Critique Corner is Live!

Hey Everyone! Welcome to the February 2015 round of Critique Corner. The writing excerpts are up for you to read, and very ready for your comments. You’ll find each 500 word submission listed in a separate post below, and with its own comment box. Just scroll down (or back) to find each one. We have 7 amazing entries from some very talented writers. You’re definitely in for a treat!

Anyone reading is encouraged to offer their feedback. Please remember to keep your comments positive and constructive. However, these writers really want to make their work stronger, so be as honest as you can. If you are one of the participants, please comment on each of the other samples as a way of giving back. The round will be open all week, but I’m hoping you can get your comments in by the end of the weekend, if possible. Remember, Melyssa Mercado (critique partner extraordinaire!) will be dropping in to comment on each of the subs at some point during the round, and I will be too (as swirl and spark) so keep checking back!

Thank you so much to the writers who have submitted. I so appreciate you putting your work out there for us all to read. Hopefully with a little help from our writing community, you’ll be able to make it sparkle!

And so here we go…Grab a warm snickerdoodle cookie, a cup of tea or coffee, and pull up a chair at our virtual meeting spot. I can’t wait to read all the great work and connect with some new writing friends!

Critique Corner #7: MERCURY RISES

By: Scarlett Kol                                                         

Genre: YA Speculative Fiction           

Lead-in: Our protagonist, Mercury is the daughter of important government official and has run away from home for reasons unknown at this point. She thinks she has been spotted and has returned to her hotel room to collect her things and run again. She enters the room and realizes she’s not alone.

I knew who it was before I bothered to turn on the lights. The smell of expensive hair gel mixed with ambition and a hint of sweat could only be one person — Christophe.

He sat poised on the bed. His left foot crossed over his right knee vibrated with either impatience or anxiety from sitting on the cheap hotel sheets. It would have been funny if I didn’t want to lunge across the room and strangle him. If I was certain no one would come looking for him, I would consider it.

Crossing my arms, I leaned against the door. “What do you want?”

He stood up and adjusted his French cuffs under his jacket. He used to look like a kid playing dress up when he wore a suit like this, but right now he finally looked the part. An adult. A man of purpose. It was disgusting.

He cleared his throat. “You know why I’m here.”

“Which is exactly why you need to leave.” I pointed toward the closed door.

“Why do you need to be so hostile? Your family’s been worried about you. He started to walk toward me. “I’ve been worried about you.”

I narrowed my eyes to sharp slits and he stopped. Smarter than I thought he’d be. I braced myself anyway.

“I don’t know why you insist on these games. You’ve been gone almost three months this time. I think they get the point.”

“If they did, you wouldn’t be here.”

“I know this isn’t how you expected things to work out.” He ran a hand through his short spiky hair. “I’m not even going to pretend that I know what you were trying to do, because the truth is I don’t. I never know what is going on in that head of yours. But I’d like to, if you’d just let me.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I don’t feel much like talking. So why don’t you crawl back to my father and tell him that I’m fine.” I moved into the bathroom threshold allowing him a clear path to the door. “Let him know I said hello.”

“I’m not leaving here without you.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to go without you.”

“You’ll never make it around the block. He’s got security everywhere.”

“Fantastic. It was that guard, wasn’t it? He recognized me.”

He nodded. “There is a helicopter waiting for us not far from here. I’m here to take you home.”

Resting my head against the door frame, I fought back the tears threatening to fall. It was over.

“You didn’t think he would let you walk away again did you?”

“Why not? He can’t make me stay.”

“Of course he can. You’re a minor.”

Christophe took my arm and pulled me to him. I fell against his chest as his palm rested on my hair, his chin sitting gently on the top of my head. The heat of his skin seeped through his thin dress shirt. It was almost comforting.

“It’s going to be okay.”

Critique Corner #6: BIRTHDAY DISASTER

By: Nicole P.                                                              

Genre: Adult Romantic Suspense

Lead in: Malcolm had just walked away from Daniella, the woman he arrested earlier. He meets up with Larson, the medical examiner who has been working with him on a serial homicide case and gives Malcolm an update.

“I just discovered a possible suspect.”

“Who is it this time?” Malcolm voiced without a trace of emotion. They’d been down this road before. Had followed leads that took them on one wild goose chase after another that always led to a dead end. With each hope-busted failure, the guilt weighed on his shoulders a little more than the last.  Sometimes it seemed like Malcolm could feel the deceased victims’ disappointment in his lack of success and sense the killer’s laughing at his incompetence. It always ate at him day in and out until he felt like going mad. No, this time he wasn’t going to get his hopes up until there was concrete evidence behind it.

“Follow me to my lab, Mr. Bright Rays of Sunshine, and I’ll explain.” Larson turned and headed in the opposite direction Malcolm had been going. When they entered the lab, Larson walked to his desk and grabbed some papers. Flipping through a few, he pulled out one and handed it to Malcolm. On it, were a bunch of numbers and colorful spikes that made absolutely no sense to him.

“What is this, Larson?” Malcolm waved around the sheet of paper.

“It’s the DNA profile of the strands of hair we found.”

“Okay. And why am I looking at this?”

“I’m getting to that.” Larson leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. “So, do you remember how I told you I wasn’t able to find a match from the hairs in the criminal database because it was possible our murderer didn’t have any priors? Or just hadn’t been caught?” When Malcolm nodded, Larson continued. “So I decided to check other databases in order to determine if there was something there.”

“I’m guessing there was?”

“Ding ding ding. You are correct, sir. And after some long hours of non-stop searching, coffee binging and hair pulling, there was a match in one of the genealogy databases I ran.”

“Okay, so who do the hairs belong to?”

Larson picked up another sheet off his desk and stared down at it. “Our possible murder suspect is this woman.”

“Woman?” Malcolm asked, unable to hide the surprise in his voice. All these years he’d envisioned someone ruthless to be behind the mask of those grotesque killings. Not someone…dainty.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, Malcolm,” Larson said as if reading his thoughts. “Women can be just as vicious as or worse than men. Only difference is that they do it in heels, which I think is the root of their evilness. ”

“Focus, Larson.”

“Right. Sorry.” Larson shook his head before handing the paper over to Malcolm. “That’s her name and driver’s license picture right there. The suspect is a Miss Daniella Montgomery.”

“What?” Malcolm quickly glanced down at the paper and sure enough a picture of the beautiful woman who hadn’t left his thoughts –that was in the lobby waiting for him to release her –was staring back at him.

Critique Corner #5: THE HEART BOX

By: Daniel Beerse                                                      

Genre: Adult Dramatic Fiction           

Lead in:  Jonathan is recalling the memory of the night he and Sara celebrated their two year anniversary of the day they met.

Dinner was fabulous and even Chef Johnny wished them a happy anniversary. The two moved to a deck on the side of the restaurant to enjoy chocolate martinis.

Jonathan set down his glass. “Now about that surprise.”

“You mean special, surprise,” Sara corrected.

“No, the special surprise comes later. This is just an ordinary surprise.

Jonathan withdrew a small velvet box from his front pocket. Sara almost spilled her drink as he handed it to her. They had talked a few times about marriage so he toyed with her imagination. Sara stared at him, while her fingers caressed the gift. She waited for him to say something, but Jonathan remained silent. Finally her impatience won out and she opened it.

Sara’s eyes widened and she inhaled sharply. Inside was a heart-shaped pendant with a diamond center.

“I love you so much Jonathan, “she said, leaning to kiss him.

“This is beautiful and hardly an ordinary surprise.” She gave him a playful jab.

“Okay, maybe it’s not ordinary, but I still have something special planned for you later.”

She handed him the chain and lifted her hair. He fastened it around her neck, then followed with a series of small tender kisses that ended under her ear.

Sara shuddered. “You spoil me, you know.”

He winked and gave her another kiss.

“Oh I will … later,” he teased.

On the sidewalk, headed home, Sara kicked off her sandals and carried them in one hand while Jonathan had the other. They walked quietly, except when Sara let go so she could touch her new gift.

Halfway there she spun around to face him.

“I have something for you, you know.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really. Come on, I’ll race you the rest of the way.”

Jonathan knew better than to take on a challenge like that with a former state sprinting champion. Those long shapely legs of hers were toned muscle, and, even barefoot, he was still no match for her. However, he gave it a second thought.

“I don’t know,” he said, hesitantly. “I ate a pretty big meal.”

Sara fell for the ruse and as she put her hands on her hips, Jonathan took his cue and bolted down the concrete. He barely made the second block before he heard those swift feet of hers closing in on his right side.

Suddenly, an elderly couple appeared from a side street and froze as the two runners bore down on them.

Jonathan broke left and Sara broke right, almost colliding with the bewildered pair. Laughing and out of breath, Jonathan crossed over the sidewalk and collapsed onto a lawn. Sara circled back and fell on top of him in the cool and refreshing grass. They were still laughing when the older couple came upon them.

“We thought he was chasing you,” the woman said with concern.

“No,” Jonathan replied with a colossal grin. “She was chasing me.”

The confused couple looked at each other in silence, then the man smiled.

“How times have changed,” he remarked, as they resumed their walk.

Critique Corner #4: RUDGER’S CLIMB

By: E.G Moore                                                          

Genre: YA Fantasy   

*1st 500 Words                       

CHAPTER 1

I shaded my eyes from the Dyshiwi sun, perched atop a heap of red desert stones. The heat of the day ate away at the skin of my ears, but I hardly noticed. Inez would be here soon.

“Rudger, come down and help Bronzy ground up the maize!” Uncle Neechad hollered from a stone’s throw away. “It’s getting hot. We need to finish up the chores!”

I turned and nodded, slipping five toes into a foothold below me. Uncle Neechad’s name and flair suited him. Not only was his body swollen with extra helpings of meat and corn mush, but his temper swelled at the slightest disrespect. The golden flame tattoo on his chest, his flair, shimmered gold. I hopped the last few feet. A cloud of dust from my landing coated my legs and loincloth. Then I chased after Uncle Neechad. I dodged a few cacti and plopped down beside my cousin.

“Don’t worry. Inez will be here soon enough,” Bronzy chuckled as I picked up a grinding stone. He scooped a few handfuls of the shiny kernels into my bowl, and I pressed and crushed, pressed and crushed, just as he’d taught me. In any other Flairian family, the women would do this. But since there were no Flairmaids in our family and Bronzy and I were the youngest, we got stuck with the cooking chores.

A shrill whistle lilted through the hot air and I sighed. Kitchi had returned from his hunting. I glanced up. He and Inez walked together, a fat turkey swinging between them. I sprang up and dashed to Inez.

“Hello boy! How you’ve grown!” A smile split his thin white beard.

“Almost three beans taller!” I squared my shoulders and stood my highest. Perhaps he’d be ready to take me to the cliff city this time.

Inez nodded, his eyes calculating yet shining just as the gem shaped flair on his chest did. He always looked like Uncle Neechad when he’s counting the crops for market day, as though everything in life is as strategic as a game of squares and pebbles.

“Here little man, pluck the feathers,” Kitchi said, thumping the big bird into my chest. I spit out the fluff that landed on my lips and glare at him. He raised an eyebrow, another challenge I wouldn’t meet. “Get going, human, so we can cook it.”

I spun and stomped around our adobe home. I plop down in the shade and slammed the turkey onto the ground. With each yank of feathers, I imagine tearing off one of Kitchi’s limbs. Over and over, the satisfaction of payback prepared the meat. Then I pulled out my stone blade and cut at the joints, popping the sockets apart.

“Don’t listen to Kitchi.”

I jumped, dropping my knife. Inez strode over and plucked it from the dirt. He wiped the blade clean and offered it back to me.

