Saturday, 13 September 2014

Rebecca Behrens Interview

First daughter Audrey Rhodes can't wait for the party she has planned for Friday night. The decorations are all set and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute-citing security breach and squashing Audrey's chances for making any new friends. What good is being "safe and secure" if you can't have any fun?

Audrey is ready to give up and become a White House hermit, until she discovers Alice Roosevelt's hidden diary. The former first daughter gives Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun...and more problems than she can handle.

Thanks for doing this interview! When Audrey Met Alice has been one of my favorite middle grade novels of 2014. Thanks! That is so nice to hear, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

1. I love the concept of When Audrey Met Alice. I was drawn in from the very first line. How did you come up with the concept for the book?

Thank you! I’ve always been fascinated by children living in the White House, and when President Obama was elected in 2008, I thought a lot about how the lives of his young daughters would change as they headed to Washington. I wondered if being a First Daughter, as exciting as that is, might also be lonely. The idea of a First Daughter feeling a little isolated developed into Audrey’s character. At the same time, I was very interested Alice Roosevelt’s wild life at the turn of the century. I wanted to write about a First Daughter, but I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to write about Alice or a contemporary girl.

One day when I was out for a brainstorming walk in New York, it hit me: I could combine Alice’s story with that of a contemporary First Daughter, via a long-lost diary. This is where my inspiration story gets strange: I found out later on that Alice’s aunt had lived at the very intersection where the concept for When Audrey Met Alice came together, and Alice spent plenty of time there as a young person. Weird!

2. Are you more like Audrey or Alice? How so?

I wish I were more like Alice--I've love to be a thimbleful as witty and daring as she was. I am more like Audrey: curious, thoughtful, and cookie-obsessed. Hopefully, I showed that despite the extraordinary circumstances of their lives, both were normal girls who occasionally felt frustrated, unsure, or insecure--like every kid does at some time or another!

3. What made you choose to write for an upper middle grade audience rather than YA?

Writing the first draft, I wasn't sure whether this book would be middle grade or YA. That version was firmly stuck in between the categories. Ultimately, even though Alice would make a great YA heroine, I decided that this is Audrey's story--and she had a strong middle-grade voice.

4. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?

I do a lot of research early on in the writing process, and even more as I start drafting and revising. I usually write an outline before I start writing, but it always changes as I go along (I like it when the characters or plot surprise me). My favorite part of the writing process is revising. That's where it feels like the story really comes to life, and I can shade in all the details.

5. What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned during your publishing journey?

I learned that despite being a rather shy person, I love to talk about writing this book--especially with kids! My own enjoyment of the in-person promotion I've done surprised me. There is nothing quite as fun as getting to meet readers.

6. What has been the best writing advice you’ve been given?

You have to read to be a writer--and it helps to read outside your category/genre. Not only does it help you grow your craft, but inspiration can come from unexpected places. An article I read in Smithsonian magazine about baseball inspired a short story that I wrote for Scholastic Scope--and I'm not even a baseball fan.

7. Do you have a sophomore novel in the works? If yes, can you tell us about it?

Yes! The Summer of Lost and Found will be published by Egmont USA in early 2016. It's another upper middle-grade novel that blends contemporary and historical fiction--this time about the lost colony of Roanoke. More information is available here:

8. Lastly, other than your own novel, what has been your favorite debut author read of 2014 thus far?

I've read so many fabulous debut novels so far this year, and it's too hard to choose one! Skila Brown's Caminar is a powerful MG verse novel. Foodie fans of MG will love Tara Dairman's All Four Stars. It inspired me to take more writing breaks in the kitchen. I also loved Brandy Colbert's heartbreaking, gripping YA debut, Pointe.

Ready to read? Enter now for your chance to win a signed hardcover copy! (US and Canada only) And be sure to add When Audrey Met Alice on Goodreads or check it out on amazon.

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Monday, 8 September 2014

Jessica Love Interview

I'm so excited to be a part of the 2014 Debut Authors Bash. Today we have an interview with the fabulous Jessica Love, author of PUSH GIRL, and don't forget to come back on 9/14 for an interview with the amazing Rebecca Behrens, author of When Audrey Met Alice!

Kara is a high school junior who's loving life. She's popular, has a great group of friends and an amazing boyfriend, and she's a shoe-in for homecoming queen. Even though her parents can't stop fighting and her ex-boyfriend can't seem to leave her alone, Kara won't let anything get in the way of her perfect year. It's Friday night, and Kara arrives at a party, upset after hearing her parents having another one of their awful fights, and sees another girl with her hands all over her boyfriend. Furious, Kara leaves to take a drive, and, as she's crossing an intersection, a car comes out of nowhere and slams into the driver's side of Kara's car.

When Kara wakes up, she has no memory of the night before. Where is she? Why are her parents crying? And, most importantly -- why can't she feel her legs? As Kara is forced to adjust to her new life, where her friends aren't who they seemed to be and her once-adoring boyfriend is mysteriously absent, she starts to realize that what matters in life isn't what happens to you -- it's the choices you make and the people you love.

Could you give us an elevator pitch of Push Girl?

JL: Kara, a high school senior and dancer, is hit by a drunk driver and suffers a spinal cord injury that leaves her paralyzed. As she adjusts to life in a wheelchair, she discovers who her true friends are and what she is really capable of.

What inspired you to write Push Girl/how did you become involved in this project?

JL: I became part of the project thanks to some brilliant agent/editor matchmaking. I was the perfect fit as a writer for the story Chelsie and the editors wanted to tell. I was really lucky the way it all worked out, because I absolutely loved working on this book.

What was it like working with Chelsie Hill? Had you watched the PUSH GIRLS series before deciding to write this book?

JL: I hadn't watched the TV show before I got started working on the book - I had never even heard of it! I didn't know what a fantastic show it is, and, honestly, I was a little hesitant about working with someone from a reality show because they can be a little trashy, you know? But as soon as I saw some episodes, I realized that this wasn't a typical reality show, and I knew that Chelsie was someone I would be so proud to work with. And I truly am. Chelsie is awesome! It was fun working with her and learning more about her story as we put this book together.

What other research did you do in order to give PUSH GIRL such an authentic voice?

JL: I used YouTube a lot. There are lots of awesome videos on there that helped me with what life was like for wheelchair users.

One of the things I love most about Kara is that she is so relatable—her parents are getting a divorce and she has issues with her boyfriend, and most of all, she models how to overcome adversity. How did you balance Chelsie’s experience with fiction?

JL: While this book is based on Chelsie's life, it's still fiction. Kara is a character, and she's not Chelsie, so I wanted to make sure that people who didn't have Chelsie's exact experience could still relate to her. We tried to put the focus on issues that were universal, so that anyone would be able to relate, and we sprinkled true pieces of Chelsie's story in with things that didn't happen to her at all. I think that helped to make Kara a balanced character who wasn't too much like Chelsie while keeping true to her origins.

Do you have a favorite scene from Push Girl? Was there one scene in particular that was really challenging to write?

JL: To be totally honest, the entire book was a challenge to write, mainly because I was SO focused on getting the realities of life as a wheelchair user right. There are so many types of wheelchairs and so many different reasons people use them, and I didn't want to alienate anyone. Also, as someone who is able-bodied, I didn't want the book to feel like it wasn't true to the realities of being a wheelchair user or that it read like it was written by someone who had no idea what she was talking about. Worrying about all of this seriously kept me up at night and made me sick to my stomach some days, because I SO wanted to get it right.

All of my favorite scenes were between Kara and her ex-boyfriend, Jack. Jack ended up being my favorite character in the book because he was so cute and dorky and sweet. I wrote a few fun scenes between Jack and Kara that I knew wouldn't make it in to the book, just because I liked their chemistry and interactions so much.

Are you a planner or a pantser?

JL: I'm a plotter, but I'm not a very good plotter. I can't really write without outlining first, but I have to write a bad outline and a bad draft before I can really figure out what I'm doing. I'm a bit of a hot mess of a writer. Honestly, I'm surprised these books ever get written because I never really know what I'm doing.

What was the biggest surprise you encountered during your journey to publication?

JL: Everything about this book was a huge surprise! I never planned for it or expected it, so it turned my idea of what I thought my debut experience was going to be on its head. This whole experience has really taught me to stay open to unexpected possibilities. You never know what's going to come your way, and just because it isn't what you had planned doesn't mean you should count it out. Cool opportunities are around every corner!

Any advice for aspiring writers?


Finish even when it gets difficult. Finish even when you aren't sure what's going to happen next. Finish even when a better, cooler, easier, sexier idea comes along. It's in the finishing, in the going through even when it seems impossible, that you really learn how to be a writer.

Do you have any other writing projects in the works? If so, can you tell us about them?

JL: I have another novel coming out with St. Martin's in 2015. It's called IN REAL LIFE, and I describe it as Catfish meets My Best Friend's Wedding over one crazy weekend in Las Vegas. (You can add it on Goodreads here:

Lastly, what other 2014 debuts are on your radar? Any book recommendations?

My very favorite 2014 debut was Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. It's about best friends and travel and hot romance, which happen to be my three very favorite things. It's smart and funny and sassy, and I loved absolutely every word. If you haven't picked this book up yet, you need to. I'm also really looking forward to Damsel Distressed by Kelsey Macke. It's out next month, and it's going to be awesome!

Thanks again to Jessica for answering my questions! Want to win a copy of PUSH GIRL? Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway. Open to US entrants only, please.

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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Two Great Online Teaching Resources

Hey all,

While at a professional development seminar earlier this week, I learned about two awesome websites that can easily be incorporated into the English classroom, but would come in handy for other subjects as well.

The first is Among other things, this website has book reviews for many popular books, but what makes it unique is that it has a chart along the sidebar that for categories like: positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, etc. When you like on the category it tells you the explanation for the rating. There is also a chart for the recommended age group. This is a great resource to know about the appropriateness of a book. After all, as teachers, we read many books, but we can't read them all.

The second website is This has teen-appropriate newspaper articles. Categories include: war and peace, science, kids (which is like pop culture), money, law, health, and arts. You can even change the lexile level of the article to adjust it to the students' needs. The picture stays the same, but the lexile adjusts. This is an easy way to accomodate differentiated instruction while bringing current real-world issues into the classroom.

Check them out!


Thursday, 3 July 2014

Interview with Jennifer Iacopelli

Hey everyone! I recently interviewed Jennifer Iacopelli, author of Game. Set. Match. Check out the interview at!

Also, be sure to come back on September 9th and 14th for two more author interviews. I will be chatting with Jessica Love, author of Push Girl, and Rebecca Behrens, author of When Audrey Met Alice.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Second Star Review

4 stars (or, for those who follow my ranking system, brown belt. The ending kept it from being a knock-out black belt.)

**I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an unbiased review.

To be honest, I never really liked Peter Pan. I liked the concept, but it wasn't one of my favorite movies as a kid. That being said, I loved this contemporary retelling. Second Star is a well-paced, beautifully written novel, one that I'd recommend to anyone looking for a delightful YA read.

What I liked:
*the concept--Wendy's surfer brothers have been missing for 9 months and are believed to be dead. Wendy goes off looking for them and meets Pete, Belle, Hughie, etc. in the process.

*the narrative voice--it drew me in right away. I loved the author's attention to detail and the surfing knowledge. There were moments when the prose absolutely sang, and the writer in me was like "I wish I could write like this too."

*Wendy's character--I really felt for her the entire way through. Her reactions felt believable, and I felt I could relate to her.

*Wendy's relationship with Fiona. I really liked how carefully constructed both characters were.

*Wendy's memories of her brothers and her reflections on their disappearance.

What I didn't like:

*There were a few slow spots where I found myself wanting to skip ahead.

* The ending. It was okay, but I was a little disappointed in how things turned out. Can't say more without giving away spoilers, but it seemed predictable/done before. The concept itself, though a retelling, felt nuanced to me, but the ending didn't surprise me, and I wanted to be surprised.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Why I'm Rooting for Eddy the Jet in Sochi

I fell in love with short track speed skating in 2002. Four years later, while watching the Torino Olympics, I decided I wanted to write a book about teenage Olympic hopefuls. That book turned out to be Picking up the Pieces, a story about a snowboarder, a skier, an ice dancer, a hockey player, and a short track speed skater. I self-published it right after I graduated high school.

That same year, the short track speed skating national championships were held in St. Louis, just 6 hours from where I live. My mom and I made the drive. While there, I got to meet some of my favorite speed skaters, including Apolo Ohno, Kimberly Derrick, JR Celski, Alison Baver, Ryan Bedford, Jessica Smith, and Katherine Reutter. They were all incredibly friendly and kind. I even gave Katherine a copy of my book. I was so nervous to even talk to her, but she was amazing.

So where does Eddy come in? I never met him. I wish I had (and had gotten his autograph.) Actually, I met his parents--and briefly at that--but I'll never forget it for many reasons.

My mom and I sat in front of Eddy's parents during one of the days of the competition. Eddy's parents saw that I had a brought a few copies of my book and were both excited and impressed that a teen wrote a novel, let alone one with a speed skater as a main character. They bought a copy. I had intended to just give them away to some of the skaters, but his parents insisted on giving me something for it. It was a pretty cool moment. They were as nice as could be.

We continued to talk, and they told me about Eddy, how he liked to play baseball, but also wanted to make the Olympic team someday. My mom's response was "I'm sure he will." Six years later, my mom was right. Eddy was a rock star at the Olympic trials, and though US speed skating has had some tough luck in Sochi thus far, Eddy still has a chance to bring home some Olympic hardware.

Since 2008, Picking up the Pieces has changed immensely. Even though I self-published the book, I dreamed of more. I knew it could be better. During the five years that followed, the book underwent some much needed serious revisions. (The more I learned about creative writing, the more I realized that the book I wrote as a team was a well-intentioned hot mess!)

The book is now called Podium Finish. The 5 main characters were cut down to 2--Harper, the hockey player and Alex the figure skater--but I couldn't cut short track out completely, so Rye, Harper's boyfriend and Olympic short track hopeful is still in the book. It was published in November 2013, and since then, has remained on 3 Amazon top 100 lists. Not bad!

As an athlete myself, I know what it's like to put hours of training in, all the while hoping for your big break. Writers face the same uphill battle. Querying is a daunting process. I had an agent for Podium Finish at one point. I even had publishers who liked the book's premise, but couldn't take it on because it was too similar to a book they'd already signed. Then my agent decided to leave agenting side of the buisness to become an editor, her true passion. I was gutted. I felt like I'd come so close, but hadn't landed a publisher. There was nothing more I could do but revise and keep trying to find an outlet for my novel. There were moments when I had my doubts, when I thought I wasn't a good enough writer, and wondered if it anyone would even like my book.

In these moments, I thought about what inspired the novel in the first place. The Olympics. I thought about how athletes make years of sacrifice for just a few minutes on the world stage, and how I had to keep trying, because after all, that's what the book was about. I thought about short track and how even though my sports, shot put and martial arts, are so different than racing around an ice rink at 35 mph, those athlete were the ones I looked up to. And lastly, I thought about Eddy's parents. It sounds corny, I know, but sometimes a chance meeting can have a big impact. We don't always know the impact our kindness has on other people, and for a shy 18-year-old self-published author, that kindness is a memory I won't forget.

I'm glad I didn't give up on the manuscript. It's success in the past three months has made all the revision worth it. But I don't know that I would have felt it was all worth it if I hadn't met people who were interested in the book's premise in it's earlier form. Before the agents and publishers, before the 5 star reviews and classification of being an Amazon best seller, there was a couple from Florida who thought it was pretty cool I wrote a book, and now their son is representing USA in Sochi.

So, of course I'm cheering for all of Team USA, especially our short track speed skaters, but most of all, I'm rooting for Eddy and want to wish him the best of luck. He deserves it. I just wish I could be sitting there in front of his parents this time around, but alas, I'll be cheering from my couch in Arkansas.

Good luck Eddy!!!!! I hope you have a podium finish of your own!

**In celebration of the Olympics, PODIUM FINISH is on sale for just 99 cents on kindle. You won't find a better deal so get your copy today! (If you don't have a kindle, there are kindle for iPhone and kindle for PC apps that work great.)

***UPDATE: The men's relay won silver! Congrats Eddy, Jordan, JR and Chris! Nice podium choreography by the way :)

Sunday, 9 February 2014

YA/NA I Heart Swag Giveaway Blog Hop

Hi everyone! Today's post is in honor of the YA/NA I Heart Swag Giveaway Blog Hop hosted by Ketch's Book Nook. Scroll down to see the list of the other wonderful authors participating in this blog hop, plus enter to win some PODIUM FINISH swag! The raffle will run from Feb. 10-17. Also, in celebration of the Olympics, PODIUM FINISH is on sale for 99 cents on Kindle!

With six months until the Olympic Games, seventeen-year-old Harper's life is pretty much perfect. She's fighting for the starting spot on Team USA Women's Hockey, and for the first time ever, she has a crush on a guy who likes her back. She feels like the luckiest girl in the world, until she runs a risky play at practice and breaks her knee, thereby sentencing herself to six weeks in a cast and possibly ending her Olympic dream before it even starts.

For seventeen-year-old Alex, being anything less than the best is unacceptable. That's why, after a miserable debut season at the senior level, the former junior national singles champion switches to ice dance. Her skating partner, Ace, is an "all skating all the time" type of guy, which would be fine, if he'd stop keeping secrets about the real reason he and his former partner broke up. Now is not the time for second thoughts, but how can Alex skate her best if she can’t trust her partner…or herself?

As the pressure to make the Olympic team builds, the girls must rely on each other, because if there’s one thing they both know, it's that the only thing harder than skating to the top is staying there.



Prize Pack 1 (US only)
(includes a Podium Finish bookmark, a red, white and blue bookmark, Beth Pond promotional pencils, and a Team USA notebook)


Prize Pack 2 (US only)
(includes a Podium Finish bookmark, a red, white, and blue bookmark, Beth Pond promotional pencils, and Team USA stickers)

Prizes 3 and 4: An e-book copy of Podium Finish (delivered to winner through Amazon give as gift option)

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Prize Pack 1- Olivia H
Prize Pack 2- Julia C
E-book 1- Natalie T
E-book 2- bn100

Thanks to all who entered!

Blog Hop Participants

Kelsey Ketch
Jennifer Lane
Kate Evangelista
Susan Kaye Quinn
Cheri Colyer
Kristi Helvig
Kelly Hashway/ Ashelyn Drake
Julia Crane
Mary Ting/M. Clarke
Nikki Godwin
Fabio Bueno
Juliana Haygert
Lea Nolan
Nicki Elson
Charlotte Abel
Stacey Marie Brown
A.J. Bennett
Kristina Renee
Jen McConnel
Stephanie Thomas
C. Marie Mosley
Rachel Harris
Kym Brunner