Thursday, 4 March 2021

Alternative books and stories for reaching young and teen readers #ChaBooCha

Image by Thorsten Frenzel from Pixabay

This past year, while not going out as much due to the pandemic, I found myself being drawn to other types of stories and other story mediums. Most of my children are avid readers, all except for one. She gets bored when reading normal length novels, even the shorter ones aimed at younger readers, and from when she was about ten years old until now, she has preferred reading manga and graphic novels. I've always been of the mindset that, as long as she's reading, no matter what format she is reading in or what genre, it's a good thing. 

Manga is defined in the Oxford English dictionary as "a style of Japanese comic books and graphic novels, typically aimed at adults as well as children." (A graphic novel is simply defined as a novel in comic strip format.) Now, it's true that some of these manga comics have very adult themes, but there are also many aimed at younger audiences. My daughter is fifteen and has been buying herself the Black Butler series by Yana Toboso recently.

Many manga comics and graphic novels get their start in webtoons. A webtoon is a series of comics published online. (Some of these manga comics and webtoons eventually lead to anime cartoons, but, for the sake of this challenge, we are focused on writing for children and teens.) There are some free sites for reading webtoons, such as Webtoons, when they get a strong following, can often lead to publishing deals for manga books and graphic novels.

There are also books called light novels. According to Wikipedia, a
 light novel is "a style of Japanese young adult novel primarily targeting high school and middle school students. Light novels are commonly illustrated in a manga art style, and are often adapted into manga and anime." Light novels are usually shorter and they also contain few illustrations. They also tend to be easier to read.

Another type of book that middle school and highschool children (as well as adults) tend to like are D&D books. D&D stands for Dungeons & Dragons which is a table-top fantasy role-playing game. Each player gets to create their own character to play during the game, from fantasy characters to human, including their players skill sets, magic abilities, ancestry and background. Often, the one in charge of the game, the dungeon master, has to write up an extensive story for the game with several options as to where the story may lead based on the choices and the dice-roll of the players. There are many books out there to help with the creation of characters, foes, and worlds, as well as dungeon master guides and so forth. This leads to an endless possibility of book topics to compliment game-playing.

I'm listing off some of these different book types because they are not the ones we regularly think about when we think about writing for kids and teens. As much as I would love to write some graphic novels, I have no artistic skill so, if I ever decided to do so, I'd have to find a willing artist who could work well with my vision for the stories. But I know a lot of you in this challenge are already skilled artists, so when it comes graphic novels and manga, this is a route you might think about when writing your book.

As always, happy writing!



Today's prize is a copy The Ancient Magus' Bride Vol. 1 by Kore Yamazaki. All you need to do to be entered into the drawing for this prize is be a signed-up member of ChaBooCha and comment on this blog post. The winner will be chosen by a random number generator and will be announced on the 7th of March 2021, and the book will be sent out as soon as I am contacted by the winner with the correct address to send it to. If this book is not available at the time of purchase, an alternative manga book may be sent in its place.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Chapter Book Challenge 2021 Badge #ChaBooCha

Sorry for the delay in getting the Chapter Book Challenge badges ready for the challenge. I've had two laptops die on me this past year and we also had to replace out desktop computer. All of the machines that went kaput on us were ones that had my picture-making program on them, and none of the new ones have a DVD player for re-adding the program from our CDs. (Also, I'm not sure we still have the authorisation code for the program anymore.)

So creating this badge was much more difficult than usual. Hope you like it anyway! I was unable to resize it, so if you use it, you may need to resize it as it is quite large. (Blogger allows me to temporarily resize your view of it, but the actual file is still large to view outside of Blogger.)


Monday, 1 March 2021

Chapter Book Challenge 2021!!! #ChaBooCha

Welcome to the 2021 Chapter Book Challenge! For those of you who are new to the ChaBooCha, I will explain the details of the writing challenge.

The Chapter Book Challenge, otherwise known as ChaBooCha, first ran in 2012. It runs every year in the month of March. The challenge is to write one completed first draft of an early reader, chapter book, middle grade book or YA novel in the month of March, starting on the 1st of March and finishing on the 31st of March.

During the month of March, there are helpful blog posts from published authors, agents and publishers to help members hone their craft, and there are prizes available throughout the challenge.

ChaBooCha has a very relaxed atmosphere where members help each other to achieve writing goals. You can sign up on the website using the sign-up form, and you can also join the Facebook page for updates and information. There is a Twitter page at and members interact with one another throughout the year in the Facebook group.

It is completely free to join the Chapter Book Challenge. 

Normally, prizes are announced at the end of the month once the challenge is ending, but this year, I have decided to announce and send out prizes throughout the month. In the last few years, my procrastination has gotten worse and I have a terrible memory, so many prizes were sent out excessively late. It will be easier for me to get prizes out in a more timely manner if I do them during the challenge itself. Prizes for the first week of the challenge will be announced on the 7th and sent out immediately upon getting the addresses to send them to. Likewise, the same will be done for the weeks ending on the 14th, 21st and 28th.

ChaBooCha's mascot: Nabu the badger

You also might be wondering about our logo. The Chapter Book Challenge logo is all about our mascot Nabu the Badger. Nabu loves to read, and he is really looking forward to all of the new chapter books, middle grade books and YA books that are going to be written and published as a result of this year's ChaBooCha. Nabu was named after the Babylonian patron god of scribes, wisdom and literature. Nabu became our "mascot" back in 2014, just two years into the Challenge.

ChaBooCha Regional Ambassadors

The Chapter Book Challenge has been growing year on year and, there are some things I cannot do because of the restrictions of my location, such as meet-ups. As a solution, in places where there are more than just one member, ChaBooCha has Regional Ambassadors. 

ChaBooCha regional ambassadors are the people who coordinate Chapter Book Challenge events within their region. In order to become a regional ambassador, there first needs to be more members in your region than just you, and your main duties are to arrange write-ins and meet-ups with other members within your region and also to spread the word about the challenge within your region.

Promotional materials, when they are in the budget, get sent out to our Regional Ambassadors, and printable files will be sent as well. A special RA badge will be created for RAs to use on their blogs and websites, if they so choose. Regional Ambassadors will receive a ChaBooCha RA badge to wear in their first year of joining as an RA and in their second year as an RA, they will receive a ChaBooCha keychain. As things move along, there may be more perks added for RAs. 

If you think this is a role you might like to take on within your region, send me an e-mail. (There is only one RA per region, but they may choose a co-RA.)

Teapot Tales anthologies

To help fund the challenge, from prizes to advertising to RA gifts, we have created a series of anthologies with stories all written and donated by members of the challenge. There are currently four Teapot Tales anthologies available for purchase. Proceeds from sales of the anthologies go towards funding the Chapter Book Challenge. The anthologies can be found on Amazon. There were also two themed anthologies written and contributed to by past members which also help fund ChaBooCha: Ghostly Echoes (Halloween-themed) and Jingle Bells (winter holiday-themed).

Teapot Tales: Volume 1

Teapot Tales: Volume 2

Teapot Tales: Volume 3

Ghostly Echoes

Jingle Bells

Chapter Book Challenge 2020 badge

Due to a computer problem on my laptop that I has my photopaint software, I am late in creating the badge for this year's challenge. I hope I can have it ready for posting tomorrow, so come have a look back then.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Prizes 2020 #ChaBooCha

Image by by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay 

For the prizes that were not awarded on the 31st, I promised to do a drawing for them on the 7th, so here it is:

For a copy of Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unusual Fairy Tales , the winner is: rimna 

 For a signed copy of Melissa Stoller's chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION - RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, the winner is: Shanah Salter 

For a critique from Melissa Stoller on the first three chapters of a chapter book manuscript, the winner is: Yangmama 

Congratulations to those who won prizes! Please contact me through my e-mail.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

An Ending and New Beginnings #ChaBooCha

Today is the last day of the Chapter Book Challenge. We have reached the end of ChaBooCha 2020. But it might be the end, but it doesn't mean we don't have a lot of things still to do and new things to begin. Those of you who did not complete your novel can still continue your writing. Those of you who completed your novels need to begin editing and revising in order to advance on your path to publication. Some of you are already at the stage of beginning your next novels.

Wherever you are on this writing journey, I want to tell you that you have done well!

And now I get to announce the winners of this month's prizes. As usual, I am excessively slow at getting prizes out to people, and that will only be exacerbated by the fact that my country is currently in "lock-down" due to the pandemic. But I will do my best to get these prizes out to you before the next Chapter Book Challenge. (There were a few less prizes this time in order to make it easier for me to try and get them out in a more timely manner.)


The winner of Books and Bone by Victoria Corva is: saputnam

The winner of "Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly" by Gail Carson Levine is: elisa 

The winner of the metal charm bookmark made by me is: Kelly Vavala and Manju Howard 

The winner of a copy of Teapot Tales: A Collection of Unique Fairy Tales is: BetW 

Sadly, no one entered the give-aways for these four prizes listed below, possibly because they were posts that were later in the month. If anyone wants to comment on the posts that offered these prizes within the next week (to give some more time for comments), I can do another drawing for the below prizes on April 7th. I will then announce the winners in a blog post, but it will not be e-mailed out as the e-mails only go out during the month of March.

*a signed copy of Melissa Stoller's chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION - RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND

*a critique from Melissa Stoller on the first three chapters of a chapter book manuscript

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Top Five Reasons Why Chapter Books Are the Best by Marcie Colleen #ChaBooCha

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay
I set out on this crazy journey to be a kids author thinking I would be all about picture books and only picture books. But when a super fun chapter book series literally fell into my lap (The Super Happy Party Bears) I couldn’t help but fall in love with the form.

For many reasons, I have come to realize that chapter books are where it’s at. Let me explain.

Here are my Top Five Reasons Why Chapter Books are the Best (to read and write!)

1. Chapter books are like cartoon series, but in book form. That’s right! I learned a lot of what I know about writing a chapter book series by studying cartoons—and I love cartoons! To read more about that, check out my ChaBooCha post from 2019, Three Things Cartoons Taught Me About Writing Chapter Books.

2. Chapter books create lifelong readers. When kids are young they are read to. Often with or without making the choice themselves. But when a kid becomes of age to read chapter books, you as an author have the ability to create a lifelong reader. Statistics show that people who read have increased focus, are more reflective, have incredible writing and speaking skills, and increased memory. If you can get a child to fall in love with your books, and hence reading for pleasure, you have taken part in creating a lifelong reader.

3. Chapter books create a sense of accomplishment for the reader. I remember the first time I read a book that required a bookmark and multiple sittings to finish it. I would close the book at times just to look at how many pages I had read and how many were still left to go. I felt like such a grownup reading a grownup book. And then, because most chapter books are series, I would gaze upon the books on the shelf all lined up like little reading trophies. I did that. I read all of those words by myself.

4. Chapter books empower their readers. Want to hear something cool about chapter books? They are a low price point for a reason. Not only do they empower readers through independent reading, but often with their allowance or a little extra cash from a birthday they can afford to buy the book themselves! Therefore it is super important that the production costs of chapter books stay low enough to keep the retail price low.
5. Chapter book readers are enthusiastic super fans. I love doing school visits to second, third, and fourth grade classes for The Super Happy Party Bears series. The kids get so excited and even share ideas for future Party Bear books. They ask questions about the world and specific plot points. They quote the books. They create fan art and send fan mail. They create Halloween costumes based on my characters. They dedicate their birthday party theme to the books. Having super fans is the best!

So c’mon all you cool kids! Do you have anything to add about why writing and reading chapter books is the absolute best? Share in the comments below—and then go write. There are lots of super fans waiting to fall in love with your books!


Marcie Colleen is a former classroom teacher turned children’s book author. She’s the author of THE SUPER HAPPY PARTY BEARS chapter book series (Macmillan/Imprint), as well as several picture books. Marcie is a frequent presenter at conferences for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Additionally, she’s a faculty member for San Diego Writer’s Ink and the University of California San Diego Extension. She also teaches online classes on “Crafting the Chapter Book” for The Writing Barn and will be teaching the first 4-day Chapter Book Intensive on location at The Writing in Austin, Texas in November, 2020 with fellow chapter book author, Hannah Barnaby (Monster and Boy Holt). Go to for further information about registration.

Marcie lives in San Diego, California. You can find her at @MarcieColleen1 on Twitter.



Today's giveaway is a copy of Teapot Tales: Pirates, Mermaids and Monsters of the Sea. In order to be entered into the drawing for this prize, you must be a signed-up member of the challenge and comment on this blog post. Your comment will be assigned a number and the winner will be chosen by a random number generator at noon on March 31st, 2020 and announced later that day.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Writing Your Chapter Book by Melissa Stoller #ChaBooCha

For those of you getting a late start to your ChaBooCha story or needing to start from scratch, or even those who need some new, fresh ideas to keep their story going, we have this great post from Melissa Stoller to share with you today.

Image by Willgard Krause on Pixabay

by Melissa Stoller 

If it’s March – it must be Chapter Book Challenge 2020! I have written several posts for the Chapter Book Challenge, including Working Your Way Through Chapter Book Challenge 2017, How to Start Writing Your Chapter Book, How to Write a Chapter Book Series, and Brainstorming Ideas.  

In this post, I will offer some strategies for brainstorming, researching, and drafting your chapter book this month. Ready, set, CHABOOCHA! 

Determine the Book’s World – Brainstorm some specifics about the setting of your story’s world. Is it fiction? Are there non-fiction or historical elements? What are the rules in this world? How does it all work? Writing reference points for your story setting will enable you to remain true to your story’s world, and offer enriching details in your chapter book. 

Draft a Character Study – Know as much as possible about your characters before you write. What are their likes, dislikes, and goals? What are their favorite foods, games, books, movies, and friends? What are their quirks, fears, and embarrassments? How do they speak and relate to each other? Before I start writing, I do a character sketch and interview each main character. As I write, I refer back to these notes to ensure that my characters are interesting, relatable, and consistent throughout my books. 


For example, in my chapter book series THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION, Simon loves games, especially cards, food, and adventure. His twin sister Emma loves solving puzzles, chatting with people, and taking chances. They both love Molly, their grandmother’s dog. I use these characteristics and more as I draft scenes and dialogue. 

Plot Your Plot – Every story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end. What obstacles will your characters face? How will they overcome those obstacles? What growth will take place during the story, both in the characters’ external journeys and also their internal journeys? Also, what themes are your including in your story? Think about how your plot and themes will resonate with young readers. 


Research – While my chapter book series is fiction, the stories also include historical elements. If possible, I visit the locations where the books take place. For example, when working on the first book in the series, RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, I visited Coney Island and the famous Cyclone roller coaster (but didn’t ride!). I also visited the Liberty Bell while writing THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, the second book in the series (releasing soon!). Recently, I travelled to Washington, D.C. to research at the Library of Congress while working on the third book in the series which is set there. 

If you can’t research in person, you can also research online. Book Two of my series also takes place in San Francisco, which I didn’t visit, but I did extensive research online using Google Maps,, the U.S. National Archives online, and other sources. 

Outline Your Story – I start each book in my series with an outline of ten chapters, assuming each chapter will be roughly 500 words each. Even of you don’t normally outline, it might be helpful. As long as I have a detailed outline (which I often revise as I go along), I know that I’m headed in the right direction. 

Sit Down and Write – I usually start writing chapter one first, but when I move toward the middle of the story, I find that sometimes it’s easier to write the chapters out of order. Make sure you have page-turning transitions between chapters so the reader will keep reading, and enough action to move the story forward. I often put my chapter book project away between chapters so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. As I move along, I always think about setting, characters, plot, and themes, and I use my research and my outline to write. 

I hope this is a helpful framework in which to approach your chapter book project during the Chapter Book Challenge this month. 

Cheers to creativity! 



The first book in Melissa Stoller's chapter book series, The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection: Return to Coney Island was published by Clear Fork Publishing in 2017, and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride releases soon! Her picture books, Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush, Ready, Set and GOrilla! were published by Clear Fork in 2018. In other chapters of her life, she has worked as a lawyer, legal research and writing instructor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a volunteer with SCBWI/Metro NY, a blogger and Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for the Chapter Book Challenge, and a Moderator for the Debut Picture Book Study Group. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and their puppy Molly, who is a character in her chapter book series! 

Connect with Melissa: 



Melissa has offered, as today's two separate prizes,a signed copy of her chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION - RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, plus a critique of the first three chapters of a chapter book manuscript. You must be a signed-up member of the challenge and comment on this post in order to be added to the drawing. The winners will be chosen by a random number generator at noon on March 31st, 2020 and announced later that day.