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Mar. 9th, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Beth Fehlbaum

Currently reading: Sunday’s New York Times Magazine (for some reason, I’m between books)

This week’s featured author also celebrated her birthday yesterday. So I’ll start with a big “Happy Birthday” to my wonderful imprint-mate, Beth Fehlbaum. I’m so excited to have her as a guest on the blog today. Her book, Hope in Patience, has been honored by YALSA as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers and Beth has been very busy reaching out to readers, both in Texas, where she lives, and in cyberspace.

About Beth:

Beth Fehlbaum

I write fiction for young adults, although the fiction I write is rooted in truth. Even though I’m no longer a teenager, I still see the world through the lens of a teen, and that enables me to shine light on parts of life that some adults would prefer to keep hidden. I am a teacher and a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I drew on both experiences to write my debut novel, Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse. My newest book, Hope in Patience, released late October, 2010, from WestSide Books! I’m currently at work on Truth in Patience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Mar. 2nd, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Cheryl Rainfield

Currently reading: DIAMOND RUBY by Joseph Wallace (adult book club selection)

I’m excited to bring back my Writer Wednesdays with an interview with my imprint-mate, Cheryl Rainfield, author of the powerful Scars. Not only has Cheryl’s book racked up accolades and awards, but it has reached so many teens who struggle with self-harm. It was truly one of my favorite books of the year and has been a breakout novel for WestSide Books, which is very exciting for our young imprint.

About Cheryl:


Cheryl Rainfield writes realistic edgy fiction for teens, fantasy for children, and some non-fiction articles for adults. She edits and critiques children’s and teen fiction, and on her website she reviews a wide variety of children’s and YA books. In addition to writing, Cheryl is also a talented artist. She lives in Toronto.

About Scars:


Kendra, fifteen, hasn’t felt safe since she began to recall devastating memories of childhood sexual abuse—especially because she still can’t remember the most important detail—her abuser’s identity. Frightened, Kendra believes someone is always watching and following her, leaving menacing messages only she understands. If she lets her guard down even for a minute, it could cost Kendra her life. To relieve the pressure, Kendra cuts; aside from her brilliantly expressive artwork, it’s her only way of coping. Since her own mother is too self-absorbed to hear her cries for help, Kendra finds support in others instead: from her therapist and her art teacher, from Sandy, the close family friend who encourages her artwork, and from Meghan, the classmate who’s becoming a friend and maybe more. But the truth about Kendra’s abuse is just waiting to explode, with startling unforeseen consequences. Scars is the unforgettable story of one girl’s frightening path to the truth.

On to the interview:

1. I understand that Scars came out of your personal experience. At what point did you decide to write this book and how did you go about doing it?

I wrote the initial draft of Scars more than ten years ago. It’s hard to feel alone and in pain, and it’s even harder when people judge you for it. I wanted people to understand, to have more compassion–and I wanted people who had been through it to know they weren’t alone, just as I needed to know that. The first drafts had a lot more getting out the pain, the emotion, the trauma onto the pages, along with story. I poured a lot of my heart and experiences into it. Over time, I edited and rewrote it so that Scars was less raw, and held more hope.

2. Many people are surprised to learn that you used a photograph of your own arms on the cover. How did the idea for this come about? Did it come from WestSide or from you?

I mentioned to my publisher that I had a professional photo of my scarred arm and wondered if they’d be willing to look at it. They were–and I’m so grateful! I think it works really well; it tells readers right away what the book is about, without being sensationalist.

3. When I was in college, one of our friends was cutting. What advice would you to give to someone if they thought their friend needed help?

Talk to them about it–gently, with compassion. Don’t pressure or back them into a corner. You could ask if they’re seeing a therapist, that that can help a lot, having someone who listens with compassion and cares. If you’re willing to listen without judgment, you can offer that. Educate yourself about self-harm before you talk to your friend. (The Secret Shame website is a *fantastic* resource.) You could bring a book, an article, something you found helpful on the subject, and leave it with them. Most important of any of that is having compassion, caring, and sensitivity. Helping your friend know that they’re not alone, that someone cares, that you see their pain, and are not judging them.

4. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

Hm. There’s been a lot of things! Many readers have told me that before they read Scars, they’d felt so alone, like no one understood, and that after reading Scars, they felt like someone finally understood. Many readers who’ve used self-harm have told me that they’ve been able to tell a good friend, or seek out therapy after reading Scars, and/or that they have been able to stop or reduce their self-harm after reading Scars. That’s such an incredible response; more than I’d hoped for! A few readers told me that before reading Scars, they could never understand how anyone could hurt themselves, but that after reading Scars, they really got it. All of those responses make me feel so good!

5. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

My personal experience with self-harm is that it comes out of abuse and trauma, and of course deep emotional pain. I’ve seen that in others who I’ve known who used self-harm, too. So I was at first surprised when a queer reader told me that he hadn’t been abused but used self harm to cope. But of course, emotional pain often comes up in being queer in our homophobic society, with people not accepting who we are, who we love, and it can be a real torment, especially when you’re a teen and your parents don’t accept or understand you–or even hate you for who you love.

6. I know that you write both fantasy and realistic fiction. Do you approach each of these genres differently or is your writing process for each similar?

For me, the writing process is similar. I start with an idea, an issue that I want to delve into that is close to my heart, one that is a part of my experience or relates to my experience or is something I care about. I write a rough first draft, then edit a lot, look at the shape of the story and try to make sure it’s working. I try to write about what I care about, what I love, what I need. I write about what moves me, and I try to make it real on an emotional level.

7. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

Milk chocolate. (smiling) I love it! Though I now have to have sugar-free chocolate, and sometimes it’s hard to find brands that taste good. I’m always grateful when I do.

Thanks so much for joining me today, Cheryl. To read more about Cheryl, visit her website.

Have a great day!

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Feb. 1st, 2011

Hoops 4 Dana

I’m setting aside Writer Wednesday and the usual blog post to borrow this space and give some information on an upcoming event.

Hoops 4 Dana is a 3 on 3 Basketball Tournament celebrating the life of Dana Sassano, a senior at Clarkstown North who we lost this past December in a horrible car accident.

The Tournament is Sunday, March 27th in the gym at Clarkstown High School North. All proceeds to go to the Friends of Dana, which will support a scholarship in her name, as well as to continue Dana’s mission of helping people in need.

Teams can have 3-4 members and there will be a running time of 5 minutes per game. It is double elimination, so everyone is guaranteed at least 2 games.

We will hold different sessions for different age groups during the day:

3rd grade- 5th grade: 10:30am-1pm

6th grade- 8th grade: 1:30pm-4:30pm

9th grade-12th grade: 5:00pm-8:00pm

Cost: $20 donation per player includes t-shirt and water

DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS THURSDAY, MARCH 10th. Registration is happening in the Annex at North during lunch on March 3, 4, 7, 8, 9. You can also register by mail. Please e-mail hoops4dana@gmail.com and we will send you a form.

If you don’t have a team, let us know and we will group you with other players your age.

For more information or to become a corporate sponsor, please e-mail me at shari.maurer@alumni.duke.edu

To RSVP on the Facebook page and to help us spread the word, go here. (this does not count as a pre-registration, though. We must have payment for you to be considered registered).

The event is sponsored by Clarkstown North’s Interact Club (Jodi Gottlieb, Lissie Maurer, co-presidents and Jenna Heim, committee member) and Josh Maurer and Danny Heim.

Thanks to the Clarkstown School District and the Town of Clarkstown for all of their help on this event.

Hope to see you there!

Dana Sassano

Dana Sassano

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Jan. 26th, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Cindy Callaghan (and this one has a giveaway!)

Currently reading: WINTER’S BONE by Daniel Woodrell (Adult Book Club selection)

Well, it’s snowing here in NY (AGAIN!). Sigh. We just hope my kids get their midterms in and don’t have it dragging out over the weekend.

On a brighter note, I found the perfect book for a snowy day. It’s a fun read and totally inspires you to unleash your inner cook. Read on to learn more about Just Add Magic and its author, Cindy Callaghan.

AND….as a special hope-you’re-not-snowed-in, but here’s-something-to-cheer-you-up-if-you-are incentive, comment at the end of this post and tell us your favorite thing to cook. The winner will be drawn in one week and will win a signed copy of Just Add Magic. Don’t forget to leave your e-mail address so I can contact you.

About Just Add Magic:

Just_Add_Magic_cover small

When Kelly Quinn and her two BFFs discover a dusty old cookbook while cleaning out her attic, the girls decide to try a few of the mysterious recipes inside.  But the ancient book bears an eerie warning, and it doesn’t take long for the girls to realize that their dishes are linked to strange occurences.  The Keep ‘Em Quiet Cobbler actually silences Kelly’s pesky little brother and the Hexberry Tarta brings an annoying curse to mean girl Charlotte Barney.  And there is the Love Bug Juice, which seems to have quite the effect on those cute Rusamano boys…

Could these recipes really be magical? Who wrote them and where did they come from? And most importantly, what kind of trouble are the girls stirring up for themselves? Things are about to get just a little too hot in Kelly Quinn’s kitchen.

About Cindy:

Cindy Callaghan small

Just Add Magic is Cindy Callaghan’s debut novel. Cindy grew up in New Jersey and attended college at the University of Southern California before earning her BA and MBA from the University of Delaware.

Her full-time job is in corporate America; her other full-time jobs are mom and writer.

She is very involved with her children’s activities, including coaching the occasional soccer team.  Cindy lives, works and writes in Wilmington, Delaware with her family and numerous rescued pets.

On to the interview:

1. In Just Add Magic, you center the book around food. Are you a big cook? And did you have to do a lot of research (i.e. cooking and eating!) while writing?

I am not a good cook.  I can admit it.  And I don’t really like to cook when I have to.  I like to cook for fun.  For example, I don’t make very good pancakes (instant kinda stuff), but I make them pink, purple, blue…whatever color I feel like that day.  The hardest part about the recipes for JUST ADD MAGIC is that I don’t follow them.  I just have an idea for how much seems about right.  Then, I taste test.  Usually I’m pretty close, but sometimes it’s disastrous and I order pizza to be delivered.

I do like to bake.  I toss in a little of this…some of that…and oh yumm.

2.    What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

There has been so much.  The feedback has been amazing both from adults who have read it and kids too.  I love, love, love going to pick my kids up from school and the other children run up to me with a copy of the book to sign.  I feel famous.

I think I am most impressed/flattered when someone takes the time to write me an email after they’ve read the book.  A few times a week I get a note from a tween who has read it and they tell me how much they loved it.  That’s what it was always all about for me….giving a reader something they can just fall in love with.

3.    Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

Someone recently wanted me to send them an autographed picture of me.  I thought, “I’ve arrived!”  Then I thought, “I don’t have any autographed pictures of myself.”  My next call was to 1-800-DAD who printed some shots for me to sign.

4.    Where did you grow up? When you were 12, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in New Jersey and did my first few years of undergraduate studies in LA.  I wanted to be a celebrity, a movie star, maybe have my own talk show.  I still think I would make an absolutely amazing TV Detective.  It wouldn’t surprise me to get a call from Law and Order or CSI one of these days.

5.    Do you watch cooking shows? Which one is your favorite? (in our house, we don’t watch cooking shows, but we do have a thing for Man vs. Food.)

I really don’t.  If I happen to be home when Rachael Ray is on, I’ll watch her, but not even for the cooking so much; I just really like her.  There is a character in JUST ADD MAGIC that is based on Rachael Ray; her name is Felice Foudini.  I’ve contacted the show to see if Rachael would be interested in giving the books to her audience or something, but I haven’t gotten any bites.  (haha, get it? “bite”?)

6.  Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

I have a full time job as a marketer in the pharmaceutical industry, very polar opposite to my writing job.  I also have three busy kids and I try to be very involved with all their sports, clubs, activities and friends.  This provides me with tons of good material to write about. Besides that I love going to the mountains, reading, watching crime drama, walking, going to the movies and hanging with my pets and friends.

7.    If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

Nachos (staked high), Pasta (like a Fra Diavlo), Tiramisu (There’s a mean tiramisu in JUST ADD MAGIC)

8.    And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White

Milk.  Hands down.

Cindy has a really fun website–complete with recipes. Go visit and say hi.

And don’t forget to comment to win a free book. And what the heck–include a recipe and we’ll count your entry twice.

Thanks, Cindy!

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Jan. 19th, 2011

Writer Wednesday: Nicole Weaver

Currently reading: THE SWEETNESS OF SALT by Cecilia Galante

Writer Wednesday is back! I’m very excited this week to feature Nicole Weaver, whose TRIlingual (yes, 3 languages) picture book, Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle is out. This is totally my kind of book. I remember buying my friend’s son a Spanish version of Green Eggs and Ham in an attempt to give him a book that exposed him to another language. Nicole does that in her book, with the languages side by side for easier understanding.

About Nicole:

nicole weaver

Nicole weaver was born in Port-au-Prince Haiti. She came to the United States when she was ten years old. She is fluent in Creole, French, Spanish and English. She is a veteran teacher of French and Spanish. She is the author of a children’s trilingual picture book titled  Marie and Her Friend the Sea Turtle. The story is about a Haitian little girl who resided by the beach in Haiti. Her second trilingual children’s picture book will be published by Guardian Angel Publishing. The book titled, My Sister is my Best Friend will be published in 2011.

About the book:

A delightful story about compassion and the richness of family love and devotion!

This story is about the love that developed between a little girl named Marie and a stranded sea turtle. The story tells the struggles Marie had as she helped the sea turtle back out to sea.

Esta historia es sobre el amor que se desarrolló entre una niña llamaba María y una tortuga que vino a tierra para poner sus huevos. La historia cuenta las dificultades que tenía María para regresar la tortuga de nuevo al océano.

Cette histoire est au sujet de l’amour qui s’est développé entre une petite fille qui s’appelait Marie et une tortue de mer qui est venue sur le sable pour pondre ses oeufs. L’histoire raconte les dificultés que Marie a rencontrées pour remettre la tortue dans l’océan.

(okay, who could translate those paragraphs without looking at the English?!)

On to the interview:

1) I love the idea of a trilingual book. This is something I would have bought for my kids in a heart beat. Where did the idea for this come from and how do you go about writing it? Did you write the story in one language and then translate or was it simultaneous?

I grew up speaking French and Creole, learned English as a third language and Spanish as a fourth. I know from firsthand experiences how important it is to be exposed to a language at an early age. I am a middle school and high school French, Spanish teacher; I wrote the book as a trilingual book so I can use it in my classroom. I see a huge need for books that will introduce children to different cultures and languages.

I wrote the story first in English, then translated into French and Spanish. I need to make sure the story is well written in English before I venture out to write the French and Spanish versions. It is more of a challenge for me to write in English than in French and Spanish.

2) What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

I have received a lot of excellent feedback from people; most people are amazed that I wrote the book in three languages. Bilingual families have emailed me thanking me because they use my book to introduce their children to a third language. Kathy Davis from Homeschoolbuzz.com said: “This book has a cute story, with bright and cheery illustrations. I could almost smell the salty ocean and feel the sun on my face as I read it. And I found the tri-lingual ingredient fascinating – it is not often I stumble upon a children’s book written in three languages.”

3) Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

Yes! One individual surprised me with the following review: “The story of Marie and the sea turtle was cute. The story is delivered in three different languages which gives it a unique selling quality. I didn’t enjoy the set up of this quality. Overall this book was average for me. It was a cute story with a good lesson, but it wasn’t spectacular and didn’t stand out in any particular areas for me. My girls weren’t very interested in reading it multiple times.”

This type of reaction infuses me with more tenacity to continue to write all of my books as trilingual books. Some people must be educated about the importance of different cultures and languages. I think what surprised me the most about the reviewer’s reaction is this statement: “My girls weren’t very interested in reading it multiple times.”

4) Where did you grow up? When you were 12, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I lived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti the first ten years of my life. I moved to New York when I was ten and had to learn English. I attended college in New York and later moved to Houston. At first, I had my heart set on becoming a translator/interpreter for the United Nations, but changed my mind after working as a French/Spanish tutor at Manhattan Community College. I decided to go to graduate school to become a foreign language teacher.
5) What was your favorite picture book when you were a kid?

When I first arrived to the United States, I got hooked on reading the Curious George series.

6) Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

I am a French and Spanish teacher at the middle and high school levels. My youngest is a sophomore in high school, he keeps me pretty busy attending his sporting events.

7) If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

I would request a main course: Coq-au-vin (organic chicken with wine sauce) with steamed haricots verts (extra fine French green beans)

8) And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

I am not a huge fan of chocolate.

9) Is there anything else you want to talk about?

Firstly, thanks for interviewing me. Secondly, I encourage readers to check out my blog at: http://marieandherfriendtheseaturtle.blogspot.com . I donate a portion of proceeds from my book sales for Haiti relief efforts; readers can get more information about the Lambi Fund by visiting their website: www.lambifund.org.

Lastly, readers can go here : http://bit.ly/dZ6NO4, to view a recent interview and video about the good the Lambi Fund is doing for earthquake victims. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to interview me.

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Jan. 3rd, 2011

Moving forward…

Currently reading: THE TENSION OF OPPOSITES by Kristina McBride (Class of 2k10 mate)

Last week we got the awful news that one of my son’s good friends lost his sister in a car accident. She was a beautiful, artistic, smart 17 year old with everything ahead of her. We are aching for this family and for the huge loss to our community.

Incidents like these put everything in perspective. They also cause you to grab your kids and hug them till they beg you to stop. And of course, as a writer, you can’t help but peek out of your grief to view the whole thing as, well, a writer. That the situation contains shades of my next book is eerie. Thinking I should use my sadness to take a look at my manuscript with the raw emotion I was feeling, I opened the document. But I read the first few lines and realized the emotion was far too raw and it was all too close. I put my writer-self away.

Today, the kids are back at school (okay, all except the one who is sick) and it feels like it’s time to start fresh. Move forward. Time to get the clutter out of my house (my husband and I thought we’d spend the vacation doing this–a thought that was more exciting to me than the beach vacation we are planning for later this year–but we didn’t quite get as much done as we would have liked). If I take 15 minutes a day and throw out a few things, in a month, I bet the place looks much better. Of course it helps that my husband has agreed that I can get rid of some of his old medical books (anyone want a Physician’s Desk Reference from 1993?!). So this is Goal #1.

And the other clutter I need to be careful about is the internet clutter. You know, the kind that you start poking through and suddenly two hours of your writing day is gone? I vow to be more focused and wander less through Facebook and other such distractions (but on a different note–we saw “The Social Network” and loved it. A rare case of the five members of my family going to a movie together and actually finding one that both parents and a 16 year old girl and 13 and 10 year old boys would enjoy. Okay, wandering off again. Must pull back.)

I’m making a renewed push to see my first baby Change of Heart out there (waves hello to anyone who may have found me via Kids Buzz and Shelf Awareness and Dear Reader, etc.!). One of WestSide’s strengths are its Teacher’s Guides and having seen one, I’m now trying to get them into some of the schools so they can see what a wonderful resource it can be. If you are a teacher and would like to see one, send me a note via my contact page. And I’m thrilled that Change of Heart will be on the Summer Reading list for Clarkstown High School South and hope it’ll find it’s way onto more lists.

And speaking of lists…I was thrilled that Change of Heart was named to a few “Best of 2010″ lists. Here are two of the links if you want to take a look:

Reading Addict and Ticket To Anywhere

My next book, tentatively titled Callie’s Sister is shaping up. I’m eagerly awaiting my crit partners notes and have been so grateful to get the input of some fabulous teen readers and also my friend Suzanne, a home health care nurse, who has told me that my facts are good (always nice when the facts check out!).

So as this week has shown us–savor the little things, hug your kids, appreciate your family and friends and look forward. 2011 promises to be a wonderful year.


Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Nov. 23rd, 2010

My New Philosophy

Currently reading: PULL by Barbara Binns (fellow WestSide author)

Life’s been throwing a lot at me lately. Nothing major. Lots of things that I’ll look back on in five years and won’t even remember. But even the minor things can get stressful.

I’m a bit of an obsessive person. And I beat myself up sometimes when I make a poor decision. Even when I had the best intentions at the time. From things as silly as ordering the wrong size for my son’s Little League championship jacket (this after going to the company, trying on an Adult Small, which was too big on me and figuring that a Youth Large would be slightly smaller, but as it turns out, is way smaller) to not finding flights for an attempted Christmas week vacation for less than $700 per person (yes, I know you’re supposed to book in April. I wasn’t ready to think about it then.)

Eric in his too-small jacket

Eric in his too-small jacket

So after beating myself up for hours on these and other small matters, it finally occurred to me–I made the best decision I could with the information I had at the time. If you allow yourself that, it’s hard to continue the self-castigating. There’s nothing you would have done differently, knowing exactly what you knew when you made the decision.

My husband says I sound a lot like a politician when I chant this (and yes, as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the whole alleged weapons of mass destruction argument, but I’m going to ignore that).

Of course anything that happens in my personal life, I have to try to find the connection with my writing. And I think that this philosophy actually works quite well when you’re working on character motivations. Characters only know what they know at the time they are making their own decisions. Even if you, as the author, know what the future holds for one of your characters, you need to have them function with the knowledge that they have at the time in your story.

If any of us, fictional or real, could predict the future, our stories might be quite different. We can’t, therefore we make the best decisions based on the information we have at the time (there I go, repeating it again).

Ditto, this for a debut author learning to do promotion. There may have been things that, looking back on my debut year, I might have done differently, but I made the best…well, you get my point.

And while I’m at it: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Another lesson we’ve learned this Fall. But that’s a post for another day.

Writer Wednesday will return soon. I have to finish revising my WIP and stop obsessing over silly things and finally send some questions to more of the wonderful authors who have volunteered to be interviewed.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Nov. 10th, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Holly Cupala

Currently reading: JUST ADD MAGIC by Cindy Callaghan (fellow Tenner)

Today I’m excited to feature a wonderful writer, Holly Cupala. Holly and I met at dinner during BEA and shared a great car ride uptown together, where I heard her story and decided I couldn’t wait to read her new book. I got it the first week it was out and loved it.

About Holly:

Holly Cupala TMAS tshirt

Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn’t writing and contributing to readergirlz, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Ten percent of the author’s proceeds go toward World Vision’s Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls.\

About Tell Me A Secret:


Tell me a secret, and I’ll tell you one…

In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her future.

On to the interview:

1.  Miranda and her sister Xanda are very different. Which one do you relate to more?

Miranda is more the thoughtful artist, her sister more the outrageous DIY girl—and I have to say, I’m a little of both of those things. It’s probably fair to say that I relate more to Miranda. I remember being fascinated by people like Xanda, who seemed to be able to say and do anything. Cheeky, courageous, flirtatious. And I could be like that sometimes, but more likely I would be the girl next to someone like that. But I think all of us have a continuum of personality within us. That’s a lot of what Tell Me a Secret is about.
2. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of readers! One said she was inspired to write a song from the point of view of Xanda (she’s promised to share it with me and hopefully will let me post it). Another told me how much she could relate to Miranda, because she lost her sister and still misses her every day. It makes me happy and grateful that the book has struck an emotional chord and that readers are finding meaning in it.
3. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

Why yes, I have! The very first reader review was by Sharon from Sharon Loves Books and Cats. She started out by saying, “Have you ever read a book that made you want to leap into its pages and throw cats at the characters?” That sort of shocked me, that someone would want to throw cats at my characters! But then she went on to say, “Sometimes it is good when a book pisses you off. I gave Tell Me a Secret 5 purrs because I cannot remember the last time I became so emotionally invested in a book.” I was so floored and grateful that she loved the book. Unfortunately her wonderful blog is now defunct, but I saved her words. They will always be priceless to me.
4. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I grew up in a relatively small town in Northern California. A lot of people mean the Bay Area when they say Northern California, but I mean the part of California that is almost Oregon. When I was 15, I was pretty sure I was destined to be a writer (unless academia hijacked me, but fortunately I realized before it was too late). I wrote poetry and short stories and novellas, many of them hopeless and heart-rending. I loved Sylvia Plath and J.D. Salinger and thought it would be wonderful to live a tragic, literary life—which is sort of the way it turned out, except I’ve found the hope in tragedy now.

5. You capture that Senior Year applying to college and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life anxiety very well. What are your memories from that time in your own life?

Thank you, Shari! Perhaps from personal experience? Maybe not really. The hardest part about leaving home for college wasn’t the leaving part—it was leaving the boyfriend. Now I wonder, what was I thinking? I changed the course of my life for a guy who turned out to be a loser. (There, I said it.) While I was in school, a bunch of us went on a road trip to Seattle and I fell completely in love. I left awful relationship #2 to move here after I graduated so that I could apply for graduate school, and I never looked back. So many of those memories of Seattle and my friends who were at the University of Washington and all of the friendships and relationships made their way into Tell Me a Secret.
6. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

Like Miranda and Xanda, I love to do art and crafty projects—though I never did finish the safety-pin dress I tried to make à la Xanda! That would probably take a year… But I love to collage and paint. I’m a kindergarten mommy, which is certainly my most fun time! Plus my husband and I have been working on lots of TMAS-related projects, like the audiobook we produced with award-winning actress Jenna Lamia reading the part of Miranda. Right now we’re putting together the physical product and hope to have it available in the coming weeks! Right now, you can listen to the free serialized podcast at www.tellmeasecretnovel.com.

7. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

Hmm. Last meal ever? Couldn’t I have dessert, dessert, dessert? Oh, alright. Appetizer: caramelized figs with baked brie. Main Course: Beef Medallions in a delicate masala with barely braised spring vegetables (hold the cauliflower). Dessert: one of everything. And if that is not available, a medley of lavender-ginger crème brulée, molten chocolate cake, pistachio ganache and a glass of pinot grigio.
8. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

Would you be shocked and horrified to discover I’m not really a chocolate girl? (I’ll give you a moment to digest that.) Milk if I must, but I’d much rather have a sour gummy or red licorice or a creamy caramel. For some reason molten chocolate cake transcends the chocolate genre for me, though!

Anything else you want to add about upcoming appearances, new books, etc?

We’re having a Tell Me a Secret party! If you happen to be anywhere in the Seattle/Eastside region on Saturday, December 4th, we’re having a party at Kirkland Parkplace Books at 6:30 pm.

As for new books…yes! I just turned in the final manuscript for my second YA novel (now officially titled Don’t Breathe a Word), coming out Fall 2011. It’s the story of a sixteen year old girl who flees her suburban life for secret reasons to live on the streets of Seattle. She meets up with a band of homeless teens, including Creed… It’s steamy, and gritty, and romantic. Each one of them has a secret, and the heart of the story is love. I can’t wait to share it.

Thank you, Shari, for inviting me to your blog to chat! And readers, you can check out my Story Secrets interview of Shari for Change of Heart right here. Stop by to say hello!

I can’t wait for Don’t Breathe a Word!  To learn more about Holly go to her website. And for a free serialized audiobook podcast, go here.

Holly, it was great to have you over on the blog. Now you’ve made me hungry for dessert!

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Nov. 3rd, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Amy Brecount White

Currently reading: STRINGZ by Michael Wenberg (WestSide Book!)

We’re about a week away from the deadline for the NY area writing contest. If you are in Grades 7-12 and live in the Nanuet, NY area or nearby enough to come here for the prize: a one-on-one critique with a published author, please go here for more details.

I’m very excited to welcome this week’s writer. Amy Brecount White has put together a beautiful book, Forget-Her-Nots that I truly loved and that opened up the whole world of the language of flowers to me.

About the book:

FHN cover -small
Something—some power—is blooming inside Laurel. She can use flowers to do things. Like bringing back lost memories. Or helping her friends ace tests. Or making people fall in love.

Laurel suspects her newfound ability has something to do with an ancient family secret, one that her mother meant to share with Laurel when the time was right. But then time ran out.

Clues and signs and secret messages seem to be all around Laurel at Avondale School, where her mother had also boarded as a student.

Can Laurel piece everything together quickly enough to control her power, which is growing more potent every day?

Or will she set the stage for the most lovestruck, infamous prom in the history of the school?

About Amy:

Amy White

Amy Brecount White has taught English literature and writing to middle school and high school students. She has written numerous articles and essays for publications such as the Washington Post, but Forget-Her-Nots is her first novel.

She can often be found in her garden and gives flowers to her friends and family whenever she can, though none have had magical effects—yet.

And on to the interview…

1. In Forget-Her-Nots, you use the “language of flowers.” Is this something you knew about before your wrote the book or something you came upon as you did your research?

I used to freelance for magazines and newspapers a lot, so I was always on the lookout for story ideas. I found out about the language of flowers and even made some tussie-mussies (symbolic Victorian bouquets) for good friends before I got the idea for the novel.

2. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

I had several girls tell me it was “one of the best books” they’ve ever read. That made my month!!

3. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

I think it’s fascinating how different reactions to the same novel can be.  In the same week one blogger described how FHN moved her to cry, while another blogger described the book as “light and fluffy.” What you take away from a book depends so much on what you bring to it.

4. Where did you grow up?

My dad was in the Public Health Service, so we moved a lot, but I mostly grew up in Dayton, Ohio.

5. When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A doctor, like my dad.

6. You set the book at a boarding school. Were you a boarding school student, too and was this based on a school that you had attended?

No, I attended a public high school.  However, I used to teach at an all-girls school and talked to several knowledgeable sources about boarding schools.

7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

Gardening, when I have time. I read a lot, and those three kids seem to take up a lot of time and energy, too.  I try to exercise;  roller blading is my favorite.

8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

Crab soup, crab cakes, and chocolate mousse cake.  Nom nom!

9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

Definitely dark and preferably with raspberries too!

Thanks, Amy! For more about Amy, visit her website.

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

Oct. 27th, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Bonnie Doerr

Currently reading: THE RICE MOTHER by Rani Manicka (Adult Book Club selection)

Welcome back to Writer Wednesday! Today I’m excited to host my Class of 2K10 mate, Bonnie Doerr, whose fabulous book Island Sting came out earlier this year. Bonnie and I have had a lot of fun doing book signings together (even “lightly attended” ones) and I’ve had a great time getting to know her. She’s even given me a new genre: the eco-mystery.

So here’s some info about Bonnie:

Bonnie Doerr photosmall

Bonnie J. Doerr has always played with words, ideas, and nature. To be separated from nature—to be containerized—would slowly suck the breath from her. For years this therapeutic pursuit manifested itself in poetry.  In recent years her play resulted in stories and novels for young adults. A lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Degrees in reading education, combined with a brief post as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries. Years of teaching and living in the Florida Keys provided irresistible material. Her novels celebrate caring, involved, “green” teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Her work has been honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education and been included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides. When not at home with her heart in the Florida Keys, she lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.

About Island Sting:


Kenzie Ryan’s New York know-how and private girls’ academy education prove useless in the middle of an island wildlife refuge.

Upon arrival in the exotic Florida Keys, she is thrown into the midst of an ecological mystery involving the endangered Florida Key deer. How can she navigate this upside down world? A world deftly maneuvered by Angelo–island native and nerve-wracking hunk. The two team up to accomplish what perplexes law enforcement, but Angelo exposes Kenzie’s insecurities, as well as her inexperience with nature and the opposite sex.

Danger and disagreement follow the pair wherever they go. Enamored with Angelo and his local savvy, Kenzie hopes to secure his loyal friendship. But how can she win Angelo’s trust when what she must tell him will crush his ego?

Island Sting includes notes on the endangered Florida Key Deer and the National Key Deer Refuge.

And on to the interview:

1.  There is a big environmental theme in this book and your blog, Bonnie Blogs Green is very environmentally focused. Have you always been interested in this or is this something that came about after you wrote the book?

As a child, I was immersed in the outdoors. Dad was a passionate Boy Scout and we traveled to countless scout events and locations. Our little family camped across the country in our station wagon, pitching tents in state and national parks from PA to CA and ME to FL. We wouldn’t have thought of ourselves as environmentally focused, we were simply awe-inspired by the beauty of the natural world and couldn’t imagine responding in any other way to it than with deep appreciation and respect. When writing, especially for a tween audience, authors are often advised to tap their passion. Apparently, I inherited my father’s passion. I was “green” ages before the term was in common use.

2.  Kenzie moves from New York to Florida. Have you ever made a move like this and if so, how did it affect your writing her experience?

Until I left home for college, I’d always lived in the same western Maryland house. So I never experienced the painful rip from lifelong friends that Kenzie was forced to face. But my world changed significantly after graduation. I lived, not by choice, an average period of three years in each of eight states and sometimes two or three locations within the same state. It was that following-a-husband-around thing women so often have to do. My experience was very different from Kenzie’s. Instead of embracing friends, I didn’t allow myself to indulge in close relationships. I knew it would hurt too much when I left. But I enjoyed teaching a range of students from K to college as I moved. And let me tell you, whenever I hear someone say, “Kids don’t act like _________,” or “A teen wouldn’t say or do____________,” I often smile. Yes, in many ways kids all over the country are alike, but it’s interesting  how unique they can also be. I gained quite a wide perspective from my travels.

3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

One young reader said, “As Kenzie’s feelings became my own, I didn’t want to put this book down. It was as if I was Kenzie. I wanted to get up and go clean up litter and catch that rude poacher. But then I remembered all that’s tough to do with a book in your hand.”

4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

Oh, yes indeed. One in particular. I’m trying to forget that surprise! Still, it opened up a valuable conversation. A fabulous reaction that surprised me was from students who formed an environmental club as a result of reading Island Sting.

5. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As I mentioned, I grew up in western Maryland. At fifteen, I wanted to be an artist or performer. I played the guitar (sadly, I no longer do), thought I could sing (I was so wrong), and believed I could act (act I could, but my stage voice was wretched). So, I incorporated all of those interests into my teaching. Poor students… But I also wanted to be a feature reporter for a newspaper. That, at least, was a realistic plan for me. Write I can. And though I am a fiction writer, my work falls mostly in the realistic contemporary genre.

6. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?

I graduated from Towson University (Baltimore, MD) and University of South Carolina (Aiken and Columbia, SC). My favorite courses were psychology and anthropology. I’ve always been fascinated with the human mind and behavior, cultural similarities and differences, and how humans adapt to their environment. Now that I think of it, these interests have definitely informed my writing.
7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

It’s not easy for me to sit at the computer for long periods of time. I constantly get up and go outdoors to clear my head. I live on three casually landscaped acres in the middle of woods, so there is always work to be done. Weeding is the most challenging responsibility. We reclaimed space from the forest, but the woodlands remind me who’s boss on a daily basis. When I’m not battling botanical invasion, I’m trimming, thinning, cultivating, harvesting, planting, transplanting, watering, fertilizing, feeding critters, shooing other critters, or simply observing critters. And when I’ve been engrossed in writing for what my little dog, Itchy, decides is too long, he demands I quit to take him outside so he can sniff and chase all those critters.

I also do a good bit of cooking. My husband and I enjoy having friends over to grill something yummy.

8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

Appetizer: Florida stone crabs, Main course: Florida spiny lobster, Key West pink shrimp, and a fresh, fresh baby green salad with a fabulous bottle of pino grigio or maybe chardonnay. Hey, it’s my last meal—BOTH! Dessert: Key lime pie.

9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

Sometimes I just can’t make a decision. This is one of those times because I love them all. And that’s why I especially like those Hershey Kisses that swirl white and milk chocolate together.

Thanks, Bonnie. Look for Bonnie’s next book, Stakeout, next year. You can find Bonnie on the web here.

Mirrored from Shari Maurer.

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