Author Archives: Amie Borst

Always, Abigail Interview and Giveaway!

always abigail

A triumphant story of friendship from two girls who seem worlds apart.

When Abigail’s dreams of becoming a pom pom girl are dashed, she finds herself in the unlikely situation of having to choose between her two best friends and the school’s biggest outcast.

Abigail and her two best friends, Alli and Cami, (aka AlliCam) are poised for a long life of pom poms and popularity.  But for Abigail, her own insecurities and lack of confidence coupled with her bad luck at being assigned to a different homeroom than AlliCam make for a rough start to sixth grade.  Abigail uses her list writing to calm herself down and keep her anxiety at bay. Even worse, her language arts teacher assigns Abigail to be friendly letter partners with Gabby Marco—the biggest outcast at Crestdale Heights.  Being partners with Gabby is something that could ruin a person’s life.

When she doesn’t make the team, Abigail’s dreams are crushed in an instant, and, in the days that follow, she loses touch with AlliCam as they begin spending their time practicing and hanging out with the other girls on the squad. But through her letters and interactions with Gabby, Abigail discovers that she has more in common with the least popular girl in school than she thought. Bullied by other students at school, Abigail is the only one who knows how badly Gabby needs a friend, but will she find the courage to do what she knows is right? 

Amie: Welcome Nancy! It’s great to have you back at MUF! The last time you were here we talked about your first book, This Journal Belongs to Ratchet (which my daughter loved, btw).  How was writing/publishing your second book different than your first?

Nancy: Actually ALWAYS, ABIGAIL was written before THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET.  My agent Holly Root and I submitted it to several publishers.  We were getting lots of great feedback about the book (then called SIXTH GRADE LISTS AND LETTERS AND LOTS LOTS MORE), but we weren’t able to find its perfect home.  We then began sending out RATCHET and were able to sign it with Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky and soon after, Sourcebooks also acquired ABIGAIL.

Amie: I love stories like that! Somehow it gives me hope for all the unpublished manuscripts I’ve written. Both of your books are MG. Do you think you’ll venture out to YA or even PB? Or is your heart and solidarity to MG?

Nancy: My heart is very close to MG.  I love reading MG.  I love writing MG.  It’s definitely my comfort zone.  That said, in my early endeavors at writing children’s books, I wrote several picture books.  Though none have been published, I believe that writing experience taught me a lot.  Picture book writing has to be VERY tight – every word has to pack a punch because you have to tell your story in so few words.  Writing those books helped me practice making my writing precise and powerful.  I hope that at some point I’m able to go back and resurrect one or two of those manuscripts and someday have a picture book published as well.  As for YA, not to sound too much like a middle schooler with low self-esteem, but I’m not sure I’m cool enough to write for that audience.  YA is so edgy and gritty and honest in such a raw way.  For me that sounds like jumping into shark infested waters.  Not sure I could muster that kind of courage.  That said, I do have an idea in my works-in-progress file for a YA book, but we’ll have to see if I am ever brave enough to jump off that cliff.

Amie: *laughs* I totally get where you’re coming from! Tell us a little about your inspiration for Always, Abigail.

Nancy: The character of Abigail and her long-time desire to be a pom pom girl was where the book began for me.  And then, the idea for the format came.  I asked myself, “Could I tell an entire story through lists and letters?”  A lot of middle schoolers, especially girls, like to jot their thoughts down in different ways.  Telling Abigail’s story this way really gets readers inside her life (her thoughts and her experiences), and writing the book this way made it very creative and fun for me as the author.  I enjoyed the process of figuring out how to tell a story in such a unique format.

The story of Abigail is close to my heart because I was a lot like Abigail.  I almost always knew the right thing to do, but I often had a difficult time choosing to do it, especially when something big was at stake.  I think lots of young people struggle with this.  We talk to students all the time about bullying, and I think that’s good, but sometimes we forget that “knowing” what to do is not the same as having the courage to do it.  We also forget how much courage that takes and how much is at stake for young people faced with these kinds of situations.

Amie: One last question. NYC or Virginia horse country?

Nancy: Definitely NYC – I love the Broadway musicals and the fantastic Italian restaurants.  A dinner of crunchy Italian bread and pasta with sauce so good I want to lick the bowl followed by a musical to which I know all the lyrics by heart is just about as good as it gets.

Amie: Thanks for joining us again Nancy! Best of luck to you with Always, Abigail!


Nancy J. Cavanaugh is the award-winning author of This Journal Belongs to Ratchet, the Gold Medal Winner for the Florida State Book Awards. She has a B.S. in education and an MA in curriculum and instruction with multiple published works. She was a teacher for more than fifteen years and currently works as a Library Media Specialist at an elementary school near Tarpon Springs, FL.  Website  Twitter Facebook Goodreads Buy Links:Amazon | B&N | BAM | iBooks | IndieBound | !ndigo

Would you like to win a copy of this book? Leave a comment below and you’ll be automatically entered!

Amie Borst is the co-author of Cinderskella. Her second book, Little Dead Riding Hood, releases October 14th, 2014! Find her at her blog, facebook, and twitter.

Book Marketing 101

You’ve written a book and perhaps you’ve even signed a contract with a publisher. Think your journey stops here? Well, it doesn’t. And the sooner you accept that, the better off you will be. Sorry, but it’s the ugly truth.

As you probably already know, many publishers require their authors to do the lion’s share of marketing. Unless, of course, you’re one of the lucky ones that received a six figure advance, then you can sit back and relax…even write the next book.  But for the rest of us, well, there’s a lot of work ahead.

The Big 5 and even many small publishers will submit your book for review which is a great start. Favorable reviews will help land your book into libraries, schools, and even reading lists.  I’m willing to bet even the less than stellar reviews help books get noticed (as any parent of an ill-behaved child will tell you, negative attention is still attention!).  But what if you’re with a small press that didn’t submit your book? What if promised reviews never came to fruition?  What’s a children’s author to do when their book hasn’t been reviewed?

As a children’s author, readers aren’t reached in quite the same way as their adult counterparts. So it’s important (albeit a bit difficult) to connect with your readers in the way that they find their next book. I’m definitely no expert, but here’s some tips that should help all authors successfully market their work of genius.

     1. School Visits: This is a tricky step as most school libraries (or at least in Virginia) require the book to be reviewed by at least one major source. If you have the means, consider purchasing extra copies of your book. Donate a copy to your local elementary and/or middle school. Offer free or discounted visits (at least initially) so that you have a better opportunity to reach your readers.

     2. Skype Visits: I’ve connected with some pretty awesome readers through my classroom Skype visits. As a promotion, I’ve offered these free visits to teachers that use Cinderskella in their classroom. Children who wouldn’t have otherwise known about the book become excited about it. The best part is seeing their smiling faces and answering their thoughtful questions.

     3. Libraries/Summer Reading Lists: When Cinderskella was released, I immediately donated a copy to my local library. I had no idea what that small gesture would produce, as I did it solely for the readers, hoping one child would gain something from the message in my book. Shortly after I donated a copy I received a warm thank-you note from the Director as well as an invitation to present at their summer reading program. Am I stoked? You betcha!

     4. Book Signings: I love indie bookstores. They have a wonderful reputation of supporting authors. They will make every effort to reach readers who would be interested in your book. In exchange they like donuts. Cupcakes work well, too.

     5. Festivals/Group signings: Back in April, I was part of YA Fest in Easton, PA. There were over 50 authors present and I even participated in a world record. The friends and connections I made while I was there were invaluable to me. (Look close – my daughter and I are standing directly to the left of the librarian!)

      6.  TV, Radio, Newspaper, Magazines, and other media: While most authors would love a spot on Ellen, many will have to settle for the local venue to garner attention of would-be readers. Recently both of my books were featured in Middle Shelf Magazine. Skip ahead to page 47 to get all the deets!

     7. Book Clubs: Oprah and Al Roker are two names that come to mind when it comes to book clubs. Our very own Sheela Chari had her book, Vanished, featured on Al Roker’s Book Club for Kids.  But local book clubs through schools and even homeschool groups are a great way to be involved, too. Volunteer to speak at one of their events to be extra awesome!

     8. Websites and Blogs: It goes without saying that there should be a place on the interwebz for readers to find you. Some professionals argue you should have both a blog and a website, others say one or the other is fine. Whatever you chose, just keep it updated frequently.

     9. Contests and Giveaways: Goodreads, blogs, and other venues are a great way to promote your book through contests and giveaways. Readers love free books!

     10. Book Trailer: I’ve seen some awesome book trailers and others have been a major yawn fest. For me the key is to keep it short (30-60 seconds), highlight the major plot points, and keep the audience engaged. Yup. It’s the query letter in video form.

     11. Swag: Posters, bookmarks, buttons, necklaces…whatever floats your boat – or the boat of your reader! Freebies are fun and they create a way to connect with your audience. If you’re at a signing or school event, be sure to put your John Hancock on those babies. Signed swag isn’t just for those who’ve made a purchase!

     12. Social Media: Most middle-grade readers aren’t on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. So I’ve found that while this isn’t the best way to connect with my readers directly, it’s a viable indirect route to reach them through teachers, librarians, and other industry professionals. I’ve also connected with wonderful authors who have helped promote my books along the way through these various forms of networking.

These ideas, of course, are just a start of all the various ways to reach your audience. But sometimes that’s all you need – one chance, one little start – and you’ll be on your way!

What techniques have you implemented to reach the middle-grade reader?

Amie Borst writes the middle-grade series, Scarily Ever Laughter, with her middle-grade (and middle daughter) Bethanie. Their first book, Cinderskella, released in October 2013. Little Dead Riding Hood follows this October 14th, 2014! Find Amie on her website and both mom and daughter on Facebook!

Odin’s Promise

OdinsPromise-240oxwide.2Odin’s Promise is historical fiction for middle-grade readers depicting the first year of German occupation of Norway during World War II. Eleven-year-old Mari relies on her elkhound, Odin, and her family for comfort and protection. Mari draws on love, humor, and inner strength to confront danger, find her voice, and endure hardship and heartache.


Amie: Hi Sandy! Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files. Tell us why you enjoy writing middle grade fiction.  

Sandy:  Middle grade fiction hits a “sweet spot” for me as a reader and a writer. The stories and characters offer infinite opportunities for change, challenge, growth, and discovery. Anything is possible; each page turn holds the potential for surprise. I’m never able to name “favorites” from among the books I’ve read, yet many of the ones I reread and treasure most are middle grade books.

Amie:  What’s special about Odin’s Promise and why would kids love it?

Sandy:  Odin’s Promise allows the reader to experience the impact of war from an unusual perspective. Germany invaded Norway claiming to be “friends”, but the threats and dangers surrounding Mari, Odin, and her country were no less real. Young readers with pets will recognize Mari’s relationship with Odin. They’ll also recognize the confusion and frustration of adult secrets, conflicting expectations, and uncertainty about who can be trusted. Readers who enjoyed Mary Casanova’s KLIPFISH CODE and Margi Preus’s SHADOW ON THE MOUNTAIN will enjoy comparing all three titles. We each researched extensively and incorporated humorous details from wartime journals.

Amie:  We’re always looking for fantastic historical fiction here at MUF. Sounds like your book will really fit the bill!  Tell our readers a bit about Norway and why it’s an inspiration to you.

Sandy:  I’m not Norwegian, but I visited Norway twice with a friend who is. We stayed with her relatives each time in the small village of Ytre Arna, which is where the story takes place. The physical beauty of the country was breathtaking: spectacular mountain views; crystal clear water; structures, stories, and history that predated the Vikings. Even more memorable to me were the hospitality, generosity, and stories of the people I met there. These memories never left me, and some fictionalized versions eventually found their way into my book.

Amie:  Sounds lovely.  If forced to eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Sandy:  Hmmmm… what a tough question! Allow me a few moments to grieve the loss of dark chocolate and ice cream.

Amie: You still there?

Sandy:  Still grieving here… a moment , please.

Amie:  Just one moment…

Sandy:  Okay, I’m back.  It must be pizza. That’s hedging my choice, since pizza can be made into unlimited varieties, but still, pizza is pizza!

Amie:  Great choice!


 About Sandy Brehl:

I’ve been an elementary educator and a writer in Wisconsin for many years. I also have file drawers full of rejection letters. Then I joined SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), which helped my writing immeasurably and led to this publication. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, gardening, and volunteering. Website Blog Facebook Twitter1 Twitter2 Goodreads

How would you like to win a copy of Odin’s Promise?  Well, you know what to do!

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Amie Borst co-authors the Scarily Ever Laughter series with her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie. Cinderskella is their first book and the sequel, Little Dead Riding Hood, releases October 2014.