Posted in Meet the authors

Julie Falatko

Author website/social media:


Twitter: @juliefalatko

Instagram: julie_falatko

Facebook: JulieFalatkoAuthor


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

YES. I loved to read. There was a great library in the town where I grew up, and my mom used to take me there for hours. I am an only child and sometimes my whole weekend would be sitting in my room, with a cat on my lap, reading book after book. It was dreamy.


2.             What is a book that made an impact on you?

This was a hard question to answer, because so many books have made an impact on me, from novels that made me feel seen to picture books that made me laugh. I’ll choose Bridge to Terabithia, which was the first book that made me cry. I think that showed me how magic books can be – little squiggles on the page that can make me feel real feelings? Sorcery!


3.             Is it hard to come up with book ideas?

It’s not hard to come up with ideas, but it is hard to figure out which are the good ones. I get most of my ideas when I’m outside, walking my dogs or going for a run. I always bring something with me to write on, and I write them all down. Then I play around with them, and some have momentum and become a good story, and some turn out to not be so great, idea-wise.


4.    What author or book have read recently that impacted you?

I can’t stop thinking about The Lost Girlby Anne Ursu. It’s a real page turner that grabbed my heart, made me smile, and empowered me stand taller.


5.      Is there a new or lesser known author you think kids should be aware of? 

Yes! My friend Karen Strong has a debut middle grade coming out in May called Just South of Home, that has family, mystery, science, and ghosts, and I can’t wait to read it. 


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

The first thing I need to make sure kids know is that authors are real people. I didn’t know that when I was a kid. I assumed all my favorite authors were dead. Or, if they were alive, they were much fancier than me. So you heard it here first: authors are regular people. Not fancy. And alive.


The second thing you need to know is that the way you write – your process – is exactly the same for me as it is for you. Professional grownup authors struggle with our words too. We write terrible stories sometimes. We get frustrated because the words on the page don’t match the words in our heads. We get distracted. We stare out the window. The biggest difference is that I know this is how it works, so I know to keep going. 


And the last thing I have to tell any kid who wants to be an author is: GOOD. If you have stories you want to tell, then we need to hear them. Please keep writing. Know that the story you have to tell is worth telling. Write the story in your heart. Write the stories you want to read. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. 


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

 I do hear from readers! I love when readers draw my characters and write their own stories about them, or when they put characters from different books in a picture together, like Snappsy and Bert chatting with Waldo and Sassy. 


I also love when they write me to tell me they like my books because they’re funny. Maybe this is because I’m a needy person who likes to be reassured that I am, in fact, funny. Or maybe this is because I think funny books are important, and those readers reiterate that for me.


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

I would portal into Everything You Need for a Treehouse by Carter Higgins, illustrated by Emily Hughes. I want to spend a night in each of those treehouses! And most especially live in the one with all the books.


Posted in Meet the authors

Susan Ross

My name is Susan L Ross, and I’m an author from Maine and Connecticut. For more information about my two middle grade novels, Searching for Lottie and Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, you can visit my website at: I’m also on Twitter @SusanRossAuthor.

My new book, Searching for Lottie, is a modern mystery about a 12 year girl named Charlie who tries to discover what happened to her grandmother’s sister, Lottie — a young violinist who disappeared during the Holocaust. Charlie knows that Lottie probably perished, but the more she learns, the more she wonders: Is is possible that Lottie survived? Much of the story is based on my own family’s history. My first book, Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story, is about a refugee Somali girl and boy in Maine and was inspired by my childhood home in Maine.

  1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read? When I was young, I didn’t just like to read — I LOVED to read. My main interest was horses, and I would devour any horse-related book I could find: Black Beauty, Misty, and The Black Stallion were among my favorites. There was just one thing that I liked even better than reading — and that was writing! I wrote my first novel in fourth grade. It was called Diablo, and the story was about — you guessed it — a horse. I had a wonderful teacher named Mrs. MacDonald, who even let me stay inside at recess and write.

2. What was your favorite story? As a kid, another favorite book was The Little Engine that Could. In Searching for Lottie, Charlie’s Nana Rose is always full of optimism, in spite of early tragedy and hardship. She has encouraging sayings for almost everything. Like Nana Rose, Charlie keeps going when things get tough. She thinks about The Little Engine That Could and repeats to herself:  “I think I can, I think I can…!”

3. How do you get your ideas? I usually get my ideas from a real-life setting or something that is true. Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story was inspired by the many Somali families who have settled in my childhood home in Maine and my belief that books can help make our world a kinder, better, place by letting kids experience different cultures through diverse characters and stories. I want my readers to feel as if they are a character within each story and in this way, build empathy for the characters around them. The idea for Searching for Lottie came from my own family’s experiences during and after the Holocaust — and seeing how much it meant to my kids to learn about our family’s history.

