Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Marble Queen winner!

I randomly chose from the names of all who commented on The Marble Queen interview with Stephanie J. Blake and the winner is:



Congratulations, Jill! We will be in touch with you to get your information to pass along to Stephanie who’ll send you the ARC of The Marble Queen.

The Great Library Giveaway Spotlight #3

We’re not even two weeks into our library giveaway, and the books are piling up! This makes us very happy! We are thankful for the generous authors, publishers, and our own Mixed-Up Files blog contributors who have sent in books. Keep ’em coming! You can see the complete list of donated books here. For information on how you can donate a book to add to our collection, please visit our Great Library Donations page.

And to nominate a worthy public, school, or private library to receive the books, please go here.

Each of our spotlight posts will highlight ten or so of the books we will be giving away. Check out these terrific titles!

After Eli by Rebecca Rupp
Description: Some people die heroically, others accidentally. When Daniel Anderson’s older brother dies, he wonders which category Eli’s death falls into. In an attempt to understand, Danny creates a Book of the Dead — an old binder that he fills with details about dead people, how they died, and, most important, for what purpose. Time passes, and eventually Daniel is prompted to look up from his notebook of death and questions to make new friends and be swept into their imaginings.

Fake Mustache by Tom Angleberger
Description: Regular kid Lenny Flem Jr. is the only one standing between his evil-genius best friend—Casper, a master of disguise and hypnosis—and world domination. It all begins when Casper spends money from his granny on a spectacularly convincing fake mustache, the Heidelberg Handlebar #7. With it he’s able rob banks, amass a vast fortune, and run for president. Is Lenny the only one who can see through his disguise? And will he be able to stop Casper from taking over the world?

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Description: One night a plane appeared out of nowhere, the only passengers aboard: thirty-six babies. As soon as they were taken off the plane, it vanished. Now, thirteen years later, two of those children are receiving sinister messages, and they begin to investigate their past. Their quest to discover where they really came from leads them to a conspiracy that reaches from the far past to the distant future—and will take them hurtling through time.

Description: Do not let a mop sit overnight in water. Fix things before they get too big for fixing. Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Description: Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer’s first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie, and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend? Like the dazzling When You Reach Me, Liar & Spy will keep readers guessing until the end.

My Mixed-Up, Berry Blue Summer by Jennifer Gennari

Description: June has a lot on her plate in this middle-grade novel debut: bullying, backlash to her lesbian mom’s gay marriage, and a baking competition are all served up for our brave heroine. Does June have what it takes to turn her mixed-up berry blue summer into something as sweet as wild berry pie?


Nowhere Girl by A.J. Paquette

Description: Luchi Ann only knows a few things about herself: she was born in a prison in Thailand. Her American mother was an inmate there. And now that her mother has died, Luchi must leave the only place she’s ever known and set out into the world. Neither at home as a Thai, because of her fair skin and blond hair, nor as a foreigner, because of her knowledge of Thai life and traditions, Luchi feels as though she belongs nowhere. But as she embarks on an amazing adventure-a journey spanning continents and customs, harrowing danger and exhilarating experiences-she will find the family, and the home, she’s always dreamed of.

Pie by Sarah Weeks

Description:  When Alice’s Aunt Polly passes away, she takes with her the secret to her world-famous pie-crust recipe.  Or does she?  In her will, Polly leaves the recipe to her extraordinarily surly cat Lardo . . . and then leaves Lardo in the care of Alice. Suddenly Alice is thrust into the center of a piestorm, with everyone in town trying to be the next pie-contest winner…including Alice’s mother and some of Alice’s friends. The whole community is going pie-crazy…and it’s up to Alice to discover the ingredients that really matter. Like family. And friendship.  And enjoying what you do.

Spunky Tells All by Ann Cameron

Description: Spunky the dog would be happy to share all of his secrets, if only his human family spoke his language. But no matter how hard he tries to talk, it’s all “yerf!” to them. Through a series of unfortunate miscommunications, his family decides that Spunky wants a friend–specifically, a cat. Spunky can’t imagine anything worse than having to share his family, especially Huey and Julian, with the snobby  Balinese Fiona. But when headstrong Fiona keeps getting into trouble and it’s up to Spunky to save her, he is astonished to find that being her protector has given his life new purpose and meaning.

