Author Interviews

Interview & Giveaway with Amie Darnell Specht & Shannon Hitchcock!

Amie competing in the GUMBO Races (Games Uniting Mind and Body)

Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Amie and Shannon. We’re thrilled to have you here. Congrats on the launch of Dancing in the Storm. It’s so inspiring and powerful. I had never heard of Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) before. I learned so much about it…and especially how it can drastically change a person’s life as Kate experienced it. She’s one of the strongest protagonists I’ve ever met. I know she’ll inspire so many people.

Huge congrats for being named a Junior Library Guild book! I’m sure there will be many other wonderful awards and lists coming your way. 🙂


What were the perks and challenges of co-writing Dancing in the Storm together?

Amie:  The perk for me was working with someone who had previous experience writing books, and who could guide me about making our book better.  The most challenging part was finding time to work together. We started right before Covid hit so almost all our communication was done over text, phone, or email.

Shannon: The perk for me is that I wasn’t starting with a blank slate– the characters and the story are heavily influenced by Amie’s life. As for the challenges, it’s a little slower to work with a co-author because two people weigh in on every sentence.


What surprised you the most while writing this book?

Amie: How much goes into writing a book. Shannon was very helpful through the process though.

Shannon: Amie’s positive outlook on life. I have far fewer physical challenges, but can be a lot grumpier. There’s a life lesson there, I’m sure.


Yes! Amie is so inspiring. I love her positive outlook, which reflects in Kate’s character.

I love how Kate has so many interests besides gymnastics, like baking with Mindy. I could imagine how much harder this would’ve been without her love of space, Broadway musicals, etc. What parts of this book relate the closest to your life, Amie—and what were made up or tweaked the most?

Amie at a dance recital

Amie: The biggest tweak is FOP showed up for me when I was 4 ½, not 12. I was already in gymnastics, but that is not what caused FOP to present itself. With that said, there are things in the book that happened when I was 16/17 years old, like managing the gymnastics team. We also didn’t add everything I was involved in, but tried to incorporate a lot of it.


Is there anything you wish you could go back and tell your younger self, Amie?

Amie:  Oh man! There is a lot. The biggest would be to listen when my parents told me not to do something. I didn’t care about my limitations. I climbed trees and rode kid four wheelers. I remember one day when we lived in New Jersey, we had ice on our driveway. My mom said we could go out, but that I was supposed to stay in the garage due to ice. Not ten minutes later, my brother had to get help because I had slipped on the ice and hurt my leg.


Aw, I’m sorry that happened. (((Hugs)))

I love how your book shows people they aren’t alone…and that becoming friends with someone in a similar situation can be helpful. But it also shows ways to feel less alone with people who aren’t disabled. And how to use meditation to stay as strong as possible. What do you think can help people the most, especially soon after a diagnosis or flare up?

Amie: I am all for seeing a therapist when big changes happen, and I have had to when certain flare ups changed me a lot. Also, know it’s ok to be upset and scared, but accept the change and figure out what needs to be done to get to your new normal. 

I love the way you phrased that—the new normal. Looking at the future vs. mourning the past sounds like it could help people facing all kinds of situations and disabilities.


Kate’s entire world feels like it changes in an instant…yet no matter how sad or shocked she is, her positive side always shines through. She’s so inspiring! Was it easy to write the book that way? What tips do you have for staying positive during tough times?

Amie holding Charlyze with husband, Matt, and stepchildren, Ashley and Greg

Amie: I’ve just always been a pretty happy person. I have my moments too, but I try to find something funny about the situation and that usually brightens my spirits.

Shannon: It was easy to write the book that way because that’s the way Amie portrays herself. Her positivity was evident in every interaction I’ve had with her. 


When Kate first shared her diagnosis and how it would change her life, things were awkward with friends. What can people do to help a friend through a time like this?

Amie and best friend Mindy

Amie:  If a friend is going through a tough time in their life, figure out ways to include them in normal activities. I’ve had moments in my life when FOP caused drastic changes, and I was embarrassed about it, or worried about how I would look. That’s when my friends made me feel less alone. A good example is the chapter in Dancing In The Storm when Kate and her friends eat popcorn with forks–that actually happened to me.


I love that scene so much! I’m so glad your friends joined you eating popcorn with forks. 😊

What are some of your favorite middle-grade novels—and why do you love them so much?

Shannon: Blood Brothers by Rob Sanders, The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James by Ashley Herring Blake, Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson, The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney, Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood, and Escape From Aleppo by N.H. Senzai.

I love realistic fiction that features protagonists with big hearts. Bonus points if it’s historical fiction!

I see a few books I love and others to add to my must-read list. Thank you for sharing, Shannon.


Can you share a writing exercise?

Shannon: I had met Amie, (my co-author), but we didn’t know each other very well, and yet we had decided to write a novel together. The novel would be inspired by Amie’s life growing up with Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva, one of the rarest genetic disorders in the world. We started by completing this character workshop together. It’s a great tool for collaborators who are developing characters together, but also for any author writing fiction. Give it a try!


Is there anything else you’d like us to know about FOP? I was thrilled to see there’s finally a treatment available! What can we do to help support those with FOP?

Amie: Yes! The treatment is very new and countries are still working on getting it approved.  FOP is a genetic disease and responds to any sort of trauma to the body. The biggest indicator of FOP is our toes, (big toes are short and curved inward), which is noticeable at birth. If more doctors and nurses knew about this, we could diagnose kids at a younger age and possibly prevent them from some of the trauma (like intramuscular immunizations).

To help support FOP, a person can go to and donate to their research efforts.  We have come so far and hopefully more treatments will start becoming available as well!


Thank you for sharing, Amie. I hope this amazing book will help make many more people, including doctors, aware of FOP and how to notice it earlier to help protect kids.

Now that your incredible book is out in the world…what’s next for each of you?

Amie: Dancing In the Storm has given me a platform to spread the word about FOP. Though my condition makes travel difficult, look for me on more interviews such as this one, and I’m working on a Pinterest board. For fun, I stream on the Twitch platform. Last year was rough, but this year I plan to be back. I stream a variety of video games.

Shannon: I have a picture book biography, Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman, Writer, Historian, Environmentalist forthcoming April 16, 2024, and I’m hard at work revising another middle grade that features a protagonist with a big heart!


That all sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to read more interviews and see future books from you both.

Thank you again for visiting the Mixed-Up Files. I love your inspiring book…and can’t wait for our readers to discover it. Thank you also for your generous giveaway!

Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a copy of Dancing in the Storm (US only). The winner will be announced on this post and contacted via e-mail on February 13. Good luck!

Kate’s life in Baton Rouge, full of friends and family, gymnastics and Girl Scouts, is just plain great. But then, at the age of twelve, she suddenly develops a mysterious shoulder pain that won’t go away . . . and that will change her life forever. It turns out that Kate has one of the rarest genetic disorders in the world, Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva. FOP causes bone to form in places in the body where it shouldn’t, and there’s no cure yet. Kate will need to learn how to live with this difficult new reality, helped by those close to her and by a new pen pal named Amie, who has been living with FOP for years.

Drawing upon much of Amie Specht’s own experiences with FOP, she and esteemed novelist Shannon Hitchcock have created a poignant, eye-opening, and uplifting story of finding courage and joy in the face of adversity.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amie Darnell Specht worked in tech support for a large computer company for many years. She and her husband live in North Carolina with lots of pets. She has Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), and this, her first novel, is heavily influenced by her story. Follow her on Twitter, Twitch, and Pinterest!



Shannon Hitchcock was born and still lives in North Carolina and grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. She is the author of four previous acclaimed novels for children, including Flying Over Water and Ruby Lee & Me. In addition, Shannon is the author of four picture book biographies, with the latest, Of Words and Water: The Story of Wilma Dykeman, Writer, Historian, Environmentalist, coming on April 16, 2024. Follow Shannon on Twitter and Instagram.



Some additional photos I think you’ll enjoy. 🙂

Amie with her beloved dog, Chloe

Amie managing her high school gymnastic team

Amie on her wedding day with husband, Matt


The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island—An Interview with Bill Doyle

An interactive book that addresses climate change? I’m in! I had the pleasure of reading The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island and interviewing the author, Bill Doyle. This is the second book in The Fifth Hero series and just came out January 30.


About the Book

Hi Bill! Thank you for sharing the new book in The Fifth Hero series: Escape Plastic Island with me. Can you give us a short summary about the book?

Hihi! Thank you for inviting onto your site. I love what you’ve done with the place. It’s gorgeous and so comfy here.

The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island is a choose-your-own-adventure, interactive story of four kids who couldn’t be less likely candidates for heroes of the climate…and yet they find themselves thrust into the role of Earth superheroes. One has the power to talk to animals (though he’s freaked out by nearly every animal); one controls the ground and can cause earthquakes and other ground-breaking acts (but she doesn’t seem to get that Earth can be broken and sometimes human actions go too far); the third can manipulate the water (but isn’t a fan of swimming); and the fourth can control the weather (but “control” is the wrong word…because every time she tries, things spin out of control!). And…the read is The Fifth Hero, making decisions at critical points to shape the narrative and the story’s outcome. Each of the decisions are “small” ones that have to do with the environment and small everyday actions we can take to help make a difference. Readers will see firsthand in this non-preachy, action-packed story how even the tiniest changes in our daily routines can have a massive ripple effect.


I love that they of the kids has a superpower. Who would especially enjoy this book?

Kids who like choose your own adventures; kids who want to make a difference and be agents of change in the world around them; kids who like action stories with a touch of humor.


Would you classify this as science fiction or fantasy? 

I’d qualify The Fifth Hero series as science fiction. It takes place in the near-future and I tried to make all the innovations (like the gas-guzzling, disposable scooters) things that could actually exist soon. Yes, the kids gain superpowers by grabbing onto the spheres called the Four Ponies (yes, yes, like the Four Horsemen), but I still tried to keep everything based in science.


About the Author

How did your writing journey begin? Any other interesting jobs you have had?

Oh! I’ve ALWAYS wanted to be a writer. It’s the very first thing, seriously. I asked for a plastic toy typewriter when I was 7 or so, and I used to bang out stories on that. Along the way, I’ve been an editor with magazines, like Cat Companion (ha!), TIME For Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Kid City (aka Electric Company), and Scholastic News.


What authors (and/or books) would you say influenced your writing style and/or this book? [And did you read Choose Your Own Adventure books growing up?]

Yes, I did read Choose Your Adventures growing up, but, honestly, I wasn’t always crazy about them. Ugh. That sounds harsh, and I don’t mean to be. It’s just they often left me a little cold, and I wanted to have more connection with the character in the story. So I was determined in my books to make sure that I characters that kids will hopefully care about.

OK, and re writers who influenced me…get ready for name dropping! While I was getting my MFA in Dramatic Writing from Tisch at NYU, I had Arthur Miller teach me playwriting. Um. I know! Crazy, right? Plus, John Guar came in, and David Mamet, and John Patrick Shanley. One writer though who really affected me was a writer named Milan Stitt (he wrote the Tony-winning play The Runner Stumbles). He taught me something called The Major Dramatic Question. Anything worth reading has to have a Major Dramatic Question, he’d say…it’s the question the writer poses at the beginning of the story and maintains the tension around for the entire tale. It’s the reason readers want to keep turning pages, because they have to know the answer to the question.


Which of the characters in your book would you say you were most like growing up?

People might think I’d be most like Jarrett, who is a little more thoughtful and introspective than the other characters. But honestly, I think I was more like Agnes. I loved playing outside and being a little reckless…my brothers and I would try to have ski spills where we’d lose both skis and our poles (a yard sale, we’d call it) or we’d race backwards down the steepest hills on our skateboards. Agnes is brave, naively at times, when it comes to play, and I think I was the same.


Which power element would you want to possess?

Oh! I’d love to have the power to talk with animals, like Jarrett does. To know more about what my dog is think would be incredible!


Me too! What is something from your childhood that you snuck into the book?

For this book, I included a tiny bit of the feeling of a “crush” I think we all felt when were around 11 or 12. Just that wonderful feeling of liking spending time with someone.

Hi! This is me at around 8 on Lake Michigan reading The Hobbit. The first “grown-up” book I read on my own.


About Writing Series Books

Would you share the premise of the series?

Four 11-year-olds touch powerful spheres that are meant to destroy the world. The kids absorb the spheres and must harness their power to save the planet from the wicked family who wants to convince everyone to move up to the space hotels and colonies. The reader is the 5th Hero who must make decisions at crucial points in the plot to help save the day. 


How did you get the idea for a series that addresses climate change?

As Editor of Scholastic News magazine, I get bombarded with the same scary climate news that lots of kids are seeing. And I also get to visit lots of schools…so I could see the environmental issues are very important to kids. I wanted to find a way to empower kids, to show them that they can make a difference…even with very small changes to their daily routine.


Where did you get the idea for this particular book in the series?

The idea for Escape Plastic Island came from just seeing pictures of plastic islands in the ocean, and reading about how the largest one is bigger than the state of Texas. Holy moly. That image just stuck in my head, and I knew had to write about it.


Where in the journey did you decide it would be a series vs. a stand-alone book?

Hopefully the two books so far in the series can stand alone, but the idea for making it a series was baked in from the very beginning.


Can you share any tips for writing a series? [Especially for avoiding too big a recap at the beginning of each book]

When writing a series, I usually try to do the recap or “previously on…” during an action sequence of some kind. I sprinkle it around fast-moving descriptions, trying to make the medicine of the exposition go down more smoothly!



Did you always plan on involving the reader to make decisions, or is this something that came about later?

Empowering the reader with the superpower of changing the narrative was always part of the plan with this series. It’s something I love giving to kids. Normally that power is reserved for authors…only they get to control the story. But, thanks to time with screens, kids have come to expect a little more control in the stories they encounter. And they deserve that control too!


What research did you do for this book?

I actually got in touch with friend at, the world’s largest nonprofit that completely devoted to our oceans. They are true worldwide resource and I really, really recommend that people check out their work!


For Teachers

How can teachers make the most out of the message in this book?

Tackling stories about the environment in the classroom can be complicated, stressful, and, frankly, depressing. I hope my books and their positive message about the future can help with that. I feel like the message that kids can make simple, everyday changes in their routines to help out the planet is one that any student can grasp. I give specific examples of what those change might be in the books—and the ripple effect they might have on the health of our environment.


Are you doing school visits related to this book?

Yes! Yes! Definitely doing school visits. That’s one of my favorite things to do! I can make a school visit work with third graders all the way up through eighth grade. I usually do a fun, interactive writing workshop with the kids, so that by the time I go we’ve had a great time developing at least one new stellar idea for a series.


How can we learn more about you? 

So…the best way to learn more about me and to reach out to me is through my website: Please come visit me there!


Thanks for your time, Bill.

Be sure to check out The Fifth Hero: Escape Plastic Island!

Interview with author Joan Marie Galat

Known as the “Star Lady,” thanks to her interest in astronomy and outer space, Joan Marie Galat is an award winning and bestselling author of more than 25 books for kids, including the Dot to Dot in the Sky series, which combines the science of the night sky with the ancient myths that give the constellations, planets, and other night sky phenomena their names.

Joan has also written extensively on such topics as light pollution, ecology, volcanoes, nature and wildlife, printmaking, cultural traditions and history as well as a middle-grade novel, Mortimer: Rat Race to Space, and a biography on human rights activist Malala Yousafzai. Her latest book, Make Your Mark, Make A Difference: A Kid’s Guide to Standing Up for People, Animals, and the Planet, is a Junior Literary Guild selection and has been lauded by Kirkus as “a hands-on, practical, wide-ranging and information-packed handbook for budding activists.” It launches on February 13, 2024 from Beyond Words/Aladdin.

And now, without further ado…

Joan Marie Galat: The Interview

MR: Hi, Joan! Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files. We’re so happy to have you with us!

JMG: I’m delighted to spend this time with you!

