Author Archives: Mylisa Larsen

About Mylisa Larsen

Author of INSTRUCTIONS FOR BEDTIME (Katherine Tegen Books) and IF I WERE A KANGAROO (Viking.)

Thanks

I have been an emu now for almost three years. (This comment would need considerable clarification if made in any other venue.) So I’ve had plenty of time to say the things I wanted to say about this space in the publishing journey between contract and actual published book.

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Wait, she’s been a what?

Except for one thing and that is how grateful I feel to be working in this industry. Yes, it has oddities (not a few) and frustrations. But it also has some beautiful benefits. I’m grateful to work with people who value creativity and collaboration. I’m grateful to work with people who care about words and kids.

 

Emu’s Debuts is one of those groups that has an expiration date built in. Once you’ve published that first book, you’re no longer a debut author. So while I’ll still be around cheering on the books that are coming (because, oh, I so love some of these books that are coming), I won’t be here in the day to day way that I have been in the past couple of years. As I’ve thought about leaving, there are a few things that I’d like to thank the rest of this Emu mob for.

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Thanks for the fun. From going all out opera to celebrate Adi Rule’s debut to taking Tara Dairman’s character Gladys out to lunch to calling a number in Switzerland hoping to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf (and hoping that whoever answered the phone would have more English than I had French), there have been a lot of moments that were just fun. Those of you who read the blog, sometimes get to see the some of the fun in the post but a lot of it is backstage. And I value the backstage moments the most.

 

Thanks for the books. It has been so much fun to get the ARCs and F&Gs of new Emu books in the mail. I’ve read and loved books that I might never have picked up otherwise. I have my often visited shelves of the library but sometimes I need to branch out a bit. It’s been a pleasure to do that as books of fellow Emus arrived in the mail in the weeks before their launches. I’ll miss that. But I plan on actively looking for them as they’re published. So keep me posted.

 

Thanks for the honesty. It was so refreshing to be able to ask all the newbie questions in this group (everything from “is it normal for a contract to take this long” to “where is the best place to get bookmarks” to questions about craft) and always have them answered with both kindness and honesty.

 

Kindness, creativity, honesty, fun. Can’t really beat that.

 

 

 

Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

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Filed under Happiness, Writing and Life

Castles, castles, castles

CharmedChildrencover-1You know those books where the setting becomes such a part of the book that it’s like another character? Where you can’t quite imagine the story working anywhere else? Well, Janet Fox has got just such a thing going in her new novel, The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle. This is a castle that isn’t a cardboard set.

So that got us thinking about other favorite castles that threw their craggy shadows over other stories we love. Here are some of our favorites. What are yours?

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Jason Gallaher–I mean, how can you not say Hogwarts? Just like New York is the fifth lady of “Sex and the City,” Hogwarts is another student/teacher/magical creature of the Harry Potter universe (and such a Carrie, I’m assuming). From shifting stairways to a kitchen that you have to tickle a painting of a pear to get into to the most magnificent dormitory common rooms that made me want to go to boarding school, I am obsessed with Hogwarts.

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Andrea Wang–When I was small, I thought the Emerald City of Oz had towers and spires and was surrounded by a moat, just like a real castle. I also didn’t get the part that the city wasn’t really built out of emeralds. I loved all the Oz books so much that one year, I created the Emerald City out of tinfoil and green spray paint for a school project. I used up an entire roll of foil and got into trouble with my mom, but it was worth it!
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Carole Gerber found a story at a real Scottish castle–A few years ago I visited a castle in Scotland, which was the summer home of the previous Queen Elizabeth, known as “the Queen Mum.” The castle was huge and drafty, but the gardens were spectacular. I was thrilled to discover a small grave under a huge old old tree on the lawn. The date of death was 1916 and the name the stone was “Fizz Whizzy,” one of the Queen Mum’s dogs. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out where Whizzy got his name. I laughed at the Queen Mum’s dry – I mean wet – humor!

Mylisa Larsen–Well, I immediately think of Hogwarts because, wow, that is a world. Moving staircases and resident funny ghosts and rooms that only let certain people in and the list goes on and on. And then there’s Castle Glower which changes its rooms or adds a new turret or builds itself a wing for purposes that only it knows in Jessica Day George’s Tuesdays At the Castle. I also love Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail. And Castle Hangnail’s staff (best neurotic goldfish ever.)

