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My friend Lisa Fipps and I discuss “fat girl rules,” intrinsic self worth, overcoming bullying, and writing a story in free-verse poetry. Her debut novel, STAR FISH, releases this week with starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, me, and many others. You don’t want to miss this book. Lisa and I also chat about her day job handling the marketing for a library and how that helps her market her book, her time as a reporter, her jar of positive affirmations, how she met her literary agent, the importance of networking and cultivating a writing family, a heartwarming ghost story, and so much more.
Lisa Fipps is a graduate of Ball State University, award-winning former journalist, current director of marketing for a public library (where she won the Sara Laughlin marketing award), and an author of middle-grade books. Starfish is her debut novel. She’s working on her next novel and several others. She currently lives in Indiana and lived in Texas.
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she's been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules--like "no making waves," "avoid eating in public," and "don't move so fast that your body jiggles." And she's found her safe space--her swimming pool--where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It's also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie's weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life--by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.
“Fipps bursts onto the middle-grade scene with her debut, a verse novel that shines because of Ellie’s keen and emotionally striking observations. As she draws readers in with her smart and succinct voice, Ellie navigates the difficult map of knowing she deserves better treatment while struggling with the conflict that’s necessary to achieve it. Fipps hands her young narrator several difficult life lessons, including how to self-advocate, how not to internalization of the words of others, and what it means to defend yourself. Ellie’s story will delight readers who long to see an impassioned young woman seize an unapologetic victory.”—Booklist, starred review
“Fipps’ verse is skillful and rooted in emotional reality. The text places readers in Ellie’s shoes, showing how she is attacked in many spaces—including by strangers on public transit—while clearly asserting that it’s other people who need to change. . . . Make room in your heart for this cathartic novel”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Affirming representation of fatness. . . . Fipps’s use of verse is as effective as it is fitting; Ellie dreams of becoming a storyteller and poet ‘to help people feel what it’s like/ to live in/ someone else’s skin.’ A triumphant and poignantly drawn journey toward self-acceptance and self-advocacy.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“A charming novel in verse about a girl struggling with self-worth. . . . Once readers start, it will be difficult for them to put this book down. Ellie’s story is heartbreaking and raw at times, and Fipps paints a realistic picture of bullying in a world that equates thinness with beauty. . . . True joy comes in watching Ellie gain confidence in herself and standing up to the bullies, even when they’re family. . . . A must-have for libraries serving teens and tweens.”—School Library Journal, starred review
"Readers will rejoice as Ellie gains the strength to confront bullies with intelligence and honesty, and refuses to allow other people’s cruelty to shape her life.”—Padma Venkatraman, award-winning author of The Bridge Home
"This is a big beautiful book about a big beautiful girl. Meet Ellie, who looks in the mirror and sees someone lovable. Now, if only the rest of the world (and especially her own mother and brother) could see what Ellie sees. This is a story about the colossal cruelty that’s hurled at her because of her weight, and how, with colossal strength, Ellie manages to triumph. An honest, heartbreaking, hilarious novel-in-verse from a debut author with a delicious voice.”—Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn’t Know
"Lisa Fipps’s spot-on verse gives Ellie a wrenchingly real voice that sings with humor, pain, and hope. Prepare yourself: Once you read this book, your heart will never be the same.” —K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest
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