It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

February 2017

It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

Books for International Women’s Day!

 

The goal of any society should be to raise its girls into strong, powerful women and raise its boys to value those women, and vice versa.

One of the best ways I know to help incubate strong women is to give young people books that feature inspiring young women.

Since today is International Women’s Day, here’s my list of the YA and MG books that should be on every young person’s list. Note: this list is just the beginning, but a good place to start!

I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

 

 

World Book Day!

 

Books Can Change the World.

They can show us places we’ve never been, they let us live other lives, experience other feelings.

They are the cheapest, and safest, method of escape.

They are one of the most powerful ways to share the truth.

They are magic.

Honestly, I can’t remember the first book that was read to me, although I know I forced my long-suffering mother to read The Gingerbread Man over and over again until the words bounced off the paper and into my head.

 

 

I remember reading Go Dog Go! and wishing, as I still wish today, that I could attend the party at the top of the tree!

 

 

I remember sobbing when Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables, loving Ponyboy in The Outsiders, being blown away by the biting wit of Jane Austen, the haunting prose of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

Every book I read invites me to live the lives of its main characters. Last week I was Anna in Blood Rose Rebellion and Griffin in History is All You Left Me, this week I am Starr in The Hate U Give, next week – who knows?

The greatest gift we can give our children is a love of reading. It is hard to hate other cultures or ways of being when you read the works of Rohinton Mistry, Khaled Hosseini, Tiffany Jackson, Alex Gino, Jason Reynolds, Kathleen Glasgow, Kerry Kletter, to name a few.

These are troubled times for sure, but World Book Day is a reminder to me that for most of us, that the path to empathy and peace and understanding can begin with a visit to our libraries and bookshops.

Since today is also Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it seems appropriate to let him have the last word:

 

How about you? What books spurred YOUR love of reading? I’d love to know!

 

Interview with Mary E. Lambert, Author of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes

 

I’m thrilled today to talk to Mary E. Lambert, author of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes.

 

 

 

What it’s about:

 

Annabelle has a five mile rule: She must keep her friends from coming within five miles of her home. That’s because Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Their house is full of stuff: canned goods, broken toys, old newspapers… It’s everywhere except for Annabelle’s spotless room.

Annabelle can’t let anyone find out what her house is like. They’ll realize that her mom is crazy. They’ll make fun of her. Or feel sorry for her. Or try to help.

But when the newspaper piles come crashing down on her sister’s head one morning, it kicks off an epic fight between her parents that ends up with her dad taking off — and her fix-it-all grandmother stepping in.

As Annabelle realizes how bad things have gotten for her little sister, while trying to navigate her first crush, not to mention stay sane herself, she’s forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe she can’t keep all her secrets to herself. Maybe she can’t just throw her mom’s things out… maybe she has to let some people in.

 

The Interview!

I love the premise of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes. I’ve never read a children’s book that has hoarding as a central theme. What gave you the idea?

Thank you! I’m so glad you like my novel’s premise. When I was in graduate school, I considered writing a piece of speculative fiction inspired by hoarding. After I explained my book concept to one of my advisors, she asked me, “Why not just write about hoarders?” And I thought she had a good point. I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by hoarding, probably because at certain points in my life I have struggled with the compulsion to collect things like empty water bottles or junk mail. Most of the items Annabelle’s mom saves are things I might feel compelled to keep; although, I have never reached the extremes of my main character’s mother.

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Oh no, only one book! I think I would have to choose Anne of Green Gables. I love the novel’s humor, hopefulness, and heart. Anne Shirley has been one of my favorite characters since I was a middle-grader, and her story is one that I can happily read over and over again.  

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

I’m so excited that Changing Hands, a local bookstore, is hosting my launch. I’ve invited my students, my family, and my friends to come celebrate with me. I plan to read the first chapter of my novel and to give away miniature Beanie Babies as party favors (since Beanie Babies play an important role in Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes).

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

 First, I would have to invite L.M. Montgomeryafter all, I chose one of her books as my desert island companion! And from what I know about Montgomery’s life, I think she must have been an entertaining individual.

 Next I would invite Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary, because I first fell in love with the magic of books when my teacher read The BFG and Ramona the Pest to the class. 

 C.S. Lewis is another writer I would like to meet. I loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but was less enthusiastic about The Last Battle. As the oldest girl and the second born of four children, I always felt a kinship with Susan Pevensie, and after reading the last book in the series, I’ve got some questions for C.S. Lewis.

 I also have some questions for Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I was young, I loved the Little House books. This deluded me into thinking I would have been a great pioneer. Now I realize that Laura left a lot out of her novelslike the toilet situation and dental hygiene…and many other things that now make me realize I probably would be a terrible frontierswoman. 

Last of all, I think I would pick Hans Christian Andersen. He played a pivotal role in the development of modern children’s literature and wrote poignant, enduring fairy tales that have inspired storytellers across the ages. His birthday, April 2nd, is International Children’s Book Day.

I would serve my guests an afternoon tea, which would include cucumber sandwiches (as snozzcumbers are currently out of season), cheese danishes, little heart-shaped cakes sprinkled with white sugar, and hard boiled eggs. Raspberry cordial would also be offered.      

 

What projects are you working on next?

I am currently revising a contemporary YA novelmy working title is The Briefly Existential Crisis of Miranda Miracle. (What can I say? I guess I just really love long titles.) I am also about three-fourths of the way through a middle-grade fantasy and about a quarter of the way through a middle-grade contemporary.   

 

To learn more about Mary and find out where you can order her books, visit her website!

 

THANK YOU SO MUCH MARY (and I want to be a fly on the wall for that dinner party!)

 

Launch Party Shenanigans!

 

I happy to report that the IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! Launch Party was a success!

Over one hundred people squeezed into Gallery 78 in Downtown Fredericton, munched on cake and snacks, sipped wine, and enjoyed a short reading from the book.

I was fortunate to have two young friends join me for the actual reading.

Myra and Cole did a spectacular job!

I was also thrilled to be introduced by Author Kathleen Peacock, who primed the audience by talking about the importance of children’s literature in our lives. If you haven’t read any of Kathleen’s work you really should – it is so good!

Special thanks as well to Westminster Books, who were on site selling books!

 

Thought I’d share a few photos from the event with you:

 

It was a wonderful day and a sincere thank you to all of my friends and family who showed up!!

 

Go Pig Face!

Book Launch Today!

 

If you’re in Fredericton, come over to Gallery 78 on Queen St. between 2 and 4 pm!

They’ll be refreshments, a reading, and I’ll be signing books at the gorgeous Gallery 78!

 

See you then!

 

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is in the world and I’m giving away a free book!

 

It happened – It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is finally in the world!

I couldn’t be more proud or more thankful for you folks who’ve been part of this journey with me!

 

I’m getting photos of Pig Face on bookshelves in New York City…

 

 

On people’s bookshelves, including my amazing agent, Lauren Galit:

 

For a while, Pig Face was even trending on twitter thanks to all my author friends across Canada and the USA!

 

 

 

To say I am grateful would be a gross understatement.

A little over two years ago, Lauren took a chance on a new author from a place she’d probably never heard of before. She has treated me with care and respect ever since, and thanks to Lauren, I got a deal with Sky Pony Press and got the chance to work with the amazing Alison Weiss.

Pig Face being published is the result of a lot of hard work, most of it done by me, Lauren and Alison.

And the work continues! I’m still writing, and more books are coming.

But I have a request:

if you buy or borrow Pig Face and like it, please leave a review or a thumb’s up in Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters. Those reviews impact restocking and how much coverage those sites give to the book, which in turn results in more sales.

Though Pig Face be small, we can be mighty! If you’re not sure how to do a review, drop me a line!

And thank you again for following along!

As a thank you, I’m going to randomly choose one of my newsletter subscribers next Wednesday and send them a copy of the book, If you aren’t subscribing, jump in – you could be the lucky one!

Until then! Keep on reading!

 

 

Telegraph Journal Interview

 

I’ve been interviewed by New Brunswick’s Provincial Newspaper, The Telegraph Journal about It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! and my journey to publication!

 

 

Here’s the article:

From deputy minister to children’s author

Wendy McLeod MacKnight worked for the Government of New Brunswick for 25 years. Then one day, she decided to start over and follow her childhood dream of writing books. This week, her first children’s book will be released, just in time for the inaugural St. Stephen StoryFest.

By Emily Baron Cadloff

Wendy MacKnight’s sister Margaret McLeod, from left, her friend Barb Doyle who still lives in St. Stephen, Wendy MacKnight, and her brother Patrick McLeod (along with Charlie the dog). Patrick and Charlie are in the book.

