Archive for the ‘Saving the Griffin’ Category

A Few International Reads

December 11, 2015

On my bookshelf, I have all sorts of outdated Rick Steves guidebooks from the days my husband I roamed around Europe with our kids. Product Details In one of his books, he recommended that parents have their kids watch movies to help get them excited about different locations before they arrived.  I remember picking up the Italian-dubbed version of Anastasia at the library in Merano where we lived.  My Saving the Griffin could be a good choice for kids visiting Tuscany. While most of the book is set at a villa there, several chapters take place in Siena.


Here are a few titles that really brought me back to France and Italy after I returned to the U.S.:




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A Cabinet of Earths by Anne Nesbet (Paris)
A Box of Gargoyles by Anne Nesbet  (Paris) Previous book’s sequel


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Black Radishes
by Susan Lynn Meyer (Opens in Paris)





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The Thief Lord (Venice)

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Bloomability by Sharon Creech (Much takes place just north of Italy, but there’s a trip to the Dolomites)



Regional Reads for Christmas

December 9, 2015

How do you pick out a Christmas present or birthday gift for a young reader?  There are all sorts of ways to choose, but sometimes I like to pick out a book set in a place where those readers live or featuring characters from the same locality. Readers have enjoyed recognizing places from Suspect, my mystery set in Missouri with scenes that take place in St. Louis and Augusta. Defending Irene might be set in the Italian Alps, but it features a young American soccer player from the St. Louis area. Saving the Griffin is set in Tuscany, but it features characters from Minnesota.

What are some other fun regional reads?  Here’s a mix new releases and old favorites that I could think of off the top of my head during the busy holiday season. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments. I’ll be adding, updating and annotating as time allows even after the 2015 holiday season wraps up.


Not in the Script by Amy Finnegan (YA)


One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams Garcia (Oakland)
Quad by C.G. Watson
Millicent Min: Girl Genius by Lisa Yee
Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (San Francisco)
One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin
Mountain Dog by Margarita Engle  (A boy whose mother has been arrested for dog fighting goes to live with his great-uncle, who is a forest ranger and has a wilderness search and rescue dog.)


Katerina’s Wish by Jeannie Mobley
Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley


The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck


Cynthia’s Attic by Mary Cunningham (Southern Indiana)


Do You Know the Monkey Man by Dori Hillestad Butler



A Voice for Kanzas by Debra McArthur (Lawrence)



Harvest Moon by Tonya Coffey (recommended by the author, a former student, which is always fun)



Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith



Sanctuary by Jennifer McKissack
Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
Kiki and Jacques by Susan Ross


The Dirt Diaries by Anna Staniszewski



Ellie McDoodle: Have Pen, Will Travel by Ruth McNally Barshaw
Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson (Fictional town on Lake Michigan)
Bud, not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck
Suspect by Kristin Wolden Nitz  (St. Louis and Augusta)


Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson



Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman


New Hampshire

Any Way You Slice It by Kristine Carlson Asselin



Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick

New Mexico 

Dirt Bikes, Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft (YA)

New York

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Eighth-Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Pucker Up by Rachele Alpine  (Lakewood, a place near Cleveland)



The Caged Grave by Dianne Marenco Salerni (In 1867, a girl returns to her hometown and discovers her mother and aunt are buried in caged graves.)

The Eighth Day by Dianne Marenco Salerni (A boy discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday.)

South Carolina

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Palace Beautiful by Sarah Deford Williams (Salt Lake City)



Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith
Golden Girl by Mari Mancusi (A snowboarding prodigy tries to reclaim her standing as the “Golden Girl” at her elite winter sports academy. )



Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood by Varsha Bajaj



Adios, Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft (YA) Seattle



Finders Keepers by Shelley Tougas


Faithful by Janet Fox (YA) Set in and around Yellowstone



Griffins and Dinosaurs

October 21, 2014

My librarian friend Sondy Eklund wrote a review for THE GRIFFIN AND THE DINOSAUR. Looks fascinating!

Blog Hop!

July 2, 2014

I’d like to thank Ann Finkelstein for asking me to participate in this blog hop. I’ve been neglecting my blog, and this gave me a reason to get back to it. Ann is a talented writer and photographer whose YA fantasy is now out on submission. You can read about her writing process here.   I’m tagging Stephanie Bearce and Nancy Tupper Ling, two charming and witty writers.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m working on a contemporary YA novel that’s a modern retelling of a classic.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’m not aware of any recent updates of this particular work. And if there are any adaptations out there, I doubt that they feature high school cross-country runners.

Why do I write what I write?

This current project hit me over the head three days after my husband and I decided to move to Portland, Oregon. Scenes started unfolding in my head while I was out on a walk. Before I got home, I came up with any number of ways to deal the adjustments that I’d have to make to pursue the project and stay quite true to the source material. Otherwise, I tend to write the books that I like to read. My YA novel, SUSPECT, belongs to the cozy mystery genre. My contemporary fantasy, SAVING THE GRIFFIN , has been called a Narnia in Reverse by one reviewer, but one astute librarian recognized it as an appreciation for the works of Edward Eager. I always liked reading books about kids in unusual settings, so I knew that I had to pursue DEFENDING IRENE, about a girl playing soccer on a boys team in Italy.

Since I’ve also been a fan of historical fantasies, as exemplified by Megan Whalen Turner’s Attolia series and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Curse of Chalion , I’ve tried my hand at a couple of those. I’m also in the midst of working on one set in a place that has a number of things in common with Ancient Egypt a few generations after the invasion of Alexander the Great. But my Xander cemented his empire instead of having it fragment after his death. And then there are the magical elements…


–How does my individual writing process work?

I like writing the first draft of a scene by hand while using Natalie Goldberg’s strategy in her book called Writing Down the Bones. Here’s the short version. go into a coffee shop and “rent” a table through buying some kind of snack or beverage. That place is now my office, and I want to get my money’s worth. I pick up the pencil and start writing, keeping the hand moving at all times. Often, I get dialogue with just a sprinkling of action. Once I get home, I type everything into a computer and add a few more details. Then I keep working on the scene by layering on action and description. Once I bring that up to the level of a semi-polished rough draft, I head back to the coffee shop to start another scene. I usually have a general idea of where I’m headed, but I leave things open enough that I can follow inspiration. Sometimes I’ll jump ahead and write a key scene, but I usually work sequentially.


I tossed a lot of this process out the window for my current project. In two weeks, I went through the original work conversation by conversation and scene by scene and pulled together my take on what was going on with the modern characters. This took about two weeks. I’ve been building on this initial structure ever since. I’ve added some scenes of my own and taken some out of the original that just didn’t work in a modern context.


Stephanie Bearce’s Top Secret Files of History series will be coming out this fall, starting with Spies, Secret Missions, and Hidden Facts from World War II. I’m privileged to be in Stephanie’s critique group, so I’ve learned all sorts of cool things that have been hidden in history. This blog hop might wind up being one of her first blog posts on her new site. Stephanie will be posting on or around July 9th.

Nancy Tupper Ling is a talented children’s writer and poet. We met a few years ago at a retreat put on by our literary agency. I’m especially looking forward to one of her upcoming picture books. Here’s the official announcement: THE YIN-YANG SISTERS AND THE DRAGON FRIGHTFUL is a charming original fairy tale, told with heart and humor, about twin sisters Mai and Wei whose village has become encumbered by a very problematic dragon. Wei wants nothing more than to send that nasty old dragon packing. Mai… isn’t so sure. What are two sisters to do? Nancy will be posting on or around July 14th.

I’ll provide updates if needed.


Before and After Harry Potter (Grades 3-5)

November 16, 2011

It was such fun to see SAVING THE GRIFFIN turn up on a master list of fifty or so books for kids to read before and after Harry Potter.  Susan Fichtelberg and Bonnie Kunzel pulled this list together for their June, 2011 ALA presentation.    A quick cruise through Susan’s website, Encountering Enchantment, made it clear that she’s extremely knowledgable about fantasy and science fiction.  In fact, School Library Journal thought that her Encountering Enchantment: A Guide to Speculative Fiction for Teens should be a part of every YA collection.

So if you’re trying to find some quality fantasy novels for middle grade readers, you should really check out this list!

Narnia in Reverse

December 15, 2010

Many writers like Google alerts.  It’s a great way to see what’s going on with their latest book, especially for those of us who aren’t New York Times bestsellers.  After all,  people don’t feel the need to put up a bad review for relatively unknown authors.  But today a review of SAVING THE GRIFFIN popped up in my mailbox.  Since I resemble the elephant child in my insatiable curiosity, I checked it out here.   She compared it to “…Narnia, only in reverse, as a young griffin accidentally ends up in our world.”

Narnia in reverse–that was at least part of my intent when the idea for this book came to me.  The Edward Eager books were also a very strong inspiration since they showed bickering siblings dealing with the consequences of magic.

Mix and Mingle

September 25, 2010

You’re invited to the launch party for SUSPECT at Literary Life!

WHEN: Thursday, October 7 from 6:00 to 8:00
WHERE: 758 Wealthy Street SE   Grand Rapids, MI

Things should be lively since the Wealthy Street Autumn Stroll will also be going on.  I’m hoping to have coloring pages available from SAVING THE GRIFFIN as well.  A few copies of DEFENDING IRENE will be available as well.  Fall is the perfect time for a girls’ soccer story.

Grand Rapids Griffins

June 21, 2010

The Grand Rapids Griffin mascot posed with SAVING THE GRIFFIN and Diana Wynne Jones’ YEAR OF THE GRIFFIN.  It was pretty fun to see my book next to one by DWJ even though the only real link was the fact that we both had the word “griffin” in the title. 

Researching family history?


June 17, 2010

Whoa!  I got some exciting news this morning.  Peachtree decided to feature SUSPECT on the back cover of their fall catalogue! Very cool.  I suspect that some of that ‘love’ has to come from the truly eyecatching look.  This is one of the times when I’m really hoping that potential readers judge my book by its cover.   I felt the same way about SAVING THE GRIFFIN even though the looks couldn’t be more different.

Coming in Fall, 2010


May 8, 2010

Sometimes books are challenged in libraries.  There might be a word, phrase, character or situation that people object to. But one parent really took objections to the next level when he paged through a book by Dan Gutman.  Mr. Gutman wrote about this surprising correspondence in an article for School Library Journal. (Note: Link updated.) 

His experience made me think about I came really close to self-censoring myself in SAVING THE GRIFFIN.  I wrote about that experience in the comments section of Gutman’s article.  In the end, I decided that the use of two questionable words–dumb and stupid–was right for that scene.  They had to be in there.  No, this isn’t anything close to the decision that Susan Patron had to make in  THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, but I had read an article about how the use of those words could keep my book out of some classrooms and collections.   

Now I have decided to take out some other words from rough drafts when I didn’t think that they were age-appropriate. In those cases, though, the words weren’t important to the story.