Critique Corner #3: ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS

By:       E.G Moore                                                          

Genre: Upper Middle Grade Literary Contemporary

*1st 500 Words                                  

I snuck in the front door of our new house with a gopher snake dangling in my hand. Pops had to be in there somewhere. Searching between shafts of July sun from the holes in the ceiling, I found him hunched over a map on the kitchen table.

“What are you doing?” I asked, thinking eagerly of treasure hunts and hunting trips. I slipped the snake into the pocket of my sweatshirt. He’d come in handy later.

“Well, Ol’ Red is nearly out of gas, Son. And Mom don’t get paid ‘til Monday. But I’ve got an idea.” He pointed to the map. “When we go through town and ‘round to the mill, it’s fifteen miles. But look.”

He dragged his bony finger down the blue-inked lines of the creek, around the mill and South. Then he stopped, pointing to our property.

“If we drive through the creek…” I started.

“It’s only ‘bout two miles,” he finished.

“Will we make it?” Visions of white water rapids rushed around my mind.

“Should. Gotta avoid any deep spots. Mom’s off here soon. Load Rosie up and we’ll go get her.”

It’s not every day I got to ride up a creek in a truck, but even my excitement dimmed. Pop’s wild ideas never panned out. The thumb stump on his left hand proved it.

My terrier Rosie’s blonde tail wagged as I lifted her up, and then she sniffed my pocket. The snake shifted as I pushed her aside and climbed into the cab.

Pop crept Ol’ Red around the hunched house and slumping shed. We’d only spent a night there, and already it felt like home. My brother Reed pumped his fist the night before when he turned the shower lever and nothing came out. Pop warned us that we had a busy summer ahead fixing things up, but I didn’t mind.

Even as Ol’ Red crawled slowly down the slope between the fields, I noticed something else that needed mending. The single-wire fence hung lifeless to the ground. We’d have to fix that when I got my horse. The truck tires bounced over gopher holes and upturned rocks, and the seat squeaked as it tossed us around. I kept my hand in my pocket, keeping track of my stowaway. Maybe I could sneak it onto the seat before Mom hopped in. I smirked. She’d be so freaked out. Gopher snakes look enough like rattlers to scare anyone without much time to react.

We stopped at the creek bank and got out to examine the depth of the water.

“I think we’re good. It stays shallow for a ways,” Pop assured no one in particular.

“Yeah,” I reluctantly agreed.

We climbed back onto the red bench seat. I made a show of snapping my seat belt together and pulling Rosie into a protective hug. Pop grinned at me, double-checked our location on the map, and then waved it in the air like Charlie with Willy Wonka’s golden ticket. I just laughed at him.

Critique Corner #2: THE RED AND THE SCARLET

By:       Rachel S.                                                              

Genre: YA Historical Fantasy  

* 1st 500 Words    

When Fyr was struck, and Vladyslav scarred, the world was shivering.

A blanket of clouds lay across the trinity of nations, and fingers of chill dragged into hearts and bones. Windows were shut, as were jackets. The breath of a hundred furnaces and the smoke of a thousand lungs rose to mingle with the skies.

A handful of bourgeoisie gathered outside the Vlalonnan King’s palace, hoping to warm souls and fill their purses. Ignoring winter’s slaps on their cheeks and voices, they sang.

They looked up expectantly at the massive windows, where they hoped to see the king deigning to pay them mind, or preferably, cash. Instead, a snowflake drifted from above to their feet, as if a promise.

And their ancient carol soared to mist-dusted rooftops, where relentless wind snatched and swept it south to the Grassland Reserves, where “savages,” the tribal Yihhe, lived.

The same clouds hovered in their sky, but different joy in their hearts. One that gloried in their enemies’ disfigured heads, once unfortunate Vlalonnan pilgrims, staked around the camp.

Yihhe children, free of chores, ran out shrieking to catch snow in outstretched fingers and dark lashes. Fyr, about eight, stood on the edge of her people’s territory, daring to poke toes past the invisible boundary, near the dreadful heads. She glanced at them curiously, balancing her infant brother on her hip.

