Showing posts with label stories for children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stories for children. Show all posts

Writing Habit & Tips with Maggie Lyons

I’ve been reading about the writing habits of famous authors and feeling amazingly out of it because I don’t have any extraordinary or weird practices. All I do to warm up is jump on a vine and swing across the creek outside my house while scoffing down a blood pudding. Okay, I know some may think the blood pudding a bit weird, but in Britain, where I was born, this is standard fare—well, almost. At least it’s not a drug like the Benzedrine and Seconal W. H. Auden is said to have swallowed regularly during his most productive phase, along with vodka when the drugs woke him up at night. And while we’re on this subject, the literary landscape is replete with druggie writers from Elizabeth Barrett Browning and her opium to Jean-Paul Sartre and his amphetamines, which he claimed helped him to think faster. Jack Kerouac’s amphetamine binges would last for days and resulted in his famous scroll of 120 feet of taped sheets of paper that he constantly typed until he had completed On the Road.

And drugs are the least surprising of some writer’s habits. Henrik Ibsen hung a portrait of his rival August Strindberg on his wall to push himself to the limit in his writing. John Cheever admitted to writing many of his stories in his skivvies. Marcel Proust wrote in bed in a windowless room lined with cork. Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he wrote—initially in longhand—lying down, puffing a cigarette and sipping a coffee. Vladimir Nabokov wrote most of his novels on 3 x 5-inch cards, and he stood up to do it, as did Hemingway. Gertrude Stein found poetic inspiration sitting in her parked Ford.

My writing habits can’t compete with all that weirdness—apart from my warm-ups on the hanging vine, that is. I sit at a desk in a room with windows to tap my computer keyboard as I drink ginger tea. When my prose begins to overwhelm me, I grab a handy tissue. If that doesn’t work, I go for a quiet walk down a rural lane, and if that doesn’t work, I leave the country.

Writing habits can be amazingly different for each individual, but one habit that appears to be common to all successful writers is practice. Talent is 10 percent inclination and 90 percent hard work. That goes for any skill. I taught piano for years, and told my students that daily practice was the key, even if it was for ten minutes only. For writers there’s another component to practice. You not only have to devote as much time as possible to writing, you have to feed your creative neurons by reading the best authors as often as you can.  And you can make that as creative a habit as writing—sitting in your clunker waiting for the traffic to move, standing up in your skivvies in front of a portrait of your archrival … you get the idea.


Maggie Lyons is a writer and editor who was born in Wales and crossed the pond to Virginia. With no regard for the well-being of her family and neighbors, she trained as a classical pianist. Then came a career of putting rear ends on seats—that is, orchestral management, marked by reams of marketing and fundraising writing and program note scribbling for audiences many of whose first priority was to find their names in the donors’ lists. Editing for academic publishers also brought plenty of satisfaction—she admits she has a fondness for nerds—but nothing like the magic she discovered in writing fiction and nonfiction for children. Several of her articles, poetry, and a chapter book miraculously appeared in Stories for Children Magazine and knowonder! magazine. She hopes her stories encourage reluctant young readers to turn a page or two.

A twelve-year-old boy named Vin, goes on a mission—reluctantly. He doesn’t share the optimism of the knights of old who embarked on impossible missions without a doubt they’d succeed. When magnetic compost heaps, man-eating bubble baths and other disasters erupt, Vin comes close to packing in the whole ridiculous business. He calls it Operation BS, his code name for a mission to introduce his sister to a boy she has a crush on. He doesn’t want to play matchmaker, but Meg’s promise to reward him with a David Beckham autographed soccer jersey is a decisive incentive.

Get a sneak peek of the book at

Her middle-grade adventure story Vin and the Dorky Duet is available as an e-book at MuseItUp Publishing’s bookstore (MuseItYoung section), on Amazon at, and as a paperback at Halo Publishing International at

Guest Post with Sands Hetherington: How Kids Inspire Us as Writers

I am an old man and live on the edge of town with my two Saint Bernards Dudley and Maggie. Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Sacre is my first children’s book and another is coming out in the fall. And now let me cut to the chase and tell you how Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare came about.

I raised my son John as a single parent from the time he was six. I can't remember exactly: Maybe one night John wanted more story and I was tired of reading and suggested he invent a buddy to go off to sleep with. Or maybe he did it spontaneously. He was six, I think. Anyway, before I knew it, John came up with this red crocodile named Crosley. I was duly charmed, and we started batting Crosley ideas around at night and making up episodes. Crosley got to be a real member of the family. 

In many ways the thing was ready-made for me, but I did need to figure out why on earth Crosley was red. I couldn't just dump something like that into a story without explaining. (I was determined not to leave the red part out; this was Crosley's trademark feature!)

It finally occurred to me: Crosley was red because he was allergic to water! In a roundabout way, that is. If he got any water on him, he broke out doing the Black Bottom dance and had to go on for hours and hours. Unless he took his antidote pills. These stopped the Black Bottom well enough but did have a side-effect, and you surely know what this was: they turned him red! This was fine with Crosley, though: "Not that I mind that part a bit. Cause when people see me now, they know not t' get me wet."

I give John most of the credit. He invented Crosley the red crocodile and all I did was figure out why he was red and drop the two new Night Buddies into a situation. I like to think of John as the writer and myself as the editor and rewrite man. John is thirty-two now and Crosley is obviously still a member of the family.

The second book in the series (the one coming out this fall) is called Night Buddies, Imposters, and One Far-Out Flying Machine. It features John and Crosley, is much longer, and introduces a bunch of new characters. My favorite part is the fantastic flying machine that I really can't talk about here. I hope you'll check it out, though, and thanks again for inviting me in.

Sands Hetherington

About the Book:
Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare is the first in a series featuring John, a young city kid who isn't ready for bed yet, and Crosley, a bright-red crocodile who shows up in his room to rescue him and take him on an adventure.

Night Buddies is an astonishing and inventive adventure with unforgettable cast of characters that will make you laugh and win over your heart. The book has lots of thoughtful, multi-layered twists, giggles, and perils -- things kids can relate to and enjoy. 

Publisher: Dune Buggy Press; One edition (June 1, 2012)
ISBN-10: 0984741712
ISBN-13: 978-0984741717

Get a sneak peek of the book at

About the Author: 
Sands Hetherington credits his son John for being his principal motivator. Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years. He and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro.

The World of Ink Network will be touring author Sands Hetherington’s nighttime adventure for kids, Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare published by Dune Buggy Press all through July and August 2012.

You can find out more about Sands Hetherington’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit  

Are Your Readers Kids? - Guest Post by Nicole Borgenicht

When it comes to writing for kids, age appropriate language is important. If there are too many difficult words or complicated sentences, it may deter your readers. Therefore, it is always a good idea to research the reading level first before beginning a book.

Revisions are the perfect places to expand your ideas, plot and characters with a few unique ways of saying things. If children like the story, looking up a word or rereading a sentence won’t be a problem to them.

Kids enjoy relating to the characters you write about - assuming it is a fiction story. Heroic traits are often a draw, and a fairly strong adversary, whether inner or outside or both adding conflict as fuel for the story page by page.

Art in all genres (writing/painting/music) must be designed in such a way that excites the creator, with a true understanding and interest of what the readers/viewers will also sense. If you are bored with your characters, so will they be. If you laugh aloud, so will they. Sure, you may be wrong once in a while, but only by giving into your gut shall you decree your voice and let it tell the story as you wish.

I like to exercise a lot of imagination when I write a story. At the same time, I want other people to see and accept the world I am creating, and even desire to go there with me. It is a wonderful world never before experienced, so that they walk into a new territory, and see the world from another standpoint. At the same time, readers are to wonder what will happen to the characters, and what will they say or do next. To me this is fearless story writing. The idea is to allow children to run into your story with you, and become one of the characters. At times, they may change who they want to be, or simply become an observer along with the author. But the strong pull for a young reader is to feel like they are in the story, and want to be in the time and place, in and out of it, turning pages and enjoying the journey.

It is especially important for kids to free themselves in books and engage in the fun of reading and even imagining how they may act in similar situations. In this way, we can spread compassion, intelligent decision-making and honor among our young readers.

 About the author: Nicole Borgenicht is a children's fiction writer. Her most recent picture book, The Bridge was published by Publish America. Some of Nicole's other kid's stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times Kid's Reading Room section, Stories for Children Magazine and LadyBug Flights Magazine. Additional works comprise poetry and essays, short stories, one act plays or articles in magazines such as Arts and Entertainment Skyline and American Fitness.

You can find out more about Nicole Borgenicht and her April '12 World of Ink Author/Book Tour at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Borgenicht and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to the on demand April 9th Blog Talk Radio World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at Host VS Grenier and Irene Roth chatted with Nicole Borgenicht about her recently released book "The Kids of Dandelion Township," writing, the publishing industry and experiences. Borgenicht will also shared writing tips, and trials and the tribulations of the writer’s life. (The Stories for Children show aired live, April 9, 2012 at 2pm EST.)

Lastly, come join the April '12 Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway at for your chance to win a free copy of "The Kids Dandelion Township" and two other bonus books!

Tips to Writing a Good Book with Kasey Crawford Kellem

Though I have only written the five books for my Mind Over Matter Book series, I feel pretty knowledgeable about what makes a book good. I have not only read hundreds of children’s books, but I have utilized such books in instruction when I taught younger children earlier in my career. I had my own library of books in my classroom that I had inherited from a library that closed.

The books chosen by the children to borrow often intrigued me. It seemed that the more vibrant the illustrations, the more interested the child. The simpler the message, the more captivated the reader. The more creative the graphic design was for the wording, the more engaged the reader. Most importantly, I observed that a child wouldn’t even acknowledge a book if the cover wasn’t appealing! Vibrant colors and creatively fun illustrations are a good start! A catchy title is a must! A meaning that is appropriate for your readership is vital, as well.
The best tip I have for writing a good book is to have a purpose and an audience who would gain from that purpose. My Mind Over Matter Books were written to help teach children resiliency skills. Believe, the first of the five books, teaches children to believe in themselves and their potential. The message on each page is simple and the illustrations are quite whimsical. The purpose of the book, to teach children to Believe, is not only captured in the messages on each page, but also on the cover. The size and shape of the book allow it to free stand so to serve as a decoration on any child’s shelf, nightstand or anywhere in a child’s room. Again, the purpose of the book is being exposed even with the cover.
If you have a mission to write a book, put your whole self into it and don’t cut any corners. One of the most important aspects of my book was its unique size and shape, which allowed it to free stand as a decoration. A few publishers wouldn’t touch the book just because of this! Once I found my wonderful publisher, Lisa Umina with Halo Publishing International, I had to impress upon her that I would not compromise the size and shape of the book. This took a lot of extra time and work on her end to find a printer willing and able to accommodate our needs. Thankfully, she found a printer and one of the best attributes of my book is its uniqueness! I wasn’t willing to compromise what was important to me regarding my purpose for my books and I encourage you to do the same!

Kasey Crawford Kellem, a School Counselor and former Special Education Teacher, has devoted her life to helping children facing adversity be resilient. Kasey created Mind Over Matter (M.O.M.) books to teach children skills to overcome life’s challenges. She has earned a Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree in Special Education and an Educational Specialist Degree in Counseling. She is a devoted wife, stepmother, sister, daughter, friend and counselor.

You can find out more about Kasey Crawford Kellem’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Kellem and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. You will be entered into the main the Book Giveaway each time.

In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth chatted with Kasey Crawford Kellem about her M.O.M Books, writing, helping children to be resilient and her experiences. The show aired live February 20, 2012 at 2pm EST. You can listen/call in at (714) 242-5259. (Note: if you can’t make the show, you can listen on demand at the same link.)

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours visit: 

Tips to Writing a Nonfiction Picture Book for Kids By Maryann B. Sawka, Author of “Good Table Manners Made Easy”

As we are taught in elementary school, the difference between fiction and nonfiction is quite substantial. Nonfiction is meant to inform by sharing factual information and data that educates us. Whereas fiction is meant to entertain us with stories that are built on fantasy and untrue events. At times, fiction can be based on some factual historic event or supported scientific theory, but the writers and developers of the work of fiction generally take some license as they adapt the factual information with a heavy dose of fiction to entertain us and keep us hooked on the product that they generate.

We have to admit that, at times, some works of nonfiction have been labeled as dry, boring and “too wordy,” with passages that are quite long and sometimes lose us along the way. When reading nonfiction, we often have to re-read the same sentence several times as we interpret the meaning and make the understanding our own.

The same challenges that adults may face with nonfiction are not very different than the challenges that children face when reading nonfiction in science, history and other classes at school or when learning a new topic for a book report or project. Teachers work to determine the best instructional methods that they can employ to successfully educate their students with valuable factual information.

When writing nonfiction for children, it is important to remember who your audience is so that, like a teacher, you are presenting the material in a way that is less challenging for their level of learning. That being said, nonfiction works do represent valuable information that children need to learn.

Nonfiction for children generally includes shorter passages on each page of text combined with colorful illustrations to demonstrate the concept that is being shared. The age-level of the intended audience determines the complexity of the illustrations. For younger audiences, perhaps toddler through first grade, the illustrations are rather simple with less detail and larger images. The illustrations are bright with vivid colors that are inviting to the learner. When moving upward in audience age, the illustrations become more refined with greater detail so that the intricacy of the concept is more readily understood.

In the same way that the illustrations appeal to different age groups so do the words that the author uses to convey the concept of the published work. Early in the writing process, an author determines who the intended audience is for their work. Will the book be intended as a storybook where an adult or older child will read the work to a younger child? Is it intended to be a picture book that a young child can “read” independently? The answers to these questions will provide the direction in which the author works while writing and collaborating with an illustrator and editor.

Picture books are appealing to children because they are meant to entertain while informing. In many instances, their messages or valuable pieces of information are supporting the illustrations rather than the opposite when writing for an older audience. Picture books for young children have illustrations that are large, often encompassing an entire page with short, concise and succinct text that helps to explain the illustration.

Fiction and nonfiction books for children often look very much alike until you read the title or the first few sentences. Once you have read a picture book to a young child, it is fun to ask if they think the story was real or just pretend. With so many clothed, talking animals in our picture books, young children probably wonder why their own pets don’t talk! But remember that the talking animals in their nonfiction picture books are teaching them a valuable piece of information, even if we don’t always agree with their sense of fashion.

 As an educator and parent, Maryann has always embraced the notion that good manners are stylish and timely in every situation. She founded Charming Manners, a training company that educates all ages in the quest for civility and self-confidence.  Maryann introduces good manners with a fun, engaging approach that makes the pursuit for knowledge an enjoyable experience.  She resides in southwestern Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.  Learn more at

Good Table Manners Made Easy is a quick, easy-to-read resource that teaches basic table manners in a delightful fun way. It also serves as a quick refresher for the table manners that we may have forgotten.

Get a sneak peek of the book at 

You can find out more about Maryann B. Sawka’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Sawka and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Maryann B. Sawka about her book, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. Sawka will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and the tribulations of the writer’s life.

The show will air live January 16, 2012 at 2pm EST.

Knowing Your Readership

I've recently meet a wonderful author...Camille Matthews. After chatting with her for sometime and learning more about her books and how she came into writing them, I asked if should would be willing to share her thoughts on knowing your readership. 

