Title: Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook
Authors: Anne Mazer & Ellen Potter; illustrated by Matt Phelan
Publisher: Roaring Book Press, 2010
Just as it sounds, this is a book of advice and almost instruction for grade-school aged kids who want to write, with illustrations that will make you smile.
So why am I reviewing a book of writing advice for kids on one of my usually adult-book days? You guessed it--because the advice in this book works for writers of any age, and it's written in a fun way to boot. There is the standard advice about giving yourself permission to write messy first drafts--and then putting in the effort to revise them. But there are also less conventional ways of thinking about things, and examples for a kid's life.
One of my favorite bits is the chapter on characters. The authors suggest having a sleep-over with your character, so you can learn all his or her deep dark secrets. Since the instructions for doing this begin with "grab some cookies from the kitchen," they got my attention right away. I am a firm believer in cookies (alas). All kidding aside, however, the questions they suggest asking your character are spot on, including things like "what are you afraid of?" (a sure trigger for something you'll do to the poor soul) and of course including what is their heart's desire. When you know what your character most wants and most fears, you have a story.
Mixed in among the discussion are "dares"--assignments, we might call them, if that weren't a dirty word. These dares are great prompts or exercises, and I'll be trying some (use a boring everyday thing as the subject of a suspenseful story? I'm on it!).
In short, this is a fun, light-hearted, but useful book on many aspects of writing, from getting ideas to honing your prose and revising your MS.
Add it to your collection of books on writing, whether you are 8 or 80. We can all learn something here, and have a few chuckles in the process (and you know I'm a fan of humor in all places, appropriate or not).
Full Disclosure: I checked Spilling Ink out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."