Shannon Hale Interview: Real Friends

GIRL TROUBLE––friends one day, enemies the next.

Who doesn’t yearn for a real friend––one that gets you, always has your back, and someone that you can admire even in their darkest moments?

Author Shannon Hale has captured the essence of friendship struggles girls face in her new graphic novel memoir REAL FRIENDS releasing on May 2nd.

Girl relationships are difficult. And for the sensitive girls out there (like me) who just want to be true friends without all the drama, it’s a lot easier to just give up and read books or use your imagination. In REAL FRIENDS, Shannon is just that girl. She wants to have fun with friends, but at the same time she wants to stay true to herself and not get involved in the girl games. The world is not on her side, though, as she deals with persistent bullying and isolation leading to stomachaches and some OCD behaviors. Add to that her difficulties at home with her four siblings, especially her very grumpy older sister, and you’ve got one stressed out girl.

This is a great graphic novel for ALL girls. Sensitive, imaginative girls and girls who have ever been bullied or left out will identify deeply with Shannon. Other girl readers (who aren’t like Shannon) might see themselves and their actions from a different perspective. Shannon Hale deftly pulls back the curtain so we see the person behind each girl in the story, making us aware that even bullies struggle with their own flaws and insecurities.

Thumbs up for LeUyen Pham’s beautiful, emotive illustrations that really pull the narrative together in this candid graphic memoir about a young girl navigating the ever-changing and confusing world of relationships. This would make a great classroom book for ages 8-12.

We are thrilled to chat with Shannon about REAL FRIENDS and what we can look forward to from her next!

Welcome to The Winged Pen! In your Squeetus blog, you mention that REAL FRIENDS is your heart. I really felt that as I read the novel, but could you expand on that a bit for us?  I’ve never written about myself before, let alone myself at my most vulnerable age. This story required me to open my heart and ask readers, can you care about this weird little girl who will always be a part of me? And hopefully by extension, can you also be compassionate with yourself?

What do you hope young readers will take away from REAL FRIENDS?   I hope they take from it whatever they need from it. Gene Luen Yang said recently that the more specific you make a story, the more universal it becomes. I hope that by telling my true story, readers can find in it whatever they’re missing now and feel more whole for it. That’s the magic of story. I don’t have to teach a moral lesson. I just have to tell something true.

What can you tell us about what you’re working on now?   My husband and I are writing a sequel to our novel THE UNBEATABLE SQUIRREL GIRL: SQUIRREL MEETS WORLD. She’s a Marvel superhero with the proportional strength, speed, and agility of a squirrel. I love writing comedy.

Okay, buckle your seatbelt for the lightning round. *Hands Shannon a smoothie for strength.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Besides squirrel powers? Probably to stop time so I can get done everything I want to do!

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wooden. I love the smell.

Coffee or tea? Mint tea.

Sweet or salty? Salty. And sweet. Just feed me everything please.

Dog, cat, or other? There’s not an animal I don’t love, but we recently adopted two cats. I have four kids. Taking care of a dog as well is beyond my capabilities.

Plotter or panther? I’ve done both. Plotter definitely when co-writing. Pantsing it is fun when I’m writing alone with nothing under contract.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? Read. Write. Focus on developing your skill. Remember that like a musician or athlete, you need years of practice before you’re likely ready to go pro. Allow yourself to take those years, and take them seriously. Your stories deserve that.

So true! Thank you, Shannon, for stopping by! To learn more about Shannon Hale and her latest endeavors, check out her website or find her on Facebook or Twitter. Better yet, order REAL FRIENDS from your favorite Indie or using one of the following links.

Goodreads    Indiebound   Amazon   Barnes and Noble

SHANNON HALE is the New York Times best-selling author of more than fifteen children’s and young adult novels, including the popular Ever After High trilogy and multiple award winners The Goose Girl, Book of a Thousand Days, and Newbery Honor recipient Princess Academy.  She co-wrote the hit graphic novels Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack and illustrated chapter book The Princess in Black with husband Dean Hale. They live with their four small children near Salt Lake City, Utah.

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MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a chocolate biscotti baker, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT will be published in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME releasing August 2017. Connect with her on Twitter.

Picture Book Author Interview: Camille Andros

I’ve been obsessing about this picture book for almost a year now. Finally, finally, finally March is here! CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED releases March 14th and would make THE. BEST. EASTER/SPRING. GIFT. POSSIBLE!

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for inspiring an interest in STEM subjects.

Bunnies! Science! Two of my favorite things! And here to tell us more about Charlotte is author Camille Andros!

Welcome to THE WINGED PEN, Camille, and congrats on your debut picture book, CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED. Tell us about your inspiration for Charlotte and the STEM focus in this book.

I was in the shower (where all the best ideas are realized) when I decided I wanted Charlotte to be a scientist. I always loved science as a kid but felt like I wasn’t smart enough to be one. I want kids to know that being a scientist can look like a lot of different things and if they love it, they should do it!

Absolutely! Science is for everyone! Charlotte is a rabbit with many brothers and sisters, which causes her a bit of trouble. Tell us about your “qualifications” for writing a story about a character with a BIG family. 🙂

The original idea for a bunny story with a big family came from my husband. Together we have six children. My husband is the sixth of ten children. All those ten children have their own children so there are sixty-seven cousins. When everyone is all together it is eighty-nine people. On my side of the family I am the oldest of seven kids and there are twenty- four cousins and forty people when we are all together. My kids have a total of eighty-five first cousins.

I cannot even imagine all those nieces and nephews! What do you hope young readers take away from your story? 

I hope young readers never stop asking questions and know that being a scientist can look like many different things. Loving your family and learning how to best get along with them doesn’t hurt either. 😉 

What is your work/writing schedule?

I wish I had a regular schedule, but I take each day at a time. At the start of each day (or the night before) I figure out what the most important things to do in that day are. Sometimes it is working on a story, sometimes it’s revising, sometimes it’s doing stuff like this-doing interviews, recording podcasts, school visits. And sometimes–it’s laundry. It’s different every day.

Do you have any strange writing habits?

I don’t think this is super strange but when I am creating something totally new, I snack. A Lot. Chocolate, ice cream, popcorn, chocolate…;) But when I am revising I am all business. No treats/food.

In that regard, we are identical twins. I just have to stretch out revising long enough to lose any weight I gain during drafting! Which writers inspire you? Is there a recently published book you’d heartily recommend?

I love Virginia Lee Burton, Barbara Cooney, Alan Say, Kevin Henkes, Phil and Erin Stead, Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, and Jon Klassen. There are so many more.  I think one of the most beautiful picture books in the last few years is SWAN-THE LIFE AND DANCE OF ANNA PAVLOVA by Laurel Snyder Illsutrated by Julie Morstad. It’s exquisite.

Tell us a little about the other books you’ve sold.

Next year I have a book coming out with Julie Morstad as the illustrator called THE DRESS AND THE GIRL. It’s about a girl and her favorite dress and how they get separated from each other when the girl’s family immigrates to the United States. It’s about love and loss and their journey to find each other again.

Oh, that sounds lovely and I love the immigration theme. What can you tell us about what you’re working on now?

Right now I’m working on the second Charlotte the Scientist book that will also be coming out next year.

CAN. NOT. WAIT for both of those books! Okay, my friend. Buckle up for the lightning round. *Hands Camille a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

If you had a superpower, what would it be? Hmmm maybe to have the ability to apparate. To think about a place and be able to be there would be awesome.

Wooden pencil or mechanical? Wooden and sharp.

Coffee or tea? Hot Chocolate 😉

Sweet or salty? Both

Dog, cat, or other? Neither (sorry-I have six kids instead of pets)

Plotter or pantser? A little of both.

Any advice for all those aspiring authors out there? Never give up. The writers who are published are the ones who just kept trying.

Great advice! Thanks so much for joining us, Camille!

Here’s an adorable picture of Charlotte wearing her safety goggles for you to swoon over while you hop on over to Goodreads to add it to your TBR.

CHARLOTTE THE SCIENTIST IS SQUISHED would make the perfect gift for all the little scientists in your life and is available for pre-order through your local indie or through one of the following links.

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

 

Camille always carries a small black notebook on her travels to far-flung places to record the stories she imagines (even on the days when “far-flung” is her backyard vegetable garden.) She has her BA in Health Science, is an EMT, and won 1st place in the school science fair as a kindergartner. She’s addicted to the smell of a newborn baby, which may explain why she has six children! Dancing ballet for 14 years left her with an appreciation of beautiful things – warm fresh bread, a quiet sunset after a hectic day, and a new picture book. Find out more about Camille by checking out her website or following her on Facebook or Twitter!

 

MICHELLE LEONARD is a math and science nerd, a chocolate biscotti baker, and a SCBWI member who writes middle-grade and young adult fiction. Her young adult sci-fi short story IN A WHOLE NEW LIGHT will be published in the BRAVE NEW GIRLS ANTHOLOGY: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME releasing August 2017. Connect with her on Twitter.

BRAVE NEW GIRLS: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME

BRAVE NEW GIRLS: STORIES OF GIRLS WHO SCIENCE AND SCHEME will be released August 2017!

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…

ADD IT ON GOODREADS!

SIGN UP FOR THE RELEASE DAY MAILING LIST!

VISIT THE BRAVE NEW GIRLS WEBSITE

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 .

Author Interview–Julie Leung

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We are thrilled to have on the blog today Julie Leung, a debut author whose middle grade novel releases on October 4th. MICE OF THE ROUNDTABLE: A TAIL OF CAMELOT is an epic new middle grade series in the tradition of Redwall and Poppy, based on Arthurian legend and told from the perspective of Camelot’s most humble creatures: mice. Young mouse Calib Christopher dreams of becoming a Knight of the Round Table. For generations, his family has led the mice who live just out of sight of the humans, defending Camelot from enemies both big and small. But when Calib and his friend Cecily discover that a new threat is gathering—one that could catch even the Two-Leggers unaware—it is up to them to unmask the real enemy, unite their forces, and save the castle they all call home. The book has received positive reviews from both Kirkus Reviews and School Library Journal!

“A winning new adventure featuring a stalwart warrior mouse, heroic knights, and magical Camelot.” (Kirkus) “Leung employs classic language, with regal terms to re-create the timeless feel of Camelot.” (School Library Journal)

What drew you to this story for a retelling?

I grew up on a steady diet of the Redwall series. I checked out every book from the library and savored every feast scene and battle. And like most fans of fantasy fiction, my first taste of it came from tales of King Arthur and his knights. So when Paper Lantern Lit approached me with the project for Mice of the Round Table, I knew this was the perfect fit for me.  

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of retelling a story?

My favorite thing about writing an Arthurian retelling is that I can bake in references and literary Easter eggs that will hopefully pay off when the reader continues to explore the legends in their own right. On the flip side, I have to ensure that my story arc follows the trajectory that everyone expects—for the most part at least, I like to throw in some surprises. 😉

How much research did you do?

My research was twofold. I did a lot of digging into Arthurian legends themselves. But I quickly found that the versions we have come to know as canon have also been modified and tweaked through the ages. Different authors left in their own details and flourishes which I found fascinating.

I also refreshed myself on a lot of “rodent-as-hero” stories like Poppy, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and other classic tales. One of my biggest challenges was to correctly scale mice in a world built by humans.

What are some details you included to evoke the time period?

I tried to place the story in a timeless and familiar fairytale setting. That meant excising any words or terminology that sounded too modern and paying attention to the descriptions food and clothing to make sure they felt grounded within historical reason.

Why do you write middle grade?

The books that truly turned me into an insatiable reader for life were read when I was 8-12 years old. I wanted to write for this age because I could incorporate a sense of innocent wonder and adventure but at the same time introduce more complex themes.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid? 

Ozma of Oz by Frank L. Baum

How about a favorite middle grade that you’ve discovered as an adult?

I read the Tale of Despereaux for a college class and have been craving soup ever since.

What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

Write like you’re running out of time, adapted from the Hamilton musical. To keep myself focused on the goal of finishing a manuscript, I cultivate this sense of urgency in the back of mine: No one can tell your stories but yourself, and you owe it to your stories to see them to realization.   

julie-leung

JULIE LEUNG was raised in the sleepy suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, though it may be more accurate to say she grew up in Oz and came of age in Middle-earth.

By day, she is a senior marketing manager for Random House’s sci-fi/fantasy imprint, Del Rey Books. She is also the mother of FictionToFashion.com, where she interprets her favorite books into outfits.

In her free time, she enjoys furtively sniffing books at used bookstores and winning at obscure board games. Her favorite mode of transportation is the library.

You may accost her in the following formatsTwitterInstagram, and Goodreads.

Katharine Manning has a soft spot in her heart for mouse stories, dating back to third grade when she first read about Ralph and his motorcycle. She writes middle grade stories about brave girls, friendship, and occasionally, magic. She blogs here and at The Mixed-Up Files, and is thrilled to be a 2016 Cybils judge for poetry and novels in verse. You can see her middle grade book recommendations at Kid Book List, and can also find her at www.katharinemanning.com and on Twitter and Instagram

Interview with Author Dori Kleber

Dori Kleber web

Today I am thrilled to interview my friend and critique partner, Dori Kleber, who recently celebrated the release of her debut picture book with Candlewick Press. More-igami depicts a young boy’s quest to become an origami master.

Dori, welcome to The Winged Pen! There are a million paths to publication, but yours was particularly unusual. Would you share how you connected with Candlewick?

Thanks, Jessica! It’s nice to be here! When I wrote the manuscript for More-igami, I wanted an objective opinion on it. But I wasn’t part of a critique group at that time. So the next time I was at my favorite bookstore, Little Shop of Stories, I asked the store manager if she would take a look at it. I figured since she worked in a children’s bookstore, she would know if my manuscript was marketable.

She adored it, and in our very first meeting, she said that my story would be perfect for Candlewick Press. She advised me through several rounds of edits, and when we agreed the manuscript was as good as we could make it, she urged me again to send it to Candlewick. But Candlewick is a closed house, and I didn’t have an agent. She simply wouldn’t give up, though. She approached her Candlewick sales rep about getting my manuscript into the hands of an editor, and it was sent through the sales department into editorial. A few months later, I had an offer!

And yes, it was very unusual. The sales rep said she had passed along a few manuscripts this way over the years, but none had ever been bought.

As writers, we’re always told to write what we know. Is it safe to assume that you are an origami expert?

Not at all. I’m not sure if my problem is dexterity or patience. Maybe both. But my son is really good at it, and both of my kids liked to fold things up origami-style. Not just paper, but things like tortillas and napkins. So that’s what initially inspired me to write the story.

People are often surprised to hear that picture book authors don’t do their own illustrations and often don’t have any input into the art once their book is acquired by the publisher. Was that true in your case?

I’ve heard some authors say that once they handed over their manuscript to the publisher, they had no idea what was happening with the illustration until their copies of the finished book arrived in the mail. So I was prepared for that. But Candlewick consistently included me in the process. They asked for my opinion before they made an offer to an illustrator, and they let me see every round of sketches and give feedback. I kept my comments limited, though. I respect G. Brian Karas’s artistry and the Candlewick art department’s judgment, and I trusted them.

What was it like seeing the story that had previously existed only in your head brought to life on the page by G. Brian Karas?

Mind blowing. He is such a genius. I can’t figure out how he conveys so much human expression with simple lines and shapes! Some of the illustrations were pretty close to what I had imagined, but others were really different. When I wrote the text, I imagined Mr. Lopez being an older gentleman, a grandfatherly figure. Brian Karas made him young and hip. At first, that was a shock, but I think Brian improved the story by illustrating it that way, instead of as I had imagined it.

Dori, thanks for taking the time to talk us through your publishing journey. I’d love to wrap up with a few fun questions so that our readers can get you know you a little better. 

Favorite writing snack?

This is a trick question for me. I do most of my writing in short blocks, an hour to an hour and a half. So I don’t snack while I’m writing. I focus one hundred percent on the writing for that short time. Then maybe a snack after.

If you couldn’t be an author, what would your ideal career be?

I believe what Anne Lamott says about some people being destined to write because writing is how they process the world. I think I’m one of those people, so I feel any “ideal career” would have to involve writing. I liked being a newspaper reporter when I first got out of college. I think I could do that again.

If you had a super-power, what would it be?

I think some version of super speed, at least as it relates to household chores. I’d like to be able to get laundry, cooking, and dishes done faster so I’d have more time for what I care about.

What is your patronus animal?

First, let me say that I had to Google patronus to answer this. I really love dogs. And I feel like I connect with dogs. So if I was going to have an animal guardian, I guess it would be a dog. Is that too pedestrian?

One last question: If readers would like to learn more about you and/or follow your publishing journey, what is the best way for them to stay in touch?

The best way is through my website, www.dorikleber.com. I’m also on Twitter @DoriKleber, but as an introvert, I don’t tweet too frequently.

Thanks for your time, Dori!

Moreigami

A creative young boy with a passion for practicing origami finds a surprising source of encouragement on his diverse city block.
Joey loves things that fold: maps, beds, accordions, you name it. When a visiting mother of a classmate turns a plain piece of paper into a beautiful origami crane, his eyes pop. Maybe he can learn origami, too. It’s going to take practice on his homework, the newspaper, the thirty-eight dollars in his mother’s purse . . . Enough No more folding But how can Joey become an origami master if he’s not allowed to practice? Is there anywhere that he can hone the skill that makes him happy and maybe even make a new friend while he’s at it?

MORE-IGAMI. Text copyright © 2016 by Dori Kleber. Illustrations copyright © 2015 by G. Brian Karas. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Posted by: Jessica Vitalis

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A jack of all trades, JESSICA VITALIS worked for a private investigator, owned a modeling and talent agency, dabbled in television production and obtained her MBA at Columbia Business School before embracing her passion for middle grade literature. She now lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she divides her time between chasing children and wrangling words. She also volunteers as a Pitch Wars mentor, with the We Need Diverse Books campaign, and eats copious amounts of chocolate. Her debut novel, NOTHING LIKE LENNON, is currently out on submission. She’s represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch and would love to connect on Twitter or at www.jessicavitalis.com.