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Bookish in the ‘Burgh: What to Write

Fri, Mar 27, 2020

Written by: Bookish in the 'Burgh Authors

Hello, fellow book nerds! We know that you, like all of us, are so disappointed that the 2020 edition of Bookish in the ‘Burgh, Pittsburgh’s Teen Book Festival presented by Riverstone Books was cancelled due to COVID-19. However, the Bookish team has been hard at work to bring you lots of bookish fun at home with the help of our 2020 authors.


Some of our Bookish 2020 authors generously provided writing prompts for all of our Bookish in the ‘Burgh fans who were looking forward to the writing workshops at the festival. Happy Writing!

Natasha Diaz
Author of Color Me In

A big theme in Color Me In is PRIVILEGE and Nevaeh has to learn how to own the privileges she has been afforded as someone who was born white presenting despite the fact that she is biracial. But that isn’t the only privilege she has grown up with (for example: she comes from an affluent family and community, she has unlimited access to food, and she attends a private school). Nevaeh has a hard time speaking up in person, so she expresses herself through poetry as she works through her insecurities, issues, and mistakes in her journal. Take a moment to think about privilege (either privileges that you possess yourself OR privileges you see people around you living with, unacknowledged) and write a poem inspired by it!

Bonus: Check out some of Natasha’s YA book recommendations, including Monday’s Not Coming, Allegedly, and Let Me Hear a Rhyme, all by Tiffany D. Jackson, Opposite of Always by justin. a. Reynolds, Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Heather Demetrios
Author of Little Universes, Bad Romance, I’ll Meet You There, and others

Write a scene — or the first chapter of your new book — about a character with a problem who has to solve it (or die trying!) by the end of the scene. Any problem will do. This is how I got my first fantasy book deal. I had this exact writing prompt in a class and I wrote about the first thing that came to mind: a jinni who could not get out of her bottle. Exquisite Captive was born. For my new book, Little Universes, I had this problem: One of my teen protagonists is addicted to pills. She has to find a way to quit them, or they will end her.

Kit Frick
Author of I Killed Zoe Spanos, All Eyes on Us, See All the Stars, and others

If, like me, you're feeling distracted right now but want to be writing, I'd recommend stepping away from your WIP [work-in-progress] and enjoying another form of creative storytelling for a bit. True crime podcasts are my go-to, but it could be a TV episode, chapter of a book, themed Spotify playlist, etc. Then take a few minutes to write down what you loved about what you just experienced. When you return to your WIP, go back ready to take a bit of what was exciting to you about that other form of storytelling and write forward with that new energy as a guide.

Siobhan Vivian
Author of We Are the Wildcats, Stay Sweet, The List

Imagine that your main character's family has picked up and moved and it’s their first day at a new high school. They're excited they’ve been given a chance to reinvent themselves. They’ve put time and care and thought into their outfit, wanting to make a good impression, and for a little while they do. But the first time they unzip their book bag (either in class or at your locker) some old item from their past falls out and everyone sees it.

Michelle Ruiz Keil
Author of All of Us with Wings

One of my personal obsessions is fairytale and myth. I'm endlessly fascinated by the way traditional tales can be excavated for deep truths that add depth and richness to modern stories. My favorite online resource is from the University of Pittsburgh. You can find all the original texts of Grimm's fairytales plus other collections of folk tales from around the world. A warning — these tales are not quite the ones you recognize from Disney movies!

Try reading the original version of a familiar tale and using it as a writing prompt for a new piece. Print the story out if you can or take notes about bits that strike you — anything odd, beautiful, familiar, different, surprising, or disturbing. Read the whole thing one more time. Then, properly steeped in the tale, write!

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Looking for even more ways to connect with Bookish in the ‘Burgh? Check out these great interviews, resources and more!

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