As many of you know, I am a writing coach at Kids Are Writers. We encourage kids all over the world to find their true writing voices with games and prompts from many different coaches. Our vision is to expand our offerings to reach the needs of children all over the world. Please visit our Indiegogo Campaign to find out more and consider spreading the word for us. We appreciate your support!
Anna Staniszewski has one of those impressive release timelines that leaves me standing with jaw dropped...kind of like her character, Rachel, depicted here on The Prank List cover. Check out Anna's release timeline:
The UnFairy Tale Books: Nov 2011, December 2012, March 2013, November 2013. The Dirt Diary Books: January 2014, July 2014
Two novels in 2013 and two in 2014?! Can you say Wonder Woman? We are so pleased to be in the presence of a super hero! You rock, Anna!
HOW in the world do you write so much, so fast, so great?
I didn’t start off writing books quickly! I used to be a total pantser (i.e. I never planned out books before I wrote them) and it took me forever to revise projects and make them not terrible. But after I got my first publishing contract, I started trying to find ways to make my writing process less sprawling, particularly because I also teach part-time at Simmons College, so I had to find a way to get the most out of my writing time.
Even though I’m still not an outliner, now I spend a good amount of time planning out emotional arcs, major turning points, etc. It helps me enormously to write a synopsis before I start drafting a story, so then I have that to keep me on track as I write and revise. That means I make fewer missteps along the way and that I can write books much more quickly than I used to. I also make sure to draft quickly to stay ahead of my inner editor—otherwise, that pesky negative voice would keep me from finishing anything!
Why should readers check out the newest book in your Dirt Diary Series: The Prank List?
Many readers that I hear from enjoy Rachel’s character, her wacky sayings (“Oh my goldfish!”) and her baking adventures. Well, there’s lots of that and more in The Prank List. Not only is Rachel enrolled in a baking class that proves to be a huge disaster but a rival cleaning service moves into town and Rachel finds herself in the middle of a prank war as she struggles to save her mom’s business.
Have you ever had a prank backfire on you?
To be honest, I am way too much of a rule-follower to be a prankster, so I don’t know if I’ve ever pulled any. As my husband can tell you, I hate things like pranks and surprises because they often involve lying to people; I think this is part of what fueled the story, in fact.
How will readers connect with this main character?
Rachel is like insecure middle school me times ten. She means well, but she doesn’t always do and say what she means to, and she’s always making mistakes even when she has the best intentions. I think he flaws are very relatable, as is her passion for baking and her desire to help her family.
Did your eighth grade year impact you in a particular way?
I was horribly shy when I was in middle school, and I never had the right clothes or the popular hairstyle or the fashionable sandwich at lunchtime. I took a lot of those feelings of isolation and doubt and worked them into Rachel’s story.
When you write, do you generally start with plot, character, world, or title?
I often start with a premise (What if a girl was a magical adventurer? What if a girl had to clean houses with her mom?) and work from there. It’s not until I find the right character for the story, though, that I really become invested in an idea.
I was excited to see that you also have some picture books coming out! Please tell us a little about them and the new Heart and Soul series that was just announced.
I absolutely love picture books, so I’m excited to have my first one coming out in Spring 2015 from Henry Holt. It’s a bedtime book called Power Down, Little Robot. That will be followed by Dogosaurus Rex in 2016 about a boy who adopts a dog from a shelter, not realizing it’s a dinosaur.
As for the Heart and Souls series, that’s what I’m currently working on now, so I could talk about it all day! But I’ll keep it short. This will be a new tween series with Sourcebooks. The first book, I’m With Cupid, will be out next summer, and it’s about a girl reaper and a boy cupid who kiss at a party and accidentally swap powers. The subject matter is a little darker than my other books, but I’m aiming to make it light and fun like my other novels.
Oooo! I can't wait to read them! Thank you so much for being our guest today! I’ll be eager to follow your work for many years to come!
Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, was released on July 1st from Sourcebooks. You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.
One summer month down, two more to go! Let's have some more fun reading! But first, let's cheer for the winner of our June Book Club drawing: SYDNEY CALL! You have won a copy of The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, Book 1: A Bad Idea, by Erik Weibel. Congratulations! For those that did not get a chance to send reviews this month, you will find examples in our Contest Gallery. We will give away another copy of Erik's book this month. Please join us in the fun and send some inspired art or a review for a chance to win!
It sure is quiet out there! Everyone must be super engrossed in their books! Great job! There are five more days to read the fabulous books in our June Book Club. We would love to include you in a free book drawing for The Adventures of Tomato and Pea, Book One: A Bad Idea, by Erik Weibel. All you have to do is use the cool blue button below to send us inspired art, compliments for the authors, or reviews related to any of the books in the June Book Club. Contest entries will be accepted until 10 pm CST on June 30th. Then join us back on July 1 when the winner of Erik's book will be revealed, along with the new July Book Club. See you soon!
