the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Apr 22, 2015 @ 11:04 AM

Aloha, friends! We're in middle grade paradise with the release of Anne Bustard's Anywhere But Paradise, out now from Egmont/Lerner Publishing Group! 

ABP jkt final resized 600

It’s 1960, and Peggy Sue’s move from Texas to Hawaii, the newest state, sounds like a dream—palm trees, blue skies, big waves. But her cat has to be put in quarantine like he’s a criminal, and Peggy Sue is worriedly counting the days until Howdy will be released—if he can survive. Then her first encounter with a girl at Hanu Intermediate School is shocking. Kiki, an older student, takes an instant dislike to Peggy Sue, warning her that the last day of school is “kill haole day.” Peggy Sue’s only hope of being spared is to help Kiki with her home ec sewing project.

Things get better when she meets neighbor Malina and starts hula lessons, but it takes a tsunami, a missing dog, and an intervention from the vision of Pele herself to help Peggy Sue understand that even though her new home in paradise isn’t perfect, she’d rather be in Hawaii with her family and new friends than anywhere else. 

Welcome, Anne! So, tell us . . .

What was the spark that ignited this book?

Simply put, Hawaii itself. Peggy Sue’s story is not my personal story, but it was informed by it. If I close my eyes and imagine a beautiful, serene place, the same image always comes to mind—Kailua Beach. I was born in Hawaii, moved to California when I was two, and returned for sixth grade. Hawaii was and is my paradise. Conversely, if I close my eyes and recall a pivotal and painful childhood experience, I return to my first day of seventh grade. So, I wondered, what if . . . 

Hilton Hawaiian Village boardwalk 2 Oahu Hawaii Photo D Ramey LoganWhat’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Probably all of my research questions are weird. Only not to me. Though I’ve found that Google cannot answer many of them, that’s never stopped me from asking. Here’s one that stumped Google: Did the Honolulu Zoo house a snake in 1960?

When I couldn’t unearth the answer, I turned to a staff member at the Zoo. Yay, email! Then when she couldn’t verify a snake’s presence one way or another, she took the next step and called the retired zoo director! The generosity of strangers is amazingly fabulous!

Oh, and in case you’d like to know the answer: no snake. 

A great reminder that Google is not all-powerful -- and that it can be fun to talk to strangers about things they love!

What other middle grade authors do you love? Any favorite books of theirs?

Rita Williams-Garcia. One Crazy Summer. I cannot wait until Gone Crazy in Alabama comes out later this month! [Update: It's here!]

Jeanne Birdsall. The Penderwicks in Spring

Jacqueline Woodson. Brown Girl Dreaming. 

Arothron hispidus is kissing my camera at Big Island of HawaiiWho were your advisors at VCFA and how did they affect your writing life?

I am thankful every day for Ellen Howard, Sharon Darrow, Martine Leavitt and Shelley Tanaka. I will forever apply their wisdom to my work.

From Ellen, I learned the importance of starting-from-the-very-beginning-over. It’s what she challenged me to do with a draft she’d read of Anywhere but Paradise. It’s what I did then, and again a few years ago. And no, it wasn’t easy.

From Sharon, I discovered the unbridled joy of a first draft and the fun of immersion into all things French for the sake of research, including croissants and language lessons. I realized the importance of always knowing what your characters are thinking and feeling.

From Martine, I learned that anything is possible. Plucking a character out of a fantasy story and setting her in a historical fiction novel? Why not? And sometimes, the end of story is the beginning.

Shelley Tanaka taught me to trust the reader and the delete key. Less is more. Always. 

Great advice; thanks for sharing. And thank you for stopping by! Welcome to the world, Anywhere But Paradise!

Learn more about Anne and all her books at her website,

Topics: 2015 release, Egmont, Lerner Publishing Group, Anne Bustard, middle grade

Roundup - VCFA WCYA Auction, ALA Authors, Book Sales & More!

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 @ 07:06 AM


VCFA WCYA hits the jackpot!

The annual conference of the American Library Association will convene next week in Las Vegas and tons of VCFA WCYA authors will be there meeting, greeting and signing. If you're in the Sin City neighborhood be sure to drop in on these folks:

Kekla Magoon

Debbie Wiles

Catherine Linka

Rita Williams-Garcia

Trent Reedy

Sherry Shahan

Rene Colato Lainez

Gretchen Woelfle

Jandy Nelson

Lauren Myracle

Clete Barrett Smith

Carol Lynch Williams

Any others?

Authors please leave your appearance times here in the comments.

Adi and I do our best to keep up but please remember there are only two of us volunteering -- and zillions of your stellar achievements to track down (not to mention we have our own writing to do!) Drop us a line with your good news here. And don't fret if we miss something -- catch up with us on the VCFA WCYA community Facebook page and we'll be sure you're recognized here, too.

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The Launch Pad is delighted to announce we're a co-sponsor of the 2014 WCYA Auction and Alumni Signing. We've joined the Alumni Association to bring you two special evenings of fun. There's still plenty of time to donate items or join the alumni signing. 

Sooooo another week, more AMAZING book sales . . . because that's how we roll at VCFA!

Anne Bustard sold her debut middle-grade historical novel Anywhere But Paradise to Andrea Cascardi at Egmont USA. Anne's novel tells the story of Peggy Sue Bennett, a fish out of water in post-statehood Hawaii, baffled by local customs and bullied by an eighth grader for being white. Ho'omaika'i 'ana, Anne! 

Lyn Miller-Lachmann sold Surviving Santiago, the story of a 16-year old girl's summer in Chile visiting her estranged father, and the dangerous love affair that develops between her and a local boy to Running Press Kids. ¡Qué bueno, Lyn!

And we have even more good news:

Horn Book selected Erin Moulton's new novel, Chasing the Milky Way as its "Review Of The Week" saying, "Moulton effectively balances the big-picture issues with the smaller stuff, the day-to-day challenges each character faces and the triumphs he or she achieves." Great stuff, Erin! 

David Elzey's piece "The Self-Improvement Plan" was published this week in Antioch University Los Angeles' online literary journal Lunch Ticket. Good job, David!

Bethany Hegedus and Arun Gandhi's Grandfather Gandhi has received more recognition -- Betsy Bird aka Fuse #8 is touting this gorgeous and important picture book as a possible Caldecott winner! Go Bethany and Grandfather!

Meanwhile the German edition of Caroline Carlson's Hilary und der fast ganz ehrbare Club der Piraten (don't even ask us to try to pronounce that!) is set to launch at a Munich or Strassbourg bookstore near you.

What a week!!!!

Topics: round-up, Erin E. Moulton, Anne Bustard, Trent Reedy, Deborah Wiles, Kekla Magoon, Jandy Nelson, congratulations, Catherine Linka, Sherry Shahan, Gretchen Woelfle, Carol Lynch Williams, Bethany Hegedus, Rita Williams-Garcia, foreign rights, signing, David Elzey, Clete Barrett Smith, Arun Gandhi, Rene Colato Lainez, American Library Association, VCFA auction, Caroline Carlson, Lauren Myracle, Lyn Miller-Lachmann

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