QUIRKY QUILL is for and by young writers and readers, hosted and moderated by me, Sharon Kirk Clifton. Welcome!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I Wish You a Very Merry Literary CHRISTmas!

Two things you should know about my grandson Reuben: he loves--I mean loves--mysteries, and he loves for me to read aloud to him. Well, I am a storyteller so I do all the voices and sound effects.

Two things you should know about me: I love--I mean love--to read aloud to an appreciative audience, and I only choose those works that are well-written. Well, I am a writer and a former English teacher. (Some would argue there is no such thing as a former English teacher. They may be right.)

Reuben and I recently discovered the Red Rock Mystery series by Jerry B. Jenkins and Chris Fabry. I was familiar with some of Jenkins's adult novels, having read the Left Behind series and The Betrayal, the second in his Precinct 11 trilogy, so when I saw that he also has written several books for middle-graders and 'tweens, I knew I had to check them out.

At first, I didn't realize the books were numbered. I had a duh! moment when I realized we actually read Number 4 in the series first, Wild Rescue. We backtracked to Number 1, Haunted Waters, and are now taking them in order.

Chapters are very short, so we usually read ten to fifteen chapters at a sitting. For those of you who also write, Jenkins is a master at crafting end-of-chapter hooks. It takes extreme discipline to close the book and say, "That's enough for today." Since my grandson lives in another city, much of my reading aloud is done over the telephone, so I often end up reading until the cordless phone dies in my hands.

The series blurb on says:
Watch out! The Timberline twins are on the loose. Bryce and Ashley are ATV-riding tweens from Colorado who unearth action-packed mystery and adventure wherever they go. From clearing the name of a local miscreant to thwarting a gold-stealing heist, the twins' growing faith and the strong example of their parents guide them through even the most life-threatening situations. With the trademark page-turner style used by Jerry Jenkins and Chris Fabry in the Left Behind: The Kids series, these fast-paced books will keep even reluctant readers on the edge of their seats. Readers will definitely get hooked by the unbelievable cliff-hanger at the end of book one, Haunted Waters. Perfect for ages 8-12.
Reuben and I highly recommend the Red Rock Mysteries series for readers who enjoy heart-stopping mystery and adventure. Have you already read them? If so, which is your favorite and why? (Don't give away endings!) Do you have another favorite mystery series? Tell our readers about it in the "Comments" section.

Because of Jesus,
Miss Sharon

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo for YOUth! And It's FREE!

It's true! It's true! There's a NaNoWriMo just for YOU! That is, if you are one of the young writers out there. I recently led a fiction writing workshop for a precocious group of homeschooled writers and was blown away by their talent, so I know many of you not only love writing but do it well. NaNoWriMo is a challenging opportunity to discipline yourself to write like crazy during November on one burning story. Get the whole scoop by clicking on the many link throughout this blurb.
     No fair cheating! Don't write ahead! BUT you can do some pre-planning, some plot mapping, braiding, or outlining, if that's the way you work. You can start browsing the web to find pictures of your characters, places, etc., if that helps you to visualize your story. You can clear your calendar of non-essentials to give yourself some extra writing time. You can talk with your writing/English teachers to see if they would be willing to waive some usual writing assignments to allow still more time for you to devote to your project. You can pray for God's guidance as you enter this BIG adventure.
     Let us all know how it goes. In fact, drop a line now and then to tell us about your progress, any problems you encounter, and your word count. With your permission, we'll publish your first name only and your word count as you go--weekly would be great. Sure hope to hear from you.

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writer's Nudge: View from the Kitchen Window

Looks peaceful, right? I'm sure you're old enough to know, as the old saying goes, looks can be deceiving. Something is about to happen outside this window. What? Why? Who will be involved? How does it end? Will it affect the people who live in the house? By the way, who lives here? If you're eight-through-fourteen years old, write on! Be sure to post your writing by clicking on  "Comments." I love to read your work, and others will, also.

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Guest Review: RAPUNZEL

GUEST REVIEWER: Danielle Dodge

It's a pleasure to welcome Danielle and her review. At fourteen, she already has several credentials. She has written two novellas, a novel, and several guest blogs. She also has placed in numerous writing competitions. Her goal is to write and traditionally publish YA that will "make a change in teen fiction."  

