Poetry Mentor Texts: When Thunder Comes by J. Patrick Lewis

when thunder comes


by J. Patrick Lewis

Illustrated by Jim Burke, R. Gregory Christie, Tonya Engel, John Parra, and Meilo So

Chronicle Books, 2013

J. Patrick Lewis has captured fifteen international civil rights leaders’ struggles in this poetry collection. This would be an amazing book to study when looking at Civil Rights Leaders in a history/social studies class, but it would also be a mentor text for word choice. Lewis has distilled so much information and emotion into short poems.

Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Imagery

* Sensory Words

* History told in poetry

Ode to Scrivener

Writer friends often hear me talk about my love for Scrivener. In fact, on several Facebook writing groups, I profess my love for Scrivener often. Here’s the thing, I still haven’t mastered Scrivener, but I’m overwhelmed with the sheer possibilities that it offers.

What do I use Scrivener for?

Blog Posts

This very blog post was first created in Scrivener. I am able to organize all of my blog posts into folders in Scrivener, color code them as “posted” when I’m done, create different folders for different topics and more.

I even have a Scrivener Project for my Writing Goals

I even have a Scrivener Project for my Writing Goals


I have written three novels on Scrivener. I tried writing in one long Microsoft Word document, but it can get a bit crazy scrolling through 200 pages. And did I mention Scrivener has color-coding? So I can color-code by plot thread, setting, point of view, or anything else that is unique to my novel.

Nonfiction Projects

For nonfiction, especially with many sections, the ability to organize the writing and research is so helpful. You can bring in your research so it’s all in one place. And Scrivener is highly customizable, so the document can be specific to your project.

Picture Books

I haven’t done much with this yet, but I have some ideas of how I want to incorporate it.

Claire O’Brien recently made this Scrivener Template for picture books. It’s a great way to layout your picture book.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of putting together all of my picture book writing resource templates into a Scrivener template. I’ve taken several classes on picture book writing, read several books, and read many useful articles. I use some things from all of the resources. I’d love to incorporate it all into one template that could be used for most picture books.

 Learning More About Scrivener

I recently took a Scrivener class with Gwen Hernandez. It’s very reasonably priced, and you’ll get 20 downloadable, walk-you-through-every-step lessons. She introduced things I never even knew were possible! I highly recommend the course, if you want to really get into Scrivener. I printed the lessons and put them in a binder for future reference and I worked my way through all of the lessons. It took me more than a month, but it was well-worth the time investment. 

She’s written a book called SCRIVENER FOR DUMMIES. It’s also a great reference source.

I’ve also signed up to take her Advanced Compile Course that only runs one week. There are so, so many options in Scrivener that I wanted to take this course as well. Again, it’s very reasonably priced.

More Visuals and Tutorials

Check out how Barbara O’Connor organized her book by POV. She gives you a screenshot!

Michael Hyatt shares how he uses Scrivener for everything.

Erin Bowman’s Scrivener tutorial video on outlining.

Erin Bowman shows how to do character worksheets on Scrivener.


Are You Scrivening?

Are you a Scrivener geek? If so, I want to know how you use it.

We’re All in This Together: Artists Dates

Julia Cameron suggests that creative people go on an artist’s date—something to fulfill your creative soul. Is there something you do regularly or some outing/event/field trip you’ve done (maybe even only once) that has refilled your creative energy?

Romelle Broas

Dental hygienist by day, writer by night, mother all the time.

Author of Casey Chameleon and Tummy Monster


I live on the California coast with stunning views and vibrant colors. The California life begs to be experienced outdoors. I do a lot of biking, running, and hiking which allows me to take notice of the little things in life that I would have otherwise ignored if I were busy doing other things. What I love to do is capture the beauty in pictures. I never leave home without my camera. I’m not a professional photographer by any means. I just love to take pictures. Many times the pictures I take provide me with inspiration for stories. They serve as story idea sparkers. It’s an exercise my 4th grade teacher taught me. She would put up a picture on the board and tell me to write the story behind the picture.  My photos definitely keeps my creative soul happy. So when I’m not writing or if I have writer’s block, I will go outside and take a picture of whatever delights me. Here is a picture I took recently. Maybe it’ll spark an idea for you.


Copyright 2014 Romelle Broas

Copyright 2014 Romelle Broas


Vivian Kirkfield

Writer For Children – Reader Forever


Please don’t laugh – every night I have a small bowl of ice cream (to feed my inner child) and a BIG bowl of popcorn (to keep from eating a BIG bowl of ice cream) while I watch a movie or classic TV series with my hubby (to unwind from the day). Simple. Inexpensive. Refreshingly Effective. During the day, I read picture books and visit and comment on blogs and Facebook postings that inspire me when I need to take a break from writing and revising. And now that the weather has blossomed into spring, I’m walking through the countryside every day, listening and looking and finding new picture book stories around every curve in the road.


Donna L Sadd


A trip into the woods always brings my levels to full, but I don’t have much access, so I go with the next best thing…a daily three-mile walk. Though I share this walk with my hubby and two dogs, it’s a meditative time where sneakers hitting the pavement create a rhythm that lets my mind soar. There’s also something extremely powerful in witnessing a sunrise that inspires me and gets the creative juices flowing for the day.

