Here’s a really short bit of advice about writing poetry . . . that holds a lot inside its tiny sentence. A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom. – Robert Frost Robert Frost (1874–1963) was one of our most famous American poets. He lived in New England, and was famous for simple but brilliant poems like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” which ends: The woods are lovely, dark, and deep, But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep. The thing about writing a poem (or song lyrics, or anythingRead More →

This is a link to a wonderful set of tips on brainstorming a story idea. They are from Jane Yolen (and Scholastic Books). Yolen is an amazing author, having published over 300 books! You probably have read some of her books — the Young Merlin trilogy, or the Pit Dragon trilogy, or stand-alones like The Devil’s Arithmetic, etc. Here are some of Jane Yolen’s tips for brainstorming warm-ups . . . as you start to plan a story. These tips are especially for writing myths (stories about something natural, like how once upon a time the moon got up in the sky). But, of course,Read More →

Let other read your work. As a famous person (good ol’ Ben Franklin) once said: What’s the use of a sundial in the shade? (Think about that for a minute.) It means if you have talents, don’t hide them away. Get them out in the sunlight! As a writer, this means letting a few other people read what you write. Maybe sharing a story or a poem with a friend. Maybe with a teacher. For some shy writers, yes, it’s hard to do. Especially the first few times. Maybe you’re thinking, you want it to be perfect first, right? (Or you’re be afraid you’ll beRead More →

Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer. – Barbara Kingsolver Kingsolver is an American novelist, whose novels (The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven, The Poisonwood Bible) have been bestsellers. Her advice is sound. But for a young writer . . . you can’t always close an actual door. Let’s face it, sometimes there are other people around! But what she means, then, is to close an imaginary door. CreateRead More →

What’s the difference between an idea (or a situation) and a story. For the answer, let’s turn to one of my favorite authors: Dr. Seuss! He knew how to take ridiculous situations . . . . . . like a moose with great antlers that allows a bug, then a spider, then a bird, a few squirrels, a bobcat, a turtle, to nest in his horns . . . and turn it all into a story about something. (That story, Thidwick, the Big-Hearted Moose, turns out to be about friendship & generosity, and being taken advantage of, and how to get out of awkward situationsRead More →

Idea or Story? Guest Post by Bruce Black (This piece comes directly from Bruce’s great Wordswimmer Blog, March 1, 2009, reprinted here by permission.) How many times have you thought of a great idea, only to discover that the idea just doesn’t translate into a story? That’s because an idea isn’t the same as a story. You might have a terrific setting in mind, or a fabulous character, or an interesting problem or premise. But unless you know how to combine setting, character, and problem, your idea will remain just an idea, and the story will elude you. What’s the difference between a story andRead More →

Does poetry need to make sense? Maybe, but not always to every reader. As a great American poet said, don’t worry about what a reader understands. A poem is an experience, and it starts with you and the magic of words. “Never worry about . . . what the reader can understand. . . . Just you and the page.” – Richard Hugo It means a poem can contain a few mysteries. You don’t have to explain everything! Writing a poem is as much about sounds and word-play and emotions you can’t put into exact words. It’s like playing or dancing . . . ItRead More →

Wondering how to write a poem about spring? (Hey, did you know we’re sponsoring a spring poem contest for young writers, ages 8 to 14?) Here are some poetry writing tips: “Imaginary gardens with real toads in them. – Marianne Moore I love this simple bit of advice from an American poet! Your poem is an imaginary place . . . but it helps to have specific things in it. Describe something real: a door, a person, a path, a tree . . . “I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it orRead More →

Here’s a great tip for writing a poem. It comes from a great American poet, Richard Hugo, who passed away in 1982, but not before writing a good book on writing poetry, The Triggering Town. In the first chapter, he tries to explain why a good poem often ends up in a different place than it starts. The problem with beginning poets? Young poets find it difficult to free themselves from the [kick-off] subject. The poet puts down the title: “Autumn Rain.” Then, the poet writes a few lines on that topic. “Then,” says Hugo, “things start to break down.” The poet goes on .Read More →

Interview with Arun Toké Founder and Executive Editor Skipping Stones Magazine Skipping Stones is an award-winning magazine that comes out every two months, five times during the school year. It publishes work by writers of all ages. In a typical issue, you’ll find stories, articles, and photos from all over the world, including pieces in other languages, with translations. For an online sample issue, click here. Here’s an interview with the founder about how to get your writing published in Skipping Stones. As with all magazines, the key step is simple: send in your best work! INTERVIEW WITH ARUN TOKÉ, EDITOR 1. Any particular typesRead More →

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