My young authors and their books ~ all for a good cause

This year marks the tenth anniversary of CWC, the creative writing for children program I co-founded in 2004. The not-for-profit program, based in Vancouver, Canada, helps kids write, illustrate and desktop publish their own books under the tutelage of children’s authors, artists, and performers.

In the last ten years, we have helped thousands of kids produce books. This year, we took a new step by starting a system to help some of our oldest and most-skilled students publish books electronically on amazon. So far, we have published two books: Trapped by Rachel Kim and Winter Blooms by Janice Kim. Rachel was 12 and Janice was 14 when they wrote these two books.

The proceeds for each book go to the G12 Project, a program that helps girls in rural Guatemala complete their Grade 12 education by supporting them with the financial resources to remove the burden of poverty.

I ask that you check out and support these books by teenaged writers!





Creating the doorways into our stories

As my regular creative writing classes are winding to an end, it’s time for my students to design the covers of their books. Throughout the term, I’ve told my students that writing a story is just like building a house. To follow that metaphor, the cover is the doorway into those stories—and that doorway needs to look inviting!

I actually think that drawing and designing is just like writing—it takes time and patience to develop something good. So, in order to encourage my students to spend more time, I’ve taken to getting them to work on thumbnails of their designs before jumping immediately into something final.

Here’s a few photos of their progress so far . . . eventually, I’ll post the final designs!

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Kendra Kandlestar gets her own action figure

I love hearing from my young readers, especially when they send in fan art. Imagine how thrilled I was to receive a photo of these whimsical peg figures of Kendra Kandlestar and her crew, created by a young fan and his mom.

The whole gang is here: Jinx, Kendra, Oki, Bumblebean, Uncle Griffinskitch, Pugglemud (complete with magic belt), and Ratchet. I can’t quite decide which one I like best.


For monsters, by monsters

For my wrap-up activity with my primary group at Charlie Lake Elementary, I had my little monsters invent commercials for products that might be required in the creature world.

This was a perfect match with all the other monster activities we did throughout the week, especially the monster bottles.

The best part is that after the students were done crafting their commercials, they performed them. Great fun!







Mmmm . . . monster menus

As part of my writer-in-residence at Charlie Lake Elementary, I’ve been leading my students in many monster-themed activities. Today, we worked on “monster menus,” in which the students imagined a take-out restaurant that specializes in monster grub.

The students invented a monster menu and decorated the take out boxes for their menu items. Afterwards, they began writing stories in which they imagined what would happen if the delivery showed up with the wrong order. Us human types get pretty upset when our take out orders are messed up . . . you can only imagine how upset a monster is!













Monster mayhem and other magic at Charlie Lake

I’m at Charlie Lake in British Columbia, Canada, working as a writer-in-residence for a whole week at the elementary school here. This is my third or fourth time having come to this school and it’s absolutely a wonderful experience to be able to roll up my sleeves and work with the same group of kids for an extended period of times. It’s also gratifying to see kids from years past and see how their imaginations and interests have grown.

It’s a great format that has been established at the school. I do one focused workshop with each division. Then, in the afternoons I get to work with two separate pull out groups that are comprised of the kids who are most interested in writing.

For my morning sessions, I worked with a grade one class using keys as inspiration for stories. Each of them got to select a key and then imagine what that key would be used for. Some students decided it was for doors. Others decided it was to operate a magical vehicle. Still others, decided it was to operate a robot!


For the next group, a K-1 mix, we designed enchanted trees. The main task here was to try and get the students to think about all the wonderful things that a tree can grow. After they had designed their specific trees, they had to think about a character who would try and pick the magic “something” from the tree. Finally, they had to imagine a problem that might arise along the way.

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Finally, for my pull0ut groups, we made monster bottles. I’ve done this a few times recently, but I can’t seem to get enough of it, since it is so much fun and leads to such great story starters.

In this activity, the kids make the bottle and then imagine that a character has purchased it from “The Monster Magic Shop.” The bottle comes with a set of instructions (that each student has to write). Then, they get to work on the story and imagine what would happen if the character doesn’t follow the instructions exactly.

Here’s all the bottles and ingredients lined up and ready to go. (The table looked like it had been torn apart by rabid wolverines when all was said and done.)



And here are just a few of the photos of the monster bottles. We made almost a hundred of them today, so there was no way I could snap photos of them all!

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New editions of Kendra Kandlestar are here!

I found a happy package waiting for me on my doorstep last night: The new editions of Books 3 and 4 of my Kendra Kandlestar series.


I love the new colors:

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The four books in the series look great all lined up.


Here’s the official write ups for the two new editions:

Kendra Kandlestar and the Shard from Greeve (Book 3)

TRAPPED IN A PIT OF MONSTERS . . . when young Kendra Kandlestar is granted a wand by the ancient tree of Een, she yearns to become a great sorceress. But magic doesn’t come easily to Kendra, and she soon turns to the Shard from Greeve—and its dark power—to help rescue her brother from the Rumble Pit, a deadly gladiator arena where centaurs, dragons, and other mythical creatures are forced to fight in fierce contests for survival. Yet, as Kendra is seduced by the power of the insidious Shard, she discovers that the greatest battle just might be the one brewing inside her own heart.

Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah (Book 4)

A SPLINTER IN SORCERY . . . according to Een legend, a Kazah stone grants a wizard the power to catch an echo of the past and a glimpse of the future. But when Kendra Kandlestar is given her own cracked and broken Kazah stone, she soon discovers that it’s capable of so much more. With her faithful friend Oki by her side, Kendra is sent on an unimaginable journey across the cosmos, entering worlds that are strange and bewildering—and, at the same time, all too familiar. Trapped in this adventure, Kendra finds herself faced with choices that just may unravel the mysterious history of the Eens—and destroy their future.

* * *

This is all leading up to the release of Book 5: Kendra Kandlestar and the Search for Arazeen, which is due out in the fall. Stay tuned for more sneak peeks!


We get all Frankenstein in the Magic Monster Shop


I just returned from the Young Authors’ Conference in Kamloops, BC, where I led a day of “monster creation.”

This is a great conference in which kids who are passionate writers get the day off from school and come to the local university campus to learn from published authors and illustrators about the craft of storytelling. The conference has been going on for some thirty-five years, and so has featured many talented authors over the years. This year, my fellow mentors included James McCann, Kallie George, kc dyer, Jacqueline Pearce, Crystal Stranaghan, and Carrie Mac.

I had about sixty kids come through my workshop. We had a lot of fun talking about one of my favorite subjects: Monsters.

We started off with a Monster Quiz to help break the ice and get the kids out of their shells (also, it’s just plain fun to spring a test on someone). Afterwards, we talked about different monsters in mythology and popular culture, and how I use them in my own Kendra Kandlestar series.

The final part was the most fun. This is where the kids assembled a “monster in a bottle” by using a variety of ingredients. I had an array of these ingredients but students were only allowed to pick from three different sources. (I find this actually makes them more creatively, as they have to put some choice and consideration into the matter). Some of the ingredients includes fangs, fur, feathers, and eyeballs.



Once the students had stuffed their bottles full of all the gruesome parts, they then created labels and tags and then drafted a series of instructions that explained how to “hatch” and care for that creature.

Many students chose to sketch what their final hatched creature would look like.

This activity set them up to write a short story in which a character buys the bottle from the local magic monster shop and then fails to follow the instructions carefully. Well. We can all guess what would happen after that . . .

Here are some photos of many of the creations. I couldn’t possibly take photos of all the bottles, but I tried to get as many as possible.
















Many thanks to Deanna Brady, the organizer of the conference, and her entire team. Even though I’ve participated in this conference for several years, this felt like one of the best ones so far!