Thursday, May 31, 2012

Yall Just Better Tell Me The Answer To My Question

Yep, that's right. I come to yall today with a question rather than an answer. Let's set up the scenario.

You're in the second draft of your book.You're trying very hard to make the second draft better than the first, which was an atrocious draft that you wouldn't even let your own mother see.

But you're stuck.

Horribly stuck.

Not only that, but you have a day job.

And you have a family.

And you have a delightful hobby that is being neglected.

And a garden.

And a dog.

Here's the question.

If you were to pick a TREAT right now to motivate yourself to write/get yourself in a writing mood... what is it gonna be? (And don't say 'the reward of writing'. Because we ALL KNOW that some days writing isn't 'fun.' Some days, it's miserable.)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Self-Conscious of the Audience: Talking down to Children

by Deren Hansen

In an interview in the Guardian, Martin Amis said:
"People ask me if I ever thought of writing a children's book ... I say, 'If I had a serious brain injury I might well write a children's book', but otherwise the idea of being conscious of who you're directing the story to is anathema to me, because, in my view, fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable. ... I would never write about someone that forced me to write at a lower register than what I can write."
I couldn't help smiling at that because I've long been convinced that Madeleine L'Engle came much closer to the truth when she said:
"You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children."
But there's something deeper here than an I'm-right-you're-wrong tempest in a teapot. Amis said, "the idea of being conscious of who you're directing the story to is anathema to me." In children's literature, the worst kind of talking down to children comes from authors who are conscious--or, more to the point, self-conscious--of their audience.

So does that mean Amis is right? That you should be unconscious of your audience?

No, quite the opposite.

You need to know your audience so well that addressing them in appropriate and evocative ways is simply second nature. One of the hallmarks of a master is that they make what they do look easy--as if they didn't give it a second thought.

Amis can say, "fiction is freedom and any restraints on that are intolerable," because in the first case he knows his present audience so well that he is effectively unconscious of them, and, in the second case, coming to know another, younger audience would, for him, be a process full of self-conscious restraints.

Children's authors feel none of the restraints that worry Amis because they don't talk to their audience, they talk with them. And the very best are, themselves, still very much a part of their audience.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Should Books be Rated?

By Julie Daines

Here we are again. Back to the debate about whether or not books for young adults should carry a content warning. 

Thanks to this article in US News and World Report by Jason Koebler, there have been some hot opinions flying around the internet. 

Some say books should be given a content label--similar to MPAA ratings for movies. A rating system would be helpful for parents to know what kind of content in terms of profanity, sex and violence might be found in the books their young adult readers are reading.

Some say a rating system is a violation of rights and would lead to books being banned and books with an R-equivalent rating losing sales. They point out that many of the books containing profanity are problem novels meant to help young adult readers through some of the difficult aspects of life that teens these days have to face. And another important question is on whose opinion would the books be rated? 

Quoted in the US News article is researcher Sarah Coyne at Brigham Young University who did an in-depth study of young adult books.
"I think we put books on a pedestal compared to other forms of media," Coyne says. "I thought long and hard about whether to do the study in the first place—I think banning books is a terrible idea, but a content warning on the back I think would empower parents."
In some ways I agree with this. There have been times when I wished I had some way to gauge the content of a book before I purchased it. And I don't just mean for YA books. It would be nice to be able to make an informed decision about the books I'm considering reading.

I think there are kids out there who would pay attention to ratings when making choices.

There are also parents out there who see the slightest hint of something questionable and overreact, calling for books to be banned. Need I remind you of the Harry Potter debacle?

I see the pros and cons of both sides of this argument.

There are already many places on the internet where parents or kids can go to find content information about recently published YA books. One of these sites is Common Sense Media, along with numerous book review blogs.

What are your thoughts? Should books for young adults come with a content rating?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Self vs Traditional Publishing: Nathan Bransford Speaks Out

Because I was so busy writing today--I'm in the middle of a two-week writing marathon--and forgot it was my day to blog until just now (seriously, who knows what day it is when they're on vacation?), all you get today is a link to Nathan Bransford's excellent blog post about the false dichotomy of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Salt Lake Tribune article

Allow me a moment of shameless bragging...

