writing Posts

How to Broaden Your Child’s Vocabulary This Summer

Fun-legos-bright5 Fun Activities That Put the Focus on Words

During the summer, when school is out of session, your child’s word choice may dwindle down to a few common phrases: “It’s hot!” “I’m bored!” “Mom, [insert request or complaint here]!”

By the time summer comes to an end, you may even wonder if all those hours your child spent studying spelling and vocabulary words during the school year were even worth it. It’s as though a leak was sprung in your child’s head and the first thing to go was language!

Well, have no fear! There are plenty of activities you can do with your child this summer so they can continue to learn new words in fun, engaging ways (and, in some cases, without being hot!).

Below are five games or activities to plug up that “summer brain leak” and keep that knowledge flowing in!

Kid-Spying-Telescope1. Super SpyDay!

You will need:

  • A notebook
  • A writing utensil
  • Sticky notes
  • A top-secret prize
  • A costume for your child to wear as a “super spy disguise” (optional)


  • Before the mission begins, select a word of the day.
  • Hide sticky notes with this chosen word written on them throughout the house.
  • Give your child their mission: to find as many instances of the word of the day as possible, recording their findings in their notebook. Before they head out on their mission, be sure to explain to your child what the word means and how to spell it. As your child is searching for the word throughout the day, encourage them to learn how to use it in a sentence as well.
  • Ask your child to record in their notebook each time they come across the word. Have them
    • Search throughout the house for the sticky notes
    • Look for the word in books, reading out loud the sentence in which the word is used
    • Listen for the word being said on TV (you can skip this suggestion if you are limiting summer screen time).
    • Ask others what they think the word means
  • At the end of the day, have your child return their notebook full of research in exchange for whatever prize or reward you have chosen.

Child-Drawing-Crayons2. For the Artist

You will need:

  • Paper
  • Drawing utensils


  • Have your child write out a list of five to ten vocabulary words on separate sheets of paper.
  • Encourage them to decorate each sheet with images of whatever the word is. If the vocabulary word is not a drawable object, they can draw out how it makes them feel instead.
  • If you want this activity to help expel some energy, spread the sheets of paper out and have your child run or jump from one word to the next as you call out the word or definition.

Water-Balloon3. Water Balloon Smash & Splash [Source: https://www.mybigfathappylife.com/water-balloon-fight-with-sight-words-and-cvc-words/]

You will need:

  • Water balloons
  • Chalk


  • Write out the words your child has been learning on the sidewalk or driveway, being sure to leave some space between the words.
  • Call out a word, then have your child throw a balloon at the corresponding word.
  • For an extra challenge, have them use the word in a sentence before they throw the balloon, or give them a definition and have them throw the balloon at the word that you are describing.

Child-in-sandbox4. Sandbox Diggin’ and Matching

You will need:

  • A sandbox
  • A sand shovel
  • Vocabulary words and definitions, written out on little pieces of paper and covered in clear tape


  • Bury the slips of paper with each word or definition throughout the sandbox.
  • Hand your kid a shovel and let them have at it! After your child unearths all the words and definitions, ask them to match each word to its definition.
  • For an added challenge, as your child finds words, have them use the word in a sentence. As they discover definitions, have them guess the word that corresponds to that definition.

5. Letter Writing

For your ten-to-fourteen-year-old reader, Just Sayin’  by Dandi Daley Mackall is the perfect way to grow their vocabulary. Told through letters, Just Sayin tells the story of an almost-blended family that experiences a breakup between the mother and father before the wedding. The kids attempt to get the family back together and get caught up in a game show that focuses on “the art of insult.” As only Dandi can accomplish, this story weaves together, in a contemporary way, an old-time game show, letter writing, outstanding vocabulary, and reminders from God’s Word that taming our tongues is both difficult and important!Just-Sayin-Dandi

After your child finishes reading the book, they can practice using new words they have learned by writing letters to friends or family on this free, printable Just Sayin’ stationeryJust Sayin'- Stationery


Did you try one of these activities? We’d love to see you and your kids in action! Use the hashtag #TyndaleKids on social media to share the fun with us.

Tyndale Fiction’s Thoughts On: Compelling Characters in Fiction


Hey, readers! Today on the blog I wanted to share a fascinating article I stumbled upon recently on Writer’s Digest.

The article goes through the four distinct progressions that make for compelling, motivated characters and thus lead to great, intriguing fiction. Below, each member of our fiction acquisitions team has picked a recently read novel and dissected it by the article’s guidelines.

If you would, take a moment to read the article and let us know which of the four tropes your favorite fictional character falls under. It’s fun to take a closer look at fiction and truly see why the book is so gripping! Hope you enjoy.


Penny Carson in Wings of Glass (Gina Holmes’s new release) is an interesting case study. If you look at Penny over the arc of the story, she is constantly growing and changing . . . both in how she behaves and in what she wants. She wants a Prince Charming, she wants to be independent and free of her parents, she wants to have a storybook marriage, she wants Trent to love her and stop being angry and abusive, she wants Trent to be faithful, she wants to have a baby because that will change everything, and she bends her personality to try and make all of this so. When I first read this story, I often found Penny frustrating. I couldn’t understand how she didn’t want more for herself than her demeaning husband, Trent. And when Penny becomes part of the triangle between Trent and her friends Fatimah and Callie Mae, the story really starts to cook! Penny is going to change in radical ways. And just as the writer of the article shows, the plot events provoke genuine change. In the case of Penny, the fear is that she won’t change in the right direction, that she won’t embrace the truth spoken by her friends. And short of the ultimate change agent—her child—I’m not so sure she would have changed. A great main character is impacted by great secondary characters. As the writer of the article said, this is a complex fiction pattern. For readers who need stories to move in a predictable straight line, this story may be just too smart for them. Okay, I’ve thrown down the gauntlet. Read Wings of Glass!


At an author’s suggestion, I recently read A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick. I don’t know that it’s one of my favorite novels, but the story continues to haunt me. The woman in the story, Catherine Land, changes her personality and her motivation by the end of the book. She’s devious and motivated by greed as she answers an ad for a mail-order bride. She pretends to be “a reliable wife” as she slowly poisons her new husband with small doses of arsenic. But as the story progresses, she begins to care for her husband and realizes she can’t carry through with her plan. It’s a dark story, but beautifully written.


Susan May Warren is one of my favorite romance writers, and in Take a Chance on Me (a Christiansen Family novel) she blends romance with a family drama. If you’re familiar with TV shows like Parenthood or Gilmore Girls, or with Karen Kingsbury’s Baxter Family Drama books, you’ll have a good feel for what this series is like. Ivy Madison—the heroine in the first book—is a character with what Nancy Kress would call a “changing personality, static motivation.” Ivy grew up a child of the foster care system. Always moving from one place to the next, she never really knew the feeling of home. That’s what she’s looking for when she moves to Deep Haven. The new assistant district attorney, she wants to put down roots, to stay in one place, to know people and have them know her back. But because of the pain in her past, she’s afraid to get too close to anyone. You can’t get hurt if you don’t care. That belief works until she meets and falls in love with Darek Christiansen, a widow with the kind of family she’d always dreamed of—parents who are supportive, brothers and sisters who are as much like friends as they are siblings. Of course, there’s a secret that could tear Ivy and Darek apart—not to mention a wildfire that is headed straight for the resort Darek’s family owns. When everything is on the line, Ivy must decide if she’ll cut and run like usual or if she’ll stay and fight for Darek and the chance to be a part of the family she’s always wanted. See what she decides in Take a Chance on Me! (and don’t miss out on Susan May Warren’s amazing Minnesota themed giveaway! Ends 4/30).


I love books with multiple key characters, especially when their stories overlap in the true fashion of this small world we live in. The stories of Grace Shepherd, Zach Craig, and Scarlett Jo Newberry collide on the streets of small-town Franklin, Tennessee, in Denise Hildreth Jones’s Secrets over Sweet Tea. Though the story tracks the lives of these three separate and distinct characters, each one follows the “changing personality, static motivation” character progression. Each character struggles along the way, but in the end, it is these struggles that shape them and help guide them; they are motivated by their desire to be happy and in tune with God’s path for their lives. From the first chapter to the last, I felt drawn to the interwoven tale of these complex individuals. They make several missteps along the way, such as divorce and infidelity, and uncover an array of secrets from the past. But in the end, each character starts to grow into the man or woman God designed them to be.


Hope you enjoyed our thoughts on the four ways to motivate characters. We would love to read yours in the comments! Happy Friday, all!

Q&A with Pam Hillman

Today on the blog we welcome author Pam Hillman. Pam Hillman writes praire romances with heart and description that will leave you lost in another time. After publishing her first e-book Stealing Jake with Tyndale summer 2011, Pam’s story-telling skills are back with her upcoming Winter 2013  e-book Claiming Mariah.

Click image to go to product page


Tell me a little about yourself.

