Monday, January 14, 2019

What Books Top Your To-Be-Read List in 2019?

I recently asked some of my favorite middle grade authors what books they're most looking forward to reading in 2019. The rules: they don't have to be published in 2019 to make the list. In fact, they don't even have to fit in the MG category. Anything goes!

Gwendolyn Hooks
THE PARKER INHERITANCE by Varian Johnson is the next book I plan to read. I love mysteries and this book has received a lot of praise. Horn Book gave it a starred review and said “Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements.” I loved Varian’s, THE GREAT GREENE HEIST, so I know this one will be an intriguing read.

A picture book biography that’s been on my To-Be-Read list is HARLEM'S LITTLE BLACKBIRD -- THE STORY OF FLORENCE MILLS by Renee Watson. It was published a few years ago, so I have no excuse for not reading it sooner. But 2019 is its magical year. Florence’s parents were former slaves. I think that heritage made her strong and determined to succeed in her musical career on Broadway during the 1920s. How did she do it?  I plan to read it and learn exactly how she accomplished her goals.

S.A. Larsen
Like most every reader, my to-be-read pile is ever-growing. But, for 2019, I'm determined to finally read BOB by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead. Why? Because the whole idea of a creature not letting you forget about a childhood promise you made a few years back (& you're still a kid!) totally intrigues me! We won't talk about how fascinated I am that this greenish creature also dresses in a chicken suit.

I'm also stoked to read GHOST SQUAD by Claribel A. Ortega out in 2019! Firstly, I've read a few of her comments, and she seems super sweet. When I first read the blurb for the story, all I could think of is how alike Lucely (GS's main character) and my main character Ebony are. They both are a bit clumsy with their 'spells', but their hearts are golden. I'd also love to see Ebony running around with Lucely, trying to catch all the ghosts Lucely accidentally let loose!

Sarah Cannon

Author of ODDITY

First, I cannot wait to read Gabrielle Byrne's RISE OF THE DRAGON MOON. I've been swapping manuscripts with her for years, and I know her to be an imaginative, action-driven author. I am going to pounce on my copy this August!

I'm also itching to own DRAGON PEARL. Penned by Yoon Ha Lee, an author who's already racking up accolades in the adult SFF world, you can bet this Korean mythology-inspired space opera is going to be amazing!

Last, I plan to devour JUST SOUTH OF HOME, by Karen Strong-- if I can get my hands on it! My 12 y.o. spent half his summer bingeing Blackish, so if he realizes JSOH is pitched as Blackish meets Goosebumps, I'm going to need two copies or a locked hideout.

Sally Pla

Susan Adrian's ARC of FOREVER NEVERLAND, THE ASSASSINATION OF BRANGWAIN SPURGE by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin, and SANITY AND TALLULAH by Molly Brooks! Right now finishing adult novel ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS PERFECTLY FINE which I picked up because the title sounded so much like my STANLEY IS PROBABLY FINE, and I love Eleanor. Like Stanley, she is quirky. Quirky is my everything.

Patrick Moody

This will be a busy writing year for me, and while I’m writing I usually stick to non-fiction (don’t know why, that’s just the pattern I’ve fallen into). But I’m half through all the Spookies’ books and will hopefully get to the other half in the next couple months! Other than that, I have biographies of Subodai (one of Ghengis Khan’s generals aka very scary dude), Edward I, and William the Conquerer that I’m really looking forward to!

P.S. If you're not familiar with 'the Spookies,' we're a group of spooky middle grade authors hanging out over at! Jan Eldredge, author of EVANGELINE OF THE BAYOU, is also looking to read every #SpookyMG book in 2019!!! Whoa! Here's a complete list:


Kim Ventrella (hey, that's me!)
I'm most looking forward to reading THE AFTERWARDS by A.F. Harrold. It's the story of best friends Ember and Ness. When Ness dies suddenly, Ember travels to the Afterworld, determined to bring Ness back. I absolutely adored THE IMAGINARY, also written by Harrold and illustrated by the amazing Emily Gravett.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Resolving Not to Set Writing Goals for Myself in 2019

Every new year I set writing goals for myself.

But not this year.

I had an a-ha moment at the end of 2018.

2018 was a great year for me writing-wise: I published my second novel, I received positive reviews, the book sold pretty well.

I created specific goals for myself: finish revisions, write and revise at least one new book, do tons of school visits, get to at least one conference.

So why did my writing life feel tortured?


Then it hit me: I was trying too hard.

It's a wonderful thing to have goals, but not at the expense of enjoying the trip along the way.

Last year, when I didn't meet a goal—be it word count, finished product, whatever—I'd beat myself up.

My goals, which were supposed to move me forward, actually sucked the thrill of of writing from my life.

I forgot that to really succeed at anything, there must be joy.

And for me, a Capricorn who has a tendency to want to get things done, my goals impeded the joy.


This morning, I'm in the throes of final revisions to my WIP. They're due next week. And guess what? I'm having fun.

Why? Because I'm not worried about anything but the task at hand.

Instead, I trust that other books will get written, schools will be visited, stuff will happen. People will love the book or they won't.

My only focus is to love what I'm doing right now. I trust that the rest will sort itself out.

For many of you, goal setting is the thing that will propel your work to publication. I salute you.

But promise me you won't beat yourself up if you miss a deadline or don't reach your goal within a certain time frame.

Promise that you'll focus on loving your work in progress and enjoying the journey. Because that love is what will propel your writing forward.

To every writer and reader out there: I wish you a 2019 filled with magic.

It is magic that we can conjure stories from thin air.

It is magic that the stories we read let us live a thousand lives during our short time on this wonderful planet.

I have no writing goals for 2019. But something tells me I'll find a lot of magic along the way!