I had the privilege of being interviewed by Dr. Diane’s Adventures in Learning about the challenges and joys of writing about real issues, the impact young readers have had, and the importance of finding and using your voice. So many good topics!
If you’re interested in either listening or reading the summary, I’m including a link to the podcast if you want to listen and the blogpost if you want to read.
You can also watch it on Youtube, where in true professional zoom fashion my cat jumps up my lap as soon as the interview begins…
I’m still reeling about how Diane subtitled the episode. Wow.
and as the contemporary book to pair with Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret!
and it’s coming out in just 5 weeks!
AND there are so many perks to pre-ordering it that they needed a flow chart! (I mean, really.)
Want to join a Virtual Launch Party for Schools and get early access to Read Aloud Videos for the first 50 pages of the book? Want to delve into deep discussions with a book group and then have a free Q&A session with me?
Sign up for whichever cool o-pportunity is right for you at: www.tinyurl.com/OpossumParty
(Some are first come, first serve, so don’t delay!)
It’s official! My amazing critique group is starting a virtual book club for kids. Participants will have a chance to ask the book’s author questions, win prizes, learn secrets behind the book-writing and book-publishing process, and participate in fun, interactive writing activities with the Rocket Cats.
To accommodate the most readers, we’ve decided to have TWO meetings for each book: one for classrooms (during the school day), and one for individuals (after school). Readers of all ages are welcome, but the club’s activities will be focused on middle grade readers and writers, and a moderator will control admission to the virtual meeting room. Preregistration is required to attend meetings, and there will be no tolerance for inappropriate language or harassment of any kind within meetings.
Thursday, April 6 – Sisterhood of Sleuths – Mystery Mayhem!
1 PM ET (noon CT, 11am MT, 10am PT) – classroom version (homeschool students & international readers welcome)
We’ll read and discuss Opinions & Opossums and Half Moon Summer in the fall.
A special deal on our books!
You can order all four books at a discounted price (and get some fun swag, too!) at The Wandering Jellyfish in Niwot, Colorado (one of Jenn’s and Tara’s favorite local
indies!). 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.
My next book Opinions & Opossums is coming out May 2nd, and I’m excited to come together for a Virtual Launch Party with classrooms from around the country to celebrate! Together, we’ll play interactive writing games, tour my writing space, listen to me read aloud the beginning of the book, and have lots of time for student questions. You’ll ALSO receive a video of my read aloud of the first 50 pages one week before the book publishes, so your students can be some of the very first people to read it!
The 45-min visit will take place via zoom webinar on FRIDAY, MAY 5TH at 1pm ET.
(All registered participants will also have access to a recording, which will be available for two weeks.)
This virtual visit is FREE along with the pre-order of Opinions & Opossums.
(Find info about pre-ordering below!)
*If you plan to have more than one classroom joining the zoom, please pre-order a book for each classroom that joins.
It’s a huge boost to a book when you pre-order it. And it can be a boost to you, too! Not only do you get a chance for your classes join a free virtual visit if you’re an educator, but you also can get stickers AND a signed copy!
I’m excited to partner with bbgb books, a fabulous independent bookstore in Richmond, VA, who’ll be offering signed books to all who pre-order through them. I fell in love with this store when I was in Virginia doing school visits back in 2019, and I’m excited that my school visit schedule has back there again to sign pre-ordered copies right before Opinions & Opossums launches on May 2nd.
Fun Fact: When I was in Richmond in 2019, I was out to dinner with Jill, the owner of bbgb, along with some other awesome book people, when librarian Lara Ivey turned to me and said something like: “Have you considered the opossum for your next book?”
If you’d prefer to pre-order from a different bookstore, that’s fine, too. All you need to sign up for the virtual visit (or just get the stickers) is to fill out this form HERE and include proof of purchase.
(Locals friends: if you pre-order from Everyone’s Books, I’ll be able to sign them at the Opinions & Opossum launch event at Brooks Memorial Library on Sunday, May 7th!)
I was so touched to read these two letters from readers of The Benefits of Being An Octopus. What powerful introspection and perception. And the fact that their class specifically tracked the dynamics of power blows my mind! Here’s to fabulous educators and their fabulous students!
I am writing to motivate you to continue writing books like The Benefits of Being An Octopus for middle school students.
