Feel Good, Give Books!

This has been quite a year. Speaking personally, I can say that 2017 has challenged me in ways I wasn’t sure that I could overcome, and yet I’m here, and this year is almost over! YAY! We did it! *high five*

I’d like to celebrate in my very favorite way: by giving books to kids.

If you’re anything like me, one of the best ways to feel good is to give to others, and in that spirit I’m starting a book drive for my sister’s school in North Carolina. My sister is one of those people who believes in kids. She spent ten years teaching and is now training to be an administrator, and I couldn’t be more proud of the work she’s doing to improve her school for her kids.

Now I’m asking for your help to fulfill their wishes, because the truth is, they need books. Badly. Their library doesn’t have a fraction of the books they need, and we can change that!

Here’s the scoop:

“North Johnston Middle School is a Title I school located in the small town of Micro, North Carolina. Our students come from a tight-knit community, which has pride for its rich history.  Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, socio-economic statuses, races, and experiences. 61.5 percent of our 645 student population receive free or reduced lunch on a daily basis. Our Middle School was built recently, but our book collection is extremely out of date.  Currently, the average age of our book collection is 1999 and we have 14.7 items per student.  In order to be deemed a “proficient” collection, we should have 15 items per student and the average age of the collection should be 2004. In order to move our school up to “proficient” we would need to purchase 2,615 additional titles at a cost of $52,300. As a school, we are concentrating on literacy, which is very difficult to do without quality materials. Currently, we have a minuscule budget for our media center and do not have a fraction of the funds needed to properly update our collection. f you or your publishing company are able to support our Middle School students and their access to quality, up-to-date literature, please visit our Amazon Wish List. Thank you for your support!”

Without further ado, here is the wish list link followed by some FAQs about how to BEST help North Johnson Middle School expand and diversify their library collection:

North Johnson Elementary School Book Wishlist

Thank you for your help!!! See below for FAQs.


Here’s my sister in front of a new banner that she painted over the summer for NJMS. She’s holding a meat basket, because that is a thing we gift in the South. :)


Can I donate other books?

Yes, but please only send new or like-new books that will hold up to library use that are appropriate for middle school collections. (ARCs are okay if in great condition!)

Can I send swag?

Yes! The students are going to be surprised and thrilled by this book drive and they would love middle school appropriate swag, to be distributed by the librarian.

What is the mailing address?

North Johnston Middle School
attn: Cindi Pettigrew, Librarian
435 Oil Company Rd
Micro, NC 27555


Here’s my sister, on the left, after getting pie-faced for a fundraiser earlier this year. :)

A nErDcampMI Wrap-up!

13718599_10154143850736253_4348822680987202325_nToday, I’m sitting at my computer wondering what day it is, mainly due to spending the last few days at nErDcampMI, the annual grassroots education summit hosted by Colby and Alaina Sharp in Parma, Michigan. nErDcamp is more than just a literacy event–it’s a meeting of like minded nerds from across the Midwest and the country, all in service of books. So yes, it is basically the best thing ever.

Things I learned at nErDcamp 2016:

  1. I need to work on my selfie game. These educators are ON IT.IMG_1187IMG_1200IMG_1198
  2. The brain power at nErDcamp is something you can feel in the air.


    Kathy Burnette opens NerdTalks

  3. I could listen to picture book author/illustrators talk ALL DAY.


    Deborah Freedman, Greg Pizzoli, and Lauren Castillo

  4. Panels with kidlit authors are the most fun.


    Me with Adam Shaughnessy, Aimee Carter, John David Anderson, Kate Beasley, and Kelly Barnhill

  5. That Mr. Schu really knows how to work a crowd!IMG_1195
  6. I love talking with readers. You guys are the best.13681025_10154143868631253_6737228580914473280_n
  7. Kids are amazing!


    Opening of nErDcamp Jr.

  8. I have major serious face when I teach stuff.


    Teaching a workshop on developing voice through letter-writing with 6th graders.

  9. Volunteers make the world go round.

    Passing out character names for our voice exercise


  10. Once a nerd, always a nerd. Thank you nErDcampMI!!!IMG_1233

For those who are curious, the voice exercise I taught to the 6th graders is based on this post on writing craft that I wrote for Adventures in YA Publishing. The students were each assigned a character (name, age, one-word description) and asked to write a letter from that character to someone else in the character’s life. I asked them to think about who their character might miss, or who they were mad at, or who they needed to share a secret with. The kids all caught on very quickly, and the surprise was that at least three students shared each character prompt, so they also got to see how their writing voices varied as we read their letters aloud.


character prompts



Thyme in the Wild!

Wow! The last couple of months have been a doozy. I’m not sure what I expected to happen after Counting Thyme left the nest, but I think this is one of those situations that you can’t really be prepared for no matter what you do in advance.

There are moments in life that stand out in that regard: living on your own for the first time (you mean I have to FEED myself???), getting your first pet (you mean other people go OUT after work???), and having your first child (still trying to figure out that parenting bit!!!).

The publication of a book shares the same free-falling, exhilarating and also frightening feeling of these other milestones in life, but with one key difference:


Yes, people coo over your dog/cat/baby photos (as required), but there’s something unique about putting a story into the world, I think because you get to share it part and parcel with other people. The story becomes an experience for readers, and in that way it belongs to them. When we read stories, we discover each other. We find common ground. And hopefully, we grow, so that we can figure out some of this other stuff going on in our lives.

Thank you to everyone who has been in touch by email, snail mail, social media and in real life. I’m astounded by the wonderful images and notes you’ve shared with me, so today I’m sharing them, with my deepest thanks. :)

in the wild

Launch Week is a Wrap!

Wow, y’all! This past week (or two) has been an amazing experience. After meeting so many enthusiastic young readers and hearing from so many incredible educators, I am filled with a great love for the bookish people of the world. I had so many incredible first time experiences, from attending the LA Times Festival of Books to author visits with over 400 students, and I learned so much.

I learned that book festivals are AMAZING events full of passionate readers!


I learned that Rebecca Stead and Leila Howland are both WONDERFUL humans.


I learned that everything is better with friends and family (and wine)!


I learned that cakes can look like books and taste AMAZING, too!


I learned that there are Good Cookies everywhere!

good cookies

I learned that students are the most wonderful audience you will ever have.


I learned that I can answer book questions ALL DAY.


I learned that my local bookstore really IS the best place in the world.

words pic

I learned that launch parties are as much of a whirlwind as a wedding reception.


I learned that books come in cookie form, too!

Book Cookies

I learned that I *can* sign names without miss-spelling them, even while people talk!DSC_1985DSC_1931And even though this first stretch of parties and book events is over, I’ve learned that the journey for Counting Thyme is just beginning. I love all of the pictures, letters, and messages I’m receiving. Keep them coming! Soon, I’ll share an opportunity for young readers to celebrate the theme from Counting Thyme of valuing what every individual brings to the world.


Thank you ALL for taking this ride with me! I can’t wait to see where we go next.

The Book Trailer is Live!

Yay! I’m so excited that the book trailer for Counting Thyme is live! Please visit Mr. Schu’s wonderful blog for the big reveal and enjoy!!!

shooting trailer 2

A picture from the set.

Momcology Reads Counting Thyme!

One of the most amazing parts of this author journey is connection. This week, I’ve been lucky to connect with fabulous students across the country via Skype for Word Read Aloud Day 2016, and I am also honored to share an early preview of Counting Thyme with Momcology! Momcology is a nonprofit organization that focuses on connecting parents for pediatric cancer caregiver support and information sharing. What a wonderful thing, made possible by the amazing folks at Penguin. My heart is full.2504_963962976990121_109992501854707369_n

Love is a New Book!

I’m thrilled to share that I’m participating in Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s #MGAuthorsLoveTeachers Giveaway! If you’re not familiar with it, in short Lynda is awesome and has taken the lead on a massive book giveaway to show our appreciation to teachers and librarians and the essential work they do with young readers. Make sure you pop over to Lynda’s blog for your chance to win an INCREDIBLE list of signed middle grade books–including so many of my favorite authors!


Thyme Makes the List!

nerdy_10list3I still can’t believe this happened! I’m such a fan of the Nerdy Book Club. It means so much to me to see Thyme’s story shared with their readers. YAY!

I’m on Nerdy Books Today!

One of my favorite kidlit blogs out there is the Nerdy Book Club. This a club for everyone who loves books, young and old. Some of my very favorite authors have been featured on the Nerdy Book Club, and today I join their ranks! I’m so excited to share a post on using Book Talk to make reading a fun social activity at the dinner table or in the classroom. As part of the post, I’ve created a special new doodle. If you’d like to download a print-quality version, you can do so here.

nerdy mel

Change is in the Air!

I love fall. I love October. I LOVE HALLOWEEN. (I do not love pumpkin spice, but that’s a whole other discussion!)

There’s something about the crisp fall air that makes me feel invigorated. On one level, I’m freezing because my house is a hundred years old and made of holes, but on a more philosophical level fall feels like a season of change to me, more than any other. Yes, you have the leaves changing and kids are going back to school, but there’s also a general gathering of momentum towards next year.

This year, I feel it even more so than usual. I’m in the midst of doodle-note-taking for my next middle grade novel (!!!) while preparing for the release of Counting Thyme. As a debut, this impending release can feel super overwhelming at times. There are reviews posting daily, trade reviews looming in the near future, marketing efforts to plan and execute…and all of that paired with an underlying sense of joy: the book belongs to readers now.

Wow! What a humbling, terrifying, and exhilarating thought!

For now, I return to drafting the next book and preparing a new website (which will launch in November!). Counting Thyme comes out April 12, 2016, but there is a giveaway for Advanced Reader Copies on Goodreads, for any and all who are interested. Happy fall!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

Counting Thyme

by Melanie Conklin

Giveaway ends October 08, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway