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My Top Nonfiction Books of 2015

I decided that in 2015, I was going to read more.

This might seem a little bizarre, since most people assume that since I write books I also read books constantly. And there was a time when I did— but when there were deadlines or meetings or book tours or dinners I found myself thinking of reading more and more as a “leisure” activity, akin to marathoning a show or going to a movie. Which, of course, it isn’t– reading is part of my job! And it’s something that undeniably makes me a better writer, happier person, and, if I say so myself, cooler human being.

And so I really settled in to reading in 2015. I didn’t have a specific number of books in mind, though I did decide to keep track of what I read (and I will say that keeping track of what I read was VERY satisfying because the number kept going up and thus I felt nerdily productive). Here are the stats:

In 2015, I read 73 books (and will perhaps make it to 74 before the year is truly up).
Of those, I listened to 47 as audiobooks.

Yep, 2015 was THE YEAR OF THE AUDIOBOOK. I’ve actually never been hugely into audiobooks before, but I decided that if I really wanted to up my reading, I would need to use them– I spend a lot of time in the car, or walking, or puttering around the house, or cooking– and that was time that could be used listening to books. Listening to audiobooks is definitely a very different experience than reading a hard copy book, but I’m telling you, it’s every bit as rewarding. In some ways, I think I retain more from audiobooks because I can’t skim ahead, no matter how badly I want to know what happens on the next page.

I thought I’d break down my 2015 in several posts rather than one giant long post. Also, keep in mind that there are a handful of books I’m super excited about that came out late in 2015, and thus I just haven’t had a chance to read. So with that in mind…

My favorite non-fiction books of 2015:

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes – Caitlin Doughty

I truly cannot express how much I loved this book. The author does a really amazing web series called Ask A Mortician; she has a wonderful voice (as you’ll see if you follow that link) and does a phenomenal job with her audio book. I have always been interested in death in way that often feels very different than my peers; I’m not into coffin couches or skull ornaments or making a laugh out of it (which is totally fine, for what it’s worth)– death is something that intrigues me in a very serious and somber way, specifically how personally we all handle the idea of it as well as how we approach the very personal act of mourning. Doughty does a truly wonderful job of telling funny, weird stories about life as a crematory operator– but she’s always respectful. She seems to take a great deal of pride in her job, and recognizes the importance of her role despite how many bodies and families and deaths and funerals she’s seen over the years.
Additionally, she sheds light on some fascinating funeral traditions, and has some eye-opening thoughts on America’s death practices, specifically embalming. I really enjoyed hearing her discuss the cultural, personal, and communal value of certain death traditions, even those that may seem a little bizarre to our ears (one specific story about cannibalism was really interesting). This is one of those books that I am going to be recommending for years and years– it has real staying power.

Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert

I almost don’t even have anything more to say about this book, since I’ve been shouting about it on Twitter for weeks now. I chanted the title to all my writing friends. And non-writing friends. And pets. It is the warm hug of creativity that I didn’t know I needed. I finished it and got back to work on a book I love, but have been neglecting. I think it has changed my life. No, for real. I think it has. I had a rough summer creatively and personally, but reading this renewed my faith in myself as an author and person. Do I sound sappy? I sound a little sappy. But whatever, I don’t care. Read this book and feel magical.

Troublemaker – Leah Remini

So, my very awesome friend/author/derby girl Lauren Morrill told me I needed to listen to this book. And I was sort of like…meh? I mean, I never watched King of Queens? I only know Leah Remini as Stacey Carosi from those weird beach episodes of Saved By The Bell? And then Lauren said “It’s ALL ABOUT Scientology” and I was like “SIGN ME UP.” This book is total candy, but in the best, most delightful way. Do the audiobook if you can– Leah reads it and it’s like she’s in your car with you, explaining how messed up Scientology is and rolling her eyes and yelling curse words at anyone who dares cut you off in traffic. It is a fun read/listen about a crazypants religion, and I loved it and you should listen to it and then we can talk about all the Tom Cruise Wedding stuff because O.o.

My Top YA/MG of 2015
My Top Memoirs of 2015
My Top Adult SciFi/Fantasy of 2015

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Here are some words of wisdom

I keep thinking I’ll find a way to turn them into whole blog posts, but then I don’t because there’s stuff to do and books to write and cats to feed. So here are some words of wisdom that I think are worth sharing just because.

1) Stop buying crap products from the drugstore and go to the dermatologist. Look, I swear we’ll get to the Deep and Meaningful Wisdom in a moment, but for now, trust me: At the dermatologist, they can give you prescriptions for face washes that cost a fraction of what you’re paying for drugstore stuff and work 5000x as well. And creams and stuff. For real. I can’t believe I waited so long to go (and spent so much on fancy face products at Sephora).

2) As I keep saying on twitter, it actually IS a good idea to rise early rather than work all night. I know. I hate that cold truth too.

3) Audiobooks are an amazing magical way to read (?) lots of books, because you will eventually want to listen to them rather than watch TV, so ta-da, you’ve also saved on cable! I have listened to so many, and I know there’s no way I’d have found the time to read an equal number of books.

4) It is so, so, so easy to cocoon up in your house with Netflix and pajamas and say “it’s because I’m introverted” or “I’ve had a long week” or “I’m just really tired tonight”. Look, you might be introverted/overworked/tired. But if you constantly use all that as an excuse to be a lousy friend, partner, and relative, then the people who love and care about you are going to learn how to live their lives without you there. Say yes to things. Go places even when you’d rather nap. Make sure your friends/family members know that you appreciate being asked to things, and that you want to be a part of their lives– and not just when it’s convenient to you.

5) Willpower is a finite resource. If you do the Hardest Thing when you’re at the end of the day, your willpower will be all used up. Do the Hardest Thing– whether that’s working out, or writing, or reading Facebook because OMG IS IT HARD TO LOOK AT YOUR RACIST UNCLES POSTS– at the beginning of the day. This, by the way, goes hand in hand with that Waking Up Early thing.

6) Being passive aggressive online is so very unattractive and unpleasant and ugh just don’t. I see it constantly on Facebook. I see it via pointed unfollows or vague tweets on twitter. I see it from celebrities and students and writers and friends. I’m sure it can be justified– “It’s MY Social Media Platform” or “I just don’t even care!” or “Whatever, she doesn’t follow me anyway”– but still. It accomplishes nothing. Be bigger than that.

7) Don’t spend your time reading books that you’re not all that into. There are way too many amazing books to read.

8) I’m serious about that dermatologist thing.


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On public speaking

Public speaking is hard, guys. It takes practice, and work, and it can be really scary, especially if you’re new at it. When you research public speaking, you get a lot of results that encourage you to picture the audience in their underwear (uh, creepy), or memorize your notes, or pause two seconds at each period. Which is all well and good, but that’s more like second tier advice for people wanting to polish their public speaking game. So, I’ve put together some first tier advice—advice I wish I’d had when I first started doing author events, but advice that I think is relevant to all forms of public speaking. Here goes:

1. Practice your speech. And do so standing up, wearing the shoes you’ll be wearing when you give it. This is particularly important if you’ll be wearing heels of any variety. When you’re nervous, you tend to be a bit more wobbly on your feet. Combine that with unpracticed heels and it can all get tricky.

2. Everyone is on your side. This is the most important point of this entire post. I have seen a lot of people speak to a large audience. A lot of those people have been very, very nervous about doing so. And I promise: I was always cheering for them. If they slipped up on a word, or lost their place, or dropped their papers, I was never snickering—I was always thinking “You’ve got this! Don’t worry about it!”. So was everyone else in the audience. No one watching you speak wants you to fail. Because seriously, if I wanted to see someone fail, I’d go to YouTube. It’s easier and you can replay it over and over.

3. Don’t worry if they laugh when you mess up. They’re not laughing at you. They’re laughing because it’s just funny when someone accidentally says “breast” instead of “best” (I’ve done it). Or when someone tries to combine the word “cities” and “towns” and winds up saying “titties” (Male Counterpart did that in front of his class). But they’re not laughing AT you. They’re laughing because it’s funny. You can laugh too.

4. Tell the audience what you need. Feel free to say “I totally lost my place” or “This is my cheat sheet.” I am super distractible, so whenever I’m giving a new presentation, I have my laptop or iPad nearby to refer to. I always tell the audience “I’m basically like your cat, and get distracted by shiny things, so I brought this to help me find my place again.” No one has ever been bothered or alarmed by that. Sometimes, I talk too fast and lose my breath. Sometimes, even with a familiar presentation, I lose my place because something throws me—people talking loudly, a bell ringing, or, in one memorable case, a man covered in mud running by in the background. If I don’t have a cheat sheet with me, I literally just ask the audience what I was talking about. They’re always happy to remind me because SEE POINT 2.

5. Focus on what you’re saying. There are all sorts of websites that tell you to keep your eyes up! Don’t sway! Look people in the eye! And that’s all well and good if you’re at the point where you’re comfortable with public speaking. But if you’re not, just keep your eyes on your paper (assuming you have one). Focus on the words, not the people in the room. One word at a time—slowly.

6. Take a breath. Especially if you’re about to fall apart. Take a breath in through your nose, out through your mouth, and let go. Use that breath as your “restart”. If you’re trying to give your speech and think about how badly you’re screwing up and wonder if people are laughing at you and dwell on if you’re speaking too fast, your brain is going to ignite. Take a breath, and SEE POINT 5.

7. Put your paper on something. This is a pretty basic trick, but makes a big difference. If your hands are shaking, it’ll be way less noticeable if you’ve got the paper on a podium or desk or something. If you won’t have a podium, use notecards rather than a piece of paper—they’ll wobble less and thus be less noticeable.

8. It wasn’t as bad as you thought. Ok, let’s say you’ve already given a speech and OH MY GOD IT WAS THE WORST YOU MESSED UP EVERYTHING.
You didn’t. Seriously. It was just one speech, and unless you’re the President and you accidentally just said “titties” on camera, no one’s going to remember in the end. Sometimes I catch myself sitting around and dwelling on all the embarrassing things I’ve done in my life. I would bet cash money that no one who witnessed those things remembers them—or if they do, they remember them as sort of a passing story rather than THAT TIME JACKSON RUINED EVERYTHING.

9. Everyone is on your side. Yes, it’s important enough that I’m saying it twice—and because you should know that everyone is on your side after you’ve given a speech. If you screwed up, you’re almost certainly beating yourself up way more than anyone else is—because guess what? Public speaking is probably scary for them too.

10. Don’t let one bad speech ruin you. While I was writing SISTERS RED, I got a terrible migraine in Borders moments after drinking one of those Naked brand smoothies. That smoothie had nothing whatsoever to do with why I got a migraine, but I will never ever ever drink one again. Don’t let public speaking become your Naked smoothie. Just because you screwed up once back in 4th grade and the whole class saw you turn bright red doesn’t mean you are bad at public speaking. It means that in 4th grade, you messed up a single speech.

11. Public speaking takes practice. And I’m not talking about practicing for a single speech. I’m talking about practicing public speaking, period. The more often you speak in public, the better you’ll be at it. If you’re truly terrified, start small and join a book club—one that’s not stacked with your BFFs. I also know a lot of people who have taken improv comedy classes to help them with their confidence in front of a crowd. And there are various organizations that focus on public speaking that are a quick Google away.

For what it’s worth, I also think performing arts—even if it’s not drama, where you’re speaking on stage—are hugely helpful for this, because you get used to eyes being on you. I could go on for hours about the various benefits of arts education, but I’ll be brief and say that the confidence I got from years of dance and winterguard has been invaluable.

And there you have it! Good luck, go forth, speak publicly. And do so without ever needing to picture the audience in their underwear like some kind of creeper.

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The Elevator Pitch

You: *get on elevator*
Fancy Editor from Fancy Publishing House: *gets on elevator*
*Doors close*
*You turn to the Editor. She is yours for the next eight seconds. There is no escape. This is an elevator, after all.*
You: Hi there. I’ve written a book.
Editor: Oh? Tell me about it.
You: Well, it’s sort of a transformation themed love story. See there’s this girl, and a long time ago this werewolf killed her grandmother. She she has a little sister, who she loves and they’re really close, and they live in this house and it’s basically just them, and they’ve kind of been living there for ages and making it work. But there’s also this boy– the kind of boy they’ve known for a while– who lives next door, and he’s close friends with the older sister and as they start growing older he ends up having feelings for the younger sister. So anyway, the werewolves they–
*Elevator doors open*
Editor: Have a nice day!
You: Wait! WAIT!
Editor: *does not wait*
You: *wail*

The Elevator Pitch is a skill I want you– all of you, writers old and young and small and tall and here and there– to have. The Elevator Pitch is a skill you need.

So often we get caught up in the vastness of the worlds we’ve created, the characters we’ve meticulously honed, the subplots we’ve carefully laid out. We’ve spent SO much time on them, after all, and we want others to appreciate them!
The trouble is, all that stuff? That’s the stuff people find out and respect and admire when they READ the book. It’s not the way to sell people on the book before they’ve opened it. Think of the Elevator Pitch like a tagline, or the way you’d summarize a movie to your friend. You don’t tell them the nitty gritty, you tell them the big idea.

You: Want to go see Bring It On?
Friend: Maybe. What’s it about?
You: It’s about this girl who has taken over as a captain for a cheerleading team that always wins, and then they start to lose and she freaks out, but this new girl comes to town who is an ex-gymnast and joins their team, the main girl– the captain– ends up having feelings for that girl’s brother. And anyway, they train really hard and hire in this guy who is supposed to be an amazing cheerleading choreographer, but it ends up that he’s just shopping the same routine to all sorts of groups, and so the team gets disqualified. And then they also find out that all the cheers and routines they’d been doing for ages were actually stolen from this black cheerleading team from Compton that couldn’t ever afford to go to competitions, and so it’s like the main girl’s whole cheerleading history is stolen and faked. And so they take all these lessons and learn to like swing dance and stuff and then they do a fundraiser so the team from Compton can come compete, but the Compton girls find another way to get there because they don’t want pity to get them to the competition. And in the end there’s this big huge cool routine and the main girl is like YOU BETTER BRING IT and that’s what the title is all about, and then the black team wins but it’s cool because they were the best and the main girl is like Oh, this feels like first.
It’s a semi-dark comedy about competitive cheerleading.

If you’d given your friend the long spiel, her eyes would have started to glaze over. My eyes started to glaze over while writing that, and I freaking love Bring It On. Even if you’re not talking to an editor or agent or industry person, an elevator pitch is a clever way to make people think “My, that person has chops!” rather than “My, that person is still talking!”.

So, how to do it?
Take your book. Grind it down to the very, very basics. So, for example– I was talking about SISTERS RED in that scenario above, in the elevator. Instead of all that long-winded nonsense, I could have just said: It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, about two sisters who hunt werewolves.
BAM. There’s you pitch. And for what it’s worth, that’s how it was pitched to my editor who wound up aquiring the book.

PURITY? It’s about a girl trying to lose her virginity before her Purity Ball.
TSARINA? It’s about a noble girl trying hunt down a magical Faberge egg out of Russia in the middle of the Revolution.

A slightly longer version is okay too, like:
DOUBLECROSS? It’s about a boy who has always wanted to be a super spy, like his parents. Even though he’s super smart and clever and works hard, he’s a bit chubby and isn’t able to pass the spy agency’s physical exam. But when his parents are kidnapped by a rival spy organization, he and his little sister are the only ones who can save the day.

It’s NOT easy, but it does get easier to do this– and I promise, it’s worth it. Have your Elevator Pitch ready to go from the moment you start mentioning your book to people, because you never know when you might need it. Ages and ages ago, I remember calling an agency to verify their mailing information before I started queries. The woman who answered the phone gave me the info, then casually said “So, what’s the book about?”
And I basically said: dlkjflskdnfwlkerowuefoiwenrlwkejd0wejpfuweofch2i
Because I didn’t have my Elevator Pitch ready.

Often, when I’m at events or conferences or signings at stores, people mention to me that they write, and I always ask what the book is about– and more often then not, they don’t have their elevator pitch ready either. It doesn’t bug me or anything, but I can always see their faces getting red as they stumble through, trying to sort out what to say, reminding me oh-so-much of myself on the phone with that agency many years ago.

My point is, go forth, create your elevator pitch sooner rather than later.The world is full of elevators, after all, and you never know who you’ll get on board with.

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OMG it is 2015.

Actually 2015. Which means it’s the year of middle grade, for me. In April, my co-written book (with Maggie Stiefvater), PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES releases. And in July, the super-fun-heisty-delightful first book in my new spy series releases– THE DOUBLECROSS (and other skills I learned as a superspy).

Here’s what it’s all about:
The Doublecross

Everyone in Hale’s family is a spy, going way back. His great grandfather. His grandmother. Both his parents. They’ve all worked for the Sub Rosa Society, an elite, top secret organization—so top secret that new agents aren’t recruited; they’re born.

Unfortunately for twelve-year-old Hale, he was born (as his mother puts it) “big-boned”– or (as his SRS classmates put it) “fat”. Despite the fact that Hale can defuse an explosive, don a disguise in seconds, and speak eleven languages, he’s often overlooked by his SRS classmates because he’s not so great at running, fighting, or back-handspringing over a laser grid.

But one day, Hale’s parents are kidnapped by a rival spy organization, and it turns out Hale– with some help from his little sister, Kennedy– might be the only one who can save the day. The trouble is, when you’re surrounded by spies, who can you trust?

Here’s where you can pre-order the book, if you’re so inclined: | | Barnes & Noble |

And here’s how you can enter to win an ARC! One entry just for signing up, and another entry for following me on twitter. This particular contest is North America only, but I promise I’ll do an international contest soon.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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OMG I am excited.

I am so excited. Here are some gifs to convey my excitement because AHHHH.

As explained in words and images above, I am very excited to finally be able to tell everyone about the book I wrote with Maggie Stiefvater, called PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES.

In PIP BARTLETT’S GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES, Pip is a girl who can talk to magical creatures. Her aunt is a vet for magical creatures. And her new friend Tomas is allergic to most magical creatures. When things go amok—and they often go amok—Pip consults Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures, a reference work that Pip finds herself constantly amending. Because dealing with magical creatures like unicorns, griffins, and fuzzles doesn’t just require book knowledge—it requires hands-on experience and thinking on your feet. For example, when fuzzles (which have an awful habit of bursting into flame when they’re agitated) invade your town, it’s not enough to know what the fuzzles are—Pip and Tomas also must trace the fuzzles’ agitation to its source, and in doing so, save the whole town.

Here’s the press release from Scholastic!

Here are some things to know:
-It is a middle grade book (a touch younger than my other middle grade, THE DOUBLECROSS).
-It is full of magical creatures, some which are traditional (unicorns and griffins) and some that we invented (bitterflunks and bog wallows).
-Maggie illustrated aforementioned magical creatures in the book.
-There is a unicorn who, like my dog, is afraid of everything.
-There are a lot of capers.
-There are a lot of animals.
-This is a book I would have LOST MY MIND over as a kid because ANIMALS AND MAGIC.
-In fact, for years, my bio has said: “Jackson began writing when she got angry that the school librarian couldn’t tell her of a book that contained a smart girl, horses, baby animals, and magic. Her solution was to write the book herself when she was twelve.” THIS IS THAT BOOK. Only instead of horses, they’re UNICORNS, which is EVEN BETTER.

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Your tax dollars at work

So, I am pretty horrified (like most acceptable humans are) by this whole Sam Pepper thing. If you don’t know what that is, see below:

I’ll totally admit that as I’ve stepped back from the YouTube community in the past year due to time restraints, I totally missed that stuff like this is a THING. Like, I had no idea people DID THIS and put it on YOUTUBE. I thought this was the sort of stuff perverts did quietly in the shadows, you know?

And anyhow, I thought I’d share a story with you:

Back in 2007, I was a few weeks shy of graduating college, and had been querying agents daily with a book called THERE ARE NO STARS IN CALIBAN– a book that later was bought by Harper Collins and became AS YOU WISH. I was fortunate enough to get offers from two agents. That evening, I called my mom to debate both agents; mid-phone-call, I decided to run to a nearby grocery store and get Pull-N-Peel Twizzlers, because they are delicious and as we all know, candy helps your decision making skillz.

So I’m standing there in the candy aisle, talking to Mom, getting my Twizzlers, and my eyes drift to the tiny little natural foods section. And there, about thirty feet away from me, is some guy’s penis.

Like, right there. He has pants on, but he’s got them unzipped and it’s just THERE, bouncing away as he peruses the whole grain cereals.

My first thought is: OMG THAT POOR GUY HE DOESN’T KNOW!!!!

I tell my mom what I see, and her first thought is: THAT GUY IS A PERVERT GET OUT OF THERE NOW

And suddenly I realize she’s RIGHT. This dude IS a pervert, and his penis isn’t hanging out on accident, and by this point he KNOWS I’ve seen it and I can tell this is PLEASING.

So my second thought is: OH #$%(#$ NO.

So I spin around and march to the customer service desk, where some poor kid who’s maybe 17 is working. I ask to see a manager.

Him: I’m sure I can help you, ma’am!
Me: I REALLY need to see a manager, and fast.
Him: Why don’t you tell me what’s bothering–
Me: There’s a man exposing himself by the Toastie-Os.
Him: I’ll call a manager.

By this time, of course, Pervert Dude realizes that I am ratting him out, and hurriedly rushes toward the exit, zipper up. I point and tell 17-year-old THAT’S HIM and 17-year-old frantically calls a manager and has no idea what to do.

Me third thought: WHAT WOULD BATMAN DO? (or something similar)

So I hurry outside after this guy (a safe distance, btw) and memorize his license plate/car make as he drives off. Then I call 911 and tell the police what happened, and all the info I have.

Now, to be honest, I figured that was the end of it. I mean, the guy was GONE before the cops got there. Hell, even I had left before the cops got there. But damn if a week later, the cops didn’t call me and ask me to come in and identify him in a photo line up, and ask me some questions, and get a “victim impact statement”. They’d actually used the store’s surveillance video, the license plate I’d given them, and my description (which included the LOGO-BEARING WORK SHIRT he wore to this little fiesta) to arrest him. He was being charged with a smattering of things, and apparently admitted to even more once they had him in custody.

Anyhow, the point of this story is: If someone exposes themselves to you, or touches you, or does ANYTHING YOU DO NOT WANT, CALL THE POLICE. Whip out your cell phone and GET SOME $&#* ON VIDEO. It does NOT take much to get the police to look into something, and what’s more, it’s important the police get this sort of information on file, even if they don’t make an arrest. THIS IS PART OF WHAT YOU PAY TAXES FOR- A POLICE FORCE THAT WILL PROTECT YOU. You don’t have to HOLD THE CREEP there to prove to the police that he’s a creep. I didn’t even have a picture of the guy who exposed himself to me, and he got arrested– and this was in a small college town with limited resources.

Obviously, I know in some cases coming forward can be difficult, and I’m sympathetic to those. The point of this post is more about– don’t think calling and reporting a creep is pointless. It’s important, it’s helpful, and moreover, it’s your RIGHT. Use your phone if it’s safe, get photos and video, and don’t be shy about the fact that you’re doing it– you have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, after all. Even if you aren’t particularly traumatized by seeing some random dude’s junk, call in support of the woman or child he might do it to in the future who WOULD be traumatized by it.

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As always, here’s my 9/11 video that I made a few years ago. I know a lot of readers are too young to have memories of 9/11, which might mean this day is a little weird for you. I get that. But I think it’s important you listen– that we all listen– because empathy is what will always, always bring us together, no matter how hard hate tries to drive us apart.

Also, the other day I came across these in a drawer:


Those are the Atlanta newspapers from September 12, 13, and 14. I was 17 when 9/11 happened, and I’ve moved…five? Six? Seven times since then? But through all the moves, through dorm rooms and small apartments, I’ve kept these. I’m not even sure WHY, to be honest– it’s not like I could forget this stuff. But here they are, anyhow…

And here’s this, by the way– it’s something I neglected to mention in the video. An article from the 14th’s paper:


Just a few days after September 11th, you couldn’t GET an American flag. For real. They were NO WHERE. Everyone had sold out. I remember that my sister somehow had the hook up, and managed to get one for our car, and everyone was all OMG HOW DID YOU FIND ONE?

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Do you know what THE DOUBLECROSS is? Allow me to tell you, in this hastily-written (sorry) blurb:

Everyone in Hale’s family is a spy, going way back. His great grandfather. His grandmother. Both his parents. They’ve all worked for the Sub Rosa Society, an elite, top secret organization—so top secret that new agents aren’t recruited; they’re born.
Unfortunately for twelve-year-old Hale, he was born (as his mother puts it) “big-boned”– or (as his SRS classmates put it) “fat”. Despite the fact that Hale can diffuse an explosive, don a disguise in seconds, and speak eleven languages, he’s often overlooked by his SRS classmates because he’s not so great at running, fighting, or back-handspringing over a laser grid.
But one day, Hale’s parents are kidnapped by a rival spy organization, and it turns out Hale– with some help from his little sister, Kennedy– might be the only one who can save the day. The trouble is, when everyone’s a spy, who can you trust?

It’s a middle grade– my first! And I love it so much. It’s so much fun. It’s funny and adventure-y and antics-y. It’s full of missions and full of family and full of heart and full of explosives.

And here’s the cover for THE DOUBLECROSS (and other skills I learned as a super spy), which I adore:

The Doublecross



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