Writing Takes A Family

writing

Most people think that writing is solitary activity, but I disagree. It’s true I mostly write while I’m alone, but it takes my whole family working together in order to get those precious minutes to write.

You need an understanding spouse because writing takes a ton of time.  There have been so many nights or weekends that either my wife or I played babysitter so the other one could finish up a project.  It’s really important to have an understanding partner who can give you that extra time.  (Thanks honey!)

Publishing takes money.  Sure it’s free to print eBooks and we certainly don’t spend much on pens and paper.  However, when you’re competing for reader’s attention with Harry Potter, it’s important to have a professionally edited book and attractive cover.  Since I spell about as well as a rhino can paraglide, that means we need to hire an editor.

Writing requires understanding friends.  I used to see friends every other night.  We went out to eat, to movies, mini-golfing, etc… now we’re lucky to see two or three friends a month.  A new baby contributed a lot to that change, but writing also affected free time.  My wife and I have given up most of our other hobbies (and TV) to make room for writing.

You need to involve everyone.  Since my wife and I spend so much of our energy writing, we think it’s important to involve the whole family the writing process.  We talk about our plots over dinner and what projects we want to work on next.  Since we’re diverting time away from people, it’s nice to let them know why.  If they’re involved in the creative world, they’ll hopefully understand why you need extra time to polish a draft.

Writing is fun, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. We write because we love writing… that’s about all there is to it. Thankfully, the world has never been better for story tellers.  With the print on demand revolution and emergence of eBooks, now is the perfect time to tell your story.  So pick up your pen.  Hug your spouse and start writing.

A Very Short Poem

very short poem
A very short poem
is what I have to write —
but my poems are tall.
They’re ugly and they bite!

(We thought we’d mix everything up this Friday. I wrote it and Steve drew the illustration — notice how much boxier his drawings are than mine!)

Since that poem was so short, here’s a bonus one…

Today I have to say
My poem about a train.
Using just the words
Hiding in my brain.

100 Book Character Costumes

Book Character Costumes

When I needed a book character costume, for book character day, I knew immediately which character, from which book to choose. As a ten year old with red hair, I was totally obsessed by Pippy Longstocking. When my school had a Book Character Dress-Up Day, I told my dad I was going to be Pippy.

In New Zealand, we can do anything with number 8 wire (fence wire) and funnily enough, my dad pulled out his #8 wire and pliers to make a Pippy Longstocking headpiece. Then I raided my older sibling’s closets to get the craziest clothing I could find. By the end of the day, I was the spitting image of Pippy.

I think the day was so memorable because my whole family pitched in to help me dress like my favorite book character. That’s why I didn’t add any descriptions (or links to fancy costume stores) on my list of book character costume ideas. Be creative with your kids and spend time on them, not money. That’s how you build memories!

