It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

February 2017

It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

Wendy’s List of The YA she read and loved in 2016

 

Last week we talked about middle grade novels I read and loved in 2016, now it’s time to turn my attention to

Young Adult Novels!

First a caveat: I’ve read well over a hundred and fifty books this year, and there are more waiting on my shelves and in my kindle for me to get to them, but there are many more books I am anxious to read that I just haven’t gotten to yet!  So this list is based solely on what I’ve read so far and loved!

More and more, I live by the motto

So many books, so little time…

 

So now, in no particular order are my recommended YA books of 2016!

 

beyond-the-redthe girl who fell symptoms of being human dig too deepjerkbaitsave me kurt cobainshallow how-to-hang-a-witch the-reader mosquitolandconsidergeminigirl-in-pieceshow-it-endsstudy-in-charlottesummers-of-supernovasthe-first-time-she-drownedthe-loose-ends-listthe-only-thingthe-serpent-king wandering-wildthis-is-where-it-endswhere-futures-endsword-and-versethe-girl-from-everywherecrossing-the-line crowns-gameup-to-this-pointestalking-jack-the-ripperthe-sun-is-also-a-startimekeeper1secrets

If you’re still looking for other great YA to read, by all means, pop over to The Sweet Sixteens website, where you’ll discover all kinds of wonderful books!

Next Week: A few more books I loved this year….

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Book Shopping List Part One: My Middle Grade Picks

 

Year end is the perfect time of year to reflect on books that have touched us the most.

But given so many of you celebrate holidays that require gift-giving, I thought it might be helpful to suggest some books that would be welcome additions to any bookshelf, beginning this week with middle grade novels, which are so dear to my own heart.

You won’t find my book on this list, even though you can pre-order it (and you really should, she plugged shamelessly!), because I only want to share books you can buy straight away. I’m also NOT including some books that I talked about last holiday season that I read in advance of their release, but I highly recommend you go back and visit last year’s list HERE, because I still love all of those books!

My top Middle Grade Picks for 2016, by theme and in no particular order:

 

Is it Adventure You Seek?

Really, I could almost hear the theme of Raiders of the Lost Arc when I read these! They are thrilling and funny and exactly the kind of books ten-year-old me would have gobbled up!

 

 

 

 warrenthe-adventureres

 

howard-wallace the-nestboundersmomotaro

a-most-magical-girlmonstervilledragons-tomb artifacts haunted-house-project maypop mice-of-the-round-table midnight-war motley poppy the-cartographers-daughter the-rat-prince the-thiefs-apprentice treasure-at-lure-lake voyage-to-the-magical-north

HISTORICAL FICTION:

These books, told from a child’s perspective, caught my attention and my heart this year. These books combined electrifying storytelling with “YOU ARE THERE” historical facts and were amazing in every way.

paper-wishesthe-war-that-saved-my-life The last cherry blossom

 

lizzie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship

We learn so much about how to be friends (or not) in middle grade. These books help.

 

BFF The Friendship Agreement Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo Res swing-sideways

 

Last boy at St. Edithslike-magic

 

i-am-drumslou-lou-peaseventh-grade

 

 

ISSUES:

These books explored heavy issues and did so amazingly!

 

 

counting thyme Raymie Nightingale

 

hours of the bees charlie price gertielast fifth grade root-beer-candy-and-other-miraclesGeorge wondersticks and stones Bookedthe-lost-celtdistance-to-home

These are just some of the books I read and loved this year! Would love to hear your favourites!

When Your Characters Veer Off Course

 

I was fully prepared to draft my current Work in Progress.

Character Sheets were done.

Scenes were sketched out.

Themes were at the ready.

And then one of my characters showed up on the page and had a secret.

 

via GIPHY

 

A secret they hadn’t bothered to share with me before.

This is both the writer’s greatest hope and greatest fear.

It means that the muse has taken over.

It means your characters have come to life.

It means a major reworking of plot.

 

via GIPHY

Le Sigh.

In the case of my Work in Progress, the character with the secret was a secondary one.

She arrived fully formed, like Mary Poppins answering the Banks’ ad for a nanny, and proceeded to pull her secret out of her bottomless bag.

via GIPHY

It was a helpful secret, so it got to stay.

