New Releases

Interview with Author Patti Kim + Giveaway

I was introduced to Patti Kim’s books when we were on a panel together at the ALA Summer conference in 2018 and immediately fell in love. From just reading the opening paragraphs of her debut middle-grade novel, I’M OK, I knew I’d love the book and I was right. Patti blends laugh out loud humor with such deep heart. So when I heard Patti had a new MG novel out, I wanted to know more about it.

Here’s more about Patti:

Patti Kim

Patti Kim

Born in Busan, South Korea, Patti Kim immigrated to the United States on Christmas Day, 1974. Convinced at the age of five that she was a writer, she scribbled gibberish all over the pages of her mother’s Korean-English dictionary and got in big trouble for it. But that didn’t stop her from writing. She is the author of A CAB CALLED RELIABLE, HERE I AM, I’M OK, an APALA Literary Honor Book, and IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY. Patti lives in University Park, Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and a ferocious terrier.

And onto our interview:

Patti, welcome to From The Mixed Up Files. Thank you for being here. Tell us about your new middle-grade novel, IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY.

IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY is about Mickey McDonald first seen in my previous book, I’M OK as Ok Lee’s unforgettable friend. Bursting with personality, she urged me to take a deeper look into her life and character. This book begins with the first day of 7th grade, and the bold Mickey we know is not feeling so great. Ok has moved. Her dad has left. Back-to-school shopping didn’t happen. Her mom is in a mood. With such a precarious home life, Mickey is all nerves and not so sure about herself. And turning 13 is no stroll in the park. What she really wants is a best friend, and she finds one in the new girl, Sun Joo. The two girls truly hit it off, but other forces soon interject, leaving Mickey with first major friend breakup.

It's Girls Like You. Mickey by Patti KimThis is a companion book to your debut MG novel, I’M OK. Tell us about that book too and how the books are connected.

The two books are connected by Mickey and Ok’s friendship. In I’M OK, Mickey forces a friendship with Ok which ends up playing a pivotal part in helping Ok open up about the death of his father as well as helping his mother find him when he runs away. She becomes his first real friend.

What made you want to write this companion book following Mickey’s character instead of a sequel with Ok?

Mickey loves the spotlight. It truly felt like she wanted her story to be told. So many intriguing details about Mickey’s life kept emerging in Ok’s book like her many animals, her little brother, her irritable mother, her often absent truck-driving father, her past pageant life, and the sheer force of her positivity. Her need and love for attention called to me.

What were the biggest challenges to writing this second book in the same world?

The biggest challenge was keeping echoes of Ok in Mickey’s story without him taking center stage. I had him move out of the neighborhood which made perfect sense since his mother remarried. I kept them connected as pen pals through postcards and letters. This ended up working quite well since the writing process plays a significant part in Mickey developing an introspective and reflective voice. It’s challenging to strike that balance of keeping a previous protagonist in the picture in a meaningful way, while not diverting the story. I also wanted to see these kids do all right without each other. So much of growing up is being able to say goodbye.

I'm Ok by Patti KimWhat are some things that surprised you about writing IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY, compared to writing I’M OK?

It was surprising how much I actually enjoyed the revision process. This is a big deal because I used to absolutely hate revising. After my first draft returned with my editor’s notes, I couldn’t wait to get back into that world and revise. The sensation felt like a blurry image gradually coming into focus. It was incredibly fun.

You write about some issues that haven’t been in MG novels for a while, like dealing with getting a period. Why do think it’s important to have characters going through these issues in MG novels?

Yes, the period scene. If these taboo topics aren’t covered in books, then where? Getting my period was shrouded in secrecy and shame, and that attitude informed the relationship I ended up having with my body. No body confidence whatsoever for me at that age. I really wanted Mickey to be Mickey about her period and to be an inspiration and encouragement, demonstrating a more positive narrative around getting your period. I couldn’t imagine writing a book about a girl, especially a girl like Mickey, turning 13 without making a big deal about it. Come on, we’re talking about Mickey.

I love the title, even if it does have me singing for the rest of the day. What gave you the idea of naming the book after an ‘80s song?

Since the original song is about a guy who breaks hearts, don’t you just love the idea of re-purposing the title to elevate a girl? And it’s so catchy. I couldn’t resist.

Agreed! What can we look forward to next from you?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Sun Joo Moon. I think she’s asking for stage time. Unlike Mickey, she’s quiet about it, but there’s a real depth to her that feels worth exploring.

Can’t wait to read that one!

Thank you, Patti, for being on From The Mixed Up Files today.

Check out IT’S GIRLS LIKE YOU, MICKEY on, and enter the giveaway below for your chance to win an advanced reader copy (ARC).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interview with Kristin Gray, Author of The Amelia Six

Hello Mixed-Up Filers!

Today, I am pleased to welcome to our site, someone who I have known virtually for a while, as well as a fellow member of Middle Grade debut year of 2017, and the author of the upcoming The Amelia Six, coming from Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books next week, on June 30th.

JR: Hi, Kristin and thanks for joining us today!

JR: First off, I really enjoyed The Amelia Six. I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy, and it was such a fun mystery. For those who don’t know about the book, can you tell us a little bit about it and where the idea for this story came from?

KG: Hi, Jonathan. Thanks for having me and thank you for the kind words about The Amelia Six.

In the story, six STEM-savvy girls spend the night at the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum in Atchison, Kansas, and get swept up in a mysterious robbery. They settle in, expecting a night of scavenger hunts and sweet treats when Amelia’s historic flight goggles disappear.

I don’t know about you, but I have always loved CLUE, both the movie and the game. I knew one day I’d like to attempt my own cozy mystery, but the whole idea seemed daunting. The first task alone—choosing a setting—was nearly impossible. I wanted a real place kids could visit, and there are just so many cool sites! But when my family took a road trip to Amelia Earhart’s birthplace, everything clicked.

JR: Yes, I LOVE Clue. Could watch the movie over and over and over. You have six characters who all take center stage at one point. How difficult was it to veer back and forth between them during plotting?

KG: Very! Each of the girls has her own hobby or connection to aviation. Millie, the protagonist, is a Rubik’s speedcuber, vintage Nancy Drew collector, and daughter of a pilot. The story is told in her POV throughout, so I used her life lens to filter the mysterious happenings and understand the cast. My editor pushed me to make the girls distinct, and I’ll be the first to admit juggling that many middle-school voices was not easy. But I am proud of the end result. And of the floor plan I drew to keep track of where everyone was in the home and when!

JR: I love that you made a map to keep track of everyone! The book has Amelia Earhart as a central figure. How much research did you have to do about her, and what is it about her that fascinated you?

KG: Quite a bit of research, including two trips to the home, reading tons of biographies and articles, hours spent browsing the online archives at Purdue University, where Amelia taught as adjunct faculty. She really was ahead of her time and took on many roles from truck driver to social worker to columnist at Cosmopolitan magazine. But digging up interesting facts is one of my most favorite parts of the writing process. I felt like a treasure hunter!


JR: You’ve done both MG and Picture Books, do you have a preference, and what appeals to you about both formats?

KG: I was talking to a writer friend about this recently. I enjoy both, but each format presents its own challenges. Writing picture books is deceptively difficult. It can take years to distill a story into the best few hundred words. Drafting and editing (or rewriting) a novel can take years of work, too, but gives the writer more freedom . . . I tend to work on picture books when I’m stuck on a longer project or waiting to hear back from my editor. I’m always tinkering with a story. But it’s been a blast to have books available for a pre-K as well as middle schoolers.

JR: That is great. Picture Books are so daunting Can you tell us a little bit about your writing journey getting to this point? 

KG: Sure. I wrote picture books for several years (back in the days of snail mail!) before one editor suggested I try writing something longer. My first middle-grade novel didn’t go anywhere, but my second novel’s opening garnered editor interest at a local SCBWI meeting. Encouraged, I took those same pages to another conference—Big Sur Writer’s Workshop—where I met and signed with my agent. That book went on to sell to Simon Kids/Paula Wiseman Books and became my debut novel, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge.

JR: I read on your website, , that you’re an expert cookie dough taster. Is that more of an honorary title, or something that you had to be certified in?

KG: Haha. I love cookie dough, especially if I’m on deadline or you know, quarantined! Tried-and-true chocolate chip is my favorite, though peanut butter is also good. I would love to be certified, if that’s a real thing. Is that a thing? Can we find this out, Jonathan? Maybe this needs to go in a book!

JR: Okay, more importantly, I also read that you love peanut butter cups. Aren’t Reese’s Cups the equivalent of manna from heaven?

KG: Absolutely! And weirdly, I think the mini Halloween-size ones taste better than the regular-size two packs. It’s all about the perfect ratio of chocolate to peanut butter.

JR: What’s your writing process like?

KG: Sporadic at best. Especially now with my children home. I don’t write every day unless I’m on deadline. Some days are reading days, or research days, or thinking days, or responding-to-email days, like today. I’m grateful for all of it.

JR: I’m glad this was part of your diversion! What’s your favorite book from childhood?

KG: Charlotte’s Web

JR: What’s your favorite childhood movie?

KG: The Goonies

JR: That’s a popular answer here! Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

KG: I’m a twin! (We didn’t get a picture of Kristin with her twin, so just make a copy of her picture above and hold them next to each other)


JR: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve received and is there any advice you can give to writers looking to break in?

KG: Best piece of advice: Pay attention to the world around you and write it as only you can.

To those looking to break in: Keep going. Find a few trusted writer friends. And always keep a stash of ice cream.


JR: That is great advice, and hopefully you mean pistachio ice cream. What are you working on next?

KG: I’m pages into what I hope will be my next middle-grade novel. Stay tuned!


JR: How can people follow you on social media?

KG: I’m @KristinLGray on all formats.


JR: Okay, lastly, as I mentioned, we were in the same debut year, so when you’re done with this, can you please send me a quick 20,000 word essay explaining how I was your favorite member of that debut group, and especially more than Melissa Roske?

KG: Haha! You know I’m a big fan of you and your books, Jonathan. Though I will say Melissa did buy me pancakes . . . 🙂

JR: That sounds like she was just kissing up.


JR: Thanks again to Kristin Gray, and make sure you go out and get The Amelia Six!

Interview with Scott H. Longert author and book giveaway!

Scott H. Longert is the author of Cy Young: An American Baseball Hero, published by Ohio University Press, Biographies for Young Readers.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit

Shop your local indie bookstore

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us here at the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors!

What attracted you to share Cy Young’s story with younger readers?

I was thinking about somebody who would be relevant to a young reader, someone they wouldn’t know very well, but that they might have heard of them. Of course, we have the Cy Young Award, so I thought lots of young people might know about the Cy Young Award, but do they really know Cy Young the man. I knew some things about him, he came from a small town, and he rose up as high as you could go in baseball, so I thought he would be a good guy to write about.

You share in your author’s note that you went to the historical society and to where Cy lived. Can you share with readers how these experiences helped you in your research on Cy’s life?

It really kind of humbled me when I went there. He was born in Gilmore, (Ohio) a real small farm community outside of Newcomerstown, which is a fairly small community as well.  Just to see his imprint there, was amazing. When we came into town, we saw the Cy Young baseball field and park, and the museum devotes just about an entire wing to Cy and his life so you could see right away that he was a very important person It really helped me writing the book to getting a sense of who he was by visiting where he was born and the house he passed away.  To stop by and look at that house and to know that he sat on that porch many times, just a regular guy and just happened to be probably the greatest pitcher in the history of the game.

Please share with readers what Cy’s real name was, and how he came to be nicknamed “Cy.”

His real name was Denton. As a young boy, and as a teenager everyone called him Dent or Denton, and he was fine with it. He could throw a baseball extremely hard from a very young age and everyone knew it.  When he got his first tryout for professional baseball to pitch for Canton, he was on the mound, and  there were a few players watching, and he took his wind up, he threw the ball so hard that the catcher literally let it go by him and the ball smashed into the grandstand and apparently cracked some of the wood. Cy did this several times. One of the people watching commented, “Look at that man, he throws like a Cyclone!”  The name really stuck and then people, instead of calling him Cyclone, just called him Cy, and he liked that name. From then on, Denton disappeared, and everybody called him Cy.

Cy was born in 1867 and began playing professional baseball in 1890. Baseball was a slightly different sport then. You share the many changes from then until now in the book. Can you offer a few of the differences from then until now?

One of the major ones, was that there was no pitching rubber at the time, where the pitcher had to put their foot on it and couldn’t move off of it when they pitched then, they called it the pitchers box, they could stand at the end of it, they virtually could take three of four steps forward, and just launch the ball they didn’t have to be confined to one spot and just let a lot of momentum when you were going to throw the baseball. There were some other rules about “fair and foul” if you hit a foul ball, it wasn’t counted a strike, you could be at bat for quite some time and not have any strikes against you.

It wasn’t considered manly to try to and protect your hands at all, you were a tough individual only the catcher would wear a thin glove, kind of like what we’d wear in the winter, to shovel snow. When Cy got in the major leagues, a few guys here and there most guys felt like “I don’t need a glove, that’s for babies.” Eventually guys, after getting more broken fingers and broken hands, decided it would be a good idea to wear a glove to protect their hands. Cy didn’t wear one until mid-1890’s, so he resisted for many years. As the pitcher, you are closer than anyone else. But he would not wear a glove for the first three or four years of his career.