I have recently finished reading your book The Benefits of being an Octopus and I feel passionately that students should continue to learn about and read this book in our middle school classrooms. This book is about a 12 year old girl named Zoey, who is in seventh grade just like me. Zoey’s mom has divorced more than once and Zoey lives with three siblings from different fathers. Zoey mom’s boyfriend Lenny doesn’t them the right way. The pressure from Lenny is starting to change the way Zoey’s younger brother and sister Bryce and Aurora act. Her family is also poor and can’t afford nice clothes, or go to nice places. While Zoey struggles with these problems at home, she has trouble fitting in at school because of her cheap and “not cool” clothes. This book made me realize that a lot of people judge others on their appearances and sometimes I do it too.
Zoey’s home situation and perspective is very different from mine. I believe it is important to explore a perspective that is different to your own because you learn about issues or problems other people face. It is good to learn about other people’s struggles because you see and understand people better. For example in the book, Zoey faces a lot of problems at school. When Zoey gets judged and made fun of at school, she doesn’t really show it, but the things other students do to her hurts her a lot. Zoey doesn’t have a lot of confidence at school because of her clothes and her economic status. After I read this part of the book I realized that when people get judged in school they don’t say how they’re feeling and they act like they are fine. It is important to explore perspectives that are different because you can learn and improve how you act and think.
This book helped me appreciate what I have, and I’m sure it will have the same impact on others. In the book Zoey’s family is poor and Zoey doesn’t get clean or nice clothes often. This made me realize that some families aren’t as fortunate as others and I should appreciate what I have. Seeing the hardships that Zoey had to go through opened my eyes to the outside world and all the struggles people go through because of money. The problem from her personal life put a lot of pressure on her, and made her school life a whole lot worse. People like me who are fortunate enough to have a house, food, and water, should appreciate all that we have. Being grateful for what we have is the very least we can do.
I was able to read this book with a book club in my Critical Literacy class. While we read, we were challenged to read about books with perspectives different from ours. We also did many lessons about how to think deeper and connect with our books. One lesson we learned was about how to track power in a book. In the book, Zoey gains and looses power often. For example, when Zoey gets made fun of at school she looses power but when Zoey makes new friends at debate club she gains power. Another example of power in this book is with Lenny and Zoey’s mom. When Lenny and mom fight, Lenny usually gains power and zoey’s mom looses power. I think it is important to understand power within book characters because it helps you understand the characters more, and connect with them. The lessons I took away from this book were powerful. I learned that you shouldn’t judge a person by what they look like or their physical appearance. You should judge a person on their personality, and their heart. This book inspired me so much, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to read it. I hope that kids from all middle schools have the ability to read this book, and I can’t wait to read more books from you!
Thank you so much for writing such important books, I hope you continue to write books like this.
7th grade Student
To: Ann Braden
Dear Ms. Braden,
I am writing to let you know that you should keep writing books like The Benefits of Being an Octopus.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus is an amazing, relatable book. It deserves to be read by all children around the world so they can see other experiences like theirs or maybe new ones. Even being that my experience is very different from Zoeys, I still managed to find this book relatable in some ways. I had both empathy and sympathy for Zoey through her tough times during the book.
Exploring experiences and perspectives different form yours are very important. They help you see reality in the world you live in. In The Benefits of Being an Octopus I got to see the life of Zoey and how she is left as the only one in her family caring for her siblings. A clear example that shows this is when she is spending time with her moms best friend Connor at his job (the Pizza Pit). Zoey realizes she’s running late to pick her siblings up form the bus stop. She rushes as fast as she can to go meet her siblings but when she arrives across the street, her siblings are waiting there as the bus drives away. She felt terrible after that but she felt even worse after her sister Aurora came running at her through moving traffic. She rushed across the street to stop her sister and get her brothers who was still sitting at the bus stop. This changed my whole perspective on caring for my brother because I’ve never had to do anything like this for him. Now, I feel like I should help him more due to what Zoey does for Aurora and Bryce.
This book also helps readers to be grateful for what they have in many ways. At one point in this book, Zoeys power stops working in her house. Turns out its because her mom wasn’t able to pay the electricity bills and the power company cut their family’s power off. Zoeys siblings started crying and she had to put them to bed in the pitch black dark. After that, Lenny (Zoeys moms boyfriend who was supposed to watch the football game with Zoey) leaves with the food that Zoeys mom cooked for them. Zoeys mom is going crazy to get her baby Hector to calm down and Zoeys siblings are going insane. All of thus is happening while no one is paying any attention to Zoey. This makes me think about how grateful I am that my parents are able to pay bills and that my family pays attention to me instead of always being in a craze. Other people may not be grateful for these things and think of them as something basic that they’ll always have which is why they need to read books like these. So that they can learn to be appreciative.
