Maria E. AndreuMix an “illegal” immigrant and a soccer mom and you get me.  Here’s how you go from crossing the Mexican border undocumented to published writer (and, rest assured, totally “legal” citizen).

  • Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen? (aka, what was your path to publication)

When I was 12 I wrote in my diary, “most of all I want to be a writer.”  But I was this poor, undocumented kid whose family had their electricity cut off all the time.  What business did I have being a writer?  Writers were fabulous and independently wealthy and just… not me.  I always loved the written word and I had a lot of fitful attempts at publication, but had a hard time finding my voice.  Ironically it was my most awful secret – my “illegal” past – that finally got me my dream.  I had done everything I could to put my big secret behind me.  But one day I was driving and listening to an angry pundit say horrible things about immigrants.  I remember the exact spot where I was on the Palisades Parkway when it occurred to me that when people said immigrants (documented and not) do bad things for the U.S. that they were talking about me.  And that I should talk back.  It took five years after that realization, but when I finally understood that my book wanted to be a YA novel, I got the first agency I pitched (the wonderful Writers House) and they sold my book in a multiple offers situation in the first round out.  So… it was a circuitous road to “overnight success.”

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

M.T., THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY’s protagonist, is undocumented (or, as the news calls it, “illegal”).  She is starting her senior year in high school knowing this is her last chance at schooling, which is a bummer because she (geek alert) kind of loves it.  Without a social security number, she’s got no shot at a job, a college education, a driver’s license… pretty much everything she needs and wants.  As the year goes on and she sees more and more options shutting down around her, she will have to make choices that could change her future… and that of everyone around her.

Cool details, let’s see:  one of my favorite scenes is the one in which she meets her senior year boyfriend in a “slow speed chase,” hanging out at the local strip.  It closely mirrors the way I met my high school boyfriend and it was fun to draw on that experience when writing that scene.

What inspires you to write?

Lately I’m finding that reading about other writers’ process gets me in front of the keyboard.  Writing is so solitary that at times I feel like I’m the only person feeling lazy or stuck.  I have a great book called Why We Write with chapters by many of my favorite authors – gets me juiced up every time.  I also find that I’m great at reacting to stuff – the latest meme or day’s event.  I am loving the discipline of posting (almost!) daily on my blog.  It’s almost like Julia Cameron’s morning pages… once I get the writing flowing it keeps coming.

What are you most excited about in the debut process?

Wow… what’s not to be excited about?  This is like a dream come true for me.  I grew up thinking that every day might be the day I’d get kicked out of the only country I’d ever called home.  The fact that I’m here at all feels like a miracle.  Add to that that I live in a house I love with my awesome children in my favorite place in the world AND I have a book being published in March… I need to pinch myself daily.

I guess I am really excited about hearing what other people see in my book.  I’ve noticed this when people react to the essays I’ve published or even pieces on my blog – readers see things you didn’t even realize you were putting in there.  It’s so exciting and instructive.  I’m looking forward to that.


Mix a (former) illegal immigrant and a soccer mom and you get Maria Andreu. At the age of 12, an undocumented girl with an uncertain future, she wrote in her diary, “Most of all, I want to be a writer.” With her debut YA novel, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY (an intimate glimpse of what it’s like to be American everywhere but on paper) she has made her dream come true. TSSoE debuts March, 2014.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Kelly Fiore, Author of TASTE TEST

Today on the blog we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Kelly Fiore, whose debut young adult foodie contemporary, TASTE TEST, releases TODAY!

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

If you can grill it, smoke it, or fry it, Nora Henderson knows all about it. She’s been basting baby back ribs and pulling pork at her father’s barbeque joint since she was tall enough to reach the counter. When she’s accepted to Taste Test, a reality-television teen cooking competition, Nora can’t wait to leave her humble hometown behind, even if it means saying good-bye to her dad and her best friend, Billy. Once she’s on set, run-ins with her high-society roommate and the maddeningly handsome—not to mention talented—son of a famous chef, Christian Van Lorten, mean Nora must work even harder to prove herself. But as mysterious accidents plague the kitchen arena, protecting her heart from one annoyingly charming fellow contestant in particular becomes the least of her concerns. Someone is conducting real-life eliminations, and if Nora doesn’t figure out who, she could be next to get chopped for good.

With romance and intrigue as delectable as the winning recipes included in the story, this debut novel will be devoured by all.

TASTE TEST is contemporary YA set in the world of contemporary cooking shows – a seriously awesome combination. What shows inspired the book, and did any of the contestants you’ve seen inspire the characters?

Top Chef was certainly a big influence in terms of the cooking – particularly the momentum of the challenges and the Contestant Interviews, stuff like that. But the actual characterization was more inspired by shows like Gossip Girl, Glee and Vampire Diaries. I watched a lot of Dawson’s Creek on Netflix when establishing Nora’s rough-around-the-edges exterior – she is very Joey Potter in my eyes and that’s totally intentional.

I will say that Marcel Vigneron from Top Chef Season Two definitely gave me some ammunition for some of Christian’s self-importance and backhanded “zingers” when sparring with Nora.

Southern food and barbecue are definitely the highlighted cuisines in the novel, though everything sounds delicious. What cuisine is closest to your heart and why?

That’s a good question – I’m a big fan of cooking local, fresh ingredients. Throughout the country, they have CSA programs – these are “Community Supported or Sustained Agriculture” and it involves getting a “share” of food from local farms. We’ve done this for four or five years now and it’s been amazing to work with ingredients literally just off the vine or out of the ground. When it comes to recipes, I think that my best dishes are the ones I grew up eating – my mom’s recipes. Maybe they just taste best because of the history and family connection, but they are called “comfort food” for a reason, right?

You have an MFA in Poetry and have studied under some really great writers. What are the odds of us seeing some in future novels, or even a novel in verse?

I’d say the odds are pretty good that you’ll see it in the future – not a novel in verse, necessarily, but poetry is never too far behind for me. Things I’ve written, lately, I can start seeing how it’s feeding into my prose. It’s pretty gratifying. I knew I’d use that poetry degree one day! 🙂

I couldn’t help but notice while I was already anxiously awaiting the release of TASTE TEST that you sold another book, JUST LIKE THE MOVIES. What can you tell us about the follow-up to your debut?

That it was a BLAST to write and research – this is the first time I wrote from alternating perspectives and it was so great to develop two teen girls with such different backgrounds and the same love of movies as each other (and me.) And I will say that the infamous Say Anything scene with John Cusack and his boom-box has gotten a 21st century makeover in my book 🙂

As this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

My favorite book as a smaller child was Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban. I loved all the “Frances” books, but that one in particular had great food descriptions. I think it says a lot about why I wrote about food in my debut.

My favorite book in elementary school was Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth. I LOVE THIS BOOK. If you are trying to teach figurative language, or you just want a refresher for yourself, this book and it’s metaphor and description are invaluable. I re-read it every couple of years and I always get something else out of it each time.


Kelly Fiore Picture 3Kelly Fiore is a foodie, a Fiat owner, and a hair metal enthusiast. She lives in Maryland with her husband and son. TASTE TEST is her debut novel.

You can add TASTE TEST on Goodreads, or buy it at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, Powell’s, and wherever else awesome books are sold!

Dahlia Adler is an Assistant Editor of Mathematics by day, a Copy Editor by night, and writes contemporary YA and blogs at the Daily Dahlia and YA Misfits at every spare moment in between. She lives in NYC with her husband and their overflowing bookshelves. Her debut novel, BEHIND THE SCENES, releases from Spencer Hill Contemporary on June 24, 2014.

Jessica Love: PUSH GIRL

We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Jessica Love, author of PUSH GIRL (co-written with Chelsie Hill), coming in March 2014 from St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne. One author, four questions. Here we go!

Hey, you’re getting published! How’d that happen?

Hey, you’re right! And this is pretty surreal. Especially because my book is a little different, so my path has been a little different, too. I was working on polishing up a book of my own to get it ready to go when I was approached with the opportunity to work with Chelsie and St. Martin’s on this book.  It was really just some magical agent/editor matchmaking, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

The craziest part of all of this has been doing all of the writing AFTER the deal, which is pretty different from most debuts. Plus, I’ve never written with someone else before, so there’s a lot of new stuff going on for me with this book. I love it, though. Working on this girl has been an awesome ride so far.

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

PUSH GIRL is fiction, but it’s based on Chelsie Hill’s actual life story. (Here’s a little bit about her journey, if you aren’t familiar with her. She’s a really kick-ass girl.) The story is about a dancer in high school who gets hit by a drunk driver and is paralyzed and has to adjust to life in a wheelchair. There’s drama with friends and some kissing and family issues and I really love everything about it.

What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?

I’m a middle school English teacher (and I go back to school today, actually!), so I get to hang out with thirteen-year-olds all day. I spend most of my money going to concerts or traveling with my husband and my friends. I’m completely obsessed with my dog, Gunner, and I spend most of my free time talking to him as if he were a person. I’m on the internet a lot, and if you ever want to see me go into a hot panic, just hang out with me when my phone battery is dying.

What inspires you to write?

It’s usually music that inspires me. The first book I wrote was inspired by a song, and the book I put aside to work on PUSH GIRL was inspired by an episode of a reality show I saw that featured a guy who was in a band. His band’s songs are on constant repeat any time I’m working on that ms. I connect with music so much, that there will usually be a lyric or a verse that hits me in a way I don’t expect, and before I really know what happens, a story starts tumbling around in my head.

Even with PUSH GIRL, where I was building a fictional world that was based on a real story, I found songs that tapped in to the feelings for different scenes and listened to them on repeat. There’s something about music that really inspires me to be my best creative self! (This is why I spend so much money on concerts…it’s an investment! That’s what I tell myself, anyway.)


Jessica Love is a middle school English teacher, an MFA student at Spalding University, and a full-time internetter. She lives in Orange County, California where she spends her free time going to concerts, brunching, and instagramming pictures of her dog, Gunner. Her debut YA novel PUSH GIRL, written with Chelsie Hill from Sundance Channel’s reality TV show Push Girls, comes out in March ’14 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with April Tucholke, author of BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA

Today on the blog we’re interviewing Lucky13 author April Tucholke, whose debut young adult gothic thriller, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, releases TODAY!

Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

12930909Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.


I found BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA a creepy, heart-pounding story. It’s set in a sleepy seaside town that is unsuspecting of the danger that lurks among its borders. This book has a blend of horror mixed with romance, and penned with captivating writing.

1. I love all the food references in BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA. Reading your book made me want to whip up an omelet. If you would recommend 3 foods that would be perfect pairings for BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA, what would they be?


Crispy Sweet Potato Fries & Sriracha Mayo Dip

Eggs In A Frame garnished with sea salt, olive oil, and juicy, diced tomatoes.

Sweet Potato Fries

Affogato. This simple, caffeinated dessert isn’t featured in DEVIL, but it should have been.




2. One of my favorite parts about reading your book is I felt as if I was whisked away to a real place. I could smell the sea spray and hear the waves crash. I wanted to creep into the attic and open all the old trunks. I’m curious whether Citizen Kane is based on a real estate or is it completely a figment of your imagination?

Creep into the attic and go through the trunks…god, yes. Me too. Me too.

Citizen Kane was inspired by:

A. This art deco mansion in Portland:


Bitar Mansion

B. The decrepit Tucholke mansion from my childhood.

3. Personally, I think Citizen Kane would be an inspirational place to write a book. If you could start a writer’s colony, where would it be?

Quebec City. Yachats, Oregon. Lourmarin, France. Pienza, Italy. Bruges, Belgium. Salzburg, Austria.

4. What was your biggest challenge in writing BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA?

Separating myself from the main character, Violet. I also grew up a lonely, book-reading girl in a dilapidated mansion on the sea with neglectful artistic parents and a tyrannical older brother. *

The other difficult aspect, I think, was allowing River to do the terrible things he does, and yet still keep him likable. More than likable. This was a delicate balance.

*This may or may not be true.

5. I’m itching to read the continuation of Violet’s and River’s story. Can you give us any teasers of things to come?

Someone goes mad. Someone goes sane. Neely. Camping. Islands. Forests. Creepy small towns. Pig’s blood. More cemeteries. A girl named Pine. A boy named Finch. Wild horses. A frozen lake. Red hair.

Wow. I cannot wait to read this next book.

Find BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP BLUE SEA at any of the following stores!

April Genevieve Tucholke digs classic movies, red-headed villains, big kitchens, and discussing murder at the dinner table. She and her husband Nate Pedersen live in Oregon at the edge of a forest.
After teaching and traveling internationally, Christina Farley started writing about her adventures, tossing in a little fiction for fun. This inspired her to write GILDED, a YA about a Korean-American girl with a black belt and deadly proclivity with steel-tipped arrows to be published by Amazon Children’s spring 2014. Besides writing, Christina loves traveling, running, hanging out with her two Jedi warriors, and eating dark chocolate.

Happy 14th Day: August!!!

I don’t know what it’s like for you in your little town/city/country/camper, but it’s practically October here in Syracuse. Feels like reading weather to me.

Now, without further ado, here’s our monthly news!

First, we have a new title, a blurb, a story in an anthology, and some foreign rights:

Robin Herrera’s debut novel is now titled Hope is a Ferris Wheel. (Love that title to pieces.)

Christy Farley’s GILDED has received it’s first blurb, and it’s from Beth Revis, the NY Times bestselling author of the Across the Universe trilogy:

“An amazing contemporary fantasy that explores the vast legends of Korea, this richly detailed novel kept me turning the pages well into the night. Jae Hwa starts off as a strong character and ends as a noble one, using both her brains and her brawn to win the day–she’s exactly the kind of girl YA literature needs.” ~ Beth Revis

Erica Cameron’s short story, “Whatever it Takes,” is out now in an anthology, and is set in the world of her debut novel. Click the link–it takes you to a giveaway!

Trisha Leaver has sold the Brazilian rights to Leaving Eden. Parabéns! (That’s “congratulations” in Brazilian Portuguese, in case you didn’t know.) (Yes, I googled it.)

Next, we have two new book sales!

Tara Dairman has sold the untitled sequel to her debut novel, All Four Stars.

Julie Murphy has sold Dumplin‘. (She read me the first chapter and I burst into tears. It’s that amazing, folks.)

And finally, we have a cover to reveal!

Michelle Krys‘ debut, Hexed, has an amazing cover. (Good job, Random House!) The cover reveal was hosted by the awesome blog, YABooksCentral, here.



That’s it, folks! Come back next month for more of us!

In the meantime,



Amber Lough lives in Syracuse, NY with an astrophysicist and their two kids, Future CEO and Future Comedian. She spent half her childhood in Japan and the Middle East, but majored in Russian because she likes a challenge. She quit her job in Air Force Intelligence to focus on writing and her family. Her Middle Eastern fantasy, THE FIRE WISH, is due from Random House Children’s in Fall 2014.

