“Once Upon a Time” Tales Inspire Imagination, Courage by Marilyn Ostermiller

February 26 has been designated National Fairy Tale Day. That’s as good a reason as any to read some and reminisce how much you loved them as a child.

The timeless tales began as oral histories, myths and legends told around the campfire by traveling story tellers. Nineteenth century German scholars, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, culled about 200 traditional tales of Northern Europe and published them.

grimmThe brothers Grimm.

These early tales would not have led to “sweet dreams.” For example, in the currently popular version of Cinderella, her two ugly stepsisters make her do all the housework and chores, until her fairy godmother appears, dresses her up and sends her to the ball where she dances with the prince. As the clock strikes midnight, she rushes away, stepping out of a glass slipper in her haste. Smitten with Cinderella, the prince travels from house to house throughout his kingdom to find the woman whose foot fits the delicate slipper.

In early versions the stepsisters cut off their toes to fit the slipper. The prince noticed the blood and realized the slipper belonged to Cinderella. At their wedding, two doves swoop down and peck out the evil stepsisters’ eyes, leaving them blind and lame.

grimms tales

Fairy tales offer kids the opportunity to let their imaginations soar. Imagination fosters critical thinking and cultivates the ability to solve problems. That teaches kids how to deal with basic relationships and conflicts. The stories can even instill bravery, kindness and patience.

There is always a problem that is solved in the end. Remember “Little Red Riding Hood?” Little Red is devoured by a wolf, but a woodsman chopped open the wolf and rescued her.

Collections of fairy tales are published in age-appropriate editions. Among those easily available:

A First Book of Fairy Tales by Mary Hoffman and Julie Downing, is suggested for ages 2 to 4, it includes14 tales ranging from classics to lesser-known stories.

fairy tales

Illustrated Fairy Tales, written by Sarah Courtauld and Rosie Dickins, retells 10 classic tales. It’s suitable for five- to nine-year-olds.

Far Out Fairy Tales reworks classic fairy tales, as a graphic novel with lots of new twists and turns. In this version, by authors Sean Tulien and Louise Simonson, Snow White is raised by robots, and the three billy goats get stuck inside a video game. far out fairy tales

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist who also writes children’s stories.



Mrs. P’s “Be A Famous Writer Contest” for Kids.

Pets is the theme of the 7th annual   MrsP.com    Be-a-Famous Writer Contest. The contest is for K-4 classrooms and the winning classroom is filled with books in every format from the generous sponsors of the contest.

• Contest Closes: November 15, 2015
• Winners Announced January 15, 2016
• For classrooms K – 4th grade
Mrs. P invites classrooms to write a story on the topic of PETS no less than 250 words and not to exceed 1,000 words. It may be fiction or non-fiction. Any classroom from Kindergarten through 4th grade may enter. Just one story per classroom! It can be a collaborative story, or teachers can have their class vote on which child’s story to enter. While the contest is for classrooms only, parents can participate by telling their child’s teacher about it.  Find all the details at my contest website. http://contest.mrsp.com/

Thank You Sussex Ave. School

Yesterday I had the joy and privilege to do a SKYPE visit with the Sussex Ave. School in Morristown, NJ.  I spent some time with Antoinette Lubrano’s fourth grade class who read and discussed WHEELS OF CHANGE.  They asked wonderful questions about the writing process, how I did research for the book and who my favorite characters were.  posterThe students also did some amazing projects about the book that they shared with me. Here’s the link to a glogster post: http://antoinetteg2.edu.glogster.com/wheels-of-change-9252/   Emma made this Animoto video about Emily and Henry…the man Papa hired to be his blacksmith in the story.   https://animoto.com/play/PiDfy0DIji4AVO1dyGPxrw?autostart=1    Catherine Gaynor made a poster about how she and Emily were alike and different.   Many thanks to all the students in Ms. Lubrano;s class for making my visit such a memorable one. You boys and girls ROCK!

Ms. Lubrano's 4th grade class, Sussex Ave. School, Morris, NJ

Ms. Lubrano’s 4th grade class, Sussex Ave. School, Morris, NJ

Catherine Gaynor's poster.

Catherine Gaynor’s poster.

Children and Reading by Charles French

Reading is one of the most important skills that any child can gain, not only for achievement in school but also for enjoyment in life. There is almost no job that anyone can have today that does not require some level of reading ability. It is the touchstone for advancement in any field.
What I would like to speak to, however, is not so much the practical importance of reading but its personal significance. Children have extraordinary imaginations, especially when they are young, and I believe that it is the responsibility of adults around them to nurture and support that creativity and wonder. Reading is the most important aspect of supporting and developing children’s imaginations. What they picture as they read a story will be more important than any image they see on a TV screen.

I speak from personal experience. I cannot remember a time when I did not read. Thanks to my mother’s encouragement, I was involved in books from a very young age. I did not, however, only read books; instead, I also was a huge fan of comic books. I would read about the various superheroes and their adventures and simply become absorbed into that world. I am still a card carrying member, if such a thing existed, of Nerds-Are-Us because I continue to love superhero movies!  captainamerica

I loved Spiderman, Captain America, and Thor in particular.      spidermanI found the Marvel comics characters to be filled with human weaknesses as well as their capacity to do amazing things and save the world from terrible villains.

journeytocenterofearthAs a child, I also loved science fiction and adventure tales, including Jules Verne’s A Journey to the Center of the Earth and H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.
As an adolescent, I discovered Gothic and Horror, both in movies in books. I fell in love with books like Frankenstein and Dracula, and I continue to love this genre. I do not claim I understood these works with the level of sophistication that I do now, but they still engrossed me in their tales of supernatural danger. If there is one book that I think most teenagers should read, as well as adults, it would be Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird.

draculaI think that children should read picture books, comic books, children’s books, and anything they enjoy. Happiness, wonder, and pleasure should be a crucial part of their experience with reading. I recommend for almost any child who is reading at the 10 year old level or higher the Harry Potter series. I do not have the authority to say what the best children’s books are, only to suggest these as good, useful, and engaging for children.
I do want to emphasize one particular idea: at no time should reading ever be a punishment; that would be counterproductive to the goal of having children wanting to read. Children need to gain the love of reading and not resent having to do it.
Parents can take children to bookstores and let them explore and pick out books to read; they can take them to the local library—a wonderful resource! Reading not only to but with children is also an excellent way to foster the love of reading. Finally, having children seeing parents read is also extremely useful.
I hope that these somewhat scattered ideas are useful.
In the end, children should be encouraged to read what they choose to read.  

charles picCharles French, a writer and academic, has a Ph.D. in English, and is attempting to be a published novelist. He is married with one son.
Visit his blog at: http://www.charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com


2015 marks the 17th year of The First Line.  This online publication gives writers an opportunity to see one of their stories in print using the format of the same first line.

Here are the new first lines for 2015.

Spring 2015: Fairy tales hardly ever come true for quiet girls.   (Submissions due February 1, 2015.)

Summer 2015: Laura liked to think she was honest with herself; it was everyone else she lied to.   (Submissions due May 1, 2015.)

 Fall 2015: The old neighborhood was nearly unrecognizable.   (Submissions due August 1, 2015.)

 Winter 2015: George pressed the call button and said, “Mrs. Whitfield, you have a visitor.”(Submissions due November 1, 2015.)

The First Line is available on Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006XGLLSU


Jason Sacher (Chronicle Books 2012 $14.95 hardcover)     1

“Longing for a simpler life, famous Children’s Book Author joins a cult.”
“Penniless after years of rejection, Picture Book Author wannebe, dons a cape and mask to fight crime.”
“During the hottest summer on record, an out- of -work writer refuses to leave the bathtub.”

Are these tabloid headlines or stressed out writers looking for easier ways to earn a living? The answer to those questions just might be the basis of your next story.
The concept of THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR is unique and simple. You choose a prompt from each of three sections set up in a flip-book style – a setting, a character, and a conflict. Written down, it becomes your “elevator pitch” and the start of a story, novel, screenplay or picture book.

This book is entertaining to read in and of itself. Passing it around among family members left all of us laughing and contemplating all sorts of possible scenarios. At its best, this book is a perfect when you need a jump start for a story, a new idea, or a way out of writer’s block. It’s a useful format for summing up your own stories or novels that are ready to be “pitched” to editors and agents. You can create thousands of different prompts and storylines. I found that practicing the format opens up endless ideas.        3

Here’s an example using one setting, one character, and several conflicts:
“Suddenly able to hear others’ thoughts, a spoiled teenager solves a ten year old murder, OR robs a series of banks, OR wakes up in a strange house.”
Do the same thing by varying the settings or characters and you can see the endless possibilities. Who knows, you could have the formula for the next mystery/sci-fi/YA thriller.
THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR is the perfect addition to any creative writing program and should be part of every storytellers library.
“Inspired by THE AMAZING STORY GENERATOR, a children’s author writes the next bestseller.”
It could happen. Even if it doesn’t, think of what a great story it would make.

Ideas on File: Where Writers Can Find Inspiration.

Today’s post comes from a fellow writer, Johanna “Jody” Staton about how she finds and keeps ideas for writing. Here’s Jody:

Even when we enjoy writing and want to do it, we always seem to have excuses not to be doing more of it: school, jobs, family plans and obligations.
For me, there was one more excuse: no ideas that grabbed me by fingertips and dragged me to the keyboard.  Until I read a column in a writers’ magazine that suggested keeping an “idea dump.” So I started one.

I’ve always gotten a daily newspaper, a habit learned from my grandfather and reinforced in journalism classes. Skimming the headlines gave me a general idea what was going on in the world. If the headline hooked me and the lead paragraph reeled me in, a whole article gave me insight into people and stories I didn’t know about before.
My mother had frequently clipped articles that she sent to me in college. Off on my own, I rarely cut anything out of the paper, until I read that “idea dump” column.
Space was made in a file cabinet. Out came the manila folders, the scissors. My husband read the newspaper first, because it developed holes once I got hold of it. Magazines were divested of entire pages.   jody idea file

The folders multiplied like rabbits. “Characters” became a bigger hanging box-bottomed folder housing “Children,” “Teens,” etc. “Settings” got geographical divisions. For articles from the writing magazine, genres each had their own folder, as did various aspects of the writing craft.
The following outline is an example of just some of the folders in my “idea dump”:

animal behavior
farm animals
people who work with animals
wild animals
working animals


middle grades books
picture books
science fiction
travel writing
young adult books
housing types
other planets

Specific locations
my home town
my region
my state
other countries
other states
Writing advice
point of view

Can I claim that each of those clippings resulted in a writings project—a story, an essay, an article, a novel? No. But what I do know is that once I followed the column’s advice and started my own “idea dump,” something must have gotten turned on in my brain, so that now I have enough ideas for novels to keep me writing forevermore.       Jody-Web

How do you organize/sort/keep your ideas for possible stories?

Jody Staton first realized she wanted to be a writer when she was twelve, and won an award at summer camp for the best writing of the season, a paragraph titled “God’s Symphony.” She worked for her high school and college newspapers, and was an English major. She has a graduate degree in magazine journalism. Jody was also an editor at Jack and Jill magazine, and had stories and articles published there and elsewhere. She does freelance copy editing, and has written several middle grade and young adult novels, all in various stages of development. None are published yet, but some have gotten favorable comments from agents and editors. She is currently working on a horsey historical for upper middle grades.                 

Storytelling 101

Do you have children who love to make up stories?  Are they always creating characters and acting out scenes during imaginative play?  Here is a website that allows children and teens to write stories and have them published online to share with others.  Check out   http://www.storiesforchildren.com  and let the storyteller in your family go to work.

Silent Night…Peaceful Night.

I know how hectic and crazy these last few days/hours before Christmas can be.  Children can especially get anxious and fidgety waiting for the “Big Day”.  Why not take some quiet time and allow the whole family to slow down a bit and savor just being together.  Make up a pot of hot cocoa or warm apple cider, set out a plate of cookies and watch your favorite Christmas movie, play a board game together, or read some classic Christmas stories aloud.  Some favorites include: THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS  (aka A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS), HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL, THE GIFT OF THE MAGI, or one of my new favorites, THE CHRISTMAS QUIET BOOK by Deborah Underwood.

As the evening grows darker, bundle up and take a walk around the neighborhood to admire all the decorations and lit up houses. Recruit a few friends or neighbors to sing some carols like days of old.  It sounds so much better in person than on the radio.

Don’t worry if presents aren’t wrapped or food not bought.  Christmas will come whether we are ready or not. So…enjoy the beauty and wonder of this time of year and pass on a little peace and quiet. Joy to the World!

Christmas Stories for Kids of All Ages

My blogger friend Gail Terp has done it again.  She’s collected a sampling of some great books you can read or give as last minute gifts for the Christmas Holiday.  Check out all the titles she’s posted over the past two weeks and be inspired to read some great Christmas Stories.  http://www.gailterp.com.  Happy Reading!