Writing Tips from Children’s Author Susanna Leonard Hill

Today I’m hosting Day 4 of a 5-day virtual tour for Susanna Leonard Hill's new book, Punxsutawney Phyllis. In this post, Susanna offers some tips for writers.


As with all things, writing comes easier to some than others.
I’ve been lucky enough to get to work with lots of kids on their writing, and it’s shown me that kids have a lot to share and many of them are very talented at expressing themselves.
But all of us – even professionals – can use a little help from time to time J
Whether you’re someone who loves to write or someone who needs a little help when it comes to writing, here are some things you can try:
Try to think of writing as something fun.  When you write stories, you can make everything the way you want it to be (something most kids don’t get to do in real life J)  You’re in complete control!  You create the characters.  You build the world.  Whatever you say goes!
Just as there are lots of different kinds of reading, there are lots of different kinds of writing.  Some people like to write about factual things (non fiction).  Others like to make up stories (fiction).  Still others like to write comic strips or graphic novels or poetry.  Some people like to write long novels and others like to write short magazine articles.  Some people just like to keep a journal or diary of their everyday life.  Try everything and see what you like best J
Writing can be a way of expressing yourself and your feelings, just like music or art can be.  Sometimes writing can help you process something difficult, like a fight with a friend or the loss of a pet.  Other times writing can be a way to try out something you’d never actually do in real life – you can make your character do it J  You can also write things that are scary or funny or sweet depending on the kind of mood you’re in.
Write what you want to read.  Toni Morrison said, “If there’s a book that you want to read but it hasn’t been written, then you must write it.”
Keep a journal when you go on vacation or to camp or to visit your grandparents.  Going somewhere new can give you great ideas for settings and plots in your stories.  But write down details.  You think you’ll remember everything, but you probably won’t – at least not in the detail you need for writing well.
Write about something you love or find fascinating – dinosaurs, pets, adventure, fantasy etc.
Story Starters from Scholastic (http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/story-starters/) – ideas to jumpstart stories!
Scribblit (http://www.scribblitt.com) – write and publish your own book!
StoryJumper (http://www.storyjumper.com) – write and illustrate your own story!
SPILLING INK: A YOUNG WRITER’S HANDBOOK by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter is a great book about writing.
Have fun! J

Susanna (Leonard) Hill is the award winning author of nearly a dozen books for children, including Punxsutawney Phyllis (A Book List Children’s Pick and Amelia Bloomer Project choice), No Sword Fighting In The House (a Junior Library Guild selection), Can’t Sleep Without Sheep (a Children’s Book of The Month), and Not Yet, Rose (a Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner.)
Her books have been translated into French, Dutch, German, and Japanese, with one hopefully forthcoming in Korean. Her newest book, Alphabedtime!, is forthcoming from Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, in Fall 2015.
Susanna lives in New York’s Mid-Hudson Valley with her husband, children, and two rescue dogs.


Mayra Calvani said…
Your book looks super cute, Susanna! Best of luck with your tour and thanks for being a guest on my blog.
Thank you so much for having me, Mayra! Your books look wonderful too! And I apologize if this post was directed more at kids' writing than adults and therefore not as good a fit for your readers. Hopefully some of them have kids or work with kids and will find a use for the tips - or will tweak them for their own writing :) Many thanks! Susanna
Rosi said…
I thought it was a terrific post, Susanna. I always learn something new from you. Thanks.
Aw, thanks Rosi! And thanks so much for stopping by!
Stacy S. Jensen said…
As a writer mom, I read this and tried to think of ways to better engage my toddler in story telling. He's a master at it, but sometimes I'd like to hear about dragons than these mystery "boomer" things he's always talking about. We're fans of Phyllis and it's that time of year almost!
Sylvia Liu said…
I love your advice, "Write what you want to read." Perfect!
This post really helped! :D I'm going to go write right now! :D
@Stacy - I'm pretty interested in the "mystery boomer things" :)

@ Sylvia - it is good advice, isn't it? I love that quote!

@ Erik - I'm glad you liked it, but I don't think you need much encouragement to write :)
Thanks for a great post, Mayra! Susanna, lots of great tips from you- thanks so much!
You're welcome, Elaine! Thanks so much for stopping by!
Unknown said…
Thanks for the writing tips, Susanna! I always appreciate supportive, positive encouragement that inspires me to find my writing niche. Mayra - excellent post! :)
Teresa Robeson said…
Great advice about trying out all kinds of writing to see what would be a good fit, Susanna! And you're so right about writing helping to process something difficult. I don't often free-write, but at the Start The Year Off Write challenge, we had to do it as one of the exercises, and it was so cathartic for me because I had an issue that was weighing heavily on my mind and write a "brain dump" of it helped me so much.

Love that Toni Morrison quote; it's one of my favorites!
@Martha - so glad if you liked them Martha :) They were a little more directed toward kids, since that's what I thought the post was supposed to be :)

@ Teresa - I know. I think more people could benefit from understanding that. I have certainly used writing to help me process things! And I'm glad you like that quote too! :)