What does it Mean to Write Vivid Descriptions?

When I first started writing, I had the hardest time writing vivid descriptions. Instead of pulling the reader into my scene, I would tell them what was happening with the least amount of words possible. However, I learned quickly that it is the writer’s job to provide a vicarious experience for your reader. This does not mean you need to bombard your reader with too many details, but to gradually draw them into your story with active descriptions that make them feel as if they are right there with the main character.
By stimulating your reader’s imagination with vivid and clear descriptions, you not only make stories come alive, but more memorable. Using concrete and specific details help paint a picture for your reader and you can do this by carefully choosing the right words to describe something, which makes your reader use all five senses. Not only can they imagine what is happening, but they can also feel, smell, and hear what they read.
Okay, so how did I learn to do this? One way I learned, was by my ICL instructor pointing out all my flaws with details. The other way I learned was by buying Picture Writing, by Anastasia Suen. If you have not read this book, I strongly suggest you do if you have trouble with too many details or not enough description. What is great about this book is Anastasia not only covers fiction writing, but also nonfiction and poetry as well.
I learned from Anastasia that picture writing using the whole brain. That means not just your creative half. Wow, I thought, this is great news. I tend to use my local side more than my creative side. Therefore, this means there was hope for my writing. I’m happy to say between my ICL course and Anastasia’s book, I am much better about vivid descriptions, so here are a few things to keep in mind when write.
  1. Avoid abstract and general words. Don't just say a girl is beautiful. Instead, describe how she looks, walks, moves her body, etc.
  2. When using description, make sure to use as many of the five senses—touch, sound, taste, sight, and scent—to help stimulate your reader’s imagination.
  3. Use words that spark emotion. In Anastasia’s book, Picture Writing she talks about what editors what to see. She says, “What makes readers turn the page is an emotional connection to the characters in the story. Reader’s aren’t’ reading fiction for facts or information.”
  4. Give life to inanimate objects, abstracts, or animals. By giving human characteristics, a reader can relate better to what you are trying to show them.
  5. Use onomatopoetic words. These words imitate the sound they describe. An example would be: buzzing for a bee or fly. Another would be: bang for a hammer or something falling to the floor.
  6. Use comparisons or contrasts. This is great tool for something foreign or not common to a reader. For example, “a calamansi fruit tastes like an orange, but is less sweet and more sour.”
These simple suggestions have really helped me and I am sure they will help you. Just remember to use fresh words in your descriptions. Forget about writing, "They walked slowly to the park." Instead, think about just how slowly did they walk? Did they trudge? Did they drag they feet? Remember, if you want your reader to experience the same things you've experienced - or experience something you've imagined - write and describe it well.
VS Grenier, Award-winning Author & Editor

The Writing Mama 

Super Ben's Dirty Hands - A Children's Picture Book Review

Title: Super Ben’s Dirty Hands
Author: Shelley Marshall
Illustrator: Ben Mahan
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 13: 978-0-7660-3513-3
Reviewer: Karen Cioffi

What child doesn’t get his or her hands dirty? Well, Super Ben’s Dirty Hands addresses just this issue. Aimed at ages 5-8, and only 24 pages, this wonderfully colorful illustrated picture book will help make children aware of the importance of washing their hands, especially before eating. It also touches on the importance of sneezing into your arm, to help avoid spreading germs.

With colds, viruses and the flu making their rounds regularly, Super Ben’s Dirty Hands is a must have book to help introduce the topic of cleanliness, considerateness,  and staying healthy to young children . . . young children who are constantly touching toys, along with anything, and everything else in their path.

In a fun and engaging story, the little bear Ben, and his friend Molly, have an adventurous outing at the park. When it’s time to eat, Ben’s ready to dig in. But, sensible Molly reminds him of all the things they touched throughout the day. Ben readily agrees, “Let’s wash our hands. We do not want to be super sick heroes.”

With the knowledge that one of the best preventive strategies children and adults can take to prevent the passing of germs is washing your hands, it’s a good idea to instill this practice in little ones as soon as possible. Super Ben’s Dirty Hands will be a useful tool to accomplish this.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact me at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi. Sign up for the newsletter while you're there!

A Review of What is Electricity and Magnetism?

Title: What Is Electricity and Magnetism?
Authors: Richard and Louise Spilsbury
Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.
ISBN: 13: 978-0-7660-3096-1
ISBN: 10: 0-7660-3096-2
Reviewer: Karen Cioffi

I love books that teach children about the world around us, and Enslow Publishers’, What Is Electricity and Magnetism? by Richard and Louise Spilsbury, is one such book.

The topics: What is Electricity; Making and Storing Electricity; What is Magnetism; Electromagnetism; and Motors and Generators are explained in easy to understand text. And, each topic has color illustrations that will certainly help with a child’s comprehension.

What is especially useful in What is Electricity and Magnetism? is the Close-Up section in each topic. This section describes in detailed, yet simple language exactly how a particular subject, such as a battery, actually works:

All batteries have three parts: an electrolyte, a negative electrode, and a positive electrode. The electrolyte includes chemicals that can make electricity. The negative electrode is a metal case that surrounds the electrolyte. The negative electrode reacts with the electrolyte to make electrons flow.

