Dear middle-grade Ronni,
The bad news? Things are kind of crappy right now. Your parents are on the verge of divorce, your best friend has a new best friend, and your hair is a disaster.
The good news? Things will drastically improve.
But you do have to get through the next few years, and that’s why I’m here. I’d like to give you some advice that I think might help. Ready?
- Tapping light switches and counting in your head doesn’t mean you’re crazy. It does mean that you have a mild form of OCD, but that term hasn’t been developed yet. The truth is, your parents are going to get divorced whether you tap the light switches four-hundred times or not at all.
2. It will be okay when your parents get divorced. Not only will you survive, you’ll actually be happier. Your parents will be happier. You’ll love your new step-parents even though it will be weird at first. Just hang in there, okay? And maybe stop with the light-switch tapping. It’s exhausting.
3. You don’t need one best friend. I know you think you do, because that’s what everyone thinks in middle school, but during the course of your life you’ll have many different friends. Some will be the friends you have deep conversations with, some will be the friends you have fun with, and the best kind will be a combination of both. Just because your BFF is bonded with someone else doesn’t mean you’re not worthy of being a friend. You happen to be a really, really good friend, and even as an adult, your friendships will be priceless to you.
4. You feel like you’ll have braces FOREVER, but it’s only three years. And when you get older, it will have been worth all those awful orthodontist appointments!
5. Lock your diary. Soon everyone will know you’re in love with Lee Sale, even Lee Sale. Crushes are good, but you might want to keep them to yourself. Not everyone is as good as keeping secrets as you think they are.
6. Yeah, Lee Sale is cute. But it’s never gonna happen, girlfriend. Even though you’ll have boyfriends in the very-near future (all as cute as Lee Sale), maybe it would be better if you didn’t focus on them so much. You know, pay attention to yourself a bit more. Boys are great, but at the end of the day, you’re the person you really have to have a relationship with.
7. Keep writing stories. Someday that passion will pay off.
8. Your hair. I know. It’s so big it needs its own zip code. But guess what?! In about 5 years or so big hair will be in! Isn’t that awesome?! Your friends will spend their allowance on hair spray and perms and you will just wake up and look that way! Best. Decade. Ever. But alas, that decade will end and flat, straight hair will once again be back in style. That’s okay, because soon enough they will invent flat irons and Brazilian blowouts. Just sit tight.
Middle school is tough. You’re confused. You’re lonely. And sometimes you don’t know where you belong. But look around. Every single one of the kids you’re surrounded by feels the exact same way… some are just better at faking it.
You’ve got this. You will (eventually) grow into a happy, well-adjusted adult. Believe in yourself, because I believe in you.
When twelve-year-old Ruby learns that her supposed BFFs are only friends with her because her of her famous parents, she finds a place as far from fake and phony Hollywood as she can get: a Maine boarding school.
In her panic to distance herself from her star-studded folks, Ruby tells her new friends that she’s an orphan. She feels awful lying to her weird but wonderful roommate Summer (the first real friend Ruby has ever had), but not awful enough. In fact, now that nobody’s comparing her to her perfect parents, Ruby can finally let her own talents as a dress designer take center stage.
But when Ruby finds herself connecting with a boy who really did lose his parents, she’s torn between who she is and who she’s pretending to be. And with Parent’s Weekend approaching, she must find a way to keep her secret… without losing her new best friend, the trust of her first crush, and the chance to shine as the designer of her own fashion show.
Find Ruby Reinvented on Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Simon & Schuster, or ask for at at bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Ronni Arno lives on the coast of Maine with her husband, 2 daughters, and a dog named Hazel. Her debut middle-grade novel, RUBY REINVENTED, published with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin on November 3, 2015. To learn more, visit ronniarno.com or connect with Ronnie on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.|
I know you think I’m just telling you this, but things get better after middle school. You started off in 6th grade with high hopes, and that’s a good thing. Don’t let Mr. Olds get you down. He sucks as a math teacher, but you are better at it than you think you are. Someday, though you probably would die laughing, you’re going to teach a subject that’s mostly math. No, seriously. And you’ll like it.
Stop rolling on the floor. It’s the truth.
Don’t sweat the bowties in Panther Elite. No one notices them anyway when you’re singing. Plus, everyone else is wearing them too. Someday, you’ll watch Doctor Who and realize that bowties are cool. Fezzes though, are still pretty out there. Luckily, you know that.
Keep writing. You’ll save all those notebooks and look back on them and realize that was the beginning of becoming a “real” writer. Writing a 200 page book in middle school is a big deal, and you’re allowed to be proud of yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you any different! Read as many books as you can, and ignore everyone who tells you they aren’t appropriate for you or they are too old. Mom lets you do it, you like them, that means you’re good. Also, don’t get rid of so many books. I KNOW Mom tells you to clean things up, but you’ll wish you’d kept some of them someday.
Also, those middle school librarians probably weren’t as scary as we thought, but there’s still the public library, so it all evens out in the end.
Also, you’re a nerd. Embrace it. It only gets worse (or better, depending on how you look at it) from here on out. You’ll eventually realize that being a nerd is pretty much the best thing ever. You are already halfway there, so just keep swimming. Big Bang Theory is coming, and you want to be prepared, after all.
The last thing I want to remind you of, is to have fun. You try hard to pretend you don’t care. Eventually you’ll be comfortable in your skin and you really won’t care (much), but for now, just try to remember that its middle school and they are just as awkward and uncomfortable as you are, if not more. Have fun anyway. Hang out with Ashley, Kirstin, and the group as much as you can. You’ll all go to separate high schools, and you’ll only kind of keep track of each other through the years. It will be a LONG time before you reconnect with any of them. Take advantage of them while you’re there.
And no matter what anyone tells you, keep on being a Halloweenie. It will pay you well in your writing future. I’m proof of that.
Keep writing. Have adventures. Middle school is only three years!
Thirteen-year-old Caroline is a freak. Her parents have uprooted her to a town full of Supernaturals. You’d think she’d be thrilled. But, with someone without a magical bone in her body, this daughter of tree sprites feels like even more of an outcast than she has ever before.
To make matters worse, her new home is cursed. But when Caroline takes to investigating the mysterious and strange happenings of Harridan House, her BFF goes missing. Seems someone doesn’t want Caroline sticking her non-magical nose where it most certainly does not belong. Determined to prove herself, Caroline uncovers a plot to destroy her new hometown.
Undeterred, Caroline can’t give up. But what’s a human without magical powers to do? Caroline better figure it out fast, before she loses everything she has ever loved and the whispers she’s heard all her life prove true: Caroline is a useless superfreak.
Super Freak is available on Books-A-Million, B&N, Amazon, Month9Books, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Vanessa Barger is a middle grade and young adult author, represented by Jennifer Mishler and Frances Black of Literary Counsel. She teaches high school technology education in rural Virginia. She spends all her free time writing. She’s a member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). When not writing, Vanessa is reading, and is an avid movie fan. She also loves long walks on the beach discussing Shakespeare while sipping large fruity drinks with little umbrellas.|
Connect with Vanessa on vanessabarger.com, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
Dear Twelve-Year-Old Corey:
Hi from twenty years in the future!
I want you to know I get sad when I think about you. Not because you don’t have a great life ahead—you do!—but because you are confused and lonely and it takes time for things to iron themselves out, for the world to start making more sense, for the things that are painful to become the very same things that you are proud to have survived.
Right now you are probably writing in your journal about a boy you like (Jerry? Justin? Jon? You had a thing for J-names I guess) and wondering if you are pretty enough for them to like you back. Your bedroom door is closed and luckily you have a whole universe in your bedroom—magazine cutouts on the wall and a perfect selection of showtunes and sad music and oldies to choose from with your brand-new stereo, and two bookshelves stacked with books and a stuffed animal named Tammy and a fish named Windy who is beautiful but won’t live very long (I’m sorry. Fish often don’t).
You are uncomfortable and sad, but you don’t know why.
You have a sinking feeling in your chest.
You are scared.
You should be happier than you are, you’ve been told.
I want to tell you that these things—these feelings that are deep and wild and thick and impossible—are okay. You can have them. You don’t have to work so hard to not have them. It won’t work anyway, and trying to not have feelings only makes the bad feelings worse.
I want to tell you that worrying about being pretty enough is a thing you’re going to fight for a long time. You will fret and wonder and ask over and over in your head, every time you see yourself in a mirror or catch sight of a photograph taken of you, am I pretty? Am I pretty ENOUGH?
