the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults Author Blog


Posted by Adi Rule on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 @ 07:06 AM

Put on your best school clothes, because today we're celebrating Jill Santopolo's newest Sparkle Spa book, A Picture Perfect Mess! 


The Tanner sisters must find a way to outshine some not-so-friendly competition—and keep the Sparkle Spa in the spotlight!—as school picture day approaches. 

It’s almost time for picture day at Auden Elementary School, and the Sparkle Spa will make sure everyone looks picture perfect. But Aly Tanner’s arch rival, Suzy Davis, decides she knows how to make everyone look even better than Aly and Brooke do. Suzy will set up “shop” in the girls’ bathroom at school and let everyone use lip gloss and blush and mascara. Will Suzy’s plan really outsmart—and out sparkle—the Sparkle Spa?

We're delighted that Jill stopped by for some picture perfect celebrations. Here she is (with some special guests)!

When I sat down to write the sixth Sparkle Spa book, A Picture Perfect Mess, which is about what happens in the spa during the lead-up to school picture day, I realized that I had a problem. I hadn’t had a school picture taken in years—I think my last formal one was in college, and I’m not even sure if that counts—and I wasn’t sure if picture day was still similar to what I’d experienced 15-30ish years ago. So I decided I needed to do some research. I’d learned way back in elementary school that primary sources were the best kind to have, so I though an interview might do the trick. Luckily, I had the perfect subject right in my family. My 3-year-old niece Lily had recently experienced her first picture day, and agreed to an interview. My mom, Lily’s nana, was on hand too, to help out. I learned a lot—especially (and unexpectedly!) about the fact that Ariel nail polish is pink. Since it’s fun to give readers a glimpse of what happens during the creation of a book, I thought I’d share a piece of the transcript here:

Jill: Hey Lily, I’m going to write a book about picture day and I was wondering what I should put in there. Could you help me? What happens on picture day?

Lily: Tomorrow is dance class.

Jill: Oh that’s fun! Could you tell me what happened on picture day though? I need some help for my book.

Lily: They um took a picture of me and they gived me flowers actually.

Jill: Flowers! That’s nice. What was your favorite part of Picture Day?

Lily: When they called my name.

Nana: Why did they call your name?

Lily: To take my picture. You get to put the picture on your hand.

Jill: Your hand? Really?

Lily: Yeah, on your finger. I don’t have any nail polish on right now. It came off.

Jill: It came off? What color was your nail polish?

Lily: Um Ariel nail polish. It was pink.

Jill: I didn’t know Ariel was pink.

Lily: Just her nail polish.

Jill: I see. So when it was picture day, did you get to pick out a special outfit?

Lily: I picked out my um…Yesterday Josh and Sarah came and bringed me to Stella’s birthday party.

Nana: That wasn’t yesterday. That was a while ago. Did you pick our something special to wear on picture day? Did you pick out a special shirt?

Lily: Yes.

Nana: What was it?

Lily: The shirt that I made at Stella’s birthday party.


Jill herself, looking good for picture day!

And now, of course, all I’m thinking about is whether I can somehow work a shirt decorating party into book nine…or maybe book ten. And if I do, whether Lily will let me interview her again. Because I haven’t been to a shirt decorating party in years either!

*Note: I did ask questions to parents of kids who are currently picture day age, and got some information for my book from them. For the rest of it, I relied on my own memories. It turns out picture day hasn’t changed much in the last 30 years at all.

We can attest to that! It seems like only yesterday Robin and Adi were getting their own portraits done . . .



Find out more about all the Sparkle Spa books at! And visit Jill at her website,!

Topics: 2015 release, chapter book, Jill Santopolo, Simon & Schuster

Jill Santopolo and Sparkle Spa - Bad News Nails

Posted by Lisa Doan on Tue, Feb 17, 2015 @ 07:02 AM

Can't a girl even get her nails done without having to defeat an arch rival? Not in Jill Santopolo's nail-tabulous Sparkle Spa series. The VCFA Launchpad welcomes the newest entry into this chapterbook series - Bad News Nails releases today through Simon & Schuster/Aladdin.

About Bad News Nails: Trouble is coming to the Sparkle Spa, in the form of Aly Tanner’s worst nightmare: her arch rival since kindergarten is joining the salon! Know-it-all Suzy Davis has plenty of ideas about how the nail salon should be run and isn’t shy about telling the sisters what to do and how to do it. How can Brooke and Aly get Suzy out of their hair—and their business?

Here's what Jill had to say about writing books full of sparkle:

Sparkle On!

resized bad news nailsI was asked recently, after someone had read an article about the fact that girl toys are all about pink and purple and glitter and boy toys are all about blue and green and dinosaurs, how I felt about writing such a “girlie” book series, one that seems to promote the sparkle-fication of little girls. It was an interesting conversation, because that's something I actually think about a lot when I write the Sparkle Spa books, mostly because it feels to me that what gets lost in the dichotomy of tomboy vs. girlie girl is that it’s okay to be both. It doesn’t have to be an either/or decision.

I was a girl who climbed trees in rhinestone be-dazzled sneakers and played soccer with ribbons in my hair. I’m a woman who installed an air conditioner while wearing a cocktail dress and heels and spent hours choosing an outfit for a sprint triathlon that would both function well and look good. And I chafe at the idea that if I enjoy a day getting pampered at a spa, I couldn’t possibly enjoy taking those perfectly polished nails on a hundred-plus-mile bike ride. Because I like doing both of those things.

The girls in my Sparkle Spa series are entrepreneurs, they’re athletes, they’re not afraid to take risks or stand up for themselves. But they also love pretty clothes and fancy hair-dos and sparkly nail polish. At the end of book one, All that Glitters, the girls come to the realization that they can be smart and strong and sparkly all at the same time. The message I hope girls get from reading my books isn’t that all girls should love sparkly nail polish, but that girls can love sparkly nail polish and it won’t define them. They can embrace everything they enjoy unapologetically and create their own definition of what it means to be a girl. Whether their sparkle is coming from glittery nail polish or the glimmer of an exciting idea or the glow of satisfaction after achieving a goal through hard work and dedication, I say power to the sparkle, girls! Sparkle on.


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Jill Santopolo is the author of the Sparkle Spa series, the Follow Your Heart books, and the Alec Flint mysteries. You can follow her on Twitter @JillSantopolo or find her on Facebook at /jillsantopoloauthor.

Topics: 2015 release, girlie, chapter book, Jill Santopolo, Aladdin, Simon & Schuster

Jill Santopolo and Follow your Heart - Love on the Lifts

Posted by Lisa Doan on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 07:01 AM

The Launchpad was wondering, are you looking for love? If so, Jill Santopolo, class of '08 and member of the Cliffhangers, has got you covered - thirteen different ways. Follow Your Heart is a teen romance series published by Puffin and Love on the Lifts releases today! Pick your path to find the perfect guy in this personalized romance set on the ski slopes!

What better way to spend your vacation than on the slopes? In this unique romance, the reader’s in the driver’s seat—creating her own path through the narrative and ending with one of eleven different guys. By making selections at the end of each chapter, the reader decides who will be her perfect match. It could be the athletic ski instructor, one of the adorable twin brothers in the lodge, or the sweet guy with the broken leg by the fireplace. Finding your dream guy couldn’t be easier, and it all takes place against the snowy backdrop of a romantic ski resort. And if not all readers are looking for love, there are other options: to hang with your sister, make new friends, or spend some time alone. But any way you slice it, every reader will have their love on the lifts!

We asked Jill: What did you learn about love from writing the series?

resized 9780147510938 LoveontheLiftsI started writing Summer Love, the first book in my Follow Your Heart find-your-own-ending teen romance series just as I was beginning to date after a not-so-pleasant break-up. I was a little afraid to be out there in the dating world again and doubting my own instincts in the romance department. I hadn’t been on a first date in years, much less on multiple first dates in a row. Sometimes during the same week. And once, on the same day. But as I wrote Summer Love, I realized that my fictional teens had a lot to teach me about dating and meeting people—all I had to do was listen. I finished writing Love on the Lifts, the second book in the series, just as I met a guy I thought things had the potential to work out with. That turned out not to be the case, but thanks to the experience if writing both books, I much better prepared to follow my heart this time around. Here’s what I learned:

1. There will always be someone else out there: In Summer Love and Love on the Lifts, there are tons of guys to choose from—eleven in each book to be precise—and if readers don’t like the first or second or third guy they meet, there’ll be another guy on the next page or two. The same is true in real life. There are more than 7 billion people in the world. So if you go on a date with someone who makes you feel bad or smells funny or spends the entire time talking about his ex-girlfriend, that’s okay. You can always try again tomorrow (or the next day or the day after that).

2. There's something good about everyone: In writing eleven different potential love interests in two different books, I had to come up with good qualities for all of them—some were physical, some were mental or emotional, but each character had to have at least a few things going for him. And, of course, this isn’t just true in fiction. The guy you went on a date with who smells funny might be a brilliant literature professor who shares your love of Jane Austen novels. The guy who is stuck on his ex might have beautiful eyes and interesting insights into the psychology of relationships. When you look for the positives in someone, sometimes the negatives become less important. Or at least a bad date becomes a tolerable one.

3. Just because he's a great guy, doesn't mean he's great for you: In a find-your-own-ending book, the characters all had to be unique enough to appeal to readers with different attraction criteria, so I wrote some guys who were more athletic, others who are more cerebral, some who loved kids or dogs or lobster rolls or art or dancing and others who were sweet or spontaneous or romantic. And I ended up writing twenty-two guys who I think are all pretty awesome. But that doesn’t mean that I’d want to date all of them. Just because a guy is a great guy doesn’t mean he’s great for you. And that’s okay. Just see #1 and keep on going.

4. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there: If the main characters of the Follow Your Heart books stayed inside their houses all day, never interacting with anyone, all these cool guys I created for them would never get to meet them! That’s true in real life too. If you want a chance to meet new people, you’ve got to go out and do things. Say yes to invitations, say yes to traveling solo, say yes to doing whatever it is that you always wanted to do but were too afraid to try. You never know who you’re going to meet.

5. Smile and say hi: In the Follow Your Heart books, sometimes guys come to the main character, inviting her to hang out with them, but sometimes she has the choice to go say hi to them. As long as you’re somewhere safe, with other people around, there’s no harm in smiling and saying hello to a stranger. You might end up having a conversation about what it’s like to train to be a Navy Seal or where the best techno clubs are in Barcelona. That might lead to having a beer at 10 am at a bar with outdoor seating in Placa Reial, but even if it doesn’t turn into anything more than a smile back, that’s sometimes all you need to perk up an otherwise average day.

6. Sometimes you’re not ready: Two of the endings in Summer Love and two in Love on the Lifts don’t involve romance or boys at all—they involve hanging out with your girls and getting to know yourself. And sometimes there are nights or weeks or months or even years when it’s better to focus on loving yourself and loving your friends than loving a guy, and that’s totally fine. When you’re ready to get out there again, there will be other people ready at the same time, waiting to meet you. (See #1)

7. If you find someone great, hold on tight: Once you find your match in Summer Love, the story progresses with the two of you until you get to your happy ending. It’s so awesome when you find someone you love who loves you right back, so if that happens, if you find someone who makes you feel good and who understands you and respects you and supports you and makes you smile, don’t second guess yourself and do hold on tight. Even if the ride’s a little bumpy, a few bumps will make your relationship even stronger.

And that’s what I learned from writing two teen romance novels with 13 different endings. They say that life imitates art as often as art imitates life, so if that’s the case, I hope anyone reading this finds their happy ending—whatever it is—this year.

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Jill Santopolo is the author of the Follow Your Heart books, the Sparkle Spa series and the Alec Flint mysteries. You can follow her on Twitter @JillSantopolo or find her on Facebook at /jillsantopoloauthor.

Topics: young adult, romance, series, 2015 release, teen, Jill Santopolo, Penguin/Puffin

A New SPARKLE SPA Book AND Do-It-Yourself Polka Dot Pedi!

Posted by Adi Rule on Tue, Oct 07, 2014 @ 10:10 AM

Happy, glittery launch day to True Colors, the latest book in Jill Santopolo's Sparkle Spa series

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Jill was kind enough to stop by with a special treat -- our own Launchpad Do-It-Yourself Polka Dot Pedicure! So get your polish out (may we suggest VCFA Green?). Here's Jill:

One of the best things about writing a book series set in a sparkly nail salon is that I’ve gotten to practice giving myself manicures and pedicures. And I’ve learned a lot of tips along the way. The pedicures are much easier, because my non-dominant hand—my left—doesn’t have a lot to do, but I’ve been practicing manicures enough that lefty is getting better at polishing. And since it has, I’ve gotten a little more adventurous with my nail designs.  

In fact, when the Mod Cloth website contacted me a few months back asking me to participate in their nail art promotion, I said yes and came up with this polka-dotted manicure that I was able to do all by myself. Though I now think it might be more fun as a pedicure…

In the back each Sparkle Spa book, there are tips from the characters—Aly and Brooke—about how to do give yourself different kinds of pedicures. So this is my version of that, based on my experiences with polish while working on this series, written from my own perspective instead of theirs.

IMG 0616 

How to Give Yourself A Polka-Dot Pedicure

By Jill


What you need:

Paper towels

Polish remover

Clear polish

One color polish for the base (I suggest something dark)

A nail art pen (I suggest white)

Cotton balls (optional)


What you do:

First, put some paper towels down on the floor. (I’m serious about this, because nail polish stains. Or if the polish itself doesn’t stain, the remover you use to try to get it off whatever it dripped on will take the color out of your rug or couch or the shellac on your wood floor….)

Second, use a cotton ball or a wad of paper towels dipped in polish remover to get off any polish or dirt currently on your toenails.

Third, rip off two pieces of paper towel. Twist them into a tube-shape and weave them back and forth between your toes to separate them. (This is so the polish you’ve done on one toe doesn’t rub off onto the next one.)

Fourth, do a coat of clear on each nail, then fan them for a little bit (maybe 30 seconds) so the polish isn’t too liquidy.

Fifth, do a coat of your base coat on each nail and fan again.

Sixth, repeat step five.

Seventh, wait a while for the polish to dry a bit—maybe five or so minutes.

Eighth, now open the nail art pen and make sure the color comes out when you push it down on a piece of paper towel. Once you’re sure, make dots by pushing the nail art pen down in different places on you nail. (The longer you push, the bigger the dot.) 

Ninth, fan your toes for about a minute, and then apply a top coat of clear. 

Now your toes have to dry completely. I’d give them at least 15 minutes—and that quick dry spray isn’t a bad idea either. (I’ve heard sticking your nails in the freezer helps them dry faster, but can’t say I actually tried this out.)

And then enjoy your pedicure! 

(Oh, two final tips: Make sure you don’t polish your nails too close to bedtime, because even if they seem dry, you might wake up with pillow creases in your polish. Also, make sure you wait a few hours before you take clothing out of the dryer (otherwise—disaster).)

So there you go—things I learned while writing the Sparkle Spa.  And if you’d like to see some of the pedicure tips Aly and Brooke have, you can click over here:


Happy polishing—

Jill Santopolo


Thanks, Jill! Our feet look awesome!

Jill chatted with us about her Sparkle Spa books earlier this year -- click here to check it out!

You can also learn more about this fun series over at Simon & Schuster, and visit Jill at her website,

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Topics: 2014 release, middle grade, guest post, chapter book, Jill Santopolo, Simon & Schuster

Roundup - Bank Street Honors VCFA Authors, Book Deals & More

Posted by Tami Brown on Fri, Jun 13, 2014 @ 06:06 AM

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It may be Friday the thirteenth (and a full moon at that!) but at VCFA it's our lucky day!

Bank Street College of Education recently released its list of Best Books of 2014 and there are a slew of familiar Vermont College of Fine Arts names on the list. Check out this honor roll of VCFA writers!

senorpancho vampirebaby cowboyup yeslets robotgobot penelopecrumb psbeeleven thevinebasket describe the image parched formerlysharkgirl 45pounds

Señor Pancho Had a Rancho by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Elwood Smith (Holiday House). Old MacDonald and Señor Pancho both have a lot of noisy farm animals in this festive, bilingual sing-a-long. Lively ink and watercolor illustrations

Vampire Baby by Kelly Bennett, illustrated by Paul Meisel (Candlewick Press). Big brother is certain that his baby sister—who chomps everything in sight—must be a vampire, so he tries to find the right home for her. Humorous mixed-media color illustrations.

Cowboy Up!: Ride the Navajo Rodeo by Nancy Bo Flood, photographs by Jan Sonnenmair (Wordsong/Boyds Mills Press/Highlights) A day of roping and riding competitions at a rodeo is depicted through photographs, poetry, and prose.

Yes, Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth, illustrated by Maris Wicks (Tanglewood) A family trip to the woods, including a hike, a picnic, and swimming, packs a lot of fun into one day. Colorful, humorous illustrations.

Robot, Go Bot! by Dana Meachen Rau, illustrated by Wook Jin Jung (Random House). Simple words, in comic-style balloons, tell the engaging story of a bossy girl and her robot.

Penelope Crumb Never Forgets by Shawn K. Stout, illustrated by Valeria Docampo (Philomel Books/Penguin) When a quirky, spirited girl establishes her Ultra Museum of Forget-Me-Notters, her choice of objects to represent her loved ones causes havoc. Black-and-white puppet-like illustrations.

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad Press/HarperCollins) Life gets complicated for the Gaither sisters in 1968 Brooklyn—Dad’s in love, uncle Darnell’s home from Vietnam, and the Jackson Five are coming to town.

The Vine Basket by Josanne La Valley (Clarion/HMH) Mehrigul, a Uyghur farm girl and gifted basketmaker, longs to go back to school but must battle her aggressive father, her depressed mother, and the Chinese rulers who have invaded her homeland.

The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing) Twelve-year-old Chap Brayburn, along with the Sugar Man and two raccoons, must save the Texas swamp and its rare inhabitants from animal and human predators. Fast-paced and funny.

Parched by Melanie Crowder (Harcourt Children’s Books/HMH) Sarel and Musa use their knowledge of the land to survive after the violent deaths of family members and abuse by gang members brought on by a devastating drought.

Formerly Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham (Candlewick Press) Jane, a high school senior recovering from the loss of her arm from a shark attack, discovers her special talents as well as her responsibilities to herself and others. Told in narrative verse. (Sequel to Shark Girl)

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K. A. Barson (Viking/Penguin) Emotional eater Ann has allowed her weight to control her life, until she is faced with her aunt’s wedding. She then acquires a greater understanding of her family.


*   *   *


Hailed for its creepy cool cover (we think it's a twisted tip of the hat to Downton Abbey!) Fuse #8's blog at School Library Journal featured Julie Berry's upcoming release The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place (Roaring Brook Press).

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With months still to go before its publication date, Dianne White's Blue On Blue (Beach Lane Press) has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Way to go, Dianne! This is the first of many accolades this beautiful book will receive!


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Happy launch week to Makeover Magic, the third book in Jill Santopolo's delightful Sparkle Spa series! Jill stopped by The Launchpad to talk about this series back in March -- read about it here if you missed it!

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A. B. Westrick's critically acclaimed middle grade novel Brotherhood (Viking 2013) is out this week in paperback!

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Coretta Scott King/Steptoe Award winner Kekla Magoon's The Guerilla Life of Manolo Cabesas, the story of a rural teen's transformation into a hardened soldier for a rebel army in South America, to Andrea Tompa at Candlewick, by Michelle Humphrey at the Martha Kaplan Agency (World). Congratulations, Kekla!!

Cynthia Surrisi sold her debut middle-grade mystery, The Maypop Kidnapping to Carolrhoda. It's set in a small coastal Maine village filled with eccentric locals; when 13-year-old Quinnie's beloved teacher goes missing, Quinnie leads a relentless, sometimes misguided search – against her mother's orders and it's scheduled for publication in 2015! Hooray Cynthia!

Erin Hagar sold a biography that's sure to be near and dear to our hearts-- and tummies! Julia Child: An Extraordinary Life in Words and Pictures, beautifully illustrated and aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, will be published next spring by DUOPRESS Books. We can't wait, Erin. Bon Appetit! 

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And last but not least...

The deadline for the Katherine Paterson Prize at Hunger Mountain is fast approaching! (June 30th) Enter your Young Adult, Middle Grade, or Picture Book manuscripts (up to 10,000 words). This year's judge is Katherine Applegate, Newbery-winning author of The One and Only Ivan and dozens of other books. There's a $1000 first prize, and past winners have found literary agents and ultimately sold books to major presses following the publication of their winning pieces at Hunger Mountain. Please visit Hunger Mountain at for guidelines.

Topics: Candlewick Press, Holiday House, Elwood Smith, 2014 release, round-up, Shawn K. Stout, Philomel, Penguin Random House, Kathi Appelt, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, HMH Books For Young Readers, A. B. Westrick, Kekla Magoon, Kelly Bingham, Paul Meisel, Roaring Brook Press, Viking, 2013 release, Jan Sonnenmair, Maris Wicks, Cynthia Surrisi, Kelly Bennett, Nancy Bo Flood, Wordsong, Amistad Press, K. A. Barson, Random House, congratulations, Julie Berry, Melanie Crowder, Rita Williams-Garcia, Rene Colato Lainez, Jill Santopolo, Aladdin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Dianne White, Valeria Docampo, Beach Lane Books, Boyds Mills Press, Highlights, Galen Goodwin Longstreth, Tanglewood, Josanne La Valley, Clarion, Dana Meachen Rau, Wook Jin Jung

Jill Santopolo and SUMMER LOVE

Posted by Tami Brown on Thu, May 01, 2014 @ 18:05 PM

Welcome Jill Santopolo, author of Summer Love, first in the Follow Your Heart series.

