Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Helpful Writing Sites

I love visiting sites on the internet.
There are a lot of great sites out there for the writer.
If you notice on my sidebar I have a long list of some of my favorite Writing Links.

I often write in rhyme. I would  be  lost without Rhyme Zone. It is a great site. It not only helps you with rhyme, but also gives you near rhymes, synonyms, antonyms, definitions,  related words, similar sounding words, homophones, etc. If you are stuck finding a rhyme for a word, then search under related words for another word to use that you can find a rhyme for. I also find this so helpful with my MG manuscript writing when I am searching for just the right word to use.

I love Auto Crit Editing Wizard. It allows you to paste a section of your writing into it and it will edit it for you! It shows you problems in your manuscript. You can paste your work two or three times a day for free.

I just found Reading Rockets. It looks like a great place with all kinds of info. There are long lists of recommended children's books by themes. I am going to be returning there a lot.

You Tube is a great place to visit. Many picture books are read there in their entirety. Go there and put the title in the search engine. You can look at a book and then decide if you want to buy it or check it out at the library.

It is time consuming going to sites, but some of them are very helpful and worth the time it takes to check them out.

What are some of your favorite sites?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Silly Snowy Day

Perfect Picture Book Friday
 A Silly Snowy Day
by Michael Coleman
pictures by Gwyneth Williamson
Scholastic 2000


Interest Age: PreK - 2nd

Opening Pages:
"Ho hum," yawned Mr.Tortoise. "Winter is here."
"So it is," yawned Mrs. Tortoise. "Come on, Shelley, time for bed."
"But I don't feel sleepy yet," said Shelley.
"Ridiculous!" cried Mr.  Tortoise. "All tortoises go to sleep for the winter."

Shelley wants to stay awake instead of hibernating with her parents. "Ridiculous!" her parents say, but she goes out to explore the snow and cold anyway. She soon finds out that her parents and the animals she meets are right. Wheee! She returns home in a wonderful, fun and fast way! And before she could say "Ridiculous!" she was fast asleep.

This is a fun read for this time of year!

Go here to read about animals that hibernate during the winter. 
Click here for a downloadable printable, Learning About Animals That Hibernate. 
Go here for free turtle coloring pages.
And here is a great site for turtle crafts, games and printables!

 Every Friday, bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see what other people posted, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, January 21, 2013


What makes a story good? What makes a story memorable?

After reading a book what do you remember most about that book? The setting, the plot or the characters.

I think a great character makes a story memorable!

How do we make them memorable?

Is it through their description (black hair, blue eyes, short), or where they live or come from or by their actions and words?

I think their actions and words are what make them special. Their quirks, uniqueness, habits, abilities, etc.

So, if your character is a blond, blue eyed person who offers no uniqueness or lasting impression to your readers, then he may be a character they will soon forget after they've read the book.

Our goal, as a writer, is to  make our story and our character something readers will remember long after finishing the book.

One of my favorite characters is Grandma Dowdel in A Long Way from Chicago and A year Down Yonder by Richard Peck.

A Year Down Yonder.jpg 

Mary Alice is a great character all on her own, but she has to deal with living with her larger than life Gandma Dowdel. And she is quite a character!

Here are a few small snippets from the first chapter about her:

You couldn't call her a welcoming woman, and there wasn't a hug in her.

"Hoo-boy," Grandma said.

She aimed one of her chins down the platform.

"How about some supper? My stomach's flapping against my backbone," she said. "If I don't eat, I get cranky."
     And heaven knows, we couldn't have that.

That is just the tip of the iceberg.

Other things to remember when making your character is to exaggerate some of his characteristics. Give them flaws. Have them easily fascinated or accident prone. Make them a nerd or a hypochondriac. Make them unpredictable and have them do something completely out of character every once in a while.

Who is one of your favorite characters?

What is some advice you can give us on how to make a character memorable?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Picture Book Friday - Duck at the Door

Duck at the Door
by: Jackie Urbanovic
Scholastic 2007

Reading Level: Ages 4 and up
Great for read aloud.

Opening Lines:
It was a quiet night until . . . THUNK, CREAK, and KNOCK, KNOCK!
Someone is out there!

Irene's house is full of animals. One wintery night someone came knocking at their door. It was a DUCK! His name was Max and he had decided to not fly south with his flock because he thought he'd love winter. But he didn't! It was sooo cold.
Max stayed with Irene and her friends, but he had a lot to learn and by March he had made himself right at home. Too much at home! It was decided someone had to talk to Max.
But then Max's flock returned and he left. Life was ordinary again in Irene's house. Too normal! By October everyone was hoping for another knock at their door. And there was.
Max returned! But, uh-oh - he brought his entire flock with him.

This is such a cute story and I love the illustrations. Children will fall in love with Max.

I think the message here is to appreciate everyone in your life.

Resources: Click here to go to a great site about ducks. This site tells children all about ducks and there are additional links to coloring pages, worksheets and duck crafts.

 Every Friday, bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see what other people posted, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch

Monday, January 14, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - Missing May

In addition to loving picture books, I also love middle grade novels.

This book I am posting about today is an old one, but a good one.
It is winner of the 1993 Newbery Award.

by Cynthia Ryland
published by Dell Publishing 

Here is what is says on the back cover:
Since Summer was six years old she lived with dear Aunt May and Uncle Ob. Now, six years later, Aunt May has died. Summer, who misses May with all her might, is afraid something will happen to Ob. Most days Ob seems like he doesn't want to go on.

But then Ob feels May's spirit around him and he wants to contact her. Cletus Underwood, a strange boy from school, reads about someone who could help him do that. Summer wants to hear from May too.

Ob and Summer don't know what to expect when they set off on their search for some sign from May. They only know they need something to ease their sorrow and give them strength to go on living - always knowing they will never stop missing May.

Click here for a study guide to Missing May.

I love the characters of the story, especially Cletus. Like May, I think you will learn to like him, too. Here is an excerpt from early in the book where May is talking about Cletus.

I swear. When Ob spotted him snooping around the old Chevy last fall, I warned Ob to have nothing to do with him. I'd been riding the school bus with Cletus for a year, since his family moved up from Raleigh County, and I had decided he was insane. Back when he first came, he had going this collection of potato chip bags. He had practically the whole school saving their Wise and Tom's and Ruffles bags for him. Heading home on the bus every day, people would be pulling flat shiny bags out of their history books like crazy and passing them to Cletus in the backseat. I didn't participate. I was certain the boy was a flat-out lunatic.

Ob really liked Cletus and he became a big part of their life.

I think you will  like this book.  It is written in first person, which I like, and it is 17, 509 words.

For more middle grade fun, check the links on

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Picture Book Friday - A Nap in a Lap

I have been busy editing a PB I have written. And I am finding out how each little word can make a difference! It is hard work, but worth the effort to make a good manuscript better. I love the word choices the author made in this picture book.

A Nap in a Lap
by Sarah Wilson
Illustrated by Akemi Gutierrez
Scholastic 2003

Suitable for Preschoolers

Topic: Bedtime story

Various excerpts from book:
It's easy to nap
hugged in a tree
and surrounded by green
or nestled on rocks
or snoozled in sand dunes

Synopsis: this is a cute bedtime story. A little girl is shown throughout the book with various animals in their napping places. All tired out in the end, she found that the best nap for her . . . is a nap in a lap!

I like this book because of the illustrations and simplicity of it for the little ones. I love the author's word choices for each scene.

You should read a bedtime story in a relaxed atmosphere. When possible add dramatization to the story, using different voices. Reading the same story over and over will enhance their memory and help them become familiar with words.

Every Friday, bloggers post a favorite picture book.  To see what other people posted, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Rediscover Reading Rainbow

I loved Reading Rainbow. I used to watch it with my kids.

You can go here to see a listing of all the books that were on Reading Rainbow.

I searched a lot of places on the web and found a place, called VIMEO,  where you can go view the episodes - for free!

I've skimmed through a few of them, it brings back memories. I wish Reading Rainbow was still on television. 

How about you, did your kids enjoy it?

Also, I belong to CBI Clubhouse, which is a really good place for children's writers. I just received an email from them saying the rates are going up at the end of this week. So, if you have been kicking around the idea of  subscribing, now would be the time.

You also get a few freebies when you join.

An ebook titled I Wish Someone Had Told Me That!
How to Self Publish Your Book for Amazon Kindle - A step-by-step course and action guide to create and sell your book on amazon. Includes worksheets, instruction guide and free sources for creating and converting your book!
Facebook: The Essential Guide

I'm going to go check out these freebies too.
I have a click to their site on my sidebar, if you want to go look around CBI Clubhouse.

Also, if you want to see the list of books aired on Reading Rainbow, don't forget to check out the link above and if you have a little time, go look at some of the videos. You'll enjoy them!

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Qualities of a Writer

What are the qualities of a writer?

I guess it might depend on what you write.

No matter what genre you write in, I think a writer needs to want to write. You need to have that passion inside you that compels you to keep writing.

I also think every writer must possess some writing talent. You must have a flair for writing or a gift of words.  I do not think you have to have many years of education, but if you have the passion and want to continue to write, you need to learn the basics (and a little more) of writing right! You need to learn good grammar, how to write active, how to write dialog, how to use those 'ly' words sparingly, how to draw your reader in at the beginning of your story, and many other things.  So to be a good writer you must . . .

Have the willingness and the ability to learn. You must be able to take criticism, comments, suggestions, and help from others. You shouldn't have an attitude that you already know everything. Even if you know everything (or most everything), there is always room to grow.

 If you want to get published, and I think deep down all of us do, you need patience and persistence. Unless you are very lucky, or have a publisher or agent as a friend or relative, it is going to take time to get published. A good manuscript is not written overnight. It takes time to write it, to edit it and to perfect it. We need to slow down and take the time our writing needs to become a good manuscript.

You also need an imagination and a good attitude.

I am sure there are many I have left out. What can you add to my list?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.

Friday, January 4, 2013

2012 Writing Accomplishments

I am sitting here trying to think of what I have accomplished with my writing in 2012.
Below is my short list (in no particular order)


I wrote a children's column each month for Two-Lane Livin' Magazine.
I joined an online PB critique group in March.
One of my stories that I submitted on the Rate Your Story site rated a #2!
 I attended the WVWriter's Conference in June.
One of my MG manuscripts came in 2nd HM in their annual writing contest in the children's category.
 I had an article published in our local newspaper, The Jackson Herald.
I participated in Cynthea Liu's Red Light Green Light. I actually received a green light a couple of times.
 I got brave and attended Open Mic sessions at our local library.
I won first place in our Library's Appalachian Writing contest last fall.
I participated in PiBoIdMo in November and came up with 30 picture book ideas.

I started and finished writing my second MG manuscript!


Get more organized.
Have a publisher pick up one of my PBs or my MG novel!
Research how to do an e-book. I have written an informative book that I want to put in e-book form.
Improve my craft and . . .
write more manuscripts!

How about you? Want to tell us about your accomplishments or goals?

Posted by Janet F. Smart on Creative Writing in the Blackberry Patch.