November LILbooKtalk: “Neurodiversity in Children and Children’s Literature” with Sally J. Pla and Monica Tesler

Hi guys! I am really excited to share with y’all this month’s LILbooKtalk about “Neurodiversity in Children and Children’s Literature” with Sally J. Pla and Monica Tesler, two amazing people and highly talented authors. I am such a huge fan of Monica’s Bounders series, which has a very special place in my heart, and I am looking forward to reading Sally’s Stanley Will Probably Be Just Fine one day. A common thing that unites both Sally’s and Monica’s books is that they feature main characters that are neurodivergent, which means that their brains operate outside of the norm. I am very glad to have both of them here to talk about neurodiversity in children and in children’s literature. I hope you enjoy!


About Stanley Will Probably Be Just FineStanley Will Probably Be Fine

This novel features comic trivia, a safety superhero, and a super-cool scavenger hunt all over downtown San Diego, as our young hero Stanley Fortinbras grapples with his anxiety—and learns what, exactly, it means to be brave.

Nobody knows comics trivia like Stanley knows comics trivia.

It’s what he takes comfort in when the world around him gets to be too much. And after he faints during a safety assembly, Stanley takes his love of comics up a level by inventing his own imaginary superhero, named John Lockdown, to help him through.

Help is what he needs, because Stanley’s entered Trivia Quest—a giant comics-trivia treasure hunt—to prove he can tackle his worries, score VIP passes to Comic Fest, and win back his ex-best friend. Partnered with his fearless new neighbor Liberty, Stanley faces his most epic, overwhelming, challenging day ever.

What would John Lockdown do?

Stanley’s about to find out.

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About Earth Force RisingEarth Force Rising

Bounders have always known they were different, but they never suspected they were the key to saving Earth.

Jasper Adams is excited to join the Earth Force military agency as part of its first class of Bounders, a team of kids training to be elite astronauts. He can’t wait to connect with others like him and learn to pilot spaceships that can travel across the galaxy in an instant.

But when Jasper arrives at the space station, nothing is as it seems. Security is sky-high, and Jasper and his new friends soon realize that Earth Force has been keeping secrets—one of the biggest being a powerful, highly-classified technology that allows the Bounders to teleport through space without a ship. Only Bounders can use this tech, which leads Jasper to a sinister truth—humanity is facing a threat greater than any they’ve ever known, and Bounders are the ones standing between their planet and destruction.

Will Jasper and his friends rebel against Earth Force for hiding the truth or fulfill their duty and fight for their planet? The fate of Earth may rest on their choice.

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(Questions are in bold)

Kester: The first author we have today is the awesome Sally J. Pla, award-winning author of The Someday Birds, Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, and Benji, the Bad Day, and Me. Would you like to tell us a few things about you and your novels?

Benji, the Bad Day, and MeSally: Hi you guys! I suppose you could say that my mission in a sense is to populate children’s literature with as many characters as I can whose brains just operate a little bit differently than the norm. This is my mission because I am from a neurodivergent family and MY brain operates just a bit differently. Rates of autism these days are one in 59 kids, and with other types of neurodivergence such as ADD, ADHD, etc., there are so many kids out there who need heroes and characters that reflect their reality.

Kester: I definitely agree!! I’m very glad to have you here with us today, Sally, to help you on your mission! Alongside Sally is the amazing Monica Tesler, author of the MG sci-fi Bounders series, which is personally my favorite series of all-time. I had the opportunity to meet her in person at the SE-YA Book Fest! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?

Earth Force RisingMonica: Thanks, Kester, for inviting us to chat with you today. You know how excited I am that you’re a fan of the Bounders series! Bounders is a science fiction adventure series for tweens and teens. The stories are about the first class of cadets at the EarthBound Academy, kids who always knew they were different but never suspected they held the key to saving Earth. Similar to what Sally mentioned, I set out to write the Bounders series with the hope that some kids who may not often see themselves in books would see themselves as heroes in these stories. I also come from a family with lots of brain difference, so it’s something that is very close to home.

Kester: I’m very glad to have you, too, Monica, with us today! And I’m very glad to have been able to read your amazing series! (I know I need to read Sally’s books, too!) The characters in the Bounders series, The Someday Birds, and Stanley Will Probably Be Fine are all neurodivergent. For those who may not be familiar with that term, would you mind explaining what neurodiversity is in your viewpoint? Why do you believe it is important to accept neurological differences such as autism, ADHD, and dyslexia?

Sally: I would start by defining terms. In accord with autism advocate Nick Walker’s terms—neurodiversity refers to the broad panoply of brain differences across the human spectrum. Neurodivergence refers to those (including myself) whose brains operate differently due to autism, ADD, ADHD, etc. Differently brained folks add to and enhance the human experience! We are all stars shining with different lights.

Monica: I was typing something… but Sally’s answer more eloquently captures the definition neurodiversity. I do tend to think of it quite broadly as anything not neurotypical. And like Sally mentioned, there is a broad spectrum when it comes to brains.

Stanley Will Probably Be FineSally: That is not to say that there are not certain challenges, and it is these challenges that my books hopefully will help to address. I think Monica must feel similarly. I was recently at a conference called “Love and Autism,” and I met the most amazing, talented, incredible young autistic writers and thinkers and artists and designers and surfers! It made me realize again how much people that society considers “potentially disabled” are actually incredible and full of abilities. They are different, not less. I want to keep writing stories featuring such characters so that we can expand our notion of what being human really means in all of its challenges and joys. Sorry, I am blabbing; I will stop now!

Monica: I love what you’re saying, Sally. I’m trying to figure out the format over here! I’ve written and deleted a dozen times! I’ll get faster, I promise!

Continue reading “November LILbooKtalk: “Neurodiversity in Children and Children’s Literature” with Sally J. Pla and Monica Tesler”

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Guest Post with J. Keller Ford, YA Fantasy Author of BANE OF THE DRAGON KING, on “Saying Goodbye to Fallhollow”

Hi guys! Saying goodbye is probably one of the hardest things in the world, isn’t it? It’s extremely hard to let go of the people, places, and things we love. As a senior, I’m letting go of so much this year. Last semester was hard because I had to say goodbye to people who have been in my life for a long time, from my parish priest (who left for the Air Force) to one of my fellow violinists in my orchestra (who left for college). It’s even more heartbreaking to think that I am going to say goodbye to so many things and people who have shaped my life over the past years as a student–from the orchestra I’ve played in for the past six years to the teachers and friends that have changed who I am. It’s funny that when you don’t see them, you don’t miss them because you know you have a chance of seeing them again, but when you are leaving for good, you begin to miss them. J. Keller Ford definitely knows this feeling as she is wrapping up her Chronicles of Fallhollow series with book three, and I’m very blessed to have her on my blog to share her story about her remarkable series.


