Author Archives: Natalie Dias Lorenzi

About Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Teacher, librarian, and author of the middle grade novels Flying the Dragon (Charlesbridge, 2012) and A Long Pitch Home (Charlesbridge, 2016).


Two years ago next month, Charlesbridge contacted my agent, Erin Murphy, with an offer to publish my middle grade novel FLYING THE DRAGON. That same month, an agency-mate named Jeannie Mobley also had an offer for her middle grade novel that would eventually be called KATERINA’S WISH. Jeannie put out an email on the email loop that she wanted to start a blog with other debut authors to chronicle the path from offer to publication. I immediately volunteered, and it was one of the best decisions I made as a pre-published author. After 23 months of camaraderie in good times, not-so-good times, and times in between, I can hardly believe that this is my farewell post for Emu’s Debuts.

Before I say good-bye, I thought I ‘d leave you with 4 things I’ve learned since I started this journey:

1. Your book’s release date means nothing.

What I mean by this is that your book will begin its public life well before its release date.  FLYING THE DRAGON’S very first review was from an elementary school reader named Erik on This Kid Reviews Books, whose review first appeared over three months before the book’s publication date. The first professional reviews also came in before the release date, one from Kirkus and one from Publisher’s Weekly. Ready or not, here they come.

At ALA in January, 6 months before my book’s release date. People were actually READING my book? What??

2. Book Bloggers Rock

These people spend their free time reading books and crafting reviews, all because they love books. But they are also very busy people, so contact them early if you’d like them to review your book. About six months before my book’s release, I started by Googling reviews of books that are similar to mine, contemporary middle grade realistic multicultural fiction (try saying THAT five times real fast). Read these bloggers’ guidelines, because they all differ. It felt a bit like a throwback to my agent-querying days where I had to research which books these agents represented and decide whether or not my manuscript fit their tastes. I narrowed it down to about 30 review blogs, and started querying their interest in reviewing FLYING THE DRAGON. Like agents, book bloggers appreciate knowing that you’re contacting them for a reason, like, “I enjoyed your review of Mitali Perkins’ BAMBOO PEOPLE. Since you mention in your review policy that you enjoy reading multicultural fiction, I wondered if you’d be interested in seeing an advanced review copy of my upcoming middle grade novel FLYING THE DRAGON.”

That kind of thing.  Some thanked me for contacting them but were up to their eyeballs in books, while most of them said yes–and to send along the ARC. I contacted my publisher every time I’d gathered 5-10 names and addresses, and they sent the ARCs on their merry way. I then posted the reviews and interviews on my website.

3. You may be called upon to act like an author before your book comes out.

And if you are, you may ask yourself if you should be acting like an author yet. The answer: Yes! You are an author; it’s okay to act like one. When fellow Emu and teacher Michelle Ray asked me to be on a panel at her school’s literacy night, I jumped at the chance, and I’m glad I did.

Me smiling because I’m on a panel, and it’s not just deer-in-the-headlights me.

For that very first appearance as an author, being on a panel was ideal. I wasn’t in the spotlight all by my lonesome, and that served as a good warm-up for future events, like the Gaithersburg Book Festival when I had to speak after NYT best-selling authors like Michael Buckley and Tom Angleberger. But I survived, and actually had fun.

After my presentation at the signing with my fabulous colleagues who didn’t care about famous authors like Michael Buckley or Tom Angelberger. At least that’s what they told me…

4. Your book’s release date means everything.

Yes, you’ll have had reviews come out and ARCs will be out in the world. But when the Big Day comes, celebrate it, because your debut book launch only comes once.

Granted, my launch was postponed by 2 ½ months due to a freak power outage (bad) and a summer in Italy (good—no, buonissimo!), but I wasn’t going to let a silly tri-state power outage deter me—no! I rescheduled my book launch party, and was so glad I did. I celebrated with crafts…

My daughters pressed into child labor–er, volunteering to set up the origami kite craft.


Just like on my wedding day, I didn’t pause to have cake. But I discovered at home later that evening that someone had saved the piece with “Natalie” on it just for me.

and loved ones.

