To Pen Name or NOT to Pen Name?

Ok, published writers. What is the answer to my title? Do any of you use a pen name or some form of your own name? My name is really Carol Smith. Is that catchy enough to remember? Do you even need catchy?

I have contemplated using the pen name Manelli Bochelli for children’s chapter books. Yes, that is cute and catchy. It sounds clever together, but would it be easy to remember?

If anyone has any thoughts, please share them. I am about to have personalized cards made. Hmmm. Contemplating.


Chapter book nitty-gritty: What are its ingredients?

Hang on to you hat! Based on what I’ve researched, here are some nitty-gritty details that serve as the main ingredients in a chapter book. I know there are a plethora more, but I am offering you the basics I discovered to create interest.

Character Ages

Readers should be able to relate to the characters in the chapter book. Many sites suggested that the characters should be about the same age as the reader or a little older. When they are a little older, readers can often glimpse of life in their future. They learn to deal with growing-up issues with family, friends, enemies, bullies, and school.

Student’s interest level

Writers want to begin this journey with an interesting title. It needs to be vibrant with words that suggest a mystery, romance, fantasy, or survival to arouse curiosity and tantalize the reader to read the teaser on the back cover.

Depth of character

Protagonists should have faults, fears, and weaknesses that readers can identify with. They can’t be heroes and heroines all of the time! Readers want to see clashes, competitions, awards, and successes to observe how the main characters interact with others as they get through tough or winning situations.

The healing of emotional hurts and psychological problems can also begin with experiences of the characters and how they deal with them. Readers this age are searching for answers as to how to grow up. Show them how good, core values can help them win in the end. Show them how a character stands up against bullies or their own fears and shortcomings. This can boost their confidence levels as they explore consequences of actions.

Decisions, Decisions, and Decisions

If you’re not sure if the rough draft seems like an easy reader with a simple plot, young vocabulary levels, and shorter sentence structure, you might want to do the following: create a stronger story with subplots, add more complex, sentence structure, longer paragraphs, and more experienced chapter titles.

For more suggestions or help, visit Mary Kole’s site: (writing and publishing children’s books) and (editorial and consulting services).

Happy writing! To be continued…


Chapter Book Information…continued

Hello, fellow chapter book writers! I have a few more bits to offer from my research. I hope it helps at least one person.

In the last blog, I mentioned chapter book length and how it varies from 4,000 to 25,000 words. I read that most are around 10,000 words, but length depends on the story.

I read that most chapter books are from 40-60 manuscript pages and each chapter is 3-4 pages. These books are usually 40-80 pages long. They also have short paragraphs from 2-4 sentences that are more action packed and fast paced. Sentences are more complex with subplots. More advanced readers have a higher attention span and can follow more detailed plots and difficult sentence structure.

Of course, a chapter book that is written for the advanced reader would most likely be longer in length, more chapters, and filled with more complex subplots. These readers can relate to the characters and solve their problems by themselves as they follow foreshadowing and character development that moves the plot along.

*Next blog: Advantages of advanced chapter books in the classroom and individual study.

Thanks for your help, Mary Kole, at (writing and publishing children’s books) and (editorial and consulting services)

Chapter Book Information


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Albert Einstein is credited with this amazing quote: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

I have researched the process of writing chapter books and want to offer a few tips to help anyone trying to figure this out. Our kids need chapter books to inspire and encourage them as they begin to face life in a different way.

What is a chapter book? A chapter book is a story book intended for intermediate readers, generally age 7-10. They are more independent readers who are making the bridge between picture books and early readers to middle grade. The art no longer supports the text. This audience is still developing reading skills, so there is a vast difference in terms of vocabulary and sentence structure. As a result, there are younger chapter books that are simpler, but you can get pretty sophisticated for older chapter books. Series sell better than stand-alones.

Chapter books tell the story primarily through prose, rather than pictures, but still contain many illustrations. Stories are usually divided into short chapters, which provide children with opportunities to stop and resume reading if their attention spans are not long enough to finish the book in one sitting. Chapter books are usually works of fiction of moderate length and complexity. The book length is usually between 5,000 and 25,000 words.

In order for a chapter to pull its weight, it must introduce character, introduce something about character, or change something about character relationships. This helps to move character development forward; something must happen in each chapter to move the plot forward.

The most common question most people ask is, “How long should my chapters be?” There must be consistency to keep the pace flowing, but some chapters are simply longer than others because of content. If you begin with short, easy chapters, the pace will have a lively flow. If your chapters feel longer or slower, it affects pacing and readers might keep checking to see when the last page is. Remember as a child what it felt like to get bogged down in slow reads? Every page was an absolute victory because there was too much scenery or character description. If you have a lot of long chapters, you really want to make certain that action flows freely. You don’t want them to become long blocks of information or detail, one after the other, and exhaust the reader. Yes, this requires plenty of editing and counting.

Do a little experiment at a book store to see the difference between the look of an easy reader vs. a chapter book. Examine both types of book pages side by side. The easy reader page has color art and text with a large font. Color art is essential to help young readers view a visual translation. The chapter book has a smaller font with entertainment.

To be continued in another blog. Happy writing! Continue reading

My Writer’s Statement


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Albert Einstein is credited with this amazing quote: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be very intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”

I listen to the relaxing sounds of rain meditation to drown out my reality and enter the new world I create. I believe that writing is my passion formed into letters that create a new existence of settings and characters that breathe a new life of what-ifs and possibilities. I become an invisible being with all of the characters and record what they believe, think, and say to each other. I laugh when they laugh, and I cry when they cry. I let their hearts speak to every situation they’re a part of and allow each character freedom to grow because of choices and consequences. I plan the beginning, middle, and end of the book, but I allow the character arc to develop as the plot thickens in the rising action with conflict until it resolves itself in a climax and surprise ending.

Back in the Saddle, Again


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Life is full of twists and turns, monumental events in the forms of tragedies and comedies, and just everyday life. I apologize for being absent on here for too long, but I am back in the saddle, again, after surviving storms of pain and pleasure.

I am finally updating what has been going on in my life. I don’t want to bore you to tears, but I want to share a few of life’s storms and rewards. My daughter is a Lyme Disease survivor of 17 years. Her battles have been relentless, but she has grown closer to God by holding on to that knot for years. The story is not over, and we believe a better day is on the horizon.

I retired two years ago and went to Europe with students at my school and their parents. My sister also went with me to try to chaperone me.

We left three days after I retired. Yes, that was an exhausting time while I cleaned out my room completely, met with students and parents on my tour for final and important information, cleaned my house before my sister arrived, and packed for Europe. Whew! I’m tired just remembering this! We visited London, Paris, Rome, and Amsterdam. My sister and I stayed behind to enjoy Ireland. Yes, we had incredible adventures and saw some of the most amazing landscapes, statues, art work, a musical performance, and a fiasco on the same train that had the terrorist attack two weeks later. Our favorites were the Anne Frank House, Zahnsee Schans, the London Eye, the Louvre, crown jewels, the Eiffel Tower during the day and sparkling at night, along with a dinner cruise in front of it, and the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican. What a trip and an awesome group!

Just a few weeks after I returned, I spent 3 1/2 months with my sister before, during, and post surgery in Texas. We discovered that she almost didn’t make it, but God allowed her more time; it was just tough.

After I returned, I attended a Writer’s Retreat in Temecula with my daughter Tiffany and learned from several editors that the picture book I wrote should actually be a chapter book. Therefore, I had to let go of my dream of having a picture book and let my story grow into a chapter book. What a difference it made! I went from 1,000 words to over 10,000 words in just two months this summer.

My sister had another surgery this summer, and I spent another 3 1/2 months in Texas again. She’s fine now! I had time to write and renew my love of writing. What did I learn in those two months? A chapter book let my characters grow quickly from birth to twelve-year-olds, immersed in a royal battle with an obnoxious witch who turned their kingdom topsy-turvy. It allowed more time for the characters to grow in bravery, self-confidence, and integrity to face and outwit her. The witch promises to get revenge, so another book is in the making.

I have rededicated myself to writing again, so onward and upward I go! Happy writing for all of us!

Carol Smith




Writer Questions for a Writers’ Retreat


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Hello, everyone!

Yes, I have been gone for several months, but I certainly hope I wasn’t forgotten. Life sometimes gets so busy, but I promised myself that I would try my best to write more often.

I do have some questions for all of you writers out there. I will be attending a writers’ retreat and need to know the proper requirements for sharing the first 500 words and first page. Do they both need the top 1/2 page information before skipping several lines to the title, or is it ok to put the title and begin the manuscript? I don’t want to come across like a new fish out of water. Oh, wait…I am!

My second question is about an original fairy tale. I have researched everywhere and don’t see any modern requirements as to length. My word count is 1,900. I have been reading a plethora of classic fairy tales but don’t have any original to compare mine with. Mine has more dialogue, but I recently edited out 600 words. I’m trying to shape it into a “classic” form, but are there any new “forms” out there that I just can’t find?

I would appreciate any suggestions or helpful hints.

Thank you,

~Manelli Bochelli~

Cutting the Apron Strings


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How does a writer know when to cut the apron strings from a finished piece?  This has recently been plaguing me and causing me to question myself about my finished fairytale.  How many readers do you send it to and let them critique it before you finally send it in to an agent? How many do I trust with my finished product? There are so many opinions about every little aspect, and it’s tough to know whom to trust and how many changes to make.

I have written a subversive fairytale that is five pages. I’m ready to let librarians, elementary school teachers,  and mothers of young children read it and critique it for me before I send it in.  Experienced writers, do you give a Starbuck’s gift card to readers? What have others given?

Please advise.  Am I making a mistake or an appropriate decision to put it out there for others to critique?

Thank you,

~Manelli Bochelli~

A Slice of Life while Shaking


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I had my own private earthquake the other day while teaching. One moment I was teaching, and the other moment I was shaking. My voice started shaking. I began shaking all over. It took me a few seconds to realize what was going on for the first and hope only time. I walked while shaking (that was a really weird feeling) to get my diabetes monitor and check my blood sugar. It was low at 69! I was so scared and did not want to fall on the floor, hit my head, and go into a diabetic coma and cause all kinds of drama around me. Immediately, I ate my glucose emergency tablets, string cheese, and had a few nuts, but I continued to shake. My students were “advanced” but were also freaking out a bit. I called the school secretary, the principal, and vice principal – but no one picked up! That terrified me. I felt trapped. Because my sugar was staying so low, I became a little confused and just stared at the phone. A minute later, the secretary returned my call and sent security to my room so I could go to the lounge, eat, and calm down. I bought a Coke full of sugar and drank a few ounces before I finally calmed down enough to eat my lunch.

What did I learn? I am extremely grateful for beginning a new lifestyle five weeks ago with insulin twice daily so that my numbers would go down, but I have to eat my snack at 10:00 and two handfuls of nuts 45 minutes later to stay stabilized. I don’t get to eat lunch until 12:45, so that is really too long to wait. Oh, well…I have to adapt to my new schedule.The last two days, I followed my snack plan and ended up with an 86 at both pre-lunch readings.

Bette Davis said that getting old ain’t for sissies. That is an understatement!!!!! I am beyond grateful that I am finally getting insulin to stabilize my sugar levels and shrink my body fat, but it has come with a price. This adventure in living requires more time to check blood levels four times a day, I give myself an insulin shot once in the morning and once at night before drinking a glass of milk before going to bed. The next morning, it all starts over again with the planning of more choices, more time spent on me, watching the clock for snack time, etc.  All these years of being overweight, I never had to think about food so much and actually monitor the ounces, portion, and timing of every bite, drink so much water, and sleep more. BUT—all of this is beginning to transform my body and reshape it – while getting me healthier.

I have a plan of action for my two classes before lunch, and they feel more empowered now and more confident about taking care of me if anything happens again. Now, I’ll have four ounces of Coke to drink immediately from my little refrigerator, and I’ll eat snacks in front of them. They don’t care, but a few have asked for some of the cheese and nuts.  My diabetic nurse agreed that those snacks were fine, but I’m going to look for others.

Onward…I shrink to live longer! I praise God for keeping me safe through this change!~

Knock Knock


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One of the delightful requirements of teaching middle school English is that I get to teach the literary term onomatopoeia. Since most students have no idea what it means, I wanted to make sure my students did this week. I told them that onomatopoeia is a word that represents a sound. I gave examples like boom, meow, vrrrrmmm, pow, pop, moo, etc. and had them go around the room and tell a word that represents a sound. Everyone did such a marvelous job.

Next, I taught the definition of personification and discussed examples. Personification is when an inanimate object has human traits and qualities. I told them to look at the word “person” at the beginning for a hint. Something acts like a person but isn’t one. One of my favorite examples is: The sun smiled on me today so that I could go to the beach. Another example is: The moon waltzed by slowly. Students shared examples in their teams (pods of 4), and I had one person from each team stand and tell an example that was used in their team.

At the end of the period, I said, “Before we pass the review ball, I want to review the two terms we learned earlier. What is this an example of – knock, knock?” I looked out over the sea of eager faces and heard this response, “Who’s there?” Because I am a “seasoned” teacher, I knew not to laugh…but I couldn’t help it. I turned around so that they couldn’t see me and laughed. I turned my microphone off and continued to laugh. It hit my funny bone! A minute later, I turned around and faced them with a grin on my face. They had been laughing, too. I said, “Students, that was not supposed to be the beginning of a joke. I simply wanted you to tell me that it was an example of onomatopoeia.” We all laughed and laughed again. Who said that learning can’t be fun or funny sometimes?

They crack me up sometimes, so entertainment does play a role in education.

~Manelli Bochelli~