An Interview with Jessica Young, Author of My Blue is Happy

MY BLUE IS HAPPYIn this story, even colors like gray, black and brown–colors not usually thought of as “pretty” or “favorite”–are presented as special and loved.

Today I’m excited to interview Lucky13 author Jessica Young, whose picture book My Blue is Happy is available NOW from Candlewick Press.

Jessica, this is such a beautiful story in so many ways!  The illustrations are lovely, so it’s beautiful in the most obvious way, but the prose is lyrical and lovely, too.  And beyond that, the concept of the story is a fresh new and intriguing one–that all of us don’t see colors the same way. 

How did you come up with the idea for “My Blue is Happy?”

Thanks so much! It definitely evolved over time. I’ve always been fascinated with differences – how we each see the world through a personal lens, and what that implies. The book was shaped by my experiences as a child and observations and interactions with my own kids and the kids I teach.

Since I was young, I’ve responded to color in a visceral way. Looking at paintings from Picasso’s Blue Period and listening to the blues made me wonder how a child would feel upon discovering that other people have disparate associations to a favorite color. That got me thinking about subjectivity and diversity and how it’s natural – even good – for people to see things differently. As an art teacher, I’ve observed kids who are always looking for the “right” answer: How do you draw a tree? What shade of green is grass? They want someone to tell them the solution. It’s hard to understand that in art there isn’t one correct way.

After those initial ideas, the title came first and the rest followed. In the beginning, the story was set in a classroom and had a more traditional narrative structure with a poem embedded in it. Another author critiqued it and suggested that the poem, itself, could be the story. I revised again, and it became two siblings going back and forth with their color associations. Eventually it evolved into the current structure.

What has your road to publication been like?

It’s been fun and hard, and I’ve had a lot of help from supportive critique partners, as well as my wonderful agent and editor who took a chance on My Blue and helped bring it to life.

After my oldest child was born, I started reading picture books and realized how much I loved them. I wrote a poem for him, and it became the seed of a manuscript. Then, not knowing what to do with it, I sent it to the author of one of my favorite picture books. (Whoops!) Luckily, she was receptive, giving me feedback and encouragement, introducing me to the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), and referring me to her editor. I sent the editor my manuscript and got a nice, hand-written rejection. It was enough to make me think more seriously about writing. For several years, I submitted off and on, targeting publishers I thought would be right for my handful of stories.

In 2007 I went to my first SCBWI workshop, where an agent gave me feedback on several manuscripts, including My Blue is Happy (and where I met a bunch of other people also trying to do what I was trying to do, which was exciting!). After that, the agent and I kept in touch as I worked on revisions for several pieces. Ultimately, she wasn’t looking to take on picture book clients, but her encouragement was enough to keep me going until I found an agent who was perfect for me.

I felt like My Blue might be a good fit for my agent, Kelly Sonnack, so I submitted it, and she asked if I wanted to work on an exclusive revision. I was thrilled when she offered to represent me.

With her keen editorial guidance I continued to revise, and we submitted My Blue to two editors who had seen previous versions and given comments. One of them had positive feedback but passed on it. The other editor who had seen it at an SCBWI workshop offered some suggestions, and I revised accordingly, creating two new versions. Yet I couldn’t seem to get it to feel right. As I struggled with the revisions, the Midsouth SCBWI conference came up and I decided to submit My Blue for a critique. I got Candlewick editor Kaylan Adair as my critiquer. She gave constructive comments that resonated with me and made suggestions I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to execute. But I could see that she really “got” the essence of the piece. I sat in the lobby of the hotel after the conference was over and started pushing and pulling the text around. About a month later we submitted it to her and after some pre-contractual revisions, she offered me a contract. I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t!

Looking back, I counted eighty-nine revisions of My Blue, not including the ones I didn’t save. There were so many directions I tried taking it, and I feel incredibly lucky to have had the help of wonderful crit partners and my fantastic agent and editor to support me in getting to the final version.

What are you most looking forward to about launching the book now that you’ve actually seen it and held it in your hands?

Seeing it in other people’s hands! I hope it sparks some good conversations about color, diversity, and perspective, and makes readers think about color in a different way.

Since this community is “All For One and One Four Kid Lit” we’d like to know what books inspired you as a kid?

As a kid I loved a Helen Oxenbury-illustrated version of The Quangle Wangle’s Hat by Edward Lear; Ferdinand; a lot of Sendak, especially the Nutshell Library stories; The Golden Wings by Leo Leonni; and Dr. Seuss.

Jessica Young

Jessica Young

Jessica Young is an art teacher and has worked as a curriculum consultant. My Blue is Happy is her first book. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee.


Jessica has generously offered a copy of My Blue is Happy as well as a tee-shirt as prizes for OneFourKidLit blog followers.  We’ll randomly choose a commenter on this post to receive this special prize!  So be sure to comment.  And may your blue always be happy too!

Gayle Rosengren loves story (and chocolate) in all forms. If she’s not at her laptop writing, she might be spotted at a bookstore, a stack of children’s books piled to her chin. She is endlessly fascinated by families–their quirks and their stories–as evidenced in her forthcoming book, WHAT THE MOON SAID (February 20, 2014, Putnam/Penguin).

