Posts Tagged space

Cover Reveal: Space Care

cover art shows an astronaut in full gear against a dark background with title in neon lettering


MUF cover reveal logo with critter and text saying "cover reveal"I am so excited to share the newest cover reveal for an awesome new space book by our own Mixed-Up Files Jennifer Swanson’s SPACE CARE: A Kid’s Guide to Surviving Space

Drum roll……….. here it is!

Cover Reveal

cover art shows an astronaut in full gear against a dark background with title in neon lettering

Publisher: Mayo Clinic Press Kids
Publish Date: July 18, 2023

About Space Care:

Have you ever wondered how astronauts stay healthy in space? What if an astronaut gets sick on the space station? Does snot run in space? This fascinating photo-illustrated look at space and medicine explores how scientists and physicians study astronauts in space, how they help keep them safe, and what we’ve learned about the human body through space exploration. Questions from real kids and answers form from astronauts, along with photos from NASA, combine for an out-of-this-world exploration of health.

I’m so excited we got a chance to talk to Jen about her newest fabulous middle grade non fiction book.

Interview with Jen Swanson

HMC: Congratulations, Jennifer! Your book is one of a new group of  kid’s books being released by Mayo Clinic Press this year. How did you feel about writing this topic for them? 

JS: Space medicine? YES, please. At one time in my life, I wanted more than anything to be an
organ-transplant surgeon and an astronaut. Not that those two careers necessarily go together, but
maybe someday. 😊
In any case, I was thrilled to be asked to write this book for Mayo Clinic Press Kids. Not only do
I love space but I also live very close to the Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville and often ride my
bike past it. It was the perfect book for me to do.

HMC: Can you share some cool details about what’s inside?

JS: This book is chock full of details about what humans go through while living in microgravity. There are facts about how astronauts sleep, what they eat, and yes, even a picture of the bathroom on the ISS. There is information about the garden where fruit and vegetables are grown in space and even a section about some of the cool medical research being done in microgravity. (Did you know that astronauts have to draw their own blood sometimes?)
The awesome photos give readers an up-close view of life on the ISS and even make them feel a little bit like they are their themselves.

HMC: What was the most exciting thing about writing this book?

JS: I got to zoom with Astronaut Megan McArthur! That was just so fun. Megan is fantastic and really smart. She wrote the foreward for the book, and gives the reader a great inside story of what it’s like to live in space. And yes, all of those answers in the book are from her. She and I chatted about them during our zoom session.

HMC: Will there be more books about space from you?

JS: Definitely! I’m working on a book right now called WHO OWNS THE MOON, that I’m co-writing with Cynthia Levinson for Margaret Quinlan Books. It is takes a much broader look at NASA’s Artemis missions and asks the question we are all wondering—how will different countries (and commercial companies) live and work together on the Moon? Packed with cool technology, discussions on space debris, governance, and more, this book will be a great resource for kids who want to learn as much as they can about space. It will publish in early 2025.

HMC: Where can everyone learn more about you and your other books about STEM?

JS: You can find information about me, my books, and tons of STEM resources including free teacher guides, videos for students, and learn about my podcast, Solve It! for Kids at my website:


A Little Space

It’s August. Summer is rapidly slipping away. How did the time fly by so fast? What about all those things I was going to do this summer? (Looks at 2021 Summer Calendar To-Do List and sees very few things crossed out.) School is either here or just around the corner. Teachers, librarians, readers, and creators of all stripes are answering the call to duty. 

It’s go time!

There’s is excitement in the air with the prospect and potential of a new academic year. But the pangs of summer fading into the sunset settle deep into my gut. (Looks again at the 2021 Summer Calendar To-Do List.) The innocent and once optimistic list of uncompleted writing and drawing tasks screams at me, “HAYS, DID YOU FORGET US?”

The tight-knit ball of creative anxiety in the pit of my stomach rapidly spins with enough orbital angular momentum to force the panic to rise. My heart races. My eyes flitter around the room. My sketchbooks, journals, notebooks, even my own published books gathering dust on the shelf, laugh at me. 

I run outside, look up into the expanse of a beautiful, northcentral blue Kansas sky, take a deep breath, and close my eyes. My heart no longer races. It’s beating with the steady rhythm of rolling down I-70 through the Flint Hills at dusk. 

John P Salvatore, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

I return to my office. The Summer Calendar 2021 To-Do List hangs unchanged on the wall. But it’s just a list again. A suggestion of potential things. A creative direction. The journals and notebooks are raw stories, packed with potential which hopefully someday find their readers. My published books on the shelf remind me I can indeed do this creative thing competently enough to give them a shelf life.

Ah…the beauty of space. The absolute raw power of space to put everything into perspective.

Space. What an awesome word!

Space is a Swiss Army knife word with so many uses and meanings. Space is a word we should celebrate and appreciate. A word we should vault to the top of the toolbox.

I need to make a token to hang on the wall or wear around my neck to remind me of the value and importance of space and creative space. I need the reminder that when stuck, a step back to create space is necessary in order to move forward.

As the season turns and we make fresh To-Do lists, it’s the perfect time to remember and appreciate the spaces in your life. The other night, I sat for a few minutes on the patio and took in the night sky hoping for a glimpse of the conglomeration of planets on the western horizon or spotting a meteor or two from the eastern sky. Unfortunately, cloud cover and poor timing thwarted these efforts but all was not lost. Mesmerized, as always, by the Big Dipper, I stared at the northern sky for a few minutes. 

Beautiful space. 

A reminder we are all impossible beings floating across the universe at 492,126 miles per hour. Insignificant and yet significant in everything we do. 

Amazing space. My relaxed brain started firing off the important “spaces” in my life. I made a list. 

  • Creative space
  • Outer space
  • Inner space
  • Backspace
  • Negative space
  • Garden space
  • Yard space
  • Patio space
  • Deep space
  • Near space
  • Public space
  • Private space
  • Workspace
  • Office space
  • Family space 
  • Spacebar (How about a Space bar?)
  • Writing space
  • Headspace
  • White space
  • Green space
  • Space Jam
  • Spacesuit
  • Open space
  • Wide-open space
  • Tight space
  • My Space
  • Personal space 
  • Closet space
  • Dream space

How about you? Have you ever considered the importance of space in your personal, professional, or creative life? Do you have a go-to space to open the mind or recharge the soul?

Have a great end of summer and enjoy the promise of tomorrow! 

If you find yourself running into creative walls, remember to take a step back, give yourself some space, and identify the best way to move forward. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly,

Space out, y’all!

The original uploader was Triddle at English Wikipedia.(original:Photograph taken by User:Triddle and User:Codedelectron), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Interview with Chris Swiedler: The Orpheus Plot

Interview with Chris Swiedler

Dropping June 25, 2021! What a great cover!

The Orpheus Plot

I grew up loving science fiction in every form, and my tween self would have disappeared into The Orpheus Plot (HarperCollins, 2021), so I jumped on the chance to interview Chris Swiedler about his book The Orpheus Plot.  Just in time for summer, Chris takes us on a great MG spacesuit adventure to the asteroid belt, where pre-teen Lucas Obadayo must bridge dual identities to prevent war. This is Swiedler’s second title with HC, following last year’s In the Red.

Welcome to Mixed Up Files, Chris!

Interview with Chris Swiedler

Sean McCollum: Lucas Abadayo is such a great protagonist, with a complete menu of internal and external conflicts to deal with. How much of your own young self is in his DNA?

Christopher Swiedler: Not enough, in the sense that I wish I’d had his internal strength when I was his age! I went to a new school for third grade and it was enormously difficult for me. Looking back I wasn’t really all that different from any of the other kids, but those differences were so magnified in my head that I felt as if I’d never be able to be friends with anyone. I can’t even imagine how I would have handled it if I’d been born in the asteroid belt!

Of course, there are lots of bits of me in Lucas. I was never very good in math, but I always loved computers. And I’ve always had a strong belief that most problems are caused by people not understanding someone else’s point of view. If all the people around you have seen something a certain way for a long time it begins to feel not only like a truth, but a truth worth (literally) fighting over. I’m mostly optimistic about the future of humanity, but I worry a lot about technology making it easier to segment ourselves and shut off any interactions with people and opinions that we don’t already agree with.

Orpheus Plot World Building

SMc: How did you go about the world-building process for The Orpheus Plot? What advice do you have for beginning science fiction authors on how to approach it?

