Tag Archives: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.51.40 PM

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.

CharmedChildrencover (1)

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.


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?


Filed under cover art

The Aftermath


Book Scavenger in the wild!

What a wonderful stretch of launch weeks we’ve had around here! Book Scavenger has been out in the world for a little over two months now, and in that time we’ve also celebrated the launches of Mothman’s Curse, My Dog is the Best, Penny & Jelly, Another Kind of Hurricane, There Once Was an Old Dragon, and our latest The Looney Experiment. Whew! It’s been the summer of celebrations!

And speaking of The Looney Experiment and celebrating, a big congratulations to Teresa Robeson! You are the winner of a signed copy of Luke’s new book!

So what do I have to report post-publication? It’s been a whirlwind. It’s felt like a dream. It’s been awesome and stressful and boring and humbling and probably every emotion in-between.

The sequel for Book Scavenger is officially on the schedule for next year, and so I’ve been working on it every spare chance I get. I’ve even been given an official pub date. If all goes according to plan, then you should be able to find The Unbreakable Code in bookstores and libraries June 7, 2016. Gulp. And I’ve also seen a rough sketch for the cover, which, woah! That makes it feel real. (And I’m so excited about the direction they’re going in too! The cover is going to be awesome.)

There is a definite transition you go through having your first book published, at least speaking for myself. Beforehand there were a lot of anticipatory nerves. Most of those stemmed from preparing for something you’ve never experienced before. Before last June, I’d never done a presentation for 200 4th, 5th, and 6th graders. I was freaking out about that! I knew what I was going to say, but I wasn’t sure how it would go over and what the overall experience would be like.


Turned out it was super fun! So much fun, I’m eager to do it again!

And a launch party. I’ve attended launch parties for other authors, but never experienced my own. Would people come? Would they enjoy themselves? If people did come, would I then be totally awkward and weird having people stare at me while I tried to put coherent sentences together in an at least moderately entertaining fashion?


At the awesome Linden Tree Bookstore, who hosted my first-ever launch party!


And the equally awesome Book Passage at the Ferry Building, who hosted my second ever launch party!

People did come! I was truly humbled, amazed, and grateful for the enthusiasm and support friends and family showed me and Book Scavenger. And strangers!! There were strangers at my book launch parties! I was so excited, I wanted to run up and hug them and shout “I don’t know you and you’re here!!! You’re here and you’re buying my book!”

I should have done that, shouldn’t I? That would have been kind of awesome.

The nerves do subside with a little experience. I did my first Skype visit with a book group at a San Francisco library recently. I was a kind of nervous beforehand, but not as nervous as I’d been before my other events. And as soon as I saw those kids on my computer screen, I was excited. And in a state of awe–these were kids who read my book! What a trip.


Hearing from readers has been the coolest part of the debut experience so far, hands down. Young readers, adult readers, teachers, librarians, and booksellers . . . Having people take the time out of their day to reach out and let me know they enjoyed Book Scavenger, that they are glad it exists in the world, that they are happy to have spent some time with these characters I sat with for 12 years . . . I don’t really have the words to describe how that feels. The closest word I can think of is GRATITUDE.

I’m so very grateful to be on this journey.



jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger has been selected as an Indie Next Kids’ Top Ten Pick for Summer 2015, an Amazon Best Book of 2015 So Far, and one of five books chosen for the Publisher’s Weekly Best Summer Reads 2015, among other accolades. A sequel titled The Unbreakable Code will be published in 2016, followed by a stand-alone middle grade mystery in 2017. She has an MFA in Creative Writing and worked in publishing for over a decade before becoming a children’s book author. More information can be found about her and her books at jenniferchamblissbertman.com and bookscavenger.com.



Filed under Uncategorized, Writing and Life

Interview with Christy Ottaviano, editor of Book Scavenger

To mark the occasion of Book Scavenger‘s publication, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer’s phenomenal editor, Christy Ottaviano, publisher of Christy Ottaviano Books at Macmillan Children’s. It’s always fascinating to hear what the editor of a book loves about it!

Calista: Do you remember what it was about this book that made you go, “I want it” when you read it on submission?

Christy: When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was The Westing Game.  I was also a big fan of From the Mixed-Up Files of Ms. Basil E Frankweiler.  Both of these books came to mind while I was reading the submission of Book Scavenger.  I was immediately intrigued by the book gaming element — I love mysteries and especially books that have puzzles to solve and secrets to uncover — but what really drew me in was the voice of Emily.  She is such a rich character — a bookworm and a loner; someone who could really use a friend. Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is such a gifted writer.  In Book Scavenger she creates an exciting mystery yet the characters never take a back seat to the layered plot — everything works in tandem and in good rhythm.

Calista: What comp titles* did you reference when you were acquiring this book? Why?

Christy: The comp titles referenced were a few books I’ve published by Elise Broach — Shakespeare’s Secret and Masterpiece given that they are both mysteries and feature quiet, thoughtful characters who are curious about the world around them, whether it’s learning about Shakespeare or Albrecht Durer!  I also referenced The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart) as well as Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (Chris Grabenstein) for similar reasons.

Calista: What are some ways the book changed during the editing process?

Jenn did an amazing job revising the novel.  She approached every aspect of the editorial process with such insight, thoughtfulness and focus. We worked on a variety of elements — making the mystery more compelling, incorporating more challenging puzzles and ciphers into the clues, building to a more satisfying climax and conclusion, and, most especially, fleshing out all of the characters (getting rid of a few even) so that each was clearly defined in relation to his/her role in the book. On a personal note,  I really fell in love with Emily and James and think their friendship is such an honest example of a girl/boy tween friendship in middle school.

Calista: Who is the ideal reader for this book?

Christy: The ideal readers for Book Scavenger are kids who like all of the books I’ve referenced in this Q&A as well as fans of the Chasing Vermeer series (Blue Balliat), The Gollywhopper Games (Jody Feldman), and Rhyme Schemer (KA Holt).  It’s for kids who love to read stories about quirky characters who have unusual talents; fans of sleuthing stories and mysteries; and lovers of puzzles in all forms.  Without a doubt, this is one of the freshest, and most engaging books I have ever worked on.  A treat on so many levels!

* Comp title = “comparison title”. Frequently an editor will be asked to provide comp titles for a book when presenting it to the acquisitions team at the publishing house, to give the sales and marketing and publishing teams a sense of where the book will “live” in the marketplace.


Filed under Uncategorized

An Interview with Sarah Watts, Illustrator of Book Scavenger

Welcome to day three of our week-long launch party for Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s debut novel, Book Scavenger. Have you ordered your copy of the book yet? No? Well, go ahead, I’ll wait while you place your order through one of the sources listed at the bottom of this post, or while you drive to your local independent book seller.  ~~~~~~~~~All done? Great! You’re just in time. Now check out that awesome book cover, and thumb through the book’s pages. The art is fantastic, don’t you think? Today, illustrator Sarah Watts is visiting Emu’s Debuts to answer questions about working on Book Scavenger, and about her process in general.

Welcome, welcome Sarah!

What were your initial thoughts after reading Book Scavenger?

I reallyContentImage-3868-242201-Sarah_website_portrait_WEB loved reading Book Scavenger because it reminded me of the intrigue and mystery of moving to a new place when I was a kid. We moved a lot, and with each new place came a new set of challenges, and new stories to uncover. It was so easy to get into this story and imagine having these adventures like the characters. I just loved it. I was wishing the whole time that I had a game like this to play as a kid. But, I can certainly share this book with my future kids one day. Another cool thing is that shortly after illustrating this story I went to San Francisco for the very first time. It was so neat to see some of the places referenced in the story. It felt like a prequel to my trip, and the trip was almost like the story in that I was putting little pieces together that I remembered in the read.

Your art is perfect for Book Scavenger. In general, how do you decide if a project is right for you?

As far as finding the right story to illustrate, it tends to be very intuitive for [my agent] Abi Samoun and me. I have been working with Abi since before she started an agency, when she was an editor at a publishing house! She gave me my first book gig. I think because of this loScreen Shot 2015-06-02 at 11.51.40 PMng relationship we both know when a book comes along that is just the right fit. I tend to get a lot of jobs that involve creepy houses, animals, and a touch of mystery. These are all things that I am very familiar with. I think drawing directly from your experiences make the richest images as they are true to your voice. When Abi and I run across a job that just doesn’t seem like the right fit for my work, we tend to realize that together.

Sarah, you have an eclectic, and impressive repertoire of art styles and mediums. What is your illustration and art background?

Thank you! As far as where my creative voice comes from, there is so much to say! Nature inspires most of my imagery. I spent a lot of time in the woods and in gardens as a kid. It was a therapeutic element for my family. We also had animals, a lot of them, and I adore drawing them in my work. We had chickens, 3 iguanas, several doggies, fish, snakes, ha, you name it. My fascination with spooky stuff also comes directly from childhood. My dad was born on Halloween so it was a favorite holiday in our house. He used to take me and my brothers and my mom to cemeteries for fun and he would tell us fictional stories about the people buried there. We also lived in a few haunted houses. Flash to today and I am still into all that stuff, in a more novelty sort of way. Story telling was a big thing in my family, and I think that definitely influenced me in becoming a book illustrator. The fashion aspect in my work is inspired by narratives. I think fashion is such a perfect vehicle to express a character in a story.

