Kid Writers

My friend Hank Quense is a Renaissance man! He’s an author of fantasy fiction, a publisher, and a self-publishing pro. The do-it-yourself resource he developed called The Complete Self-Publishing Guide, available from and, is one of the best designed and easy-to-apply tools I’ve seen. It takes you step by step through every stage of the process, from planning content and editing through getting a book in print and marketing it.

Hank is also a wonderful writing coach. I took his workshop on “Story Design” twice and applied many of the principles he taught to my novel. So I was thrilled to learn that Hank has turned his teaching skills to helping kids craft and share their writing. He’s created a free online short-story workshop for kids in grades 4 through 7 that’s fun and instructive. What a gift!

Hank has a rare ability that makes him the perfect coach for kids: he can convey complex ideas simply, breaking them down into easy-to-understand segments. That’s exactly what he’s done in this new DIY course. He makes writing a short story both fun and doable – empowering kids to get their ideas out into the world.

One of the stumbling blocks kids encounter when they write is how to develop the ideas necessary to create the story. They need ideas on character development, story setting and plot and building all these elements into a readable story. For several years, Hank has given talks in local schools and libraries showing kids how to turn their ideas into exciting tales. Based on enthusiastic responses from kids, teachers, and parents, Hank used his terrific structuring skills to create a free online workshop for kids.

Using a new software program called Padlet, he recorded his talk in a series of short video clips and put them and the supporting information into a single web page. He did this to show more kids beyond his local area how to go about writing a story. The webpage has no ads and videos are free. The sole purpose is to instruct the kids in grades 4 through 7 while showing them how to have fun while writing a story.

You can check out the webpage here:

This is a wonderful resource! I hope you’ll pass the link on to any kids, parents, teachers, or librarians you know. Hank also welcomes the opportunity to share his love of writing in person with kids at schools, libraries, and special events. You can contact him at: hankquense (at) icloud (dot) com.

Bravo, Hank. Write on!

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Marquez Motivates

Last week, on March 6, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the beloved author of One Hundred Years of Solitude and other works of magic realism, would have celebrated his 91st birthday (he passed away in 2014). I’ve gathered some of his words of wisdom for us:

“The heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good.”

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

“He who awaits much can expect little.”

“Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.”

“Life is not what one lived, but rather what one remembers, and how it is remembered to tell the tale.”

“The problem with marriage is that it ends every night after making love, and it must be rebuilt every morning before breakfast.”

“Fiction was invented the day Jonas arrived home and told his wife that he was three days late because he had been swallowed by a whale.”

“No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.”

 “From the moment I wrote ‘Leaf Storm,’ I realized I wanted to be a writer and that no one could stop me and that the only thing left for me to do was to try to be the best writer in the world.”

 “In journalism, just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That’s the only difference and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.”

“Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself.”

“The interpretation of our reality through patterns not our own, serves only to make us ever more unknown, ever less free, ever more solitary.”

“I don’t know who said that novelists read the novels of others only to figure out how they are written. I believe it’s true. We aren’t satisfied with the secrets exposed on the surface of the page; we turn the book around to find the seams.”

“Tricks you need to transform something which appears fantastic, unbelievable into something plausible, credible, those I learned from journalism. The key is to tell it straitght. It is done by reporters and by country folk.”

“No matter what, nobody can take away the dances you’ve already had.”

“Be calm. God awaits you at the door.”

Inspired and enlivened by this master of make-believe, let’s all write on!

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Something Wonderful

[in Just-]
By E. E. Cummings

in Just-
spring          when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles          far          and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far          and             wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and




balloonMan          whistles

Quick Reply
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“puddle-wonderful” world

“when the world is puddle-wonderful…”   e.e. cummings*

Have no idea why, but this lovely line of poetry floated into my head the other morning, just as I was waking up. It was doubly intriguing because outside my window there was a brisk, beautiful snowfall falling. Truly, a winter wonderland! The snow was coming down when I took a morning walk and later, it began in earnest, mantling everything in wedding-dress white – lovely!

Puddles and snowflakes. They started me thinking about how nourishing it can be for us as writers to appreciate and experience the nature around us as directly as we can as much as we can whenever we can. Consider, for a few moments, the gifts that nature gives us:

Nature reminds us that there’s a world beyond our doorstep and digital life that is mysterious and powerful and which we can’t control. Its beauty and bounty and even its brutality are beyond our poor ability to add or subtract. This is more than humbling – it’s also helpful. When we infuse our work with nature, we tap its strengths.

Nature offers us the chance to refresh and enliven our senses. Just walking outside during a snowfall is so engulfing – all your senses are alive. You taste the fresh, crisp air and the drifting snowflakes, feel the wind on your face, hear tree branches tapping in hushed tones. Walking in the rain or on a breezy day offers different sensory pleasures. And when we’re alive to our own senses, we can bring sensory aliveness to the page. When our characters see, touch, and hear their world, they become more real — both to us as their creators and to readers.

Nature invites us to play and to remember the deep and simple joys of childhood. When we take a walk in the snow and then have hot chocolate, when we crunch through a pile of leaves, or stroll in a park and watch kids play, we rekindle a connection that we often lose in our daily life, filled as it is with errands, responsibilities, and ephemeral digital data.

