Archive for the ‘Author Spotlight’ Category


YASH INFOThis bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for the grand prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on TEAM TEAL! 


But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours! Enter here!

So, who am I? My debut YA novel, MY BEST EVERYTHING is a love story steeped in moonshine. My main character Lulu is so desperate to take charge of her future and to leave her small Virginia hometown, she cooks up a scheme to make and sell moonshine to pay for her college education… but things don’t quite work out the way she planned. She never expected to fall for Mason, a boy with no future.

Somewhere along the way on this hunt, I will share an exclusive bonus scene for MY BEST EVERYTHING –  where Mason gets his turn to share how things started. In it he describes meeting Lulu on that first fateful night. And Roni tries to write a song, too. Be sure to keep blog-hopping! Collect those numbers!

In addition to the grand prize, right here, below, you can also enter to win a copy of MY BEST EVERYTHING, a mason jar, and book-themed coasters.

And now… I am so very delighted to introduce

Sharon RoatSHARON HUSS ROAT, the author of BETWEEN THE NOTES, out from HarperTeen June 16, 2015! 

Sharon Huss Roat grew up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Delaware with her husband (who makes fonts), her son (who makes music), and her daughter (who makes believe!). She worked in public relations for twenty years before deciding what she really wanted to be when she grew up. BETWEEN THE NOTES is her debut novel. When she’s not writing (or reading) books for young adults, you might find her planting vegetables in her backyard garden or sewing costumes for a school musical.

Between the Notes by Sharon Huss RoatAbout the book:

After her family loses their house, Ivy is forced to move from her affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, aka “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy at school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel… and there is no way to stop them. As things get to a breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were… including herself. Pre-order it now! (Thank me later!)

Personally, I love when lives unravel – I’m cruel that way – and I love that it sounds like Ivy’s life is complicated and complex. I can’t wait to read it!


A tattooed arm, lean but well-muscled, stuck out the window. It looked familiar, and when I lifted my gaze to the driver’s face I knew where I’d seen it before. Or, rather, where I’d ignored it before.

 The tattoo—an intricate pattern of chains and gears—belonged to none other than Lennie Lazarski, a senior at Vanderbilt High School, and its most notorious druggie.

His long black hair, always tied in a ponytail at school, hung wet and loose around his face like he’d just showered. He looked me up and down, the corner of his mouth curling into a crooked grin.

 “Ivy. Emerson.” He punctuated my name like that, slowly, in two parts.

 I didn’t think it necessary to acknowledge that I was, indeed, Ivy Emerson. Or that I knew who he was. Not that I could’ve spoken if I wanted to. My mouth was suddenly very dry, and my throat… My throat was doing its squeezed tight thing. I stared at him, blinking. Hoping he’d disappear.

 Lazarski’s eyes darted from me to our car to the brown house and back to me. He let out a single, raspy snort of laughter, then gunned the Jeep’s engine again and drove off, stirring up a cloud of dust that billowed at my feet. 

 Ummmm. And oh my. Mmmm-Hmmm. 
You know I like a bad boy! Can’t you just hear him say her name – but mean something completely different? Watch out, Ivy. Ivy Emerson…
Thanks for stopping by today! You can find me here, on this blog that I co-host with my Super Blog Buddy, Suzanne Santillan, or on my own website. I’d love to hang out with you on Twitter @swtomp and/or Facebook!
Before you head on your way, don’t forget to enter below for your chance to win 3 prizes from me…

That’s right, 3 prizes!

GIVEAWAY UPDATE! So sorry, YASH-ers – my giveaway expired a little too early! But I’ll be doing more giveaways later this month, so leave a comment if you’d like me to let you know when those go live! 

And nowwww… head on over to see who’s visiting AMELIA KAHANEY

Have fun and good luck! You can’t win if you don’t buy  enter a ticket #YASH!

~Sarah Tomp

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I’ve competed before but this year I am delighted to be a host and participant of the best one yet! There are SIX teams this year – I am part of TEAM TEAL -which means, potentially, the opportunity to win at least 120 books! Maybe even more! ENTER HERE! Go Team Teal!

Team Teal (2)The hunt runs from tomorrow, April 2 through Sunday, April 5; beginning and ending at noon Pacific Time.

If you’ve never been a part of the hunt before – or even if you have –  you should give it a try!

It runs like a giant blog hop, introducing you to new YA authors and books along the way. There are tons of prizes including a grand prize for each team. As you travel from website to website, you collect that particular author’s favorite number highlighted in their team color. Keep track of the numbers and add them up (calculators are permitted) – and once you’ve visited all 20 blogs, you can submit your answer and, if correct, you are entered in the drawing for the GRAND PRIZE!  If you win one of the grand prizes you will get a book from each author on that team! AKA 20 BOOKS!

As part of TEAM TEAL. I will be giving away a copy of MY BEST EVERYTHING, along with a mason jar and 2 book-themed coasters. Swagalicious!

Somewhere along the way I will be sharing a bonus scene where Mason describes meeting Lulu for the first time. And Roni makes up a song to go with it!

I’m super-excited to introduce you to the author I’ll be hosting here – along with an exclusive excerpt – ooooo-la-la. I do hope you’ll stop by and make her feel welcome!

And then! Once you have completed the TEAL challenge – because you are STILL SO EXCITED and want to hear about EVEN MORE BOOKS, you can go and visit all the other teams’ blogs and hunts!

For more information and to make sure you get hunt updates, sign up for news on the #YASH website.

I hope you’ll play along! 


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Sherry Shahan

Today we are pleased to shine the light on author Sherry Shahan

Sherry’s bio

Sherry Shahan graduated with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2007. She has written several novels, including Purple  Daze, a gripping story set in the 1960s about war, feminism, riots, love, racism, rock ‘n’ roll, and friendship. 

Her Alaskan-based adventure Ice Island (Random House) features teens and their faithful huskies. As a travel journalist, she has ridden horseback with zebras in Kenya, snorkeled with penguins in the Galapagos, and hiked a leech-infested rain forest in Australia.

When not writing or traveling around the world Sherry spends her time at dance conventions. Even though she’s never won a contest—at least not yet—she loves to dress up in sparkly clothes and wear false eyelashes.

Her new novel Skin and Bones is just out from Albert Whitman. This quirky story features teens in an Eating Disorders Unit of a metropolitan hospital. The main character Jack (aka ‘Bones’) is a 16-year-old male suffering from anorexia. His roommate ‘Lard’ is a compulsive over-eater. [Sarah shared her thoughts in an earlier post.]


WOTS: How did Skin and Bones come to be?

skinandbonesSHERRY: Skin and Bones grew from a short story I wrote years ago. Then titled “Iris and Jim,” it sold quickly to a major literary journal. Later, a London publisher included it in their YA anthology, and later in their Best of collection. In total the story has appeared eight times worldwide. My agent kept encouraging me to expand it into a YA novel.

WOTS: Smart agent! But why did you choose a male protagonist?

SHERRY: Anorexia and bulimia are often considered a ‘girl’s disease.’ So I wanted to delve into the psychological mindset from a different perspective. According to The Alliance for Eating Disorders Awareness, this disorder affects approx. 25 million Americans, in which 25% are male. 

WOTS: While reading, I felt like I was in good hands—that you knew your material. Can you share your research process for Skin and Bones?

SHERRY: Fortunately, I’m one of those writers who enjoys research, which was extensive in both Purple Daze (set in the tumultuous 1960s) and Ice Island (dog sledding in Alaska). For Skin and Bones I read memoirs written by males and females with all types of addictions. I noticed certain commonalities. Self-centeredness, for instance, and refined skills of manipulation. Guilt, which often spirals into self-loathing, feeds the vicious circle. I spent countless hours online scouring medical sites about the long-term effects of eating disorders. I was astounded to learn that one anorexic girl became so thin that her body produced fur to keep her warm. 

