Category Archives: Young Adults

5 Things Writers can Learn from Teenagers

The need to be understood. Yep, isn’t this why we pick up the pen in the first place? We want to share our thoughts on life and emotions and feel the connection with the world. We want others to say  “yeah, I get you, I totally feel that way, too.”

The pursuit of being original. But, really, it’s scary. Which is why you can’t tell some teen girls or guys apart. The straight hair chalked in pink and blue, skinny jeans, obsession with piercings, nail art and all things skulls. We writers try to mimic what’s safe. What we know is the trend right now. But, that doesn’t work. If you’re the same as the masses, you’ll disappear.

Keep your posse close: We can all learn from the tight pack of teenagers. Despite the drama, teens band together to feed off of each other’s energy and humor and feeling of connection. Writers need their pack of other creatives, too. To encourage and push us on, to cheer our successes and keep us real when the blocks form and the rejection slips come back.

Be rebellious. OK, I would not encourage my own teenager to do this, but of course he will. Afterall, he’s my kid. And he has strong opinions on things. He makes them known. Writers need to make their opinions known, too. This is called our VOICE. Our style. Be honest in your writing. It doesn’t mean writing about the snotty Room Mother not using your craft idea for the classroom party, but going deeper and writing about the neglect she feels at home from her Very.Important.Big.Shot husband.

Be selfish. Again, not something I’d encourage in my son, but as writers, especially if we have kids, day jobs or spouses, our writing tends to drop off our radar. We become crabby, bratty, temperamental (like a teen?) So instead, be a little selfish and SCHEDULE  time for writing, even if it means missing one Sunday dinner a month at your in-laws. (you can thank me later!)

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Filed under Advice, Believe, Inspiration, Uncategorized, Voice, writers, writing inspiration, Young Adults

a poem a pic a day: day 17

Tween then and now


my name is

silky purple giggle


my name will be

shunned and bruised

top of the pyramid with dimples on both cheeks

cheerleader with her period

whispers and sleep overs, conjure spirits, talk of first kisses

I experiment with makeup, imagine my first kiss

think I’m in the clique, think I’m the shit

she still harasses me about not owning  a banana clip

I’m center in their ring of taunts

wearing a dingy pink puffy coat

Paiselys are cool, aren’t they?


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Filed under Poetry, Voice, Young Adults

Holiday Gift Ideas for Young Writers!

Since I published a post on Gifts for Writers, I realized there is a whole other group out there with wish lists of their own…

How about a Holiday Wish List for the young writers in our lives?

Summer Studio, Aug. 2011 {Hobo Day}

As a Creative Writing Teacher to young adults (and a mom to 2 young writers), I can recommend a few ideas: (Scroll down for a fun, FREE offer, too!)


Of course, to write on. Duh! Some cool but inexpensive ones: Go to a craft store, like Michaels and search their clearance and $1 bins for hard bound spirals


To teach and inspire them. Some I love:

How Writers Work, Ralph Fletcher “This book will show you how writers work, how you can become a writer, and how you can find a process that works for you.”

A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You, Ralph Fletcher “Other people have daily thoughts and feelings, notice this sky or that smell, but they don’t do much about it. Not writers. Writers react. And writers need a place to record those reactions. That’s what a writer’s notebook is for. It gives you a place to write down what makes you angry or sad or amazed, to write down what you noticed and don’t want to forget . . . .”

Live Writing: Breathing Life into Your Words, Ralph Fletcher “Instead of awls and hammers, a writer’s toolbox contains words, imagination, a love of books, a sense of story, and ideas for how to make the writing live and breathe. I wrote this book to give you some practical strategies to throw into your toolbox. I hope you’ll try them, because these are ideas that can make you a better writer.”

Unjournaling: Daily Writing Exercises that Are NOT Personal, NOT Introspective, NOT Boring! by Dawn DiPrince, Cheryl Miller These contain some hilarious prompts to get your young writer’s pen moving and their mind churning!

Writing Magic: creating stories that fly, “Gail Carson Levine shows how you, too, can get terrific ideas for stories, invent great beginnings and endings, write sparkling dialogue, develop memorable characters—and much, much more. She advises you about what to do when you feel stuck—and how to use helpful criticism. Best of all, she offers writing exercises that will set your imagination on fire.”


Rory’s Story Cubes: “Rory’s Story Cubes contains nine cubes with 54 images. Just roll the cubes and come up with a story that links together all nine face-up images.”

