This YA sci-fi anthology (edited by sci-fi authors Paige Daniels and Mary Fan) features stories about girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)… Girls who engineer, tinker, hack, and more, using their smarts to save the day. It’s got space operas, sci-fi mysteries, steampunk, cyberpunk, all kinds of punk! Proceeds from sales of the anthology will be donated to the Society of Women Engineers scholarship fund!

Yes, that’s right! Buying this book will support future female engineers! I’m honored and thrilled that the editors selected my story In A Whole New Light to be included in the anthology. Check out the great cover!

BRAVE NEW GIRLS: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME will be available for pre-order in May. In the meantime…




Brave New Girls: Stories of Girls Who Science and Scheme is the second volume of the Brave New Girls anthology series. The first, Brave New Girls: Tales of Girls and Gadgets was released in June 2015 and has so far raised thousands of dollars for the Society of Women Engineers Scholarship Fund. Find it here on Amazon.

BRAVE NEW GIRLS: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME is a great book for middle school and high school classrooms to encourage students who love science and to support future engineers. Win-win! We’d like to support as many budding engineers as possible so please share the news!

Stories in the anthology (in alphabetical order by title):

The 17th Quadrennial Intergalactic Neo-Cultural Expo and Science Fair by Jeanne Kramer-Smyth

The Adventure of the Brass Lamp by Margaret Curelas

Arch Nemesis by Jamie Krakover

The Babysitting Job: A Robot Repair Girl Adventure by Josh Pritchett

The Case of the Missing Sherlock by Mary Fan

Chasing the Copper Dragon by Karissa Laurel

Circus in the Sky by Lisa Toohey

Dangerous Territory by Holly Schofield

The Experimental Bug – First Test by Jelani-Akin Parham

Hack by Evangeline Jennings

In a Whole New Light by Michelle Leonard

The Last Android by Paige Daniels

Let Androids Eat Cake by Meg Merriet

The Maker’s Handbook by George Ebey

The Non-Existence of Gravity by Steph Bennion

Nova by Stephen Landry

Our Very Respected and Always Benevolent Leader by Kay Dominguez

Scilla’s Monster by Elisha Betts

Skyris by A.A. Jankiewicz

Sweet Emotion by Bryna Butler

The Swiss Cheese Model by Eric Bakutis

The Verne Shot by Brandon Draga

MICHELLE LEONARD was born a math and science nerd. After spending ten years working with an engineering dream team developing commercial blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs), she escaped the world of seventy-hour workweeks. Nowadays, when she’s not tinkering on her teleporter for transporting her talented daughters to all of their important gigs and lessons, she’s writing down profound thoughts and turning them into stories for young readers. Michelle lives in North Carolina with her science-savvy husband, three inspiring daughters, and a border collie who hates numbers. You can also find her on Twitter .

Our January #FourOn400 KidLit Writing Contest Window is OPEN!

Q: What is Four on 400? 

A monthly contest that provides ONE LUCKY MG or YA WRITER with feedback on their opening 400 WORDS! As part of our ongoing mission to support writers, we’ll give a MG or YA writer feedback on their work from four of The Winged Pen’s contributors.

Q: Sounds exciting! How do I enter?

To enter, simply comment at the bottom of this post! At 4pm (EST) on the 5th of January, one winner will be randomly drawn from the Triwizard Cup. The winner will be notified and given 24 hours to submit his or her opening 400 WORDS. On the fourteenth of the month, the winner’s words, along with the title and genre of the work, will be posted to our blog with feedback from four of our members. Still have questions? See our Four on 400 page for additional details.

If you’re not sure how to leave a comment, check our FAQ page!

*Please check your email SPAM filter to make sure it will allow an email from

Special Bonus! Everyone who follows us on FACEBOOK will get an extra entry in the TriWizard Cup! Yes, all you have to do is follow our FACEBOOK page to double your entry! If you do this, please note that you’re following us on FaceBook in your contest entry blog comment to make it easy to cross-reference names. (Thanks to everyone who is already following us! We will count your entry twice too!) 

