Archive for August, 2012


The Win: blogging for prizes

August 28, 2012

I never win anything. Wahhhhhh. But recently, my luck flipped.

This summer I caught up on my blog reading and funny enough, one mentioned my name. One of my favorite blogs about writing and publishing, YA HIGHWAY, announced me the winner of a new Kindle Touch and three YA novels. All I’d had to do was answer a few questions. Not bad.

Besides the thrill of the goods, the win made me realize that reading blogs matter, especially blogs in your field. Like most people, I don’t have a lot of time. Three kids make sure of that. However, I do subscribe to about a dozen blogs, send them to my Google Reader, and read them at the week’s end. In this way I keep abreast of recent publishing news, discover new agents, find out what books have been reviewed, and even win prizes. Twitter may be the latest, greatest, social networking tool, but I still believe in a blog. They aren’t books, of course, but blogs offer more than a few tweets. If you want to write well, you need to write and read often. Find yourself a good book, a blog, or a newspaper article (they do still exist) and study the craft as well as the content. You may not win a Kindle, but reading will serve you well.


Summer Candy

August 13, 2012

During the summer I take a break from my writing practice and play with words instead. I edit. I study other authors. And I teach.


For five weeks, middle school kids sit with me to write. Boring? Not at all. In fact, the classes have tripled in size. A parent recently asked me how I engaged the kids without making it seem like school. At first, I answered, “candy”. Who doesn’t like a Tootsie Roll?


However, the real success of my classes comes from the kids. Giving them the space to be creative gives them freedom to explore. I find that kids come to my class nervous about perfecting conjugation and developing appropriate sentence structure. While I absolutely believe these things matter, they aren’t as important as one’s imagination.


When we sit on the deck and talk about voice, I ask the kids to become someone else. Sometimes, they are rock stars and actors, other times they become politicians or crocodile hunters, lavishly stereotyping their profiles. We role-play to create scenes. We develop texture by listening to new sounds and touching real dirt. By the end of the hour, the kids share their words, ask for more, and don’t want to leave. The creative process initiates the writing and lets it run.


Writers, like kids, need to step back from sentence structure and create. And maybe sneak a few Tootsie Rolls.