The explanation goes on to further enlighten the child. And, along with the text, illustrations provide a visual of what is actually going on. The combination of thorough explanations along with explicit illustrations make for a powerful learning tool.

Along with this, What Is Electricity and Magnetism? features an extensive “hands on” section that provides fascinating and doable experiments. All children within the intended age group will love to explore science by working on projects such as building an electromagnet, building batteries, and creating a lemon cell.

I highly recommend What is Electricity and Magnetism? by Richard and Louise Spilsbury.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact me at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.

Fie on Ties: Let's Support Publishing and Fellow Authors on Father's Day!

My writing friend Carolyn Howard-Johnson is celebrating Father's Day with poetry this year. This is how:

How about literature for Father’s Day instead of ties or dinner?

We know ties are a cliché and in a few years, Dad won’t remember one Father’s Day dinner from another. Let’s face it, not all literature is created equal, thus some books are just as fleeting, though most would be a step up from a gift certificate and certainly would help support the industry that we believe important for the future.

I’m proposing—selfishly—poetry. Frugally!

First, you may have never given your father, grandfather, or a favorite father figure in your life a book of poetry. Thus, it will be memorable.
A small book of poetry will also be flattering. He will appreciate being treated tenderly. In fact, present a small chapbook with a single rose or gladiolus spray. Who says that only women want romance and tenderness in their lives!

Some of the readers of this blog could easily write a poem—even if they don’t think poetry their forte. Print it out on some lineny paper and present it with any other gift you may be giving.

You might choose to tuck it inside the cover of the Chapbook Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparitions that Magdalena Ball and I wrote for our Celebration Series of chapbooks. Our idea for this series is to have small books written for those who prefer something a little a little more literary than the typical greeting card, but still accessible for those who didn’t study literature in school. And at an affordable price. With cover art (and sometimes interior art) chosen from among our circle of talented writing and artist friends.

Most of our booklets are $6.95. We now have one for mothers (She Wore Emerald Then: Reflections on Motherhood, www.budurl.com/MotherChapbook), one that says love (Cherished Pulse: Unconventional Love Poetry), and one for men and fathers (Imagining the Future). We’re working on one for Christmas (not the holidays, but Christmas). It will be called Blooming Red.

Think of your poetry presentation to Dad as a Father’s Day card; it costs little more than a really nice one. Or think of it as a tuck-in gift or a tie-on as part of the wrap. Any poetry book you choose can be made more personal if you tie in a little grosgrain or satin ribbon inside the crease of the book to be used as a bookmark.

And don’t forget the hug.

Here is a sample poem from Imagining the Future : It was originally published by Dash, a literary journal.

Long Before They Shut the Napster Down

my father collected blursounds
get out of town
downloaded into the night soft jazzy
lights, sweet pink smoke
the smell of Jack Daniel's hot
satin doll
to real applause, nothing canned

found in the night a voice
like a staccato bass Wes Bowen
at KSL croons ella and shearing
at midnight to benefit a crowd
of one, alone at the wheel
make believe

marimbas, smooth
lullaby of birdland
sweet humanbaby-whine of clarinets
and a moon
no electronic nothing
humthrum of base, brushswish metal on cymbals

tell you what it's all about
lucky to get it before they shut the music down
smokey joe's
dispenser of joy, free of charge
cut me a rose

Happy Father's Day!
Carolyn Howard-Johnson

3 Key Phrases (Keywords) Needed to Create an Effective Website

All writers need a website; it’s just the nature of the writing business these days. But, just throwing a website up won’t cut it. You need to create an effective, engaging and appealing website.

According to a number of marketers, the most essential words on your site are: SIGN UP. These two little words are the building blocks of your empire. They are the link to developing a relationship with the visitors to your site.

With attention spans dwindling and competition increasing, the main goal of your website is to get email addresses that convert into sales. During an initial visit, your visitor may not have the time to spend browsing your site for information to entice him to make the decision to purchase your book or product. This is where those two little words come in; it takes less than a minute to type in a name and email address. And, if you have a FREE GIFT offer for signing up, you’ve made the sign up decision even easier.

While it’s important to offer that Free gift, which is considered an ethical bribe, if it’s of no value to the visitor, he probably won’t bother signing up. So, how do you decide if your gift is valuable enough to grab that email address?

The answer to this question is easy: you know who your target buyers are. Think about it . . . what do they want? What would you want? If your site and product is about writing, guess what…your visitors would probably appreciate an e-book on that topic, maybe a how to write guide. Or, if you’re into marketing…offer an e-book of marketing tips and guidance. If your site is about cooking, offer recipes, or an instructional cooking e-book. The idea is to establish yourself as an expert…as someone your reader wants to learn from. They need to want what you’re offering, whether it’s for instructional value, information, entertainment, or other

So, that’s pretty easy, right? But, a word of caution here: make sure your new subscriber is able to get his free gift. There are a couple of sites I’ve signed up to because I wanted the free offers. When I received the link to the offer, either the link didn’t work, or I couldn’t download the gift. Either way, I unsubscribe to the sites. I have on occasion sent an email to the site owner and ended up receiving the gift, but most often I don’t, and I’m sure others don’t, have the time to do this.

