Mystery Bones Poster

Mystery Bones – Mystery Writing Workshops

“I just took this course from Juanita and it was the best-spent Saturday I’ve ever had as a writer. I had a blast and probably learned more about the structure of what I want to do in six hours with Juanita than I could have in 50 “how to” books. Seriously, if you have a great idea and can’t find your way through the plot, she’s quite brilliant at laying out the map!”
Carol Picard, Newspaper Publisher, Journalist,  Canmore, AB

“Fun, fun, fun! One does not realize how devious the mind can be until you start writing a murder mystery! There are so many ways to die, be framed and so many things to hide! A great mix of laughs, chuckles and a-ha moments!”
Alita Bentley, Business Owner, Invermere BC

“Juanita Violini’s mystery writing workshop is an excellent motivator, sure to inspire progress with your book regardless of genre.”
– Karin von Wittgenstein, Director Kimberley Library, Kimberley BC


Basic Plot Wheel

Love reading mysteries?  Want to be a writer?  Working within a structure makes it easy.

The MYSTERY BONES method, created by Juanita Violini takes you through the dirt, bones, muscles, heart, mind and soul of a ‘Fairplay’ Mystery plot.

‘Fairplay’ means the author “plays fair” and gives the reader, along with the protagonist, all of the clues and other information necessary to solve the mystery.

As mystery guru Chandler says “the solution…must seem inevitable.” But it must not stand out. The reader needs to be tricked, distracted from the matter at hand. It is only at the denouement that he should smack himself smartly on the forehead and admit “Of course! It was obvious all along.”

CONTACT:  jrv(at) – for information

“Thank you!! I truly enjoyed the “Mystery Writing” Workshop. I am excited to teach my students “the bones” and I would love to share their work with you once completed. We are going to start the 2nd week in April so expect a possible call as I may need your assistance. Again, I certainly got what I wanted from the course as you made it interesting and easy to follow.”
Carrie Blais, Teacher, Cranbrook BC

I approached Juanita about coming to my senior writing class to do some workshopping with them; she was extremely receptive and willing to create a plan that fit the needs of my class. Juanita designed the presentation around the process of developing and writing a mystery. She shared resources that she developed and really focused on the importance of planning and developing a clue trail before writing. Again her approach was engaging and appropriate to the audience. The class developed an outline together, and Juanita’s expertise was evident in guiding the students in a direction that could be further developed.

After her visit, my class continued to work on their own individual mystery plots. Juanita returned for two more hours, during which she shared a full story that she had written based on the outline the students had created together. The students were extremely impressed that she could weave their ideas, which were sometimes bizarre, into a working story. At that point they realized that she was the real deal – someone who was really talented. From there she worked one-on-one with many of the students and helped them further develop their clue trails so they ahd all the details needed.

Juanita is a gifted writer with a unique specialty, but more impressive is that she knows how to share her knowledge with others and connect with students.
Crystal Woodworth
David Thompson Secondary School, Invermere BC

I wanted to formally thank you for the wonderful creative writing workshops that you presented to my two grade nine English classes. Your enthusiastic, spirited presentation on tips for creating characters and bringing short stories to life was the perfect way to begin my unit on creative fiction writings. Your idea of having the students start by introducing him or herself with a detailed description of what they had from breakfast really broke the ice, as well as illustrating for them how important it is to use specific details and sensory description in order to paint a vivid picture in someone’s mind. You then took that idea, and gave them many more examples of how to show, not just tell, in writing. The sound clips were a fun demonstration.

My students were particularly engaged when you had them create characters with different characteristics, objectives, and obstacles. I not only witnessed their enthusiasm during the workshop, but I am now seeing the results in their writing – some of the best developed characters and story lines I’ve seen in grade nine for years.
Shelley Little
English Teacher and Dept. Head
David Thompson Secondary School, Invermere BC

It is with great pleasure that I submit this recommendation on behalf of Juanita’s wonderful contribution to the reading and writing of mystery fiction for children. Juanita came into my grade four classroom to help me introduce a unit on writing mysteries. On day one of our mystery unit Juanita set up an interactive crime scene where the children discovered clues, identified suspects, tested evidence in a crime lab and connected the various clues to the suspects. The students used the clue book included in Juanita’s resource to represent and organize what they learned during their investigations. Needless to say, the students were hooked on mysteries and through their hands-on activity were given the background knowledge required to understand how the mystery formula works.

For teachers, Juanita’s resource contains practical and easy-to-follow activities. They are organized sequentially to ensure for proper progression in the teaching of the mystery formula. The resource also includes a variety of graphic organized used by the students to consider the aspects of a mystery such as the crime scene, main characters, the two halves of the clues, suspects and connecting suspects to the clues and solving the crime.

The mystery genre, as presented in this resource, not only meets a myriad of the BC Language Arts learning outcomes for both reading and writing at a variety of grade levels but also is an excellent way to teach the intellectual tools for critical thinking. While participating in the activities presented in this resource, students apply:

Judgement: When solving or creating a mystery, students are asked to use a variety of organizers to represent what they know.

Habits of Mind: Students develop a willingness to consider new evidence and clues that may oppose their idea of ‘who did it’. Students then learn to revise their view should the evidence or clues warrant it.

The proliferation of junior mystery fiction is evident by the many titles that fill library and bookstore catalogues. Many elementary school-aged children are attracted to this genre and crave the element of suspense, formula plots, and characterization. Unfortunately, quality resources for teachers who, like myself, would like to teach this genre in the classroom are sparse. I was therefore delighted with Juanita’s resource. She has skilfully presented the formula for the mystery fiction into a format that both teachers and their students can easily follow and understand.
Tara Smith – Grade Four Teacher
Edgewater Elementary School, Edgewater BC

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