CS: For me, world-building in science fiction is all about imagining how people will live and interact as we adapt to changes in technology. For example, it’s fascinating to think that as humans leave Earth and live in the rest of the Solar System, the first colonists will have to entirely give up eating meat, because growing plants to feed to animals and then feeding the animals to people is just too inefficient.

Or think about communication – in the last fifty years we’ve gotten used to being able to reach anyone, anywhere, instantly. Once people live on Mars, it will take anywhere from 3 to 22 minutes for signals to arrive, and then the same delay again coming back. Can you imagine trying to have a conversation with someone where it takes close to an hour for them to respond to what you’ve just said?

Good world-building is all about creating something that is different and believable. Making something different is easy—making it also be believable is the tricky part. Our brains are really good at spotting the little things that stand out and don’t quite make sense. My friend Shirin Leos uses the term “credibility gap” in her workshops, which I like a lot. I’ve gotten countless bits of great feedback from writers in her groups who start off by saying something like “I’m not at all a science-fiction person” and then proceed to point out in precise detail how a particular bit of futurism doesn’t quite make sense.

The best piece of specific advice I can give for world-building is to start off with the things you want to be different and then keep asking yourself “how would the world adapt?” If people flew on dragons—how would we adapt? If zombies rose from their graves—how would we adapt? Think about it in excruciatingly logical detail and open yourself up to all of the possibilities.

On the other hand, world building has to serve the story! Sometimes it’s fun to start with the world-building and then build the story and characters inside. But sometimes you need to flip it around and come up with the story first and the world second. My current project is fantasy / alternate-history, and I’ve only done light sketches of the world because I haven’t gotten the core story finished yet. Locking yourself into a particular, super-detailed world can sometimes be a hinderance.

MG Sci-Fi Influences

Author Chris Swiedler, everybody!

SMc: Because this is MUF, which middle grade books left an impression on you? And why do you write for middle grades now? Which science-fiction authors and books in general are among your influences today?

CS: In any genre, the stories that have an influence on me are the ones that make me think or make me cry (and ideally both). I love Watership Down for its detailed, believable, and almost totally foreign world, but the part that really gets me is at the end when you see how the story of Hazel, Bigwig, and the others gets woven into the legends of El-ahrairah for future generations. Another example is the movie E.T., where the science-fiction elements support and complement the amazing characters.

I love middle-grade novels because the stories are so genuine and positive. Young-adult books are great in how they can focus on the moments when our optimistic view of the world begins to crumble and be replaced by something more nuanced. But I find myself gravitating toward stories that see the world as an inherently positive place where conflict can eventually be reconciled. Of course, even in middle-grade there’s still a broad range of emotions like anger, sadness, and grief, but these are usually accompanied by healing and a return to an un-shattered, positive view of the world.

Out of recent sci-fi, I’m a big fan of everything that Lois McMaster Bujold has written. The settings of her Vorkosigan Saga and World of the Five Gods are amazingly authentic and engaging, but even more importantly, characters like Miles and Cordelia or Ista and Penric feel so much like real people that I’m sad when I finish the books and realize I have to say goodbye (at least till she writes the next one!)

((Looking for more space books? Check out our space-themed book list here)

Fundamentally Universal Themes

SMc: Thematically, science fiction seems to overlap with fantasy and perhaps superhero genres. What draws us to these stories?

CS: I think the great thing about themes is that they’re fundamentally universal. Things like setting, technology, magic, and superpowers can put characters into exciting situations, but it’s their choices—especially the difficult ones—that make us care about them.

One of my favorite quotes ever, from Lois McMaster Bujold, is this: “You are what you choose. Choose again, and change.” Think about that. You are what you choose. It’s true for us as people, and it’s just as true for characters. If someone is strong in the Force, or the wielder of some powerful magic, or smart enough to invent their own powered suit of armor—well, that’s great! But people are not their abilities or their talents. People are their choices. And the reason we care about them and follow them in their wonderful adventures is because we want to see those choices. We want to see Captain America choose to stick to his guns and keep fighting no matter what. We want to see Frodo Baggins choose to take the One Ring into Mordor. We want to see both the good choices and the bad ones, and we want to root for them to come out all right in the end.

Thanks so much for spending some time with us here at MUF, Chris. And have a great summer!

Keep up with Chris Swiedler:

At his website

On Facebook

Twitter @ChrisSwiedler


You can also buy The Orpheus Plot online at an independent bookstore through our MUF Bookshop portal: