Sunday, May 2, 2021

Children's Writing Pitfalls - Words


I wrote a fantasy story originally geared toward middle grade. Realizing the word count wasn’t enough for a middle grade story, I changed it to a chapter book.

Good idea, right?

Yes, it is.

But if you do something like this, you need to remember to check the age appropriateness of the words you originally used.

You might ask why this necessary.

Well, it’s the difference between an editor giving your story a second glance, or not.

It’s so important that publishers will ask what grade level your book is geared toward. You had better make sure the vocabulary of your story and the intended audience are a match.

What exactly do I mean? Let’s use an example:

The boy performed an amazing illusion. Should you use illusion or real magic?

If you were writing this for a 6th grader, the word illusion would be fine, but say you are writing for a 2nd or 3rd grader … then you’ll need to change that word.

According to “Children’s Writer’s Word Book,” ‘illusion’ is in the 6th grader’s vocabulary. You would need to change it to a word such as trick or fake to make it age appropriate for a 3rd grader.

The use of words goes far beyond that of choosing age appropriate words, they can be revised to say the same thing in a different way.

Words are so amazing – just make sure yours are just right for the age group you’re writing for.

Taking this a little further, even if you're writing a young adult novel, choose words carefully.

I'm working with a client who has words in his draft that not most teens, and even many adult readers won't understand. You don't want a reader to have to stop and look up a word while reading. This is never a good thing.

When writing for children, teens, and young adults, don't use high-end words. Use words that everyone will be able to quickly recognize and understand.

To emphasis this, here are some quotes on the topic by famous authors:

"Use familiar words—words that your readers will understand, and not words they will have to look up. No advice is more elementary, and no advice is more difficult to accept. When we feel an impulse to use a marvellously exotic word, let us lie down until the impulse goes away."
~James J. Kilpatrick

"The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do."
~Thomas Jefferson

"A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts."
~William Strunk and E.B. White

"Use the smallest word that does the job."
~E.B. White

"Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." ~William Butler Yeats

"The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you can’t understand them. ~Anatole France

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
~Mark Twain

The finest language is mostly made up of simple unimposing words." ~George Eliot

"Whenever we can make 25 words do the work of 50, we halve the area in which looseness and disorganisation can flourish."
~Wilson Follett

"Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say 'infinitely' when you mean 'very'; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite."
~C. S. Lewis

Karen Cioffi
is an award-winning children’s author and a working children’s ghostwriter/rewriter and writing coach. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move as well as an author online platform instructor with WOW! Women on Writing.

You can follow Karen at:
You can check out Karen's Books at:

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Sad Little Wildflower receives 5-Star Review



Readers' Favorite 5m Star Review
 by Mamta Madhavan

        It was spring, and there were signs of new growth everywhere. Down the road, a small shoot of green stretched upward to feel the sunshine on its leaves. She wondered what type of flower she would be, and wished to be a rose. The little plant grew and grew, and one day she noticed a tinge of pink color form around her head. The little plant was so happy as she knew pink roses were beautiful, and she would soon be the envy of all the other flowers. The man thought she was a weed and wanted to remove her so the beautiful tulips would not be choked. The little flower cried and cried, and
waited to see what would happen next. A voice asked the little flower why she was sad. The little flower knew it was the voice of Jesus and asked him to turn her into a rose so that people would
love her. 

        Let's read the book to find out what Jesus told her, and if the little flower would discover her purpose in life.

       The Sad Little Wildflower by Yvonne M. Morgan is a beautiful story that conveys many uplifting and positive messages to young readers. The story is about self-love, self-acceptance, trust, self-belief,
and finding out one's purpose in life. The illustrations are bright and colorful, and they make the story captivating to youngsters. I like the way the author gives the little flower a personality of her own as she is called the Pink Lady by Jesus. It is an uplifting and encouraging story to read to children in
classrooms and homes to help them love themselves, be happy with what they have, and also believe that everyone is unique and has his/her own purpose in life.

Yvonne Morgans books can be found at

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Reviews: The Hatchling


PUBLISHER:  4RV Publishing, January 2021
AUTHOR:  Vivian Zabel
ILLUSTRATOR:  Jeanne Conway
Reviewed by Karin Larson

    THE HATCHLING is a heart-warming story of two best friends, Louie Duck and Gus Goose, who go about their days playing, riding waves in the lake and enjoying each other’s company. But soon comes a surprise…Louie is going to be a big brother. How will this new sibling affect Louie and Gus?        
THE HATCHLING explores the feelings involved in both the sibling relationship and the friendship bond in a heart-warming and relatable way all kids will understand without feeling a lesson is being taught. Ms. Zabel uses active and lively, at times alliterative, language which kids will love. Back matter sections with discussion questions and additional information about ducks compliment the text which kids and adults alike will enjoy. Ms. Conway’s illustrations are bright and fun and bring the characters and story to life. This story is perfect for kids ages 4-9 years of age.

     To learn more about Vivian Zabel or the other Louie the Duck stories (WAVE EXCITEMENT, LOUIE FINDS A FRIEND), visit or

    For more information about Jeanne Conway, visit

 DISCLAIMER:  I received a hard copy of THE HATCHLING free of charge in return for my honest review. This review consists of my honest opinions, not influenced by anyone in any way. 


Readers' Favorite 5-Star Review
Reviewer Mamta Madhavan

    Louie Duck and Gus Goose waddled toward their sleeping area as the day ended. Louie was happy that they had fun. When the two birds reached Louie's nest, they saw Daddy Duck standing beside a
new circle of twigs, leaves, and feathers. Louie was curious to know why Daddy Duck and Momma Duck made a new nest. They showed Louie the large egg nestled in downy feathers. 

     Gus was worried if Louie and he would still be best friends when the egg hatched and Louie reassured him saying no hatchling would take his place as Louie's best friend. Grandma Goose came to them while they were playing one day and told Louie the egg was hatching. Louie and Gus were excited when the egg hatched. Louie had a little brother and they named him Quacker. Louie could not go anywhere without Quacker following him. Quacker had a lot of questions to ask Louie and Gus, and Louie complained to Daddy Duck about it. Daddy Duck told Louie he would take Quacker with him every afternoon so that Gus and Louie could have time for themselves. Would Quacker make new friends and stop asking so many questions?

    The Hatchling (A Louie the Duck Story) by Vivian Zabel is a beautiful story of sibling bonding and it is adorable to see how Louie finally accepts Quacker and feels proud of him. Jeanne Conway's
bright and colorful illustrations breathe life into the scenes and characters, making these palpable to young readers. The characters of Gus, Louie, and Quacker are adorable, real, and relatable and readers will be able to connect with them and their feelings. A lot of children will be able to relate to the story and the emotions and feelings of Louie and Gus. The book is good for use in classrooms and homes for storytelling and read-aloud sessions as it teaches children how to deal with their siblings.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Review: Borrowed Time


Borrowed Time
by Rita Durrett

Review by Sharon Worthey


Borrowed Time was a fun journey back to 1969 where high school junior Sabrina finds herself trying to figure out exactly who she is and why she can’t remember anything about her life or how, covered in bruises, she ended up in a town. Only Bobby seems familiar - except he belongs to Jill, and she isn’t sharing. Bobby might have a mind of his own, however.

            Back home in the present, her boyfriend, Camden, and her parents are desperate to help her recover from the car accident that sent her back in time, but doctors warn that she may never awaken from the coma. As Sabrina’s body heals in the present, her 1969 self falls in love with Bobby while her friends help her adjust to a life before the moon landing or AC in classrooms.  
            Will Sabrina’s growing love for Bobby trigger her memories of Camden? Of course, being in love with two men at the same time creates its own dilemma. If she is able to one day return to her own time, will she even want to return? And if she should stay with Bobby, does that mean she remains in the coma forever? You’ll need to read this book to find out. As with all good books – watch for a lovely twist at the end.


            Borrowed Time can be found on, through bookstores, or from other online stores.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Dust of Lies receives 5 star reviews



Readers’ Favorite

Review of Dust of Lies: 5 Star Reviews by 4 reviewers


Reviewed by Deborah Lloyd for Readers' Favorite

             When the old jail in Barber, Arkansas, was being demolished, Kay watched the event. She was the only reporter for the local weekly newspaper and planned to write an article about it. She and her husband Darrell moved to the small town a few years earlier to care for his elderly mother, and this job kept her busy. Kay spotted some writing on a piece of stone wall; it was a mysterious poem and appeared to be decades old. The jailed man named a woman as the cause of his problems. Kay was intrigued and felt compelled to figure out what the cryptic message meant. Her professional quest soon became enmeshed in her personal life. In Dust of Lies, written by G.K. Davenport, a complex tale is unraveled. Using a combination of true historical facts and modern-day fictional characters, an engrossing plot unfolds.

The author’s storyline engages the reader from the first page to the last. Historical facts are illuminated through complicated current relationships. As Kay works through old information, she has to determine who is telling her the truth, and who is lying. The author skillfully places clues within the context of Kay’s discoveries as to who is trustworthy – and who is not. This entanglement between the past and the present is at the heart of the story. Another interesting aspect is the natural settings that are essential to the plot – from the Ozarks to the Texas plains. Author G.K. Davenport has penned a fascinating historical mystery, peppered with facts and fiction, in Dust of Lies. For those interested in a unique mystery, this book is not to be missed!      

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

Dust of Lies is a southern mystery novel written by GK Davenport. Kay writes for the Barber Gazette. While witnessing the destruction of an old and abandoned county jail, she stumbles upon a block of plaster on which a poem is inscribed. Convinced that the poem had a story behind it, Kay dives headfirst into solving the mystery. Kay's investigation leads her to the door of her mother-in-law Viva, a woman with secrets who reveals far less than she knows. Viva’s old friend Bessie helps Kay discover that the famous outlaw Jesse James's illegitimate son Jesse Cole, a.k.a., Cowboy might be the key to solving the puzzle. As Kay and Vivo follow the breadcrumbs spread throughout the past, Kay unearths secrets about her husband Darrell's family that may change their lives forever.

Dust of Lies is an enrapturing tale of lies, betrayal, and lost treasure soaked in history and rich in suspense and intrigue. The characters feel flawed yet human, with well-thought-out backstories provided by GK Davenport that make them realistic and compelling. Even though the pacing of the plot is a bit slow for my taste, the character-driven narrative makes up for it as I found myself thoroughly absorbed by the characters as well as the story. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Kay, Viva, Bessie, and Granny, with each of them having distinct quirks and personalities. I adored Dust of Lies, and I would recommend it to readers who love southern-flavored novels. 

Reviewed by Lesley Jones for Readers' Favorite

In Dust of Lies by GK Davenport, Kay and her husband Darrell moved to Barber, Arkansas a few years ago to care for his elderly mother, Viva. As a reporter for the Barber Gazette, Kay is sent to report on the demolition of an old prison. She discovers a century old poem written by a young man called Ezra Hacker who committed suicide, blaming a teenage girl, Ora, for his fatal decision. Kay faces strong opposition when she begins to ask questions about the poem from many people, including Darrel, who want to forget the past. But she is determined to solve the mystery behind the poem and Ezra's chilling message. Her investigations reveal the town's shocking links to legendary outlaws and buried Confederate gold. Kay's search for the truth takes her from Arkansas to Texas on a historical journey revealing dark secrets that involve the people closest to her.

Dust of Lies by GK Davenport is a gripping novel that captured my interest from the beginning. I loved the intriguing layers to the plot and how they were revealed gradually. The relationship between

Kay, Darrell, and Viva was brilliant and the development was perfect. The storyline was a flawless mixture of historical events and fiction and there were also many strong sub-plots that were masterfully entwined to support the main story. The author also had an exceptional ability to create fantastic backstories for the main characters which highlighted their values, thoughts, and beliefs. The novel is filled with extraordinary female characters who possess strength, determination, and courage. There are brilliant areas of conflict throughout which made the novel even more compelling and the constant plot twists were outstanding. I cannot recommend Dust of Lies highly enough, a fantastic read.

Reviewed by Deborah Stone for Readers' Favorite

            Dust of Lies by G. K. Davenport is about a mystery uncovered by Kay, one of two reporters at the Barber Gazette in Barber, Arkansas. While covering the demolition of an old county jail, Kay uncovers secrets from the past that many would rather she leave buried in the rubble. Some encourage her to uncover the truth and others warn of the dangers if she proceeds with her inquiries. Somehow these warnings seemed more like threats. Kay’s mother-in-law, Viva, begs her to find the truth about the past, but she isn’t telling everything she knows. The search becomes entangled with family history and Darrell, Kay’s husband, is not happy with her intrusions into the past, so she and Viva move forward without him.

Local lore and historical facts begin to merge, but it is getting harder to tell the truth from fiction. Always up for solving a problem, Kay forges ahead and finds allies and enemies in unlikely places. While her investigation takes her to Texas and back, she is never out of sight of those who monitor her progress. Who can she really trust? Who knows more than they are telling? The biggest question is, who is willing to harm her if she doesn’t stop?

            Dust of Lies by G. K. Davenport is a journey through truth and lies, trust and fear, hope and hopelessness. G. K. Davenport unravels a convoluted family story that branches out to include historical figures, some benign, some infamous. Each twist and turn takes the reader deeper into the maze of lies where truth is hard to recognize. When you think you know where G. K. Davenport is taking you and you have figured out how this all ends, you will discover that the journey isn’t over yet. Filled with probabilities and possibilities of the past, this well-written novel offers intrigue, danger, mystery, and a few surprises along the way. G. K. Davenport’s style of writing and command of the English language makes this a very enjoyable read and well worth your time. While you try to unravel the mysteries.

            Copies of Dust of Lies can be found on gk-davenport.html, from bookstores and from other online stores.