The Circus at the End of the Sea

In celebration of optimism, I give you The Circus at the End of the Sea, the most delightful middle grade novel you will ever read. The Circus at the End of the Sea features an optimistic young girl named Maddie who follows a magic cat to a street circus in trouble. Maddie, a true optimist, who always follows her heart, believes she can help the circus find its lost ringmaster. Marvelous adventures ensue.

I thought it would be fun to interview Lori Snyder, the author of this fantastic book. 

1. What was your favorite thing about writing The Circus at the End of the Sea

 There were two parts: first, that I got to write a love letter to this place that is so much a part of me (Venice, CA); and next, that I decided not to write anything in this book that didn't delight me, and that was so helpful and fun! 

 2. Ophelia the octopus nearly steals the show in this book. How were you able to give such life and personality to an octopus? Did you have to do a lot of octopus research to create her? 

 Well, as a former marine biologist, the octopus is my favorite invertebrate and I think they already have a ton of life and it wasn't that hard! I did a tiny bit of research but was already so in love with octopuses and their brilliance that it wasn't too much. (As a note, I am not a fan of research. I think it's one of the reasons I write fantasy, because I just get to make everything up...) Ophelia was so much fun to write, especially once I decided she would be a mimic octopus (which really exists), but one with a magic twist who can mimic pretty much anything. 

 3. You're a yoga teacher of many years. There are yoga themes throughout the book. Can you tell us more about how you incorporated these into a middle grade fantasy novel? 

For me, how we accept and sit with the complexity and realities of life, allow ourselves to grow and change without grasping for the changes we want and rejecting the changes we don't, and encourage joy, are things I think about a lot. I also think a lot about the tendency in our culture to live in duality, to put things into categories of this or that rather than recognize the world as complex, as both or all or neither or somewhere in the middle. Hardly anything exists as a duality—maybe nothing does, but I'm not prepared to make that assertion without some study of it—and in fact, it's us as humans who make that all up! We make up those categories and then try to shove ourselves, others, the world, and everything into one or the other. It's such a dehumanizing and constricting way to live and think...and yet many conventional story structures are based on this sense of duality as well, particularly in fantasies. I wanted to write a story that was more in line how I see the world. A fantasy without a villain. A story where terrible things don't, actually, keep happening to the main character: magic is what keeps happening to her...and yet, there's still a story. A story that looks at how we move away from duality and into the fuller experience of being alive, into seeing the true nature of things with more skill. All this is woven through The Circus at the End of the Sea, and I hope I did these thoughts justice. 

 4. Many of the blog's readers are teachers. Can you speak about how your experience as a fourth grade teacher might have informed your work? 

 Oh man, do I love this age group! I think my teaching experience, both in the classroom and also on a boat for several years, taking kids out into the Pacific to see blue sharks, sea lions, and kelp forests, just helped to remind me of the vast capacity for wonder, goofiness, and brilliance we all have, and to allow all of that in with equal measure when I write, as much as I can manage. 

 5. I know you're working on a new novel for your editor, because I've gotten to read some. And it's equally as fantastic as your first! How are you able to maintain such creativity while working on a deadline? 

Um...the answers are: 1. Miss the deadlines a lot, and 2. I don't (hence answer #1). I sincerely hope that if you ask me this question for my third book, which I haven't started yet, my answer will be: oh, it's so easy! Honestly, though, mostly I'm just amazed that after all this time of trying to get published, now I'm on deadline for a second book!!! That is just the best! 

 6. You do all kinds of amazing free workshops, meditations, and writing exercises for writers through The Writers' Happiness Movement. You give writers tips and tricks to maintain creativity and calm during difficult times. What one piece of advice can you give to folks struggling to be creative right now? 

 The first thing that comes to mind is this: it's okay if you aren't creative right now. Don't worry. It will come back, I promise. If you're struggling with creativity, maybe just let whatever you do right now be as healing for you if possible. If this is writing, great—any kind of writing, by the way, whatever calls to you. It all matters. But maybe your creativity wants to come out in another way right now. Maybe you paint rocks, or bake, or call up your niece and tell her bedtime stories. I think it's really time for all of us—and this is to remind myself, too—to decouple the idea of creativity from the idea of productivity. Sometimes, creating is exactly what we need. Other times, we really just need to take a nap or hang out with a friend—all of which will inform our creativity at another time, when we're ready. We are all part of changing our systems right now, of birthing new ways of being, and I think reclaiming our own humanity and worth, regardless of what we do or don't produce, is vital.

To learn more about Lori Snyder and her book, visit her at


  1. This book sounds like a lot of fun. I love a good middle grade fantasy!

  2. Two of my favorite authors! I love reading about a writer's process, it's so interesting to get to see behind the curtain a bit! Great questions, Edith!

  3. This sounds EXCELLENT. And I can't tell you just how much I love the idea of the Writers' Happiness Project!

  4. This is at the top of my to read list! Great interview Edith!


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