Monday, April 19, 2021

Confessions of a Soon-to-be-Published MG Author



My debut novel in verse, EVERYWHERE BLUE, arrives on June 1, 2021, from Holiday House.


I'm very proud of this book, especially because it's taken me nearly 50 years to get here, and because I had to survive two ruptured brain aneurysms to do so.

But with less than six weeks left before my book launches, I have a confession to make.


I never want to read it again!


This is the one thing I never predicted. Before I had an agent or a book deal, I never imagined not wanting to read my own words ever again. 

It went through at least twelve drafts between 2015 and 2019, when I submitted it to Barbara Krasner. Barbara made me revise it yet again before she offered representation on Sept 24, 2019.

She sent it to ten editors, and one, Sally Morgridge at Holiday House, loved it and made an offer on October 22, 2019. 

Yes, you read that correctly! It really was that fast! (Although, since I've been writing for fifty years, it wasn't fast at all...)

Then I had one major revision to do for Sally. Which wasn't actually that major. She did want me to add more poems, mainly about Strum, but also about Maddie's best friend, Emma, and Eco Club. Altogether, I added around 3000 words.


A hint of something from EVERYWHERE BLUE.
This butterfly is hiding a secret inside its closed wings.


So that brought us up to about 14 drafts.

And still we weren't finished.

There were:

          Line edits.

          Copy edits.

          Page proofs.

That was three more times I had to read through my entire novel, with less and less time for each stage. I had three months to complete the revision (completing it just before the pandemic began in March 2020!), only ten days to read through the copy-editor's remarks, and about a week to look over page proofs.


Some of the other 21ders warned me this would happen.

You reach a point where you're sick of it. And then, by the time you're reading the page proofs and it's basically set in stone, you start to second-guess your own writing. Why did I use that word? Why not this word? 

Oh, I wanted to throw out whole sections and start all over again!

But I can't do that. It's finished. 


And this is what the butterfly looks like when its wings are open!
It's a blue morpho, and it features prominently in EVERYWHERE BLUE



I'll be taking a break from blogging for a while.  Please look for my interview on Jone Rush MacCulloch's blog on April 23rd. 

You can always find me on Twitter (@JoanneRFritz). 

Or you can visit my website and sign up for my occasional newsletter (in fact, it's so occasional it hasn't even started yet!). 

You can even preorder a signed copy from Children's Book World! 


Thank you for being here!




Monday, April 5, 2021

It's Poetry Month! Take a closer look at four MG Novels in Verse from #the21ders! #IMWAYR

Happy Poetry Month!

I'd like to do something a little different for National Poetry Month. I'm taking a closer look at the four MG debut authors in #the21ders who have written novels in verse (and yes, I'm one of them!). See if you can guess what the four of us have in common besides being debut authors and writing MG novels in verse. If you can't figure it out, I'll let you know at the end!*

And because it's Poetry Month, I'm taking a closer look at the poetry itself. Yes, these are novels, but they're also written in free verse (although mine also has a villanelle and a few rhyming couplets and tercets, plus two haiku). 


How do you tell a story in verse? 

Each poem should stand alone and at the same time move the story forward. It's a challenge, yes, but one that verse novelists love. In a verse novel, every word counts. What's left out is just as important as what is included. White space plays a huge role in a verse novel. 





ALONE by Megan E. Freeman (January 2021, Simon and Schuster, for ages 10 and up)

I wrote briefly about this book back in November, in a post about the first 2021 debut novels I'd read. But that short paragraph didn't do it justice! This is a compelling read, and free verse is perfect for conveying the protagonist's desperate situation and emotions. 

Maddie wakes up alone, after her region has been mysteriously evacuated overnight. Something terrible has happened, with transports carrying everyone to some undisclosed location. Maddie's parents are divorced and each remarried.  So Maddie's mother thinks she's with her father. Maddie's father thinks she's with her mother. There are hints of a possible coup, an event so unprecedented that cell phones are left behind. The internet disappears. Television goes silent. 