4.  What author do you really like right now? I am an enormous, life-long fan of Patricia Reilly Giff, who won two Newbery Honors with her wonderful books. Her newest middle grade novel is Island War. Pat wrote the lovely blurb for the jacket of Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story.

5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? A “newer’ author whom I admire is Anna Crowley Redding, the author of Google It: A History of Google. She writes about STEM subjects, something I am definitely not good at — so I love learning from her books! 

6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Here is my advice for a kid who wants to be an author (and guess what? It’s the same advice for adults!) KEEP WRITING! It takes a really long time to write a book and can feel exhausting sometimes, but don’t give up. Remember, so much of writing is thinking about your stories — and then, revising your drafts. Like Nana Rose always says in Searching for Lottie: “If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again!

7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I love doing school visits and hearing from my readers. For World Read Aloud Day, I was able to Skype with many schools on the same day — it was SO cool talking with kids from Iowa to Ontario. I felt especially happy after reading a review of Kiki and Jacques from a Somali girl in Australia; she was excited because she rarely sees books about her culture. Best of all, she thought I got the details right. Since authors do a lot of research — I met with Somali teens over several years to learn about their lives and was tremendously inspired by them — I was delighted she felt that way.

8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? The story behind Searching for Lottie is based on my own family’s experiences, so if I had a portal, I think I’d use that to find out even more about our family’s history. My son did a school project about my refugee mother’s journey to America, and I began to realize that although many years had passed since World War II, in some ways, it felt like our family history had actually gotten closer and more accessible because of the Internet and because kids can ask questions today that were sometimes too painful for my generation. All families, whatever their backgrounds, have stories — and it is so important for kids to save these memories for the future.

Many thanks and let me know if there’s anything else you need — I love your blog and think you are amazing!

Posted in Meet the authors

Elly Swartz

Author website/social media:


Twitter: @ellyswartz

Instagram: @ellyswartzbooks

Webseries with author Victoria J. Coe: #BooksintheKitchen


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

When I was 9, I loved to read. At bedtime, I would use a flashlight and read under my covers until my mom made me promise I’d turn it off and go to sleep.


2. What was your favorite story?

When I was growing up, I loved stories about strong girls with lots of heart and a dash of humor. My favorites were: Ramona the Brave, Pippi Longstocking, and Eloise. I also loved every book by Judy Bloom. Her stories always made me feel all the feels.


3. How do you get your ideas?  

Life is happening all around me. So, I try to pay attention to the beautiful, weird, interesting, unique, scary, gross, and funny. I jot these things down in my notes app on my phone. I’ve done this on a hike, bike ride, at a restaurant, even in yoga class. I never know when one of these seeds is going to sprout into an idea. 


I also use objects to ground my stories. For instance, I have a perfume bottle on my desk. It was my mom’s. And ever since she passed away, I keep it close. It reminds me of her and all the things I loved most. And miss tremendously. So, in Finding Perfect, I used this perfume bottle to anchor Molly’s story. It representsMolly’s longing to be with her mom when her mom leaves the family to take a job far away. It reflects Molly’s desperate desire for things to be the way they were. Before the leaving. The missing. And the hurt.


4. Best part about kids’ books today?

What I love about kidlit today is that there are amazing authors writing incredible stories that reflect so many different readers’ experiences. I love that more readerscan see themselves and their lives reflected on the page. Truly, it is so important for all kids to feel seen, heard, and respected. For all kids to feel connected. For all kids to feel valued. And loved.


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

My advice is to read everything. And write because you love it. Because you have a story to tell. Write what matters to you. If you write from that place of true authenticity, the place that tugs at your heart, your words and your story will connect with your readers. 


Then follow your dreams and embrace the journey! 


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

I hear from readers often. And I love it! I love kids’ honesty, vulnerability, and willingness to share. And, sometimes what they share fills my heart. One reader sent me a letter that opened with, “I just want you to know that you changed my life.” A teacher shared how her student realized after reading, Finding Perfect, that she had OCD and was now getting help and resources to cope. And recently, I received a letter from a boy who confided that my books had become a place where he sought refuge from anxiety “like an anchor in an ocean.” 


I always knew that books mattered. Made a difference. But it wasn’t until I became an author, that I felt the true impact of a story.


