For Writers

The Cubcake Club – Sheryl and Carrie, Mother-Daughter Co-Authors!

As an author who writes books with her daughter, I was thrilled to be able to interview Sheryl and Carrie Berk, mother-daughter co-authors of the yummy The Cupcake Club series!


NEW Berk Author Photo credit Heidi Green Photography

New York Times bestselling co-author of Soul Surfer, SHERYL BERK is the founding editor in chief of Life & Style Weekly as well as a contributor to InStyle, Martha Stewart, and other publications. Her daughter, CARRIE, a cupcake connoisseur, cooked up the idea for The Cupcake Club series in second grade. Carrie maintains her own cupcake blog, featuring reviews, photos and recipes of her culinary adventures, called Carrie’s Cupcake Critiques:



Me:  Hi ladies!  Thanks for joining us here at the Mixed-Up Files!  We’re excited to have you.  As a mother-daughter author-duo myself,  I know it can be great fun working together.  I’m dying to know what your experience is like writing as a team.

Carrie: FUN! We love dreaming up the crazy cupcake adventures for the Peace, Love and Cupcakes girls!

Sheryl: It’s a great way for us to bond. It’s wonderful to have my daughter truly understand what my job is. Before when I was on deadlines, she would get frustrated. Now she gets it. She now says when she grows up she wants to be a writer like her mom which makes me very proud.

Carrie: I want to be a New York Times Bestselling author, too.


Me:  My daughter is learning what it’s like to be on deadline, too!  Well, we’re learning it together, so that’s been fun and challenging.  When working on new material, we love outlining, coming up with interesting ideas and creating loveable, relatable characters.  What do you consider the best part of writing together?

Sheryl: Probably cooking up the story arcs for each book. We love to dream where we can take the characters next.

Carrie: So I love Las Vegas, and we had to put that into Book 4: Icing on the Cake. Jenna’s mom is getting married in Vegas!

Sheryl: We also love coming up with the cupcakes the girls will bake in the book.

Carrie: I watch Cupcake Wars for ideas. They put crazy things in their cupcakes: like pickles, Brussel sprouts and sardines.

Sheryl: Writing together also helps me understand what’s important to her and kids her age. She’s suggested topics ranging from bullying to dyslexia to rescue dog organizations. I love to hear what’s on her mind.

Carrie: I love when I get to edit what my mom writes. I change a lot of the things the girls say in the book because I want it to sound real. I’m 10, so I know how 10 year olds talk.


Me: Ha! My daughter does the same thing!  She’s “keeping it real” because I talk like a mom.  What would you say was the inspiration for the Cupcake Club series?

Carrie: Well, I couldn’t find any books about girls my age and cupcakes and I wanted to read one. I was in second grade, and I was having a sleepover party with my BFF, and I just sat down and started writing one. I showed it to my mom and she showed it to her literary agent and everyone loved it. But the idea really just came from me loving cupcakes and wanting other kids to share in that.

Sheryl: Many of the things that happen in the book are inspired by Carrie’s real-life experiences and what her friends have experienced. For example, she’s a peer mediator in her school and she gets to mediate kids who are feeling bullied. She wanted to write this into the first book because she felt it was something kids wanted to understand better.

Carrie: I also named the characters after people I know, like Principal Fontina. My principal’s name is actually Ms. Fontana. I also had the girls baking to raise money for an Eco Center which is just like the one in my school, and performing a Shakespeare play–which we just did this year in Fifth Grade. I played Lady Macbeth.

Sheryl: Carrie started her cupcake blog ( when she was about 7. I think reviewing cupcakes really inspired her. And she always loved to bake with her friends–an unofficial cupcake club!


Me:  It really is amazing how kids are inspired to write because of what they want to read.   On a side note….we’re fans of sweets in our house.  What’s your favorite cupcake flavor?

Sheryl: For me, it’s always anything with banana.

Carrie: Red Velvet. I always taste red velvet at every cupcake store I critique because I can tell how good the baker is by how good the Red Velvet is. The frosting has to be cream cheesy and not too whippy. The cake has to be moist and I want to be able to taste the chocolate.

