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I'm an actress, singer, dancer, and writer. I'm also a freelance journalist, a publicist, a bookseller, and a webdesigner. This LiveJournal, for the most part, pertains to books - book reviews, exclusive interviews with authors, press releases, and booklists. My journal has an emphasis on teen fiction, though there are plenty of items for adult fiction and for juvenile fiction (or "kidlit") as well.
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1. Best Books of April 2016

April 2016: 7 books and scripts read

Genre Fiction Pick
The Demonists by Thomas E. Sniegoski

YA Fiction Pick
Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

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2. Poetry Friday: In the Beginning by Harriet Monroe

When sunshine met the wave,
Then love was born;
Then Venus rose to save
A world forlorn.

For light a thousand wings
Of joy unfurled,
And bound with golden rings
The icy world.

And color flamed the earth
With glad desire,
Till life sprang to the birth,
Fire answering fire,

And so the world awoke,
And all was done,
When first the ocean spoke
Unto the sun.

- In the Beginning by Harriet Monroe

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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3. Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

Both Madison (Mads) and Billy have their futures ahead of them - futures heavily shaped by their mothers. And, perhaps, by each other. But when the story starts, when their stories first intersect, only one of them is present: Mads, when her morning swim leads her straight into the path of a body, a woman who has taken her own life: Billy's mother.

Though the premise outlined above may sound grim, Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti is buoyed by hope: hope for better days, hope for positive change. The story is led by two characters who struggle to take control over their own lives while they search for reasons or answers related to recent events. Written in third person, the book flips back and forth between Billy and Mads, allowing the reader to see both perspectives - which is especially interesting when they are in the same scene, so the dual narrative allows us to be privy to both characters' thoughts. The third person style also permits a cool omniscient element, with occasional phrases directing the reader's attention to something - almost like a finger pointing, "Look there," "Remember this moment later" - that are more like gentle nudges than pushy wink-wink moments.

Billy and Mads, both post-high school and both innate caretakers, have found jobs they love: Billy works at a no-kill animal shelter and literally rescues dogs, while Mads babysits a baby girl that she wishes she could protect from the world. But neither of them are happy at home. Billy now lives with his grandmother, a woman full of cruel remarks and judgements about her late daughter, while Mads is staying with her aunt, uncle, and cousin for the summer while she takes real estate classes at Bellevue Community College - all part of her mother's plan for Mads to become her working partner the second she passes the licensing exam.

But once Mads and Billy meet, once their lives collide, their futures change. Or is it that their options change, and their true futures reveal themselves? It is not easy to alleviate the burdens of the abandoned or create a map for the lost. It takes courage to face the ogres of depression and loss. With strength of spirit combined with gut instincts and personal truths, Mads and Billy find their way out of the deep and onto their next journey.

Check out my reviews of other Deb Caletti novels, including The Nature of Jade and The Queen of Everything.

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4. Poetry Friday: To the Moon by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,-
And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?

- To the Moon by Percy Bysshe Shelley

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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5. Poetry Friday: Heartsease by Walter Savage Landor

There is a flower I wish to wear,
But not until first worn by you -
Heartsease - of all earth’s flowers most rare;
Bring it; and bring enough for two.

- Heartsease by Walter Savage Landor

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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6. Poetry Friday: I Am the Wind by Zoe Atkins

I am the wind that wavers,
You are the certain land;
I am the shadow that passes
Over the sand.

I am the leaf that quivers,
You the unshaken tree;
You are the stars that are steadfast,
I am the sea.

- from I Am the Wind by Zoe Atkins

Read the rest of the poem.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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7. #rockthedrop This October!

Hey, readergirlz! We have a #rockthedrop update for you, courtesy of Lorie Ann Grover:

YALSA has decided to discontinue Support Teen Literature Day in April. We've enjoyed celebrating the day for 8 years by rocking the drop through Operation Teen Book Drop. We've donated thousands of books to teens in hospitals and those on Tribal Lands. We've left young adult books around the world to be found by happy readers. Well done, all!

SO WE ARE GOING TO CONTINUE ANYWAY! We are going to #RocktheDrop in October, on Friday, the 14th, of Teen Read Week. Deal? For now, stash those books to the side, and we'll collectively drop them together next fall. We'll give you a heads up as the time approaches. Let's get those donation piles taller in the meantime.

Be ready to #RocktheDrop on October 14th, 2016. It's going to be a great addition to Teen Read Week. Ready, set, go!


Learn more about #rockthedrop aka Operation Teen Book Drop.

