Wednesday, February 22, 2017

"The Great Sledding Hill" by young writer Benjamin Webb


Today I am proud to publish this wonderful story by young writer Benjamin Webb. If you are interested in reading more work by young writers, why not order a personalized copy of Dancing With The Pen II: a collection of today's youth writing here or on Amazon here.

(source)


The Great Sledding Hill 

by Benjamin Webb

The car thumped on the road surrounded in milky white snow. My dad and I were going to a school because behind it there was supposed to be a sledding hill.

Soon we arrived and my dad parked in a parking lot by what looked like a colorful playground. It was hard to see anything because of the snow falling. When I got out of the car I saw the school. It had three floors!

My dad got out my orange sled and we walked to a metal gate.

“How do we get past?” I asked. “It looks locked -- we won’t be able to go sledding!”

“Let’s try,” my dad said and pushed on the gate. Suddenly the gate swung open.

“That did the trick!” I shouted to be heard over the howling wind.

We walked for a minute and I started falling down a slope. My dad grabbed me and pulled me back up. “Be careful,” he warned.

Then I realized that it was not a small slope, it was the hill. It was bigger than our house! You could go skiing on this hill, I thought. Maybe it’s too big.

“Get in the sled,” my dad said.

I got in.

“Ready?” my dad asked.

“Ready” I said slowly. My heart was pounding as I took off down the hill. “Whoa!” I hollered, “This is better than a roller coaster!”

Uh oh, I thought. There was a bump in the hill. The sled flung over the bump and I landed in the soft snow.

“That was something,” I said finally. “I have gone sledding before, but this hill is amazing!” I got up and brushed the snow out of my mittens. Everything seemed okay.

The wind died down and it wasn’t as cold. “Wait -- how am I going to get back up?” I questioned. “Well, I think I have to climb.” I started running up the hill as my sled dragged behind me. “This isn’t too bad,” I said. “Climbing is easy.”

Then I tripped and fell down and noticed some gray concrete stairs. “That is probably easier than climbing.” I laughed and started going up the stairs.

When I got up to the top, my dad waved. I went down the hill over and over again.

--------


Benjamin is 9 years old and loves math, cats, animals, and video games. He has a fish named Rainbow and a cat named Misha. He also likes swimming, hiking and loves drawing.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Interview with Young Author Caylen D. Smith

 A few months ago, I was super impressed to read about young author Caylen D. Smith in my hometown newspaper. Her self-published "Guardian" series of books is amazingly popular -- the second book in the series, Uneven Odds, even garnered a spot on the Apple iBooks Young Adult New Releases! I reached out to Caylen through her website and she was kind enough to give her time for an interview. I am thrilled to feature her on the blog today! Her story is inspirational and filled with practical writing advice. Read on for more about Caylen, in her own words!  


What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction? 

My author name is Caylen D. Smith (the D stands for dramatic), and my age is 21, soon to be 22! I’m a senior in college and my hometown is Agoura Hills, California. My hobbies—more likely known as addictions—are scrolling through Tumblr and working on my Tumblr blog. It’s a way to be creative. Also, that tweeting nonsense as well. I will never turn down the opportunity to read, mostly anything, but I lean more toward books that are fantasy, or contemporary novels. They are my weakness. If I am not reading or writing, I am definitely watching my favorite movies repeatedly. Mostly anything from the Marvel Universe or a Christopher Nolan film.

Describe your path to publication. How did you get your idea for the first book? Take us through your writing process. 

The idea of the first book, Ripples: Book One of the Guardian Series, was sparked by a dream. The difficult part about it was that I didn’t remember everything that happened. All I remember was there were rebels, a girl and her friends that lived in a huge house, and a lighthouse abandoned on the beach. Not writing down exactly everything in the dream when I first woke up was my fault, but I somehow managed. I thought it would be interesting to name these strangers, and create backgrounds for them as well. Surprisingly, Landon was the first, then came Alexandria, the main character. The rest just followed. I invented their storylines, daily lives and what made them important to the story itself.

