Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Brooks Benjamin

Online presence (website/social media)
Twitter: @brooksbenjamin
Instagram: @thebrooksbenjamin

  1. When you were my age (10), did you have a book inspire or impact you?
    Yes! Bridge to Terabithia had a huge impact on me. I grew up on a little farm in the middle of nowhere and I really connected with Jess. But then I got to the end of the book and got so mad at Katherine Paterson for what she did to Leslie. I vowed to never read the book again and maybe even form an anti-Terabithia club or something. But I couldn’t stay away from that story for some reason. It had rooted itself in my heart and it wasn’t going anywhere.

2. Have you read anything recently that inspired or impacted you? Recently, I can’t get enough of Ronald L. Smith’s books. He writes the most wonderfully creepy stories and his latest, The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away, has quickly become one of my most favorite books of all time. And it’s the one that inspired me to begin working on a spooky story of my own.

3. Can you share what your usual day as an author looks like?
It’s positively glamorous. I’m talking fluffy fleecy robes, cereal in diamond-studded bowls with milk that has the little gold flakes in it, imported coffee, you name it.
wakes up
Oh, sorry, what was the question? My typical day? Got it. Well, I’m also a full-time teacher, so most of my day looks like me running around, making weird jokes and goofy faces, trying to make kids laugh while I teach them stuff. Which is odd because that’s also how I look when I write. I do that for one hour before I go to work. I have my cereal (normal bowl, normal milk), my coffee (it’s from Kroger), and a head full of ideas freshly plucked from dreamland.

4. Is there a newer or less known author you think kids should know about?
Absolutely. Greg Howard should be on everyone’s to-read list. His first MG book, The Whispers, is positively phenomenal and he’s got a new MG coming out next year that is going to be so much fun!

5. What is a cool thing about being an author?
Connecting with young readers will always be my absolute favorite thing about being an author. Emails, letters, drawings, all of it. And when I’m lucky enough to meet readers in real life? My smile practically wraps the whole way around my head. Which is scary. It scares people. Especially me.

6. Is there anything hard about being an author? I know it is not rainbows, cupcakes, pens and a pot of gold.
Well, there are cupcakes. But that’s because I like cupcakes and I buy them sometimes. Mainly because being an author is hard. One thing every author faces is rejection. For every book we have out there, there are probably two or three (or more!) that never made it. Rejection stings. And when you’ve got anxiety like I have, sometimes that sting carries a bit of poison that soaks into your brain, infecting every thought you have about your writing. Sometimes it can feel like you’re sinking. But luckily I have the most amazing wife who is a pro at helping me stay afloat. And my agent is so relentlessly supportive. I’m very grateful to have them on my side.

7. Book access and diversity in books is a big topic. As an author what do you think your role is in this topic?
You know those cheerleaders who toss the other cheerleaders into the air so they can do some amazing flip kick twist move? I think that’s my role. Not doing the flip kick twist move, but heaving others into the air so they can do it. I want to find those books my students need and show them off. I want to lift up those voices because, unfortunately, a lot of times they don’t get the attention they deserve.

8. If you could portal into any book which would it be?
This is such a tough question! There are so many books I want to live inside. But if I had to pick just one, I guess I’d go with the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series by Sayantani DasGupta. There’s so much magic and action and adventure. There are also plenty of monsters, but I know I’d be safe because Kiranmala is exceptionally good at kicking evil’s butt.

Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Bridget Hodder

This is my 100th author/illustrator interview and I am super excited it is with Bridget Hodder!

Author website/social media:

Visit me at my website,  Bridget Hodder | author of The Rat Prince ; on Twitter at @BridgetsBooks ; or on Facebook, where you can see the awesome profile pic that author and artist Roselle Lim created for me at

1.     When you were my age (9), did you like to read?


–I absolutely adored it. I didn’t realize it then, but I was born with terrible eyesight, so I didn’t seem to be able to hit tennis balls, sink baskets, or play soccer. Instead, I escaped into books every chance I got!

2.     What was your favorite story?

—It’s impossible to choose just one, but I read and re-read the Tintin books all the time (graphic novels–yay!). I also loved the Chronicles of Narnia (Reepicheep the Mouse was an early influence that showed up later in the character of The Rat Prince, the hero of my first book.) A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett was also a favorite, mostly for the example it gave of how a powerless child could keep her dignity and her power through the worst challenges in life, if she holds on to her belief in herself.