I was born and raised on a dairy farm in Mississippi and spent my teenage years perched on the seat of a tractor raking hay. In those days, Daddy couldn’t afford two cab tractors with air conditioning and a radio, so I drove the Allis Chalmers 110. Even when Daddy asked me if I wanted to bale hay, I told him I didn’t mind raking. Raking hay doesn’t take much thought so I spent my time working on my tan and making up stories in my head. Now, that’s the kind of life every girl should dream of!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Imagine me as a first grader falling in love with story. Picture a grandmotherly teacher named Mrs. Smith putting her charges in a circle in tiny wooden chairs and transporting us to another world during story time. Add in weekly visits to the undersized, under-stocked library tucked behind the hardware store in our small town. From the moment it clicked that ordinary people strung ordinary words together on paper to create anything but ordinary tales, I wanted to be one of those people.

If you could be any character in fiction, whom would you be / Why?

How about a composite? Hadassah, A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers; Mattie Ross from True Grit; Ruby Thewes, Cold Mountain. All of these women are resourceful, strong, and independent. Women who show some grit and get the job done regardless of their circumstances.

While I admire these fictional women, I’m not sure I would want to be one of them.

If you could be any literary character of YOURS, who would it be/ Why?

The street kid named Luke in Stealing Jake. One reader said that Luke’s story was interwoven so much with Jake & Livy’s story that she couldn’t imagine one without the other. Even though delving into Luke’s story wasn’t part of the original draft, he kept niggling at my brain, and once I added the thread in his point-of-view, the story felt complete. Luke is just a kid, but he risks his life to search for his little brother, and becomes a father figure of sorts to the other street kids. Given the same circumstances, I would hope to be half as brave, caring, and compassionate as Luke.

Describe your novel in seven words or less.

Love turns a quest for revenge into redemption.

Do you have a favorite character in your current book? Tell us a little about him/her.

I enjoyed getting to know Mariah’s grandmother. Grandma Malone doesn’t dance around particulars or stand on ceremony. This line sums Grandma Malone up to a tee. She gave him with that peculiar look of hers that said she was old enough to say what she wanted and get away with it.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Without giving away too much of the story, I wrestled with Red Harper. What kind of man was he? What were his redeeming qualities? What were his faults? How did he get to where he was in his life? People find themselves in tough situations all the time with no way out just like Red did.

What got you into writing?

I was born to write. From as far back as I can remember, I made up stories in my head. When I learned to read, it simply amazed me that people could create a story out of the pictures (in color, no less) in their heads, and I wanted to be able to do that. For a long time, I didn’t attempt it. But in my late twenties, I decided I’d better put up, or shut up, and the rest is history. The personal computer had just become available to consumers. I wrote my first stories on an Apple Classic and an Apple MacIntosh LC475. I still have the MacIntosh. As much as I love writing and story-telling, I’m not sure I would have had the fortitude to write long-hand and then have to go through revisions and copy-edits and galleys all long-hand. I’m amazed at the authors who accomplished so much with so little.

What is your favorite genre to read/write? Are they the same?

Historical romance, especially during the great westward expansion. Cowboys, wagon trains, sodbusters just seem to click with me. I’m a country girl, and big city themes have never been my first choice for reading or writing.

What books have influenced your writing most?

I have a dog-eared copy of Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain, and a host of other writing books, but I cut my teeth on the Christian books being published in today’s market. I learn so much about improving my craft from reading books by my peers.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I have a friend who house sits for international clients. That would be an amazing job. She’s been to Greece, Turkey, Mexico, Italy. Stays for a month or two at a time. Yes, that would be my dream job.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

Sometimes I think the historical romance genre chose me instead of the other way around. I’m a farmer’s daughter by birth, farmer’s wife by choice, and I’ve spent a bit of time on the back of a horse, hauling cows to the stockyard, and driving tractors.

You are a part of Tyndale’s Digital First Program. What drew you to publishing digitally?

When the call went out for submissions to Tyndale’s Digital First Initiative in 2011, I never hesitated. Tyndale has always been my dream publisher as far back as the Heartquest line from a few years ago. My very first query letter was to Karen Ball when she was at Tyndale House.

Digital publishing is the new frontier, and with the potential to offer both digital and print to readers, what’s not to like?

Could you briefly describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)?

Recently, I have had the privilege of devoting more of my time to writing. I am committed to writing three-four hours a day. Deadlines can add several hours to that, but it’s not a daily occurrence.

