• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Giveaways > No Such Thing As a Lost Cause: Interview (and book giveaway!) with Stephanie Guerra
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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...


    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...


    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories,


    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...


    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...


    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…


    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...


    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...


    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...


    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...


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No Such Thing As a Lost Cause: Interview (and book giveaway!) with Stephanie Guerra

Giveaways, Interviews, Writing MG Books

BillyBeing a kid is like having two permanent police officers watching you all the time – even when you’re going to the bathroom.  At least that’s how it feels to Billy March.  He’s been grounded for 63% of the past month.  Every time Billy almost gets his parents’ trust back, his mind wanders off, and he causes another disaster!  Now Mom and Dad are threatening to send Billy to a psychologist.  They may even make him take brain drugs!  But deep down, Billy worries that Dad wishes he had a different son.  Maybe he doesn’t belong in this family at all.  But maybe, just maybe, talking to a “shrink” won’t be as terrible as Billy thinks.

stephanieguerraIn Billy March, Stephanie Guerra hands us one energetic, impulsive, frustrating, and endearing 10-year-old who is doing the best he can even though it sure doesn’t seem like it.  Guerra’s text tells Billy’s funny and poignant story, enriched by  illustrator James Davies’ whimsical graphics that plunge us straight into Billy’s wild imagination.  Billy the Kid is Not Crazy is coming to book shelves in October.

Where does Billy come from?

Billy’s a product of my life-long love of characters with wild imaginations and frequent misbehavior. Anne of Green Gables, Pippi Longstocking, Toad from Wind in the Willows, and more recently Joey Pigza are among my favorites. I love how porous reality and fantasy can be in childhood, and I think some children have a special gift for slipping past that boundary and creating endless diversion for themselves. Billy came about because I wanted to write a child who was so enmeshed in his fantasies that the world became a stage for his imagination—resulting in lots of trouble, of course.

What influences from your life found their way into Billy’s story?

Billy gets in trouble so frequently that his parents take him to see a child psychiatrist. I kept those scenes brief—I didn’t want them to take over the story—but they’re important. My mother is a child psychologist, and I grew up with lots of dinner-table talk about the therapy process. My mother sometimes shared the struggles that young clients were going through (without revealing their names, of course). She had tremendous sympathy and love for the kids she worked with, and she didn’t believe in such a thing as a lost cause. She is a strong supporter of therapy without drugs when possible, and that certainly worked its way into Billy’s story.

One of the most important things I learned from my mother is that therapy is not for “bad” kids. Lots of children have to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist at some point, whether for testing, help with a temporary problem, or support with something long-term. And there are times in all of our lives when we could use someone to talk to.

James Davies’ illustrations add both humor and poignancy as they take us deep into Billy’s psyche. Tell us about your process for blending the text and graphics.

I’m delighted with how Davies’ illustrations turned out. He’s a very talented artist, and he intuited and added to the whimsical spirit of my characters with style and humor. Our process was simple: I described the basic content of each cartoon strip, including action and dialogue. Davies then translated the scene into cartoon strip form.  I love the funny details in his settings and the way he brought Billy and Keenan alive with dynamic body language.

Our readers will be interested in your teaching with young women incarcerated at the King County Juvenile Detention Center.  Please describe what you’ve learned about your own writing through that work.

Working with the teens at the correctional facility has impacted my own writing tremendously. I pick up rhythms of language, characters, and culture in a way that I’d never do otherwise. The girls have brought home to me the power of writing to heal, vent, and connect. They’ve showed me what writing in a community looks and feels like. I’m moved by how they support each other and listen respectfully and lovingly to sometimes very painful memoir pieces. Writing as community has been an important lesson for me; I’ve always written in a vacuum.

Can you give us a hint about what’s on your middle grade horizon?

I’m revising the final draft of a middle-grade/YA crossover about a fourteen-year-old Italian American boy navigating life in Mob-infested Brooklyn of the eighties. The working title is BROOKLYN SOLDIERS. I think older middle-grade readers will love that one. I also have two young adult novels coming out in 2015 (OUT OF ACES and sequel) which are keeping me busy.

After that . . . I have a weakness for Pilkey-style potty humor. I’m not sure I could pull it off, but I may try just for fun. During my MFA, I wrote a middle-grade novella about farts coming to life on Halloween. I never showed it to anyone, least of all my professors, who were literary novelists for adults. But the story has lingered in the back of my mind all these years.

What’s something about you that we wouldn’t guess if we met you in person?

My sister and I are planning to film a series of videos for YouTube in which we reenact some famous Groucho and Harpo Marx scenes (and invent some new ones). I’m Harpo. I really want to do this, although it may seriously embarrass my husband.

Stay tuned for more great stories from Stephanie Guerra (and keep your eye on YouTube!).  In addition to writing for middle grade and YA readers, Guerra teaches courses in writing and children’s literature at Seattle University, which is where our paths first crossed.  Read more about her writing instruction with teens in detention – it’s an amazing story!  And visit Stephanie at her website stephanieguerra.com.

A chance to win an autographed copy of
Billy the Kid is Not Crazy!
Simply post a comment describing what intrigues you about this book or
(if you’re a teacher), how you think it would grab your students.
Winner to be announced on Saturday, September 28!


Katherine Schlick Noe teaches beginning and experienced teachers at Seattle University. Her debut novel, Something to Hold (Clarion, 2011) won the 2012 Washington State Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for middle grade/young adult and was named a 2012 Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People.  Visit her at http://katherineschlicknoe.com.




  1. Linda Andersen  •  Sep 25, 2013 @5:17 am

    Great interview Katherine. Thanks!

    Stephanie, I liked that you didn’t base your character of Billy on one of your mom’s cases. That would have been the easy way out. Making him a combination of favorites makes him unique. I would guess this wacky combination helped create more humor too.

  2. Cheryl Wolf  •  Sep 25, 2013 @6:05 am

    As a school librarian, I’m grateful to see a character that several of my students, especially boys, can identify with. I’m also eager to read this book, thinking I might develop more empathy with those kids who keep calling out in discussions, but can’t seem to control it. Thanks!

  3. Heather  •  Sep 25, 2013 @6:45 am

    I love the idea of a book that explores the fantasy world vs. real world balance of someone like Anne of Green Gables, but from a modern boy’s perspective! This is a must-read for my kids.

  4. Sandy Brehl  •  Sep 25, 2013 @8:10 am

    I can’t wait to read this. Joey Pigza is as real to me as the many kids (not always boys) I taught over the years, in special services and in classrooms. I couldn’t agree more that no one is a lost cause, and that’s true even into adulthood. Fingers crossed.

  5. Randi  •  Sep 25, 2013 @8:16 am

    I love the idea of a book that has a kid going to a psychiatrist.

  6. D.Lee Sebree  •  Sep 25, 2013 @8:04 pm

    As a former family therapist, now a teacher, I look forward to reading this!

  7. Pragmaticmom  •  Sep 26, 2013 @8:27 am

    It sounds like Billy may have ADD or ADHD and I’m intrigued to learn more. It’s a great topic for all kids to read and learn about, whether or not they have special needs.

  8. Greg Pattridge  •  Sep 26, 2013 @11:04 am

    Non-readers are going to gravitate towards the comic strip drawings. As one told me the other day “I only read books if there are pictures and even then I look at them first before reading anything else.” This would make a great title for a small reading group mixed with reluctant readers and those that devour every title in sight. Good luck with Billy the Kid. He sound like a few kids I know.

  9. Jill the OWL  •  Sep 26, 2013 @5:34 pm

    I think that this is a book that kids with ADHD or similar challenges could relate to even if they don’t want to admit they can relate to it.

    Thanks for sharing it!

  10. Megan  •  Sep 26, 2013 @10:54 pm

    I have a daughter that we have been thinking about getting help from a child psychologist, and I am amazed with her thoughts about the whole process. It is easy for kids to think that they are bad or messed up when they need a little extra help once in a while. I haven’t found a good fiction book out there that addresses this concern in an upbeat and funny way. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on all of your book success!

  11. Claire Broadway  •  Sep 27, 2013 @11:00 am

    I work in the library at a school for dyslexic children, and I have a feeling this book would connect with a lot of our kids. Due to their learning difference, many tend to act out or become the class clown in reaction to feeling frustrated in academic areas and they often come to us feeling like a “lost cause”. Our kids tend to be very imaginative and creative and I think they would be able to empathize with Billy in many ways!