Friday, August 29, 2008


My fellow RockSugarBeet, Elise Murphy, asked her blog readers for advice on dialogue. I don't know if the following would work for everyone but it works for me so I thought I'd share:
When writing dialogue, be the character. Don't edit as you write dialogue (plenty of time for that later), rather meditate yourself into the character's soul and let him/her talk. Don't judge what he/she is saying or if it 'fits the character, rather let your character ramble until you nail their way of talking, reacting, thinking. Your characters will write the dialogue for you. A couple days later you can edit, refine, make sure it fits what and who your characters are. Three or four revisions later, your dialogue will be as natural as if your characters were sitting next to you.

How do you write dialogue?

Thursday, August 21, 2008


A friend of mine recently asked me, "What is the best FIRST poetry class to teach students in the classroom, especially grade school students?"

I always start with MASK POEMS. Kids love to play pretend and in mask poems, where the speaker is the subject of the poem, students can pretend they are garbage cans, flowers, monkeys or anything else that makes their heart sing, or giggle.

The great Myra Cohn Livingston writes the following about Mask Poems in her book POEM-MAKING:
Poets never stop imagining what it might be like to be not only another person, but even something that cannot, in reality, think or speak. This aspect of the dramatic voice is what I think of as a mask or persona. It is as though we put on the face or the body of someone else and tell about ourselves through our words.
I start by teaching students what a mask poem is. I then read 6 to 8 mask poems. Next, I set the students free to write their own Mask Poems. (Hint: read the poems out of fully illustrated picture books; it will keep the students' eyes on you and help them connect more of their senses with the lesson.)

There are always students who cannot pick a topic. Never fear, simply ask those students to look at their desk, pick up the first object they see (pencil, tape, crayon) and write the mask poem in the voice of that object. Stops writer's block in a flash!

When they are done, students clamor to read their poems out-loud.

One last thing, many students write non-fiction animal reports in 3rd grade. When my son was in 3rd grade, I taught the class Mask Poems and asked the students to write a poem in the voice of their animal. I taught this class after the kids had done all of their research so they really knew who their animal was and how he would talk. These Mask Poems became the cover page of their animal reports.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Thank you to Rebecca Langston-George for the following:
If any of you shop at Macy's you may be interested in their new partnership to raise funds for RIF (Reading Is FUNdamental). Reading Is FUNdamental is the country's oldest and largest literacy program which provides free books to low income children throughout the country. You can read the details at:

Basically, if you make a $3 donation to RIF at your local Macy's then Macy's will not only donate 100% of your donation to RIF (with 1/3 of that earmarked for RIF programs in your area), they'll also give you a $10 shopping certificate (good on a $50 purchase). I [Rebecca] ran two RIF programs for many years and can testify it's a wonderful program. Each of our students received 3 free books a year of their choice through RIF. Feel free to post this info on your blogs, etc. and spread the word-the RIF programs in your area will thank you.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


What an amazing group of women. My head is spinning with new ideas and revisions. I'm happy to say that the group believes my 'great' beach idea is actually, well great. I will be spending the coming days/weeks revising, trying to turn great into superb.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


I am one lucky writer. I am blessed with an amazing critique group. A group where we not only care about each other's writing, but about each other's souls.

Yesterday I sent my new baby, oh I mean my manuscript, off to my critique group. By Friday night I'll know if my girl is doa, in need of a couple of weeks or months in intensive care, or if she is ready to breathe on her own.

But hearing thoughtful opinions about my manuscript is not why I can't wait until Friday night. I'm itch'n to catch up on each other's lives, info dump about the SCBWI Conference, and laugh, laugh, laugh.

Me, Stephanie Hemphill, Paula Yoo, Joyce Lee Wong, Claudia Harrington, and Mary 'Kitty' Donohoe make up the one and only KidScribblers.

Monday, August 11, 2008


I am thrilled for my friend Valerie Patterson! Valerie sold her book, THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE, today to Clarion. Even better, Val got a 2-book deal!
I met Val last week at the SCBWI National Conference. We gabbed about books, ate mall food and last I saw her she was tucked into bed with a way-too-early flight awaiting her the next morning. Read about Valerie's road to publication here:

Sunday, August 10, 2008


Here's to weekends, going to the beach, zoning out in the sand and coming up with your next great book idea. OK, it is a little early to know if it is great or not, but it just could be. I wrote the beginning and the end while attempting a nap, and then I spent the next couple of hours repeating them to myself so that I wouldn't forget them before I made it home. From now on I have to remember to bring paper and a pen wherever I go. And I call myself a writer.

Friday, August 8, 2008


Just came back from this year's amazing SCBWI National Conference. Saw lots of old friends (including my fantabulous critique group--more on that another day), made new ones and learned an enormous amount from Bruce Coville's craft sessions.

Here's a photo of the RockSugarBeets hanging in the Century Plaza lobby after a long day of conferencing.

From left to right:
Me, Amber Lough, Cindy Pon, Jacqui Robbins, Sara Lewis Holmes, Elise Murphy, and Debbie Freedman.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I love to teach poetry in the classroom.
Kathy Sena, writer for Newsweek, Woman's Day, Family Circle, USA Today, Child, etc. and frequent speaker at ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) recently blogged about one of my programs. Here is the link:

Hey Kids, Let's Have a Poetry Jam!
by Kathy Sena
What’s the secret for firing up grade-school kids and making them eager to read and write poetry? Just ask Jill Corcoran, an award-winning poet and mother of three who runs art-music-poetry workshops at elementary schools in Southern California.
“The workshops have been amazing,” says Corcoran. “The kids go from looking at me like I am a space alien, to slowly participating in the workshop, to boldly sharing ideas, to creating poetry with confidence and pride. It’s a fantastic, dizzying writing session that culminates in a coffeehouse-like poetry jam.”
Here are Corcoran’s tips for creating a one-hour workshop that teachers (or parent volunteers) can do in their own classrooms:
Jill Corcoran’s Art-Music-Poetry-Jam Workshop
Suggested grades: 2 – 5Time required: 1 hourSupplies needed: Boom box with selected music, 11” x 17” white paper, crayons, pencils, Post-it notes, scotch tape
1. Briefly discuss the power of art, music and poetry to evoke emotion.
2. Give each student an 11” x 17” piece of white paper and crayons.
3. Have students listen to music for several minutes and then draw whatever the music makes them feel.
4. Give each student a pad of Post-it notes and a pencil and have the students form a line to walk around the room and look at each picture.
5. At each picture, the students write the first word that comes to their minds on the sticky paper. They leave that word with the picture. Instruct the students not to write words like “cool” or “fun,” but to write nouns, verbs or strong adjectives.
6. The students then return to their pictures to find 20+ words written by their fellow students.
7. With their words and pictures in front of them, and the music playing once again, students create a poem from the words they have been given. (Once their poems are finished, have each student tape their Post-it-notes poem to the back of their picture. Otherwise the notes tend fall off.)
8. Ask the students to read their poems aloud. At the end of the hour, each student has created a poem that reflects the music they encountered, the art this music evoked from them and the words their art evoked in others.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


It is almost midnight, and on a whim and a big push from many of my writer friends I have decided to start blogging. Now, what to blog about? I'll be thinking about that as I doze off tonight.
Sweet Dreams


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