Start The Year Off Write 2015

Hello Writing Friends!

Its been far too long!! How have you been? 2014 has certainly been one wild ride for me! But before I get into that, I want to announce that I will NOT be running Start The Year Off Write this January. I’ve agonized over this decision as it was always my intention to make STYOW a yearly challenge.  However, things changed.  Thanks to some unexpected curve balls this year, I did not have time to organize the challenge to the level of my satisfaction.  I hope you will forgive me.  I swear I have the cutest excuses ever.  See.
Adorable, right?  :)
Really is was all this amazing little lady’s fault.

Behind that beautiful smile is the story of a survivor. This little lady was born ten weeks early!  If you’re curious, here’s where I’ve been the past eleven months and why I didn’t have time to organize Start The Year Off Write.  I’ve got to warn you, its a bit of a read so if you don’t have time here’s the cliff notes version: new baby, new business, NICU, sewage flood, and new home in a new state!


Christmas Eve 2013 – Shannon surprised Jim with the news that Baby #3 is on the way!
January – Shannon runs her first large scale writing challenge, Start The Year Off Write, and is thrilled by its results. Writers in 9 different countries are logging in to participate! Jim and his smarty-pants business partners finally launch Trek10, which helps companies upgrade and save money by replacing their servers with secure cloud-based solutions.
February – Jim twists Shannon’s arm just enough to convince her to move from downtown Chicago. They settle on Northern, IN and plan to move in the […]

Announcement – It’s Prize Time

Ready for the results?  I know I am but first I want to say a few thank yous.

First and foremost to Tara Lazar, for without her advice, encouragement and support this challenge would never have been possible.  To the amazing list of authors who agreed to write a post for this challenge.  Thank you for taking a chance on me and for sharing your wisdom and expertise.   To the editors and agents for giving their time and expert advice to the lucky prize winners.  I cannot thank you enough.  To the amazingly talented Maple Lam who provided the adorable logo’s and artwork for the challenge.  She is an incredibly talented illustrator, really take a minute to check her out!  And of course to all the writers and followers who made this challenge a HUGE SUCCESS.  You guys rocked my world!!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!


Without further ado…HERE ARE THE RESULTS!
Agent Review
Sean McCarthy – Sean McCarthy Literary Agency
Mira Reisberg – Hummingbird Literary
Jodell Sadler – Sadler Children’s Literary
Maria Vicente – P.S. Literary Agency

Copy Editing Services
Beth Stillborn – Flubs 2 Fixes

Editor Review
Marissa Moss – Creston Books
Meredith Mundy – Sterling Children’s Books
Laura Whitaker – Bloomsbury

Grand Prize Winner
Melissa has won online access to a digitally recorded writing conference hosted by Writer’s Digest. Melissa will have access to nearly 25 sessions valued at over $450.  These sessions are one of a kind as they are not even offered to the public yet.
Congratulations Melissa!!  I hope you and all the prize winners are having a moment like this.
All winners have been contacted via email.  If you have not heard from me and your name is on […]

It’s Time for the GRAND PRIZE

Did you complete all 21 prompts?  Did you give each prompt your all?  If so, then you are eligible for the Super Secret Grand Prize.   Yes, its still a secret but I can promise it’s quite “GRAND”.  By entering the Rafflecopter drawing you are agreeing to the following:

I do solemnly promise that I completed all 21 writing prompts and I gave each prompt my best effort.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Click the above icon to be directed to a list the writing prompts by author or go to The Talent page on

Mix and Match with Corey Rosen Schwartz

I have to let you in on a little secret.  I am not a fan of prompts!   Yes, I feel horribly guilty admitting this to you, especially on the 21st and final day of Start the Year Off Write!   You’ve been doing prompts for nearly three weeks now.  But I am prompt-challenged.  Every time I have ever been faced with one, I have felt utterly paralyzed.  I go blank.  I become brain dead.  I can’t come up with anything!

Every time except once.

It was 2002 and I was taking a Media Bistro class led by the fabulous and talented editor, Jill Davis.   One day she gave us an assignment:

I want you to retell a fairy tale, but you can only use “three word” sentences. 

This was the perfect exercise for me. I didn’t need to come up with an idea.  The plot and characters were already there for me.  All I needed to do was what I do best- play with words!

Mix and match.

Turn them inside out.

Make them fit together like puzzle pieces. I chose Goldilocks and the Three Bears, and I was really pleased with the result.  It even rhymed!

(And who knew at the time that I would have a future in fairy tales?)

Prompt #21:  Retell a fairy tale (or any favorite story) using exactly three words in each and every sentence.


A Bit About Corey
Corey Rosen Schwartz is the author of THE THREE NINJA PIGS and the upcoming GOLDI ROCKS AND THE THREE BEARS (which debuts on Feb. 6th!!) and NINJA RED RIDING HOOD (July 2014). Her singing is extremely pitchy, but she does hold Family Idol and X Factor events in her living room.

To learn more about Corey click here or find her on Facebook or Twitter. 

Christie Matheson Diverts Her Attention

The writing process is different for me on different days, and I’m never quite sure what to expect when I begin. Sometimes it flows easily and quickly and I go with it, knowing I can come back and edit later. Other days I get caught on a single word or line. When that happens, I have two tricks that I try, and one of them works almost every time. If I’m stuck, I first put in a chunk of time at my studio table (where I write and work on illustrations), and do a little figurative head-banging as I stare at the words and my sketches and think. Then I either head outside and go for a run, or I take a break from what I’m working on and write or draw something for someone else, just for fun.

Since Adam Rubin wrote about taking an exercise break (which really, really works!), I’ll focus on my second trick. Actually, it’s not a trick. It’s just a way to get out of my head and remind myself that the whole point of writing is to put a little creativity out into the world. I might write someone a note (a just-because note, not a thank-you note that’s been hanging over my head since the holidays), or write down one of my daughter’s favorite made-up bedtime stories so we can read it together, or paint and collage a picture for my son, or hand-paint a card for someone with a birthday coming up. I don’t spend hours upon hours on this, but I do put everything else aside to focus on it for a chunk of time. When I get back to my work, the creativity is […]

Clown Around & Inflate Your Writing with Alison Ashley Formento

One fun part-time job I had right after college involved face paint and balloon animals. I was a clown. I performed at kids parties, corporate picnics, and restaurant openings. I blew bubbles, used silly voices, sang and danced, and yes, I created balloon art. Clowns and balloons go together like books and readers. I used those long, slender balloons that are easy to inflate and twist into colorful, creative shapes. I learned from my fellow clown friends how best to blow up balloons quickly and found that I had the talent for a basic balloon repertoire:  dog, sword, hat, and giraffe. The problem for this clown occurred when a child asked for something different from my usual fare, such as a balloon mermaid or pirate. Uh, oh.

No clown wants to disappoint a child. I’d try, but after much twisting and many loud pops, I’d grin my big clown grin and tell a funny story in a silly voice to make up for my lack of ballooning skills.

Now I use some of those clowning skills I learned when I write picture books and novels. It’s fun to act out my characters—sometimes with silly voices—and the twist and turn of every sentence matters, whether the story is 32 or 300 pages long. Writing stories and making balloon art both require patience and the ability to self-edit. Too many twists and turns in a story can affect the believability for a reader. Or, if characters and plot aren’t fully developed they can feel limp to readers in the same way that lack of air can make a balloon too limp to use and too much air can make it pop.

My ultimate goal in writing fiction is to […]