Category Archives: Writing with Kids

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Using Google Earth.


by Heather Harris Brady

I could actually change this post to second grader, because second graders are tooling around Google Earth too! Regardless, one of the first assignments elementary ipad users receive is to find their house on Google Earth. Authors can use it to enrich their user experiences by mapping the travels of story characters.

In my lit trip, above, I have travel paths marked for my two main characters, as well as a ship that plays a key part in the story. On key destinations I have embedded photos of special items my characters encountered along the way:


If you click on the pushpins you can see the images. You can download and view my entire lit trip here. You do need to have installed Google Earth first though.

If you’d like video tutorials on any of these IT posts please send me a request in the comments. I’m keeping them short on purpose, but I can always add more!

Happy Birthday Shel Silverstein

The original most interesting man in the world


You can find some wonderful resources for young writers on his website.

Gifts for Young Writers

Like me, you probably buy a lot of books for the holidays. I wanted to take a minute to mention a gift that keeps giving all year around: the Letters to Kids program through Both my children are avid readers and writers, so I am hoping that these letters will inspire them to keep writing. I bought a membership for my daughter as soon as the program, and she just received a letter from Lisa Yee last week.

I see that they have put a few examples on their website, including the amazing story from Alex Rex!

Nanowrimo Kickoff and Writing Workshop Report Card

So, we’re in the blocks ready-set for the start of National Novel Writing Month tomorrow. With my first installment of The Mis(s)fits at the querying stage I’m excited to jump into a new project – Succotashtrophe, a middle-grade sci-fi adventure. I look forward to Nanowrimo as a way to bring more to the forefront (as I still have that necessary day job), and reaffirm my commitment to the craft. What you may not realize is that it is also a great way to get any young people in your household writing too! In my experience natural talents and affinities start to show up early, and the ability to write well is a necessary skill in any profession.

Did you know that Nanowrimo has some seriously great tools for young writers? They have a wonderful set of worksheets on plot, character development, setting – everything.¬† If you’ve already planned to participate, think about daring a young writer to join you with their own project!

Speaking of learning, as you might recall I signed up for three different workshop experiences a few months ago. Now that I’ve completed them I wanted to pass my take on to you.

Skillshare: Humor Writing ($12)

Skillshare is a website offering a range of online classes on a wide variety of topics. Since it was reasonably priced, I signed up for a five-week class as an experiment. Each week we received reading assignments (generally three). The second week we had to submit a 500-word piece as a first draft, which we would polish over the rest of the time. The teacher offered several short sets of online office hours, where you could ask any questions but they never worked for my schedule. For the first two weeks I diligently completed the reading assignments and turned in my first draft by the deadline. I received one comment and three likes from fellow online classmates. In the larger metro areas groups formed and met in person for critiques, but that’s not an option for me here a good two hours from the nearest reasonably urban area. The online reading assignments continued to arrive, but with so little feedback from the class and none from the teacher (I had expected that she would read our first drafts) I quickly lost interest. I would fail this alternative but the experience of the 500-word piece was somewhat valuable. If you don’t belong to a critique already and you live in a metropolitan area you might find it more valuable.

Skillshare Online Humor Writing Class: D


SCBWI Fall Conference (Greektown) $300+ when you include travel expenses

As a relatively new member, this was my first SCBWI experience. I arrived early to take a writing workshop with Libba Bray. The following day we had the full SCBWI program with Libba Bray, her husband/agent Barry Goldblatt and her editor Alvina Ling. I made an effort to meet as many new members as possible during the breaks, but it would have been nice to get a sticker on my badge or something so other attendees could recognize me as a new member. Libba’s sessions were wonderful, she gave us a series of writing prompts with time to just write with no inhibitions. I have never used writing prompts in the past but after seeing the results I’m going to make an effort to make them a more steady habit. Alvina Ling typically does not accept unagented work, but she gave attendees a submission window, which was a nice little perk.

SCBWI Fall Conference: B+


Writers Digest Crafting MG/YA for Today’s Market with Mary Kole ($75)

This was a 90-minute online webinar. While it was closed to interactive questions, you could submit a question. All Q&A, plus an archived copy of the presentation, is to arrive via email within a week. This was a good session, I did learn a few things and it neatly summarized many of the conclusions I’ve pieced together from other editing reviews and workshops. The class includes a personalized two-page critique from Mary Kole with the end product to arrive by late January.

Writers Digest Mary Kole Webinar: Incomplete (I will grade this session once I receive my critique.)

The Hero/Heroine’s Journey Step 3: Refusal of the Call

So when last we left our intrepid heroes and heroines they were hearing their calls to adventure – the inciting events leading them down the prickly path. In fiction as in real life, these brave souls are not so brave at first. They tremble on the threshold, unsure of whether to take the leap.

In the movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Flint Lockwood is literally at the bottom of the barrel – the trash barrel when he refuses the call. In Rango the reptilian hero not only refuses but flees, however the hand of destiny is at work and his attempts at self-preservation become acts of bravery. Whatever and however they are they begin to question themselves, they are not brave enough, not skilled enough, not adventurous enough.

This is where the rubber starts to meet the road for both you and your heroes and heroines. If you become too deeply attached to them you can’t place them in the difficult positions that will make a great story. You’ve got to be willing to bond with them and then put them through their worst nightmares, starting right here!

What are some of the creative refusals-of-the-call you remember from books, movies or TV?

The Hero/Heroine’s Journey – Steps 1 & 2: The Ordinary World and The Call to Adventure

One of the happy extras to my writing journey is that fact that my children are both writing, now that they see me writing. I should mention that this has all come about without any interference from me. On their own and of themselves, they write. However, I cannot resist the urge to help them. I started writing in elementary school myself and I know how much farther ahead I could be now if someone had helped me more then.

So, without being too hovering, I find little opportunities to work in bits about writing. One such chance is during family movie night. Most stories include a hero’s journey to some degree, so I have started mentioning it here and there – in the moment – when they can recognize it for what it is.

Step 1: The Ordinary World/ Step 2: Call to Adventure

I’ve combined both these together because they often happen in sync. In these first few moments or few pages we can begin to get an idea of what our hero or heroine is like, just enough so we can begin to bond with them. But typically you don’t have to wait too long before they hear the siren call to adventure. In Rango, we meet the thespian chameleon who is directing himself (in his tank) in adventure “movies”. He is searching for meaning within his characters but when his tank bounces out of the car and shatters he is thrown into a real adventure.

When you start looking for The Call to Adventure you’ll find it everywhere throughout books and movies. What are some of your favorite siren calls to adventure?