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Sentence Gymnastics (a Wordsmith sample lesson)

Ask anyone what the basic unit of language is, and Anyone would probably say, “Words, of course.”  But think again.  Words are pieces, not units, and while they are certainly useful for labeling and signalling (Stop! Hello! Ouch!) they do not, by themselves, constitute language.  If “language” is understood as the means used to communicate ideas, […]


Dylan’s Great Books

Last fall, you may have heard, Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize in literature–an honor shared by Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O’Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and a bunch more people, most of whom wrote in something other than English.  The literary world was stunned.  Dylan may have been […]


Don’t Let Your Writing Go This Summer!

I know, I know–the beach beckons, the mountains call, and even if you have no exotic destinations in mind, some 90-odd days roll out before you when you don’t have to do anything about school! But . . . A 90-day block of time is a terrible thing to waste.  There are contests to enter, […]

Seven Ways to Know You’re a Book Nerd

Surface area is your special first-world problem.   Some of your library fines are due to water damage (the bathtub gets ’em).   You use toilet paper for bookmarks. You have a permanent spot on the library reserve shelf. It’s not the ceiling that might fall on you some night.   When you search under […]

How to Use Wordsmith

Wordsmith: a Creative Writing Guide for Young People THIRD EDITION (yay!) has started showing up at home schooling conventions across the nation.  It’s not just for homeschoolers, though—anybody can benefit from a straightforward, friendly, slightly quirky and at times laugh-out-loud approach to a subject we tend to make either too simple or way too complicated. […]

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The Writer’s Ego

Don’t do it! they say. I never do it, claim the most successful. I don’t do it often, but every now and then it can be instructive to search my own name online (I would say, “to Google myself,” except that sounds a bit naughty). It’s not something anyone should set aside time for, but […]

Wordsmith: the Story

About 25 years ago I was in the middle of homeschooling two teenagers, my husband had quit his corporate job to start a business, and we were looking to move out of our comfortable middle-class neighborhood and into some place we could afford.  Our search was taking us farther and farther away from our friends, […]


Five Easy Steps to Becoming a Writer

Daydream about it a lot. Talk about your story idea. Write three pages every three months—not necessarily of the same story. Stop talking about your story idea. Think about it some more. This is cheating, a little: you won’t actually become a writer but you can think of yourself as one.  And you’ll have to […]

One Proud Nerd

Did you watch the Super Bowl?  I’ll tune in when the Cowboys are playing again (might be a loooong wait) but I understand the Atlanta/New England matchup was a pretty good game.  And I hear, too, that Wide Receiver Malcolm Mitchell had his best postseason game by a Patriots rookie ever.  But I’m not excited […]