Say What: The Importance of Internal Dialogue


“One night, as I lay in bed, my stomach rumbling something fierce, I tried to think of an idea, anything to bring in a little extra cash, I was no scholar, so a career in tutoring the younger kids was probably out. And as for babysitting, who would ever hire Dangerous Dale Sweet’s daughter?” Faith Harkey, Genuine Sweet




Internal dialogue is voice.


That golden nugget right there is one of the best things I heard at Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers this year. I was lucky enough to be in the group led by the amazing and talented and gorgeous and funny Janette Rallison. And I loved her lecture on internal dialogue and this idea that your inner character’s thoughts is what voice is. I’d never heard it explained like that before. But yes! Of course it is.



“Nothing creates a buzz like an Executive Deluxe day planner. Not that I have much experience with buzzes, especially of the chemical variety, but my brother did double-dose me on NyQuil once when I was eleven. That thirty or so minutes of faint inebriation had nothing on this feeling. Pure, organized bliss.” Lindsey Leavitt, Sean Griswold’s Head


Internal dialogue reveals what makes our characters unique. It shows us what’s important to them, what they notice first, what bothers them, what they’re afraid of, what’s hilarious to them, what they’re looking forward to, what they want. It can reveal the character means the opposite of what they’re saying and disclose parts of them, the dark or painful thoughts, the bits and pieces they keep hidden away from the people around them.


“I woke up on the worst day of my entire life fully expecting it to be the best day of my entire life. Sometimes life is funny that way. And when I say funny, I don’t mean funny as in, “Ha-ha, that’s a good joke, thanks for sharing.” I mean funny as in someone coming to your birthday party, punching you in the stomach, and then stealing your new puppy.” Marion Jensen, Almost Super


Internal dialogue can also increase tension in a story. If your character tells everyone around her one thing, but her inner thoughts reveal another story, we become more invested in this character.


Sobbing Girl’s eyes widen in recognition. “Aren’t you in my PE class? Didn’t you, like, one time have this horrible rash on your legs? From hay or something?”

“It was actually this organic fertilizer my dad was trying,” I explain, trying to pretend we’re having a perfectly normal teenage girl conversation. “Turns out I’m allergic to worm castings. But I’m not actually allergic to worms. Go figure.”

The girls stare at each other a second and crack up. “Wow!” Sobbing Girls says. “That’s the most insane thing anyone has ever said to me! You are totally weird.”

Gosh, I’m glad I could cheer her up.” Frances O’Roark Dowell, Ten Miles Past Normal

A character’s inner thoughts tell us what she thinks about her story.


“What would it be like, to be Lord Death’s consort? Not to rest in the world where the dead are, now and always without fear, but ever to cross from one world to another, always able to see the life that was left behind. Worse, to serve at his side in his office as the bearer of pain and tears and heartache. To see every day a man weep like a baby himself over his lost little one. To see a new widow stare at her living children with hollow eyes, her heart torn out of her. To stand at the bedside, invisible in the shadows, while great men rocked in their beds with pain. To be the bringer of plague. Ah, ’twas one thing to die, another to be Goodwife Death.” -Martine Leavitt, Keturah and Lord Death


So, what do we do? How do we get better at writing internal dialogue?

One way is to make sure we know what our own internal dialogue sounds like. Try writing it! Write what you’re thinking about right now. Write about something you want to do. Write about that new thing you bought. Write about a dramatic memory. Write it with your internal dialogue, like the way you would speak it. Set a timer for ten minutes or so and write!

Try writing this with someone else’s internal dialogue, say, your mom’s or your best friend’s or the strange neighbor down the street. How does their internal dialogue change it?

Now, write it with your main character’s unique inner thoughts. What is their inner voice like? How does it change their internal dialogue?


“The writer’s voice casts a spell. The right voice makes the work accessible; it gives us the tone and point of view that best illuminate the material and make it shine.” –Steven Pressfield


“Grace’s aching eased a little once she was off the bus and standing in front of the enormous arc of the Salt Lake City Library. Here was a building of straight lines and perfect curves, of peaceful spaces and friendly librarians’ faces. A building where being quiet wasn’t weird, it was following the rules. The library wouldn’t ever pack up and move across the country just because its dad got a job at a fancy university in Boston. Not that libraries had dads or jobs, of course, but that was the point. That’s why you could count on them.” Elaine Vickers, Like Magic




Erin Shakespear writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.


5 Tips for Real Connections at Writing Conferences

If you have the opportunity to attend a writing conference (highly recommended), here are a few tips to help you make real, lasting, and memorable connections with other writers.

1: Ask questions! Most writers love to talk about what they write, what they’re current project is about, their favorite books, and what they’re currently reading. I read about a guy who went to a wedding and didn’t know any of the other guests. At the end of the night, people were asked who their favorite guest was. And you know what? They said that guy! And do you know why? Because he asked people questions. All night long, he just asked others about themselves. And people loved him for it!

2: Listen! Don’t ask questions about what others are writing JUST so people will ask YOU about YOUR writing. Pay attention to people’s responses and then…ask more questions!

3: Be genuine! Be interested and friendly, but be yourself. Be interested in making new friends. If you’re only talking to people so you can network to further your career, that’s lame. And a lot of the time, it’s pretty darn obvious!

4: Smile! Sometimes simply having an open expression on your face or a smile can be enough to invite conversation and new friendship. Maybe your smile is just what someone needs to see in order to feel comfortable taking the seat next to you in a class.

5: Seize opportunities! Are you stuck in a long book signing line or find yourself waiting for the instructor to show up? Talk to the people around you! Maybe you end up at a table for lunch with people you don’t know. (Maybe you purposefully sit at a table of people you don’t know! Which is an excellent idea, by the way. ) Now, remember to ask questions, listen, be genuine, and SMILE!




Erin Shakespear writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.


The Night Owl to Early Bird Experiment

I’ve been struggling to find time to write.

I mean, it was hard before, but now that I’m a single mama, it has been almost impossible. I’ve been trying to take an online math class and be involved in my writing group and hug my kids and talk to them and play with them and feed them something other than Cheetos and be a good friend and run three times a week and go out on an occasional date (yep, that’s new) and, somehow, write.

I needed to do something. Something had to change so my writing could be a priority again. It’s not a want, but a need. I need to write. I need to finish this book. And then I need to start and finish another one and so on. But I was at a loss as to how to do it, until this thought wormed its way into my head, ”I could do it in the morning, before everyone gets up.”

This absurd idea has crossed my mind before, but I’ve always dismissed it. I am NOT a morning person. I don’t want to be up at a stupid early time, typing on my keyboard, bleary-eyed and miserable. I’m a night owl, dangit. I’ve always been a night owl. I want to stay up late reading or writing or puttering around my quiet house or chat with friends or, well, anything other than go to bed early. And then I want to sleep in as long asnight owl possible.

I didn’t want to change. And, yet, part of me did, the part of me that needed to write. So, I decided to try an experiment, to give the early bird lifestyle a go for one week.

Step One: I needed a plan. I thought about our days and schedules and decided to go to bed at 10 p.m., get up at 6 a.m., and write for two hours.

Step Two: I told my kids about my big plan. I talked to them about how I felt, my struggles to find time to write, and how important it is to me. Then I chatted with them about the need for them to go to bed on time and not wait to ask for my help with things right at bed time. They were shocked at the idea of their mom actually choosing to get up early, but they were also excited and supportive.

Step Three: Actually going to bed early! This was hard. I had to stop myself from reading one more page, doing one more chore, or writing one more email. I took care of things earlier in the evening, things I normally would have saved to do after my kids were in bed. I made sure to get my kids to bed on time. And then I forced myself into bed and set my alarm for stupid early.

Step Four: Get out of bed! Blerg. This was hard, too. I had to drag myself out of my warm sheets and shuffle to my studio. Some mornings it was harder than others and I let myself sleep in a bit longer. But then I forgave myself and I resolved to do better the next day.

Step Five: WRITE! The house was quiet and dark and my brain, once it got over the shock of being awake, was sharper than at night. I wrote more and better than I do in the same amount of time at night. It loved putting the writing right at the beginning of my day, making it important, instead of sleeping later and then hoping I’d find some cracks in my day to squeeze some writing time into.

In conclusion, the night owl to early bird was a complete success! Now, maybe getting up early isn’t feasible for you, or it’s simply not the best way for you to find more writing time. But maybe there’s a different time, a different way, to find more writing time that you’ve previously dismissed as not possible. Maybe you’ll have to make some changes and sacrifices. And maybe it’s time for you to do an experiment of your own.

Erin Shakespelighteningar writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.

13 Tips for Writing Picture Books

Years ago, I judged a local writing contest and had the opportunity to read a large stack of picture book manuscripts. I loved it!

As I read, I saw many of the same problems again and again. (AND I realized my manuscripts had some of the same problems.)

So, I came up with this list of tips for the contestants (and myself!):


picture books


  1. Keep the writing tight. Make sure every word needs to be there. Words not propelling the story forward must be deleted!
  2. Introduce the problem fast, within a few lines, and preferably in the first line.
  3. Give the main character a problem, a BIG problem, something which makes the readers root for them. And make the main character solve it themselves. They need to grow.
  4. Create a story that works with illustrations, that can’t be told without the illustrations. The pictures need to tell part of the story. There’s a big difference between a magazine story and a picture book story. A magazine story describes everything. A picture book shouldn’t. And the words of the picture book, when read without the pictures, should inspire pictures in the mind of the reader.
  5. Make sure your story is actually a picture book, a picture book for children and not something else masquerading as a picture books, such as a story for adults, young adults, middle school kids, or chapter book readers.
  6. Make the problem relevant to your target audience.
  7. The main character needs to be a child or a child-like character.
  8. A great picture book ending is a bit like the punchline to a joke. Make sure it’s satisfying and snappy. Don’t let it drag, but don’t let it end too fast either.
  9. Find a new voice and a new way to tell your story. Make it quirky, unusual, or unique.
  10. Dialogue can make a story more engaging to read aloud. Some stories work without it, but most of my favorite books to read to my kiddos have dialogue. Any excuse to talk in silly voices is always a good thing.
  11. Write a story that, first, entertains, not teaches a message. Yes, many picture books have a message, but the fun story must always come first.
  12. Read, read, read! Read new picture books being published. Be familiar with what modern children and modern publishers are interested in and what kind of stories they like, not what you want them to like. Read picture books to kids. Notice what delights them. Notice what makes them laugh. Notice what keeps their attention. And notice what they want you to read to them again and again and again.
  13. A great resource for learning to write for children is Picture Writing by Anastasia Suen. She’s brilliant at teaching how to use words to create pictures in the minds of your audience.

Some of the Shakespear’s favorite picture books:

Image result for billy twitters and his blue whale problem    Image result for tap the magic tree Image result for pssst by adam rex   Image result for The end picture book  Image result for a visitor for bear   Image result for lullaby with brave cowboy Image result for not a box      Image result for strictly no elephants     Image result for big bigger biggest book   Image result for the doghouse book  Image result for duck on a bike Image result for this is a moose book   Image result for bark, george   Image result for please, mr. panda  Image result for owl babies   Image result for boy and bot   Image result for my friend rabbit book  Image result for i'll wait mr. panda


Erin Shakespear writes silly perinictures books and middle grade fantasy novels full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.


65 Things Writers Love

It’s the month of love! So, with the help of my friends, I made a list of some of the many weird, useful, and surprising things writers love to play with, eat, do, and use while writing.


  1. Space heaters (warmth is a common theme!)
  2. Scrivener

    “Literally have no idea how I ever wrote, let alone edited, without Scrivener!” –Lindzee Armstrong

  3. Hand bound journals
  4. Note cards

“I use them all the time to write ideas on, outline, remember some grand idea (ha!), or to help keep me on track. When back-to-school supplies are on sale, I have to buy some. I also love using the sticky notes that are like 1/3 of the size to use as tabs with a note on it to mark places in books for research.” –Wendy Jesson

  1. Highlighters
  2. Lemon drops
  3. Dove chocolates
  4. Toys and good luck charms

    “I have a figurines of Rey and BB-8 from The Force Awakens watching over my laptop when I work.” –Melanie Bennett Jacobson                                                                                                      thor

  5. Fountain pens
  6. Pilot Frixion pens, extra fine point
  7. Ergonomic keyboards
  8. Slippers

“Slippers are a must. You can’t be creative if your toes are freezing.” –Micheal Bacera

  1. Liquids

Whether it’s Diet Dr. Pepper, Mello Yello, tea, or straight up water, writers need the perfect drink to sip or guzzle.

