Inspiring Young Writers

January 5, 2013

As an author, I’ve met a lot of kids who don’t just enjoy reading my books but also tell me they are writing their own books. As a teacher, writer, and parent, this is exciting. What can we do to foster this interest of writing in our children?

The first and most obvious is to show our excitement. Congratulate them on the fact that they are writing or have written a book. Ask them questions about their book. If you are able to read their books, and they offer them up, by all means, do so.

When my son was in third grade, part of the weekly spelling word assignment was to write a story or a poem using the words. Instead of a couple of sentences, or the expected paragraph, each week he would fill the entire page with his creations. This led to his work often being read aloud by the teacher as good examples, or at the very least words of encouragement scrawled across the papers. Naturally, this added to his confidence as a writer, and he tried even more to write good stories.

We took one of these stories, My Magical Hot Air Balloon Ride, and using a company called Creations by You, turned it into a hardcover book complete with his own illustrations on each page. We ordered several copies and gave them away to family members at Christmas. It’s a beautiful little book which we will always treasure. Nowadays, with self-publishing sites such as Createspace and Lulu, and tablets with cool apps, it would be even easier to get some of your child’s first creative genius made into their first books.

Once your child realizIMG_3269es people like to read what they write, they will probably write more, and they’ll write for the audience they know: their peers. As my son got older he started writing a series of stories featuring Jon the Burping Lemur. He shared these with his classmates, and his fifth grade teacher compiled them into a sort of portfolio book. She also entered him in district-wide writing festival for kids, where his manuscript was displayed with those of other children. He was also chosen to read the first chapter of his book aloud on-stage to an auditorium full of people and then meet a published author. Later on, in high school, a teacher nominated him to attend a statewide writing festival in Portland where he attended workshops and met other young writers. One little encouragement leads to the next.

 

One last thing I’d like to add: If you have a child who aspires to be a writer, yet “doesn’t like to read,” you must let them know that reading widely will help them be a better author. By reading, you learn many things to help you become a better writer and storyteller, including vocabulary, striking dialogue, and effective use of punctuation. Most likely, if you know an aspiring child writer, they already love to read, but if not, this is an opportunity to let them know how important reading is to their writing: it is not an option, it is essential.

Sandy SmithS.Smith is the author of the middle grade series, Seed Savers. You can find out more about her books (book one: Treasure, and book two: Lily) at http://authorssmith.com/


I Spent My Summers Not Wearing Pink

August 5, 2012

More reflections on summer, this week, from author Sarah Leith Bahn.

I Spent my Summers Not Wearing Pink:

Do I like the color pink? Yes! Have I always been capable of admitting to that? No!

You see, when I was young I spent my summers wishing I was a boy.

At the end of a long dirt road, amongst tall pine trees, my grandparent’s house sat on the banks of the most beautiful crystal-clear lake, called Lake George. It was here I spent my summers with my older brother and two older boy cousins. And it was because of these three boys that I never wore pink. I figured the more boy I could be, the more likely the boys would let me play with them.

Most days, however, I could be seen standing alone on the dock watching the boys way off in the distance paddling away in the canoe – the boys having successfully ditched me.

At night I would plan my attack again. If my Mom didn’t catch me and force me into my pajamas, I would sleep in a bathing suit with one eye open and one eye closed, so when the boys snuck out early in the mornings to play “King of The Dock” (a particularly brutal game with no rules, except one, last man dry on the dock won) I was ready to go and sure not to miss any excitement!

On the rare occasion that I kept up with the boys and successfully retired for the night bruised and battered from climbing rocks, jumping cliffs, swimming long distances, and running as fast as I could to keep up, everything was always better: the air smelled sweeter, the stars were brighter, and I felt like a super hero having achieved the impossible.

