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.


Posted in Meet the authors

Wendy Ledger


Author website/social media:

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

I loved to read! I read as much as I could. The library was my favorite place in the world.

2.     What was your favorite story?

I loved Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I was fascinated by the idea of a young girl who carried a notebook around with her so that she could always write.

3.     How do you get your ideas?  

Oftentimes, my ideas come from a moment in my life. I wrote Joy Returns! because when I was young, I loved to play the piano. I also lived near a stable, and I had my favorite horses there. I wrote Kate and the Horses to remember the horses from my childhood. I wrote The Loudest Meow: A Talking Cat Fantasy because I had a calico cat who died suddenly, and I missed her, and so I wrote a book, imagining what she was doing in the afterlife.

4.     What author do you really like right now?

This is a classic that I had never read before, but I really loved it. It’s The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. I listened to the audiobook version. It was really fun to hear.

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

Have you read Jessica Townsend’s books? I really liked Nevermoor; The Trials of Morrigan Crow, and I want to read Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow.

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

Write! If anyone says that you are not a writer or you can’t be a writer, don’t listen. Keep going. Write!

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

Yes, I love hearing from my readers. A writer can get lonely. You’re imagining all these things and creating stories on your own. It’s always nice to hear from others that they enjoyed what you dreamed up.

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

I would portal into my book, The Loudest Meow and spend some time with my calico cat and other cats that I’ve known.

Posted in Meet the authors

Debbie Reed Fischer

·  Author website/social media:

facebook: Debbie Reed Fischer, Twitter: @DebbieRFischer

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

At age 9, I absolutely LOVED to read! The characters in books were friends in my head. This may be because I grew up in foreign countries,and very often, there weren’t any television shows or movies in English. Books were my number one source of entertainment.

2.     What was your favorite story?

My favorite story was a true story of my mom’s childhood in Cuba, and how she found a way to get enrolled in the American School in Guantanamo at age 10 even though she didn’t yet speak English. Someday I may write about it. But my favorite book when I was nine was Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls. I loved all the stories about his two dogs and growing up in the mountains. My teacher read it aloud to us every day after recess, and that twenty minutes of reading was the highlight of my school day

3.     How do you get your ideas?  Like why did you write a book about a 2E girl? (We are super ultra rares, limited editions so why us?)

I love this question! And yes, you are rare, like a beautiful blue diamond! I’m inspired by people and events from real life, as well as questions to which I truly don’t know the answer. I write the book to get answers, and, of course, to have fun. Doing anything creative is super fun! As far as why I wrote a book about a twice exceptional girl with ADHD, I didn’t have to look for inspiration. The author’s note at the end of my book explains the genesis of This is not the Abby Show in more detail, but in a nutshell, both my son and I have characteristics that are very similar to Abby’s. Another influence came from my teaching years. As a teacher, I had students who were twice exceptional, and I was inspired by them, as well as kids I knew from childhood. Also, at the time I wrote this book, I noticed there were no novels about middle school girls with ADHD. Only books with male characters that had ADHD existed, and I thought that was wrong. Both boys and girls should be able to see themselves in a book. I certainly didn’t see any Jewish main characters with this condition. So all of those factors influenced my ideas and journey when writing this novel. 

4.     What author do you really like right now?

I just read a young adult novel that hasn’t come out yet by my friend Alex Flinn, and I love it! It’s called Girls of July, It’s launching in just a few months.

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

Jonathan Rosen for funny middle grade vampire books. I think reading should be fun and entertaining, and he delivers. Dorian Cirrone is another favorite. It’s hard to put her last book down, The First Last Day.Danette Haworth. Brenda Ferber. Donna Gephart is very well-known, but I have to include her because I love her MG books. Christina Gonzalez too. I really like this question because I think both kids and adult should be book detectives and discover books that are terrific but not as well-known, even though they are written by talented, wonderful authors. If you read what everyone else is reading, you’ll think what everyone else is thinking, and it’s important to develop your own point-of-view. Books are the best way to do that, in my opinion. 🙂 

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

The best advice I can give isn’t original, but it works: read a lot and write a lot. That’s it. Also, reach out to authors you like on social media or write to them on their websites for inspiration. Ask them to do a Skype visit with your class or, if they’re local, visit your school. And never, ever give up. YOU CAN DO IT!

7.     As an author, do you hear from your readers? 

The number one best part of being an author is hearing from readers. It means the world. Any creative field is filled with disappointments sometimes, but knowing your book made a difference in someone’s life is an author’s dream come true. With This is not the Abby Show, I’ve heard from kids, parents, teachers, and siblings of children with ADHD and from kids who are Jewish. They say they’ve never read a character who was so much like them, and that they’ve read the book over and over because it resonated so much. I even get letters from doctors saying thank you because my book is helping patients and families. I recently heard from a mom who said her son went out and did stand-up comedy like Abby did in the book, and it changed his life. I Skyped with their ADHD support group and it was fantastic! I can’t adequately express how rewarding that is. All I ever hoped for was to get published and be someone’s favorite author because they could relate to what I was writing. My dream has come true. 

