Posts Tagged michelle houts

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.”

 

December Holiday Books for Middle-Grade Readers

The holidays are upon us, and reading about diverse December customs seems a great way to celebrate the season. Here are some middle-grade books you might want to check out for your vacation reading pleasure.

 

Winterfrost by Michelle Houts

An ordinary Danish Christmas turns extraordinary when a family overlooks an important folkloric tradition. Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost. When Bettina’s parents are called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia, Bettina neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse.

No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous, folk.

 

Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell, illus. by Majella Lue Sue

In this Hanukkah story, Penina finds that a glass of cold milk and a hot potato pancake go a long way. Penina Levine is the only member of her family who isn’t looking forward to Hanukkah. Not only is it another chance for her annoying sister to steal the spotlight, but her favorite teacher is taking a mysterious leave of absence, and her best friend is deserting her to go on a dream vacation to Aruba.

Then Penina discovers why Mrs. Brown must go away and hears that a snowstorm may ruin Zozo’s trip, and Penina knows she’s the one who must bring some holiday spirit to her friends. Readers of all backgrounds will relate to Penina as she turns a pile of problems into a Hanukkah to remember.

 

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn B. Otto

Over the course of seven days, African Americans, families and friends, come together to light the candles that symbolize their past and future—and their unity. They gather as a community to make music and to dance; to feast on harvest foods and the good things of the earth; and to exchange simple, often homemade, gifts. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka (a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup). Important concepts, like the seven principles, are explained. In addition, a note from the book’s consultant, aimed at parents and teachers, puts the holiday in its full cultural and historical perspective.

 

Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale by G. Neri

Young Truman Capote thought life in New York City was going to be perfect, but things didn’t work out as planned.

In fact, Tru is downright miserable. So he decides to run away to Monroeville, Alabama, and the only friend he’s ever had, Nelle Harper Lee. But things don’t go well there, either.

Bad things seem to happen wherever he goes. The only explanation: he must be cursed. Christmas is coming, and Tru’s only wish is to be happy. But it’ll take a miracle for that to come true. Luckily, a special feast brings the miracle he’s hoping for. Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale is based on the real life friendship of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.

 

How I Saved Hanukkah by Amy Goldman Koss

Marla Feinstein, the only Jewish kid in her fourth-grade class, hates December.

While everyone else is decorating trees, she’ll be forgetting to light the candles and staring at a big plastic dreidel. The holidays couldn’t get much worse.

So Marla decides to find out what Hanukkah’s really about—and soon she and her family have made the Festival of Lights the biggest party in town!

 

 

Kiesha’s Kwanzaa by Jacqueline C. Grant

Kiesha doesn’t understand what is happening to her family. Papa hides behind the newspaper at dinner time. Her big brother Derrick is grumpy and gets into trouble all the time. And Mama just seems unhappy. If not for her precious library books, Kiesha would be unhappy too.

When she discovers a family celebration called Kwanzaa, Kiesha thinks she has found a way to help her family. She works hard to create a special family Kwanzaa celebration, but is it too late? Young readers will learn about how some families celebrate Kwanzaa, but Kiesha’s Kwanzaa is really about family and togetherness and the power of love.

 

Young Scrooge: A Very Scary Christmas by R.L. Stine

Rick Scroogeman hates Christmas. He can’t stand the carols and the pageants. He can’t stand the lights and the mistletoe.

But what he hates the most is having to watch the old movie A Christmas Carol every year at school.

Since his name is Scroogeman, all of his classmates start calling him Scrooge. And he hates being called Scrooge. But everything starts to change when three ghosts visit him. At first, he thinks it’s a dream. But then he realizes that it might be a nightmare. A nightmare that could become real.

 

 

Dreidels on the Brain by Joel ben Izzy

One lousy miracle.  Is that too much to ask? Evidently so for Joel, as he tries to survive Hannukah, 1971 in the suburbs of Los Angeles (or, as he calls it, “The Land of Shriveled Dreams”). That’s no small task when you’re a “seriously funny-looking” twelve-year-old magician who dreams of being his own superhero: Normalman. And Joel’s a long way from that as the only Jew at Bixby School, where his attempts to make himself disappear fail spectacularly. Home is no better, with a family that’s not just mortifyingly embarrassing but flat-out broke. That’s why Joel’s betting everything on these eight nights, to see whether it’s worth believing in God or miracles or anything at all. Armed with his favorite jokes, some choice Yiddish words, and a suitcase full of magic tricks, he’s scrambling to come to terms with the world he lives in—from hospitals to Houdini to the Holocaust—before the last of the candles burns out. No wonder his head is spinning: He’s got dreidels on the brain. And little does he know that what’s actually about to happen to him and his family this Hanukkah will be worse than he’d feared . . . And better than he could have imagined.

 

A Very Special Kwanzaa by Debbi Chocolate

Charlie’s school is holding a Kwanzaa Festival, and he doesn’t want any part of it. Last year, he was chosen to stand in front of the entire class wearing a dashiki, beads, and sandals- in the middle of winter!

When the class jerk decided to crack jokes about Charlie’s outfit, he became the clown of the third grade. This year he just wants things to be normal.

But Charlie soon learns that Kwanzaa is a celebration of creativity and caring.

 

 

The Return of Light: Twelve Tales from Around the World for the Winter Solstice by Carolyn McVickar Edwards

The winter solstice, the day the “sun stands still,” marks the longest night and the shortest day of the year, and it comes either on December 20th or 21st. Celebrations honoring the winter solstice as a moment of transition and renewal date back thousands of years and occur among many peoples on every continent. The Return of the Light makes an ideal companion for everyone who carries on this tradition, no matter what their faith. Storyteller Carolyn McVickar Edwards retells twelve traditional tales-from North America, China, Scandinavia, India, Africa, South America, Europe, and Polynesia-that honor this magical moment. These are stories that will renew our wonder of the miracle of rebirth and the power of transition from darkness into light.

 

 

Every Christmas in the small town of Pine River, a tree appears in the town square–the Angel Tree. Some people tie wishes to the tree, while others make those wishes come true. Nobody’s ever known where the tree comes from, but the mystery has always been part of the tradition’s charm.

This year, however, four kids who have been helped–Lucy, Joe, Max, and Cami–are determined to solve the mystery and find out the true identity of the town’s guardian angel, so that Pine River can finally thank the person who brought the Angel Tree to their town.

This is a heartwarming Christmas mystery, full of friendship, discovery, and loads of holiday cheer!

 

 

Nutcracked by Susan Adrian

Georgie has waited for this moment her whole life—to dance the part of Clara in The Nutcracker ballet. And when she finally gets the part, it’s like a dream come true . . . Literally.
Every time Georgie dances with the Nutcracker doll, she leaves the ballet studio and enters a world where everything around her—the old wooden furniture, the Christmas tree, the carefully wrapped presents—is larger than life. It’s so magical, Georgie can’t wait to return again and again. Then the Nutcracker’s magic seeps into the real world, putting Georgie’s friend in danger. Everything is falling apart, and it’s almost Christmas! Can Georgie save her friend, the Nutcracker, and most of all, herself?

Query Cowbells, Yard Art, and Other Ways Authors Celebrate (and Why)

I’ve been reminded lately that celebration is something we should do more often. In the writing world, we are happy when we get to make big announcements – book deals, releases, signing with an agent. Those announcements almost always lead to a celebratory dinner, a launch party, a champagne toast, or a hearty round of “Huzzah!” on social media.

But those BIG announcements can be a long time coming. Some writers are still waiting and working toward them.

That’s why I was so excited when critique partner and illustrator Jane Dippold presented our critique group members with Query Cowbells.

.

According to Jane’s detailed instructions for use, one should:

  • Ring the Query Cowbell once with extreme exuberance upon hitting “send” on any email query. Twirl in a circle like a puppy and settle into your favorite spot. You did it!
  • Shake the Query Cowbell vigorously two times upon receiving any form rejection: once for perseverance and once for your amazing, but not yet accepted, manuscript.
  • Upon receiving a personal rejection with vague but important revision suggestions, put the Query Cowbell down and REVISE!  Ring the Query Cowbell softly, once, when you finally go to bed at 3 A.M.
  • There are many more Query Cowbell instructions, but you get the idea. If you are submitting, you have reasons to celebrate! 

soup

Author Sarah Aronson has one of my favorite reasons for celebrating. “Every time I get to page 100 of a draft, I make this soup,” she says.  100-Page Party Soup. Why not? Click here for her recipe and you can make it yourself.

Author/Illustrator Lita Judge celebrates in really BIG way. She explains, “I have always felt a strong connection to Stonehenge and other ancient rock circles. I fell upon the idea that I would erect my own stones, adding a pillar each time I finish a book. When I step into the yard or look out my windows the pillars remind me of all the projects I have been fortunate enough to create. Each one is hard won and will stand for my lifetime. They are my special way of celebrating this rich life of creating.” 

Lita’s husband Dave sets an 800-pound stone in their yard.

Lita poses with three of her celebratory monuments.

Author Nancy Roe Pimm also celebrates each book with an addition to her garden.  “I always loved concrete lawn ornaments, even before the well-dressed geese began making appearances on lawns throughout the country. I would never buy a lawn statue for myself, because let’s face it- it’s not a real “need.” When I found the winged fairy reading a book, it suddenly felt like a need. I had two books out that year, Colo’s Story and the Daytona 500 book. I decided to celebrate and treat myself to the book reading fairy.”
There are so many reasons to celebrate.
You finished a draft.
You started a draft!
You conquered that revision.
You found a critique partner.
You’ve signed up for your first writing conference.
Don’t wait for the big stuff. Celebrate every step along the way.
This has me thinking. I’ve just completed a blog post!
Champagne, anyone?