Saturday, January 15, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 148: Author Tina Wells

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Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Tina Wells and I discuss the first book in her newest series, HONEST JUNE, as well as how she arranged for an exclusive distribution period through Target Stores. We talk about how she founded her first company at age 16 and built a successful career as a marketer before she became a writer. She shares specifics about how this has allowed her to research her demographic and incorporate reader feedback to ensure future books will resonate with tween readers. We also talk about series planning, being one of six children, the importance of authentic representation, and so much more.

Tina Wells is a business strategist, advisor, author, and the founder of RLVNT Media, a multimedia content venture serving entrepreneurs, tweens and culturists with authentic representation. Tina has been recognized by Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business, Essence’s 40 Under 40, and more. For over two decades she led Buzz Marketing Group, an agency she founded at age 16 with clients like Dell, The Oprah Winfrey Network, Kroger, Apple, P+G, Johnson & Johnson, and American Eagle that Tina connected with her network of 30,000 buzzSpotters® and 7,000 “momSpotters”, all influential millennials and passionate end-consumers. Tina is also the author of seven books, including the best-selling tween fiction series Mackenzie Blue, its new spinoff series, The Zee Files, and the marketing handbook, Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right. Tina’s board positions have included THINX, the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, The Franklin Institute and Young Entrepreneur’s Council. She has also served as the Academic Director for Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World Program at the University of Pennsylvania and is a member of the 2017 Class of Henry Crown Fellows within the Aspen Global Leadership Network at the Aspen Institute.

Middle school is hard—but it's way harder when a fairy godmother puts you under a truth-telling spell!

June has always been a people-pleaser, telling harmless little lies to make her friends and family happy. She's convinced being honest about her feelings will only hurt the people she loves!
Until, out of nowhere, a secret fairy godmother appears to "bless" her with the ability to only tell the truth! Seriously?! As if June didn’t have enough to worry about!
Now, June has no choice but to be honest about how she feels. And the truth is: what June feels is stressed out. Middle school is no joke—between field hockey, friend drama, and her parents' high expectations, June feels so overwhelmed that sometimes it’s hard to breathe.
When everything spirals out of control, will June find freedom in telling the whole truth and nothing but—or is she destined to battle the curse for the rest of her life? 

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 147: Authors Adama Bah, Salvador Gómez-Colón, and Freshta Tori Jan

 To watch new episodes as they air, go to YouTube and subscribe.

Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Authors Adama Bah, Salvador Gómez-Colón, Freshta Tori Jan, and I discuss their debut novels in the I, WITNESS series. In ACCUSED, Adama Bah recounts being arrested and detained by the FBI under the false accusation that she was a potential suicide bomber. In HURRICANE, Salvador writes about his experience during Hurricane Maria and raising money for Puerto Rico in the aftermath. In COURAGE, Freshta describes being persecuted in Afghanistan during a genocide. We discuss how writing about their trauma helps to put it into perspective and helps them heal.


Adama Bah
’s story has been featured in Adamaa short documentary, and Patriot Acts, a book about post 9/11 injustices. This is the first time Adama’s story will be told for middle grade readers. She now lives in New York with her husband and family.


Salvador Gómez-Colón
 is a climate resilience advocate and the founder of Light and Hope for Puerto Rico. His work has been covered by TIME , CNN, the Guardian, and the New York Times, among others. Salvador is currently a student at Yale. He lives in San Juan, Puerto Rico.


Freshta Tori Jan
 is a student at Calvin College, the founder of Sew True Products, and serves as a public speaker for marginalized groups. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Launching a propulsive middle grade nonfiction series, a young woman shares her harrowing experience of being wrongly accused of terrorism.

Adama Bah grew up in East Harlem after immigrating from Conakry, Guinea, and was deeply connected to her community and the people who lived there. But as a thirteen-year-old after the events of September 11, 2001, she began experiencing discrimination and dehumanization as prejudice toward Muslim people grew. Then, on March 24, 2005, FBI agents arrested Adama and her father. Falsely accused of being a potential suicide bomber, Adama spent weeks in a detention center being questioned under suspicion of terrorism.

With sharp and engaging writing, Adama recounts the events surrounding her arrest and its impact on her life―the harassment, humiliation, and persecution she faced for crimes she didn’t commit. Accused brings forward a crucial and unparalleled first-person perspective of American culture post-9/11 and the country’s discrimination against Muslim Americans, and heralds the start of a new series of compelling narrative nonfiction by young people, for young people.

Launching a propulsive middle grade nonfiction series, a young man shares how he combated Puerto Rico’s public health emergency after Hurricane Maria.

Suffering heavy damage in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017, Puerto Rican communities lacked access to clean water and electricity. Salvador Gómez-Colón couldn’t ignore the basic needs of his homeland, and knew that nongovernmental organizations and larger foreign philanthropies could only do so much. With unstoppable energy and a deep knowledge of local culture, Salvador founded Light and Hope for Puerto Rico and raised more than $100,000 to purchase and distribute solar-powered lamps and hand-powered washing machines to households in need.

With a voice that is both accessible and engaging, Salvador recalls living through the catastrophic storm and grappling with the destruction it left behind. Hurricane brings forward a captivating first-person account of strength, resilience, and determination, and heralds the start of a new series of compelling narrative nonfiction by young people, for young people.

Continuing this propulsive middle grade nonfiction series, a young woman once persecuted by the Taliban shares her journey to becoming a community activist.

As a girl and as part of an ethnic minority in Afghanistan, Freshta Tori Jan was persecuted relentlessly. Her family faced kidnappings and daily murder attempts on the bus, on the way to school, in the workplace, and beyond. Freshta’s school was shut down by the Taliban, and many of her friends were murdered and shot. Her journey through poverty, terrorism, and other forms of injustice has enabled her to be a voice for those unable to share their stories and those unable to receive the opportunities she has sought. She believes in empowering youth in order to bring about change and be the leaders of today and tomorrow.

With a voice that is both accessible and engaging, Freshta brings forward a captivating first-person account of strength, resilience, and determination, and delivers compelling narrative nonfiction by young people, for young people. 

Saturday, January 1, 2022

NINJA STUFF: Author, Year Eight (2021)

Here we are, Esteemed Reader, another year of our life in the rearview. For me, 2021 was one of the better ones, and not JUST by comparison to 2020, although that was part of it. I can honestly say I've been a happier person in 2021 than I was for the four years before it.

If you yearn to know my favorite media of 2021, it's the bottom section of this post. And don't worry, there is no political section. I'm going to (mostly) skip politics this year. Frequently, Mrs. Ninja and I have made the comment, "do you know what the President tweeted today," so the other could respond, "I have no idea" and we could both laugh with sweet relief. In fact, I've stopped watching the news and listening to political programs (mostly). I've replaced them with additional audiobooks and I've been much happier for it. 

I know our politicians are openly corrupt. What's ruminating on it going to accomplish?

I addressed the darkness of the insurrection and the ongoing pandemic in my post, It's Not an S: Zack Snyder's Justice League, the Nature of God, and the Persistence of Hope. I would consider that post to be the first part of this one if you're curious.

But you don't need to read it if you hated the Snyder Cut (we can still be friends). The TLDR is this: After witnessing Eugene Goodman diverting the insurrectionists and a couple mind-blowing personal events, I was reminded there is a God, however you choose to define Them. It didn't get me back to church. After seeing that "Jesus Saves" banner beside that gallows on January 6th, I'm less interested in formal church or dogma than I've ever been.

I doubt I'm any closer to understanding or even being able to define God, and that's okay. If there was a human capable of such understanding, no one would be more shocked than me to discover I was that human. No matter. There are so, so many things I don't understand, and it doesn't stop me feeling my way through the best I can in my blind ignorance. It is enough for me to know there is a God.

And so, in 2021, for the first time since I was much, much younger, I have lived with faith and Blessed Assurance. I also published the final-ish Banneker Bones adventure, which I honestly thought was the last book I'd ever write until I went ahead and started writing another less than two months later:)

The thing about religious talk is that it's all fun and games when we're pondering the mysteries of the universe. But sooner or later, folks start thinking up formal rules they're mostly pretty sure were divinely inspired: God told me that what you're doing is wicked, and you should actually be doing this (or I'll wipe out your whole village).

