Category Archives: Fun with Heck

From Reluctant to Triumphant: Turning Wary Writers into Writing Winners

Part Two: Reaching Auditory Learners

shutterstock_318745259 (1)

A reluctant writer comes in many guises: a student who is good at telling stories but lacks the skill (or desire) to put them down on paper; someone who is never satisfied with what they write; a poor speller; someone who thinks that writing is just grammar and rules; someone who abandons their writing easily; or someone who is simply scared to push themselves or risk appearing foolish.

A simple strategy is to not make writing seem like writing to the reluctant writer. Not tricking them, per se, but cleverly building up necessary skills to help make writing more productive and satisfying.

Now You’re Talking (and Writing)

Some children are auditory learners. You know: the ones that you are constantly hushing (it’s odd: we spend so much time trying to get children walking and talking as babies only to force them sit down and be quiet when older!). In any case, many of these “chatty” students simply must process thoughts through their lips.

In terms of writing, verbal learners might prefer talking another student through their story before committing pen to paper: verbally formulating their plot and solidifying characters. This helps young writers put thoughts in order beforehand to better avoid writing frustration.

Auditory learners have the tendency to read out loud, repeat information and ask a variety of questions for clarification. They understand the world by talking about it, tend to like music, would rather listen to and talk about a story than read, and demonstrate good oral spelling.

All Ears

Auditory learners remember what they hear and tend to process by talking aloud. They are the vocal students who hum, tap their pencils to a beat, or can’t go throughout the day without singing or sharing a story. These students can often have a hard time concentrating in a noisy environment.

Headphones can act like mufflers for students who are easily distracted by sounds and side-conversations. Non-intrusive music can also be used to set a “mood” in the learning environment. This can help students better focus on the task at hand. Long periods of silence when reading, writing, or testing can be difficult for auditory learners. Classical music can help calm students during an exam, while upbeat music might prove motivational during certain lessons or exercises.

These students thrive in group discussions and read aloud activities. They often need to read out loud, ask questions, or talk through problems they are having with their work

Persuasive writing exercises can be engage auditory learners by getting children together in groups to form and present persuasive arguments. These types of learners often make strong debaters, so enabling students to build persuasive arguments can be an emboldening experience. Students can begin by determining a goal, then identifying reasons to support that argument then finding facts or examples to validate each reason. Persuasive lessons help students discover the power of writing to serve their needs. When they recognize what writing can “do for them,” they are motivated to write and to work at making their arguments clearer and more persuasive.

Set the Stage for Collaboration

Sometimes students simply work better together. Pairing children or putting them in small groups for a set amount of time should help keep them focused (though be prepared for some noise!). Pairing up students to help them brainstorm their stories can ignite creativity on its own, with each child helping one another to fill in gaps or take their ideas in exciting new directions. Students can even “role-play” their characters and situations! Partners can write and switch too—building their stories line by line—or one person can transcribe what the other dictates and then switch, turning an evolving conversation into an actual story. Their stories don’t even need to be formally committed to paper and could, for example, be recorded as a podcast. Listening back to their podcasts and either honing their stories verbally or through the act of writing can kick-start healthy writing habits.

Children don’t even need to be in the same room when brainstorming stories. Online collaboration tools such as Padlet can help with collaborative ideation. Padlet works like an online sheet of paper where students can put any content (e.g. images, videos, documents, text) anywhere on the page, together with anyone, from any device.

Correcting a peer’s writing (or a teacher’s, for that matter) is also far less painful than correcting your own. This helps a reluctant writer learn how to revise and correct without it feeling too personal.

Make It a Habit

Making writing a fun and frustration-free part of a student’s daily life is important. Timed free-writing exercises—no more than ten or 15 minutes at a time—help to ingrain good practices. Ideally, students will begin to consider this “their special time” to reflect, let their imaginations run rampant, vent frustrations, or capture life-moments. It’s also important to let students write about what engages them the most before nudging them into specific directions. If they are passionate about a topic, this passion will ultimately come through in their writing. This could even take the form of “fan fiction”: where students continue the adventures of beloved characters from books or movies.

Setting up a class blog, with teacher-penned prompts (such as quotes, snippets of dialogue, or even photographs), can also prove successful. Be sure to promote short bursts of productive writing: save the editing and spelling for later. The worst thing for writing flow is to have issues such as spelling and grammar impede that initial gush of creativity.

Again, for the verbal learner, this could be simply recording their thoughts for a designated period of time, and making use of those ideas later when writing. Students can capture ideas—either alone or with collaborators—while on walks by dictating into their phones. It’s a great opportunity for students to talk their stories out while releasing restless energy! Even recording recollections of dreams can be a powerful way of building vocabulary.

