Exchanging Doubt for Joy

Heart PicIt’s my turn to leave the nest. It’s cozy and safe and I don’t WANT to leave! But a new generation of debut authors remains, poised for greatness. They are talented and wonderful and the blog will be in capable hands.  I am filled with gratitude for the support and personal growth I’ve experienced during my time as a member of EMU’s Debuts.

This past year in particular has been a study in contrast for me, filled with extreme highs and lows. It was a dream come true seeing my book in print. But there were doubts, expectations, and worries too—issues that snowballed and eventually resulted in a diagnosis of severe depression. I mention this because I had anticipated only joy, and considered it a personal failure when the joy did not materialize exactly when and how I imagined it would.

Thanks to my incredibly supportive spouse, I finally stopped blaming myself and sought proper treatment. I am doing so much better now! And I realize that I waited way too long to ask for help.

So many of us fight a daily battle of doubt vs. joy.

I started playing the flute when I was ten years old. A few great teachers and a lot of practice helped me develop a skill that brought me happiness and made me feel like I was good at something. I played all the way through college and even started out as a performance major with the hopes of joining a professional orchestra someday.

Then doubt got in the way. There were lots of talented flute players. What were my chances of competing? It was too hard, I had to practice too much every day, I’d never make it into an orchestra and if I did I’d never make a living at it. I talked myself out of it, and destroyed the joy it used to bring.

I graduated with a generic music degree and a decision to turn my attention to children’s literature. I don’t regret the choice to write, but I do regret making that choice out of fear, and will always wonder “what if?”

Of course, the path to publishing is fraught with opportunities to doubt ourselves. Even after signing with my agent, even after my first publishing contract, there was still plenty of fear and doubt nipping at my ankles like a ferocious little dog. We learn to power through it, don’t we? We school ourselves to stay on the path, because perseverance is often the one trait that makes the difference in this industry.

But at what cost? All too often the joy gets trampled along the way.

1382268243_f3c1242184_bLast year we attended a performance by the Piano Guys. The cellist, Steven Sharp Nelson, is the absolute picture of joy when he plays. If you’ve never seen him, I urge you to look him up on YouTube. His tone is perfection, his technique jaw-dropping, but it’s his body language that captures my attention: eyes closed, face lifted to the heavens, a peaceful smile on his face. This man loves what he does. Can I say the same? Not always. But I’ve set a goal to experience that type of joy more often, because I do love to write and I believe it is a worthy pursuit.

I’ve resolved to write just for fun sometimes, for the sake of pure creative expression. Sometimes I’ll crank up a movie soundtrack to full volume while writing an action scene, or take my notebook outside to write in the park. Other times it’s a slog and I just have to make deadline, one impossible word after another. Life can’t be fun all the time.

And the doubt? Oh, it’s still there–corrosive, insidious. Yap, yap, yapping for attention. But there are steps I take to quiet it down: making my mental and physical health a priority; spending more time outside in the sunshine; seeking big-picture perspective while resisting the urge to draw comparisons to other people’s lives; and striving to be more compassionate toward myself and others.

In short: Go. Write. Chase the joy. Spread it around. Let it show on your face, and on the page. The world needs it. You deserve it.

We all do.


ChristineHayesauthorpicChristine Hayes writes spooky stories for middle grade readers. Her debut novel, MOTHMAN’S CURSE, was released June 16, 2015 with Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Find her on Twitter: @christinenhayes or at christinehayesbooks.com.


Filed under Writing, Happiness, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, craft~writing, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Farewell, Creativity, joy

The Entirely True Confession of a Fibber

Confession time.

My introduction post for EMU’s Debuts was about remembering to have fun. In it, I promised myself that I would try to have fun in the months between signing and publication. Now that my book has finally launched, I feel like I can share something that I didn’t really feel comfortable talking about for the past year and a half.

I didn’t really have a lot of fun.

Wait! Keep reading. That’s not a complaint! It’s the build up to a revelation. Because a couple of weeks ago, I finally figured out why I hadn’t been having much fun.

