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 Our Middle School was built recently, but our book collection is extremely out of date.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. :)

How to Get the Most out of an Author Visit

It’s back-to-school season, which means both traditional-calendar educators and authors are getting back to work. It’s an exciting but draining time of year. New kids are awesome but exhausting, and educators are trying to get everything in place for a successful school year, including author visits.

Every time I speak with educators at conferences, the subject of author visits always comes up. How do you arrange one? How do you deal with the money part? What about selling books? Arranging an author visit can seem intimidating at a glance, so today I’m going to break down how to go about arranging an author visit and how to have a successful visit on the day-of. Like everything in school, success depends heavily on the work done in advance.

How to Find an Author for a Visit

One of the questions I hear regularly is: how do you find authors for an author visit? I think this really means how do I connect with authors or find authors who are local to me, but first I’ll address the larger question of how to find authors to invite for a school or library visit.


Mock Newbery Clubs are a great way to discover authors & spur passion for reading.

First, keep a list of the books you really love. If you’re anything like me, it can be hard to remember what you read yesterday, much less last year. Also, regularly solicit favorite books from students and keep a list of those authors and books handy, too, for when you’re trying to think of authors to invite to a school or library. I use Goodreads to track what I read, but you can also use Library Thing or Reader Tracker. Tracking your reading can also help you identify areas where you are under-read to broaden and diversify your reading life.

Another way to find authors who live in or visit your area is by contacting your local bookstores. A relationship with a local bookstore will not only identify opportune moments to invite a visiting author, but will also help you execute your author visit with ease when it comes to ordering books. Attend local book festivals, book signings, and readings to make connections with authors from your area, and ask for author recommendations through your local Library Associations. There are also booking agencies such as The Booking Biz, Provato Events, and Phil Bidner’s recently announced Author Village. If you are interested in arranging a virtual author visit, author Kate Messner maintains a list of authors who Skype for free (more on Skypes below).

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You can also find authors by connecting on social media. Authors love connecting with readers. No really, they do! How do you connect? If you read an author’s book and love it, tag them in a tweet or Instagram or FB post. Many authors will respond, and even if they don’t, they are sure to be smiling. Then, when you reach out to inquire about an author visit, you can introduce yourself by mentioning that you recently tagged them about loving their book, which gives you a nice segue. I’m socially anxious about reaching out to people I don’t know, so I understand the feeling!

How do you reach out once you’ve found an author whom you would like to invite? It’s simple: email or use the contact form on their website. That’s what the websites are there for! Authors and their reps are happy to hear from you. It’s okay to write with questions or rate inquiries. Your questions are not a burden. Just remember to be respectful of the author’s time by replying to their communications. No one likes to be left hanging!

The Money Part

Now let’s talk about the biggest stumbling block for many schools: funding. Author visits are so valuable for students, but it can be challenging to communicate that value to administration and parents. If you find yourself needing to justify the expense of an author visit, here are some key points to support your argument:

  • Author visits inspire children’s writing. Seeing how hard an author works draws direct parallels with student life and fills students with confidence. Seeing how an author generated the story can spark student imagination, and getting to know the author makes writing more aspirational and attainable, from idea to revision to final draft.
  • Presentations can complement school curriculum. When you are seeking an author, look to see if their presentations fulfill specific learning objectives. If you need to cover a particular topic, ask the author if they can do a presentation on that topic. They probably already have! This way, your author visit does not take away from scheduled learning time.
  • Author visits promote reading. All students, and especially reluctant readers, benefit from hearing the inside scoop on how a story becomes a book. Hearing about the author’s struggles allows the students to connect directly with the narrative and understand why the author made the choices they did. This supports making predictions and inferences, and other good reading traits.
  • The creative process can seem magical and unreachable, but authors are ordinary people. When a student meets an author, they are better able to visualize themselves as creators. Students will learn that the strongest trait of a writer is persistence, and that their dreams are worth following. Author visits have the power to change lives.

Melanie Conklin #8

Some schools hold specific fundraisers to support their annual author visits. PTAs are often eager to support such events, but it is best to get the ball rolling early so you aren’t short on time. Read-a-thons or write-a-thons are great fundraisers that tie in. Bookfairs are also a good opportunity to incorporate fundraising for an an author visit. Partnering with local community organizations such as Kiwanis, Friends of the Library, and Rotary can also be successful, and once you get on their list of causes to support, you’re more likely to receive funding in the future. If your school qualifies for Title I funds, you may be able to apply some of that funding to an author visit. There are also quite a few grant opportunities available for arts education, which you can read more about here.

There are also ways to partner with authors to reduce your expenses. Many authors are happy to connect with multiple schools in a district, and will offer a discount for booking multiple events. This is especially helpful if you need to pay travel expenses. Connect with other schools in your district and also with the local libraries, which may have funds to support an author visit. It might seem reasonable to ask an author to waive their fee in exchange for book sales, but most authors only make about $1 for each book sold (after they earn out their advance, which may never happen). Even if you sold 100 books, that’s less than $100 in the author’s pocket. Publishers do not pay authors to go to school visits, and most authors can’t afford to do visits for free, though some donate one or two visits per year. Negotiating rates is a reasonable thing to do if your offer is reasonable. It can be tough to talk money, but when in doubt, ask!

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Skype visits are a great option if you have a limited budget. As mentioned above, some authors Skype for free. These visits are usually around 20 minutes long and limited to Q&A about the author’s work. Some authors charge a nominal fee for Skypes, and most charge for longer Skypes that include a presentation. If you have not Skyped before, it’s as easy as making a phone call or Face-timing! Google hangouts are another option. Make sure to do a test run with someone off site prior to your Skype date, to make sure your speakers and microphones are working.

The key to funding author visits is setting your goal well in advance, so that you have time to get the funds in place. An annual tradition such as a penny drive can support having author visits every year.

Selling Books at an Author Visit

Book sales might seem daunting to arrange, but kids need this opportunity to connect with the author and translate their excitement from the visit into reading and writing. Selling books is not the primary goal of an author’s visit, but they want kids to have this special moment. Here are some book sale tips to help make the process as stress-free as possible:

  • Ask if the publisher has a school visit program. Some publishers, like Penguin, will ship books to the school for free, sell them at a reduced rate, and accept all returns with free shipping as well. The only thing you must do to take advantage of such programs is start early. You need plenty of time, usually 6-8 weeks–to arrange for participation in these programs.
  • Ask your local independent bookseller to manage the sales. Often, indies can provide a reduced price for larger orders of books or books going to schools. Sometimes, there can even be a fundraising component to the book sales. Approach stores early for best results.
  • Send home fliers well in advance (2 weeks minimum), and then send them again on the day the author visits. Most authors can leave signed stickers (called book plates) for the books that are purchased after the author visit. No author wants to leave a child without a signed copy!
  • Plan for signing time during the author’s visit. Sometimes it is convenient to have the kids bring their books by the library during lunch, or to leave 5-10minutes at the end of each presentation for signing. Do not underestimate the power of meeting an author for just a minute and getting a book signed. Coordinating signings isn’t always easy but it is worth it!
  • Ask your PTA to get volunteers to handle book sales. Often checks can be made out to the PTA, which can pre-pay for the books or pay the balance after sales are complete. Collecting payment for books is no different than collecting payment for a field trip, and it means so much to the kids.
ECES signing

Yes, we posed for this photo! :D

How to Have a Successful Visit

Once you’ve found an author and agreed on a rate, it’s time to prep for your visit. First of all, make sure there is a written agreement in place that protects both parties from unforeseen circumstances. Most authors will provide an agreement letter or contract. Read your contract carefully to plan for the equipment you may need for the visit: a projector, a remote control, a white board, a drawing pad, or other supplies. Also consider when and where you will distribute bookmarks if the author is providing them, and make sure you have all the necessary paperwork (such as background checks) in place.

KES Mock Newbery

The most important part of prepping for an author visit is getting the students engaged and excited. Make sure you have multiple copies of the author’s books available in the library, and book talk the books with each class. Many authors have electronic previews of their books to introduce the title to students, so be sure to ask. Reader’s guides can offer samples and activities to do in connection with the visit, and authors love to see student work based on their books, be that biographies, book reviews, or artwork. Students can even use their work to introduce the author at the event.

