top honors

Interview and Award-Winning Memoir of Walter J. Scherr

Walter’s Way: How A Relief Kid Survived TB, Corporate Betrayal, Bankruptcy, Made Millions, and Touched the Lives of Billions is a memoir by Walter J. Scherr, co-written by John Hanc and Deborah Chiel. The memoir, published by John Wiley & Sons, won the 2017 Lumen Award for Literary Excellence, and Gold for nonfiction in the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest.

Mr. Scherr, now 93, was interviewed by his co-writer John Hanc.

What inspired you to write your memoir?

“I always wanted to do this as a legacy project for my grandchildren. I also wanted people to know about the Center for Discovery, a facility in upstate New York that provides services for children and adults with severe disabilities. It’s a very special place, and it’s not as well-known as it should be. I hope my book will give it greater exposure.” (Hanc Ed. Note: All net proceeds of Walter’s Way go to the Center.)

What’s the target age group for your book?

“Anybody, of any age, that is entrepreneurial, or that needs inspiration and would like to hear a good story about a kid who started off with nothing, but through hard work and the help of others, became a success. Personally, I don’t think we can get enough of those stories!”

You decided to use professional writing help for your book. What was that like?

“I wrote about eight chapters on my own. But when the professional writers got involved, I realized why they are professionals. There was more depth, more background, more color and context in everything. Dialogue was more natural, and the story just seemed to flow much better. It worked also because we were a good team…the designers and other people involved in the project as well…and we all had a common goal. That was, to produce a really good book. Winning two prestigious awards…a silver medal the Axiom Business Book awards last year, and now this wonderful Literary Classics award are the proof that we succeeded.”

Your book is a memoir, but you met some interesting and well-known people in your life. Who would be among the most memorable characters that you discuss in your book?

“I had the privilege of meeting, and in some cases, working with Douglas MacArthur, Mother Theresa and David Rockefeller—not to mention some of the most brilliant corporate and military minds of their generation. I hope young readers will discover and learn something about these amazing people, and the remarkable times I lived through.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released an audio edition of your book?

“Yes! It was produced by Tom `T.C.’ Czajczynski, and we’ve got some original music on it. I’m very proud of it. We hope to have it available for sale at the Great American Book Festival in Rapid City.”

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

“I can’t say that I have too many at my age. But I did see `The Lion King’ five times! It was one of the most beautiful and meaningful productions I’ve ever seen.”

What did you learn about the writing process from doing your book?

“It takes discipline, concentration… and the right attitude. And it helps to have a good memory, if you’re doing a memoir!”

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

“First of all, I’d like to congratulate my fellow authors and award-winners. Second, as I am probably the oldest in this group, I’d like to offer a little advice to anyone reading this. It’s never too late to start. I was 90 when I made the decision to write this memoir. If you want to write a book, or compose a song, or paint a picture or build a business, don’t let anything stand in your way. You have to be obsessed, in a positive way. That’s really the secret. There are always going to be up’s and down’s in life. Having that positive attitude is what keeps you moving forward—or backwards or whatever direction you want to go.”

Co-Writer Bios

Walter J. Scherr

New York native Walter J. Scherr was a founding board member and executive officer of four international companies and chairman of three charitable foundations. Walter’s many ventures, which include the production of a Hollywood film, “Whatever It Takes” (1986) took him to 42 countries over the course of his career. He has been profiled in Fortune and the Wall Street Journal. In 2005, he was honored by the United States Congress with a Certificate of Congressional Recognition for his outstanding and invaluable service to the community.

John Hanc

John, the author/co-author of 16 books, is also a long-time contributing writer to the New York Times, Smithsonian, Newsday and Runner’s World magazine. He teaches memoir writing at the annual Harvard Medical School Writing, Publishing and Social Media course and is an associate professor of communications at New York Institute of Technology.

Deborah Chiel

A writer, editor, and collaborator who began her publishing career at Simon & Schuster over 30 years ago, Deb has written or co-written sixteen fiction and nonfiction books.

