Welcome

This is the blog of children's book author and third grade teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Monday, September 18, 2017

#IMWAYR September 18, 201


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 

Here's what I read this week:

Middle Grade


I am thankful to one of my students for suggesting I move this book to the top of my reading pile. Like The Loser's Club by Andrew Clements, this book is a tribute to those of us who love books and libraries. In this town, the kids have never experienced a library because it had closed the year before they were born. Mr. Lemoncello, the famous game maker, has created them a new one and twelve kids have been invited to stay in the library overnight to celebrate it's grand opening. What they don't know is that the library itself is a giant game designed to encourage a love of books. If I were locked in this library, I don't think I would want to try to escape.


Florian Bates and his best friend Margaret are back for another mystery adventure using the power of TOAST, the theory of small things. This book was just as exciting as Framed. I can't wait until the next one. Florian is an Encyclopedia Brown for this generation.


In this dystopian high fantasy, the people of Quill are separated into Necessaries, Wanteds, and Unwantededs. The Necessaries are assigned the jobs that must get done and the Wanteds are trained to lead the town. But the Unwanteds are sentenced to death, or so the people of Quill believe. Really, they are hidden away in Artime, a magical secret place where creativity is admired. But what will happen when Artime stops being a secret? A fun story for lovers of fantasy.

Young Adult


After Syrah is almost killed in a snowboarding accident she is finding it hard to be the girl she used to be. Her best friend is acting differently and her famous parents are watching her every move, an easy thing to do when the paparazzi are always following her. As Syrah looks for a way to move forward, snowboarding again becomes her outlet, just not in the way she expects.


Currently reading:




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Stacy Barnett Mozer is a teacher and a middle grade author. If you like what she's been reading follow her on Goodreads. Please leave a comment below. 

It's Monday, what are you reading?

Monday, September 11, 2017

#IMWAYR for September 11th


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 


Since today is 9/11, instead of sharing the books I read last week, I am reposting three books to share with kids about this day.  

Picture Book


14 Cows for America is a picture book that features a true story about a Kenyan tribe that gifted 14 cows to America in order to help in our time of need. There are some strong images so parents should read it first. You can see more about the true story of these cows by reading this CNN article.


Middle Grade


In nine, ten, we are introduced to a number of kids who are all at the airport at the same time. They notice each other, but do not meet. We follow these characters for the next two days, experiencing their lives and family relationships. Each one comes close to the tragedy, but does not experience the tragedy directly. They are all changed by the events and at the end of the book the kids are again at the same place at the same time, but this time instead of ignoring each other, they bring us a message of hope.


Young Adult


The Memory of Things is a love story. Told from two points of view (one in verse), it is about a boy and a girl who are forced to experience the aftermath of 9/11 together when the girl gets hurt and loses her memory as she escapes the city. Their two lives are drawn together in a deep and intense way as they bear witness to history. 

There are a number of other new books that have been written on this topic which I have personally read. For other suggestions, take a look at this article from the NY Times.

Monday, September 4, 2017

#IMWAYR September 4, 2017


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 

Here's what I read this week:


Middle Grade


Jinny knows the rules: 
"Nine on an island, orphans all,
Any more the sky may fall." 
But now that she's the elder and it's almost her turn to leave the island she's called home, she's willing to risk anything to stay. Orphan Island is a story about growing up, becoming independent, and facing your inner demons. 



In this future society, words have become the enemy. As Wordsmith apprentice, Letta is the only child in the colony who knows more words than the List, a group of 500 words that are still legal. When she learns that the society's leader Noa wants to destroy language all together, she realizes she needs to take action to save the people from the war on words.


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Stacy Barnett Mozer is a teacher and a middle grade author. If you like what she's been reading follow her on Goodreads. Please leave a comment below. 

It's Monday, what are you reading?

Monday, August 28, 2017

#IMWAYR August 28, 2017


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 

It's Back to School week! I'm so excited to spend time with adults for a few days of staff training before we welcome students into the building. I saw this meme on Facebook and it is so true:



I hope if any of you are teachers, you have a building full of staff that you love coming back to each year. 

Here's what I read this week. 



Middle Grade


Did you know that So B. It is releasing as a movie in October? Once I found out I had to reread it. It's the story of a girl who goes on a journey across the country to learn more about herself by finding out more about her parents. This coming of age story is wonderful, beautiful, and heartbreaking. I can't wait to see it in theaters.


Liar and Spy was another wonderful recommendation for my character change unit. When Georges moves to a new apartment building he meets his neighbor Safer at a meeting for spies. The two form an interesting friendship that helps both of them in ways they didn't expect at first meeting.


This novel in verse is the autobiography of author Jacqueline Woodson. Readers will be touched by her story.


Young Adult


All the books I read this week touched my heart in some way, but this one nearly broke it first. It is the story of a freshman boy named Julian who lost his parents and has been living with his abusive uncle and a senior named Adam, whose kindness helps Julian out of his cage.
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Stacy Barnett Mozer is a teacher and a middle grade author. If you like what she's been reading follow her on Goodreads. Please leave a comment below. 

It's Monday, what are you reading?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Interview with Author/Illustrator Stephanie Ruble

It’s the Thursday before school starts so it is time for my last interview. Today I talk with Stephanie Ruble. Stephanie is an author/illustrator who loves writing about and drawing pictures of all kinds of animals: cows, elephants, bunnies, chickens, alligators, sheep, and lemurs too! She's been making art since she could finger paint, and drawing since she could hold a crayon. This native Minnesotan currently resides in Connecticut with her husband. Ewe and Aye is her first picture book. 

When did you decide to become an author/illustrator?
I’m not sure when I officially decided to become an author/illustrator, but three things happened that made me want to write and illustrate books: 

1. In grade school, we saw a film about creating a picture book. I was fascinated by the process of making the art for the book. Even though I don’t remember the specifics of how the art was made, I do remember the artist creating underwater scenes and wanting to be able to do that too.

2. In college, one of the assignments in a print making class was to come up with an idea for a picture book. I had trouble thinking of a good idea for the class, and kept thinking about that assignment and ideas for picture books for years afterward. 

3. The first book I sent to a publisher was to show them my art and not for the story (it was a tale of a cow with a secret admirer). I was shocked and a bit upset when they liked my writing better than my art because I thought of myself as an artist, not a writer! It made me think that maybe, just maybe, I could write as well as illustrate. Surprisingly, I was not deterred that they didn’t like my art. (Thought Process = a. ARGH! / b. They were just sketches, I can do better. c. They’d like it if they could see finished art. / d. I’ll prove to publishers my art belongs in books.)

Tell us about your journey. How did you get discovered as an illustrator?
For years, I built a portfolio and kept adding new art to it, put the portfolio on my website and showed it at conferences, sent out promotional postcards, and submitted a few manuscripts and dummies. I also attended conferences and workshops, and signed up for professional critiques. Many years later, at one of my critiques, an editor loved my art and said he had a manuscript he thought I’d be the perfect illustrator for. He sent the story, EWE AND AYE, a few days later. A few years after that it became my first book.
Note: Art is subjective. On the same day I met with this editor, I had another critique right before that. The other editor didn’t like my work and it wasn’t a fit for her publishing house.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
There are lots of points when I want to throw in the towel, but it’s usually just because I’m fighting with a piece of art or a story, so I keep working. However, there was one point where I seriously thought about giving up illustrating books. A couple of weeks before the editor offered me my first book contract, I had a critique with an art director from a different publishing house. This critique was an informal one in front of a group of illustrators. The art director told me that she didn’t see a place in children’s books for my art. She thought that it wasn’t suited for picture books or for illustrating novels. She did say she liked my art, just not for children’s books. 

After that, I almost didn’t go to the critique a couple of weeks later. I decided to go anyway, because I had met one of the editors before. He was a fun person to talk with and also a picture book writer. I figured that if he didn’t like my art, we could still have fun talking about books. To prepare for the critique, I made a new portfolio with my favorite pieces of art from the last few years (children’s book art, but not necessarily what I thought publishers were looking for). If I had given up after what one art director said, I wouldn’t have gotten to illustrate EWE AND AYE!

Is there anything about being a published illustrator that has surprised you?
Yes. The process of making art for a book for a publisher is very different than making art for a book when you’re trying to get a publisher (that’s probably obvious, but how it’s different isn’t obvious until you go through the process). One reason is that it’s like the difference between working on a project yourself vs. working on a group project. Illustrators go through revision with publishers just like writers do! Another reason is that making finished art for a full book requires more attention to detail than making sketches and a few finishes for a dummy (a mock-up of a picture book). It’s so easy to overlook something, or make changes that are supposed to be on every page, and forget to make them on one page. Even if you’re usually great at checking for details and changes, the sheer number of pages and details vs. the deadlines and input from the publisher makes it easier to miss something. Hopefully you will figure out anything you missed before the book goes to print! 

For EWE AND AYE, I noticed three mistakes, including a major mistake on an interior page and on the cover, at the final stage before it went to print. Luckily, I was able to fix it before the book came out, but not before it went out for reviews. And even luckier, none of the reviewers noticed; even the publisher didn’t notice until I pointed them out!

Any advice you would give to an author/illustrator just starting out?

Here’s a condensed version of the advice for people who want to write and/or illustrate children’s books from my website (the full version is here: 
http://sruble.com/extras.html).

1. If you want to illustrate: Draw, draw, draw, and draw some more, and also look at art and READ books.

Draw, doodle, sketch, and paint. Look at art, in books, in magazines, in comics, in museums, etc. Take a sketchpad and pencil to a museum and draw, or draw people when you’re waiting for the bus, or sitting in a cafĂ©. Look at how art is paired with text and whether the art reflects the text or tells a different story. Some artists start out imitating other artists (not copying, but trying to draw/paint/etc. like the other artist). If you try imitating another artist, take the lessons you learned from imitating them and create your own style.

Note: There will be failures along the way. Failures = Art Not Looking Like You Want It To Look (but just know that it might look like an amazing success to someone else, even if you don't like it). Failures are learning experiences and usually mean you’re doing it right, because you are experimenting with trying to figure out how you make art and what your strengths and weaknesses are. Without failures, you won’t go on to make successful art (just think of how different your art is now from when you were three or four years old). FYI, what makes art successful is subjective. If you like what you created, it’s successful, even if it didn’t turn out the way you imagined.

* Super Important Note #1: You don’t have to show anyone else your failed art attempts, unless you want to (or you have to for a class you’re taking). The important part is to try and experiment and allow yourself to fail so that you can learn what works for you.

** Super Important Note #2: As long as you keep going, you’ll improve, and sometimes, art that doesn't turn out the way you wanted it to ends up being even better than you imagined!

2. If you want to write: Write, write, write, and write some more, and also READ books and look at art.
Read the kind of books you want to write. Also read anything that interests you, even if they aren’t the type of books you want to write. Read books you don’t like and think about why you don’t like them. Then think about why you like the books that you do like. What makes them work (for you)? What makes the books you don’t like not work (for you – it might be a favorite book for someone else)? Look at how pictures integrate and/or enhance the text (I said this above for illustrators, but it's important for writers too).

3. If you want to write and illustrate: Draw, Write, Read, and Revise, revise, revise, and revise some more.
If you want to illustrate AND write, do steps one and two repeatedly, then learn to revise. Both writers and illustrators need to revise their words and images to make characters, settings, and stories clear and inviting to the reader. First drafts are great for getting the idea out, but revision is what makes the story shine. Many writers and illustrators find it helpful to get critiques to help them improve their writing and art. Some people have critique partners, or critique groups, where they share their work and also give feedback to other writers and illustrators.

4. If you want to write and/or illustrate: Research, research, and research some more.
Everyone expects to do research for non-fiction, but research is necessary for writing and illustrating fiction too (even if your art is stylized, it helps to know what the thing you're drawing actually looks like).

Here are a few links to posts I’ve written on writing and illustrating books:
1. the path illustrators take to get their work noticed and advance their careers
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2016/03/the-path-illustrators-take-to-get-their.html

2. how to write a picture book in twelve easy steps
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2014/05/how-to-write-picture-book-in-twelve.html

3. three ways to make a picture book dummy
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2015/12/3-ways-to-make-picture-book-dummy.html

4. five things for illustrators - a.k.a. five things that helped me and will hopefully help you too
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2014/12/five-things-for-illustrators-aka-five.html

5. ten tips for choosing what to draw for your portfolio, and ten ways to find inspiration
http://sruble.blogspot.com/2015/01/ten-tips-for-choosing-what-to-draw-for.html

6. the importance of making art for fun
https://sruble.blogspot.com/2017/07/making-art-for-fun-is-important-plus.html

Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I like to draw cows and make up stories about the fun things they do (that real cows do not do). One year I drew a cow picture every day for the whole year. It was leap year, so I drew 366 cow pictures, and many of the pictures had multiple cows! The next year, I drew a dog a day for the whole year. These projects really changed and improved my art, and they were fun to do (most of the time).

My students are always surprised to hear that many authors don’t always get to approve their illustrator and some don't even see the pictures until the book releases. What was that process like for you when illustrating someone else’s book? Do you want the author’s feedback?
The process was hard at first because the author included lots of illustration notes. Instead of imaging what I thought the story could be, I couldn’t forget her notes. One of her notes ended up in the sketches, even though it didn’t actually work for the book! After many rounds of art, my editor and I finally realized why that page wasn’t working; it was because the illustration note it was based on didn’t actually work for the story! It was a really neat visual, which is why we all liked it, but since it didn’t work it had to go. Happily, I was able to find a way to pay homage to the idea on another page, in a way that did work for the story.

Authors and illustrators don’t usually meet or talk with each other while they are working on the book. I got to meet Candace Ryan, the author of EWE AND AYE, while I was illustrating the book. It was nice to hear that she wasn’t tied to her illustration notes and was supportive of my imagining the story through the art. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. The author and the illustrator each bring their own vision of the story to the book.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Stephanie. You can find out more about Stephanie and her art on her website http://sruble.com


Monday, August 21, 2017

#IMWAYR August 21, 2017


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 

This week I spent time sorting through books in my new classroom. At one point I was so frustrated by the amount of books I asked the question on twitter, "Can a classroom library have too many books?" The overwhelming answer was no. But one person pointed out that while you can never have too many books, you can have too little space. Here's what I did with mine:




Here's what I read this week. Both are perfect additions to my character growth unit.

Graphic Novel


I really loved Shannon Hale's graphic memoir. It's the story of how she learned to understand friendship and to recognize and identify your real friends.

Middle Grade


Ravi is a boy who moved from India. He is expecting to be revered for his high intelligence like he was in his old school. Instead, he is met with criticism and prejudice. Joe has special learning needs that set him apart from his peers, even though he is one of the smartest among them. The two have many things in common, if they can see past the surface differences. 
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Stacy Barnett Mozer is a teacher and a middle grade author. If you like what she's been reading follow her on Goodreads. Please leave a comment below and stop by the blog on Thursday for a new author interview. This week I'll be talking with author illustrator Stephanie Ruble. 

It's Monday, what are you reading?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Interview with picture book author Carol Gordon Ekster

It’s Thursday so it’s time for another author interview. Today I talk to Carol Gordon Ekster. When Carol is not thinking about writing or teaching, she does yoga, biking, is involved in critique groups and works on her books. The English version of her newest book, You Know What? with Clavis Books, will be out September 2017. She is grateful that her writing gives her another way to communicate with children. 

When did you decide to become an author?
My life’s passion was teaching. I loved influencing children to become lifelong learners and to strive to do their best always. I worked with children on their own writing in my classroom.  My Master’s degree was in reading and language, and I read picture books daily to reinforce the curriculum I covered. I found picture books powerful in their ability to get across academic concepts as well as teach about life and social skills.  I think as I neared my thirtieth year of teaching, a miracle occurred… I started to write children’s books. It was not planned, it just happened to me. So I didn’t really “decide” to become an author. I believe writing came to me…on a beach in the summer. It truly was the strangest experience. I felt a need to write and walked to my car for a pen and post-its (the only thing I had to write on) like a force was pulling me. I wrote my first book that day. And though it’s never been published, this beginning of a new career was a blessing! It allowed me not to fear retirement. Being a teacher was my identity. Now I had something I could do that would enable me to continue to communicate with children. Writing became my new passion.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
I truly believe I wouldn’t be published if I hadn’t become a member of SCBWI, which I was advised to do by a friend as soon as I started writing in 2002. The request from a publisher for stories about divorce and some other issues was listed in the SCBWI Bulletin in 2006. I heard back in a few weeks, that he was interested. It took two years from that time for me to hold my first published book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight? (A Story of Divorce), Boulden Publishing, 2008, in my hand, but it’s still in publication, and it still sells. I feel very fortunate. And by the way, that was the 20th book I had written, but the first to be published.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
No, I got some great responses to my work early on. And I was teaching full-time and just enjoying this new adventure in my life that I loved sharing with my students. Sure, rejections hurt. But I learned that it was all part of the process and I kept persevering. This has worked for me. Imagine if after my first rejections I gave up. Not until I wrote my 20th manuscript did I get my first contract. Despite over 1,300 rejections, I continue to write. I am active in a few critique groups, and I submit avidly. I have an e-book out with a digital library, I had a story bought by Library Sparks Magazine, and my fourth book, the 60th manuscript I wrote, comes out this September 1st with an international publisher. You Know What? came out first in Dutch, Mama, Wist je Dat?, in December 2016. And I recently heard that a Korean publishing company bought the rights as well. In this business you have to hang on to all the good news you can.

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
Yes! I had no idea about the marketing side of writing books. I dealt with being a teacher for 35 years, interacting with others so intensely, that I enjoyed the quiet side of writing, that going inward that writing requires. I didn’t realize I’d have to be selling my books and myself. It’s a bit uncomfortable for me, even though I was completely at home in front of my own classroom of fourth graders.

I’m also surprised that I continue to get rejections from publishers who I’ve already worked with. But I’ve learned that in publishing, whether something is rejected or accepted is all about each individual story. It’s not personal.

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
Join SCBWI, persevere, and read as many books as you can in the genre you write in. I’m an avid reader of picture books. I am a frequent visitor to my local library.

Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I have over 75 picture books that I’ve submitted and many more that I am working on. Every book has gone through revisions with the help of my critique groups. I am open to the suggestions of others as I feel they are given to me for a reason, allowing me to take advantage of ideas that help me write the best books possible. I work hard on each and every sentence to see if I can improve it in some way.

My students are always surprised to hear that authors don’t always get to approve their illustrator and some don’t even see the pictures until the book releases. What was that process like for you? Did anything surprise you when you saw the illustrations?
Yes, I was surprised by the illustrations of my first book. It was not at all what I expected, but it ended up being right for that story. In my first three books, I did get to preview the illustrations and let the publisher know if there were any corrections that needed to be made.  But I did not actually communicate and work with the illustrator. With my new book coming out, it was an amazing process. It was the first publisher who encouraged that the illustrator and author should work together. I absolutely loved the back and forth with the illustrator as well as getting input from the art director. I felt they were always interested in what I thought, and accepted my suggestions. We worked as a team. And I am thrilled with the result!


Thanks so much for talking to me today, Carol. Find out more at www.carolgordonekster.com and connect with her on Twitter @cekster and Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard

You can celebrate the release of You Know What in Cambridge, MA on September 7. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

#IMWAYR August 14, 2017


Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee and Ricki from Unleashing Readers to share all of the reading I've done over the week from picture books to young adult novels. 

As of today I have two more weeks of summer. That doesn't leave a lot of time for reading and planning, but I am doing what I can to get ready. Today I will step foot in my new classroom for the first time. I haven't seen it since the former teacher left so I am a little nervous about what I will find but I'm also excited to begin.

Here's what I read this week. All four books share the theme of self-discovery.


Middle Grade


Did you know that some people see colors when they hear sounds or read? I had never heard of synesthesia until I read the book A Mango-Shaped Space. Mia has always seen the world in color but when she tried to explain her colors to her class in third grade she quickly realized that she was different. For years she decided to hide this difference but when she meets a little boy who also sees the world her way, she realizes it is time to embrace it.


Esperanza is a rich girl who lives with her parents on a ranch in Mexico. When her father is killed by bandits, she and her mother have to give up their wealth to hide as migrant workers in the United States. At first Esperanza refuses to see herself as anything but a rich girl, but when her mother takes ill she realizes that it is time to stop complaining and start working. 


Abby wants to be outside climbing mountains instead of inside doing schoolwork and homework. Unfortunately there are no mountains where she lives in Illinois. When she is forced to choose an extra credit project in order to pass sixth grade, she decides to write to someone who lives in the mountains, specifically in the country of Afghanistan. Sadeed is given the task of writing to Abby but because he is a boy and she is a girl, he has to pretend the letters are written by his sister. As the two get to know each other, Abby's extra credit project becomes much more than a way to get a better grade, it becomes a window into another part of the world and as they get to know each other, they also learn a lot about themselves.


Connor's mother is very sick with cancer. At home he has become the primary caregiver and at school the kids and teachers treat him like he is the one who is dying. When the Yew tree outside his window turns into a monster, Connor and tells Connor that he was the one who called it, Connor thinks the monster is there to help his mother. But saving Connor's mother is not why the monster calls. A very sad book about dealing with illness of a parent and the guilt and isolation that can be attached to the situation.
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Stacy Barnett Mozer is a teacher and a middle grade author. If you like what she's been reading follow her on Goodreads. Please leave a comment below and stop by the blog on Thursday for a new author interview. This week I'll be talking with Carol Gordon Ekster. 

It's Monday, what are you reading? 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Interview with Middle Grade Author Elly Swartz

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for another author interview. Today I talk with Elly Swartz. Elly’s debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG 2016) is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. In 2018, you meet the spunky and big-hearted Frankie in SMART COOKIE (Scholastic, 2018). Frankie is all about family with a dash of mischief and mystery! And then in 2019, say hello to Maggie in GIVE AND TAKE (FSG). 

When did you decide to become an author?
I have been creating stories since I was a little girl, but never with the idea of becoming an author. Simply for the love of story. I remember writing short stories and a lot of really bad poetry at my yellow desk. As a young mom, I dove into storytelling. I would weave adventures with my sons until they fell asleep, the hidden doorway was discovered, or the world was saved. Then, sixteen years ago, I started the journey to writing a children’s book. I wrote my first book. Then I wrote another. And, another. And, another. And, finally, I wrote Finding Perfect. Then Smart Cookie. And now Give and Take. I love telling stories and writing for kids. I love the way the words weave and bounce, and the way the characters unfold. I consider it a true privilege.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
Finding Perfect was my first published book, but not the first book I wrote. It was the fifth book I wrote. The first four are fondly known in my family as practice. Those books taught me how to be a better writer, and for that, I thank them. My journey was 15 years to yes. A long and winding road that happily led me to my agent, Trish Lawrence of Erin Murphy Literary Agency. She believed in me. And that meant everything. After revisions and submissions to about thirty editors, Finding Perfect sold. It was a moment I will always remember. The wait was finally over. My dream had come true. 

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
It was never about giving up writing, but more about accepting the idea that I may not ever get published. Because no matter how many no’s I got, and over 15 years there were many, I always ended up back at my desk, writing.  On a recent school visit, one student asked me why. It was a good question. A valid question. I thought about it for a long time. Ultimately, I realized that I love writing more than I hate rejection. 

I heard you talk about your motivation for writing Finding Perfect at a conference this year. Can you share some of those influences?
Every story I tell, begins with a character that is with me long before I write the first word of the story. With Finding Perfect, that character was Molly. I woke with her in my head and the more I got to know her, the more she tucked into my heart. I knew she was scared and worried, but I also knew that she was braver and stronger than she realized. In this gap, I found the heart of her story. 

I knew Molly had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and I knew she didn’t understand what was happening to her. I also knew, like many with OCD, she saw herself differently than the world saw her. She was scared and vulnerable and struggling. But to the world, she was confident and smart and so capable. This disparity drew me in. I wanted Molly to discover her voice and her strength. I wanted her to find her courage. Happily, she did.

Your new book, Smart Cookie, releases on January 30, 2018. What can you tell us about this new book?
Smart Cookie (Scholastic) is a story about family and secrets and eleven-year-old Frankie who is equal parts spunk and heart.

Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own. 

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
Everything! But the one wonderful stand-out has been the community of educators and librarians who have welcomed me and my books so warmly into the kid lit fold. I am honored to be a part of this gracious community.

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
Write because you love writing. Because you have a story to tell. Because you can’t not write. Then follow your heart and embrace the journey! 

Is there anything else about you would like to tell us?
Thank you for reading. All books. In my heart, I believe books are that unconditional friend, that safety net, that next great adventure. https://www.blogger.com/null

What’s next?
Smart Cookie (Scholastic) comes out January 30, 2018 and then in 2019, get ready to meet Maggie in Give and Take (FSG). Twelve-year-old Maggie. Maggie has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. With the help of her turtle Rufus, a baby named Izzie and the almost all-girls trap shooting team, she begins to understand that people are more than the things that hold their memories. 

Thanks so much for coming by, Elly. You can find out more about Elly Swartz and her books by visiting her online and on twitter. And don’t forget to preorder Smart Cookie!
Teacher friends, here's a Finding Perfect CurriculumGuide. This book is definitely one that you'll want in your classroom.