Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Good-Bye 2012!

Today's WIT is not so witty; it is simply a bit of cheer from the heart:

Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to stop here to view my posts. I hope that WIT has given you some ideas to make your writing stronger and that you are inspired to keep practicing.

Have a wonderful holiday season filled with good times, family, friends, books, and creativity!

The next new post will be January 10, 2013.

Peace, Love, and Wit,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tips from 3 More Famous Authors

WhOOPs! If you're wondering why today's post didn't show up, it's because I hit the PM button instead of the AM one when I scheduled it. I don't have a good excuse except for the fact that I have Holiday Brain--there's too much info fighting for space in my head.
Drum roll please...
We are in the presence of a few superstars.

First up, is R.L. Stine.
You probably know this dude best from his GOOSEBUMPs stories.
R. L. says,
"Never sit down and start writing...Always have a complete plan for what you are going to write before you start."
So, R.L. Stein is not a pantster, an importantly writerly term for "writes by the seat of his/her pants." That basically means he is not the type of writer who puts his pencil on the page and writes whatever comes into his brain.
Personally, I agree with Mr. Stine, to an extent. I am a pantster only in the very beginning, but then I backtrack and start planning. Guess I'm a planster.

Second up, is another author who enjoys bringing out the goosebumps in us, Stephen King. You may be allowed to watch a Stephen King movie that's based on his books, but I would recommend waiting. They will scare the pants off of you!
Stephen King says,
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
Agreed! And vacation is coming up, so we will all have time to do at least one of those two things.

And finally, James Patterson, author of many thrillers for grown-ups, but also MIDDLE SCHOOL, THE WORST YEARS OF MY LIFE, and MIDDLE SCHOOL, GET ME OUT OF HERE (for kids 8-12).
“I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”
I like this advice best of all. To write a good story, make it a story someone will want to hear over and over again.

Look at the advice above. Which author's advice speaks to you?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Neil Gaiman's 8 Rules of Writing

While researching writing tips on the Internet (a procrastination tool that led to this very blog!), I came across a site called Brain Pickings. Brain Pickings may be a little out there for you young 'uns, heck it's kind of out there for me, a young 'un at heart. The site's creator, Maria Popova, puts it this way,

"Brain Pickings is your LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces across art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology. Pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Please enjoy.

Whew, and WHEW!
Anyway, last month Maria posted Neil's Gaiman's 8 Rules for Writing. You know that Neil is the author of CORALINE, THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, and more, right?

I love Neil Gaiman's rules, and I thought you might, too.

My favorite one is number six.
6. Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

Be sure to check them all out HERE. Which rule is your fave?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A is for Autumn, Authors, and Ammi

Wave HELLO to Ammi-Joan Paquette, my very last A+ author in this series of interviews. Take it away, Ammi-Joan!

AMMI-JOAN PAQUETTE, a.k.a AJ Paquette, is the author of the middle-grade novel NOWHERE GIRL (Walker, 2011), and the picture books THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING MERMAIDS (Tanglewood, 2012), and THE TIPTOE GUIDE TO TRACKING FAIRIES (Tanglewood, 2009). She was a 2005 PEN-NE Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award honoree, and is also a literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She lives outside of Boston with her family and her very tall to-read pile. 

1. The book fairy transports you inside one of your books. Which book are you in, and what part do you play in the story?
I have to say that I would love to take a trip into the world of THE TIPTOE GUIDES. To be able to follow those children around while they follow clues and eventually come to meet some fairies and mermaids face to face sounds like a pretty neat experience. But who knows… maybe I already do!

2. In approximately ten words, describe a favorite setting from a book you have written.
NOWHERE GIRL’s Thailand: lush, wild, exotic, beautiful—full of adventure!
3. What does your office look like?
Right now? Very messy. Okay, all the time it’s very messy. I wish I could say that will improve sometime in the future. But, alas, I have a feeling it probably won’t.
 4. If you were a superhero, who would you be, and why?
I’ve always loved Wonder Woman, though if I got the job I would have to seriously invest in a different costume. Brrrr!

Do I really have to pick just one? I love munching on nuts—cashews or almonds, mmm! Sometimes nothing but Ritz crackers and a slice of sharp cheese will do the trick. Ideally, there will be a slice of freshly-baked cake left over from earlier in the day. If so, having the munchies at midnight is pretty much a given.

Ammi-Joan, we are looking forward to your next release, GHOST IN THE HOUSE, scheduled for July 9th! And hey, THAT'S MY BIRTHDAY so there's no way I'll be forgetting. Save a signed copy for me!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Turkey Day! (Almost)

What? You were expecting turkey?
Don't worry. You are not imagining things. THIS is not a turkey; it's a peacock, a very beautiful peacock. I get tired of seeing nothing but turkeys at this time of year. A peacock is a refreshing change, don't you think?

While you are waiting for that delicious turkey dinner, think about our peacock up there.
What do you know about this bird?
Is it male or female?
What is its name?
Is this peacock friendly?
What if we had peacocks for dinner instead of turkeys? : (
If the peacock could talk, what would it say?

Make a list.
On the left side, put FACT. List everything you know about this colorful bird. (Research!)
On the right, put FICTION and make up some fun facts about the bird.

Write a short story weaving fact and fiction.


Thankfully yours,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Excuse Me While I Squeeeee!

No, it's not Thursday.
; )
This is an unscheduled WIT post, and a happy one at that. Below is the cover of STORM SONG, one of two picture books that will be published this spring.


What do you think?
I LOVE IT! Wait until you meet the adorable doggie who shows up on almost every page.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A is for Autumn, Authors, and Amy

Say HELLO to Amy Dixon!

Amy has agreed to be part of my series of interviews, or mini-views as I like to call them. Do you remember that ALL the authors featured this autumn have names that begin with A? SO Awesome!

AMY DIXON grew up as one of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book. Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home, where she lives with her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. Amy is the author of MARATHON MOUSE.

Now, let's get to the nitty-gritty and find out what goes on in the super-secret life of this fabulous author.

1. The book fairy transports you inside one of your books. Which book are you in, and what part do you play in the story?
I would definitely be one of the runners in MARATHON MOUSE! I am in awe of people who can run 26.2 miles and live to tell about it. I would finish the New York City marathon alongside my buddy, Preston Mouse, and wear my medal proudly!

2. In approximately ten words, describe a favorite setting from a book you have written.
The quiet, contemplative dark of the Queensboro bridge.

3. What does your office look like?
My favorite place to work is at our local Panera. When I try to work at home, chores like dishes and laundry call out to me. It's so distracting!

4. If you were a superhero, who would you be, and why?
The first thing that came to mind was Whyatt from the PBS show, SUPER WHY! (Can you tell I have a 4-year-old?) He's no Superman, but...the power to fly inside his favorite books??? Yes, please!

5. You've got the munchies at midnight. Which salty or sweet snack makes you get out of bed and head for the kitchen?
POPCORN! It's my favorite food, hands down.

Ready? Set? GOooo!
Race you to the bookstore!

Note from Nancy: Since Thanksgiving is next Thursday, look for WIT to appear the day before, on Wednesday, November 21st.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Quick Quiz

Sharpen your pencils.
Take your seats.
Get ready for...

(You are cheering and clapping, aren't you?)

This quiz is short/brief.  Or it's long/lengthy. 18 questions. You decide.

It's on antonyms (the opposite) and synonyms (the same).

You even get a grade!

Ready, set, GO! I'll race you.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

A is for Autumn, Authors, and Alison

I don't know if you've noticed, but some of my WIT posts were a little off last week and the week before. I have no idea why this happens, but it seems that when I write posts ahead of time and schedule them, weird things pop up. Anyway, I apologize!

Moving on...

This week's interview is with Alison Formento. WELCOME, Alison!

ALISON FORMENTO is the author of the award-winning picture books THIS TREE COUNTS!, THIS TREE, 1, 2, 3, THESE BEES COUNT! and THESE SEAS COUNT (2013). She has written for several publications including The New York Times, The Writer and Parenting. Alison loves visiting schools and libraries and donates a portion of her book sales to AmericanForests.org.

If you love and respect nature, Alison's books will certainly make you smile. Let's hear what she has to say.

1. The book fairy transports you inside one of your books. Which book are you in, and what part do you play in the story?
Hi, Book Fairy, thanks for buzzing by. I'm so happy that you've taken me inside THESE BEES COUNT! And what's more...you've plopped me right inside a bee hive. You might have a hard time seeing me, but I'm one of the worker bees and I've just come back from a two mile trip. I visited about 50,000 flowers and I'm so heavy from all of the nectar filling my belly. Time to...BURP! Oh, excuse me, but I really needed to spit up the nectar into the honeycomb here in this part of our hive. These are the Queen's newest bee babies and they need some tasty bee bread so they'll grow. Boy, this stuff is sticky, but oh, so sweet. Some say, it's sweet as honey! Now it's time to visit some more flowers. Buzz....

2. In approximately ten words, describe a favorite setting from a book you have written.
Tip top of an old oak tree is a special spot for birds, animals, or me.
(The tree in THIS TREE COUNTS!)

3. What does your office look like?
There's a big window in my office and some of my office walls are covered with happy monster wallpaper drawn by Sandra Boynton. My shelves overflow with books and my desk is covered with papers. There's a rocking chair that I rocked my kids in when they were babies. Now I use it (a lot) to read. For me: Reading + rocking = awesome!

4. If you were a superhero, who would you be, and why?
I'd be Captain Environment! I'd be able to stop harm to our environment. Trees would be planted everywhere. Bees and other animals would be safe from pesticides or other manmade threats. Our seas would clean of litter. Our world would be safe from manmade disasters such as oil spills and fresh healthy food would be available for all. That would be a dream come true!

5. You've got the munchies at midnight. Which salty or sweet snack makes you get out of bed and head for the kitchen?
Honey graham crackers dunked in milk. Yum!
We surely do need a Captain Environment, Alison! Thanks for answering these questions for WIT readers.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mixed and Fixed!

Some witty posts got mixed up with others.
It happens when I schedule posts to appear on certain dates. Hopefully, you'll check back and see they've been fixed.

Catch up with this week's WIT below!

Wimpy vs. Superhero Writing

Do you know how easy it is to make your writing stronger? All you have to do is change wimpy adjectives to superhero ones. EASY, PEASY.

Take a look at my great story below. Rewrite the story, but replace that boring word:  great with a  more descriptive one.

Need help?
Rhymezone.com to the rescue.
Click on the link above.
Put great in the WORD box.
To the right of where it says RHYMES, click on the down arrow.
The third choice is synonyms. Click on that.

But remember, a synonym may not be what you need. Maybe there’s a different adjective that will fit in that sentence and make it great...um...I mean, outstanding.


This past month, we celebrated Columbus Day, a great holiday. Old Chris was a great guy, wasn’t he? After all, we credit him with the great discovery of our great nation because he landed in the Americas in 1492. But did he? He never really landed on the mainland. He may have been great, but the dude had a lousy sense of direction. Seriously, look it up.


Some great countries and some great states in the U.S. do not celebrate this great holiday. In Latin America, Día de la Raza or Day of the Race, is celebrated. The great state of South Dakota celebrates the great, early inhabitants of America on Native American Day. It’s not a public holiday at all in Hawaii, Nevada, or California.

So, when Columbus Day rolls around next year, find some great things to do. Relax, enjoy your freedom, catch up on your great homework assignments. Or maybe you can spend time thinking about this:  Is Columbus Day a great federal holiday?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A is for Autumn, Authors, and Ann

It's time for another A+ author. The fabulous Ann Malaspina is my guest today!

ANN MALASPINA, a former newspaper reporter, writes multicultural picture books inspired by true events. She is the author of TOUCH THE SKY:  Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper, HEART ON FIRE:  Susan B. Anthony Votes for President, FINDING LINCOLN, YASMIN'S HAMMER, and PHILLIS SINGS OUT FREEDOM:  The Story of George Washingtone and Phillis Wheatley.

As you can probably see, Ann's books serve as terrific resources.
Kids:  Are you looking for someone interesting to feature in a book report?
Teachers:  Do you want to read a book that will offer your students a peak into the lives of famous people? Check out one of Ann Malaspina's biographies today!

Let's see how Ann answers the interview questions. Take it away, Ann!

1. The book fairy transports you inside one of your books. Which book are you in, and what part do you play in the story? 
I'm Susan B. Anthony, marching down her street in Rochester, NY, on her way to vote in 1872, from my new book HEART ON FIRE: SUSAN B. ANTHONY VOTES FOR PRESIDENT. Fortunately when I vote this November, I won't be arrested like she was in a time when voting by women was actually against the law!
2. In approximately ten words, describe a favorite setting from a book you have written.
Yasmin riding her water buffalo across the river in Yasmin's Hammer.
3. What does your office look like?
My office in the attic looks like a hurricane hit. Books, papers, notebooks, and coffee mugs are scattered everywhere. Luckily I can see birds flying over my skylight, which remind me to finish writing so I can go outside.
4. If you were a superhero, who would you be, and why?
Since I started off as a newspaper reporter like Lois Lane, I'd like to be her when she (temporarily) turned into Superwoman. Of course, we need lots more female superheroes.
5. You've got the munchies at midnight. Which salty or sweet snack makes you get out of bed and head for the kitchen? 
Ben & Jerry's coffee heath bar crunch, which is why I don't keep it in our house.

Thanks for stopping by, Ann.  Let's go out for ice cream!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ahoy There, Mates!

In keeping with the theme two weeks ago on words, I thought I'd give you a list of words on a theme.

Read the list below. Each word has something to do with boating. Create a story using as many words as you can. If you really want to get crazy, check out Nautical Know How where you can find an entire glossary of boating terms.

fishing boat
life jacket
Coast Guard
cruise ship
Bon Voyage! (Oops, that's French.)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

A is for Autumn, Authors, and Artie

Throughout the fall, I'll be featuring some wonderful, witty authors who will answer the same five interview questions. You will get a mini-view (a short view) into their super-secret author lives. And guess what's really cool? ALL of their names begin with the letter A.

First up is the very funny Artie Bennett.

ARTIE BENNETT is the executive copyeditor for a children’s book publisher, and he writes a little on the side (but not the backside!). He wrote THE DINOSAUR JOKE BOOK:  A Compendium of Pre-Hysteric Puns (currently extinct) when he was a much younger man, but THE BUTT BOOK (Bloomsbury, 2010) is his first mature work. His “number two” picture book, fittingly called POOPENDOUS! (Blue Apple Books), was released in March 2012. He and his wife, Leah, live deep in the bowels of Brooklyn, New York, where he spends his spare time moving his car to satisfy the rigorous demands of alternate-side-of-the-street parking.

WELCOME, Artie! Let's get to the questions.

1. The book fairy transports you inside one of your books. Which book are you in, and what part do you play in the story?
I’m in my first “mature” work, The Butt Book. There’s a verse toward the end, and it’s one of my favorites:
An eagle’s butt soars high above.
A teddy bear’s is filled with love.

And I’m transported to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, in Pennsylvania, watching raptors soaring past, as they migrate to warmer climes for the winter. As an avid bird watcher, however, I’m looking for a whole-bird experience, not merely the butt, diagnostic though it may be.

2. In approximately ten words, describe a favorite setting from a book you have written.
I’m afraid I’ll need to go over ten words! There’s a triplet in my “number two” picture book, Poopendous!, that goes

Critter poop is known as dung.
And monkey dung is sometimes flung.

Monkeys fling when under stress.
It helps the monkey decompress.

So if a monkey aims at you,
Duck behind a friend, or two.

This verse is set in a jungle. And having recently returned from an extraordinary nature vacation in Costa Rica, where nights were spent at eco-lodges in steamy rainforests (and mornings being awakened by the demonic, guttural growls of howler monkeys), I’ll pick the jungle every time as a favorite setting. But I’ll need to stay limber, for there’s much ducking to be done.

3. What does your office look like?
My office is a bit cluttered, with piles of work. But it’s not quite as chaotic as it may appear to the untutored eye. I’m surrounded by grammars, dictionaries, and other assorted reference guides. I also have a large tin filled with granola for a refreshing 10 am snack. And I keep a couple of squash racquets tucked away in the corner to help work off that refreshing 10 am snack.

4. If you were a superhero, who would you be, and why?
I would be Mr. Freeze. Now, I know that he is a supervillain, not a superhero, but something happened not too long ago that called for his capabilities. You should know that I have a serious ice cream addiction. I’m comfortable with it, though, because it’s my only vice. Well, I woke up one morning to find our fridge on the fritz—it apparently had crashed during the night. With abject terror for what I might come upon, I yanked open the freezer door, only to see my entire stash—as many as fifty pints of ice cream—all melted dead away. My first, hysterical thought was to pour the liquefied love into a huge vat—ice cream soup—and guzzle it down before leaving for work. But reason prevailed and I tossed them all in the trash. It was painful, but it had to be done. However, if, like Mr. Freeze, I could freeze things solid, I would have preserved my entire supply—and my happiness.

5. You've got the munchies at midnight. Which salty or sweet snack makes you get out of bed and head for the kitchen?

The antidote for the midnight munchies is cashews, a fistful of cashews. You see, I’m nuts about nuts, and cashews are my absolute favorite. I prefer them unsalted, though, and lightly roasted. Sometimes I can’t wait for the midnight munchies to strike and I take a fistful to bed at about 11 pm. And I settle into sweet dreams of eating some more. Good night.

Thanks for stopping by, Artie. We are NUTS about you!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Keeping Up with the English Language

The dictionary is G R O W I N G again!
Here are a few words and phrases that have been added recently (as entries or sub-entries). I've put each in a sentence so you can figure out the meaning.

When you write, it's OK to use words above the reading level of your reader, but make sure your sentence gives a clue to its meaning.

Misha got a brain cramp from studying her multiplication flash cards.
I'm not a vegetarian because I occasionally eat meat; therefore, I am a flexitarian.
Devon never understood how cloud computing invisibly saved names in her address book.
Dad's man cave has a big screen TV and the best stereo system in the whole house.
The mashup between "Chasing Cars" by Snow Patrol and "Every Breath You Take" by the Police is one of Kayla's favorites.
During geocaching, the family used their car's GPS to locate a hidden box filled with treasure.
Michael tried to convince the principal that his school cafeteria was an obesogenic place to eat.

Have you come across new words that you like?
What are they, and do you use them mostly in speech, or in your writing, too?

Peace Out,

Thursday, September 20, 2012

To Spell or Misspell

Do you have words that bug you? When you write them down and look at them, are you convinced you have misspelled them?
This happens to me all the time.
Some words, like those below, should be etched into my brain by now, but every now and then I look at them and think, Wait, is that the right way to spell that?
For example:
monarch (I feel like there should be an "e" at the end...)
reluctant (To "c" or not to "c"...)
fortunate (I really want there to be an "e" after the "n"...)
definite (This just looks wrong...)

But all of the above words are spelled the right way!

Click HERE for the 100 Most Often Misspelled Words in English.

Now, take a look at the words below. Decide which is the correct spelling, then scroll way down for the answer.
mileage or milage
linage or lineage
committee or commitee
committment or commitment
acreage or acrage
provalone or provolone
onomatopoeia or onomatapoeia
travelled or traveled
cancelled or cancelled
likeable or likable

CANCELLED or CANCELED (Cancellation always has the double "l".)

Did you get these right? What words are hard for you to spell?

See you next Thursday!
: )
 (Most of the days of the week are easy to spell!)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hello, Again!

I hope you had a wonderful summer, and you're off to a good start in this new school year!

Remember last spring when I asked you to open the dictionary and discover a random new word every day? Did you? I hope so because I have found a site where you can play a game to prove to me that you did! (Not really, but I got your attention, didn't I? *smirk*)


There are questions on Free Rice that are related to a bunch of topics. THIS LINK takes you to a page about vocabulary and you can pick the level that seems right for you. (On the site, look at the bottom of the green box for the words, Change Level.) I suggest the easiest one. You answer the question and a new one comes up.

Want to know the very BEST part? For every right answer, rice is donated to hungry people across the world. Cool, huh? Who would've thought that knowlege could be so helpful to others?

Give it a try! I did and donated 500 grains of rice in less than 5 minutes!

Oh, by the way, you don't have to Log In to play. That's only if you want to keep track.

See you next Thursday!
: )

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Do I Have Rocks in my Head?

While you are waiting for WIT to begin again in just

Ever wonder about my writing life? Well, apparently the wonderful people who publish the magazine Philadelphia Stories and run Philadelphia's Push to Publish Conference were curious, so they interviewed me. I will be part of this conference that takes place October 13th. Wearing an editor's hat, I'll be helping aspiring writers improve their stories. Wearing my children's writer hat, I'll be part of a panel talking about writing for children. Truth is, all these hats are invisible, but I bet you figured that out already.

Anyway, here's a link to the interview.

PUSH TO PUBLISH - Meet the Expert - Nancy Viau

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Miss Wit?

WIT will resume Thursday, September 13th!

Right now, the Viau family is busy gathering school supplies, checking out new clothes, and finishing up summer work assignments.


What are your thoughts on the first day of school? (And this is the part where I sneak in a little writing warm-up exercise...) Create a list of adjectives that describe what you're feeling!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A Little Interruption

I will return you to your regularly scheduled July 4th activities in a sec.
But first,

My website will have a new birthday soon, too! Nancy Viau.com (www.nancyviau.com) will be completely overhauled this summer. In its place there will be a sparkly, new, kid-friendly site. If the current one disappears for a bit at any point, don't worry. (You WOULD be worried, right?)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Say Hi to Hiatus

It's that time of year again!


Dictionary.com defines HIATUS like this:
Noun: A pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process.
And that's precisely what will be happening with this blog. It will be on HIATUS until mid-September.

To carry you through (because you will miss me, right?), I want you to do something entirely old-fashioned.
1. Get a print dictionary. (Remember those? If you don't have one, they sell them at the dollar store.)
2. Every day at breakfast, open it to a random page and blindly point at a word.
3. Say the word out loud.
4. Read the definition.
5. Try to use it in a sentence.
Then, tuck it in your brain and GO OUT AND PLAY! Come back in September will fresh words, ideas, and experiences that will make your writing shine.
BYE for now!
: )
P.S. If I get an update on my forthcoming picture books, I'll let you know.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The King of All Grammar Errors

Any clue as to what people goof up on more than anything else?
It's everywhere, believe me.
It's almost as if the rule has a brain of its own and it takes over our writing.

It's the old It's vs Its rule!

It's means it is or it has.
Its shows possession, as in it belongs to someone or something.

I check myself this way:
If I write it's, I make sure that when I substitute it is or it has (in my mind), it still makes sense.
If I write its because I think it should show possession, I still double check by substituting it is or it has. It shouldn't make sense.
Ready for a quiz? It's used by those who speak a language other than English. Can you imagine how hard this rule is for them?
But for you, it's easy, right? I expect that you'll get 100% or pretty close. Make me proud.
: )


If you doubt how important this is, the Mean Ol' School Marm will make it clear.
CLICK HERE to read a Mean Ol' Schoolmarm Moment of the Day post about our topic.
(She scares me... just a bit.)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

We've Got This Covered

Ever see a book cover and think, I've seen that before, but it was on a different book and it was by a different author?