As far as the mediums that I use, I tend to keep it very simple, and use Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator to give it all the variety. I primarily work in pen and ink. It is the only medium that consistently makes me excited. There is something so definitive about black ink, and I like how decisive I become while using it. That’s a trait that I struggle with in other areas, haha! Ink is like a friend to me, and together we make all kinds of stories. After the ink stage, I scan my drawings in and work hard in Photoshop or Illustrator to convey that perfect mood or story with colors and textures.

What is my art background? As a kid my brothers and I would sit up to the table and draw in coloring books and mold clay. When I got to high school, I did a few summer classes that freed up my schedule allowing me to attend a two year program during half of my school day where I got a certificate in Communication Arts. There I learned about the world of illustration. (Fun fact: I also met my husband in High School, and we stayed together through long distance and lots of adventures. He’s my best friend.) So anyway, in that program, I learned about all sorts of colleges and fell in love with Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota. There I met lifelong friends, and graduated with a BFA in Illustration. After college, I designed art for children’s apparel at Carters for two years, then designed stationery and gifts and International greetings for a year. I was always crazy about being my own boss, and spent my nights during those three years taking on book gigs and building a pattern library to license. Once I had the courage and the portfolio, I quit my day job. I have been an independent illustrator/designer for four years now. In those three years a lot has happened! Abigail Samoun from Red Fox Literary took me on as one of her first illustrators, and I also met 4 lovely girls with whom I started a fabric company for sewing and quilting.

How is illustrating books different from your other artistic endeavors? Any unique challenges?

Yes, it is so much different. So aside from books, I do surface and textile design. Designing for books is different in that it is much more narrative and a little more pressure to get just the right image. A book cover has to have that “wa-bam!” factor. It has to be very eye catching, it needs to draw in a lot of intrigue, and also needs to very simply capture the essence of the story. There is more hanging on the final image for books, which for me is exhilarating. When I design for products and fabric, art can be a little more ephemeral. Designing fabric for quilting and sewing is very gratifying because it allows you to tell a story throughout a whole collection. It is also different because the textile and product world works in seasons, much like fashion. Most of the time I design something it doesn’t go on shelves for a year out, but also has sort of a seasonal shelf life. Some things in that realm will get printed over and over, but will have new art added to it to refresh it for a promotion. It just depends on the company and product. I love doing both equally as they both satisfy different parts of my brain. Something that I love about the similarities in fabric especially and books is that quilting is so much like story telling, so it is so neat to see how people take my fabrics and make stories from them in quilt form.

Book covers are so important for the visual appeal of a book. Your cover art for Book Scavenger is fun, mysterious, and eye catching. How did you determine what should be reflected on the cover?

I ended up with so many ideas for this cover that I actually had a hard time narrowing down some good ones to send to April at Henry Holt. There was just so much to draw from the story. I loved the main characters and the adventure and hunt that they go on. I did a few sketches of them running through the streets, but also couldn’t help but think of them digging through so many books finding clues. I thought that a scene where the books were almost like birds, swarming and consuming their heads, was conceptually a neat way to show how they were so into the game. Also, whenever I see people in a window passing by I am so curious as to what they are doing and what their house is like. What kind of person does their home reflect? So I thought having two kids’ silhouettes in the window would really peak the readers interest in the same way. When choosing color, I tend to identify with the mood of the book and let that take it’s course. Mysteries call for more mysterious palettes, etc.. Color tends to be very intuitive at this stage, and I try to send a few options so the editors and art directors  can weigh in.

What is your general process when illustrating a book, from sketch to finished product?

Fun question! I always start with research. For this book in particular, I needed to do a lot of that because I had never been to San Francisco before I was hired for this project. I like to understand the environment that the story takes place in because it helps set the visual story in my head. From there, I’ll move to sketches. I like to ask art directors and editors if they have anything they would like to see happen in the sketches. I think it’s fun to sketch their ideas along with mine. A lot of times they might already have ideas in mind, and we work together to make a stronger image. Once sketches are approved, there are usually a couple of revisions. Once that tighter sketch is worked out, I move to final! This is where I transfer the sketch to paper and start inking. I love zoning out at this stage. It is actually the only stage where that can happen. Once the inking is done, I scan the artwork into my computer. At this stage, a lot of work goes in Photoshop coloring and exploring options and finessing the image.

Is there anything you wish people knew about life as an artist/illustrator?

So many things!! Honestly, I think there is a misconception about being able to create all day, when in fact much of your day is spent doing emails and business related things. It is one thing to have a creative vision, but another to know how to market it to the right crowd. I think with art you have to find your niche, and do everything possible to stand out in that market. I also find it very important to create from your own life and spirit. It really allows people to see who you are in your work and that makes for the richest kind of imagery. Another thing that I was taught in school was to be a student of life. Getting better at art is a lifelong adventure. It involves constantly making, constantly learning. An artist should always take in their surroundings and let the outside world effect their work along with what is in their thoughts.

What kind of reader do you think Book Scavenger will most appeal to?)

I think Book Scavenger is the perfect book for someone who loves to go on adventures or solve problems. I especially think that people need to know about the new website for it where you can actually play the game yourself. I think that is SO awesome. When I was reading the book and following Emily and James around, I thought how awesome and inventive this game is, and how it needed to be real! I think it would be so fun for people who enjoy geocaching, scavenger hunts, Little Free Libraries, mysteries or any kind of clue based problems to solve. I can only hope that the book gets out there more and more, and that the real game gets really popular. How fun would that be?

For more information about Sarah Watts, you can visit her website here.

For more information about author Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, you can visit her website here.  And to visit the uber-cool website and hide-and-find-the book game for Book Scavenger, click here.

Readers, don’t forget to leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win a signed copy of Book Scavenger. And, as a reminder, you can snag a copy of the book through your local book store, or through:





Barnes & Noble




Filed under Uncategorized

BOOK SCAVENGER Sparks Stories of Found Items

We kick off our celebration of the release of Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s middle-grade novel, BOOK SCAVENGER, with stories about the impact that found items have had our lives. But first, some excerpts from  her book’s fabulous reception from reviewers. (Hold your applause, please!)  Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it ” Full of heart and replete with challenging ciphers for readers to decode.”  Kirkus praised it:  “A debut that challenges the brain while warming the heart.”  Booklist commended it: “A lively first novel.” And, finally, a chuckle from Goodreads: “ I love this book! Disclaimer: I also wrote this book. 🙂  Jennifer.”  CLAP! CLAP!


Here’s the plot summary:  Twelve-year-old Emily is on the move again. Her family is relocating to San Francisco, home of her literary idol:  Garrison Griswold, creator of the online sensation Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden all over the country and clues to find them are revealed through puzzles. But Emily soon learns that Griswold has been attacked and is in a coma, and no one knows anything about the epic new game he had been poised to launch. Then Emily and her new friend James discover an odd book, which they come to believe is from Griswold and leads to a valuable prize. But there are others on the hunt for this book, and Emily and James must race to solve the puzzles Griswold left behind before Griswold’s attackers make them their next target.

Janet Fox:

Free Clover Clipart - Public Domain Holiday/StPatrick clip art ...I’m really good at finding missing things. I call it my “superpower.”  I don’t think I’ve ever found something that’s changed a life, but my entire family has come to count on my ability. I’m not even sure how I do it sometimes – it’s not logical. Maybe it’s a bit of ESP! Oh, and if you ever want a four-leaf clover, I’m your girl .

 Elaine Vickers:
 My favorite aunt had three charming and obedient daughters. They always brushed their teeth, but the oldest daughter, who was the most well-behaved, seemed to get many more cavities than the others.  Nobody was quite sure why. It was a mystery . . . until the family packed up their furniture to move and discovered a tiny mountain of chewable fluoride pills under her bed.

Mylisa Larsen:

One winter as I hauled out the dead Christmas tree, I solved the mystery of why my kids had been so much better about cleaning up the family room during the holidays. Apparently, when I told them to clean up, they’d just been stashing all the toys inside the tree. As I dragged it down the driveway, it started to shed toys–dozens of hotwheels cars, tinker toys, legos,  action figures and someone’s socks. The volume of what they’d stashed in those conveniently bushy branches was astounding!

Donna Bowman Bratton:

One December, when I was about ten years old, I came across something mysterious in our garage. It was large. Very large.  And covered with blankets. I peeled one away and found a beautiful white and gold dresser. I was dumbfounded. At that moment, my older brother walked in.  “You have to keep it a secret,” he said. “That’s Mom’s Christmas present.”

I was so excited to be charged with this ginormous and glorious secret! I knew my mother would feel like a princess when she saw it. I could not wait to see the look on her face. Could. Not. Wait. Well, after a sleepless Christmas Eve, the anticipated morning arrived.
“Can we give it to her now?” I whispered to my father.
“Not yet,” he said.
After all the other gifts were unwrapped, my father and brother disappeared to the garage and carried in the beautiful dresser.  Then they went back to the garage and brought in a headboard, foot board and canopy that looked too small to fit my parents’ bed. And it was too small, because the furniture was their gift to me.

Penny Parker Klostermann:

Recently, one of my sisters and I were visiting my parents. As we were helping them organize closets and cabinets, my dad mentioned that they had some boxes in the basement that hadn’t been touched for decades. We headed down there and found a book my mom had created for a high school project. My mom, who is 84 and has dementia, had forgotten about it.  The project required that she write her life history from the time she was born until her senior year in high school. It was organized into chapters filled with her funny stories,  photographs, and drawings. For the rest of that afternoon, we took turns reading it aloud and listening to my mom reminisce about each chapter. What a scavenging treasure!
Carole Gerber: 

My dear mother-in-law Bette died in 2013, a few months shy of her 90th birthday.   She was widowed twice, first in her forties and again a few years before she died.  My husband, daughter, and I flew to Minnesota to sort through her things and get her home ready to sell.  My daughter Jess and I discovered a small train case filled with cards from her second husband, who passed on at age 87.  One read: “Happy birthday to my wife who’s got it all – capability . . . versatility . . . and lovability.  (Signed) Your loving husband, Don. May God bless you always. ” An anniversary card was signed, “You’ll never know how much I love you. Don.”  Jess and I sorted through them all – crying and laughing (some of them were racy!).  We all still miss her, but take comfort in knowing that she was cherished throughout her long life.

Maria Gianferrari:

Maria's great-grandfather's poems.

Maria’s great-grandfather’s poems.

I found a book of handwritten poems written by my maternal great- grandfather, Placido Costa. The worn and tattered notebook is dated, 1913, and they’re written in Italian, in numbered verses. I remember having a feeling of deep satisfaction and connection. It may sound strange, but that poetry was somehow in my blood—that it was his legacy to me somehow. I later found out that his son, my great uncle Salvadore, a Catholic priest, also wrote poetry in his spare time, but I never knew him very well. The poetry bug then skipped a generation— neither my mother or any of her siblings were interested in writing, but I was bitten.


Want to win your very own signed copy of BOOK SCAVENGER?  Please leave a comment here, or after of any of this week’s posts, for a chance to win!

You can also buy BOOK SCAVENGER at the following locations:




Barnes & Noble

Thanks for joining us here at Emu’s Debuts! Please visit again on June 3rd, 4th, and 5th for  new and exciting posts on Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s BOOK SCAVENGER.


Filed under Book Launch

Pin the Quote on the EMU & Win A Mystery Prize! It’s time to celebrate Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger!!

Do you love treasure hunts, puzzles and books? Then you’re going to love Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s Book Scavenger!!



It’s an homage to The Westing Game, westing


Edgar Allen Poe,


and the art of ciphering.

To celebrate Jenn’s book, we’re going to play a game of pin the quote on the Emu! Each Emu listed below picked a game that s/he would like to see come to life.  See if you can match the quote to the Emu’s listed below. Whoever accumulates the most points wins a signed copy of Book Scavenger plus a mystery prize! Each correct answer is worth one point.

Here are the quoted Emu’s in alphabetical order: Adam, Calista, Christine, Elaine, Janet, Jenn, Laurie, Luke,  Maria, Megan, Mylisa, Penny, Rebecca, Susan & Tam.


Ready? Set? Go!

Pin the quote on the Emu!


1).        I’d like to bring a Star Wars game to life. Space travel? The Force? Lightsabers? Yes, please. I’d either want to summon into existence a tabletop RPG campaign (like the amazing ones that my friend Lisa writes) or else I’d want to live in the 2003 Game of the Year: Knights of the Old Republic, the video game that made me love video games. Just thinking about that game makes me want to put on my Jedi robe (yes, I have one) and do katas while listening to John Williams. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…




2).        My vote goes to “Ticket to Ride,” the European edition. Who wouldn’t want to see a train-riding adventure come to life? One game I wouldn’t want to come to life: Ouija!!


ticket to ride


3).        Oh, BALDERDASH! I haven’t got a CLUE how to pick just UNO. At first I thought this question was a MASTERPIECE, but with all this AGGRAVATION it’s causing my CRANIUM, I think it’s a real brain TWISTER. I’m SORRY. It BOGGLEs my mind. I don’t want to RISK my reputation on such a TRIVIAL PURSUIT, but I have so much TROUBLE with my MEMORY. I could just SCRABBLE around for an answer that is absolute PERFECTION, but I’m no MASTERMIND. Well, I don’t want to have a MONOPLY on this whole OPERATION, so YAHTZEE what I can come up with.


4).        Two Emu’s would like to see the game Hungry Hungy Hippos come to life. Who are they? Worth two points!       hippos_


5).        It would be amazing to see a real-life game of Quidditch. quidditch  I’ve also been a longtime fan of Clue, but that wouldn’t be a great choice since it would involve, you know, murder.  clue_

Chutes and Ladders would probably be a lot of fun as a real-life game!    chutes

6).        I’d love to see Parchesi come to life. I played it with my Grandpa whenever he babysat me when I was little, and wouldn’t it be just incredible, to imagine that the four “pawns” from the game are really four children on a dangerous, remarkable mission? And they have to make it through 68 obstacles (spaces, in the game) in order to get back “home.”




7).        I would like to see Candy Land come to life with real candy/sweets at each stop. I would choose to be Gramma Nutt since she lives in a peanut brittle house on the corner of Candyland. I don’t think there would be much left of Gramma Nutt’s house by the end of the game. I’m sure I’d get hot playing this game, so I’d want to spend extra time at the bubbly Ice Cream Sea where Queen Frostine resides. My sweet tooth should be very happy by the end of the game.        candyland_

8).        I’d love to have a game like Jumanji come to life. The idea of falling into an “alternate world” and then have it pop into this one – especially with all those animals – I love it!



9).        So one of the favorite games in our house is WHO WHAT WHERE…you probably know it?  You pick a card from the WHO (famous person or creature), WHAT (activity), and WHERE (location) piles and then have to draw a scene that incorporates all three.  So, for example, you might have to draw Big Bird ice skating on the moon.  It is so much fun for every single person in the family…fun and often funny! I would love to see WHO WHAT WHERE come to life.  Can you imagine it?  You pull the cards and then the scene magically comes to life…life sized too!  You could watch it for a moment and jump in and ice skate with Big Bird!




10).      Minecraft! Not for myself, but for my kids. I actually think it’s a great game (in moderation!) for problem solving and design and spatial skills. If you could combine that with physical activity and a separatedimension for all the endless and tedious Minecraft conversations, that would be a huge win!




11).     I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons when I was a teenager. My favorite character was Crafty Christina. She was a high-level thief, but chaotic good alignment, so she only liked stealing from rich, evil people and monsters. She was a gnome, and she rode a giant German Shepherd, who also helped her in battle. Camping and adventuring with a band of trusted friends… what could be better?

  Then and Now

12).      I’m a big gamer, so I’ll go with my current love, Lord of the Rings Online. When it comes to life, I will be a hobbit minstrel upon a white horse, healing everything in my path with my harp. Unless it makes me mad. If it makes me mad, I’ll put down my harp and shriek at it until it explodes.  lord13).      There’s a TV commercial where a man gets dropped into a life-sized version of Pac-Man, and my kids all think it’s just the coolest.





It got me thinking about my favorite video game as a kid: Q-bert. How fun would it be to jump around turning all the squares around you different colors? Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think it would be fun to watch someone ELSE jump around and I could offer encouragement from the sidelines. Life-sized Frogger would be amazing too, but only if the players don’t end up flattened when they make a mistake!




14).      I had a deck of “Old Maid” cards when I was a kid, and they had the most captivating (to me) illustrations. Half the time I ended up just using that deck to tell stories about the characters in the pictures. It would be riot, now, to see what those characters would say to each other if they could.










Thanks again for helping us celebrate the launch for Book Scavenger! A general winner as well as a winner for this post will be announced on June 8th!


Want to hide or find a book, or see the latest activity, visit Book Scavenger’s website!


You can buy your very own copy of Book Scavenger at these locations:




Books a Million


Barnes & Noble


Good luck!!





Filed under Uncategorized

The Final Countdown

I have two weeks left until Book Scavenger will be found on shelves at bookstores and libraries. TWO WEEKS!

Last week, I received one of these in the mail:


That’s the real, official hardback you will find on bookshelves on June 2!


I’m struggling to think of the words for how I’m feeling right now. There’s gratitude, for sure. Excitement. Some stress and anxiety. But there’s something else too. My launch week is going to bring my writing journey full circle in a lot of different ways. I’ll be doing a presentation for 225 4th-6th graders at my former elementary school, where I first daydreamed about one day being an author myself. I’ll be visiting two Creative Writing classes at my former junior high. My first launch party will be held at the Linden Tree Bookstore, a children’s bookstore right by my hometown. I worked at the Linden Tree over ten years ago when I was in graduate school getting my MFA in Creative Writing. My second launch party will be held at Book Passage in San Francisco. The first children’s writing conference I ever attended (back in 2000, I think?) was put on by Book Passage. (That’s where I learned about, and subsequently joined, SCBWI.) And, of course, San Francisco is the city I lived in when I first began creating Book Scavenger.

Is there a word that means nostalgic satisfaction? I can trace the seeds of Book Scavenger through so many stages of my life, all the way back to when I won the bookworm contest in 1st grade and was awarded a hardback of Little House on the Prairie. The aspiration to be an author has always been there. It sometimes became dormant if I felt like I was kidding myself, but it was still there in its brown and brittle form. It feels good to have finally finished a book, this book in particular, and to be happy with its final form. I’ve never been a runner, but I imagine publishing Book Scavenger is how it might feel to do a marathon. A decade-long marathon. Except with a marathon, you get to the finish and that’s the end of the race. And for me, I’m hoping this is just the beginning . . .


