Honestly, not at that point. I had such a hard time finding books that I enjoyed. The Harry Potter series actually was the first one to rope me into being a big reader. Specifically, Prisoner of Azkaban, with all of its great plot twists and hidden identities.
What is a book that made an impact on you?
I always like to say that every book I read impacts me. Great books teach me new things about being a writer. I get to learn how other authors are ending chapters or pulling off climactic moments. Reading is like taking a class from the greats. And then books I don’t like? Those teach me what I don’t want to do. Nothing is wasted.
Is it hard to come up with book ideas?
This is the part that comes easy for me. My brain is just a weird one. So I’m always looking around our world and seeing different angles, figuring out how to tell new stories from things that seem normal or old.
You write series. Is it hard to keep track of details between books?
Not really for me! It is an art, though, to making sure your readers can keep track of things. That’s why in a lot of sequels, you’ll see authors doing their best to remind the reader of certain things to catch them back up. For us, we’re often writing the sequel right after we finish book one. So most of it is fresh.
Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of?
I always hesitate to say “lesser known” but in terms of authors I think every young reader should know right now: Jason Reynolds, Elizabeth Acevedo, Kwame Mbalia, Leigh Bardugo, Ali Standish, and Nic Stone. These are just a few of my favorites, though most of them are in young adult.
What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
My advice is always the same. Spend time writing. You can’t get better at anything without repetition and practice. Read widely. And lastly, do your best to find a writing community. Other authors can sharpen up your skills. Plus, it’s just fun to be around people who love to read and write as much as you do.
As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
I do hear from my readers a good amount. It’s fantastic. It reminds us that our books do find a home, and how meaningful it is. The only negative side of that is sometimes we get tagged in harsh reviews. I don’t know any author who likes that part of the job.
If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
I’m a prisoner of the moment, and I just finished The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. Her writing is so gorgeous and she makes ancient Greece feel alive and dangerous. I think I’d want to jump into that world and meet some of the famous characters from literature and history.
1. When you were my age (10), did you like to read?
Science fiction. That’s what my older brother read, and he read voraciously. Science fiction books were stacked up all over the house. So those were the first books I picked up. These weren’t Middle Grade or YA. Those categories hadn’t been invented yet. You had children’s fiction and adult fiction. These science fiction books were definitely adult. They were fascinating.
2. What is a book that made an impact on you?
‘Gravity’s Rainbow’, by Thomas Pynchon. Densest, most richly-charactered, most intense, trippiest, most imaginative, wildest, most incredible book I have ever read. But it is extremely adult literature.
3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas?
Not at all. I have too many ideas. That’s why I enjoy writing short stories, of which I have succeeded in getting 20 published. Short stories give me a chance to explore an idea without committing to a major project. Same goes for novellas, of which I have published 4.
4. Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of?
Sam Swicegood is a new author. His novel ‘No Place’, which incorporates elements of ‘Wizard of Oz’, is a good read. An older writer you don’t normally associate with MG lit is Ray Bradbury. His novel ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ is great, if a little frightening. If you saw the movie, don’t be put off by it. The movie was terrible. The book is great.
5. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Write. Write. Write. Write. Write. Write. Did I mention write? You learn to ride a bicycle by riding it. You don’t go to classes, you don’t attend seminars, you don’t read books about it. You learn to ride a bike by riding it. Same goes with writing. And do not give up. If you enjoy writing. But you would have to enjoy it to invest the necessary time required to get good at it, whether you ever make a dime at it or not. If you invest your time in something you enjoy doing, then even if you fail you win.
6. As an author, do you hear from your readers? Whatdo you like about that?
I get feedback from my friends. They are honest friends. I don’t always like what they tell me, but it is useful. My friends point out problems I don’t even realize are problems. They also make suggestions on how to improve my writing. I don’t always follow their suggestions, but I consider them. You need a tough hide. Not only will you get tons of useful criticism (if you are lucky), but you will also get tons of rejection notices. I’ve always said 1 yes is worth 1,000 nos.
7. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
‘The Eye of the World’, by Robert Jordan. That is the first book in his amazing Wheel of Time fantasy series. He created an amazingly rich world which I would enjoy being a part of.
1. When you were my age (10), did you like to read? I loved to read! Especially Goosebumps books, they were my favorite.
2. What is a book that made an impact on you? Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older had a huge impact on me, because it helped me feel brave enough to write about my own culture in a fantasy book.
3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas? Not so far! My problem is I have too many ideas and not enough time.
4. Your new book is going to be adapted? How did that come about? That was all Scholastic! They’d been working on it for a while, and I was just updated along the way.
5. Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of? A fellow spooky story author I think kids should be aware of is Karen Strong who wrote Just South of Home!
6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Read a lot and start writing as soon as you can. You don’t have to finish a book or write anything long: I started by writing short stories, poems and song lyrics. I would also watch videos of authors on youtube, many of them have videos about the process of becoming a writer and it might be helpful! You can usually ask questions in their comments too and hopefully they get back to you.
7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? So far I have heard from a few and it’s been great. It’s always fun to be able to hear reader reactions or see pictures of kids reading something I wrote, I hope to continue hearing from you all!
8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? Howl’s Moving Castle, for sure!
1. When you were my age (10), did you like to read?
Yes! I’ve always loved reading. In fact, I used to beg my parents for books constantly. Sometimes we’d go to the bookstore, and I’d pore over the shelves trying to decide which one book I wanted most of all. And at least once a week, we’d go to the library, and I’d grab a huge stack of books to take home and devour.
2. What is a book that made an impact on you?
Grimm’s fairytales made a huge impact on me. My gram read me these stories when I was a kid, and I think they brought out my love of reading (and writing). I would fall asleep listening to my gram’s voice, and these tales made my imagination run wild with stories of my own.
3. Is it hard to come up with book ideas?
Coming up with book is probably my favorite part of writing, likely because I enjoy daydreaming so much. I love the possibility of starting a new story and getting to know the characters and building the atmosphere of the world. Asking what if, what if, what if…
For The Bone Garden (2019), the story stemmed from the very first line, and then I had to find out what happened next. For The Forest of Stars (2020), the idea came to me while I was writing a completely different book, which included a fairytale about a girl who could float among the stars—and I thought that little story would be so much fun to write! For The Plentiful Darkness (2021), the idea sparked from a dream I had one night about a magician and a dark, dark world.
Sometimes the hardest thing for me is choosing which story to tell and then sticking with it until it’s finished. All my other ideas keep tumbling around in my head and want to be put on paper too, instead of waiting patiently.
4. How do you find a balance between spooky and scary?
When I sit down to write, I try to find that place where dark and light, spooky and hopeful tangle together. I want my readers to walk along with my characters, wondering what’s around the corner and then not being too afraid to turn the page and find out. To me, spooky means readers might be wary of the shadows, but they’re brave enough to poke at them, while scary makes you want to cover your eyes and hide!
5. Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of?
One of my favorite middle grade reads is Just South of Home by Karen Strong, whose book debuted in 2019. It’s full of ghosts, and red velvet cake, and lots and lots of heart. It’s also one of those stories that’s not necessarily super scary but is definitely spooky (I mentioned ghosts, right?)!
6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
* Read a lot
* Jot down your ideas as soon as you have them so the seed of the story doesn’t slip away
* Finish what you start
* Get lost in your own stories and have FUN!
7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
Yes, it’s so wonderful to hear from readers! Firstly, because it always makes me happy knowing that someone enjoyed my book. But more importantly, because I write for kids and I want them to be happy. If my words make readers shiver at a spooky scene or feel hopeful or brave or laugh out loud, then all the work that went into writing the story is worth it.
8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
Oh, this is a tough choice. The Wizard of Oz has always been a favorite of mine, so I would definitely love to portal into that world, stroll down the yellow brick road, and find an adventure (and some new friends!) in the Emerald City. (Instead of Toto, I’d have to bring my cats, of course—Elly and Ava!)
