Posts Tagged contemporary realistic middle-grade fiction

Author Interview with New York Times Best-Selling Author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman and Book Giveaway!

Photo by Analise Lawson

Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the New York Times best-selling author of the Book Scavenger
Series, fun and exciting middle-grade mystery stories.
Her latest, The Sisterhood of Sleuths, a stand-alone novel, walks readers through the mysteries of
friendship with none other than the original girl sleuth, Nancy Drew, and her history, central to
the plot.
Maizy is excited about working together with her friend, Izzy on a school project. The two
partners-in-crime have been creating movies together since they were little kids. Maizy envisions
their latest endeavor for the assignment will feature “Shellfish Holmes” as the main character.
But Izzy, who now prefers Isabelle and the company of class clowns Ben and Link, isn’t as
enthusiastic. Maizy and Izzy separate over their difference in creative vision for the project.
Meanwhile, a box of old Nancy Drew books is dropped off at Maizy’s mom’s antique store.
Even more curious, the box includes a picture of Maizy’s grandmother and two other women,
dated April 16, 1993.

Who are the other two women? Were they friends? Why is the photo in the
box of old Nancy Drew books? Did her grandmother leave the books outside the store?
The answers unfold as Maizy maneuvers through the changes in her relationship with Izzy by
renewing her friendship with Nell, her first real friend. Maizy and Nell partner with a classmate
Cam, on a different take for the assignment, leading them to the mysterious history of Nancy
Drew and those who created her.

Do Maizy and Izzy make up and become friends? Does Maizy discover who the two other
women are in the photograph? And how does Nancy Drew fit into the mystery?
The Sisterhood of Sleuths is an engaging mystery that reveals secrets of friendship and Nancy
Drew.


Welcome to From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors Jenn!
Congratulations on the creation of The Sisterhood of Sleuths. How did the idea for this
mystery come to you?
Thank you so much for having me!
I’ve long been interested in the history behind the creation of the Nancy Drew series, so that was
part of my inspiration. I also wanted to write a funny mystery and thought the concept of
combining the original Nancy Drew character with a modern-day girl had a lot of potential for
humor, while also being an interesting way to explore the theme of friendship and the role Nancy
Drew has played in popular culture over time.

Friendship is at the heart of The Sisterhood of Sleuths. Maizy is struggling with how her
best friend, Izzy, is changing, and ultimately, growing away from their friendship. Yet, in
turn, Maizy re-establishes her friendship with Nell, who she grew apart from several years
before. And, then ultimately, Maizy’s grandmother also separated from a friend years ago.
Could you share with readers the inspiration for these storylines?

The inspiration largely came from thinking about the Nancy Drew series, actually. When I think
back on what I remember about the books, what I loved as a child reader and have held onto in
my memory, it’s not the events of the plot or details from individual stories. It’s Nancy’s
relationships with women. I admired her steadfast friendships with Bess and George and the
mother/daughter-like connection she has with Hannah, the family housekeeper. So, I wanted to
explore the theme of friendship but in a more realistic way. One that feels more authentic to my
own experiences.
I also was thinking about how I discovered Nancy Drew in the 80s when I was a kid handed
down books that had been read by an earlier generation, and how when I visit schools today as
an author and talk about books from my childhood, many kids are still familiar and enthusiastic
about Nancy Drew. Showing how she has been a common thread through so many different
generations was also important to me.

The secret and storied history of Nancy Drew and her creators are central to the plot. Have
you always been a Nancy Drew fan? How old were you when you learned the truth about
Carolyn Keene?
I discovered Nancy Drew when I was 7, so I suppose I’ve been a fan most of my life. I can’t
remember exactly when I learned Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym—I might have been told that
as a young reader. But in my early 20s, I read The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and The
Hardy Boys by Carol Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman and was fascinated by the history behind
the two series. I don’t think I’d given much thought to the creation of books before—I’d thought
plenty about the craft of writing, but I mean the actual business of producing books and
marketing. That was the beginning of my interest in the history of Nancy Drew and I continued
to read books and articles as I became aware of them. (Like your great book, Missing Millie Benson!)

Missing Millie Benson: The Secret Case of the Nancy Drew Ghostwriter and Journalist - Rubini, Julie K.

Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was the original ghostwriter for the Nancy Drew Mystery
Stories. Through your research for your novel, what did you find most interesting/inspiring
about Millie?
I admire so much about her. Her work ethic and resilience were especially inspiring. I’m
thinking in particular of the chapter in your book that delves into the period in Millie’s life when
she had a young child, a very ill husband, the country was at war, and yet she continued to work
diligently at her writing and career.

