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Doing It Over…and Over…and Over Again

“How long does it take to write a book?”

That’s one of the top five questions* I get asked when visiting middle schools. I like that question because it can be answered any number of ways.

My answer is always different, but it always starts with, “It depends…”

I wrote the first draft of Invisible, for example, in five weeks. Even to an eighth grader, that sounds fast.

But wait, there’s more! My first revision of Invisible took eight weeks. My second revision, a month. My editor then had some suggestions, and I took another month to revise it a third time. The final revision went quickly—just two or three weeks.

Total time from first keystroke to final manuscript? Six months of active work, spread out over about a year. That’s by far the fastest I’ve ever written a novel—and 80% of that time was spent on revising.

Eden West, the story of a boy who grows up  on an isolated doomsday cult compound in Montana, took twelve years. During those years of on-and-off writing and revising the setting changed, the number and names of the characters changed, the voice of the main character changed, the ending changed, and the title changed. I made two extended visits to Montana, where the book is set. I read seemingly endless pages of Biblical apocrypha, Mormon texts, and other scripture. The first few chapters I wrote were revised so often and so drastically that they are unrecognizable. Several times I had to set the book aside for a few weeks or months and let my subconscious work on it. Often, I worked on other things and simply let Eden West have a little alone time without me.

Typing a new scene, researching, revising, and dreaming are all parts of writing. Many of my best ideas come while I’m revising.

There may be writers out there who can write a publishable first draft, but I don’t know any. If there are any, I hate them. But the vast majority of us would no more forgo revision than we would eat an uncooked potato, or wear a pair of jeans that hadn’t been stitched together, or live in a home with gaping holes in the roof.

So how long does it take to write a book?

It depends…

P. S. The other four most asked questions are: 1)Where do you get your ideas?; 2) What is your favorite book?; 3) Are you going to write a sequel to (name of book they just read)?; 4) Will (name of book they just read) be made into a movie?

Pete Hautman’s newest book is Eden West published April 14th, 2015 by Candlewick Press. 

eden west

About Eden West: Twelve square miles of paradise, surrounded by an eight-foot-high chain-link fence: this is Nodd, the land of the Grace. It is all seventeen-year-old Jacob knows. Beyond the fence lies the World, a wicked, terrible place, doomed to destruction. When the Archangel Zerachiel descends from Heaven, only the Grace will be spared the horrors of the Apocalypse. But something is rotten in paradise. A wolf invades Nodd, slaughtering the Grace’s sheep. A new boy arrives from outside, and his scorn and disdain threaten to tarnish Jacob’s contentment. Then, while patrolling the borders of Nodd, Jacob meets Lynna, a girl from the adjoining ranch, who tempts him to sample the forbidden Worldly pleasures that lie beyond the fence. Jacob’s faith, his devotion, and his grip on reality are tested as his feelings for Lynna blossom into something greater and the End Days grow ever closer. Eden West is the story of two worlds, two hearts, the power of faith, and the resilience of the human spirit.

About Pete Hautman: Pete Hautman is the author of many books for young adults and adults, including the National Book Award–winning Godless and the recent Klaatu Diskos trilogy. He splits his time between Wisconsin and Minnesota. You can learn more about him at

Visit the other stops on the Eden West blog tour: 

Word Nerds May 19
Creatures ‘n’ Crooks May 20
My Book Views May 21
The Children’s Book Review May 22
My Mercurial Musings May 26
The Roarbots May 27
Unleashing Readers May 29
Hudson Booksellers June 1


Candlewick is kindly offering THREE copies of Eden West for giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to Pete Hautman for his guest post and Candlewick for having us be part of the Eden West blog tour!


**Thank you to Jamie at Candlewick Press for providing copies for review!**

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fatal fever

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary
Author: Gail Jarrow
Published: March 10, 2015 by Calkins Creek

GoodReads Summary: In March 1907, the lives of three remarkable people collided at a New York City brownstone where Mary Mallon worked as a cook. They were brought together by typhoid fever, a dreaded scourge that killed tens of thousands of Americans each year. Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary is the first middle-grade trade book that tells the true story of the woman who unwittingly spread deadly bacteria, the epidemiologist who discovered her trail of infection, and the health department that decided her fate. This gripping story follows this tragic disease as it shatters lives from the early twentieth century to today. It will keep readers on the edges of the seats wondering what happened to Mary and the innocent typhoid victims. With glossary, timeline, list of well-known typhoid sufferers and victims, further resource section, author’s note, and source notes.

