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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Nourish Voice

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Write for the child within you.” Jane Yolen

Narration comes in many voices. There is the voice of the story, or idea and the shape it takes, and there is an author’s voice as well. Some storytellers can identify their voice fairly quickly and for some it takes time to develop. Like a musician, for some voices range across many notes and others take one sound and develop it deeply.

A guest author once shared that he tried to write across different ages and in different genres but every time he tried at some point his writing voice became a fourteen to sixteen year old male. So he stayed with that narrator and wrote deeply.

Author Jane Yolen has written in almost every age and genre in children’s literature. Story first, she says. She both listens to her characters and she searches for a connection. “Reach deep inside yourself and find out who you were before you became what you are, and then you will discover that the child is there, very much alive, and informing most of your adult decisions.”

Nourishing voice is an ongoing thread that begins with the seed of idea and develops throughout any project. As we study in this workshop we’ll be going into more details re voice and also see that voice is integral whether we’re discussing character or plot or tone.

For now though, begin to take notice as you experiment with ideas what voice you tend to lean towards. Is it quiet or noisy, tentative or firm, adventurous or cautious?

When you discover the voice that captures your heart chances are you discover the excitement and passion that writing for any age requires. Especially for children and young adults because our stories may be their first glimpse into imagination and new possibilities. 

Action Steps:

Go to: and scroll down to 31 Creative Freewrites.

1.     Do brief freewrite notes on numbers 12 to 17 from the idea file. Give yourself 8 to ten minutes per memory to write down everything you can think of. Don’t stop for sentence structure or punctuation.

2.     Did your moments all fall into a particular age category or were they spread out? If, for example, most of your moments happened in grades 4 to six then you are leaning into a middle-grade voice connection.

3.     Which ones that you wrote connected the strongest either from a positive or negative reaction?

Share: Did any of your recollections surprise you? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Only Connect: Overview Basics

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“An idea is something that makes a sound in the heart.” Katherine Paterson

Once in a while have you ever seen a movie, or read a book, that both friends and critics have given high applause to, and yet it has left you bored or cold or both? The quality is evident, no argument, yet still you just don’t respond. A strong possibility is that the storyline or the underlying threads did not engage your heart. It did not connect. Talent is a required component to any art form, but it is not enough if it doesn’t engage with the intended audience.  And for the example above, you may not have been the intended audience.

Only connection is as high a value as talent in literature for children and young adults. Actually it is probably higher. It is why some children will cling to a poorly written story, or ask to hear a song over and over that grates on our nerves. It may be a concept that doesn’t match any ‘rules’ of a genre, but readers inhale it like dessert. The classic storybook “Goodnight Moon” does not fall into ‘normal’ guidelines for writing to that age group, yet it affects all generations with its heart relationship to that whisper of falling asleep for a child without vocabulary to express their feelings.

Often when we are writing we are translating. We have an idea—a character—a feeling—a fear—a hope that we are trying to put into words, to first translate into something more tangible, and then second to share it with another person.

“One thing we can do is to share with children works of the imagination—those sounds deepest in the human heart, often couched in symbol and metaphor. These don’t give children packaged answers. They invite children to go within themselves to listen to the sounds of their own hearts.” Katherine Paterson

Old Testament prophet Habbakuk first saw a vision, and then was told to write it ‘plainly’ so that a runner could take it.  That’s the craft part of developing our ideas into form: poem, short story, or article that we can make ‘plain’, make our concepts understandable.

Only when we are writing for children and young adults it seems, sometimes, that we are crossing a culture gap as well as generational and we struggle to find the words. We need to find the connections that bridge our hearts, and at the same time keeps the imagination free to expand into new ideas—not packaged ones. New sounds—new stories—new art. Fresh hope.

Action Steps:

1.    Write a definition of dream either as a word or as a concept.
2.    Suppose you were trying to explain this word to someone who doesn’t speak your language. How would you do it?
3.    Then read, The Dream Keeper, a poem by Langston Hughes.
4.    What sound does it make in your heart?

Share: How does his poem connect with your feelings and definition?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Talent is not enough.”  Mollie Hunter

Welcome to this blog workshop. Over the next several weeks we’ll be discussing what defines quality for this field of writing, examining genres and techniques, developing critique and revision skills, develop written practice of the elements of fiction with an emphasis on craft, voice, and form, and take a practical look at the publishing market.


We’ll take it all in small bites. And add in lots of space for inter-active questions, discussion, and guest bloggers. So, share your comments, and concerns, and questions, then if I’ve missed any they can be covered in their specific posts.

What exactly would you like to learn/accomplish in this field. Can you already recognize and define the various genres of children’s literature: picture books, chapter books, reader’s theatre, poetry, non-fiction, fiction, including historical-fantasy-contemporary, and multicultural. Or does it all seem a confusing melting pot?


Without fail every book on writing for children from crib to college asks this question first. Why exactly do you choose to write for this particular age? Mollie Hunter says, “the freedom of the children’s writer can be assessed for what it truly is—freedom with responsibility.” Katherine Paterson says, “Connecting is a vital, not a minor function. Connecting is what you and I are primarily concerned with. That’s what imagination is all about.”

        What are your individual goals? What is your heart calling to you to write? And why might talent not be enough? Dig out a fresh journal or begin a new folder. Start jotting down a conversation with yourself as we explore this vibrant literature and begin to fine-tune your journey. 

Share: Which of the above quotes do you identity with? Which puzzles you?

Read deep, marcy

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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