Family-Friendly Fiction Writers

Welcome Parents, Homeschoolers
and those wishing to foster a love for reading and writing in their children!

Family-Friendly Fiction Writers have a passion to put quality fiction in the hands of young readers, ages 10-18. In addition, these authors conduct workshops for homeschoolers as well as public school students on the craft of writing.

The authors in this group know that meeting authors and reading their books stimulates students’ interest in reading and writing. That’s why they provide workshops for local groups and youth groups (in-person, currently the northern TX area, otherwise Zoom presentations), and attend homeschool conventions to give students a chance to meet them and learn about their books. The authors in this group include:

  1. Kelli McKinney
    Contemporary MG Fiction, Jeff Pennant’s Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents 
  2. Andrea Rand
    Children’s Fantasy (MG/YA) with a Patriotic Twist – The Chronicles of Kibblestan Series
  3. Sandra Fernandez Rhoads
    YA Fantasy/Sci-Fi – The Colliding Line Series
  4. Lori Z. Scott 
    MG/YA Contemporary Fiction Sports Series for Athletes
  5. Marie Sontag
    Historical MG and YA Fiction – The Ancient Elements Series, the Whitcomb Discoveries Series, and the Rising Hope Series.A list of our current workshops can be found here To book an author visit or workshop, contact the Family Friendly Fiction Authors at

    Mission Statement – Family-Friendly Fiction Writers

    Family-Friendly Fiction Writers exists to provide middle-grade and young adult readers with adventurous, humorous, and inspiring fiction that stimulates both their minds and their hearts. We also provide workshops and author visits for homeschooling events, as well as public and private school meetings.


    When Steven Spielberg was sixteen, his parents rented a movie theater so he could show a feature-length movie he had filmed. Spielberg sold tickets and in one night made back the $500 it cost him to film it. A childhood hobby may not lead to a future occupation, but parental encouragement provides children with the confidence to pursue dreams that will fuel their future success.

If your child shows an interest in writing, here are some places they can explore:

  1. Young Inklings –
  2. Forty Websites for Young Writers –
  3. Tips for Young Writers by Author Rick Riordan –
  4. Authors Teaching Young Writers –
  5. Writing Contests for Kids –
  6. Magazines where tweens and teens can publish:
    – Journals and Online Magazines:
  7. Book Publishers for kids –
  8.  End Game press established their Generation Hope imprint as a place where young authors and illustrators can have their work published. See requirements at:
  9. Anthologies: Auroras & Blossoms – What we accept: (age 13-16) poetry, short stories, flash fiction, essays,  and six-word stories:
  10. Publish Fiction Online

READ AS A FAMILY: Another important activity for children is having parents and caregivers read to and with them. Here are tips explaining why it’s important to read aloud with your kids, and how to make it count.

  1. Ohio State University Research on Reading
  2. Early Childhood Learning & Knowledge Center

Suggested Book Resources


3.  RightBooks4Kids on Instagram

4. (for littles)

5. (middle grade)

6.  Conservative Children’s Books

6.  Books and tips for reluctant middle school readers

7.  Children’s Authors Blog of recommended books

8.  Triple Crown Book Awards, listed by age groups

Workshops by our Authors

Kelli McKinney Workshops – These presentations are suitable for classrooms or smaller workshops. They can be adapted for large assemblies, and any can be tailored to fit your needs. They’re best for students ages 8-12.

Crafting a Stand-Out Scene: Working with Marie Sontag and Sandra F. Rhoads, these writers team up to present a workshop to help budding authors craft scenes to tweak their short stories or books into a publishable manuscript.

Building a Character: Without interesting characters, stories fall flat. How do writers create a character? We’ll talk about the different elements of character and together we’ll create a new, unique main character for a story.

Do You Haiku? In my book, the main character writes haikus as a way of expressing his feelings. We talk about what haikus are and compare them to other styles of poetry, talk about meter and rhyme, read haiku examples aloud, and write a haiku as a group.

What’s voice? What makes Jeff Pennant different from other characters in literature? One key element is his voice. We talk about the difference between musical voice and literary voice, identify writing techniques authors use to build distinctive voice, and compare Jeff’s voice to other main characters. In small groups, we’ll brainstorm a character and write a short scene in their voice.

Marie Sontag Workshops – These can be adapted for large or small-group presentations and workshops. They’re best for students ages 12-18.

How to Write Stories Editors Will Publish: This workshop, geared for young writers, will provide tips from a published author on writing both short stories and novels that students can publish. The workshop includes lists of places where students can see their work in print.

Creating Plot: How do authors create intriguing plots and page-turners? Since before the time of the Greek philosopher Aristotle people have struggled to find the best way to present a story. Using illustrations from age-old stories and the writers’ middle grade and YA novels, this workshop will present basic plot templates from an award-winning author as we explore how the idea of plot is woven into the fabric of our being. Using provided prompts or their own ideas, students will craft a plot chart to tell their own unique story.   

Show Don’t Tell and Other Fiction Writing Secrets: How do writers pull you into a story as if you’re the person experiencing the drama? In this workshop, students will learn writing techniques that bring stories to life. They will workshop examples of point of view, writing strong verbs, and action tags, then work together and in small groups to bring example passages to life using these techniques. Time and prompts will be given to help students write their own short passages to explore these writing strategies.

