On the Same Page with Betsy Bird

Betsy Bird is the New York Public Library's Youth Materials Specialist. Her domain covers Manhattan, Bronx, and Brooklyn. She oversees 84 library branches, a territory that encompasses 1.1 million children. In addition, for the School Library Journal, Betsy writes a well-known and popular blog, officially called, "A Fuse #8 Production," or fusenumber8@gmail.com; and reviews children's literature for The New York Times and Kirkus. I met Betsy and learned about her work at the Highlights Foundation workshop, "Books that Rise Above," last October.

Proof of the Pudding

In addition to Betsy's fiction book, Giant Dance Party, she has written a definitive guide, Children's Literature Gems: Choosing and Using Them in Your Library Career. Due to Betsy's extensive knowledge, she is one of the most important "go-to" authorities for the finest children's books. Gems includes several lists of recommended titles, including a list that contains 100 children's books that should be included in every library's collection. And in a style that is Betsy's alone, this list wouldn't be complete without what she calls her "Snarky Annotations." In her commentary, it was gratifying to read that, like Patti Lee Gauch, Betsy has a healthy appreciation for "schlock," such as the Choose Your Own Adventure novels and comic books, as well as for great children's literature. My sentiments, exactly.

Herein is proof of how much children love the books Betsy recommends. On a recent family visit, I brought along Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead, by Rebecca L. Johnson, to give to their sons, ages 8 and 15. Some titillating details from Betsy's review of Zombie Makers, which can be found by looking up the second review of Zombie Makers on Amazon.com, " . . . zombies are real. Not in the corpse-walker sense, necessarily, but in nature there are plenty of creatures willing to make others into their mindless slaves." In the review, she went on to give examples from the book, which are indeed harrowing, in the best sense of the word.

After school the next day, while the eight-year-old was busy, the 15-year-old took one look at Zombie Makers, sat down on the couch and began devouring it. I was sitting nearby reading my own book, but soon gave up. He got so excited that he kept stopping me to read each page and show me the pictures. Needless to say, I was delighted that he enjoyed the book so much. That night I saw the book peeking out from underneath the couch. Sure enough, the next day after school he made sure his
brother wasn't around, pulled the book out, and continued to pour over it. At the workshop, Betsy described Zombie Makers as gross, just the kind of information kids love. She even called Old Yeller a zombie book because, and this is an exact quote, "rabies is a zombie disease." Alas, Zombie Makers wasn't the first book Betsy discussed. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story about Brain Science, by John Fleishman, was. About Phineas Gage, Betsy said in her review that appears second-in-line on Amazon.com, "By and large, nonfiction titles are the hardest ones to sell to kids . . . if you hold  . . . an item that contains actual FACTS . . . usually you're up a crik. Not in the case of Phineas Gage. This book is so chock full of blood, splattered brains, busted skulls, and other goopy beginnings . . ." Well, you can see where this is headed.

The Core Curriculum

During her talk, Betsy stressed that the current future of school curriculum is in nonfiction, in order to prepare students for college and the workplace. Of course, fiction will always have its place, Best explained in a December 4, 2012 article from The Uncommon Corps blog: "No one officially connected to the Core Standards is suggesting in print or otherwise that novels are dead, that literature shouldn't be taught. But, literary nonfiction is also literature." Thus, Betsy made the point that we as children's writers need to write more nonfiction. Period.

Fine, but what does that mean for children's authors beyond researching and writing about a topic? And what is the Core Curriculum, anyway? Since I taught second grade from the Virginia State Standards, I understand from the ground-up how the standards are applied in the classroom. While writing this post, I pretended I was a non-teacher children's writer and looked up the websites that Betsy recommended (below), which, as she said, give excellent explanations on how the Common Core State Standards, CCSS, came about, what they are designed to do, and generally what they are. I think understanding this information is important for both fiction and nonfiction children's writers. However, the general explanations didn't help me understand what I, as a non-teacher children's writer, can put into my works to buttress the CCSS's. I would delve into this now, but feel that this subject is worth more study and reflection so that I can offer you first-hand information from my personal resources that hopefully you can use; thus, a matter worthy of a later post(s).

