“The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo: A Discussion Guide for Writers

 

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

In Elizabeth Acevedo’s young adult novel in verse, The Poet X, Xiomara is struggling to find her voice in her home, in school, and in a community that offers up shame, guilt, and punishment in heavy doses.

The Poet X.png

By studying Acevedo’s novel, writers can recognize that a main character’s name, physical description, and siblings can serve as key components in a story. Acevedo’s novel can be used to explore how the shape and phrasing of words can allow for breath and pause in a story that can convey emotion and tension. Acevedo’s work is also an excellent mentor text on how to use a supporting cast of characters to guide a main character to a solution without allowing the supporting characters to become the solution.

Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate The Poet X.As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Acevedo’s methods.

Continue reading

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

Discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey

HOTB.png

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

“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

“Clayton Byrd Goes Underground” by Rita Williams-Garcia: A Discussion Guide for Writers

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.

Picture1Use 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.

Continue reading

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” by Erika L. Sanchez: A Discussion Guide for Writers

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

Send Yourself A Letter

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