Lindsay holds the orange hardcover copy of her book—her first book—in her arms and smiles.

Mrs. Baughman wraps her in a hug. “I knew you could do it,” she says.

Lindsay feels her cheeks heat up and her heart swells inside her chest.

It’s that moment—winning an honorable mention for her story “What Can You Learn From a Giflyaroo”—along with the dozens of other moments during that year—that fifth grade year—sitting and listening to Mrs. Baughman read aloud Matilda, Bridge to Terebithia, and Wait Til Helen Comes that has led her to this decision.

“I want to be an author and write books when I grow up.”

Lindsay continues through the rest of fifth and sixth grade. She heads off to middle school where she learns the consequences of rash words, she experiences the hurt of loving someone who no longer loves you, she travels around the world and sees and experiences things that change her forever.

The dream of becoming an author fades in middle school, and definitely in high school where she finds diagramming sentences and the enormity of creating a book too difficult—even the idea seems impossible. Instead, she thinks that maybe she’ll become a ballet dancer because she has been dancing for years and loves it.

Choose Adventure or continue reading

Adventure 1: Lindsay, despite her graceful movements, is so incredibly inflexible that she becomes the first ballet dancer unable to do the splits . . . needless to say, her dancing career ends quite rapidly and she becomes one of the hilarious out-takes on So You Think You Can Dance.

Continue reading: Lindsay loves dancing, but after trying out for her high school musical and having more fun than she could possibly ever imagine, decides she will someday become a Broadway star.

Adventure 2: Lindsay tries to become an actress, but because of her inability to keep herself from blushing and breaking out in hives on stage she instead becomes a Youtube phenomena called the “incredibly hive and blushing woman” and gets one million views.

Continue reading: Lindsay has always felt compassion for those who are hurting. She also loved her biology class where she studied genetics through fruit fly romance. She thinks, “What better way to help hurting people and use my fruit fly prowess than to be a nurse?”

Adventure 3: Lindsay goes to college to study nursing. She graduates and finds a job, but faints during her first blood draw and is then featured on AOL news as “One of America’s Worst Nurses.” She goes into hiding and becomes a hermit.

Continue reading: Lindsay ventures off to college and decides to try her hand out at elementary education. After all, she adores kids, loves to help, and she’s pretty sure she is creative enough to put together some pretty amazing bulletin boards (not to mention she’s a whiz at the laminating machine). During one of her semesters she takes a class on Children’s Literature and is once more in awe of picture books, and middle grade and young adult novels. She reads like a crazy person, meets the man of her dreams, who doesn’t seem to mind that she reads like a crazy person because he reads like a crazy man. They end up tying the knot right before Lindsay’s senior year of college. She is starting to doubt her abilities as a teacher since she has realized that teachers need to be some sort of super human species that she’s not sure she can ever be. Then, ta-da! She finds out that surprises happen every day and she is pregnant with her and man-of-her-dreams first baby. She graduates college at eight months pregnant and never ventures into the teaching arena, which everyone is thankful for because she is quite sure she could never do it. Their daughter is born and then twelve months and two weeks later their second is born, a boy. They move a few hundred miles away to the mountains, and in the midst of cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and reading aloud so many picture books that she has to bring two canvas grocery bags to the library two or three times a week, Lindsay thinks “Maybe I could be an author? I always loved to write, and at one time someone said I was good.”

Adventure 4: Lindsay shakes off the silly idea along with the bits of macaroni, wipes down the counter and decides to not give it a shot. It is silly after all to think that SHE could be an author. Silly, silly Lindsay.

Continue reading: Lindsay thinks, “You know what, I might as well give it a try. I mean, it won’t cost me any money to try.” So she tries. And then when her second baby is just over a year old she has baby number 3. She writes. She writes and writes and writes.

Adventure 5: Lindsay decides she is too busy with three kids under the age of three and quits. She has pancakes to make and bottles to clean and toys to put away.