Betsy's annotated suggestions of recommended CCSS websites:
Betsy's 2012 children's nonfiction titles that she really likes: Chuck Close: Face Book by Chuck Close; A Black Hole is Not a Hole, by Carolyn Cinami DeCristofano; Zombie Makers: True Stories of Nature's Undead, by Rebecca L. Johnson; The Great Molasses Flood, by Deborah Kops; How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti; Wisdom: The Midway Albatross, by Darcy Pattison; and It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw, by Don Tate.

Betsy's take-away: Betsy's blog readers, "authors, editors, book sellers, agents and moms . . . seem . . .  enthralled by the meticulous scrutiny of plots and story lines that her reviews deliver, usually with a biting wit." A quote from Dirk Smillie's article on Forbes blog, The Double Life of Betsy Bird. My take-away: I have added this very special go-to source to my old stand-by's, for some of the best advice on children's literature out there.

If you would like to read past posts in this series, please visit:

Part One: Two Ways to Hook and Keep Your Reader
Part Two: Nouns Need to be Concrete and Appear More than Once
Part Three: Tent Pole Structure
Part Four: Leonard Marcus: Maurice Sendak, Storyteller and Artist
Part Five: Leonard Marcus: Let the Wild Rumpus Start
Part Six: Behind the Scenes with Deborah Heiligman
Part Seven: Deborah Heiligman's Casual Scream

Biography of Betsy Bird
Biography of Betsy Bird at Goodreads
An interview with Betsy Bird
The Double Life of Betsy Bird, by Dirk Smillie, on Forbes Blog

Grand Finale in September: Concluding Thoughts with Patti Lee Gauch
                                                 A list of some of the presenters' favorite books

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 40 articles for children and adults, six short stories for children, and is in the final editing stages of her first book, a mystery story for 7-9 year olds. Publishing credits include seven biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; Pockets; Hopscotch; and true stories told to her by police officers about children in distress receiving teddy bears, which she fictionalized for her column, "Teddy Bear Corner," for the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office Crime Prevention Newsletter, Dayton, Ohio.  Follow Linda on Facebook.

Growing a Writing Career

Beginning a writing career is like planting a garden. It takes time and patience. Depending on the crop, the harvest can be from a few weeks to months away.

When planting a garden, you first have to pick out a spot with the right conditions for optimum growth.
  • Do you have a spot for writing? A desk, calendar, file cabinet, computer, and anything else you need to grow as a writer? Having a place that feels professional really makes a difference. You can write anywhere, but in order to get yourself thinking in terms of making money, a corner in the house with all the proper tools will give you a place for your writing business.
Next, preparation - working up the soil and amending if necessary. 
  • What do you want to write? You may have many ideas. Choose one you know the most about. If you are a mother, you may have great ideas to submit to a parenting magazine. If you have fond childhood memories spending summers in Maine with your grandfather and his lobster business, you may want to write a children's book. Dig deeply and think about what's in your heart. It won't limit your ideas, but it will give you a place to start.
Time to plant! The seeds or plants have to be selected.
  • Do you have goals? You have to know what you want to plant in your garden. Once you choose what you want to write, make a goal by the end of this year so you will have a harvest. If you want to write for magazines, perhaps your goal is to have 3 articles written and submitted. If you want to write a children's book, perhaps your goal is to have a rough draft completed. 
Watering, weeding, and fertilizing.
  • Do you have a writing schedule in place? A garden will flourish with proper care. If you don't select the days and times you will write, chances are your writing will be sporadic (watering) and your business won't grow. If it doesn't get done, you won't make money. There is a tendency to over schedule. You will know if you do. Just eliminate (weed) the days or  hours out of your schedule that are stifling your success. It's better to schedule 3 hours a week and stick with it than to schedule 6 hours and miss the mark.  
Your schedule will include weekly objectives (fertilize) to meet your goal:
  1.  Network with other writers and authors. Here you will find support, suggestions, and  guidance to help you know what books to read or classes to take for your style or genre.
  2.  Research your topic. If you're writing historical fiction, you have to be accurate about the  history. If you're writing an article for a magazine, you have to become familiar with the magazine and  writer's guidelines.
  3.  Build your platform. This is included with networking with other writers, but it also includes  having a blog or website. Who you are and what you write about will be reflected in your site.
  4.  Write. This is the actual writing you will do on your project. Are you a morning person or night  owl? What time or day works for you? 
  5.  Prioritize. You are starting a business. You have to take it seriously and your family and friends  have to take it seriously. Unless it's an emergency, treat your schedule as if you were going to a job  outside your home. Would you be able to leave work to help someone? Make it a priority to decide  when and if you will forgo your work schedule. 
  6.  Submit and Query. I know many beginning writers who have not taken the next step of submitting  or querying their work. What good is a garden if you don't pick the produce? Fear of rejection, lack  of confidence, or low self-esteem are all possible reasons. You have to take some risks to be  successful.  It's like  pruning. When you snip a plant in the right places, the promise is better growth.
  7. Patience. If you've planted a garden, you know it requires patience. The harvest is weeks or months away. I am just picking ripe tomatoes that I planted in May. I have a hydrangea that I've babied along for 3 years and just saw some buds. But then there are the radishes and  green beans that seemed to grow overnight. 
When I became serious about freelance writing, I had so many ideas I didn't know where to begin. I have 2-3 book ideas, but I also knew I wanted to make money as a writer in the very near future. Do I write resumes? Do I write for local publications? Do I take a course and get some credentials under my belt? I had to start organizing my thoughts since I was overwhelmed with information. Then it hit me - writing short pieces was a better fit for me than a book. So the book ideas are currently set aside for now, and I am regularly working on submitting to magazines. The book ideas will eventually be scheduled in. 

