How a writer’s path to e-publishing became a hero’s journey.

Jan 21 2015 Published by under Gettin' Real

Pamela K Witte

Pamela K Witte

I published an ebook this week— Jet Lee: Dragon Warrior, a small, but heartfelt project that has me brimming with pride!

Click the pics for awesome Pamela k Witte links!

My career as a writer has been quite a journey, and looking at Jet Lee Dragon Warrior on today, I can’t help knowing that my journey has been that of a true hero. I’ve traveled down a writer’s road filled with potholes, bumps and curves and it has been the most phenomenal experience of my life.

When Jet Lee Dragon Warrior came to me on a sleepless night, thoughts and ideas whirled around my insomniac’s brain, demanding my attention until a plot took shape. Jet Lee and his sidekicks wouldn’t leave me alone. Their story was short and engaging and awesome. So, I challenged myself to write it in six weeks. My critique group promised to keep me honest. Forty-two days later I had the first draft of a book. It was a quick read, action packed, fast-paced, exciting, and it had heart. It would be a wonderful book for reluctant readers, kids who dread complicated plots and humungous words. Quite pleased with myself, I sent it off to an editor friend who said it would be difficult to market…

JetLVSRedEyesSo, poor Jet Lee Dragon Warrior sat on my hard drive.

A few years later, while working as an author advocate, I was struck by the amazing phenomena that had recently become self-publishing and e-publishing. The concept that had once been a sort of murky, ambiguous form of getting your words out was now plausible and popular. I thought of Jet Lee, stuck away in my computer, and felt a project brewing. Knowing that any project worth doing is worth doing right, I decided to approach e-publishing with an ALL IN attitude.

Throughout my writer’s journey, I’ve made every effort to do things well. I started with the study of writing and reading books. I took courses, joined associations, went to conferences, learned to blog, mixed, mingled, gained name recognition and turned into an avid author’s advocate. All of these things paid off when I decided to try publishing myself.

While poising myself to launch Jet Lee Dragon Warrior, I developed a fun website,, that reflects both me and Jet Lee. I challenged myself to design professional marketing materials. I conquered social media, built Facebook pages, learned the intricacies of tweeting, networked, and jumped at any opportunity to work on new projects that would help me with my own. I became so proficient with design and technology that I joined the Book Store Building Team at SCBWI and spent many long hours launching their beautiful online bookstore.

Along my path to e-publishing I found an exciting, affordable illustrator, learned how to format a manuscript, took advantage of every person willing to read and edit my words. Then finally, I sat back in my desk chair, took hold of my mouse and clicked my way onto When I found Jet Lee Dragon Warrior looking very real and legitimate, pride sizzled through every blood vessel and vein in my body. My heart thumped. My fingertips tingled. I knew I was my own hero and I smiled.

Jet Lee Final Cover

Children’s books are my passion. I’ve spent countless hours writing, reading and learning about the joys and pitfalls of writing a good kid’s book. My next goal is to have a beautiful, traditionally published hardbound copy of one of my adventures sitting in my office right beside my computer. E-publishing Jet Lee Dragon Warrior is just one proud step of my journey and it happily reminds me that I’m far from finished!

Jet Post Card-1

Jet Post Card-2


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A Brand New SCBWI Bookstore & Website! What does it mean to be SCBWI?

Oct 31 2013 Published by under Gate Crashers

 Ever wonder if it makes sense to join SCBWI? Wonder who belongs, is it really beneficial to belong? What is it anyway?scbwi-logo


SCBWI Staff Pic

(Introducing the wonderful SCBWI staff!)

SCBWI’s mission is to support the creation and availability of quality children’s books around the world. They accomplish this by fostering a vibrant community of individuals who bring books for young readers to the public including writers, illustrators, editors, publishers, agents, librarians, educators, booksellers, bloggers, enthusiasts and others. They provide education and support for these individuals through awards, grants, programs and events. They strive to increase the quality and quantity of children’s books in the marketplace, and act as a consolidated voice for professional writers and illustrators worldwide.

Being part of the SCBWI’s brand new Bookstore Building Team, I had a blast entering authors into the bookstore data base, researching their books, finding wonderful reviews, adding trailers and buy links. It’s been so cool I decided to blog a sampling of who and what you’ll find when you head over to the new SCBWI website

Now, Let’s Crash the new website & Bookstore Gate.

Check out the AMAZINGNESS that is SCBWI!

The members showcased here were picked at random from a compilation of folks that I think are among the most awesome of awesome! I’ll introduce you to their books. You can learn all about them at!

Click the pics for writerly links.

Jerry Pinkney

Jerry Pinkney

The Lion & the Mouse

In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney’s wordless adaptation of one of Aesop’s most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he’d planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher’s trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes.


* “Pinkney enriches this classic tale of friendship with another universal theme – family – affectingly illustrated in several scenes as well as in the back endpapers… African species grace splendid panoramas that balance the many finely detailed, closeup images of the protagonists. Pinkney has no need for words; his art speaks eloquently for itself.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
* “A nearly wordless exploration of Aesop’s fable of symbiotic mercy that is nothing short of masterful… Unimpeachable.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
* “Pinkney’s luminous art, rendered in watercolor and colored pencil, suggests a natural harmony… The ambiguity that results from the lack of words in this version allows for a slower, subtle, and ultimately more satisfying read. Moments of humor and affection complement the drama. A classic tale from a consummate artist.” (School Library Journal, starred review)
* “By retelling Aesop’s fable entirely in his signature pencil and watercolor art, Pinkney encourages closer exploration of the pleasing detail with which he amplifies it… It will be a challenge for libraries to make every gorgeous surface available, but it’s a challenge worth taking on.” (The Horn Book, starred review)

Lin Oliver

Lin OliverEscape of the Mini-MummyDaniel Funk always wanted a brother, but he’s got three sisters instead. Until he shrinks to the size of a toe—and discovers Pablo, his twin brother who’s always that small! Together, they have mountains of tiny-size fun. In Attack of the Growling Eyeballs, they release a hissing cockroach at one of their sister’s slumber party and learn that tiny-size trouble can cause mega-size danger. In Escape of the Mini-Mummy, Daniel enters the school diorama contest against Vince the Pizza Prince. Pablo comes along, disguised as a toilet-papered mummy. Can Pablo help Daniel win big, or will he create big-time Egyptian chaos?


The second in the “Who Shrunk Daniel Funk?” series is laugh-out-loud funny. While it is never really explained why Daniel shrinks or how he discovered his toe-size twin Pablo, this book is an entertaining read that will appeal to reluctant readers. Aside from his shrinking problem, Daniel Funk is a typical boy dealing with a bully at school and six females at home. Daniel and his best friend Vu enter the class diorama contest for a chance to win tickets to a Los Angeles Lakers basketball game. Their portrayal of King Tut’s tomb becomes very realistic when tiny Pablo wraps himself in toilet paper to pose as a mummy guard. Chaos ensues when Pablo disappears only to reappear on Vince the Bully’s microphone as Vince does his presentation on the history of pizza. The results are hilarious and satisfying. Not to be missed are the “Funkster’s Funky Facts” that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Reviewer: Shirley Nelson

Judy Blume

Judy BlumeTiger EyesDavey has never felt so alone in her life. Her father is dead—shot in a holdup—and now her mother is moving the family to New Mexico to try to recover.
Climbing in the Los Alamos canyon, Davey meets the mysterious Wolf, who can read Davey’s “sad eyes.” Wolf is the only person who seems to understand the rage and fear Davey feels.
Slowly, with Wolf’s help, Davey realizes that she must get on with her life. But when will she be ready to leave the past behind and move toward the future? Will she ever stop hurting?


Gr 7 Up—The most remarkable thing about Judy Blume’s book (Atheneum, 1982) is how well it has stood the test of time-it’s as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. This is the story of 15-year-old Davey who finds her father shot during a hold-up in his store. Davey and her mother have trouble coping with their violent loss, but when Davey begins to have panic attacks in school, her mother decides to move the family temporarily to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to stay with relatives. Living with her overly strict aunt and uncle makes Davey angry. When her mother starts dating, Davey is furious that her father could be forgotten so swiftly. Davey and her mother are both deep in the grieving process but working through it in very different ways. Too young to work, Davey volunteers at the hospital where she meets an elderly man dying of cancer. When she meets the man’s son, their friendship and common sense of loss helps Davey begin to heal. Emma Galvin’s narration perfectly voices Davey’s escalating emotions and teen angst. A well-told and well-performed story.—Joan Kindig, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

 Ransom Riggs

Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenA mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. 

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.