If I were to step into one of my own books, I’d choose The Forest of Stars. Deep in the Spark Woods sits a carnival that opens its gates at night and holds all manner of magic, marvels, and mystiques—including a girl whose feet never touch the ground, a shadow spinner, and a misfortune teller.
1. Why did you decide to write a series about women in multiple sports across decades?
Although there was pretty much nothing written about women’s sports history when I was growing up, once I started researching I found out there was a huge story to tell. I’ve written a number of books on specific athletes and leagues, but I was interested in looking at women’s history through the lens of sports: how did physical fitness and athletic competition impact women’s lives at different times? I started with the bicycle in the 1890s because that was the first time women took part in a fitness activity in large numbers. I moved on to the automobile from 1900 through World War I because there was so much controversy about women driving and racing cars at the time. And I knew that the 1920s marked a crucial decade in the history of women in sports, one where women’s achievements led to a powerful backlash and questions about the very definition of femininity.
2a. Which female athletes inspire you? Is there a time period you most admire?
I am most inspired by female athletes who excel on the field but also use their position as role models to try and improve things for other women. People like Megan Rapinoe and the members of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer team, Serena and Venus Williams, and the U.S. gymnasts who testified against Dr. Larry Nassar. Their fights for pay equity and against abuse are helping to improve conditions for women athletes in the U.S. and around the world.
2b. Is there a time period you most admire?
There are two decades in the 20th century when women took their participation in sports to the next level, the 1920s and the 1990s. I got to explore the 1920s in depth in Breaking Through. It was the first time women athletes became international sports stars and had their achievements reported on the sports pages. There were so many outstanding athletes, but, as I discuss in the book, there were also a lot of critics who felt it was inappropriate for women to passionately compete in sports. Because of these critics women were discouraged from competing for much of the 20th century, and it wasn’t until the 1990s that women broke out bigtime. At the 1996 Summer Olympics, American women’s teams won gold in basketball, softball, soccer, and team gymnastics. Soon after, two professional women’s basketball leagues started, as did pro leagues in other sports. The 1990s sowed the seeds for the exciting women’s sports landscape that we have today.
3. How did you get into sports?
I was an athletic kid in an athletic family. My dad always played softball with all the neighborhood kids when I was growing up, and at sleepover camp I played softball and volleyball and swam. Our family also watched sports a lot—baseball, tennis, football, the Olympics. When the Olympics were on, I was amazed that there were suddenly talented female athletes on my TV screen. They became my heroes and role models.
4. How did you get into writing?
When I was in elementary school—4th grade, I think—I wrote a short story about a bird that perched on the window of an old lady’s apartment and visited with her. My teacher loved the story and her praise made me feel so empowered. From that moment on, I knew that writing was my superpower. In junior high I started focusing on journalism, researching and reporting on stories related to my school. I eventually was editor in chief of my junior high and high school newspapers and my destiny as a nonfiction author was pretty much set.
5. What advice do you have for someone interested in sports writing?
Read the sports pages. I learned so much reading reports of baseball games, especially the language and the rhythm of sports reporting. The language of sports is full of verbs. People smash hits, tackle opponents, stride across the field. The rhythm changes depending on the sport. It could be slow and deliberate, as in golf, or fast and frantic, as in basketball. You should take notice when you read sports articles. And that brings me to the second bit of advice: Write! If you watch a baseball or basketball game, try writing your own article reporting on what happened. It’s not easy—you have to think of the game as a whole and decide what the defining moments were, while still reporting on the flow of the action—but it will help you get comfortable with the language and pace.
6. Girls drop out of sports earlier and more often than boys do. What are some ways you think we could keep more girls involved in sports?
I think girls need female sports role models, and fortunately, there are increasing numbers of them. The more coverage women’s sports gets, the easier it will be for girls to see athletes who look like them competing on elite levels. And if they see them, they can imagine being them. It’s also important that school guidance counselors share information with girls about scholarship opportunities for female athletes. The possibility of winning a scholarship and competing in college is one more incentive to stick with a sport.
7. What other books do you recommend on women/girls and sports?
Kathleen Krull’s picture book about Wilma Rudolph, Wilma Unlimited (illustrated by David Diaz), is one that I look at often. I think it’s the perfect picture book sports biography. Karen Blumenthal’s nonfiction book about Title IX, Let Me Play, is important because all female athletes should be familiar with the law that opened up school sports to women. I would also recommend a book I edited called Girls Got Game, which is an anthology of short stories and poems by wonderful female writers centered on girls who play sports. It’s out of print, though, so check your libraries for it.
Shred-Girls.com, @shred.girls and @mollyjhurford on Instagram is how to find me!
1. What is it like being an author and a cyclist at same time?It’s… Well, it’s busy, to be honest. I actually don’t race bikes much anymore (I started ultra-running a couple years ago!) but I still spend at least two months of the year where I’m coaching at cycling camps. Right now, for example, I’m in Girona, Spain, and all of February and two weeks of March, I’ll be coaching by day and writing by night. It can be a little hard to balance sometimes, and when I’m coaching and riding a lot, I write a little less; but when I have a deadline for a new book, I ride a bit less! I sometimes pretend it’s a Superman/Clark Kent thing: I’m a mild-mannered reporter most of the time, but a Spandex-wearing speedy person part of the time too! (I don’t change in phone booths though.)
2. What inspired you to create Shred Girls?The scary fact is that a lot of little girls drop out of riding bikes around the ages of 8 to 13, because they don’t see other girls riding and can’t really picture themselves doing it—and that was my experience too! As a cycling journalist, I wanted to figure out a way to keep girls on bikes, and I knew that for some girls, reading about other girls getting rad on bikes would be the push that they needed to stay having fun on bikes! When I was a kid, I read The Babysitter’s Club books obsessively, and as a result, I started babysitting. Let’s be honest, biking is way more fun than babysitting, so I figured if books could convince me to babysit, they can definitely convince girls to bike!
3. When you were 10, what was your favorite book(s)? I definitely couldn’t just pick one, because I was a HUGE bookworm. (True story, I got banned from bringing books to recess because I read too much in school, so I sewed a pocket into my coat to smuggle one out to the playground anyway!) But I really loved every Nancy Drew mystery, and pretty much anything else I could get my hands on. Weirdly, even though I wasn’t athletic as a kid, I did love reading books about sports nutrition.
4. How old were you when you got into cycling? I’ve been riding bikes since I can remember—my neighbor was a boy my age and anything he did, I wanted to do, so the second he got a bike, I needed one. When he got his training wheels off, mine came off. We lived on a pretty quiet country road and spent a lot of time riding around the neighborhood and the woods behind our houses. But I stopped riding with him when I was 10, and didn’t really start again until I was 19! That’s when I discovered triathlon, and ended up joining my college’s cycling team in order to get better at riding bikes, since triathlons are swimming, biking and running combined. I fell in love with cycling then!
5. Do you have a favorite cycling discipline? I’ve tried them all and I have to say cyclocross—picture riding a road bike offroad, and having to hop on and off it to go over obstacles, racing in mud, snow and rain—is my favorite. The community around it is just the best! The first book I wrote was called “Mud, Snow and Cyclocross,” and I’ve spent years racing it and even managed a professional team so that I could live in Europe for chunks of the year and go to all of the really big races.
5a. Have you tried track cycling ? (It is what I do) I have tried track! I raced it for about a year when I was living closer to the Kissena Velodrome in New York and loved it for the tactics and how focused you had to be in races, but I found I prefer being outside on trails and when I moved to Massachusetts and then Ontario, there wasn’t a track near me anymore. I do miss it though! (Bridget note: I do feel lucky to live by two of velodromes in the US!)
6. What is your most proud cycling achievement? Oh, great question! I’ve had a few that I’ve been really proud of, but when I think of a time I felt the best on the bike, it was my second season of racing for the Rutgers Cycling team, after a few months of really focused training on the road. The first race of the season was our home race, and it was a criterium—a race that goes around a short, four-cornered course multiple times. When the race started, I started pedaling hard, and when I looked back, I was way out in front of everyone! My guy teammates who were on the sides of the course kept telling me to slow down and not blow up in the first couple laps, but as the race went on, I didn’t get tired. I remember smiling almost the entire time, I felt so good. I won the women’s B race that day, and even though it was a while ago and I’ve won other races since then, that one was the first time I remember feeling like a real cyclist.
7. Did you base any of the Shred Girls on yourself or cyclist you know? As you can tell from my answer to the first question, I’m kind of a comic book nerd! So, of course, Lindsay is a character that I really relate to. But then again, I grew up with mostly guy friends, so I understand Ali and her brothers; and I’m a bit of a perfectionist and super competitive, so I get Jen as well. So I used my own experiences, but I also mixed in traits from girls and women I’d interviewed over the years! Over the last few years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of young riders, and every girl I talked to helped me create the Shred Girls in some way.
My friend Trish, the first girl to compete in a Speed and Style competition at a huge bike festival called Crankworx, is the one who taught me the ‘ponytail trick’ that helps you figure out how to time your jumps.
8. Are you superstitious about anything in cycling? (I have to ride a certain track bike in competition.) Before races, I can usually be spotted tapping my fingers together in a very specific way—it’s not for luck exactly, but it’s how I stay calm at the start! I also race wearing a ring my sister game me that looks sort of like Wonder Woman’s bracelets, and before I had that, I would write something on my hand, like ‘race happy’ or ‘kick butt,’ depending on what I needed to be thinking about!
9. What book(s) inspired you lately? I really enjoyed runner Deena Kastor’s memoir, Let Your Mind Run. And even though I’m technically too old for them, I still love all of Rick Riordan’s Greek mythology books, and for young adult fiction, Moxie is another fantastic newer book. I also still regularly re-read old favorites like The Babysitter’s Club!
10. What advice would you give to a kid who wants to be an author? A Cyclist?The same is true of both: To be an author or to be a cyclist takes a lot of hard work, persistence and determination. In both, you really have to blaze your own trail, there’s not one easy path to success. My best advice is that if you want to be a writer, you have to write. A lot. And if you want to be a cyclist, you have to ride. A lot. And with that, consistency is key—if you write 10,000 words in one week once a year, or you ride 40 hours in one week once a year, and that’s it, that’s not nearly as effective as writing 1,000 words every single week, or riding 4 hours every single week.
1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?
In fifth grade, the kids in my class discovered the Narnia books. Once I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I was hooked on fantasy adventure stories. Another favorite series is The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper.
2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you?
I just read Malaka Gharib’s graphic memoir, I Was Their American Dream. As a first generation American, I love stories about what its like to have an immigrant parent, and to be from a family with two or more cultures. I couldn’t put this book down!
3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?
I work from home, so my writing day depends on the book or project I’m working on. Most recently, I wrote a robot poem every day in November – to go with the robot doodles I post on Instagram. Now that I’m revising the first, messy drafts, I am spending several hours on the robot poems every day. Good thing I have help from my editorial assistants, Sam the Schnauzer and Rudy the Beagle.
4. Is there a newer or less know author you think kids should know about?
I think every kid should read Super Jake and the King of Chaos, by debut middle grade author Naomi Milliner.
5. What is a cool thing about being an author?
There are so many cool things! Making wonderful author friends, working at home with my dogs for company, and hearing from readers – especially kid readers – who connect with the characters in my books.
6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.
Now I’m dreaming of a pot of gold rainbow cupcake! There are many difficult parts to being an author. Working to meet a deadline often feels like cramming for the biggest test ever. Learning to deal with rejection, such as a less-than-wonderful review of a book you worked hard on – that is really challenging.
7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?
I live in an area where the schools are very multicultural. One of my goals is to reflect that reality in the books I write. A positive change that’s happened in the last few years is that many authors will only appear at events or speak on panels if an effort has been made to include diverse voices.
8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?
If I could portal into a book at this moment, it would be Victoria Jamieson’s graphic novel All’s Faire in Middle School. I’d love to be part of Imogene’s extended family, working behind the scenes at the Renaissance Faire.