Alarmed, Maddie tries everything she can think of to contact her family, and finally begins to accept that she is truly alone, and must learn to survive until her family returns. Luckily, she has the company of a neighbor's dog, also left behind, and she manages to find food and water and books to read. Years go by. The author was inspired to write this after reading ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS with her daughter.

Not only is the story compelling, but the verse is too. It's efficient and intense and emotional. Perfect for conveying Maddie's state of mind in her unusual situation. 

Some of my favorite lines:  


From p. 148:  "Empty houses aren't home."


From p. 202: "I would give anything 

                       to have a real, live grown-up

                        take over all the worry and fear and work

                        that I've been doing for the past year

                        and just let me fall apart."


From p. 263:  "Except for hawks circling the sky

                        I am the only movement

                        on the entire landscape."


Visit Megan's website


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STARFISH by Lisa Fipps (March, 2021, Nancy Paulsen Books, for ages 10 to 13)

This book deserves all the starred reviews it has received. A gorgeous and important novel in verse that tackles a subject we all need to think about: fat-shaming. Ellie is teased and bullied because of her size, and even her mother never stops badgering her to lose weight. Fortunately, Ellie has allies: her new neighbor Catalina (whose entire Latinx family welcomes Ellie without judgment), Ellie's father, who only wants his daughter to be happy, and a wise therapist.

I love that this book shows the positive side of therapy. So important for kids to know this!

How Ellie learns to believe in herself and her right to take up space makes for an inspiring and poignant read. 

The free verse gets right to the core of Ellie. It's raw and heartbreaking, but it also sparkles with humor and lots and lots of heart.

Some of my favorite lines: 
 

From p. 31, opening lines of the poem, Lifesaving Librarians:

                     "The library is my safe harbor since

                      I dare not go into the cafeteria alone,

                      a whale surrounded by starving sharks."


And the closing lines of that same poem: 

                    "It's unknown how many students' lives

                     librarians have saved

                      by welcoming loners at lunch."


Visit Lisa's website


 *                  *                    *                   *                  *                *




UNSETTLED by Reem Faruqi (May 11, 2021, Harper, for ages 8 to 12)

Nurah and her family move from Karachi, Pakistan to Peachtree City, Georgia, for her father's new job. Nurah wants desperately to blend in, but her accent, and her way of dressing, make her stand out. She has no friends, and eats lunch alone under the stairwell, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. Stahr also covers up her arms and legs, but for a different reason. Stahr has a tragic secret of her own. 

Nurah and her older brother Owais both join the swim team. In the water, Nurah feels like she belongs, even if she's not as good at swimming as Owais is. He's the star athlete in the family. But after a terrorist attack, bullies go after Owais. Can this gentle, peace-loving family survive in America? 

Verse is the perfect way to tell this heartwrenching and heartwarming story. Faruqi's verse is spare and luminous. I would love more than anything to quote from this beautiful novel, but I read an ARC, so I'm not supposed to quote from it. 

Take my word for it. 

Exquisite metaphors fill these pages. And the way the book is divided into parts, from Part One, Uprooting, to Part Two, Replanting, and on through to Budding, Sprouting, etc. gives you a hint of the beauty that blooms within these pages!


Visit Reem's website


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EVERYWHERE BLUE by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz (June 1, 2021, Holiday House, ages 8 to 12)

When twelve-year-old Maddie's older brother vanishes from his college campus, her carefully ordered world falls apart. Nothing will fill the void of her beloved oldest sibling. Meanwhile Maddie's older sister reacts by staying out late, and her parents are always distracted by the search for Strum. Drowning in grief and confusion, the family's musical household falls silent.

Scared and on her own, Maddie picks up the pieces of her family's fractured lives. Maybe her parents aren't who she thought they were. Maybe her nervous thoughts and compulsive counting mean she needs help. And maybe finding Strum won't solve everything—but she knows he's out there, and she has to try.

