8 Ideas to Get Kids Reading

Visiting our new children's library in Little Rock.

Visiting our new children’s library in Little Rock.

“How do we get kids interested in reading?”

I hear teachers say it all the time, and it makes me sad. Instead of focusing on entertaining the few kids who don’t enjoy reading, why don’t we engage the kids who DO enjoy reading? Their enthusiasm may prove contagious. Create opportunities for them to interact with the written word and then ask them to comment on it, or to recreate it in their own way. Then, encourage the other kids to join in or to view the finished product. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:

8 Ideas to Get Kids Reading

1. Start a book club. (duh!) Encourage them to choose the books so they feel more invested and less like it’s assigned homework.

2. Start a book review blog. Each kid takes turns writing a book review and they post it on the site for other kids to see.

3. Invite authors to visit or Skype with your group/class/kids. Big time authors might be too expensive/busy, but indie authors and first time authors are often eager to connect with readers and happy to help. (Raises hand to volunteer!)

4. Throw a book themed party. Send invitations with a free book or a link to the book online and ask kids to read it before coming to the party. Plan games around the theme and have a contest or two. You could even ask them to dress up like their favorite character or choose a side to represent (aka Team Edward/Team Jacob, etc.) Here’s an example of a book party we hosted.

5. Host a book swap and invite kids to bring a book they love to share with friends. Everyone goes home with a new book to read!

6. Organize a writing club to encourage young authors to keep writing what they love. It could be poetry, songwriting, fiction, fan-fic, comics, a mini-magazine, or even a group newspaper. If you’re writing books, try CampNanowrimo. At the young writer’s program website, you can find all kinds of resources to help you teach/lead a group of young writers as they try to tackle the goal of writing a book.

7. Host an open mic night or other reading event where kids can share their creative efforts with others. This would be a great way to end a series of writing lessons or finish up something like Camp Nanowrimo, but it could also be a regular event where kids can share their creative endeavors with other like-minded folks.

8. Remember pen pals? What if you had book pals? You could match up kids from different schools or libraries with similar reading interests and encourage them to swap book ideas and write back and forth with each other about the books they are reading and the characters they love. Then, host an event once in a while where book buddies get to hang out together. Man, now I want a book buddy!

These are just 8 ideas for encouraging kids to read more and share their love of books with others. Do you have any great ideas? Please share them with us and then pass this post along to a friend you think might be interested. We’d love to have a long list of fabulous ideas to inspire the kids in our own communities to pick up a book and READ!

Writing Club: Got Plot?

Last week I promised the coolest young writers in town that I would post our writing club lesson here. Then… well, then a lot of amazing things happened to me and I got a little distracted. I can’t divulge all of the awesomeness yet, but on Saturday I was elected president of Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas. I’m honored and incredibly excited to be leading this talented group of writers here in Little Rock. It’s going to be an exciting year! In the meantime, here is the lesson I promised you:

In writing group we discussed plot by diagramming a traditional plotline. I was surprised how many of our students were familiar with this tool and all of its major parts. Here is an example for those of you who need a refresher.

Plot Parts
Introduction - This is the beginning of your story where you are introducing your characters and the setting to the reader. You can give a little background, but the general rule among writers is to go straight to the action and fill in the backstory as the plot unfolds.

Inciting Incident - This is where the story really begins. What happens that starts the journey for your characters? The dog goes missing, the contest is announced, the dead body is discovered, boy meets girl, etc. are all moments that reveal the true goal of a story. If you do not yet know your character’s goal, then you should begin here. Define the goal and then give it a consequence. What happens if they don’t reach their goal? This is the crux of finding your plot. If you can answer those two questions, then you have a plot.

Rising Action - Here the characters move steadily toward the climax of the story, growing ever closer to reaching their goal. However, don’t make it too easy for them. Be sure to add obstacles along the way or else your story will be boring and predictable.