If you’ve been waiting to step through the door of Janet Fox’s spooky Rookskill Castle, then the wait is finally over because it’s here. Pick up a copy at your local bookstore or online today.

 

http://www.amazon.com/Charmed-Children-Rookskill-Castle/dp/0451476336/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458162368&sr=1-1&keywords=the+charmed+children+of+rookskill+castle

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780451476333

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Filed under Book Launch, Uncategorized

Bedtime Blastoff Launch and Giveaway

BB_Jkt_072915It’s the official book birthday of Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF today. It’s a story of trying to get to bed. But, oh, the distractions when your bed can turn into a train, a pirate ship, a firetruck. . .

So we asked the Emu mob what vehicle they would have wanted their bed to turn into back when they were kids. Their answers (as well as some pretty spiffy photos of them as kids) are below.

Elly Swartz

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Let Elly drive the bus! Please.

“I would have wanted my bed to magically become a bus. That way I could have filled with it my dog, Missy, my hamster, Cinnamon, and all of my friends to head out on a nighttime adventure. ”

Debbi Michiko Florence

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Horse? Elephant? Giant bird? Hmmm.

“When I was little, I loved all animals. (I still do.) I slept with so many stuffed animals that I barely had room to move in my own bed. So, it’s very likely that I would have loved for my bed to turn into an animal – like a horse or elephant or giant bird – that could take me and my many stuffed animals on an adventure! (So not really a vehicle, but transportation none-the-less!)”

Janet Fox

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Sailed on a river of crystal light/Into a sea of dew

“My preferred bed:
A boat. I loved the song “Winkin, Blinkin and Nod” – so I wanted to sail off into a sea of blue, rocking on the waves.”

Andrea Wang

Andrea prairie dress

Andrea, channeling her inner prairie girl

“When I was little, I would have loved it if my bed had transformed into a covered wagon, complete with matching horses to pull it. Specifically, the wagon featured on the cover of Little House on the Prairie, with the white canvas bonnet. I eventually cajoled my mom into buying a white canopy for my bed, but she steadfastly refused to get me horses!”

Carole Gerber

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Carole and her sister (Carole on the left)

“a single bed! My younger sister and I shared a bedroom and a double bed until I was in 5th grade (and she was in third). We were both thrilled to get our own bedrooms and ordinary single beds when our family moved to a larger home.”

Jason Gallaher

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Yeah, a dinosaur. Brontosaurus, I think.

“When I was a kid, I wanted my bed to be a dinosaur. I know this isn’t a vehicle per se, but a brontosaurus can get you from Point A to Point B, so I think it counts. I would have a big ol’ nest of blankets on my prehistoric friend’s back, then let her lumbering steps lull me to sleep.”

For a great bedtime read, check out BEDTIME BLASTOFF and see what the imaginative kid and dad in that story come up with.

You can get Luke Reynold’s BEDTIME BLASTOFF anywhere books are sold.

Indiebound

Barnes and Noble

Amazon

Stay tuned all this week for interviews with the author and illustrator and a post that may give you some ideas for your own bedtime routine. And comment on any post this week to be entered to win a signed copy of BEDTIME BLASTOFF.

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Picture books

Covers, Covers, Covers

Elly Swartz’s Finding Perfect just got a cover last week (see it here) and that reminded me of how exciting (ok, and nerve wracking) seeing your cover for the first time can be. A lot is riding on that cover design. In spite of the proverb, we all judge a book by its cover.

The perfect cover isn’t only beautiful, it delivers the right book to the right reader. So I thought I’d do a roundup of four books that I’ve had the opportunity to read whose covers do exactly that. The first is Penny Parker Klostermann’s There Was An Old Dragon Who Swallowed A Knight with art by Ben Mantle.There Was an Old Dragon cover

From the minute you see that big, old dragon with the dinner napkin around his neck, you know he’s trouble. Funny trouble. And the book delivers that funny again and again both through text and pictures.