Continue reading: Lindsay finds that she loves writing. Adores it, actually. She reads books, looks up articles on writing and publication on the Internet, and most importantly, she writes more. Lindsay takes a class on writing for children and decides to start sending off a few picture books that she’s written. She gets rejected. Again and again.

Adventure 6: Lindsay decides it’s not worth it and quits. Who wants to hear that they aren’t good enough?

Continue reading: Lindsay has baby number 4 soon after her third daughters first birthday. She keeps getting rejections.

Adventure 7: Lindsay decides she’s too busy with four kids under four, she has entirely too much to do, and the rejections are too painful. She quits.

Continue reading: She loves writing and falls in love with it more each day. She attends her local SCBWI Chapter fall conferences, becomes a mentee with an amazing author in Nevada SCBWI, receives positive feedback from editors and a few agents and joins a critique group. She does whatever it takes. She wins an honorable mention for a story in a contest. The next year she wins 3rd place. She’s feeling good. She writes her first novel and knows that she has found her fit—her destiny—the middle grade novel. Unfortunately…her novel is a disaster.

Adventure 8: She thinks it’s too hard and revisions take up too much time and does her critique group really know what they’re talking about? Doubtful. She quits and leaves her critique group, missing out on some of the best friendships she’ll ever know. It’s just easier.

Continue reading: She revises and revises and writes and writes. And though the rejections continue to pile, she finds her love for writing and creating growing and growing. She couldn’t stop if she tried. She sends out queries for her novel. She gets rejected.

Adventure 9: She thinks “this is ridiculous” and gives up.

Continue reading: She sends out more queries, writes a new story, and revises some more. She gets a few requests from agents and meets an amazing editor. The editor rejects the manuscript.

Adventure 10: Lindsay quits and eats an obscene amount of chocolate, gaining a few hundred pounds. She then goes on to become a contestant on The Biggest Loser.

Continue reading: An amazing agent would like to see revisions and anything else that she’s written to get a feel for her style.

Adventure 11: She doesn’t want to revise any more and says “no thanks.” She thinks she knows what’s best and doesn’t feeling like doing it. She never gets published…ever.

Continue reading: She completes more revisions and signs with that wonderful agent. Brilliant agent says her first novel isn’t ready so she sends out second novel. Rejections accru.

Adventure 12: She gives up. I mean how much can one person take?

Continue reading: She continues to hope and hope while writing a new story. She sends it off to brilliant agent. Old story is pulled from submission and new story is sent out. Sells two weeks later at auction in two-book deal.

Adventure 13: She has reached her goal of publication and decides that’s good enough.

Continue reading: She continues to write and write and write and read and read and read and revise and revise and revise, knowing that there will be more rejections in the future and more success. More chances to quit and more times she must pick herself up and carry on.

I guess the gist of my story is that all along the road towards publication, there are more opportunities and more reasons to quit than there are to continue on. Giving up is easier, less messy, less heart and gut wrenching. Persevering is all hard work and splattered with all sorts of icky-sticky mess. Luck? I’m sure there was some. But really, for me, it was a matter of two things: perseverance and perspective. Perseverance–continuing to try and try and try and try and never giving up. And perspective—seeing all those things that popped up in my life (kids, less time, being a mom, activities, friends, family, medical issues, financial issues, the list could go on and on and on) not as a hindrance or an annoyance to my dream but as steps in making my dream come true.

So, I’d say the end of the story…the end of any story to publication…is entirely up to you.

