PICTURE BOOKS

MIDDLE GRADE

YOUNG ADULT

Young Adult

Young Adult

Writing Action Beyond the Play-by-Play: Dangerous Play by Emma Kress

Emma Kress’s debut YA novel, Dangerous Play, has plenty of action and a lot of games. It’s a book about a girls’ field hockey team who uses parkour to supplement their summer training, and puts those skills to use as vigilantes against perpetrators of sexual assault. It takes place over an entire hockey season, and Kress makes smart choices about how to condense the many field hockey games so that each one serves the story, especially by manipulating pacing and creating tension.

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I first heard Emma read from a chapter-book-in-progress, and her voice blew me away. Emma’s writing as such attention to detail, such personality, such emotional resonance. She can write funny and serious–sometimes in the same sentence. Emma’s debut YA novel, DANGEROUS PLAY comes out August 3, and I’m so glad we get a peek into Emma’s brain and writing process. I highly recommend both DANGEROUS PLAY and Emma herself.

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The moose is meaningful to both Dad and Katie, and the movie creates additional layers of meaning through the old movies (flashbacks) and the way the moose moves from person to person. We know what the moose means, so we can imagine what the characters are feeling, and ultimately, we feel it too.

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Many kids that experience mental illnesses start developing symptoms as young teens–just when they’re at the age to encounter Young Adult literature. Through YA novels, writers can reach readers at this critical time. Young adult books can be a balm to teens struggling with mental health, offering disability representation, much-needed hope, and comfort in knowing that they’ll come through their darkest days… if we follow a few key guidelines. These six pointers are indispensable in creating an empathetic, accurate, and hopeful book with mental health themes.

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The authors and contributors we interviewed had so many wonderful sidewriting challenges, we thought we’d put them all in one place. Each exercise will have a link back to the original post so you can learn more about the author and how sidewriting works for them. Enjoy!

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Thank you for coming along on this sidewriting journey with us. We hope you’ve found some compelling exercises AND some compelling reasons for sidewriting. Just as every writer is different, the way each writer uses sidewriting is different–as you’ve seen from our contributors.

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Writer Friends! You shared with us the ways you sidewrite, and we listened. It was so fun and enlightening to get the scoop on your favorite exercises and tricks to get deep into your characters and figure out your plot.

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Amber Lough: Sidewriting helps me most when the story starts to feel dry or forced, or if I feel like the characters are shutting me out. I also sidewrite when I am losing motivation, and in that case, I write about why I want to tell this story.

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Margaret Chiu Greanias: Until I was asked to do this interview, I’d never heard of sidewriting. I thought maybe it was something only novelists did. But as I read Erin Nuttall’s kick-off post, I realized sidewriting is something picture book writers could do too. And then, I realized it was something that I actually do do.

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Kristi Wright: “Ultimately, you don’t need to be fancy and organized when it comes to sidewriting. It’s the thing that gets to be as messy as you want it to be. There’s no shame in it–no right way or wrong way. I’m always going to be the equivalent of Charlie Brown’s friend Pig-Pen when it comes to sidewriting, and I’m cool with that.”

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