May 16 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Note: New reviews coming later today! 🙂

Birthdays: Eric P. Kelly (1884), Douglas Southall Freeman (1886), Gertrude Warner (1890), Margaret Rey (1906), Studs Terkel (1912), Adrienne Rich (1929), Robert Dallek (1934), Bruce Coville (1950),

Eric Kelly’s book “The Trumpeter of Krakow” won the 1929 Newbery Medal

Douglas Freeman won two Pulitzers for his biographies of Robert E. Lee and George Washington

Margaret Rey wrote the “Curious George” books with her husband H.A. Rey.

Studs Terkel won the 1985 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction for “The Good War”

Quote: “Every book is like starting over again. I’ve written books every way possible – from using tight outlines to writing from the seat of my pants. Both ways work.” – Bruce Coville

Tip: In fiction writing, numbers under 100 are generally spelled out: fifteen, twenty-nine, etc. (Not always, though. After all, this is grammar and there are no absolutes.)

Jumpstart: You’re a master spy ala James Bond. What kind of interesting tools does Q provide you with? What are you going to save the world from?

May 15 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: L. Frank Baum (1856), Katherine Anne Porter (1890), Mikhail Bulgakov (1891), Clifton Fadiman (1904), Max Frisch (1911), Norma Fox Mazer (1931), Paul Zindel (1936), Nancy Garden (1938), David Almond (1951), Meg Gardiner (1957), Julie Otsuka (1962), Laura Hillenbrand (1967), (Samantha Hunt)

L. Frank Baum of “The Wizard of Oz” fame. Did you know there are fourteen “Oz” books?

Norma Mazer won a Newbery Honor in 1998 for “After the Rain”

Quote: “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking, don’t you think?” ― Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is.” – Katherine Anne Porter

Tip: all right vs. alright: according to the Chicago Manual of Style, it is not all right to use “alright” – this is nonstandard usage. However…many authors use it in dialogue. While technically not all right, dialog has its own set of weird rules.

Jumpstart: Have you ever been in a relationship that ended badly? Remember those feelings? Embrace them and write them into a scene with your main character.

May 14 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Hal Borland (1900), George Selden (1929), Maria Irene Fornes (1930), Kathleen Ann Goonan (1952), Robert Greene (1959), Eoin Colfer (1965), Jennifer Niven (1968),

George Selden wrote under the name Terry Andrews and was known for his children’s books like “A Cricket in Times Square”

Eoin (pronounced “Owen”) Colfer is best known for his “Artemis Fowl” books

Quote: “I would tell aspiring writers to observe. They already know it is vital to read and write whenever possible, but often people forget to watch what is going on every day in their surroundings. That is where your ideas come from. Keep one eye on your computer screen and the other on the world around you” – Eoin Colfer

Tip: Less vs. fewer: less is used for singular nouns or amounts (less salt, less water) while “fewer” is used for plurals or comparisons (fewer calories; fewer apples). This chair costs less than that one. He has fewer apples than I do.

Jumpstart: Finish the following: Once, I lost my hat… (use: check, firehouse, burp)

May 13 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Alphonse Daudet (1840), Daphne Du Maurier (1907), Roger Zelazny (1937), Francine Pascal (1938), Norma Klein (1938), Bruce Chatwin (1940), Armistad Maupin (1944), Charles Baxter (1947), Stephen R. Donaldson (1947), Alexander Keyssar (1947), Manning Marable (1950), Koji Suzuki (1957), Masha Gessen (1967)

Quote: “I can’t write at all unless I know two things about the story in front of me: where I’m going (the eventual climax of the story, my reason for telling it), and the general shape of the path to that destination.” – Stephen R. Donaldson

Tip: The latest guidelines from the Chicago Manual of Style (and if you don’t know what this is—learn about it!) is to simplify abbreviations so places like Washington DC no longer have the periods in DC.

Jumpstart: You’ve just found out that your entire life has been a lie. You are not who you thought you are. So, who are you? What happened? What do you do next?

May 12 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Edward Lear (1812), Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828), Leslie Charteris (1907), Farley Mowat (1921), George Carlin (1937), L. Neil Smith (1946), Paul Starr (1949), Rafael Yglesias (1954) Jennifer Armstrong (1961)

Paul Starr won the 1984 Pulitzer for General Nonfiction for his book “The Social Transformation of American Medicine”

“Whether you want to entertain or to provoke, to break hearts or reassure them, what you bring to your writing must consist of your longings and disappointments.” – Rafael Yglesias

Tip: If you have a long passage in italics and there’s something you want to emphasize or something that would regularly be in italics, make that passage plain text to show that it’s different.

Jumpstart: Your character is playing in Vegas. He has stacks of chips—almost enough to pay off all his debts. Does he quit? Or bet it all on one more roll of the dice? What happens next?

May 11 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Irving Berlin (1888), Camilo Jose Cela (1916), Sheila Bumford (1918), Richard P. Feynman (1918), Gene Savoy (1927), Zilpha Keatley Snyder (1927), Stanley Elkin (1930), Rachel Billington (1942), Peter Sis (1949), Mike Lupica (1952), David Garrow (1953)

Camilo Cela won the 1989 Nobel Prize in Literature

Zilpha Snyder was a three-time Newbery Honor winner.

David Garrow won the 1987 Pulitzer for Biography for “Bearing the Cross”

Quote: “Just looking at the outside of the library made Robin lose herself for a minute, remembering the feel of libraries. There was that special smell made up of paper, ink, and dust; the busy hush; the endless luxury of thousands of unread books. Best of all was the eager itch of anticipation as you went out the door with your arms loaded down with books. Libraries had always seemed almost too good to be true.” ― Zilpha Keatley Snyder, The Velvet Room

“Ideas? My head is full of them, one after the other, but they serve no purpose there. They must be put down on paper, one after the other.” – Camilo Jose Cela

Tip: Check the house style for the publisher you’re submitting to. Most use the standard Times New Roman, 12 point, double spacing, left only justification. But some prefer 1.5 spacing. Follow their guidelines. Yes, it may mean you have multiple copies of the same manuscript in different formats, but that’s better than ignoring their rules.

Jumpstart: It’s five years after your story ended. What are the characters doing now? What has happened in that five years?

May 10 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Ariel Durant (1898), Bel Kaufman (1911), Monica Dickens (1915), T. Berry Brazelton (1919), Barbara Taylor Bradford (1933), Richard Peck (1934), Arthur Kopit (1937), Wayne Dyer (1940), Caroline B. Cooney (1947), Christopher Paul Curtis (1953), Rick Steves (1955), Suzan-Lori Parks (1963), Jon Ronson (1967), John Scallzi (1967)

Richard Peck won the 2001 Newbery for “A Year Down Yonder”

Christopher Curtis won the Newbery Award for “Bud, Not Buddy”

Quote: “First and foremost, you need to be serious about your desire to become a published author. It takes an extraordinary amount of time, effort and dedication to hone your skills and produce a work worthy of publication. But like anything else, if you possess the talent and the determination, you will likely succeed.” – Barbara Taylor Bradford

Tip: DO NOT USE ALL CAPS OR BOLD unless absolutely necessary. If you want to stress a word, italicize it: We were supposed to meet at nine.

Jumpstart: Your character has exactly twenty-four hours to… what? Does she do it? Why or why not? What happens in twenty-four hours if she doesn’t?

New Reviews are Here!

Under Nonfiction:

Crochet for Beginners by Arica Presinal – 5 Sparklers for this How To book

The Essential Diet for Fatty Liver by Andy de Santis – also a 5 Sparkler on this informative book.

Under Mystery:

Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine by M.S. Spencer – a 4 Sparkler story based on a real treasure hunt.

Ashes of Death by G.L. Didaleusky – 3 Sparklers for this mystery.

Under Romance:

Prophecy by Victoria Smith – 5 Sparklers for this dystopian paranormal romance

It Had to be You by Mike Owens – 4 Sparklers for this paranormal romance.


Quote: “The printing press is either the greatest blessing or the greatest curse of modern times, one sometimes forgets which.” – J.M. Barrie (born 5/9/1860, known for creating Peter Pan)

May 8 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: Edward Gibbon (1737), J. Meade Falkner (1858), Edmund Wilson (1895), Irene Hunt (1907), Milton Metzer (1915), Mary Q. Steele (1922), Louise Meriwether (1923), Gary Snyder (1930), Thomas Pynchon (1937), Peter Benchley (1940), Pat Barker (1943), Roddy Doyle (1958), Robin Jarvis (1963), Naomi Klein (1970)

Mary Steele received a Newbery Honor for “Journey Outside”

Peter Benchley is best known for his novel “Jaws”

Quote: “If you are a writer, you’re at home, which means you’re out of touch. You have to make excuses to get out there and look at how the world is changing.” – Roddy Doyle

Tip: Conflict of some sort gives the best kind of story. Without it, the story is flat. Create conflict, but with a reason. Give your characters goals, then put them at odds with each other.

Jumpstart: You’ve just found out you’re a mutant, as in the X-Men. What is your mutation? Is it obvious or hidden? What can you do?

May 7 Writing Tips, Tricks, Thoughts

Birthdays: David Hume (1711), Robert Browning (1812), Rabindranath Tagore (1861), Wladyslaw Reymont (1867), Archibald MacLeish (1892), Gene Wolfe (1931), Nonny Hogrogian (1932), Angela Carter (1940), Peter Carey (1943), Deborah Wiles (1953),

Rabindranath Tagore won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wladyslaw Reymont won the 1924 Nobel Prize in Literature for “The Peasants”

Archibald MacLeish was Librarian of Congress and three-time winner of a Pulitzer Prize.

Nonny Hogrogrian was a two-time Caldecott Medal winner.

Quote: “Writers live with doubt and failure. Most days we don’t succeed. Most days we know we have to rewrite, that we haven’t yet arrived. This is not always unpleasant, but it can be.” – Peter Carey

 Tip: Decide what tense you want your story to use and stick with it. Whether you go with first person/present tense (the hardest to do) or third person/past tense (the most common) doesn’t matter. Sticking with it does. Go through your work and make sure you use the same tense throughout.

Jumpstart: You have to describe the taste and uses of a lemon to someone who’s never tasted or used one before. What do you say? Remember, if you turn them off by talking only about how sour it is, they’ll never try lemon meringue pie or a tall glass of fresh lemonade. Think about how to put a positive spin on something negative.