Monday, November 18, 2019

My agent journey

source: Giphy

As John Cleese of Monty Python used to say, "And now for something completely different..."

I have an agent.

Bear with me while I repeat that. I have an agent! How did this happen after all these years of writing?

Starting with my second novel, written in 2010/2011, I've queried a few agents at a time. Perhaps 25 total for that second novel, and around 35 for my third novel, written in 2012/2013. Despite a few encouraging rejections, the reaction was mostly silence. I know, I know, you're supposed to query at least one hundred agents, but I felt in my heart if 25 or 30 rejected me, there had to be a reason!

So I stopped even trying to query agents with my fourth (admittedly wretched) novel.

My fifth novel (i.e. my current one), a middle grade novel in verse, felt different to me when I first starting writing it in late 2015. And not only because it's a novel in verse, a form I feel I'm meant to write. The story fell into place in a way that hadn't happened to me before. For the first time, I didn't get stuck in the middle. I'm a pantser, but the plot spontaneously appeared as I was writing. (Note: I don't recommend writing this way. I'd much prefer to be a plotter!)

In 2016, I attended a Highlights Foundation Workshop on Novels in Verse. With the inspiring leadership of authors Kathryn Erskine and Alma Fullerton, I managed to write a new draft that seemed to work.

A second Highlights workshop, in 2017, with the same mentors, but mostly different attendees, helped me bring my novel in verse up to a higher level with, by then, the fourth or fifth draft. Only three of us, Barbara Krasner, Leah Rosti, and I, attended both workshops. Filled with inspiration again, I continued to revise.

Then, that September, I got sick.

Most of you know my survivor story by now. If not, suffice it to say I lost more than a year of my life due to a ruptured brain aneurysm (my second!) and a Grade 4 bleed.

Writing, and even reading, went by the wayside.

After recuperating, I went back to my novel in verse and revised it yet again. I had feedback from some writer friends and even some friends who are not writers! Then I learned that Barbara Krasner, my fellow workshop attendee and the author of several published books, had become a literary agent with Olswanger Literary. Leah Rosti had signed with her, so I decided to submit my novel in verse to Barbara, not really expecting much of a reaction.

She loved it!

But she gave me eight suggestions for revising it (again), most of which were small changes. When I completed this newest revision, I sent it to her...

and kept my fingers crossed. A few weeks later, she offered representation!

Yes, I'm still pinching myself.

Monday, October 28, 2019


According to randomizer,

the winner of the hardcover copy of Nicole Valentine's debut novel, A TIME TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY is...

Congratulations, Faith! Expect an email from me asking for your mailing address. Readers, if you haven't checked out Faith's gorgeous blog, please do so.

For the rest of you, I hope you'll support my friend Nicole and buy your own copy of this exciting sci fi adventure novel. Debut authors need our support and love.

Here's a stellar review from ALA Booklist:

Valentine’s debut is an emotionally compelling and heartfelt tale of love and family that is reminiscent of Tuck Everlasting and A Wrinkle in Time.”  

Monday, October 14, 2019


Remember my interview with Nicole Valentine? I had a great time at Nicole's book launch at Children's Book World in Haverford, PA last week. It was well-attended, Nicole's speech was inspiring, and Nicole is now off on a book tour around the Northeastern USA. Way to go, Nicole! The only thing I didn't do was get a photo of us together. Next time!

From Nicole's Facebook page. What a crowd!

The cake! And book-related swag.

Children's Book World always makes an author feel special.

Nicole surrounded by her book club

And now I'm giving away a hardcover copy of A TIME TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY!

To be eligible, you must be a follower of this blog and you must comment on this post. This giveaway is limited to US mailing addresses only and ends on Sunday October 27 at 10:00 pm EDT. Winner will be announced on Monday Oct 28th.

Good luck!

Monday, August 19, 2019


 Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (2018, Candlewick Press, 368 pages, ages 9 to 12)

Synopsis (from the publisher):  Merci Suárez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

Why I recommend it: This delightful book won the 2019 Newbery Medal -- and definitely deserves it. I'm still playing catch-up with my reading (and probably will be forever!), but I don't mind when I get to read something as heartwarming as this. Merci's close-knit Cuban-American family is her saving grace when middle-school life gets complicated. The author portrays a large, loving family, flaws and all. Merci, who tells the story in first-person, is a wonderful character, so real and full of life. And her dismay at Lolo's health problems will make you love her even more.

Favorite lines (from p. 23): "Lolo and I always talk after school. ... And when I talk, Lolo isn't like Mami, who says things like give it a chance or look on the bright side or learn to ignore small things and all that basura that makes me feel like it's my fault that my day was a hunk of smelly cheese."  (Note: there is no glossary, so I had to look up the word "basura", which means trash! Although it is pretty obvious from the context.)

Visit Meg Medina's website

For other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts, please visit Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle.

Monday, July 8, 2019


From Nicole Valentine's website

Hi, everyone! I'm excited to introduce my author friend Nicole Valentine, whose debut MG novel, A TIME-TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY pubs in Oct 2019. 

Here is my interview with Nicole:

1) Hi, Nicole and welcome to My Brain on Books! Why don't you start by telling us about your debut novel, A TIME-TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY, coming Oct 1, 2019 from Carolrhoda Books, an imprint of Lerner.

Thank you so much for having me!

A TIME-TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY is about a very practical, science-loving boy who discovers the family secret: all the women in his family can time travel. I have been fascinated with time travel since I was a child and this story explores not just the adventurous side of being able to travel in time, but all the emotional and moral conflicts that would arise. I describe it as A Time Traveler’s Wife meets Tuck Everlasting. While there is plenty of page-turning adventure inside, it is also a heartfelt story about family and loss.

The official description:

Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. He clings to the concrete facts in his physics books and to his best friend, Gabi to cope with his sadness. But when his grandmother tells him the family secret: that all the women in their family are Travelers, he realizes he has to put his trust in something bigger than logic to save his Mom.

2) What came first: the character of Finn, or the story idea? And how long did it take you to write this impressive novel?

The story idea came to me when I was twelve or thirteen, shortly after my father died. Like most children dealing with grief, I desperately wanted everything to return to normal. Being the grand and complicated thinker that I was, I headed to books about time travel. It seemed like the most logical solution: go back in time and warn my father about his undiagnosed heart problem. I read every time travel novel I could get my hands on. I began forming the story I wished I could find, eventually it morphed into this book. I’ve written many things in-between, but this book has been with me the longest. It isn’t easy writing a novel, it’s even harder to write time travel. It takes a lot of work and well, time, to get it right.

Nicole Valentine, from her website

3) Wow! That's quite a journey. And a touching background story, Nicole. Have you always wanted to be a writer? Please share your writing journey with us.

I have for as long as I can remember. My elementary school librarian published a humorous poem of mine on a mimeographed newsletter that went home to parents. After that I decided I wanted to keep making things that made people Feel with a capital F, whether it be laughing or crying.

4) Your agent is Linda Epstein at Emerald City Literary. Please tell us how you found her. 

After graduating with my MFA from Vermont College, I attended SCBWI events and met many agents along the way. I met Linda at NESCBWI where she was presenting. I really liked her style. I wasn’t ready to query yet, but I made a note to remember her when the time came. I highly recommend new writers do this. Keep track of everyone you meet and take notes about your meeting. I used an online tool called for this and it became invaluable when I was finally ready to query.

5)  That's wise advice. Tell us about your cool website and especially SteaMG, the Middle Grade Sci Fi Authors Alliance.

Well, as you can probably tell from my childhood story, sci-fi books hold a special place in my heart. When I was searching for books about time travel as a kid, I didn’t discover the secret to turning back the clock, but I did discover awe. Those books filled me with wonder and gave me hope. I want to make sure more books in the tradition of A Wrinkle in Time and When You Reach Me continue to be written and placed in the hands of young readers.

