Author Interview – Caroline Starr Rose

caroline_starr_roseHi Caroline! Thanks for agreeing to chat with me on the blog. I so appreciate all the authors that take time out of very busy lives for me, and you were so quick to jump on board. I love it.

To start out, I typically ask for the 2-minute intro, which includes the normal basics, and I love asking for something that not many people know about you (what you love to eat when you’re sick, which song gets you dancing, what smell you can’t get enough of… or can’t get away from!). Tell us a bit about you!

 Hey there, Kaytee. Thank you for the invitation. I’m a former teacher turned children’s author, a pastor’s wife, and a mom to two teenage boys. I love to run (though rather slowly), and love to cook when I have the time and inspiration. If I ever got in trouble in school it was for giggling, and as a grown up I sometimes still have a hard time controlling my laughter. (Let’s just say I once taught a sixth-grade class where I laughed for thirty minutes straight. My students, rather than go nuts themselves, helped me through the lesson. It was a memorable day.) My comfort food is avgolemono soup (my dad’s parents immigrated to the US from Greece). In the fall I drive around Albuquerque with the windows rolled down just to get a whiff of green chile roasting, perhaps the best smell in the world. I get goofy about words and phrases that bug me. Current ones are content creator, across the pond, all the things, and rinse and repeat. I’m a sucker for the Ramona Quimby Apples to Apples Jr. card. For years my family knew to save it for my turn, because I’d pick it, no matter what.

Oh. I’m also a Line, not Lynn, as far as my name goes.

You do a lot of author interviews yourself, on your blog, so I feel like I have a high bar set for me in this one. Makes me a bit nervous! Let’s dive in to May B. first and see where that goes.11527309

I saw that May B. was chosen for the Powell’s Books list of Girls Who Rescue Themselves. What an exciting acknowledgement! You mention loving the Little House series in the note at the end of the novel, but also talk about a previous book (unpublished) that covered the journey of the Oregon Trail. Has Prairie/settler life always been a big draw for you? What attracts you to that time in our history?

Absolutely. I’m fascinated with the everyday lives of frontier women. In a collection of first-hand accounts I read years ago, I remember a story that focused on a family without a well. Throughout the day the wife had to cover a huge distance carrying buckets to and from a creek. At the end of the story, almost in passing, the reader learns she is eight-months pregnant. That just blew me away in comparison to my own life — the things I consider difficult and the conveniences I rarely think about.

I think part of the attraction is the knowledge that I am not made of the same stuff these women were (though perhaps I would have risen to the occasion if I were born in a different era?). Their regular lives required extraordinary grit, which inspires me.

May has to overcome all kinds of challenges in this verse novel, not the least of which is her inability to conquer reading, because of her dyslexia. As an avid reader myself, that seems like the worst of the challenges (even when she is all alone, she finds MORE challenges instead of comfort in the words of her book). You mention in another interview that you didn’t know much about dyslexia before writing this novel. How did you put yourself, first person, into the mind of someone with such a huge challenge, without having lived through it? It must have been incredibly difficult! I feel like it’s so much easier to draw on what we know through life experience.

For me as an author, I find I don’t have to experience what a character has (or even agree with their choices and actions), but I do need to understand their feelings. This may sound like a stretch, but I called on my experience feeling like an outsider in my own country as a way to relate to May Betterly and Alis Harvie (from Blue Birds). My family spent three years in Saudi Arabia when I was a girl. I moved back to the US not knowing American money, slang, or even animals (when I saw a deer crossing sign I thought it was a picture of a goat!). May feels like an outsider at school. She is misunderstood. Apart from Miss Simpson, she’s really alone in this aspect of her life.

What was most challenging was putting May in situations that were uncomfortable. On one hand, I knew she was strong and trusted she could overcome the physical challenges. The school challenges were more difficult. The hardest section (emotionally) for me to write was the flashback sequence, where May remembers school and the humiliation she felt there. My editor encouraged me to really dig deep and not hold back. I had to single her out and make her hurt. It was painful. But like all characters, she had to hit rock bottom to come out changed on the other side.

My gosh, May is brave. She’s taught me oodles about what it means to be a person (which sounds strange, since I made her up and she’s not a real person at all. I’m so proud she now lives beyond me in the minds of my readers).

22105178Now, moving on to Blue Birds, the verse novel you wrote about an unlikely friendship between a Roanoke girl and an English settler in 1587: I honestly didn’t expect to love this book like I did. I thought that the story of Alis and Kimi might be too far removed from my own experience to make any identifying connections, but I absolutely adored it. I can easily say (despite my very limited experience on the matter) that this is my favorite verse novel that I have ever read. 🙂
With all that established, let’s talk about how you traveled down this road: you taught Social Studies as a public school teacher for a while and drew on your own experiences as a young girl growing up in Saudi Arabia. What kind of research (or soul-searching) did have to do to connect with the Native American perspective in the novel? I found the montoac
 concept especially interesting and was wondering if you feel like you have montoac of your own? Something that you feel like you rely on to help give you power to make it through a trying time, perhaps?

I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Blue Birds. It’s funny how many times I’ve heard your very honest response to my writing — I didn’t expect to enjoy the verse or subject matter but was pleasantly surprised. Hats off to readers who try something out of their comfort zones and walk away with a new appreciation!

I’ll be brutally honest and say I was terrified to write from a Native perspective. I questioned whether I had a right to the story. There are some who feel I didn’t, and I understand and respect their opinions, but for me to finish my work (and not despair), I had to close my mind to that perspective. As for connecting with Kimi, I called on the things we shared in common. I’ve been a girl. I know the transforming power friendship can bring. I had to believe this was enough to begin the creative process and that these connections would carry me through.

Montoac, for readers who aren’t familiar with the story, can be defined as great spiritual power or mysterious power. An object could contain montoac and would benefit and strengthen its owner. When I was working on edits for Blue Birds I had some difficulty developing Alis and Kimi’s friendship as fully as I needed to. This is going to sound goofy, but in order to connect with them, I ended up wearing a strand of pearls. (In the story, Kimi bestows her treasured pearls, her montoac, on Alis in an effort to protect her). I wore them with sweats and with jeans and with dresses. Unless I was showering, exercising, or asleep, I had them on. Yes, I probably looked ridiculous, but it allowed me to carry the girls with me while I wrote, walked the dog, or ran errands. And eventually things came together. Do I believe the pearls contained mysterious, spiritual power? No. But did I connect with my characters more deeply because they constantly were near? Absolutely.

I think that the two viewpoints are especially compelling in this verse novel, especially when both girls are part of the same poem”. How did you decide to write it this way? Any insights on how you chose the font for each person’s speech, because I found even that contrast so interesting!

I sometimes curse these ideas I have once the execution comes around! With May B. I essentially wrote a book about a girl who’s all alone. How in the world do you create a story without dialogue or even a lot of action? I had to figure that out. With Blue Birds, one huge challenge was the intimate bond between girls who were meant to be enemies and didn’t share a language. How were they supposed to understand each other?

Thankfully, verse allows an author to communicate with her reader beyond mere words. What I mean is line breaks, stanza breaks, and word placement can be used to “show” a story in a way prose can’t. I wanted those dual-voice poems to visually represent these girls in the moment, interacting with and responding to one another, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in fear or anger, but ultimately as any young friends would.

The font was something my publisher chose. I think I had three font choices for each girl and settled on the two you see. What I was very much against (and appreciate my editor’s support in this) was having Alis’s words in standard font and Kimi in italics. Often in stories the character who is seen as “other” is represented this way. I didn’t want that. I asked for all the Algonquian words not to be italicized. They were not foreign or other to Kimi, and ultimately they were not foreign or other to Alis. I wanted there to be a sense of unity and equality with these girls, which the cover illustrators (Anna and Elena Balbusso) understood and portrayed so beautifully in their art.

I mentioned in my email to you that I felt like I had intersected 51qKM1sZiTL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_with your opinions in quite a few places before I actually read your books and then reached out: The What Should I Read Next podcast, and the Read Aloud Revival Podcast, on both of which I learned that we are co-inhabitants of New Mexico. I listened to The Crossover on audiobook based on your recommendation, and THEN found out we have a mutual friend. Finally, I decided this was a sign and I really needed to pick up a book or two of yours, despite the fact that middle-grade and verse novels are both WAY outside my typical genre. Do you find that people find you in a roundabout way? Or that there is a niche of readers of poetry that flock to you? Or that maybe I’m just ignorant of this whole way of writing that everyone else already knows and loves? (That’s okay too!)

I’d hardly say anyone is flocking to me, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many readers have connected to my books. I knew going in that verse, historical fiction, and literary writing are all hard sells for middle grade books to begin with, and that’s when you take them individually. Throw all three together, and I’d created a really niche-y niche, one that risked being so narrow only a few people would respond.