Just a quick note here: you need an opt-in box in order to acquire those email addresses. Services such as Icontact, GetResponse, and ConstantContact offer this service.

The next two words that are essential to every website that is selling a book or other product are, BUY NOW, or some other call-to-action. The call-to-action words or button needs to be visible and near the top of your home page. It should also be throughout your site on the sidebar. It’s been said over and over that only 1% of first time visitors will buy a product. It’s usually after developing a relationship through your newsletter, information, and offers that your potential customer or client will click on the BUY NOW button!

These are just three of a number of items that your website will need, but they are three of the most important.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author and children’s ghostwriter/ rewriter. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move and author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

If you need help with your author platform, check out:

Build Your Author/Writer Platform
This 4-week class shows you Basic Website Optimization, Blogging Smart, Email Marketing, and Social Media Marketing

And, you can follow Karen at:


Kids Learn the Days of the Week with Moving Through All Seven Days

Many preschool children find it difficult to sit and learn, so give them opportunities for movement! It's commonly believed that when you hear something, 10% of the information is retained. If you see it, hear it and say it, 40% is retained. But, if you also DO it, you retain 70%-100% of the information. Using a multi-sensory approach to teach children enhances their retention and capitalizes on their natural tendency to move. In other words, incorporate movement into learning, and your child will have more fun and learn faster.

Kathy Stemke’s book, Moving Through All Seven Days, uses movement activities to teach the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The 14 pages of activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

Find it on lulu by clicking on this link: http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/moving-through-all-seven-days/7386965#

Here are some other fun activities that you can do with your children.

String seven bells on a string with the each day of the week spelled out. Add a picture of the foods mentioned in the rhyme below. Great for jump rope chants:

Monday, meatball, start the week,
Tuesday, tunafish, what a treat.
Wednesday, watermelon, red and cool,
Thursday, turkey, that’s the rule,
Friday, French fries, eat them hot,
Saturday, slurpees, thanks a lot,
Sunday, spaghetti, sun or rain,
Then start the week all over again!

Make a poster of seven empty boxes.
Using tacky the kids put the days of the week in order from Sunday to Saturday.
For fun you can blindfold each child, spin them three times, and see how close to the right spot they can place their day on the boxes.

In each suitcase there is a piece of clothing for each day of the week.
On Monday we wear mittens.
On Tuesday we wear a tee shirt.
On Wednesday we wear a wig.
On Thursday we wear a tank top.
On Friday we wear a feather boa.
On Saturday we wear socks.
On Sunday we wear sneakers.

On command, one child runs to the suitcase says, “Monday” as they put on the mittens. He runs back and sits down. They next child says, “Tuesday” as he puts on the T-shirt. Etc. The first team to be finished and seated wins!

Make a poster with all seven days of the week printed out.
Cut each day into their syllables.


Give the cards to the children. Call three children at a time to make words until all the days are spelled out and in order.

Great Editing Important to Shopping, Marketing Books

The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Froward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Red Engine Press
ISBN 9780978515874

Reviewed by editor and author Robert Medak

The Frugal Editor is a book that belongs on the desk of anyone that is either an author, or an aspiring author. This book contains a wealth of information about what it takes to have your manuscript pass the mark toward publication.

This book gives writers needed information on how to create queries, cover letters, book proposals, and manuscripts that are not sloppy which will get you into the round file. Reading this book will assist you in why you need an editor or at least two other sets of eyes for you writing.

If you use Word, the de facto standard, there is information in this book about using the Tracking feature and more to help you with your writing and editing with easy and practical steps.

The Frugal Editor applies to all types of writing. Even those that write business letters, e-mails, and more can gain a unique insight into making them better. This book is an invaluable resource for anyone putting words on paper or a computer screen.

The book is conversational in tone as if talking to a fiend that is imparting their secrets and tips to make your writing more professional and your manuscript pass muster with agents or in-house editors. No one wants to submit something that is not their best, which is why writers need a copy of The Frugal Editor.

Do yourself a favor, and find a copy of this book for your reference; you will appreciate it.

This reviewer gives a five star rating to The Frugal Editor.

Endorsement Disclaimer from the reviewer: All reviews written by this reviewer are personal opinions of the book by this reviewer. The reviews are NOT paid endorsements of the book or the author. They are not advertisements. All reviews are honest, forthright, and the opinion of this individual reviewer. This reviewer’s opinions are not for sale. (There is however, a small fee for some reviews, and sometimes this reviewer receives complementary copies from the author.) Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR Part 255 (http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/10/091005revisedendorsementguides.pdf)

The reviewer,Robert Medak, is a freelance writer and editor.

"The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903

Here's What You May Not Know About Adverbs

Pesky Adverbs or the Means to Making Pure Gold?   Here’s What You Seldom Hear About Adverbs By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,  writer of fiction, p...