The Writer’s Toolbox, Jamie Cat CallanThe Writers Toolbox includes lots of fun writing games–sentence sticks, cards, spiny dials and comes in this nifty box.”

Your time & creative planning:

Young Writers will gain much from meeting a real, live author during a book signing, listening to a reading or, just hanging out with you and sharing stories, written or told. To find Author visits and Readings, look to your library and local bookstores. Also, check out the Events Page of your child’s favorite authors to see if they’re coming to your area soon.

A group of other young writers!

Hmm, where, oh where would you find this? Not on Amazon or eBay. Unfortunately, you may have a difficult time finding a young writers’ workshop or even a book club for kids. Again, I’d recommend starting with your library and local bookstores. Or better, start one yourself! No idea where to begin? I can help! Subscribe to my email list and I’ll send you my Top 10 Ways to Start a Writing Revolution Checklist, for FREE! Now, that’s in the Holiday Spirit!


Filed under Advice, books, teaching, writers, Young Adults

A Short Story by a Young Writer

Please give a warm welcome to a student of mine, Fiona. Fiona has taken my writing workshops for several years now. She is a gifted writer, who has a talent for descriptive word choice, emotion-filled stories and the very important “showing, not telling” technique. Enjoy this short story and please leave an encouraging comment for this young author! (For details on my workshops, click HERE.)

Crushing Candies

By: Fiona, 6th grader

I stepped into my room, dropped my backpack, and flung myself into my desk chair.

“Can you believe it Paisley? Summer already!”  I listened to her go on and on about how amazing her boyfriend is.

“Got to go Paisley, I’m late for work!” I hung up the phone and dug for my apron in the hamper.

My job was manning the cash register for our candy shop, Millers Candy. My dad worked in the office paying overdue bills and making orders for Three Musketeers, Butterfingers, and a wide variety of hard candies. In the kitchen is where toffee, chocolate, and other good stuff were made.

A mom and a little girl walked to the mini fridge covering the peeling yellow paint. The mom took a little paper bag to fill with  ten-cent candies, and the little girl asked for almond bark. She looked like the perfect girl to be my little sister that I wanted.

Right then, a man in a black suit walked through the doors. I recognized him from the coffee shop. His name was Mr. Johnson.

“Hi, Mr. Johnson! Would you like a toffee sample?”  I said with a cheesy grin.

Mr. Johnson’s Bistro coffee shop has been a success since it opened. My mom walked in wearing her apron covered with flour. She greeted Mr. Johnson.

“So Kerri,” he began referring to my mom. “Your candy shop has been getting in the way with my business.” He said with a fake smile.

“Hmmm… and how so?” my mom said with her hands on her hips.

“With your intimidating sweets around my sales are going down.” He replied.

“Intimidating?” my dad said walking out from his office with a raised eyebrow.

“So what you’re saying is no other stores in Red Oak have a problem with our sweets but you do?” I butted in.

“No, what I’m offering is a large amount of money to shut you down.”  He said with his head up tall.

“We’re going to have to ask you to leave Mr. Johnson and have fun getting us out.” My mom said.

At five o’clock I closed shop and swept the floor to go eat dinner. When I was deep into my steak, I reached for my phone in my pocket, but it wasn’t there.

“Mom can I go get my phone from down stairs?” I asked.  She handed me the keys.

I headed toward the stairs and went down. When I reached the shop I couldn’t believe my eyes. Little rats lay in the ten-cent candy baskets and in the cotton candy loft. Their red eyes were staring at me and their rubbery pink tails twitched.

“MOM!!!” I shouted. She came running down the stairs with a first aid kit and fire extinguisher. Her over protectiveness was shining like a sun.

“Rats” my dad yelled and ran down the stairs. He came back down with floral garden gloves and a lidded bucket. He collected each one.

My mom called the Health Department from the wall phone in the kitchen. I could tell she was freaking out a little bit or maybe a lot.

I took out my phone from the cabinet next to the register to call Paisley. But there was no answer. I went upstairs to my room and I could see the Health Department van in the driveway. Four men came out in blue disinfectant suits.

I saw a little girl with her mom walking down the sidewalk. I could imagine her being my little sister. She could sweep the floor and pass out samples. I suddenly got a text from Paisley. It read:  hey, with Josh and can’t come.” I sighed of loneliness. No siblings, no friends, no boyfriend.

Life is just great!

It’s ten p.m. and the men are still here. A familiar voice called my name. Paisley was standing in our kitchen. She knew we never locked the doors.

“Can I sleep over” she asked.

“Sure whatever” I replied moaning.

“Claire, come with me.” Paisley said motioning towards the hallway.

I grabbed my umbrella and walked to the door out of the apartment complex. Paisley stopped in front of the store. She told me to look at the door sign.

Closed by the Health Department

Until Further Notice

I nearly fell down on the wet sidewalk. It was like the sign said DEATH TRAP! NEVER SET FOOT IN THIS AREA!

“Mr. Johnson did it! He put the rats here!” I cried to Paisley. Soon my parents walked outside.

“Claire, the test will be in by Tuesday to narrow the search down.” my mom whispered.

“Search?” I asked to my mom. 

“Yes, our store is perfectly clean, so it was a scam.” dad replied.

Cool relief filled my body.

“Well your father and I are going out to celebrate!” my mom said.

“Celebrate what?” I asked.

“The adoption of your baby sister!” My mom said.

I started to jump up and down. Paisley and I grabbed some toffee and went to my room.

“Maybe she’s Laura’s age?” Paisley wondered. Laura was her sister.

I sat on the store steps jotting down names for my sister. My favorite was Fallene. Tuesday was here. FINALLY! I thought to myself as the same truck pulled up. I brought the men to the living room. About to make them coffee, I noticed their Java World cups in their hands. That was Mr. Johnson shop.

They said that the man worked with coffee. (Mr. Johnson) and he had brown hair (Mr. Johnson!)

“MR. JOHNSON!” I blurted out and was sent to my room.

After many hours with the police, my mom finally came in and said that Mr. Johnson was on his way to jail.

“Really?” I shouted “I can’t believe it!” I said jumping up and down.

I called Paisley to tell her everything. She was awestruck.

1 Year Later

I waited for hours tapping my toes and wringing my hands. My parents walked in the doorway with a 14 month old baby in my mom’s arms. I ran to the sleepy child.

“Isn’t she beautiful?” my dad said loud enough to wake the baby up.

“She’s more than I ever wanted” I whispered.

Everything was great and getting better.

The End

BIO: Hi, my name is Fiona and I have been taking classes with Mary Jo since I was in second grade. I am in sixth grade and writing is one of my many hobbies. I love writing fantasy stories and short novels.


* How would you like to take a writing workshop with me? Send me an email for details! mjcriter at comcast dot net


Filed under Believe, Fiction, Inspiration, Young Adults

Tuesday Museday

How about non-writing related images, sounds and experiences that lend to our writer’s muse?

First up, a young (14 yr-old!) student of mine, Melissa S. has written her own song (music and lyrics!) and sings and plays the piano in her YouTube debut. I think the chorus is mesmerizing and the lyrics inspire ideas for my teenage heartbroken protagonists. What do you think? Leave her a comment of encouragement!

A party for your tastebuds! Have you tried Honeycrisp apples? OMG – yum! The tangy yet sweet crunchy goodness floods my mind with images of autumn: Golden and crimson leaves, deep blue-gray skies, fattened squirrels and bunnies readying for hibernation, creepy time via Halloween

 And the ordinary becomes extraordinary… “Flipping ” through my digital photos via Kodak EasyShare, I found a number of interesting images my 12-year-old son, David captured with my camera. His artistic eye caught usual images in unusual shadows, light and context.  Try looking through your pictures for the unique. Or better, hand your camera off to child who will capture magic for your muse!


Watch the pendulum…you are getting sleepy…you are clicking SUBSCRIBE…you are gleefully under my are sending chocolate and pumpkin spice lattes to me…


Filed under Believe, emotion, Fun Stuff, Inspiration, writing inspiration, Young Adults

Writing Prompt for the classroom

…or your room!

Your new Roommate!

My young writers’ group gets a kick out of this prompt*:

Fortunately, Unfortunately

They must start the first sentence of their story with the word Fortunately……. and the second sentence with Unfortunately….

Here are a few examples:

Fortunately, a large box was waiting for me on my porch when I got home from school.

Unfortunately, it contained a dozen wild spider monkeys who would now be living with me!

Fortunately, I made it to class on time.

Unfortunately, I was still wearing my pajama pants!

Fortunately, I won a $100,000 !

Unfortunatley, I am only allowed to spend it on diapers and beef jerky!

What silly or crazy stories can you come up with using Fortunately, Unfortunately? I may give a prize for the goofiest comment!

*This prompt shared by my writing buddy and fellow creative writing teacher, Stephanie. Check out her Young Writers’ Studio!


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Filed under teaching, Uncategorized, writers, Writing prompts, Young Adults

the “h” word

“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”

John Dryden ~ 1631-1700, Poet and Playwright

Whew! What a week! Back from 5 days of laughing, writing and guiding young scribes at my Young Writers’ Summer Studio, followed by afternoons with my two boys, browsing toy stores and craft shops, walking our little downtown area and checking out new shops, getting ice cream, ordering in.

A week of no routine also meant breaking all of my good habits. I fell off my eating clean plan, made excuses not to work out and ignored all of those other monotonous tasks and responsibilities. Yes, I fed my children. Sheesh!

We all need those days or even weeks when we just S L O W down. Though, I’m paying for that relaxation now!

Habits do make us who we are. Time for me to get my focus back.

Are your habits helping or hurting you?


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Filed under Advice, Believe, Rest, teaching, Young Adults

Tuesdays With…

Young Author (and a student of mine!) Melissa Smith.

Melissa is an exceptional writer, always wowing her peers in our writer workshops. She is not only a poet, novelist, short story writer and musician, but also a song lyricist.

As writers, we know it takes guts to put our thoughts and feelings to paper and even more courage to put those words out into the world for others to read, connect with and reach back  through comments. Please join me in congratulating young writer, Melissa, on her strength to share her song lyrics here with us.

Hopeless Daydreams

Long ago, far away

That time was a different place.

I was in a constant day-dream

Never waking, never seeing.


You came to me

And suddenly


I woke up and came to my senses.

I was almost too much to process.

This life here was open to me.

This life with you was meant to be.


I open my eyes, and I see sunshine.

Outside now, the moon is down.

I’m not dreaming, I’m now living

In this life you’ve made for me.


You came to me

And suddenly


I woke up and came to my senses.

It was almost too much to process.

This life here was open to me.

This life with you was meant to be.


Long lost treasures, hopeful measures

Of a song, lost and gone.

It echoes somewhere deep inside me.

I can’t fight it; no more day-dreams.


You sang to me

And suddenly


I closed my eyes and became renewed.

Dreaming isn’t too bad to do.

Everyone and everything

Long lost wishes, hopeless day-dreams.


Melissa Smith is 14 years old and about to graduate middle school. She aspires to be the next great novelist and immensely enjoys watching (her future husband!) Rafael Nadal play tennis. She is a student member of If you’re a member, too, please visit some of her other works at


Filed under Believe, Inspiration, Perseverance, Young Adults

5 prompt Friday

         Here we go again…

  1. The empty feeling in my stomach spread to my chest and head, threatening to pull me inside out.
  2. How do I say this to you?
  3. On her wrist was a bracelet made from multi-colored paperclips.
  4. His voice crackled through the walkie-talkie, “The Eagle Has Landed.”
  5. Are you ready to do this?

Have a story or prompt to share? Post it here : ) Happy writing!


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Filed under 5 Prompt Friday, Advice, Author Interviews, Believe, books, characters, Commit to 3, contests, Creative Essays, Deadlines, Education, emotion, Events, Fiction, Friday Finds, Fun Stuff, Get Published, Give Aways, goals, Inspiration, Little Things, Lost Things, Markets, NaNoWriMo, Non Fiction, Novels, Organization, Perseverance, Platform/Marketing, procrastination, Queries, Reader Wednesdays, Rest, teaching, Thankful Thursday, The Motherhood Muse, Uncategorized, Voice, writer markets, writers, writers block, writing inspiration, Writing prompts, Writing Space, Young Adults

Horror at Hawkin’s Forest (via Story Writing Express)

{Courtesy of}

Tuesdays With…

Is a weekly series of author interviews, guest posts by agents, editors, freelance writers and now – my very own Young Writing Students!

I teach Young Writers and LOVE to publicize their work. If you are  a current or former student of mine, email me and we’ll schedule a guest post featuring one of your short stories, or a link to your own blog! mjcwriter”at”

And now, courtesy of my son, David’s, new writing blog…

This is a story I wrote a long while ago for school, so there will be no gore or blood in this one.

Horror at Hawkins Forest

Yet another suspense brilliantly written by: David Campbell III

Snow and frozen leaves crackled underneath Jim’s steel-toe work boots. “Great!  Now it’s 6:00!  Cheri’s going to kill me!  This is the second time this darn car has run out of gas on me.  Maybe I could just call her on my- darn it!  Forgot my cell phone back at … Read More

via Story Writing Express

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Filed under Get Published, Inspiration, teaching, Young Adults