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The cover of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger tells you, “Hey, if you like books, if you like mysteries, if you like to solve puzzles, this is your book. Sarah Watt’s did the art and April Ward designed the cover. And when you read the book, it absolutely delivers on the cover’s promise. Books, mystery, puzzles galore.

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Janet Fox’s cover of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, with art by Greg Ruth, is fabulously sinister. You can’t help wanting to go into that lighted door and yet, at the same time, thinking “I am not sure those kids should go in that door. I do not have a good feeling about this.” Janet’s book comes out in March but I’ve already read an ARC and let me tell you, it’s both worth going in the door and sleep-with-the-lights-on scary. It delivers on the promise of the cover.

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And finally, there’s the cover of Joshua McCune’s Talker 25. Gorgeous color combinations, all that texture, the stylized nod to dragons and the the tagline below the title. The cover is gritty, tough. You know the book will have a dark side. And that’s exactly what you get when you read it. (Plus the realest dragons I have read in years.)

If you’d like to read more about the thought process behind Talker 25, there’s a great post about how Paul Zakris, art director at Greenwillow, and Sammy Yuen, the artist, worked through that process here.

So here’s to the artists and cover designers who do such a brilliant job telling a reader in one image what’s waiting inside that cover.

Which covers that you’ve seen lately do you think do the job of delivering the right book to the right reader?

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Filed under cover art

Building A World

One of my favorite little worlds is this world created by Emilia Forstreuter. Take a minute and give it a look.

Isn’t that lovely–both oddly familiar and magically strange. I think about this animation quite often when I’m working on fantasy novels. How does this world manage to be something I recognize while still being full of surprises?

But picture books are little worlds too. One of the first things I got to do when I became an Emu was to interview the lovely Anne Wilsdorf about her illustrations for Sophie’s Squash. I asked her about her habit of doing illustrated endpapers and she said the reason that she does that is that “A book is not just something you consume and throw away. It’s a whole world. You enter into that world when you enter the book. So it has to be complete–from the cover all the way to the endpapers. I think when it is complete, it allows you to be in the world of that book.”(See interview here.)

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Anne Wilsdorf

I’ve thought about that as I’ve tried to create my own worlds in my picture books. What are the things a writer can do with the text to make that world between the covers of a book complete. And I think one of the most important things the text brings to that creation is voice–that hard to define thing that, within a few words often, lets you know “this is where you are.” This book will be funny or sweet or sad or wise or brave.

I’ve gone to my bookcase to give you a few examples:

1)”One day, a lion came to the library. He walked right past the circulation desk and up into the stacks.”

2)”A cow says moo. A sheep says baa. Three singing pigs say la, la, la!”

3)”Rock, stone, pebble, sand/Body, shoulder, arm, hand/A moat to dig, a shell to keep/All the world is wide and deep.”

4)”Everyone was perfectly fine with the way things were. Everyone but Mr. Tiger.”

Even without the illustrations (and if you know these books, you’ll know that the visual voice perfectly matches the heard voice), don’t you feel that you know exactly where you are, that in just a couple of sentences, you have a handle on the world of this story?

Voice. It’s a beautiful, powerful thing. Which picture books that you love  use voice to get you quickly into the world of the story?

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed coming out February 9, 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Picture books, Voice

And Then There’s a Cover and a Catalog Listing

I think several of us may have mentioned that the period between when you get that call saying, “Yes, we’re going to publish your book” and when the book actually appears on a bookstore shelf is composed mostly of long periods of waiting with occasional flurries of intense activity over edits or titles or whatever.  (Yes, I see we have mentioned that. See here and here. And here. Never mind. We’ve all mentioned it.)

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And, in most cases, before you got that “yes” there was quite a bit of writing and waiting and writing and waiting while you wrote some more. Years and years of it for most of us. We’re not all patient people when we start but we get better at it perforce.

But it can sometimes feel like nothing much is going on. It can feel a little unreal, like maybe you dreamed that book sale and you will wake up and. . . But then your editor sends you some of the sketches and an enormous envelope with printers proofs arrives. So it’s happening. Not for another year and a half but it is happening.

And then suddenly, there’s quite a bit going on. There’s a cover.