Click Here To Follow US on FACEBOOK!

Remember, the contest window is only open until 4pm EST on January 5th, so don’t wait––enter now! Good Luck!

NEW for 2017: A Brand-New #KidLit Writing Contest!!!

We’re energized and ready to embrace the challenges and rewards of the New Year and are committed to bringing you more exciting content in 2017. We’ve been busy behind the scenes working on a few improvements, and we’re ready to share the first of those with you now!


We now have a Facebook page where we’ll post extra content similar to what we’ve been sharing on Twitter. What?! You haven’t been following us on Twitter? You’re just a few clicks away from following us on both!  (HINT: Look to your right ➡︎➡︎ or scroll down on a mobile device.)


We took great pleasure in bringing you 8 on Eight in 2016. We loved your enthusiasm, all your hopeful entries, and working with the winners each month. But we’ve got a new contest for 2017, and we hope you’ll be even more enthusiastic about what we’ve cooked up!

 Introducing FOUR ON 400!

 Like 8 on Eight, FOUR ON 400 will be a MONTHLY CONTEST that provides ONE LUCKY KIDLIT writer with feedback from FOUR of The Winged Pen’s contributors on the writer’s opening 400 WORDS! This contest will be open for middle-grade and young adult writers only. (Sorry, picture book writers, but don’t fret! We’re thinking up exciting opportunities for you too! More on that to come later.)

Be sure to subscribe to our blog to make sure you don’t miss an entry deadline! (Our first Four on 400 contest will be held January 4th! Yes, in just 2 days. Go ahead and spread the word by sharing this post with your middle-grade and young-adult writing friends!).

Q: How do I enter?

A: We’ll post a contest announcement on our blog at 4PM on the FOURTH day of every month. To enter the contest, all you need to do is comment on the post. Exactly 24 hours later (that would be on the 5th) at 4pm (EST), one winner will be randomly drawn from the Triwizard Cup. The winner will be notified and given 24 hours to submit his or her opening 400 WORDS (MG or YA). On the FOURTEENTH of the month (at 4AM), the winner’s 400 WORDS, along with the title and genre of the work, will be posted to our blog with feedback from FOUR of our members.

Q: What about 8 on Eight? Will that also run each month?

A: No, we’ve decided to replace 8 on Eight with Four on 400, but we hope to bring other exciting opportunities to our PB writers throughout the year. Stay tuned!

Q: What should my comment include?

A: Anything polite you’d like to say. Often entrants say “Thank you for the opportunity!!” Be sure to provide us with your current email address, and make sure your SPAM filter will allow emails from!

Q: How will I know if I’m a winner?

A: We’ll email you with instructions on how to submit your material. And if you include a Twitter handle, we’ll announce there, too.

Q: I’m a winner! But I have several works in progress. Which one do I send?

A: That’s up to you––we’re happy to see MG or YA material.

Q: Do I have to submit my opening 400 WORDS, or can I submit any 400 WORDS?

A: You must submit your opening 400 WORDS (yes, even if it’s a prologue).

Q: What if the 400 words end in the middle of a sentence?

A: Please end with the previous sentence. We will not post more than 400 of your words on the blog.

 Q: Am I assigning you any rights to my work?

A: Your work remains your own. We claim no rights to any portion of the writing, but in entering, you acknowledge our right to post your opening 400 words on our blog.

Q: Will I receive any other feedback?

A: The blog post will include feedback from FOUR of our members. Readers are encouraged to share their thoughts and suggestions (in a respectful, supportive manner) in the comments section of the blog post.

Q: Does my work have to be posted to the blog if I win?

A: Yes. As writers, we learn as much from studying other writers’ works as we do getting feedback on our own. In exchange for getting feedback from our group, we ask that you share what you learn by allowing other writers to study your entry.

Q: I got mixed feedback on my opening. Some members said they loved it, others thought it needed a lot of work. What do I do?

A: Writing is a subjective business. Our aim isn’t to tell you how to “fix” your writing. Our objective is to provide feedback from a group of dedicated writers, whose opinions on any given piece of writing may or may not agree. It’s up to you to determine what feedback best resonates with your vision for your work.

Q: If I win, does that mean I can’t enter ever again?

A: You may enter as often as you like, but you must submit material from a new WIP each time you win.

Q: I didn’t win.

A: Okay, so this isn’t really a question, but we’ve got an answer anyway. First, we’ll hold this contest every month. So you’ve still got plenty of chances! Second, although you might not have won, there’s still a tremendous amount to be learned by studying the winner’s material and learning from the feedback they received.

 Best of luck!

2016 National Book Award for Young People

Which Book Should Win the 2016 National Book Award for Young People?

Time for a little fessing up. Before 2013, I read 0 out of 5 of the finalists for the National Book Award for Young People. Shameful, I know…

In 2014, I picked up a book called BROWN GIRL DREAMING. You may have heard of it. 😍 Unbelievably amazing. If you have the chance to hear Jacqueline Woodson read her own words on audiobook, please do.  It won and was the only book I read from the list of finalists. Yes, more shame…

In 2015, I read 3 out of 5. THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH, BONE GAP, and NIMONA were all fantastic reads, some of my favorites of the year.

Last year I made myself a promise to read all five of the National Book Award for Young People Finalists. Each of these books deeply touched me in all the right places. The characters became my friends. I lived in their worlds with them. I wanted to help them. When the books ended, I wanted to call them up and discuss their stories. Here’s a little about each of these literary gems. (Don’t worry. There are no spoilers!)


by Kate DiCamillo

(Candlewick Press)

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-37-36-amRaymie and I are soulmates. We’ve both busy carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders, making happily-ever-after plans, and hoping the world is tuned into the same radio frequency so that everything works out the way it should. For Raymie, those happily-ever-after plans involve her father redeeming himself for leaving her and her mom by rushing back to her with open arms. Like Raymie, I’m still that little girl who loves people with a big, open whooshing heart, hoping to be loved back at least half as much. This story about personal loss, finding hope and joy in unlikely places, and the power of being open to new friendships is both heart-wrenching and heart-opening, perfect for readers looking for lots of feels. Writing this review makes me want to read it again. Oh, the feels you can feel! (Ages 10+)


by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell-Artist

(Top Shelf Productions / IDW Publishing)

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-38-24-amI’d never heard of this graphic novel series about the Civil Rights Movement until the National Book Award Finalists were announced. The graphic novels format is perfect for relating the stories of the brave men and women who fearlessly fought for equality among people on a personal level and for transporting the reader back to the early 1960s seamlessly. You feel with the anguish of the Civil Rights fighters, understand the depths of danger they faced, and discover the enormous hurdles they encountered through first-hand accounts right out of John Lewis’ head.

These books are so much more than history books. They connect deeply into your consciousness, enlighten you about fundamentally what it means to be human, and make you wonder if you are brave enough/smart enough to fight like John Lewis did. Honestly, I learned more about the Civil Rights Movement in this trilogy than I learned in elementary through high school. In Book Three, John Lewis, who is chairman of the Student Nonviolence Coordinating Committee, must steer the group through dangerous uprisings as African Americans assert their right to vote. These books are compelling stories about the power of our voices, a must have for the history classroom. (Ages 13+)


by Grace Lin

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-39-38-amI didn’t want to/expect fall head over heels in love with this book. I’d already chosen my favorites for the year. Finding another book I loved with all of my heart at the end of October was like…cheating. Also, I wasn’t sure I’d like it because I prefer realistic fiction, but I slipped right into the story. The first day I sat down to read, I couldn’t stop. Instead of going to the grocery store to buy food for my family, I read. (They weren’t going to starve for goodness sakes! All Pinmei has to make it through the long winter is a dwindling supply of rice. We had rice!) Instead of working on revising my WIP after being away from it for many, many long days, I read. I didn’t want to stop to drive my kids to school either, but I did just because it meant uninterrupted reading time.

This book is about the power of stories and storytellers. Within the story of Pinmei and Yishan’s brave mission to save Pinmei’s grandmother, the storyteller, from the emperor, there are enchanting and unique Chinese fables masterfully woven into the story like pieces of a puzzle. We cheer for Pimei as she grows from being a quiet, unlikely hero to becoming a brave girl willing to challenge the most powerful man in the land.

The story is mesmerizing, the prose is lovely, and the illustrations are exquisite. I could not love it more. (Ages 10+)


by Jason Reynolds

(Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing)

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-41-12-amGhost, aka Castle Crenshaw, is trying out for a new elite middle school track team despite the fact that he’s never had any formal training. Ghost is super-fast, but he’s running for the wrong reasons. He’s a good kid on the inside, but on the outside his life is a mess. Ghost is always in trouble and being suspended from school. He’s has been running since the day his daddy chased him and his mom though their apartment and out into the streets with a loaded gun. Even after he gets some focus for his anger by running track, he still makes mistakes, big mistakes. What Ghost must realize is that he’ll always be running until he deals with the anger, his fears, the past. And just as importantly as figuring out what he’s running from, Ghost must figure out where he’s running to.

Ghost’s troubles feel real/personal. You can’t resist rooting for him. I can’t help but compare Jason Reynold’s GHOST with BOOKED and CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander (two of my all-time favorites). Sports books rarely capture my attention like these books did, but Ghost is so much more than a sports book. The dialogue and voice in GHOST are so authentic that I imagined I’d heard the story straight from Ghost’s own lips. I love books about kids making mistakes and struggling until they make things right. There’s so much for adults and kids alike to relate to and learn from in this book. A powerful, must read. Go get it now. (Ages 10+)


by Nicola Yoon

(Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House)screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-7-42-11-am

It took extreme restraint to not go ahead and proclaim this my favorite book before I read it. I obsessively love of EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon, and I still think about it/recommend it nearly every day now, a year after I read it. Thankfully, I read the others first and had fallen in love with them too before I got my hands on this one. It made things a little more even.

And then I opened the book…I’m not a girl who likes prologues, but this one is unlike any that I’ve ever read. If you like the prologue, you will love the book.

The entire story takes place in one day. It has MULTIPLE first-person POVs. I lost track of how many because I was so overwhelmed by how masterfully they were written, each character original, each viewpoint moving.

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR is so much more than a love story. It’s a tale of deportation, the difficulties of being raised in America by immigrant parents, that moment when you realize that your parents are clueless people figuring it out as they go instead of the heroes you imagined, and the importance of living your dreams instead of the dreams that others have for you. It’s also a love letter to many topics dear to me: time travel, atomic order, dark matter, human biology, physics, and the universe. How does Nicola Yoon fit these complex subjects into a love story that made me ugly cry on page 306? I have no idea, but it’s a book that I’ll study for years to come to figure out these mysteries and as a masterclass on multiple first-person POVs. (Ages 14+, language and mild sexual content)


Choosing a favorite from these five books was nearly impossible, and I imagine the committee selecting the winner will have the same difficulties. There are no losers in this list! Read them all!

Honestly, my favorite pick of these five books has changed multiple times over the past week. If I must choose one, I’d have to pick the book that made the biggest impact on me as a reader. That book would be MARCH: BOOK THREE.

The graphic novel format made the Civil Rights Movement come alive for me in a way that it never had before. Rep. John Lewis’ first-hand accounts have rippled my consciousness, and I can’t stop thinking about the sacrifices of the unbelievably brave men and women who mostly peacefully fought against prejudice/injustices. The timing of this book is also of utmost importance.  We need these stories now and forever to know where we’ve been and to figure out where we need to go.

The judging committee will select THE WINNER of THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD in all categories on November 16th. More info about the amazing judges and books can be found here.

Have you read the shortlist nominees? I’d love to know which book you’d choose to win The National Book Award for Young People this year!