The Benefits of Being an Octopus shows many windows and mirrors for readers. Students can see experiences like their own and experiences different form theirs. They get a lease into Zoeys life where she cares for her family and does almost everything for them at home. Wether readers are in the same situation or a completely different one, they can learn something new through this book.
Plus, when you pre-order Opinions and Opossums (either from B&N or another bookstore of your choice), I’ll send you two fun opossum stickers! One for you and one for a friend — or simply: both for you!
(Because you get to have BOTH opinions AND questions!)
*If you’d like to hold out for a signed copy, just hang tight for now, and I’ll have details about that soon.
I am lucky enough to be in an absolutely amazing critique group. We live in different parts of the country, but we meet every other week by zoom, and over the years we’ve become the best of friends. AND in celebration of the fact that all four of us have new middle grade books out this year, we’re thinking about hosting a fun kids’ book club where we discuss our books, play some story-based games, answer questions about the writing process, and give away signed books!
I’m going to be back at the Putney School this summer leading another weeklong writing workshop for adults! It was SO great last year. The setting is gorgeous, the food is delicious, and not only are you getting to hang out with fabulous (and hilarious) writers (many of whom will likely be teachers or librarians — and will also likely be cat people*), but you’ll also get to mingle with art-loving people of all kinds: painters, ceramicists, jazz musicians, jewelry makers, weavers, and the folks working in the blacksmith forge!
I structure the workshop so that you’ll have your writing needs met whether you don’t have a clue what you should write or if you’ve already got a novel written and you need to focus on revising. Last year, I was blown away by what the writers at the workshop accomplished. Some of them didn’t even consider themselves writers at the beginning, but let me tell you, they considered themselves writers by the end! And what they produced was simply magical.
The dates are Sunday, August 6th through Saturday, August 12th, and you can stay on campus — but don’t have to if you’re local.
You want to hang out for a week together in a gorgeous spot in Vermont this summer, don’t you?
*You can also take part if you are NOT a cat person. Thankfully, the participating writers will likely also be open-minded and accepting.
I am FEELING ALL THE FEELINGS as the reality that this deeply personal book that I’ve poured my heart into for years… is just 6 months away from entering the world. And right now it’s even starting to poke it’s little human-like opossum hand out there because Advanced Reader Copies have arrived!
If you’re interested in getting in on this excitement and getting to read and review the book before it publishes, you can subscribe to my newsletter and sign up for the Newsletter Subscriber ARC tour. Alternatively, if you have a NetGalley account, you can access an electronic version through Penguin Random House’s Virtual Booth. Or you can just be all chill-like and wait until May 2nd! I mean, I can probably do enough twitchy for both of us, especially when people are saying things like this!
I am so grateful to everyone who was able to come to the Flight of the Puffin launch party last night! If you’re bummed you missed it, you’re in luck because Bartleby’s Books recorded it! And it’s worth watching because there was some POWERFUL conversation in that hour. I’m so grateful to Matthew Winner and Amber Leventry for being part of the event and for bringing their fabulous perspectives.
There are also two more chances to hear about Flight of the Puffin live. Tomorrow, Thursday May 6th at 8pm EDT I’ll be chatting with Lisa Fipps, the author of the incredible debut Starfish, hosted by Blue Willow Bookstore (Register here). And next Wednesday, May 12th at 7pm EDT via The Unlikely Story, I’ll be with Newbery honor author Jasmine Warga whose new book The Shape of Thunder is incredible. (Register here.) I hope you’re able to find a way to take part that fits your schedule!
And folks who are near Brattleboro…On Saturday, May 22nd there’s going to be an outdoor book event hosted by Everyone’s Books and featuring me along with three other local powerhouses: Diana Whitney, Angela Berkfield, and Shanta Lee Gander — with Robin Marie MacArthur moderating! (Register here.)
I’m excited that over 20,000 of us will be doing the Flight of the Puffin Read Aloud together! Check out all the locations where participating readers are! Here’s to all the connections that exist between us!
You can click on the map below to zoom in!
About This Blog
Connections are the soul food of our society. Here you can connect more deeply to my books, and connect to other readers and writers, as well.