Leona Middle School Literacy Day

This past Friday, I had the AWESOME opportunity to revisit Leona Middle School for their literacy day. Parents and grandparents joined their kids at school for some writing fun. One thing I love about the students there is how creative they are! The third grade class pictured above is standing in front of the characters they created during our session together. From Bacon Man, to SuperDog!, to a snowman that can shoot lasers out of its eyes, I was so impressed by the students’ inventiveness (and artwork!).

There were so many wonderful parts of the day – a pizza lunch with the book club, writing constellation stories and drawing them on one big night sky with the sixth graders, taking a Chopped-style story challenge with the fifth graders and following a story’s journey with fourth graders. I read so many great stories and am grateful the students were willing to share their writing.

One wonderful highlight was getting to talk to this third grade class about my first book, THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF CHARLIE PRICE. They had JUST finished it the day before as a read-aloud and had so many questions and reactions to share with me. I loved our conversation.

Thank you, Leona Middle School, for inviting me back! I had a really great day.


Indiana School Visit

This past Friday, I got the chance to do my second out-of-Ohio school visit in a town in Indiana. I ate lunch with a small group of enthusiastic readers and writers who had read either Things That Surprise You or The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price. They shared some of their favorite books, and now I have even more books to add to be “To Be Read” list. They had some really insightful questions, too!

Then, I had the opportunity to present to fourth and fifth grade and do some FUN story idea generation with them! I hope to read more about Jason the skateboarding cat (and his sneaker- wearing mouse sidekick), Amelia the Unicorn and her friend, Richard the Dragon one day. What a creative group of kids!



Speaking of creative…

It’s my book cover, recreated in puffy paints on a t-shirt by this awesome young reader! Amazing right?? I thought it was the coolest thing.

A huge thank you to school librarian extraordinaire, Theresa, who organized this visit and who shares her love of books with her students every day (and who took these pictures!). Her library is friendly and welcoming and a place all kids want to be!


Thank you, Ohio readers!

I am so excited to share that The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price has been nominated for the Buckeye Children’s Book Award for 2018 in the 3rd – 5th grade category. What’s especially cool about this award is that it’s completely kid chosen! Young readers across the state of Ohio are the ones who nominate the books AND vote on them. Being nominated for this award is an incredible honor. I am so glad kids are finding and loving Charlie Price’s story. THANK YOU, young readers! For the full list of nominees in all categories, click this link above.

The 2019/2020 CTRO Book List

Additionally, my newest book, Things That Surprise You, was just announced as Choose to Read Ohio (CTRO) selection for the 2019-2020 Books for Middle Grades list. Hooray! CTRO celebrates Ohio authors and their books. For every book on the CTRO list, an awesome tool-kit is made with links to resources, discussion questions and extensions. These tool-kits are awesome for classrooms or book group use. For more information about the selection process for CTRO, check out their website! I’m thrilled to be on the list with books like Zoe in Wonderland by Brenda Woods, Saving Wonder by Mary Knight, Under Their Skin by Margaret Peterson Haddix and Dog Man by Dav Pilkey.

To celebrate National Library Week, the kickoff of the week of the Ohioana Book Festival and to announce the new CTRO lists, there was a special reception this past Monday morning at the State Library of Ohio. I was so honored to receive a special commendation from State Representative Laura Lanese and the Ohio House of Representatives. I am so proud to be an Ohio author.

State Librarian Beverly Cain, Me, State Representative Laura Lanese and Ohioana Library Association Director David Weaver at the special morning reception celebrating libraries, the Ohioana Book Festival and the new CTRO list. Photo credit: Marsha McDevitt-Stredney





Leona Middle School Visit

On Friday, I spent the day with the enthusiastic readers and writers of Leona Middle School in Shadyside, Ohio, right on the Ohio/West Virginia border. We had the best day together! The third graders learned about characters and then had a chance to create their own. Fourth grade travelled back in time and went on a story’s journey from idea to finished book. The fifth and sixth grade was took part in a writing challenge where there were a few secret story ingredients.

I’m pictured here with the fifth and sixth grade book club. We had a wonderful pizza lunch together. They gave me A LOT of book recommendations. Their principal surprised them each with their own copies of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, the next book they’ll be reading for their club. I can’t wait to Skype with them when they finish!

Thanks Leona Middle School for a GREAT day! Check out an article about the day in the local paper, The Times Leader, by clicking the screenshot below.


Brookville Schools Gallery Night

Welcome to Gallery Night!

This past February, I had the opportunity to be a guest at the Brookville Schools Gallery Night. I was so honored to be invited. What an incredible evening! Students showed off their presentations, demonstrations and projects to their families and the larger community. The building had so much energy and enthusiasm as students shared their hard work.

I also had the chance to present about my writing journey and being an author. The students who attended my session asked such insightful questions – some that I’ve never been asked before. The sixth grade was just finishing my newest book THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. It was so cool to talk with them.

Thank you Brookville Schools! I had such a wonderful time. Here are a few pictures from the evening: 

It is always so fun to talk with students about writing and reading! I love that some of their family members joined us!


I loved meeting all of Brookville’s awesome students!

They had the signing table set-up with colorful lights and lots of unicorns! Emily Murphy would approve!

Enthusiastic readers!


A Day in the Life: School Visit

This friendly banner decorated the library at St. Therese School. These details are so special to me!

One of the very best parts of being an author is getting to visit schools and talk about books and writing with enthusiastic students! This past Friday, I had the opportunity to visit St. Therese – a wonderful school in Southgate, Kentucky. I thought it would be fun to share my day, from beginning to end.

5:45 AM – I set my alarm the night before for 6:00 AM but I’m up early. This often happens on school visit days. I think it’s a mixture of excitement, nerves, and my body making sure I don’t oversleep. I’m always so worried about that!

6:15 AM – I’m up and so is Hank, our youngest English bulldog! He’s ready to eat. I prepare his breakfast and pull out a bag of mini-muffins from the pantry for me. I packed my author visit bag the night before but I take a moment to make sure everything is there: personal copies of my books, early writing pieces, my presentation clicker (and extra batteries), flash drive loaded with my presentations, and fun bookish goodies like puzzle postcards, buttons and bookmarks. I also pack up my signing pens. For THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, I’m using aqua, pink and purple Sharpies.

7:00 AM – I’ve printed off e-mails I received from Ellen, the librarian of St. Therese, with the schedule and other things to know. I can tell she’s really prepared the students which is so exciting. She coordinated getting early copies of my newest book, THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, for her book club so they could read it by my visit. I know we’re going to have a great discussion.

7:15 AM – I have my Diet Coke and my author bag. I’m ready to go. The drive down to Kentucky takes

I was greeted by this fun sign! My main character, Emily Murphy, would approve of the sparkle

two hours, so I’m off!

9:15 AM – I arrive at St. Therese and am greeted by three enthusiastic sixth graders who are waiting for me and a sparkly parking sign! I’ve never had a parking space reserved for me before, so this is a very fun treat! Dave Richardson, from Blue Marble Books, arrives at the same time.

9:25 AM – The sixth graders bring me to the library where I meet the librarian, Ellen, for the first time even though we’ve been communicating via e-mail since May to coordinate the visit. I get my technology set up. The school doesn’t have PowerPoint, so the school’s technology expert helps me transfer my presentation to Google Slides. I also get the chance to take a closer look at the beautiful poster some students made to celebrate THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. I love all of the themes they picked out from the story to showcase.

Students picked up on themes like friendship, discovery, and acceptance. (also waffles and glitter!)

9:45 AM – The first group arrives! I’m doing a half-day visit today which includes two presentations and an author lunch. St. Therese has chosen my Mystery Story Sacks presentation which is one of my favorites. This group of sixth graders and I talk about the essential ingredients for a story – plot, character, conflict, and setting. Then, I give them a challenge! They have to use all of the essential ingredients, plus some mystery ones, to build a story. After the students write, students share one or two of their WOW! sentences. I’m super impressed with their creativity and encourage them to keep going with these stories.

10:30 AM – I start signing books. I get the opportunity to talk with each student individually which I love! Talking with young readers is one of my very favorite parts of being an author. Kids are awesome!

Young writers!

10:50 AM – It’s time for my next presentation. I get to write with fifth grade now! I’m presenting Mystery Story Sacks again and these kids came ready to write. Before I begin, I ask what books they’ve been reading lately. I make a mental note to jot down a few titles they mention. This group is also a huge fan of Chopped! because when our writing time is up, they all raise their hands into the air.

11:30 AM – After signing a few more books (and posing for pictures with each of the students at a very cool table the librarian has set-up), I have the opportunity to meet with two young writers and read their writing. I know you’re going to read their published work some day.

12:10 PM – Lunch time! Today I’m eating lunch with an awesome group of seventh and eighth grade girls. They are members of a book club, formed by the librarian, who have all read THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. The questions start almost immediately, and they’re so great! These girls are smart, sharp, and insightful. We talk and eat (including some delicious Rice Krispie treats) and share. The forty minutes go by way too quickly.

The best book group ever!

12:50 PM – It’s time to sign a few more books. Some of the students tell me their favorite characters. There are a lot of Hector fans! Other readers tell me they hope for a sequel. They want to know what happens with Mina, Emily, Hector and Hazel next.

1:30 PM – I’m in the car again and headed back to Columbus with memories of awesome kids, fantastic discussion and the great stories students wrote (and another Diet Coke, of course). I had the best time at St. Therese and am so lucky that I get to do this.

A few more pictures from the day…

Thank you for a wonderful day, St. Therese readers!

Is YOUR school interested in an author visit? I offer affordable half-day and full-day options! Just reach out – either through my website contact form or you can e-mail me at 


September Round-up!

It’s been about two and a half weeks since my newest middle grade, THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, launched. I’ve had a few events (with more on the schedule!) and it’s been so fun getting to meet readers. I worked with Barbara and Sarah at the fantastic Blue Slip Media to create puzzle postcards and a discussion guide to go along with the book. I love that the discussion guide has thought-provoking questions and activities. It’s perfect for classrooms, libraries and book clubs.

In other news, we’re hosting a fantastic giveaway! You can win a hardcover of the book, stickers, a pack of puzzle postcards and a super fun craft kit! Enter HERE by September 14, 2017 to win!

I’ve been all over the web giving interviews and writing guest posts. Additionally, there have been many kind teachers, librarians and bloggers who have read and reviewed THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. I’m so grateful to them! I wanted to link to all of these features in one easy to access place so this post is it. I hope it will be helpful to anyone looking for supplemental material OR wondering if they should read my book!

Reader Reviews

A teacher-focused review on Unleashing Readers – includes some great discussion questions and flagged passages!

First reading from THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU at Gramercy Books (photo by Allison Lodico)

“Really shows the truth of how that transition is a turning point in kids’ lives.” (Includes a book giveaway, too! Deadline: September 13, 2017)

Review on the Geo Librarian – “I have no doubt that young readers will find much to relate to . . . .  The underlying themes are presented well with relationships being at the heart of it all.  Recommended.”

I’m such a huge proponent of kids and parents reading and talking about books together. I love the idea behind Mother Daughter Book Club. It would be such a thrill to have clubs like this read THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. Find their review HERE:“I highly recommend it for mother-daughter book clubs.”

I love following The Loud Library Lady (aka Kate Olson) on Instagram. She reads a lot (and widely!) and her reviews are so thoughtfully done. I love her review of my book: “I can’t recommend this book enough – it is a required purchase for middle school libraries and classrooms.” She took the cutest picture of my book on Instagram, too! 

Photo from Gramercy Books Instagram

Rosemary at Mom Read It is a children’s and YA librarian. I love her thoughts about the relationship dynamics of Emily’s family and that she feels this would be a good book for discussion groups. Check out her review of my book and others here:“A compulsively readable novel about growing up and moving on; negotiating change; making new friends, and most importantly, discovering oneself.”

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts says, “I’ve been excited to tell students all about Things That Surprise You because it is such a real book about having friends, keeping friends, and making friends.” I love that her review includes snatches of text to share and a writing prompt for the classroom. Read more of her review here.

Jessica at Cracking the Cover shares that “Any book that makes you think…is good, and Things That Surprise You is excellent.” I enjoyed reading her perspective on middle school and her thinking on transitions.

Greg Pattridge at Always in the Middle outline five things to like about THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, including Hector, one of my favorite characters in the book! He says that the book is “a welcome addition to any library.”


Enter to win one of five hardcover copies of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU from (Deadline: September 15, 2017 – US only)

It’s going to be hard to part with this super cute unicorn craft kit! Win a hardcover of the novel, stickers, craft kit and postcard puzzles HERE. (Deadline: September 14, 2017 – US only)

Check out my author chat on YA and Kids Books Central in which I reveal my favorite character, what I love most about the cover, and an organization that’s close to my heart. Then, enter a giveaway for a hardcover of the novel through the Rafflecopter link on the page! (Deadline: September 23, 2017 – US only)

Interviews and Guest Posts 

In this personal essay on Medium, I share a little about the real life story behind THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU and

Signing books at Barnes and Noble – I was so excited to see many of my students! (Photo by Cindy Lombardo)

how books can help us feel less alone.

I LOVE learning about other people’s reading and writing lives so it was especially fun to get to share about mine on The Children’s Book Review. I especially enjoyed sharing my favorite independent bookstores and talking about literary characters I’d love to take a road trip with.

I’m a huge fan of librarian Laura Given’s 5 on her blog. Authors answer 5 questions or complete her sentences! Take a look at what I had to say about memorable teachers, books I’ve read and loved lately, and what I hope for readers of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU.

Middle school was such a memorable time for me – for both good and hard reasons. On Prose and Kahn, I write about finding a friend in middle grade books and make some book suggestions for Emily Murphy, the main character of my newest novel.

This is from the brilliant illustrator of the cover of THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU, Kathrin Honesta. In this post, she explores some of the other concepts she came up with for the cover and jacket. All of them are beyond gorgeous. She is so creative and talented. It’s fun to get a glimpse into her thinking, and I feel so lucky that she was chosen to illustrate the cover!



New Book in August 2017 – Cover Reveal!



I’m so excited to share with you the beautiful cover for my next middle grade novel, THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU. Coming out August 22, 2017, it’s a story about sisters, changing friendships, and figuring out who you are. It also has a really great dog named Bean. When I saw my cover, I cheered! I loved everything about it – Emily in her pajamas, Bean peeking out from under the covers, posters of Emily’s favorite book characters decorating her room. Illustrator Kathrin Honesta made everything absolutely perfect. I am in awe of her talent.

Here’s the official synopsis: 

Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at the Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing, too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and has crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong things. She wants to be the perfect new Em. But who is that really?

THINGS THAT SURPRISE YOU is a bighearted, poignant novel about the often shifting bonds of family and friendship.

The book is not yet available for pre-order but should be in the next month or so! I can’t wait till it’s out in the world. (And psst… Newsletter subscribers got to see this first! Want to join? Scroll down and add yourself to my mailing list!)