Me:  You’re a smart girl.  I have to be able to taste the chocolate, too.  Preferrably by licking the batter right off the spoon!  Thanks for joining us here on the Mixed-Up Files today!  Good luck with your fun series!



Meet Kylie Carson.

She’s a fourth grader with a big problem. How will she make friends at her new school? Should she tell her classmates she loves monster movies? Forget it. Play the part of a turnip in the school play? Disaster! Then Kylie comes up with a delicious idea: What if she starts a cupcake club? Soon Kylie’s club is spinning out tasty treats with the help of her fellow bakers and new friends.

But when Meredith tries to sabotage the girls’ big cupcake party, will it be the end of the Cupcake Club?


cupcake club

Meet Sadie.

When she’s not mixing it up on the basketball court, she’s mixing the perfect batter with her friends in the cupcake club. Sadie’s definitely no stranger to competition, but the oven mitts are off when the club is chosen to appear on Battle of the Bakers, the ultimate cupcake competition on TV.

But the real battle happens off camera when the club’s baking business starts losing money.

With the clock ticking and the cameras rolling, will the club and their cupcakes rise to the occasion?


cupcake club blonde


Meet Lexi Poole.

To Lexi, a new school year means back to baking with her BFFs in the cupcake club. But the club president, Kylie, is mixing things up by inviting new members. And Lexi is in for a no-so-sweet surprise when she is cast in the school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. If only she could be as confident onstage as she is in the kitchen. The icing on the cake: her secret crush is playing Romeo.

Sounds like a recipe for trouble.

Can the girls’ friendship stand the heat, or will the cupcake club go up in smoke?



Amie Borst and her middle-grade daughter, Bethanie, write fairy tales with a twist.  Their first book in the Scarily Ever Laughter series, Cinderskella,  debuts October 2013!

Welcome Kevin Emerson, Author of The Fellowship for Alien Detection!

I’m not usually a fan of aliens.  Really I’m not.  They give me nightmares and take me on their spaceships and run crazy experi….I mean they’re not real at all and nothing ever happened.  It was all a dream.  Just a crazy dream.

I blame Kevin Emerson.  It’s all his fault.  He wrote this book…about aliens and stuff.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  Anyway, to make up for the alien abductions dreams, he’s here today to tell us all the warning signs of an imminent alien attack.  A little too late for me, but thanks for trying.

FAD - Front Cover - 12x16

Juliette, Arizona is missing, and so is eleven-year-old Pennsylvania resident Suza Raines. Most people believe Suza was kidnapped, but there are others who are convinced something more sinister is going on. The night Suza vanished everyone in her town dreamed they were being taken into space. And it turns out they were not alone. People in towns across the country have been having the same dreams…and it’s only getting worse. Enter Haley and Dodger, two kids from opposite sides of the country who believe there is one explanation for these strange events: aliens. Having each been awarded a Fellowship for Alien Detection (a grant from a mysterious foundation dedicated to proving aliens exist), Haley and Dodger and their families set off on a cross-country road trip to prove their theories. They soon realize that the answers to their questions lie in the vanished town of Juliette, AZ, but someone…or something… is doing everything in its power to make sure they never reach it. If Haley and Dodger don’t act quickly, more people may go missing, and the world as we know it will change for the worse.” Independence Day meets Holes in this thrilling new title from author Kevin Emerson.


Top Ten Signs that You May Soon be On the Run from Extra-Terrestrials Bent on World Domination

10. You notice sometimes that time seems to go by really fast, almost like you missed it, and you have to reset your bedroom clock.

9. You have this weird song in your head that goes “Shoop shoop ba-doop.” When you look it up, you find out it’s from 1994.  Who is Salt-N-Pepa? You weren’t even alive in back then. It’s probably your parents’ fault, or is it?

8.  Even though it’s four in the afternoon, you are absolutely craving pancakes.

7.  Every clown you see looks more creepy than usual. Also, they look like they would be really good at mixed martial arts.

6.  You have this weird sense of déjà vu, like you’ve done all this before, like this same day is repeating over and over…

5.  Your town seems to have a lot of construction going on, almost like they’re doing something really big underground.

4.  You have a strange urge to itch behind your left ear.

3.  You remember a place called Juliette, but you can’t find it on any map.

2.  You keep hearing a radio station in your mind.

1.  You just got a letter that you won the Fellowship for Alien Detection.


Kevin Emerson - Author Photo

Kevin Emerson has never been abducted by aliens, at least not that he remembers. He has been to Roswell, but all he found there was a cool key chain. Kevin is the author of a number of books for young readers including The Fellowship for Alien Detection, the Oliver Nocturne Series, Carlos is Gonna Get It, and The Lost Code, the first book in the Atlanteans series. Kevin is also a musician. His current project is the brainiac kids’ pop band the Board of Education. A former elementary school science teacher, Kevin continues to work with kids and teens at 826 Seattle and Richard Hugo House and with the Writers in the Schools Program of Seattle Arts & Lectures. He lives in Seattle with his wife and two children. You can visit him online at


I don’t know about you, but I’m still waiting on my acceptance letter!  Uh, I mean…who’s Salt-N-Pepa anyway?

I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of The Fellowship for Alien Detection a few months ago.  One word: Unputdownable!  If you read any middle-grade book this year, you’ll want to make sure this is the one!  And now’s your chance.  Kevin has graciously agreed to giveaway a copy of The Fellowship to one lucky reader.  Just enter your name below for a chance to win!

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Thanks for joining us here at the Mixed-Up Files today Kevin!  I’ve got this informative list neatly packed away in my 72 hour kit, you know, for my next alien abduction  dream.

Amie Borst writes fairy tales with a twist with her 12-year-old daughter. Their first book, Cinderskella, releases October 2013 by Jolly Fish Press.

Interview with Hillary Homzie, author of The Hot List

Welcome! We’re excited to celebrate the book release of one of our very own members—Hillary Homzie’s The Hot List published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X launched March 8!

Spring is the perfect pub date for The Hot List because the weather is starting to heat up and that means summer is around the corner. We think this book is so fun (secret lists, crushes, crazy boys named Squid, and a bet) and will resonate so strongly with tweens (cafeteria real estate changes, bff heartbreak and maybe some healing), that we’re recommending it as a beach bring-along. Booklist said that The Hot Listcaptures the angst of young teen friendships and fragile identities.”

We caught up with Hillary for an interview and a bonus—a giveaway of a signed copy of The Hot List! Leave a comment to be entered! The winner will be announced Tuesday, April 19.

From the jacket flap:

Sophie Fanuchi and Maddie Chen have always been BFFs. Then Maddie starts hanging out with Nia Tate—CEO of the popular girls (a.k.a. the “pops”) and daughter of Sophie’s father’s new girlfriend. Soon it seems like Nia has replaced Sophie in the bestie category—and Sophie can feel Maddie slipping away.

As Sophie and Maddie’s friendship continues to unravel, Sophie impulsively makes a bet with Nia. The Mission? Get Squid Rodriguez, perhaps the geekiest, un-Hot-List-worthy boy at Travis, on the list in one month. Can Sophie turn this nottie into a hottie and win back her friendship with Maddie?

Welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files, Hillary! Why did you decide to make this story for middle grade readers?

A couple of years ago, a sixth grader told me about a mysterious hot list, as in a list of all the hottest kids in the sixth grade, that was kept up in the girl’s bathroom. Somehow the students knew about the list and managed to secretly maintain it, even when the custodial staff would wipe it away. I felt like, yes, I can grow that situation into a book, if I can figure out why a girl would start a Hot List. I wanted there to be a deeper reason than because she was thinking about who’s cute in seventh grade. And I discovered it was because Sophie, my protagonist, felt as if she needed to do something cool and exciting in order to reel in her best friend Maddie, who was drifting away and beginning to explore new friendships.