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8. Poetry Friday: Free Verse by Robert Graves

I now delight
In spite
Of the might
And the right
Of classic tradition,
In writing
And reciting
Straight ahead,
Without let or omission,
Just any little rhyme
In any little time
That runs in my head...

- from Free Verse by Robert Graves

Read the entire poem.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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9. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is about to start her senior year of high school. As summer draws to a close, she heads off to cheer camp with her coach and her teammates, including Polly, her best friend and co-captain, and Leo, her boyfriend. Knowing this will be the last time she attends the camp, Hermione intends to make it the best one ever, to work hard, to enjoy the challenges and the routines and the music and the friendships, and to set a good example for her teammates and friends.

Then, on the night of the camp dance, Hermione is raped - her cup of punch drugged by a boy, she blacks out and wakes up in the hospital. The night holds no memories for her past the blackout. She cannot remember the face of her attacker, nor does she have any recollection of what he actually did to her. All she knows is what the doctors, nurses, and detectives have put together from examining her.

Her town is small; everyone knows what happened. The hallways of her school are filled with whispers and judgmental looks, and her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves. But Hermione doesn't withdraw from social interaction or change schools - the latter doesn't even occur to her. She doesn't like being the subject of gossip or scorn or pity. She remembers who she was, she knows who she is, and she is determined to stay true to herself while dealing what has happened.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston was above and beyond what I hoped it would be. Compelling writing, complex characters, realistic dialogue - there is much to praise here. This book could have been riddled with cliches; it was not. It could have been predictable or saccharine; it was neither. The events and reactions were feasible, believable, never farfetched or contrived. The story was layered and nuanced, allowing for warmth and humor sometimes when you least expected it (and most needed it).

Hermione tells her story in first-person narrative. She is an intelligent, resilient, mature young woman who is stronger than she knows. The characters that surround her are so vividly drawn - especially Polly, the fierce and loyal best friend who is equal parts fire and compassion - that any one of them could have a book of their own. And that is one of the loveliest things here: that the supporting characters are truly supportive of Hermione, that she is not dealing with this alone - and also that the supporting characters have their own arcs, their own problems and heartbreaks and priorities.

There is so much I want to say about this book. How it treats subjects such as sexual assault, doctor's visits, therapy, and victim shaming head-on, honestly and openly; how it encourages cheerleaders to be seen as athletes, not airheads; how it includes a variety of characters of various ages and personalities; and, most of all, how it allows its protagonist to be human, to wrestle with emotions and choices and ultimately emerge triumphant not because of or in spite of what happened/happens to her, but because of how she chooses to see herself, not a victim, not a statistic, not diminished, and how she chooses to live, unashamed, undeterred, always moving forward.

I knew before I was raped that this year would be the end of something. I just thought I'd be able to control the ending.

And, again, the magnificent writing: the choice of words, the steady pacing, the characterizations; the importance of a chair, a song, a friend; the details of a waiting room, a quiet house, an exuberant squad; the feeling of flying -- There is so much to applaud here.

Both thought-provoking and profoundly memorable, Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston is a triumph. I encourage people to read and re-read this book and to share it with others. Don't be surprised if you find yourself both crying and smiling as you turn the final page - and then start reading it all over again.

I included this book on my Tough Issues for Teens booklist and will undoubtedly include it on my Best Books of 2016 list.

If you like this book, you will also like Swollen by Melissa Lion and All the Rage by Courtney Summers.

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10. Poetry Friday: Marigolds by Robert Graves

With a fork drive Nature out,
She will ever yet return;
Hedge the flowerbed all about,
Pull or stab or cut or burn,
She will ever yet return.

Look: the constant marigold
Springs again from hidden roots.
Baffled gardener, you behold
New beginnings and new shoots
Spring again from hidden roots.
Pull or stab or cut or burn,
They will ever yet return.

Gardener, cursing at the weed,
Ere you curse it further, say:
Who but you planted the seed
In my fertile heart, one day?
Ere you curse me further, say!
New beginnings and new shoots
Spring again from hidden roots.
Pull or stab or cut or burn,
Love must ever yet return.

- Marigolds by Robert Graves

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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11. Poetry Friday: Babylon by Robert Graves

The child alone a poet is:
Spring and Fairyland are his.
Truth and Reason show but dim,
And all's poetry with him.

