Tag Archives: Giveaway

Interview with Debut Author Kristi Wientge – KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE

I recently got the chance to read a  new debut, KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE , by the talented Kristi Wientge. It’s a wonderfully funny, thoughtful look into a subject you rarely see —  female facial hair.

When 12-year-old Karma discovers seventeen hairs growing above her lip, she is mortified and determined to get rid of them. Karma’s path to hair  removal includes navigating shifting relationships with her parents, her  best friend, and her comfort level with being the only kid in school who brings sardine masala and chapatis for lunch.

This interview with Kristi was especially fun to do because my son and I read KARMA together, and he contributed a few questions:

How did you come up with the character of Karma? Is she modeled after someone you know? (From my son) (First of all, can I just say that I love that you read this and came up with some excellent questions!)

 Karma evolved as a character. She started off as just a name and a problem: her mustache. Slowly, she became who you read in the book. Her situations mirror mine and things that have happened to my girls, but really she’s very much her own person. Much stronger than I ever was at her age!

How did you first get the idea to write this book? (Also from my son)

 The idea for Karma has been bouncing around in my head since I was ten years old. I wanted to read a book about a hairy girl, but never found one. Once I had children of my own and saw them go through similar situations, I knew it was time to figure out how to make this idea of a hairy girl into a book.

Your main character, Karma, is so wonderful for so many reasons. She’s also very different from many of the tween girls in today’s children’s literature – facial hair and a dad who wears a turban are wonderful distinctions. Yet I also came away with the impression you intended to illustrate not just the lovely diversity in her family and life but also the commonalities that connect all girls this age?

Yes, you really nailed this! The world is so interconnected we can no longer remain ignorant to things outside our normal. The more we explore outside of our comfort zone, the more we find we have in common with everyone.

Madeleine L’Engle famously said that if a subject is too hard for adults, write it for children. You tackle some pretty heavy concepts in this book – karma, spirituality, what it means to be a good person. What are the themes you hope will most resonate with your readers?

 All of the threads in my book really evolved naturally. I didn’t set out to make a statement on diversity or spirituality. I set out to write a book about a girl dealing with facial hair and the rest just layered on organically. I hope that whoever reads this book walks away with a broader horizon and more empathy. I hope that Karma is a springboard into conversations about female facial hair, something I didn’t talk candidly about until I was in my twenties. My last hope is that more facial hair stories get out there so girls can feel comfortable in their own skin. My readers should definitely check out Harnaam Kaur who actually blurbed the book. She has embraced her facial hair and is a fabulous example of self-acceptance.

How will you be celebrating your debut on August 15?

 I’m delaying my celebration until November when my kids and I are traveling to the US. I hope to to meet my agent, Patricia Nelson—which will be a huge deal. Then, my kids and I are going to eat Chipotle like we haven’t had it in 2 years—which we haven’t! Oh yeah, and I can’t wait to down a jug of sweet tea from Chick-fil-a.

Have your children read KARMA?

 No! And they call themselves my children! I really should punish them, but I’m actually relieved in a way. I get so, so nervous when people I know well read it.

What’s next for you – will we be seeing another book about Karma or do you have another book in the works?

For now, Karma’s story is done and I like where I left it. I’m excited to tell more stories with other characters. I’ve got a few things I’m playing with. One I hope Patricia, my agent, and I can get out there.

Is there anything I didn’t ask but you’d really like us to know about KARMA KHULLAR’S MUSTACHE?

You guys did a great job with these questions! I’ll let you in on a little secret about the book. You asked if Karma was based on anyone and I said mostly no. That’s true. But Daddy… don’t tell anyone, but he is HUGELY based on my husband!!! There are some word-for-word quotes from him. A few times during dinner, I’d run and get my notebook and chuckle to myself as I scribbled down something he said as I imagined the perfect scene to add it to! I LOVE that secret! Very funny – adds a whole new layer of fun to that character.

Thank you so much to Kristi for this wonderful interview. And because we had so much fun reading her book, we’re giving away a copy to one lucky winner.

Enter the Rafflecopter below!! Note: Rafflecopter will accept entries until August 8 at midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

courtesy of Kristi Wientge

Kristi Wientge is originally from Ohio where she grew up writing stories about animals and, her favorite, a jet-setting mouse. After studying to become a teacher for children with special needs, she spent several years exploring the world from China to England, teaching her students everything from English to how to flip their eyelids inside out. She’s spent twelve years raising her family in her husband’s home country of Singapore, where she spends her days taking her four kids to school, Punjabi lessons, and music. With the help of her mother-in-law, she can now make a mean curry and a super-speedy saag. Karma Khullar’s Mustache is her debut novel.

7 Free Books to Celebrate 7 Years – Happy MUFiversary!

WARNING: This post is going to contain a lot of 7s, which have been underlined for your convenience. Keep in mind that 7 is a lucky number. If you don’t believe me, here’s the evidence:

This post includes free books for 7 lucky winners.

See. I told you 7 was a lucky number.

Anyway, if you haven’t glanced at your calendar today, please note that it’s June 7th, 2017. That happens to be exactly 7 years after MUF’s very first blog post blasted its way across the internet. Clearly, this is cause for celebration!

After 7 seconds of exhaustive research (I asked both of my dogs), I determined that this is the only 7th MUFiversary ever celebrated in the combined history of Earth and the other 7 planets in our solar system. I had to make it memorable. Epic even.

But how exactly does a guy go about epically celebrating a 7th MUFiversary?

I begged people for stuff.

The results of my begging now become your reward as MUF turns the entire month of June into an extended 7th MUFiversary Giveaway Party. For the next four weeks, MUF will hold a major weekly giveaway of free middle-grade books. And today we’re going to kick things off by taking SIGNED books from 7 different middle-grade authors and giving you a chance to be 1 of 7 lucky winners.

Here are the 7 giveaways for this week, along with a bit of 1-question-each (7 total!) Q&A fun with the 7 authors.

The Secret Destiny of Pixie Piper by Annabelle Fisher1)      Let’s start with double-the-fun thanks to TWO books by MUF’s Annabelle Fisher (www.annabellefisher.com): THE SECRET DESTINY OF PIXIE PIPER and its brand-new sequel PIXIE PIPER AND THE MATTER OF THE BATTER. (Yep. One of the 7 lucky winners will get signed copies of both books!) Poetry whiz kid, Pixie discovers she’s a descendant of Mother Goose and that her rhymes have special powers. But to join the Goose Family and protect their legacy, she must be “braver than brave” and “truer than true”!

Question: What animal did you most enjoy writing about in a book and why?

Annabelle: Writing about Pixie’s goose, Destiny, was a lot of fun. Since Destiny first appears as an egg that Pixie finds in the woods, I got to go through the process of hatching a gosling in a homemade incubator, along with my character. I did a lot of research about pet geese and their humans. They have lots of personality! Pixie and her gosling have an amazing bond. It made me want to get a pet goose!

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros2)      Another MUF author, Andrea Pyros (www.instagram.com/drelet), is giving away MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK, which—due to its title—absolutely had to be a part of our epic MUFiversary. When Nina’s BFF dumps her for a cooler new girl, Nina’s got to find a new crew. With the help of the other allergy kids at the peanut-free table, Nina might not just survive seventh grade, but figure out how to rock it!

Question: What’s the BEST writing advice you’ve ever received?

Andrea: For me, the best writing advice was to read as much as possible. I know it’s nothing earth-shattering, but when we’re all so busy, and there are so many things to grab our attention (ahem, cough, cough, Facebook, I’m looking at you), sitting down with a book in the genre you want to write in can be an amazing learning experience—and a great motivator!

3)      MUF’s Jennifer Swanson (www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com) has us covered with some nonfiction: ZOOLOGY: COOL WOMEN WHO WORK WITH ANIMALS. Love to work with animals? Zoology: Cool Women Who Work With Animals introduces readers to three women in the field of zoology who are making an impact and inspiring the next generation of zoologists.

Question: What is the strangest fact you’ve learned while researching your nonfiction book?

Jennifer: The most interesting fact I learned in researching this book is that the very first female zoologist was Pythias of Assos, who was the wife of Aristotle. She helped him to create his encyclopedia of animals.

Greetings from Witness Protection by Jake Burt4)      Jake Burt (www.JBurtBooks.com) has a debut middle-grade novel I’ve already added to my own Goodreads to-read list: GREETINGS FROM WITNESS PROTECTION. Nicki Demere, an orphan and pickpocket, is recruited by the Witness Protection program to join a family on the run from the nation’s most dangerous criminals.

Question: How do you select the names of your characters?

Jake: I’m a fan of names with hidden meanings, so I name my characters with little Easter eggs that reveal or complicate their personalities. For example, the main character of Greetings is Nicki Demere. She’s a first-rate pickpocket, and “to nick” something is slang for stealing. “Demere” is a play off the Latin verb meaning “to subtract” or “to disappear.” Nicki was doubly fun to name because I got to do it twice; when she enters Witness Protection, she gets to pick her own new name. . . .

The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla5)      Sally J. Pla (www.sallyjpla.com) offers us THE SOMEDAY BIRDS, a copy of which happens to be sitting on my nightstand at this very moment. Charlie, a 12-yr-old bird-loving boy who hates change, takes us along on a raw, funny, poignant cross-country journey to see his injured father—and to find a mysterious bird guru.

Question: How are you like your main character?

Sally: I am also autistic, although if you met me, you might not guess it. I have grown out of a lot of my challenges. I have a much easier time of things than Charlie does in the book. When I was a kid, however, I felt many of the feelings Charlie feels while dealing with the world.

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall6)      Jodi Kendall (www.jodikendall.com) is giving away a signed ARC of THE UNLIKELY STORY OF A PIG IN THE CITY plus some bonus swag to brighten someone’s day. 11-year-old Josie makes it her mission to save the piglet named Hamlet that her brother brings home from college, as she and Hamlet each struggle to find their place in a crowded, chaotic family.

Question: What’s one event from your life that you’ve never worked into a story but you’d like to?

Jodi: Once, on a wildlife expedition for work, I tracked wild elephants through the rainforest in Malaysia. I’d love to write more about my past animal adventures in future books!

Mrs. Smith's Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen7)      We’ll cap off this week’s giveaways with yet another MUF-member contribution, this time courtesy of Beth McMullen (www.bethmcmullenbooks.com). Some lucky soul is going to receive a signed ARC of Beth’s debut novel, MRS. SMITH’S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS. Abby Hunter arrives at boarding school just to discover it’s a secret training facility for kid spies. And now that her mother has gone missing, they want to use her as bait.

Question: What is the weirdest place you’ve had a good idea for a book?

Beth: On the checkout line at Target. I had to excuse myself so I could write the idea down before it disappeared out of my head forever. The young woman behind the counter thought I was insane. And probably she was right.

Want to be one of the 7 lucky winners? There are 7 different ways to earn entries! You can leave a comment below, follow MUF on Twitter, share about the giveaway on FB, and more. Give yourself loads of opportunities to win by earning all 7 different types of entries. The giveaway closes at midnight (ET) on Monday, June 12th. Be sure to check back on Thursday, June 15th, for our next MUFiversary giveaway! (Eligible only to U.S. addresses.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview & Two Giveaways with Joyce Sweeney

I’m thrilled to interview super-mentor, Joyce Sweeney today. Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Joyce! It’s great to have you here.

It’s great to be here, Mindy!

As a writing coach, what are the most frequent mistakes you see, and do you have any tips for fixing them? 

The most common mistake I see in beginners is over narrating, not putting everything into scenes and intruding on the scenes with too much narration. Summarizing dialog, telling the reader what to think and of course, warning them that the main character has no idea what is about to happen.  Narrators should be invisible if writers want to grab readers.  The most common mistake in intermediate writers is not being thoughtful about POV and choosing it intentionally or not being deep enough in the POV.  Most common mistake in advanced writers is not studying the structure carefully and making sure all threads are woven in tightly and things promised are paid off. 

Thanks for sharing that—it’s nice to know what pitfalls to watch out for.

Some people seem to find inspiration everywhere while others struggle to find ideas. Do you have any helpful ways for writers to come up with ideas for future books?

Writers should look into their own passions, obsessions and struggles.  Keeping a journal is one way to stay in touch with one’s own emotional struggles.  The keyword is, choose your subjects from your feelings, not from your intellect.  Your mind will always pick a topic that’s safe, or seems like it will sell or might please someone else.  If you ask your heart, you get a powerful story every time. 

Thank you! My mind is already reeling with possibilities—and I have a feeling your advice will help our readers come up with powerful new ideas, too.

What are the plotting issues you see most often? Do you have any tips for pantsers who don’t like to plan their entire novel in advance?

I think everyone should be true to their own nature.  If pantsers plot too much, they just waste their own time.  If plotters try to be spontaneous, they have trouble investing in the story.  So for process, do whatever you like.  Once you have a draft, then look at your plot and make sure you have a main character who is really actively pushing their way through the obstacles you’ve created for them and growing with each one. Make sure there is a range of emotion for the reader. Most people are weak in the act where there’s an emotion they don’t like to feel.  For instance I don’t like to feel sad, so I tend to rush through and gloss over Act 2. The Plot Clock is a great tool if you get lost and don’t know what’s missing in your plot. 

Is there a point when writers need to move on from a manuscript they love?

That’s a difficult question.  I think the thing to say to yourself is, I have to move on for now.  If you are getting no queries on a concept, you have to try a new project.  If you know you haven’t nailed a book, you have to put it aside until you can fix it.  But I, and lots of writers I know, have put books away for as much as ten years and then suddenly you take it out and you know exactly what to do.  As long as you still feel the emotions that moved you to write a book, it’s not dead. But it often takes years to see a book clearly enough to fix it. 

How did you become a writing coach?

Joyce’s bookshelf is overflowing with books from the authors she’s mentored.

I started all this back in the late 80’s, when the Florida Center for the Book asked me to teach five-week classes.  I found out I loved teaching craft and was good at it.  But I also saw that after the five weeks, people lost a lot of momentum, so that led to my ongoing workshops and that eventually led to online classes.  And now 57 people with traditional publishing contracts, so I know my mission is working! 

Wow, that’s an impressive amount of books. Congratulations!

It’s so hard to write the perfect beginning to a novel. What can writers do to make sure their books are off to a great start?

Funny you should ask.  Sweeney Writing Coach’s next webinar is today…Wednesday, February 8th at 7pm and the topic is Beginnings!  In many ways, there is nothing more important than a good beginning because this is how readers, agents and editors decide if a book is worth reading.  And for the writer, being on a good track from the start is helpful.  A lot of people think they should begin a book in a place of very high action.  Often they’ve been critiqued and told that.  But something exciting happening to a stranger is meaningless.  Job one is to bond the reader to the main character.  You can create enormous tension in the ordinary world if you know how to do it.

Joyce is giving away one spot in tonight’s live webinar: February 8, 2017 at 7pm – Beginnings. How to start, where to start, how to get all those important details in without a big info dump. There are huge pitfalls to writing a great beginning and the webinar will help you find those and avoid them This is useful for those revising or beginning something new.

Thanks so much for your generous giveaway, Joyce! One winner will be selected and contacted between 5 and 5:30 EST tonight. Hopefully the winner will be able to attend the webinar live, but if the timing doesn’t work, he or she will receive access to the on demand version. Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guess what? Joyce decided to offer all of you the chance to win one more generous giveaway—an on demand viewing of one of her webinars! The winner can choose from:


*POV (Point of View)






One winner will be selected randomly by the above Rafflecopter on Sunday, February 12. 

The winner of the Beginnings! webinar on February 8th is…

Poppy Wrote

Huge congrats, Poppy! Enjoy your prize.

I can’t wait to announce the on-demand webinar winner on Sunday. The Rafflecopter will be updated to display Poppy’s name and the second winner’s name, too. Good luck!

Thank you so much for joining us at the Mixed-Up Files, Joyce! Find out more about Joyce Sweeney on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

Joyce Sweeney has been a writing teacher and coach for 25 years, beginning with teaching five week classes for the Florida Center for the Book, moving to ongoing invitation only workshops and finally to online classes which reach students nationally and internationally. Developing strong bonds with the students she critiques and instructs is her hallmark. She believes that writers need emotional support as well as strong, craft-based teaching if they are to make the long, arduous, but very worthwhile journey to traditional publication.

Joyce Sweeney is also the author of fourteen novels for young adults and two chapbooks of poetry. Her first novel, Center Line, won the First Annual Delacorte Press Prize for an Outstanding Young Adult Novel. Many of her books appear on the American Library Association’s Best Books List and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers. Her first chapbook of poems, IMPERMANENCE , was published in 2008 by Finishing Line Press, her second, entitled WAKE UP will be released this spring. She has had numerous poems, short stories, articles and interviews published; and her play, FIRST PAGE CRITIQUES was produced in 2011. She lives in Coral Springs, Florida with her husband, Jay and caffeine-addicted cat, Nitro.

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.