Tag Archives: Giveaway

Author Jodi Kendall – Interview & Book Giveaway

I recently had the opportunity to chat with author Jodi Kendall about her debut middle-grade novel, The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which releases on October 3rd. Read on for a glimpse into the inspiration for Jodi’s story . . . and for a chance to win a signed copy!

The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the CityT. P.: Thanks, Jodi, for stopping by MUF to chat about The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City. Our interview is quite fitting for two reasons. First, I live in the city. And second, my daughter is convinced she wants a pet pig. I let her scoop the cat’s litter box instead.

Anyway, since I haven’t seen many pigs in the city, I’ve got to know—where did you get the inspiration for your city-dwelling porcine pal?

JODI: I grew up in a big city in the Midwest. When I was thirteen years old, my college-aged brother showed up one holiday season with a surprise piglet in his arms! He had saved a runt from certain death at a nearby farm. Her name was Ellie, and she was a typical farm breed that grew big and fast. Ellie lived inside our house for six months. As you might imagine, we had quite our share of pig adventures! While the main plot of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City is loosely inspired by this childhood experience, the book is a work of fiction.

T. P.: Wow! That brings to mind two different questions. First of all, exactly how big did Ellie the pig get during her 6 months in your house?

JODI: I had to call my dad to answer this one! He thinks Ellie was about 180 pounds when she finally moved out. Here are a few pictures.

Author Jodi Kendall with Ellie

This is thirteen-year-old me bathing her, and another one when she had grown really big… From the snow out front, I’m guessing it was maybe a month or two before she left our family in April. (I remember because it was my Mom’s 50th birthday and, while us kids all loved Ellie, Mom said that her leaving our house was the best present she ever got!) We had this small room attached to our kitchen – we called it the dinette – where Ellie stayed when we were at school. But when we were home, we let her out, and she roamed our house and explored around the yard, too.

Ellie the Pig

T. P.: As for the second question your real-life-pig-in-the-city experience brings to mind, what’s one event in your novel that was inspired by something that actually happened with Ellie?

JODI: There’s a scene when Hamlet the pig bullies her way into the kitchen, figures out how to open the fridge with her snout, makes a huge mess on the floor, and the main character’s little sister, Amelia, is standing on the kitchen countertop swatting at the hefty pig’s rump with a fly swatter trying to get her to back away. That’s a true story! Pigs are highly intelligent animals and motivated by food. Our pet pig, Ellie, also bit into aluminum cans with her teeth to make it spray soda everywhere (she liked the taste). Ellie learned how to open lower cabinet doors, and she knew there was food inside cans. While she couldn’t open soup cans with her teeth, she did peel off the labels. At one point we had 2-3 dozen cans of unknown content because she tore off all the labeling!

T. P.: It looks like 180 pounds worth of pet pig provided plenty of inspiration! Now let’s go to the flipside of real-life inspiration. What’s a favorite pig-focused scene or event in your story that sprang completely from your imagination?

JODI: There’s a scene in which Hamlet the pig escapes the family’s tiny city townhouse backyard by jumping over the fence into the neighbor’s adjacent property – and this is a very ornery neighbor who is NOT a fan of chaos, noise, or the Shilling family. It was a fun action scene to write (that leads to some consequences and character growth, too).


T. P.: Speaking of characters. . . . As the author, I’m sure you love Josie (the story’s protagonist) and Hamlet the pig; otherwise, you’d never have told their story! Aside from them, who’s your favorite character in the story? What makes that character stand out to you?

JODI: Hands-down, Josie’s college-aged brother – the oldest of the five Shilling kids – Tom. He’s hilarious, confident, and always breaks the tension in the family with a good one-liner. His character was a blast to write!


T. P.: Speaking of writing. . . . What’s next for you? Do you have another project in the works?

JODI: I just finished up the sequel to The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, which is very exciting. It will publish in Fall 2018. We’ve been secretive about the content, title, and cover art, so interested readers will just have to wait and hear the news. 🙂 But I’m currently working on a new book proposal, a third book that’s unrelated to my first two middle grade novels. And you can bet that there’s an animal adventure involved!

T. P.: A hush-hush sequel??? I can’t believe you’re going to keep us in suspense like this, Jodi! Regardless, I sure do appreciate you taking the time to come visit us here at the Mixed-Up Files. Now, as we anxiously await details about your next novel, I suppose we could offer our readers a chance to win a copy of your current one. . . .

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Want a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall plus some bonus swag? Entry is easy. Just comment below by answering one simple question:

If YOU could live in a city with any farm animal, what animal would it be?

You can also earn BONUS entries by sharing this post on Facebook, Tweeting about the giveaway, visiting Jodi’s website, signing up for Jodi’s author e-newsletter, and/or following her on Instagram. Entries will be accepted through the day of the novel’s official release—Tuesday, October 3rd.

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Children's author Jodi KendallTo learn more about Jodi Kendall and her writing, visit www.jodikendall.com. You can even download free bonus resources for The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City, including an in-depth Classroom Curriculum Guide.


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.

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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.)

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