Family and friends, as far as the eye could see…

I did a short talk, an even shorter reading, and then thanked everyone for coming. I told my guests that the day felt a bit like my wedding day, in that people from many chapters of my life were gathered together under the same roof to celebrate the start of something special. There were writer friends and friends from high school, teachers I worked with 20 years ago, and teachers and librarians with whom I work alongside now. There were family members, young and old(er), friends of my children and soccer moms and dads. There were new friends I met for the first time and students who go to the school where I teach. I could not believe my luck, and would have pinched myself if it weren’t for the fact that my hands were busy signing books and hugging people.

In Italy, where my husband grew up and where we used to live, arrivederci doesn’t mean good-bye; it literally means, “Until we see each other again.” Although I’m leaving Emu’s Debuts, I will be checking in and  cheering all of the new Emu’s steps along this path, big and small.

So thanks to all of you—Emus past, present and future, as well as the followers of Emus Debuts—those who post comments, and those who don’t but still stop by every once in awhile. It has been a privilege to chronicle this journey with you, and I wish you all the best.




Filed under Farewell

Pull Up a Couch and Stay Awhile

There’s been a lot of talk about Kade’s hair prowess, but Charlotte’s hair definitely earns points on this cover!

Welcome to Day Two of the Release Week Fiesta for League of Strays by L.B. Schulman! In this page-turner of a young adult novel, L.B. Schulman has created Charlotte, a likable teen who doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere in the World of High School. Charlotte finally finds kinship in the League of Strays, a group of misfits led by Kade, a charming psychopath with, um, really great hair.

For some insight on how today’s teens navigate adolescent land mines like bullying, take a seat on the couch in the office of Ms. Kelly Winningham, guidance counselor at a high school in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

Emu’s Debuts: Welcome, Ms. Winningham!

In League of Strays, the bullied become the bullies. We would have thought that kids who’ve been bullied would be the least likely ones to turn around and bully someone else. How often does this happen, and why?

Ms. Winningham: I don’t think that this type of situation happens as often. When it does happen, I think it’s because a child has been hurt by someone else and they want someone else to experience the same feeling. There is a saying that we learn in our counseling program that has stuck with me, and that is, “Hurt people hurt people.” When children do not find positive ways to resolve a bullying situation, then it usually leads to other destructive behaviors. Bullying other kids is one of those destructive behaviors.

Emu’s Debuts: In the book, main character Charlotte struggles between wanting to fit in and going along with actions that she doesn’t feel comfortable with. What advice do you give students who are going through similar struggles?

Ms. Winningham: This is always a challenge. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want to be liked or to fit in with a group of people. What I usually tell students is to find one or two friends that you have something in common with and who deserve your trust and friendship. There is more meaning in those types of relationships than in anything that can be offered from fitting into a crowd. Also, students have to listen and trust their inner voice. It always lets them know when something doesn’t feel right, and if it doesn’t feel right, then they shouldn’t do it. It may also help for students to talk to an adult whom they trust to help them make the best choice when it comes to going along with actions that they may later regret.

Emu’s Debuts: For kids who bully or who are being bullied, how important is literature in the lives of these kids? Do you think reading about bullying leads to more bullying, or does it make readers more empathetic?

Ms. Winningham: I think that literature about bullying is important. Sometimes, kids who are bullied think that they are the only ones going through this difficult situation. It gives students a chance to read about possible positive solutions to resolve the problem if they are being bullied. I also think that students who bully get something out of reading these types of books. It causes them to think about their actions and how it affects others. Of course, one would hope that bullies who read these books would be more empathetic. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but at least these books provide another avenue to try to reduce the bullying that happens in thousands of schools across the country.

Thank you so much for your insight, Ms. Winningham!

I’m now taking off my author/Emu hat and putting on my teacher’s hat to say this: League of Strays would make a great book club pick for kids who need to talk about bullying—from all sides of the issue.

Now it’s time for our readers to weigh in for a chance to win a signed copy of L.B. Schulman’s League of Strays! Ms. Winningham could have given Charlotte and the League of Strays some sound advice. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever given or received on the topic of bullying?


Filed under Celebrations, Happiness

The Dragon Has Launched…Sort Of

For the past year and a half, I’ve had Flying the Dragon’s release date etched in my brain.

JULY 1, 2012!

The day that banners will fly and the crowds will go wild! Okay, maybe not flying banners…how about a sign? Something like this:

Taken a few hours before the derecho. Don’t know what a derecho is? Read on…

And instead of wild crowds, I looked forward to celebrating with my students, colleagues, family, and friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in years.

The venue was set—the closest bookstore to the Title I school where I teach is a Barnes and Noble. I met with the events coordinator months ago and dropped off an ARC. He read it and was enthusiastic about holding my launch event at their store.

About five weeks out, I sent e-vites and the RSVPs started rolling in.

Emus Debuts own wise and creative Jeannie Mobley sent me a link to these Fun Chops:

How can anyone resist something called Fun Chops?? I ordered some along with sets of wooden chopsticks—the kind you find in Chinese restaurants. My daughters’ plan was to give the kids each a set of chopsticks, a Fun Chop, and a cup of popped corn and let ‘em gnosh away—a sort of Eating With Chopsticks 101.

I also ordered the cake, complete with my book’s gorgeous cover (thank you, Kelly Murphy!).

What could be better than Kelly Murphy’s gorgeous illustration? Kelly Murphy’s gorgeous illustration on frosting on spongy marble cake!

I even ordered this necklace from Etsy, as cherry blossoms figure prominently in Flying the Dragon.

I was all set. Until the storm hit.

Unless you’re Ben Franklin, don’t try launching your kite in this stuff.

Not just any storm, mind you. On June 29, a rare, rouge storm called a derecho swept across four states, causing massive power outages that lasted days in record-setting 100+-degree temperatures.  Grocery stores were closed, traffic lights were out, pools were shut down. And the doors of Barnes and Noble were closed, the lights out, and a sign posted: Closed until further notice due to power outage.

By the morning of

JULY 1, 2012!

…we still had no power. I was cranky, sweaty, and trying to pack our things for our flight to Italy the next day. Power was slowly being restored in some areas, but still not ours, still not Barnes and Noble. That morning, I emailed people from my phone to let them know that the Barnes and Noble still had no power and that my book launch would have to be postponed.

That evening, my family and my sister’s family checked into a Holiday Inn that had rooms available with a laundromat, and sweet, sweet air conditioning. The place where I’d ordered my cake had power (of course) so we picked up the giant cake, and a dozen of us dug in after pizza that night. My husband had bought a Happy Birthday helium-filled balloon for my book from an open grocery store, and we all toasted the release of Flying the Dragon.

There are several scenes in my book where my main characters, Hiroshi and Skye, launch the dragon kite. Here’s a kite-launching scene from my book that mirrors the launch I thought my book would have:

Hiroshi turned his back to the breeze. He unrolled some extra line, then held on with both hands. 


Skye let go of the kite and Hiroshi pulled up on the line. The kite climbed higher and higher as Hiroshi shuffled backward, faster and faster. The wind took hold of the winking dragon, and Hiroshi let out more line, surrendering the kite to the sky.

Here’s another scene that serves as a more accurate metaphor for what actually happened on

JULY 1, 2012!

Skye took the kite and paced backward until they were several yards apart. She lifted the kite by the bridle.

As soon as Hiroshi felt a small gust of wind, he nodded. Skye released the kite, he ran with the line, and the winking dragon began its crooked climb.

Come on—go up! Fly!

But he could see the breeze wasn’t strong enough. The wind sighed as the kite drifted back down. Skye ran to catch it before it hit the ground. She shook her head as she walked it over.

But you know what? When all was said and done and the power restored (at around 3:00 a.m. on July 2), I counted myself as one of the lucky ones. None us were hurt in the storm and our homes didn’t sustain any damage. I celebrated my book’s birthday surrounded by people I love and who love me back. I have a book out there in the world, and I will celebrate that book at the Barnes and Noble on


with more loved ones. And chopsticks and popcorn and Fun Chops and another big cake.  If you’re in the area that day, I hope you’ll stop by and celebrate with me.


Filed under Book signing, Celebrations, Thankfulness

Story Connections

Lucky me got to sign books with former Emu Debut author Michelle Ray!

Last weekend I had the privilege of being one of the featured authors who spoke at the Gaithersburg Book Festival in Maryland. I talked about how stories—all of our stories—connect us to one another and to the characters in our books.

When I was young, my dad was in the Air Force, and we moved six times between Kindergarten and my senior year of high school. I know what it’s like to be the new kid in class—it’s scary and foreign and mortifying until that very first friend reaches out and invites you into your new world. Day by day, you learn to feel your way through the new slang and customs and social landscape until one day you find that you’re no longer muddling through; you’re striding.

While I was writing FLYING THE DRAGON, I took this kernel of emotion that I’d carefully wrapped and tucked away and I opened it up. I turned it over in my hands, held it up to the light, remembered its texture. I then carefully wrapped it back up and gave it to Hiroshi, one of my main characters who moves from Japan to the U.S., knows no English, and has no friends on his first day of school. I am not Japanese, like Hiroshi, nor have I ever had to go to a school where I didn’t speak the language. To look at the two of us, side by side, you might think that we have nothing in common. But, of course, we do.  We know what it’s like to be the new kid, to feel different, to miss the friends we left behind and wonder if we’ll find a true friend in our new town.  He and I are connected by a common truth.

We humans are story-tellers by nature. We hear stories about infamous great uncles and dream vacations and the neighbor’s new puppies. We hear stories that make us laugh, cry and that renew our faith in people. We share stories around the dinner table, in the car, and in line at the grocery store. We are story-tellers by nature because stories are what connect us to one another.

Whenever my dad starts telling a familiar family story, my mother will often remind him that we’ve heard that tale a hundred times before. But I always tell him to finish those stories. Because it’s not the details that he’s sharing, it’s the emotion wrapped inside the details—humor or sadness, wistfulness or joy. And it’s in the telling that we feel what he feels; it’s the telling that connects us.

The next time you tell a story to someone, watch and see what happens next. As it usually goes, that person will go on to share a story that has a connection to yours, the same kernel of truth.

On this Memorial Day holiday, I hope you take time to remember a story and share it with someone you love. It might be a story you heard on the radio that touched you, or a story that’s been passed down in your family for years. Or maybe it’s a story about your childhood that your own kids haven’t heard yet.

Take time to revel in the connections created by your stories, whether it’s their first telling or one-hundred-and-first.


Filed under Uncategorized

An A+ for One for the Murphys (and a Skype author visit give-away)!

When I read Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s debut middle grade novel One for the Murphy’s, I immediately wanted to share it. I wanted to hand it to kids as they came into the library where I teach. I wanted to introduce them to Carley, a foster child who, after a terrible incident with her mom,  is placed with the Murphy family. At first, Carley can’t believe that families like the Murphys even exist–families who are loving and flawed and who stick together, because that’s what families do. Just as Carley begins to open herself up to the love that the Murphys have to offer, she learns that her mom wants her back. Will Carley go back to her mom or stay with the Murphys? You’ll have to wait and read the book to find out!

But you don’t have to wait to enter the contest we’re holding to round out our celebration of One for the Murphys…

Calling all teachers, librarians, and school guidance counselors (and anyone who knows a teacher, librarian or school guidance counselor)! We have a special give-away for educators and their students–a signed copy of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, a class set of MURPHY bookmarks, a class set of rubber “Be Someon’e hero” bracelets, a free 30-45-minute SKYPE Q&A with Lynda Mullaly Hunt, and a “Hero” T-shirt for the teacher. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post anytime from now until midnight (PST) on Sunday, May 20. The winner will be announced on Monday, May 21. Even if you aren’t an educator, you can still enter for your child’s class or your neighborhood school!