I was featured in an article in the Salt Lake Trib today on volunteers in juvenile detention. Teaching a writing class at Farmington Bay has been one of the BEST things I have ever done.

Read the article HERE!

Writing - A Powerful Teacher

Been reading this book called 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott for the first time. (I know. I'm in my twenties, a writer, and I've never read Bird by Bird. I'm basically a disgrace.) I came across this quote that I liked quite a bit.

"Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

Anne Lamott, quoting E. L. Doctorow, Bird by Bird, page 18

I agree with that quote. Especially since I'm a discovery writer. :) When I write my novels, it's like driving a car at night with only the vaguest idea where I'm going. Scary as heck, but quite the adventure.

It occurred to me this evening, when I was pondering a few things about life, that this lovely quote on writing is also a great metaphor for life. (No duh, Joseph. Anne Lamott said that right after she quoted E.L. Doctorow.)

Since when has anybody ever been able to see more than a few steps in front of them? Since, like, never. Frustrating, yes. I want to see further. I mean, for pete's sake, wouldn't anybody? Wouldn't we like to see what will happen if we do this thing, date this person, take this or that path, say these or those things? I sure would.

But life isn't designed that way. And... I think it's for the best.

There are a million things that writing can teach us about life. I think that's one of the reasons I am a writer - because writing is such a powerful teacher, and I love learning.

What has writing taught you about life? Or about anything, for that matter?

Joseph Ramirez

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

On the Second Book Funk

by Deren Hansen

I've heard a number of published authors say they had a major crisis of confidence when they started their second book. They're haunted by the fear that they had only the one book in them and will never again be able to produce anything as good.

Why are writers susceptible to such fears?

Putting on my amateur therapist goatee and breaking out the bubble pipe, we have not one but two potential pitfalls awaiting us when we finish a project. The first is psychological and the second structural. They're a nasty pair because they feed off of each other. If you're not careful, you'll find yourself immobilized.

The Psychological Problem

In other professions, one can use a title only after a significant and demonstrable achievement. Lawyers have bar exams. Doctors have medical school, and internships, and residencies. Many other professions can't be practiced without a license. It's natural to assume that a published book is the writer's equivalent of professional certification.

Then there's the arduous process of turning ideas into prose, polishing the manuscript, and persevering through the publishing process, and you have every right to think that you've accomplished something significant. When you've done that, it's natural is to believe that you've learned something and are better at what you do.

The net effect is a tendency to believe that now you're good. You may have given yourself license to suck when you were starting out, but you're beyond that now, right? So you bang out the first few pages of the new project and ... they're not very good. And suddenly you have to question everything you assumed about your new identity.

The psychological trap is believing you've become something different than you were when you started your first project.

The Structural Problem

The more fundamental mistake is to forget the process by which you created your first book--the multiple drafts, the rounds of revisions, the hours spent agonizing over a key word or phrase.

You'll only succeed in depressing yourself if you compare your new project to the book you just finished. A project that's only a month old will always look primitive compared to one you've revised and polished for a year or two.

If you must compare something, compare first drafts. Chances are you'll find that the first draft for your second project is better than your first draft for your first project.

So What Can You Do?

Doctors, who have real credentials, practice medicine. Writers would do well to follow that example: we should see ourselves not as a someone who possesses some expertise but as someone who practices the art of refining words into stories through a patient process.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing to Music: A Challenge

There's two concepts I think of when I read this blog post title.

One, playing mood music while you write. I had a playlist on my iPod called "Katie" after the main character in the very first novel I wrote. I can still listen to the songs and immediately recall the feelings, sitting at my computer desk hour after hour creating and recreating Katie's story.

Two, and this is where the challenge & this blog post comes in, listening to instrumental movie music and creating a story to go along with it. Let me explain.

