How to turn a crap situation around…in one fun-filled Q & A format.

Here’s how the story begins… {it gets really, really good so keep reading!}

sonoran living

Showing my books to TV host, Stephanie, on ABC's Sonoran Living (January, 2011).

A while back, I had a PR firm pitch my book business to a home school print magazine. The editor agreed to review a book. She sent me to a mom, of four children, and I was told to create the book for that family. My book business is a customized and individualized service. This particular book took me about two months to complete between email correspondence, setting the photos, writing the text, making changes and edits, adding a family crest symbol (upon request), adding pages to the back where the kids could practice writing their names and more.

PCS books are meant to be learning tools, not “regular books” (snooty people like to point out that they are not regular books…which is absolutely true…they are not!). They are each laminated in heavy duty (spendy) 5 mil lamination and can be written on, colored on, drooled on (special needs situations) and wiped clean. Each story takes me around 6-8 hours to complete.

This particular book took far longer.

The mother, for whom I made the book, kindly bought four copies of her book, so that each child would have one. I charge half price for duplicate copies which basically only covers my material costs (and nothing for my time). She wrote to me saying, “We love our books – thank you!” She wanted to know where my review book was, though, because I had only shipped the first four. Sadly, I had run out of lamination right after making her four purchased books. For the review book I was planning to use my high end photo paper (63 cents a sheet) and send that off for photo-quality images to be used in the review. I ordered lamination and the post office lost it (they admitted this). I was refunded and ordered MORE lamination that day. The following day, the first box of laminated arrived. Of course. I was re-billed for that and had also purchased laminated the night prior so…I ended up spending $80 on lamination in a 24 hour period of time.

Whew. I was finally ready to make her review book – I got that done, shipped and then I waited. Two weeks passed by and I emailed, asking about my review: “No hurry; I’m just wondering when the review will be printed in the magazine. Thanks!”

Reply: “Your review might go into the magazine and it might go Online. You’ll need to ask the editor.”

What? No one mentioned anything about this review going Online. I was told this was for a print magazine. I kept my cool and emailed the editor. No reply. I emailed again, a week later. Yesterday I did get a reply. I was told that the magazine has limited space inside for product reviews. However, paying advertisers always enjoy having their reviews printed. A lovely PDF was attached, offering me ad rates…up to 8 thousand dollars.

I stared at my computer screen, dumbfounded. Is this for real? I’m being pitched for ad sales, on a review that was agreed upon, and my review won’t get printed unless I pay? How deceitful! I hit reply and began to type an angry email. Then I sat back, took a deep breath (oxygen helps to stimulate the brain, you know) and pondered. I wrote a note on Facebook to vent and then I pondered some more.

What to do? What to do? Hmm…I know. I’ll review my own business. I’ll interview myself and answer my own questions and by golly, this will be the best frign’n feature I’ve EVER had; aside from Jessie’s Mom Vantage review and Maureen’s Simply Stacie review, {there used to be like 25 re-tweets on this – now it says none?} of course.

Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Spin injustice to your own advantage – that’s all! Our new mantra, mom business owners. You with me?

And now…drum-roll please…


Personal Child Stories Interview and Feature

just the way you are

They are laughing because the book is so freak'n funny.

Q & A format | Interviewer : Question-asker Shara | Interviewee: Question-answerer Shara

Question-asker Shara: Tell us about PCS and when this business first began. Why did you start PCS?

Question-answerer Shara: My eldest son (now 12) was born with medical complications. His right eye was removed 10 days after his first birthday. From there, he received a prosthetic eye. You can read our background story here and view a sad little photo of his face, so long ago. My mom encouraged me to create personalized books for him, using photos, to draw him into the stories in a very personal way. Who sells books at the store about prosthetic eyes for kids? No one! So I made my own.

Question-asker Shara: Wow. That’s amazing. You are amazing. Really and truly. Your mom is amazing, too, to come up with that idea. In fact, she’s probably the MORE amazing one because it was her idea and not yours.

Question-answerer Shara: Um. Okay. I’ll let her know you said that. Thanks. I guess.

Question-asker Shara: So once you moved past the idea that it was okay to start a business that you, yourself, didn’t even think of first, how did things go from there? Was it hard? Easy? Tell us!

Question-answerer Shara: It was easy to start because I was passionate about what I was doing: wanting to help children in unique situations. It was hard getting feedback, though, because so many people want to shut you out when they know you are starting a business. “Will she ask me for money? Uh, oh!”

Question-asker Shara: What kinds of books have you written for children over the years? Since your business started in 2007, what stories have you created? (Thanks to your mother, of course)

Question-answerer Shara: I have a background in early childhood, nanny work, education and journalism. That life experience has made it possible for me to write stories about a number of things: special needs, surgeries that kids have undergone, bullying, biting, potty training, sibling rivalry, new siblings, fun memory books, mutli-lingual books (my books can be written in any language), Sign Language books, divorce stories, death stories, pet stories and much more. The possibilities are endless, really.

Question-asker Shara: Do you write these stories or does your mom?

Question-answerer Shara: Um. Yeah. I do, of course. My mother is not a writer. She’s a reader but not a writer. Do you want her phone number or something? She’s in Australia right now but I’m sure she’d be happy to answer your questions if you give her a ring.

