Guest Post: How Knowledge in the Field of Psychology Can Improve Your Writing

How Knowledge in the Field of Psychology Can Improve Your Writing


Credit: Pexels

Writers come from various backgrounds, heavily influencing their styles and techniques. However, the goal of writing remains the same: to connect to an audience. It requires more than just literary proficiency to achieve this; writers also need to have empathy and an understanding of people’s psychological states and motivations. This is especially true when reaching out to today’s audiences who are more in tune with their mental health and its implications.

While having a psychological background is not required to be an effective writer, there are many ways that the field of psychology can elevate your writing:

It can make you a better researcher

Plenty of research is required for writing, whether you’re composing a short story or a blog piece for your website. Psychologists often identify gaps in current research and review similar studies, which can be compared to how writers draw new insights from existing articles or stories to create something new. A review conducted by North-West University discusses various methods of conducting research heavily utilized in psychology. These can teach writers how to better conduct in-depth research and investigations on any given topic or issue. Whether you’re making observations or surveying others for information, knowing how to do it systematically can help you become a more effective writer.

It teaches you about interpersonal relationships

Human development is a complex branch of psychology that deals with social interactions and their effects on thoughts and behaviors. Psychology experts emphasize the huge impact of human, social, and cognitive growth on interpersonal and group relationships. As a SymptomFind write-up on empathy explains, writers can use this knowledge to better demonstrate emotions and their impact on people. As you grasp how characters might feel depending on their development and background, you can learn how to empathize with them as an author or writer. By looking at these relationships within the right context, writers can better produce work that captures aspects of behavior and the human experience. The result is more informed writing that resonates with its intended audience and achieves the desired objective, whether it’s to move, inform, persuade, or otherwise.

It can help you conduct better interviews

Occasionally, part of your research might involve having to conduct one-on-one interviews to collect data for your pieces. These are commonly utilized in psychology as well. It can be as easy as asking carefully chosen questions, but it is also important to have a clear objective so you can get the best responses possible. This will make your writing all the more effective if the interview is part of your process.

It’s best to first assess where the gaps in your knowledge are after reviewing the necessary literature, especially for nonfiction writers. That way, you can frame your questions to encourage responses that will fill those gaps at a more in-depth level. You can then gain more insight and meaning by creating additional questions that can lead to other ideas and points of discussion related to the topic. This can give your writing depth and nuance, which can make your story, article, or blog post all the more informed and effective. Author Nancy Castaldo’s books, for instance, show how effective research and analytical thinking can make a difference in good literature. Employing these skills post-interview can help you draw better conclusions and produce more effective pieces.

Submitted by Heaven Martel

Heaven Martel is a blogger with a passion for writing. She likes to explore the creative process behind writers and hopes her articles give her readers tips on how to be better writers themselves. In her free time, she loves to hike and read.

Want to Create a Storytime-Centric Book?

Today, Nerdy Book Club hosts children’s book author/illustrator Abi Cushman with Ten Ways to Make Storytime Interactive. The post is a great resource for librarians, educators, and caregivers. But let’s give it another look from a creator’s POV. Abi has also identified 10 strategies creators can implement to pull listeners into a story and increase active engagement. Here they are:

  1. Create a guessing game theme
  2. Add movement words
  3. Make it a sing-along
  4. Use repeated lines
  5. Drop in sound effects/onomatopoeia (I use this technique in STRETCH TO THE SUN: FROM A TINY SPROUT TO THE TALLEST TREE ON EARTH, and it really works to increase listener engagement!)
  6. Give a structure that students can mirror
  7. Provide a drawing prompt
  8. Create a storyline that begs questioning during the reading
  9. Be sure the whole book is interesting, not just the main content. Writers, make that backmatter carry its weight! Illustrators, how can endpapers and the case cover contribute to engagement?
  10. Be theatric — can you make your text work for a Readers Theater experience?

What can you add to this list? Share below!

In addition, Abi offers two or three mentor texts for each type of engagement, so you can compare and contrast them with your concept.

Pop on over to Nerdy Book Club to read Abi’s original post and much, much more. Then get crackin’ on that engagement! Let me know how it goes.

what are Hooks? and why does every manuscript need them?

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​If you are struggling to describe your manuscript from a marketing perspective, check out this example.

Bookshop’s description (shown below) of The Elephants Come Home: A True Story of Seven Elephants, Two People, and One Extraordinary Friendship (by Kim Tomsic, Hadley Hooper, and Chronicle Books) highlights all the elements that will help sell this book.

These kinds of selling points, or hooks, are important for creators to identify and articulate in queries, cover letters, and discussions about our manuscripts.