 How Objects and Research Can Morph into an Adventurous Book: Inspiration for stories come from many sources. In this workshop, students will learn how this author created a three-book middle grade series based on viewing a 3,000-year-old bronze dagger, an Egyptian alabaster jar, and a Phoenician coin. Students will get to handle these authenticated artifacts and learn tips on how adventurous ideas can arise from research and objects. Examples and time will be given for students to explore a research passage on a topic of their choice, and/or an object, then create a plot chart of story ideas inspired by their exploration.. Students will also leave with a bag of objects to further trigger their creativity.

Lori Z. Scott Workshops –  Small Group, ages 10 and older (If needed, these can be presented to a large group, but are best suited for small groups)

Ah-ha’s to Add Ha-ha’s to Your Writing: Laughter increases oxygen to your lungs, releases stress, and improves your mood.  But did you know humor can also hook readers and help sell a story to an editor? Funny how that works. Even if you don’t have a strong funny bone, you can learn how to add humor to your writing. I’ll share tips on how to do just that. This presentation is best suited for students ten and older who can understand the nuances of word play.

Boost Your Creativity: Studies show that creativity can be improved—it’s not just something you’re born with. With a few hands-on exercises, I’ll introduce kids to methods proven to push the brain to generate imaginative thinking. Focus on the Family asked me to write an article on this very topic, which will be published later this year. This presentation can be tailored for any age group with advance notice.

Word Choice Matters: Written words have the power to create, transform, and change the world. That’s why word choice matters. This hands-on workshop demonstrates how the words you use can enhance the emotions of your characters and promote your theme. Best for older students (ages ten and older) who understand the connotation of words.

Find Inspiration Around You: Authors often tell you to write what you know. Mentor text show students how to write what you read. This workshop combines both to help students find topics and ideas to write about using simple brainstorming techniques. It can be tailored to any age group with advance notice.

Large Group, K-3rd Grade
(If needed, these can be presented to a small group, but are best suited for large groups)

Sticky-Gooey, Chompy-chewy, Yummy-Tummy, Tooti-Fruity Bubble Gum: Just for the younger audience, I’ll present a fun audience participation story. Then I’ll talk about how a writer plays with words and how they can play with words too. My book is not geared for this audience, but since I teach second grade, I’m happy to let them know how much fun it is to be an author. This is the perfect presentation for kids Kindergarten through third grade.

Mindset of an Athlete, Ages 14-18

This presentation specifically targets high school athletes and ties directly to my book Inside the Ten-Foot Line. I examine how an athlete’s mental mindset impacts his or her success on the field and will provide tools enabling listeners to evaluate their current performance.

Sandra Fernandez Rhoads Workshops – TBA

About the Family-Friendly Fiction Writers

Kelli McKinney
When Kelli McKinney and her family aren’t exploring national parks, she can be found sipping cinnamon tea, struggling to keep houseplants alive, or chucking a toy across the backyard for her English Mastiff. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma and her graduate degree in radio/tv/film from the University of North Texas. She enjoyed an eclectic-yet-fulfilling career in corporate marketing before wandering off to be a writer. Now, she is a part-time copywriter, full-time mom, and a children’s author. She can be reached on Instagram @kellimckinneywrites or through her website at

Kelli’s Latest Book:
Jeff Pennant’s Field Guide to Raising Happy Parents is about a fifth-grade boy who doesn’t understand why he’s always grounded. He’s just living his best life, like his parents always tell him to do, but somehow he keeps getting in trouble.

If he doesn’t get ungrounded fast, his best friends will go to GamerCon without him. So Jeff decides to take matters into his own hands. He starts a science experiment designed to learn what makes his parents happy. But sometimes science doesn’t reveal the things you think it will.

It’s a story about family and friendship, about honesty, and about learning to look outside yourself to see the value and needs of others.

Marie Sontag
“Bringing the Past to Life—One Adventure at a Time,” epitomizes the passion and writing career of Marie Sontag. Her upcoming YA release, Underground Scouts, furthers her tradition of crafting adventurous historical novels for middle-grade and young adult readers. Her newest book brings her number of released series to three: Ancient Elements, Whitcomb Discoveries, and the WWII Rising Hope series. On author visits, Dr. Sontag always shares her authenticated, ancient artifacts of a bronze dagger, alabaster jar, and Phoenician coin. She holds a BA in social science and an MA and Ph.D. in education. A teacher in California for over fifteen years, she now resides in Texas. When not writing, she can be found playing princesses or super heroes with her grandkids.

Lori Z. Scott
Lori Z. Scott has taught elementary school for over 20 years, but she’s best known for her bestselling Meghan Rose series. Besides these children’s chapter books, Lori has published over 175 articles, short stories, poems and book contributions, including Writing and Selling Children’s Books in the Christian Market. Her quirky habits of chronic doodling and telling lame jokes help spark her imagination and, thus far, have not driven off any of her friends.  Look for her new YA novel, Inside the Ten-foot Line, the first book in a sports series geared for Christian athletes releasing September 2022. Find her on Instagram or Twitter @Lori_Z_Scott or visit her website 

Sandra Fernandez Rhoads
Sandra She was born in Queens, New York to Cuban-Colombian parents, but grew up in Texas with a love for classical art and literature, specifically Renaissance artists and Late Romantic poets. She attended the University of Texas at Austin and earned a degree in English, and then went on to earn an MA in her seventeenth century crush, John Milton. Past experience also includes a background in acting, directing, as well as script writing for stage and short film.

When she’s not dreaming up fantastical worlds or challenging her characters to overcome impossible obstacles, she loves seeking new adventures to fuel her imagination. She currently reside in Dallas with her husband, four kids, and two pups.


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