Happy Thanksgiving!

 Six years and ten months ago, I became a writer.  

It was a wintery January day, when an idea for a children’s book burst into my head—like a sparkle from an icicle almost. At first I ignored it. I’m not sure why exactly. But the idea was persistent. I couldn’t get it out of my head. 

A few days later, I bought a notebook and started writing the idea down on paper. I wrote late at night. I wrote while my daughter was in gymnastics. I wrote while my son built Lego knights. I wrote whenever I had five or ten or twenty minutes to spare. My husband thought I was going crazy. (Maybe I was! 🙂 ) But, the more I wrote, the more excited about my story I became. Eventually that idea turned into a completed novel filled with my whole heart. It took me six months to write it and revise it. Megan in Middle School was story about four best friends who venture off to middle school and face all sorts of drama and adventure.  I thought it was the most amazing story ever written.

It wasn’t.

I thought I would send it to the first literary agent on my list and she would love it.

She didn’t.

I thought I could get my first novel published and I would have a fabulous career as a published author.

I couldn’t and I didn’t.

And that’s what I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for that very first idea I had. I’m thankful for Megan and her adventures with her friends: Courtney, Lindsey and AJ. That story will always have a special place in my heart—because that’s the story that turned me into a writer.

I went on to write a second story, because I realized that Megan in Middle School would never be strong enough to be a published novel. I had so much to learn about writing children’s books.  And so that’s what I did. I went to writing conferences. I signed up for writing workshops on line. I read today’s most popular children’s books.  And most of all, I kept writing. Because like I say, the best way to become a better writer is to write!

Today I think of my second novel as the story I wrote as I learned how to write. I spent much longer on that one, over two years in fact! I fell in love with that book even harder than Megan in Middle School.  But that one had its flaws too and wasn’t meant to be published as it was. One day I’ll go back to it, (and that’s why I’m not sharing the title with you) but for now, it’s waiting patiently for me to pick it up like I once did and give it the attention it deserves.

My focus now is on my third novel, the spark that came from a million ideas swirling in my head. Literally. You’ll know what I mean by that when you read it some time. This story is everything I want it to be. And more.  I couldn’t be more proud of a story or love a story more. One day I hope to share it with you. But first it needs a bit more work. A bit more polish and even a bit more heart. And that’s what I’m working on now.

That…and this blog! For years I’ve wanted to create a place where younger writers could come to read about anything and everything that has to do with the world of writing.  I found so many wonderful blogs to help me out when I was first starting out. Miss Snark’s First Victim and were and still are a few of my favorites. (You should check them out!)  I wanted to create the same thing for younger writers. I had so many ideas for this blog. I just never had the time to get them down on paper and I never thought I had ENOUGH ideas to make this place interesting. But then I realized that I had to give it a shot. Because, just like Megan in Middle School, I just couldn’t get the idea out of my head!

And so here I am—thankful that I never could get those ideas out of my head.  Thankful they kept swirling. Thankful that I had the courage to follow my ideas, wherever they have led me!

You may have noticed that this blog post isn’t like I had said it would be. Instead of our usual Critique Round, I had planned to post all kinds of things that my readers were thankful for. The truth is, this blog is pretty new and hasn’t reached as many people as I know it will. That takes time and that’s okay. I’m a patient person! It takes even more time for those people to want to share what they’re thinking. But that’s okay too! I know this blog has developed a small but loyal following. (I have ways of knowing these things. 🙂 ) And for that I’m very thankful! And who knows, the next year may bring even more visitors!

So for now, I want to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who stop by either once in a while or every Wednesday to read my new post. I’m thankful for all of you!

And most of all, I want to say thank you to the people who encourage my crazy writing dream every single day! You know who you are! 🙂

*And today just when I thought there weren’t any of my blog readers who wanted to share, a few did just that…

Sent from Riley:
This year, I’m thankful for that New Idea that popped into my head a few months ago. I think I’d like to write a book about it, and I feel like it’d be really neat to write. I’m excited to see how it turns out when I finally get around to writing it!

I’m also really glad there’s so much great music around, because it’s great inspiration for writing, and because it helps a lot of people get through a lot of difficult things.

Sent from Scott B.:
Im thankful for finishing this really good book and it even has a sequel!

Sent from Mackenzie N.:
Thankful –
Gobble Gobble Gobble thanksgiving is coming up and did you know that thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, eat a lot of food like turkey and get together with family. But I would like to tell you that I am thankful for many things. One thing I am thankful for is my family. I am thankful for my family because one part of my family is my parents. I am thankful for my parents because they take care of me, feed me, give me shelter, buy me clothes, and give me entertainment, but that’s not all that they do for me that’s the basic they do many other things for me. I am also thankful for a different part of my family my siblings {I have many of them I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters}. I am thankful for my siblings because they entertain me by doing some cool and exciting things. I am also thankful for my siblings because I have 3 of my 4 brothers that do or did hockey and there games could be quite entertaining. also I have 2 sisters that can do girl stuff with me [ I would be desperate with out them. And only have for brothers and be the only girl]. A second thing I am thankful for is my pets. I am thankful for my pets because I have a lot and I love animals { I have 2 dogs buddy [boxer] and Charlie[chit-zoo] , 4 cats Boo ,Clohe Boots and last but not least Mynx, I have 2 lizards [bearded dragons ]. In conclusion / I am thankful for many things like family and pets.

Critique Corner, Holidays

Critique Corner Update

In honor of Thanksgiving, we won’t be holding a critique round in November. Instead, I’d like to turn the blog into a collection of thank you notes!

Writing is a gift and that warrants an entire blog post, don’t you think?

Starting today, you’ll have a chance to write about something or someone you’re thankful for. Whether you’re a writer, simply love books, or just like to visit this site, I’d love to hear from you! You may be thankful for something related to your writing, or you may be thankful for something else. Whatever that is, go ahead and write about it! Then email me at I’ll post your message and everyone else’s on the blog the day before Thanksgiving.

So, what are you thankful for this year?                           

A favorite book?

When your favorite book is made into a movie?

Quiet time spent writing in your journal?

The fact that you finally finished writing your first short story?

When your mom says, “Yes,” after you beg for just 5 more minutes to finish a chapter before bedtime?

Or even just your mom?                                                      

Whatever it is that you’re thankful for, why not write about it? We all have so much to be thankful for, but we’re not always comfortable saying it out loud. (We are writers after all, right??) So what better way to say it, then to write about it on swirl and spark?

So please send me your messages. Grab a pen and paper, turn on your computer, or open up your Plain Text app. Then write your message. You’ll be amazed how easy it is to share when you’re truly thankful for what you’re writing about. 🙂

Writing Craft

First Lines

The first line can tell a lot about a story. It can tell whether it will be creepy, or serious, or funny. It can tell you if it’s set in our world or in an imaginary world. It can tell you if it’s going to be told by a narrator or by the main character. Most of all though, a great first line can tell you whether or not you’re going to like the story!

Take a look at some of my favorite first lines in children’s books today…

∙ “If you are interested in stories with happy endings you would be better off reading some other book.” (A Series of Unfortunate Events- The Bad Beginning)

∙  Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. (Harry Potter and the Scorcerer’s Stone)

∙ “Not every 13 year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty.” (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle)

∙ There isn’t one mirror in my house. (Divergent)

∙ There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife. (The Graveyard Book)

∙ “How five crows managed to lift a twenty-pound baby boy into the air was beyond Prue, but that was certainly the least of her worries.” (Wildwood)

∙ Sophie had waited all her life to be kidnapped. (The School for Good and Evil)

∙ “It certainly seemed like it was going to be another normal evening at Amelia Bedelia’s House. “ (Amelia Bedelia- Unleashed)

∙ “Sometimes there’s no warning.” Chronicles of Ancient Darkness- Oath Breaker

∙ When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.” (The Hunger Games)

“It was fun at first, playing house.” (Love, Aubrey)

∙“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.” (Because of Winn- Dixie)

∙ Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. (Al Capone Does my Shirts)

See what I mean? A great first line can help you decide whether or not to read on.  So when you’re writing your own story, do your best to create something great. Something that will make your reader turn the page. Something that will stay with your reader long after the story’s over.

So what do you think of these first lines? Which one do you think is best?  Do you know of a line that should be included on this list? If you do, leave it in the comment box below. I’m always up for another favorite first line!  🙂

Writing Craft

Show Time!

If you’re a writer, I bet you’ve heard of Show Don’t Tell.  Lots’ of times, right?

Me too.  I’ve heard it from my teachers; I’ve learned it in my writing classes; I’ve read it on writing websites; and from books that teach how to write stories. 

So what’s the big deal? Why is Showing vs. Telling so important? It’s important because when you’re writing a fictional (pretend) story, you’re creating the illusion that your reader is right there in the story, seeing the events happen.

A  newspaper article is different. The journalist presents the facts.  He tells the reader what happened. He uses the 5W method: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

A Fiction writer is challenged to give this information without coming right out and telling the reader.

But why?

Because if a reader is told a story, he feels like he’s being read to. Like when your sister tells you that she just learned to do a back- hand spring in her gymnastics practice. That’s interesting right? But by her telling you that she did it, you don’t necessarily feel like you were there in the gym with her when it happened. If a reader is reading a story, he wants to feel like he’s experiencing the action right along with the characters.

For example:

If you write:

Eli’s football team was behind 28-7. He was angry.  (That’s telling.)

If you write:

Eli’s football team was behind 28-7. He looked up at the score board, and threw the football down on the ground with such force that it bounced along the field and into the bleachers. I dunked but I was too late. The football caught me in the cheek stinging my whole face.  (That’s showing.)  

See the difference? In the second example, the reader knows that Eli is angry, just by the fact that he threw the football down to the ground with such great force. This sentence brings the reader into the story. The author tells the reader that Eli is angry without having to come right out and say it. This makes the story more interesting and makes the reader feel like he’s right there at the game with Eli.

So give it a try with your own story. Read something you’ve written. See if there’s a place where you’ve told the reader information. If there is, write that part over. Bring the reader into the action. A great way to do this is using the 5 senses. In Eli’s story, the reader can see him throw the ball and feel the sting on the main characters cheek. By incorporating those two senses, the reader can really feel the action and feel like he’s a part of the game!

So, remember…when you’re writing fiction, don’t tell your readers what happened. Show them! 🙂