In the Middle with Skila Brown

Today, we are In the Middle with Skila Brown, author of Caminar:

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Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Caminar is available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, and at bookstores near you.

Q&A with Skila

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

This is the exact age in my own life that books sucked me in. I chose reading over everything else. I remember sitting in the car with a book in the middle of a winter party, while the rest of my family was sledding down a hill. I just really loved to read. I would read anything—I wasn’t picky. This is when I found out what a great escape books can be. And how much a person can learn while reading.

So I think of this time as a magical time for a reader. It’s when we first learn we can read on our own, with no one looking over our shoulder or reading to us aloud. We can discover a book and a world privately and go there all on our own. Nobody can take that away from us. It’s a great discovery.

skila-childIf you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Dear Skila, age 8,

Stop worrying about everything. And stop being so bossy. Seriously. It’s a bad habit that’s harder to break when you’re older.

But the reading thing is a great habit. Keep that up. Those books you love reading? You’ll still love reading them even when you’re old. And those stories you keep making up to amuse yourself and/or possibly get out of trouble? You keep doing that! Believe it or not, later on, people will pay you money to do it. So keep it up, girl! It all works out okay.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Oh, that’s fun! Since Caminar is a novel in verse and we’re fast approaching National Poetry Month, how about: What’s a poem you loved as a middle grader?
And…here’s my answer:

Something Missing by Shel Silverstein

I remember I put on my socks,
I remember I put on my shoes.
I remember I put on my tie
That was painted
In beautiful purples and blues.
I remember I put on my coat,
To look perfectly grand at the dance,
Yet I fell there is something
I may have forgot—-
What is it? What is it?. . .

Want to know why I loved it as a middle grader? Go check out the book Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library and find the illustration that goes with this. What’s not to love about semi-naked subversive sketches?

Thank you, Heidi, for inviting me over to your blog! It’s lovely here. I may just hang out awhile.

Thank you, Skila! I’m a big Shel Silverstein fan myself. So glad you brought him along. Congratulations on your debut!

Skila Brown is the author of Caminar, a story about a boy who survives the massacre of his village and must decide what being a man during a time of war really means. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives with her family in Indiana. For more information about her book, please visit her website, SkilaBrown.com.

 

In the Middle with Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Come get In the Middle today with Laura Marx Fitzgerald, author of the wonderful Under the Egg:

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 Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Under the Egg is available on Indiebound, B&N, Amazon, and bookstores near you.

Q&A with Laura

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

My childhood was pretty much formed by my favorite middle-grade books: Alice in Wonderland, The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Anastasia Krupnik, The Borrowers. I read these books over and over again. Each one features a nice, normal, well brought-up girl who, whether she’s looking for it or not, lands feet first in an adventure and has to find her way out again. She has to make decisions and take bold actions from her own heart, even if her parents don’t approve. Because of these books, I went out into the world expecting the same kind of adventure. And that’s still the kind of story I like to write (and read) best.

Another reason I write middle grade is for my mother, who said if I ever write anything with sex, drugs, or bad language while she’s alive, she’ll disown me. (Ignore everything I wrote above about making your own bold decisions.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell him/her? 

One day you will get to buy your own clothes and won’t have to wear jumpers with Peter Pan collars anymore.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

“Are you like Isaac Asimov, who wrote: ‘I write for the same reason I breathe . . . because if I didn’t, I would die’?”

Good heavens no. I would rather do anything than write. Read, watch TV, pay bills, do the dishes. In fact, I did all of these things before forcing myself to sit down and write today. I think there’s a myth that writers are those other people, the people who can’t live without writing. For me, I just needed an idea so compelling that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. And even once I had it, it was still a battle to get my butt in the chair and my fingers on my keyboard. 

Just remember: discipline does not always make a writer. But in the end, it does make a book.

I love everything about this interview and your book! (Seriously, it has history, chickens, homeschooling, and pie. Did you write it for me?) Congrats on your debut!

In writing UNDER THE EGG, Laura Marx Fitzgerald drew on her study of art history at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Though she grew up Down South, today she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids (and a dog, if the two kids keep begging). UNDER THE EGG (Dial/Penguin) is her debut novel. Connect with her on her website, LauraMarxFitzgerald.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

In the Middle with Robin Herrera

Heavenly donuts! Today we are In the Middle with the talented Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel.

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Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.

With an unforgettable voice with a lot of heart, Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is the story of a young girl who learns to accept her family and herself while trying to make sense of the world around her.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel is available on Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, IndieBound, Amazon, and in bookstores near you.

Q&A with Robin

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

Middle Grade is pure fun! I wrote a lot of YA in college, and fell into MG when I started working at an elementary school as part of a work-study program and interacting with younger children. I spent the next six years of my life working in elementary schools, and I think being with that age group for so long is what drew me into writing for them. (I still write YA occasionally!)

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Robin 10

 

“Read more fiction!” I read a lot of non-fiction in elementary school, but fell in love with the few middle grade novels I did read, like I AM REGINA by Sally M. Keehn and JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson. I’d probably tell myself to read THE GIVER and HOLES and to give the Harry Potter series a chance when it comes out. (I stubbornly refused to read it until college. WHUT.)

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Yes! I’ve always wanted someone to ask what Hogwarts House I’d be in, because I think they’d be surprised by the answer. I’d probably be in Slytherin, because I’m not that brave, or smart, or loyal, but I am very ambitious, and when I was little I was always trying to prove myself. Also, I’ve got horcruxes.

Horcruxes are a big clue, yes. (Secretly, I think I’m a Hufflepuff.) Thanks for stopping in and congratulations on your launch!

Robin Herrera is an aspiring cat lady living in Portland, Oregon with her fiancé and one very mean (but very precious) cat. She received her BA from Mills College and her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not chasing cats, she can be found at her desk at Oni Press, where she works as an associate editor, or at the library, where she severely abuses the hold system.

Connect with Robin on her website, Twitter, and Tumblr.

Heidi—Live and In Person

Shhh. If you are very, very quiet, you might soon be able to see a rare Heidi in the wild. Check it out:

This Sunday I’ll be at A Children’s Place Bookstore in Portland with a panel of other 2014 debut kidlit authors.  We’ll give you a sneak peek and a reading from our upcoming releases. This will be the first time I will publicly read from Hook’s Revenge. Who knows what might happen? Maybe I’ll forget how to read! Maybe I’ll throw up! Maybe I’ll sneezefart and have to move away and change my name! You really won’t want to miss this. Details here.

Next weekend I’ll be giving a SCBWI workshop on using Twitter in your writing career.  Details here.

I’ll have Hook’s Revenge postcards and bookmarks at both these events. I’m happy to sign one for you.

I mean, if you want.

(Though I can’t quite imagine that anyone would care about my signature unless they are trying to forge loan documents or some such thing. Please don’t do that.)

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P.S. There’s still time to win an advance copy of Hook’s Revenge over on The Midnight Garden YA. Go now or forever be sorry.

 

In the Middle with Louise Galveston

Today on In the Middle, we are speaking with Louise Galveston, author of By the Grace of Todd.

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Todd’s room borders on Hoarders-level messy. We’re talking Roomageddon here. When his mom gives him the ultimatum to clean it or miss his best friend’s birthday bash, Todd makes an amazing discovery: he has created an entire civilization of ant-sized people from the sheer grossness on his filthy sock. The “Toddlians” put their faith in their all-powerful creator, but can the kid who can’t even keep a hermit crab alive save them from Max Loving, the biggest bully at Wakefield Middle School?

By the Grace of Todd is available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, and bookstores near you.

Q&A with Louise

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I was an early reader, but it was the books I read during my middle grade years that inspired me to want to actually try new things. You know, eat fried worms (I attempted this, but couldn’t bring myself to swallow it down!), write everyone’s secret lives in a spy notebook, and sleep with my feet on my pillow, a la Pippi Longstocking. Somehow I never quite got away from my middle grade self. She’s still chasing crazy dreams and trying to figure out where she belongs in the world. Only she’s usually disguised as a twelve-year-old boy. My sense of humor is definitely stuck in sixth grade!

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell her?

5THGRADE

Keep your head in the clouds, Dreamer. Don’t listen to the “cool kids” who want to clone you into one of their followers. Don’t give up playing the trumpet, drawing, riding horses, or dancing. You won’t have buck teeth forever, Bugsy. Even though you think tiny town Kansas is the end of the earth, don’t despair, your future husband is on that dusty yellow bus, right across the aisle from you. (I think I’d hold back the part about having eleven kids to give the husband a fighting chance.) :)

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

If you could spend a day with any author, who would it be?

I’d like to go back in time and hang out with Lucy Maud Montgomery. I’d pick her brain about writing humor and yet being such a genius with setting… in my mind she’s the consummate writer. I’d also like to show her how much her work would impact the world and encourage her in her last days.

Great interview questions, Heidi! Thanks for having me, this was fun!

Thank you, Louise, and congratulations on your launch!

Louise Galveston grew up on horseback in the Midwest. The only thing that could pull her out of the saddle was a great book or a game of Star Wars. The lone girl in her neighborhood, she always got to play Princess Leia, thus her mad lightsaber skills. (Yes, she had the cinnamon roll side-bun hair.) Louise even cleaned her room on occasion, but never found anything but a rogue hamster under her bed. Louise still lives in the Midwest. When she’s not writing, she directs children’s theater and dabbles in watercolor. She is proud to say that some of her eleven children have inherited her horsey genes and all of them love Sea-Monkeys. (Her first obsession with tiny creatures.)
Connect with Louise on her website or a special website created for By The Grace of Todd, twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads.

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