Thursday, April 28, 2016

7 Questions For: Authors Lauren Oliver and "H.C. Chester"

Lauren Oliver is the author of the YA bestselling novels Before I Fall, PanicVanishing Girls and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of three novels for middle grade readers: The Spindlers; Liesl and Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee; and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, co-written with H. C. Chester, and a novel for adults, Rooms. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit.

H. C. Chester is a collector of unusual relics who came into possession of the artifacts of the museum’s estate and discovered the story of the four children. (rumor has it he might also be Lauren Oliver's father, Harold Schechter)

Click here to read my review of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head.

Click here to read an exclusive character interview with Andrew the Alligator Boy.

And now Lauren Oliver (and "H.C. Chester") face the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

LO: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Matilda by Roald Dahl
The Little Prince by Antoine St. Exupery


Elizabeth Barrett Bernstein's GONE WITH THE PTERODACTYLS

Question Six: How much time do you spend each week writing? Reading?

LO: Oh my goodness. This is embarrassing--probably between 40 and 60 hours, I would estimate? I don't really have any other hobbies. 

HCC: What with all the time I must devote to such daily activities as arranging my collection of early American dog-breeding pamphlets in precise chronological order and engaging in playtime with my trusted companion, Trudy, I have limited time for writing and reading. I would say no more than five or six hours per day.

Question Five: What was the path that led you to publication?

LO: I've always intended to be a writer, although I didn't know I could make it a career. I was working as an assistant at Penguin Books while working on my first novel, and at a cocktail party I pushed the first draft of Before I Fall into the hands of Stephen Barbara, who would become my agent. 

HCC: My father, as most people know, was a celebrated author, best known for his groundbreaking book, "The Round and the Furry: Varieties of New England Rodents." He was not only an inspirationt o me but assisted me in finding a publisher for my first best-selling book, "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Peruvian Bat."

Question Four: Do you believe writers are born, taught or both? Which was true for you?

LO: Both. I believe certain people are born with a passion for something--maybe it comes more easily to them, and thus they become passionate about it. But the passion drives hard work and the dedication and discipline to practice. And that then drives skill.

HCC: See above. I certainly believe that my exceptional gifts were largely inherited from my revered father. At the same time, they have been elevated to unprecedented heights by my constant application of them. 

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about writing? What is your least favorite thing?

LO: My favorite thing is that you can do it anywhere; it is the best imaginative escape. My least favorite thing is how hard it is! You'd think it would get easier over time but I find the reverse is true.

HCC: My favorite thing about writing is that, insofar as it is a solitary persuit, it allows me to maintain a blissful seclusion from the world and the countless annoying beings who inhabit it. My least favorite thing, I suppose, is that interferes with other precious activities, such as playtime with Trudy!

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

LO: Practice. It's the only way to improve. Read everything you can, even things you think you won't like, and write every single day, even if it's only for a little.

HCC: It is very wise to make a carbon copy of your work as you type it. Otherwise, should anything happen to your manuscript, it will be lost forever!

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

LO: Maybe JK Rowling, so I could convince her to collaborate with me--or Stephen King. If I were going dead, I'd have to say Hunter S. Thompson, only because I bet we'd end up on a road trip to Vegas!

HCC: Unquestionably Sir Percy Grethwhohl. To hear from his own lips the thrilling tale of his decades-long quest through the well-nigh impenetrable jungles of Peru for a fleeting glimpse of the mythical albino fruit bat would be a dream come true!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

GUEST POST: "An Exclusive Interview with Andrew the Alligator Boy" by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

Esteemed Reader, we have a first ever today. I got to interview my first ever fictional character. Those of you Esteemed Readers who've read to the end of Banneker Bones and the Giant Robot Bees know how much I love alligator people. 

I jumped at this chance to chat with Andrew the Alligator Boy, a character in Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester. Click here to read my review and make sure you check back on Thursday to see the authors do the first-ever joint interview in the history of this blog.

For today, please welcome Andrew the Alligator Boy!

Now seventy-four (or perhaps seventy-five, or even seventy-six, or possibly eighty) The Alligator Boy has been performing on the circuit since he was actually a boy. Bad-tempered and plagued with bad dandruff, The Alligator Boy spends most of his time railing about the way things used to be.

Question Five: Now that you're pushing seventy-five (or possibly eighty), have you asked Mr. Dumpfrey about the possibility of being renamed Andrew the Alligator Man?

Absolutely not. How preposterous! I've been the Alligator Boy these last fifty six years and don't plan on quitting now. 

Question Four: Is Solitaire your favorite way to pass the time, or do you have other hobbies you're passionate about?

I like Solitaire because you can play it by yourself.

Question Three: What's your favorite thing about performing in the Odditorium at Dumpfrey's Dime Museum?

When I'm done performing and can head upstairs and be alone. 

Question Four: Other than washing the windows, what are your duties around the museum?

I make sure everyone's made their beds up nice and neat with the corners tucked in sharp. Mr. Dumfrey never gave me that job. I just like to do it.

Question Five: Are you at all concerned to be sleeping under the same roof as the possibly cursed shrunken head of Chief Ticuna-Piranha?

Curse, shmurse! The only thing cursed around here is that cursed Max, who won't make her bed! 

Lauren Oliver is the author of the YA bestselling novels Before I Fall, PanicVanishing Girls and the Delirium trilogy: Delirium, Pandemonium, and Requiem, which have been translated into more than thirty languages and are New York Times and international bestselling novels. She is also the author of three novels for middle grade readers: The Spindlers; Liesl and Po, which was an E. B. White Read Aloud Award nominee; and Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head, co-written with H. C. Chester, and a novel for adults, Rooms. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, Lauren Oliver is also the cofounder of the boutique literary development company Paper Lantern Lit.

H. C. Chester is a collector of unusual relics who came into possession of the artifacts of the museum’s estate and discovered the story of the four children. (rumor has it he might also be Lauren Oliver's father, Harold Schechter)

Click here to read my review of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head.

The book is about, among other things: the strongest boy in the world, a talking cockatoo, a faulty mind reader, a beautiful bearded lady and a nervous magician, an old museum, and a shrunken head.
Blessed with extraordinary abilities, orphans Philippa, Sam, and Thomas have grown up happily in Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. But when a fourth child, Max, a knife-thrower, joins the group, it sets off an unforgettable chain of events.
When the museum’s Amazonian shrunken head is stolen, the four are determined to get it back. But their search leads them to a series of murders and an explosive secret about their pasts.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Book of the Week: CURIOSITY HOUSE - THE SHRUNKEN HEAD by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester

First Paragraph(s): Come in, please. St p out o the rain.
It had been raining for three straight days, and even the regular customers were staying away. On Thursday, Thomas had the idea of posting a sign on the doors of the museum. By Friday, several letters had blurred away, ajnd the others were running toward the bottom of the page as though attempting a getaway. By Saturday afternoon, the note had turned to a sodden piece of pulp and, driven by the winds into the gutter, was carted away on the underside of a busy man's leather-soled shoe.
Thomas was bored.
It was only April 20, and he had already read all the books Mr. Dumfrey had bought him for his birthday on April 2, including The Probability of Everything, which was nearly a thousand pages long, and A Short History of Math, which was even longer. So he spent the morning in the attic, playing DeathTrap, a game of his own invention. It was like chess, except that instead of using a checkerboard, it relied on the patterns of a threadbare Persian rug, and instead of pawns, bishops, and knights, the pieces were various things pilfered from the exhibits over the years: a baby kangaroo's foot, which could only jump spaces; a dented Roman coin that could only be spun or flipped; an old shark's jaw that didn't move but conquered pieces that came too close by swallowing them; a scorpion tail that paralyzed other players so they lost a turn; an armadillo toe that could be used by any player, depending on who was in possession of the armadillo shell.

Esteemed Reader, we are in for a treat this week and we'll have two first's for this blog: our first two-authors-for-the-price-of-one author interview as we'll be joined Thursday by Lauren Oliver and the mysterious H.C. Chester. But wait! There's more! We'll also have our first ever character-interview with Andrew the Alligator Boy who will be here exclusive to Middle Grade Ninja tomorrow!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head and I think you will as well. It's one part superhero comic, one part horror comic, one part mystery, and many many parts just plain comic as I found myself laughing frequently. 

This book was right up my alley and caught my interest going in with the title alone (and the fact that I knew in advance there would be an Alligator Boy in the offering). 'Curious' or "curiosity" are good words for a title, a way to prompt and condition the reader to be hooked  with "shrunken head." Yes, there are no doubt some readers who will be turned away by these words, but honestly, this story probably isn't for them anyway:) For the rest of us, the promise of a shrunken head is an excellent prospect because where there's a shrunken head, there may be more strangeness and possibly grossness in store. If the only thing we had to bring to our awareness was the book's title on a plain list of book titles, I think it would stand out nicely.

We're going to talk about the book and some substance momentarily, Esteemed Reader, I promise. But I've been making an effort to approach books with an appreciation beyond the experience of just reading them as I now have books of my own to market and continue to produce. You know I love my ebooks, but the Harper hardcover edition of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is an argument for why print books remain relevant. The artwork throughout is excellent, right down to the doodles at the start of each chapter, and the dust cover is not only well-designed to look sharp, it has raised lettering in gold that I could feel on the tips of my fingers as held it open.

This is a book that is well-made and well-positioned, which is its own form of artistry. It also has the effect of ramping up reader expectations. The reader believes this story will be good before he reads the first line because it looks and feels like a good book. You know I love the indie author movement, but for a book like this, at present, you need a traditional publisher; or you need to leave a comment on this post telling me who I can call to get my books looking like this one:) 

Fortunately for the reader who expects this story to be good, it is good. It's got an excellent setting sure to arouse your***chuckles obnoxiously and perhaps a bit too smugly***curiosity

Dumfrey's Dime Museum was, from the outside, easy to miss. The four-story brick building, originally a combination art school and gallery called the New York Cultural Academy, was sandwiched between Eli's Barbershop and the St. Edna Hotel, like an awkward middle child getting squeezed to death by its two prettier, more impressive siblings...
...In addition to the coat check and refreshment stand--which sold gumdrops, caramel-coated popcorn, and root beer--the first floor housed two exhibition spaces. One was the Odditorium, where the live performances took place. The other was the Hall of Worldwide Wonders, which contained more than one hundred items hand-selected by Mr. Dumfrey, including an Eskimo seal-hunting spear, the headdress of a pygmy witch doctor, and a carved wooden platter used by Polynesian cannibals; and a large, open gallery of glassed-in exhibit cases, containing anything from a tiny doll-like figure floating in a jar of alcohol, said to be a genuine changeling baby from the British Isles, to a mummified cat found in King Tut's tomb.

It's got some extremely interesting characters reminiscent of the sort you might hope to find in an X-man comic:

"'But normal is precisely what these children are not, as this journalist knows firsthand. Thomas Able, Philippa (Pippa) Devue, Sam Fort, and Mackenzie (last name unknown) have achieved notoriety due to their freakish, some would say unnatural, abilities. A body as limber as an elastic band; the ability to read minds, or at the very least, pockets; a preternatural strength; a ferocious and deadly skill with knives: these are some of the strengths of this group of freaks, of human abominations.'"

And it's got an exciting inciting incident that immediately establishes the stakes when the museum's top attraction, the aforementioned shrunken head, which patrons believe to be cursed, is mysteriously stolen under mysterious circumstance mysteriously:

Mr. Dumfrey's voice wavered. "You might as well know. The museum is broke. The head was our last chance at paying our debts and keeping the doors open. Now, I fear, we are sunk."

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is a fun read that provides a satisfying conclusion but also leaves me excited for the coming sequels. By now you know whether it's your kind of book or not. Do you like the idea of children with super powers cracking jokes and detecting clues to solve a mystery? Then this book is for you. If you don't like those things, you probably don't like reading and I'm not sure why you're here:)

The tone of the story is a bit dark, which I enjoyed now and would've enjoyed when I was the age of the target audience. I especially appreciated the descriptions of the dead bodies along the way and when I did some poking around online to discover the true identity of H.C. Chester, I was not entirely surprised to discover he writes much more adult fair involving serial killers and all other manner of delightfully unwholesome things. Not to worry. The content of Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is entirely age-appropriate, but with just enough of an edge to pique the interest of the horror hound in me.

There is plenty of find craftsmanship on display throughout and many things are described at least as well as the dead bodies:) For example, see the following description of a theater that accomplishes the act of grounding us in the setting, but also illuminates a character:

The Viceroy Theater, on the corner of Eighth Avenue and Forty-Fourth Street, had seen better days. Only one of every four lights encircling the marquee was still working; the majority had burned out, been pecked apart by pigeons, or been shattered by vandals. The carpet in the lobby was threadbare, the chairs creaked awfully, and large water stains decorated the faded silk walls.
Still, it was one of Sam's favorite places. he loved the smell of buttered popcorn that clung to the upholstery, and the old movie posters displayed on the walls, in part to conceal the water stains.
Most of all he loved the darkness. Sitting in a movie theater, he could be just anyone: a normal kid from a normal family, out to have a normal good time. For once, he was the one who got to watch and point and laugh.

There's more to be said, but Little Ninja is pulling on my arm because I promised to take him to the playground this morning, so I guess that's the end of this review. Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head is a well-published and well-written book that's made especially to be read on a cold night in front of a fire, or at the beach, or also in a tub... read it wherever you like, but don't miss it. 

As always, I'll leave you with some of my favorite passages from Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head:

She loved Mr. Dumfrey dearly, but his mind, it seemed to her, was like one of those Chinese knots that Thomas often worked his way out of in his solo acts: strings all over, everything a tangled mess.

Max really wished he would stop spouting off about probabilities and statistics and boring numbers that made her head spin. The problem was all the reading he did. A nasty habit.

"I'm very disappointed, Thomas," Dumfrey said, shaking his head so that the skin underneath his chin wobbled--as though it, too, were disappointed.

After the close, warm atmosphere of the room upstairs, with its smells of old cigar butts and cheap aftershave and mildew, the air was as delicious as fizzy bottle of soda.

"You'd have to be dumber than a dung beetle to think Mr. Dumfrey could kill anyone," she continued.
Sam did not say that he wouldn't be surprised if Hardaway and Webb were dumber than dung beetles. He just said, "Who did kill him, then?"

"I wouldn't bet on it," growled Andrew, and then picked up his soup and began to slurp.

"Must you eat like an animal?" Miss Fitch said.
"I'm the alligator boy, ain't I?"

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Book of the Week is simply the best book I happened to read in a given week. There are likely other books as good or better that I just didn’t happen to read that week. Also, all reviews here will be written to highlight a book’s positive qualities. It is my policy that if I don’t have something nice to say online, I won’t say anything at all (usually). I’ll leave you to discover the negative qualities of each week’s book on your own. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

GUEST POST: "Why School Librarians are a Middle Grade Author’s Best Friends" by Kristina Springer

I have four kids, three of which are in my target reading age for my books now (9, 11, and 13). And when I’m not writing, I like to volunteer at their schools—especially in all positions that relate to books. This means I work in the publishing center at the elementary school (we edit and produce books the kids write and put them available for check out in the library), co-organize and run the twice-a-year book fairs at the school, and assist in the junior high LRC (shelving books, covering new books, and anything else they ask me to do).

I write both young adult and middle grade fiction and I’ve found over the years that middle grade books are a bit tougher to promote. With YA, we can reach readers online: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, etc. But your average middle grade reader isn’t on these platforms so how do we let them know about our new books?

One day I was working the Scholastic Book Fair at school and I could see the librarian in the corner of the LRC doing book talks with the various classes. Each time she finished a book talk, the kids were given time to go wander around the book fair. Over and over again the kids went right to the book she had been talking about and snapped it up. So much so that we had to restock that book several times during that week of the fair. 

I noticed something similar at the junior high level as well. The librarian there book-talked my books a couple of times with the 7th and 8th graders and she said that each time she did one, all my books were checked out and a waiting list formed.

So approximately three months prior to the release of my newest middle grade book, Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, (Today! April 19th!) I decided I would go straight to the junior high librarians to help get the word out. With a little help from Google, I created a list of mailing addresses for all the junior high schools within a 30-minute drive of me. I picked 30-minutes because I wanted to be available if any of the schools asked me to come for a school visit as well. My mailing list came to 175 schools. I then made postcards at

On the color side of the postcard I uploaded the book cover. On the left side of the back of the postcard, I had Vistaprint print the title, my name, book description, availability date, age range, grade level, ISBN, and my web site address in case they wanted to get in contact with me. I also added my publisher’s logo at the bottom. On the blank right side of the card I hand wrote the school name, attn: School Librarian, and the address, and then added a personal note at the bottom and signed it. 

It does take some time but I think personalizing the post cards is nice and separates your card from standard advertisements that come in the mail. Here you can write whatever you want. I noted that I was a local author and what town I’m living in and that I hoped they’d consider my new middle grade novel for their library’s collection. You can also add that you are available for school visits if you’d like. I’ve been getting a number invitations for visits from my postcards so it’s definitely been time well spent.