Hooks are what a creator or agent will use to snag the right editor, what that editor will use to pitch to the acquisition team, what the acquisition team will pitch or provide to the sales/marketing team, and finally what booksellers will use to sell the book.

Of course, there will be revisions to the hooks along the way but if we can identify them early in the process, we will clearly position the manuscript and help the gatekeepers see where and why it will sell.

Extra credit: see if you can create at least FIVE hooks for your WIP. The example book is nonfiction but the same thinking applies to fiction. From Bookshop’s webpage for The Elephants Come Home with [my additions]:

Description: The amazing true story of a herd of elephants, the man who saved them, and the miracle of love that brought them home.
One day in 1999, Lawrence Anthony and Françoise Malby hear that a herd of wild African elephants needs a new home. They welcome the elephants to their wildlife sanctuary–Thula Thula–with open arms. But the elephants are much less sure they want to stay. How will Lawrence prove to them that they are safe and loved? What follows is a gorgeously illustrated real-life story of a friendship . . . and the story of the miraculous way that love given freely will return–greater and more wonderful than it began.

[HOOK ONE!] TOUCHING ANIMAL FRIENDSHIPS: Owen and Mzee, Tarra and Bella, Rescue and Jessica . . . touching true stories of the emotional bonds possible between species are charming, and speak to the limitlessness of love.

[HOOK TWO!] ELEPHANT APPEAL: Elephants are one of the most fascinating and charming wild animals in all of nature. This heartwarming true story will intrigue and inspire children, and turn even the most reluctant readers into elephant enthusiasts.

[HOOK THREE!] CONSERVATION THEME: This book tells the true story of caring for one of the world’s most beloved endangered animals: the African elephant. This book is a great, upbeat jumping-off point for discussions of the importance of preserving endangered species and their environments.

[HOOK FOUR!] ENGAGING NONFICTION: There’s no better way to get readers hooked on factual books than to offer them real-life stories with heart and meaning.

[HOOK FIVE!] STRONG CURRICULUM CONNECTIONS: The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) emphasize learning about animal habitats/biomes in K-2 curriculums, while later grades address topics like conservation and endangered species. With a depth of research and an engaging, highly visual narrative, this book is an excellent resource for librarians and primary school educators.

Perfect for:
– Kindergarten and elementary school teachers
– Parents and grandparents
– Librarians
– Lovers of animals, wildlife, and the natural world
– Zoo and natural history museumgoers

[THESE AREN’T HOOKS BUT ARE AUDIENCES FOR THIS BOOK. CAN YOU NAME THE AUDIENCES FOR YOUR MANUSCRIPT? ESPECIALLY THOSE NICHE AUDIENCES LIKE THE LAST TWO ON THE LIST ABOVE]

Hope this helps demystify hooks and gets you fired up to find yours!

It’s been a minute

Hi friends.

Since we’ve last connected here, we elected and installed a new president — despite unparalleled challenges to our democracy. Scientists created a vaccine with unprecedented efficacy to combat a deadly virus and deployment of that vaccine has begun.

And sadly, my sweet father passed away due to an unrelated disease.

Sometimes it seems we are battered from all sides and we wonder if we can keep moving forward. But I’m here to reaffirm the answer is YES. We can and we shall.

I’ve recommitted to my purpose of creating and sharing good books for children and to supporting creators and educators on their journeys.

​To help, I now own a spiffy new No Limits Planner created by two female entrepreneurs who I supported through Kickstarter. Highly recommend.

For me, recalibration often leads to recommitment. Are you with me? What have you recommitted to? Take a minute to jot it on a sticky note and put it where you’ll see it often. And share it below. I’d love to cheer you on.

2021 is here for all of us. Let’s see what we can do.​

how to create a Bitmoji workspace

Many teachers are creating a Bitmoji classroom or banner to welcome students into their virtual learning environment. I thought it would be fun to create one for my office. I’m hoping this will show some solidarity to teachers who are facing monumental challenges and be a fun opener for children to see when we start a school visit. I’ve shown it on my school visit page on my website, too.

Here are some basic directions. 
1. Open a blank google or PowerPoint slide. I used Google.
2. Create your background — you can download ‘labeled for reuse’ images of flooring, carpet, rugs, flowers, etc. or use pictures of your own space. I’ve done both. 
3. You’ll need to remove backgrounds from some images. I used https://www.remove.bg/
4. Create your emoji. To get your Bitmoji in Google Slides, download the Bitmoji Chrome extension. Then, click the Bitmoji icon on your browser bar, select the Bitmoji you want, and drag and drop it onto the slide. To get your Bitmoji in PowerPoint, click on the Chrome extension icon, right-click on the Bitmoji you want, and save it as an image — then you can insert that image into your PowerPoint slide. Very cool! To capture an emoji that is just your body, type ‘pose’ into the emoji search bar. 
5. Add elements that represent you in your space. Make it personal and fun! I added a link to my school visit page on my website, too.

I’d love to see your Bitmoji work spaces! Please share!

New book news: real princesses picture book

I’m so excited to share the news of this upcoming picture book that I am authoring. Expected to launch in late 2022, the book is an anthology of princesses living in our current times who are accomplishing surprising and important things. They are deploying their positions and communities to make new laws, help the environment, further women’s causes, change the status of women in their countries, advocate for children, engineer solutions for systemic problems and much, much more.

The book has been a journey — they all are, in my experience — and I will share more about this in coming weeks.

Today, let’s be excited that before long 14 new role models will be available for children to emulate and the princess narrative will be turned on its crown.

“our ability to fully participate as citizens is tied to literacy” by donalyn miller (repost)

Democracy is on all of our minds. And well it should be; this is a pivotal year for our country and our people.

Educator and author Donalyn Miller presents the case that because literacy is so important, it has been and is currently used as a weapon of discrimination and a strategy to maintain power.

Creators, our books for children are the perfect instruments to combat this.

I invite you to read Donalyn’s essay in SLJ and reflect on the ways your efforts and projects are positively impacting literacy development in children.

She offers a list of books as resources for educators. I’ve added a Michigan SCBWI member’s book, Equality’s Call authored by Deborah Diesen (yes, that Deborah Diesen author of the NYTimes bestselling Pout-Pout Fish series). Do you have books to add? Put them in the comments and I’ll expand the list.

Literacy = the ability to participate in democracy. That’s big, folks.

Books About Voting, Elections, and US Government

  • Drawing the Vote: An Illustrated Guide to Voting in America by Tommy Jenkins, illustrated by Kati Lacker (Abrams ComicArts)
  • Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel by Cynthia and Sanford Levinson, illustrated by Ally Shwed (First Second, September 2020)
  • Finish the Fight!: The Brave and Revolutionary Women Who Fought for the Right to Vote by Veronica Chambers and the Staff of the New York Times (Versify, August 2020)
  • History Smashers!: Women’s Right to Vote by Kate Messner, illustrated by Dylan Meconis (Random House, July 2020)
  • How Women Won the Right to Vote: Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Their Big Idea by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, illustrated by Ziyue Chen (HarperCollins)
  • I Voted! Making a Choice Means Making a Difference by Mark Shulman, illustrated by Serge Bloch (Neal Porter Books)
  • Lifting As We Climb: Black Women’s Battle for the Ballot Box by Evette Dionne (Viking Books for Young Readers)
  • One Person, No Vote: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally (YA Edition) by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden (Bloomsbury YA)
  • Sbe Was the First! The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm by Katheryn Russell-Brown, illustrated by Eric Velasquez (Lee & Low, August 2020)
  • Stolen Justice: The Struggle for African-American Voting Rights by Lawrence Goldstone (Scholastic)
  • The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (Disney-Hyperion, July 2020)
  • V Is for Voting by Kate Farrell, illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald (Henry Holt & Co., July 2020)
  • Vote for Our Future! (Schwartz & Wade) ​
  • Added by Carrie:
    Equality’s Call: The Story of Voting Rights in America By Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora (Beach Lane Books, February 18, 2020)

Are you revising? The answer should almost always be yes.

As a creator, are you surprised how much time you spend revising?

I am.

In fact, its one piece of being a full-time author that has surprised me the most. Oh, I knew I would be drafting and redrafting, but I didn’t imagine how many times each manuscript would need revising before I could send it to my crit groups, then again before sending to my agent, then before she could send it out on submission, then again before an editor could take it to acquisition, then AGAIN before it would be a real live book on a shelf.

This short post called HOW TO BLEND STORY FEEDBACK INTO YOUR MANUSCRIPT by editor, then agent, now freelance editor, Mary Kole is a super helpful slice of the revision process. While she’s mostly talking about novel revision, it also works for picture books. And since I’m in the stage of revising after my agent has reviewed and before it goes on submission, I’m actively trying Mary’s approach.

I especially like that she distinguishes between an edit and a revision but you’ll have to read the post to learn why that’s important. #cliffhanger

What stage of revision are you in right this very minute? Do tell. And then get back to it.

10 ways to adjust course during a pandemic and still keep sailing

Yesterday, I posted this visual on my author Instagram feed.

