Thursday, December 30, 2021

Giveaway! Edith Cohn's Birdie's Billions + Swag!

We're delighted to host a giveaway of Edith Cohn's latest, Birdie's Billions. More about the book, straight from the author:

"I wanted to write a book about an impulsive kid who doesn't always make the right choices. I used to teach 7th grade, and one of the kids I taught inspired me. I also wanted to write a book about how economic differences between schools, neighborhoods and libraries can create an enormous gap for kids. I grew up feeling these differences. I also taught in the South Bronx, so this was an important subject for me. And I wanted to write these things inside a high stakes mystery novel that might appeal to reluctant readers, and ideally all readers. My goal was not to be just an issue book, but to write a good story with this at its heart."

--Edith Cohn


Now for the giveaway:

Just use the form below to enter. Contest winners will be contacted after January 13. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

There is No GPS in Life...

By Charlotte Bennardo

Photo by Ian Beckley from Pexels

So many roads, not enough time. Our lives are a series of crossroads and paths. Every decision we make sets us on a journey, possibly a different direction. When it came time to apply to college, I chose one that was far away from my hometown. That choice was predicated on being on my own, not having to live at home and commute. The next choice was to try and find a journalism job in Upstate New York, where I'd gone to college. After that, I made a decision to return to my hometown, leaving the boyfriend and his marriage proposal. Other paths have taken me to numerous jobs, several degrees, a number of moves through several states to where I am today. It's easy to say that I might make different choices if I could go back in time, but hindsight is 20/20, and not knowing how the changes would affect my life, it's easy to say I might do things differently. Only Ebenezer Scrooge had an easy choice- remain a mean, stingy, odious man (to quote one of the versions) or change and become a generous, kind man. If only all decisions were that easy!

The last 'big' decision I made was to go for my MFA. I wanted to take this road but life, finances, time, and circumstances were impediments that were too hard to overcome at the time. When I finally made the decision to go for it, I was nervous and worried, and actually considered dropping out. Would it be another road, or maybe better yet, road abandoned, turned back on? But I stuck it out. Whatever path, road, journey we choose might not be for the best, but we have to take ownership of it. Sometimes there are hard lessons to learn, so the choice, in the overall picture, was important in our life. Other times, we need to turn around, go back, and start over, choosing a wiser path. 

Wishing you wisdom and serenity in the choices you'll make in the New Year.

Charlotte writes MG, YA, NA, and adult novels in sci fi, fantasy, contemporary, and paranormal genres. She is the author of the middle grade Evolution Revolution trilogy, Simple Machines, Simple Plans, and Simple Lessons. She co-authored the YA novels Blonde OPS, Sirenz, and Sirenz Back in Fashion. Currently she is working on several novels for both children and adults. She lives in NJ with her family, two demanding cats, and a crazy squirrel couple who just moved into her backyard oak tree.

Thrilling Roads Not Taken

Once upon a time, there was a writer who had a wonderful agent. 

The agent got this great idea for a thriller--a "whodunit" kind of book with twists and turns and edge-of-your-seat action. 

The agent offered the idea to the writer, who agreed to give it a try.

Weeks went by. Then months. Finally, the writer had finished. She had written a thriller.

Only the thriller wasn't really all that...well, thrilling. Try as she might, the writer just wasn't cut out for that kind of writing.

The writer tucked the unthrilling thriller away and went back to writing things that were funny.

The End.

 The moral of this story? Some roads shouldn't be taken, because they're not your road. And that's OK.  

Ginger Rue's current book, Wonder Women of Science, is co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission. The book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields. (Ironically, it's pretty thrilling!)

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Happy Holidays! (Holly Schindler)

 Merry Christmas! I hope you're all in the midst of a truly lovely holiday season.



Holly Schindler is an author of books for readers of all ages. Her MG, The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky, has been re-released with a corresponding activity book.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Winter Solstice Tree 2021: Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

Every year my imagination conjures a new Winter Solstice Tree design. I make a sketch, think of a limited color palette, gather materials, and try to make my vision a reality. As always in the process of bringing a vision--whether story, art, poetry--into reality, changes are inevitable. The artist learns to listen to her materials, her evolving characters, images, or metaphors to learn what they have in mind. Often the process is a struggle.

The tree I brought home had a symmetry to the top--two green branches on each side are held up like green arms. This brought the first change. Then two of the original materials didn't work as I had hoped. As I worked with the materials that did work, I listened to what they wanted to do.

They wanted to do something different from my vision.

The struggle continued. I was uncertain until nearly the end, when an unplanned combination of materials happened at the top. First, I placed a little crystal, decorative pick on top of the moon. To me it looked like a little tree. A day later, simply to hide the silver wire that formed the pick base, I hung a chandelier drop over it. When I climbed down the ladder, I looked up and saw a silver tree/angel with two red, uplifted branch arms (branches wired in earlier). It looks like a celestial tree at the top of the earthly, green tree.  

For a tree to grow up to the starry crown, it needs deep roots. The artist needs to hold her ground in order to permit the creative tension to bring something new into being. Allow, rather than force. Drive the car rather than push it.

In the coming, lovely symmetrical year numbered 2022, may we all stay connected to our ground in order to reach, and withstand the starry, creative heights.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Emma Wisdom

 I've shared this before, but it seems the perfect time to share this wisdom from Emma Dryden of drydenbks

As we navigate grading final papers and final projects, thesis manuscripts and reports. Christmas shopping. As we negotiate family, in all its complex and messy dynamics. Cooking. Cleaning. Decorating. When ghosts of Christmas past meet the present. As we steer through pandemics and politics. Dentist appointments. More revisions and more research. Don't forget to feed the cat. Don't forget the chocolate.

Don't forget to make time for yourself.

Thinking of you, and sending you wishes for great feasting and merry making this holiday season! 

-- Bobbi Miller

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Kids have the best ideas! by: Jennifer Mitchell

 As a teacher I spend a lot of time planning, but at times lessons take unexpected turns along the way, and that is what keeps teaching from year to year fun and interesting. One of the books we read in third grade is Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner.  We read it to look at character development.  Most kids aren’t familiar with the book, and don’t realize at the end little Willy’s dog Searchlight will die as he crosses the finish line for the National Dogsled Race. It is always good that kids haven’t read it so they can’t spoil it for others. It however causes shock and confusion and sadness with the kids when the story is over. When I am reading it, even though I know what happens, it still gets me every time too.

One year I had a group of kids just not satisfied at all with the ending, so we as a class decided to create our own alternative ending.  The kids were so invested in changing the story to make something that felt good to them.  If I had planned to create an alternative ending I am sure kids would have done a nice job with it, but since they had suggested it it became an engaging and authentic experience for them.  As a teacher sometimes the direction that kids want to go, instead of the “plan” for the week, can create experiences that you don’t forget as a teacher.  If you listen, and are willing to be flexible and try something new, kids can come up with amazing ideas!

Jennifer Mitchell -- teacher in the Kansas City area

Sunday, December 12, 2021

An Unexpected Path by Darlene Beck Jacobson

 When my first middle grade book debuted in 2014, I was asked to provide some blurbs for the back cover. I'm sure we've all had to do this for our books. WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston) is a historical novel set in 1908 Washington DC during the last year of Theodore Roosevelt's presidency.

 In the story, the main character Emily gets invited to the White House and meets TR. (This scene was inspired by my own paternal grandmother who actually did attend a reception at the White House and met TR. 

Around that time, I came across a book review for a debut novel written by Kermit Roosevelt, the great-great grandson of TR. Kermit is a professor of law at University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia. 

Empowered by the phrase "nothing ventured, nothing gained" I located Kermit's faculty email. I sent a message explaining my grandmother's brief connection to his ancestor and wondered if he'd be interested in reading my novel for a possible blurb.

He graciously said yes!  This is what he wrote:

Needless to say, I was delighted that my bold ask met with such a wonderful response.

When the book came out, I sent a second email letting him know I wished to present him with a signed copy as my thank you  for his kindness.

He invited my to come to his office on the U Penn campus. A place I'd never been to except for the awesome Museum of Archeology and Anthropology. (A worthwhile stop if you're ever in the University City section of Philly)


Not only did I get to shake his hand and delight in his office decorated with floor to ceiling books and photos of his famous great great grandfather, he graciously posed for a picture to commemorate the event.

 By taking a path unknown and being open to where it might lead, I shared a once-in-a-lifetime moment I will remember forever. 

Have faith...and don't let the voice that doubts or dismisses an idea or closes a door that could lead to something new stop you.

Follow the unknown path and see where it will lead.

Darlene Beck Jacobson is always peeking through doors and walking on paths she's never been. She enjoys sending out emails to people she's never met in hopes of learning something new. TR is one of her favorite presidents.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Road Not Taken -- by Jane Kelley

 Here I am -- deciding which path to take.

Actually that isn't me. That's a coyote in our backyard. I thought you'd rather see a picture of that than of me banging my head against a wall. 

Because deciding which path to take is HARD.  

There are so many choices when we write. What story, what character, what will the character do, what will the other characters do––even what will they wear, for god's sake. If only there were actual roads to choose when we write. But there aren't. Writing is like hacking through a jungle. Or wading through snow drifts in a blizzard. Or staring at the swirling screen saver on our computers.

Each small step matters. A lot. Yes, one can retrace if necessary, but our resources are limited. Do I really want to spend my life rewriting this frigging scene? Of course not! So each day I try to make better choices. What's fun. What's important. What leads away from blank walls and toward adventure.

A long time ago I made an extremely important choice. Before I published my middle-grade novels, I wrote novels for adults. Three, maybe four? I've let time fade them from my memory. They weren't exactly bad. They just weren't good enough. I didn't know that until, having failed to sell them, I tried to write something else. Those first chapters of what would become Nature Girl felt like a miracle. Not because they were so tremendous––they'd need a lot of rewriting, too ––but because they had actual life.

 George Saunders, in his brilliant book A Swim in a Pond in the Rain, talks about how he teaches his students to think about what kinds of writers they will be.

"As young writers, we all have romantic dreams of being a writer of a certain kind, of joining a certain lineage. . . But sometimes the world, via its tepid response to prose written in that mode, tells us that we are not, in fact, that kind of writer." 

Even George Saunders––yes, MacArthur, Guggenheim, Man Booker prize-winning, best-selling author George Saunders, couldn't answer that question when he began his career. He wanted to write like Hemingway. It took him years to discover that he was supposed to write like George Saunders. 

Thank goodness he did! But at the moment he discovered his turf, he confesses to feeling disappointed too. "It is less than we wanted it to be, and yet it's more too." Because that place is uniquely our own. 

And if, as he says, we commit to it and to ourselves, then we can eventually make our patch of jungle into a place where other people will enjoy traveling.

That coyote, by the way, headed east across our yard. First she looked back.

Was she wondering if she had made the right choice? Or was she appreciating that she didn't have to go toward more suburban neighborhoods, with larger houses and manicured lawns. She could go where there was more woods. Where there would be better hunting. And where what she would find life.

Jane Kelley is currently rewriting that frigging scene for the umpteenth time. But she's confident that she will create more middle-grade novels like Nature Girl, The Girl Behind the Glass, and The Desperate Adventures of Zeno and Alya.

Friday, December 3, 2021

No Such Thing as The Road Not Taken by Irene Latham

 When I present to groups, I often share the "When I Grow Up, I Want to Be..." page in my Dr. Seuss' My Book About Me:

On that page, 3rd grade me wrote "WRITER"... and also circled "mother," "musician," "farmer," and "veterinarian."  I wanted to be a lot of things! And so it may look like I have a lot of "roads not taken." 

book with a zoo vet!

Here's the great part, though, about the choice I DID make. As a writer, I can "be" all of those things I didn't pick in real life! 

I can write a farm book, and have, several times! 

I can create a character who's a veterinarian (and have!) so that I can walk around in that skin for a while. 

Being a writer is a way to take ALL the roads.

And now, I must get back to traveling... thank you so much for reading!


Irene Latham is a grateful creator of many novels, poetry collections, and picture books, including the coauthored Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, which earned a Charlotte Huck Honor, and The Cat Man of Aleppo, which won a Caldecott Honor. Irene lives on a lake in rural Alabama.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Road Not Taken


The Road Not Taken


In 2005, I decided to leave journalism. Temporarily, I thought. I was about to have a baby and I wanted to spend time with him. And my father and I had long been discussing an idea for a book that we were going to co-write. So I said goodbye to my job as an editor for a Capitol Hill-based newspaper, and plunged into motherhood and book-writing. The baby, fortunately, had a good disposition and enjoyed sitting in his portable playpen turning pages in--and eating--his board books, so I was able to get work done.


But the book, instead of taking two years, took six. By the time it was published, in 2011, my son was finishing kindergarten. The economy had collapsed. And journalism had changed. Most of my friends had left for other, related fields—freelancing, public relations, consulting, book writing. Those that remained were doing the job of several people, working around the clock to accommodate the 24-7 internet-based news cycle. I had taken some time out—and during that time, my profession, where I had spent close to two decades, had crumbled. In what would have been mid-career, I had to reinvent myself professionally.


And I’m still doing that, a decade since that book came out. In a way, I still consider myself a journalist. In 2012 I started a blog where I interview authors. I’ve continued my freelance work, mostly editing reference books. But I’ve also been able to write three children’s books, and have various other manuscripts I’m hoping to get published. Do I miss the daily excitement of running around Capitol Hill, cranking out several stories a day? Sometimes. But would I still have the energy to do that all these years later? Probably not.


So here I sit, in this Covid-ravaged, politically damaged world, waiting. Hoping. And thinking, on occasion, of that journalistic road not taken.


--Deborah Kalb, author of The President and Me middle grade series for kids, and co-author of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021



Reviews are coming in for historical verse novel AFRICAN TOWN (Penguin, Jan. 4, 2022) by Irene Latham and Charles Waters:

"The voice of the characters is strong and... the journey itself is not to be missed"
School Library Connection, ⭐

"A thoughtful portrait of how trauma informs and inhibits identity making.”

Writers, you're invited to Irene Latham's new weekly vlog series: Tuesday 2-Minute Writing Tip! Episodes so far:

1 "We are Cups" - inspiration from a Ray Bradbury quote

2 "Call Me Ishmael" - on how we identify ourselves as writers, poets, artists

3 "It's Not About You" - on social media/self-promotion

We all need a little bit of inspiration... New subscribers welcome!