Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The Ruby's Place Christmas Collection (Holly Schindler)

In the spirit of writing about something other than MG, I wanted to let Smack Dab readers know about my newest release, an adult book called The Gift That Is Ruby's Place. 

As some of you already know, I’ve been working on a magical Christmas series for some time now—The Ruby’s Place Christmas Collection, which has seen a new book release each Christmas since 2017. The books follow the ups and downs of a bar called Ruby’s Place, where the Christmas “sprits” are all alive and well. This year, I’ve released the finale. It works as a standalone, so even if you haven’t read the other works, you can jump in. If you’ve been reading along as the series has progressed, you’ll see some previous events from a new angle, understand the characters in a new light.

THE GIFT THAT IS RUBY'S PLACE just went live on all the usual channels:





If you'd like to read the collection from the start, all four books are available as a single download at Amazon.

The reason I wanted to let you all know about this release is because (as the song goes) we need a little Christmas. We’re all facing so many challenges and struggles this year—whether you’re caring for children or senior parents (as I am), facing financial hurdles, or attempting to navigate a complex new school system—the only thing that’s certain is just how rocky times are. I know that one of the brightest spots of my days is hearing from so many wonderful MG enthusiasts. Teachers and parents and librarians who have been working so tirelessly for our young readers. I wanted to be sure and reach out to all of you with the offer to send an e-copy of THE GIFT THAT IS RUBY’S PLACE via Bookfunnel as well. I'd love to spread a little Christmas cheer.

If you’d like a copy, just reply here and give me a shout. Leave a comment. Email me at hollyschindlerbooks (at) gmail (dot) com. 

Thanks again—I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


Holly Schindler

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Age is Just a Number

By Charlotte Bennardo

One of the themes this month is "intergenerational month." defines it as: 

        adjective: of, relating to, or for individuals in different generations or age categories: i.e. intergenerational housing.

Um, okay. I'm still not sure what intergenerational has to do with writing, unless it's about those books we love (or hate) that seem to jump 'suggested' age parameters. Remember when the Twilight saga caught the fancy of women with teenage daughers? There were many moms who journeyed to the actual town of Forks, Washington. Others decorated complete rooms in the books' theme. Someone actually came up with the slogan "It's ok to read YA" because everyone, from adults to kids, seemed to be crossing 'suggested' age boundaries. 

Then there was that whole excitement over the picture book for adults, "Go the F&$* to Sleep" and then the sequels, "You Have to F&$*ing Eat" and "F&$*, Now There are Two of You." Who said only kids can enjoy picture books?

As an author, I write middle grade, young adult, new adult and adult. (I can't seem to keep to the small word count for a picture book.) I constantly skip between genres and subjects. If I can write for different tastes, why can't a person read what they want or like? Why should there be barriers to keep kids from reading numerous levels above their 'age'? It's like saying Halloween is only for kids. Or only 20 somethings can wear yoga pants. 

So let's ignore barriers- they never seem to work anyway. 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Is Wholesome a Dirty Word?

Years ago, I was on an author panel at a writing festival. Someone posed a question for all the writers, and I was up first. The question was, "What do you want readers to take away from your books?" I thought for a moment and answered that I hoped my books would cause readers to consider the value of kindness. 

I had no idea my answer would be so boring.

The next author said she hoped her readers would pass her books around at school so they could learn something from the sex scenes. Her answer got a big laugh from the audience--and some cheers. 

One of us has had a novel made into a major motion picture, and the other one is me.

 It wasn't the first time I'd been made aware of the lack of marketability of "wholesome" books for young readers. A publishing industry professional once encouraged me to write an explicit scene in one of my books, assuring me that if I would just make the book "edgy" in this way, it would really sell.

I didn't, and the book didn't sell.

But I'm OK with that. Edgy isn't me. 

I taught school for many years, and parents entrusted their children to me. Maybe that's why I feel protective of readers. I don't want them to grow up too soon. Childhood is fleeting at best, and today's culture doesn't seem interested in putting a hedge around that magic and innocence. But once it's gone, it's gone forever. 

School Library Journal said my Tig Ripley books are good "for fans who are ready to graduate from Megan McDonald's Judy Moody and Charise Mericle Harper's Just Grace but aren't quite ready for YA fiction." 

 OK, I'll take it. 

Ginger Rue is the author of the Aleca Zamm series from Aladdin and the Tig Ripley series from Sleeping Bear.  Her next book, Wonder Women of Science, is now available for pre-order.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

For Your Imagination--Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

Today I want to focus on igniting imaginations out there by sharing news about an upcoming novel writing workshop for women of color. This ten week class is offered by my friend and colleague middle grade author Michele Bacon. The cost for the entire 10-week class, including two books, is $100. Scholarships are available to students for whom $100 presents a hardship. 

Here are the pretty amazing details. 

Enroll in a 10-week college-level novel writing workshop via Zoom for 6-8 writers of color.

White people and people of privilege hold most of the power in publishing. I broke in a few years ago, and now I want to break down the walls for you.

During this 10-week class, which meets once per week, you will:
  • Develop your protagonist and other characters
  • Raise the stakes of your story
  • Plot your full manuscript
  • Write and rewrite chapter one
  • Begin writing the full manuscript
  • Critique others' work as they pursue the same objectives

At the end of our 10-week class, you will have a partially written manuscript, a plot mapping the remainder of your story, and commitment from me to read your completed manuscript. Submit it to me within one year of the last day of class. Within four weeks, I will provide a full editorial letter.
Yes, future cohorts may include non-POC writers. For now, the cohort comprises only women of color so we have the best chance of creating a genuinely safe space.

If you’re interested in this first cohort comprising only women of color, read on.
The cost for the entire 10-week class, including two books, is $100. Scholarships are available to students for whom $100 presents a hardship. 

Classes will consist of brief lectures, writing exercises, critiques, and class discussion. During our first class, we will:
  • Introduce ourselves
  • Devise community norms and how we’ll enforce them
  • Review the syllabus and class expectations
  • Begin our work
We’re here for you and your work. My job is to help you hone your skills and to amplify your voice. I acknowledge I am an imperfect ally, but one who is humble, open, and determined to make you and your work more visible. I have 25 years' training and experience in storytelling and craft because I was privileged and lucky to have a good education, study writing in college, and see two of my manuscripts published.

I want to see YOUR manuscripts published.
I commit to:
  • Hold space for you 
  • Teach 2.5 hours a week
  • Read submitted work and critique it in advance of the critique class
  • Make myself available to students via email/text/phone
  • Support the decisions you make for your characters and story
I ask students to commit to:
  • Attend 2.5 hours of class via Zoom every week
  • Complete and file work in Google Docs by agreed deadlines
  • Read required texts (2) by agreed deadlines
  • Read others’ work and provide constructive feedback via Google Docs and in class
  • Engage in open conversations
  • Provide feedback to me regarding the course and format

For more, and to register click here.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

When I Hit the Road: A Story Full of Grandma Memories

Some of my fondest memories are of times I spent with my grandparents - playing cards and board games, baking and cooking together, or taking a special trip somewhere. It didn't seem to matter what we did while we were together; the time always turned into something special. It's those heartfelt memories that inspired my newest novel, When I Hit the Road

The story of Samantha's madcap road trip with her karaoke-loving grandma turns into a wild, summer of wacky memories. In order to survive the trip, Samantha comes face to face with the fact that, at times, she can be her own worst enemy. 

Samantha records everything that happens along the way in "Dear Me" letters to her future self, and thankfully she does, because by the end of the summer, she knows she'll want to have a record of every, single detail. 

Middle grade readers will love riding along in the backseat with Samantha while she and Gram's new best friend Mimi, as well as one other mystery guest, make their way through the rural roads of south Florida experiencing one mishap after another. Samantha's story will remind readers that the unplanned and unexpected often make for the most fun and the absolute, best memories.

Happy Reading and Travelling and Memory Collecting,

Nancy J. Cavanaugh    

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What's in a name? By Michele Weber Hurwitz

What's in a name? Short answer: A lot. 

Authors have been known to obsess over what to name their characters. And for good reason. A name should be memorable, fit the age of the character and the overall setting and time frame of the story, and perhaps even reinforce the character's qualities.

Readers can get an instant impression of a character just from his or her name. Think of Spike or Priscilla or Ethel. What do you feel when hearing those names? Whether your immediate judgement turns out to be true or not, most of us start getting an idea for the kind of person they might be. Names can evoke a generation, like Madison or Sheldon. They can have a regional flavor, like Beauregard, or even be a nickname, like Turtle in Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm. And a name can give us a personal point of reference, too. The name Beth will always make me think of my next door neighbor and first friend.

Authors use different techniques to come up with original, meaningful, and creative names for their characters. I once heard Margaret Peterson Haddix say that often, when she's writing, a name just comes to her, but she also uses baby name websites when she's stuck, which is something I've done too.

Here are some of my favorite middle grade character names:

Stanley Yelnats, Holes -- Who can resist that clever backwards twist?

India Opal Buloni, Because of Winn-Dixie -- I love the flow, the three names, and how the last name sounds like bologna!

Beezus and Ramona, Ramona series -- How could anyone not adore a character named Beezus?

Moose Flanagan, Al Capone Does My Shirts -- I think every kid wants to know more about a character named Moose.

Wahoo Cray, Mickey Cray, and Tuna Gordon, Chomp -- Wahoo and Tuna? I'm in.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern, One Crazy Summer -- The best sister names ever.

Pippi Longstocking -- My fave all-time character name. I instantly recall those sticking-out red braids!

There are some character names that were so perfect, they've become ingrained in our culture, such as Atticus Finch, Jay Gatsby, Ebenezer Scrooge, Hannibal Lecter, Hester Prynne, Holden Caulfield, and Scarlett O'Hara. Can you imagine these characters with any other name?

So when dreaming up names for your characters, choose wisely. Yours may become the next Romeo and Juliet!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of five middle grade novels from Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster. Visit her online at