Saturday 31 March 2018

Final Day of the Challenge and winner announcements #ChaBooCha

Congratulations on joining us and sticking with us for the entire challenge. However you may have fared in your writing goals, you have made it to the last day of the challenge and you're still participating, which is wonderful!

The above picture is the winner badge for those of you who achieved your goal of finishing your book during the month. Feel free to save it and use it on your blog or website.

I hope you have found the guest posts during this month helpful, and I really hope that the challenge itself has inspired you to write more than you would have done without the challenge.

You can join us in September for ChaBooCha Lite. ChaBooCha Lite is basically the same challenge but there will only be one weekly blog post and prize. You can also set different goals for yourself, like working on a book you've already begun, revising an already-written story, etc.

Now, it's time to announce the prize winners for this year's Chapter Book Challenge.



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

The winner of 
Rory's Story Cubes is: Bron


The winner of a signed copy of Melissa Stoller's chapter book, "THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND" is Rebecca Koehn

The winner of Melissa Stoller's critique of the first 3 chapters of a chapter book is: Kelly Vavala

The winner of "The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surfaceby Donald Maass is: Manju Howard

The winner of Alayne Kay Christian's chapter book critique of the first three chapters of a story is: Barbara Parker

The winner of the free Chapter Book Alchemist course is: Sherry Howard

The winner of the an inspirational magnet from here is: Melissa Gijsbers

The winner of "The Word-Loss Diet" by Rayne Hall is: Kelly McDonald

The winner of "The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression" by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi is: Judy Rubin

The winner of "Writing for Children and Teens: A Crash Course (How to Write, Revise, and Publish a Kid's or Teen Book with Children's Book Publishers)" by Cynthea Liu is: David McMullin


Everyone, thank you so much for taking part in the 2018 Chapter Book Challenge. I hope you will all continue to be ChaBooCha members for challenges to come in the following years.

And happy writing!

Friday 30 March 2018

Running a Writing Group for Young Writers by Melissa Gijsbers #ChaBooCha

When I first got back into creative writing in 2012, I spent most of my lunch breaks in the local library getting books and resources to help with my writing. It could be anything from books about Magic Lanterns to books about bullying and friendship. I would also spend time talking with the librarians about my writing, my goals and dreams, especially my dream of becoming a published author.

It was with great surprise when I was approached to run a school holiday workshop. At that point, I hadn’t published a book! The workshop was a success, and the library asked me about running a regular group for young writers. I said yes and have been doing it ever since!

The group is quite casual, giving the kids the opportunity to ask burning questions about writing, editing, publishing, and reading. We share writing tips, book recommendations, and even do some writing with fun prompts, such as using chocolate bars (that’s one of the favourites).

In the Kidlit community, I hear so much about doing school visits, but not so much about running groups outside school. One thing that I’ve found through running this group is that there are teens out there who really want to write, and there are libraries who are wanting to run activities for teens.
Working with teens is so rewarding. Each person I work with is looking for their own writing style. Many of them are also finding the information given to them at school doesn’t necessarily fit that style. Having the opportunity of a regular writing group gives them the opportunity to explore different genre, different writing prompts, and different styles. I know that my writing style never quite fit in with what my teachers wanted, and the kids have enjoyed hearing about my experiences as a teen writer.

The teens are also growing in confidence as writers. I love watching this grow from week to week. There are many kids who come along and, on their first time, hardly say two words. As time goes on, their confidence grows as they start asking questions and sharing the pieces they have written during the session, to bringing in work they have done at home or at school to share with the group.

I hope that by coming to the group, these teens will grow in confidence and one day I will be looking at the shelves of a bookshop, spot one of their books on the bestseller shelf and say: “I knew them when they were first starting!”

To start a regular writing group, contact your local library or even your local school, and see if they are interested. They may have a group of teenagers that come to the library after school who would enjoy the opportunity to talk about writing regularly, or the school may want to start a lunchtime or after school club with students who are enthusiastic writers.

For this service, I charge less than a traditional school visit as the group is smaller and it’s a regular income instead of a once off. It’s also less structured than a school visit would be, to give the students the opportunity to ask the questions they want to ask, in an environment that is comfortable for them.
Oh, I nearly forgot, I always have some sort of reward for the kids who participate, usually a chocolate frog or a lollipop. It’s amazing how much this small reward can get kids involved!

When looking at writing groups, find out about what requirements there are, such as Working with Children checks and insurance. The requirements may be different depending on where you are. Having these in place before you contact the library or school will make it much easier to get started.


Melissa Gijsbers is an Australian author who has three middle grade books published, all written during the Chapter Book Challenge! She has two teenage boys and runs a regular group for young writers at her local library. You can find her online at and on Facebook at



Today's prize is a copy of the book "Writing for Children and Teens: A Crash Course (How to Write, Revise, and Publish a Kid's or Teen Book with Children's Book Publishers)" by Cynthea Liu. If you are a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to enter the prize drawing is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Thursday 29 March 2018

That Special Something – what makes a recommendation? by Victoria Boulton #ChaBooCha

Your dream has come true. Not only is your book agented, published, and sitting on a shelf in your local bookstore, but your agent is starting to look at international rights.

International rights - Like it getting translated and sold to publishers around the world. All new countries and all new markets for your book. Plus all the fun that comes with shiny new covers for each edition.

But it’s the waiting game all over again. And while you’re waiting for a literary scout to say ‘I know just the publishers for this,’ it’s sitting on my desk. Because literary scouts have so much reading to do, they sometimes need an extra pair of eyes – and that’s where I come in. I work professionally as that ‘extra pair of eyes.’ Not the most prestigious title, but it’s one I cherish.

I’ll only recommend a book to the scout if it has that special something. And whether you’re at the international rights stage or just finishing your first draft, it’s never too early to start thinking about it. 
That special something is a key that will get you through many doors. It can get you agented, published, and 5 star reviews. It’s what makes people gush about your book to their best friends and buy it as Christmas presents for everyone they know. It’s the most important question any reader will ever ask themselves while reading your book, and you need the answer to be a good one.

And that question is: ‘How does this book make me feel?’

A simple question, but one that it’s hard to get the right answer to. Because the answer I give for most books that cross my desk is ‘not enough.’

Emotional resonance is, in my opinion, (and let’s be real, I’m just one opinion! I’m not the arbiter of taste!) the most important element of your book. And the crazy thing is, emotion doesn’t arise from plot, no matter how high the stakes. It doesn’t arise from your world-building. Your character can be fighting to save her sister from the most awful of terrible baddies, or facing bullies who belittle and demean her every day, but that alone won’t get the response you want.

Emotion arises first and foremost from character. From their history, from their reactions, from their actions. From the way they are feeling, and how they express it. It’s moments when your character feels like they’ve been punched in the guts but actually nobody has touched them. When their chest is tight and their breath is shallow as they stare down their biggest fears. It’s the leg-wobbling relief when their dog makes it out of from the collapsed building, and the warm, spreading wonder as they look at people who used to be strangers and are now their closest friends.

So when you’re looking back at your writing and getting it ready for the next stage, whatever that may be for you, look at your character and think ‘what does this make her feel? And how can I show it?’

You’ll be amazed at how many doors it will open for you.


Victoria Boulton is evaluates manuscripts for literary scouts and works as a professional editor and audiobook narrator. She’s also a writer herself, and her house is so brimming with books that soon they will be pressing on the doors and windows. 



Today's prize is a copy of the book  "The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression" by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. If you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to be entered to win this prize is comment on this post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Wednesday 28 March 2018

Week Four Finished - Only Three Days Left! #ChaBooCha

We've made it through four whole weeks of the Chapter Book Challenge now. Well done if you've continued to participate this far. 

I thought it might be helpful to share some links to previous ChaBooCha posts having to do with writing endings, editing, marketing, critique groups, creating covers, querying, and crowdfunding, as these are things that may come up as you get to the end of your story.

Happily-Ever-Afters: What Makes a Satisfying Chapter Book Ending by Lee Wardlaw

The Light at the End by Joy Corcoran

Critique Groups by Aleesah Darlison

I hope that you have found that the challenge has helped you progress with your story. With just a few days left of the challenge, make sure you keep writing!

Let us know in the comments how you have been doing.



Today's prize is a copy of the book "The Word-Loss Diet" by Rayne Hall. If you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to enter the drawing is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Tuesday 27 March 2018

I Won a Contest! - A little inspiration about entering contests by Kelly McDonald #ChaBooCha

My post is really quick as I am drowning a little… and Becky may have to edit a lot (otherwise, I hope you read fluent typo).

I just got a publishing contract.


Hooray. Through a company called Whitelight Publishing House.

Thought it would be a good one to write about. I have been telling stories, performing them, writing them for years and years and years.

I have quite a handful of finished but not edited novels and middle grade books.
I have heaps more picture story books.

I am in a handful of anthologies.

I’ve won places in quite a few awards such as a 1st for a middle grade story in the CYA conference, and was named emerging writer of the year in 2013 (same year as win if I remember.) that story was a chaboocha story!

Sounds pretty good hey, except I haven’t had the courage to send to publishers.

Because… they aren’t finished. More to the point I still don’t feel quite good enough.
I love my Chapter Book Challenge. It makes me take time for me to write, but this year something different happened.

I entered a contest. It was with a company (Whitelight) who I have had my eye on. They are a vanity publishing house, and you can self-publish through them. I am not really interested in self-publishing my stories, but I am interested in creating a fairy oracle set I have been working on. It has a story too. And I think I want to control it because I want it to be exactly how I see it. I also have the perfect platform to sell it through my business. I’d also like to incorporate some kind of kickback to kids with cancer with it.

So I entered an old story about a ghost. I love the story, but my writing back then was um…. Sucky I think best describes it. Terribly sucky.

It was the last day to enter when I found it. But I knew the judging was still a few weeks off, so I entered, then asked if I could give the updated version before the judging. They said ‘yes,’ so I had a week to edit the first few chapters and send it in, hoping that they could read between the lines for the unedited bits.

Well, I made the finals. Four of us.

From here, it was given out to the public to see which one the public wanted to see in print. I won with 44 percent of the votes. To say I am thrilled is an understatement.

My ghost story has become my ChaBooCha as I scramble to edit the rest of it. – Now  with a deadline!
It is not how I thought I would first become published. But it is an open door and I have my foot firmly wedged in it.

I’m so excited.

It is so worth taking the opportunities that arise. Enter competitions. You never know. And besides from winning, you get to learn about the submission process, following guidelines and rules.

Get your work out there everyone!

And good luck!

Now, I am off to make a book cover. I’ve made about nine now I think (some for our Teacup Tales too). So to make the hype a little more active around my book, I am going to run a little model contest! Contact me if you want to know more about the contest.


Kelly McDonald has been entertaining with stories and magic for more than 24 years as the Magical Faerie Crystall. She is married with two beautiful children and spends as much time on her writing and art as possible. She has been involved in many challenges and groups, including 12x12, Chapter Book Challenge and WOWnonfiction. Kelly has been awarded a first and third in the Australian CYA conference, and has numerous Commended and Highly Commended awards for her writing. Her fantasy art can be found  at or and her author page is


If you are a signed-up member of ChaBooCha, comment on this post and you will be entered to win your choice of an inspirational magnet from this section of my shop. (The magnet pictured above is just one example.) Winner will be drawn by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing. 

Sunday 25 March 2018

Tips For Writing a Story That Editors and Agents Will Love by Mira Reisberg #ChaBooCha

Tips For Writing a Story That Editors and Agents Will Love! (AKA the four essentials of chapter book or novel writing)

When Becky gave me a list of topics that she thought might be helpful for you all, I chose this one because I’ve wanted to say for a while how there's really no one-size-fits-all solution to writing a story that agents for love. And the reason for this is because it such a subjective business. You all know the stories of Kate diCamillo's 300+ something rejections and J. K. Rowling's multiple rejections by agents and editors who didn't "get" their work until finally someone did. And the rest is history.

However there are things you can do to increase your chances of an editor or agent "getting" your work and loveliness. I call these things – the four essentials of chapter book or middle grade novel writing. But first an apology - I kind of got into this and as Mark Twain allegedly said, “I’m sorry if I’d had more time, this would have been shorter.” So let’s get started.

1.  Character - your main character has to be sympathetic, or charming, or intriguing enough for the reader to want to read on. If your story has multiple protagonists or a protagonist and an antagonist, each character has to have at least one of these qualities. This is where doing character interviews and character maps can come in handy as well as doing character arcs of how your character changes over time, even if it's just small or subtle changes, there has to be a difference between the beginning and the end to have what is known as a satisfying character arc. Your story always starts with your characters. Who are they? What do they need or want? What gets in their way both internally (fears, lack of confidence or strength, inability to follow directions or listen) and externally (takes the wrong turn, their partner drops out of the contest and now they have to find a new one, huge boulder in the middle of the road) from getting what they need or want, or solving that initial question or problem that sets them off on the book’s journey.

2.  Emotions – emotions are core in engaging the reader to make them care for, or fear for the characters in your story. Will Jimmy find his way home? What is that shadow in the woods? Will Jenny be her friend? Can frog save the wetlands from a terrible destruction? You want to create a world where both the characters and the reader have strong emotions. Amp up the drama, heighten the conflict, make us feel. I want to encourage you to either get a copy of The Emotions Thesaurus or start your own emotions database. Here are a few examples to start your own:  anger, disappointment, fear, envy, frustration, surprise, joy, happiness, love... And here’s a great free resource for using emotion amplifiers from the Thesaurus co-authors While a lot of this is geared towards older readers, there’s a lot here that will be helpful.

Getting back to the topic at hand, there are two kinds of emotions you need to take into account. The emotions you want your characters to feel and express through actions and the emotions you want your readers to feel (also preferably through action – laughing so hard they cry, feeling so deeply touched they cry). Hmmm,  maybe you don't want that editor or agent crying. But this idea of emotion and action is important so let's move onto that.

3. Action – there are a couple of ways to think about action. One of my favorites is the "show don't tell" axiom mostly related to how the character feels. Instead of - "frog felt so sad that no one wanted to play with her" - show it. Frog turned away so no one would see her tears. Why didn't anyone want to be her friend?

The other way to think about action is in terms of plot and pacing. What happens in the story and how does your main character or characters move from the beginning to the end?  What happens in each chapter to create drama and suspense? How can you make each page a page-turner, and even more importantly each chapter ending a cliffhanger? I think of it as an equation: build suspense, create a crisis, end the chapter with a cliffhanger. How can you successfully raise the difficulty of each obstacle so your main character or characters has to deal with suspense, crisis, and an unknowing at the end of each chapter? How can you successfully raise the difficulty of each obstacle until your main character or characters have to summon all their wits, their courage, and their strength to solve the problem or obtain their goal?

 Normally you want to avoid stories that are dialogue driven because there's not enough happening unless you’re doing a chapter book graphic novel like Scholastic’s chapter book imprint Branches! One of my favorites in this genre is a hybrid graphic novel/regular book, the delectable Kung Pow Chicken, which is primarily action, dialogue, and image-driven with lots of onomatopoeia. It’s a hoot.

A nifty thing to try is to print your manuscript and then in the margins of each page write down what emotion your characters are feeling, what you want your readers to feel, and finally what's happening on each page in terms of action and how does that move the story forward. This will also help you with number 4.

4. Clarity - This last one is super important as it’s where many wonderful concepts founder on the rocky shoals of not being clear enough or not making enough sense to get to the next step of being a quality book. You never want your reader pausing, trying to figure out what’s going on and consequently being removed from the flow and fabulous suspension of disbelief because they are confused or clueless about what something means. Your story and every word in it must make sense. Create contextual meanings for things, or a glossary, or illustrated title pages to clarify the who, what, where, how and why if needed. Don't use multiple names for your characters unless you clarify that this is so and so’s nickname. Keep it simple wherever you can to make it easy for the reader to revel in your lush language, compelling characters, and engrossing storytelling skills. You can create any kind of universe you like, so long as that that world is consistent and believable within itself.
So that’s it. These are things that editors and agents love – Character, Emotion, Action, and Clarity. If you’d like to see a free webinar with Random House/Knopf associate editor Kelly Delaney and me where we delve much deeper into the first three of these, join our newsletter here to be the first to register and also receive a lovely plotting template 


Dr Mira Reisberg is an editor and art director at Clear Fork Publishing/Spork. She is also the Director of the Children’s Book Academy where she has helped and continues to help many children’s book writers and illustrators get published. Mira has also worked as a university professor teaching kid lit writing and illustration, as well as a literary agent. She has a PhD in Education and Cultural Studies with a focus on children’s books. One of her favorite courses, which she co-teaches with Hillary Homzie, is the instant-access Chapter Book Alchemist right here

Starting April 16th, Mira will be co-teaching the highly interactive Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books with Kelly Delaney and a rotating group of editors and agents. Click here to find out more -



Mira has generously offered one free Chapter Book Alchemist course as a prize for today's post. If you are a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to be entered into the drawing for this prize is comment on this post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Friday 23 March 2018

Drafting Your Book by Susan Lubner #ChaBooCha

I’ve been writing children’s stories for a pretty long time. Over 23 years. After all of these years, writing that first draft is STILL the most challenging part of the process.

Some of the things I find to be most helpful with the drafting process are the numerous and wonderful books that I’ve read and workshops I have attended on craft. I’ve learned how to develop multi- dimensional characters, raise the tension, figure out what my MC wants and plan for the obstacles that will stand in the way. I’ve learned how to structure my story, pinpoint what’s at its heart, and determine what my character believes and what their disbelief is that frames the view of their world.  There is always something new to learn, a skill to hone, and certainly a writing challenge to master.

That said, some of the things I find most UNHELPFUL with the drafting process are the numerous and wonderful books that I’ve read and workshops I have attended on craft. The reason for that is because being armed with a multitude of writing tools and skills that I have culled from these books and workshops, has led me to a false assumption: That this useful and powerful information will write the first draft for me.

It’s foolish of me to think that if I spend enough time studying the worksheets and templates and lists and graphs, that I can master that first draft before I even begin. I can’t. Yet I have spent days, sometimes weeks “preparing” in the hopes that I can avoid wasting time writing a crappy first draft. And what happens to me is that I end up spending way more time trying to figure out my story and not much time writing it. As in very little or zero writing at all. Sound ironic? That I would forget to do that part? But it happens. Too often.

I have to be careful to not get bogged down with what I call the preparation factor. While it certainly is wonderful to have these strategies and skills at hand and for me, some prepping and planning is still vital, I must remind myself of the important part of my job. Writing.

Which brings me to the most important lesson of all that I have learned in my career. Something that tends to get lost under the heavy pile of writerly knowledge stored in my writing toolbox. I don’t remember where I read it or who said it. I didn‘t come up with it myself because it never crossed my mind that this most important lesson would be something I’d be willing to try or do. It is however something I am very good at. I don’t need to prep or strategize. And it comes easily when I set out to tackle that first draft. It’s this: I allow myself to write badly. It’s now the very first step I take. 

Because even though I learned long ago that a first draft can be pretty ugly, I sometimes forget. 
Mainly because I don’t want it to be. But it’s supposed to be. It’s a starting point. And after it’s done, that’s when I can pull out my worksheets, my templates and my heavy toolbox and make it better.
Allowing myself to write badly is the best way I know how to move forward on a first draft. I know that no matter how much prep work I do, I will not get the answers I need to get through that first draft until I sit down and write it. (Insert more irony here.) Because trying to get my first draft right before I even start is stifling, unproductive, but most of all, impossible. 

So go ahead and prep. Strategize. But don’t forget to write. Badly.


Susan Lubner is the author of three picture books (Abrams), the middle grade novels, Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl (Fall 2018 RP Kids/Hachette Books), and The Upside of Ordinary (Holiday House).  Her work has been published in Highlights and Spider Magazine. Read more about her at and follow her on twitter @susanlubner



Today's prize has been kindly offered by author Alayne Kay Christian. Alayne has offered a chapter book critique of the first three chapters of the winners story. If you are already a signed up member of the challenge, all you need to do to be entered into the drawing is to comment on this post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Week Three Finished - On to Week Four! #ChaBooCha

We've now finished three weeks of the challenge and are moving into the fourth week. How is everyone doing? Is your story still moving forward? 

Sometimes, at this point in your writing, it can be beneficial to take a short break and do something completely different. Taking your mind off of your story, even for just a short while, can be a means to refreshing your muse. It's even better if that break includes doing something outdoors or something physical. Exercise releases endorphins in your body which help you feel good, and studies have shown that it also helps memory and the thinking process.

It is easy to get sidetracked completely at this stage of your writing. It's a simple thing to start to procrastinate or to lose momentum, so don't let your short break from writing last too long. Give yourself just enough time to boost your mental clarity and then get straight back into writing.

What sorts of things do you do to keep your creative juices flowing when you get into the later stages of your writing? Let us know in the comments.



Today's prize is a copy of "The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write the Story Beneath the Surfaceby Donald Maass. If you are already a signed-up member of the challenge, all you need to do to be entered to win this prize is to comment on this blog post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator by noon on March 31st and announced within 24 hours of the drawing.

Saturday 17 March 2018

How to Write a Chapter Book Series by Melissa Stoller #ChaBooCha


Are you considering writing a chapter book series? Maybe you’re already working on book number two, three, or more? My first chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND (illustrated by Callie Metler-Smith), released in August 2017 with Clear Fork Publishing. My second book in the series, THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, will be chugging down the tracks in 2018. There are many points to consider when writing multiple books in a chapter book series. Read on for practical tips about using mentor texts, and ensuring that your characters, voice, plot, heart, humor, and research stay consistent throughout your chapter book series.


I have written several pieces about writing chapter books: “Working Your Way Through ChaBooCha 2017”; “Top Ten Chapter Book Writing Tips”; and “How to Start Writing Your Chapter Book During ChaBooCha Lite 2017” I refer to these posts, and to other craft pieces about chapter books, as I draft my stories.

While writing Book Two, THE LIBERTY BELL TRAIN RIDE, I carefully considered how to make this second book consistent with the first. I started by re-reading Book One, RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND. I also read the first two books in other chapter book series. These mentor texts helped me determine how other authors handled writing the second book in a series. Here are some of my favorite chapter books and the areas of writing they helped with:

Magic Tree House by Mary Pope Osborne (time travel, characterization, heart)

Sparkle Spa by Jill Santopolo (voice)

Super Happy Party Bears by Marcie Colleen (humor)

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler (plot)

The Fantastic Frame by Lin Oliver (dialogue, adventure, time travel plot)


Then I prepared in the following big-picture areas:


I interviewed my main characters again. I asked questions about their favorite colors, foods, friends, books, movies and TV shows, hobbies, interests, likes and dislikes, pets, school experiences, family life moments, and other basic questions. Much of the material I collected didn’t find its way into Book Two, but I wanted to know my characters and add to their personalities.


I identified the voice of each main character. What were their quirks? Did they speak in certain ways? How did they dress? What were their habits? What were their goals and objectives? I maintained a detailed list to make sure I kept their voices consistent in Book Two.


My plot entails time travel to a historical period, an adventure, and a meeting and connection with an ancestor. I outlined the story with the goal that the second book have a similar well-defined adventure in a different time period and a compelling meeting with an ancestor.

I almost made one plot-detail mistake! In my first book, I wrote that the snow globes were kept in a large, locked curio cabinet, and Nana had the key. In the second book manuscript, I wrote that the twins simply opened the curio cabinet door. I forgot that it was locked. Luckily, I went back and re-read the first book and then noticed and corrected that detail.


It’s so important to ensure that each book in a series has heart . . . that almost intangible factor that makes the reader smile or sigh. In the first book, it was easy to capture heart because I was writing about how my grandparents met on a trolley in 1928 Coney Island. I tried hard in Book Two to ensure that the main characters would interact with each other and with the new characters in a satisfying way that would endear all the characters to the reader.


I included some humor in the first book, and wanted to do the same in the second. Re-reading helped remind me of the characters’ senses of humor and how they would react in different situations. And I added in what I hope is fresh humor that is consistent with the characters’ personalities.


For Book One, I researched Coney Island in 1928 and I visited the world-famous Cyclone Roller Coaster (although I didn’t take a ride!), the Coney Island Boardwalk, and Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs. For Book Two, I researched Philadelphia and San Francisco in 1915, at the time of the Liberty Bell’s last cross-country train ride to the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition. I also traveled to Philadelphia several times to visit the Liberty Bell for some first-hand research. I’m hoping to visit San Francisco as well!


During Chapter Book Challenge 2018, I’m working on Book Three in my series. It will be set in Washington, D.C. with the Library of Congress as a backdrop for the adventure. I’ll be using mentor texts, researching, and considering characters, voice, plot, heart, and humor as I’m drafting and revising.

Good luck working your way through ChaBooCha 2018. Whether you’re writing your first chapter book or the fifth in a series, I look forward to seeing your stories in bookstores and libraries soon!


Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and Summer 2018); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, Fall 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 Assistant for the Children’s Book Academy, an Admin for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with SCBWI/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa 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, traveling, and adding treasures to her collections.

CONNECT with Melissa: 



Melissa has generously offered two prizes to give away:  a signed copy of her chapter book, THE ENCHANTED SNOW GLOBE COLLECTION: RETURN TO CONEY ISLAND and a critique of the first 3 chapters of a chapter book.  If you are a signed-up member of ChaBooCha, all you have to do to enter to win one of the prizes is comment on this post. The winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon on March 31st and announced within one day of the selection. Two winners will be selected: the first chosen by the number generator will win the signed book and the second chosen by the number generators will win the critique.

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Second Week Finished - On to Week Three! #ChaBooCha

We've finally finished two weeks into the challenge and are almost half-way to our goal date! Whether or not you are half-way to your writing goal doesn't matter; what matters is that you are closer to your word count goal than you were when you began the challenge.

The half-way mark can be difficult for many writers. Motivation can begin to wane, and the writing doesn't always flow as smoothly as it does in the beginning of a writing project. If you find this happening to you, try reading through what you have written so far. Is the story heading in a direction that is exciting to you? If you are getting bored with it, the chances are that your readers will get bored with it too. Are there any changes you can make to what you've already written to steer your writing into a direction that still inspires your muse?

Another thing you can try doing is think up different endings for your story. You probably already have one planned, unless you like to let the story dictate itself as you write, in which case coming up with different endings can sometimes inspire new directions for your story.

Something that always helps me when I start to struggle with a story is talking about it with someone else. Usually, for me, this is my husband. We go for walks and discuss my story. I will complain about having trouble with some aspect of it. My husband will then shoot a bunch of ideas my way to resolve the conflict, and I will then reject all of his ideas. But the thinking process involved in all of the discussion will prompt me to think up an idea of my own. There is something about talking about your story out loud that can help your mind process ideas and function more clearly when it comes to writing.

For more ideas on getting through the middle of your story, check out these previous challenge posts:

Happy writing!



Today's give-away is a copy of 

365 Days of Writing: Inspirational Quotes for the Writer (365 Days of Happiness) 

by MG Keefe. If you are a signed-up member of the Chapter Book Challenge, all you have to do to enter is comment on this post. Winner will be selected by a random number generator at noon GMT on March 31st and announced within a day of the drawing.