MUF Contributor Books

When a project is finally complete: some thoughts on the imminent release of my debut novel

Started knitting this sweater July 2021, completed July 2022. It fits perfectly 👌(Which never happens when you’re short, so yay! 😀)

My sweater

Sometimes it feels like everything takes me a long time to accomplish. Knitting this sweater-jacket took me a year! A story I often tell myself is that things take me longer than other people. But when I’m being more honest I know that often within this are choices that I’ve made. During the year I was knitting this sweater I also crocheted a kippa, knit a cardigan for my daughter, learned how to darn, continued to work on an ongoing not-yet-completed needlepoint project, started knitting a hat and started crocheting a toy giraffe.

 

Sure it would have gone faster if I’d just concentrated on this one thing. But it suited me to complete several smaller projects while I was working on this larger one. There are several reasons for this:

1. It’s very satisfying to finish something. It makes me feel in control and that I’ve accomplished something.

2. It’s fun to start something new! Choosing colors and patterns for a small project that I know won’t take me too long offers a break from the longer project.

3. Starting and completing a smaller project deliberately prolongs the longer one; it can be bittersweet to say goodbye to something I’ve been working on for a long time.

 

 

My book

I wish I could say this is an exact metaphor for the journey of my debut novel, Honey and Me, which I wrote the first draft of 10 summers ago! It has been a long journey with this novel. And unlike knitting a sweater, it hasn’t always been a matter of how much I worked on it or if I put it aside for a little while to work on something else, or that I worked on it alongside other writing projects. Yes, I have been working on other projects which I hope I get to share with readers at some point, but Honey and Me’s journey was mostly not a question of choices of what to focus on, and many aspects of it were far beyond my control.

Which is comforting in the sense of thinking about a writers journey: no matter how much you will it or want it, it is not under your control how long it might take an agent to read your query letter, and if they decide they want to read your whole manuscript, you don’t have control over how long that takes them. When you do get an agent you can do your best to take their suggestions to get it ready for submission to editors, but you have zero control after that in terms of if/when an editor reads your work, sends it to the editorial committee, makes an offer… And even once you get the magic offer, a whole journey begins anew, again with many aspects beyond one’s control.

What you do have control over

But what you do have is control over the quality of your work. Barring life circumstances that might get in your way—health, other jobs (in which I include running a home, raising children, caring for elderly parents…)—when it’s in your lap you have control over when and how long it takes to write, rewrite, revise, incorporate editorial notes. You have control over what you put into it. You also have control over how you try to get it out into the world. No one can see it if it stays as a file on your computer. Sure, you can’t be rejected if you never give anyone the opportunity to reject it. But then of course you can’t have the opportunity for someone to say, ‘wow I love this so much, let’s go on this journey together!’

Belief in your work

Even when I just couldn’t quite get to where I was trying to go in the journey of Honey and Me, even when there were roadblocks, stumbling blocks, dead ends, and scenic routes, I believed wholeheartedly in my story, my setting, and my characters, Milla and Honey. If I hadn’t, I don’t think I would have had the capacity for perseverance and tenacity that finally getting to see my book about to be published required.

What happens when the sweater is finished?

Now I get to wear it! I can’t wait. What happens when my book is published on October 18th and it goes out into the world—into readers hands? I don’t know!
I can’t wait for readers to read it. I can’t wait to talk about it with people. I can’t wait to go into schools and do author visits and presentations (but oh my god am I nervous about that. Excited! But nervous.)

Will they like it?

My sweater is for me. Someone might see it and compliment it. But basically if I like it and get use out of it, I’ll be happy with it. My book is a different beast altogether. Actually, it’s not a beast, and it’s not a garment either. It’s very much itself: a book.
Making art and specifically writing a book is a complicated enterprise: yes, we write for ourselves, because we have a story to tell, because we have art to make. But we write with an audience in mind. We want an audience. We write to tell readers a story. We write to give readers something.

What if they don’t like it?

What if reviewers say it sucks?* What if no one finds out about it? What if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears?