I never really thought of putting my work out there to sell. I didn’t think it was quite possible because all I wanted was to write and see where these characters would go on this little adventure I placed them in. Actually, my mother was the one who pushed me to publish my stories. We sent out a few drafts to some companies that were interested, but no offers. So, we decided to self-publish instead. Every now and then we would purchase magazines about self-publishing, and found sites about authors who went that route. It seemed easy enough, but using an editor was something we didn’t think to find at first. Though once we realized how important it was, we found an editor with the help of a friend. We checked out artists on the internet who created book covers too. And soon we had a team that I have used for all three of the Guardian books.

Have you been writing for a long time? What do you like about writing?

Surprisingly, I didn’t start out like other authors. Many say in interviews that they have always aspired to be writers, or how they began to write when they were children. I became passionate with the writing world when I was a tenth grader in high school. That was less than six years ago that I aspired to be a writer. Since then, I have completed nine full manuscripts – three of which have been published. Writing is a complicated thing. I think creating worlds and characters is what keeps me interested. Having to make up backstories of characters and how they got to the point where the book started, and weave in their own unique stories throughout the novel is a challenge I like to make for myself. Like why is this character always angry? Or how can this character have this much joy in their heart? What they look like, smell, and what are their favorite foods—their hobbies and wants. It is what helps me make their world.

What has been the most surprising thing to you in your journey as an author?

The most surprising thing has to be that people actually enjoy reading my books. I know there is this sense that “you are your toughest critic” but all my life I didn’t think I was that great of a writer. That was why I placed myself so low on the food chain, but the funny thing is that each part of the food chain is important in its own way. Each one has a special gift in their own role in life.


Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams?

Write what you want to write. I see all the time the contradictions on the internet. For example, one side wants less random death in stories, and the other side can’t get enough of emotional pain. I think, if done appropriately, character death is highly essential for the plot. People die in real life all the time, and having that in the story gives a sense of reality. In one way, listening to the readers is extremely important. Their voices do matter, don’t get me wrong -- but also be aware that not everyone is going to like one thing or the other in a story.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors? 

Well, author wise it would have to be Flannery O’Connor, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Colleen Hoover, and Meg Cabot. Each of these authors has a special place in my heart. If I ever need inspiration to help me as a writer, I look to these wonderful people. Especially O’Connor, since she is extremely quirky. My favorite books are The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

What inspires you? 

Music inspires me. I cannot write without some type of song playing in the background. The way movies can capture true emotion for the audience is through lyrics and sound, and I use that to my advantage. Music tells its own story with words as well, and it helps me paint a scene in my head, or an emotion I am trying to convey for my characters.

What are you working on now? What's next for you? 

With the Guardian Series finished, meaning the fourth book is done, just needs to be edited and cover reveal and all, I am working on this new project of a story retelling of Robyn Hoode. Yes, that is the spelling. I told myself if I were to do a retelling it would have to be on something that has not been constantly retold. So, this was the story that I saw less of on the shelves and wanted to give it a chance and see what I could create.

Anything else you'd like to add? 

I know the thought of self-publishing can be taboo in the writing world, but times are changing. It takes finding a wonderful team (editor, cover artist, and proof readers) that can help you along your path. It might be one of the best decisions you can make, if you are more focused on getting your story out there than receiving money right away. Those who start from the bottom sooner or later can reach the top. And that is an inspiring story to be told.

Links:

Friday, January 27, 2017

How to Get Published: Some of My Advice


Hi, everyone! It's hard to believe it is almost the end of January already! Some of you might have a goal to get published in 2017. One of my writing mentees sent me some questions the other day about publishing, and I thought it would be a great topic to explore a little more here on the blog. Here are her questions, and my answers. The main take-away is that there are a variety of options to publish your work -- all it takes is a little exploring and bravery to find them and submit!

And, if you have a flash-fiction story, essay, or poem you are interested in getting published online, please feel free to send it my way! I am currently accepting submissions for this blog and for the WordSmorgasbord online literary journal.


How do I find a publisher that will publish my book? 