On my iPod I have a playlist called "Movie Instrumentals" that has the soundtracks from some of my favorite movies: Braveheart, Dances with Wolves, Pride and Prejudice, Schindler's List, and the Mission. When I am feeling my creativity stall, I put this playlist on shuffle that way I never know what song/mood/theme/feeling will be conveyed next. Then I create a story in my head, visualizing it as if I were watching a movie and I'm listening to the score. I adjust my story to match the music. Is it soft and quiet? Is it loud and harsh? Is there a country twang to it? What does the music convey and how can I make my "actors" fit those feelings?

The tricky (and fun) part is when the song switches and you suddenly get a downbeat or minor tones and something eery/creepy/sad/tragic/horrifying is happening when you were just moments ago letting two newly made characters hold hands in a park. . . .

There's the challenge. The music is always changing back and forth, and, as long as you have a good mix of soundtracks and classical, you have to stretch your creative muscles to keep your story up with the music and to make as much sense as possible. Of course, sometimes you just scrap the story and start over with the next track, and that's okay.

Want to try it? Here are a few quick examples:

 So listen to each one. What comes to your mind? What's happening? Who is in it? What are they doing? What are they saying? How are they acting? What do they do next? What happens to transition them to the next music? How do you transition them?

Strengthening our creative muscles through visualization activities is a great way to improve your writing. Sure, you may not get any better with your comma placement, but you will have a more active imagination. Plus, giving yourself to create on a whim, on the fly, with no consequence or commitment whatsoever, is a freeing experience. Let go of your boundaries and rules and pencils and laptops for a moment and just be a kid making it up as you go along.

Get the point?

Any questions?

Good. Now go create.

P.S. This is a great way to either lull yourself to sleep at night or to enliven your mind so greatly that you stay up seeing how your story ends... it works both ways for me.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SFC Blog: Families Matter: May '12 Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway

Book Lovers May '12 Blog Hop:
Make friends, share the love of reading and be entered to win a FREE book!
All you have to do is post the Book Lovers Blog Hop and World of Ink Tour Banner below to your blog. You are free to copy any of the content here on this blog hop page to help promote the Book Lovers Hop and World of Ink Tours on any social network. 
Tweet it once to twice a day, share on Facebook, LinkedIn, SumbledUpon, Pinerest, etc and then follow others back that leave you a comment. 
By joining the Book Lovers Blog Hop, you are automatically entered in our Book Giveaway! There will be two (2) winners for this Book Giveaway. The first place winner will win an eBook copy of Gaia's Gift by Fran Orenstein. The second place winner will receive a copy of Against the Tide by Hope Irvin Marston. Note: One book per winner.
Click the link below to enter and join the hop
SFC Blog: Families Matter: May '12 Book Lovers Blog Hop & Giveaway

Friday, May 18, 2012

Know Your Readers--Even If You Have To Make Them Up

by Scott Rhoades

Ask a writer about the intended audience for her book and she'll likely say, "4th to 8th grade kids," or maybe she'll get more specific and say, "Girls around 9 to 11." That helps, and it's probably enough, but what if you narrowed it down more?

What if you used the technique that is often used by product designers (at least in the software industry, which I know, and likely in other industries I don't know so well)? In the software world, designers create personas, specific make-believe people who are based on real data collected about customers. For example, "We're aiming this product at Michael, a sales manager for a manufacturer of boating accessories who needs to track the sales and commissions of his staff of 12 international sales people. Michael is 42 years old, and likes to spend his weekends boating and camping, but often has to skip fun weekends out on the lake to process the latest sales data from his staff. He's looking for a product that will automate much of the work he now does by hand, especially the creating of reports he sends to his director every Monday morning."

Michael is not necessarily a real person. He's more likely a composite of several customers or prospective customers who have been visited by product designers. But he becomes real to the designers. They will probably even find a photo of "Michael" and post it someplace as a reminder of their target audience.