A Middle Grade Love Poem

I love books

I love them all

From Katherine Patterson

to dear Roald Dahl

The flipping of pages

The creak of spine

The wishful hoping

They all were mine

But above them all,

above the rest

It’s Middle Grade

that I love best

My first true love

was Mr. Dahl

Reading Matilda

started it all

Tale of Desperaux

held my heart

I loved every moment,

every page, every part

A Long Way From Chicago

and A Year Down Yonder

It’s hard to decide

of which I’m more fonder

Then Hope Was Here

by Ms Joan Bauer

But don’t get me started,

I could go on for an hour

The Goose Girl was brilliant

One and Only Ivan divine

So amazing and wonderful

I savored the time

And then Harry Potter

and Walk Two Moons

I gobbled them up

with two silver spoons

And there’s so many more

Too many to name

Yet they all are my true loves

But none is the same

So whether it’s Bauer,

Dicamilllo, or Dahl

I’m in love with books.

I’m in love with them all.

I reached for a clean sheet of unlined paper, something as scarce in our house as peace and quiet. Usually my youngest brother, Henry, sniffed out every clean sheet of paper and swiped a blue streak of marker across it . . . that is, any sheet of paper that hadn’t already been turned into a paper airplane by my other two younger brothers, CJ and Bo, or used as a placemat for my older sisters to paint their nails on.

This sheet only had a thin crease in the upper corner and a small blob of red nail polish, but I could ignore those. I grabbed the paper, hid it behind my back and dashed upstairs to the room I shared with Emma. Her bed was crisp and clean—she’d stuffed her old ratty blanket and the monkey she’d called Boopsy in her closet—and then there was my bed, a bundle of blankets, clothes, books, and stuffed animals.

I was just about to close the door when a small hand pressed against the door, and Bo, red-cheeked and smiling, slipped in. “What are you doing, Sunday?”

“Nothing. I’ll . . . I’ll be down in a minute. We can play SORRY together. How does that sound?”

He followed me to my bed and plopped down. “Okay. I’ll wait up here with you. And don’t worry. I won’t tell. Is it your diarrhea?”

I couldn’t stop myself from grinning. “My diary? No. I don’t have a diary.” I sighed. He wasn’t going to leave. I might as well tell him. “I’m making my New Year’s Resolutions.”

His brown eyes brightened. “Oh, Miss Lovie told us we had to write down our relosutions. I said I was gonna stop saying ‘poop’ so much and that I was gonna try and pay more attention when she talks about math but I don’t think I really want to do that one. And I forgot the others. What are you gonna write?”

I flattened the paper against my hardback copy of A Year Down Yonder and wrote NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS on the top of the paper in big upper case letters.

1. I’m going to

“You could try and make your bed neater?” Bo lifted the rumpled covers and pulled out the worn copy of A Tale of Despereaux that I had started to re-re-read last night.


1. I’m going to try and . . .

“Are you almost done?”

“No, Bo, I haven’t even started yet.”

The door burst open once more, and Emma waltzed in, her eyes rimmed in red. She fell onto her bed and squeezed her pillow in a death grip. “I swear I will never speak to CJ again. He just told Jesse I couldn’t come to the phone because I was pooping. Pooping! Can you believe it?”

Bo giggled. “Poop.”

So much for his New Years Resolution.

“It’s okay, Emma,” I said. “I bet Jesse didn’t even hear him.”

Emma sniffled. “Whatever. You wouldn’t understand, Sunday. Could you just please leave? I really want to be alone.”

I bristled. She had kicked me out of our room for everything from phone calls, to changing her shirt, to painting her nails, to needing to do her homework in peace. She’d become just as bad as May. I put my pencil to the paper once more. “This is my room too. Besides, I’m doing something right now.” I wrote again:

1. I’m going to try and . . .

“Well, can’t you do it somewhere else? I mean, seriously, Sunday. I’m in the throes of complete humiliation and you’re scratching away on a piece of paper.”

Bo bounced a little on the bed, and my pencil scratched a long streak across the clean white. “Are you done, Sunday? Are you done? I want to play SORRY. Please, please, please?”

“In a minute—”

A voice called down from below. “Sunday! Are you up there?”

It was Mom. “Yes,” I yelled.

“She’ll be right down, Mom,” Emma said, sticking her tongue out at me.