Review: This narrative nonfiction essentially begins with in media res—Typhoid Mary is running from people who want to catch her and take her blood. By chapter two, the text shifts back to the history of typhoid fever and gives readers a no-nonsense look at the gory realities of this horrid disease. My father and brother are doctors and my mom was a nurse, and I was finally able to take part in medical conversations at a family gathering! It would have been easy for the author to slip into the extreme technical details of this disease, but she does an excellent job balancing science, history, and story. I was engaged in the book from beginning to end. I never thought I would find the sanitation systems in the early 1900s to be so fascinating!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Students will read this book and want to learn more about other deadly epidemics in history. They would likely be interested in the ways this disease still impacts countries today. I found Typhoid Mary’s story to be very interesting, and I wanted to learn more about medical scapegoats in history. All in all, this book inspires readers to want to learn more about medical topics. I imagine this book would be a good choice for students interested in medical professions, but it will also captivate students who are interested in science and history. This makes it a true interdisciplinary text.

Discussion Questions: How was Typhoid Mary treated by the community? Why? Do you think she deserved her treatment at the end of her life?; What other diseases have impacted history? How do they compare to typhoid fever?

We Flagged: “She didn’t know it, but she wasn’t alone in that cramped, cold closet. Deep insider her body, billions of deadly microorganisms were hiding, too.”

Read This If You Loved: Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow; Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy and Alison Blank

Recommended For:




*Thank you to Kerry at Boyds Mills Press for sending this book for review!*

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Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy and was started to help promote the reading of nonfiction texts. Most Wednesdays, we will be participating and will review a nonfiction text (though it may not always be a picture book).
Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what other nonfiction books are shared this week!


The Underground Abductor
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published April 21st, 2015 by Amulet Books

Goodreads Summary: Araminta Ross was born a slave in Delaware in the early 19th century. Slavery meant that her family could be ripped apart at any time, and that she could be put to work in dangerous places and for abusive people. But north of the Mason-Dixon line, slavery was illegal. If she could run away and make it north without being caught or killed, she’d be free. Facing enormous danger, Araminta made it, and once free, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Tubman spent the rest of her life helping slaves run away like she did, every time taking her life in her hands. Nathan Hale tells her incredible true-life story with the humor and sensitivity he’s shown in every one of the Hazardous Tales—perfect for reluctant readers and classroom discussions.

My Review: I love this entire series! Nathan Hale has taken history and made it accessible (with a dash of humor!). If you don’t the concept of the series, it revolves around Nathan Hale the Revolutionary War spy who, in the first book, was eaten by a history book so now knows all that has happened in history and is sharing it with the hangman and British officer who are guarding him before he is executed. The first book is Hale’s own story and then each of the following are his telling of different times in history.

This installment of Hale’s graphic novel series may be my favorite so far. I found it to be the most intense of his stories even though it is up against stories of wars, but Harriet Tubman’s story is one of one person’s resilience in the face of pure doom. Although it is evident through any story you hear of Harriet how truly brave she was, Nathan Hale’s story immerses you into Harriet’s life and shows you how much she truly did and faced.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book is written to start discussions (in reading/language arts OR social studies)! I was lucky enough to write the teaching guide for The Underground Abductor (as well as the rest of the series!), and I have included some of my discussion questions below.

I could also see Hale’s Hazardous Tales being used in lit circles with each group reading a different one of the tales. This could lead to wonderful discussions about each time in history. Students could then present their history to the rest of the class.

