Monday, January 19, 2015

Earthquake, Chocolate and Book, Oh My

By Susan J Berger

It's the Anniversary of the Northridge quake and I'm out of chocolate. This is a disaster.

I always check my emergency supplies on January 17th. Anyone who remembers the quake knows that terror requires comfort food. Chocolate is the number two staple on my emergency supply list. Right after batteries.

The Northridge Quake occurred in the early hours of Martin Luther King Day. The fact that it began at 4:30 AM on a holiday probably saved countless lives. That was twenty one years ago. My son commented, "The Northridge Quake is now old enough to drink.."
No California resident twenty one or under has any experience of what it feels like to be in a devastating shake. But if you lived in Northridge, Sherman Oaks or Santa Monica in 1994, you probably have a cellular memory of what it felt like. Some moments are like that. 9/11, for example.

Ventura Blvd South of Tyrone Ave. Sherman Oaks. Those stores are still there.

Corner of Hazeltine and  Moorpark Sherman Oaks.
Broken Freeway. Not sure where.
I was a Sherman Oaks Resident. That day is burned into my memory. So much so, that a decade later, I wrote a book for children on earthquakes.

Earthquake was aimed at a second grade level. Guardian Angel Publishing published in 2009. It won an Honorable mention in The Green Book Award. It had approval and nice comments from FEMA administrators.

Fired with enthusiasm, I got a list of school districts in California, Washington and Alaska and wrote them all.
I contacted Libraries and my local Fire Department.
No response.

I got a  book trailer.


I made a website 

I did a Teacher Activity Page 

My favorite activity is a hands on demonstration of the strength differences between numbers on the Richter Scale.


I made a tab for Emergency Supplies and links to other Kid Friendly Earthquake Websites.

I added a tab listing Grant resources for teachers wishing to use the book in their classroom.

I started a Facebook Page Which I update with reasonable regularity.

I took it to the SCBWI Summer Conference twice as part of the PAL book sale.
I don't think anyone really wants a preparedness guide for younger grades sprinkled with humor and factoids.
Occasionally I get a comment. After the 8.8 Earthquake in Chile in February 2010, I received a letter from Julio Vogel
Dear Susan
I´m very interested in your book about hearthquake as you should understand due last events in Chile.
I work at school preparing parents and teachers in several matters of comunications between them and with childrens, and a subject like hearthquakes today is a must.
How can I do in order to reproduce your work into spanish and spread it trough my blog, for me is very important with the huge numbers of childrens that survive an experience of an earthquake of 8.3 degrees, also if you can introduce me to places where i can found subjects about post traumatic stress for children.
For me is useful in english also because I work with several bilingual school and they talk only in english
Hope my english is ok for you 
warm regards.
I used Google Translator to make a copy of the book in Spanish. Hilde Garcia and her husband, David Krol proofed it for me. I sent it to Julio. I hope it helped.
In six years I  have done two school visits. On February 22nd I will be doing the Encino Elementary Charter School Book Fair.
I am proud of Earthquake. I think the editor/book designer, Lynda Burch did an amazing job of putting together.
I can't say it's a failure. The people who read it, seemed to like it. But there haven't been many readers.
Earthquake is available in paperback and hardback.The Kindle version is skewed. It doesn't get the factoids, pictures and text in proper order. It's better to buy the 5.00 pdf from Guardian Angel Publishing and send it to your reader program, should you be minded to check it out..
(In putting this post together, I notice that I have six reviews on Amazon, and three ratings on Goodreads - One of them from me. If any of you would like to review the book, I will be happy to send you a PDF.)
So my question, dear reader is what would you have done differently? How could I do a better job of selling the book?

Happy Birthday,  Martin Luther King. Post I have A Dream from January 20, 2014



  1. Good luck with promoting Earthquake. Hope the school visit goes well. And chocolate should definitely be in any emergency pack.

  2. It's hard to imagine what more you could have done, Susan. I think it's all we can do...take all the steps and lightning can strike, but no guarantees. The only guarantee is that if you DON'T take the steps, the lightning won't strike.

    Sounds like a great book, BTW. :-)

    1. Thanks, Kady. I will send it to you in case you ever have time to post a review.

  3. I understand what it's like to put your heart and soul into a book and have it get little interest. Probably the best thing to do is move on to the next project - you've already given this one your all.

    1. Thanks Xina. I've continued to write and submit.

  4. Being a teacher and an author, I know how EXTREMELY difficult it is to publish a children's book. To accomplish what you have done is amazing! Thousands (if not millions) of people try to get a toe into the children's book publishing industry. You did it with Earthquake! Don't let this lull shake you up. What book is next for you? Keep writing. You've proved you can do it, so do it again:)

    1. Thanks, Anne. I've had one more book published since then. I have two more under contract. And I will continue to push the others.

  5. I agree, write more books. I have found that if you have more to offer, the schools are interested. Also, maybe rather than marketing it as an earthquake book, market it as a kids book. Go to schools prepared to talk about writing and where you get your ideas, etc. Beryl

    1. Thanks Beryl. The school visits I have done usually focus more on the writing process and encouraging students to write. Since I wrote my first published book with my son when he was nine, I usually talk about how capable they are of writing.

  6. Hi Susan, Great post. I think you've done more than I've done to promote your book. I guess just more of the same. Our target audience is at schools, and that's where we must promote our books. Most towns around CA also promote Emergency Preparedness. Perhaps you could also hook up with those groups. Of course, I will be happy to review your book. Thanks much, Penny (

  7. Beryl has a great suggestion...present it more broadly as a children's book. See if there are Career Day events at your local schools and see if they will give you a slot. Best wishes!

  8. Have you tried getting it placed in natural history and science museums, especially around California?

  9. Also, maybe you can try being more targeted with respect to schools? In LAUSD, I remember my kids had a geology section around 3rd grade or so. I think you should be able to find the California science curriculum on-line somewhere. Then you might consider creating a printed teacher's guide based on that. Sudipta Bardham-Quallen recently hosted a webinar with Marcie Colleen about teachers' guides (and Common Core).

    1. I have, Pauline. But I am going to try again.
      Thank you. If you want to read it, I will be happy to send it to you.
      My personal email is

  10. I would like to read this book -- I love you grain of rice illustration. And I'd love to review it on my blog. The topic is important.


We love hearing from you.