Selected Works

A Rather Adult Young Adult Novel, 2014
A Young Adult novel, 2012
Adults and Young Adults
A 2010 Green Earth Book Awards Honor Book
Younger Readers
A new twist to a very old story. Beautifully illustrated by Heather Solomon.
A tall tale from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Winner of the 2002 Charlotte Zolotow Award for best writing in a picture book. Available in hardcover and paperback.
Works in Progress
A middle grade novel
A collection of essays about Fairy Tales

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Transformations in Writing

My Essay in The Horn Book about Madeline L'Engle's Early Novel CAMILLA

November 12, 2014

Tags: writing life

Reissue of Madeline L'Engle's Camilla
From the Horn Book, Fall 2014, an essay about CAMILLA and the long view of writing for teenagers. Read it here

"CAMILLA is narrated by a princess, one who lives with her parents in a New York City penthouse. The novel was published long before there was a young adult genre as we know it today, but it contains all the elements of the classic YAs of the late twentieth century — a journey out of childhood, a hypersensitive girl, a pace providing ample time for deep reflection. The reader participates in a clean, well-documented metamorphosis, wisely told by a girl who embodies the most cherished aspects of twentieth-century female adolescence — at least in literature: hope, compassion, and a fearless, unflinching honesty."

Perceptive, Provocative and Starred, BCCB Review

November 11, 2014

Tags: Beetle Boy

end paper
R* Gr. 8-12

"The strata of Charlie’s trauma peel back gradually through dreams and flashbacks to reveal a highly sensitive boy who was badly used and then abandoned by his opportunistic father; readers will feel the ache screaming from his dreams into his waking responses, which would otherwise seem inexplicably harsh. His debt to Martha threatens to go sadly unpaid until he confronts his own sense of guilt and responsibility for his brother and his mother, making for a subtle yet psychologically resonant conclusion."

Why Mrs. M.? Responding to questions from readers about this snide and cantankerous character.

November 6, 2014

Tags: Beetle Boy, Mrs. M. Writing Life

She looked away from me and said to no one in particular, “What a miserable profession
this has become. Broken, broken people.”
“Excuse me,” I objected. “I am not broken. I’ve sold eighteen books today, and my dad said
I only had to sell fifteen.”
“Well, at least your pimp is having a good day. Go back to your table. You’re not supposed
to talk to me, remember?”
“They’re her stories,” I blurted. “They’re the stories my mom used to tell us at bedtime. To
help us get to sleep.”
Mrs. M. sighed. “The pimping deepens. Oh, we’re all pimps, Charlie. Pretending to care
about our sad little readers. Pretending our silly stories help them.”
“I don’t think they help,” I said, another huge confession. “They sure aren’t helping me...
Okay, gotta go. Good luck with your writing, Mrs. M.”
As I hurried away she called, “Good luck with your childhood.”

First of all, let me say how much I love Mrs. M. and how much I loved creating her, giving her a voice, making her say all those cryptic things about children and books and what she calls the “strip shows” of children’s literature conferences. If you have been in the business ofwriting books for children as long as I have, you have endured many Mrs. M. moments. It was very cathartic to create her, to make her cynical and suspicious of false sentiment and also unsure of the worth of her own contributions to her genre. She knows that much of it is contrived and weightless.
The real joy of creating a character like her became clearer to me when I shared bits of scenes in Beetle Boy as a novel-in-progress with writer friends. My writer’s support group howled in recognition at the darkness I was conveying about our chosen professions. They loved it. They told me to keep going. They thanked me for creating Mrs. M. She is, as I suspected, at the bloody heart of our efforts to reach children and yet remain the jaded, critical-eyed adults we really are.
I have always hated seeing children used and exploited by their parents for money and attention. I have seen it both in and outside my profession and I have been unable to rescue the children involved as Mrs. M. rescues poor Charlie Porter. What joy to create a character who can create a place of safety for a child in so much need. If we are serious in our work for children, then we all have a bit of Mrs. M. in us, snorting in derision at the ways we hide behind sentimentality and superficiality, wishing we truly had more to offer the children who need us most.