Edward Stratemeyer, the creator of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories would create plots
and outlines for the ghostwriters to follow for the series. Do you create an outline for your
stories, or do you allow the story to take you in its own direction?

I do a bit of a mix. I typically have a general sense of how a story might begin and end (although
that can and does change as I get deeper into a project), and outlining often helps me organize
my ideas. But I usually get too excited about the scenes I’m imagining and want to dive in and
start writing. Then, when I reach a point where I’m not sure where the story is going or what
happens next, I’ll return to brainstorming and outline my ideas again until I get excited about the
scenes and jump back into the writing.

It was refreshing to see both of Maizy’s parents present in the story. Maizy’s mom’s
antique store plays an important role in the discovery of the old Nancy Drew books, to her
dad’s endless attempts at building the next great invention. How do these role models
impact Maizy?
I think her parents provide Maizy with stability. I knew she was going to be someone who had a
a lot of things changing in her life all at once, so I tried to make her parents realistically imperfect,
but also something consistent in the background for Maizy as she tries to make sense of
everything around her that doesn’t feel steady anymore.

Sixth grade can be such a transitionary year for kids. Many school systems begin middle
grade that year, in a new, separate building, often bringing in students from other feeder
elementary schools into one. Some children, like Maizy, want to hold onto traditions of the
past, whereas others, like Izzy, jump into new interests, ready to grow into what lies in
store. I think you did a fabulous job representing these changes in The Sisterhood of
Sleuths. What do you hope readers will take away from these two characterizations?

Thank you! I appreciate that. What I hope is that Maizy and Izzy feel real and relatable to
readers. I think the girls represent two different sides of growing up—we have phases where we
want to hold onto what is familiar and comfortable, and we have phases where we step out of our
comfort zone for new experiences, sometimes by choice and sometimes by circumstance. We all
go at our own pace, and we’re all unique individuals, and sometimes there is friction if our
personal goals and a friend’s personal goals no longer align.

You explore a variety of emotions in the storyline, from embarrassment, disappointment,
sadness, joy, grief, and prevailing hope. I thought your scene with Maizy wearing the lobster costume, while riding her bike to the park to meet with Izzy was incredibly relatable. Do you have a favorite scene that explores emotion in the story?
That exact scene that you mentioned, when Maizy is in the lobster costume, is definitely one of
my favorites. It grew out of my own embarrassing childhood memory of a bike-riding incident
(in normal clothes, not a costume), and then I asked myself, “How could I take what happened to
me and make it even more embarrassing? And funny, too, while I’m at it?” It was quite
therapeutic to take my own embarrassing moment, turn it into a humorously horrific series of
events, but then have Maizy endure the embarrassment and rise above and triumph in the end.

You have some awesome photos of your writing space on your website,
www.jenniferchamblissbertman.com Could you share your writing process with our
readers?
My writing process is not anything straightforward. Sometimes I start with an idea for a
character, sometimes I start with a premise, and sometimes I visualize one scene in detail and write it
down but I don’t know anything else about the story. And then I bumble along from wherever I
started, asking myself questions as I go. If I begin with a character, I might look at the things I
know about him or her and ask myself what would really challenge them? With Maizy, someone
who had a very steady and predictable and comfortable life, what challenged her was that some
of those steady and predictable and comfortable things changed. Her best friend is acting
differently. Her brother moves away. Her grandmother is being secretive when she’s never been
like that before. Once I have ideas for what challenges the character might be up against, I
brainstorm how they could be most interestingly conveyed in scenes, and how those scenes could
be built into a compelling plot . . . It’s a lot of trial and error, writing and revising, moving
around scenes, and changing my mind. I also have trusted critique partners and their feedback
helps me as I go along too. Eventually, I find my way to the end of a draft.

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to join us for this interview. The
Sisterhood of Sleuths was released on October 4, and may be found at your favorite local
bookstore, or you may order your copy here.

Jennifer has agreed to give away a complimentary copy to a lucky random winner. To enter the contest, click here.

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!!!! ⭐️

Author Spotlight: Will Taylor + a GIVEAWAY!

