Posts Tagged Valerie Stein

A Thank You…

thank-you-944086_640From all outward appearances, this blog runs itself, but that is far from the truth. Because of my unique perspective as Fearless Leader here on this blog (the CEO, COO, and CFO all rolled into one, if you will), I’ve been able to take a step back and see the big picture, and then dive in and get dirty with the rest of the Mixed-Up Authors.

And I have to say that the people on this blog are amazing. They are passionate about middle-grade books and the kids who read them. They put in countless hours writing high-quality posts for this blog as well as their other duties here to help keep this massive site updated and relevant for our vast and varied audience. And they do this without compensation of any kind. In fact, in addition they often donate books and/or money to help us accomplish our goals. There are not enough words to thank them for everything they have given to me and to this blog.

This is an easy bunch to lead. However, there have always been a few of our members who have helped me keep everyone on track. Their work for this blog has at times been stressful, and I wanted to send a public thank you to all of the Mixed-Up Leaders who have helped this blog run so smoothly over the years.

You may be wondering why I feel compelled to send a public thanks at this time. It is because there are changes afoot behind the scenes here at From the Mixed-Up Files. After months of deliberating with myself, followed by more months of delegating and decision-making with others, it is bittersweet moment for me to announce that I am stepping down from this blog and moving on to new adventures.

This has been my home these past five and a half years. I’ve been there for every conversation, every decision, every project or celebration. I’ve read every single post (all 1,219 at the time of this writing) and marveled at the intelligence, passion, and love the members of this blog share in every post. I will miss the daily camaraderie with my fellow Mixed-Up Authors.

But I have a new path I need to follow, and I am looking forward to new adventures. And I am incredibly excited to announce the new Fearless Leaders of this blog, who will be splitting my work amongst themselves as they lead this blog to new things as well. (Smart bunch. I should have thought of hiring a few of me years ago.)

They are (in alphabetical order):

Julie Artz
TP Jagger
Valerie Stein
Mindy Alyse Weiss

I see many great things in store with these four in charge. They have already impressed me with their dedication and optimism in the face of a mountain of work. I wish them all the best of luck moving forward.

I also want to leave one last thank you to our readers. You have been the reason we keep going! Your enthusiasm and appreciation for the work we do has meant more than words can say. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting. Thank you for being a part of our Mixed-Up community.

And if you see me around, come say hi. I would love to chat with you anytime. You all are my kind of people.

And bring a MG book. We can talk about that, too.

I would love it.

Elissa Cruz is ready for new adventures.  If you’d like to follow along, please join her on her personal blog/website at

On the Eve of Escape

Here at The Mixed-Up Files of Middle-Grade Authors, we have scheduling fairies who put names on a magical calendar so that we all know who is posting and when. And, weeks ago, when I saw the date I would next post, I immediately thought, “Oh! That’s the day before I escape to…”

maine beach web small

Every year, this land-locked Ohio farm girl spends a week in a cottage on the  Maine shore with nine writing friends. It is often the most inspiring and productive week of my writing year. I can smell the ocean air already!

I began to wonder how other middle-grade authors escape the daily grind. Where do they go to think more clearly? Breathe more deeply?

And, so, I just asked.

Some of you might follow author Cynthia Lord on Facebook. If you don’t, you probably should click on her name and do that now, because she posts thoughtfully and with her heart, and you’ll love following her. And if you already do, you know that she has this great little escape in her own backyard.

cynthia lord's writing shed

Cynthia told me that she got her writing shed (aptly dubbed “Walden Backyard”) after RULES won a Newbery Honor and she and her husband were a bit cramped sharing an office in their house. Cynthia’s escape is close to home, and she loves writing in her multi-season shed. (We would say all-season, but she does live in Maine, and I’ve seen pictures in which the snow was piled nearly as high as the shed!)

lisa yee   Author of WARP SPEED and THE KIDNEY HYPOTHETICAL, Lisa Yee was caught in mid-escape when I contacted her. She wrote back:

“Ha! As I reply to your question, I am sitting in a hotel room where I’ve escaped to get writing done.”

Enough said, Lisa! Now, get back to work and don’t let me get in the way of progress!

I was surprised how many authors escape to water.  Kirby kirby LARSONLarson, author of HATTIE BIG SKY and the new DASH and DUKE, escapes ocean-side to be with the eagles and hummingbirds. It’s interesting that negative ocean ions can positively affect one’s blood pressure!  Thanks, Kirby!

tricia springstubbMixed-Up Files Author Tricia Springstubb echoed the water theme as well. Her newest middle-grade novel MOONPENNY ISLAND is set on a fictitious island. It’s no small coincidence that Moonpenny Island mirrors Kelley’s Island and Tricia’s favorite rocky and remote get-away.  Tricia finds water so motivating, she often swims to clear her head and has solved more than one plot dilemma after coming out of the pool!

Some writers, though they enjoy a good vacation, have found a more accessible escape. Margaret Peterson Haddix (the MISSING series and the SHADOW CHILDREN series) and Marlane Kennedy (THE DOG DAYS OF CHARLOTTE HAYES and the DISASTER STRIKES series) both agreed that when they are caught up in a good writing moment, their best escape is the story itself. Marlane shares, “When I am deep within  a story, I am not even aware of my surroundings. I am transported to wherever and whatever is happening in my story, and my writing escape is more within my mind than anywhere else.”  (Margaret’s escape mode, however, is not entirely waterless. Like Tricia,  she’s another swimmer/thinker!)

Peterson and KennedyMargaret Peterson Haddix and Marlane Kennedy

Lots more  Mixed-Up Files Authors weighted in as well! You can see their pictures and read about their books here But first, take a moment to read about their escapes:

Jacqueline Jaeger HoutmanCoffee shop. Earbuds. Vivaldi.

Michele Weber HurwitzI’m a big walker. Nothing like a long walk to clear my head and work through trouble spots in a WIP.

Greg R. Fishbone – Long train rides are great for writing.

Amie Borst – When my office won’t suffice, I love to sit on my back deck or by the lake. (There’s that water thing again!)

Valerie Stein – On the sailboat! Calm, quiet motion at the dock, free of distractions. (And again!)

Rosanne Parry – Love writing in my treehouse in the summer. Fresh air, lots of birds & squirrels for company and no distractions. Bliss!

Okay, I admit it. I just couldn’t leave Rosanne’s comment without hoping on over to her website to see if, just maybe, she had a picture of said treehouse. And, bingo! Here it is.

rosanne tree house

So, we would love to hear about your writing escape. Comment below and let us know where you go! I’ll try to respond, but remember, in less than 24 hours, I’ll be escaping to…

maine porch web small

Michelle Houts is the author of four books for middle-grade readers. She loves mail (the real, slow, stamped-envelope kind) so she created the 52 Letters in a Year Challenge to encourage writers young and not very young to help revive the art of letter-writing. Visit Michelle at On Twitter @mhoutswrites and on Facebook as Michelle Houts.