“My writing needs are simple–beautiful folders, Uniball ink pens, hot tea with cream in a pretty mug and a brilliant idea. I can typically pull off three out of the four” –Vicky Lorencen

  1. New notebooks (Oh! How we love our office supplies.)

” .17 Spiral bound notebooks. Seriously. I leave the store with like ten of them when they’re on sale. I always have a notebook with me.” –Chantele Sedgwick

  1. Smooth writing pens

“I love these extremely specific spiral notebooks that I buy at Barnes and Noble. They are maybe 5-1/2 x 8″, and they have colored edges (red, blue, grey, light green, purple, and real) with lines that match the edge color of the particular page. They are by Miquel Rius and made in Spain. And they have perforations to remove the spiral edge if you pull them out. Covers come in red, blue, black, and purple.I love Pilot Precise V5 RT pens in blue because they write super-smoothly.” –Kelly Ramsdell

  1. Raw almonds

    ” Me, writing: *Need a metaphor, can’t think of one, decide to eat.* Almonds contain the damage.” –Melanie Bennett Jacobson

  2. Ergonomic chairs
  3. The app Self-control to keep ourselves off of social media
  4. Mobile ways to keep track of all our words and ideas

“My current favourite is the voice memo function on my iphone. My ideas come while I’m driving rather than in the shower, so I hit record and talk out loud to myself about plot and character arc ideas, worldbuilding details, etc . . . And sometimes I write whole chapters with my thumbs in my “Notes” app and then email them to myself. This is probably why I get so annoyed when my phone rings . . .” –Kimberly VanderHorst

  1. Cajun trail mix from Walmart
  2. An uncluttered mind

“I also like a clean space. My head is so full of stuff that I like to look down at my laptop and only see it.” –Christine Eller


23.. Silence

“I need silence when I write. Music, people talking, the TV… all of that is SO DISTRACTING that I can’t hear the voices – I mean the characters – in my head.” –Shaela Kay Odd

24. Dark chocolate

25. Skinny Pop popcorn

26. Cardigans

27. Legos


“Dark chocolate and Skinny Pop or the words don’t work. I have an Eddie Bauer “sleep cardigan” that covers my hands and can be wrapped around my body several times. I keep LEGO mini figures on my desk to play with, and often will put together LEGO sets while I think. In the last few months I’ve done the Millenium Falcon and the Mines of Moria. I have a stuffed Moomintroll that I hug, and my dog sleeps under the desk so I can roll her around with my feet.” –Jessica Day George

  1. Goldfish crackers
  2. Chocolate chips
  3. Pajama Pants

“I have to be in pajama pants when I write. My favorites are the men’s lounge pants from Walmart (because POCKETS). I have Captain America, Batman, Superman, and Jack Skellington.

I usually prefer to have a snack nearby. Chocolate chips are a frequent go-to, as well as goldfish crackers, or sometimes potato chips. If I’m feeling heathy it’ll be sliced apples.

I ALWAYS have my water bottle nearby. Cold water helps me focus.

(Last one…) I have to write sitting on the couch. I *can* write other places, but that’s pretty much my spot.” –Darci Cole

  1. Camera

“My camera!! I have a 500mm lens that lets me watch wildlife from afar, and document their behavior with photos. In every season, I lug it with me, hiking, kayaking, sailing. I also use the photos at school visits to talk about descriptive words.” –Tamra Wight

  1. Fuzzy socks
  2. Hoodies
  3. Pellegrino

“I need a hoodie and fuzzy socks. When things aren’t going well in my writing, I can hide under my hood. In the summer – Pellegrino and dark chocolate almonds. In the winter, hot chocolate and trail mix.” –Jolene Perry

  1. Pens

“I’m a pen snob. Nothing is more frustrating than having a creative thought and having nothing with which to record it. My weapon of choice is Papermate blue ink. They never explode, and don’t dry out. These are preferable to chanting in line at the bank, and having everyone wondering if you’re nuts.” –Robin Martin

  1. An empty bladder
  2. Entertainment for wee distractors.

“The only thing I need when I write is a second computer, right beside mine, so my youngest can watch truck shows while I work.” –Bethany Wiggins

“Netflix for my kids. Freedom app to disable my wifi. A trip to the bathroom before I get started. And frequently, chocolate chips.” –LaChelle Hansen

  1. Pencils
  2. Fun sticky notes

“Ticonderoga #2 pencils for first drafts; Pepsi Max; sticky notes with funny sayings; my harmonica of rejection to use when necessary; white out to name a few.” –Linda Boyden

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  1. Hand lotion
  2. Inkjoy pens
  3. Covered knuckles

“A cardi with long sleeves that come down over my knuckles. I like my knuckles to be covered. It’s like I’m about to softly punch the world with knitted knuckles.

And if I can, I love writing under this picture:”


–Sachiko Burton

  1. Motivation

“My favorite writing companion is a contract, so I can be sure I’ll get paid. Unfortunately, that’s not usually with me in the creative process, so I need to content myself with a good cup of coffee.” –Tim Davis

  1. “I love Pinterest. It’s perfect for pulling up pictures that look like what I’m trying to write about, and then I have something that I can look at to write a description.

Recent searches include floating cities, mermaid Tiaras, inflatable space stations, and plunging necklines. Pintrest really delivers.” –Don Carey

  1. Detailed outlines

“I have a printed, extremely detailed outline (50-ish pages) next to me. And I have to have a second monitor where I can display my writing log (an Excel spreadsheet). I also have a credenza on which is displayed my large Lego sets that kids don’t get to take apart. (I know. I’m the dad in The Lego Movie.)” –Robnison Wells

  1. Things to play with when we’re stuck.

“Ecojot notebooks. My laptop. Also, I have an abalone shell full of really smooth pebbles on my desk, and I play with them when I’m stuck.” –Kate Messner

  1. Ambience

“I like to burn a candle while I write–especially at night with all the lights off. I’ve even started making my own candles.” –Julie Daines


  1. Coffee shops, libraries, dark and abandoned corners (aka places we can write without distractions)
  2. Inspirational pictures on the wall

    I like having pictures and other items that inspire me and remind me why I am in my writing space.” –Scott Rhoades


  3. Comfort

“I wear onesie PJs sometimes…and drink Crio Brü like crazy.” –Jo Seable Schaffer

“I have a fuzzy blanket on my lap, sitting in my recliner, and my music playing. Sometimes it’s Piano Guys Pandora station, sometimes Celtic – whatever fits the book mood.” –Jaclyn Weist

“Sweats, with a fleece blanket and the chihuahua on my lap.” –Linda Budzinski

“Bra off and pajamas on.” –Courtney Willis

  1. Cuddly company

“My favorite writing accessory? Cats. Cats. Cats. But not kittens – they keep trying to roll around on the keyboard when I’m writing.” –Hillora Lang

  1. Crunchy snacks
  2. Music

“Extremely inappropriate music for the work in progress. The sweeter the topic, the punk-ier the music. Stupid loud too. I’ll be sorry someday.”—Hayley Barrett

  1. The perfect spot

“I write in the basement on a section of the couch that kicks back with my laptop on my lap, and I turn on a space heater in the winter or I’ve used a heating pad for my back.” –Alice Beesley

“This is going to sound weird, but writing with a standing desk. I write more when standing than when sitting.” –Adrienne Monson Torkildson

  1. Document holder  document-holder

“I have this cool editing stand that elevates the pages and puts them at an angle and has space for pens and other writing implements.” –Susan Law Corpany Curtis

56. Sharpies

57. Scrap paper

58. Silly mugs

59. Mirror

60. Tower fan

61. Reference books

“*Sharpies, highlighters, and scrap paper for the ideas that pop up where they don’t belong

*chocolate covered fruit or cocoa-roasted almonds or wasabi almonds (depending on my writing mood)

*water to refill my Shakespearean insults mug (from the Unemployed Philosophers Guild)

*carefully culled Pandora station of stalker songs (when writing appropriate scenes)

*a handheld mirror for figuring out which muscles do what while experiencing [insert emotion of choice]

*”The Emotion Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi for when the mirror fails me

*tower fan with remote control so I can turn breezes on (or off) as needed” –Teresa T.L. Bruce

  1. Warm digits.


  1. Inspirational words.

“Writers that I enjoy act as a Muses to me. Before writing I read a few chapters by them and that fuels my desire to produce work of the same inspiring quality.” –Tom Baldwin

  1. Books about writing and creativity

“Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott and Poemcrazy by Susan Wooldridge are my go to books.” Heather VanHoose Truett

  1. Perseverance

“I used to think I needed certain things and a perfect environment to write. But ever since we moved I do most of my writing in my car while I wait for my kids at some kind of lesson or other. It turns out all I really need is something to type on and a place to sit my butt.” –Elissa Barr

erinErin Shakespear writes silly pictures books and middle grade fantasy full of quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures. After all, they say, “Write what you know.” And with six kids, her days are full of…quirky creatures, magic, and strange adventures.

5 Ways to Write More Consistently

I’ve always struggled with trying to do too much, setting too many goals and making massive plans I can’t actually complete. Then I run around, spreading myself too thin, as I try to accomplish them all.

fontcandyThis is especially true with my writing goals. It was like going out to dinner, expecting to have a lovely meal complete with a fresh salad, a tender steak, and a fancy dessert—preferably chocolate, but only taking time to go to fast food restaurant and then ending up with a pathetic and soggy $1.39 cheeseburger.

Between being a mom and a wife and trying sewing projects and quilting and random crafts and keeping up with the work that goes with running an Etsy shop and baking and cooking elaborate meals, I only had small snatches of time to write here and there. Sometimes I’d go weeks without writing. Sometimes months.

BUT somehow I still wanted those small writing moments to magically result in me accomplishing my goals. I was constantly disappointed in myself, disappointed I wasn’t accomplishing more with my writing, disappointed I didn’t seem to be on track to becoming the writer I wanted to be, disappointed I wasn’t succeeding.

I’ve slowly made changes. I’ve become more selective of what I do with my time. I only sew occasionally. I closed my Etsy shop. And I cook simpler meals. I’ve been writing more, but I still wasn’t meeting my goals.

At the end of August, I was chatting with the brilliant members of an online writing group I’m part of about our goals for September. (I’m looking at you Good Writtance.) I mentioned I wanted to rewrite my whole WIP (that’s all new words, people), revise it, and send it to beta readers.

That was actually a pretty impossible goal. I have a husband who likes to see me and six kids that like to snuggle and play with and talk to.

BUT I realized if I really wanted to finish this book, I had to do something different. I was writing more, but I still wasn’t good at consistently writing every day for a large chunk of time. It was hit or miss at times. One day for an hour. Another day for twenty minutes. It wasn’t enough. I had to really commit to this writing beast.

So, I made a goal to write 2 hours a day. Every day. And if I didn’t quite get the two hours in, I’d tack the remaining time onto the next day.

In September I re-outlined my book, based on big changes I needed to make. I wrote 56,432 new words. (Okay. It was about an hour and half into October.)

I also wrote three picture books. I originally started my writing for children life as a picture book writer, but then  moved to writing middle grade novels (after a painful attempt at an epic YA fantasy). I hadn’t written a picture book for ages! It felt so good to dip my toes in the picture book world again.

I also participated in a friend’s memoir writing challenge and found myself writing about hard and happy experiences in my life. It’s given me a chance to work on my craft in a different way.

In short, I spent the month actually being a writer, writing every day, putting in the work I really needed to and LOVING it. It was absolutely fantastic.

fontcandy65 Ways to Write More Consistently

  1. Choose an amount of time you want to write every day. (Make sure it’s an amount of time you can make work for your life and those in it.) Try using a timer to keep track of the time you actually spend writing. Stop the timer when you get on the internet or stop writing to hug a crying child or if your husband interrupts you to ask your opinion on the new mattress you need to buy. (You might be surprised how long it takes you to actually get the writing time in! I know I was.)
  1. Make more room for writing by simplifying your life. Do you really need to take up another hobby or be on another committee or do laundry? (Ok. You probably need to do that last one. But you could also teach your kids how to help. Win-win.)
  1. If you struggle to write for a large chunk of time, try mixing it up. Write poetry, participate in a writing challenge, write a blog post, or dabble with/outline/brainstorm another project. You could also try the Pomodoro Technique.
  1. Get creative with how you get your writing time in, especially if you have little ones around or it’s difficult to write at home. This last month, I had a mobile office which moved between the library, the library park, Del Taco’s indoor playground, and McDonald’s playland.


  1. Tell those close to you about your goal, about the amount of time you’re trying to write every day. My children and husband knew I wanted to write two hours a day. My sweet husband often asks if I’ve gotten my writing time in. If I didn’t and he was able to, he’d make or finish making dinner or read to our little ones or run errands for me, so I could finish my writing time for the day. For our anniversary, he even gave me a writing retreat, speaking to Tasha’s husband about setting up a time when I could book a room at the hotel he manages so I could get a solid 24 hours of writing in. (My husband even offered to bring me dinner!)

“I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.” -Louis C. K.




Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of magic, adventure, and quirky creatures. With six kids, her days imitate her art and are full of magic, adventure, and quirky creatures, too. She also likes to dabble at photography, longboarding, and pretending she’s a grand artist.

Thinking in Threes: Debbi Michiko Florence

I’m so excited to have my fun and talented friend, Debbi Michiko Florence, on the blog today. Before we get to her interview, I want to first share a little about our friendship.

I first got to know Debbi years and years ago (something like 14!) in the then hopping and exciting world of LiveJournal.

There were quite a few of us, writers and authors who stumbled across each other in one fashion or another, who started blogs there. We formed a community, talking and chatting through posts and comments, learning about each other’s lives and families, discussing writing and books.

I lost track of many of those friends through the years, reconnecting with some when Facebook became the thing. But there was one friend I hadn’t found again. Debbi.

In April, I went on an impulsive and exciting trip to Boston and NYC with my CP and friend, Elaine Vickers. Elaine arranged a fun night out on the town with her agent and many of her agency sisters while we were in Boston.

 So, let me paint this picture for you. Elaine and I were sitting at a long dining table in a private room in a beautiful restaurant. We were some of the first to arrive. Ladies were trickling in every few minutes. We’re chatting and getting to know each other. And then in walks Debbi Michiko Florence. I jumped up from the table, rushing to throw my arms around her. Here was my friend! In real life!

 manddebbiWe walked next to each other on the way to the theater after dinner, talking and chatting a hundred miles a minute, trying to share and catch up as fast as we could. We’ve emailed back and forth, asking questions, and sharing bits and pieces of our lives. It’s been fantastic!

Maybe this is a cautionary tale. Writing friends are the best kind of friends. And when you find good ones, make sure you keep track of them! You won’t always be as lucky as me and find them again in Boston.

Now for the interview!



Hi! I’m Debbi Michiko Florence, author of the early reader chapter book series Dorothy and Toto (Picture Window Books/2016) and the upcoming chapter book series Jasmine Toguchi (FSG/July 11, 2017). I’m an animal lover and a former zoo educator. I live with my husband (Bob), 2 ducks (Darcy & Lizzy), a bunny (Aki), and a betta fish (Samurai).

Planner, Pantser or Hybrid? Give us three insights into your drafting process.

1. Fast draft a shitty first draft.
2. Spend a lot of time getting to know and developing characters, and studying my
3. Revise, get feedback, revise (rinse and repeat).

Top three places you love to write?

The Word Nest (my awesome writing studio)


The screened-in porch (on cooler summer days)
On retreat anywhere with writing friends (good company keeps me focused)

What are your go-to craft books?dorothy2

Make A Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jorden Rosenfeld
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
and while not strictly a craft book, I re-read often
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott for inspiration

Thank youuuuuu!

Thank YOU for being here, Debbi!

Erin Shakespear writes middle grade fantasy full of magic, adventure, and quirky creatures. With six kids, her days are full of the same things (heavy on the quirky creatures). She also likes to dabble at photography, longboarding, and pretending she’s a grand artist.