Final #KidlitSummerSchool Updates, Webinars, and THANK YOUS!

Hello, Summer Schoolers! Week 4 has sadly ended, but we still have a few treats left for you. Think of it as Afterschool for all of you overachievers.badge final 4x4-brighter heart

We want to bring your attention to what is to come in the week ahead, including TWO great Summer School webinars! Here we go!

#KidlitSummerSchool Afterschool Webinars:

This coming Thursday, August 11th, at 8pm EST we will be hosting our very special Author Roundtable webinar with Authors Crystal Allen (MG), Josh Funk (PB) and Jo Whittemore (MG) who will share their expertise on children’s books and their own personal writing journeys. Details on getting a link to watch this webinar and how to submit your questions for the panel were sent out yesterday. Please check your inbox and refer to that email for further information.

Questions for the Author Roundtable must be submitted by midnight EST on Tuesday, August 9!

And that’s not all! Stay tuned for a very special upcoming webinar with folks from the publishing world. We will announce when we have details to share!

Both webinars are going to be a clucking good time, filled with lots of Nerdy Chick knowledge. You will not want to miss out.

blue-star-thumbPerfect Attendance Award: Did you leave a comment on every author post within the first twenty four hours that it was posted? If you did, you are eligible for the perfect attendance award! If you qualify, just leave a comment right here on THIS blog post. Start your comment with the words “Perfect Attendance” (So we can easily pick you out from others commenting about Summer School.) One name will be drawn from all of the contenders to win the Perfect Attendance Prize.

What about the other prizes? The #30mdare prize? The individual post prizes? The pre-registration prize? The grand prizes? All of the other great stuff? We will have details about all of the other prizes and how they will be awarded in a separate post on the blog. That’s something to look forward to!

smiling-gold-star-thumbLastly, a sincere thank you to each of you for joining us these past four weeks. #KidLitSummerSchool is for YOU and we hope that you have enjoyed yourself, met a few friends, and learned a craft-tip or two. We’re proud of you! You get a gold star!
Thanks also to our awesome faculty of bloggers and all of our webinar participants. It really was a fantastic summer, right?!
Now go forth, you heart and humor-filled geniuses.

The Kidlit Summer School Board of Education
@dawnmyoung @kamikinard @leezaworks @marciecolleen @sudiptabq



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Alright, are you ready to show off all that you have learned in our LAST Pop Quiz? We know you’re all going to nail it and will surely show off your heart and humor! Take this quiz to see what you learned during the fourth and final week of Kidlit Summer School.



1. On Monday, Terra McVoy encouraged us to add heart to our stories through the following:

a) Developing character relationships to better understand motivation.

b) Learning specific details about character in order to make them more complete and real.

c) Understanding that building character is the hardest and most complicated aspect of writing, but is worth the time.

d) All of the above

2. On Tuesday, Kelly Starling Lyons’s prompts writers to create soulful stories by…

a) Putting yourself in your characters’ shoes.

b) Studying writers who do it well.

c) Look for internal cues within yourself. Make yourself feel.

d) All of the above

3. On Wednesday, Jason Kirschner made us laugh by adding the following to his stories…

a) Funny sounding words.

b) Exaggeration.

c) Visual gags and fart jokes.

d) All of the above

4. On Thursday, Mimi Cross demonstrated how she uses the following to “listen” to her character’s heart:

a) Interviews with the character.

b) Meditation to prepare yourself to really listen to what the character is saying.

c) Listening to yourself as a writer and connecting on a deeper level.

d) All of the above

5. On Friday, Bonnie Adamson’s case studies illustrated what lessons she has learned to add heart to her stories?

a) Find your star player and make it *all* about him.

b) Draw on real people you’ve known to flesh out tropes like “the class clown,” or “the homecoming queen.”

c) Energize your characters with something totally unexpected.

d) All of the above

Hip, hip hooray, you got an A right? 100%? If you’re unsure, go back and check out the posts from Week Four. This is an open blog test. (And you don’t even have to turn it in. Grade yourself and then pat yourself on the back!)

You did it! Now you get a chance to kick back, and enjoy the rest of your summer…or if you didn’t get a chance to go through all the KLSS posts yet, no worries, you can go back anytime and catch up!


