IN THE SPOTLIGHT cover reveal with 2 authors for the price of one!

June 28, 2016

Lindsey: Robin and I got together (well, internet together. Google docs together) to share our reactions to the cover for our next book, THE PAGES BETWEEN US: IN THE SPOTLIGHT

What’s that you say? You wrote another Pages Between Us book together?! Yep. LIKE YOU COULD STOP US.

Robin: The only thing that could stop us from writing another book is…wait…there’s nothing. We love doing this too much. And today is a big day. The cover for our second collaboration is ALIVE! It has a beating heart! And lungs! And wow, that got gross.

Lindsey: I think they call it going live, Robin. Not Alive. Also, you like personifying things, don’t you?

Robin: The cup of coffee I’m drinking is my best friend. So YES, I personify things.

Lindsey: I bet that cup of coffee is burning hot, too. I know you so well. Anyway, I’m presently on my balcony in the green mountains of Utah…

Robin: And I am sitting in a Starbucks overlooking a six-lane highway and a Shell gas station. Classy. So, Lindsey…let’s talk about our love for this cover. ….. Lindsey. Lindsey? You there? Are you nursing a baby bird back to health or something?? That’s what you do in the mountains of Utah, I’m assuming.

Lindsey: Sorry. No birds involved. Parenting moment. Had to settle my kids’ disagreement over a pair of socks. Ahhhh balance.

Robin: You’re my hero.

Lindsey: So, let’s open this email and behold this image in all it’s jpeg glory together, shall we?

Robin: Isn’t jpeg the BEST word ever? And this jpeg below is particularly darling.

Lindsey: Drumrollllllll….



Lindsey: Ahhhhhh! My eyes are tickling from the amazing. Can eyes tickle?

Robin: SO. MUCH. COVER. CUTENESS! Also, eyes totally tickle when they’re in the presence of things one can only describe as “adorbs.”

Lindsey: Here are three things I love about the cover.

  1. That it shows both girls interests that are central to the story
  2. The little Battle of the Books flyer. Fair readers–have you ever participated in your school’s Battle of the Books? You get to read AND discuss AND battle? We were so in love with the different Battles we watched as authors that we had to include one in this story
  3. The colors. Doesn’t it look like Book #1 & #2 are BFFs?

Robin: Yes, book 1 & 2 are totally going to stay best friends all the way through college and chat on facebook when they’re adults. I was so excited to see the Battle of the Books flyer on the cover. Our artists came up with the idea to spear books with swords–darling! A quick side note about Battle of the Books: Lindsey and I have both participated as authors. But to write this book, we wanted to see other viewpoints. We met in a small mountain town in California and rented a quaint cabin to write the battle scenes. Luckily, Youtube is our best friend (besides each other) and there were tons of videos of schools across the country battling it out…over books. So, in summary, we watched videos in a remote cabin. It is as creepy as it sounds.

Lindsey: Not to give anything away! I mean, about the book. I fear we’ve already given away enough about ourselves, Robin.

Robin: My social security number is–

Lindsey: Shhh…

Robin: I’m going to go now. Time to nurse a baby bird back to health.

Lindsey: No, that’s me. You’re the one by the freeway.

Robin: Right. I meant to say ‘gotta go nurse a Slurpee.’

Lindsey: So IN THE SPOTLIGHT is available March 14, 2017 and is up for preorder here. In the meantime, read THE PAGES BETWEEN US and start a fun notebook with your bestie just like Olivia and Piper

Robin: If you pre-order, send one of us a message and we will mail you signed bookmarks and a bookplate! And possibly my social security number!*
*Authors’ note: We are not sending you our social security numbers.

Finally, an answer to age-old author question…

May 31, 2016
The Big Move HIGH RES Oval Office Escape High Res

If you ask nearly any children’s/YA author the most common question they hear, 8 out of 10 will say it’s, “Where do you get your inspiration/where do you get your ideas?” (2 out of 10 get asked for their autograph a lot. All that fame is exhausting. Or so I imagine).

No one knows how to answer the Idea/Inspiration question. Rather, no one wants to answer this. And the reason for a lot of authors is the same:  We don’t know.

We get our ideas from everywhere or from observation or living life. Each book comes about a different way, and we get so swept up in the dreaming and thinking and creating, we never paying much attention to how the thing came to be. It just is. Let’s not jinx the whole thing and talk about it too much, K?

For some odd reason, this answer isn’t satisfying for most folk. And so I make up an answer. I tell students that authors meet in a secret cave high up in the mountains. We’re often wearing battered bathrobes and faded yoga pants. We swap handshakes and chant until the Idea Spirit appears with Hollywood-worthy pitches.
Then we toast marshmallows.

I like this process much more than the truth: I stare at the computer screen. I write words. I erase some words. I write some more. I check in with my writing friends/agent/editor to make sure these words aren’t hogwash. Often they are. So then… wait for it… I write more.

But finally, finally, I have an easy answer for how I got the idea for the COMMANDER IN CHEESE series (Book #1 THE BIG MOVE and Book #2 OVAL OFFICE ESCAPE are both out today).
The idea was given to me.
Kind of.

I’ve worked with some really wonderful people in publishing. This isn’t always the case for authors, just like it isn’t always the case for teachers/librarians/plumbers/nurses/*insert any industry here*. I’ve sold books to 4 different publishing houses, and was blessed with stellar editors at all of these houses. One editor, Caroline Abbey, has been my editor for 7 books now. Caroline and I worked on my 3 teen books together at the wonderful publishing house, Bloomsbury. When she moved to another publishing house, I was, of course, sad for me but happy for her. I was sure we’d work on something together again, but had no idea what/where/when/why.

One day, I got an email from Caroline with the following :
If I had an idea (and I’m not 100% sure I do yet) would you be open to it? Or is now a bad time? If it’s not a good time, just ignore me. No need to send any kind of formal answer. I just thought I’d put it out there (because I miss working with you!!)

I replied very professionally:

Followed an impatient hour later with…

And so we chatted. Caroline had the idea of mice living in the White House. She didn’t know yet who the mice were or what their story would be. As soon as she suggested this, my brain went berserk. I started asking all sorts of questions–How many mice? Were they a family? Did the humans know? What time period? What was the goal of the mice? Could I write about a brother and sister? Is this be an adventure story? Can i include some non-fiction? How many words? How long? When can I start? I remember Caroline laughing and saying, “It sounds like this is already your idea.”

And it was. And it wasn’t. Commander in Cheese quickly became a beautiful collaboration. I wrote the first chapter that very night. I had never written in the chapter book genre before. I wrote Caroline emails with subjects like AM I ALLOWED TO BE FUNNY? and HOW DO YOU FIGURE OUT READING LEVEL? and on and on. Caroline and I met up in Washington D.C for a research trip. I ran around memorials and museums like a 10-year-old on a field trip, pointing and exclaiming, “Oh, I have to write about this! Did you know about this? Take a picture of me here!”


(I take horrible selfies, which is not very millennial of me. It says COMMANDER IN CHIEF behind us)

(I’m eating the White House. Maybe it’s made out of cheese? See? Need to step up my selfie game)


(While I’m sharing DC pics, here I am with friends Israel and Tamara in front of Lincoln Memorial. I went to D.C. when I was 16 and wore a camo shirt, so I made sure I represented the camo again this go around)

I got to work on COMMANDER IN CHEESE. I read hundreds of chapter books, analyzing the timing, structure, vocabulary and pacing of other stories. The first book, THE BIG MOVE, took me 5 or 6 months to write and was one of the most humbling and enthralling writing experiences of my professional life. The second book took me 3 or 4. The third and fourth were closer to 1-2 months. The series became my baby, one that I rocked and fed and watched sleep in its little computer crib.

And then I lucked into another collaboration that I’d never experienced before…

I got illustrated.


(Photo from A.G Ford’s instagram. Go follow. He’s rad)
Before I got into publishing, I assumed that the author and illustrator knew each other and worked together from the beginning of a book’s creation. This is occasionally true, but more often than not the author writes a book, the publisher buys the book and then seeks out an illustrator that would be a good fit. The author and Illustrator don’t know each other. In fact, they probably won’t ever meet in person or even talk on the phone. As the author, you cross your fingers that you agree with the “good fit” decided upon by your publisher.
Well, clearly, I crossed my fingers hard. I also wished on stars and held my breath under bridges. And all that luck brought me A.G. Ford, the insanely talented illustrator for this series. A.G. brought so much humor and heart to the Squeakerton family. He would send sketches to my editor, I would send a few tweaks, and what resulted was a wonderful collaboration of picture and prose. My very favorite part of writing this whole series is the day A.G.’s sketches arrive.

So… there’s my sort of answer. I get my ideas from EVERYONE and EVERYWHERE and EVERYTHING. Caroline’s ideas are in this series. A.G.’s ideas are in there too. So are mine. It’s not quite a secret meeting in a mountain cave, but it’s pretty dang close. I hope you’ll share this book with your favorite 6-10 year-old reader. I would love to spend forever writing about this special family with this special team of collaborators.

And now, naturally, I’m off to celebrate with a cheese platter.


Back to fifth grade, minus the big bangs and denim vest collection…

February 26, 2016

The last few weeks have been a dervish of career activity.

Here’s a sampling of February’s Work To Do List (not to be confused with life To Do List, which includes activities for 6 kids, travel with 6 kids, an April wedding, house hunting, and did I mention the wedding?) (!!!!!!!!!)

–Finish Website (holla!)

–The Pages Between Us is OUT IN STORES NOW!

–3 book signings (with 3 more next week)

–5 school visits (with 4 more on horizon)

–10 Skype visits

–Turned in revisions for next PAGES BETWEEN US novel. We should announce cover/title/release date soonish!

–Turned in first draft for COMMANDER IN CHEESE #4. First 2 books releases in only 3 months

–guest posts, reader mail, loads of #betweenbesties instagram posts and now… I return to you, fair blog.

