Thursday, September 12, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 41: Author John Claude Bemis

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John Claude Bemis and I talk about a little bit of everything: art, music, elementary education, and, of course, literature. He gives a preview of his class on revision in the second half of our conversation that every writer should hear and shares some fantastic tips for creating a great first draft. We also talk a lot about Pinocchio and his unique twist on the classic tale in his Davinci-Punk series OUT OF ABATON, focusing on the first book, THE WOODEN PRINCE.

Click here to see John Claude Bemis face the 7 Questions.




An inspiring speaker and entertaining performer, John Claude Bemis is the author of The Wooden Prince, Lord of Monsters, the Clockwork Dark trilogy, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky, and Flora and the Runaway Rooster. He received the Excellence in Teaching Award from UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Education for his work in the schools as an author-educator and served as North Carolina’s Piedmont Laureate. John lives with his wife and daughter in Hillsborough, NC.







The automa Pinocchio has always been duty-bound to serve in the floating palace of Venice's emperor. So when Pinocchio finds himself locked in a trunk and delivered to a new master-a wanted criminal and alchemist named Geppetto-he is curious about everything around him. But most curious is the way Pinocchio seems to be changing from a wooden servant into a living, human boy. Before Geppetto and Pinocchio can uncover the mystery surrounding the automa's transformation, Pinocchio is stolen away. Determined to find Geppetto again, Pinocchio begins a harrowing journey across the Empire, where danger in the form of half-beast outlaws and winged airmen abounds for a lost automa.

Meanwhile, Princess Lazuli, the daughter of the ruler of a magical kingdom called Abaton, is also on a quest through the emperor's territory. Her father, Prester John, has been captured by the Venetian Empire, and Lazuli is desperate to rescue him. With the emperor's airmen closing in fast, Lazuli learns the only hope for saving her father — and her beloved home — lies in Pinocchio and Geppetto.




Monday, September 9, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 40: Author Annie Sullivan

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What don't Annie Sullivan and I talk about in this extensive episode? We discuss her new novel, TIGER QUEEN, of course, but we also talk about her travels to all seven continents and her cage-diving with great white sharks, which leads to our mutual love for bad shark movies. We discuss teaching at the Indiana Writers Center, Professor Dan Barden of Butler University, and all things Hoosier author. The second half of this episode is an in-depth discussion of book marketing through social media you won't want to miss as Annie Sullivan shares specific details about how to grow your author platform.




Annie Sullivan is a Young Adult author from Indianapolis, Indiana. Her work has been featured in Curly Red Stories and Punchnels. She loves fairytales, everything Jane Austen, and traveling and exploring new cultures. When she’s not off on her own adventures, she’s teaching classes at the Indiana Writers Center and working as the Copy Specialist at John Wiley and Sons, Inc. publishing company, having also worked there in Editorial and Publicity roles. You can follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram (@annsulliva).




From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA fantasy adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess battling to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story, “The Lady, or the Tiger?”

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an ancient law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, winning also means fulfilling a promise to her late mother that she would protect her people, who are struggling through windstorms and drought. The situation is worsened by the gang of Desert Boys that frequently raids the city wells, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is a choice between two doors: behind one lies freedom, and behind the other is a tiger.

But when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In desperation, she turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. What Kateri discovers twists her world—and her heart—upside down. Her future is now behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which releases the tiger.


Friday, September 6, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 39: Public Relations Expert Claire McKinney

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Claire McKinney and I have an in-depth, though brief conversation about marketing middle grade novels. We talk about her work with both independently and traditionally published authors and the differences in promoting the two. She shares some direct strategies for social media campaigns, cost-per-click sites, and getting reviews. And she lends her thoughts on evaluating the effectiveness of marketing.




Claire McKinney has been working in public relations for over 20 years. She has appeared on the Today show and CSPAN as an expert on publishing and she travels regularly to speak to authors and audiences about PR and social media marketing.  Authors she has worked with include Della Reese, Toni Morrison, Madeleine Albright, Walter Mosley, Robert Dallek, Rick Moody, George Pelecanos, Plum Sykes, Noam Chomski, Richard North Patterson, and Kristin Gore.





Are you an author? Is your book about to be published? Are you wondering how to promote your book?

Over the years, Claire McKinney has found that the lack of information on how book promotion works has left most authors in the dark, without a clear idea of how they can contribute to their own campaigns. In her book, she opens a window into the world of media relations and publicity so that authors will learn:

How to promote your book to the media

How to create your own media contact list

How to write press materials and how to use them

How to create a timeline and plan a campaign on your own

How to pitch, who to pitch to, and when

How to talk to your publisher about publicity



Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 38: Author Thomas Taylor

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Thomas Taylor and I discuss his new novel, MALAMANDER, and writing creepy, atmospheric monster stories for children. We also talk quite a lot about ghosts, flying saucers, and the parts of being a writer that strike us as being a bit magical. And yes, I ask him about designing the UK cover for HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S STONE, but we talk far more about how being an artist influences his writing and vice versa. And, as a bonus, we talk about designing comics.




Thomas Taylor is a children's writer and illustrator. He studied at Anglia Ruskin University and attended the Norwich School of Art and Design. Then he spent three years at art school in Cambridge. After finishing his education he found his first job at Heffer’s Children’s Bookshop.

He has written and illustrated several picture books, starting with George and Sophie's Museum Adventure in 1999, and has two novels, Haunters and Dan of the Dead. The first one was published in May, 2012 by The Chicken House and the last one was published on 1 June 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC. Dan of the Dead sequel named Dan and the Caverns of Bone was issued in June, 2013. The book The Pets You Get with his illustrations won the Stockport Schools’ Book Award in 2013 (early years category) and also the Oldham Brilliant Books Award. He also painted the cover art for the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.



A quirky, creepy fantasy set in Eerie-on-Sea finds a colorful cast of characters in hot pursuit of a sea monster thought to convey a surprising gift.

It’s winter in the town of Eerie-on-Sea, where the mist is thick and the salt spray is rattling the windows of the Grand Nautilus Hotel. Inside, young Herbert Lemon, Lost and Founder for the hotel, has an unexpected visitor. It seems that Violet Parma, a fearless girl around his age, lost her parents at the hotel when she was a baby, and she’s sure that the nervous Herbert is the only person who can help her find them. The trouble is, Violet is being pursued at that moment by a strange hook-handed man. And the town legend of the Malamander — a part-fish, part-human monster whose egg is said to make dreams come true — is rearing its scaly head. As various townspeople, some good-hearted, some nefarious, reveal themselves to be monster hunters on the sly, can Herbert and Violet elude them and discover what happened to Violet’s kin? This lighthearted, fantastical mystery, featuring black-and-white spot illustrations, kicks off a trilogy of fantasies set in the seaside town.


Monday, September 2, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 37: Author Dan Gutman

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Dan Gutman and I have an in-depth chat about his classic series, MY WEIRD SCHOOL, as I attempt to gain the secret to writing humor for kids. We talk about how he conceives of an idea, his process for planning and drafting it, the many revisions it undergoes, and his strategies for book promotion. He gives some amazing advice for school visits and marketing using social media. We also talk about Harry Houdini, Dick Cheney,  and a whole lot more in a far-ranging discussion. You're going to learn a lot. I know I did.

And make sure you check out Dan's original 7 Question interview.




Dan Gutman may be weird, but he is also beloved by kids, parents, and teachers across the country. His books include the My Weird School series (more than 10 million copies sold), the Baseball Card Adventures (more than 1.5 million copies sold) and the New York Times bestselling The Genius Files. We also publish his spoofy picture book, CASEY BACK AT BAT, and one of Dan’s favorites, JOHNNY HANGTIME. Dan lives in New York City (a very weird place), with his weird wife, Nina, and their two weird children, Sam and Emma. You can visit him on Facebook or at his weird website.





With more than 23 million books sold, the My Weird School series really gets kids reading!

In this third book in the My Weirder-est School series, A.J. and his friends learn about good oral hygiene.

Grab your toothbrushes! It’s National Dessert Day, and Ella Mentry School has asked local dentist Dr. Floss to educate A.J. and his friends on the dental dangers of sweets.

But Dr. Floss has other plans. She wants the kids to eat as much sugar as possible so that they’ll need a dentist! Will someone get a cavity?

Perfect for reluctant readers and all kids hungry for funny school stories, Dan Gutman’s hugely popular My Weird School chapter book series has something for everyone. Don’t miss the hilarious adventures of A.J. and the gang!


Thursday, August 29, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 36: Author Sharon M. Draper

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Sharon M. Draper allows us to live vicariously through her with her story of writing TEARS OF A TIGER during study hall periods as an English teacher, which went on to win the Coretta Scott King Author Honor and launch the career of a literary legend. She assures me that visiting the White House never gets boring, even after the sixth time. She also shares her thoughts on education, which are well worth hearing as she was named a National Teacher of the Year. This was one of most incredible and enjoyable conversations I've ever had. Unfortunately, large parts of our talk were lost due to technical difficulties. We conducted this interview by phone out of necessity, which is why there's no video, and I used new recording software for the first and last time. But I learned a lot and you'll learn almost as much. Don't miss this amazing episode!




Sharon Draper is a two-time Coretta Scott King Award-winning author, most recently for Copper Sun, and previously for Forged by Fire. She's also the recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Author Award for New Talent for Tears of a Tiger and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho and November Blues. Her other books include Romiette and Julio, Darkness Before Dawn, and Double Dutch. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years. She's a popular conference speaker, addressing educational and literary groups both nationally and internationally.




Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper.

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.

Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?

It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 35: Author Laura Martin Returns

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My friend Laura Martin, our first ever guest, becomes our first ever return guest. In her second episode, she and I discuss Big Foot, The Lochness Monster, flying saucers (naturally), and all of my favorite things, which can be found in her new cryptid-themed book, HOAX FOR HIRE. We chat about our critiquing and revision process as we're both members of the YA Cannibals writing group and have critiqued each others novels. Laura also shares some excellent marketing tips and gives us a preview of her next book, GLITCH. This is another wonderful episode with one of my most favorite people.



Check out Laura's first appearance on the podcast.

Don't miss Laura's excellent guest post "The Art of the Middle School Presentation." 

And make sure you see her face the 7 Questions.


Laura Martin believes in chasing dreams, and she brought that philosophy to her classroom for six years as a seventh-grade English teacher. She is the author of the Edge of Extinction series. When she isn’t writing stories about dinosaurs and underground civilizations, she can be found in the Indianapolis area with her dashing husband Josh, her two adorable kids London and Lincoln, and two opinionated bulldogs. You can visit her online at www.lauramartinbooks.com.



Goonies meets the humor and heart of Gordon Korman in this new adventure full of nonstop action and spot-on humor from the critically acclaimed author of Float.

The McNeil family has always been professional hoaxers—tricking bystanders into believing they’re seeing legendary creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

Unlike the rest of his family, twelve-year-old Grayson hates hoaxing and wants nothing to do with the business—even when the McNeils land a huge job and must pull off four sea monster hoaxes in a week.

But when things go disastrously wrong and Dad and Gramps go missing, Grayson and his brother, Curtis, are the only people who can finish the job and save their family.





Friday, August 23, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 34: Author Allan Woodrow

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Allan Woodrow and I talk about overcoming fear and self doubt in writing as well as his newest novel, THE CURSE OF THE WEREPENGUIN. We discuss how writing every day without fail has led him to publish thirty books in ten years. He shares practical tips to start or jump start your writing career, advice on school visits, and marketing methods gleamed from a career in professional advertising.

Click here to read Allan's original 7 Question interview.




When growing up in the Midwest, Allan Woodrow always wanted to be an author. His teachers told him to write about what he knew, but he didn't know very much. He still doesn't know all that much, but got tired of waiting and decided to start writing anyway.

Allan is an author of middle-grade books including The Curse of the Werepenguin, the Liberty Falls Elementary series (Class Dismissed, Unschooled and Field Tripped), The Pet War and The Rotten Adventures of Zachary Ruthless. Allan also writes under various secret pen names including "Fowler DeWitt" (the Mumpley Middle School mystery books).



"Young Frankenstein meets The Princess Bride in the most hysterically hilarious book I've read in years."--Chris Grabenstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author

All orphan Bolt Wattle has ever wanted was to find his true family. When a mysterious baron in far-off Brugaria sends for Bolt, he wonders if he's getting closer to finding his long-lost parents. But Baron Chordata appears to be a twelve-year-old boy who wears tuxedos all the time, shouts at everyone, and forbids Bolt from asking questions. Things couldn't get any worse . . . until midnight, when the Baron bites Bolt and turns him into a half boy, half penguin. Then things really couldn't get worse-- nope, wait, they get a lot worse. With the help and hindrance of a plucky girl who just might be the world's greatest bandit, a whale cult led by a man whose weapon is a stale loaf of French bread, and a sinister but friendly fortune-teller who can't stop cackling, Bolt's on a quest to reverse the curse, return to human form, and stop the Baron from taking over the country of Brugaria with his army of mind-controlled penguins in what might be the weirdest--and funniest--middle-grade novel you've ever read.



Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 33: Author Kate Hannigan

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Kate Hannigan and I discuss her newest novel CAPE and the 2016 Golden Kite award winner, THE DETECTIVE'S ASSISTANT. We do a deep dive on writing and researching historical fiction. Kate gives some outstanding advice for authors doing school visits and a lot of tips for being a more productive writer. She also shares a real-life object lesson on the importance of being nice in an industry as small as publishing. We chat about superheroes and women in history and just generally have a blast talking about writing.





Chicago author Kate Hannigan writes fiction and non-fiction for young readers. A former newspaper journalist, she loves listening to people's stories and digging deep into research. Her middle-grade historical fiction "The Detective's Assistant" (Little, Brown) received the 2016 Golden Kite Award for best middle-grade novel and was a California Young Reader Medal nominee. Inspired by the exploits of America's first female detective, Kate Warne, it features nail-biting suspense and exhilarating thrills - along with history around Abraham Lincoln and pre-Civil War America.

Kate is also the author of the picture book biography "A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights" (Boyds Mills Press), which received four starred reviews, named a Chicago Public Library "Best of the Best" selection, Bank Street College pick for July, A Mighty Girl Best of 2018 Book, Amelia Bloomer Project pick, and a Junior Library Guild Selection. And her three-book cooking caper series "Cupcake Cousins" (Disney/Hyperion) for early middle-grade readers was named to the Illinois READS state list and Chicago Public Library's "Best of the Best" lists.


Hidden Figures meets Wonder Woman in this action-packed, comic-inspired adventure about a brilliant girl puzzler who discovers she’s part of a superhero team!

Josie O’Malley does a lot to help out Mam after her father goes off to fight the Nazis, but she wishes she could do more—like all those caped heroes who now seem to have disappeared. If Josie can’t fly and control weather like her idol, Zenobia, maybe she can put her math smarts to use cracking puzzles for the government.

After an official tosses out her puzzler test because she’s a girl, it soon becomes clear that an even more top-secret agency has its eye on Josie, along with two other applicants: Akiko and Mae. The trio bonds over their shared love of female superhero celebrities, from Hauntima to Zenobia to Hopscotch But during one extraordinary afternoon, they find themselves transformed into the newest (and youngest!) superheroes in town. As the girls’ abilities slowly begin to emerge, they learn that their skills will be crucial in thwarting a shapeshifting henchman of Hitler, and, just maybe, in solving an even larger mystery about the superheroes who’ve recently gone missing.

Inspired by remarkable real-life women from World War II—the human computers and earliest programmers called “the ENIAC Six”—this pulse-pounding adventure features bold action and brave thinking, with forty-eight pages of comic book style graphic panels throughout the book. Readers will want to don their own capes for an adventure, and realize they have the power to be a superhero, too!




Friday, August 16, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 32: Editor Molly Cusick

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Molly Cusick and I discuss editing, both in her current role as an editor with Sourcebooks and as a successful literary agent for eight years. She walks us through her approach to revising a manuscript and eventually creating a novel with in-depth insights about each revision pass and editorial letter. She offers advice on how to keep plotting on track, how to tighten pacing, and so much more.

Click here to read Molly's original 7 Question interview back when she was literary agent Molly Jaffa.




Molly Cusick is an Editor at Sourcebooks in New York City, where she acquires Young Adult, Middle Grade, and picture book projects. Previously an agent for eight years, Molly represented authors including Julie Murphy (#1 New York Times bestselling author of DUMPLIN’), Natalie C. Parker (SEAFIRE), Troy Howell (WHALE IN A FISHBOWL), Jeramey Kraatz (the Space Runners series), Kayla Cagan (PIPER PERISH), and Paula Garner (STARWORLD). She works with all genres, prioritizing humor, heart, and immersive worlds.


Follow her on Twitter @molly_cusick



Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 31: Literary Agent Jennifer Mattson

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Literary Agent Jennifer Mattson and I discus her career in publishing from her time as an editor with Dutton to her time as a professional book reviewer up to her last decade spent as an agent with Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and a lot of other book-related jobs as well. We talk about specific habits of successful writers, how many books authors should be reading, and developing an author's voice. We also chat about hooking an agent's attention with a query and a writing sample, advice on how to find a literary agent, and so much more.





In the picture book arena, Jennifer is interested in authors, illustrators, and author-illustrators who bring a distinctive, well-developed point of view to their work. In longer fiction, her interests are wide-ranging, but she always has a soft spot for middle grade about resilient kids sorting out the messiness of life. In middle grade and YA both, her heart beats faster for richly imagined, mind-bending fantasies that depart from typical quests (portals entered by protagonists who fulfill prophecies don't tend to be for her). The most dogeared books in her childhood library tended to be fantasy adventures, survival stories, and sprawling, atmospheric tales with Dickensian twists and satisfying puzzles. She gravitates to all of the above, but contemporary realistic fiction can work for her too, especially if it's voice-driven and carefully structured. In all categories, she is especially delighted to see queries in her inbox from kid-lit creators underrepresented in mainstream publishing.

Fiction that Jennifer represents includes Katy Loutzenhiser’s contemporary-realistic YA debut, IF YOU’RE OUT THERE (Balzer and Bray/HarperCollins) and Kate Hannigan’s historical middle grade novel, THE DETECTIVE'S ASSISTANT (Little, Brown/Hachette), which won the 2016 Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction, received two starred reviews, was a Booklist Editor's Choice, and appeared on the 2016 Amelia Bloomer List. Picture books she represents include noted poet Linda Ashman's lyrical ode to the rhythms of the natural world, ALL WE KNOW (HarperCollins), and her nearly wordless celebration of optimism, RAIN! (Houghton/HMH); and Kim Norman's three Arctic Companion books that cleverly spin off favorite preschool songs, TEN ON THE SLED, IF IT’S SNOWY AND YOU KNOW IT, and SHE’LL BE COMIN’ UP THE MOUNTAIN (all Sterling). Artists she represents include Geisel Honor winning author-illustrator Paul Meisel, who has illustrated or written a total of more than 70 books for young readers; J.R. Krause, author-illustrator of DRAGON NIGHT (Putnam), an Indie Next selection; Rob Polivka, illustrator of GOD BLESS AMERICA (Hyperion) and co-author and illustrator of A DREAM OF FLIGHT: ALBERTO SANTOS-DUMONT’S RACE AROUND THE EIFFEL TOWER (FSG/Macmillan); and former Google doodler Katy Wu, illustrator of several picture book biographies, including Laurie Wallmark's GRACE HOPPER: QUEEN OF COMPUTER CODE and HEDY LAMARR’S DOUBLE LIFE (both Sterling).

Prior to joining ABLA, Jennifer spent time as an editor at Dutton Children's Books and as a Books for Youth staff reviewer at Booklist magazine. Jennifer is based in Chicago and enjoys speaking at SCBWI and other writers' conferences in Chicagoland and farther afield. She is also in the midst of a personal mission to read through the oeuvre of Anthony Trollope. Follow her on Twitter (@jannmatt).


Saturday, August 3, 2019

A Middle Grade Ninja Clip Show

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It’s the first ever Middle Grade Ninja clips show, featuring snippets from each of the podcast’s first 30 episodes. This is the perfect place for new listeners to start.

New episodes are scheduled to return August 13th.

Until then, enjoy this compilation of clips from conversations with AUTHORS Laura Martin, Barabra Shoup, Jeff Norton, Darby Karchut, Susan Kaye Quinn, Jacqueline West, Daniel Kenney, Tommy Greenwald, Steven K Smith, Lamar Giles, Kathi Appelt, Padma Venkatraman, Jessica Lawson, Daniel José Older, Dustin Brady, Amber Smith, Marie Miranda Cruz,M.G. Hennessey, Debbie Dadey, LITERARY AGENTS John Cusick, Jennifer March Soloway, Holly Root, Elana Roth Parker, John Rudolph, Molly O'Neill, EDITORS Mary Kole, Amy Tipton, Alison S. Weiss, Diana M. Pho, and PUBLIC RELATIONS EXPERT Megan Beatie.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 30: Author Debbie Dadey

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Debbie Dadey and I discuss her nearly 30-year career publishing over 160 children's books, from her classic debut, VAMPIRES DON'T WEAR POLKA DOTS, to her newest series, MERMAID TALES. She shares how she and coauthor Marsha Thornton Jones agreed to collaborate on THE ADVENTURES OF THE BAILEY SCHOOL KIDS while working out, passing the story back and forth like a hot potato, which went on to sell over 34 million copies and became one of the top three bestselling series in Scholastic's history. She also provides many tips on how to write for children, advice on publishing contracts, critique groups, generating story ideas, creating compelling outlines, planning series, and so much more. This episode is packed with information every writer needs to hear and is not to be missed.




Debbie Dadey taught first grade before becoming a librarian. It was while teaching that she first realized how much she wanted to write a book for reluctant readers. Her first book, Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots, with fellow teacher Marcia Thornton Jones, was the result of a very bad day. In fact, Marcia and Debbie joked that if they were vampire teachers all the kids would pay attention to them! Since then, Debbie and Marcia have collaborated on more than 125 books with sales of over forty-seven million copies. Debbie has sold 166 books and is enjoying writing the Mermaid Tales series for Simon and Schuster. She has had a great time channeling her inner girl (and inner mermaid) with the adventures of Shelly, Echo, Kiki and Pearl. In each book, the mergirls deal with kid issues, as well as learning things about the ocean in school. Debbie grew up in Kentucky, but has lived all over the country with her family. She currently lives in Sevierville, TN with her husband and two dogs. She loves it when her three children visit and enjoys visiting schools all over the world. She hopes you'll like her on Facebook.com/debbiedadey or visit www.debbiedadey.com.



It’s MerGirl Shelly Siren’s first day at a new school, and she is nervous from the tip of her head to the end of her sparkling mermaid tail. How will she ever fit in at the prestigious Trident Academy? Everyone there is so smart and so pretty and so rich. At least she and her best friend, Echo, are in the same class, but so is Pearl, a spoiled know-it-all who only wants to make trouble for Shelly; Rocky, a MerBoy who loves to tease everyone; and Kiki, a shy MerGirl who’s new to Trident City.

At first Shelly and Echo have lots of fun: eating lunch together, trying to make grumpy Mr. Fangtooth smile, and joining after-school clubs. But when Shelly and Echo have an argument about their very first school assignment, Pearl gets involved and makes matters worse. Will Shelly and Echo fix their friendship?







Thursday, July 11, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 29: Author M.G. Hennessey

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M.G. Hennessey and I discuss her new middle grade novel THE ECHO PARK CASTAWAYS and her previous book, THE OTHER BOY, as well as the state of the American foster care system. Also, STAR WARS and flying saucers. M.G. shares her experience with multiple literary agents and gives a whole lot of excellent writing advice. And to top it off, I introduce a contest to give away three free books for those who subscribe to my YouTube channel before August 15, 2019: https://www.youtube.com/user/Bannekerbones




M.G. Hennessey loves Star Wars, the San Francisco Giants, strawberry ice cream, and dancing. She mentors teens at the Lifeworks program/LA LGBT Center and volunteers as a CASA with L.A. foster kids. She's also the dean of Camp Transcend Family Camp, and an organizer of the  Gender Odyssey LA conference. A supporter of the Transgender Law Center, Gender Spectrum. and the Human Rights Campaign, she lives in Los Angeles with her family.  She/Her








From the author of The Other Boy comes a poignant and heartfelt novel that explores what it means to be a family. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s.

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk?








Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Introducing YouTube Middle Grade Ninja Clips

Want to win a free copy of The Miraculous and read an interview with author Jess Redman? Of course you do! Head on over to Literary Rambles and treat yo self.

Esteemed Reader, I just did something for you. Now I need you to do something for me:) Don't worry, it's really easy and free.

All I'm asking is that you go to my YouTube Channel and subscribe for free.

That's it.

Now I know what you're thinking: Ninja, I already read your blog. Maybe I've read it for years. I even read a couple of your books. Maybe I'm subscribed to your free monthly newsletter. I haven't followed you on Twitter yet, but I'm gonna.

I appreciate your continued support, Esteemed Reader. I'm asking you to subscribe to my YouTube channel (and the podcast, wherever you get your podcasts) not for me, or rather, not just for me. I'm asking you to help grow this platform so that I can promote authors and reading to an ever wider audience.

Sure, I promote my books as well. Of course I do. In fact, I tend to error on the side of having folks think, "that man was a bit obnoxiously overzealous about his books," rather than think, "what a nice ninja fellow! I wonder if he's written anything?"

And I'm too slow a writer to fulfill Esteemed Reader's reading needs by myself. I need Esteemed Reader reading lots of books to ensure they're ready to keep reading when my next book finally comes out. Also, I genuinely believe with my full heart that the world is made better by more people reading and thinking.

So help me out and spread the word. If you know somebody in your life who likes books, tell them to check out this site and the podcast as well.



And I'm doing my part. I'm slowly breaking up the 1-2 hour podcast videos into shorter, easier-to-digest clips. I like the interviews I'm conducting to be long and recorded live because we learn so much more than we would in a shorter format. However, I don't want to intimidate folks who might otherwise be interested. So I'll be offering shorter clips in the hopes of tempting people to watch or listen to the full interviews.

Here's a taste of some of the clips available so far:



















Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 28: Editor Diana M. Pho

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.

Diana M. Pho and I chat about her career in publishing from her time as an international marketing assistant with Hachette to her eight years and counting as an editor with Tor Books. She walks me through the process of selecting a submission, building a presentation for it to convince her house to publish the book, and the process of actually editing and shaping the project. She also gives me some tidbits on what's happening with Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series and its next installment. This is another wonderful episode packed with quality content and you'll want to listen to it at least twice.






Diana M. Pho is a two-time Hugo-nominated editor at Tor Books and Tor.com Publishing, though she’s worked in the publishing industry under various hats for the past decade. She’s also an academic scholar, activist, performer, and general rabble-rouser elsewhere. Her talented list includes Robyn Bennis, Alex Bledsoe, P. Djeli Clark, Marie Cruz, Lara Elena Donnelly, Thoraiya Dyer, A. J. Hartley, Margaret Killjoy, Kari Maaren, and Prentis Rollins; she also works with the best-selling The Wheel of Time® series and George R. R. Martin’s Wild Cards universe. Books she has edited have gone on to win the Thriller Award (Steeplejack, for Best YA), the Ditmar Award (Crossroads of Canopy, for Best Novel) and to become finalists for the Nebula, Lambda Literary Award, Shirley Jackson Award, and Andre Norton Award for Young Adult.

In the steampunk community, she is best-known for running Beyond Victoriana, an award-winning, US-based blog on multicultural steampunk. She has published numerous articles on science fiction and its community. She has been interviewed for many media outlets about fandom, including CBS’s Inside Edition, MSN.com, BBC America, the Travel Channel, HGTV, and the Science Channel.




Thursday, June 20, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 27: Author Marie Miranda Cruz

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.


Marie Miranda Cruz  and I talk about her journey to write and publish her first novel, EVERLASTING NORA, including how she got her literary agent and her experience working with editor Diana Pho and even how she got the initial idea that sparked her story. We chat about the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the impact it had on her as well as her deep commitment to diversity in children's literature. And we talk about communities and the importance of creating a strong community of writers in your life. This is another wonderful episode that's not to be missed.





Marie Miranda Cruz was born in the Philippines. She spent most of her formative years moving between her hometown, Cavite City, and several cities in the United States while her father served in the United States Navy. When her dad retired, she moved back to the Philippines where she completed both high school and college. The first holiday she experienced in the Philippines was All Saints Day. It was this experience that inspired her to write her first novel, EVERLASTING NORA.

Marie now lives in Los Angeles with her family and a tank of fighting fish. When she isn’t writing books for kids, she may be analyzing chromosomes in a genetics lab, reading a good book, or knitting ponchos and fingerless gloves.




An uplifting young reader debut about perseverance against all odds, Marie Miranda Cruz's debut Everlasting Nora follows the story of a young girl living in the real-life shantytown inside the Philippines’ Manila North Cemetery.

After a family tragedy results in the loss of both father and home, 12-year-old Nora lives with her mother in Manila’s North Cemetery, which is the largest shantytown of its kind in the Philippines today.

When her mother disappears mysteriously one day, Nora is left alone.

With help from her best friend Jojo and the support of his kindhearted grandmother, Nora embarks on a journey riddled with danger in order to find her mom. Along the way she also rediscovers the compassion of the human spirit, the resilience of her community, and everlasting hope in the most unexpected places.






Saturday, June 15, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 26: Author Amber Smith

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.

Author Amber Smith and I discuss her newest novel, SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY. We talk about where she got her idea originally, her process for writing it, and the techniques she employed in telling her story. We also talk about her journey of writing and publishing her first novel, THE WAY I USED TO BE, from the frustrations of rewriting it to the joys of it becoming an award winning New York Times Bestseller. She shares her tips for writing a romantic story, for building suspense, and for writing about characters respectfully without exploiting them. WARNING: We briefly discuss sexual assault as depicted in Amber's books, so discretion should be exercised for younger members of Esteemed Audience.





Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels, The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. Her debut, The Way I Used to Be (2016), was selected for the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer List of Feminist Literature and Texas Library Association’s TAYSHAS List, it was named a Bank Street Best Book of the Year, and nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in YA Fiction, Connecticut’s Nutmeg Book Award, and Indiana’s Eliot Rosewater Award. Her second novel, The Last to Let Go (2018), received starred reviews from Booklist and VOYA, and was named a most-anticipated book by B and N Teen Blog, Elite Daily, and Bookish. Her next novel, Something Like Gravity, will be released June 18th, 2019 from Simon and Schuster.

Amber grew up in Buffalo, New York and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. Fueled by a lifelong passion for the arts, story, and creative expression, Amber graduated from art school with a BFA in Painting and went on to earn her master’s degree in Art History. When she’s not writing she’s usually reading, but can also be found in her studio making art or freelancing as an art consultant. She has also written on the topics of art history and modern and contemporary art.

An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, including sexual assault and domestic or intimate partner abuse, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues.


For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.
Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.
But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Middle Grade Ninja Episode 25: Literary Agent Molly O'Neill

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.

Molly O'Neill and I discuss her career in publishing from her start in marketing with Clarion Books to her time as an editor with Harper Collins to her current role as a literary agent with Root Literary. She shares the experience of discovering and editing DIVERGENT (and I reveal an embarrassing encounter I had with Veronica Roth). We talk about the relationship between authors and editors and how to keep it from going off kilter, the truth about rejection, and some practical tips for writing the dreaded synopsis. As a special bonus, we're treated to a live reading of ROBERT PATTINSON: ETERNALLY YOURS from one of its coauthors. This episode is packed with insight into the world of publishing and you'll want to listen to it multiple times through.






Molly O'Neill is a literary agent with Root Literary. For the past sixteen years, she has held various roles inside the publishing industry: previously, she was an Editor at Harper Collins Children's Books, where she acquired Veronica Roth's juggernaut Divergent series, among many other fantastic projects; the Head of Editorial at Storybird, a publishing/tech start-up; a member of the School and Library Marketing departments at both Harper Collins and Clarion Books; and an Agent at Waxman Leavell Literary Agency.

Molly loves the creative process and early-stage project development, is invigorated by business strategy and entrepreneurial thinking, and is fascinated by the intersections of art, commerce, creativity, and innovation. Molly is especially passionate about the people behind books, and takes pride in discovering and evangelizing talented authors and illustrators, expanding the global reach of their work, and finding new ways to build connections and community among creators, readers, stories, and their champions. She hunts for new talent and speaks about the importance of books for young people at a variety of conferences for writers, illustrators, and educators around the world each year, and is on the faculty of the Columbia Publishing Course, where she helps train new generations of publishing professionals.

Molly is an alum of Marquette University, an erstwhile Texan, and a current dweller of Brooklyn, NY. She is drawn to authors and artists who constantly challenge themselves, who are adept at communicating with their audiences, who are creative and flexible thinkers, and who have as much enthusiasm for their readers as for their own successes. Wit, strong writing, vivid settings, a passion for craft, or a well-timed reaction gif will always catch her eye.