Dress this way, eat only these things, constantly attend events to be inundated with propaganda, sing to our liking about your belief you're going to hold in your heart, only be friends with people like us, bind yourself to our tribe, don't read those books with their dangerous notions of science, mutilate your genitalia thusly, etc.

I'm not going to preach at you, Esteemed Reader, pro or anti faith. It's perfectly fine with me if you prefer not to believe. Maybe you know something I don't (usually the case). Really smart person and one of my favorite writers, Hugh Howey, and I chatted a bit about religion recently and that conversation (you'll be able to hear it January 29th) has already got me reframing my own thoughts a bit. But these yearly posts are about my journey as an author and as a human. And this year, I've adopted a slogan I heard shouted from many a pulpit in my youth: live with an attitude of gratitude. 

It's amazing what surviving 2020 can do for a person. Mrs. Ninja and I have made some major changes for our health, both physical and mental. Little Ninja went back to actual school after three semesters of virtual school. I'm still wearing a mask and not leaving the house nearly as much as I did in the "before times." But I'm no longer bracing for the imminent apocalypse. I've begun to plan for events as far as six months out.

And everything is in much clearer perspective regarding what matters and what doesn't. 2021 has been the year of the great unclenching.

One week in pre-quarantine 2020 I was leading a virtual fiction workshop, which meant I had a pile of student stories I needed to critique, and I'd agreed to substitute teach for multiple days, and there was a political outrage on my mind, and my son wasn't sleeping (so I wasn't sleeping), and the notes from my critique group had been extra... insightful, and I'd managed to schedule three podcast recordings in one week. I'm so happy so many wonderful people want to come on the show, I schedule their recordings when it's convenient to them, though I no longer record more than two in a week.

The podcast is a lot of work. There's usually a book I need to read beforehand and I always research my guest ahead of time. I'm talking to some of the greatest writers who've ever walked the face of the earth, so I do my best to use that opportunity wisely and ask informed questions. 

At the end of this year, we reached 146 episodes. They couldn't all be recorded when it was most convenient, or when everything in my life was calm. I've recorded episodes when I've been feeling great and when I'm sick (this is showbusiness, so take a Dayquil and get your butt on that stage). I've only canceled on a guest once when Little Ninja ended up staying home from school and I had no one to watch him.

I'm convinced I've made a mess of every interview. I'm awkward and ask rambling questions that occasionally, accidentally border on rude. I also mentally take responsibility for guest behavior, which is irrational and unhelpful and still something I do. It's only once I listen to the episodes after recording them that I can relax and appreciate how really special the show is because despite me, the guests are amazing.

So, getting back to that week in 2020: I'm dead on my feet and overwhelmed and the last thing I wanted to do at eight at night was record another podcast. It was an author I really wanted to talk to, I just didn't want to talk to her right then. And she sensed it. She asked me what was wrong, I told her a brief summation of my week, and she said, with genuine concern, "I hope whatever's bothering you gets better."

And then we recorded and it's a tremendous episode because she's a tremendous author who said a lot of tremendous things. But I deeply regret that for a moment, I'd made it about me. The show's not about me. And more, I regret the attitude that led to that moment in the first place.

I'm under no delusion that listeners from around the world are tuning in just to hear me talk. I try not to think about how many people are finding the show every week so as not to tremble in fear every episode.  My only hope is that I don't dissuade Esteemed Audience from listening to my amazing guests. And I'm still in shock when I find I'm sitting across (virtually) from so many incredible people, including a childhood hero like Katherine Paterson (still can't believe that one's real).