I’m also attending the WOW Writer’s Retreat in July that I hope will supercharge my creativity. It will be my first writer’s retreat!

Alayne Kay Christian

Author of “Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa”


Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen & Ink Literary Studio

For longer getaways, I love road trips (a passenger). I also enjoy a good beach vacation.

For quick creative rejuvenation, I might sit by the fire, or relax in the spa, or go sailing, or sit on the dock by our sailboat. I love the nights at the marina. I like to lie on the dock and stargaze. You can actually see the Milky Way by the lake. I also enjoy time with friends in good conversation and laughter. Spending time in nature always feeds my soul. I am happy to just sit in my yard or take a walk and listen the birds sing. When I really need to get away from it all, I journal, I meditate, or I listen to relaxation/self-hypnosis type of recordings.

Following are the links for the place I buy the recordings and a couple links for specific topics. There are tons of recordings. I think most of the links are for MP3 downloads – those are less expensive. If you can find it on CD, you can probably find it as a download, and if you can find it as a download, you can probably find it as a CD.

This  is the link for the website.

This link is for a great stress/worry/negative feelings release. I have heard this one and like it a lot.

This one is also great for releasing negative emotions. It is called Simply Sailing. I also like this one.

I have not heard this one, but discovered it today. It is for overcoming writer’s block. 

This is a page that has a bunch of creative visualization recordings. I have not heard any of them, but based on descriptions, most of them sound pretty good.

This page has a bunch of recordings for relaxation. I have not heard any of them but based on descriptions, many of them sound pretty good.

This page offers a lot of free stuff. I don’t have any experience with them, but thought “free” why not share.


Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Children’s and YA Writer


One of the things I find frustrating about my season of life is that I feel like I have little time for indulgence. I work full-time, write in the margins of my time, and still want to have time to see my kids. For me, sometimes, artist’s dates feel indulgent. In fact, I wrote a whole post a few years back about how I was an artist date rule-breaker. But after reading these posts, I think it’s important to note that artist’s dates don’t have to be expensive or elaborate or time-consuming. These ladies have given several examples that could be worked into my life.

Something I’ve been doing lately that’s really inspired me is taking trips to different historical sites in Virginia with my daughter. She’s fascinated by history that she’s studying this year. I’m using it as a great excuse to learn a little, get inspired, and maybe get a few writing ideas along the way. I didn’t set out to turn these into artist’s dates. I started to do this because I wanted to spend some time with her and enrich her education. It was a bonus that they turned out to be self-satisfying for my writer soul too.

Montpelier--James and Dolley Madison's home

Montpelier–James and Dolley Madison’s home


Your Artist’s Dates

What do you do for artist’s dates? Simple and inexpensive are fabulous. Tell us in the comments.

Poetry Month: Papa is a Poet

papa is a poet

Papa is a Poet: A Story About Robert Frost

By Natalie S. Bober

Illustrated by Rebecca Gibbon

Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt, 2013


This story is told in first person, through the eyes of Robert Frost’s daughter, Lesley. Lesley tells of the time when the Frosts lived on a farm in New Hampshire. Sprinkled throughout the narrative are pieces of Frost’s poems and they become part of the story as she tells about the landscape and their memories. Lesley tells about their family routines on the farm, her father’s love of books, and how he taught them to pay attention. It also tells how he moved to England, away from America, and upon his return, finally saw the success of his work. The back matter includes an author’s note, Robert Frost quotations, and reprints of many of his poems.

love that dog

This book could also be used as a supplement to Sharon Creech’s LOVE THAT DOG. For other books that can be used with LOVE THAT DOG, see this post. 

For other picture book biographies of poets, see this post. 

Hi, Koo! by Jon J. Muth, Poetry Mentor Text

hi koo

Hi, Koo! A Year of Seasons

Written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Scholastic Press, 2014

I’m a huge fan of haiku books, and I have a huge collection of haiku picture books. For an annotated haiku book list, click here. 

This particular book follows Koo, a panda, through the seasons, capturing some small details of each season in haiku.


Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Sensory Words

* Haiku form

Other Haiku Resources:

* Haiku Magnets


* I Haiku You


Water Can Be… and A Leaf Can Be… Poetry Mentor Texts


Water Can Be..

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrations by Violeta Dabija

Millbrook Press, 2014


If you love the sound of words and really love to be surprised by them, then you need to get this book. Water Can Be… is truly a beautiful piece of poetry, but there is so much packed into so few words. Here’s a short sample:

“Water can be a…

tadpole hatcher

picture catcher [picture of a girl looking at her reflection in a puddle]

otter feeder

downhill speeder [picture of a racing waterfall].” 


It is an excellent companion book to Salas’ other book A LEAF CAN BE… and it could be used in the science classroom to teach seasons because she shows water in all seasons. It would also be useful in a water cycle unit.

But of course, my forte, is talking about how it could be used in the writing classroom.

Writing Skills:

* Specificity of language

* Word Choice

* Use of poetic language to describe


leaf can be

A Leaf Can Be..

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrations by Violeta Dabija

Millbrook Press, 2012


A leaf is not just a leaf. A leaf is so much more. This very spare text is written as a poem, but the language is packed with specificity. Salas offers a truly unique perspective on leaves. Here’s a short sample:

“A leaf can be a…

Soft cradle

Water ladle

Sun taker

Food maker…”


This book could easily tie into science units on plants and seasons. Back matter explains more facts about how a leaf is a “soft cradle, water ladle, sun taker, food maker” and more.

Writing Skills:

* Specificity of language

* Word Choice

* Use of poetic language to describe


More Information for Teachers

I highly recommend signing up for Laura Purdie Salas’ newsletter for teachers. You can sign up at her website.

Reminder: April Focus and 2nd Quarter Goals

Three months in 2014 are already gone. Tomorrow we start the second quarter of the year. For me as a writer, that means it’s time to start a new set of goals. It’s also time to set up my monthly focus for April. If you are doing this in 2014, this is your reminder.

If you’d like to know more about it, here are the links:

Quarterly Goals

Monthly Focus

First Quarter Report

I have not accomplished everything on my list. However, I think breaking down the quarterly goals into focuses for the month have really helped me. I think I underestimated how long book revisions would take me. I also underestimated how much time classes would take me. But I think it’s always better to aim high. So aiming high is what I’m continuing to do. I think it’s totally fine to carryover goals to the next quarter or to do list items to the next month.

One thing that I’ve really like is having my focus for the month posted behind my computer. I can see it everyday. I keep telling myself that these are the items that are most important.

How about you? How are you moving along on your 2014 goals so far?

Mentor Texts for Teachers Workshop

The month of March has been really busy for me as a writer and a teacher. I’ve attended three teacher conferences and one writing retreat. All of them were incredibly beneficial for me.

I presented at two of the teacher conferences (one for my local school district and one for the state) on using mentor texts to teach writing.

I made handouts for the participants, and I thought some of you might enjoy the handouts as well. Some of the handouts were at stations with loads and loads of books, but the handouts provide the book lists that I used.

Screenshot of title screen

Here is the link to the workshop page. Feel free to download the handouts and start using some of the ideas.

If you haven’t subscribed to my FREE Writing Teacher Useletter, then sign up on the sidebar to the right. It’s a monthly useletter with writing ideas you can use in the classroom.

When Your Writer Self Gets Smacked with a Reality Stick

I love writing retreats. I’ve had the great opportunity to attend one particular retreat, organized by brilliant YA novelist Val Patterson, and led by multi-published Candice Ransom, for three years in a row. It feels indulgent to spend the weekend in a hotel room by myself and talk over dinner about books and writing and actually write. It feels fabulous to be wined and dined and focus fully on writing.

I’m a mom of two young kids, and I normally write amidst the chaos of early mornings, my day job, busy schedules, and “mom-look-at-this” interruptions. But getting to focus on my writing for two days really helps me. There’s time to think. Time to read. Time to take a long bath. Time to actually absorb what I’m learning.

I loved gossiping about our writing and talking about what we love about each others’ work.

When you are with a group of writers—even a group of writers with much more experience that you, like I was—one thing was really clear. WRITING IS HARD WORK.

3rd Annual Writing Retreat, Luray, VA

3rd Annual Writing Retreat, Luray, VA

There is no getting around it. You can be a great writer and still have struggles within the industry. You can write and write and write, but revision is down and dirty tough work.

It wasn’t discouraging for me to be reminded of this. It lifted me up. It helped me realize that I’m not alone and that slogging through the work every day is just what you have to do.

Not only do I enjoy the camaraderie of being with other writers, but I also enjoy the solitude of the journey. The two hour drive there and back prepares my mind, gives me time to sift through ideas, and think. I recorded voice memos to myself about a new book possibility on the drive back.

And then…

The inevitable happened. Upon returning to the real world of my family (that I missed very much), packing lunches, grocery shopping, laundry (which has to be carted elsewhere while we renovate our laundry room), catching up at my day job, preparing for upcoming presentations, and so much more, this writer feels like she got smacked with a reality stick.

You know that one that makes you snap out of it. The one that makes you realize that whole weekend might have been a dream?

What I find most difficult about that slap is that I have to spend a few days trying to find my way again. I know there is lots to be done, but it’s like searching for a light switch in the dark, in a house that’s not your own. You bump into walls, you try to find something familiar, but you just want to have a little bit of light.

I’ve spent the last week trying to find my way out of my writerly bliss, back to my real routine, and making a plan for what lies ahead for my revisions.

Writing Marathon: The Results

The last several Wednesdays have been all about the Writing Marathon I did with fourth and fifth graders at my school.

Today’s post is all about the results. I had 20 students to participate in this extra activity that required 26 days, 30 minutes per day of outside writing.


26 days

30 minutes per day

20 participants

17 Marathon finishers

16,089 minutes spent writing

102,594 words written


My personal writing marathon results were not included in these statistics. Here are my results:

28 days

870 minutes

14,454 words

picture of tracking sheet

Writing Marathon Posts

Writing Marathon: The Method

Writing Marathon: Resources