Category Archives: New Voices

New Voices, a Word from the Editor: Little Peach

Posted by | March 25, 2015 | No Comments

Little PeachIt was award-winning author Patty McCormick (of Sold, Never Fall Down and several other acclaimed novels) who told me one day that I had to read a manuscript, Little Peach, from a gifted student of hers, Peggy Kern. Who would ever ignore that advice? I started reading the novel that night–and didn’t stop until I was finished.

From the very first page I knew I wanted to publish this novel. The voice of Michelle-—so innocent and yet so wise beyond her years—gave me chills. When Michelle’s mother chooses her boyfriend over her own daughter, Michelle knows she has no choice but to leave and she runs away to New York City, naively thinking she can look up a friend once she gets there. But once she is arrives in Port Authority she understands just how alone she is. Then she sees a face in the crowd — a young man. He is handsome, well-dressed. He is smiling at her warmly. In this intimidating, bustling city, he offers her a hand. And she takes it.

Devon, that handsome young man, isn’t what he seems. He gives Michelle food, clean clothes, and a place to stay. A pimp who is well-practiced in the art of manipulation, he is slowly grooming Michelle to become one of his prostitutes. Even after he has drugged her and betrayed her in the worst way possible, Michelle doesn’t leave. First, because she has nowhere to go. And then because this man, who has taken everything from her, is also the only one who is offering her security.

When Michelle is forced into unspeakable acts, her voice feels almost distant — it’s as if she is living outside of her body. To protect herself, her mind still goes back to that innocence and safety she felt with her grandfather as a girl. Her new reality would be too much to process if she faced it head-on.

My favorite kinds of books are those that make you see something in a whole new light. What this book revealed to me was how far someone will go to feel loved if they have been denied this basic human need. And that is how Peach feels about the other girls in Devon’s home — her “sisters” Kat and Baby. Even though at night they are forced to do unimaginable things, there are those moments when they are laughing and watching TV together, doing each other’s hair and just being regular girls. It’s because of her love for this new family that Michelle is finally able to find the courage to fight back.

Peggy Kern was driven to write this story for the real teen prostitutes in New York City who had stories just like Michelle’s. She interviewed them and the police officers who work in the area. She saw the dingy hotel where they worked. When people ask Peggy why these girls would ever open up to her, she says that they were eager to tell their story. And no one ever cares enough to ask.

As Peggy so eloquently says in her author’s note for Little Peach, as a community we don’t have a place for these girls, who are often runaways with no options. So once they are arrested, they are treated as criminals instead of given the help and education that could reverse the deadly path they are on.dark books

A question we often hear in the industry is why teen books have to be so dark. Why do they have to talk about such serious and dangerous issues? What if they lead teens to those dangerous behavior? What if teens are exposed to content that isn’t appropriate for them?

There will stop being dark books for teens when these issues are no longer relevant to teens. When bad things stop happening. And sadly, that is never going to be the case. Books like Little Peach educate people and open their eyes. They take an anonymous issue and make it personal. They teach teens compassion. I have seen books work their magic. It can feel uncomfortable to face these ugly issues as a society, but it’s only by facing them that we can start to make a change.

 You can find Little Peach on sale right now!

Alessandra Balzer is the Editor of Little Peach and the Co-Publisher of Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins.

 

WINTER 2015 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK

Posted by | January 27, 2015 | 3 Comments

Happy 2015 to you! To start the year off right, we’d like to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2015. These debut novels entertained us, enriched us, intrigued us, and made us so excited to witness the beginnings of these authors’ sure-to-be-stellar writing careers.

