Fifteen top young-adult authors let us in on provocative secrets in a fascinating collection that will have readers talking.
A baby no one knows about. A dangerous hidden identity. Off-limits hookups. A parent whose problems your friends won’t understand. Everyone keeps secrets—from themselves, from their families, from their friends—and secrets have a habit of shaping the lives around them. Acclaimed author Ann Angel brings together some of today’s most gifted YA authors to explore, in a variety of genres, the nature of secrets: Do they make you stronger or weaker? Do they alter your world when revealed? Do they divide your life into what you’ll tell and what you won’t? The one thing these diverse stories share is a glimpse into the secret self we all keep hidden.
With stories by:
erica l. kaufman
E. M. Kokie
J. L. Powers
Mary Ann Rodman
Cynthia Leitich Smith
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About the Author
I lived most of my kid-life in Collinsville, Illinois, a little coal-mining town not far from St. Louis. The town turns up as the setting in Coaltown Jesus. My parents were hard working, blue-collar folks, and that’s probably why I write pretty much every day seven days a week. Well, I don’t write all day, of course, but three or four hours for sure. I’ve been a smart aleck all my life without being (I hope) too obnoxious, and being funny is how I made my way through high school and college and beyond. My smart mouth gets me into trouble, but it’s also helped me out of some tight spots. I never planned to be a writer, though I did have a high-school teacher who was encouraging. I started out as a poet (and still am one) because I met kids in college (University of Illinois) and grad school (University of Arizona) who were writing poetry and I wanted to hang with them, so I did what they did. I didn’t keep it a secret from my folks, but the idea of a boy from Collinsville writing poetry would’ve been hard for them to get their heads around.
So you know about the poetry. As far as fiction goes, somebody who went to college when I did (1958–1962) and who wanted to write, went directly to novels. I did publish one for adults, but the next few were all failures. Finally a friend of mine said that I was so chronically immature I should write for sixteen-year-old boys. That didn’t hurt my feelings, since it was true, so I just sat down and wrote Where the Kissing Never Stops. The book did well, so I’ve been pretending to be a sixteen-year-old boy (or girl) ever since. Fiction doesn’t come easy to me, exactly, but novels are just long stories, and I like to tell stories. When I get letters from readers, it’s almost always about how one of my books made their day a little better. Such a great thing to hear! There’s always funny stuff in my novels, even if the story has serious or even sad parts. I can’t help myself apparently.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. How old I am. Early seventies. And yet I keep writing for kids/teenagers. I tend to ask for ideas-for-stories (some would call that praying), and when the ideas show up, they’re for the audience I always write for.
2. I like to handicap race horses and bet on them. A good friend of mine works in theatre in New York. He and I go to different race tracks every year. I’ve been part-owner of Thoroughbred. I know West Coast jockeys. It’s a hobby, like golf, but I don’t have to buy special equipment.
3. I’ve been a teacher pretty much all my life, and one of the coolest things is seeing somebody I’ve mentored as a writer go on and do well. Success isn’t like a small room; there’s always space for more and more and more people.
Louise Hawes mirror wrote as a child, and was therefore relegated to a special first-grade reading group that met in the basement. “This not very subtle metaphor,” she says now, “was one we slow readers caught onto right away. But I didn’t mind my basement status. I loved that cozy, badly lit room and our special mimeographed booklets featuring Sam and The Rat, who chased each other around The Rug. I credit Sam and those mysterious, sketchy illustrations with my continuing to be a slow reader (and writer) to this day, one who savors every word!”
Louise thinks it’s important to tell kids that a slow start doesn’t mean you need to be left behind. The author of fifteen books for young readers and a faculty member of the nation’s only MFA in writing for children program, at Vermont College, she visits middle and junior high schools, encouraging youngsters to tap into their individual creativity. “Nothing except writing itself,” she says, “gives me more pleasure than helping people of all ages find the stories that are theirs alone.”
Louise’s Young adult novel, Waiting For Chrstopher, garnered high praise for treating the issue of child abuse with honesty and compassion. Publishers Weekly says the book’s characters are “painfully believable” and applauds the “flowing prose” of “this affecting and honest novel,” while School Library Journal concludes, “This novel deals poignantly with grief, loss, and the healing process.” Although several publishers have recommended her book for classroom discussion, Louise insists, “I didn’t set out to write an “issue” novel. A Book About Abuse wouldn’t work for me or for readers,” she says. “This is a book about a young woman named Feena, a character who’s simply not capable of standing by and watching bad things happen.”