We can do the same thing. Instead of aiming at "Junior-high-aged girls," write for Becca, a thirteen-year-old girl who enjoys reading fantasy novels as a way to escape the boredom of her life. Becca is a good student when the teacher holds her interest, but even though she's fascinated by history, she thinks it's boring in classes. She thinks of herself as an outsider at school because she doesn't quite fit in with any of the usual groups. She prefers a few good friends to a large circle of people. She feels awkward in social situations, especially if there are boys or popular girls involved. Teachers are often unsure how to work with her because she doesn't often seemed engaged in her lessons, but she is actually listening very carefully while she doodles in her notepad. She likes spaghetti and other pastas with tomato-based sauce, but is more likely to grab something cold from the pantry or fridge than to heat something up. She's read the popular books like Twilight and Harry Potter, but she hasn't found anything that she really loves. Still, reading anything is better than nothing, and she loves a story she can immerse herself in. She loves the feel of books, especially older books, but says she prefers to read ebooks because she considers it an invasion of her privacy for others to see what she's reading. In reality, it's more a case of being self-conscious and afraid other will jump to conclusions about her if they see what she's reading.

Get as specific as you can, then think about Becca when you're writing. Go beyond types (in other words, do better than I did in my example) and make her real. That's the key. She has to be real to you. Internalize her. Make her as important to your story as the characters you want her to identify with.

When you're unsure how to resolve a story situation, consider what Becca would like to read. Go out on the Internet and find a picture of somebody who might be Becca and post it prominently in your writing area. Don't be surprised if Becca becomes a character in your story after all that work figuring out who she is, but be careful to remember that she is your audience.

Sure, you want your book to appeal to more than this one reader, but if you aim at a specific persona, somebody who becomes real to you, constantly considering what he or she wants to read (while never forgetting the story that you, the writer, want to tell), then chances are you'll come closer to writing a book that real people want to read.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Best Enemies

My brother and I have... I mean, had... a mutual friend. She is no longer mutual. We'll call her Allie.

One day, with pleasant expressions, standing side by side, Allie and my brother announced to me that they are not friends.

"We're best enemies," said my brother, with a smile of delight.

"Best enemies?" I asked. "Like... frenemies?"

"No," said Allie, firm but kind. "Best enemies."

"Ah," I said, and nodded. It made sense. Just not to me.

Apparently, on a whim they decided that they were enemies. But best enemies. Meaning... if they categorized each other as 'friends' they'd be good friends. But since they have placed each other in the 'enemy' category, well, they're not WORST enemies. They're just... enemies that are friendly. And therefore... 'best' enemies.

Yah. I said something like 'whatever floats your narwhal,' and left it at that. I must say that they are the friendliest enemies I've ever met.

My point? When you set the weirdness aside, that's a pretty interesting relationship. On a more serious note, let's take a look at some similar relationships in fiction, eh? I'm going to use film and TV examples, because the basics of storytelling are the same no matter the medium.



Fascinating relationship. One of my favorite, as far as compelling-ness, in the X-Men saga. Old friends forced into being enemies by their beliefs... but still chummy enough to play a good old game of plastic chess once Professor X's guys whup up on Magneto's.

They once fought for a common cause, side by side, as dear friends. They still fight for a common cause, but in opposing ways. Each recognizes the great worth of the other, and so... when there is no battle to be fought, they treat each other as old friends.


Star Trek Original Series - Episode 14 - "Balance of Terror"


In an episode reminiscent of destroyer-vs-submarine warfare, Captain Kirk engages a cloaked Romulan ship. As the two captains war against each other, they are both impressed by the masterful skill of the other. Their admiration grows throughout the battle. At the end of their contest of wits, when the Romulan ship is disabled and about to be captured, the commander says to Kirk:

'In a different reality, I might have called you friend.'

In this case, the two were placed as enemies by the uniform that they wore, and not necessarily by personality conflict or choice. It's quite a sad episode.



I like the way this one ends, because their relationship changes from Best Enemies to something else.

If I were to sum up this sort of relationship in one sentence, I would do it like this.

Two people who would have been friends compelled by duty or allegiance to act as enemies.


Two enemies who meet and find that, at heart, they are friends.

