In Rita Williams-Garcia’s middle grade novel Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, the sudden loss of a beloved grandfather, a disconnect between mother and son, and the young protagonist’s desire to become a Blues musician collide. By studying Williams-Garcia’s novel, writers can examine how to write sound and musical imagery, how to weave adult relationships and points of view into a middle grade novel, and how to use secondary or ancillary characters to create conflict, mood, tension and setting.
Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Williams-Garcia’s methods.
by Heather Kelly, Founder, The Writers’ Loft
As writers, it can be hard to take ourselves seriously. We write during the in-between times—when the house is quiet because no one else is awake, before and after our day job, and in the car waiting for a child to finish their school day. It can feel like writing is an aside, the first thing to ditch when real life rears its ugly head.
Taking our writing—and ourselves—seriously is the most important step toward success.
By doing something that might seem counterintuitive.
We drive more effectively toward our goal, and take ourselves more seriously, when we treat our writing like it’s a game. Continue reading
by Allison Pottern Hoch
It’s the beginning of the year and everything feels fresh and possible. Whether you’re still chipping away at a work-in-progress, starting something new, or staring down the lane at future publication dates, your writing life lies open before you.
But the wide-open possibility of an entire year doesn’t always jibe with reality—work, deadlines, kids, travel, housekeeping, health, pets. What has worked for me is mapping out a mix of fixed and flexible goals. This helps me have plan, self-motivate, and stay nimble as new opportunities present themselves. Continue reading
discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey
Erika L. Sanchez’s novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a first-person narrative of a teenage girl struggling with her sister’s death, her parents’ disapproval, and ultimately with depression and attempted suicide. By studying Sanchez’s novel, writers can explore managing a depressed and potentially unlikeable main character, the balance of dialogue to narrative text, and the tools writers use to create tone in their novels. Continue reading
by Kelly Carey
(Note: a version of this article appeared previously on Kelly’s blog, 24 Carrot Writing).
Give your writing self the gift of encouragement.
This summer, I took a class at The Writers’ Loft taught by Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss. At the end of class, Karen asked us to write ourselves letters. The letters were an opportunity to chat about our writing hopes, dreams, and goals. Karen collected the letters and tucked them away. Five months later my letter appeared in my mailbox, and it was the most wonderful gift. Continue reading
by Dave Pasquantonio
Sometimes the words come easily—and sometimes they don’t. We writers know exactly what it feels like to want to write more, to want to write faster, but the muse is not cooperating.
But we can’t always blame the muse. There are actions we writers can take to make the words flow faster.
Anna Staniszewski led a recent craft chat at The Writers’ Loft, “Write Faster—Write More!” She gave the enthusiastic attendees exactly what they were looking for—methods and insights to help us get those words out. Continue reading
by Erin Dionne
My most recent post was about writing the best story you possibly can. This one deals with another element of the revision process that I find really important: finding—and using—the “core” of your story to shape your revision.
What is the core?
The core of your story is its heart. It’s the one thing that holds your book together and provides your unique perspective on the world. Without it, your book would fall apart. Continue reading
by Sandra J. Budiansky
Is there anything better than coming up with a brilliant idea and then sitting down and writing a best seller? Probably not, but that doesn’t usually happen. Many writers struggle to come up with an interesting book topic. On October 11th, Charlesbridge editor Karen Boss presented the Writers’ Loft workshop Idea Development, and When To Let Go, and it led to a lively and inspiring conversation. Continue reading
by Allison Pottern Hoch
If you’ve published a book or are in the querying trenches, you know what it takes to promote your book to an agent or editor. But once you’re ready to market that book, how do you convince a venue to take you on for an event? Remember the four P’s: professionalism, politeness, preparation, and patience. Continue reading
by Erin Dionne
My previous blog posts have focused on persistence and objectivity. Today, I want to cover another necessary ingredient in the revision process: the desire to create the best story possible.
Now, I know you want to write a good book, short story, or poem. And you’re putting in the time and effort to do so. You’ve crafted your characters, developed a plot that moves along at a good pace, and figured out where your trouble spots are. You’re in love with what you’ve created—and you should be.