Born in Colorado, Louise graduated from Swarthmore College with a double major in English literature and art history. Before she earned an MFA in writing, she was an advertising director, a technical editor, a sculptor, and an out of work actress. “I wasn’t much good at any of these,” she admits, but I made up in curiosity and energy, what I lacked in skill. It was only when I wrote fiction that everything came together.”
The mother of two grown children, Louise lives in North Carolina, but travels frequently. She is currently at work on a historical novel that takes place in the Italian Renaissance, and has just returned from a reading tour of high schools in Italy. She says her Italian hasn’t improved much, but she now speaks fluent truffle!
In suburban Kansas City, I began as a child poet and grew into a journalist. I was the editor of my junior-high and high-school newspapers. I went on to study journalism at the University of Kansas and law at the University of Michigan Law School.
Along the way, I had a ton of jobs. I worked as a popcorn popper at a movie theater, a cashier at a gas station, a waitress at a Mexican restaurant, a switchboard operator for a bank, a telemarketer, and a receptionist for a small law firm. I served as a reporting intern for various small-town papers and the Dallas Morning News as well as a marketing intern for a greeting-card company in Kansas City, an oil company in Oklahoma, and a nonprofit organization in Topeka. I also held summer/semester clerkships at a judge’s office in Kansas, a small women’s-rights firm in Michigan, and a legal aid in Hawaii.
After graduation I moved to Chicago, where I worked briefly in the law office of the Department of Health and Human Services. But after six months (and a long talk with some ducks in Lake Michigan), I quit my day job to write full time. I eventually relocated and settled in Austin.
I love to literally plunge into my fictional worlds.
For Tantalize, I went house shopping for my characters, confessed my intentions to the realtors, and walked away with floor plans and photos. At the local coffee shop, I tapped hirsute folks on the shoulder and asked if I could take pictures of them to use as models for shape-shifters. I also made a point to dine at every Italian restaurant in Austin.
For the New York Times best-selling novel Eternal, I walked every Chicago street that my characters did, trying to see the landscape anew through their eyes. I made notes about the sounds, the smells, the chill in the air. The ink in my pen froze on Navy Pier, and I ended up cutting that scene anyway.
For the Feral trilogy, I strolled ash-strewn acres of Texas that had been ravaged by wildfires and spent hours at Austin’s rescue zoo communing with lions.
Hearts Unbroken was more of a journey into memory. I had to revisit being a teen journalist whose editorials sometimes crossed swords with suburban Kansas sensibilities. I had to reflect on what it felt like to navigate Native identity on every level, sometimes in the face of bigotry, while also seeking joy and celebrating daily life, culture, and community.
What I love most about being a young adult author is hearing from young adult readers!
I’m happy to answer questions about my novels and to recommend additional books by other authors.
I grew up with an older sister and a younger brother who ganged up on me mercilessly whenever they could get away with it (teaching me to fight dirty at an early age). We had a small menagerie of rescued strays ranging from canaries to kittens, all of whom I liked much better than my siblings. I struggled between being a princess (because I liked frilly dresses and tiaras) and being a tomboy (because I could run faster and spit farther than any of the boys). I resolved this by being a princess whenever my hair had grown long, and being a tomboy whenever my mum noticed how long my hair had gotten and chopped it off with the kitchen scissors.
I decided I was going to be a writer as soon as I finished reading my first book—The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton—and mad as it sounds, I never changed my mind. The first story that I wrote was about a rabbit and a pig having a party. The second was about a girl who found a pair of magic shoes that made flowers grow wherever she walked. I live in a peaceful little house that has the sea on one side and marshlands on the other. Both landscapes provide inspiration for my work. For company I have two cats, one named Hero after the Shakespearian character, and the other Echo after the nymph from the Greek myth. I also have a sprocker—a springer/cocker spaniel cross—called Finn, but normally he’s known as the Devil Hound. I sing a lot, talk to myself a lot (writers are allowed to do this) and read a lot, usually when I’m supposed to be writing.
About My Work:
I usually work in my front room, hunched over a laptop, but I also do a lot of planning and playing around with things in my trusty notebook, which I take with me everywhere. Every time I start a new book I get out a new notebook, label the front page with the working title and the date, and then do lots of elaborate doodling around the title with silver and gold pens to make it look official. By the time I’ve finished the book the notebook is usually stuffed with maps and bits of paper and full of barely readable notes that say things like: “Wingspan? Speed? Eye-Color—Do they even sing? Make something up, useless!” I would never let anyone look in one of my notebooks. I’d be far too embarrassed.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I once cried for half an hour after accidentally standing on a moth and squashing it.
2. I can’t ride a bike, and I never could—but I broke two fingers trying to learn.
3. When I was little, I was convinced that wolves lived under my bed. I still can’t let my hands or feet hang over the edge of the mattress, just in case.