I’ve been reading about awe a lot in the last several months. I realized that was what moved me as a young girl and I found it only in the pages of books. Psychologists are just now beginning to study the emotion of awe and its benefits on the human brain and body. Subjects in psychological studies report a feeling of having more time available, increased generosity, and decreased aggression. Awe generates empathy. Scientists have found that awe also combats stress in an empirical way. I know it was awe that saved me. We need more books that bring hope through inspiring awe. SteaMG is about highlighting those books. It's also about honoring fiction that is inspired by science and STEM. I personally think our world could benefit from more adults who have a reverence for scientific thought. Reaching middle grade readers is one way to start. 

SteaMG has been wonderful in not only finding like-minded librarians and teachers, but helping us as authors connect and organize our efforts. I could not be happier with how it’s turned out. We are adding new authors in June and the site will continue to grow with new features.

6) And is there another MG sci fi in the works? Or perhaps a YA?

I am sticking to middle grade for the time being. I’m currently writing another heartfelt sci-fi middle grade about UFOs. It will have readers searching for meaning in everyday occurrences and looking up at the night sky very carefully.

Thank you, Nicole! Readers, here is Nicole's info:

You can link to my website at and my twitter @nicoleva

My book can be preordered anywhere books are sold.

Monday, May 6, 2019

A Teaser for Nicole Valentine's debut novel, A TIME TRAVELER'S THEORY OF RELATIVITY, Coming in October 2019

Hi everyone! I won't be around for the next two months. I'm having brain surgery this week.

Yes, you read that right.

My third aneurysm, which is unruptured, will be repaired so it can't rupture as the first two did. I'm confident that I'll be in good hands. The recuperation period should be about a month, but I'm taking some time after that to get back to doing normal things again.

Like reading and writing!

I'll be back in July with an interview with a young woman I'm proud to call my friend, debut author, Nicole Valentine, whose MG sci fi novel, A Time Traveler's Theory of Relativity pubs October 1, 2019, from Carolrhoda Books/Lerner. It's garnering plenty of praise already --  and it's a Junior Library Guild selection! Congratulations, Nicole!

Here's a teaser (i.e., the official description):

Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. He clings to the concrete facts in his physics books and to his best friend, Gabi, to cope with his sadness. But when his grandmother tells him the family secret: that all the women in their family are Travelers, he realizes he has to put his trust in something bigger than logic to save his Mom.


I'll see you on the other side.

In the meantime, please visit other Marvelous MG Monday posts found at Greg Pattridge's blog, ALWAYS IN THE MIDDLE.

Monday, April 15, 2019

April is National Poetry Month -- how do you celebrate?

Sadly, I've neglected reading poetry during this national month celebrating Poetry. But now I'm reading an inspiring novel in verse. 

Does that count?


White Rose by Kip Wilson (April 2, 2019, Versify/HMH, ages 12 and up)

Synopsis (from Indiebound): Disillusioned by the propaganda of Nazi Germany, Sophie Scholl, her brother, and his fellow soldiers formed the White Rose, a group that wrote and distributed anonymous letters criticizing the Nazi regime and calling for action from their fellow German citizens. The following year, Sophie and her brother were arrested for treason and interrogated for information about their collaborators. This debut novel recounts the lives of Sophie and her friends and highlights their brave stand against fascism in Nazi Germany.

Why I recommend it: The verse is spare and simple and gorgeously written. Interestingly, the narrative jumps back and forth in time, but even my injured brain is having no trouble following it. Keep in mind this is YA. It's a somewhat difficult, though perhaps timely, subject.

Bonus: This novel in verse was written by a young woman I met at the Highlights Foundation in 2017. So proud of you, Kip!

Favorite lines (so far, from p. 46):  

                                        It's been five years since
                                        Herr Hitler's thundering rise
                                        to power, and
                                        in that time so much has
                                        changed in our small city:
                                                  red flags draped
                                                             over offices, schools, homes
                                                  armed soldiers blocking entrance to
                                                             Jewish businesses
                                                  thick, hard dread
                                                              spilling over the streets
                                                              sharp as glass.


If you're looking for more traditional posts for National Poetry Month:

Please visit Jan Godown Annino at Bookseedstudio and Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise.

(And coincidentally, I met them both at Highlights, in 2016!)