I write my rough draft on my trusty laptop, flipping back and forth from a Word document to an Excel spreadsheet where I plot the overall points of the story. Of course this document grows and changes as the story unfolds, but I can add, sort, and delete scenes as needed. I’m interested in using one of the programs specifically designed for writers, but just haven’t made the jump from my cavewoman spreadsheets.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Believe in yourself. I tamped down the dream until I was almost thirty years old because the author bios and the glamour shots on the back of the books in the bookstore intimidated me. Who was I to think I could compete with such poise, such sophistication, education, and competence? Surely those authors came from wealth and power. But sometimes that glamour shot might be an illusion, the bio polished a little too brightly.

You, dear writer, are God’s child, a child he’s gifted with the desire to write.

Go forth. Write. Do not squander your gift.

Thanks to Pam for sharing her process with us!
Would you like to learn more about Pam and her writing?
Visit her at her website:
 Take to her on Facebook at:
Or follow her on Twitter

Come here tomorrow to hear more from Pam on her writing process and her motivations behind her upcoming e-book Claiming Mariah.

An Author’s Writing Process- Diana Brandmeyer

A Day in the Life of the Writing Process

Diana Brandmeyer

When I wrote the beginning scene of Mind of Her Own (3 times, maybe 4!), I used some of the feelings from my own life. At the time, my 3 sons were living at home; they usually had friends over on a Friday night, so sometimes I had 9 boys in my house. The noise was tremendous as was the activity and mess that goes with that. I’ll admit it, there were times I wanted to be someone else. I wanted to write in a quiet place where dogs didn’t bark, kids didn’t yell and I didn’t have to cook—ever. And that’s when Jazz Sweet was born. A single writer, living the good life in a costal home in Florida. Of course she’s famous and has a cook, driver, and personal shopper. The problem occurs when she discovers she’s not really Jazz Sweet but Louisa Copeland, married, mom of three, and she doesn’t write.

The office.


I had so much fun writing this book. The researching of retrograde amnesia was fascinating to me. Imagine, waking up and thinking you are someone so different and living your life as that person? Who would you be?

While all the rewrites were fun to write they didn’t happen in a scheduled pattern. No, real life happens all around me, I’m not Jazz Sweet. Often the cats are out of food, laundry needs to be done, or I have errands to run. Being home doesn’t mean I can focus on my writing career. And that is okay. I love that God made me a wife and mom. Even though my sons no longer live with us it seems I’m required for help or a meal occasionally. Love that!

Some days I help my husband with our business. Manual labor often helps me brainstorm possibilities in the book I’m writing. So do long drives to nowhere. Yes, nowhere. We are officially Sunday Drivers, I wonder if there is a club for them? After church my husband likes to drive the back roads of Southern Illinois, and while I’m in the passenger seat my mind is free to roam, invent and wonder who lives/lived in that house with the white rabbit statue? Yes, there is a house with one in the front yard, it’s got to be 7 feet tall and it begs me to tell the story.

Tyndale has asked me to describe my normal writing day. I love this question. One of the great things about being an author is having atypical days–every day. I’m able to stay at home and work on writing, but that hasn’t translated into a 9-5 work day.

My mornings start off with working out—zumba, essentrics or power stretch. Then a phone chat with my mom. She reads me jokes and her laughter makes me laugh. It’s a good way to start my day. Next I read a devotional.

Then my writing day begins. My creative side doesn’t engage until after lunch. I use my mornings to research, comment on social media sites, and reply to e-mails. I watch the clock above my monitor so I don’t spend the entire day on line. Yes, that has happened. I will admit to that.

Then it’s lunch! Yum, gluten free bread and what I can find in the fridge. I have been known to eat at my desk while poking around pinterest.

My best ever time to write is at 3 p.m. That’s when words fly from my fingers and the keyboard sound wakes up Oliver, my cat. Then it’s tussle over who gets to write. Once he is settled, I’m back at work until time to fix dinner.

A helpful critique partner.


And then there are the times when I can’t sleep because I must get more of the story written. I’ve been up from midnight to five in the morning many times.  That happens most often when I’m close to the end. I want to see what’s going to happen!

My first draft I write from the heart with only a small outline of what needs to happen. If I do too much plotting, I feel like I’ve already written the book and it doesn’t get written. I like to be surprised as much as readers do.

Mind of Her Own is special to me. I took a step of faith writing it. I can’t tell you what happens in the book, but if you read it and want to know more, email me and we can chat.


Thanks, Diana, for giving us a window into your Writer’s World!
If you’d like to hear more about Mind of Her Own
or get in touch with Diana, you can visit her website:
Chat with her on Facebook:
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            Join us here next week, Tuesday 12/11 to learn about
Johnnie Alexander Donley, a historical fiction writer whose experience with workshops, writer conferences and contest has led to her upcoming ebook, Where Treasure Hides.