I have been in critique groups on and off for most of my career. I’m here to tell you that they can be wildly helpful and bracingly unhelpful–the trick is how to make them work for you.

Today we’re focusing on the main character, Rebecca’s internal desire, the obstacles that get in the way, and what will happen if she doesn’t get that desire.

Today we’re focusing on the main character, Rebecca’s external desire, the obstacles that get in the way, and what will happen if she doesn’t get that desire.

In Benford Draws a BLANK, author Danielle Dufayet and illustrator Katia Klein tackle the concept of being blocked as an artist. This may feel like a pretty advanced theme, more suited to adults than children. But there are very few topics that children can’t be trusted with, if handled the right way.

Danielle Dufayet’s picture books plant seeds in children’s minds and hearts about important topics like self-love, inner strength, patience, and letting go of perfectionism when creating art.

This is a perfect book. I just really wanted to tear it apart, use it to help me figure out how to make my own writing better. I think anyone who wants to write better any type of writing actually and while it will definitely be focused on kids, and this is a YA novel, I think if you want to be a better writer period, there are things to learn from Martine.

I needed to put on my brave girl wings and write what felt right and natural to me, even though I was worried my agent and editor (and readers) might think it was weird. . . . I have always felt a deep, almost spiritual/magical connection with the natural world. I think a lot of people who spend time in nature feel it. That’s what was coming through in my writing.

The Inheritance Games features Avery Grambs, a normal girl who unexpectedly inherits 46 billion dollars. The story has key attributes that engage readers: excessive wealth, a love triangle with hottie brothers, and a twisty mystery. I knew that it was fast-paced, but what exactly did that mean?

A “button” is something that happens at the end of a scene that provides closure, a final touch that seals the deal. It can also be called a “tag” and is a final beat that can be used to close out the scene. Buttons create a satisfying ending that takes the scene just that one more notch. It can add a twist, focus our attention on a particular character or goal or theme, or emphasize an emotion.

In First Rule of Climate Club, Fisher Middle School’s new eighth graders get the opportunity to participate in a science class pilot program devoted to climate change. Firestone tells their story through protagonist Mary Kate’s eyes, but uses a slew of different types of communication that creates room for other points of view.

“My books are all an extension of the activism and community organizing in my life. My teaching was also a reflection of that. I take on political/social realities that I would like to see in the world.” –Carrie Firestone

I want to give you a sense of some things to think about as you approach writing a short story. Let’s look at Rocky Callen’s story “They Call Me Hurricane” from Ab(solutely) Normal to see how she approaches the short story form.

We were both adamant that this collection feature protagonists living with mental health conditions and be written by authors with lived mental health experiences. There are many incredible stories out there that aren’t written from lived experience, but we wanted this anthology’s mere existence to be a testament to how those living with mental health conditions can still chase dreams and lead fulfilling lives.

Simon Sort of Says is my new favorite middle grade novel, a laugh-aloud story about the sole survivor of a mass school shooting. Did I just put the words laugh aloud and school shooting in the same sentence? I did. And I meant it. This isn’t just a book with a kid with a snarky tone. Or a great voice. This is a book that’s so funny I snorted. Humor and warmth are the undercurrent of this book. Simon and his family deal with events with humor. Simon connects with new friends through jokes and laughter. Ultimately, their connections and their ability to keep laughing helps them in the healing process.

Through a combination of humor, culture, warmth and language, Hernandez uses voice to make his characters unforgettable and his novel hard to put down.

Meera Sriram’s picture books are a master class in evocative writing. Her superpower is making her stories feel lush, by providing a sensory and emotional experience that culminates in a satisfying payoff.

Meera Sriram’s picture books take kids to a not so often visited “space”—people, place, experience—to evoke wonder and spark conversations. Sriram feels empowered and hopeful when she thinks about how her stories have the power to influence a child’s worldview.

Novels are amalgams. Your experiences. Your friends’ memories. Stuff you’ve read. Stuff you’ve heard about. Be open to it all. Mash up the different elements. The real secret of the secret sauce of novel-writing is that no one knows what goes into it.

Martha Brockenbrough’s chapter book Frank and the Masked Cat is objectively hilarious. By using situational humor, weird words, the juxtaposition of familiar words with unfamiliar uses, repetition, and multiple strategies at the same time Brockenbrough gives readers many layers of witty comedy.

interview by Erin Nuttall The thing I love most about Martha Brockenbrough’s writing is that she is unafraid. Yes, she’s imaginative, funny, thoughtful, and precise which all make her stories a joy to read, but to write bravely is a skill that few have and put Martha’s work on another plane. She slides easily between […]

Patterns can help shape a story, from the big-picture themes to the moment-by-moment actions. Giving kids the opportunity to “read” the patterns gives them practice in making meaning. And it gives them satisfaction in reading as well.

“I focused on just his family members because I realized that I wanted to weave together themes of food and family, in particular the father-and-son relationship. Food has always been a very important part of my family, both when I was growing up and now that I have my own family. My mom liked to cook and it was her way of showing her love for us. Similarly, I like to cook my husband’s or son’s favorite dishes and/or add in favorite ingredients here and there, just because I want to show them I “see” them and I love them.”

In this second part of our interview with Martine Leavitt, the author of Buffalo Flats, she tells us about the mountains that inspire her, how to put emotion on the page, what the heck an objective correlative is, and much more, including what she’s working on now. Links: KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats […]

Episode 13: Martine Interview, Part 1   In this episode, we interview Martine Leavitt herself! She talks to us about her inspiration for Buffalo Flats, the painful process of writing it, and her secret to sticking with writing when it’s hard. Martine had so much wisdom to share that we split the interview into two […]

Find out what’s next for the KidLit Craft podcast, and exciting upcoming offerings from KidLit Craft.   Links: Sign up for the KidLit Craft Newsletter For information on the Writing MG for PB Authors class, email Anne-Marie at editor@kidlitcraft.com. Or find out more here: INFO SHEET. KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats Our next […]

Throughout Buffalo Flats, Martine Leavitt uses rich language and evocative metaphors. We break down how and why she uses specific language and metaphors, and to what effect. We also talk about how to decide what language and metaphors to use in your own work.   Links: KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats Lolo’s Light […]

In Buffalo Flats, Rebecca belongs to a religious community that exists within the larger community in the Northwest Territories of Canada. In this episode we look at how Martine makes this community recognizable to those in it and accessible to those not, and we share our personal experiences reading about the community. The craft techniques […]

We explore how Martine incorporates feminism into historical fiction in a way that respects history and characters, by finding friction points between the character’s desires and their experience of the world. Also, Erin emotes about corsets. Links: KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats The book Erin references set in 15th-Century China is Lisa See’s […]

At risk of making Martine’s humor less funny, we take apart the humor in Buffalo Flats, from set-ups and punchlines to adding a funny twist, from individual sentences to full subplots. Links: KidLit Craft website Martine Leavitt’s Buffalo Flats Laurel & Hardy, “Chickens Come Home” Pizza Pirate This is Us The KidLit Craft Podcast is […]