Discussion Questions: 

  • When Araminta heard the story of Moses and the pharaoh, she envisioned Moses as a slave and the pharaoh as an owner (page 15). How does Moses’s story compare to a traditional story of a slave? Harriet is later called “Moses” or “Black Moses.” How does Harriet’s story compare to Moses’s?
  • How did Nat Turner’s rebellion affect slave laws (page 21)? He meant to make a positive change, but it actually turned negative. How? Why?
  • On page 44, Nathan Hale personifies debt as the ghosts and men Minty had been dreaming about. Why is debt shown as a terrifying thing? How did Mr. Brodess’s debt affect Mindy and her family?
  • Complete a character web with adjectives describing Harriet Tubman. What type of person was she that allowed her to overcome a debilitating injury and slavery?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: Hazardous Tales series by Nathan Hale, March by John Robert Lewis, Stolen Into Slavery by Judith Bloom Fradin, Elijah Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Morgan at Abrams Books for providing a copy of the book!**

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top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. The feature was created because The Broke and Bookish are particularly fond of lists (as are we!). Each week a new Top Ten list topic is given and bloggers can participate.

 Today’s Topic: Top Ten Books that Remind Us of Summer

Okay, we admit it. We cheated. Today’s topic is supposed to be about books that are great beach reads. We don’t like the stigma of beach reads, and we will take any ol’ book to the beach (heavy or not). Instead, we are highlighting books that remind us of summer!


1. The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han

summer i turned pretty

This was a given. When I think about summer, I immediately think about this book.

2. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

truth about forever

Every Sarah Dessen book reminds me of summer. In fact, Sarah Dessen (as a person) reminds me of summer! She is very warm and kind.

3. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

just one day

This post-graduation trip to Europe captured my heart. I highly recommend it if you missed it!

4. North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

north of beautiful

Based on the cover, I thought this was going to be a shallow, teen love story. It was much deeper than that and had themes of beauty, emotional abuse, identity and empowerment.

5. Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour

This book was always popular in my classroom. I loved going on the road trip with Amy and Roger.


1. Death by Bikini by Linda Gerber

death by bikini

Not exactly a cheery book, but it is the first book I thought of when I read this topic (along with #2 which is also not a cheery book).  It does take place at a beautiful resort.

2. Party Summer by R.L. Stine

party summer

See, also not cheery, but definitely took place on a beach. Maybe this book is secretly why I am not a huge fan of beaches.

3. Baby-sitters’ Summer Vacation by Ann M. Martin

summer vacation

I emulated the BSC girls and this one was no different. I wanted to go to camp with my best friends and have all the fun they did.

4. Penguin on Vacation by Salina Yoon


I love Penguin and Crab! This book is not only a celebration of the beach (in a way), but of odd friendship and being okay with your home.

5. Cody and the Fountain of Happiness by Tricia Springstubb


This is a summer book if there ever was one! Cody is not going to waste a second of her summer vacation!

Which books remind you of summer?

RickiSig and Signature

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA!

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover the next “must-read” book!

Jen Vincent, of Teach Mentor Texts, and Kellee decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too.

We encourage everyone who participates to support the blogging community by visiting at least three of the other book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.



for winning a copy of Daredevil Duck!

Last Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday idea shark bymouseandfrog

Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Blog Posts Written By Each Other

**Click on any picture/link to view the post**

 Last Week’s Journeys

Kellee: First, thank you so much for all of the kind words about my sister’s wedding last week! It was such a wonderful celebration of love, and I was so glad that we were able to be with her.

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As for my reading, I have to be honest: traveling, seeing family, and a wedding really hurts your reading! Since I last updated, I have read three novels and a picture book. First, I finished The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson. This book was so charming and funny and GIRL POWER and one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I then finished Atlantia by Ally Condie which was a fascinating fantasy dystopian novel. I loved the setting and the mythology within the story. Then yesterday I finished I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. It was such a beautiful, heart-wrenching puzzle of a novel filled with love and loss of all kinds.

With Trent, we brought all of our favorites on our trip, but when we returned we grabbed Farmer Dale’s Red Pickup Truck by Lisa Wheeler after a recommendation form a friend, and I can see why they like it–it was such a fun animal story with a great rhythm.

Ricki: How am I supposed to compete with pictures of a wedding? :) This week, I was most grateful to have read Wish by Matthew Cordell. My baby boy begin with a wish. Reading this story was a gift to me, and I am grateful to the bloggers who introduced me to it. It made me cry.

Nonfiction picture books!: I also was delighted with the nonfiction Flight of the Honey Bee by Ramond Huber. I don’t like bees very much, and this book helped me realize I should be a bit more grateful for them. The narrative quality of the book drew me in. If you like photography or bugs, you will enjoy The Alphabet of Bugs: An ABC Book by Valerie Gates. The closeups of the insects made my stomach churn, but I enjoyed the alliteration and use of color. Lastly, I learned about rivers in River Story by Meredith Hooper. While rivers aren’t a particularly strong interest for me, this nonfiction is certain to have its place in elementary school classrooms. It would align well with many units on science or geography. Flight of the Honey Bee by Ramond Huber

This Week’s Expeditions

Kellee: I have already started listening to the second book in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series, and I was so happy to see that the audiobook is narrated by the same narrator. I also started reading Falling into Place by Amy Zhang, and it has already grabbed me within the first 10%.

Ricki: I am still reading by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon. I’m almost finished, and usually I am not this slow, but really, I just love it and am savoring it. I’ve been planning a new college class I am teaching, so that is keeping me up late. I started the audiobook Dodger by Terry Pratchett. I’d be curious to hear what you all thought about that one. I may be the last to read it, so I am wondering if it is good.

Upcoming Week’s Posts

top ten tuesday undergroundabductor fatal fever eden west

Tuesday: Ten Books That Remind Us of Summer

Friday: Author Guest Post and Giveaway!: “Doing it Over…and Over…and Over Again” by Pete Hautman, Author of Eden West

Read or Write Logo(resized)

Summer is about to begin! 

But just because it’s summer doesn’t mean we should stop reading and writing. The YA Chicks—Vivi Barnes, Christina Farley, and Amy Christine Parker—along with guest co-creators Lucienne Diver, Peggy Jackson, and Tara Gallina, are excited to share with you a global campaign that we are launching on May 22, 2015, to encourage readers, writers, students, and teachers to share pictures all of the places—both ordinary and extraordinary—where they are reading and writing. This is open to all readers/writers of both middle grade and young adult books!

You can also take part in…

We have THREE separate prize packs in the works:

  • The Reader’s Pack: Includes one book from every participating author (just wait until you hear who we’ve got lined up!) (US and Canada only)
  • The Writer’s Pack: Includes query critiques, writing swag from authors, and more! (International)
  • The Classroom Pack: Includes free Skype visits w/YA Chicks and other participating authors, a signed YA Chicks poster, and other swag! (International)

Check out the YA Chicks site to see what authors and books are available in the giveaways!!! 

So, how can you participate? It’s easy! Simply choose which prize pack you’d like to win and find the directions for it below under the headings: READERS, WRITERS, or STUDENTS & TEACHERS (you can participate in multiple giveaways). Then visit the YA Chicks site from May 22nd to May 31st and enter your chosen giveaway(s).

We can’t wait to see where you’re reading and writing!


At 9 a.m. EST on May 22, 2015, we will be posting pictures of middle grade and young adult authors writing or reading in mysterious locations. It will be your job to figure out exactly where they are. We will link each picture to that author’s website where you will find 5 clues to help you figure it out. Once you’ve got all the authors locations, come back to the YA Chicks site and:

  • Officially enter the giveaway by telling us the authors’ names and your guesses about their locations. Every author location you guess correctly increases your chances to win.
  • For even more chances, post a picture of yourself reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).


Starting at 9 a.m. EST on May 22, 2015, we’d like you to:

  • Post pictures of yourself writing in a fun location on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. Then let us know you did it when you enter the giveaway.
  • For even more chances, gather your writer friends together and post a group shot with the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag). And hey, since you’re already together, why not host a write-a-thon?
  • Choose one author from each group and enter their location
  • OR for the grand prize, name all the authors in Group A


Starting at 9 a.m. EST on May 22, 2015, we’d like you to:

  • Post pictures of your class reading or writing on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ReadOrWriteAnywhere (must have the hashtag).
  • Then let us know you did it when you enter the giveaway. If you don’t have a Twitter or Instagram, you can email your picture directly to us with the picture pasted directly into the email (no attachments–we won’t open them) AND the subject, “Read or Write Anywhere.”
  • Choose one author from each group and enter their location
  • You can also check out our YA Chicks Read or Write Anywhere lesson plan, available on our site.

