Show, Not Tell by Karen Kilpatrick

As a writer, you quickly encounter an oft-quoted tenet relied upon by editors to help guide authors into creating more compelling pieces: “Show, don’t tell.”  This phrase means, in essence, that you have to draw readers into your story with descriptive action verbs and dialogue while avoiding passive, long-winded scene setting and musings. Readers want to participate in the story, not just be told about the story, if that makes sense.  It took quite some time for me to really nail down “show, don’t tell” in my own writing, and even longer to adopt the approach in my parenting. 

As a mom of three young children, I have often found myself, on too many occasions to count, lecturing one of the kids about any assortment of things, for example:

“Pick up your trash.”
“Don’t say mean things to your sister.”
“Why don’t you play that together instead of fighting over the toy?”

What I began to notice about lecturing is, well, nobody was listening.  It turns out that my kids have this innate ability to completely tune out my voice.  Perhaps I just speak in a tone that is unable to be processed by their little ears(!)  Whatever the reason, I just wasn’t being heard. It can be very frustrating when you feel like your words and voice don’t matter, especially when you have important things to say and teach!

I thought about that familiar command, “Show, don’t tell.”  Could this directive be as applicable to parenting as it is to writing?  I decided to try it out! So every other night, instead of reading, I would think of stories to entertain my kids before bedtime.  The stories would be based on things I saw them do that day that I wanted to reinforce, or lessons that I wanted them to learn.  Based on real situations, but with fictional characters, my kids were drawn into the stories.  They wanted to know what happened, how the characters interacted with each other, and how problems were solved!  And soon, I started to overhear them talking to each other and their friends about the characters and lessons from the stories!  I was “showing” them through characters what I was unable to “tell” them as a parent.   And this was how the Pumpkinheads® series was born!

The Pumpkinheads® books are based on everyday situations featuring lovable characters that children can relate to and understand.  Each book addresses a social or emotional lesson disguised in a fun tale, for example, learning about loving what you see when you look in the mirror, being kind to your friends, and standing up for what you believe in!  There are currently five books in the series, with five more to be released in 2015.  There is nothing that I enjoy more than being a mom and a writer, so it has been amazing for me to be able to share these stories with young readers. 

Karen Kilpatrick is the author and co-illustrator of the award winning children’s books series, Pumpkinheads® (Carmin Cares, Ella’s Toys, Love Monster Lulu, Sage’s Song and Danza’s Message). She currently is working on new Pumpkinheads® titles and other books for children. Karen also writes adult short stories, and is a winning author in the Florida Writer’s Association’s collection contest, with her short story, The Envelope, published October 2014. She lives with her husband and three children in Parkland, Florida. To learn more about Pumpkinheads ® books and for fun art activities, games, and stories, you can visit

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