Lately, I've seen a lot of covers with:
a kid yelling or running or yelling and running
a shoe, a dress, or one item of clothing on a plain background
large, almost 3-D fonts
black background with red object
a cartoonish girl in an active pose (like climbing a tree)
a symbol
a pair holding hands
a robot, monster, or alien doing something a child might do
teen facing road, city, or fantasy land and all we see is his/her back.
the almost kiss

Publishers figure out what works and whether by accident or on purpose, book covers end up similar. But you don't have to be a copycat.

Pick either 1 or 2 below and become a book designer.
1. Create a book cover based on one of your stories.
2. During peer editing sessions, draw the cover of your classmate's story and have him/her do the same. Do it secretly, and then on the big reveal, see if both of you have the same idea for a book cover.
*Make covers eye-catching and unique. Work with color, font, a photo, or even an art project that you like.

Oh, and guess what? I haven't seen too many like this, have you?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Clichés, Clear as a Bell

Ever wonder if your writing is filled with clichés?

What IS a cliché, anyway?

A cliché is simply an idea, theme, phrase, expression or something that’s overused. And it’s a “no-no” in writing. We wouldn’t want to use overused things would we? Unless we’re recycling, but that’s a whole different ballgame…WHOOPS! That ballgame expression is a cliché! (So is the title of this blog post, by the way.)

If you click HERE,
you’ll see the best alphabetical list of clichés I have ever seen! It’s from Laura Hayden's "Left-Brain- Right Brain/Creativity Program.” Like Laura’s says, phrases like bite the dust, a dark and stormy night, silence is golden, countless hours, eye for an eye, etc. “make for great book titles but lousy writing.”

Also, why we’re on the subject of clichés... Look at my list below and ask yourself if any of these overused plots have ended up in your stories lately.

Sick mom or dad who needs a medicine
Unpopular kid becomes popular
Superpowers that suddenly appear at age 13 or 16
A girl who can’t decide who she likes
Shy girl gets noticed by most popular boy
Boy must fulfill his destiny to become king
Story ends and it’s all been a dream
Peasant who is really royalty

If you must add a vampire, use it to take a bite out of your clichés!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Get Ready, Get Set, Write!

Don't think about this picture prompt too hard. Let 'er rip.

WHAT? You're stuck? Even after last week's tips about what to do if bogged down?

How about if I get you started?
Answer these questions to get your writing juices flowing:

What are the girls' names?
Are they friends?
Where are they going?
Where are they coming from?
Are they lost?
Are they with adults?
What's up ahead?
Are they scared, happy, sad, thoughtful?
What do they see? smell? hear?
What just happened?
What happens next?

**Oooh, I just got a great idea for a story!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Say Hello to Pencil Tips

Pencil Tips Writing WorkshopJacqueline Jules, who so kindly offered some great ways to improve your poetry a few weeks back, had me do a guest post on her blog called Pencil Tips. So, get on your running shoes and run right over there to read ARE YOU GETTING BOGGED DOWN? Ten Helpful Tips to Get You Writing Again by yours truly. *grin* HERE's the link. And while you're hanging out there, check out the older posts. You'll discover some great info, I promise.
Ready, Set, GOoooo!
: )

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Common Sense

I know. I KNOW! Poetry month is over, right? However, I couldn't resist introducing you to another poem. The poem below, Common Sense, is one that I often use when teaching poetry to kids in K-2. Why? Because it contains all the senses. Anytime you add more to your writing than just what you see, your writing becomes stronger and more interesting. This poem also has great rhythm and rhyme, and the author (*cough, cough*- ME) sneaks in fun vocabulary words like constellation and experiment.

When I read this poem I always add really cool actions, like sweeping my hands left to right to illustrate a gigantic rainbow or sticking out my tongue to taste that sunshine. I'm reading and going through the motions right now. Can you see? No? Well, use your imagination! Or, better yet, get up out of that chair and act out this poem on your own.

Virtual candy is optional. (*wink*)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

10 Tips from a Famous Author, Part 2

Today, I'd like you to meet Tiffany Streilitz Haber. Tiffany is a poet and also the author of several rhyming books. THE MONSTER WHO LOST HIS MEAN will be out soon:

And another rhyming picture book, OLLIE AND CLAIRE, will be released in 2013.

Tiffany has stopped by to give you more tips for writing poetry. A round of applause for today's generous author, please?

Take it away, Tiffany...


  1. Keep a notebook on you at all times. 
When an idea pops into your head…jot it down immediately!  It could be anything from a character name, to an idea for a title, to an entire concept from start to finish.  Your notebook will become the breeding ground for a zillion poems and stories.  Don’t leave home without it!

  1. Read random things. 
You’ll be surprised at the new directions your own writing can take you  when you are inspired by styles outside of your immediate comfort zone.   Ask a few people you don’t know very well to tell you *their* favorite poem, and then go check it out.  Discover what you’ve been missing!

  1. Variety is the spice of life!
Scan through your poem, and make sure you haven’t used an adjective more than once.  If you have…cross it out/erase it/hit delete.  Every word counts.  Words should earn their way into your work.

  1. Read your work out loud.  
We read our own work so many times *to ourselves*, but it’s just as important to read it OUT LOUD.  You may stumble on something when you are speaking- that you glide over when you are just saying it in your mind.  Give it a try and see for yourself!

  1. Have a friend read it out loud TO you.  Aka: (A great way to uncover hidden problems).
I am calling this one: Tip #5, but it’s also pretty much, Tip #4a. :-D
Whether in your mind or out loud, at the end of the day- it’s still YOU reading YOUR work.  And we can’t help but read it the way we want it to be read. But it’s critical to find out how it will be read by someone seeing it for the very first time.  So have a friend read your poem TO you, and see how it sounds.

  1. Walk away.
All done?  I don’t think so.  Just when you think you’ve got a finished product…the real fun begins.  Sticking your poem in a dark drawer (no peeking) for at least one full week can uncover issues you had no idea were brewing.   When you finally return to your work, it’s like you have super powers.  Suddenly you can see everything so clearly!  What works.  What doesn’t.  Try it!  It’s an invaluable experiment.

  1. Speaking of experiments…..Experiment!  
Don’t get stuck writing about the same subject over and over again.  Here’s a little challenge: Open a dictionary to a random page, and write a 12 line poem using the 4th word on that page.  Whatever it may be!  This sort of exercise keeps your brain working and flexes new writing muscles for you.  I think you’ll be amazed at what you come up with!

  1. Be concise. “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”  Dr. Seuss
‘Nuff said.  Warning: harder than it may seem. 

  1. Write what you love.

10.     Love what you write.

Great advice, Tiffany. THANK YOU!

P.S. Tiffany can be reached in a variety of ways:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

It's STILL Poetry Month

Try your hand at an I AM poem! (For a sample, click HERE.)
I love poetry that doesn't rhyme. It's less stressful!
; )




I am (two special characteristics)

I wonder (something you are actually curious about)

I hear (an imaginary sound)

I see (an imaginary sight)

I want (an actual desire)

I am (the first line of the poem restated)

I pretend (something you pretend to do)

I feel (a feeling about something imaginary)

I touch (an imaginary touch)

I worry (something that really bothers you)

I cry (something that makes you very sad)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I understand (something you know is true)

I say (something you believe in)

I dream (something you actually dream about)

I try (something you make an effort to do)

I hope (something you actually hope for)

I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April is Poetry Month!

A few weeks ago, I was in a terrific fourth grade class (shout-out to Mrs. Yellin and her students!), and they gave me a collection of short essays. The kids answered the question, "What Will We Be?" They were inspired by a poem I had published in a magazine titled "What Will I Be?"
Here it is:
Now, it's your turn. Since it's poetry month, write a 4-8 line poem telling the world what your hopes and dreams are for a career. Try to make it rhyme!