Posted in Books, Chapter Books, kidlit, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing for Kids

Chapter Book Challenge


Read in the genre you wish to write.

This piece of writing advice pops up everywhere.  Although I’m currently working on a Middle Grade novel. I’m currently taking a course on how to write chapter books.

While I love picture books, they are exceptionally difficult to write and I’ve never felt compelled to even attempt one . Chapter books however, are targeted toward early readers and those kids who are older but not quite ready for  Middle Grade novels. And guess what…I’ve had a really good idea for a Chapter book. (Actually I’ve had quite a few).

The thing is, I need to read waaay more Chapter books before I attempt to write one.  So I’ve set myself a challenge:

Read 100 Chapter books.

Yes…you read that right.

No…I’m not kidding.

Yes…I’m attempting this with a 3-month old baby at home who refuses to be at peace anywhere except in my arms.

No…I’m not going to spend money on a bunch of chapter books. Libraries are great for all things bookish.

The objective here is to read as a writer.

I’m reading and paying attention to things like characterization, dialogue and plot development. For older readers (Age 7+), character development usually happens and plots are a tad more complicated. As I read I’m looking for tropes, overdone tropes, general themes (family, friends and school stories).

Chapter books feature a strong, action driven plotline. Kids (or animals) are always doing something. No-one is standing still reflecting about anything.

The stories are humorous, characters and situations relatable and the illustrations range from a tiny black and white sketch to full page color. Most are part of a series since kids fall in love with the characters and want to read more about them.

Word count

I’m also checking the word count of the chapter books. Early Readers (Ages 5-7) range from 500 to 9oo words. Chapter books for older readers can go up to 12,000. Anything over 12,000 enters the early middle grade realm.

Resource: I use AR Book Finder to check out word counts. This is a really helpful website that provides information such as reading levels and publisher related data. I highly recommend.

So far I’ve read 27 books

Feel free to take a look at the list below. I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read so far. Some more than others. I have quite a few “Classics” that I haven’t gotten to yet, like Judy Moody, Clementine, Ivy & Bean, Junie B. Jones etc.

I haven’t set a hard deadline but ideally I’d like to achieve this by end of December 2016.


Totally achievable with word counts in the 7,000 range. However the baby might have other ideas. You know what they say about making plans and the universe laughing…

Follow along on my journey and feel free to start your own reading challenge.

Early Reader (Ages 5-7)

Heidi Heckelbeck Casts a Spell Wanda Coven
Cam Jansen – The Green School Mystery David A. Adler
Piper Morgan in Charge Stephanie Faris
Nate the Great Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great and the Hungry Book Club Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Nate the Great and the Halloween Hunt Marjorie Weinman Sharmat
Galaxy Zack – Space Camp Ray O’Ryan
The Ghost at Fire Station #6 Dori Hillstat Butler
Owl Diaries – Eva Sees a Ghost Rebecca Elliot
Owl Diaries – Warm Hearts Day Rebecca Elliot

Chapter Books (Age 7+)

Clubhouse Mysteries – Shadows of Caesar’s Creek Sharon M. Draper
Liberty Porter – First Daughter Julia Devillers
Frazzeled Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom Booki Vivat
My Weirdest School – Miss Daisy is Still Crazy Dan Gutman
Magic Tree House  – Dinosaurs Before Dark Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Tree House  – The Knight at Dawn Mary Pope Osborne
Magic Tree House – Dogs in the Dead of Night Mary Pope Osborne
The Mystery at the Coral Reef Harper Paris
Mercy Watson to the Rescue Kate diCamillo
Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride Kate diCamillo
Mercy Watson Fights Crime Kate diCamillo
Mercy Watson Princess in Disguise Kate diCamillo
Mercy Watson Something Wonky This Way Comes Kate diCamillo
A Case of the Clones Ada Hopper
Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express Megan McDonald
Stink and the Midnight Zombie Walk Megan McDonald
Stink and the Shark Sleepover Megan McDonald
Posted in Books, kidlit, middle grade, Uncategorized

Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

what-im-1Last week I managed to find time to read a book that’s been sitting on my e-reader for a while.

While I won’t be posting extensive book reviews, I’ll be sharing details about middle grade books that I’ve read or currently reading on this blog.

This was a really fun read with lots of plot twists and mystery. I definitely recommend!


Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief

by Wendelin Van Draanen

Goodreads description

Grams always told her those binoculars would get her into trouble. Now Sammy’s witnessed a crime at the Heavenly Hotel-a light fingered thief stealing $4,000 from Madame Nashira, the astrologer with the fire-hazard hair-do. Thing is, while she was watching him, he was watching her, too…

Fast-paced and funny, packed with menacing suspects and clever clues, the Sammy Keyes mysteries keep you guessing to the last riveting page.



Posted in First drafts, kidlit, middle grade, Writing, Writing for Kids

How do you write?

finish-what-you-start-1 I’ve got more unfinished manuscripts than I care to admit to.

Some were hard to part with and others are in a temporary holding pattern until I’m ready to dust them off and regroup.

For the unfinished manuscripts, one thing has become quite clear: failure to outline was my downfall. I need a map of what happens in the beginning, during the middle and at the end. From the heap of incomplete writing projects in my Dropbox, I’ve recognized that I’ll never make it to the finish line unless I’ve got a clear map of where I’m going.

By all means, I’m no pantser either.

Up to this point, I’ve had a hybrid approach: write a little, outline a little. And up to a certain point I would say that it worked…well sort of. I had a tendency to write myself into a corner with no escape route, which led to major rewrites. This is why I’m in the position I’m in now.

Re-reading an 180+ page manuscript so I can outline my way to the end.

Big respect to all those who go with the flow and fill the pages but if I’m ever going to have a solid first draft, imma need that outline 🙂

I’m not saying that I need to know every character or every single move they make before I start writing but with an outline I’ve got a much better chance of crossing that finish line.

So how do you write?

Tell me what works for you in the comments.



Posted in First drafts, Writing, Writing for Kids

Weekly Catch Up


So for the past week I’ve been reviewing the first draft of my children’s adventure novel. Admitedly the progress has been slow but with a newborn to take care of I’m still happy with what I’ve achieved so far.

So a bit of background:  I got the idea for this novel while taking a course on writing for children at New York University back in 2014. Over the last two years the plot has changed significantly thanks to valuable input from my writing group (which I had to drop out of due to terrible pregancy sickness).  Right now I have 51,200 words (197 pages) and I would say the novel is 70% complete, which is why I spent the week re-reading what I have so far, so that I can hopefully continue with renewed determination (while changing diapers and dealing with a fussy, gassy baby).

Don’t be fooled by 51,200 words.  It sounds like alot but I’ve still got to work out if the ending that I’ve outlined still works.  I hardly wrote anything while pregnant so it will be interesting to see how I feel about my current draft.  I suppose I’ll either continue as outlined or tweak the outline which may send the novel off the rails in a good way.

Either way – I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What have you guys been working on?  Are you sticking to an outline or are you a pantser?

I’d love to hear from you.




Posted in Motherhood, Writing

Probably the worst time to blog


I can think of so many reasons not to blog right now…

  1. I just had a baby… Baby J is one month old today!!!
  2. I’m sleep deprived most days because Baby J still has his days and nights mixed up.
  3. When will I have time to write?
  4. I haven’t touched my children’s novel in months and I’m anxious that I’ll never finish it now that the baby is my main priority.
  5. Post partum hormones are making me overly emotional and anxious about everything.

Baby J is a true gift and I’m enjoying motherhood and its sleepless nights. But I’m also thinking about my writing projects which are still in the draft and planning stages. As tempting as it is to dive into a new project I’m going to stick it out and finish the novel I started over a year ago.

My goal for this week is to re-read my draft and make notes. NO REWRITING ALLOWED. I’m just reading and making notes for future editing.

If you’re interested in following my journey it would be great to have some company, and I would love to hear from moms who write about how you balanced writing with a new addition to the family.