Overall Winner – 6th Grade Story Contest

Overall Winner – 6th Grade Story Contest

A wail could be heard from the sacred tree. The guardian of the tree jumped, startled. The old man hurried over, limbs popping. He gaped into the hollow. A baby girl watched him, impossible wisdom in her eyes. One brown, one green. Oh, she looked just like a human tree, beautiful and graceful. Her eyes, oh, her eyes. It had been so long since he left the sacred tree, he had forgotten his name. “Cayden,” he whispered, gazing at the baby. “My name is Cayden.”

Eleven years later, the village was celebrating the found day of the miracle baby. Willow herself was walking through the crowds, laughing and talking. “Thank you,” she said to the baker, who was offering free maple cakes. This was not a normal birthday occurrence. But then, Willow was not a normal girl. For one thing, she was unnaturally smart. Her eyes were spellbinding, and also seemed to have the power to make people remember. That was not even the most astonishing thing.

Willow could understand the language of trees. She could even occasionally make them grow. No one knew why. Willow’s mind often strayed to this, and it did near the bonfire that signaled the end of her found day. Willow wondered if it was because the sacred tree (which happened to be a willow) had magic in its roots.

“Willow?” her adopted grandfather, Cayden, asked her gently. “Time to start the bonfire.”

“Oh!” Willow said, startled out of her thoughts. “Of course.” She smiled at the old man, the smile that everyone in the village had fallen in love with. She hurried over to the pile of sticks. Only sticks that had fallen off of trees. Thanks to her special connection and her kind- heartedness, she refused to cut down trees.

As she gracefully bent down to pick up the lighter, she closed her mismatched eyes and listened. Suddenly, the voices of the trees became clear. They were singing to her, as they had often done when she was young. Now they did it more seldomly, but their love was the same. Willow knew this in her heart, as she listened to her found day song. After all, she was their biological daughter.

As she listened more closely, she realized her found day song was not as happy as always. It had a note of worry threaded into it.

Willow frowned. “I wonder why?” she thought. Her (she had come to think of them as hers) trees were rarely worried. And when they were, it was usually with good reason. Willow’s frown deepened. This could not mean anything good.

Not two seconds later, a truck came roaring into the town. The people of the village, including Willow, coughed from the horrible exhaust fumes. No one in the village drove a truck or even a car. And besides, everyone was at Willow’s found day gathering.

The trees flooded Willow’s mind with worry. With a pang, Willow realized she knew why they were here. Opening her eyes she saw her adopted parents, Sophia and Luke, fighting to

get to her. In the tree language she shouted, “Danger! Oh, trees, I wish you could move!” Angry tears fell from her cheeks as her parents enveloped her in a hug.

“ Why are you here?” Luke asked the official coolly. “ You are far from welcome.”

Willow’s fury bubbled over. “Y-you monster! You are here to take our trees!” She pulled away from her parents, staring down the government official. The official looked away first, blinking furiously.

“Yes. And if you don’t like it, then too bad,” said the snooty woman. “You don’t have the magic of talking to trees, so you can’t stop us. Cut them down!”

Several men came out of the truck with axes. They approached the forest. Willow’s insides froze. The villagers stared at her. One brave soul shouted, “But what if we do have the tree magic? Then we could save the forest, right?” He sounded confident. He thought Willow was powerful enough. More confident then Willow felt, anyway.

The government official just stared at them. They expected her to do something, like yell at them, but she only scowled and turned to the truck. Willow felt even more nervous as several more men piled out. Everyone was looking at her. What if she couldn’t summon the power to stop this horrible, horrible thing that was happening?

She had too, she told herself. If Willow could not do this, then she would never forgive herself. She steeled herself, and gathered all of her courage, tapping into a deep well of bravery inside her.

“I have the old magic,” she announced. “Begone, or I will use it.” Suddenly she felt braver. “But first, a lesson. The trees are alive!”

“Willow NO!” shouted Luke, being restrained by his father, Cayden. “It’s too dangerous! I can’t lose another daughter!” His voice broke, and Sophia gathered him into a hug.

Willow had heard about their first daughter, who died in birth. “I have to,” she called back. Then she turned to the official, who was watching the whole thing with a smirk, and the men, who looked amused. “You will never win against the trees, because they have the power of LOVE!” she shouted the last word in the tree language, hoping that her trees would understand what she wanted them to do.

They did.

Their branches twisted into hearts, and with a little help from Willow, they each spelled a word inside the hearts. Some men that had gotten to close yelped in alarm. Everyone watched in awe as the trees grew, spelling words that made people’s hearts lift to the sky with hope and joy.


Then Willow turned to the official, breathing hard. The woman’s face was blank and shocked. She stared at one word. FAMILY. “I have been blinded,” she whispered so only Willow could hear. “Thank you for opening my eyes.” She called the men and boarded the truck. She looked back at Willow, this time smiling. “I will never forget you, miracle child.” Willow smiled back at her.

“Willow! You did it!” shouted Sophia. The crowds of happy people running towards her made her famous smile go even brighter. “I love you,” whispered Sophia. Luke just hugged her. Her smile was blinding, and her eyes twinkled.

“So how about we finish that bonfire, huh?” Willow said, laughing. “After all, one does not turn eleven every day, right?” She picked up the lighter, then got an idea. She willed the branches to burst into wonderful green flames. She giggled happily as everyone gasped in delight. “I love you all. More than anything in the world.”

1st Place Winner – 6th Grade Writing Contest

1st Place Winner – 6th Grade Writing contest

This is the adventure of my life, and I’m about to tell it to you. It all started one crisp, bright fall morning, when I was in 6h grade…

“Ashley Ann Davis!! Get uuuuuuppp!” My eyes open groggily. Everything is blurry for a second and then I see my mother standing over me with a frown that is just absolutely menacing. She is very punctual, so time is really a big deal.
“Come eat your breakfast!! It’s getting cold! And aren’t tryouts today!? The early bird gets the worm you know,” she nagged.

I jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, and ate my breakfast. Then I caught the bus right on time, and headed to school.

My name is Ashley. I am 12 years old and I am in 6th grade at Fairview Junior High. I just joined the theater program. But everyone says that every decade, at Fairview, something bad always happens to the theater program. I don’t really believe that, it’s nonsense! You’ve got to be made to believe that stuff! This year, with Madame Trufant, we are doing Wicked! I’m so excited! I want Elphaba’s part SO much!! Tryouts are today!

A day later, the list goes up. I try to find my name through the bunch of other people squeezing in to look. I didn’t get Elphaba. But I did get Nessa, Elphaba’s disabled sister. I can live with that. 

The next week after, when I walk into rehearsal, I find Mrs. Trufant looking down. One of the spotlight’s bulbs had cracked into a million tiny pieces. Spotlight bulbs are expensive!

The next month, one of the stage boards had broken. I was starting to think that maybe this curst was real! But then I realized that using common sense (like normal people, Ashley!) there was no such thing as magic or curses. I came to the conclusion that someone was sabotaging the theater program! But who?

I thought of all the possible suspects. I thought of Julia, the snottiest girl at Fairview, who tried out for the musical, but didn’t get the lead. She might be jealous! But then I realized that she just became class president, so she was really busy and happy. Then I thought of Jaren, my step-brother, who was in 8th grade. He was always calling us losers, and saying that our show was awful. I would have to ask him.

The next morning, the theater in the gym was on fire!!! We would have to set up a stage OUTSIDE. In the COLD. Brrrrr! I realized that Jaren had left to go hang out with friends last night. He could have done all this!!! I confronted him at lunch.
“Did you sabotage our stage last night?” I said angrily. “Maybe I did. Maybe I didn’t.” He said snottily. “So you DID do it?!” I shouted. “Nah I was just messing around! I wouldn’t do that Ash!” he said sincerely. 

I decided that there was only one thing left to do. Try to catch the saboteur in the flesh. The next night I snuck out of my house and closed the door very quietly. As I crept quietly through the empty school halls, I felt a chilling sensation. As I peeked inside the gym door, I saw the saboteur. That’s when I was knocked unconscious.

I woke to sounds of beeping and ticking. I slowed opened my eyes. I was in what looked like a  hospital. I saw my mother sobbing in a chair next to me.
“Mom,” I croaked.
“Oh thank heavens! Sweetie are you feeling okay?” cried my mother, filled with joy.
“I went to the school gym, Mom, to find the saboteur. Did they catch him?” I wondered.
“Oh sweetie, they were very close. I’m just so happy that you are safe and awake.” Said my mother.

Two days later, I was led out of the hospital. My parents had put up a big sign for me when I got home. “Welcome Home Ashley!!!” it said in giant gold letters.

Eventually, two days later, I decided it was time to really uncover the saboteur. So I attached a small pillow to the back of my head that I had sewn when I was 5. It would protect my head. I grabbed a flashlight and head lamp as well. I was ready.

Again I crept through the silent halls of the school. I felt that eerie sensation again. I stepped closer to the gym’s solid metal doors, and peeked through the cracked opening between the doors. I saw spray paint all over the gym. Now where was the saboteur? I opened the door just a little bit, and it creaked softly. I just hoped and prayed that the thief hadn’t heard that. I stepped in carefully, watching my surroundings.

Then I was met face to face with a masked figure. It had emerald green eyes, and long ebony hair. It was wearing a peony perfume, expensive and exotic, I could tell. I was too frozen to speak. Luckily the figure spoke first.
“I’ve been expecting you my dear. I would knew you would come,” said the figure in a chilling voice. Something about this person was strangely familiar. Her accent. It sounded French. I only knew one person with emerald green eyes and long ebony hair, and who had a French accent.

The masked saboteur was Madame Trufant. It had to be! But she was my favorite teacher. And friend.
“Why are you doing this Madame Trufant? It just doesn’t make sense!” I said.
“Doing what? I’m getting rid of this horrid theater program of course!” she cried.
“You don’t have to do this!” I shouted. “You love this program, Madame! Every time you walk into the auditorium, I can always see the sparkle in your eyes. And now it’s gone.”
She pondered for a moment.
“Oh, Ashley, I don’t know what came over me! You’re right! I love this theater with all my heart! I must have been acting strangely since there is so much stress on the show in two weeks’ time.”
Madame’s eyes filled with tears.
“My dear, what have I done?” she cried. “I can never show my face again! How will the show go on?”
“Madame, could I make a suggestion?” I asked.
“But of course, my dear!” she exclaimed.
“If you rebuild the stage, and repaint the scenery, the show could prevail.”
“Oh Ashley, you’re a genius!” she exclaimed with new found joy.

And so they rebuilt the stage and repainted, and the show went perfectly.

The End

2nd Place – 6th Grade Kids Story

2nd Place – 6th Grade Kids Story

Our 2nd place winner of the kids writing contest – Alana Hill of Kathleen, GA

My Story Academia

/// No one’s P.O.V (point of view)///
“Vix wait up” called Alana. Alana was a tall girl for her age; She had dark
brown hair with purple at the tips. She also was wearing the male uniform
since she didn’t like wearing skirts. Alana was also a very smart girl she
memorized all 100 digits of pi. “We have to get to school, so hurry up or we’re
going to be late,” said Vix. Vix is the same as Alana except that she was more
muscular and mature. She had duel colored hair one side was black and the
other pink; she was wearing the female uniform. Vix was on the honor role
before she got into the school so she’s probably going to be in the gifted class
after their homeroom class ends. They were going to the prestigious hero
school PUMS (Plus Ultra Middle School) located in Musutafu, Japan. They
were in their first year so they didn’t want to be late on their first day. When
they got to the door of their new class 1-A, they entered the classroom. They
met some of the most unique people that they had ever seen. They were
looking around in awe until they saw their teacher.  He was wrapped in a
yellow caterpillar like sleeping bag and he looked sleep deprived. “Hello class
as you can see we have some new students, go to the front and introduce
yourselves” said the human caterpillar. “Hello, my name is Alana Hill and my quirk is Void, I can create voids that I can put things in or take things out of.
One of the draw backs is that I can only do it with things I own” said Alana.  In
this world people have quirks which are like superpowers. Vix was up next. 
“Hi my name is Vix Tale my quirk is Story.  I can create story’s from books and
make them come to life, the drawback is that if I use it too much I will be
pulled into the story that I used for 1 hour.” said Vix. When the duo was
done they found out that their teachers name was Mr. Ring, he told them to go
find an empty seat

/// Vix’s POV///
As we sat down I looked around the room to see that not everyone was
listening to the teacher. They were just talking in little groups of 6 or less, at
least that’s what most people were doing.  What Mr. Ring was teaching
was actually educational. Later in class he started explaining the basic things
around the school, including the villain alarm. Later that day I felt
that something bad was going to happen so I had my guard up. Someone
was approaching me, so I flipped them on their back, that’s when I saw that it
was Alana.

///Alana’s POV///
When class was over I went to go look for Vix. When I saw her she looked
tense so I wanted to cheer her up.  As I walked over I saw that she
was spaced out as I was calling her name. “VIX!!!” I shouted so that she could
hear me, but she didn’t turn my way. As I was approaching I tapped her
shoulder, but the response that I got was painful, I was flipped over and
landed on my back!!” That’s going to leave a scar” I thought to myself. “I’M
SORRY ALANA I DIDN’T MEAN TO” Vix said in an apologetic tone.
” It’s ok I know that y-“,I was cut off by a loud alarm but I didn’t know what it

/// Vix’s POV///
Alana was telling me that it was ok until I heard an alarm go off
and I knew immediately what it meant.  Villains were attacking.
As I was going to grab Alana’s hand I saw people that I have never
seen before come out of a portal, everybody was frozen in place unsure of
what to do. ” This is why people should listen in class” I
mumbled before yelling ” EVACUATE!!!!!”.

///No one’s POV///
As everyone was evacuating Vix saw that the villains were taking people left and right some of them were fighting but they had major injuries.  They kept
running, until Alana stopped.

/// Vix’s POV///
“Why did you stop Alana?” I asked. I noticed that she was looking behind us,
as I turned in that direction I noticed that everyone else was looking that way
as well. When I saw what they were looking at I was frozen as well. “All for
one” I whispered.

“The main Villain that you should look out for is All for one. He is the top villain
in Japan, you will identify him when you see him. He has no face and a gas
mask on since he can’t breath without it” said Mr. Ring

/// Flashback End///
Oh we’re in big trouble I thought. I was starting to black out. When I woke up
again I saw that I was in my bed at home.

/// No One’s POV///
“Guess it was just a dream,” said Vix. As Vix went back to lay down she slowly
drifted off into a deep sleep. While her eyes were closed light revealed itself,
flying out of the window never to be seen again.

///??? POV///
As I was sitting on my chair waiting for lunch to be over with, I saw one of my
dream seekers outside of the window. As it made it into the classroom it told
me what it saw. “Will this be a new addition to the story?  “Alana what are you
doing sitting in the classroom?” asked one of my classmates. “Oh, just
thinking of what to write next.

Thank you to our judges – Katy Hammel, Elisabeth Loya, and Casey Collier! And to our sponsor Ayanna Freeman of Ayanna Denise Skin.

if you’re looking for a children’s book, check out Maria Gomez’a latest, Gramita’s Tortillas.

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo

How to Prep for NaNoWriMo

Want to get ready for writing your novel in November with National Novel Writing Month? We’ll workshop all the things we need to think about for our novel.

We’ll look at: Story ideas, building character, building plot, world building, organizing information, and scheduling our writing.

This free event is sponsored by Plot Duckies. Your hosts (honestly, you’re in good hands):

Sonja Dewing – NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison for four years, NaNoWriMo winner for seven years, three published books (2 of which were originally Nano Novels), CEO of Plot Duckies, and a hard core roller derby player. Find out more at https://www.sonjadewing.com

Tamsin Silver – Future NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, NaNoWriMo winner for several years, over ten published books! Loves all things Billy the Kid, and has adorable dog, Kadin. Find out more at https://www.tamsinsilver.com

Rene Mullen – Experienced NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaison, NaNoWriMo winner for several years, one published book of poems, and a cool cat! Find out more at http://renemullen.com/

If you’re looking for the upcoming Scrivener event, here’s a link to that: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/how-to-use-scrivener-to-write-your-next-book-tickets-125755669593

We’re Publishing Strong Female Stories

We’re Publishing Strong Female Stories

We’re happy to let you know that we’re entering the world of publishing with strong female stories! We’ve helped writers publish their short stories, but now we’re helping them publish longer pieces with our publishing arm.

We’ve been in deep thought about what we want to publish. In honor of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s standing up for women, we’ve decided to focus on female characters that make us proud.

She’s not intimidated, fights for the little guy, can be a beacon of hope, sometimes she’s the underdog, and she’s still human with plenty of emotions and emotional connection.

And, our first published book will be a middle grade – Meg Goes to America, originally self-published by Katy Hammel and Gold Medal Award Winner of the Douglas Preston Award for Fiction. The Meg series (more coming soon) is a based on her mother’s experiences as a child during WWII in Japan and beyond.

Cover for Meg goes to America

Meg is going through some updates and edits and will be available in August. If you’d like to be first in line to purchase this book, or you want to know when we’ll have other great books for different ages available, sign up for our email list here: http://eepurl.com/dbLuC5 (you’ll also get a free ebook copy of our CEO’s novel, Toy of the Gods featuring Leslie Kicklighter.)

More about Meg Goes to America – Meg’s family must leave Japan as World War II approaches. Missionary families are no longer safe there. But Father is told he must stay behind. Can the family make it home to America without him? How will Meg adapt to life in the USA, which feels more foreign to her than Japan ever did? Can she make sense of the religious ideas she was taught as a child, to grow into the person she is meant to be?

A Short Story Collection One Week at a Time

Our CEO talked with Chad Brummett of New Mexico Living about our short story collection – it’s our Short Story Subscription. The stories come from a variety of New Mexico authors.

Short Story Collection

The stories are written by a variety of authors, all of whom have come to our Short Storyathon. Many of the stories remain in the Amazon Hot Reads for weeks! You can purchase the subscription for yourself or a friend.

Hear the interview here:

See the full article here: https://nmliving.com/2020/06/11/get-short-stories-from-local-authors-through-a-subscription/?fbclid=IwAR3Rip68_RK64D-sjdgJr8jXlD-QPvhzDXy53fneHTTwFXQtzEdr-EMPp9Q

And, get your subscription here.

Kids Writing Contest Awarded to

We were happy to hold a kids writing contest. Natalie Baeza, fifth grader, won the contest with her entry, Adventure Baby.

Read it here:

Adventure Baby

By Natalie Baeza

Chapter One

Hi! I’m Samuel Peterson. I’m an adventurous baby. I can fly very high but nobody knows. One time, I went to a jungle adventure. My favorite adventure was when I jumped and hopped for hours. The world seems so much smaller when you’re flying. Being a baby is just so fun you don’t have to do chores at all.

Also I have plans to go and find a treasure adventure. When you’re a baby you get lots of hugs. My least favorite adventure was when I went to the mountains. I had to climb for hours and hours but it was fun, I guess.One time I almost fell down a cliff. I was so scared.

You might be thinking why couldn’t I just fly off the cliff? Well, my powers don’t work that high up and we were like 150 feet high but my best friend saved me.

Ohh my monkey is my best friend. I must have a very brave monkey. Oh, by the way, my monkey is called George. He is very fun to play with. He always comes on adventures with me all the time. You should also come too. Adventures are lots of fun. You get to look for stuff. You get free prizes. The most important of all is the gold so that means I’m a rich baby!!!!!!

Oops, sorry, I probably shouldn’t say that out loud. No one can know I have super powers because I don’t want to creep my family out. Somehow I’ll try to tell them one day but maybe that won’t be until my 10th birthday passes. I’m just not ready yet.

Either way, let’s go to my mission. I climb out of my crib. My crib is so tall compared to me. Today we’re going on a hunt for treasure. When I say we’re it means me and George.

Let me pull out my map. OK, so it looks like we have to go to a palm tree that has a single cocoa on it. We past through a jungle with only one mosquito.

That’s probably because I put on like hundreds of layers of mosquito spray so I can’t get even one bite of a mosquito.

OK, back to the mission. We passed through a gorilla home but it heard us. He came down and told us that this was his territory so we stayed still. As soon as he looked away, I went flying up to the sky. The gorilla tried reaching us by climbing trees. But he couldn’t do anything to us because I’m the boss of the jungle.

Back to the mission. We are almost there. We just need to pass through a yellow tree and a big bear so we finally are with the bear.

He said: “You will have to battle me in a hunt for a raccoon. Whoever finds it first wins. If you win I will let you pass.”

I said that sounds like fun. We started the hunt. I thought where would a raccoon hide? I ran as fast as I could to a hollow tree. I pulled my map out of my backpack as I was running. The closest tree was next to the yellow tree that we passed through earlier!

I hurried up and I found the raccoon. I won the hunt!

The bear let us pass. We’re almost there. The treasure was buried in the ground under a rock shaped like a triangle. We looked at the ground very very closely.


I tripped on a very sharp rock. When I looked at it, it was the rock. But there was a problem. George and I didn’t bring a shovel so we started using our hands to dig a hole. When we were finished, our hands were very dirty, but that was not the biggest problem. Our hand hurts a lot.

We took a little break and then we started digging again. We finally reached deep into the ground. The treasure was there!

When we opened the chest, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in me entire life. There were gold and silver coins. They weren’t fake coins: they were real coins. There were golden and silver chains and very old metals but they weren’t rusty at all. They looked brand new and they were from 1678.

Mmmmmmmmm I wonder how old this treasure is? It must be over 200 years old. Maybe even older than that. Now how are we going to take this back home? Probably me and George can fly back home but it’s going to be hard because this treasure weighs like 46 pounds. For a baby that’s a lot but I don’t worry too much because George and I have big muscles. We can carry more than 79 pounds with each arm.

Oh, I forgot to tell you George is a super monkey. So together we are a super powerful team.

It only took 15 minutes to get back home with the treasure. “I feel like we should go rest, George. It’s been a long day.”

We climbed into the crib and snuggled up together. Tomorrow, we’re planning to go on another adventure but we’re still thinking mmmmmmmm? I guess we can on an adventure under the sea.

Now we have to wait until tomorrow. “Good night, George.”

Chapter Two

We went to sleep. Ahhh it’s finally morning. Now it’s time to go on the adventure!

Oh no. Mommy is coming. That means it’s time for breakfast. Act normal.


Wait a minute. And I’m back. OK let’s go.

Oh, I almost forgot our snorkels. Thank god, George reminded me. Now we are ready LETS GO!!!!! I’m so excited.

Ok we finally got to the sea. Let’s put on our scuba gear. Honestly I feel like I’m the first baby in the sea. SPLAAASH!!!!!! George and I jumped into the sea.

We’re looking for the one and only completely transparent fish. I think this fish likes to hide in dark places. Let’s start looking for it. I think we should go deep down. You guys might wonder how we are going to breathe that deep down. Well, we have special powers. We trained ourselves to not breathe for 6 whole hours and especially if we have snorkels. We are probably going to be under the sea for 12 hours.

(6 hours later)

We’ve been under the sea for I think 7 hours now. We passed almost every layer of the ocean. We’re in the deepest layer. We’re almost there.

We found this black hole at the very bottom. George and I swam inside it. It was so dark in there we needed to use our night vision.

We found a little something with eyes. Could it be? It was!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The transparent fish! We pulled out our fishing net and we caught the fish.

We were so proud of ourselves. Now I could complete the collection in my fish tank.

When we got home, I dropped the fish in the tank and yelled of happiness. I completed my collection of rare fish!

We were so tired. The second thing did was to go to bed because it was 2:45

a.m. Everyone was asleep so we went to sleep too.

Ahhh goodnight, George.

The end

Book Cover Design for the Short Storyathon

I asked a few graphic designers if they’d be interested in doing a book cover design in less than 12 hours and Leslie Reilly stepped up big time! I had three writers hire her (including me), and one person won the free book cover giveaway.


In her own words, Leslie shares what it was like. 


Graphic Designer Leslie Reilly

Sonja Dewing invited me to participate in the first Short Story Write-A-Thon 2018 to design cover artwork for some of her authors for the event. I have experienced a grueling Weekend Start-Up event once before so I had a good idea of what I was getting into. For me, though, I knew this was going to be much more fun, and I was right!
Four authors choose me to design their short story covers for publishing to Kindle/Amazon on Sunday. I offered a flat fee for my services knowing it was going to be a rushed project no matter what. To start the design, I was given a synopsis of their story, or their first rough paragraphs on Saturday and had to deliver by 5:00 pm Sunday. That was the challenge and I wanted to see if I could do it.
I actually love the pace. It is so much fun searching for that one thing that catches my imagination that, hopefully, will entice someone to read the whole story. To not be so obvious in choice of imagery that I give it away, but not too obscure that it doesn’t relate at all. That’s the way I come at it anyway.
I wanted to be sure to make them all look and feel different from each other, and to hopefully set the stage for the story a little bit. Not much sleep, but the stories were all really intriguing that each cover came to me quite quickly. The authors seem very pleased, which as many artists will relate, is more valuable to me than the money (super-bad business sense, though, lol), and though I have a teeny bit more to do for one, I take the weekend as a win.

Looking forward to being invited to participate next year!


Book Cover Designs by Leslie Reilly

Here are a couple of her designs!

The Next Short Storyathon (TM)

If you’re interested in our next Short Storyathon, check out our event schedule. We’re also looking at bringing these to other towns, so let us know if you want us to bring it to you!


How to use Scrivener – Get writing fast

I’m a big fan of Scrivener, so I’m going to share some simple features on how to use Scrivener and get you started fast. I’m also sharing some cool features you can find in the Mac version. Scrivener works by letting you put all your research, character sketches, and story content in one setting. PC Magazine gave it an “Excellent” rating because it’s “one of the best pieces of software for writers because it was built with their needs in mind.”

Know Your Version

Currently, I’m using version on my Mac. If you have it on your computer and you don’t know what version you have:

  1. Open the program
  2. Go to upper left Scrivener/Check for Updates
  3. A screen will open with your version number (or will tell you to update)

They now have a 3.0 version available for purchase for Mac (the PC 3.0 version is coming in 2019) – so I’ll be getting that soon.

Get Started

Open Scrivener and you should see the Start Panel pop-up. From this screen, you have several options. (If you are already in Scrivener and this screen isn’t open, you can go to File/New Project to open the Start Panel.)

How to use Scrivener

How to use Scrivener

From the left side, choose from Getting Started, or the type of project you want to start. Getting Started is nice if you want to check out the interactive tutorial, the expansive User Manual, or YouTube videos.

Or, choose the kind of project you’ll be working on.

In this case, I’m going to select Fiction. For this blog, I’m going to use my already published novel, “Toy of the Gods
, as an example, but pretend I’m starting from the beginning so you can see how it all works.

Start Your Novel

  • Click on Fiction, then double click on Novel to open up a new novel project.
  • scrivener save

    scrivener save

  • Name your project in the Save As field.
  • Click Create.
  • Now you have a new Novel project to start with.

Write Your Novel

Navigate your new project by using the Binder on the left side of your screen.

  • Novel Format: Explains how to use the template.
  • Manuscript: You can rename this file anything you want, but this top file is where your story lives.
  • Chapter: You can rename chapters anything you want – just don’t use numbers – Scrivener can number them for you.
  • Scene: You can split your Chapters into scenes – for example, The second chapter of my book is split into three scenes. Intro Leslie, Leslie explores the eco-resort, Leslie chases a burglar.
  • Characters: I love this part of Scrivener! I create a sheet for each character. This helps keep my characters organized. I title each sheet the name of the character so I can quickly find them.
  • Places: If your story is based on a certain location, you can make place sheets, just like a character.
  • Front Matter: This will be important when you’re ready to publish.
  • Research: Whatever research you collected for your story can go here. For example, I collected a ton of research about the Amazon. Once I add it there, I can access it quickly when I need to be reminded of something.
  • Template Sheets: I love this option! This is where you can find templates for your new character and setting (Place) sheets. I use a very detailed table for my characters. Here I can insert the table and now every time I create a new character, the table will be there in a new sheet.
  • Trash: When you send something to trash in your project, this is where it goes.

Start writing:

  1. Click on Scene.
  2. Click in the open space known as the editor window.
  3. Start typing. This is where the text of your scene goes.

Create new chapters or scenes:

  1. Click on the green + sign along the top in the for new scenes
  2. Click the drop-down arrow next to the green + sign to add a new chapter.

Here’s another screenshot with some examples of the chapters and scenes named. You can rename them by double clicking on them and typing the new name. 

Fun Things to Use

And, here are a few fun tools you might want to try out!

Word Count Goals. Have a writing goal? You can set a goal for your complete manuscript as well as session. Go to:

  1. Project
  2. Show Project Targets
  3. Click Edit
  4. Edit the number goals
  5. Click Apply

Then you can always go back to the Project Targets to see where you’re at with your goals.

Name Generator. Seriously! There’s a name generator.

  1. On the top bar, click Edit
  2. Writing Tools
  3. Name Generator
  4. At the bottom of the screen click and drag the indicator to tell it how many names you need
  5. Click Generate Names

Change the Icons for your folders. My other favorite option! When I’m editing the novel I’ll change the icon on a folder to show that I’ve edited it for the first draft, second draft, etc. It helps me visually see where I need to work next.

  1. Right click on a folder image in the Binder
  2. Select from the long list of images!

What Next?

FYI: If you’re in Albuquerque, we’re holding a class in January to teach Scrivener. Scrivener is also our sponsor, so we’re able to keep the tickets inexpensive for this 3-hour class. If you’re interested, sign up today!

Want help writing your novel? Check out the Plotfinder Package.

Subscription box for creative writers – Plot Box

The new Plot Box is coming! This is a monthly Subscription box for creative writers and it’s aimed at all the things that we as writers need to keep us motivated and writing.

The new and improved Plot Boxes are being hatched. It’s been through beta testing with some paid subscribers and I got some great feedback from! It also went through a special marketing team at the University of New Mexico. They gave some great ideas to make the boxes better.

What will it have? There will be different levels depending on how much you want to spend.

There will be all sorts of things like:

  • Discounts to things you need, like Scrivener
  • Snacks
  • Discounts to events
  • Books on writing
  • USB mug warmer
  • Reading lamp
  • Kit to make your own idea board
  • Earbuds
  • Stress balls
  • Activities to up your creativity
  • Water bottles
  • Prompts of various kinds
  • Gum
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Bookmarks
  • Lamps
  • Trophies
  • Tea
  • Pens
  • Fun notebooks
  • Pencils
  • And whatever else I come up with.

As a writer, I know what it’s like to keep writing and motivated. So, I’ll be looking for all the ways to keep us all writing. 

This week I’m specifically researching boxes, and I really like EcoEnclose. Boxes made from 100% post-consumer and post-industrial waste. I definitely want to be eco-friendly!

Update! We realized that a subscription box would be too expensive each month, so right now we have the Plotfinder Package. We’ll have some great gift boxes for writers in late 2019, but not a subscription box. Thanks everyone for the feedback – that was definitely valuable in us creating something valuable for you.