A Story Path–Add energy to every scene

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 1.54.21 PM  Click on graphic at left to enlarge.

(graphic from hoot-books)

Sandra Scofield tells us: “Every scene has a pulse. Some vibrancy in the story makes the scene live on the page and makes it matter to the reader. . . . Sometimes the pulse is subtle and sometimes it beats like a tom-tom, but it is always present in a scene. Look for it, dig for it, massage it . . .  Without it, your scene is a whimper” (The Scene Book 17).

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Today is poetry Friday, so here is your poem to memorize:


INVITATION (Where the Sidewalk Ends)

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!  (Shel Silverstein)


Please note that submissions are now open for Nickelodeon’s Writing Program:

(click below to enlarge)

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This organizer is on sale at Michaels:

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A Great Grammar Teaching Game

Beautiful creative writing can become ugly if the grammar is painfully wrong. Good grammar is important.

We all love Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogarty.

Her game “Grammar Pop” can be incorporated into the classroom.

Check out the teaching guide: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/static/GrammarGirlTeachingGuide.pdf

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Read this article from Mental Floss:

“Mignon Fogarty is the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips and is known for her Grammar Girl websitepodcast, and games.

. . .

1. A run-on sentence is a really long sentence.

Wrong! They can actually be quite short. In a run-on sentence, independent clauses are squished together without the help of punctuation or a conjunction. If you write “I am short he is tall,” as one sentence without a semicoloncolon, or dash between the two independent clauses, it’s a run-on sentence even though it only has six words.

2. You shouldn’t start a sentence with the word “however.”

Wrong! It’s fine to start a sentence with “however” so long as you use a comma after it when it means “nevertheless.”

3. “Irregardless” is not a word.

Wrong! “Irregardless” is a bad word and a word you shouldn’t use, but it is a word. “Floogetyflop” isn’t a word—I just made it up and you have no idea what it means.  “Irregardless,” on the other hand, is in almost every dictionary labeled as nonstandard. You shouldn’t use it if you want to be taken seriously, but it has gained wide enough use to qualify as a word.

4. There is only one way to write the possessive form of a word that ends in “s.”

Wrong! It’s a style choice. For example, in the phrase “Kansas’s statute,” you can put just an apostrophe at the end of “Kansas” or you can put an apostrophe “s” at the end of “Kansas.” Both ways are acceptable.

5. Passive voice is always wrong.

Wrong! Passive voice is when you don’t name the person who’s responsible for the action. An example is the sentence “Mistakes were made,” because it doesn’t say who made the mistakes. If you don’t know who is responsible for an action, passive voice can be the best choice.

6. “I.e.” and “e.g.” mean the same thing.

Wrong! “E.g.” means “for example,” and “i.e.” means roughly “in other words.” You use “e.g.” to provide a list of incomplete examples, and you use “i.e.” to provide a complete clarifying list or statement.

7. You use “a” before words that start with consonants and “an” before words that start with vowels.

Wrong! You use “a” before words that start with consonant sounds and “an” before words that start with vowel sounds. So, you’d write that someone has an MBA instead of a MBA, because even though “MBA” starts with “m,” which is a consonant, it starts with the sound of the vowel “e”–MBA.

8. It’s incorrect to answer the question “How are you?” with the statement “I’m good.”

Wrong! “Am” is a linking verb and linking verbs should be modified by adjectives such as “good.” Because “well” can also act as an adjective, it’s also fine to answer “I’m well,” but some grammarians believe “I’m well” should be used to talk about your health and not your general disposition. 

9. You shouldn’t split infinitives.

Wrong! Nearly all grammarians want to boldly tell you it’s OK to split infinitives. An infinitive is a two-word form of a verb. An example is “to tell.” In a split infinitive, another word separates the two parts of the verb. “To boldly tell” is a split infinitive because “boldly” separates “to” from “tell.”

10. You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition.

Wrong! You shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition when the sentence would mean the same thing if you left off the preposition. That means “Where are you at?” is wrong because “Where are you?” means the same thing. But there are many sentences where the final preposition is part of a phrasal verb or is necessary to keep from making stuffy, stilted sentences: “I’m going to throw up,” “Let’s kiss and make up,” and “What are you waiting for” are just a few examples.

You can find more information about each of these myths in the Grammar Girl archives.

This article was originally published by Mignon Fogarty on quickanddirtytips.com and shared here because we love her. She is also the author of the New York Times best-seller Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.”

Let’s take advantage of the fact that kids love their electronics!

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Let’s Get Organized!

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We are all familiar with Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey.”

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Similar ideas can be presented to young authors with the help of graphic organizers.

These might be a good place to start:

Click on graphic organizers to enlarge.

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Just as our lives are shaped by the decisions we make, so are our stories.

Now, go organize your story!

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The Secret Message: A Co-curricular activity includes history and creative writing

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 7.37.15 AM Abe Lincoln’s Watch

Watch this short video from the Smithsonian about the secret message inside Lincoln’s watch:


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Your writing assignment for today:

Write a short story that includes a secret message.

More from the Smithsonian here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/lincolns-pocket-watch-reveals-long-hidden-message-57066665/?no-ist

Who or Whom?

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Why do I always wonder if I have spoken correctly after using “who” or “whom” . . . it shouldn’t be that difficult.


Here is the rule:

Who vs. Whom

Rule. Use this he/him method to decide whether who or whom is correct:

he = who
him = whom

Who/Whom wrote the letter?
He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.             (from grammarbook.com)


The secret is in the “M” . . .  him = whom    


It is snowing today.

Let’s add some artsy snow to our day.  (click to enlarge)

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Make snowflakes from wagon-wheel macaroni, white paint and glitter.


(click on picture to enlarge)

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Pinecones with egg white wash and sugar sprinkles.


(click on picture to enlarge)

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This neat snow-globe project requires clear plastic plates.


Add a snowstorm to your creative writing today.

Song of the Sea: An Ancient Tale Retold in an Animated Movie for all Ages

Song of the Sea: Coming to select theaters soon!

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‘Song of the Sea’ sends young Irish siblings on magical adventures

  • Article by: Kristin Tillotson, Star Tribune, January 22, 2015

REVIEW: A quieter kind of kids movie, Oscar-nominated “Song of the Sea” casts a delicate spell.

With most kid-targeted animation these days making full use of 3-D effects, CGI and other technology, the hand-drawn, 2-D “Song of the Sea” is a throwback — one well worth seeing on a big screen.

Saoirse is a 6-year-old Irish girl with a seriously mystical ability. She’s the last of the selkies, women who, according to Celtic legend, become seals in the water but can transform into humans on land. Her mother disappeared when she was an infant, leaving her lighthouse-keeper father (voiced by Brendan Gleeson) heartbroken and brother Ben, now 10, blaming his sister for Mummy’s flight.

Their grandmother (voiced by Fionnula Flanagan) takes them to live with her in the city, leaving behind Dad and beloved sheepdog Cú. Ben hatches a plan to get the siblings back to the lighthouse, setting off a chain of adventures — palling around with seals and fairies, escaping from evil pursuers including a scary owl witch. Along the way they learn to depend on and love each other.

Blending that magical something present in all the best illustrated children’s books with spellbinding music by composer Bruno Coulais and the Irish folk band Kila, the film is a sweetly rendered reminder that sometimes tradition can keep up with high-tech, given director and co-writer Tomm Moore’s imagination and his empath’s knack for tapping into the often-elusive world of children. Watercolor-effect backgrounds are like a soothing eyewash of a contrast to the sharply delineated frenzy of the average Pixar release, and an overall gentle sensibility is an antidote to ever-present snark.

Watch for this animated film coming to a theater near you soon.

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A big thank you to the Cartoon Saloon!

Robert Burns Night: Sunday, January 25th (2015)

Burns Night

January 25th marks the annual celebration of Scotland’s national poet Robert Burns.

(although my Scottish grandmother called him Bobbie Burns)

25 January 2015 is Sunday night, so there’s still time to plan a fun event.

Maybe not haggis, but how about this?

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Now, memorize this first stanza of Robert Burns “To a Mouse”

Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!


Next, memorize the first stanza of “A Red, Red Rose.”

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie,
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.



Now, nibble on an oatmeal cookie.

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Check out robertburns.org for more great ideas and a compendium of Burns’ poetry,

then write your own poem.