Archive for April, 2010

Need a writing idea?

April 30, 2010

You are poised with a pen over a blank sheet of paper . . . or your finger tips touch the keyboard.  But.  Nothing. 

Your mind is blank.   That ever happen to you?  No?  Then you are very lucky, brilliant, or you are not telling the truth.  If you are brimming with ideas and don’t need one, keep on writing what you’re writing.  Or if you’d like to challenge yourself and see if you can write on a topic – – snap – – for the fun of it – – then take a break from your regular writing project and try this one.  Can you do it? 

Scene:  The Wild West

Plot:  A Fish Out of Water  (Means someone doesn’t really belong there)  

Who gets “plopped” into the old-time wild west and why?  What’s it like for this character?  How dangerous can it be?  Increase the tension! Give your readers suspense!  Throw in some humor. 

Setting:  Give us some specific details so we’ll know we’re in the old wild west.  How does the air feel? What does it smell like?

Character:  Who is the protagonist/main character?  What does he or she want more than anything?  Make him/her work to get it!

7 Reasons Readers Stop Reading

April 29, 2010

Apology from this blogger! Incorrect typing.

April 28, 2010

Apology from Liz!  I’ve corrected the placements in the awards.  My phone calls to the students were accurate.  Upon going over my list to make sure I had names spelled correctly, I saw I flipped a second and third place around in the 8th grade short story category.  It is now updated and correct.  Next year, perhaps I should carefully check them FIRST before placing them on this blog too quickly.  Gee, perhaps I should take my own writing advice?  You think?

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest

April 28, 2010

If you entered our contest but your name isn’t up here, you may have won an honorable mention.  Everyone will hear from us within the next month.  And if you didn’t win, it just means that at this moment in time, the judges chose another piece other than yours.  That is ALL that it means. 

All published authors have entered their manuscripts into contests or tried to get their books published and their manuscripts have not been chosen at one time or another.  What do they do?  They try again.  They keep writing. 

Some students who entered this year and won, have entered this contest in previous years and came close to winning, but didn’t carry away a prize.  However, they kept writing and entering, and now they’ve succeeded. 

If you are a sixth or seventh grade student, please enter again.  You may start writing your next year’s entries now!  If you are an 8th grade student, there are other contests you can enter.  I post them here on this blog when I find them.  And you 6th and 7th graders, keep entering other contests too.

You can ask for advice on how to make your stories, essays and poems  better.  Write your questions here.  Attend writing workshops to help you.  Ask your teacher for advice.  Start a writing critique group with your friends.  Each of these ways will help improve you writing craft. 

College teachers tell me that the most sought-after students are the ONES WHO ARE GOOD WRITERS.  Believe it or not, this is the skill that many kids lack.    Employers also are thrilled when their employees can write.   (Many adults really can’t write well, even if they are wizards in math, science or other subjects.) 

So congratulations to everyone who has participated in this contest.  Writing itself is a risk.  You put your soul on paper!  And it’s not easy, either, is it?  Thanks for entering.  Hope to see you at a workshop, our banquet, or another reading or writing event.  And hope to see you here, asking questions and giving advice about good books you read.    Liz

Free Writing Workshop Grade 6 – 12

April 25, 2010

Make Great Writing Better!     

What: Writers Workshop

Sand, Sea and Suspense! 

An Interactive Writing Afternoon

Who:   Grades 6 – 12

When: Wednesday, June 16, 2010                                       

 Cost:  FREE!              3:00 – 5:00  p.m.                                                   

   Where:  Clayton Public Library       

   6125 Clayton Rd, Clayton  


                        Mystery! Suspense! Intrigue! 

            A fun treasure hunt and a mystery boat.  Who did it?  Did what? Why?  Discover how mystery, suspense and intrigue will make your good story better.

Two professional authors who love writing lead this interactive workshop. Bring your questions about the publishing world, write, meet other writers, “talk books,”go on an adventure and be inspired to write and publish your own works of prose.  For student writers who want to make their good writing even better.  Take your writing to the next level!

Led by children’s authors Sarah Wilson and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

Visit them at  and 

Bring pen and paper and get ready to WRITE!

California Writers Club Mt. Diablo, Young Writers Contest

April 23, 2010

Congratulations to all!

2010 Young Writers Contest  Winners  

6th Grade Poetry

1st  Amelia Harrison   “At Night”

Charlotte Wood:  Jamelle Angelelo

 2nd  Priya Canzius   “I am from . . .”

Athenian:  Chris McCulloch

 3rd  Maximilian Jennings   “Firelight”

Athenian:  Meg Freedman

 7th Grade Poetry

1st   Gita Mallya    “Writing Blocks”

 WCI:  Linda Linton

 2nd  Melissa Rivera    “Morning Bird”

Sequoia: Susan Sutherland

 3rd  Piper Mik    “The Ocean”  

Dorris-Eaton:  Terry Salteil

 8th Grade Poetry

1st Carissa Yen   “Pen”

Iron Horse:  Lynette Gonzales

2nd  Sejal Jain    “Dancer”

Gale Ranch:  Deborah Bernard

 3rd  Caitlin Kloess    “Bandstand”

Windrush:  Kai Marks

6th Grade Short Story

1st  Michaela Peterson   “The Winter of the Snow Fairies”

Sequoia Middle: Jane Enloe

 2nd Belle Goodson     “1906”

Pine Valley:  Robin White

 3rd   Mikaela Magwili   “The Dream to Dance”

Queen of All Saints:  Katie Perata

7th Grade Short Story

1st  Sarah Sweeney   “Death Song”

Joaquin Moraga:  Patti Forster

 2nd  Zhill Olonan  “Stranded”

Adams:  Mrs. Griggs

3rd  Andrea Ouyang   “Escape!”

Iron Horse:  Cheryl Keller

 8th Grade Short Story

1st  Gabriel Ostler   “The Thin Line”

OI:  Barbara Gunderson

 2nd Sean Lee  “The Soul Within”

Windemere Ranch:  Jennifer Sabri

3rd Katherine Alfaro  “Fallen Doves & Crumpled Letters”

Dorris-Eaton: Deenie Schoenfeld

6th Grade Essay

1st Gabriella Respicio    “The Tsunami”

St. Patrick: Karen Francis

 2nd Sarah Joo  “Now I Miss Her”

Diablo Vista:  Bonnie Meyers

 3rd   Jenna Grigsby   “A Helping Hand “

Pine Hollow: Leeat Medina

7th Grade Essay

1st Isadora Palmer-Collins Stern      “Intertwined “

Orinda I:  Ceci Kilmartin

 2nd  Bianca Palmer-Collins Stern       “Riptide”

OI:  Ceci Kilmartin

3rd Vanessa Tang     “Vertical Velosity, V2”

Dorris-Eaton: Terry Saltiel

8th Grade Essay

1st   Varun Iyengar   “Medusa”

Windemere Ranch:  Robert Loney

2nd Tiffany S. Zheng    “The Athlete’s Dream”

Dorris-Eaton:  Deeni Shoenfeld

 3rd  Barbara Montano  “Nothing Was the Same”

St. Jerome:  Margo Watson

Melissa Manlove From Chronicle Books Speaks at California Writers Club, Mt. Diablo Branch

April 21, 2010

The California Writers Club ~ Mount Diablo Branch

“One Hundred Years of Excellence in Writing”

Welcomes Award-Winning Middle School Writers and  Guest Speaker

 Melissa Manlove, Editor, Chronicle Books

 May 15, 2010

 Melissa Manlove is passionate about children’s books in all age groups and most genres. Her pursuit of that passion has led her to the position of  acquisitions editor of children’s books for Chronicle Books (San Francisco).

For the past 11 years, she has also been on the bookseller’s end of the children’s market. When acquiring for Chronicle, she keeps an eye out for something unique and new, while also seeking fresh takes on familiar themes. With many of our members and guests writing and publishing for the youth market, this is an outstanding opportunity to get insider tips on how to query, submit, and succeed in today’s competitive atmosphere.

 April Meeting Details

Date & Time: Saturday, May 15, 2010, with sign-in at 11 a.m., followed by viewing of prize-winners’ displays.

Location: Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant at 611 Gregory Lane (near the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Gregory Lane in Pleasant Hill). Parking is available both in front of and behind the restaurant. Zio Fraedo’s phone number is (925) 933-9091.

Cost: $20 for both CWC members and guests

Menu: Zio Fraedo’s sumptuous buffet.

Reservations: Reservations are required and must be received no later than noon on Wednesday, May 12. To make a reservation, contact Jean Georgakopoulos, via e-mail at,, or by phone at (925) 934-5677. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

You Be the Judge

April 19, 2010

Pretend you are the judge of a contest.  You will choose 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place of your favorite books or stories of all time.  What ARE your favorite books/stories? 

First, you’ll have to re-read them.  As you read them, write notes to yourself.  What kind of notes? 

What do you love about this story?  Be specific.  What grabs you?  What holds you and doesn’t let you go?  Does the author do a great job with word choice, setting, character or suspense?  Make you laugh?  Let you feel like you are the character?

Along with what you love, you must be honest and realize there may be something the author might be missing.  What does the story lack?  Anything?  Or is it almost perfect?  What could be better? 

After you’ve read your stories and made your notes, it’s time to evaluate. 

Which story stands out as the best?  You don’t know?  They all are great?  Re-read your notes.  Does that help?  If not, you’ll have to read your stories again or ask for another judge’s opinion.  You’ll need to discuss your notes with the other judge.  You may debate! 

This is similar to what we do as judges in the California Young Writers Contest.  Trust me, it isn’t easy.   When you are faced with a stack of terrific writing, it’s tough choosing only three. 

The process continues. 

And as you read for pleasure, practice your critiquing skills.  These will help you grow as a writer so that you’ll be able to critique your own work better.  You will grow as a writer too.

Drowning Liz

April 14, 2010

Hey, I’m drowning.  But it’s a good kind of drowning.  Manuscripts over-flow my kitchen table, chairs, and floor.  Zoie side-steps them carefully, giving them “good sniffs” and rating them all First Places. 

Meanwhile, I zip open envelopes and place manuscripts (abbreviation = ms.) in stacks.   Next, I divide and conquer.  Every submission has two copies (hopefully!) and they get separated, along with their student.   I keep the forms in a box in my office. 

When I’m through dividing and conquering,  I type the kids’ names and addresses onto labels.   Every student who has properly filled out a form will hear from us.  

Tomorrow I will check the p. o. box again, as we never trust the post office.  (Oops!  Did I admit that?)  Sometimes students mail the submissions on time, they get stamped the correct date, but they don’t “float” into our mailbox until days later. 

Although at this stage of the game, I don’t have time to read any of the ms., I do glance now and then.  What wonderful talent we have in our county!   What great teachers we have that encourage these writers! 

Good news:  MOST students followed the guidelines this year!  YEAH!  (fist punching air)  Last year, we had tons of kids who didn’t send two copies of their stories, poems, and essays.  This year we only have a handful. 

Amusing note:  Everyone procrastinates, don’t they?  Must have had forty e-mails asking me how late they could mail their submission and if they’d make the deadline.  When did our information go to schools, libraries, and newspapers?  January. 

What about me?  When I have dinner guests, do I clean my house ahead of time?  Nope.   A little while before I must start dinner, I race through the house like a mad woman . . .

Martha Engber’s Character Workshop

April 12, 2010

I attended a terrific writing workshop this weekend taught by author Martha Engber.  She brought up many fabulous points, but one that worked for me at this moment in my particular middle grade novel, was this: 

Detail the moment your character’s thinking changed.  What moment in his or her life gave her the “ah-ha” moment that propels her inner fear/rule/motivation? 

If you don’t know this in your story, get to know your character better.  In my case, I DO know this instant in time.  However, because this scene is a secret yet from my readers and won’t be revealed until the end of the book, I haven’t written it yet.

But for ME, I need to write it NOW.  I need to know how this scene plays out, moment-by-moment.  As in slow-down-the-moment-it’s-very-important-NOW.    Duh.  Why didn’t I think of this?  I recommend you trying this with your protagonist. 

I ALSO recommend you reading her book, Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up.  If you can take her workshop, it’s WELL worth every second!  If you attend it while  you are thinking of your characters, you will break-through in wonderful ways.