All I Want from You is…Your Voice!

Okay, as you can tell from the title, I may or may not be a little bit robsessed with The Little Mermaid. But that quote from Ursula in particular has a lot to do with my writing style when I write MG manuscripts.

Once I’m done with my first draft, I always have to go back and amp up the voices of my secondary characters. My protagonist is often screaming out and proud about who she or he is, but those sidekicks are sometimes waving in the background saying, “Hello? Can you hear me?!”

So I’ve had to create a way to hear those voices in my head and let them out. This entails finding things to listen to, watch or read that have strong voices and get into that mental rhythm of picking up on what makes a person’s voice unique and stand out. Here’s a list of some of the things I love featuring strong voices that help get me into that voice-amping mind space!


Candice Bergen’s memoir, A Fine Romance. I love me a good audiobiography, and this one is at the top of my list. Candice tells the tale of her romance with her first husband and the bond she created with their daughter, all while reliving her Murphy Brown days and how she had to be a strong and resilient woman to gain successes in her relationships and career. Plus, she reads it all in her signature Bergen cadence. I could listen to this again and again.

Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl’s Psychobabble Podcast. This weekly pop culture podcast is zany, timely and often times inappropriate. I can go from laughing out loud one minute to shaking my head in my mother’s signature “I can’t believe they just said that” head shake. But regardless of my reaction, Tyler and Korey have voices that feel so authentically them that I can’t help but be inspired to write characters with voices just as strong.


Any and every Real Housewives franchise. These shows are full of CHARACTERS, and they all have signature catchphrases or quotes. Just to list a few: “Bloop!” “Chic c’est la vie!” “I’m Gone with the Wind fabulous!” “We’re gonna whoop it up!” “Jesus fix it!” “Be cool. Don’t be all like…uncool;” “Watch out Maloof hoof, the Vanderpump is on its way…!” I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea that if you don’t have your own voice, you’re not going to be a Housewife. (PS – If they ever need a fella to be on any of the franchises, I already have my tagline picked out… So call me, Andy Cohen)


The Animorphs series by K.A. Applegate (also known as Katherine Applegate). I was so insanely, at-the-bookstore-the-moment-it-opens obsessed with this series when it was first published and I still love it! I read a few of the books every year, and I am just in awe how each of the main characters feels so distinct. If you haven’t read it, each book is narrated by a different character in this group of kids that has acquired an alien technology that allows them to morph into different animals. Marco, the funny guy, was my first book crush. Cassie, the animal lover, was the first character I ever read that I thought I could learn something from based on her kindness and ability to think of others. Not only was Applegate able to make one strong voice, she was able to create SIX and keep it up! *Bows down*

Just writing this post has made a few new voices swim around my head. I got to get to writing (and catching up on my DVR/podcasts).


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. If he had to pick his favorite Real Housewives franchise it would be Beverly Hills, and he once had a dream that he was an Animorph and morphed into a chicken. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


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Back to School, Emu Style

As a teacher and a mom, there are three words that describe this time of year for me: Back to School. There are so many great things associated with those words: freshly-sharpened pencils, blank pages, and a seemingly limitless opportunity to learn and grow. There’s a beautiful sense of a story just beginning.

It’s a little like what we experience as writers each time we start a new project, isn’t it?

With that in mind, and because every season of life calls for new books to be read, I asked the Emu experts to tell me their favorite Back to School stories. Here are their responses:

rubyHayley Barrett: I love RUBY THE COPYCAT by the brilliant Peggy Rathmann. The conflict is real as Ruby, a delightfully idiosyncratic little girl, imitates her very tolerant classmate Angela. With encouragement, Ruby learns to be her own wonderful self, and the resolution is perfectly hop-py.

Darcey Rosenblatt: My new favorite is Elizabeth Shreeve’s CAPTAIN FREDDY COUNTS DOWN TO SCHOOL. Freddy overcomes his kindergarten fears through his imagined space adventures. Sweet story and beautiful illustrations.captain freddy

Jason Gallaher: Audrey Vernick’s FIRST GRADE DROPOUT is amazing!! I love how Audrey captures the fear of going to full-time school but with such a humorous voice. She better never dropout of writing.

Elly Swartz: When my boys were little, our favorites were the Wayside School books by Louis Sachar and THE SECRET SHORTCUT by Mark Teague. These books captured my boys’ imagination and sense of adventure. My new favorites are FIRST GRADE DROPOUT by Audrey Vernick and SOPHIE’S SQUASH GO TO SCHOOL by Pat Zietlow Miller.

squash schoolKatie Slivensky: It’s more family than school focused, but TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume will always be one of my favorites. It acknowledges the difficulties of being in that age range so perfectly!

Andrea Wang: I love the middle grade mysteries CHASING VERMEER and THE WRIGHT 3 by Blue Balliett. They’re a wonderful mix of school, friendships, art, and puzzles, with a touch of the paranormal thrown in. What more could you want?!

Elaine Vickers: My kids can never get enough of YELLOWBELLY AND PLUM GO TO SCHOOL by Nathan Hale. The story is great, the illustrations are awesome, and it offers a great opportunity to talk about common fears and also diversity. For older readers, it would be hard to beat WONDER.


profile picElaine Vickers is the author of LIKE MAGIC (HarperCollins, October 2016) and loves writing middle grade and chapter books when she’s not teaching college chemistry or hanging out with her fabulous family. She’s a member of SCBWI and represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of EMLA. You can find her at on the web,@ElaineBVickers on Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, or generally anywhere there are books and/or food for her consumption.


Filed under Picture books, Uncategorized

Detours Can Be Fabulous

If you’ve been following along here on Emu’s Debuts, you know that there is not one path to publication. Some roads meander, some have obstacles, and some are very long. Mine has been a long and bumpy road indeed, but I believe it has been well worth the wait. When I first started out, I had in mind what my path would look like, but I took a few detours on my way to getting my own fiction published.

Almost a decade ago while living in Shanghai China (for my husband’s job), I had the opportunity to write a nonfiction book for kids about China. That followed with an offer to write a book about Japan for the same publisher. Writing these books taught me discipline as I was under contract and under deadline.

More recently, I was offered a work-for-hire opportunity writing an early reader chapter book series about Dorothy & Toto for Capstone. This was my first experience with work-for-hire and I didn’t know what to expect. It ended up being a truly wonderful and positive experience. I was given a lot of freedom to come up with my own ideas and write the stories. From this I learned how to write under a very tight deadline, write proposals (which needed to be approved by both Warner Brothers and Capstone), and work closely with an editor. I had a lot of fun writing the four books, which just came out this month. Most importantly, I learned how to write a series.


Soon after, I received an offer from FSG for my chapter book Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen. Not only that, but they wanted a four-book series! I was overjoyed! This was my dream come true. I’d written a book, submitted it, accumlated many rejections and had a few close calls, and finally, an editor wanted my work! And MORE! Had I not had the recent positive experience of writing the Dorothy & Toto series, I might have panicked. I wrote Mochi Queen as a stand-alone, but writing a series definitely felt doable and exciting. Right now, I’m working on book 4 of the Jasmine Toguchi series. I’ll save the details of what it’s been like to write this series with my awesome editor for a future post.

I’m so grateful for every step along this road, for getting me here. While writing nonfiction for kids and doing work-for-hire had not been in my original plan, they were detours I welcomed. Stay the path! You never know what you’ll come upon. Welcome the surprises and the joys while working toward your big dream! Happy writing!



Filed under Writing and Life

10 BUSY BROOMS: Gremlins and Wheelers and Oz, Oh My!

It’s the final day of our launch week for Carole Gerber’s1732-40272-_2d00_-animated-cheering-fluttershy-pinkie_5f00_pie-twilight_5f00_sparkle 10 BUSY BROOMS. We’ve had so much fun celebrating!

To cap off the week, we’re going to talk about monsters. There is no shortage of monsters in 10 BUSY BROOMS. There is a goblin, a werewolf, a mummy, and much more. But Michael Fleming’s amazing illustrations render these baddies delightful instead of dreadful, appealing instead of appalling. Just look at the witches on the cover — how cute are they?!