Then reason I asked Camille to share her thoughts on this is because I have noticed a lot of authors don't always know who their readership is. One important key to a book's successes is knowing who your reader is. This goes beyond knowing who you are writing for: children, teens, women, men, etc. You need to really understand the genre and niche. Who makes up this readership and why your book is perfect for them.
Understanding My Young Readership with Camille Matthews

Though I am new to writing books for children, I have a broad knowledge of child development due to my work as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist for many years. This body of knowledge definitely informed my creation of the Quincy the Horse Books, which have a recommended age from 5-9 years of age. 

Two ideas I find most important in understanding child development are that human potential unfolds in stages of development as we grow and children benefit from nurturing relationships based on secure bonds with consistent care-taking figures. Children have the opportunity to develop certain personal strengths in the childhood years and having supportive relationships not only provides a context for growth, it can also result in the formation of secure attachments, which are a basis for all their relationships. Loss and change contribute to growth, but children need support not to become overwhelmed.

Many theorists have offered ideas about stages of human development.  I have always liked the work of psychoanalyst, Erik H. Erikson whose stages of human development are stated directly and without technical terminology.

Erikson was optimistic about growth and was an early believer that humans have an ongoing ability to grow throughout life. He identifies central issues for young children including the need to experience trust, to become autonomous and to develop a feeling of competence and self-esteem. His concern is children experience overwhelming feelings of mistrust, shame, guilt or inferiority. Since primary relationships are the way children tend to experience the world, consistent nurturing becomes an important factor in the child’s growth, hopefully providing a somewhat stable foundation and home base as the child ventures further and further out into the world around him/her.

My first book, Quincy Finds A New Home, begins when Quincy has experienced a loss. The family who owned him has left the farm where he lives, and a neighbor man who meets his basic needs is caring for him. Then he gets a new owner and is taken to a new home. His new home is a busy barn where there are activities that he does not know how to join. People are friendly and welcoming, but he feels sad and different. Finally, he responds to the overture of his stable mate, an old horse named Beau, who has been trying to get to know him. In doing this, he experiences trust and reassurance when he finds out that his new owner will love him for who he is. This is a task of the toddler and preschool years.

In Quincy Moves to the Desert, Quincy and Beau go on a trip across the country. Quincy has doubts about a big change, but Beau makes it an adventure by telling him how amazing the desert will be and teaching him about the states they travel through and all the things horses do in different places. Before he knows it, Quincy is learning about new things and letting his imagination take over! He begins to explore a whole range of possibilities; this is the task of the school experience that begins around 5 years of age.

It is my belief books are one of the ways children (and adults) experience the world and are a profound opportunity for growth. It is my hope the Quincy the Horse Books provide young readers with ways to expand their horizons in various areas including psychological growth, relational development and geographical awareness. 

Some children’s books draw on an exploration of the trauma and danger that are sadly omnipresent in the modern world. I try to place Quincy solidly in the security of supportive and loving relationships and draw on an exploration of his emotions and his amazement at the new things he is learning to engage his readers. 

Camille Matthews, MSW, LCSW is a clinical social worker and writer who specializes in the treatment of eating disorders, complex PTSD and attachment disorders. In 2002, she received her certification in the new field of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) from the Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association and established the Pathfinder Program in Farmington, NM where she treated adolescents, children and women victims of domestic violence using EAP.

She teamed with illustrator, Michelle Black to create the Quincy the Horse Books for children ages 5-10. Matthews was born and raised in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky where her father was a law school professor. She was an only child and her favorite thing to do was visit her grandparents and cousins. She is a lifelong equestrian, avid reader and student of politics who blogs and is an op ed contributor.  She relocated to the Reading, PA area from Northwestern New Mexico in 2010.

You can find out more about Camille Matthews’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Matthews and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

Using Personality Typologies to Build Your Characters

  Contributed by Margot Conor People often have asked me how I build such varied and interesting character profiles. I’m fond of going into ...