Kids Wow! Grades 3 – 5 Summer Camp, July 2023

Are you an enthusiastic, budding writer in grades 3 – 5? Could you be the next Jason Reynolds or J.K. Rowling? Come along to flex your creativity with author Sarah Hammond and create your own Big Book of Stories! We will learn how to create gripping plots and discover memorable characters by playing games, reading excerpts, and experimenting with a variety of storytelling exercises. As well as learning effective writing tips, there will be the opportunity to express yourself through illustration and crafts and, most importantly, have lots of fun along the way! To find out more, click here.

Creative Writing Competition Winner!

Congratulations to Sydney Bash, the winner of last year’s student creative writing competition at Park Junior High, District 102, Illinois. Her story, Marella’s Secret Keyhas a tight plot, a mystery, and a lovely mix of dialogue, characterization, and setting. Well done!

Writing for the Children’s Magazine Market

As one of the SCBWI-IL network co-reps, I’m delighted to host this free online event in November. The pandemic has affected most aspects of our lives, and that includes writing for children. Happily, the world of children’s magazines is still robust. Long-term editor Paula Morrow, of both the Cricket group and the Highlights group (not simultaneously, of course!), will share her observations and insights about how the market is changing and why it’s still a great place to submit your work. To find out more about Paula, please check out her website.  To join in our event, please see link on the SCBWI IL Networks page.

Unlocking Memories and Uncovering Stories

As one of the SCBWI Illinois network co-reps, I’m looking forward to hosting this online May event. Author, journalist and teacher Beth Finke will lead a discussion on ways writing memoir and first-person narratives  could apply  –and benefit — the writing we do for children. Through observation exercises and writing prompts, Beth’s workshop will answer common questions about  getting started, the difference between autobiography and memoir, exposing family secrets, using pen names and  pseudonyms, finding and working with publishers. A fun and easy-going workshop to discover ways friends, family, celebrations, milestones, moments and place can be catalysts for unlocking memories and uncovering stories.It’s free and open to the public. To join us, click here.

Inaugural Young Writers’ Conference, hosted by Write On, Door County

Teaching middle school storytellers How To Find A Story Anywhere.

I was honored to be part of a special event last month: Write On, Door County hosted its first Young Writers’ Conference in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Attendees came from several States to join in the fun. How I’d love to have had that opportunity when I was a teenager.

Alongside a talented and inspiring faculty, I taught classes to middle school students about discovering story and creating memorable characters. Waiting for the first group to settle before we started, I asked one of the students whether she had plans for the upcoming Spring Break. The girl looked me in the eye, responding passionately, “This is what I choose to do with my Spring Break. I want to write.” Her answer summed up the enthusiasm for this event from the outset to the lively student open mic at the end.

The selection of workshop options was impressive: from poetry to songwriting to learning about freelance writing and much more. I did not meet the whole faculty but those that I spoke to were exceptional and, after the isolation of the lockdown, proved to be a balm for creative minds. Long may this wonderful event continue. Huge thanks to the organizers, especially Jerod Santek, Write On, Door County’s Founder and Creative Director.

Story Explorers Helping Pediatric Cancer Warriors

I always love the enthusiasm and passion of my Story Explorers (Grades 1 -2), and I was especially proud of their compassion in my recent class. We made some special book marks for Love Smiles, a wonderful non-profit organization that raises awareness of pediatric cancer and also gives support to those who have been diagnosed and their families. These book marks will be included in the warriors’ comfort packs. The Story Explorers jumped at the opportunity, creating messages of hope, encouragement, even designing their own mini-wordsearch and including jokes to entertain and raise the spirits of the warriors. Check out my Program Options for further details about my classes.

Commonplace Books

In the SCBWI-Illinois Oak Park Network January meeting, my co-rep, Sallie Wolf, and I will be discussing the value of commonplace books. Throughout history, many authors and thinkers have used these books as a way of cataloguing information and inspirational nuggets for future use. We would like to revive this tradition as a way of thinking about the writing process, inspiring ourselves, and keeping motivated in a way that could be helpful in the year ahead. Join us as we share inspirational quotes, write them down and create a ‘communal’ commonplace book for 2022. The event takes place on Zoom at 7PM, January 13th, 2022. Click here for details.

Celebrating Creativity

The Celebrating Creativity exhibition for my local school district was a hum of activity last week. The winners of my Summer Creative Writing Competition and the students of my new Storytelling in Word & Image class with Janet McDonnell were rightly proud of their projects. And I was proud of them. Other students showcased their projects as well, including a photography exhibit and a selection of bookmarks. It was wonderful to see the excitement of both the artists and their admiring audience. As the event organizer, Dr. Randy Lange, reminded us: “Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” (Albert Einstein).

Storytelling in Word and Image, Fall 2021

I am thrilled to have launched a brand new program this semester with professional illustrator, Janet McDonnell. Writers often create visual art as part of their creative process, a way of ‘seeing’ their story more clearly. In our class, we immersed ourselves in mixed media storytelling, too. If you would like to learn more about this program, click here. I’m delighted to share and celebrate the work of some of the talented youngsters who took part in the class (click on the illustrations below to see their stories in word and image):

Young Writers’ Conference 2022

I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Write On, Door County Young Writers’ Conference next year. I will be running workshops on “How To Find A Story Anywhere” and “Faces: An Exercise in Character Development.” If you would like to learn more about this exciting conference for budding young storytellers, click here. Early bird rates currently apply.

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