If you’re wondering how One for the Murphys might fit into your curriculum, wonder no more! Here’s our interview with Lynda on how her debut novel connects with kids.

Emu’s Debuts: A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS.” Who is this kid?

Lynda: This is a kid who is concerned about fitting in or standing out.

This kid has been worried about who he is or, possibly, worried about who he’ll become.

This kid may be in foster care—or not—but needs to know that whatever life has dealt him as a child, he still has the power to create any life he wishes when he grows up. Any life at all.

Or this child has been dealt a lucky hand. He has a loving family and is not familiar with other kinds of experiences. Reading about others’ varied experiences helps to build empathy, I think.

Or this child may want to read about friendships. Likes sarcastic humor or stories about underdogs. Because  this book has many moments of levity and includes deep topics such as wearing towels as capes, chicken casseroles and apples pies, basketball, baseball, Broadway shows, playing pranks, putting up with (and appreciating) siblings, and cowardly pigeon eggs.

The circumstances that put Carley in foster care are quite sad (shown in flashbacks) but, as a whole, the book isn’t too heavy. It’s a story of a bustling, happy family and how they change Carley. It’s a story of friendship, of incorrect assumptions that we all make sometimes, of learning that happy families aren’t perfect and that “family” is more about love and camaraderie and having each other’s backs than sharing blood. It’s about heroes–no capes required. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Emu’s Debuts: Lynda, that answer makes me want to read your book all over again! And I’ve just thought of a dozen more kids to hand this book to…

If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book with the whole class or a small group, what might we see?

Lynda: Actually, I have been fortunate to see some of this already. And it absolutely floored me.

I have visited a few classrooms—one of which has heard the ARC (advanced reader copy) version of MURPHYS. The other was a class I was asked to visit because it has a lot of kids in the class who struggle with various things—some very similar to Carley’s circumstances.

Upon visiting one Massachusetts class in particular, I opened up a bit to the kids about the MURPHY seeds that were planted when I was even younger than them—that I had spent about three months with another family when I was about seven that gave me a view of a world that I had not known—but, upon leaving, a world I decided I would have for myself one day.

Teachers have told me that after I leave, children often make signs that say “Be someone’s hero” and hang them up in the room. I am so moved by this thought. This image. I have also been told that in discussing MURPHYS (prior to my arrival), that kids have opened up to their teacher and to each other about some of their own struggles. That Carley’s struggles have helped these kids forge bonds with each other and to understand themselves a bit better. To feel less alone.

To say this makes me happy is a thin way to describe it. I pursued publication hoping for this very thing. To think that it has already begun? Now, that’s a dream come true.

Emu’s Debuts: Carley and the Murphys have already connected with kids–and adults–and I’m looking forward to recommending One for the Murphys to all kinds of kids for years to come, Lynda.

Where can teachers and students learn more about you and your book?



  • YouTube  code  for BOOK TRAILER:

  • Find me online:



Facebook:  Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Twitter:  @Lynmullalyhunt

A One for the Murphy’s Teacher’s Guide will be up on my website soon. I will offer it for free to any teacher who’d like one. Why? Because I love teachers–most unsung heroes on the planet. (I taught for almost ten years—I know it isn’t nearly an 8:00-3:00 job!)

I am very much looking forward to getting back into classrooms as a visiting author to talk about Murphys, and heroes. About creating fiction from real life and three dimensional characters that step off of the page and into the reader. I look forward to helping students raise their own writing to the next level!

Emu’s Debuts: Thanks so much for joining us, Lynda! And a heartfelt welcome to Carley and the Murphys, who will continue to make a difference in the lives of readers for many years to come.


Filed under Celebrations, Education, Interviews, School Author Visits

What to do with those hardcover beauties?

Disclaimer: The initial freeze frame on the video you see below–my very first-ever vlog–makes it look like I am full of angst. I am not. Please press play and you will see how happy I am indeed.


Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations

The Wicked and the Just goes to school!

As a teacher and librarian, I’m always looking for books to put into the hands of students and teachers. I love it when a book does double (or triple duty). For example, a single book might:

1. Spark debates from different characters’ points of view, especially when those characters come from different cultures, lands, and economic classes.

2. Connect to an area of the curriculum outside of English class, such as, oh, I don’t know–a period of  history that a kid has never explored, like the year 1293 during the height of the conflict between the English and the Welsh! Said topic could lead seamlessly to discussions of past and present oppression of one people by another and the subsequent rebellion that ensues. Got that? Quiz tomorrow–be ready.

3. And here’s my favorite: Turn a meh reader into an I-can’t-put-this-book-down reader.

But don’t take it from me. Or Kirkus and Hornbook and who bestowed starred reviews on The Wicked and the Just. Here’s what J. Anderson Coats had to say about using The Wicked and the Just with kids in the classroom…

The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): A student walks into my library and I think, “That kid needs a copy of The Wicked and the Just.” Who is this kid?

The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats): They’ll be your voracious readers.  The ones who take in words through every pore.  The ones who have a high tolerance for ambiguity and don’t mind a challenge.  They might be the kids who’ve read everything by Karen Cushman, Michael Cadnum, and Catherine Jinks twice, but they’re not quite ready for Sharon Kay Penman or Elizabeth Chadwick.  They might be kids who are developing an interest in the past through works of historical fantasy like A GREAT AND TERRIBLE BEAUTY by Libba Bray or THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER by Julie Hearn.  But they also might be the kids who care deeply about social justice and the lived experiences of oppression and redemption, possibly through an interest in dystopian literature.

The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Although The Wicked and the Just is a work of fiction, historical facts are woven throughout the story. How did research factor into your writing process?

The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats): My process is heavily dependent on immersing myself in books and articles and images while I’m writing.  I can’t do a bunch of research, then write a draft.  I’m the kind of geek that does research for fun, and the constant stream of material informs not only the story, but also how I structure the words on the page.  Only about 1% of the stuff that comes out of my research ever makes it into the story explicitly, but all of it is important to get me into the proper headspace to recreate the world as best I can.

The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

The Just (a.k.a. J. Anderson Coats):


Twitter: @jandersoncoats

The Wicked (a.k.a. Natalie): Thanks, J.!

For those Kindergarten and preschool teachers out there, don’t despair! Click here for Mike Jung’s G-rated rendition of The Wicked and the Just  for the 6-and-under set.

Happy reading, everyone!


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Education, Happiness, Interviews

Non-Fiction Monday

Welcome to Non-Fiction Monday here at Emu’s Debuts! On the heels of our only (thus far) Emu’s non-fiction Debut, Cynthia Levinson’s WE’VE GOT A JOB, we’re delighted to highlight reviews of other non-fiction titles in the hopes of getting them into the hands of readers.

Without further ado, here are the titles for this week’s Non-Fiction Monday Round-Up:

Shelf-employed has a review of the upcoming biography of Temple Grandin,Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World, by Sy Montgomery.

KidLit Celebrates Women’s History month is featuring a guest post by Jules Danielson of Seven Impossible Things – a Q&A with the author of Paiute Princess, Deborah Kogan Ray.

Gathering Book’s contribution this week is Lois Lowry’s Crow Call.

The Jean Little Library has Dolphins in the Navy from Bearport,

NC Teacher Stuff has posted a review of A Spider’s Life:

Pink Me gives her hometown sisters some love: Miss Etta and Dr Claribel by Susan Fillion.

In honor of the first day of Spring tomorrow, True Tales & A Cherry On Top is featuring Eliza’s Cherry Trees – Japan’s Gift to America at and there’s another review at All About Books with Janet Squires here:

Take a look at these three non-fiction selections featured today by Ms. Yingling:


Check out this Joan of Arc review on A Strong Belief in Wicker:




Yum! Perogies & Gyoza serve up this review:

Darcy Pattison’s WISDOM: THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS at the SimplyScience Blog:

Books 4 Learning reviews three titles in the Code Red series for kids:


Filed under Uncategorized

Finding the Way

In Cynthia’s last Monday post, she talked about letting go of her book, her book that now has wings and is traversing a path of its very own. We’ve Got A Job has garnered so much love and sowed swaths of awe from reviewer to bookseller to classrooms across the country in just over a month since its release. But in her post, Cynthia said, “I suppose I won’t really know whether a young reader embraces We’ve Got a Job with her or his heart until I hear from one.”

