Writing with Conscious Style

In August, I attended the SCBWI annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. While I was there, I learned how to be a good regional advisor for Pennsylvania West, my home region. I learned about how to submit book manuscripts with back matter ideas. I learned that people in LA take their dogs into Target.

And I learned that writing with authenticity and respect in terms of diversity and representation is a part of CRAFT. It’s not about being politically correct or following a trend. It’s about doing research, learning everything you can, and writing or illustrating accurately.

Writing with Conscious Style

I was intrigued to find a postcard on a resources table for the Conscious Style Guide.


This website offers articles and resources to help creators be more conscious in their work. I’m reading an article a week to help me learn about what I don’t know.

Last week, I read an incredible article on the role of sensitivity readers by Marjorie Ingall. I know lots of people think they can’t write about any characters that aren’t like themselves now. They wonder if everything they create will go through some kind of screening. They are conflating sensitivity readers with censorship.

But sensitivity (and accuracy) is not censorship.

Ingall writes, “It’s also vital to note that white writers can still write characters of color; writers without disabilities can still write characters with disabilities; straight and cisgender writers can still write LGBTQ characters. They just have to be … well, sensitive. When they get it right, in my reading experience, they rarely attract opprobrium.” 

And author Julie Berry argues, “Why wouldn’t you want to be as accurate as you can and as reverent as you can be about the real, lived humanity of the people you’re depicting?”

This week, I indulged in a favorite topic: science fiction and fantasy. I was thrilled to read about two of my favorite authors, N.K. Jemisin and Octavia Butler. I was also excited to add four new excellent fantasy series books to my To Read list.

Visit the Conscious Style Guide often. Read and learn. It will improve your craft.


Writing Stories is Like Ice Cream

Some days, writing stories is like ice cream, the hard kind you scoop out of a container and it is still so frozen it bends your spoon. It can be a lot of work to get that story out. Usually it’s amazing after you’re done. You feel like you earned it.

Other days, writing stories is like ice cream, the soft serve kind. You pull down the handle and it just flows out, like you’ve hit the jackpot on a slot machine. Nothing is stopping the words from spiraling out onto the page. It’s so easy. And it tastes great, too.

Writing for Children is So Fun

I love writing for children. I have a long list of why, and I plan to write a post about it. But for now I just want to say again writing for children is so fun!!

Here’s why.

I get to create cool crafts like this one that is in Highlights for Children!

Pick up a copy of the August 2019 issue and try out the Paint Poppers activity!

My youngest said it didn’t work for him, but it worked for me. Let me know if it works for you.


Update on my 2019 children’s writing projects

ideas for stories, organizing ideas for writing

Tools of the Trade

It’s been a good year for 2019 writing projects. Most of my writing is for children and young readers and right now, most is non-fiction. I thought it would be good to do a review of what I’ve completed.

When I think back to where I started, well, it feels pretty good.


But at the start of the year, I completed two editing projects for adult readers. One book was about a non-profit. The other book was for a Human Resources professional.

Writing Club

Then I jumped into hosting my first ever after school writing club for kids in grades 3-6. We met once a week, worked on stories, and at the end of the club we produced a printed book with the collected stories. We even had a book launch!

I’m excited because writing club gave me a chance to develop some wonderful writing activities for kids who love to tell stories.

Educational Non-Fiction

Next, I received my first textbook chapter writing project with SocialStudies.com. The original email from the editor went into my junk folder, so I was very nervous all the available chapters were assigned. Luckily I was able to get the last chapter of an American history textbook. The audience was fifth graders.

After the textbook chapter, I was able to secure two non-fiction book projects with Captsone. One was about gadgets and inventions, the other was about medical history. The target audience here was third and fourth graders.

Magazine Articles

I heard back from an editor at Muse. My pitch about the Great Backyard Bird Count was accepted. I submitted my article to that magazine.

Two of my fiction stories were also published in the spring. They were published in magazines that were new for me.

In addition to these publications, I also sold a fiction story that I’ve been pitching for years to a new magazine!

School Workshops

Also in May, I had a chance to host two workshops on the Rainbow Plate for first graders.

Writing Summer Camp

When we returned from vacation, I hosted my first ever writing summer camp. I had to make some major modifications to my lesson plan once I spent the first two hours with the kids. But I think I now have a nice collection of creative writing and storytelling activities for pre-literate kids.

Writing Coaching

Throughout the first six months of 2019, I continued to do writing coaching with a young writer in Pittsburgh. I was so proud to see him complete his first official story submissions ever. It did feel like a big rush of projects arrived in the spring. I wanted to get them all done before school ended and we left on vacation. It felt great to work hard and complete these tasks.

In addition to the work for hire projects, I’ve also been bringing my novel to critique group and preparing to tackle a big revision. And add on the work I’ve done as Regional Advisor of SCBWI for PA West. It’s been a busy year! And it’s only halfway done.

How has your 2019 been?

New Publication: Why You Need a Questing Stone

Are you ready for an incredible journey?

It’s time for a Questing Stone.

I’m excited to share that my new creative kids’ activity is now published in Highlights for ChildrenCheck out the July 2019 issue and look in the crafts section. There you will find the instructions to make your very own Questing Stone!

(Read to the end to find out why this isn’t just for kids.)

kids writing creativity

Get Questing!

The Questing Stone activity is a perfect summer activity for kids. It’s something I would have made as a kid.

It’s a combination of some of my favorite things. I love going on imaginary adventures. I love anything with a hint of magic. As a writer, I love traveling and going on journeys. Stories – whether I am writing them or reading them –  combine all of those things.

I really enjoy all of the non-fiction writing I do, but it’s so fun to let go and jump into a fiction tale with both feet.

Here’s the part about why this stone isn’t just for kids.

You Need a Questing Stone

Grown-ups, it’s time to be brave.

We get so caught up in managing our days, getting our tasks done, doing what we have to do, instead of what we want to do. Wouldn’t it be nice just once to let fate decide? To discover your destiny instead of following the same old path?

Go somewhere new.

Writers, illustrators, artists, dreamers, this is your chance. Make your Questing Stone. Start your journey. When you come to a fork in the road, a moment of choice, let the stone guide you. Let the possibilities awake. Don’t limit yourself to what should be. It’s time to find what could be.

See what unexpected adventures await.

When you stop trying to be in charge then a different part of your brain emerges. Stories bloom in new ways. Images shift their orientation. Perhaps a shy character from the background shows you their heart. Maybe a hero turns to a villain. And a new twist makes you catch your breath.

Discover the unexpected, the surprising, the wonder waiting inside you.

Ask the Questing Stone.

What Would Your Character Do? The Hill


You character encounters a huge hill.

It’s steep, but climbable.

Does your character go up the steepest part or look for an easy route?

Does your character search for a marked path or forge their own?

Does your character worry it’s against the rules to climb it?

Does your character give up halfway?

Once your character is at the top, what happens?

What Would Your Character Do? The Creek

Scenario: Your character arrives at a creek. The water is fast but not deep.

How well do you know your character? What would they do?

Stay high and dry on the bank?

Explore the muddy shores?

Venture out onto the rocky peninsula?

Fall in accidentally? On purpose?

Would they not even know what a creek was?

Would they hunt for food?