An interview with Mark Maciejewski, author of I Am Fartacus

I was fortunate enough to read an early version of I Am Fartacus. I live for funny and this novel delivers, twisting traditional ideas of hero and villain to hilarious effect. As Chub and his misfit crew set out to take down popular Archer’s evil empire,  Mark somehow manages to make both sides sympathetic, pushing the reader to see the whole situation. Fartacus is a wonderful addition to any middle grade collection AND I got the author to answer some questions. Awesome, right??  Here we go…

 

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

Probably in part because stories were the only part of school that I enjoyed. Also, my mom was functionally illiterate. She read with me every night, but what I didn’t find out until much later was that she was learning to read by reading with me.

What was the hardest part of writing I Am Fartacus? (And how often did you crack yourself up in the process?)

The hardest part for me was remaining focused and just finishing the work. I believe that persistence beats talent any day.

How did you know I crack myself up? My wife is a writer too, and she sometimes has to leave the room when I’m writing because I laugh so much. The weird part is that I don’t feel like I’m laughing at my own jokes so much as I’m laughing at the characters and the things they say and do. I also laugh a lot when I’m revising and re-reading because I honestly forget most of the funny stuff right after I write it.

Chub is so relatable as a middle grade hero. Did it take time to get him right or did he arrive fully formed, albeit bald, in your head?

He arrived pretty much fully formed, but then he evolved during revisions. Early on he really fancied himself as Alanmoore’s resident supervillain against the resident superhero, the Arch (who was originally called “the Chad”.) My agent convinced me to tone down that part of his character to make him more relatable. I wasn’t super keen at first, since I’d always envisioned him that way, but she was right. He’s much more sympathetic now, which I think sweetens the emotional growth he goes through by the end.

Is Archer based on anyone you knew in middle school? Do you enjoy writing good guys or bad guys more?

Archer isn’t anyone in particular. He’s an amalgam of kids we all knew who got these seemingly superhuman powers years before anyone else.

I suppose I prefer bad guys, but they have to be relatable to be truly interesting. Although Chub is kind of an anti-hero, Archer, the ostensible hero, is actually the bad guy in this book. But I hope he becomes relatable enough that readers will feel something for him by the end.

Who are your favorite authors?

For adult works I like Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Hemmingway, Tom Wolff, Tom Robbins, Chuck Palahniuk.

For Kidlit I love Neil Gaiman, Marcus Zusak, Roald Dahl, Shel Silverstein, Eoin Colfer, Neal Shusterman, Nancy Farmer, just to name a few.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

I love to read, do crosswords, garden with my wife, and golf.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve heard from a lot of kids who are really into graphic novels, and wish Fartacus had illustrations. So, I’m working on a new book about a kid who thinks his dad might be a superhero. I’m hoping it’ll be illustrated, comic book style, to go along with the superhero/villain theme.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

They can contact me through my website, Markmaciejewski.com or on Twitter @Magicjetski

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crow

One hundred and twenty seven yoga classes later and I can do Crow Pose. Don’t know that that is? Well, I think you can live a complete and happy life without knowing but if you’re curious, here it is:

In the process of reaching this milestone, I fell on my face. A lot. And I mean that literally, just went right past ‘balanced’ and landed on my nose. In yoga, we are not meant to judge one another but I could feel the pity around me, wafting off my twenty something classmates. After all, they balanced.

But here’s the thing. Every time the instructor asked for this pose, I gave it a shot. Because by not trying, I guaranteed I would never get there. And then one day, I balanced. Happy fireworks went off in my head. If I can master crow, what’s next? Wounded peacock? Yoga sleep pose? Okay, that one is just gross and we should probably not get ahead of ourselves here. 

 

There are so many things that will get in your way as you travel toward a dream or desire. I’m right now on the one-millionth rewrite of a story I very much want to tell but I keep stumbling. It works and then it doesn’t. I like it and then I don’t. It stares at me and I stare back. But I keep returning. I keep falling on my face. Is this a waste of time? Stupid? Pointless? Should I turn my attention to something else?
I don’t know. What I do know is I’m not ready to give up.  I’m waiting for the crow.
 

3-sentence (or so) Book Recommendations

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline (YA). I only have one today because I’ve been so busy lately my reading has fallen behind. That is not cool. But this book is. Sure, it takes place in a dystopian future but its heart is 1980s pop culture gold. From John Hughes to Pac Man to more obscure references I actually had to think about, I challenge you to not be sucked in.

Boarding school. It’s really a thing.

When I tell people from California that I went to boarding school, they always ask the same wide eyed question: What did you do?

 It took me a few rounds to figure out the assumption: bad behavior + getting caught = boarding school. After I make it clear I wasn’t a juvenile delinquent sent up the river for stealing cars or other unsavory behavior, I explain that these schools are actually desirable. You have to apply to them. They might not let you in. At this point, my California people just kind of look at me funny and I gently nudge the conversation to the weather or the San Francisco Giants or where to get really good sushi.

 But I get it. The idea of boarding school is weird. It seems like it should only happen in fiction. Take five hundred fourteen to eighteen year olds, lock them up together and remove all parental supervision. Who thought this was a good idea? I’ll be honest. Boarding school wasn’t my finest hour. I was awkward, fat, clueless and hopeless, surrounded by kids who skied the Alps during spring break and tanned on the beaches of St. Barts (back when tanning wasn’t the skin equivalent of smoking). I could barely find those places on a map. When I read Harry Potter, I remember thinking we had a Voldemort, too. He can be named but I won’t do that here.

 There were some ugly moments. When I finally graduated, it was with great relief that I discovered there was lots of life still ahead of me and what I was did not determine who I would be.

Still, this experience floated around, looking for purchase. Where exactly in my creative landscape was boarding school going to land because surely it had to land somewhere? I tried an adult thriller with a long forgotten murder but that didn’t work. I played with the idea of a television series but couldn’t get it to click. The answer turned out to be a middle grade series about spies. Surprised me, too. Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls is not dark or angsty or moody, like we all were. It’s funny and light hearted and I couldn’t quite figure out how that happened if most of my memories of that time are not funny, at least not in a good way.

But of course if you drink a lot of coffee and stare into space for long enough, the answers do appear. Abby Hunter, the twelve year old hero of this series, is the girl I wish I had been back then. In writing her, I forgive my young self for not measuring up.

It did not look like this.
It looked like this.

Book Suggestions 

While we’re on the boarding school theme, there are a number of books (other than Harry Potter!) that use this setting for its richness and chaos, some fun, some sinister, some very dark. A few examples:

 1. Spy School, by Stuart Gibbs (middle grade).  Kid gets recruited for the CIA and ends up in a special school for training spies. Things get wildly and hilariously out of hand. Fast paced and fun, the kids will love this one.

 2. Looking for Alaska, by John Green (YA). As is John Green’s way, this novel deals with dark themes. Follow sixteen year old Miles Halter as he heads to boarding school, soon to discover his life will never be the same again.

 3. Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld (adult). Ouch. This one was like being back there (PTSD anyone??). But as much as I wanted to run away, the writing is so compelling, I had to see it through. I love this author and this is one of her best.

 4. Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro (adult). I read this book in one sitting. It’s a masterpiece that happens to involve a boarding school of sorts. I first read this years ago and I still find it creeping into my thoughts on a regular basis. Don’t miss it.

  

So you wanna write a book?

Back in August, I started taking a Vinyasa yoga class. Today, I’m one hundred classes in and while I am thisclose to being able to touch my toes (a miracle!) I have yet to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Apparently, that takes years. Which leads me to a conversation I had last week with a recent acquaintance.

Him: I want to write a book. I have the best idea.
Me: Great!
Him: it’s going to be a bestseller.
Me: Great!
Him: how long does it take to write a bestseller?
Me: as long as it takes to achieve spiritual enlightenment in yoga.

He didn’t laugh. Maybe it was my delivery? But I have these conversations all the time. People are curious about writing books, either because they like to read or they have a book inside them looking for a way out. The questions always peak this time of year. With spring on the horizon we’re coming out of hibernation and dusting off our dreams.

So in celebration of the flowers bursting out all over my California town, I offer this: if you have a question about the writing process or the publishing industry that you want to ask or you have a friend who does, email me: Beth@BethMcMullenBooks.com

No question is too big or small or inane or silly. I bet I have asked most of them myself at some point in time.

And I promise, no stupid jokes about spiritual enlightenment.

Have a great day, my friends!

Where are you, James Bond?

 

International Spy Museum

I remember seeing the James Bond movie Moonraker back in the Jurassic Era when Roger Moore played the part. We were at the drive in movie theater, swatting mosquitoes the size of 747s and trying to eek out more volume from the tinny speaker dangling in our window.

not yet.

 

I was a kid but old enough to know a plot that involved hijacking the space shuttle was kind of ridiculous. And I didn’t understand the Bond Girls. If they wanted to be truly badass, why on earth would they dress like they did? Who wants to fight bad guys in heels and a clingy sequined mini-dress? But one thing is clear. Bond isn’t going anywhere.

Everyone knows the bad guys are the most interesting.

Evidence? Recently I had a chance to visit the Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Seriously, this was research, folks. I’m in the middle of a spy series and I need material. Anyway, the museum hosts an extensive James Bond exhibit, with movie props and costumes and details on special effects. There was a super creepy interview with the actor who played Jaws and he was lovely and funny and it freaked me out. The museum was crowded. People couldn’t get enough of our cultures pre-eminent spy.

 

Can I order these from Amazon?

So why do spies capture our imagination? Why do I keep returning to them every time I sit down to start a new project? Sure, there is the Teflon superhero quality to a character like James Bond but it’s something more than that.

Or how about these?

When writing fiction, the ambiguity inherent in the spying life is rich with possibility. It’s the idea that things are not as they appear, that under the obvious are layers of the unknown.  That guy walking down the street in front of you – maybe he’s recording the conversation the woman in front of him is having with the guy in the hat who looks suspicious. Maybe they’re plotting world domination? Or maybe he works for the bad guys and she’s the mark. Or flip that. Or maybe she’s the only thing standing between chaos and us. It could be you’re on a mission right now.

Or maybe I am.

 

From the Website
In case you missed it….

1. An interview with middle grade author Sally J. Pla, author of The Someday Birds (love this book!)
2. An interview with Edgar Nominee Sarah Lariviere
3. Tips on creative writing with kids

What I’m reading

The Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (adult). I can’t decide what I think. Have any of you read this book? Help me.

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys (YA). Set during the final days of WWII, four teenagers with secrets flee the advancing Soviets. Based on the actual events surrounding the Wilhelm Gustloff maritime disaster, this novel does a great job making history come alive.

Wolf Hollow, by Lauren Wolk (MG). Another historical. Am I hiding out in the past because the present is so alarming? Possibly. But the past is alarming too as evidenced by this beautifully written novel about a Pennsylvania girl living in the shadow of a war finished and one about to begin. There is much to be learned here about compassion and resilience while illuminating some of the darkest corners of our history.

AND I can’t let you go without talking about Santa Clarita Diet on Netflix. Has anyone watched this show? I AM FREAKING OUT. So gross. So funny. Please watch it and get back to me.

An interview with middle grade author Sally J. Pla

If you are an aspiring author, I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about ‘voice’ and how important it is to get it right. And it is!  When you read a novel and the ‘voice’ works, you can feel it all the way down to your toes. This is what happened to me with Sally J. Pla’s The Someday BirdsCharlie struggles to fit in and understand the world around him and just when he thinks he’s got it nailed down, well, everything changes. I felt his pain and confusion and admired his passion. If this character suddenly walked into my living room, I would not be at all surprised. He is that real.

I can’t recommend this middle grade book enough and I’m thrilled Sally was willing to answer some questions for us. Here we go!

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

You know, I’ve been thinking lately about the galloping myopia (nearsightedness) I had as a kid. I got glasses in first grade, but my eyes grew worse so fast, my prescriptions never quite kept up. I never could see much more beyond six inches in front of my nose, so books were simply one of the few things in my life, literally and figuratively, that stayed in focus! I was terrible at sports and things like that. So at recess, I hid, I read books, and I was happy!   And the writing of stories just came naturally from the reading.

I think I would have been a reader and writer even without the myopia—it’s how my brain’s hard-wired. But that galloping myopia? Definitely an extra inducing factor!

What was the hardest part of writing The Someday Birds?

The hardest part was giving myself permission to start. To brush off that little critic perched on my shoulder, always whispering in my ear, “Well, who the heck do you think you are, Miss Fancy-Pants? What makes you think you’re good enough to write a novel?” I’ve left that guy in the dust, now. Thank goodness.

Charlie’s voice is spot on. Did it take time to get him right or did he arrive fully formed in your head?

Charlie stepped out on the page, fully formed, from the very first words. But I did a lot of thinking about the story. I thought for years, before I tried to put it down on paper. About my own experience of the world, as a kid, and that of my now-grown son, and of the neuro-diverse friends we’ve known and loved through the years, and how their kindness, and good nature, and hyper-awareness, and sensitivity is often misunderstood.

Birds and birding are central to this novel. Are you a bird watcher?

When I was a kid, yes. I was an amateur birder. I took it very seriously. I had a bird book, and a notebook for my observations.

My dad mocked me once, when I was tramping around the backyard. He said, “Oh, look! A yellow-bellied sapsucker!” He didn’t know anything about birds or birding, and he thought it was just some funny made-up name to tease me with.

I got super excited. I whispered, “Where? Where?” looking all around — and then he laughed at me.

That crushed me, because there really was such a thing as a yellow-bellied sapsucker, gosh darn it! It wasn’t a made-up bird at all! I showed it to him in my bird book, later on.

But you know, that was one of those childhood tipping-point “moments,” somehow. The moment I first felt really self-conscious. When I realized the intensity of my interests might make me different, different enough to warrant being mocked. Even by my own dad.

My dad is very loving, and he still feels regretful about that incident. In fact, he donated to the Audubon Society last year, because the sapsucker is now endangered. An act of yellow-bellied penance, to make me smile. Because the yellow-bellied sapsucker has been this running thing between us, for about forty years, now!

I know all that plays into Charlie’s birding, somehow. It’s definitely not the only thing. But it’s part of it.

Who are your favorite authors?

Too many to name! So many amazing books and authors! But the ones who write big-hearted, with lots of feels, and leave me with a sense that the world is, on the whole, going to be an okay place to survive in – these are the books and authors who speak to my soul. Rebecca Stead, Kate di Camillo, Richard Peck, Katherine Applegate. I also love the slightly dark and mysterious. I love Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, and I adore Ransom Riggs’s Tales of the Peculiar.

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Watch movies. Cook dinner with my husband and sons. Have coffee and laugh with a good friend at a little café. Get pulled into the attention vortex of my dog (don’t laugh, that’s a real phenomenon).

What are you working on right now?

A second middle-grade novel for Harper, due out next January. It’s called JOHN LOCKDOWN IS IN THE BUILDING. It’s the story of Stanley Fortinbras, a meek, undersized comics fanatic who wants—yet dreads—to enter a big “Trivia Quest” treasure hunt, in an attempt to win back his best friend. Also, his new middle school’s wackily over-the-top safety drills are making him a nervous wreck—and leading him into a mysterious cartooning adventure…

Also pubbing in 2018:  BENNIE’S BLUE BURRITO (tentative title), a picture book with Lee & Low. It’s about two little brothers, sibling rivalry, and a fuzzy blue blanket.

I have a third young person’s novel in the drafting stage. About a girl, and an ancient, enchanted seamstress. About re-weaving family histories, and whether or not we can repair the fabric of time…

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Please stop by my website – www.sallyjpla.com, any time. There are newsletter and ‘contact’ links on there, and blog posts fairly regularly.

Thanks you so much for letting me visit here, Beth! And thank you for reading!

The Best Middle Grade Novels of 2016

best_of_middle_grade_4_1024

 

I’m a sucker for a ‘Best of’ list, which makes this my favorite time of year. Best books, best movies, best television shows, best wine, best toys, best new superheroes, best celebrity facelifts (well, maybe not that one) but you get the idea. Who can resist a good wrap-up?

This year I’ve decided to get in on the fun. I started reading middle grade fiction when my son first picked up Percy Jackson and couldn’t get enough. Since then, I’ve been dazzled by the amazing work being done in this space. From novels dealing with the serious issues some kids face to remarkable fantasy world building, the quality of today’s middle grade authors shines bright and I’m thrilled to share with you some of my favorites from 2016. These selections each have that seamless ability to transport the reader, inviting her to get lost in another reality. This is the magic of a good book and I’m certain these titles will endure, entertaining generations to come. (PS: books make great presents and they are super easy to wrap!) (Oh, and follow the links for insight into these great authors!)

And now THE LIST (in no particular order)!

 

bounders-1 bounders-2

The Bounders series (Book 1: Earth Force Rising; Book 2: The Tundra Trials), by Monica Tesler.

Jasper Adams joins the Earth Force military agency to train as an elite astronaut, tasked with piloting spaceships that can travel across the galaxy in an instant. But the agency has been keeping secrets about how much trouble Earth is really in and now the Bounders are the only thing standing between their planet and total destruction. This is amazing world building with relatable kids in far out situations. Fantasy fans will delight in this series. Find out who Monica Tesler’s favorite authors are here.

 

charlie-price

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price, by Jennifer Maschari.

Charlie Price is struggling in the aftermath of his mother’s death. But while his emotions are all over the place, his sister Imogen seems almost normal. Is that because Imogen has discovered a trap door beneath her bed leading to an alternate universe, one where their mother is alive? Maschari weaves elements of fantasy with realistic fiction to create an emotionally honest exploration of love and loss. I definitely cried. Find out where Jennifer Maschari’s love of story telling came from.

 

7th-grade-life

My 7th Grade Life in Tights, by Brooks Benjamin.

Dillon has problems. He wants to be a real dancer but pursing that dream at a studio means disappointing his father who wants him to play football, and his friends, who think studios are for sell outs. Torn between what he wants for himself and what others want for him, Dillon struggles to blaze his own path. Tagging along with this endearing narrator as he dances through the chaos is a real treat. Find out what Brooks Benjamin is working on right now.

 

finding-perfect-2

Finding Perfect, by Elly Swartz.

Molly Nathans is a twelve year old struggling with an anxiety disorder. But as her family life unravels, the habits she relies upon to keep her anxiety in check begin to lose effectiveness and she feels less and less in control of her life. The way in which Molly’s inner life and what she presents to the world differ will resonate with readers on many levels. Find out what the hardest part of writing Finding Perfect was for Elly Swartz.

 

paper-wishes

Paper Wishes, by Lois Sepahban.

The New York Times calls this debut about Manami, a girl from Bainbridge Island, Washington sent to the Manzanar internment camp in the California ­desert, ‘devastating and brave.’ These are perfect words for a powerful story built on the loss of a beloved pet as a child is thrust into the chaos and confusion of a shameful time in our country’s not so distant past. I was greatly moved by this book and I believe it will impart valuable lessons to middle grade readers. Read the full New York Times review here. And find out where Lois Sepahban’s love of storytelling came from.

 

piper-morgan

Piper Morgan series, by Stephanie Faris.

This delightful series of chapter books, aimed at early middle grade readers, follow the adventures of eight year old Piper Morgan. In Piper Morgan Joins the Circus, Piper’s mom takes a job with the Big Top Circus and Piper gets a chance to perform. Of course, things go horribly array but Piper’s the kind of girl who will ultimately save the day. I thoroughly enjoyed her spunk and can-do attitude and I think you will too. Find out what Stephanie Faris does for fun when she’s not writing.

 

adventurers-guide

The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes, by Wade Albert White.

Who can resist a book whose main character attends the Saint Lupin’s Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children? Not me. But when the day arrives for Anne to finally leave the school, strange happenings occur and she finds herself tasked with an epic quest. It’s up to Anne and her friends to triumph over some pretty monstrous foes and save the day. I love funny and this series beginning hits the mark. Just right for a kid who appreciates a laugh. Find out what the hardest part of writing this book was for Wade Albert White.

 

bad-kid

The Bad Kid, by Sarah Lariviere.

Claudeline is very good at being bad. In fact, she comes from a long line of gangsters although she senses her father is running the family business into the ground. When a strange woman shows up in town, Claudeline gets pulled into a maddening mystery that has her wondering what it really means to be bad. Claudeline, a little naughty with a heart of gold, shares DNA with Harriet the Spy and kids who enjoy mysteries and crime solving will adore her. Find out what Sarah Lariviere does for fun when she’s not writing.

 

An Interview with Author Eileen Rendahl

I read a lot of young adult and middle grade fiction and I love it. However, sometimes I want to read a grown up book with grown up cursing and other grown up things. Lucky for me Cover Me in Darkness, the newest from Eileen Rendahl, showed up in my mailbox. This fast paced psychological thriller kept me glued to my seat with creepy twists and turns and potential villains lurking in every shadowy corner. Highly recommended.

Plus, Eileen answered some questions for me about Cover Me in Darkness and her writing career. Let’s take a look…

4861e8_9f1ed123f96a4e8288412f371855a03d

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

I come from a long line of storytellers. Most of my family memories center around people sitting at the dining room table and spinning stories. Some of our storytellers have a little more direct relationship to the actual truth than others, but the important thing was if you made people laugh or cry. Either response was good.

My family are also readers. I don’t recall a time that my parents weren’t each reading something. My grandparents, too. It was simply a given that we all read.

So I guess the answer is that books and storytelling and reading and writing are in my blood.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

That’s hard to answer right now! I loved writing in the dark and creepy tone that characterizes Cover Me in Darkness, but I also love writing the light and comedic cozy mysteries I’m writing for Berkley Publishing and Crooked Lane Publishing as Kristi Abbott and Lillian Bell, respectively. I hope that in all cases, the emotional reality of my characters comes across. That’s what it’s really all about for me. Well, that and making you either laugh or cry or possibly both.

What was the hardest part of writing Cover Me In Darkness?

The plot. Plotting is always so hard for me. Figuring out the logical progression of events isn’t easy for this very non-linear girl. The fact that Cover Me has two different investigations going on made it extra challenging. Making sure each one was logical and that the rhythm between the two was right and that they intertwined where they needed to and didn’t when they didn’t was a struggle.

Who are your favorite authors?

Ooh! So tough! There are so many. I have a deep and abiding love of Margaret Atwood’s work. I read “Lady Oracle” and “Cat’s Eye” at the exact right moments in my life to have read them and they made an indelible mark on me. In the mystery and thriller genres, I’d have to point to Lisa Gardner and Harlen Coben. I love their voices and their expert plotting. I thought Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” was one of the most truthful, hysterical, and suspenseful books I had read in a long time and instantly became a huge fan of her. I can’t wait to see the HBO series based on the book!

What is your favorite thing to do when not writing?

Drink wine? No. That sounds terrible. Not the wine-drinking, the fact that I’d list it as what I like to do the most.

I have lived in the same small city for nearly seventeen years now and have made some amazing friends. What I like best is spending time with them and with my family. We’ve just finished cleaning up from Thanksgiving, but as far as I’m concerned, that is the perfect type of evening. Family and friends around a table groaning with food and drinks with everyone laughing and hugging. And yes. There was wine and probably some storytelling, too.

What are you working on right now?

I’ve just finished the third book in the Popcorn Shop Mystery Series that I write as Kristi Abbott and am about to start writing the first book in my Funeral Parlor Mysteries that I’ll be writing as Lillian Bell.

How do you prefer readers get in touch with you?

Email or Facebook are probably best! Find both at http://www.eileenrendahl.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Kids Love About The Books They Love

At the beginning of our first Creative Writing Club (4th-6th graders; details here), I asked the kids about favorite books. Since I’m new to writing middle grade fiction, I’m super curious about what makes them turn the page and maybe even ask for more.  A few takeaways from their answers (some of which are shared below in their own words), kids like action and humor and I wish I’d written the Big Nate books. 🙂 Graphic novels seem to be all the rage these days. Anyway, here’s the list…

 

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann: There are many unexpected twists and turns. There is a stark contrast between people who are creative and the people who have banned creativity.

And another for The Unwanteds: I like it because it’s about magic. It has you think about people and animals differently. It is just an awesome book.

The Extra Yard, by Mike Lupica: I like this book because it makes me want to keep trying until I succeed.

Harry Potter, by JK Rowling: It is full of action and also very funny.

Big Nate Flips Out, by Lincoln Pierce: This is my favorite book because it is a mystery and also very dramatic.

Another for Big Nate: My favorite book is Big Nate. You should read it because it’s funny.

And another: Big Nate is funny, he has cool hair and he knows how to trash talk.

My Weird School Series, by Dan Gutman: I love these books because they are awesome and weird!

Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs: It’s my favoriet because it is fantasy, it’s funny, it has lots of action, a little bit of sci-fi and it’s well written.

Treasure Hunters, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein: I like it because the adventure represented in this books. One example is when the pirates attack ad group of kids. I also like how the author describes each character in the start of the book.

Nancy Clancy, Star of Stage and Screen, by Jane O’Connor: I like this book because I can learn lots of different songs. Second, I like a series.

Smile, Drama and Sisters, by Raina Telemeier: I like this series of books because I love the way the illustrators show the characters expressions.

Library Mouse, by Daniel Kirk: I like the book because I like how he did the “meet the author” thing.

Gregor the Overlander, by Suzanne Collins: This is my favorite book. I love it.

Warriors, by Erin Hunter: It has a lot of fighting. There are four different clans and each one has a leader. I like that.

Dogman, by Dav Pilkey: I like it because Dav Pilkey is my favorite author.

Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper: I like it because it gives me a new appreciation for disabled people.

 

 

Creative Writing Club for Kids, Session #1

I’ve had a few people ask me for details about my creative writing club for kids. These are 4th-6th graders and we meet once a month after school for about an hour. Each child has a notebook that I collect and keep at the end of each session. All their work is done in the notebook. After each exercise anyone who wants to can read his/her work aloud. There is absolutely no obligation to do this! (but I was pleased by how many wanted to read by the end of the session 🙂 )

At our first meeting, we discussed setting. I gave a bunch of examples (outer space, elementary school, a farm, etc) and asked the kids to describe the setting from their favorite book or movie in their notebooks. Anyone who wanted to read got a chance.

With a better understanding of setting, we moved on to the setting exercises which are described below.

Each child selected a photograph from the pile. (I cut out a bunch of pictures from National Geographic and various travel magazines and pasted them on paper. I had about fifty different ones the kids could choose from.)

 Exercise 1: describe the picture. Use all your senses. What does it smell like here? Is it cold or hot? What time of day is it?

Read a loud.

Exercise 2: pass photo to the left. Describe the scene as if you were in it. “I am….”

Read a loud

Exercise 3: pass photo again. Imagine you’re an animal in the photo. Describe the photo from the animal’s point of view.

Read a loud

Exercise 4: Free writing with a prompt.

One day a spaceship landed on the playground and…

Use these three words in your story: rainy, Pogo ball, Doritos.

Read aloud.