Archive for the ‘ Writing ’ Category

Today I conducted a simple writing workshop at Fairway Park in Miramar, FL. This was my fifth visit to the park’s after care program as a teaching artist. With the first group of 30 kids, ages 5-8, the children wrote 1-3 sentence stories entitled, “My Best Day Ever” and drew pictures to go along with their stories. Then they read them out loud to their peers. There were lots of spelling questions, and one impressive six-year-old boy seemed to know how to spell just about every word. Stories included themes about Disney trips, Christmas day presents, birthdays, family outings and getting good grades at school.

Kindergarten through second graders

This adorable five-year-old’s handwriting was perfect, as was his grammar and spelling for his birthday party Best Day Ever story.

 Sharing his artwork of a bus with superpowers with the group

Time to show off their hard work!

With the older group of 35 children, ages 9-13, the assignment was to write a letter to someone they know who has had a positive influence on them. First I read to the group a personal letter of thanks I wrote to my late grandfather as an example and so they were not the only ones pouring their hearts out.

I am happy to report that overwhelmingly the children wrote thank you letters to their parents and a few to teachers,- a few with impressive detail. Some were so incredibly thoughtful, I’m sure it will bring tears to the recipients’ eyes. It takes courage to stand up and read a personal letter to a large group of peers – especially at this age – and I’m proud of all who did!


Some lucky people will be receiving this kind, thoughtful letters!

A letter from a nine-year-old boy to his dad

What I learned today is that children want to be good writers. Some decided not to read their work out loud, and some others wanted me to read for them. All the children listened to the stories being read by their peers with respect. What surprised me most is that the children were excited to write by hand, although all printed and none used cursive.

The message I left with the children is, “Reading is the number one factor in determining your financial success in the future. The only way to become a good writer is to read a lot and practice writing a lot. Any worthwhile writing requires numerous revisions. No matter what career you choose down the road you’ll be a lot more successful if you are a good writer. Read what others have written and decide what you like – or don’t like – about it Then get inspired to write something amazing yourself.”

What a rewarding and fun day we all had. A big thank to Site Supervisor Randy Kaiser for inviting me back to visit today and to the dedicated teachers there who keep the children focused and learning. I look forward to another visit with Fairway kids!

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Well, we’re officially two-thirds into 2012. My daughter has gone back to school and as she starts classes, for me that marks a new beginning as well. Plus the busiest time of the year is upon us. Halloween…Thanksgiving…Christmas….New Year. Today I sat down with my calendar and looked back at what I accomplished and looked forward to what I need to do. It all boils down to this:

Where in the heck did all that time go and why aren’t there more hours in a day?

As a writer, I spend so much more time researching, calling, writing, editing, posting than it appears I do. All the reader sees is the final product, and I suppose that’s true with all types of work. I often challenge the time consuming process of writing and search for ways to improve my productivity. I recently came across this fantastic article on with tips on being more productive. You’ve got to read it! It really gets to the heart of what causes us to slow down and forces us to take a look at how we waste time and how to change it. Now I must begin to implement the article’s tactics. The author of that article insists that after implementing productivity tactics and staying focused, he now has more time than ever to enjoy his life.

A while back I reviewed Seth Godin’s Book  “Linchpin,” (note that mine remains the top read review on Amazon!) and what I learned from that book is that we all have a “lizard brain” at times that slows us down and makes us lose focus. It’s a constant battle not to repeatedly check for new emails, log into social networking sites and just get sidetracked on the internet.

So now my goal for the next 4 months is to step up the productivity and reduce the time I have this Apple computer on my lap. Now that I’ve made a public promise, I’ve got to follow through with it.

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Dom Testa is a fascinating guy. He wrote the Galahad Series of YA books, co-hosts Denver’s most popular morning radio show and is the creator of an organization called The Big Brain Club. I promise you’ll be enlightened when you read my interview with him on Good Reads with Ronna.

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Please read my interview with science writer Beverly McMillan, author or A Day in the Life of Your Body. You will learn about all the work it takes to write scientific books and how fascinating the process is to create these educational titles. I now have ever greater respect for people who write these books and educate the world with their knowledge!

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I have written many children’s book reviews for this blog and Good Reads with Ronna and am a Top Reviewer on Amazon. In the past few years, both professional and consumer-generated book reviews have exploded on the internet. More and more consumers consider reviews important when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. If you have ever written one for a children’s book or are thinking about writing one, you want to do a good job. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • It is best to write reviews for books you would highly recommend to others.
  • If you are inclined to post a negative review, first ask yourself what you wish to accomplish. A vicious, negative  review is simply unfair. If you post one on Amazon, the publisher or author can file a complaint and your review may be removed.
  • Even if you love a book, be honest about it. If there is any aspect of that book you feel could be improved, mention that in a tactful, fair way. For example, “The story is charming and told with such clever, simple prose. The illustrations are lovely, however I do wish the colors were not so muted.”
  • Do your homework and research the author and illustrator for interesting information you can add to the review. Have they won any awards? Have they published anything else or a series perhaps?
  • Do not read other reviews of the book you are reviewing, because it is not good to be influenced in any way by what someone else thinks of the book.
  • Be creative with the title of your review. Why use a mundane title? You want to draw attention to your review so others will read yours over others. Which review would you prefer to read? One entitled “Nice Book” or “Uniquely clever story with a Shocking Twist and Extraordinary Illustrations.”
  • Do not simply give an outline of the book – that would be a summary rather than a review, and frankly that is boring.
  • Give a short synopsis of the story without giving everything about the book away. You want readers to be really curious about the story after they read your review.
  • Creatively state what you like or love about the book.
  • Mention the overall quality of the book – printing, binding, paper, cover etc. Book quality is very important in the children’s market, because kids are hard on books!
  • Don’t assume that a longer review is a better review. You can do a good job with a brief review, and that’s what people prefer to read.
  • Come up with a clever way to end your review, whether that is with a play on words, a teaser or some other catchy sentence.
  • Proofread your review carefully.
  • Have someone else with writing experience proof it too.