Since this is my own book, and also because it won't be out until June, I won't quote from it, but I will give you a few teasers. 

All of  my verses have titles and some of my favorites are: 

I Am a Walking Fraction
 
Butterfly Dreams

The Trouble with Onions

Inside the Stomach of the Wolf


Hope that intrigues you enough to want to read my book! 


Here's my website. Sign up for my occasional newsletter (in fact, it's so occasional, it hasn't even started yet!).



                                                        *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   


*Have you figured it out yet? What else we all have in common?


Look at our last names.  Freeman, Fipps, Faruqi, Fritz


I find it fascinating that the four of us, who have each written a debut novel in verse that releases in 2021, and who never heard of each other before 2020, just happen to all have last names that begin with the letter F. 

Is this the Twilight Zone? 

Or as Lisa said on Twitter in January, is the universe filing itself like a library?

What do YOU think?



#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!





Monday, March 29, 2021

JOSEPHINE AGAINST THE SEA by Shakirah Bourne (a member of #the21ders!) for #IMWAYR

 




Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne (July 6, 2021, Scholastic, for ages 8 to 12)


A lively, funny, and delightful read, compelling from the first page to the last. The voice is so fantastic and believable you'll feel you're listening to ten-year-old Josephine talk to you about her widowed Daddy (the fisherman), and the new woman he's brought home. Josephine doesn't trust Mariss at all and suspects she's not even human! Especially when Josephine sees the jeweled comb Daddy found in his fishing net. Daddy suddenly has better luck fishing, and money starts pouring in to pay all the bills. Then Mariss moves in with them, and the framed portrait of Josephine's dead mama disappears from the dresser...

Chock-full of the kinds of details that make a book authentic and bring the Barbados setting to life.  Bursting with the flavor of modern life in Barbados: cricket matches (Josephine longs to play on the school team, if she can convince the coach to let a girl on), spicy food, and reggae music. But there are also wishes on silk cotton trees, and ancient tales of powerful spirits. 

A kind librarian lends Josephine her only copy of The Treasure Chest of African and Caribbean Folkore. There Josephine finds the perfect description of Mariss: a Mami Wata, or Sea Mumma, a creature from the sea who insinuates themselves into someone's life and takes over, bringing riches, but also bringing destruction. Josephine realizes she must do something to stop Mariss and save her Daddy.

The writing is brilliant. You won't be able to stop turning the pages. Thank you to the author and the publisher for an ARC of this gem of a book.


Find out more about Shakirah Bourne on her website.


#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!






Saturday, March 20, 2021

Happy Spring! It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

 I think this is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen!







These are all the covers from #the21ders MG spring debuts, put together by one of our own, the talented Sam Subity!  I've read quite a few of these already, and highly recommend them all.


Here's a complete list of the books and their authors (I've included a link in the title to each publisher's website, a link in the author's name to their website, and then their Twitter handle):



April 1, 2021: BONE TREE by Jenna Lehne   Twitter: @jenna_lehne 



April 6, 2021: THE GILDED GIRL by Alyssa Colman  Twitter: @alyssabcolman 




April 6, 2021: GIRL WARRIORS by Rachel Sarah    Twitter: @rachel_sarah  




April 13, 2021: CECE RIOS AND THE DESERT OF SOULS by Kaela Rivera   Twitter: @Kaela_Rivera_




April 13, 2021: THE LAST WINDWITCH by Jennifer Adam   Twitter: @JenFSAdam




April 15, 2021: THE ACCIDENTAL DIARY OF B.U.G. by Jen Carney   Twitter: @jennycarney




April 27, 2021: SEA OF KINGS by Melissa Hope   Twitter: @hopefullhappens




May 4, 2021: GLITTER GETS EVERYWHERE by Yvette Clark   Twitter: @yvettewrites




May 4, 2021: THE LAST SHADOW WARRIOR by Sam Subity   Twitter: @sjsubity




May 4, 2021: WE GOT GAME:35 FEMALE ATHLETES WHO CHANGED THE WORLD by Aileen Weintraub   Twitter: @AileenWeintraub




May 4, 2021: THE LAST FALLEN STAR by Graci Kim   Twitter: @gracikim



May 11, 2021: UNSETTLED by Reem Faruqi  Twitter: @ReemFaruqi




May 18, 2021: AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke   Instagram: @cliffburkeauthor



May 18, 2021: THANKS A LOT, UNIVERSE by Chad Lucas  Twitter: @ChadGALucas





June 1, 2021: REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR by Payal Doshi  Twitter: @payaldwrites




June 1, 2021: EVERYWHERE BLUE by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz  Twitter: @JoanneRFritz 





June 8, 2021: ALMOST FLYING by Jake Maia Arlow  Twitter: @jakewhosagirl



Come find us on Twitter (or Instagram), our websites, or at the21ders.com!  

Please look for our books on Goodreads and in bookstores everywhere, or request them at your local library. We will love you forever!  


#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!



Monday, March 15, 2021

TROUBLE WITH A TINY t by Merriam Sarcia Saunders (one of #the21ders!) for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What Are You Reading?)



Trouble with a Tiny t by Merriam Sarcia Saunders (March 2021, Capstone, for ages 8 to 12)

Westin Hopper can't sit still. His ADHD brain constantly gets him in trouble. He's always thinking about something else instead of paying attention in school and at home. As if that's not enough, his parents are divorced and argue a lot, he's constantly bullied at school, and his best friend, Josh, no longer wants to be around him. 

Drawing is the only thing West cares about. 

West finds a magic pouch that belonged to his missing uncle, and discovers it can bring his thoughts to life. His toy T-Rex comes to life and it's tiny at first, but then it starts growing. West also brings to life a squad of headless Army men, and then a Thor, who marshalls the Army men to keep the T-Rex at bay. 

If it wasn't for his new friend Lenora, West wouldn't be able to handle it all. Lenora helps West realize that his drawing talent may be the answer to dealing with the mess he's created. And West helps Lenora deal with her feelings about her mother.

How West and Lenora help each other through this bizarre situation makes for a great read. This is fast-paced and fun, with plenty of humor and warmth and honesty about neurodiverse kids and bullying. West is such a likable character, I was totally invested in his conflict. In fact, I was so involved, I actually had trouble putting this down to make dinner yesterday! 


Merriam's Author website

Merriam is a specialist in learning and behavioral disorders. Here's her professional website.

Buy Merriam's book from Bookshop

Merriam is one of #the21ders!


Monday, March 1, 2021

HOPE SPRINGS by Jaime Berry for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What Are You Reading?)


Hope Springs by Jaime Berry (August 2021, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, for ages 8 to 12)

Eleven-year-old Jubilee Johnson is used to moving all the time. Her mother is a country singer who's always on tour, so Jubilee lives with her grandmother. Nan tends to drop everything and move whenever the slightest thing bothers her. 

But Jubilee's heart's desire is to settle in one place for longer than a few months, a place where she could have friends and join activities, a place to call home. So Jubilee plans the next move, convincing Nan they should try Hope Springs, Texas, the hometown of Jubilee's TV crafting hero, Arletta Paisley.  Once they arrive, Jubilee makes a few friends right away, and even finds a part-time job at the Fabric Barn. But her new friends aren't happy with Arletta Paisley, who is bringing a SmartMart superstore to Hope Springs. They think it'll put all the small businesses out of business. Will Jubilee find a way to save the town and convince Nan to stay?

What a delightful read! Jubilee is a wonderful, extremely likable character, whose first person narration draws you in immediately. Then the colorful writing (Nan's almost-swears are priceless!), lively dialogue, and timely issues cast a spell over you. You won't be able to stop reading!