About the BookBane of the Dragon King

Fallhollow is at war. The sudden deaths of the only two heirs that could have saved it has plunged the entire land into chaos. Despite all the magic thrown at him, the Dragon King still lives. Hope for any sort of victory seems faint until Charlotte discovers a secret that could change the course of history.

Armed with the power to set things right, Charlotte embarks on a perilous journey with the sly and cunning Prince Izmayel Ascatar Venniver IV, Lord of the peaceful Edryd dragons. But her journey of peace is thwarted, and Hirth’s most fearsome enemy plans to use Charlotte to destroy the kingdom and claim the universe as his own.

As Fallhollow and the Kingdom of Hirth descend into a battlefield of bloodshed and death, David, Trog, and the warriors of Hirth march toward war with an impossible plan to bring down the Dragon King, destroy his armies, and return the kingdom to its former glory. All they need is a little faith, a few extraordinary surprises, and a lot of magic of the most unexpected, generous kind.

This book is the final dramatic and magnificent conclusion to the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy.

Bane of the Dragon King is releasing from Month9Books tomorrow!

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J. Keller Ford Guest Post

Saying Goodbye to Fallhollow

When I started this trilogy many, many years ago, I never thought about ending it. My focus was on writing it. I thought developing the worlds, the characters, the plots were the hardest things I could ever do.

I was wrong.

Saying goodbye to a story that has been with me for most of my life is probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done with regards to my writing.

I started the first book in the Chronicles of Fallhollow trilogy when I was very young. Of course it didn’t resemble anything like it does now, but the concept was there. When my father died right before my 12th birthday, I made a promise to him that I would finish the story I began. He used to feed my imagination with stories of bravery and honor and sacrifice. See, my dad was in the Army when he passed away, and served 2 terms in Vietnam. He enlisted with the Navy in WWII and also served in Korea. He saw a lot of war, lost a lot of friends, and though he rarely spoke of the horrors he lived, he always told me stories of heroism and what honor, love and sacrifice looks like. I carried those stories with me all my life and weaved them in the page of the Chronicles of Fallhollow.

In the Shadow of the Dragon KingOne of my main characters, Sir Trogsdill Domnall, was fashioned after my dad. Reading back on my stories, I can’t believe how much of my dad is in him. Trog is private, harsh at times, but compassionate and loving and he conceals a lot of pain both from war and life. I think I will miss Trog the most. It’s strange. While I was writing Trog, I could hear my dad’s voice. It was as if he were with me, leaning over my shoulder, telling me what to write. Of course, Trog has his own personality and voice, but they melded well with my dad’s and I think the two of them would have gotten along great (if there was any way they could have met).  It was cathartic to write Trog because in many ways, I got to visit my dad every day for years. To say goodbye to Trog … well my heart breaks a little. It’s not as bad as saying goodbye to my dad in real life, but it is still sad. But I can always go back and visit them anytime I want because they’re in books now.

My dad aside, it’s very bittersweet to put “The End” on something that has taken up so much of my life for so many years. While I’m ready to venture off to new realms and meet new characters, these tales are such an integral part of me. At first, I found myself writing some of my new characters with Charlotte’s or David’s voice and I had to unhinge them and revamp myself. I had to get my head in a different space. These new tales, while still YA fantasy riddled with dragons and faeries, the world is so different than Fallhollow. The creatures speak differently and there is no war going on, and there is actually a strong romance element in the new Fae Hunter series. Sometimes it’s difficult to turn off the old voices to create new, unique ones, but it is getting easier as I delve into book 2.

Rage of the Dragon KingI’ve learned so much about myself in the process of writing three books. There was a time I didn’t think I’d ever reach the end. There was so much self doubt. So much procrastination. What if they (readers) don’t like the books? What if I can’t find a publisher? What if, what if, what if? It’s enough to make someone give up. But I couldn’t give up. This story had to be told, for me, my dad. Oh, I still suffer from the what if’s and the whys, especially when I see my books hovering in the 100s in their categories on Amazon and other dragon writers have their books in the top numbers spots with lots of reviews. (Yeah, I’m a stat person, though I shouldn’t be). The reviews are few and there are so many times I wonder why I keep writing if no one will ever find my books, much less like them. But writing to me is essential. It’s like breathing. To not write is insane. It’s unthinkable. Yes, I have dreams of being a best-selling author, to hit the NY Times Bestseller List or USA Today Bestseller list. I’m not sure if my inner me will ever be happy if I don’t accomplish those things, but the writer part of me says ‘Who Cares! Write because you love to write!’

So, that’s what I’ll keep doing.

I’m excited about the books I’m writing right now. I am looking into agents and yes, I want to go the traditional route again. I’ve had a wonderful experience with my publisher, Month9Books, but I want to shoot for Random House, Scholastic … you know, the big houses, and I can’t do it without an agent. It’s still all up in the air.

Bane of the Dragon KingIn the meantime, I can pat myself on the back and say “You did it, Jenny! You wrote three published books!” I no more have to wonder if I can do it. I DID do it, and that in itself is a huge accomplishment, and it will drive me whenever I start to worry about the new books I’m writing. I learned during this whole process that there is nothing I can’t accomplish, that getting out of my own way was the most important step to reaching my goal. I learned that dreams can be reached with perseverance and surrounding myself with positive, like-minded people to encourage me and get me out of my dark funks. Saying goodbye to Fallhollow is bittersweet, but I’m a better person for hanging out there for as long as I did. It made me realize just how big the universe is, and how many worlds are out there, ready to be discovered.

I’m ready to explore. I hope you come along with me.


About the AuthorJ. Keller Ford

J. Keller Ford is a scribbler of speculative fiction and YA tales. As an Army brat, she traveled the world and toured the halls of some of Germany’s most extraordinary castles in hopes of finding snarky dragons, chivalrous knights, and wondrous magic to permeate her imagination. What she found remains etched in her topsy-turvy mind, and oozes out in sweeping tails of courage, sacrifice, honor and everlasting love.

When not torturing her keyboard or trying to silence the voices in her head, Jenny spends time collecting seashells, bowling, screaming on roller coasters, and traveling. She is a mom of four magnificent and noble offspring, and currently lives in paradise on the west coast of Florida with a menagerie of royal pets, and her own quirky knight who was brave enough to marry her.

Jenny is the author of The Chronicles of Fallhollow series. The first two books, IN THE SHADOW OF THE DRAGON KING, and RAGE OF THE DRAGON KING, are currently available. The third and final book, BANE OF THE DRAGON KING, is due to release November 13, 2018. For more information about her books and to sign up for her newsletter, please visit http://www.j-keller-ford.com

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Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying Goodbye so hard.” — Winnie the Pooh

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Author Interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, MG Historical Fiction Author of The Last Cherry Blossom

Hi guys! As a nerd who loves to learn more about the history (particularly the stories) behind the world, World War II has to be the time period that captivates me the most. It horrifies me to think how war-torn countries became and how much persecution was rampant, yet I get inspired by the stories of hope, survival, and perseverance that arose from the fight against evil. World War II is something I wish would never ever happen again, but I find myself fascinated by stories set during this period, from the Holocaust to the Pacific Front. However, there aren’t very many fictional stories that explore the viewpoints of civilians from Asian countries such as China, Japan, and the Philippines; yet I was able to meet online Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of The Last Cherry Blossom, an MG novel set in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb landed in the heart of the city. I am super excited to read this book, and I’m very honored to share this story with y’all by having Kathleen here on the blog to talk about it.


About the BookThe Last Cherry Blossom

Following the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, this is a new, very personal story to join Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

Yuriko was happy growing up in Hiroshima when it was just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan’s fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden fom its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and the air-raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the bomb hits Hiroshima, it’s through Yuriko’s twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.

This is a story that offers young readers insight into how children lived during the war, while also introducing them to Japanese culture. Based loosely on author Kathleen Burkinshaw’s mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, The Last Cherry Blossom hopes to warn readers of the immense damage nuclear war can bring, while reminding them that the “enemy” in any war is often not so different from ourselves.

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Kathleen Burkinshaw Interview.png

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

Kester, thank you so very much for interviewing me for your blog! It’s an honor to be asked. 

I loved to read any kind of book as a child. As an introvert, I loved writing because it took me to a different world where I participated in the story instead of being too shy. I especially love it now because it helps me to escape from my pain -at least lessen it for a little while. I started writing poems for birthday cards from the moment I could hold a pencil. Then as I got older, I loved doing book reports (I think I was in the minority at school). After I was asked to write a high school honor speech, I thought I could really enjoy doing this for a living. But life after college led me to writing business contracts instead. After being ill for a while, I happily rediscovered my love for creative writing.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I love reading historical fiction, and mysteries. As a child I loved reading Nancy Drew Mysteries, and anything by Judy Blume. I was an adult when I read WEEDFLOWER by Cynthia Kadohata and it was the first time I read about a Japanese-American as a main character. So, she influenced me greatly. Also, local NC authors (state I live in): Joyce Moyer Hostetter (historical fiction), as well as Lisa Williams Kline (historical fiction and fiction).

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

Well, 17 years ago I was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a debilitating chronic pain condition. I had to give up my health care administration career. So, I guess you could say, writing is probably less than part time. It depends on the daily pain. I do try to write in the morning if I can. I like to read or listen to audio books when I’m not able to write. I enjoy visiting schools and meeting students!

4. Your debut novel The Last Cherry Blossom follows a young girl who witnesses and survives the atomic bombing at Hiroshima during World War II, and the story is loosely based on your mother’s accounts of the tragedy. Would you like to share with us a bit about your mother’s experiences before, during, and after the bombing and how they shaped your story?

The Last Cherry BlossomIt’s interesting that my mother’s life events that I based the book on stalled my writing for a bit. I had to get past the actual timeline of events in her life since the book only took place during the last year of WWII. My mom was born in 1932, so she grew up with war in the background (the Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931). She was very well off, but she saw the giving heart of her Papa. When she was five, she and her friend Machiko used to put on shows for the injured soldiers. She hated all the air raid drills, black out curtains, and being in the bomb shelter. However, she felt with her Papa she could endure anything. The chapters that deal with the day of the bombing-were exactly as she told me. These were the most difficult chapters to write, because I could see the tears in her eyes and hear the pain in her voice when she told me about that time. I can still hear her voice whenever I read these sections to students. In the months following the atomic bombing, her feelings of loneliness, guilt, and anger consumed her. It took her a long time to not feel guilty for surviving and feel that she was worth having happiness again. I’m so grateful that she did.

Continue reading “Author Interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, MG Historical Fiction Author of The Last Cherry Blossom”

Author Interview with Mark Falkin, Literary Agent and YA Apocalyptic Author of The Late Bloomer

Hi guys! Today, I’m celebrating my school’s homecoming! Roll Red Roll! Man, it’s pretty sad that this is my senior year homecoming–and my last homecoming as a high school student. I’m going to be celebrating as I cheer on my school at tonight’s football game. Roll Red Roll! Mark Falkin is here on the blog to talk about his latest book The Late Bloomer, which releases on October 16th from California Coldblood. It sounds really chilling and intriguing, so I hope you enjoy this interview and check out Mark’s book!


About the BookThe Late Bloomer

Imagine THE STAND told with the intimacy of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY.

A keening wail heralded the end of the world.

It came from everywhere. After it passed, most of the world’s population was gone—either taken by a bizarre affliction or their own hand—leaving behind a stunned and altered race controlled by a shadowy superintelligence.

Opposing this threat are the late bloomers—teens for whom puberty was delayed.

Within these pages lies the transcript of a recording made by one of those late bloomers. His name’s Kevin March. When the apocalypse hit, he was about to get kicked out of his high school marching band for smoking pot. Kevin’s bright, wise beyond his years, and he just might be meant for something big in the new world order—if he can survive it.

Going on the run to find his little brother, Kevin teams up with his biggest crush, Kodie, and his best friend, Bass. The trio strike out across Texas in search of food, shelter, and answers.

Mark Falkin, bestselling author of Contract City, returns with a young adult thriller that combines shades of Lovecraft, Salinger, and Twain, all of it told in Kevin’s unforgettable voice.

The Late Bloomer releases from California Coldblood on October 16th. Pre-order it today!

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1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

What Bernard Malamud said: I’d be too moved to say. But to try to say: It’s a compulsion. Naively, I think maybe it’s an attempt to explain life to myself. I don’t get any real solid answers, but sometimes I feel maybe I’ve got it cornered, this explanation.

In third and fourth grade I would make these holiday themed puzzle books for my classmates. I’d create this hand drawn book and ask my Dad to run off copies at work which he dutifully did, having his secretary do it. She stapled them too. The teacher was flummoxed and thrilled at my self-aggrandizing precociousness, helping me hand them out at home room around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter. They were mini versions of those Highlights kids’ magazines and they uniformly contained a word search, a crossword, a maze you solved with your finger or pencil, hidden pictures, and flash fiction. Really flash—“I saw Santa in my living room on Christmas Eve and he’s sure fat alright.” The looks on my classmates’ faces trying to solve my puzzles, read my little story… oh, I was hooked then. Orwell wrote of the sheer egoism of the writer. I felt that glory in Third Grade.

Skip to high school and I found myself doodling epigrams in the margins of whatever we were doing in AP English class. These later bloomed into bad poetry. I did the bad poetry thing off and on through college and law school. In law school I thought I could do what Grisham did and write a novel my first year, that blistering 1L year. Um, no, I didn’t pull that off, but I did start a novel that I published ten years later.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I can longlist some writers who combined form my lodestar: Stewart O’Nan, Daniel Woodrell, Douglas Coupland, Stephen King, Karen Russell, Barker, Palahniuk, Lethem, DFW, Ellis, Proulx, McCarthy, McGuane, William Gibson, Bradbury, Updike, Capote, Oates, TC Boyle, Sedaris. Steve Martin’s Cruel Shoes. Oh and Vonnegut, Kerouac, and the insufferable personality that is Hunter S. Thompson.

I cannot say who’s the most impactful, per se. I just know that these writers formed me.

Lately: Tommy Orange inspires me. Merritt Tierce inspires me. Emil Ferris inspires me. Billy Collins inspires me. Joan Didion inspires me. Kate Tempest inspires me.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I’m a literary agent and erstwhile/recovering music and IP attorney. I wish writing was full-time, but then I’d miss out on my clients’, and clients-to-be, exciting new work.

4. Your upcoming YA dystopian novel The Late Bloomer chronicles one teen’s journey when a cataclysm strikes Earth, but it’s unlike any apocalypse seen in fiction. What inspired this end-of-the-world scenario? In your opinion, how does your novel stand out from other books in the apocalyptic/dystopian genre?

The Late BloomerIt’s an apocalyptic/postapocalyptic novel, not dystopian, and it’s not straight YA either. It’s a crossover novel. That’s not me saying that; that’s pro readers and other writers saying that, so.

Ultimately, I love the genre. What inspired me was that I wanted to write a horror novel that was unlike anything else out there and that was the scariest thing I could think of and what makes it scary isn’t just a set piece here, a set piece there, but something that holistically makes you shudder, making you feel something deeper than just simple fear but rather a resonating poignancy through the pathos. What makes this story unique is that it avoids the well-worn tropes. There are no zombies, viruses or virals, no doomsday asteroid, no aliens, no environmental cataclysm, no nuclear holocaust.

As far as direct inspiration, the three simultaneous sparks were these: There’s a line in Lord of the Flies that goes You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are what they are? and a little supernova exploded in my mind and I probably said behind clenched teeth in public “that’s it!” The book’s working title was No Go for a long time and was even initially pitched with that title. There’s that and there’s a certain work of fiction that I can’t disclose for spoilage reasons; the way it made, still makes, me feel . . . I approached this book at the outset from the standpoint of wanting to make the reader feel like I did reading that work. And then there’s this: a few people reading might remember these emails I used to send out during October years ago, I think 1998 through 2003. They were these epistolary little stories that came in bi-weekly installments that I called the Chronicles of Spooky Month which over the years got longer, less funny and more scary. In maybe 2012 I attempted to take a run at it again for fun and as a palette cleanser. I wrote a couple thousand words and put it away, never sending anything out. This was the impetus for The Late Bloomer. This book really is an all-grows-up, exploded version of that. Pure fun. Labor of love.

Continue reading “Author Interview with Mark Falkin, Literary Agent and YA Apocalyptic Author of The Late Bloomer”

Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus

Hi guys! Today, Lauren Gibaldi is here to talk about Autofocus, a book that I won in a giveaway and really enjoyed. I met Lauren back at the SE-YA Book Festival in March, and she was super nice and sweet! I’m so glad to have her on the blog, and I hope you enjoy this interview!


About the BookAutofocus

From the author of The Night We Said Yes comes a fun and heartfelt YA contemporary tale. When Maude decides to search for information about her birth mother, she finds out more than she expected. Perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Susane Colasanti.

Family. It’s always been a loaded word for Maude, whose birth mother died after giving her up for adoption. With her best friend, Treena, in college in the same town where her birth mother grew up, Maude decides to visit and explore her past. But when Maude arrives, she quickly discovers that Treena doesn’t seem to have time for her—or for helping with her search. Enter Bennett, a cute guy who lives in Treena’s dorm. He understands Maude’s need to find her mother. And as Bennett helps Maude, she starts to realize that her mother’s past doesn’t have to define her own future.

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Lauren Gibaldi Interview.png

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because it transports me. It’s the same reason I love reading, too. It’s an experience, even when it’s hard. I started writing young, in a diary, with zero pressure. And I think that’s what made it great for me- those early years when I was just given a dairy and able to write whatever I wanted without fear of it being bad.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

Along with being an author, I’m a librarian, so it’s pretty impossible for me to choose favorites! I read a lot of YA, obviously, and a lot of picture books due to having young children. I listen to adult fiction audio books because I like being inspired on my way to work. And I mostly read graphic novels whenever I’m writing. (I don’t like reading novels when writing.) I think three books influenced my writing the most – Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I read them all in college, and they helped me understand what I wanted to write.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I’m a full-time librarian!

Autofocus4. I really enjoyed your sophomore YA romance novel Autofocus, which follows high school senior Maude, who was adopted as a child, as she explores deeper into her mother’s past and discovers the true meaning of family. How do you explore adoption throughout your novel? For readers were or are adopted, how do you want them to be impacted as they read Autofocus?

Thank you! The main idea behind Autofocus is wondering if who we are is determined by birth (nature), or if we can change as we grow (nurture). Maude has no clue who her mother was, so she’s not sure if this person she’s becoming as she finishes up high school is inspired by her birth mother, or by her mom/dad/friends. (She differentiates mother vs. mom.) I think, even though it’s an experience very specific to adopted teens, the feeling is pretty common for any teen–figuring out who you are, apart from influences. As for readers, I’m just happy they’re seeing themselves in a book. To see that their experience, though unique, can also be universal.

Continue reading “Exclusive Interview with Lauren Gibaldi, YA Contemporary Author of Autofocus”

Two Dark Reigns Blog Tour: Author Interview with #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kendare Blake

Hi guys! I have a really special guest on the blog with me today. I actually met Kendare Blake at the Southeastern Young Adult Book Festival back in March, and it is my pleasure to be hosting such an amazing and epic author today as part of the blog tour for the third book in her Three Dark Crowns trilogy, Two Dark Reigns. I am very excited to share with you this special interview, and I hope you all enjoy!

Two Dark Reigns Blog Tour


About the BookTwo Dark Reigns

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kendare Blake returns with the highly anticipated third book in the Three Dark Crowns series! And while Arsinoe, Mirabella, and Katharine all have their own scores to settle, they aren’t the only queens stirring things up on Fennbirn Island.

Queen Katharine has waited her entire life to wear the crown. But now that she finally has it, the murmurs of dissent grow louder by the day. There’s also the alarming issue of whether or not her sisters are actually dead—or if they’re waiting in the wings to usurp the throne.

Mirabella and Arsinoe are alive, but in hiding on the minland and dealing with a nightmare of their own: being visited repeatedly by a specter they think might be the fabled Blue Queen. Though she says nothing, her rotting, bony finger pointing out to sea is clear enough: return to Fennbirn.

Jules, too, is in a strange place—in disguise. And her only confidants, a war-gifted girl named Emilia and her oracle friend Mathilde, are urging her to take on a role she can’t imagine filling: a legion-cursed queen who will lead a rebel army to Katharine’s doorstep.

This is an uprising that the mysterious Blue Queen may have more to do with than anyone could have guessed—or expected.

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Kendare Blake Interview.png

Two Dark Reigns continues the Three Dark Crowns saga as Katharine sits on the throne of Fennbirn, Mirabella and Arsinoe stay alive in hiding but are visited by the Blue Queen, and a disguised Jules considers leading a rebel army against Queen Katharine. After writing two novels and two prequel novellas, how does it feel like continuing your series with Two Dark Reigns? What are your thoughts and emotions seeing all of the excitement for book three’s release?

Hello again, Kester! Thank you for having me on the blog! 🙂 To answer your question, it’s wonderful to see the excitement! And as a side effect of being so late finishing Book Four, the excitement is all I’ve had time for. I haven’t had time to worry! I’m really thrilled, and grateful, to have the opportunity to continue the queens’ stories. As I near the end of the last book, I’m happy to say that I’m still not really ready to leave. I love these girls.

You’ve stated before that Three Dark Crowns was inspired by bees and their matriarchy revolving around the queen bee. Could you describe to us more about how did this idea first come about? Were there any real-life matriarchal societies that you also drew inspiration from, too?

Queen bees lay several queen eggs, and the new queen babies hatch out and kill each other to see who gets to take over. I learned that when I was at a book event in Oregon and a ball of bees was stuck to a nearby tree. Thankfully, there was a beekeeper also there to put us all at ease. The bees were only concerned with protecting their queen, you see, in the middle of the ball. Anyway, after I learned all this stuff about bees, I had to find a way to do it to people. And on the drive home, the three queens were born. Aside from the original inspiration though, the culture of Fennbirn went on to become its own thing. That was one of the best parts: learning about the naturalists and the poisoners, the elementals. I’m particularly happy to be writing the third and fourth books, because they let me go to Bastian City, home of the war gifted, and to Sunpool, the city of the seers.

As the author, did you ever root for a specific queen to succeed (like you wanted one of them to take the crown)? Or did you remain impartial and instead let the characters duke it out themselves without your intervention?

I definitely tried to remain impartial. The decision to write it in third person, and in relatively dispassionate, removed prose, went toward that purpose. I mean, these girls are in a bad enough situation already without me taking sides. Truthfully, I didn’t know who was going to win the crown until the midway point in One Dark Throne. And even so close to finishing the last book, I don’t know everyone who’s going to die.

Was Three Dark Crowns originally intended as a duology or a quartet? What is the hardest part about writing and continuing a series, considering you’ve written two other series before this one?

It was intended as a duo, and nothing really changed about the end of One Dark Throne when the series was extended. Those books are the arc of the Ascension. These next two are the arc of the reign. I think the hardest part about continuing is knowing how it ends. Now I know. Before, at the close of One Dark Throne, I just had hopes. I hoped that the survivors would make the best of it. But now I know, for better or worse.

Did you or your characters ever surprise yourself as you progressed through the series? Would you consider yourself to be a plotter or a pantser?

My characters constantly surprise me. Elizabeth surprised me by turning a walk-on role into a recurring supporting one. Pietyr surprised me by chucking Kat down that hole. Natalia surprised me by dying. Arsinoe surprises me about every five minutes. It’s not uncommon for me to have no idea what they’re doing, or for me to actually say out loud, “What are you doing?!” So I’m firmly a pantser.

Thank you so much for coming onto the blog today, Kendare! I’m so happy to have you and help share the love for Two Dark Reigns!


Book Trailer

Watch the official book trailer for Two Dark Reigns here!


About the AuthorKendare Blake

Kendare Blake is the author of several novels and short stories, most of which you can find information about via the links above. Her work is sort of dark, always violent, and features passages describing food from when she writes while hungry. She was born in July (for those of you doing book reports) in Seoul, South Korea, but doesn’t speak a lick of Korean, as she was packed off at a very early age to her adoptive parents in the United States. That might be just an excuse, though, as she is pretty bad at learning foreign languages. She enjoys the work of Milan Kundera, Caitlin R Kiernan, Bret Easton Ellis, Richard Linklater, and the late, great Michael Jackson, I mean, come on, he gave us Thriller.

She lives and writes in Kent, Washington, with her husband, their cat son Tyrion Cattister, red Doberman dog son Obi-Dog Kenobi, rottie mix dog daughter Agent Scully, and naked sphynx cat son Armpit McGee.

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Did Someone Say… Giveaway?Two Dark Reigns Giveaway

2 Winners will receive a Copy of Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake

1 Winner will receive a $25.00 Amazon/PayPal Gift Card

Open to International

Must be 13+ to Enter

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Follow the Rest of the Tour Here!

Tour Schedule


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Are you excited for Two Dark Reigns? Do you like YA fantasy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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Author Interview: Ann Braden, MG Contemporary Author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Hi guys! Tomorrow, one of the BEST books I’ve read this year–The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden–is releasing from Sky Pony Press, and to celebrate, I have Ann, the author of this wonderful novel, here on the blog to talk about her latest novel. A few weeks ago I shared my really really personal review of The Benefits of Being an Octopus. You definitely NEED to read this book. I urge you to pick it up. If I could buy a whole shipment of copies to just hand out to kids and random people, I would do it. This is a book that you do NOT want to miss.


About the BookThe Benefits of Being an Octopus

Some people can do their homework. Some people get to have crushes on boys. Some people have other things they’ve got to do.

Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there’s Lenny, her mom’s boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.

At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they’re in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it’s best if no one notices them.

Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.

Unfortunately, she’s not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia’s situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they’re better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she’s ever had?

This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus will release from Sky Pony tomorrow! Pre-order it today!

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Ann Braden Interview.png

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because stories shape us and change us in inexorable ways (both as the author and as the reader) AND because of the way it uses all parts of my brain!

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

I love realistic fiction. My favorite authors are the ones who make me feel like it’s all real. I still remember reading Sara Zarr’s HOW TO SAVE A LIFE and being so struck by one simple scene where the girl and her mom are in the kitchen making peanut butter toast because it was so incredibly real. And I thought: How did she do that? I want to write like that! Sara Zarr, along with authors like Gary Schmidt and Jason Reynolds showed me that page-turners can be created with emotional arcs instead of snazzy plots. They freed me up to approach this book, not by trying to tell a great story, but simply trying to be as honest as possible.

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

At the moment I’m a part-time writer and a part-time stay-at-home mom. In the past I’ve juggled a variety of different kinds of community organizing work along with my writing. I seem to find the kind of work that takes huge amounts of time, (while paying very little money) – but that feeds my soul and that hopefully helps to get more voices to the table and helps those new voices feel supported.

4. Your MG debut novel The Benefits of Being an Octopus, set to release on September 4th from Sky Pony Press, follows seventh-grader Zoey as she attempts to find her voice while navigating through poverty, loved ones in abusive relationships, and acceptance among her fellow peers. How do you desire for your book to be a bridge between the cultural divides in school? How do you want readers, regardless of financial situation, to be impacted by Zoey’s story?

The Benefits of Being an OctopusI think that too often in our society we discount those who live differently than we do, whether its how much money someone has, what kind of job someone has, or what kind of political views they have. When I was in middle school, I remember being so struck that every person in every car on the road had their own story. And as I got older and got to meet a wide variety of people, I came to believe more strongly that not only do they have their own story, but that nearly every person is trying to do their very best given the circumstances they’re faced with. I hope that readers come away seeing that many of the characters, even the ones they don’t necessarily agree with, are doing the best they can – and that maybe the people around them in real life aren’t so different.

Continue reading “Author Interview: Ann Braden, MG Contemporary Author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus”

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes Blog Tour: Excerpts from the Book and Audiobook

Hi guys! If you hadn’t known, Nadine Brandes is one of my favorite authors. EVER. I am a part of her street team (go Ninjas!) and her Out of Time trilogy has such a special place in my heart. I love and miss every single of one her characters so much. So when she announced that she was writing a YA historical fantasy based off the Gunpowder Plot, I was so excited! A few weeks ago, a kind person on Twitter granted one of my #bookishwish’s and gave me an ARC of Fawkes, which I loved and devoured. I am so happy to be sharing with you a short excerpt from the novel plus a snippet from the audiobook! Enjoy!

Fawkes Blog Tour


About the BookFawkes

Title: Fawkes

Author: Nadine Brandes

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Release Date: July 10, 2018

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Synopsis: Thomas Fawkes is turning to stone, and the only cure to the Stone Plague is to join his father’s plot to assassinate the king of England.

Silent wars leave the most carnage. The wars that are never declared, but are carried out in dark alleys with masks and hidden knives. Wars where color power alters the natural rhythm of 17th century London. And when the king calls for peace, no one listens until he finally calls for death.

But what if death finds him first?

Keepers think the Igniters caused the plague. Igniters think the Keepers did. But all Thomas knows is that the Stone Plague infecting his eye is spreading. And if he doesn’t do something soon, he’ll be a lifeless statue. So when his Keeper father, Guy Fawkes, invites him to join the Gunpowder Plot—claiming it will put an end to the plague—Thomas is in.

The plan: use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up the Igniter King.

The problem: Doing so will destroy the family of the girl Thomas loves. But backing out of the plot will send his father and the other plotters to the gallows. To save one, Thomas will lose the other.

No matter Thomas’s choice, one thing is clear: once the decision is made and the color masks have been put on, there’s no turning back.

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Excerpts of Fawkes!

Click the link below to read an exclusive excerpt of Fawkes from the beginning chapters! It will hook you right in!

Book Excerpt

Click the link below to listen to an exclusive extended sound clip from the Fawkes audiobook! It sounds so cool!

Audiobook Clip


Did Someone Say… Giveaway?

Prize: One winner will receive 1 copy of FAWKES by Nadine Brandes

Open Internationally

Ends on the 6th of September

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About the AuthorNadine

I once spent four days as a sea cook in the name of book research. I’m also the author of the award-winning The Out of Time Series and my inner fangirl perks up at the mention of soul-talk, Quidditch, bookstagram, and Oreos. When I’m not busy writing novels about bold living, I’m adventuring through Middle Earth or taste-testing a new chai. I and my Auror husband are building a Tiny House on wheels. Current mission: paint the world in shalom.

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Check out the rest of the blog tour here!

Tour Schedule


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

Have you read Fawkes? Do you like YA historical fantasy?

Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!

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August LILbooKtalk: “Back to School: Instilling a Love of Reading in Students” with Rebecca Donnelly and Jake Burt + Two GIVEAWAYS!

Hi guys! By this time, most schools should be starting school, which inspired the theme for this month’s LILbooKtalk about instilling a love of reading in students. Today’s guests include a middle school teacher and a librarian who not only frequently work with children but also write for them! Please welcome the amazing Rebecca Donnelly and Jake Burt as we discuss turning students into big readers!


About How to Stage a CatastropheHow to Stage a Catastrophe

Sidney plans to be the director of the Juicebox Theater when he grows up. For now, he handles the props, his best friend Folly works the concession stand, and his sister May hangs out in the spotlight. But the theater is in danger of closing, and the kids know they need a plan to save it and fast. When they join a local commerce club to earn money, Sid and Folly uncover some immoral business practices, and it gives them a great idea for saving the theater. That is, if you can call extortion a great idea. Hilarious and heartwarming, the mission to save a failing community theater unites a riotous cast of characters in this offbeat middle-grade novel.

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About The Right Hook of Devin VelmaThe Right Hook of Devin Velma

From the author of Greetings from Witness Protection! comes another unforgettable middle-grade novel about friendship and family.

Devin wants to hit it big on the internet by pulling a stunt at an NBA game–one the entire nation will be watching. Addison can’t turn Devin down, but he can barely manage talking to his teachers without freezing up. How’s he supposed to handle the possibility of being a viral sensation?

Addi’s not sure why Devin is bent on pulling off this almost-impossible feat. Maybe it has something to do with Devin’s dad’s hospital bills. Maybe it all goes back to the Double-Barreled Monkey Bar Backflip of Doom. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. No matter what, though, it’s risky for both of them, and when the big day finally comes, Devin’s plan threatens more than just their friendship.

With memorable protagonists and a wonderful supporting cast, The Right Hook of Devin Velma is a one-of-kind knockout in middle-grade fiction.

The Right Hook of Devin Velma releases from Feiwel & Friends on September 25th! Pre-order it today!

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August LILbooKtalk

Questions are in bold

Kester: The first author we have today is Rebecca Donnelly, author of the MG contemporary novel How to Stage a Catastrophe and her upcoming book The Friendship Lie. She also works at a public library in northern New York. Could you describe to us a little about you and your books?

How to Stage a CatastropheRebecca: Sure! I’ve worked in public libraries for about 12 years now in different roles, but being a children’s librarian is my favorite. It’s been great training for being a writer, since reading in your field is such an important part of both jobs. How to Stage a Catastrophe published in April 2017, and it was inspired by the time I spent as a middle schooler doing community theater. It’s about a group of kids who try, fail, and try again to save their community theater from closing down, going to great and scheming lengths to do so. The Friendship Lie is a quieter story about fifth grade friends who have fallen out with each other and are trying to find their way back to friendship, with the help of an old diary one of them finds. The Friendship Lie is set to publish August 2019. Both are with Capstone.

Kester: Both of your books sound awesome!!! I hope I’ll be able to read them one day! 🙂

Alongside Rebecca, we have Jake Burt, author of MG contemporary debut Greetings from Witness Protection! and The Right Hook of Devin Velma, which will release in just a few weeks. He is a fifth-grade teacher from Connecticut. Would you also like to tell us a bit about yourself and your novels?

The Right Hook of Devin VelmaJake: Absolutely, Kester, and thanks for having us! Greetings From Witness Protection! debuted last October. It’s the story of Nicki Demere, a 13-year-old girl in foster care who gets recruited by the US marshals to join witness protection; their notion is that she’ll help hide a family by changing up their dynamic. The Right Hook of Devin Velma, out on September 4th, is about one boy’s quest to find out why his best friend punched him in the face. Both are MG contemporary, both are set in middle schools, and there are no vampires in either one. I’ve been told that’s an important distinction to make.

Kester: Thank you, Jake! It’s definitely my pleasure! And haha, that’s good to know about the vampires, especially since I’m about to start on Devin Velma soon!

Jake: Awesome. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Kester: Thank you! Here’s my first question: Since both of you work frequently with young children and books, how do you promote reading and writing among your students? What do you when you encounter reluctant readers, and how do you turn them into avid bibliophiles?

Jake: Want me to take a swipe at this one first, Rebecca?

Rebecca: Sure, since our roles are a little different!

Jake: Cool. On it! I’ve found that the key to developing confident, invested readers is empowerment. Kids most frequently encounter books (at least, in the school setting) via gatekeepers, whether that’s me, our fantastic school librarians, or someone similar. While that can be a great way to introduce new books to a kid, there’s not a lot of efficacy on the part of the reader there, so students often come to me without a strong sense of how to find and, more importantly, enjoy their own books. So early in the year we work on developing an understanding of how to read for pleasure…it seems strange, but that’s actually a modelable and learnable skill. We talk about being able to quit a book if it’s not grabbing you, about comparing books, about discussing books with friends, and about the value of rereading old favorites. We talk about skipping ahead and watching the movie first and reading more than one book at a time – all the ways adults who have learned to love reading come at their TBR piles.

Rebecca Donnelly
Rebecca Donnelly

Rebecca: I love everything you’re saying here, Jake! I work in a public library, not in a school, so my work with kids is almost entirely around helping them find things they want to read. The piece I’m missing is having the ability to work with them in depth, the way a classroom teacher or school librarian is able to. When I visit schools, or when classes visit me in the library, I try to emphasize the importance of choice, and that browsing is a skill–modelable and learnable, as you say. It’s great to get recommendations from friends, but I love seeing a kid who has the time to browse the shelves and find something new on their own. That’s genuine empowerment! One of my goals is to work with my local school to help them build their community of readers, too!

Jake: That’s vital – the teamwork component. A network of adults, all of whom love books and reading, surrounding a child can do wonders, particularly as far as access is concerned. That’s often one of the first hurdles to developing a love for reading: just not having enough books to promote true choice. It helps so much when librarians can work with teachers and families to fill in gaps and expand availability.

Rebecca: Yes! I got a massive donation from Scholastic this last spring (1300 books) that I gave out to every kid 3-6 grade in three different local schools. I scoured my giveaway books to get enough to be able to give something to every kid pre-k to 2nd grade, as well. One thing we really strive for in public libraries is giving kids access to books over the summer, since their regular school library visits aren’t happening. I give away books as prizes for playing my summer reading Bingo game, when I do outreach visits, and every time I visit the local Head Start. Simply getting books to kids is a huge part of developing readers.

Kester: That’s so awesome to hear!!  The work you’ve done is definitely commendable!!

I’m very curious about this, so what’s your stance on Accelerated Reader? I personally did not like it as an elementary student, but I would love to know your thoughts.

Rebecca: I’ve worked in a library where the local school district used AR, and it was incredibly frustrating to have to help kids find a book at “their level” that a) we owned and b) they were interested in. It seemed to be difficult for everyone, parents and children included.

Jake Burt
Jake Burt

Jake: We don’t use it in our classrooms, but I’ve taught at schools that did. Personally, I’ve never found much use for the data it provides…and that’s what it is, a data aggregation tool. It’s not designed to deepen understanding or enjoyment of reading. If a teacher or school was considering adopting it, I’d challenge them to ask themselves what they’re truly hoping to learn by collecting that data. Is it something they couldn’t get by having a meaningful 5-10 minute reader’s conference with a student?

Rebecca: Jake, you might know this better than I do, but isn’t there a quote from Fountas & Pinnell, who developed another leveling system, saying that reading levels have no place in reading assignments, book choice, or kids’ expectations of themselves?

Jake: Yes; we use the Fountas and Pinnell continuum for literacy instruction in our Lower School. They stress a genre-based approach (heavy on mentor texts and book discussions) rather than levels. It strikes me as a more authentic system, moreso now that I’ve seen things from the author side, too. I don’t write novels with any notion of what “level” it might be. If my character is the type of girl who would use the word “runcible,” she’s gonna say “runcible.” I’m not changing it to “spoon” so that it can fit cozily into a level. And I’ve certainly never gone to the library or bookstore as an adult thinking, “I’m fixing to snag me something at my level.”

Rebecca: Ha! Good point–we put all kinds of pressure & restrictions on kids that we would never put on ourselves, including what makes a “good” book.

Kester: I remember as an elementary student I felt very forced to read at a level higher than my grade… which knocked out many novels that I would have loved. There were so few books I could read that I eventually stopped reading a lot in middle school.

Rebecca: I’m so sorry! But obviously you were able to be a reader on your own terms, which gives every kid hope!

Jake: Yes, so glad you came back around to reading, Kester!

Kester: Thank you!

Rebecca: I was just tweeting with a couple of writer friends today about we all read comics (comic strips, even, not graphic novels) well into middle school. Whatever makes you a reader, makes you a reader!
Continue reading “August LILbooKtalk: “Back to School: Instilling a Love of Reading in Students” with Rebecca Donnelly and Jake Burt + Two GIVEAWAYS!”

Author Interview: Sarah Jean Horwitz, MG Steampunk Author of The Wingsnatchers

Hi guys! I hope you are having an awesome August! Today, Sarah Jean Horwitz is here to talk about her Carmer and Grit series, a Middle Grade duology that combines fantasy and steampunk together. I won both books in a giveaway hosted by Sarah, and I am super excited to read them, especially after reading her epic interview! I hope you enjoy!


About the BookThe Wingsnatchers

A stunning debut about a magician’s apprentice and a one-winged princess who must vanquish the mechanical monsters that stalk the streets and threaten the faerie kingdom.

Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

In this story perfect for readers of the Lockwood & Co and Wildwood series, Sarah Jean Horwitz takes readers on a thrilling journey through a magical wooded fairyland and steampunk streets where terrifying automata cats lurk in the shadows and a mad scientist’s newest mechanical invention might be more menace than miracle.

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Sarah Jean Horwitz Interview

1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?

I love writing because I love storytelling, and writing happens to be a pretty great way to share your stories with the world. I took some creative writing classes and wrote terrible fan fiction in high school, but it wasn’t until I took my first screenwriting class in college that I really fell in love with writing. Screenwriting has a very specific format and structure, and I found that very attractive as a new writer, as opposed to the terrifying abyss that appeared in my mind when someone said, “Write a story!” I took screenwriting classes throughout college and found that education to be very helpful when I turned my hand to children’s books.

2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?

The Harry Potter books were my favorite books for much of my life and still hold a very special place in my heart. Harry Potter has probably influenced me as a writer the most – something I think readers can tell, with all the Harry Potter references sprinkled through my books! I’ve been reading a fair bit of YA fantasy since high school and college. Maggie Stiefvater is a favorite of mine. I’ve often though to myself, “When I grow up, I want to write fantasy as good as Maggie Stiefvater’s!”

3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?

I write part-time and also have a day job as an administrative assistant at a real estate company. When I’m not writing, I enjoy watching TV, hanging out with my partner, reading, and circus arts. Most recently I’ve been practicing handstands and trapeze.

4. The first novel in your Carmer and Grit series—The Wingsnatchers—follows aspiring inventor Carmer and faerie princess Grit as they investigate the recent disappearances of many faeries, only to discover that a mad and deadly scientist is behind them. Since Carmer and Grit infuses magic and steampunk together, could you describe to us your world-building process for your series? What drew you to steampunk as an author and a reader? The Wingsnatchers

I always joke that the steampunk element of my books is the most accidental element, and it really is. The very first idea that I ever had for Carmer and Grit was a mental image of a boy in a top hat with a fairy with a mechanical wing sitting on the brim. Naturally, I had to at least partly build the story world around the existence of that mechanical wing. This led to research on clockwork, automatons, and the Industrial Revolution. When I also made the decision to pair fairy light and electric light in the plot, that of course took me straight to Thomas Edison and the late 1800s and the first power stations. And suddenly, bam! I found myself with an alternate Victorian era setting and a plot that heavily incorporated steam power and futuristic technology. And so: accidental steampunk! It just so happens that I love the aesthetic of that literary traditional as well, so I had great fun incorporating a lot of that imagery into the books.

Continue reading “Author Interview: Sarah Jean Horwitz, MG Steampunk Author of The Wingsnatchers”