Let’s kick this off with a quick word about the nickname business you’re obsessing over. Gizmo Mogwai – ain’t gonna catch on. Sorry, but it just isn’t. And really, do you want people to associate you with a gremlin for the rest of your life? Thought not. Think potential boyfriends…
Also, all of the gymnastic-themed names, Flip, Split and the likes, I don’t think these are going to work, either. Stick with Kate. It’s a good name.
You love lists, right? Me too! They rule. Keeping life all neat and tidy and ordered. Everybody should like lists; everybody should write them. All hail the list!
Well, I’d like to run through one specific list you wrote not long ago. It’s the ‘Potential Careers’ list. It’s in the shoe box in the bottom right corner of your wardrobe, the box with the Bros stickers splattered all over it. Got it? Great, let’s start.
1: ‘Supermodel’ Mmm, interesting. Yes, you’re ridiculously pencilly thin. Yes, your skin is horribly flawless. But I’ve got this feeling there might be a height issue ready to stand in the way of your dream. I know, it’s going to be a tough pill to swallow, but there just aren’t many catwalk queens averaging little over five feet. For now, carry on swirling in front of the mirror and sauntering up and down in Mum’s heels, but be prepared to cross through this with a permanent red marker pen one day.
Oh, and please be careful in those heels. Specifically when you’re about fifteen on a night out with friends at the movies. Think stairs.
2: ‘Nurse’ Awesome job, and you’d be just like Mum, your hero. But, I have this feeling you’re going to be an emotional individual; breaking down regularly over the smallest things, like…I don’t know…old people, sad adverts, tiny kids falling off bikes. And being a nurse is going to bring a lot of heartbreaking things into your life. I’d ponder this one for a little longer.
3: ‘Vet’ See ‘Nurse’.
4: ‘Cleaner’ Excuse me while I wipe up the mouthful tea I just spat everywhere. Seriously girl, what are you thinking? You love tidying up, I know this, and it will be something that, at times, you have the potential to become ever so slightly obsessed about. You love lists, already mentioned, and neat piles, folded clothes, toys in boxes, shut doors and drawers, straight lines, corners, and…oops, sorry, I got carried away there. But have a quick peek at your bedroom. Yes, it’s clean, but is it REALLY clean? You know, dusted? Polished? Vacuumed? Noooo, it isn’t. And when this does happen, Mum does it. This is pretty much what being a cleaner will entail, all the things Mum does. Which brings me neatly on to the next point.
I believe you might have your fair share of cleaning in the future. I’m thinking out loud here, but boyfriend, marriage, babies. Babies who grow up to be dirty, smelly boys. Boys who produce poo-stained pants and filthy bedrooms. Heck, you might even have a dog one day, which equals fur, paw prints, slobber. Think gag-reflex. Enough said. So cross this one out. No, scrap that, rip it right off that bit of paper. (But make sure to put it in the bin.)
5: ‘Horse rider’ ??? Is that even a job?
6: ‘Author’ And we’ve landed. Why oh why are you embarrassed about your writing? Is it still because your brother laughed at that short story, Monty Mouse, all those years ago? Is it because the only other kids who like writing in your class also like to darn ballet shoes and collect toy buses? You’ve got to rise above it. Don’t you remember those five sparkling team points Mr Havard awarded you for The Space Rocket? A teacher who probably had a note from home to say he was allergic to team points and excitement. No one had ever seen him so worked up! And all because of those 500 and something words YOU put together. It’s a sign, I tell you, a sign!
Don’t shy away from being ‘different’, OK? Just don’t. Different is cool. And your imagination, your love of words, might just be the cure to your self-esteem issues. I’m saying, let YOU shine through, release the words. It’s been a bumpy ride so far, I’m aware of that, and it’s likely to get even bumpier in the years to come. But there will be plenty of smooth riding as well. Times when containing your elation might prove too difficult. So don’t contain it, let it out; lap it up, swim in it. Life’s too short to wonder what if.
Good luck, my friend. Until later.
~From your 30-something-year-old self
Winell Road is the most boring street on Earth and 12-year-old Jack Mills is sick to his molars of living there. But when a UFO nearly abducts him outside his home, his life takes a terrifying and mysterious turn. With the help of his new friend and neighbour, frighteningly tall Roxy Fox, Jack discovers there’s a lot more to Winell Road and his life than he’d ever imagined.
Foster is a freelance editor and children’s writer who likes lists. Originally from the UK, she now lives on the Gold Coast in Australia with her three sons, husband and spoodle. Winell Road, her debut middle grade novel will be released later this month. Connect with Kate on KateJFoster.com, Twitter, and Facebook.
You know how people tease you for reading so much? Don’t listen to them, and don’t change that. Escape into books when you need to. Remember that spending time with books doesn’t mean you don’t like people — it means you love stories. It’s fine to need a break from the everyday world sometimes, and a reading life is a pretty great life. Anyone who says you can’t live in books has never been a writer.
You know how, when you have a bad day, your mom always says “It’s material for your novel” – she’s right. It really is.
Try not to worry so much. It’s okay to feel afraid – it’s even smart, sometimes — but why let fear run your entire life? Think about what you actually, truly want to try. Is it going to hurt or kill you, or ruin your life? If not, maybe it’s worth it to try something new, even if you aren’t instantly good at it. It could even be fun. (It could even make a good story.)
It’s okay to ask for what you truly want. You’re going to be surprised how many things could have been possible if only you’d asked for them. Not everything. But more than enough. If it’s important, it’s worth asking.
Be your own kind of strong. Do the best you can to do what you think is right, even when it’s hard. Practice apologizing when you did something that wasn’t good after all. (You’re going to use that skill a lot.) Be brave for yourself, too — stand up for yourself. People shouldn’t treat you in ways you’d never treat someone else.
Listen to what you actually think. Just you. Everyone in your life is giving you advice and opinions right now, even me, and some of it’s really good advice, but you know what? It doesn’t matter as much as learning to find your own way through. Learn what’s right for you, and learn how to stick to it.
But remember how many people are on your side. Your family, your friends, your teachers, your community – even if they don’t say it, most of them are there for you when you need them. They believe in you. They are proud of you.
Remember that I’m proud of you, too.
When you didn’t do it right the first time? That’s because you were learning. Take that knowledge and try again. And again, and again, and again. (It’s a good thing you’re so stubborn. Hang onto that.)
When you cried because you weren’t brave enough to stand up for someone else? You didn’t let yourself off the hook. Keep trying, every time you can. (It’s still hard. It still matters.)
When you wondered what someone else would think, and then said what you believed anyway? When you stepped away from the crowd, or towards it, to do what you felt was right? Keep doing that.
Keep believing you can do anything. I can’t wait until you see what you can do.
Love, Kelly, thirty years later
P.S. Maybe you don’t actually hate chickens. Or maybe you only hate Rhode Island Reds, like that one that pecked your foot. That’s fine; you can use that.
P.P.S. You know that book you really like, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency? Read that one again. And again. (Anyone who says you don’t learn from rereading books doesn’t know anything about writers.)
Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse….
And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.
Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more.
Kelly Jones has worked as a librarian and a bookseller, and has her own (much-loved, but fairly ordinary) chickens. Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer is her first novel. Connect with Kelly on curiosityjones.net, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.
one I GIFed this old vine of myself so everyone can see my winning smile. Aren’t you glad???
Edit: Why isn’t it looping? Click to see it again.
two START SPREADING THE NEEEEEWS! I’ll be in New York at the end of the month. If you are in the area, you’ll have three chances to hang out with me: signing advance copies of The Pirate Code at Book Expo, hanging out and playing games with dozens of other middle grade authors, and talking pirates and hot dogs with author Tara Dairman. See my events page for more details on each.
three Tiny Hamster Tiki Party!
four My I <3 Educators giveaway is on for a few more days. Tell the teachers and librarians in your life that they could win a hardcover of Hook's Revenge, an advance copy of The Pirate Code—both signed, a classroom pack of bookmarks and postcards, and a free in person visit from me! Enter here.
five Here’s another GIF. Like creepy mother, like creepy daughter, right?
It can be tough to be in the middle. Not quite a little kid anymore and not quite a grown-up—but expected to act like one. I know your parents had the same feelings when they were your age, but the passing years have made them forget what it’s like to feel like you don’t fit in anywhere. To be on the outside of games you played just a year ago because now you’re “too old” but still left out of adult conversations because you’re “too young”. They think you have it easy because you don’t have to go to work and earn money to pay the mortgage or the electricity bill—but you do have a job.
Your job is to find what makes your heart sing and do it.
It doesn’t matter if what makes your heart sing is playing soccer or playing the piano. It could be reading or writing or doing wacky science experiments. Through play we find what we love—we find what makes our heart sing. Yes, I said through play! Even when you are an adult you need time to play. To be creative! You are never too old to play. Don’t let anyone tell that you are—if they do tell you, ignore them.
Our bodies weren’t meant for sitting in front of a computer all day. They were built for movement—for work, for play! Get out there and do it, because, even though video games give us a chance to explore places we will never see and put ourselves in someone else’s shoes for a while, that can never compete with actually doing the exploring ourselves. Even if it’s in your own backyard, you might discover something you’ve never seen before and you might even be inspired to make up your own game with the neighborhood kids. You might think that playing games where you use your imagination to make up the story as you go is “kid stuff”. But guess what? That’s what writers do everyday! Whether they are making up stories for books, movies or tv, they are role-“playing”.
So how will you know that you’ve found what makes your heart sing? That you’ve done your job? Simple! Ask yourself these questions:
When I’m doing this particular activity, do I notice the time passing?
Do I feel excited when an idea to expand this particular activity strikes me?
Do I find myself daydreaming about doing this particular activity when faced with a boring stretch of time?
Do I try to find ways to do this activity when I’m supposed to be doing something else?
When I’m doing this activity, does it make me feel good about myself?
If you answered yes to all these questions, you’ve found what makes your heart sing! Do it because you love it. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not practical, or that it won’t get you any further in life and you should be taking an extra math class instead of spending time doing what makes your heart sing (blah, blah, blah). Dance! Write! Tumble! Throw a ball! Make up a silly song!
Maewyn Bridgepost, the tiniest Hapenny, a race of little people, spends her days, from breakfast to midnight nibble, scrubbing the hearth, slopping the pigs, and cooking for her guardian, Gelbane, who never spares a kind word. As if life as a servant isn’t bad enough, Mae learns that Gelbane is a troll and Hapennies are a troll delicacy. Years ago, a spell trapped Gelbane in Mae’s village. Ever since, Gelbane has been chiseling away the magic protections and now Mae’s home is destined to become a smorgasbord for half-starved trolls. When her best friend, Leif, goes missing, it will take all of Mae’s courage to friend her friend and protect her village. When pitchforks, sewing needles, pots, brooms and a little magick are the only weapons at hand, the hapennies discover that great victories can be accomplished no matter what size you are, but only if you stick together.
Tangled Magick can be found at Jennifer’s local bookstore Morgan Hill Books, B&N, Amazon, or ask for either book in the series at your local bookstore or library.
A hapenny should live a simple life, but two years ago Maewyn Bridgepost discovered her magick and saved her village from a troll invasion. Now as an official Protector of the Wedge, Maewyn shares in the responsibility of keeping its residents safe.
When her mentor, the wizard Callum, leads a Great Expedition, Maewyn joins, knowing that to be the best protector she can be, she must be familiar with what the world holds beyond her tiny village.
When you are only 3 foot tall, the outside world can be a scary place, and the hapennies soon find themselves knee deep in troll trouble. Captured by a gang of trolls the group is taken to a broken-down castle to be servants to the troll queen, Huldfrejya. Unfortunately, Callum is cast into a deep slumber. It’s up to Maewyn to rescue herself and her friends before they are entangled by a powerful magickal enchantment that will turn them into slaves to the troll queen forever!
Jennifer Carson grew up on a steady diet of Muppet movies and renaissance faires. Currently she is a mom, wife, author, designer and artist. She holds a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing and has published both fiction and nonfiction books and articles. Besides telling tales, Jennifer likes to create fantasy creatures and characters and publishes her own sewing patterns. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband, four boys and many furred and feathered friends. Connect with Jennifer on thedragoncharmer.com, Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter..
Giveaway open to teachers and librarians in the United States and Canada. Homeschool groups are also eligible provided they have at least 25 students.
Free author visit (valued at $1000) scheduling will be based on author’s availability and is to be completed before the end of January 2016. Prize does not include travel expenses. Travel expenses from and back to Salem, Oregon are to be covered by the winning school. Full day visit includes one general assembly and up to three workshops, lunch with students, and a book signing period. (Heidi will provide a preorder form to send home with students and will work with your local independent bookseller to provide books.)
If the Skype option (valued at $200) is chosen, the lesson is not to exceed one hour. Scheduling will be based on author’s availability and is to be completed before the end of January 2016.
Workshops for in person or Skype visit may be chosen from the Schools, Homeschool Groups, and Libraries list found here.
Contest ends and a winner will be chosen May 15, 2015 at 12:00am PDT.
Reader. Writer. Giraffe suspicioner. I lie to children for fun and profit. Author of HOOK'S REVENGE (Disney•Hyperion, September 16, 2014), HOOK'S REVENGE: THE PIRATE CODE (Disney•Hyperion, Fall 2015), and GIRAFFES RUIN EVERYTHING (Bloomsbury Kids, 2016).
Call my hometown bookstore, The Book Bin at 503-361-1235, and place an order for an autographed Hook's Revenge!
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