Guest Blogger Stacy Juba: What a Bunch of 8-Year-Olds Taught Me About Writing

Award-winning writer Stacy Juba is the author of the mystery novel Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and the brand new reality TV show-themed mystery novel Sink or Swim, as well as the patriotic children’s picture book, The Flag Keeper. Her young adult paranormal thriller Dark Before Dawn will be released by Mainly Murder Press in January 2012. You can find out more about her novels on her web site.

Recently, I visited a second grade classroom and spent an hour helping groups of children to write their own adjective booklets. Now and then as an author, I have the opportunity to work with kids, and I always find it an eye-opener.

At first, when I rapped on the table and asked the students to describe the surface, they looked at me as if I were crazy. Then they ventured tentative answers such as “Hard?” “Smooth?” Next, I asked them to describe each other’s shirts, and by this time, they were getting the hang of it. “Pink! Striped! Glittery! Sparkly! Has words on it!” (Okay the last one wasn’t an adjective, but at least they were being descriptive.)

I pointed to the carpet and instantly two girls bellowed “Rough!” We talked about their pets and the kids shared adjectives like playful, gray, lazy and curious. Meanwhile, their classmates completing seatwork kept darting envious glances our way. I felt a little embarrassed that my group was so loud, but I also enjoyed my small role in helping the children to discover the joy and power of language.

My new reality show mystery novel Sink or Swim just came out from Mainly Murder Press and I’m also actively promoting my first mystery book Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and my patriotic children’s picture book The Flag Keeper. I have a young adult paranormal crossover novel due out in 2012 and I’ll be bringing back my out-of print young adult novel Face-Off in the near future.

My to-do list of marketing and promotion tasks is five pages long, and those are just the top priorities. Once I complete those tasks, I’ll make up a new list. What adjectives describe my feelings about being an author? Happy. Exciting. Exhilarating. Overwhelming. Hard. Nerve-wracking. Stressful. Frustrating. Grateful. Determined. Focused.

I haven’t had time to write fiction in awhile as I’m also a wife, mom, and freelance newsletter editor, in addition to being an author. My priority with my novels at this time in my life is to gain as many readers as possible, so that financially I can continue to write more books. Once I catch up on my to-do list, I’ll get back to a regular fiction- writing schedule, but I have a great deal of legwork to do in the meantime.

I’ve been so focused on marketing and selling since publishing my first mystery novel in late 2009 that I had almost forgotten what attracted me to the writing field – a love of words. Working with those children reminded me about the joy and satisfaction of weaving words together into something unique and creative, a sentence, paragraph or novel that only I could write.

To get paid for putting words together on paper and making up stories is remarkable. As a new author, I work hard for those royalties, but it’s worth it. Elementary school kids have two favorite adjectives – awesome and cool. Seeing the excitement on the students’ faces as they created their adjective books made me remember that when I’m in the middle of writing a scene, I feel that exact same energy charge. Promoting myself as an author may be hard work, but it’s also awesome and cool.

6 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Stacy Juba: What a Bunch of 8-Year-Olds Taught Me About Writing

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  3. Great post, Stacy! I can relate to how marketing and promoting eats up so much of our time that we sometimes lose sight of why we got into this business. There is nothing like a group of eager kids to remind us of the simple joys!

    I loved all three of your books and can’t wait for you to get back into that writing routine. I’m eager for another!

  4. Thanks, Darcia! It can get easy to caught up in all the business and marketing tasks and forget about the small joys of putting words together. If anyone stops by to comment, share an adjective about how you’re feeling today!

  5. I love that you were helping children learn adjectives. As a writer, I’ve learned not to use many adverbs–yes, I know it’s a detraction, and yet I miss them. When I was helping out in the classroom, I found most kids didn’t understand the function of each part of speech. Teachers used to diagram sentences, which is the way I learned sentence construction. Now they rely on Sesame Street to do their work. Yes, they have catchy tunes to help the kids remember, but most people are visual learners and until they are taught it in a classroom, they don’t really get it. While reviewing spelling tests, I’d ask the kids what part of speech the word was–most of the time they didn’t know. This was the fifth grade. Good luck on the books. I read Sink or Swim and enjoyed it.

  6. Thanks for stopping by! Sentence diagrams takes me back to my own school days. I’ve found that Mad Libs and Mad Libs Jr. are a fun way to teach kids about the parts of speech. They really pick it up fast when doing Mad Libs. Thanks so much for reading Sink or Swim – am glad you enjoyed it!

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