Friday Five: Five reasons to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library

A piece I wrote for the PCTELA blog about the Folger Shakespeare Library. Check it out! 🙂


A few weeks ago my husband and I took a trip to the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington D.C. The library was featuring an exhibit called Decoding the Renaissance – 500 Years of Codes and Ciphers. Being a total Renaissance/Shakespeare nerd, I HAD to visit. Despite the frigid temperatures in D.C. that Sunday (it was that day with a negative 12 degree wind chill), we had an amazing time. Although I could give over a dozen reasons to visit the Library, I’ve listed my top 5 below!

Shakes Lib 2

  • The exhibits. The Decoding the Renaissance exhibit featured the use of secret messages in war, diplomacy, and spy craft over the last hundreds of years. Although that exhibit left on February 26, the Library is now featuring the Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude exhibit. Check it out!
  • The Collection. Not only does the Library possess 82 of the First Folio…

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Finding the “Write” Space

The Write Space


Today I want to talk about writing spaces. Many of my author friends have a favorite place where they get the majority of their writing done. Some travel to a favorite coffee shop, some set up shop in a hotel room while on a book tour, and others make a quaint little writing nook at home. I’m in the latter of this group. (But hopefully one day I’ll be on tour for my novels and have to make a writing space out of my hotel room!)

When my husband and I moved last February, I knew exactly where I wanted my writing space to be – in the front spare bedroom on our second floor. I envisioned myself sipping coffee from my favorite Shakespeare insult mug, typing away. Well, this didn’t happen for quite some time. Some days I wrote at the dining room table. Other days it was the kitchen island. A few evenings here and there would be spent on the couch with my laptop in … well … my lap. Some weekends I would get writing done at the Hershey Panera Bread. But I was finding that I did not accomplish much due to distractions in these locations. With an open floor plan, my son playing in the living room distracted me when I wrote in the kitchen, living room and dining room. The chatter and crowd at Panera Bread would cut my writing short. I needed a quiet writing zone. So when my latest Better Homes and Gardens arrived, and I saw the fun writing space on the cover, I became motivated to create the right space to WRITE!

    INSPIRATION:                                         BEFORE:                                                AFTER:

BHAG         IMG_0545             IMG_0553

And the best part – I created my space in under $25 dollars.

Lamp: $7.99 K-Mart

“B”: $5.99 TJ Maxx

Vase and Floral Arrangement: $7.00 Michaels

Sea foam – green Tray: 50 cents! Staples

Fabric for Inspiration Board: $1.25 Joann’s Fabrics

Although many people don’t need a set space to write, this works for me! And if you can get in the writing zone in a coffee shop, or need the solitude of a writing nook, whatever get you writing is your “write” space! Already, I’ve added 7,000 words to my WIP – the sequel to Poppy Mayberry, The Monday (Due to my publisher in March – yikes!) in my nook.

I’d love to see pictures of your writing space!

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!

🙂 Jennie K. Brown @jenniekaywrites

Writing Advice from Best-Selling Authors Stephen Chbosky and Jay Asher


There are some major perks (no pun intended – and you will see why soon enough…) to being the President of the PA Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts. For example, this past weekend, I had the awesome pleasure of spending time with award-winning author, director and producer Stephen Chbosky and amazing writer Jay Asher. You probably best know Stephen as the author and screenwriter of Perks of Being a Wallflower and Jay as the author of Thirteen Reasons Why. Both authors were two keynote speakers at the PCTELA annual conference. Although much of their addresses discussed their interactions with English teachers throughout their lives, they also spoke of their writing life and writing process. Below are a few writing “tips” Stephen and Jay gave during their keynote speeches and a few more they shared with me over dinner and email.

  1. If you write, you ARE a writer. Stephen emphasized the fact that by just writing something down on paper you are, indeed, a writer. “There is no such thing as an aspiring writer,” he said. Again, if you write, you’re already a writer. It’s as simple as that.
  2. Stop procrastinating. That’s much easier said than done. Jay and I talked about our procrastinating nature Friday night. Between teaching full time, grading, magazine deadlines, and chasing a 1-year old son, it’s difficult for me to find the time to work on my novels. But I have to. You have to. Carve some time out and DO IT! This leads to my next piece…
  3. Commit to time, not pages. This was Stephen’s number 1 piece of advice for me. After my son’s to bed and the house it quiet, I need to set my alarm for three hours and JUST WRITE. You need to do the same. If in those three hours you write one page – great. If you finish two chapters – even better!
  4. We all get rejected. Jay’s first book was rejected 13 times before publication. (How ironic is the number?!) My debut novel POPPY MAYBERRY, THE MONDAY (coming out August 2016 with Tantrum Books) was rejected more times than I can even count – first, by agents, and then, by publishers. But all of those rejections led to finding my first agent, and then my current super agent Bill Contardi, and a 2-book deal!
  5. Revise. Revise. Jay said, “the genius of me is I didn’t know how bad it (my first book) was, so I sent it off to New York.” Even if you think you have the perfect manuscript or query letter or synopsis, revise it one more time. It never hurts.

Happy Writing! 🙂 Jennie @jenniekaywrites

Friday 5: Things to do in Pittsburgh when you’re at PCTELA next week!

Love this post by our VP of Secondary schools – Kate! If I had to add one thing, it’d be a trip to Primanti’s! Mmmm…deluxe double egg and cheese!


1. Need food or want to stretch your legs? Go check out the Strip District, where food, art, and fabulous people intermingle.  Also a fun place to grab a kitschy souvenir. Right around the corner from the strip you can pick up a mini-donut at Peace, Love, and Little Donuts, and not feel too guilty because they’re small.


2. Like all the new books at the conference, but interested in old ones? Check out Caliban Books, where you can browse used and rare books.  They also have a music shop in the store where you can buy some vinyl.

3. Maybe you are more interested in a specific genre of books–like mystery? Go to Mystery Lovers Bookshop, one of the largests speciality mystery bookstores in the country.  They will have a booth at the conference, but nothing compares to going to the store itself. On Saturday afternoon, they even have…

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Up Late with Vision Quest by Terry Davis


Few YA novels provoke nostalgia in me the way Robert Cormier’s do–I’ve read and re-read Fade so many times.  Recently, though, a friend recommendedVision Quest, a 1979 YA novel by Terry Davis.  She had recently re-read it and was reminded of the compelling protagonist and the strong story line.

Louden Swain, an 18 year old wrestler who plans to graduate early, has to prepare for his match, write his senior thesis, and negotiate a reorganized family as his parents recently split.  This story chronicles a boy on the cusp of manhood–a gentle, compassionate boy who loves his girlfriend Carla, and also loves her kitten Katzen.  There were a number of things that stood out to me as I read this book where nobody owns a cell phone, rival athletes greet each other with civility and respect, and young people go out into the Pacific Northwest to camp.

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Friday 5: Books That Have Stayed With Me

I wrote this for today’s PCTELA blog. What are some books that have stayed with you?


These 5 books may not all be literary classics and some may not even be known to you at all, but they are ones that I come back to over and over again. We all have books like these…the ones with stains and finger smudges on the cover, tears on every other page and binding that, well, no longer even looks like binding. Or books that we have so engrained in our memories that we have no need to open the pages ever again. Below are the five books that have stayed with me over years. These titles are in no particular order.

  1. and 2.  Goldilocks and the Three Bears AND The Three Little Pigs

When I was a little girl, my grandfather would read these books to me every night. I remember him lying on the floor next to my bed, holding my hand, reciting the books…

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