The epiphany came to me as I wrapped up my first school visit in front of an assembly of 500 K-5 students in an elementary school in Naperville, IL. The answer was so simple that I felt impossibly stupid—and overwhelmingly relieved.


I’ve spent my entire adult career working with kids in one capacity or another. I was a classroom teacher for a number of years before moving on to a more administrative role in my school. I left that position to start an enrichment business. The whole reason I began writing was because I love sharing stories with kids. When my book first sold I was thrilled for a number of reasons—not least among them was the fact that I knew that having a book out there would give me the opportunity to engage with kids and story in whole new ways. So when I had to back off on my enrichment work to make time for my writing, I did so confident that it would be an equal trade.

But it’s a funny thing. You write a book for children. If you’re lucky (I was very lucky!) you sell that book. But then for the next 18 months the only people reading that book are other adults.

It wasn’t until I found myself in front of that group of kids that I realized just how far removed I’d grown from my intended audience. As old habits, old management styles, and (yes) old jokes kicked back in, I began to feel more like myself that I had in months. I was—finally—enjoying being a children’s writer.

We call our field Children’s Literature, and I think that name speaks to the dual nature of the genre. At the risk of generalizing, I think that those of us who write for children like to have a foot in two worlds—the story world of children and the literary world of adults.

The period of pre-publication forces us to place more weight on the foot that rests in the world of adults—of editors and revisions and reviewers. I wasn’t prepared for that. It unbalanced me. I share this post in case anyone else finds herself or himself experiencing a similar loss of balance.

The good news? Once the book is published, things change. The weight shifts. A friend recently told me that the night after my first school visit I sounded more like myself than I had in months. She was right. For the first time since getting the news that my book sold, I’m excited—really excited—about being an author.

So go ahead! Ask me if we’re having fun yet!

I’m finally able to give the answer I’ve been wanting to give all along.


A college friend sent this photo of reading FIB with her daughter—one of the first times I saw a kid with my published book!


Filed under Uncategorized

Clearing The Path

Not too long ago I tackled one of those (kind of miserable) projects to which there is no alternative but hard work. I had to remove the grass that had grown for years between pavers and was progressing to cover the walkway completely. The only way to remove said grass was to get down on my hands and knees with a couple of sharp turf knives. I’m not fond of chemicals and with this kind of growth? No alternatives to using muscle and making sweat.


The path before.

I decided to spend an hour every morning, an hour that coincided with consuming my second cup of coffee, on hands and knees and getting the job done a bit at a time. That way my back could recover after each foray, I’d feel accomplished for the day, and the job would, in fact, get done. Eventually.

It took me about two weeks all told, but I’ve removed the grass, and I can assure you it won’t be allowed to regrow there. The path looks terrific and I enjoy walking on it again. It frames my garden as it should. It feels nice underfoot. I’ve saved something I almost lost.

As with all things in life, metaphors to writing abound.

That grass was really stubborn. The knives had to be re-sharpened every day – sometimes twice a day (thank you, DH). Some places had to be dug deeper and deeper – the roots had become entwined and grown right under the pavers. Sometimes the grass pulled up in a long intact piece, like peeling a banana – especially where it had grown across the rocks so the roots had no soil.

I’ve been struggling with a revision of a piece that I adore but that I wrote a long time ago. It needs a lot of work. The roots of words, in places, have dug in deep. In other places, the roots are so shallow they have no foundation. The story and the character had both disappeared underneath a pretty but choking mat of wordy growth. It’s been hard for me to find my way and re-expose the stuff that’s important.


And after

I’m figuratively on my hands and knees and my back gets cramped, and I have to stand up every so often and take another gulp of coffee. I can only work on this for so long before I need a break.

Yet, bit by bit, little by little, the pathway is reopening. My story is revealing itself again after having nearly been smothered. I have to remind myself that this is painstaking work (just ask my back) and that it will take time, but that each day brings a new revelation, and each effort exposes more of the story and more of the character, and eventually, when I stand back, I’ll be delighted.

And that’s the way we writers roll, do we not?

(ps in case you’re curious: I was told that white vinegar spray would kill grass just as effectively as a commercial herbicide – and it does! It’ll be very easy to spray the new invaders now that I’ve done the hard work.)


Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise

My Happy Dance

Hugs. Champagne. Tears. Happy Dance.

Maybe not in that order, but all those things happened on December 17, 2014. After thirteen years of nothing/nada/nope/not yet, that was the day I got my yes.  I had replayed that moment a hundred times in my head. Every time I finished a draft, hit send and waited, my mind filled with images of my yes moment. Fireworks? Dance music? Singing? Nope, not singing – my voice is way more dead frog than canary.

But let’s be honest, after thirteen years of writing, revising, tossing, writing, revising, shelving, deep down I knew the path to yes was not going to be direct. While I had a great conversation with the amazing Angie Chen of FSG, there were so many more people who had to fall in love with Molly and FINDING PERFECT for yes to happen. And that meant more waiting and Twizzlers and finger-crossing and not sleeping.

Finally, THE meeting was to happen the week before the holidays. I was on vacation with my boys and husband. That day, I made sure my phone was charged and dragged it with me to the gym at 7am (as if I was ever getting a call at 7am which actually was 4am for Trish, my agent), dragged it with me to breakfast, the pool, while attempting to read, lunch, and then finally to cards with my family.

 cards boys   cards all 4

We were playing Continental and I was losing, perhaps not as badly as my husband, but it was close. It was 3 and to say I was distracted would be a horrible understatement. By 4 I was certain it was a no and Trish just didn’t know how to tell me.

Then at 4:30 my phone rang. My boys and husband looked up at me and my heart dropped to the floor. This was it. THE moment. The one I had been imagining all those years.

What would it actually sound like?

“We’ve got a deal. They love FINDING PERFECT.” That was Trish’s wonderfully joyous voice telling me what I longed to hear for thirteen years. Angie and FSG loved my book and wanted to buy it.

Finally, I knew what YES sounded like.

So what did I do?

I cried. A lot. Happy wonderful tears. (My husband later shared how different his business calls are from mine – he’s a lawyer).

Hugged my boys and my husband, beyond grateful they were with me to share this moment. Popped champagne and toasted to dreams coming true.


Took a selfie to memorialize the moment.

selfie 4

And did the happy dance. This dance is still in full swing.




Elly Swartz loves writing for children, and not long after she began writing, she got a sign that, indeed, this was the right path for her. She opened a piece of Bazooka Joe gum and wrapped around the sugary, pink delight was a fortune that read, “You have the ability to become outstanding in literature.”  She keeps her fortune tacked next to her desk in her office.

Elly’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux, on October 18, 2016. FINDING PERFECT is a middle grade story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, betrayal, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two tall and loving, twenty-something sons and one-year-old beagle named Lucy.

You can visit Elly on her websiteFacebook, and Twitter.



Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Introduction, Writing

Flying the Emu’s Nest

Many of you may know I love birds—I’m a very proud bird nerd indeed! I’m obsessed with birds, and of course with nests.

Nests conjure up images and feelings of coziness, warmth and safety—a place to rest.

This is my all-time favorite, a hummingbird’s nest found when we were living in San Diego:




So, it has been apt on many levels to have been a part of the wonderful community of writers and illustrators nesting together at Emu’s Debuts, and helping to launch so many phenomenal books into the world:

Who doesn’t love a bunny, especially Kevan Atteberry’s Bunnies!!!! (+ a few more !!!!!), and Declan too! I loved interviewing Kevan, and being able to witness the evolution of Declan.




I joined the Emus post Changemaker, but was fortunate to have been able to help spotlight Laurie Thompson’s Emmanuel’s Dream, the inspirational story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah,



as well as her sweet and funny, My Dog is the Best, though I have to quibble with Laurie—my dog, Becca, is actually the best ;).


My Dog Is the Best cover

Right, Becca?  BD-dog2


Another highlight was re-visiting my favorite detectives and compiling the post for Susan Vaught’s touching middle grade novel, Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy. Columbo, anyone?


Y'all, this book is gooder'n grits!