100 Great Book Character Costumes

1. Pippilotta Delicatessa Windowshade Mackrelmint Ephraim’s Daughter Longstocking
2. Oliver Twist
3. Sherlock Holmes
4. Long John Silver
5. Frankestein
6. Raggedy Ann and Andy
7. Paddington Bear
8. Moby Dick
9. Coraline
10. Harold and the Purple Crayon
11. Max (Where The Wild Things Are)
12. Mrs Frizzle (Magic School Bus)
13. King Arthur
14. Count Dracula
15. Heidi
16. The Hunchback of Notre Dame
17. The Phantom of the Opera
18. Doctor Dolittle
19. Ferdinand the bull
20. Clifford the Big Red Dog
21. Aladdin,Genie (The Arabian Nights)
22. The Three Musketeers
23. Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, The Lost Boys, Wendy
24. Little Red Riding Hood, Grandmother/Wolf
25. Romeo and Juliet
26. Three Little Pigs, Wolf, House of Sticks/ Bricks/Straw
27. Humpty Dumpty
28. Alice/ White Rabbit/ Queen of Hearts/ Cheshire Cat/ Mad Hatter/Tweedle Dee/Dum
29. Robin Hood
30. Huckleberry Finn
31. Mowgli (The Jungle Book)
32. Tarzan
33. Dorothy, The Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, The Scarcrow, The Wicked Witch
34. Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyor, Tigger, Roo
35. Toad, Mole, Badger (Wind in the Willows)
36. The White Witch, Aslan, Mr Tumnus (The lion the witch and the wardrobe)
37. Charlotte, Templeton, Wilbur (Charlotte’s Web)
38. Willy Wonka, Augustus Gloop,Veruca Salt, Oompa-Loompas
39. Curious George, Man in the Yellow Hat
40. Stuart Little
41. The High Witch (The Witches)
42. Mouse (If you give a mouse a cookie)
43. Harry Potter, Hermoine, The Weasleys, Dumbledore
44. The Velveteen Rabbit
45. The Poky Little Puppy
46. Thomas the Tank Engine
47. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
48. Anne of Green Gables
49. The Little Prince
50. Madeline
51. Hobbits, elves, Gandalf (Lord of the Rings)
52. The Paper Bag Princess
53. Sweet Valley Twins
54. Cinderella, Prince Charming, The Ugly Step Sisters
55. The Little Mermaid
56. Where’s Waldo?
57. Puss in Boots
58. Grizzly Adams
59. Pigeon (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus)
60. Dennis the Menace
61. Captain Underpants
62. Fancy Nancy
63. Olivia the Pig
64. Bugs (How Many Bugs in a Box?)
65. Berenstain Bears
66. Black Beauty
67. Robinson Crusoe
68. Chicken Licken
69. The Tortoise and The Hare
70. Things, Grinch, The cat in the hat (Dr Seuss)
71. The Rainbow Fish
72. Llama (Llama Llama Red Pajama)
73. Ladybug Girl
74. Jack and the beanstalk, beanstalk, magic beans, cow
75. Noddy, Big-Ears, Mr. Plod
76. Don Quixote, windmill
77. Badjelly the Witch
78. The Giving Tree
79. Polar Express, conductor, hobo, Father Christmas, Elves
80. Jumanji game, dice, hunter
81. Night at the Museum, security guard, any museum exhibits
82. The Littles
83. Polar Bear, kid with daemon, witch (The Golden Compass)
84. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
85. Werewolf, vampire (Twilight)
86. Mary Poppins, chimney sweep, Bird Lady
87. The Brave Little Toaster
88. Native American, Cowboy (The Indian in the Cupboard)
89. Car, Child Catcher, Spy, Baron/Baroness, Toymaker (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang)
90. Dragon (Eragon)
91. Phileas Fogg (Around the world in eighty days)
92. Moose (If You Give a Moose a Muffin)
93. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
94. Little Bo Peep
95. Laura Ingalls Wilder
96. The Pied Piper, Rats
97. Cat, Worm, Pig, Bunny, Bear (Richard Scarry Books)
98. Rapunzel
99. Gingerbread Man, Fox (The Gingerbread Man)
100. Snow White, Seven Dwarfs, Magic Mirror, Poison Apple, Queen, Huntsman

Bonus 45 Book Character Costume Ideas

In celebration of Halloween and because we love dressing up and books, Glow Word Books put on their thinking caps and came up with a bonus 45 book character costume ideas for you to enjoy.

1. Liza, Mirabella the rat (The Spindlers)
2. Meg and Mog
3. Princess and the pea
4. Massive meatloaf Man (Super Chicken Nugget Boy)
5. Liliputians, Brobdingnagians (Gullivers travels)
6. Jemima Puddle-Duck
7. Winnie the Witch
8. Julian, Dick, Anne, George, Timmy the dog (The Famous Five)
9. The Sandstorm, The falcon, The Sheppard (The Alchemist)
10. The Hardy Boys
11. Encyclopaedia Brown
12. James, Aunt Sponge, Aunt Spiker, Grass Hopper, Lady Bug, Spider, Centipede, peach (James and the Giant Peach)
13. Gypsy Caravan, Pheasant, Victor Hazel (Danny the Champion of the world)
14. Tiger, Can of Tiger Food, Sophie (The Tiger Who Came to Tea)
15. Hercules Morse, Bottomley Potts, Scarface Claw, Muffin McLay (Harry Maclary from Donaldson’s Diary)
16. The Little Match Girl
17. Violet Baudelaire, Count Olaf (Series of Unfortunate Events)
18. Amelia Bedelia
19. Meg, Charles Wallace, Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, Mrs Which, IT, Aunt Beast (A Wrinkle in Time)
20. Harriet the Spy
21. Farmer Brown (Click, Clack, Moo)
22. David (No. David!)
23. Angelina Ballerina
24. Percy Jackson
25. The Hunger Games
26. The Little Blue Trucks
27. Camilla (Bad Case of the Stripes)
28. The Little Engine that Could
29. The Monster at the end of the Book
30. The Very Hungry Caterpillar
31. Cleopatra
32. Little Pookie
33. The Snowy Day
34. Harriet the Spy
35. Caps For Sale
36. The Golden Compass
37. A Light in the Attic
38. Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs
39. Goodnight Moon
40. Green Eggs and Ham
41. Corduroy
42. Goodnight Gorilla
43. The Bridge to Terabithia
44. Puss in Boots
45. How the Grinch stole Christmas