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

Oh, I love this question. I have 2 books that I’d wantto be dropped into. One is my new book, Give and Take (out in October, 2019). In that story, you meet 12-year-old Maggie who has a big heart and a hard time letting go. Of stuff. Of people. Of the past. And when she has to say goodbye to Izzie, the newborn baby her family fosters, Maggie’s collection of things under her bed and in her closet grows out of control. Eventually, with the help of her pet turtle Rufus and Baby Izzie, Maggie learns that sometimes love means letting go. 


I’d love drop into Maggie’s world so I could hug her and tell her that she doesn’t need to hoard rocks and sticks and gum wrappers to remember the memories that are attached to those things. Her mind and heart will hold onto what’s important. And remind her that sometimes we love, not to be remembered, but because we can. Because it is the best gift we have togive.


The other book I’d love to swoop into is Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin. I’d love to spend time with Rose and, when her dog Rain goes missing, help her findhim.

Posted in Meet the authors

Dana Levy

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

I did — I was an early reader, and I loved to read. At nine I was really into historical fiction, and I loved Little Women, and dozens of other Louisa May Alcott books that were less well known, as well as Anne of Green Gables and the rest of that series. (If I’m being honest, I really wanted to own a hoop skirt at this stage of my life, which, needless to say, never happened). But I will also say that I know a several authors who didn’t love reading when they were kids, either because they had an undiagnosed learning difference, or because their lives were really complicated and the books they read didn’t interest them, or some other reason. But eventually — and it might not have been until high school or even college — these folks find that one book. And it might be a graphic novel, or a nonfiction story, or an audiobook, but it blew their minds and changed their thinking, and led them to become readers! So even though for me books were always a big part of my life, I tell kids I meet that even if they don’t like reading now, it doesn’t mean they won’t find a book that changes their mind!

2.     What was your favorite story?

Growing up there were so many books I adored, from Wrinkle in Time to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, to Anne of Green Gables and so on! It’s hard to imagine choosing one. I was and am a big rereader…I reread my favorites again and again!

3.     How do you get your ideas?  

Every book I write starts with two questions: the first is “What if?” — What if there were a family with four boys and two dads (like The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher)? What if a family took a cross-country train trip (like This Would Make a Good Story Someday)? But the second question is “So what”? — why does the story matter? What are the ways that the characters grow and change? So when I get an idea that seems fun, I ask myself “so what?” and try to make sure that there is a reason to dig into the story.

4.     What author do you really like right now?

There are so many wonderful authors! It’s hard to narrow it down. But Jason Reynold’s books are awesome, and he writes faster than lightning, I think, because there are so many great books of his in the world. Also Grace Lin’s books — both her chapter books and her picture books — are wonderful. 

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

Kelly Yang, who wrote Front Desk, is definitely a new author to watch! And I think Ellen Wittlinger’s books are wonderful. Kat Yeh writes awesome middle grade books. If you like spooky stories, Tracey Baptiste’s The Jumbies and Ellen Oh’s Spirit Hunters are just the right kind of scary. And I am really excited for Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within, which comes out this month.

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

Read. Read read read read! It’s really the only way to learn the language of stories. And remember there is no rush! If you are a kid who wants to write, you can certainly find some contests and options for trying to get short stories published, but that is not a requirement. Unlike getting a letter for Hogwarts or being an Olympic gymnast, there is no age limit! Don’t feel you have to rush. You can write, and practice, and tell stories, and get better, without worrying about being published. As you get into high school and college there are opportunities to learn about the publishing industry and understand the business of being a published author. But first of all, you have to love to write!

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

I really do! Writing can be lonely — we work for months and years on a project, then eventually it becomes a book and goes out into the world like a message in a bottle. And until we hear from readers, it’s hard to know if it’s reaching anyone! So hearing from readers makes a huge difference! It reminds me why I tell my stories.

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

Probably Harry Potter. But not books five, six, or seven. Because…well, you know!

Posted in Meet the authors

Karla Manternach

Author website/social media:

@mskarlam on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram


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

I liked to read in school and when my parents stuck a book in my hands because I was “SO bored,” but I didn’t choose to read very often on my own. I was more interested in playing! I played with my Star Wars action figures a lot at that age. My brother and I also liked to pretend we were running away from evil villains. I liked to write, though–mostly stories about aliens and other creatures. It wasn’t until I was older that I started to appreciate how reading let me live in my imagination a lot like playing and writing did.

2. What was your favorite story?

When I was very young, I loved a Little Golden Book called THE NEATOS AND THE LITTERBUGS. I used to beg my older sister to read it to me. When I was older, my favorite book was A WRINKLE IN TIME. The main character, Meg, is lonely and felt like a misfit, but she goes on an incredible adventure and starts to feel more comfortable with herself and others. I wanted that, too. I wanted a sense of belonging, and I wanted to travel the galaxy!

3. How do you get your ideas? Stories about kids with epilepsy are rare.

The idea for MEENA MEETS HER MATCH came from real life. My daughter, Amelia, was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was nine years old. I wanted write about what it was like for her. I also wanted to show that kids are kids, no matter what, and that everybody goes through ups and downs.

Actually, I’d say that most of my story ideas come from real life. I’m inspired by people I know and conversations I hear and things that happen to me. They light a fire in my imagination, but the ideas also change a lot as I write about them. My daughter’s experience was the spark that made me want to write a book, but Meena became her own person, and her story turned into something new and different from my daughter’s story.

4.What author do you really like right now?

Oh, there are so many, but Anne Ursu and Jacqueline Woodson are two of my favorites.

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

I don’t pay much attention to how well known an author is. I just know when a book draws me in and won’t let go. A couple of middle grade books that do that for me are BLUEFISH by Pat Schmatz and THE DESPERATE ADVENTURES OF ZENO AND ALYA by Jane Kelley. For nonfiction, I also love Patricia Sutton’s CAPSIZED!

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

Practice! Nobody sits down at a piano for the first time and plays a song. They just bang their hands on the keys and make noise. Learning to write is a lot like that. You get good at it by doing it. So try writing new things. Go back to older pieces you’ve written and see how you could improve them. Play with words. Tell stories. Your writing will just get better and better!

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

I’m starting to! It’s so fun to connect with people who are reading MEENA MEETS HER MATCH. Writing is funny, because I do it alone, but I also have an audience in mind. I don’t have any way of knowing who will be drawn to the story or what it might mean to them. I just have to put it out there and hope it finds its way to the people who need it. When someone does connect with what I wrote…it feels magical!

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

Wow, that’s a great question! When I was younger, I would have said that I wanted to time travel or blast into outer space. Now when I read, I care more about traveling into the minds and hearts of characters I love. I don’t have a specific book in mind, but I want to know what life is like for other people. I want to feel what they feel and see things from their point of view. That’s the portal I’d pick.

Posted in Meet the authors

S.A. Larsen

S.A. Larsen Author image 1.jpg
Twitter: | @SA_Larsen

1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
I loved Nancy Drew mysteries and anything that had spooky or eerie elements to it. I also adored Judy Blume’s SUPERFUDGE. But I truly discovered my love of the eerie mingled with fantasy in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien.

2. What was your favorite story?
As a young child, it would be Where The Wild Things Are. As a middle schooler, it would be Judy Blume’s Are You There God. It’s Me, Margaret. And as an adult, there is not doubt my favorite story is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; not spooky, I know. But my love of romance is the flip-side to my creepy, eerie side.

3. How do you get your ideas?
I read. A lot, and of all sorts of subjects. I’m also a people watcher, because people are interesting and where real stories begin. But in all of that I must find something that visually catches my eye. I’m all about physical imagery, a visual writer. Often while writing, I’ll close my eyes to see a scene play out in my head. What were the colors, the smells? What did the characters sound like, and how is their world different from all other worlds? If the sky was blue, I’ll ask myself ‘Does it have to be for this story?’ Playing the ‘what-if’ or the ‘details’ game always generates ideas.

4. What author do you really like right now?
Tough question. I’ve been a fan of Kate DiCamillo and Alice Hoffman for as long as I can remember, so those are a given. For right this moment . . . I’ll go with Jonathan Stroud. I totally heart The Screaming Staircase!

5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
There are so many talented authors in the kidlit writing community. There’s my fellow @TheSweet16s authors, but in particular my friend Kathleen Burkinshaw, who wrote The Last Cherry Blossom, which is fantastic. And I must give major props to my #SpookyMG author mates from I can’t choose just one of them. You should read them all! As a matter of fact, we have a Reading Challenge available, where you can win prizes! For a list, feel free to check out our website because spooky books aren’t just for Halloween anymore.

6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Write, often. One way to do that is to keep a journal. You can write your thoughts, story ideas, hopes, fears, or whatever. Even a creative shopping list. It doesn’t matter. Writing is writing.
Remember that writing is subjective. Just because someone doesn’t like what you wrote doesn’t mean it isn’t good or well written. It could simply be their taste in subject.
If you love writing, don’t ever give up.
7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
Yes, and it’s probably the top most exciting thing to happen to me aside from getting married and having my children. Receiving correspondence from readers is like opening up unexpected Christmas presents. I am so grateful that they’ve taken time out of their lives to share in my make believe worlds. I remember shortly after Motley released I was in a local restaurant with my husband and a few friends. A woman walked up to our table and tapped me on the shoulder. She had a little boy with her. He saw me from across the restaurant and recognized me from my author photo in the back of my book. He wanted to tell me he’d read Motley and loved it; he also asked when book two was coming out. My heart practically burst from joy. His words meant the world to me and encouraged me to write the next book, which I recently completed.

