Saturday, June 4, 2016

Debut Author Bash with Brooks Benjamin: Book Review, 7th Grade Class Pictures, and #Giveaway

Dear Kim,

You know how much I love writing (and receiving) my weekly INK SISTERS letter. This week, however, we must stop the presses. Hold our quills in the air and roll out the welcome mat. This week, Dear Kim, we share our blog with two new writers from the 2016 Debut Author Bash.

Follow the Debut Author Bash on Twitter at #16DABash

The 2016 Debut Author Bash is a month-long party celebrating new authors. Today we welcome author, Brooks Benjamin to the blog. Brooks teaches reading and writing by day and is a brilliant author by night. (Maybe not so much "by night", but "by weird hours that fit around a crazy teacher schedule" just doesn't have the same ring.) His first novel, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS (Delacorte/Random House) hit the shelves this spring.

I learned about the book during the winter of 2013/2014 when Brooks and I participated in #PitchWars. His humorous and heartwarming middle grade novel was a favorite. With a few years between #PitchWars favorite and publication, I remembered Brooks and pre-ordered MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS as soon as possible. Then I somewhat patiently waited for it to arrive.

Pick up your copy here or enter the #Giveaway below.

The wait was totally worth it. This book is everything Brooks promised during the contest, and more. Dillon Parker is a worthy hero. He jumps from the page full of energy, humor, kindness, and passion— the type of friend we all need in middle school.

Dillon discovers a summer scholarship opportunity for Dance-Splosion, the biggest dance studio in east Tennessee. From that introduction to Dillon on page 1 all the way to the definitive Dizzee Freaks crew, this book captures the heartfelt joy of cultivating an artistic passion and surrounding yourself with people who support you no matter what.

I asked Brooks how much of the story came from his own life. He said, "definitely my love of humor, performing, and wearing tights." I would also add that there is an acknowledgement in the back of MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS to his own crew, New Kidz, a New Kids On the Block tribute dance group that he founded in sixth grade.

Thank you, MTV and NKOTB!

Brooks shared with us a story he wrote as a kid called The Magical Forest. "This piece made me realize that storytelling was more than just a hobby, but was a part of me I couldn’t ignore," he said.

Author and ILLUSTRATOR, Brooks Benjamin

This early creative passion followed Brooks through school and into adulthood where he wrote and rewrote drafts that would become MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS. I asked him when the dream of being an author became a reality. "For me," he said. "It finally kicked in the day I signed my contract with Random House. It was the moment when I finally took a step back and was able to say, 'Whoa. This is really happening'."

Here's Brooks signing the actual contract.
He added, "Holding my book in my hands is still a surreal experience. While it’s one of the happiest feelings I’ve ever felt, it’s also a little sad. Sort of like how I’d imagine sending a kid off to college might feel."

Brooks holding his ARCs for the first time.

We couldn't miss the opportunity to ask Brooks for a school picture from his own 7th grade life. He was a good sport and handed one over. "This is me," he said. "Me in all my seventh-grade glory. And by glory, I mean complete and utter awkwardness."

Complete and utter AWESOMENESS, you mean!
Rest assure, Brooks, not only do we support your writing and your spectacular debut, we stand by you in our own 7th grade glory.

My Ink Sister, Kim. 
Seventh grade was kind to this hairspray and Dickie loving girl. Her world revolved around crushing on boys who could dance (YEAH DILLON PARKER!!!) and waxing her braces.

I survived 7th grade in large part because I had the best friends. My generous crew scooped me up and let me third wheel on all first dates (I saw Silence of the Lambs six times thanks to those dates). 

Yes, GLORY DAYS indeed. We hope our readers comment below with 7th grade passions and, of course, glorious 7th grade pictures. We need to see them. 

After you share your photo, go ahead and hop over to Brooks Benjamin's #Giveaway where one lucky reader will win a signed hardcover of MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS plus a swag pack of awesomeness. (US only). 

Best of luck to Brooks and to the #Giveaway entrants!
Much love,