Seriously Cool: The New York Writers Coalition

The New York Writers Coalition is one of my favorite organizations. They provide free creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people that would otherwise have very little opportunity to write. They also publish our workshop participants’ writing and organize public readings of their work.

Click here to see a list of Youth Writers Workshops sponsored by NYWC in New York City. If you can’t take a Pencil Heads Workshop, this is the next best thing!

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Writing Exercise #3: A Very Bad Hair Day Indeed

Bad hair days… we’ve all had them, right?

Your mission (should you choose to accept it) is to write a story in which your main character has a very bad hair day– and somehow this bad hair day changes the course of his or her life.

Don’t think, just write!

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Writing Advice from Madeleine L’Engle

Madeleine L’Engle is an amazing author who wrote over 40(!) books in her lifetime, including “A Wrinkle in Time” (for which she won the 1963 Newbery Medal).

In an interview with Movies, Music and Mayhem Magazine, Ms. L’Engle was asked where she gets the ideas for her fantastic stories.

“I just listen,” she said. “When I write, I don’t think. I just listen. I like the advice of the King of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland – ‘Begin at the beginning, go on ’till you come to the end, then stop.'”

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Writing Exercise for Kids #2: The Sneezy Caveman and the Pickle-Eating Wombat?

Write a story that includes a caveman, a wombat, a Kleenex, and a pickle.

I know you’re thinking, “Whaaaat?” But I say, don’t think, just write!

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Where do titles come from?

I don’t know about you, but I think that coming up with titles can be hard. We want them to be as exciting as the stories we write– but not boring and obvious at the same time.

Judy Blume was one of my favorite authors when I was young, and her books have great titles. “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” was one of my personal favorites. I wanted to read it the moment I saw the title.

In an interview with Scholastic, Judy Blume was asked how she comes up with her unique titles. Here is her answer:

Most of the time the title comes at the end. Blubber and Freckle Juice were exceptions – I had the titles before I wrote these books. I always have trouble with titles for my books. I usually have no title until the editor has to present the book and calls me frantically, “Judy, we need a title.” With Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, I just took the first line. With Then Again, Maybe I Won’t, I took the last. With Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I sent the editor a choice of about six titles. I had a list of 20 possible titles for Summer Sisters. The publisher chose, not me.

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my struggle to find a great title.

How do you come up with titles for your stories? Do you have any good tips?

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Museum of Natural History (and Young Writers’ Inspiration!)

“Danny and the Dinosaur” by Syd Hoff was one of my favorite books when I was little. On a trip to the museum, Danny meets a real, live dinosaur! They leave the museum together and explore the city for a day. What better way to see New York than from the neck of a dinosaur?

What would you do if you made friends with a dinosaur? Write the story of your adventures together (starting, of course, with how you met).

And if you want to take a trip to the American Museum of Natural History for a bit of inspiration, you can click here to get a family membership at the discounted rate of $80 through the link below. (Hurry though… the Gaggle of Chicks deal ends tomorrow at midnight!)

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Extra! Extra! Pencil Heads Offers Fun New Writing Prompt!

Here’s a fun writing exercise for you to do at home (inspired by the Pencil Heads featured in yesterday’s New York Post).

1. Grab that old newspaper out of the recycling bin and comb through it for strange and wacky headlines.

2. Cut the best headlines from the paper (just make sure your parents are finished reading the article on the other side).

3. Glue your favorite headline to the top of a blank sheet of paper. Or, if you don’t like any of them, cut the words apart and rearrange them until you get something good (i.e. “Man Eaten by Cheeseburger”).

4. Now write the story! You are the reporter, so give us your full report.

5. Email your completed stories to One lucky reporter will have their story featured in Pencil Heads Press (a.k.a. our blog)!

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Pencil Heads in the Lunchroom

Check out school lunch reviews by Pencil Heads, featured in today’s New York Post to mark National School Lunch Week.  These are writers with a strong and definite voice.  The editor of the Post told me that Pencil Heads “write better than many of our freelancers.”  (Their reviews also make me grateful for the fact that I don’t have to l’il smokies in my school cafeteria anymore.)

Congratulations to Ruby, Savannah, and Malik on your first published piece!

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Allow me to introduce myself…

I’m Andrea, one of the founders of Pencil Heads Creative Writing Workshops for Kids.

I created Pencil Heads classes because I love to write — and because I feel that I didn’t get to do enough creative writing when I was in school. I want to encourage kids to think– and write more creatively– when they are young, before all those boring old five-paragraph essays turn them away from writing.

We teach creative writing workshops to kids in New York City, but I often get emails from parents around the world, asking what they can do to strengthen the creative writing abilities of their children.  And so our blog begins.  I hope you will find it helpful.

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