Next week, I leave again for more school, conference, and book store appearances. Work months like this are at turns exciting and exhausting, but I’ve also loved loved loved the opportunity to connect with readers with my co-writer, Robin Mellom. One visit in particular had us squealing with delight at every turn. We had the opportunity to visit my fifth grade teacher’s school. Miss Dean is now a librarian, and it is very, very obvious why she was/is my favorite teacher. Miss Dean introduced me to so many stories, to scholastic book clubs, to book reports that I did the day she assigned it because I was THAT kid. (an excited kid. Nothing wrong with that) I love Miss Dean.


The fifth graders were in awe that I “used to be just like them” (meaning, 10-years-old). It was so cool to share my favorite books from fifth grade (Bridge to Terabithia), and the books I wrote at M.J. Christensen’s publishing center, which existed thanks to my elementary principal, Joan Grey. I really, really wish I could give my fifth grade self a glimpse of the awesomeness ahead.


Table Miss Dean set up with elements from our story. No detail went unnoticed, from the Gilmore Girls videos to the grape-flavored jolly ranchers. I love Miss Dean (yes, I still call her Miss Dean. The first name part was too hard)

stuff from book

Miss Dean asked students to keep a best friend notebook (JUST LIKE THE PAGES BETWEEN US) for a month leading up to our visit. So many students participated that she had to read through each submission to choose who would attend the special author lunch. Robin and I got to meet with each pair of besties and read their amazing journals. Our jaws hurt from smiling so much. Nay, Beaming. I love Miss Dean!


THE PAGES BETWEEN US is my seventh book. My first book was published 6 years ago this March, and I’m still awed that this is my job. There are lots of struggles that come with it–long nights, crazy-making deadlines, Broken Brain Syndrome and that constant worry that I won’t ever sell another book. But visits like this one are also so incredibly rewarding. I’m so lucky to be an author. Also, I love Miss Dean.


November 19, 2015

Hope to see you at NCTE this year!
Signing: Sunday, Nov 22 at 11:00 @ HarperCollins booth.

Water for Life

October 19, 2015

Last year, I joined Water for Life as Director of Awesome (I have another title. But I can’t remember it and titles are never my personal strength). The non-profit is 100% volunteer based, and giving to this organization has been an essential step in Feeling Like a Contributing Human.

We’ve been working on this Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for over a year now–researching and conferencing and planning and revising. Seriously, you say the word Indiegogo over and over again, and it hurts your tongue after awhile.

We’re trying to raise at least 25k so we can distribute 500 filters to Cambodia. Each filter provides clean drinking water for at least 10 people for up to 10 years, so that’s 5000 lives we are hoping to save. Our stretch goal is to raise 25k more and provide filters in Africa. 25k more? India.

Here’s our general schtick:

We supply high-tech, low-cost water filters to developing countries with contaminated water supplies. Basically, we found a filter that takes all the crap out of water (literal crap, as well as debris, bacteria, disease) and makes that water safe to drink.
People need clean water. We get them clean water. It’s a huge problem that actually has a simple solution. And since 1.8 million children die every year from waterborne disease, we’re passionate about getting these filters out there. We make these distributions by partnering with other charitable organizations, as well as planning humanitarian service trips of our own.

Here’s more about the Sawyer water filtration system we use:

MINI filter: These pocket-size personal filters are great for camping. For exotic honeymoons. For international missionaries. For YOU.
Family filter: This larger filter uses two buckets and is gravity fed. It can filter 150 gallons of water a day for over ten years. It’s also a great addition for your food storage/disaster relief kit.
Our featured perk is our 2-for-1. For $100, you get a mini-filter AND a family filter sent right to your home. We also will send a filter to a family in need.

Wow, Lindsey. I had no idea this technology existed! I am excited/overwhelmed/generous/joyous/touched/eager. So how can I help?
Funny you should ask…


1. Contribute: Our Indiegogo campaign runs for the next month. We have “perks” available beginning at $10, but any amount you can donate is fabulous.
Donate and/or purchase filters here:

2. Share: Money, obviously, is great. But spreading the word helps too. Go to the campaign site and link on back, just like I did below. Or write your own Facebook/Instagram/Twitter/Pinterest/Tumblr/email/blog post about Water for Life. Tell your friends at work or carpool about this. Buy a billboard. Go tell it on the mountain. Hashtag it up ‪#‎bewaterforlife‬

3. Create: Here’s an (unedited, amateur) video I made with two of my daughters. They had a lot of fun (and have made two more I still need to edit and post) Our “dirty bucket challenge” involves YOU trying out the filter yourself and is also a great learning activity for your kids…

4. Follow: Here we are. Go here! Like us!

5. Volunteer: We are always looking for ways to grow the charity. If you have ideas or time, you can go here or email james@bewaterforlife

To those of you who have asked when to help, now would be a great time. Right… now. We’ve had a GREAT start and we want to keep this momentum going.
Your contribution is a drop in the bucket, but drops make ripples.
And with enough help, we can make waves.