Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Extra: WordPlay Workshop Photos!

Last Wednesday, I led a WordPlay! writing workshop at the Coral Gables branch. We had a great time brainstorming and writing and playing with words. Check it out:

Me? Talking about writing? (What are the odds?)

WordPlay Activity: Take a handful of random words, and try to use all the words in one short story (or poem). It's harder than it sounds, but fun to try!
Thinking and writing!
I have two more writing workshops coming up, so contact your local library branch for information on how to sign up.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Forum: Do you journal?

Image: Castillo Dominici
Many people--whether they consider themselves writers or not--like to jot their feelings down in a diary from time to time. It's a great way of getting your feelings out!

Do you keep a journal or diary? Why or why not? If so, how often do you write in it? If not, have you ever tried any kind of journaling before?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Figment, for Your Imagination

I want to introduce you to a great website for writers called FIGMENT. A lot of teen writers post on there.

Here's how they describe themselves:

"Figment is an online community where young adults and teens come together to create, discover, and share new reading and writing."

Some neat things to know about Figment:
  • You can upload and share your own writing on your profile.
  • If you sign up for their mailing list, you'll get a daily writing prompt via email.
  • They post writing contests, prompts and challenges all the time.
  • They have discussion forums on their website.
  • They post reviews of YA books.
  • You can link to your Twitter or Facebook account and invite your friends.

Check out their website:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wednesday WordPlay: Dialogue Challenge

Sometimes getting two characters talking to each other is a great way to start a story. Choose one of the following pairs of opening lines, and write a scene:

"What are you doing in here?"
"I can explain..."


"This is my absolute favorite."
"Ugh. Seriously? This is gross."


"It's happening. Let's go."
"Now? Then there's no time to lose."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top Five Points of View

One important consideration when you begin writing is: whose point-of-view are you going to use to tell the story? Most fiction is written in either first person or third person point-of-view.

Here are five options to consider:

1. First Person Point-of-View. In first person, your narrator tells his or her own story using "I, me and we," as the main pronouns. First person is a limited viewpoint because you can only reveal what the narrator knows, sees and does. Here are a few sentences written in first person: "My name is Kekla. I like to write stories. One of my other favorite things to do is eat ice cream."

2. Second-Person Point-of View. In second-person, your narrator speaks directly to the reader, using "you." Second-person is not commonly used in fiction, because it makes the reader feel like they are the main character.

Here are a few sentences written in second person: "You walk down the street eating an ice cream cone. The sun feels hot on your back. You lick the ice cream quickly, beause you are worried that it might melt all over your hand." (Cut by Patricia McCormick is an example of a novel that uses second person. So do the Choose Your Own Adventure books, where "you" are the main character.)

3. Third-Person Point-of-View. In third-person, your narrator speaks about the characters using "He, she, him, her and they." A third-person narrator can be limited to only one character's perspective, and able to relate that person's thoughts and feelings to the reader. Or, the narrator can be more objective and able to report the facts of the story without getting involved.

Here are a few sentences written in third-person. "Kekla loves to eat ice cream. On sunny days, she often buys a double scoop vanilla cone and eats it while walking outdoors."

4. Omniscient Narrator. An omniscient narrator knows all and can dip into the thoughts of all the characters in the story. This is a tricky viewpoint to work with! (Charlotte's Web by E.B. White uses an omniscient narrator to relay the feelings and experiences of numerous characters.)

5. Multiple Viewpoints. Whether you write in first, second or third person, there is always an option to write your story from multiple viewpoints. Using multiple viewpoints differs from using an omniscient narrator. In multiple viewpoints, you speak from only one character's viewpoint at a time, and there are clear distinctions between the sections that are in Character A's point-of-view and those that are in Character B's point-of-view.

Keesha's House by Helen Frost is an example of a multiple viewpoint novel-in-verse. Blink and Caution by Tim Wynne Jones is another example--in which one part of the book is written in third person and one part is written in second person.

Give these a try, then let me know:

What point-of-view do you like to use when you write? Can you think of examples of books that use these points-of-view?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Musings: "What have you written?"

I have published four novels for teens, plus several nonfiction books. I talk a lot about my work on my website; you can CHECK IT OUT HERE.

