Tag Archives: Finding Perfect

In It Together

 

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Goodbye often feels like concrete. Hard and unforgiving.  But today, it feels like something else. Something warm and kind and filled with possibility.

On October 18th, my middle grade debut novel, Finding Perfect, found its way into the world. So today it’s my turn to say goodbye to my fellow Emu Debuts. My Emus are so much more than a group of debut authors; they’re a family. A wonderful, loving, supportive writing family. Together, we have traveled the path of publication to our first novels, shared our insecurities, our worries, our excitement and our joy. Together we have learned the power and the gift of the written word. Together we have learned the true mean of dreams come true.  I am beyond grateful for all of their book love and author cheers along the way. I am truly honored to have shared this journey with each and every one of them.

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I will miss my Emus, but know in my heart of hearts that they will remain a part of my life. We will continue to share the next steps together. Not in the enclave of the nest, but in our retreats, our pages, and our friendships. So, as my time as an Emu Debut is ending, something else is beginning.  I have faith that this something else will be filled with wonderful reads, amazing friendships, gracious educators, and incredible students. I am excited to see what adventures come next.

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Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about twelve-year-old Molly, friendships, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Filed under Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Writing and Life

When We Were Twelve—EMUs’ Advice To Their Younger Selves

All this week on the blog we’ve celebrated the launch of Elly Swartz’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT.

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FINDING PERFECT’s sweet, sensitive main character, twelve-year-old Molly, wishes her life was perfect, but family and school problems keep her in turmoil. She attempts to counteract these upsets with comforting rituals, only to find that these same rituals, bit by bit, begin to control her. As her anxiety escalates, it becomes clear that Molly needs someone to advise her, to assure her she is capable of positive change, and to help her look forward to stronger, better days.

Perhaps the best person to guide Molly would be her older, wiser self. With the perspective that comes with years, an adult Molly would know how to be supportive while encouraging growth. With this in mind, I asked the EMUs what advice they would give their twelve-year-old selves.

We’ll start with the author.  Elly’s advice to Elly Junior? “Be brave. Be kind. Be curious. And always stay true to who you are.”

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Isn’t Elly Junior adorable? See the light of creativity and compassion in her eyes? Bet this kid will grow up to be a writer or something.

The Debbi Michiko Florence of today advises her younger self, “Don’t worry so much about following trends like Farrah Fawcett feathered hair – really, it doesn’t work on Japanese stick-straight hair.”

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(I admire you, Debbi, for even trying. While my sister expertly wielded her round brush and can of AquaNet every morning, I slept in.)

Debbi goes on to recall a relatable tween dilemma with all its requisite drama. She asks her younger self, “And that gold belt trend you just had to follow? Remember how you begged and pleaded with your mom to get you that gold belt and how you lost it the first day you wore it to school? And remember how you convinced the teacher to let you go look for it and then convinced your friend’s teacher to let her leave her class to help you look for it? And how you looked and looked and couldn’t find it and you were so afraid you were going to get in trouble and you were freaking out? Then upi found it. The belt had slipped under your shirt and you were still wearing it! Don’t sweat the small stuff ! Or even what you think is the “big stuff.”

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I don’t have a picture of Debbi  back then, but I know she was much, much cuter than a sleepy desktop ducking.

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Like the seasoned picture book writer she is, Terry Pierce is superbly succinct. She advises young Terry to, “believe in yourself, be courageous and strong. Stand up for yourself if someone wrongs you. Don’t let others define you. You’re bright, a hard worker, and have a kind heart, and that will take you far in life.”

IMG_2512 - WEBJason Gallaher gives his former self a real pep talk, exhorting him, “to not stress out so much about how things are going to turn out in life. Everything is going to be just fine, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

Right now, dear 12 year-old, you’re quirky, a bit gangly, and your suspicions about liking boys are correct. But don’t worry about that because everything turns out better than fine.Keep focusing on your dreams because they will come true. And I know you’re going to roll your eyes and say, “Everybody says that.” But I’m not just saying this like your teachers or guidance counselors say it. I’m saying it knowing this for a fact about you, about us.

Every dream you have comes true: You move to a big city, your quirky talents get appreciation from people in a legitimate industry (publishing, in case you’re wondering), you *finally* get past that horrible middle stage when you grow out your hair and find out what it feels like to have long locks (You’re robsessed with it. Also, when Robert Pattinson becomes a thing you’ll understand the term “robsessed”), and you find love.

So keep trucking along. Love yourself, which I know will be a struggle, but in times when you feel down, know that even now, nearly two decades later, I love you and wouldn’t have made it here if not for you.

Sadly, Jason didn’t provide a tweenage picture of himself, so I’ll just leave this here.

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Oh, and this:

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Only one more, I promise.

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Darcey Rosenblatt says, “I would tell myself there will come a time when you truly treasure all the things that make you weird and different than the normal kids – really – trust me.”

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Spoken like a true environmental planner/scuba diver/mother/artist/story farmer/hiker/conference founder/wife/costume-maker/ soon-to-be published author, Darcey. You put the actual in self-actualized!

EMU Elaine Vickers advises her young self to value friendships, saying, “There are great things ahead, 12-year-old Elaine! You will soon outgrow this hairstyle and this shirt. But the friends you make this year will stay with you. You’ll laugh and grow and travel together. One will sing at your wedding, another will help deliver your babies. And one day, they will take you out to dinner the night before your first book launches. Hang on to these friends.”

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Stay true to yourself. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stand up for yourself and be kind. Love yourself. Treasure what makes you different. Hang on to good friends.

Good advice for FINDING PERFECT’S Molly and everyone else. Congratulations and thank you, Elly!!!

Enjoy the day,

Hayley

 

Curriculum Guide for FINDING PERFECT:

http://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/teachers-guides/9780374303129TG.pdf

A Teacher’s Guide For FINDING PERFECT

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A Teacher’s Guide For FINDING PERFECT About the Book To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is: • The number four • The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil

To purchase Finding Perfect:

http://amzn.com/0374303126

http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780374303129

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/finding-perfect-elly-swartz/1122889663?ean=9780374303129


hayley-at-12Hayley's Author Photo

I write for young people and live to make kids laugh. My picture book BABYMOON celebrates the birth of a new family and is coming from Candlewick Press. WHAT MISS MITCHELL SAW, a narrative nonfiction picture book, is coming in spring 2019 from Simon & Schuster/Beach Lane Books and will be illustrated by Diana Sudyka. I’m represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

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Filed under Advice, Anxiety, Book Launch, Character Development, Characters, Inspiration, Launch, Panic, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

My Traveling Companions

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
― A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

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Today, my heart is overflowing with gratitude. On Tuesday, my debut novel, Finding Perfect, found its way into the world, into the hands of kids, teachers, moms, dads, and grandparents. Today, Molly’s story is a shared one. But, it didn’t start that way. Molly’s story started with an idea, then morphed into words on my computer, then into a book. It started with me, but I never traveled this path alone.

And, so today is about all those who traveled with me. All those I want to thank.

My husband. Wow. Not even sure where to begin. You have been with me on every step of this 15 year journey. And at no time did you waver in your steadfast belief in me. You are the love of my life and I am so grateful to have you by my side. Always.

My sons. Two boys, endless inspiration. Through the years, you have inspired me to write, to go for my dream, to work hard, to be better. Your belief in me, allowed me to believe in this dream and believe in me. I am so lucky to be your mom. You make my heart happy every day.

My family near and far. I love you all with all of my heart. Thank you thank you thank you.

My friends. You may never know how impactful your support has been. You gave me hugs and wine and walks and talks and candy, all at exactly the right moments.

FSG. Joy and the entire FSG team thank you for taking a chance on me. For believing in me and my story.

My agent. Trish the amazing. Honestly, so thankful to have you at the helm, helping me navigate these waters and always having my back. You are so much more than my agent. You are my friend. And, for that, I am grateful.

EMLA. You guys rock. I never knew getting an agent, meant I was also getting a writing family.  Love you guys.

Sweet 16ers. It’s been one heck of a year. Thank you for sharing this ride with me. You are kind and supportive and, obviously, sweet.

