This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school 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, December 11, 2017

#IMWAYR December 11, 2017

Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee 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 was still reading middle grade Cybil nominees. I also had a chance to read a YA novel by one of my favorite authors.

Here's what I read this week:

Middle Grade

Kat Greene may seem like the average fifth grader, but at home she is facing a big problem. Her mother has become so afraid of germs her hands are raw and she can't leave the house without gloves. Kat knows she should tell her dad or another adult, but what if they take her away from her mom? A much needed story about seeking help and finding a way to say what needs to be said.

Since my students have become obsessed with the Spy School series, I am always looking for great new stories about kids that solve crimes. The Van Gogh Deception is a fun and exciting mystery that is a cross between Jason Bourne and Home Alone. When a boy is found alone in Washington D.C.'s National Gallery of Art with no idea of who he is and how he got there, the authorities place him in foster care as they look for clues. But the authorities aren't the only ones trying to find the boy. As "Art" attempts to rediscover his past  he and his new friend Camille find themselves outsmarting adults as they look for clues.

Young Adult

From the time he was a young boy, Lazlo Strange has been obsessed with the mysterious city of Weep, whose real name disappeared from people's minds like magic. Now, as a young man and junior librarian, he finally has the resources to learn all he can, so that when the inhabitants of Weep come looking for help, Lazlo is able to convince their leader to allow him to come too. Little does Lazlo know that in Weep he will find answers to questions he didn't know he needed to ask. A great new high fantasy for lovers of the genre. 

Did you miss my interview with Magaret Peterson Haddix? Follow the link to leave a comment and be entered with a chance to win a copy of the second book in her Children of Refuge series.

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?

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Interview with Middle Grade and YA Author Margaret Peterson Haddix

Today I have the privilege of interviewing author Margaret Peterson Haddix. She is the author of many critically and popularly acclaimed YA and middle grade novels, including the Children of Exile series, The Missing series, the Under Their Skin series, and the Shadow Children series. A graduate of Miami University (of Ohio), she worked for several years as a reporter for The Indianapolis News. She also taught at the Danville (Illinois) Area Community College. She lives with her family in Columbus, Ohio.

When did you decide to become an author?

I started thinking about it as far back as third grade. I remember making up and writing down my own stories way back then. But I wasn't planning out my whole career as an eight-year-old--it was just something I did for fun. And sometimes after I finished reading a book I loved, I would make up new adventures for the characters, because I missed them like I would miss a friend. Years and years later I realized what I was doing was actually fanfiction, but nobody had invented that term yet when I was a kid. For me, being a writer just seemed to evolve from being a reader.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?

I wrote a novel in college, and my creative writing professors encouraged me to try to get that published. And I did try a little, but quickly realized that I'd outgrown the book, and would have been embarrassed if it ever did appear in print. Then for my first few years out of college, I worked in newspaper journalism and wrote fiction on the side. The journalism jobs were actually great practice for both writing and writing discipline, and some of the newspaper stories I wrote gave me ideas for fiction I wanted to write, too.  By the time I wrote RUNNING OUT OF TIME, I felt a lot more hopeful about its chances. But I still collected a lot of rejection letters and had to do a lot of revision along the way. When I was ready to seek publication, I mostly used the "try everything" approach, submitting to agents and publishers both. (This was in the early 1990s, when that approach made more sense.) Ultimately, it helped me to go to a writers conference, where I met both agents and editors; a contact I made there led to me getting my first agent, and she was the one who sent my book to David Gale at Simon & Schuster. He and I ended up working together on more than forty books.

You have written a number of series, as well as a bunch of standalone novels. Do you find the development process different? Do you know you are writing a series when you start book one or does that happen later?

Two of my series began with books that I thought were only stand-alones. With the first one, AMONG THE HIDDEN, it took a lot of other people (including my editor and agent) to convince me that a series was possible; I truly had to shift gears as a writer to see interlocking stories there. With the second, JUST ELLA, I always felt there were possibilities for continuing the story somehow, but about a decade passed before I saw how I wanted to do that. All my other series were planned as series from the beginning. Writing a series vs. a stand-alone is a different process. With a standalone, I try to avoid tangents and detours that would be a distraction from telling that book's main story. With a series, I'm constantly looking around at possible detours and thinking, "Is this going to be important in a future book in the series?"

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?

Oh, yes. Pre-publication, this is how I pictured life as an author: I'd spend my time alone at my computer, grappling with ideas and always searching for the right word. It's true that I do plenty of that, and I love it. But I never expected to also spend a lot of time traveling and meeting/talking with kids, educators, librarians, booksellers, parents, etc. I've now been to all 50 states, and some of my trips to about 35 of them were for book travel. I've also spoken about my books in China, Honduras, Germany, Spain, and Canada. If you count Skype visits as well, I've gotten to interact with kids in countries as far away and remote as Tajikistan. And all of this has been an unexpected delight. I love to travel and love to meet new people. It's allowed me to keep some of my favorite parts of being a newspaper reporter (getting to talk to different people, whose lives are very different from mine in some cases) without having the stress and challenges that I didn't like in that job.

The other unexpected joy has been getting to meet and befriend other authors. We are a strange tribe, and it's nice to feel that solidarity with people who also think deeply and care passionately about both the fate of humanity and grammatical minutia such as the Oxford comma.

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?

Savor the journey. Starting out (and who am I kidding? Lots of times even now) I would stress myself out trying to plan or predict the direction of my career; I wanted to be able to plot my life the same way I plotted my characters' lives. But that's not possible. And many of the really wonderful things that have happened have been more serendipitous. When I look back, it's a lot of little moments that have truly mattered: the burst of intense joy that comes with suddenly understanding what should happen next in a story, the glow of hearing a reader quietly tell me what one of my books meant to her or him. This profession comes with a heaping portion of self-doubt--most writers have to pass through a lot of rejection on the way to their first acceptance, and even success is no guarantee of future success. So celebrate every victory along the way, constantly look for ways to grow as a writer, and surround yourself with people who will help build you up, not tear you down. And make sure you are that encouraging person for others in your life--whether they are fellow writers or not.

Thank you so much for joining me today! For more information about Margaret Peterson Haddix and her books, visit her at HaddixBooks.com. You can check out my review of Children of Refuge, the second book in the Children of Exile trilogy. Comment for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Monday, December 4, 2017

#IMWAYR December 4, 2017

Each week I join Jen from Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee 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

Amy Anne is a shy girl who never says what she thinks until her favorite book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is banned from the school library. Along with learning how to stand up for books, she learns to stand up for herself. A wonderful story of book love, personal growth, and freedom.

When Anjali's decides to risk her life to join Mahatma Gandi's freedom movement, everything she thought she knew changes. Set in India in 1942, this book will give kids a window into a time period and struggle they probably don't know much about. 

When Edwy is returned home after living in a mysterious place called Fredtown, he thinks he is going to get to know his parents for the first time. Instead, they send him away to a place called Refuge City to live with a brother and sister he has never met. Life in Refuge City seems too good to be true and as Edwy starts to learn more, he realizes he can't go forward until he settles some details of his past and finds his friend Rosi, who he has left behind. This story is full of unexpected twists and turns. It is the second book in The Children of Exile trilogy, but can be read as a first. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

Come back to the blog on Thursday to see my interview with the author of Children of Refuge, Magaret Peterson Haddix.

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?