Here's a bit about my books:

Ellis Baldwin only has four days of her sophomore year left, and summer is so close that she can almost taste it. But even with vacation just within reach, Ellis isn’t exactly relaxed. Her father has been in a coma for years, the result of a construction accident, and her already-fragile relationship with her mother is strained over whether or not to remove him from life support. Her best friend fails even to notice that anything is wrong and Ellis feels like her world is falling apart. But when all seems bleak, Ellis finds comfort in the most unexpected places. Life goes on, but in those four fleeting days friends are lost and found, promises are made, and Ellis realizes that nothing will ever quite be the same.

1968, Chicago. Thirteen-year-old Sam Childs finds himself caught between his father (a well-known civil rights leader) and his older brother, Stick, who joins the Black Panther Party. When escalating racial tensions throw Sam’s community into turmoil, he faces a difficult decision. Will Sam choose to follow his father, or his brother? His mind, or his heart? The rock, or the river?
Set in the modern-day suburbs of Las Vegas, biracial sixth-grader Ella Cartwright finds herself caught between two worlds. She is drawn to the popular new boy, Bailey—the only other black student in the school—but also loyal to her best friend, Z, a geeky boy whose social status, like hers, is bottom-rung, and with whom she has shared an incomparable friendship. A relationship with Bailey means a chance at popularity for Ella, but Z is far too weird to ever be accepted by his classmates. When push comes to shove, where will Ella turn for real friendship?

At fourteen, Maxie Brown is too young to be a Black Panther—or so everyone says—but it’s the only thing on her mind. When Maxie wakes up hungry, the Panthers serve breakfast in the school yard. When her friends are unfairly threatened by the police, the Panthers show up and make the cops back down. To Maxie, the Panthers are everything–so why won’t they take her into their ranks? Maxie is determined to prove herself worthy—she vows to do anything necessary to fulfill her dream. But when she finally figures out what she’ll have to do to become a Panther—is it worth the ultimate price?

In the fall of 1957, nine black students became the first to integrate the previously all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Their particular struggle against racism paralleled the experiences of many black children in the south after the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. The Little Rock Nine’s situation rose to national prominence when the governor sent Arkansas National Guard troops to block the black students from entering the school on their first day of classes. The tumultuous events that followed captured the attention of the entire nation. Today the World is Watching You chronicles the Little Rock Nine’s harrowing first year at Central High and the impact of their courage on the generations of black Americans that would follow them.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Forum: Favorite Books!

Good writers should be good readers. There's no better way to learn what good writing looks and sounds like than to read a lot.

I don't know about you, but my room is filled from floor to ceiling with books, some that I've read, some that I'm currently reading, and some that I haven't gotten around to yet. There's so much to read, and so little time!

What do you like to read? Do you have a favorite genre, like mystery, fantasy, historical fiction, or romance?

What is one of your favorite books? What do you like best about it?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards

Here's a great opportunity for young writers!

The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards will celebrate their 90th Anniversary in 2013.

Here's how the program describes itself:

"Since 1923, the Awards have recognized the exceptional vision of our nation’s youth, and we provide a singular opportunity for students to be noticed for their creative talents. Each year, increasing numbers of creative teens submit their work, and they become a part of our community – young artists and writers, filmmakers and photographers, poets, and sculptors, and countless educators who support and encourage the creative process.

"The Alliance for Young Artists & Writers was founded in 1994, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to present the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and to expand upon the Awards enormous legacy of bringing the exceptional artistic and literary talent of teens to a national audience.

"Since their founding, the Awards have identified the early promise of some of our nation’s most exceptional visionaries. Our alumni include artists like Andy Warhol, Philip Pearlstein, and Cy Twombly, writers Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, and Joyce Carol Oates, photographer Richard Avedon, actors Frances Farmer, Robert Redford, Alan Arkin, and John Lithgow, filmmakers Stan Brakhage, Ken Burns, and Ned Vizzini, and many more. Outside the arts, Awards’ alumni employ their creativity to become successful in any number of ways – leaders in fields like journalism, medicine, finance, government and civil affairs, the law, science, toy design, and more.

"Students’ submissions are judged by luminaries in the visual and literary arts, some of whom have also been past award recipients, and many notable past jurors have lent their expertise, including Francine Prose, Paul Giamatti, Langston Hughes, Robert Frost, Judy Blume, Paula Poundstone, Lesley Stahl, Billy Collins, Michael Beirut, Edward Sorel, David Sedaris, Roz Chast, and more. Panelists look for works that best exemplify the Awards’ core values: originality, technical skill, and the emergence of personal voice or vision."

Check out their website for deadlines, rules and guidelines:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wednesday WordPlay: A Numbers Game

Today's writing exercise is a poetry challenge:

First, grab a pen and a sheet of paper.

