Tag Archives: Book Giveaway

Growing Up with Biographies ~ Biographies Have Grown Up

old bios 2

Remember these? I do. I was in 3rd or 4th grade when I discovered the section of the school library that housed all the books labeled with a capital B on the spine. Biographies. Martha Washington. Dolly Madison. Mark Twain. Clara Barton. These are a few I remember reading from the shelves of that wonderful basement library that doubled as the music room.

When my young son, a dyed-in-the-wool farmer even at age ten, seemed to lose interest in reading anything not part of a class assignment, I found a biography of John Deere. Suddenly, my little reader was back!

A few years ago, I submitted a picture book biography to a publisher who contacted me with the best kind of rejection. “This isn’t right for our list, but…”  The “but” was a great one. They were very interested in launching a new series of biographies for middle-grade readers, and since I had previously published books for middle-graders, would I be interested in writing the first book in the series? Now that’s a rejection I could handle!

This middle-grade series was a new venture for the publisher, and the editors and designers were more than willing to lend an ear to my suggestions about what a middle-grade bio should look like. Immediately, I went back to that row of “B” books in my elementary library. Yes, they had grabbed my attention, but not every elementary reader was as enamored as I was. I took a more critical look at the biographies of my youth. They were text-heavy and sparsely-illustrated, usually with some pen and ink line drawings smattered here and there.

And then, I thought about the most recent biography I’d purchased for my youngest daughter. It was Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart by Candace Fleming.

amelia lost

Filled with photographs, text boxes, diary entries, and varied fonts, this is how an engaging middle-grade biography should look, feel, and read. Luckily, others agree. Today’s biographies are a far cry from the those bios of old (beloved though they may have been!)

Below are some recently-released biographies for the middle-grade crowd.  Stick with me to the end. There’s a GIVEAWAY hiding there!

Bayardcover

Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist by Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long – Bayard Rustin was a civil rights leader who believed in nonviolent action as means of achieving social reform. The organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, Bayard Rustin’s story will inspire young readers to stand up in the face of injustice.

most dangerous

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin was recently named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2015.  Sheinkin’s confidence his middle-grade audience is evident as he tackles the political life of government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg during a tumultuous time in recent history.

MILLIE B COVER

Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist  by Julie K. Rubini 

Hot off the presses is this biography of Mildred Wirt Benson, the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. Rubini takes readers on a journey through Millie Benson’s life as a journalist and as the very uncelebrated author of  many books in history’s most celebrated juvenile series. Why did it take years to discover the identity of the writer we’ve always known as “Carolyn Keene?” Follow the clues to solve the mystery of Millie Benson.

Kammie Cover

Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek by Michelle Houts

Here is the initial installment in the new Biographies for Young Readers series I mentioned earlier. Dorothy Kamenshek was a teenager from Cincinnati, Ohio when a man named Philip Wrigley sent scouts to find women who could play baseball as well as the men on his Chicago Cubs (men who were rapidly leaving the ball field for the battlefield at the start of World War II.)  Made famous by the movie A League of Their Own, Kammie and her Rockford Peaches inspire girls to “throw like a girl” and be proud of it.

And now, since you stuck with me…

THE GIVEAWAY!

Author Julie Rubini has generously provided The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors a signed paperback copy of Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist. To enter, please comment below. Maybe you’d like to add the title and author of a noteworthy biography for middle-grade readers. Maybe you’d rather reminisce and tell us about your favorite biography.

Just leave a comment below by midnight Eastern Time on Tuesday, November 10, 2015. 

The lucky winner will be announced on Thursday, November 12, 2015!

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She’s still a fan of biographies and good old-fashioned letter-writing. She created The 52-Letter Challenge for those who are up to writing a letter a week for an entire year.   Find Michelle at www.michellehouts.com. On Twitter and Instagram @mhoutswrites and on Facebook as Michelle Houts.

Everything You Need to Know About Teacher’s Guides-Plus Book & Critique Giveaways!

Natalie LorenziI’m thrilled to welcome Natalie Dias Lorenzi back to the Mixed-Up Files. Natalie’s first novel for children, Flying the Dragon, was published in 2012 and has been honored on best-of-the-year lists from the International Reading Association, the Cooperative Children’s Books Center, the Bank Street College of Education, and the New York Public Library. Her next novel, Someplace Like Home, will be published in 2016. It’s a companion novel to Flying the Dragon and follows the journey of 10-year-old Ravi as he leaves Pakistan with his mother and sister to live in the United States, not knowing if his father will ever be able to join them. Ravi adapts to a new country and a new school and meets his friend Hiroshi, one of the protagonists from Flying the Dragon. While Hiroshi’s story had kite-making and kite-fighting woven through it, Ravi’s will be filled with the love of his favorite sport back home, cricket, and the one that replaces it in the U.S.: baseball. Natalie has taught elementary school and English for Speakers of Other Languages in Virginia, and in international schools in Italy and Japan. She is currently a librarian at an elementary school in Fairfax, Virginia.

You can visit Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s website, follow her on Twitter, find out more about both books here, and read her book review blog that shows ways to use books in the classroom.

 

Thanks again for joining us, Natalie. I’d love to know why you think it’s important to have teacher’s guides.

Having a teacher’s guide increases the chances of getting your book into classrooms and into the hands of kids and teachers. With state testing, teachers have loads of paperwork, documentation, data collection and reflection….all of which put a squeeze on their time. Teachers are busy people! But it’s not just teachers who will use your guide—homeschooling parents, book club facilitators, and public librarians use them, too.

As a teacher myself, I use discussion questions and activities that authors and publishers provide on their websites, and it makes my job a lot easier. Especially with novels and longer works of fiction, if I have to choose between two equally-appealing books, I go with the one that has a guide every time.

 

How detailed should they be?

As detailed as you’d like them to be. Some discussion guides come in the form of bookmarks with a few discussion questions, some are more like a pamphlet, and others can be 50 pages long. It really depends on how much time you have, which leads me to the answer to your next question…

 

How did you create the teacher’s guide for your middle grade novel, Flying the Dragon?

The mistake I made with the guide for my own book is that I waited too long to put something up on my website for teachers. I’d envisioned a detailed, activity-packed, standards-based resource that I simply didn’t have time to put together. What I should have done was to start small—a bookmark, or pamphlet-style guide at first, and then added a more detailed guide later on. As it was, it took me over a year to post a completed guide for Flying the Dragon on my site! In the meantime, I gathered links that I thought would be helpful for teachers and created this Pinterest page. It’s a quick and easy way to provide resources for your book–background knowledge, other activities, etc.–while you’re working on your own guide.

 

Wow, I took a peek at your Pinterest page, and I love the videos and the 20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes article. You put together such interesting sites and guides. Can you share some tips for creating amazing teacher’s guides?

1. Know the curriculum standards for your audience. Keep in mind that while Common Core has swept the country (except for these states), current testing is based on state standards, not Common Core. No matter which standards you use, find the commonalities and stick with those. For example, every grade studies plot and characterization on some level, so find out how deep this standard goes with your target age group, and go from there.

2. While you want to keep standards in mind while writing activities, don’t feel like you have to list every single Common Core standard addressed for each activity. I’ve seen guides with pages and pages of standards. While I appreciate the time and effort that went into compiling such lists, I can tell you that, as a teacher, I don’t even look at those. Teachers know the standards they’re required to teach. When I preview an activity, I automatically know which standards it addresses, and I decide from there if I’m going to use the activity or not.

3. Create a user-friendly layout. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just easy to follow. Have a table of contents for longer guides.

4. Do some research—find guides that you like online and bookmark them. Note the different formats, content, and delivery and then decide what you’re most comfortable with.

 

What are the biggest pitfalls to avoid when creating a teacher’s guide?

I know I’ve mentioned lay-out already, but I’ll say again here. If your guide is just a long list of questions, it’s fine to have it written in list format. But if you’ve got chapter-by-chapter guides, or if you have distinct sections like pre-reading questions/predictions, a vocabulary section, etc. then make it easy for a teacher to quickly scan your guide to find what she needs. Have clear labels for each section, leave white space and have a table of contents for longer guides.

 

Can writers create good teacher guides on their own if they don’t have a teaching background?

Yes, they can. I’d have an educator or two look it over and provide feedback if you can. When creating questions, familiarize yourself with Bloom’s Taxonomy, and let Howard Garner’s Theory of Intelligences guide your activities.

 

Thank you for sharing those links! Do you have any tips for using teacher’s guides?

Every teacher knows what his or her students need. The best way to utilize a guide is to dip in and try out questions or activities that fit the academic, social, and behavioral needs of your students.

 

That’s great advice. How well do teacher’s guides work for book clubs?

I think guides may work even better for book club facilitators than they do for teachers. Oftentimes, book club leaders aren’t teachers—they’re parent volunteers, or even students themselves at the high school level. Having access to questions and activities makes it easier for them to get a discussion started with readers.

 

Do you keep a future teacher’s guide or Common Core in mind when writing or revising a middle grade novel?

Never. I write with readers in mind, not standards. If your book has a science or social studies tie-in, then it may seem like it will fit best with curriculum, but language arts standards apply to any book. Don’t worry about standards as you write; write the best book you can, and teachers will figure out how to use it!

 

What’s the best way to let people know you have a teacher’s guide for your book?

Provide a link to the guide on your website and make that link easy to find. Let your publisher know about your guide and ask that they post it, as well. Send the link to anyone requesting information about author visits. If you have bookmarks or postcards printed, include the fact that there’s a link to a teacher’s guide on your website and make these available at all your author appearances, school visits, and teacher/librarian conferences.

 

Where can teachers find guides to their favorite books? If there isn’t a guide available, is there some way they can request one? 

The first place I’d check is the author’s website, followed by the publisher’s site. If you don’t have any luck there, places like Teachers Pay Teachers often have activities up either for free or for a reasonable price. If you can’t find a guide for a book, by all means email the author and/or publisher! They may have something in the works. If not, hearing from you is good incentive to get started on a guide for educators.

Tracie Vaughn Zimmer is another author/educator/guide creator, and some of her guides can be found here.

 

Thank you for visiting the Mixed-Up Files again, Natalie. You shared a wealth of knowledge about teacher’s guides, and I’m sure it will be a huge help to writers, teachers, librarians, and many others.

* If anyone has questions for Natalie, ask in a blog comment and she’ll stop by to answer them!

If you’re searching for teacher’s guides for great middle-grade novels, here’s a list of links to check out:

Flying the Dragon by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

The Map of Me by Tami Lewis Brown

Ellie McDoodle: New Kid in School written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Ellie McDoodle: Friends Fur-Ever written and illustrated by Ruth McNally Barshaw

Fiona Finkelstein, Big-Time Ballerina! by Shawn Stout

Penelope Crumb by Shawn Stout

Fudge series by Judy Blume

Mallory series by Laurie Friedman

Chet Gecko series by Bruce Hale

The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

The Ballad of Jessie Pearl by Shannon Hitchcock

This Journal Belongs to Ratchet by Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Beyond Lucky by Sarah Aronson

Trouble in the Trees by Yolanda Ridge

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

My Very UnFairy Tale Life by Anna Staniszewski

The End of the Line by Angela Cerrito

The Multiplying Menace by Amanda Marrone

The Trouble with Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

Olivia Bean, Trivia Queen by Donna Gephart

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Jan L. Coates

The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas (you can find magical translations using the runic translation chart here.)

When Audrey Met Alice by Rebecca Behrens (Woman’s History Month Lesson Plan)

Soar, Elinor! by Tami Lewis Brown (Woman’s History Month Activity Kit included in the link)

 

In addition to the lists of great teacher’s guides for picture books through young adult novels listed on Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s site, you can also find more at these websites:

* Debbie Gonzales has links to guides for middle grade novels and chapter books. To find guides for other genres, click on Sample Educational Guides toward the top of her website.

* Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

*As Natalie said before, don’t forget to check out the websites of your favorite authors and publishers. You should be able to find great teacher’s guides and activities there…and if you don’t it can’t hurt to request them!

 

Thanks again for all your amazing responses, Natalie—and for offering TWO generous giveaways!

* Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below, and you’ll have a chance to win a signed paperback copy of Natalie’s novel, Flying the Dragon.

Flying the DragonAmerican-born Skye is a good student and a star soccer player who never really gives any thought to the fact that her father is Japanese. Her cousin, Hiroshi, lives in Japan, and never really gives a thought to his uncle’s family living in the United States. Skye and Hiroshi’s lives are thrown together when Hiroshi’s family, with his grandfather (who is also his best friend), suddenly moves to the U.S. Now Skye doesn’t know who she is anymore: at school she’s suddenly too Japanese, but at home she’s not Japanese enough. Hiroshi has a hard time adjusting to life in a new culture, and resents Skye’s intrusions on his time with Grandfather. Through all of this is woven Hiroshi’s expertise and Skye’s growing interest in kite making and competitive rokkaku kite flying.

 

* Natalie is also giving away a 10 page critique! It can be up to the first ten pages of an MG/YA or one picture book. Let us know in a comment if you’d like to be entered for the critique giveaway.

The lucky winners will be announced on Thursday, April 24. Good luck!

*You must live in the United States or Canada to enter the Flying the Dragon paperback giveaway, but anyone can enter for a chance to win the critique.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Mindy Alyse Weiss writes humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books. She’s constantly inspired by her two daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix who was rescued from the Everglades. Visit Mindy’s TwitterFacebook, or blog to read more about her writing life, conference experiences, and writing tips.

The Butler Gets a Break (A Bellweather Tale): Giveaway and Interview!

Have you ever heard about the three most important aspects of a middle grade novel? Voice, voice, and, oh, yea, voice.

Luckily, Kristin Clark Venuti, author of Leaving the Bellweathers and The Butler Gets a Break, has it in spades. Or, maybe I should say that the real author of these novels has a wonderful MG voice. Because in writing her novels, Kristin partially channels the voice of a butler named Benway, who is 50% Jeeves and 50% Mother Theresa, sworn by an unfortunate “Oath of Fealty” to the Bellweathers, residents of the Lighthouse on the Hill in the village of Eel-Smack-By-The-Bay. The Bellweathers are “most chaotic family ever to live”: there’s the eyebrow waggling inventor Dr. Bellweather, the wall-painter Mrs. Bellweather, a son named Spider who saves Vicious Endangered Animals (including albino alligators & attack squirrels), a daughter named Ninda who advocates for the Oppressed (whether they like it or not), and a set of triplets named Brick, Spike and Sassy who think removing a few stairs from the staircase (thus causing the butler to break his leg) is an example of ‘negative space’ in art.

I was hoping to interview the intrepid Benway, but was happy that my first post as a new blogger on From the Mixed Up Files is a chat with Kristin Clark Venuti about writing, publicity, laundry, and the Power of Capitalization.

Check out the interview and leave your thoughts below – one lucky commenter will win … a butler! No, but you will win a copy of The Butler Gets a Break. How’s that for a New Year’s present?  (Winner announced Dec. 23rd!)

When I was reading your wonderful novels, Kristin, I felt like you knew my deepest, darkest secret. Because the truth of the matter is, I have always wanted to have a butler (who hasn’t?): someone to do my laundry and dishes, feed me tea and crumpets with Devonshire cream, put my, er, ever-so-delightful children back to bed …  four hundred and eighty three times in the span of 30 minutes… Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Now Benway seems to have it hard. Those Bellweathers are not only Loud and Quirky but all too often Up To No Good.  Do you anticipate him successfully leaving the Bellweathers at any point? Or, er, leaving their bodies in some unmarked literary location?

Great question!  I too, have always longed for a butler – just as I too, have longed for someone, anyone, to put my children back to bed four hundred and eighty three times in the span of 30 minutes.  Benway’s only hope is for the children in his charge to grow up.  Even then, I imagine he’ll be stuck with the childish Dr. Bellweather… but I like the thought of that.  I sort of picture them growing old together, heckling one another, but appreciating their differences.  Sort of like the Odd Couple, only Felix is British and Oscar is no longer taking his meds.

Now, I adore Benway and, of course, have ALWAYS WANTED A BUTLER (did I mention that already?), but did anyone ever challenge the choice of having a grown up be such a central character – the protagonist, really – in a children’s book?  How did you make that choice?

I was actually pretty concerned about how having an adult protagonist in a children’s book would go over, since it is a notion that was challenged on more than one occasion.  But Benway has a personality that kids can relate to.  He definitely has it together better than the Bellweathers do.  He fulfills the need for a straight man in order to show that the family’s actions are out of the norm, even by the standards of Eel-Smack by the Bay. Still, there’s enough privately held petulance coming through in his journal to keep him from being a saint. That makes him more interesting.  At least that’s what I hope.

BTW – when I myself started to question whether or not Benway as a main protagonist would work for kidlit, my husband pointed me in the direction of Mary Poppins.  I don’t know that anyone ever dreamed of chiding P.L. Travers for her choice there. I’m no P.L. Travers, but it was nice to be reminded that there are successful exceptions to every rule.

Tell me about your writing process. Because your books are a combination of Benway’s diary entries and third person POV prose. Do you and Benway have a collaboration in the strictest sense or are you a sort of translator and interpreter? (and I’m assuming you are sharing the royalties with him, or else I think Ninda Bellweather is really going to have a labor case against you!)

He definitely gets a share of the royalties!  As long as he promises not to write a tell-all book about ME.

Actually, I wrote Spider’s albino alligator story first. I originally envisioned three short stories that had characters in common. But they kind of grew together and morphed into the Bellweathers.  Benway was present in all, but not integral to any. (He’d be astonished to hear me say that though.  He considers himself the most important part of any story).

Later on, it became evident that Benway needed to not only relate the kid’s stories, he needed one of his own.

Was Leaving the Bellweathers was your first children’s book? Can you tell us about the process of getting it published?

Leaving the Bellweathers is my first book for children.  I have to thank my lucky stars that it was in the right place at the right time on all accounts.  I had never written for children and wasn’t sure I was on the right track. (I could go off on a tangent here about language choices and vocabulary for kids… but instead I’ll let that slide so I can sit back and enjoy the all-too-rare feeling of self control)

Someone told me about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and mentioned a conference that was sure to have workshops addressing craft.  I sent the first 15 pages of what was then a forty-page manuscript to the national summer conference in LA.  The fabulous Kim Turrisi passed my ms along to a lovely woman who was a junior editor at Harper Collins.  Jaira loved it, invited me to send it to her once I was finished with it.  Of course, by the time I did so, she was no longer working at Harper Collins.  Back to the conference I went, learning all the way. (The workshops on craft are super-helpful).

Through the SCBWI summer conference I met Tracey Adams of Adams Literary, who really liked it and had a good idea of who in the industry might share our slightly dark, slightly twisted senses of humor.  Fortunately for us Regina Griffin at Egmont US, too, has a peculiar sense of humor. Egmont US bought LTB and it came out the next year, which is lightning fast in terms of a publishing timeline.  The sequel, The Butler gets a Break came out a year later (October 22nd, 2010) again, lightning fast in terms of the publishing world.

I once heard you give a fantastic talk called “I’m published… now what?” (undoubtedly you had a more clever title, but along those lines). What are a couple pieces of advice for writers to create their own publicity buzz? What’s worked for you? (Tell us about the stuffed animals!)

Ahh, yes.  The old author as public relations person.  I’m very fortunate in that my book was on the launch list of Egmont’s US venture (they’ve been around forever in Europe, but just decided to get into the US market recently) so my book got maybe more publicity than it otherwise would have… still there’s a lot for me to do.

Middle grade fiction writers are lucky in that if they’re halfway decent at presenting, they have a captive audience in elementary school kids.  What kid wouldn’t rather go to an assembly than sit in class? So getting school visits is a great way to publicize a book.  Another way to increase buzz is through blogging, but this is a strictly do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do-you-ninny sort of a thing.  I am very bad at it.

One marketing thing I stumbled upon though, turned out to be a lot of fun.  I found a website that had these cute little albino alligators for sale.  (In my book, the oldest child brings an Endangered Albino Alligator home to live in the Lighthouse.) In my other life, I’m a scenic artist, so I ordered some alligators and then painted these little crates for them to live in.  I sent them to my agent’s kids for fun.  She thanked me on Facebook, at which point my Very Funny publisher, Elizabeth Law, saw them and let me (and our hundred or so mutual Facebook friends) know she really thought SHE should have one too.  So I made a special one for her (it had a lot of needs, as I recall, such as injections four times a day among other things).  The head of marketing at Egmont US saw the alligator and liked it so much that she ordered hundreds of them to be used in promotion.  She even had them custom made with red eyes. This was a very nice thing.  I carry them with me when I do school visits, and leave each school library with one as a mascot.  The alligators come with a letter from Sir Tennyson Prufrock that details how they are to be cared for.  It’s a lot of fun – and again, a very nice, above and beyond kind of a thing for my publisher to have done for me!

I have read on your website , that you are in fact a Very Untidy Individual. If you had a butler…say, Benway… working for you, what would you have him do? I know your family is the inspiration for many of the Bellweather children, would they be as awful to Benway as Spike, Ninda, and the triplets?

I am indeed a Very Untidy Individual – and may I just say, that the world (and in-laws in particular) became far more forgiving about this personality trait once I became a Published Author.  Here’s how folks see the math: Untidy Individual = Lazy Housekeeper

BUT Untidy Individual + Published Novel = Creative Genius.  It may not be true, but it works for me!

If Benway lived with me, I think I’d just have him fold and put away laundry.  Really.  I often have visitors to my house sign my laundry room walls – but it’s usually a pigsty.  If a first time visitor is invited to sign, I try to make sure a copy of my book is Prominently Displayed, so I can wave toward it airily – as if to say Published Author here, Don’t Judge.  It doesn’t usually work, but it makes me feel better.

As for my kids mistreating Benway – it’s true that the Bellweather kids are based in large part on my own tribe, however my kids really are Very Conscientious Individuals, who have been raised to take the feelings of others into account…so, no.  I don’t think Venuti Villekula would be as hard a place for Benway to work as the Lighthouse on the Hill.

The Habit of Capitalizing Important Things in your text – tell me about it. Is it an Homage to The Bear of Very Little Brain? (Ie. Pooh?)

You know, it’s funny.  Capitalization is one of Benway’s quirks.  He uses it to draw attention to phrases he thinks are important – but I never considered where this quirk might come from.  Now that you mention it though, I am a huge A.A. Milne fan, and it very definitely seems like one of those things that creeps into one’s subconscious and works its way out in writing.  Good call, Sayantani!

I also read that one of your inspirations for the Bellweathers books was Roald Dahl. What other authors – from your own childhood or now – do you turn to for inspiration? (and do they have butlers?)

Roald Dahl is by far the biggest influencer in terms of tone, but the Cheaper by the Dozen books by Frank and Ernestine Gilbreth had a big influence, as did Little Men by Lousia May Alcott, Astrid Lindgren’s Pippi Longstocking (my house is named for Pippi’s), Helen Creswell’s books about the Bagthorp family, and of course, the Moffat books by Eleanor Estes.

Albino Alligators, Attack Squirrels – what next? For the Bellweathers, Benway, or for you, Kristin?

I worked nonstop on the Bellweathers over the last two years, so that the sequel could come out so soon on the heels of the first one.  I love him, but Benway is taking a bit of a break. I look forward to revisiting him and the Bellweathers in the future. There are at least two more stories to tell regarding that family’s misadventures.

Presently I’m at work on something completely different, though. I’m Very Excited about this new project and it’s going Extremely Well, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now.

Are your stories good medicine? [And I don’t mean in the sense of  “I had to go to the hospital at Eel-Smack-By-The-Bay because I broke my leg on some negative space, er, art.”]  How so?

I am a firm believer in laughter being the best medicine. I used to write tortured short fiction for adults.  It was all very depressing, but that’s just what I was interested in at the time.  Then, a week after his 18th birthday, my Godson was killed by a drunk driver.  We were all devastated.  It occurred to me during that time, that there was enough sorrow on the planet – and that there were enough people writing about important issues – and writing about them better than I could at the time.

I stopped writing for a while – but eventually I started again. I wanted to put some light back into the world.

I began writing about the Bellweathers, and I’d read what I’d written aloud to my Godson’s mother.  In spite of the tragedy of her life, she would laugh.  It really was very healing, the discovery that there were still funny things in the world. That there were reasons to smile let alone to laugh. So yes, I’d say Leaving the Bellweathers is good medicine.

Thank you Kristin, for your time, generosity and humor! And most of all, your fabulous middle grade VOICE!

Leave a comment below to enter to win a copy of Kristin’s book! Twitter or post to your FB (and tell me about it) and increase your chances of winning! Check back on December 23rd to see if you’ve won!

Sayantani DasGupta is a big fan of butler-based literature. If she could ever steal Benway away from the Bellweathers, she would have him fold all her Very Untidy laundry, and wrangle her Sometimes Naughty but Very Adorable children. She, like Kristin, is a Big Believer in Capitalization.