Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Interview with "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Charlotte Owens

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an interview with young writer Charlotte Owens, whose story "Grammy's Life" and essay "Nature Walk" are 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.


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

Hello. My name is Charlotte Owens. I am an 11-year-old 6th grader from Richardson, Texas. Writing is where I shine the brightest, but my other hobbies include drawing, softball, and volleyball.

Describe your pieces that were published in Dancing With The Pen II. How did you get your ideas? 

My first piece is titled "Grammy's Life." It was written shortly after the passing of my great grandfather, who I loved very much. Writing this tale helped me to express my grief. My second piece, "Nature Walk," was written after I left my busy household for a breath of fresh air. This was a prompt given to me by Dallas, which I found to be one of my favorites. I found peace in my quiet neighborhood and put it into words.

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

I have been writing for quite a while. I've always loved books and found great joy buried within. When I was 6, I asked my mom while in the car if I could type up a story on her laptop. Thinking it was going to be a short story, she gladly let me do so. However, it ended up being 50 full pages of nothing but writing. That's when I realized that I loved to write. I think what interested me most about it was the freedom it gave me to express my thoughts and feelings through the minds of my characters.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book? What was it like to get the news? 

I was thrilled to get the news that two of my pieces were to be published in Dancing with the Pen II. However, when I received a copy of my own, my family was not there to celebrate with me. I was at summer camp when it arrived in a package. I began flat-out crying. Happy crying!

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

As for advice for other authors or young people going after their dreams, keep doing what you're doing. If you work hard and believe in yourself, it will pay off in the end. Believe me, I know. Getting my stories published has given me a great head start, but I know I can do more. You will meet people that will give you wonderful opportunities. For instance, Dallas Woodburn has been a huge influence and inspiration in my life. I think we need more people in the world like Dallas!

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

As for my favorite book, I believe it would have to wind up somewhere in the Harry Potter series. Whenever I open up one of those immensely thick books, I feel as if I've landed in a whole new world. A magical place I would never want to leave. (This is one of the reasons I was so thrilled the eighth book came out!) J.K. Rowling has a brilliant mindset, and I will always look up to her.

What inspires you? 

What really inspires my greatest writing is when somebody changes my point of view and my eyes are open to new thoughts and ideas. For example, when a young idol such as Albert Einstein, Eminem, or Walt Disney had been turned down by others, they eventually rose above it to make it on top. They pushed through the negative and turned into something bigger than anybody could imagine. That's what I call inspiring!

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

I am currently working on a story based on the amazing tale of Jeff Banister retold with my own twist. I find him to be an amazing man with such a dauntless childhood.

What's next for me? An adventure of inspirational events that are sure to turn into wonderful books!

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Charlotte Owens is an eleven-year-old sixth grader living in Richardson, Texas. In her spare time, she loves drawing and writing short stories prompted by her writing mentor, Dallas Woodburn. 



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, August 12, 2016

Interview with "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Arielle DeVito

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an interview with young writer Arielle DeVito, whose poem "senescence" 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.


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

My name is Arielle DeVito, I’m 17 and I’m a rising senior. I’m from Cleveland, Ohio, and when I’m not writing or reading, I play the flute, figure skate, paint, sew costumes for myself and others, and bake a lot of cupcakes.

Describe your piece that was published in Dancing With The Pen II. How did you get your idea for the piece? 

My poem “senescence” was published in Dancing with the Pen II. The idea from the piece actually came from my wanting to write a four-part poem based off the four elements -- senescence was originally intended to be for the “earth” part. But when I finished it, I realized that I preferred it as a standalone piece, and that it didn’t follow the element theme as much as I’d intended.

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

To be honest, I can’t remember a time that I haven’t been writing! I’m fairly new to poetry, but I’ve always been writing stories. I like writing for a lot of reasons, including because I get to share my stories with other people and because it can help me figure out what I’m thinking and feeling.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book? What was it like to get the news? 

It was really exciting! Being published has helped me realize that there’s a possibility that I can actually follow this dream and make writing into a career for me. When I found out, I immediately called up all my friends and my English teacher to tell them, and we just all freaked out a little bit.

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

My advice would be to get started following your dreams now. Things might sometimes seem far-off, but there’s always something you can do to work towards them. In my case, this was starting to submit my writing for publication and making time to free-write for at least ten minutes a day. Little things you can do are just as important as big ones!

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

This question always gets me, because I love so many different books and authors! As a child, I think I was most influenced by Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and of course the Chronicles of Narnia. Recently, I’ve really loved reading books by Neil Gaiman, Malinda Lo, and Marissa Meyer, as well as reading poetry by Billy Collins, Sarah Kay, and Jamaal May.

What inspires you? 

I think I’m inspired by the world in general, but especially by the amazing people who surround me and the stories I read or hear from others.

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

Right now I’m working on editing the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo a few years back and just continuing to write poetry. I think next I’d like to work on more short stories and maybe a sequel to the book I’m editing!

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Just a huge thank you for being included in this book, as well as good wishes for any other young writers trying to get themselves out there – I believe in you!

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Arielle DeVito, native to the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, is an incoming twelfth-grader who can often be found lurking in libraries and comic book stores. A passionate writer since the age of six, she also enjoys reading anything and everything available, sewing historical costumes, and baking (usually cupcakes).





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!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Savoring the Anticipation

One of the most striking and moving aspects, for me, when reading the beautiful book a picture is worth... (Arch Street Press) is getting to hear the unfiltered voices and perspectives of these young adults, smack in the middle of growing up. They write with insightful reflection about their pasts, and their words ache with excitement for the future when they share their goals and dreams -- graduating high school, attending college, having a family and home of their own.


In her essay, Betania Robles writes:

"I would like to say that at the moment I am at the awkward stages of being a teenage girl. Some days I'm happy and some days I'm extremely sad and depressed, and sometimes both at the same time. I don't know if that's normal but I am pretty sure those weird feelings will pass by as I grow up. I'm pretty goofy. I love boy bands and random things like that, and the Internet has to be one of the best inventions ever. It has caused me much happiness and provides me with things that the outside can't. I also love reading; it is like I enter a stranger's world and I learn and feel their feelings. That is truly amazing. Call me ridiculous, but I'd rather read than go outside sometimes, and because of books I believe in true love."
Reading Betania's essay took me back to my own teenage days -- the newness of adventures, the excitement of the wide-open world, the daily dramas and jokes and loves. In all of the narratives in the book, glittering details about these teens' present lives stuck out like treasure: close-knit friends at school; chaotic dinner tables with their parents and stepparents and siblings; favorite teachers and subjects; the neighborhood and community they have always known. I wanted to reach in through the book and tell the young authors: this time of your life is beautiful, too! Savor it. It will fly by faster than you can imagine.

* * *



In three and a half weeks, I am getting married. Life is a whirlwind of tasks, questions, and to-do lists. I wake up in the middle of the night to scribble notes to myself that are only sometimes legible in the morning: song for recessional? cupcake labels? check with minister about kiss timing. My brain is flooded with details and planning and more details. I feel constantly abuzz with nervous energy, my stomach a flurry of butterflies.

And at the same time, I have never felt more ready for anything in my life.

I cannot wait to marry my sweetheart and officially join our lives together. Yet I am savoring this anticipatory time, too. In the midst of the chaos and craziness, I stand in the middle of our one-bedroom apartment, crammed with wedding gifts and decorations and half-completed craft projects, and smile with giddy contentment to be here, now, in this glorious mess and in this perfectly imperfect moment. There is something delicate and beautiful in these final days before we hold hands and leap together into the unknown.

* * *

When I was in college, I lived in an apartment with three of my best friends. Every year, we threw a big holiday party the weekend before winter break. Our anticipation was born right after Thanksgiving. We spent hours planning the party: sending out invitations, shopping for refreshments, deciding on party favors and music. We cut out paper snowflakes and hung them from our ceiling; we strung up twinkle-lights; one year we even managed to get a “Charlie Brown” Christmas tree on super discount at a tree lot, and we decorated it until it was more tinsel than tree. I would be so excited for our party that time seemed to drag on as I tracked its glacier-slow approach on my calendar.

And then, suddenly, it was the day of the party. There was always a flurry of last-minute preparations: baking cookies, making peppermint hot chocolate, wrapping presents. Every year, the party itself passed in a blur of friends and laughter, dancing and singing, photos and hugs. Within three or four hours—the blink of an eye, it seemed—our party was over. We’d wave goodbye as our last guests headed out the door, and then my three best friends and I would be left standing in our empty apartment with a mess to clean up.


It’s hard not to feel a little sad in those moments, when all the anticipation is over, and life resumes to normal. It can feel like the magic is gone. But, looking back, my favorite memories from those holiday parties are not the parties themselves, or even all the anticipation and preparation. The memories I cherish the most are from the mornings after the parties, when my roommates and I would eat scrambled eggs—ignoring the dirty dishes and overflowing trash can for a little while longer—and talk all about the amazingly fun event we had just hosted.

Because, yes, there is joy in the anticipation. There is joy in the savoring. But there is also joy in the telling, the retelling, and the remembering.

"The world is shaped by two things: stories told and the memories they leave behind." — Vera Nazarian

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Interview with "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Shane P.R. Carlson

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an interview with young writer Shane P.R. Carlson, whose story "Endwise Swan Song" 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.



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

My name is Shane Paul Rockenstein (yes, that’s what the P.R. stands for) Carlson. I am 14 years old, going into my freshman year of high school, and I live in Camarillo, CA. I have many, many hobbies, some of which are playing piano, playing guitar, playing ukulele, playing harmonica, singing, acting, reading, watching (good) movies, swimming, golfing, playing hockey, and filming short films. In fact, I want to become a (film) director when I grow up.

Describe your piece or pieces that were published in Dancing With The Pen II.

It’s very funny how different my story is now than when I first wrote it. It was initially more of a horror story, but now it’s sort of like the movie “Stand By Me.” I got the idea from a story I heard on the Internet. My initial story was similar to the story on the Internet, and then I changed it and made it my own. My story was about two kids having a sleepover being haunted by someone in the forest nearby. I had to change it since it was a bit too dark. Just a wee bit.

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

I’ve been writing for a very long time. I used to write scripts for movies on my mom’s computer. I actually started writing more-or-less professionally in the fourth grade, when I was 10. I wrote a story about pirates. It was essentially Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl verbatim. I love writing because I love creating characters and stories and worlds. It’s amazing to see a story that I’ve written completed so others can see it and experience my creations.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book? What was it like to get the news? 

This is my very first publication. I am so excited for people to read what I’ve written for the first time. Hopefully there will be many more stories of mine for people to read very soon! Getting the news was great. I was excited. I didn't really have time to do anything to celebrate, though, since I’ve basically been acting in show after show for the past three years.

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

Just keep doing what you’re doing. If someone tells you, “You can’t be in the film industry! Don’t you realize how slim a chance there is for you to get in?” or something like that, just ignore it. Though it’s true that it’s hard to get noticed in an industry like the film industry, don’t let naysayers stop you from achieving your dreams. It’s like my mom says, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” Stephen Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time, got into the industry by staying in the bathroom during the bathroom stop on the Universal Studios tour (back when they had a bathroom stop). He then toured the lot and got a pass to do so for three days. He toured it all three days, and, when his pass expired, he found another person to give him a new one. He did this every day during the summer, then quit school and got a job at Universal.

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

I’ve been on a Stephen King kick lately. I’ve read tons of his books, my favorite so far being Misery. His books are dark, but I absolutely love horror. I guess you could say he’s my favorite author. To anyone who’s interested in reading his books, I’d recommend Carrie, Salem’s Lot, It, The Stand, and, of course, Misery.

What inspires you?  

Many things inspire me. Most of what inspires me comes from my life, but I combine what comes from my life with genres I’m interested in. My book about a boy who becomes a superhero was inspired by my love of Batman and a girl I liked. (Note: This was back in fifth grade.) Inspiration can come from anywhere, I believe.

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

I really want to finish editing my superhero book I mentioned previously soon. I’ve finished my first draft, and I’ve run into some trouble with editing. I’ve lost motivation, I guess. I let the book sit for a while, and now I think I’m getting my motivation back. This publication definitely has helped, as I now want to have more publications. Once I finish this book, I can move on to other projects, like an apocalyptic novel I’ve started.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

To my fellow writers: Keep at it.
To Dallas: Thank you for helping me for the past couple years. Here’s to many more to come.
To my family: Thank you for everything. I love you guys.
To everyone: Look out for my name, 'cause I’m going to be famous very soon. :)

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Shane P.R. Carlson has been writing since he was five. He always has ideas for stories, which he sometimes acts out with his Legos. He loves to write and hopes he can continue to throughout his life. 



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!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Interview with "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Miriam Larson

JOIN US TODAY at 5pm at Mrs. Figs' Bookworm in Camarillo, CA for our Southern California Book Release Party celebrating our young writers! Eleven young authors published in Dancing With The Pen II are scheduled to attend, and will read their work and autograph copies of the book. We would love for you to come out and help us make this a special, unforgettable evening for these amazing young writers! 


Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with an interview with young writer Miriam Larson, whose story "Dancing In The Rain" 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.



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

My name is Miriam Larson. I'm a 17-year-old high school senior who was born in Cambodia but now lives in Ventura, California. I sing and play with my cats when I'm not writing!

Describe your piece that was published in Dancing With The Pen II. How did you get your idea for the piece? 

I wrote a piece titled "Dancing in The Rain" which is abut expectations versus reality. I got the idea from my own personal experience and wrote the piece because I realized it also described some other situations in my life. I always hoped for the best and used to be disappointed when things didn't work out. But from writing "Dancing in The Rain" I've grown and learned.

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

I've been writing since I was very little! I remember when I wrote about a singing dolphin at age seven and won an award from my local fair. Writing is such a huge part of my life. To me, it's like a way to escape, or a way to let some feelings out. But besides that, it also makes me feel happy and I love feeling happy.

What does it mean to you to have your piece included in this book? What was it like to get the news?

I was honestly very surprised! I was just hoping for some feedback on a piece, and to hear it was going to be published made my whole entire year! I'm still in a bit of shock, and when I told my close friends and family, we all were so happy. One of my friends almost cried for me because she knew how important writing was for me.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

My advice is that I would give is that you shouldn't limit yourself to any specific style. I used to think I was strictly a fiction writer, and I was very stubborn in that. But now, I write non-fiction and poetry too. I was so pleasantly surprised when I realized I had strengths in my writing and this discovery pushed me to try other new things.

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

The first book series I fell in love with was Harry Potter, but the first book I connected with was Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass. All her other books also remain in my top favorites. The book I recommend to everyone is The Abandoned by Paul Gallico. That one made me cry for the first time over a book. I re-read it every year to get different perspectives on it.

What inspires you? 

I'm inspired by people around me and my peers. Everyday things inspire me, like my cats, little experiences, hardships and the fact that writing is the only thing that makes me feel grounded.

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

I'm currently working on finishing a novel from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and it's so fun. I think next for me would be writing my own songs.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

I'm so happy to be included in this book! My confidence came back and I've written more emotional pieces about myself.

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Miriam Larson is a 17-year-old high school senior in Ventura, California. Besides writing, she also spends time singing and running track.



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!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

New Poem by "Dancing With The Pen II" Contributor Jothika Puli

Today we continue our Dancing With The Pen II blog tour with a special poem by young writer Jothika Puli, whose short story "How Jupiter Got So Big" 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.





Yellow
by Jothika Puli

Yellow is dandelions waving to the sun, saying, "Hello."
Yellow sounds like laughter from happy children,
The sun brightly shining on your warm face.
Yellow smells like the sour lemon zest you smelled the other day
And the bright pollen landing on your itchy nose.
Yellow feels like the bumpy pencil that you were holding,
Or that warm ray of sunlight hitting your face.
Yellow makes me feel cheerful whenever I am sad or grumpy.
Yellow tastes like an ice-cold lemonade on a hot summer afternoon,
Or that tangy mustard on your hot dog sausage.
Yellow is happiness logically filling your head.
Yellow is where fields of yellow tulips bloom,
That sliver of sun in the broad daylight.

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Jothika Puli is ten years old and goes to John Green Elementary, where she is in fifth grade. She plays piano and right now is in Level Five.






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!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Sustaining Your Inner Child

“I have inflammation of the imagination.”
Lera Auerbach, Excess of Being


Nervous energy and excitement filled the room. Kids sat at tables with their parents, siblings and family friends. They were all dressed in nice clothes, and while their parents chatted, the kids were laser-focused on reading the bright-covered books they had just received. Soon pizza was served, and everyone filled their plates with slices of pepperoni and cheese, along with rainbow-sprinkled homemade cupcakes. And then it was Showtime.

"Hi, everyone!" I exclaimed from the front of the room. "I am so pleased to welcome you to our celebration of these amazing young writers who have just been published in our new book, Dancing With The Pen II!"

Everyone applauded, the young writers blushed, and then it was time for them to strut their stuff. One by one, I called them to the front of the room to read from their pieces that were published in the book. One by one, they shyly made their way to the front of the audience, and read their pieces out loud. As they soaked in the audience's enraptured attention, each young writer seemed to visibly grow in size: postures became straighter, voices became louder and more expressive. When they finished, after the audience cheered and I presented each one with a certificate and the parents became paparazzi taking a barrage of flashing photographs, I watched as each young writer walked proudly back to their seat -- walking a little taller, with much more confidence and joy. So different from the nervous, uncertain people who had walked up to the front of the room minutes before.


That is why I work so hard to publish young writers. That is why I believe it is so crucial to help young people discover their own unique voices, and to give them avenues to share their voices with others. That is why I founded my organization Write On! For Literacy fifteen years ago, and why the work grows even more important to me with each year that passes. Because I have seen firsthand the effect that reading and writing and sharing and growing has on young people. On all of us.

In her article "When Writing is Not a Career" Linda Wilson writes:

A woman I once interviewed for an article told me that astute observers can identify a child's interests and talents as early as four years old. At four, asking people questions came naturally to her son. So she went out and bought him a toy microphone. Unleashed was a blossoming reporter, who carried his microphone with him everywhere, asking people, "What do you do?" and, "Do you have a favorite pet?" When it came time for college she offered to help pay for it, but she struck out. He wasn't interested. What he did do was put himself through broadcasting school and upon completion, got a job as a disc jockey. Later, he went on to become a popular sportscaster. He told her he loved his career so much that he wanted to be buried with his microphone (a real one this time). She concluded the interview by saying, all this because I recognized his interest early-on, and directed him toward it during his early, most informative years.

I'm not saying that all of the young people I work with will make careers as writers. (Although I am proud that many of my students and mentees have gone on to study Journalism or Creative Writing in college!) But I do hope that all of them will continue writing throughout their lives. I hope they keep writing to express their own ideas, to share their thoughts with others -- or even just to share their innermost thoughts and feelings with themselves.


Many of the young writers I am honored to work with do have dreams of forging writing careers. I hope to help them build unshakeable confidence in themselves and their unique gifts, confidence that cannot be torn down by the inevitable rejection letters and criticism and disappointments that will come along the way. With all the writers I work with, of all ages, my utmost goal as a teacher is to do for them what the best teachers in my life have down for me: to help them locate that spark of passion they feel deep inside themselves, and to fan it into a roaring flame that will never die out. As Lera Auerbach writers in Excess of Being, "You can only master something by loving it."

In truth, our pizza launch party for Dancing With The Pen II was not just a celebration of a new book being published. It was more than that: more than just a single day, a single book. It was a celebration of a love affair with writing that each of these young writers has embarked upon, and that hopefully will continue throughout their lives -- sustaining their inner children, nurturing their joy in creating, and keeping their imaginations inflamed and vibrantly alive.