There are some small publishers that you can submit your work directly to -- here is a website listing many of them: http://www.everywritersresource.com/bookpublishers/taking-submissions/

You will want to read through the publisher's website to get a sense of what they are looking for and if your book might fit. For submitting to traditional publishers -- big publishers like Random House and Scholastic, that you see in bookstores-- you need to have an agent. You can find agents listed in books like Jeff Herman’s Guide to Literary Agents and The Writer’s Market, magazines like The Writer and Writer’s Digest, and websites such as www.agentquery.com. When you find an agent you like, you send a "query" to the agent, which is a short letter about yourself, any publishing credits and writing experience you have, and why this book you have written needs to be published. This is where you sell yourself and make the agent want to read your work. Depending on the agent's submission guidelines, you might also send the first couple chapters and a synopsis of your book. After the agent reads this, they will contact you and ask for the entire manuscript if they are interested. And, if they like the entire book, they will ask you to sign a contract! Then they will work with you to revise the book and make it the best it can be before shopping it around to publishers.

Do you have a preference between self and traditional publishing? 

I think both are excellent options -- it just depends on where you are in your writing career and what you are looking for in a publisher. I was very happy to self-publish my first two books, and I learned so much about the industry and self-promotion to have "hands on" experience publishing my own books. Now, I am looking to venture into traditional publishing -- but it is taking quite a long time, for me at least, to break in! I have had two separate agents who believed in my books, but I have yet to get a publishing deal. Of course, some authors get publishing deals much more quickly, but for me at least, the lesson has been that it takes a lot of patience. When it comes to traditional publishing, you can control the quality of your writing, but beyond that it is pretty much out of your control. I think a lot comes down to luck and timing! Here, I have broken things down into lists of "pros" and "cons":

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING
  • Pros: big-name publishers can help market your book, you don’t pay publishing costs, get an advance up-front, can build a relationship with editors
  • Cons: can get lost in the shuffle, lose control over book, can take a looong time, still need self-promotion!!

SELF-PUBLISHING
  • Pros: relatively fast, you have control over your content and cover design, you can publish what and when you want, platforms like CreateSpace make books available online to a wide audience
  • Cons: it's an investment, you bear costs up-front, self-promotion is vital, you might have a smaller audience for your work 

Do you think it is necessary to have an agent?

For traditional publishing with big-name publishers, yes, you need to have an agent. Those publishers will not accept work that is not submitted to them by agents. However, there are some smaller publishers that do accept work straight from writers, and then there is self-publishing, where you definitely do not need an agent! An agent is sort of like the connection between a big publishing house and a writer. They have established relationships with editors and, when it comes time to sell your book, they are the ones who are able to negotiate your contract. The standard rate is that an agent takes a small commission when they sell your work. They do not make any money if you do not make any money! Since my agent has not sold any of my books yet, she has not made a single penny from me (even though she has put in a lot of work on my behalf.) This just goes to show that if an agent signs you, they believe in you wholeheartedly! It is a neat relationship because you truly are a team.

***An Important Caution: If an agent asks to read your work or represent you, don’t be blinded by your excitement. You want to make sure this agent is the RIGHT agent for you – an agent that will represent you with honesty and enthusiasm, treat you fairly, and work with you to become a better writer. If an agent ever asks you to pay them money to read your work, they are NOT a legitimate agent. Find out about “scam” agents on the website Predators and Editors: http://anotherealm.com/prededitors/

Do you have experience having an agent?

Yes, I currently have a literary agent, who is actually my second agent -- a different agent signed me for my first book, we spent over a year working on edits, but she never felt it was "ready" to send out, and she didn't like the second novel I wrote. So we ended up parting ways and I found a new agent who I really like. Perseverance is KEY. It took me two long years to find my first agent, and another year to find my second agent. I could paper all four of my bedroom walls with rejection letters! Agents told me my book wouldn’t sell because it was too long, too short, too edgy, not edgy enough, I was too young, etc. etc. etc. But I believed in my writing and I believed in myself. I know there is a place for my novel in the literary world – I just had to find my “soulmate” agent who understood my book and who was as excited to find me as I was to find her! As of right now, I have written three novels, and my agent is currently trying to sell the third one. If this one doesn't sell, I will just work on a new novel and hope that one does! Publishing can be very fickle and confusing, and an editor might not buy your book for so many reasons -- they might be having a bad day, or they really like your writing but they already published a similar book, or the name of the main character brings up a bad memory of someone who was mean to them in elementary school. If you are rejected, it does not AT ALL mean that your writing isn't good enough. I have learned, and keep learning over and over, that the most important thing is to believe in yourself and persevere, and to enjoy the PROCESS of writing -- that is what you have control over.

