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EXTRACTION Release Day!

At long last, the day has come.

Becoming a published author has been a dream of mine ever since I was seven, drinking tea in a book club during lunch at my elementary school. I started pursuing my dream at age twelve, and it took seven years to land an agent and a publishing contract.

It’s been a long ride, but it happened. It really happened. I am so, so happy to share this book with you all. :)

EXTRACTION FINAL COVER

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.  

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers, which means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued. 

With intense action scenes and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, and leave them breathless for more.

Advance Praise for Extraction:

“With its toxic moon and dangerous secrets, Kiel is a planet you’ll want to visit again and again, especially with tough, plucky Clementine as your guide. A breathtaking debut that kept me glued to the page!” –Jessica Khoury, author of Origin

“A gripping tale of loyalty, heartache, and self-discovery, Diaz’s debut had me invested from page one. I can’t wait to read the next installment.” -Kasie West, author of Pivot Point

“Bold, brutal, and brilliantly paced, EXTRACTION kept me racing through the pages and desperate for more.” —Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities

“Viciously beautiful, EXTRACTION sucks you into a brutal world where action and twists come at a relentless pace, hitting the best notes of old-school sci-fi. I flew through it!” —Kat Zhang, author of What’s Left of Me

You can purchase a copy of Extraction from the following places, or request it at your local library!

Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound | Book Depository | iBooks

21-year-old Stephanie Diaz wrote her debut novel when she should’ve been making short films and listening to class lectures at San Diego State University. When she isn’t lost in books, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fangirling over TV shows. Her YA sci-fi novel, EXTRACTION, is available now. The sequel, REBELLION, is out February 10, 2015. You can follow Stephanie on twitter: @StephanieEDiaz.
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Release day for ALL FOUR STARS!

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman Cover

It’s here! A mere 9 years after I started writing it and 2+ years after I sold it, All Four Stars is a published novel. Hooray! Please excuse me while I stuff my face with something delicious to celebrate.

Giant sandwich

Okay, I’m back. *wipes away crumbs* Here’s a blurb about the book:

Meet Gladys Gatsby: New York’s toughest restaurant critic. (Just don’t tell anyone that she’s in sixth grade.)

Gladys Gatsby has been cooking gourmet dishes since the age of seven, only her fast-food-loving parents have no idea! Now she’s eleven, and after a crème brûlée accident (just a small fire), Gladys is cut off from the kitchen (and her allowance). She’s devastated, but soon finds just the right opportunity to pay her parents back when she’s mistakenly contacted to write a restaurant review for one of the largest newspapers in the world. But to meet her deadline and keep her dream job, Gladys must cook her way into the heart of her sixth-grade archenemy and sneak into New York City—all while keeping her identity a secret. Easy as pie, right?

 

Advance praise for All Four Stars

*An Amazon Editors’ Pick For Middle Grade Summer Reading*

Gladys is a lovable character with plenty of spunk and desireand readers will happily cheer her on, while the fresh plot adds a delicious dimension to the host of stories set in sixth grade. -BOOKLIST

The [restaurant-reviewing] plan goes disastrously and hilariously awry, but Gladys and fine food ultimately triumph. The characters are well drawn…Give this one to your young foodies. -SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL

Younger readers (especially those who know their way around a kitchen) will be amused by Gladys’s reviews of her parents’ horrible cooking (“The peas… arrived at the table in a soggy, mushy state fit for a baby”) and her plot to get to New York City without alerting any adults. The triumphant conclusion makes this a tasty read. -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

Gladys turns out to be surprisingly canny and resourceful…and Gladys’s psychological journey and personal transformation are solid and credible. [An] entertaining story about the joys of following one’s bliss. -KIRKUS

“Readers will cheer for Gladys, laugh at her misadventures, and find themselves suddenly hungry for a tasty treat. A scrumptious gem of a story!“ -JENNIFER A. NIELSEN, New York Times bestselling author of The False Prince

 

If you happen to be in New York City, come join me at the official launch party TONIGHT at Books of Wonder (6pm)!

And if you’re not, then you can join the online party with the official All Four Stars blog tour, hosted by The Midnight Garden, which is loaded with fun extras and chances to win the book.

You can also request it at your local library or find it at any of the following places:

Your local independent bookstore (find one here) * Penguin * Powell’s * BAM * B&N * Amazon * Walmart * Indigo * Book Depository

I hope that you enjoy reading All Four Stars as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Tara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering round-the-world honeymooner (two years, 74 countries!) who now lives in Colorado. Her debut middle-grade novel, ALL FOUR STARS (Putnam/Penguin, 7/10/14), tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper.
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The Author’s Voice: interview with OneFour author Bethany Neal

Fragmented memories and irreversible decisions: Bethany speaks with us about her YA thriller debut, MY LAST KISS (FSG, June 2014).

 

 

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Kate Boorman is an independent artist and writer from the Canadian prairies. She was born in Nepal (where she was carried up the Himalayas in a basket) and she grew up in a small Albertan town (where she rode her bike to Girl Guides). She is fond of creepy things. Speaking of! Her YA fantasy WINTERKILL debuts September 9th, 2014 (Abrams/Amulet and Faber & Faber).
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Mad For Middle Grade: Behind the Scenes

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

Looking for a summer beach read? Then look no further than our adorable, delicious, delightful July releases:

ALL FOUR STARS
by Tara Dairman
Release date: July 10
Goodreads

THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
by Dana Alison Levy
Release date: July 22
Goodreads

Hooray for Tara and Dana’s spectacular debuts! If you haven’t read them yet, then RUN–don’t walk–to your nearest bookstore or library! Trust me.

Ever wonder why authors choose particular names, include certain scenes, or write about specific topics? Want to learn some little-known facts about the writing of our books? Allow us to give you a sneak peek into some behind the scenes moments!

Question: Tell a behind the scenes story about your book!

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar

Caminar is based on actual events, but since the story is fiction, I decided not to use real place names. Instead, I made up names, offering a nod to significant words and places. The name of the camp that the rebels are travelling towards, for example, is Ixchandé, which is inspired by Iximché, a place that was once the capital base of the Kaqchikel Maya around the time that the Spaniards invaded. And during the time of Carlos’s story, Iximché held an important meeting where many Guatemalans declared that they would organize and rise up against the militant government. 