And, since reluctant writers are often reluctant readers, have students make reading a part of their daily routine. This could even be listening to audio books or magazine podcasts on an iPod: anything to fill a young writer’s head with well-chosen words.

Peer Pressure

Students are often more inclined to step-up and brave that blank page if they know that their writing will be shared with peers. Hold a reading at a local coffee shop for student work, or simply a weekly “open mic” in the classroom where students read what they have written that week. Student stories can also be published in a book, blog or eBook. Be sure to teach “tactful” commenting and critique. Even those who are shy to share will likely be inspired by those who aren’t.

Resistance is Futile (and Fuel)

Even resistance can be used as writing fuel. If a student doesn’t want to write and, instead, would prefer to play outside, let them write about what they’d do outside. If they want to scream and throw a tantrum, have them write about that. Let them write about how much they hate writing until they have run out of words. This will reinforce that all-important pipeline between brain and fingers.

The Write Tools

There are a number of online tools to help get auditory learners writing.

ReadWriteThink is a handy online resource that provides educators, parents, and afterschool professionals with free, high-quality reading and language arts instruction materials.

Another way to help students organize and arrange stories is through Adobe Spark Video. This free tool allows students to quickly create animated videos featuring their own narration. Not only do the app’s prompts help children with story structure, but Adobe Spark Video can also be an empowering tool for students who are uneasy with giving formal presentations to their peers.

Other tools include: PodOmatic, where auditory learners can create, find and share podcasts; Playlist, a resource for auditory learners to access free music to play in the background while they learn; Natural Reader, a way to read text stored on your computer; Audacity, easy-to-use audio editing software; Librivox, providing free access to nearly 1,500 free audio books recorded by Librivox volunteers; Project Gutenberg, a collection of human-read and computer-generated audio books; Lit2Go, a collection of free stories and poems in mp3 format; and Read With Me, a student literacy and reading tool for grades K-2 (and their teachers).

With these and other writing tricks and tips, reluctant writers will eventually overcome feelings of past failure and begin to develop the skills crucial to strong writing: building confidence, pride and perseverance!

Happy Heckoween

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 5.20.14 PMIt’s that time of year again, when children wear cumbersome, restrictive costumes and wander in the dark to eat food handed to them by total strangers. What could go wrong? How about…getting the Circles of Heck series! Yes, imagine the looks of mild confusion when, instead of getting some fun-sized candy (as if “fun” could ever be properly measured!?) your young boys and ghouls receive fresh copies of the Circles of Heck series!


Read what real people could possibly be saying about the highly affordable Circles of Heck series!

“So frightening that I soiled someone ELSE’s pants!” — Stephen King

“I laughed so hard that I broke all of my ribs. Seriously, I am in incredible pain, please help me.” — Will Ferrell

“Basye uses many of the same words that appear in classic pieces of literature.” — Harvard University

“The [Heck series] is the [best series] [ever written].” — [New York Times]

“You will laugh, cry and cherish every page of Dale E. Basye’s exceptional Circles of Heck series!” — Not a Real Magazine Magazine


Check out these gorgeous portraits of Milton and Marlo from Nancy Ho AKA AniXancy!


The Circles of Heck vs. Circles of Hell: A Primer in Pre-Teen Perdition

One of the top questions I am asked—second only to “How the hell did you get into my living room!?”—is “How is your AMAZING book series for middle-readers—Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go—inspired by Dante’s epic poem, Inferno?”

Well let’s go back a bit…In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over…okay, maybe that’s too far back. I’ll skip a bit.

It was, like, 2005 or something. A filmmaker friend of mine wanted to collaborate on an animated short about the devil—sort of a VH1’s Behind the Brimstone sort of thing—so I got to thinking, which is what I tend to do when I want to avoid actual work.

One of the nuggets I came up with was a Hell for children (thank you, Pat Benatar) that—of course—just had to be called Heck. It was loosely based on the structure of Dante’s Inferno, and the story just sort of grew organically from there. Since the subject material was so potentially bleak (even eternal darnation can still be something of a bummer), I wanted it to strike the proper tone between funny, silly, exciting, and meaningful.

So let us analyze the differences between Dante’s Hell and Dale’s (my) Heck:

• Inferno (Italian for “Hell”) is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It chronicles the journey of Dante through the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering.

• Heck (not quite “Hell) is a series of books for pre-teens, teens, and anyone who likes the dark and goofy. It chronicles the journey of Milton and Marlo Fauster through an underworld middle school. There is a character named Virgil. In Heck, there are nine circles of supreme irritation based on childish “sins.”

And, since we live in a distracted age and need simple things to hold our attention…what is that spot on my wall? Is it a spider? Oh…it’s just a squooshed spider. So I guess it was a spider but now…anyway, I made the following chart to illustrate the key differences between Dante’s Inferno and Heck:

Screen Shot 2014-02-21 at 10.26.32 AM

Now let’s dig deeper: in fact, all the way to the underworld! All aboard…


 Limbo: The First Circle of Hell

You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. Here, there are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, un-baptized children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. The atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.




Limbo: The First Circle of Heck

Welcome to the most boring, dull, drab, awful, endless, monotonous place where you ever twiddled your thumbs and stared off into space. Limbo is like having a Time Out…forever. Everything moves soooooooo tortuously slow. But hey: at least the broken clocks are right twice a day. Now go wait in the corner and think about what you’ve done—for all eternity.




Lust: The Second Circle of Hell

Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain.




Rapacia: The Second Circle of Heck

Gimme gimme gimme! Didn’t anybody ever tell you that greed would get you nowhere? Well…nowhere good at least. Welcome to Rapacia: Where you could never get enough, and what you did get is now completely worthless. Remember how you swore you’d die if you didn’t get it all? Well, be prepared to hand over all the pretty, shiny, glittery things you had to possess and obsess over. It’s the price you have to pay. Greed it and weep!




Gluttony: The Third Circle of Hell

The gluttons are punished here, lying in the filthy mixture of shadows and of putrid water. Because you consumed in excess, you meet your fate beneath the cold, dirty rain, amidst the other souls that there lay unhappily in the stinking mud.




Blimpo: The Third Circle of Heck

You are what you eat…so you must be one sugary, salty mess of fudge, milkshakes, and curly chili fries with cheese! Welcome to Blimpo: Where your best friend is food and your gross lack of willpower is your worst enemy. You are all urge, and no purge. Never feel full? Get used to it—because this is one mess you can’t eat your way out of.




Greed: The Fourth Circle of Hell

Here, the prodigal and the avaricious suffer their punishment, as they roll weights back and forth against one another. You will share eternal damnation with others who either wasted and lived greedily and insatiably, or who stockpiled their fortunes, hoarding everything and sharing nothing.




Fibble: The Fourth Circle of Heck

White lies, whopping lies and everything in between makes you a liar, liar, pants on fire! You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth! Welcome to Fibble: Where believing your lies makes you the best liar of all. So go ahead: lie through your smiling teeth. Lie in wait. But, above all, lie low. You’ll be here awhile. Honest.




Anger: The Fifth Circle of Hell

Here are the wrathful and the gloomy. The former are forever lashing out at each other in anger, tearing each other piecemeal with their teeth. The latter are gurgling in the black mud, slothful and sullen. Their lamentations bubble to the surface as they try to repeat a doleful hymn.




Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck

Boo hoo. Who? You. Forever! Welcome to Snivel, where spilled milk is just one of the many things you’ll be crying about. It’s a place where the whining flows freely,  and no one cares about your moaning because they’re too busy groaning themselves. Now you’re really down in the dumps: way, way down!




Heresy: The Sixth Circle of Hell

Burning tombs are littered about the landscape. Inside these flaming sepulchers suffer the heretics, failing to believe in God and the afterlife, who make themselves audible by doleful sighs. You will join the wicked that lie here, and will be offered no respite.




Precocia: The Sixth Circle of Heck

Your attempt to grow up too fast only made you go down, down, down way before your time. Welcome to Precocia, where the bad kids who don’t think they’re kids go. Every day is Freaky Friday where your salad days are served with a sneeze guard, meaning, no more kidding around. Ever.




Violence: The Seventh Circle of Hell

The violent, the assassins, the tyrants, and the war-mongers lament in the river, while centaurs armed with bows and arrows shoot those who try to escape their punishment. The stench here is overpowering.




Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but down here, words hurt far, far more. Welcome to Wise Acres where those with sharp tongues can cut deep. It’s the place for kids who sass back with a vengeance. So, if this sounds like you, then get ready for the ultimate war of words, and pray that you never run out of ammunition.




Fraud: The Eighth Circle of Hell

Those guilty of fraudulence and malice are whipped by horned demons while the hypocrites struggle to walk in lead-lined cloaks. The magicians, diviners, fortune tellers, and panderers are all here, as are the thieves.




Sadia: The Eighth Circle of Heck

The foulest of the foul. The most brutal of the brutal. Welcome to Sadia, a place where the end always justifies the mean. Here, you’ve got to be cruel to be a kid, because the golden rule is an iron-fist. Think you can roll with the punches? Well, here’s hoping you don’t bruise easily.




Treachery: The Ninth Circle of Hell

This is the deepest level of hell, where the fallen angel Satan himself resides. His wings flap eternally, producing chilling cold winds. Sinners here are frozen deep in the ice, faces out, eyes and mouths frozen shut. Traitors against God, country, and family, lament their sins in this frigid pit of despair.




Dupli-City: The Ninth Circle of Heck

Friend or faux? Welcome to Dupli-City, where every kid puts their best face forward: both of them. Treachery, manipulation, and betrayal are always in fashion. It’s a place where you’ve always got to watch your back, becomes there’s always someone ready to stab you in it. And, after an eternity spent here, you may just find that your own worst frenemy is yourself.



So, the moral of all this is: ALWAYS READ THE FINE PRINT. In fact: read EVERYTHING! Be it the work of a long-dead Italian poet ruminating about a fantastical spiritual journey, or a middle-aged wise guy who likes his satire served with a side of groan-inducing puns. So read whatever you can get your hands on, even the bitter and dark because—without that—how would we truly appreciate sweetness and light?


Guest Blog and Amazon Gift Card Contest 2/13!

Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 3.07.58 PM

Join book blog Bitten By Books on Thursday 2/13 with me (author Dale Basye) for a guest blog, chat and contest.This event post goes up at 12:00pm Central and runs into the evening. For those visiting from outside of the US, here is the time conversion link. Bitten By Books is in the Chicago time zone:

I will be talking about my newest book Wise Acres: The Seventh Circle of Heck.

“In the seventh installment of Heck, Dale E. Basye sends Milton and Marlo Fauster to Wise Acres, the circle reserved for kids who sass back. In Wise Acres, the cleverest, snarkiest, put-downiest kids debate and trade insults in Spite Club. But the new vice principal, Lewis Carroll, has some curious plans to raise the profile—and the stakes—of the competition. Now a full-fledged War of the Words will be broadcast through the afterlife. The winner will get the heck out of Heck and go straight to heaven. And the loser? Well, the loser goes down . . . all the way down to the real h-e-double-hockey-sticks. And Milton and Marlo are on opposite teams. Can they find a way out of Lewis Carroll’s mad-as-a-hatter scheme? Or is one Fauster about to pay a permanent visit to the Big Guy Downstairs?”

CONTEST INFO: Open to readers worldwide!
First Prize: $20.00 Amazon Gift Card
RSVP below and get 25 entries to the prize portion of the contest when you show up on the day of the event. If you don’t show up and mention your RSVP your points won’t be entered into the contest. Be SURE to TWEET and FACEBOOK this link: so your friends can RSVP too.


Fan Art from Ethano! “Thank you for writing good stories. I honestly haven’t really bothered to read books for a long while… It feels good to read books again. Anyway here’s a picture I drew. :)”


Great Dane Reviews

Photo on 2-15-13 at 1.49 PMThe Danish translation of Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go is Hulen: Hvor de Slemme Børn Ender (The Cave: Where the Bad Kids End Up) has been getting some interesting reviews: especially when pseudo-translated by Google: “It is a successful and very funny book about school and behavior, and what it means for children and young people in puberty, here in an intelligent satire” and “It is not for the faint of heart – nor sensitive eyes and ears, this book is packed with so many unsavory words and outrageous descriptions that one can wonder that it does not weigh more.”


The League of Extraordinary Writers!

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 8.43.56 AM

Trick and Treat WINNERS!

The Contest: Send a photo of you dressed as a Heck character for Halloween.

The Prize: A signed Circles of Heck book!

First Place: Elijah from New Jersey! Elijah is dressed as Milton Fauster from Snivel: The Fifth Circle of Heck. Not only did Elijah submit his entry mere moments from the contest announcement, but he has the most dismal expression on his face I’ve ever seen (that is, apart from this morning when I was shaving).image


Second Place: Spencer from Oakland. Spencer is dressed as Milton Fauster from Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go. Nice ferret in the backpack!

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 5.20.14 PM

Third Place: Jocelyn from Atlanta. While not a costume, per se, Jocelyn created the Gates of Heck using pipe cleaners and, for Marlo Fauster, an embellished Bratz doll. All in all, a creeptastic Heckoween display.

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 5.20.33 PM

Nice job, Hecklers! Your booty is in the mail. Books too!

Trick AND Treat!

HNI_0007Vermont may be for lovers, but Halloween is for Hecklers! To prove it, I will give a signed book (maybe even a Circles of Heck book) to the first THREE Hecklers that send me pictures or video of them dressed as a character from my Heck series (new photos, please…I know a few of you have dressed like Milton or Marlo in the past!). Please send all photographic (or videographic) evidence to:! Ready…set…GO CRAZY!