But. The school and library market has championed my books. I know many schools in an attempt to have kids read a variety of forms and genres now include verse novels as required reading, and lots of kids have discovered my books that way. Verse is no longer an unheard of oddity for kids as it often is for adults. Thank you, teachers, for making that so! I’ve also been fortunate both novels have been nominated for almost two dozen state reading lists between them (these librarian-created lists require students to read a minimum of three titles before voting for their favorite).

It’s the adult readers that find me in a round about way. I am always SO pleased there are grown ups who are willing to not only try children’s literature but a form that isn’t familiar at all.

CSR quote
Pardon my bad cursive…

As a final note, I want to point out that what you said in the acknowledgements of Blue Birds spoke so powerfully to me this week. Our mutual friend actually told me to make sure I read all the way to the last line, because our world has been full of frightful news, and when I finished this on Tuesday night (the 14th of June), I was still completely undone and reeling from the news of the Orlando mass shooting. This quote from you seemed to pull everything back to center: “Our world is a broken place, but I take great comfort in this promise: Someday God will redeem all things.” And I wanted to take a moment to thank you for that. Even though you wrote it about a different circumstance and even what had happened in a different century, it spoke straight to the heart of that moment in time for this one person. Even now, I’m brought to tears reading it over again. So, this isn’t really a question, but more of a statement. Thanks for that. And thanks for being here with us on my blog. I appreciate you.

Thank you, Kaytee. Your response brought tears to my eyes. The promise of a future redemption applies then and now. I think of it almost daily in trying to understand this broken world.

All best to you and your readers. This conversation was a lot of fun.

Thank you so much, Caroline! I’m so glad to know you better, and I can’t wait to see what else you come up with. You’ve truly opened my eyes to a new section of the bookstore, and I’m very appreciative of you taking time out of your schedule to chat with me. ❤

What I’ve Learned Lately (June 2016)

Linking up with Emily P Freeman to share the things I learned in June 2016 (from the fabulous to the mundane).

  1. Following up on May’s post, I got to use a different camera body this month when we went camping with a group of friends and my battery died on the FIRST night, after only eight photos (what I learned: Charge before we go)! Although I’ve loved my camera for forever now, I can definitely appreciate some of the upgrades made to it in the next style and think it might be time for an update. I’ve decided to start saving for a new body to expand some of those features (faster shutter speed, higher ISO, etc). It’s so fun to be able to use the knowledge I’ve gleaned and actually have a camera that I love, and also know what else I’m looking for!
  1. Oh my goodness, people. The Squatty Potty is nothing new, but I finally took the plunge (no pun intended) and ordered one for J as a Father’s Day gift (also bought one for my dad, but he’s not fully on board yet). It’s been about a week now, and I definitely understand the hype. Not to get into detail, because no one needs that…. BUTT we went on a two-day vacation this past weekend, sans Squatty Potty, and I can definitely appreciate the difference! We’ve always loved coming home because we get to sleep in our own beds, but now I’ve got another reason to love coming home!
  1. June was a big, emotional month for so many reasons. We, officially, have our first woman nominee for President of the United States. No matter where you stand on the political spectrum, that’s a big deal. Because it means that top job is open to anyone, which it technically was before, but now it’s not a question of IF it will happen. It’s something you can tell your sisters, daughters, and nieces about as something we accomplished in this generation. And that is worth celebrating.
  1. It was big and emotional for another reason: Orlando. This devastating news about mass shootings seems to keep replaying and getting less and less coverage each time. This month’s shooting hit me especially hard though, and it seemed so much more devastating by the fact that this time around, it seemed some people were on the “that’s what they get” side of the fence, which just breaks my heart wide open. I spent oh-so-many hours and days this month weeping, watching videos about violence, reading the lists of names of the victims, and praying words of comfort over their families. And it’s not enough. I feel shackled by our nation, by the NRA, by a broken government system, by the inability to come up with solutions that SHOULD be acceptable across the board. And I’m just sick and tired of it, and don’t know what to do. So, maybe this isn’t something I learned, but something I’m living with, and trying to learn about.
  1. Finally, I have a new favorite pen. I’ve been a Pilot G2 junkie for forever and ever. And then I turned into a Staedtler Fineliner addict (seriously, I could use those to make EVERYTHING pretty); they are the absolute best for grown-up coloring books! But although the SF pens are some of my favorites, the nibs are fragile and I’ve already had a kiddo break one. So, I bought PaperMate InkJoy Gel Fine Point (0.5mm) pens on Amazon last week and just started trying them out. They are absolutely lovely. Thin, precise lines. Clicky tops, nice grips. I bought an 8-pack and already know I’ll be buying MANY more in the months and years to come!

QuickLit – June 2016

QuickLit – June 2016

Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately”. I’ll share everything I’ve read over the previous month here right around the middle of each month, in the order I finished reading them.


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Classical Christian Education Made Approachable

by Classical Conversations

This book serves as an introductory “blueprint” of sorts to what Classical Education in general and CC in particular look like, and how they align with the way we learn best. It is short, and easy to get through quickly.

 


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Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters

by Mallory Ortberg

This is a fun little glimpse (via text message) into the minds of mostly classic literary characters throughout history. I thought it was so fun how she worked the two together, giving us a little taste of what it may have been like to see the communication between some of my favorites!


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Happier at Home

by Gretchen Rubin

I’m a definite Gretchen Rubin junkie, and this book is no exception. Although I’m pretty sure I’ve read it before, it wasn’t saved as Read in my goodreads, and a lot of it felt new and fresh to me. I’m glad I took the time to (possibly re-)read it! Even if the happiness projects that Gretchen undertakes don’t apply to you, the general principles are sure to strike you at one point or another.


 

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Eligible

by Curtis Sittenfeld

This “modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice” did not disappoint. It was my first book from Book of the Month Club, and I really enjoyed it. Although a lot of Austen purists may have to grab the smelling salts, I thought that Sittenfeld did a great job updating the characters while staying true to their natures.

 


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Confessions of a Scary Mommy: An Honest and Irreverent Look at Motherhood

by Jill Smokler

It’s hard not to associate this book with the experience for me: I listened to it on audiobook with 3 other mommy friends during a road trip. The camaraderie we shared while listening made it unforgettable to me. Be sure to check out Jill’s interview on the blog if you haven’t already!


 

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Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet 

by Charlie Holmberg

I think it’s pretty obvious from my interview with her that I’m a big Charlie Holmberg fan already. I couldn’t resist grabbing an advance copy of this one and devouring it before it releases at the end of the month. Great story that’s very engaging about a young woman, Maire, who has the ability to bake her feelings into her food. We’re not sure (and neither is she) how it happened or where it comes from, but it’s fun to find out with her!


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Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

by Jenny Lawson

I have followed Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, for quite some time, and her book is such a wonderful reflection of her. Depression is a tough topic, but she makes it approachable and so easy for so many to say “me, too”. I listened to AND read this book in alternation (Yay, whispersync!), and I loved both hearing her voice and reading her words.


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Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys

by Stephen James and David Thomas

This book absolutely changed the way I relate to my boys, how I will raise them up, and how I understand them. I have been recommending it to every mom of boys that I know. James and Thomas are clinical psychologists, so they draw on their experience with their own sons as well as counseling experience with hundreds of boys and young men through the years. First book I’ve read with highlighter in hand in many years, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.


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A Man Called Ove

by Fredrik Backman

Although I put this one off for a long time (it just didn’t sound that interesting to me), one more recommendation finally pushed me over the edge to borrow it on audiobook, and I’m so glad I did (not least of which because HEARING the names means they are in my head correctly: Ove is pronounced Oovah). This is a poingnant story of a rather crotchety old man, who has to learn to deal with his neighbors, old and new. Could not put it down.


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Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

by Jamie Ford

A decades-long story about the relationship between two children (one Chinese, one Japanese) growing up in Seattle during WWII and the forced Japanese internment. The cultural implications in this one are deep and far-reaching. The story-telling is rich.

 


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The Last One

by Alexandra Oliva

This page-turner comes out July 12th. You won’t be disappointed, as long as you keep reading after it feels like it slows down, because the ending is fantastic. Contestants on a reality TV show, a flu pandemic, and the fallout. Great late-night reading here.

 


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May B.

by Caroline Starr Rose

A middle grade, free-verse poetry novel by a local author. I heard Caroline Starr Rose on multiple podcasts before I decided  to take the plunge and listen to The Crossover last month. I enjoyed that enough to pick up her novels from the library as well. This one is about Mavis Betterly, who is leant away by her family to help around another family’s “soddy” on the prarie. Very Little House-esque.


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Blue Birds

by Caroline Starr Rose

Don’t read this on Kindle! The text changes with the voice of two young girls, and if you’re not seeing that change, the novel will not make sense to you. Takes place in 1587 during the settlement of the Roanoke colony and, as you can tell from the cover, explores the friendship of two young girls from very different backgrounds. So lovely. I sped through it, but it would be great to savor as well.


 

Author Interview – Jill Smokler

Hi Jill! Thanks for doing this interview for us! I’m so excited to welcome you to my blog. My friends and I recently had a girls’ weekend, which involved a 6-hour car ride. It was the perfect length of time to devour your first book, Confessions of a Scary Mommy, together on audiobook, which provided so many laughs for us (all Scary Mommies ourselves) as we made our way down the road. Of course, then I found out you have two other books as well: Motherhood Comes Naturally (and Other Vicious Lies) and Scary Mommy’s Guide to Surviving the Holidays. I can’t wait to dig into those as well when I need another laugh!

IMG_9788To start out, I always like to ask for the 2-minute intro (the standard stuff) and then a little something that not many know about you (your favorite song to jam out to, your go-to food when you are sick, or your least favorite smell in the world…).

I started Scary Mommy simply as a blog in 2008. A few months in, I realized that this little mommy blog might actually be something that could become profitable and keep me from returning to an office job – pretty much my idea of hell. So, I worked my ass off on the site and it grew and grew. First was the Confessional, then the message boards, then guest authors and the books and ultimately, the sale of the site. I still work as president and EIC of Scary Mommy, which pretty much means making sure the site feels to readers the way it always has. It’s definitely different working with (and answering to!) people, but it’s also amazing to have resources I never had on my own. And going to the Scary Mommy NYC office every other week is pretty freaking cool.

My go-to jam is Man in the Mirror. Or pretty much anything from the 80’s.

You are all the places. Your own blog, of course (which sold last year and is now sourced from many writers and produces tons of content every day), Today Show, CafeMom, HuffPost, and interviews galore. Of course we have to assume that you are taking speed to get all this done and still BE a Scary Mommy at home, right? Any tips for those of us that feel like we can’t even keep the children fed and the house from tornado-level status without losing our minds? Asking for a friend…

Well, I’m not really at all those places at once. 🙂 I haven’t written for other sites in a while, or done any interviews lately for that matter! But at the times when work keeps me really busy, my home life totally falls apart. For years, I have been trying to figure out the great secret of balance and all I’ve learned is that there’s really no such thing. Something always seems to suffer – you simply can’t do everything well at the same time. So, I pretty much strive for “good enough.” Kept the kids fed and clothed? Good enough. Didn’t break the site or horribly fuck something up? Good enough. Good enough is success.

One of my favorite things that I found while researching you for this interview are all these different numbered lists of 25 Things Kids Never Say, Murphy’s Laws of Family Vacations, and others. They remind me of the classic, David Letterman-esque, top ten lists. I realize that parenting itself is a landfill of content, but how in the world do you continue to find fresh, engaging content week after week and year after year?

When I was writing every day, the kids were little and it seemed they would just always give me new content! When my youngest was around five, I vividly remember thinking I really ought to have another baby for blog fodder alone. Fortunately, I came to my senses, but not having a little kid really did have an impact on my writing – older kids aren’t nearly as entertaining, and their stories are not mine to tell. But I do love me a top ten list – those are definitely the easiest thing for me to write!

In this interview on SheKnows, I loved reading about your ideal family vacation: 7 days in Tahiti, reliving your honeymoon, with your kids (and nannies), and just getting beamed there to avoid the travel. Sounds like heaven to me too! That was 5 years ago now. I assume you’ve vacationed since then? How has publishing books and blogging affected your ability to travel? Are you a traveler at heart? Do your kids enjoy traveling? Has blogging/writing provided a push in the income department to make more exciting trips possible?

We have always been a traveling family! When the kids were little, we mostly drove to visit family and friends, but these days we do take bigger trips. They are pretty good on planes, and everyone is so busy these days so I really appreciate the alone time for the five of us. I’m very thankful that not only has blogging enabled us to take vacations, but also that I can work anytime, from anywhere. Kinda makes a life in Tahiti sound pretty doable… almost.

I loved reading about your Thanksgiving project a few years ago, but since the ScaryMommy blog has changed so much since then, I couldn’t figure out if it continued in 2015 (post-sale). It seems to me like even five years ago it was an insanely huge project to organize, but you helped so many people! Have you been able to continue with that? Or has the company that purchased your blog assured that they will continue that tradition? What a blessing to so many!

The Thanksgiving Project was amazing for the first few years it existed. We were able to help so many struggling moms and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. Unfortunately, the bigger the site got, the more out of control the project became. People would share the application on Reddit and Facebook as a “free turkey dinner!” Applicants had no idea what Scary Mommy was and we couldn’t find a way to serve only the Scary Mommy community, which was the goal. So, when the site was purchased we made the decision to close the project and partner with other non-profits who have better systems in place instead. But it does kind of break my heart that we couldn’t find a way to make it work.