Everything inside me is saying ‘any Harry Potter book’. Just imagine how fun that would be! But, when I let my adult brain take over, I think I’d love to drop into Pride and Prejudice. To chat in person with Elizabeth Bennett would be awesome! She’s such a strong female lead. I love her character.

Thank you so much for your interest in Motley Education and for giving me this opportunity! I’m super excited.


Posted in Meet the authors

Patchen Barss


Twitter: @patchenbarss

1. When you were my age (9), did you like to read?
I have always liked to read. The house I grew up in was full of books, and when I was your age, I had a really great teacher who taught us all about grammar and structure in writing. So that was the year when I went from just enjoying good stories, to really starting to think about what makes them good. I don’t think I knew I wanted to be a writer yet at that age, but it was definitely when I started to learn how to do it.

2. What was your favorite story?
I remember one day telling my parents that I had just finished reading a book called No Flying In the House ten times in a row. The book is about a girl who discovers that she’s actually a fairy princess who can fly and do spells. I still remember strange little details like the fact that she could kiss her own elbow—that struck me as some amazing magic. As a grown-up, I still often have dreams at night where I can fly—just as I imagined it when I was a kid reading that book.

3. How do you get your ideas? You write science books, are they hard to research?

It does take a lot of research to write a book, but it’s always fun.

My job is to write about science in lots of different ways. I write for magazines, museums, and websites, as well as writing books. So I’m lucky—I get to talk to scientists all the time. They tell me about their new ideas and discoveries, and also about the questions they haven’t answered yet that are driving them crazy with curiosity.

I’m also a dad, so I’m always talking to kids as well. I’m struck by the way scientists and kids are curious about the same kinds of things—they try to figure out how the world works, test theories, make discoveries, revise their ideas. I try to find book ideas that encourage kids to be scientists, to pay attention to their own curiosity, and to try to figure out why the world works the way it does. (That’s a big theme in Flow Spin Grow.)

4. What author do you really like right now?
My own kids are six and seven years old, so our house is now full of picture books and chapter books. We’ve been revisiting some classics lately, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. I don’t know if an author today would be able to publish a book that makes so little sense. But the book’s nonsense is full of cleverness, terrible puns, and iconic characters—the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts. I can read it over and over, and be completely confused and delighted at the same time.

5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
One book we read recently that I really loved is Wicked Nix by a Toronto-based writer named Lena Coakley. By coincidence, it’s also about people and fairies. The main character, a fairy named Nix, seems at first to be up to some pretty normal magical mischief, but the story becomes mixed up with themes of memory and family. In the end, it’s still a magical story, but it’s a different kind of magic than you might expect.

6. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?
Read as much as you can, and write as much as you can. Find other kids who also love books and writing and reading, so you can share your ideas and make up stories together. Go to bookstores and libraries and ask for recommendations. And, think about the things you’re most interested in—sports, dance, art, robots, movies, anything—and create stories about those things. I have always loved science and math, so it makes sense that that’s what I write books about. Find the things that you love to write about the most, and focus on those.

7. As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that?
Hearing from readers is the best. As a writer, you tend to really care deeply about your subject matter. I have always found nature’s patterns fascinating and beautiful. I wrote Flow Spin Grow to share my passion with other people. I wanted to inspire kids to be scientists, to ask questions and satisfy their curiosity. Now I meet people or they send me notes talking about how they now see patterns everywhere. I feel great that I’ve had an effect on them. Even more, I’m just glad to know that there are other people out there who share my interests.

8. If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be?
This is a tough one. I like stories where writers create whole worlds—Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, etc. But those books tend to have lots of battles and villains and danger. I’m happy to read about those things, but I don’t actually need to be in there myself waving a wand or a sword around. (Honestly, I don’t think I’d last very long.)

But I do like being a part of stories where groups of talented friends accomplish great things together. So, I’m going to say that I would become a student in the Grade 2 classroom of Miss Lila Greer, in Andrea Beatty and David Robert’s great picture books, Iggy Peck, Architect; Ada Twist, Scientist; and Rosie Revere, Engineer.

Thanks so much for this interview—it’s very fun to think about these questions.