In the Middle with Skila Brown

Today, we are In the Middle with Skila Brown, author of Caminar:

Caminar hi-res

Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.

Caminar is available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Indiebound, and at bookstores near you.

Q&A with Skila

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

This is the exact age in my own life that books sucked me in. I chose reading over everything else. I remember sitting in the car with a book in the middle of a winter party, while the rest of my family was sledding down a hill. I just really loved to read. I would read anything—I wasn’t picky. This is when I found out what a great escape books can be. And how much a person can learn while reading.

So I think of this time as a magical time for a reader. It’s when we first learn we can read on our own, with no one looking over our shoulder or reading to us aloud. We can discover a book and a world privately and go there all on our own. Nobody can take that away from us. It’s a great discovery.

skila-childIf you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Dear Skila, age 8,

Stop worrying about everything. And stop being so bossy. Seriously. It’s a bad habit that’s harder to break when you’re older.

But the reading thing is a great habit. Keep that up. Those books you love reading? You’ll still love reading them even when you’re old. And those stories you keep making up to amuse yourself and/or possibly get out of trouble? You keep doing that! Believe it or not, later on, people will pay you money to do it. So keep it up, girl! It all works out okay.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Oh, that’s fun! Since Caminar is a novel in verse and we’re fast approaching National Poetry Month, how about: What’s a poem you loved as a middle grader?
And…here’s my answer:

Something Missing by Shel Silverstein

I remember I put on my socks,
I remember I put on my shoes.
I remember I put on my tie
That was painted
In beautiful purples and blues.
I remember I put on my coat,
To look perfectly grand at the dance,
Yet I fell there is something
I may have forgot—-
What is it? What is it?. . .

Want to know why I loved it as a middle grader? Go check out the book Where the Sidewalk Ends from the library and find the illustration that goes with this. What’s not to love about semi-naked subversive sketches?

Thank you, Heidi, for inviting me over to your blog! It’s lovely here. I may just hang out awhile.

Thank you, Skila! I’m a big Shel Silverstein fan myself. So glad you brought him along. Congratulations on your debut!

Skila Brown is the author of Caminar, a story about a boy who survives the massacre of his village and must decide what being a man during a time of war really means. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She grew up in Kentucky and Tennessee and now lives with her family in Indiana. For more information about her book, please visit her website,


In the Middle with Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Come get In the Middle today with Laura Marx Fitzgerald, author of the wonderful Under the Egg:


 Only two people know about the masterpiece hidden in the Tenpenny home—and one of them is dead.

The other is Theodora Tenpenny. Theo is responsible for tending the family’s two-hundred-year-old town house, caring for a flock of unwieldy chickens, and supporting her fragile mother, all on her grandfather’s legacy of $463. So, when Theo discovers a painting in the house that looks like a priceless masterpiece, she should be happy about it. But Theo’s late grandfather was a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and if the painting is as valuable as she thinks it is, then her grandfather wasn’t who she thought he was.

With the help of some unusual new friends, Theo’s search for answers takes her all over Manhattan and introduces her to a side of the city—and her grandfather—that she never knew. To solve the mystery, she’ll have to abandon her hard-won self-reliance and build a community, one serendipitous friendship at a time.

Under the Egg is available on Indiebound, B&N, Amazon, and bookstores near you.

Q&A with Laura

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

My childhood was pretty much formed by my favorite middle-grade books: Alice in Wonderland, The Westing Game, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Anastasia Krupnik, The Borrowers. I read these books over and over again. Each one features a nice, normal, well brought-up girl who, whether she’s looking for it or not, lands feet first in an adventure and has to find her way out again. She has to make decisions and take bold actions from her own heart, even if her parents don’t approve. Because of these books, I went out into the world expecting the same kind of adventure. And that’s still the kind of story I like to write (and read) best.

Another reason I write middle grade is for my mother, who said if I ever write anything with sex, drugs, or bad language while she’s alive, she’ll disown me. (Ignore everything I wrote above about making your own bold decisions.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell him/her? 