Can you share an excerpt from the book that gives us a flavor of your character’s voice? How did you find your character’s voice?

in the pit of my stomach I knew it was bad. Like wearing-pajamas-to-class-to-start-a-new-fashion-trend bad. I mean, what was I thinking?—announcing to the world who was hot and who wasn’t. That might have been text-bloggy material for someone like Nia and her crew, but I should’ve known better—those lists were meant to be secret. Instead, I ignored the flip-floppy, squeezy-icky feeling inside and kept on writing. “Guard the door,” I whispered to Maddie. At least I had the sense to be paranoid about someone catching me. What I should’ve been paying attention to who was about to be leaving my life for good.

I found Sophie’s voice by interviewing her and asking her questions. I let her speak for herself. When I tried to impose a voice it didn’t work. At one point, I tried to make her more of a fashionista. A little more attitude-y. But that wasn’t Sophie. She’s smart, athletic, but doesn’t like to be the center of attention, which becomes a real problem.

Why did you choose the setting of your story?

In my last book for tween girls, THINGS ARE GONNA GET UGLY (Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X, 2009), I set the novel in Menlo Park, CA because that’s where I lived when I was 13, the same age as Taffeta Smith, my protagonist. In THE HOT LIST, I wanted to set the novel some place different but some place that I had a connection to. I was born in Denver, so I decided I would find a town in Colorado. At first, I was going to set THE HOT LIST in Denver but I decided that Sophie wasn’t an urban dweller. I looked around Denver and, ultimately, decided on Boulder because it was a college town. I grew up in Charlotesville, Va., another college town and it felt familiar to me.

Who is the editor of this book? How many rounds of revision did you make? What was the most illuminating part of the revision process for you?

I was double lucky as I had an editing duo–Liesa Abrams, Executive Editor, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin M!X Books and Alyson Heller, assistant editor, Simon & Schuster/ Aladdin M!X. There was one major revision, for which I’m grateful. I had gone a little off course, giving too much play to a secondary character, Squid. Okay, a lot off course. Liesa and Alyson steered me back to a shore. I refocused on the friendship between Sophie and Maddie as the emotional core of the novel. It’s a much better book because of that. After my big revision, they asked only for small line changes, which made my day. Week. Okay, maybe a year. The most illuminating part of the revision process for me was to remember that a book is ultimately about a character and her relationships. That having a cool hook/premise is not enough. We need to care about the protagonist’s emotional journey, even when the book is intended to be a fun, yet resonant romp.

Was there a teacher or librarian in your childhood who inspired or empowered you to be a writer?

Two actually. My second grade teacher Mrs. McCrone wrote a letter to me. And in that letter, she said, “You are a writer.” I had always been an avid reader, but from that moment on, I thought of myself as a writer. Then when my sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Casey, wrote in my middle school yearbook that I was a future writer.  Well, after that the author bug wouldn’t let go. I definitely blame Mrs. McCrone and Mrs. Casey for encouraging me.

Thank you, Hillary, and we know you’re having a wonderful Book Release Month!

Readers, we hope you enjoyed the interview!

If you’d like to a chance to win a copy of Hillary’s new book, make sure you post in the comments section. Tweets and Facebook and Blog posts earn you more entries. The winner will be announced Tuesday!

Hillary has been celebrating the launch of her newest book FOR SEVERAL WEEKS and today she’s taking the party here so leave questions; she’ll answer, and let’s have some fun!

There’s a HUGE list mania party happening at Hillary’s blog, too. If you want a chance to win a fabulous prize package, go to her blog and leave a comment!

And for those who want to see more, here’s the very fun book trailer.


Don’t forget to check out The Hot List at IndieBound or your favorite bookstore.

Enjoy Hillary’s great website, which is also full of helpful writer advice, and don’t forget to check out her school visit page so you can learn how Hillary can visit your school!

Hillary Homzie is the author of the tween novels, The Hot List (S&S 2011) and Things Are Gonna Get Ugly (S&S 2009), as well as the comedic chapter book series Alien Clones From Outer Space (S&S), which is being made into an animated television series.  During the summers, Hillary teaches in the graduate program in children’s writing at Hollins University. She’s a master teacher and loves to visit schools and speak at conferences, libraries and festivals. A former sketch comedy performer in NYC, Hillary currently lives with her family in Northern California.