Fascinating. Rare. Sad, usually, unless they can find reconciliation somehow. I really want to study this sort of relationship, and maybe even practice it in a story or two. Because what is fiction, if it is not about people? And what are people, if they do not have relationships? We read fiction, in large part, to see people build, define, refine, neglect, ruin, and save relationships, be they good or bad people, and be they good or bad relationships.

So the homework for today's post? (I mean, only if you WANT homework.) Give your character a Best Enemy. Someone who, in a different reality, they might have called a friend. See what happens. Or, go into the backstory of your protagonist and your antagonist. What if they were old friends once? (I'm not even asking you to write it. Just think about it. And then write it if it's brilliant.)

Are there any more good examples of Best Enemies in fiction that you can think of?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Our Writing is Better Than Other People's

by Deren Hansen

As  a musician, I have a problem.

It's my own fault, really. And it goes all the way back to those childhood practice sessions I either skipped or muddled through until I'd done my time.

You see, when I play, what the poor folks forced to listen hear is nothing like the music I think I'm playing.

It's like the illusion that the moon on the horizon is much bigger than the same moon riding high in the sky. You might swear that it really does look bigger on the horizon, but if you take a picture of the moon in each position (taking care, of course, to keep the camera settings the same) and measure its size, you won't find any significant difference.

Fortunately, there's help for people with my musical affliction. It's called audio software. With a composition package I can set down the notes and refine them until what comes out of the synthesizer matches the music in my head. While this doesn't guarantee that another person will have the same emotional reaction to the music, it does guarantee that my lack of technical proficiency no longer creates a gap between what I intend and what they actually hear.

We have a similar but more subtle problem as writers. In this day, when the vast majority of writing passes through computers, the legibility of our writing is rarely a problem. We take it for granted that most people will see the same words we put down on the page. If they see the same words, they should understand the same things when they read those words, right?

Meaning arises from interpreting the words and the ideas you associate with those words. What may seem like a perfectly innocent statement to one person could have offensive connotations for another. We say reading is subjective--that readers bring their own baggage to the story--without appreciating how deeply true it is. If you stop to think about it, it's a miracle that we understand each other as well as we do.

All of which is why we think (though most of us are too polite to say it) that our writing is better than most other peoples: we know what our words mean when we put them down. With another person's writing, all we have to go on are the words on the page.

One of the reasons we might call other people's writing bad is if we can make no sense or get nothing meaningful out of it. It doesn't matter what they intended the words to convey. It only matters what you get out of them. This is why, no matter how certain you are of your writing's perfection, you need editorial feedback--you need to hear how other people react to your words.

The music in your head may be astonishing and sublime, but no one will ever know it if they can't hear the same notes.

Monday, May 14, 2012


By Julie Daines
The Ten Commandments of Writing and When to Break Them

Writing Conferences. We go. We listen. We obey. Maybe sometimes we obey too much.

My next few posts will be about when to break the writing commandments.

Comandment #4

Thou Shalt Find Your Voice

Voice, voice, voice. We hear about it everywhere. Especially in YA and MG lit. And with good reason. No one wants to read from a boring, same-old same-old point of view.

A good voice can add depth to a character, give us insight into what motivates the character, and makes him/her multi-dimensional.

Unfortunately, many writers of YA and MG equate voice with snarky sarcasm. Big mistake. An overdose of sarcasm distances the reader and makes the main character less sympathetic.

Yes, kids these days are full of sarcasm, but it takes a little more than that to create voice. 

As agent Mary Kole puts it:
You can’t just give readers a sarcastic, quippy voice and a character who is biting and caustic and call it a day. That’s not all there is to teen voice or teen characters. In fact, writers who think that they’ve made an instant teenager by adding one part extra sarcasm are a big pet peeve of mine. 
Rather than re-hash this subject, let me add a few links to some very helpful posts about voice:

From Nathan Bransford: How to Craft a Great Voice

Those two articles should be enough to get you started. Just remember, voice is possibly the hardest part of writing. Getting it right is what separates published from the slush pile. 

Examples of novels with great voice:

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Bound  by Donna Jo Napoli

What are your thoughts on voice? 
What books have you found with incredible voice?

