by Stephanie Jacob Gordon

Happy Fourteenth of June!!!!
That’s Flag Day and my Mom’s birthday. And yes, I know it is September. But I have been meaning to get my blog entry done since June, when it was actually due, and when I knew what I was going to write about.
I am doing a writing experiment today. You probably know about it. You sit at your desk and stare at a blank computer screen or a piece of white paper and think. You do this until blood and sweat run outta your forehead and you get an idea to write about. So far…. Still staring!

Right now I am thinking, where are all those people I meet at parties and tell me they have a really great idea and I should write it. I could use one of those great ideas right now. So far…. Still staring!

Have you ever woken up from a night of dreaming and there is this wonderful idea in your head that absolutely needs to written about? Me either. This morning I work up with an overpowering thought… I am going to be 80 soon. And no, I don’t want to write about it. I don’t even what to think about. So far…. Still staring!

I have 64 years of history with all the (kids) from my graduating class that I met on the first day at Alexander Hamilton Hi in L.A., and that I am still friends with. My oldest friend is my cousin Carol who is one day older than I am and who I met when I was five days old. When we were kids we did so many dastardly things together. I remember when we were 11 and took out pictures in a 25 cent photo booth. They were everywhere. Remember? It gave you 4 small black and white photos. If you are too young to remember, I forgive you. So, for the last shot Carol and I lifted up our blouses. We did even have bras on. No, not to be sexy…we didn’t have anything to put in a bra. Our parents found the picture and my daddy said the people who owned the booth would probably turn them into the police or display them on the booth…There were always pictures on display on the fronts of the booths. Needless to say, that was our last attempt at artsy posing. So far…. Still staring.

I have three cousins that could sing and dance and were on early TV marathons to raise money for some charity. Barbara, Bevy, and Barry. I was so jealous of them. I was a clutz who was tone deaf and only sang in the key of middle C. They once did TV “gig” to the song, Walking My Baby Back Home, and I got to go to the tv studio with them and see them perform. Exciting stuff. Tv was a teeny-screened black and white baby back then. And even though I had been working in the movies since I was 19 days old, I was impressed. Yup! So far…. Still staring.

It was sometime around then that FBI came to our house to arrest my brother, Stevie who was four years old. Seem he had made the FBI’s most wanted list for stealing mail from all the mailboxes in our neighborhood and stashing it under his bed. Social Security checks too. I was disappointed when the Feds left without him. Growing up I broke his arm twice and god him hit by a car and did other terrible stuff. So far…. Still staring.

So, you see why my blog is so late. I have nothing to write about. Not one idea. Just me and blank computer screen. And So far…. Still staring!




by Judy Enderle

Okay. First want to let you know that Laurie missed her post month because of a manuscript revision deadline and a family wedding and company, company, company. She’ll make it up when she stops running and can sit down for awhile.

Now, about this post, which is late!!! Here are the reasons:

  1. Stephanie was moving and I had to help her pack.
  2. My son needed gardening help so I had to dig.
  3. Stephanie was moving and I had to help her pack.
  4. I had a stomach ache.
  5. Stephanie was moving and I had to help her pack.
  6. I was tired from helping Stephanie.
  7. Stephanie moved and I’m helping her unpack.
  8. I haven’t had time to write. (Guess why.)
  9. Life got in the way: I had to get a haircut and pay bills.
  10. Stephanie moved and I’m still helping her unpack.

Life doesn’t change when you are a writer. April! The beginning of a new month. Well, another round of bills arrived. (But I don’t need my hair cut again—yet. Instead I have a doctor’s appointment and my six-month dental checkup.)

Excuses pile up and they keep coming even if they change names. But that’s life. You have obligations and you need to take care of yourself and your family and friends. So don’t beat yourself up when life gets in the way or you are helping a friend or your idea well seems to have run dry. Help out. Fulfill your family obligations. And it’s even a good idea to take a break because you need one.

This week enjoy spring, watch the birds build their nests and marvel as the flowers open, survivors of a long and cold winter. Take a walk or swing on a swing and you’ll soon be inspired, refreshed, and ready to get back to the keyboard.