Question-asker Shara: Oh, no. No need for that. This interview is about YOU, sweetie. Let’s move on.

Question-answerer Shara: I’m in complete agreement with that.

Question-asker Shara: Okay – you recently made a book for a family with four children. How did that go? What was the purpose of this book?

Question-answerer Shara: Well, I don’t usually create “photo books” but this was a “photo book.” They wanted memories highlighted, a family crest included, a family mission statement added to the front and pages in the back where the kids could practice writing their names. I’ve never made a book like that before so it was a new experience for me.

Question-asker Shara: Of all the books you have written, which ones have been your favorite? Do you have favorite customers? Are there customers that you wish would go away and never return?

Question-answerer Shara: I can’t answer the latter part of that. It’s not a very nice question.

Question-asker Shara: Can you answer the first part? Can you?

Question-answerer Shara: Yes, I can. Each book I write and create is so different. Every book and family teaches me something new and I learn from each one. If I had to choose my favorite books, they’d be the stories about social-emotional development. Stories that I write, helping kids with self-esteem, getting along with others, loving themselves even if they have a disability of some kind, etc. I am attempting to make a difference through words. Words have the power to heal and they have the power to hurt. I choose “heal.”

Question-asker Shara: Isn’t that sweet? My, my. Is there ANYONE nicer than you? I have to wonder. Do OTHER people say these nice things about you, too?

Question-answerer Shara: Here is something Nicole wrote (Wyoming Coastie Wife), since you felt the need to ask:

simply stacie

Question-asker Shara: Is that it? Did you just take that comment from someone else’s site?

Question- answerer Shara: I took it from my review on Simply Stacie, yes. Comments are public domain and it’s completely legal for me to re-post it. And no, that’s not it. There are quite a few lovely statements about me on my Kudos Page. I received a very nice note from Louise today, also, founder/owner of Signing Families:

 As a psychologist who works in the special education field, I truly appreciate the customization and personalization that Personal Child Stories (Shara Lawrence- Weiss) puts in to her books.  The books themselves are created to help children understand the toughest of circumstances, such as a death of a family member.  Also, social stories, which are often used with children on the Autism spectrum are available with very important and developmentally correct use of photos.   (The use of photography is essential as this adds to a child’s ability to relate and incorporate the lessons highlighted, such as sharing.)

I have given a Personal Child Stories book to a child who needed to understand about her grandparents speaking a different language than her mom.  Shara Lawrence- Weiss was able to create a beautiful and effective book to teach about the positive aspects of growing up  in a bicultural / bilingual home.  The book was written in English and Spanish.

Personal Child Stories is not a personalized book company that has a “scrapbook” template, but a true developmental psychology company with an emphasis on the social-emotional development of children.

Louise Masin Sattler
Nationally Certified School Psychologist
JustAsk Expert for

Question-answerer Shara: Is that enough? Are you satisfied that I don’t say nice things about myself because no one else will?

Question-asker Shara: You are friends with a real Psychologist? Can she answer a question for me about anger?

Never mind…That’s almost enough, yes. I think it’s really important to know what a spouse has to say. Has he supported your efforts over the years, for this time-suck business that offers so little financial return (no offense)? You were asked to audition for Shark Tank during their very first season, right?

Question-answered Shara: How did you know that?

Question-asker Shara: I’m a journalist. It’s my job to find out about such things. So ABC called you, invited you to audition, got your tape and then never replied to your emails again, right?

Question-answerer Shara: Yes. But in my defense, I made the statement on my audition tape that corporate greed stops people from caring about educational businesses that don’t turn a lot of profit. I was hoping they’d give me a chance rather than focusing on lots of silly mass-made products, created in China, that only fall apart after a few uses, filling up our land-fills and producing waste in our nation – all for the drive to turn fast cash with no “heart.”

Question-asker Shara: Yeeeaaahhhhhh. Good one, Shara. I wonder why they didn’t email you back. Had you ever SEEN the show before?

Question-answerer Shara: No.

Question-asker Shara: And that’s why I’m the journalist and you are not. Let’s go back to your husband. I still want to know what he has to say about you. Does he like you, too? Sorry. I mean. Does he like your business and support your wonderful efforts to make the world a better place?

Question-answerer Shara: I asked him today if he likes me and if he supports my business. Here is what he said:

Personal Child Stories is an amazing concept designed to enhance the literacy of any child. Using proven concepts for teaching children to read and enjoy the process – Shara has developed a concept that has been much needed and should be a part of every parent’s process of teaching their child. It is extremely useful in the preschool environment as well.

I have yet to see a child not immediately fall in love with one of her books. I just received a call yesterday from my grandson who told me that his book – now nearly 2 years in his hands – is still his favorite book.

Question-asker Shara: Wow!! What a great quote! Your husband really respects what you do, eh? (Although there’s no mention here of how he feels about you, personally. Just saying.)

Question-answerer Shara: My friend and client Leah (Peacock Pottery) is on her way here right now. We’re heading to the river to swim with our kids. I need to get some work done before she arrives. I really appreciate you taking the time to interview me in this long-winded and sometimes erratic Q & A. I was feeling a bit bummed about the magazine not printing my review but now my spirits are lifted and the rainbow has appeared.

Question-asker Shara: Did it rain? Where was I?


Stop by, folks…any time. Really.

books for kids


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