Monthly Archives: May 2009

The Absolute MUST READ Book for Writers

The book I suggest every writer should read will not be found in the Writers section of B&N or Borders. It probably won’t be found on any online recommended list for writers. However, I feel it should be put on your MUST READ list.

The book? It’s the Bible!

The Bible is a book of encouragement and hope when you’re down. It is filled with exciting stories that can stimulate your own ideas. It gives directions on how to be all you can be, the desire of most writers.

So, take some time and read the Bible. You may find it not only helps your writing but changes your life!

Thankful for the writer’s best tool, the Bible, Gloria


Book Suggestions

Here are a few more books I like that I keep nearby: Creating Characters Kids Will Love, by Elaine Marie Alphin, Plot and Structure, by James Scott Bell, and Writing Magic, by Gail Carson Levine. I met James Bell at a writers’ conference and have some of his exciting books. It’s interesting that Elaine Alphin’s book is about characters, since James Bell and an editor for Harvest House had a debate on the merits of the two main substances of writing fiction, whether for children or adults. “Where would Gone With the Wind be without the Civil War?” James Bell demanded. “Where would the same book be without Scarlett O’Hara?” Nick Harrison answered.

I didn’t meet Gail Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted, a Newbery Honor book, but since I have a daughter-in-law who works at Mrs. Nelson’s Book Store where famous children’s authors often come, I have a signed edition of her “Magic” book, that takes over where the other two stop.

All three books have writing exercises and though I’ll have to confess I don’t do them much, I have really good intentions! As I write this I’m encouraged to open each one again and at least jot down meaningful suggestions. I recommend all three for other writers.

-Shirley Shibley

Creative Creations

Some of my most favorite books on my writer’s bookshelf are books I make myself. You can make these, too, and discover the joy and encouragement you can have through crafting your very own books.

Book #1: Scriptures for Scribes–This is a blank journal that I am gradually filling with encouraging Scriptures that minister directly to my writer’s heart. Whenever I’m discouraged I pull this out, start reading through the verses and am immediately strengthened to continue the call God has placed on my life.

Book #2: Writer’s Scrapbook–This is a scrapbook where I store memories and precious tidbits about my writing world. I have photos of my critique group friends whose happy faces brighten my day. I glue in copies of encouraging e-mails from friends and editors. I highlight publishing successes and have fun decorating themed pages about current projects so that even if they don’t get published, I am still enjoying the journey God has called me to take to write each and every single manuscript.

Book #3: A Zillion Zany Zingers! Nancy’s Dictionary of Wow Words, Fun Phrases, and Tips to Tickle Young Readers! This is a 3-ring binder that grows as I do as a writer. It’s the place I jot down great ideas I have for character names such as Bingo for a dog and Mr. Picky for a cat. It’s the place I write down such delightful names of actual places such as Itsyville, CA and Paradise, PA. It’s where I keep a dictionary of words that strike my fancy from Aardvark to zzz-aaAA-PPP! It’s where I jot down passages that touch my heartstrings when I’m reading a good children’s book or article and note which author said it and where. In short, this is my own personal reference book that I pull out time and time again to jumpstart my creative juices when my brain is all amuddle.

Book #4: Goal Notebook
: Our dear friend Marilyn shared about her goal notebook so now I have one, too! In it I have a list of every single manuscript I’m working on at whatever phase it might be. I also keep my deadlines front and center in here, too, to keep track. Keeping a goal notebook helps me stay focused and productive.

Book #5: Prayer Journal: I create a 3-ring binder for each big book project I’m working on. Sections include:
Prayers where I write down my dialogue with God about the manuscript over the course of the project.
Scriptures and Inspirational Quotes that God gives me to encourage me along my journey
Timeline to keep track of the amazing miracles God does along the way both big and small
Proposal where I include a copy of the proposal to keep my initial project idea easily accessible
Other sections as God places them on my heart

So how about it? Have some fun! Go ahead and make creative books to fill your writer’s bookshelf, too. Your writing life will never be the same!

-Contributed by Nancy I. Sanders

A Wise Choice

When I’m needing an idea for another magazine story or a book, there’s one resource I go to immediately because it never fails me. It’s the book of Proverbs in the Bible.

Just ONE proverb can be a theme with a story waiting to happen! My fiction stories are not overtly religious and don’t need to be. The book of Proverbs is filled with jewels of wisdom for life and themes that apply to children as well as adults.

Here are just a few of the Proverbs that have triggered a story or two, or three, or—well you get the idea.

“Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else and not your own lips.”  Proverbs 27:2 gave me “The REAL B.J. Beaver,” (Clubhouse Jr.)

“One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.” Proverbs 18:9 inspired my book  “The WiseNOTS Get Lazy,” (book seeking a home.)

“A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals—” Proverbs 12:10 (a) inspired  “Pets and Proverbs,” (Clubhouse Jr.)

“The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.”  Proverbs 12:15 inspired “Take a Hike,” (Clubhouse Jr.)

“Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Proverbs 17:1 inspired “Please Pass the Kindness,” (Trails ‘N’ Treasures.)

“Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”—when you now have it with you.”  Proverbs 3:27, 28 inspired “Monkey Business,” (Clubhouse Jr.)

Need some inspiration and a heart filled with joy at the same time? “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” Proverbs 1:5


A Few Other Faves

Here is a short list of other books on writing that have helped me:

 The Query Book…Gordon Burgett

I took a one-day class from Burgett many years ago, when I was just starting to submit, and when I used his method, my acceptance rate really went up.

The 29 Most Common Writing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them…Judy Delton

This book helps avoid all those flubs most beginning writers make.  Very insightful.

ReWrite Right…Jan Venolia

Lots of good information on editing and making your writing sing!


I also enjoy reading biographies of writers and find them inspiring.

Three I’ve especially enjoyed are:

How I Came to Be A Writer…Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Naylor is the author of the acclaimed Alice series, and many others, and is one of my favorite writers for young people.  Her one adult, non-fiction book, Crazy Love, is at the top of any of my lists.

A Writer’s Story and What’s Your Story?…Marion Dane Bauer

Bauer is the first speaker I ever heard at an SCBWI conference.  She’s very talented and prolific.

Anonymously Yours…Richard Peck

Peck is a great guy and a terrific speaker and teacher.  He has definitely conquered the YA field.


And of course, the gold standard for writers falls somewhere between a biography and a how-to on writing:

 Bird by Bird…Anne Lamott


 Contributed by Marjorie Flathers

A Must Read for the Beginning Writer

One book that I found invaluable as I was learning the ins and outs of writing was Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Cynthia Laufenberg. This book tells the dos and don’ts of how to write query and cover letters, how to format your manuscript for both fiction and non-fiction, how to write proposals, and even how to set up a screenplay.

It is a book well-worth the price tag. And even though I’ve been writing for several years now, I still refer to it now and then. So if you are just starting out as a writer, or even if you’re a veteran, this book is a must for your book shelf.

Contributed by Catherine L. Osornio

Writing With Pictures

writing_w_picturesWriting With Pictures by Uri Shulevitz gives a thorough and enjoyable analysis on how to write and illustrate children’s books. With many illustrated examples, Mr. Shulevitz discusses the basic principles that contribute to a dynamic children’s book.

The book starts with the definitions for story book and picture book, then from there leads into how to develop a story, and, how to visually sequence the story. It also discusses the role of illustration and the techniques used to illuminate words with pictures.

The last part of the book includes info about preparing art for reproduction and reproduction techniques. Although there is lots of useful information in this section, printing technology has affected reproduction techniques quite a bit since 1985, when this book was first published. (Watson-Guptill Publications, New York)

All in all, this book is invaluable for the visual thinker who aspires to write stories for children. It studies many elements that go into telling a story and creating a children’s book. It also has an orderly progression that leads the reader step by step. It’s a great book to keep on hand and is a reminder of the basic principles that contribute to an enjoyable book for children.

contributed by VeronicaWalsh, children’s book illustrator