I don’t have the answers. I don’t know if seasoned published authors have the answers either. For me right now there’s this interplay going on between wanting to be seen, and wanting to hide. Wanting to talk to tons of kids and have public speaking opportunities (both of which I LOVE to do), is fighting with the feeling of wanting to pull a hoodie up over my head.

So all I can say is wish me luck and stay tuned! Honey and Me comes out with Scholastic on October 18th 2022 and is available for preorder wherever fine books can be found.

* but OMG, Kirkus has given it a starred review!!!! ⭐️

Interview with Beth McMullen, Author of Secret of The Storm

Full confession: Beth McMullen is not only one of my best friends; she is also one of my favorite authors. I was already a massive fan of her two middle-grade series MRS. SMITH’S SPY SCHOOL FOR GIRLS and LOLA BENKO, TREASURE HUNTER, so I had great expectations when I cracked open SECRET OF THE STORM. And, of course, Beth did not disappoint. Without a doubt, it was my favorite read of the year. I laughed, cried, and gasped with delight—all while falling in love with the characters—especially Joe. The story was fast-paced and action-packed, with a couple of fun twists and turns, at the end. I truly hope this book finds its way into the hands of every middle-grade reader. It’s the perfect escape in an otherwise imperfect world—something I think we can all use right about now.  

But enough of my gushing . . . Time to put Beth on the hot seat. 

Lisa: Tell us about Secret of The Storm.  (Available March 1st) 

Beth: This sounds lame but I love this book! It’s my seventh middle grade book and my third series and I think it is my favorite. I’m a total cat person, not gonna lie, so being able to mix action/adventure, fantasy, new friendships, the circuitous process of grieving, family drama, wild librarians, and bad weather with CATS…well, I could not have been more into it.

Lisa: How did you come up with the idea?

Beth: My black cat looks exactly like Toothless, the dragon from How to Train Your Dragon. I mean, whoever animated that character DEFINITELY had cats. The mannerisms, the movements, the attitude – it is all cat. So of course I started thinking, what if my cat really is a dragon? What happens if that happens?

Lisa: If your cats could talk, what would they say to you?

Beth: Feed me.

Lisa: What is your most cringe-worthy moment in middle school?

Beth: Just one?!? Hard to pick. My brother was five years older than me but that was not enough time for my 8th grade math teacher, Mr. Parker, to forget about him (math teacher was not a fan LOL). As soon as Mr. Parker saw my last name on the class list, he got this insane grin on his face and I basically tried to disappear into my desk. He spent the rest of the year torturing and humiliating me at every turn. Not a fun year.

Lisa: Did you base any characters on people you know? If yes, spill the beans!

Beth: I put bits and pieces of people I know into characters but it’s never the whole package. I take language I overhear or stories my own kids tell me about school and friends and things. Writing Secret of the Storm, I started with the concept of cats and dragons so created characters that would fit the story. Many authors start with character and build a story that way, but I rarely do.

Lisa: How much of your real-life experiences play a role in the stories you tell? For example, did you secretly own a dragon in middle school?

Beth: I wish! That would have made me so much cooler than I was. My first reaction to this question is ‘no’ but in truth my books tend to have themes related to being on the outside looking in or how things are never as they seem. During much of my childhood, I felt both of those things acutely and they show up in my writing, often unintentionally.

Lisa: What books did you like to read when you were a kid? Do those books influence your writing?

Beth: I was an avid reader. Still am! Some of my favorite titles: The Westing Game, anything by Judy Blume, Bridge to Terebithia, A Wrinkle in Time, The Outsiders, anything by Paula Danzinger, and, last but not least, Danielle Steel and Stephen King. They were in the house so I read them.

Lisa: What advice would you give twelve-year-old Beth?

Beth: So much energy wasted on worrying about things that did not matter. I’d tell myself to work on just letting things go.

Lisa: What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Beth: Total punster! I’ve worked very hard to accept that this is just the way I am. Outlines and me, we just don’t get along.

Lisa: Last, but most important-What is your Wordle starter word?