MR: As stated in the intro, Make Your Mark, Make A Difference is a practical guide for kids who want to promote and stand up for issues that matter to them, whether it’s the environment, human rights, animal welfare, gun violence, and more. What inspired you to write this book, and why is the subject of social activism important to you?

JMG: The inspiration for this book came from my daughter after she became aware of the plight of child soldiers. She was ten years old when she learned that children in war-torn countries–her age and even younger–were being forced to carry and use guns. She wanted to help kids escape this tragedy, but it was difficult to determine how to help faraway children trapped in such a complicated situation. Since then, I became drawn to news about the many ways children, as well as adults, can find ways to tackle the causes they believe in. You might say this was early research for a book I didn’t yet know I’d write!

Fair Is Fair

JMG: Social activism is important to me because I value fairness. Activism delivers the opportunity to live one’s principles. It is not enough to hold beliefs for a better world; we must live our convictions and demonstrate the courage to lead change. Engaging this way inspires others to demonstrate their values and participate, too. My experience with my daughter showed me that while kids want to help, working out the best way can be tricky. I hope to make it easier for the compassionate kids who also care about people, animals, and the planet.

Support for the Reluctant Activist

MR: As you alluded to, engaging in social activism can feel daunting, particularly for kids who typically have limited access to power and resources. With this in mind, what would you say to a child who wants to get involved in a specific cause but feels reluctant or anxious to do so?

JMG: Reluctance sometimes stems from the belief that a problem must be fully solved, or change must be monumental, for it to matter. In fact, small steps can lead to meaningful and significant change. My advice for the child who feels reluctant or anxious is to look at the problem and find a way to make one part of it smaller. For example, you might find it difficult to make sure every child in your community has school supplies, but you might be able to make sure every student in your class has what is needed.

One of the best ways to reduce the anxiety that can come from doing things you’ve never done before is to set goals that are specific and achievable. Small or large, a success is a success, and making a difference in a smaller way will build the confidence and expertise needed to widen that circle of helping.

(For a list of MG books from the Mixed-Up archives that delve into the issues of activism, protest, and reform, click here.)

Social Activism: Let’s Get Started

MR: As a follow-up, what are five simple things a budding activist can do to get started?


  • Make a poster that highlights a few key points about an issue and includes a specific request for action. Place the poster where your audience will see it.
  • Volunteer with a nonprofit organization, such as a shelter that needs help caring for animals, or take part in an event, such as a roadside cleanup. Bring a friend and double your impact!
  • Help victims of bullying feel less isolated. Greet them by name when you cross paths. Issue an invitation to join you in an activity.
  • Help the climate by preventing food waste. Take only the portion you will eat, and let others know how reducing the energy needed to produce and transport food helps the environment.
  • Use recycling to create a sculpture that makes a statement about a cause that is important to you. Include a card with a title and explanation. Ask your school or public library to display your masterpiece.

Issues that Matter Most

MR: While researching the book, which social issues resonated most deeply with kids? On the flip side, which issues seem to be getting the short end of the stick?

JMG: Kids truly care about a diverse swath of problems. They are taking action to tackle everything from poverty, education, and gun violence to equality, the environment, and climate change. Social issues relating to animals, however, particularly resonate. Whether the issue is puppy mills, endangered species, habitat loss, wildlife in captivity, or other topic, children and teens want to see animals treated better.

Some concerns, however, are not on the average child’s radar. I’m thinking of outer-space issues—the threat of space becoming militarized, the risk of asteroids striking Earth, and the hazards of space junk. Make Your Mark, Make a Difference includes a full chapter on concerns about space. I hope it will help grow the understanding that the world above is an extension of our environment, and that it must be protected, managed, and explored for the benefit of all humankind, as promoted by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS).

Profiles in Courage

MR: Profiles of young social activists are included in the book, including Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani Nobel Prize-winner who stood up to the Taliban to defend girls’ education (and whose biography you wrote in 2020); Bana Alabed, a Syrian girl who wrote about the horrors she witnessed in war-torn Aleppo; and Alex Scott, who was diagnosed with cancer and started a lemonade stand to raise money for childhood cancer. (Sadly, Alex died in 2004, but Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, the non-profit that continues the work Alex started, has raised more than $250 million.) Besides finding inspiration in other kids’ stories, what are you hoping readers will take away from these profiles?

JMG: Along with providing inspiration, I wanted young readers to know that age need not deter them from tackling issues they care about. I also hope readers will discover that there are countless approaches to making a difference, and that they should choose the style that best fits with their personalities, interests, and circumstances. Activism can be loud, but it can also be quiet. Soft approaches, such as illuminating a cause through art, can be meaningful and effective. My wish is that readers grow comfortable with the idea that they can be themselves as they explore the best ways to make change.

Joan’s Causes

MR: Speaking of activism, which issues matter most to you on a personal level?

JMG: Thanks for asking! I do have a few fixations. Literacy and the environment are two big ones. The abilities to read and write are tied to so many issues including poverty, gender equality, employability, health, and safety. Reading makes it easier to solve problems, manage finances, and get job training. It builds responsibility, empathy, and creativity. It also enriches quality of life. My own experience reflects this. The nonfiction books I read as a child reflect the interests I still enjoy today, as well as the subjects I explore in my own writing. I want everyone to experience the benefits and pleasures!

And Now, the Environment…

JMG: I love to spend time outdoors and appreciate natural landscapes. I’ve been interested in wildlife and conservation since childhood, and I often use my writing to promote science, especially my love of nature and the night sky. Writing Make Your Mark, Make a Difference allowed me to spotlight concerns for animal welfare and the environment.

Author visits at schools, libraries, and other venues give me the opportunity to promote literacy and science. My message to kids is that there is a special book for every child, and that it is not enough to know how to read; you must actually do it. And if you do, you might find that reading leads to new interests and even adventure.

Joan’s Personal Shout-outs

JMG: My shout-outs are for Room to Read, which promotes literacy and gender equality, DarkSky International, which works to restore the night environment and protect people and animals from the negative effects of light pollution, and Plant-for-the-Planet, which leads a movement to plant trees and fight the climate crisis. You can learn more about their work in Make Your Mark, Make a Difference.

Secret to Success

MR: You’re an incredibly prolific writer, Joan, with more than 25 books under your belt. What’s the secret sauce to your success? Also, what are the biggest challenges when it comes to writing? The greatest rewards?

JMG:  My secret recipe is to write about topics I’m passionate about. If I’m going to spend months or longer on a project, my heart and attention must be fully engaged. When I discover amazing people, compelling facts, and irresistible stories, I want others to feel the same  interest and excitement I feel. Writing about talking about books gives me the opportunity to engage with others on the themes that compel me.

The biggest challenge is that it’s necessary to spend time on the administration of life—like paying bills and buying socks—when I’d rather be writing. The greatest reward is learning how my books impact readers. I also appreciate the new places I’ve been able to visit to share my book from Canada’s Arctic Circle to South Korea and Australia. Great perks!

Writing Process: It’s for the Birds

MR: What is your writing process like? Do you have a daily routine or does it vary from day to day? Also, do you have any special pre-writing rituals? 

JMG: My pre-writing ritual is to feed Peekaboo and Lollipop, the two budgies sharing my office. If I delay, they land on my computer screen or my head, which is as distracting as you might imagine. (Note: I’ve not yet needed to wash my hair as a result of serving as a landing pad.) Once everyone is fed, my daily routine is to turn to yesterday’s writing and revise it. It’s a relaxing warm-up that eases me toward getting creative with the new content I want to produce.

I set specific word-count goals. If a book is meant to be “x” number of words and I’m writing to a deadline, I’ll calculate how long that should take and add a healthy buffer to allow for life’s interruptions, as well as multiple passes. No decent book was ever written just once! When a day’s writing is going well, I continue beyond my goal. This helps me meet my weekly quota early and frees up time for my end-of-week reward—an afternoon swim and visit with my author buddies.

(For a video of Joan’s best writing tips, click here.)

Author on Stilts!

MR: Rumor has it that you have another talent besides writing: walking on stilts. Care to elaborate?

JMG: It all started with reading Juggling for the Complete Klutz, which led to taking my children to the annual Edmonton International Street Performers Festival. The stiltwalkers amazed me. How could they stay balanced on those tiny points? Years later, I read a story about the National Stiltwalkers of Canada in the Edmonton Journal. It said anyone could come and try it out. That’s all I needed to know. I found my balance and became a costumed stiltwalker at festivals and events, including a young authors conference. Upon request, I bring my stilts to author visits, and put them on for the Q & A portion. I make sure my student audience knows that I never would have acquired the skills of juggling and stiltwalking if I didn’t read. This is how I make my point: reading leads to new adventure!

Next Up…

MR: What are you working on now, Joan? Enquiring Mixed-Up readers want to know!

JMG: I’m immersed in writing captions and alternate text for the photos in my next middle grade release—Wildlife Crossings: Giving Animals the Right of Way (Orca Book Publishers). Roads provide essential human benefits, but they have a negative impact on animals, particularly those that need to cross roads to reach habitat. This book explores how roads impact wildlife, and shares innovative solutions from smart roads that can help reduce roadkill to landscaped overpasses and underpasses that help reconnect animal populations and boost biodiversity. Wildlife Crossings will be in bookstores October 15, 2024.

And finally, no MUF interview is complete without a lightning round, so…

Preferred snack? Chocolate! My current love is chili-flavored chocolate.

Favorite planet? I’m torn between Jupiter and Saturn. I love how I can see four of Jupiter’s moons with binoculars, but Saturn’s rings make me gasp in awe.

Favorite book? I couldn’t possibly pick!

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay? Nope, not worried.

Superpower? I can zip through a crowd without touching anyone.

Favorite place on earth? On or near water. Give me waves.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be? A dictionary, a solar refrigerator that self-replenishes with chocolate and other necessities, and a satellite telephone.

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Joan. It was a pleasure, and I’m sure MUF readerswill agree!

JMG: Thanks for all the great questions. I might need to think more about that desert island.


Although she started making books at the age of nine, Joan Marie Galat wasn’t published until she was 12 years old, when she became a paid weekly newspaper columnist. Today she is the award-winning author of more than 25 books, with translations in eight languages. Recent titles include Mortimer: Rat Race to Space (DCB), Absolute Expert: Space (National Geographic Kids), Stars (Scholastic), and The Story of Malala Yousafzai (Rockridge Press).

Joan shares her love of the stars in the Dot to Dot in the Sky series which combines the science of the night sky with the ancient myths that give constellations and planets their names. Her first title, Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Stars, became a best seller within six weeks of its release. As well as astronomy and mythology, Joan’s books for children explore light pollution, ecology, nature, volcanoes, wildlife, engineering, printmaking, cultural traditions, and history. Her titles include both fiction and non-fiction, often with a focus on STEM or STEAM topics.

A prolific writer and relentless promoter of reading, Joan loves to use storytelling to connect with audiences. Speaking engagements have taken Joan across Canada, as well as to international events such as the United Nations Environment Programme in Seoul, South Korea (2016); the International Dark-Sky Conference in Snowbird, USA (2018), and an international book fair in Seoul (2005), where she presented Korean translations of her books. In Australia (2019), Joan spoke to child, family, and adult audiences. Closer to home, she has been part of the Jasper Dark Sky Festival (2015) and toured at schools and libraries across Canada. She is the 2018 recipient of the Martha Weston Grant, awarded annually to one member (worldwide) of the USA based Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Joan operates MoonDot Media, a communications business offering writing and editing solutions in broadcast, print, and multi-media. Her freelance jobs have encompassed writing radio and video scripts, a cartoon, magazine articles, exhibit text, speechwriting, grant applications, annual reports, and other projects. She also provides corporate training and public workshops, as well as consults for writers on query letters, manuscripts, and the submission process. Follow Joan on Facebook, Instagram, Bluesky, and X, and find her on Moondotmedia and on her website. Oh, and if you’d like to follow Joan’s budgies, Peekaboo and Lollipop, they’re on X, too! (But only because it was formerly called Twitter! 😀)