Friday, June 6, 2014

At Wit's End

In past years, WIT has been on hiatus for the summer, picking back up again in September. But maintaining this blog has become too time consuming, even with help from the fabulous Margie Gelbwasser, Lori Degman, and Alison Formento.


--drumroll, please--

WIT will end with this farewell post.

(Did you hear me sigh a HUGE sigh? It's always hard to end things.)

I'll keep the link active for a while because HEY, there's great stuff tucked in here for young writers! Just start from the beginning and work your way through.

: )

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Wave is Worth a Thousand Words

Summer is almost here! YAY!
Some of us may chill out by the pool, go to camp, or simply play in the neighborhood.
But what if you had the chance to become a pro surfer for the day? 

Write a paragraph or two about your experience answering the following questions:
1. What is your name and how old are you?
2. When did you begin surfing? When did you become a great surfer?
3. How long do you practice and where do you surf?
4. Is there a competition or invitational in your future?
5. How much fame and money will you get if you win?
6. Are you nervous? Excited? Anxious? Confident? Cocky?

Wait. What? You're telling me you don't surf and have no idea what to write? 
Well, here's where a little research may come in handy. Many times writers create stories about things they know nothing about, so no excuses. Fire up Google, learn the surf lingo, the names of a few key surf moves, what happens at a surf invitational, and more. Give it a go, bro.


Peace out.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Quick Quiz

Their/There/They're, Who's/Whose?


It's quiz time, that's what! I love to take online quizzes, don't you? Wait, you don't? Have you ever tried one?

This quiz will take no time at all, I promise. You'll get your score immediately, and it will never appear on any of your report cards. Big plus, huh?

Click HERE to begin.

Good Luck!


Thursday, May 15, 2014


I have always loved writing. That's no secret. But I was never much of a reader until I got into 7th grade. Contrary to my older sister who took a book EVERYWHERE (parties included), I equated reading with my other least favorite chore—washing the dishes. 

Once in a while, however, a book I had to read for a book report grabbed my attention. Some favorites were: A Devil in Vienna by Doris Orgel, When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr, My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier, and Sarah Bishop by Scott O'Dell. I read these books in 4th and 5th grade, but remember their impact more than 25 years later.  

So why all this talk about reading on a writing blog? Because the two go together! Books made me the writer I am today. I continue to learn about technique and how to be a better writer from the many books I read. If writing is something you love or need to work on, reading is the key. 

If you're a reluctant reader, here are some tips to change that. You may still prefer other activities, and that's okay, but reading doesn't ever have to be painful! :-) 
1. Find a book you connect with. Love sports? Choose a book where the main character plays your sport. Cooking your thing? Plenty of books about that. Trekkie or Star Wars fan? Sci-fi, here you come! 

2.Make a personal connection to the book. I know this sounds the same as number one, but it's not. Let's say you absolutely have NO choice in the type of book you can read. Don't lose hope. Do your best to make a connection to the characters or topic. Even in a book like Harry Potter, a connection can be made. Most of us have felt let out, just like Harry. Some of us have had to deal with difficult teachers, like Snape, or bullies like Malfoy. Dig deep. The book will be a lot easier to read if you can relate. 

3. Choose pictures! Picture books are not just for your baby brother. Many terrific books (e.g. Smile by Raina Telgemeier) are told through pictures. They're called graphic novels and make reading very enjoyable!
4. Break it down. Never feel like you have to read the book in one sitting. Take it slow. Read a chapter a night. If it's a long chapter, read half. If you don't feel pressured, there's a bigger chance you'll like what you're reading.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

BEE Happy!

You can’t help but smile, clap, and sing along when you hear the song Happy by Pharrell Williams. “Happy” is how most of us feel now that the long winter has ended and spring is springing all around us. Green grass is sprouting, new leaves are fluttering on trees, flowers burst with bright blooms, and bees buzz all around us doing their happy work. My book about bees, These Bees Count!, has inspired wonderful bee art projects, and I especially loved this “BEE HAPPY” writing project at a school visit in Pennsylvania. Students wrote about how they want to “BEE HAPPY” when they are adults. Some wrote about traveling the world, going to college, or becoming a doctor. One student wrote about her dream of being a published author.

Summer vacation is almost here and that makes us all happy. Write a list of things you hope to do to “BEE HAPPY” this summer. Write as many as you want, but try to write at least five.
Here’s an example:

  1. Going to the beach
  2. Visiting family on July 4th
  3. Riding a bike
  4. Having sleepovers 
  5. Watching the stars

Now, choose one thing on your summer list and write a story. 

Buzz like a worker bee through the rest of the school year and whatever you do this summer, I hope you will be happy!

- Alison

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Voice

Pick a story--one you've written or are working on--that has more than one character and lots of dialogue. If you don’t already have a story like that, write one! 

Then read the story out loud, using a different voice for each character. 

I have a feeling, as you start pretending to be the characters, it’ll get easier to write dialogue for them and each character will have his or her own distinct voice.  

Give it a try! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Instead of Writing...

This week we celebrate Earth Day. I love Earth Day. 
It's one of my favorite holidays. I don't have to cook, clean, buy or wrap presents, or do much of anything except show support for our lovely planet. Earth Day is EVERY DAY for me because at any given moment, I'd rather be outside.

So without further explanation, I offer you my thoughts (rules?) about Earth Day. No writing tips or things to do here, just a little light reading. Click on the link below, read my list, and then go out and do at least one thing. Who knows? Your adventure may lead to a great story.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Be on the Lookout!

As a writer, I'm always on the lookout for new story ideas. Sometimes, few come. Other times, there are so many, I don't know where to begin. I'll definitely take too many instead of too little, but it's hard to know which one is the best. You may get the advice to write about the idea you can't stop thinking about, the one that keeps you up at night. That's certainly awesome advice! But what if more than one does this? What if you start writing and then realize the story that you thought was THE ONE is not really? It would be great to avoid that disappointment, right?

In addition to writing, I teach language arts. Recently, we did an exercise to teach persuasive writing. The students had to fold their paper in half and write down the pros and cons about a topic. Before they made their lists, most had already chosen a side. After the lists, they realized the side they wanted would not make the best writing piece because there weren't enough arguments to support it. This got me to thinking about fiction writing.

Sometimes the stories we really want to write seem amazing in our heads, but once we put them down on paper look less than stellar. Sometimes we get bummed when that happens and feel like we've wasted our time. BUT, if we wrote only a page or two or even a few paragraphs of a few of our ideas, time might be saved in the long run.

So the next time you have a few ideas just dying to break free from your imagination, pick the two that are screaming the most. Write a few paragraphs of each. Chances are one will flow better than the other. THAT'S the story to write. And what if both sing? That's not a bad problem to have. File the paragraphs away for another day or when you need a break from story one.

Happy writing!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Love Your School Library? We Do!

Ever wonder what authors have to say about school libraries?

Read all about it here:

PS: I'm on this list WAY down at the end. Alphabetical order, you know... *sigh*

~ Nancy

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hey There, Poets!

April is National Poetry Month!

A few years ago, to celebrate Poetry Month, I did a series of blog posts explaining how to write different and unusual types of poetry and I wrote an original poem in each style.

I’ve listed the different types of poems below– just click on the name and it will link you to my blog page. After reading about each poem, give them a try! You may find some you really enjoy writing!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Can a Setting Be a Character?

The following post was written by Cynthia Chapman Willis, a wonderful middle-grade author. Please visit Cynthia's website and consider adding her titles to your library

Have you ever read or heard that a writer should consider setting to be a character in a story? Have you ever read a story in which the setting came alive? Or, the details, moods, and symbolism of a story brought it to life? I have. And I must say, the right setting details can make an almost magical difference to a story. 

Think about a story with a vivid setting. I bet it evoked emotions in you as reader. I bet it added to the characterizations in the story. And, I bet that setting changed and developed ever so subtly. Maybe it even included specifics that set the mood and the tone of the scenes. Perhaps the setting even took on a life of its own. Didn’t this use of setting enhance the story? I am guessing that it did. 

All of this started churning around in my head as I started reading a novel in which the setting is, so far, a character. The night air breathes, the floors moan and whisper under the weight of someone’s steps, the moon hides behind clouds and peeks out every so often. Goosebumps, anyone? At this point, the setting is a creepy sort of character setting me up for something scary. And I can’t wait to read more.

Enough about what I think. What do YOU think about setting?

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Be a Pencil and Keep Your Writing SHARP!

With all the focus on the Common Core these days, students don't get to do much creative writing. As a writer, this makes me sad. Too many students think they're awful at writing just because essays are not their thing. If you're one of those students beating herself up because step-by-step writing is not your strength, perk up! Here is an activity to get your imagination going! And....focusing on details may even help you with the essays, too! 

This is a fun writing activity one of my teachers did when I was in school. She had us imagine we were an object and fill in the chart below. Then, we'd use the details to write about our typical day. At the time, I chose pencil, so that's what I put in the chart. Check it out! 

Life of a Pencil: 

What I see: students writing, the SmartBoard, the floor 

What I feel: feet trampling over me in the hallway, sweaty fingers squeezing my skinny body, an awful headache as students erase their mistakes with my head, pain in my toes as students sharpen me

What I smell: the inside of gym lockers, pizza in the cafeteria, chewing gum 

What I touch: crisp, white paper, messy backpacks full of sticky things, kids' ears as they put me behind them 

What I taste: dust, pencil shavings from the sharpener, nervousness from all students taking a test 

My hopes and dreams: To one day be a pencil on display in a museum where people can come and admire me 

My biggest fear: Being forgotten

Now you try it! What object would you like to be? 


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rock Your Story with Story Rocks

Do you have rocks in your head? I do!
Rocks are in my thoughts a lot now since my new picture book, THESE ROCKS COUNT!,  rolled into libraries and bookstores just in time to celebrate spring.

When doing research to write my new book, I spoke to many wonderful scientists called geologists who love to study rocks. They helped me learn how much rocks count in our world. I couldn't type this sentence without rocks, which are used to make parts for computers like the one I'm using right now. Rocks are used to make many items we use every day, such as telephones, televisions, and even toothpaste!

Rocks can be used to inspire fun story ideas, too. STORY ROCKS are fun to make and you can trade with friends and classmates to create a unique and exciting story.
1. Go outside and find about ten small rocks to paint.
2. Wash dirt off rocks and let them dry.
3. Paint an image on your rocks. A person, place, or thing, such as the examples in the "Story Rock" photo.
4. What story can you tell with your rocks? The images on your rocks should help shake up your imagination. Expand and elaborate. Your story rocks can be used to create a mountain of a story. You can even trade rocks with your friends to help more story ideas rock and roll.
5. Write your story.

Have fun! All story ideas ROCK!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Idioms Are Not Icky

What's an idiom? (Pronounced ID dee um)
Idioms are phrases that have different meanings from what the words actually mean. Confused? Don't be! Idioms are fun and people often get a kick out of them!

Read the idioms below and see if any ring a bell.
Ask yourself:  What does this phrase really mean? Have I ever used these words in conversation?

give it a shot
have second thoughts
play it by ear
be in hot water
draw a blank
a rip off
give someone a cold shoulder
get cold feet
have a change of heart
get a kick out of
cost an arm and a leg
cross your fingers
hit the books
hold your horses
have mixed feelings
see eye-to-eye
it runs in the family
worked the graveyard shift
kiss of death
play your cards right

Give this a shot:  Write a paragraph using at least four idioms. It may be a piece of cake or you may draw a blank. Take a crack at it and think about adding idioms to your writing. Make no bones about it--you will impress your teacher, but don't get carried away!

Keep your chin up,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thinking about Flag Day, June 14th

Let's THINK about summer and pretend it's June--June 14th to be exact--the day we celebrate Flag Day in the United States. We could all use a little summer in our lives, right now, right?

To celebrate our beautiful flag, try your hand at writing an acrostic poem. Start each line with the letters in Flag Day.
THINK about the hot and sunny days ahead,
THINK about cheering on the U.S.A. Olympic Team.

Take a look at the one I've done:

F- Flags
L- Like to dance in the wind,
A- Always reminding me to be
G- Grateful for our wonderful country.

D- Dance like a flappy flag today
A- And
Y- Yell U.S.A. to cheer for our Olympic Team!

Now, it's your turn!




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Love Notes

IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY on Friday, so show some
 in writing.

Everyone loves someone or something, so this easy-peasy writing activity is a no-brainer.

Grab some pink, white, purple, and red construction paper, some crayons or markers, a hanger, hole puncher, and ribbon.

Decide who will be your Valentine.
Cut out hearts in a variety of shapes and colors.
On each one, write one thing about your Valentine (your brother, sister, mom, dad, aunt, uncle, grandparent, pet, forest animal, insect, invisible friend, etc.) that you admire.

For example: (In this case, my Valentine is Han Solo, my Beta Fish. xox.  If you know about Beta Fish, you understand why this is THE best name in the world for one, right?)

I love how you never, ever, ever get mad at me even when I forget to feed you.
I love how you look at me with those beautiful, beady eyes.

Write as many love notes as you want.
Punch a hole in each heart and tie a ribbon to it.
Tie the other end to a plastic hanger.
Hang your love note mobile where your loved one will see it on Valentine's Day.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Are You Up for THIS Challenge?

Here are a few quick activities that will give you a brain workout by setting parameters (limits) on how you must write.  Here are some suggestions:

1. Write story in which the first sentence has one word, the 2nd has 2 words, the 3rd has 3 . . .

“Hi!  What’s up?”
  1           2
“Not too much.  What’s new with you?”
            3                          4

Mosquitoes.  They bite.  They suck blood.  Mosquitoes make me itch.
         1                2                3                              4

2. Write sentences in which the first letters of the words are in alphabetical order.

~ Andy bought chocolate donuts every Friday.

~ Mary never orders pickled quail.

3. Write sentences in which every word begins with the same letter – like a tongue twister.

~ Harry hopes Helen helps him hunt hippos.

~ Some sentences sound silly, so Sam stopped saying such sentences.

Go for it!
- Lori

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Amp It Up With Adverbs

How many of you have tried to spice up your writing with adverbs? Not sure what they are? I'm talking about those -ly words that can change a regular sentence into something extraordinary.

For example, I could say: Joanna picked up her backpack and walked home.
That's a fine sentence. I can picture Joanna walking home with a backpack.

But, what if we did this: Joanna picked up her backpack and grudgingly walked home.
Woah! Now, I'm getting curious. Usually, we all want to get home right after school. What's going on that Joanna is GRUDGINGLY walking home? Maybe it's her dad's first day at his new job and he won't be home. Or, maybe, it's her birthday and she's positive her family is throwing her a surprise party, but she hates surprises. That one little word—grudgingly—gets us thinking.

Let's try another one: Steven ate his peas.
I can see this, but I'm curious. Did he like his peas? Is there anything special about him eating the peas?

How about we amp it up with an adverb? Steven joyously ate his peas.
This sentence made me wake up. Who eats peas JOYOUSLY? Does Steven just love peas or is something else making him joyous. It makes me want to know more.

Now you try it! See if you can amp up each sentence below with an interesting adverb.

The boys dug in the ground.
The teachers watched the clock.
Many students waited in the cafeteria.

Good luck!
- Margie

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Skype With Me on World Read Aloud Day!

Dear K-2 Teachers, Librarians, or Media Specialists,

World Read Aloud Day is March 5!

In honor of this day, I'm offering a 20-minute Skype session to a K-2 classroom. I'll provide a couple of fun things for you to do to prepare for my virtual visit, and then I'll read Look What I Can Do! and Storm Song. There will also be a surprise visit from one of the animals in one of the above books (who may or may not be stuffed)! And of course, there will be a few minutes left over for questions from the VIPS, also known as your curious students.

Just send me an email at nancyviau(at)comcast(dot)net and let's make a date.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Write a Dream Speech

Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 85th birthday this month. Each January, when reading or listening to a recording of Dr. King’s famous “I have a dream” speech, we’re reminded of the power of his words and how they helped inspire change in America. There are several good books about Martin Luther King’s life and legacy. One favorite picture book is My Brother Martin written by his sister Christine King Farris with wonderful illustrations by Chris Soenpiet. This book shares how Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in Atlanta in the 1930’s. He liked to joke and had to practice the piano like a lot of children still do, but Martin was told by his white neighbors that they couldn’t play with him because of the color of his skin. That’s when he first began to realize the need for change in the world.
All dreams are possible. Try writing a “Dream” speech. The following questions may help focus writing ideas:
  • What is something special you hope to happen soon?
  • What do you hope or dream about happening for your family?
  • Do you have any hopes or dreams for your friends?
  • Do you have any hopes or dreams for the world?

Now, just as Dr. King did, speak your “dream” speech aloud to share the power of your hopeful words.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Flaws ROCK!

If you are writing fiction, and you write about a character who does everything well (because you want to impress your teacher...*heh, heh*), don't do it! Give your character a few flaws--things they didn't mean to do or stuff they have trouble with. Even flat-out mistakes! Characters who make mistakes, and eventually learn from them, are interesting. Nobody's perfect, right?

Make a list of five mistakes you've made. Use at least one in a story that you write this week.

Now, it's my turn. Here are my mistakes. I bet there's a story in there somewhere!
1. I used too much butter in my cranberry bread and it was a disaster.
2. I ran into a plant and said, "Excuse me."
3. I sent a text to the wrong person.
4. I burped while in line at the grocery store.
5. I lost my keys, twice in the same day.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Publication Date for New Picture Book

Just stopping in to say...

MY NEXT PICTURE BOOK, City Street Beat, WILL BE PUBLISHED IN THE FALL OF 2014. I am so excited. Can you tell?

Carry on...

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Paint A Picture With Words

Show - don’t tell

and don’t tell – show.

Do it well

and pictures grow!

One thing writers hear all the time is “showdon’t tell”.  It seems like a funny thing to say because you’d think pictures would “show” and words would “tell”.  But, if you choose descriptive and active words, you’ll be showing – not telling.   If you use vivid details, you’ll be painting a picture in the reader’s head. 

Here’s an example: 
Tell:  Bob was happy. 
Show:  Bob grinned from ear to ear. 

In the “show” example, I didn’t have to tell you Bob was happy – instead, you probably imagined Bob with a big smile on his face.  I painted picture in your head. 

Here’s another example:
Tell:  Sarah was scared by the storm. 
Show:  With each flash of lightning and boom of thunder, Sarah ducked under her covers and squeezed her eyes shut. 

I didn’t mention Sarah being scared, but you got the picture! 

So, when you’re editing a story you’ve already written or when writing a new story, look for ways you can show and not tell. 

Click HERE for an awesome activity to help you practice.  It’s from a website called Beg, Borrow and Teach. (Teachers, bookmark this site. You'll want to come back again and again for great ideas!) 

~ Lori


Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spelling Bee Time

Turn your computer over to a friend.
NO Peeking!
The rest of this post is for your friend. He or she will tell YOU what to do.

Hi there, friend,

1. Review the list below to yourself. (If you need help pronouncing any words, ask a parent or teacher.)


2. Say each word, out loud, to the person next to you. Repeat it.
3. That person should say the word, SPELL the word, and repeat the word.
4. Did he or she get it right?
5. Don't make them suffer. BE KIND! Tell them the correct spelling right away and move on.

For BOTH of you:
6. Write down the list of words above. When you write something, it has a better chance of getting into your brain. When I was in elementary school, we had to write each of our spelling words 10 times! Does your teacher make YOU do this?

: )