Where are you in your writing career? If you're just beginning, you may have lots of ideas to write about. But if you don't plant those ideas and keep to a regular schedule each week, you won't have a successful harvest.

Go for it! You have something to offer the world.


Kathy Moulton is a published freelance writer. You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -http://kathleenmoulton.com

You're an Amateur Writer If

All writers want to look like experienced, sophisticated writers. We all rush to get that first draft down on paper, but then comes the time to self-edit and rewrite our manuscripts. There lies your opportunity to slow down, have another cup of coffee, and spruce up that first draft.
            The following points are things you might want to avoid because they make you appear like an amateur or a weak writer:
            1. Avoid the use of -ing and as constructions. They can sometimes make two
                actions seem simultaneous when they are physically impossible.

                Example:  Rushing into the house, I put on a fresh blouse and skirt.
                Should be written:  I rushed into the house and put on a fresh blouse
                                                and skirt.

                Example:  As I put the kettle on the stove, I turned to face him.
                Should be written:  I put the kettle on the stove and turned to face him.

   If you just have to use that -ing phrase, try putting it in the middle of the sentence.
   Then it is less conspicuous.

            2.  Avoid the use of clichés. I do not even have to explain this one. There is nothing,
                 in my opinion, that will make you look more like a weak or amateur writer
                 than this.

            3.  And then there is the adverb, the -ly word. This, I have to admit, is one of my
                 biggest downfalls. I love them, so I struggle with myself to get rid of them.
                 Now do not get me wrong. An occasional one can be forgiven. When you use
                 a weak verb and an adverb, you are using two weak words in place of one strong
                 Example:  Angrily she shut the door behind her.
                 Should be written:  She slammed the door behind her.

                 Now there can be an exception to the rule for the sake of affect.

                 Example:  She kissed him--slowly, longingly.

            4.  Avoid a lot of short sentences. Try stringing some of them together with a
                 comma. Just do not overdo it.
                 Example:  “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”
                 Should be written:  “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.”

            5.  Using a lot of italics and exclamation marks should be used only to convey
                 your character is shouting. Otherwise, the writer appears very insecure. Just
                 let the dialogue and description convey all the emotion needed.

            6.  Another stylistic device that can make a writer come across as an amateur is
                 flowery, poetic figures of speech or metaphors.

            7.  Are your sex scenes too explicit? You may want to leave a certain amount
                 of details left to your readers’ imagination. They do quite well with this, you
                 know. No heavy breathing, please.

            8.  Profanity has been so over used that it no longer has any shock value and
                 can turn your reader off. Now if it is a characteristic of your character, then
                 by all means use it. Otherwise, it is simply a sign of a small vocabulary.

Faye M. Tollison
Author of:  To Tell the Truth
Upcoming books:  The Bible Murders
                              Sarah’s Secret
Member of:  Sisters in Crime
                     Writers on the Move

And End of Summer Writing Prompt

At a loss for what to write for this month’s blog post, I finally settled on a post about a writing prompt. 

We just returned from a weekend away, to attend a family wedding. It was also a visit to our past.

