Posts tagged ‘writing’

July 26, 2013

Little Red Writing Hood

OMG THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD!!! I squealed with excitement when I opened up the package from Chronicle Books and saw the cover. Then I squealed some more as I realized just how tremendously awesome the story was. I only just stopped squealing a few moments ago so I could share all this goodness with you! Here’s the deal. Little Red Writing is the kind of picture book you can’t help but pick up. The cover is beautiful, the colors brilliant, and the story hook tempting. Little Red Writing is a pencil? And she wants to tell a story? And she gets lost on the way to the end!!!

It’s a children’s writer’s/teacher’s/librarian’s dream come true. But here’s the good part–the kids are going to love it too. The small ones, who won’t know what a conjunction is for many a year to come, will just love the funny story of the pencil and the really gorgeously original illustrations. The older ones will love a fun reminder about how to write a story. The story starts out with Little Red’s teacher, Ms. 2 (love it!) asking the class to write a story.


Title: Little Red Writing
Author: Joan Holub
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 2 – 8

Little Red begins to write:

Once there was a brave red pencil who went on a journey. As she walked along…

But then a thought bubble from Little Red interrupts the story:

Walking is boring, decided Little Red. She wanted her story to be exciting. She went to the gym and was quickly drawn into action. (LOVE THAT WRITING!) She bounced! She boogied! Then she cartwheeled right off the page…

Okay, there you go, only a few pages into the book and already a lovely little lesson about using more powerful verbs to tell your story. But it gets better, because Little Red tumbles into…

a deep, dark, descriptive forest.

Ha! Has anyone ever heard the editing advice that you should go through your manuscript and throw out all the adjectives? Well, that might be a tad harsh, but it has a ring of truth in it and even this picture book is here to warn you about it! Then LIttle Red meets some “conjunction glue” and she squeezed the bottle. What happens?

Too many glue words came out! So that is how she found herself writing a sentence that would not end but just kept going and going and running on and on although it had no purpose yet it would not…

Yes! It’s true. The book DOES just keep getting better and better. And if you have an older kid, they could find all the conjunctions on that page. Little Red Writing doesn’t just learn about parts of speech, she also learns about parts of a story.

It was the middle of her story, where something exciting should happen. And it did.

You, too will love this story all the way to principal granny and the Wolf 3000 pencil sharpener. And your kids will be introduced to so many features of writing, whether you help them realize it or not! This book comes out in September, just in time to get your pencils sharpened!

And if you liked this book, check out two word smithing books: Ann And Nan Are Anagrams and Wumbers.

March 18, 2013

What’s Spring?

There’s no better way to get kids interacting with reading than by writing their own stories. For little kids, you can have them tell you a story and you can write it down. Give them a prompt, or choose a favorite book and have then write a sequel. Or choose a favorite character and have them write another story with that character.

Older kids might like to rewrite a favorite story from the point of view of a more minor character, inventing things that happen to that character when they are “off camera”, or not on the page of the actual book.

To get my creative juices going, I’m responding today to a writing prompt on the awesome Susanna Hill’s blog. The challenge was to write a story about Spring in 350 words or less that ends with a specific line. Here’s my attempt. (349 words!*)


Little Fox’s Springs

Little Fox was almost one year old.

LIttle Fox remembered summer. He played in the sun and swam in the brook.

Little Fox remembered fall. He hid in the leaves and ran with the wind.

Little Fox remembered winter. He cuddled with his mama and tunneled in the snow.

But he didn’t remember spring. It was so long ago!

“What’s spring?” he asked his mama.

“Spring is when you were born,” said his mama.

“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.

Little Fox tiptoed out of his den. He found Jackrabbit.

“What’s spring?” he asked Jackrabbit.

“A spring is a bounce!” said Jackrabbit. “Here, I’ll show you.” And Jackrabbit sprung around the meadow and back to Little Fox.

“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.

Little Fox now had a spring in his step. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He found Raven.

“What’s spring?” he asked Raven.

“A spring is a coil that wiggles and jiggles. Here, I’ll show you.” And Raven flew to his nest, rifled through twigs and toys and carried a spring back to Little Fox.

“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox.

Little Fox now had a spring in his step and a new toy spring in his paw. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He saw Moose.

“What’s spring?” he asked Moose.

“A spring is delicious!” said Moose. “Here, I’ll show you.” And Moose trod to a small hole in the moss where clear water was bubbling. Little Fox took a drink.

“Hmmmm,” said Little Fox, licking his lips.

Little Fox now had a spring in his step and a toy spring in his paw and some fresh spring water in his tummy. But he still wasn’t sure how he would know when spring was here. He saw Deer.

“What’s spring?” he asked Deer.

But Deer couldn’t talk. She was busy with two very tiny, very spotted fawns.