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

If I’m being honest, I mentally portal into my book-in-progress whenever I’m writing it. As far as books I’ve read, I would love to portal back in time, and my favorite historical book of fiction is Jane Eyre, so I would portal back into that novel. The character of Jane inspires me to stay strong, think for myself, and stand up for my convictions. I also like to laugh a lot when I read, so I’d portal my middle grade self into Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I think Greg and I would be friends. 🙂 I was honored that a reviewer from Booklist compared my book to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

Posted in Meet the authors

Abby Cooper

    • Author website/social media:,, Twitter/Instagram: @_ACoops_
    • Tell me a little about yourself: Hi! I’m Abby, and I’m the author of STICKS & STONES (2016), BUBBLES (2017), and FRIEND OR FICTION (which comes out October 8, 2019!) I live in Minnesota with my miniature poodle, Louis, and lots and lots of books. I love to read and write. I was actually a school librarian before I became an author!
    • When you were my age (9), did you like to read? Yes! Reading and writing were my favorite things to do.
    • What was your favorite story? At that age, my favorite book was FRINDLE by Andrew Clements. That’s the book that made me a real reader. There was just something about it that made me so excited to read and write as much as I could. I think there’s a book like that for everyone. If you haven’t found yours yet, don’t give up!
    • How do you get your ideas? My ideas are a mixture of real-life inspiration and “what if” questions. I love to observe things in the real world and combine them with unusual or magical things.
    • What author do you really like right now? There are so many authors I love. Sally Pla is one of my favorites right now. She’s written two amazing books: THE SOMEDAY BIRDS and STANLEY WILL PROBABLY BE FINE. I just got a sneak peek at something she’s working on, and it’s awesome!
    • Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest? Some new books I’ve read and enjoyed lately include PROPERTY OF THE REBEL LIBRARIAN by Allison Varnes, IF THIS WERE A STORY by Beth Turley, and TIGHT by Torrey Maldonado.
    • What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author? Read and write as much as you possibly can. Also, carry a notebook with you wherever you go! You never know where or when inspiratio
    • n will strike.
    • As an author, do you hear from your readers? What do you like about that? I do, and it makes me so happy! My goal is to write books that are fun to read but also make a positive difference in people’s lives. It means so much to me to find out when a reader has connected to one of my stories or characters.
    • If you could portal into any book (yours or another person’s), what book would it be? That would be so cool! I love Natalie Lloyd’s books and have always wanted to visit one of her settings. I think that would be a ton of fun.
    Posted in Meet the authors

    Amy Cesari

    – hi Bridget! I’m Amy, I might be a little different from some of the other authors that you interview because I’m an “indie author,” or independently published. I’m also a “kid at heart” and enjoy books and other entertainment on the younger side, (Disney films, Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket books, and playing “cute” Nintendo games like Mario and Animal Crossing!).
    But that doesn’t mean I’m not serious about my job as an author. I also have my master’s degree in business! I’m a bit nerdy, and a bit cartoony and a lot of goofy all at the same time.
    1. Did you read a lot when you were 9? When I was 9, I loved to read books by Joan Aiken. Especially the “Wolves Chronicles,” a middle-grade series written in the 1960’s. They were the perfect amount of spooky, spirited, adventurous—but still had a lot of heart and great characters. I recently asked my mom if I can have all of them back—they are in her basement and I want to re-read them (and thanks for keeping all of my books, mom!)
    2. What was your favorite story? My favorite story ever of all time would have to be “Harry Potter.” It just makes me feel like life can be magical, and I can do anything.
    3. How do you get story ideas? I decide that I want to tell a story, and then I look and listen for ideas coming from everywhere. Once I start to get ideas, I follow the ones that excite me and make me feel curious. I also like to “flip” ideas and things around to see if that gives me a new perspective.
    For example, I got the idea for Lilac Skully at Disneyland because it’s one of my favorite places that makes me feel super inspired. I was waiting excitedly in line to get IN to the Haunted Mansion… and I flipped that around and thought, “I’m excited to go IN, but what if you already lived there, and you weren’t very happy about it at all? Who would that be? What would that be like?”
    4. What author do you like right now? My favorite recent books are the first two in the “Apprentice Witch” middle grade series by James Nicol. I love that the protagonist is shy and not confident to start out—in fact, she feels like a failure and like she’s barely making a passing grade.
    5. Do you have any new or lesser known authors to suggest? Lesser-known authors, I’m going to go again with Joan Aiken and another “vintage” author that I loved as a child, Zilpha Keatly Snyder (author of the Egypt Games) because I think it’s great to keep the old books alive as well as bringing new ones to life.
    6. What advice do you have for kids who want to be a writer? My advice to kids who want to be authors—don’t give up! I gave up way too early, I didn’t believe in myself and thought I’d never make it as an author so I didn’t try. Long story short—I ended up working in a corporate sales and marketing career for 13 (mostly miserable) years before finding my own confidence and path to becoming an author.
    The good thing about this was that I learned a lot of super-useful skills about marketing and business that have helped me immensely in being an author. The bad thing was I wasn’t happy because I had given up on my dreams and wasn’t listening to my heart.
    My second piece of advice is… learn a little about marketing and business! Even if you’re a writer and creative first, you don’t want to be lost or left behind in business and marketing. Whether you are “indie” like me or “published” with a publisher, you have to do a lot of the promotion and marketing around your books yourself. And you’ll want to know a bit about business so you know what you’re getting into if you sign a publishing contract.
    And—math. I struggled terribly with math for my entire childhood. It wasn’t until college that I kept trying and started to really understand the important stuff. You don’t need to know advanced math to be an author—but you should know the basic math of percentages, finance and money, and how to use a spreadsheet to analyze basic data and do calculations. This stuff won’t help you be an author—it’ll help you be a successful author with a sustainable career.
    7. Do you hear from readers? Yes, I do hear from my readers, mostly on Instagram! I love it, and I think it’s really awesome to hear that someone enjoyed what I wrote, and that they took the time to read it. It doesn’t feel as great when someone doesn’t like your book—but that is the reality of being an author so it’s something that you’ve also got to accept and be ok with! You have to be proud of your books first and foremost.
    However, most of the feedback I receive is positive 🙂 It’s also a lot of fun to see common interests and get new book recommendations from people who’ve read my books. They usually like a lot of other cool books that I might like, too!
    8. If you could portal into any book, which would you? I’d definitely go to Hogwarts! I love Hermione and I’d go to the library straight away!
    Posted in Meet the authors

