Friday, November 4, 2022

Sisterhood of Sleuths interview with Jennifer Bertman!!

Eager Readers!!

Welcome to another author interview! This time with Worthy Reader and Books Inc favorite author Jennifer Bertman!!! We focused this interview on Sisterhood of Sleuths, Bertman's new book!

My quick review of this book made it to Kids IndiesNext “Wow, this book ousted my insecurities, reminded me of the crucial role of making friends with good books, and gave me a fresh appreciation of Nancy Drew. I laughed along with the story and loved all the feels and memorable lessons.”

With out any more of me here is the brand new interview!!

  1. Please introduce yourself and your new book in your own words.

Hi Drew! Thank you so much for interviewing me! I’m Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, the author of the Book Scavenger series and my latest middle-grade mystery is the recently published Sisterhood of Sleuths. Sisterhood of Sleuths is about a young girl named Maizy who finds a mysteriously abandoned box of classic Nancy Drew books that appear to be connected to her grandmother, but when her grandmother feigns ignorance about them, Maizy takes inspiration from the iconic sleuth and sets out to solve the mystery.

  1. What made your writing leave the Book Scavenger world? What inspired Sisterhood of Sleuths?

Sisterhood of Sleuths was actually supposed to be my second published book. It has been in the works since before I knew Book Scavenger would become a series. I was working on it when Book Scavenger was published, and then my publisher asked if I would consider writing and publishing the sequel first. I said, sure, and switched gears to The Unbreakable Code. And then my publisher signed on a third book in the series, The Alcatraz Escape. I was eager to follow the momentum for the Book Scavenger series, but it was also nice once the third book was wrapped up to return to this Nancy Drew novel I’d begun many years earlier. I would still love to return to the Book Scavenger world someday, though, and I also have many other stories in me that I hope to tell too.

  1. How would Emily the  lead character in Book Scavenger series and Maizy, lead role in Sisterhood of Sleuths relate to each other? What was your goal in creating Maizy? Is she different from Emily version 2.0?

I think they’d get along pretty well! I didn’t think of Maizy in terms of Emily as I was writing her. What I was thinking about was how to make her contrast the traditional characterization of Nancy Drew, and I was also thinking of aspects of my younger self that Maizy and I have in common.

  1. What made you choose Nancy Drew as a focus for the book? Explain the impact of Nancy Drew on your life, your work, and your reading life?

I discovered Nancy Drew books when I was 7 and they were my gateway to loving mysteries. As an adult, the history behind the series and the creation of Carolyn Keene was one of the first “behind-the-book” publishing stories I remember becoming fascinated with. I’ve been collecting books about the history of Nancy Drew for decades.

  1. Literary history mysteries for all ages seems to be a sub-genre that you have mastered. What makes you continue to write such informative yet heartwarming  stories?

Well, thank you for saying that! I strive to write the types of books I love reading most– informative and heartwarming literary mysteries are good words to describe those kinds of books!

  1. Izzy is a complicated adolescent secondary character. How did you make her hard to like yet relatable? Explain the reason behind their difficult relationship storyline arc?

With any of the secondary characters in my books who play an important role, I think a lot about their world outside the story. It was important to me that Izzy not seem like a stereotypical “mean girl.” For one, that doesn’t feel authentic to me. People are too complicated, and friendships are too complicated, for a person to fit so tidily in a box. Also, Izzy has been Maizy’s best friend for a long time! Maizy wouldn’t want to be friends with, or spend a lot of time around, someone who is a mean person, and so it was important to me to show the positive bonds they have as well as the friction. The difficult moments in the story are a sign of things shifting below the surface of their friendship, and I don’t think either girl understands exactly why that’s happening, which to me feels like a relatable part of growing up. We don’t always go at the same pace as our friends, our interests don’t always stay the same, and those are things that can affect friendships. Maizy is trying to hold onto how their friendship has always been, and Izzy wants their friendship to continue and branch out. She doesn’t want to do their same old, same old. 

  1. Complicated relationships, especially friendships, are all part of the focus of this book. You seem to be very experienced and masterful at creating and developing nuanced friendships and dynamic family issues for all your characters. How do you do that? How do you so creatively mix dialogue, details and character development to show relatable yet unpredictable dynamics especially in Sisterhood of Sleuths?

Thank you again! That’s very kind. I’m not sure how I do that, other than exactly what you wrote is important to me–creating nuanced friendships and dynamic family issues. So I work very hard at crafting my characters and their scenes, which often involves thinking deeply about their world and beyond what appears on the page. I think I’m also a good listener and observer–that can help with writing characters. Also paying attention as a reader helps a lot–in fact, I think reading is the best teacher for writing. When something really resonates with me as a reader I try to enjoy the story first, but then go back and ask myself what the writer did that made that work so well. 

  1. The book clearly is an Intergenerational mystery filled with family secrets. Why did you choose to have families with multiple generations and layers of mystery be so vital to the story? Explain the role of the adults, especially Jacuzzi in the book. 

When I think of Nancy Drew, I think of generations of readers who know her. Readers who go back almost 100 years! And when I think back on what I admired about Nancy Drew when I was a young reader, her friendships were a big part of why I kept coming back to her. The books were fast-paced and exciting things happened–I liked that too–but the specifics of the plots have faded in my memory. What remains is the steadfast relationships she had, primarily with women. And so those are the thematic elements of Nancy Drew that I wanted to explore–the sisterhood of friendship and bonds created with others over a mystery to solve.

  1. Any behind the scenes favorite moments or memorable bloopers from your writing and editing process for this book?

I love the idea of a blooper reel from the process of writing a book! I’m sure I had many blooper worthy moments, but I don’t remember anything specific. One of my favorite moments was seeing the cover concept and art by Sarah Watts for the first time–I love what my publisher came up with, most especially the nod to the Book Scavenger series with the flying books. Seeing Vesper Stamper’s interior illustrations was another favorite moment. And then seeing the typeset pages for the first time is always a favorite moment. That’s when my story feels like it’s stepped fully out of my imagination and is almost ready to head off on its own. (Not unlike Maizy’s brother going off to college in the book!) 

Author: Jennifer Chamblis Bertman

  1.  What is next for you professionally? 

My first picture book will be published in February 2024! I’ve actually been writing picture books longer than I’ve been writing novels, so I’m very excited. The book is called A Good Deed Can Grow and it’s illustrated by Holly Hatam, forthcoming from Christy Ottaviano Books/Little, Brown.

  1. What would Maizy say to her readers? Parting words?

Maizy would probably be too lost-in-thought with her next movie project to have much to say. She’s more a girl of action than words, always thinking ahead to her next idea. So she’d probably give a friendly wave and say, “Thanks for reading!” And then get back to work.

Thank you to Books Inc! Books Inc Palo Alto! Jennifer Bertman! and Christy Ottiiano Books!

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Learning to Fall with Sally Engelfried

Hey eager and worthy readers!

It's been a while. Today I am sharing an interview I did with debut author Sally Engelfried and her book Learning To Fall! Sally will be in conversation with Worthy Reader favorite Jennifer Bertman about her new book Sisterhood of Sleuths (out Tuesday 10/4/22)!

The conversation event will be Saturday 10/8 at 3 PM at Books Inc in Palo Alto!! 

Here is the info on this website:


  1. Introduce yourself and your debut book Learning to Fall in your own words please. 

Hi! My name is Sally Engelfried, and Learning to Fall is my debut middle grade novel. It’s about twelve-year-old Daphne, who is being sent to stay with her dad for the summer while her actor mother is away in Prague shooting a movie. Daphne hasn’t wanted anything to do with her dad ever since he broke a promise he made to her three years ago. He’s an alcoholic, which has made him unreliable in the past, but even though he’s in recovery now, Daphne is convinced it’s too late. Then her dad reminds her how much they’ve always both loved skateboarding, and skating together helps Daphne to begin to trust him again. When he ends up breaking that trust, she has to decide if she can accept her dad’s imperfections and forgive him.

  1. What were the inspirations for the book, Both personal and professional?

The first inspiration for this book was pretty personal: I wanted to write about what it was like to grow up with an alcoholic father because my father was an alcoholic, an experience that definitely shaped me in many ways. On the other hand, I didn’t want to write specifically about my own childhood. As I was thinking about what kind of girl I wanted my main character to be, my husband happened to mention that one of his skateboarding buddies was coaching a twelve-year-old girl. I started thinking about what a powerful bond that could be between a father and daughter and how alcoholism could break that bond apart, and I wanted to explore that.

  1. How did you create Daphne? What inspired you during her creation and your writing process with her? How did you create such a complex and relatable child? 

For me, creating characters is always a matter of inhabiting them as best I can and figuring out how they’d react when put in certain situations. I knew right away that Daphne would be someone who preferred to throw herself into something physical like skating than to ask questions of her parents that she doesn’t quite know how to articulate. That’s something that was also true of me as a child—not the skating part, but I didn’t know how to talk about my feelings at all! I wanted to make Daphne a little more willing to learn along the way than I was, and her dad’s determination to rebuild their relationship helps push her into talking about it. She’s reluctant at first because that’s pretty hard stuff, but in the same way she can’t resist the challenge of mastering an ollie on her skateboard, she also can’t resist the challenge of figuring out how to forgive her dad.

author: Sally Englefried

  1. Your detailed and honest explanations of alcoholism and acute observances of skateboarding are blended very well in your debut!! What made you choose these two subjects? How did you integrate them so well? How did you make the two probably unfamiliar topics so real and palpably, and movingly relatable?

Thank you! Because I’m not a skater myself, I did a lot of research by watching countless movies, documentaries, YouTube tutorials, and Instagram stories. Little things would catch me, like a twelve-year-old skater saying that the main reason she skated was that it made her feel free. Or a thirteen-year-old boy after a skate session saying how much he liked the sound of the wheels on the skate bowl. Those kinds of details made me think about how skating would integrate itself into the way a passionate skater views the world. My research also really brought home to me how much falling is a part of skating, and that is such a great metaphor for life, especially if you’re trying to repair a broken trust between two people. It’s pretty impossible to fix damaged relationships in one go—it takes a couple of tries and both parties have to be willing to make mistakes. That same philosophy is built into the AA guidelines to recovery—as Daphne’s dad tells her, you have to take things one day at a time, and if you mess up, you go back to square one and start again.

  1. Learning to fall is such a great book for all ages. In a previous interview you spoke of your growing up and your current family living situations. Who did you write the book for? Are there multiple target audiences?

Thank you! It’s true, alcoholism cast a somewhat mysterious shadow over my childhood. I knew it was there, but I didn’t really understand it and I didn’t know how to talk about it. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered how many people shared similar experiences to my own. My husband’s father was also an alcoholic—it might sound strange, but it was one of the first things we bonded over! One of my sisters married a recovering alcoholic and I liked the way he spoke about it so openly, especially when it came to making amends. I wanted Daphne’s dad to model that openness too and to be blunt with his daughter that he was doing his best but that there was no guarantee that he was “cured.” Recovery is an ongoing state. It doesn’t end.

With that in mind, one of my hopes for readers of my book is that it might open the door to conversations for kids who are curious about alcoholism or addiction in their families—or any difficult topic, for that matter.

Another driving force behind writing Learning to Fall was wanting to show a girl doing something she really loves to do and to emphasize that the process of skating, just like writing or anything anyone wants to get better at, is as important as attaining the goal. It’s really common to think you have to get an ollie, or you have to publish a book. And then once you do that, you’re on to the next goal—a kickflip! Another book! It can be a bit tortuous, and I think it’s important for us all to remind ourselves that we like the doing of the thing, not just the attainment.

  1. Daphne and her parents have some of the most complex relationships I’ve seen in a middle grade book.  Due to factors both chaotically beyond their control and things surprisingly manageable within their control. The details seem authentic and tend to be illuminating to the lessons in Daphne's story. What are some of your favorite falling and getting back up moments in the book and why?

Thank you again! Being an imperfect parent myself (aren’t we all?!) made me want to portray all the parents in Learning to Fall as people who want the best for their kids but maybe don’t always do the right thing. One of my favorite falling-and-getting-back-up scenes in the book takes place when Daphne is just starting to trust her dad a little. Then he has a burst of anger because he finds out he didn’t get yet another job he applied for. He throws his laptop on the floor and isn’t acting like himself, and Daphne gets really scared and calls her grandma. I won’t describe the whole scene, but I liked the aftermath of that, where her dad apologizes to her and tries to explain what was going on. It’s really the first time Daphne deals directly with his alcoholism without her mom as a buffer, and it’s an important moment in their relationship.

Another falling moment is when Daphne, in a moment of anger at her dad, blurts out something that hurts Arlo, her new friend who has been nothing but kind to her. That scene was hard to write because I love their friendship so much, but I thought it was important for Daphne to mess up too, to remind her that everyone makes mistakes. 

Silver Bowl Skate Park, an inspiration for Learning to Fall 

  1. How long did you work on this book? What kept you determined? 

I worked on this book about two years, although I was working full-time while I was writing, so it was mostly weekend writing. Learning to Fall is not the first book I’ve written, but it was the first book where I kind of thought I knew what I was doing, and that helped my determination. I had an idea of where it was going and I knew some specific scenes I wanted to write, so that made it really satisfying to see it through.

  1. I love the metaphor of falling and getting back up. Were there any notable falls and mistakes in your writing process?

Definitely! This book went through several revisions, including me writing an extra thirty or so pages at the end that I ultimately realized needed to be cut! The more significant writing falls happened before Learning to Fall, though. My agent and I had already gone through the submission process with two other manuscripts that didn’t sell. I was getting pretty discouraged, yet I was determined to keep trying. I really took that metaphor of falling and getting back up to heart as I dove into writing this book!

  1. In a previous interview you talk about skateboarding vocabulary and your book being edited by your editor as well as real skaters. What was that part of the editing process like?

I interviewed some skater friends before I started the book and while I was working on it. They pointed me toward some movies to watch and helped me understand the culture. I had one of them read my manuscript before I even submitted it to catch any errors I made when I described skating. As a librarian, I really enjoy doing research and I didn’t want to make any mistakes with the terminology or descriptions. When my editor read it, she was more interested in clarity for the readers who might not know anything about skating, so I made more changes. The copy editor had still more questions about skating terms, so I checked with my skating expert one more time to make sure our changes were correct.


Learning to Fall cover 

  1. If Daphne was here with us now what would she say to readers of all ages?

She’d probably feel a little self-conscious about talking to so many people at once, so maybe she’d make a joke about grown-ups saying the corniest things, but it’s true what her dad always says—everything’s like skating. If you find something you love to do, you should pursue it and don’t worry about making mistakes along the way. Embrace the mistakes as a part of the process and keep trying!

  1. What’s next for you professionally? Anything you can tell us for your next work as an author? Thank you!!

I’m working on another middle grade contemporary novel that’s about a girl in a big family, a subject that’s close to my heart because I have three brothers and three sisters. I’m not sure what’s going to happen with it yet, but I am sure I will keep writing, because I’m like Daphne in that way: I don’t give up easily! 

  1. Parting words?

Thank you so much for having me and for asking all these great questions!

Don't forget to support Books Inc and Sally Englefried by purchasing her book from this link!!

Thank you Sally Englefried (Her Website link)

Books Inc Palo Alto

and Little Brown Books for Young Readers

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Ride all the Waves with Wave by Diana Farid

Hey Eager Readers!!

Its been a very long time since our last post on this blog! Today I have my 2nd interview with Diana Farid!! The first one was this linked post about her picture book When You Breathe!  

She will be at Books Inc Palo Alto on Saturday April 30th for Independent Bookstore day in the early afternoon!!

Wave is one of the best all the feels middle grade to Young adult cross over books ever! I will have her introduce the book and herself. Then we will start the rest of the interview! 

 There will be a later interview and blog post with reader questions from Books Inc Palo Alto's Independent Bookstore day celebration on April 30th 2022!!

Please visit any Books Inc in person especially Books Inc Palo Alto all year long and anytime online and on our social media pages!

Now on to the interview with Diana Farid about her new book Wave

Please introduce yourself and your new book Wave!!

Hi. My name is Diana Farid and I am the author of When You Breathe and , my new book, Wave. Wave follows 13 year old Ava, a Southern California surfer girl, as she experiences the ride of her life in the summer of 1987. Through family expectations, prejudice, and a changing relationship with her best friend, she finds the healing power of the waves of the ocean, poetry and music.”

1. In previous interviews, especially the amazing interview by Children’s Book Review, you spoke about how your picture book WHEN YOU BREATHE and your new novel in verse WAVE are related. You spoke of coming from the “same space” — a space rooted in science and captured through your evocative poetry. Why are both told through poetry? How are these fundamentally different works of word art so intricately related? 

The stories in WHEN YOU BREATHE, a picture book, and WAVE, a novel, are both told through poetry for several reasons. Poetry is a natural structure I turn to when I’m exploring. One of the reasons I write is because it is an act of curiosity. And when I can play with words the way poetry allows me to, the way it lets me play with space and structure, I make discoveries about the topic I am exploring in my writing. I love that learning, those surprises that the act of writing can reveal. 

Another reason both WHEN YOU BREATHE and WAVE are told through poetry is that the topics each book explores, the rhythm of breath and the waves of the sea, remind me of the cadence of lines of poetry. In fact, in Wave, many of the poems take the shape of waves, and I wouldn’t have been able to get that visual detail across in prose. 

And then there is song. Songs were my entrance into poetry. They were the first thing I loved to read (the liner notes of song lyrics folded next to my favorite cassette tapes). And for me, both WHEN YOU BREATHE and WAVE are songs — songs ultimately about what we are made of, what moves us, our awesome worth simply for being, recognizing our fundamental connections with each other and the universe. So though both are different in format, yet they are deeply related in fundamental ways.

Wave by Diana Farid cover

When you Breathe Picture book by Diana Farid

2.  What put WAVE in motion originally? What was the moon pull of your writing process like for WAVE? How was it different from the picture book?

Originally, I had a glimpse of Ava and her friendship with Phoenix. I knew I wanted to navigate how music holds us through hardship. I knew Ava was a surfer and that the ocean was her solace. But the story really found its anchor while I was walking at the beach one day and wondered about the waves and what the sea would be like without them, what the world would be like without the waves that carry sound and light, without music and sunset hues. Once I had that wonder, the final scene of WAVE presented itself to me and I wasn’t going to be stopped until the story was out — originally in a spiral bound green Mead notebook. I wrote my first draft by hand, pen to paper. When You Breathe had many revisions over many years until it took its final form. Wave took about 2 years. 

 3. All throughout WAVE, readers enjoy clearly crafted poems that evoke so many therapeutically deep and staggeringly authentic feelings for all readers. I have heard from many readers of all ages crying waves of tears for various feelings throughout the book. Seems you have shared experiences with the main character. How do you connect so well to readers' feelings?

I’ve heard the same, that readers have found deep emotional connections to the characters in WAVE. And, yes, I do have some shared experiences with the main character Ava, especially the cultural and religious background and family structure. That certainly helps authenticity come across. I tried hard to express feelings truthfully. Even if I didn’t ever experience what Ave does in WAVE, I pictured the experience. And I think it would be accurate to describe myself as an empath. So, once I pictured the experience, I always also felt it viscerally. Then, I tried to describe that feeling as accurately as I could.

Author Diana Farid

4. In other interviews you spoke of wondering about what if the world had no waves. How did that influence WAVE? 

On a very fundamental level, WAVE is my answer to that question: “What would the world be like if there were no waves?” 

What other questions did you want to investigate in the book? 

There so many other questions I investigated. Some of them explore the power of poetry and music to heal, what the definition of a meaningful gift is, what it is to be present, and what’s missing from our healthcare system. 

How does your poetry explore these things differently than prose would? Nuances with fewer words??

Exploring these questions with poetry allowed for layered meanings depending on the structure and order of the words and allowed for invitations to sit and think about the implications in the phrases.

Wave cover! 

5. How did you create and craft Ava? She is Clearly a crucial new voice in diverse voices, a non Islamic middle eastern girl. 

Some of my own personal experiences are layered into Ava. I noticed that a lot of “middle eastern” kid lit revolved around characters who identified as Muslim. And while that is a vital need, missing from the landscape was the representation of the diversity of faiths in the middle east. Specifically, Ava’s family identifies as Baha’i, as does mine. Her family experiences religious persecution and had to leave Iran quickly during the revolution. So did mine. Her mom is an immigrant, single mom, and obstetrician/gynecologist. So is mine! These shared experiences were perfect backdrops to explore themes of identity, meaning and worth.

6. Ava's closest friendship with Phoenix is crucial to the story. What makes their relationship so transcendent and unique? How did you create Phoenix?

I love Phoenix and Ava’s friendship so much. It’s transcendent because they see, respect, and understand each other’s deepest aspirations and share a love for the ocean and surfing — which serves as a constant reminder in their lives, and in the book, of the richness we have to be able to experience such grandness, when it’s just tickling the tips of our toes or taking us on our biggest rides. I created Phoenix as one of the catalysts for Ava seeing herself, her worth, and the joy in the ride of life.

From Wave, text© 2022 Diana Farid, Illus © 2022 Gotobean Heavy Industries, LLC. Published by Cameron + Company, a division of Abrams.

7. Ava’s desire to express herself is juxtaposed by doing her best to find a sense of belonging in her community are both universal elements of the experience of children of all ages. How do your own experiences growing up match up with Ava especially in terms of exploring that juxtaposition?

What Ava experiences ring true with emotions I experienced growing up, not being fully one culture or another. And I worked hard to show how that plays out in specific contexts, like family traditions, meals and expectations and how those can contrast with the culture outside of one’s home. Some of the contrasts mentioned in WAVE are ones I actually experienced, especially when it came to food, music, and language.

8. Mixtapes from the 80s and surfing are crucial to the flow of the book . Explain your feelings on mixtapes and surfing and why you chose those two core elements.

This is an easy one. I was obsessed with both growing up. I wouldn’t have been able to write a book set in 1987 without those both being elements of the story. 

                      Playlists from Wave 

From Wave, text© 2022 Diana Farid, Illus © 2022 Gotobean Heavy Industries, LLC. Published by Cameron + Company, a division of Abrams.

9. Rumi is preeminent In the book. How does his spirituality and poetry impact  Ava and Phoenix? How does Rumi impact you?

Rumi’s poem comes to be a solace for Ava. It’s a space where she finds spiritual wisdom that directly reflects an experience she is having, or it comments, almost like an omniscient guardian angel, on how to move forward. Rumi did the same for me as a younger person. I love that some of his verses have made their way into a book accessible to the middle grade and kidlit audience.

From Wave, text© 2022 Diana Farid, Illus © 2022 Gotobean Heavy Industries, LLC. Published by Cameron + Company, a division of Abrams.

10. You speak in a previous interview about creative self expression being the key to real connection, explain? I remember your answer included an elephant. 

I think of the world like that elephant in the south Asian parable about the people or mice who are blind and are each at different parts of a huge elephant arguing about what it is they are feeling. A tree trunk, a snake, a wall, a large floppy leaf — depending on where you examine, different parts of an elephant could be mistaken for each of those things. 

I think of our creative expression as the access we have to describe the world how we see it, where we are. And I think of our sharing it, the space of shared art, museums, fairs, bookshops, galleries, concerts, and the such, as our chances in our lives to see another perspective, and get that much closer to getting to know the reality of the elephant, or our world. Without each other’s stories about the elephant, aka the world, we wouldn’t be able to get the full picture or understand how fundamentally connected all the parts are in making the grand whole.

11. My blog is called the worthy reader in part because reading books like yours connect me to my self worth, if nothing else then I see myself as a witness to great art and how Your words transcend Ava’s story and apply so strongly to what I can do in my own life story. Thank you for all of your art, and your illustrators art!! What’s your response to those truths?

You are, indeed, worthy.

From Wave, text© 2022 Diana Farid, Illus © 2022 Gotobean Heavy Industries, LLC. Published by Cameron + Company, a division of Abrams.

12. What are you reading now? What are you reading with your kids? What are your kids reading?

I am reading this brand new translation of Rumi’s poetry, GOLD, edited and translated from the Farsi by Haleh Liza Gafori. With my kids, I am reading PAX, by Sara Pennypacker.

13. What’s next for you professionally?

I am working on a bunch of picture books. And, I have started my next novel in verse! 

14. What do you want all your readers to gain from Wave? 

How fortunate we are, to breathe, to sing, and to ride, the waves.

Thats all for now. There will be a later interview and blog post with reader questions from Books Inc Palo Alto's Independent Bookstore day celebration on April 30th 2022!!!

Don't forget to buy a copy of Wave at this link from Books Inc

Thank yous listed with hyperlinks!! Endless thanks to Diana Farid  and Cameron Kids and Abrams Publishing, and Books Inc   and Children's Book Review 

My family and I would also like to thank all my viewers and Subscribers to this blog and all my other social media!