Posts Tagged Samantha M. Clark


We here at The Mixed-Up Files are thrilled to shine the spotlight on our own Samantha M. Clark, who has not one, but two, middle-grade novels out this month. ARROW released this past Tuesday, June 22, and HOLLYWOOD (American Horse Tales #2) hits the shelves next Tuesday, June 29. Samantha has generously offered our readers a chance to win signed copies of both books. So, don’t forget to click the Rafflecopter link at the end of the post (U.S. entries only).




For the first twelve years of Arrow’s life, he has grown up as the only human in a lush, magical rainforest that’s closed off from the rest of the world. He was raised by the Guardian Tree, the protector of the forest, which uses the earth’s magic to keep it hidden from those who have sought to exploit and kill it. But now the magic veil is deteriorating, the forest is dying, and Arrow may be the only one who can save it.

Arrow has never seen another human until one day, a man in a small airplane crash-lands in the forest. Then, a group of children finds their way in, escaping from their brutal, arid world where the rich live in luxurious, walled-off cities and the poor struggle for survival. The Guardian Tree urges Arrow to convince the trespassers to leave by any means necessary. Arrow is curious about these newcomers, but their arrival sets off a chain of events that leave him with a devastating choice: be accepted by his own kind or fight to save the forest that is his home.


HOLLYWOOD (American Horse Tales #2)

Set in modern-day California, this American Horse Tale is the story of a young girl who, along with her family’s horse, is destined for the big screen.

Juniper dreams of making it big in the movies along with her horse, Able. In particular, Juniper is obsessed with getting Able onto her favorite television show, CASTLE MacAVOY, and will do anything, even slay dragons, to make that happen.

HOLLYWOOD is part of a series of books written by several authors highlighting the unique relationships between young girls and their horses.



Dorian: Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing for children.

Samantha: Hi Dorian! Thank you for having me on The Mixed-Up Files today. I’m very excited to be here, especially as a contributor to this wonderful website.

I’ve loved stories since as far back as I can remember. My nose was always in a book, and when I told my parents about my day, I’d tell it carefully to build up to the climax. (Although, people got bored a lot. I had a lot to learn about pacing back then. 🙂 ) Growing up, I wanted to tell stories any way I could, and went into journalism telling the stories of others. I loved making up my own stories, though, so I wrote in my spare time. I didn’t set out to write children’s books, but the more I wrote, the younger my protagonists got. Finally, I realized that’s where my heart was. To learn more about Samantha, visit her website here.


Dorian: What was your journey to becoming a published writer like?

Samantha: Long! 🙂 My first published novel is THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST, which came out in 2018 from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster. But it wasn’t the first novel I wrote. I wrote two other novels, then started THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST in 2008. Despite getting some honors in contests and winning the Joan Lowery Nixon Award with the Houston chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, the book got a lot of rejections from agents. I wrote two more novels, and kept writing, learning and revising BEAST. Finally, I got a pass from an agent I had met at the Austin Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators conference, but she liked my work enough to recommend it to two other agents, including Rachel Orr with Prospect Agency, who loved my work and offered to represent it. My rejections weren’t over, though. After a bunch more revisions, BEAST went out to editors and was passed on by nine. Then one editor asked for a revise and resubmit, which gave me the opportunity to do another revision with some new ideas I had. That editor still ultimately passed, but when the revised version went out to new editors, BEAST got two offers within three weeks. It ended up taking ten years for that book to come out, and lots of times, I thought it would never happen. But seeing my book on bookshelves, it was all worth it.



Dorian: ARROW and HOLLYWOOD could not be more different from each other regarding setting, tone, etc. But I’m wondering if you found that you visited similar themes that resonate for you, personally, in both books.