I tried to ignore everything and focus on my resolutions but I couldn’t concentrate on the words.

“I need you to dress up in your Christmas sweater so I can take your picture and add you into our family picture,” Mom yelled. “I want to get these cards sent out by the middle of January.”

Ugh. The family picture. I had needed to go to the bathroom during the family picture a few weeks ago and had been completely left out of it. Now, I was being digitally added—probably stuffed somewhere in the back so that I blended in with everyone else.

But the middle of the middle child blended in easily—whether they wanted to or not.

My red sweater with the snowflakes flopped on top of my paper. “Come on, Sunday. Just do it,” Emma said. “Then you can come up here and finish your little . . . whatever it is.”

I brushed the sweater off, determined to get one—just one—resolution down.

1. Going to try and make my

“Sunday! I need you down here now.”

I sighed and set down my pencil.

Maybe next year.

Sunday Fowler is the main character in my next book, A Summer of Sundays, which releases with Egmont USA on July 9, 2013. Check out other Character New Years Resolutions from other authors whose books will release this year!

Here’s an interview I did recently with Cynthia Cheng on her blog: readisthenewblack.

Thank for having me!

The cool air of fall whispers gently through the aspens.

Winter takes in its breath, fluttering the leaves, preparing itself for its months of work.

Summer packs her bags and dusts the window sills.

Her boxes are packed and, like a proud and lonely widow, she prepares her yard for a last good-bye feast. Fall crunches up the pathway and joins her in the kitchen, bundled in blankets, sipping on hot chocolate with mittened fingers. During the day he takes out his paintbrush and sweeps it across the trees, preparing for the good-bye, and flushing Summer’s cheeks with crisp morning air.

Then slowly, as guests enjoy her last rays of warm sunshine and bare shoulders, Summer slips out the back door while no one is watching.

She starts her car and dries her eyes. She rumbles softly down the road on a whisp of wind. And even in the midst of her memories that mix inside her with a swirl of sadness and laughter, her heart begins burning with the heat of expectation for the next year.

I blow her a kiss goodbye.

And Goodbye’s are a promise of another hello.

Blue sky

Morning crisp

Breakfast smell

Hair whisp

Big yawns

Wide stretch

Warm fire

Dog fetch

Sparkly eyes

New day smile

I think I’ll  sit

and watch a while

Jun 26

Old Vs. New


Untouched, unbroken, unscathed, unwrinkled, unknown

Sparkly, shiny, crisp, and pressed

I remember how it was when I was younger—how I longed for the new.

New days, new years, new clothes, new toys, new books, new experiences, new music, new love.

I scoffed at a used shirt, or pre-owned dishes, at old books with worn covers, and old jewelry that had lost its sparkle.

An obsession with new and clean and perfect

It’s funny how much that has changed. How opposite I feel so much of the time now. Sure, I enjoy new things as much as any other person. . . but I find it funny that I long for the old.

The used-up, chipped, worn, dusty, and torn

The touched, broken, scathed, wrinkled, and known

I’d pick a worn book with a name written in it and musty pages over a crisp binding and untouched pages.

I know it’s been read and hated and loved

I’d pick up an old discarded set of plates with chips on the edges and a rubbed-off design over the squeaky clean finish of a dinner set straight from the store

I know it has sat at someone’s table . . . sometime, somewhere hearing laughter, fighting, crying.

And maybe it’s because I am older . . . okay, not really old, but I’m thirty-three . . . still young, but old enough to have my own chips, and dings, and rubbed-off surfaces, and wrinkled edges, and worn cover.

I am not shiny and new any more.

But I am known.

I am not unbroken, unmarked, or unused

But I am loved

I have scratches and scars and more wonderful memories than I can count

And I have stories to tell.

But we need new, I know this, because new holds it’s own magic

It hasn’t lived, or cried, or hurt, or broke, or laughed, or loved

. . . at least not yet.

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