publishing

The Young and the Beautiful

Sardines Cover Reveal…coming at the end of this post, I promise!

photoshop by my incomparable tech guru (and 8th grade student) Oliver Ames

When I was born my parents had two immediate reactions. Red hair?! Big feet?!

The red hair was temporary but the latter is still true. I walk proudly on my size 11.5 skis.

When I first saw this cover I also had two reactions. The first was that it is beautiful, and the second was that the kids looked so young! Up until this point the characters in all my books have been high school age. The characters in Sardines are in 6th grade so it makes sense that they wouldn’t look like high school kids, but still. These 6th graders are young but they’re dealing with big stuff, like mental health, missing parents, bullies and figuring out their identities. Big stuff requires big friendship and that’s exactly what they find, sometimes in ways they least expect.

So here it is. My characters: Lucas, Robbie, Cat, Anna and Finn as imagined and executed by the amazing Erwin Madrid, designed by Catherine San Juan. I hope you’ll read their story when it comes into print this fall from Quill Tree Books, Harper Collins.

publishing, Writing

Sardines and Other Pieces of My Heart

Some authors say, “This is the book of my heart.” I’ve always wondered when exactly you know you’re writing the book of your heart. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s the book that perfectly encapsulates an experience you’ve had. Or maybe it’s the book you dreamed of finding and reading when you were a certain age.

I don’t know if any of the books I’ve written so far are the “book of my heart.” However, I have noticed that no matter what I do, my books have certain themes that pop up in one form or another. One of these themes is the importance of friendship. In every book I’ve written so far the most important relationships are friendships. I’m smiling as I write this because I’m thinking about the friends I’ve been lucky enough to have. Friends who have helped me feel anchored in an otherwise chaotic world, friends who have given my confidence to do things I might not have done otherwise, friends who have walked around campus with me wearing only our bath towels, or driven across country with me eating cheese and tofurkey sandwiches.

I have a new book coming out this Fall. It’s called Sardines and it’s my first book for the middle grade crowd. If you’re less familiar with children’s literature, middle grade readers are those in the 4th-8th grade age bracket. There’s less sex, drugs and swearing than in your standard YA fare.

Is it the book of my heart? I don’t know. Here’s what I do know. This book is about Lucas. Lucas is a 6th grader living in a small town in Maine. His mom is struggling with mental health issues exacerbated by the death of Lucas’ brother. But even though there’s a lot of hard stuff, Lucas still has his friends. His incredible friend group, brought together by the after school program they all attend come up with an unusual, and almost magical, way to help each other solve the problems that are closest to their hearts.

Lucas wonders, as most young people wonder, who he is in relation to his parents. He’s definitely not exactly like one or the other and he’s not an exact combination of the two of them. He’s his own thing. That search for identity is a kernel that I plucked right from my own heart, even though I didn’t realize it as I was writing it. But that’s the way the best writing happens; it spills out from some corner of your heart when you’re not even looking.

Next week I get to share the cover for Sardines, which will be hitting shelves this fall. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!