Writing with Your Senses

“The eye and the ear are different listeners.” – Jane Yolen

When we read sensory details in a book, parts of our brain are activated. The parts that are activated are the same parts that would be active if we were experiencing the sense in real life.

So if you write about the spicy sweet scent of cinnamon, the brains of people who love cinnamon will light up (activate) like they were actually smelling it.

I practice using my senses to experience the world around me. Every other day I write down a sentence that includes one of my sensory observations.

“His phlegmy cough sounded like Velcro ripping in his chest.”

“The hot parking lot after the rain smelled like metal.”

“Water droplets crawling down my legs felt like ants.”

“Seeing the light underside of leaves warns me a storm is coming.”

The Wetlands

Take a look at this photo of a salt marsh near Cape Henlopen, Delaware.

What would it feel like if you were a giant and rubbed your hand across the grass tops?

What would it feel like walking through the marsh grass?

What would you hear in this salt marsh?

How would it smell? (Let me tell you, it has an ODOR!)

What do you see in this photo?

What can’t you see – but you know is there? (Hint: we did spy snakes and spiders!)

What things can we taste in a salt marsh? Have you ever tasted salt air as you inhaled deeply?



Good writing means using all of your senses to describe the world. For the next week, any time you write, include details from all five of your senses. Do this especially if you’re writing nonfiction!

  • How does your favorite blanket smell?
  • How does the water falling out of your faucet look?
  • What do you see when you look at that rock in the dirt?
  • What does the refrigerator sound like?
  • Lick your CLEAN finger. What does it taste like?

Share your sensory sentences here!

Writing for Highlights for Children!

I’m always excited to receive a large envelope from Highlights for Children because it means a new story of mine is out in the world!

“The Challenge Game” appears in the September 2020 issue of Highlights for Children magazine. It was inspired by a drill at one of my youngest son’s soccer practices.

The message of this story is “don’t be afraid to shoot and miss.” Personally, I needed a reminder of that this year.

So don’t be afraid to shoot, friends. You might miss, but you might also score a goal.

Book Release Delayed

If you’re a writer right now, you know things are changing. I just learned that my new book, The Science and Technology of Leonardo da Vinci, won’t be released until May 2021. It’s a little frustrating, but I know when the book comes out, readers will have such a great time trying all of the hands-on experiments. Stay tuned to find out about virtual bookstore visits and more!

Being a Citizen Scientist – Firefly Count

I love being a citizen scientist. I participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count. I submit eBird checklists!

I signed up to learn how to count pollinators for Project BeeWatch, but my schedule didn’t work for the training.

Last week I started a new citizen science project: Firefly Count. It’s so simple. On lovely summer nights I sit in my backyard and count firefly flashes. I never knew there were so many species of fireflies! Learn more about how to join Firefly Count from Massachusetts Audubon! 

Researching for a Story

I’m doing some research for a story. My story involves baking. I’ve had some delicious success with pizzelles.

I’ve had some terrible failure with bagels.


burnt bagels

It’s ok. I’m not that upset about the bagels. Because sometimes things in our stories work, and sometimes they don’t. But we learn every time!

ONLINE – Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words

Summer Story Camp 

Pictures and Words


  • Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words is for creative kids grades 3 and up
  • Each camp is limited to 10 campers. 
  • All meetings will happen over Zoom.
  • Each day we will learn about a different kind of picture book.
  • Campers will create their own book (or “dummy”) each day.
Date: June 22 – June 26, 2020
Times: 9:30 – 10:30 am 
Cost: $75


After your registration is confirmed, you’ll receive an email with the supplies list, mentor book list, and Zoom links.
Summer Story Camp – Pictures and Words is different from RossWriting Club. If you or your child has questions about Summer Story Camp, please contact me anytime!