Award-Winning Book

Part autobiography and part history lesson, Walter Scherr’s memoir WALTER’S WAY is a tale full of adventure and excitement as well as disappointment and heartache. Scherr’s new book tells the story of how a Depression-era boy from Queens, New York overcame a life-threatening illness to live an adventurous life as a globe-trotting executive who witnessed and helped foster the post-World War II economic boom. The lessons he shares about business, leadership, innovation, entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and family are priceless. While imparting Scherr’s unique perspectives on business, success, risk, love, and life, WALTER’S WAY will also inspire the power of philanthropy and the value of caring for others, a spirit that shines through the pages of the book. All proceeds from the sale of the book are being donated to The Center for Discovery.

 “This a compelling story that will encourage and inspire readers of all ages.” Literary Classics Book Awards

Follow Walter’s Way on Facebook, Twitter, and Walter Scherr’s website. For additional information on the Center for Discovery (charitable partner of Walter’s Way), please visit http://www.thecenterfordiscovery.org/.

Many congratulations to Mr. Scherr and his writing team! Read about more Literary Classics Book Awards winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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Interview: Literary Classics Award Winner, Rebecca Hammond Yager

Author Rebecca Hammond Yager received the Literary Classics Words On Wings Book Award for her YA novel, Beauty & the Beast. Words on Wings is one of the contest’s Top Honors awards, given to extraordinary young adult fiction. Beauty & the Beast also won Gold in High School Romance.

Congratulations on your achievements! When did you first start writing?

Thank you! I first started writing around age 8, dipping my toes into poetry first before discovering novel writing at age 11. But I’ve been telling stories pretty much since I learned to speak. My mom always said I was alarmingly quiet at first, not starting off with all the typical baby words, and that when I finally started talking, it was in complete sentences. And once I was forming sentences, I was telling stories.

What’s the target age group for your books?

Beauty & the Beast is… I don’t know…12 and up? I think of it as for all ages really.

My first novel, Winds Cove, a YA mystery published in 2004, was also about the same, maybe for ages 10 and up. I think, or at least I hope, that my books are crafted well enough that they can’t be outgrown. My future books, several in the works but none finished yet, will be for teens and some for perhaps a slightly older audience though not because they’ll be inaccessible to teen audiences, more because the heroines will start to range more in age.

What inspired your award-winning book?

This is perhaps a longer answer than you were looking for, but here goes:

I dine on fairytales almost daily. They are not the only things I read—I love all kinds of Fantasy, Supernatural, Murder Mystery, some Horror, as well as Science Fiction/Science Fantasy—but I obsessively collect fairytales. Fairytales were my introduction to the Fantasy genre, and some of my earliest memories are my mom reading me fairytales before tucking me in at night. I can still hear her voice in the cadence of the words in one particular version of Cinderella, and I’m on the hunt for the particular version of Sleeping Beauty she read to me which I have not ever come across since. That’s a long way of saying fairytales are important to me. They’re literally woven into the fabric of my imagination. So in the midst of all the writing projects I have going, I’ve always wanted to squeeze some fairytale retellings in as well.

I had a vague idea, a lifetime or two ago, about a story centering around a cursed black lion. I knew immediately it was a Beauty and the Beast type of story, although I didn’t know how closely it would mirror its source. And then my ideas regarding the noble, raven-furred lion were lost to my piles and stacks and mountains of notebooks as other story ideas threw themselves in my path. I never forgot him. But his story has been stuck on the back burner ever since. Growing up with Madame Beaumont’s 1756 “Beauty and the Beast” and of course Disney’s enchanted retelling, I was utterly unprepared for Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s 140-page original version, The Story of the Beauty and the Beast, published in 1740, sixteen years before Madame Beaumont severely condensed it into the tale commonly found in fairytale collections. Moreover, I didn’t even know Villeneuve’s version existed until I stumbled across it on Amazon and realized Beaumont, so often credited as the inventor of the tale, was in fact only a reinventor like Disney and everyone else. While I completely understand why Beaumont chose to streamline the rambling story so much, I was simultaneously thrilled and dismayed to discover that the version I knew was only half the story. Beauty’s heritage and backstory had been shorn away and have now been all but obliterated from common knowledge. I was mesmerized in particular by Villeneuve’s Fairy Realm, a kingdom in the air belonging to a fairy race with their own laws, their own hierarchy, their own customs, and which fit so seamlessly within a fairytale world I was already constructing involving a Sky Kingdom and a race of Fae creatures. I also immediately felt I owed it to Beauty to finally get her story out there—or at least my version of it. I read and watched every version of BATB I could get my hands on, marinating in the story and seemingly infinite interpretations of it. Villeneuve’s & Beaumont’s versions of BATB, and the Brothers Grimm “Singing, Soaring Lark” were together the wellspring for my own reimagining. The three greatest influences for my inspiration aside from the fairytales themselves would have to be Jean Cocteau’s beguiling and eerie cinematic adaption released in 1946, the 2014 visual feast directed by Christophe Gans, and Hilary Knight’s magnificently illustrated 1990 rendition, all of which had me falling in love with the story over and over again each time I read or watched them. It is my hope, among many other hopes, that someday people will be as swept off their feet by my reimagining as I was about theirs.

