Notes from July 29

Molly provided some links to teen publishing contests (pdf version, MS Word version). Each page has a list of links to teen publication, primarily contests. She also discussed a few guidelines, such as suggesting not to enter contests that have much of a fee. Everyone was reminded to turn in their final manuscript and anything else they had not turned in yet (bio, dedication, acknowledgements, summary, picture) by the next week. We also briefly discussed plans for our author party and selected late October (probably the 27th or 29th) for the date. We are currently planning for this to be a virtual party because the library is not scheduling any in-person events for now, due to COVID-19 restrictions. We plan to hold the party as a webinar with Kendra as host, Molly and each of the teen participants as panelists, and any guests the participants invite as attendees (registration will be needed, and attendees will be in watch-only mode). After this discussion, we split into groups. In groups, each person was asked to read a 5-minute section that they considered the weakest portion of their manuscript, and others in the group made suggestions and comments. This was the last official meeting of the 2020 program. Kendra offered to have Zoom open on August 6 for anyone with final questions, although August 6 was not a required meeting date (just the deadline for turning things in).

Notes from July 22

At the July 22 meeting, teens brought their manuscripts. We asked briefly about the feedback teens received from their editors. Molly asked everyone to read the first page (first whole page, so read partway onto the next page if part one starts halfway down) and to identify the five tensest sentences from the first page and then the tensest sentence. Is it near the beginning? (The tensest part should be near the beginning). She also asked people to look through their manuscripts and see if anything stands out as a motif, something that repeats (a color, etc.). Molly asked people to read through and see how they describe the weather in their story. If weather is never mentioned, she suggested adding some mention of it. After this, we split into groups, and people read each others’ stories. Molly asked that people read someone else’s work rather than their own. Teens provided comments about the manuscripts.

Next week (July 29), we will start by talking about some publishing opportunities (contests) for young authors. We will split into groups. During those group discussions, each person should read the weakest part of their manuscript (5 minutes of less of reading per person). Everything should be in by the week after that, and then we (mostly Molly and Kendra) will put the book together. Teens should expect to receive some emails about their stories.

Anyone who has not yet submitted a summary (synopsis, blurb), bio, dedication, acknowledgements, and picture should submit those to Kendra as soon as possible. For the picture, we will be putting silhouettes on the cover, so either send a silhouette or send a picture with a plain background (something that will stand out from your hair, skin, and clothes) so we can separate the person from the background. You may consider using props or doing a pose.

If you have any questions, please contact Molly and/or Kendra. If anyone decides they do not want to be included in the book or there is a reason why your work will be delayed, please contact us either way and let us know.

Notes from July 15

At the July 15 meeting, we picked the colors and title for this year’s anthology. We also talked some about formatting and gave people their editor assignments. Everyone was emailed their editor’s name and email address. Everyone should have emailed their manuscripts and cover letters to their editors that night. There are screenshots from what Molly said, and she also wanted you to look at, which is a website about formatting a book. Here are links to the screenshots (saved as images): Editing Checklist Part 1, Editing Checklist Part 2, Editing Task List for Short Story, Editing the First 5 Pages. For each screenshot, click on the name to go to the link and then click on the small image to get to a bigger copy.

Link from July 8

At the optional July 8 meeting, Molly read samples of people’s stories and provided some feedback. She asked me to share this Clean Your Manuscript document with everyone. You can download it as a .docx or .pdf file (click the format you prefer). If you haven’t sent your short summary, type of story, and title to us yet, please send that. Remember to be ready with your manuscript (limit 3000 words) for July 15 when you will be assigned an editor. Everyone will be expected to send out their manuscripts on July 15 and should hopefully hear something back by the following week. If you have questions, email Molly and/or Kendra.

Notes from July 1

At the July 1 meeting, Molly Blaisdell talked about dialogue and related grammar (how to handle punctuation and quotes); see screenshot links added at end of post. Teens also read from their stories and participated in critiques. There will be an optional meeting on July 8 (originally a date that Teens Publish was not scheduled to meet) where teens can ask Molly questions and do some exercises (probably things like eliminating “weak” adjectives, checking punctuation, etc.). On July 15, teens will get their editor assignments and will be expected to send out their manuscripts to their editors that evening. If you have not sent a brief description of what type of story you are writing, please send that to Molly and Kendra soon so that we can try to assign you an editor who we think will be a good fit. [This post has been edited to add screenshots of the notes about dialogue and related grammar. Click on the names to go to the screenshots and then click on the images to get bigger versions. Dialogue screenshot, Dialogue List screenshot, and Quotes screenshot]

Notes and Links from June 24

At the June 24, 2020, meeting, Dawn Husted talked about setting and showed a pdf. If you would like to view or download the slides (saved as a pdf), go to and click on the file name. At this meeting, teens also helped Romy Natalia Goldberg to see if some of her texting conversation in a book for middle grade readers sounds authentic to that age range. After our critique session where teens read samples of their work and got feedback, Molly Blaisdell joined us and talked about endowed objects and maps.

Molly provided some links to articles and websites you might find interesting. Here is an article about endowed objects: Here is something from Writers Digest about “Working with Objects to Create Emotions in Characters”: Molly also suggested using Atlas Obscura ( as a setting resource. She showed us how to use for diagrams, floor plans, and blueprints, and she suggested doing this either with a program or with pencil and paper so that you don’t make careless mistakes like forgetting what side of the room something is on. She also showed us some literary maps from a magazine called Entropy. The website for that article and those examples of maps from literature is

For the July 1 meeting, you should have a complete draft of your manuscript. Your word limit is 3000. If it’s longer than that, you will need to cut it down some before submitting your story to your editor in two weeks.

Notes from June 17

At the June 17 meeting, Romy Natalia Goldberg talked about plot, and she referred people to Save the Cat Writes a Novel: The 15 Beats (click on the link to go to a pdf), from Save the Cat Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody, based on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series of books on screenwriting and novel-writing, and his beat sheets. Natalia also mentioned that there are internal and external things, and you need to make sure you are considering both (what’s happening in the world and what’s happening inside the character) so the story seems balanced. After people read from their stories and got critiques, Molly talked about 5 key plot points.

5 key plot points (from Molly):
1. moment everything changes (inciting incident)
2. call to adventure
3. midpoint / turning point / point of no return
4. the darkest moment
5. the climax

She went over some examples from movies and books.

Example 1: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (movie)
1. bit by spider and gets powers
2. testing out his powers
3. Spiderman is dying and asks Miles to help
4. uncle almost kills Miles
5. Miles decides to fight Kingpin and send other spidermen back

Example 2: Mulan (movie)
1. letter telling people they need soldiers
2. she takes dad’s place
3. her deception is revealed
4. no one believes her because she’s a girl
5. she’s going to fight the Hun’s leader herself

Example 3: Star Wars: A New Hope (the original Star Wars movie; “episode 4”)
(about Luke’s call to adventure)
1. message that Leia sends with R2D2
2. ObiWan tells Luke he needs to save Leia
3. moon looks like a death star, point of no return, caught by tractor beam
4. Darth Vader kills ObiWan right in front of him
5. Luke has to use the Force to drop a bomb to stop the empire

Example 4: Charlotte’s Web (book or movie)
(the call to adventure is being accepted by the spider)
1. “Where is Daddy going with that axe?” – first line
2. need to save Wilbur
3. at the fair, he’s going to be real tasty
4. darkest moment goes to Wilbur (not Charlotte): he’s safe, but she’s going to die
5. she dies but entrusts her egg sac to Wilbur to bring back to the farm so her legacy will live on

Example 5: The Hate U Give (recent book and movie; spoiler alert: it’ll make you cry)
1. abandoned by her friend at a party
2. gunshots at the party, everyone scatters, she leaves with childhood best friend, and he’s murdered by cops, needs justice for her friend
3. she meets a justice organization that offers her a new way forward to get justice for her friend
4. grand jury refuses to indict the officer who shot her friend; won’t get justice
5. youth protest ensues in her city, and all the protesters are being treated like criminals no matter how they act, and she speaks up

The inciting incident is at the beginning (in Charlotte’s Web, it’s in the first line), but there could be a long prologue (could be up to 3 chapters); the inciting incident will be the start of the actual story. If the inciting incident will be at the very beginning, a character should get the call to adventure soon. Plot points apply to all types of stories: picture books, chapter books, movies. Is there rising action? You want all the plot points, but need a pattern to it; don’t just include them. The inciting incident can be in an active scene, keep it moving forward. There should be an emotional arc and a physical arc; you need those 5 plot points for a rough draft.

Natalia suggested that people should read books with diverse characters, but not just ones about their lives being terrible. Molly and Natalia mentioned that Harry Potter fans might be interested in reading Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia.

For next time, Molly wants everyone to take three stories you know and think about the structure of stories you already know and write them out (the plot points) for yourself. You should have at least 2000 words written by next time. The maximum is 3000; if you have more than that, you’ll need to trim it down before sending it off to your editor (which will be in mid-July). At the June 24 meeting, the first part of the meeting will be led by local author Dawn Husted, who will talk about setting. At the end of the meeting, Molly will talk about endowed objects and maps.

Notes and Links from June 10

At the June 10, 2020, meeting, we started with a lesson on characters from Romy Natalia Goldberg, broke into critique groups to discuss your first 500 words, and then had a lesson from Molly about character pitfalls and some notes about first pages. One thing that Natalia had suggested people do to see how well they know their character (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) is to think of something in your room that you like and imagine your character hates it or to think of a food you love and imagine that your character is allergic to that food. If you don’t know how your character would react, you need to flesh them out more. Natalia suggested that people visit these links to help develop their characters: “12 Common Character Archetypes & How Writers Can Use Them” by Amanda Patterson ( ), “Seven Character Types” by Martina Boone (, and “16 Personalities – Personality Types” ( The 16 Personalities site has a page (linked just before this) that describes the personality types, and there is a link at the top right of that website to “Take the test” which you can do as your protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, etc. if that helps you flesh out your character.

Molly wanted everyone to see the First Page Checklist (pdf can be downloaded from Molly talked about the hook (draws people in immediately). If your first line is not memorable, can you rewrite it? Is it true? She said that you should balance it so you tell something about the character’s journey but not too much or too little. What tone did you set? Is there any intensity or emotional response? She said that, especially for a short story, you only have so much space and it’s expensive real estate. Check over your first page. Do you have any analogies or metaphors? Molly said that 1 to 3 was okay, and more than that’s too much. Mark the adjectives and adverbs, and then read the story without them and make sure it still makes sense. Cross out common adjectives, adverbs, and cliches. Make a list of nouns and a list of verbs. Cross out the common nouns and verbs and try replacing them with less common ones. Check a thesaurus. Don’t get too carried away though; you shouldn’t have all huge words that people have to look up. Write down just the dialogue for the first page. Then write down just the description. See what the balance is between the amount of dialogue and description and see if you have too much or not enough dialogue. Try doing the same exercises (amount of common and uncommon nouns/verbs, amount of dialogue and description) for five pages by a writer you like to see what balance you like to read. Molly said that most writers use lazy words on their first draft.

Next week (June 17), Natalia will be joining us again, and she will be talking about plot. You should bring pages to read; you should have 1000 words. At the end of the June 17 meeting, Molly will be talking about endowed objects and maps.

To Do Before June 10 Meeting

Thank you all for sending your bios. Before the June 10 meeting, please watch the “What makes a hero?” video by Matthew Winkler and the Teens Publish: Protagonist video by Molly Blaisdell. Molly also created a TEENS Publish prewriting video which you should have seen before the first meeting. You can find additional useful videos on Molly’s TEENS Publish playlist on Yahoo. For June 10, you should have 500 words that can be discussed during the critique part of the meeting. If you don’t already have a copy, please see a copy of the critique guidelines (Word versionpdf version). Also, just as a reminder, Romy Natalia Goldberg will be talking about characters for the first part of the June 10 meeting. Natalia is the current regional advisor (RA) of Brazos Valley SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), and she has helped with TEENS Publish before. Molly will be joining us closer to the end of the June 10 meeting to talk about character pitfalls. I emailed Zoom meeting information to people, so if you didn’t get a Zoom link (or meeting ID and password), please email me and I’ll send it to you again.

2020 First Virtual Meeting

Thank you teens for participating in our virtual TEENS Publish program (and thanks parents for letting them). Our first meeting was on June 3, and everyone registered for the program showed up. (Yay!) At the first meeting, participants wrote a 2-sentence bio and did 5-minute free writes for their story idea, protagonist, antagonist, and setting. People also either read a sample of their writing or discussed their story idea and got input from other people. With the Zoom format, people wanting to make a comment “raise their hand” and are called upon to unmute and give feedback (or type it into the chat window).

If you have not already done so, you need to send your bio to Molly and Kendra (put Teens Publish bio and your name in the subject heading). For next time (June 10), you should watch some videos from Molly’s TEENS Publish playlist on Yahoo, especially “What makes a hero?” which is the one she was talking about yesterday. In case you couldn’t pull up the critique guidelines, I’m putting them here so you can view or download (Word version, pdf version). Write 500 words for next time. If you have stuff saved on your computer and can share your screen, that would be good. Another option would be to take a picture of your writing (whether typed or handwritten, hopefully with good handwriting if handwritten) and drop the picture into the chat in order to let other people see it. Molly will probably have a video up by the end of the weekend for you to watch. If it’s not on the same playlist, I’ll email you a link. In case you want to rewatch the prewriting video that we sent out before the first meeting, here is Molly’s pre-writing video. Also, for those who asked, 3000 words (12 pages) is the maximum for your final manuscript; there’s not a specific minimum.