Great Mail Mix-UpLike balloon animals? You can always go as Dax from the Great Mail Mix-Up. He has glasses, wears cool paper hats and is always with his best friend, Zippa, a blue balloon-animal poodle.

Did I miss your favorite one? Let me know your suggestions!

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How to write a Poem

how to write poetry

Poetry is a great way to start writing because it’s all about expression. If you feel silly and want to laugh, then crack yourself up. If you are heart-broken, then let off some anger instead of bottling it up.

I wrote this blog post for people who want to write poetry, but aren’t quite sure where to start.

Poetry is expression. There is no right or wrong way to write poetry as long as you are saying what you want to say. So be fearless and listen to that little voice in your head — it knows what to write already.

Think carefully about the words you choose. Many novels have over 50,000 words and poems can have 50 or fewer. On one hand that makes poems quicker to write (many people can finish them in hours or days instead of months/years). But on the other hand, it means you need to choose your words wisely since there are so few in each poem. Make sure each word has the meaning, style and sound that you want.

What’s your poem’s style? Poems come in as many different shapes and sizes as people do. They all have their own mood. Take a look at the opening lines to these four poems and notice how you feel when reading them. What emotions do you feel? What are you thinking about? Where does your mind think the poem is going?

Homework! Oh, Homework!
I hate you! You stink!
(Prelutsky’s Homework! Oh, Homework!)

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
(Dante’s Inferno)

Just beyond the flower garden at the end of the lawn
the curvature of the earth begins,
(Collin’s Looking West)

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though.
(Frost’s Stopping by the Woods)

Which of those lines did you like the best? Which one has a style you like the best? Notice how the opening line has already set the mood of the poem.

Poems don’t have to rhyme. When most people think about poems, they think about rhymes like “Roses are red…” or Dr. Seuss. However, poems don’t have to rhyme. Billy Collins is a great example of non-rhyming poems. His poems are informal and conversational. When you read them, you feel like you’re sitting down to tea with an old friend. Rhymes can be fun, but they can also distract from your poem’s message because everyone gets caught up in the rhyming. (If you do want to rhyme, use a rhyming dictionary if you want help with the rhymes.)

What message do you want to portray? Whether you intend to or not, all poems have some sort of message. (Even when you aren’t trying to explicitly write a message, you’re still portraying a message because you’re writing in your voice and your voice is steeped in your view of the world).

Jack Prelutsky’s poem (Homework! Oh, Homework! I hate you! You stink!) may sound too silly to have a message, but actually it reveals a lot of how he sees the world. He’s demonstrating that the world can be a fun, silly and an outlandish place to live.

When Robert Frost’s poem ends with “But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep,” you realize that he is talking about death. He has a lot of things that he still wants to do (promises to keep) before he dies (sleeps).

What environment is it easy for you to write in? Some people write well when they are alone… or out in nature… or sitting with a pen and paper… or in the middle of a loud coffee shop… or listening to their favorite music. Try writing in different places and see where it’s easiest for you.

Onomatopoeia, Alliteration and Metaphors can be your friends.

Onomatopoeia means using words that sound like what they represent… such as “plop” and “fizz”. Alliteration is repeating the same letter at the start of a word… such as “Dave Doesn’t Delay Doodling.” A Metaphor is saying one thing and meaning another. When Robert Frost talks about “sleeping” he is actually talking about “dying”. Did any of these literary techniques get your attention? If so, give them a try in a poem.

