Shari Mauer

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  • Writer Wednesday: Holly Cupala

    Posted on November 10th, 2010 Shari No comments

    Currently reading: JUST ADD MAGIC by Cindy Callaghan (fellow Tenner)

    Today I’m excited to feature a wonderful writer, Holly Cupala. Holly and I met at dinner during BEA and shared a great car ride uptown together, where I heard her story and decided I couldn’t wait to read her new book. I got it the first week it was out and loved it.

    About Holly:

    Holly Cupala TMAS tshirt

    Holly Cupala wrote teen romance novels before she ever actually experienced teen romance. When she did, it became all about tragic poetry and slightly less tragic novels. When she isn’t writing and contributing to readergirlz, she spends time with her husband and daughter in Seattle, Washington. These days, her writing is less about tragedy and more about hope. TELL ME A SECRET is her first novel. Ten percent of the author’s proceeds go toward World Vision’s Hope for Sexually Exploited Girls.\

    About Tell Me A Secret:

    tmascover

    Tell me a secret, and I’ll tell you one…

    In the five years since her bad-girl sister Xanda’s death, Miranda Mathison has wondered about the secret her sister took to the grave, and what really happened the night she died. Now, just as Miranda is on the cusp of her dreams—a best friend to unlock her sister’s world, a ticket to art school, and a boyfriend to fly her away from it all—Miranda has a secret all her own.

    Then two lines on a pregnancy test confirm her worst fears. Stripped of her former life, Miranda must make a choice with tremendous consequences and finally face her sister’s demons and her own.

    In this powerful debut novel, stunning new talent Holly Cupala illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her future.

    On to the interview:

    1.  Miranda and her sister Xanda are very different. Which one do you relate to more?

    Miranda is more the thoughtful artist, her sister more the outrageous DIY girl—and I have to say, I’m a little of both of those things. It’s probably fair to say that I relate more to Miranda. I remember being fascinated by people like Xanda, who seemed to be able to say and do anything. Cheeky, courageous, flirtatious. And I could be like that sometimes, but more likely I would be the girl next to someone like that. But I think all of us have a continuum of personality within us. That’s a lot of what Tell Me a Secret is about.
    2. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness of readers! One said she was inspired to write a song from the point of view of Xanda (she’s promised to share it with me and hopefully will let me post it). Another told me how much she could relate to Miranda, because she lost her sister and still misses her every day. It makes me happy and grateful that the book has struck an emotional chord and that readers are finding meaning in it.
    3. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    Why yes, I have! The very first reader review was by Sharon from Sharon Loves Books and Cats. She started out by saying, “Have you ever read a book that made you want to leap into its pages and throw cats at the characters?” That sort of shocked me, that someone would want to throw cats at my characters! But then she went on to say, “Sometimes it is good when a book pisses you off. I gave Tell Me a Secret 5 purrs because I cannot remember the last time I became so emotionally invested in a book.” I was so floored and grateful that she loved the book. Unfortunately her wonderful blog is now defunct, but I saved her words. They will always be priceless to me.
    4. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    I grew up in a relatively small town in Northern California. A lot of people mean the Bay Area when they say Northern California, but I mean the part of California that is almost Oregon. When I was 15, I was pretty sure I was destined to be a writer (unless academia hijacked me, but fortunately I realized before it was too late). I wrote poetry and short stories and novellas, many of them hopeless and heart-rending. I loved Sylvia Plath and J.D. Salinger and thought it would be wonderful to live a tragic, literary life—which is sort of the way it turned out, except I’ve found the hope in tragedy now.


    5. You capture that Senior Year applying to college and trying to figure out what you want to do with your life anxiety very well. What are your memories from that time in your own life?

    Thank you, Shari! Perhaps from personal experience? Maybe not really. The hardest part about leaving home for college wasn’t the leaving part—it was leaving the boyfriend. Now I wonder, what was I thinking? I changed the course of my life for a guy who turned out to be a loser. (There, I said it.) While I was in school, a bunch of us went on a road trip to Seattle and I fell completely in love. I left awful relationship #2 to move here after I graduated so that I could apply for graduate school, and I never looked back. So many of those memories of Seattle and my friends who were at the University of Washington and all of the friendships and relationships made their way into Tell Me a Secret.
    6. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

    Like Miranda and Xanda, I love to do art and crafty projects—though I never did finish the safety-pin dress I tried to make à la Xanda! That would probably take a year… But I love to collage and paint. I’m a kindergarten mommy, which is certainly my most fun time! Plus my husband and I have been working on lots of TMAS-related projects, like the audiobook we produced with award-winning actress Jenna Lamia reading the part of Miranda. Right now we’re putting together the physical product and hope to have it available in the coming weeks! Right now, you can listen to the free serialized podcast at www.tellmeasecretnovel.com.

    7. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    Hmm. Last meal ever? Couldn’t I have dessert, dessert, dessert? Oh, alright. Appetizer: caramelized figs with baked brie. Main Course: Beef Medallions in a delicate masala with barely braised spring vegetables (hold the cauliflower). Dessert: one of everything. And if that is not available, a medley of lavender-ginger crème brulée, molten chocolate cake, pistachio ganache and a glass of pinot grigio.
    8. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Would you be shocked and horrified to discover I’m not really a chocolate girl? (I’ll give you a moment to digest that.) Milk if I must, but I’d much rather have a sour gummy or red licorice or a creamy caramel. For some reason molten chocolate cake transcends the chocolate genre for me, though!

    Anything else you want to add about upcoming appearances, new books, etc?

    We’re having a Tell Me a Secret party! If you happen to be anywhere in the Seattle/Eastside region on Saturday, December 4th, we’re having a party at Kirkland Parkplace Books at 6:30 pm.

    As for new books…yes! I just turned in the final manuscript for my second YA novel (now officially titled Don’t Breathe a Word), coming out Fall 2011. It’s the story of a sixteen year old girl who flees her suburban life for secret reasons to live on the streets of Seattle. She meets up with a band of homeless teens, including Creed… It’s steamy, and gritty, and romantic. Each one of them has a secret, and the heart of the story is love. I can’t wait to share it.

    Thank you, Shari, for inviting me to your blog to chat! And readers, you can check out my Story Secrets interview of Shari for Change of Heart right here. Stop by to say hello!

    I can’t wait for Don’t Breathe a Word!  To learn more about Holly go to her website. And for a free serialized audiobook podcast, go here.

    Holly, it was great to have you over on the blog. Now you’ve made me hungry for dessert!

  • Writer Wednesday: Amy Brecount White

    Posted on November 3rd, 2010 Shari No comments

    Currently reading: STRINGZ by Michael Wenberg (WestSide Book!)

    We’re about a week away from the deadline for the NY area writing contest. If you are in Grades 7-12 and live in the Nanuet, NY area or nearby enough to come here for the prize: a one-on-one critique with a published author, please go here for more details.

    I’m very excited to welcome this week’s writer. Amy Brecount White has put together a beautiful book, Forget-Her-Nots that I truly loved and that opened up the whole world of the language of flowers to me.

    About the book:

    FHN cover -small
    Something—some power—is blooming inside Laurel. She can use flowers to do things. Like bringing back lost memories. Or helping her friends ace tests. Or making people fall in love.

    Laurel suspects her newfound ability has something to do with an ancient family secret, one that her mother meant to share with Laurel when the time was right. But then time ran out.

    Clues and signs and secret messages seem to be all around Laurel at Avondale School, where her mother had also boarded as a student.

    Can Laurel piece everything together quickly enough to control her power, which is growing more potent every day?

    Or will she set the stage for the most lovestruck, infamous prom in the history of the school?

    About Amy:

    Amy White

    Amy Brecount White has taught English literature and writing to middle school and high school students. She has written numerous articles and essays for publications such as the Washington Post, but Forget-Her-Nots is her first novel.

    She can often be found in her garden and gives flowers to her friends and family whenever she can, though none have had magical effects—yet.

    And on to the interview…

    1. In Forget-Her-Nots, you use the “language of flowers.” Is this something you knew about before your wrote the book or something you came upon as you did your research?

    I used to freelance for magazines and newspapers a lot, so I was always on the lookout for story ideas. I found out about the language of flowers and even made some tussie-mussies (symbolic Victorian bouquets) for good friends before I got the idea for the novel.

    2. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    I had several girls tell me it was “one of the best books” they’ve ever read. That made my month!!

    3. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    I think it’s fascinating how different reactions to the same novel can be.  In the same week one blogger described how FHN moved her to cry, while another blogger described the book as “light and fluffy.” What you take away from a book depends so much on what you bring to it.

    4. Where did you grow up?

    My dad was in the Public Health Service, so we moved a lot, but I mostly grew up in Dayton, Ohio.

    5. When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    A doctor, like my dad.

    6. You set the book at a boarding school. Were you a boarding school student, too and was this based on a school that you had attended?

    No, I attended a public high school.  However, I used to teach at an all-girls school and talked to several knowledgeable sources about boarding schools.

    7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

    Gardening, when I have time. I read a lot, and those three kids seem to take up a lot of time and energy, too.  I try to exercise;  roller blading is my favorite.

    8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    Crab soup, crab cakes, and chocolate mousse cake.  Nom nom!

    9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Definitely dark and preferably with raspberries too!

    Thanks, Amy! For more about Amy, visit her website.

  • Writer Wednesday: Bonnie Doerr

    Posted on October 27th, 2010 Shari 6 comments

    Currently reading: THE RICE MOTHER by Rani Manicka (Adult Book Club selection)

    Welcome back to Writer Wednesday! Today I’m excited to host my Class of 2K10 mate, Bonnie Doerr, whose fabulous book Island Sting came out earlier this year. Bonnie and I have had a lot of fun doing book signings together (even “lightly attended” ones) and I’ve had a great time getting to know her. She’s even given me a new genre: the eco-mystery.

    So here’s some info about Bonnie:

    Bonnie Doerr photosmall

    Bonnie J. Doerr has always played with words, ideas, and nature. To be separated from nature—to be containerized—would slowly suck the breath from her. For years this therapeutic pursuit manifested itself in poetry.  In recent years her play resulted in stories and novels for young adults. A lifetime educator, she has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Degrees in reading education, combined with a brief post as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries. Years of teaching and living in the Florida Keys provided irresistible material. Her novels celebrate caring, involved, “green” teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Her work has been honored by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) with a grant for its use in environmental education and been included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides. When not at home with her heart in the Florida Keys, she lives in a log cabin in North Carolina.

    About Island Sting:

    Island+sting+new+cover

    Kenzie Ryan’s New York know-how and private girls’ academy education prove useless in the middle of an island wildlife refuge.

    Upon arrival in the exotic Florida Keys, she is thrown into the midst of an ecological mystery involving the endangered Florida Key deer. How can she navigate this upside down world? A world deftly maneuvered by Angelo–island native and nerve-wracking hunk. The two team up to accomplish what perplexes law enforcement, but Angelo exposes Kenzie’s insecurities, as well as her inexperience with nature and the opposite sex.

    Danger and disagreement follow the pair wherever they go. Enamored with Angelo and his local savvy, Kenzie hopes to secure his loyal friendship. But how can she win Angelo’s trust when what she must tell him will crush his ego?

    Island Sting includes notes on the endangered Florida Key Deer and the National Key Deer Refuge.

    And on to the interview:

    1.  There is a big environmental theme in this book and your blog, Bonnie Blogs Green is very environmentally focused. Have you always been interested in this or is this something that came about after you wrote the book?

    As a child, I was immersed in the outdoors. Dad was a passionate Boy Scout and we traveled to countless scout events and locations. Our little family camped across the country in our station wagon, pitching tents in state and national parks from PA to CA and ME to FL. We wouldn’t have thought of ourselves as environmentally focused, we were simply awe-inspired by the beauty of the natural world and couldn’t imagine responding in any other way to it than with deep appreciation and respect. When writing, especially for a tween audience, authors are often advised to tap their passion. Apparently, I inherited my father’s passion. I was “green” ages before the term was in common use.

    2.  Kenzie moves from New York to Florida. Have you ever made a move like this and if so, how did it affect your writing her experience?

    Until I left home for college, I’d always lived in the same western Maryland house. So I never experienced the painful rip from lifelong friends that Kenzie was forced to face. But my world changed significantly after graduation. I lived, not by choice, an average period of three years in each of eight states and sometimes two or three locations within the same state. It was that following-a-husband-around thing women so often have to do. My experience was very different from Kenzie’s. Instead of embracing friends, I didn’t allow myself to indulge in close relationships. I knew it would hurt too much when I left. But I enjoyed teaching a range of students from K to college as I moved. And let me tell you, whenever I hear someone say, “Kids don’t act like _________,” or “A teen wouldn’t say or do____________,” I often smile. Yes, in many ways kids all over the country are alike, but it’s interesting  how unique they can also be. I gained quite a wide perspective from my travels.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    One young reader said, “As Kenzie’s feelings became my own, I didn’t want to put this book down. It was as if I was Kenzie. I wanted to get up and go clean up litter and catch that rude poacher. But then I remembered all that’s tough to do with a book in your hand.”

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    Oh, yes indeed. One in particular. I’m trying to forget that surprise! Still, it opened up a valuable conversation. A fabulous reaction that surprised me was from students who formed an environmental club as a result of reading Island Sting.

    5. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    As I mentioned, I grew up in western Maryland. At fifteen, I wanted to be an artist or performer. I played the guitar (sadly, I no longer do), thought I could sing (I was so wrong), and believed I could act (act I could, but my stage voice was wretched). So, I incorporated all of those interests into my teaching. Poor students… But I also wanted to be a feature reporter for a newspaper. That, at least, was a realistic plan for me. Write I can. And though I am a fiction writer, my work falls mostly in the realistic contemporary genre.

    6. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?

    I graduated from Towson University (Baltimore, MD) and University of South Carolina (Aiken and Columbia, SC). My favorite courses were psychology and anthropology. I’ve always been fascinated with the human mind and behavior, cultural similarities and differences, and how humans adapt to their environment. Now that I think of it, these interests have definitely informed my writing.
    7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

    It’s not easy for me to sit at the computer for long periods of time. I constantly get up and go outdoors to clear my head. I live on three casually landscaped acres in the middle of woods, so there is always work to be done. Weeding is the most challenging responsibility. We reclaimed space from the forest, but the woodlands remind me who’s boss on a daily basis. When I’m not battling botanical invasion, I’m trimming, thinning, cultivating, harvesting, planting, transplanting, watering, fertilizing, feeding critters, shooing other critters, or simply observing critters. And when I’ve been engrossed in writing for what my little dog, Itchy, decides is too long, he demands I quit to take him outside so he can sniff and chase all those critters.

    I also do a good bit of cooking. My husband and I enjoy having friends over to grill something yummy.

    8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    Appetizer: Florida stone crabs, Main course: Florida spiny lobster, Key West pink shrimp, and a fresh, fresh baby green salad with a fabulous bottle of pino grigio or maybe chardonnay. Hey, it’s my last meal—BOTH! Dessert: Key lime pie.

    9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Sometimes I just can’t make a decision. This is one of those times because I love them all. And that’s why I especially like those Hershey Kisses that swirl white and milk chocolate together.

    Thanks, Bonnie. Look for Bonnie’s next book, Stakeout, next year. You can find Bonnie on the web here.

  • Writer Wednesday: Jennifer Cervantes

    Posted on October 20th, 2010 Shari No comments

    Currently reading: A LOVE STORY STARRING MY DEAD BEST FRIEND by Emily Horner

    The weeks go so quickly and it’s Wednesday again. We got our first entry in the writing contest that I’m coordinating with Shannon Delany, Margie Gelbwasser, Jen Nadol and Jame Richards to support our December 11th joint appearance at the Nanuet, NY Barnes and Noble. If you live in the Rockland County, NY area and are in Grades 7-12 and want more info about the contest, you can go here.

    Today, I’m happy to host my fellow Tenner, Jennifer Cervantes. Jennifer has written a very moving, sweet book called Tortilla Sun.

    About Jennifer:

    jencervantes

    Jennifer was born and raised in San Diego but spent many summers in New Mexico as a child. She didn’t think there was much to do there so she made up lots of adventures and read countless books to pass the time. Somehow, she found her way back to New Mexico(temporarily) to attend college and met a great guy, which lead her to make New Mexico her home (permanently).

    She lives with her husband, and three daughters (who are great editors and sources of inspiration) spending much of her time writing, teaching English at the university, and enjoying desert sunsets.

    Tortilla Sun Synopsis:

    tortillasun

    Tortilla Sun is a tender, magical story about 12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana’s New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas. In Nana’s village she meets Mateo, the adventurous, treasure seeking thirteen year old boy who lives on the other side of the bolted door in Izzy’s bedroom and six year old Maggie, who is raising her cat, Frida, as a dog and sees marshmallow ghosts float out windows.

    When the wind begins to whisper to Izzy, secrets begin to unfold faster than an overstuffed burrito and she is soon led on an adventure to learn who she really is, and to connect the hidden pieces of her past.

    On to the interview…

    1. How do you decide to write this story?

    My youngest daughter inspired it, but also the beauty and enchantment of NM. I wanted to illustrate this majestic state and its rich culture.

    2. I loved the character of Nana–is she based on your own grandmother?

    There are tidbits here and there and certainly I was influenced by my memories in both of my grandmother’s timeless kitchens, but Nana is really all her own, perhaps the best of all worlds.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    I had a child reader write to me and say, “I never liked to read until Tortilla sun.”

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    I received a heartfelt email from an adult reader that surprised me in a profound way. I had no idea Tortilla Sun would touch so many people’s grief. She wrote:

    “My journey through the story touched something bigger in my soul. I connected to my own grief that I’d pushed down just to survive my days.  By the time I finished reading, I cried for the first time in almost two years.”

    5. Wow, that’s amazing to touch someone like that. Where did you grow up?

    San Diego, CA. When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up? At 15, I think I was going through my orthodontist phase J

    6. Where did you go to college? Was there a course that really stands out in your memory?

    University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University. I loved my philosophy and art history courses. I also loved all my lit classes.

    8. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

    I teach Children’s and Young Adult Literature at the university. On top of working and writing, I have three very active daughters who I spend oodles of time with because they are so much fun!

    9. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert). The answer does not need to include tortillas, though I have to say I was very hungry while I was reading your book. LOL.

    Wow! This is tough because I love so many different foods. Let me give it a try though J

    Appetizer would have to be chips with salsa and guacamole. Main course would have to be red chili enchiladas with two over-easy eggs on top and dessert would be a warm brownie smothered with vanilla ice-cream and loads of whipped cream on top.

    10. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    DARK! Yum!

    Thanks, Jennifer. You can learn more about Jennifer by going to her website.

    See you all next week!

  • Writer Wednesday: Mara Purnhagen

    Posted on October 13th, 2010 Shari 5 comments

    Currently reading: LIVVIE OWEN LIVED HERE by Sarah Dooley

    Today I’m interviewing my Class of 2k10 mate and fellow Tenner, Mara Purnhagen. Mara is actually a “double Tenner” as she had two books come out this year. I’ve read Tagged, which I loved, but haven’t yet gotten the chance to read Past Midnight.

    About the books:

    9780373210077_TS_prd.inddPast Midnight cover

    TAGGED:

    Can Kate Morgan stand up for herself—without being labeled a snitch?

    Kate is just as confused as her best friend, Lan, when she arrives at Cleary High to find the building’s been “tagged” with a life-size graffiti mural. Could the culprit be one of their friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art? She’s tempted to stay out of it—mostly because, as the police chief’s daughter, she’s worried about being labeled a snitch. But when the same mysterious graffiti starts appearing throughout the state, putting more pressure on the authorities to catch the vandal, her investigative instincts kick in.

    Now Eli, Kate’s favorite coworker at the local coffee shop, is MIA. With Lan preoccupied with her own boy troubles, Kate needs to figure out some things on her own. Like why she can’t stop thinking about Eli. And what she will do when all the clues about the graffiti point to someone she’s close to…

    PAST MIDNIGHT:

    Let me set the record straight. My name is Charlotte Silver and I’m not one of those paranormal-obsessed freaks you see on TV…no, those would be my parents, who have their own ghost-hunting reality show. And while I’m usually roped into the behind-the-scenes work, it turns out that I haven’t gone unnoticed. Something happened on my parents’ research trip in Charleston—and now I’m being stalked by some truly frightening other beings. Trying to fit into a new school and keeping my parents’ creepy occupation a secret from my friends—and potential boyfriends—is hard enough without having angry spirits whispering in my ear. All I ever wanted was to be normal, but with ghosts of my past and present colliding, now I just want to make it out of high school alive….

    About Mara:

    authorpurn - Copy

    Mara Purnhagen cannot live without a tall caramel latte, her iPod, or a stack of books on her night stand. She has lived in Aurora, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Dayton, Ohio and Duncan, South Carolina. She presently lives outside Cleveland, Ohio with her family and two cats.

    On to the interview…

    1. As writers, it’s always fun to sneak things from our personal lives into our books. Is there anything you snuck in that you’re willing to confess?

    I mention a band in Tagged called “Nothing Serious.”  It’s the name of a band my husband played in when he was younger. I didn’t tell him I was using the name, and when he read the final book, he was happily surprised.

    2. Every time I picked up Tagged to read it, you put me in the mood for coffee. Are you a big coffee drinker? And have you ever had a Banana Latte?

    I love coffee! The scent, the taste—I could drink it all day (but I cut myself off from caffeine by noon). I’ve never had a banana latte. The drink was my friend Robert’s idea, and I loved it. In the acknowledgments, I refer to him as the “inventor” of the banana latte.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    I’ve been lucky to get fan letters, which I appreciate so much, but the best thing was my dad telling me how proud he was that I’d written a book and that he really enjoyed it.

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    I’ve been surprised by how many teen readers have liked Kate’s relationship with her parents. I’ve heard from several who said it was a “relief” to read about parents who were still married and got along with their daughter.

    5. You had two books come out this year. What was your path to this double publication year?
    It was a long path! Tagged was accepted for publication in July 2008 by Harlequin TEEN, but the line hadn’t launched yet. While I was waiting for my March 2010 debut, I worked on the second book (and the third and the fourth). So now I’ll have four novels and two novellas published over two years. I’m really glad I kept writing while I waited. I feel like I’m in a great position now.
    6. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    It’s easiest to say I grew up in the Midwest because I moved around a lot. At 15, I wanted to be a writer, but I wasn’t sure what kind of books I wanted to write. I began writing short stories, which I still love, and had a story published nationally when I was 19.

    7. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?

    I attended the University of Dayton. I loved most of my classes, but one that stands out was a course on the Canterbury Tales. I had to memorize the Prologue in Middle English and recite it as part of the exam. I can still recite the first few paragraphs!

    8. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?
    My day job is being mom to three little boys, which means I spend a great deal of time playing with Lego sets, changing diapers, and wondering where in the world all the socks in our house have disappeared to.
    9. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    Lobster bisque for the appetizer, followed by an enormous double cheeseburger with extra cheddar, and topped off with a crème brulee (and a coffee, of course).

    10. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Milk chocolate—the really sweet, cheap kind that makes up those hollow Easter bunnies.

    Thanks, Mara! You can find Mara on the web here.

  • Teen Writing Contest

    Posted on October 7th, 2010 Shari 1 comment

    Currently reading: SWOON AT YOUR OWN RISK by Sydney Salter

    Attention Teens!!! If you are in Grades 7-12, live close enough to Nanuet, NY (that’s Rockland County) to come to the Barnes and Noble there and love to write, we have the contest for you.

    On Saturday, December 11th at 3pm, I am going to be speaking and signing with four of my fellow authors at a Teen Author Event at the Barnes and Noble. They include:

    Shannon Delany

    Shannon Delany

    Margie Gelbwasser

    Margie Gelbwasser

    Me!

    Shari Maurer

    Jen Nadol

    Jen Nadol

    Jame Richards

    Jame Richards

    In honor of this event, we are holding a fiction writing contest. The winner will get a 15 minute one-on-one critique with one of the authors right before the December 11th event, as well as a signed copy of their book.

    The rules? Well, you must be in 7th-12th grade. You can submit a short story or first few chapters of a book, up to 10 typed pages. Any genre: contemporary, historical, fantasy, realistic, steampunk, horror, paranormal…you name it.

    Entries can either be e-mailed to me at shari.maurer@alumni.duke.edu or brought to the Nanuet Barnes and Noble store.

    Deadline: November 11, 2010

    Any questions, please e-mail me.

    We’re looking forward to a great event and very excited to read all of the entries.

    Mark your calendars for Saturday, December 11th at 3pm for this wonderful event. And start writing!

  • Writer Wednesday: Alexandra Diaz

    Posted on September 29th, 2010 Shari 6 comments

    Currently reading: THE GIRLS FROM AMES: A STORY OF WOMEN AND A FORTY YEAR FRIENDSHIP by Jeffrey Zazlow (my Book Club’s 100th book!)

    Hi, all. I’m continuing my Writer Wednesday feature today with my Class of 2k10 mate Alexandra Diaz. Alexandra has written a wonderful book, Of All The Stupid Things, that beautifully captures the voices of three different teens.

    Of+All+the+Stupid+Things_Revised+CVR About the book:

    When a rumor starts circulating that Tara’s boyfriend has been with one of the guy cheerleaders, the innuendo doesn’t just hurt Tara. It marks the beginning of the end for three lifelong friends.

    Tara’s training for a marathon, but also running from her fear of abandonment from her father.

    Whitney Blaire seems to have everything, but an empty mansion and absentee parents leave her looking for her own value in the wrong places.

    And Pinkie has a compulsive need to mother everyone to make up for the mama she’s never stopped missing.

    Then the new girl arrives in school and Tara starts to feel things she’s never felt for before for a girl. Can the girls’ friendship survive when all the rules have changed?

    Alexandra Diaz photo credit Owen Benson About Alexandra:

    Alexandra Diaz is a Cuban-American spending her time between Bath, England, Santa Fe, NM, and the rest of the world. She has an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University and has led various workshops since she was fourteen. As a result of being homeschooled for most of high school, she’s fascinated by teenage school life and the drama that occurs in those quarters. One of the reasons she writes is to experience life in someone else’s shoes. She is a “jenny of all trades” having worked as a nanny, teacher, film extra, tour guide, and dairy goat judge (seriously) among several other jobs. In addition to traversing the world, she enjoys hiking, swing dancing, and the prospect of flying.

    On to the interview:

    1. Of All the Stupid Things is written from three different points of view: Tara, Whitney Blaire and Pinkie. Was this the case from the first draft or something you changed as you went along?

    I knew from the start that I wanted the three voices, though I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. Still, I decided to try it and see if I could make it work. I found it surprisingly easier than I expected and can’t imagine what the book would be like without them.

    2. Did you find any of the characters easier to write? Any of them more similar to you than the others?

    Pinkie in particular was very easy to write. Although I’m not nearly as worrisome and insecure as she is, many of the things she thought of, I have as well. I just exaggerated with her a bit! It took a while to get their individual voices but once I did, I was able to switch between them without too much effort.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    I’m easy to please! Just being told that someone read it and enjoyed it (particularly from people who are not readers) makes my day. I love it when people say how easy it was to relate to the characters and that they honestly thought I was writing about real people. They’re certainly real to me so it’s great to know other people can “see” them too.

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    One girl emailed me saying that if the book was ever made into a movie, if I would please consider her for one of the parts. When I asked her which part she would like, she any one would be fine. I’ll definitely keep her in mind if the time up and I have a say in the casting.

    5. When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at 15. Though it was always in my mind that wanted to write, I didn’t always know if that was going to happen or if I even wanted it to happen.  I thought half-heartedly of other alternatives but nothing really grabbed my fancy like writing. At that age I also had the naive notion that if I didn’t about the future, it would never come! Sometimes I still think that way!

    6. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?

    I went to Lake Forest College in Illinois and I had to take a science class.  I picked a geology/geography/topography class since it seemed like the best of the evils. However, I really enjoyed it and actually remember quite a bit of what we learned. If I hadn’t been forced into it, I would have not known about that interest. Funny how life sometimes works that way.

    7. Besides writing, what do you do to fill your days?

    At the moment I have lots of part time jobs: I take care of people’s kids and pets, do production work for a web design company, review books for a literary scout, and starting in October I will work at a gym as well. I also do a lot of traveling and run a writing group for teen.

    8. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    I’d start with a soup, butternut squash is the current favorite with nutmeg and ground black pepper. Then a vegetable lasagna with lots of cheese. Finished with a not-too-sweet chocolate cake. Washed all down with a glass of fresh whole milk.

    9. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    I don’t discriminate but I do prefer dark.

    For more about Alexandra and Of All the Stupid Things–including upcoming appearances, go to her website.

    Thanks, Alexandra!

  • Writer Wednesday: Leah Cypess

    Posted on September 15th, 2010 Shari 7 comments

    Currently reading: THE ABSOLUTE VALUE OF -1 by Steve Brezenoff (fellow Tenner)

    Another Wednesday! We’re firmly into the school year here and I want to welcome my Class of 2k10 mate and fellow Tenner Leah Cypess to the blog. Her new book, Mistwood is getting great reviews–not the least of which from my niece, who is an avid reader and told me how much she loved the book.

    About Mistwood:

    Mistwood+hc+c

    Everyone tells Isabel that she is the Shifter – the ancient shape-shifting creature who has protected the kings of Samorna for centuries. They need her to be the Shifter. Prince Rokan risked everything when he rode into the Mistwood to summon her to his side; Ven, the magician’s apprentice, has devoted his life to studying her legend; and even Princess Clarisse, who fears and hates her, depends on Isabel’s powers to further her own plans.

    But Isabel doesn’t feel like the Shifter. She feels like a lonely human girl, beset by flashes of memory that do more to confuse than to help her. If she is the Shifter, why can’t she change her shape? Why doesn’t she remember what made her flee the castle so many years ago? As she is drawn deeper into a web of magic and assassination, Isabel will have no choice but to look for answers. But her search will lead her to the one question the Shifter hasn’t faced in a thousand years: where does she come from, and what does she really want?

    About Leah:

    Leah Cypess author photo 1

    Leah Cypess used to be a practicing attorney in New York and is now a full-time writer in Boston. She much prefers her current situation. She wrote her first story when she was six years old (the main character was an ice cream cone), and went on to publish several short fantasy stories in several professional magazines and anthologies, including Sword & Sorceress 23 and Strange Horizons.

    On to the interview:

    1. I’m always in awe of fantasy writers. How did you go about creating the world of Mistwood?

    Thank you! I’m in awe of realistic fiction writers. ;)   I tend to create the world as I write, rather than setting up a construct in advance and then fitting my story into it. Then I go back afterward to firm up the world and shave off the rough edges.  I grew up reading fantasy, so the sort of late-medieval setting comes naturally to me; I’ve also researched a lot of early modern history for a historical novel (one of those ongoing projects you never stop researching), so many of the details were close at hand.  As for the specific touches such as the Mistwood, the magical system, and the days of Challenge, I don’t have a better answer than: I made them up.


    2. Isabel is such a wonderful, strong character. Is she based on anyone specific?

    Nope. Isabel was actually a great character to write because she leaped fully-formed into my mind — I didn’t have to consciously base her on anyone or anything.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    “I just bought a copy!” ;)   I also love it when people say to me, “I don’t normally read fantasy books, but I liked this one.” I’m aware that these days, fantasy doesn’t really need the help; but I still remember being a fantasy-lover when it seemed like no one else was reading it.

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    I got a hand-written letter from a ten-year-old girl who read the book, which I thought was great. I didn’t realize people still wrote hand-written letters!

    5. How do you juggle writing with raising two small children?

    The key for me is that I write by hand. I used to see this as a liability, because it takes so much time to type things up afterward, but now it’s absolutely crucial. I carry notebooks with me everywhere, and whenever my kids are occupied, I whip one out and try to write.  A lot of my schedule is devoted to keeping them occupied – we practically live in the playground during the summer, and I know the location of every indoor childrens gym within driving distance.

    6. I know you’ve done a lot of traveling. What is the prettiest place you’ve ever seen? Where would you like to bring your daughters to see?

    I don’t know if “pretty” is the right word, but Alaska was the most breathtaking place I’ve been to; from Denali National Park, to the glaciers, to the Northern Lights.  I’d love to take my daughters to Israel and show them the Old City of Jerusalem, Masada, the Dead Sea, and the street where their grandmother grew up.

    7. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    Mmm. Okay, I’ll pick quickly and not permit myself to change my mind! Cheese blintzes (those are an appetizer, right?), cheese tortellini, and chocolate-chip cheesecake. (Yes. I am a fan of cheese.)

    8. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    White!


    Anything else you want to add about upcoming appearances, new books, etc?

    I’m currently working on a companion novel to Mistwood, which will be published in 2011.

    Thanks so much for having me on your blog!

    Thanks, Leah!

  • Writer Wednesday: Jacqueline Houtman

    Posted on September 8th, 2010 Shari 5 comments

    Currently reading: FAITHFUL by Janet Fox

    Welcome back to my Writer Wednesday series. I’m going to open up the NY school year (I know many of you have already been back at school for a while) with a book I read in the Spring and really enjoyed: The Reinvention of Edison Thomas and its author my Class of 2k10 mate Jacqueline Houtman.

    ET+coverAbout the book:

    Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can’t read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School. He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can’t stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win.

    When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is haunted by thoughts of the potentially disastrous consequences and invents a traffic-calming device, using parts he has scavenged from discarded machines. Eddy also discovers new friends, who appreciate his abilities and respect his unique view of the world. They help Eddy realize that his “friend,” Mitch is the person behind the progressively more distressing things that happen to Eddy. By trusting his real friends and accepting their help, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.

    Houtman Photo

    About Jacqueline:

    Jacqueline spent way too many years learning to be a scientist (27, if you count kindergarten). The best part of all that school is that some people, especially her parents, now call her Dr. Houtman. In the rare moments she did not spend in the lab, she did theater to feed the rest of her brain. Then she came to her senses and started over as a freelance science writer and editor. She has written for physicians, scientists, and the guy down the street. She is equally comfortable writing for students in Medical School and Middle School, because the writing isn’t really that different. Med students just use bigger words. The writing she enjoys most is “sciency fiction” for kids, where science is integral to the theme and plot but, unlike science fiction, it’s all real. Jacqueline lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her engineer husband and two sciency kids.

    On to the interview…

    1. Tell us about your background and what let you to write The Reinvention of Edison Thomas.

    I went to school for many years to learn to be a scientist. Then, about ten years ago, I started doing freelance science writing. About five years ago, I started writing for middle school-aged kids, mostly stuff for educational markets. I got one assignment to do short fictional pieces with a lot of science content. I loved being able to use dialogue and humor. About that time, I rediscovered middle grade novels. I also read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. That gave me the idea to write a middle grade novel from the point of view of a kid on the autism spectrum. With lots of science, of course.

    2. I love the title. At what point in the process did you come up with it?

    Eddy’s name has always been a part of the title. I came up with the idea for the name from my caller ID. Whenever my friend Doug Kirk calls, the caller ID says it’s Kirk Douglas. So I took the idea of name reversal and ran with it. Eddy’s dad is Jefferson Thomas. He has an Aunt Aquinas, an Uncle Paine, an Uncle Sawyer, and a Grandpa Beckett. For the longest time, the title was The Random Access Memory of Edison Thomas. It wasn’t until I was rewriting the synopsis for the submission that was ultimately acquired that I came up with “Reinvention.” Eddy reinvents both his devices and himself.

    3. What’s the nicest thing someone has said about the book?

    It’s always nice when people say they love the character. And I’ve had a couple of people on the autism spectrum, both adults and teens, say that the portrayal of Eddy’s Asperger’s syndrome was accurate. The most touching thing was that a couple (one of whom is on the spectrum) read it together and it opened up a conversation they had been avoiding for years. It’s one thing to have readers enjoy your book. It’s quite another thing when your book can actually have a positive effect on their lives.

    4. Have you gotten any letters or reader reactions that surprised you?

    Some people have objected to the fact that I never mention Eddy’s Asperger’s syndrome, or that the adults are too unsympathetic. Some have complained that there is too much science. In my opinion you can never have too much science.

    5. I know that you do medical writing. Is it difficult to switch between that and writing fiction?

    Not really. It’s sometimes helpful to switch; it exercises different parts of the brain. But it’s not as different as you might think. There’s a lot of science content in my fiction, and that requires a bit of research. The techniques of science writing and middle grade fiction both require a strong narrative flow and an economy of words. I guess the biggest difference is that in fiction you can make stuff up. That’s frowned upon in medical writing.

    6. Where did you grow up? When you were 15, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    I grew up in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New Jersey. For most of my life, I wanted to be a scientist. I enjoyed the arts, but it never occurred to me that I could make a living at it. Art was for fun, and science was for income. It didn’t occur to me that I could combine them until I was nearly finished with my PhD.

    7. What was your best High School memory?

    My senior year, when I was taking Advanced Biology, the teacher picked four of us to compete in a state competition—a written exam. We were excused from class for a quarter so that we could study together. I felt smart and independent. And we all did really well in the competition and on the AP exam.

    8. Where did you go to college? What was your favorite course there?

    I did my undergrad and master’s at the University of Delaware and my PhD at the University of Wisconsin. My favorite undergrad course was Vertebrate Zoology. I remember especially a unit on how animals use different strategies to do the same thing. Like swim, fly, dig, run. Think about the way an elephant runs versus a cheetah versus a lizard. Completely different mechanics. Just look at the backbones. The elephant’s spine is relatively stable. The cheetah’s bends vertically. The lizard’s bends horizontally. It really opened my eyes to the relationship between structure and function. OK, I’m a geek.

    9. If I told you tonight’s dinner was your last meal ever, what would you request? (appetizer, main course, dessert).

    I’d start with salad with warm goat cheese toast, then pintade (guinea fowl) over homemade pasta with a wild mushroom cream sauce. For dessert, maybe a chocolate crème brulée with a touch of orange peel and Grand Marnier. These are all parts of memorable meals I’ve eaten in France, except I added the chocolate to the orange crème brulée, because I think that would be good. And maybe some fresh strawberries or cherries on the side.

    Jacqueline enjoying pintade in Nice, France

    Jacqueline enjoying pintade in Nice, France

    10. And the important question: Favorite Chocolate–Dark, Milk or White?

    Dark.

    Thanks, Jacqueline. It was great having you over at the blog.

  • New (School) Year’s Resolutions

    Posted on September 7th, 2010 Shari 3 comments

    Currently reading: FAITHFUL by Janet Fox (Class of 2k10 mate)

    It’s 5:45am here. My hubby’s already left for work and it’s almost time to start waking my kids for the first day of school. Like last year, I have 3 kids in 3 different schools, so the send off is pretty drawn out. And right now the year looms ahead of us with nothing but promise.

    My wish for my kids today: that their teachers greet them with “It’s going to be a great year and here’s why,” as opposed to what they sometimes say,  which is “It’s going to be a tough year. I’m going to bust your ba— to toughen you up and make sure you learn.” I’m not sure why some teachers take the latter approach and I can’t imagine a kid that gets inspired by that.

    It was an amazing summer. Some highlights:

    • Seeing Change of Heart on the bookshelves and doing some signings at places like Chapel Hill, NC, Huntington, NY and Bozeman, MT.
    • Bringing my boys to Duke basketball camp and getting to watch them play at Cameron while writing at all sorts of beautiful places around my alma mater’s campus.
    • 3 weeks where the kids were in camp and I not only had all day to work, but the hubby and I had tons of spontaneous, kid-free fun (can you say “Jersey Shore” and “Black Eyed Peas Concert?!”)
    • A trip to Montana and Wyoming with my whole extended family. You all must go see Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

    Great family shot in Tetons

    A few lowlights, too, but in an effort to keep things positive, I’m going to sail over those and try not to think about it.

    As my kids and I hiked Yellowstone and Grand Teton, we had a lot of time to think and reflect on the upcoming year. The kids made some resolutions of their own (some I pushed, like “get away from the XBOX.”), while I thought about how I wanted to approach my days after my one month writing hiatus.

    I think my biggest resolution is to stay focused. It’s too easy to wander around the internet, whether it’s checking the social networking sites or planning my trip for Christmas. I can start a morning like this, look up and suddenly 2 precious hours have passed. And I only get 5 each day (yes, I’m grateful for the 5, but sometimes I feel greedy and wish it was more). I have revisions to do for Book #2, a promising draft of Book #3 I want to continue and of course all the promo I’m itching to do for Change of Heart. Poking around Facebook is not going to advance those goals.

    My other resolution is probably “declutter my house.” But that’s been my resolution since forever and I’m not optimistic. That said, the 40+ people coming to my house in less than 2 weeks might spur me to fulfill it!

    And on a totally different note, I want to shout a big hooray to my fellow Tenner and Class of 2K10 mate Denise Jaden, whose book Losing Faith debuts today. Denise has watched patiently as so many of the other debut books have come out this year and it’s finally her turn. I can not wait to read this one.

    LosingFaith+frontcover+1.21.10

    So tell me, what are your resolutions? (and any tips for focusing would be greatly appreciated!)