Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Interview with S.A. Larsen of Motley Education + Giveaway

Today, I'm thrilled to welcome author S.A. Larsen to Middle Grade Minded to talk about the re-release of her middle grade fantasy, MOTLEY EDUCATION. Without further ado, here's the beautiful new cover for the updated edition:

Quiz time! I know, so soon. Can you pitch MOTLEY EDUCATION to me Twitter-style (i.e. in 280 characters or less)?

A misfit spirit tracker & her skittish BFF must elude one ornery school headmistress & brave beasts of Norse mythology to retrieve a relic vital to saving the spirit world, only to discover the true meaning of her quest has been inside her all along. #motleyeducation #mglit

Excellent pitch! Now let's find out more about the world of MOTLEY EDUCATION. Sheri, can you finish these sentences, pretty please?

My main character Ebony is…sweet at heart, feisty when cornered, and more courageous than she knows. Her favorite place is the Boneyard, the cemetery between her family’s house and Motley Junior High. It’s where she can be herself. She hangs out there with Fleishman and the only three ghosts she can see – Mayhem, Mischief, and Meandering. She loves them, but they are a constant reminder of how her spirit tracking skills don’t work as they should; her fellow students don’t let her forget it, either. She doesn’t walk around looking injured, though. Instead, she wears a tough exterior – fingerless gloves, miniskirt, tights with skulls on them, and blue and pink strips in her hair. One thing she can’t hide is the guilt she feels for constantly disappointing her mother. See, her mom is gifted. So is her father, younger brother, and weird twin aunts. It’s not fun being different. At least, this is what she thinks at the start of her story. 😉    

Ebony’s best friend Fleishman is…the best friend everyone wants. He’s honest, loyal, kind, and ridiculously smart, which is convenient during homework study. When Ebony gets a bit too feisty, pushing boundaries, Fleishman is there to reign her in. But he’s not without his own issues. He’s too uptight, needs facts to believe anything, and fears pretty much everything . . . with one exception – his legless lizard Nigel that he carries with him everywhere. Oh, and he rarely laughs at Ebony’s jokes. But she figures he’s missing a funny bone, so she lets it go most of the time.

Motley Junior High: School for the Psychically and Celestially Gifted is…a centuries-old school, where kids with special skills related to Norse mythology can develop, grow, and learn in the proper environment. Once a student is accepted and signs the Terms of Enrollment agreement – which is vital because there are instructions on how to avoid a fire giant attack – he or she is assigned to one of the two school groups. The Sensory group explores the realm of psychic abilities, while the Luminary group charts astrology, the stages of the moon, and creates potions, spells…even a hex or two. *Mankind has drifted so far away from its origins that it has completely forgotten about the World Tree – Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, MJH has lots of educating to do.

Don't miss S.A. Larsen's awesome giveaway happening now on Twitter (ends 10/2/2019):

S.A. Larsen is an award-winning author, childhood apraxia of speech advocate, and major ice hockey fan, who has watched more hockey games than she could ever count. Her favorite stories open secret passageways and hidden worlds to inspire and challenge the heart. She’s also the author of the award-winning young adult fantasy romance Marked Beauty (Ellysian Press 2017). She lives in the land of lobsters and snowy winters with her husband and four children, where she’s writing Ebony and Fleishman’s next adventure. Visit her cyber home at salarsenbooks.com.

Get your copy of MOTLEY EDUCATION today at: Amazon | B&N | iBooks | Kobo | Smashwords IndieBound 

Read a longer interview with S.A. Larsen at: https://spookymiddlegrade.com/2019/09/17/motley-education/

Friday, September 13, 2019

A Mirror of My Own -- Plus Glittermonsters Just for Fun (Why I Write MG)

My decision - that is, the line-in-the-sand, this-is-happening, decision - to write children’s books
was an easy one. 

Picture it: Truxtun Avenue Library, Bakersfield, CA. 2011. Just because Little Man isn’t even two
months old, is no excuse for illiteracy.  

I comb the picture book shelves as he dozes in his stroller, eager to bring home a stack of books with
families that look like ours: an Afro-Jamaican dad, a white American mom and a perfect little biracial
boy (we've since been joined by a perfect little girl too).
My tiny muse. Even though my first MS is about a black magic glitter princess.

Let’s just say that didn’t happen that day, and I was reminded of another little girl (spoiler: it was me) in
the 80s and 90s disappointed that there were no mirrors/windows for a bereaved sibling like me on the
library shelves in my tiny hometown. 

The lack of diverse books was an outrage, and I was going to write a book featuring a biracial child just
like mine. He’d have a Type A dad who ironed his underwear instead of saying “no problem mon”
(when someone says this at my house, they’re being sarcastic). 

I’d be published in months. I’d revolutionize the kidlit industry! I’d be lining the walls of my new mansion
with Caldecotts and Newberrys in a funky pattern that would put Pinterest to shame! 

Thank (insert your deity of choice) I joined SCBWI and smartened up. Played a bit with my voice, with
story ideas, story structure. Constructed a LONG list of potential story ideas/characters to rival
VC Andrews’ legacy (less incest, more zombies). 

I should have some profound, amazing reason about why I write MG, and… I’m not sure I do save,
“it feels right”. I’m too wordy for picture books, and too into farts/glitter/unicorns for YA. Like kids in the
MG/Upper MG years, MG lit is a perfect balance of weird and wise, the only place I can push the
creative envelope as far as it can go, then give another little shove. 

Kind of like how I see myself at any age. 

“You cannot have the main character enchant a box of her mom’s tampons to attack the antagonist,” is
something I’ve heard more than once from critiquers. (Don’t worry, I found something even scarier:
eyelash curlers).

Yeah, these factor into a dramatic climactic battle. Lovecraft has nothing on me. 

My real-life Middle Grade years were the time for me when it really hit home that a lot of the world the
adults presented to us kids was partially fictional because they themselves had no idea what they were
doing sometimes. It was scary and exhilarating, as these were also the years I still believed I had the
power to change things just as soon as I got old enough to vote. 

Almost all my manuscripts have some thread about the - OK supernatural, but still - consequences of
kids believing the stories adults, their friends, themselves, spin to keep themselves and others

I enjoy revisiting that naive megalomania and sense of wonder in writing for children. If I can ever
rework this stupid scene, finish this R&R, and get it back to the interested agent, I hope to see this
manuscript on the shelves soon.

But that mansion may have to wait a couple years. 

Thank you, Middle Grade Minded for the warm welcome and I look forward to getting to know you all!

Tell me in the comments - what's the weirdest story idea you've ever had?