Title: Rapunzel by Jessica Kaye
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing 
180 Pages
  • ISBN-10: 1460988949
  • ISBN-13: 978-1460988947

          Rapunzel is a girl with impossibly long hair.  She’s locked in a tower by her Granny Aunt who only wants to protect Rapunzel from the evil men in the world.
          When a young man climbs into her tower, Rapunzel finds out not all men are evil.  The two fall in love but Granny Aunt finds out about Brendan and chases him away.
          Later on, her granny stops coming to bring food for Rapunzel.  Unsure what’s happened to her, Rapunzel escapes her tower only to find Granny Aunt on her deathbed.
          Rapunzel must take her fate into her own hands.  When her new life is threatened, can she save herself and her new-found friends?
* * *
          This was an enjoyable, easy read that kept my attention.  Several unexpected things popped up throughout the story to keep it moving.  I found Brendan sweet and funny and overall, a very nice guy.
          All the characters could have had more personality and be more 3-D.  As it was, the characters’ voices didn’t sound  unique or distinct.
          Throughout the story, I didn’t sense an overall goal that Rapunzel was striving to achieve or see the stakes raised for her, making her life harder.  If there had been more obvious goals, the stakes probably would have been raised, making her achievement of the goal more difficult.
          I was expecting there to be a revelation as to why Granny Aunt locked Rapunzel in the tower.  I knew that the granny wanted to keep her safe from evil men, but seeing that Rapunzel didn’t meet too many evil men in the story, I found that a rather pathetic reason.
          There were several moments when I was really looking forward to and expecting something dramatic or romantic.  As it was, they were a bit anticlimactic and disappointing.
          Overall, the story was a light read and I would give it two out of five stars.

Have you read a book recently that you'd like to review for Quirky Quill? Submit your review to me at sharonkirkclifton (at sign, no spaces) yahoo (dot) com. Be sure to type QQ BOOK REVIEW in the "Subject" box.
Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Friday, August 17, 2012

Writer's Nudge: What a Bunch of Characters!

On my "Faces and Folks" page at, I have a collection of people images that I find interesting. Some will inhabit my stories. A few already do. I'm posting a smattering of those intriguing faces here for you to think and write about. Choose as many as you wish, give them fictional names, and tell something about them. What do they do? Where and when do they live (you can move them around in history)? What are their personalities like? If you want to have even more fun, choose two or three and write a short story that features these characters. Then submit your writing as a comment. You may post more than one story. I'd love to read your work. Be sure to let me know which ones you're writing about. I've numbered them to make that easier. Have fun!

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon 

Picture 1
Picture 2

Picture 3
Picture 4

Picture 6

Picture 5
Picture 9

Picture 7
Picture 8
Picture 10
Picture 11
Picture 12
Picture 13
Picture 14

Picture 15

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Building a Town (No Legos Involved)

The Roost and Crow Café, at the corner of Main Street and Apple, is the focal point of Mt. Vista, Indiana, population 931-and-a-half (Mr. and Mrs. Pfennigan are expecting their fifth baby). Leora Frumple is chief cook and owner of the restaurant, well-known for its black raspberry pie and strong coffee. Daughters Dorsy and Gertrude help their mama out.

Across the street is Earl and Bett London's Candy Kitchen, open from April Fool's Day through Thanksgiving Eve, and Wildman's 5 & 10. Before the Depression set in, Earl's brother Bill owned London Department Store, but he had to sell out. Now it's the Mt. Vista Public Library, though the sign over the door still reads London Department Store.

* * *
Is Mt. Vista a real place? Depends on how you define "real." It's real to me. And to the folks who live and work there, including Matilda (Tillie) Rose Pickle, main character of my third middle-grade novel, The Daddy Letters. 

I'm doing the pre-writing grunt work right now--drawing out the plot, planning the dastardly deeds that plague Tillie, giving a pulse to the people in the story, and building the town. This is fun stuff.

Tillie Pickle's house.
In my two previous stories, the protagonists interact with a limited number of secondary and peripheral characters. They're both set in very rural areas. In this third work, Tillie and her family live on a small farm just outside the town limits of Mt. Vista. On her rusty green bike it takes three minutes to get from her house to the "Welcome to Mt. Vista" sign. Another five minutes and she's past the "Thanks for Shopping in Mt. Vista! Please come back!" sign and on her way to Pearlie June Firkins's place. Pearlie June--poor thing--is Tillie's number one best friend.

Did I happen to mention that this is fun stuff? Feel free to leave comments. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fiction in Baby-Bites ~ Three: Part 1

Do You Know Those Characters?

When I began my second novel, I didn't really know the characters. I knew about them--something of what they looked like and how they related to one another, that sort of thing--but they weren't quite real to me. If your characters aren't real to you, they won't be to your readers, either.

I hear you. "But they're people I made up," you say. Yes, but they must have--are you ready for a really big word?--verisimilitude. That just means they must be very similar to real life.

When you write, you're creating a world peopled by your characters. You don't want them to be one-dimensional.   They won't seem real if they're all bad, all good, always funny, always sad or mad or . . .  anything. People aren't like that. You're not. Neither are your readers, so your characters shouldn't be, either. A character who is all anything is called flat. We want our characters to be rounded, or mufti-dimensional. 

Figure 2

Here a Quirk, There a Quirk

You can breathe life into your characters by adding one or two idiosyncrasies, little quirks, habits, or pet words they use. Leah, the main character in one of my novels, doesn't curse, of course, but when she's frustrated, she says, "Oh, snap!"

Notice your friends. What little habits do they have? What word or phrase keeps popping up? Caution! These quirky tidbits should be used sparsely. Too many will jerk the reader out of your story because s/he'll pay too much attention to the quirk.
Figure 3

Picture This!

I'm a visual person. Yes, I can visualize in my mind what a character looks like, but I find it helpful to go on the internet and search for faces. It makes me feel as though I'm casting for a movie of my story. That's fun! is a handy tool for that. I, like a lot of my writer friends collect pictures of people, places, clothing, etc., that fit a book we're writing. Most of the pictures in this post are of my characters. Figure 5 is Leah. Figure 4 is her friend Trevor. Figure 6 is the man who shoots Leah in the leg. What do your characters look like? It helps to know.

Talking to the Invisible

Another way to get well acquainted with your characters is to interview them. Crazy, I know, but it works. Come up with a list of questions for your main characters. Most of the time, you'll know the answers in advance, but sometimes they surprise you. For example, I interviewed Trevor. His dad died heroically while serving in Iraq. Okay. I knew that. But Trevor knew more details. His dad had thrown himself on a grenade to save the lives of his soldiers. In a valiant act that reminded me of Jesus, Who died in my place on the Cross, Trevor's father had willingly given his own life for others. I hadn't known that. In my interview with Leah, I found out why she is angry with God. All of that sounds a little crazy to people who aren't writers, but character interviews are a common tool we use.

Blogger is acting a little weird today by not letting me type or place photos where I want to, so I'm cutting this post short. Check back in a few days, and I'll post an interview I did with a character. It will give you an idea of what I'm talking about. 

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6

Thursday, July 5, 2012

You Read, Right?

Is that book good?
So write a review!
Let others know
they'll like it, too.
You read, right?


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

HELP WANTED: Book Reviewers!

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Quirky Quill readers want to hear about it. Write a review of the book. Remember, don't give away the ending.

This is not a book report! In a review you tell:

  • the names of the book and author
  • what the story is about
  • the genre of the story (mystery, history, fantasy, sci-fi, funny, contemporary, etc.)
  • the setting of time and place (when it happens and where)
  • the important characters
  • the main character's (protagonist) main goal (what s/he wants most of all)
  • the main problem (what tries to keep the mc from achieving the main goal)
  • what you liked about the book

    Again, DON'T GIVE AWAY THE ENDING! When you're finished, send it to Miz Sharon at sharonkirkclifton [at] yahoo [dot] com (no spaces or caps). Put "Book Review" in the subject line. Oh, one last thing. Submit reviews about books that do not violate the Christian world view. It doesn't have to be a Christian book, however.

Writer's Nudge

I love this picture. It's so evocative, meaning it is heavy with emotion. It has many sensory images. What's going on here? Write a response to the picture or let it illustrate a story. Here are some things to think about:

Where is this place? What clues in the picture make you think this?

Who is this girl? What is she doing here? Why is she alone? Or is she?

What is the girl seeing? Smelling? Hearing? Feeling? Thinking? What emotions is she feeling?

What happened just before this scene?

What will happen within the hour?

What time of day is it?

How do the colors in the picture make you feel?

Does this picture remind you of anything you have experienced?

You don't have to answer all of these questions. You don't have to answer any of them, either. Write what you want to. The important thing is that it relate to the picture.

HINT: Have you ever tried listening to music while you write? I do that a lot. I choose music that goes along with the story I'm writing or the emotions I'm feeling as I write. Music can enrich your writing.

Click "Comment" and write your story. It may not show up right away, since I have this page set up so I can moderate comments.

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Friday, June 8, 2012

Writer's Nudge

How I Wish I Could Spend My Summer Vacation

Set your imagination loose to fly the heights of the impossible and the breadth of the improbable! Soar east of the equator and south of the sun.

If...IF you could spend your summer break doing anything and going anywhere, what story would you write at the end? Write it now and submit it either as a "Comment" or as an e-mail for the "Dear Miz Sharon" page.

If your first draft is as messy and ragged as my first drafts usually are, take a little time to clean it up. Check spelling and punctuation. Indent paragraphs. That sort of thing. I can hardly wait to hear from you.

By the way, don't you love the illustration above? Susan Tolonen, the artist, calls it "Global Children." She gave me special permission to use it. [Thank you, Susan!] She's a professional illustrator.

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Writer's Nudge

Write about this picture and submit it to the "Comments" section of this blog post.

You may choose to write a short, short story (no more than 600 words), letting this painting illustrate your tale. Remember, a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It also has a problem of some kind that the main character must solve.

Perhaps you'd prefer to write about the picture without structuring it like a story. That's fine, too. Who might the girls be? What is the book they're reading? How does each one feel about what she's reading? What happened before they began reading the book? What will happen when they stop? There are no right or wrong responses. Use your imagination.

If you haven't already, please click to "Follow" this blog, also. I look forward to hearing from you.

Write on!
Because of Jesus,
Miz Sharon

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fiction in Baby-Bites~TWO

Lay Out the Bones

I say in my writing workshops that the plot of a story is the skeleton--the bones without the details. The plot keeps the writer on track. Some writers claim that they don't plot, but they probably do, even if it's not down on paper. They have at least a general idea of where they're going. If a writer doesn't know where she's going, how will she know when she gets there?

Some writers make a formal outline, the kind you learn to do in English class. Others use a type of outline called webbing. I know writers who simply list the book's chapters and tell what main event happens in each. Experiment and find out what works best for you. Keep it as simple as possible.

Mark the High Points

Somewhere early in your story, plot an inciting incident, also called a catalyst. This event launches your main character (protagonist) on his adventure. It's an event that changes everything. Life is normal. Then...BANG! Something happens. Does a parent die? Does the MC discover a caged tiger in the woods? Perhaps he finds a peculiar square egg. Maybe the MC's family decides to become Amish. The action of the story will in some way reflect back, or be the result of, this incident.

Considering the inciting incident, what does your protagonist want more than anything in the world? He may desire several things, but what's the biggie--the one he's willing to take risks for? Once you know that, the story becomes a focused quest Who or what is working against this goal? Is it a person or a group of people? Or is it an internal conflict, something inside himself that keeps saying, "You can't do it. You're not smart enough. You're not strong enough, You're not popular enough. You're not [fill in the blank] enough!" The conflict may also come from nature or some fantastical being.

At some point very near the end of your story, the MC will reach the climax, the high point of the plot, that spot where it's do or die, where he must overcome the big problem--the source of the main conflict--against all odds. Think of your plot as a mountain. The climax is the tip-top of that mountain. But prior to reaching that point, other problems occur at strategic spots up the incline, each one a little worse that the last. I know. You want to protect your protagonist. You don't want to see him get hurt. As one writer told me early in my fiction writing journey, "You've got to beat up your darlings." If nothing bad, hurtful, or disappointing ever happens to him, you don't have much of a story. He must overcome.

Following the climax is the descending action and resolution. Loose ends are tidied up. As the writer, you get to decide whether or not the protagonist fully reaches his main goal. It's okay to leave the reader wondering or speculating based on the information you've given. Readers' interest begins to wane after the climax, so don't drag out the last part. Leave them wishing the story were longer.

Any questions or comments? As always, I love to hear from you.

Write on!
Because of Christ,
Miz Sharon


Monday, March 26, 2012

Fiction in Baby-Bites~ONE

Hook 'em! Hook 'em good!

Your BFF loves your story idea. Your dad's convinced you're a literary protégé. Grandma's boring her friends at the senior center with stories of your prowess with a pen. You have a plot. You know what's going to happen in the story--kinda, sorta. Now it's time to put that golden pen to the paper (or, more likely, those pink little fingertips to the pc keyboard) and write.

Where to begin. That's the real question. Some smart aleck might say, "At the beginning." That's not the best answer, Mr. Aleck. The beginning can be really boring, full of back-story explanation and description. You can work that in bit by bit later on, but first  hook that reader. Make 'em care. Propel them to read on.

One way to get the job done
 is to plunk them down smack-dab in the middle of the action. (The fancy, writerly term for that is in medias res. That means "in the middle of things. It's Latin.) In other words, something important already has happened. Something so big, the life of the main character (MC) will never be the same.

"How do I write something like that?" you ask. I heard you. Check out first lines and first paragraphs of good books, books that have won awards, books that you really like.

Consider these:

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Now, that one's from my all-time favorite author: God, a.k.a. Yahweh, etc. Doesn't that line just grab you by the throat? It's simple, easy to understand, and to the point. It makes readers ask, "Then what?" He goes on to tell the then what. The Book is hundreds of pages long, but it's so captivating that we have to read on. What big thing happens? Everything is created by the Book's MC, and nothing will ever be...nothing again.

Here's another:

"Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids." In medias res. The world's at war. The children are in danger from air-borne bombs, and they have to leave all they've ever known, all that's familiar. 

And another:

"That morning, after he discovered the tiger, Rob went and stood under the Kentucky Star Motel sign and waited for the school bus just like it was any other day." We guess that Rob is the MC, and though the line is delivered in a mundane way, a boy's discovering a tiger somewhere near a school bus stop is extraordinary. So then what happens? As a reader, that line hooked me--hooked me good. The book lived up to the promise delivered in that first line. BTW, the author's work has won many awards. 


"'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." What has happened? We don't know yet, except that this Jo is facing a giftless Christmas. (Can she ever endure such horror?)


"My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog." Is there a big change in the MC's life? Oh, yeah! Will anything ever be the same? Probably not. Is it a good hook line? Uh-huh. Good enough to entice some film producers to turn the award-winning book into one of my favorite movies. Do you know what it is?

It's your turn. 
  • Check out the hook lines of some of your favorite books. Choose the three you like the best, click "Comments," and tell us all.
  • You know the first Book I've mentioned above is the Bible. The others are from what books? If you think you know, click "Comments," and show how brilliant you are.
Read on! Write on!
Because of Christ,
Miz Sharon

P.S.: Be sure to read the "Letters" page before you leave QUIRKY QUILL.
P.S.S.: Be sure to click the "Join" button. 
P.S.S.S.: Keep checking back on QUIRKY QUILL. I'm planning a contest!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Writer's Nudge

For the week of 25 March 2012
Choose one of the figures in this painting, and write about him or her. You might want to consider what this person is doing in this place. What is the situation. What is the person saying? How do the others respond to this person. What is the general atmosphere in the room, the mood of the people? Describe all of this from the point of view (POV) of the character you chose.

I would love to see what you write. If you're willing to share it with readers of this blog, click on "Comments" and paste your writing. 

Do You Write?

Shortly after I learned to read (and, by the way, that took awhile), I started writing. I loved it! The magic of putting on to the blank page my thoughts and imaginings fascinated me. Trouble was, too many of my stories sounded a lot like the latest horse novel I'd read.

Then one day I read in the Bible that there's nothing new under the sun. That includes plots (story lines, what I call "tale bones"). We writers make a plot our own by looking at old tale bones from different angles. We put new flesh on old bones by adding characters, actions, colors, feelings, places, problems, times, and dragons. Okay. So we don't always include dragons--but we can if we want to.

Back to my lead question. Do you write? If so, check out these sites listed in the inaugural issue of ACFW Journal, The Voice of Christian Fiction:

ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) also recommends these books for youths who write (like you!):

A Teen's Guide to Getting Published: Publishing for Profit, Recognition, and Academic Success by Jessica Dunn

Seize the Story by Victoria Hanley

Spilling Ink by Ellen Potter

Rip the Page!: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke

In addition to those, I recommend any book about the craft of writing by James Scott Bell.

What do you write? Click on the "Comment" button below and tell me. If you have any questions about writing, leave those, too. I'll answer you.