Little Fox remembered what his mama had said. He was born in the spring. The fawn gave Little Fox a slobbery kiss.

Little Fox knew spring was here at last.


Now you write your story!

*Note to contest judges: I don’t have a Word Processor on my new(!) computer yet, so I entered this into seven (7!) different online word counters. 349 was the number that came up most often (3 times). 3 counters got a lower number and 1 got a higher number, so it seemed safe to assume I’m within the legal limit!

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April 13, 2012

I’m buying my own mother’s day present this year!

I’ve always tinkered with writing: I have notebooks full of poems and essays from high school, college, and even yesterday. But I never really considered it seriously until one fairly awful trip through airport security after 9/11. It wasn’t pretty. As I started to think about my experience on the way home, I took out my laptop and typed an essay: an essay, I thought, that like all my other essays would just get filed away for my own pleasure.

But then on a whim, I edited it and sent that essay to the Christian Science Monitor. And what do you know? They published it! Well, many articles and essay submissions later, I’ve learned that the odds aren’t always that good.

But recently I found another break: an essay I submitted to the radio show This I Believe many years ago was to be included in their newest book of essays called This I Believe: On Motherhood. I held my breath throughout the entire editing and publishing process, expecting something to wrong, but it didn’t. And now, the book is out in stores and I’m so excited!

So if you get it definitely check out the essay “Motherhood Is Real” by yours truly on page 161. And then buy an extra for a mother you know–it makes a great Mother’s Day gift!

You can get it at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or an indie bookstore near you!

October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo: DO try this at home!

No, this isn’t a book review, but it’s directly tied to parenting, books, and writing, which is all I’m thinking about these days.  November (which is VERY soon!) beings NaNoWriMo, which, for those not in the know, is National Novel Writing Month.  I’ve wanted to try this for awhile, but alas, this is not the year for me.  While I think it can be good to put down something you’re working on and trying something new for awhile, I need to finish the first draft of the book I’m on.

HOWEVER, it might be for you–or for your kid!  They have a young writer’s NaNoWriMo as well, and you can find it here:  If you have a middle school or high school-age kid that loves writing, they might enjoy this challenge.  It sounds like a lot: 50,000 words in one month?  But that is the whole point, and it is certainly doable.  Of course, you are sacrificing some quality, but that’s also the point, to get kids writing, to get them to see their ideas (both good and bad) in print and to get past those demons that stop you and make you edit so much along the way that you never finish what you are doing.  Of course, editing is good.  And that is something that you can never pound into a kid’s head enough times.  But in this case, at least, editing waits.  At least until December.


Tips for doing this with a student or child:

– Don’t start with a blank page–start with a list of questions.  Here are some examples:


– What kind of book do you want to write (adventure, scifi, romance, realistic fiction about school or life, etc.)?


– Think of three characters who will be in your book.  One should be a main character.  The others can be friends, parents, teachers, pets, enemies, friends-who-turn-into-enemies, enemies-who-turn-into-friends, etc.

– Give your characters names.  I think this makes them easier to visualize and helps you refer to them. I love looking at baby-naming websites to help me with this.  You can search for popular names or rare ones, for boy or girl names, for names from different countries of the world for international characters.

– For each character, think about who they are.  What do they like to do in their free time?  Do they like school?  Do they have friends?  Do they get along with their parents?  What is their biggest wish in life (this might be the plot)?  What are they really good at and what are they really bad at?


– Where will the story (or at least the first scene) take place?  In a house? Bedroom?  School?  Sports field?  Dark forest?  Other planet?  Write down a few descriptors of what it looks like.


– At some point, you just start writing.  Visualize your main character and talk about what he or she is doing.  And then see what they want to do from there.  Often, they will tell you.  DO NOT worry if you don’t know what the story will be or if you don’t know the ending–that will come organically.

– When you get stuck, check out the young writer’s NaNoWriMo site (linked above) for help!

– Recognize that it’s meant to be fun (although challenging).  Don’t worry when the novel sounds terrible (it WILL; you are writing 50,000 words in one month!), and don’t worry when you get stuck.  Just write.  Hang your word count somewhere prominent in the house so that you know just how much you’ve done!

And when your classmates whine about the next 1,000-word essay they have to write, laugh in their face!


In honor of NaNoWriMo (although not as an official participant since I’m not following the rules), I’ve decided to try to write 50,000 words of my current book in the month.  That should give me a finished first draft, if one that needs a lot of editing.  But I’ve done a TON of editing on the first half of the book, and I won’t have anything to edit for the second half if I don’t write all those terrible sentences in the first place!  In fact, I might finish before 50,000 words, but since I delete two or three for every one that I write, I’m not really worried about ending up with too many!

So wish me luck!  And if you DO try this at home, have fun!