Have you published without an agent?

Yes, I published my first two books without an agent, and they were both wonderful experiences -- I feel like my books were successful and I learned so much from the process! I also publish the Dancing With The Pen series on my own through CreateSpace. I think it is a wonderful time to be a writer because there are so many avenues available to publish your own beautiful, professional books!


Is it important to read the submission guidelines before submitting to an agent?

Yes! There are so many agents and they all want slightly different things, so it is CRUCIAL to read submission guidelines. You don't want the agent to think that you are sending out submissions to hundreds of different agents -- you want them to know that you chose them specifically because you think they will like your work based on what they have represented before. A great way to find agents is to look in the acknowledgments section or on author websites of books you really like that you think are similar to the book you want to publish. Usually you will be able to find the name of that author's agent, and then you can go on that agent's website and see if they are accepting new clients. Then it is really important to carefully read the submission guidelines and follow them when you send the agent your work! For example, some agents want to see the first three chapters; others want to see the first ten pages; some want you to attach your document; others want you to paste it into an email. The rules may seem silly or small, but if you don't follow them, your submission won't even be read!

Do you think there is an advantage to having someone else look at your writing before publishing?


Yes! Again, I could not agree more with this question! I think having someone else -- and it does not have to be a professional editor, it could also be a parent, teacher, friend, or relative -- look at your writing before you publish it is absolutely crucial. They can help you catch mistakes, fix small spelling or grammar errors that your eye skips over because you have read the pages so many times, and also they can let you know if anything is confusing or might be expanded or explained better. Often as writers WE know what we are trying to say, but sometimes things get lost in translation, so it is important to get someone else's perspective. Before you publish anything, you want to make sure it is the best it can be, and having someone else look at your writing is an important step of that process.

 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Story by "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Vivek Bellam

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an exclusive extra story by young writer Vivek Bellam, whose story "Battlebots" is featured in the book. Order a personalized copy of Dancing With The Pen II: a collection of today's youth writing here or on Amazon here.



Dogs Can Write?!

by Vivek Bellam

My dog Lillipup walked over to me with a pen in her mouth. Lillipup is a golden brown color. She is small, has floppy ears, and a peacock tail, and she is four years old.

“Lillipup,” I said, “give the pen to me.”

Lillipup ignored me and walked over to a piece of paper that had dropped on the floor. She clicked the blue pen and, when the ink touched the paper, everything she wanted to say to me appeared on the paper like magic.

The pen wrote, Hey Vivek. I want my teddy bear. Do you know where mom put it? 

The teddy bear is Lillipup's toy that she found when we went to visit our cousins. She liked the toy so much that we decided to bring it back home with us. Before long, Lillipup had ripped off an ear of the bear. Now the area where one ear used be is sewn together. The bear is small, has no accessories, and is the same golden color as Lillipup's fur.

When Lillipup dropped the pen, I picked it up, and wrote down what I wanted to say to her, hoping she would understand it.

I wrote back, I don't know where Mom put your bear. Also, do you remember when we adopted you? 

When we first adopted Lillipup, I didn't like dogs. When my sister came back from looking at puppies, there was a certain dog she wanted me to see. As soon as I saw Lillipup, I immediately wanted to play with her.

I didn't know if Lillipup could read the words I wrote down, but somehow, she understood. When I gave the pen back to her, she wrote, You can keep the pen. And I do remember that. Why were you scared of dogs?

I nearly shouted it, but I whispered, “Street dogs bit dad in India once and he got an infection, but I was never scared of you. Thanks for the pen, Pup. I'll write more to you later!”

With that, off I went to my room with my new blue Pilot G-2 07 magical clicking pen.

-------

Vivek Bellam is a ten-year-old fifth grader who lives in California. 




Links: 

Order Dancing With The Pen I & Dancing With The Pen II directly (personalized copies available!) or via Amazon.

If you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic!

You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook. We're featured on Goodreads, too!

Friday, December 16, 2016

New poem: "Christmas" by Adele Carcano

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an exclusive extra poem by young writer Adele Carcano, whose piece "Because" is featured in the book. Order a personalized copy of Dancing With The Pen II: a collection of today's youth writing here or on Amazon here.





Christmas

by Adele Carcano

Christmas
Jingle Bells, mistletoe, Christmas trees and joy
but not without him
he makes it better

Jingle Bells, mistletoe, Christmas trees and joy,
hot chocolate, marshmallows, blankets made of snow,
he makes it better
because without him there would be no...

Hot chocolate, marshmallows, blankets made of snow,
but not without him
because without him there would be no
Christmas.

-------

Adele Carcano lives in sunny California and enjoys volleyball, playing cello and writing! 





Links: 

Order Dancing With The Pen I & Dancing With The Pen II directly (personalized copies available!) or via Amazon.

If you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic!

You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook. We're featured on Goodreads, too!

Friday, November 4, 2016

Interview with Young Author Rosalie Chiang

Rosalie Chiang is a talented young writer with two stories featured in Dancing With The Pen II. On top of that, she has recently published her own book, A is for Albatross: Birds A to Z. This beautifully written and illustrated collection of poetry is as fun as it is informative. Children of all ages -- and adults, too! -- will love this book. You can order it on Amazon here. Read on for Rosalie's thoughts about reading, finding inspiration, and the writing process!



Can you tell us a bit about yourself? 

My name is Rosalie Chiang. I am ten years old, in sixth grade, and I live in Fremont, California. I love reading, gardening, cooking, and of course writing poetry. I am homeschooled and have won 2nd place once and 3rd place twice in two national level poetry contests for homeschoolers.

Describe your book and how you got the idea to create it. Take us through your writing process.

Last year, I got an idea of finding birds for each letter of the alphabet. I wrote a quatrain with a rhyme scheme of AABB for each bird, plus a short paragraph about it. Then my dad drew each bird and I painted them. Finally we put them all together and published it on Amazon.com. The whole process took about a year.

Have you been writing for a long time? What do you like about writing? 

I have been writing since I was five. I especially enjoy writing poetry that rhymes! I also like writing stories because it lets your imagination flow.

Do you have any advice for other writers, or for other young people going after their dreams? 

Write about what you enjoy.

Can you share a few of your favorite books or authors? 

I generally like classics. Some of my favorite books are C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Roald Dahl’s The BFG. My favorite poets are Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. They are fun to read and listen to. I also like Shakespeare.

What inspires you? 

I love animals and nature. I enjoy doing things with my hands like cooking, planting and science experiments. My parents give me many opportunities to try anything I desire.

What are you working on now? 

I am working on an A to Z book of freshwater fish.

Thank you so much, Rosalie, for taking the time to be with us today!


Links:
- Order A is for Albatross: Birds A to Z on Amazon here.
- Read Rosalie's award-winning poems here and her honorable mention essay here.
- Order Dancing With The Pen II on Amazon here; personalized copies are available here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New poem: "Fall" by Molly Barkis

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an exclusive extra poem by young writer Molly Barkis, whose poem "Dear Mr. Leon" is featured in the book. Order a personalized copy of Dancing With The Pen II: a collection of today's youth writing here or on Amazon here.



fall

by Molly Barkis


spices and sweets,
tricks and treats

pumpkins, and patches
and color all around

rain smells, sweaters,
an eerie feel

only the demons will tell,
of the horrors of halloween

spices and secrets,
tricks and teases

-------

Molly Barkis is fourteen years old and loves to write! She finds inspiration in traveling, cooking, and music. 



Links: 

Order Dancing With The Pen I & Dancing With The Pen II directly (personalized copies available!) or via Amazon.

If you have a few minutes and could write a review on Amazon, that would be fantastic!

You can also follow Dancing With The Pen on Facebook. We're featured on Goodreads, too!