We often say “happy book birthday” on a book’s publication day, since the process of writing and editing it can feel like a gestation. But for this book . . . I don’t know. I’ve spent such a long, intense time with its characters (five years!) that it feels a little more like I’m dropping the whole crew off at college. Through stages both joyful and infuriating, I’ve done my best to shape their personalities. Now it’s time for them to make their own impressions on the world; to live their lives independent from their creator.
I’m excited for Henna and P and Lora and all the rest of them, but also a little weepy. They’re not just my babies anymore! They belong to the world now, and not everyone’s gonna like them. Heartbreaks and disappointments may be coming their way. But maybe, also, glory? Great bonds with readers who will love them just as much (well, almost as much) as I have? Oh, I hope so.
Anyway, buy a book or two if you have the means (college tuition’s expensive!). Leave reviews on Amazon or Goodreads if you can. Tell your friends about these cool kids from the Gardenia Isles if you think they might want to be friends with them, too. And maybe even spare a thought for their empty-nester author-parent’s complicated feelings today. 😁😬🎉😱😍😭🌿
I’m very excited to share that the Rocket Cat Kids Book Club–a free, virtual book club for middle-grade readers run by me and my three author-critique partners–is happening! Please read on for more details, and SIGN UP HERE.
To accommodate the most readers, we’ve decided to have TWO meetings for each book: one during the school day and one after school hours. Fall dates are TBD, but here are the meeting dates for spring:
Thursday, April 6– Sisterhood of Sleuths – Mystery Mayhem!
1 PM ET (noon CT, 11 AM MT, 10 AM PT) – classroom version (geared more toward school groups, but homeschool students & international readers also welcome)
7 PM ET (6 PM CT, 5 PM MT, 4 PM PT) – after-school version (geared more toward individuals)
Thursday, May 18 – The Girl from Earth’s End – Gardens Galore!
1 PM ET (noon CT, 11 AM MT, 10 AM PT) – classroom version (geared more toward school groups, but homeschool students & international readers also welcome)
7 PM ET (6 PM CT, 5 PM MT, 4 PM PT) – after-school version (geared more toward individuals and book clubs)
A special deal on our books!
While purchasing the books is not required for participation, we’re excited to offer a special deal through The Wandering Jellyfish Book Shop in Niwot, Colorado (one of Jenn’s and Tara’s favorite local indies!). If you order the full Rocket Cat book package from The Wandering Jellyfish, you will receive:
-ALL FOUR book club books at a 10% discount (plus more discounts for schools*)
-fun swag from the authors, like bookmarks and stickers
-books will ship to you automatically as soon they are published
This is a great way to support us as authors and to support a terrific independent children’s bookstore. Thank you for considering! (And just a reminder to order as soon as possible to leave time for signing, shipping, and reading in time for the first book club meeting.)
Of course, you are also welcome to borrow our books from your library, or to purchase them from the bookseller of your choice. We’re excited that you’re excited to read, write, and discuss the books with us.
* If a school wants to order and pay for the books, they can get the order as tax exempt and with a 20% discount. Their ordering process will be a little different: they will need to first create an account by clicking the little person icon near the top right of the page. Once they have created their account, they will need to email firstname.lastname@example.org with their account information and a copy of their tax exempt form. When the store receives that information, they will then set their account as tax exempt and respond to their email with a school discount code which they can use to take advantage of the 20% school discount.
Hi, educators! I’m excited to be participating as an author in World Read Aloud Day 2023, which means that I’ll be available to Zoom into classrooms on Wednesday, February 1 to read from my next middle-grade novel and answer student questions. (I’ll be reading from The Girl from Earth’s End, which doesn’t publish until March, so your students could be among the first to hear part of it!)
This visit will work best for upper elementary or middle-school students. If you’d like to sign your class/school up, spots are available here.
Hello, friends! Today I’m so happy to be able to share the cover and description of my next middle-grade novel with you.
I’ve been hard at work on this book since 2018, and I’m so proud of how it’s turned out. If you’re familiar with my other middle-grade novels, you might notice that The Girl from Earth’s End sounds a bit different, and it is—this is me delving into some weightier topics and themes, from family dynamics to gender identity to mortality. (Though don’t worry, there’s still plenty of friendship, humor, and food, too.) It’s my most fantastical work so far, but at the same time the book that feels closest to my heart and my truth.
Chantal Horeis created this magnificent cover art for The Girl from Earth’s End, which will be published on March 14, 2023 by Candlewick Press.
I’m over the moon with how the cover turned out! In addition to creating an atmosphere that matches the story perfectly, Chantal worked in so many significant details from the plot—like the contents of the boat ready to launch in the corner, the flowers the main character is planting . . . even the shoes she’s wearing.
And the back cover features a tree that’s yet another key story element. Here’s the full jacket (additional credit to Matt Roeser and the rest of the design team at Candlewick).
So what’s this book about, and how can you get your hands on a copy (maybe even before publication)? Do read on . . .
The Girl from Earth’s End Candlewick Press, 3.14.23 ISBN: 978-1536224801 ages 8 and up
Gifted gardener Henna embarks from her island home to search for the plant that might save her papa’s life in this vibrant story of love, grief, and growth.
Twelve-year-old Henna loves living with her two papas and cultivating her beloved plants on the tiny island of Earth’s End—until Papa Niall grows seriously ill. Now Henna is determined to find a legendary, long-extinct plant with miraculous healing powers, even though the search means journeying all the way to St. Basil’s Conservatory, a botanical boarding school rumored to house seeds of every plant ever grown. At St. Basil’s, Henna is surrounded not only by incredible plants, but also, for the first time, by other kids—including her new roommates: wisecracking, genderfluid P, who gleefully bends every rule they come up against, and wealthy, distant Lora, who is tired of servants doing everything for her, from folding her clothes to pushing her wheelchair. But Henna’s search for the fabled healing seed means she doesn’t have time for friends, or so she thinks.
This tender tale, blossoming with moments of joy, is a story of hope, grief, and learning to flourish with a little help from those around you.
*If you’d like your copy(/ies) signed and personalized, you should order from my local indie bookstore, Old Firehouse Books, and I’ll throw in some fun swag as well before they’re sent out to you.
Three ways you can help make this book a success
Preorder a copy (or two). Preorders show the publisher and retailers that people are excited about the book; they can lead to higher print runs, bestseller list placement, and more visibility for the book in online algorithms. So thank you for preordering if you can! (And hey, if you have the means and want to preorder multiple copies, even better. You could gift an extra to a middle-grade reader in your life or pop one into a little free library.) Request that your local library system purchase and carry it. You can often do this electronically through Libby or Overdrive or on your library’s website, or by filling out a form at the library in person. It can help to have the ISBN handy. Read the book early and share a review. If you’re interested in doing this, read the next section!
Early ARC tour for The Girl from Earth’s End Would you like to read The Girl from Earth’s End before it’s even published? If so, consider joining my newsletter-subscribers-only ARC tour! If you can commit to reading the book in about a week (and mailing it to the next reader after), you can join a group of excited early readers who’ll be sending a copy of the book around the United States. Once you’ve read, I’d love it if you left a brief review on Goodreads or any other social media you participate in to help build buzz for the book. (If a kid is reading, they’re welcome to write a review and have an adult share it in any capacity that feels comfortable.)
I’ll send a newsletter out very soon with more details and a sign-up link. If you’re not already subscribed, you can do so here.
Blurbs! Here are a few things other wonderful writers have said about The Girl from Earth’s End. “This book is a masterpiece. With a story that grabs you and doesn’t let go, a lush setting that ignites your imagination, and characters who will live in your heart long after you close the book, The Girl from Earth’s End will transport you to a different world—one where you’ll laugh, cry . . . and won’t want to leave.”
–Ann Braden, award-winning author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus and Opinions and Opossums
“Prepare yourself for an enchanting journey full of humor and heart. The Girl from Earth’s End will charm and captivate readers—a classic in the making.”
“Richly imagined and beautifully detailed, The Girl from Earth’s End expertly weaves contemporary themes into a timeless, heartfelt tale that not only transports the reader but transforms them. A breathtaking gem of a book.”
–Elaine Vickers, award-winning author of Like Magic and Half Moon Summer
And one more thing… As a bonus for scrolling all this way, here’s one more reveal from the book: a map of the Gardenia Isles, the world where The Girl from Earth’s End takes place. It was drawn by Christine Engels with further design elements by Maya Tatsukawa. Fun fact: Christine is my amazing editor, and she busted out her secret drawing skills to create this for the book and surprise me. Wow, right??
In their starred review earlier this year, Kirkus called DGMB “A beautiful and important book about climate change featuring those who are most affected by it.“
Here’s some more info about the book (which is for ages 4+). And if you’d like to buy a copy (more links below), please consider supporting an independent bookstore with your purchase. This year, more than ever, they can use the support!
Extreme weather affects two children’s lives in very different ways and shows how the power of nature can bring us together. One girl. One boy. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While she turns her shoulder to sandstorms and blistering winds, he cuffs his pants when heavy rains begin to fall. As the weather becomes more severe, their families and animals must flee to safety–and their destination shows that they might be more alike than they seem. The journeys of these two children experiencing weather extremes in India highlight the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.
As always, I will donate an ongoing portion of my royalties from this book to organizations that support pastoralists, like those featured in Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, in environmentally and culturally sustainable ways worldwide. You can learn more about such organizations, including like Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS) in India, at pastoralpeoples.org/partners.
Today is the day that Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy, illustrated magnificently by Archana Sreenivasan and written by me, releases into the world. It is intended for readers aged 4-8 (but, of course, readers older and younger than that are very welcome).
To me this only proves the great value (and joy!) of collaborating artistically with others. I’ve been so lucky to work on this book with so many talented, caring, and detail-oriented people over the past three years: the vastly gifted Archana, the team at Putnam/Penguin Random House–including editor Susan Kochan, designers Eileen Savage and Nicole Rheingans, and Executive Art Director Cecilia Yung–and the team at LPPS (read more about them below) that provided expert feedback on the book. Thank you all! And thank you also to my agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette, and Archana’s agent, Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, for your behind-the-scenes work in bringing us all together for this project.
illustration by Archana Sreenivasan
To have a book come out during this strange and unprecedented era of global pandemic, is, of course, something none of us anticipated. There will be no bookstore launch parties, book signings, or in-person library story hours. But this is a book about people facing challenges—facing disaster, even—and coming out on the other side. If it finds its way into your home, I hope that it opens the door for discussion and reflection on the many trials we humans face, no matter where we live or what traditions or lifestyles we embrace.
Here is some more info about Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy:
Extreme weather affects two children’s lives in very different ways and shows how the power of nature can bring us together.
One girl. One boy. Their lives couldn’t be more different. While she turns her shoulder to sandstorms and blistering winds, he cuffs his pants when heavy rains begin to fall. As the weather becomes more severe, their families and animals must flee to safety–and their destination shows that they might be more alike than they seem. The journeys of these two children experiencing weather extremes in India highlight the power of nature and the resilience of the human spirit.
To celebrate release day, I am making a donation to Lokhit Pashu-Palak Sansthan (LPPS), an organization that supports pastoralists in India like those featured in Desert Girl, Monsoon Boy. And I plan to continue to donate an ongoing portion of my royalties to organizations that do similar work in terms of both environmental and cultural sustainability worldwide. You can learn more about organizations that do this kind of work at pastoralpeoples.org/partners.
Thank you, friends, as always, for your support. I hope you will keep staying home if your work allows, keep reading, and be well.
My first published children’s book. Only a nine-year process!
With some regularity, I get e-mails from people who have written a book for children and would like advice on how to get it published. The first thing I always tell them is “Congratulations! Writing a book is a huge accomplishment!” (Seriously. It took me seven years to write my own first children’s novel, All Four Stars, and then a few more years of revising, agent-seeking, publisher-seeking, and editing before it hit the shelves.)
In any case, since I recently wrote out a long response to one of these e-mails, I thought that I would share here what I would currently know and advise for those who seek traditional publication for a middle-grade, YA, or picture book. (And who, I assume, actually have a finished manuscript, not just an idea for one or a half-finished draft.)
Join SCBWI and attend a conference: One of the best things a newbie to the kidlit world can do is join SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), if you’re not already a member. There are branches all over the world. This is a great way to start learning about the children’s book industry, and if you attend a conference (either a regional or national one–highly recommended) not only can you take workshops with published children’s authors, but you can also interface with agents and editors and sometimes have a chance to pay for a critique from an agent, editor, or published author. Some branches have mentorship programs available as well. And if your branch has monthly meetings, that’s a great way to meet some other childrens’ writers in your area, form a critique group, network, and learn. Membership costs around $80 a year, and attending conferences costs more, but remember, it’s all tax-deductible. 🙂
Get critiqued: Join/form a critique group with other writers (preferably other people writing for the same age group you are, whether middle grade, young adult, or picture books) if you haven’t already. Having your work critiqued by other serious writers, whether aspiring or published, is an important way to get feedback and improve your work.
(And going back for a moment…Step 0? Hopefully you are already doing this, but read widely in the genre/age group you are attempting to be published in. Have you read at least 50-100 books for that age group that have been published in the last 5 years? If not, do this before anything else, so you can see if and where your work may fit in the market and come up with some current “comp” titles that you can later use in your query letter.)
Seek an agent: When your manuscript is revised, polished, and absolutely as good as you and your critique partners can make it, then it’s time to look for an agent.
You will need an agent if you seek to be traditionally published by one of the large or medium-sized US children’s publishers (the “Big 5” are Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Macmillan, and HarperCollins, and other well-established companies like Scholastic, Candlewick, Algonquin, Bloomsbury, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Sourcebooks are also in this category), as they don’t accept unsolicited submissions. (The one exception to that is that sometimes editors who are presenting at an SCBWI or other writing conference open their submissions to attendees for a certain period after the conference.)
Good places to start to research agents are querytracker.net, literaryrambles.com, and the Absolute Write forums. What are you looking for? An agent who is with a reputable agency; who ideally has at least some sales record in the genre/age group you are writing in (or, if they’re new, are at an agency with a strong record); and who, in interviews/on social media etc. expresses something that makes you think they might be a good fit for your work.
You should also check out pitchwars.org, and there are sometimes other opportunities/hashtags on Twitter for pitching your work to agents, such as #DVPit, which focuses on amplifying diverse and underrepresented voices. (Twitter is a good place to be in general if you’re seeking an agent, as many are active on there and might tweet about what they’re looking for.)
Finally, to really dig into an agent’s history of sales, you can buy a membership to Publisher’s Marketplace and study the deal histories there. In addition, you should probably subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf, a biweekly (and free!) e-mail that not only covers news in the kidlit industry, but also announces most of the higher-profile book deals being made and can give you a sense of what’s selling for publication in the industry. As it includes the deal-making agent’s name and the publisher, this is another place for you to do a little agent research.
You generally pitch agents by sending them a one-page query e-mail that includes a brief pitch of your story and a brief bio. If you don’t know about proper query format, definitely research the “success stories” on querytracker to familiarize yourself with good queries. Mine is in there at https://querytracker.net/success/tara_dairman.php. Stick closely to the one-page limit and hone your pitch to really grab an agent’s attention. Use your critique group to help with this! (Also, this is an area where, if you know a published author, you may be able to ask for a favor in the form of feedback. While I wouldn’t have time to read and critique someone’s manuscript for them–at least, not for free–I’m often willing to look over a one-page query letter and share a few pointers for someone who is serious about trying to pitch themselves to the industry.)
Please note that many people query 50 or more agents before finding representation. I advise sending your query out in small batches (5-7 or so) so that if it’s not getting the results you want you can go back and revise it before sending out to more agents.
If you snag an agent’s attention, they will request some (a “partial”) or all (a “full”) of your manuscript. It may take them months to get back to you after that, though–unfortunately, that’s normal, as agents are extremely busy with their current clients. The best thing to do during that time is to work on your next book!
And/or seek a publisher directly: There are a few smaller but reputable children’s publishers that accept unsolicited, unagented manuscripts, and you could query them directly as well. Off the top of my head, here are a few I believe are still open to submissions, but definitely check their websites to confirm, and carefully follow all submissions guidelines.
-Carolrhoda/Lerner (periodic open calls)
That’s all I’ve got for now. Surely I’ve missed things–if there’s information that you know and think I should include here, please leave a comment and I’ll update when I can. If you have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll answer when I can! And good luck on your publishing journey.
This Thursday evening, I’ll be in conversation with the brilliant Rebecca Behrens in NYC as we discuss our middle-grade novels in which the kids take charge. It’s the official launch party for The Disaster Days, Rebecca’s new book set in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, and it is absolutely unputdownable!
We’ll be signing books, answering questions, and sharing treats as well. We hope to see you there.
Books of Wonder (uptown location): 217 W. 84th St., New York, NY.
*UPDATE 3/1/19: Unfortunately, I’ve had to cancel my trip to Florida for the BAMfest due to illness. I’m so sorry to anyone who was looking forward to attending one of my panels or having a book signed by me. I know it’s not the same, but if you would like a signed and personalized bookmark, please drop me a line via my contact form and I will put one in the mail to you next week.*
Happy New Year to all!
I’m excited to be heading to West Palm Beach, Florida, to participate in the BAM! (Books and Music) festival downtown on Saturday, March 2. You can see the entire author lineup here. If you live in the area, I’d love to meet you and sign your books!
Also, I am currently available for school visits in the West Palm Beach or Miami areas in the days before or after the festival. If you’re an educator or media specialist and are interested in details, please contact me right away through my contact form on this site. I’m available for full- and half-day visits with presentations, workshops, or a mix, and I love to share my journey as an author with elementary and middle-school students.
Greetings, friends! Signed books make lovely gifts, and I’m pleased to share that, this year, I’m working with BookPeople (my local independent bookstore) to make it easy for you to order signed, personalized copies of any of my titles in time for the holidays.
Just follow the instructions on that page to request personalizing in the comments of your order. Please order by 11/20 for shipping in time for Hanukkah, 12/12 for shipping in time for Christmas.
As always, I’ll throw in bookmarks and stickers with any order. 🙂
And as a reminder, here are brief summaries of my titles:
The Great Hibernation: When all of the adults in a tiny, remote town mysteriously fall asleep for the winter, it’s up to the kids to figure out what happened and what they should do about it. (adventure, humor, mystery, wintry fun)
The All Four Starsseries (All Four Stars, The Stars of Summer, and Stars So Sweet): 11-year-old Gladys Gatsby secretly becomes a restaurant critic for New York’s biggest newspaper, but nobody there knows she’s only a kid! (humor, foodie fiction, NYC adventure)
Here’s wishing you a cozy fall and winter, filled with new books to fall in love with. Read deliciously!