Selected Works

A 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 new YA novel
A collection of essays about Fairy Tales

Quick Links

Transformations in Writing

Beetle Boy Reception making me VERY BUSY

September 27, 2014

Tags: Beetle Boy, Writing Life

Beetle Boy, coming on strong
I am so easily distracted by news about my novel, this Beetle nightmare novel that dropped on Sept. 1. This novel I expected to be ignored (no false modesty here. Very proud of the novel, but it doesn't fit into any neat or currently popular categories). I have had so many wonderful things happen already, among them the starred reviews (see my home page), the book's appearance on several "recommended" lists, the Publishers Weekly pick of the week mention and several thoughtful blog reviews. And so I have been scattered and unfocused by all of this positive reception and unable to settle back into my two current projects--my essay collection about the fairy tales of my childhood and my husband's unfolding memoir of growing up in Canada with Quebecois parents and grandparents (which I am happily ghostwriting).
But I have all day today! And I have all day tomorrow! I have two more essay that are near-completion. That will be my goal for the weekend--finish! And move on. And stay away from the social media roller coaster and get back in the cave and come out only to eat.

From the Blog of Andrew Karre, Editor for Beetle Boy!

August 11, 2014

Tags: Beetle Boy, Carolrhoda Lab, Four Secrets, Writing Life

My editor at Carolrhoda Lab posted a wonderful blog last week about the special gifts of what he called "the long view," a nice way of commending older writers who continue bringing unique visions to their sometimes formulaic genres. He also commends The Horn Book Magazine for its historic reach and appreciation for good literature regardless of trends. The blog is here.

Thank you to Andrew Karre at Carolrhoda Lab Books.

What Really Matters

August 6, 2014

Tags: Writing Life, little Beatrice

We are reading Babar Learns to Cook, a great favorite of Beatrice's mother, Chloe Joanisse.
This is the crux of my writing life; sharing stories for children, bringing to life the power of books and words and poems and stories. This is my granddaughter Beatrice, named after my husband's mother, who was the inspiration for my CLEVER BEATRICE books. No matter what I write, no matter how it is received, the moment captured in this photo in August is at the beating heart of all my work. It is fleeting and ordinary. It means everything to me.

August - Finishing & Preparing to Submit Essays

August 29, 2013

Tags: Writing Life

A favorite Thumbelina image
August has been memorable for me because unlike most Augusts, I have been working in my office full time. Even on the weekends, I worked hard and faithfully. Partly this was because I have been engrossed in a particularly meaningful editing job. But also I have been tinkering with my childhood essays for a collection. Each essay focuses on a particular fairy tale and how it connects to my very real childhood (how it took hold of me and didn't let go). These essays have been a joy to write and rewrite because they involve old obsessions, childhood fears and longings, some of which are still part of my day to day life. Here are a few of the tales I am drawing from: Thumbelina, Jack the Giant Killer, The Little Mermaid, The Handless Maiden, The Little Match Girl.

In my introduction, I discuss being the helpful daughter who cleaned the family bathroom for cash (a for-hire Cinderella) and how I am still recovering.

Bearish Gratitude

July 18, 2013

Tags: Picture Books, Bears, Writing Life

This week I got the lovely news that The 3 Bears and Goldilocks, my take on this ancient story, has been reprinted. I had also recently received the news that all 3 Beatrice books have been reprinted and are thus, "still alive" in the children's book world Even though I am so involved now with longer fictions, including adult fiction, I am so grateful that these books are still out there, still being purchased by parents and librarians. Sometimes I will read an entry on a blog by someone who has just discovered one of my picture books and is responding to it as though it were just published! That is a treat beyond words. And being able to still connect with children, through these books, has never been more important to me.

And I know I have a few more good picture books in me. Just have a few good novels to finish first!

Another Emotional Boy with a Story to Tell

February 21, 2013

Tags: Beetle Boy, Writing Life, Boy Narrators

Manuscript for Beetle Boy
I have sold Beetle Boy to Carolrhoda Lab and I am so happy about it. It is another novel narrated by a sensitive boy--like Nate Wilson, tortured but noble in his integrity and his compassion. It has set me to thinking about why I am now so much more comfortable writing in the voice of such a boy--Pete Shelton, Nate Wilson and now Charlie--especially considering that my earlier novels were so girl-centered (a good example: The Melinda Zone). Perhaps it is the adolescent boys I have known since I first started writing for teenagers and my appreciation for their struggle. Somehow I believe in a wellspring of romanticism and emotional innocence in boys that no longer seems possible for girls, given what society asks of girls in the 21st century. Girls need to be harder, more wary, more defensive, more angry. With a boy, I can create a reluctant warrior, a sweeter creature torn by sexual longings and sexual ignorance. An adolescent confused about manhood and yet wanting to be manly in the best sense of the word. That is Charlie. I am so fortunate to have a manly editor to keep me in line regarding Charlie's voice and Charlie's dilemma. Think there is another essay in here somewhere.

February is best for Deep Writing

February 9, 2013

Tags: Writing Life

A recent discovery: January is still too post-holiday hectic. Withdrawal from family is impossible and unwanted. But February. Everything slows and whitens and stills in the February cold. The new novel hums. Writing about 3 new pages a day. I know, not very much, but A LOT of writing for the tortoise of a writer that is me.

Return to Juvie

February 4, 2013

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

Talking to residents about how I wrote FOUR SECRETS
One of the highlights of a quiet January was spending an afternoon at the Ottawa County Juvenile Detention Center, the facility that I used as the setting for my novel. The experience was, from beginning to end, almost unbearably meaningful. 30 kids at the JVC had read the novel and had questions for me about plotting and characters. Most of the questions were WHY questions; WHY did I write Nate's journal in the language I chose; WHY did I make Renata an artist. It was a perfect opportunity to talk about decision-making in writing. We talked a lot about the illustrations. At the end of my presentation, each student gave me a thank you note in the shape of a crow. A few girls lingered at the end of the afternoon, wanting their picture taken with me. They were just girls. They were just kids. My heart sang with gratitude for the rest of the day. Special thanks to Carmen Dahlhoff for all her good work to make this happen.

One of the centerpieces at the MAME Conference, Lansing Michigan

November 5, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

Ah, the crows.
Part of the warm welcome for my book. Who knew FOUR SECRETS would lead to such striking centerpieces?

"Ah, the crows...crows symbolize bad luck, Mrs. Shield. I have had some very bad luck lately."--Renata Le Cortez

But it was VERY GOOD LUCK luck for me to be invited to give my first presentation about writing 4 Secrets to a fine group of Michigan school librarians and media educators.

Special thanks to Past MAME President Cyndi Phillip and Decorations Diva Dee Gwaltney.

Wonderful time at MAME

November 4, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

look how the podium was decorated. Love it!
School librarians--the best and warmest and most learned audience a children's author could hope for. FOUR SECRETS warmly received. Much concern among librarians about bullying. Photo courtesy of Shelley Lazarus.

Very passionate blog review of FS

October 15, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Bullies, Writing Life

This was not just another blog review for me. This one deeply moved me because the book so deeply moved the blogger. It's from Feathered Quill.

"In this amazing YA novel, not only has the author gone in-depth on this subject, but does so by offering a mysterious plot, fantastic characters, and a wealth of emotions that will truly leave the reader with something to think about!...(T)he writing is remarkable, and being able to spotlight this very dangerous problem while still weaving an unforgettable plot, shows that this is one author with a true gift! Quill Says: Buy this! Now!"

Read the full review here

Ramblings about Bullying since it's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month

October 11, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Bullies, Writing Life

It's Bullying Prevention Awareness Month
Later in the fall I will be speaking in several Chicago schools about FOUR SECRETS and my thoughts about the social problem of bullying in schools. Tonight I am wondering if there is anything to be said about bullying that hasn't already been said.

Do students really need to hear another adult tell them how much pain is inflicted by the mundane cruelties of the modern high school?

Aren't the very terms--bully, bullying, bullied--starting to have the empty ring of cliche for many teenagers?

I want to use my book as an example of how an episode of bullying cracks the surface of a life and takes a child into a place of psychological trauma. It requires courage, stamina, will and resolve to just GO to school when you are being bullied. Standing up to bullies calls for heroism and self-awareness. The self-awareness is what can turn the experience into art--the response of the artist, writer, musician, dancer, athlete--some form of action and creation to counteract the helplessness that the victims of bullying feel.

