Monday, March 23, 2020

Dear Moms

An open letter to all moms everywhere.

Dear Moms,

These past couple of weeks have brought change that would bring a piggy bank to its knees. I've been scrambling, along with every other mom I know, to figure out not only a new schedule for myself, but for my kids, too.

I've seen amazingly helpful posts like THIS ONE by Patricia Bailey. I've seen lists of great activities to keep kids reading like THIS ONE put together by Kate Messner. And wow, there have been so many people jump in to offer advice and schedules. And basically, people are good and helpful. I've loved seeing all the helpers jumping in.

But moms, just a little reminder that we are only human. If you are plowing through, and feeling great about how it's going, that's wonderful! But if you are struggling, and ready to tear your hair out, and on the verge of tears . . . you know what? You are not alone.

My kids and I had some really great moments this last week, but we also had some really bad ones. In between the laughs, and the hikes, and the movie nights, we had raised voices. We had tears. We had breakdowns.

Please, cut yourselves a little slack. Remember that we are going through a global crisis that no one could have forseen (well, except those dystopian authors. They saw it all). If watching TV and eating cookies is what works for you, do it! If letting your kids play Minecraft for a few hours is what you need to maintain your sanity, do it! So what if Karen is plowing through her color-coded chart? Karen is not you. That is Karen's way of coping. You do you.

These are tough times. But know I'm rooting for you! I'm rooting for us all. We will get through this, and we will be stronger.

All the air hugs to you and yours. And remember . . . you're doing great!

Take care,

Me

Monday, March 16, 2020

Author Interview: Wendy McLeod MacKnight

I've had this blog post scheduled for a while. Long before the chaos of COVID-19 hit. I debated if we should hold off, but after talking to Wendy, we both feel the world needs some non-COVID-19 things to talk about and enjoy. Wendy is so fun, and I hope you enjoy this fabulous interview!

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Today is going to be awesome! I'm so excited to have Wendy McLeod MacKnight here on my blog! 

Wendy is the author of THREE amazing Middle Grade novels: It's a Mystery, Pig Face! (Sky Pony Press, 2017), The Frame-Up (Greenwillow Books, 2018), and her most recent release The Copycat (Greenwillow Books, 2020), which came out last week!

Wendy and I met as middle grade authors through the debut group the Sweet Sixteens, and bonded over kindred-spirit characters. When I was on the hunt for a new agent, a happy twist of fate landed me with Wendy's, and I'm just thrilled to have an excuse to ask all the questions and to get to know her, and her latest book, even better!

I'm just going to jump right in, but as always, I'll be in green bold.

I am fascinated by the concept of THE COPYCAT. So clever! Will you tell everyone what it's about?

Thanks Janet! I’m going to try and explain the concept without any spoilers! THE COPYCAT tells the story of Ali Sloane, whose family has moved WAY too many times during her short twelve years. To survive all these new schools, Ali has learned to adapt; whatever the popular kids are doing, so is she. When she and her parents move to Saint John to live with her great-grandmother, Ali hopes that she can finally set down roots and make real friends. But it isn’t easy to be yourself when you’re not sure who yourself really is. Throw in a family feud and a mysterious fog and things get way more complicated for Ali!

A family feud and mysterious fog are sure-fire ways to complicate anyone's life! I love it! So what inspired you to write THE COPYCAT?

My own life! I moved five times before I was sixteen, twice between the time I was fourteen and sixteen years old. The last two moves were incredibly hard, and I struggled. I was so lonely, and to make friends, I would try hard to be like them instead of myself. It was painful, and I definitely wanted to write about how hard it can be to be your authentic self when you’re just trying to survive socially.

I knew the book had to be set in Saint John, New Brunswick because a) the fog is really something; b) it’s such a cool port city; and c) the character of Gigi is (very) loosely based on my grandmother, Huia Ryder, who was a force of nature, and from who I inherited my love of all things gaudy and sparkly!

I think you nailed how painful it is when you're trying to be just like everyone else, and it just isn't you. This idea of being true to yourself is a major theme in your book. Did you ever struggle with fitting in as a kid? 

Um, see above! Honestly? I am a total goofball and people pleaser, so it was hard to find my people sometimes. But I’m also totally lucky: my best friends from grade one are still my friends, and the group of friends I acquired after our last move are still my friends. But I have no idea where any of the kids are that I befriended when I was fourteen, so that kind of tells you that they were never real friends, and the first batch of friends I made in Fredericton didn’t totally stick either.

I'm a people-pleaser, too. I totally get that. (And the goofball bit is probably why we get along so well!). Not all childhood friends stick, but I'm always amazed that the best ones keep coming back, even after years of separation.

So now that you have all kinds of wisdom and hind-sight, what advice would your adult self give to your past self?

Advice? I was a sensitive, drama-prone romantic who felt awkward a lot of the time. I’d love to tell younger me to hang in there and be true to herself, but I don’t think she’d believe me. I’d also tell her to keep believing in magic. That I think she’d believe.

Haha! Yeah, I didn't believe the adults much either, but they were right. And amen about the magic! 

Taking a little turn here . . . one of the things I loved about your book were all of the side notes, like "Ali's List of Schools (So Far)." I am a BIG fan of lists. Did you include these with the original manuscript? How did these become a thing? (Which I'm so glad they did!)

I love lists, too! Those lists were always there, though I think my agent, Lauren Galit, really encouraged me to go for them!

She's a wise one!

The lists were a shorthand way to impart information, but they were also a way to give the reader a sense of how much Ali tries to control things in a world in which she has very little control. She loves her parents, but the moves are painful for Ali, and they’ve caused a huge amount of bitterness. I didn’t want to shy away from that; when we moved, I was furious with my dad for months. I basically left the Pig Face neighborhood and had no friends for months and it was awful. Later, I got that my dad had no choice, but when you’re a kid, you don’t think of your parents as sometimes being helpless.

So true! And then it's a shock when you become an adult and realize the truth, that we're all just doing our best. But I love that you let Ali express her bitterness, because it's HARD being a kid, and having to deal with the consequences of choices we didn't make.

So let's talk characters! I know this is a cruel question, but do you have a favorite character from your book? I'm kind of partial to Alfie with his cool British accent, and mysterious life. And I love how important family is to him. I think we would have been friends.

I love Alfie. I’m kind of partial to Gigi, who is (very) loosely based on my grandmother. In the end though, I think I love Digger best, because he really is trying, despite all of his pain!

Putting bits from people we love into our characters is one of the best parts of being an author! And isn't it interesting how we love the characters who hurt the worst? I feel the same way about my own characters. 

Okay, you know I have to ask. If you were a Copycat, what would be your favorite thing to turn into?

In no particular order: A goldfinch, Batgirl, Amal Clooney, and Adele.

Gah! I really want to know why on all of these . . . okay, except Adele, because she's AMAZING . . . but that might be a long detour, so I'm letting you off the hook. But fascinating answers!

Okay, I would love to learn more about you! Being an author is a second career for you. Can you tell us about your past life, and also, why you decided to become an author (and particularly a middle grade one!)?

In my past life, I worked for the Government of New Brunswick, and ended my career in charge of the Department of Education. All of my positions in government were about supporting children or vulnerable people, and it was so rewarding.

I decided to become an author when I was eight or nine years old, and that desire never wavered. Finally, I got up the courage to try! I only ever wanted to write middle grade fiction, because the books I read when I was that age are the books that have stuck with me for my entire life. They’re the books I read over and over. It’s such a magical time of life for reading and it’s a privilege to write for middle grade readers!

Amen, my friend! It is a huge privilege. Anything else you want to share? Random facts, things that are important to know about you . . .

Other things about me: Sapphire is my favourite colour, I’d walk for hours for a piece of chocolate cake with seven-minute frosting, I feed every kind of critter (although raccoons are my favourite), I adore science fiction TV series and movies, consider Jaws the perfect movie, am petitioning to adopt Baby Yoda, and never turn down cheese.

You Canadians are so cute the way you spell 'favorite'! I love it! (haha!) And this is a wild coincidence, but when I went to Canada last year, I came face to face with a raccoon. I think it wanted me to feed it. Maybe it was one of yours! But oy, on Jaws. I saw it when I was super young in the theaters, and that movie still gives me nightmares. I'm a total wimp.

Are you ready for this next bit? Speed round!

Cadbury vs. Hershey's?

Cadbury! Canada is a Commonwealth Country!

Hogwart's house?

Ravenclaw!!!!

PB&J vs. mac & cheese?

I’m allergic to nuts, so mac ‘n cheese all the way!

Winnie-the-pooh character?

Christopher Robin. He always suspects he’s going to grow up and he sucks the marrow out of his time in the hundred-acre wood. Fortunately for me, I haven’t grown up yet!

Campfire & S'mores vs. Symphony & Crème Brûlée?

Definitely campfire and s’mores. But if I can eat Crème Brûlée at a café in Paris, I’m there!

What?! I had Crème Brûlée at a café in Paris just last week, and you totally weren't there. I now feel cheated. And that is bad news on the nuts! But when you come visit, I will forgo my usual PB&J and whip you up some mac'n' cheese. 😊
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Okay, final question. License Plates. I always have to ask. What would Ali's personalized license plate be if she were old enough to drive? You have 8 letters, and GO! (P.S. do you have personalized plated in Canada?)

We sure do have personalized license plates in Canada!

Hmmm, I think Ali would go with FAMILY. Corny, but true!

I don't mind corny! I mean, aren't all personalized license plates just a little bit corny? As they should be. Thank you so much for indulging all my questions and visiting us here on the blog! And wishing all the best for you and THE COPYCAT!

Thank you so much for asking me to visit your blog, Janet! I am a huge Janet Sumner Johnson fan!

Awww, get on with you. 😌💓

As for the rest of you, thanks so much for stopping in and reading! You can find all the links for following Wendy on social media below, as well as links for where you can get your own copy of THE COPYCAT! 

~~~
Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She is the author of three middle grade novels: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (Sky Pony Press), The Frame-Up (a fantasy that asks “What if every original piece of art is actually alive?”) and The Copycat (both from Greenwillow Books). In her spare time, she gardens, hangs with her family and friends, and feeds raccoons.

You can follow her on TwitterGoodreadsFacebook, and Instagram.

THE COPYCAT is available now through AmazonB&N, and wherever books are sold.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Inspiring Women

Happy International Women's Day! I wanted to mention three women who have inspired me over the years. Today I'm focusing on public historical figures, because otherwise I would just post pictures of my mom, grandmother, sisters, aunts, well . . . you get the idea. So here we go!

#1: Marie Curie

Image result for images marie curie

The first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person ever to win a second Nobel Prize, and the ONLY person to have won two Nobel Prizes in two different sciences (Linus Pauling won one for Chemistry and one for Peace). She is one of the very few women I remember learning about in school. She knew what she loved, and she worked tirelessly to make the world a better place through her work. I could go on for quite a while about her accomplishments, because they are many, but you can read more about here HERE. Marie Curie told me that a woman could do anything they put their mind to.

#2: Mother Teresa

Image result for mother teresa

Her life was so filled with love for others, that you can't help but be inspired to work harder to be a little better. If you look up quotes by Mother Teresa, you will find a plethora of inspiring words. Here is just one that I love: "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one." The reminder that if we all did the little that we were able to do, the world would be a better place.

 #3: Harriet Tubman

Image result for Harriet Tubman Images

Harriet Tubman is one of the other few women I remember learning about in grade school. What impresses me most about Harriet Tubman is that she didn't hesitate to brave danger after danger--knowing what it could mean for herself if she were caught--to help other slaves experience the freedom that she had gotten. If only we were all so fearless, and so concerned about others.

So many inspiring women have helped change this world for the better, and it was tough to only highlight three. I think of Pocahontas, Amelia Earhart, Clara Barton, Florence Nightengale, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Jane Austen, Ada Lovelace, and that is just to name a very few (and not even considering those who are still alive!). I thank them all for standing strong in their beliefs. For working hard in the face of doubt. For changing the world for the better.

Which women are you honoring today?

Monday, March 2, 2020

HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS Release Day!!

Woo hoo!! This day has been a long time coming, but it's here! My first picture book, HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (illustrated by Courtney Dawson) is out in the world! Because it's such an exciting day, I didn't want to post just any blog post. Today, you get a Vlog!!

You can read about how this story was born over on Dawn Prochovnic's blog. So today, I wanted to give you Girlie and Mr. Daddy's version of what happened that night! So sit back, relax, and listen to this most interesting interview.


Hope you enjoyed it! And I hope you enjoy reading HELP WANTED MUST LOVE BOOKS!!

Before I end, a big congratulations to Melanie Mortensen who won the giveaway of a copy of my book, and one book of her choice from one of my fellow Debut Crew members!

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You can purchase HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS on bookshop.org, which helps support local indie bookstores. Or if you don't have a local indie, you can always find it on Amazon or B&N.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Lost Resume #5

Welcome to the final day of my special series of Lost Resumes!

To celebrate the release of my picture book, HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (illustrated by Courtney Dawson), on Monday, March 2nd (just 3 days from now!),  I'm sharing 5 Lost Resumes from characters who applied for the job of bedtime storyteller, but who didn't make it into the story.

I hope you enjoyed the other Lost Resumes. But if you missed, I've included a link to all of the resumes at the bottom, so be sure to check them out.

Drum roll, please, for the final addition! Today, I present you Lost Resume #5: Rumpelstiltskin



I confess, this one makes me giggle-laugh so hard. I know! I totally crack me up. It is so different than all the other resumes, but Rumpelstiltskin is quite the character, and he likes to do things his own way. This is the only version of his that made sense. And secret? Underneath that big black rectangle is his actual name. Yep. I wanted it to be authentic.

Another secret? I had to give Shailey a last name when I created this resume. She didn't have one before that. I know, I know, characterization and all that. But it was a corner I felt okay with cutting.

The only hard part about this particular resume, was not using the Shrek version of Rumpelstiltskin (either of them . . . you know he's featured twice, right? Feel free to watch them all again. In fact, I just might do that myself).

Once again, while I don't know why my publisher didn't choose this resume, I have my guesses. Rumpelstiltskin is right up there with Grandma Sweets. It's a bit dark to be thinking about a goblin stealing away a newborn baby, and since HELP WANTED is a book for young children, they probably don't even want to be thinking about their future children at all! I get that. I do.

But in the mean time, I'm just over here chuckling away.

Now, there are two final notes I need to make:

First, I dressed up these Lost Resumes for this series, but when I sent them to my publisher, they were nothing more than words in a Word document. Just in case you were wondering. 😊

Second, there is the little matter of the replaced characters. For those who have been dying to find out all week, here you go:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves replaced the Farmer in the Dell. He was my absolute favorite, and I'm so sad he didn't make the cut. But let's just say that the stinky old cheese was a big problem for Shailey.

Captain Hook replaced the Pied Piper. Since the Pied Piper stems from a true story, he was deemed too creepy. But he made things a little too lively for Shailey's liking, anyway. 😳

I hope you enjoyed this series! If you want to see more resumes, you can find FOUR more as the backmatter in HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS. The perfect ones to match the rest of the book.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of my book, and a copy of a book by one of my fellow Debut Crew members! You have until Saturday, February 28th, at midnight EST.

And if you want to check out the other resumes, follow the links:

Lost Resume #1
Lost Resume #2
Lost Resume #3
Lost Resume #4

Have a great day!

~~~
You can purchase HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS on bookshop.org, which helps support local indie bookstores. Or if you don't have a local indie, you can always find it on Amazon or B&N.


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Lost Resume #4

Welcome back to my special series of Lost Resumes!

To celebrate the release of my picture book, HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (illustrated by Courtney Dawson), on Monday, March 2nd (next week!),  I'm sharing 5 Lost Resumes from characters who applied for the job of bedtime storyteller, but who didn't make it into the story (mostly).

I hope you enjoyed the first three Lost Resumes. But if you missed, I've included a link to all of the resumes at the bottom, so be sure to check them out.

Today we are moving on to Lost Resume #4: King Midas!



I had to do a bit of research for this one. I mean, who didn't grow up hearing the story of King Midas? But turns out, I was pretty clueless. I'm certain I must have learned his story came from the Greek Myths at some point. But adult me had completely forgotten that tidbit.

When I mentioned this at the dinner table, my kids (ages 16, 13, and 10) went off on a deep discussion of a plethora of minor gods, comparing the Roman versions to the Greek, and I clearly need to start reading more Rick Riordan. My husband and I just sat there with mouths hanging open. Okay, not really, because we were eating dinner, but mentally, our mouths were definitely hanging open.

As I keep saying, I don't actually know why my publisher did or didn't choose each resume. But I feel fairly confident that King Midas didn't make it in because he is from the Greek Myths, and not from the fairy and folk tales they were going for. And I suppose it's also possible that this resume isn't as funny as the others. Maybe. But I'll let you be the judge of that.

Be sure to come back tomorrow when I share Lost Resume #5! The final one. In the meantime, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of my book, and a copy of a book by one of my fellow Debut Crew members! And if you want to check out the other resumes, follow the links:

Lost Resume #1
Lost Resume #2
Lost Resume #3
Lost Resume #5

Have a great day!

~~~
You can purchase HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS on bookshop.org, which helps support local indie bookstores. Or if you don't have a local indie, you can always find it on Amazon or B&N.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Lost Resume #3

Good morning! This week I'm gearing up to celebrate the release of my picture book, HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS (illustrated by Courtney Dawson), on Monday, March 2nd!

For those who were here Monday and Tuesday, welcome back to my special series of Lost Resumes!
As a reminder, I'm sharing 5 Lost Resumes from characters who applied for the job of bedtime storyteller, but who didn't make it into the story.

I hope you enjoyed Captain Hook's and Snow White's Lost Resumes! I've included a link to all of the resumes at the bottom, so if you missed them, be sure to check them out.

Today we are moving on to Lost Resume #3: Grandma Sweets!

Wait. You don't know who she is? No, no, no. Of course you do. She is none other than the witch from Hansel and Gretel! Though really I should have made you guess based on the resume itself. Ahem. But here we are:


This one was a lot of fun to write. I mean, it's Grimm, but there we are. A lot of fairy tale characters are a bit Grimm. (I know, I know, I'm so punny!) Maybe I shouldn't admit this part, but it was really fun to put myself in the witch's shoes and think about what she might do to get the job. We already know she's pretty cunning just based on the fact that she lives in a consumable house.

Like I mentioned yesterday, I don't actually know why my publisher did or didn't choose each resume, but I'm guessing there were a couple of reasons for this one. First, the witch has no real name to speak of. I tried to look it up. But even if I had found something, no one would have known it. "Call me 'Grandma Sweets'" was the best I could do.

Second, the Grimm factor. Maybe they worried parents don't want to read a resume to small children about someone who wants to eat them. I don't know. Just a theory.

Be sure to come back tomorrow when I share Lost Resume #4! In the meantime, don't forget to enter my giveaway for a chance to win a copy of my book, and a copy of a book by one of my fellow Debut Crew members! And if you want to check out the other resumes, follow the links:

Lost Resume #1
Lost Resume #2
Lost Resume #4
Lost Resume #5

Have a great day!

~~~
You can purchase HELP WANTED, MUST LOVE BOOKS on bookshop.org, which helps support local indie bookstores. Or if you don't have a local indie, you can always find it on Amazon or B&N.