Grammar, Short Story Showcase

Look in the Mirror!

I have a mirror on the wall- right next to my front door. After I get dressed for the day, before I walk out of my house, I look at myself in that mirror. It’s not that I’m vain really, but I would rather not step out into the world with oatmeal stuck in my teeth or toothpaste on my face. Can you imagine running into an old friend looking like that? It would be even worse if you had buttoned up your coat the wrong way. You know what I mean. You’ve buttoned the buttons in the wrong holes and now they don’t line up the right way. Somehow the left side of your coat is hanging lower than the right. Yikes!

You’d look like a mess right? What would your friend think of you? She’d think you were careless and sloppy. She might still like you on the inside, but she would think you looked like a mess on the outside!

I look in the mirror because it’s a reflection of who I am. My reflection is the first thing people see when they meet me. Looks aren’t the most important thing, but they are something. I care about what people think about me. I want them to know that I take care of myself- that I have respect for myself.

I do the same thing with my writing. Except the mirror I use is grammar.

What?

Yeah, my mirror is grammar.

You see, grammar can be the first thing people notice about your story…if you have grammar mistakes. Like the toothpaste on your face. If you misspell a word, or forget to add a period at the end of your sentence, your readers will notice- and not in a good way. They’ll notice a run-on sentence. They’ll notice the wrong spelling of same sounding words.

Here’s an example of three words that sound the same but have different meanings and are spelled differently.

There
Their
They’re

Homophones. People mix up homophones all the time, but they shouldn’t. And neither should you. Especially if you’re a writer!

“There” is the spelling to use when you’re showing a location. Ex. The car is over there.
“Their” is used to show possession- that something belongs to another person. Ex. Their car was filled with balloons.
“They’re” is used as a contraction (combination) of the words they and are. Ex. “They’re” going to drive the car to pick up the balloons.

When you mix these words up, it’s like getting caught with toothpaste on your face. And you don’t want that do you??

As you know from reading this blog, I’m all about writing creative stories…using your imagination to dream up amazing things. Many times writers will free write the draft of their story without thinking about misspelled words and punctuation. They do it because all the grammar rules can get in the way of creating real life characters that live in a made up world. Teachers encourage this in fact. They will instruct kids to free write for a time about anything they want. This is awesome because it allows writers to get into their story without getting stuck on words they don’t know how to spell, or worrying if they forgot a comma or two.

The thing is though, after you free write, you need to be sure to pull out your mirror. Take a good look at what you’ve written. Your words are a reflection of yourself. Go back and re-read your writing. Proofread for spelling errors. Make sure you’ve begun each sentence with a capitol letter. Add any periods you may have left off the ends of your sentences. Check your grammar.

It’s just as important as looking in the mirror. You want your reader to notice the cute, fluffy puppy in your story that floats up in space on a scooter, not the fact that you forgot to capitalize his name throughout your whole story. You don’t want your reader to be distracted by that stuff. You want them to focus on the story you’ve written.

Creative writers don’t have to focus all their time on grammar, but they do have to focus some time on it. So learn about punctuation. Learn about spelling. It’s not boring stuff. It’s the stuff that makes our words flow together in harmony. And next time you write an amazing story, don’t forget to pull out your mirror before you let the world see it. Your story is a reflection of you. Make it the best it can be!

And as a side note…Short Story Showcase is open next week! Stories can be about anything you want, so be brave. Send yours in this week. Details can be found on the Short Story Showcase tab.

Until next Wednesday, have a great week of springtime writing, reading and exploring the outdoors. Just don’t forget to look in the mirror before you step out the door!

Odyssey of the Mind, Short Story Showcase

Wanted: Stories Written by Kids and Teens!

One of the reasons I originally created this website, was to give young writers a place to showcase their work. There are so many talented kids all over the country with stories to tell! Finally, they have a chance to show the world. Short Story Showcase is now underway!

The difficulty I’m finding in hosting something like this is not coordinating the whole thing, but reaching the kids! And that’s where you come in. I hope. 🙂 If you’ve stumbled upon this blog post today, I’m asking you to help me. Are you a parent or a teacher? Are you a coach of an Odyssey of the Mind team? Or another type of coach? Do you see kids on a regular basis? If you do, please help me spread the word! Kids write stories in school, and given the chance, many kids write stories in their free time too. They write about their families. They write about their adventures. They write about their break ups. They write about hidden treasures and hidden worlds.

Participating in Short Story Showcase is easy! I’m now accepting stories (800 words or less) written by kids and teens ages 8-18. Please email the story (no attachments please) along with the title and the author’s name to swirlandspark@gmail.com.  I will post the first and last name as a by-line. Otherwise a screen name or first name and last initial works too. I’d also like you to include the age so that I can set up categories for our readers.

I don’t want to set a limit on the number of stories I receive. If a young writer wants to submit their work, then I am more than happy to put it up on display! Short Story Showcase will officially open on April 30th.

So please encourage any tween or teen writers you know to participate! The more stories we get the better. I’m hopeful that Short Story Showcase will be a place where kids and teens from all over can go to read stories written by other writers their age. What better motivation is there to write amazing stories, than to read other amazing stories?

Thank you in advance for spreading the word through whatever means you can. Twitter, Facebook, in person—however! I can’t wait to see the stories we get, and share them on the site!

Short Story Showcase

Olympic Writing!

In honor of the Winter Olympics happening right now in Sochi, Russia, I’m adding a new event to the blog… Short Story Showcase! The Olympic committee added Slopestyle this year and it’s turned out to be an amazing snowboarding event. So, I decided to try something new too!

Short Story Showcase will be a place where kids can post their entire story from start to finish- up to 800 words. I chose that number because many children’s magazines like Highlights for Children use this word count for the short stories they publish. It’s plenty of words to create a great story!

The first event will happen on April  30th.  I will post up to 5 stories at each event. If I get more than that I’ll save them for the next Short Story Showcase. You can submit your short story at any time for this showcase beginning March 1st.  Send your complete story with Short Story Showcase written in the subject line to swirlandspark@gmail.com.  Be sure to include the title and your name (no last names please) to your story. Full details can be found on the Short Story Showcase tab, which will be posted to the blog soon. So keep checking back!

I’m really excited for this event- excited to read your stories and excited for you to have a place to showcase them! April is just around the corner so I hope you’ll take the next few weeks to work on yours. If you have any friends who’ve written a great story or might like to write one, please tell them about this awesome event. It a great chance for any up and coming author to show the world their work! Your story can be about anything you like…dragons, elephants, princesses, ski racing, figure skating, whatever!  It can be a fantasy story, a realistic story or a mystery. Whatever interests you will probably interest the rest of us.

Why not give it a shot?  Write a story. Because, like Wayne Gretzky- one of the greatest ice hockey players of all time said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”  And he’s right. 🙂

So on that note, I’m off to watch the Olympics. I can’t think of a better place to find inspiration for any goal.  Speed skating, downhill skiing, or writing! Let the games begin!