How long did Cy play?

Cy started in Canton 1890 and played all the way through 1911. He was in the Major Leagues for twenty years as a pitcher. His career was over several decades. Most guys not able to do. He had a lot of strength and stamina.

Do you feel the physical requirements as a farmer helped him to be so strong?

I think it had something to do with it. A number of guys would take it easy during the off season, the most they would do, they would hunt and fish.  Other guys had jobs, indoor jobs, sitting behind a desk. Cy was outdoors all the time, tending to his farm which was 125-150 acres, which was a lot of ground to cover. He believed in running. He would do a lot of running on his own, which was very rare for athletes at the time, he thought that helped him, so he would run. I’m sure wearing his farm clothes, coat and boots, running around the property, helped him. He’d usually come to spring training in good condition. It was customary to come to spring training, probably 5-10 pounds overweight, and use spring training to get back in shape. Other players would let themselves go over the wintertime.  Cy would come to camp just about ready to play for opening day and was usually several steps ahead of everybody else.

Tell me about Cy the man.

What I found was that Cy was a great member of the community, he was a good man, and he was honest. He was a clean-living man, he didn’t really drink, he didn’t smoke, when he wasn’t playing baseball, he was home with his wife and working at the farm. He was a hard worker, and  he never let success go to his head, he was the same guy he was when he was nineteen leaving for his first efforts in semi-pro baseball until the time of his retirement, he was the same guy, always kind and good hearted. I think that was the thing about the man that impressed me. He never had a big head about himself, like “don’t you know who I am, I’m the great Cy Young.” He didn’t think like that all, he was just a regular guy, who loved going home to the farm on the off season and being with his friends and family. He preferred staying home and reading or visiting with friends, he was very content with that, to be on the farm, take care of animals, plant crops and of course, chop down trees, which was his favorite thing. He was always willing to help anyone, anytime. He was very good to his friends, when people needing a helping hand, they could always call Cy.

As a fellow biographer, I stress the importance of primary sources with younger readers. What sources did you discover through your research? How did they help in sharing Cy’s life journey?

The Baseball Hall of Fame has a wonderful research library. The most important thing at the research library at Cooperstown is the player files. The Hall of Fame keep an active file on everyone who has played major league baseball. In the file you’ll find lots of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, which could be from 1893 up to something written a couple of years ago, photos, letters from the player, and to the player, statistics on the player, all kinds of things that help you get a picture of who the person was, as a ball player and a person. I think it is very vital in researching a baseball player, to see his player file and read everything there. And usually that leads to other sources. Ball players from long ago, born in small towns, usually there is a historical society that keeps the history of the town and the people who in it. If the baseball player comes from a small community, chances are the historical society will keep records of that person, and a lot of personal things, so that’s really important to visit the local historical society. If you can, in a lot of cases, the ball player you’re doing research on, has grandchildren or great-grandchildren, and usually the relatives are very happy that you are interested and happy to share stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

The Cy Young award is given to the best pitchers in both the American League and the National League. The award was created the year after Cy’s death. How do you think he would feel about this honor?

It’s a shame that they didn’t decide to do the award while he was still alive. He would have been extremely happy and proud of the award. I think that after he passed away the Major Leagues, said what can we do for Cy? I think it would have been okay with him that even though he was gone, that baseball thought enough of him to create one of their biggest awards, and name it in his honor. Just knowing Cy, he was happy with whatever came his way. On his 80th birthday there was a big celebration in Newcomerstown, lots of people came to honor him, and give him gifts, and having a big piece of cake and dinner, shaking hands with people and that’s pretty much all he expected, and that made him happy.

In one sense it would have been great if he would have known about the award, I’m sure he would have been thrilled,  but his name still lives today and will live for quite some time, and I’m sure he would have been fine with that.

Is there anything that you would want our followers to know about your book about Cy Young?

It’s a look at early baseball, how the game evolved during Cy’s time, when it started, when he played ball first for Cleveland in 1891 and how the game gradually changed, until he retired in 1912. And a little bit of history about our country at the time. America was a growing place, with expansion and new jobs, and exciting things the telephone, and automobiles and then radio and television, Cy lived through all those things. Even Little League, Cy was a big fan, and would go out and talk to the kids and show them the fine points of being a good ball player. I think the book gives a good sense of America and all about baseball and how important it is to society by reading the book.

We’re giving away a copy of Cy Young: An American Baseball Hero! Contest applicable only to those living in the United States. Click here to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway