Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Help Kids Deal with Fear and Have Fun

When my picture book Brave Little Monster came out, in addition to being a book that makes young and old laugh, many parents and teachers liked how it could be used to help young children deal with both real and imaginary fears. To help with that effort I created a fun puppet-making activity that can be used in the home and classroom to further help teachers and parents talk to kids about their fears and help them learn how to deal with them. Check it out and make your own "Be Brave" puppet.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

8 Ways Character Relationships Can Enhance Your Writing

Tonight in the night class I teach at a local university on writing children's books, we'll be talking about how the relationships your characters have can deepen your story's plot, enhance the connection between your characters and readers, raise tension, complicate conflicts, and much more.

The following are 8 ways you can use relationships between your characters to enhance the stories you write:

  1. Create resonance with your audience by putting your characters in relationships that matter most to and intrigue your readers 
  2. Use your character relationships to better reveal your characters’ personality and inner conflicts 
  3. Use character relationships to pull your readers deeper into the story and your characters’ lives 
  4. Use your character interactions to give your characters more profound opportunities to experience growth or change 
  5. Deepen your plot with character relationships that increase the conflict, tension and emotional/physical stakes of the story 
  6. Deepen your plot with character relationships that impede, thwart or help the protagonists’ success, or distract the protagonist from the end goal 
  7. Raise the emotional tension of your stories by creating relationship events or taking character relationships in a direction that terrify your readers 
  8. Increase the emotional connection between your readers and characters by creating relationship events or taking character relationships in a direction that makes readers worry, sad and/or happy

Image courtesy of arztsamui at

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Insights Gleaned from Jane Yolen

A critical part of developing your craft as an author is research. Research involves a wide array of activities. It includes reading as much as you can in the genre you’re writing in. It involves attending writing conferences, networking with editors, agents and other authors. Part of it includes taking classes or reading the latest and greatest books on how to improve your writing. It also includes learning what other authors have to say on being an author.

As part of my recent research activities, I’ve been visiting the websites of some of my favorite children’s authors, one of which is the notorious and supremely talented Jane Yolen. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read one of her books only to say to myself, “Wow! That’s exactly the kind of book I wish I had written.”

In reading Jane Yolen’s “Random thoughts on writing and on children’s books” found on her website, here are a few highlights that resonated with me.

“I generally do not think out plots or characters ahead of time… I want my own writing to surprise me, the way someone else’s book does.”

“Sometimes [a work in progress] seems promising, sometimes brilliant, sometimes just plain stupid. And that may be the same piece on alternate days.”

“Intuition works best when you remember that “tuition” is part of it.”

“Know this about being published: it is out of your hands. Even if you do everything you can think of to affect that outcome, you cannot make an editor take your work.”

And perhaps my favorite;

A writer puts words on a page. An author lives in story…  Learn to write not with blood and fear, but with joy.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Writing Tip: How to Create Engaging Characters

So, you've written a story with an exciting or awesome plot, but for some reason your readers fail to connect with it or they quickly lose interest in reading it. It could be your characters' fault. Unless you have created engaging characters, it won't matter how interesting your plot is. Here's a short writing tip video on how to create engaging characters for the stories you write.

 Even though the video targets young writers, the concepts it teaches applies to writers of all ages. It's also great for teachers who want to supplement creative writing lesson plans. Enjoy!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Try-Fail Cycle Brainstorming Tips

Bestselling author, David Farland is not only a great author, but he's a great writing instructor. If you're an aspiring author and do not subscribe to his writing tips, you should. Today he posted a writing tip on brainstorming obstacles for try-fail cycles that I love. Try-fail cycles play a critical role in creating tension and moving a story's plot forward. But often effectively executing the the try-fail cycle as a writer can have mixed results. David's post gives some great insight for those who struggle with try-fail cycles or just need a little more help coming up with more creative ideas to throw more obstacles in your protagonist's path.

Check it out. 12 types of obstacles to consider when creating try/fail cycles

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Writing for Charity

I often get asked the question, "I've been thinking about writing children's books, how do I get started?" I have an FAQ on my website that goes in detail on my typical answer, but part of that answer always includes "attend writing conferences."

Fortunately, I live in an area with a quite a few successful children's authors. As a result, each year we enjoy the opportunity to participate in or attend a number of local conferences devoted to writing for the children's market. One such writer's conference is our annual Writing for Charity conference.

One of the unique things about the Writing for Charity conference is that all the proceeds for the conference go to towards getting books into the hands of needy children. More than 40 local children's authors donate their time to present at this conference and give critiques. Some of this year's authors include Shannon Hale, Matthew Kirby, Jessica Day George, Ally Condie, Kristyn Crow, Sara Larson, and J Scott Savage.  The programming covers picture books, MG, and YA. It doesn't matter if you're a rank beginner or fairly experienced, it will have something to benefit everyone.

The conference itself is high caliber, but very low cost - $66 for the entire day. The conference will be on March 21, 2015 at the Provo Library. You can find more information on the Writing for Charity conference at

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

He is the Gift

Christmas is a great time of year, but sometimes with all the commercialism and gift giving we forget why we really have Christmas. This video is a nice reminder.

He is the Gift