Click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and make sure to keep an eye on these fantastic authors. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Blackbird Fly

BLACKBIRD FLY, by Erin Entrada Kelly, follows twelve-year-old Apple Yengko as she grapples with being different, with friends and backstabbers, and with following her dreams. Apple has always felt a little different from her classmates. She and her mother moved to America from the Philippines when she was little, and her mother still cooks Filipino foods, makes mistakes with her English, and chastises Apple for becoming “too American.” But it becomes unbearable in eighth grade, when the boys—the stupid, stupid boys—in Apple’s class put her name on the Dog Log, the list of the most unpopular girls in school. When Apple’s friends turn on her and everything about her life starts to seem weird and embarrassing, Apple turns to music. If she can just save enough to buy a guitar and learn to play, maybe she can change herself. It might be the music that saves her . . . or it might be her two new friends, who show how special she really is. Read the first chapter here!

The Keepers: The Box and the Dragonfly

THE KEEPERS: THE BOX AND THE DRAGONFLY, by Ted Sanders, is the first in a four-book middle-grade fantasy series about Horace F. Andrews, a quiet boy who discovers he possesses a power that can change worlds. When a sign leads Horace underground to the House of Answers, a hidden warehouse full of mysterious objects, he unfortunately finds only questions. What is this curious place? Who are the strange, secretive people who entrust him with a rare and immensely powerful gift? And what is he to do with it? From the enormous, sinister man shadowing him to the gradual mastery of his new-found abilities to his encounters with Chloe—a girl who has an astonishing talent of her own—Horace follows a path that puts the pair in the middle of a centuries-old conflict between two warring factions in which every decision they make could have disastrous consequences. Read the first chapter here!

No Parking at the End Times

NO PARKING AT THE END TIMES, by Bryan Bliss, is a thoughtful and moving story about losing everything—and about what you will do for the people you love. Abigail’s parents never should have made that first donation to that end-of-times preacher. Or the next, or the next. They shouldn’t have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there for the “end of the world.” Because now they’re living in their van. And Aaron is full of anger, disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But is that too big a task for one teenage girl? Read the first chapter here!

Red Queen

RED QUEEN, by Victoria Aveyard, is a sweeping fantasy about seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose latent magical powers draw her into the dangerous world of the elite ruling class. Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with Red blood serve the Silver elite, whose silver blood gifts them with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the King, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the King forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything to use her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal. Read the first chapter here!

Little Peach

LITTLE PEACH, by Peggy Kern, is the gritty and riveting story of a runaway who comes to New York City and is lured into prostitution by a manipulative pimp. When Michelle runs away from her drug-addicted mother, she has just enough money to make it to New York, where she hopes to move in with a friend. But once she arrives at the bustling Port Authority, she is confronted with the terrifying truth: She is alone and out of options. Then she meets Devon, a good-looking, well-dressed guy who emerges from the crowd armed with a kind smile, a place for her to stay, and eyes that seem to understand exactly how she feels. But Devon is not what he seems to be, and soon Michelle finds herself engulfed in the world of child prostitution. It is a world of impossible choices, where the line between love and abuse, captor and savior, is blurred beyond recognition. This hauntingly vivid story illustrates the human spirit’s indomitable search for home, and one girl’s struggle to survive. Read the first chapter here.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA, by Becky Albertalli, is an incredibly funny and poignant twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming-out story—wrapped in a geek romance. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: If he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be jeopardized. With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met. Read the first chapter here!

Check back here for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

NEW VOICES: OPENING THE BOOK WITH LISA ANN SCOTT

Posted by | April 29, 2014 | No Comments

The lovely Lisa Ann Scott, author of the enchanting debut novel SCHOOL OF CHARM, stopped by recently to answer our “opening the book” questions. In case you missed it, here’s a little intro and sneak peek of the book from earlier this year. And now, without further ado . . . Lisa Ann Scott!

School of Charm

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?
I am reading fellow Class of 2K14 member Rebecca Behrens’ adorable middle-grade novel, When Audrey Met Alice. Can I claim the entire Little House series as my favorite book growing up? [WE SAY “YES!”]

What is your secret talent?
While I tend to kill most indoor plants, I have beautiful outdoor gardens and a koi pond. People tell me I should design gardens for a living. But then I wouldn’t have time to write!

Fill in the blank: My two kids always make me laugh.

My current obsessions are . . .
Whatever series I’ve found on Netflix, HBO GO etc. that I will binge watch. (Game of Thrones and Dexter are recent addictions.)

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?
Never give up. (See story below.)

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book . . .
. . . looks for real life magic in their world, and remembers all the wonderful things about themselves that make them unique and special.

How did you come to write this book?
Grab a snack and sit back for this answer. The seeds of this story came from a dream. I woke one morning with the image of a lovely older woman standing in a clearing in the forest. She was surrounded by a small group of girls and it was clear she was teaching them something, but she had a very knowing look on her face, like there was a secret they had yet to learn.  Now most people would have shrugged and thought, hey, weird dream. But when you’re a writer, something like that tugs at the imagination.  So I walked around with this story in my head for a while, trying to figure out who was there and why they were there.  I wrote this during my lunch breaks when I was working as a news anchor back in 2007.  In 2008, I started the query process, looking for an agent. But then I lost my job, and that grief on top of the inevitable rejection that comes with the query process was just too much to take. So I set the book aside and actually stopped writing for a while.  It wasn’t long before I was writing again (romance!) and in 2011, took another look at the manuscript. I thought, hey this is pretty good, and a writer friend urged me to send it out again. So I did.  To one agent. And then I remembered how much I hated the query process and stopped. But that one lovely agent, Jennifer Unter, loved the book and sold it a few months later.

———-

Thanks for visiting, Lisa!

 

New Voices: Opening the book with… Alexandra Duncan!

Posted by | April 21, 2014 | No Comments

Alexandra Duncan’s debut novel Salvage has taken the world by storm. As Stephanie Perkins (author of Anna and the French Kiss) says, this book is “kick-ass, brilliant, feminist science fiction.” And boy is she right.

Salvage

Her life is a shadow of a life. Her future is not her own to fashion.

Her family is a tangle of secrets. She cannot read. She cannot write.

But she is Parastrata Ava, the Captain’s eldest daughter, the so girl of a long-range crewe—her obligations are grave and many.

And when she makes a mistake, in a fragrant orchard of lemons, the consequences are deadly.

There are some who would say, there but for the Mercies go I.

There are some who would say Parastrata Ava is just a silly earthstruck girl who got what was coming to her.

But they don’t know the half of it.

We were lucky to have debut author Alexandra Duncan swing by The Pageturn and talk to us about writing, reading, and how Salvage came about!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

It’s so hard to pick one favorite book. I think I had a new one every week when I was growing up. (Come to think of it, that’s probably still true.) One of the ones that really stuck with me and that I still have on my bookshelf at home is The Girl Who Owned a City, by O.T. Nelson. I loved post-apocalyptic survival stories, especially ones where all of the adults were dead or otherwise incapacitated, which is exactly what happens in The Girl Who Owned a City.

Right now I’m reading A Dance With Dragons, by George R.R. Martin, the most recent book in the Song of Ice and Fire series. I have to stay ahead of the HBO show!

What is your secret talent?

I make a mean apple pie, crust and all. I have a 96% success rate. I’ve only ever caught one pie on fire, and that wasn’t entirely my fault.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

My husband. I might be biased, but I think he’s pretty hilarious.

My current obsessions are…

Podcasts. I can listen to them while I’m doing chores or exercising. (Yay, multitasking!) Right now, my favorites are a podcast about pseudoscience and religion called Oh No, Ross and Carrie! and Welcome to Nightvale, which is kind of hard to explain. Just imagine what would happen if H.P. Lovecraft and David Lynch created a town and that town had a public radio station.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Support each other. Writing looks like a solitary occupation, but I don’t know a single author who has succeeded without moral support and advice from friends. Celebrate each other’s victories and cheer each other up when you hit one of writing’s inevitable stumbling blocks. You’ll all go farther and be happier for it in the end.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Sees the world in a new way. One of my favorite things about science fiction and fantasy is that they can be used to re-frame today’s problems and let people see them from an entirely different angle.

How did you come to write this book?

Salvage started life with a short story I wrote called “Bad Matter,” which was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2009. It took place among the merchant crewes that appear in Salvage. When I finished the short story, I knew I wanted to explore their culture further and tell more stories set in that world.

Salvage was a very personal book for me. A lot of the inspiration for the crewes’ culture came from growing up as the stepdaughter of a minister in a small town church in rural North Carolina. It was a very tight-knit and insular environment where there were very strict expectations about behavior, especially for women and girls. It was very much like growing up inside a large extended family. I also drew inspiration from my travels to Haiti and Nicaragua as a teenager, and my time studying abroad in Spain during college. Those experiences shaped my version of a future Earth.

In some ways, Ava’s journey is similar to my own. I consider myself a feminist, but I wouldn’t have said so as a teenager. It wasn’t until I left home and struck out on my own at 18 that I began to understand my worth as a human being. I hope Salvage helps other girls learn the same thing about themselves. I hope it makes them feel like they aren’t alone.

Salvage is in stores now! 

WINTER 2014 NEW VOICES SNEAK PEEK!

Posted by | January 29, 2014 | 8 Comments

We’re thrilled to introduce our New Voices picks for Winter 2014! We absolutely loved these four debut novels, and we think you will, too. Be sure to click on the links below to read the first chapter of each title, and if you’re hungry for more, comment and we’ll send you a galley (while supplies last).

And now, without further ado . . .

Salvage

SALVAGE, by Alexandra Duncan, is a sweeping, epic, literary science fiction story with a feminist twist. Teenaged Ava has lived aboard the male-dominated, conservative deep space merchant ship Parastrata her whole life. When a passionate mistake causes Ava’s people to turn against her, she faces banishment and death. Taking her fate into her own hands, she flees to the Gyre, a floating continent of garbage and scrap in the Pacific Ocean. Her struggle to survive outside the insular world of her childhood is harrowing, full of surprises, and constantly thrilling. You’ll be rooting for Ava all the way! Read the first chapter here!

 

Faking Normal

FAKING NORMAL, by Courtney C. Stevens, is a powerful, moving story about a teen girl struggling to forget a traumatic experience from her recent past. Alexi Littrell hasn’t told anyone what happened to her over the summer by her backyard pool. Instead, she hides in her closet, counts the slats in the air vent, and compulsively scratches the back of her neck, trying to make the outside hurt more than the inside does. When Bodee Lennox—”the Kool-Aid Kid”—moves in with the Littrells after a family tragedy, Alexi discovers an unlikely friend in this quiet, awkward boy who has secrets of his own. As their friendship grows, Alexi gives him the strength to deal with his past, and Bodee helps her summon the courage to find her voice and speak up. Read the first chapter here!

 

Cruel Beauty

CRUEL BEAUTY, by Rosamund Hodge, is a dazzling twist on the story of Beauty and the Beast. Betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom, Nyx has always known her fate was to marry him, kill him, and free her people from his tyranny. But on her seventeenth birthday, when she moves into his castle high on the kingdom’s mountaintop, nothing is as she expected—particularly her charming and beguiling new husband. Nyx knows she must save her homeland at all costs, yet she can’t resist the pull of her sworn enemy—who’s gotten in her way by stealing her heart. Read the first chapter here!

 

School of Charm

SCHOOL OF CHARM, by Lisa Ann Scott, is an enchanting story full of spirit and hope, with a hint of magic. Eleven-year-old Chip has always been her daddy’s girl, so when he dies she pins her hopes on winning a beauty pageant to show her family of southern belles that she still belongs. The problem is, she’d rather be covered in mud than makeup! Can a rough-and-tumble girl ever become a beauty queen? SCHOOL OF CHARM tells the tale of one girl’s struggle with a universal question: How do you stay true to yourself and find a way to belong at the same time? Read the first chapter here!

Stay tuned for “Opening the Book” Q&A’s with the authors and insightful words from the editors of these fantastic New Voices!

 

New Voices, a Word from the Editor: Not a Drop to Drink

Posted by | September 26, 2013 | No Comments

Yesterday we heard from Mindy McGinnis about her fantastic debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink. Today, we hear from her editor, Sarah Shumway. Sarah, take it away!

There’s nothing like falling into the spell of a new voice, a striking view of reality, and into the life of a character you know you’ll never forget.  Falling in love with a book is sometimes a thing that happens gradually over the course of a story, but sometimes the first words on a page signal that the feelings are going to come tumbling out of a book and straight into your heart. The very first words of Not a Drop to Drink have that spark for me: “Lynn was nine the first time she killed to defend the pond…”

The books I’ve always loved most are those that show me something that I’ve never even imagined and make it real, make me feel. And I love wild books – ones where characters, especially strong girls, have to work to squeeze a good life from a harsh world. I started young with those books, as in Laura Ingalls in the Little House books and Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins. I love books that challenge me, along with the characters, to rise above difficulty, limitations, and to become more than we knew we could be.  And Lynn, the heroine of Not a Drop, is such a strong character. Not a doubt there. She’s strong in a way that is more than physical or emotional. She’s real. She’s a product of her circumstances, stubborn and rough, but she discovers her heart.   And her story pushes every one of my “appeal” buttons: that strong and distinctive heroine, a gripping survival story, beautiful, sometimes poetic writing, a vivid setting in a fully-realized world, and plot twists like WOAH.  Oh, and it has some good kissing.

One of the most interesting discussions I’ve had with Mindy and with my colleagues here at HarperCollins is about how to categorize this book – is it dystopian? Post-apocalyptic? But I’m kind of proud to say that it really defies genre. While Not a Drop has plenty to offer fans of hugely popular dystopian fiction, what I appreciate is that it’s more than that. It’s different and special because it’s not about challenging a world gone wrong, but it’s about challenging people to be stronger in their own lives and hearts.  And when the trends have come and gone, I think Mindy’s book – Lynn’s story – will persist in grabbing readers’ hearts and imagination, the same way that the frontier or desert island books many of us loved as children and teenagers are still perennial favorites.

I’m so proud to have helped bring Mindy McGinnis and Not a Drop to Drink to an audience. Almost two years after I first read a draft, this book still makes my heart pound, my spine tingle, and my fingers itch to turn pages, and I hope all readers will feel the same when they get their hands on it.

Sarah Shumway is an editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.

New Voices: Opening the Book with… Mindy McGinnis!

Posted by | September 25, 2013 | 1 Comment

Imagine a world where water is the hottest commodity. Author Mindy McGinnis has done it in a thrilling, terrifying way in her debut novel, Not a Drop to Drink.

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

Of course, after reading this fantastic dystopian novel, we jumped at the chance of having Mindy come by and open the book with us!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

Choosing is so hard! I’ll say A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. Right now I’m reading Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Tucholke.

What is your secret talent?

Um… I can flip a stack of quarters off my elbow and catch them in my palm. Also I have very fat thumb pads.

Fill in the blank: _______ always make me laugh.

British men.

My current obsessions are…

SHERLOCK, local history and the roots of criminal profiling.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Do your homework. Half the battle is learning the industry.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Didn’t steal it from the library.

How did you come to write this book?

I watched a documentary called Blue Gold, which is about a projected shortage of potable water on our planet due to overpopulation. It was a horrible thought – we all need water to survive, and it’s something we can’t make. I went to bed very grateful for the small pond in my backyard, and that night I dreamt I was teaching a young girl how to operate a rifle so that she could help me protect the pond. I woke up and thought, “Hey… I wrote a book in my head just now.”

I asked myself what this child would grow into, and my main character, Lynn, was the answer. I don’t plot at all, I simply write. With Drink I was very fortunate in that the book really wrote itself. It wanted to be told. Lynn’s transformation from isolationist to human being had to be slow and believable, but not at the expense of pacing. I knew I needed supporting characters that could make this an interesting read without lots of explosions and fight scenes. Stebbs walked in and saved me there!

Thanks, Mindy! You can find Not a Drop to Drink in stores now!

NEW VOICES: OPENING THE BOOK WITH . . . CAROLINE CARLSON!

Posted by | September 9, 2013 | No Comments

One of our absolute favorite new reads this season has to be Caroline Carlson’s THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. It has girl power, adventure, and of course, a missing treasure.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates

There are three qualities a treasure map must possess: It must be suitably ancient, have an atmospheric title, and include a dotted line leading to an X.

When Hilary Westfield escapes from finishing school to pursue her dream of being a pirate, she finds herself in possession of such a map. But the map is missing an X, and everyone is almost certain that the magical treasure she’s hunting doesn’t even exist. Hilary soon becomes caught up in a madcap quest involving a rogue governess who insists on propriety, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous villain on the high seas.

If that doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will.

We had to get to know the person behind such a piratical tale. So, today, Caroline stopped by to answer some of our hard-hitting questions!

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

I have so many favorite books that it’s hard to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorites is HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE by Diana Wynne Jones. Right now, I’m reading THE STOCKHOLM OCTAVO by Karen Engelmann.

What is your secret talent?

Like Hilary, the heroine of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT, I can tread water for a really long time.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

The movie CLUE. I’ve memorized all the jokes by now, but they never get any less funny.

My current obsessions are…

Cooking and baking—after spending all day writing at my computer, I love doing something concrete and hands-on in the kitchen. While I cook, I like to listen to two of my other obsessions: news podcasts and music by Girlyman and Antje Duvekot.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Try to learn a lot about all the things that interest you—not just writing. Read newspapers and nonfiction books. Do some exploring, check out your local museums and libraries, or take a class in a subject that fascinates you. If you stay curious about the world around you, you’re sure to stumble across lots of good ideas for stories.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

…laughs out loud at least once!

How did you come to write this book?

MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT actually started its life as a submission for a workshop at Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I was working toward a degree in writing for children. I had to write 20 pages of an entirely new story, the deadline was tight, and I was running short on story ideas. I’d always loved pirates, though, and I’d dreamed of writing a book about a grand pirate treasure hunt. I was also rereading some of my favorite books by Jaclyn Moriarty at the time, and I wanted to experiment with Moriarty’s technique of telling a story through letters, postcards, newspaper clippings and other documents. When I tossed both of these ideas together, I ended up with 20 pages about a girl who receives a letter informing her that since only boys are allowed to be pirates, her application to the pirate league has been rejected.

I wasn’t expecting much to come of my experiment, but I ended up loving the results, and when my workshop-mates told me that they wanted to know what happened next to my pirate heroine and her gargoyle sidekick, I knew I’d hit on a story idea with potential. Those pages that I wrote for my workshop 3 years ago are still more or less the first 20 pages of MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT. And the story took on a life of its own from there—I wrote the first draft in 4 months flat, which was a whole lot faster than I’d ever written anything before! Plenty has changed since that first draft; in revisions with my editor, I strengthened the magic system of my fictional world, I turned a minor character into a major one, and I rewrote nearly the entire ending from scratch. But MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT is still the kind of book I loved to read when I was growing up: an adventure full of twists, humor, and magic. I had a wonderful time writing it, and I hope readers will enjoy it, too.

—–

Thanks, Caroline! You can find THE VERY NEARLY HONORABLE LEAGUE OF PIRATES: MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT in stores tomorrow!

TAP THE MAGIC TREE VIDEO AND TEACHING GUIDE

Posted by | August 22, 2013 | 12 Comments

Looking for a fun, interactive picture book to use for story time (or any time)? Christie Matheson’s debut picture book, TAP THE MAGIC TREE, fits the bill perfectly. TAP THE MAGIC TREE combines the magic of the changing seasons with the magic of turning a page as the reader taps, pats, claps, and wiggles to make leaves grow, blossoms bloom, apples appear, and leaves swirl away with the autumn breeze.

Tap the Magic Tree
Here’s a little demo of how much fun can be had with one page turn!


You can have a sneak peek up-close at the first several pages here, and you can download a Common Core-aligned Teaching Guide here. Tap away and make magic happen!

NEW VOICES, OPENING THE BOOK WITH… MICHAEL HASSAN

Posted by | March 19, 2013 | No Comments

If you checked in with us yesterday, you read the behind the scenes editorial perspective of Michael Hassan’s debut teen novel, CRASH AND BURN.  Today Michael responds to our notoriously strenuous, sweat-inducing Opening the Book questions…

crash and burn HC c

Which was your favorite book from childhood, and what are you reading right now?

I was always into books and a real sucker for the Dr. Suess stuff, can probably still recite Green Eggs and Ham by heart, but the first book that made me want to be a writer was Les Miserables, which I would probably have  named as my favorite book, except for the Princess Bride by William Goldman, who is primarily known as a screenwriter, but has written some incredible novels.

I am currently re-reading several William Goldman novels, including Marathon Man and the Color of Light.  You can learn a lot as a writer from reading his books. .

More importantly, I am back to reading hardcovers and paperbacks after spending too long  with e-books.  While I’m a techno nut, the truth is there is nothing better than holding a real book, being able to thumb back and forth through the pages and knowing exactly where you are at any given point.

 What is your secret talent?

I play keyboards.  I am, in fact, really bad musician and have been fired from some pretty talentless bands when I was younger.  Thankfully I record nothing so no one has to know.  Until now.

Fill in the blank: _______ always makes me laugh.

Mean Girls.  I could watch this movie constantly and still laugh at every line.

Also, fart noises and Gilbert Gottfried, not necessarily in that order.

My current obsessions are…

Headphones, I have like 20 pairs.  I need loud music when I’m working.

Also, Uncharted 3D, in fact almost every videogame, movie and documentary in 3D.

Any gem of advice for aspiring writers?

Know where you are going before you start.  Make an outline and stick to it and then keep on going without looking back until you hit THE END. And then, take whatever you’ve done and put it on the highest shelf in your room for 6 weeks without looking at it.

And then make a new outline and start over with the brightest red pen you can find.

And don’t, under any circumstances, get stuck playing Uncharted 3D or watching anything else in 3D.  In fact, disconnect your television and your internet and throw away your iPads, playstations and smartphones.

Finish this sentence: I hope a person who reads my book…

Forgets that they are reading;

misses a train stop because they need to finish a chapter;

recognizes the characters so much that they find it difficult to believe that its fiction;

Buys another book the second they finish this one;

Or is inspired to write one themselves.

Tell us more about how CRASH AND BURN was born.

I was challenged by my son, who has ADD to write something that he would be willing to read.  Spending time with him and his friends, playing videogames and watching movies, I wanted to come up with a form of entertainment that they would consider to be as fast paced and captivating, something that would make them think differently, more deeply  about themselves and their world.   Using him and his friends as models, I went back in time and thoroughly researched the everyday occurrences in the world they lived in, the language they used,  the legal and illegal drugs they were experimenting with and the social interactions between them and the adults in their world.   When I realized how difficult the struggle was for most kids, I knew that I had something that I wanted to write about.

 

Thanks Michael!  CRASH AND BURN (which has received 2 starred reviews– from Booklist and BCCB!) is on sale in stores now.

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