Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

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Practical advice in a perfect package for young aspiring writers.

After receiving letters from fans asking for writing advice,accomplished authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter joined together to create this guidebook for young writers. The authors mix inspirational anecdotes with practical guidance on how to find a voice, develop characters and plot,

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Spilling Ink: A Young Writer's Handbook

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Practical advice in a perfect package for young aspiring writers.

After receiving letters from fans asking for writing advice,accomplished authors Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter joined together to create this guidebook for young writers. The authors mix inspirational anecdotes with practical guidance on how to find a voice, develop characters and plot,

make revisions, and overcome writer’s block. Fun writing prompts will help young writers jump-start their own projects, and encouragement throughout will keep them at work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Cogent and invaluable.”—Publishers Weekly

“The best of recent volumes on the subject.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Two fine writers put their heads together and come up with an equally fine guide to their craft for beginners.” —Booklist

“For years I have been thinking about writing a HOW TO book for kids who want to write. Now I don’t have to. Anne and Ellen have crafted such a wonderful, funny, wise book about how to craft a wonderful, funny, wise book that when eager young writers send me a letter seeking my advice I can now simply say, ‘Read this!’ My hat is off to this dynamic duo.” —Bruce Coville,  author of Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher


“The singular, intense yet funny voice of SPILLING INK shares advice—how to convince your characters they are alive, avoid noisy dialog tags, wear sunglasses to feel like a spy—with much lively wisdom, and nary a hint of adult condescension. An outstanding book.”  —Nancy Springer, author of The Enola Holmes Mystery series

VOYA - Mary Ann Darby
Mazer and Potter receive one recurring question from thousands of their readers: "How do you write?" This book is their answer, crafted with joy and verve. Their discussions cover every topic from how to find inspiration to crafting a story to how to find a good place to write. The chapters are short and cleverly interspersed with sidebars, including many "I Dare You" sections that challenge budding writers to take on tasks such as describing the color yellow to someone who cannot see and writing irresistible starting lines for stories. The book's light and conversational tone makes it absolutely approachable and fun. The "Recipe for Mental Compost" in the "Inspiration" chapter is just one example of the practical and delightful advice they offer as a means of breaking down the daunting business of writing. Aimed at middle and junior high students, this book will be terrific for both libraries and classrooms. Mazer and Potter undoubtedly had a good time writing this guide and clearly know their audience. They sometimes toss aside the meticulous planning teachers urge, but for students who want to pursue creative writing, their advice is thought provoking. Rather than outlining the whole plot of a story, Potter says she "stalk[s] my characters...following close enough behind them to see what they will do." It is also funny (your descriptions should be more interesting than "...that smooshed toad on the sidewalk") and practical (find a writing partner to share work with and to "cheer each other on"). Reviewer: Mary Ann Darby
Publishers Weekly
This playful guide for aspiring writers aims to demystify the creative process as it explores first drafts and finding inspiration, the meat and potatoes of writing, and writer's block and criticism. Mazer (the Sister Magic series) and Potter (the Olivia Kidney books) challenge readers to dig deep into their characters, make a “mental compost pile” to find inspiration, and face revision head on, while modeling their own approaches. “I get ideas while waiting in lines, staring at the clouds, or lying sick in bed,” says Mazer; demonstrating how to build suspense, Potter shares the true story (“with a few embellishments”) of a robber hanging from her neighbor's terrace. Phelan's ink illustrations and a lighthearted humor enliven the text, and honest advice, such as “Your character's heart's desire is what propels your story forward,” are cogent and invaluable. Ages 9–14. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Two prolific writers for children offer advice on the writing process for young writers. In an engaging, informal style, Mazer and Potter cover the range of writing concerns, from getting started, creating characters, writing dialogue, finding a narrative voice and revising. Clearly the authors had fun compiling their tips, and original metaphors and images for the writing process keep things light: "Mental compost" is the fertile soil of the imagination, the "overflowing toilet" comes from having too many ideas and 300-pound drafts are what students lug around when enthusiastic teachers burden them with too many required steps in the writing process. This volume runs that risk, too, with so much well-intentioned advice that it could become daunting, but Phelan's illustrations, "I Dare You" sidebars that encourage students to try out ideas and the authors' own models of their writing help keep the format light and engaging. Young people who have already written a fair amount will best be able to see the value of the advice and will feel as if they have been allowed into a friendly conversation with masters of their craft. The best of recent volumes on the subject. (introduction, appendix) (Nonfiction. 9-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596436282
  • Publisher: Square Fish
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 85,830
  • Age range: 9 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Mazer is the author of The Salamander Room, The Sister Magic series, and the bestselling Abby Hayes series. She lives in Ithaca, New York.


Ellen Potter is the author of acclaimed books for children including Slob, Pish Posh, and Olivia Kidney. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, son and a motley assortment of badly behaved animals.


Matt Phelan has illustrated many books for children, including the 2007 Newbery Medal winner The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron. He lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 14, 2012

    REALLY helpful!

    I loved this book! A lot of the writing tips in the book really helped me get to know my characters, and it gave me a few ideas. I highly recommend it!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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