Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Don't Call Me a Bully!

One-third to one-half of teens have been bullied online, and just as many teens engage in cyberbullying others. Yet many cyberbullies don't view themselves as bullies at all. They think of, "bullying" as the "old-fashioned" kind of harassment -- upfront and personal. By comparison, their online behavior is no big deal. Harassing, teasing, threatening, or embarrassing someone on the internet or by cellphone is perceived as fun, funny, and inconsequential. And if somebody's feelings get hurt? Well, they probably deserved it!

Of course, cyberbullying is a big deal. The effects can be devastating to the victims, causing self-esteem issues, trouble in school, depression, and self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse and even suicide. Many kids would stop their bullying if they understood the consequences.

But how does a teen -- or anybody else -- know if their online activities have crossed the line into bullying? Here's part of a quiz from my book Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction. Even one "yes" answer can be a sign of cyberbullying:

Have you ever texted or posted rude comments or insults to or about anyone?
Have you ever forwarded photos, emails, texts, or anythng else someone wanted to keep private?
Have you ever posted something negative online that you would never say in person?

Need help talking to kids about sensitive issues like cyberbullying? I wrote Tackling Tough Topics to help you, and I'm giving away three free copies. Enter here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction by Diana R. Jenkins

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction

by Diana R. Jenkins

Giveaway ends April 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Book Giveaway!

I'm giving away three copies of my latest book, Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction. This is a faith-based resource designed to help caring adults talk to young teens about sensitive subjects like pornography, depression, modesty, cyberbullying, body image, and more. Each chapter uses fiction about contemporary teens as well as varied resource material (statistics, scripture, discussion questions, activities, etc.) to help teachers, catechists, and homeschoolers connect with kids and give them guidance. Enter below -- and please share!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction by Diana R. Jenkins

Tackling Tough Topics with Faith and Fiction

by Diana R. Jenkins

Giveaway ends April 23, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Friday, March 20, 2015

What a Great Day!

                                                                                                                                                                  I recently visited All Saints School, Kenwood, Ohio, where I had breakfast with the teachers, gave three presentations, shared a pizza lunch with accelerated readers, autographed my books, and talked to lots of wonderful kids, teachers, parents, etc. 

I really enjoyed my visit! There's a very caring environment there, but I can tell the kids are challenged, too. How great is that?

Thanks to everyone at All Saints for making it such a lovely day!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Delightful new picture book!

I love The King Cake Baby by Keila Dawson! This charming picture book gives the old gingerbread man story a New Orleans twist. This time the escapee is the tiny baby meant to be hidden in a king cake. (A delicious New Orleans tradition!) Lively language by author Keila Dawson and fun illustrations by Vernon Smith bring New Orleans to life and make this a story kids will love. Highly recommended! Get it here!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Childhood Writing

I loved writing, even as a kid. Here's the earliest written piece I still have. I wrote this poem for my grandmother the summer after third grade. I know this because I wrote her a letter about it on the other side and I dated that letter. I guess they did a good job of teaching us about proper letter formatting in third grade -- as well as cursive handwriting!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Great Kids' Book About Martin Luther King, Jr.


What was Your Dream, Dr. King? and Other Questions about Martin Luther King, Jr. (by award-winning author Mary Kay Carson) is a wonderful book for young readers age 7 and up. The kid-friendly question-and-answer format allows readers to explore the book at their own pace and learn about the man and his times in meaningful chunks. As usual, Carson's writing is clear, accessible, and informative. Beautiful illustrations bring Dr. King to life.

Check out Mary Kay Carson's blog post about using this book here.

Get the book here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tips for Writing Kids' Plays

If you write for children, don't limit yourself to traditional fiction. Use your story-telling skills to create plays kids will love. Here are a few suggestions about how to do it:

                         1)     Be realistic. Your script probably won't be performed on Broadway or turned into a blockbuster movie. Avoid special effects, amazing stunts, or anything else that can't be accomplished by ordinary kids. Keep costumes, sets, and props to a minimum. Writing in the readers theatre format is one of the best ways to create a play that's simple to stage but exciting in content.

2)     Use an adjustable cast.  Of course, you want to follow publishers' guidelines about size of cast and number of female/male roles. But you can make your play adaptable to various situations by building in some casting flexibility. When possible, include group characters like "Other Students" or "Rest of Student Council." Use some unisex names for characters or double up on titles, such as "Aunt/Uncle" or "Mr./Ms." Adding a narrator provides a large  and handy gender neutral part.

3)     Spread the glory around. Not only is it difficult for one kid to carry most of a play, it's just no fun. All the actors want to have their moment – and their parents expect to see it. Instead of letting your main character do all the talking, distribute lines among a number of roles. If you use group characters (see #2), give them lines that allow for adlibs so everyone gets to say something. For example:
             Other Students: What? Are you kidding? I don't believe it! (Etc.)
           And most importantly, give secondary characters interesting personalities and some problems of their own – that makes them fun to play and entertaining to watch.

4)     Make sure your dialogue rings true. Some characters need to sound pompous, old-fashioned, affected, formal, or otherwise theatrical. Those parts are usually easy to write! Creating realistic dialogue for contemporary young characters can be much more challenging. Real kids don't speak lyrically, reciting over-their-heads vocabulary with perfect grammar. They use contractions and slang, start new sentences without finishing old ones, and interrupt each other. Listen to kids talk to get an idea of how to recreate their conversations, read your dialogue out loud with a critical ear, and polish, polish, polish. Nothing is more essential to a good play than well-written dialogue!  

5)     Step outside the box. Today's kids are used to media that breaks boundaries. They've experienced actors who speak directly to the camera, characters who "know" they're in a television program, and games that allow almost-real interaction. So don’t be afraid to experiment a little with your play! Let the narrator express personal opinions about what's happening onstage. Allow your main character to argue with the narrator. Place a heckler in the audience or bring an audience member on stage. This kind of creativity works especially well in humorous scripts, but it can also add emotional impact to serious plays.

6)     Tell a story. Despite its different format, a play is still a story – and you want to make it a good one! Create a relatable main character, give him/her a problem worth caring about, go through a complete story arc, end up with a good lesson that's not too heavy-handed, etc., etc., just as you would when writing a kids' story or book. This doesn't just apply to serious drama – funny plays need to be well-written, too! Skits constructed of nothing but jokes, gags, and one-liners can be fun, but they're not really satisfying to audiences, young performers, or the adults who work with kids. Make your script meaningful, as well as entertaining. That's the kind of play that gets published and performed!

Want to sell your plays? Here are some possible markets.