There is no real answer, aside from the answer that is the opposite of an answer–to stop asking the question. Pretty is a word that doesn’t mean much of anything, actually, and what I can tell you for sure is that you are smart enough and kind enough and funny enough and a good enough writer and friend and daughter and person.
Actually, you are all those enoughs even on days when you are sulky or snarky or accidentally mean or a little on-purpose mean or failing a test or getting a pimple or being awkward in a group or making a gigantic or super tiny mistake.
You are enough. There’s nothing to fight for, there’s nothing to try to make better in yourself. It’s already there.
Listen: You are not perfect.
That is the answer to the question you keep asking.
You are not perfect because no one’s perfect and no one’s expecting you to be perfect except that mean voice inside of you that you will learn how to quiet.
I want to tell you that the things you love matter, and that being alone in a closed-door room for hours on end doesn’t make you lazy or boring or selfish or uncaring. It doesn’t make you friendless or strange or pathetic or bad.
You are good at knowing what makes you happy and what you like to do. Do those things; find that happiness. Don’t listen to people who tell you to do things differently.
I want to tell you that you can trust yourself.
I want to tell you that every day for the next six years, until you leave home and move to New York, and I want to tell you that for the next fourteen years after that as you build your life there and make friends who are family and discover passions that are careers and meet boys who will become boyfriends and a boyfriend who will become a fiancé and have an apartment will become a home.
You can trust yourself.
You can trust yourself.
You can trust yourself to know when something is wrong or strange or not right or not your fault.
You can trust yourself to know what’s good and safe and right for you.
You can trust yourself to do the right thing as much of the time as an imperfect person is capable of doing and you can trust yourself to recover from the times when you don’t do the right thing.
You can trust yourself to take care of yourself.
You can trust yourself to stand up for what you believe in.
You can trust your feelings and your dreams and that little spark of strength that you think is maybe there.
You can trust yourself, because you are not just a sad girl sitting in a room wishing things were different. You are a girl who is living in a moment that doesn’t make much sense and is doing her very best to survive it.
And you can trust yourself, because, guess what? You do survive it. You really, really do.
PS: You think you are a cat person. You are not. You are a dog person.
PPS: No, you aren’t really going to grow too much taller. Sorry.
Rules for Stealing Stars can be found on IndieBound, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
In the tradition of Sharon Creech and Wendy Mass, Corey Ann Haydu’s sparkling middle grade debut is a sister story with a twist of magic, a swirl of darkness, and a whole lot of hope.
Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. This summer, Silly feels more alone than ever when her sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot: sporting sunburned cheeks smudged with glitter and gold hair that looks like tinsel.
When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it could tear them apart.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Corey Ann Haydu is the author of OCD LOVE STORY, LIFE BY COMMITTEE, MAKING PRETTY and her middle grade debut, RULES FOR STEALING STARS. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, Corey has been working in children’s publishing since 2009.|
In 2013, Corey was chosen as one of Publisher Weekly’s Flying Starts. Her books have been Junior Library Guild Selections, Indie Next Selections, and BCCB Blue Ribbon Selections.
Corey also teaches YA Novel Writing with Mediabistro and is adapting her debut novel, OCD LOVE STORY into a high school play, which will have its first run in Fall 2015.
Corey lives in Brooklyn with her dog, her fiance, and a wide selection of cheese.
Connect with Corey on twitter at @CoreyAnnHaydu.
Parties! Two weeks ago, The Pirate Code was released, which was a great excuse for a party or two! I had two swashbucklingly awesome events in Oregon, at Powell’s Books in Beaverton and at The Book Bin in Salem. Candy treasure was consumed, sea shanties were sang, the book cover was recreated, and a good time was had by all (or I would have made them walk the plank). See photos here and here.
Thank you so much to everyone who attended and celebrated this new book with me.
Big News! Last week, Hook’s Revenge hit the New York Times Bestsellers list! (WHAT?) It was listed as number five in middle grade ebooks.
Jeans. I bought a new pair and I love them so much I want to wear them every day. This is a cause to celebrate and I wanted to share it with you.
Water on Mars! That’s big news too! So awesome. Though knowing that might have made things a lot easier for Matt Damon. Speaking of which…
The Martian. I read the book last week and couldn’t put it down. I’m really hoping the movie does it justice. Are any of you planning on seeing it this weekend?
What’s on your mind today, friends?
Hi, Middle School Rachele!
This is you from the future (the way way far future…middle school seems so long ago now!). Life is pretty great! You have an awesome husband, adorable new baby and a cuddly dog who loves to lay by you when you write!
I want to tell you a cool story about a time in your life when you were really upset, because it has a really happy ending that you just didn’t know about yet!
So remember at the start of middle school when there was a meeting after school about band? And all the instruments were spread out in the music room, and you could try them all out? Remember how you fell in love with the saxophone (probably partly because your cousin and close friend, Shelly, played it and partly because Lisa Simpson played it…yep, you must have been onto something when you were obsessed with The Simpsons, because over twenty years later, it’s still on the air!). Anyways, you wanted to play the saxophone so bad and as your other friends were trying out instruments, you didn’t even touch another one because you knew that the saxophone was the one meant for you.
You went home all excited to tell your mom about it but instead of being as excited as you were, she looked upset. You didn’t understand why until she told you how expensive the saxophone was. And how she couldn’t afford for you to play it. Remember how upset you were? Your mom felt bad and told you that you could keep taking piano lessons, but it wasn’t the same. You wanted to pick up that shiny saxophone and press down on the keys again. You wanted to leave regular music class and go to band with the rest of your friends. You wanted to be a part of the Christmas concert and spring recital and wear a fancy black skirt and white blouse while everyone watched you play.
You were really sad about it and as much as you tried to hide your disappointment, your mom could tell. So she suggested that instead of the saxophone, you could take acting lessons at The Beck Center. You loved the Beck Center! Your Girl Scout troop always went to see the children theater shows there, and you used to beg your mom to let you be a part of it. You quickly agree, the saxophone forgotten and this begins one of your greatest adventures. You start going to classes every Saturday and eventually get a role in a play. You’re only a townsperson in Cinderella, but you treat it as if you have a lead. You get cast in more shows and you couldn’t be happier. The Beck Center becomes your home away from home, and you make some of your best friends there. You love acting and are so thankful that your mom suggested you do this instead of the saxophone.
Fast forward to twenty plus years later. You still love theater. You minored in it in college, you’ve directed shows at the middle school where you teach, and you’ve seen so many plays you’ve lost count (including two on Broadway!). One day you have an idea for a book, sparked by your years spent in children’s theater, and it starts to grow in your head. You sit down to write it and Operation Pucker Up is born. Your agent sells it and now, in a week, you’ll have your launch party at The Beck Center! And your old friends will be there reading chapters from the book and acting them out! How cool is that!?!
So what I really want to say to you is don’t be too sad about not playing the saxophone, because it was a blessing in disguise. It might have seemed unfair at the time, but look at what happened because of it! You were introduced to one of your favorite places in the world and made some best friends for life. So remember that life can surprise you sometimes. I’ll be thinking of the funny way things can turn out as I’m standing on that same stage you once did and thanking everyone for coming out to celebrate the release of Operation Pucker Up!
First kisses are always nerve-racking—but especially when they’re onstage! Can Grace find a real-life Prince Charming before she has to lock lips in front of a crowd?
Grace Shaw is thrilled to pieces when she wins the coveted lead role in her school play. That is, until she realizes she’ll have to kiss Prince Charming. And not only is Prince Charming—a.k.a James Lowe—the most popular boy in school, but Grace has never, ever been kissed.
To help, Grace’s two best friends create Operation Pucker Up—a plan for Grace to score a kiss before opening night so she doesn’t make total fool of herself in front of a live audience. If that weren’t enough to think about, Grace’s father, who left six months ago, suddenly walks back into her life. Haddie, her mom and sister have bonded as the “Terrific Three” – and while two of the “Three” welcome Dad back with open arms, Grace isn’t sure she can forgive and forget.
With Operation Pucker Up spinning out of control, and opening night fast approaching, will Grace manage to get her happily ever after—both on-stage and off?
Find Operation Pucker Up on IndieBound, Amazon, B&N, and Target or ask for it at bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Rachele Alpine is a lover of gummy candy, bad reality TV, and coffee…so much coffee. She’s the author of the MG novels Operation Pucker Up (Simon & Schuster) and You Throw Like a Girl (Simon & Schuster, 2017), and the YA novel Canary (Medallion). |
Connect with Rachele on RacheleAlpine.com, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This is you, writing from the future where TVs are larger than your Kirk Cameron poster but only as thick as a Nancy Drew book, and there are little boxes that you hold in your hand to change the channels, and there are tiny, flat phones that fit in your pocket and have no curly cords to attach them to the wall. I am not even joking here.
The future is magical.
So, it’s almost your eleventh birthday and you are over the moon because you just received a letter from the author James Howe who wrote some of your favorite books like Bunnicula, The Celery Stalks at Midnight, and Howliday Inn. I know, I know–James Howe! You will still find this event as mind-blowing thirty years in the future as you do right now. And that advice he gives you? It’s great writing advice and you will internalize it and apply it without even realizing you’ve done so.
Eventually his letter is going to get filed away in a scrapbook and you will forget about it for a while as you get caught up with dance and your aspirations to be a Laker Girl or backup performer for Janet Jackson. As you pursue those dancing dreams, you will also rediscover your love for writing and stories, and that passion will ultimately triumph over everything else and point you with purpose and focus into your future.
And then one day you’ll be living in Colorado (yes, you really do move out of California in the future. I know, you can’t imagine living anywhere else right now–except maybe Stoneybrook, CT, with the rest of the girls in The Babysitter’s Club–but you will move and you will be happy about it.) While sorting through your childhood things in Colorado, you will rediscover the letter from James Howe, and this will happen during a stretch of time when you are working multiple jobs while trying to write a novel. During this period you often doubt whether you have it in you to be a children’s book author like you dream of becoming. Finding that letter will feel like your destiny has been revealed, and you will plunge forward with confidence. Which doesn’t mean the path suddenly becomes clear and easy, but you will feel content with your choice to be on the path, no matter what obstacles lay ahead.
A few things I want to tell you before I get to the questions I know you are most eager for me to answer:
- You are the driver of your life. Other people will offer you maps, tell you the best route, or demand that you follow to where they are going, but ultimately you have the say in where you steer your car and how you get to your destination.
- You can’t control everything that happens, but you can control how you react and how you move forward. Look to people you admire as mentors (fictional people count too!) and think about how they carry themselves through the world and what they would do in a tough situation.
- Surround yourself with good people. You can tell the quality of someone’s character by their actions, not their words, but at the same time be understanding that everybody has their bad days.
- There is always an opportunity to try again. Just because you fail at something once doesn’t mean you should give up. If it still matters to you, try again.
- Maintain and nourish your sense of humor. This will help you in just about every aspect of life.
Okay, now the stuff you really want to know about:
1. There is going to be a sequel to The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, but you will have to wait a while. Like ten or so more years. (Oh, and if the James Howe letter is tripping you out, get this: One day you will talk to Zilpha Keatley Snyder ON THE PHONE. You also eat lunch next to Lois Lowry. I know. I know!!! I told you, the future is magical.)
2. Your collection of VHS tapes with dutifully recorded and saved episodes of 21 Jump Street, ALF, and Moonlighting are not going to come in as handy as you think they will.
3. I’m sorry to break this to you, but you are not going to marry Corey Haim. You’ll ending up marrying . . . well, I don’t want to spoil it for you. But trust me, it’s a very happy outcome.
4. You won’t transform into an extroverted, chatty person, but that’s okay. It really, really is. All those things about yourself that make you feel awkward and like you don’t fit in? You’ll end up embracing them and appreciating your own individuality.
Okay, you can get back to your game of Super Mario Bros. now. And happy birthday, kid!
For twelve-year-old Emily, the best thing about moving to San Francisco is that it’s the home city of her literary idol: Garrison Griswold, book publisher and creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger (a game where books are hidden in cities all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles). Upon her arrival, however, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and is now in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold himself, and might contain the only copy of his mysterious new game.
Racing against time, Emily and James rush from clue to clue, desperate to figure out the secret at the heart of Griswold’s new game–before those who attacked Griswold come after them too.
To learn more or play the game in real life, visit bookscavenger.com.
Find Book Scavenger on IndieBound, Amazon, B & N, Tattered Cover, or ask for it in bookstores and libraries near you.
Find more Hey Kid! letters here.
|Jennifer Chambliss Bertman was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. She studied writing and dance at the University of California, Irvine, and earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California. When she was eighteen, she interned for a magazine in Manhattan and has worked in publishing ever since.|
To learn more about Jennifer you can visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, or Facebook.