New Publication! Aunty Greenleaf and my Encyclopedia Entry

I love encyclopedias.
encyclopedia screenshot

Last year, ABC-CLO accepted my application to write an entry in their encyclopedia on American Myths. The book is now published.

It is pretty exciting to see my name in the list of contributors in an encyclopedia. I remember as a kid sitting down and turning pages in our encyclopedias learning about topic after alphabetized topic.


Through this experience, I got to do something I love doing. I got to research and learn new things! I learned a lot of new American myths and legends I had never heard before. The story of Kate Shelly saving a train really excited me.

The Legend

The legend I eventually wrote was about Aunty Greenleaf. There isn’t a lot written about her, but her story isn’t really unknown or unusual. Here’s a snippet of the end to whet your curiosity.


You can read more about ABC-CLIO here.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Writing Goals December 2016

Follow along as I attempt to reach my writing goals in December.

Read about my writing goals here.

December 1

1:32pm. I’ve completed a first draft of “I Really Love You and I Mean It,” a dummy of “Digit” and a dummy of “Scientific ABCs.” This checks the boxes for two of my picture book goals – plus an extra picture book. BONUS.

I still need to read and edit my two chapters of “Dare Club” and then revise those chapters in the manuscript. Hopefully I can get that done and still have time to do my run workout.

December 2

Read three chapters to get back on track. Revised manuscript. Considered additional work that needed to be done while running.

December 3

Barely managed to read a chapter, spent the day with kids at a research study.

December 4

7:28pm. I’ve read and edited through Chapter 14. I am behind on revising but will get to work tomorrow morning, possibly tonight if I have time. I did revise the short story “Will Call” and I submitted it and “The Hunter Case” to a ghost story competition hosted by The Fiction Desk. I also submitted “The Spark and Blade” to Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine. It feels good to submit and check those off the to-do list. I’m at soccer right now and have an hour drive home and chores waiting for me, but hopefully I’ll get some time tonight to tackle “Dare Club.”

December 5

5:29pm. This afternoon I revised chapters 11-14. Then the kids came home at 4pm and needed an hour for homework and snacks. To stay on track I needed to read, edit and revise two more chapters. But I also need to make dinner. It took me 30 minutes to read and edit chapters 15 and 16, but they are done. Can I revise them in another 30 minutes and then cook dinner? Let’s see.

6:03pm. Two chapters revised. Ready to start chapter 17 tomorrow, on schedule. 8 chapters to go, at 2 a day I should finish Friday afternoon.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Manuscript Goals


Read. Edit. Revise.

Hello, manuscript. Get ready to work. I have some serious December writing goals. Tomorrow, I will start a new post and update it daily, with notes to myself, in order to be accountable and to reach these goals.

It’s not like I haven’t been writing. I did write in November, I just didn’t do NaNoWriMo. But that’s fine. Honestly, it’s about whether I am writing, not about what or how much. I did NaNo for a few years for confidence and practice and quantity, but I think I need to focus on quality now.

I have three completed novel manuscripts. I’ve submitted one for agent feedback several times, but I’d like to have two others ready to submit. I feel like these two others have good legs when it comes to having strong premises (not just ideas) and interesting, unique characters. They are all middle grade and I feel that’s my sweet spot.

Manuscript #1

So, let’s start with Dare Club.

It has 24 chapters. If I can read, edit and revise 2 chapters a day, that would take me 12 days. I’m already done 5 chapters, so that leaves 19 and I believe I could complete this in 10 days.

Manuscript #2

I don’t have a good title for this manuscript. But the premise is: what happens if a boy who always says the wrong thing finds an iPod that lets him read people’s thoughts?

My pitch is weak. But it’s a start.

“Jace is really good at always saying the wrong thing. When he finds a magical iPod at a flea market, he thinks he has the key to his dreams, starting on the soccer team and getting his first girlfriend. But his life turns into a nightmare when the iPod – and knowing people’s secrets – causes more problems than it solves. Will Jace figure out the real power of the iPod before it’s too late?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in January.

Also, I need a title. Maybe “iSecrets.” No, that’s dumb. Maybe “Open Mouth, Insert Foot.” That’s my working title. Maybe “Shuffle.” Ha.

Outline should take a day, reading and revising 2 chapters a day means at least 2 weeks. And so just this manuscript plus Dare Club takes up all of December.

Manuscript #3

This manuscript also lacks a title. But the premise here is: What happens if the girl who never finishes anything decides she’s going to run a marathon?

