September 2013 Critique Corner

September Stories!

Today is the day! I’ve posted four stories written by four brave writers! Each story sample is posted separately with its own comment box.  Just go to the post below this one to see Story # 1. Keep scrolling down to see each of the other stories after that. If your story is posted on the site, please be sure to make a comment about each of the other stories.  If you don’t have a story posted today, you can still make comments. I’m sure each of these writers would love to hear what you think!

Remember to keep the comments positive. Begin with something you like about the story, add a suggestion if you have one, and end with something else you like about it too! So scroll down, sit back, and enjoy the beginnings of these stories.  I think you’re in for a treat!

But before we do that, let’s hear it for our first four Swirl and Spark Authors: Mackenzie, Riley, David and Adam!!  **claps like a crazy!**   Thanks for submitting. You four are awesome and well on your way to writing amazing stories!  🙂

September 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 1


By, Mackenzie N.       

Mekkena woke up to her tryout day. She was trying out for the Brockport screamers. She was felling scared and nerves because she was not sure if she was going to make it. She was not sure because for the tryouts you need to be able to do cartwheels, handstands, front flip, back flip, front handspring and back handspring. So for that reason she was not sure if she makes it, but she was going to try anyways and do her best. Then, she got up and put on her leotard and then her clothes. She ate breakfast, brushed her teeth, and got her hair together in a ponytail with a bow. Then it came time for the tryouts.

September 2013 Critique Corner

Story #2

By, Riley


          I turn around to see Lea almost at the top of the cargo net.

          “Cass, can you get me down now?” She yells from fifty feet in the air.

          I sigh. This is the second time this week she’s gotten that far. She’s still reaching for the tire swing that is suspended three feet above the end of the net.

          “Lea, are you sure? You’re so close!” Reese’s, my co-counselor shouts up to the little brunette girl who is now just dangling from the ropes looking nervous, as if the harness might snap.

          “Yeah, Cass. Please? I’m scared.”

September 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 3


By, David V.


            I ran as fast as I could, faster than fast, trying not to look in the terrible gaze. I was all alone, no one with me and nothing with me, except a bow and one last arrow. I was losing the battle with death.

Chapter 1 The Beginning

            It all started as a group of kids hanging out after school together. Then it happened.

September 2013 Critique Corner

Story # 4

The Chain

By, Adam Y.

Detroit 2036- “McNabb skating down the ice up on a breakaway approaching the Blazers net, McNabb with the shot, he SCORESSS,” screamed the Rebels commentator.

 I always knew my special chain on my neck gave me supposedly “good luck” but I didn’t think it was enough to have me leading the Western Hockey League in Points, Goals and Assists this season. It’s shaped in a weird way, a semi-circle with a divot on the straight side. I never knew where I got it. My parents say I was born with it, like we all were.

Critique Corner

Critique Corner is Open!

If you’ve written a story, here’s your chance to get it critiqued…

So what ‘s a critique?

A critique can be many things, but in this case a critique is when a person writes down their thoughts about another person’s story.

Critique Corner is where we’ll hold our monthly critique rounds.  Writers can submit the beginning of their story (50 -100 words) in order to find out what other writers think of it and what they can do to make it better. The story sample will appear on the page with the title, the screen name, and a comment box.  Other writers will read it, tell what they like about it and offer suggestions on how to make the story even better. The comments will be monitored by swirl and spark. Only positive comments will be allowed. Remember, it takes courage to share our stories with other people. We want Critique Corner to be an encouraging place where writers can share their writing and gain valuable tips from other writers who do the same thing!

So here’s how it works…

If you are 16 years- old or younger and have a story you’re working on, please email me at  starting today. Please include:

Title:          The Amazing Adventure of Wendy and Will

Author:      Your name (first name with last name initial or a made up screen name)

Underneath, also in the body of the email, type the first 50-100 words.

Please do not attach it. If you write your story in a Word document, the words will be counted for you. If 100 words happens in the middle of a sentence, please include the rest of the sentence. It’s okay to go over by a few words.  It’s also okay if your story sample is less than 50 words.

I will accept the first 10 submissions. If we don’t have that many, then we can critique the stories we have.  I will email a response to you so you’ll know if your story was chosen to appear on the website. If it isn’t, you can try again next month. On the day the critique round begins, in this case next Wednesday, September 25th,  I will post each entry with it’s own comment box.  That’s when the fun begins…

But first, we have some rules…

If your story appears on the site, please make comments on each of the other stories posted.  That way each writer will receive a lot of feedback and encouragement! Swirl and Spark will comment on each entry as well. If your story is not chosen, please feel free to comment on as many as you can. The more comments, the better!

So how do you make a good critique comment? In the comment box below the story sample:

  1. Tell first, one reason you like the sample.
  2. Next, give the author a  positive suggestion: One thing you think the he or she could do to make their writing even better.
  3. Last, tell one more thing you think is great about their story. Give some encouragement!

So polish up your stories and tell your friends to do the same.  Critique Corner is ready and waiting!!

If you have any questions, please ask them in the comment box below.  If not, go work on your story. Go on.  Detectives. Fairies. Ex- Best friends. Whatever your story is about, we can’t wait to read all about it! 🙂

Writing Craft

Grab a Notebook!

It’s that time of year—the time when you’re back at school armed with your crisp, clean notebooks; sharp, new pencils; and lots of blank pages to fill up. The problem is, as much as you might want to doodle or draw or jot down story ideas on those pages, you can’t. Those pages are usually reserved for math and history facts, science labs, and descriptions about books your teacher asked you to read. And that’s all good! But what about the amazing ideas you have for a story?? What can you do with those?? The same thing! Grab a notebook…and a pencil.  Fill up those pages with anything and everything because like I said before, that’s how you become a better writer. 🙂

So where do we start? Well, I’ll tell you where I start. I open my red notebook—my current favorite color, and pick up a sharp new pencil with a really great erasure.  I write lots of words…in any order and in any place on the page. Whenever an idea comes to me, I write it down.  The words might describe a character, something like, he hates to tie his sneakers or she always walks on her tippy toes.  The idea could describe a setting, like a pumpkin patch behind an old, deserted church. It doesn’t matter what the idea is. In fact you may never use the idea in your real story. The point is to write down the ideas so that you can use them later if you want to.

You can include things like, she has blue eyes, or he has brown hair. Those basic facts are important but be sure you include other more creative descriptions of your characters, setting, and plot as well. In fact, more is better when it comes to getting your ideas down on the page.

This might sound like a lot of work. That’s okay. It is! But you don’t have to write down all this stuff at once. Even your favorite authors can’t do that. It might take time to fill up those pages—or even one. But there’s no hurry. The best stories take time and that’s what you want isn’t it? To write the most amazing story you can. I know that’s what I want and so I take my time. I write ideas in my red notebook, one at a time. Sometimes, one word a day. Sometimes, a hundred words a day. It doesn’t matter. The part that matters is that you’re able to get those ideas swirling! Then one day, like a spark, those words in your notebook will become an amazing story.  So go ahead, grab a red one, or a blue one or a purple one. You never know what will appear on the page.    

But first, if you can, comment in the space below!  Tell us what you think of this idea. Have you tried it before? Have you tried something different? I bet other kids would like to know how you get started on new stories.  Then ask a few friends to do the same. Let’s see how many kids we can get to post a comment!  Remember, later this month you’ll have a chance to post part of your story in Critique Corner. That’s when the real fun starts! 🙂


Writing Craft

Write What You Know

I’ve been reading through the comments from last week’s post. What great story ideas!  Thanks to those of you who shared with all of us. It’s interesting to read about the different ideas out there! For those of you who weren’t quite ready to post a comment, no worries. There will be plenty of chances for you to do so! 

While we’re on the topic of story ideas, I wanted to write about what you can do when you have trouble thinking of a good idea…because we all know that sometimes amazing ideas just aren’t (gasp!) swirling in our heads! So what can we do about that problem?

Write what you know. That’s right. If you have a great character you want to write about, like a space girl from the year 3000, or a spy from a parallel universe, but you don’t know what situation to put  them in or problem to give them, think about things that are familiar to you. For example, if you play softball, maybe the space girl from the future could be in a hitting slump. All ball players get in slumps once in a while. Since you play softball, you would know what that feels like and how to describe it.  If you like to ride horses, then maybe the spy from the parallel universe could be hiding out at a nearby stable. Since you’ve spent time with horses, you would have an advantage describing them and their surroundings.

See what I mean? If you’re stuck for ideas, all you have to do is think about what you know.  That doesn’t mean to write your story exactly about how your softball practice is run each time. Use your imagination. Think what if?  What if I wrote about a cool character that played softball in the future? How would softball be different? How would the ball field be different? Writing what you know is one way to get those ideas swirling in your head-right where they should be!

Does that mean you should only write what you know? Of course not! It does mean that you should always try new things…because while you’re out there learning to jet ski or volunteering in a soup kitchen for the first time, you may just feel that spark. You know the one I mean. The one that comes when an amazing idea for a story pops into your head!

So, go on…write about the lady bugs that invaded your picnic this summer or the mermaid you met at the beach. I’m off to do the same. 🙂