Educators. You seamlessly welcomed me and Finding Perfect into the kidlit world before the book had even entered the world. You made me feel like Molly and I belonged. You are kind and gracious and dedicated. I wish every kid has a lifetime of teachers like you.

To all of my traveling companions, thank you for being a part of my journey. It’s been one amazing ride!

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IMG_9552  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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My Friend, Fear

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Fear is a fickle friend. I mean at first glance it’s hard to imagine her as your lunch buddy, but as time goes on, you understand her subtle ways. Confession – I’m not always the bravest. I’m scared of hairy/crunchy/large bugs, heights, the dark, mice crawling over my sandals at the movies. You get the picture. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that as publication for my debut mg novel, Finding Perfect, inches closer, so does fear. She visits with some regularity these days. She accompanies me when I hit send to my editor and when I venture into uncharted territory, like this week at the New England Independent Bookseller Association Author Reception. This is me at the reception hanging with Gillian Kohli, owner of the amazing Wellesley Books and president of NEIBA. (Fear aside, the night was amazing.)

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Fear tugs at my chest as the years/months to publication dwindle to days. When my daily activities of marketing, tweeting, blogging, signing, visiting school, and participating in panels, all fall outside of my comfort zone and squarely into the box marked ARE-YOU-KIDDING. But it’s in these moments that I have begun to see fear less as my-roller-coaster-going-to-throw-up foe, and more as my you’ve-got-this friend. You see, fear is what has taught that to grow I need to learn and to learn I need to step beyond what’s comfortable. I need to embrace the itchy, the awkward, the feared. I need to welcome all of it. Because it’s in those moments when the real magic happens.

So as the days to publication now number 26, I say, bring it on! The fear, the challenge, the awkward itchiness.  Let’s do this thing!

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Elly Swartz’s debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October 18th, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. FINDING PERFECT is about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that will determine everything. She happily lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her family. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Filed under Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Writing and Life

The Essential Glimmer of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Hayley's Author Photo

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

Come hang out with me on Twitter @hayleybwrites, Facebook, or in the meadow: http://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com.

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

Writing, Twizzlers, and the Music

I write. I revise. I eat Twizzlers. I write some more. Recently, I realized there’s another thing I do when I’m in the writing zone, I listen and sing poorly to songs that inspire me. Now, as I recently confessed to a classroom of fifth graders, I sound a bit like a dying frog when I sing. But, I love it! So, I can’t seem to stop myself from belting out the the music when I’m cooking, driving, or on a run. So, if you happen to be nearby, I truly am sorry.

A while back, while in the kitchen making meatballs and singing poorly and dancing with my sauce-splashed apron on, I realized the song I was singing over a killer tomato-basil sauce, had less to do with dinner, and more to do with my current work-in-progress. I was right in the thick of a first draft. To me, this is the part of the process where I fear everything.  I’ll never come up with a gripping plot. Even if I have a good plot, I’ll never be able to construct a whole story. Even if I can construct a story, it’s going to stink. So naturally, I found myself singing Brave by Sara Bareilles, loudly and out-of-tune, while slicing and dicing. There I was in all my first draft glory singing along with Sara like we were old friends. “Say what you want to say. Let the words fall out. Honestly, I want to see you be brave.”

So after a delicious Italian dinner, I jumped back into my work-in-progress with purpose, and to my happy surprise, I eventually completed a draft of my new story. Woot! Let the celebration begin! I was super excited until I read the whole thing over and realized it stunk. I mean no-one’s-going-to-read-this kind of stunk. I knew I needed to summon the courage to reconstruct the characters, the plot, the pacing.  So, I popped in my earbuds and listened to The Fight Song by Rachel Platten before I dug back into all those words on the page.

Once I finished, I mean really finished, a process that included several bags of Twizzlers and many many drafts, I sent my newly revised story to Trish, my agent. And, I waited for her thoughts while I jumped back into all the things I had put on hold while revising. The music of choice – The Waiting by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. And then, Trish called. She loved it! So, I popped in my earbuds and went for a run to Happy by Pharrell Williams!

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IMG_9552 Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author. Her debut novel, FINDING PERFECT (FSG October, 2016) is a story about a twelve-year-old girl named Molly, friendship, family, OCD, and a slam poetry competition that determines everything. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Chat with Agent Erin Murphy about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

 

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox is a book I fell in love with on page one and could not put down until I read the very last word. I, however, was not the first to fall in love with this read-with-the-lights-on mystery. That honor goes to Janet Fox’s agent, Erin Murphy of Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA). I had the privilege of talking with Erin about her first impressions of this unforgettable story. But first, a bit about the Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.

“Keep calm and carry on.”

That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do: when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands.

But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear?

Kat believes she knows the answer: Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and who Lady Eleanor really is—before it’s too late.

Now, to my chat with Erin.

When you first read this novel, what was your initial impression?

Erin: Something like, “My God, this woman can write!” WWII-era England is a great sweet spot for me so far as pleasure-reading, so when Janet first queried me and described this project (then called Chatelaine), I literally wrote back, “I want to read it right this minute.” When I did read it, it didn’t just meet my expectations, it far exceeded them.

Of all the characters in The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, who do you most identify with?

Erin: Kat, of course. Oh, do I identify with the need to balance left-brain and right-brain thinking—although the older I get, the more I favor the intuitive and imaginative. Plus, she’s an eldest child, always feeling responsible.

I was wonderfully surprised at Janet’s ability to seamlessly blend mystery, suspense and fantasy on the very real backdrop of WWII. How do you feel about the blended genres?

Erin: I absolutely adore them. Speaking of imaginative things, I think some of the most imaginative books I’ve read have been blended genres. There’s just something about mashups that brings out both the comfortingly familiar and the wonderfully surprising.

Finish this sentence: You must read The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle because …

Erin: …it will sweep you away to another time and place and you will be satisfied until the very last page!

Your favorite mystery as a kid?

Erin: I can’t pick just one! I was a voracious mystery reader, especially on summer vacation, when I’d devour every book by a mystery author—the Trixie Belden books, and Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, and Agatha Christie, and Sherlock Holmes….Right now I’m exceptionally busy and stretched thin as I prepare to relocate across the country, and the reading I reach for? Mystery series. Even now, that is escapist comfort reading to me.

And since no good interview would be complete without a surprise question…What’s the oddest job you have ever had?

Erin: That’s a funny non-sequitur of a question! I guess it was the brief period when I was a Secret Diner, eating at various locations of a particular chain restaurant and turning in reports on the food quality, service, and cleanliness. But all I got paid was free meals.

Huge thanks to agent and secret diner extraordinaire, Erin Murphy, for sharing her thoughts on Janet’s wonderful story. Charmed Children of Rooksill Castle is at a bookstore or library near you. Today!

 

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IMG_9552   Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, comes out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). 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. Elly lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on next, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

 

 

 

 

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Life’s Gravy

Somewhere between drafting, revising, submitting and waiting, a book was created. I mean an actual, bound book with a cover and a title. And a name. An author’s name. My name. This is the are-you-kidding-I’m-freaking-out part. After 13 years, many hugs, Twizzlers and talks that included, ‘I believe in you’ and ‘just focus on the process,’ my debut book, FINDING PERFECT, is actually coming into the world. Where it will meet people who don’t eat Thanksgiving at my table and don’t know me.

For so long my focus never moved off the process. And, now, with a box about to be delivered to my door filled with galleys, my focus has moved from the journey to the actual book. And, if I am being spill-the-beans honest, I’m a blend of dreams-come-true excited and just plain old terrified.  This last part was a huge surprise to me.  I knew I’d be dance happy, but stomach-hurt-nervous, where did that come from?  Then I realized these feelings were similar to those I had when I sent my sons off to college. I was happy for them, but as a mom, I knew the days of me knowing everyone and everything in their lives was, well, over. And, once FINDING PERFECT no longer lives only on my computer to be shared solely with my family and friends, the days of me knowing everyone that reads my story will, well, be over, too.

And that is the absolute privilege of writing. That is the dream. And, that is also where my nerves and joy unite.

I have told myself that in those moments that I promise to remember something my mom used to say, “This is the gravy of life.” While she is no longer here with me, I still hear the words in her loving and mom-knows-best voice. And, you know what, she’s right. This IS the gravy of life. This ranks as a sing-in-the-shower, dance-like-crazy moment. So, when my nerves peek through, I’ve decided to turn up the volume of Happy by Pharrell, embrace my happy, and rock out to life’s gravy moments.

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IMG_9825  Elly Swartz is a middle-grade author whose debut novel, FINDING PERFECT, is coming out October, 18, 2016 (FSG). 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. It took thirteen years, numerous drafts, many Twizzlers, loads of hugs, and much unconditional love, to find her way to YES. Through the years, Elly’s been a Sesame Place ride operator, messenger, lawyer, legal author, and college essay adviser. She lives in Brookline, Massachusetts with her husband, two sons and beagle named Lucy. If you want to connect with Elly or learn more about what she’s working on, you can find her at www.ellyswartz.com, on Twitter @ellyswartz or Facebook.

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Finding Perfect Gets a Cover!

Today is THE day.  The day the cover for my debut middle grade novel, FINDING PERFECT, sneaks past the gate and shows itself to the world. The day I’ve been waiting for.

So. Here. It. Is.

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I am so grateful to Kristi Radwilowicz of FSG, the force behind my cover, for her thoughtful creativity, and Angie Chen, my editor, for her unending editorial wisdom, and the entire FSG team for their continued support.

When you read the book, you’ll be amazed to see how many story elements Kristi was able to weave into my cover! Now, for a bit about the book:

To twelve-year-old Molly Nathans, perfect is:

  • The number four
  • The tip of a newly sharpened No. 2 pencil
  • A crisp white pad of paper
  • Her neatly aligned glass animal figurines

What’s not perfect is Molly’s mother leaving the family to take a faraway job with the promise to return in one year. Molly knows that promises are sometimes broken, so she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: Win the Lakeville Middle School Poetry Slam Contest. The winner is honored at a fancy banquet with white tablecloths. Molly is sure her mother would never miss that. Right…?  

But as time passes, writing and reciting slam poetry become harder. Actually, everything becomes harder as new habits appear, and counting, cleaning, and organizing are not enough to keep Molly’s world from spinning out of control.

In this fresh-voiced debut novel, one girl learns there is no such thing as perfect.

Stay tuned. FINDING PERFECT hits shelves October 2016! Until then, thanks for letting me share my cover and my excitement.

 

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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 comes out on October 18th, 2016 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 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.

 

 

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Filled with Turkey, Pie and Gratitude

With just a few weeks to go until my house is wonderfully overflowing with family, the smell of turkey cooking, and the sweet scent of strawberry-banana-cream pie, I’ve been thinking much about all I am grateful for. I think about Molly, the main character from FINDING PERFECT, and how grateful I am that she stuck in my head long enough that I couldn’t NOT write about her.  I think about Olive, the mc from my work-in-progress and how lucky I am that she, too, has proven to be stubborn and persistent. That’s what writing is really about, right? The character, the story nugget, the crystal of a place or idea that feels so real that it just can’t be ignored. I am grateful for those moments that find their way into my brain just long enough to take hold.

But, the list of things I am grateful for happily doesn’t stop with the characters and the stories that I get to bring to life.

I am grateful for my amazing husband of 25 years, and my 2 incredible sons. Grateful for family on both coasts. To me, family is truly what it’s all about!

I am grateful for the people in my life who taught me to never stop dreaming, to never give up, to never stop asking, Why not me?

I am grateful for my girlfriends who are like the sisters I never had.

I am grateful for my EMLA family. Who knew signing with my amazing agent Trish was a package deal complete with the Erin Murphy’s Dogs and an entire writing community of talented, supportive and all-around awesome people?

I am grateful for the gifts of those no longer with me. My mom who taught me how to love unconditionally and color outside the lines. My father in law who taught me to be fearless. My Gram, who taught me strength comes at any height (she was 4”10 at her tallest) and any age (she died a month ago, just shy of 102).

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I am grateful for Angie Chen, my awesome editor, and all the talented people at FSG who are making FINDING PERFECT come to life.

I am grateful for Twizzlers, my happy dance, my little Lu, and being able to write every day.

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So, as I sit with those I love watching football on Thanksgiving, I will be filled with more than just pie and turkey. I will be filled with so much gratitude.

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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.

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