While the other children held the bodiless things in fearful reverence, Fyr was grateful to them. From them had come the book in her hand. St. Thandos’ History of Sayy.

She had read it over in the two days it had been hers, glorying in the mythology it told, even reading it to her brother.

But now together they gazed in childish fascination at the falling snow.

And again the girl recited the poem that opened the precious book:

“What has been written,

            Cannot be undone.

            When comes the Raven

            Symbol of a time

            Time after a Time.

            Five Hundred Years Past

            Those Ships Came Afar

            And Raven sent Blue

            Back from Whence they came.

            Now he sits in stone,

            Now he does take flight,

            One-Earring sister

            Frees him from the tomb

            Five Hundred Years Came,

            Those Ships Afar Come,

            And look upon War

            What has been written,

            Cannot be undone.

            Ravens bow to Kings

            King Elian be,

            The left Eye is Dark,

            And the Right Eye Blue.

            Peace to Warring Lands.

            Freedom is not free.

            Heart, Strength, Elian.”

Her words, merely voice to ancient prophecy, lifted to blanketed sky, mingling with the carolers’ call, braiding them together with pure snow into something none of them knew would enter their lives in a matter of time.

Time after a time.

But then the moment ended, and the riders appeared on the horizon, warped shadows coming in the name of the dead.

They broke upon the village faster than it could panic, guns blazing, shattering the still air, and clogging it with black smoke and the screams of the dying. In the midst of the cold and chaos, the little girl ran in a forest of waists and belt buckles, clutching her wailing brother.

Critique Corner #1: UNTITLED

By: Riley M.

Genre: YA Contemporary

*1st 500 Words

Her keys are the way I remember them. It’s been two weeks and they’re all I remember. Sure, there’s the fact that she was the only girl who ever kissed me and the fact that her second grade school picture is still in my wallet and the fact that she’s dead. But no, it’s the way the first key still looks freshly minted after four years and that the second key looks like it’s from the 1800’s and she never told me what it went to, and the house key that actually went to my house instead of hers.

This morning, the 20th of November. Her keys were at the creek in her backyard, just past the last row of trees, hanging from a branch on the birch tree we used to swing on. Cass never left them there. I thought they’d feel safe, like she did, but they didn’t. They were knives, slicing my palm from the life line all the way up through my veins but I don’t miss her.

The girl with the tattoo on her neck asks me if I “miss Cassandra because she always saw us talking” and I glance in her direction for all of three seconds before she walks away. Owen catches up with me, his sneakers falling into a clomp clompclomp clompclomp rhythm next to mine, and he struggles to catch his breath.

“Econ homework?”

“Not a chance.”

He snorts. “Damn, August, you’d think after all this time, this might be a reliable system.” We round the last corner before Owen is due to Economics and I’ve got a free period. “Some friend you are…”

He has twenty-seven seconds before the bell rings. “Hey,” I shoot back, “Cass is the one who steals my homework for you to copy. I’ve always been against the whole thing. Blame her.”

Owen just stares straight ahead out the doorway, frozen like he’s never seen me before. I know what he’s thinking. It’s the same thing everyone is.

I lied to you, just now. I don’t have a free period. I’m supposed to be in Calculus but I’m not really sure what I’m doing there anyway. 32% on the last test and an average in the 40s isn’t exactly the sign of someone who has all the answers. Truth is, I have no idea what I’m doing at all, sitting in my old pick-up truck, clutching Cass’s keys and willing myself to do something other than this.

I know I could sit here for another six hours, listening to nothing but the rattle of her keys but I know that isn’t what my mother wants. My mother hated hates Cass.

I trace the outline of the big key with my index finger and am suddenly brought back to the last time I held these keys, before everything happened.

Manuscript Monday #26

Manuscript Monday is a series of blog posts which chronicle the life of my latest manuscript. It follows the journey I take to turn my week old baby story idea into a fully grown, polished novel. Take the journey with me. 🙂

Hey friends,

Thanks for checking in. I’m always amazed at how many people (like you) stop by my blog. It’s gratifying to know that people may actually be interested in what I have to say. Reports on blog activity can be a blessing—and a curse though. Much like middle schoolers and teens can become obsessed with how many likes they get on an Instagram photo or favorites on a tweet, I can become obsessed with how many views I get on an actual blog post. And I won’t lie. When I first started blogging over a year and a half ago, I was kinda, sorta obsessed. I kept thinking that when I wasn’t getting many views, maybe that meant my content wasn’t helpful.

But I pushed on, and tried to remember that just because my posts weren’t reaching many people, they were reaching some people. That has always been good enough for me. Obsession handled. If I can encourage just one person to keep writing, to keep improving, then I’m happy to keep doing what I’m doing on this site.

So, week after week, I try to offer my thoughts on writing that might resonate with another writer (or two!) who may be reading my posts. Sometimes my posts are seen by small numbers and other times, they seem to explode off the page. Like last week.

I launched my Story Planner on the Swirl and Spark Academy tab for beginning writers (or writers who like to plan with visual aids)…and the site went crazy with views! Maybe because it’s an easy free download, or maybe because people shared the link with like everyone they know. I’m not sure. But if I can reach writers with something I’ve created, I’m supremely happy. So thank you for those of you who clicked on it and told your friends about it. I’ll certainly be adding more materials and articles by way of easy downloads in the near future. I’ve been working on several things for quite some time and I’m looking forward to sharing those with you as well!

But for today, I’ll share my Monday Manuscript thoughts…

This series of posts has helped to keep me accountable with my new manuscript. And I’ve certainly needed it. I’m like all of you reading this probably. Some days drafting is downright hard. Some days it’s too much work. Some days I don’t have the energy. Some days I don’t have any great ideas. So on those days, I need something to keep me on task. Lately, that one thing has been my day-job outline and draft. Just like you, I work during the day. Work for some of you may mean being a caregiver, or being a doctor. The job description doesn’t matter really. We all have responsibilities that take us away from our passion: completing our manuscripts.

Writing. Ahh… It’s what we crave. It’s what we want to do. Even though sometimes it feels like work. So on days when we struggle to fit it in, or write a coherent thought, it’s important for us to remember that writing is our passion. Writing is what we love to do. That’s why we do it. When it becomes too hard, change your perspective. Realize this: You are blessed with a talent and desire to create stories for other people. That is a big thing. It’s huge. You get to write stories. You don’t have to write stories.

I realized this as I worked on my day-job draft. As I wrote, my mind occasionally drifted to my WIP. I wanted to be writing that draft, not this one! I did quite well at reigning in my thoughts, and focusing on the task at hand though. And you know how I did it? I realized how lucky I am to be writing for a living. I realized that this is what I have been striving for. And though, my heart is always in writing my own manuscripts first, I feel supremely grateful for this opportunity.

But that’s not all I realized. I am supremely blessed to have the time, talent, and desire to work on my new WIP draft as well. I am blessed to have this new story idea in my head, and the ability to turn it into a story. That’s a gift. A gift all of you possess also. So when I begrudgingly draft this manuscript, when I wish I could be at the revising stage (my true love) instead, I remind myself that I get to do this. I get to draft.

It’s awesome how changing your perspective can improve your work. So this week, I’ve drafted two more chapters! I challenged myself to see where I could take this story, and eventually I found my groove. I worked a little bit each day and at the end of the week I had some new scenes to show for it.

I hope you’re finding your groove too. I know you can. Maybe you just need a reminder. Okay so here it is: You have a gift. You have a story in your head. Now go write it!