Describe one of your characters with a cliché or a famous quote.

The Beast – “The eyes are the windows to the soul.”

Do you have plans to, or have you already, released audio editions of your books?

I have not. To be honest, I haven’t even thought about it. Hmmm…

Who would you cast as the voice actor for your main character?

Are we talking dream voice castings here? For the Beast it would be Liam McIntyre. I think he’d be smashing in a live action film adaptation too, but the reason I thought of him for the role was first and foremost for his delicious voice. Manu Bennett would be pretty spectacular too. If we’re talking reality then…. I have no idea. I have a friend who’s an actress who I would probably beg and plead to read for Beauty.

Do you illustrate your own books? If not, how did you find your illustrator?

My book doesn’t have illustrations but I did do the cover art myself. All the photography as well as the graphic design to put it all together. I did a fair bit of photography on the side before my allergies to the vulture sun forced me into a more vampiric nocturnal lifestyle.

Who are some of your favorite YA and/or children’s book authors?

Alexander Key for middle grade/YA. His books were my gateway to science fiction, and he captures a marvelous sense of wonder of the Universe while still seeing it as both broken and beautiful. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how many times I read them, his books haunt me and inspire me and sweep me away to this day.

For children’s books, there are probably too many to name but thinking in terms of picture books I would say Jan Pienkowski, Hilary Knight, the Sisters Johnstone, and Kinuko Craft are the ones I specifically look out for. I’m aware that they are all illustrators but some of them do their own writing, and while Kinuko Craft does not, her paintings make me want to fall inside her stories. In fact, she is one of my writing inspirations even though she’s not a writer—she is a master storyteller through her art, and I like to think of my writing as word painting. Even though I use a different medium, I want to tell stories the way she does. She’s fantastically brilliant.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I don’t know if they’re quirky—they all seem pretty normal to me anyway, lol. I write inside and outside, at the zoo or the lake or the park when I can find a shady spot, but most of the time I’m holed up in my house, surrounded by plants and animals and stacks of books as I write. I stare into space for days, weeks, even years, mulling and meditating over my ideas and letting them marinate in my imagination. I outline my stories usually halfway through writing them, which perhaps is one of my less practical habits. I also tend to write out of order, writing whichever scene overwhelms me when I pick up my pen and then stitching all the scenes together afterward. I’m trying to break myself of that habit actually since it makes for a lot of extra work toward the end.

I like to surround myself with things that inspire me specifically in the tone of whatever it is that I’m writing. For Beauty & the Beast, for example, I bought up every vintage version of Beauty & the Beast I could stretch my tiny paycheck to accommodate as well as a few lion statues, a pewter pegasus, and along with a pewter castle I’ve had for years that inspired the castle in the story, I would literally surround myself with them, the books open to my favorite illustrations and carefully overlapping each other in artistic piles, the lions and castle etc perched all around me while I wrote so that every time I glanced up my eye would fall on something beautiful and magical, my rescued cats and dogs in fuzzy heaps around me, with youtube enchanted forest videos playing in the background. It’s in those quiet, creative moments that I’m overwhelmed by the fact that no matter how little money I’m making, the writer’s life can be intensely beautiful.

Oh, oh! I don’t know if this is a habit exactly, but while I never ever put real people in my stories, myself included, I do give real animals cameos and roles. My stories always have animal characters as well as human ones, and they’re often inspired by or based on specific animals I have known. It’s sort of my way of imparting a slice of immortality on them. Beauty & the Beast contained 4 animal characters inspired by real life animals.

How do you balance writing with book promotion and everything else there is to do in life?

Book promotion is brand, spanking new to me so I’ll have to get back to you on that one. As far as the balance in my life between writing and keeping up a home and rescuing as many animals as possible, I’m afraid the housekeeping is what tends to fall by the wayside, lol. I’m still working on finding the right balance to be productive AND healthy AND have a clean house. It’s a challenge. My husband is very patient, although I am frequently banned from the kitchen due to my tendency to novel-plot and wander off to parts unknown while handling knives or using the stove.

Do you have anything special you’d like to say to your readers or fellow award-winning authors?

To writers—just write. The hardest part for me is gluing my rear to a chair long enough to be productive because I’m so easily distracted. So to writers like me, just write.

To my readers—thank you for getting swept away by my story. I hope I can sweep you away many many more times.

To all readers—Don’t ever let anyone make you feel like reading fiction is a waste of time. Fiction and Fantasy and Beauty have tremendous value. Savor beauty. Revel in it. It’s a treasure that can be anywhere and everywhere, and yet we can never have too much of it in our lives.

Author Bio

Rebecca Hammond Yager grew up in the bewitching realm of Vermont. She has a degree in creative writing and a lifetime love of monsters and beasts. When her nose isn’t in a book, her head is firmly in the clouds where all dreamy heads ought to be. She now lives in South Carolina with a menagerie of beasts and her handsome, longsuffering husband where she obsessively collects fairytales, devours fantasy and science fiction, and rescues animals.

Connect with her on Facebook, Goodreads, and Amazon.

Award-Winning Book

Winner of the 2017 WORDS ON WINGS Award, Literary Classics’ Top Honors Award for Young Adult Fiction

A young woman sacrifices herself to save her father and enters a moonlit kingdom of beasts on the borders of Faerie, overrun by thorns and roses, haunted by memories, and ruled by lions. To have any hope of seeing her family again, Beauty must unravel the riddle of the Beast and dispel the shadows of her own past in this lush and vivid reimagining of the timeless fairytale.

Those who yearn for poignant prose and vibrant imagery will no doubt delight in Yager’s brilliant representation of this timeless classic. Literary Classics Book Awards

This book is available on Amazon.

Read more about the 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards contest winners on my Interviews page and the Literary Classics website.

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CLC Awards Announcement Blog Hop

Tradition continues with the arrival of one of the most anticipated moments in the world of children’s and young adult literature. The 2017 Literary Classics Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards were announced on July 1, 2017.

Thank you, Literary Classics, for the incredible honor of Gold in High School Mystery/ThrillerHigh School Fantasy, and Best YA Series! Congrats to all finalists and award winners. All of you have worked so hard to share the love of literature with our youth. It is my pleasure to share this exciting news. Please visit the other amazing authors listed at the end of this post for more information about them and their incredible books.

In addition to this honor, The Call to Search Everywhen received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval and a 5 Star review. Here’s what Literary Classics had to say about the books:

“With well-developed characters and a series of plots that keep readers coming back for more, The Call to Everywhen series is entirely addictive.  As the story progresses past (and simultaneously future) events come together to make this imaginative series of books a sure favorite with fans of YA and fantasy fiction.”

Read about additional awards this series has won here. The books are available individually in ebook, print, and audio editions, and also as part of an ebook box set. Find them at Amazon, Audible, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and more!

For more children’s and young adult literature, visit the blogs and websites of the following CLC Finalists and Award Winners:

Gary Schwartz ~ The King of Average

C.M. Huddleston ~ Adventures in Time series

Carmela Dutra ~ A Blog for your Thoughts

Lisa Anne Novelline ~ Piccadilly and Her Magical World

S.A. Larsen ~ Writer’s Alley

M.J. Evans ~ The Stone of Mercy-Book 1 of the Centaur Chronicles

Stephan von Clinkerhoffen ~ The Hidden City of Chelldrah-ham

Sheila Wall Slavich ~ Jumpin’ the Rails!

Patricia Reding ~ Ephemeral and Fleeting

Lynne Stringer ~ Verindon Trilogy and Once Confronted

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