Rhythm can be important. How do the words flow when you say them? Are they easy to say together? Many poets like to use the same rhythm throughout the poem. When you read your poem, where does the emphasis go?

I added bold to the emphasis on Robert Frost’s poem. As you can see, he uses the same rhythm and emphasis throughout his poem:

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though.
(short long short long short long short long)

He used the same short-long rhythm throughout his entire poem. Are you using a rhythm? What is it? Is it consistent?

The best poem is a finished poem. Stick with it. The more you write the easier it gets. Poems don’t have to be perfect — but they are better when they’re finished.

I hope you enjoyed my short tutorial on poetry. As for myself, I write best when it’s quiet. I like to use the same rhythm throughout the poem because I love how it rolls off my tongue. If possible, I like to end with a twist that makes people smile. Just like Jack Prelutsky, I want to show people that the world is a funny, playful place to live. If you want to check out one of my poems, you can read What do you want to be? or browse my other short poems for kids that I’ve archived online.

Happy writing!

Plotter or Pantser?

plotter or pantser

The writing world is broken down into plotters and pantsers. Plotters like to outline and figure out what will happen before they start to write. Pantsers fly by the seat of their pants to discover where the story wants to go.

I am very firmly a plotter. I grew up in a scientific family, studied a lot of mathematics and worked with computers. Like it or not, I had to learn how to plan.

However, plotters and pantsers aren’t that different.

Most plotters object to outlining because it stifles their creativity. It’s boring drudgery. But it’s my favorite part. That’s when you get to imagine the whole story and see all the different places it can go. Plotting is actually just “miniature pantsing”. Once you’ve pantsed enough, it’s time to pull out the permanent marker and start writing for real.

Why are we giving away poems and madlibs?

free poems
As you probably noticed, we’ve started to write a free kid’s poem every Tuesday and online madlibs every Wednesday. Why would an indie publishing company give away their work?

First, we want to take care of our readers. How many of you have called a giant company and waited on hold just to be told you had pushed the wrong number in the menu system and would have to wait on hold again? That is everything Tasha and I hate about heartless businesses — so we’re choosing to run Glow Word Books differently. We want gratitude to be the foundation of our business. We appreciate that you took time from your busy day to read one of our books or blog entries, so our way of saying thanks to you is a free poem.

Laughter is the best medicine. It’s cliche, but my wife and I believe that most problems can be resolved with a good laugh. When you’re in better spirits, you have more energy to tackle issues that are tricky — you also have more emotional energy which means more patience. Whenever we’re annoyed, we always try to solve it first with a laugh. Hopefully our writing can help you to take on the world.

You get what you give. We believe that what goes around comes around. We want to live in a world where people share poetry, short stories, laughter and ideas. The best way to create that world is to follow your own advice.

I did nothing and everything

sea toy
I normally write for an hour before bed. It’s not my most productive time of day, but beggars can’t be choosers. I’m just happy to have a consistent time for books each day.

But last night my son wasn’t interested in sleeping. He thought bedtime was a fabulous opportunity to jump, finish up a few rounds of peek-a-boo and play with toy fish. You know what? He was right. Some things are more important than sleep or writing.

Why I love to read out loud

Open Book

My wife and I read out loud to our son every day…. which made me realize we all start reading by having books read TO us. It’s an important step in learning language, culture and fables — and stories told aloud have been around much longer than writing.

I enjoy how interactive reading out-loud is. I get to see my son’s reaction to each picture and sentence. I can speed up, slow down or emphasize different words depending on what he’s interested in.

The best thing about being married to an author-wife is that I get to be a child again! My wife is always reading her new manuscripts out-loud and I get to sit back and immerse myself in the story. Not only is it easier to catch mistakes (because your brain doesn’t make the same assumptions it makes when you’re skimming), but it forces you to concentrate on the flow of the words. Words that looked fine next to each other, sometimes don’t sound right when spoken together.

We wish we could read our books out-loud to all of you, but that isn’t possible (even as much as we love travel)… so that’s why my brother-in-law built a free Butterflies Don’t Chew Bubblegum android app. If you have an Android phone, you can now have books read to you whenever you want. Now that’s what I call progress!

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