Resources for writers

If you’re looking for support, mentorship, or a peek behind the curtain, here’s a partial list of writing organizations and teachers who I’ve found incredibly helpful.

General literature

  • Advanced Fiction Writing. Both the website and the email newsletter are chock full of concrete information on every aspect of writing, from organizing your time to building memorable scenes. I learned a ton about structure, and I really like his Snowflake Method for designing a novel.
  • C.S. Lakin: Live Write Thrive. The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction has been incredibly helpful as I begin to write more complex books. The site offers worksheets for revision, or you can sign up for the e-book and/or her video course (which I haven’t tried).
  • Jami Gold’s templates for Excel or Scrivener have been invaluable for improving my novels’ pacing. Building on Save the Cat and Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering, with bonus templates for developing romantic arcs, these guidelines help me prune when something is flabby–hello, muddy middle–or expand when an aspect has been short-changed.
  • Jane Friedman. Lots of excellent articles and advice about the nuts and bolts of writing and publishing, including information about writing pitch letters, contacting agents, diversity in publishing, and more.
  • Literary Mama. Not only does this site offer amazing fiction, nonfiction, poetry (full disclosure: I was the Poetry Editor from 2015-2017 and Associate Poetry Editor from 2009-2015), regular columns, book reviews, literary reflections, and a blog…but it also offers a community of mothers who share writing opportunities, prompts, and support as well as an active social media presence. If you self-define as a mother and a writer, I highly recommend this site!
  • Poets & Writers. Terrific magazine with articles, interviews, and news about the industry, plus extensive lists of contests and calls for work. Doesn’t cover children’s literature. Yet.
  • Rachel Funk Heller’s Writer’s Coloring Book zeroes in on scene structure in a fun way. For each scene of my novel, I fill out one of these worksheets, which are based on TV or movie production call sheets. After coloring in the story helixes, I have a quick reference guide to my whole book, making it easier to sort through what works, what’s missing, or what needs shuffling around. (Bonus: These help in writing the dreaded one-page synopsis!)
  • Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody is fabulous for plot development. As part of the Save the Cat series for screenwriters–all of which I recommend–this book breaks down a three-act structure into “beats” that comprise a satisfying narrative. Lots of examples demonstrate how this basic format can be modified for a variety of storytelling needs. I now feel like Neo in the Matrix, able to see the code behind the action. You will, too.
  • Story Genius by Lisa Cron is great for character development and enhancing the story’s main emotional arc. Practical, step-by-step advice narrows down what characters want, what they need, and what misbeliefs must be overcome. I use this for developing the heart of a book.
  • Tyler Mowery on YouTube. Whether or not you’re a screenwriter, these videos on crafting story–from philosophical conflict to characters to structure to interviews with screenwriters–have opened my eyes to new ways of approaching my own stories. I am particularly digging the series on revisions.
  • We Need Diverse Books: How to Prepare to Write a Diverse Book. Excellent advice for writers of all genres with links and additional resources.
  • We Need Diverse Books: A Guide to Spotting and Growing Past Stereotypes. Useful checklist and reminders to create real characters who inspire.
  • Writer’s Digest. Practical articles for fiction and nonfiction writers, plus interviews and profiles. Covers children’s lit and poetry, too.
  • Writers’ HQ. This UK-based group offers courses, a newsletter, and writers’ forums that are encouraging and funny. I recently became a member, and though I can’t always attend the live stuff because of the time difference, I’ve found rewatching videos and reading the articles incredibly helpful and hope to find a krewe of like-minded writing partners.
  • Writing the Other. I recently read Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, which I highly recommend for writers interested in conveying people unlike themselves in a respectful way (which should be all of us!). The website offers even more information, videos, links, and encouragement, as well as a series of classes and community that sound absolutely inspiring. A real treasure trove for all writers!

Specifically kidlit

  • Great Storybook. This site and newsletter is full of tips, support, advice, and information. Plus, Chazda welcomes comments and suggestions through email and a private Facebook group.
  • The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults by Cheryl B. Klein. A classic in the making, great for writing workshops or DIY MFAs, this book should be on every serious writer’s bookshelf, whether writing for kids or adults. Packed with in-depth info, this dense text not only offers the hows of character, plot, scene, and more, but also the whys. Readable, full of examples and exercises, this will also serve as excellent reference when writers encounter sticky spots in their work. Highly recommended.
  • Multicultural Children’s Book Day. Each year, this organization hosts a celebration of diverse children’s literature through blogger book reviews, Twitter parties, and book giveaways. Their site also offers guides for educators and librarians about empathy in the classroom, reading resources, book lists, and activities.
  • Rhyme Revolution. Angie Karcher hosts a similar picture-book-brainstorming site focusing on writing excellent rhyming books. I attended one of her conferences and had a terrific time meeting truly lovely, supportive people.
  • SCBWI. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators offers local support groups, newsletters, conferences, connections, and support at every career stage. I’m currently the Critique Group Coordinator for the Louisiana/Mississippi region and have met so many wonderful people who have opened doors (and their hearts) to me in big ways.
  • Tara Lazar/Storystorm (formerly PiBoIdMo). A supportive blog and community particularly for picture book writers and illustrators. Every year, creators are encouraged to participate in Storystorm, a “monthlong brainstorming event” with prizes and a lovely sense of community to encourage your own creativity.
  • Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books by Philip Nel. This amazing nonfiction book explores ways in which “classic” and modern books for kids reinforce racist tropes, harming kids of all races. Heavily researched and annotated, the book offers a deep exploration as well as suggestions for reading intelligently with kids (as opposed to whitewashing or censoring books). Includes A Manifesto for Anti-Racist Children’s Literature for all creators, publishers, and readers.
  • We Need Diverse Books. This organization does amazing work to promote diversity in children’s literature, both on the page and behind the scenes, offering grants, scholarships, and support for writers.
  • Writing Blueprints. A self-paced class you can repeat from the editors and publishers of Children’s Book Insider. Each Blueprint offers worksheets, videos, and editing suggestions,as well as access to the instructors and fellow writers through social media to keep the conversation going. Read my review of the Chapter Book Blueprint.