The more you write reviews, the better you will get at writing them. Happy reviewing to you!

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Today is Encourage a Young Writer Day. What do you do to encourage your child to write? Here are 10 ideas you can use any day of the year:

  1. Ask your child to write a review of a book he or she enjoyed reading.
  2. Teach your children to write thank you notes every time they receive a gift.
  3. Encourage your child to write and illustrate his or her own book.
  4. Search together for writing contests for kids.
  5. Suggest that your child write a snail mail letter to a friend, near or far.
  6. Encourage your child to write a short play and act it out for the family.
  7. Teach your child how to write a haiku for fun.
  8. Give your child a topic and challenge him or her to write a story (i,e. “The funniest thing I ever saw was” or “If I could do anything at all I would…”
  9. Encourage your child to write a letter to a local politician or newspaper editor about a subject he or she is passionate about.
  10. Ask your child to write a nice thank you note to his or her teacher at the end of the school year.


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Clutter in my office
Clutter on the bed
Clutter in my mailbox
Clutter in my head
If I could only clear out
The clutter in my life
Perhaps it would clear out
Chaos, worry and strife
The problem is not as simple
As you may think it would be
You see I’m simply not as
Tidy and uncluttered as thee
In a perfect world I imagine
Counter tops free of piles
And car seats free of papers
And desktops free of files
Since this does not seem likely
I shall have to just accept
That clutter is the symptom
Of all that I have kept
There’s always a tomorrow
For tossing things away
But as for the present moment
Tomorrow is not today
So once again I brush my teeth
And get ready to go to bed
Freely knowing that in the morning
It is clutter that I will dread
Clutter in my office
Clutter on the bed
Clutter in my mailbox
Clutter in my head


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Please read my interview with award-winning, non-fiction children’s book author, Kerrie Logan Hollihan on Good Reads with Ronna. If you ever thought about writing non-fiction for kids – or adults – you can learn all about the lengthy process here! Kerrie’s books for middle school readers are so impressive, and parents love them too.

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As far as social networking, emailing and texting go, it seems like the rules of grammar never even existed. But beyond that disappointment, I have my own list of etiquette rules for Facebook posts that I so wish the world would follow:

  1. Don’t post a status that really should be a private message, because frankly no one else cares to read it. “Hey, Jenny, I’ll pick you up at 7 after I wax my eyebrows.”
  2. Don’t post incomplete potentially upsetting statements. It is rather arrogant and your Facebook friends will not appreciate this kind of mystery, unless your intention is to upset everyone.  “The worst news ever! Please, please pray for me!”
  3. Good Lord, don’t preach your religious views. This needs no explanation. Amen.
  5. Spare us your boring life details; I can assure you that no one cares or needs to know. “OMG! I peed three times in fifteen minutes after drinking a huge glass of iced tea!”
  6. Don’t post inappropriate or embarrassing photos of your children. It is disrespectful, and your kids will grow up and not come home for Christmas.
  7. Don’t be an excessive poster. 25 posts in one day is a little much, don’t you think? It makes a statement, “It’s all about me.”
  8. Keep your political views to yourself, because no matter what you say, you will offend someone out there. And I can assure you that some people will think you are brilliant and others will think you are an idiot.
  9. If you post a link, it better be good, not tortuously long, and that darn link better work when your friends click on it.
  10. Don’t post a quote from a song, person or movie without quotation marks and without credit for the originator. Give credit where credit is due.
  11. It is fine to celebrate your achievements or those of your children, but please do not shove it down your friends’ throats in a competitive manner. If you do, you will be secretly despised. “Michael hit 5 home runs in the game tonight, and he’s been deemed too advanced for this age league now.”
  12. Don’t try to friend people your friends are friends with if you have no connection to them. It’s a bit stalky.
  13. Don’t excessively push your business on your Facebook account, thus the term “social” networking. Create a separate page for that.
  14. If you are dating someone and decide to post a relationship status, remember that should that status change, everyone will see it. Do you want everyone to know and ask you about it? “So sorry you were dumped. Wow, that sure did not last very long. Are you okay?”
  15. Don’t post anything you’ll regret, because you may not be able to permanently remove it. That’s why it is not a good idea to use Facebook when you are under the influence of anything other than a glass of water.


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Please read my feature travel article about Barcelona in Image Magazine! Click on current issue. My article is on page 56.


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