We drove by former homes and schools.We wondered what was still there, what had been torn down, and what had changed.We did see some differences, but everything looked in good shape.

We ate at two old haunts. One was a pizza place, the other was a locally owned ice cream store. Pizza and chocolate ice cream – two of my favorites!

A family cookout was held Friday night, for those not involved in the wedding. Swimming was also part of the evening, but the water was too cold – for August. No one would have guessed this when plans were made. However, the kids went swimming, while the adults watched.  

Some new stores had opened, some old ones were still in business, either in the same location or a different one, and some had closed. The public library had also undergone a transformation that included an expansion for each department.

The wedding was held in an old country church that had been attended by generations of relatives. Next to it is a cemetery, where they were buried years ago. We paid them a visit. 

Getting together with long-time friends, for food, fellowship and fun, capped off the weekend. 

What a trip down memory lane.

Write a story about your childhood or your early adult years.You may include a favorite restaurant, an event from school or a memory about a house you lived in years ago. Perhaps you could write about a much loved relative or a family gathering.What feelings do these memories bring back? I hope you feel inspired and are able to add something to a WIP or begin something new.

Debbie A. Byrne has a B.S. in Mass Communication with a minor in History. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and is working on her first children’s book.

Nurturing a Writer

Summer is winding down in Chicago.  Schools are beginning to welcome back their students.  Street festivals and concerts in the park are dwindling.  I’m gearing up for the numerous activities that kick into my life in the fall, but wait…what happened to summer vacation?  What happen to rest, relaxation and a little fun?  Somehow, I let life get in the way. Fortunately, it’s never too late for a little self-pampering.  While I’m at it, I’m going to nurture the writer in me.

Here’s what I’m putting on my list…

·         A day at the beach with a chair, sunscreen and a trashy novel
·         An evening talking with an old friend
·         A Sunday afternoon with a good book
·         An hour with a notebook to write nothing in particular and see what happens
·         Good coffee and chocolate
·         A picnic in the park with a jazz concert
·         A visit with the Jellies at the aquarium
·         Hmmm…I think I could go on and on.

I may have rushed through summer, but it’s never too late to rest, recharge and become inspired.  What about you?  Do you have some end of the season pampering for the writer in you?

Mary Jo Guglielmo is writer and intuitive life coach who helps clients live their true north.  For more information check out  www.donorth.biz   or folllow her at:


Don't Talk to Me -- Show Me!

     "Don't talk of love! Show me!" sings Eliza in My Fair Lady. That comment could come from readers too.

Dialogue is often a challenge for writers, yet it is so important, whether you're writing a modern or historical novel, or a non-fiction anecdote. As the writer, you want your reader to see your characters as people living in a real world. One way to do this is to show the reader the scene, not just tell them the spoken words.

Next time someone tells you a story, concentrate on your own reactions. You'll find you don't just hear the words. You see the expression on the speaker's face, and you're aware of others in the room. You notice what they do with their hands and whether they look at you directly or avoid your eyes. In fact, if the story goes on too long, you may have difficulty even concentrating on what they're trying to tell you.

Don't just give your reader the words. Give them enough information that they can picture the entire scene, not just the speaker.

Let's say I want to show my reader that the neighbour across the road from my main character is an interfering old lady. I decide to use dialogue to make the point. I could say,

The old lady from across the road came in the door and said, "I just popped across to bring you this little pot of jam. I was given two, and you know, I hardly ever use it. I also wondered if you were aware that the children are playing outside in their school uniforms? They are climbing the mulberry trees in the front yard and they could tear them. Besides, those white shirts must be so difficult to get clean. And what a cute little boy this is."

How boring is that? You know what she said, but that's about all. How about . . .


     Marsha wiped the last of the egg yolk from Bobby's face and hands as her neighbour walked uninvited through the front door and into the room. "Hello, Mrs. Cartwright. What can I do for you?"

     "I just popped across to bring you this little pot of jam. I was given two, and you know, with living alone, I hardly ever use it. I'm sure with all your children you use lots of jam for sandwiches and things." The old lady glanced around the untidy room with a look of disapproval written across her lined face.
     "Thank you so much. Please put it down on the table." Marsha handed the little boy a plastic cup of milk and waited for the real reason for her neighbour's visit. She had only lived across the road from Mrs. Millicent Cartwright for just over a month, but she knew there was a better reason than a pot of jam.