So yeah, the show is a lot of work and it sometimes cost me hours when I could instead be playing Rachet and Clank. But don't you shed a single tear for me, Esteemed Reader. No one is more confused or delighted by the success of the show than I am. If the show went away tomorrow, I would still be thrilled to have had so many enlightening conversations. It's been an honor and a privilege, and I'll keep it doing it as long as I keep getting away with it:)

May I never again take for granted how fortunate I've been. It's not that I have to do the show. No one's making me and God knows there are plenty of other podcasts out there. It's that I get to the show. The least I can do to show my appreciation for the opportunity is to maintain an attitude of gratitude.

And the thing about talking to so many writers who are smarter than I am is that I'm getting a little smarter for it. I've felt intimidated in the past because as of this posting, I've not won a Newberry. What's the holdup!?!? Banneker Bones 3 was great:) And I'm a long way from being anywhere as successful as most of the guests I'm talking to. I shouldn't let that intimidate me, but I'm only human. Getting better about it, though.

And here's the thing: super successful writers don't appear to be walking around bathed in heavenly light, transcended from this world and high above the rest of us. I've talked with enough of them now to know this is more than merely conceptually true. 

I've been guilty in the past of thinking that if I just suffered long enough and outworked other writers, eventually I'd be successful and then I'd be happy. And success makes me happy, but I'm happy right now as I type this, despite my tragic state of being Newberry-less.

I'm not going to call out anyone specific, but if you listen to the show, you know some of the writers who've been open about their experiences. There appears to be no amount of money or awards that completely insulates a writer from being human. Humans have good days and bad days and insecurities and faults and health issues and family drama and all the rest of it. Success does not equal permanent happiness. That's a capitalist myth and a dangerous one I've bought into at different times in my life. "If I'm good enough, one day they'll let me have healthcare."

Okay, I'll call out one writer specifically: Katherine Paterson told me she feels that every book she finishes will be the end of her career. That blew my mind, but she said it (watch her in the video below). And I thought to myself, if Katherine Paterson hasn't completely gotten over her insecurity as a writer, there's probably not much hope for me. Also, projecting a false confidence that I'm completely over my insecurities might prevent me from one day being as good a writer as Katherine Patterson (a boy can dream). SOME feelings of insecurity can be motivating for improvement.

The realization that there is no grand author finish line, not realized from any one writer, but from the collective, has calmed me considerably.

2021 has been a time of appreciating what I have. Because during those years I was writing without a major contract or a huge publicity campaign, or, painful sigh, a Newberry, I was doing some other awesome things. I married the best woman on Earth, for instance. I made some wonderful friends and had a little boy I think might just be the greatest little boy who ever lived. And I now own two PlayStations and three Nintendos  (four if you count my childhood Gameboy) and all the action figures for Zack Snyder's Justice League, which I keep in my climate-controlled house with a full fridge.

There've been kings and queens who haven't lived as well as I live. Feeling bad about my life only makes sense if I compare it to an imaginary ideal. If I take a look around the world right now, and certainly the world of the past, I can see that I'm objectively living one of the greatest lives that's ever been possible in the history of humanity. I've never known true hunger or war or a great illness. I survived childhood. That alone is wining a cosmic lottery.

And so, in 2021, every time I've found myself thinking negative thoughts, I've forced myself to name five things I'm grateful for. And I've always been able to find them. And I've been able to relax and cheer up. I don't need to fret about my success or lack there of. I've already won. If I died tomorrow, that would strike me as a bit soon, but I'd still have to admit I had a great run. 

In 2022, we're getting two (TWO!) movies with Batman in them. If I want to beat myself up for not having a Newberry, that's my choice, but truthfully, if I could only have one, I'd prefer my PS5:) I have so much to be grateful for. And when I see the objective truth of that, it's hard not to walk around with a smile on my face or to appreciate the life I'm living.

In my defense, part of my job as a writer is to imagine, "wouldn't it be better right now if I were wearing a jetpack and had an EMP blast rifle to shoot giant robot bees out of the sky?" But I digress.

This year, I wrote a new book without jetpacks, but with lots of insects (can't get enough of them, apparently). I didn't work on it every day, just when I had time and wanted to have fun. And I wrote the story that brought me joy

It's going to be awhile before I tell you more about that bug story as there's no rush to publish this one. Don't get me wrong,  I love it (sooooo much) and can't wait for you to read it. I've got some special plans for this book that will slow down the process a bit, but there's no rush.

