scribble it on any scrap of paper or napkin you can find, or do you have a special notebook or online tool where you keep all the inspiration?

I have a mini notebook where I put down some immediate ideas I get while lazing around.

While we’re not saying you need this, what one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

I don’t want to give up on anything to be better. I’d like to go hand-in-hand with everything that I have to be better at what I do.

If you could go back in time, what writerly advice would you give yourself?

If I remember well, when I was 10, I was so bad at essay writing. When my mother read them she scolded me so harshly, and the next day I see her walk into my room with story and essay books. I made sure I read them. I wouldn’t give advice to my younger self but would like to thank her for listening to her mother. Also, I’d say follow your passion; don’t ever think about what you will get in return.

Here’s where to find and follow Harsha, and purchase her books!

Author Interview: Jean Baxter

“If you make mistakes in your life, learn from them. A broken heart can heal and love again. Forgiveness is a gift, both in giving and receiving.” -Jean Baxter

Are writer’s groups really that helpful? What do you do when you find yourself writing in a genre you didn’t expect? Is there a time limit for becoming an author? If you’re feeling like you’re running out of time, then it’s high time you—

Meet Author Jean Baxter!


Introducing Jean:

Jean Baxter began writing short stories in grade school. After taking a creative writing class as a young mother, she had a story published in a magazine which fueled her interest. She wrote a novel. Then she found herself raising two kids as a single mom and the writing took the back burner. After a thirty-year nursing career, she is loving retirement and has time to pursue her passion. That original book was dusted off, updated and recently published. Her niche is young adult, a fascinating time when everything is drama and crisis and firsts.

When she isn’t writing or reading, her interests include walking, gardening, traveling and spending time with her grandkids (more fodder for her stories!).

Let’s get started!

“The trouble with trust is once it’s broken, it changes who you are and who you will become—forever.” That’s such an intriguing tagline for Salvageable, your debut novel. How did the story of your main character, Michael Jarrid, come to you?

Many years ago a friend confided about a girlfriend falsely accusing him of fathering her child and his parents believed her instead of him. It always stuck with me how this devastated him. I thought it was so sad and it changed him. That’s where the opening to the book came from.

What do you hope readers will take away from Michael’s story?

If you make mistakes in your life, learn from them. A broken heart can heal and love again. Forgiveness is a gift, both in giving and receiving.


I see that a sequel to Salvageable is in the works! What can you tell us about Unfathomable? What stage is it in (already written, in the revision process, etc.)?

This second book picks up with the same main characters a couple years later. Michael is finishing up college and he and Annie are about to start a life together. It is at the publisher, I haven’t started the editing process. We hope it will be released late this year!

Has anything surprised you about writing for the romance market? Would you say your stories contain more than one genre?

It honestly surprised me that these books are romances. They were not written with that intent, but they meet the criteria. I had a hard time with genre because I think there are lessons for everyone in my books. Because of the ages of the main characters, I went with young adult. Unfathomable is more new adult but both could be considered chick or contemporary lit.

You’ve got a solid core in the teen and young adult market. Reviewers have mentioned that they’ve read and enjoyed Salvageable even though they’re not in the target demographic! Do you ever see yourself branching out into other audiences?

Maybe, who knows. I do love young adult though.


You must have been so excited when you received your publishing contract—now for two books! Prospective authors will want to know: How long did it take before you received your first contract? What’s it like working with a publisher?

I believe I counted thirty-five rejections as I was trying to get an agent. It was a little over a year I consistently sent it out.

Finally I decided to go right to the publishers with my queries. With the second query I sent, I had a response within a couple of hours asking me for my manuscript. I was elated!

Working with a publisher is a very slow, drawn out process. But once I got into the actual editing, it went very quickly. It took almost a year and a half for the print book to be released. The e-book was out in just under a year.

Let’s talk logistics. I don’t think you’ve ever stopped being busy! A full-time job, being a single mom, two kids and now grandchildren, not to mention hobbies and being with friends. Was there any particular moment that made you sit down and start writing your first novel? How do you carve out the time?

I wrote the main bones of this book years ago, when I still had the kids at home. I wrote a lot in the evenings. The book got put away for long periods but every so often I would read it, and I just knew there was something good there.

It came out of the drawer when I was nearing retirement and needed something to pour myself into. I didn’t know how I would cope with not being a nurse anymore. The manuscript needed to be updated to cell phones and computers from dial phones and typewriters. I asked my kids and grands a hundred questions as I’m not a tech savvy person. It came out okay, I guess. Now I try to write a little every day.

You’re a member of both the Green Bay Area Writer’s Guild and Wisconsin Writer’s Association. What benefits have you experienced? Would you recommend that authors join at least one writer’s organization?

I love my writer’s group and would highly recommend it to everyone. So many things were confusing to me about this whole process. Someone always had an answer and they are so encouraging. They are the ones who told me to start sending my book out and to not be discouraged with rejections. And they celebrate each success.

You’ve had a couple book signing events so far! How did those go? What advice do you have for authors who want to do book signings but aren’t sure how to get started?

My first book signing was awesome. My advice would be to start letting people know far in advance. And tell everyone you know. I told the church, who put it in a news letter, I told friends, people I go to the “Y” with, former co-workers. My kids told their friends and neighbors.

The event was held at a coffee shop. I gave a little talk and my daughter read from my book. It was fun to be able to watch the audience react and I sold a lot of books!

What’s on your list to do next?

As I await the edits on Unfathomable, I am finishing my fourth novel. Numbers three and four are both standalone, young adult books. I still need to revise, then I will start shopping them around.

Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…

What type of book do you reach for to lose yourself in? Any favorite titles or authors?

I mostly read YA books, really like John Green. A Fault in Our Stars is my favorite book. I also really enjoy Kristen Hannah.

What’s your favorite non-writing, non-reading activity?

I love to ski, both downhill and cross country. I love being outdoors, I walk every day, rain, shine, snow or -20 windchill.


Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with good or challenging ones?

Yes, I read them. I find it very interesting that I have several from men who have liked the book as much as anyone. I haven’t had anyone really pan the book, yet…

If you could go back in time before you started your author career, what advice would you give yourself?

Believe in yourself and start sooner!

Here’s where to find and follow Jean, and purchase her books!