Obstacles - What will happen to keep your main character(s) from reaching their goal? If all they have to do is walk in and take what they want with nothing to stop them, then that isn’t much of a story at all! Show us what gets in the way. These obstacles increase the dramatic suspense, but they also offer opportunities for character development. When your characters are threatened, denied satisfaction, or in danger, we get to see a lot of how they think and feel in those situations. This will draw characters together or push them apart. Make the most of your obstacles by planning ahead and you will have less trouble with writer’s block.

Climax - This is the moment when your character(s) reach their goal. It’s the big scene, so make it count! Readers want to see the struggle, so bring on the action and the drama.

Denouement - This fancy French word is simply the period of a story where we wrap it all up nicely with a satisfying ending. That doesn’t mean it has to be a happy ending, but it should provide some closure. Love a good cliff-hanger? Go right ahead, but be sure you have thought it through and the ending leaves the reader wanting more instead of scratching their heads in confusion.

Our group had a lot of questions this week about character development and point of view. We’ll cover that in detail next week, but for now I leave you with this question:

 ”What is more important, the journey or the people on the journey?” 

Happy writing!

                                             ~ Heather

Writing Club: Describing a Setting

Yesterday I met with young writers at the Main Library in Little Rock, Arkansas for our first ever NaNoWriMo group. I was blown away by the diverse group that showed up to write with us. After a long day of school, kids between the ages of 8 and 18 trickled in to share their ideas and a little of their passion for books. I heard a fifth grader swapping book ideas with a twelfth grader and saw all kinds of genres represented from poetry to crime drama. Amazing! I know some people have a hard time working with kids, but I am constantly amazed by the creativity and talent demonstrated in some of the youngest writers. I heard a few lamenting that they are forced to write what their teacher’s assign instead of what they love, but I encouraged them to write anyway because every single opportunity to write is an opportunity to improve. Then, someday you’ll be able to write what you love all day long and that is an amazing treat!

Settings
Anyway, in our short time together I shared a few tips for description and reviewed some of the brainstorming concepts I shared with all of you here a few weeks ago. I asked them to come up with three different settings. They suggested a planet, a cave, and a battleship. We listed a few adjectives to describe each setting. Here’s what we came up with:

When I see the word “planet”, I instantly picture something else entirely. Mars with its red dirt and and expansive deserts, perhaps. A green swirling fog is so unique and utterly different from what I pictured, but isn’t that incredible? With just four words we have an entirely different picture in our minds. Now the trick is to show our readers the same image we have in mind.

Show vs. Tell
 We want our readers to be able to visualize our settings, our characters, and their actions as fully as possible so that they feel as though they were in the middle of the story with them. One way to do that is to describe the setting using your five senses. So, to our list we might add a few distinctive words describing the smell of the air, the feel of the dampness on our skin, or the shouts of soldiers on the battleship. Instead of saying the deck of the battleship was wet, we will describe how the main character nearly slips as he races across the deck or we’ll describe the spray of sea water or the raging wind and rain of an enormous storm. We give our readers clues that let them decide for themselves that the deck is wet instead of just telling them it is. This involves them in the scene as a participant and gives our writing a richer quality.

It’s difficult, I won’t lie, but something we should continue to practice if we want to be better writers. So, why don’t you give it a try? Brainstorm a few settings for the story you are working on and list as many descriptive words as you can using your five senses. Then, use those words to help you create sentences to show the reader how it feels to stand in your setting. What will they see, hear, smell, feel as they enter your world? When you’re finished, come back and leave us your favorite sentence. I would love to see what you came up with as you try your hand at the Show vs. Tell technique.

                                                                       Happy Writing!

                                                                                                                ~ Heather

Writing Club: It’s All About The Brainstorming

It’s fall and around here that means Writing Club! Each fall I lead a group of young writers through the prewriting process all the way to our goal of finished novels for National Novel Writing Month. It’s my favorite time of year.

We have so much fun writing together and coming up with crazy ideas for our stories. I wish all of you could join the club with us. Since you can’t be here, I thought I might bring some of the fun to you! So, each Monday I’ll share one of our writing lessons with you. That way you can follow along. If you do each lesson, by the end of November, you should have a pretty good story. It takes a little work and lot of dedication to finish an entire story, but you can do it! And if you have questions, you can post them here for the writing club to answer. Sound like fun? Great! Then, welcome to the club!

Lesson One: Brainstorming
When you’re writing, do you ever feel stuck? I’m talking thick, goopy mud kind of stuck. Quick sand, stuck. Yep. It happens to the best of us. So, our very first lesson this year is on how to get unstuck. Before we write a single word in our notebooks, we’re going talk about how to create new ideas and get your brain moving from stuck to running free.

There are many ways to help you gather ideas for your story. Today we’re going to talk about three. The first is a mind web.

You’ve probably seen this idea before and maybe you have a different name for it. A mind web helps us catch related ideas and organize them. Start out by writing a topic in the center of your paper or white board. Maybe use a word that describes your favorite book. We chose the word magic, but you can use any word that interests you. Now, add as many related words as possible around the outside of that center bubble. Branch out from those words, adding more layers.

Here’s an example from our class:

Step One: Add primary words around your central topic.

 

 Step Two: Add secondary words around each primary word.

 

 

Step Three: Add a layer of descriptive words to the outer layer.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully this exercise has helped you to create a picture in your head, because that’s your next step. Close your eyes for a moment and try your best to see a clear image of your scene. Focus on either the setting or a character because this will help you most. Remember to use all of your senses as you look around. What do you see? What does it smell like to you? Can you hear anything? Is there movement? What can you taste or feel? Do your best to be there in your mind, taking note of everything around you.

Now, write down exactly what you saw. Don’t worry about writing sentences; we’ll practice putting them into sentences later.  Just list the words for now. Grab all the words you can to describe your setting and a character. Use the list to fill in your mind web. Make it as big as you can. The more words and ideas you have, the more you have to work with when you are writing your story.

What word did you choose for your topic? Leave it in the comments below and take a moment to introduce yourself so we can say hello to our new writing club members. Then, come back tomorrow and I’ll show you what to do next with your mind web.

 

More “Ask the Author” Questions

Yesterday I shared a few questions from third graders in Nashville, Tennessee. Here are the rest of their fabulous questions and my responses.

7. Do you keep a notebook or something else to record ideas for your books?  How do you come up with new ideas?

I do keep a notebook. Actually, I keep a LOT of notebooks and pens everywhere. I also carry an ipad with me, but when I have really good ideas, I take out a notebook and start writing. Sometimes I end up writing in really funny places like in the middle of the grocery store or at the pool while I’m dripping wet. I just don’t want to forget my ideas, so I hurry to jot them down.

All of my big ideas have come from dreams. I have very vivid dreams that I call “movie dreams.” It is like I’m watching a movie. I can see all the characters and hear them talk and usually I can even feel the main character’s emotions. I watch them go through something amazing like falling in love or running from some bad guy or searching for a treasure. Then, when I wake up, I can’t stop thinking about it and wondering what happened next, so I write it down. I almost never dream about real life, so all of my stories are fantasy in some way. I once dreamed about Africa, but then the characters were attacked by alien cat monsters, so… I guess my dreams are never normal.

 8.   Was it fun making your book?

YES! The most fun I have ever had, I think. I don’t write like most writers. I write to find out what happens next, so I don’t have the whole book planned out like you are taught in school to write. (Sorry, Mrs. Hayes) So, writing for me is like reading a really good book. It is the book I most want to read and I can’t wait to find out what happens. Will they be saved? Will they get what they wanted? I don’t know, so I keep writing. And the best part is something most people don’t know about writers: The characters will surprise you! Sometimes you are thinking they will do one thing and then while you are writing all of a sudden they are doing something else and you sit back, staring at the screen and say, “Huh. Why did you do that? That messes up everything!” And it’s kind of amazing. Like they are alive and you have to try to keep up with them. So, you start writing again and try to get them out of whatever they just got themselves into. It’s my favorite part of writing.

 9.   How did you come up with your title?

As I was writing, I was spending a lot of time thinking about my book. One day I was reading the Bible, which I try to do every morning, and I got to a place where Jesus is talking about being the light in the world that is full of darkness. I sat and thought about that for a while and realized how much my character is like that. So, then I started looking for other places where the Bible talks about light and darkness. Pretty soon I had a long list. I ended up using a lot of those ideas in making my books for this series. All of the books originally had titles that were from the Bible and all of them have the same theme. Light changes the darkness, pushes it back so that we can see things, but the darkness is constantly threatening to put out the lights.

 10.  Does your story relate to your life?

Well, it is a fantasy, so… not entirely. However, since I am a Christian, I am trying to do what Jesus said about being a light in a dark world. So, in that sense I am a little like Merrilyn, the main character. Mostly I just wish I could run around in fantasy lands saving people from danger and healing them magically like she does in the book. Wouldn’t that be cool?

 11.  Did you download your own book? :)

Haha. After my book was converted from Word into the ebook file, I was able to load it onto my ipad and read it as a kindle book. That way I could check to see if it looked okay and make any changes before customers bought the book. So, I didn’t have to pay for it. But, my husband and our daughter downloaded it on their phones, so we have a copy everywhere we go. My book just went to paperback and people can order it on Amazon, so I am going to order a big box of them and take them to a few schools here in Little Rock that can’t afford to buy books. Then, whatever is left will probably ride around in the car with me so that I can hand them out to people I meet who might help me sell them, like bookstore owners, librarians, or book reviewers.

One more thing: When I was little I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t understand how many people it takes to make a book arrive in a book store or library for me to read. Even though I self-published, it still took a lot of people to make it happen. I had my cover designer/photographer/artist, my editor who helped me make the book even better, a formatter who turned it into the different formats for Kindle or Nook and cleaned up messy spaces. Then, when it is all finished, most people also hire someone to help them market the book. Selling a book is very different from writing one, so sometimes we need help. But the best help of all is the reader. A reader who loves a book will tell all their friends about the book. When you love a book and you tell a friend, “That book was awesome! You should go read it!” you are sharing that love with the author. Even though you never meet the author, maybe you don’t even remember their name, you are giving them a precious gift. Because each book that sells is money that helps that author write for another year. Each book that sells says to the author, “someone loves your books, so keep writing!” If you love an author, if you love their books, then tell a friend. I always give books as Christmas or birthday presents because then I am sharing what I love with someone else and in the meantime I get to encourage an author somewhere to keep writing.

And for those of you in this class that wish you could write amazing books. Keep trying. Writing is fun, but it is work, too. Just like you have to practice to become a better soccer player or a better singer or a better artist, you have to practice if you want to be a better writer. Even now I am working hard to become better. I write every single day. I edit every single day. I read books about how to write, I talk with other writers and with editors and with teachers who teach people to be writers or editors. I am all grown up, but I am just now really learning how to be a true writer. I wish I had started when I was young. So, if you want to be a writer, if you have wonderful ideas for stories, grab a notebook and carry a pencil with you and WRITE!

Happy reading and writing!

Love, Heather

 If you have a question for me, please leave it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer you.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Friday Friends: Christine Locke

Christine Locke, author of Open Door, is our guest today. She shares her tips for making your stories unique and exciting.

All my kids are writers—well, all the ones over the age of 10.  There’s something about being young and exerting your personal power through words that resonates with a bright, creative soul.  Our oldest crafted realistic fiction peopled with her friends & acquaintances; her sister wrote poetry.  Our older boy wrote a fantasy fiction series set in “Dragon World.”  My younger two girls write realistic tales about young people, one in the vein of Christian fiction and the other creating screenplays for videos she acts out using her dolls and stop-motion techniques.  I can’t wait to see what my youngest two will write!

Heather has asked me to describe my own process for young writers seeking inspiration.   I’d love to help, so here are three goals I strive to meet to make a story original and entertaining.

 

 1. Make it different.

There are so many stories out that that you already know and love; how do you make your story different?  You’ve probably heard that all good stories start with the question, What if?  That’s important to ask; just don’t stop with the first twist.  Take your favorite story and give it the “What if?” treatment.  We have a name for this now: fan fiction.  It’s a great thing that sometimes leads to new writing careers.   But I encourage you to take the story born from your first What if? and ask again, What if?  Do this enough times and your favorite story and its characters drop away while an original one with new people moves in.  This story is all yours: your plot, your characters, your setting.

For Open Door, I did this with the twin ideas of power and evil (and, ok, at first my process involved a certain popular vampire storyline…).  How does power become evil?  Is power evil in itself?  Even more interesting, how does something evil get powerful?  I went on to ask, What if evil did not wear a human face?  Voldemort, Darth Vader, and Angelis: these are fantastic fictional examples of evil, but all have a familiar, distorted, almost-human form.  What if evil were just as real, but more a potential than a personification?  What if the physical form that evil wore was NOT human-like in any way?

2. Make it Personal

Only you can decide how to make your tales personal.  For Open Door, I cast a young girl as my heroine.  I’m in the middle of raising 5 of them.  I remember feeling alone, confused and isolated when I was my character’s age.  I also set my story in the 1980’s (my own adolescent years) partly to help myself remember those feelings.

Then, I decided to use a real city as my setting.  I love writing about my native Arkansas, but for Open Door, I wanted a unique location.  It had to be isolated, recently a wilderness, full of natural beauty, and a place respecting individuality and creativity.  It delighted me to “find” Eureka Springs, AR a few years ago.  Since then, I’ve visited as often as I can (you will have seen it if you watch the show “Ghost Hunters”).

The small city of Eureka Springs looks, feels, and smells like a place where magic lives.  I read somewhere that Eureka Springs is the only city in the United States where no two roads meet at right angles.  I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s believable.  When we stood in the parking lot of the hotel and looked at the church next door, we were actually looking at the church’s roof.  That’s how steep the hills are there, and it seems every structure is on the side of another hill.  To get to the church next to our hotel, we walked down steep flights of stairs built into the hill on which both the hotel and the church stand.  It’s beautiful, unique, interesting, and mysterious—and it’s great exercise!

 3. Make it perfect.

When I say to make your story perfect, I mean come as close as you can to a grammatically and visually perfect manuscript.  You want your creation to be a pleasure to read: the reader won’t notice how different & personal your story is if there are too many typos!

 

I hope you have the chance to read Open Door, and I hope you love it.  I want to wish you the very best of future success with your own tales.  Above all, I urge you to keep those pens moving across paper, those cursors blipping across screens, and those stories flowing from your own heart out into the waiting world.  Good luck and happy writing!

Story Starter Tuesday

Since Camp Nanowrimo is on my mind today, and I just finished telling you all about my week at camp, how about we make our story starter camp themed this week? You can thank me later.

story starterMom pulled up to the front gates and turned to me with a smile. “We’re here, honey. Grab your things, we’re losing daylight and you’re already late. I leaned out my window to stare up at the old, faded sign that stretched over the gravel drive. It read, Camp Windelmore. I sighed. I couldn’t believe my mom was leaving me at a camp she knew nothing about for three whole weeks!

Heather Goes to Camp

I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks and for two very good reasons: 1) I have been hard at work putting the finishing touches on my soon to be released novel, Light In The Darkness. And, 2) I went to camp.

That’s right, folks. This thirty-something mother of three went to camp for a week with a bunch of the coolest teens I know. We got dirty, down right stinky nasty running around and playing crazy games in the hot southern sun. We played games like Fish Baseball and Zombie Apocalypse Capture the Flag. We built a giant slip-n-slide. We swam in the river and had a blast. It was a wild and crazy week.

One of the things I enjoyed most about camp was meeting so many amazing kids. I discovered that two of my young friends hope to be writers someday (Hi, Anna and Kaitlyn!) and enjoyed talking with them about books they love and the stories they plan to write. I talked with a few gals who insisted they hate to read and are terrible in school (Hi, Rose and DeeAnn!) and this shocked me because they were so very cool and smart. I wish I could be their teacher for a year or two and share with them all of my favorite books and teach them how very fun and fabulous writing can be.  I hope they will stop by the site to visit once in a while and maybe pick up one of the books I have shared in You Gotta Read posts.

Another awesome thing about visiting camp as a writer is the concentrated look at teen relationships that you get in a week of camp. We saw young love and heartbreak, major girl drama and teen angst.  Mostly I saw a lot of great friendships bloom out of seemingly nowhere. We all arrived strangers and left with friends. What an amazing thing. Those memories will be useful when I am creating new characters in my YA books this next year. You can’t beat the experience of real life when you are crafting fiction.

How about you? Did you go to camp this summer? Did you meet any totally cool kids that you wish you could hang out with all year? What awesome new experiences will you be using in your writing this year?

If you’ve got a fabulous idea for a story, why not go ahead and write it? It’s too hot to do much of anything else, so a few hours at your computer desk or on your bed with a pen and a notebook will keep you cool and entertained. Besides, mom and dad can’t get too irritated when they find you writing a book instead of watching tv, right? Man, I’d give my kids cookies for that!

Here’s a great way to help you get started: Camp Nanowrimo! You can join thousands of other writers around the world who are racing to get their stories written before August 31st.  That’s a whole book written in a month!  Think it can’t be done? It can and its a blast.  The perfect kick in the seat to get you motivated to get that story that’s been bouncing around in your brain for years out and into the open page. Sign up now and scroll through their website to see all the fun and silliness that can be had when a bunch of writers jump into the word frenzy that is writing a book in a month.  It’s a blast.  As a matter of fact, my first very first novel was written during Nanowrimo a few years ago. Now I’m getting ready to share it with the world in just a few short days. You never know what magic can happen when you sit down with that idea and let it all out onto the blank page.


Gotta Write,Heather

Brainstorming Tips with author Brian Clopper

I was delighted to discover Brian Clopper, an author I shared with you earlier this week in my review of his book, Graham the Gargoyle.  Brian astounds me with his clever writing, but my kids are even more impressed with his artwork.  Brian is also a teacher and I bet his 5th grade students are just about the luckiest kids I know.  How cool to have a teacher who is also a writer and comic book artist!  Today, Brian shares with us some fun tips and tricks for creating new story ideas.  Enjoy!

* * * * * * *

Coming up with story ideas has never been a problem for me. There are three techniques I teach my students to help them gain confidence in brainstorming. All three are quick, fun and easy to do.

Odd Pairings: Take two or three ideas that are wildly different from each other and put them together. For example, I created MONSTERS IN BOXERS, a book about kids who put on magical boxer shorts and transform into superhuman monsters ready to do battle with evil, by pairing monsters with boxers. How can you go wrong with that?

Here are other examples:
MY BIG TOE TALKS TO ME
MY SOAP, THE COMEDIAN
SNOWMAN SHOPPING TRIP
THE CAFETERIA COW
UNDERGROUND ASTRONAUT

Changing Expectations: this technique has some overlap with Odd Pairings. When brainstorming Changing Expectations, you use animal, professions, and objects and think of where you’d expect to find them or how they would act and turn the expectation upside down. Most of us assume an elephant would be large, clumsy and prone to stampeding first and asking questions second. But what if you change the expectation and imagine an elephant that is graceful and delicate. You have yourself an elephant ballerina and world of story possibilities.

Here are some more:
A gargoyle afraid of heights (sorry, already taken in my series GRAHAM THE GARGOYLE)
A noisy Bigfoot
An angry butterfly
A very well-spoken caveman
A vampire who wants to be a lifeguard (Sorry again, already used that in NORTON THE VAMPIRE)
A mummy who flies

The final idea generator is Randomizing. This was shared with me by a couple of cartoonists who like to get together and use Pictionary cards to help them generate story ideas. That’s exactly what you do. You randomly draw three Pictionary cards and select three or four ideas and string them together to form a story. It’s a lot of fun and is actually another use for Pictionary at parties, especially among the younger set who really love this.

Here’s how it works:
I select scarecrow, race cars and trophy from the Pictionary cards in front of me. Inspiration strikes and I whip up the story of a scarecrow that races cars, but has a natural problem in that when the car goes too fast, he loses his straw due to the excessive winds. He has to win back a trophy to save his farm from going belly up. All the other farm animals don’t have faith in him, and he must dig deep to solve his dilemma.

You can see changing expectations and odd pairings at work in the summary of my word play novel written to inspire young writers, STOMPER REX.

WITH THE OPENING OF A HATCH that appears on his ceiling, a troubled mortal boy, Stomper, is enlisted to save the fractured land of Crawlspace and reunite the magic. Trouble comes from all directions once he sets foot in the magical world of the written word. If Stomper can master alliterations, homophones, rhymes, similes and idioms before they do him in, Crawlspace might just have a fighting chance.

STOMPER REX is a romp through a magical world of dangerous word play. In the vein of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, this whimsical fantasy is a tale with lethal homophones, alliteration gone acutely awry and a host of hideous puns let loose that will disgust and confound.

Brian Clopper is a 5th grade teacher who dreams of a day when he too can set foot on a magic ladder and ride his way into a world where when hens fly to turn back time, skewer cougars hunt for unsuspecting children to shish kabob and boxing slugs engage in the rowdy gentleman’s sport of slimy fisticuffs.

Skewer cougars and boxing slugs are odd pairings, while when hens are a changing expectation. Who would think that riding atop a flock of harmless-looking birds would allow you to travel back in time? It’s all part of the magic that makes the world of Crawlspace come alive.

Odd pairings, Changing Expectations and randomizing are excellent ways to fill up your idea journal with tons of story possibilities. So what are you waiting for, get off your tuckus and get creating. There’s a zebra plumber or an ornery unicorn waiting for you to bring them to life.

Just so you know, I loaded a new book, STOMPER REX, onto the Kindle and Nook. It’s a perfect book to engage young writers with how to improve their writing using a variety of narrative techniques. Piers Anthony sung its praises, as he has all five books I’ve sent him over the years, in his most recent newsletter. I’m so proud of what he said, I just feel compelled to share it with you.

“I read Stomper Rex, by Brian Clopper. Bradford, nicknamed Stomper, is a fifth grader who has issues at school. He lives with his mother, his father having walked out. His mother is understanding but firm about his need to shape up. She gets him a tutor, Wanda, a teen girl he has a crush on, so he does pay attention as she reviews the material. This setting is competent, as the author is a fifth grade teacher; the secondary characters are well rounded. Then two odd men descend from his bedroom ceiling to take him to a fantasy land where he is needed. They are Ruffloon and Strivelwunk, who put him on a ladder which then flies into the land of Crawlspace, where there are many monsters, and much of the magic is made by figures of speech. Yes, the very thing he is having trouble with in school. I suspect this novel was a female dog to write, because coming up with relevant figures of speech when you need them can be a challenge, as I have found in my own writing. For example, when he is threatened by multiple snakes, he says “Fake snake!” and they merge into one pretend snake. That’s pretty simple, but others aren’t, such as “Try knocking loose those lox.” That’s homophone magic to make locks give way. It seems he has been summoned to defeat the cruel mistress of this realm, Stigma, a girl who visited but then decided to stay and rule, and they need to be rid of her. They have many adventures, requiring different figures of speech. Naturally there’s a climactic showdown, and strange things happen as they fight with whatever figures of speech they can think of under pressure. This novel represents a kind of course in figures of speech, and fifth graders who read it will surely develop a better understanding and possibly become better students. That may be the hidden agenda. This author continues to be a writer who deserves better attention in the literary world; this novel is anything but mindless.”

 

Story Starter Tuesday

Today is my son’s birthday!  So, in honor of his special day, I thought we could have some fun with a birthday themed storystarter.  I asked the birthday kid to help me out and here is the story he wanted us to tell:

story starter

I just had the most crazy birthday party EVER!  My parents took me out to dinner and on the way home they were acting sort of funny.  As we pulled up to the house, I started to suspect something was up.  We walked up the front steps and my parents hung back a little.  ”Go on,” they said. “Open the door.”  So I reached out and twisted the doorknob, pulling it open with a jerk.   “Surprise!”

Boy was I surprised!  You will never guess what happened next.

 

How does your story end?  Birthday boy here says his story includes a portal to another world!  Leave a comment and tell us what awesome thing happened in your own story.