The Hilliard Institute

The Hilliard Institute is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering sensory education programing, experiential learning, and academic research and publishing while also supporting philanthropic initiatives through fundraising and educational training and activities—all under the umbrella of the concept of Educational Wellness

The Hilliard Institute. 4440 Savage Pointe Drive. Franklin, TN 37064

Email Dr. K. Mark Hilliard at

or Professor Jessa R. Sexton at

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Thirteen: Illustrations and Cover Art

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 13: Illustrations and Cover Art

If your young writer is only writing a short story, he or she may not need any illustrations (drawings) in the story. Of course, any story can have art.

Your children probably don’t need a picture or illustration for the cover of a book either, because the story will likely be a part of other stories with one cover.

But, should your young writer need an illustration, encourage him or her to think of what represents the story. Here are questions to think through:

  1. Can one simple illustration represent the story well? Or do you need multiple illustrations?

  2. Do you have the skill to illustrate as well as to write?

  3. Do you know someone who can illustrate well?

  4. Do you like photography? Could you take photographs instead?

  5. Is an illustration really needed? Will an illustration add to your story? Will it help someone want to read your story?

In the early days of beginning to write, most writers do not need to worry about illustrations, but some authors are very visual and may wish to draw some illustrations for their story, even if these illustrations won’t be used in the printed version of the story. It can help your young writer think through parts of the story if he or she sketches along the way.


Action Item

If your young writer needs some art or cover design, this can be done inexpensively with a sketch or photograph created by your child—or you can hire an illustrator or barter some talents to get this work done. Don’t put pressure on yourself or your young writer to make this perfect for the first book. Just enjoy this part! It can help everyone feel like the book is “complete” to have a cover, so spend as much time and effort as you feel comfortable. But don’t skip this step because it’s a great way to celebrate the book being done!

Thank you for going through this 13 Day Writing Journey with me. Happy writing!

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Twelve: Create Your Title

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 12: Create Your Title

Sometimes your young writer’s title comes to him or her first, before writing the first sentence. Sometimes the title won’t come until after your young writer tells the story. Sometimes maybe it will hit your young writer in the middle of writing the story, or someone else will read the book and suggest a great title. 

Any of these ways of creating a title are fine. Titles can be straight-forward and tell readers what the story is about, or they can be more subtle and be something only mentioned once in the story. Maybe they tell the theme or moral of the story.

Some writers take a long time to write a title, spending days narrowing it down. It isn’t always as easy as it seems to be. That’s okay.


Action Item

Work on helping your young writer pick a title. You can ask questions like these to help:

  1. What is your story about?

  2. Who are the characters? Do you want their names in the title?

  3. What is your favorite sentence in the story so far?

  4. Imagine your book on a shelf in someone’s house. Your name is on the bottom of the book as the author. The title is at the top. Can you see a title on there when you imagine this?

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Eleven: Commit to Complete

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard


Day 11: Commit to Complete

In the early days of writing, encourage your young writers to commit to completing their stories, even if they feel like the stories aren’t that great. Help them see the process all the way through in order to develop their skill in all parts of creating, writing, and completing a story. Otherwise they will likely move from one story to the next and never complete any of them.

Action Item

If your young writers get stuck, they can take a little break to do something else creative, but help them finish their stories. You can make a goal chart with dates to finish parts of the story. This will help them see how to make goals in other areas of life too. They can write down two dates: one they want to finish on and the second a week or so later as the backup finish date. Writers sometimes need a little extra time, so that second date isn’t a failure, it’s knowing writing is a challenge, and it’s okay to need a bit more time.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Ten: Experience

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 10: Experience


We can all write better about things we have done, things we have experienced. So encourage your young writers to think about these things when writing their first stories. Set up experiences to enjoy as a family, to give your young writer more to write about. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. Of course you can travel to new places. This is an incredible way to build up new ideas to write about. You can also see what there is in your own town. Go on hikes, eat new places, try new foods at home, enjoy a nature scavenger hunt, visit museums, go to antique stores and think about the people who owned the items long ago, listen to music, and see new parks or playgrounds.

Another way to experience new things is to read more books. Go to the library, borrow books from friends, or buy new ones. Get your children books about things they want to start writing about.

Action Item

If you go on a new experience, have your young writers bring their journals. They can write and sketch ideas during the experience, or set up time after for them to reflect. Maybe they can take pictures of things they want to remember as well.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Nine: Review With Others

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 9: Review With Others

After your child has read and re-read his or her work multiple times, encourage him or her to get a few other people to read it and help make needed changes to make the story better. As well as people like teachers, parents, tutors, family members, and friends—and fellow authors if you know any—definitely have people review the story who are the type of reader expected to read the book after it is published. If it is written for 4th graders, have some 4th graders read it. If it is for girls, have several girls read it.

Talking to the kind of reader the work is for will help your young writer make the work just right for the audience.


Action Item

If your child has a poem or book or part of a book written, ask him or her what kind of reader the work is for. Does your writer know someone in that category who can read and give comments?

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Eight: Re-Read

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard


Day 8: Re-Read

Today you are going to talk to your young writer about how he or she should re-read the work after writing. You can use some of the wording below:

Review your story. Re-read your story over and over and over. It’s okay to change your sentences from how they first started. Make every sentence great. Make every word great.

If you’re reading your story out-loud and a sentence doesn’t read smoothly, or if you get stuck on a word as you’re reading your story aloud, other people will have the same problem. You probably need to change the sentence or the word.

Reviewing your book personally is also a time to correct common mistakes you might see with grammar and punctuation. Ask yourself how you worded things. (Did you say what you meant to say?) Ask yourself if your facts are correct. Ask yourself if your sentences and paragraphs go well together.

Action Item

Most computers have thesauruses, but I suggest you buy a cheap one for your writer. This wonderful tool gives you a lot of different words to choose from. I sometimes just sit down and read pages in my thesaurus.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Seven: Research

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 7: Research

Do some research with your young writers on the subject they want to write about, so what they discuss is accurate. If they are writing about space, find a book on the topic. If talking about baseball, watch games and talk about baseball terms.

Even if they are creating a story about a make-belief planet or make-belief animal or a make-belief town, they may want to base it on some fact to help it make a little more sense to the readers.

But if they talk about something that is real, they truly need to include some real details. For this research you two can use books, the internet, or simply ask people questions about the subjects your young writers are writing about to help them create a good story that is believable.


13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Six: Touch All The Senses

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard


Day 6: Touch All The Senses

We’re all touched by each of our five senses—smelling, tasting, hearing, touching, seeing—so tell your young writer to try to include something related to all the senses in his or her story.

You can say something like this:

If someone can read your story, where you talk about the smell of a rose, and they can actually smell the rose in their head, you are becoming a good writer. And there is also a place for helping people feel things when you write—touching their emotions, making them happy, sad, angry, afraid. You do this with words, with nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs.

Action Item

Ask your young writer to pull out his or her journal and describe a few things, trying to touch as many of the senses as possible. Food is a great place to start, since it touches all our senses. A room is a good one too, like the kitchen.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Five: Creativity and Skill

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 5: Creativity and Skill

Writing is a bit of creativity and individual personality, mixed with a lot of skill and talent.

When your children write, they need some skill in understanding the various elements of writing style, but they must also have passion, emotion, and creativity in their thoughts about what is going to happen in their story.

Encourage your children to ask teachers, tutors, other students who can write, and you to help them with the skills part and look for books about how to write.


Some important things to think about for your young writer:

  • Spell words correctly.

  • Use commas and other punctuation appropriately.

  • “Use quotation marks when someone is speaking,” said Dr. Hilliard.

  • Don’t overuse the same word throughout the story.

  • Don’t change narrators in the middle of the story (unless you mean to).

  • Don’t switch around verb tense. Keep the story in present tense or past tense.

    • Dr. Hilliard writes on his back porch with a cup of tea every day. (present)

    • Dr. Hilliard wrote this blog post on his back porch yesterday. (past)

  • Do not over-explain things or tell the same thing multiple times.

  • Don’t use too many adverbs or adjectives.

There aren’t a lot of books for young writers about the craft, but we’re working on one! We’ll share more about that soon.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Four: Write It All Down

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 4: Write It All Down

Encourage your child to take time to compose his or her thoughts and words, into written notes, partial sentences, complete sentences, paragraphs, and finally stories. Just write down those thoughts as you think of them. Then your child can go back to develop them into phrases, sentences, paragraphs, a story. Later young writers can put appropriate sentences together, changing words, adding information, as needed.

It takes some time to develop a story from those first notes into a finished story. That’s why the journal is so helpful. Tell your young writer not to cross things out with more than one fine line, so he or she can still read those ideas later. Keep all those notes and ideas. They may be helpful later.


Action Item

Have your child write down random thoughts today. You can start him or her off by using one of these prompts if you want:

1) Describe a room in our house.

2) Describe a room in your dream house.

3) Write down a place you want to visit and why.

4) Write down what you would do on a dream vacation.

5) Write down a memory, and it’s okay if you want to add in some things that didn’t really happen!

6) Think of the story you want to write or are working on. Write down character names and think about what they look like and enjoy doing.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Three: Collect Words

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 3: Collect Words

Encourage your child to become a Word Collector or Phrase Collector. The journal will come in handy here.

Words are free. Tell your children to be on the lookout for ones they like. If they experience a word they like, they should write it down to use in their future stories. This can be words they hear or read.

If they see a short phrase they like, they should write it down in the journal as well. Or when they think of a phrase, sentence, or line—they should be writing these down so they don’t forget.

(Tell your children not to copy or steal from others writers and call it their own. To use single words that others have used, words that excited them, is wonderful! Being on the lookout for enchanting words is why word collecting is so fun. But to use groups of words or phrases or sentences the same way another writer did—that is plagiarizing. If they love the wording from another person and want to use it, they can quote other people, putting quotation marks and giving their name credit.)


13 Tips for Young Writers / Day Two: Read, Read, Read

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Day 2: Read, Read, Read!

If your children want to be writers, they should spend a lot of time reading different types of stores to learn what they like and to advance their skills in writing.

The more they read, the better they will write. They will learn new words, how to put sentences together, what interests them the most, different styles of writing, and information about new topics.

IMG_3367 (1).PNG

Action Item

Ask your child what he or she likes to read. Look online or in the library together for other books in that genre. Talk about how important reading is, and encourage time in the day for reading.

13 Tips for Young Writers / Day One: Ponder and Think

By Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

Parents of Young Writers,

We’re going through a series of 13 tips for your creative child. Look over them and talk to your young writer during the next two weeks.


Day One: Ponder and Think

Here are five things a writer can consider while pondering and developing ideas to write about.

Spend some time asking your child about things he or she enjoys, likes to do, or might like to learn more about. Here are some questions you can ask:

  1. What are your interests?

    Do you like baseball or cars, nature or math? Are you fascinated by mermaids or unicorns? Do you love fashion and clothes? Do you like outer space?

  2. What kind of books do you like to read?

    Adventure, science fiction, mystery, humor, animals stories, silly stories, true stories ? (Your child will likely enjoy writing about things he or she likes to read about.)

    Once your child has an idea for a story, you can ask these things:

  3. Who do you want to write stories for?

    People your age, people younger than you, adults, boys, girls, girls and boys? (Remind your child to write with that age of reader in mind.)

  4. Do you want to write a chapter book, poems, songs, or a short story?

  5. Do you know how long your story will be?

    Sometimes we don’t know the answer to this. But many times people create stories knowing they want to write a longer book or shorter story. Knowing how much your child wants to write will help you know how to encourage him or her along the way.

Action Item

Get your child a journal. Even if he or she plans to write on a computer, it’s good for a young writer to carry a journal around to write down ideas.

What is the Woodfine Young Writers Guild?

by Dr. K. Mark Hilliard

The Woodfine Young Writers Guild is a division of the Hilliard Institute for Educational Wellness and Hilliard Press. The purpose is to advance literacy skills and encourage a love for reading and writing in young people.

While a well-recognized organization in England, guilds are not as common in the United States. A guild is an association of artisans, merchants, craftsman, or tradesmen who oversee the practice of their trade so they can pass on their skills, talents, and knowledge to the next generation through mutual aid, teaching, apprenticeship, and a sense of enjoyment in the process. The master of a guild is the organization's head or director and is someone who has proven himself as a master within his or her craft or trade.

Who is Dr. Woodfine?

This Guild is named after Dr. David Woodfine. Dr. Woodfine serves as the master of the Woodfine Young Writers Guild. He is a beloved educator in Oxford, England, and the Chancellor of the Hilliard Institute for Educational Wellness. He served in many roles within the University of Oxford system and taught in other educational systems in England and America. He is the author of five published books, two written for children.

I first met Dr. Woodfine in 2007 while taking part in the Summer Research Institute at Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, England. David was a major part of the Institute's development and served as the High Steward of Harris Manchester College at that time. David and I became great friends as I returned over the years to Harris Manchester College for further study and research.

With time, he became an integral member of the Hilliard Institute and raising funds for special projects and educational programs, especially for young people. His background is steeped in training them to learn to love the process of learning and to become who they each wish to be within their chosen careers.

The Guild and Hilliard Press

For many years the Hilliard Press has been publishing children’s books as one of our major ongoing educational projects. But we had never published a children’s book written by a child. In 2017, we began developing the Young Writers Guild concept and published the first Woodfine Young Writers Guild book in 2018: The Four Jupiter Brothers, by Charles E. Hilliard, age ten. His book signing, held at Columbia Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, was a huge success, with over 170 people in attendance.

Because of the initial successful partnership with Columbia Academy in 2018, the Woodfine Young Writers Guild is again partnering with this school to conduct a young writers’ competition beginning this summer through October 2019. The goal for this first major project is to encourage children at a very young age to begin to write, and write well.

The initial competition will include participation by students age 8–12. The winners of the competition will have their stories included in the collection of short stories to be published by the Guild in December 2019. The plan is to expand the competition to include more age groups and additional organizations in 2020.

The foremost objective for the Young Writer’s Guild competition is not one of rivalry, but that of a traditional guild—to pass on skills, talents, and knowledge through mutual aid, teaching, apprenticeship, and a sense of enjoyment in the process.

This page on the Hilliard Institute website will offer posts for the parents of young creatives and for young writers as well.

Dr. David Woodfine

Dr. David Woodfine

Compiled and Interviewed by Hannah Chaney