As I got older my summer days at the Lake dwindled. At thirteen-years-old, I started training fulltime in the sport of Whitewater Slalom with the dream of making the U.S. Olympic Team. I went from spending my summers chasing my brother and cousins to chasing after the best athletes in the world. But, it was those young summer days trying to keep up with the boys that taught me how to push hard. Those boys taught me how to fight and I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally. There are low points in every fairy tale and high points are only achieved when you pick yourself up and move on to win the next most epic battle.

Now I spend my summers still trying to keep with three boys: my husband, my two-year old son, and one-month-old baby boy. But there is one difference, I’m not afraid to wear pink and tie a ribbon in my hair. I now know that girls wearing pink can do more than keep up – they can kick butt too.

You can find out more about Sarah’s book, The Ancient Realm here


Deirdre’s Dragon

July 19, 2012

Here’s a wonderful short story from fantasy author Deb Logan whose book, Thunderbird, can be viewed here

Deirdre’s Dragon

by Deb Logan

Deirdre rubbed her eyes, and then stared open-mouthed at the dragon squished onto the window seat. He was shiny, golden, and too big to be believed.

The dragon oozed off the cushion onto the hardwood floor. He yawned and stretched, reminding Deirdre of a really big (make that gigantic!) cat.

She stood perfectly still, heart pounding so hard her fingers and toes felt like they might explode. She wondered if the dragon was hungry, but mostly she wondered what dragons ate.

“Caviar,” the dragon rumbled, licking his lips. “You know, little black fish eggs, but I’ll settle for peanut butter and jelly on rye.”

“You, uhh, you talked! Where did you come from? Wait a minute. I didn’t say that out loud.” Words gushed from Deirdre’s mouth. She was standing in the library of Gran’s Scottish mansion talking to a dragon, and all she could do was ask stupid questions.

“Of course I talk,” said the dragon, “and I hear your thoughts, too.” He lifted his lip in what Deirdre hoped was a dragon smile. “As to where I came from, why, you called me.”

“I did? I didn’t mean to. I mean, I’m sure you’re a very nice dragon and all …” her words trailed off. She took a deep breath and tried again. “How did I call you?”

“You touched that silver medal, and on your twelfth birthday, too.” A wisp of smoke escaped his nostrils.

Deirdre hoped he didn’t belch up a flame. With all these books, she’d be toast in a heartbeat! Oh, yeah, the medal. She glanced at the ornament clutched in her sweaty palm. The bright disk boasted a tiny picture of a dragon in mid-flight.

“I am bound to the females of your bloodline,” the dragon continued, “but you must be twelve before I’m allowed to show myself.” He lowered his head and looked straight into her eyes. “Happy birthday, Deirdre.”

“Thank you.” Mom would be pleased. Even with her mind in a whirl, Deirdre remembered her manners. Mom. Aha! “Does my mother know about you?”

“Of course.” He turned his jewel-bright eyes away from Deirdre and glanced around the room. “She’s heard all your Gran’s stories, just as you have.”

“No!” Deirdre cried, stamping her foot. “That’s not what I mean, and you know it.” She decided to be more specific. “Does my mother think you’re real? Has she ever talked to you?”

The dragon ambled to the hearth and curled up in front of the extinct fire. “No.” He yawned and nestled his triangular head onto his front feet. Claws flashed, and then retracted, rescuing the hearthrug from certain destruction.

“Why not?”

“The enchantment skips a generation. You won’t be ready to give me up when your daughter turns twelve.” His eyes sparkled, laughter dancing in their depths. “But when your granddaughter comes of age, well, that will be another bowl of caviar.”

“Well … what if I don’t have a daughter? Or a granddaughter?”

His head jerked up, his eyes round as saucers. “No granddaughter? But you have to have a granddaughter!”

“No, I don’t,” Deirdre said, her heart skipped a beat. Arguing with a dragon might be dangerous, but this was important. “Mom says I can be anything I want.” She planted her fists squarely on her hips and stared up into the dragon’s glittering eyes. “Dad says so, too. I’m going to be an astronaut and discover new planets.”

The dragon stared at her. His huge eyes whirled, and the spiky tip of his golden tail beat a rapid rhythm on the hearthrug. “Maybe you could have a daughter before you go exploring?”

She relaxed a little and considered his suggestion. “Maybe, but I might be too busy training. You might have to wait until I get back from my new planet.”

He looked so disappointed. She wanted to ease the sting. “Maybe I’ll name my first planet after you. Say, what is your name?”

He stood proudly on all four feet, wings furled tightly against his back and made a noise that sounded like chewing up rocks and gargling the slurry.

“Oh.” She cleared her throat — it hurt just listening to that name – and said, “well, maybe I’d better just take you along when I go exploring.” She paused, thought about that terrible noise, and asked, “I don’t suppose you have a nickname?”

He grinned his toothy grin and said, “You may call me Roddy.”

Voices in the hall interrupted them. Deirdre turned from the dragon to stare at the closed door. A moment later, it burst open and Dad stepped into the room.

“Hi, Dad,” she said, stuffing the medal into the back pocket of her jeans. She glanced over her shoulder at Roddy.

The majestic beast was gone. In his place lay Gran’s favorite toy — the dragon she’d told all her stories about.

*~*~*

Late that night, Deirdre snuggled under the covers of the huge bed in Gran’s guest room. The old mansion whispered and creaked around her. Another night she might have been frightened, but not tonight.

Tonight Roddy lay stretched across the length of the bedroom floor. His huge bulk protected her from the unaccustomed night sounds.

“What if Mom comes in?” she whispered.

“She’ll see a toy on the floor,” he replied. “Go to sleep, Deirdre, you’re safe with me.”

She closed her eyes and thought about home. What was she going to do with a dragon in Denver?

“Have the time of your life,” came the nearly silent answer. “We’ll have wonderful adventures. Just wait and see.”

###

About Deb Logan

Deb Logan specializes in fantasy tales for the young at heart. She loves mythology and is especially fond of Celtic and Native American lore. She writes about faeries, dragons, and other fantasy creatures for the younger set as herself, and for adults as Debbie Mumford.

Visit Deb’s page at Debbie Mumford’s Flights of Fantasy to learn more about her currently available work.


Bringing Back Memories

June 30, 2012

Another Kindle for Kids author remembers the school summer holidays. Today, it’s the turn of David G Pearce:

Whenever I think of summer holidays from when I was a kid very few really stick in my memory. As you know, most summers are pretty much the same as each other. The initial excitement of leaving school behind for six weeks becomes boredom as your parents take you round another castle or cathedral you really don’t want to see! Your friends are away on their own holidays, usually when you’re home, so you hardly see them during August. When you’re in school the weather is amazing but as soon as you break up the weather seems determined to be as miserable as possible! For me, though, there was always one thing saving summer when you were a kid and that was THE summer track.

Every summer has a track that just seems to be played everywhere. When I was a kid that meant the radio or the single I bought then played dozens of times to get the words right.  When you get older you’ll hear that song and you’ll be taken back to things you’d forgotten about or friends you hadn’t thought about for years.

One summer track that rescued an otherwise forgettable holiday was Japanese Boy by Aneka in 1981. When I first heard it I didn’t like it but after it got played on Radio 1 and at friends’ houses I bought it and it became the sound of that year. Now, as soon as I hear it I can picture the friends I had then and some of the things we did. Nothing important happened that year unless you were a cricket fan like me, (look up Botham’s Ashes on Youtube!) but looking back it was fun even if it seemed like a rubbish summer at the time.

What was your summer track and what memories does it bring back for you?

***

Thanks, David. Mine is ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry – but that’s just showing how old I am.

You can read more of David’s work in his story The Girl on the Train on this page.


School’s Out For Summer

June 24, 2012

It won’t be long before the summer holidays are upon us.  No school, no homework, long summer days, trips to the beach. Oooh! Can’t wait.

So what will you be doing in the holidays? Here’s one of the Kindle for Kids authors, Katie Stewart, writing about the summer holidays.


When I was a little girl, our summer holidays were nearly always spent at Robin Hood’s Bay in a tiny cottage owned by a little old lady called Miss Hutton. She lived in part of the cottage and rented out the rest to families, cooking their meals for them, but otherwise staying out of the way. I seem to remember she served Yorkshire pudding every night. The house was so small that my two older sisters and I had to share a bed in a room where the ceiling sloped down. I was up against the wall and there wasn’t much room there before the ceiling, so once my sisters got into bed, I couldn’t get out. I couldn’t even sit up!

It was on these holidays that I developed a phobia for bats. They flew around squeaking at night and one got caught in my hair as it flew over. I still don’t like going out in the dark when they’re around, though I’m not as scared of them as I was.

When I was nine, we came to Australia. Here summer is HOT. A lot of time in summer is spent sitting by the pool, or at the beach. Australian beaches aren’t like English beaches. In England, I was used to pebbled shores and tiny little waves that tickle your ankles. In Australia, the beaches are white sand that burns your feet, and my first experience of a wave was when it broke right over my head, sending me into a spin amongst the seaweed and fish. I didn’t like the sea after that. I still don’t, except to look at. That’s one phobia I haven’t got over.

One of my favourite summer holidays we had in Australia when I was young, was the time we rented an old farmhouse. Farms in Australia are very big. So we could walk for miles and never leave the property. Of course, we had to watch out for snakes, because they love the hot weather, too.

Now I’m married to a farmer so we have to leave the farm to have a holiday or otherwise we’d just keep working. My favourite place to holiday is Albany on the south coast of Western Australia. It’s full of interesting places to visit, from museums to strange rock formations and it’s lots cooler than where we live. That’s what I want when I go on holiday these days – to not be too hot!

Thanks to Katie for sharing her holiday memories with us.  You can find Katie’s exciting fantasy story The Dragon Box here. And don’t forget to check out the rest of the site for some great summer reads!

Royalty-free images courtesy of Clker.com


Giants – A New Short Story

April 17, 2012

We are delighted to bring you another short story today. This one is by Kurt Chambers who also wrote Truth Teller.

GIANTS

The window misted with Johnny’s breath as he gazed out upon his garden with eager anticipation. Trails of raindrops raced to reach the windowsill, settling in pools on the white, glossed paintwork. “Can I go outside, Mum?” he asked, his chin resting in his hands.
“I don’t think so,” she replied, joining him beside the window. She ruffled his blond, spiky hair and peered through the glass. “Why would you want to go out in this miserable weather anyway?”
He gave a shrug. “I just wanted to have a look around the garden.” He turned to see a wide smile light up her face.
“You know what it looks like. You’ve played in it like a million times.” She flicked back her curly, auburn hair, exposing the wrinkles around her eyes. Her grin widened.
He tried to think of a reasonable response, but none came to mind. He turned to look outside again, leaning his head back in his hands. “I hate Sunday’s.”
“Why don’t you watch some telly? Put a DVD on or something.”
“Na, that’s boring. I’ve seen them all anyway.”
She let out a tut and turned to leave. “I wish I had time to get bored. You could always help me with the laundry, or do the washing up? I’m not bothered which. I have a whole host of things to keep you entertained.”
Johnny rolled his eyes. “I think I’d rather be bored.”
His mum left, closing the door. “Don’t say I didn’t offer,” came her muffled voice as she descended down the stairs.
Within a moment his door burst open again. “Hi, Johnny.”
His little sister’s sharp voice made him jump. “Don’t you ever knock?”
“No,” she remarked in a casual tone. With one hand stuffed into her faded jeans pocket, she wandered around his room flicking through the jumble of assorted items that filled every bit of space on his shelves. “I’m bored. Do you wanna play a game or something?” she asked, gazing through the window to see what he was looking at.
He screwed up his nose. “Er, no thanks.”
“Oh, go on. There isn’t anything else to do.” She slumped on his bed with her arms sprayed out, staring at the ceiling. “Well, what are we going to do then?”
“You could go and play in your own room?”
She lifted her head and frowned. “Not on my own!” She pulled herself into a sitting position and hugged her knees to her chest. “Will you tell me a story, Johnny?” Her eyes widened with anticipation.
“What, right now?”
“Yeah!” She bobbed up and down, her curly, blond hair bouncing with her. “I love your stories. Not a scary one though.”
Johnny took a deep breath and let it out slowly, as though reluctant. In all honesty though, he loved telling stories at any time of the day. He gazed out of the window at the giant standing in the back garden and a grin spread across his lips. “Did you know that thousands of years ago the whole world was full of giants? Long before people were around.”
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Yeah, everyone knows there were dinosaurs.”
Johnny eased his slim frame onto the edge of the bed. “I’m not talking about dinosaurs. They were tiny in comparison to these giants. These were massive, and they were here way before dinosaurs even existed.” He waited for a reaction, but his sister sat gazing wide-eyed in silence. “And they still live here on earth to this very day!” he continued.
“No way!” Sarah squeezed her legs even tighter to her chest. “That’s impossible.”
Johnny shrugged his shoulders. “Well, if you don’t believe me there’s no point in telling you then.” He went to turn away, but she tugged at his arm.
“No, don’t stop. I believe you.”
He made himself comfortable and thought for a moment. Then he began.
“A long, long time ago, way before any creatures lived on our planet, the world was inhabited by giants.” His eyes widened as he emphasised the word. “They lived almost everywhere. Not all of them were really huge, but the biggest ones were colossal, as big as the tower blocks down the town. Some of them could live for more than a thousand years.”
Sarah folded her arms and frowned.
“It’s true!” Johnny confirmed, nodding his head. “When they’re born, they never move from the same spot for the rest of their lives.”
“That’s stupid,” Sarah interrupted. “How do they eat and stuff if they can’t even go shopping?”
Johnny threw his head back with laughter and almost fell off the bed. “Not everything goes shopping for food. That’s just people that do that.”
She gave him a hard stare. “You’re making this up. Why didn’t they move around then?”
“They didn’t need to. Everything they need is already there. They drink water when it rains and they eat by sucking all the goodness out of the mud.”
“They eat mud?” She held her hand over her mouth. “That’s sick!”
He grinned. “Yeah. Well kind of. They have these long, gnarled tentacles that burrow deep into the ground and feed off of the decomposing bodies of dead insects and rotting vegetation. Anyway, they can’t move around ‘cos they haven’t got legs.” He leaned closer to her face. “They haven’t even got heads!”
Sarah cringed away. “You said it wouldn’t be a scary story,” she protested. “They’re not giants; they sound more like monsters.”
Johnny laughed and pulled a scary face.
“It’s not funny. If I have nightmares tonight I’m telling Mum.”
He patted her on the leg. “They’re not monsters, quite the opposite in fact. If it weren’t for the giants, you wouldn’t even be alive. Nobody would.”
She cocked her head, her frown deepened. “What do you mean?”
Johnny lay on his bed, leaning his head in his hand. “I don’t think I should tell you anymore,” he teased. “I wouldn’t want to give you nightmares.”
She thrust her hands on her hips. “Johnny!”
He chuckled, relishing his captive audience. “Almost everything we have is all thanks to them,” he continued. “Cars, boats, houses, electricity, heating. The list goes on forever. Money, jewels, even the air you’re breathing…Everything! Without them we wouldn’t have any of it.”
“That’s rubbish. How come nobody else has heard of them?”
Johnny shook his head. “What you talking about? Everyone knows. They teach you all this at school?”
“My teachers never told me about them.”
“Yes they did,” he corrected. “You just wasn’t listening properly.”
She sat bolt upright. “No they didn’t! I’m sure if they’d taught me about giant, mud eating monsters with no heads, I’d remember.” She paused for a moment then scrambled to the edge of the bed. “I’m gonna ask Mum.”
“You’re wasting your time,” Johnny remarked in a casual tone.
“Why is that then?” She wore a smug grin. “‘Cause you’re lying?”
He sat up. “No, because Mum’s an adult. They see things differently from us.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?”
He let out a sigh. “Adults only see things a certain way. Mum’s seen hundreds of them, but she probably hasn’t even noticed. They’re too wrapped up in grown-up stuff.”
Sarah put her finger to her temple in a circular motion. “You’re mad!”
“Am I?” He rose to his feet and pushed his hands in his pockets. “Well, you’re blind. Why don’t you try looking out the window? There’s a giant standing in our back garden right now.”
She paused. Her mouth hung open. “I’m not going to look. You’re not making me look stupid.”
“You’re already stupid.”
She scrunched up her face and stomped over to the window, pulling back the net curtain. “Oh right, there’s a giant standing in my garden. Ooh, I’m scared…Not!”
Her sarcastic tone didn’t waver Johnny in the slightest. “See, I told you.”
She gave him a blank stare, then quickly glanced into the garden through the corner of her eye. “Yeah, whatever!” she remarked with an open-hand gesture.
Johnny pointed. “You must be blind if you can’t see it. It’s right there!”
Sarah turned and pressed her face to the glass. “That’s a tree, stupid. It’s not a giant.”
“What do you mean it’s not a giant? It’s bigger than our house. What would you call it then, a dwarf?”
She stood looking thoughtful. “I’d call it a tree.”
“You call it a tree, I call it a giant. It doesn’t matter what name you give it.”
She wandered back over to the bed and sat down with her hands on her lap. “So you made this all this up then. There weren’t really any headless, mud-eating giants.”
Johnny thought he saw a glimmer of disappointment in her eyes. “I didn’t make it up. It’s all true. Trees don’t have heads. They have long tentacles called roots that burrow underground and suck the rainwater and nutrients out the soil. They never move from the spot they were born.” He grinned. “What part of the story wasn’t true then?”
Sarah nibbled on the end of her finger, frowning deeply. “What was all that about the things they gave us. You said they gave us jewels and stuff. You don’t get jewels from a tree, even I know that.”
“Yes you do. Where do you think amber comes from?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t know. You dig it up, don’t you?”
“It all comes from the giants, or trees as you like to call them.” He gave her a playful nudge with his shoulder.
She smiled. “Really?”
“I’m not lying. Wood, paper, coal, oil, amber, even the air we breath. It all comes from trees.”
Sarah walked back to the window and stood watching the Scotts Pine that stood swaying at the end of the garden. “It’s cool having our own giant.”

Many thanks to Kurt and we hope you enjoyed his tale of Giants. More stories coming soon.


It’s Finished!!!

March 14, 2012

Today we have a guest post on writing by David G. Pearce

In some ways, finishing a novel is like finishing a piece of homework. The initial sense of relief is followed by worrying how many marks you’ll get for it! Of course, it is a bit different because none of your homework will take you three years from start to finish – even if it feels like it sometimes!

When you start writing a novel you don’t really know much more than the overall story. In my case I had my main characters in place pretty quickly and I knew how I was going to start it, but after that it was something like a history essay – well my history essays anyway!

You’ve done your initial research but you’re still not sure why some people act like they do, or what they’ll do in a particular situation. Then you work out how each event affects them. Sometimes you use their past experiences to give you clues, but sometimes you just accept the way they react. You also have to get rid of lots of unnecessary information otherwise you just end up boring everyone including yourself. I also set myself a word limit because it keeps me focussed. Finally I check the whole story to look for spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes and story mistakes like writing the wrong name for a character. I often change my characters names towards the end of a novel because the original names don’t seem right.

I’m now ready to hand it in! My readers – if there are any- will decide if I get A* or E.

* * *

You can view David’s Kindle for Kids’ book, The Girl on the Train, here.  His latest work, a Young Adult novel called The Vanishing has just been released on Amazon.


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