Posts Tagged Anything But Typical

SEVEN CLUES TO HOME: Interview + Giveaway

Seven Clues to Home, co-written by the fabulous Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin, releases this week, and I couldn’t be happier to feature the novel on The Mixed-Up Files. Learn about the book, the authors, and the characters below. And don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the book (U.S. Only).

Here’s a bit about the book.

Joy Fonseca is dreading her thirteenth birthday, dreading being reminded again about her best friend Lukas’s senseless death on this day, one year ago — and dreading the fact he may have heard what she accidentally blurted to him the night before. Or maybe she’s more worried he didn’t hear.

Either way, she’s decided to finally open the first clue to their annual birthday scavenger hunt Lukas left for her the morning he died, hoping the rest of the clues are still out there. If they are, they might lead Joy to whatever last words Lukas wrote, and toward an understanding of how to grab onto the future that is meant to be hers.


And here’s a bit about the authors:

Gae Polisner is a lawyer by trade, but a writer by calling. Her books have received multiple awards including a Bank Street Best, Pennsylvania School Library award, multiple Nerdy Book Club awards, and a Golden Archer, Wisconsin’s Children’s Choice Award. Her bestselling book, The Memory of Things is used in schools around the country. Gae lives on Long Island with her husband, two musical sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When she isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She has swum a 10K and holds out hope that one day her wetsuit will morph her into a superhero.


Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of fourteen novels for middle-grade readers and young adults and a contributor to several short story collections. Her books have won several awards, including the 2010 American Library Association Schneider Family Book Award for Anything But Typical (S&S), and in 2016, an International Literacy Association Notable Books for a Global Society for Ruby on the Outside (S&S).



While we tried to interview Gae and Nora, the two main characters of the novel insisted on having their say. As a result, today we’re talking with Joy Fonseca and Lukas Brunetti of Seven Clues to Home.

Read what they had to say and chat back in the comments section for a chance to win a copy of the book (U.S. only). I’ll pick a winner June 10 at 11:59 PM and announce it on June 11.

The story you tell is called Seven Clues to Home. Can you tell us what “home” means to you?

Joy:  My mom and dad. Isabel and Davy, of course. I love my room. The smell of food coming from my kitchen when it’s around dinner. My mom bakes a lot, too. She makes cupcakes on my birthday.

Lukas: Home is weird for me. I lived in one place, not far from here, then my Dad died and now we live here. It’s not as nice, but I don’t even remember the other place that much, and maybe I wouldn’t have met Joy the way I did if I only lived there. So, yeah. Here is home. *shrugs*

Does what “home” means stay the same or change during difficult times?

Joy: Well until lately, I haven’t really had many difficult times. I know other people do, though (looks at Lukas) but I’m lucky I always have my family.

Lukas: This question is so weird. Home is where my mom and brother are. Same whether it’s hard or easy, I guess. Right?


Well, but, how are you finding joy in these difficult times?

Lukas: Haha, “Joy.” People always do that to her. I find her how I always do. I go up to her apartment.

Joy (sort of pushes Lukas with her shoulder): Yeah, I get that one a lot. But, um, I guess I really like being with Lukas. Since he moved into the Dolphin apartments where we live, we hang out a lot together.

Lukas: Yeah, our scavenger hunts are fun. We’re trying to make them harder. We like to stargaze together, too. I find Joy doing that too, get it?


Here is an easier question. Do you have any favorite books?

Joy: That’s an impossible question to answer.

Lukas: No it’s not. I thought we both agree. Love that Dog.

Joy (giggling): Oh, right.


What about music?

Joy (sitting up in her seat excitedly): What I really love would be to be able to play the guitar! I love love love Ariana Grande.

Lukas: My brother likes rap. So I guess that’s pretty cool.


Do you have any fun plans for the summer?

Joy: Well, we both have birthdays in the summer, three days apart, which used to suck —

Lukas: But don’t suck now because of our annual scavenger hunt tradition. Wait’ll you see . . . Never mind . . .  (ears redden)

Joy (blushes): What? What do you mean?

Lukas: Can we end this now?


Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Seven Clues to Home.

I’ll pick a winner Wednesday night at midnight and announce on Thursday.

Nine, Ten: A September 11 Story–Nora Raleigh Baskin Interview and Giveaway


I’m thrilled to welcome author Nora Raleigh Baskin to From the Mixed-Up Files. Today is the release date of her newest novel, Nine, Ten: A September 11 Storywhich has already received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Nora about her work as a writer. Read on for the interview, as well as more about her, the novel, and how you could win an autographed copy!


When did you first get the idea to write about September 11, and how long did it take you to determine what you wanted to say about the event?

Well, I don’t know that I had anything specific to “say,” and certainly not to “teach” about the event, other than I wanted to re-create the moment it happened, or more precisely, the hours just before it happened. My goal for this book was to raise questions, rather than present answers. Of course, I’m human and I have my own perceptions and biases, but I try very, very hard not to use my characters that way.

My interest in writing about 9/11 was to write about “change.” I wanted to show the world we knew before, and the world after. There are many events in our collective American history so profound, they altered everything we knew, or thought we knew, to be true. I could have chosen any number of them; Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, the sinking of the Lusitania — moments when our innocence (or naiveté) was lost. I chose the one I remembered, the one I had actually experienced.

