Today I un-killed one of my characters. His name is Joe and he’s pretty minor as characters go, but now he is un-dead. (Not one of the undead; just not dead.)

The world I’m building, in a fictional town in Virginia, is currently still under my control. In the real world, real kids are being shot and a click of the keyboard is not going to revive them. Select/delete will not erase a funeral.

As authors, we reflect real life, even in fantasy. Which means that often, we do write about death. People die. People grieve. A death in a story shows what it takes for other characters to rise up and endure. So there may be times when I have to kill a character, let the cancer invade more cells, let the car hit the cat, let the bullet find a target.

But not this week dammit.

Not this week.

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Whenever I do an interview for an article, I always call it a “conversation.” I find it puts the subject more at ease than if I say, “I want to interview you about …”

This post, from Marjorie Ingall at Tablet Magazine, is a true conversation. Wendy and I had so much fun talking to her.


And as long as I’m posting about media appearances, here’s me on television (virtually) out in Texas during the one World Read Aloud Day visit that had technical difficulties. I thought the reporter did a great job putting this together, actually.


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The shape of chocolate

I was sitting at the kitchen table (which is reeseplainin the dining room because our kitchen isn’t really big enough for a table) doing some prep work for a school visit. It was right after Halloween, so I was also raiding my daughter’s candy.  I found what I was looking for and bonus! The package was a twofer. So I set one peanut butter cup on top of my book while I gobbled ever-so-daintily ate the other. And that’s when I noticed it: A peanut butter cup is the SAME SIZE AND SHAPE as an award sticker.

Award season can be hard for some of us. Though we are genuinely cheering the winning books (we’re big fans, too!) this is also the time of year the self-doubt comes creeping back. At least for me.

My favorite thing to read during award season is Kate Messner’s poem, What Happened to Your Book Today. You should read it, too. Out loud. Because everything in it is true. Maple syrup stains on a book? Those are stickers. Dog-eared pages? Affirmation. But this week, maybe what your book needs is a little something extra. A tangible reminder that says: YOU DID IT! YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK! A REALLY GOOD BOOK AND SOMEBODY OUT THERE LOVES IT. This week, maybe what your book needs is a peanut butter cup (or this version, for those of you with food allergies).

You deserve it. Because your book is awesome, my friend. Pretend the chocolate is from me. Or from that kid over there, the one who read your book three times through already. Or maybe the chocolate is from you, introvert you, hopeful you, proud you, author you. And after you eat that chocolate (you know you’re gonna) take that surge of energy and GO WRITE SOMETHING BRILLIANT.




Why stop at one, really?





Posted in anxiety, awards, chocolate, kidlit | 1 Comment

Children’s Choice!

Starting on March 1, voting will begin for the Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards.

Wendy and I are super psyched that This is Just a Test is one of five finalists in the 5th and 6th grade category. The full list is here.



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Sydney Taylor

This is my copy of All-of-a-Kind Family, the first in a series of books by Sydney Taylor. I loved this book as a kid and I still show it off when I visit schools. Because when I discovered this book, I felt like I’d finally found characters who were exactly like me.

allofakindAnd, okay, they lived on New York’s Lower East Side and I lived in Blacksburg, Virginia. And they were five sisters and I had a little brother. They were in the early part of the 20th century; I was a child of the 70s and 80s. And they were poor and we had enough. But they were Jewish, like me, and it was the first time I’d met other Jewish girls in literature. Coming from a spot in the U.S. where there were very few Jewish kids, finding Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte and Gertie meant everything.



So Wendy Shang and I were thrilled when we found out we were receiving a Sydney Taylor honor for THIS IS JUST A TEST. The sticker has Sydney Taylor’s name on it. It’s a circle — and this does have that “full circle” feel And it’s silver, which seems especially apt: Sydney Taylor’s book was my very first mirror.

Wendy and I hope that our book, about a Chinese-American-Jewish kid named David, coverstick will do the same thing for other middle-grade readers that All-of-a-Kind Family did for me. We hope that all kids see themselves in David, of course. But we especially hope that kids who haven’t seen themselves before will open the book and say: Here I am! Even if David grew up in the 80s and they’re growing up now. Even if David’s grandmothers are at war with one another and their grandmothers are not. Even if David is a master of trivia and they are masters at soccer. Even if David was afraid of a nuclear war and they are — oh.

We hope they’ll see themselves as a part of the literary world and know that their stories matter. And we hope that they’ll tell them.

Thanks so, so much to the Association of Jewish Libraries and to the Sydney Taylor Committee. Thanks to Lisa Sandell and everyone at Scholastic, and a big shoutout to Chris Danger for his distinctive artwork. And thank you, Sydney Taylor.

For a list of all of the books honored (congratulations, everyone!) visit the Association of Jewish Libraries.

To order THIS IS JUST A TEST, call your favorite Indie or my favorite Indie. You can also order online.





Posted in awards, diverse books, judaism, this is just a test, Uncategorized | Leave a comment