This is you, writing from the future where TVs are larger than your Kirk Cameron poster but only as thick as a Nancy Drew book, and there are little boxes that you hold in your hand to change the channels, and there are tiny, flat phones that fit in your pocket and have no curly cords to attach them to the wall. I am not even joking here.
The future is magical.
So, it’s almost your eleventh birthday and you are over the moon because you just received a letter from the author James Howe who wrote some of your favorite books like Bunnicula, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Howliday Inn. I know, I know–James Howe! You will still find this event as mind-blowing thirty years in the future as you do right now. And that advice he gives you? It’s great writing advice and you will internalize it and apply it without even realizing you’ve done so.
Eventually his letter is going to get filed away in a scrapbook and you will forget about it for a while as you get caught up with dance and your aspirations to be a Laker Girl or backup performer for Janet Jackson. As you pursue those dancing dreams, you will also rediscover your love for writing and stories, and that passion will ultimately triumph over everything else and point you with purpose and focus into your future.
And then one day you’ll be living in Colorado (yes, you really do move out of California in the future. I know, you can’t imagine living anywhere else right now–except maybe Stoneybrook, CT, with the rest of the girls in The Babysitter’s Club–but you will move and you will be happy about it.) While sorting through your childhood things in Colorado, you will rediscover the letter from James Howe, and this will happen during a stretch of time when you are working multiple jobs while trying to write a novel. During this period you often doubt whether you have it in you to be a children’s book author like you dream of becoming. Finding that letter will feel like your destiny has been revealed, and you will plunge forward with confidence. Which doesn’t mean the path suddenly becomes clear and easy, but you will feel content with your choice to be on the path, no matter what obstacles lay ahead.
A few things I want to tell you before I get to the questions I know you are most eager for me to answer:
You are the driver of your life. Other people will offer you maps, tell you the best route, or demand that you follow to where they are going, but ultimately you have the say in where you steer your car and how you get to your destination.
You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you react and how you move forward. Look to people you admire as mentors (fictional people count too!) and think about how they carry themselves through the world and what they would do in a tough situation.
Surround yourself with good people. You can tell the quality of someone’s character by their actions, not their words, but at the same time be understanding that everybody has their bad days.
There is always an opportunity to try again. Just because you fail at something once doesn’t mean you should give up. If it still matters to you, try again.
Maintain and nourish your sense of humor. This will help you in just about every aspect of life.
Okay, now the stuff you really want to know about:
1. There is going to be a sequel to The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, but you will have to wait a while. Like ten or so more years. (Oh, and if the James Howe letter is tripping you out, get this: One day you will talk to Zilpha Keatley Snyder ON THE PHONE. You also eat lunch next to Lois Lowry. I know. I know!!! I told you, the future is magical.)
2. Your collection of VHS tapes with dutifully recorded and saved episodes of 21 Jump Street, ALF, and Moonlighting are not going to come in as handy as you think they will.
3. I’m sorry to break this to you, but you are not going to marry Corey Haim. You’ll ending up marrying . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But trust me, it’s a very happy outcome.
4. You won’t transform into an extroverted, chatty person, but that’s okay. It really, really is. All those things about yourself that make you feel awkward and like you don’t fit in? You’ll end up embracing them and appreciating your own individuality.
Okay, you can get back to your game of Super Mario Bros. now. And happy birthday, kid!
For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.
Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game–before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.
Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied writing and dance at the University of California, Irvine, and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California. When she was eighteen, she interned for a magazine in Manhattan and has worked in publishing ever since. To learn more about Jennifer you can visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.
You don’t know me, but I know you. I was you not long ago. Well, you probably think it’s been a while, but I can still remember what it was like to be ten years old. I’ve always been inside our head.
You like to play with your friend Brooke. In the summer, you put doll clothes on water balloons and play house out on the lawn, and in the winter, you turn Brooke’s basement into an obstacle course. But you also like to retreat to your own basement, where a blocky gray computer sits, waiting for you to fill its memory with stories.
As you get older, you’re going to retreat to that computer more often. Luckily, you’ll have good friends who won’t get upset when you tell them you’d rather stay in. Despite this love of staying in, you think you’re an extrovert, and you play one pretty well. You like to speak in church and be the center of attention. Someday, you’ll fake an English accent and entertain several dozen of your peers while you wait in line in a narrow, crowded hall. But after you’ve had a few kids, you’ll read this great book, Susan Cain’s QUIET (write that down!), and discover that you’re actually an introvert—and that that’s okay. Being introverted doesn’t make you lesser. You just grew up in a culture that values extroversion (which is probably why you’ve convinced yourself you are).
What else can I tell you about thirty-one-year-old Krista? You like grapefruit and green beans now. And oh my gosh, you ate tilapia for the first time a few weeks ago and actually liked it. (You still don’t like salmon, though.) You have an awesome husband, three great kids, and two books coming out this year. In other words, you have pretty much everything you’ve ever wanted, but you still have your rough days.
It’s not because you’re stupid or ungrateful. It’s because the chemicals in your brain don’t always work the way they should, and you know what? That’s not your fault. It’s doesn’t always feel that way, but it’s true. Luckily, you’ll have a supportive family and learn a lot about yourself and the people around you (who you used to judge more harshly). You’ll especially like this quote from Orson F. Whitney:
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire.”
Now, that doesn’t mean you won’t compare yourself to others. I hate to break it to you, but you’re pretty good at that. You know what will help? Making friends with other people who are in a similar boat. It’s much easier for you to feel genuinely happy or sad for others when you’ve already established a relationship with them. Oh, and don’t forget to give more than you take. That will just make you feel like an all-around good person.
Keep at it, ten-year-old Krista. You’re standing on the threshold of a beautiful life.
Your older, somewhat wiser self, Thirty-one-year-old Krista
Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin Robby back to life, Ella Mae doesn’t believe her–until a boy steps out of the scientist’s pod and drips slime on the floor right before her eyes.
But the boy is not Robby–he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and mistreated. When Auntie Mildred refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae convinces her mama to take the boy home with them. It’s clear that he’ll be kept like a prisoner in that lab, and she wants to help.
Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches him English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when the boy’s painful memories resurface, Ella Mae learns some surprising truths about her own family and, more importantly, what it means to love.
The Sound of Life and Everything is available on IndieBound, Powell’s, B&N, and Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Krista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by bedtime. She enjoys watching college football and researching her ancestors. Krista lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada. Connect with Krista on KristaVanDolzer.com, Twitter, and Goodreads.
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.
Hey! You just got those braces taken off your four front teeth, didn’t you? AW YEAH. Relish the freedom, because you’re going back into a full set when you’re thirteen. And you won’t get out of them until you’re sixteen, because the gods are unkind and cursed you with your mom’s big teeth and your dad’s teensy mouth. For now, relish the freedom of your orthodontics-free year, and in the trying season to come, keep in mind that people will one day be totally unaware that your two front teeth were once perpendicular to each other.
Your best friend moved away last year. That sucks. But years from now, you’ll connect again on Facebook, and she will fill your newsfeed with hilarious status updates. Guess what? Your two current best friends are going to move away, too. That double sucks. But I promise they’ll make fantastic pen pals, and you will find some new friends who actually stay in your hometown for more than a couple years.
You started your first novel this year! Don’t try hiding that Word doc, I know the secret folder where you keep it stashed. I also know where you hide the hand-drawn map of the fantasy world a’brewing in your imagination. I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’ll abandon that book after about four chapters. The good news is you will keep on writing, and one day another fantasy novel of yours will be PUBLISHED and will include in its cast of characters a boy you’ve already invented and named Fife.
Your older sister can be a real pill, can’t she? She’s so unfair and never wants to hang out, and she thinks she’s so much cooler than you. But hey, she IS cooler than you. She’s seventeen, and she’s trying to figure out a lot of confusing crap in her life. So be a little less annoying, okay? And maybe resist the urge to dress up like Norman Bates and sneak into the bathroom when she’s showering whilst screeching the Psycho theme? Because that’s really creepy, and she will never let you live it down. Never. As it turns out, when you get older, the two of you will be good friends, and those pencil stabbing wars will be nothing more than a distant memory. Really. Miracles do happen.
Right now, you think a boyfriend is the Stupidest Thing Imaginable, and you don’t understand all your boy-crazy peers. And you know what? That’s totally cool. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad because you’re too busy pursuing your dreams to waste time on kissy face. There will be plenty of time for that later.
Yes, you will achieve your dream of living in England, and you will love every second of it. You will also realize it’s not socially acceptable to occasionally lapse into a British accent. You’ll live in Spain and learn how to speak decent Spanish, but it would’ve helped if you’d done a little more grunt work in school, so maybe spend more time practicing those boring conjugation exercises, okay? Unlike calculus, you actually WILL use that knowledge one day.
I’m not gonna lie, Kathryn, things are about to get super awkward. They’re going to get emotional and ugly and rough. You’re going to get very sick and visit dozens of doctors in an attempt to figure out what’s wrong. You’re going to be diagnosed with a chronic physical illness. You’re going to fight some inner-demons and be forced to confront your OCD head-on. You’re going to humiliate yourself on numerous occasions and repeatedly confirm that you’re terrible at volleyball.
But here’s the beautiful news: the best is yet to come. In the no-too-distant future, people will actually give you awards for being a nerd. You will meet crazy-amazing people and have all those long, deep, meaningful conversations you’re currently bundling up inside. You will walk where Roman emperors once promenaded and attend mind-blowing concerts and see the Alps and punt the River Cam. You will make friends who know you inside-out and love you just the same. You’ll realize that, once you’re not trapped there, your hometown can be a great place. And you’re going to make your dream come true: you’re going to become a published author.
Until then, keep walking to the beat of your own drum, you weirdo, you. I promise, it’s worth it. You’ve got this, Little K.
All the hugs, Twenty-Five-Year-Old You
P.S. For the love of all things, WEAR MORE SUNSCREEN. You are not invincible like your friends. You are incapable of tanning. Slather on the 100 SPF and spare yourself much needless suffering.
P. P. S. Hope you like the enclosed gel pens and root beer-flavored Lip Smackers. Ha. I know. Of course you do.
For as long as Lottie Fiske can remember, the only people who seem to care about her have been her best friend, Eliot, and the mysterious letter-writer who sends her birthday gifts. But now strange things and people are arriving on the island Lottie calls home, and Eliot’s getting sicker, with a disease the doctors have given up trying to cure. Lottie is helpless, useless, powerless.
And then a door opens in the apple tree.
Follow Lottie down through the apple roots to another world—a world of magic both treacherous and beautiful—in pursuit of the impossible: a cure for the incurable, a use for the useless, and protection against the pain of loss.
I know, I know… you’re thinking about “officially” dropping the Y – you can do that after you read this letter. For now, you’re still Nicky.
I’m you in exactly twenty years, by the way, so I know you’re feeling a little anxious about starting 7th grade – middle school! Just so you’re prepared, on your first day, this kid named Brendan is going to take your chair in the cafeteria, and he’s going to be a real jerk about it. Believe it or not, in a few years, when you get to high school, you’re going end up being friends with him.
This is embarrassing to talk about, but I feel like I should warn you: you’re going to fall pretty hard for a few girls in 7th grade. Even worse: they’re all going to be taller than you, or they’re going to have crushes on people that are, like, three years older. Or they’re going to be deeply in love with one-hundred-year-old celebrities like Anthony Kiedis (that guy from The Red Hot Chili Peppers – I know, it’s ridiculous).
You’re going to hear this a lot:
“You’re going to be really cute in, like, ten years, when you grow up.”
Well, guess what: in ten years, you’re going to be headed for New York City, where you’ll live with your best friend and four guitars and stacks and stacks of punk rock records. It’s literally going to be The Best… and it won’t even matter if those girls were right, because cute is such a boring thing to be. Everybody you’re friends with in ten years will know that it’s better to be interesting than cute.
So don’t quit guitar lessons, even if your friend Jon is better than you think you’ll ever be. Keep practicing the drums! Above all else, don’t stop skateboarding after you break your wrist. If Back to the Future has taught me anything, it’s that if you promise to keep skateboarding every day, I should be able to go outside and do a varial flip by the time I’m done writing this letter. Learning tricks is much harder when you’re in your thirties, so please, please, please do me that one favor.
And just so you know, despite everything, you are going to ask one of the tall girls to the 8th grade dance, and she’s going to say yes, and it’s going to be a terrible night, mainly because everyone’s going to be taking pictures of her being taller than you. Rest assured: in twenty years, the worst part about that night will be that you can’t find any of those pictures.
Before I forget! There will be people with beards at your high school. Students! It’s insane, and you’re going to wonder when you’ll be able to grow a beard like that. I’m sorry to say that the answer is pretty much never. For better or worse, you’re going to be pretty baby-faced for a while. Even in your thirties, people are going to ask where you go to school.
Just smile and say “Hogwarts.”
Henry Long doesn’t have a heart. He doesn’t go to school. He doesn’t have a girlfriend. He doesn’t have a clue. Two of those things are about to change.
Since the Tragedies, Henry Long doesn’t have much: just an annoying low-watt buzz from his makeshift heart transplant, skinny arms, and a dusty library attic from which he charts the reconstruction of the Green Zone, the last habitable neighborhood of his ruined coastal city. While his parents work on making the Green Zone independent from a federal government that appears to have abandoned them, Henry’s feels similarly abandoned—that is, until he discovers a refugee artists’ colony called the Other Side. When the federales don’t take kindly to the Green Zone’s attempts at secession and kidnap Henry’s parents, Henry and his new renegade friends—including one very courageous girl with whom he’s shared one truly shocking kiss—are forced from the colorful streets and underground rock clubs of the Other Side to an overcrowded capital city on the verge of collapse.
As Henry uncovers more about the conflicting forces that run his world, he realizes that not everyone is who they seem to be—including himself. In The Loudness, readers will be propelled into an electrifying world where superheroes emerge from the unlikeliest people.
“I was recently persuaded by one who knows, that blurbs or cover quotes do no good, and I should not write them. So I will not be saying that The Loudness is a meticulously crafted and admirable book. Others may say it – I wouldn’t be surprised – but I say buy a copy, take it home and read it, and make up your own mind. What am I, a guru?” —Daniel Pinkwater
Nick Courage is a New Orleans-born artist, musician, writer, and aspiring skateboarder. His work has recently appeared in Story, Full Stop, and The Paris Review Daily. He splits his time between Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, where he lives with his wife and two cats.
I don’t know why I’m writing you this letter. I’m supposed to tell you what I think you’ll need to know to get through your tween years, but, honestly, no one can tell you anything. Not even me. Remember when Mom and Dad went on that weekend getaway when you were four, and they brought back little pewter brooches for you and your sisters? Each brooch was in the shape of an animal that was supposed to represent the personality of the girl it was given to. One sister got a unicorn and the other got a bird, but you . . . you got a donkey. A donkey. That’s how stubborn you were. Still are.
So what can I possibly say that you’ll listen to? The only thing I can say—which is what you’re going to do anyway—is, keep it up. Keep being that stubborn. It’s going to make all the difference. You’re quiet and sweet, and from a very small town. People—teachers, preachers, friends, co-workers, and even perfect strangers—are going to take one look at you and that Peter Pan collar you’re wearing, and think you don’t know your own mind. That you need to take their word for what life is all about.
For a while, you try and go along with what everyone is telling you. You try and think what people want you to think and act like they want you to act. You’re going to try and do this longer and harder than you need to. This makes me sad, but I guess trying hard is all part of being stubborn. Eventually you stop. You just sit down, right where you are, and take a good long look at life as it is. Not as someone else told you it was. And guess what? . . . Nothing! I’m not going to tell you “what.” Because I would just be another person telling you how things are, instead of encouraging you to find out for yourself.
And so, little donkey, all I can say is go ahead. Put your foot down. Refuse to budge. Insist on going your own way. I’ll be right here waiting for you . . . off the beaten path. Because the path that catches your imagination and ignites your curiosity isn’t the beaten one — it’s the one “laid down in the walking.” And in the writing. For you, writing is about taking notes on what you notice when you stop and sit and refuse to budge. And what you notice is beyond belief and impossible to capture, but it’s worth giving it a try. Kind of like life.
Taking the path that’s laid down in the walking isn’t going to be easy. But the good news is that it doesn’t require you to do anything out of character. Going your own way doesn’t involve giving up being that quiet, sweet self. Turns out, real rebels wear Peter Pan collars.
Penelope is running out of time! She dreams of being a writer, but how can she pursue her passion when her mother schedules every minute of her life? And how will she ever prove that writing is worthwhile if her mother keeps telling her to “get busy!” and “be more productive”? Then one day, Penelope discovers a hole in her schedule–an entire day completely unplanned!–and she mysteriously falls into it. What follows is a mesmerizing journey through the Realm of Possibility where Penelope sets out to find and free the Great Moodler, the one person who may have the answers she seeks. Along the way, she must face an army of Clockworkers, battle the evil Chronos, take a daring Flight of Fancy, and save herself from the grip of time. Brimming with clever language and masterful wordplay, The Lost Track of Time is a high-stakes adventure that will take you to a place where nothing is impossible and every minute doesn’t count–people do!
Paige Britt grew up in a small town with her nose in a book and her head in the clouds. She studied journalism in college and theology in graduate school, but never stopped reading children’s books for life’s most important lessons. THE LOST TRACK OF TIME is her debut novel. Connect with Paige on PaigeBritt.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
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).
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