Tween Reading List & New Writing Downloads!

Hey Everyone!

Since summer vacation is practically here—I can taste the popsicles already, I thought it would be a great time to gather up some great reading and writing stuff for tweens. If you click over on the  Book Nook- Middle Grade, you’ll see that I’ve added a printable download version of my middle grade reading list. I thought it would be handy for kids or parents to have when searching the library and bookstore bookshelves. These books are targeted at 8-12 year- olds, but some trend more toward upper middle grade 12-14 year-olds too. Most schools supply required summer reading lists, but many give kids the option to pick a book on their own. If that’s the case, I hope the list can help!

But the list is not just for kids. If you write middle grade fiction, it’s important for you to read widely in this age category too. Many genres are represented on the list, so take a peek. I bet you’ll find something you love. Many debut authors are represented, and their stories are amazing!

And…I’m also debuting a new collection of Swirl and Spark bookish downloads, just for tweens…

Tween Downloads!

Why the new venture? Call me crazy, but I like to stay busy. I also like to create. And I love tweens! Last year I had an idea to design some kid friendly writing “accessories” for kids who like to read and write. When people think of downloads though, they often think of a computer app. I’ve designed these downloads to be more hands-on type writing tools for kids.

The first is the Swirl and Spark Story Planner. Using it, they can think over their story ideas with more than just a blank page in front of them. As writers, we love (sometimes) to look at that blank page. It offers opportunity for new ideas. But for kids this can be intimidating. So I’ve designed planning pages (a downloadable, printable PDF file) that can be printed out and placed in a bright binder- ready to take anywhere. Kids can brainstorm their ideas onto pages that guide them along. Included are pages for their title ideas, list of characters, all those character traits, settings, conflicts, and so much more. I’ve also included writing tips on each colorful page. It’s a great motivator and also a great writing tool for any tween who loves writing stories, and would love a great accessory to help them plan and organize it.

The second is the Swirl and Spark Reading Record. Also a downloadable, printable PDF file, it contains colorful log type pages where kids can keep track of the books they’ve read all year. It also contains award pages for each book. Instead of writing a summary to remember their favorite characters and scenes, they can give them awards as indicated on the page. And for kids who can’t bear to let their favorite story end, there are several writing pages where they can add on to the ending of their favorite books!

So that’s the deal. I hope you or a young writer/ reader you know will have fun with their new bookish accessories. Summer is the perfect time to read and write no matter what your age. A little sunshine does wonders for all of our best creative thinking and dreaming, and is definitely the perfect backdrop when reading a great book!

Happy Sunshine, Everyone! See you next week. 🙂


The Tween Scene

I made some decisions about swirl and spark this week. (It’s had a bit of an identity crises lately.) I’ve gone around in circles trying to find my website/ blog’s place on-line. Do I target beginner writers, advanced writers, kid writers? Finding a unique niche is not an easy thing to do. I mean, there are like a million websites for writers and readers. And so many of them are amazing with tips on everything from writing craft, to querying, to publishing, to book reviews …just to name a few. There are some days where I really wonder what I have to offer.

And this is what I’ve come up with.

I started this website as a resource for young writers. At my core, I like to help people—especially kids. I want to guide them in ways I wasn’t guided when I first showed interest in writing. My writing journey is similar to so many others out there. If I can offer anything at all to kids just by answering questions, providing resources, or even offering positive encouragement, then I want to do that.

But what age group do I target? The kid age group is pretty broad. And though I love kids (and kid writers) of all ages. I’ve decided to focus on tweens. Many of you may hate that term. I actually love it. It’s like a special club for 8-12 year-olds! And since I write for this age group, it seems to make perfect sense.

Yet, my weekly blog is where I connect with other writers. That’s important to me—and fun! The friends I’ve made via this blog have made this journey so much better. Many a dark writing day has turned brighter because of my writing friends! So I want to keep my blog as it is, a place to connect with my fellow readers and writers. I mean most 12 year-olds aren’t really into blog reading anyway!

So that brings me to the rest of the website.

I’ll continue to beef up the Book Nooks. I think it’s an important resource for writers of all ages, parents, teachers, and librarians. I’m always looking for new books to read, so I have to guess I’m not the only one! (I’m on a roll now too, reading some fabulous new MG titles. You’ll see them all posted very soon!

I’ll continue with Critique Corner also. Though I’m going to stick to middle grade and young adult submissions. Due to the target age of this site, I feel this is the most appropriate way to proceed. I’m planning to have a round for middle grade writers next, and then a round for YA writers soon after that. Stay tuned for dates!

In an effort to reach more tweens, I’ve added a DOWNLOADS FOR TWEENS tab to the site. One is active, and I’m working on two addition downloads as well. Each download will pertain to writing, reading, and creative play for 8-12 year-olds. Reaching and interacting with kids has always been my strength and I want to get back to doing that. Besides, I’m hoping this will attract some additional interest in the SPOTLIGHT TWEENS tab too. I’d love to see many more stories by the fab 8-12 crowd!

So as you can see, not a whole lot about the site has changed. I guess it just helps me to clarify what it is I’m trying to accomplish, and where my focus should be! So… if you know any readers or writers between the ages of 8-12 who might like to take a peek at the site, please pass the word. And if you know any middle grade or YA writers who might be interested in our future critique rounds please let them know as well. And of course my weekly ramblings on blog are open to anyone with some time to kill, or just looking to connect with another writer!

As always, thanks for checking in! I’m off to read a few more chapters of Jen Malone and Gail Nall’s fabulous middle grade, You’re Invited. I’m halfway through and it’s totes amazing. Read the book and you’ll see why!

Happy Wednesday, Everyone! See you next week. 🙂


Break Free by Free Writing

I’ve gotten the kids off to school and I sit here at my desk sipping my green tea. I’m not a morning coffee drinker. It’s just too harsh on my stomach, but the cool tea with honey wakes me up just fine. The sun shines out my window and a neighbor’s flag waves in the distance. The leaves of the oak trees shiver, just enough to tell me I should stay right where I am. I’d love to write this post from my favorite spot on the deck, but I’m not hearty when it comes to writing outside. I love to feel the warm air on my face as I dream up fabulous words, but any hint of a chill, and I’m distracted, bordering on crabby. I really hate being cold! So until the mercury rises just a bit more, I’ll appreciate the sparkle of the sunshine through the glass.

I wondered all week what to write this post about. I didn’t actually stress over it, but I did want to write something worthwhile. Filler posts aren’t worth anyone’s time really. It wasn’t until well after I sat down this morning and opened a new document (even before I broke out the green tea), that I realized I had something worth sharing.

I’m not sure why I opened a new document in the first place. I have plenty of current projects to keep me busy. Just yesterday, I flip flopped all over the place from my business project draft, to my middle grade revisions, to my query letter, to my twitter pitches, to my critique partner’s MS and back again to each one several times. My head felt like a pin ball all day and maybe the thought of adding in a blog post was too much for even my word-loving brain to handle.

So I tucked those other projects neatly away for a bit. I forgot all the pressures they (at least sometimes) present. And I stared at the empty, beautiful white page before me.

And I wrote whatever came to mind. I wrote phrases about lady bugs. Words to describe the sun. A scene about riding in a kayak. A description about someone—I’m not sure who. I described a hardware store. Maybe because I’m writing about one in my work project. I described a foreign city. Funny because I’ve never been there, but have read and heard so much about it, that I’d love to include it in one of my books someday. Just writing about what I imagine to be true, for a short time anyway, seemed almost as amazing as being there.

I wrote a list of words, in no particular order, but I realized later, they are all words that make me happy like fireflies, dream, imagine, water, daisies, stars, cinnamon, soar, shoes, charm, romance, friendship, fairy tales, vacation, inspire, create, laugh, sparkle, family, climb, float…

I wrote a quote by Audrey Hepburn…”Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, ‘I’m possible’!”

Then I wrote a scene about a crayon, and all her pretty crayon friends. It was fun. It was random. It was descriptive. And it rhymed!

And after all that writing, my empty page was transformed into a page filled with my random, morning thoughts. It was just what I needed to refresh myself, and my love of writing.

So much time is spent perfecting our stories and our queries and our pitches—as it should be. But the business of getting published should never cause us to lose our love of writing—of arranging words into pretty phrases and developing them into unforgettable stories and characters. Our work will benefit from taking a moment, every so often, to free write. To let our creative, unstressed minds take over and spill whatever they want onto the page.

And then I closed the page, and opened another—this blog post page. 🙂 I hope it will help you to take a step back and remember why you became a writer in the first place—because you get to write!

If any of you are participating in #PitMad tomorrow on twitter, I’ll be there! Look my tweets up and connect with me if you like. You can finally see what my middle grade is about! (Just please don’t favorite any of my tweets.) It’s a Pitch Party run by author, Brenda Drake for agents to peruse the twitter pitches and favorite any they may be interested in seeing more of. Feel free to retweet them though, and I’ll be happy to do the same for you. 🙂 Any writer can enter. If you’d like details, just check out her website. Hope to see you there!

Have an amazing week, my friends. Hope it’s full of fun, sunshine, and fabulous words!