It’s fun and energizing to think of easy, creative ways to bring more nature into our lives and workplaces. Flowers and plants, daily walks, gardening and planting vegetables, wearing flowered shirts and shoes – all these can remind us of the beauty and power of nature. Even photos of flowing water, forested screensavers, or seaside Facebook banners can be enlisted to remind us that there’s a big, beautiful world out there waiting to be discovered and shared with our readers. Write on!

*Check out the next KWD post for the full poem – fantastic!

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Celebrating Creativity

“As a woman, I have no country. As a woman, my country is the world.   Virginia Woolf

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day 2018. This year’s theme is “Press for Progress,” and it’s hard to think of a woman author who met this challenge more fully in her writing than Virginia Woolf. Virginia was a bold literary voice and a champion of the rights of all writers, especially women, to pursue their craft freely. She pioneered in developing the stream-of-consciousness narrative. She also struggled with memories of childhood abuse by a relative and with depression, yet she found solace and joy in her flights of imagination.

She gave the world beautiful gifts in the work she created: The Waves, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and the classic A Room of One’s Own. In her honor of today, I’ve gathered some of her words of wisdom on writing and life for all of us to ponder and apply:

“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”

“Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

 “Anything may happen when womanhood has ceased to be a protected occupation.”

 “A woman must have money and a room of her own to write fiction.”

 “Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”

“You cannot find peace by avoiding life.”

Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”

“Language is wine upon the lips.”

“Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

“It is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

Virginia pursued the freedom to create and write with fierce dedication. More than this, she wanted all of us, everyone, to enjoy this same right. She knew the power of other voices in other rooms. If she were here now, I feel sure she would say to us, “Find your voice. Find your own voice –- the one that is yours and no other’s –- and use it.” Write on!



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Our Mountain

“I never compete against the other snowboarders. I compete against the mountain, because if the other snowboarders aren’t great that day, I can not be my best and still win, but my goal is to be the best.”   Shaun White, Olympic athlete

Something about this comment intrigues me. No, we’re not snowboarders and Shaun has his issues off the field of play, but he still has something here we can apply. I have my own personal mountain to compete on. So do you. As writers, our mountain is the page. For us, being the best means constantly striving to improve our craft – and to create work that’s better, deeper, truer.

Shaun’s comment struck a chord with me for three reasons. First, I like the idea that you don’t compete against other competitors, but against the mountain. How liberating this is! He’s not out to best someone else, to outperform someone else, but to contend with the mountain – with the force which motivates him to pursue his discipline and express his creativity. Our takeaway: Let’s not worry about what other writers are doing: the success they’re enjoying or the work they are creating. Let’s focus on our mountain – the page – and what it’s asking of us today.

Second, the real battle to be faced in Shaun’s view isn’t against other competitors or even the mountain: it’s with the self – with bringing his “A Game” – his absolute best to any encounter in which his skill is demanded. Our takeaway: Bringing the best we have to offer to the page every day is what’s really important – that’s what moves us forward and helps us get to the next level. That may mean pushing ourselves to solve a tough plot problem or reworking a lackluster paragraph, even if it seems better than it was, until it sparkles.

Third, Shaun separates the idea of winning and giving his best effort. If he wins because other cometitors fall short, but doesn’t give his best, then it’s not really a fulfilling result because he’s not really tapping into his full capabilities. An intriguing concept: Winning isn’t simply about winning – it’s about how you win: It’s about the attitude and effort you bring to the party. Our takeaway: Let’s not worry about winning, whatever that means to us in our work. Let’s focus on bringing the right attitude and effort to the page today and winning, whatever that means, will take care of itself. Even more important, if giving our best is a “win” in the fullest sense.

Write on!


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Emerging Authors

“I read your issues like clockwork! I’m a literary agent, and there’s such a great cast of emerging writers on this site that I’m always checking in to see if there’s anyone who might be looking for representation for longer form work.”   Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Agency

One of the best ways to motivate yourself to finish projects — and be noticed! — is to take advantage of well-respected awards opportunities. Here’s one you may want to look into for short stories and essays you’ve been working on: The Masters Review Anthology Volume VII. The deadline is March 31st and $5,000 will be awarded to 10 emerging writers along with publication and valuable exposure. Here’s an overview:

“Every year The Masters Review opens submissions to produce our anthology, a collection of ten stories or essays written by the best emerging authors. Our aim is to showcase ten writers who we believe will continue to produce great work. The ten winners are nationally distributed in a printed book with their stories and essays exposed to top agents, editors, and authors across the country. “

The Masters Review holds first publication rights for three months after publication. Authors agree not to publish, nor authorize or permit the publication of, any part of the material for three months following The Masters Review’s first publication.

Submission Guidelines:

  • fiction and narrative nonfiction
  • 8000 word count maximum
  • international submissions allowed
  • simultaneous and multiple submissions are allowed, but please inform us if your story has been accepted elsewhere
  • previously unpublished work only
  • emerging writers only: cannot have a novel published at the time of submission (self-published authors and writers with published story collections are free to submit. Authors with a contract for a novel are also free to submit.)
  • work published only on social media is eligible.
  • $20 reading fee per story
  • Winners Receive: $500 award; publication in a nationally distributed journal; exposure to select list of 50 editors and literary agencies.

For more information, visit: — and write on!

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