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Amy Christine Parker, author of GATED

Today on the blog we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Amy Christine Parker, whose debut young adult thriller GATED is in bookstores now. Here’s a bit about GATED:

Do the gates keep the unchosen out or the chosen in?

In Mandrodage Meadows, life seems perfect. The members of this isolated suburban community have thrived under Pioneer, the charismatic leader who saved them from their sad, damaged lives. Lyla Hamilton and her parents are original members of the flock. They moved Imagehere following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, looking to escape the evil in the world. Now seventeen, Lyla knows certain facts are not to be questioned:

Pioneer is her leader. 

Will is her Intended.

The end of the world is near.

Like Noah before him, Pioneer has been told of the imminent destruction of humanity. He says his chosen must arm themselves to fight off the unchosen people, who will surely seek refuge in the compound’s underground fortress–the Silo.

Lyla loves her family and friends, but given the choice, she prefers painting to target practice. And lately she’d rather think about a certain boy outside the compound than plan for married life in the Silo with Will. But with the end of days drawing near, she will have to pick up a gun, take a side, and let everyone know where she stands. 

Hi Amy! Welcome to the OneFour KidLit blog, and congrats on writing such a blisteringly awesome book—Gated completely blew me away. What inspired you to write a book about a cult?

A show about underground apocalyptic bunkers was the original inspiration for the book. I was totally fascinated by how many people were buying them and how elaborate and luxurious some of them were. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that people were sinking lots of money, sometimes millions, into something that they would probably never need. It made me start thinking about extreme beliefs and then it wasn’t long before I started looking at cults too. I put both things together and the book came pretty quickly after that.

One of the (numerous) things that impressed me about GATED was the utter authenticity of cult life portrayed in your novel, especially the portrayal of the cult’s leader, Pioneer—he is the single most frightening book villain I have ever read. How were you able to create such a realistically creepy character? Did you draw from any real-life sources?

Thank you! The thing I worried about most while writing this book was getting Pioneer right. It’s hard to make someone creepy and yet also charismatic/warm enough to be believable as a cult leader—as someone people will follow. I drew inspiration for him from lots of real life cult leaders. I wanted the over the top creepy of Charles Manson mixed with the fanatical conviction of Jim Jones and the sort of country fatherly thing that David Koresh had going on. I also looked at a lesser known cult leader named Wayne Bent. He is this really slight framed older gentleman who is really soft spoken and smiley, but the words that come out of his mouth…whoa. I spent a ton of hours watching video footage of all of these men. I really wanted to find a way into their heads, to see what made them tick. It was intense research, but also fascinating.

Having met you, I can say honestly say that you’re one of the loveliest, smiliest people I’ve ever met—which is why I was so UTTERLY SHOCKED at some of the darker scenes in GATED. You certainly didn’t pull any punches. Without giving anything away, how difficult was it to write some of the gut-wrenching scenes in this book? How were you able to get into the right mind frame to write such deliciously dark material?

Ha, ha! Am I going to scare you if I say not that difficult at all? I mean the writing was almost always difficult—the getting the words and plot right part, but the subject matter itself just wasn’t. Maybe it’s because it’s so far from my real life that I can keep the proper distance required to go to those places. I wanted to understand what made cult members and cult leaders tick, because I can’t relate at all to them. But I think maybe it’s also because knowing why things like Jonestown happened make them less scary for me. That said, it doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t get unsettled by some of the research. I think the one time I remember really feeling this was when I was double checking quotes from Jim Jones that are in the book—during my last round of edits—by re-reading the transcripts from the last day in Jonestown when he was forcing people to drink poison and that same day the Boston Marathon bombs went off. It was too much darkness to take in in one sitting.

Needless to say, I adored GATED and am anxiously waiting your next novel. Can you tell us what we can expect next from you—more dark, edge-of-your-seat thrillers? (Please say yes).

I’m working on the first round of edits for the sequel to GATED right now. It will pick up where the first book left off. I don’t want to say too much so I don’t spoil the first book’s read for anyone, but I can say that if you thought the first one was creepy the second book kicks it up a notch.

And finally, as this community is All For One and One Four KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Only three? Yikes, that’ll be hard to do. Okay here’s the three I always think about most when I remember being a kid/teen.

  1. GRIMM’S FAIRYTALES—I must’ve read and re-read them a thousand times. My favorites were King Thrushbeard and The Goose Girl.
  2. THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE—I literally sat in my closet after reading this one and willed the back wall to disappear. Sadly, it never did.
  3. THE LORD OF THE FLIES—This book changed my life. I was obsessed with it. I even did my high school critical paper on it (and ENJOYED writing it) my love for it was so deep.

But I feel like I’m being neglectful if I don’t also mention all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, LITTLE WOMEN, all of Stephen King’s short story collections, and the short story ALL SUMMER IN A DAY by Ray Bradbury. There, I feel better now! Thanks for interviewing me, I had a blast! 

AMY CHRISTINE PARKER earned her degree in elementary education at SoutheasternImage
University in Lakeland, Florida, and then proceeded to try out many different jobs, including collectible doll maker, fondue waitress, and inner-city schoolteacher. It wasn’t until she became a mom and began making up bedtime stories for her children that she finally realized what she was meant to do. Now Amy writes full-time from her home near Tampa, Florida, where she lives with her husband, their two daughters, and one ridiculously fat cat. Her first novel, GATED, debuts with Random House Children’s August 6, 2013. Visit her at amychristineparker.blogspot.com.

Michelle Krys is the author of HEXED coming from Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books June 10th, 2014. Michelle is a shameless lover of bad reality television, celebrity gossip, dancing badly to good music, and queso by the spoonful. She lives in Northwestern Ontario with her husband and son. You can learn more about her at michellekrys.com or by following her on twitter at @MichelleKrys.

Mad For Middle Grade: Killing Your Darlings

Inspired by the Lucky 13′s “Meanwhile… Middle Grade” series, we the MG authors of 2014 have banded together to create an unstoppable league of superheroes… or… erm… we decided to create a similar series. Welcome to MAD FOR MIDDLE GRADE!  We’ll be here the first Monday of every month! Stay tuned as we discuss the process of middle grade writing, chat about our favorite middle grade books, introduce our own middle grade titles, interview middle grade professionals, 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!

This week we’re talking about revising and—as the expression goes—killing your darlings. Sometimes, deleting words is extraordinarily tough, and we’ve all been there. So if you need advice, if you’re looking for a bunch of authors to commiserate with, or if you are ready to ax some words, then this post is for you. Just repeat after me: HELLO, MY NAME IS INIGO MONTOYA. YOU KILLED MY MANUSCRIPT. PREPARE TO DIE.

Question: What was your revision process like, and what are some tips for killing your darlings?

Rebecca Behrens

IMG_6512For me, revising a manuscript is a unique process with every story (and every pass). But these all-purpose tricks help me through every revision:

—Wordle it: Make a word cloud out of your manuscript, using Wordle or Tagxedo. Do you find that some filler words, such as “like,” “just,” “said,” are huge in your cloud? Use the find function to go through your MS and cut those words whenever they aren’t truly necessary.

—Chunk it: Break up your MS into three to seven “chunks.” Put the text for each into its own, fresh document. Revise each as its own entity. Then weave them back together. Sometimes it’s a lot less daunting to face a twenty-five page section of text rather than the whole thing.

—Reverse it: I often get revision fatigue when I hit the second half of the story. I start letting things slide as my energy and creativity dwindles. So sometimes I’ll start revising backward, moving from the last chapter to the first. This also helps me read the text with as close to “fresh” eyes as possible.


Michelle Schusterman
Grosset & Dunlap/Penguin

Michelle-Author-2Best way to kill your darlings? Crash your hard drive and lose it all.

That’s not sarcasm…well, maybe a little. But a month ago, right before I was about to start on a pretty major revision, my drive crashed. I didn’t lose my draft of the book, but I DID lose dozens of documents filled with darlings: sentences I loved for the prose but which didn’t fit the new draft, ideas and scenes that didn’t make sense in this new version of the story, backstory that didn’t belong to the characters anymore.

I remembered a lot of it, of course. But not having all those darlings staring me in the face really helped me let go. The result was what I feel like has been my most effective revision to date. So while you might not want to literally lose all that stuff, try revising with a blank document and keep all of your previous research and drafts closed. (And back up your work, kids. Safety first.)


Ryan Gebhart
Candlewick Press

OneFourMeI think the revision process is a pretty personal thing and no matter how much advice someone gives you, in the end you just have to discover what works best for you. With that being said, here’s some advice: be patient. If you’ve written a book you’re really proud of, really give it time it to fully mature. Once you think it’s perfect, enlist beta readers to prove you wrong. Then take the suggestions that ring true to you and at least consider the ones that challenge your vision. Lather, rinse, rewrite.

I wrote my novel in three weeks. I revised it for three years. Great ideas sometimes become great novels in no time at all. But if you’re like the majority of writers, great ideas need time and revision and assistance to become truly great stories.


Skila Brown
Candlewick Press

Skila BrownI don’t kill my darlings. I just cryogenically freeze them. When I know I need to get rid of something that I happen to be pretty fond of, I simply cut and paste it into a document called “save for later.” Later usually never happens…but mentally this does the trick and lets me hack away without the pain.


Tracy Holczer

NIK_5082CROPFor killing the darlings—I pasted them into a separate document so it didn’t feel so final. But I found myself going back to that document and finding the perfect words for a different part of the story. Sometimes I think our brains work like that, uncovering little tidbits, only we don’t have a place for them yet. I know that isn’t exactly a tip for killing the darlings, but I’m against the death penalty anyway.

As far as revision goes, my process is macro to micro. I make sure there is a clear beginning, middle and end, marking each of those sections. Do they do their job? If not, why? Breaking it down further—does each scene have a purpose in terms of furthering plot, character and conflict? Is there a rise and fall to the scene/section? Do the stakes rise consistently? Do the characters all have enough backstory to make them whole whether or not that story is on the page?

Rinse and repeat a gazillion times.


Rachel Searles
Feiwel and Friends/Macmillan

Rsearles-squareMy revision process? Slow and painful. I often need a running start to get into the revision groove, so I’ll start reading 2-3 chapters before where I want to revise, and when I (hopefully) get there, I’m in the story well enough that the parts that don’t work will stand out. Same with structural revisions: I write out a short description of each chapter (longhand, legal pad) and read through them from the start, over and over, with an eye for where any holes in the story might be, where a theme or question might have gotten dropped, and most importantly if I’m getting the pacing right. (Most enlightening critique I ever got: “I found myself waiting for something to happen for much of the first 50 pages.” Um, oops.)

As for killing your darlings, don’t sweat it. You will write new darlings—don’t let them stop you from cutting out a chunk of story that’s not working.


Gayle Rosengren

Gayle Rosengren 100x100My revision process may have been a little different than most, because I don’t have an agent. I met my editor at a writers conference and she fell in love with my main character. The story itself was a bit too “quiet,” though, so she made a suggestion and said if I decided to follow up on it she’d love to have another look at the manuscript. Needless to say, I followed her advice and immediately saw how the tension was heightened. The editor agreed, and the result was a contract!

But this is not to say that I hadn’t already done a lot of revising to this manuscript before my editor first saw it. I had acted on feedback from the members of my writing group. And before I showed it to my writing group—one chapter at a time—I had done a lot of self-editing and—you guessed it—revising.

Revising should be viewed as a natural part of the writing process, no matter if it takes place early on or at the end. It’s the polishing of scenes and sentences that ultimately will make your gem of a story glow its brightest.


Patrick Samphire
Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan

patrick-samphire-largeI feel about my ‘writing darlings’ much the same as I feel about my old leather jacket from when I was eighteen: scruffy, doesn’t fit, probably should be gone, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be me without it.

You see, I think ‘kill your darlings’ is simultaneously both the best and worst advice for an author. If a scene or description or bit of plot or dialogue is making your novel manifestly worse, it has to go, no matter how much you love it. But if you take out all those quirky little asides and features, your book will be bland and characterless, and no one will care. So, kill some darlings, cherish others, even if they’re not functional. The trick is working out which.

And two quick tips:

If you’re revising a section and you just can’t make it work, cut it completely. Your book will almost always be better without it.

When you’ve done all the other revising and you think your book is ready, go through it and remove 10% of the words. When you make this a target, you’ll be surprised at how many excess words you’ve stuffed in.


Robin Herrera
Amulet Books

imageMy revision process is kind of boring. For HOPE IS A FERRIS WHEEL I made a list of all the chapters and why they were important. For a lot of them, I couldn’t think of why they were important. So I deleted them!

It was very sad. I held a funeral for all the parts I’d cut. (No I didn’t.) Then I took the chapters I had left and stitched them back into something resembling a story. That’s the version that got me my agent!

After that, I did a lot more revising. My main character was too passive, so that had to change. It was hard, because the previous draft had been so dependent on her being passive. BUT NOBODY LIKES TO READ ABOUT PASSIVE CHARACTERS! I have that tattooed on my brain now, for future books.


As for killing darlings, just steel yourself. Take a deep breath. Say, “I’m sorry you were dead weight.” Hit the delete button. Repeat a hundred times.


Lauren Magaziner

Lauren MagazinerMy revising secret? Read your entire book aloud. Seriously. Do it. And thank me later.

I find that when I read aloud, I’m able to hear where sentences are awkward, clunky, or not flowing well with the rest of the paragraph because I’ll get tripped up and tongue-tied on the wordy parts. Reading aloud also really helps me to slow down and take each line one at a time.

This technique also works with big edits too, not just line-edits! Sometimes, I pretend I’m Teacher Lauren reading my book to Fourth-grade Lauren. If Fourth-grade Lauren gets distracted or tries to pull up the Internet or starts thinking about snack time or does anything except be totally and completely absorbed in the scene, that’s Writer Lauren’s cue to tighten the chapter, amp up the tension, or figure out if the scene is misplaced chronologically.

Added perk of reading aloud? You’ll sound like a muttering, raving lunatic. Every writer’s dream come true!


Do any of these revision tips resonate with you? Do you have any special revision strategies that we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!

Have a great rest of summer, and stay cool (both figuratively and literally). We’ll see you again on Monday, September 2nd… aka Labor Day!

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 forthcoming from Dial/Penguin in Summer 2014.

GETTIN’ LUCKY: An interview with Rachele Alpine, author of CANARY

canaryI’m super jazzed to introduce you to Rachele Alpine, author of CANARY, a book that explores the serious issue of speaking out about sexual assault.  It follows Kate, a young woman whose father has just been hired as the basketball coach of Beacon Prep, an elite private school with a prestigious reputation to uphold.  At first, Kate is welcomed into the upper crust of Beacon culture, but she soon finds herself forced to speak out about an event that takes place at a party.  At the same time, she’s battling drama at home, too.  Her beloved mom has died from cancer and Kate misses her deeply, her brother hates Beacon and all it represents, and her dad is too wrapped up in his new job to pay attention to what’s really going on with Kate.

I found CANARY to be a fast-paced book that features one of the most realistic brother and sister relationships I’ve ever read in young adult fiction.  Something else that makes it stand out is that it incorporates Kate’s poems as blog posts into a traditional narrative.  So cool!

Hi, Rachele!  Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today.  Can you tell us a little about how CANARY came to be published?

CANARY actually started as a project I did in undergrad about twelve years ago.  I was an education major, and we had to research a topic that was a problem in schools or among teenagers.  I chose sexual harassment and assault.  Instead of presenting the findings in a standard research, my teacher had us create a multi-genre paper.  This is a more creative way of sharing your work by using poetry, short stories, pictures, song lyrics, comments and other artistic elements.  One of the poems in my piece told that story about a girl who was afraid to speak up about what was going on in her school.  It was this poem that stuck with me and I kept going back to year after year.  When I sat down to write CANARY, I went back to this poem as inspiration.  The coolest thing is that the poem ended up in the final copy of the book.

Wow, how amazing that must have been to have that poem as a seed of creativity, and then it ended up in the novel, too.  I loved how CANARY alternated between standard prose and Kate’s blog posts written in verse.  Was it difficult to switch back and forth between the two writing styles?

I didn’t set out to write the story like this; it ended up finding me.  If you pay attention to a lot of the blog posts they are written when Kate is her most private or dealing with situations that are very difficult.  I tried writing these as scenes many, many times, but I was having a lot of trouble putting Kate’s feelings into words.  Everything I wrote didn’t sound true enough or over emotional.  As I said, the book was inspired by a poem, and I continued to go back to that first poem and how well it expressed everything.  I tried to write the scenes I was having trouble with into poems, and it just clicked.  The story I was trying to tell came out, which created the format of telling the story in a mix of prose and verse.

Very cool.  I had a question about Kate’s mom, who has passed away before the main narrative of the book begins.  The loss of Kate’s mom to cancer has a huge impact on the family – it almost seems like the catalyst for all the events that transpire in the book.  We never meet Kate’s mom except through flashbacks.  Was it difficult to create this character?  Why or why not?   

It wasn’t difficult to create Kate’s mom, because even though she’s passed away when the book starts, she is still so present in the story.  Kate is yearning to talk about her and remember her.  Part of what makes Kate’s relationship with her dad so sad is that he’s unable to talk about her mom and show his true feelings.  Kate needs to hold onto the memories of her mother, so she isn’t forgotten by everyone.

Speaking of family, something I loved about this book was how it portrayed a complex but realistic relationship between a brother and sister.  Tell us a little about that.  Did you ever think of making Kate’s sibling a sister instead of a brother? 

Kate’s relationship with her brother is my favorite part of the book.  I love Brett and who he is and what he stands for.  I don’t think that he could have been a sister, because he represents everything that the Beacon athlete doesn’t.  Kate and Brett’s new school (and their father) exalt the basketball players.  Kate becomes part of this crowd, but Brett rejects it from the start.  He’s important because he shows how the school treats someone when he/she doesn’t subscribe to their way of thinking.  The school essentially turns on Brett.

This book focuses on the very important issue of sexual assault.  What do you hope teenage readers will learn from reading the book?  Were you at all inspired by any other books that have touched on this topic?

I didn’t channel any specific book when I was writing CANARY, but I think my book is an important one much in the same way as Daisy Whitney’s THE MOCKINGBIRDS.  CANARY looks at sexual assault in a different way, much like Daisy Whitney did.  I feel like her book is important for teens to read because it deals with a sexual assault when alcohol was involved and discusses what consent is.  I hope CANARY raises awareness in the same way and influences readers with its message of speaking up, no matter how hard it might be to tell the truth.

Rachele, thanks so much for chatting with us about CANARY.  Finally, as this community is All for One and OneFour KidLit, we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid.

Some of the books I loved (and read over and over again) as a kid that inspired me were anything and everything by Judy Blume, WAIT TILL HELEN COMES by Mary Downing Hahn, and CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White.


rachelealpineRachele Alpine is a lover of sushi, fake mustaches, and Michael Jackson. One of her first jobs was at a library, but it didn’t last long, because all she did was hide in the third-floor stacks and read. Now she’s a little more careful about when and where she indulges her reading habit. By day she’s a high school English teacher, and by night she writes with the companionship of the world’s cutest dog, Radley, a big cup of coffee, and a full bag of gummy peaches. Rachele lives with her husband in Cleveland, Ohio, but dreams of moving back to Boston, the city she fell in love with while attending graduate school there.  Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!

Jennifer Mathieu is a writer and English teacher who lives in Houston with her husband, son, dog, and two cats. A former newspaper journalist and East Coast native, Jennifer loves to eat but hates to cook. Her YA debut, THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE, will be published by Roaring Brook Press in June 2014.