The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

Description: The note Momma left on the fridge says only: “I HAVE TO GO.” But go where? Twelve-year-old Margie is convinced that Momma’s gone to the Rooster Romp at the International Poultry Hall of Fame, in search of additions to her precious flock of chicken memorabilia. And it’s up to Margie to bring her home. So she commandeers her daddy’s Faithful Ford, kidnaps her nine-year-old sister, Peep, and takes to the open road. As she navigates the back roads of Kentucky with smarty-pants Peep criticizing her every move, Margie also travels along the highways and byways of her heart, mapping a course to help understand Momma—and herself.

* All descriptions from Indiebound.



How to write (or be) funny

When I think funny, and in particular, funny middle grade novels, the first character I think of is

Charlie Joe Jackson.

Charlie Joe belongs to Tommy Greenwald, who is also pretty funny. When his first book, Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading was released, I interviewed him HERE. (For a while, after I posted that interview, people thought I was funny, too!)

Well… Charlie Joe is BACK with Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. And I am still laughing. But now I want to know more.

Because, like a lot of writers, I would really like to know how to write funny, So, instead of an interview, I thought I would ask Tommy to share some of his secrets.

Because he is very funny.

And generous.

Or maybe he wants a favor from me.

Because he did it!

Are you ready to learn? Because here he is:


Write my blog post, Tommy!!!!!

(no problem, Sarah!)

People always ask me how am I able to write such funny books.


Then they realize I’m not who they thought I was, and they give me a slightly embarrassed look and walk away.


I think that may be what happened with Sarah, the nice woman who asked me to write this blog. (note from Sarah: flattery may not be funny, but it gets you everywhere!!) But the difference is, she asked me over email, so she can’t tell that I’m not the person she thought I was. And if she’s walking away embarrassed, I can’t see her.


So I’m writing the blog anyway. Just try to stop me.

How do you write funny? Wow, that’s a really good question. It’s kind of like asking, How do you BE funny? There’s no real answer. There are just a few tidbits, hints, suggestions, guidelines, bits of nonsense and wild guesses that I can share. It might help you. But it probably won’t.


  1. Don’t overdo it. I learned this the hard way, when I was starting out with my writing, and trying to make every situation hilarious and ridiculous and side-splitting. That just ended up making my writing completely overwrought. Keep the humor subtle, sly and surprising. Let it sneak up on you while you’re writing, and it will sneak up on the reader too. (In a good way, not in an “intruder in your house” kind of way.)
  2. Don’t underdo it. Don’t be so subtle, sly and surprising that no one gets what you’re trying to do. There’s nothing wrong with a good, solid gastro-intestinal joke every forty-seven pages.
  3. Let the characters be funny. I’m not sure this one makes sense, but I’ll say it anyway. Your job isn’t to be funny. It’s to make sure the characters are funny. The sense of humor has to be theirs, not yours. Don’t show the world how funny you can be. Show the world how funny your characters can be.
  4. Let the comedy breathe. Meaning, when something funny just happened in your writing, let the reader enjoy it for a little while. Don’t be in a rush to be funny again immediately. Take your time, get into a nice rhythm, relish in the chuckle you’re getting, then go in for the kill again a page or two later.
  5. POV. Make sure your characters have a distinct personality and point-of-view right away, complete with quirks. If the reader knows that the main character is a sarcastic, somewhat obnoxious book-hater right off the bat, then the reader knows some hopefully-entertaining commentary and situations will result.
  6. First Person rocks. I’m a huge fan of writing in a character’s voice. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, but I’ve found it’s a lot easier to make a character funny when he’s able to offer snarky asides and then get completely humiliated directly to, and in front of, the reader.
  7. Do what comes naturally. Every writer has their wheelhouse. For me, it’s writing humor. The idea that I could write a complicated dystopian romance is comical in its own right. Not a snowball’s chance in Phoenix. But I can write funny, so I go with it. Write to your strength. It’s impossible to force the funny.
  8. Eat a ton of chocolate and play with your dogs a lot. That’s what I do, anyway. (note from Sarah: FINALLY! something I can do!!!)


So, there you have it. My non-rules for writing humor. Follow them at your own risk. Except for the gastro-intestinal joke thing. That’s a must.


Thank you, Tommy!

You’re welcome, Sarah!

READERS: if you want a good laugh,

and we KNOW you do…..

check out Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit. If you would like people to look at you funny, read Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit IN PUBLIC! It’s a fun book.

(Just don’t drink anything while you’re reading. If you know what I mean!)

And don’t forget….if you have a question for Tommy….or you want to try making him (or me) laugh, post a comment!!! 

Sarah Aronson is the author of books with mostly subtle humor. (Another way of saying: not really all that funny. But still good. Just not all that funny.)