One day you will get to buy your own clothes and won’t have to wear jumpers with Peter Pan collars anymore.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

“Are you like Isaac Asimov, who wrote: ‘I write for the same reason I breathe . . . because if I didn’t, I would die’?”

Good heavens no. I would rather do anything than write. Read, watch TV, pay bills, do the dishes. In fact, I did all of these things before forcing myself to sit down and write today. I think there’s a myth that writers are those other people, the people who can’t live without writing. For me, I just needed an idea so compelling that I couldn’t ignore it any longer. And even once I had it, it was still a battle to get my butt in the chair and my fingers on my keyboard. 

Just remember: discipline does not always make a writer. But in the end, it does make a book.

I love everything about this interview and your book! (Seriously, it has history, chickens, homeschooling, and pie. Did you write it for me?) Congrats on your debut!

In writing UNDER THE EGG, Laura Marx Fitzgerald drew on her study of art history at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Though she grew up Down South, today she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids (and a dog, if the two kids keep begging). UNDER THE EGG (Dial/Penguin) is her debut novel. Connect with her on her website,, Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

In the Middle with Robin Herrera

Heavenly donuts! Today we are In the Middle with the talented Robin Herrera, author of Hope is a Ferris Wheel.


Ten-year-old Star Mackie lives in a trailer park with her flaky mom and her melancholy older sister, Winter, whom Star idolizes. Moving to a new town has made it difficult for Star to make friends, when her classmates tease her because of where she lives and because of her layered blue hair. But when Star starts a poetry club, she develops a love of Emily Dickinson and, through Dickinson’s poetry, learns some important lessons about herself and comes to terms with her hopes for the future.

With an unforgettable voice with a lot of heart, Hope Is a Ferris Wheel is the story of a young girl who learns to accept her family and herself while trying to make sense of the world around her.

Hope is a Ferris Wheel is available on Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, IndieBound, Amazon, and in bookstores near you.

Q&A with Robin

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

Middle Grade is pure fun! I wrote a lot of YA in college, and fell into MG when I started working at an elementary school as part of a work-study program and interacting with younger children. I spent the next six years of my life working in elementary schools, and I think being with that age group for so long is what drew me into writing for them. (I still write YA occasionally!)

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Robin 10


“Read more fiction!” I read a lot of non-fiction in elementary school, but fell in love with the few middle grade novels I did read, like I AM REGINA by Sally M. Keehn and JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson. I’d probably tell myself to read THE GIVER and HOLES and to give the Harry Potter series a chance when it comes out. (I stubbornly refused to read it until college. WHUT.)

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Yes! I’ve always wanted someone to ask what Hogwarts House I’d be in, because I think they’d be surprised by the answer. I’d probably be in Slytherin, because I’m not that brave, or smart, or loyal, but I am very ambitious, and when I was little I was always trying to prove myself. Also, I’ve got horcruxes.

Horcruxes are a big clue, yes. (Secretly, I think I’m a Hufflepuff.) Thanks for stopping in and congratulations on your launch!

Robin Herrera is an aspiring cat lady living in Portland, Oregon with her fiancé and one very mean (but very precious) cat. She received her BA from Mills College and her MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When not chasing cats, she can be found at her desk at Oni Press, where she works as an associate editor, or at the library, where she severely abuses the hold system.

Connect with Robin on her website, Twitter, and Tumblr.

In the Middle with Gayle Rosengren

This week, we are In the Middle with Gayle Rosengren and her middle grade debut, What the Moon Said.


Thanks to her superstitious mother, Esther knows some tricks for avoiding bad luck: toss salt over your left shoulder, never button your shirt crooked, and avoid black cats. But even luck can’t keep her family safe from the Great Depression. When Pa loses his job, Esther’s family leaves their comfy Chicago life behind for a farm in Wisconsin.

Living on a farm comes with lots of hard work, but that means there are plenty of opportunities for Esther to show her mother how helpful she can be. She loves all of the farm animals (except the mean geese) and even better makes a fast friend in lively Bethany. But then Ma sees a sign that Esther just knows is wrong. If believing a superstition makes you miserable, how can that be good luck?

Debut author Gayle Rosengren brings the past to life in this extraordinary, hopeful story.

Advance praise for What the Moon Said:

“A coming-of-age tale gets to the heart of family dynamics in the face of drastic life changes in the earliest days of the Depression… Sensitive and tender.” — Kirkus
“…heartwarming story…engaging historical fiction” — Booklist
“…Esther makes the most of each day, asks little, and gives much.” — Publishers Weekly

What the Moon Said is available on Barnes and Noble, Amazon, IndieBound, and bookstores near you.

Q&A with Gail

What draws you to writing for a middle grade audience?

I write middle grade because I think it’s key to creating life-long readers.  Newly independent readers who discover the thrill of being caught up in compelling fictional worlds or illuminating non-fictional ones will almost certainly be book lovers forever.  The door to reading is always open but never so wide and invitingly as it is during the middle grade years when youngsters are discovering for the first time the amazing places that a book can take them.  These books often make such indelible impressions on readers that they remember them years after closing their covers. Writing for middle graders is a unique opportunity to touch children’s lives in a truly significant way.  It’s a privilege and a responsibility that I embrace as enthusiastically as these readers embrace their favorite middle grade books.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell her?

Gayle at 13

I’d say, “Don’t be afraid to dream of someday writing books like the ones you love.  Being an author is within your reach if only you love words and stories enough and will work hard, have faith in yourself, and never give up.”

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

I’d ask, “You say that your mother and grandmother were the inspiration for your book.  Does that mean it’s not really fiction?”

What the Moon Said is definitely fiction.  It was the relationship between my mother and my grandmother that inspired the storyline, and even that was just my impression of their relationship.  It wasn’t necessarily correct or “true”.  A few incidents in the book were inspired by true events, but even those were changed in the telling for dramatic purposes.  My mother and her girlhood provided the seeds for any number of possible stories.  I planted them in a certain way and coaxed them to bloom in a unique pattern, to create a story that I hope readers will perceive as beautiful.

It was a pleasure having you, Gayle. Congratulations on your debut!

Gayle Rosengren writes full-time in her home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Don, and slightly neurotic rescue dog, Fiona. Gayle is living her dream, writing books she hopes will make the same difference in children’s lives as her favorite books and authors made in hers. What the Moon Said is her first novel. Connect with her on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.


In the Middle with Natalie Lloyd

This week we are In the Middle with Natalie Lloyd, author of the wonderful A Snicker of Magic.


Introducing an extraordinary new voice—a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

A Snicker of Magic is available on Barnes and Noble, IndieBound, Amazon, and in bookstores near you.

Q&A with Natalie

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

I find my way into a story through the characters, and I’ve realized I love writing younger characters. They’re still brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeve, so imaginative and quirky-wonderful and vibrant. That said, I think college was sort of my own personal renaissance of rediscovering middle grade literature. I remember half-heartedly buying CHARLOTTE’S WEB to read as an assignment in my Children’s Lit class, and experiencing book-magic within the first few pages. My heart woke up, and I remembered how it felt to fall in love with a book. I like how hope flutters on the edge of a middle-grade novel. How wonder blurs the lines between reality and fiction. I love that the language can be playful and lyrical and still genuine. Truly, it’s not hard for me to remember how vulnerable, anxious, dorky and hopeful I felt in middle school. I still feel that way most of the time. I’m not surprised my heart found its way back to that place through my fiction.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle grade you, what would you tell her?

I would tell middle-school-me to put down the crimping iron. Step away from the perm! Especially on picture day. Actually, I would go back to the day I felt the most awkward, the most left-out, the most shy and insecure, and I would do exactly what my parents did: I would hug middle-school-me and tell her she’s great. And that she’s got so many incredible days ahead of her. And I would probably get a little weepy when I see the tattered Babysitters Club book on her desk. I know she wants to be an author someday. And I know things are going to work out better than she could ever imagine. But I wouldn’t tell her she gets to have a Scholastic tattoo on her book someday too, because that moment will be worth waiting for. I would tell her this bad day is a blink compared to some seriously dreamy days ahead. In fact, forget what I said about the perm. I would tell middle-school-me to rock that perm. Scrunch it! Aussie Gel, FTW!

