The Frame-Up

June 5th 2018

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

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 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?


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:







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!



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



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




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



Ah Paris, I will be back soon…



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



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



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



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….



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



The best graphic novel I’ve ever read



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



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



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:




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.




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!!!




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!






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


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












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






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.




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.



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.


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.”



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:



by Erin Teagan


The Friendship Agreement




by Jacqueline Davies




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




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





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





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


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.



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.



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…


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

I clean my office.


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


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.




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.


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:




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…




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?







Author of Children's Literature