Thursday, August 31, 2017

Survivor Diaries by Terry Lynn Johnson and More! (posted by Paul Greci)

Terry Lynn Johnson, award winning author of the middle grade adventure, ICE DOGS, has a new adventure series called Survivor Diaries. The series draws on Terry’s vast life experiences in survival situations. She lives and works in the wilds of Northern Ontario, Canada.

The four books, geared for ages seven to ten, are short (112 pages), fast-paced, high action stories.

The first in the series, which came out in July, is Overboard (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, Hardcover, July 2017, ISBN: 9780544970106):

Eleven-year-old Travis and his family are on a whale watch off the coast of Washington when their boat capsizes, throwing everyone into the ice-cold water. Will Travis and twelve-year-old passenger Marina have the grit and the know-how to survive?

The other three books in the series will be released over the next year and a half: Avalanche (January 2018), Lost (July 2018), and Dust Storm (January 2019).

In addition to the Survivor Diaries, Terry has two stand-alone middle grade novels coming out this fall, both of which are Junior Library Guild Selections!! Congrats, Terry!!

FalconWild (Charlesbridge, hardcover, September 2017, ISBN: 978-1580897884)

Thirteen-year-old Karma is lost in the backcountry of Montana with her falcon, Stark, and a troubled runaway boy named Cooper. She's desperate to find help for her dad and brother after they find themselves in a terrible accident on a back road.

Then, a month later, Sled Dog School (HMH Books for Young Readers, hardcover, October 2017, ISBN: 978-0544873315) comes out.

Eleven-year-old Matthew Misco just wants to fly—or should we say sled—under the radar. Things are hard enough at school with kids making fun of him for his parents' off-the-grid life-style, but life gets much worse when he is assigned a long-term math project: to start his own business. He has to ace this assignment to save his failing grade. But what is he even good at? The only thing he truly loves doing is running his team of dogs.

Having read and loved ICE DOGS, I am looking forward to devouring all six of the above mentioned books!!

To learn more about Terry, you can visit her website. Also, Terry was recently interviewed at Cracking the Cover.

Keep writing those adventure stories, Terry!!!

Paul Greci is the author of Surviving Bear Island, a 2015 Junior Library Guild Selection and a 2016 Scholastic Reading Club Selection.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Team YOU--Who's On Your Team? by Yamile Saied Mendez

The original A-Team

With back-to-school, it's also back to sports! It's not only [American] Football taking over your weekend, but the beautiful game (AKA FĂștbol, or soccer if you must) is also back in full force. I'm thrilled that FC Barcelona and Rosario Central are back to the pitch, and I have such high expectations for these two teams. Too bad all I can do to help my teams is cheer for them while I watch on TV (except for the one blessed time I went to Barcelona, and that one time twenty years ago when I was back in Rosario for a game). 
Maybe because I love team sports so much, I've always been conscious of the people around me, my team.
I hated group projects in school, but I'm not talking about this. 
In my mind, the people that help me in my writing journey are more like the characters of the A-Team show I loved watching as a child. I don't remember much of the show other than each character had their specific role in the group, and they were all equally important. 

So what are the roles of the people that should be part of your A-Team? 
They are alpha readers, beta readers, accountability partners, critique partners (group), writing coach. 

Alpha Readers
I wrote my first manuscript during NaNoWriMo, and after tying The End I was ready for a reader (I know, I know. I shiver at the thought now too). One of my best friends is an avid reader, and she volunteered. After she was done, she didn't cut all communications or move to another state/country (shocking. I know. She's a true friend). She offered me great feedback, from a reader's perspective. 
When I was ready to type my second story, she wanted to read as I wrote. She then became my alpha reader. This has forever been one of the best experiences of my writing life. Every morning, I'd send her what I had written the night before. She's text me her reactions as she read. Or sometimes a few days would go by between my sending her new material. She wasn't a writer, so she didn't expect me to read any of her material. She asked all the right questions about my story and characters, helping me notice plot holes, inconsistencies, etc. It was so helpful that the first draft of that book wasn't as terrible as my NaNoWriMo draft had been.  She expected me to send her new pages at least a few times a week, and she was extremely positive and encouraging. During a first draft, you want to know if the story is working, and she was the perfect person for this. 

Beta Reader 
A Beta Reader is someone who reads a partial or full manuscript and offers you feedback on it. The feedback may vary from structural comments, line edits, cultural/ethnic representation. Usually beta readers swap manuscripts, or in the case of sensitivity readers or editors, they need to be compensated for their time. 

Accountability Partners
Accountability partners don't always read each other's pages. They mainly hold each other accountable to goals they tell each other at the beginning of the week. A friend and I would text our goals every Sunday night, and then each day at the end of the day, we'd report our what we'd done to accomplish that goal. Knowing that my friend was waiting for my text pushed me to get to work instead of making excuses. 
In  Done and Done: The Power of Accountability Partnering for Reaching Your Goals, Anette Lyon and Luisa Perkins (accountability partners themselves) explain how this kind of partnership can be one of the best strategies for your team. 

Critic Partners/Groups
Critique Partners and Groups dynamics vary from relationship to relationship. Some meet online. Some meet in person every week at the same time, once a month, every other month, etc. They'll read a full manuscript at a time, read everyone's ten pages ahead and come to the meeting prepared to discuss (like a workshop), or read right there on the spot and offer feedback. Some people belong to more than one writing group and love it. Others can't commit to the workload of reading so much material every week/month. 

Writing Coach
A writing coach could be a mentor or an instructor. You can hire someone to both hold you accountable to your goals, and who'll give you feedback on your manuscript and walk you through your writing problems. 
 You could also find this amazing kind of mentor through contests such as Pitchwars, in which aspiring writers are paired up with a mentor, and for two months they work on revising a manuscript for an agents' showcase. 
The We Need Diverse Books organization also offers a mentorship program. Check it here

But the most important quality in any of your team members is that they'll be cheering for you. Yes, sometimes there will be some harsh love involved, but mostly, there will be a lot of encouragement and cheering. 

What kind of members do you have in your team? Share in the comments!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Serial Fiction Podcasting: the New Frontier? by Joanna Roddy

Some of the great literature of the past came to readers through serials. Charles Dickens published most of his novels as newspaper serials, and nearly all of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries were published one by one in the The Strand.

Media today is vastly different, and where once a small handful of editors held the reins to popular culture, now with blogs, podcasts, and self-publishing, it's a big wide world of creative output. But it seems we're moving back toward old ways of publishing as creatives write serialized fiction. 

Lots of now big name authors have published their novels serially by blog before wider publication, including Andy Weir's The Martian and E.L. James's Fifty Shades of Grey. And In the podcast world, NPR's Serial, which followed a murder case in its first season, became a cultural phenomenon as listeners reached over 80 million. Fans channeled their inner detective and developed their own pet theories about whether or not the man convicted was actually guilty. 

It's a time of pioneering and groundbreaking in many ways, but it's interesting that we hearken back to old formulas that still work. The serial format can be addictive. How often do you hear the term "Netflix binging" these days? Dumping an entire television program season made of cliff-hanger episodes onto its site at once has made Netflix a must-have for in-home entertainment.

My kids, ages 5 and 7, have recently become addicted to a kids fiction podcast: The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian. Here's the description from the site: 

He can’t sleep, he can’t shake the feeling someone is following him, and he can’t stop the monsters who show up to smash his cake. In other words, it’s turning out to be more exciting than he expected. That’s all in the first few episodes of this serialized, sci-fi podcast for kids. Finn, his friends and their pet robots aboard the Famous Marlowe 280 Interplanetary Exploratory Space Station discover uncharted planets, help aliens in far-off galaxies, and take tips from listeners back on Earth as they try to solve the universe’s great mysteries. 

Now, my kids have never been interested in podcasts or audio books. They love to be read to, but I haven't been able to get them interested in audio media. But with this podcast, they are begging for more, laughing out loud, wanting to go to the website to see artwork and listener contributions, and recording sound effects to send in and hope to hear on a future episode. I feel like we've been plunged back in time to the days of Little Orphan Annie on the wireless. It's awesome.

There are lots of podcasts for kids out there, but I haven't been able to find any others that are serial fiction. I would hope that they do exist, but finding them isn't easy. I'd love to hear of any others that readers or Mayhemmers are aware of. Finn Caspian is targeted at kids 5-10, so lower middle-grade at best for our demographic. Maybe this is a market hole just waiting for the right story to fill it. Maybe the new frontier is really just old-fashioned good story-telling that leaves the reader wanting more--in audio form. 

Have any of you thought of doing a serial podcast? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, August 21, 2017

7 Ways to Make the Most of a Writing Retreat by Caroline Starr Rose

Adorable Boo, my writing companion.

Last year my husband took our boys to the Mountain West Basketball Tournament, giving me four days with the house to myself. I planned to use the time as a stay-at-home writing retreat, just Boo and me and fiendish typing. 

It was spectacular. 

I decided I needed to be prepared but open when it came to this writing time. While I hoped Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine would be back in my possession, I couldn’t plan on that happening (It wasn’t. I worked on it anyway and was thrilled with what I accomplished). My goal was to have a sense of how I wanted to use the four days, but not be so rigid that I missed a creative opportunity. I ended up splitting the time between two projects, one in its very beginnings and the other nearing its end. 

planned ahead about regular commitments and how I’d handle them. For example, I got up at roughly the same time I would have had my family been home. I kept my Thursday running date and attended church on Sunday. But I made room for flexibility, skipping the gym on Friday and going to a book signing Saturday afternoon. As for meals, I pulled a few things out of the freezer, cooked twice (with leftovers for when my family returned), and even ordered pizza one night. 

Most importantly, I knew I needed to have realistic, relaxed expectations while still committing to hard work. I am not a fast writer and never will be. With four days stretching before me, it would have been very easy to convince myself I’d do super-fantastic, out-of-character things, like write 10,000 words a day. Not happening, ever. Instead I focused on these things:

  •  I decided not to serve my ego (those 10,000 words) or my anxiety (worry I wouldn’t accomplish anything), but simply show up and enjoy the work.
  •  I told myself it was more important to be productive instead of producing. (In other words, I didn’t have to have loads to show for all the time I put in. Creativity isn’t always something that can be measured. I’m learning to be okay with this.)
  • I strongly believe that every writing moment teaches me. That makes it worth it, whether it’s eventually cut or kept, whether it sells or doesn’t.

The view from our retreat house balcony. Isn't it gorgeous?

Every September my critique group meets for a writing retreat. We rent a house in town, plan out who will make dinner what night, do a bit of critiquing in the evenings, watch a movie together, and spend the rest of our time in creative work. 

The years I've been on deadline, I've made quantifiable! Great! Leaps and bounds! with my writing. During the other years, not so much. But here's the thing: those slower retreats were still creatively important, whether I produced much or not. Have I believed that during the retreat itself? Nope. I haven't. I'm still learning to trust in the moment that every writing experience teaches me something.

I have no deadline this time around, but I do have a project underway -- the one mentioned above, in its early beginnings (and honestly not much further along than it was a year and a half ago, during my stay-at-home retreat). It would be easy to head into the week with my ego and anxiety kicked up in high gear. Instead, I hope to apply what I learned while I worked alone: to stay prepared but open, relaxed and willing to work, ready to learn from each moment as it comes.

What words of wisdom can you share about writing retreats?

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Art and Activism, by Chris Eboch

For most of the last year, I've been hearing a lot of angst in the writing community. The political situation – especially shocking events like the Nazi rally in Charlottesville – can leave people feeling angry, depressed, and discouraged. This can interfere with our ability to write.

A few months ago, Janet Lee Carey and I had a great online conversation about Art and Activism. I'm excerpting and adapting some of those thoughts here.

A lot of people have been suffering in recent months because of the political situation. Hate crimes and bullying seem to be increasing, as kids learn from what they see adults doing. On the bright side, many people have been inspired to fight for social justice. That’s wonderful, but the challenge is using your time in the most effective way. You could make a full-time job out of signing petitions and sending messages to politicians.

Political activism is important, whether that means marching, calling/writing your representatives, donating to good causes, or attending town hall meetings – or even running for office. But it’s physically and financially impossible to do everything, and trying leads to burnout. We need to use our time wisely.

Using Writing

As creative people, we have something special to offer the world. Young people need to see themselves in our stories. They need to see children who are different from them, to build empathy. They need to see people acting with kindness and integrity, or making mistakes and then making amends.

A child can be inspired by a fictional or nonfiction hero who works to make the world a better place. One of my favorite letters from a young reader was about my Mayan historical drama, The Well of Sacrifice. She said, “The book helped me think to never give up, even in the worst of times, just like what happened to Eveningstar.” Maybe that inspiration will fade, but hopefully, she’ll read another book, and then another, that will inspire her in the same way.

Kids also need strong nonfiction that recognizes what’s happening in this world, such as global climate change. And they need books that help them understand the difference between fact, opinion, and fiction. (Many adults could use these lessons as well.)

Finally, children and adults need books that are beautiful and funny, books that make them feel wonderful. Writing something silly and playful might seem frivolous, but some days you need to ease the pain, you need laughter. Those can be the books that help a child fall in love with reading, which is life-altering power.

Supporting Diversity

Diversity is a big topic in children's literature today, with good reason. We need diverse books, and more #OwnVoices books – books featuring diverse characters written by authors from that same group. Sadly, there aren’t enough publishing slots available for all the great books being written, and it’s hard enough for each of us to build and maintain our own career. Still, we can combine our kidlit camaraderie with social justice by supporting diverse writers and stories: Make sure those writers feel welcome at writing group meetings. Find someone to mentor. Share news about publishers, agents, awards, grants and so forth. And of course, buy, read, and recommend diverse books.

Supporting authors from diverse backgrounds is key in making sure everyone is represented and heard. Writing our own diverse characters – with appropriate research and vetting from people in the community – is also important. We may not have lived those lives – or the lives of any of our characters – but we can draw on our own empathy (and research) to create authentic characters.

We take risks when we bring diversity into our work when we are not from that group ourselves. Sometimes people make mistakes, and it’s healthy to discuss the problems and encourage people to do better in creating honest, non-stereotypical diverse characters. But if we become too critical, people become afraid to take chances, and that won’t increase the number of wonderful, diverse topics and characters available.

Diverse History

I’ve written historical fiction set in ancient times, which makes it a little easier. No one really knows how people thought in ninth-century Mayan Guatemala, or in ancient Egypt, so I have more leeway. (And I assume that most people, throughout history, were motivated by the same things that motivate us today. It’s not like the seven deadly sins have gone out of style.)

I hope these stories can inspire kids today by valuing those cultures and showing nonwhite characters having fantastic adventures. My Mayan and Egyptian books also show those kids as the majority, the people in power – a reminder that white American/European culture has not always been the standard against which others are judged.

Of course, in The Eyes of Pharaoh, the Egyptians feel like they are the best, and therefore could never be overthrown by the hordes of barbarians who might want what they have…. And The Well of Sacrifice opens with the main character meeting a scary “outsider” in the jungle (but then befriending him). So contemporary issues do come up, just in a different format. That distance allows readers to see today’s issue from a different angle.

There is value in our writing, whether we directly address social justice, or show characters behaving honorably, or get a child laughing so they’re more likely to pick up another book. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse to ignore all other forms of activism, but we do need to save time for our writing and honor the value of writing and books. They make our world a better place.

What's Your Strength?

Take time to decide how you can best spend your time, instead of chasing the “do it now” demands on social media. Is it worth driving three hours to the state capital to attend a rally? Should you spend an hour signing petitions? Is there equal value in spending your time writing?

How much diversity, social justice, and inspiration do your books include? There's no right or wrong answer here. Books can do many things, and it's important to avoid coming across as "preachy." Still, review your works in progress. How are they going to make the world a better place?

Giving Back

In our conversation, Janet said, "Over the years, I’ve made it a practice to connect each novel to a charity that somehow relates to the story theme, encouraging readers to Read and Reach Out. I began doing that before joining readergirlz, but it became obvious that we all had that connecting literature and charity in common and it became a big part of what we did with the online presence. The Giving Back page of my website like Save the Rainforest shows the books/charity connection for In the Time of Dragon Moon.”

What a great way to celebrate success by giving back! 

How else can we support our communities and the values we believe in? Do you think writing children's literature is as important as other social justice action? Does it make a difference if you don't know whether you'll ever get the book published? Is there value in supporting ourselves through following a regular writing practice, whether or not it leads to publication?

Additional Resources:

Check out the entire Art and Activism conversation between Janet and me

When Picture Book People Get Political by K-Fai Steele on Kidlit Artists

Publishers Hiring Book Readers to Flag Sensitivity by Everdeen Mason, The Washington Post

Write a Book, Save the World by Bryn Greenwood at Writer Unboxed

How to Stay Sane if Trump is Driving You Insane: Advice From a Therapist by Robin Chancer at Politics Means Politics

Anne Lamott Shares All That She Knows, by Anne Lamott at Salon

Why Write During Difficult Times by Monica Bhide  at Writer Unboxed

Chris Eboch is the author of over 40 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her writing craft books include Advanced Plotting, and You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers.

Chris also writes for adults under the name Kris Bock. Kris Bock writes action-packed romantic suspense involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. Read excerpts at Kris Bock or visit her Amazon page.

Monday, August 14, 2017


“As young readers like to know ‘how people look,’ we will take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters…” — Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

When I was in law school many years ago, I met periodically with a group of other female students to discuss the impact of race on our lives.  One of those discussions was about our childhood experiences as readers.  We all loved to read, and books had been important to us for as long as we could remember.

The other women of color in the group shared that, as children, they were disheartened by the fact that there were so few books, if any, where the protagonist physically resembled them.  To be able to immerse yourself in a book and step into the heroine’s shoes would be marvelous.  But these women were not able to do that.  I, on the other hand, did that all the time.

How did I manage it?  Simple (sort of).  I ignored most of the physical descriptions of the characters.   And I focused on my similarities with them.  Laura Ingalls had dark hair; well, so did I.  Jo March had three sisters; me too!  And Pippi Longstocking’s bright red hair?  Irrelevant.  I just skipped over the unimportant information about a protagonist’s blonde hair or blue eyes.  After all, anyone can have a little sister who is a pest or have a rough day at school.  So, did it matter what the character looked like?  Of course not.  This could very well be me.

My classmates were shocked to hear this.  They could never get past the fact that these books were about kids who looked different from them.  As a result, they felt ignored and unrepresented.  As a reader, I totally get that.  After all, I had to put a lot of effort into including myself in the stories I read.  As a writer, I wonder how we can embrace as many readers as possible.  Do we really need to include detailed physical descriptions of all our characters all the time?  Was Louisa May Alcott correct in saying that young readers want these descriptions?  After all, a character’s physical traits are often unimportant to the story.

My first middle grade novel is scheduled for release next year.  My main character is, like me, the daughter of immigrants from the Dominican Republic.  The things I say about her physical appearance are that she wears glasses and has frizzy hair.  Oh, and I mention that her hair is in two braids in one scene.  That’s it.  Is this enough?  In my opinion, it might be too much.

Of course there are books where a character’s physical appearance is an essential part of the story.  In my book, the protagonist’s ethnic background is important, so she must be Dominican.  While I picture my main character as looking like me, there is no reason why she has to.  She could have fair or dark skin, brown or green eyes, blonde or black hair.  None of these details would change this particular story.  So, what benefit is there to including a detailed description of her physical appearance?

To this day, when I read I skip over a lot of descriptive information about how the characters look.  Because most of the time a brown-eyed girl could have had the exact same adventure as the blue-eyed one in the book.  One rule of thumb in writing is that every word should be absolutely necessary.  Are detailed physical descriptions absolutely necessary?  Sometimes.  But not always.  And when they’re not, I leave them out.  Will my young readers be disappointed?  I hope not.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


I submitted a new MG novel to my agent a while ago. She felt that it needed work.  As much as my pride would like to deny it, she was right. Certain aspects of the plot required reimagining. Unfortunately I was unable to figure out how to implement the changes. Rather than grind away in frustration, I decided to put the manuscript away and let it silently ferment in my imagination. I recently picked it back up and the clarity of detachment enabled me to immediately diagnose the problem.  While plowing through the first draft, I had contracted a serious case of Harry Potter-itis. The plot was far too intricate. The manuscript was bloated with sub-plots.  Not that there's anything wrong with an intricate novel.  J. K. Rowling performed that challenge with consummate grace. However, that wasn't the best way to tell this particular story. This was a straight, swiftly moving river, not a meandering Mississippi.  Before diving into a new draft, I reread some of my favorite short novels.

I reintroduced myself to their compact, precise, gem-like brilliance. Flannery O'Connor said that story dictates form.  If the story in your heart feels like 100 page novel, not a 500 page book, do not hesitate to follow that path.  A short novel is splendid river to sail down!

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Conversation with Rejection by Linda Williams Jackson

Me: Hi, Rejection! Welcome to Project Middle Grade Mayhem! (I think….)

Rejection: Thanks, Linda! I’m VERY happy to be here. I’ve known many of you Mayhemmers for a long time. (Howdy, Caroline Starr Rose!) As a matter of fact, Linda, you and I go waaaay back.

Me: Hold up…. Let’s get something straight. Yes, we’ve known each other for a long time, since the early 1990’s, tbh. But that doesn’t mean we go way back. Going waaaay back, in my opinion, denotes a certain level of friendliness. And you, Mr. Rejection, are no friend of mine.

Rejection: Oh, touchy, aren’t you?

Me: You should know. You’ve made me cry a few times, haven’t you?

Rejection: A few times? Girl, please. I made you cry a whole lotta times.

Me: And now you’re bragging about it?!?!

Rejection: Not bragging. Just stating the facts. Here’s the deal, sweetheart. My job is to make people better, more specifically for the purpose of this conversation, to make you guys better writers.

Me (under my breath): Do you have to be so ruthless about it?

Rejection: I heard that. And the answer is yes. I can’t let you guys off easily. No pain, no gain, baby. I mean, would you have ever written Midnight Without a Moon if I had let you get that little funeral home story published?

Me: Hey, don’t make fun of my funeral home story. I love that story!

Rejection (under his breath): Obviously, you queried it for five and a half years.

Me: I heard that.

Rejection: Good! I’m glad you heard it. I hope you learned something from all that pain I put you through. Otherwise, my time has been wasted.

Me: Oh, I learned plenty. Thank you very much.

Rejection: Such as?

Me: Don’t get stuck on one project, no matter how much you love it. And regardless of how many agents have requested the full and provided positive feedback, or how many pitch contests the project has won, I should have been seriously writing more projects and querying them.

Rejection: But you did write more manuscripts. I remember doing my magic to make sure those were under my spell too. You didn’t get anywhere with them.

Me: I know. But I realized I had gotten to the point where I wanted an agent more than anything else in the world. My focus was all wrong. I was writing to get a “yes” instead of writing to tell a story that I felt like people needed to hear, or read, rather.

Rejection (smiling broadly): Awww. I feel like a proud papa. That’s exactly what I was hoping to accomplish by putting you through the wringer the way I did.

Me (rolling eyes)

Rejection: What else did you learn?

Me: Humility.

Rejection (clapping): Bravo! Another score for Rejection! I really know how to knock the pride out of you guys!

Me (under my breath): And the wind too.

Rejection (laughing): Sorry about that.

Me: Sure you are.

Rejection: Remember that time I made you break down and cry right in front of your computer? I mean, that rejection stung so hard that you hadn’t even finished reading the email before you started bawling.

Me: But, I survived.

Rejection: Yes, you did. You were a real trooper…simply unstoppable.

Me: Well, I don’t know about unstoppable. I think I was ready to quit. If you hadn’t stopped coming at me in 2015, I might have given up.

Rejection: Wait! What?!?! You mean I was THAT close to breaking you?

Me: Yep. You sure were.

Rejection (slaps forehead): Aw, man! One more year, huh?

Me: Yep. That’s what I was giving myself.

Rejection: You’re saying that now, Linda. But as I recall, you said that every year. “Just one more year. If I don’t make it this time, I’m quitting.”

Me (chuckling): I did say that, didn’t I?

Rejection: Yep. Every year. Actually, you said it after every full request, too. You said, “If this one isn’t ‘the one,’ then I’m done.” Then I’d show up. Then you’d cry. Then you’d go listen to some inspirational song or read some inspirational post. Then you’d be right back at it the next day.

Me: I was pretty stubborn, huh?

Rejection: No, honey. You were resilient. (Gestures around the Mayhem blog) You all were. I tried to break you guys, but you just kept going. You were all so determined.

Me: Why, Rejection? Why do you put people through all this? I know you said to make us better writers and to make us humble, but why make it so hard? Don’t you trust that we’ll improve our skills and appreciate our success without so much pain?

Rejection: You read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, right?

Me: I did.

Rejection: Remember what he said about brick walls?

Me (Googling): He said, “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

Rejection (wiping tears from his eyes): I’m sorry I hurt you so badly, Linda. I’m sorry I hurt all you guys, Mayhemmers. But do you now understand why I did it? You guys wanted this badly enough to take everything that I threw at you. You were unstoppable. And I am very proud of you. But please know that my job is never completely done. You will still face rejection. But I know you will persevere. All of you, because you are winners.

Me: Thank you, Rejection, not just for being here with us at Project Middle Grade Mayhem today, but for being present with us during our writing journey. Thank you for showing up when we needed you even though we didn’t want you there. You were like a helicopter parent who knows what’s best for her kid even when the kid doesn’t realize it at the time. You made us better writers. And because you humbled us, we don’t mind helping others along the way. No offense, but you are both hated and loved at the same time.

Rejection: No offense taken, my dear. I’m just happy to do my job. Now I must leave you guys. I have some dreams to try to crush. Good bye.
Me: So long, Rejection. I’m not looking forward to seeing you again any time soon.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Celebrating the launch of THE DANGER GANG AND THE PIRATES OF BORNEO by Stephen Bramucci

One of the greatest thrills for a blog manager is to celebrate a fellow blogger's book debut. The thrill climbs to stupendous level when that blog debut takes place in one's own city, and at one of one's favorite children's bookstores!

I knew The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo's publication date was August 1st. I've been waiting for this day for a long time. What I wasn't prepared for was the throng of people at Green Bean Books in Northeast Portland--and the fact that the novel was all sold out when I got there. Son of a gun! But who should I bump into but a longtime friend, whom I learned is Stephen Bramucci's mother's best friend. Soon my friend Linda was introducing me to various uncles and aunts and friends, and I felt like I was a honorary member of the Bramucci-Parker family. How cool is that!

I met Stephen in person too. Can I tell you how great it is to meet members of Project Mayhem in the flesh? We're a pretty tight bunch, and communicate fairly regularly. But nothing beats meeting face-to-face!

Because of the 'sold-out book' situation, and my desperate need for a signed book, Stephen and I agreed to meet at a coffee shop. I raced to Annie Blooms (my neighborhood bookstore) and put in my order. 36 hours later, The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo was in my hot little hands. (And boy were they hot. It's been 105 degrees for the past couple of days in our fair city.)

Chatting with Stephen was an unadulterated joy. The man is whip-smart, funny, and a born storyteller. He's also a natural in front of the camera, so I decided to make Project Mayhem a Vlog-For-A-Day. I know you'll enjoy hearing about The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo, part of its publication journey, and also about the planned sequel. Three Cheers for Stephen Bramucci, and Three Cheers for The Danger Gang and the Pirates of Borneo!!!