Samantha: Great question! And you’re right that the books are very different. ARROW is closer to THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST in style, tone, nature setting, and magic. It was the book I started writing after BEAST, so I think it’s a good follow-up. HOLLYWOOD, however, is part of a new series from Penguin Workshop that I auditioned for. I did come up with the story and characters myself, based on their guideline of “a girl and a horse,” but the story is contemporary, set in a TV studio, and has no magical elements whatsoever. But you are also absolutely right that both books have similar themes. Acceptance, confidence, and self-esteem are themes that seem to pop up in all my stories (I wonder why… 😉 ), and these books are no exceptions. In ARROW, the main character is a 12-year-old boy with a limb difference who lacks the confidence to think he can fix the rainforest’s failing magic. When the forest is infiltrated by humans from outside, Arrow wants to be accepted by the humans, the first of his kind that he’s ever seen. In HOLLYWOOD, Juniper is an 11-year-old girl who accidentally (sorta) stumbles into her dream job of being a stunt rider with her horse on their favorite TV show, but once she’s there, she doesn’t have the confidence in herself to think she can be as good as the other riders. She will do anything she can to prove herself, so she can feel accepted by them.


Dorian: Both your debut book, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST (which won the 2019 SCBWI Texas/Oklahoma Crystal Kite Award) deal with boys who are mostly alone in strange places. What is it about such stories that attract you as an author?

Samantha: Another great question, Dorian! And it’s funny because I was wondering the same thing recently. 🙂 I don’t tend to plan things like this into stories when I’m working on them. It’s only later, looking at the stories when they’re finished, that I can see where they overlap. In a sense, both the Boy and Arrow are like I was when I was a kid. I’m an only child and we moved around a lot, not just to different towns, but also to different countries. By the time I was 12, I had lived in four countries and was always the new kid. I often felt alone and in a strange place, just like my characters. I was also always most comfortable in nature, among trees and near the ocean, so writing these settings has been a lot of fun.



Dorian: I read that THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST began with the idea of a boy waking up on a beach with no memory that came to you while you were walking your dog. What was the seed that your new book, ARROW, grew from?

Samantha: Yes! I get lots of ideas when I’m walking our dogs or doing any kind of activity when my mind can wander. The first spark of ARROW actually came to me while I was vacuuming. A boy with one hand who lived in a tree popped into my head. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted, but I was intrigued. I started pulling from my own experiences and passions. I went into the Amazon when I was 10 and felt that Arrow’s tree should be in a rainforest. I saw a TED Talk by renowned ecologist Suzanne Simard about how mother trees communicate and protect their forests, and I knew that Arrow’s tree was the Guardian Tree of his forest. The more research I did, the more the story grew, and the more hooked I was as its writer.


Dorian: Love that story! Maybe I should start vacuuming more. 🙂 Other than being entertained, what do you want readers to come away with from your novels?

Samantha: I hope my books encourage readers to dream and hope for amazing possibilities, the way the books I read as a kid did for me. More specifically, I hope that readers of THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST see that their fears don’t have to control them; that readers of HOLLYWOOD believe they can make their dreams come true; and that readers of ARROW gain a better appreciation for our natural world, as well as the understanding that we all live best when we live together as a true, sharing ecosystem.



Dorian: What tips do you have for aspiring writers?

Samantha: Ooh, I could take hours to answer this question! 🙂 I write tips articles on my blog ( every month that go into specific topics, so here I’ll just share my two favorite tips:

  1. Consume stories. Read books, watch movies, play story-based videogames, listen to audiobooks . . . The more you consume stories, the more you absorb about story structure, character development, and setting. The best of these is books (and I include in this, comics and graphic novels), because we have a more personal connection when we add our own imaginations. Consume as many stories as you can as often as you can, and you will grow as a writer.
  2. Don’t compare your first draft, or even first few revisions, to books you bought at a bookstore. I used to read published books and think my work was nowhere near as good. And I was right! It wasn’t. But I hadn’t gone through all the revisions that the author had to get their book to that level. Know that every book you read has been written, re-written, revised, polished many, many times, and when you do all that work, your book will be that good too.

Thank you!

Dorian: Thanks so much, Samantha, for joining us today, and thanks for donating the books!

Click on the Rafflecopter and follow the directions before Saturday at 11:59 PM for a chance to win copies of Samantha’s two new books. Winner will be announced on Sunday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Writing Advice From MG Women Authors

To celebrate Women’s History Month, I put out a call for writing advice from women middle-grade authors. Here are their wonderful tips:

“Write your truth! There’s a reader out there who needs it.” —Mae Respicio, ANY DAY WITH YOU

“All the talent in the world will not get you over the finish line in publishing. Persistence is the true measure of a professional.” —Janet Fox, THE ARTIFACT HUNTERS

“A mistake is never a mistake unless you don’t learn from it.” —S.A. Larsen, MOTLEY EDUCATION

“Half of writing is daydreaming. It’s not putting words on a page, it’s staring out a window waiting for the story to float by.” —Lija Fisher, THE CRYPTID CATCHER

“Writing is an act of empowerment: You’re creating your own world. It’s a place for your individual voice to ring out. So tell the story you need to, and enjoy the process!” —Diane Magras, THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER and THE HUNT FOR THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER

“Nobody writes well in a first draft. I think the reason many writers fail to finish projects is because they are putting too much pressure on themselves to be a ‘good’ writer – whatever that means. I am a firm believer in Anne Lamott’s advice to write crummy rough drafts. The important thing is to get the story on paper so you have the raw material to work with. Then, in revision, that’s when the real work starts, sculpting, shaping, and finding the best way to tell your story.” —Tara Gilboy, UNWRITTEN and REWRITTEN

“Connect with other writers. They are a wonderful source of motivation and support, and will help you to hone your craft.” —Anne O’Brien Carelli, SKYLARK AND WALLCREEPER and ONE LIGHT

“Every piece of writing you create contains a piece of yourself. It can feel scary to send that piece out into the world, into the hands of other people. But when you realize (and you will) that you’re brave enough to do it—and strong enough to survive the possibility that others may not be careful or even kind with that piece of yourself—you will join in the miracle and magic of a writer’s gift: You will have healed a corner of the world, someone’s world, with that small gift of you. So be brave.” —R.L. Toalson, THE COLORS OF THE RAIN and THE WOODS

“Your first draft is not supposed to be perfect! It is easy to get intimidated when you read a great book or interesting news story, but it’s not only possible, but probable, that the writer’s first draft wasn’t good — at all. That’s okay, first drafts aren’t supposed to be good. They exist to get the information down, then you go back and fix it all up and make it sound better the next time through it, and the time after that. Give yourself a break if your first draft (or first time you play a new song or try to draw a photo or learn a new dance move) needs love and attention to get better. That’s all part of the process!” —Andrea Pyros, MY YEAR OF EPIC ROCK and PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS

“As a former advice columnist and life coach, I’ve doled out a fair number of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ over the years. My favorite piece of advice is this: ‘Don’t get too comfortable.’ That’s not to say you should sleep on a bed of nails or run a marathon in heels. I’m talking about stepping outside your comfort zone. Of doing the thing that scares you; that makes you say, ‘I can’t.’ Sure, it will be scary at first, and you may want to throw in the towel. You might even decide that trying is too hard—and you won’t even bother. But complacency comes at a cost. It will chip away at your confidence, until the ‘I can’ts’ feel more natural than the “I cans.” But that’s fear talking. You can do more than you realize. So, do the thing that scares you, whether it’s taking up a new hobby or starting a journal. If you don’t succeed, that’s okay. You can always try again.” —Melissa Roske, KAT GREENE COMES CLEAN

“What you need to succeed as an author: lots of hope, hard work, and chocolate.” Cynthia Reeg, FROM THE GRAVE and INTO THE SHADOWLANDS

“You guide your career, not an agent or publisher. Be deliberate in your career choices and keep the long-term in mind. Make a five or ten-year plan, even if many aspects of success feel out of your control. And don’t be afraid to experiment and fail along the way.” Kim Ventrella, HELLO FUTURE ME and THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM

I love all this advice! And here’s one from me:

“Have fun! Publishing can be a difficult industry and writing can be hard work, but the best part of that is the creating. Play with your characters. Explore your new world. And I’ll say it againhave fun.” —Samantha M Clark, THE BOY, THE BOAT, AND THE BEAST and ARROW

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.”