Joyce Wan: Give Your Tale a Twist and GIVEAWAY

Are you finding the ending of your picture book story to be a little ho-hum? Or, is everything wrapped up a little too neat and tidy? One of the strongest ways to end a picture book is to surprise a reader. Kids love a surprise ending (and adults do, too). When a book takes you where you didn’t expect to go, that makes the trip all the more exciting and fun. When done well, an unpredictable twist can turn a good book into a classic and is often what makes repeated re-readings a pleasure. In subsequent readings, the reader enjoys being in the know and re-reading a book when you know what’s coming can be enjoyable in its own right too. I’ve always been a big fan of plot twists in books and movies of any genre for as long as I can remember. When I wrote my latest picture book The Whale In My Swimming Pool, I knew I wanted to include a twist at the end to delight and surprise readers. With a solid hook in mind, I came up with the ending before I even wrote my first draft, crafting the story backwards from the twist.

Creating a twist ending involves knowing what your audience expects or takes for granted. What’s the predictable ending? Then, figure out how to turn it inside out or extend the story just a little beyond the last sentence with an unpredictable turn of events even if it’s only shown in the final illustration. In funny stories, a twist ending can feel like a punch line to a joke.

There are many ways to create a twist ending (some twist endings are as unique as the stories themselves) but here are some specific approaches to try:

Circle Storyimogene
Just when readers think the problem has been resolved, the ending echoes something that happened in the beginning of the story. An example of this is used in Imogene’s Antlers by David Small, which is about a girl who wakes up one morning with huge antlers growing out of her head. By the end of the book, she wakes up to find her antlers have disappeared, only to be replaced by a full set of peacock tail feathers. I used this technique at the end of The Whale in My Swimming Pool when the little boy in my story goes home to take a nap, after resolving his whale of a predicament, only to find a bear in his bed.

Role Reversal
A character is revealed to be someone else in the end. An example of this is Miss Nelson is Missing by Harry Allard (illustrated by James Marshall), when it’s revealed at the end the book (through the illustration) that the ugly, mean substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp, was in fact Miss Nelson in disguise and the ruse was a tricky way to get her class to behave.

Challenging Perceptionsmonster
A reader’s assumption of what is true is reversed. An example of this is The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone (illustrated by Michael Smollin) when lovable Grover begs the reader throughout the story not to turn the page as there is a monster at the end of the book. It’s revealed at the end that the monster is none other than Grover himself. The book plays on the fact that readers assume that all monsters are scary and bad with Grover himself building up on that assumption throughout the entire book.

A few things to keep in mind when developing a story with a twist ending:

It’s a good idea to have a twist ending in mind from the start so that you can set up the sequence of events that leads you right to the surprise at the end.  Also, it’s the only effective way of diverting attention away from it all the way through the story. If you’re a pantser, you may have to go back to fix any inconsistencies and to make sure everything lines up the way they should so that the ending makes sense.

A twist ending should be somewhat open-ended and will introduce WhaleInMySwimmingPool-covernew questions or themes. It leaves readers thinking and talking about it long after they have finished reading. At the end of The Whale In My Swimming Pool, readers are left wondering a) where did this bear come from b) how will the little boy get the bear out of his bed and c) what’s going on that’s causing all these wild animals to descend on this boy’s home. As an author, it has inspired lively discussions at book readings and school visits and is a great way to foster a child’s imagination.

Do make sure that your story is not so dependent on its twist that it doesn’t have anything else to say as it will feel terribly contrived in plot for the sake of The Surprise.

You also don’t want the reader to feel cheated or tricked. Rather, you want the twist to make the reader feel as if that’s the best way for the story to have ended.

Picture books with a good twist ending will increase a manuscript’s value dramatically and grab an editor’s attention. It will extend the story beyond the story, begging readers to imagine what happens next. Who knows, it might even set you up for a sequel! What are some of your favorite picture books with a twist ending?

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Joyce Wan is an award-winning author-illustrator of many popular books for children, including You Are My Cupcake, We Belong Together, and The Whale In My Swimming Pool, which was a Junior Library Guild Spring 2015 selection. When she’s not working on books, she teaches courses at The School of Visual Arts in New York City. Visit her online at


Joyce is giving away a signed hardcover copy of her 

image1 (1)picture book The Whale In My Swimming Pool AND an adorable signed print (shown to the right). If you are a registered Summer School student and would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the drawing. Good luck!

If you are registered for Kidlit Summer School, you can download a worksheet of Christine’s writing exercise at our Exercise Book. This is a password-protected area — only members allowed! Please check your email for the password.