Next, write your phone number, including the area code, vertically along the left side of the page. Each number should be at the beginning of its own line.

Now write a ten-line poem. The number of words you write in each line should be the same as the number that appears at the beginning of that line.

For example, my area code in New York City is (212). The top of my page would look like this:




My first line of my poem would have two words. The second line would have one word. The third line would have two again, and so on through the rest of my phone number. Got it?

Give it a try!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Five Ways to Get Inspired

How do you get your ideas? Does inspiration hit, and then you sit down to write? Or do you ever have moments when you want to write something, but you just don't know where to begin?

Here are five great ways to inspire yourself when you need a little outside help:

1. Eavesdrop. Listen to people's conversations in public. You might hear a word, phrase, sentence or dialogue that inspires you to write a story about what is (or might be) happening.

2. Play with words. All you need is an old magazine, a newspaper, or a stack of junk mail, and a pair of scissors. Cut out interesting words and phrases from the article titles, ads, and headlines. Cut out more than you think you'll need--at least twenty or thirty. Then, randomly pick five or six of the words, and try to work them ALL into a short story or poem.

3. Image inspiration. There are pictures everywhere that you can use in your writing. Magazines, newspapers, books, the internet, billboards, television ads, and museum exhibits are a few of the places you can find images to inspire you. Choose an image that attracts you and write a story or poem based on what you see.

4. Mine your mind. Even when you think you don't have any new ideas, you might have some old ones. Dig around in your memory a bit, and you might find inspiration. Look at old stories, poems or essays you've written. Flip through your diary or journal. You might find an idea or two that you haven't written about yet.

5. Help from friends. When you are really stuck, think about asking another person to give you a writing prompt. A friend could give you a line of dialogue with which to start a fictional conversation. Or a list of six random words to use in a poem. Or simply a question to get you thinking differently. The possibilites are endless!

Monday, September 17, 2012

What's in a Blog?

Since this is a brand new blog, I thought I'd start by giving a brief rundown of what you'll see here during the weeks to come:

Monday Musings
What's it like to be a professional writer? Did you always want to be a writer? What books have you written? Why do you write for teens? These are questions I get asked A LOT. I'll answer some of my most Frequently Asked Questions, so you can get to know me better.

Tuesday "Top Five" Tips
I'll let you in on a secret: you don't have to follow a strict set of rules to be a successful writer. BUT, there is still a lot you can learn from the generations of writers who've gone before you. I'll post some tips I've learned over the years from expert a few of my own!

Wednesday Wordplay
I like writing exercises. They keep me thinking creatively, and outside the box. Especially when I write from a prompt given to me by someone else, because it brings me fresh ideas. Now, it'll be your turn to try prompts from me.

Thursday Thoughts
I'm not the only one who posts helpful things online for teen writers. I'll post links from websites and other blogs that you might be interested in.

Friday Forum
I want to hear from YOU! I'll post questions and discussion topics. Feel free to post questions of your own!

And, hey, while we're at it:

Do you have questions for me? Can you think of some topics you'd like to see discussed here on the blog? Please post them in the comments!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Kekla's Video Intro

Hi, friends!

Since we are still getting to know one another, today I thought I would post the video intro from my application to be the YA Writer-in-Residence. I had a lot of fun making the video!

My video could only be three minutes long because those were the rules of the application. But instead of only running the camera for three minutes, I recorded a LOT more material and then I chose my favorite three minutes.

So what else did I say on the video? Here is a link to my own blog, where I posted some longer clips of me talking about books and writing and teaching.

In the first video, I talk about my new book 37 Things I Love. (In case you are wondering, my brother is the one holding the camera and asking me questions.)

In the second video, I talk about other things related to writing, and then I show a reel of outtakes from when I tried to perfect the "Book Drop" that appears in the final video. It was hard to get it right, but we had fun trying!

Monday, September 10, 2012

YA Writer in Residence


I'm Kekla Magoon, the 2012 YA Writer-in-Residence for the Miami-Dade Public Library System.

I'll be in Miami this fall, working with twenty teen writers who have applied and been selected to participate in a mentoring program.

I will also be offering a few open workshops at MDPLS library branches for teens ages 13-18. Contact your local library for information on how to sign up.

On this blog, I'll be posting writing tips and discussion topics for teen writers. The conversation here will be open to all teens in the Miami-Dade area who want to participate.

Thanks for stopping by the blog! I'll be posting writing tips and discussion topics soon. I'm looking forward to spending the fall in Miami!