Posts Tagged ‘Personal Narrative’

Does a Personal Narrative Have to be Exciting?

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
I was wondering, does a personal narrative have to be about something exciting that happened in your life? Can it be something not that exciting, but still something that happened to me? It is a personal narrative after all, and I know that the name says it all, but just to make sure that there are no huge rules about them.
 A personal narrative could be about you looking at a butterfly and noticing something about that butterfly you never saw before and relating it to your life or the world in some way. 
The best personal narratives I have ever read are NOT particularly exciting, but they touch our souls.  A great narrative will be a special moment in time that has touched you and will touch the reader too.  
Many personal narratives are not exciting at all. Just let the reader feel like she or he is experiencing the moment or episode along with you. 
If you have any more questions feel free to ask. 
Good luck with your narrative!

Writing Workshops for Grades K – 12 – Summer in San Ramon, CA

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

In July, 2010, San Ramon Unified School District will hold summer writing workshops for kids in grades K – 12 in the areas of personal narrative, essay, and fiction.   Some are one-week classes and others are two-week sessions.  Visit their website for more information.

California Writers Club Young Writers Contest

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

How to be a winner! 

Check to make sure your submission follows the guidelines.  As the entries are coming in, I am discovering that some of the short stories aren’t double-spaced. This means these stories won’t be read.  

*In a poem, (actually this is true for short stories and personal narratives too) cut out as many abstract words as possible.  (love, friendship, death . . . )  Replace them with concrete words and your senses.   (concrete words:  a spider, a tree, a glob of glue)  (senses:  relate your topic to one or more of the five senses . . . hearing, touching, tasting, seeing, smelling)

*Use more action words than adjectives. Instead of “the leaves are orange and bright” you could have “bright orange leaves fall” . . .

*Try to have a middle to your short story.  It’s easier to write a beginning and an end! In the beginning, the character is introduced with a problem.  In the end, the problem is solved.  But in the middle, the character must work at solving the problem.   Complications arise.  Problems get in the character’s way and he/she must figure out how to overcome them. 

*Have fun writing!  If you enjoy the process, you reader will enjoy the story!

The Essay Groan

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

A few years ago I spoke to a class at Walnut Creek Intermediate about the California Writers Club Young Writers Contest.  When I mentioned the essay category, the kids’ eyes glazed over and perhaps one or two of them snored.   Then I read one of the essays that won the year before and they jolted awake.  It was about a boy making a home run. 

“Why, that’s not an essay.  That’s a personal narrative,” said a student. 

“Is that what you call it?” I asked. 

For the past several years, our essay judges had mentioned they were receiving so many academic “teacher-type” assignments, they couldn’t figure out why.  Now I got it!  We were calling it by the wrong name for kids.  Although in the publishing world, adults knew what an essay could be, students were unaware of this. 

So send us your personal experiences in this category.   Use first person.  (“I”)  Brainstorm your memories that charge you with passion, emotion, excitement, or joy.  It doesn’t have to be a huge experience.  Sometimes the small moments in life are the most meaningful. 

Need ideas?  Flip through your scrapbook, diary/journal, or photo album.  Keep an idea book for every day thoughts and anecdotes that may happen to you.  With our busy lives these days, we forget about those times that pass us by but may be significant. 

Once I confessed our error to the students at Walnut Creek Intermediate, the students relaxed.  No teachery essays!  YAY!  They could write about anything they wanted to write about!  They could write about themselves!  The pressure was off!

So go to it.  And we can’t wait to read them! 

Questions?  Ask right here.

Join our free Writing Workshop! Enter our Free Contest!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

If you are a middle school student in Contra Costa County, you should join author Sarah Wilson and me on January 30 or February 6 for a free writing workshop through our libraries.  The registration form is on an earlier post below, or at right.

Why should you donate a morning to come to your local library?

We’ll show you how writing can be fun.  (Really!)  We play a writing game, talk about the best secret tips we know, and give you the “inside low-down” on the publishing business. We’ll do some writing, sharing, (ONLY if you want to . . . we never force people to share) and then it’s time for your questions. 

Many of the local English teachers offer extra credit if you attend.  Go ahead – – ask your English teacher.  We’ll be happy to sign anything you need for proof.

 Do you have a question about getting published?  How to write so your reader won’t be able to put your story down?  Want to know what it’s really like to be a children’s author?  (no, we don’t ride in a limo . . .)  We’ll give you techniques, guidance, and help you along your way.  You’ll  meet other writers your age, get a chance to win a free book in our raffle, and learn more about our California Writers Club Young Writers contest.  (guidelines also at right)

Not Just Any Other Day

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

It starts off like any other day.  Any writer luncheon.  Fascinating people surround me at our table.  Lynn is teaching a new class in writing.  Hank shares his journey of marketing his futuristic novel. Peter asks me how I got my first book published.        

As I reach for the water pitcher, the friend at my left chokes.  

            “Are you all right?” I ask.

            She shakes her head no. 


            That’s not the right answer.  It’s not the expected answer. 

            “Do you need the Heimlich?”

            She shakes her head yes.  Her eyes shine with fear.   

            Our tablemates freeze. 

            Everything moves in slow motion.

Yet everything happens quickly.  How can this be? 

I stand.

Reach around her — make a clasped fist. 

Push up.  Push up.  Push up.


            She coughs.  Sputters. 

            She does not gasp.

            No air.   

            How much time does she have?

            I fail.

            I yell into the room.  “HEIMLICH?  HEIMLICH?”

            For a moment, the room is frozen.  

            Now she stands behind my chair.  She leans over.  Pushes against it.  

            Coughing.  Sputtering. 

            Eyes watering. 


            “HEIMLICH!”  I gesture.  Come!  

            Now people spring into action.  Others try.  Others fail. 

            The restaurant manager comes into the room. 


            How long can she last?

            “An ambulance is coming,” I hear someone say.

            Not fast enough.        

            I look at Hank across the table.  My eyes widen.

            Do I gesture? Or does he read my eyes?

            He jumps up. 

            I know I cross myself. 

            Hail Mary Full of Grace.  Hail Mary Full of Grace.  Hail Mary . . .

            And then she breathes. 

            It’s another day. 

Writing Prompt:   1.  When have you had a scary experience  in your life?  What happened?  How did you feel?  You can make a small anecdote like I wrote above into a full length personal narrative by slowing-down-the-moment with more sensory details, dialogue, feelings and thoughts. 

2.  Turn an exciting experience that you have had into a short story or poem or piece of art.  By turning a potential traumatic or negative experience into a piece of writing or art, you can “own” the memory or moment in time and come to grips with it more easily.

3.  How will you move on?  What have you learned from this experience?  How has it made you stronger?  Choose a genre or art form to show this.

California Young Writers Contest Guidelines Posted NOW!

Friday, September 11th, 2009

2010 The school year is just beginning. Get started with your fabulous ideas for short stories, poems, and personal narratives for this year’s writing contest for 6,7, and 8 grade students in Contra Costa County! See the above link for specifics.

Ask me here.
Tips can be found on that web site or to the right.