Kathy Halsey: Friend, Accountability Buddy, Writerpreneur ~ Interview

I’m delighted today to be turning the spotlight on my good friend and accountability partner, Kathy Halsey. Kathy and I are both long-time participants in Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers, which helps writers evaluate the year just past and prepare for the year to come.

During a discussion about accountability in the 12 Days Facebook Group sometime in late December 2017 or early January 2018, Kathy suggested she and I test out being accountability buddies. We’re still going strong six years later and we’ve become good friends in the process. I’m delighted to be interviewing her here on By Word of Beth today.

Beth: I’d like to open this interview by having Kathy explain how our accountability sessions work, how they’ve developed over time, and talk about what our weekly accountability sessions mean for her writing life.

Kathy: Hi Beth. I don’t know what I’d do without an accountability partner like you. Finding someone you trust to be with you on this roller coaster ride of writing is key to motivation and determination. To be successful, Beth and I offer these thoughts:

  • Find a person with shared interests, and a positive mindset who will commit to sharing weekly/monthly goals with you.
  • Your partner is a cheerleader and a “critical” friend who will tell you the truth with care.
  • It’s not necessary to write for the same audiences or in the same genres. In our years together, Beth and I have rarely critiqued each other’s work.

What we do is email each other every Monday, talk about our intentions and our accomplishments for the new week. We cheer, we cajole, whoop it up; we throw pity parties when we need to. We give each other grace for not accomplishing all our intentions, and we share personal stuff, too.

Over the years, we’ve refined our process so it works for us. Currently we discuss our side businesses, what we’re reading/writing, queries, and webinars. Those “didn’t dos” land on our new intentions list.

Discuss what you want to track. It can be as simple as sharing these three items:

  • What you did
  • What you’re doing
  • What do you need help with

I look forward each Monday to what Beth and I did as a team. Each week feels like a true “reset” with a weekly roadmap for writing! I’ve found it a powerful practice to save all our updates virtually. I enjoy reflecting on my accomplishments at the end of the year. Such an affirmation of my efforts!

Beth and I encourage you to find partners and ask questions in the comments. Look for possible partners in your SCBWI groups, classes you take, webinars you attend, or 12X12, The Writing Barn, and Storyteller Academy.

Beth: I save all my accountability emails too. It’s a great way to look back on the year and see that we really did accomplish a lot! Thanks, Kathy, for giving people suggestions for how they can make accountability work for them.

Kathy, can you tell me a bit about your background in case there’s someone out there reading this who doesn’t know you? I know your background has a great bearing on our other topic today.

Kathy: I’ve been a reader and writer since I was a kid. I kept a diary, wrote bad poetry as a tween, and by college, my friends tapped me for term paper advice.

I taught for 32 years, first as a seventh grade English teacher, later as a K-12 school librarian. Once I retired, I became a bookseller at Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers and did a short stint selling books via Junior Library Guild.

My years as an educator, librarian, and presenter give me a deep background in identifying what makes for a great presentation, be it a school visit or conference session. As a former Past President of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, I ran our state-wide conference, vetting proposals and contacting keynoters.

Now, as a children’s author, I decided to combine my love of teaching, kidlit, and author visits into a side business, Ask Infowoman: a Library Consult. I enjoy helping other writers make their visits more fun, instructive, and engaging.

Doesn't Ask Infowoman sound great? ~ B.

Beth: I’m so excited about all the possibilities in your Ask Info Woman offerings, Kathy. You’re going to help so many people with this side business. And on the topic of helping people, one thing that I know writers often talk about and struggle with (as I do) is imposter syndrome. I certainly have trouble imagining myself standing up in front of a class during a school visit, with them looking at me as The Author. Can you offer any guidance in that regard?

Kathy: We need to remember that our careers are multi-pronged; we are creatives but also in business for ourselves. Your author’s voice is yours alone, and no one else knows what you know, your point of view, on the work you’ve created. Here are some pointers:

  • Have an affirmation/mantra to ground you. (Mine is: “Manifest success.” If I can see myself doing it, then I can step into that new opportunity.)
  • Recognize the work and money you’ve invested in yourself to write, publish, and present. Value that time and be compensated for it. (Check others’ websites for how they price visits.)
  • New and seasoned authors aren’t expected to know what educators know. We have different skill sets. We SHARE the same goals to teach young people to follow their passions, become literate, and enjoy learning. You are a partner and ally.
  • As a teacher and librarian, I always learned something from author visits that I could expand upon and utilize in my teaching. Authors are rock stars in most teachers’ and librarians’ worlds.
  • If you haven’t been in a school for a while, volunteer at your school library’s book fair or volunteer periodically to come in to shelve or check out books. Read my blog post If a Writer Visits a School Library here.

Beth: These pointers are excellent! Thank you. And you’ve segued perfectly into the next question. Since we’re already talking about your new venture, Ask Infowoman – where you offer coaching to authors prior to school visits, as well as coaching for a myriad of other things – would you tell us how you decided to do this, and how your previous work ties into this?

Kathy:  As a school librarian, I coordinated successful author visits in elementary schools and middle schools for 15 years. I know what makes win-win visits for schools, kids, and authors. My experience as an indie bookseller gave me more insight in ways public libraries and bookstores connect with authors. Being a life-long learner, working with authors refreshes my knowledge. New books! New authors! New opportunities to speak to kids, other educators and librarians!

My Ask Infowoman: A Library Consult is going on its second year. Last year I spent time beta testing my consultations with authors I knew. I also offered my Zoom sessions consultations as prizes in some of Susanna Leonard Hill’s contests, too.

When I received testimonials like this one from one of my beta authors, I knew this business would serve a need that I could fill.

“I used your ‘book walk’ idea, and that was a fantastic way to open up the presentation. Worked like a charm! And the teacher mentioned it in her evaluation form—which I handed her before I began, on your advice. Like you said, I did feel like I was adding curriculum-related value by including the book walk. And it was a nice way to start with the familiar and then flow into my material.” ~ Heather Kinser, Children’s Author

So far in 2024, I’ve worked with an author new to visits, one who needed a slide deck refresh, and a middle grade, multi-published author revising her presentation for an overseas trip to Hong Kong. What fun!

Beth: This is great. What a wonderful testimonial! And we’re hardly into 2024, and you’ve already done some fabulous things. I’m trying to imagine what it’s like to have a coach, since I’ve never had one. What can people expect if they hire you for a coaching session/consultation? How is the session conducted? What sorts of things might you talk about?

Kathy: I tailor Zoom chats specifically to a client’s needs. We discuss topics clients choose, such as appropriate grade level activities, adding grade specific content, and maximizing student engagement. For presentation slide deck appraisals, I ask that you share it with me via Google.

Before we meet, I read your website content that’s pertinent to our discussion. I also try to read at least one of your books or a synopsis of the books you’ll use for the author visit.

My form asks for grade levels you are interested in, subject areas your book/s may cover: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, Art, etc.

Finally I offer a prepared Google doc with all my suggestions and resources either the day before or the day of our consultation for you to refer to afterwards.

Beth: This is fabulous. I can see that not only do you do a lot of preparation for each session, but your clients will have a lot of takeaways in that Google doc, as well. Now, I know you can’t do a full session for us in this interview, but are there any tips you can give people who are starting out with school visits?

Kathy: Take small steps. Get your feet wet before plunging into visits. There is so much behind the scenes work involved in a visit for both the school and the author.

A few general tips:

  • Tag along as a roadie/helper for a friend who is presenting to learn the ropes like I did with author friend Lindsay Bonilla at Cover to Cover Books for Young Readers.
  • If you have time, peruse the school’s website to familiarize yourself with the school’s culture—mascot, school colors, hints as to what they’ve studied this term. (Kids feel you know them by adding this info.)
  • Scan the school website for curricular tie-ins that fit your books so you can add those elements to your presentation.
  • Think about logistics. For example, if you’re selling books, what is the best way to sell, sign, and distribute them? At my intermediate school library, I organized sold books by homebase to distribute the day after the visit. The author signed books already tagged with student names between sessions.

Beth: Wow. Those are such helpful tips! The idea of tagging along as a roadie/helper wouldn’t have occurred to me. And what a thoughtful suggestion to familiarize yourself with the school’s culture ahead of time, and drop those mentions into your visit. One question I have, because one term is not familiar to me – what do you mean by organizing books by “homebase”?

Kathy: Good question, Beth. A “homebase” used to be called “homeroom” in my day. Students go to homeroom/homebase first thing every morning to hear announcements, get organized, and settle in for the day. Homebase teachers may have a special relationship with “their kids” as we’re helpers and aren’t necessarily teachers who give grades.  

Beth: Thanks, Kathy. I’ve learned so much from this interview, even though I’ve heard a lot about the planning stages of Ask Infowoman all along. As we wind this up, I’d also like to mention that there’s another facet to Ask Infowoman that we haven’t touched on in this interview. You also consult with people who want to learn about presenting to conferences. For those who would like to read about that aspect of Kathy’s consulting service, you can read Christy Mihaly’s interview with Kathy on the GROG blog at this link.

Is there anything further you’d like to say about that aspect of Ask Infowoman?

Kathy: My presentation proposal service is new this year, but throughout my career I’ve presented at regional and statewide library conferences, Ohio’s PTA luncheon for student authors and parents, Mazza’s Summer Institute, and the Virginia Hamilton Conference on Multicultural Literature. In 2023 my panel presented at NCTE, and I moderated that session. (Fact not brag: every proposal I’ve created has been accepted except 1!) 

Beth: Woohoo to your acceptance rate! And to your amazing experience portfolio. Now, all-important question, how can people request to work with you?

Kathy: Find out more about my author visit and presentation consultations here on my website. If you’re interested, schedule a session using this Google form

Beth: Is there anything you’d like to add?

Kathy: I am honored to be on your blog, Beth. Thank you for the invite and insightful questions that made me really think. BTW, Beth has some wonderful services to help writers of all stripes with her editorial services. (She’s been in business longer than I have. LOL)

Beth: Awww, thanks for the shout-out, Kathy! Thank you so much for your insightful and informative answers, and thank you for your friendship. Here’s to much success with Ask Infowoman!

Kathy Halsey serves on the State Library of Ohio’s “Choose to Read Ohio” program and as Ohio SCBWI Central/South region’s co-ARA. Her move-the-shapes board book, BE A RAINBOW, releases fall 2024 with KiwiCo Press. Kathy enjoys gardening and writing haiku. Her haiku has been featured on the Poetry Pea podcast and in poetry journals. 

In November 2023, she moderated and presented an NCTE panel encouraging teachers to Grow a Mighty Forest of Writers. She is a former K-12 school librarian and seventh grade English teacher who lives in Columbus, OH with her husband and silly Corgi Scrappy Doo.

Her business, “Ask Infowoman: A Library Consult advises author/illustrators about creating engaging school visits and designing conference proposals.

Connect with Kathy here:

Website: http://www.kathyhalsey.com

GROG Blog: http://groggorg.blogspot.com

Twitter/X: https://twitter.com/infowoman1

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kathy.halsey.5

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