I've written it not because I had to, but because I had the opportunity and I appreciated the happiness writing it brought me. It should win a Newberry for sure, but even if nobody gives me an award, I had the joy of writing the story of my heart and knowing I've got some regular Esteemed Readers it might bring some joy to as well.

I've already won.

Esteemed Reader, I'm wishing you an attitude of gratitude in 2022 and beyond. Trust me. It makes all the difference.


That's all I have to say, but I usually include my favorite media of the year in these annual posts. If you're still reading and you're curious, I'll do that now.

I never list my favorite books. If you've been listening to the podcast, you know what I've been reading. I will shout out one book that hardly needs my endorsement: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It's my favorite in Suzanne Collins' series since the original Hunger Games. It also came out in 2020, but I read it this year and it inspired me as great art always does. I know it's divided fans, but I admire Collins' ability to make Snow relatable and empathetic, while convincingly showing us how the world he was born into shaped him into the monster we remember and love. Now let's get a Hamish origin story, please.

Many of my favorites in 2021 came out in previous years. For example, my favorite video game of the year was Skyrim, which just celebrated it's 10th anniversary. What can I say? I tried to play it when it first came out and it crashed my computer. I tried again on Switch and its stupid ancient save system ate my game before I got very far. But this year I played Skyrim in VR and finished it (still doing side missions, though). Fighting dragons the size of a house was an experience I'm going to treasure forever. My second favorite game in VR was Borderlands 2, which I also missed when it first released.

Because of the many pandemic-related delays, the only games from this year I really loved were Guardians of the Galaxy (filled me with joy), Psychonauts 2, Far Cry 6 (I wish Guapo the murder crocodile sidekick was in every game), and the remastered Super Mario 3D World/Bowser's Fury. 

But I discovered and loved the older games Mafia III (that one had me doing research to verify its reality and was genuinely educational), Astro Bot Rescue Mission, Trover Saves the World (been laughing at it's depiction of Heaven all year), and Until Dawn: Rush of Blood. Oh, and I finally played God of War after IGN users voted it the best game of all time (not hardly). It's no Red Dead Redemption II, or even a lesser Mario, but it was very pretty and fun. I've since been whispering to myself: "Don't be sorry. Be better."

I watched even less television and fewer movies this year (who has time with so many great books and videogames), but I will probably never again love a movie as much as I loved Zack Snyder's Justice League (wrote a whole post about it). A close second was Ghostbusters: Afterlife, which was the ultimate wish fulfillment fantasy of my 80's childhood spent yearning to bust ghosts with the guys in my small town. I also really enjoyed The Suicide Squad (shockingly emotional in the middle of a Starro fight),  The Harder They Fall, West Side Story, Spider-Man: Far From Home (had me at hello), The Power of the Dog (gotta love a Jane Campion film where characters carry a piano through mud), Don't Look Up, Concrete Cowboy (G. Neri said it would be good, but it was great), and Worth.

It was a year of Michael Keaton. Not only was Worth excellent, Dopesick was about as perfect an indictment of capitalism and the disease of our society as I've ever seen. Don't kid yourself that the Sacklers are the only ones willing to slaughter their fellow Americans for cash. The wealthy are not to be trusted. The best minute and a half of film I saw all year was that trailer for The Flash. Just hearing Keaton's voice over a few notes of Elfman's original Batman score was enough to light up every nerdy cell in my body in a way only the second trailer for The Force Awakens has ever done.

As for television, I loved Mare of Easttown (of course), Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Midnight Mass, Solar Opposites, Rick and Morty (always), and The Problem with Jon Stewart. Two shows I really enjoyed along they way even though the wheels came off before the end were Them and Superman and Lois. My favorite show of the year didn't come out this year, but 2021 is when I discovered For All Mankind. I binged two seasons in a month and was then filled with regret because there isn't a third season yet.

Thassit for this year, except to reiterate: How can I look at that amazing list of media I consumed in 2021 and not be grateful to have been alive?

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Clip Show 2021

 To watch new episodes as they air, go to YouTube and subscribe.

Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

It’s the fourth mega-sized Middle Grade Ninja clips show, featuring snippets from episodes 101 through 146 that aired in 2021.

New episodes are scheduled to return January 8th.

Until then, enjoy this compilation of clips from conversations with AUTHORS Christina Li, Caroline Gertler, Rucker Moses, Theo Gangi, Donna Galanti, Mike Johnston, Lisa Fipps, Nick Goss, Esabella Strickland, Carrie Seim, Dorothy A. Winsor, Carole Boston Weatherford, Kyle Lukoff, Luke Cunningham, David LaRochelle, Mike Wohnoutka, Alane Adams, Susan McCormick, Robert Beatty, Payal Doshi, Jasmine Warga, Erin Entrada Kelly, Ali Standish, Nicole Kornher-Stace, Melissa Hope, Alyson Gerber, Kathleen Burkinshaw, John David Anderson, Chris Negron, Sara Pennypacker, Jessica Vitalis, Rajani LaRocca, Katherine Paterson, Gayle Forman, Sarah J. Schmitt, Diana Rodriguez Wallach, Ross Carley, Karen Phillips, Mary Ann Koontz, Elizabeth A. San Miguel, Diana Catt, Tony Perona, Elizabeth Perona, David Neilsen, Michelle Jabès Corpora, Samantha M. Clark, Alda P. Dobbs, Aura Lewis, Emily Barth Isler, and Seanan McGuire, LITERARY AGENTS Saba Sulaiman, Holly McGhee, Mary C. Moore, Marie Lamba, and Becky LeJune, EDITORS Sara-Jayne Slack, Sailaja N. Joshi, Amy Maranville, and Leila Sales.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 146: Author Seanan McGuire

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Authors Seanan McGuire, Mira Grant, A. Deborah Baker, and I discuss how they’re all Seanan McGuire and how she transitions between genres and intended age groups. We discuss her years as a standup comedian and how she transitioned to an award-winning author, her love of dice and My Little Ponies, her creative process, how she plans a series and keeps continuity, our mutual love of Stephen King’s It (the book, not the movie), why Jurassic World made her feel unwelcome to her favorite franchise, the critical importance of representation, knowing which stories are yours to tell, filking, and so much more. Oh, and she takes me on a tour of her haunted library, so don’t miss that.

Seanan McGuire was born in Martinez, California, and raised in a wide variety of locations, most of which boasted some sort of dangerous native wildlife. Despite her almost magnetic attraction to anything venomous, she somehow managed to survive long enough to acquire a typewriter, a reasonable grasp of the English language, and the desire to combine the two. The fact that she wasn't killed for using her typewriter at three o'clock in the morning is probably more impressive than her lack of death by spider-bite.

Often described as a vortex of the surreal, many of Seanan's anecdotes end with things like "and then we got the anti-venom" or "but it's okay, because it turned out the water wasn't that deep." She has yet to be defeated in a game of "Who here was bitten by the strangest thing?," and can be amused for hours by almost anything. "Almost anything" includes swamps, long walks, long walks in swamps, things that live in swamps, horror movies, strange noises, musical theater, reality TV, comic books, finding pennies on the street, and venomous reptiles. Seanan may be the only person on the planet who admits to using Kenneth Muir's Horror Films of the 1980s as a checklist.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye urban fantasies, the InCryptid urban fantasies, and several other works both stand-alone and in trilogies or duologies. In case that wasn't enough, she also writes under the pseudonym "Mira Grant." For details on her work as Mira, check out

In her spare time, Seanan records CDs of her original filk music (see the Albums page for details). She is also a cartoonist, and draws an irregularly posted autobiographical web comic, "With Friends Like These...", as well as generating a truly ridiculous number of art cards. Surprisingly enough, she finds time to take multi-hour walks, blog regularly, watch a sickening amount of television, maintain her website, and go to pretty much any movie with the words "blood," "night," "terror," or "attack" in the title. Most people believe she doesn't sleep.

Seanan lives in an idiosyncratically designed labyrinth in the Pacific Northwest, which she shares with her cats, Alice and Thomas, a vast collection of creepy dolls and horror movies, and sufficient books to qualify her as a fire hazard. She has strongly-held and oft-expressed beliefs about the origins of the Black Death, the X-Men, and the need for chainsaws in daily life.

Years of writing blurbs for convention program books have fixed Seanan in the habit of writing all her bios in the third person, so as to sound marginally less dorky. Stress is on the "marginally." It probably doesn't help that she has so many hobbies.

Seanan was the winner of the 2010 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and her novel Feed (as Mira Grant) was named as one of Publishers Weekly's Best Books of 2010. In 2013 she became the first person ever to appear five times on the same Hugo Ballot.

Writing as A. Deborah Baker, New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Seanan McGuire introduces readers to a world of talking trees and sarcastic owls, of dangerous mermaids and captivating queens in Over the Woodward Wall, an exceptional tale for readers who are young at heart.

If you trust her you’ll never make it home…

A 2021 Locus Award Finalist!

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 145: Author Emily Barth Isler

 To watch new episodes as they air, go to YouTube and subscribe.

Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Emily Barth Isler and I discuss her childhood as an actress featured on ONE LIFE TO LIVE and elsewhere as well as performing for the Clinton White House, and how she eventually transitioned to the family business of writing, the “safe career choice.” We also talk about her new novel, AFTERMATH, how to process trauma through writing, how to take action on school shootings, how to set goals for your fiction to become a more effective author, and so much more.

Emily Barth Isler
 lives in Los Angeles, California, with her husband and their two kids. A former child actress, she performed all over the world in theatre, film, and TV. In addition to books, Emily writes about sustainable, eco-friendly beauty and skincare, and has also written web sitcoms, parenting columns, and personal essays. She has a B.A. in Film Studies from Wesleyan University, and really, really loves television. Find her at

"This book is a gift to the culture." ―Amy Schumer, writer, actor, and activist

After her brother's death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school―especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family's own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.

Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 144: Author Aura Lewis

To watch new episodes as they air, go to YouTube and subscribe.

Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Aura Lewis and I discuss the process of writing and illustrating her newest book, SPECTACULAR SISTERS: AMAZING STORIES OF SISTERS FROM AROUND THE WORLD. We talk about how she went from being a freelance artist to working in publishing, the role her MFA played in that transition, designing the credit sequence for the Hulu Show MRS. AMERICA, the importance of focusing on your passion, choosing to be an artist every day, who we might’ve been in past lives, and so much more.

Aura Lewis is an author-illustrator and designer with an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She is inspired by fashion from around the world, playful color, vintage design and popular culture. Aura’s work is featured in
books for children and adults, on television, stationery, ad campaigns, murals and editorial publications.

Her publishers include Harper Collins, Hachette, Abrams, Sterling Publishing, Chronicle Books, Quarto, Scholastic and Simon and Schuster.

Her Illustration clients include Hallmark, Disney, The New York Times, Hawaii Business Magazine, Flow Magazine, yU+co.

Starring the special bond between sisters throughout history, with beautiful full-color illustrations, this fun and inspiring 208-page biography collection from author-illustrator Aura Lewis is perfect for fans of Rad American Women A-Z and the Women in Art/Science/Sports series.

Sisters are spectacular! They can be your biggest cheerleaders, your most trusted confidants, and your much-needed fashion advisors (as long as they’re not stealing your clothes!).

But sisterhood can also be complex: full of rivalry, jealousy, and not-so-friendly competition. From pop culture sensations like the Kardashians/Jenners to civil rights activists Coretta Scott King and Edythe Scott Bagley to tennis superstars Venus and Serena Williams, these sisters—and so many others throughout history—have not only impacted art, culture, and society, but also illustrate the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood.

At the end of the day, whether you’re mortal enemies or best friends, spectacular sisters will always have your back. Share this book at home or in the classroom. It's a great source for capsule biographies of a wide variety of powerful women.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 143: Author Alda P. Dobbs

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Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Alda P. Dobbs and I discuss writing about the Mexican Revolution as well as her own family’s history in her new novel, BAREFOOT DREAMS OF PETRA LUNA, and then translating that story into a second language. We talk about how Alda gained confidence as a writer, the advice she received from Avi, how she applied for grants and became “hardheaded,” found her literary agent, sold a book and wrote another during a pandemic, and so much more. Oh, and I accuse her of back engineering flying saucers while she was in the air force:)

Alda P. Dobbs
is the author of the upcoming novel Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna. She was born in a small town in northern Mexico but moved to San Antonio, Texas as a child. Alda studied physics and worked as an engineer before pursuing her love of storytelling. She’s as passionate about connecting children to their past, their communities, different cultures and nature as she is about writing. Alda lives with her husband and two children outside Houston, Texas.

“No hay mal que dure cien años, ni cuerpo que lo aguante.”
- Dicho Mexicano

“There’s no curse that’ll last a hundred years, nor a body that can withstand it.”
- Mexican Proverb

In 1913, during the Mexican Revolution, twelve-year-old Petra Luna and her family flee their burning village. They cross desert plains and battlefields, desperate to escape the wrath of the Federales. Every night, when Petra closes her eyes, she hangs tight to her dreams. In one of them, she can read, and she reads everything – books, newspapers, EVERYTHING. But all of her dreams will have to wait as long as she stays true to her promise to Papa.

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna was inspired by the experiences the author’s great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 142: Authors Michelle Jabès Corpora and Samantha M. Clark

To watch new episodes as they air, go to YouTube and subscribe.

Middle Grade Ninja is available on SoundcloudStitcheritunesPodbeanPodblasterRadioPublicblubrryListen NotesGoogle Play, and many other fine locations.

Michelle Jabès Corpora, Samantha M. Clark, and I discuss their new series AMERICAN HORSE TALES. We talk about Michelle's experience as an editor for Harper Collins, a concept developer, and a ghostwriter, as well as Samantha's experience as a journalist, a managing editor, and the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. We also discuss comparisons between the Dust Bowl and the 2020 pandemic, working in Hollywood, gaining the confidence to be an author, treating writing like a job, two ghost stories, our ideal superpowers, and so much more.

Michelle Jabès Corpora is a writer, editor, community organizer, and martial artist. In addition to working in the publishing industry for more than a dozen years as an editor and concept developer, she has ghostwritten five novels in a long-running middle grade mystery series. American Horse Tales: The Dust Bowl is Michelle’s first novel under her own name. Her second novel, The Fog of War: Martha Gellhorn at the D-Day Landings (Pushkin Press), also publishes in 2021.

Samantha M. Clark loves stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances because if four ordinary brothers and sisters can find a magical world at the back of a wardrobe, why can’t she? Until she finds her own real-life Narnia, she writes about other ordinary children and teens who’ve stumbled into a wardrobe of their own. She grew up in different countries around the world and now lives with her husband and two funny dogs in Austin, Texas. Samantha is the regional advisor for the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators and she explores wardrobes every chance she gets. Her debut novel, The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast, was lauded as “an unforgettable, life-affirming tale” by Booklist.

Set in the 1930s Oklahoma, this American Horse Tale is the story of a young girl who makes the difficult decision to leave her family and move to California so she can stay with her horse.

A young girl named Ginny and her family are dealing with the hardships of the Great Depression, and in order to survive, her dad decides they must sell their horse, and Ginny's best friend, Thimble. But Ginny will do anything in order to find a way for them to stay together, and chooses to leave her family in Oklahoma and travel west to California. The Dust Bowl is part of a series of books written by several authors highlighting the unique relationships between young girls and their horses.

Set in modern-day California, this American Horse Tale is the story of a young girl who, along with her family's horse, is destined for the big screen.

Juniper is a young girl who dreams of making it big in the movies along with her horse, Able. In particular, Juniper is obsessed with getting Able onto her favorite television show, Castle MacAvoy, and will do anything, even slay dragons, to make that happen. Hollywood is part of a series of books written by several authors highlighting the unique relationships between young girls and their horses.