Archive for the ‘Reading’ Category

Grab a book, any book. Open, read, and write!

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

It’s International Book Week. The rules: Grab the closest book to you, turn to page 52. What is the 5th sentence?

“That was the one sure truth.”

Writing Prompts:

1. Allow this sentence you discovered as the first sentence in your scene, story, poem, or essay you write today. Care to share in the comment section?

2. Use this sentence as the last sentence in your scene, story, poem, or essay you write.

3. Let this sentence become inspiration for any piece of art work.

4. Play a game with a group of friends. Use your sentence to tell the first sentence of a story. Turn to the next person who begins the next sentence with the first letter of your last word. (If you use mine as an example, the person would begin with a word starting with “t.”) Go around the group until you reach a satisfying conclusion. Each person tells the story one sentence at a time.

The title of the book I reached for without looking? Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter.

This writing idea I took from Facebook, although it wasn’t a writing idea on this site. . . just a fun game to play!


Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

Confrontation – – a semiannual publication for fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Although it has begun careers of Nobel and Pultizer Prize-winning authors, it also features work from college students and teenagers.

Confrontation is open to submissions from any writer.

How to send your work:

U.S.-based writers: Along with your manuscript of previously unpublished work, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (SASE) with standard letter-rate 1st-class postage so that we can reply to your submission. If you want us to return your manuscript along with our reply, be sure to include enough postage on your SASE to allow us to do so. If your work is a simultaneous submission, please let us know in your cover letter.

International writers: E-mail submissions ([email protected]) are accepted only from writers living outside the U.S. Please include your postal mailing address with your submission.

If your work under simultaneous submission is accepted elsewhere, please inform us as soon as possible: [email protected].

We usually respond to submissions within three to four months; we are quite a small staff, so we appreciate in advance your patience if we stray beyond this window. Reading period for all submissions: August 16 – May 15. Unless specifically commissioned or solicited, all manuscripts received during the non-reading period will be returned unread.

For all submissions, please be sure not to put two spaces between sentences.

Mail your submissions to:

Confrontation Magazine
English Department
LIU Post

Brookville, NY 11548


We judge on quality of writing and thought or imagination, so we will accept genre fiction. However, it must have literary merit or it must transcend or challenge genre.

Send complete manuscript.

Length: Up to 7,200 words

Payment: $50-$125; more for commissioned work.


Length of a poem should be kept to two pages.

Send up to six poems per submission.

Payment: $25-$75; more for commissioned work.


We publish personal as well as cultural, political and other kinds of essays, and (self-contained) sections of memoirs.

Send complete manuscript.

Length: 1,500-5,000 words.

Payment: $50-$125; more for commissioned work.

For more information, visit

Of Reading, Writing and Good Writing Advice

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Book I’ve just begun reading: 

Zip Cover

Zip by Ellie Rollins, Razor Bill, an imprint of Penguin.

Book I’m going to read next:


Ask The Passengers  by A.S. King, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book I own and is next on my stack:
The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of those who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl by Timothy Egan, Puffin paperbacks.
I attended a local writing workshop led by Jane Vandenburgh, author of The Architecture of the Novel and she had many wise things to say.  Some of the gems: 
“A story can manufacture its own structure if you allow it.”
“Outline your book after you’ve written it.” 
(YES!  This is me now.  For those of you who aren’t into outlining your plot like I am, you don’t have to impose the structure first.)
“If you are writing a character driven story, remember the character must participate in the world.  Thoughts aren’t action.  Think cinematically.” 
(Many story problems occur because the main character doesn’t do anything.)
“You don’t have to start at the beginning.  Start at chapter seven.  Write anywhere.” 
(Lots of people don’t write their stories because they don’t know where to start.) 
And the best quote of all, in my opinion:  “Our characters don’t know who they are until they run into conflict.” 
Writing Prompts:
1.  Who is your character?  What is the worst thing that could happen to her/him?  Something embarrassing?  Get her/him into a jam.  How will he/she get out of it?
2.  Outline a story you have already written.  Have you enough conflict and tension in your story?  Did your main character solve a problem or learn/grow a bit?
3.  In the book you are reading now, how does the character change throughout the story?  What propels the character into action? 

Contra Costa Reading Association Writers at Work

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Please Post

The Contra Costa Reading Association presents:


                                                                                                Writers at Work

Join us for a morning filled with inspirational ideas from a children’s author, as well as writing sessions presented by outstanding local teachers of writing.  Our featured author is

Elizabeth Koehler Pentacoff

Our keynote speaker is children’s author, teacher and is an energetic presenter who shares her love of drama and words in instruction to promote a love of writing.  She has presented at schools throughout the state.

This author’s books include: Jackson & Bud’s Bumpy Ride, The ABC’s of Writing for Children, John Muir and Stickeen; An Alaskan Adventure, Curtain Call; Games, Skits, Plays & More,  Louise, the One and Only, Wish Magic, Help, My Life is Going to the Dogs, You’re Kidding, Incredible Facts About Presidents,  and Explorers.

Writers at Work is for students in grades 2-6 who are interested in writing, parents who are looking for ways to motivate and enhance their child’s writing and teachers looking for ideas to use in the classroom.

Please note: CSUEastBay now charges $5.00 for parking.  If possible, please carpool with your friends.

 When:           Saturday, March 9, 2013, from 9:00-12:30

Where:         California State University East Bay, Concord campus

4700 Ygnacio Valley Road, Concord

Cost:              $5.00 per child (accompanying adults are free)

$5.00 per adult, unaccompanied by a child

Please make checks payable to CCRA

Stay in touch with CCRA’s events by visiting our website

The Sun Magazine

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The Sun

I picked up a copy of this magazine and didn’t put it down until I had finished the entire copy.  Have you read it?  Short stories, essays, interviews, poetry and letters all written with depth, humor, and insight.  They don’t want opinion pieces or academia.  The best thing is they purchase one-time rights, which means you can sell them something you may have sold before. 

One section is devoted to Readers Write, which asks “readers to address subjects on which they’re the only authorities.  Topics are intentionally broad in order to give room for expression.” 

 Upcoming Topics

Breaking the Rules       January 1      Deadline             

Bullies                                    February 1            

In The Dark                        March 1                                        

Honesty                                April 1                                              

Trying Again                     May 1                                                 

Writing Prompts: 

  1. Choose one of the topics above and write a personal experience piece on this theme. 
  2. Choose one of the topics above and write a short story.
  3. Choose one of the topics and write a poem.



Read Like a Writer

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

As writers, we read differently than most people.  It’s hard not to read just for the pleasure of the story and the characters without appreciating exactly how the author is excelling in his craft. 

Recently, I read The Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson.  The book’s publicity says it “intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death.” 

I found the book on a library sale table and read it for its nonfiction narrative, and probably would have not bought it had I paid attention to the serial killer description, as it isn’t to my own personal tastes.  However, I will say it was a powerful, well-researched story that read like a novel. 

Here are two examples of setting I marked as examples of writing that stood out for me:

“The light in the room was sallow, the sun already well into its descent.  Wind thumped the windows.  In the hearth at the north wall a large fire cracked and lisped, flushing the room with a dry sirocco that caused frozen skin to tingle.”  

“Leaves hung in the stillness like hands of the newly dead.”    

Writing Prompt: 

  1. Look at the project you are working on at the moment.  What is happening with the light in your current scene?  The weather?  Sounds?  How does your character physically react?
  2. Using a theme of your book, create a simile like Larson did with leaves. 
  3. As you read, keep post-it notes handy and place them next to portions of writing which you admire.  Later, discover how the author crafted those pieces.  How can you model these within your own writing? 

Writing Humor

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

 The author A. J. Jacobs wrote The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World  as he read the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica.  What’s unusual about this book is the reader gets a look into the factual world with Jacobs’  offbeat sense of humor, as he intermingles it with quirky facts he has learned.    

Wouldn’t it have been great if he could have written those encyclopedias when we were doing our homework?   

Example:  “Elisha Gray filed papers with the patent office on February 14, 1876 for his telephone device – – just a couple of hours after Alexander Graham Bell filed his.  Gray really should have rearranged his schedule:  first, the patent application, then the grocery store.”

How often do you read an article or book and smile or laugh?  Ask yourself, what exactly did the writer do?  How can I try this same technique?  Practice, practice, practice!  And don’t miss Jacobs’ The Year of Living Biblically:  One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible and Drop Dead Healthy:  One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection.  

He’s covered intellect, body, and soul.  What’s next, A.J. Jacobs?

Writing Prompts

  1. Tell something to your reader and then hit them with an amusing observation or compare what said to something within your own life or culture that is universal and relatable. 
  2. Read humor.  Use the author as a model and write in that style choosing a subject which is your passion. 
  3. Read EVERYTHING you write out loud, as humor depends upon rhythm and pacing. 


Publisher’s Weekly Article: The Children’s Industry

Friday, August 10th, 2012

If you weren’t able to make the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s Summer Conference, read this article to get some of the highlights:

Best Advice from Authors and Editors

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I attended a Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators one-day conference in Rocklin, California this weekend.  Fabulous speakers gave terrific writing techniques and marketing tips which not only apply to those interested in writing for children, but writing for anyone.

Here are some gems:

Lin Oliver, who founded SCBWI with Steven Mooser in 1971, quoted well-known authors who have spoken at the L.A. conference since its inception.  

She quoted Bruce Coville:  “Follow your weirdness.” 

Lin also recommends for every book you write  you should read 500 of those types of books to get a feel for that genre.  Which books inspire you most? 

Andrea Tompa, editor at Candlewick Press discussed the process of revision in which she gave detailed questions we should ask ourselves as we go through our projects.    As she quoted Roald Dahl, “Good writing is essentially rewriting.”

Andrea advised us to think about both the internal and external stakes for our characters.  What are they?  How are they resolved?   Many times writers forget about internal growth which needs to happen to their main character. 

Agent Minju Chang from Bookstop Literary Agency spoke about emotions in books.  Make sure you build a bond with your main character and reader.   She quoted Maya Angelou:  ” . . . People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Sterling Editor Brett Duquette talked about voice, the most elusive technique in writing craft of all, in my opinion.  He defined it as the language used in harmony with the characters, narrative, style . . .

For a good example of picture book voice he suggested The Caveman A B.C. Story by Janee Trasler, where the voice begins within the title of the story.  For older books he recommended the play Peter Pan by M.M Barrie and The Fault in our Stars by John Green, among others.

One of several exercises he gave us was this:  Place your character in mortal danger.  Write a complete scene.  (Not necessarily to be used in your book – just to learn about your character)  You will learn a lot about your character through this writing prompt.

And although the agents and editors said they were tired of paranormal books and would love to see contemporary fiction, they advised write what you must and disregard the trends.  Just keep it fresh and unique!

Now . . . back to writing!

Writing Advice from the Best: Authors and Editors

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I attended the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Golden Gate Conference at Pacific Grove’s Asilomar this past weekend where I soaked up the sun, strolled on the beach, and became infused with creativity when speakers and attendees focused on their inner genius, the theme of the weekend. 

Although I can’t possibly portray the inspiration I acquired, I can share a few tips of some of the fabulous faculty. 

Young adult author Charlie Price (Desert Angel, Dead Connection) didn’t start writing seriously until he was 58.  He says, “Relax.  Release.  Let go.” 

The creativity panel told us to watch the movies of the genre we’re researching and writing to help vitalize our visual senses.

Author illustrator Dan Yaccarino (Go, Go, America, Lawn to Lawn) advises us to do what he did:  say yes, ask a lot of questions, and listen. 

Editor/author Arthur Levine, (Monday is One Day, All the Lights in the Night) most recognized for co-editing the Harry Potter series, reassured us that children’s books do not have a bleak future and this period is merely a transitional phase. 

He also asks the question, “Really?”  “Did that character really look like that?  She really say that?  Really feel that way?”   Don’t stop questioning yourself if it feels automatic.

What type of book is he looking for?  Visit his website and discover what is on his bookshelf already.  That’s how you buy a gift for someone, by checking out their bookshelves, isn’t it?  This is a very valuable suggestion as to what any editor desires.  

Philomel editor Tamara Tuller, who is most interested in modern, literary middle grade and young adult fiction and story-based picture books, recommends “Write like you’re drunk and edit like you’re sober.” 

Write with abandon!  Get to it!