WOTS: This is tough stuff. Do you have any words of advice for those struggling with an eating disorder?

SHERRY: I empathize with those who have become obsessed with their body image. Although it is understandable since we’re constantly bombarded with images pressuring us to look perfect, from film celebrities and magazine models to ads for Victoria’s Secret. Thankfully, treatment is available throughout the country. The Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) lists eating disorder support groups by state. A free brochure “How to Help a Friend” is available to download. ANAD website: www.anad.org. Email: anadhelp@anad.org. Helpline: 630-577-1330. [SEE MORE RESOURCES LISTED AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW]

WOTS: As a writer of books for all ages do you have any suggests for those considering this path?

SHERRY: My career began with shorter writing forms: magazines and newspaper articles, short stories, essays, etc. When I decided to try writing for children young nonfiction seemed natural. Moving back and forth from short nonfiction (younger readers) to novels keeps me on my toes; I’m never bored. Also, shorter projects, such as picture books or easy readers are a nice break from novels. I have two Step-into-Reading titles coming out from Random House, A Little Butterfly and Feeding Time at the Zoo.

WOTS: I love your versatility! What are you working on now?

SHERRY: A painfully complicated YA novel about the psychological effects of short- and long-term abduction. Right now I’m buried in research.

WOTS: Ooooo! Sounds intriguing. Thanks for visiting today, Sherry!

SHERRY: Thanks so much, Sarah!  

Other resources for people struggling with eating disorders:

The National Eating Disorders Ass. (NEDA)

The National Association for Males with Eating Disorders, Inc. (NAMED)

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I am happy to announce that friend of the blog, author David Biedrzycki, has a new book release- Me and My Dragon: Scared of Halloween

Book Description:

In this follow-up to Me and My Dragon, a boy runs into an unexpected problem when preparing to go trick-or-treating for Halloween: his pet dragon is scared silly of this spooky holiday! Zombies, werewolves, mummies . . . they all make Dragon run and hide. How will the boy convince Dragon that these things aren’t real, and what costume will the duo come up with for this unconventional pet?

In honor of this new release, I thought it would be fun to meet Sparky the Dragon. I asked the author to give us a little more info on his lovable, goofy, dragon.


Character Spotlight:

Full Character name:    Sparky and the boy’s name is Hameer

Brief physical description:

Sparky is an American Red Fire Breathing Dragon (Draconem Americanus Respiratio Ignis Rubeus) 

Sparky is 14 feet long from nose to tip of tail, Fully grown he will be anywhere from 16-18 feet 200-250lbs (90-114kg) 

Strengths and weaknesses:

Very loyal and good with children.

Not good with dogs.


Loves brussel sprouts. 

It’s recommended not to feed the fire breathing specie broccoli, it will cause them to pass highly flammable gas. 

Inspiration for your story:

Growing up I was lucky to have four dogs. They were my buddies. We did a lot of fun things together. The Me and My Dragon series shares those fond memories of having a pet who is your best friend. 

Background for the story:

Originally what started out as a story about a boy and his dog turned into a story about a boy and his pet dragon. The character is that of a dog trapped in a dragon’s body.


 If you’d like to learn more about David or his books check out his website at www.davidbiedrzycki.com.
Happy Reading,
Suzanne Santillan
Writing on the Sidewalk

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Nan Marino author of Neil Armstrong is my Uncle and Other Tales Muscle Man McGinty Told Me has penned a new novel Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. I thought it might be nice to meet a few of the characters from Nan’s new book. It’s always fascinating to find out the story behind the story and today I learned some rather interesting things. I didn’t know about the Pinelands of New Jersey and I certainly had never heard of amusia. I hope you enjoy reading about these fun characters.

hidingoutFull Character name:  Elvis Aaron Ruby

Brief physical description:

Elvis has superstar good looks. He starts out with his trademark long curly locks, but since he’s “hiding out” from the paparazzi, he gets his hair cut (by a librarian!).

Strengths and weaknesses:  Elvis oozes charisma and he knows it. (It’s both his best and worst quality).  He’s a musical prodigy who along with his musical sister Cher has spent his whole life performing on stage. Music is so much a part of him that he can’t imagine life without it. And yet he’s stopped playing. Now he has to try to make it as a regular kid.

Quirks:  This is a story about going incognito so it’s important that Elvis hides his quirks. It’s not easy to do though, especially when your world famous and your every gesture has been studied and imitated by your fans. When he gets nervous, he likes to run his hands through his hair  (even though his hair is extremely short now). He has a trademark Elvis Ruby smile. He “naturally radiates”.

Inspiration for your story:   It wasn’t hard to find inspiration for this part of the story line. I was watching a girl perform on America’s Got Talent.  She was only ten. Everyone had such high expectations, but I wondered what would happen if she froze on stage?



Full Character name:  Cecilia Wreel

Brief physical description:  Cecilia is the type of kid you might not notice. Nothing about her stands out. She wears oversized glasses that make her eyes look huge. She buys most of her clothes from the local thrift store.

Strengths and weaknesses: Cecilia can’t keep a secret. They well up in her like a fizzy bottle of coca-cola. She blurts out what’s on her mind.  She’s the kid who is picked on by the popular mean girls. Her biggest strength is that she is grounded in the place where she lives. She finds solace in the winding pathways, the scraggly trees and the slow-moving streams in the Pinelands of New Jersey.

Quirks:   This isn’t exactly a quirk but Cecilia has a condition known as amusia. It’s a rare disorder that affects the way the brain processes music. We all know people who can’t carry a tune, but this is much more that that. It involves an inability to perceive musical notes. People with amusia have described music as “banging pots and pans.”


Inspiration for your story:  Around the time I decided to write this book, I was walking in the stacks of the library where I work and found a book on the floor. It was Oliver Sacks book, Musicophilia. I decided to read it to get some insight on my musical prodigy character. That’s when I came across a chapter about a woman who had amusia (she was the woman who made the banging pots and pans comment).  I thought it would be interesting for the prodigy to meet someone who was so unmusical. Originally I thought that Cecilia could confess to Elvis that she had amusia. I hoped to have this boy who took his abilities for granted understand that not everyone is gifted in the same way.  But when I researched it further I learned that children with this condition are rarely diagnosed.

While the word “amusia” is never mentioned in the book, knowing that Cecilia has this condition helped me to understand her and the decisions that she makes. Even without knowing exactly why, Cecilia would know something about her is different. Music is everywhere. Imagine watching your friends bop up and down to their favorite songs when you think that the noise they’re dancing to sounds exactly like silverware dropping on the floor? What would it be like to have to sing the national anthem when you don’t really know what it sounds like? Think of all those opportunities for embarrassment like music class and dance recitals.  This is a condition that would make you feel lonely.

By the way, some famous people who were thought to have amusia are Che Guevera, Ulysses S. Grant, and Theodore Roosevelt


Background for the story:  About six years ago I moved from Long Island New York to a small town that borders the Pinelands of New Jersey. The pinelands, also known as the Pine Barrens, covers over a million acres in central and south Jersey. It’s a special place known for it’s pygmy pine trees, slow-moving streams, wild orchids and sandy paths.  Because the soil is sandy and acidic, it was hard for settlers to cultivate so it remained untamed and undeveloped. Now the area is designated as a US Biosphere Reserve and much of it is protected.

It’s not in-your-face beautiful like the Grand Canyon or the Rocky Mountains. You can drive by in your car and hardly notice the low grubby pines, but if you get out of your car and go exploring at one of the many parks, you’re in for a treat.

The Pine Barrens is also rich in music and folklore.  When I mentioned to a librarian friend that I was writing a story about a musical boy who comes to the Pinelands, she told me the story of Sammy Buck, a fiddler who lived hundreds of years ago, who was known for playing a beautiful tune unlike any other song.  He called it the “air tune” and said that he could hear it in the air when he went for walks in the woods. Another well-known Pinelands scholar said that many of the locals believed that  “music is there, just beyond hearing”.

I knew I wanted to somehow incorporate the musical myth of Sammy the fiddler into the story. And of course, no Pinelands tale would be complete without a mention of it’s most famous resident, the Jersey Devil.  He’s in there too.

Thanks Nan for sharing with us.

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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DHSpotlightI was first introduced to David Heatley’s work when I saw the book trailer for Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter. When I found out that David had also created the catchy tune I knew I had to introduce this talented musician/illustrator to our readers.
David Heatley is an artist and musician living in Queens, NY with his wife and two children. His drawings have appeared in numerous books and publications and on websites throughout the world, including: NIckelodeon MagazineThe New YorkerThe New York TimesBest American Comics andMcSweeney’s. Otis Dooda is his first book for children. When he’s done drawing for the night, he can be found playing and recording music around New York City. He is the co-founder of Dream Puppy, a record label that will release the soundtrack to Otis Dooda: Strange But True at the end of June.

Illustrator Spotlight:

WOTS: Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?

DH: I’m always working on 20 different things at any given time—TV show ideas, new songs, music videos, etc. Most are not at the stage where I can mention anything. But I can certainly tell you about drawing Otis Dooda 2: Downright Dangerous. I’m having a blast! I’m also planning a video for Potted Plant Guy which I hope will be done by some time in July.


WOTS: What artists do you look up to, and how have they inspired your work?

DH: In the kids’ book world, my heroes are Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, Margaret Wise Brown, Eric Carle, Roger Hargreaves, Clement Hurd. Charles Schulz’s Peanuts is also a big inspiration. He’s someone who did so much with so little space. These scratchy little doodles, which were as natural for him to draw as his own handwriting, added up to a whole world of personalities and emotions and became a truly great work of art. Towering above them all for me is Jim Henson. He left a massive impact on the world and as far as I can tell is universally loved. I think what they all have in common is that they gave so much more than whatever was asked for on each project they did. You can tell if an artist is just “phoning it in” and doing a job or if they’re a little bit crazy—irrationally pouring everything they’ve got into a book or a TV show out of some personal need. I like the crazy ones.


WOTS: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.

DH: I can walk to my studio from my home in Queens. The pre-war buildings and tree-lined streets gradually giving way to dingy auto repair shops and a stretch of industrial buildings. Inside one is an immaculate and ornate hindu temple. Another is a poultry slaughter house. The business that we’re directly above does “Hood and Duct Cleaning.” I love the weirdness of it all. An enterprising neighborhood artist friend of mine organized the space so a dozen of us could have reasonably-priced studios that weren’t in danger of being converted into luxury lofts any minute. We’re in a converted office space, so there’s AC and heat (something the last two studios of mine were sorely lacking). It’s quiet. I’m the only one there some days. My studio mate Helen is there about the half the time that I am. She does prop styling for magazine and silkscreen prints of her drawings. We chat a little and catch up and then listen to NPR and work quietly. I have a nook that I built myself with a curved wall partially covered by soundproofing foam. There’s a drafting table across from a long wooden computer desk which I built for myself. In this cozy little space, I can draw, scan, print, create animations, videos, websites and record music. I can hardly believe what I’m able to make happen there sometimes. In the shared space, we have some rolling industrial tables for spreading out and doing larger projects (Helen once filled the whole space with spray-painted pumpkins for a magazine shoot). In the far corner is my band saw and other woodworking tools. As someone who literally worked in the closet of our apartment when my children were first born, this space feels like a dream come true!


WOTS: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

DH: Hmm… That’s tricky since I’ve spent my whole life trying to listen to my heart and have it guide me to the kind of work I most wanted to do. I’m not sure I’d be satisfied with anything that doesn’t involve drawing, singing and playing most of the day. That said, I’d love to teach some more. My ideal scenario would be to teach kids for a few hours every month. I love kids, but can only handle small groups of them or large groups very infrequently.


WOTS: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

DH: I like to rap and breakdance.


WOTS: Which do you prefer more, your musical work or art?

DH: Another tough one. Art is soothing and solitary, but borders on loneliness. I can’t do it for very long without going nuts. The ideal is to be drawing while surrounded by people who know to leave you alone. 🙂 Music is social and collaborative and definitely more fun. But I’m an introvert and take in people’s personalities pretty deeply, so I can only take so much of that, too. I like having both to run to when I’m had my fill of one or the other.


WOTS: We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate, where do you fit in Procrastinator or Proactive?

DH: I’m super proactive and have no problem being self-directed and getting stuff done—sometimes a little behind schedule, but usually not by much. That said, I do believe that creativity flowers when you feel free enough to waste some of your time doing frivolous things. So there’s plenty of Facebooking, watching Netflix, playing with Legos and drawing with sidewalk chalk at the park. I’ve notice that right now there’s all these studies being heralded in the business world saying that “play” is the key to true innovation. I could’ve told them that… I’ve known it for years!

WOTS: Thanks for stopping by to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about David and his art or Otis Dooda please check out the links below.

Happy drawing,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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Thank you to all the enthusiastic participants for our DJ MacHale Author Spotlight and Book Giveaway for SYLO! According to random.org generator… Congratulations go out to Kate Carp. SYLO-machale

Kate will be receiving her very own signed copy of SYLO.

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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blog authordjmI am thrilled to introduce best-selling author DJ MacHale for our author spotlight today. I met DJ last year at the Children’s Book Festival in La Mesa. When I saw that he was embarking on a new series, I thought it would be a great time to shine the spotlight on this talented author.


D.J. MacHale is the author of the bestselling book series Pendragon – Journal of an Adventure Through Time and Space; the spooky Morpheus Road trilogy and the whimsical picture book The Monster Princess.  The first book of his new adventure trilogy, SYLO, will be published in the summer of 2013.  In addition to his published works, he has written, directed and produced numerous award-winning television series and movies for young people including Are You Afraid of the Dark?; Flight 29 Down and Tower of Terror.  D.J. lives with his family in Southern California.


Author Spotlight

WOTS: What was your road to publication?

DJM: My route to publication was different than most.  The short answer is that it was incredibly easy.  My agent sent the proposal for Pendragon to an editor, the editor liked it and the rest is history.  Most other authors hate to hear that.  But the real story is that I had been paying my dues for DECADES getting a TV career going, and then creating a few very successful TV shows for young people.  So by the time I came up with an idea that turned out to be too long for a movie and too expensive for a TV show and decided it would work best as a book series, I was already known as someone who created entertainment for kids and that made it easier to get published.  So the heartache, frustration and tenacity were all there, it just happened in a different way.


WOTS: Can you tell me a bit about your writing process? Do you plot or not?

DJM: My stories all have very intricately interwoven plotlines, which I feel makes it important to think things through before ever writing words that other people will read.  I go through the same process as writers who sit down and begin by typing:  “Once upon a time…”, it’s just that I do it in broadstrokes first.  It’s my favorite part of writing a story.  I don’t stress over coming up with the perfect words, I simply think through the story, the character arcs, the twists and the conclusion until it takes on a definite shape.  I take notes…which nobody will ever read.  Sometimes I don’t even read them myself.  It’s an incredibly pure way of creating a story.  I never get caught up with missing the forest because I can’t see through the trees.  When I start a new series, I first outline the entire thing.  Whether it will be three books or ten, I look at it as one big story, broken up into chapters that eventually evolve into individual books.  Each “chapter” (or book) is treated with its own outline that I tinker with until the story and the journeys of each character feel right.  It isn’t until then that I go back to the beginning and type:  “Once Upon A Time…”  I rarely even refer to the outline that I wrote.  It’s not about that document, it’s about having gone through the thought process of creating the story.  Though there will be times that I get stuck and refer to the outline…only to find that I have veered far off into the woods.  But that’s okay.  I don’t like being locked into an outline if the story takes me somewhere else that’s better.  But the main thing is I always know where I’m headed, and what the major touchstones will be along the way.

WOTS: Are you working on any new projects that you can tell us about?

DJM: Right now I am working on the second book in the SYLO trilogy.  Since I will probably be close to finishing the third book before I go on tour with the first, it’s going to be tricky to keep spoilers under wraps because as I said, it’s all one big story to me.  I have to keep reminding myself that readers will only get it one chapter at a time, and be careful not to let slip something that will happen in future books.  I’m also beginning to compile a handful of short stories that I hope to get published.  This last year I wrote a short story for Jon Scieska’s “Guys Read” series and had a great time doing it.  Over the years I’ve written so many stories that for one reason or another haven’t seen the light of day, so I’m going to wrap them all up into a nice little package of fantastical tales and see if anybody wants to put them out.


WOTS: Describe your studio or usual work space for us.

DJM: For the longest time I wrote in my home office.  It’s the best because I would go for weeks without ever having to put on shoes.  But after my daughter was born the house became a bit more hectic so I opened up another office in a film studio near my house.  It’s good to get out and pretend like I have a real job by going to an office, but now I have to put on shoes.  At least I can bring my dog with me.

WOTS: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

DJM: When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut, but bad eyesight and a lack of math-ability killed that pretty quickly.  Realistically I would love to do the same thing that most authors do, and that’s teach.  Over the years I’ve taught courses in photography and filmmaking and now I often run writing workshops for young writers.  I love it.  I would like nothing better than to teach a regular course in writing.  Or to fly in outer space.  One of those is more likely.


WOTS: What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

DJM: I’m an open book so if anybody knows me, they pretty much know everything there is to know.  My one embarrassing little secret is that I’m a long-suffering New York Jets fan…though I guess saying you are a Jets fan and long-suffering is redundant.


WOTS: What was your inspiration for the new SYLO Trilogy?

DJM: I always write about normal young people who are faced with extraordinary challenges.  Most of my principal characters are different forms of me so with Tucker Pierce I tapped into the part of my personality that would often rather take the easy road than stepping up and competing.  But life often doesn’t always allow you to coast.  Circumstances come up every day that force you to make a decision:  Do I take the easy way out and accept second best?  Or do I fight for what is right?  Tucker faces such a dilemma, and the choice isn’t an easy one.  It never is.  For his challenge, I loved the idea of creating an environment where people are isolated from the rest of the world.  I based the location of the first book on the island of Martha’s Vineyard…though I don’t call it that.  The people of this island, and Tucker, are confronted with a frightening challenge and being as isolated as they are, they can’t look to the outside world for help.  As much as SYLO becomes a massive adventure, at its core is the story of a young guy who has to find something inside of himself that will give him the strength to stand up and fight for what is right.

WOTS: What challenges did you face when you wrote your picture book The Monster Princess?

DJM: The biggest challenge was trying to ignore my publisher who constantly told me that it’s rare for a picture book to sell well and that we’re wasting our time.  That got old.  I think it’s a wonderful book, made especially so by the amazing illustrations done by Alexander Boiger.  The biggest frustration for me is seeing how young kids and their parents who actually saw the book, love it…but for whatever reason it never got the push it needed to become a real success.  (Kind of like a self-fulfilling prophesy from the publisher)   But I love that book and I still hope that someday it will find a larger audience.  It deserves it.


WOTS: We here at Writing on the Sidewalk tend to procrastinate with our writing. Where do you fit in—Procrastinator or Proactive?

DJM: Ha!  That depends on how close to a deadline I get.  I’m the world’s best (or worst, not sure which is correct) procrastinator.  But it’s amazing how focused and creative I can become when a deadline looms!

Thanks for stopping sharing with us.

If you’d like to find out more about DJ or his books visit his site: djmachalebooks.com

DJ has graciously offered a signed ARC copy of his newest book SYLO for our readers. If you’d like a chance to win DJ’s newest book leave a comment below before Midnight June 19, 2013. The winner will be selected at random on Thursday, June 20, 2013.

Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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9781250011763There is still time to enter to win a signed copy of Otis Dooda by Ellen Potter illustrated by David Heatley. Simply click this link and leave a comment. Winner will be picked at random on Thursday, June 13,2013.

Good Luck.

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9781250011763This week marks the release of a great new book Otis Dooda written by Ellen Potter and illustrated by David Heatley. This is a fun book filled with great humor especially for boys. On this extra- special Friday bonus post I thought I’d give our readers a chance to meet a few of the characters behind the story.

Title: Otis Dooda (Feiwel & Friends 2013)
Author: Ellen Potter
Illustrator: David Heatley

Book Description:


Meet Otis Dooda. Yes, that’s his name. Go on and have a good laugh. He’s heard it all before. He’s been called things like Otis Poopy Stink and Otis Toilet Twinkie. That’s right, yuck it up and get it out of your system. We’ll wait.

All right then. This is the story of Otis and the Dooda family (including their rat named Smoochie) moving to New York City, and the incredibly strange, but true, things that happened to them. It all started with Otis getting cursed by a guy in a potted plant in their apartment building lobby, and then meeting a bunch of their neighbors, including a farting pony named Peaches who was disguised as a dog. And that was just the first day.

Character Spotlight

Character name: Otis DoodaHappyotis

Brief physical description:

Not to be rude, but his body is shaped like a Twizzler. Super skinny, very bendy. His toenails haven’t been clipped in a while so let’s not talk about that. Once, this girl said that he looked like the kid from the Home Alone movie. Then she asked him if he thought she looked like Selena Gomez. He said no, and she said, “Fine, then you don’t look like the Home Alone kid.”

He has very good teeth.


He is a Lego-genius. I mean it, this guy can solve any problem with some Lego bricks and a rubber band.


He’s got this phobia about subway zombies. Don’t ask. Plus he’s pretty terrified of Potted Plant Guy.



Character name: Potted Plant Guy PottedPlanGuy


Brief Physical Description:

Well, it’s going to be VERY brief, because no one has ever actually seen his face. He hides in a potted plant in the lobby of the Tidwell Towers apartment building. You can see his eyes though, and they are pure evil.


He has the ability to put curses on people who walk into the building. The curses always come true, too, though not in the way that you think they will.


We’re still trying to find out what they are.


Inspiration for your story

I noticed that my 7-year-old son was reading books for middle-graders. It wasn’t because he was an advanced reader either. He said he just liked those books better than most of the ones for his age group. Come to find out, a lot of his friends were reading those same middle-grade books too. Curious, I also read them. I could see the attraction. They were wry and subversive, and they made me laugh out loud on more than one occasion. The only problem was, they were dealing with middle-grade issues—crushes on girls, being popular, and other things that six- and seven-year old boys could give a hoot about. So I thought, what if a writer kept that tone but wrote about things that a seven-year-old did care about? Like Legos and ninjas and zombie tag.

Background for the story

While I was developing the character of Otis, I kept imagining him to be like Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye . . .  if Holden were in the third grade. He’d be highly observant, dry, sometimes snarky, He’d also probably be obsessed with Legos, like every other third-grade boy I knew. The other thing I kept thinking about was Seinfeld. What if I created a series set in an apartment building? What if there were a core group of characters with big, quirky personalities? They bickered, yes, but they also had each other’s backs when things got hairy. And things would get hairy all the time.

Researching this book was a cinch. All I had to do was listen. I listened to the stories my son told me about the kids in school. I listened to the things that made him and his buddies laugh. I listened to backseat conversations and lunchroom arguments. And of course I listened to fart jokes. Lots and lots of fart jokes.

So What About the Giveaway?

We will be giving away a signed copy of Otis Dooda to one of our lucky readers. Simply post a comment below and we will be picking a winner at random on Thursday June 13, 2013 . Entries must be posted by midnight on Wednesday to be entered into the contest.

Good Luck and Happy Reading,

Suzanne Santillan

Writing on the Sidewalk

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