 
The author’s view from her desk. PHOTO: WENDY MCLEOD MACKNIGHT

Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s working space at her home in Fredericton. PHOTO: WENDY MCLEOD MACKNIGHT

Wendy McLeod MacKnight worked for the Government of New Brunswick for 25 years, eventually reaching the post of deputy minister in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. PHOTO: MARY ELLEN NEALIS

 

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! The tale follows friends Tracy and Ralph, with Tracy’s younger brother Lester, with the unfortunate nickname of Pig Face, tagging along. PHOTO: SUBMITTED

 

Wendy McLeod MacKnight wrote her first book when she was nine years old. Complete with illustrations, the novel was set in an apartment, perched atop a laundromat in New York City.
“I’d never been to New York City,” MacKnight recalled with a booming laugh.“I always knew I wanted to write books, and I always wanted to write children’s books.”
So she wrote. MacKnight wrote stories throughout her childhood and teen years, and into her 20s. But as she got older, there were more obstacles in the way.
“People were telling me at the time ‘Nobody ever makes a living as an author,’” MacKnight said.“I just thought, maybe it’s just not going to happen for me.”
Instead, MacKnight entered a career as far away from being a children’s author as you might think. For 25 years, she worked for the Government of New Brunswick, eventually reaching the post of deputy minister in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. While she liked the job, she had an epiphany, one sad afternoon in the fall of 2012.
MacKnight sat at her dying father’s bedside, and had a flash. Life is so short, and so precious. Why was she spending her time not chasing her dream?
“I always felt like a square peg in a round hole. It was never fully aligned. And the things I loved best about being a civil servant were the times I got to be really creative and imaginative,”MacKnight explained. “I just thought, (life) just goes in the blink of an eye. And I have not done what I wanted to do, so I tendered my resignation.”
At the age of 50, MacKnight screwed up her courage and dove head first into a new career. But instead of starting completely from scratch, she found an old manuscript she had written in her 20s, set in her hometown of St. Stephen.
“It’s a story that is not autobiographical, but is sure as heck is based on me and my neighbourhood and my friends. And it’s about two friends who find a bag of money in a baseball dugout and decide that rather than turn the money in, this is their chance to figure out and solve a mystery,” MacKnight said.“The mystery is probably more about, in the end, friendships, and what does it mean to be a friend and good sister.”
That manuscript became her first novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! The tale follows friends Tracy and Ralph, with Tracy’s younger brother Lester, with the unfortunate nickname of Pig Face, tagging along. Aimed at readers from the ages of nine to 12, MacKnight worked to polish the book for more than a year, before finally landing an agent in 2014.
“I think I was rejected 48 times,” MacKnight said with a chuckle.“OK, if 70 agents turn me down, I’m going to put this book aside…and if that doesn’t work I’m going to just be a retired person.”
But with each rejection, MacKnight took any comments or critiques the agent had, and used them to improve the next round of submissions.
“I would send batches of queries,” MacKnight explained. “Then I would do a lot of revisions, so I was still working on the book, because I would take any advice or critique. That was really important to me, to make it as good as I could.”
After 48 rounds of this, MacKnight signed with a literary agent, and together they worked to get her novel published. Now, nearly 30 years after she first wrote it, the book will be released on Feb. 7 by Sky Pony Press. And not only that, but the novel was chosen to kick off St. Stephen’s inaugural St. Stephen StoryFest, starting the same day the book is released. It’s a lot for the new author to take in.
“It’s a really surreal moment, I have to say,” MacKnight said. ”I was just astounded that they wanted to do that. That was really great.”
The town has already purchased and distributed 500 copies of the novel, so each and every Grade 4 and 5 students in the area will receive his or her own copy. They will read the book together, and work on classroom activities, before gathering at an official book launch at the town civic centre in April.
“There was a reason I loved growing up there. I really loved St. Stephen, they always had a really close community, and they’re really proud, they really celebrate things.”

Love this article and all the pictures they included!

 

 

The It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Book Launch

 

Only five days until It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is “officially” published!

 

 

This is an exciting time for me, but I wouldn’t be here without your support!

So I wanted to invite you all to come to the book launch!

 

Where: Gallery 78, Downtown Fredericton

(located on Queen Street across from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

When: Saturday, February 11th, from 2-4 pm

They’ll be a short reading around 2:30, some remarks, nibbles and drinks and I’ll be signing books!

Westminster Books will be have books available to buy!  Hope to see you there!

 

xox Wendy

 

 

 

 

The It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! trailer is live!

 

I’m excited to announce that the It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! book trailer is LIVE!

Thanks to the hard work and vision of Berenice, whose talent can be seen at http://Berenice.ca, this trailer is so much fun!

She did an amazing job, and is open to doing more book trailers, so don’t be afraid to link up with her and ask!!

 

 

Thanks Berenice and GO PIG FACE!

 

 

Interview with Ali Standish, Author of The Ethan I Was Before

 

The Ethan I Was Before had me from the very first page.

 

 

We know from the get-go that something bad has happened to Ethan, but every page is a revelation of the past and how it impacts the present. It is so well written!

 

The Blurb:

 

Life can be transformed in one moment, but does that one moment define you for life?

Lost in the Sun meets The Thing About Jellyfish in Ali Standish’s breathtaking debut. A poignant middle grade novel of friendship and forgiveness, The Ethan I Was Before is a classic in the making.

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from Boston to the small town of Palm Knot, Georgia.

Palm Knot may be tiny, but it’s the home of possibility and second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope.

 

 

The Interview:

The thing I love most about The Ethan I was Before is how gently, but directly, you deal with grief. So often adults try and protect kids from it. Did you have to do a lot of research before you began to write?

Thank you! Gentle but direct is a great description of what I was aiming for. I did spend some time talking with mental health professionals about how children this age process trauma, survivor’s guilt, etc. But I also pulled a lot from my own experiences with grieving for a friend at a fairly young age.

 

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

I just adore Lauren Wolk’s Wolf Hollow and Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me. To me, they represent middle grade fiction at it’s finest. So I will sacrifice my soap (or something!) to make room for them both!

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

A wonderful independent bookshop in Raleigh, Quail Ridge Books, is hosting the launch on February 3rd. But as for the actual book birthday, I’ll celebrate by having a nice dinner with my family. Without them, there would be no book!

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Oh, Gosh! Well J.K. Rowling would have to be there so she can tell me where my Hogwarts letter has been all these years, wouldn’t she? And Roald Dahl and Astrid Lindgren would probably make for some entertaining company. (There would have to be lots of chocolate cake and Wonka sweets.) I would love to meet Sharon Creech, Katherine Patterson, Jacqueline Woodson, and Neil Gaiman as well!

 

What projects are you working on next?

I’m currently working on a kind of southern gothic reinterpretation of The Secret Garden and a WWII home front novel. Both middle grade, and both so exciting to write!

Visit Ali’s website and find out where you can find her books.

Follow Ali on twitter.

Interview with Sally J. Pla, Author of The Someday Birds

 

She had me at birds.

Even before I knew what The Someday Birds was about, I knew I was going to love it, because, well, birds…

But then I got a chance to read The Someday Birds in advance and it exceeded my expectations!

Sally has crafted a beautiful story that stays with you long after you’ve finished the book.

 

 

The blurb:

 

Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan.

When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.

Debut author Sally J. Pla has written a tale that is equal parts madcap road trip, coming-of-age story for an autistic boy who feels he doesn’t understand the world, and an uplifting portrait of a family overcoming a crisis.

 

The Interview:

I’m not going to lie – I love birds, which was what initially drew me to your book! I love Charlie’s someday bird list and I’ve decided that mine is cardinal. I’ve only seen one once and would love to have one next on my property. What’s at the top of your list, Sally?

I used to live in semi-rural Wisconsin, and we had a pair of cardinals living amid the trees and berry brambles. Such beautiful flashes of red against the snow.

What I loved most about Charlie’s list, the one he made with his dad, is that there are impossible birds on it – an extinct Carolina Parakeet, an Australian emu – which Dad puts on the list jokingly, “just to shake things up.” But Charlie, who is quite literal, takes it seriously – which leads to surprising results.

Researching the book gave me new appreciation for, and joy in birds.  Me – maybe because I’m a Californian, now – I’d love to see a golden eagle soaring in the air.

 

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Impossible question. ONE? Perhaps a compendium volume of the middle-grade best of Kate di Camillo, Katherine Applegate, Rebecca Stead, Neil Gaiman, and Richard Peck. Among many others. Can I bring a multi-volume set?

(editor’s note – You can, Sally!)

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

At a small local nature center, set on an ocean marsh. (I saw an osprey dive for a fish there, the other day.) With lots of friends from the autism, birding, arts and writing community, I hope. And cake.  Lots of cake.

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Hmmm. Hard. Maybe Jeff Kinney, for humor. Madeleine L’Engle and Ursual le Guin, for wonderful intelligent feminist conversation. Kwame Alexander because he seems so full of happiness and fun. Ransom Riggs so we can talk about fairy tales and old photographs and the peculiarities of the world. Kate de Camillo out of admiration for the heart in her writing… and we’d share something simple, with a good red Zinfandel. And for dessert, cake. Lots of cake. Really in the mood for cake right now, for some reason.

 

What projects are you working on next?

My second middle-grade novel for HarperCollins, JOHN LOCKDOWN IS IN THE BUILDING, pubs January 2018. It’s the story of Stanley Fortinbras, a meek, undersized comics fanatic, who enters a big trivia treasure hunt in an attempt to win back his best friend. Also, he worries about the school’s somewhat excessive safety and lockdown drills… which leads to some interesting cartooning developments!

Also pubbing in 2018:  BENNIE’S BLUE BURRITO, a picture book with Lee & Low. It’s about two little brothers, sibling rivalry, and a fuzzy blue blanket.

Thanks for letting me stop by, Wendy! This has been so fun! Too bad we couldn’t do it in person over coffee. And cake, lots of cake.

 

My name is Wendy and I endorse cake!

 

 

Visit Sally’s website for links for ordering the book.

Follow Sally on Twitter!

Thanks Sally!

 

Interview with Jennifer Torres, Author of Stef Soto, Taco Queen

 

Stef Soto, Taco Queen was one of my favourite books of 2016.

 

 

 

I’d gotten to read an advanced reader’s copy and was totally immersed in Stef’s story. So I’m thrilled that the book was finally released yesterday – wanted to get my greedy paws on it – and had to corner its author, the very talented Jennifer Torres, with my questions!

 

The Interview

 

Okay, the whole time I was reading Stef Soto, Taco Queen, my mouth was watering! Inquiring minds what to know: what’s your favourite taco filling?

So many of my favorite comfort foods made it into this book. Okay, if we’re talking homemade, then it’s ground beef fried with diced potato, shredded lettuce, tomato, avocado and salsa. That’s the way my grandma makes tacos.

If I were ordering at a taco truck, I’d ask for a couple of carne asada tacos with pico de gallo and a wedge of lime.

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Such a tough question. But if I only get one, I’d take A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which I know is on the older side. When I was 12 or so, my mom gave me her copy of the book – the same dog-eared, creased-spine paperback she had read when she was my age. I think it was the first time I really thought of her as having been a kid once – one who liked to read and even had a favorite book – and the connection meant a lot to me. That, through this book she shared, I could get to know the younger person she had been. I like that it’s a family story, that it’s honest about hardship and struggle – but doesn’t forget moments of joy and love.

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

I’m looking forward to a launch event Saturday, January 21 at the Barnes & Noble in Stockton, California. There will be a signing and some giveaways, and guests can make their own mini taco truck! I’m especially excited that, as part of a B&N bookfair, a portion of sales will benefit El Concilio, a nonprofit organization that serves immigrant families in the San Joaquin Valley where I live. El Concilio does excellent, important work, and I’m proud to have served on its board for a number of years.

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Amazing. So, taking for granted that what I’d love is a big house party with all the great middle grade authors with books coming out this year, here’s my six: Pam Muñoz Ryan, Eleanor Estes (Esperanza Rising and The Hundred Dresses were both desert island contenders), Rita Williams-Garcia, Grace Lin, Gary Soto and Margarita Engle.

It’s a potluck, obviously.

What projects are you working on next?

I’m revising few things right now: A couple of middle grade novels (one of which is Selena-inspired, and another that involves a lot of lip gloss and Lady Bird Johnson); a chapter book and a picture book.

(She had me at lip gloss and Lady Bird Johnson)

Thank you Jennifer!

Click here to learn where you can buy Jennifer’s book.

Follow Jennifer on twitter: @jennanntorres

 

The #MGdebuts Reading Channel is live!

 

I love being read to.

Which gave me an idea for another way potential readers/teachers/librarians could “sample” some of the new middle grade novels being released in 2017.

Thus, the #MGdebuts reading channel idea was born.

Basically, the idea is that we debut authors will post videos of ourselves reading some of our books, sharing five things we’d like you to know about our books, plus any of our book trailers.

The channel went live on Monday and we’re getting great feedback. The great thing is that the channel is evolving, as each other puts more content on line. Right now, we’re focusing on the January, February and March 2017 debut authors, but I hope that other MG authors will want to put their videos up there as well.

Want to check it out?

Then click HERE!

 

 

It’s been a lot of fun, although it is a little mortifying to see myself on video.

Since I’m going to have to get used to it, I’m sucking it up…

Check it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

 

Another #MGDEBUTS Novel – Interview with SIREN SISTERS author Dana Langer

 

I love a good mythological MG novel!

And Siren Sisters by Dana Langer ticks off all the boxes for me.

 

 

How about this for an amazing description:

 

A soon-to-be siren finds herself responsible for the lives of her sisters–and the fisherman they curse–in this haunting debut novel.

Now that I know the truth, I sometimes picture my sisters in headlights, the way they would have looked on that cold February night, armed with shovels and pickaxes, and digging in the graveyard.

Lolly Salt has three beautiful sisters. When they’re not in school or running their small town’s diner, they’re secretly luring ships to their doom from the cliffs of Starbridge Cove, Maine. With alluring voices that twelve-year-old Lolly has yet to grow into (not that she wants to anyway) the Salt sisters do the work mandated by the Sea Witch, a glamorously frightening figure determined to keep the girls under her control. With their mother dead after a mysterious car accident, and their father drowning in grief, the sisters carry on with their lives and duties until a local sea captain gets suspicious about the shipwrecks.

On the day before her birthday, Lolly watches in helpless horror as her sisters are lured themselves by curse-reversing fishermen–and suddenly it’s up to her and her best friend Jason to rescue the sirens of Starbridge Cove.

 

Some background about Dana:

 

 

Dana Langer holds a BA in creative writing from Brandeis University where she received the Dafna Zamarripa-Gesundheit Fiction Prize. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter and works as a high school English teacher. Siren Sisters is her first novel. Check her out online at MonstersinLit.Blogspot.com and on Twitter @DanicaLanger.

Now on to the interview!

 

I’ve always loved mythology, but ambivalent about its portrayal of women and girls, so I am so excited for SIREN SISTERS! I’d love to know how the seed for this amazing concept was planted in your imagination!

SIREN SISTERS was born of my curiosity about those characters in mythology who find themselves on the periphery of the story. For example, I enjoyed the Percy Jackson series, but I wondered what it would be like if told from a girl’s perspective and centered the so called monsters instead of the gods and heroes.What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

If I had to pick just one middle grade to read and re-read, I would choose A WRINKLE IN TIME. Reading it as an adult, I find some of the language a bit dated, but there is a lot to unpack in the story, and I love Meg’s character and her dynamic with her little brother.So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s launch?

I will be celebrating the launch of SIREN SISTERS at Books of Wonder in New York City on January 7th (from 1-3pm.) It should be a warm, cozy, kid-friendly time with lots of books and baked goods on a cold winter afternoon.What projects are you working on next?

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Reading this question, I’m laughing and realizing just how bad my anxiety is as even the thought of having to eat an imaginary dinner with authors I admire makes me really nervous. Maybe we’d need to just grab a drink instead. I’m also going to cheat a little and name one children’s literature scholar. Ok, so I’d choose Jason Reynolds, Rita Williams Garcia, Debbie Reese, Madeleine L’Engle and E.L. Konigsburg. And I’ll invite my friend and fellow 2017 debut author Jodi Kendall because she’s been an incredible support to me throughout this process. I’d order a stout. Or a Vodka on the Rocks.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on another middle grade, also a loose retelling of a myth. It’s very much in the drafting stage, but, as always, it will involve mythology, science, and twelve year old girls finding their place in the story.

Thanks Dana! I can’t wait to read this book!

Introducing The Quartz Creek Ranch Series!

 

It’s the book birthday of Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser’s four book Quartz Creek Ranch Series!

 

I’ve been so excited about these books because, despite the fact that I haven’s physically been on a horse since the 1970s, I have always loved books where horses were central to the plot: The Black Stallion, National Velvet, Jill’s Gymkhana. All were favourites growing up.

Now thanks to Kiersi and Amber, I get to add four more horse books to my bookshelves!

Before I share the short interview I did with these talented authors, how about a little background?

QUARTZ CREEK RANCH

A middle-grade series by Kiersi Burkhart and Amber J. Keyser

About the Series

Every summer, the gates of Quartz Creek Ranch swing open for kids in trouble. Under the watchful eyes of lifelong ranchers Willard and EttyBridle, these ten to twelve-year-olds put their hands—and hearts—to good use, herding cattle, tending the garden, harvesting hay, and caring foranimals. Aided by two teenage horse trainers, the kids must forge a bond with their therapy horses, grow beyond the mistakes that brought themto the ranch, and face unique challenges in the rugged Coloradorangeland

 

About the Authors:

 

KIERSI BURKHART grew up riding horses on the Colorado Front Range. At sixteen, she attended Lewis & Clark College in Portland and spent her young adult years in beautiful Oregon—until she discovered her sense of adventure was calling her elsewhere. Now she travels around with her best friend, a mutt named Baby, writing fiction for children of all ages.

 

 

AMBER J. KEYSER is happiest when she is in the wilderness with her family. Lucky for her, the rivers and forests of Central Oregon let her paddle, hike, ski, and ride horses right outside her front door. When she isn’t adventuring, Amber writes fiction and nonfiction for young readers and goes running with her dog, Gilda.

 

The Interview!

 

I’ve never collaborated with someone on a book before so I’m dying to know what it’s like! How and why did you decide to your books together? What was the writing process like? Was it easy to agree when you were ready for submission?

Kiersi: This has been anything but a traditional publishing journey for me. Before QUARTZ CREEK RANCH, Amber and I were just writer buddies. One day, I was Tweeting about an experience I’d had rehabilitating a horse when I was a tween, and Amber said, “I didn’t know you were a horse person!” She approached me with the idea of writing a Middle-Grade series together about horses. I agreed, of course, because I was hooked on the Misty of Chincoteague books as a kid, and loved the idea of writing some myself. We sat down one day and brainstormed the whole thing in a single sitting, then wrote some sample chapters. Her agent signed me a few weeks later, so now we’re agency sisters!

We sold the books to a European publisher on the chapters alone, so then we had to sit down and write after the deal was made. But co-writing with Amber was super easy, considering we share a brain! We decided to alternate taking the lead on a single book—we came up with concepts and plot lines together, then one of us would write the first draft while the other would read and critiqued it to make sure we had written the characters consistently and in the same voice.

Amber: Everything about these books has been love-at-first-sight! It was as if Quartz Creek Ranch and Ma Etty and Willard were waiting for us behind a secret door. All Kiersi and I had to do was find each other and the door swung wide. One of the most amazing things about the process is that we never had a single moment of conflict during the two years we’ve spent writing four books together!

 

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Kiersi: THE NEVERENDING STORY by Michael Ende. Ironic to the title, I could read that book a million times over.

Amber: HATCHET by Gary Paulsen. Appropriate for a survival situation and one of my favorite books of all time.

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

Kiersi: Since we live in different places (Amber’s in Oregon while I’m in Wyoming), we’re planning separate launch parties. Which would be sad, except that it means we get to double our reach!

Amber: My daughter and her horse-riding friends are planning a launch party at a Roundabout Books in Bend, Oregon. There will be cupcakes! There will be horse trivia games!

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Kiersi: My choices would be: Michael Ende, Marguerite Henry, R.L. Stine, K.A. Applegate (just Katherine, though—very important), Catherynne Valente and Christopher Healy! I probably would be too star-struck and nervous to speak to Michael, but I’d have him there just to absorb his genius from a distance. And R.L.—I know he’s very funny on Twitter and I imagine he is in real life, too. I’d want to show Marguerite Henry what we made… I think QUARTZ CREEK RANCH would make her really proud. And Katherine, I know, loves animal books! Catherynne’s imagination simply inspires me—and Christopher Healy has taught me a ton about Middle-Grade humor and absurdity. I’d cook a lovely vegetarian dinner, just to suit everyone’s tastes… probably potato leek soup!

Amber: Kwame Alexander because THE CROSSOVER is a masterwork of language so beautiful I want to weep. Linda Sue Park because the characters in A SINGLE SHARD will stick with me forever. Gary Schmidt because OKAY FOR NOW goes so deep with such economy of language. Rita Williams-Garcia because ONE CRAZY SUMMER is so full of humor and heart. Kathi Appelt because THE UNDERNEATH is other-worldly and magical. Alex Gino because GEORGE is the perfect book about true friendship. I lived in Thailand for a year and so when I really want to impress people I find an international market and whip up a handful of dishes. Plus there is always enough for more people (like RJ Palacio, Susan Cooper, Madeline L’Engle, Rosanne Parry, Heidi Schulz and Rebecca Stead) to drop by. (Do you see how I snuck in a lot more of my favorite middle grade writers? I’m tricky that way!)

What projects are you working on next?

Kiersi: I personally have two YA novels in the works right now—and then I’m hoping to get back into Middle-Grade and write another horse book (in the vein of Black Beauty), or a book about dogs. I adopted my first dog about a year and a half ago, and I want to spend more time exploring the wonderful, magical bonds between children and animals.

Amber: I have two nonfiction projects in the works, one is a history of marriage, and the other is a history of women’s underwear. I’m also launching a YA novel in April. Busy times!

 

Where to Find Kiersi and Amber:

Kiersi:

Twitter/Website/Facebook

 

Amber:

Twitter/Website/Facebook

 

Launching the 2017 Jan-Feb-March Debut Authors!

 

Happy New Year!

2017 has finally arrived and with it, the publication of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

But I’m not alone.

Along with me, a whole bunch of other really talented authors are going to be debuting their middle grade and young adult novels this year, and I’ll be talking about a lot of them.

And I’ve banded with a number of fantastic middle grade authors whose books are launching in January, February and March of this year!

 

I’ve already read a lot of these and they are fantastic – so stay tuned, as you’re going to be hearing a whole lot more about our books in the coming weeks!

Welcome 2017!

Shine on: some year-end thoughts

 

This post is my last blogpost for 2016.

 

So it seemed apropos to share a few things I’m most grateful about in terms of my writing career this past year. Don’t worry – it’s a short list, but heartfelt.

