Prizes: The Final Installment!

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It’s the post you’ve all been waiting for…. the one where we announce those awesome prizes that went along with pre-registration and registration. Well, wait no longer. The winners are announced below!


Pre-registration prizes:

CHAR DIXON won the 30 minute brainstorming session with Sudipta and Kami together! The Nerdy Chicks will talk her through her idea – at whatever level of finished it is – and help push it to the next level. Hooray for Char!

books prizeMARGARET THOMAS is the winner of this stack of books from Scholastic Press!


books prize2And JUDITH KUNZ is the winner of this stack of books from Scholastic Press!

Of course ALL of the Pre-registered students were awarded eligibility to submit a pitch to agent Susan Hawk for a chance to get feedback and all were able to watch the webinar!

In addition to Kidlit Summer School participants who pre-registered, all who completed regular registration were eligible for the following prizes:

KRISTI OLSON won the second 30 minute brainstorming session with Sudipta and Kami together! The Nerdy Chicks will talk her through her idea – at whatever level of finished it is – and help push it to the next level. Hooray for KRISTI!

BRIAN NEWLIN is the winner of signed books from headmistresses Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen. Yay Brian!

ELLEN RAMSEY is the winner of signed copies of books by two of our guest bloggers, Alison Formento and Shannon Wiersbitzky. Congrats Ellen!

JENNIE SIMOPOULOS won this stack of books to keep her inspired and help her study how other authors are building character!

From Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins

From Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins

MARY JANE MUIR won this stack of books!

From Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins

From Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins

And MICHELLE LEONARD won this one!

From Atheneum

From Atheneum

Congratulations to EVERYONE and thank you for participating in Kidlit Summer School! We’ve enjoyed BUILDING CHARACTER with you!

Today’s winners will be contacted through the email addresses we have on file and on the blog. Details about how to claim your prizes will be included in the emails. 🙂 If you do not receive an email from us by Wednesday, Sept 4 please contact us at nerdychickswrite(at)gmail (dot) com with PRIZE in the subject line.   

Keep on building character!

kami and s

Kami and Sudipta

Co-founders of Kidlit Summer School

(Otherwise known as principals, directors, and headmistresses!)


Round One of Prize Winners!

We’ve been busy drawing prize winners with the random number generator, and while it is going to take a little longer finish selecting these for each post and grabbing emails for all of the individual winners, we are ready to announce the winners of two of them.

First of all, three cheers for everyone with perfect attendance!

Hip-Hip Hooray!

Hip-Hip Hooray!

Hip-Hip Hooray!

According to the responses we received, FIFTY SIX of you had perfect attendance. Considering all that goes on in the summer, we are WOWED that so many of you made it to class every day!

From those fifty six, one lucky winner was selected to receive:

A box of Kidlit summer School bling including a journal, a tote bag, and a mug!

A box of Kidlit Summer School bling including a journal, a tote bag, and a mug!

The perfect attendance award grand prize winner for 2014 is



Congratulations Lori!

Like all schools, we’ll make sure everyone else who filled out the form gets a certificate! We will send these out via email in the next few days.

 The #30mdare prizes 

Rebecca Petruck is giving away five three-page critiques for this awesome prize. We were thrilled that so many of you participated in the #30mdares with Rebecca, and that so many others of you etched out time to do them on your own!!!! Thank you Rebecca for the inspiring writing prompts. The five winners of the critiques are:

Cathy Hall

Phyllis Hemann

Karen Brueggeman

Suzy Leopold

Audrey Rich

Congratulations to all of you!

Information on how to contact Rebecca will be in your inbox soon!


We’ll be announcing the next round of them by Wednesday.

Today’s winners, as well as future winners, will be contacted through the email addresses we have on file and on the blog. Details about how to claim your prizes will be included in the emails. 🙂

We look forward to announcing the rest of the prizes very soon.  Until then…. keep writing!


kami and s

Kami and Sudipta

Co-founders of Kidlit Summer School

(Otherwise known as principals, directors, and headmistresses!)

Stepping Toward Those Awesome Prizes!

You’ve read the posts! You’ve done the worksheets! You’ve attended the webinars and #30mdares! Good for you! And even if you didn’t get to ALL of those great events, you’ve already received some of the best that Kidlit Summer School has to offer! Know what would be the icing on the cake, the cherry on top, the cat’s pajamas?


So let’s take those first steps toward prize distribution.

The Perfect Attendance Award

blue-star-thumbperfect attendance award grand prize will be given to one person who commented on FACULTY POST (these ran Monday-Saturday) here on the blog within the first 24 hours of it going up. If you think you commented on all of the guest posts, fill out the form below by Saturday, August 23.

Like all schools, we’ll make sure everyone else who fills out this form gets a certificate!

The time to enter your name has past. We’ve removed the form and are gearing up to announce the winner!

The 30mdare prizes 

Rebecca Petruck is giving away five three-page critiques for this awesome prize! Because we didn’t want issues with time zones or work schedules you could have done the dares whenever it suited you. We’ll use an honor system for the contest! Fill out the form by Saturday, August 23 if you were able to do at least 5 of the prompts.

The time to enter your name has past. We’ve removed the form and are gearing up to announce the winners!


We will use the random number generator to select a winner for these. It will take some time to sort it all out, but we’ll be announcing those soon!

wpid-wp-1405787622785.jpgGiveaways associated with guest blogger posts. These are contributed by the guest bloggers themselves and will be given away to someone who commented on that particular post. Find out more of some of these HERE.

Grand-prize giveaways for registrants: These, like stacks of books, brainstorming sessions with Kami and Sudipta, Summer School Cafe-Press bling pack will be drawn from all who put their names in the registration or pre-registration pool!

Grand-prize giveaways for pre-registrants: The winners of these prizes noted HERE will be drawn from the pool of people who pre-registered.

YOUR IDEAS for Kidlit Summer School 2015! 

Do you have great ideas for next year’s Kidlit Summer School? Leave us a comment below with your ideas about making Kidlit Summer School another fabulous experience! We are looking for positive new things we may not have even thought of yet. We may not be able to incorporate them all, but we’d love to consider them. 

Week 4 Pop Quiz

badge50Ready for your last pop quiz? Show how much you know about Week 4!  Take this quiz to see if you learned the basics during the last week of Kidlit Summer School! (Pssst: Reread these great posts. Notes are allowed!)

1. In his post, When Creating Your Characters Consult the Experts, Jerry Craft

a) says it is our job to create work that our fans will understand

b) suggests we get feedback on our work from our audience

c) tells us not to be afraid to ask for help

d) reminds us not to dismiss criticisms

e) all of the above


2. In her post, How to Write Historical Fiction Characters, Amy Carol Reeves

a) admits she’s relieved that oxygen depriving whale bone corsets are out of fashion

b) reminds us that teen girls today are pressured to maintain a certain body type just as teens from historical fiction were

c) suggests we keep the main tensions of the time period where our stories are set while highlighting a universal teen tension

d) stresses the importance making the needs of historical fiction characters relatable

e) all of the above


3. In her post My Characters Won’t Let Me Write This, Ame Dyckman

a) offers us the world’s first tixercise! (tip+exercise)

b) asks us to think about what happened in our characters’ days the day before the story started

c) advises us to look for the real characters amongst our relatives

d) uggests we identify our character’s favorite flavor of ice cream

e) all of the above


4. In her post Characters Don’t Exist in a Vacuum, Anne Marie Pace

a) reminds us that people aren’t 100% consistent, so characters shouldn’t be either

b) says that it is important to know our character’s sometimes and usually

c) suggests that the sometimes and usually can help develop plot

d) indicates that the sometimes might be an unconscious new behavior

e) all of the above


5. In her post Unsticking the Glue, Leeza Hernandez gives us tips to help battle the frustrations that hold us back from our creative genius. These tips include:

a) being kind to yourself

b) Identifying procrastination

c) Taking a time out

d) Bringing in reinforcements

e) all of the above


6. In his post Facing Fears to Create Great Characters, Zach OHora

a) admits he’d never drawn a dinosaur before taking on Tyrannosaurus Wrecks

b) shows kids he drew in dinosaur costumes instead of drawing dinosaurs

c) illustrates that he had to learn to face his fears

d) suggests that sometimes we have to go out of our comfort zones

e) all of the above



You made a 100 again didn’t you? Good for you! Since it’s the last week, we’re going to give you a REALLY BIG gold stars!



You’ve made it through four weeks of great posts, so reward yourself with some Summer School Swag. You can still get Kidlit Summer School swag from the PiBoIDMo Cafe Press shop! Neither we nor Tara profits from any of these sales, and in fact, $3.00 of every purchase goes to Reading is Fundamental. These funds will be used to purchase books for kids who need them. Thanks to Tara Lazar for making the PiBoIdMo shop available to us and thanks again to Zach OHora for creating the fabulous Kidlit Summer School logo!

Zachariah OHora: Facing Fears to Create Great Characters

t wrecksTyrannosaurus Wrecks!

When I first heard about this project I was super excited to work with Chad (creative director at Abrams) and Sudipta.

That excitement quickly turned to fear when I realized I’d never really drawn dinosaurs before.

Not even as a kid.

Plus there seemed to be a whole lot of dinosaurs I’d never heard of.


I think there were like five dinos when I was a kid and half of them don’t even exist anymore, er, I mean, they ALL don’t exist anymore, but uh…you get the point.

I realized I couldn’t just fudge through with a vague lizard creature.
So I started where all ignorant people do, with a Google search.

Fear turned to terror as I collected images. NO WAY WAS I GOING TO PULL THIS OFF!!!

Then I had an idea. One that might appear brilliant enough to fool everyone into NOT noticing I can’t draw dinosaurs. What if it was kids DRESSED as dinos instead?

TrexColorpalette 1

This seemed like the perfect solution as it allowed me a good deal of creative license.

TrexStudy 2

(Left: One of the first sketches for T Wrecks Boy. Right: Then I thought since he was always wrecking stuff perhaps he couldn’t see out of his mask)

TrexStudy 3

Then Abrams politely showed me a book that already had my “brilliant” idea in it that came out two years earlier.

Illustrator gulps.
Illustrator whines.
Illustrator wrecks!

Illustrator practices and practices drawing dinosaurs!

Until finally the characters ended up having some human qualities but were most definitely dinosaurs!


Fortunately everyone was happy with the new version and that’s what you see in the book.
Fear of failure forced me to get my proper dinosaur education on. And best of all Sudipta was happy with them too.

Sometimes in a collaboration you have to go way out of your comfort zone.
And that’s a good thing.

zauthorphotoZachariah OHora is an illustrator and author of a number of children’s books. His debut STOP SNORING, BERNARD! was awarded the Society of Illustrators Founder’s Award and was chosen as the PA One Book for 2012. His book NO FITS NILSON! was awarded a Kirkus star and was the Huffington Post Book of the Year for 2013. He is also the creator of the awesome Kidlit Summer School banner and badge! He lives and works in the tiny village of Narberth, PA with his wife, two sons, and two cats.

We think this post Zach wrote earlier this year for Nerdy Chicks Rule is the perfect last guest author post for Kidlit Summer School. We all must step out of our comfort zones to create great characters, and we all have to practice. Your commitment to spending time working on your writing this summer — to practice — already demonstrates that you will face those fears. Congratulations!

Remember to come back for the pop quiz tomorrow! (Pssst…. Zach sent us another cool new drawing that we’ll share with you early next week!)

Shannon Wiersbitzky: Do Your Characters Skip or Splash?

Shannon_Wiersbitzky_Author_Photo_2012I’m a big fan of people watching. Many of us are. Whether walking down a crowded sidewalk, or sitting at a café, it can be fun to see the variety of individuals that pass by. Some are noticeable for a specific characteristic, beautiful eyes, or a smile, maybe a unique outfit. Others might be loud and obnoxious, filling a lovely night with noise and you hope they walk faster.

Your novels provide your readers with a different way to people watch. In most stories, as in life, there are a variety of characters. Some are absolutely critical to the plot, no scene is complete without them. Others are less of a focus, coming in and out only to help move the story along at critical junctures. Then there are those that are more akin to bystanders. The people we meet on occasion and perhaps share a passing hello, but don’t really get to know. Those who add dimension to the world we’ve created.

The truth is, characters come in all shapes and sizes. In their most simple form, however, I tend to think of them as either flat or round. Both are good. Both can be interesting. Both add value to your story. The world, like a good manuscript, needs a mix to be its best.

So what does it mean to be flat?

photoImagine a skipping stone, the kind that fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. It’s surface soft and smooth. When you throw it, it glides over the water, touching here and there, dancing over the surface.

Flat characters remind me of these stones. They are likely not your primary characters. They might be secondary or tertiary. Flat doesn’t mean they’re weak. In fact, flat characters can be strong. They’re simply one dimensional, featuring a singular strong attribute. Maybe a sense of humor, a biting sarcasm, or a zany sense of fashion. These characters don’t change. They are who they are and we love them (or hate them) for that. Think of the children who DON’T win in Charlie and Chocolate Factory, we know a singular trait about them, and that is enough.

photo (1)Now imagine a big rock. The kind that has some heft to it. You might even need two hands to hurl it toward the water. And when it hits, you hear a deep thunk, and watch the water splash. This is how I imagine a round character.

Round characters are more fully fleshed out. They’re complex and instead of just one attribute, we know all sorts of things about them. We might know their hopes, their dreams, what makes them happy, or scared, or what means the most to them. In essence, we know them the same way we know a good friend. Now think about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory again, but this time think of Charlie and Willy Wonka. Both are very round.

photo (2)My son is interested in rocks, and we came upon this beauty while on vacation. It made me think of round characters. So many layers! While character change is a function of the plot, not of the character, it is often the round characters who do experience change in a story. Probably because they tend to be the center of our stories.

As you assess your novel and edit, or even as you outline. Ask yourself these questions.

  1. Which characters are flat? Which are round?
    • List them out and note the aspects of them that we know through the writing.
    • Are there aspects of the characters which are still in your head but not on the page? Why?
    • Have you intentionally made them flat or round? Or have they simply ended up that way? Be deliberate!
  2. Is your main character round or flat?
    • This can be intriguing to analyze. Sometimes we find that the person we think is our main character in an early draft, isn’t at all. We’ve spent far more time rounding out another character. And that might tell you something.
  3. For flats: What is their one-dimension? Their one attribute?
    • Is it a look?
    • A way of speech?
    • An attitude?
    • A desire?
  4. For rounds: What do we do know about them from the outside? The inside?
    • You should absolutely describe a character’s look. At least enough so that a reader can fill in the blanks and imagine them.
    • Perhaps even more critical though, is to describe a character’s inner self. Who they are when no one is looking.
  5. What distinguishes their voice in the story?
    • In my two novels, Delia’s voice is very clear. She has a way of talking that is wholly her. I could hear her distinctly.
    • Can you hear your character speaking to you?
  6. How does their name hint at their characteristic(s)?
    • In my new WIP, I have a young character named Twig. From that alone, can you picture him? A well-chosen name can help frame a character from the start.

Walk along a beach or a river and you’ll find all sorts of stones. Flat and round. And you need the same in your writing. So skip and splash, my writer friends, and enjoy the journey.

Shannon Wiersbitzky

Shannon Wiersbitzky


Shannon Wiersbitzky is a middle-grade author, a hopeless optimist, and a believer that anyone can change the world. Her first novel, The Summer of Hammers and Angels, was nominated for the William Allen White Children’s Book Award. What Flowers Remember, which released in May, tackles the subject of Alzheimer’s.

Not registered for Kidlit Summer School yet? No worries! Click here to REGISTER.

Edith Cohn: How to Enrich Your Character’s Arc with Magic or Talents

Hi there! I’m Edith Cohn, author of SPIRIT’S KEY, and I’m going to share some thoughts about how to enrich your main character’s arc with magic. By magic I mean an ability, power or talent. This ability can be fantastical, paranormal or even quite real. After all, isn’t there a bit of magic in someone with a talent for the violin, someone who can draw or cook amazing food? So if you are writing a contemporary novel, you may still find this useful. Just substitute the word “magic” for “talent.”

Second, you’ll need to have already decided on what your main character’s magic is going to be in order to get the most out of this. If your main character doesn’t have a special ability, consider giving him or her one! Everyone has passions. And giving your character a special ability can go a long way toward creating a memorable character.  Once you’ve decided on your character’s magic, ask yourself the questions below.

The-GiverI’m going to use THE GIVER by Lois Lowry as an example because it is such a fine piece of fiction. Also I’m hoping most of you have read it so that the examples will make sense. There are spoilers, I’m afraid, so if you haven’t read it, you’ve been warned.

1. What are the magic’s fun and games? What are its consequences and obstacles?

My favorite books are the ones that explore the pluses and minuses of a magic or talent—the ones that strike a balance between “fun and games” and “consequences.” If you leave out the “fun” you deny the reader and your character the pleasure of the magic you’ve created. If you leave out the “consequences” you deny your character a struggle, and great fiction lies in creating great tension. You need both for magic to feel real. Even a common talent like playing the violin comes with hours of practice time, bloody fingers, and a sore chin in order to achieve the pleasure of beautiful music, attention or fame. Real or fantastical, your character’s magic should not come too easily.

Don’t forget the fun and games! It can be the best part of a book.

Don’t forget the fun and games! It can be the best part of a book.

In THE GIVER, Jonas becomes the holder of memories for his community. In the beginning, he’s given “fun,” exhilarating memories such as sledding in the snow and a loving memory of a family celebrating Christmas around a tree with twinkling lights. Later he is given extremely painful memories such as war and death. This balance adds a great level of complexity to the story and highlights the story’s theme that you can’t have real love and pleasure without pain. I would argue you can’t have magic that feels real in a novel without both the fun and games for your character to enjoy and the consequences they must battle.

2. How is your character’s magic unique compared to others who have magic? How is it the same?

Even if you are writing the sort of fantasy where your main character is a ‘type’ like a wizard and there are plenty of other wizards, it’s helpful to consider how your character is unique or how the magic ties to his or her personality. Not every piano player is the same. Not every ghost or goblin is the same either. In THE GIVER, Jonas is one of the few in his community with pale eyes. Giving your character a physical difference can be a great way to highlight him or her. Jonas can also see color whereas others in his community cannot. Both of these differences are connected to Jonas’s vision, and symbolize how in gaining his magic he will come to see his community with fresh eyes. Jonas is the same as others in his community because he has had an upbringing in Sameness—one without prejudice, fear or hunger. Jonas feels a part of the world Lowry created, yet different from it also.

  1. How will the magic help your character grow or change?

Main characters should grow, change or learn something by a book’s end. And the more your character’s magic can be tied to his or her character arc the more integrated it will feel. Once Jonas receives enough memories, his eyes are opened to the truth about his world of Sameness, and he can’t help but change dramatically because of this. He feels pain and love for the first time and decides his community needs these deep emotions to have a rich life.

  1. In Spirit’s Key, Spirit is a girl psychic who can see the ghost of her pet dog. Her magic enhances her character arc of dealing with her dog’s death. She improves her world by making a difference for other dogs in her community.

    In Spirit’s Key, Spirit is a girl psychic who can see the ghost of her pet dog. Her magic enhances her character arc of dealing with her dog’s death. She improves her world by making a difference for other dogs in her community.

    How does your character use his or her magic to get what he or she wants? 

All characters must want something. They must have a goal. If a character’s magic or talent helps him or her achieve this want then the magic will seem less like set decoration and more like something necessary, useful and integrated into the world. Jonas wants his family and friends to experience the love and pain that he experiences. He also wants to save a baby named Gabriel who is in danger of being released (executed). Jonas enacts a plan to escape with Gabriel so that his memories will be shared with others. He uses his memories/ magic to keep Gabriel happy and warm on the journey and to hide from searchers. He uses his newfound knowledge and memories to make a brave decision to leave. His goal is to save baby Gabriel and improve his community.

  1. How will your character use his or her magic to improve his or her world or community? 

I find the most satisfying books are ones where the world or community is somehow made better by the main character’s actions and through the use of his or her talents or magic. The end of THE GIVER is left somewhat open, but the hopeful interpretation (and the one I like the best )is that Jonas’s decision to leave saves baby Gabriel and ultimately makes his community a better place. Either way, Jonas has used his ability/ magic to change his community forever.

Edith_Cohn-9744-2Edith Cohn was born and raised in North Carolina where she grew up exploring the unique beaches of the Outer Banks. She currently lives in the coyote-filled hills of Los Angeles with her husband and fur-daughter Leia. All of these things provided inspiration for her debut middle grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, a mystery about a girl and her ghost dog coming in September from FSG/Macmillan. You can find out more about her on her website:

Edith is offering a Spirit’s Key swag pack as a prize–available for immediate shipping. She will also send a signed copy of the book to the winner once it’s released in September. Comment on her blog post to be eligible to win!

Not registered for Kidlit Summer School yet? No worries! Click here to REGISTER.