Megan Morrison’s Grounded had me hankering after ubiquitous acorns, and book two in the Tyme series, focusing on a post of our favorite fractured fairy tales. Go team Rapunzjack!




Christine Hayes’s Mothman’s Curse was a deliciously creepy page turner, and I especially loved reminiscing about my favorite scary movies (REDRUM),  and fun family games.




An homage to mothers everywhere, Rebecca Van Slyke’s Mom School gave us even more reasons to celebrate our mothers. Every day should be Mother’s Day :).



I had a blast writing Pin the Quotes on the Emus to show which games we’d like to see come to life for Jennifer Chambliss Bertmann’s Book Scavenger. Jenn’s books are hiding all over the U.S.—have you found one yet?


Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.51.40 PM


What a treat it was to interview Christopher Silas Neal, illustrator for Tamara Ellis Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane, and see some of his early sketches for this beautiful and heartfelt book.




I celebrated Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight launch by interviewing agent extraordinaire, Tricia Lawrence, and her dogs, Rue & Toledo. Woof :).


There Was an Old Dragon cover


Teachers are so under-appreciated, and I loved extolling the virtues of our own favorites as well as Mr. Robert Looney, fictional and real-life hero in Luke Reynolds’s The Looney Experiment. I mentioned my all-time favorite 5th grade teacher, Miss Mellion, and I just recently found her address and wrote to her. I hope I’ll hear back!




And just last week, we paid tribute to Norse mythology, hero-squirrel Ratatosk, and MC Pru for Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB! I cannot tell a lie—I cannot wait to read this book!



We’ve been busy here at Emu’s Debuts :)!

During my time here, I was lucky to have interviewed agents and artists.  And one of the best perks of being an Emu was having the privilege to read ARCs and F&Gs and see the finished products before they were revealed to the rest of the world. Lucky, right?

But, without a doubt, the very best part of being an Emu was getting to know, and becoming friends with so many of you. I look forward to the day when we’ll get to meet in person, perhaps at one of the famous EMLA retreats!


Today I am fledging, leaving the Emu’s nest. It is bittersweet, but I’ll be waiting in the so-called wings to cheer on the upcoming titles of my fellow Emus: Janet Fox, Donna Jannell Bowman, Calista Brill, Carole Gerber, Mylisa Larsen and Elaine Vickers!

Some Emus have hatched, nested, and fledged, and the latest clutch of Emus is incubating. In the next month or two we will be welcoming new Emu’s to the nest with introductory posts from Elly Swartz, Debbi Michiko Florence, Hayley Barrett, Darcey Rosenblatt, Sarvinder Naberhaus, Jason Gallaher and Katie Slivensky. And my good friend and critique partner, Andrea Wang, will be joining too!

And most of all, before I fly the Emu’s nest, thank you to my fellow Emus for your support and all the posts for Penny & Jelly! There were so many fantastic posts on literary dogs, best friends, interviews with illustrator Thyra Heder, and editor Cynthia Platt, and of course, wild and wacky Emu talents.


I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate my debut anywhere else!




And here’s the cover for the second Penny & Jelly book!



Becca enjoyed her appearances here too!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset


Taking wing!

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Photo credit: Monogram Arts Photo

Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. This is what they do when they’re not writing (or snoring).  Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder, was released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  on July 7, 2015. A second book, Penny & Jelly Slumber Under the Stars, will follow in June 2016. Maria has both fiction and  nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press, Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com, or visit Maria at Facebook.



Filed under Uncategorized

Another Kind of Hurricane – The Movie!



Congratulations to Adam Shaughnessy on his debut novel THE INCREDIBLY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB heading out into the world!  So wonderful for us all!  And, specifically, wonderful for BRENDA who wins a copy of the novel! fireworks2


I was recently fortunate enough to be asked by Marshal Zeringue to be contribute to the blog, MY BOOK, THE MOVIE. It was such a great exercise for so many reasons, the biggest one, perhaps, being that I had to imagine my story in a completely different way. Visually. It was very cool. And so I thought I would repost here. Thanks to Marshal for letting me do just that!


I love color and shape, I love picture book illustrations, and I love movies – but I don’t think in images at all. I think in words, and, more specifically in sounds and rhythms and energy. That said, I have definitely imagined Another Kind of Hurricane as a movie – Oh that would be so exciting! – but I have envisioned actors based on their energies more than anything. I love strong and quirky woven together. A few people have been in my mind from the get-go who bring that mix to their work.

Half The SkyI see Alfre Woodard as Ms. Cyn. I think I first saw her way back when in Passion Fish and have loved her ever since. She is fierce and funny, and has a sense of wisdom about her, a sense of knowing the truth of the matter.


I see Sam Rockwell as Jake. He is brilliant in Way Way Back – a bit of a smart-ass, disorganized and unwound like an empty spool attached to a pile of knotted thread. But really, deep down, he is solid in his beliefs and enormously big-hearted.

ChiwetelI imagine Chiwetel Ejiofer as Ben. I fell in love with him in Love Actually and will see anything he is in. He, too, is fierce and has an energy range that would allow him, I think, to dig into all of Ben’s nuances.

CatherineI have always thought of Catherine Keener as Henry’s mom, Eliza. I loved her in Walking and Talking, as well as Lovely and Amazing. She plays a great mom and she has a disheveled beauty, insidTonie and out. And Toni Collette would be fantastic as Wayne’s mom, Annie. From the time I saw her in Muriel’s Wedding I have been obsessed with her. She, like Catherine, plays a mean mom, and she just has this essence that is authentic and, for me anyway, mesmerizing. I adore her. Like Chiwetel, I actively seek Catherine and Toni out and will watch them in whatever I can find.

NimratI’ve thought about some of the other main characters in Hurricane too. These took me a little longer to land on, but I can imagine Nimrat Kauer as Cora and Ariadne Gil as Margarita. I alsAriadnao see Jeffrey Wright as Tavius, Don Cheadle as Isaac and Jordan Peele as Skeet. What a dynamic trio!

Jeffry    DonJordan

MarcusOddly, though, my two main characters have eluded me more than anyone else. I have gone around and around who could play Zavion and Henry, and truthfully, if Hurricane was really going to be made into a movie, and I had some say in who would get cast, I would ask that we go search for some unknown boys – kids that haven’t necessarily done any TV work or movies, kids whose parents are not necessariLiamly connected to the industry, but kids who have that certain energy. Probably kids who, in their actual lives, have experienced a tragedy or who have that unusual older-than-their-years feeling about them – like Alex Shaffer, who was brilliant in Win Win, but had never acted before. That said, if I had to pick right now I would probably pick Marcus Scribner to play Zavion. I like him in Blackish and I think he knows how to play obsessed and focused. And I’d probably pick Liam James to play Henry. He was in Way Way Back and pulls off awkward and inarticulate very well. Both boys have an off-the-beaten-path quality as well as a sense of depth, I think.

Who do you think would play the lead roles in your book, the movie? Who would star in your favorite books-turned-big-screen? Such a fun thing to imagine, especially for someone so NOT visually minded…



Tamara Ellis Smith writes middle grade fiction and picture books. She graduated in 2007 from Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults. Tam’s debut middle grade novel, Another Kind of Hurricane was published by Schwartz & Wade/Random House in July 2015. She is represented by the incredible Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency, and can be found on the web at www.tamaraellissmith.com and on Twitter @tsesmith.


Filed under Characters, Movie cast

Interview with UNBELIEVABLE FIB Cover Illustrator Gilbert Ford

This week, we’re celebrating the release of Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, and I had the great privilege of interviewing the book’s cover artist, Gilbert Ford. Some of my very favorite middle grade covers are Gilbert Ford creations (Seriously! Check out his portfolio!), and this one’s definitely going on the list. Read on to find out how this cover was created and see a sneak peek at some of the other projects this talented artist has in the pipeline.