3.     How do you get your ideas? Like why retell fairy tales?

–I’m one of those people who are always thinking about how to make things better. So if a story ends, and I loved the characters but didn’t love what the author did with them, I’ll spin a new story in my head that makes everything work out right. I’ve got a “better” version in my mind of just about every fairy tale I’ve ever read. That’s exactly why I wrote THE RAT PRINCE. So much about the original fairy tale of “Cinderella” made me mad; I just had to fix it; and THE RAT PRINCE was born!

4.     What author do you really like right now?

–I read constantly, so if you ask me that question on different days, I’ll have different answers! Recently, I’m really enjoying Aisha Saeed, who wrote “Written in the Stars” and “Amal Unbound”, and Laura Shovan, who wrote “The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary”, and “Takedown”. Plus, I’m always looking for the next thing Tracey Baptiste has written. I’m dying to read her Minecraft book!

5.     Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?


–Always! I loved “The Magic of Melwick Orchard” by new author Rebecca Caprara, a tender book with magical realism and a heroine who has a sibling with cancer. I also read Denis Markell’s new book “The Game Masters of Garden Place” and I thought it was hilarious, with kids who play D & D suddenly discovering they’ve created their own parallel universe populated by their characters, who spill over into this reality and start causing trouble!

6.     What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

–Know that absolutely everyone is a storyteller. Do you tell your parents what you did in school, at the dinner table? You’re a storyteller. Do you text your friends about things that happened to each other? You’re a  storyteller. All you need to do is to believe in your own magic, and write the stories down that are already glowing in your heart.

7.     As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?

–Oh, yes! It’s my favorite part of being an author! Getting letters and emails is the BEST. Among the favorites I’ve received have are some amazing colored-pencil potraits of my characters, and even some drawings of myself! I have them hanging over my desk for inspiration. Don’t ever think that if you write to authors, they’ll be too snooty to appreciate you or to reply. The opposite is almost always true. You are the reason we write!

(I’ve attached some examples!)

8.     If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?

–Wow, that’s a wonderful question. It makes me think of Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s idea that books can serve as “sliding glass doors” into other worlds. Some books I’ve loved have been set in really difficult places, so…not “The War that Saved My Life”! Even Harry Potter’s world was way too dangerous for me to feel 100% comfy there. I think I’m defaulting to Narnia again. Let’s go!

9. You were an archaelogist. What was that like? Is it one of those jobs that isn’t what people think it is?

–Another very perceptive question. If people think of archaeology as what Indiana Jones did, then they’re way off base. That’s destructive grave-robbing. There are different kinds of archaeology. Some folks dig in the dirt, some study seeds and plants, some decipher ancient texts to learn about history, and a whole lot more. I worked on ancient Aztec texts, written in their language, Classical Nahuatl. It was intensely difficult, as the language is very, very complex. But everyone deserves to be heard, right? Even if they died a thousand years ago. Just be aware before you start that it’s a lot of work to do archaeology right.

I want to end by thanking you so much for having me, Bridget. I love your wonderful blog, I loved meeting you at nErDcamp Michigan, and… I love your name!

Bridgets are the best!!!

Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Devin Scillian

Note: I interviewed Devin in person. He recorded it and Mom transcribed it below. He is a news anchor, musician and author!

New Anchor Website

What is it like to be an author and a news anchor at same time?

It is kind of fun because I get to dabble in two different worlds. When  I am worrying about the news world, I am worrying about real things.  When I have to focus on the truth and being accurate.  When I writing a story it can be whatever I want it to be. So it is kind of fun to write for news which is non-fiction,  though sometimes I write non-fiction for children’s books.  But most of the time they are stories I like to tell and I can let my imagination run wild.

How does being a news anchor help with writing or how does being an author help with being a news anchor?

  • Well the one thing I try to tell people, I don’t think they always think about it when becoming a reporter, they are really writers. Even though we talk a lot on television and that doesn’t feel like writing, [interruption for news check], but really a reporter is a news writer.  I first start writing stories long before I thought about being a reporter, so that got my writing skills together in lots of different ways.. I think to be a reporter you need to be a writer.

How many books have you written?

Umm.. 19 are out and 20th will be out early next year.  That will be Memoirs of a Tortoise. [Comments by that would be my brother’s favorite]

How do you come up with ideas for your books?

I wish I knew that. Because if I did, every time I sat down to write, I would hit the idea button and then all of sudden I would have a million thoughts for a book.  Sometimes what I have noticed, if I get a good title in my mind, then the ideas start flowing.  I got the idea of “Memoirs of a Goldfish” because my daughter came home one day and said “Dad, I think there should be a book called “Memoirs of a Goldfish”. I thought it was the greatest title I had ever heard.  I didn’t have a story. I just had a title.  And I started to write to that idea.  That has happened with a lot of my books.  Of my 19 books, I am going to say 17 or 16 started with the title first. I would say that is the reverse of a lot of authors. They think up the story first and then have to figure out the title.  Somehow it works backwards

Does the news sometimes help you with writing?

It can. More the idea of storytelling but sometimes an idea. If I see something on the news, it starts an idea. Lately we have done a bunch of stories on dogs that haven’t been treated very well. That’s made me think what would a story be if it was about a dog that hadn’t been treated well but found someone that was going to take care of it. That would be a pretty good story.  So sometimes the news does help me with stories.

As a kid did you read a lot?

I read a lot as a kid. Yes, I did. I loved Dr Seuss books. I love Shel Silverstein. My favorite book was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George…  which I just loved. [Introduced me to Kimberley Gill]

I read a lot of encyclopedias, which no one has now because of Google.  We had a set of encyclopedias as a kid. When I was bored I would just take out one and read it.  I just loved learning little odd things about lots of things. Which is what  a journalist ends up being. A person who knows a little about a lot.

Who was your favorite author?

Ummm.. I guess Dr Seuss because I love the way he plays with words. There was the writer of My side of the mountain and that book meant so much to me, so Jean George would be up there for me. And there was also Shel Silverstein even though I was getting a bit older when he was out.  But Dr Seuss had a big influence on me.

What is your favorite place to read?

My favorite place to read… that is an excellent question… I like to read outside. I like to sit outside on a really nice day. We have a cottage up on the thumb about two hours  from here and I love to sit outside and read there.  I don’t know what it is about being outside and reading but I love that.

If you could open a portal into any of your books, which one would it be?

OOOO, wow what a fantastic question. Um.. I wrote a book called “Pappy’s Handkerchief” which is about the Oklahoma land run. So it is kind of a western, and I always been fascinated by the west. I also think it is my best book.  They fired cannon on this one day  and all these people were on horses and wagon and when the cannon fired, they all went out, crossed the line and claimed their land.  I think that is kind of epic American story to go find your farm and start your whole life brand new from nothing. And you would want to find the piece of land that had some water on it, some trees and a perfect spot if you could, but you had to do it quick because everyone else was doing it too.  So I would love to open a portal to Pappy’s Handkerchief.

That is a great question….

How did you become an author along with a news anchor?

Well, I was a writer as a kid. I became a reporter and was very happy to be doing that. But right about the time we had our first child, I wrote a story called “Fibblestaxs”  and I really liked it.  I would read it at schools and teachers would tell me how much they liked it.  And I thought I would try to get this published and little did  I know it would take me ten years to find someone to publish it. But I did. And then that kind of changed my life.  I wasn’t thinking about the next book, just wanted to get one done.  [ I shared how my teacher has that book] You gave me goosebumps that you know that book.

I got invited to the White House to read.  And Laura Bush, the first lady invited me to read at the Easter Egg role and I assumed it was for my A is for America book.  It is a really patriotic book and was sunder the White House Christmas tree. When  I showed up, they said I didn’t have to bring my book because they would have it waiting. When I showed up to read the book they had for me was Fibblestaxs.  They said please don’t take this copy home. It is Mrs. Bush’s personal copy. She used to be a teacher, so I was so moved and touched that was the book she wanted me to read.  That was my first book and I am touched you know it and your teacher has it. It will always be my favorite book because it was the first one.

Who the coolest person you’ve interviewed?

Oooo. The coolest person…. Man… thinking.. That is really tricky. Umm. I got a chance to talk to Neil de Grasse Tyson but I didn’t get to interview him. I did get to interview President Obama and he was pretty cool. Um, who else, Steve Yzerman, Red Wings.   Like him a lot.  Nick Cannon – do you know who that is? Host of America’s Got Talent. He’s pretty cool guy. There is a guy Willie Nelson. He’s a country music singer, like I am. I have gotten to interview him a few times.  I might have to put Willie at the top if I think about it.

We talked a bit about the photos in Devin’s office.

What do your kids think is cooler?

You know how kids are. It is hard to impress your kids. But I think if they ask them all, I think they might say author. I think they are glad I am on tv and all but all my kids love  books so I would think that is what impresses them most.

If you could interview anyone, dead or alive who would it be?

Living or dead. Well dead I would love to interview a whole bunch of people who aren’t alive… but Jesus.  It would be an amazing interview, don’t you think.

Living – uh, um, Vladmir Putin, no lets go with Pope Francis. He is fascinating to me.  Um, so how about that I don’t think of myself overly religious and there were two religious figures I mentioned.  Religion is o influential in our world and I would love to talk to both of them on how they feel about that.

Mom added “ How do you write your engineering jokes” ?

{Lots of laughter. Mom reveals she and Dad attend a gala where Devin tells bad engineering jokes and it is a key reason they like going.}

It is one of the hardest things I have to do each year to come up with new ones.  There are really about 13 or 14 jokes. { The grownups start talking about the event and how good the speaker was…..} All year long if I see an engineering joke, I copy it to myself in a folder. And this year I was in a mad dash with a  week to go.

So if you have good science and engineering jokes, send them Devin’s way.

Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

NerdCampMI JR


I am lucky to live about 90 minutes from where NerdCampMI happens. This year, I was able to attend the Junior event.  My group got to meet Jarrett Lerner, Janet Tashjian and Hena Khan. Plus we heard Dav Pilkey and watched a draw off with Jerzy Drozd, Ruth McNally Barshaw, Judd Winnick and Travis Jonker.

The best part is meeting the authors and illustrators! I get nervous but it is my favorite part. Plus sometimes they recognize me first! You should attend these events because there are a lot of fun authors. A lot of the kids were super excited for Dav Pilkey and that is cool to see. I am not a huge fan of him but I was excited to hear from an author open about his ADHD. Yea – that is important for kids to hear especially kids with ADHD (like me).  Meeting authors makes books more real – you can learn more about how they got their stories together and even more fun, they introduce you to other authors.

Fun fact: my library asked me to read Kara LaReau‘s Bland Sisters, which I loved and interviewed her. From getting to know her, I found Jarrett Lerner and Debbie Michiko Florence.

My book pile has grown again, just in time for vacation.

I also met kid booktuber, Snazzy Reads, in person.  I like meeting kids like me who read and share about it. We just added a page to my blog to keep track of the “Cool Kids” I find out about.


Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Meet the author: Supriya Kelkar

• Author website/social media: Twitter: @soups25    Instagram: @Supriya.Kelkar

Tell me a little about yourself: Born and raised in the Midwest, Supriya Kelkar learned Hindi as a child by watching three Bollywood films a week. Now she works in the film industry as a Bollywood screenwriter. Ahimsa, inspired by her great-grandmother’s role in the Indian freedom movement, is her debut middle grade novel.

1 When you were my age (8), did you like to read? I used to like to read the Babysitter’s Club series, books by Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl, and a series of comic books from India called Amar Chitra Katha.

2 What was your favorite story? When I was younger, for several years my uncle and aunt would give me a Book of the Month Club membership for my birthday, Diwali and Rakhi presents. This was in the pre-Amazon days, so it was really exciting getting a package with books in it every month. I loved most of those books dearly and still have them all, so it’s hard for me to pick a favorite. I remember really loving the Babysitter’s Club books, Matilda, and Harriet the Spy.

3 How do you get your ideas? They usually come to me when I am trying to solve something for another project I’m working on at the time. Sometimes it can be a picture or an object that gives me the idea. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and inspiration strikes.

4 Is it hard to write a book? It is hard. But it isn’t impossible. It takes a lot of revising and you have to be willing to delete words and characters and chapters you really like. But in the end, it is worth it, when you have a story that works well.

5 Your book is based on your family experience. How did you get the information? I talked to my great-grandmother’s daughter, my great-aunt. I talked to my mom about family stories. And I read my great-grandmother’s biography, written by her husband, my great-grandfather.

6 When we met, you shared how you named your characters. Could you share it here? Yes! The main character, Anjali, is named after my mom. For the rest of the characters, most of them have names of family members from my parents’ or grandparents’ generations. I wanted to make sure they were names that would have existed in the 1940s.

7 What author do you really like right now? That’s a hard question to answer! I have so many favorites right now, that I have gotten to know over the past year. I absolutely adore the books written by all my fellow middle-grade debuts of 2017. I was also really floored by REFUGEE by Alan Gratz.

8 Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? I would highly recommend all the middle grade novels written by the 2017 debut authors. Ali Standish, Melissa Roske, Linda Williams Jackson, Kristin L. Gray, Karina Yan Glaser, Sarah Cannon, Dusti Bowling, Amanda Hosch, Beth Von Ancken McMullen, Karuna Riazi, Gareth Wronski, Leah Henderson, Patricia Bailey, Sally J. Pla…I could go on and on (there are 57 of us at last count!)

9 What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Read a lot of books, especially books in the genre you want to write, and keep writing and learning.

10 As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I do! I absolutely love getting to hear from readers that they connected with my book. It is the best feeling and makes my day!

Posted in Author Meet Up, Places I visit

A vacation recap

This past week I went on vacation with my family. We went to Orlando, Florida. We flew which is unusual for us. My parents usually drive us to our vacations. It was fun in the airport. Ours has a train, colorful tunnel and cool fountain.

Once in Orlando, we took a bus to Fort Wilderness to meet my grandparents. They joined us on vacation. The next four days I was at Disney World Parks.

It was very fun. My favorite ride was Haunted Mansion. At Animal Kingdom, it was Primeval Whirl. Also in Animal Kingdom, I liked the raft ride a lot! You can also do a fun activity called Wilderness Explorer throughout Animal Kingdom and learn about nature and conservation. I did a few activities but Little Brother did the entire book. He earned his Senior Explorer Badge.

In Disney Springs, we found a bakery that was ok for my brother and I to enjoy. We go cupcakes and donuts. They were so yummy. So look for Erin McKenna’s Bakery if you have allergies.

We also spent one day at Kennedy Space Center. It was very fun and neat to see real space ships. We went to the launch sites too.

The best part of my vacation was drumroll please…. meeting Mike Maihack! He held a talk at a library just so we could finally meet. He does a really good job explaining story telling and his process. He did reveal I have to wait longer for Cleopatra 5 (😭) but promises it is worth the wait.

Now I am back home. Tomorrow I go back to school – boo. I want vacation to be longer!

Posted in Author Meet Up, Meet the authors

Meet the Author: Wong Herbert Yee

I was born in Detroit and have 4 sisters and 2 brothers. I found out I liked to draw (and was pretty good at it) in first grade. Being an author/illustrator you’d think my favorite class in school was art or english. WRONG! It was gym. Especially dodge ball!

1. When you were my age did you like to read? I did like to read as well. We didn’t have many books at home. Having library class once a week was a real treat. We took a book off the shelf, sat down and read for thirty minutes. I went through different phases. Dog stories; horse stories. After that came series books like Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and Dr. Doolittle.

2. Did you have a favorite story? I don’t know if I had a favorite… but a book I do remember was Angus and the Ducks by Majorie Flack. The fact that I even recall it must mean something, I think.

3. Where do you get your ideas from? I get my ideas from anywhere and everywhere. I think a common trait for writers is being observant. I don’t talk much, but do pay attention to what’s going on around me.

4. Is it hard to write/illustrate a book? I’ve always had ideas… for stories, or pictures. For most that’s the tough part. Afterwards it’s a matter of putting in the work. Getting good at whatever it is you want to do. Practice, practice, practice!

5.Why did you start a graphic novel series?  I started out with picture books. From there the Mouse and Mole early reader series. Doing a graphic novel was different, a new and exciting way of storytelling. Still, it doesn’t matter what kind of book I’m working on, so long as the story is a good one.

6. What author do you really like right now? The book I’m reading now is by Alan Bradley, hot off the press, the latest in the Flavia de Luce series.

7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? This one’s easy, and a fitting last question. Read, read, READ! If you don’t like what you’re reading, stop, drop and pick out another. Pay attention to the stories that keep you turning the pages. It’s just the kind of book you might write some day!