In today’s Author Spotlight, Melissa Roske chats with author Will Taylor about his latest middle-grade novel, The Language of Seabirds (Scholastic, July 19) as well as his inspiration behind writing it. (Spoiler alert: It’s the book of his heart.) Plus there’s a chance to win one of THREE copies of Will’s book–plus a signed bookplate–if you enter the giveaway. Scroll down for details! 👇👇👇

The Language of Seabirds

Jeremy is not excited about the prospect of spending the summer with his dad and his uncle in a seaside cabin in Oregon. It’s the first summer after his parents’ divorce, and he hasn’t exactly been seeking alone time with his dad. He doesn’t have a choice, though, so he goes… and on his first day takes a walk on the beach and finds himself intrigued by a boy his age running by.

Eventually, he and Runner Boy (Evan) meet—and what starts out as friendship blooms into something neither boy is expecting… and also something both boys have been secretly hoping for.

Interview with Will Taylor

MR: Welcome to the Mixed-Up Files, Will! Thanks for joining us today.

WT: Thank you so much for having me!

MR: First and foremost, I loved The Language of Seabirds and devoured it in two sittings, staying up past 2am both times. I was in tears by the end. What a powerful, gorgeously written book!

WT: Gah! Oh goodness, thank you, thank you, thank you! This book is an actual piece of my heart, and it means the world to hear you connected with it.

Personal Exploration and Gratitude

MR: As stated in the author’s note, the book is deeply personal to you. It’s the book that “changed [your] heart.”It’s also very vastly different from your other MG titles. What was the impetus for writing it?

WT: *big exhale; stares out the window* I think mostly I just needed to try. I adored writing the silly, bouncy MG of my first three books, but writing them didn’t require any change from me. When the opening image and title of Seabirds popped into my head one evening, I knew this would be different: a character-driven book that would require a huge amount of honesty and a willingness to go into all sorts of uncomfortable places. That frankly terrified me. Luckily my agent more or less demanded I write it, and after a few false starts I found my feet and the story began to grow.

By the time the first draft was done, I could tell that I was definitely growing along with it. I guess it was a story I needed to explore, even if I didn’t feel ready. It was scary, since I knew it wasn’t what my readership was used to and I didn’t even know if I had the skills to properly tell it, but I think sometimes the thing that scares you is a signpost of exactly where you should put your attention. I’m definitely grateful I did.

Heart of Glass

MR: As above, your novel addresses a difficult topic for many tweens: grappling with their sexual orientation. In fact, Jeremy, the 12-year-old protagonist, has built an “invisible pane of glass” that goes everywhere with him; a “secret shield and barrier.” Could you tell us more about that?

WT: The pane of glass is partly a literary device (readers will notice Jeremy and Evan swapping beach glass as they grow closer, and there’s a ton of broken glass at the climactic end of the book—symbolism!), but mostly it was a way for me to describe my own invisible wall I carried with me from my late elementary years right through college.

Before I came out, every decision I made was filtered through that barrier. I was constantly monitoring myself and others, assessing potential threats and checking my defenses, running a whole secondary operating system aimed solely at keeping the truth about who I was hidden. I gave Jeremy that exact feeling in order to investigate it on the page, and I hope, if I’ve done my job correctly, many LGBTQIA+ readers will see their own experiences reflected there as well.

Speaking in Code

MR: Additionally, the book’s dedication reads: “For every kid who’s had to speak in code.” Is this similar to the “glass wall” Jeremy has built for himself?

WT: The dedication is a nod to the innumerable queer codes that have arisen over the years as people who feel isolated behind their walls pull off the trick of carefully reaching out for community while still remaining hidden to the world at large. I will never forget the first time I saw through another closeted gay boy’s walls and realized he could see through mine. We both shifted just the tiniest bit, just enough to see and be seen, to confirm, and no one else around us knew it. I remember being giddy for the briefest moment, then doubling up my walls and leaving just to feel safe again. I was thirteen.

Looking back as an adult, I understand now just how stressful it was living with that constant sense of danger. I dedicated Seabirds to kids who’ve had to learn to speak in code as a way of acknowledging them and the extra weight they carry every hour of the day.

Birdish Books

MR: In addition to friendship and romance, birds factor heavily into your book— particularly the seabirds of the Oregon coast. What is it about seabirds that piques your interest and speaks to you as an author? Do you have any favorite bird-related books, fiction and/or nonfiction? (For more birdish book suggestions, click here.)

WT: Oh, I love seabirds! I really can’t explain why, they just feel magical. And they have so many options, from riding the wind to jumping off tall cliffs to walking along the beach to sitting down anytime they like right there on the ocean. Imagine how free we would feel if we could do all those things! (Ooo, hey, symbolism again!)

As for bird books, the list you linked to is great! I adored Celia C. Peréz’s Strange Birds and Kaela Noel’s Coo. I’m sure there are some awesome non-fiction bird books for younger readers out there, too, and hope folks check in with their indies and libraries for recommendations if they’re interested!

Secret Language

MR: As a follow-up, Jeremy and Evan create their own seabird-related secret language. For instance, “marbled murrelet” mean friends, and “Caspian tern” means high-five. What gave you the idea to create a secret language for Jeremy and Evan? Also, what is its significance in terms of the boys’ friendship and budding romance?

WT: The secret language idea goes back to the theme of queer coding, for sure, but fits specifically into this story because Jeremy starts off really not ready to talk about what he’s feeling. Just the idea of expressing these emotions he’s trained himself to keep hidden is unthinkable for the first entire half of the book. Still, he craves the spark of connection, just like I did, so the bird code becomes a way for Jeremy to safely tell Evan what he’s going through inside. To tell his truth, but tell it slant, as Emily Dickinson so perfectly put it.

Of course, in the simplest sense codes are also just plain fun. I loved codes as a kid! When so much of the world is out of your control, secret words make you feel powerful and special and part of some grand adventure, especially if they’re shared with friends. I think creating and using the language of seabirds plays a big role in helping Jeremy and Evan overcome the awkward stage any new friendship has more quickly than they might have done without it. As the book progresses and they grow closer, that secret language takes on deeper and deeper meaning, culminating with the addition of one final bittersweet word at the end.

The More Things Change

MR: Relocation is another important theme in your book, due to Jeremy’s possible move to another city following his parents’ divorce. How does this affect Jeremy in terms of the “glass wall” he’s built around himself?

 WT: Jeremy is very scared of change. He feels safe in familiar environments, places where he knows what potential threats are present and how he can defend himself against them. When he’s unable to predict that, he doubles down on his internal glass wall as the only thing he can count on to keep him safe. Readers can see this throughout the book as they spot Jeremy often looking out from behind a window, or from an overlooked corner, or from a few steps behind whoever he’s with. This is second nature to him, the urge to put something between him and the world, and his greatest fear is the exposure that would happen if anyone—particularly his parents or peers—were to look back and fully see him.

Rather than feeling like an opportunity for an upgrade, then, relocation becomes a risk—one that might feel too big to take. Whether he will base his final decision on hope or fear (the two sides of his glass wall) is something we definitely see him struggle with throughout the book.

Read, Read, Read… and Write, Write, Write!

MR: The Language of Seabirds is your fifth published book for middle-grade readers. Where do you get your ideas and inspiration from? Is there a secret sauce you can share with Mixed-Up Files readers?

WT: It is so, so wild to realize this is book five. I one-hundred percent still feel like a newbie! I’m not sure I can suggest any secret sauce apart from read, read, read, and write, write, write–but I absolutely recommend keeping notes on anything that catches your attention. I have stacks of notebooks full of story ideas, character sketches, potential titles, science facts, scribbled plot outlines, favorite TV episodes, dream fragments, etc., and I flip through them all a couple times a year. Different pieces jump out at me every time, all going into the big compost pile in my head, and every now and then enough pieces come together in the right way that I feel that “click” and the story unrolls like a carpet. You can feel it happen.

After that, it’s time for the long hard work of bringing the story into the world through the keyboard. (And after five published books and half a dozen shelved ones, I’ve finally accepted this part never gets any easier. It is, simply, the work.)

So that’s my tip, I guess! Gather the things you love and like. Wallow in your dork-level fascinations. Compile interesting fragments. Harvest notions and oddments and dreams. Futz and sort and tinker. Run a net along the riverbed of your life and see what sparkles in the sun. Watch what clumps together. Listen for the “click.”

Writing Routine and Rituals

MR: What does your writing routine look like, Will? Do you have any particular rituals?

WT: I lost my longtime day job at the start of the pandemic, so this system has only applied to my last couple books, but my routine is based on spending at least one full hour every weekday being there for my current WIP. (Important to note I live alone so have the privilege of doing this regularly.) Many days I wind up working for several hours, on others that single hour is all I can manage, but I try my best to always make sure that one core hour happens.