Don’t forget, our February Critique Corner takes place Wednesday! We have six amazing submissions that will be listed, each in their own blog post. Feel free to comment on as many as you can. Our writers will appreciate it! Also, feel free to spread the word on social media. All our welcome to check out our virtual critique meeting. And of course, my fabulous critique partner, Melyssa Mercado will be offering her comments on the entries too. (Yay!!) We both have been amazed at the quality of work these writers have submitted. Our hope is that by putting their work up on the site, we can all help them to sparkle!  

Until then, have a fantastic week. And like I said before, thanks for stopping by! 🙂

Swirl and Spark Story Planner

From the time I could hold a pencil, I’ve loved to write. But not the kind of writing you may be thinking of. I’ve loved to write letters. (No, not the correspondence type either). I’ve love to write actual letters. Like the alphabet. A, B, Cs and especially Js –for my name. I liked forming the letters as perfectly and as neatly as I could. Every strait line and curvy swirl was my bliss.

When I was in 4th grade, my favorite part of the day was immediately after lunch—printing and cursive writing time. I worked hard to make my Ts cross just a bit above the dotted half line, exactly like the picture showed me. But it wasn’t real hard work for me. (I guess I had excellent fine more skills.) It was relaxing. I did my best thinking while forming my Ss like Sammy the Snake and my Is like Iggy the Igloo. And eventually I had the neatest hand writing in the class. Except maybe for my best friend, Amie S. We shared the neatest handwriting title for a while, but eventually she fell off the handwriting pedestal. Her letters were clearly too small. Everyone said so.

I can remember playing in my grandparent’s basement after Sunday dinners. It wasn’t a finished basement, like you see today. It had concrete walls and a slippery floor for sliding in our socks. It had support poles for hanging onto and swinging around until we were dizzy. It had one toy—a teeter totter with a seat in the center. And it had a staircase. A fabulous open back staircase. And that’s where I did my earliest writing. I’d sit with my legs swung through an opening and write on top of a step. It was my pretend desk and it was my favorite place to be.

I wrote on anything I could find. In fact one of my earliest memories was writing letters on a spare checkbook register given to me by my mom. Maybe that was all she had in her purse! I’m not too sure why Grandma didn’t give me a notebook or something, but I don’t remember minding. That blank checkbook was golden. It was for that night anyway, my ticket to recording my thoughts on paper. The thin lines made it even more special—they made my work look official, like my letters had some place important to be.

I’d love to say I wrote stories back then, but I didn’t. It just never occurred to me. I was far too busy writing plays and skits anyway. Most of my ideas came to me while my brother, sisters and I played those games in that basement. I didn’t know it then, but I do now—a playful mind is an imaginative mind. It’s free to be creative.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about what I’m passionate about…what types of things interest me, and what I like to write about. One theme keeps showing up over and over. Imagination.

So, I’ve decided to write more about it—wherever I can. I’ve already written a whole manuscript based on it, (more on that another day), but I have so much more to share. You’ll see I’ve added another tab to this website. At swirl and spark academy you’ll find just about anything that has to do with imagination—imaginative play and how to harness it in order to become successful—no matter what age kid you are!

There’s not much on that tab yet, but there will be. Check it out of you like though, to see what I have planned. I did want to kick it off with something helpful though, and I wanted to start off with something I wish I had when I was starting to write. Something to help me harness my imaginative thoughts. In fact, I would have LOVED to have something like this back then when I was writing on my desk/step. Who am I kidding? I like using it now too.

It’s the Swirl and Spark Story Planner, an actual planner you can download (for free) to help you organize your story. Just go to the swirl and spark academy tab to find it. I’d love for you to download it, and tell me what you think. I hope it can help someone out there besides me. 🙂

You may notice that I’ve deleted the To Be Read Pile tab too. I’ve kept the information though. It’s over in the Book Nook. Just scroll down to the bottom and you’ll find all the great books I’m planning to read next!

Please remember, any subs for Critique Corner need to be in by Friday. The round is next week already and I can’t wait!

And that’s all the updates for now. I hope you enjoyed my journey back to my earliest writing days. I wasn’t too different from most kids even today, I guess. Well except maybe for the cursive writing sessions!