And if you have any postcards left when you’re done (and your hand isn’t too cramped!) send them to public libraries and bookstores as well to let them also know you have a new book coming out.

Kristina Springer is the author of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker (Sterling Children's/April 19, 2016), My Fake Boyfriend Is Better Than Yours (Macmillan/FSG), a Scholastic Bestseller and 2012 YALSA Quick Pick book; The Espressologist (Macmillan,/FSG), a 2010 Society of School Librarians International Honor Book and 2014 Illinois Reads Book that has been purchased for film by Michael Eisner’s Vuguru; and Just Your Average Princess (Macmillan/FSG). She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children.

Middle school is a test, but Cici Reno has all the answers. She's the go-to girl for advice. She's cool, she's funny, and she's enlightened (thanks to yoga classes at her mom's studio). So when her pretty BFF, Aggie, is too shy to speak to the boy she's crushing on, Cici goes online and does the talking for her. The only problem is, Cici starts to fall for the guy herself! For the first time in her life, she doesn't have a clue.

Monday, April 11, 2016

7 Questions For: Literary Agent Mark Gottlieb

Mark Gottlieb’s focus on publishing began at Emerson College, where he was a founding member of the Publishing Club, later its President, overseeing its first publication and establishing the Wilde Press.

After graduating with a degree in writing, literature and publishing, Mark began his career with the Vice  President of Berkley Books (Penguin), working with leading editors.

His first position at the Trident Media Group literary agency was in foreign rights, selling the books of clients around the world. Mark later worked as Executive Assistant to Robert Gottlieb, Chairman of Trident, with responsibility for organizing/managing diverse authors and their complex business transactions. He next assumed the position of audio rights agent. Since Mark has managed the audio rights business, the annual sales volume has more than doubled. Mark showed great initiative and insight in identifying talented writers.

In passing the Audio Department's torch, Mark is building his own client list of writers. He is excited to work directly with authors, helping to manage and grow their careers with all of the unique resources that are available to Trident. Since that time he has ranked as high as #1 in Agents on in Overall Deals. He has also ranked #1 in categories such as Science-Fiction/Fantasy, Children's, and Graphic Novels. He has ranked in the top five for Thriller, Mystery/Crime, Womens/Romance, Young Adult, and certain nonfiction categories such as Pop Culture, Memoir, How-To, and Humor.

And now Mark Gottlieb faces the 7 Questions:

Question Seven: What are your top three favorite books?

Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN
Herman Hesse’s SIDDHARTHA

Question Six: What are your top three favorite movies and television shows?


“The Simpsons”
“Kids in the Hall”
“The Twilight Zone”


“Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas”
“Ed Wood”
“Easy Rider”

Question Five: What are the qualities of your ideal client?

The ideal client should be patient, since book publishing can be a slow process, but at the same time they should be curious about the book publishing process, and how their role fits into it/how they can help as a central figure in the success of a book’s publication.

Question Four: What sort of project(s) would you most like to receive a query for?

I would like to receive some more titles by award-winning and bestselling authors in most any category of fiction and nonfiction. Works carrying blurbs/advance praise also have the promise of doing well in the eyes of agents and publishers, in addition to authors with other credentials such as a MFA or residency at a renowned workshop. I am not receptive to poetry, short story collections, nor novellas.

Question Three: What is your favorite thing about being an agent? What is your least favorite thing?

My favorite thing about being a literary agent at Trident Media Group was put best by my client Domenick Dicce, author of YOU’RE A VAMPIRE: THAT SUCKS! (A Survival Guide): “Thank you for making my dreams come true. Looking forward to working together in the future.” 

My least favorite thing is when I believe strongly in a project but a publisher or readership might not feel the same way, and therefore the author’s dreams can’t always be fully-realized.

Question Two: What one bit of wisdom would you impart to an aspiring writer? (feel free to include as many other bits of wisdom as you like)

Some strengths to focus on:

Perseverance/learning from rejection
Self-improvement/personal growth
Patience/avoid bucking the system

Question One: If you could have lunch with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I would like to have lunch with Ralph Ellison to ask him whether or not his house truly burned down by accident or arsonist. Lost in the house fire was an unfinished novel said to rival INVISIBLE MAN. As a perfectionist who was very hard on himself, Ellison expressed his dissatisfaction when receiving his National Book Award for INVISIBLE MAN, stating that the novel was only “an attempt at a major novel.” 

Ellison claimed that more than 300 pages of his second novel manuscript were lost in the house fire. Ellison eventually wrote more than 2,000 pages of this second novel but never finished it. Instead, he suffered from writer’s block and stared at a blinking cursor for the rest of his life—a reality that a lot of authors experience after achieving immense success, which is something we must all overcome. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

GUEST POST: "How to Write a Poem in Ten Easy Steps" by Skila Brown

It’s National Poetry Month! Which is very exciting if you’re a poet or a lover of poetry. And probably doesn’t interest you at all if you consider yourself to be neither.

But if you’re a reader…and certainly a writer…you should be celebrating too! Poems can amaze, invoke, inform, and impress. Bonus: they’re often short enough to devour in a single bite, so investing time into one isn’t a huge commitment.

April is the perfect time to try your hand at writing a poem. But you’re not a poet, you say? Well, nobody is anything until they actually try. So stretch yourself. Write a poem. Here’s one fast and easy way to do it.

1.    Observe. Sit and watch a squirrel on your deck or a flower in the wind or a shark swimming on youtube. (Because watching a shark swimming in the water next to you might end this activity right here.)

2. Take notes on what you’re seeing. Not AP-Chemistry-study-for-final kind of notes but more like jotting down random thoughts that pop into your head while you’re watching. Words like scurry or slinky or sitting or seaweed. Or they may not even start with an s at all.

3. If you’re drawing a blank on what to write down, here are some ideas to get you started: make a list of verbs. Every verb that pops into your head while observing your subject. What colors do you see and what do they remind you of? Write down two scary things about the scene in front of you.

4. Go away.

5. Come back later to your notes. Read over them. Circle anything you like. See the beginnings of a poem somewhere? If yes, go to step 6. If no, go back to step 1 and repeat again with something different.

6. Take the stuff you like and play with it. Sometimes you can play with it by sound. Alliteration or rhyme is a good place to start. Sometimes you can play with the shape of the phrases. Concrete poems take the shape of the thing you’re writing about.  Sometimes you can play with it by metaphor. Maybe you thought that leaf looked old and wrinkled and full of veins and that makes you think of your grandmother’s hands and that time she taught you to make apple fritters. Go with that.

7. Just write. Free write some more stuff on the page in front of you and see where it leads you.

8. Trim it into a poem. Poems pack a punch. Every word counts. Do you need all those words you have? Can you trim some to make the lines more potent? Can you find even stronger or better words for what you’re saying?

9. Think about line breaks. The first word and the last word of the line are powerful. You can also use line breaks to build suspense. 

10. Read it aloud. Do you notice any sounds you can capitalize on? Any places you can trim to make it more potent?

That’s it! And come on, that didn’t take long. Surely you can spare an hour or two this month to stretch your brain in a new and fun way.

Now—don’t forget to go read some poems! If you aren’t going to trek to the library to peruse the shelves, how about just clicking this. Or this.

See? Poetry is cool. I told you.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Skila Brown is the author of verse novels Caminar and To Stay Alive, as well as the picture book Slickety Quick: Poems About Sharks, all with Candlewick Press. She received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives in Indiana where she writes books for readers of all ages.

Fourteen shark species, from the utterly terrifying to the surprisingly docile, glide through the pages of this vibrantly illustrated, poetic picture book.

From the enormous whale shark to the legendary great white to the enigmatic goblin shark to the small cookie-cutter shark, Slickety Quick is a delightful frenzy of shark mayhem. Mysterious species such as the camouflaged wobbegong and the elusive frilled shark share the waters with better-known blue and nurse sharks, each commemorated in a poem by Skila Brown and illustrated by Bob Kolar. Sneaky shark facts ripple through each spread to further inform the brave and curious young reader intrigued by the power — and danger — of these amazing creatures.

These concrete poems about a selection of sharks will tickle the fins of many an aspiring marine biologist.

All in all, it’s a book that ought to leave many readers fascinated—and perhaps a little unsettled—by the diversity of sharks that exist beneath the waves.
—Publishers Weekly

An inviting format to spark shark discussions.
—Kirkus Reviews

Man, do I love me some poems about sharks! ***kisses fingertips to saver the sweetness***
—Middle Grade Ninja