Finally, you asked me to keep Screen-Shot-2016-01-04-at-8.54.38-PM-600x277this kind of short, since you’re crazy-making-busy,
which I get! So, I guess what I want to end with is this: we laughed and laughed at your book in the car, but then wondered what we would think if we found “our mom’s book” that was written like yours, and what you think about your kiddos reading your book someday. I joked, but I’m guessing it’s true, that it would be better for them to wait to read it until they have kids of their own! Do you have any hopes or plans for that day when it comes?

I was always very aware, where ever I was writing, that the kids might someday read my words. Fortunately, they all have great senses of humor and an appreciation for sarcasm, so I hope they find the books comforting and entertaining. I always kind of thought of the blog and books as a modern day baby book for them – it’s certainly more interesting than the book of weight and first foods that I have from my mom… at least I hope so! But for now, the books are off limits – they need a little more perspective to appreciate them!!

Thank you, Jill, so much! I continue to be amazed by the people who just AGREE, for no apparent reason, to be part of this blog and be subjected to an interview by me. It is so flattering and humbling. You are a delight. To check out all of Jill’s books, you can follow the links at the top of this post, or pop over, here, to her Amazon.com author page.

Links I Love – June 2016

So much talent: Disney/Pixar Characters Sing “Hello”

Mostly for mother’s day, but I keep crying every time I hear this new song.

Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Summer Reading Guide has been released!

More bookish goodies:

Summer reading lists for 8-10 and 10-13 year olds on The Art of Simple (many great options for reading aloud)

For younger kiddos: 100 Picture Books to Read This Summer

Two free YA Audiobooks (yours to keep, not to borrow) are released every week through the summer on Audiobooksync.com

Two more Modern Mrs. Darcy lists if you’re looking for something specific: 11 YA novels for summer reading and 17 big, fat books for summer reading (because sometimes summer is the only time you have to tackle those behemoths!)

To keep away the summer “I’m bored”s: 10 Creative Summer Learning Ideas.

Although I’m not sure about “every”, most of these were true for me: 22 Things Every Woman Needs in Her Life

This 13 year old on America’s Got Talent? All the tears.

We wanted to hit the airshow last weekend but the Thunderbirds had to cancel after two jet crashes the weekend before. So, I was excited to share this video with my boys so they could live it from inside the cockpit instead. Be sure to move your mouse around so you can look in all 360 degrees. It’s amazing.

This is not new, at all, but we are finally starting “Chapter Books” around here and LOVING it, so I’m deep diving into this list using the library, the used bookstores, and Amazon, of course! I also found a treasure trove of these at my parents’ house over Memorial Day and snagged a bunch! My Favorite First Novels to Read Aloud with Kids

Author Interview – Erynn Mangum

Hi Erynn! This is so fun for me, because you’re the first author interview I’ve gotten to do where I knew you first as a friend and THEN as an author! I don’t imagine there will be a TON of those up on my blog, but I’m certainly happy to have you here. 🙂

31asN2AFkdL._UX250_Okay, we always start this off with a short introduction. So, give us the 2-minute Erynn synopsis. But be sure to include something not many people know about you (this can be silly: favorite song to jam to, least favorite smell, favorite food to eat when you are sick, etc.).

Oh boy. So, right now, I feel like you could pretty sum up my life with the word “CHAOS”, but it’s not always like this, so we will try to move past that. Right now, though, it truly is chaos – I’m on a deadline, we are moving and have a month-long lag time between houses, we are going out of town, etc. It’s just craziness right now! So, the me when I’m not trying to cram as many Huge Life Things into one month as possible looks like this: I’m 31. I have three beautiful kids – two boys, 5 and 2, and a baby girl who is 5 months – and they all take turns keeping me laughing, crying and spiking my adrenaline levels enough to shave years off my life every day. I am married to a super hard-working guy who works two jobs during the school year because he teaches special education and also works as a realtor, so we all breathe a little better during the summer. We just bought a fixer-upper and so I am really looking forward to fixing-upping. 😉 And I write. Somewhere in all that mess, I try to write as much as I can.

To get us started, I’m going to admit that I probably516xLclBLXL._SX260_ wouldn’t have even picked up one
of your books if we weren’t friends. It’s not in my typical genre. But I’m so glad I know you and I couldn’t wait to read something you’d written. I started with
Miss Match, since it seemed to have so many favorable reviews on Amazon! So, we’ll dive right in there.

Miss Match’s main character, Lauren Holbrook, is so very clearly modeled after Jane Austen’s Emma. She’s a bit snarky, meddlesome, and a bit consumed by matchmaking her friends. Are Austen’s novels a favorite of yours? Any other favorite authors that pop up in your books (or don’t) and provide structural inspiration or just favorite reads?

Oh yes! Jane Austen is a MUST read. I was introduced to her back in junior-high and there was just no turning back. I love anything she’s written. As far as other authors go, I love Kristin Billerbeck, Jenny B. Jones and Francine Rivers. But honestly, these days, I rarely get the time to read, which is SO sad. Any time I have goes straight to the deadlines or to reading to the kids. So we read a LOT of Magic Treehouse, Boxcar Children, Berenstain Bears and Click, Clack, Moo.

We obviously have quite a few other interests that overlap, as I continually found myself smiling and even laughing out loud at the Disney and Princess Bride quotes that are scattered throughout this novel. You’re also clearly a rom-com fan, as Lauren spends plenty of time watching and quoting favorite movies. Tell me about what draws you to the romantic comedies, as your book also reflects that genre. Is this genre found in your life at all? (All romance and sugary sweetness and head-over-heels love? If so, could you have your husband call my husband?)

Um, yeah. I’m convinced it doesn’t exist past the altar. 😉 Just kidding. But seriously. Except I don’t want to turn your single readers off to marriage, so…kidding? And romantic comedies – I LOVE rom-coms. Love them, love them. I could watch one every night. And honestly, I try my best to present a more realistic side of romance in my books. My husband is definitely not super sugary and we tend to be pretty boring. But I like our shade of boringness. This stage of life with the three kids and the two jobs and everything else means that we treasure and viciously protect our post-kids’-bedtime routine of snuggling up on the couch with a dessert and watching Parks and Recreation. 😉

While reading Miss Match, I kept thinking to myself “either I’m a slacker Christian or this the relationships in this book are almost a parody of genuine Christianity”. It felt a bit like Lauren and her sisters (especially), and her friends (almost as strongly) had relationships that were solely founded upon their mutual love of Christ. Do you find that in your own life and those around you? I feel like some of my deepest relationships come from outside the church. And I definitely have a wonderful marriage, now, but we went through some rocky times before we both circled back around to our Christian upbringing and actively brought Christ into the marriage. Can you speak to the idea that every relationship in a Christian woman’s life is not JUST Bible study, church, and quoting scripture back to your friends? It felt very convicting, but overwhelming also!

Yes and yes. I feel like each stage of life has been different in my walk. When I was writing Miss Match, I was single and working at my church as a high school girls’ intern. So, my job was discipling and Bible studies and around-the-clock crises of the heart for about two years. I pretty much was either leading a Bible study, writing a Bible study, talking with girls about the Bible or prayer requests or planning a retreat with the youth pastor every single day. So, a lot of that bled into the book.

Now, I’m surrounded by all these children and honestly? There are days where the closest I get to a Bible study is The Jesus Storybook Bible. And then there are THOSE days where I don’t even get that and my prayer life is something along the lines of “Jesus, HELP”. So, each stage is different. Honestly, I miss the intern days a lot – you could totally see Jesus working every single day and lives were changed. It was an honor to be a part of it. And it’s hard to be in the thick of parenting right now and not see the changes I used to see so quickly. But I know that the babies are little for only a VERY short time and that my time of being able to focus on my relationship with Jesus and being more involved in the church will come around again. But right now, as I had a friend tell me, I’ve got these three little sinners in my life and they are the ones I need to be discipling.

That being said, I would say that my absolutely closest friends are the ones who share this bond with me, but I definitely have friends based on other formats of life now, too – my oldest plays sports and so we have sports buddies. And park friends. And neighbors. And the like.

I feel like I WAY over or under answered the question. Ha!

As friends IRL (in real life!), I know that you really are a mama who does it all! You’ve got two boys (5 and 2), and welcomed your baby girl in December! You also spent the entire past year homeschooling! How in the world do you find time to write with three littles underfoot? I feel like some days I can hardly even keep them from killing each other fed! It’s hard to imagine the idea of fitting something so regular, and with deadlines, into my schedule, so I’m curious as to what writing looks like for you, and how it’s changed since you added another newborn to the mix.

I would say most of getting writing done is just forcing myself to sit down and do it. Sometimes that means my house is clean, dinner is in the crockpot, the kids are all resting or napping and there’s a candle burning. The other 97% of the time, it means sitting in a pile of laundry with at least one kid next to me and just having to tune the other kids out while I write as fast as possible. I do my best to get all three down for rest time and naps at the same time so I have at least a couple of minutes of kid-free time to write. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I send the boys outside to play a lot so I can write as well. It’s just making the most of the time I have. When deadlines get close, my husband is really good about sending me to a coffee shop and making me just pound it out after he gets home.

