Posts Tagged book lists

Writing Books: A Revision Resource Round-Up

I’ve been deep in my revision cave these last few weeks. Which for me means a printed copy of my most recent draft, a pile of sticky notes, a jar full of colored pens, and lots of notes and thoughts scattered across legal pads and journals. It also means revisiting a number of writing books for help while I’m tackling everything from character motivation to the big scary thing that is plot.

Since my brain is a hot mess of new and old ideas right now, I thought I’d keep this blog post simple and share some of the writing books I’ve found most helpful when tackling a revision.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStory Genius by Lisa Cron
How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere)

I really wish I had worked through this book when I was starting this novel. But it’s proven to be a really useful tool for see where I’ve got some key components of a strong story down and where I need to dig deeper.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgSave the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody
The Last Book On Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need

I discovered Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat books on screenwriting years ago and they made a huge difference in my storytelling. Jessica Brody’s take on using his approach for novels is a good one, and I found a couple of key pieces that have really made a difference as I revise my book.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgStory Engineering by Larry Brooks
Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing

I’ve heard Larry speak a number of times and this book is a pretty nice overview of his take on story. I haven’t read it in a while, but the pieces are always rattling around in my brain, and I will be certain to use his checklists later in my revision process.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgWriting the Breakout Novel By Donald Maass
Insider advice for taking your fiction to the next level

I haven’t found a craft book by Donald Maass that I didn’t like. His questions are great tools for getting deeper into character, motivation, and most importantly stakes. Whenever I feel like something’s not quite right or I’m simply in the mood to run things a different way, I do an exercise in one of his books and see what happens. It’s great for clearing the cobwebs and seeing new possibilities.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgThe Plot Whisperer by Martha Alderson
Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

Can you tell I have a little lack of confidence when it comes to plotting? 🙂
This book was instrumental in getting my last novel to a final, publishable draft. I’m not sure what exactly it did to make the pieces fall into place – but I appreciate it. And, I have it handy in case I need it this time around, too.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgManuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lion
Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore

My copy is well worn and filled with sticky tabs. This guide covers pretty much every part of the revision process clearly. And the checklists at the end of each chapter are detailed and incredibly useful.


I’d love to hear what writing books help you through both the drafting and revision process. Please share below. I’ll be sure to duck out of my cave to respond.

STEM Tuesday — Epic Achievements and Fantastic Failures– In the Classroom

This week explore the importance of bringing epic achievements and fantastic failures to your classroom. Let the stories of people persisting in the face of seemingly impossible odds inspire your students to consider how STEM might figure into their everyday lives and future careers. And remember, managing failures is part of the arc of success. Set-backs and disappointments help STEM professionals improve, invent, and innovate their way to their dreams.

Create a “Dream Big” Bulletin Board. Before introducing this month’s books to students, ask students to respond to these prompts:

  • Think about the technology around you—everything from paper plates to bandages to medicine to transportation systems and more. All of these things were figured out by people. Which technologies impress you the most? Why? What else can you think of that’s a big-deal achievement in science, technology, engineering, or math?
  • Scientists explore the unknown and try to describe and explain the world and universe around us. What’s the most amazing scientific discovery you know of? What big questions do you wonder about that science might answer someday?
  • What’s the most amazing discovery or invention you can imagine making?

After students complete index cards or journal entries in response to the selected prompt, give them time to exchange ideas about their “big dreams” with each other. Encourage them to think bigger and bigger as they talk. After several minutes, ask students to consider their answers as a group:

  • What common themes can you find across different achievements and dreams? (For example, several ideas might relate to discovering a cure for disease or inventing a way to travel quickly from place to place.)

Post student ideas on a “Dream Big” bulletin board and refer to it as a context that will help them connect to any of the tales of success or failure in the books from this month’s STEM Tuesday list. As students read the books, ask them to identify the “big dream” behind each success, and motivating the people in the stories to overcome failures along the way.

Is it Failure or Just Practice for Success? In many quarters, failure has a bad reputation. Sure, we all feel like celebrating when things go right, but it’s important to understand that if we are going to achieve anything — epic or everyday — we are likely to encounter bumps, mistakes, hiccups, set-backs, and mess-ups along the way. The better we can accept failures and learn from them, the more we will learn and achieve. You can help students explore this idea with one of these engineering design challenge “launchers,” which focus on the engineering design process and how it embodies a growth mindset. After students test their first design ideas, challenge them to improve the performance of their designs. Lead reflection on how students’ final (and usually improved) designs evolved from the designs’ initial shortcomings and set-back (failures). Be explicit that in many ways, failure is something to embrace—as a chance to learn and explore in new directions.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgConnect students’ experiences with design failures with highlights from a TED Talk and an interview with Astro Teller. Teller, the “Captain of Moonshots” at X, a Google company featured in Google It: A History of Google, discusses his own view of success and failure, and the importance of committing to projects that may or may not succeed. Speaking of moonshots…


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgMap the Ups and Downs along the way to an epic achievement, such as figuring out how to achieve powered flight or landing people on the Moon. You’ll find these stories in Countdown, Rocket to the Moon, and Epic Fails The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History. To map the vicissitudes of these or any other accomplishments, begin by drawing a horizontal timeline across a piece of paper near the middle. Label the line with each chapter, episode, or student-identified turning point. Ask students to make a mark above or below each label indicating the degree to which the episode seems like an “up” or “down” moment (when people were meeting Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.orgwith success or failure/setback); then connect the dots. Students can also keep similar timelines in their journals representing their experience of projects in science, technology, engineering or math. Encourage them to focus on the relationship between achieving and navigating through—and learning from—failures.


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Combined with hands-on activities and opportunities for student reflection, stories of STEM successes and failures can’t fail to inspire and engage students. How do you help students identify their own, personal “moonshots”? What do you do to foster risk-taking? Drop us a line in the comments suggestion below!

As a co-founding consultant at Blue Heron STEM Education and a partner in STEM Education Insights, LLC, STEM Tuesday contributor Carolyn DeCristofano, MEd, supports the development of high-quality, research-based STEM education resources that inspire students and teachers alike. An acclaimed author of STEM books for kids, including A Black Hole is NOT a Hole and Running on Sunshine: How Solar Energy Works, she enjoys bringing the joy of STEM, creativity, and writing to school groups.

STEM Tuesday — Epic Achievements and Fantastic Failures– Book List


Great things can happen even if there are blunders and mishaps along the way. The pathway to great discoveries is always fascinating. This month we are delving into some epic achievements and fantastic failures with some terrific STEM titles that will challenge your thinking.


Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Wright Brothers: Nose-Diving into History by Erik Slader and Ben Thompson; illustrated by Tim Foley

How could countless crashes lead to such an important success? Erik Slader and Ben Thompson explore the Wright brother’s hard-earned path to an engineering breakthrough that gave humans wings.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Wright Brothers for Kids: How They Invented the Airplane, 21 Activities Exploring the Science and History of Flight by Mary Kay Carson

Pair this title with the Wright Brothers Epic Fails title above to compare how the same story can be told in different ways. Carson’s activities give young readers a great introduction to the science of flight with some hands-on investigation.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters: 33 Thrilling Experiments Based on History’s Greatest Blunders by Sean Connolly

This title focuses on the E in STEM. Why did the Titanic sink? Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa lean? What is the fatal design flaw in the Sherman tank? Connolly explains each disaster, and then includes an experiment using household items to reinforce the science and hands-on inquiry.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Google It! A History of Google: How Two Students’ Mission to Organize the Internet Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding

This book explores how two Stanford college students developed the most influential and innovative ideas for organizing information on the world wide web. Want to know more about it — Google it!



Space is a popular topic for young readers. We’ve included four very different titles that describe the challenges of outer space travel.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon by Suzanne Slade and Thomas Gonzales

Countdown tells the true story of the American effort to land the first man on the moon. Told in free verse, it is a great addition to a classroom library poetry/verse STEM collection. It is also an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Rocket to the Moon  by Don Brown

In this first book of the new graphic novel series, Big Ideas that Changed the World, Don Brown brings his signature award-winning style to a big subject, discussing the people and decisions that went into creating the moon landing in 1969. You’ll be sure to want to check out the upcoming titles in this new series.



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The Race to Space: Countdown to Liftoff by Erik Slader and Ben Thompson; illustrated by Tim Foley 

In book two of Slader and Thompson’s noteworthy Epic Fails series, we read about the failures that made up the race to be the first to explore outer space. Readers might enjoy pairing this with the above title.



Support Independent Bookstores - Visit Moon Mission: The Epic 400-Year Journey to Apollo 11 by Sigmund Brouwer

Readers relive every step of the nearly-disastrous Apollo 11 moon landing through the astronauts’ point of view. Told in 11 different episodes, each episode includes the technological advances that made the mission possible.



STEM Tuesday book lists prepared by:

Nancy Castaldo has written books about our planet for over 20 years including, THE STORY OF SEEDS: From Mendel’s Garden to Your Plate, and How There’s More of Less To Eat Around The World, which earned the Green Earth Book Award, Junior Library Guild Selection, and other honors. Nancy’s research has taken her all over the world from the Galapagos to Russia.  She strives to inform, inspire, and empower her readers. Nancy also serves as the Regional Advisor of the Eastern NY SCBWI region. Her 2018 multi-starred title is BACK FROM THE BRINK: Saving Animals from Extinction. Visit her at



Patricia Newman writes middle-grade nonfiction that inspires kids to seek connections between science, literacy, and the environment. The recipient of a Sibert Honor for Sea Otter Heroes, an NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book for Eavesdropping on Elephants, and the Green Earth Book Award for Plastic, Ahoy!, her books have received starred reviews, been honored as Junior Library Guild Selections, and included on Bank Street College’s Best Books lists. During author visits, she demonstrates how young readers can be the voice of change. Visit her at