Art is connection. Counteract bullying with ART. Words, colors, shapes, sounds, movement, spirit. Push back. Keep track. Guard your unique and precious souls by telling the truth of what is happening to you.

More thoughts to come.

THE BULLY PROJECT: A phenomenal site about bully prevention HERE

**Starred Review for FOUR SECRETS**

October 1, 2012

Tags: 4 secrets, Writing Life

On the official publication date, Oct. 1, this great news!

"...Willey's story masterfully teases out information until the final pages--and the ultimate revelations are well worth the TORTURE!"
--Booklist, starred review

Yeah, Social Workers!

September 30, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

The author with a social worker at the Bookman!
This is Kelly Oom, who came to my book signing, and who has worked for years with Juvenile Offenders in the Grand Haven area. She was one of several social workers who inspired me to create Greta Shield and to keep 4 Secrets (and my scenes of juvenile detention) authentic and believable. Plus they all inspired me to make Greta Shield a social worker who WORKS TOO HARD FOR KIDS IN TROUBLE.

Who has a problem with that???

The Art Teacher

September 30, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

The Author with Angie Johnson, the real art teacher at the JDC. The Bookman party Sept. 27th.
Angie Johnson spent time with me both in and out of the JDC, talking about what it's like to teach art to kids who are in juvenile detention. And so I had to put an art teacher in FOUR SECRETS, someone who knew just how much all the kids needed her, not just the artistic kids, like Renata, but all the kids, with their nightmares and strife and stories without words.

Wonderful Hometown Booksigning

September 30, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Life

It was so wonderful to celebrate the publication of my book, which is officially "available" October 1, at my local indie bookstore. I am happily signing away in the background at the BOOKMAN in Grand Haven, Michigan, a charming and lively bookstore that has supported me for over 30 years! I gave away many books to the many people who helped me make this book happen--some are mentioned in the acknowledgement pages at the end of FOUR SECRETS, but there were others, and it was such a pleasure to hand these helpful people a real book and say: "See? All those questions and phone calls and note-taking--and now a book really happened!"

Wonderful evening!

Haunting Trailer for FOUR SECRETS

September 27, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Bullies, Writing Life

with Jeff Joanisse, director of the trailer.


I am delirious with excitement about the trailer for FOUR SECRETS. It was created by my stepson, Jeff Joanisse, an accomplished director and filmmaker, from a script I wrote using quotes from the characters. The kids in the trailer are friends of my grandson, Isaac Joanisse--Maya Denslow (Renata), Cam Lund (Nate) and Kylee Kowalksi (Katie). They did an amazing job and I loved using all local (Grand Haven & Spring Lake) talent. We shot it at an empty room in the Piano Factory building in downtown Grand Haven. The piano music is courtesy of the fantastic local musician Garrett Born. Very very proud of the effort put into this bleak little gem of a book trailer. View it here

Promoting, Connecting, Preparing

September 3, 2012

Tags: 4 Secrets, Writing Process, Writing Life

Back when I published my first novel--an event which has been on my mind, perhaps because my daughter is now the age I was when I had her and when my first novel was published--it was completely unnecessary to do the sort of self-promotion and self-generated publicity that is now an integral part of the profession. In fact, there was a supposition that my job was to WRITE, a private and solitary act, and that all of the other aspects of having a book published were assigned to the experts--my first editor, Laura Geringer; my first publicist, Bill Morris, my first agent, whose name escapes me. I did nothing, NOTHING, to promote, or sell, or publicize my own books, and nothing was expected of me. My work was sent out into the wide world by others and everything was carefully filtered for me, filtered and fluffed, so that nothing would discourage or confuse me--the new writer, she-who-must-be-protected, exposed to the marketplace gently.

How lucky I was, to have published at all during that era, certainly an easier time for writers who are shy and love their privacy. I never even made a phone call on my own behalf--I just waited for others to promote me, knowing that the rewards of writing a good book would come. And rewards did come--strong sales, invitations to speak, citations and awards--all without any effort from me beyond doing my best to write the books I was meant to write.

Well...I have just spent the past month, getting my book and my name out, out, out into the marketplace, with the invaluable help of a seasoned publicist, but I am experiencing up close and personal, the changing role of the writer in our overly-interconnected world where buzz and speed and promotion is everything!