Skype questionsHave students prepare questions for the author ahead of time. This can be a fun activity where each class votes on their preferred questions as a group. Be sure to connect with the author on social media to build enthusiasm and post information about the upcoming visit where parents and staff will see the news and in e-blasts. Some schools even invite parents to come to the author’s presentation, which makes a nice full-circle moment for families.

Mock Newbery clubs are also a great way to get parents involved. Parents and students can each read the books selected by your club and join in discussions. Incorporating an author visit or Skype with a Mock Newbery author can be really inspiring for both kids and adults.

Logistically, it’s important to plan your itinerary for an author visit carefully, with time for classes to switch out, sign books, and maybe even eat lunch with their visiting author! Authors will also appreciate having a place to take a short break and guzzle some snacks in between presentations.

More than anything, authors want visits to schools and libraries to be inspirational and fulfilling for everyone involved. You can trust that they are preparing for the visit as much as you are. We share a common goal: literacy engagement. By the time the author visit arrives, the whole school will be buzzing in anticipation, and afterward the enthusiasm will last for weeks. That is the value of an author visit.

Happy planning to all!


When Back-to-School means Middle School

I grew up in the woods. Our house wasn’t isolated in the middle of the Blue Ridge mountains or anything, but it was at the end of a court on a five acre wooded property. I spent my summers in those woods, hunting crawdads and tadpoles and anything else that moved. My sister and I operated out of our clubhouse, which we decorated with paints we made from different colors of clay in the creek bed. We “cooked” all kinds of “food” for our poor old labrador, most of it from grass and acorns. Children are the ultimate foragers, and in the woods, we were content.

But summers end, and by about mid-August it was time to go back to school. I loved school. Learning from my teachers was heaven and homework was my jam. Elementary school was fun overall. I had friends and sleepovers and spats, but nothing too serious. Then it was time for middle school.


I remember showing up at the building that first morning and feeling so intimidated by the school’s three stories. My primary and elementary schools had been single story buildings that were pretty easy to navigate, thanks to being quite small. Both have since been significantly expanded, and when I drive by the buildings I always think about how much more those children have to be prepared for these days.

Middle school turned out to be impossible to prepare for.

First of all, there was the gigantic, open common area where kids gathered in the morning as they arrived on the school buses. The commons was just a foyer, really, but having the freedom to wander wherever I wanted was uncomfortable for me. I craved rules and directions and teachers who told you exactly where to stand and what to do. Middle school had a whole lot less of that, which left me unsettled.

Without the rules, I didn’t really know where I belonged. All the other kids seemed to have it figured out. They rushed around, smiling and giggling, shouting with each other in clusters around the commons, grouped around benches or sitting boldly in the middle of the floor. I wasn’t without friends, but even standing with them I felt unmoored. All of that freedom was overwhelming.


I remember the way it felt, walking in each morning from the bus with my friends. Would we sit on the same bench again that day? Would they think my story about my little sister cutting off her doll’s hair was funny? Or would this be the day that my friends stopped talking to me? That kind of thing happened all the time in middle school. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, in between battles to force my hair into place with ridiculous amounts of hairspray.


Looking back, I don’t see what I was so worried about, with my friends or my hair. Both were fine, really! It was just so easy to obsess over something new every day, from how tight to roll my jeans to whether or not to wear a bra. There were so many new things to learn about and tough decisions to make. Sometimes, being eleven is just so much.

For all the kids facing their first day of middle school: your feelings are valid. Middle school really is a big deal. Adults can be quick to dismiss middle school “drama,” but the truth is that you are growing up, and that is no small achievement.

You will find your place. I promise.

Change is Hard

The longer you write, the more you see yourself returning to the same themes, over and over again, like a river slowly carving its way through rock. Certain ideas are pebbles that catch in your mind. Over time, they become smooth and polished, but the process is long and hard.

