Hey eight-year-old Laurie,
Remember how in kindergarten, you ran into that playground pole? You were running flat out. Then – DING – it was like someone rang a giant bell. The goose egg on your forehead was so big the school called your mom because they were afraid something was seriously, medically wrong with you. Then, in first grade, you were staring at your feet while walking with your class from lunch and – DING – you smacked into that pole that held up the canopy. There was another goose egg. Another call to your mom.
Well, the good news about being eight is you will no longer run into poles.
Okay, yes, there’ll be more goose eggs. There will be the time when you and your older brother are playing. He’s spinning you around like a whirling dervish by holding your arm and leg. (Your little sister is watching – not her turn.) He loses control, you knock your forehead on the tabletop, and you and your siblings panic the babysitter. This is fairly impressive as you only have a babysitter about three times in your entire childhood, and manage a possible medical emergency with one of them.
Even now you sometimes run into things – counter, desk, rocking chair – any type of furniture really. Just the other day you managed to hit your head on the driver’s side door of your Subaru. You’re slightly taller than the car, so you’re not sure how that happened. But despite all that, between eight and thirty-something years of age, I can assure you, you haven’t dinged your head on another pole even once.
The point being, it takes you awhile, but you do get better at looking at where you’re going.
When I decided to write to you, I considered telling you specifics about things that will happen – good and bad, hopeful and depressing – then I realized that at eight you’ve only recently stopped looking at book’s endings before you decide if you want to read them. I don’t want to make you backslide by tempting you with any more life spoilers.
(Although, I do wish you’d be less mortified and more excited when your dad shows up in a gorilla costume to take you to your Diane Fossey report. Yes, that does happen. And, no, he doesn’t warn you beforehand. He wants to surprise you. So try to be happy. The only one who doesn’t realize immediately that gorilla is hilarious is twelve-year-old you.)
Okay. That was one more spoiler. But no more!
Instead, I decided to talk with you about poles, and knocks, and looking at where you’re going and where you’ve been. Know that some of the things that are hard for you now – showing people your writing, talking in front of people, new social situations – will be challenging for some time. In fact, I don’t think they’ll ever be easy.
Lots of things take practice. When you start something, you don’t have to be perfect at it. You don’t even have to be good at it. Not being the best at something doesn’t make you the worst. Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure. And you struggle through. It’s one of your better qualities. I’d tell you not to stress so much about it along the way, but I know you will anyway.
And although sometimes it’s a disaster, most times it’s not. Eventually, many people are shocked these things are challenging for you.
So expect years of comedy (and sadly some tragedy), keep a lookout for poles, and realize if you do get dinged, most times it just hurts for a moment. After the swelling goes down, it’ll become another hilarious tale. Just write it down and make it part of the story.
Find Villain Keeper on Indiebound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, HarperCollins, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
All his life, Prince Caden has dreamed of slaying a dragon. But before he has the chance, he is ripped from his home in the Great Winterlands of Razzon and finds himself in Asheville, North Carolina—a land with no magic and no dragons.
Or so he thinks. The longer Caden spends in Asheville, the more he comes to realize that there is unexpected and dangerous magic in this strange land. There just may be dragons here, too. But what if Caden’s destiny isn’t to slay a dragon, after all?
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Laurie McKay is an author and biology instructor who lives in Durham, NC. When she’s not working, she spends time with her family and her two elderly dogs. Her debut MG fantasy novel, VILLAIN KEEPER (The Last Dragon Charmer #1), is available now!|
Connect with Laurie on lauriemckay.net, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
Want to show the author in your life (or on your shelves) a little extra love this weekend? Here are a few Valentines that will make him or her swoon for you:
Love in the Stacks
An Online Romance
Share the Love
Anticipating a Beautiful Future
Speaking of which… Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code is currently available for preorder on Barnes & Noble and Amazon or, even better, ask for it at your local indie.
Dear Fifth Grade Cory,
I write to you specifically (not to fourth grade Cory or sixth grade Cory) because fifth grade was a really important year for you (us). Epic, really.
This is the year that you discover you’re not cool.
Now I understand why, at this stage of your life, you wouldn’t necessarily see this as a positive. And you won’t see it like that, not for quite a while.
But let’s be honest, you’ve sort of seen this coming. Right? You know yourself. Last year got a little bit confusing, what with switching schools at all. Everybody was too busy labeling you “the new girl” to notice if you were cool or not. Nobody really knew you, so you sort of drifted through the groups and the cliques and the clubs like you were in some sort of weird, middle school utopia.
But this year is a brand new year. And now that everybody knows you better, they’ve figured it out. You, my dear, are not cool.
That’s not true for everyone. In fact, something weird is going to happen this year: some of the girls you’ve been hanging out with are going to magically be declared “cool.” No one knows who, exactly, decides this. Or what the criteria is. Or how those who achieve this mysterious honor are notified about their change in status. (There was probably a handshake or a secret meeting or pamphlet that explained it – but you’re not cool enough to be privy to anything like that). But however it happens, some of your friends will go on to claim the title of “cool” and all the rights and privileges associated with it. While you, and your fellow un-chosen friends . . . won’t.
The whole thing is going to make you a little bit miserable, to be honest. And I wish I could tell you “Buck up, Cory. In high school, your fairy god mother shows up and arms you with a new wardrobe, better hair, a working familiarity with acceptable music and trendy pop culture references and BAM, you become the homecoming queen.” But that isn’t what happens. Not in high school, not in college, and not in the mysterious “real world” that you are only now beginning to picture.
I’m sorry if that sounds harsh. The good news is, you do read a lot of good books this year. (And next year, wow, I can’t begin to tell you about the awesome reading that sixth grade has in store for you – The Song of the Lioness Quartet, The Blue Sword, The Egypt Game: it’s a truly inspiring year of books for you.) And if you had been tapped as “cool,” who knows if you would have had time for any of those? Or maybe they wouldn’t have meant so much to you. Food for thought.
You’ll be glad to know that being cool becomes a lot less important later on. And believe me, it’s not because we achieve it. I mean, yes, we do eventually learn how to blow-dry our hair straight. And the nice people at Sephora teach us how to do make-up properly. And we stop wearing flannel shirts and hiking boots All. The. Dang. Time. But you still use the term “cosplay” as a verb a bit too often, you get a little bit too excited about life-size Tardis replicas, and you are too quick to quote old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (ah yes, that’s another thing you have to look forward to), to be considered “cool.” At least in the traditional sense.
And somewhere along the way, that stopped bothering you.
Maybe it’s because everybody else seems to have stopped caring if people are cool. Or maybe we’ve just learned to live with it. Or maybe it’s because we’ve realized that we know our share of awesome, inspiring, lovable people and none of them are cool either.
The point is, we end up doing just fine. And when I think back through all the people we’ve met, the books we’ve read, the experiences we’ve had – almost none of which were remotely “cool” – I wouldn’t trade any of them. Not if our fairy mother came down right now and offered me “cool” on a platter.
So thank you, Fifth Grade Cory. You’re taking one for the team this year. (And also next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, and then some). But take comfort in the fact that somewhere, your thirty-four-year-old self is reveling in all of her grown-up, totally uncool, dorkalicious glory. And she’d like to sincerely thank the fifth grade version of herself who made it all possible.
Find Dinosaur Boy on IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Book People, and Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Everyone knows the dinosaur gene skips a generation.
So it isn’t a complete surprise when Sawyer sprouts spikes and a tail before the start of fifth grade. After all, his grandfather was part stegosaurus.
Despite the Principal’s Zero Tolerance Policy, Sawyer becomes a bully magnet, befriended only by Elliot aka “Gigantor” and the weird new girl. When the bullies start disappearing, Sawyer is relieved-until he discovers a secret about the principal that’s more shocking than Dino DNA. The bullies are in for a galactically horrible fate…and it’s up to Sawyer and his friends to rescue them.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Cory Putman Oakes is a children’s book author from Austin, Texas. Her middle grade debut, DINOSAUR BOY, came out in February 2015 with its sequel, DINOSAUR BOY SAVES MARS, to follow in February, 2016. She is also the author of THE VEIL (a young adult novel).|
Connect with Cory on corypoakes.com, Twitter, and Facebook.
I have started bullet journaling. It hasn’t been long enough for me to really evaluate its effectiveness, but so far, I like it. Making lists is my jam.
Hook’s Daughter, the UK version of Hook’s Revenge, will be out in just over a month! That means I have just over a month to decide on my celebration dinner: Fish and Chips or Bangers and Mash?
Want to win a copy?
Pepper has learned the word “blanket” and comes running whenever anyone says it. If I don’t have a blanket on my lap, she attempts to climb up my pant leg. I thought you should know that.
I think this old McDonald’s toy (Lucy from Narnia) looks like me. It’s a bit unnerving, but in a delightful way. Would it be weird if I bought a bunch of them on eBay and put them all over my house? (Even if you say yes, I’ll probably still do it.)
The above image is from the Instagram account of Tom Angleberger, author of the the Origami Yoda series. It’s delightful.
What exactly is a banger? Some kind of sausage, right?
Hey Twelve-Year-Old MarcyKate,
Right now school is a miserable place for you. I know how you dread the bus every morning. How you get made fun of when you have to take a day off from school for allergy tests and come back looking like you were bitten by a geometrically-inclined mosquito. How even recess has lost its fun now that that group of girls taunts you every day, telling you you’re fat and ugly (by the way, you’re not. And you’ll grow out of this awkward phase—mostly—I promise.)
You may not realize it now, but you’re lucky because you have friends who are awesome and will be your friends for many years (even if you fight more often than you like). You share a love of books, and act out your own stories in the Redwall world at recess as way to escape the bullies. Maybe those bullies mock you for it, but some day, you’ll write your own novels. You won’t know what they’re doing, and you won’t care either.
The bad news: Before it gets better, it’s going to get worse. As hard as 5th and 6th grade have been, junior high is going to be harder. Then there will be high school. That’s where you learn to embrace your weird…unfortunately, not everyone else does. I know you worry that no one cares about you, but trust me—they do. The bright side of high school is that you collect a few more longtime friends along the way.
Now the good news: Someday you’ll go to a college where you’re not the weirdest or geekiest person in the room. And they won’t give you grades. Sounds like heaven, right? It is, and it’s how you got the courage to tackle a novel in the first place. You’ll meet people who challenge you in all the best ways, and inspire your creative side. It is glorious. It is life changing. I promise it is worth getting through what must seem like an infinite stretch of public school before you.
So, keep reading late into the night even after mom and dad yell at you to go to sleep. It’s okay to need an escape. Books are a healthy way to do that! And when you do go to bed, keep telling yourself stories as you fall asleep (though, you might want to whisper more quietly – your sister in the next room can hear you!). Keep creating, and most importantly keep dreaming. One day when you get to hold your own fantasy novel in your hands, you’ll know it’s all worth it.
Monstrous will release on February 10th. Find it on IndieBound, B&N, Amazon, or order a signed copy from Porter Square Books by typing “signed” in the order comments.
The city of Bryre suffers under the magic of an evil wizard. Because of his curse, girls sicken and disappear without a trace, and Bryre’s inhabitants live in fear. No one is allowed outside after dark.
Yet night is the only time that Kymera can enter this dangerous city, for she must not be seen by humans. Her father says they would not understand her wings, the bolts in her neck, or her spiky tail—they would kill her. They would not understand that she was created for a purpose: to rescue the girls of Bryre.
Despite her caution, a boy named Ren sees Kym and begins to leave a perfect red rose for her every evening. As they become friends, Kym learns that Ren knows about the missing girls, the wizard, and the evil magic that haunts Bryre.
And what he knows will change Kym’s life.
Reminiscent of Frankenstein and the tales of the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel by MarcyKate Connolly stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|MarcyKate Connolly is a writer and arts administrator living in New England with her husband and pugs. She’s a coffee addict and voracious reader. Monstrous is her debut middle grade novel.|
Connect with MarcyKate on MarcyKate.com, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.
I love giving presentations and teaching writing to kids and adults! If you are interested in having me come speak to your group, click here for more information.
It seems like Hook’s Revenge was just released, but around here it’s time to get excited about the sequel. I’m revealing the cover for Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code on Mr. Schu Reads today. Here’s a sneak peek:
Pop on over to Mr. Schu’s to see the full cover, front and back, and hear a bit about the book from me and illustrator John Hendrix.
Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code will be available September 15. You can preorder now on B&N, Amazon, or my favorite option, ask for it in your local independent bookstore.
I can’t wait to share Jocelyn’s further adventures with you!
Dear Eleven-Year-Old Gail,
So, the huge plastic glasses, the bangs you’ll cut yourself later this year, and the whole puberty thing…yeah, this is not the best year of your life. Here’s the good news: you get contacts when you’re thirteen (not to mention that glasses get a whole lot cuter in the future), the bangs will grow out, and you’ll be very thankful for the puberty thing in high school. Also, please don’t ever cut your own hair again. Please.
To answer your questions:
1) No, you will not grow up to be a journalist a la Murphy Brown, be starring on Broadway, or be an Olympic figure skating champion. Instead, you will go to law school and spend a few years at work pondering some very exciting acronyms, like PD and UIM and TTD and IMEs.
2) Yes, you will finally get a boyfriend (but no, he won’t look anything like Kirk Cameron or Donnie Wahlberg).
3) Yes, all those scribblings in Lisa Frank three-subject notebooks will come to something! Also, your sister is probably reading them all, so find a better hiding place, okay?
4) Yes, being the class nerd is a good thing. Just trust me on this one.
5) No, you won’t wear that fluffy Scarlett O’Hara dress in Teen magazine to prom. Fluffy will be out, and slinky will be in. Sorry.
6) No, please don’t buy those short shorts (although I know you will anyway).
7) No, you won’t name your daughter Destiny Samantha Alexandra.
8) No, the Oujia board is not real. It’s just your sister and your cousins moving the pointer around.
9) No, pimples never really go away. It is one of the sad truths of the universe that people of any age can get zits, no matter what the lady at the Almay counter told you.
10) Yes, your little sister is annoying, but she’s also a pretty amazing person. And she’s smarter than you, so be nice.
11) Yes, you will finally get to have more than one cat. Beware of this fact.
12) No, you’ll never figure out how to successfully tight roll a pair of jeans. But in a year or so, no one will really care.
Yeah, eleven is the pits. Twelve isn’t much better. I can say this having lived almost three times that now. Yes, I’m old. What’s that? No, sorry, I can’t switch places with you. Not only do I need you to live through this time so I can put it all in a book later (sorry), there’s no way you want to miss what’s coming next. High school and college are both crazy fun, and you’ll meet some amazing people who will still be your friends when you’re old and in your thirties like me.
I know being eleven is weird and confusing and that every little thing is annoying, but it will all get better, I promise. So hug your sister, rock that blue plaid school uniform, crank up that Boyz II Men cassette tape, grab the newest Fear Street book (BTW, you’ll totally walk by R.L. Stine at a convention in 2014 and fangirl for moment), and know that life will hold so much awesomeness in the future.
Find Breaking the Ice on Indiebound, Carmichael’s, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or ask for it at your local bookstore or library.
Kaitlin has always dreamed of being a champion figure skater, and she’s given up a lot to pursue her passion. But after having a totally uncharacteristic and decidedly NOT figure-skating-approved tantrum after getting her scores at a major competition she’s dropped by her coach and prestigious skating club.
When no other club in town will have her, she’s forced to join the ridiculed and rundown Fallton Club, jokingly referred to as the Fall Down Club. At first Kaitlin thinks this is a complete disaster, but after meeting some of the other skaters, including a boy (who happens to have the most perfect hair she’s ever seen) Kaitlin thinks it might actually not be so bad.
But when she’s tasked with learning a whole new program right before Regionals and figures out that almost all the other skaters target Fallton, she thinks joining the Fall Down Club may just be the second biggest mistake she’s ever made.
In this figure skating themed debut, Kaitlin learns that when you fall down, you have to pick yourself up – even if it’s in front of judges and a crowd.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Gail Nall lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her family and more cats than necessary. She once drove a Zamboni, camped in the snow in June, and almost got trampled in Paris. She is also the co-author of the upcoming YOU’RE INVITED (Aladdin/S&S, May 2015).|
Connect with Gail on GailNall.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.
I’m super excited about a new blog feature I’ll be unveiling later this week. As you may know, last year I had a wonderful time introducing you to debut authors of tween—or middle grade—books in my In the Middle series. I wanted to continue doing so with 2015 debuts, as well as a few more established authors, but with a twist.
My favorite part of last year’s interviews was the question, “If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell him/her?” In that spirit, I decided to invite authors to write a letter to themselves as a tween and share it, along with a photo of themselves at that age.
Say hello to Hey Kid!
I drew this with Mac Paintbrush. Can you tell???
This concept is not exactly new. Dear Teen Me has been doing something similar for quite some time, and doing it very well. However, with Hey Kid! authors will be going back a bit further, to those tender tween years. I’ve received a few letters already and they are fantastic. I can’t wait to share them with you. The first one will post this Thursday, with a new letter following nearly every week most of the year. Don’t miss them!
Hook’s Revenge will be out in paperback on September 1. Two weeks later, on September 15, Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code will be released. I have seen the cover art and it is wonderful (and not created in Mac Paintbrush)! Looking forward to showing you soon!
See my books page for more information.
Goodness! I have a lot of things to update. Here’s me downloading my thoughts to get them off my mind and on my blog.
I have spent the last two weeks in loungewear, lying around and reading books while my family did all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. If I did go somewhere, my husband drove me and carried any bags I might have. (Thank you, Walt. Let’s stay married forever.)
Doesn’t that sound like heaven?
You’d think, but no. I have reached my limit on post-surgical rest.
Someone must have cut the “Fall Risk” bracelet off while I slept the day after surgery. I was very concerned that it had disappeared without my knowledge. Also without my (lucid) knowledge? A couple of hospital selfies I discovered on my phone, just now, as I was looking for this photo. Who knows what other mischief I got up to under the influence of heavy narcotic pain meds?
Thankfully, I am feeling better every day. Today I even got to drive myself to the grocery store (but I left the groceries in the car for Walt to bring in when he got home).
Thank you to those of you who have so kindly checked up on me.
We had a lovely Christmas at home. (Walt did everything while I lounged around opening presents. Seriously, that man.) Here we are in our new Christmas Eve jammies—or at least, Hannah and I. Walt hadn’t changed yet. Probably too busy cooking and cleaning. (I like him.) Hannah’s pjs are under her new Harry Potter snuggie.
We always open new pjs and new books on Christmas Eve, right before making a super fancy dinner of hotdogs or chicken apple sausages, roasted in the wood stove. (The next day Walt made a prime rib dinner. I’m renewing his contract for another year.)
I like the way we do things around here.
We spent days doing this puzzle.
There ended up being
three two pieces missing. A third was found in the dog’s mouth.
Though the journey was enjoyable, that destination was quite unsatisfying. We never got to put in that final piece!
If you received a bookstore gift card as a holiday gift, and need help deciding what to buy, here is a handful of my favorite books from this year. This is off the top of my head, and not at all exhaustive. If you want more recommendations, check out my Goodreads page.
- I Am Otter, picture book
- The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend, picture book
- Shooting at the Stars, picture book
- The Book with No Pictures, picture book (or rather, pictureless picture book)
- Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times, middle grade fiction, fantasy
- The Only Thing Worse Than Witches, middle grade fiction, fantasy
- Lockwood and Co. #1, The Screaming Staircase, middle grade fiction, fantasy
- Hope is a Ferris Wheel, middle grade fiction, contemporary
- All Four Stars, middle grade fiction, contemporary
- Trust Me, I’m Lying, young adult fiction, contemporary
- Noggin, young adult fiction, contemporary with a slight sci-fi bent
- The Cure for Dreaming, young adult fiction, historical with a paranormal bent
- We Were Liars, young adult fiction, contemporary
- Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and Other Lessons from the Crematory, adult non-fiction, memoir
- The Golem and the Jinni, adult fiction, fantasy
You could also just go ahead and order Hook’s Revenge, if you haven’t already. I mean. If you want.
Last month I did wonderful events at Rediscovered Books and the Library! in Boise, Idaho and the Miami Book Fair in Miami, Florida. Each one deserves its own blog post, but this is the best I can offer at the moment. I am, however, very grateful to have been invited.
I went to a party in Miami. Judy Blume was there. No big deal. (OH MY GOSH SUCH A HUGE DEAL!) I didn’t talk to her, but I was almost close enough to smell her hair.
No, you’re creepy! No you!
I thought I was done thinking about Serial, but then Jay did an interview and now I’m thinking about it all over again.
What’s on your mind today?
P.S. I was interviewed last month on the Kirkus blog about Jocelyn, fairytales, and whether girls need rescuing.
Betsy Bird named Hook’s Revenge a favorite debut of 2014 on the School Library Journal Blog.
And, Hook’s Revenge was named one of the top 100 books of 2014 by the New York Public Library. (!!!!)
Hello, you! Thanks for stopping in. Did you know that books are quite possibly the very best gift you could give or receive for the holidays?
It’s true! And books, signed by the author, are even better!
If you were hoping to give (or have for yourself) a signed copy of Hook’s Revenge, here’s how to get one:
If you happen to be in the Salem, Oregon area tomorrow, 11/29, come see me at the downtown location of the The Book Bin. I’ll be there, participating in Small Business Saturday, signing my books and recommending other great ones, from 1:00 – 4:00.
2. Call The Book Bin at 503-361-1235 and order a signed copy. They will ship it to your door!
3. If you already have a copy of Hook’s Revenge, I would be happy to mail you a personalized book plate. Please email me with who you would like it signed to and a shipping address (US and Canada only, please). As purchasing and shipping bookplates does come at a cost to me, please ask for one only if you have already purchased the book. Supplies are limited, but I will send as many as I can.
Want to win a signed copy of Hook’s Revenge? I’ll be giving a signed copy to a newsletter subscriber on December 1st. Sign up here.