51ykfeUubGL._SY445_QL70_Speaking of being a prolific writer, you just released a novel in November, Katie in Waiting. And you’ve got another new one due out in August, Once Upon Eliza. You produce novels faster than people can grow babies! Do you feel like you have an unlimited supply of ideas? You mention finding plot and character ideas in conversations, FB updates, and Jane Austen books, but it still amazes me that you’re able to come up with something new so very often!

I think I have the problem of too many ideas and not enough time to write them. I’m SO excited for Eliza to release! Sometimes I remember my life when I was a full-time writer before we had kids and I just think about how much I could do now that I’m used to cramming two thousand words written into a single hour. I mean, I could write an entire book in like three days! Ha! 😉

Any dreams of one of your books or series being turned into a movie? Creating a small- or big-screen adaptation just like the ones you seem to adore? Do you have an actress in mind for any of your main characters? I think the transformation of book to film is so interesting and always wonder about the author’s thoughts on it!

I think it would be SO weird to see something you’ve written on the big screen! And from what I’ve heard, there are VERY few authors who are truly satisfied with the movie versions of their novels. However, it would be so fun! I have no idea who I would imagine to play any of the main characters – but it’s fun to think about it… Obviously Colin Firth would have to play SOMEONE.

Finally, give us a little taste of w51A8I-8rITLhat’s to come in Once Upon Eliza, coming soon!

Once Upon Eliza is about a girl who wants to lead more than just a predictable life. She wants to change the world, she wants to be on fire. She wants to have an adventure and marry someone who isn’t the guy she’s known since she was born. She’s a postpartum nurse at the hospital and she’s just got this hilarious dry sense of humor. She has been one of my favorite characters I’ve written so far.

For a full run-down of everything Erynn has published, check out her blog, here: http://www.erynnmangum.com/Books.html

Thank you, Erynn, so much, for taking time out of what has been an EXTREMELY crazy month for you to answer my questions. You are such a blessing in my life and I’m so happy I get to feature a friend on the blog! 

What I’m Into – May 2016

Linking up with Leigh Kramer to share What I’m Into for the month of May.

I was on the Podcasting bandwagon about 5-6 years ago when I drove quite a bit in Portland and I had a baby that didn’t have any opinions about what we listened to in the care. But then I fell out of the habit as my oldest became more independent. Just last month, I got a recommendation from a friend to try it again and I haven’t looked back! I even bought some of those nerdy Bluetooth headphones so that I can listen while I’m doing other stuff and the cord doesn’t get caught on things… which was driving me crazy. My favorite favorites (of the 12 or so I subscribe to right now) are: Sorta Awesome, Edit Your Life (cohosted by Asha Dornfest, who I interviewed this month), Happiercast with Gretchen Rubin, Popcast with Knox and Jamie, Read Aloud Revival, and God-Centered Mom. They are all so different and I learn and laugh and love and just enjoy each one!

When you get into blogging about authors and books, and connect with other bloggers who talk about authors and books, you are bound to hear about NetGalley. NetGalley connects publishers and their “Advanced Reader Copies” (advanced as in pre-release not… really highly intelligent readers) to the people who want to read them. And that is the coolest. It feels so “professional” to get to read a book before it’s released to the public! Some are just given when you request them, and some you have to ask for and wait for approval. Getting approval is like someone saying “sure, I trust your judgment.” Which is almost as awesome as having people stop by my blog and read posts! J

I briefly mentioned TheSkimm in my What I’ve Learned in May post, because it is part of my morning routine on the weekends. I’ve been “into” it now for probably 8 months or so, and thought it probably bears mentioning again. It’s a daily (weekday) email that recaps the news over the past 24 hours or the previous weekend. It makes me feel informed about anything major without feeling like I have to read all the news articles linked all over the interwebs, which is exhausting and depressing and overwhelming. So, I open up TheSkimm every morning, get updated on the state of the world, and then feel like I can mostly ignore the additional deluge of information, which is better for all of us (by “all of us” I mean “me”).

Favorite Instagram:

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Last weekend, I went to Payson, AZ with three of my favorite girlfriends and my bestest bestest friend from forever and a day. We had a chill weekend of movies and books and facemasks and giggling and Cards Against Humanity. This is one of my favorite moments from a weekend I will remember forever.