Saturday 30 September 2017

ChaBooCha Lite - Final Day! #ChaBooChaLite #ChaBooCha

The final day of the ChaBooCha Lite has arrived. I hope this day finds everyone who participated, if not finishing their books, then at least having written more this month than they would have done without the challenge.

We have some prize winners to announce for three of the four give-aways this month.

The winner of the Novel Under Construction writing journal is Melissa Stoller! Congratulations Melissa! Please contact me with the mailing address that you would like your journal sent to.


The winner of the signed copy of THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND is saputnam. Congratulations! Please contact me or Melissa with the mailing address you would like your book sent to.


The winner of the hand-made mermaid charm bookmark (different from the one shown in the picture; pictured is a cat charm bookmark) is Meli Glickman! Congratulations, Meli! Please contact me with the mailing address you would like your book sent to.


I hope everyone has enjoyed this "lite" challenge and found it aided them in being more productive with their writing! Feel free to let me know a little about your book in the comments below. And thank you for joining us!

Thursday 28 September 2017

Why Write for Children? #ChaBooChaLite #ChaBooCha

Why do so many people want to write books for children? There are as many reasons as there are children's authors, but I'll try to list some of these reasons below.

Childhood is fleeting. As children grow, their perspectives change. They lose some of their innocence. They start to see the world differently. And they are still learning about life, morality, choices and consequences. Childhood is the brief period of time when we can entertain them in a specific way, and when we can teach them, capturing their minds while they are still full of imagination.

Children need to believe that good can triumph over evil. 
In everyday life, things don't always happen for the better. Sometimes life can give people, even children, some hard knocks. But while they are still children, we can impart to them stories of good triumphing over evil and instil a sense of hope that they will need in order to make it through some of the trials life will eventually throw their way.

Children need to believe in magic. It doesn't have to be the magic of wizards and magicians, but the beauty that can be found in the world, in every beautiful flower, every new baby born, every wonderful creature living on the planet is a type of magic. Children need to believe in the beauty all around, and they need to believe that the impossible can be achieved in order for their imaginations to come up with impossible things and turn them into possibilities.

Children need to learn empathy. Studies have shown that children who read a lot are more likely to feel empathy for others. We have the ability to influence compassion and kindness in the children who read our stories.

Your reasons might not be listed above. I'd love to hear your reasons for writing for children in the comments.



One person who comments on this post will be selected by a random number generator to win a ChaBooCha teddy bear. As there are only a couple of days left of the challenge, you will be given until the 7th of October to leave a comment. The winner will be e-mailed.

Thursday 21 September 2017

Critique Groups by Aleesah Darlison #ChaBooChaLite #ChaBooCha

Hi, I’m Aleesah Darlison. I’m a multi-published, award-winning Australian children’s author.
In the last six and a half years, I’ve had thirty-six books commercially published, including my eight book fantasy adventure series, Unicorn Riders, which has just been released in the US.

But… ten years ago, I knew nothing and no one in the children’s publishing industry. I was as green as they come!

What was one of the best things I did to get my career on track?

It was to create a children’s writers critique group – well, two groups, to be precise.

So what happened, was that I knew I wanted to be an author. I worked out that I would have to skill myself, teach myself, how to write properly. As you probably already know, writing for children isn’t as easy as people believe.

I went along to a number of writing workshops that were being run by well-known children’s authors.
The first workshop was an introductory course on writing for children with Dianne (Di) Bates. Di has won many awards both for her writing and her services to children’s literature. It was Di who encouraged the attendees at her workshop to connect and form a critique group. I collected everyone’s contact details with the intention of doing just that.

At around the same time, I attended a workshop that was run by Libby Gleeson. Libby is a much-loved Australian children’s author. She’s won plenty of awards too and was also presented with a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the Queen’s Birthday honours in 2007. Huge kudos.
At Libby’s workshop, I met and networked with more aspiring and emerging authors. We had much in common including our need to continue our education as authors and our desire to be published.
I collected more contact details. Now all I needed was a venue. That’s when I got in touch with the NSW Writers’ Centre (another fabulous resource for authors in Australia!) and asked them if they could provide a room for us to meet. They happily did so – and it was free of charge and central to everyone. We were living in Sydney in the time, a huge city, so a central venue was crucial.

From that point on for several years I coordinated and chaired two separate critique groups. One group was for picture book authors only. The other was a broader group of children’s author of all age groups/genres.

There were about six to ten of us coming every fortnight, although we had a much larger database of people. Not everyone could attend every week.

We had a list of rules that we tried to live by. No personal or confronting feedback, constructive feedback on manuscripts only. Everyone has a turn. Try your best not to defend every comment made or justify every word written – the author being critiqued really needed to listen more than they spoke, otherwise the feedback ended up falling on deaf ears.

So, why was it so crucial at the start of my writing career to be part of a critique group? Some clear reasons, in a nutshell included:
  1. Networking. Taking the journey with other people at the same skill level as you and developing those contacts as life-long friends.
  2. Having people who understand where you’re coming from as an author and where you’re desperately trying to get to.
  3. The chance to read your work out aloud to other writers and gain crucial, constructive feedback free of charge. Priceless.
  4. Attending a regular critique group meeting means you have a deadline to work towards. You will finish that story because you want to read it out.
  5. Having a forum to share your work – on paper and also verbally as you read and perform it. One of the main reasons I write is to share my stories and my ideas.
  6. Knowing you need a new story or chapter to read at the critique group gets your ideas out onto paper – you’re one step closer to becoming published.
  7. In a critique group your writing will develop to a publishable standard under the guidance of others.
  8. Reading your work out at a critique group (or even having someone else do it for you) allows you to see and hear the errors in your writing. Often you’re writing blind, especially when you first start out, or you’re writing with the blinkers on. You’re so in love with your own work – or so tired of editing your own story – that you can see what’s wrong with it. Let others do it for you!                                                                                                      

Of course you’re not going to agree with every item of feedback you receive. There are matters and stories that are close to your heart and you may consider that what you’ve written – and how you’ve written it – is right and true and correct. You may consider that your story is as precious as The Holy Grail. And yes, authors do get precious about their work. We spend countless hours lovingly creating our stories, after all.

But writing is an incredibly objective thing. Listening to other people’s opinions and taking on-board how they have heard or read you work is crucial to the story’s development. It’s also crucial to your development as an author. Once you’re published, don’t think that for one moment the feedback is going to stop. You have to learn to have a thick skin, but also to listen to people dissect your writing as they find their own truth and meaning in it.

As time went by, the members of both my writers’ groups developed their skills. Those picture books, chapter books, novels and short stories that we were reading out, well, many became published in magazine and in book form.

Several of the people I started with in the critique groups are now multi-published authors. We still walk the path together and while we might not be critiquing each other’s work (many of us have agents and editors who do that for us now) we still support each other.

I’m proud of the fact that authors rose from my critique groups. A critique group, your critique group, can help you rise too.


Aleesah Darlison is an award-winning Australian children’s author. To date, she has published thirty-six books for children including picture books, chapter books, novels and series. Aleesah has won numerous awards for her writing including the 2015 Environment Award for Children’s Literature (Non-Fiction) and an Australian Society of Authors (ASA) mentorship.

Aleesah travels throughout Australia and internationally delivering talks and workshops to children and adults at preschools, schools, libraries, literary festivals and writers’ centres. Her 8-book fantasy adventure series, Unicorn Riders, has been released in hardcover and paperback in the US. In 2016, Aleesah set up a business called Greenleaf Press, which provides critical support services to authors, illustrators and small businesses.

Twitter: @Aleesah and @Greenleaf_Press



Today's give-away is a hand-made mermaid charm bookmark (different from the one shown in the picture; pictured is a cat charm bookmark). Just comment on this post by September 30th to be entered to win. 

Thursday 14 September 2017

How to Start Writing Your Chapter Book During ChaBooCha Lite by Melissa Stoller #ChaBooChaLite #ChaBooCha


You made it! You’re here, in Chapter Book Challenge Lite – ChaBooCha Lite! You’re ready to start writing your chapter book. Now what?

I also wrote a post as a guest blogger on Alayne Kay Christian’s blog about how to decide if your story is better suited to be a picture book or a chapter book.

And I’m thrilled that my debut chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND, released this summer from Clear Fork Publishing/Spork, with beautiful illustrations by Callie Metler-Smith. I enjoyed the writing journey and I’m working on finalizing book two during this ChaBooCha Lite month.

Thank you so much, Becky, for inviting me to blog during ChaBooCha Lite. I love the community you have created, and I look forward to spending much more time learning with everyone involved!

For now, members of this special community, here’s a LITE post to help you get started on your chapter book writing journey.


1) READ MENTOR TEXTS: Read some books in the chapter book genre. Go to your local library or bookstore and study at least five recent chapter books that you can use as mentor texts. As you are reading, note the following: what topics lend themselves to chapter books? What lengths are the books? How old are the book’s protagonists? What is the suggested reading age? Think about the writing style, the pacing, the use of illustration, the story arc, and more. I also recommend reading chapter books that have different settings so you can get ideas and see what resonates with you.

2) BRAINSTORM IDEAS: Spend some time thinking about your actual story. That may seem elemental, but it is really important to develop workable ideas. Who are your main characters? What is the conflict that they face? How will they grow or change throughout the story? Who are the secondary characters? Are there any subplots? Is the story funny, touching, scary, creepy, or some combination? What is the setting – family and home, a school, summer camp, another planet? Is the story set in the past, present, or future? What are the broader themes you hope to focus on? It may take some time for your ideas to marinate, simmer, and finally gel.

3) OUTLINE YOUR BOOK: I know that not everyone enjoys writing with plot outlines, but I suggest giving it a try if you are new to chapter book writing. Many chapter books use the ten-chapter format, so start there. Try to outline how your book starts, what happens in the middle section, and how it ends. Your approach and storytelling may change as you write, but at least you have a starting point to help you keep the plot moving forward. And, with an outline, you can always write the chapters out of order if one area, such as the middle, is giving you trouble or making you feel stuck. You can always discard your outline, but at least it gives you a starting point and a roadmap to follow.

4) CHECK OPENING LINES AND CHAPTER TRANSITIONS: Think about how you will hook the reader right from the beginning. How will your first line, paragraph, page, and chapter keep the reader excited about turning pages and continuing to read your story. And remember that each chapter can work almost as a mini-story, with its own story arc with a beginning, middle, and end. And each chapter ending should contain a transition, almost a cliffhanger, that keeps the reader engaged and wanting more.

5) JUST GET STARTED:  Sit down and start writing! It’s been said before but it’s worth repeating: it’s much easier to edit words that are already written than to stare at a blank page or screen. Try to write without editing yourself too much as you go along. Maybe try writing freely until you have a chapter or two and then go back and make some edits. At some point, you will send your draft to your critique partners (maybe even another writer you meet this month in this writing group!). But for now, just keep going and get the story written.

Good luck with your chapter book writing this month during CHABOOCHA LITE and in the future! I look forward to finding your books in libraries and bookstores and to reading them all!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the debut chapter book THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (Clear Fork Publishing, July 2017); the debut picture book SCARLET’S MAGIC PAINTBRUSH (Clear Fork, 2018); and THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE (Clear Fork, 2018).  She is also the co-author of THE PARENT-CHILD BOOK CLUB: CONNECTING WITH YOUR KIDS THROUGH READING (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, an Assistant for Mira Reisberg’s Children’s Book Academy, and a volunteer with SCBWI-MetroNY. Melissa writes parenting articles, and in previous chapters of her life, she has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, and early childhood educator. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy. When not writing or reading, she can be found exploring NYC with family and friends, travelling, and adding treasures to her collections.

 Connect with Melissa online at, MelissaBergerStoller (Facebook),  @MelissaStoller (Twitter), and Melissa_Stoller (Instagram).



Melissa is happy to send a signed copy of THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND to one lucky winner. Please comment on this post to be eligible.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Interview with author Neil Griffiths #ChaBooCha #ChaBooChaLite

Last March, I got in touch with Neil Griffiths, an author of multiple children's books who was doing school presentations in my area. He agreed to answer any questions members of ChaBooCha had for him, but we didn't complete the Q&A in time for the March challenge, so I decided, as the information was still useful, to post everything here during ChaBooCha Lite. 


- How do you get into schools? What do you present, especially to different age groups & group sizes? 

I have spent the last 21 years working with schools, universities, colleges, libraries and family groups. At the very beginning I realised that to get well known you need to be prepared to travel and do long hours. So I covered all the UK to begin with and then began to travel worldwide.

I also made the decision in the early days to be me! By that I mean that I wanted to be as natural in my presentations as I could and base much of what I said on real experiences in my personal life and professional one too.

I also knew that I had to offer a unique experience during my sessions that no-one else offered.
So through long hours ( I am usually on the road by 4am!!) I gradually built up a reputation. I created a website but most of my bookings come from recommendations.

It has really helped that I was a headteacher (editor note: for those in the US, a headteacher is the equivalent of a school principal), giving me credibility with schools etc.

I have also been very flexible and versatile, being prepared to work with adults, children, teachers, parents, prisoners, in fact with any group who love children and want them to have a good start in life.

- Once you get your foot in the door, what do you send to the school in advance of the visit, so the children are prepared and excited about you coming?
Once I have been booked, I get a confirmation email and then send them one which outlines my visit and requirements. These are simple and easy to organise. I invoice after the visit.

- Freebies and activity sheets? How do you get students involved in the presentation? How do you keep students engaged? How is presenting a chapter book different from picture books? Do you read a chapter? And then do an activity? 

When in settings, I do interactive storytelling with ages 3 to 11 and offer training for parents on developing a love of reading and to professionals on how to support reading for life. The skill is to be able to quickly adapt a story for all ages and my techniques as a trained teacher of 40 years makes this much easier.

When working with children, I rarely read word for word from the book. I perform them and use puppets and props and get the children to play some of the characters for me. Then I have whole school activities as part of the role-play.

When presenting my chapter books I take part of the story and role-play that. The art of getting children interested is in the skill of the presenter. You must know how children tick, understand their humour and get down to their level. It is all about dramatic presentation that allows you to create wild moments and then quiet calm moments and that takes years to get right. I do not give out handouts or freebies.

- Tips on getting book sales? What are your best marketing strategies?
Marketing books is notoriously difficult. My advantage is that almost every day I am in a setting or at a conference so I have a captive audience.

I never pay for advertising as it is rarely effective and very expensive. I have a great website and really present my books well on the road  with an attractive stand that has front covers of all the books.


Neil Griffiths was a Primary School headteacher for 13 years before taking on the role of director of a National Literacy Project for the Basic Skills Agency. This agency believed in Neil’s highly original Storysack idea and allowed him to promote it to schools and communities throughout the UK. After six years, Neil began to devote all of his energies to the project and set up what is now the worldwide, highly acclaimed, and award-winning Storysack® phenomenon.

Many publishers and institutions have asked Neil to contribute his wealth of experience to their projects over the years – his knowledge of learning, his gift of story, his passion for teaching, and his love of children – helping them to produce prized resources and to achieve success in the highly competitive educational market. He has created award-winning play resources, written a nursery curriculum, a best-selling resource book on creative play for Nelson Thornes Publishers, and imaginative material for the Early Learning Centre. He has developed a scheme for supporting English as an additional language for Harcourt Publishing and has consulted for a highly successful toy manufacturer.

Neil also finds time to write his own children’s picture books, published exclusively by Red Robin Books. They feature strong storylines, memorable characters, enchanting language, and arresting illustrations. They charm children and have sold in the thousands. Neil loves to tell a story and a story time with him is a rare and highly entertaining event as he magically draws his audience into his storyworlds.

Neil is also available for inspirational training worldwide. He is known internationally for his unique delivery, exceptional energy, and his rare storytelling gift.



On September 30th, one person's name will be drawn to win this Novel Under Construction writing journal. All you need to do is comment on this blog post by September 29th. You have to be signed up for ChaBooCha Lite in order to be eligible for this prize.

Friday 1 September 2017

ChaBooCha Lite 2017 #ChaBooCha #ChaBooChaLite

Today is the first day of ChaBooCha Lite 2017!

ChaBooCha Lite is another chance to write an early reader, chapter book, middle grade book or YA novel within a month. The premise is the same as the premise of March's Chapter Book Challenge. (The Lite challenge will have less prizes and less guest blog posts.) You will still be trying to write your book during the 30 days of the month, but instead of running in March, ChaBooCha Lite runs in September.

It's also completely acceptable for you to finish a book previously begun or to edit one you have already written, as long as you complete the work in September.

It's another chance to challenge yourself, and to give yourself a deadline for writing your book. Want to join us? Sign up here.

If you'd like to add this year's ChaBooCha Lite badge to your website or blog, right-click the shape of badge you'd like below and save it to your computer to add at your convenience.