Archive for February, 2010

Create a Poem

February 12, 2010

Step 1.  Choose a subject or something that has helped you experience an emotion.  You should be able to “see” it in your mind. 

2.  Write all the words that pop into your head about this idea.  Be specific.   Remember each sense.  What do you see?  Smell?  Touch?  Hear?

3.  Write a rough draft of your poem.

4.  Do you have any adverbs . . . “ly” words in your poem?  Cut them out.  Replace them with a good verb if you need to strengthen your thoughts.

A Food Memory

February 12, 2010

Thanks to an online sight that allows people to connect with people from their past, a friend from elementary school and I found each other.  She posted a note about how she remembered us playing together at my house and my mother making the best hamburger she had ever eaten in her life! 

Why do I not recall this moment in my history?  Perhaps because I ate my mother’s great cooking all of the time.  But it’s interesting to note that the sense of taste brought a memory of our time together back to her. 

When in your writing could the sense of taste be used?  (Don’t just stick in the sense of taste – – only if it is appropriate.)  Or perhaps a particular taste is so wonderful or so horrible, it will move you to write a poem about it? 

Right now, the thought of my mother’s cooking, reminds me to add this in my own writing.  And to hit the kitchen for a mid-morning snack!

Doodle For Google Contest!

February 9, 2010

 If I could do anything, I would...

  • …Figure out a cure for cancer
  • …Build a movie theater on the moon
  • …Be an underwater explorer

Welcome to Doodle 4 Google, a competition where we invite K-12 students to work their artistic will upon our homepage logo. At Google we believe in thinking big and dreaming big, so this year we’re inviting U.S. kids to exercise their creative imaginations around the theme, “If I Could Do Anything, I Would …”

We’re looking forward to the kids’ answers too. Gather those art supplies and some 8.5″ x 11″paper and encourage your students to enrich us all with their creative visions for what they would do in the world, if they could do anything.

Entries due March 31, 2010.

For more information see

My Favorite Rap – by Author Erin Dealey

February 9, 2010

Writing Workshops . . . Now Write!

February 8, 2010

Attendance at the Young Writer Workshops were at an all-time high this year, with 33 students participating at the Concord Library’s event on January 30, and 52 middle schoolers creating short stories and personal narratives at Ygnacio Valley Library’s Workshop. 

Students came from all over Contra Costa County and even places such as San Jose, Saratoga, Manteca, Berkeley and Oakland.  Although any middle school student may come to the free workshops, only those who live in or attend schools in Contra Costa County may submit their poems, short stories and personal narratives/essays to the Young Writers Contest.  (Deadline, April 12)

Students wrote, shared their wonderful writing, asked questions about writing technique, how to become writers both now and later in their careers, and discovered tips about writing and the life of a writer.  

As to the contests, manuscripts are beginning to come in now.   We’re looking forward to reading them! 

Writing Ideas for you:


Write in the point of view of an object.  Personify this thing, giving it thoughts and feelings.  Remember, poems do not have to rhyme. 

Personal Narrative

Write about a moment where you experienced emotion.  It could be your first crush, a time you did something wrong and were caught, or a scary experience you had as a little child.  Write about this event, using sensory details.  Next, think about who you were when this happened to you.  Why did this memory stick with you?  Write about why you think this impacted you so deeply, and how it could have changed you for the better. 

Short Story 

Here’s the beginning of the story.  Finish it. 

Flames licked at the door.  “Quick! This way!” he yelled, coughing and ducking low to avoid the smoke.   Someone started this fire, I thought.  But who? 

How to Finish Your Story

February 5, 2010

So you’ve finished a first draft of your short story and you think, “What now?”  Or you are in the middle of it and you wonder, “Should I stop and look this over first?”

1. No.  Keep on writing.  No stopping if you can help it.  The biggest mistake people make when they’re writing a short story or novel is stopping after the first chapter or first half and then changing their minds.  If you do this, you’ll never finish your story.  Finish the rough draft first, knowing that a rough draft is supposed to be ROUGH.  It can be lousy!  Give yourself permission!  Just get the story out.  Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, how messy it is, or if you’ve got a part of the plot you forgot to “tie up.”  You can go back later and fix it. 

2.  So you have your complete rough draft.  Read it out loud.  Yes.  No matter how silly you feel.  I read aloud to my dog all the time.   Tell your parents or your significant other that you aren’t crazy, you’re just a writer.  (In some circles, being a writer IS crazy, but more on that another time . . .)  Read your writing out loud to see when your story puts you to zzzzz.  Hold a highlighter or pen in your hand so you can mark these places. 

Chances are, you were “telling”/ narrating too much in those zzzzzz moments.  If you were, take out the telling and create a scene.  What’s a scene?  It’s a moment where you plop the reader into the action of the story.    Use dialogue, thoughts, and feelings of the main character.  Slow-down-the-moment for the important stuff.   Put in a specific detail or two to make us SEE and FEEL like we’re really there. 

Now read it out loud.  Isn’t it better?    Make sure you didn’t just write it to write it.  The scene must have a reason to be there.   Hopefully it moves your character closer or farther away from his/her goal.  Every scene should have some conflict/ problem. 

If what I’m writing scares you, just ignore the advice and write your story.  At the end of your story, if you know what your character wants more than anything, and you’ve shown this desire in your story, and it’s interesting/suspenseful, you’ve done your job.  Pat yourself on the back.  Reward yourself.  Take a break. 

Then write another story.  It feels great to produce, doesn’t it?

The Essay Groan

February 3, 2010

A few years ago I spoke to a class at Walnut Creek Intermediate about the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest.  When I mentioned the essay category, the kids’ eyes glazed over and perhaps one or two of them snored.   Then I read one of the essays that won the year before and they jolted awake.  It was about a boy making a home run. 

“Why, that’s not an essay.  That’s a personal narrative,” said a student. 

“Is that what you call it?” I asked. 

For the past several years, our essay judges had mentioned they were receiving so many academic “teacher-type” assignments, they couldn’t figure out why.  Now I got it!  We were calling it by the wrong name for kids.  Although in the publishing world, adults knew what an essay could be, students were unaware of this. 

So send us your personal experiences in this category.   Use first person.  (“I”)  Brainstorm your memories that charge you with passion, emotion, excitement, or joy.  It doesn’t have to be a huge experience.  Sometimes the small moments in life are the most meaningful. 

Need ideas?  Flip through your scrapbook, diary/journal, or photo album.  Keep an idea book for every day thoughts and anecdotes that may happen to you.  With our busy lives these days, we forget about those times that pass us by but may be significant. 

Once I confessed our error to the students at Walnut Creek Intermediate, the students relaxed.  No teachery essays!  YAY!  They could write about anything they wanted to write about!  They could write about themselves!  The pressure was off!

So go to it.  And we can’t wait to read them! 

Questions?  Ask right here.

Writing and Good Books

February 1, 2010

Thirty-five marvelous middle schoolers attended our Young Writer Workshop at the Concord Library on Saturday.  The talent and enthusiasm generated by those kids energized me all weekend long!  What a fabulous group of kids!  They wrote personal narratives and short stories, we played games, discussed books and writing, and hopefully they will be motivated to enter our Young Writers Contest (guidelines at lower right). 

Several kids and some of their parents requested more workshops.  Keep posted here for more information. 

Need a fun writing prompt/story starter idea today?  Visit this great video!  After seeing this, I wanted to write about these two characters.

1. You could write a short story from the point of view of the dog, the orangutang, or in third person. 

2.  Perhaps the video will inspire a poem about these animals.  Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. 

3.  Have you ever known an animal to make friends with another animal in an unusual way?  Write about this experience. 

Feel free to share any ideas or questions you may have here on this blog. 

Great books to read: 

Historical Fiction    Hattie Big Sky   by Kirby Larson

Historical Fiction    Al Capone Shines My Shoes  (second in the series)  Gennifer Choldenko

Mystery                The Big Splash  by Jack Ferraiolo

Mystery                 Paper Towns    by John Green 

Fantasy                 Savvy      by Ingrid Law