One Last Gift: The party I’ll never forget

Last week our eight budding writers penned personal narratives of life-changing moments. They did the hard work of creating a second draft, then a final draft showing, not telling emotions, adding strong verbs and more. We’ll be posting their articles one by one here. Enjoy stepping inside the world of our young writers!

By Avani

You know how there are days you never want to end? August 3, 2013, was one of those days. It was my sister’s birthday and she was turning five. The day was almost over. The sun was setting and all the guests hit the road.

Our family plopped on the couch. Out of nowhere my mom said, “Your dad and I have one last gift for you, but this one is for both of you.” We leaned in to listen. A cool chill ran down my spine. “You’re going to have a baby sibling!” she announced.

I was speechless. I jumped for joy, panicking at the same time. I could already hear the baby screaming. What if I dropped the baby? I thought. I’ll have another person to play with also sprang into my mind.

The best part was that my mom had been wanting another baby and now she would have one. I went to bed wondering what would happen next.

Avani, 10, is going into 6th grade.  She likes to play soccer on the Wheaton Wings travel team and dance classical Indian Kathak. Avani writes realistic fiction and mysteries. She hopes to be an optometrist and publish a mystery series. 


Poetry, Writing Tips and our Graduating Class

Vivid writing that captures the reader’s imagination includes the five senses of sight,

Matt Evie Avani
Poet Evelina (left) with Mr. Jewell and Avani

sound, touch, taste or smell. Our budding writers created sensory poems in their journal assignments last night. Evelina, 11, shared this:

Brightly colored leaves falling
Aromas of pumpkin and apple pies
Crinkling and snapping leaves and sticks
A sip of hot chocolate or warm milk
A fuzzy sweater wrapped around you on a long walk

Today, the last day of our workshop, our eight budding writers gleaned ideas from Margaret teachingWheaton author and writing teacher Margaret Philbrick. She offered these great tips for continuing to hone the gift and discipline of creative writing:
1. Create an intersection between your reading and writing. Consider: Why do you like or not like what you’re writing? Try to imitate the style that you like in your own writing.
2. Balance your reading between books you want to read or those your friends recommend with books you know you’ll be challenged by via ideas, vocabulary, etc.
3. Know your purpose and audience in writing a particular piece before you start. To entertain a peer? To inform? To persuade? Stick to it.
4. Enter poetry contests. It’ll improve your own poetry even if you never win.
5. Gift others with your writing. Write special poems to give as gifts to people you’ve written them for. Start work on a story now that you’ll finish in time to give friends and family copies of for Christmas.
Dawn&Margaret Philbrick6. Share your writing in a writers club. Margaret meets monthly with her writer group and gets feedback on her writing. You’ll get invaluable input from other writers.
7. Always write in a journal– ideas, feelings, questions. Create a separate journal only for travel. It’ll keep your memories alive and spark writing ideas.
8. Read “A Single Shard” by Linda Sue Park. Check out her website tips on writing.

Today our writers graduated!  We look forward to these shelves being filled with many poems, articles and stories penned by the writers in this group. We’ll be posting our budding writers’ articles here in days to come. Check back soon.

Graduation buddingwriters200 2017
Presenting the 2017 class of Budding Writers 200





Ready, set, publish!

Day two of our workshop: writers trekked around the inside of Tyndale Publishing House on a special tour led by editors Debbie, Sarah and Stephanie.

What’s the process of publishing a book from start to finish? Students put themselves in order of which direction the book would flow.


Editor Debbie describes how book covers get chosen. Students picked which of 6 cover options they liked for one book.
Editor Stephanie lead us in a simulation of stages of publishing a book. Marketing staff Bella must choose which magazine is most suitable for marketing the book in.
Production manager Aria holds the staff to tight deadlines. When will the book be finished?
Copyeditor Maddie must make corrections to author Mylene’s manuscript. Be positive, please!
Children’s editor Sarah describes how editing the “Story Travelers Bible” took two years!
Many thanks to Tyndale staff for a fabulous inside view of how a book gets published!

What are your writing dreams?

Day one of our workshop was bursting with the dreams of our eight aspiring authors, ages 8-11. Guest speaker, author Tony Romano (pictured at right), encouraged them to put dreams into action and write daily. Discipline more than talent makes a writer.

Here’s what our budding writers aspire to:

Evie hopes to be a realistic fiction writer and endocrinologist.

Avani hopes to become an optometrist and publish a mystery series.

Aria loves to read and write fiction and also wants to become an optometrist.

Mylene wants to write mysteries.

Elliana wants to have a news article published and act in a movie.

Olivia wants to have a fantasy novel published and become a florist.

Bella wants to have her fantasy book published and be a rancher.

Maddie wants to become a fantasy or humor writer.

Interview with local author Tony Romano

Award-winning author Tony Romano likes to write about things that disappear. His books focus on families of Italian immigrants in the 1950s—When the World Was Young and If You Eat You Never Die. Tony has also published two textbooks. He was born in Italy and moved to Chicago with his family when he was eleven months old. He now lives in Glen Ellyn, IL, with his wife and teaches English. Fourth grader Samantha Valente was happy to interview Tony last June in our BuddingWriters workshop.

Q: How did you get started writing?
I got started writing because I wasn’t able to swim. As a kid everyone in the neighborhood would go down to Lake Michigan and swim. But I was never able to go because I wasn’t able to swim. So I sat on my front porch and read comic books and that’s what got me started as a writer.

Q:   How do you get your ideas about what to write?
It’s difficult to say where writing ideas come from. It’s like asking people why they had a certain dream the night before. That would be hard to answer but at night the dreams are random. While writing, ideas arise, almost like dreams! Maybe not as random, but still, it’s hard to say where the ideas come from.

Q: How long have you been writing?
I’ve been writing for 50 years. I’ve been doing it for so long because I love it.

Q: Where is your favorite place to write?
Sometimes I like to go down to Panera in the mornings. I write there with my favorite purple pen and sometimes my laptop.

Q: Are you planning on writing any more books and if so, how many more would you like to write?
Yes, I’d like to write ONE more book. When that one is finished, I’ll want to write ONE more. And so on.

Q: Do you write any poetry?
I don’t write poetry. But I’d like to think that each sentence I write has poetic qualities.

Q: What is your favorite type of book and why?
My favorite type of book is a novel that explores family issues. I’ve also been reading a lot of biographies and histories. My most recent favorite is Valiant Ambition about George Washington and Benedict Arnold.

Q: Who is your favorite author and why?
That’s a tough question because I have so many. But probably Richard Russo. He makes me smile. And his books are full of wisdom.

Q:   Do you like to doodle?
I do like to doodle.   Sometimes I doodle when I’m writing something and I can’t think off what to come up with next.   I will draw stars or other doodles on the paper on which I am writing.

Q: What do you do when you have writer’s block?
I guess I don’t believe in writers block. I think writing involves discipline. If anything, I’d call it lack of discipline or discipline block!

Q: How long does it take to get a book published?
For me, it takes at least a year to get a book published.

Q: If you weren’t a writer what would you be?
If I were not a writer I would probably be a rock star because I like the whole feeling of that.

Q: Do you have any advice for young writers?
Don’t let anyone discourage you.

Upcoming 2017 Workshops
Who We Are


The Cat’s Meow

Juliette headshotBy Juliette

The sun beat down on the hot car as I gazed out upon a lawn of dry and brittle grass. It seemed like it could crumble in your hands. I watched the door of the house with the unhappy grass glint in the sunlight as it slowly swung closed behind my mother and father’s backs.

I sat in the car clueless why we had parked here. I wondered my sister and I couldn’t go inside too. On our drive here, just  moments earlier, I had asked, “Where are we going?”

“To get something,” Dad replied.

“Is ‘it’ for us?” Ivy, my younger sister, asked.

“All of us!” Dad exclaimed as he grinned at us from the driver’s seat.

I had my suspicions about what “it” could be. Did the owner of the house want to sell us a new piece of furniture? But why, then, were we not allowed to go in with mom and dad? And it would have to be big if we were were to share it, so how could we get it home? I kept quiet, listening to the thoughts raging in my head as I look out the smudged window. I turned my back to the house with all the secrets it held inside.

In agony I waited in the sweltering car, watching swooping birds graze the fingertips of the old trees for what seemed like forever. Finally someone spoke.

“What do you think ‘it’ is?” asked Ivy, who could wait no longer to find out. I couldn’t give a satisfactory answer, so I shrugged my shoulders hoping she would stop pestering me. Her question excited me and made me even more curious. As an eight-year-old, I couldn’t stand surprises. I had always figured them out. I shivered with excitement as I turned to the window facing the house just in time to see my mom step out, saying, “Thank you so much!” and waving good-bye.

My dad was following her down the concrete steps, gingerly carrying a large bag. As he walked closer to me on the path leading from the house to our car, I could see the bag clearer. It looked like a large duffle bag, but with black plastic mesh netting on three sides. I craned my neck over Ivy’s head, trying to see the curious object. As soon as Dad opened the car door, Ivy and I both asked, “What is it?”

“Why don’t you take a look”” replied Dad. He carefully set down the bag between Ivy and me. I leaned over, straining against my seatbelt to see inside. Much to my surprise, three tiny kittens stared back at me with oversized, unblinking and irresistibly cute eyes. One was gray and seemingly gentle, the second was striped and gray with eyes like lethal weapons.

The third was the most adorable thing I had ever cast my eyes upon. It was a Juliette with catperfect tuxedo cat. He had white mittens, nose and a white belly. The tip of his tail was dipped in white paint. Best of all, he was so fluffy! For a few moments I just stared at the baby cats. My heart warmed as a huge smile spread across my face. I wanted to hug the kittens and never let go.

I looked at Ivy’s icy blue eyes and I could see that something had exploded inside her too. At the same moment we broke into high-pitched screams, “Eeeeeeee!”

“So,” Dad said from the driver’s seat as soon as we were driving. “Do you think the black and white one looks like a Pangerban or a Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy?” I was speechless the whole short drive home.

Juliette is a sixth grader in Wheaton, IL. She loves cats. Her drawing won an award in the Reflections contest, and she hopes to illustrate the books she writes.

Attack of the Fluffy Gray Monster

A true story by Ivy

A small breeze whistled through the maple tree’s leaves in my backyard. I jogged past the maple to the very back. I was looking for the sugar snap peas that we had planted under the trellis in the spring. I smelled their sweetness in the air. They must be ripe! I whispered to myself. My mouth watered.

“Tweet, tweet,” a bird chirped nearby.

What’s that? I wondered.

Looking around I noticed a fluffy gray baby robin perched on the trellis. It can’t hurt to try and touch it, I thought, as I crept forward. I had attempted to touch wild animals before but never succeeded.

I continued creeping toward the baby robin. As I moved forward, slow as a sloth, I gradually stretched out my arms. Just as I was about to snatch it, the bird leapt from the trellis. It landed on my head, jumping and flapping its wings.

“MAMA, MAMA!” I shouted as the bird’s claws poked my head. My heart pounded. My mom rushed out the back door and onto the porch. She gasped as she ran toward me. Just when she arrived, the bird hopped off my head and onto the ground. I was still trembling, and so was the bird!

“Did you see what happened?” I felt a little light-headed from shouting so much.

“Yes, are you all right, Honey?” My mom asked.

“Did you take a picture?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t have my phone with me,” she said, examining the bird.

I giggled. The fledgling bird looked like a ball of fluff hopping around on the ground. It flapped its fluffy gray stub-wings, seeming eager to fly. My heart fluttered and warmed as I watched it.

I laughed again but suddenly stopped. I thought about the neighborhood cats and dogs that got into our backyard sometimes. Will the baby be safe? Who will take care of it? I wondered.

We decided to set the baby robin in a basket full of green leaves and soft paper towels to help it feel more at home. We gently placed it in its temporary home. My mom hung the basket on a sweetly scented lilac tree. The bird flapped about, but soon settled down.

“Should we feed it something? It doesn’t seem to have any parents,” I asked.

“Let’s wait a bit longer,” my mom replied.

We backed away and began watching from a distance. The baby robin wasphoto no longer alone! Two grown yellow finches, smaller than the fledgling, were feeding it small worms and bugs.

I snuggled up to my mom and watched the adoptive parents caring for their baby. I sighed deeply and smiled.


Ivy, 9, lives in Wheaton, IL. She loves to be with animals. Ivy hopes to be a fiction and fantasy writer someday.