Beth: I start with a different word every day! I’m not sure this is a good strategy but since I started playing, I see five letter words EVERYWHERE.

More About Beth: 

Beth McMullen is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls (Aladdin/S&S) series as well as the forthcoming Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter (Aladdin/S&S) series, in stores and everywhere August 25th. Yay Lola! Her third middle grade series, Cats & Dragons, arrives in March 2021.  Beth lives in Northern California with her husband, kids, cats and a very tolerant parakeet named Zeus.

You can reach her on FaceBook/Instagram @BethMcMullenBooks and on Twitter at @bvam.  Visit BethMcMullenBooks.com to email or for more information.

ORDER NOW!

 

 

 

Our 2021 Reading and Writing Resolutions

The year 2020 has finally come to a close and, like everyone else, MUF Members are looking forward to a new year and new resolutions. After reading some of these, I’m thinking about revising my own list. Maybe you will, too. Feel free to leave us your reading/writing resolutions in the comments section. Happy Reading and Writing in 2021!

 

 

Click on the authors’ names to learn more about them and their work. Click on the titles to support independent bookstores by purchasing a book.

 


Andrea Pyros 
is the author of Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas and My Year of Epic Rock.

Writing Resolution: “A gentle reminder to myself and anyone else who needs to hear this: Don’t stress over the messiness of a first draft! They’re not supposed to be perfect, but a framework to build upon during multiple revises.”

Reading Resolution: “To leave reviews for books I’ve enjoyed reading. Authors really benefit from positive online reviews, so this is a simple way to boost other writers.”

 

 


Beth McMullen
 is the author of the Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls series and the Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter series–next up, Lola Benko and the Midnight Market, summer 2021.

Resolution: “2020 was the year of ‘no’ so I’m determined to make 2021 the year of ‘yes’! First up on the list, I’m giving myself permission to write what I want, not what I think I should be writing or what others would like for me to write. We will see how that goes!”

 

 

 

S.A. Larsen is the award-winning author of Motley Education and other middle grade and young adult books, who loves to chase her characters around a graveyard or antagonize them with the wonders of young love.

Resolution: “I intend to loosen the reins of my creativity by committing to two sessions of free-writing every month. Feel free to join me!”

 

 

 

Melissa Roske is the author of Kat Green Comes Clean and other contemporary middle-grade fiction.

Resolution: “Before the pandemic, I had a (relatively) consistent writing schedule. I’d write in the mornings, take a break for lunch, do more writing, and then head to the gym. Now that the world has changed, I lack the focus and discipline to stick to my previous schedule. Therefore, my resolution for 2021 is to create a new, less restrictive schedule that accommodates my ‘new normal.’ For instance, I can’t go to the gym anymore, but I can take an online fitness class before or after a writing session. And I can be kinder to myself when I have a less-than-productive day. Sometimes, getting out of bed in the morning is enough.”

 

 

Rosanne Parry, the author of A Whale of the Wild  and more, writes books in her treehouse, sells books at Annie Blooms Bookstore, and reads books everywhere.

Writing Resolution: “I have a year of intensive research coming up. I hope to read another 50 books, websites, archive materials and maps, view documentaries and meet with at least a dozen experts in the field. ”

Reading Resolution: “I hope to take greater advantage of audio books this year. I also want to find and nominate at least 2 new titles for the Indie Next list. ”

 

 

Jennifer Swanson is an award-winning author of Beastly Bionics, Rad Robots, Brilliant Biomimicry, and Incredible Inventions Inspired by Nature as well as 40+ STEM books for kids. Science ROCKS!

Resolution: “Be Healthy. Be Happy. Stay Curious.”

 

 

 

 

Donna Galanti writes middle grade where heart and hope meet adventure! She is the author of the Joshua and The Lightning Road series and the upcoming Unicorn Island, which begins a new series.