We hope that 2018 has been a creative and successful year for everyone and that 2019 is even better. So CHEERS TO OUR FOLLOWERS, TO WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS EVERYWHERE.







HAPPY NEW YEAR from the MAVENS: Cheryl, Dawne, Laurie, Stephanie, and Judy                      



      Your manuscript is completed at last and you feel it’s ready for publication. Now what?

Laurie Knowlton:

How to choose a publishing path?
Technology has opened the door that made self-publishing not only acceptable but commonplace.
There are many avenues available for writers: Trade publication, self-publication, work-for-hire, e-books, online blogs, online magazines and more. Only you will know the right path for you by researching the field
Consider what is your end goal?
Do you want a book for your family members? Or do you want nationwide distribution?
Does the publishing house you are working with provide: artwork, editorial input, hard cover, soft cover, e-books, international distribution and translations, royalties or work for hire, escalation clauses, royalty payments that are connected to past books? The list goes on and on.
That is why research is the best answer. Then you will be able to make an informed decision. Last but not least: Ask other authors, and read books on the pros and cons.
One last tid-bit: Amazon provides a book titled Decide, Self- Publishing –Trade publishing.

Cheryl Zach:

Publishing paths: More exist than ever before. This is not necessarily easier for the new writer, it may be more confusing. You can still submit traditionally to agents and established publishing houses, at least those that will take unsolicited manuscripts. Do your homework. Even editors from ‘closed’ houses will sometimes take queries or partials from people who have attended writing conferences where the editors have spoken.
There is also self publishing, including epublishing, which is more acceptable than it once was, but still has some drawbacks. The most prestigious awards still are not open to self published books.
You will also have to all the work yourself, from designing and setting up the book to PR and distribution. It’s one thing to manufacture a book, another thing to actually sell it. Not many book stores are eager to take books whose quality has not been vetted through the traditional process. Self pubbed books are also harder to get reviewed. Amazon will publish and sell books from your manuscript, but it’s a crowded virtual warehouse!

Dawne Knobbe:

Publishing Paths: There are many paths to publishing your work. No matter how you end up published- by a traditional press, or self-publishing, marketing yourself and your work is the key to success.

Judith Ross Enderle and Stephanie Jacob Gordon:

No matter which path to publication you choose to introduce your book and yourself to the world, both will take patience and perseverance. Trade publishing as well as self-publishing will both require marketing skills. Research both areas and decide what suits you and your book.

If you choose trade publishing, investigate small publishers and large publishers. Go to the bookstore to discover what types of books each publishes, how the books are designed, what topics or genres each publisher produces.

You may find it beneficial to search for an agent to represent you and your book and help you negotiate a contract. Many publishers deal only with agents and don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts from writers. After signing a contract you will receive an advance: money up front that will be worked off with a percent of each book sold. Once you’ve worked off the advance, you’ll receive royalties. A trade book must continue selling well in order to stay in print.

If you choose self-publishing, do thorough research on the many avenues available. Hiring a content and copy editor may help you get the polished work you want. If your book has illustrations, you will have to contract with an artist. You will wear all the hats in the publishing world besides being the author. Know ahead of time what your approximate costs will be. If you are fully informed and up to the challenge, there is no reason you can’t be successful on this path. Many authors find this approach satisfying.

Most important is to explore all avenues to publication and BE INFORMED so you choose the right one for you and your book .




  Revision, taking another look and polishing your writing. Here’s what the Mavens have to say– from what it involves to when to stop:

Judith Ross Enderle: This part of writing is the frosting on the cake; cleaning up the crumbs, adding swirls of sweetness, getting your masterpiece ready to present for consumption. Revision shouldn’t be rushed. It may involve any or all of the following: major rewriting; moving sentences, pages, paragraphs, even chapters into a different order; tossing out some of your favorite lines; the realization that in some parts you have too much story and in others not enough; and always a careful search for repetition, double verbs, awkward dialogue tags, and phrases at the end of sentences that don’t add anything to the story. If you’ve been away from the manuscript long enough, you may see places where you’ve forgotten to give the reader important information, places where you go on too long with either dialogue or description or both, places that are too slow and places that just plain don’t work. Your first draft was good, but with revision your second draft will be better, and after that you will revise for the best. Some manuscripts need only one revision, while others may need five or more.

Stephanie Jacob Gordon: I NEVER REVISE said no published author ever.

I think of revision as a trick of the trade.  My trade.  Your trade.  The Writing for Young People trade.

You write your story and suggestions abound.  Everyone has a better idea.  Your agent has input.  Your editor has input.  Your writing group has input.  Your best friend, your husband, your kids, your mother, the check-out lady at the grocery store, they all want to tell you what is right AND what is wrong with your story and how to fix it.  You listen, smile, nod your head, think about what they said, good and bad, even take notes.  It is YOUR story, nevertheless.  Apply what works, clarifies, enhances and improves your work.  In the end it really is just YOUR story and you must stand behind your craft.  So, what to do with the stuff you don’t need?  Shredders, compactors, garbage cans (do people still use cans?), and recycle bins were invented to hold suggestions, critiques, and opinions you do not want or need.   Hear, think, apply, but listen to your own head first!
Happy revision…or not.

Laurie Knowlton:   7 Tips to Revision, Where to Begin?
Once you have completed your manuscript it is time to revise. But how?
Read your manuscript out loud.
It will help you catch gummed up sentence structures.
It will help you listen to your character’s speech for uniqueness of voice.
Check and cut: overused words, weak words, and too much description.
Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. If you have trouble with these there are how to articles on the internet that can help.
Bring your manuscript to a critique group. Fresh eyes can help you see your manuscript in a new light.
Ask yourself does my story question match a satisfying ending?
Let your manuscript set for a bit after you have completed these steps, then go back with fresh eyes and review again.
Revise as many times as it takes to get it right. DO NOT RUSH the revisions process.

Cheryl Zach: Revision is an absolutely necessary part of the writer’s process. Once the rough draft is down, if you’re lucky you’ll go over it and then have a critique group or partner to share it with, in person or on line. If not, put it aside for a few weeks or even months and then view it with a fresh eye.  Of course, you want the grammar and usage to be correct, allowing for realistic dialogue. Books such as Elements of Style are helpful. A lot of my revision goes into tightening. Taut writing is often most effective. Get rid of unnecessary tags, (the he said, she said bits) unless you write for the very young. Remember you want to show, not tell. Use action and dialogue, use sensory details to make the setting vivid. Let your own voice shine through. Then put it aside, and do it all again. And again.

Dawne Knobbe: Revision: You know it is time to stop revising when the words you replace are no longer making your sentences more powerful.




STUCK?  Don’t panic! This happens to lots of writers, sometimes in the middle of your book and sometimes as you struggle to revise, following your critique group’s suggestions or while working through the feedback from your editor. Breathe!

Here are some tips from the Mavens on how to get unstuck:

Dawne Knobbe: Stuck? : Eat cookies, make paper airplanes out of you manuscript. Not helpful? Try picking a fight with your main character.

Cheryl Zach: Stuck? Me, too. Okay, not this minute, but I have been, lots of times. Early on in my career, I’d often get off to a rousing start and then get stuck about a third or even halfway into the story.  It usually meant I didn’t know my characters well enough–pause to do some deep thinking about who your main character is. Look at your supporting characters; maybe one or more need to get in the way–they have their own plot lines to pursue, remember. Perhaps your conflict isn’t big enough to support a novel. Maybe this is the time to introduce a new character, or a new obstacle, or make the conflict harder in some way for the protagonist. Go back and look at what I said about a sagging middle.

If you’re stuck on a new project, ideas are all around you. Make sure you spend time with young people. Read lots of good books, and not just in your chosen genre. See good movies and plays. After viewing The Darkest Hour, I reread William Manchester’s multi volume bio of Winston Churchill–what writing! Go to museums and other cultural events, go outside to parks and the beach and the mountains, whatever is near you. Feed the well. Exercise. It helps the brain function. Meet with other writers and artists. And don’t be too hard on yourself. The Muse will return.

Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton:  5 Ways to get beyond Stuck

Go fill your well! Do something new to you. The experience will get your senses awakened.

Walk and talk. Take your phone and walk and talk (recording) yourself through questions about your story question.

Spend time volunteering with the age group you are writing for. Listen to their jargon. Watch their mannerisms. Be aware of what they are worried about. Observe what they get excited about. Ask them about what concerns them.

Sit and read a starred review book. Analyze what makes it work. Is the story character or plot driven? What is the heart of the story? How does the main character grow and change?

Meet with a critique group. Being around other writers who are producing can be contagious. Also other writers may be able to help you get over the hump in your manuscript.

Judy Enderle: Unstuck tricks to try:
Stay calm. You may feel as if you are sinking in quicksand, but if you were it would be best to keep cool, to ease back and float until you reach solid ground. Same with being stuck in your writing. Sometimes floating for a bit will help you get to solid ground and go forward.

Ask your character what to do next. Write down all the possibilities then choose what makes most sense for your story.

Brainstorm with your critique group. Many heads might help you find a good solution.

Skip the place where you are stuck and start writing again at the place where you know what will happen. You might figure out what to do with that stuck spot or perhaps realize you don’t even need the place where you are stuck to make your story work.

Stephanie Jacob Gordon: Ask your dog; dogs are good listeners. Take a walk (your dog will like this, too. Eat chocolate. Have a cup of tea and biscotti and pretend your main character is there with you. Read the KidsBook Mavens blog for some good ideas. Most important: DON’T GIVE UP!



  We’ve made it from the beginning pages, through the middle, and now we are reaching the LAST PAGES. These will NOT be the last pages from the Mavens, however. Read on:

Cheryl Zach:

In one writing org I belong to, it’s said that the first page will sell the current book to your reader, the last page will sell your next. So what do you need on your last page? A satisfying ending, obviously. Have you truly wrapped up your problem? Did the main character, the protagonist, resolve the problem him or herself? Not a helpful adult–that’s fatal–not the best friend, not an act of fate, the ‘god from the machine.’ Are the emotional conflicts resolved as well as the physical? You may not want too neat a wrap up, it may not sound realistic, but you do want the reader to feel that the story is really resolved, or readers will never feel completely happy with the book. (Mind you, I have written at least one book with an ‘open’ ending (RUNAWAY) in that one important question was left unresolved because the two main characters couldn’t agree. Some books are just like that. You do what has to be done, or at least, what your characters demand. I hope in this case, the novel was still emotionally satisfying–the book did well, in any case, winning an award and selling well.)

Now, having admitted that every rule has an exception, what else can I say. If it’s a mystery, solve the mystery and don’t cheat and introduce the villain on the next to the last page. If it’s a fantasy or science fiction, stick to your own rules of logic. If you’re going to do something truly awful, like kill the protagonist, at least give some foreshadowing.  That’s my rule, not everyone will agree. The late great Madeleine L’Engle, author of WRINKLE IN TIME and other award winning novels, said that writers for young people owed it to their readers to leave some hope at the end of their books. I agree. Not everyone does.

Last Pages: The ending is always important–you need to leave the reader satisfied. Has the protagonist resolved his/her problem/conflict, with only minimal help from others? Is it not too neat, so as to be unrealistic, but without too many loose ends? Have both the emotional/internal and external conflicts been dealt with? My daughter always says the ending needs a certain emotional punch, as well, that little extra something that may send you away smiling, or with a tear in your eye, but feeling content, none the less. You should feel that the story just couldn’t have ended any other way. The character was true to him/herself. The problem obviously had to end this way. There was a twist you didn’t quite see coming, but it was just what needed to happen.  And again, no, I didn’t say it was easy.

Dawne Knobbe

Last Pages: Writing your last pages early helps you to know where you are trying to end up.

Laurie Knowlton

Your last pages must:

Make sure every question you set up early in the book is answered, even if the answer isn’t positive, or finely wrapped up like in: Scarlet O’Hara, “I’ll think about it tomorrow.”
Do not use some out-of-the-world twist ending where someone comes out of nowhere and fixes everything. Your reader isn’t going to buy it and they will feel cheated.
No matter how many wrong turns, and bad decisions your main character may have made getting to the end of their story, allow those decisions to be the learning curve that brings your main character to a state of redemption
Use those little details that you’ve sprinkled through the text to assist in the ending. You want your reader involved in the ending and they will value the use of those details in the solution.
Resolve the story with a satisfying ending that is hopeful. Readers want to feel good at the end of a book.

Stephanie Jacob Gordon

The end is The End is THE END! And please don’t skip the end by telling rather than showing, then moving right to “and so they all lived happily ever after.” This will cause your readers to toss the book into the air wanting to know “WHAT HAPPENED?” Readers want to see, to participate in the finale the same way they’ve participated throughout the book.

Wind up your story in the final pages by showing the growth of your character through action and dialogue. The problem may be solved or the character may have accepted that this is a problem that can’t be solved and moves on with life. This shows growth, too.

Resist explaining, resist adding what happens the next day or years later, resist. But if you insist or your character refuses to take a final bow, make notes for a possible sequel to the story that has come to an end, for some characters can be so stubborn they refuse to exit the world you’ve created and some authors love their characters so much they refuse to let go.

Judith Ross Enderle

Wipe your tears. Just because you’ve written your last pages, just because you’ve written The End, just because you’ve sighed and celebrated the completion of your first draft, this isn’t the end. Writing a book isn’t over until it’s over. And usually it isn’t over until you’ve revised and revised and revised some more. So those last pages . . . might not be your final last pages; they are probably your first last pages. Yup! Upcoming in the fall months: What to do if you are Stuck, Revision Tips, and more.



  Whether your middle is teeny tiny as in a picture book or quite expansive as in a novel, sometimes middles can bring your writing to a halt. Here’s what the Mavens have to say about successfully getting through the middle of your manuscript:

Stephanie Jacob Gordon  As I get older discussing middles is not high on my list. My middle has increased a lot since I first began to write.Oh. Judy says that is not the kind of middle we are supposed to talk about. I am relieved.

The thing about book middles, some of them have also increased a lot. More in novels than picture books. I am finding that there is a lot of nothing going on in these books. Action, adventure, calamities, and changing scenes are becoming description, pontification, and boring. What I think a middle should be is where it all happens.

There is the beginning to get us into the characters, learn the main character’s problem(s), and believe there is no way their problem(s) can be solved. In other words, we begin to care about the main character, move into their skin, become them, and live the story.
There is the end where amazingly the problems are solved and we see the main character’s growth because of what he/she has gone through to get to the end of their story. Or, the problem cannot be solved and we see the main character’s growth by how he/she copes with this sad (but honest) conclusion at the end of their story.

So, what did we leave out? The middle…where we hope the story allows us to be one with the main character, share their adventures, calamities, successes, and failures.
So, as I said in the beginning…the middle is where it all happens! At least it should.

Judith Ross Enderle  Your own middle is where your strength resides. It’s the place where your entire body benefits from the organs that process the food we eat and drink so your growth and development can happen. When your middle isn’t working, you hurt.

The middle of your story isn’t so different. This is where the strength of your story resides. It’s the part of that develops the who, what, where, when, and how of your story. That’s one of the reasons that middles can sometimes be tough to write, why this is where you get stuck, or where you might go off track. The middle is the where the growth and development of your story happens. If that’s not happening, then your story hurts, too.

My advice: if you are stuck in the middle, keep going even if you have to skip some places. If you come to one of those sticky spots, type WORK MORE HERE then go on to the next plot part where you know what happens and how to show it. Once you reach The End, go back and read. You’ll know how to: a) develop those sticky middle parts, or b) realize you don’t need them.

Hope this helps get you past the muddle in the middle.

Laurie Knowlton  Everyone knows that a story has a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning is just that. The day things changed for your main character. It is a small part of the actual book that makes the reader care about your main character.

The middle makes up the largest portion of the book. It is where the main character moves forward through their problem, quest, or journey. The main character must use their whit to work through ever more difficult situations on the journey to solving their problem, quest or journey.