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer but haven’t been asked?

Natalie and Biscuit
Well, I love to talk about my dog. So far, I haven’t talked much about why I put my dog in A SNICKER OF MAGIC. Like me, my main character, Felicity Juniper Pickle, has a feisty dog named Biscuit. Initially, Biscuit ended up in the story because I’m such a magpie about manuscripts: I have a horrible habit of making it halfway through a draft before another shiny idea catches my eye … and I jump at it. I thought if I could picture Biscuit running through the scenes, I’d be more excited about diving back in to the story every day. I think my idea worked. But pretty soon I realized Biscuit wasn’t just in the story to help me make it to the end. Felicity needed Biscuit as much as I do. (Now I’m wondering if my editor will think it’s weird if Biscuit makes a cameo in every book…)

Awww, I love Biscuit! I’m glad you both dropped in. Congratulations on your debut!

Natalie Lloyd lives in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She collects old books, listens to bluegrass music, and loves exploring quirky mountain towns with her dog, Biscuit. A SNICKER OF MAGIC is her first novel.

Connect with Natalie on her website, Twitter, and Facebook.

In the Middle with Rebecca Behrens

This week on In the Middle, we’re chatting with Rebecca Behrens, author of When Audrey Met Alice.


It is ridiculously difficult to get a pizza delivered to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

First Daughter Audrey Rhodes can’t wait for the party she has planned. The decorations are all set, and the pizza is on its way. But the Secret Service must be out to ruin her life, because they cancel at the last minute for a “security breach,” squashing Audrey’s chances for making any new friends. What good is having your own bowling alley if you don’t have anyone to play with?

Audrey is ready to give up and spend the next four years totally friendless—until she discovers Alice Roosevelt’s hidden diary. The former first daughter’s outrageous antics give Audrey a ton of ideas for having fun . . . and get her into more trouble than she can handle.

When Audrey Met Alice is available on Barnes and Noble, Books a MillionIndie BoundIndigo, Amazon, and at bookstores near you.

Q&A with Rebecca

What draws you into writing for a middle grade audience?

American Girl Charity Sale July 1990_3

I’m fairly convinced that I am the world’s oldest living tween. And the older I get, the more I realize that the way I observed the world as a middle-grader—with wonder, optimism, and curiosity—is the way I’d like to look at it now. The middle-grade years are the age of discovery, and that leads to so much story richness. Most of all, middle-grade fiction is so much fun, to write and to read.

If you had a time machine and could visit middle-grade you, what would you tell her?

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Actually, don’t sweat some of the bigger stuff, too. I always was a worrier as a child, and a lot of what I fretted about, in retrospect, was silly. I’d tell middle-grade me that sometimes the best things happen when you venture even the slightest bit outside of your comfort zone.

Choose your own adventure: Is there an interview question you’d love to answer, but haven’t been asked?

Yes! I’d ask about any weird writing quirks. And then I’d tell that mine is that I’ve never actually typed the very satisfying words “The End.” It honestly never occurred to me to add that after a last line in a MS. After some writer friends shared that they always do (because aren’t we usually aching to get to those words?), I meant to celebrate finishing the last MS I wrote by typing “The End,” with a flourish—and then I forgot. Next time!

Thanks for stopping in, Rebecca. Congratulations on your launch!

Rebecca Behrens grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Chicago, and now lives with her husband in New York City, where she works as a production editor for children’s books. Previously, she helped create reading and literature textbooks for grades K-12. Rebecca loves writing and reading about girls full of moxie and places full of history. When she’s not writing, you can find her running in the park, reading on the beach, or eating a doughnut.

Visit her online at or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.


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