Song Contest Finalists Named; Public Voting Open

KiCam Projects has announced the 10 finalists for the $5,000 grand prize in its inaugural original song contest.

Public voting is now open via KiCam Projects’ YouTube channel, where fans can vote for their favorite finalists by liking their videos. Voting runs until 10 a.m. ET Dec. 22, and the winner will be revealed Jan. 1.

The finalists hail from eight different states and represent a variety of musical genres, including rock, pop, R&B and more.

“Our mission is to change the world one great story at a time, and all of our finalists are incredibly talented at telling stories through music,” KiCam Projects founder Lori Highlander said. “I know that whoever wins this contest has a bright future ahead of them. I hope music lovers in Greater Cincinnati and around the country will take a few moments to vote and help one of these up-and-comers on their way to achieving their dreams.”

The complete list of finalists:

Joey Mullaney

Welcome New Author: Joey Mullaney

Joey MullaneyKiCam Projects is delighted to welcome Joey Mullaney to our family of authors!

Joey will publish his memoir in September 2021. And although he’s only twenty-five years old, he has a lifetime of wisdom to share with readers.

At age thirteen, Joey was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia (FA). FA is a rare degenerative neuromuscular disorder that diminishes coordination, mobility, speech, and organ function. It has confined Joey to using a motorized scooter, but it certainly hasn’t held him back.

A Massachusetts native, Joey graduated from Quinnipiac University, where he served as student body president. He then earned his master’s degree from Emerson College in Boston.

Along the way, he’s learned to make the most of every minute — something he hopes readers will take away from his story.

“For many years, the news of FA blindsided me,” Joey says. “Admittedly, I wasted a lot of time thinking about how little time I might have. So, I stopped and decided to take the ticking time clock and embrace it while I can. Instead of fighting time, I’m partnering with it.

When he’s not writing, Joey is an Adaptive Crossfit athlete and is building a career as a motivational speaker. He’s a huge sports fan and especially loves his Boston teams.

We at KiCam especially love that we have the opportunity to share Joey’s inspiring story with the rest of the world. Welcome to the family, Joey!


Independent Publishers Group

KiCam Joins IPG for Worldwide Distribution

Independent Publishers GroupEffective Jan. 1, 2020, KiCam Projects has become part of the Independent Publishers Group family of publishers.

IPG now distributes all of KiCam’s print and digital titles worldwide.

Founded in 1971, IPG was the first organization specifically created for the purpose of marketing titles from independent presses to the book trade.

“We’re delighted to be working with an organization that uniquely values the spirit and mission of indie presses like KiCam,” says KiCam publisher Lori Highlander. “We look forward to partnering with IPG to get our authors’ powerful stories into the hands of more readers all over the world.”

KiCam Projects books can be purchased through, the IPG Bookstore, Amazon, Ingram and a variety of other retailers.

Author giving a gift to readers

Grassroots Book Marketing 101

Your book is not about you.

Even if you’ve written a highly personal memoir … your book is not about you.

Your book—or at least the marketing of your book—is about your readers and what they take away from hearing your story and absorbing your key messages.

Identify Your Core Messages

Author giving a gift to readers

Photo by David Castillo Dominici

Identifying those main points is a critical task to undertake before you start pitching your book to publishers or before you upload your files to self-publish. You absolutely must understand what you’re offering to readers—what aspects of your story will touch someone’s heart, make someone think or speak to a universal truth.

The fact is, this is one of the hardest parts of publishing. Most of us aren’t actually very comfortable talking about ourselves, and this discomfort only grows when we feel like we’re being “too salesy.”

But think of it this way: When you advocate for your book, for your story, you’re helping it reach more eyes and ears—which means more people can benefit from your message and your hard-won wisdom. You’re giving prospective readers a gift!

Reframing what it means to pitch or sell your book gives you the chance to think more broadly about who wants and needs to hear what you have to say.

You can reach beyond the low-hanging fruit—local media, libraries and bookstores—and connect with new audiences (which translates to selling more books).

Whom Can You Help?

So, who could benefit from hearing your story?

  • Are your key messages right for teens or younger readers? Reach out to a teacher you know and find out what local schools require of speakers for in-class presentations or assemblies.
  • Does your story have a faith element? Contact churches that organize faith-sharing groups, Bible study or men’s/women’s groups. Even if the groups are small, every reader with whom you engage becomes a potential word-of-mouth marketer on your behalf.
  • Contact your former high school, college or professional school. Are there experts there who would be interested in your topic—and who could connect you to others in their network?
  • Does your message translate into the business realm? Larger companies often host speakers for professional and personal development programs or at all-company meetings.
  • Look into your area Rotary club or other civic organizations. How can your message help build a stronger community? These groups will want to know!

The list goes on and on depending on your areas of expertise. And therein lies another rub: You have to get comfortable with positioning yourself as an expert, whether through study or lived experience.

Just remember: Only you know exactly what you’ve been through, how it’s changed you and how it can help other people. So, don’t be shy.

Make a list of your key messages …

Briefly outline talking points for each of them …

And get out there and share your magic with the world!


Author Q&A: Deirdre Klein Ochipinti

Deirdre Klein Ochipinti is the devoted mom of two children, Alec and Kate, who have enriched her life immeasurably. She shares her family’s journey in Super Alec’s Very Super Day: An Adoption Story to support other adoptive families and inspire would-be parents to consider the joyful path of adoption.

Super Alec's Very Super DayWhat prompted you to write Super Alec’s Very Super Day?

Alec was born ten weeks early and had to be in an enclosed incubator to regulate his body temperature. Some days, his health was so volatile between the temperature and forgetting to breathe, the only thing I could do was read to him. So I read and read. When he came home, I continued to read. He thrived.

When Alec was eighteen months old, I went to the bookstore to find a book to introduce the word “adoption” to him. This was advice from the plethora of physicians Alec had to see—neurologists, pulmonologists, psychiatrists, gastroenterologists, and pediatricians, not to mention his personal social worker specializing in adoption families. “Talk to him about adoption,” they told us. “Let him know the word, let him feel special, let him ask questions. Always be honest and clear.” I didn’t want a book with a uterus or a book of adopted animals! If it was to be clear, it had to be clear … for a toddler.

There were no adoption books with the things a young child loves: balloons, birthdays, babies, moms, dads, a pet, and maybe a superhero. Hence, my next journey—and as I soon realized, huge challenge—began: writing a children’s book.

Which books and writers inspired your storytelling?

Our home library was always filled with the traditional superhero stories. Once I realized my adopted boy had a very special tie to his favorite superhero, I knew I had to write about it.

As a first-time author, what challenges did you face in your writing process, and how did you overcome them?

Deirdre Klein Ochipinti

The biggest challenge for me as a small-town mom and unknown author was getting my story in front of an established publisher. The slush pile is real.

Ahead of my work were celebrities and other established, published authors who were agented.

Perseverance got me through. I knew this book was needed. I was not going to stop until it was published for the adoption world, to help other moms and dads communicate with their adopted family.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors, especially those who dream of creating children’s books?

Keep on keeping on. That is the toughest part—to not lose hope, never give up, and don’t let anyone, anyone, deter you from your important mission.

What has been the most fulfilling part of the writing and publishing process for you?

The look on my son’s face when he realized that he is so important that he has a book written about him. I want other adopted children to feel the same way.

What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers learn from Super Alec?

How cool it is to be adopted.

Brandi Wallace-Gill

Welcome New Author: Brandi Wallace-Gill

Brandi Wallace-Gill

Brandi Wallace-Gill with her husband, Andrew, and daughters Lexi and Drew.

KiCam Projects is thrilled to welcome Brandi Wallace-Gill to our family of authors!

Brandi will be publishing her first children’s book in time for the start of the new school year.

Drew Is Just Like YOU! tells the story of Brandi’s younger daughter, Drew, who was born without a left hand and part of her left arm.

Despite her physical difference, Drew is an active, energetic force of nature who succeeds at everything she does! As she prepares to begin school in August, Drew and her mom want everyone to feel comfortable around Drew and to welcome her into all of their activities.

They have the same dream for all kids born with differences—that their schools and communities will look beyond the physical to see the wonder in every child!

So, what can Drew do? She loves softball, soccer, and swimming, and she even shows pigs at the county fair every year. She’s learned to ride a bike and tie her shoes, making it clear to everyone along the way that there’s no stopping her!

Brandi, a reading teacher at Hamersville (Ohio) Elementary School, couldn’t be more proud of her little girl.

And we at KiCam couldn’t be more proud to welcome Brandi—and Drew— to our family of authors!

Deirdre Klein Ochipinti

Welcome New Author: Deirdre Klein Ochipinti

Deirdre Klein OchipintiKiCam Projects is thrilled to welcome author Deirdre Klein Ochipinti to our family of authors!

Deirdre, mom to two beautiful children by way of adoption, has written her first children’s book, Super Alec’s Very Super Day: An Adoption Story, to encourage all adoptive families and kids and help them love their unique story!

“After the recommendation that I received time and time again from our plethora of medical personnel to ‘… tell Alec at every diaper change about adoption,’ ‘… always in a positive way how he was meant to be part of this family,’ ‘… start early, start now …,’ I knew I needed a children’s book with big, beautiful pictures depicting adoption in the most amazing way,” Deirdre says.

I knew this book needed to be written for a very underrepresented audience: the adoption community.”

Super Alec is based on the true story of a boy named Alec, born into this world destined to become the adopted, beloved son of Deirdre and Joe Ochipinti … and later a brother and mentor to his adopted sister, Kate Alexandra.

The story takes readers through one of Alec’s most memorable moments: the day he hears his adopted baby sister is coming home. The big reveal is saved for the end. Meanwhile, Alec takes on a big job that puts a unique spin on adopted superheroes.

Deirdre’s lovely book will be available in time for National Adoption Day in November, and we could not be more proud to publish this project.

Welcome to the KiCam family, Deirdre!

Purdy-Games Scholarship Winners

KiCam Publisher on Scholarship Committee

For the second straight year, KiCam Projects publisher Lori Highlander has been part of the committee to award the Purdy-Games Memorial Scholarship to graduates of her alma mater, Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington (Ohio) High School.

The scholarship was created through a bequest of $1 million left by Highlander’s stepfather, Jay Purdy.

Purdy-Games Scholarship Winners

Scholarship winners Corey Germann, Shallyn Mussinan and Maranda Thompson

Corey Germann, Shallyn Mussinan and Maranda Thompson each won a $7,500 scholarship, empowering them to achieve their dreams of obtaining a college education.

And two 2018 recipients, Whitney King and Kamri-Beth Offutt, had their scholarships renewed for $7,500 each.

“It makes me so happy to see young people working to better themselves, so it’s an honor to be part of this process,” Highlander said. “Jay was such a generous man. I know it would put a smile on his face to see how he’s changing the lives of these outstanding, driven students.”

Purdy was a lifelong Ripley resident who passed away Feb. 17, 2017. The scholarship is named in honor of Jay Purdy; his uncle, Lloyd Purdy; and his mother, Helen Games, who was an elementary teacher in Ripley.

Scholarship winners were selected based on multiple criteria, including academic performance and grade-point average, ACT score, extracurricular activities, employment history, financial need and the strength of a written essay.

Applications and requirement information for 2020 scholarships are available through RULH counselor Jasmine Osman at Winners who continue to meet the requirements can renew the scholarship each year for four years.

Sanja Kulenovic

Q&A with Author Sanja Kulenovic

Sanja Kulenovic is a Russian-born Bosnian, now an American citizen, who has called Southern California home since the early 1990s, when she was stranded due to the Bosnian War. She studied economics and English language and literature at the University of Sarajevo, where several of her essays and short stories appeared in the university’s magazine. In 1993, she presented a speech at a United Nations-sponsored event for Bosnian women and children. Since then, Sanja has earned a master’s degree in economics and has been working as a financial analyst for an engineering corporation that helped rebuild Bosnia’s infrastructure after the war. She resides in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.

Sanja KulenovicWhat prompted you to write The Siege of Sarajevo and share your family’s personal experiences with readers?

It started about ten years ago, when I found a stack of letters my family and friends wrote to me from the besieged Sarajevo in the 1990s. My children were eleven and eight at the time and had no knowledge of the events that took place in the Balkans then, except that their “grandmas and grandpas lived through a war.” The more I read the letters to them, the more questions they asked, and I realized a had a job to do. I began organizing the letters by years and translating them into English, in the process creating an authentic and a very unique “historical document” intertwined with deep personal notes and my own story of immigrant life in America.

I wanted my daughters and other Bosnian immigrants’ children to learn what had happened in Sarajevo and to their families trapped in the longest siege history remembers. I wanted them to learn by reading the words of those who experienced it, not just history books. I wanted them to remember it and to keep it alive for the next generations to come.

I believe the story of Sarajevo, however unique, is also universal. It will make you laugh, cry, and appreciate ordinary things in life—for you never know when they might be out of your reach.

Which writers and works inspired you to put your own story on paper?

I love reading true stories and learning about other people’s experiences in life. But, for my book, I did not find inspiration in the works of others. This was a very personal endeavor, something I decided to do on my own.

The Siege of SarajevoAs a first-time author, what challenges did you face in your writing process, and how did you overcome them?

For me, the big questions were, Do I know how to write and can I do it in English? It is one thing to talk about your life with a group of close friends, preferably in Bosnian, and entirely different to put it on paper for a wider audience, readers you don’t know, in English. I had constant doubts about the quality of my work and would write, edit, delete, write again—which often felt like moving in circles with no end in sight. To overcome this, I started asking my family and friends to read my work, telling them it was still in early stages, to make them feel more comfortable critiquing it. This helped me gain much-needed confidence in my writing abilities as I realized that most of what I had done was actually decent work, not just “early drafts.”

Writing a book, like any other long-term project, requires persistence. That, to me, is the key, especially for first-time authors, who often embark on a writing journey without a clear plan—at least I did. But I was determined and disciplined. At times when I, for various reasons, could not write, I still thought about the book, researched, translated, sorted things out, and planned next steps. Even though it was ten years in the making, there was never any doubt in my mind that I would finish it.

What advice would you give to other aspiring authors who might be struggling to revisit personal traumas or tragedies?

This is a hard one. There aren’t any rules on this and everyone is different. For me, writing was often like a psychological therapy session, but at other times, it was a difficult and depressing task. The same is true for the readers: Some of my friends who lived through the war told me they could not read my book at all; others read it in one sitting and found it uplifting and positive.

My advice to everyone is to try. I think it can be a powerful healing process, because the primary focus of it is writing, not thinking per se. Even though you are revisiting unpleasant events of your life, you tend to look at them from a somewhat different angle and with an added dimension: how to put it all on paper. That, I found, takes away at least some of the burden.

What has been the most fulfilling part of the writing and publishing process for you?

When I finished the book, I felt more accomplished than ever before. This came as a big surprise to me at first, but I now understand it. Everything I had achieved in my life prior to writing a book, both personally and professionally, I expected of myself. I aspired to do certain things and I did them. But no one, including myself, expected me to write a book. It was not an ordinary thing in life; it was not something “needed,” such as a degree or a job, or something “required,” such as to be a good daughter or a good mother. I feel I have done something big, extraordinary, and I am greatly enjoying it!

What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from The Siege of Sarajevo?

Although Sarajevo’s siege was on prime-time news all over the world for years, I feel it has now been largely forgotten. Bosnia is a small country far away, and a new generation was born after the siege ended, more than twenty years ago. My wish, however, is to keep the story of Sarajevo alive, because it is worth telling. The heroism, stoicism, strength, and spirit that carried Sarajevans, my family included, through 1,425 days of siege is unparalleled. The Siege of Sarajevo is proof that “something to live for” is always there and is worth fighting for. I hope everyone who reads my book takes away some of it with them and becomes a little bit stronger in their own life battles.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Q&A with Author Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta is an international author, award-winning journalist, and public speaker who works as an editor and ghostwriter. She is passionate about music, animals, and healthy living—and is just as passionate about living an authentic, bold life. A survivor of bullying, Maryanne wrote Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero to help readers embrace their own uniqueness and find the courage to be exactly who they are.

Maryanne Christiano-MistrettaHow have your personal experiences shaped the advice and insights in Be (Extra)Ordinary?

I believe my personal experiences shaped the advice because readers can see how an average person can grow and even make a difference.

What did you learn from writing this book? Did you come to understand your own background any differently or more deeply?

I’ve learned, and continue to learn, that it’s always the best way to be vulnerable and honest. By heart, I am a thinker. I’m always “talking” to myself, always in my head. I’m always trying to learn and better myself. There’s nothing like getting it out on paper to truly validate your feelings, if not in a book, then in a journal. Writing is a beautiful tool we should all take advantage of. (And reading too—and I don’t mean scrolling on your phone!)

People go to spas, gyms, and beaches, but to me, nothing is more relaxing and rejuvenating than being alone with words—whether they are your own or from a book.

Which writers and works inspire your writing?

My favorite writer of all time is Mark Twain. Not for his famous Adventures of Huckleberry Finn but rather his later, more esoteric work, Letters from the Earth. Prior to her death, Twain’s wife would censor her husband’s work so Twain would not embarrass himself. Letters from the Earth was written after his wife’s death, so all hell broke loose. The book is radical, which inspires me. Anything that goes against the grain motivates me.

Another favorite is The Christmas Pig by Kinky Friedman. The book has twenty-three chapters. It’s my personal tradition to reread the book every year, beginning December 1. I read one chapter per night, leading up to the eve of Christmas Eve. The book is beautiful and sensitive yet witty and badass. It’s rebellious in a most thoughtful way. It will bring tears to your eyes, while at the same time, you’ll be cheering, “YES!”

People are always asking me what I’m currently reading. Most likely I’ll be rereading either of these highly inspirational books.

Be ExtraordinaryWhat do you think makes a truly meaningful and memorable self-help book?

Anything written with confidence. Anything that is a bit rebellious. Anything that is brutally honest. While they are not classified as self-help books, I love to read memoirs that present heavy-duty struggles the author had to overcome. Rock stars are a perfect example. Stick It: My Life of Sex, Drums, and Rock ’n’ Roll by Carmine Appice or Neon Angel by Cherie Currie were great reads because the writers were honest and vulnerable—and result with great growth at the end.

What has been the most fulfilling part of the writing and publishing process for you?

I write so much. I need to write like I need to breathe. When I write, I forget everything: time, problems, drinking, going to the bathroom. I stop only when I want to eat. Sometimes my handsome husband will come up behind me. I look over and smile. He’ll say, “I just want to sneak in a kiss.” It makes my day. It’s a beautiful way to live.

For this project, I must say, with a tear of joy in my eye, that working directly/hands on with editor Jennifer Scroggins has been an amazing experience. Teaming up with Jennifer has been a work marriage made in heaven!

What do you think makes someone extraordinary? How do you define that term?

I’m always about the person who sets themselves apart from the crowd. Someone who isn’t afraid to speak his/her mind. Someone who doesn’t care what others think. Someone who is true to himself or herself. A person who thinks “gray,” not black and white. Someone who has overcome challenges, whether it’s poverty, illness, being bullied, being raped, mental disabilities, handicaps … Those are the people who are the true inspirations. An evolved person knows what to do with the cards dealt to her or him.

What’s the primary takeaway you hope readers get from Be (Extra)Ordinary?

To not be afraid to be themselves. To step out of their comfort zone. And to be sensitive toward others who are different then they are.