I have no doubt that those letters will come flooding in– from kids who had no idea that the Birmingham children’s marches ever existed before they read Cynthia’s book, and from kids who are in awe of the children who changed history.

A little over a year ago, I blogged here on Emu’s Debuts about my students’ reactions to the news that I was going to have a book published. They were excited and 100% convinced that I would become famous. When the Flying the Dragon ARCs arrived from Charlesbridge last month, I brought one in to show my students and the colleagues with whom I work closely. They were excited and 100% convinced that I will become famous.

Which is sweet, but I know it’s because they know me and we love working together. If Charlesbridge had agreed to publish my latest grocery list, my students would have been excited and convinced that I was going to be famous. And then one of my colleagues asked if she could read the ARC aloud to her 4th grade class. I gulped and then said yes.

I could not believe how nervous I was to hear how it was going. For the next few days, I wondered if they had started the book. Were they already on chapter five and hated it but didn’t want to tell me?? On the day they did start the book, they came down to the library wanting to tell me about the parts they’d read. A few days later, they got to the part where one of the main characters, Hiroshi, completely embarrasses himself in front of his ESL class. One student  said that he cracked up at that part, while another girl said she laughed but immediately felt guilty because she felt sorry for Hiroshi and has had a similar thing happen to her. Then one of them asked me if Hiroshi’s grandfather really was ill, and before I could answer, the other student chimed in saying that of course he was ill, which started a debate between the two over Grandfather’s health that had nothing (apparently) to do with me–I just stood there and listened. It was the most surreal experience–two readers (of my book!) discussing a character I created, like they knew that character already and didn’t need my input, thank you very much. I absolutely loved it.

I have no idea what reviewers will say about my book, or other kids, for that matter. But listening to those students spontaneously talk about my book and my characters, it hit me that it’s not really my book anymore. Even though the release date isn’t for another 3 1/2 months, my part in creating the book is over. The marketing side may be gearing up, but the words on the pages are finished. I have to let my characters go and let readers interpret them as they see fit.

Cynthia, I know you’ll be hearing from kids soon–at school visits, via email, and maybe even by snail mail. They will embrace–are already embracing–Wash, James, Audrey and Arnetta into their hearts whether word gets back to you, or not. Even though we won’t always know where our characters end up, we have to trust that they will find their way.


Filed under Book Promotion, Thankfulness

Where Can You Find Cynthia?

Alas, the time has come to wrap up Cynthia Levinson’s debut week for her book WE’VE GOT A JOB. But don’t despair! We’re leaving you with more places to find Cynthia on the web. We’ve left a trail for readers, teachers, writers, and, well, just about anyone who’d like to know more about Cynthia’s writing process and what led her to craft such an important book. We’ve chosen…

…as your handy-dandy WE’VE GOT A JOB online guide. Click here for a page with several thumbnails–each a trail that ends in an interview with Cynthia.

Find the link in the gray stripe at the bottom of each box and click. Easy, right?

So go ahead–teachers, introduce WE’VE GOT A JOB to your students. (Here’s a free online curriculum guide to get you started). And everyone stay tuned to Cynthia’s website, where she’ll soon be posting a trailer produced by the 4th grade students you met in yesterday’s post.

Although we hate to say farewell to this auspicious debut week, we know that Cynthia’s book will live on in classrooms across the country and in the hands of readers of all ages.

On page 115 of WE’VE GOT A JOB, Cynthia quotes Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. as saying to the children of Birmingham:

“You are certainly making history, and you are experiencing history. And you will make it possible for the historians of the future to write a marvelous chapter.”

Cynthia Levinson is that historian, and WE’VE GOT A JOB is, indeed, that marvelous chapter.


Filed under Book Promotion, Celebrations, Education, Happiness, Social Media