And it made me happy, because it reminded me of how, regardless how much I prepare in advance, the story will reveal itself as it will.

The preparation was wonderful. I felt very ready to write this book.

But the magic is in the actual writing and editing.

And my secondary character was kind enough to remind me of that!

I’ve now written 51,000 words in 16 days. I fully expect to get to the end of draft one before month’s end.

I expect more surprises in the revision process.

And I couldn’t be any happier! Has that ever happened to you?

 

 

A thank you to Julie and a prescription for hope: books

 

It’s been a long week.

Apart from the election results which shocked me, I was dealing with a death in the family.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 3:30 to the news of a new President. I was heading to a funeral. I was sad, and mad, and bewildered.

It was like a total eclipse of the sun.

And then I went on to twitter and a tweet by author Julie Leung literally got me through the day.

 

She tweeted a passage from Tolkien’s The Two Towers, one of my favourite books, and literally, it picked me up off the ground:

 

 

“Frodo: I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

 

sam-and-frdo

It made me think of our children, and how books can be such a comfort to them in times that feel dark.

If I was a doctor I’d prescribe heavy doses of C.S. Lewis, I’d toss in all of Tolkien, some Adam Silverman, Jacqueline Woodson, Rita Garcia Williams, Some Louisa May Alcott, some Kenneth Oppel, I’d make sure they had Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, so they could see that even a child can vanquish evil. And Harry Potter, always Harry Potter.

They need those stories. We need them.

I’m Canadian. Heck I couldn’t even vote. But I can send love and hope.

There’s good in this world. And thank god there are books that help us navigate such choppy waters.

Julie didn’t know what she did for me yesterday with her tweet. It reminds me how we can all pay it forward.

And yes, I would love your prescriptions for books that would make me and other children feel better this week.

xoxo Wendy

Science Girls Rule in Middle Grade!

 

There’s nothing I love so much as a middle grade novel in which the main characters – especially young girls – love science.

 

Two books came out this week that are particularly good examples of this kind of book:

 

1) THE FRIENDSHIP EXPERIMENT

by Erin Teagan

 

The Friendship Agreement

 

and

2) NOTHING BUT TROUBLE

by Jacqueline Davies

 

 

nothing-but-trouble-3

A Short Summary of the Friendship Agreement:

Future scientist Madeline Little is dreading the start of middle school. Nothing has been right since her grandfather died and her best friend changed schools. Maddie would rather help her father in his research lab or write Standard Operating Procedures in her lab notebook than hang out with a bunch of kids who aren’t even her friends. Despite Maddie’s reluctance, some new friends start coming her way—until they discover what she’s written in that secret notebook. And that’s just part of the trouble. Can this future scientific genius find the formula for straightening out her life?

What I think:

 

I loved this book so much! Our heroine Madeline is dealing with so much: the loss of her beloved grandfather, facing a new school without her best friend Elizabeth by her side, she and her sister dealing with a potentially life-threatening condition. No wonder she spends a lot of her time jotting down SOPs to help her cope (Standard Operating Procedures) with life. But the SOPs don’t seem to be helping anymore. In fact, they might be making things worst.

Teagan has crafted a beautiful story about a smart girl who loves science (yay), her loving, yet realistic family, the ups and downs of middle grade friendships and learning to cope with loss and change. Wonderful book!

 

A Short Summary of Nothing But Trouble:

Odawahaka has always been too small for Maggie’s big scientific ideas. Between her stuck-in-a-rut mom, her grumpy grandpop, and the lifetime supply of sludgy soda in the fridge, it’s hard for Maggie to imagine a change. 

But when Lena moves in with her creative spirit and outrageous perspective, middle school takes off with a bang. Someone starts pulling the kind of pranks that send their rule-loving new principal into an uproar—complete with purple puffs of smoke, parachuting mice, and a scavenger hunt that leads to secret passageways. Suddenly the same-old football games, election for class president, and embarrassing stories feel almost exciting. And for the first time in her life, Maggie begins to wonder if there might be more to Odawahaka than she ever saw coming!

Humorous, smart, and full of small-town heart, Nothing But Trouble will have mischief-loving readers caught up in the cleverness and determination of two girls who can’t be held down.

 

What I think:

A jewel of a book, featuring two smart girls who use both sides of their brain – creativity and scientific-based – to undertake a series of hacks that will make the school year unforgettable to everyone. Highly recommend! Wonderful characters, rich friendship, intelligent and thoughtful storytelling at its best!

 

Some other books I love featuring girls who aren’t afraid to show their scientific brains:

The Mapmakers Trilogy by S.E. Grove

Patricia Wrede’s Frontier Magic Series

 

 I’d love to get recommendations for other books featuring science-minded heroines! Do share!

 

 

Writing Resources To Help You Prep for NaNoWriMo

 

Most writers benefit from guidance now and then.

And since next Tuesday is the beginning of NaNoWriMo, I thought I’d share some great sites that are worth checking out when you have a question, need some prep help, or are just floundering in November!

The sites I’ve list below are excellent resources to help you push through!

I wrote the first draft of the book that I sold to Greenwillow Books earlier this year during NaNoWriMo 2015 and I fully expect to get the first draft of my next book done this year during November. And you can do it, too!

Without further ado, my list:

 

1) One Stop for Writers

 

one-stop

 

I’ve talked about this site before, but really, it is genius and I use it constantly. A writer’s best friend. There is a small subscription fee, but I swear, you will never regret spending that money!

 

2) Patricia Wrede’s Blog

 

 

As far as I’m concerned, Patricia Wrede is a genius and this blog is chock-a-block with all kinds of great writing advice from one of the best MG and YA writers around. And it’s searchable, which makes it even better!

 

3) Writability

 

 

writability

 

Run by the wonderful author Ava Jae, this blog has all kinds of blogs and vlogs about writing. She’s got a great one about NaNoWriMo prep here.

 

4) The NaNoWriMo Site

 

 

nanowrimocrest

 

There is lots of good information on the inspiration section of the website and they’ve been holding lots of great events to get us all fired up. Yesterday, I had the joy of watching authors Stacey Lee and Adam Silvera give us great advice! Go take a look at their awesome YouTube channel and you can watch that video and others!

So start here and then: get writing!

And if you want another NaNoWriMo buddy, feel free to add me: wmm.

Can’t wait until we’ve all got our 50,000 words in!

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy’s Four Stages of Starting a New Writing Project

 

Every time I start a new book I seem to do two things:

  1. I read as much good writing as I can get my hands on to inspire me; and
  2. I review my writing bibles for little nuggets of information that will help me with the task

WAIT!

I need to add the third, the most important, thing I do every time I begin a new book:

 

I feel completely incapable of writing a book

 

It’s a horrible feeling.

In Stage One, I scan others’ books looking for clues.

“Hey,” I think, “Maybe old so-and-so will show me how to write a book.”

This is not a good thing. Because I always come away in awe of old so-and-so’s talent and begin to second-guess every choice I make.

via GIPHY

 

Then I move on to Stage Two of the process:

In Stage Two, I begin to wonder how I wrote other books.

I question the sanity of my agent, my editors. I worry for them. They have made a terrible mistake.

WHO was that person who did THAT? I suspect demonic possession, divine intervention, I am certain that there is another me, living in an alternate universe, who KNOWS how to do this thing.

 

via GIPHY

I look at the other books I wrote and I wonder why and how I made the choices I made.

Stage two is not fun.

Eventually, I pass out of it, only to move on to Stage three:

In Stage Three, I PREPARE

This is like the boy scout section of the process. I research. I write character sketches. I do timelines. I do several drafts of the plot. I map out scenes. I think thematically.

Basically, I torture myself.

But I can’t write unless I know enough about my characters and my story to keep it going. Many a book has never been created because its author got stuck in the middle and couldn’t go on. We’e all abandoned stories midway because we got lost…

via GIPHY

Finally, after all of this, I am ready for Stage Four.

I clean my office.

via GIPHY

I protect my schedule, because I truly prefer to whip up a draft in less than six weeks, four if I can.

via GIPHY

And then I write. And oddly enough, when I begin to write, I remember how to do it. It won’t be like the other projects, but it will be just right for this new one.

Oh and then I collapse. And eat a lot of chocolate.

How about you?

I’d love to hear how you prepare!

 

 

 

I’m Presenting at Pride in Education’s GSA True Colours Conference tomorrow!

 

I love New Brunswick’s Pride in Education.

What is PIE?

Teachers/educators who volunteer their time to help create safe and inclusive schools for students, teachers, staff and their family members.

 

pride

 

This weekend is their annual conference, where students from across the province come together to share, to learn, to support one another.

The theme this year is True Colours.

I’ve been invited, as an ally, to lead a writing workshop.

 

Since I only have 45 minutes, I can’t get too deep into the technical aspect of writing.

Instead, I’m going to focus on tools they can use as they begin their writing journey.

More importantly, I’m going to be talking about #ownvoices and encouraging them to write the stories that they and the world need to read.

And I’m going to be sharing some of my favorite #ownvoices writers with them.

I’m honored to be part of this year’s conference and cannot wait to meet all the young people who are going to change the world with their truth and beauty!

 

See you there!

 

 

 

Are you doing NaNoWriMo This Year?

 

I love NaNoWriMo.

nanowrimocrest

And since it’s October, that can only mean one thing: it’s time to prep for the big November push.

What is NaNoWriMo?

 

According to their website:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. 

On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel.

 

This year will be my fourth time doing NaNoWriMo.

I’ve succeeded every year, with a three year word total of over 192,000!

This year, I am being VERY ambitious.

It’s my goal to write the first draft of my next Middle Grade Novel in thirty days (or less).

To do that requires a lot of prep:

 

 

nano-prep

So far, I have 50+ cards filled with research, and another 50 or 60 sheets of paper with notes, outlines, character sketches, etc.

I still have a ways to go if I want to hit the ground running.

But I have help:

I have been reviewing these beauties, because really can you read ENOUGH books about plotting or character development?

 

wired-for-story story-genius plot-whisperer2k

I’ve been reading other author’s NaNoWriMo posts, like Ava Jae’s over at Writability for inspiration.

I’m doing yoga, clearing my calendar, getting in lots of Stash Christmas in Paris tea…

 

christmas-in-paris

 

The treadmill is primed.

And I am reading fantastic books in advance, in order to inspire me! This week’s:

 

the-reader anatomy-of-wingsmosquitoland

There is nothing like reading wonderful books to get you in the mood to write wonderfully!

Best of all, I’m not doing it alone. I love the NaNoWriMo Community, which spurs me on!  And if you’re looking for another buddy, feel free to find me there – WMM.

Are you getting ready for NaNoWriMo? Do you have any excellent advice?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shelf Envy

 

I have been thinking about my bookshelves lately.

 

This is mostly because when I go on Pinterest and Instagram, I see the most gorgeously styled shelves:

shelf-1

 

shelves-2

 

I have a lot of bookshelves. They don’t look like the one’s above – at least not most of the time.

 

Sure I style them now and then. But inevitably, more books arrive at the house and then they begin to look like this…

 

 

img_0967 img_0966 img_0968

 

I have good intentions, and then, like Tribbles, the books spread and spread and spread…

 

via GIPHY

So this week’s question: how do you corral YOUR books?  Because, if truth be told, these aren’t all the shelves….

Houston, I have a problem.

 

We Need Diverse Books!

 

“We must have ideals and try to live up to them, even if we never quite succeed. Life would be a sorry business without them. With them it’s grand and great.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea

 

Ah, you didn’t think I could start a post about diversity in children’s literature with a Lucy Maud Montgomery quote, did you?

But as with many things L.M. Montgomery wrote, her words hold true nearly a hundred years later.

The children’s book world in which L.M. Montgomery wrote nearly a hundred years ago was full of books that portrayed a white Anglo-Saxon view of the world.

Sadly, that world is only beginning to change all these decades later.

What’s my ideal? A world where we value diversity, REALLY value diversity.

 

And the only way to do that is if WE change.

Because here’s the thing: literature is how many of us learn about the world.

And if we don’t have books that tell us stories written from the perspective of others, whether based on race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, physical ability or mental health realities, then all we are left with is our perspective of the world.

When we only have our perspective of the world, we are distrustful of others’ perspectives.

 

When a child walks into a library or a local bookstore and can’t find a book that in any way shape or form represents them or their life, we have failed them.

When a child walks into a library or a local bookstore and can only find a book that represents their life, we have failed them.

The beauty of this world is that there are seven billion ways to be.

My book, loosely based on my childhood, is only one way to be.

But sadly, right now our books don’t truly represent the reality of how we are on Planet Earth:

 

infogram

 

But we can change that. We can buy books that support and promote diversity. The book business is, in the end, a business. If we are buying diverse books, publishers will publish even more. If we support authors that provide us with another view of our vast and beautiful world, we are supporting a future where children are not surprised by the different, but delight in it.

In her book of the same name, author Lisa Cron tells us we are wired for story. We learn, process, form values and beliefs, from hearing and reading stories.

Reading diverse books can’t help but sow the seeds of questioning what is and what can be.

Comedian George Carlin once said:

“Don’t just teach your children to read…
Teach them to question what they read.
Teach them to question everything.”

Reading diverse books can’t help but make us better people. It can’t help but make our world safe, more inclusive.

Reading diverse books sows seeds of love and understanding. When we hear another’s story, we hear THEM.

When we hear about their struggle, suddenly it feels like it’s our struggle, too.

Sometimes, someone else’s struggle might make us feel guilty. That’s okay. That’s what’s supposed to happen. That’s what helps us grow as human beings. That’s what starts the healing and the understanding.

So where do you start?

 

I’d start with weneeddiversebooks.org

There are tons of resources on their webpage: book recommendations, program information, a fabulous blog among other things.

I’d also recommend you search for #ownvoices on Twitter.

And then, once you’re armed with your book list, you are set to go!

Buy books that support diversity! Ask your library to order diverse books. Recommend diverse books to your friends.

It’s our collective responsibility to change our world for the better.

We must support marginalized writers wherever and however we can.

But mostly, we must listen to what they tell us, what they write for us. We must listen to THEIR stories.

Those stories will change the world.

 

Some Great Autumn Books!

 

Happy Autumnal Equinox!

 

via GIPHY

 

I love Autumn!  It’s the season of heavier sweaters, scarves and gloves, boots and pumpkin spice lattes.

I especially love books set in the fall, or reading creepy books in the fall. There’s nothing like wrapping yourself up in a cozy blanket and immersing yourself in a book when its cold and blustery outside!

This week I thought I’d share a two middle grade and two YA books that will get you in the mood for fall:

Monsterville: A Lissa Black Production by Sarah S. Reida

 

monsterville

 

The description:

Thirteen-year-old Lissa Black is miserable when her parents force her to move from New York City (the perfect home for an aspiring writer/director/actress) to Freeburg, Pennsylvania, nowhere capital of the world. There’s nothing to do there, except play her little sister Haylie’s favorite new game, Monsterville, and hang out with her new neighbor Adam.

But when a walk in the woods lands her face-to-face with a swamp monster hungry for brains and then a Sasquatch that moos, even Lissa can’t call her new home totally boring. With Adam’s help, she catches the culprit behind the drama: a shape-shifting goblin who’s fled from the monster world of Down Below.

And what do you do with a creature that can be literally anything? Make monster movies, of course! Lissa is convinced that Blue will be the secret to her big break.

But when Haylie goes missing on Halloween, Lissa, Adam, and the monster must venture Down Below to stage a rescue—and face the real Monsterville, which is anything but a game.

Monsterville is a fusion of The Boxtrolls, Jumanji, and Candyland, weaving together friendship, family, and monsters into a funny fantasy-horror brimming with heart from a great new middle grade voice..

Why I loved it:

This book is fun and creepy and I love the imaginative way Reida uses the vocabulary of film production to tell her tale. I see a lot of kids loving this one!

 

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone

 

Last boy at St. Ediths

 

The Description:

Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem. Four hundred and seventy-five of them. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy.
Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in coeducation. And he needs to get out. His mom won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands: He’s going to get expelled.
Together with his best friend, Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimum damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide whom he’s willing to knock down on his way out the door.

Why I loved it:

Going back to school in the fall is fraught with discomfort for kids for a whole bunch of kids. But never has one boy so desperately wanted to change his circumstances as Jeremy. So much fun!

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Whenever I think of Salem Massachusetts, I think of fall, probably because the story of the Salem Witch Trials was so creepy and awful.

 

how-to-hang-a-witch

 

The Description:

It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

Why I love it:

There were so many things I didn’t see coming here, so many twists and turns that Mather throws at us, that I was giddily exhausted by the end.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

 

shallow

 

The description:

Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

Why I love it:

From Breezy’s awakening to all the creepy places she goes and the creepy people/things she meets, I was hooked. And I never look at a fresh plot of dirt the same.

 

I guarantee that any of these books will put you in an autumn kind of mood!

via GIPHY

 

COVER REVEAL: MOTLEY EDUCATION by S.A. Larsen!

 

I am thrilled to reveal the cover of author S.A. Larsen’s debut middle grade novel, Motley Education, which is being published by Leap Books on October 10th!

 

A description of the book:

Forget having a lively after school social life, Ebony Charmed is fighting to keep the entire Afterlife alive.

Ebony’s less-than-average spirit tracking abilities are ruining more than sixth grade at Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically & Celestially gifted. Her parents argue so much her dad moved out. And, even though he’s scared of his own shadow and insists on bringing his slimy, legless lizard everywhere they go, Ebony wouldn’t survive without her best friend, Fleishman.

When Ebony’s Deadly Creatures & Relics’ project goes missing, she learns her missing project is one of the keys to saving the spirit world. Now Ebony and Fleishman must battle beasts from Norse Mythology to retrieve her project before spirits are lost, the Well of Urd dries up, and Ebony loses all hope of reuniting her family. But someone lies in wait, and he has other plans…including creating a new world of spirits without them in it.

Motley Education has been aligned with Core Standards for grades 4-7. A guide will be available on the author’s website to download for FREE after the book’s release date.

About S.A. Larsen

 

s-a-larsen-author-image-1

 

S.A. LARSEN is the author of Motley Education, the first book in a middle grade fantasy-adventure series. Her work has appeared in numerous local publications and young adult anthologies Gears of Brass and Under A Brass Moon by Curiosity Quills Press. Look for her debut young adult novel, Marked Beauty, set for release in 2017. Find her in the land of lobsters, snowy winters, and the occasional Eh’ya with her husband of over twenty years, four children, a playful pooch, and two kittens.

Follow her on Facebook | Twitter | Instagram and connect with her on her Website & Blog.

You can also save the book to your Goodreads shelf!

Visit S.A. Larsen online at www.salarsenbooks.com.

Frankly, I just love that she lives in Maine, which is a stone’s throw from where I love. (If I was a stone thrower, which I most definitely am not!!)

And now for the cover….

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almost there….

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soon…

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AND VOILA!

 

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How creepy cool is that??????? I love this cover!!!

CONGRATULATIONS!

 

I’ve sold my second (and third!) book!

 

You know, I might just have a career as an author.

I am thrilled to announced that my second and third novels have sold to Harper Collins’ Greenwillow Books imprint.

 

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As always, I am eternally grateful to my agent, Lauren Galit of the LKG Agency, without whom none of this is possible.

 

She did a wonderful job of shepherding this book through the submission process to a happy conclusion!

I’m really looking forward to sharing more information in the coming months about this book – there is so much to share and it’s going to be such fun to work with Virginia Duncan at Greenwillow Books to bring it to life!

It’s been a busy week – have finished reading the proofs for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! and my advanced reader copies, or galleys, are going to be loosed on the world in the next few weeks!

I’ve also been planning my book launches – more to come on that very soon!

I am so proud of Pig Face and can’t wait for you to read the book!

In the meantime, going back into the writer cave. I’ve got a third book to plot out…

Middle Grade Fiction as a tool to help kids see things from another’s perspective

 

Middle Grade fiction inspires its readers, consoles them, teaches them, frightens them, empowers them, and fills them with happiness.

One of its greatest gifts is that it helps its readers learn empathy, helping them see the world through another’s lived experience.

When a story is told with truth and grace, we the reader can’t help but be moved.

When the story helps us change our perspective, or tones down our previously held negative beliefs or judgments (or removes them completely), well, then the book has taken us to hallowed ground.

Here’s a very short list of some books that you might want to share with the middle grader in your life that will inspire them to see the world a little differently:

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

 

wonder

 

There’s a reason this book is being made into a movie and is a bestseller. Almost every kids goes through feelings of embarrassment, worry, or fear of what people will think of them. Imagine you’re Augie, who thanks to a genetic disorder, faces school for the first time looking like many people’s worst nightmares. But the reader get to meet the real Augie, the Augie most of his classmates never take the time to meet because they are so busy being horrified. This book will bust you open and is a gift to every child who reads it.

George by Alex Gino

 

George

 

Gender identity is rightfully a huge theme now in children’s literature and this book was one of the first. This is about being who you are, no matter what. Every kid would benefit from walking a mile in her shoes.

The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

 

The last cherry blossom

 

In the west, our stories about the war are almost exclusively written from the winners’ perspectives. This book, telling the story of a young girl living in Japan during the dying days of World War II, gives its readers a different, more nuanced perspective, one that is often missing in children’s literature.

The War That Saved My Life by Kim Brubaker Bradley

 

the war that saved my life

 

When I picked up this book I assumed it would be a stirring story of a young girl sent to live in the English countryside during World War II, whose life is saved by the experience.

In fact, this is a compelling story of a young girl who is the victim of physical and emotional abuse and what it takes to come back from experiencing such terrible things. Your heart breaks, soars, then breaks again, and Bradley never shies away from the gritty truth. There are many ways to save someone.

These are just a few of my examples that help children see the world from someone else’s perspective. I’d love to hear yours!

 

What if someone actually reads your book?

 

You knew this day would come, the day when someone you barely know (or who you know very well) reads your book.

So why does it feel so icky?

And yes, that’s my clinical term for the feeling I get now that people outside my book’s inner circle – my family, my agent, my critique partners, and my publishing house – are beginning to read my work.

And it’s about to get worse. Next month, Advanced Reader Copies of my book are going to make their way into the world, hopefully to build up interest in the big day.

The fact that more people are about to read It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! kind of makes me woozy.

 

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Seriously, I’ve worked on this book for YEARS.

I want it to be published, I really do.

But the thought of someone reading my book, a thing that is so personal to me, is a little overwhelming.

What if no one likes it? What if they like it too much? What if no one reads it?

 

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Well SOMEONE is going to read it, that’s for sure, and I will survive, but I am gobsmacked by how vulnerable this whole book publishing thing makes me feel.

It’s not like the job I had before becoming a full time writer wasn’t fraught with pressure, unreasonable timelines and incessant criticism – it was, in spades.

But this, this is personal.

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Okay, maybe not Sonny Corleone kind of personal, but personal like when someone sees your newborn baby – the baby you consider the most beautiful creature to have graced the planet – and gives you a mere nod and a simple “cute baby.”

 

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CUTE BABY?!

You’ve carried that baby for 9 months! It looks like you! It looks like your partner, your parent, an angel. And all you get is “cute baby” ?

It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.

And then imposter syndrome raises its ugly head.

Suddenly you wonder if perhaps you are the one person who gamed the system, who somehow slipped the worst manuscript ever past your agent while she was busy with more important clients and past your editor who accepted it while her eyes were bandaged following cataract surgery.

Somehow, you’ve gotten past everyone.

But your day of reckoning is coming.

 

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Okay, I may be slightly exaggerating here for entertainment purposes, but note that I’ve only underlined the word slightly in this sentence.

But here’s the good news: almost every writer feels like this.

Heck, almost everyone who has ever gotten a promotion feels like this.

If you’re not nervous, it probably means there is something seriously wrong with you, like you have perfect self-esteem or something. Which would be very tedious.

Yes, I’ll survive this, clinging to the kind words of friends and strangers like Rose clinging to that board in Titanic…

 

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…hoping that people do like my baby, but knowing that no matter what, there will be other babies to fret over in the future…

 

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This writing thing is a smashing occupation, huh?

 

Children’s Authors as Role Models

 

Do we want our favorite children’s authors to be role models for our children? Should they be?

 

I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic, and then Donovan Bailey retweeted me yesterday.

For those of you of a certain age or who aren’t from Canada, you might not have an idea who Donovan Bailey is. Bailey was the world’s fastest man in 1996, winning Olympic gold medals in the 100 meter and 4×100 meter relay in Atlanta. He also happens to be Canadian.

 

donovan bailey

 

But this was no ordinary record breaker, or run. Canada’s hearts had been broken by Ben Jonson four years prior. An entire nation had woken up in the middle of the night to watch him run and were overjoyed when he shattered the world record. Hours later, he was disqualified for doping. To say that Canada was disheartened and humiliated would be an understatement. We are a large country, but small in population, and every medal and medalist is cherished here.

So when Donovan Bailey won, and won clean, the country went mad. I tweeted about him watching our current phenom, Andre DeGrasse, the other night and Bailey retweeted me. I almost fell over with delight.

And that got me thinking. Potentially, that could happen to me someday. If my books sell. If people love them. If people follow me on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Someone, some day, might like my work enough to almost fall over with delight if I retweeted them. It was kind of a strange thought, actually.

And then I wondered: “Is Donovan Bailey careful about what he tweets, says, writes?” Should I be more careful?

Let’s be clear about two things:

  1. I am not well known so this is purely a theoretical discussion: and
  2. I tend to admire authors’ works, and know very little about their personal lives, except in exceptional circumstances, like the fact that I know Neil Gaiman is married to a talented musician or that Stephen King lives in Maine.

Let’s take Kate diCamillo who I could fangirl about all day. She is an amazing ambassador for children’s literature and she does wonderful things. I know nothing about her personal life, nor should I. I don’t know her opinion about world event, politics, religion, or dogs. I believe she likes children.

But what if I knew she supported hateful ideologies? Would her spectacular storytelling trump even that? Would we all be okay with our favorite middle grade author saying atrocious things publicly? Swearing on twitter? Telling us how to vote?

Unlike writers who write exclusively for adults, the writer of children’s stories is, I think, under a bit more of a microscope. We want them to love children, cuddle puppies, and always be kind.

(for the record, I am firmly two of those three things, and kind about 80% of the time)

But the question is: must Kate BE those things if she wants to write for children?

I suspect that in almost every public event Kate diCamillo walks into, she is the center of attention: adored by her fans – young and old alike – admired by other writers, worshipped by those of us who wish they could string together a sentence like she does. It must be a burden. And yet, from all I’ve heard, she handles this burden with remarkable grace and kindness.

But I also notice in this world of social media, where authors are encouraged – nay, nudged firmly, in the direction of a strong social media presence – Kate DiCamillo is not on twitter and has only a Facebook author page. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I do find it intriguing.

I don’t want to censor my thoughts or opinions – I like to be authentic and true – but Donovan Bailey has stuck with me for the last 24 hours.

David Walliams is a well-known British personality who now writes for children.

 

david Walliams

 

Should we care that he has been known to say some outrageous and inappropriate things on TV, some at a time of day his young readers might be watching?

Is there an extra burden to be careful about your public persona if you are writing for children?

I don’t know the answer to my own question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

 

 

 

Six Months to Publication! Time to Pre-Order The Book!

 

Holy Marks Street* Mania!

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! comes out in 6 months!!!

 

Pig-Face Cover

* I grew up on Marks Street in St. Stephen and Tracy and Pig Face coincidentally live there, too

That probably seems like a long time to you, but it’ll pass in a blink of an eye for me!

But six months isn’t too early to pre-order the book!

Why pre-order?

Pre-orders are important because they become part of the first week sales of the book. If you order the book now, it will help boost the book’s initial sales, which in turn creates buzz. Buzz is important; buzz leads to interest and sales and potentially, more books!  More books are always good, don’t you think? I think yes, especially if they are books set in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, my hometown!

As well, if a lot of people pre-order It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!, the publisher is likely to increase its first run of the book and book sellers are more likely to order more copies from the publisher. More copies means more books sold.

Do I feel weird asking you to pre-order my book?

Nah.

I’m a first-time author. This book is a BIG deal to me and I’ve worked really hard on it!  And don’t you want to get in on the ground floor of a big dream? Thought so!

In the coming months I’ll have advanced copies to give away, and some other treats, but right now, you pre-ordering the book will make a huge difference!

Remember: WINTER IS COMING. February 7th, 2017 is coming faster than you think!

 

Oh heck, enjoy the summer, knowing you can curl up with Pig Face in February.

Think of pre-ordering as your Valentine to me and to Pig Face!

Hey wait – what a great Valentine’s Day present this book would make!

valentine

And for those of you who’ve already ordered: THANK YOU!

And for those of you who have read this shameless plug – THANK YOU!

Click on the links below to pre-order your copy today!

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Chapters

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

Or ask your local bookstore to pre-order you a copy!

Go Pig Face!

Author of Children's Literature

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