Elaine Vickers: Can you tell us a little about how you came to illustrate this cover? What was the process like behind the scenes?

fib1Gilbert Ford: Elise Howard, the art director, contacted me to do the cover. She sent me the manuscript, I read it, and we talked on the phone about a couple of directions. Her main concern was the title because it was long and it would take up a good amount of space on the cover. After we talked, I sent her some sketches. Then we narrowed down a direction and I went to final.

What were your first impressions when you became acquainted with THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB? 

It was a fun read and I loved learning about Viking mythology. Mr. Shaughnessy also incorporated elements from folk tales like the Bony Legs hut. There were so many options for illustrations it made drawing the sketches a lot of fun.

fib2There’s so much I love about this cover–the bright colors, the imposing figure behind the words, the way the kids just beg you to follow them around the corner and into the book. What are your favorite things about this cover?

Stylistically, Algonquin let me be a little arty with this cover. I was able to paint a lot of it, making the trees really colorful. I only added a few elements in Photoshop later. The cover is also a direct scene from the book. I think in middle grade, if a child picks up the book to look at the cover, he or she hopes to read about that scene in the book. Book covers for older people don’t have to be so literal.

You’ve illustrated some of my very favorite middle grade covers. (Three Times Lucky, Moonpenny Island, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, and A Snicker of Magic, just to name a few.) Do you typically read the whole manuscript, or just a synopsis? When you read, what are you looking for?

fib3I prefer to read the manuscript for all the book covers I illustrate for two reasons. First, the author has spent a lot of time writing the book and would like to know the illustrator took the time to read it and get the details right. 2. More importantly, I think children read a book based on its cover. I remember feeling cheated when I was 9 after reading a book that had nothing to do with the cover.

What is it about your art that makes it such a great fit for middle grade?

I’m not sure. I think my drawing style maybe reflects cartoons a little, and kids like cartoons? My agent thinks it’s because I read the books. Who knows!

ford1You’re an accomplished artist in so many areas. Can you tell us a little about your art beyond book covers?

I’m currently illustrating two picture books.

One is called Soldier Song by Debbie Levy, and is about how a song called “Home Sweet Home” united the Union and Confederate armies for a day. It deals with creation and destruction and the book is done in warm and cool colors respectfully. It’s 80 pages and the scenes are pretty emotional. I’ve be
en waking up at 5 AM in order to get to that place where I can really get a feel for the duality of North, South, war, music, death,life—without being interrupted by emails.

ford2I’m the author of the other one and its called The Marvelous
Thing That Came From A Spring
, about the invention of the Slinky. It’s illustrated through building dioramas and photographing them. This book requires more of a playful and sculptural side of me, incorporating everyday materials as props in the scenes.

Both books are dream projects and they’ll be out in Fall of 2016.

Thank you so much, Gilbert, for this generous and insightful interview! Readers, leave a comment on any of this week’s posts and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a copy!

Or if you don’t want to take your chances, here’s where you can buy your very own copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB right now:




Barnes & Noble


Filed under Book Launch, cover art, Interviews

The Fun of Fibbing!

As we continue our grand celebration of Adam Shaugnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib, the Emus Debuts are chiming in to share their own stories of fibbing. What little (or big!) lies have we all told? Let’s have a quick read to find out, and in the meantime, get psyched for Adam’s AMAZING novel!

Tamara Ellis Smith: When I was in kindergarten I told my class that my parents has gotten a divorce.  They had not gotten a divorce.  (And I can report that they haven’t yet.  Forty-eight years and going strong.)  All of my friends’ parents were getting divorces—or at least two of them were.  :-)  I remember feeling the attention energy in the room shifting and honing in on these friends and wanting desperately to harness some of it.  So I did.  I told this big fib, embellished with details like how I never ever got to even see my dad.  Attention on me.  I loved it.  I basked in it.

Two days later one of my friend’s mothers drove to our house.  The minute she got out of the car and I saw the expression on her face, I knew I was cooked.  And after her conversation with my mom…I felt it, boy oh boy.

Not so happy mom.  Not so happy me.

But great practice for making up stories!

Jason Gallaher: A few years back, I used to have this habit of making up a new life whenever I traveled on an airplane. If ever the person next to me asked what I did for a living, I would improvise fake work-related reasons for heading to our destination. My favorite Jason Alter Ego was when I told my seat neighbor that I was moving to Las Vegas to join the latest Cirque de Soleil show (for the record, the most flexible thing I can do is touch my toes while stretching). It was fun to pretend for a little bit, and fortunately nobody ever asked to stay in touch via social media to find me out! I thought of the many faces of Airplane Jason as a great off the cuff writing exercise!

Janet Fox: For years I told people I was a writer, long before I became published. This was a fib that worked magic.

Mylisa Larson: My first documented fib was when I was a very little kid and my mom served eggs for breakfast. They were not a favorite. They disappeared rather quickly but since I was an inexperienced fibber, my plate and silverware disappeared along with them which made my mom just the tiniest bit suspicious. She asked if I had eaten the eggs and when I said I had, she switched tactics and asked where my plate had gone. I showed her—plate, eggs, silverware, all neatly covered by a napkin and stashed in the shoe closet.

Carole Gerber:  I consistently take 5 pounds off when I must state my weight. My weight is in the normal range. Those pesky 5 pounds don’t enhance my self-image, but they certainly accentuate my belly and rear end!

And there we have it! Getting excited about the lives of lies? Want to read about a really UNBELIEVABLE one? Then order your copy of Adam Shaugnessy’s AWESOME The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib now!


Filed under Uncategorized

The Entirely True Story of How Adam Shaughnessy Wrote This Book

fib_coverBefore there was a book, there was a game. An afterschool game in which kids could get together with some friends, join the Fantasy Investigation Bureau, act out a story and solve a mystery. One of the stories, drawn from Norse mythology, featured Ratatosk, an insult-wielding squirrel.


Yeah, I know. Sounds like fun, huh?


Later, when the creator of these interactive story games, Adam Shaughnessy, started thinking about writing a book, he kept thinking about that story.


Adam Shaughnessy

It had a lot going for it—a fabulous world, suspense and intrigue and, of course, the afore-mentioned squirrel. Admit it, writing lines for a squirrel who spends his days running up and down an enormous tree shuttling insults between an eagle at the top and a dragon at the bottom is almost irresistible.


And now the result of all that fun and hard work is out in the world in a bookstore or library near you. We’re celebrating all week here. Pick up your own copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib or comment on any post this week to be entered to win a signed copy. (Hey, maybe Ratatosk will sign your copy.)

Here’s where you can buy a copy of The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB.




Barnes & Noble

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Norse Mythology Reinterpreted

I love mythology, and Norse mythology is one of those mystical landscapes I haven’t explored very much. So when I learned that Adam Shaughnessy’s book THE ENTIRELY TRUE STORY OF THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB is based partly on Norse mythology…well, I’m salivating. I had to ask Adam all about it…

I’m a complete sucker for anything mythological. What appeals to you about Norse mythology in particular? (And what is it about that squirrel??)

I’m a sucker for mythology, too! As far as the Norse myths go, I think my love for them starts with the cosmology of the stories. At the center of the universe of Norse mythology is Yggdrasil, a giant ash tree. Yggdrasil is so big it holds three whole worlds in its branches (or roots, depending on who you ask). There’s Asgard, the world of the gods; Midgard, the world of mortals; and Niflheim, the world of the dead. Each world is divided into various regions, but that’s the basic layout. That’s the stage on which the characters in the myths perform—and it is a vast and varied cast of characters, to say the least!

fib_coverPerhaps my favorite character, though, in the Norse pantheon is Ratatosk, the squirrel. Now, the fact that he’s a squirrel might not sound too impressive at first. But remember that the axis of this mythical universe is an enormous tree! And in the land of the tree, the squirrel is king. Well, okay, Ratatosk isn’t a king. He’s better. He’s a messenger. But according to the myths, most of the messages Ratatosk carries are insults. There’s an eagle at the top of Yggdrasil and a dragon at the bottom who hate each other. They send Ratatosk back and forth with nasty messages. This makes Ratatosk, for all intents and purposes, a talking insult squirrel.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Another thing that fascinates me about the Norse myths is that they end. There’s a sequence of myths that tell how the Norse gods will die. They predict a final battle, called Ragnarok, between gods and giants. Most of the gods meet their end in that battle (though they take the giants and their villainous allies with them).

If we consider that these stories were embraced by the fatalistic Vikings, then I think there’s a lot to think about in terms of the relationship between people and stories. To what degree do we shape the stories we tell, and to what degree do the stories we tell shape us?

 What are the parallels between FIB and Norse mythology?

Interesting question! I enjoy myths in which the gods have flaws. I like to see my own imperfections reflected in the gods so I can see the struggles I have in life played out on a grand and magical scale (that looks a little vain in writing…).

So perhaps it’s not surprising that there are parallels between the Norse gods who take center stage in my book and my main characters, who—in many ways—represent aspects of my own personality. Pru, for example, is hot tempered, like Thor. She’s also clever and more than slightly mischievous, like Loki. ABE is wise beyond his years and very observant, like Odin. He also loves riddles, though, so he’s got a bit of Loki’s cleverness in him, too. And Mister Fox? Mister Fox and Loki are cut very much from the same cloth: sly all over.

What is the unbelievable fib? And if you can’t reveal, can you give us some round-about hints?

Let’s see how well I can answer this without giving too much away! The book starts with a question: WHAT IS THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB? As the story progresses, my hope is that readers will discover different levels of answers to that question.

On the surface, the “UNBELIEVABLE FIB” is an acronym—but I won’t tell you what for!

(Check out these Shaughnessy_FIB_funfacts .) Shaughnessy_FIB_funfacts

But there’s another “UNBELIEVABLE FIB” beneath the surface. The book is a mystery. It’s not so much a Whodunit as a Whoisit mystery. The main character has to identify the villain’s identity. To do that, she must discover which one of her new friends is lying (or, shall we say, telling an unbelievable fib) to her.

Finally, there’s another possible answer to the book’s initial question that deals with the main character’s emotional journey and the lies we so often tell to children—sometimes (though not always) with the best of intentions. I’ll let readers identify that “UNBELIEVABLE FIB” for themselves.

Or maybe I’m fibbing, and “THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB” is something completely different! Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past me…

So…magic, right? Norse magic? Or something else?

In The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB, beings from Norse mythology invade a small New England community. Not everyone can see these magical beings, though. Only certain people in the book can experience magic.

That’s a common convention in stories for children. Often, the people who can experience magic are the ones who believe in it. But this is the world of “THE UNBELIEVABLE FIB.” Belief has a different role. In my book, belief blinds people to magic. It’s the people who aren’t sure what they believe that experience magic—the uncertain people, the people who are still trying to make sense of the world and are therefore open to possibility. That’s where the book’s tagline comes from: “The truth is out there; don’t believe it!”

And I have to ask about the giants, because I love giants.

There’s a lot to love about giants, especially the giants in Norse mythology (and not just because they’re big)! The Norse giants are an intriguing group. By the end of the cycle of myths, they’re the villains. When Ragnarok (that final, apocalyptic battle I mentioned) arrives, the giants ally themselves with the most terrible monsters of the myths and wage war on the gods of Asgard.

But here’s the interesting thing: there are many instances throughout the rest of the myths in which the giants and the gods get along just fine. They do more than get along, in fact. They become friends. They get married. They have adventures together. And yet, by the end of the cycle of myths, they’re mortal enemies.

The character of Loki encapsulates this dichotomous dynamic and violent progression. Loki is a giant who lives among the gods. He is their friend and ally in the early myths. He is Odin’s blood brother, in fact, and Thor’s frequent traveling companion (and foil). By the end, though, Loki has become the embodiment of evil. He murders Baldur, Odin’s son, an act that sets in motion the events that lead to Ragnarok. And, in the end, he and his children lead the war against the gods.But why? Why do Loki and the giants go from friends of the gods to foes? I think that’s an interesting question.

And, as it turns out, that’s the very question I address in the second book of the Unbelievable FIB series. So this seems like a perfect place to stop!

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