Archive for March, 2010

April Fool’s Day Writing Ideas

March 31, 2010

Funny Writing Prompts:  1.  Write a story about an April Fool’s Day joke that backfired! 

A. Someone pulls a joke, but the people catch on and turn it around to “get” them!  or . . .

B.  The characters attempt a joke and they get caught.   How can it become humorous anyway?

C.  A character tries to pull a joke on a friend, and instead, the joke “hits” the principal, president, or another authority figure!

2.  Research April Fool’s Jokes or pranks in history.   (MIT, the college in Boston, is known for quite a few . . .)   Write about one or some of these. 

3.  Write a poem about a funny joke you have pulled or someone pulled on you.

4.  Write a personal experience story about the best joke you’ve ever experienced.  What happened?  How did it occur?

So You Are Writing A Short Story . . .

March 29, 2010

 . . . is it too short?  How can a short story be too short?  You’ve read your story and it has a beginning, middle and an end.   Your character wanted something, at first she couldn’t get it, she worked at her problem, and then she succeeded.  The end. 

But perhaps, just maybe, your story MIGHT be slight.   GASP!  NO!  It’s perfect!

Read it again.  Does your character REACT to a situation that has happened?  If a problem has occurred – – a robbery at the bank.  She’s failed a math test. Do you take time to “slow-down-the-moment” for the exciting or important part of the story?  This will add suspense or emotional depth.

How do you slow it down a bit?  Make your story deeper and not “slight?”  Get into your main character’s head.  What is she thinking?  Feeling?  Get all of her senses going.  Does she break into a sweat?  Start shaking?  Make sure she REACTS to the important things that happen to her.

Writing Prompt:

In a story you are working on, take a highlighter.  Highlight any portion where your character internalizes, or THINKS about her situation.

Take a different color pen or highlighter, and underline or highlight where your character has a PHYSICAL REACTION to what is going on.  What does she or he do?

Next, with another color, mark where your character talks.  Make sure it’s not “empty dialogue.”  But dialogue that your character needs to say to move the story along. 

Finally, read your story aloud.  Now I bet your story is deeper and not slight! 

Congratulations on a successful revision!

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Questions

March 26, 2010

Yesterday I visited two classes at a local middle school.   I think I need to hang-out with this age-group more often.   The kids were funny, insightful, and asked great questions!  

Here are some of the questions that popped up regarding the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest.

1.  Can we enter more than one story in the contest?  Yes!  You CAN enter more than one story.  You can also enter more than one category. 

2.  How do we mail them?  Separately?  Together?  Either way.  Just follow the guidelines. 

3.  Is it all right if the teacher gives us extra credit or bonus points for sending in our creative writing to you?  Yes! Absolutely! 

4.  Do the poems we write have to rhyme?  No. 

5.  Can the short story we write be UNDER five pages?  Yes.   Just don’t go over five pages. 

6.  Can the personal narrative/essay be UNDER three pages?  Yes.  Just don’t go over three pages. 

7.  Can we send in the entries now?  Yes!  Get them in by April 12.

8.  Are you reading them already?   No.  I’m opening them and glancing to see if kids are following the guidelines. 

9.  Are they?    Most of them are.  Some of the short story writers are not double-spacing.  They seem to be double-spacing between paragraphs but not each line.  This means you didn’t follow the guidelines and you can’t win.  If you  did this, send it in again to us before the deadline.  We will disregard your other story and will read the story that follows the guidelines!

10.  Do you have any other tips on how we can win the contest?  Yes.  See the pages on short story, personal narrative, and poetry, at the right on this blog.

In the second class I talked to, we had a little more time so I got to ask THEM some questions.   Since I’m writing books for kids younger than anyone I’m around on a regular basis, it’s difficult to know what is “in” or what is “out” today.   What slang do they use?  What would a middle schooler do and say?  A lot has changed since my son was that age and since I was a teacher.

 I discovered some kids are writing longer works of fiction.  One boy is writing a novel staring lots of characters!  Oh my.  I’m amazed.  I wish I had begun writing like that at his age.  What ambition!  He’ll be able to polish his book and enter it in the Scholastic Contest. 

One boy had his nose in an Orson Scott Card novel.  I hope he’ll send us a fantasy or science fiction story.  What is your reading passion?  If you like to read mysteries, you’d be great at writing them. 

What is your passion?  Enjoy softball?  Write a short story, a personal experience you had about the game, or a poem about softball.  Or perhaps all three!

Good luck!

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest

March 24, 2010

How to be a winner! 

Check to make sure your submission follows the guidelines.  As the entries are coming in, I am discovering that some of the short stories aren’t double-spaced. This means these stories won’t be read.  

*In a poem, (actually this is true for short stories and personal narratives too) cut out as many abstract words as possible.  (love, friendship, death . . . )  Replace them with concrete words and your senses.   (concrete words:  a spider, a tree, a glob of glue)  (senses:  relate your topic to one or more of the five senses . . . hearing, touching, tasting, seeing, smelling)

*Use more action words than adjectives. Instead of “the leaves are orange and bright” you could have “bright orange leaves fall” . . .

*Try to have a middle to your short story.  It’s easier to write a beginning and an end! In the beginning, the character is introduced with a problem.  In the end, the problem is solved.  But in the middle, the character must work at solving the problem.   Complications arise.  Problems get in the character’s way and he/she must figure out how to overcome them. 

*Have fun writing!  If you enjoy the process, you reader will enjoy the story!

Story Writing Tips

March 24, 2010

What makes a reader turn the page?  What makes an editor want to publish YOUR book?  What makes a judge choose YOUR story for a winner?

1.  Characters.   Make your reader care.  What does your character want more than anything else in the world?  What will happen if she/he doesn’t get it?  Through the story, raise the stakes. 

2.  Conflict.  What stands in your main character’s way from getting his/her want?  This creates . . .

3.  Suspense.    Read the MOST suspenseful scene you’ve ever read in a book.  Why does it work?  Because you CARE.  Because the main character has obstacles/problems that are dropped in his way.  They can be other characters, himself, nature . . .

4.  A satisfying ending.  Is it realistic?  Does it “feel” right when you read the story aloud?

The Future of Publishing Video

March 24, 2010

Palindrome!  Watch the ENTIRE video . . .

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest

March 22, 2010

As per the current guidelines, April 12 is the deadline for this year’s contest.  (Other years we’ve had earlier dates.)  This means that the post office must stamp your letter before or on April 12.  So DON’T WAIT TO THE LAST MINUTE TO MAIL IT!  Don’t trust a government office to do the right thing.  <g>

Why should you bother to enter?   

1.  Your odds at winning are better than playing the lottery!

2.  It’s fun to have a little bit of hope in the mail!  We writers enjoy having manuscripts to various magazine, newspaper and book publishers because the more we have out there, the more chance there is we’ll have something published or that we’ll win a particular contest.  (Remember you can enter more than one story, poem, and/or personal narrative/essay in our contest!)

3.  If you don’t win, you don’t lose either.  It just means at this particular moment, you weren’t chosen.  You still have a piece of writing that you can take and submit to OTHER contests and publications.  (see the list at right where to submit)  This is why we do not publish your work on our website or in our newsletter.  That would be “using up” your *first rights.  We want you to be able to SELL and/or publish your first rights elsewhere.  After that, you may sell *second rights as many times as you can. 

This depends upon individual magazine and newspaper writer guidelines.  Many take second rights.  The larger, glossy publications may only take first rights.

4.  Besides our first, second, and third place winners, we give  honorable mentions.  The honorable mention winners do not attend our awards luncheon, but they still are winners.

5.  By winning our contest, you can use this as a “credit” in your cover letters for future submissions to editors.  It is also good on your resume for work study situations and college applications. 

6.  By polishing your writing for this contest, you become a better writer. 

7.  You may discover you have more skills in writing for different categories of writing.  One young man thought he could only write personal narratives.  He tried writing a short story and won in BOTH categories. 

8.  The more you write, the easier it becomes.  The more you write, the better writing skills you require.  And we hope you’ll have fun!

Have questions?  Ask them here!

*First rights – Publication publishes your material the first time, once.  Then the rights go back to you.

*Second rights – Publication publishes your material after it has been published before.  Then you get the rights back so you can sell the material to another place again.  If you sell it a third time, this is still called selling second rights.

Poetry Workshops for grades 4 – 8

March 19, 2010

Wordplay Creative Writing Camp
Spring Poetry Workshops


For writers grades 4-8

April 10th (3 spots left!)
April 17th (4 spots left!)
April 24th
(3 spots left!)

Storyteller Bookstore


Come explore different forms of poetry in a fun, informal setting. We will study and practice various poetic elements such as sound, style, imagery, and voice. Notebooks provided.

Attend all three workshops for $65 or join individual sessions for $25 each. Space is limited to 8 writers, so register early!


to register,
visit the Storyteller Bookstore or
email Lisa at

Congratulations Past Winners of the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest!

March 19, 2010

Former winning students of the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest and their teachers were interviewed for an article in, a new online local publication of Northern California.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17, 2010

Did you know that Boston was the first American city to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Legend says St. Patrick was born in 387 and was captured at age sixteen by pirates!  He escaped at twenty-two to become a priest. 

The shamrock, the plant of Ireland, has three green leaves on a stem.  If you find one with four leaves, you’re supposed to have good luck.  Kiss the Blarney Stone, near Cork, Ireland, and you’ll receive the skill of flattery and persuasion.  (You’ll become a politician??)

Writing Prompts:

1.  You’ve just met a leprechaun.  He’s granted you three wishes.  What happens next?  What complicates the story?  Feel free to use humor in creating a well-rounded character for this leprechaun. 

2.   Choose a title for this next story: 

The Mystery of the Missing Leprechaun

The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

The Day I Went to School and Discovered a Magical Shamrock

3.  Write a St. Patrick’s Day limerick.  The humorous poem has five lines, in which the first two lines and the last rhyme, and the third and fourth rhyme.  (rhyme scheme: aabba)  The third and fourth lines are shorter than the others. 

4.  Create a diary entry for a leprechaun.

5.  Write a personal narrative about the luckiest thing that has ever happened to you.  What about the unluckiest?  (What did you learn from both of these experiences?)

6.  Read about Ireland.   Use your writing and art to create a travel brochure promoting a trip to Ireland!