“With its X-Men: First Class-meets-time-travel story line, David Lynchian imagery, and rich, eerie detail, it’s no wonderMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children has been snapped up by Twentieth Century Fox. B+”—Entertainment Weekly “‘Peculiar’ doesn’t even begin to cover it. Riggs’ chilling, wondrous novel is already headed to the movies.”—People   “[A] thrilling, Tim Burton-esque tale with haunting photographs.”—USA Today Pop Candy “Readers searching for the next Harry Potter may want to visit Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”—CNN

“You’ll love it if you want a good thriller for the summer. It’s a mystery, and you’ll race to solve it before Jacob figures it out for himself.”—Seventeen

“Riggs deftly moves between fantasy and reality, prose and photography to create an enchanting and at times positively terrifying story.”—Associated Press

“It’s an enjoyable, eccentric read, distinguished by well-developed characters, a believable Welsh setting, and some very creepy monsters.”— Publishers Weekly “An original work that defies categorization, this first novel should appeal to readers who like quirky fantasies. Riggs includes many vintage photographs that add a critical touch of the peculiar to his unusual tale.”—Library Journal

“Readers will find this book unique and intriguing.”— School Library Journal 

“In a time when so much summer entertainment seems to be more of the same, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a pleasant surprise—a story that is fresh and new, engrosses and grips, and provides enough clues so that the ending makes sense and seems thoughtful.” —

“Brace yourself for the last 70 pages of relentless, squirm-in-your-chair action. I loved every minute of it.”—Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Though technically a children’s book, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is more Grimm’s than Disney, and Riggs images, dropped like bread crumbs, could lead audiences of any age happily down the path of its spellbinding tale.”—Florida Times-Union

“Hands down, this is one of the best books of recent years…both creepy and terrifyingly delicious.”—Forces of Geek

 Alan Silberberg

Alan Silberberg

The Awesome, Almost 100% True Adventures of Matt & CrazA magical pen causes creative chaos in this quirky, comic-style story from the author of Milo.

Best friends Matt and Larry “Craz” Crazinski couldn’t be more different. Matt loves order, while Craz lives on the edge. The boys share a passion for cartooning, but thanks to the school paper gatekeeper (and kind-of bully), Skip Turkle, it seems their cartoons will never be published.
But then the boys discover a pen that promises to help them DRAW BETTER NOW!—and quickly realize it’s no ordinary pen: Whatever they draw comes to life!
They start small with their drawings—bags of cash, cool gadgets. Next, they get their pesky English teacher to take a unique and extended vacation. But when the boys get a little bolder in their magical drawings, they realize that things don’t always end up as perfect as the art they create….
In this funny, slightly zany, and ultimately heartwarming story, Sid Fleischman Award–winner Alan Silberberg demonstrates the power of friendship—and that the best life is not always sketched out in advance.


“Silberberg delivers one heck of a giggle-producing read with a healthy dose of heart.”

— Quill & Quire

“It’s like ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ produced by Sid & Marty Krofft…The jokes almost always work, and that’s a more important brand of magic any day.”

— Kirkus

“There’s plenty to chuckle at…”

— Publisher’s Weekly

Marion Bauer

Marion Bauer

On My Honor

Joel’s best friend, Tony, is a daredevil. It was Tony’s idea to make the long bike ride to
the Starved Rock state park, and Tony’s idea to stop for a swim in the dangerous Vermillion
River. So why does Joel feel so much guilt when tragedy strikes?
The paperback features a beautiful new cover and introduction by Katherine Paterson,
author of the Newbery Medal–winning book Bridge to Terabithia.


“A powerful, soul-stirring novel told simply and well.” —Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
“Descriptions are vivid, characterization and dialogue natural, and the style taut but unforced. A powerful, moving book.” —School Library Journal
“While there is death, there is also love, and Bauer’s honest and gripping novel joins the ranks of such as Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia in its handling of these issues.” —Publisher’s Weekly

Gail Carson Levine

Gail Carson Levine

Ella Enchanted

How can a fairy’s blessing be such a curse?

At her birth, Ella of Frell was given a foolish fairy’s gift—the “gift” of obedience. Ella must obey any order given to her, whether it’s hopping on one foot for a day or chopping off her own head!

But strong-willed Ella does not tamely accept her fate. She goes on a quest, encountering ogres, giants, wicked stepsisters, fairy godmothers, and handsome princes, determined to break the curse—and live happily ever after.


“As finely designed as a tapestry, with a heroine so spirited that she wins readers’ hearts.” (ALA Booklist (starred review))
“A thoroughly enchanting novel that deepens and enriches the original tale.” (School Library Journal (starred review))

Henry Winkler

Henry WinklerNiagara Falls, Or Does ItFor Hank, fourth grade does not start out on the right foot. First of all, he gets called to the principal’s office on the very first day of school. Then the first assignment his teacher gives him is to write five paragraphs on “What You Did This Summer.” Hank is terrified-writing one good sentence is hard for him, so how in the world is he going to write five whole paragraphs? Hank comes up with a plan: instead of writing what he did on vacation, he’ll show what he did. But when Hank’s “living essay” becomes a living disaster, he finds himself in detention. Strangely enough, however, detention ends up becoming a turning point in his life.


Grade 3-5-On the first day of fourth grade, Hank’s teacher assigns a five-paragraph essay, “What I did on my summer vacation,” and he knows he’s in trouble. It has always been difficult for him to read, write, and spell so he decides to “build” his assignment instead-to “-bring Niagara Falls into the classroom, water and all.” With the help of his friends, he creates a working model, complete with water pump, Saran-wrapped tubing, and a papier-mƒch‚ mountain. Predictably, his “living essay” comes to an unfortunate end when a leak leads to a flood and chaos in the classroom. Hank’s creativity is rewarded with two weeks’ detention and grounding, but his friends are counting on his help for their upcoming magic show. Just when the boy’s self-esteem is at its lowest, the new music teacher suspects that he has “learning differences” and suggests that he be tested. Eventually, the misunderstood protagonist convinces his parents to let him perform in the show, which is a big hit, largely thanks to Hank’s ingenuity. Less dysfunctional and outrageous than Joey Pigza, Hank Zipzer is the kid next door. Humor, magic, a school bully, a pet dachshund named Cheerio, and a pet iguana that slurps soup at dinner add up to a fun novel with something for everyone. Barbara Auerbach, New York City Public Schools

Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry

The Giver

Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. When Jonas turns 12 he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal

School Library Journal

Grade 6-9– In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas’s confidence in his comfortable “normal” existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life’s work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory “back and back and back,” teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is “without color, pain, or past.” The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time. –Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

 Arthur A Levine

Unequal Fortunes

”Levine and Scheiber tell two tales about poor kids growing up in the Bronx — one inspires, the other rips your heart out. They also compel us to recognize that educational failure has both individual and societal costs that can be fatal. We can and must do better.” —Joel Klein, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education


”A compelling and worthwhile book, especially for those who teach in inner-city schools.” –Education Update, Sep/Oct 2010
”The decline of the South Bronx is made personal through the opposing biographies of parallel children 40 years apart.” —CHOICE Magazine
”The decline of the South Bronx is made personal through the opposing biographies of parallel children 40 years apart.” —CHOICE Magazine

  Brian Floca

Brian Floca

Moonshot The Flight of Apollo 11

Simply told, grandly shown, here is the flight of Apollo 11. Here for a new generation of readers and explorers are the steady astronauts, clicking themselves into gloves and helmets, strapping themselves into sideways seats. Here are their great machines in all their detail and monumentality, the ROAR of rockets, and the silence of the Moon. Here is a story of adventure and discovery — a story of leaving and returning during the summer of 1969, and a story of home, seen whole, from far away.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Forty years after NASA’s Apollo 11 mission first landed astronauts on the moon, this striking nonfiction picture book takes young readers along for the ride. The moon shines down on Earth, where three men don spacesuits, climb into Columbia, and wait for liftoff. On a nearby beach, people gather to watch the rocket blast the astronauts into space. The astronauts fly to the moon, circle it, land on it, walk on its surface, and see “the good and lonely Earth, glowing in the sky.” After flying back to the orbiter, they return to Earth and splash down, “home at last.” An appended note discusses the mission in greater detail. Written with quiet dignity and a minimum of fuss, the main text is beautifully illustrated with line-and-wash artwork that provides human interest, technological details, and some visually stunning scenes. The book’s large format offers plenty of scope for double-page illustrations, and Floca makes the most of it, using the sequential nature of picture books to set up the more dramatic scenes and give them human context. The moving image of Earth seen from the moon, for instance, is preceded by a picture of a lone astronaut looking up. A handsome, intelligent book with a jacket that’s well-nigh irresistible. Grades K-3. –Carolyn Phelan

 Bruce Coville

Bruce Coville

Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher A Magic Shop Book

When Jeremy Thatcher stumbles into Mr. Elives’ magic shop, he leaves with a small marbled dragon’s egg. When it hatches, Jeremy’s wildest dreams take wing.


“A funny, enjoyable, imaginative story whose serious undercurrents lend it unexpected depth.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Not only is the story involving but the reader can really get a feeling for Jeremy as a person.”—VOYA

“Will bring laughter and near tears to readers . . . Dragons really exist for a little while.”—School Library Journal

Cassandra Clare

Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments)

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?
This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know…
Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare’s ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.


“Funny, dark, and sexy. One of my favorite books.” — Holly Black
“City of Bones has everything: vampires, werewolves, faeries, true love, and stuff that blows up. What’s more, Clare’s characters are brilliant — she better not kill any of them off in the next two volumes!” — Justine Larbalestier, author of Magic or Madness
“Prepare to be hooked.”

(Entertainment Weekly)

Wildly popular…think Twilight on steroids.”


“This version of New York, full of Buffyesque teens who are trying to save the world, is entertaining and will have fantasy readers anxiously awaiting the next book in the series.”

(School Library Journal)

“Lush and fun.”

(Kirkus Reviews)

 Gary Paulsen

Gary Paulsen


Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single-engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but a tattered Windbreaker and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present — and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart since his parent’s divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self pity, or despair — it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.
For twenty years Gary Paulsen’s award-winning contemporary classic has been the survival story with which all others are compared. This new edition, with a reading group guide, will introduce a new generation of readers to this page-turning, heart-stopping adventure.


“This is a spellbinding account…a winner.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Riveting.” — Booklist, starred review

Jessie Hartland

Jessie HartlandBon Appetit! The Delicious Life of Julia ChildIn a starred review, Publishers Weekly raves, “Chef and TV personality Julia Child likely would have delighted in and hooted over this wide-ranging picture-book biography…. Readers young and old will devour this fete pour les yeux.”Follow Julia Child—chef, author, and television personality—from her childhood in Pasadena, California, to her life as a spy in WWII, to the cooking classes she took in Paris, to the publication ofMastering the Art of French Cooking, to the funny moments of being a chef on TV. This is a comprehensive and enchanting picture book biography, told in many panels and jam-packed with lively, humorous, and child-friendly details. Young chefs and Julia Child fans will exclaim, “ooooh la la,” about this book, which is as energetic and eccentric as the chef herself.


Chicago Tribune, June 27, 2012:
“Hartland deftly portrays in both word and drawing the awkward grace, the passionate personality and the spunky gusto of her subject. At times, you can practically hear Julia’s trademark trill leaping cheerily out of the pages.”
New York Times, June 15, 2012:
“…bursting with exuberant urban-naïf gouache paintings and a hand-lettered text that somehow manages to recount every second of Child’s life.”
Boston Globe, August 14, 2012:
“Author Jessie Hartland chronicles Child’s rise to fame in a unique way. The book has the look and feel of a scrapbook, with handwritten text and numerous doodles that make it a fun read.”, July 13, 2012:
“Visually, it’s just delightful; Hartland captures the boundless energy, the joie de vivre that I imagine Julia exuded in person. And just in time for Bastille Day, there’s a crêpe recipe for you to try.”
Starred ReviewPublishers Weekly, March 19, 2012:
“Chef and TV personality Julia Child likely would have delighted in and hooted over this wide-ranging picture-book biography…. Readers young and old will devour this fête pour les yeux.”
Starred Review, Booklist, July 1, 2012:
“…achieves a feel that is a perfect match for Child’s personality and cooking style: exuberant, messy, gangly, and charming.”
School Library Journal, May 2012:
“Books for young foodies are very popular, and this is one that any library embracing the trend should have…Hartland’s style makes for a quick but informative read that portrays Child as a fascinating, groundbreaking, but still grounded person. Children interested in food and cooking will get a lot out of the book.”

John Parra

John Parra

Waiting for the Biblioburro

Ana loves stories. She often makes them up to help her little brother fall asleep. But in her small village there are only a few books and she has read them all. One morning, Ana wakes up to the clip-clop of hooves, and there before her, is the most wonderful sight: a traveling library resting on the backs of two burros-all the books a little girl could dream of, with enough stories to encourage her to create one of her own. Inspired by the heroic efforts of real-life librarian Luis Soriano, award-winning picture book creators Monica Brown and John Parra introduce readers to the mobile library that journeys over mountains and through valleys to bring literacy and culture to rural Colombia, and to the children who wait for the BiblioBurro. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book support Luis Soriano’s BiblioBurro program.


Review, School Library Journal, June 1, 2011
“The pleasure and love of reading are joyfully brought forth in this simple, happily rendered tale.”
Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 15, 2011
“Parra’s colorful folk-style illustrations of acrylics on board bring Ana’s real and imaginary worlds to life…The book is perfect for read-alouds, with occasional, often onomatopoeic Spanish words such as “quiquiriquí,” “tacatac” and “iii-aah” adding to the fun.”
Review, Publishers Weekly, May 9, 2011
“Parra’s naïve-styled acrylics brim with scenes of country life. A palette of salmon pinks and turquoise and sky blues, painted on board, give the book a rough-hewn, handmade quality and an innocent, childlike appeal (with her wide face, delicate features, and rouged cheeks, Ana even resembles a porcelain doll). In a metafictional ending, readers will notice that the book Ana hands the bibliotecario upon his return is this very book–fitting, as this truly is Ana’s story.”
Review, The Horn Book, July/August 2011
“This sample of the impact of traveling librarians on rural children, inspired by a Colombian teacher-librarian, not only celebrates their work but eloquently portrays a matchless way to inspire learning: by feeding the natural hunger for story….Small, brown-faced Ana’s enthusiasm is contagious, and the satisfying denouement, in which she donates her homemade book to the traveling collection, is just right.”

Rachel Vail

Rachel Vail

Justin Case School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters

It’s the start of the school year, and nothing feels right to Justin. He didn’t get the teacher he wanted, he’s not in the same class as his best friend, and his little sister, Elizabeth, is starting kindergarten at his school. Elizabeth doesn’t seem nervous at all. Justin is very nervous about third grade. And to top it off, he’s lost his favorite stuffed animal, but he can’t tell anyone, because technically he’s too old to still have stuffed animals. Right?
Here is third grade in all its complicated glory—the friendships, the fears, and the advanced math. Acclaimed author Rachel Vail captures third grade with a perfect pitch, and Matthew Cordell’s line art is both humorous and touching. As Justin bravely tries to step out of his shell, he will step into readers’ hearts.
Justin Case is a 2011 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.


“This honest and heartfelt look at elementary school is illustrated with occasional doodles that perfectly suit the book and audience.” —Kidsville News
“Justin Case, the new novel by Rachel Vail, might well be subtitled the wit and wisdom of a third-grade worrywart.  By turns droll, sardonic, ironic, and even sophisticated, it chronicles the daily tribulations of life in the third-grade as told by its eponymous hero, who in the course of his school year discovers there is no heroism unless there is fear.  And fear Justin has a-plenty, be it of his new dog Qwerty, his new teacher, sports, math, friends, jiggly Jell-O—or what ever—a lot comes his way, real and imagined.  The writing is sharp, unpredictably clever, and establishes third-grade as a mine-field of the absurd–which is to say, real life.”—Avi, Newbery Medalist
“Vail employs easy, direct language in a rhythm and syntax that captures the essence of a charming, lovable and very believable boy. Readers transitioning to longer fiction will groan, sympathize and laugh out loud in delight. Absolutely marvelous. ” —Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review

Mac Barnett

Extra Yarn

a Yarn, a Caldecott Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner, and a New York Timesbestseller, is the story of how a young girl and her box of magical yarn transform a community.

With spare, gently humorous illustrations and a palette that moves from black-and-white to a range of color, this modern fairy tale has the feel of a new classic.

Extra Yarn is written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen, who also won a Caldecott Medal forThis Is Not My Hat.


“There’s nothing to say but—perfect.” (Lane Smith, New York Times bestselling author of It’s a Book)
“Understated illustrations and prose seamlessly construct an enchanting and mysterious tale.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review)) “Klassen’s deadpan, stylized illustrations impeccably complement Barnett’s quirky droll writing.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
“Klassen’s pacing, especially the mostly wordless sequence when the box floats back to Annabelle on a triangle of an iceberg, is impeccable. The final spread, all light and yarn-covered tree limbs, brings Barnett’s clever, quiet yarn full circle, to a little girl and a town, now colorful and happy.” (Horn Book (starred review))
“Reading like a droll fairy tale, this Barnett-Klassen collaboration is both seamless and magical. The spare, elegant text and art are also infused with plenty of deadpan humor. Quirky and wonderful, this story quietly celebrates a child’s ingenuity and her ability to change the world around her.” (Booklist (starred review))

Dan Santat

Dan Santat

SidekicksLook up in the sky! It’s a BOLD new graphic novel about SUPERHERO PETS!
Captain Amazing, superhero and savior of Metro City, is getting old. He’s out all hours battling arch-villains, catching thieves, and helping little old ladies cross the street. He doesn’t even have time for his house full of pets. He needs – a SIDEKICK!
Captain Amazing’s four pets agree. But each one of them thinks HE should get the sidekick spot – and a chance for one-on-one time with the Captain. Get ready for sibling rivalry royale as pets with superpowers duke it out for the one thing they all want – a super family.

Kirkus Reviews

A veritable bonanza of capes, heroes and pets with superpowers abounds in illustrator Santat’s first solo graphic novel. Captain Amazing, the muscled hero of Metro City, is aging, and after a botched takedown of four nefarious villains, he decides he is in need of a trusty sidekick. Unbeknownst to Captain, his own pets are clamoring for the job (and for more quality time with their beloved owner). Fluffy, his hamster, has yet to discover his superpower, but this rodent has a lot of heart. Manny the cat (who has the ability to electrocute bad guys) had run away after his beloved toy Nummers went missing, but the prodigal cat returns just in time to help the Captain. Roscoe (a.k.a. Metal Mutt) has a gruff exterior but is fiercely loyal. Shifty, the newest addition to the family, is a color-changing chameleon who adds a dose of comic relief. The lovable menagerie of crime-fighting pets offers lots of laughs and a boisterous and exuberant storyline; Santat’s illustrations are clear, engaging and neatly stacked into easy-to-read panels. While there is no mention of a sequel, subsequent volumes would certainly fly off the shelf faster than a speeding bullet, so here’s hoping. A vibrant volume sure to zoom, pow and swoosh its way into the hands (and hearts) of young superhero fans. Extremely entertaining. (Graphic fiction. 8-12)

 Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela

One day when Nelson Mandela was nine years old, his father died and he was sent from his village to a school far away from home, to another part of South Africa. In Johannesburg, the country’s capital, Mandela saw fellow Africans who were poor and powerless. He decided then that he would work to protect them. When the government began to keep people apart based on the color of their skin, Mandela spoke out against the law and vowed to fight hard in order to make his country a place that belonged to all South Africans.