Did you plan from the beginning to have four narrators or is that something that evolved once you started writing?

Interesting question because yes, in fact, I had the structure before I had anything else. I was watching a movie called Bobby, about the day before Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed in the ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel. When that happened, in 1968, I was seven years old, too young to understand what ended that day, but I grew up in a culture that was forever altered.

The movie follows several unconnected characters (except that they all find themselves in that same Los Angeles hotel) and each story reveals something about the specific time period in which they all live; feminism, racism, the drug culture, and of course, the political landscape.

In Nine, Ten I worked very hard to do the same thing with each of my four characters, but in a way that requires work on the part of my readers. For example, Naheed clearly foreshadows the bigotry Muslim Americans faced after 9/11. Aimee is in the story to represent all the It-would-have-been-me-but (fill in the blank) stories that came out of that day. Sergio’s story touches on the first responders, because no one can talk about 9/11 without thinking about those dedicated men and women. But the very hardest to connect was Will’s section, against the context of Flight 93 and the passengers that rose up against the hijackers. I wanted to speak to the concept of bravery and heroism, which is not a cut and dry, black and white, either or, issue.

I want my readers to think, and come to their own conclusions. I expect my readers to tax their brains a little when they read a book of mine.

The movie, Bobby, never hits you over the head with its agenda (although I am balling my eyes out when its over), but allows the everyday stories of everyday people to reveal themselves as profound. It was powerful, and I was so terribly excited to try and attempt the same thing in a written work.

P.S. If I had known how hard it was going to be, I might not have tried!

Without giving the ending away, how soon after getting the idea for the novel did you know how your narrators would finally cross paths?

Ah, another interesting question. No, I never thought they would cross paths again, until … well, I got to the end. It was so overwhelming, my own need for hope and redemption, that the ending was almost forced on me. I knew, as I was writing it, that there was a sentimental factor, but it felt right. And everyone I showed it to agreed. So it stayed. The ending truly sprang from my heart.

Another P.S. As unlikely as it may seem that four people who never know each other cross paths more than once in their lives, it is an idea I am fascinated by, and I believe happens much more than we ever realize. Kurt Vonnegut even invented a word for it in Cat’s Cradle.

Karass: A group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident.

On your website, you mention that your writing is a vehicle of sorts for your own self-discovery and healing. How did writing this novel facilitate that discovery and healing?

Well, I cried a lot while I was researching this story. I had no idea how close to the surface these memories were, and how unprocessed they still are. I imagine that will be true for many of us who are old enough to remember (of course, my young readers were not yet born.) Because of this, none of my main characters lose anyone during the course of the book. As my editor said, there is enough loss in the premise itself.

It’s funny, or maybe not so funny, but as I get older I find myself reaching past self-discovery and my own need to heal my personal story, and out to the world at large. My kids are grown, my life is now stable and safe, and lord knows I’ve mined my family history plenty, so now I sense a greater, larger family.

What I mean is that I finally feel whole enough, to start telling the stories of other—not so autobiographical—characters. The healing that happens now is in discovering how connected we humans are. We are truly more alike than we are different, and I see this as the path my writing journey is now taking me.

You’ve published consistently since your first book in 2001. Were there ever any times when the writing didn’t flow or the ideas didn’t come so readily? If so, what got you back on track?

Ha! No, the writing always comes. It’s the publishing that doesn’t always flow so easily. 🙁

Can you tell us two of your best writing tips?

If I have to give only two … I’d say: Write from your heart. Every story has already been told, but no one can tell your story.

And … Finish what you start. You never know if your story is good or not, until you’ve finished that sucky first draft and get to work on revising.

So finish. There is so much learning from just doing that!

IMG_0646 (1)Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of thirteen novels for young readers and has won several awards including the 2010 ALA Schneider Family Book Award for Anything But Typical. She has taught creative writing to both children and adults for over fifteen years with organizations such as SCBWI, The Unicorn Writers Conference, Gotham Writers Workshop, and The Fairfield County Writers’ Workshop. You can connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Good news! Nora has generously offered an autographed copy of the novel to raffle off to one lucky winner who shares this post on Facebook or Twitter. Read about the novel and how to win it below.

nine tenAsk anyone: September 11, 2001, was serene and lovely, a perfect day—until a plane struck the World Trade Center.

But right now it is a few days earlier, and four kids in different parts of the country are going about their lives. Sergio, who lives in Brooklyn, is struggling to come to terms with the absentee father he hates and the grandmother he loves. Will’s father is gone, too, killed in a car accident that has left the family reeling. Naheed has never before felt uncomfortable about being Muslim, but at her new school she’s getting funny looks because of the head scarf she wears. Aimee is starting a new school in a new city and missing her mom, who has to fly to New York on business.

These four don’t know one another, but their lives are about to intersect in ways they never could have imagined.

Tell me in the comments section where you shared by Thursday, June 30 at midnight. I’ll announce the winner on Saturday, July 2. (Continental U.S. only, please.)

Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin) released this month and is available wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: