“Hour of the Bees” by Lindsay Eagar: A Discussion Guide for Writers

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey


Lindsay Eagar’s middle grade novel Hour of the Bees follows the summer adventure of twelve-year-old Carol as she travels with her family to a desert ranch in Mexico to move her estranged grandfather into a nursing home. The arid landscape is punctuated by rattlesnakes, family discord, and stories from Carol’s grandfather, Serge, who has dementia. He talks about a magical tree, the power of bees, and Carol’s heritage. By studying Eagar’s novel, writers can explore first-person point of view, the importance of supporting characters, the genre of magical realism, the use of mystery to create readability, and how flashbacks can become a tool to bridge generations and provide backstory. Continue reading

“Amal Unbound” by Aisha Saeed: A Discussion Guide for Writers

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

Amal.pngIn Aisha Saeed’s middle grade novel Amal Unbound, readers are introduced to Amal, a young Pakistani girl whose life is changed when she is forced into indentured servitude. Saeed’s novel gently introduces Pakistani cultural by allowing readers to nibble on common threads of friendship and family while still exploring the struggle girls and women face to be valued, educated, and respected in a patriarchal society. By studying Saeed’s novel, writers can examine how to present a culture without allowing the characters that populate that society to be in awe of their own surrounding and circumstances, how to use setting, plot and pacing to add emotion and readability to a story, how to use secondary characters to present differing views, and how to use sentence and paragraph structure to amplify voice. Continue reading

These Songs Tell A Story!

by Dave Pasquantonio

Writing flash fiction is a fun challenge. How do you tell a complete story in a few hundred words while layering in theme, emotion, and memorable characters?

If you need some inspiration, then break out your old vinyl records!

Classic rock from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s is full of narrative songs—tracks with sharp characters, raw emotion, and unforgettable storylines. In this post, I examine one such song to see what we can learn from the lyrics. Continue reading

Common Writing Missteps (And How To Overcome Them)

by Dave Pasquantonio

Authors (and Loft board members) Erin Dionne and Anna Staniszewski know a lot about writing. They’re published authors—and they’re creative writing teachers. In their recent Loft craft chat, “What We’ve Learned from Teaching Writing,” Erin and Anna talked about how their writing has strengthened their teaching careers, and how their careers have strengthened their writing.

They also talked craft. They’ve seen a lot of good writing from their students—and they’ve also seen the same issues crop up time and again.

Here are some common writing missteps that Erin and Anna discussed during their presentation, along with some strategies for overcoming them. Continue reading

Nailing Your First Five Pages: How to Hook Your Readers

by Julie Reich

“Send a one-page query letter, a synopsis, and the first five pages of your manuscript.”

If this statement rings a bell, you’ve encountered the submission guidelines for many agents and editors. A lot is riding on the beginning of your novel. Done well, your first five pages could invite requests for more. But if you don’t hook your readers, they’re unlikely to give your book a chance. Continue reading

“Hello, Universe” by Erin Entrada Kelly: A Discussion Guide For Writers

Hello Universe.png

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

In Erin Entrada Kelly’s middle grade novel Hello, Universe, three characters come together and find friendship and confidence. By studying Kelly’s novel, writers can examine the use of multiple points of view, the placement of adults in a story, the smart and sensitive hand required when writing about characters with disabilities, and the courage required to let a story start and end quietly.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Hello, Universe. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Kelly’s methods. Continue reading

Meet A Lofter: Audrey Day-Williams

by Sandra Budiansky

It’s the return of our Meet a Lofter series, where we go deep into the lives of our fellow writers. This time we’re talking to the very funny picture book author Audrey Day-Williams. You will find Audrey at many Writers’ Loft workshops and classes.If you happen to see Audrey around the Loft, make sure you say hi! Continue reading