Friday, November 2, 2007

Writing Challenge For Today - in Historical Fiction

For those of you who are interested in writing historical fiction, try this writing challenge or exercise with a particular angle.


Its just one of the variety of angles you can use when you write in this genre.


Write a scene for a historical novel for children. In this scene, show your young main character meeting a well known historic person, and interacting with this person in a small or big way that will be important to the plot of the novel you might write.


To help get you thinking about how you might do this, here are three examples of historical novels for young readers, and the historic people the young main characters meet:


<>“Beth’s Story” (from the Portraits of Little Women series written by Susan Beth Pfeffer and published about 2001)(based on a character in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN). In this alternate story, Beth (the third of the four sisters in the original LITTLE WOMEN), visits New York City, goes to a play in a theater, and meets Abraham Lincoln.


<> “The Gentleman Outlaw, and Me” by Mary Downing Hahn (a girl, in disguise as a boy, travels west to find her father, and journeys with a boy she meets along the way. In a town where they find themselves during their journey, they briefly meet Doc Holliday) [If you read this book, note another interesting character (not famous historically, except perhaps as a type of unusual person for that time). She is introduced toward the end of the story, but she is no less important to the story and the young main character]


<>”Johnny Tremain” by Esther Forbes (a fictional boy during American Revolution meets John Hancock and Samuel Adams, and is helped by one of them)


Can you think of, or find, other historical novels with this angle too?


Now its time for you to “make that scene”!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Creating Characters

Certainly as writers you have thought about the many ways that characters can be created.

Have you thought of the ways that real people may be models of fictional characters, or how fictional characters (completely or partially)(exactly or the opposite) may be based on real people?

Take a look at the Web sites cited below for information about two famous children's stories' characters and the real people they are based on:

 Find out about Alice Liddell (the girl who was the basis for the Alice of the "Alice in Wonderland" and Alice Through the Lookinglass" books by Lewis Carroll (aka Lewis Dodgson) 

and (scroll to question about Mark Twain's characters: Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Huck Finn)

Now think of someone you know, or traits of a few people you know, and write a paragraph that creatively paints a portrait in words of a young character for what could become one of your stories for children or teens.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Today's Writing Challenge - Life After Harry Potter?

Maybe you believe each book a children's writer writes should stand on its own merit, or maybe you believe that there surely must be a writer "out there" who can provide a successor (pun intended) to the Harry Potter phenomenon.

Whatever your viewpoint, take a look at this article:
"Publishers search to find Harry Potter's replacement"

Here you will see information on some suggestions of, one might say, "book life after Harry Potter."

Do you agree, or disagree, with the suggestions - or do you think there may be another writer's creation that could be the one that's successful after Harry?

Maybe its you who has a manuscript, or you who could write one, that could "fill the bill" or meet such "great expectations." Maybe its you who could even create a character that might be able to metaphorically "walk in Harry's (or Hermione's) (or Ron's) shoes," or in his/her footsteps, or beyond them, perhaps.

Ponder the possibilities. Maybe you have your own room full of secrets, or a magical gem, or _____ ... just waiting for you to wave your wand, and ....

Well, you get the idea now  :) 

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Another Writing Challenge - of Fairy Tales

If you can get a copy of the May 21, 2007 TIME Magazine, be sure to read the article "The End of Fairy Tales?" on pages 83-85.

In the meantime, or after you read the article, study the types of re-writes fairy tales have gotten, then think about whether or not particular types of re-writes might be clever or go too far, and then think about how you might re-write a fairytale. Which fairy tale would you choose? How would you change it, modernize it, or give it a unique twist?

And think about this: would you return to the original grim Grimms' fairy tales style, stay with a sweet Disney version, try another different grim version, or go in a completely opposite direction, or use your very own unique technique? 

Go ahead now - take the challenge!


Saturday, July 14, 2007

another writing challenge - An Age Old Question Updated and Adapted for Children's Writers

Here is an adaptation of a question that is often asked of readers: Suppose you were stranded on a desert island, or (in keeping with the modern age), suppose you were on a space station or moon base for a long time. Choose 6-12 children's books you would like to have with you to help pass the time. They should also be books, or even magazine articles, that would keep inspiring you to write. One of your choices can be something written for writers by a children's book or article writer. Here are my choices: parts of LITTLE WOMEN, all of THE SECRET GARDEN, A WRINKLE IN TIME, THE MIXED UP FILES OF MRS BASIL E FRANKWEILER, TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN, BARBARY, and an article by Rachel Carson on the sense of wonder in children. Now its your turn.  

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Can You Pick or Choose? - Of Great Writings For Children

Because we have been living at the end of one century and at the beginning of a new century the past few years, you have surely seen this question: Who Was/Is the Greatest Writer of the 20th Century?

As writers for children, we might consider a similar question in this way: Who Were/Are Ten Great Children's Writers, Not Just of the 20th Century, But From Anytime Starting From the Beginning of Children's Literature to the Present?

Here are a few suggestions: Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Madeleine L'Engle, and J.K. Rowling. 

Can you think of others?

Tell why you think they may be among the "TOP TEN."

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Writing Challenge - Can You Remember? Can You Adapt It?

What is your first memory, or your second one or third one?

Try writing a picture book based on one of these memories.

Try writing about it the way it happened, or take the memory as a seed and plant it, then imagine how it might sprout and then nurture it.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Writing Prompt for Today - TimeCapsuleChallenge

The library system in Queens County, a part of New York City, is celebrating its one hundredth anniversary. One way library goers are celebrating is selecting things to be put in a time capsule made of two steel trunks. Among the items to be put there: the children's book THE POLAR EXPRESS and  a sleigh bell to ring while reading this popular children’s book. (excerpted from the "Queens Courier" newspaper online, April 28, 2007)
A challenge for you - which children's book would you select to be put in a library's time capsule, and why? OR which type of children's book would you like to write and get published so it could be put in a library's time capsule?

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Writing Prompt for Today - From Printed Word to Movie Screen

The new children's movie "The Last Mimzy" (2007) is based on a classic science fiction story featuring children - "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (or "Mimsy Were the Borogroves") published and written in 1943 by Lewis Padgett (pen name for Catherine Lucille [C.L.] Moore and her husband Henry Kuttner). There are similarities and differences between the original story and the movie version, as seems inevitable when printed stories are made into movies. Both "Mimsy" and "Mimzy" each in its own way features a young someone noteworthy in the history of children's literature, and each features the young main characters in different although similar ways. Think about the ways the young characters are featured in each version, and how the young literary person is important in each version, then consider writing your own fictional children's story that features either a real literary person or a literary character from classic literature.