 

Writer friends

 

Before I became a writer, I hardly knew any writers at all. And now I have a whole community of writers to to turn to for advice, inspiration, and joy.

 

 

Books (and no, not mine!)

I read and I read and I read in 2016. My writing got better because of it, but even more so, I was inspired to reach for excellence. I don’t always achieve that excellence, but I try!

 

Those Who’ve Given Me a Chance & Supported Me

My agent, Lauren Galit, AKA Warrior Princess, who talks me off the ledge and sold my 2nd and 3rd books this year. Agents take big chances on we authors, and I am relieved Lauren’s faith has been rewarded!

The authors whom I admire who were so kind as to read and give blurbs for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

My wonderful Sky Pony Press editor, Alison Weiss, who taught me how to edit a book. She is so smart and kind I felt no pain, only exhilaration! I could not adore her more than I do!

My friends (old and new) who have stepped up to help support Pig Face’s release!

The folks who have already pre-ordered my book – you amaze me with your generosity!

Readers of this Blog

It turns out a bunch of you actually click and read this blog. Who knew? For that I am eternally grateful. Next year is going to be filled with excitement, and I hope you will be with me every step of the way!

 

The Kids of Garden Creek School

When you write a book for kids, you oddly do so in a room where there are no kids. Last spring, I got to spend two months working with a bunch of wonderful kids from Garden Creek School. They excited me, humbled me, frightened me, and thrilled me. And they are in my heads every day when I write! I can’t wait to get into even more schools in 2017!

 

Until we talk again in 2017, I wish you all a joyous holiday season and hope for a joyous and peaceful 2017!

This year has been hard for many. I know it has been hard for me. I’ve suffered loss, felt hopeless now and then, felt powerless to help those who hurt.

But I know this: so long as a light shines in the darkness, there is hope. I believe that kid lit is one such light. Illuminating, inspiring, inhabiting, invincible.

I plan to do my best to shine on in 2017. I hope you’ll join me!

Much love, Wendy xoxo

 

 

Want to Win an Advanced Reader Copy of It’s a Mystery, Pig Face?

 

 

 

Lots of people have been asking me when they can get a copy of the book.

 

Pig-Face Cover

 

Well guess what? Now you can! Until midnight December 16th, EST, you can pop over to the Middle Grade Minded blog, leave me a message, and be automatically entered to win! It’s as easy as that!

 

But a book didn’t seem enough…

 

So I’ve included candy, kindly donated by Ganong Bros Ltd and some Pig Face book swag!

giveaway

 

Good luck!

 

My Best of the Rest: other books I read in 2016 that I loved

 

A confession: I have spent 2016 reading middle grade and young adult novels almost exclusively.

Not just because I wanted to improve my writing craft and reading widely in your genre is THE best way to improve your writing skills, but because

THEY ARE SO DARN GOOD!

 

And I didn’t get to half of the books I’d hoped to read in 2016.

 

so-many-books

 

But I didn’t ONLY read kidlit, and the following books rocked my world in 2016:

 

only-street-in-paris

Ah Paris, I will be back soon…

 

sputnik

A gift from my daughter, now I understand what the fuss is all about. Haruki Murakami is a genius

 

my-life-on-the-road

My hero. Always. Her stories will inspire and educate you!

 

mrs-dalloway

Why didn’t I ever read this before? Bah! But I’ve read it now. and will again…

 

devil-in-the-white-city

Evil walks among us – always. A riveting tale of a mass murderer in a bygone era… Kept me up reading, and because I was scared to go to sleep….

 

view-from-the-cheap-seats

The genius. He could write a book about plumbing and I’d read it…

 

essex-county

The best graphic novel I’ve ever read

 

islam

The more you know. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the history of this beautiful faith in simple terms

 

the-purple

No one loves Old Hollywood scandal like I do. This one did not disappoint. The stuff that dreams are made of..

 

revolution

The revolution will not be televised, it will be within. Yup.

The last one is a cheat because I am only 3/4 of the way through but it is already one of my favourite books ever:

 

the-wonder

 

There you have it! And now I can’t wait to see what great reads 2017 will bring me!

 

Happy Reading!

 

I’m guest blogging over at Pop Goes the Reader!

 

It’s that time of the year again!

 

When one of my favourite book bloggers, Jen from Pop Goes the Reader, does her annual Tis the Season series of posts, when authors guest blog about what the holiday season means to them.

 

pop-goes-the-reader

 

And guess what? This year she asked me to participate!

If you want to read my post (and I hope you will!) click here!

While you over, you really ought to follow her wonderful blog!

Thanks Jen!!!

 

 

 

Author of Children's Literature

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