- from Babylon by Robert Graves

Read the entire poem.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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12. Poetry Friday: Carl Sandburg

The dome of the capitol looks to the Potomac river.
Out of haze over the sunset,
Out of a smoke rose gold:
One star shines over the sunset.
Night takes the dome and the river, the sun and the smoke rose gold,
The haze changes from sunset to star.
The pour of a thin silver struggles against the dark.
A star might call: It’s a long way across.

- Carl Sandburg

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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13. Poetry Friday: Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

- Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

Listen to Mary Oliver read her poem Wild Geese on the program Listening to the World

Related Posts at Bildungsroman:
If I Were by Mary Oliver
Next Time by Mary Oliver
How I Go to the Woods by Mary Oliver
The Uses of Sorrow by Mary Oliver
Starlings in Winter by Mary Oliver
I Want to Write Something So Simply by Mary Oliver

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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14. Best Books of February 2016

February 2016: 13 books and scripts read

Recommended for Teens
Some of the Parts by Hannah Barnaby

Recommended for Tweens
The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando

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15. The Battle of Darcy Lane by Tara Altebrando

All Julia really wanted to do this summer was hang out with her best friend, Taylor - and maybe her neighbor/friend/secret crush Peter, too. Then Alyssa moves into the neighborhood. Julia immediately doesn't like her; Taylor does. And just like that, Julia's best friend has a new friend, and Julia has a rival.

Alyssa is really into a ball-bouncing game called Russia. At first, Julia doesn't care for it, but then she realizes that she might be able to beat Alyssa at her own game. Over the course of the summer, while Julia tries to hang on to her friendship with Taylor, she also attends band camp, bonds with Peter over a TV show she's not supposed to watch, and challenges Alyssa to an epic game of Russia. She also avoids cicadas and tries to talk her parents into letting her move into a different room in their house.

Julia's an only child, born to parents who love her and - get this - love each other. It's refreshing to read a book in which the parents are happy together, and it's wonderful to see how the child reacts to that relationship. In this case, Julia feels left out, not only because she is the youngest member of the household AND the only kid AND she has to go to bed earlier than her parents, but also because her parents are so close, she feels like there's no room for her sometimes - like she's interrupting something. There's a beautiful moment in which Julia overhears her parents talking outside, their voices drifting up to her window:

They were laughing a lot, and they sounded like something other than a husband and wife, something other than a mom and dad: they sounded like best friends.

Not only does this perfectly capture their relationship, it also ties back to Julia's concerns about her own best friend. Taylor is spending more and more time with Alyssa and less time with Julia. Teasing, confusion, and jealousy ensue. (Goodness, I don't miss middle school!) But thankfully, instead of being your typical mean girl story, this book offers something more plausible, something more satisfying and more age-appropriate, with the Russia showdown and the additional revelations in the denouement.

The Battle of Darcy Lane is a solid story for young readers. It's kind of like a modern-day Now and Then. Julia tries to test the boundaries a little a couple of times, and she sometimes struggles over the right thing to do, but overall, she has a pretty good head on her shoulders. Though the word "tweens" or the term "tween fiction" may not appeal to everyone, it's appropriate when you consider what it means: between. When you're eleven and twelve, you might feel trapped between your little kid years and your teens, torn between wanting to feel more grown up and wanting to stay a kid. This is best exemplified by the scenes in which Julia feels compelled to put away her dolls and knickknacks, even though she still kind of likes them.

Tara Altebrando has a knack for depicting honest relationships between protagonists and their families and friends, and I regularly recommend her YA books to teens looking for realistic modern-day stories. Now I can give The Battle of Darcy Lane to slightly younger readers. I also plan to read her other middle grade novel, My Life in Dioramas.

And who knows - maybe I'll have the opportunity to play Russia somewhere along the way, too.

The end of the book includes instructions on how to play the ball-bouncing game referred to as Russia or Onesies, Twosies. I also found instructions at the website howstuffworks.com. Have fun!

Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Review: The Pursuit of Happiness by Tara Altebrando
Review: Love Will Tear Us Apart by Tara Altebrando (as Tara McCarthy)
Review: What Happens Here by Tara Altebrando
Review: Dreamland Social Club by Tara Altebrando
Review: The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando
Interview: Tara Altebrando (March 2006)
Interview: Tara Altebrando (August 2006)
Interview: Tara Altebrando (November 2012)

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16. Poetry Friday: La Figlia Che Piange by T. S. Eliot

             O quam te memorem virgo...

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair-
Lean on a garden urn-
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair-
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise-
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers.
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon’s repose.

- La Figlia Che Piange (The Weeping Girl) by T.S. Eliot

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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17. Poetry Friday: Hey Hey Honey by Secret Someones

Everybody loves you
But it doesn't matter if you don't love yourself
Everybody wants you
But you can't give with your needs on the shelf
You don't have to stay there, stuck in the middle

You're the life of the party
But you go home and all you feel is doubt
They were singing your praises
But the voices in your head, they drown them out
There's so much beauty, but you can't see it
Just open up your eyes

Are you waiting for the next thing, for your big break?
Will you ever be satisfied?
You're not happy with your high hopes and your heartache
No one's perfect all the time
But honey, you're doing fine

- Hey Hey Honey by Secret Someones



View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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18. Poetry Friday: The Pity of Love by William Butler Yeats

A pity beyond all telling
Is hid in the heart of love:
The folk who are buying and selling,
The clouds on their journey above,
The cold, wet winds ever blowing,
And the shadowy hazel grove
Where mouse-grey waters are flowing
Threaten the head that I love.

- The Pity of Love by William Butler Yeats

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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19. #tothegirls2016

Last year, author Courtney Summers posted:

"I write about girls.

"I write about girls because every girl deserves the opportunity to pick up a book and see herself in its pages.

"I write about girls because girls, and their stories, matter.

"It's my way of letting them know."


On April 14th, 2015, she posted this with the hashtag #tothegirls to tell girls all over the world that they are seen, heard, and loved. People all over the world chimed in on social media, posting messages of support and encouragement, sharing thoughts and quotes both funny and profound.

Today, January 21st, it's time to spread the word again. Use the hashtag #tothegirls2016 along with your personal message of support and encouragement on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, your blog, your vlog, wherever you see fit. Write a note on your wipe-off board on the door of your dorm room or stick a Post-It note on your family's fridge or bathroom mirror. Share the message, and share the love.

From Courtney's article today in The Guardian:

Sometimes, I think of my novels as letters to their readers.

The difficult, often hard-to-like female protagonists and the particular set of challenges they face may change from book to book, but the underlying message - the heart of the story - is always the same: whatever you're going through and however you feel, you’re not alone.

One of fiction's greatest powers is its ability to reveal the parts of ourselves we're most afraid to show; both the ugly and the beautiful. When a reader sees their secrets on the page, there's a chance it can make a world of difference for them. It can lessen the weight of those secrets to the point the reader can breathe just a little bit easier and to the point, even, the reader might be able to say their secrets out loud.

Sometimes, saying a secret out loud changes a life.

Sometimes, saying a secret out loud saves it.

I'm not the first person to express this and I won't be the last: a book can be a lifeline.


Read the full article at theguardian.com

For more information, visit http://tothegirls2016.tumblr.com and follow Courtney Summers on Twitter @courtney_s

A few thoughts from me to the girls in 2016 and beyond:

You are awesome.
You can do this.
Just breathe.
Just believe.


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20. Poetry Friday: Happy Ending? by Shel Silverstein

Happy ending?
There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.

- by Shel Silverstein

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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21. Poetry Friday: The Sedges by Seumas O'Sullivan

I whispered my great sorrow
To every listening sedge;
And they bent, bowed with my sorrow,
Down to the water's edge.

But she stands and laughs lightly
To see me sorrow so,
Like the light winds that laughing
Across the water go.

If I could tell the bright ones
That quiet-hearted move,
They would bend down like the sedges
With the sorrow of love.

But she stands laughing lightly,
Who all my sorrow knows,
Like the little wind that laughing
Across the water blows.

- The Sedges by Seumas O'Sullivan

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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22. Best Books of January 2016

January 2016: 43 books and scripts read

I read a great deal of unpublished scripts and manuscripts this month, so I cannot include those titles on this list. I do have two recommendations: Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson and Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, both full-color graphic novels for kids and tweens. Click the titles to read my reviews.

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23. Eric Luper's Website




Eric Luper's website has a brand-new look!

Eric Luper is an author for young readers. In addition to two series with Scholastic Books called Key Hunters and The Chocolate Lab, Eric writes for Cartoon Network for shows including The Amazing World of Gumball, The Regular Show, and Teen Titans Go! He also has written titles for Scooby-Doo, Star Trek, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as young adult novels, including Seth Baumgartner's Love Manifesto and Big Slick.

Visit ericluper.com

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24. Poetry Friday: The Awakening of Dermuid by Austin Clarke

Sleepy moths fluttered
In her dark eyes,
And her lips grew quieter
Than lullabies.
Swaying with the reedgrass
Over the stream
Lazily she lingered
Cradling a dream.

- the final stanza of The Awakening of Dermuid by Austin Clarke

Read the poem in its entirety.

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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25. Interview: Suzanne Nelson

Please welcome to the blog author Suzanne Nelson, winner of the Sydney Taylor Honor Award in the Teen Readers Category for her novel Serendipity's Footsteps.

What inspired you to write Serendipity's Footsteps? Did you plan from the onset to tie various plotlines together through a pair of shoes, or did the characters' individual stories come to you first?

There were so many inspirations for Serendipity's Footsteps. Versions of Ray and Pinny had been in my mind for over a decade, and I'd even tried once, years ago, writing a vastly different rendition of their story where they were biological sisters. Sixty or so pages into that story, though, I realized it wasn't working and shelved it. Then, a few years ago, I saw a single red slingback sitting atop a boulder in my town. It spurred a conversation with my sister about lost shoes. We tried to unravel the mystery of all the shoes we spotted hanging in trees or laying abandoned on roadsides. What were their stories? Who'd left them behind? It was my sister who asked me to write a novel about lost shoes. She's always loved shoes and told me, "Just write it for me." Because she's my best and most loved and trusted friend, I began writing for her. Then, as I wrote, without me even being fully aware of how pieces were falling into place, Dalya and her story were born. Once Dalya came to me, Ray and Pinny appeared beside her. Maybe they'd been waiting for her the whole time. Needless to say, I knew that these three heroines needed to come together. They each needed families and love, and the story's pale pink shoes became the key to their unbreakable bond. Really, writing the book was as much about serendipity for me as it was for my three heroines. I love Dalya, Ray, and Pinny and consider them kindred sisters and family. They exist for me, real as any other people, and so do the shoes they love.

Dayla, Ray, and Pinny have distinct personalities and voices. Is there a little piece of you in each of them? My Knopf editor and dear friend Michelle Frey tells me that she sees some of me in each of my three heroines, so it's probably true. I can't say with confidence that I could ever possess Dalya's resilience, because I've never experienced anything like her tragedies. Still, I admire her strength of spirit, her loyalty to her faith, culture, and family, and her deep capacity for love. I'd like to believe I carry some of those traits within me, too. I'm as passionate about writing as Ray is about her music. As a teenager, I sometimes wished to escape my life like Ray does. But who doesn't dream of running away at some point or other? The idea of reinventing yourself in a new place and starting fresh without obligations to anyone or anything can be appealing, until you start thinking about how lonely it would be. I have some of Ray's selfishness and outspokenness, too, although maybe I've learned to temper those shortcomings through the years (only my family can tell you how successful I've been in my efforts.). As for Pinny and her quest for the "More of Life," the joy she finds in so much of the world around her--I strive to find "More" joy and love in my life each and every day. I'm not as much of an optimist as she is, but I believe in magical thinking and sucking the marrow out of every moment life has to offer.

Did you model any of the characters after people you know or admire?

None of the characters are based directly on people I know personally. However, the emotions Dalya experiences in the wake of her losses, and the decisions she makes in her personal life to preserve and honor her family and her Jewish heritage and identity, were informed by some close friends who shared their family's Holocaust survival stories with me. I have such great admiration for these friends who continually work to protect their family's histories and faith and I hoped to convey some of this with Dalya's character. Pinny's character and story, as well, were influenced indirectly by an experience I had as a teen. My senior year of high school, I tutored a three-year-old boy who had Down Syndrome. The afternoons I spent with Troy were some of the most memorable and rewarding of my adolescence, and I've stayed in touch with the Drake family through the years. Troy and his parents opened my eyes to the challenges so many people with special needs face in finding meaningful employment and independence. It was so important to him and to his family that he work in a field he truly loved. Troy is in his twenties now and has his own Etsy business, Doodle Duck Design. Talking with the Drakes about their journey to find ways for Troy to live his "More of Life" helped me develop Pinny's story. I hope Pinny's search to find fulfillment in her life and work reflects that.

What are the biggest challenges - and rewards - when writing and researching historical fiction?

Research is one of the most fascinating parts of writing historical fiction. I love it so much that for me, the biggest challenge of researching is knowing when to stop! Then there's the problem of having to choose which pieces of research to include in my story, and trying to glean what facts will hold the most interest for readers. It's a time-consuming process, but one that I truly enjoy.

What resources did you use while writing and revising Serendipity's Footsteps?

With Serendipity's Footsteps, I read letters, diary entries, and first-hand accounts from Jewish children and teen refugees who came to the United States prior to and during World War II. From the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, one thousand Jewish children were brought to our country from Europe as part of an American kindertransport. All of those one thousand children left their parents behind in Europe and many never saw them again. They were placed with foster families around the country. Many of the children didn't know English when they arrived, were placed in school classes with younger students, and struggled with loneliness and coping with the grief of the terrible losses of the families they left behind. Learning about the obstacles they overcame and the strength and courage they had in such tragic circumstances helped me portray the difficulties Dalya faced in her transition to America.

Although my visit to Dachau Concentration Camp took place years ago, that visit has always haunted me. I drew on my memories of it when writing the novel. I also contacted two lovely professors, Dr. Buser and Dr. Ley, in Germany who were experts in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and its history, and they answered my numerous questions about that specific camp. Dr. Joselit, Professor of Judaic Studies and History at George Washington University, also gave me wonderful insight into Jewish life and culture in 1930s and 40s New York City. In the end, I was fortunate to have a number of knowledgeable people, here and overseas, guide my research and am so grateful to all of them for their help.

Your modern day romantic comedies include Cake Pop Crush, Hot Cocoa Hearts, Bacon Me Crazy, and Macarons at Midnight. Did you always plan for these stories to be a connected series?

This series started out as a single book, Cake Pop Crush. My Scholastic editor and I were so thrilled to see how popular that book became, and the other companion books followed as a result. Even though the books all have some fun baking theme, they each have different characters and a distinct plot, so they don't have to be read in any specific order. There will be a fifth foodie romance book coming in 2017, titled Donut Go Breaking My Heart. The style of writing for this series is very different from the style of Serendipity's Footsteps. The baking series is lighter and geared towards a younger, middle grade audience. It's fun writing the baking books because it gives me a break from the more serious topics and themes I'm drawn to in my other novels for older readers.

Do you like baking? If so, what are your specialties?

I am giggling at this question, because the honest truth is that I am not as much of a baker as my Cake Pop series might lead readers to believe. When I was experimenting with cake pop recipes for Cake Pop Crush, I actually set a bowl of candy melts on fire in my microwave. I had to run out onto my back porch with the flaming Tupperware to extinguish it under the pouring rain! My family thought it was hilarious.

Cake pop mishaps aside, I do enjoy baking with my three kids. I have a particular weakness for gooey brownies and white chocolate chip cookies and gobble them warm straight out of the oven. My five-year-old daughter is especially passionate about baking, and her love for it rubs off on me. We made some cupcakes a few weeks ago that had mountains of fluorescent icing so high they could've rivaled Mount Everest.

You have also worked as a book editor. How did your work as an editor inform your writing, and vice versa?

I don't think I ever would have become a published author without having been an editor first. Learning the ins and outs of the publishing process and working with other authors on their manuscripts was the best education I received as a writer. Because I was able to see what needed to be revised or reworked in other people's manuscripts, I learned how to view my own writing with a more critical eye. I also learned that you have to write what you're passionate about but also what fills a need in the current book market. Being a writer as well as an editor also gave me great empathy for other struggling writers, and when I had to reject a submission I tried to do it as nicely and encouragingly as I could.

Describe your current favorite go-to pair of shoes for daily wear.

Right now we're in the depths of winter here in Connecticut, and I have this enormous pair of brown fuzzy boots that I wear to wade through the snow and ice. They're so comfortable and warm. For the most part though, because most days I work from home, I keep my feet toasty in some snug slippers. Boring? Maybe, but absolutely essential for my creativity and productivity!

How about your most fun pair of shoes?

I have a pair of glam handmade shoes that are decorated with peacock feathers and another pair of glossy, cherry red peep-toe heels that make me feel beautiful inside and out every time I slip them on. Walking in them feels akin to teetering on a tightrope, but they're absolutely worth it!

List ten of your favorite books. Any genre, any style.

Disclaimer: This is an eclectic mix of classical, contemporary, adult and children's literature. I could easily add another hundred titles to this list (there are so many incredible books in the world!), but these ten are stories I turn to again and again.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell (And really anything written by Kate DiCamillo!)
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Holes by Louis Sachar
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson


Congratulations to all of the recipients of The Sydney Taylor Book Award! Follow the blog tour featuring the 2016 gold and silver medalists all this week, February 8th-February 12th, hosted at a variety of blogs. Click here for the full blog tour schedule.

Learn more about the Sydney Taylor Honor Award.
Visit the People of the Books Blog.
Visit Suzanne Taylor's website.

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