Vikki VanSickle on Writing, Reading & Other Pipedreams

Everything I need to know in life, I learned from children's literature

So You Think You Can Write? Spilling Ink

on May 17, 2010

Great title, great cover, great book!

So many protagonists in so many children’s novels have the desire to write. Perhaps this is a device that allows narrators to be wise beyond their years. More likely, it is a reflection of the authors’ own childhoods, in which they were children who wanted to write.  Either way, there are lots of kids out there who want to be writers when they grow up. Spilling Ink is an encouraging book full of exercises, anecdotes, and advice from two recognizable and beloved children’s authors, Anne Mazer , the woefully unsung (in my opinion) Ellen Potter, and illustrated by Matt Phelan.

Spilling Ink covers the gamut of writing, from channeling ideas, to creating a writing space, to dealing with criticism, to getting through writer’s block, and so on. Potter and Mazer take the mystique out of writing and discuss it in practical, approachable ways.  Their tone is conversational and encouraging. Every once in awhile the writers talk about the inspiration or process  behind some of their own books, which readers will find both encouraging and fascinating.

Instead of presenting “writing rules,” Mazer and Potter present all sides of the craft. For example, they ask the reader to consider whether she is a less-is-more or more-is-more kind of writer, and then suggest some exercises that allow the reader (now writer) to try both approaches and see what feels best. This is the perfect way to encourage your writers to experiment. There are lots of writing ideas and exercises here for kids to try. I will be trying some of them myself. A writing exercise is a writing exercise, regardless of how old the writer is. The authors have created a fabulous website with even more exercises and tidbits.

I can’t put my finger on why, but something about the tone and style of the book makes me think that it will appeal more to girls than boys in the 8-13 age range. This being said, it is a practical, accessible book for anyone who thinks they might like to take a stab at writing. Which reminds me…while blogging is fun and technically writing, it is also a fantastic method of procrastination…

Spilling Ink is available now from Roaring Brook Press.

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