By Annie Cronin Romano
If you’ve ever taken a workshop on novel revision, there’s a good chance you’ve heard your fellow writers mention doing frequency checks on words that are often overused. These “weed words” are words or phrases that pop up over and over in your manuscript without adding texture to your narrative.
Using the “find” feature, you type in the word you want to check and then edit accordingly. But did you know the exercise of a frequency check can and should go beyond merely deleting or changing an overused word? It can help you catch stereotyped phrasing and increase your awareness of varying descriptions and vocabulary.
Recently, I was completing frequency word checks while editing my middle grade novel. When I first started the revisions, I kept a running log of words I noticed I was using frequently. Rather than interrupt my flow when writing, I'd simply jot down the word in my log to check later. However, it was while doing the common words frequency check that I discovered my own personal “weed words.” For instance, I never realized how frequently I used the words “hand” "reached," and “turned” in this particular manuscript until I started the frequency check. They kept showing up! I was astounded at how often I used certain words I didn’t think of as overly-common. In finding those words, I also picked up on similarities in many of my descriptions. (Didn't she "roll her eyes" three paragraphs ago?) As I edited, my weed word list grew from about 40 words on my running list to over 100 words (i.e., adding "roll" and "eyes"), and the task at hand became much more than a find-and-replace drill. I delved deeper into my writing, examining my voice and style as I edited. Questions I began asking included, “How can I convey that feeling differently?” "Is this truly how the character would say this?" “What else can my character do to show that reaction?” and “Is this line essential/moving the story forward?” What started as a basic editing drill led me to reexamine my overall writing technique and how it impacted my story as a whole. The result was a significantly stronger manuscript.
I have included a frequency words list below, which includes words I discovered I use too often (my own personal "weed words") as well as some of the usual suspects ("very," "really," "seems," etc.). Your list may look quite different, but this will give you a place to start. Sometimes your weed words may be project-specific (i.e., if you're working on a book that takes place in the desert, check for words like "sand," "dry," and "arid"). You don't have to eliminate every instance of these words; use the list as a tool to ensure you vary your vocabulary and minimize common phrasing and descriptions.
The next time you’re editing your work, consider going beyond the find-and-replace approach to thinning out your weed words, and dig down further to bring out the best in every line. Weeding, when paired with conscientious revision, will make every word sing!
by Kelly Carey
In honor of National Reading Month, 24 Carrot Writing is celebrating by sharing a few of our recent favorite reads.
When social distancing and quarantine orders have us searching for home bound activities, books offer up friends, adventure, and escape. This might be the perfect time to open a book. Let me suggest a few fun places you can run away to without leaving your house!
HOME IN THE WOODS uses gently lyrical language and stunning artwork to teach the stark realities of poverty during the Great Depression. It is a book about hope and persistence in the face of difficulty. Perhaps it can act as a road-map for how to move forward in the current environment.
In picture books also look for Trevor by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Amy Heveron, Hum & Swish by Matt Meyers, and What Miss Mitchell Saw by Hayley Barret and illustrated by Diana Sudyka.
VERNON IS ON HIS WAY by Philip C. Stead offers the whimsical humor and soul filling simplicity of a silly frog exploring his surroundings and learning how to be a friend. Vernon is a celebration of everyday items and easy problems. Told in three short stories this book is a great mentor text if you’re ready to write a chapter book or if your young reader is ready to tackle a longer solo read.
In chapter books also look for Frank & Bean by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Bob Kolar.
In THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart, Coyote and her dad Rodeo have suffered a BIG loss and Rodeo has decided the best way to heal is to travel forward on a converted school bus. As they encounter fellow travelers, Coyote starts to wonder if they really are healing and if maybe their aimless wandering needs a destination. You’ll be cheering for quirky Coyote Sunrise and her journey is truly remarkable!
In middle grade books also look for The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty.
WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH by Elizabeth Acevedo offers plenty of spice in the form of main character Emoni Santiago who has a love for food and a knack for creating culinary excellence. But Emoni has lost her mother, her father is absent and she is navigating her senior year of high school while caring for her daughter. You’ll want to help Emoni, cry for Emoni and be Emoni – or at the very least eat her food!
In young adult also look for The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman and Geek Girl by Holly Smale.
Feel free to add your favorite fresh reads in the comments!
~Hosted by Amanda Smith
Welcome to the final installment of 24 Carrot Writing's Graphic Novel Virtual Panel Discussion. Over the last two weeks (Part 1 and Part 2), our talented panelists have shared insights about the strengths of graphic novels and their process as creatives.
Join our panel as we jump into the last two meaty questions:
Middle school students seem particularly drawn to graphic novels, and often graphic novels are set in middle school. What does that communicate about the market for upper middle grade/ lower young adult readers? Are graphic novels purposefully aimed towards the middle school reader, or is there something in the graphic novel format that perfectly mashes with the middle schooler’s brain?
Breena Bard: Middle schoolers are taking their first steps toward independence, developing their own beliefs and opinions in a way that they hadn’t before. They are exposed to a diversity of ideas and people, and as they begin to open their minds, they are perfectly primed to receive a radical new method of storytelling. Kids are free of the biases that keep many adults away from comics, and they aren’t pressured to maintain a high-brow reading list. And as long as adults react to graphic novels by wringing their hands or turning their noses up, graphic novels will also have a certain rebellious spirit that might attract middle school readers as well. Plus, comics are just super fun!
Terri Libenson: I’m not sure, really. My characters are all 13 and in seventh grade, yet most of my readers are younger, often in third through sixth grade. Many kids read “up”; that is, they tend to read about characters older than them. I’m not as knowledgeable about what 7th-9th graders are reading, but I personally think there is an opportunity for graphic novels geared for that age bracket.
Tom Angleberger: Middle school is such a weird time when kids sometimes feel like they should be giving up the type of books they loved in elementary school and reading big thick books. The growing acceptance of graphic novels creates a loophole here. A kid who read Smile in third grade can read Guts in seventh grade. (Of course, as far as I’m concerned, kids should keep reading great kids’ books with pride FOREVER!)
Terry Ebbeling: Middle-school students are high energy and don’t often have a lot of “sit” in them. They are also visual learners. Graphic novels appeal to this age because of the pictures which break up the prose and allow students to “see” the story. While middle-school students enjoy graphic novels, there are also a number of authors who gear their graphic novels towards upper elementary students and even high schoolers. Honestly, I like them, too!
