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Short Story Month: Write every day, not some day.

Hey Writer! We hope you've enjoyed writing short stories with us this month. Your imagination matters, your ideas matter, your creative growth matters—and you took the time this month to show that!

For our last Breaking News this May, enjoy two interviews: first, a video chat between authors Colby Sharp and Pablo Cartaya; and below that, author Jacqueline Resnik shares advice to questions from Julie Duffy at StoryADay in May

Video Chat between Colby Sharp and Pablo Cartaya

About the Authors:

Colby Sharp is a fifth grade teacher in Parma, Michigan. He started the Nerdy Book Club blog with his friend Donalyn Miller and co-hosts The Yarn podcast with Teacher Librarian Travis Jonker. He also serves on the Nerd Camp Michigan team. Camp is a free literacy event that takes place in Parma, Michigan each summer. In his first book, The Creativity Project, Colby Sharp invited more than forty authors and illustrators to provide story starters for each other; photos, drawings, poems, prose, or anything they could dream up. When they received their prompts, they responded by transforming these seeds into any form of creative work they wanted to share.

Pablo Cartaya is an award-winning author, speaker, actor, and educator. He is the author of the acclaimed middle grade novel The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora and the forthcoming Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish. His next two novels will debut on the new Kokila Penguin/Random House Imprint, which focuses on publishing diverse books for children and young adults. Pablo has acted on stage and television (notably co-starring on NBC’s "Will & Grace") and frequently gives talks around the country on writing, reading, and multilingualism. 

Interview with Jacqueline Resnick

How do I find interesting topics and stay true to myself?

A: I’m always on the lookout for inspiration for stories.

Inspiration is anything that sparks an idea—and it can come from anywhere. It can come from a conversation you hear on the street, or something you see on the news, or a book you’re reading, or a crazy-looking tree you pass, or a TV show you watch, or a dream you have, or your little sister, or your pet…the list goes on and on.

With my middle grade book, Raffie on the Run, inspiration struck when I was waiting for my train in my local Brooklyn subway station. I saw a rat scamper past on the tracks and I started to wonder: where does he live? Does he have a family? A home behind the wall? The more I wondered, the more I got that feeling I always get when I’m excited about an idea: I wanted to sit down and start brainstorming immediately.

I think that’s really the best way to be true to yourself as a writer: to write about something that makes you excited to write. It’s okay if you know nothing about it; you can learn! It’s okay if it’s a genre you’ve never written before; you can read up!

It’s okay if you’re not sure if everyone will agree that it’s a good idea; it doesn’t matter! What matters is that YOU think it is. If you’re excited and passionate, you’re going to enjoy writing, and that’s going to come through in your storytelling.

Q: How do I made readers care about my story and my characters?

A: CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT! For me, character development is the most important aspect of writing a story. If a reader connects with a character, they’re going to care about that character and what happens to him or her in your story.

And the more fully a character is developed, the easier it’s going to be to connect with him or her. For a reader to care about a character, first you have to care about the character. Which means you have you to know your character really, really, really well.

To do this, I’ll make a long list of questions and answer them from my character’s point of view.

This method helped me a lot when I was writing about a subway rat in Raffie on the Run. I wanted my readers to empathize with this tiny rat who loved to tell grand stories but, deep down, wasn’t as brave as he pretended to be. However, I’m clearly not a rat! I’ve never lived in a subway station, or built tiny furniture out of foraged trash, or made my little brother believe I was the most adventurous rat in the world. (No one would ever mistake me for adventurous!)

So I sat down and answered dozens of questions from Raffie’s point of view. By the time I started writing, Raffie was REAL to me. I knew his biggest dream, his deepest fear, his secrets he’d never told anyone. I knew him as well as I knew my best friend. I cared about him, which meant hopefully I could make my readers care about him—and his story—too.

If you’re trying to get to know one of your characters better, here are 10 questions you can ask them:

Where do you live?

Who do you live with?

Do you have a best friend?

Who is your family?

How close are you with your family?

What’s your favorite hobby?

What do you want more than anything?

What’s standing in your way of getting it?

What’s your biggest fear?

What’s one secret you’ve never told anyone?

The more questions you ask your character, the better you’ll get to know him or her. And don’t be surprised when other parts of the story—like setting and plot—develop out of these answers as well!

Writing Dare from Jacqueline Resnick

Choose a spot outdoors. It could be in your yard, your school, a park, a random block—anywhere in your neighborhood. Spend ten minutes watching what animals pass by. Choose the one you find the most interesting and write a story about him or her.

Remember: you’ll have to think from an animal’s point of view. Where does this type of animal live? What senses do they use the most? How does the world from their vantage point? Have fun! 

author photo

Jacqueline Resnick is the author of Raffie on the Run, and lives with her husband and daughter in New Jersey.  

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