**Visit my blog to enter the awesome Haiku book contest!
Julie's blog link

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why Write?

I had planned to blog today about the fact that there's a lot of information about how to write, but not a lot about why to write, but then I realized, George Orwell already said it better than I could. So, here's a link and a reprieve from reading a bunch of my words:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Nine Problems

Erin Shakespear

In March I was lucky enough to be in a critique group led by Jennifer Nielson, author of The False Prince, at Writing for Charity .

Each of the participants shared the first pages of their novels. And as they did so, I jotted down common problems that came up...

#1: Info Dumps

Don't try to dump a whole ton of info into your reader's lap in the first chapter. Start in some action. Let the details about the awesome world you've created trickle out.

#2: Emotional Immediacy

Give the sense of immediacy, the emotional tension. What is at stake at the beginning? Whatever it is, move it to the first page. Make sure your reader knows what the risk is for your main character. Are they scared? Lonely? Sad? Worried about something? Running away? Hiding? Make sure we know what is bothering your main character because then we, as the reader, will be bothered, too. And we'll keep reading!

#3: Right Age

If you're writing for middle graders, make sure you don't make your characters too old. And, of course, this is something you have to think about for any book or story you write. For example, you don't see a whole lot of ninety year old men as the main character in picture books. For some reason, toddlers just don't identify with them. Although, they have a lot in common when you think about lack of teeth.

#4: Something Wrong

Jennifer said, "It's the wrongness that turns the page." Yes, start with problems! Not with the world at peace.

#5: Time Periods

Give some hint right off the bat what time period you've set your book in. Don't make us swim around trying to figure out where we're at. It's like those big maps at the mall with the "You Are Here" signs. We need to know where, or rather, when we're at. Give us a sign.

#6: Description

Watch your adverbs and adjectives. I know they're super crazy amazingly fun, but seriously, watch how many of these fabulous words you decide to add into your lovely work of great fiction.

Yeah. There can definitely be too much of a good thing.

#7: Prologues

If you have to write one, just make sure it isn't bad.

#8: Summarize

You need to be able to summarize your story in just a few short sentences. If someone asks you to tell them briefly about your novel and you need oodles of paragraphs to get the point need to find a way to condense it a bit. Maybe your story is too complicated? Or maybe you don't actually know what it's truly about yet? I don't know. But something is amiss.

#9: Start with a bang! (which is very similar to #4, but it's worth repeating)

Start with excitement. Trouble. Mayhem. Chaos. Don't have blah and boring beginning. Really look at how you start. Are you serving your reader plain oatmeal without sugar and hoping they'll keep eating it?

Or are you giving them something better? Like brown sugar oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and butter.

Mmmmm...I know what I'm making for breakfast...

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Authors' Peculiar Susceptibility to Hooks

by Deren Hansen

Perhaps it all started when Dr. Seuss rhymed about a nook with a book on a hook--his secret marketing advice to writers--though it's more likely hooks have been doing extra duty as symbols and metaphors ever since that day long ago when a proto-fisherman noticed an oddly shaped bone and said, "I wonder ..."

As writers, the sort that trade words for money, our literary livelihood ultimately depends on how often we're read. In order to catch as many readers as possible, reel them in, and leave them in the bottom of the boat gasping for more story, we're admonished to deploy a wide variety of hooks.

If you've had more than passing exposure to the community of commercial writers, the first thing that comes to mind when we say, "hook," is either a pirate captain or a pithy one-liner, carefully designed to compel you to read more. Story hooks often take the form of an improbable juxtaposition (like, "I always hated warthogs until the day I turned into one,") that force the reader to wonder how such a thing could be true.

There are many other kinds of hooks: covers, tag lines, jacket copy, author blurbs, reviews, book trailers, bookmarks, and so on. In fact, a good story is filled with hooks, large and small, that pull the reader deeper into the narrative.

Hooks are all well and good for readers, but they pose a subtle but real danger to writers: we hear a hook and instantly imagine the story we would write and then get jealous because someone else has already written it.

It's part of the more general grass-is-greener phenomenon. We look at other's success and think how their assets would solve our problems, being complete unaware of the problems they have that their assets can't solve (e.g., you may be rich but in poor health).

So appreciate and use hooks for what they are: ways to draw readers into your story. And remember, writers, as you try not to be jealous of either a book or its hooks, that you can't create the perfect hook without the perfect book.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The End of an Era

Maurice Sendak, one of the world's greatest children's authors, passed away today. It truly is the end of an era for children's literature. Maurice was a pioneer in children's illustrations and writing.

What is your favorite book by Maurice Sendak?

Read the NY Times article HERE.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Using Books to Teach Children a Lesson

I've recently been touring The Kids of Dandelion Township written by Nicole Borgenicht and illustrated by Lisa M Griffin through The World of Ink Network Virtual Tours. This book teaches a lesson without being preachy, which is something many authors have a hard time with. I asked the author Nicole Borgenicht to a little bit about her book and thoughts on how she used her book to teach a lesson about friendship and diversity without the bunt moral sound throughout.

Using Books to Teach Children a Lesson with Nicole Borgenicht

The Kids of Dandelion Township has a plot that shows children from a variety of backgrounds who are indeed more similar with one another than they were at first aware. In a fun and natural way, the tale of Dandelion Township portrays children with common traits in a magical world. It also shares the importance of being thoughtful, investigative, creative and compassionate.

While kids always find the time to have fun they still face goals and challenges in their every day lives. The Kids of Dandelion Township uncover the mystery of how their friends throw big parties yet manage to get good grades. They also learn to complete their homework in a creative unique environment, so they are able to both enjoy their youth and do their homework assignments.

The style of this book is not preachy in any way, rather an open-hearted journey into a fantasy world where children recognize how their various backgrounds and holidays intersect. In the forest, the kids are mainly excited about seeing gifts for the holidays, but when they return from the magical land and the gifts are gone, they quickly realize the gift of their togetherness is the greatest gift of all.

While this is a magical adventure story, the children have real life feelings and thoughts with crushes, embarrassment, communication and excitement; they go through the gamut of emotions and actions. Whereby one child may be watchful and a leader, another is compassionate, and still another creative, the next intelligent and so on to varying degrees and in different ways. As with all people these are true to life traits, showing the strengths and weaknesses of every one and how a positive idea and energy can unify kids everywhere.

Through the acceptance of natural behavioral traits the kids act as all children will, by instinct and whim, and thoughts and decisions to accomplish goals and acquire what they want or need. It is this experience that resonates the value of friendship and honors a great sense of goodness shown with expressions of caring and the universal connections between all children. There is an underlying theme of spiritual and positive belief: the importance of having a kind heart, being open-minded to holiday motifs that resonate in common ways, and the natural desire to be free-spirited children. 


It is so easy as adults to forget we are writing for children when we want to share a moral, value or lesson within our stories, but as Nicole Borgenicht as shared with us, this is possible if we keep the fun, whimsy and child-like heart and mind close to our writing. 

Thank you Nicole for sharing about your wonderful book The Kids of Dandelion Township and for being our guest blogger here today.

About the Guest Blogger: Nicole Borgenicht is a children's fiction writer. Her most recent picture book, The Bridge was published by Publish America. Some of Nicole's other kid's stories have appeared in The Los Angeles Times Kid's Reading Room section, Stories for Children Magazine and LadyBug Flights Magazine. Additional works comprise poetry and essays, short stories, one act plays or articles in magazines such as Arts and Entertainment Skyline and American Fitness.

World of Ink Network is touring author Nicole Borgenicht’s children’s chapter book The Kids of Dandelion Township, which released in April 2012.

The Kids of Dandelion Township is a story about new friends who in the process of discovering magic together, learn about their similar emotions and different cultures. All in the context of a child's day, the kids unravel mysteries of A students, and invent ways to be creative while completing their homework assignments. Preparing the way for children to receive magic, the kids of Dandelion Township wish all children will experience it one day.

Get a sneak peek of the book at  

You can find out more about Nicole Borgenicht’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour at