Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Am From . . . Let Your Characters Surprise You

I'm posting this again in case you missed this INCREDIBLE piece by author Marilyn Cram Donahue. I hope when you've finished reading this post, you'll try the "I Am From..." poetic form. It will certainly get those creative thoughts flowing.

Marilyn is a seasoned author, college and writing instructor, conference speaker, and has written a whopping 31 books. Look her up on She recently signed contracts for four books! See Marilyn smile as she holds her latest contracts? (o;

I am privileged and blessed to be Marilyn's friend. We are members of the critique group I so often speak of---Wordsmiths.
Marilyn writes books, stories and articles for middle grade, YA, and adult. She claims to never go anywhere without a notebook tucked away and one of those automatic pencils that never gets dull and always has an eraser. I absolutely believe her.

My friend has graciously permitted me to present her wonderful post
on the "I Am From..." poetic form.

Here's Marilyn:

The “I Am From . . .” poetic form was developed by George Ella Lyon. It has been successfully used in schools across the country. Some of the results are wonderful, with students reaching into their everyday lives and ethnic backgrounds and coming up with single images that are worth a thousand words. It occurred to me that this would be a good exercise in the class I teach on Writing Your Memoirs. This week we looked back to our early school years and concentrated on remembering one incident that might bring to mind many images. Then we wrote “I Am From . . .” poems with those memories as starting points.

I thought of Main Street, where I grew up, and inevitably I stretched those early memories to include a less juvenile time of my life. This is the result:

I am from Main Street,
from games at twilight
and Mrs. Loring’s chow dog
with the purple tongue.

I am from back fences and hollyhocks,
from orange trees that blossomed
in the spring,
and sent their fragrance
to float on the cool night air.

I am from a front porch swing
and the sounds of
the Lone Ranger and Captain Midnight,
and the taste of cold watermelon
with black seeds that were
good for spitting.

I am from sack lunches,
and the five and dime,
and banana splits
with three kinds of ice cream
and whipped cream and a cherry on top.

I am from time passing
and starry nights
and the moon shining so bright
over Main Street
that it put sparkles in my hair
. . . or so he said.

Can you imagine a character in one of your books writing an “I Am From . . .” poem? What would you learn by letting this person tell you how he or she feels? By standing to one side and listening while your character digs deep and comes up with what might be surprising information?

Thank you, Marilyn! Let's hear from some of my blog friends. I'd like to know if your characters revealed some surprises.

2009 Marilyn Donahue

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Beginning Writer? Growing Writer? Go to the Children's Book Insider!

The Children's Book Insider, has been helping children's writers for more than 19 years. I subscribe to the CBI newsletter and visit their amazing website. Editors Jon Bard and Laura Backes will answer questions like,

* Can I really make it as a children's writer?
* Is it difficult to get started?
* Do I have to spend a ton of money on classes and books?

You can even watch short, instructional videos online.

You’ll find step-by-step instruction on their website and in the CBI Newsletter that will help you enter this fascinating field of writing for kids.

I just finished reading the January 2010 issue of the Children's Book Insider. Jon Bard challenges writers in his piece, From the Editor, to enter the 21st century by doing things like blogging, building a Facebook Fan page, and Twittering.

Jon wrote, "Don't be BORING." Now that's how to lose your followers for sure! He's reminding writers that merely blogging about daily activities on our blogs "won't cut it." He's right. Jon encourages writers to offer "fresh perspectives", and to direct our readers to great links. That's precisely what I'm doing right now!

Please visit and get excited about the possibilities!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Writing Contests---Where Can They Take You?

You never know where a contest story will take you. You don't actually have to win first, second, or even third place, to "win" in a different way.

Years ago I entered a Highlights 500-word beginning reader fiction contest.
Kitten's Climb didn't win, but an editor thought it was delightful, and choose to publish it.

Several years later I was surprised to receive a letter and another check from Highlights. They paid me again for the story when Harcourt Trophies purchased it for a reading comprehension booklet to be used in elementary schools across the country.

Today Kitten's Climb is accessible online. Click the link at the end of this post. I LOVE the mother Robin's attitude, and Kitten's final assessment of the whole ordeal.

Here's another plus---the reading assessment booklet is listed on my publishing bio along with the link so editors can read a sample of my work for this particular age group. Cool.

Here's the information on the Highlights contest YOU are thinking about entering:
* Theme - fiction based on a true story from your family.
* You must be at least 16 years old.
* Word count may be up to 750 words for ages 6 to 14. For beginning readers, word
count cannot exceed 475.
* They do not want to see violence, crime, or derogatory humor.
* Put the word count at in the upper right-hand corner of the first page.
* Entries must be postmarked between January 1, 2010 and January 31, 2010.
* Send your entry with a SASE to: Fiction contest, Highlights for Children, 803
Church Street, Honesdale, PA 18431.
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Three winners will be chosen, published in Highlights, and given their choice of a $1,000 cash prize, or tuition to the Highlights Chautauqua writing workshop!

Winners will be announced on their website in June 2010.
So, what are you waiting for? You never know where a magazine story will take you. One of my stories from Clubhouse Jr. Magazine became a picture book!

I'll always be glad
Kitten's Climb became a winning story in more ways than one.

Don't forget to click the link to read Kitten's Climb