Saturday, April 9, 2011

Guest Blogger Stephanie Morrill~Go Teen Writers

From first grade on, I knew I wanted to be a novelist. And in high school, I buckled down and wrote what felt like a novel. It was 17,000 words, though I didn’t know to look at word count. I didn’t know a thing about genre or POV or what made a main character appealing to a reader. All I knew was I loved writing, and I wanted to be published. And despite living in Kansas (which I deemed a poor location for a budding writer) and not knowing a single writer, agent, or editor, I knew it was going to happen for me.

I wanted to get published in high school, but I had a lot to learn. After spending years walking down a confusing, terrifying, and tear-filled road, I made my first sale to Revell. Not only did they buy the book we pitched, Me, Just Different, they asked for a three-book series, which later became The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt.

I received that phone call at age 24, and even though it happened while I was still quite young, I often found myself asking “What ifs.” Like, what if I’d been a part of a critique group sooner? I didn’t make my first writer friend until age 22, when I happened to hit it off with Erica Vetsch during a class at the Florida Christian Writers Conference. I wondered, what if I’d taken classes sooner than I did? What if I could’ve found someone to take the time to mentor me? What if I didn’t spend so many years alone as a writer?

Meanwhile, Me, Just Different released, and I began receiving emails from readers. One of the best parts of writing young adult fiction is the enthusiasm of the readers. Of receiving emails full of things like, “This is the best book ever!!!!!! Will Skylar and Connor wind up together?!?!?!?!” And it didn’t take long for me to pick up on a common theme among my emailers. Many of them were teens who loved to write, who hoped to be an author someday too. Many of them were in the same place I had been only 8 years earlier.

One night, about six months after Me, Just Different released, I was thinking about a girl who had been emailing me her writing questions. She opened every email with an apology, but I loved hearing from her. I loved being able to pass on what little knowledge I’d gleaned during my short time in the business. And then, as I scrubbed at a stubborn stained pot, the idea appeared—a blog for young, aspiring writers.

A year later, Go Teen Writers is a thriving, ever-growing community of writers. Most are teens, many are in their twenties, some are older. This year the posts focus on the process for writing a novel—from the spark of an idea to the final polish.

But what I’m most excited about is the writing prompt contests. Every other Monday on Go Teen Writers, I post a prompt. Like, “When she stormed into my room, eyes, ablaze, I knew she knew.” The writers are instructed to think of the prompt as the opening line of a novel. They then submit to me the next 100 words as if hooking me into the rest of the story. I have a panel of rotating judges, all published writers. Some are published in periodicals, but many are published authors, like Carla Stewart or Christa Allan, who have a heart for young writers. The contest is for anyone 25 and under. Every entrant receives feedback from at least one judge, and if they place, they get their name up on the web site, and a chance for prizes at the end of the year.

The writers who frequent Go Teen Writers continually amaze me. They’re polite, regularly telling me thank you, and often calling me Mrs. Morrill. They’re determined and disciplined; many of them run blogs of their own. And also, they’ve got skills. I don’t know if they believe me when I say it, but interacting with them is one of the coolest parts of my job. Sometimes I open up the blog and just look at it. Amazed that it exists, and that I’m a part of it. I invite you to stop by sometime and get a peek at the next generation of novelists.

I’m giving away one of the Skylar Hoyt novels—Me, Just Different, Out with the In Crowd, or So Over It—to someone, so leave a comment with which book you’d like.
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately, she discovered a passion for young adult novels a few years ago and has been writing them ever since. Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects.
She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers and does so on her blog
To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out


Helen Gray said...

Here's the coffee pot for the gal who lists coffee drinking as one of her three talents!

Enjoyed the post.

A couple of my students (back when) had writing aspirations. I always tried to encourage them, even though the kind of writing we did in my classes leaned more to business correspondence and reports than their specific lines of interest. It's nice to see how you're reaching out to them.


Tina Radcliffe said...

Stephanie! Welcome to Seekerville! I am brewing Caribou decaf for you tonight -Helen is in charge of the am pot.

I am so excited about your Go Teen Writers site. It's wonderful!!!

KC Frantzen said...

Thanks for your ministry! Way to go!!!

Andrea Strong said...


Published at 24. Wow! To me that's amazing. Of course I don't think I had any inkling of writing at age 24 (I am now 31, did I just say that out loud? Yes? Oh was bound to come out someday), and only now embracing God's plans for me.

Kansas isn't such a bad place for a budding writer. I have a friend there who semi-finaled in Genesis today. (Congrats to all those who did. Kudos to those who didn't but who had the guts to go for it. Keep it up! I'll need someone to comisserate with next year.)

Usually "what if?" leads to a lot of guilt or regret. But it sounds like you turned it around and made something wonderful of it.

I love winning books, and I'd love to win the first in the series, as I really don't like to start with the second.

andeemarie95 AT gmail DOT com

Helen~ I got Reunited Hearts in the mail today too (It's still Friday where we live, folks). I finished Missy's A Family for Faith just this morning. Though I have a whole stack of books that are ahead of Ruthy's, somehow I think Reunited Hearts will wind up my weekend reading.

Andrea Strong said...

I can't really say about the writing yet, but reading and drinking coffee are definitely two of my greatest talents too.


Erica Vetsch said...

Yay! I LOVE Go Teen Writers, and if you haven't read any of Stephanie's books...well, hie thee to and get you some!

Stephanie was one of my first writer friends too. :) And she's got the goods!

Camy Tang said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stephanie! I LOVE Erica!!!!! And your teen blog sounds FABULOUS! Thanks so much for giving of yourself to other young writers!

Virginia said...

Sweet! I read an article once that said if we gave of our talents the same way we tiethed, then the world would be drastically changed. You're giving of your talents in a way that's changing the world...

Virginia said...

Sorry- tithed... I need an editor, stat!

Pam Hillman said...

Helen, it's 4 am where I am, and I can't sleep already, so I'll pass on the coffee. Maybe it was the huge diet Mountain Dew I drank when I went shopping earlier tonight!

I would go make a cup of chai tea or chamomile, but I'll wait. Maybe if I catch up on email, and organize my "to do" list for tomorrow, I'll be able to doze back off for a while! lol

Stephanie, what a wonderful peek into your writing life, and you blog for aspiring young writers.

While I had the desire to write from as far back as I remember, I didn't have the faith in myself, or the encouraging online community young authors have access to today. Isn't it exciting the wealth of information and training right at their (and ours too!) fingertips?

Debra E. Marvin said...

May God knock your socks off with blessings to this ministry Stephanie. What a great opportunity to encourage young writers and minister to them.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Stephanie, what a fun glimpse into your life, career, heart and soul! Good job, all around, and thanks for coming to Seekerville!

I love young readers. Just love 'em. And you're right, their enthusiasm goes over the top AND they're hungering to learn. Few preconceived notions of what should or shouldn't be correct. Or acceptable.

This is great work. Going to your website now before I jump into my revisions....


I'm leaving a pastry breakfast, very continental hotel. Danish, apfelkuchen, stuffed French Toast bake with triple berry syrup AND real maple syrup from upstate New York.... Muffins, fruit tray, chocolate fountain to celebrate the youth of America and...

Juice. And tea. Helen needs tea while she reads this weekend.

And Andrea, glad it got there! YES!!! :) I'm baking cookies later, so I'll swing by in a bit and re-stock the larder.

Erica??? "Hie" me over???? Ye' ken?

Dying laughing, and ROF! I had that phrase in one of my first books... A contest judge wrote int the margin: "WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT? SPEAK ENGLISH."

Obviously they never read Anne of Green Gables or Penny Parrish books.


Jackie said...

What a great blog!

I'm so glad you're writing for teens! I wish you had been writing when I was a teen!

Cara Lynn James said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stephanie! I'm in awe of anyone who gets the call in their 20s!!! I had to wait--well, until I was much older. No internet or support groups back in the day. So congratulations!

Ruthie, my mother and grandmother used to bake apfelkuchen. My Irish American mother didn't realize it was apple cake! I haven't made it in years. Maybe I should.

Lindi said...

What a ministry you have going on. It sounds fabulous, just like your books. I love reading YA. Love it!
My daughter and I were looking at my diary last night--an entry in 1974 or 5, when I was in junior high, stated that I had written a story and I was going to give it to my teacher to read and I hoped she liked it.
I'm going to hop over to Go Teen and check it out.
Congrats on publication. I know you have a great career ahead of you.

Rose said...


What a wonderful blog idea. Encouraging young are bound to receive good "karma" back!

I'm going to share your blog link with my Dakota's SCBWI chapter.

RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Cara, of course you should! I've got some nice ripe Crispins here...

One of my fave cooking apples.

Lindi, I love that you come over so often now! I miss you when you're not here. Which says how needy I am, but strangely, I'm okay with that!

Cara Lynn James said...

I just read the Genesis semi-finalist list and recognize a lot of names of people who often stop by Seekerville. I won't mention anyone by name because I'd probably leave someone out by mistake. So CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF YOU!!!

Renee Ann said...

I love the idea of your website, Stephanie! I teach lit in a Christian high school and have a few writers-to-be who would be interested in your site and your books. Please include me in the giveaway and thanks for the opportunity! reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

Dianna Shuford said...

Stephanie, your ministry sounds amazing. I'm sure your abundant blessings are just beginning.

Glynna Kaye said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Stephanie! I was writing in grade school and throughout junior high and high school, too, and would have LOVED your "Go Teen Writers!" What a wonderful idea--and what a wealth of information that I'd have given almost anything to have had available as a teen or 20-something. No one taught "how to write commercial fiction" or anything about the industry when I was in school or college so I was totally on my own until my 30's. I love the encouragement you're giving young writers! I'll be forwarding the link to friends who have teens who love to write!

Jan Drexler said...

Like many others, I wish you and your Go Teen Writers had been around - well, I won't say how many years ago. Let's just say it was before internet. And computers.

What a wonderful outreach to young writers, though! I'm sending my son to your site - he has writing aspirations, too.

And my congrats to all the Genesis semi-finalists! My name wasn't on the list, but next year...

Thanks for the breakfast, Ruthy and others - we're down to stale bread and a quart of milk in the house. The moving van comes early Monday morning - and my dear husband arrives tonight!!

Patsy said...

I'm headed for the coffee! And also to tell my daughter about Stephanie which is also my daughter's name. My Stephanie is in the process of writing a book. I would like the book, Me, Just Different to share with her.


Lorna Faith said...

Stephanie...Wow that's so great that you persisted when you were quite young to get your book published! Koodos to you:) That's so great that you are encouraging and giving practical advice to teens on that!
I have 2 teenage girls and would love to be entered for a chance to win your first book 'Me, Just Different.' I think they would love it!
Thanks for sharing with us:)

lornafaith at gmail dot com

Pam Hillman said...

Staggering to the computer after a restless night.

Helen...COFFEE, please!

And the AC is out this morning. Why does it always go out on the weekend? Grrrr

Dh called the repairman, but I expect it to be Monday.

It's only 74 in the house, but it's early yet. I dread to think what it will be like this afternoon.

Susan Anne Mason said...


Where is the Genesis semi-finalist list posted?

I call the call yesterday (happy dance here) but I'm dying to find out who else made it!



karenk said...

thanks for the coffee...a great posting w/ stephanie...thanks for the chance to read her novel...'me, just different'

kmkuka at yahoo dot com

Angela Bell said...

Great to learn more about you, Stephanie! :-)

I'd love a chance to win a copy of the first book in the Skylar Hoyt series (Me, Just Different).

God bless! And congrats to all the Genesis semi-finalists!


Kirsten Arnold said...


How awesome of you to create Go Teen Writers to encourage and inspire young writers! Writing can be a frustrating and frightening when you're trying to go it alone. And your site is a great way for young writers to learn and find encouragement.

Thanks for sharing your journey and your wonderful ministry.


Cara Lynn James said...

Sue, Congratulations for making the semi-finals!!! I think Camy (the coordinator) posted the list somewhere, but I can't remember which loop.

Shout out to Camy!!! Where can everyone find the list?

And a great big thank you to Camy for all your work on the Genesis--and continuing work.

Joanne Sher said...

What a fabulous post, Stephanie -and what an AMAZING ministry you have. Gonna stop by there pretty quick. Don't have teens yet, but I LOVE encouraging writers too.
And enter me for a book please!

Pam Hillman said...

Stephanie, love your GoTeen blog! I read some of the Writing Prompts and they were awesome.

Pam Hillman said...

Congrats Sue! The announcement went out on the ACFW News loop, but I haven't found it online yet.

Faye Rhys said...

I am going to have to check out that website! Great post. Now, I've go to check out that website!


Tina Radcliffe said...

Stephanie, I want you to know I have been busy passing on the Go Teen Writers information to everyone I know.

Pam Hillman said...

I'm going to tell my son about your site. He's a very good writer, even though he doesn't realize it, and doesn't seem to have any aspirations to be an author. But he's got that flair, without even realizing it! lol

Genesis semi-finalist list is up here:

Somebody with more finesse than me will have to do that snazzy little link thingie.

Congrats to all the Friends of Seekerville who finalled! I see LOTS of names I recognise.

Vince said...

Hi Stephanie:

I really admire well written YA and mid-grade books. These authors have to be very talented because they face so many additional restrictions. These writers are also reaching readers at a time they are most likely to be positively influenced for the rest of their lives. Stories that demonstrate values without preaching and with minimum stimulus from adults are exceptionally powerful.

I find it fascinating to experience how interesting YA stories can be while at the same time there is so little emphasis given to the adults. I learn more of what ‘I didn’t know already’ reading YA and mid-grade books than in reading mainstream fiction.

I do think that all this talk of internet, CPs, and support groups is quite funny. My models were Hemingway. Fitzgerald and Jack London. Nobody took writing classes. There were no support groups or CPs. For almost all of history, writers learned to write by studying the best writers the could find and then trying to write better than that. There is still a large percentage of writers today who only show their work to their editors when it is done and never show it to anyone else before then. Famous writers. A person is not at all unusual if this is how they write. We just don’t hear from them on these blogs.

I like your Teen Writers site. However, I would like to see a column by an old person with the title: “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now”.

My Ideal YA Title

A teen develops a friendship with a cynical and bitter old man whose only friend in the world is a mean and ugly dog. Perhaps they meet in a secluded section of a park near a pond.

The troubled teen tells the old man about personal problems – especially with other teens. Problems of trust, betrayal, insecurities. The old man once held many important positions in business and government. On hearing a problem, the old man says, “I had the same problem with the Russians when I was negotiating a trade agreement and this is what I did and what happened.”

No matter what teenage problem the teen has, the old man treats it as the equal to matters of major importance. (These should be of historical interest.) He never dismisses the teen’s problem as trivial ‘puppy love’, for example.

The old man’s rather unusual advice, offered three times in the book, misfires in unpredictable ways until the end of the book when all the advice threads knit together for a surprise and happy ending. Because of the teen’s interest in the old man, he comes out of his seclusion just long enough to be the honored guest speaker at the teen’s graduation. Of course, the old man mentions the teen in his speech in glowing terms.


I would have the old man’s advice be of the, “I Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now” type. The communication is between the ‘just starting out in life’ POV teen and the ‘looking back at a full life, full of mistakes’ POV old man. No adults in between. The story would be 95% teen on teen

I would love to read this book. I wish someone would please write it. I'll give it a great review. : )


vmres (at) swbell (dot) net
I'd like to be in for your first book.