So what does that mean? It means PLOT. How does your character rise to the occasion, overcoming one obstacle more difficult than the last, to reach a climax? They must be active. They must be vocal. They must sometimes stumble and fight against their own inner demons. There must be twists and turns, because a straight line is BORING. There must be loss that accompanies gain. There must be laughter and tears to make the reader care enough to keep reading. Every chapter must have its own mini arc that keeps your reader on edge while your main character presses on to solve the ultimate story question.

Cheryl Zach  Oh, that sagging middle! What a quagmire it can be. You can have a fast, exciting beginning, with an action-filled and dramatic ending in mind, but what to do about the middle? If the story line seems to be sagging, it may be time for a new complication to the plot. Time to ratchet up the story tension and make it harder on your protagonist. Maybe he or she is having too easy a time solving his problem. Maybe the problem wasn’t big enough for a whole book? Go back and rethink.

Maybe it’s time to introduce a new character–must be essential for the plot, but another villain may be hiding in the wings? Maybe someone who will be a friend, an ally. Perhaps he or she was foreshadowed earlier on and you didn’t quite see it? I do this to myself a lot, without realizing I was writing it in all along. At any rate, a new element may need to be introduced, and it will get your gears moving again.

Dawne Knobbe  Middles are the hardest part for me in a story. If I get to the middle and get stuck, then it helps to work on the ending—See last pages. (Which means you’ll have to watch for next month’s blog tips about Last Pages.)



Aack! The year is half over. How did that happen? If you’ve spent the past six months thinking about the book you want to write, this is a good time to get started. And where do you start? With the FIRST PAGE. Here’s what the Mavens have to say:

CHERYL ZACH: First Pages are vital. You must catch the reader’s interest at once. Years ago I heard award-winning author Richard Peck say that he used to give himself ten pages to grab the reader’s attention; now it must be done on the first page. And it’s not just a restless young person you must mesmerize–it’s also the agent or editor who will be your first reader. If your book makes it to print, it’s the book store buyer or the clerk who puts it on the shelf, or it’s the parent of a young child if your book is a picture book. First pages matter.
For a young adult novel, on that essential first page you need to establish who the main character is, give at least a hint of the problem and the setting. Sound hard? It is. The first page will go through innumerable drafts. You’ll write it, edit, rewrite  many times. Read it aloud, read it to your critique group. Write it again. Hone it, tighten it. For sure tighten it. Every word counts. {Do not do an info dump–try to tell too much on what the book is about, as if you were giving a book report. You want to show; use action, dialogue, sensory details. Bring the story to life immediately.)
Go back through your most loved novels or picture books. Old favorites are allowed, but be sure to read many new books, too. See what the current best sellers are, what editors and readers like today. See what skillful writers can do with a few lines, a couple of paragraphs, to grab you by the throat and not let you go.

LAURIE KNOWLTON: What’s so big about first pages?
First pages are not EASY. They need a great deal of thought and rewriting, and rewriting.
Riveting first pages are imperative because they introduce your reader to the main character, the setting’s time and place, and a story problem, quest, or journey.
Your opening line should GRAB your reader making them want to read the next line, and the next line, and the next line. In those lines the writer needs to make the reader care about the main character and what they are up against. The reader needs to feel the conflict. A good way to do this is through strong sensorial action and dialogue that fills in the gaps.
Your first page is either going to keep your reader reading or putting down the book and moving onto something else, or someone else’s book. Don’t let weak first pages keep your reader from consuming your book!

DAWNE KNOBBE: First pages usually become a page further into your chapter. Don’t be afraid to “cut to the chase.”

STEPHANIE JACOB GORDON: Eve Bunting always said: “Start with the moment that’s different.” That means the event that makes your character take notice and react. That moment should be important to your character, make a difference in his/her life, create a situation where something is at stake for the character. The reaction may be physical or emotional, but it should be something that will hook your reader and create a page turn in order to find out what happens next.

JUDITH ROSS ENDERLE: Don’t be surprised if you toss out your first page or even your whole first chapter once you’ve completed your first draft. That’s a lot of firsts, but sometimes you don’t know if you’ve started in the right place until you’ve found out where your story ends.

Happy summer! Happy writing!