Let me guess: You are not yet absorbed in your summer reading like the Brown Bunch here. That's okay! Celebrating your school year and relaxing are allowed in the summer! I have to admit that getting into a new summer routine is challenging. So, let's do this together, shall we?
I have a challenge for you! Read at least two of the books in the June Book Club between today and Tuesday, June 24th. Send us your two "book reports", or reviews/reflections, by that same date. If we receive at least 20 reviews (that's only 10 people, folks), I will do an early drawing on Wednesday, June 25th. The prizes: Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card and The Adventures of Tomato and Pea Book 1: A Bad Idea by Erik Weibel. So, what are you waiting for? Check out those books and read like the wind!
Summer is a great time for parents to spend time with their kids. But, we all know that Mom and Dad need a break from the kiddos every once in a while! Enter the novel, and an hour long "quiet time" for everyone in the house to read. We have been doing this in my house for many years and the kids enjoy this time just as much as I do. This is your escape! Heather Gudenkauf provides your perfect "Calgon, take me away!" Little Mercies is Heather's fourth novel and it is featured in the June Book Club.
Welcome, Heather! Where do you get your ideas and how did you come up with the idea for Little Mercies?
I tend to get my ideas from items in the news. The premise for Little Mercies came from news stories about social workers who found themselves on the other side of the legal system due to an unmanageable social services caseload. I asked myself what would happen if a social worker, in a moment of distraction, puts her own child in danger? How would she feel, how would her family, her colleagues react. From these questions, Little Mercies emerged.
Did Harlequin request that you write the Kindle prequel, Little Lies, or was that your idea? How long did you have to write the prequel?
The idea for the prequel actually came from my agent, Marianne Merola. We were brainstorming ideas for more ways to engage readers before the launch of Little Mercies. I found the idea of exploring the character of social worker further, Ellen Moore intriguing and it took me about three weeks to write Little Lies. Harlequin/MIRA decided to publish Little Lies as a digital novella in early May and a copy of Little Lies will be available in a special Target edition of Little Mercies on June 23rd.
How is this book different than your others: One Breath Away, These Things Hidden, and The Weight of Silence?
Little Mercies, like my other novels, is told from multiple points of view. But I decided to focus on the views of just two characters this time. By doing this, it allowed me to really delve into the thoughts and feelings of Ellen, a mother in danger of losing her child, her family, her career and of Jenny, a tough but vulnerable ten-year-old who finds herself all alone in the world.
You are so great at getting us inside the minds of your characters! What technique do you use to assist you when writing from different perspectives?
Thank you! I've found that keeping a notebook filled with all the details of each character's life, no matter how minute, helps me to really develop them fully. I make note of the characters' appearances, their likes and dislikes, their dreams, aspirations and fears. I write about their childhoods, loves lost and found, their biggest failures and greatest accomplishments. These details may never ultimately find their way into the novel, but assist in making the characters come to life for me as a write about them.
Amazing advice! Thank you! Do you have a "suspense-building formula" that may also assist other writers?
My goal is to write books that I would enjoy reading and to create stories and plot lines that I find appealing. I find that if develop characters that readers care about, can relate to and are invested in. I also always try to end a scene or a chapter at a point where the reader wants to learn more about a character, find out what's going to happen next.
Do you have a timeline for your writing goals?
Though each of my writing projects is different, it typically takes me to from six to nine months to complete the first draft of a novel. From there, the editing process, in collaboration with my agent, editor, and trusted readers, usually takes a few months.
What are you working on now?
Currently I'm working on a novel about two childhood friends who reconnect after twenty years. The story explores friendship, their marriage, motherhood and the secrets kept from those closest to you.
That sounds like something I would love! But then, I do love all of your books! Thank you so much for sharing with us today! For those of you who missed it, Heather gave us some amazing writing advice last summer. You can find it here. After reading Heather's newest book, Little Mercies, use our email button to send a review! And while you are waiting for Little Mercies to come out on June 24th, you can get a head start on Little Lies or one of Heather's other awesome books!
Heather Gudenkauf is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Weight of Silence and These Things Hidden. You can follow her at www.heathergudenkauf.com.
Welcome to our Summer Book Clubs! We are excited to present you with books that will beat summer boredom! This Kid Erik gave us such a great kick-off interview, I wanted to reward your reading and writing efforts with one of his books...free! Here's a reminder about how our Summer Clubs work. We want to hear from you! After you complete a book, feel free to send me your written review or inspired artwork attachment using the button below. I will make you "famous" by posting your work in The Contest Gallery. That will automatically enter you in a drawing for Erik's book! If we have LOTS of entries, there may be even more book giveaways! This summer, there is a wider selection of books to read each month, including recommendations from me, This Kid Erik, and The Brown Bunch. The Summer Book Club will not only appeal to KidLit (picture books all the way up to young adult), but also recommend books for Mom, Dad, writers, and teachers. Check out the books below, do some reading, then email me your writing or art! ANYONE can write a review! Let's spread our love for these authors! Happy Reading!
(Kids: Please ask permission from Mom or Dad before sending me your work to post.)
This Kid Erik Recommends...
The Brown Bunch
"To Read" List:
JUST FOR THE GROWN-UPS...
AND BE SURE TO CHECK BACK ON TUESDAY JUNE 10TH FOR A REAL GROWN-UP SIZED SURPRISE and MORE INFO ON WHEN THIS BOOK WILL BE HERE!
June BOOK CLUBS ARE HERE! I knew we'd need a STELLAR READER to help us kick off our summer reading club, so I brought Erik along today! For those of you who don't know, Erik Weibel is a Super-Powered 12 year-old reader and writer! He sets astounding reading goals every year! This school year he set a goal to read enough books to get him to 1505 Accelerated Reader points! In addition, he also review books on his blog site at thiskidreviewsbooks.com and published his own book at age 11! Super-Powered for sure, right?!
Welcome, Erik! You amaze me!
Inquiring kids want to know: "Why should we read during the summer?"
You can go anywhere in a book!
When did you become a goal-setter?
I’ve pretty much always set goals for myself. I like the challenge of it and it helps me be organized too. My parents help by challenging me to meet the goals I set for myself by offering prizes if I make them. I set goals that I think are reasonable for me, and I work hard towards my goals. I do my best to exceed them.
Sounds like the apple doesn't fall far from the tree! What an awesome support you have in your parents! Can you tell us a little bit about what reading and reviewing books has done for you?
Well, it has definitely made me a better writer. I practice writing with every review I post. It has also opened me up to the big world of publishing. I’ve learned a lot about how books are written and made. I’ve also learned a lot about self-publishing and I was able to self-publish my own book.
Because I read books to review them, sometimes I get a book and I think I’m not going to like it because of the subject or even just because of the cover (I know – I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but people really do ;) ) and I find out that I really do like the story. I think reading different types of books (poetry, non-fiction, classics) teaches me a lot. I read pretty much anything that comes into my in box as long as it’s okay for my age. Most of the books I review are actually self-published. :)
The most important thing reading and reviewing books has done for me is let me meet all kinds of people from all over the world and talk about books with them. That is just so cool!
Okay, we're dying to know! Did you reach your goal this year?
YES! I got 1524.9 AR points! I worked very hard to get it, and am very proud of myself. The old record (set by me last year) was 1503.9 points. I took tests on 180 books during the school year. I actually read more than that but a lot of them aren’t AR books yet. Sadly, new releases, self-published, most graphic novels and some older books don’t have tests for them.
How has reading inspired you to write?
I love reading stories. I get a ton of enjoyment out of a book. At age nine, I started writing about the main characters in my book “The Adventures of Tomato and Pea- Book one: A Bad Idea”. I liked the story so much that I kept adding and adding to it. I remember seeing author’s names printed on book covers and thinking I’d really like to see my name there. I really admire people who can write great stories. They really inspire me.
What would you like to tell the first graders (and beyond) in this world?
Figure out what it is you like to do and do it, even if it isn’t “popular.” I was always into books (okay I actually almost got sent to the principal’s office for reading too much in class so maybe I was too into books) and not everybody thought that was cool. But I did my own thing and got really good at it and now I have a popular site and I am doing what I really like to do. Also, listen to your first grade teacher! They know a lot. My 1st Grade teacher told my parents that she thought I would be a great public speaker, so she had me do reports and present them in front of the class for practice. I wasn’t really sure about the whole thing at the time, but I think it worked. Now, I’m a pretty good public speaker – well, at least I don’t get nervous talking to people. :)
Why will kids like your book, The Adventures of Tomato and Pea- Book one: A Bad Idea?
I wrote the book to be funny, full of action, and about aliens – pretty much what I like and I am a kid, so I think others will too. But that is only part of the answer. I think the main reason kids will like my book “The Adventures of Tomato and Pea- Book one: A Bad Idea” is that it was written by a kid, for kids. I hope my book inspires other kids to write. I hope it inspires them to read. I hope that more kids get into reading and writing. :)
THANK YOU for being with us today, Erik! Will you join us in reading this month? It's time to get our club on! So, HEEEEEEEEERE'S our Carrie On...June Book Club!
Here is a sneak peek into our June Book Club! That's right! You will want to read Erik's book and then sit down and start writing your own! If Erik can do it, so can you! Check out our June Book Club list here and then send in your art or reviews! Can't wait to hear from you!