Kav said...

Brilliant blog for teen writers, Stephanie! So brilliant that I think I'll be sneaking by to get some inspiration for my own writing!

I work in libraries in a Catholic school board and there is a real push towards linking students up with social media sites. This one looks perfect. A shoe-in for the high schools for sure.

I'm wondering if you think a really keen 11 - 12 year old would benefit as well? If so we can let our grade six students know about it as well.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Steph, like Tina, I'm not only stealing ideas....

I'm sending my young writing friends your way. I've given local classes/seminars, etc. to teens and they'll love this. You speak-a-da-language.

Good job, chica!

Whitney said...

Hello, Stephanie! Your personal writing story, and your Go Teen Writers blog, is exciting. I would LOVE to get a call and be a published author around age 24. Your blog is geared towards young, aspiring writers, but it's relevant for any writer. The information is geared in a way that anyone starting a novel would find is useful. I'll be looking around the blog more.



Erica Vetsch said...

Ruthy, I think Penny Parrish and Anne Shirley should be required reading for contest judges.


Christina said...


Hi, Stephanie! So great to see you at Seekerville.

Go Teen Writers is awesome!!

christinainspirationals [at]gmail dot com

Stephanie Morrill said...

WOW. I'm so touched by all the comments on here! Seekerville is SUCH a great community.

First, I want to add my congratulations to those who are semi-finals in Genesis. It's a great achievement! I was thrilled to see many names I recognized.

For those who didn't final, I'm praying for you. I entered Me, Just Different in 2007 and was crushed when it didn't make the cut. But you know what? Some of the judges gave great advice, which (after some grumbling and feet-dragging) I applied, and a little over a year later Revell bought it. So - as awesome as finaling probably feels - it's not the end if you didn't.

Kav, you asked about 11 and 12 year olds. While they would be on the younger end of my readers, they wouldn't be the only 11 and 12 year olds on there. In the writing prompt contests, we have a group of sisters who often enter, and the youngest of them is 11. (And an excellent writer!)

Vince, I really enjoyed your post a couple days ago! Gave me a lot to think about. Your YA story sounds so fun, with lots of potential for quirkiness, which I love. I especially like how you said he wouldn't be dismissive of the teens problems. My husband and I met when I was 13, and I was pretty sure even then that I'd met The Guy. I well remember the frustrations of our relationship being dismissed by adults.

Stephanie Morrill said...

Andrea, sounds like we have a lot in common! And you're right, Kansas has turned out to be a very good place for a budding writer. There's a growing ACFW community here, which is great fun!

Camy, Erica's the best, isn't she? :) And a couple of my teens have mentioned your Story Sensei site to me, so you're reaching them too!

Virginia, I had never thought about giving of our talents the way we do tithing. I really like that concept. I'll be mulling that over...

And oh goodness, Ruth, that breakfast sounds amazing. I adore breakfast.

Erica, the one time I used "hie" in a manuscript, it made spellchecker mad. We should really bring that word back...

Lindi, I love the mental picture of you and your daughter reading through your old diaries. Sounds like great fun!

Stephanie Morrill said...

Rose, Glynna, Ruth, Jan, Pam, and probably others who I missed - thank you so much for sharing the link!

Renee Ann, I would love to talk to some of your students! Your job sounds so fun :)

Pam, hope you're not roasting too much over there. Those things ALWAYS seem to happen on the weekends. And I'd love to see your son over on GTW. We have a couple guys who hang out over there, but they tend to be quiet :)

Patsy, thanks for sharing the site with your daughter! I would love to have a fellow Stephanie on there!

Whitney, I look forward to seeing you there!

*Waves* Hi Christina!

Debby Giusti said...

Stephanie, you are amazing! Loved reading your blog post today. I could feel your energy flow through cyber space and grab me in a big bear hug!

Good for you hosting such a special blog for teens!

And I love the title of your series and evidently your protagonist. Skylar Hoyt! Awesome!!!

I spoke at the ATL Sisters in Crime chapter today and a teen writer was in the crowd. Wish I'd checked Seekerville before I left the house this AM. I would have clued her in on your blog. I'll try to contact her and let her know you're doing some amazing things for writers.

Thanks for being with us in Seekerville! Come back often, okay?

Debby Giusti said...

Congrats to the Genesis Semi-finalists!!! Whoo-hooo!!!!

We're so proud of all of you!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, btw, dh got the AC going, so we're not roasting today.


Pepper said...

Wonderful post, Steph. I've just ventured into the world of YA writing, so I'm going to head over to your site to check it out.

I wrote my first novel in 11th grade, but my first really long one my freshman year of college.
But I still have my 20 page story (that I illustrated quite badly) from when I was 11.

I so love imaginary friends!!

Pepper said...

Btw, I'm sending my 13 year old son to your site too.
He's already started writing and it would be great for him to get some encouragement. He's finished one short story, and now is working on a novel.
All fantasy.
With some violent tendencies and wicked humor (BOY!!!!)
I never write violence, so he didn't get it from me. ;-)
(quiet, Mary)

CarolM said...

Overland Park?!

I went to my first conference in Overland Park, have a character who lives there and have ILs in Olathe. I drove through there a couple weeks ago.

Sorry for not leaving food out. Sam's is catering dinner. Andrea Stong and I went to a book signing with Beverly Lewis and Julie Klassen. We had a nice chat with her. Very encouraging :). Then we went to Sam's for a late lunch.

Mainly b/c it's the only thing I could afford after buying books ;).

Not really.

I'd like to be entered in a drawing for any of the books. If there's one you think is more appropriate for an almost 10yo to grow into...

I dream of the day when she and I can write YA together. She's done NaNo two years in a row.

Okay - off to find dinner for the kids...

carol at carolmoncado dot com

CarolM said...

And yes - YAY!!!! for all the semi-finalists!!!

So proud of all of you!!!

Helen Gray said...

Didn't I see Pepper's name TWICE in the semi-finalist!!!

Pepper said...

Yep, Helen.
What were those judges thinking?!?

Missy Tippens said...

Stephanie, thanks so much for joining us today! I think what you're doing for young writers in wonderful.

I go each year for career day to talk to middle schoolers. I give them a handout to help them get started and even get emails from some of them. I just love it when they contact me! I'll be sure to add your site to my handout next year. :)

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Stephanie. I'm sorry I was so AWOL today. Great post. Thanks so much for being on.

Missy Tippens said...

Congrats to all our Genesis semi-finalist friends!!! Woo hoo!!! I was so tickled when I saw the list. :)

CarolM said...

Stephanie - if you come back, what age range is eligible to use the prompts etc? I have an aspiring author [she's won NaNo twice!] but she's only 9. I'll look it up on your site [which I've linked to in a blog post about resources for young writers] but that'll have to wait till next week... =D


Julie Lessman said...


Like Mary, I've been MIA today, so I apologize, but what a great blog today and WOW, how cool is the whole concept of "Go Teen Writers"!! I am totally impressed, not only with the whole idea, but the energy and passion you put in to it for all these young aspiring writers. They are blessed to have you and I pray that you continue to be blessed in this very special undertaking. Writing books for Christ is such a high calling, but ministering above and beyond to these teens is truly remarkable. God bless you, your writing and your ministry to these young writers.


Julie Garmon said...

Love what you're doing. Great post, Stephanie. Shine on!!

Stephanie Morrill said...

Sorry I was MIA yesterday! I try to take Sundays off from my computer.

Debby, I'm thrilled to hear you ran into a teen writer! I'm amazed by how many I come across, and how dedicated they are.

Missy, a hand out is a great idea for career days! I'd feel honored to be included :)

Carol, it's 25 and under who are eligible. The youngest I know of who's entered is 11, but it's possible we've had younger writers.

Thanks, everyone, for coming by!