Summer LoveFor fans of The Bachelorette, a personalized summer romance with 13 possible endings!

Summer is all about relaxing and having fun. But it’s even better when you find the right guy to share it with. In this original romance, you get to choose how to find your happy ending, which can result in a kiss from one of eleven swoon-worthy guys. At the end of each chapter, you decide how to continue your journey to find love, and the endings are based entirely on the choices you make while reading. Every selection counts and the possibilities are endless. Not ready for romance? No problem! There are different endings to satisfy every reader, so you're guaranteed one fabulous beachside summer!

Jill Santopolo is the author of the Follow Your Heart books, the Sparkle Spa series and the Alec Flint mysteries. When she's not working on her own books, she helps other writers with their stories, both as an editor and a thesis advisor at The New School's MFA program in writing for children. She lives in New York City.

Who was your favorite character to write and why?

Summer Love was especially fun to write because I got to create eleven different guys who were all swoon-worthy in their own way. I think my favorite one to write about was Marco, who is the romantic, intellectual choice in the book. He was most like the kind of guy I would have fallen for at sixteen, so I felt like I got to go back in time and create my own teen dream boyfriend. (I hope other readers like him too!)

What was the spark that ignited this book?

I came up with the concept of a romance novel with a ton of different endings (this one has thirteen) when I was sitting in the back row of Andrea Cremer's book signing for Bloodrose, the third book in the Nightshade series. There were two teen girls in front of me who were having an argument about whether Calla should end up with Shay or Ren at the end of the book and I thought, while listening to them, "It's too bad novels can't have two endings, and readers can choose which one they want."  That thought turned itself in to a concept for the Follow Your Heart books, which give readers thirteen different endings to choose from so that hopefully every reader can find one (or two or six!) that makes them happy.

What is your favorite VCFA memory?

Every VCFA memory I have is pretty special, but my favorite was right before graduation, when my whole class was wearing our graduation garb, waiting to walk out into the chapel. Even though we'd only spent less than sixty days together in person, the people around me really felt like family--and I was so happy to be a part of that group, and so proud of what we'd all accomplished. I always joke that VCFA is the happiest place on earth, but really, it's not much of a joke. I truly think it is the happiest place on earth, and I felt the full power of that happiness in that moment.

Jill Santopolo 

FOLLOW YOUR HEART: SUMMER LOVE (Penguin/Puffin, May 1, 2014)

Topics: young adult, 2014 release, Jill Santopolo, Penguin/Puffin

Jill Santopolo, Two New SPARKLE SPA Books!

Posted by Adi Rule on Sun, Mar 02, 2014 @ 13:03 PM

We're celebrating the release of two sparkly new books in Jill Santopolo's SPARKLE SPA series (Simon and Schuster/Aladdin): ALL THAT GLITTERS and PURPLE NAILS AND PUPPY TAILS.

Welcome, Jill! Thanks so much for joining us.

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What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you? 

Outline! Because the publication schedule for the Sparkle Spa series is so fast (a book comes out every four months), I have to use my writing time as efficiently as possible. And that means knowing exactly where each story is going before I start writing. So outlining is crucial. With the big picture work done in advance, I can spend my time focusing on voice and details and dialogue and language when I finally put fingers to keys to write the story. 

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever Googled as research for your writing?

Hmm, I think it's probably a tie between What color are dog toenails? and Is human nail polish toxic if eaten by dogs? (In case you're curious, the answers, according to Google, are: black or clear and yes.)

Good to know! :) Who was your favorite character to write and why?

My favorite Sparkle Spa character to write was Joan--a grown-up manicurist in Aly and Brooke's mom's salon whom they absolutely adore. Joan always takes time to listen to the girls and values their opinions, and they really respond to her because of that. There were a lot of adults who made an impact on me as a kid for the same reason, and I tried to capture their essence in Joan.

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What advice would you give to a prospective VCFA student?

I would tell that student that the relationships you'll make while you're at VCFA will prove to be just as wonderful as the skills you'll learn in lectures and workshops. So don't feel guilty if you spend time hanging out and eating chocolate-covered cherries and drinking wine until midnight instead of writing or reviewing your notes from the day. The conversations you'll have in those wine pits will be an invaluable part of your VCFA experience.

We couldn't agree more! Thanks for stopping by, Jill. Congratulations on your two glittery releases!

Visit Jill at! And for more SPARKLE SPA fun, visit the Sparkle Spa site!

Topics: 2014 release, middle grade, chapter book, Jill Santopolo, Aladdin, Simon & Schuster

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