There’s something rewarding about returning to the same themes, though. Discovering that you still have something left to say after feeling like you said it all the previous time is a small miracle indeed. Writing a book can feel like exhausting your soul. In the end, is there anything left? Fortunately the answer always seems to be yes, though time is required to unlock the reserves and discover new treasures. We may return to familiar territory time and again, but seen through different eyes, it’s a whole new world.

I find that I’m drawn to the same familiar paths in my reading life as well. I read widely, and I am fortunate in that regard. Between my wonderful women’s fiction book club (shout-out to the Novel Bites!), my library, my kid’s various projects and my ever-expanding home library, I end up visiting all kinds of stories, both real and imaginary. But even when my reads seem varied, there are often these subtle (or not so subtle) connections to theme.

A big one for me is change.

Change is hard. It’s always been hard for me, and I imagine it always will be. I am slow to adjust to a new direction. I feel unmoored. Shaken. My internal compass is a slow and tedious device that lags far behind the pace of the real world. Or maybe it’s just that I’m an introvert. :)

Change has been a theme in my reading of late. You could argue that every story is ostensibly about change, but these are some of my recent reads that really knocked this particular theme out of the park:


Wish by Barbara O’Connor


Being Fishkill by Ruth Lehrer


Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Spring Cleaning

This weekend, we cut down a tree in our yard to make space for a new fence.

I knew this work was happening, yet when I pulled into the driveway and saw the tree trunk lying there on the lawn, limbs chopped away and leaves stripped, my heart dropped a little bit. This wasn’t an old tree, or even one we had planted. It was just a young tree that had taken root on its own, and sadly in the wrong spot.

Still, it hurt to cut the tree down, as it hurts to end any life, even that of an ant or a fly. I wasn’t the kind of child who killed insects arbitrarily. Usually, I sought to re-home them, returning them to where they belonged and myself to where I belonged so that we could each live on in harmony, our worlds separate and yet part of a greater whole.

What’s interesting about the idea of re-homing or relocating is that it can be applied to writing. When we write, we don’t usually put the words in the right order the first time. And yet, it can feel as bad as cutting down a tree to erase some of our hard-fought words. It’s very hard to throw your work away.

Childhood me would say it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if instead of erasing, instead of deleting or removing or throwing away, we just re-homed our words? Relocation is so much more palatable than extermination.

Removing a part of your work is still difficult no matter what you do with the words, but in the instance of relocation the pain seems to diminish. It’s not quite so gutting to take your words and place them aside, in a file or a pile or a folder where you know they will live on safely while you move forward in your own space, the space you have made within your work for improvement by setting the old words aside.

This spring, as we bring in the new, consider (rather than throwing away), setting aside the old for a later date or another time, even if that time may never come. Sometimes freedom is not in the outcome of our actions, but in the act of breaking away.

Sometimes, all we need is a bit of space in order to gain a fresh perspective.

Happy Spring, and happy writing to you all!




The Key to our Hearts is Truth

Every author dreams of making a meaningful connection with their readers. We crave the phrases that make your hearts clench, that stir your deepest fears and unleash your wildest hopes. What is the point of reading if not to FEEL? As a reader, I feel deeply. As an author, I strive to make my readers feel deeply, too, but communicating a meaningful observation about the human experience is not just a matter of  heart–it’s a question of writing craft.

While there are many aspects of writing craft that help the reader connect with a story–voice, clarity, and meter, to name a few–today I’d like to discuss truth, and how delivering a story that rings true entices the reader to fall in love. Our hearts seek truth. In life, that’s our common goal: truth in purpose, in love, and in legacy. Without truth our victories ring hollow and our accomplishments feel thin.

The same is true of stories.

Truth in fiction requires all the complexity and nuance of life. If we leave our stories less than fully rendered, they cannot deliver the same gut-rending impact of real life events. It is our goal to make our stories connect, but how? In order to generate the sensation of truth in a fictional work, we need many different ingredients of story craft working together to create a semblance of reality. For me, the key components of this reality are specificity (or detail), originality, and complexity.


Think of what you ate for breakfast. Say you had an English muffin. It’s easy to dilute your action into a simple expression such as, “I had an English muffin for breakfast,” but that’s not particularly engaging to read, now is it? We know the facts, but only at the summary level. There is nothing specific about this action that compels us to care about what you had for breakfast. Our hearts are not inspired.

If instead, we heard about how chilly the kitchen tiles were beneath your bare feet, and how you sat opposite another place-setting, its plate empty but for a scant coating of dust, we begin to wonder. We’re comforted by the warmth of each buttery bite of English muffin, but we sense an underlying sadness from that empty place. What happened to you? What is your story?

As soon as you have the reader asking questions, you’ve got them. They ask because they care. When the heart is engaged, we can’t help worrying, wondering, and waiting. Our hearts demand answers. In order to give them to your readers, you must first get them to ask the questions by including meaningful detail in each moment of the story. If your moment has no meaningful detail, cut it. We only wish to read that which engages our hearts fully and leaves us turning the pages in search of answers. Meaningful details make a scene come to life. Without them, our story is no more real than a cardboard cutout.

Here’s a wonderful example of detail from Claire Legrand’s Some Kind of Happiness:


These details about Finley’s father give him a specific and very real identity. He is a human being composed of a million odd parts, and here, Legrand gives us one to latch onto. Now we know him, and once known to us, we cannot help but care about him.


I’ve been reading Cheryl Klein’s amazing writing craft book, The Magic Words, and in it she talks about how important imagination is to a writer’s craft. Imagination is flexibility. It is surrendering oneself to creativity with the full knowledge that you will fail many, many times before you succeed. It is knowing that you will feel pain, frustration, sorrow, and fear from those many failures, and that when the answer comes, it may be with a greater measure of relief than true joy. The imagination is a fickle, dangerous thing. It takes a brave writer to use it, and use it well.

I’ve shared this video from John Cleese many times, but it always warrants sharing again! Have a laugh and a listen. My favorite quote: “Creativity is not a talent; it is a way of operating.”

The first time I listened to this video, I was gobsmacked by Cleese’s underlying message that creativity is a tolerance for failure–literally a tolerance for that twisting, anxious uncertainty that fills your gut when you’re searching for an answer.

The people who generate the most creative answers are very good at getting themselves into a particular mood in order to access their imagination, and then tolerating that awful sensation until they solve the problem at hand. This tolerance is the only thing that will get you to truly unique, original ideas. This matters because ideas that strike the reader as unique also ring with truth.

Ideas that we’ve seen many times before are cliche. They’re stereotypes. They’ve got a negative connotation that’s impossible to shake no matter how strong your voice or meter is. Fresh ideas, however, engage the reader’s imagination. They offer something new, something to understand and learn from–they offer new truths about the world that we have not yet discovered, and there is nothing more exciting for readers than discovery. After all, it is our life’s work to discover the truths of our existence.

Much the same way that detail makes a character or scene come alive, originality allows a premise to flourish in the reader’s mind. An original premise, an original expression of metaphor (see Lindsay Eager’s Hour of the Bees), an original turn of phrase, an original emotional insight, or an original connection to a commonly held belief–these fresh moments enthrall the reader and make it impossible for them to turn away.


Let’s go back to that English muffin from this morning. Details allow us to connect with this breakfast in a particularly meaningful way, but we can get even more mileage from this scene if we understand the layers of decision-making that led to it. It’s easy to get caught up in plot and end up with a story that reads A to B to C and so on, but without much real excitement no matter how daring the plot points are. Telling a story is not about describing a sequence of events, but showing your character’s choices as they move through the events.

Did I choose to eat the English muffin even though it’s the last one in the fridge and my husband will likely lose his temper and possibly strangle me for it? That’s a much more important breakfast than before. Similarly, if eating the English muffin reminds me of someone I’ve lost but I do it anyway, my choice is a mix of joy and pain, which is both contradictory and true.

Choices ARE messy. They don’t happen in an instant–even in an instant, half a dozen thoughts can tear through a character’s mind. Their choices aren’t simple. They’re complex. The reader needs to SEE this complexity in order to feel the character’s truth, because no human makes quick, clean choices and no character should either.

Here’s another example from Some Kind of Happiness:


Here, we see Finley’s full range of reasoning as she decides whether or not to visit the Everwood, the imaginary forest that has become real at her grandparent’s home, and is 100% off-limits. Finley doesn’t hide her thoughts from us. She confesses. She shares her deepest secrets. We see her worries about getting caught for breaking the rules. We see her concern for her cousin. We see her burgeoning desire to be someone needed and loved purely for what makes her unique. These truths all feed into her decision, and by showing them to us, Legrand wins our hearts.

My favorite rule of thumb to generate complexity within a character’s choices is to follow this pattern of decision-making:IMG_0041

First, the character feels. Then they think of their options. They anticipate what might happen if they make the wrong choice (or the right one). And finally, they make their decision.

This doesn’t mean that we need to see each of these steps with each choice our character makes–that would result in a novel far too long and tedious to capture anyone’s heart! Instead, pick the KEY moments. Where does your character need to reveal a deep fear? A wild hope? A secret desire? Allow us to peek behind the curtain of your character’s choices and we will feel the warm blush of a friend sharing a secret.

When a character trusts us, we care for them. We root for them.

We love them.

Thank You

As 2016 draws to a close, I have a lot to be thankful for. At the beginning of the year, I started an accomplishment jar. This is where I’ve captured a lot of the special moments from this year, so I can revisit them in the future. I’m grateful for every single one.


Thank you to the amazing educators who shared THYME’s story. You are wonderful and necessary and your work matters SO much.



Thank you to the dozens of classrooms I have visited via Skype across the country.


Thank you to the schools who kindly hosted me and the kids who asked such great questions. There is nothing like speaking to a room full of eager book nerds.


Thank you to the festival and #nErDcamp organizers who work so tirelessly to bring books and authors to their communities.


Thank you to the readers. My heart swells three sizes with every note.



Thank you to the libraries. You are essential.


Thank you to the independent book stores. You are the heartbeat of our communities.


Thank you to my writing family. You were the friends I needed before I knew that I needed you.


Thank you to the brave authors who continue to stand for what is good and true in this world. I am proud to stand with you.


Thank you to everyone who supported me this year. Writing is a team sport, and I couldn’t have done it without you. I wish you all the best in 2017!


Giving Books & Talking Books

This year I tried something new for Halloween. Well, technically these somethings were old to me, but new to everyone who took them home: TRICK OR TREAT BOOKS!

I’m a huge candy fan, so yes, there was still candy to go with the books, but as I handed the candy out, I told the kids that if they saw a book they liked, they could take it!


Some of my favorite reactions:

  • The 3yo Supergirl who promptly handed her candy basket to her dad, sat on my front steps, and started reading Elmo’s Christmas.
  • The girl with cat whiskers who squealed when she grabbed The Seventh Wish.
  • The boy who slyly nabbed a book with a bunny on the cover and stuffed it into his bucket after his friends left.
  • The teens who didn’t take books, but surprised me by telling me what they were reading: Rick Riordan, Harry Potter, and The Color Purple, among others.

On the subject of talking books, Counting Thyme is on a podcast! The Power of Story is a great new book podcast by Caitlin Lore. Be sure to check out all of her episodes!

What to Read Next?

Over the summer I had a conversation with some of my favorite educators on Twitter about contemporary middle grade stories that pair well with Counting Thyme. I’m a huge fan of many of the books they suggested, so I’m sharing them here today. If you or your students loved THYME, your next favorite read could be one of these great books!

Rules by Cynthia Lord


The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart


Out of my Mind by Sharon M. Draper


So B It by Sarah Weeks


Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick


The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop


The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner


A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban


The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin


Thanks to my wonderful Twitter peeps for helping me put this list together (shout-out to the #bookjourney crew)! I love read-alikes, which give us such a great opportunity to make connections across characters and stories. Feel free to share your faves and recommendations in the comments below. And if you’ve read THYME, don’t miss the reader participation campaign that launched this week!

Read on!



Goodbye, Summer


This summer offered up a surprise for me. I experienced the joy of seeing Counting Thyme on summer reading lists around the country–something I hadn’t really anticipated in the way that all authors fail to anticipate their books’ lives beyond the manuscript phase. It’s been a truly incredible thing, and I was fortunate to write about the experience on The Booklist Reader, which you can read here.