What would you like to say to those well-meaning adults who act as gatekeepers regarding graphic novels? To those who see graphic novels as inferior reading?
Kayla Miller: Comics ask readers to use different skills than prose books. To really read a graphic novel, you have to read not only the text, but also to observe environments, body language, and facial expressions. It can be a really engaging and emotional experience. When reading prose, you have to imagine the visuals based on the descriptions given to you and fill in details about the world around the characters, but when you’re reading comics you have to fill in the characters’ inner worlds and use context clues from the art to decipher what they’re thinking and feeling. I don’t think the skills developed reading comics are any less important or useful than those that students gain while reading prose novels. I also get comments all the time from parents that their reluctant readers become eager readers when it comes to graphic novels. If you believe that fostering a love of reading in younger generations is important, you’re only getting in your own way when you disregard graphic novels.
Breena Bard: They should try reading some :) Really though, the fact that graphic novels are told with pictures should not disqualify them, and in fact makes them more accessible and engages students’ brains in a really unique way. Perhaps there is fear because graphic novels are a relatively new medium, but so were computers and tablets, and most schools utilize those to great success. Take time to read some of the new middle grade graphic novel classics (ask a middle schooler and they will surely have a list for you!) and keep an open mind to the possibilities these stories and this exciting format have to offer. They really are quite wonderful!
Terri Libenson: It couldn’t be further from the truth (and if it helps, I avidly read comics as a kid, and now I read such a wide range of books, from non-fiction to fiction, including – yes – graphic novels for adults!). As I mentioned, graphic novels can be quite layered as well as visually stunning and rich in story. And then some are just plain fun, and that’s okay. Graphic novels vary just like prose books. And they are, indeed, BOOKS.
Tom Angleberger: I think people are hung up on word-count. They assume 100,000 words is better than 1,000. Or 100. Or zero, in the case of wordless graphic novels. Well, that’s just dumb. Do they also assume that a novel by Joe Smedlap is better than a sonnet by Shakespeare?
I think we should judge books on how many brain cells they light up. Trust me, Dog Man lights up a lot more brain cells than Tom Sawyer Abroad. (I was forced to read Tom Sawyer Abroad in 7th grade and am still mad.)
Terry Ebbeling : I would tell those reading “gatekeepers” of graphic novels that there are different strokes for different folks in all areas of life, including reading. If students enjoy graphic novels, they are READING! Yay! I do not recommend a steady diet of any one genre, including graphic novels. But, if this genre gets kids into books, then let’s allow and encourage graphic novels.
Thank you to Terri, Breena, Kayla, Tom, and Terry for a fabulous discussion. I know I am paying closer attention to details in the settings and characters, as well as other context clues when I read graphic novels. I am also inspired to think visually and cinematically about the scenes I write, and I cannot wait to get my hands on our panel's new releases in May (if I can pry them from my own middle schooler's hands!)
Terri Libenson is the cartoonist of the internationally syndicated daily comic strip, The Pajama Diaries, and the author of the best-selling illustrated middle grade novels, Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzy, and Just Jaime. She was also an award-winning humorous writer for American Greetings for 22 years.
The Pajama Diaries launched with King Features in 2006 and currently runs in hundreds of newspapers throughout the country and abroad. Pajama Diaries has been nominated four times for the Reuben Award for “Best Newspaper Comic Strip” by the National Cartoonists Society and won in 2016.
Terri lives with her family in Cleveland, OH. Her newest novel, Becoming Brianna will be available in May 2020. To learn more about Terri, visit http://terrilibenson.com/
Breena Bard writes and illustrates comics, drawing inspiration from her childhood in Wisconsin, and the stacks of graphic novels on her bedside table. Her graphic novel debut, Trespassers, is set to release May 5, 2020. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband, two kids, and cranky but lovable cat. Visit http://www.breenabard.com/about-1 to learn more.
Tom Angleberger is the author of the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling Star Wars Origami Yoda series. He is also the author-illustrator of Fake Mustache and Horton Halfpott, both Edgar Award nominees, and the Qwikpick Papers series, as well as many other books for kids. But he always wanted to draw comics and he’s finally gotten the chance to draw with Geronimo Stilton and the Sewer Rat Stink! (Available May 5, 2020) He’s married to acclaimed graphic novelist Cece Bell, who wrote and illustrated El Deafo. To learn more visit https://origamiyoda.com/the-books/
Kayla Miller is the author and illustrator of the best-selling Click series of graphic novels. The third book in the series, Act, is coming out in May 2020 and a fourth book is currently in the works. To learn more about Kayla, visit https://www.kayla-miller.com/
Terry Ebbeling has been teaching grades 7 and 8 ELA for the past eighteen years. She enjoys delving into reading and writing with her students and finds young-adult literature far more riveting than adult literature!
This week's reading list:
CLICK and CAMP by Kayla Miller
INVISIBLE EMMIE, POSITIVELY IZZY and JUST JAIME by Terri Libenson
SMILE, SISTERS, and GUTS by Raina Telgemeier
DOG MAN by Dav Pilkey
~Hosted by Amanda Smith
Welcome back to 24 Carrot Writing's Graphic Novel Month. Last week our panel discussed the unique strengths of graphic novels for readers, but also, for them as creatives. If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
Lets join our panel of Graphic Novel authors for Part 2.
Often those opposed to graphic novels think about these books as shallow or “comic” books, yet today’s graphic novels deal with difficult subject matter such as addiction, racism, startling historical events, and peer pressure. Why are graphic novels such an effective medium for telling these kinds of stories?
Terri Libenson: I think a big part of it is because many kids love comics and/or illustrated stories; therefore, difficult subject matter won’t have to be forced on them -- they will automatically want to read about it in graphic novel form.
Examples of graphic novels dealing with heavier subjects
Many graphic novels have an autobiographical aspect. Why, do you think, does this format lend itself well to autobiographical storytelling?
Terri Libenson: Well, all kinds of books have an autobiographical element. But I think good artists have a gift for retelling their memories in a visual way that connects immediately with readers. It can also be fun to “see” the setting and clothing of a different era rather than just read about them.
Breena Bard: I’ve never thought about this before! I wonder if it’s because, just like our imaginations, our memories tend to exist in our minds largely as images. If a writer is able to put those remembered images on page as pictures, they can retain some of the vivid detail that might be lost if translated into words. There are some emotions and feelings that can be conveyed better by pictures, and when a picture won’t do, graphic novelists also have written words in their toolbox. It’s the best of both worlds, and for telling something so nuanced and complex as a personal story, I can see why writers would be drawn to a format that’s so flexible and accommodating.
Raina Telgemeier's series of graphic novel memoirs.
Graphic novel characters are often established fairly quickly and with few words (often one or two speech bubbles.) Please share with our readers some of your character development strategies. What happens behind the scenes, before the reader sees the character on the page for the first time?
Breena Bard: For me, characters emerge when I am playing in my sketchbook. The harder I try to “design” a character, the more wooden and forced they feel. But when I let my mind and my pen wander, I am often surprised by the different characters that emerge. I try to spend a lot of time on this earlier side of character development, doodling a new character in every possible facial expression, pose and setting. And if I’m lucky enough to have two characters come to life, I can play with putting them into a variety of vignettes, or mini-scenes. Sometimes these scenes make it into my eventual script, and when they do, they are some of my favorite scenes.
Kayla Miller: I think you can say a lot about a character's personality through their appearance and their actions. Every day we make choices about how to present ourselves to the world and comic artists make those decisions for their characters. Clothing, posture, facial expressions, and way of speaking do a lot of the work, but another great tool is drawing a character’s room (or other spaces they decorate and store things in, like a desk or locker). One panel of a character in their living space could be worth paragraphs of description about their personality and interests.
Terri Libenson: Well, I have an advantage, as my books are hybrids: part illustrated novel and part graphic novel. The illustrated novel portion contains much more text, so I can set up a character’s story in detailed prose. The GN portion is much more of a challenge, character-wise. One technique: I frequently have characters introduce themselves. And I think dialogue or inner monologue quickly establishes their personalities.
Behind the scenes, I try and get to know these characters well so that they seem convincing on paper. They usually have aspects of my personality and memories. Some are also inspired by people I’ve known – although they tend to develop differently as I write.
Tom Angleberger: For me it was the matter of redrawing a famous character, Geronimo Stilton, in my own style. And, since he narrates his novels, I had to pick and choose which words of his to use in my panels. But, I’ve been a Geronimo fan for so long that all of that came very naturally.
Thanks to our fabulous panel! Join us next week for the last of the panel discussion posts. We will be talking about the middle schooler's brain (ooohhh!) and gatekeepers!
A reading list for this week:
CLICK and CAMP by Kayla Miller
INVISIBLE EMMIE, POSITIVELY IZZY and JUST JAIME by Terri Libenson
NEW KID by Jerry Craft
HEY KIDDO by Jarrett Krosoczka
THE FAITHFUL SPY by John Hendrix
SMILE, SISTERS, and GUTS by Raina Telgemeier
AWKWARD, BRAVE & CRUSH by Svetlana Chmakove (great notes on characterization and setting in back matter)
~ hosted by Amanda Smith
For too long the literary value of graphic novels has been questioned. There are parents who tell their kids to pick "real books," while some teachers confiscate graphic novels when their students dare to bring them to class. However, just a week ago, history was made when Jerry Craft's graphic novel, New Kid was awarded the Newbery Medal. The John Newbery Medal is awarded for "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children" by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). Yes, a graphic novel won a prestigious literature award!
Join 24 Carrot Writing this entire month, as we CELEBRATE the strength and beauty of graphic novels and their place on our bookshelves! We've got a distinguished panel and weekly Graphic Novel blogs ready to go. Welcome to Graphic Novel Month at 24 Carrot Writing.
MEET OUR PANEL:
Terry Ebbeling is a seventh and eighth grade English Language Arts teacher and reading advocate extraordinaire.
Why did you decide to tell your stories in graphic novel format as opposed to prose novels?
Kayla Miller: The art side of things is actually what I committed to first. I’ve always liked both writing and art, but I was more focused on art and chose to go to college to study illustration. I wrote and illustrated comics while I was in school, but I still thought I’d end up illustrating other people’s words and ideas once I graduated. I considered writing a hobby, and art my profession for such a long time that it was sort of a revelation when I realized that people actually liked my stories as much as my drawings. I think comics are just my natural format.
Breena Bard: My stories generally unfold in my imagination as movies, and almost before I have any words or even a plot, I can see my characters moving around and interacting in the world. Since I’m not a filmmaker, but I am able to draw, it seems most natural to tell my stories with pictures. And there is a lot you can do with a graphic novel to tell a story as cinematically as possible!
Terri Libenson: I studied illustration in college and have drawn cartoons for most of my life. Before I started creating graphic novels, I was a syndicated newspaper cartoonist. I’ve always loved writing, too, so the combination of art and writing suits me very well.
Tom Angleberger : I’ve written quite a few prose novels now and will write more. But I’ve almost always had a desire to have more than just text in them, whether it’s origami instructions or a nice map. If a funny picture is funnier than a text block, why not draw it? And, the same goes for any emotional response you’re trying to get from a reader.
What do you see as the unique strengths of graphic novels?
Breena Bard: There is an immediacy to comics and graphic novels that make them very accessible to readers of all ages. I don’t think it’s just the inclusion of artwork, which makes them “faster” or “easier” to read (aka, fewer words). There is something very unique going on in the way the words and images interact, perhaps because they engage very different parts of our brain, that brings a reader right into the story and keeps them there. It’s not uncommon for someone to remark that they finished a graphic novel in just one or two sittings (and as a mom of two with precious little spare time for reading, I consider that a huge strength!)
Terri Libenson: Graphic novels are perfect for the reluctant reader or for those who are simply drawn to visual storytelling. And they can be so literary and layered – something most kids know but many adults are just starting to learn.
Tom Angleberger: After writing so many books for kids, I’ve become almost obsessed with removing any barriers or stumbling blocks that are going to stop a kid from finishing a story. And one of the biggest stumbling blocks is description. Some readers may be able to read a page of text and “see” a vivid landscape, but some of us never make it through that page. We put the book down after a couple sentences and are never compelled to pick it up again. Meanwhile, the graphic novel reader is gaping in wonder at beautiful artwork. (Well, not in my book, but in some books! Nathan Hale’s One Trick Pony for example.)
Terry Ebbeling: While I was a skeptic at first, thinking graphic novels were inferior to “regular” books, I have come to appreciate them for middle-school readers. Students these days are visual readers, so the graphics help them comprehend and stay interested- especially reluctant readers. And I have been amazed by how detailed the graphics are! My students recently read White Bird by R.J. Palacio for Pizza and Paperbacks, and I read through that graphic novel twice. The first time I concentrated on the plot line and glanced at the pictures. But, during my second reading, I really appreciated the fine points in the pictures that told a story in themselves. And, when discussing the book with my students, they found even more depth in the pictures that gave them a greater understanding of the darkness of WWII. While graphic novels may not be for every reader, I find the combination of text and pictures to aid in comprehension and enjoyment for some of my readers.
Join us again next week as our panel discusses character development and difficult subjects. And while you wait, pick up a few graphic novels and discover for yourself the intricate combination of storytelling through words and pictures.
This week's reading list:
Click and Camp by Keila Miller
Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzy, and Just Jaime by Terri Libenson
One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale
White Bird by R.J. Palacio
New Kid by Jerry Craft
A SPOOKTACULAR KIDLIT BOOKS SAMPLER
By Annie Cronin Romano
October is well under way with leaves of amber and crimson, cool, crisp evenings, apple cider, winding corn mazes, and, of course, Halloween! Whether it’s carving pumpkins or choosing what costume to wear trick or treating, most families have traditions they enjoy throughout the fall season. As you embrace Halloween preparations, don’t forget to visit your library or bookstore to snag a few Halloween and seasonal books, and add some new favorite reads to your October rituals. This list contains just a sampling of the entertaining spooky and autumn-themed kidlit books to be discovered. Included are both older classics and newer releases. Most I have read and enjoyed myself. A few were suggested by other avid readers. Pick one or all of them, and dive into these stories of pumpkins, scarecrows, and things that go “Boo!” in the night!
MR. PUMPKIN’S TEA PARTY by Erin Barker
ROOM ON THE BROOM by Julia Donaldson, Illustrated by Axel Scheffler
THE SCARECROW by Beth Ferry, Illustrated by the Fan Brothers
LOS GATOS BLACK ON HALLOWEEN! by Marisa Montes, Illustrated by Yuyi Morales
SAMURAI SCARECROW: A VERY NINJA HALLOWEEN by Rubin Pingk
OAK LEAF by John Sandford
BIG PUMPKIN by Erica Silverman, Illustrated by S.D. Schindler
THE LITTLE OLD LADY WHO WAS NOT AFRAID OF ANYTHING by Linda Williams, illustrated by Megan Lloyd
THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathan Auxier
THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste
WATCH HOLLOW by Gregory Funaro
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK by Neil Gaiman
TOOK: A GHOST STORY by Mary Downing Hahn
SCARY STORIES FOR YOUNG FOXES by Christian McKay Heidicker
GHOST: THIRTEEN HAUNTING TALES TO TELL, a collection by Illustratus
And a few YOUNG ADULT…
MARY’S MONSTER: LOVE, MADNESS, AND HOW MARY SHELLEY CREATED FRANKENSTEIN by Lita Judge
MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN by Ransom Riggs
PUMPKIN HEADS: A GRAPHIC NOVEL by Rainbow Rowell, Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Please share some of your favorite kidlit Halloween/fall season books in the comments.
And HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
Hosted by Kelly Carey
24 Carrot Writing is thrilled to welcome author Jarrett Lerner to the site. Jarrett is the author of EngiNerds, a middle grade series starter hailed by Kirkus as a “boisterous balance of potty humor and geek pride” and a “rollicking young engineer’s adventure”. Its sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds launches next month and I know my nephew is hoping for more side-splitting fun (and farting robots!).
Jarrett knows how to have fun in his writing but he is also passionate and serious about being a contributing force in KidLit and having a positive effect on his young fans. To that end, Jarrett cofounded and helps run MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects.
Welcome to 24 Carrot Writing Jarrett!
Can you tell us a bit about your journey to the printed page? How did you become a published author?
I’ve been drawing and writing since I can remember. Growing up, I definitely had other interests and hobbies – I played baseball and guitar and skateboarded. But I was always in the middle of a book or two, and I always had notebooks lying around with stories, sketches, and ideas. And while my interest in those other things waned, my interest in reading and creating only grew, and eventually flared up into a full-blown passion.
Even so, it never occurred to me that I could become a published author. In college, I was writing like crazy. And sure, I fantasized about being published. But I truly believed that that’s all such thoughts ever were and ever would be – fantasy. It took an author who I looked up to a great deal challenging me on that and encouraging me to make a go of it before I fully took myself and my work seriously. And then it took years and years to really find myself as a creator, to understand where the stories I wanted to tell “fit.” Or, to put it differently, it took years and years to accept and embrace the fact that I stopped maturing around the age of 10, and that I just wanted to write about farting robots and draw monsters all day long.
Fans of EngiNerds are excited for the sequel, Revenge of the EngiNerds. When did you decide to write a sequel? How did it feel to go back and revisit Ken and his EngiNerd crew in a new manuscript?
Even my earliest drafts of the first book ended on a cliffhanger (I’m a big fan of them!), and when the book eventually sold, it was bought along with a sequel. So I knew pretty much from the get-go that there’d be this follow-up. Revisiting the crew in a new manuscript was both fun and frustrating. I love these characters, and tossing them into a bunch of new crazy situations was a total blast. But there were times when I wished they weren’t so fully formed in my mind (and in the first book!), when if one or another character was just a little more like this or that it would’ve made the plotting of this second book a whole lot simpler. But that just forced me to challenge myself, and in the end, I think, I produced a better book because of it.
You just announced the launch of a new series, Geeger the Robot, an early Chapter Book launching in 2020. How would you compare working on your MG books to working on this Chapter Book series?
Henry James once described novels as “loose, baggy monsters.” He meant it especially when comparing them to short stories, in which there’s less room for detours and digressions and, on the part of the reader, less tolerance for “imperfection.” And if there’s a spectrum for such considerations, then poems would be at the opposite end from the novel. In a poem, a reader might notice (and be irked by) a single out-of-place syllable.
I think James was onto something. With novels, I feel more free to take detours or linger in a scene a bit longer than is strictly necessary, just because it might be interesting or enjoyable. You don’t really have that luxury in shorter works. But at the same time, there’s something thrilling about chasing the “perfection” that is (or at least seems) possible in shorter works. I labor over all of my sentences. But the shorter a work is, the fewer the sentences it contains, the more “right” I feel those sentences need to be.
You have taken your passion for writing and used it to fuel the creation of projects and communities like MG Book Village, Kids Need Books, and Kids Need Mentors. Can you talk about how your writing journey lead you to each of these endeavors?
I think my passion for storytelling and creating has always had a tendency to “spill over.” I read as much, if not more than, I draw and write. I get really, really excited about other people’s work, and want to share it with the world, and I think my involvement in the MG Book Village sprung out of that. And Kids Need Books and Kids Need Mentors – those are both projects aimed at improving and enriching the lives of kids. That’s something I try to do with my books too. While it may look like I’m scattered or that I’ve got too many irons in the fire, I see all of these projects as related.
You have a great natural talent and interest in illustrating. How did you land on MG and Chapter Books and not PBs or graphic novels? Is there a PB or graphic novel in your future?
I’ve been drawing longer than I’ve been writing, and growing up, the two were always linked for me. But I think school – and in particular high school and college – severed them in my mind. There weren’t any pictures in the books we were reading for my literature classes. And if I’d been caught with one that did have them, I probably would’ve been ridiculed for it. And the only time visual art was linked with storytelling was in my Art History courses in college, and then in an extremely scholarly manner.
There’s a great quote from Picasso – “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” I learned a great deal in high school and college. But I think it knocked me off my creative track. I was learning to write like Dostoevsky and Philip Roth and talk about paintings like I was interviewing for a job at MoMA when my heart lay with 8-year-old Jarrett making his own silly comic books in the back of the classroom. Fortunately, it didn’t take me a whole lifetime to reconnect with that kid.
And yes – there are some illustrated works in my future. I’m not allowed to talk much about them just yet, but if you follow me on Instagram and/or Twitter, I now and again give some sneak peeks (shhh… don’t tell my publisher!).
You have done an impressive number of author visits in a far reaching number of states. For example, you’ve been to California, Illinois and all over New England. How did you land your bookings? Manage your travel? And how have you planned your presentations to appeal to different audiences?
I’ve been lucky to receive a number of invitations to schools. And once I have an invitation, I usually start doing outreach to try and turn a single visit into a sort of mini-tour. Last year, for instance, an educator in Chicago expressed interest in my visiting her school. I put out a call to others in the area and was able to get a week’s worth of visits. I’ve organized several other trips in just that way. But I think it’s important to say that I wouldn’t be able to do this as successfully had I not put a lot of time and effort into connecting with educators and librarians all across the country (which is something I continue to do all the time!). I truly believe that kids’ educators and librarians and kids’ book creators are colleagues, and that the more we work together, the better work we can all do. Putting in that time and effort to make these connections has enriched my life in many ways. I’ve learned SO much. I’ve made incredible friends. I’ve grown as a person and as a creator. And, more practically, it’s helped me when it comes to booking visits.
The Dutch version of EngiNerds just launched. How did you balance excitement over a foreign edition with a new illustrator doing the cover and a new title? How can authors and illustrators, who cherish their work, make space to let the creative energy of others add to it?
I fully embrace the collaborative aspect of book-making. Sometimes I feel it’s a bit preposterous that authors get to have their names alone on their book covers! It’s almost always a team effort. I’ve also always subscribed to the idea that, once you put a book out into the world, it’s no longer yours – or no longer only yours. In engaging imaginatively with a work, each reader assumes a slice of ownership of the book too. I think because of all this, I find it thrilling to see what other creators do with “my” work. But that doesn’t mean I can’t question or challenge some of the choices they make – that’s part of the collaborative process too.
At 24 Carrot Writing we are big on goal setting. Do you set detailed writing goals, broad yearly goals or do you fly by the seat of your pants?
I think I do some combination of both – I set goals by the seat of my pants! I am never working on just one project. I always have two, three, and sometimes even four or five going at once, each of them usually in a different stage of completion (or incompletion). On any given day, I’ll take two things into consideration: (1) what I feel like working on, and (2) about how much time I’ll have to work on it. Given that, I might do some exploratory doodling, or dive into novel revisions, or work on putting together a picture book dummy. Every now and again, though, I really “land” on a certain project, and will give it my full attention and concentrated energy until it’s finished (or a draft or version of it is complete). I guess you could call it “occasionally organized chaos,” but it keeps things both fun and productive for me. And that’s huge. If I’m not enjoying the work, it shows in the results. That might not be true for all creators, but it is for me.
Of course, sometimes some of this goes out the window when you’ve got deadlines. But the majority of the time, I meet my deadlines without changing things up.
24 Carrot Writing sits on the premise that authors need to set and accomplish both writing goals and the business of writing goals. How do you balance your responsibilities to MG Book Village, Kids Need Books, and Kids Need Mentors with writing your books and hitting your writing deadlines?
I touched on this in an earlier question, but basically, I think it’s all about perspective, and about how you define your work and your goals. I love, love, LOVE making books. And yes, I could probably do that and only that all day every day for the rest of my life and be BEYOND content. But I don’t see making books as the only aspect of my work as a creator – or, what’s more, as the only facet of what I, as a human being, have to offer during my time on the planet. In addition to making good books, I want to more directly help and inspire kids, and I want to give back to the various communities that have supported and sustained me. With such goals, it’s not so much about finding balance as it is about finding the time to get it all done!
What advice do you have for beginning writers?
Embrace, explore, and celebrate the things that make you (and your creative output) uniquely you. The weirder and wonkier, the better.
To learn more about Jarrett you can visit him at jarrettlerner.com/ , or find him on Twitter @Jarrett_Lerner.
You can purchase copies of EngiNerds or Revenge of the Enginerds using these links: www.indiebound.org/book/9781481468725, www.indiebound.org/book/9781481468749, www.amazon.com/EngiNerds-MAX-Jarrett-Lerner/dp/1481468723/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547132304&sr=8-1&keywords=enginerds , www.amazon.com/Revenge-EngiNerds-MAX-Jarrett-Lerner/dp/148146874X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547132360&sr=8-1&keywords=revenge+of+the+enginerds .
And be ready to have Jarrett in a bookstore near you! Jarrett will be at the South Portland Public Library in Maine on February 23rd and at Print Bookstore in Maine on March 12th. 24 Carrot Writers be sure to say hello!
New Year, New Goals, Now What?
Guest Post by Author Monica Tesler
The new year is upon us, and my social media feeds are overflowing with motivational posts about goals. Personally, I don’t typically buy into the new year hype. I figure if there’s something I want to accomplish, why wait for January 1 to get started? This time around, though, I’m on board.
I’m just about to send my draft of the fifth and final book in the Bounders series to my editor, and it feels like a really big deal. Bounders was the book that got me a literary agent and then a publisher. So without a Bounders deadline on the horizon, it feels like starting from scratch in a way.
In other words, it’s a great time for some new goals!
There are all kinds of approaches to goal accomplishment. I developed my approach in an entirely different setting. Before jumping into the writing business, I worked as an attorney. In fact, for many years I did both. I’ll share what’s worked for me goal-wise stretching all the way back to the Monica as a young lawyer days. Give my approach a try, if you’d like, but you’ll probably need to tinker around a bit to find the exact right fit for you. The most important thing is that you find an approach to goal accomplishment that you use consistently and can measure your success over time.
In my view, talking about goal accomplishment is really talking about time management. Reaching a goal is nothing more than a reflection on how you’ve chosen to use your time in the days, months, or years leading up to that accomplishment. So as soon as you set your goal, you need to focus on how to spend your time to accomplish it. That’s where time management’s best friend comes in to play: task management.
It’s critical to understand the difference between goal setting and task management. Goals are big and new years-y. Examples of writing goals may be getting a literary agent, finishing a manuscript, or to take one of my own goals, completing a proposal for a new novel. If you placed any of those goals on your to-do list, though, odds are you wouldn’t get too far. Why? The goals need to be broken down and translated into manageable (read: not overwhelming) tasks.
Let’s take getting an agent for example. Do you have a completed manuscript? If not (and you’re not an established author or a nonfiction author with a platform), this may not even be a realistic goal for you in the near future. But let’s say you’ve written and revised your book, received peer feedback, and think you’re ready to send it out in the world in search of agents. Then what?
In my view, here is the first stage of that goal broken down into steps. Research agents using online tools such as query tracker, reviewing acknowledgements from published books, checking agency websites, etc. Draft a query letter and receive peer feedback, repeat, repeat, repeat. Set up a spreadsheet or other way to track queries and responses. Determine a query method (e.g., batch querying). Send out first wave of queries, making sure you’ve followed each respective agents’ instructions exactly.
Wow! See how many discrete tasks were in that paragraph alone? And that only gets you to the first wave of queries leaving your inbox. You still could be a long way from getting an agent. Personally, I’ve received well over a hundred query rejections. So odds are you’re going to need to go back to the drawing board with query revisions and agent research.
This isn’t a blog post on querying, so I’ll leave it at that. The point is that it’s great to have big goals. In fact, I’m such a fan of big goals, I post them prominently on a large bulletin board in my office. On the practical side of things, though, each goal needs to be broken down into small, incremental parts and placed on functional to-do lists. That’s how you move from goal setting to task management. I remember having “research agents who rep middle grade sci-fi” on my to-do list. When I checked it off, I felt confident that I’d moved closer to my goal of getting an agent.
That’s the key, right? Actually getting things done and feeling accomplished. So first, I break down my goals into incremental tasks. Next, I estimate how much time each task will take. Then the tasks make their way into my task management system.
Here are the basics of my task management system. I generate monthly to-do lists that are separated by category. Currently, my categories are writing, book business, kids (as in my own), and life/domestic management. Writing tasks and most of the book business tasks can be tracked back to one of the goals on my bulletin board. I further break down my to-do lists at the beginning of each week (i.e., a weekly list) and then again at the beginning of each day. My daily lists typically have no more than 4-6 entries, and I more often than not check every item off by the end of the day.
If my approach resonates with you, give this a whirl. Set 2-4 writing/book business goals, then spend some time breaking each goal into tasks. For each task, indicate approximately how long the task will take and determine a sensible task order. Assess your task lists and how they realistically match up against your other time commitments (family, domestic, other work, self-care, etc.), then determine what you think you can reasonably accomplish in one month and generate a monthly to-do list. If you’d like, you can further streamline and create weekly and daily lists like I do.
At the end of the month, make sure you take some time to assess how you fared with your to-do list. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t get done. Figuring out how long things take (not to mention assessing how you’re actually using your time) is a process. The important thing is that you’re able to track your progress.
Good luck! And happy writing!
Monica Tesler is the author of the Bounders series, a middle grade science fiction adventure series from Simon and Schuster. The most recent title in the series, The Heroes Return, released in December 2018. Monica lives outside of Boston with her family.
If you'd like to learn more about Monica and her books visit her at her website at monicatesler.com, on Twitter @monicatesler, on Instagram @monicatesler or on Facebook /monicateslerwrites .
If you would like to purchase the most recent Bounders series book, The Heroes Return, use these links: Amazon/The Heroes Return, Barnes & Noble/The Heroes Return, or IndieBound/The Heroes Return.
THE SEARCH FOR THE END OF MY STORY
Guest Blog by Susan Lubner
Please welcome picture book and middle grade novel author Susan Lubner to the 24 Carrot Writing blog. We are excited that Susan is joining us as a guest blogger to share the process that brought her latest middle grade novel, Lizzy & the Good Luck Girl (Running Press Kids, 2018) from idea, to completed manuscript, to its launch onto bookshelves this month.
A funny thing happened to me after I sold my middle grade novel Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl. After I posted the good news on Facebook in July 2017, a writer friend congratulated me and said, “Boy, you work fast!” A little more than a year had passed since we had taken the same eight-week writing workshop together. I explained to her that I had started the book before the workshop. I didn’t mention that at one point I wondered if I’d ever finish it. But her comment got me thinking… how long had it actually taken me? And what were some of the strategies I used that finally got me to the end?
The first saved document for “Lizzy” was dated October 2014. It included a whole bunch of vague notes and a character with a name I now don’t recognize. By October 2015 I had the start of a disjointed meandering story. In November 2015, I signed up to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time ever. I was scared to death.
Turns out that November was a month of firsts for me. NaNoWriMo of course, and I bought an egg timer in earnest. I set limits for breaks. And timed uninterrupted writing sessions. Never before had I given myself a deadline to write anything. And here I committed myself to completing a first draft in a month. I wished November had 31 days.
Thanks to fortitude and my ticking timer, I completed NaNoWriMo. Now I had a much longer disjointed, meandering story that had no ending. Still, I was elated I had something to work with. My main character was nicely developed, an arc was rising. Sub plots had been added. I was excited to dig in and start rewriting. Without a doubt I would find my elusive ending.
By May 2016, with trusty egg timer keeping me focused, and my equally trusty critique partners providing feedback, my manuscript was chugging along. I signed up for that eight week writing workshop. Week six was all about endings and I still needed one. I spent most of the summer using the wonderful info I culled from the workshop; chopping, tightening, and polishing. But when summer ended, my story still had not.
In September 2016, I headed to Sequim, an area in Washington State for a five day retreat with my agency. They dubbed it camp ECLA (Emerald City Literary Agency). Although I am a fourth generation “Maniac”, being from Maine did not negate the fact that I hated summer camp. That four-letter word brought back fearful flashbacks of my eleven-year-old self as a reluctant camper: dark woods; nervous to make friends; being forced to jump into a freezing cold lake; cabins with spiders and flimsy doors that didn’t lock (what if a bear came in?).
Turns out for me adult writing camp is a whole lot better than summer camp in the 70s. My agency-mates who I met for the first time were so friendly and beyond awesome! The cabins had doors with locks (and a kitchen…and a gorgeous view of the lake which I wasn’t forced to jump into!). And the whole time I was there I only saw one spider, and it was pretty small.
One by one I checked off each little box on my get-over-your-idiotic-fears-Susan list I was keeping inside my head. I had one box left to check. I still needed to find my ending.
On an evening just before sunset, my agent and I, each sipping adult-camp drinks, sat outside and discussed my unfinished novel.
“What’s at the heart of your story?” Linda asked me. “What does Lizzy want?”
“A sign that everything will be OK,” I answered.
“What does she really want?” she pressed.
“To feel safe,” I said.
Linda asked for more.
I answered again.
But she wanted more. Deeper and deeper I dug inside my character’s heart.
Until she asked, “What do you want? What’s inside your heart?”
I stopped to think. I always dug deep inside my character to get to the want. I don’t remember ever having to dig inside myself. Sure there were pieces of me in the stories I’d written over the years. My Maine settings, my love for animals. But my stories were only slightly salted with my truths. This was Lizzy’s story, not mine! As the sun was setting and my fear of being in the dark woods was rising, I realized that I couldn’t write that ending until I figured out exactly what Lizzy wanted. The heart of my story was missing. Was it somewhere I hadn’t looked? Inside of me as Linda suspected?
On the flight back to Boston, I thought about the loss I had experienced when I was Lizzy’s age—when my dad passed away. It was different from her experience of losing an unborn sibling. But like Lizzy, during that difficult time, I too had looked to the universe for a sign that everything would turn out okay. It was a way to cope. A way to feel hopeful.
And there it was.
Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl is a story about family, love, friendship, and at its heart, the power of hope. It’s my fifth published book out of dozens unpublished. But writing this book, I learned that sometimes it’s important to step out of my comfort zone to get where I need to go: challenging myself with NaNoWriMo; setting a strict regimen of timed writing periods; attending a retreat that at first gave me pause and taking a hard look inside myself rather than my character to find the heart of a story. All of these were firsts for me. All of them crucial to creating this book.
By early 2017, I had a polished manuscript ready to send off to my agent. I decided to wait until February 14, to submit it to her. Valentine’s Day might be a good sign that she and the right editor would love it.
I wasn’t disappointed.
To purchase Lizzy and the Good Luck Girl go to Barnes and Noble at www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lizzy-and-the-good-luck-girl-susan-lubner/1128113191 or visit Indie Bound at www.indiebound.org/search/book?keys=lizzy+and+the+good+luck+girl .
To learn more about Susan and her other books, visit her website at www.susanlubner.com/Home.html .
HOW DO YOU CO-AUTHOR A NOVEL?
~Guest blog by Jen Malone and Kristine Asselin
Thank you so much for having us as part of Trick or Treat month, a theme that matches well with the overall question we get asked most often about our co-authoring experience (spoiler alert: definitely a treat). We’re thrilled to discuss some of the nuts and bolts of our experience to help illuminate a process that many writers express interest in trying (and to offer reassurances that it’s worth doing so).
To give you an opportunity to hear from each of us without trying to determine who wrote which section (though always a fun game with co-authored anything), we decided we’d interview one another, answering some of the questions on this topic we hear from fellow authors which we haven’t seen widely addressed.
Jen: Okay, Kris, you’re up first because, well, I simply decided it would be so in this case. The question is: How do you decide who will write which parts?
Kris: Ha! If you know Jen and I, you can totally figure out who wrote which piece. I don’t want to spoil it (but scroll to the end if you want to know!)
I think for us, in this situation, it came really naturally. Our natural middle grade voices really informed who would write each piece. I don’t even think it was something we consciously talked about...we just each knew who we would write.
Kris: *rubs hands together* My turn. Jen, tell our readers what tools we used to draft and revise?
Jen: Okay, here’s where we got lazy. We both knew that Scrivener offered a feature that allows for project sharing, but neither of us could figure out how to use it cohesively and we were too darn eager to get started. So we used Google Docs. The creepiest thing with Docs is that you can both be in the manuscript at the same time and if inclined, could literally watch the other type each word into a chapter. Much as I love and trust Kris, I definitely can’t write with anyone looking over my shoulder, so I would usually compose my chapters in Scrivener and then copy and paste them into Google Docs. However, Docs worked great in most other respects—it’s very easy to leave each other notes (and even have conversations) in comment bubbles as we went, we created a folder that also held our outline along with research pictures and sources for easy reference, there was no confusion about whether we were each working in the most up-to-date version because we weren’t emailing the manuscript back and forth, and we could easily check to see if the other had added new pages. We both found it really lovely to go to bed with one word count and to wake up to thousands more words added to our story, as if by magic! Google Docs proved more exasperating during revisions because we’re both accustomed to being able to jump around our manuscripts so easily in Scrivener and all the endless scrolling frayed the nerves… but we made it work.
Kris: Just to add my $.02. I wrote my sections in Word, and then pasted into Google. Google was a little slow and got a little cumbersome, but it was AWESOME to use a live document and see it updated every few days. A great thing about working with another person is that the word count goes up exponentially!
Jen: Okay Kris, speaking of frayed nerves, what were some challenges to marrying two distinct voices and two distinct viewpoints, if any?
Kris: The way we structured this book made this easier than it could have been. Each of our characters has her own distinct character arc. You could conceivably read each character’s story by itself--this made it a bit easier for each of us to tell our own character’s story. Of course there are a few times when the girls speak to each other through the portal, and whoever was writing that dialogue had to be sure to get the voice right.
There were definitely times when Jen had suggestions for me and vice versa, and some of the best scenes came out of those suggestions to make something bigger or crazier.
Kris: Jen, maybe you can explain how we approached our agents with this idea?
Jen: Sure! We’re represented by different agents, so once we determined we wanted to go for this, we reached out to our respective agents and pitched the concept. Both were enthusiastic, so our next step was getting their take on how they wanted to divvy up the agent tasks (such as submitting to publisher(s) and managing ongoing accounting for the title). Since we planned from the start to offer this to my existing editor at Simon & Schuster, rather than going on wide submission, that task was less of an issue. We were also able to have S&S split accounting on the title in-house and issue us separate (but equal) advances and royalty statements reflecting only our individual halves of the pot. Both agents collaborated on contract points—discussing negotiation strategies and specific terms together. While mine took the lead as point person in contract communications with our editor, Kris’s agent then stepped up later in the process when we had an offer for stage rights that needed negotiating… so overall the balance was kept even. Most agencies have clients who are co-authoring and I’ve found most are quite open to working with other agents to best serve their authors’ careers. In fact, this wasn’t my first time to the co-authoring rodeo, and my lovely and accommodating agent worked with six other agents on my title Best. Night. Ever., which was co-authored by seven of us. In that instance, she suggested a structure typical of anthologies, where the project’s editor (me, in this case) is the person of record with the publishing house (with respect to name on the contract and person receiving advance/royalty statements). Then each of the other authors signed contracts (through my agent’s agency) with me directly, laying out terms of their specific contribution and indicating how monies coming in from the book would be distributed from me, via her agency. (Note: in most anthologies contributors are issued a one-time flat fee, but since our case was a different in that we were all equal participants in the storytelling, we share equally in any royalties/rights sales in perpetuity. This means I forward royalty statements I receive for the title to each author, who then passes it along to her agent for review. An extra step, yes, but hardly a logistical challenge.)
Kris: I’ll pick up from here and explain what the publication process was like… how we sold the book and how we worked with our editor on it. Our experience working with the amazing Amy Cloud was wonderful. Jen had worked with her before, but every book is different. Amy was a champion of our concept from the beginning. She brought the book to acquisitions in early September 2015 and Simon & Schuster bought it with only about 50 pages written--though we had a very thorough synopsis, so she knew the entire story from the outset. We had a very brief celebration and then had to finish the book, which ended up taking longer than we expected.
One of the most unexpected things was having turned in the final version to Amy just before the election of 2016. We’d included a minor subplot of having a female president in Hannah’s present day. It was heartbreaking for us to have to change that thread, and for a millisecond we thought about not changing it. In the end, we feel like the book is stronger for the change, alluding to more work still to come in changing hearts and minds about women’s roles in leadership.
Jen: Okay, we’re getting wordy here, so before we write a tome posing as a blog post, let’s wrap up by each listing our least favorite and our favorite part about co-authoring. I’ll start:
Least favorite: Worries about not pulling equal weight at all times. I went through some life events right around our book’s release and wasn’t quite feeling in full-on extroverted promotion mode. It was a source of guilt (but also such a blessing) to have a co-author who picked up any slack with grace and care.
Favorite: Having another deeply invested person (even better because it’s a friend) to ride the ups and downs with and to share the excitement with (oh, and also the workload), especially when you balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Least favorite: When Jen had fabulous ideas that resulted in more work for me! LOL. Not really, but case in point. The soccer match that Maggie plays was not part of the original story. In writing a believable soccer game, I did a lot of research and even consulted with an expert to get it right. I’m so glad I did, but man, it was hard. (And now you know which character is mine!)
Favorite: Having someone to share the success with--I love the things we’ve been able to do together, like go on a Girl Scout trip to Newport to visit the mansion with girls. I’m so proud of this book, and working with Jen made it so much better than doing it alone!
Thank you again for hosting us here. We hope this helped demystify the process of co-writing a bit and that we convinced you to give it a try yourselves!
Click here for a review of THE ART OF THE SWAP in Book Picks.
Kristine Asselin is the author of several works of children’s nonfiction as well as the YA novel Any Way You Slice It. She loves being a Girl Scout leader and volunteering with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a sucker for a good love song (preferably from the 80s), and can’t resist an invitation for Chinese food or ice cream (but not at the same time!). She lives in Central Massachusetts with her teen daughter and husband, and spends part of everyday looking for a TARDIS to borrow. You can learn more about Kris at www.kristineasselin.com.
Jen Malone writes young adult novels with HarperCollins and middle grade adventures with Simon & Schuster. Jen’s published titles include The Art of the Swap (with Kristine Asselin), Changes in Latitudes, Best Night Ever, The Sleepover, the You’re Invited series (with Gail Nall), At Your Service, Map to the Stars, Wanderlost, and Follow Your Art (a collaboration with Dreamworks Animation and Penguin Random House on a companion story to the animated film Trolls). Her next YA, The Arrival of Someday, releases in Summer 2019. Jen once spent a year traveling the world solo, met her husband on the highway (literally), and went into labor with her identical twins while on a rock star's tour bus. These days she saves the drama for her books. You can learn more about Jen and her books at www.jenmalonewrites.com. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @jenmalonewrites.
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