(If you will be in the San Francisco Bay Area on June 5 and 6, I’d love to see you at one of the launch parties! Click here for more information about the June 5 event in Los Altos, CA, and here for more information about the June 6 event in San Francisco.)



jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Learn more about the book at BookScavenger.com. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under Dreams Come True, Happiness, Launch, Satisfaction, Thankfulness, Uncategorized, Writing and Life

When Your Idea Gets Published By Someone Else First

Writers, does this scenario strike fear in your heart? You’re working on a project, you’re invested in it, excited, feeling confident that finally, finally, FINALLY you’ve hit on an idea that’s really clicking for you. And then *screeeeeching brakes*: A book is published with a too-similar premise.

If you relate to this, or worry about it happening, then I have a story you might like to hear:

51ysrNDhV3L._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I started writing Book Scavenger in 2003. The beginning seed of my idea was this image of kids finding a mysterious book in a BART station, but I wasn’t sure where to go from there. I thought maybe the book they found would be special because the characters could come out into the real world. Yes! I got really excited about this idea. It seemed cool and original–and then I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. If you’re not familiar with Inkheart, read it, it’s fantastic, but it has a similar premise to my initial idea and I lost all confidence in myself being able to do something similar.

But I was stch_book1till stuck on this image of kids finding a book in a BART station and having an adventure in San Francisco. I switched gears and latched onto a new puzzle mystery direction, and came up with the idea for this website/real world bookhunting game . . . In 2004, there was still a big divide between the internet and publishing. Terms like “multiplatform storytelling” and “transmedia” weren’t being thrown around for books back then. I was sure I had latched onto something original and fresh–and then I heard about a new series Scholastic would be launching the following year called 39 Clues with Rick Riordan heading the first book. There would be ELEVEN books, each written by a big name author, with the characters on a worldwide scavenger hunt for clues, and there was also a website/game tie in.

I was crushed. While it wasn’t my exact idea, it shared enough similarities that I no longer felt confident mine would stand out.

9780316003957_p0_v1_s260x420My grand vision deflated like a balloon, and the only thing that kept me moving forward with this now floppy idea of a book was a one-on-one session I had with an editor at a SCBWI conference. She had read the first ten pages of my draft and her written feedback was a short paragraph that began “This is really cool,” and ended with, “Would you send me the whole manuscript? I’d love to read it!”

Wonderful, right? It was, absolutely, but the problem was that I had less than 40 pages written. Not only that, but the idea I had in mind for this book felt too ambitious for my writing skills at the time. I wasn’t sure I could execute it, and definitely didn’t think I could execute it quickly. What if I invested all this time writing this book only to find out I couldn’t pull it off? Or what if I invested all this time and did pull it off, only to have editors and agents point to 39 Clues and say, “Too late. Been done.”

What it bpuzzlingworldoiled down to was this: If I turned down the dial on all the noise–the industry gossip, what else is being published, what do editors want/not want–if I just thought about my characters and my story, I was still incredibly passionate about my idea. I still wanted to understand the mystery behind the book these kids had found in the BART station. I still wanted to see if I could create a Goonies-esque story set in San Francisco. The personal challenge was worth it to me, even if one of my worst-case scenarios came true.

So I kept going with my book. I’d be lying if I said from that moment on I was a fiery ball of confidence that could not be extinguished. But I kept going. I think I was on my third re-write 9780061214509when The Mysterious Benedict Society was published and became a bestseller. There was also The Gollywhopper Games series and the Winston Breen puzzle mysteries, and too many more similar-sounding middle grade mysteries to keep track of.

The summer I sold Book Scavenger in a three-book deal, ALL eleven of the 39 Clues books had been published as well as the first few books of a second 39 Clues series. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library was published and has gone on to be a long-running NY Times bestseller.

Fast forward to today16054808, my publisher is including Book Scavenger on a read-alike poster for libraries which says “If you liked The Mysterious Benedict Society, try Book Scavenger.” (They were going to use Mr. Lemoncello, but that title was included on their poster the year before.) And Jody Feldman, who writes the Gollywhopper Games series, was kind enough to blurb my book. I’m friendly with Eric Berlin, who writes the Winston Breen series, and we share the same agent.

In short, I think a lot of the early success Book Scavenger is now finding could be partly attributed to the path paved by these similar books that came before. I didn’t have to fear the familiar. Every title I mentioned here would likely appeal to the same reader, but they are each unique stories. There is room on the bookshelf for us all.

It can be hard to find that balance between looking to what others are doing for inspiration, but then not letting what others are doing deter you from something. It’s important to remember that it is your spin that will set something apart. Don’t let news of a comparable book knock the wind out of your sails. Just look at it as a challenge to make sure you’re digging deep and tapping into the YOU essence of the story. And keep going.


jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under Uncategorized

What Would Garrison Griswold Do?


If you’re coming back to hear my big plan, scroll down to the end for the update! 

I’ve been in the midst of making promotional plans for Book Scavenger. I’ve sought out advice from other authors on what they recommend and don’t recommend for your debut book, and the only bit of advice that everyone seems to agree on is this: The best thing you can do to promote your first book is write your next book.

Okay, cool, I’m doing that! I have two more books scheduled to come out in 2016 and 2017, and I’m currently working on both simultaneously. One is in the outline/first draft stage, and the other is nearing the end of its second revision. (I feel like those last two sentences make me sound very organized in my writing process. I am not. I wrote “working on two books simultaneously” but really it feels more like spinning in circles while juggling cats.)

But still, even if everyone agrees the best thing you can do is write the next book, I can’t do nothing for my debut. If for no other reason than I’m excited about it! I want people to hear about it. So many people have had a hand in shaping the book–early readers and critique partners, teachers, my agent, my editor, the art director, production editor, copyeditor . . . And the illustrations! Sarah Watt’s work is so freakin’ cool and takes the book to a whole other level. The book that will be in bookstores and libraries has been a team effort, and I’m proud of it. Even if readers hate it, I want Book Scavenger to have a fighting chance of surviving in the retail world, and that won’t happen if readers don’t hear about it in the first place.


Illustration by Sarah Watts

So I wanted to do something fun to celebrate Book Scavenger and spread the word about its existence. What to do, what to do? That’s where Garrison Griswold comes in.

Garrison Griswold is a central character in Book Scavenger. He’s this larger than life, eccentric book publisher who’s a huge game and puzzle fanatic. He thrives on thinking up elaborate games and making them happen–something that has earned him the reputation of being “the Willy Wonka of book publishing.” A reputation, by the way, that he loves to play up. Book Scavenger is one of his game creations. It’s a website and a real world book hunting game where players hide used books in public places and then upload clues to the website for other book scavengers to solve in order to seek out the books. (Kind of a mashup of Book Crossing, Geocaching, and Little Free Libraries, with a dash of influence from video games I played as a kid.)

I wanted to do something in the spirit of Garrison Griswold, but I couldn’t go all out Garrison Griswold because that guy has resources that I do not. (He rented out the San Francisco Giants stadium in order to break the Guinness World Record for largest group Bingo game, for example. I can’t do that.)

But I did come up with something that’s big, by my standards at least, and fortunately my publisher was on board. I hope it will be fun and will make Mr. Griswold proud. I’ll be putting this plan into action on Wednesday and will update here with a link to the info, but for now here’s a teaser video (which offers a clue–something I know Mr. G would approve of):

UPDATE: So I mentioned I have something fun in the works . . . 

I am excited to share the new website for my book series, designed by the awesome Jenny Medford of Websy Daisy. To celebrate this, I’m giving away 50 advance copies of Book Scavenger–yes, 50!–with the hope that the recipients will help launch a book hunting game in the spirit of the one in my novel. Read the post on BookScavenger.com to find out all the details!


jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under ARCs, Book Promotion, Celebrations, Dreams Come True, Illustrators, Promotion, Writing and Life


On Thursday Mylisa wrote about covers, and I couldn’t agree with her more. Covers are a big deal! My cover was previously revealed on Mr. Colby Sharp’s blog along with an interview, but I also wanted to share a bit about my cover here.

When my editor emailed me with the name of the illustrator she had hired for Book Scavenger, I immediately googled her name: Sarah Watts. I was thrilled with what I found. Sarah is so talented, and her illustration style was exactly the direction I was hoping my publisher would go in. But appreciating someone’s artistic talent is not the same as knowing what your cover will look like. And then one day in November, my editor emailed me the final cover. I loved it. Absolutely loved it. I love how the burgundy of the title and the book Emily is holding pop against the blues. I love that you can see a gold bug on the miniature book cover, and that James’s hair is poking up, and that there are two birds hovering in the sky. I love the flying books, and even more so, I love how if I let my vision blur then the books take on the look of fog, which is such a staple of San Francisco. I love the running Emily and James next to my name. I love that this cover says “mystery” to me, but also sets the tone for the type of mystery that it is.

Did I mention I love my cover? Yeah, I do. April Ward designed this beauty, Sarah Watts created the cover art, and I am so thankful to them both.



jenn.bertman-2002139Jennifer Chambliss Bertman is the author of the forthcoming middle-grade mystery, Book Scavenger (Christy Ottaviano Books/Henry Holt/Macmillan, 2015). Book Scavenger launches a contemporary mystery series that involves cipher-cracking, book-hunting, and a search for treasure through the streets of San Francisco. Jennifer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College, Moraga, CA, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

You can find Jennifer online at http://writerjenn.blogspot.com where she runs an interview series with children’s book authors and illustrators called “Creative Spaces.”


Filed under cover art, Happiness, Thankfulness