Bonus: The included craft "recipes"elevate the book to another level. From Caring Critter Cards to Lemon-Scented Jelly Jar Room Deodorizer to Healthy Dog Treats, and more, the crafts are clever and fun. Makes this book a wonderful interactive read. 

Kids will love this!



Jaime is one of #the21ders! 


#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!



Monday, February 22, 2021

FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA by Crystal Maldonado for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)



(My attempt at a #bookstagram on Instagram! Find me there, @joannerossfritz)


Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado (February 2021, Holiday House, for ages 12 and up)

What a warm and delightful read! 

An empowering novel for fat girls everywhere and brown girls everywhere, but also for all of us, because we're all human. And we all need to learn to cut ourselves some slack. 

Charlie (short for Charlotte) Vega, is a high school student, and a Latina in a mostly-white Connecticut town. She's smart and funny, loves fashion, and loves to write. 

She's also fat. 

Her best friend, Amelia, is thin and popular and could date anyone she wants. But Charlie has never dated anyone. The opening line drew me right in: "I imagine being kissed about a hundred times a day." 

Can Charlie learn not to compare herself to Amelia? Can she learn to get along with her mom, who used to be fat and then lost a lot of weight, and is always lecturing Charlie? 

Will Charlie ever have a boyfriend?

After a disastrous high school dance that Charlie was sort-of but not really invited to by handsome Cal (who really wanted Charlie to bring Amelia along!), Charlie is depressed about ever finding love. And then Brian, a nice guy in her Art class, starts talking to her. Could there be something there? 

First-person, present-tense narration gives this novel immediacy and warmth and liveliness. The diverse cast is refreshing. The voice is perfect -- Charlie's desires and worries come across as highly authentic. Reading this book is a lot like being back in high school. 

I got so caught up in Charlie's world I didn't want it to end. The last chapter brought tears to my eyes. (And the last line is gorgeous!) You will love this novel!


(Of course, I may not be totally impartial. Crystal is not only one of my fellow 21ders, but also a fellow Holiday House debut author, along with Kate Albus, author of A PLACE TO HANG THE MOON!)





#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants. You can also follow the hashtag on Twitter!




Monday, February 15, 2021

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke, for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)

 



An Occasionally Happy Family by Cliff Burke (May 18, 2021, HMH, for ages 8 to 12)

This is one of the funniest books I've read from The21ders, my debut group of MG and YA authors. But there's also a touching undercurrent of sadness running through it. 

Heartfelt doesn't begin to describe it.

Thirteen-year-old Theo's mom died two years ago, and he and his dad and his fifteen-year-old sister, Laura, still haven't really talked about it. Then Dad informs the siblings they're going on a road trip to go camping in the hottest park in Texas during the hottest part of the summer, with a promised surprise at the end. Neither Theo nor Laura want to go on this trip and would prefer to spend all their time in air conditioning and on their phones. 

What follows is hilarious, as one disaster after another befalls the family, from a broken cooler that turns their lunch to mush, to a vlogging teen hiker who tries to include Laura in his vlogs, to a bear in their campsite, to a naked elderly couple in the Hot Springs. But what you'll love most about this book is the spot-on dialog between the siblings and their father. Judicious use of dialog tags, and a finely-tuned ear for the way kids really speak makes this dialog sound like a real family squabbling and teasing each other. Plenty of snark. And I never lost track of who was speaking.

When Dad's "surprise" turns out to be a new girlfriend, Theo and Laura react as any grieving kids would. Long before the end, you'll fall in love with this family, and your heart will ache for them to finally talk about their feelings.

A winner in my book!


You can pre-order AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY from Bookshop!

Other pre-order info and more on Cliff Burke's website



#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor TextsVisit their blogs to see all the participants.

Monday, January 25, 2021

THE LAST SHADOW WARRIOR for #IMWAYR (It's Monday! What are you reading?)

First a quick health update (feel free to skip to the post below the photo if you prefer): Good news! The retina specialist says I don't need surgery on my blurry right eye. He also showed me what the swelling looks like in a picture of my retina (it looks like a wave!), and claimed it's a direct result of the laser treatment I had way back at the end of October, to correct my rising Glaucoma pressure.

This is just as I suspected, although my regular eye doc, who gave me the laser treatment, claimed that had nothing to do with the swelling! 

More good news: those steroid drops I've been using three times a day since mid-December are really helping! (So my eye doc got that part right!) There's still a fist-size portion of blurriness in my vision but I can manage to read despite this (although my eyes tire easily, so I can't read for long, which drove me nuts when I received the ARC below in the mail). I have to keep using the drops for three more weeks and then taper off for a month.


Now, as we wait for the announcements of the ALA Youth Media Awards, it's onto today's post! Another exciting debut novel from #the21ders!



The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity (Scholastic, April 6, 2021, for ages 8 to 12)

What a thrilling page-turner! You'll be staying up late to finish this one. This book has it all -- three friends banding together to face the enemy, Viking folklore and history, one exciting adventure after another, and lots and lots of humor and heart. The chapter endings will blow you away!

Abby is still grieving for her dead mother, a descendant of Viking warriors, who died fighting a Grendel. In the gripping first chapter, a shadowy creature attacks Abby in the home she shares with her father in North Carolina. Was it a Grendel? She and Dad pack quickly and head for Minnesota, for a school, Vale Hall, where Dad can teach and Abby can be safe. But Dad is badly hurt in a car accident, caused by a demonic motorcycle rider,  just as they arrive at Vale Hall. With Dad unconscious in the hospital, Abby must navigate her new school, find a cure for her father, and at the same time convince the school's headmaster and the Viking Council that Grendels really do exist!

Luckily, she makes friends immediately with Gwynn, a secret Valkyrie, and Grimsby, an endearing (and funny!) boy who's assigned to be Abby's guide to Vale Hall. Together, they fight a sea monster in the school pool, a Dark Valkyrie who plays Bingo for their souls, and much much more. I learned a lot too. Knattleikr is an ancient Viking ball game, similar to lacrosse. Svefnthorn (or Sleep Thorn) can be found in centuries of Norse literature.

The strong friendship between Abby, Gwynn, and Grimsby, the fast-pace, the thrilling adventures, and above all, the unexpected flashes of humor (Hmm, Vale Hall = Valhalla?) make this a winner in my book. Kids will love this and it makes a great read-aloud. Thanks to the publisher for letting me read an ARC. 

You can pre-order this exciting book from Bookshop, right here!

#IMWAYR is a weekly blog hop hosted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts. Visit their blogs to see all the participants.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A week ago today...

It's a new year, and it's also my debut year! 2021 should be a wonderful year. 

But it didn't start out so well, did it?

As everyone knows by now, on Wednesday, January 6th, insurrectionists (i.e. Trump followers who refused to accept the fair and accurate vote count that made Joe Biden our next President) stormed the US Capitol building, where lawmakers were gathered for the usually-ceremonial act of counting the Electoral College votes. This violence ultimately resulted in five deaths and excessive damage. 


Were you glued to the news as I was? 


Normally, I never watch TV news, but from 3 pm to 7 pm, I couldn't tear myself away from CNN, watching with growing horror, sickened that something like this could happen at all in our country. 


And, yes, that day also happened to be my cover reveal day

Obviously, this minor news was soon eclipsed by the raging mob that took over the Capitol for a few hours. We still need answers about why this was allowed to happen, why the Capitol Police were overwhelmed so easily and why it took the National Guard so long to get there and quell the riot. 

I sincerely hope there is no more violence before Biden is sworn in next Wednesday. And especially not during the Inauguration!