Resolution: “I had 2 new books to write on deadline this year, but that meant I neglected my numerous own projects! In 2021, I intend to finish drafting and revising 3 books in various stages and outline a new idea. My day will continue to include mediation, walks in the woods, and working on one project at a time each day—but also adding yoga to get flexible! Until recently, my critique partner and I met each month for a writing day but have changed that up this month to Zoom “accountable” days. I aim to do a few of these each month with her if I can in 2021. We set goals, a day, and a time, like between 9am and 5pm, and then Zoom every 2 hours to check in and hold each other accountable. It’s a great way to boost productivity when you have to check in with someone!

 

Natalie Rompella is the author of Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners as well as more than sixty materials for kids, including books on topics such as insects and sled dog racing.

Resolution: “To write something that requires little or no research.”

 

 

 

Aixa Perez-Prado is a writer and illustrator of quirky, own voices stories with heart and humor.

Resolution: “I will approach my writing and drawing with the same confidence and spirit as I did as a child, full of joy, wonder and hope.”

 

 

 

 

Sean McCollum, the author of 1 For All, is a nomad from the Midwest who’s been fortunate enough to build a career writing nonfiction books, stories, and articles for kids, tweens, and teens.

Resolution: “Read more, write more, and give more young people more reasons to read.” 🙂

 

 

 

 

Meira Drazin, who loves to read widely, voraciously and across genres, is the author of the Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award-winning middle grade novel Honey and Me, forthcoming from Scholastic.

Resolution: “I’m always so jealous when I see people post on social media roundups of what they’ve read in the last calendar year. This year I resolve to be one of those people! I’ll admit that this isn’t the first time I’ve had this resolution: in the past I have tried jotting down in the back of my journal each book as I finish it, only to get as far as January. Or to decide to do it in April and unsuccessfully try to backtrack by scanning the pile of books next to my bed, bath, couch, office, etc. I think this year the key will be to do it in Notes on my phone so that it’s in a central location and generally something I have at hand. How wonderful to be able to see the breadth of what you’ve read over twelve months, and remember what moved you, what irritated you, what made you laugh or cry, what was interesting or even what was boring, what did not deserve the hype and what deserved all its hype and then some.”

 


Samantha M Clark
 is the award-winning author of The Boy, the Boat, and the Beast.

Resolution: “I’m really excited to have two new books coming out: Arrow  published by Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster on June 22 and American Horse Tales: Hollywood, coming from Penguin Workshop/Penguin Random House on June 29. While I’ll be busy with those as well as other upcoming projects, my 2021 resolution is to find peace wherever I can and make lots of time to read all the wonderful middle-grade books that have come out since COVID-19 started.”

 

 

Heather Murphy Capps is an #ownvoices middle grade author who writes contemporary, science, and magical themes.

Resolution: “To tackle two projects: 1) draft a new book I’m noodling on but haven’t yet outlined; 2) revise a book I trunked a while ago but have a real itch to resurrect. Peace out, 2020, bring it on, 2021!”

 


Michelle Houts
, the author of Winterfrost, writes fiction and nonfiction for readers of all ages from a restored one-room schoolhouse.
Resolution: “This year, I want to write for practice: morning pages, a poem a day, free-writing … anything that exercises my writer’s brain.”

 

 

 

 


Jonathan Rosen
is the beloved and highly controversial author of Spooky MG books such as Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies and From Sunset to Sunrise.

Resolution: “Total Global Conquest and also to write more.”

 

 

 

 

Mimi Powell is a writer, librarian, and avid video-gamer.

Resolution: “From Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, where she talks about writing as a meditative practice: write for twenty minutes a day, doesn’t matter if it is good or not. Just write.”

 

Greg R. Fishbone is the founding member of the Mythoversal Project and the author of speculative fiction and mythology in verse.

Resolution: “To release at least one installment of mythology stories per week through 2021.”

 

 

 

 

Dorian Cirrone is the author of the middle-grade novel, The First Last Day, and other books for kids and teens.

Writing resolution: “To write with abandon, using the Pomodoro Technique of setting a timer for twenty-five minutes at a time and knocking that inner editor off my shoulder while I write. Also, to finish the novel I started a couple of years ago that I’ve been thinking about for more years than I can count.”

Reading resolution: “To read widely and to try new genres.”