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet BooksHopeIs

I don’t usually name my characters after people I know. USUALLY. But when I was writing the book that would become HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, I was also working at an elementary school. One of my favorite students was a kindergartner named Gloria. I worked one-on-one with her a lot and loved how silly and sweet she was. So when I needed a name for Star’s bubbly, sugar-obsessed pseudo-godmother (who is actually based on ME), I borrowed Gloria’s name. I don’t know if Gloria will ever read the book or make the connection, but it’s there because she always brightened my day.

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Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I knew I wanted my book to be very Midwestern, so set my story in Saugatuck, Michigan, which is this wonderful beach town along the Lake Michigan shoreline in Western Michigan. For Chicagoans who want to make a quick escape in the summertime, it’s an easy trip – no hassles of air travel, lots of fruit picking along the way. It’s a wonderful place to shed the big-city woes and just run around barefoot and enjoy the sand and the sun. I feel like with today’s plugged-in generation, kids don’t experience summertime the same way as generations before them. For too many kids, it’s a time to sit around in air-conditioning playing video games. I wanted to create a place where the characters shed all that and key into the beauty of the area – catching the sunsets, discovering hummingbirds, looking up at the stars as they light up a night sky. Old school joys of being out of school.

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

For most of my childhood, my dad INSISTED he was the missing crown prince of Lithuania. The reason for the fake royal blood? My table manners. Every time he spotted my elbows on the table, I’d hear, “When I return to my birthright, you’re not going to be able to attend royal events at the castle with manners like that.” At a certain point, I learned to place my napkin in my lap (confession: I still sometimes sneak a book under it during dinner!) and I realized my father was, well, full of it. But I also knew exactly who to name the King of Somerstein after when it came time to write my book. You’re welcome for the promotion, Dad!

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Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan20518878

The “key” in SPIRIT’S KEY was inspired by a handmade ring I’d made from some Alice in Wonderland fabric. The fabric had all these cute little images on it: a key, a mirror, a rabbit, a cake. I’d isolated the key and made a ring with it that was sitting on my dresser when I was contemplating Spirit’s story. I knew already that Spirit’s Dad was a psychic—one who specifically had the ability to see the future. But I didn’t know how. I saw the key ring, and thought: Yes! People’s house keys! That’s how Dad will know their future. And Spirit’s Key was born.

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Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

Researching Steering Toward Normal was so much fun because I visited farms, state fairs, interviewed amazing 4-H’ers, and witnessed a ton of moments that I basically reported verbatim. Like the toddler at the Minnesota State Fair who moo’ed his guts out at a steer’s butt for five minutes, just pleased as heck he knew what sound a cow makes and very determined to get this particular animal to make it back to him. The little guy was hoarse by the time his mom led him away. The scene almost didn’t make the cut, but how could I not shoehorn in such cuteness?

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Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER
Delacorte/Random House

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THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER is filled with true happenings (both good and bad) and inside jokes. But one fun secret: their name didn’t start out as Fletcher. They were the family Furnival, until I got some editorial feedback that “some people” thought “Furnival sounded like “funeral.” I know, I don’t really hear it either. Anyway, off I went on a wild search for a new name! Then my editor said, “well, wasn’t the dog in your aunt’s (author Elizabeth Levy) books named Fletcher? What if you named the family after that dog?” So the family Fletcher was born, and only a few people knew that they were named for a basset hound in my aunt’s books! (If you want to see the original Fletcher dog, check here: http://elizabethlevy.com/booksall/ !)

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

As you may have noticed, Gladys Gatsby shares a last name with a certain other character from literature. Some people assume that this is a reference to “The Great Gatsby,” and it is–but not in the way they think. I’ve never been a fan of that book, so it’s always rankled me that Jay Gatsby is probably the most famous fictional literary character to live on Long Island (where I grew up, and where Gladys lives). So I guess I paid a tiny bit of homage by borrowing the name…but mostly, I just wanted to reclaim and reimagine it. My apologies to Fitzgerald!

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/PenguinBytheGraceofTodd_slsconf copy

In By the Grace of Todd, Persephone, the spunky Toddlian, is sold as a slave to one of evil Max’s bully buddies. At his house she watches an hombre named John Wayne on TV and so admires his toughness that she becomes a self-styled cowgirl.
Her character is a tribute to my cowboy father, who is my hero and a huge fan of the Duke. I also love the work of Louis L’Amour, and his lingo definitely influenced my writing. Persephone gets a lot more page time in the upcoming In Todd We Trust, as do the rest of the Toddlians. “GERONIMOOOO!!!”

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-HyperionHookCover_frontonly_72

Jocelyn’s pirate crew in HOOK’S REVENGE are so desperate to look experienced that they pretend to have battle wounds. There is One-Armed Jack (who keeps an arm tucked inside his shirt), Jim McCraig with a Wooden Leg (who only has a giant sliver in his toe), Blind Bart (who could see fine if he would remove at least one of his eye patches), and Nubbins. Nubbins lost a thumb in a cooking mishap, but claimed a giant squid bit it off. Since he is the only one with the glory of a real injury, I let him keep his given name. He would have felt less need to embellish. 

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Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES
Dial/Penguin

Here’s a quick glance at how I found some of my characters’ names:

Fairfoul WitchFairfoul was a name I stole off a gravestone in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Rupert: When trying to think of a perfect name for the protagonist, Rupert and Rufus were the first things that popped into my head. I went with Rupert because “Rufus” always makes me think of the (awesome) naked mole rat on Kim Possible.

Allison: One of my best friends once complained to me that there were never any nice, decent book characters named Allison. Challenge accepted!

Bruno: My nod to Roald Dahl’s THE WITCHES.

Rupert’s mom: Her name–Joanne–is only mentioned once in the whole book, but I named her after my favorite author, J.K. Rowling.

Mrs. Frabbleknacker: OK, this one just came from my brain. Fully formed. And weird.

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_THE NINJA LIBRARIANS is rife with real people, speeches, books, songs, and gadgets, summoned from history to help tell would-be sword-fighter Dorrie Barnes’ story. In it, the time-traveling warrior lybrarians call their headquarters “Petrarch’s Library”. I had never heard the phrase when I came across it scrawled cross-ways, loose, and all by itself on a piece of paper in a spiral notebook during a rare deepish house cleaning. I hadn’t written it, nor had anyone else in the family. The suggestive phrase wouldn’t leave me alone, and conjured the first images for me of a sprawling library connecting ancient and modern times. Petrarch the 14th c. humanist, it tickled me to learn, was a book fiend and restless traveler who often hit the roads leading a short train of donkeys laden with his personal library.

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Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

When Audrey Met Alice final coverI wanted to write about a fictional First Daughter, and I also wanted to write about the very real and awesome Alice Roosevelt. But I didn’t know which story idea to pick, or how to put those two together—at least without time travel.

I was waiting to cross the street at 62nd and Madison when suddenly the concept for not AUDREY or ALICE but WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE popped into my head. A presidential tween could find Alice’s diary and get ideas for running riot in the 21st century! I went home and outlined the whole book.

Later, while researching, I found out that the very intersection where inspiration struck was where young Alice lived with her Auntie Bye. Coincidence?

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Ryan Gebhart
THERE WILL BE BEARS
Candlewick Press

There’s a scene in THERE WILL BE BEARS where Tyson threatens his friend Brighton that if he doesn’t confess to liking Taylor Swift, he’ll hack up a wad of snot and spit it into his mouth. Most people would like to believe something this disgusting is entirely fictitious, however, yeah… no. I have five older brothers. I’ve been pinned down by my brother Jacob, a wad of snot dangling from his lips. It fell into my screaming mouth that pleaded for mercy.

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What other behind the scenes info do you want to know about any of our books? Have any questions for particular authors? We’ll answer questions in the comments section!

After that cold winter, please enjoy that hot summer sun! And be sure to return for another segment of Mad For Middle Grade on Monday August 4th.

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Mad For Middle Grade: A Trip Down Memory Lane

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

We have one wonderful June release that you definitely don’t want to miss:

51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

QUINNY & HOPPER
by Adriana Brad Schanen
Release date: June 10
Goodreads

HOORAY, ADRIANA! Congratulations on your lovely, endearing debut!

This month we are getting personal. Stick with us as we share some of our most vivid middle grade memories–ones that shaped us as authors.

Question: How have your middle grade memories affected your writing?

Edith Cohn
SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

In sixth grade I marched uEdith Cohnp to the most popular girl in school and asked, “Hey can I be popular with you guys?” because I figured being popular was as simple as asking for what you want. She responded with a pitying look, “I’m sorry, but some people don’t like you because you have chicken legs.” Wow. Really? I had no idea skinny legs and knobby knees were what was holding me back in life. In high school I told my friends this story, and chicken legs became a fond nickname. I owned it. Hindsight made it funny. But when it happened, I was mortified, rejected and I came to think of myself as an outsider. For years, I snapped at a lot of people who tried to talk to me—assuming I was the butt of some joke. Maybe sometimes I was, but I think a lot of time I was an outsider of my own making. In SPIRIT’S KEY, Spirit is also in some ways an outsider of her own making. 

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Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

My parents were lGayle Rosengrenong-divorced by the time  I was ten.  Mom worked full time and we lived on a very tight budget with little money left for the extras I yearned for–piano lessons (not that we had a piano), ballet lessons, ice skates, art supplies.  Library books were my salvation. They were free and promised unlimited adventure.  I opened their covers and became tomboy and future writer, Jo March; Cherry Ames, RN; Susie the ballerina; Tom Sawyer on his island; Trixie Belden, with her best friends (and horses!) and mysteries always at hand to solve. All of their lives were so much more interesting than my own. Readingwas like leaving a black & white world to enter a techni-color one, like when Dorothy lands in Oz.  I decided then that what I wanted more than anything was to be a children’s author because I wanted to make that kind of amazing difference in kids’ lives too. 

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Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGE
Disney-Hyperion

Heidi SchulzWhen I was in sixth grade I went to Skate Palace and couple skated with the wrong boy. He was nice and cute and seemed to like me, but he was wrong because another girl said so. Thus began the Get All the Girls to Hate Heidi Campaign.

It worked. For the rest of the year, the girls in my grade only spoke to me if they had something mean to say. Sometimes weapons were fired in the coatroom, via “anonymous” notes shoved in my pockets.

I still remember one: Dear heidi, Notice I didn’t capitalize your name. Only important words are capitalized.

In Hook’s Revenge, Jocelyn also gets pocket hate mail, though hers does not insult her with a grammar lesson.

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Robin Herrera
HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL
Amulet Books

In fourth grade, my class Robin Herrerawas assigned to write a “sequel” to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. My favorite cartoon had just aired a hilarious episode about that very topic, which included Jack being sued by the Giant for breaking and entering. So I wrote that and turned it in.
A few weeks later I had my parent-teacher conference. My teacher, usually critical of me, told my parents about the story I’d written. So creative and funny!
I squirmed in my seat, ashamed. My teacher finally had something nice to say about me, and it was for something I hadn’t even come up with on my own. I left with slumped shoulders that day, but I vowed never to pass someone else’s work off as my own.
So far, so good!

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Tracy Holczer
THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
Putnam/Penguin

When I was six, myTracy Holczer parents divorced. My mom grabbed me and Pooh, our teacup Chihuahua, and headed for Grandma and Grandpa’s house. It was summer, and they had a pool, so the shock of what was going on was dulled by sunshiny days, the pain of my peeling nose, and the excitement of watching my poor little dog get chased around by my aunt’s orange tom cat. While there, I happened upon a statue in the donation box that I snatched, and kept under my pillow. It didn’t take long for my six-year-old mind to decide the statue was my guardian angel.

Eventually, I found out the hard way the statue was, in fact, just a statue. She shattered into a million pieces at the feet of one of the meanest girls in my third grade class.

But it was moments like those, shardlike and brilliantly lit, that made me a writer. 

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Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

In eighth grade, assigned teams in gym class gave me unprecedented access to the rantings of the two queen bees at my middle school. I was well aware that we traveled in different social circles, but I never suspected we were living in different universes, until I heard oneJen Malone complaining to the other about how her boyfriend liked her to do a certain something that I literally did not know existed as a thing. In the span of two minutes of overheard conversation, my whole world tilted on its axel and I was left dumbfounded. What was most shocking to me was my complete and total ignorance before that moment. Was I the only one who didn’t know about this stuff? What other stuff was I oblivious to that everyone else not only knew about but, even worse, was already DOING? Would be expected to do these things? The answer was “not anytime soon”, but in that moment, it sure knocked me on my butt. It would be logical to assume this made me want to write edgier middle grade so no other poor soul is caught unawares, but it has actually had the opposite effect. I write sweet and light MG because adult me wants to give young, naive me hugs and tell her to stay that way as long as possible. The rest of that stuff is out there waiting when she’s ready for it.  

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Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

Some of my best childhood meAdriana Schanenmories were of spending time at my friend Kirsten’s summer cottage, in rural Southern Wisconsin. Our families were neighbors in a near-downtown part of Chicago, and we all grew close. She and I were busy with school and sports/activities most of the year, but at the lakeside cottage we did nothing much except read moldy old Nancy Drew books, perform shows on the rickety pier and wander the shoreline. These were the memories I went back to when writing my early MG novel, QUINNY & HOPPER: the contrast between city bustle and rural quiet, the breathlessness of a packed schedule versus the balm of a leisurely day all to yourself.

I changed schools a lot when I was young, and the anxieties and uncertainties of that informed my writing of this book, too — but it’s those simple, sweet cottage-day memories that made me want to write about a great summer friendship in the first place.

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Louise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

I was feeling veLouise Galvetsonry pleased with myself as I sashayed into the Jr High Halloween dance. I was all dolled up in a vintage black 60s dress, stilettos, pillbox hat with a net (my favorite part), and a diamond-studded cigarette holder (minus the cig, of course). I’d done my make-up a la Marilyn and felt my power as boy after boy wanted to slow dance with me. A big, good-looking farm boy (who’d never given me the time of day before) leaned in close to my hair and pulled back. “Yup,” he said with a lopsided grin. “Your hair does smell like BLEEP!” I was utterly humiliated. Curse you, Aquanet!

There is an extremely awkward Halloween dance in the sequel to BY THE GRACE OF TODD-IN TODD WE TRUST. Only Todd’s partner’s hair smells exotically of coconuts. :)

This picture is taken in the very cafeteria of the dance of shame. I think the hand-hold was a dare.

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

It’s in those middle years that one’s native cheery sense of the possible, and the obviously self-evident suffers its most sJen Downeycraping of challenges! The summer after 5th grade, I went off to camp. One with wooden mouse-
chewed cabins, a beautifully unsupervised archery range, a lake, and a supply of boys, a species newly of interest. I had gone with a friend. We had decided ahead of time to ditch our real names and enjoy two weeks of summer paradise as “Katie” in my friend’s case, and as “Sandy” in mine. Quickly, we fell in love with a pair of twins from Long Island who wore matching stars and stripes bathing suits. Meaningful glances were exchanged. Clearly a note needed to be written. Arrangements codified. Cross-legged, on the eau-de-urine mattress, I licked my pencil tip.  “Dear Ricky and Larry,” I composed, following with a business-like laying out of facts about the attraction “Katie” and “Sandy”  felt in equal, though non-discriminatory parts. I closed with a question: “Which one of you, likes which one of us.” At that evening’s lakeside 4th of July gathering, the note was passed up to the blanket on which our beloveds sat. In the expectant hush that presaged the release of the first round of fireworks, the twins’ answer came back in slow deafening unison: “We both like Katie!” No malice. Just the facts. And a vast audience for my stunned burning-faced recognition of logic’s betrayal.

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Do you have any significant middle grade memories? Come share your highs and lows with us in the comments!

We’ll be back on Monday July 7th for some more middle grade fun! Stay tuned!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
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Yum! Chatting about food in kidlit

The rise of the “foodie” book is one of our favorite new developments in kidlit, and this spring/summer is seeing the launches of two foodie-themed OneFour titles! Cupcake Cousins by Kate Hannigan (Disney-Hyperion, May 13) tells the story of fourth-graders Willow and Delia, two cousins who are hoping that their skills in the kitchen will earn them a promotion from flower girls (bleh!) to pastry chefs (yum!) for their aunt’s wedding, and All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (Putnam/Penguin, July 10) introduces sixth-grader Gladys Gatsby, who secretly becomes a restaurant critic for the all-powerful New York Standard newspaper.

Kate and Tara came together to answer four questions about food, writing, and the celebrity chefs who changed their lives. What could be more delicious?

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman CoverWhy are your characters so interested in food?

Tara: Gladys’s interest in food definitely springs from my own experiences. When I conceived of her character, I was in my mid-20′s, living in New York City, experimenting with recipes in my apartment’s tiny kitchen and trying new restaurants whenever my budget would allow. It felt like quite the culinary adventure compared to my suburban childhood in a family of microwave and take-out addicts–and I thought that the tension between those two worlds might be an interesting backdrop for a kids’ story.

Kate: And it’s funny because with the popularity of cooking shows, today’s kids are more exposed to the idea of good food and wonderful recipes. So food is definitely a popular topic. My characters are so interested in food because my kids are. They want to experiment with the things they see on Cupcake Wars  or Chopped. I found that when my daughter was in third and fourth grades, when friends came over, they wanted to bake cupcakes together. So a lot of what happens to Willow and Delia in my book comes from watching my own kids and their friends.

Why did you focus on food with your book?

Cupcake Cousins Cover medium fileKate: I wanted to create strong and interesting girls who are deeply engaged in their interests. Girls “making and doing” and really living life. And I think cooking and food are easy access points for engaging kids. Who doesn’t love a cupcake?

When kids get in the kitchen and start understanding what goes into the food they eat, they begin to take ownership of things. Not necessarily in big ways, but it’s laying a foundation for so much. Dumping in a quarter cup of this, one-third cup that, doubling recipes. Suddenly, they’re a whiz at fractions! When they see what binds together in a recipe, they’re gaining a sense of science in action.

And there is so much pride in a dish well-served. I think cooking is an easy and fun way to help kids gain a sense of self – self-identity, confidence, and all those great traits that come with feeling competent in something. Plus, it’s fun.

Tara: I love your reasons, Kate! I agree that kids have a great capacity for becoming deeply engaged in specific areas that intrigue them, so making Gladys somewhat obsessed with food and cooking was an easy choice. And on the reader side, well, we all have to eat, right? So a food-driven plotline seems to be something that any kind of reader can connect with, even if they’re not chefs or foodies themselves.

Who has been the most influential person in your food life? 

Tara: Mark Bittman–author of How to Cook Everything–literally taught me how to cook everything. I was 20 years old and had never boiled a pot of water when a friend recommended that cookbook to me as a good place to start learning. I still use it today, though its dust jacket is long gone and its binding is totally cracked. I probably should have dedicated All Four Stars to him….well, there’s always the sequel. :)

Kate: My influences are more like a salad bar – I pick and choose this and that. So it’s hard to think of one person who had the most impact. But I will say that I am most inspired by Chicago restaurateur Stephanie Izard. She’s not only the executive chef of one of the city’s very best restaurants, Girl & the Goat, but she was also the first woman to win Bravo’s “Top Chef.” I have so much respect for her as she’s risen to the top in a male-dominated field. Anytime I have a reason to celebrate, I dine at Stephanie’s Girl & the Goat. She’s a remarkable woman and a great role model for girls who want to be chefs when they grow up. And she was nice enough to read Cupcake Cousins and comment on it for the book cover.

Tara: A blurb from a real-life chef—how awesome, Kate! :)


What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever made/eaten?

Whoopee Pies w Olivia

Kate’s whoopee pie coming at ya!

Kate: I’ve gone dessert crazy in recent years, making a malted milkball cake I saw on Pinterest, insane chocolate-raspberry cakes at Christmastime, and Halloween cakepops for my kids (two October birthdays in our house). Plus I test all the recipes that are in Cupcake Cousins on my family over and over again. But the dish I’m most proud of making has to do with Julia Child. After watching the movie Julie & Julia, which featured Irma S. Rombauer (author of The Joy of Cooking) together with Julia herself, I was inspired to try Irma’s Boeuf Bourguignon. So in the same red French oven as in the film, I made the most amazing dish, complete with a French accent. It was a hoot, and I am still very proud of it. Though I’ve never attempted it again. . . !

Tara: Kate, you’ve got me drooling! When can I come over for dinner (and dessert)??

Green tea cupcake batter! It's green!

Tara’s green tea cupcake batter–it’s green!

I’ve also been testing recipes inspired by All Four Stars on my family and friends over the past year (and will be sharing the results soon on my website). One of the wackier recipes I had to “invent” was green tea cupcakes with sesame icing. Matcha green tea powder and tahini (ground sesame seed paste) both have strong flavors, so it definitely took some experimenting to get the balance right.

As for coolest thing I’ve ever eaten…well, I was lucky enough to spend two years backpacking around the world, so I sampled quite a few interesting dishes in that time. I’m not sure what to award the “coolest” crown to—hippo jerky (Zambia)? Fermented camel’s milk (Mauritania)? Donkey (China)?

I’ll go slightly less exotic and choose pan de yuca—Colombian cheese bread. Found in Colombia, Ecuador, and a fantastic little bakery in Chelsea, Manhattan called Big Booty Bread (where they’re also called “cheese rocks”). If mac and cheese were a gluten-free bread, it would be pan de yuca. Yum.

Hungry for even more?

Find Kate Hannigan at her website, on her blog, or on Twitter!
Find Tara Dairman at her website/blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter!

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Mad For Middle Grade: Writing Quotes

Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’re here the first Monday of every month, discussing middle grade writing, chatting about from our favorite middle grade books, introducing our own middle grade titles, sharing middle grade writing advice, and generally obsess over everything middle grade! And if there’s any middle grade topic you’re interested in, we’d love to hear it in the comments!

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and four fantastic middle grade books are headed your way in May:

Hum

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY
by Tracy Holczer

Release date: May 1
Goodreads

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

CUPCAKE COUSINS
by Kate Hannigan

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

SteeringTowardNormal_Final

STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
by Rebecca Petruck

Release date: May 13
Goodreads

9780448456850_IHB_3Sleep_CV_front (1)

SLEEPOVERS, SOLOS, AND SHEET MUSIC (I HEART BAND #3)
by Michelle Schusterman

Release date: May 15
Goodreads

Congratulations to Tracy, Kate, Rebecca, and Michelle! Their books are fantabulous, so definitely seek them out!!!

And now, for this week’s topic:

Question: What is your favorite quote about writing and why?

Kate Hannigan
CUPCAKE COUSINS
Disney-Hyperion

51nY5kdGT2L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Clutter and mess show us that life is being lived…Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation… Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here.

―Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

For me, this applies to those messy, ugly, unruly first drafts. It’s not about producing something tidy and perfect. It’s about getting the thoughts out, the brain dump. There will be time later for shaping and polishing. But if we’re shooting for perfection, we’re snuffing out that spark of creativity.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dana Alison Levy
THE MISADVENTURES OF THE FAMILY FLETCHER

Delacorte/Random House

18769364My older brother […] was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. […] he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.

–Anne Lamott Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

I’ve now written five novels (though some will never see daylight), so I know, empirically, that I can crank out 80,000 words on a regular basis. But still, every time I face a blank page, or a massive revision, I remember this quote. Just take it bird by bird.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Skila Brown
CAMINAR
Candlewick Presscaminar


Writing is hard for every last one of us…Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig.
–Cheryl Strayed (from TINY BEAUTIFUL THINGS)
My sister framed this for me and it sits on my desk, right next to a picture of our coal-mining grandfather. It keeps my butt in the chair.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jen Malone
AT YOUR SERVICE
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster

ATYOURSERVICEBe vulnerable.

–Chinese fortune cookie 

I do have other quotes I love by real actual people (although, as evidenced in Lauren Magaziner’s THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES, someone quite real writes all those fortune cookie slips) but this phrase has become my motto for 2014. It applies to my writing, for sure, and reminds me to not hold back in what I write and which parts of my writing I share with others (those extra messy first drafts, for one), but it also applies a lot to this debut year where I’m putting myself out there in new ways: asking strangers to read, review, talk about, blog about, and (hopefully) buy my book. That doesn’t always feel natural to me, but I’m learning to embrace the discomfort and grow from it. Someone else (okay, fine, I think it was Oprah. Fortune cookies and Oprah–I’m so very cliche!) once said “If you aren’t at least a little bit uncomfortable, you aren’t doing life right.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Lauren Magaziner
THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHESTheOnlyThingWorseTh#FEB1942
Dial/Penguin

Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over.

–Ernest Hemingway

I live by this quote. Sometimes it’s tempting to get lost in pretty sentences that look and sound beautiful. But resist the temptation; instead, write to build something.

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ByTheGraceLouise Galveston
BY THE GRACE OF TODD
Razorbill/Penguin

Follow your bliss.

–Joseph Campbell

I’m at my happiest when I’m creating. So I try to create something every day, for everyone’s sake.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Behrens
WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE
Sourcebooks

WhenAudreyA writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.

–Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve scribbled down many other, more practical writing quotes–tips on being brave when facing a blank page, or on how to tidy up a messy draft, or mnemonic devices on lay versus lie. But this writing quote helps me see the big picture; it reminds me how important and powerful words are, and that storytelling, while often a fun and delightful way to spend one’s time, shouldn’t be taken lightly.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edith Cohn
20518878SPIRIT’S KEY
FSG/Macmillan

If I have something I want to say that is too difficult for adults to swallow, then I write it in a book for children. Children still haven’t closed themselves off with fear of the unknown, fear of revolution, or the scramble for security. They are still familiar with the inborn vocabulary of myth.

–Madeleine L’Engle

This quote inspires me to dream big and think outside the box with my writing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gayle Rosengren
WHAT THE MOON SAID
Putnam/Penguin

MoonSaidThe difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.

–Mark Twain

On first reading this may seem more humorous than inspirational, but like most “simple” adages, it embodies true wisdom, which in this case comes from one of our country’s most esteemed, beloved and prolific writers.

Sometimes we get so caught up in writing a story that we forget to take notice of each word we choose to tell it with.  But no matter how compelling the storyline, what takes it from the realm of a good story to a powerful one rests in the tiny building blocks we use to shape it–the words.  Thoughtful, patient selections of just the right word make all the difference.  So on that final draft, no matter how anxious we are to ship it off to agent or editor and collapse in an exhausted heap, we must try to hold back, proceed slowly, linger thoughtfully over each word, and ask ourselves if another one might say it just a little better. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Adriana Schanen
QUINNY & HOPPER
Disney-Hyperion

51XMyuS393L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hop-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender come sit by my fire.
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

–“Invitation” by Shel Silverstein

Nothing gets my all-over-the-place brain in the writing way like a hit of Shel Silverstein. This classic opener to “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a lifelong favorite, an invitation to leave the literal world behind and cross over into the sublime.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Heidi Schulz
HOOK’S REVENGEHookCover_frontonly_72
Disney-Hyperion

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

—Stephen King

I write for the same reason I read: I love stories. So if you see me curled up in my favorite chair, book in hand, please don’t disturb me. I’m working. 

 

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Tara Dairman
ALL FOUR STARS
Putnam/PenguinAllFourStars

If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.

–Toni Morrison

The biggest missteps I’ve taken as a writer have been in trying to write what I “should” instead of the kind of book that, as a reader, I would most enjoy. And given that the publishing process requires you to read and reread your book until you’re blue in the face, it may as well be a story that’s right up your alley! :)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Petruck
STEERING TOWARD NORMAL
Abrams/Amulet

SteeringTowardNormal_FinalWhat we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
And all shall be well and

All manner of thing shall be well

–”Little Gidding” by T.S. Eliot

These words have been with me for twenty years. (Even painted on a wall!) They comfort me with the interconnectedness of things. Stories were how I felt part of the world, inspiring me to reallysee it and want to see more. When I write, I imagine my stories as introductions to the world for other readers, too, and encouragement to go beyond their everyday and explore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

UnderTheEggLaura Marx Fitzgerald
UNDER THE EGG
Dial/Penguin

“Perfect is the enemy of good.”

Using this line as a mantra is the only reason I got a word, a sentence, a chapter, let alone a book written. And you know what? The book still isn’t perfect. But it’s published.

 

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Jennifer Downey
THE NINJA LIBRARIANS
Sourcebooks

I…I….I don’t HAVE a fav51qfkCHJ1QL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_orite quote about writing! Not one that I’ve hung on a wall, or know by heart, or have tattooed on my forearm for easy reference. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate such quotes, and I know I’ve come across many great ones voiceover-ed in documentaries, typed in light italics at the start of book chapters, and scrawled across the top of chalkboards. I’ve just never felt so strongly about one writing quote that it became my guiding light. Well, truth to tell, some did affect me strongly, but I was too lazy to write them down. Okay, okay, don’t look at me that way! Yes, I confess that I DID possibly manage to copy one or two down on scraps of paper but then lost them before I could hook the sentiments into a suitable rug design. And now I’ve got bupkus. I actually considered googling “writing quotes”, picking one, and claiming it as mine own special one. THAT’S the sad bus station at which my life of quotelessness has left me. So let that be a lesson to you. I’m not sure which one exactly it is…but have at it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What are your favorite writing quotes? Let us know what speaks to you–we are ready to be inspired by quotes we haven’t heard before! And remember, if there is there a topic you’d like us to discuss next month, feel free to let us know in the comments!

Enjoy those May flowers! We’ll be back on June 2nd!

Lauren Magaziner is a 4th grader at heart, watches way too much TV, and loves to steal people’s toes to make Toecorn, which tastes like chewy, meaty popcorn. Only one of those is true. (Okay… you caught me. They’re all true.) Her MG debut THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN WITCHES—about a boy who becomes a witchling’s apprentice in a town full of dangerous, Toecorn-loving witches—is forth-coming from Dial/Penguin on August 14, 2014.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Poems in Books

April is National Poetry Month! This month we’re highlighting 2014 debut novels with a strong tie to poetry and asking those authors for a taste of what to expect in their books. Here’s what they offered up:

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tracy Holczer Secret Hum of a Daisy

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY

Putnam/Penguin

a middle grade novel – available May 1st

 

With Mama,

the closest I’d ever been

to falling snow

was the farm trucks going by on the interstate

leaving behind a flurry

of snow white onion skins.

As we’d lie in the fields

they’d drift over,

making it easy to pretend

we were somewhere else.

This was the first poem I’d written for the story. It was a snapshot of the life my main character, Grace, had lived with her mama before she died. It told a lot, I thought. But as revision took over, another sort of poem had to take the place of this one, one that showed less of the yearning in Grace’s life and more of how normal things were Back Then. And even though this poem was edited out, I always kept it close in case I lost sight of Grace, which can happen when revision is focusing on things like plot and tension. This poem goes to the heart of the story and I’m glad I got to share it.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Robin HerreraHopeIs

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL     

Amulet Books

a middle grade novel – available now

 

I read a lot of Emily Dickinson poems while writing HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL that I thought it’d be fun for my main character, Star, to write one of her own. Inspired, of course, by her favorite poet.

The poem has been through four drafts! And it’s now in the finished book, so clearly I did something right:

In the Winter!

We get Snow –

But – in the Trailer!

We Don’t Know –

Where Autumn Ends!

And Winter Starts –

‘Cause Winter’s There!

Inside Our Hearts!

(Winter here is the name of Star’s older sister.)

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Skila Brown  caminar

CAMINAR        

Candlewick Press

a novel in verse – available now

He Had a Gun

A rifle rattled
on his shoulder,

his thumb tucked
under the strap,

a shadow where
a mustache planned to grow, above his lip.

He tapped his fingers
on the bullets around his waist

as he winked
at some girls.

Roberto dropped his Pepsi,
ducked inside.

My feet stuck
right to the ground.

I did not move.
Except my eyes.

 
The main character of Caminar is at that difficult point in childhood where he’s caught between boy and man. In this scene, he’s meeting a boy his own age, a boy who happens to be a soldier. I had a lot of fun playing with the juxtaposition of images in this poem. Rattle and thumb bring baby images to mind, making the bullets and winking all the more jarring.

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Linda Phillips  Crazy

CRAZY

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 

a novel in verse – available in October 2014

ART EXHIBITION

First thing inside the door
I smell turpentine.
I nearly trip over a wet canvas
propped against the door frame.
I follow a trail of smudgy rags
and scattered paint tubes
into the living room
where I find Mama,
her back to me,
kneeling
muttering
crossing herself
before a dripping canvas.
She’s been painting again!

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . . ”

A sickening sense of panic begins
crawling up my spine.
“What’s going on, Mama?” I ask.

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .”

I’m not sure she heard me
so I move toward her,
bending down to look into her face
and I say it slower
louder
trying to connect with her eyes.
“Mama, what’s going on?”

“Hail Mary, Mother of God. . .

I reach out to shake her,
maybe even slap her,
do something to snap her out of it
and get her attention
when she stops
abruptly,
faces me,
looking past me
somewhere,
signaling me
to be silent.
“Mary’s my sister,
see.
She’s coming,
coming for a visit. . . and I,
I must finish getting the house
ready for her visit.
Be a good girl now,
won’t you?
Go clean your room
so you will be ready
when she comes,
see
ready when she comes,
when Mary comes to our house
see, when Mary—
Oh, I can’t find my alizarin
and I need it—
I have to have it NOW,
have to paint, now, NOW!
Do you see it here
somewhere?
So I can paint Mary
before she comes,
see. . .”

 

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Madeleine Kuderick   Kiss of Broken Glass
KISS OF BROKEN GLASS
Harper Teen

a YA novel – coming September 2014

 

In the last post, I mentioned how I didn’t consciously choose to write a novel in verse. Instead, that voice chose me. From the very first sentence Kenna’s words were raw, choked off and close to the bone. Today I’d like to share a sample of that voice from my book jacket.

My name is Kenna.
No one ever told me the truth
about cutting –
How scars multiply like freaking rabbits.
How cutting turns you into a pathological liar.
How getting caught lands you in a psych ward
with no way out
for 72 hours.
But that’s exactly what happens.
To me anyway.
And I bet you wonder
how anyone could ever change –
in just three days,
in a place like this,
where everybody’s broken.

Trust me.
I wonder that myself.

 

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Do you have a favorite poem? Link it up in the comments – we’d love to know what it is. And Happy National Poetry Month from all of the OneFour group!

Skila Brown has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. Her debut novel, CAMINAR, is available now from Candlewick Press.
1

Edith Cohn: SPIRIT’S KEY

We’ve got a great group of debut authors here at OneFour KidLit. Today we’re introducing Edith Cohn. One author, four questions. Here we go!

SpiritsKey

What’s your debut book about? Can you share any cool details with us?

My debut novel SPIRIT’S KEY is a mystery about a twelve-year-old psychic girl named Spirit who works with the ghost of her pet dog to uncover the truth of the mysterious deaths of wild dogs on the remote island where she lives.

Cool details about the book —This book is an interesting mix of genres—mystery, light fantasy, adventure, and paranormal. I’d never written anything like it before. I’d only written YA contemporary novels—none of which I was able to sell. One of my friends, who was surprised I would attempt to write something with fantasy elements said, “But you don’t even read fantasy.” Actually this wasn’t true. But I’d written contemporary for so long—that was how people thought of me. The doubts crept in. Had I read enough fantasy to be qualified to write one? Could I get away with never saying exactly where this island was located? Could I make up weird superstitions and beliefs? What were the rules for middle grade? To hush my doubts, I wrote in my notebook in big bold letters: IT’S YOUR ISLAND. YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU WANT! This became my mantra.

But even though the setting of Bald Island is made up, I drew a lot of inspiration from the very real Outer Banks of North Carolina. I did a lot of research that inspired the book, and some of the strangest superstitions in the story are actually based on things I read. For example, the characters in SPIRIT’S KEY drink yaupon tea to cure their anger. And actual early settlers on the Outer Banks believed this tea cured the drinker of anger and falsehoods.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

I’m really looking forward to having actual kid readers. I want to hear what they think and have the opportunity to talk to them in schools. I used to teach 7th grade, and it will be nice to have the chance to teach kids about writing again. I’m also crossing my fingers for fan mail. ;)

What cool facts might readers not know about you?

Edith_Cohn-9744-2Probably the first thing you should know about me is that I am a crazy dog lady. I even have a bumper sticker on my car that says so! Really this just means, my dog Leia is my little fur baby. I kind of run my life around her happiness.

Also, when I’m not reading or writing, I’m crafting handmade dog collars or jewelry. I used to have an Etsy store called BUTTERPUPS, where I sold dog collars for fancy pups. Now I just do it for fun. These typewriter rings are really popular amongst my friends. If you want one, the cost is two preordered copies of SPIRIT’S KEY. Email me your receipt (edithcohn(at)gmail.com), and I’ll mail you one with your initial. The ring bases are pretty pricey, so please be honest and follow through with the book order. I also only have a handful of the ring bases left, so this is only while supplies last. 1970623_10153944009685654_2031927106_n

What are your desert island books?

In some ways being on a desert island seems like a dream come true for an introvert writer, but it also sounds kind of painful. I just reread THE GIVER by Lois Lowry, and it’s a good reminder that pain is useful, so that one is a must. I think BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu is also a great reminder of this. Here’s my favorite line, “This is what it is to live in the world. You have to give yourself over to the cold, at least a little bit.” I’d have to bring my go-to craft books like BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, ART AND FEAR by David Bayles and Ted Orland and SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. I’d also really like to have a notebook so I could write.

Edith Cohn was born and raised in North Carolina where she grew up exploring the unique beaches of the Outer Banks. She currently lives in the coyote-wild hills of Los Angeles with her husband and her dog. All of these things provided inspiration for her middle grade novel, SPIRIT’S KEY, a mystery about a girl and her ghost dog, coming September 9th from FSG/Macmillan.

 

2

Why write with poetry?

April is National Poetry Month! This month we want to highlight debut novels that release in 2014 with a strong tie to poetry. We have two middle grade novels with poetry woven throughout the story. And three novels in verse where the story is told through poetry.

This week we’re asking these authors: Why poetry? Why did you write in verse? Or how did your story come to include so many poems?

 

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tracy Holczer Secret Hum of a Daisy

THE SECRET HUM OF A DAISY

Putnam/Penguin

a middle grade novel – available May 1st

 

I have always been a fan of Robert Frost’s “less traveled” poems and had decided that somehow, someway, one of his poems would make an appearance in my story. After writing a couple of drafts, it became apparent that the poem would become one of the “clues” in Grace’s treasure hunt. Happy that I’d found a way to make it work, and after many more revisions, I went off into submissions. It wasn’t until I queried my agent and she asked that I consider giving Grace a way with words—a connection through poetry to the father she never knew—that poetry became a bigger part of the story. Once there, I couldn’t believe I’d ever written the story without it.

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Robin HerreraHopeIs

HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL     

Amulet Books

a middle grade novel – available now

 

The main character of HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL, Star, has weekly vocabulary sentences to turn in. While writing the first draft, I had trouble coming up with all the words she’d use, so started doing themed lists. The first of these lists was “Emily Dickinson words.” They were fun to write, but poor Emily didn’t get to show up again.

So in the second draft, I took Emily a bit further. Star wrote a Dickinson style poem and compared the poet to her sister. In the third draft, someone saw the poem, and by the novel’s end, he’d convinced her to start a poetry club. In the fourth draft, that poetry club became the Emily Dickinson club and a major plot point.

So in my case, the poetry evolved with each draft, eventually becoming a very large part of the book! Now I can hardly remember the book without it.

 

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Skila Brown  caminar

CAMINAR        

Candlewick Press

a novel in verse – available now

Caminar came to me as poems. I assumed I’d be taking those poems and turning them into a prose story, but the poems just kept coming and they seemed to be a good fit. I think because the story, with its sometimes-solitary character, its small amount of dialogue, and its intensity of emotions and loss, really lends itself to verse. I found I could say with white space and metaphors what I was having a hard time describing with words. I also think the poems allow readers to digest at a level that’s appropriate for them. A younger reader will get the gist of what’s happening without extreme detail, while teens and adult readers can read between the lines and really absorb the tragedy that unfolded.

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Linda Phillips  Crazy

CRAZY

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 

a novel in verse – available in October 2014

Keeping a journal and filling it with poetry was a healthy outlet and a steadying force in a somewhat tumultuous childhood.  Crazy began as a series of twenty poems that I wrote as a way of trying to understand my reaction to my mother’s struggle with bipolar disorder during most of my formative years. At the time, I had no intention of ever writing a book.  After a number of the poems were published in various adult literary magazines I got the book-writing bug.  I was considering moving towards a chapbook when my writing buddy critiqued it and suggested it needed to be novel.  Then it took many revisions to effectively disengage emotionally and rework the voice into young adult.

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Madeleine Kuderick   Kiss of Broken Glass
KISS OF BROKEN GLASS
Harper Teen

a YA novel – coming September 2014

 

I wrote KISS OF BROKEN GLASS in verse because it was the most authentic and gripping way to tell this story. When my protagonist Kenna is committed to a psych ward after she’s caught cutting in the school bathroom, I wanted the reader to be inside her head. Intensely close. And to experience her emotional journey in short, sharp bursts. Just like Kenna feels it.

I think writing in verse delivers this effect more powerfully than prose. But to tell you the truth, it’s not something I consciously chose to do. Instead, it chose me. From the very first sentence, Kenna’s voice was a natural fit for verse. Raw. Choked off. An abundance of emotion in a small drop of words. Writing this close to the bone is sometimes hard to sustain according to verse author Caroline Starr Rose. But in this case, it felt right. And luckily Kenna’s voice never waivered.

 

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There you have it! Do you have a favorite novel in verse? Or novel with a poetry element? Tell us in the comments. We’d love to hear!

Skila Brown has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee, lived for a bit in Guatemala, and now resides with her family in Indiana. Her debut novel, CAMINAR, is available now from Candlewick Press.