    JA White

    Author website/social media:
    Twitter: @jawhitebooks
    Instagram: @jawhitebooks
    Tell me a little about yourself:
    I’m the author of The Thickety series and Nightbooks, all published by Katherine Tegen Books.  I’ve also been a teacher for 20 years! My wife and I live in New Jersey with our three sons: Jack (16), Logan (10), and Colin (8).   My favorite dessert is pumpkin pie, and I’m really bad at fixing things around the house.
    1. When you were my age did you like to read?
    I was a VORACIOUS reader!  My parents took me to the library every Saturday morning and I used to come back with piles of books.  I would then sit on my bedroom floor and read until it was dark out!
    2.  What was your favorite story?
    Such a tough question!   I liked anything scary (no surprise there), but also fantasy, fairy tales, and mystery novels.  I used to especially love the Prydain novels of Lloyd Alexander and a mystery series called The Three Investigators.  
    3. How do you get your ideas?  How do you write spooky vs. scary?
    Some of my ideas come out of the blue during times when I let my brain wander, like during my commute to work.  Other ideas take a little work, and I have to sit at my computer and try out some bad ideas before figuring out a good one.  I think “spooky” is more like the tone of a story, and I usually convey that through the setting and description. “Scary,” to me, is when a character is in peril.  There are only a few scary parts in my books, but they pretty much have a spooky tone at all times!
    4.  How does being a teacher help your writing?

    I write about children, so it definitely helps that I’m around kids all day.  I hear how they talk and see how they act, so that (hopefully) helps me create more realistic characters.  Another part of my job is reading lots of children’s novels, so I always stay immersed in that world.


    5. What author do you like right now?

    I think Jonathan Auxier is a splendid writer.  I’ve just begun his new one–Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster–and it’s top notch, as always.  Kate DiCamillo and Katherine Applegate are always sure bets as well.

    6. Do you have any new or lesser known authors you would suggest?
    John Bellairs.  He might not be as well known to children since he wrote a long time ago, but hopefully the recent film version of The House with a Clock in its Walls will help young readers discover his novels.  I’ve been re-reading his books recently, and I like them every bit as much as when I first read them as a child.
    7. What advice do you have for a kid who wants to be an author?

    Read, read, read.  Not just novels–short stories, too, since that’s what you’ll be writing at the start.  And make sure you write every single day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. It’s like exercise!

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

    Social media is great for interacting with readers, and I’m also lucky enough to get emails as well. It’s especially touching when the email comes from somewhere far away, like England or Australia.  I’m always flattered when any reader takes the time to reach out and contact me, because that means they really loved something I wrote.  That makes all that hard work worth it!

    9.  If you could portal into any book, what book would it be?

    It definitely wouldn’t be one of my books–too scary!  I’d have to say Harry Potter. It’s such a rich and varied world, and I’d love to explore it.  (But only if I get to be in Ravenclaw