The pitch goes something like: “Nobody ever takes twelve-year-old Whitney seriously, mostly because Whitney doesn’t take life seriously. But when Whitney decides to run a marathon, no one believes her. Will Whitney change who she is in the eyes of others or learn who she really is?”

I’d like to 1. write the outline and synopsis. 2. Read, edit and revise. 3. Submit in February.

Also I need a title. I’m thinking “Finisher.” Or “DNF” (that stands for Did Not Finish).

Probably the same timeline as Manuscript 2. Can I do three manuscripts in two months? Maybe if I give myself a clear accomplishment goal like “two chapters a day.” That feels defined and manageable.

Short Story Manuscripts

I also need to finish revising “Will Call” and “The Hunter Case” and send them in to the ghost story competition before January 2017.

Picture Book Manuscripts

I want to draft the text for “I Really Love You, Mom, and I Mean It” and bring that to critique group. I also want to craft the dummy for “Digit” and send that on to my selected publisher.

Can I get those short stories and picture books done by February?

Only if I don’t do anything else.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

My Interview with WOW! Women on Writing


flash fiction

Over the summer, my flash fiction story “Sargassum” was chosen as a runner-up in the Spring Flash Fiction Contest hosted by WOW! Women on Writing. In November, the wonderful women who run that site published my email interview. You can read the interview here. It’s pretty exciting, I think, partly because I mention eating mealworms.

Don’t forget to subscribe to their blog and send in your flash fiction!

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Best and Worst Writing Prompts from Fourth Grade 

Fourth grade writing prompts are really useful even for forty year old writers like me!

Do you remember any of your elementary school writing? I’ve been cleaning out my basement storage area recently and I found several old essays and projects that gave me a good chuckle. It’s really sweet to look back on the writing I did as a young person and remember how much pleasure it gave me to tell a story, whether it was fiction or non-fiction.

Two of my boys are in the upper elementary school grades and now they are tackling essays and stories. It’s just as exciting to me to see what they bring home.

My middle son is in fourth grade and he’s working on a narrative writing project. Here’s the description his teacher provided.

Narrative Writing

It’s funny to see it all laid out like that, but even adult writers forget these basic elements sometimes. It never hurts to get these basic reminders.

This assignment was a non-fiction project. The teacher asked the kids to do some brainstorming.

Best Days

First, they brainstormed their best days.

Best Days

As you can see, my fourth grader doesn’t have great handwriting. But he does have good ideas. His possible topics were the day he met Michelle Obama, our trip to Ireland, his birthday, and our family trip to Erie, PA.

Worst Days

Then they brainstormed their worst days.

worst day

His worst days included a trip to the dentist, the day a young visitor messed up some of his LEGOs, a close friend of his switching schools and the day our hermit crabs died. These were some very bitter moments.

Any good story includes some moments of joy and moments of sadness. But my fourth grader feels things very, very deeply and I knew it would be hard for him to write about something very sad. I anticipated he would chose a happy day, and I guessed right. He told me he was writing about the day he met Michelle Obama.

But he surprised me and actually wrote his narrative essay about our trip to Erie and my triathlon. When he brought his rough draft home to share with me, I noticed how his essay contained the element of narrative writing. He described events in chronological order. Our family were the characters. He included little details that showed he noticed how nervous I was. He included setting descriptions. I felt he did a great job and I loved seeing his writing progress.

If you’re looking for journal entry prompts or ideas for a quick blog post, consider doing a piece of narrative writing with a best day/worst day prompt.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Dialect Ideas for Writers

Growing up in Maryland, I never thought I had a local dialect or accent. I also never thought I lived in the south. But when I went to college, I made friends from Long Island (who had NY accents) and they often commented that I had “such a southern accent.”

I didn’t have an accent, I insisted. Although my mom grew up in Baltimore I never said “zinc” for “sink.” My dad was from Cleveland but I never said “pop” for soda. I was neutral. But I was wrong.

I said “Warshington” and I said “y’all” when referring to a group. But no, I did not sound like a Southerner. Talk to people from Virginia and on down!

Now I live in Pittsburgh and I’ve stopped saying “Warshington” but “y’all” slips out once in awhile. I’ve tried to adjust my language to be more neutral all while resisting the influence of local Pittsburghese, especially one that bugs me.


There’s a joke only newcomers to Pittsburgh get. It’s a one liner that says “Or not.” And then the caption is “If Shakespeare was from Pittsburgh.”

Folks in Pittsburgh (often mispronounced as Picksburgh) leave out that “to be” in many phrases. Floors don’t need to be swept, they need swept. Cars don’t need to be fixed, they need fixed.

Many (not all) people born and raised in Pittsburghers by native Pittsburghers leave out “to be” from sentences. It’s part of the regional dialect. It was funny when I first noticed it, but irritating when I realized even teachers did it in school and influenced my kids to do it, too. Check out the note on my child’s homework!

pittsburghese dialect


I wanted to know what role the phrase “to be” plays in sentences and it turns out it’s used in sentences written in the passive voice. That’s not cool. Writers are told over and over not to write in the passive voice! So are Pittsburghers on to something?

Nope. Just deleting “to be” doesn’t make the sentence correct or make it active voice. I think instead, to be in the active voice, the note from the teacher should say “Fix these.”

Now let’s say you’re writing a story or novel based in Pittsburgh. And you really want it to sound authentic. You could use this little feature of Pittsburgh and people in the know would nod their heads in recognition. And if you want to add in more authentic Pittsburgh speech, grab the handy book called “How to Speak Pittsburghese.”

Books that Depend on Dialect

Some books really depend of dialect. The dialect becomes part of the setting. It makes the setting more real and turns characters into real people. Not too long ago I shared two books really where dialect drove the story. Dive into them and when you emerge, you’ll be convinced.

Discover a Local Dialect

But what if you want to write about characters from other places you haven’t visited? How can you find out about local dialects? Here are three ideas:

  1. Ask friends on Facebook or Twitter what the local speech habits are
  2. Check the library or a book store for books about the language in your chosen location
  3. Search the internet!

The internet is so helpful for this kind of thing. I did one search and found two useful results right off the bat.

There’s a huge website dedicated to regional dialects by Rick Aschmann. I can’t comment on how accurate it is, academically, but it’s really interesting to explore. Where I grew up in central Maryland looks like part of the Atlantic Midland. Pittsburgh is also part of the Midland, but listed as a sub-dialect. So cool!

The Washington Post also shared a map of dialects and links to YouTube videos of people sharing their local dialects. I like the idea of the video because you can hear how people say things, not just read them or guess at pronunciations.

So what’s unique to the dialect where you live?

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

NaNoWriMo 2016

It’s been a rough start to November, but I am hopeful I can complete NaNoWriMo 2016.

I’m very distracted right now with the election results. It seems like we need organizations and movements like We Need Diverse Books even more than ever. Our children need to know the world does not belong only to one kind of person. There’s room for everyone in this world, if we just make some room. (Can you name that movie musical reference?)

Several of my creative friends have vowed to continue to create works of art and words for their young audiences. I will make that vow, too. I have some fun stories that don’t involve insults, fear, or hate. And I will complete my bee story by November 30. We need to wake up to the damage we are doing to the environment. And to each other.

Are you doing NaNoWriMo? What’s your story?

Read about Stalkers here.

protagonist nanowrimo

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

New Books at Our Little Free Library

Our Little Free Library is really getting a lot of use! We get thank you notes frequently. I love seeing the books change over, noting which ones have found new homes, finding new ones that I didn’t add to the library appear. I do admit I feel a little bad for some books that never seem to get picked from the library.


First Books

Did you ever write a book when you were a kid? Even a short one? As you can guess, I did. And so did a young writer in our neighborhood. The best part is that this young writer was able to put their book in our Little Free Library! It was incredibly inspiring to find this book by a young author in our library. I pictured how excited this little storyteller was when they placed their book in a real library for others to read. I hope other young writers share their books, too.

first books


Speaking of writing books, it’s November. And you know what that means. Time to write a novel. Earlier in October, I shared some information about NaNoWriMo in the library. Only one person took a tear-off tab, but I’m hopeful that maybe some others visited the website and attempt to write their first (or second?) novel.

nanowire mo

I’m doing NaNoWriMo again this year. I know what kind of work it takes to “win” and write 50,000 words. Maybe in a few years one of my novels will be in a Little Free Library. But it won’t get there if it isn’t written, so it’s time for me to get to work. Let’s write!


About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Play Coin Capture!

Coin Capture

Coin Capture is a fun game that can be played on a rainy day with easy to find household materials. It also gives the players a chance to do some simple math and can be played over and over again. It’s fun for adults and kids to play together.

Ages: 6-adult

Players: 2


Object of the game

Players try to push their coins into their Score Zone. Players earn points based on the value of the coins from their team that land in their Score Zone. The player with the most points wins!


A white board

A ruler

2 different color erasable markers

8 coins (2 quarters, 2 dimes, 2 nickels and 2 pennies)

Game Setup

Use a ruler to find the middle of the white board. Draw a two lines, one of each color, down the middle of the board. coin capture game


Use the ruler again to divide the two halves of the board into equal sized zones. Mark off the Score Zone and Push Zone for each color.

coin capture game



Each player gets four coins, 1 quarter, 1 dime, 1 nickel and 1 penny.

One player uses heads, one player uses tails.coin capture game

Flip a coin to decide your color and Score Zone. 

Start in your Push Zone and try to push your coins into your Score Zone.

Don’t take coins off the board until the game is over! They will get bumped and pushed around into different zones. 

Coins on the middle line don’t count for points but can be pushed into a Score Zone. 

If your coin stops in the other player’s Push Zone, they get to capture it, flip it to their team, and use it.



A penny is 1 point, a nickel is 5 points, a dime is 10 points and a quarter is 25 points!

coin capture game

Winning the Game

When all of the coins have been pushed add up the amount of your coins (heads or tails) in your Score Zone and see who wins.

About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.

Let’s Close the Word Gap

Ready to learn about the Word Gap?

I love to sneak learning into all parts of life. I’m a curious person, I can’t help it! My son asked if we could go on one vacation without learning things, and I answered with a maniacal laugh and a deep, sonorous NO. In this family, we love to learn!! And we talk about what we learn!!

Seriously, learning does not have to be boring. Learning can be fun if you do it the right way. And the right way is to make it into a game.

On car trips, when our kids were very little, we played rhyming games. They are all now school age so we will often play ‘Spelling Bee’ and give our kids funny words to spell at their grade level. We also keep a small but mighty trivia book tucked in a seat pocket and take turns passing it around and answering questions.

But let’s say you’re not on vacation and want some fun learning games for young kids. My first recommendation is BINGO. Yes, the classic game of Bingo is perfect to start playing with young kids (and older kids).


Learning Numbers

When my oldest started kindergarten, I couldn’t wait to volunteer and help out. So as we neared Halloween, his wonderfully patient and experienced teacher invited me in to play a game with the class. I brought in our Bingo game set, complete with rolling ball and playing cards and red plastic markers. I started calling out letters and numbers and my son (and maybe a few other students) marked their cards. But most of the kids didn’t know what I meant when I called out double-digit numbers.

I felt embarrassed, but I also knew these kids could learn these numbers and that a game like Bingo was the perfect way to help them. We had been playing Bingo with our kids for a long time. If I hadn’t been so flustered, I could have written the numbers on the board and helping the kids look at their cards and match them up. I also could have done peer teaching and paired kids up.

Learning Words

It’s really important that kids learn their numbers, but it’s also important that they master our language and learn the parts of speech. Having a strong and varied vocabulary increases our ability to explain ourselves and understand others, to express complex thoughts and build connections between concepts and create new ideas. And that’s where Mad Libs comes in.


Yes, Mad Libs. That old school paper book (not an e-device) that asks players to write in verbs, adjectives and nouns. The one where you couldn’t resist writing “butt” and “poop” at least a few times. It works.

My friend took a Mad Libs story into her son’s fourth grade class as a part of a holiday party and she was surprised how few kids could provide suggestions for the parts of speech. Standards in third grade already covered adjectives, adverbs and proper nouns! By fourth grade, students should be able to provide appropriate suggestions for those parts of speech. But even if they struggle, Mad Libs is a fun, non-academic way to encourage them to think about what kind of word is both grammatically logical but also hilariously out of place.

The Word Gap

Thinking about Mad Libs brings me back to the Word Gap. Simply put, kids from low income families are hearing and learning fewer words than kids from high income families. By age 3, kids from low income families are hearing 30 million fewer words. 30 million. And the discrepancy only increases as the kids age. It impacts these kids in terms of school success, which in turn impacts their chances of continuing education, job readiness, and the cycle of poverty.

A lack of words? It’s totally unfair.

It seems so bitterly unjust to me, someone who loves to talk and learn, that these children are already behind due to a lack of words. I try never to talk ‘down’ to children (or adults). But lots of people aren’t aware of this and say they aren’t sure what to say to kids. And sometimes when I take my children’s writing to more general critique groups, I get comments that my vocabulary is too high and I need to ‘dumb it down’ or ‘make it more kid friendly.’

But now you and I know being kid friendly means offering them more words, not less.

There are some amazing ideas out there. People are working to increase the number of words kids see, hear, read, learn and say. I’d love to contribute in some way to reduce the Word Gap. I’m going to keep thinking about it and I’m going to ask my kids what they think would work.

How would you reduce the Word Gap?


About Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan

Writer, Author, Social Media Coach, Reader, Runner, Triathlete, Wife, Mother.