     “Dear—I wondered if you were aware that the children are playing outside in their school uniforms? They are climbing the mulberry trees again, and I thought you should know." Marsha rescued the cup of milk from being turned upside down and placed it on the nearby counter. "Those white shirts must be so difficult to get clean," the old lady continued. She reached out and patted Bobby on the cheek, then pulled her hand back in alarm as the toddler swung his head round and opened his mouth.

     "Oh, my goodness! Does he bite?"

     "No, Mrs. Cartwright. Not usually." Not unless silly old ladies pat him on the cheek when he's stuck in his high chair and can't escape. "Thank you for being concerned about the children's shirts." Marsha lifted the little boy from his high-chair. "I told the twins they could pick me some mulberries before going for a bath. Their shirts are already dirty."

     She hid a smile as the old lady stepped back hastily to avoid Bobby as he raced past her on unsteady legs to see what the twins were up to.

Better? Hopefully you not only know what the old lady had to say, but you have learned more about her and her relations with the family across the road.

So next time you want to share some dialogue with your reader, "Don't talk of whatever--show them!"

OVER TO YOU: What action in the above excerpt drew you into the story the most? Please respond in the comment section.

SHIRLEY CORDER  lives a short walk from the seaside in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, with her husband Rob. She is author of Strength Renewed: Meditations for your Journey through Breast Cancer. Shirley is also contributing author to ten other books and has published hundreds of devotions and articles internationally. 

Visit Shirley on her website to inspire and encourage writers, or on Rise and Soar, her website for encouraging those on the cancer journey. 

Follow her on Twitter or "like" her Author's page on Facebook, and now that she has a GPS, she may even follow you back.

Website Hosting - A Bluehost Back to School Special You Don’t Want to Miss

Everyone who wants to sell a service or product or who simply wants a place to voice their thoughts and opinions needs a website. This includes authors, writers, and marketers.

While websites come from a number of sources, free and paid for, it’s the ones with paid hosting that offers the greatest support and freedom.

I don't usually make a promo post, but I use Bluehost for all my website hosting needs and I appreciate their service so much, I’m an affiliate for them.

Being an affiliate, I learn of new deals and pricing AND from August 19th through August 25th, Bluehost is having a SUPER SPECIAL:

12 months - $5.95/mo
24 months - $4.95/mo
36 months - $3.95/mo (best option)

This is an amazing offer.

So, if you’ve been procrastinating about signing up with a hosting service, or if you’re new to the writing and marketing arena, you should absolutely take advantage of this special pricing.

If you’re not sure what some of the difference are between free hosting and paid hosting, let me explain.

Free hosting comes from services, like Blogger.com and Weebly.com. They do provide some useful features, but they are lacking compared to paid services, like Bluehost.

For example, with Blogger you don’t have the ability to optimize your images and you’re limited to 10 pages per site. When it comes to SEO, this is a big deal.

With Weebly, you are only allowed up to six pages per site.

With Bluehost, you can create as many pages as you want on your site. And, there are unlimited domains on ONE account. This means if you sign-up with Bluehost, you can create as many websites (with different domain names) as you like. I currently have about 10 sites.

In addition, free services don’t have support if something goes wrong with your site. Or, if they do, it’s a pain-in-the-neck: difficult to find, difficult to navigate and difficult to get prompt answers. I've just been through this with Blogger.

One of the other BIG differences between the two is Google loves WordPress and most free sites don't support it. This will also affect your SEO efforts.

This folks, is a no-brainer. If you need a website this is the time to get it. If you choose the 36 month plan, you pay only $3.95 per month!


Still not sure?

To make this special offer even better, if you order through me, I’ll add in Create Your Author-Writer Online Platform eCourse Option No.1. You can check it out at: http://www.karencioffi.com/author-online-platform-ecourse/ (scroll down to the Options section). It's a $67 value!

Just send me your receipt. I’ll verify it with Bluehost and then send you your bonus ecourse!

SIMPLY CLICK ON THE IMAGE BELOW (Although it says $6.95, once you click on the image you'll be brought to the $3.95 page)


While you're here, please sign up for The Writing World (top right sidebar).

Create an MP3 Podcast - The NO Frills No Cost Way Using Audacity


TITLE: Create an MP3 Podcast - The NO Frills No Cost Way Using Audacity
DAY: Friday, August 23, 2013
DURATION: 30-60 minutes


Want to get a simple MP3 audio up on your site?