Kadir Nelson tells the story of Mandela, a global icon, in poignant verse and glorious illustrations. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country by believing in equality for people of all colors. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.


“A beautifully designed book that will resonate with children and the adults who wisely share it with them.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
“An extremely powerful picture-book biography of South Africa’s first black president. It’s a solid biography in its own right, but thanks to Nelson’s characteristically stunning paintings, it soars.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“A dramatic encounter indeed.” (Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books)
“This picture-book biography matches Mandela’s outsize achievements with large, powerful images, resulting in a presentation that will seize and hold readers’ attention.” (School Library Journal)

Kathryn Erskine

Kathryn Erskine

MockingbirdCaitlin has Asperger’s. The world according to her is black and white; anything in between is confusing. Before, when things got confusing, Caitlin went to her older brother, Devon, for help. But Devon has died, and Caitlin’s dad is so distraught that he is just not helpful. Caitlin wants everything to go back to the way things were, but she doesn’t know how to do that. Then she comes across the word closure- and she realizes this is what she needs. And in her search for it, Caitlin discovers that the world may not be black and white after all.

Children’s Literature

Virginia author Kathryn Erskine takes the reader into the world of Caitlin, a girl with Asperger’s syndrome, as she struggles to understand the death of her older brother. Caitlin finds it much easier to “read” dictionaries than people; and in the course of regular meetings with her school counselor, she tries to learn social skills that will enable her to connect with others. She also wants to help her grieving father and the community to achieve “Closure” in the aftermath of the school shooting that took her brother’s life. In Erskine’s capable hands, Caitlin emerges as a wholly believable, admirable hero as she forges a unique path to friendship and healing. A lovely, important book. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum

Laurie Halse Anderson

Laurie Halse AndersonWintergirlsLia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in fragile bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the thinnest. But then Cassie suffers the ultimate loss-her life-and Lia is left behind, haunted by her friend’s memory and racked with guilt for not being able to help save her. In her most powerfully moving novel since Speak, award-winning author Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s struggle, her painful path to recovery, and her desperate attempts to hold on to the most important thing of all: hope.

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—The intensity of emotion and vivid language here are more reminiscent of Anderson’s Speak (Farrar, 1999) than any of her other works. Lia and Cassie had been best friends since elementary school, and each developed her own style of eating disorder that leads to disaster. Now 18, they are no longer friends. Despite their estrangement, Cassie calls Lia 33 times on the night of her death, and Lia never answers. As events play out, Lia’s guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance unravel in an almost poetic stream of consciousness in this startlingly crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative. The text is rich with words still legible but crossed out, the judicious use of italics, and tiny font-size refrains reflecting her distorted internal logic. All of the usual answers of specialized treatment centers, therapy, and monitoring of weight and food fail to prevail while Lia’s cleverness holds sway. What happens to her in the end is much less the point than traveling with her on her agonizing journey of inexplicable pain and her attempt to make some sense of her life.—Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library

Jon Scieszka

Jon Scieszka

SPHDZ Book #1! (Spaceheadz)Michael K. just started fifth grade at a new school. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the kids he seems to have made friends with apparently aren’t kids at all. They are aliens. Real aliens who have invaded our planet in the form of school children and a hamster. They have a mission to complete: to convince 3,140,001 kids to BE SPHDZ.

But with a hamster as their leader, “kids” who talk like walking advertisements, and Michael K as their first convert, will the SPHDZ be able to keep their cover and pull off their assignment?

From School Library Journal

Gr 3-5–Michael’s first day in fifth grade is not going well. A new school is bad enough, but the teacher has partnered him with two extremely weird kids. Bob and Jennifer tell Michael that they are Spaceheadz from another planet and that they need his help to save the world. They explain that Earth is in danger of being turned off, depriving the interstellar civilizations of our tasty TV and radio waves. Led by Major Fluffy, the class hamster and mission commander, they must recruit 3.14 million (+1) Earthling brainwaves to join in one giant SPHDZ wave to keep the planet online. However, Agent Umber of the secretive Anti-Alien Agency is on their trail. Umber, the most inept spy since Maxwell Smart, hopes that Michael can lead him to the ETs. Michael wants to save the Earth–but does that mean helping the Spaceheadz or turning them in? As in Scieskza’s “Time Warp Trio” series (Viking), comically twisted contemporary cultural references abound. The young aliens speak primarily in TV advertising slogans, which fit remarkably–and hilariously–into the dialogue. Real commercial products, from George Foreman grills to Charmin™ toilet tissue, are put to exotic extraterrestrial uses. The intriguing book design includes chapter headings in English and SPHDZ characters, occasional white-on-black pages, and SPHDZ “stickers” scattered throughout the text. The black-and-white cartoon illustrations are often integrated into the text layout, giving the book a graphic-novel feel. Four creative, well-designed websites contribute important information to the story. Science-fiction fans with a taste for off-the-wall humor will be eager to join the SPHDZ movement.Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL

Libba Bray

Libba Bray

The DivinersEvie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City–and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult–also known as “The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies.” When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer–if he doesn’t catch her first.

From School Library Journal

Gr 10 Up-Set in 1920s New York City, this literary tour-de-force from Printz Award-winner Bray offers grand themes, complex characters, and suspense. After her secret gift for divining information from objects lands her in trouble, 17-year-old Evangeline O’Neill is sent from Ohio to live with her uncle, who runs a museum specializing in folklore and the occult in Manhattan. Evie is a quintessential flapper: not really bad, but rebellious and yearning to fly free of her Babbitt-like existence. Although she starts out her new life like the party girl she was back home, her pursuits become more serious when her uncle is asked to help solve a series of strange murders. She crosses paths with Memphis Campbell, a black numbers runner in Harlem, whose power to heal by laying on hands failed him when he tried to save his mother. Other characters include a homosexual composer who meets people in dreams, a Ziegfeld girl with a past, a pickpocket searching for his family, and a young research assistant with his own secrets. Bray develops each of these characters and their gifts, gradually bringing them together in a chilling and thrilling battle with Naughty John, a paranormal serial killer. Over the course of the novel, people (mainly good) smoke, drink, and use other illegal substances. These peccadilloes are contrasted with the values of the hellfire-and-brimstone cult that spawned Naughty John. The compelling and dramatic supernatural plot explores self-actualization, predestination, the secrets everyone hides, and, of course, good versus evil. An absolutely terrific read and, thankfully, the first in a planned series.-Nina Sachs, Walker Memorial Library, Westbrook, ME

Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park

A Single Shard

In this Newbery Medal-winning book set in 12th century Korea, Tree-ear, a 13-year-old orphan, lives under a bridge in Ch’ulp’o, a potters’ village famed for delicate celadon ware. He has become fascinated with the potter’s craft; he wants nothing more than to watch master potter Min at work, and he dreams of making a pot of his own someday. When Min takes Tree-ear on as his helper, Tree-ear is elated — until he finds obstacles in his path: the backbreaking labor of digging and hauling clay, Min’s irascible temper, and his own ignorance. But Tree-ear is determined to prove himself — even if it means taking a long, solitary journey on foot to present Min’s work in the hope of a royal commission . . . even if it means arriving at the royal court with nothing to show but a single celadon shard.


Park (Seesaw Girl) molds a moving tribute to perseverance and creativity in this finely etched novel set in mid-to-late 12th century Korea. . . Readers will not soon forget these characters or their sacrifices. Publishers Weekly, Starred
” Intrigues, danger and the same strong focus on doing what is right turn a simple story into a compelling read. . . Tree-ear’s story conveys a time and place far away and long ago, but with a simplicity and immediacy that is both graceful and unpretentious. A timeless jewel.” Kirkus Reviews with Pointers
Like Park’s Seesaw Girl and the Kite Fighters, this book not only gives readers insight an unfamilar time and place, but it is also a great story. School Library Journal, Starred
This quiet, but involving story draws readers into a very different time and place. Though the society has its own conventions, the hearts and minds and stomachs of the characters are not so far removed from those of people today. Readers will feel the hunger and cold that Tree-ear experiences, as well as his shame, fear, gratitude, and love. A well-crafted novel with an unusual setting. Booklist, ALA, Starred Review
Park’s story is alive with fascinating information about life and art in ancient Korea. Horn Book Guide
A broken piece of pottery sets events in motion as an orphan struggles to pay off his debt to a master potter. This finely crafted novel brings 12th-century Korea and these indelible characters to life. SLJ Best Books of the Year

Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr

The Lucy Variationsucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.That was all before she turned fourteen.Now, at sixteen, it’s over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano — on her own terms. But when you’re used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr takes readers inside one girl’s struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. To find joy again, even when things don’t go according to plan. Because life isn’t a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.
 “An elegant novel…Zarr vividly develops the title character, illuminating Lucy’s teenage insecurities, her close and fractious friendships and the coming-of-age realization that she can pursue her dreams on her own terms…A rewarding journey for readers.” (The New York Times Book Review)
* “[Zarr] really, truly gets inside her characters’ minds and shows us what makes them complex human beings — their faults, fears, and hopes…This is a mellifluous novel about rekindling joy — in music, in the everyday, and in the beauty around us.” (Booklist, starred review)
* “Zarr doesn’t waste a word in this superb study of a young musical prodigy trying to reclaim her life….[Lucy is] a deeply real and sympathetic character, and that dimensionality extends to the rest of the cast. The pressures Lucy is under feels powerful, immediate, and true — her journey of self-discovery will strike a profound chord with readers.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)
* “The combination of sympathetic main character and unusual social and cultural world makes this satisfying coming-of-age story stand out.” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
* “Exploring relationships is where Zarr soars . . . This strong coming-of-age story about music, passion, and the search for identity will appeal to longtime fans of Zarr’s work and newcomers alike.” (SLJ, starred review)
“A satisfying coming-of-age story and a thoughtful treatise on art, identity, and personal fulfillment.” (The Horn Book)
“[A] gripping YA novel about a 16-year-old music prodigy trying to survive the cutthroat world of piano competitions.” (InStyle)

Norton Juster

Norton Juster

The Phantom TollboothIllustrated in black-and-white. This ingenious fantasy centers around Milo, a bored ten-year-old who comes home to find a large toy tollbooth sitting in his room. Joining forces with a watchdog named Tock, Milo drives through the tollbooth’s gates and begins a memorable journey. He meets such characters as the foolish, yet lovable Humbug, the Mathemagician, and the not-so-wicked “Which,” Faintly Macabre, who gives Milo the “impossible” mission of returning two princesses to the Kingdom of Wisdom.


” I read [The Phantom Tollbooth] first when I was 10. I still have the book report I wrote, which began ‘This is the best book ever.'” –Anna Quindlen, The New York Times
“A classic… Humorous, full of warmth and real invention.” —The New Yorker

Meg Rosoff

Meg RosoffThere Is No Dog

What if God were a teenaged boy?
In the beginning, Bob created the heavens and the earth and the beasts of the field and the creatures of the sea, and twenty-five million other species (including lots of cute girls). But mostly he prefers eating junk food and leaving his dirty clothes in a heap at the side of his bed.
Every time he falls in love, Earth erupts in natural disasters, and it’s usually Bob’s beleaguered assistant, Mr. B., who is left cleaning up the mess. So humankind is going to be very sorry indeed that Bob ever ran into a beautiful, completely irresistible girl called Lucy . . .


“…earns its place among the sharpest-witted tours de force of recent memory.”

(Kirkus, starred review )

“Wildly inventive and laugh-out-loud funny…”

(Booklist, starred review )

“…there’s no denying that Rosoff’s writing and sense of humor are a force of nature…”

(Publishers Weekly, starred review )

“Cheeky and subversive.”

(Horn Book, starred review )

Sean Qualls

Sean Qualls

Skit-Scat Raggedy CatA swinging bio of young Ella Fitzgerald, who pushed through the toughest of times to become one of America’s most beloved jazz singers.
When Ella Fitzgerald danced the Lindy Hop on the streets of 1930s Yonkers, passersby said good-bye to their loose change. But for a girl who was orphaned and hungry, with raggedy clothes and often no place to spend the night, small change was not enough. One amateur night at Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Ella made a discovery: the dancing beat in her feet could travel up and out of her mouth in a powerful song —and the feeling of being listened to was like a salve to her heart. With lively prose, Roxane Orgill follows the gutsy Ella from school-girl days to a featured spot with Chick Webb’s band and all the way to her number-one radio hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” Jazzy mixed-media art by illustrator Sean Qualls brings the singer’s indomitable spirit to life.

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6 As the title cleverly indicates, this book describes how the poor, raggedy cat scat-sang her way into jazz history. Orgill begins with Fitzgerald as a child dancing to her mother’s records and closes with the 21-year-old woman joining the Chick Webb Band in Harlem. The interim includes frank, but not frightening, descriptions of Fitzgerald’s tenure in an abusive orphanage and of the impoverished days when she slept where she could and sang on the streets for money. The prose account of Fitzgerald’s life often includes sound effects that recall her unique vocal style. For instance, she does not run away from the orphanage, she dashes off in a skit-scat skedaddle. Snatches of her famous songs are woven throughout the narrative. Meanwhile, Qualls firmly establishes himself as a leading illustrator of jazz biographies for children. He uses rich reds and blues to illustrate the history of this quintessentially American art form, just as he did for Jonah Winter’s Dizzy (Scholastic, 2006) and Carole Boston Weatherford’s Before John Was a Jazz Giant (Holt, 2008). His mixed media of acrylic, collage, and pencil capture the richness of Fitzgerald’s life and song. The back matter provides plenty of resources for further reading, listening, and Web exploration. Mary Landrum, Lexington Public Library, KY

Richard Peck

Richard PeckThe Mouse with the Question Mark TailNewbery Award-winning author Richard Peck is at his very best in this fast-paced mystery adventure. Fans of The Tale of Desperaux, A Little Princess, and Stuart Little will all be captivated by this memorable story of a lovable orphan mouse on an amazing quest.

The smallest mouse in London’s Royal Mews is such a little mystery that he hasn’t even a name. And who were his parents? His Aunt Marigold, Head Needlemouse, sews him a uniform and sends him off to be educated at the Royal Mews Mouse Academy. There he’s called “Mouse Minor” (though it’s not quite a name), and he doesn’t make a success of school. Soon he’s running for his life, looking high and low through the grand precincts of Buckingham Palace to find out who he is and who he might become.

Queen Victoria ought to be able to help him, if she can communicate with mice. She is all-seeing, after all, and her powers are unexplainable. But from her, Mouse Minor learns only that you do not get all your answers from the first asking. And so his voyage of self-discovery takes him onward, to strange and wonderful places.


“You can’t help but make comparisons to some other very famous books about mice, namely DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and White’s Stuart Little, but the parallel world of mice and humans also echoes The Borrowers. Peck (A Year Down Yonder, 2000) is terrific in relaying small details, like the intricacy of mouse uniforms, and this clever yarn should delight fans of animal adventure stories. (Starred Review)


“The small hero’s brushes with danger and run-ins with royalty (both human and rodent) unfold with Peck’s characteristic wit and flair for adventure.” (Starred Review)

(Publishers Weekly)

“[Children will] enjoy the twists and turns of this old-fashioned rags-to-riches story. It’s written in an easy, unlabored style but still reflects Peck’s relish for the perfect word and phrase; readers and listeners (it makes a great read-aloud) will savor every one.”

(Horn Book)

“A plucky hero, exciting plot, and a [satisfying] resolution, Peck’s latest is a gentle homage to old-school adventure tales.” (Starred Review)

(School Library Journal)

“Peck’s writing is so rich, so laugh-out-loud funny, that the picture of the mysterious mousedom, complete with proper clothing, food, and life lessons reels us into a truly original, imaginative world. . . . A more-than-perfect book to share aloud with young readers.”

(The Christian Science Monitor)

“Peck creates a pleasantly detailed, cozy Victorian mouse world. There’s some of Stuart Little’s appeal to Mouse Minor’s exploits.”


“Witty and precise prose… will enchant lovers of animal fantasy. This mouse-sized identity quest sparkles.”—Kirkus

(Kirkus Reviews)

“Perfect for reading aloud to intermediate grade students or for recommending to readers who enjoy a mystery or a good adventure story. Recommend to fans of The Tale of Despereaux.”—Library Media Connection

(Library Media Connection)

Okay, that’s just skimming. There are tons of wonderful Authors and Illustrators who enjoy the resources, companionship and support the SCBWI has to offer. If you’re looking for a writing or illustrating family, check them out. Just do it. You’ll be glad you did!

Want to know a little more…

One response so far

Gate Crashers Ask Why Should PB YA & MG Authors Totally Rock The Book Trailer?

Aug 26 2013 Published by under Gate Crashers

Pamela K WitteSo you want to crash the gate. You’re thinking about making a book trailer but don’t know exactly why you should or what it will do for you?

These fabulous Gate Crashers are thrilled to clue you in with a little show and tell!

Check it out. Sit back. Stay awhile. Enjoy  all these rocking book trailers and the company of writers.

Click the pics & stuff for awesome author links & websites!


“Surround yourself with people who know more than you and soak up knowledge like a sponge!” P.K. Witte


Cori McCarthyThe Color of Rain









Cori McCarthy

I made a book trailer because I wanted to get the tone of my novel out to a larger audience. My book is about a “teen prostitute in space,” and while I love the attention and snickers that this description inspires, it was important for me to warn readers that the story is dark and occasionally disturbing. I chose a passage for the trailer that is a bit haunting, and hoped that that would distill the more playful Firefly-type images when one thinks about a prostitute in space. The trailer’s tone definitely helped promote my book to older YA audiences, so I’m very happy about that! 

Here’s the trailer link:


 kate karyus quinnAnother Little Piece









Kate Karyus Quinn

I made a book trailer because I thought it would be a fun way to promote my book. Also since my husband and I met in film school it gave us both a chance to work on a little video project together again. I don’t know if it’s done a whole lot for me except give me one more tool in my marketing arsenal to try and convince readers to give ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE a try. 

Here’s the trailer link:

And a link to a blog post on the making of the trailer:


Hilary Weisman GrahamReunited

Hilary Weisman Graham 

For me, making my own book trailer was a no-brainer since I spent most of my career as a TV producer/filmmaker and I knew I could do it myself, on the cheap. The most important part was staying “on message” with the tone of the book jacket copy so that all of my marketing language was consistent. The other big tip I have for DIY-book trailer producers is to create your trailer well in advance of your book’s release day.  I was so so busy in the weeks leading up to REUNITED’s publication that having my book trailer edited and ready to go meant one less thing I had to check off the to-do list. I’m really happy with my book trailer, and Simon & Schuster was, too.  But has it helped sell my book? That, I don’t know. 😉

Here’s the trailer link:


Lynne KellyLynne Kelly Chained








Lynne Kelly

I love book trailers and knew all along I’d want one for CHAINED, but since the book is about an elephant keeper in India, a live-action trailer wasn’t really feasible. You can hire someone to do your trailer for you, but after finding out what that costs I slinked back to stock photo sites. (And I don’t mean that the professionals are overcharging; it just was out of my price range).

Having a trailer on sites like YouTube and teacher tube gives me one more way to reach readers, and it’s a fun “commercial” for the book. It’s always a hit at school visits, too!

Here’s the trailer link:


Demitria Lunetta

In The After



Demitria Lunetta

I wanted a book trailer to convey the creepy/desolate feel of IN THE AFTER, to get people interested in my book. I think it did just that!

Here’s the trailer link:


Kit GrindstaffKitGrindstaff_FLAMEintheMIST

Kit Grindstaff

I loved the idea of making a trailer, my editor said it would be helpful, and hey, any exposure is good exposure! First came the sinister little children’s ditty…I recorded my 7 year-old nieces singing it…added a creepy soundtrack to go underneath…and once I got to work, I was hooked. (The second half of the score, btw, was stock music. No way could I have written that.) 

What did it do for the book? My ed said that the Random House reps used it for sell-in to stores. At school presentations where I’ve played it, kids loved it. I’ve seen tweets and reviews from people saying they bought the book because of it. And…I’m sure there’s more. Not least of all that I love it! So it was definitely worth doing. Kudos to Madison Meyer at M2 Productions (now Bookmark Trailers) who put all the images together and did the beautiful lettering and effects. 

Here’s the trailer link:


Liz FicheraHOOKED

Liz Fichera

I think book trailers provide a great opportunity for authors to provide visual teasers to readers, prior to a release date.  And I think the key word here is tease—not too much, not too little.  Just right.  Preferably around a minute.  It must convey an emotion, the essence of your story, that will get readers excited to read your story.

Here’s the trailer link:


KristenKittscher PhotoThe Wig in the WindowKristen Kittscher

I made my book trailer because the husband of the childhood spy friend who inspired The Wig in the Window offered to for free! He is a visual effects artist. It turned out to be a tremendously difficult, time consuming project — but it was fun, anyway. Interestingly, I think the video I made with two kids who came to an event and declared themselves “the real Young & Yang” from my book was more helpful in terms of raising awareness of my book, but I’m very happy to have this animated trailer: it was “Trailer of the Day” on Shelf Awareness, and it’s been great to show at events to pique interest; I plan on showing it at school visits, too. It’s a great way, in under a minute, to give a sense of the book. Also, it was fun to learn how to make this kind of short-short story. Visual storytelling is very different! In all, while I won’t be rushing to make another trailer, I’m very proud of this one and feel it captures the spirit of the book well.

Here’s the trailer link:

And a cool link to video with kids…


Rachele AlpineCanaryRachele Alpine

 I chose to do a trailer because it’s one of my favorite ways to get teens hooked to books.  I teach high school English and on the first day of school, my students walk out of class with independent book (a book they’ve chosen).  I show around ten trailers for books that I know will hook my students.  Many of my students select books from the trailers.  For me, creating a book trailer is another way of sharing my book with people and hopefully gaining some new readers.  I loved the idea of creating a visual of my book, and I couldn’t be happier with the way my trailer turned out.  

Here’s the trailer link:


Polly HolyokeThe Neptune ProjectPolly Holyoke

I’m not sure publishers realize the degree to which middle school librarians are using book trailers these days to hook their students on books. Desperate to get this visual generation reading, they often show students trailers to pique their interest. I’m not sure that YA authors really need trailers because older teens have lots of ways they can find out about books.

But if a MG author has the resources and time, I think it makes a ton of sense for that author to try to produce a trailer. My biggest problem was that I wrote a sea book, and it was darn hard to film a trailer for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT while living in Dallas (as we are a little short on oceans in these parts)!  So I had to wait until I was traveling to San Diego for family reasons, and then I was able to get the footage shot that we used to make our trailer. We just posted it a few weeks ago, too late to make help pre-orders and crucial early sales. 

So, to sum it up, I do think book trailers are worth making for MG books, but you need to have one made and ready to release about the time your ARC’s are circulating or shortly after to have maximum impact on preorders and early retail sales.  

Here’s the trailer link:


Corrine JacksonTouchedCorrine Jackson

I decided to do a book trailer for TOUCHED to help round out my marketing plan and generate excitement. I worked with Mundie Moms to do a live reveal. It was a lot of fun, and we had a great response! I did the work on the trailer myself using Photoshop to create all of the injury effects, Audacity to mix all of the dialogue, sounds and music, and After Effects to edit the video and pull it all together.

Here’s the trailer link:


Chelsea Pitcher

The S Word



Chelsea Pitcher

Novels are amazing in that you can spend hours, days or weeks immersed in strange and curious worlds, and everything happens inside your own head. But I also wanted to give my readers a very immediate, visual connection to THE S-WORD, and a trailer seemed like the perfect way to do that. I’ve seen book trailers that have made me laugh, brought tears to my eyes, or given my chills, and I really wanted to pass those feelings on to my readers. Plus, I’m lucky in that I got the amazing Phoebe North (author of STARGLASS) to make my trailer, and she captured the mood of the novel perfectly.

What has it done for you?

Honestly, it’s difficult to say. Even my publicist told me it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how much of a difference book trailers make. That said, I knew I wanted one, even if we didn’t see a spike in sales because of it. I wanted one for my readers, and I wanted one for myself. I wanted to be able to look back at my debut experience and have evidence of every step of the journey. Like a scrapbook of THE S-WORD’s creation, from idea to publication, I will always have these things to remind me of what I accomplished and how much it meant. And, as an added bonus, my editor liked the trailer so much that he immediately wanted to put it up on my Amazon page. I think that’s one for the “win” column.

Here’s the trailer link:


CatWintersBW_webIn The Shadow of BlackbirdsCat Winters 

There are two main reasons I wanted to create a book trailer for my debut novel, IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS: (1) It would be an extra way to promote the book throughout the Internet. (2) It seemed like it would be really fun to make (and it was!).

I seriously doubt the trailer itself helped me sell any copies of the book, but it did allow the novel to receive a little extra exposure. Gabrielle at Mod Podge Blog Tours organized a week-long trailer reveal and giveaway tour around Valentine’s Day, and Jill Tracy, the musician who granted me permission to use her song, promoted the trailer to all of her fans. Any extra assistance in the world of book promotions is never a bad thing.

Here’s the trailer link:


Amy Rose CapettaEntangledAmy Rose Capetta

HMH made my book trailer because it’s one more exciting way to share the story. So far, what it’s done has made me see my own book from the outside–the way someone who’s thinking about reading it might see it. HMH made it look like exactly the kind of fun, high-stakes, adventure that I love to read!

Here’s the link to the post on MTV’s Hollywood Crush:


KM WaltonCRACKEDK.M.Walton

I ran a nationwide contest for budding filmmakers to create a live action book trailer for CRACKED. A group of very talented high school students won first place!

While I don’t think book trailers generate sales (unless your book is already getting tons of media attention) I do think it’s a great way to generate excitement, and maybe even entice an unsuspecting reader or two.

Here’s the trailer link:


Katherine LongshoreTarnishKatherine Longshore

I made a book trailer for TARNISH (my second book) primarily because an independent publicist encouraged me to try it out.  I’m not sure if it did much for me in the way of publicity or sales, but it got me to look at my book in an entirely different light–more visual, and with the key themes in stark relief.

Here’s the trailer link:


Kimberley When the Butterflies CameKimberley Griffiths Little

I love movies and I always love seeing books come alive in a movie (even if the book is always better!). So with a book trailer, I adore the chance to find images and music that brings the mood and tone and plot of my books *alive*, especially for a setting that may not be familiar to my readers. This is especially true for my trailers which are filmed on location (by moi!) with local voice-overs. 

Trailers are a fun and intriguing way to introduce my book (or a new release) to friends, family, fans, and teachers, without the pressure of saying “Buy my new book!” I consider my book trailers like a gift for my readers.

Here are some trailer links:

Kami-KinardThe-Boy-ProjectKami Kinard 

I was pressed for time right before my first book came out, so I hired someone to make my trailer. My editor knew I was struggling with time, so she suggested Madison from M2Productions. Madison mixed line art from the book with other images to create something that really reflected the content of my book, and also created an appealing fast pace. 

The trailer is so cute that it helped build excitement when THE BOY PROJECT first came out. I got great feedback from it. It also proved to be a valuable tool for school visits and other talks. Playing the trailer is a great way to create interest in my book, and to introduce THE BOY PROJECT to people who haven’t read it yet!

Here’s the trailer link:


Audrey VernickShe Loved BaseballAudrey Vernick

I worked with Kirsten Cappy at Curious City to create the trailer for my nonfiction picture book She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story. I wanted a trailer so that fans of Negro League baseball could find my book and read about its inspirational subject, Effa Manley, the only woman EVER inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It wasn’t an easy decision–it’s impossible to put a price tag on any kind of promotion, to figure out what kind of return you will see on your investment, if any. Here’s the reason I decided to do it. Effa Manley was co-owner and business manager of the Newark Eagles in the 1940s. As a special promotion with the minor league team the Newark Bears, we co-hosted Effa Manley Night at their stadium. The first 50 children through the gates received a free copy of the book. A player read the book aloud before the game in the green room to the children in attendance. My daughter threw out the first pitch. And the highlight for me–before and after the game, the book trailer for She Loved Baseball played on the jumbo-tron at the stadium.

Here’s the trailer link:

And something pretty darned fun! A wobbly video of the trailer being shown on the Jumbotron….



Read Write Read Write Read Write Gate Crash!

And there you have it! So many interesting, motivating and educational reasons to make that book trailer you’ve been dreaming about. Picture books, middle-grade and YA readers, are all drawn to multimedia. So shake things up a little bit, give yourself a little extra exposure, promote your book, document your path. Whatever you choose, know there are always Gate Crashing writers out there to help you on your journey. No matter what, just be the writer you are meant to be and have a blast along the way!


17 responses so far

Getting Personal! Gate Crashers’ Author Interviews

Jul 22 2013 Published by under Gettin' Real

 Pamela K. Witte

If isn’t personal what the heck is it?

Author Interviews That Rock

Kit Grindstaff

The Flame in the Mist

Here’s to Kit’s Super, awesome, magical, mysterious, supernatural, exciting  castle adventure!

Click the pics for awesome Kit links!

Kit Grindstaff

Check out Kit’s website. It’s gorgeous, thrilling! Click away.

I love this cover, Kit. It’s beautiful and mysterious! Want one of your own? Go on, click!

Interview time!


Okay Kit, please tell the readers a little bit about yourself & your book. What is the blurb on your book cover?

Well, I’ve just submitted a new version for the paperback. It’s a little more succinct than the original, so how about I give you that:

There’s evil a-coming from up on the hill. If the Mist doesn’t get you, the Agromonds will. 

Fiery-headed Jemma, the youngest inhabitant of gloomy Agromond Castle, is not who she thinks she is. She has no clue about her supernatural powers, nor that a prophecy claims she is the one who will save her country from the evil Agromond rulers and the sinister Mist they create. But on the eve of her thirteenth birthday, Jemma discovers the dire fate the Agromonds have planned for her. The truth begins to unravel. Armed with a magical talisman and a mysterious book, she takes Destiny into her own hands and flees from the castle.

But the danger has only just begun. The Prophecy still broods. With her trusted friend Digby and her two telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, Jemma faces both human and supernatural enemies. And then, the evil takes a nastier turn… Helpers, both seen and unseen, come to Jemma’s aid. But in the end, her own emerging powers may be the only hope for a kingdom in peril.

 Just to get us started, how old are you?

Oh, you know. As old as my tongue and a bit older than my teeth.

Where are you from?

I was born in a village called Cobham, about 20 miles south west of London, where my mum still lives. It was pretty rural when I was a kid—mostly fields and farms and narrow country lanes—but these days is crammed with houses, and the road at the end of the lane is now a highway. Whenever I’m visiting and go for a walk in the nearby woods, I can hear the roar of traffic from every part of them. Progress.

How does being English affect your writing style?

Well, being English, I’m not aware that it does! But people often say how English the book’s narrative sounds, so I guess some Britishisms must sneak in.

What inspired you to write THE FLAME IN THE MIST?

Once I’d decided to take the plunge into writing kidlit, the 2 series that inspired me most were Harry Potter and His Dark Materials. Then, once I got going, all sorts of past influences fed into and shaped The Flame in the Mist.

The initial seed came from a workshop I took, where we were asked to imagine our childhood as a fairy tale. What came out was something like, Girl living in remote castle high on a hill…Um. Hello? Did I grow up in a castle? In England, yes. Castle, no. Is my family evil? Debatable. (Ha ha! Not really.). But we’re talking fairy tale, and our house being a couple of miles from our village, as I kid I was fairly isolated and didn’t see kids other than family on a daily basis till I went to school at 5. Hence the castle on a hill, miles from anywhere.

As the idea took root, teen imaginings that I’d been dropped into the wrong family morphed into Jemma actually being in the wrong family. The Mist popped into my mind as a metaphor for illusion—the veiling of Jemma’s true identity—as well as for the suppression of her country. The rest of the story grew from that premise.

Are you drawn to ghosts and creepy stuff?

Definitely! From an early age, I was fascinated by damp churchyards, dark towers, and old castles, and whenever I’ve been in ancient places I’ve loved imagining the generations of people who’ve been there. The thought of all those existences feels mysterious and magical to me. In my teens, I adored ghost stories (Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw, for example, and anything by Shirley Jackson). Not that I’d particularly like to run into a ghost, though I once did, in broad daylight. Actually, it was a very sweet experience. (The daylight probably helped.)

Do you have an affinity for old castles?

Kit’s Scary Etching of Corfe Castle! Go ahead click it.

Well, as young as 3 years old, I remember a favorite day trip being to the ruins of Corfe Castle, in southern England. I loved it—and I was only 3! There’s something deeply familiar about such places to me. So, an affinity? Maybe. Sometimes I imagine I’ve had past lives there, and am drawn back to resolve some unfinished business.

Do you ever creep yourself out when writing dark, magical scenes?

No, not at all. Hmmm….maybe that should worry me! Though some of the scenes in the book – back story regarding what happened to kids in the past – were quite upsetting to write.

What made you want to write in the first place?

I was always an avid reader and loved making up stories. From as far back as I can remember, writing was one of my fav subjects at school. At 9, I wrote my first “book” (aka school notebook handwritten in pencil), a mystery adventure whose title I can remember, but is so bad I’m not going to share. No, not even for chocolate, so stop waving it at me! I also loved drawing and painting, and when I was about 13, wrote a picture book about a bee—a lost tale (probably just as well) except for a few paintings.

When mid-teens hit, copious angsty poetry and songs took over. My love of music trumped everything else and led to a long career in the music biz, mainly as a song writer. In my 20s I wrote a rhyming picture book with my artist sister, which planted a more insistent seed of writing for kids. That seed kept tickling my brain, but it took a while a for me to put make room alongside of music to begin nurturing it more seriously.

Do you have a theme in THE FLAME IN THE MIST that you find particularly important?

There’s a book within the book that my MC, Jemma, finds. Called From Darkness to Light, it contains wisdom that helps guide her. Its title sums up a driving theme for me: that of healing and transformation. So many of us carry wounds from our pasts that in some way limit us, and need to be examined and unraveled. But it takes help and guidance, which Jemma finds on many levels, human and supernatural—and animal, of course! Her rats, Noodle and Pie, are indispensible. We’re never quite sure where they came from. Along with Jemma’s supernatural helpers, that points to another theme: that there’s more to life than what we can see, a level of existence beyond the physical realm.

If you could transport yourself into your book, what/who would you be? What would you do there?

Oh, wow! Well, I would definitely align with the Solvays, not the Agromonds. And I love the idea of being able to heal people, like Jemma eventually can, so that’s what I’d do if I were in that world. But I don’t think I could face the things I’ve made her face! So I might choose to be Talon. She’s plucky, like Jemma, and has a blunt irreverence that I like. And in the future she’s going to take up the healing arts, so that would work.

Why Middle Grade?

The story just fell out that way, and I actually had no idea it was middle grade. It was one of my teachers who pegged it as such. Then, the more middle grade and YA I read, the clearer the differences became.

How do you get into your characters heads?

My inner actor steps up! Being alone a lot as a kid, I provided myself with a range of internal playmates, and always enjoyed pretending to be other people. And at school, I loved acting. To me, writing characters is much like that: becoming them to play a part.

What is most special about your protagonist, Jemma?

She’s the Fire One, the bringer of Light, the one—the only one—who can end the darkness of the Agromonds’ long tyranny. But she also needs her human qualities—her courage and strong sense of justice—to reach her supernatural potential.

Jemma has two pet rats, Noodle and Pie. How did you come up with those names and why rats?

Ah, the Rattusses! Well, though they’re also unique and also somewhat supernatural (where do they come from, after all? I left that deliberately open ended), I also wanted Jemma’s helpers to be down to earth, normal creatures, ones you’d find in a castle. I thought kids would enjoy the “ew” factor of rats, a disgust that I initially felt before falling in love with them! Them having golden pelts was a late addition. Originally they were common-or-garden – or rather, castle – brown rats.

They also started life with different names: for ages, they were Scurry and Flurry. Then I decided that was too cutesy, the kind of names a 6 or 7 year old would choose, not an 11 year old, which was Jemma’s age when they first turned up. So for a while they became Scurry and Squirm, but I couldn’t relate to Squirm. How I came up with Noodle and Pie, I don’t remember. But I adjusted to the names really quickly, and now can’t imagine them being called anything but.

What keeps you writing?

Sometimes, inspiration. Sometimes, white knuckling. Usually, something in between; a cross between routine, commitment and enjoyment.

Your cover art is so intriguing, spooky-fun! How did you feel when you first saw it?

Click the pic to see the trailer!

It first arrived as black and white sketches, which I loved! There were 3, and my editor and I agreed that one with Jemma holding her magical Stone, which glows through her hand, shows her in the strongest light. Then when the color rendering arrived…wow. A combo of my favorite hues of blue, deep reds, gold…it was like Chris Rahn, the artist, was channeling me! Chills…

What is the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

Love what you write, and write what you love. You need that to sustain you through blocks and difficult times, which will definitely happen now and then.

What is the most important thing for a writer to remember?

Not to compare yourself, your work, or your journey, with that of other writers. We’re all unique, and the particular elements of your own path are what makes your story your story, and nobody else’s.

Do you belong to any cool writerly groups on or off line?

Online, yes. First, The Lucky 13s, who are all authors whose debut MG or YA release in 2013 (hence our name.) Then, I’m a member of the local Kidlit Authors Club, a group of published authors who do group events together—signings, etc. Another local group is the NJ Authors Network, which has many unpublished as well as published members (yes, some of us are from PA, but nip across the Delaware!). Those of us who are published also do group signings, panels, etc.

Offline, I don’t belong to a writing group at present. I rely on 2-3 trusted beta readers, and we exchange pages as and when we need feedback. With one, we exchange 30 pages a month.

Just for kicks… What are some of your favorite TV shows, movies?

TV shows: The musician in me still loves shows like American Idol and The Voice – it’s fabulous to watch talent emerging! Drama wise, there are PBS ones like America Masterpiece Theater, Masterpiece Mystery, Downton Abbey, and similar series on BBC America like Copper, Call the Midwife (now over, waaaa!), The Hour. Then there’s The Killing on AMC, and Burn Notice (also on its last season…Nooo!) …oh, I’m sure there’s others. I could go on.

Wanna tweet with Kit? Just click.

Movies: 2 all-time favs are Dead Man with Johnny Depp—Jim Jarmusch’s movies are generally great—and The Shawshank Redemption. I tend to go for dramas. I like a few Tarantino movies, esp. Pulp Fiction, and his most recent, Django Unchained. In the spook realm, The Others with Nicole Kidman was great, and an oldie, The Innocents (based on The Turn of the Screw). I don’t go for slasher stuff or horror, though.

Last movie you saw at the theater?

Ha ha! That’s easy. My husband and I hardly ever go, but when I was in England a couple of months ago I took my 8 year old niece and 5 year old nephew to see The Croods. Huge fun!

What is your favorite board game?

Scrabble. Or Monopoly. Or Cluedo (what you guys call “Clue”, I think.)

Do you listen to music while you write? If so what gets you motivated?

Never. Maybe coming from the muzo world, I prefer silence, or just the wind in the trees, or birdsong, the whirr of a fan…I can imagine writing to classical music, though. Bach, or Vivaldi.

Other than writing, what do you like to do for fun? Hobbies?

I love walking. Reading. Hanging out with friends. Swimming. Watching movies. I used to do a lot of yoga and tai chi, and am starting to pick up on both again. Hobbies….not so much. Crochet needles and I never really hit it off. J

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Kit’s got lots of wild-wonderful talent. Click here and check her out on Facebook!

If your protagonist could give one piece of advice to your readers what would it be?

Listen to your own advice!

How about your villain/villains? What advice would he/they give readers?

That would depend on which one. Nocturna and Shade Agromond would probably say, Steer clear of Jemma, and practice aligning with the dark side. Nox…I think he might say, Don’t marry a domineering woman! Though he might also say,

Any closing words of wisdom for other author-wannabees out there?

Keep at it! And to echo Nox Agromond, Beware of letting your emotions get the better of you…at least when it comes to pitching. During writing, though, let ’em loose, give your characters their heads and hearts and let them lead the way sometimes—but always remember who’s ultimately in charge, and keep your destination in mind

And there you have it! Personal and Real with Kit Grindstaff! Thanks for the super-cool, insightful interview, Kit. 

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Getting Personal! Gate Crashers’ Author Interviews

Jun 27 2013 Published by under Gettin' Real

If if isn’t personal what the heck is it?

Author Interviews That Rock

Pamela K. Witte



Here’s to Polly’s Super New Beneath the Sea Adventure!

Click the pics for awesome Polly links!

Here we go Polly! Tell the readers a little bit about  yourself.

I grew up in Colorado, where I spent my childhood skiing, camping, reading, and dreaming up fantastical stories. I went on to graduate from Middlebury College and become a middle school social studies teacher. I live in Plano, Texas with my husband and our two daughters, as well as two cats, two Chihuahuas, and a Beagle!

What’s your cool story premise?

THE NEPTUNE PROJECT is set in a future where the seas are rising and wars and famines wrack the surface world. Nere Hanson and her teen companions are shocked to learn that they have been genetically altered by their desperate parents to live in the sea. Protected by her loyal dolphins, shy Nere leads the rest on a perilous journey to her father’s new colony. Fighting off government divers, sharks and giant squid, can Nere and her companions learn to trust each other before their dangerous new world destroys them?

Nere has never understood why she feels so much more comfortable and confident in water than on land, but everything falls into place when she learns that she’s one of a group of kids who-unbeknownst to them-have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of “The Neptune Project” will be able to build a better future under the sea, safe from the barren country’s famine, wars, and harsh laws.

But there are some very big problems: no one asked Nere if she wanted to be a science experiment, the other Neptune kids aren’t exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim through hundreds of miles of dangerous waters, relying only on their wits, dolphins, and each other to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids…dead or alive. Fierce battles and daring escapes abound as Nere and her friends race to safety in this action-packed aquatic adventure.

What inspired you to write THE NEPTUNE PROJECT?

I think we’re making a mess of the planet, but I’ve never believed we’ll be able to leave here if we make Earth uninhabitable. It takes too much energy to lift even a small amount of weight out of our atmosphere, much less thousands or millions of people. But it has always made sense to me that we might end up in our oceans. They do, after all, cover 5/6’s of our planet!

But then you have to wonder, how would we really survive in the sea?  In many ways it is an inhospitable place where larger creatures constantly devour smaller ones. Would we harness technology to live in the sea, or would we change ourselves? THE NEPTUNE PROJECT explores the latter premise. My heroine Nere Hanson and her companions are genetically altered so that they can breathe seawater. Because the novel is set two hundred and fifty years in the future, I assume geneticists have also discovered a way to “switch on” the gene cluster that controls telepathy – which turns out to be a very handy advance. Through telepathy my characters can talk to each other and their dolphin companions under the waves.

Do you have a special affinity for the ocean?

Growing up in landlocked Colorado, I’ve always been fascinated by the sea. When I was a little girl, I would get SO excited anytime we went on a vacation to a place where I could see the ocean. I would sit on the beach and stare by the hour at the waves.

Do you have a special connection with dolphins?

I wish I did. I’ve been fortunate enough to swim with domesticated dolphins and snorkel with wild spinner dolphins in Hawaii. But I have to admit that in Hawaii I was a great deal more interested in the dolphins than they were in me! Whenever I’m around dolphins, I am impressed by their intelligence. They may not possess language as we know it, but I’m convinced they are self-aware and remarkably smart.

What made you want to write in the first place?

I’ve always LOVED books and reading. I was a huge daydreamer when I was kid and constantly made up all sorts of elaborate stories in my head.  I earned my teaching certificate right after college, but I couldn’t find a job that first year.  Instead, I signed up to work up as a substitute. There were plenty of days I didn’t get called to sub, and I couldn’t sit around doing nothing all day. That’s when I started writing a fantasy novel, and after pounding out just one chapter, I was totally hooked!

What was the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?

The wise and prolific Nora Roberts often says, “Keep your butt in the chair.” She also claims that when she sits down to write, she ONLY reads the last paragraph she wrote instead of going back and reading/revising the several pages before it. Her advice can be hard to follow sometimes, but those are the best practical tips on writing I’ve ever received.

How do you discipline yourself to keep at the writing?

Writing an adventure story like the sequel to THE NEPTUNE PROJECT is so much fun, some days just fly by. I get to spend hours imagining my characters swimming with dolphins and fighting dangerous shark mutates. But there are times my job does feel more like work. So I always try to protect the time during the day that I’m most productive. I’m definitely a morning writer, and I’ve learned to book appointments, presentations, and even the plumber in the afternoon. That way when I do sit down at the computer, I’m writing when the words are most apt to flow. That being said, I can make myself write in the afternoons and evenings, too, if I have to. Deadlines can be very effective motivators!

As a kid, what was your favorite book?

I loved the original The Swiss Family Robinson novel by Johann Wyss.  Most people are probably more familiar with the Disney movie, but the book that inspired it is a terrific read. It’s all about a Swiss family with four young sons being shipwrecked on a dangerous island.

If you could be a character from a book, who would you be?

Well, as long as we’re shipwrecked with the Robinsons, I used to daydream that I was Jenny Montrose, a young Englishwoman who somehow managed to survive by herself for years on that inhospitable coast. She built her own tree house and ate animals she caught in clever snares before one of the handsome Swiss brothers found and rescued her.

Do you have any closing words of wisdom for other writers?

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, because it’s TRUE! Write a story you’d want to read, even if there isn’t anything out there in the bookstores that’s like it. THE NEPTUNE PROJECT is exactly the kind of story I wanted to read when I was a girl, a tale about a resourceful and brave heroine who gets to save the day first, and then she gets the boy. If you write a story you’re passionate about, that passion will energize your voice and your characters and make your novel SO wonderful that editors and agents can’t pass it up!



And there you have it! Personal and Real with Polly Holyoke! Thanks for the wonderful, insightful interview, Polly. 


3 responses so far

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