Category Archives: writing

Two great books to learn from.

I’d like to share two books with you that are great for teachers, parents or anyone who wants to learn something new.

The first one is a great book for those wanting to learn more about writing for children. Whether you are an established writer or want to write your very first book for children, Marion Crook’s new book Writing For Children and Young Adults is a wonderful resource.
The book starts with the basics and covers just about every important aspect of writing: from planning and plotting to characterization, tense, voice all the way to dealing with rejections and contracts. The book deals with fiction as well as nonfiction and other genres. It gives details on such mundane aspects as your writing space and your income – important considerations for any writer. With a chapter on submitting, on multiple submissions and even on marketing this book is a perfect resource for all writers of children’s materials.

Writing for Children and Young Adults, Marion Crook
Self Counsel Press
ISBN 5199597058719241

Ever thought of learning Arabic? The written language looks daunting.
But in Sugar Comes From Arabic, author Barbara Whitesides starts simple, by looking at “scribbles” and breaking down the script to basics. Using samples like Harry Potter (for P) this book is great for classrooms with refugee children, so that others can learn their language. If you are involved with a support group to bring refugees to your hometown, this is a fun book to use so that you can perhaps learn to communicate better. It is also a great resource for any international school!

Sugar Comes From Arabic, A Beginner’s Guide to Arabic Letters and Words, Barbara Whitesides
Interlink Books
ISBN 978-1-56656-757-2

The Girl Who Writes

The Girl Who Writes, a picture book  by Richard Cole and K. Jane Watt.

My new favourite picture book is a delicate, powerful story of a girl who uses her imagination.
She reads every book she can get her hands on but soon realizes that she need to tell her own stories.
“I know that with a bit of ink and 26 letters, I can make new worlds,” she says.
With her head full of images of kings and dragons and far-away places, but also with the splash of salmon and beaver in a nearby eddy, she writes. Her teacher and a writing contest encourage her to keep writing, even if her father says that she needs to get her head out of the clouds.

Perhaps this is how writers are made. I know this could be my personal story.
But it definitely is a story that will resonate with all those who love to use their imagination and dream of new world. A great gift for your favourite writer-friend!

http://fentonstreet.ca/projects/the-girl-who-writes/

ISBN 978-0-9917146-1-2

Author Visits in Kelowna BC

Had fun talking about books, reading, writing and the whole publishing process to nearly 2,000 students in 10 schools over 5 days in Kelowna BC.

Very nice to receive teachers’ comments like this one:

Thank you so much for visiting Glenrosa Elementary. My students were already amazing little story tellers but your visit brought the whole process to life and we have been writing stories ever since.


And to see the kids producing such fun art based on books and inspired by Ted Harrison!

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing, Stephen King

Let me beginning with confessing that I am not a fan of Stephen King’s novels. I’m not ‘into’ horror at all, even though they are, undoubtedly, well written horror stories.
However, horrible as the writing life can sometimes be – what with rejections and all – his book On Writing is a spot-on, often funny reflection on the profession.
I found it to be a helpful encouraging, down-to-earth guide for writers at all stages of their career. The book does not make things more rosy than they are. It states clearly the not even attempt to write for publishing if you don’t have anything to say. But it does make it clear how exciting a writer’s life can be if you love research and storytelling.

“Long live the King,” said Entertainment Weekly upon the publication of Stephen King’s On Writing: Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery.

Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told. If you are serious at wanting to be a writer, get it.

Mass Market Paperback, 297 pages
ISBN 0743455967

Pick One and Finish the Story

Pick one of these story starters and finish writing the story!

• ‘Jason knew he shouldn’t be waiting for Greg. He knew that the bell was about to ring. Mrs. Jackson would be mad if he came in late. But he just had to find out why Greg had gone into that alley. And why hadn’t he come back yet?…’

• ‘“Stacey Jacobs!” The teacher’s voice was loud. Stacey startled out of her day dream and back into the classroom. She had no idea what he had asked her but all the children were staring at her. She took a deep breath and said…’

• ‘The dog came out of nowhere. It ran across the square, in between two parked cars and then straight toward me. I didn’t know what to do. If I didn’t pretend this was my dog, the cops would catch it and take it to the S.P.C.A. And then what would happen to him? So I didn’t think much, I just…’

After you write the first draft, do what all writers do: read your story and rewrite it.

Listen, Observe, and Steal!

Listening in on people’s conversations is not acceptable. Except if you are a writer and studying the way people express themselves.
Next time you are in a coffee shop, listen and observe: how do people interact? How do people of the same age chat with each other?
How do adults speak to children?
How do children talk to each other; to adults?
Is anyone having an argument?

Try to jot down some interesting lines or comments.
Now create a fictional dialogue between two people you spotted in the coffee shop. Perhaps one orders, and one works there.
Or have to friends talk to each other at a table.

This will help you to create realistic dialogue.

Lose the Rhyme!

Take your poem from a few days ago.
Retell the story in short, poetic sentences but lose the rhyme!
Don’t worry about find words that rhyme but do see if you can use some aliteration.
Use humor.
Use short,  snappy lines.

Which format tells a better story?
Which version do you like best?

While I like rhyming poems, I love free verse. Free verse is a story told in poetic, often short, sentences that do not rhyme.

Some of my favorite free verse novels include:
Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse
Love That Dogs, Sharon Creech
May B, Caroline Starr Rose
The Dancing Pancake, Eileen Spinelli

Find a Poem!

From my book: The Power of Poems, Maupin House

Just as you can find things that become treasures, you can find words that, put together, make a poem. 

Here is a piece of (prose) writing:
“When I was little, Grandma’s button box was my favorite toy.
I would sit on the floor by Grandma’s chair and she would bring me the button box. Gently, she’d bend down and put it by my feet on the carpet.
Slowly, I’d lift the lid and stare at the treasure—glittering, shim- mering jewels they were.  Shiny black eyes, golden coins and sparkling diamonds off princesses’ dresses.
Then I’d tilt the box, slowly, with both hands until the buttons poured out onto the carpet.  I’d shift them with my hands, let them run through my fingers in a cascade of colors.  I’d make piles and bulldoze them around the carpet.  I felt the buttons. They felt good.”
Now I am going to pick words from this piece of writing and put them into a poem.  I will underline the words I choose:
“When I   was         little Grandma’s button box was my favorite toy.
I would sit on the floor by Grandma’s chair and she would bring me the button box.  Gently, she’d bend down and put it by my feet on the carpet.
Slowly, I’d lift the lid and stare at the treasure—glittering, shim- mering jewels they were.  Shiny black eyes, golden coins and sparkling diamonds off princesses’ dresses.
Then I’d tilt the box, slowly, with both               handsuntil the buttons poured out onto the carpet.  I’d shift them with my hands, let them run through my fingers in a cascade of colors.  I’d make piles and bulldoze them around the carpet.  I felt the buttons. They felt             good
Now I put these underlined words into a poem.  Look:
Grandma
I was little
Gently
her eyes sparkled
Both hands in my hands Grandma felt good.
I found a poem in a piece of prose!
Use any piece of your own writing for this activity. Find words and arrange them until you have found a poem.

Free Fall Writing

Today, take a sheet of paper and a pen to a comfortable spot: the table, your desk, a lawn chair, anywhere.

Then spend FIVE minutes writing free fall.
This means ANYTHING that comes up in your head. Just write for the sake of writing. Don’t try to think of a character, or a setting, or a description. Just write what comes to mind. Even if it is “I don’t know what the heck I’m writing…”

Free fall writing helps to clear your mind, helps to bring new ideas to light. It will make writing easier than when you always try to write with a clear idea in mind. It is even used as therapy. Google ‘free fall writing’ and you will find many websites and books devoted to the topic.

Try it.
If you like it, do it again tomorrow. Just five minutes.
After a few days, make it ten minutes. Pretty soon, your free fall writing might take a shape, show you a pattern. But don’t look for it soon.
Just write. Anything that comes to mind, without taking your pen off the paper!

Rhyme for a Reason

Read several books of great poems for kids:
• any title by Jack Prelutsky
• Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
• a Dr. Seuss book. Look up poetry books by Bruce Lansky, David Greenberg, Kenn Nesbitt (http://www.poetry4kids.com/)

• Read poetry books by Sheree Fitch and Loris Lesynski!!

• Read The Party and Two by Two, by Barbara Reid!

Now write a poem about a boy who did not do his homework.
Make up wild and funny excuses.
Use rhyme.
aa, bb.
Or a, b, a, b.