May 30, 2012

Three Times A Charm with Mary Cunningham


Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week author, Mary Cunningham, joins us. Mary, tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in the sleepy little town of Corydon, Indiana. And I really mean “in the town!” My house was just beyond the main intersection that took Southern Indiana cars and trucks from north to west. That was well before Interstate 64 zoomed traffic just north of town, so you can imagine the teeth-grinding sound 18-wheelers made navigating the tight Walnut Street turn, then downshifting as they passed my house. Winter? Not so bad. Summer with the windows open? Countless sleepless nights were spent sitting on the porch with my dad telling me stories and pointing out the constellations.

After 10 years as a bank teller, followed by a horrifying stint as a travel agent and more rewarding experience teaching travel and tourism and the airline computer reservation system, I finally realized my heart belonged to writing. Childhood experiences, and a recurring dream about a mysterious attic, inspired me to create characters, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, for the award-winning ‘Tween series, “Cynthia’s Attic.”


Tweens love a series. Tell us more about Cynthia’s Attic.

Cynthia had an attic. Not just an ordinary attic. Cynthia’s attic was magic.

Cynthia and I came into the world just three months apart. We grew up on the same quiet, sycamore-lined street, our friendship as close as our houses. Fifty years earlier our grandmothers were best friends. However, we didn’t realize the extent of their friendship until after our experience in Cynthia’s attic.

You can buy all four of the Cynthia’s Attic books:





Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

  • Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.


1.      The most obvious tool of the trade is the computer I use to write and create. I can't imagine being a published author had I been forced to write longhand. No editor would be able to read my writing since I can't even read it myself! How J. K. Rowling did it is beyond me! Plus, the research I get from the Internet is invaluable. While all stories are set in my hometown (1964-1914) and many of my ancestors are main characters, all must be authentic relating to historical elements.

2.      Social marketing is the best promotional tool and something I lean on heavily to market my books and my writing. When Cynthia's Attic: The Missing Locket (Book One) was published in 2005, most marketing sites were just coming online, and it was much more difficult reaching my target audience. Now, I have to budget my time between sites. I've also come to rely on the social aspect, too. The world would seem so isolated without Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc., friends and fans!

3.      I wouldn't be published without networking. A writers' club in SW Florida gave me the confidence to finish the first 2 Cynthia's Attic stories and the know-how to write a professional query letter. I can't over-state the value of writers clubs and critique groups. I'm certain that my present writers club in Carrollton, GA has made me a much better writer.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

1.      Oh, this is a fun one. We recently adopted our furry daughter, Lucy. Part of my day is set aside, at her insistence, for walks and playtime. She's not quite two, and is a 17-lb bundle of energy. She also forces me away from my computer to stretch and clear my mind.

2.      I was a tomboy; something that follows me to this day when it comes to sports. The older I get, however, the more my participation centers on watching. I grew up in Indiana, so basketball (Indiana Hoosiers!) is a prime focus. I also love NFL football and golf (participating and watching).

3.      Is eating considered a leisure activity? LOL! Seems so for me, which is why taking all those walks with Lucy is not only fun for her, but a necessity for me. Fortunately, I live in West Georgia on the top of a mountain, so strenuous walks up and down steep hills burn a few calories. 

  • Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.

1.      Read! As an eight-year-old tomboy, lucky enough to have a library within walking distance of my house, AND a beloved aunt serving as head librarian, I gravitated toward sports biographies. I read from A-Z (Hank Aaron to Babe Zaharias). After those ran out, my aunt made sure I read books that challenged my reading level. I'll be forever grateful for that. So, kids, challenge yourselves!

2.      Write! Whatever you want to write is okay. Short stories about family (how I began my writing career), fantasy, poetry…anything that inspires and makes you happy. You'll be surprised how writing skills improve your over-all schoolwork. Plus, it's fun and something you can do for the rest of your life. Every teacher from 3rd grade on said, "Mary, whatever you do, don't stop writing." It ONLY took me 40 more years to write my first book. It's never too late.

3.      Teachers may not like this next suggestion but I believe far too much emphasis is placed on reading for points. I'll never forget talking to a 4th grader and her father at a book signing. He prodded her to tell me how many reading points she had and how many books she'd read the previous year. I couldn't help wonder how much comprehension she gained from any one of those 300 + books. I'm not suggesting AR shouldn't be used, but parents need to encourage their kids to stretch beyond the list


Great advice, Mary. Where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

Mary Cunningham Books – http://www.marycunninghambooks.com
Cynthia's Attic Blog – http://www.cynthiasattic.blogspot.com


Thank you for joining us on Three Times A Charm, this week. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting you on SoT. Hope you visit again. Best of luck with your writing, Mary.

THANKS!

I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have a book, a blog or a business related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.

2 comments:

  1. Super interview. So nice to learn more about you, Mary. I also agree about the AR program in schools. I think it keeps kids from reading a lot of good books that are not on the AR list, and if they read only for pointts then, to me, their missing out on the real reason for reading: to enjoy another time or place and to meet characters that may be like them or someone they know.

    Your books sound like fun for children. Who doesn't love an attic with secrets and surprises?

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    Replies
    1. Funny thing about that AR program, though, I'd be THRILLED if my books were included. Thanks for the visit, Bev.

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