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.49.28 AM

But what does scare an EMU? Safely huddled together in the nest, we recounted what movie or cartoon character we found most scary as kids, and why:


Carole Gerber: Charles Lee Ray – nicknamed “Chucky,” was a serial killer in a horror film series called “Child’s Play.” I never watched a single one of the movies -seeing his face and just hearing about the movies was as much fright as I could handle.

Jason Gallaher: As I kid, I COULD NOT handle the gremlins from “Gremlins.” They terrified me! They are so sadistic and twisted and I just couldn’t understand how a cute little hamster-like muffin could become a bloodthirsty monster.

The weird thing is when I was little I would BEG my mom to let us rent the video, promising I would watch it all the way through, but I never once made it to the end. Only recently was I able to watch the movie without running away in terror, only to find out that one of the gremlins actually eats the science teacher, which made me even more terrified of these green slimy creatures. Then I read the description on the back of the box, and “Gremlins” was originally pegged as a holiday movie! Outrageous! As a fella robsessed with the holidays, I was offended. No science teachers get eaten when Santa is on his way!

Katie Slivensky: Oh, man. ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. 13775762_10106817460995333_2334941852642014925_nThat movie scared the pants off of me for so many reasons. The dream sequence in Hell was terrifying, for sure, but what really got me was the lady poodle angel dog. Her repeated, sing-song-y “You can never come back!” line as the main dog escapes Heaven to return to Earth haunts me to this day. Some serious psychological business goes down in that movie. Lady dog was mega creepy. (Okay, apparently she was a whippet, not a poodle. BUT THE POINT STANDS. She scared the bejeezus out of me.)

scooby-and-shaggy-ghostDonna Bowman recalls being scared of several characters: Since we’re not talking about grown up movies like Friday the 13th, I can’t mention Jason, right? Human monsters have always been more frightening to me than any animated or fantastical creatures.That said, I remember being creeped out by the ghosts in Scooby Doo cartoons. Also, the witch from the original Wizard of Oz movie, with her flying monkeys, scared the gumballs out of me.

Donna wasn’t the only EMU traumatized by the Oz movies.

Debbi Michiko Florence: Okay, this is going to sound silly since I wrote four Dorothy & Toto books (mind you, for early readers), but when I was a kid, the Wizard of Oz movie terrified me. Those flying monkeys! The wicked witch! Yet I watched the movie every year (and had a hard time sleeping after).

Elly Swartz: I was totally frightened by the flying, winged monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. I closed my eyes every time they came on the screen!

Elaine Vickers: The wheelers from Return to Oz. I just did a Google image search and I think I’m going to have a hard time falling asleep tonight. Beware the wheelers!

And that’s a wrap! Whew! Am I the only one who feels like they need to go hide under the covers with a good book now? Click on over to buy your own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS and reassure yourself that not all villains are vile — some just want apple brew.

IndieBound       Amazon          Barnes & Noble

Andrea WangAndrea Wang’s debut picture book, The Nian Monster, is a Chinese New Year folktale retelling set in modern-day Shanghai. The Nian Monster will be published by Albert Whitman & Co. in December 2016. She has also written seven nonfiction books for the educational market.

If you’re wondering what character Andrea was afraid of as a kid, the answer is: all of the above!!


Filed under Book Launch, Celebrations, Characters, Launch, Picture books, Uncategorized

10 BUSY BROOMS and EMUs Debuters Fave Halloween Costumes

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.49.28 AMWelcome to day four of our super fun launch celebration for Carole Gerber’s 10 BUSY BROOMS. This fun read-aloud got us all reminiscing about the Halloween costumes and candies that we each loved as children and as adults. Once you’ve popped into your favorite independent bookstore, or onto your favorite online book seller, come right back here and enjoy these blasts from the past. Go ahead, we’ll wait.

Got your copy of the book? Good for you! The young people in your life will thank you.  They’ll probably ask for you to read it over and over and over. Now, back to our regularly scheduled Halloween flashbacks, beginning with our guest of honor.

blonde-1298007_1280Carole Gerber  –  My favorite costume was a (wholesome – complete with pom poms!) cheerleader outfit I wore to our murder mystery dinner party 20 years ago, which my husband’s out-of-town relatives attended. (These mystery dinner parties, which featured eight characters, were all the rage then.) My mother-in-law wore a fortune-teller sweater that she had decorated. My father-in-law (who turned out to be the murderer), dressed as an Arnold Palmer era golfer. My sister-in-law, who then lived in Arizona and had kept her pregnancy a secret so she could reveal it at the party, wore a sexy evening dress pinned to the front of her maternity clothes. Everyone stayed at our home
for three days. We had a great time teasing my “Minnesota nice” father-in-law – the sweetest and kindest man ever – about being the murderer.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.44.22 AMHayley Barrett  –  I once won second place ( and I still say was robbed!) at a Halloween costume party. I was a cavewoman. I ratted my waist-length hair and used a can of hairspray on it. Getting it untangled the next day was an ordeal. My favorite candy? Reeses. No contest.

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.32.24 AMAndrea Chan Wang.  I was obsessed with fairies in the days before you could buy those beautiful gauzy fairy wings at every toy store. So for one Halloween, I made my own out of cardboard, covered it with gobs of glitter, and strapped the whole thing to my back with twine. It was heavy and uncomfortable, but I didn’t care — I had wings! Back then, my favorite candy was — what else — Pixy Stix!

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Pretend it is brown.

Terry Pierce  –  My favorite Halloween costume was a full-body brown furryScreen Shot 2016-08-10 at 11.29.33 AM cat suit that my 3rd grade best friend loaned me. She knew I LOVED cats (even though I didn’t have any of my own). What was most memorable about it was that she dressed as a witch (complete with a broom), and even though we were in different classes, we convinced our teachers that we came as a “set” for the school Halloween costume parade. On parade day, our teachers let us “ride” her witch’s broom together. I remember feeling so incredibly special to get to ride with her class. It was a bit awkward managing to walk with us both straddling her broom, but it was so FUN! I can’t recall a specific candy I loved, although my favorite Halloween treat memory is of my mom’s homemade popcorn balls. SO YUMMY! And I didn’t (nor do I now) ever like candy corn, which happened to be my mom’s favorite so it was always in the house around Halloween.

Elly Swartz  –  Growing up in Pennsylvania, there were some cold Halloweens. So my favorite costume was one that didn’t require me to wear a heavy coat that would compleScreen Shot 2016-08-10 at 12.34.03 PMtely cover it up. As to favorite candy, Reese’s peanut butter cups – hands-down favorite!

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 9.27.04 AM Katie Slivensky  –  My friends and I liked to do group themed costumes. One year we went as the Scooby gang. I was Shaggy! I carried around a giant stuffed Scooby Doo, and got to say ZOINKS a lot. That was fun. And my favorite treat was always from my one neighbor who handed out king sized candy bars. Way to be awesome, neighbor.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.03.03 AMJason Gallaher  –  One of my favorite Halloween costumes was what I dressed up as last year. Anyone who knows me knows I love a good, cheesy pun. So I went as a Knotty Librarian. I dressed as a librarian in slacks and a button-up shirt, then tied my hair in a knot and draped myself in a rope full of knots. It was simple, cost effective, and I couldn’t help but chuckle each time I saw myself in a mirror. So knotty!

Donna Janell Bowman
Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 11.34.26 AMMy favorite childhood Halloween costume was one of Cinderella, complete with “gown” of mysterious fabric, and plastic face mask that was so fragile (read cheaply made) that it tore the moment I took it out of the package. The mask was held in place by a thin, stretchy string. Looking back, I realize how cheap and cheesy the costume was, but I also remember feeling like a little princess for that short time. Until I ditched the mask to get to my favorite candy, chocolate.

Thanks for joining us on EMUs Debuts today. Pop by tomorrow (Friday) for our launch week finale.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 10.49.28 AM

DonnIMG_1677a 5 x 7a Janell Bowman’s forthcoming STEP RIGHT UP: HOW DOC AND JIM TAUGHT THE WORLD ABOUT KINDNESS, illustrated by Daniel Minter, will release in October 2016, followed by EN GARDE! ABRAHAM LINCOLN’S DUELING WORDS (Peachtree, 2018), and KING OF THE TIGHTROPE: WHEN THE GREAT BLONDIN RULED NIAGARA (Peachtree, 2019).


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10 Busy Brooms – Some Good Witch Love


10 Busy Brooms by Carole Gerber is a sweet, counting story about 10 little witches who unite on a broom and soar through the night sky. The pages are filled with friendship and adventure, and sprinkled with a few skeletons, ghosts and goblins.

To celebrate the launch of 10 Busy Brooms, author Carole Gerber asked her fellow Emu Debuts to share their favorite good witch. The answers may surprise you.

We kick this off with Carole, the author. Turns out her favorite good witch is her daughter, Jess, to whom the book is dedicated. She is the “brave little witch on the long skinny” broom in 10 Busy Brooms and even played  a witch in “The Wizard of Oz” in 7th grade.

For me, it’s Miss Price, witch-in-training, from Bedknobs and Broomsticks, one of my favorite books growing up. I mean if you can turn a bed into a flying contraption, you must be the best witch ever. Right?

Bedknobs 1

Next up, Debbi Michiko Florence. For her, it’s all about Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series. The confident, independent, wise, courageous, and loyal witch has all qualities she admires in a witch or a muggle.


Katie Slavinsky shared that her favorite magical lady is Polgara from the Belgariad and Mallorean books by David Eddings. She’s a stubborn, no-nonsense gal with centuries of life experience to draw from. She’s spent her immortal life learning all sorts of trades because they were practical and interesting. She’s won wars by reason, diplomacy, and pure toughness. She’s raised oodles of generations of “chosen ones,” which says a lot for her patience. Plus, she can turn into an owl. Polgara is pretty much the best magical female character to ever grace the pages of fantasy literature.

For Jason Gallaher, it’s Luna Lovegood. She’s unabashedly herself, and constantly fights for good in her own way. She may be kooky, and have to put up with taunts from her Hogwarts peers, but that doesn’t stop her from being true to herself and doing what she thinks is right. As Jason says, “Love you, Luna!”


Savinder Bal Naberhaus’s favorite is Minikin Snickasnee, called Minx for short, from Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett, Helen Stone (Illustrator). Minx was nine years old and wished with all her heart that she was not a witch’s child.

And for Donna Bowman, her love is for Glinda from The Wizard of Oz. She’s beautiful, sparkly, and generally made of sugary sweetness. Bewitch‘s Samantha wins as her favorite television witch because she was the best at wiggling her nose on cue, making people disappear, and fixing things without the help of her husband. And finally, Hermione Ganger ranks her most recent favorite witch because even Harry Potter wouldn’t survive without her smarts.

Glinda the Good Witch

So, that’s a wrap. There’s a lot of Emu love for good witches. Let’s embrace all that love and say a huge Woot! for the 10 little witches of 10 Busy Brooms!



Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG) hits shelves October, 18 2016. FINDING PERFECT is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES.  If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.


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10 Busy Brooms

I  have never enjoyed going to haunted houses because I am easily frightened by costumed actors paid to scare people. That’s one of many reason I love Michael Fleming’s illustrations for my Halloween counting book, 10 Busy Brooms, out this month from Doubleday.  The “bad” critters he depicted look nearly as adorable as the altruistic little witches who rescue one another, making it clear to children that this book is sweet rather than scary.

Thanks also to another talented Michael, Doubleday Assistant Editor Michael Joosten, who worked closely with me to make sure my text and Mr. Fleming’s art fit together seamlessly. An enormous thank-you also goes to Frances Gilbert—Associate Publishing Director of Random House, Golden Books, Doubleday Books for Young Readers—for accepting my manuscript. And major thanks to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette for selling it.

I got the idea for this manuscript while thinking about my wholesome trick-or-treating adventures in the small Ohio town where I grew up. No one’s parents ever accompanied them—that would have been humiliating! Preschoolers stayed home and helped to hand out treats. Elementary school kids joined up with older siblings or friends and made the rounds. It was exciting to be out and about at night, unsupervised by adults, and feeling the occasional thrill of fear at seeing a seriously scary goblin I didn’t recognize in costume.

Most children wore simple costumes:  old sheet with eye holes cut out for ghosts, and black wigs worn under witch hats. Many kids wore cheap masks from the dime store.  A few painted their faces. Many wore fake wax lips or wax teeth that had to be taken out when you said, “trick or treat.” Both the lips and teeth had a sweet taste and could be chewed like gum later in the evening. Older kids carried soap in their pockets to leave their marks on homes of people who were too clueless or cheap to give out treats. Some carried bags of dry corn. Soaping windows and/or throwing corn on porches were the “tricks” if a treat wasn’t given.

None of us liked the sheriff’s prissy daughter, Beverly, and we all hated knocking on the door of their home. However, her family gave out full-size candy bars, so we put away our wax teeth and lips so we could smile politely when her mother opened the door. Getting our candy bars wasn’t a quick transaction, though, because Mrs. B. (full name withheld to protect Beverly’s privacy) always attempted to first guess the identity of each beggar, then demanded that we take off our disguises if she guessed wrong. (Hand over the Hershey already!)

Okay, so how am I going to wind up this trip down memory lane? Hmmmm. How about with this:  Trick or treat/smell my feet/give me something good to eat. And, if you get a chance in October,  read 10 Busy Brooms to a child who loves Halloween.



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Interview with 10 BUSY BROOMS Editor, Michael Joosten

I am super excited to announce that we are celebrating one particular Emu this week, and that’s Carole Gerber. Her new picture book, 10 BUSY BROOMS, comes out TOMORROW!! All of us in the nest are so excited, and we are dedicating a post to Carole’s book launch every day this week. To kick off the celebration, I had the opportunity to interview Michael Joosten, the editor of 10 BUSY BROOMS. Read below to see us discuss the trickiness of rhyme, wobbly brooms and Meryl Streep costumes!


Jason Gallaher: Picture book writers often hear that holiday books can be a hard sell. What drew you to Carole’s story?

Michael Joosten: I definitely gravitated toward the fact that the text felt classic, but also felt fresh and fun. That’s a very tricky line to navigate and Carole does it seamlessly. Also, to many people, rhyme is viewed as simple/easy. It’s actually the complete opposite and it’s especially difficult to do it well. Carole makes it look effortless which contributes to the magic of the book.

JG: What was the editorial process like? Were there many changes in the witches and their brooms from when you first saw the work to what we read now?

MJ: The final version of the book is very close to what was originally submitted. Carole and I both discussed some minor word changes in order to fine tune a few lines, but because her work was so strong to begin with, we didn’t have to revisit much. Working with Carole is like having a great tennis partner. It’s so much fun to go back and forth.

JG: Michael Fleming’s illustrations make me want to hang out with all the monsters in this Halloween world (especially the foul-breathed werewolf!). How did you find and select Michael to work on this project?

MJ: When I started at Random House in 2010, I stumbled across Michael’s work in an anthology of illustrators. I shared it with my colleagues and everyone fell in love with it and I was able to sign him up to illustrate one of our Step into Reading books, Twinky the Dinky Dog. I am always looking at his website ( because his work is absolutely incredible, and while perusing it one day, I saw several witch illustrations he created. I always kept him in mind in the event a Halloween manuscript came my way. As soon as I read Carole’s text, I immediately thought of Michael and and how he was the perfect person for the project. Like Carole’s work, Michael has an incredibly rare duality of feeling classic and modern all at once. I was over the moon – or should I say broom – when he came on board.

JG: There are so many fantastic spreads to choose from, but do you have a favorite?

MJ: I think it would have to be the spread where the the broom begins to wiggle and wobble and sends the witches on a rollercoaster ride in the sky. Michael really captured the movement and dynamics of it perfectly.

JG: And just for fun: What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever seen or dressed up as yourself?

MJ: It was the year Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady came out. My friend Anthony became particularly inspired. He was a spectacular Lady Thatcher (the wig was epic).

Huge thanks for hanging out with us in the Emu nest, Michael!

Don’t forget, you can pick up your very own copy of 10 BUSY BROOMS tomorrow! You can find it on IndieBound, Barnes & NobleAmazon and your local bookstore!


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. He dressed up as a Knotty Librarian—a librarian covered in knots—last Halloween, but is now seriously considering going as Meryl Streep. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)


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The Essential Glimmer of Hope

Middle grade readers are engulfed in emerging awareness of the world around them. They have a lot to learn, a lot to to try and understand. That’s plenty right there, but it’s not all that’s required of them. They have to learn about themselves too. Sometimes that process is straightforward, if painfully and memorably awkward.


Sometimes it’s decidedly not straightforward. Peer conflicts and personal challenges loom large. Young people encounter problems that threaten to get out of hand and actually hurt them. They may not know how and when to seek help. Fear and shame stop them in their tracks.

The Scream

When this happens, they need an antidote to the poison of despair. They need hope. They have to have it.

This is where a deftly written, sensitive novel like Elly Swartz’s upcoming FINDING PERFECT (OCTOBER 2016) comes in. I just finished reading the ARC—the pre-publication Advanced Reader Copy—and emerged feeling both enlightened and heartened. This is a story that trusts readers with hard truths while encouraging them to turn away from despair and step toward hope.


Twelve-year-old Molly, FINDING PERFECT’S main character, finds that her efforts to control life’s turmoil backfire. Habits that once brought comfort and security become traps that steal her peace. Her pain is very real, yet throughout her story, there is an essential glimmer of hope. Hope that she can and will find her peace again. That with courage and support, she’ll find her way—step by small step—out of a thorny tangle that once felt inescapable.

Hope doesn’t smooth over life’s snags and scars with a veneer of perfection. It shines light onto them, eliminating dark corners of doubt and fostering strength and growth.

Sunrise gif

This is what a book like FINDING PERFECT can offer to the beleaguered and bewildered middle grade reader. A chance to experience a trial and emerge triumphant with a bit of hard-won hope of their very own.

Hayley's Author Photo

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. I’m currently expecting two picture books, BABYMOON (Candlewick Press) and WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, spring 2019, (Simon&Schuster, Beach Lane Books) illustrated by Diana Sudyka.

Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow:


Filed under Anxiety, ARCs, Character Development, Characters, Uncategorized

I’ve Been Bitten

What I love about the EMU nest here on EMU’s Debuts is that we are all cuddled up together celebrating each other’s accomplishments. Namely, that we’ve sold our first book! While I feel so lucky and happy and can’t stinkin’ wait for my first book to hit shelves next year, I realized I’ve been bitten by a bug.

That bug is the need for MORE! More submissions to editors, more publishing contracts, more book ideas to keep this writing train a-chugging down the tracks. That need grew so loud and incessant in my own mind that I swear I could hear an actual buzzing. I totally related to Cory in this moment:

I realized that I needed to slow my roll and just relax. Publishing takes time, publishing things people actually want to read takes even longer, and me freaking out about the whole thing was not only NOT going to make things move faster, but it was only going to end up making people think I was crazy and look at me like this:

So I started finding ways to utilize that buzzing energy for the forces of good, rather than self-inflicted crazy-making evil. To satiate that need for more submissions, I found me a nice office space where I can write to my little heart’s content. My daily word count has doubled since getting that space at the beginning of July, and I’m feeling ON FIRE!

To ease those feelings of not having enough published, I’ve altered what exactly counts as publishing in my mind, and now I publish videos to YouTube in addition to writing manuscripts. I geek out about fandoms, I do a terrible Tom Brokaw impersonation while I film my puppy “reviewing” picture books,  and I sing terribly. I’m able to get out all that goofiness that constantly runs around my brain, and hopefully it will catch people’s interest and have them eagerly anticipating my books when they do come out (feel free to subscribe;)!).

These two things alone, my office and new creative outlet of YouTube, have made that buzzing go away. I’m feeling so much happier, so much more productive, and so ready to rock!

And of course, for those times when I’m feeling a little more energy than normal and that buzzing starts to creep back in, I can go out and play Pokémon Go!


IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher is a picture book and middle grade writer who loves to create stories that mix the flamboyantly whacky with the slightly dark. His debut picture book, WHOBERT WHOVER, OWL DETECTIVE, releases in Summer 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. When not writing, Jason zips about Austin, Texas. Things Jason thought were first causing that buzzing he heard include the garbage disposal, a hive of invisible bees, and an audiobook narrated by Gilbert Gottfried. Jason is a self-described Hufflepuff, and he is actively looking for an Andalite friend. (Photo Cred: David-Gabe Photography)



Filed under Anxiety, Creativity