[Feel free to check it out but come right back!]

It speaks to the need we all have to try to maintain a sense of control in difficult times.

I imagine most of us have had to adjust our courses because our pre-pandemic methods and strategies don’t seem to be working right now.

For instance, normally, I’m a half-full person and wake with an excitement for whatever project I’m invested in. Now, I wake with my typical excitement but the feeling is quickly tempered by the realization that yes, we are still in the midst of a huge, unknown, scary storm and we can’t see the back edge of it.

Instead of feeling half-full and positive, I feel impending dread. But DREAD IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO HAPPINESS! DREAD IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO PRODUCTIVITY! DREAD IS NOT CONDUCIVE TO BEING ABLE TO SUPPORT OTHERS!

So, I allow myself the feeling and then picture it as a fluffy white swan feather floating away on the breeze — a spring breeze that is ruffling new leaves outside my window. I see the feather-feeling and then I gently ask it to get the fork out of my house. Sorry if that’s offensive but being real is one of my adjustment strategies. Here are ten more. I hope something here helps you.


Carrie’s Ten Ways to Adjust Course and Still Keep Sailing

10. Two cups of caffeine a day is A-okay. Normally one does it for me but I find myself wanting another and I’m saying yes for now. The corollary to #10 is…

9. Two glasses of cold Chardonnay a day is A-okay. Normally one does it for me but I find myself wanting another and I’m saying yes for now.

8. Spend more outside time. Nature heals; it’s a scientific fact and I feel it. My afternoon outside time is now two or three hours — or more if it is a decent weather day.

7. Set smaller daily goals so I can literally cross more off my list. Those cross-offs are my brain’s whacked way of feeling productive so I’m giving it more opportunities to feel good about itself because why not? Pardon me while I cross off “have second cup of coffee.”

6. Stop what I’m doing and watch the neighbors as they go by. Really look at them. Try to imagine some extra contentment and happy feelings raining down on them like glittery confetti that doesn’t hurt the environment. Normally I’ll see two or three people in a work day. Now, many are walking, biking, running, strollering…it’s great for them and also great for voyeur-clean confetti-tossing me.

5, Take a break and pretend to be my dog. She’s happy most of the time and when I see her tail wag just because she looked at me, I remember that simple things like love for the person who feeds you really do matter.

4. Take deep breaths in and release them a few times while working. Shallow breaths increase feelings of anxiety. Fresh air fuels the brain.

3. Call people who have less ability to connect. Many older folks are scared in a different way, often live alone, and may not have as much technology available for connection. Just pick up the phone and call them. Make their day and feel good about it.

2. Recognize that I still need to create because that’s my jam. Think of this time like creating potential energy. We are skiing/walking/running/biking uphill, creating potential energy with the knowledge that we will release that energy on the downhill. When it is extra hard, use headphones and turn on music that is meaningful and is a signal to create. For me, it is nature sounds on YouTube.

1. Give grace. Toss it around freely to those who may not act like you want or say things you’d rather not hear. I seem to be giving a lot of grace to myself. Oops.

​Please add your own adjustments in the comments. I’d love to hear how you are managing. 

And remember when I said we are still in the midst of a huge, unknown, scary storm and we can’t see the back edge of it? I should have added the word “yet” to the end of the sentence. Although “yet” is a tiny word, it portends a big bright future.

​Take care of yourself.

What’s your reading identity?

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This Nerdy Book Club blog post, The Power of Listening, by staff development expert Clare Landrigan stopped me in my reading tracks. More accurately, the third to last line is what did it — “Our conversations with them [students] are what spark the love of reading and help them develop a reading identity.”

Say what? A reading identity? Merriam-Webster says a personal identity is “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual.” So a reading identity could be defined as the distinguishing character or personality of a person’s choice in reading material.

This set off a flurry of inquiry in my brain. What is my reading identity? It must change over time, right? Today, I’d describe mine as 1) heavily nonfiction and 2) focused on children’s literature. This is very different from my early mom years which would be best described as 1) cereal boxes and 2) children’s literature. (Hmm. Maybe there’s a correlation there?) Right now, my 6 year old nephew’s reading identity is 1) How To books and 2) Magic Treehouse.

What is your reading identity? How has it changed? Would you like to make a shift in it?
If you are an educator, can you zero in on each of your students’ reading identities? Can you help them describe and develop their own?

If you are an author or illustrator, how does your identity (reading and personal) inform your work? Your voice? Your choice of next project? The way you share your books?

Lots of questions with no right answers. Just a bit of introspection on a beautiful winter day.