Yep, an actual cover

Yep, an actual cover

This lovely fat envelope of F&Gs arrives. You’ve heard of these. They sound mysterious but they’re just your book, all folded and gathered together, but without the binding. You can pick one up and sit down on the couch and read it to a kid, just like you would a book. It feels pretty real.

Then your sister-in-law calls to say, “How come you didn’t tell me you could order your book already?” Umm, because I didn’t know. But you go out to the HarperCollins website and there it is–a catalog listing. You spend fifteen minutes looking it up on the website of every bookstore in the world and it’s there–every time. And I’m not gonna lie. That feels pretty great.

Creative Commons license Ben Smith via Compfight

Now, somewhere in my files is a list of the ten thousand things I’m supposed to be doing to market this book. . .

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, How to Put Your Parents to Bed (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

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Filed under cover art, waiting

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.

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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.

Indiebound

Amazon

BAM

Barnes & Noble

And if you’d like to hear more about the enrichment activities that became The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib, click here.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations, Creativity

Unexpected Connections

Tamara Smith’s Another Kind of Hurricane is the story of two kids, Henry and Zavion, separated by geography, who connect in an unexpected way. So to welcome this book into the world, we’re sharing our stories of unexpected connections today.

Another Kind of Hurricane cover

Penny Parker Klostermann

It was Fall 2010. I was dreaming about getting a picture book published. I knew it would be challenging, but I also knew I needed to get with it if I was serious. We were headed to my in-laws for Thanksgiving. My mother-in-law called us while we were driving. There was a little chit-chat about the traffic, then this:

My mother-in-law: “Tell Penny that there’s going to be a guy joining our Thanksgiving get-together that writes children’s’ books.”
Me: “What’s his name?”
My mother-in-law: “I don’t know. You’ll have to ask Bev (my husband’s sister).”

All this plus inspiration

All this plus inspiration

It turns out it was Peter Brown! Yep! I couldn’t believe I was sitting across from someone who was doing what I wanted to do. (Well, the writing part. I’m NO illustrator.) I shyly said that I had written a few stories. He responded politely and appropriately, but I’m sure he was thinking, “How many times have I heard this??? Everybody wants to write a children’s book!” I can’t say I was brave enough to take the conversation further. I just listened as he told some others at the table about his writing. But, meeting him was the connection I needed to move forward in pursuit of publication.

Maria Gianferrari

I have the perfect connection for Tam’s launch—my connection with Tam! As I’m writing this, we have not yet met in person, but we’ll be meeting at my own book launch. Another planned meeting at her parents’ farm was foiled by heavy rain, luckily not a hurricane, and yet it feels like we have some kind of otherly bond, one in which I feel like I’ve somehow known her for a long time, connected by common threads, strange as it may sound. Who knows—maybe we were sisters in a past life, and now we’re Emu-sisters. I look forward to the day when we can hang out together!

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Tamara Ellis Smith. And we’re happy to report that Tam and Maria have finally met in person at Maria’s book launch party last week.

Carole Gerber

When my daughter Jess was a college student at Elon University in North Carolina she drove back to our home in Ohio during holidays and summer break. She always stopped for gas and a snack in Beckley, West Virginia, which had a large tourist stop with multiple pumps, restrooms, and fast food outlets. While waiting in line for an ice cream, she saw old family friends we’d lost touch with – except for annual Christmas cards –  when they moved out-of-state. Later that year, while waiting to run a half-marathon in Washington, D.C., she saw them and two of their children who were also participating. Since then, my husband and I have also re-connected with our old friends and visit back and forth a couple of times a year.

I think I know that person

I think I know that person

Megan Morrison

I’ve been really lucky on the Internet. Through the power of shared interest in books, I’ve connected with people who have turned out to be my best friends, my writing colleagues – and even my husband. That’s got to be the best unexpected connection I’ve made. I met him because he posted something funny and snarky on a Harry Potter message board. It was a sentiment I wanted to express, but as a moderator I was trying to set a good example. Privately, I messaged him to tell him I appreciated his comment – and he messaged back some very complimentary things about my writing (fan fiction, at the time). His own writing was excellent. The man knew how to spell and punctuate. What’s more, it turned out that we lived in neighboring boroughs of New York City: me in Manhattan, him in Brooklyn. We got together that very weekend, and when we parted at the subway entrance later that evening, I had a very, very funny feeling. My gut was not wrong. On July 30th of this year, we will have been together for ten years.

