Monday, June 27, 2016

Cover Reveal for AND THEN HE, Psychological Thriller by Kim Briggs (yikes, that's me)

Dear Alison,

You talked me into it. I planned to wait to reveal the new, gorgeous cover for AND THEN HE designed by Najla Qamber Designs for a momentous occasion, though I don't know what momentous occasion I was waiting for. The moon landing? Missed that one by fifty years plus or minus. Mardi Gras? Missed that one by four months though some people are probably still celebrating--unfortunately, they're probably not sober enough to read books or comment intelligently on book covers--although there is a lot of drinking and questionable decision making in AND THEN HE. Fourth of July made sense, but my cover though VERY SEXY can't compete with a beer in a red Solo cup and fireworks...

But it is a Monday and it is raining and Fourth of July is seven, I repeat, seven LONG days away, so without further ado, fanfare, or mostly coherent ramblings...

Together the front AND back drip with just the right amount of creep and sexiness....

So.... what do you think? One lucky commenter will win a signed copy!!! Offer ends July 31st.

Write on,


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

See You at ALA or at #ALAac16

Dear Kim,

I know that you are unable to join me at ALA this year, but I wonder if any of our readers will be in Orlando this weekend for the American Library Association’s annual conference? 

I’ll be the girl wandering the aisles of the exhibit hall, wide-eyed and mouth in awe of the new books on display. (That probably describes well over half of the attendees!) I guess new friends should find me at the YALSA booth on Sunday from 11:30-1:30 instead. I'll be more helpful and less moonstruck there. And I'll have pens!

ALA always throws a nice party. They work hard to bring authors and educators together. To celebrate books and learners. To encourage us to think about what needs to happen in our libraries to support our children and teens.

Publishing professionals and seasoned librarians will preview new books and tell us about books that are missing from the shelves of the libraries. I look forward to learning from writers like Amy Lukavics at The Horror! The Horror! Authors Who Write to Scare; and Padma Venkatramen and Leigh Turina at Capturing the Experience of Intersectional Identities; and Varian Johnson, Ashley Hope Perez, and Kelly Starling Lyons at Not Your Granny's Dinner Conversation: Diversity, Race, Sex, and Gender. The exhibit hall, as I mentioned, is a bit overwhelming, luckily there are plenty of small group meet and greets (happy hours) and YALSA award chats to connect with other young adult writers and educators.

While we celebrate books this weekend, in our hearts we all carry the sorrow of the events that shook Orlando this month. There will be a memorial service at the Orange County Convention Center at 8am on Saturday, June 25.  

ALA posted ways that we, as teachers, librarians, writers, illustrators, and publishing professionals, can get involved in the Orlando community during our stay. I hope friends will find the nearest blood bank while at ALA. There will be a OneBlood donation station on Saturday and Sunday at the convention center. They are specifically looking for Double Red Cell donations. Follow the link below to see if you are eligible.

See you in Orlando or on the #ALAac16 thread this weekend.

Much Love,

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Find Beauty Everywhere You Look!

Dear Alison,

Your letter on Tuesday Love and Hope and Children's Books spoke to me in just the way I needed it to. I found love and hope in your letter, and beauty too. Beauty surrounds us, and if we let it, beauty will pull us into a tight embrace.

So Alison, I want to share with you some beauty I discovered during a recent visit to the Museum of Modern Art or MoMA.

The human body in all its forms...

Pablo Picasso's Head of a Sleeping Woman

The swirling dripping beauty of a night...

Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night

The beauty of a memory including all the jagged painful edges because those wounds led us to the path we travel today...
I forgot to take a picture of the artist name plate and I couldn't find it in my searches. If you know it, please leave a comment.
(It reminds me of a book in one of my favorite book and movie series.)
Beauty in all it's complexity even in times of violence and upheaval...

Umberto Boccioni The City Rises

A beautiful reflection...Look in the mirror, you'll find beauty too.

Pablo Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror

One of my most beautiful works in progress...

A budding artist studying the 150 hundred year old sketch book of Edgar Degas 

Beauty surrounds us. May beauty embrace you too. 

Where do you find beauty?

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,

Monday, June 13, 2016

Love and Hope and Children's Books

Dear Kim,

Last week I was asked to comment on a recent book banning that occurred in an elementary school. Part of my reflection included:

"... Yes, at 14, my life was different. No longer was I anxious about settling a drunk mother to sleep or watching her slowly (then suddenly) kill herself. Instead I was worried about taking a t-shirt without asking my new stepsister, aware that little belonged to me in this new house with this new family. The problems weren't equal, but they were still teen worries, anxieties, things that consumed my mind and spread like cancer, eating all other thoughts. 

At school, where people tried to make me memorize the Latin names for chemical elements, or saw me smiling and joining every after school club; people couldn't know how hard I was fighting. Fighting to keep the worries away. Fighting to understand who I was, who I wanted to be, and even if I wanted the gift of life. That fight is not unique. All kids are fighting. They need to know that someone out there understands. Someone like them. Books are the bridge to get those stories into the hands of those fighters..."

The response went on. It had to. I was writing about the importance of mental health and addiction finding ways into children's books and then into classrooms. I sent the comments off on Friday, but if I had to do it again today, after what took place this weekend, it might read differently. 

Saturday I attended the 21st Century Nonfiction Conference. I listened to many sessions about trends in YA Nonfiction. One presentation by librarian and YALSA award chair, Angela Carstensen, as well as ZEST publisher, Hallie Warshaw added books to my TBR pile.

Both speakers shared nonfiction titles for teens. The room buzzed with contributions from other librarians and teachers. I purchased the following titles based on those recommendations:

Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir by Margarita Engle
Laughing at my Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
Being Jazz by Jazz Jennings
Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash
Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir by Colleen Frakes

Angela and Hallie shared many other titles: YALSA winners, Printz winners, ALEX winners, and more. The librarians around me kept returning to the list of memoirs though. They wanted to hear about more memoirs because their teens were hungry to read more. More stories from real voices writing about real life. 

I woke on Sunday thinking about that list of books and how many, many memoirs are still needed. Books about gender and race and identity and sexuality and religion and mental health and disability and love. Real books by real people about real love. Kids need those books. Those stories are out there, waiting to be told. 

Then I opened the news.

There were young adults in Pulse. Young adults who had stories to tell. Young adults who needed to hear stories. Young adults that were taken too soon.

There were brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, friends, and lovers who had stories to tell too. They will never write them. Our kids will never get to hear those voices. 

Sunday gutted me. I am certain you felt it too. What we do next matters.
Find real stories. Help real voices find publishers.
Share memoirs with teens. 
Be good to all communities. The world is filled with caring, hopeful, loving people. 

Much love,


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina

Dear Alison,

Last night, I stayed up late. I was three quarters of the way through Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina, and I wasn’t about to put it down. Sleep could wait. Sleep was for the weak. Nora wasn’t weak. Nora wouldn’t sleep. She would push through blurry eyed and gritted teeth until the end.

Around 2 am, I set Burn Baby Burn on the nightstand and turned off the light with full intentions of waiting until the morning to write my review, but Nora kept me awake. She refused to let me sleep until I poured my emotions onto the page (Or dictated into my phone.)

Image result for person waking person

Imagine Burn Baby Burn on nightstand in the pitch dark. 

Nora's strength blew me away. I’ve always thought strong female protagonists are females who fight, who voice their opinions loudly, who don’t take one iota of crap from anyone. Women like Stiller, Nora’s protest loving neighbor. But Nora’s different. She doesn't fight. She doesn't confront. She possesses a quiet strength that helps her survive a negligent Papi, a traditional Mima, a violent brother who verbally and physically abuses the women of the household (Nora included), and a city lit by fire and gripped with fear over the Son of Sam serial killer.

Nora’s strength grows with each violent act she witnesses. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger,” or if for the less philosophical and more music oriented, Kelly Clarkson’s What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger… 


Nora stops asking her disinterested father for help. She tells him he’s helping. She stops allowing her mom to guilt her into condoning her brother’s violent ways. Nora was strong for her family throughout the novel. By the end, she realizes she needs to be strong for herself.

Alison, as you know, I’m not one for boxes. See I AM AN OCTOPUS POST. In the strictest interpretations Burn Baby Burn is considered Young Adult Historical Fiction, but really it’s timeless. The issues Nora faces happen today. They will happen tomorrow. They will happen forever. Burn Baby Burn is a coming of age for every generation.

I fell in love with Meg Medina at the Pocono Retreat. 

Meg giving her final goodbyes before she dashed off to catch a plane.

Your Highlights post about Meg did a superb job inviting her into our hearts without us even realizing it was Meg we where missing. You and I will be at the Highlights Foundation this September with Meg during her Artist-in-Residency fangirling, I mean, seriously working on our current WIP. Y'all should check it out and join us! 

Psst, Jerry and Eileen Spinelli are coming in September too. The information for their Artist-in-Residency is here.  And lo and behold, while I was prepping this post, I also got this email in my inbox. Destiny? I think so. See you there! 

And make sure you read Burn Baby Burn, then hop on over to write a review. You gotta share the writer love! That's where I'm headed after this! 
BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2


Candlewick Press, March 2016
ISBN 978-0-7637-7467-0
Young Adult, 320 pages



Sharing the writer love one letter at a time,

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Debut Author Bash with Kenneth Logan

Dear Kim,

As I mentioned on Saturday in our 7th grade-picture-tastic post about Brooks Benjamin, my letters to you will return next week. This week is all about featuring debut authors during the 2016 Debut Authors Bash.

Today we welcome Kenneth Logan to the blog and his debut, True Letters From a Fictional Life. He received our letter (below) and wrote back answering our questions about his book. 

Read on.


Dear Kenneth,

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY! We are thrilled to share True Letters From a Fictional Life on our blog on this momentous day! What better than a letter to you, the super cool creator of the book, to celebrate?

Not only is True Letters From a Fictional Life a brave coming out story, it is also the story of an awesome family and true friends. It is a book about knowing who you are at the core and being confident (and supported) enough to live your true self.

You can get your copy here or enter to win a copy from Kenneth in his #Giveaway.

The book’s main character, James, begins the story stuck in a life that he is “supposed” to live. He has a sort-of girlfriend, he hangs with his teammates, he is a good brother, he tries to please his parents. But on the inside James feels trapped. He wonders if he is doomed to live a fictional life forever? Or if maybe, just maybe, he can be honest with himself and the people that he loves.

James sits at his desk and writes letters that he never intends to send. He writes the truth about his feelings in these letters to everyone he cares about: his mother, to that sort-of girlfriend, to other boys, his coach, and even God.

I am a huge fan of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Will Grayson, Will Grayson. In both books there was the added element of email correspondence that I just loved. I hoped that True Letters From a Fictional Life would feed me in the same way the previous titles had. In True Letters, James wrote his hopes, dreams, fears, and wishes. These letters couldn’t provide the write-and-response that I loved in Simon or Will Grayson, but I held on, knowing that there would be a response. SPOILER ALERT: I knew that the letters would get out. James would have to do some face-to-face apologizing and unveiling of his true self. NONFICTION James would finally come to life.

Kenneth, I hope you will tell us more about how you decided on the order of the letters. Why did you start with Mom? I’m dying to know. Why did you include the letters that you did? Was there ever a draft of the book where you started on page one with a letter? I guess you can tell that I want to know everything about the letters and more!

Thank you for the gift of this book. For writing a book with a courageous character like James. Oh, and REX…. Thank you for writing Rex!!

Once again, Happy Book Birthday!
Much love,

P.S. Write Back Soon!

Hi Alison,

I hope other readers share your excitement about my book. Thanks for the kind words. You asked me to write a little bit about James’s letters, so guess which of the following is true:

A. Read backwards, the letters contain messages from Santa.

B. The letters’ supplementary coloring book, My Tears Taste Like Cerulean Blue, will be published later this summer.

C. One of my friends secretly wrote all the letters when we were in high school. I stole them from his desk drawer and have waited years to publish them.

D. There was no particular order to the letters, other than the way they lined up with the plot.

Probably not too hard to figure out which one’s true. So, if you’re reading this post right now, man, I imagine you’re pretty annoyed with me. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve done you a big favor. I’ll take you for ice cream to make up for it. 

Actually, early on, the book was entirely letters. It wasn’t much fun to write, and I’m sure the stilted prose and wandering plot would’ve been even less fun to read. Later, I considered ditching the letters completely, and although I’m glad I scrapped many of them, I do think the remaining ones serve a good purpose: They’re little snapshots of what James really thinks about as a gay kid growing up in a straight world. I hope, anyway, that the letters make two points clear: (1) People don’t choose to be gay, and (2) for some kids, at least in their own heads, the decision to come out means risking the loss of everyone they love. 

I’m 16 or 17 in this photo, hiking (and panting) in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.

For some other kids, the decision to come out seems even heavier than that—it feels like they have to annihilate the person they believed themselves to be. Some of those boys choose to kill themselves rather than live with the shame of being someone so many people hate. I hope the book goes a little ways toward helping readers empathize with kids working up the courage to come out. It will be easier for boys to be honest with themselves and everyone in their lives if being honest doesn’t seem so dangerous.

I started with the letter to James’s mom, in which he expresses doubts about ever marrying a woman, because I think it demonstrates the way that “what’s normal” can be established and enforced through completely innocent, casual, even affectionate comments. The book’s not autobiographical—I grew up in suburban New Jersey, not rural Vermont, I didn’t write anguished letters, and my soccer career peaked when I was ten years old—but I do remember people making offhand remarks about my distant wedding day. I would just go quiet. This happened back when the idea of gay marriage sounded about as realistic as time travel. The fear that I was going to disappoint everyone, to put it mildly, and that I could avoid that humiliation if I just tried harder, was part of what kept me silent for so long. I think that experience is still common for a lot of gay kids, especially the ones who don’t tick the boxes on people’s mental checklist of how gay people behave.

Thanks again for hosting me on your blog, Alison! Hope your summer’s long and relaxing.

Take care,

One winner will be selected at random.