Archive for April, 2013


April 30, 2013

When Zoie took me out for a walk the other day, I stopped at the curb in shock.  There, in our neighbor’s front lawn, hung a FOR SALE sign. 


It couldn’t be. 

How could they do this to our perfect little cul-de-sac?

Another neighbor and my friend, Hilde, joined us outside with her dog.  We all stared sadly at the sign.  It was as though our canine friends understood our grief.  Admittedly it wasn’t so much about losing this particular couple – after all, we hardly knew them.


We’ve had a past.

Before these people lived here, a family whose kids’ police record rivaled Al Capone’s dwelled in our hood.  Okay.  So maybe I’ve exaggerated slightly.  But one kid burglarized neighbors’ homes and his parents were so belligerent and inebriated their fights were legendary – as were the holes they punched in their walls.

No, we stared at this calm, quiet house and we worried. 

Who will move here? 

“Maybe if we see motorcycles and teenagers we could all stage a noisy fight,” I said.

By this time another neighbor, Tom, had joined our worry club. 

“But they might be happy to think they’ll fit right in,” said Tom.

He’s got a point. 

“I’ll pray,” I said.

“I’ll hope,” said Tom.

“I’ll move,” muttered Hilde. 

Writing Prompts

  1. Write about a neighbor you had, good or bad.  What made this neighbor memorable? 
  2. In the writing project you are working on now, who are your character’s neighbors?  How well does your character know them?  Write a scene where they are forced to face a conflict together. 
  3. Write a scene where they are in conflict with one another. 
  4. Write a poem about neighbors. 

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest Winners!

April 30, 2013

Congratulations to all of the winners of this incredibly competitive contest!  All entries were  creative and talented works of art.  Thank you for your participation!

Below you will find the winner’s name, their school, teacher and the title of their entry.  

The Betty Tenney Memorial Essay/Personal Narrative Awards

6th Grade

1st  Calia Ann Lockey

Walnut Creek: Jann Taylor-Geyer

“Three Words, One Meaning” 

2nd  Katelyn Downing

Pleasant Hill: Holly Latz

“What Is This?”

3rd  Megha Bhargava

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“The Adventures in Cave Swimming”

7th Grade

1st  Alexandra Desmedt

Walnut Creek: Jana Palmquist

“Unsilent Night”

2nd  Lauren Russell

Windemere Ranch : Jeff Osborn

“Ready, Set, SHOT!”

3rd  Karina Ting

Orinda: Cecilia Kilmartin

“A Lesson to Last”

8th Grade

1st  Mia Stripling

Stanley: Donna Gallagher


2nd  Ahab Chopra

Dorris-Eaton: Melissa Parker

“Biking to a New Life”

3rd  Emma Cottrill

Dorris-Eaton: Melissa Parker

“The Night My Life Changed Forever”


6th Grade

1st  Sasha Hassan

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“Midnight Wish”

 2nd  Rashmi Pradhan

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“A Song is Drowned” 

3rd  Sihyun Na

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“What Does it Feel Like?”

7th Grade

1st  Jasmine Steele

St. Isidore: Amy Burgin


2nd  Rebekah Mangels


“Who Knows What I Think?”

3rd  William Francis

Martinez: Anne Martin

“A Day’s Work as a Dishonest Man” 

8th Grade 

1st Ahab Chopra

Dorris-Eaton: Deeni Shoenfeld

“You Will Never Find Me”

2nd  Meher George

Dorris-Eaton: Melissa Parker

“Carpe Diem”

3rd  Kismat Dhaliwal

Dorris-Eaton:  Melissa Parker

“An Unlikely Savior”

Short Story

6th Grade

 1st  Aaron Ouyang

Dorris-Eaton: Mary Dickens

“Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle”

 2nd  Sasha Hassan

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“Search and Rescue”

 3rd  Sasha Hassan

Windemere Ranch: Diana Kaplenko

“What is Right is not Always Popular, What is Popular is not Always Right”

 7th Grade

 1st  Lucy Caitlin Shaw

Walnut Creek: Jana Palmquist

“The Escape”

 2nd  Ingrid Lam

PineValley: Dianna Longhery

“My Eyes”

 3rd  Alexandra Desmedt

Walnut Creek: Jana Palmquist

“The Caterpillar and the Worm”

 8th Grade

 1st  Lauren Hui

Gale Ranch: Kimberly Carter

“House of the Rose”

 2nd  Emily Hui

PineValley: Sarah Gibbons

“Blue Skies”

 3rd  Julie Deng

PineValley: Susan Banks

“It All Proves Nothing”

Publishing in Magazines

April 21, 2013

Which magazines would you recommend most to publish short stories?

This is an excellent question, and although it was sent in by a teenager, the answer is the same whether you are a teen or an adult.  Visit your public library or independent bookstore where you can actually study the magazines.  Why type of stories do they print?  Does your style and voice match what they are looking for?  Stop by their website.  Read their guidelines carefully.  Does your story fit them?  If not, can you write one that would?

Do you like their publication?  If you would avidly seek them out to read, then your writing may be a good fit for them. 

As to which is easier to get published in, I know Stone Soup gets a LOT of submissions.  It’s like Reader’s Digest in the adult world.  However, I do know teens who have been published in Teen Ink and Creative Kids.  Just this past month a high school student and previous California Writers Club Young Writers Contest winner won a Scholastic competition.   So if you take the risk, keep writing and get yourself out there, stuff happens!

Read.  Write.  Be willing to edit.   Markets for young people are at the right of this blog under PAGES.

Of Reading, Writing and Good Writing Advice

April 18, 2013

Book I’ve just begun reading: 

Zip Cover

Zip by Ellie Rollins, Razor Bill, an imprint of Penguin.

Book I’m going to read next:


Ask The Passengers  by A.S. King, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book I own and is next on my stack:
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of those who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan, Puffin paperbacks.
I attended a local writing workshop led by Jane Vandenburgh, author of The Architecture of the Novel and she had many wise things to say.  Some of the gems: 
“A story can manufacture its own structure if you allow it.”
“Outline your book after you’ve written it.” 
(YES!  This is me now.  For those of you who aren’t into outlining your plot like I am, you don’t have to impose the structure first.)
“If you are writing a character driven story, remember the character must participate in the world.  Thoughts aren’t action.  Think cinematically.” 
(Many story problems occur because the main character doesn’t do anything.)
“You don’t have to start at the beginning.  Start at chapter seven.  Write anywhere.” 
(Lots of people don’t write their stories because they don’t know where to start.) 
And the best quote of all, in my opinion:  “Our characters don’t know who they are until they run into conflict.” 
Writing Prompts:
1.  Who is your character?  What is the worst thing that could happen to her/him?  Something embarrassing?  Get her/him into a jam.  How will he/she get out of it?
2.  Outline a story you have already written.  Have you enough conflict and tension in your story?  Did your main character solve a problem or learn/grow a bit?
3.  In the book you are reading now, how does the character change throughout the story?  What propels the character into action? 

Judging the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest

April 17, 2013

As one of the judges of the Young Writers Contest, I can tell you it’s an honor to read the manuscripts which arrive from middle school students all over Contra Costa County.  We are in the process of judging now. 

The quality is great, but some of the students  forgot to follow the guidelines.   One particular writer was sooooo good, but the judges had to disqualify her.   I know what a fantastic writer she is, so this saddened me.   Fortunately for her, she has another year to qualify.

If you are a student who will enter next year, remember to triple-check the rules.  Mark them off, one by one, before you place TWO copies of your manuscript in the envelope.   

 As soon as the new chair people call the winners, I will post their names and schools on this blog.

Workshop on Writing the Novel in Contra Costa County

April 8, 2013


Architecture of Long Works in Fiction and Nonfiction

Saturday, April 13, 2013

9am to 1:30pm

Jane Vandenburgh is the author of two novels, the award-winning Failure to Zigzag and The Physics of Sunset. Her nonfiction includes the memoir A Pocket History of Sex in the 20th Century and The Wrong Dog Dream: A True Romance, a memoir recently published by Counterpoint Press.

Based on many years of teaching writing, Jane wrote Architecture of the Novel on the craft of structuring the longer narrative.

From it she will share such tips as:

*The elemental nature of narrative: a story consists of its events, told in scenes

*Placing scenes along the natural arc of the story in an order that provides suspense and mystery

*Drawing characters toward the inevitability of their destinies

*The maps and mechanics of any long work

Sign-in is 9 – 9:30 am, workshop 9:30 – 12:15, and luncheon from 12:30 to 1:30 pm Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, CA. Registration is $35, or $40 for non-CWC members; contact Jean Georgakopoulos at, or phone 925-934-5677 for reservations.