I've got a good feeling about this

I’ve got a good feeling about this

What about you?

Share your unexpected connections below or comment on any of the posts this week to be entered to win a signed copy of Another Kind of Hurricane.

Purchase a copy of Tamara’s book through Indiebound, Powell’sBarnes & Noble, or Amazon.

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Filed under Book Giveaway, Book Launch, Celebrations

Unless You Have Already Called 911–Some Tips for Sharing the Summer with Kids

So, it’s summer. Strawberries. Kayaks. Kids in my office.

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Ok, my office is a corner of the bedroom. Or the kitchen table. Or the living room couch. And school’s out.

So if you work from home and you’re in that phase of life where you’re writing and raising kids at the same time, here are a few ideas about how to share the summer so that both the writer and the kids are happy.

Make a sign for your door.

The sign that goes up on my bedroom door during the summer says, “Unless you have already called 911, do not knock on this door. I’m writing.” I know, I know. It sounds a little harsh. But my at-home kids are 14 and 11. They are perfectly capable people. And the sign was made one afternoon when they had knocked on the door to ask “Do we only have creamy peanut butter?” “Can Vi come over tomorrow?” “Do you know where the toenail clippers are?” and seventeen other things that could have waited until after work time.

The point is to set work times and kid times and then honor them. Talk to your kids about what time you need. Ask them to honor that time. But then honor their time too. During the summer, I only work two hours a day. It’s a lot less time than I usually write. But it’s enough time to keep my brain working. It’s summer and I know that in September, I’ll hit it hard again. And once I walk out of that room and take down my sign, I’m home from work and can do kid stuff without thinking about the writing because I know tomorrow at 2:00, I’ll have two hours where no one will interrupt me at all.

You know that cute middle school kid on your block? Maybe they need a summer job.

When my kids were younger, just hanging a sign on the door would not have worked at all. But there were certain fun kids who lived in our neighborhood who really wanted to earn some spending money but weren’t quite old enough for a job. And they were still young enough to enjoy playing. So I’d hire them to come play wild games of soccer for two hours with my boys. I’d get writing time. They’d get money from me and total adoration—hero status, really—from my boys. And it was the best time of the day for my boys.

Create an artificial media shortage.

I’m not sure I’m proud of this technique but I used it for two summers and it works amazingly well. Simply cut off all access to media except during the two hours you’re planning to write. My kids did all sorts of other things because media wasn’t the easy default. And at 2:00 in the afternoon, every device in the house flickered on and an eerie silence descended as the little brains went in for their fix. And I went into my room and wrote like a maniac for two hours.

Teach yourself to work where you are.

You’ve got to drive a kid to soccer/science/art/drama camp and then you’ve got to drive home and snatch some work time. But then you’ve got to drive back. You just lost a lot of time back and forthing in the car. What if you just dropped the kid off and plunked yourself under a tree with a notebook or a laptop?

Enjoy your kids.

You only get so many summers. And as Elaine reminded us last week, it’s all about balance and having those “real-life, non-writing adventures” feeds the writing too. (You can read that post here.) So go climb to that waterfall that you have to let yourself down to with a rope someone tied to a tree. Let ten fourteen year olds invade your house and don’t stop the waterfight that develops. Wake a kid up early and go watch the sunrise from a kayak. Everything goes into the well and we draw it back out and transform it. Maybe it’s time to spend some time filling up the well.

mylisa_email_2-2Mylisa Larsen has been telling stories for a long time. This has caused her to get gimlet-eyed looks from her parents, her siblings and, later, her own children when they felt that certain stories had been embellished beyond acceptable limits. She now writes children’s books where her talents for hyperbole are actually rewarded.

She is the author of the picture books, Instructions for Bedtime (Katherine Tegen Books) and If I Were A Kangaroo (Viking.)

You can visit her online at http://mylisalarsen.com

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Writing and Life

Celebrating MOTHMAN’S CURSE

Mothman's Curse Final Cover

If you haven’t read Mothman’s Curse yet, (Wait, why haven’t you read Mothman’s Curse yet? Get on that!) you’ll find that it features siblings that manage to get themselves into some outsize trouble. To celebrate that spirit, we’ve rounded up some tales of sibling shenanigans from our own Emus.

My sister and I were about 3 and 5 when we got into our mom’s baking cabinet, took out the flour, and poured it over one another. Unfortunately we were standing on top of the floor heater vent (an old Victorian house) so when the heat came on, it blew flour EVERYWHERE. My mom said she had to keep from laughing after scolding us because we were so flour-encrusted all she could see were the tear-tracks down our cheeks. Janet Fox

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To the artist, everything is a medium.

My three sisters and I did a lot of things that would’ve gotten us into trouble had we been caught. Here’s one instance where we felt we really got away with something. We all four loved to climb the trees in our apple orchard. Our parents told us in no uncertain terms that we were to avoid smaller branches because they couldn’t hold our weight. You guessed it. One of us took a chance and used a smaller branch to reach a higher branch and it broke. We snuck inside, grabbed a roll of masking tape and carefully taped it back together. Believe it or not that branch healed and grew to be a sturdy climbing branch. We couldn’t believe we’d gotten away with it because there would’ve been consequences for sure! Penny Parker Klosterman


Yep. That's gonna fix it.

Yep. That’s gonna fix it.

My brother, my friend Patti and I often played together outside, while my sister and our other neighbors, two different sets of sisters, played inside. We were a bit mischievous, and our favorite thing to do was to play ring and run. We were having so much fun! When they stopped answering the door, then we started running our knuckles down the shutters and hiding. Another time when there was a backyard sleepover in a tent at another neighbor’s house, we pretended to be ghosts to try and scare them. Then we pelted the tent with crabapples until we got caught and scolded by the girls’ very unhappy father. Maria Gianferrari

My brother and I were about 14 and 9 when we had to muck out the pig barn. We’d neglected it for far too long, so it was really, really nasty at that point. Somehow, we started singing about our work, which evolved (devolved?) into us taking turns attempting to use the s-word expletive for manure in every line of song, each of us trying to be more clever than the last. Whether or not our parents heard, I don’t know, but luckily they didn’t try to stop it. I don’t think I’ve ever sworn–or laughed–so much in my life, and I know the barn never got cleaned so quickly. Laurie Thompson

When my sister and I were in grade school – on the rare occasions when our parents went out alone for a couple of hours – we would make fudge and try to hide the evidence but the smell and mess always revealed we had broken the rule about never turning on the gas stove! Carole Gerber

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Fudge? I don’t smell fudge.

This is a story of why certain kids should not have access to surgical tubing. My two oldest boys tell me that if your parent is both trusting and a deep sleeper and if you have access to a certain gauge of surgical tubing, you can sneak out of your house at night and set up to launch water balloons from two cul-de-sacs away from a poker game that is being played outside in the summer in someone’s garage. And possibly because by 2 AM the people playing are a little impaired, they will never figure out what hit them or where it’s coming from. Mylisa Larsen

Best thing ever.

Water balloons. Best thing ever.

When I was growing up, we lived on a farm on a long dirt road.  It was quite hilly, and there was a huge hill above one side of our driveway. Cars were always speeding down it too fast and my dad was always lamenting that fact.  One day my sister and I were out for a walk along the road (I was, maybe, 12…so she was 9).  I don’t know how far we walked but we came to a speed limit sign.  We commented on the fact that my dad would love that sign right at the base of our driveway.  We made a joke about bringing it to him. We laughed about it.  And then we decided to do it.  I want to say it was my sister who came up with the harebrained idea, but I think it was mine.  I was the idea girl back then and my sister was the conviction and brawn.  So it probably went something like:

Me: We could dig it up and bring it to dad!
My sister: Let’s do it!
Me: No, we can’t do it…
My sister (already on her hands and knees, fingers in the dirt): Oh yes we can…

We dug that speed limit sign out of the ground–don’t ask me how–and we lugged it back to our house–don’t ask me how–and we re-stuck it at the bottom of our driveway.

My dad was not too pleased.
(I’m pretty sure moving a speed limit sign is, like, a federal offense…) Tam Smith

I know you've always wanted one of these.

I know you’ve always wanted one of these.

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