If you don’t already have one, you should. Marketing studies show that people love video and audio.

Using multiple formats to communicate reaches people on various levels. This means your message is hitting a broader target.

I’ve procrastinated for quite a while before getting to it and creating my own MP3s. And, if I can do it, anyone can.

Since I don’t have much time, just like you, I took the NO frills, No fuss way to get a podcast up quick and simple. And, at NO cost.

This webinar will show, in 20 steps, how I create the podcasts I use for my website introductions. It includes uploading the finished MP3 audio into your website’s Library and getting it onto your sidebar or page.

And, again, it’s at NO cost to create!

Invest 45 to 60 minutes of your time to see how easy it is. I’ll be using screen-sharing and creating a podcast while you watch.

REGISTRATION FORM URL: http://www.anymeeting.com/PIID=E958DE84814E3B

Sign up today!

NOTE: All registrants, if not already a subscriber, will be added to The Writing World's email list.

I hope to see you there,

Finding Real Writing Jobs

by Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer's Coach

If you want to make a living as a freelance writer today, you may wonder how you go about finding real writing jobs or how to write for money.

real writing jobs

The good news is, there are more ways than EVER to make money as a freelance writer. And, to me, a real writing job is simply one that pays well for the materials written.

But as you're trying to develop your own freelance writing career, here's one tip to remember - don't expect to create a career you'll LOVE by doing things you HATE to do.

For example, do you hate cold calling?

If so, then I don't care how successful OTHER writers are at this, you'll probably NEVER build the freelance writing career of your dreams by making cold calls to businesses to see if they have some freelance work you could do for them.

Instead, think of other creative ways to build your career.

Here are just a few real writing jobs you should be able to find without making cold calls:

1. Start out writing for no-pay, low-pay publications. You'll find many of these markets in your own backyard. Others you'll find through online job boards.

2. Next, move up from the small local publications to regional publications (which are just a bit bigger and pay just a bit better). You'll gain experience with editors while you build your writing skills and your clips file (publication credits) as you're earning a few bucks.

3. If you wish to write for local businesses, join your local business association and become an active member. Get to know the other members and network with them so they know exactly what you can do for them.

Don't stop with just one group, join several local business groups, so you get to know many small business professionals in your area.

4. Join a group of other working freelance writers. You can network with these other writers to find writing jobs. I've gotten several book contracts this way.

5. Think "outside the box" a little when it comes to the types of things you will consider writing on assignment. If you actively network with other "working" writers and you actively search online job boards regularly, you should be able to find assignments in any or all of these areas:

Item writing for educational publishers
Resume writing for individuals
Creating Artists' Statements
Writing Press Releases for small businesses, authors, etc.
Writing Adaptations (of fairy tales and folk tales) for mass market publishers
Ghost Writing (books and short stories for businesses and individuals)
Writing Product Reviews
Writing Book Reviews
Writing Site Reviews
Creating Entries for Online Encyclopedias
Writing Articles for Trade Magazines
Blogging for businesses
Creating White Papers & Case Studies

This list can go on and on.

Also, start creating your own information products for a specific target niche. My target niche just happens to be other writers (since I'm a writing coach), but your target market could be something entirely different.

The main thing is not to WAIT for the perfect freelance writing career to fall in your lap. It won't. You have to build your own business, one step at a time. But fortunately, that isn't difficult to do in today's busy world.

Try it!


Suzanne Lieurance is an author, freelance writer, a certified professional life coach and writing coach, speaker and workshop presenter. She lives and writes by the sea in Jensen Beach, Florida. Find out how she can coach you to the writing career of your dreams at www.workingwriterscoach.com.

Dialog that Delivers

Dialog is such an integral part of writing and when it's good
your writing soars,
so when it is bad,
well let's just say
it does the opposite.

Here's ten tips to keep your dialog from sounding false, too formal or flat.

1. Listen: You will often find me at the local malls or in coffee shops listening to people and writing down snippets of conversations. Why? I find it's the best way for me to review exactly how people talk.  

2. Read your dialog out loud: If you read your dialog out loud and it sounds stiff you know you've got it wrong. Easy fix: check your dialog and use contractions whenever possible. Most of us speak using contractions and shorter sentences.

3. Don't talk too much: Keep your dialog short and snappy and you'll find you keep your readers happy. Long passages of dialog are difficult to read.

4. Break up dialog with action: To prevent talking too much, break up dialog with action. Have your character sit, stand, stretch or do yoga poses. Have them carry, settle, sigh and lean. Have them do anything that will keep your reader interested. 

5. Don't use dialog to tell info already known: Pet peeve  #1 is dialog that tells the reader a lot of stuff that the other character should know already. For example: "Remember how last year when we went to the cabin and we sat on the porch. How the lake looked so calm and then the storm rose and a tornado took the house next door completely away? The whole building gone, just like that. I'd never been so frightened in my life. You said you hadn't either."Dialog might not be the way to give your reader all that information. In fact, I'm sure it isn't.

6. Don't overdo unique tags: Readers tend to skip right over he said/she said, which is a good thing. They stop long enough to get their bearings, but are not distracted. Overdoing unique tags brings focus to the tags and away from your dialog. Use sparingly: questioned, asked, inquired, squealed, squeaked, spoke, snarled, stammered, etc. 

7. Cut out unnecessary responses: I know you say, "Hello," and then your friend says, "Hello." Or you say, "Do you want coffee?" and your spouse says, "Yes," but in dialog you can often refrain from using "hello," "goodbye," "Yes, and "No." Instead, keep the dialog and action moving.

8. People argue: Yes, that's what happens in conversations. People argue and try to get their point across and insist they are right. This creates conflict. Conflict is good. Use it in your dialog whenever you can.

9. Create distinct voices: Work to distinguish all your characters by their voices. You can do this with word choice, the order in which words are spoken or by using dialect. Word of advice: go easy on dialect. A word or two is all that is necessary to let us know they are Scottish, French or from The South.

10. Finally, punctuate correctly: 
"I'm sure that's not what happened," she said. Comma inside the final quote, lower case "s" on she. "I'm sure that's not what happened." She rose. Period inside the final quote and upper case "S" on she. 
"I'm sure that's not what happened!" she said. Exclamation inside quote, and lower case "s" on she.
"I'm sure that's not what happened!" She rose. Exclamation inside quote, and upper case "S" on she.
"I'm sure that's not what happened," she said, "at least that's not how I remember it." When the sentence continues, use commas inside final quotes and after "said." 
Use single quotes inside double quotes if you are quoting someone else within the quote. 

Keep these tips in mind and you'll find yourself writing dialog that rocks your reader's world!

D. Jean Quarles is a writer of Women's Fiction and a co-author of a Young Adult Science Fiction Series. Her latest book, Flight from the Water Planet, Book 1 of The Exodus Series was written with coauthor, Austine Etcheverry.

D. Jean loves to tell stories of personal growth – where success has nothing to do with money or fame, but of living life to the fullest. She is also the author of the novels: Rocky's Mountains, Fire in the Hole and, Perception. The Mermaid, an award winning short story was published in the anthology, Tales from a Sweltering City.

She is a wife, mother, grandmother and business coach. In her free time . . . ha! ha! ha! Anyway, you can find more about D. Jean Quarles, her writing and her books at her website at www.djeanquarles.com

You can also follower her at www.djeanquarles.blogspot.com or on Facebook

Interview with Author LeeAnna Kail

We want to thank LeeAnna Kail for letting me interview her for the blog today. Ever since LeeAnna Kail was little, she had an interest in writing. In fact, when she was in the fourth grade, she completed a career project and dressed as an author with dreams of writing her own book one day.

LeeAnna attended Duquesne University with a double major in political science and English with intentions of attending law school after graduation. While studying abroad in Rome, Italy, LeeAnna had a change of heart and decided to continue her education at Duquesne studying elementary education instead. She knew she found her niche the first day of class. Inspired by an assignment from a children’s literature course, LeeAnna's dream of writing a book has come true.

LeeAnna currently teaches in Pittsburgh and hopes to be an inspiration to her students to follow their dreams.

LeeAnna, can you share some writing experiences with us?

In college, anytime I wrote a paper, which was many of them since I English was one of my majors, I always listened to the band, The Fray. I would sit at my desk with headphones in and just type. I ALWAYS waited until the last minute to turn my papers in. I am a procrastinator who works best under pressure and I would get in my zone with The Fray and just write. I got a lot of As on my papers.

What are some of the things that have influenced/inspired your writing?

My dad, who published a children’s novel last November, has been a major influence on my writing. Growing up, he would always help me with my papers. Because of that, I adopted some of his writing techniques. I used writing in my everyday life, whether it was a paper or diary entry. Writing was an outlet for me.

It has been my experience, some things come quite easily (like creating the setting) and other things aren’t so easy (like deciding on a title). What comes easily to you and what do you find more difficult? 

The hardest part for me is starting. I needed to find inspiration to start my story and it didn’t come for many weeks. Once I had my idea, I then had difficult of discovering the problem. I thought, “Okay, if an owl can’t ‘WHOO,’ what else could it say? Why would it need to say those things?” So, coming up with the main parts of the plot was difficult.

The easy part for me was the title. I think a title says a lot about a book and I had that right away. I knew what I wanted it the main idea to be.
Please describe to us your relationship between you and your editor. What makes an author/editor relationship a success?

An author/editor relationship requires patience and understanding. The author has to remove any kind of feeling from the book and realize that though the author may be good with words, the editor knows the way in which they flow the best. My editor did a wonderful job of taking out the “telling” I was doing in the story. She did however; take out my favorite part in the story where the bullies end up coming to Ollie for him to teach them his cool words. I think that is such a special moment, and I just couldn’t get rid of it.
When they write your obituary, what do you hope they will say about your books and writing? What do you hope they will say about you?

I hope they will say that I used my book (hopefully books at the time) for good. This past year, I did a fundraiser with my dad that had all the proceeds of our books go to a child suffering from cancer at my school. For my book signings elsewhere, a portion of the proceeds go to Make a Wish Foundation. I didn’t write this story to make money off it, it just sort of happened because of a class. Fate has a funny way of happening. Because of that, I want especially to use my book for good.

I hope they say that I loved deeply and showed others to accept themselves.
Is there any particular book when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?

There are so many! As a teacher, I’m constantly reading children’s books. I especially love “The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs.”

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, how did you ‘cure’ it?

Of course! Who hasn’t! I have several techniques of overcoming this monster: take a walk, grab a snack, plug in my headphones with The Fray blaring, bounce ideas off others, or revisit it the next day.

What type of books do you mostly write?

I especially love children’s literature books, although I have many unpublished poems.

Who or what inspires your characters and/or plots?

Random things at random times.

Tell us about your writing space.

It depends on the year. I have a Macbook. The places I go with it are endless!

Is there anything you'd go back and do differently now that you have been published, in regards to your writing career? 

No. Everything happens for a reason!

Do you do first drafts on a computer or by hand?

By hand! The art of handwriting has sadly decreased with the amazing technology in the world today. I am one who needs to write things down though.

How do you see the future of book publishing, both traditional, electronic and print on demand?

Well, two years ago, I went to King of Prussia Mall. All I wanted to purchase was the Hunger Games series. After an hour of searching for a bookstore, I ended up calling the information desk. Would you believe that they do not have a book store in that GIANT mall?! I was so upset. I am one who LOVES the smell of the paper, the feel of turning to the next page, and the feeling of accomplishment after physically seeing the book you just read.

With that said, I think there is an inevitable decline of a traditional book. Until then, I will continue to support the local libraries and bookstores.

What advice would you give to a new writer?

Keep writing! Believe in yourself and your work.


You can find out more about LeeAnna Kail, her debut children’s picture book and her World of Ink Author/Book Tour at http://tinyurl.com/n5bul86

Follow LeeAnna Kail at
Twitter: @LA_Kail

“Join Ollie on his adventure in searching for his sister and learning the significance of being different.”

About the Book:
Ollie is known for one thing in his village: he is the only owl who cannot “WHOO.” The other owls tease him for saying “WHEERE!” or “WHEEN!” or “WHYY!” and sometimes “WHAAT!” All Ollie wants is to fit in, but when his little sister gets lost in the woods, Ollie discovers he can help.

While providing insightful perspectives on diversity, The OWL Who Couldn’t WHOO offers educators, libraries, parents and young readers a fresh new look on anti-bullying and self-confidence.

Title of Book: The Owl Who Couldn’t WHOO
Publisher: Halo Publishing, Int.
ISBN Number(s): 978-1-61244-129-0
Genre of Book: Children’s picture book
Publication Date: Feb. 2013

Places where available: Halopublishing.com, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, by author

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