Being There

WT: I want to point to my use of the term “being there,” by the way. This took me a long time to understand, but writing isn’t always about putting words on the page. Sometimes the book needs you to just sit with it, mulling things over, listening to the burble of characters, massaging a handful of sentences or one tricky transition. And that counts. That’s time spent in company with the book. Of course, deadlines are real things, too, so words do need to happen. But I really believe getting into the mindset of spending time with my books rather than approaching them like a boss trying to extract labor has helped my work enormously.

Oh, and I have no idea why, but I write best with something over my head. A blanket, a hoodie, a towel, whatever’s comfy and available—for some reason it helps me tune out the world and deep dive into my imagination. It does make me look like a giant mushroom, however, so thank goodness I prefer writing alone!

Books on the Horizon

MR: What are you working on now? Enquiring minds want to know!

WT: Okay, so I have like half a dozen “post-click” projects in the “waiting to be written” pile, but I’ll just share about the two MGs I’m actively spending time with right now. One is a historical escape adventure set in 12th-century England full of swords and castles and haunted forests and ice, the project of my Susan Cooper- and Rosemary Sutcliff-loving heart. The other is another contemporary gay middle school romance, a comedy this time, centering around a ballet dancer boy having to hide his sexuality if he wants to make the big time and the overlooked, “couldn’t hide it if I tried” soft boy who helps him reconnect with his heart and art. Basically a gay version of Strictly Ballroom crossed with my second-favorite movie of all time, Center Stage. Neither of these are under contract yet, but I’m working hard so hopefully that will change soon!

Catch That Dog!

WT: I have to shout out my latest silly MG, Catch That Dog, which came out in June. It’s another book of my heart, specifically the part that sobbed and laughed all through Flora & Ulysses. I’m super proud of it and hope anyone into “overlooked girl and her remarkable pet overcome terrible grownups” stories will check it out.

Lightning Round!

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

Preferred writing snack?

Hmm, I don’t really eat while I write, but when I’m done writing, a grilled cheese sandwich is my favorite thing to bring me back to earth.

Coffee or tea?

Both! Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon. With an English dad and Welsh stepdad I was raised with tea making up a solid third of my diet, but coffee took over the morning slot a long while back and is absolutely not going anywhere.

Favorite seabird?

People are gonna think I’m joking, but I am obsessed with regular old seagulls! There are tons of them around my part of downtown Seattle (my upstairs neighbor feeds them anchovies from his window so they like our building) and I am always so jealous of how they can soar and glide on the wind like hawks, and sit comfortably on deep, deep water, and explore the world so freely through the vertical axis. I totally want to be one someday.

Zombie apocalypse: Yea or nay?

Hahah I don’t know if I get the question! Um, nay? Let’s . . . not have one?

Superpower?

Healing. No contest.

Favorite place on earth?

Gah! Okay, I have to cheat and give three answers: Death Valley, the Orkney Islands, and the hills around my uncle’s house in the tiny village of Taliesin, Wales.

If you were stranded on a desert island with only three things, what would they be?

This has genuinely been the hardest question! My practical homebody survival brain says tent, water purifier, and hand-crank distress radio, but that’s neither funny nor interesting. . .

Okay, how’s this: If I had to live there alone for a while and could find enough resources not to promptly die, I would want the big, illustrated edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Books of Earthsea; a hand-crank record player equipped with Kate Bush’s entire discography; and a giant pallet of pens and paper so I could keep on writing kids’ books. Because it’s genuinely all I’ve ever wanted to do.

MR: Thank you for chatting with us, Will—and congratulations on the publication of The Language of Seabirds. I truly loved it, and I know MUF readers will too!

WT: Thank youuu! It’s been an honor and an absolute pleasure!

And now…

A GIVEAWAY!

(THREE winners in all!)

For a chance to win a copy of THE LANGUAGE OF SEABIRDS–plus a signed bookplate–comment on the blog–and, if you’re on Twitter, on the Mixed-Up Files Twitter account, for an extra chance to win! (Giveaway ends 7/21/22 EST.) U.S. only, please. 

About the Author

Will Taylor is a reader, writer, and honeybee fan. He lives in the heart of downtown Seattle surrounded by all the seagulls and not quite too many teacups. When not writing he can be found searching for the perfect bakery, talking to trees in parks, and completely losing his cool when he meets longhaired dachshunds. His books include Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort; Maggie & Abby and the Shipwreck Treehouse; Slimed; Catch That Dog!; and The Language of Seabirds. Learn more about Will on his website and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.