Monthly Archives: November 2015

Literary Agents Representing Young Adult Fiction

Are you writing a Young Adult novel? Have you finished a Young Adult novel, and are now looking for an agent to secure a book deal and get that manuscript on to shelves?’s AgentInbox has agents that specialize in Young Adult/Juvenile fiction. Go here to see the full list of the agents on AgentInbox.

Here are a few of the YA agents and their perspective on the genre.

Susanna Einstein, LJK Literary Management: Susanna has worked in publishing since 1995 and is one of the founding agents at LJK. In an interview with Guide to Literary Agents, Susanna explained her attraction to YA books:“The opportunity to be involved in that process where kids and teens discover their own favorite books is one that I couldn’t pass up. And there’s a joy and creativity in the children’s/YA market that is less present, or at least less visible, in the adult market.  I also think, perhaps naïvely, that there’s a sense of purpose, of good work being done, in finding and selling books that young people will want to read, and that’s important to me.”

Check out Susanna’s WEbook profile.


Mollie Glick, Foundry Literary + Media: Mollie began her publishing career as a literary scout, advising foreign publishers regarding the acquisition of rights to American books. She then worked as an editor at Random House before becoming an agent. When asked what qualities she looks for in a first-time YA author, Mollie said:

“I really enjoy learning something new with every project I take on. And really, what I’m looking for in anything I take on is the same. I’m looking for a book with a unique voice. I’m looking for a great plot and great characters that convey a bigger idea. And I’m looking for a book I can’t put down.” 

You can see Mollie’s WEbook profile here, or check out one of her best known clients’ book, Promise of the Wolves.


 Tamar Rydzinski, Laura Dail Literary Agency: Tamar worked at Sanford J. Greenburger Associates prior to joining the Laura Dail Literary Agency. She is also one of the honorable PageToFame Judges. In a guest blog post at Magical Musings, Tamar talked a bit about her experience representing YA:

“When I started [as an agent], I had never read anything but very literary young adult novels. Now I can’t get enough of them, and I am not talking about the literary stuff. I never would have thought that I would be representing fantasy as it wasn’t a genre I had grown up reading. And that’s the beautiful thing about publishing and books in general. There is just so much learning, exploring and discovery available.”

To learn more about Tamar, check out the PageToFame Judges video.


Writing Dialogue

by Elizabeth Rose

Part one

My favorite part of writing, believe it or not, is the dialogue. While many authors may feel this is a challenging aspect in their novel, I, instead look forward to the dialogue as I let my characters write the book themselves. Personally, I think dialogue can make or break a story. Here are some tips I’ve discovered that may help you with yours.

First off, don’t be afraid to use dialogue. After all, what would a story be that had only narration? Pretty boring, right? The editors will be looking for those white spaces on the pages that only dialogue provides. Without dialogue, I think a reader would be too intimidated to even pick up the novel and start reading. Face it – today most readers want a fast read. Who has the time to spend months reading one book? Narration slows down the pace of story, dialogue gets things moving. If your story starts to sag in the middle – why not add a bit more dialogue and speed things up?

Dialogue is a great tool for many aspects of writing.

1) creating a great hook

2) creating characterization

3) condensing long passages of back story

4) to show instead of tell

5) injecting a bit of humor

There are many more, but let’s explore these five ways to use dialogue.

Creating a good hook

There’s nothing more appealing than a book that gives you a first sentence of dialogue so intriguing, that you can’t put it down. Why start the novel with a paragraph of narration that only describes the setting, gives back story or simply introduces or describes a character? I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, only that sometimes, a line of creative dialogue can hook the reader faster than any other way.

For example: In Laura Renken’s, My Lord Pirate, she starts out with, “Draw no blood, men. Remember, this is to be a wedding party.”

She sets up a situation, draws the reader in, and makes you want to read on. The reader wonders – who is this speaking? Why would he/she even have to mention drawing blood, and whose wedding party are they at? They obviously sound like they’re up to no good, but why? And what are they planning to do?

Another example would be something like: “Release the girl, or I’ll be forced to kill you.” Or how about “I’m sorry Ms. Jones, but your actions have just given me reason to fire you.”

So you see, you capture the reader’s attention, get them thinking, asking questions, and then keep them reading to find out more.


An excellent way to let your readers know about your characters is through their speech. When dialogue is used properly, it should define your characters so thoroughly that if you took off all the tags of Jake said, or Daisy whispered, we would still know who was talking.

For example, in my Greek myth fantasy romance, Kyros’ Secret, one of the main characters is Ares, God of War. With a line like this, one doesn’t wonder who is speaking.

“Just once is all you need to kill and then the rage and glory of war will be imbedded upon your soul. Just once is all you need to feel the triumph of power over your mother’s weak blood that flows through your veins.”

With my heroine being the daughter of the god of war and goddess of love, it is easy to characterize her parents through dialogue alone. We can see through Ares’ speech that he is a ruthless man who thrives on war. Just from these two sentences, we learn that he wants his daughter to be a warrior like him, and that he thinks love only weakens a person, obviously having done so himself or he wouldn’t have coupled with the goddess of love in the first place. The struggle of good/bad is obvious, and his pull to sway his daughter down his path.

Many manuscripts are rejected from editors just because they don’t find the characters’ dialogue believable. Another way to add to your characters’ special way of talking would be if they spoke with accents. An Irish brogue or a Scottish burr flags that character right off the bat as unique. Unless, of course, every character in the book spoke with the same accent. But even then, you can single them out by the way they think and put their words into sentences. Let me use another example to get this point across.

In My Lord Pirate, Ms. Renken has a very interesting secondary character named Parrot. This character speaks Cockney, obviously having had a rough life and having grown up in a seedy part of town as seen by the dialogue.

“Oi ain’t no bugger slave. ’Sides, the cap, he says fer me not ta coddle ya, being ’is prisoner ’an all.”

So through the use of dialogue we learn Parrot is independent, stubborn, proud, but yet has a bit of nurturing down deep, but doesn’t want to show it, therefore using the captain as the excuse not to. The sense of loyalty to the captain is seen through the dialogue as well.

Condensing Back Story

Instead of using narration to tell tons of back story, let your characters do it for you through dialogue. It makes it much more interesting, plus it gives the characters a chance to develop.

For example, in my book Eden’s Garden, I combine a bit of narration with the use of dialogue of Eden Ramirez, the heroine, and her dying father to tell of their relationship.

“Papa . . . don’t die,” Eden said in her native tongue.

She took his large hand in hers and rubbed it softly against her cheek. He was so unlike the hardened professor who had come from the States year after year to study the Incan ruins of Machu Pichhu, hoping to find some uncovered truth or hidden treasure of the ancient culture that was destroyed so many years ago.

“I wanted to marry your mother – really,” he whispered through his ragged breathing. “I’m sorry. I wish I could have been the father you needed.”

Even if you didn’t know Eden was half Peruvian and lived far from her American father, you could see the distance of their past in their words. Her words show us she has feelings for him and doesn’t want to lose him. His words show most the back story. We find out he has never married her mother, he’s sorry about, and obviously had feelings for the woman, but something didn’t work out. He knows he hasn’t been a good father or there for his daughter, and we see his guilt as well. So, in just a few sentences, we find out what may have taken a page to tell about the back story.

Use dialogue To Show Instead Of Tell

Use your dialogue to show what you want to tell the reader. Instead of coming out and saying it with narration, let your characters do it for you. It’s more interesting, plus it’ll give the characters time to interact.

Eden Reed does a fine job of this in this next passage from her book, The Valley of Hemlock.

“There are other residents in the house, aren’t there?”

The corner of his mouth lifted in a wry smile at my obvious concern for my virtue. “Yes, there are other ‘residents’. There are two in the physical sense: a cook and a housekeeper. But I’m not sure how many actual ‘residents’ roam the halls.”

“Are you trying to tell me that this house is haunted?” I was beginning to tire of people trying to scare me.

His features turned hard again without warning. “That is the rumor.”

“If you’re trying to frighten me, sir, you are wasting your time. I no more believe in ghosts than in flying pigs. So if you are finished, I’d like to retire. As you’ve been so gracious in allowing me to stay the night, I’d like to spend the rest of it sleeping.”

“My intent is not to frighten you Miss Barlow only to persuade you. I would still prefer that you move to a different room.”

Here we find out that Boothe House is said to be haunted. Ms. Reed has shown us the mystery as well as a bit of danger in her hero. We know that he wants her to move to another room and will even revert to scaring the heroine if he has to, to do it. He has a secret there to protect that he obviously doesn’t want her to discover. The heroine’s dialogue shows us that she is feisty and not afraid to stand up to anyone. We see her strength, as well as her practicality, and her boldness to those who try to manipulate her. There’s a sense of formality to both their words, so the respect for each other is still evident, but yet we sense obstinate behavior from both of them.

So instead of Ms. Reed telling us that her heroine is tough and practical, and her hero cunning but yet still direct, she’s shown us.

Injecting Humor

The last aspect of using dialogue I’m going to mention for now, is using it to add a bit of humor into your story. This is a great way to show the playfulness or personality of a lighthearted character. Or perhaps even a normally dark character who has a spirited side to him.

In The Valley of Hemlock, I find this passage a good example. The hero has just found the heroine snooping around in the fireplace.

“I don’t believe we’ve met. Cinderella, isn’t it?”

. . . Mortification was too mild a word. Maybe if I could just crawl up the chimney.

“You’ll never make it,” Eric read my mind. “You’ll get stuck about half way up. I’ll have a devil of a time trying to get you out, not to mention, ruining a perfectly good suit.”

“Do you always spy on people?” I asked in irritation.

“I wasn’t spying. I was merely walking in the door when I heard a barrage of curses. I didn’t realize you possessed such a colorful vocabulary.”

My palette had only just begun.

“Are you going to come out of there or do you plan on spending the rest of the day in the ashes?” he inquired.

“I was hoping maybe you’d go away.”

“Not likely. At least, not until you tell me what you’re doing in there. Can’t find your glass slipper?”

“You know how slippery glass is. I’m forever leaving it behind,” I said, backing out of the fireplace carrying a heaping pile of cinders with me. A section of broken glass, the size of a petite shoe rolled out. I lifted it with a shrug. “Posh! The wrong size.”

This is a way to break up a story that may normally be serious throughout. Here, we see the playfulness and attraction each of the characters has for each other. Though the time period suggests they are still very formal to each other, we see their resolves caving in as they weaken and have a bit of fun in an uncomfortable situation. They both let down their guards and we get a glimpse into their true selves.

Using these five ways, dialogue can work for you, not against you in creating your novel.


Part two

To continue our discussion on dialogue, in part two I’d like to add to the five methods of using dialogue I’ve mentioned earlier. Two other ways to use dialogue with a purpose would be to:

*Creating a mood, or tone of the story

*Give the reader a sense of setting

Creating the Mood

Lissa Michaels creates the tone of her story, Captive Hearts, by using her characters’ dialogue in the beginning of the story to convey a message.

Morgan walked over to the desk and flipped on the viewscreen. His brother’s smiling face appeared.

“Where in the three phases of hell have you been?”

Galen sputtered, his face flushing. “We delivered all the missives, then picked up the trade goods we’d ordered, Morg, it was great! The broker got everything we requested. I managed to get two cases of Folian brandy for you and a water crib for Sabina and Boyan’s baby, and –“


He flinched. “We were so close to Pleasara, and Hastin said we had time to –“

“Hastin!” Morgan swore. “I should have known. Here I’ve been worried sick you were taken by the Jotnar, and you were rolling around in some whore’s bed.”


“I didn’t send you out on a pleasure cruise, blast it. Don’t you know how dangerous it is for us? You get in, do your business, and get out. There’s no time for anything else.”

“I know, but – “

Morgan turned his back on his brother, effectively cutting off Galen’s excuses. “I shouldn’t have let you go.”

Here, Ms. Michaels has set the tone of urgency and danger of the mission. Morgan’s anger, as well as concern for his brother shows that family ties run deep, a great setup to possibly be used against him later. While Galen is triumphant of his little shopping trip and trying to impress his brother, Morgan’s dominance sets the tone to let the reader know he is the boss. We feel danger through his words, anxiousness, intrigue with a sense of fear at his mention of the Jotnar, and we know that this story will hold action, suspense, and an obvious encounter with the dreaded Jotnar later on.

Dialogue that is cut off, as we’ve just seen conveys a sense of urgency. Morgan felt the need to speak before his brother was finished. Action speeds up with the shorter dialogue, and will slow down with long passages. To keep it believable, watch that your dialogue conveys your tone through its length as well.

Sense of Time and Setting

Use your dialogue to remind readers of which time and place your story is set. Every time period has its slang, but be careful to use it correctly. Normally, the farther back in date you go, the more formal the speech was. Contractions are seen more in modern day novels. Make sure you do your research to insure proper words for proper times.

Dialogue can convey if your story is a pirate novel, a medieval set in England, or a western.

In this passage of Rawhide Surrender, by Elysa Hendricks, the dialogue gives you no doubt this is a western.

Disgust thickened KC’s words. “Red Buffalo is a slimy snake who’d slit your throat as quick as he’d swat a fly.”

“But such a pretty snake, so lean, so tall, so strong.” Carmelita gave an exaggerated sigh of longing. “He could make Carmelita’s heart beat fast.”

“He could make Carmelita’s heart stop beating.,” KC muttered, never taking her eyes off the riders. They stopped at the cantina, the logical place if they had it in mind to do some trading.. . .

“This Red Buffalo, I think I might be available if he wants a woman.” Carmelita stepped out of the barn.

KC snagged the woman by the arm and hauled her back.

“You’re crazy as a coot. Look at them, woman, they’re savages, fresh off the warpath. They’d eat you alive.”

Here we get a feel of the setting, just by the characters and the words they use.

When trying to convey a thought – such as someone asking another what is bothering them, make sure it sounds convincing. While modern day dialogue may say “what’s up?” a medieval may read “what takes your concern, my lord?”

If you want to find out if a word was in use for the time period you’re writing in, you can use references such as Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary or The Dictionary of Etymology: The origins of American English words.

What NOT To Do

When writing dialogue, there are ways to use it that can actually backfire on your work.. You may want to avoid these, as they can only weaken a story.


*Idle Chatter



By being redundant, you not only aggravate the reader, but slow down the flow of the story. If we know there are only two people in a scene, you don’t need to tag every bit of dialogue. That’s why we start a new paragraph each time a new person speaks.

Let me give an example:

“Listen,” said Maria. “I think I hear something.”

“You’re being ridiculous,” John grumbled.

“Don’t call me ridiculous, Maria snapped. “If you just listen, you’ll hear the noise too.”

“Maria,” John said with a grin, “you are still afraid of the dark after all these years, aren’t you?”

After the first two sentences, we know who is speaking. We really don’t need the tags in the last two sentences, nor do we need to have John say Maria’s name. We already know he’s speaking to her.

A better way to write it would be:

“Listen.” Maria stilled John with her hand on his arm. (Here’s an action, mentioning both characters, instead of a tag.) “I think I hear something.”

“You’re being ridiculous.” John brushed her hand away with a laugh.

“I’m not!” (No need to repeat the word ridiculous again)

“You’re still afraid of the dark after all these years, aren’t you?”

Idle Chatter

One of my biggest pet peeves is when a conversation goes nowhere and says nothing. Make sure you use all your dialogue for a purpose. Avoid small chat such as introductions that take up pages, or telephone calls that say:

“Hello?” said Susie, speaking into the receiver.

“Hello,” answered her good friend, Mable.

“How are you?” Susie’s voice perked up at hearing the voice of her friend she hadn’t seen in a while.

“I’m good, how about you?” answered Mable.

“I’m doing okay,” sighed Susie, “ but I’ve been a bit tired.”

“Yeah, I think this weather has everyone tired and depressed,” Mable agreed.

Get to the point quickly, and try to keep the reader’s interest in the plot at hand. Do you really need to go through small talk that no reader cares about? Ask yourself this, and cut to the chase, while keeping the pace of the story.

In other words, instead of the above passage, why not just simplify it?

Tired and depressed, Susie picked up the phone, surprised to hear the voice of her good friend Mable.

“Mable, it’s been so long since we’ve talked.”

“Yes, I know. But I just had to call to let you know I’m getting married.”

This corrected version cuts to the chase, and still lets us know with a few simple lines that they are old friends who haven’t seen each other in awhile. We know Mable’s reason for calling, and we aren’t bogged down with idle chatter that doesn’t move the story forward.


By forecasting in the narration, we lose the impact of hearing something through dialogue. A simple example:

Ginny jumped in surprise when a man stepped out from behind the bushes. She was so scared that she bit her tongue. Fear was the only thing keeping her from running, until she recognized Mark.

“You scared me to death, Mark. I even bit my tongue! Don’t ever do that again.”

We don’t need to hear her relate something we’ve already had forecast in the previous line. Instead, a better version would be:

Ginny’s heart leaped into her throat at the site of a man in the bushes. The taste of blood kept her frozen to the spot. Then she recognized the dark figure. (We don’t need to say it’s Mark here – save that for the dialogue. We mention the taste of blood, and that’s enough for now.)

“Mark!” she gasped. “You scared me and made me bite my tongue. Don’t ever do that again.”

Also, you’ll want to avoid telling backstory through dialogue in a way that sounds like it’s only put there for the reader.

“You remember Roxy, don’t you?” asked Jill.

“Roxy,” repeated Tess. “Isn’t she the one who ran away with her best friend’s husband?”

“Right after she was the maid of honor at Debbie and Jake’s wedding,” added Jill.

“And then she jumped off a cliff because she was so ashamed of what she did?”

“Exactly. Only she survived, and her best friend Debbie was the doctor who saved he life..”

Instead, we can weave the information into the conversation without sounding as if we’re trying to fill the reader in on something.

Like this:

“Roxy isn’t easy to forget,” said Jill.

Tess nodded her head. “If she was my best friend, I never would have saved her from her fall the way Debbie stepped in as if she hadn’t betrayed her.”

“Debbie is a doctor. She puts her job above personal problems, that’s what I always liked about her.”

“True,” agreed Tess. “Any woman who could put aside the fact her patient stole her husband, and go about saving her patient’s life anyway deserves a reward.”

Hopefully, with these tips you can make your dialogue sparkle and work for you, not against you.


The Man Behind the Curtain: L. Frank Baum and the Wizard of Oz

by Linda McGovern


L. Frank Baum

Chances are you have seen the 1939 MGM movie, The Wizard of Oz, at one point or another in your lifetime. But the chances maybe even greater that you do not associate it with L. Frank Baum, the author of the book on which the film was based. In fact, most people have probably never heard of him at all unless they have read his work or were born around the time when he was popular. Whether it is shown on television annually or rented at the local video store, The Wizard of Oz has become a staple of American popular culture. Young or old, we know where the famous, unforgettable lines originate; we know the characters by heart: Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, as well as the munchkins. Oz is as familiar as our own backyards.

Although the movie and the book differ in minor ways, the premise is similar and so are most of the characters. The only significant difference, that might matter to a child and possibly to an adult, is that in the movie, Dorothy’s journey to Oz is only a dream, purely imaginary, in other words, not real. In the book, however, there is no such rationale. Instead it invites the child to use his or her imagination as a creative, transforming force and to accept the journey, and Oz as a real place full of hope over the rainbow, where the child could escape ordinary life. Baum believed in the power of the imagination in the child. Oz really existed if only we believed it did.

After reading The Wizard of Oz, I was completely intrigued by the book as I was by the movie. It was like revisiting an old friend. Oddly however, for several years the book was considered controversial and was banned from the shelves of various libraries across the country because librarians felt it did not qualify as important juvenile literature, a sentiment which has been refuted over time. It has been criticized for its simple language and themes and was no doubt written stylistically for a child to comprehend. However, as in most fairy tales, there is room for the reader to interpret beyond the black and white on the page. What is it about The Wizard of Ozthat makes it so special, so enduring? I guess MGM couldn’t have said it any better, “Time has been powerless to put its kindly philosophy out of fashion.” 1

Do we know who stands behind this classic and how it came to be? Have we ever heard of L. Frank Baum or his life story? As one might expect, L. Frank Baum was a fascinating person who had a wonderfully interesting life; an intricate journey of twists and turns, some good and some bad, perhaps metaphorically similar to his characters’ journey through Oz. The Wizard of OZ has been one of my all time favorite movies, to which I believe I am not alone.With this impetus, I wanted to discover who was “The Wizard of OZ,” the man behind the curtain, by shedding some light on the shadow cast upon L. Frank Baum by the film his work inspired.

Born Lyman Frank Baum in 1856, just east of Syracuse in Chittenango, NY. He never used his first name since he preferred Frank. A rather sickly child who was both timid and shy, he kept to himself and made up imaginary places and playmates since he had to refrain from any kind of strenuous exercise due to his faulty, weak heart. Throughout Frank’s life, his health was a constant impediment, which became a looming presence and a major controlling factor. Although, it never impeded his creativity, drive and talent.

When Frank was about 5 years old, his father, Benjamin Baum, struck it rich in the oil business, and the family moved to Rose Lawn Estate, a country home near Chittenango. Rose Lawn was an idyllic place for young Frank to grow up. He was very happy there except for the constant reminder of his heart condition. It is possible that young Frank developed his creative side more than most since he was not allowed to play physically like other children his age. It is reasonable to assume that the foundations for his storytelling sensibilities were laid and nurtured during this time. Frank read fairy tales and British writers voraciously, and he especially enjoyed Dickens. But even at his young age, he criticized the fairy tales that were frightening and horrifying, “I demanded fairy stories when I was a youngster, and I was a critical reader too. One thing I never liked then, and that was the introduction of witches and goblins into the story. I didn’t like the little dwarfs in the woods bobbing up with their horrors.”2 These fairy stories contributed to his nightmares or perhaps it was his overly active imagination. Frank made the decision that he would write a different kind of fairy tale.

Because of Frank’s dreamer-like qualities, his parents sent him away to a strict military school to rid him of his fanciful demeanor. This decision was not a wise one, for it did not curb his whimsical nature but instead resulted in his suffering a heart attack or a nervous breakdown (it is not clear which). Frank had always been home schooled prior to this experience. He did not like Peekskill Military School at all and it is understandable since he was not accustomed to such strict, regimented schedules and physical punishment. His parents finally allowed Frank to withdraw from Peekskill after they realized the negative effect it had on him and his health. His parents then began to nurture Frank’s creative interests.

Frank’s initial attempt at writing and publishing was in his own small newspaper called The Rose Lawn Home Journal. His father bought him a small printing press after he showed an interest in a larger, more commercial one. He was fifteen years old when he began this paper with his younger brother Harry, and he took his writing abilities seriously. The newspaper contained articles, editorials, fiction, poetry, and word games. The Rose Lawn Home Journal did well and some of the local stores bought advertisement space for their services. In 1873, Frank started a new paper called The Empire as well as The Stamp Collector, a magazine not surprisingly for stamp collectors.

Early on Frank demonstrated his resourcefulness, drive and creativity. Throughout his life, he was always productive with his time and energy and was never idle. Frank always had many interests and one of them was tending chickens. With the help of his father and brother Harry, he began to breed Hamburgs, small colorful birds which were popular at the time and they soon won awards. Frank then began a new magazine called The Poultry Record. His first book was published in 1886 and was called The Book of Hamburgs, A Brief Treatise upon the Mating, Rearing, and Management of the Different Varieties of Hamburgs.

Throughout his life, Frank’s interests were varied and he did well at most things he attempted. His most influential interest was the theatre, which developed in his teens and loved and supported throughout his life. He took acting seriously and viewed it as an art. “When he went to plays, he studied actors’ techniques. He memorized passages from Shakespeare, and then, with money from his father, he formed a Shakespearean troupe.”3 As a young man, he entertained the thought that his career was to be an actor. He finally got a taste of the stage with Albert M. Palmer’s Union Square Theater in New York. Frank took the pen names of Louis F. Baum and George Brooks. Benjamin Baum, his father, who owned a string of opera houses in New York and Pennsylvania, must have seen his son’s enthusiasm and love of the theatre, for he made him the manager of them in 1880 and eventually they were given to him after he proved himself worthy. After whetting his thirst for the theatre and seeing what delighted the audiences, Frank set to work on writing original plays. His play The Maid of Arran immediately became a success, “The script, music, and lyrics were all from the name that the playwright now used for theatrical purposes. It was based on a novel, A Princess of Thule, by the Scottish novelist, William Black.” 4 Frank was the leading man and the manager of the company for The Maid of Arran. This was Baum’s first major literary work. Overall, the reviews were very positive and this spark ignited the flame of passion for the theatre.

It was while Frank was home on holiday that he met the other love of his life, Maud Gage. Through his sister Harriet’s persistence, Frank agreed to meet Maud at a party. She was still at Cornell University while Frank was with The Maid of Arran Company. After the holiday season came to a close, Maud left to go back to school to the admiration of other male suitors and Frank stayed with the Company. Maud came from a prosperous family who lived in Fayetteville, NY. Maud’s mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was a nationally known feminist and her father was a dry-goods merchant. It is interesting to note, that Matilda worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in her later years. It was in the Gage home that these three women wrote History of Woman Suffrage published in four volumes from 1881 to 1902.

Baum  later recalled his feelings after meeting Maud, “…my show had some free time between bookings. At every opportunity I returned to Syracuse, borrowed a horse and buggy from father, and drove the eight miles to Fayetteville.”5 Frank began courting Maud soon after meeting her. Maud’s mother was not thrilled by Frank for he seemed rather flighty, a dreamer type and she thought him an unstable match for her daughter. However, against the wishes of her mother Maud and Frank were married on November 9th, 1882. Maud went along with Frank and the Company on tour with The Maid of Arran. They lived a nomadic existence while touring. However, when Maud became pregnant with their first child, they settled down and rented a home in Syracuse.

Baum found a new leading man to take his place and trained a new company manager. Maud soon took over the family finances and the role of disciplinarian, for it was known that these were not Frank’s strong suits. In many respects, Frank and Maud were exact opposites. She was headstrong, strong willed and temperamental. Frank, on the other hand, was low key, optimistic, even-tempered and whimsical. For Baum, “Years of living in the shadow of a heart ailment had taught him to avoid upsets that might bring on an attack.”6 Maud was raised in a much stricter environment and appeared to have had her way with her parents, and was spoiled in a certain respect. “Maud Baum often mentioned that peace and harmony had always graced her home, but those who knew the family best felt that this was true only because Frank, from the time of their marriage until his death thirty seven years later, allowed her to have her own way with the household, the children, and the family purse.”7  Whatever their secret formula was to a happy marriage, it seemed their opposite natures were a good combination.

During this time, Frank’s health was less than perfect, Baum had suffered one heart attack shortly before his marriage, and in the summer of 1883, his uncertain health was indicated by nausea and dizzy spells. Once settled in Syracuse, Baum worked in sales for the family business. In 1884, trouble hit with full force, Frank’s uncle who was the manager of the theatrical establishment, became quite ill and a bookkeeper was hired to replace his absence. There was major mismanagement of the funds and by the time Frank’s uncle was ready to go back to work, the bookkeeping was so illegible that it was impossible for them to make an audit. During the time of the investigation, the bookkeeper conveniently disappeared. Everything suffered but again Frank managed to stay afloat by working as head salesman in the family Castorine Business. Shortly after Frank’s father died, the family fortune began to wane. During this time, Frank was preoccupied with his own fragile health and hectic sales schedule, Maud having their second son, and the failing health of Uncle Doc who handled the business finances. The business was left in the hands of a clerk. Ironically and sadly, again their money was swindled from them, gambled away while the bills went unpaid and they lost everything. “In the Spring of 1888 Baum returned to Syracuse early one morning from a sales trip and went directly to the office. He unlocked the door, entered, and was stunned to find the clerk sprawled across the deskÃ?¢??dead. The revolver with which he had shot himself was still in hand.”8 Forced to sell the business, Frank and Maud decided (at Maud’s suggestion) to move out West to the Dakota territory where “Western Fever” was the talk of the day. Many families were migrating and Maud’s relatives were no different. This may have been another factor in their decision besides the hope of economic possibilities. In Aberdeen, Frank operated a general store that he named “Baum’s Bazaar” which he rented for a few years. The store opened on October 1, 1888 and it sold a variety of goods from tableware, household goods, tinware, and lamps to toys and candy. There were always plenty of children around the store for they liked to listen to Frank tell them stories of faraway places and enchanted lands. “The Bazaar always was crowded with youngsters after school . Some bought a penny’s worth of candy or ice cream. Many came to hear stories that Baum could be persuaded to tell.”9 Unfortunately, due to the terrible drought in 1888 the customers had no money to buy anything, and because of Baum’s friendly demeanor and compassion for his neighbors, he couldn’t deny them their necessities and as a result, the Baums were nearly bankrupt. In 1890, the bank foreclosed on “Baum’s Bazaar.” Frank never lost hope and never relinquished his creativity and resourcefulness. Soon after, he began a new position managing a weekly newspaper called The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. He sold advertisements, set the type, ran the press, and wrote. It seemed the skills he acquired as a boy came in handy. In the paper he wrote about all sorts of social events. Unfortunately, however, and to his discredit, it also included editorials that had disparaging racial comments and illustrated an intolerant attitude towards Native American Indians during their conflicts with the government. Nonetheless, it was a well liked paper but the scarce Dakota years got the best of him and in 1891 Frank lost the Pioneer to bankruptcy. He reportedly responded by saying, “I decided the sheriff wanted the paper more than I.”10

Throughout his lifetime, Frank genuinely loved children and they adored him. He never stopped believing in the creative powers of the imagination. While working at the paper, he would see his truly faithful story listeners, “Often, as Baum would walk down the streets of Aberdeen on his rounds for news and advertising, he would be stopped by children demanding a story. He would sit down on the edge of the dusty wooden sidewalk and spin one of his yarns of magic countries.”11 These children forecasted his future; they saw the genius of a storyteller he would become.

Baum’s future was in the Midwest (at least for a while) and he decided that moving onward a second time was the smartest choice, and he was right. Through these tough economic years, Baum remained optimistic which could not have been easy at the time. In 1893, Chicago had the World Columbian Exposition so it seemed a logical place to try to find employment. Frank first took a position as a reporter for the Evening Post but the pay was so slight he instead he worked as a traveling salesman for a china company, Pitkin and Brooks. During the weeks that Maud and Frank were apart, Maud’s mother, Matilda, would stay with her and help out. On several occasions, Matilda would over hear her son-in-law telling the children stories and though she wasn’t always thrilled by Frank, she always admired and encouraged his storytelling abilities. She told him that he should write these stories down and publish them. Whenever Frank was home with the family, “he would recite to the boys’ favorite Mother Goose Rhymes. They would ask him, for instance, how blackbirds baked in a pie could later come out and sing and got what Harry remembered as a satisfactory answer. Often neighborhood friends of the older boys would drop in for the storytelling hour.”12 Storytelling was a natural gift Baum possessed. He had the ability to capture the imagination of children and to create worlds of timelessness in his stories. Baum states in the introduction to The Lost Princess of Oz, “Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine, and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreamsÃ?¢??day dreams with your eyes wide openÃ?¢??are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. A prominent educator tells me that fairy tales are of untold value in developing imagination in the young. I believe it.” 13 While traveling, Frank would never ignore his creative muse but instead would continue to write while in hotel rooms on the backs of scrap paper or anything available.

While in Chicago, Baum kept in contact with the Chicago Press Club of his former newspaper days and mentioned to a popular novelist, Opie Read, about his writings on Mother Goose stories and that he was looking for a publisher. Through Opie Read, he met Chancey L. Williams of Way & Williams Publishing. With illustrator Maxfield Parrish, Baum’s Mother Goose Stories became Mother Goose in Prose in1897.Also during this time, Frank’s health began to fail and he had nasal hemorrhages, and terrible chest pains. He saw a heart specialist who advised him to find a more sedentary job, rather than a traveling lifestyle. His vice of smoking cigars, throughout his life, probably didn’t help his fragile health but he did not relinquish them.

The Show Window, a monthly trade magazine that Baum started five years after leaving Pitkin and Brooks, was the next of Baum’s creative ventures that actually did very well and which he kept until 1902 when it was sold. His days with the “Baum Bazaar” and his time at Pitkin and Brooks as a salesman had given him a keen eye for window design. As boring and as flat as window trimming and decorating may sound to some, Baum was able to liven it up, “by publishing short stories by Stanley Waterloo and Gardner C. Teall, and by writing himself about the values of window advertising in specific trades.”14  Being an editor of a magazine now gave Baum more time to frequent the Press Club than when he was a traveling salesman. Through his friend Opie Read, he met William W. Denslow or “Den” and from then on his life would never be the same. Denslow was described as being serious and gruff, quite the opposite of Baum and years later their contradictory personalities were, in many respects, the downfall of their relationship. Denslow sported a large walrus moustache and was known to wear a beautiful red vest that he liked to show off while at the Baum home. Denslow and Baum worked together often and Denslow would visit Baum at his home drawing pictures to fit the verse. Their first official venture together was Father Goose, His Book,published in 1899,and it was an immediate success, becoming the best selling children’s book ofthe year. The Tribune reported in June, 1900, that “Father Goose, His Book last year achieved the record of having the largest sale of any juvenile in America.”15 Baum had finally hit it just right and all the previous experiences of his many professions made it all the sweeter. But the best news was when Pitkin, whom Baum had worked for, stated, “that fellow Baum who worked for us is the author of a book that is selling like hot cakes.”16  It was so popular, that it spurred the Songs of Father Goose, in which some of the verses were put to music. The combination of Baum’s verses and Denslow’s illustrations were the perfect mixture to please a child, which was Baum’s original purpose. The Baums were able to spend several summers at Macatawa Park, Michigan, a resort along the shore of Lake Michigan, because of the proceeds of Father Goose, His Book. They bought a summer cottage that Frank named “The Sign of the Goose.” Inside the cottage Frank made all the furniture by hand: large rocking chairs, a grandfather’s clock, a small bookcase, as well as other creations. Baum was so much a part of his work and his work so much a part of him that he engraved and stenciled geese into some of the woodwork, as well as into a stained glass window. This was a hobby he took up after recovering from an attack of facial paralysis. Interestingly, later Baum would name their dog Toto and their home in California Ozcot, after his most notable work The Wizard of Oz.

Baum also did some writing there, as well as relaxing. But he was certainly never without something to do, for he was very involved in the community social life as well. Frank wrote a book about Macatawa in 1907,entitled Tamawaca Folks A Summer Comedy which was considered an unfavorable account by some.

The Baum Denslow team would produce the most lasting and popular piece of work, The Wizard of Oz. The most worthy and notable of Baum’s creations was the story of Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the other inhabitants of Oz, which not surprisingly, began as a story told to some of the young children in the neighborhood, as well as to his own children. Baum’s moment of inspiration came when he broke up the storytelling hour so he could write down the magical story he knew he must note for safe keeping. He wrote out the story longhand and attached the pencil he used to the draft itself that was titled, “The Emerald City.” It was only because of the negative reaction he received from his publisher, the Hill Company, that the title was eventually changed, for they had some superstitious notion against a book with a jewel in its title and they would not publish it. So after some reworking, after several titles lacking the vitality that Baum wanted to capture, he finally came up with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Baum early on had wanted to write a new kind of fairy tale because of the frightening themes he remembered as a child. “Before Baum there were few fairy tales written by Americans. There were, of course, the fairy tales of Howard Pyle and Frank Stockton. The American child had to look to Great Britain for his tales of fantasy”17It has been suggested that Baum never totally created a purely American fairy tale for he did borrow ideas from the European tradition of using witches, and wizards and magical shoes etc. It is interesting to note that he used to have a recurrent nightmare about a scarecrow who chased him, yet he used the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz as a friendly companion of Dorothy’s.18

The Baum and Denslow team were to work together on a few more books and projects and only for a few years following their success from The Wizard of Oz. In 1902, they collaborated with Paul Tietjens and Julien Mitchell to produce an adult version of The Wizard of Oz as a musical stage play. It became a major success and toured the nation. It has been suggested that Denslow wanted his share of the royalties of the play and threatened a law suit even though he had nothing to do with it. It is not certain why Baum and Denslow split up but it has been suggested that there were several possible reasons, one being that neither Baum nor Denslow needed the other to prosper, now that each was known in their own right. Another reason is that there was also considerable rivalry about who was most responsible for the success of their books and they had large disagreements on this subject. Also, the failure of the Hill company made it logical for them to split as well. They were mainly just business partners; there was no loyalty to friendship, since they were very different people and had very different lifestyles. “They had different friends, different habits, and different ways of living. Denslow was quixotic and extrovertedÃ?¢??his sense of humor was upside down. He would carp and complain and grumble. The bohemian atmosphere of his studio, where his cronies gathered, was the center of his life. Baum, on the other hand, was quiet and spent most of his evenings at home.”20 As a result, their relationship did not end on good terms.

Baum went onto produce seventeen sequels to the Oz books since the reception of the first was so incredible. The first was The Marvelous Land of Oz. Children would send him letters constantly telling him how enjoyable The Wizard of Oz was and how they were delighted he wrote such a great story and would beg him to write more of them. But the Oz stories appealed to both young and old and he received fan mail from both. Baum stated, “My books are intended for all those whose hearts are young, no matter what their ages may be.” 21  It seems that Baum did not want to write as many sequels as he did, for he wanted to write other kinds of children’s books but the children’s requests were incessant.  He wrote other kinds of books under several different pen names mainly because he wanted to be remembered as the American author of fairy tales, and this way he could try other facets and not worry about their success and profit. There Frank could explore all sorts of themes, not just the happy place of Oz. There were several that claimed success but none would repeat the amount that The Wizard of Oz had. Aunt Jane’s Nieces became a very popular teenage series for girls that Baum wrote under the pen name of Edith Van Dyne. Baum always looked for ways to boost his income in those days. Financial success gave him not only a reputation but the comforts of life and the pleasures of traveling that he and Maud enjoyed so much.

Baum became known as the “Royal Historian of Oz” until his death when Ruth Plumly Thompson was chosen to take on this title and continue the tradition. In 1905, people could not get enough of Oz and a small newspaper called The Ozmapolitan was issued.

In 1908, Baum produced a traveling film show called the “Fairylogue and Radio Plays,” which did not achieve commercial success. Baum had left a great amount of debt to accumulate primarily as a result of the “Radio Plays.” Frank and Maud decided to leave Chicago and move to California to a home they called Ozcot. California was much more compatible with his failing health. Here Frank was very contented, writing constantly, and tending his garden. “At Ozcot, Baum, for the first time in his life could fall into a congenial monotony of routine.”22 He ate breakfast at a certain time, went to his garden to tend his blooms, wrote and revised in the afternoons, yet he also enjoyed golf and played the game on a consistent basis for a while, as well as playing the piano or a game in the evenings after dinner. Like most anything Baum ever ventured he succeeded at, and his garden was no different. “Baum soon made a name for himself as a grower and exhibitor of prize dahlias and chrysanthemums. His blooms won so many awards in strong competition in that land of flowers that he was often described as the champion amateur horticulturist of Southern California.”23

Baum courageously went on in the face of adversity. He never gave up easily and his horizon always seemed within his grasp. In a letter he wrote to one of his sons who was in WWI, “for I have lived long enough to learn that in life nothing adverse lasts very long. And it is true that as years pass, and we look back on something which, at that time, seemed unbelievably discouraging and unfair. The eventual outcome was, we discover, by far the best solution for us”25 Bedridden and in constant pain, he continued to write, propped up with pillows. Baum had to stop his beloved gardening, answering letters from devoted fans and basking in the California sunshine that proved it was not the magical elixir it was thought to be, like it might have been in a fairy tale he told; nothing could extend Baum’s fragile years. Like California, Oz was the seemingly perfect place. Glinda of Oz was the last of the Oz sequels and was published posthumously in 1920. On May 5th 1919, Frank lapsed into unconsciousness and spoke to Maud with his last thoughts. He wished for her to live in their home when he was gone where they had been so happy all those years. The next day, while in a semi-comatosestate, just before he died, Frank’s breathing became very erratic and unsteady and as he slipped from one world into the next, he managed to whisper to Maud, “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.”

His health had begun to fade, it had become quite a restriction and he soon was left immobile, restricted to minor tasks throughout the day. The pressure and strain of his health contributed to his attacks of angina pectoris, as well as the unpredictable, gall bladder problems, excruciating sharp pain jabs across his face of tic douloureux which were like seizures. “Although few traces of agony are detectable in his work, there were many times when the tears would stream from his eyes and wet the paper as he wrote.”24

His humble tombstone reads only, “L. Frank Baum 1856-1919” yet there was so much between those dates that children and adults still discover and rediscover when they open their hearts to the magic of imagination which was Baum’s pilot. With mixed emotions, I watched The Wizard of Oz again and wished that Baum could have known the impact his book had upon the world.



Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

Baum, Frank Joslyn and MacFall, Russell P.To Please A Child A Biography of L. Frank Baum Royal Historian of Oz Reilly & Lee Co. Chicago 1961.

Carpenter, Angelica Shirley and Shirley, Jean. L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz . Lerner Publications Co., Minneapolis: 1991.

Hearn, Michael Patrick. The Annotated Wizard of Oz Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. New York: 1973.

1 p. 133 To Please a Child

2 p. 14 The Royal Historian of Oz

3 p. 20 The Royal Historian of Oz

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10 p. 39 The Royal Historian of Oz

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13 p. 293 The Annotated Wizard of Oz

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17 p. 38 The Annotated Wizard of Oz

18 p.14 The Royal Historian of Oz

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Themes in Young Adult Novels

Other people may be more like us than we imagine. (The Borrowers)

Memories of friendship can last forever. (Bridge to Terabithia)

Defending a country requires loyality and sacrifice. (Camp X)

Every child is special to his or her family. (The Canada Geese Quilt)

Imagination can be a powerful weapon. (Cougar)

Jealousy can be destroying. (The Fairest)

The power of knowledge. (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler)

Feelings make human beings. (The Giver)

Self-reliance. (The Hatchet)

Sometimes we have to accept change even if we don’t want to. (Julie of the Wolves)

Beasts can show strong emotions too. (King Kong)

Some customs and traditions compel people to be dishonest. (The Kite Runner)

Thinking and analysing contribute to decision making. (The Lemming Condition)

Unity is a power. (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Orphans deserve parental love. (Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism)

Children can be brave. (Molly Moon Stops the World)

Divorce makes children miserable. (My Broken Family)

Families are the basis of life in societies. (The Orphan of Ellis Island)

War has ugly faces that make children miserable.(Parvana’s Journey)

Information leads to knowledge.(The Penultimate Peril)

Sometimes, you can save lives by being wise and clever. (Poppy)

Not everything in life comes without price. (Shiloh)

Different people can become friends. (Sign of the Beaver)

Sometimes, risky decisions yield their fruits. (Skybreaker)

Unfortunate person can sometimes become fortunate.(The Slippery Slope)

When there is a will there is a way. (Stone Fox)

Hatred has negative effects on people. (Weasel)

Fear can prevent us from helping others. (Wired)



In English, only two tenses are marked in the verb alone, present (as in “he sings”) and past (as in “he sang”). Other English language tenses are marked by words called auxiliaries.

Simple Present: They walk

Present Perfect: They have walked

Simple Past: They walked

Past Perfect: They had walked

Future: They will walk

Future Perfect: They will have walked

The most common auxiliaries are “be,” “can,” “do,” “may,” “must,” “ought,” “shall,” “will,” “has,” “have,” and “had.”


Present Perfect

The present perfect designates action which began in the past but which continues into the present.

1. June taught for ten years. (simple past)

2. June has taught for ten years. (present perfect)


Past Perfect

The past perfect tense designates action completed in the past before another action.

1. Mike bred puppies and later sold them. (past)

2. Mike sold puppies that he had bred. (past perfect)


Future Perfect

The future perfect tense designates action that will have been completed at a specified time in the future.

1. Saturday I will mow my lawn. (simple future)

2. By Saturday evening I will have mown my lawn. (future perfect)


How to Write a One-Page Synopsis

An important selling tool is the synopsis. For novels these can sometimes run many pages, but it’s also useful to have a shorter, one-page version, and it’s the primary selling tool if you are writing a screenplay. Try to aim for about 500 words.

A good rule of thumb is to only name three characters in a short synopsis – usually, the protagonist, antagonist, and possible love interest/side-kick/contagonist. All other characters should be referred to by their roles.

You must tell the ending! The purpose of a synopsis is to show an editor/agent you can tell a story from beginning to end.

Do not include subplots unless you have extra space. Stick to the main plot events.

Here are the elements you need, along with an example from Star Wars:

1. Opening image
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

2. Protagonist Intro
Who is the main character? Give 1-2 descriptive words and say what he/she wants.
Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland.

3. Inciting incident
What event/decision/change prompts the main character to take initial action.
When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

4. Plot point 1
What is the first turning point? What action does the MC take or what decision does he/she make that changes the book’s direction? Once he/she crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vadar – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

5. Conflicts & character encounters
Now in a new life, the MC meets new people, experiences a new life, and meets the antagonist/villain.
To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vadar’s home and the Empire’s main base.

6. Midpoint
What is the middle turning point? What happens that causes the MC to make a 360 degree change in direction/change in emotion/change in anything? Again, once he/she has crossed this line, there’s no going back.
Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

7. Winning seems imminent, but…
What happens that makes the MC think he/she will win? She seems to have the upper hand, but then oh no! The antagonist defeats her and rushes off more powerful than ever before.
After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vadar kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship.

8. Black moment
The MC is lower than low, and he/she must fight through the blackness of his/her emotions to find the strength for the final battle. What happens here?
Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vadar and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

9. Climax
What happens in the final blow-out between the MC and the antagonist?
The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

10. Resolution
Does everyone live happily ever after? Yes? No? What happens to tie up all the loose ends?
With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism.

11. Final image
What is the final image you want to leave your reader with? Has the MC succumbed to his/her own demons or has he/she built a new life?
Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.

Here it is, all put together with connecting words to make it flow:


Long ago, in a galaxy far away, a controlling government called the Empire takes control of planets, systems, and people. Anyone who resists is obliterated.

Luke Skywalker, a naïve farm boy with a knack for robotics, dreams of one day escaping his desert homeland. When he buys two robots, he finds one has a message on it – a message from a princess begging for help. She has plans to defeat the Empire, and she begs someone to deliver these plans to a distant planet. Luke goes to his friend and mentor, the loner Ben Kenobi, for help.

Ben tells Luke about a world where the Empire rules and Rebels fight back, where Jedi Knights wield a magic called the Force, and how Luke must face Darth Vadar – the man who killed Luke’s father and now seeks to destroy Luke too. Luke refuses, but when he goes back to his farm, he finds his family has been killed. He has no choice but to join Ben.

To escape the desert planet, Ben and Luke hire a low-life pilot and the pilot’s hairy, alien friend. Luke, Ben, Luke’s robots, the pilot, and the hairy friend leave the planet and fly to the Death Star, Darth Vadar’s home and the Empire’s main base. Once on board the Death Star, Luke discovers the princess is being held as a hostage. He and the group set out to find the princess, while Ben sets out to find a way for them to escape the base.

After rescuing the princess, Luke and the group try to escape. Ben sacrifices himself so they can flee, and Darth Vadar kills Ben. The group flees the Death Star on their own ship. Luke is devastated over Ben’s death, and he is more determined to fight Darth Vadar and help the Rebels defeat the Empire. Luke joins the Rebel army, and helps them plan an attack on the Death Star’s only weakness.

The Death Star arrives in space near the Rebels, and the attack begins. Luke joins the assault team of fighter ships. The Rebels suffer heavy losses, and soon Luke is one of the few remaining pilots and ships. He takes his chance and initiates the final attack. Guided by Ben’s voice and the Force, he manages to fire the single, critical shot to explode the Death Star.

With the Death Star destroyed and the Empire severely damaged, the Rebels hold a grand ceremony to honor Luke and his friends. The princess awards them with medals for heroism. Though Luke is still sad over the loss of Ben and his family, he has found a place among the Rebels, and with them, he will continue to fight the Empire.



Developing Subplots

This article, from Laura Backes, originally appeared in the February 2010 issue of the Children’s Book Insider newsletter and is reprinted here in its entirety with the CBI’s permission. While the CBI newsletter is primarily aimed at authors of children’s books, the advice given here is applicable to any work of fiction.

If you’re writing a book that’s longer than an easy reader or early chapter book, you’re going to need sub-plots. Sub-plots give heft to longer fiction and allow you to introduce more characters and other aspects of your protagonist’s life. Well-crafted sub-plots are related to the main action plot line, and often give the main character the tools he needs to solve his most pressing conflict.

To develop secondary characters and their relationship with the protagonist. In Charlotte’s Web, Wilbur the pig is the main character. He’s got the problem that defines the action of the overall plot: he learns he’s being fattened up for slaughter. But Charlotte, the spider, is a vital secondary character. We get to know Charlotte as she reveals herself to Wilbur. Without Wilbur, we’d never learn Charlotte existed (this is another clue as to who is the protagonist and who is the sec­ondary character). But without Charlotte’s involvement in Wilbur’s life, we’d have a very different book. This is an example of a sub­plot that provides essential support for the main story arc.

When creating secondary characters, especially those as complex as Charlotte, follow the same steps as you used to develop your protagonist. These supporting characters must be fully formed, with their own lives, to add substance to the protagonist’s story.

To add texture and depth to the main action plot. Sub-plots simply make a story more interesting. Where wouldCharlotte’s Web be without Templeton the rat, and his evolution from self-centered, gluttonous scavenger to heroic, gluttonous ally? Some sub-plots are small diversions (think of Fern’s spending less time in the barnyard as she gets older), others crucial to the progagonist re­solving his problem. Sub-plots offer the au­thor another opportunity to throw obstacles in the main character’s path (by distracting the protagonist, making his life more difficult, or introducing characters with their own competing agendas), or give the protagonist tools to make his life easier.

To press the “pause” button. Sometimes, a story may be so tension-filled or stressful that the reader simply needs a break. Sub-plots keep the reader involved in the characters’ lives but offer a rest from the action. Conversely, if the main story is quiet and thoughtful, a more action-filled sub-plot helps vary the pacing. Be sure your sub-plots always develop elements of character or story that give the reader new information that relates to the primary story arc. Plot tangents that dead end, rather than loop around and eventually come back to the central story, are pointless.

To illustrate your theme. Sub-plots are often emotionally-based, exploring relationships or internal aspects of your protagonist. Because of this, a story’s theme is often revealed in the sub-plots. If the main plot of Charlotte’s Web is whether or not Wilbur will die, then the friendship between Charlotte and Wilbur is a primary theme. This friendship ultimately saves Wilbur’s life. Because E.B. White illustrated the power of friendship through a complex sub-plot, he showed us the theme. He never had to tell us what his message might be.

Another way to show theme is through the growth and change of your protagonist. Sub-plots are a vehicle for this as well. Wilbur grew from an timid, hysterical, lonely piglet who lacked self-confidence to a radient, resourceful, loyal pig. Elements from every sub-plot in the book contributed to his transformation.

Sub-plots don’t necessarily end with a firm resolution as your action storyline will. Sub-plots give your character skills and experiences that he’ll take with him beyond the last page of the book, so they can be more open-ended. For upper middle grade and young adult audiences, some sub-plots might end with the death of a loved one, or a friendship ending. But reserve a few hopeful threads for the final pages that show the protagonist is moving in the right direction. The most satisfying stories give a balance, as in real life.

If you’re an author of children’s books, or aspire to be, take a look at the Children’s Book Insider Clubhouse site. There, you can register to receive the monthly CBI newsletter, which is filled with more useful articles like this one, as well as notices of publishers and agents seeking children’s book manuscripts.


Similes and Metaphors

A SIMILE is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y , using the words AS or LIKE .

For example:

“My love’s LIKE a red, red rose.”
“He was AS cold AS ice.” 

A METAPHOR is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, and where X is said TO BE Y. A METAPHOR says that X IS Y.

For example:

“It IS raining cats and dogs.”

“Juliet IS the sun.”

“My bedroom IS a tip.”

“Her eyes ARE homes of silent prayer.”

Authors use metaphors and similes to create IMAGES .

Identify whether the following are similes or metaphors. BEWARE, two of them aren’t either one!

  1. “Juliet is the sun.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.)
  2. Tracy felt as sick as a parrot.
  3. “..the perfect sky is torn.” (Natalie Imbruglia, “Torn”)
  4. The traffic is murder.
  5. Tom is as deaf as a post.
  6. “Life’s but a walking shadow.” (Shakespeare, Macbeth.)
  7. She ran like the wind.
  8. I’m as light as a feather.
  9. “The sun’s a thief.” (Shakespeare, Timon of Athens.)
  10. Kitty is the apple of her mother’s eye.
  11. “Death lies upon her like an untimely frost.” (Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet.)
  12. My feet are as warm as toast.
  13. “There’s more life in a tramp’s vest.” (Stereophonics, “more life in a tramp’s vest.”)
  14. Tom is deaf.
  15. “Everyday is a winding road& ” (Sheryl Crow, “Everyday is a winding road.”)
  16. My eyes are blue.
  17. “England & is a fen of stagnant waters.” (Wordsworth.)
  18. “Their smiles, wan as primroses.” (Keats.)
  19. The cucumber is cool.
  20. Your beauty shines like the sun.
  21. “Love is blind, as far as the eye can see.” (The Spice Girls, “Too Much.”)
  22. She looked as pretty as a picture.
  23. James was as cool as a cucumber.
  24. His feet are as black as coal.
  25. “It’s been a hard day’s night / And I’ve been working like a dog.” (Lennon and McCartney.)


A Birthday

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickest fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleur-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Christina G. Rossetti 1830-1894 


You Fit into Me

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye 

a fish hook
an open eye

Margaret Atwood (1939- ) 



Clownlike, happiest on your hands,
Feet to the stars, and moon-skulled,
Gilled like a fish. A Common-sense
Thumbs-down on the dodo’s mode.
Wrapped up in yourself like a spool,
Trawling your dark as owls do.
Mute as a turnip from the Fourth
Of July to All Fool’s Day,
O high-riser, my little loaf.

Vague as fog and looked for like mail.
Farther off than Australia.
Bent-backed Atlas, our travelled prawn.
Snug as a bud and at home
Like a sprat in a pickle jug.
A creel of eels, all ripples.
Jumpy as a Mexican bean.
Right, like a well-done sum.
A clean slate, with your own face on.

Sylvia Plath (1932-1963)


Scene and Sequel in Romance

In the plotting and storyline process of writing, often times the term, ‘Scene and Sequel’ is brought into play. This is a very important aspect of the writing process, as the entire structure of your story rests on the way you compose each of these elements in your work. The scene and the sequel are both small pieces that come together throughout your novel to form the whole of your story. So what exactly are they?

The Scene – Most all of us are familiar with this guy. In the modern age of writing, with ‘Show Don’t Tell’ playing such a major factor and great dialogue a must have, many editors and readers are looking for fast-paced works, with almost non-stop action and little introspection. Does this mean that you must write action/adventure when you really want to do romance? Of course not! The thing to remember, regardless of your chosen genre, is this: writing that moves the plot forward with action, real or inert, is an action scene. To simplify, let’s take a closer look into the structure of a scene.

Just like a complete story, each scene should have three main elements: beginning, middle and end. So what comprises each element?

1) The Beginning: Your character or characters are introduced to a catalyst. Something takes place that is going to cause conflict and/or force them to act.

Example: Leslie’s garbage can is missing. What happened to it? Did a neighbor steal it? Did the wind blow it away?

2) The Middle: How your characters react to this catalyst. The measures taken to resolve their questions or problems and move the story along.

Example: Lacing up her trusty running shoes, Leslie sets off in search of the recalcitrant refuse container. Noticing Mr. Jones watering his flowers, she decides to question him as a possible witness.

3) The End: The climax followed by a resolution. The point in your story where the questions caused by the catalyst are answered.

Example: Approaching the gardening octogenarian, Leslie catches a glimpse of a familiar black object beside his driveway. Before she can grill him as to the reason for this anomaly, Mr. Jones waves and calls out to her, “Hi there, Neighbor! Mighty windy today — I think your trash can may have made its way down to my house!”

Okay, so my examples are a bit oversimplified, I think you get the idea anyway. Each scene must tell a story. It might not be the entire story, but it still has a beginning, middle and end. Now for the second element.

The Sequel – This is probably one of my personal favorites when it comes to writing. It is also one of the most commonly overlooked elements and tends to be overused when it’s not overlooked. Basically, a sequel is nothing more than the period of reflection or introspection between scenes. ‘Thinking time’ for your characters, if you will. And just like a scene, it also has a structure.

1) The Beginning: Reaction time — Your character or characters’ response to what happened in the previous scene.

Example: Leslie flopped down onto her couch and buried her head in her hands. How embarrassing! She’d been ready to call in the FBI, when poor Mr. Jones was just trying to be a good neighbor. Thank goodness she hadn’t had a chance to open her big mouth!

2) The Middle: The Dilemma — A set of choices presented to your character to add suspense. Should they do this, or that? What steps do they take from here? This is the time when your characters do their plotting.

Example: Something had to be done. She couldn’t go around eying her neighbors like suspected felons every time the wind picked up. Should she build one of those little garbage can holders to place on the curb? Or just ditch the can altogether and start sitting her trash out in the bags alone?

3) The End: Decision making — The determined course of action. (Often the set-up for the next scene.) The conclusion and resolution brought about by your character’s mental meanderings.

Example: Leslie thinks she’ll just use bags for now. Wandering strays might cause some problems, but it won’t be as bad as having one of those tacky little trash fences on the lawn. They are impossible to mow around and look simply awful with grass sprouting out all over.

See how the sequel gives us a bit of character insight while setting us up for the next scene? Can’t you just picture me out on the lawn next trash day, chasing down blowing litter and cursing stray dogs? Sequels are essential to a well-rounded story. The trick is not to overuse them. Lengthy sequels can slow the pace of your story considerably, which in the long run, ends up dropping the emotional level in your work. So keep the action coming — but remember to give your characters AND your readers a chance to breathe!