That’s it! We hope you’re as excited as we are about this campaign and trio of giveaways. Now, what are you waiting for? Get out there and READ OR WRITE ANYWHERE! #ReadOrWriteAnywhere

We cannot wait to see all of the entries! Good luck!

 So, what are you reading?

Link up below and go check out what everyone else is reading. Please support other bloggers by viewing and commenting on at least 3 other blogs. If you tweet about your Monday post, tag the tweet with #IMWAYR!

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By Mouse & Frog
Author and Illustrator: Deborah Freedman

Published April 14th, 2015 by Viking Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: Fastidious Mouse has one idea about how to tell a story. Free-spirited Frog has another. What happens when Frog crashes into Mouse’s story with some wild ideas? Chaos!…followed by the discovery that working together means being willing to compromise—and that listening to one another can lead to the most beautiful stories of all.

Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I love this book. There is so much wonderful in these pages. First, the book is just so funny! Mouse and Frog are so different and the back and forth is laugh-out-loud comedic. Second, the story really makes you look at personality types and think about how to work together. Frog and Mouse’s story would be a wonderful one to read and then talk about norms when working in groups on projects/assignments. Third, the book also looks at story writing and narrative elements. What is needed in a good story? Do all stories have to have the same things? All in all, this book is fun to read and will be a good jumping off point for all sorts of discussions. I think this book is going to find some major love in homes, schools, and libraries alike.

Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This magical story is about two friends who co-write a book together. It would be a great book to teach kids about the importance of listening and valuing others’ opinions. I would use this in the classroom at times when there is a lot of conflict. Very few students benefit from a pamphlet about conflict resolution. Instead, I would read this book aloud to students, and we could talk about the value of listening to and understanding each other. Overall, this is a great book to get students’ creative juices flowing. The whimsical creativeness of this title reminds me a bit of The Dot by Peter Reynolds, another picture book favorite.

Discussion Questions: What is needed in a good story? Do all stories have to have to have the same things?; Why didn’t Mouse and Frog get along at first? How did they compromise at the end?

We Flagged:


Read This If You Loved: Look! by Jeff Mack, The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman, Little Red Writing by Joan HolubThe Dot by Peter Reynolds

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to Penguin Young Readers for providing a copy for review!**

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Never Take a Shark to the Dentist (and other things not to do)
Author: Judi Barrett
Illustrator: John Nickle
Published March 4th, 2008 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: There are many things you should never, ever, ever do. Like sit next to a porcupine on the subway (ouch!). Or hold hands with a lobster (double ouch!). Or take a shark to the dentist (triple ouch!).

Bestselling author JUDI BARRETT and imaginative illustrator JOHN NICKLE give us a raucous look at the perils of taking giraffes to the movies, goats to the library, and pigs out to lunch…and other such silly stuff.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The combination of Judi Barrett’s humorous DO NOTs and John Nickle’s fantastic illustrations, this book just cracked me up! It is not only a perfect read aloud to suck students in, it is definitely a book that can be used in the classroom. First, each instance has something not to do (Never take a shark to the dentist) with cartoony illustrations, but doesn’t elaborate after that. What would happen? Why wouldn’t you ____? A great cause and effect discussion. These little DO NOTs would also be perfect prompts to get students writing. It can be a prompt for a humorous narrative or for an expository essay about why not do to do these things.

Discussion Questions: What would happen next? Why wouldn’t you ____? What would cause you to need to ____?

We Flagged: 


Check out Amazon to LOOK INSIDE Never Take a Shark to the Dentist (and other things not to do)

Read This Book If You Loved: Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett, This Is Not My Hat & I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen, Press Here by Herve Tullet, Battle Bunny by Jon Sciezska, The Book of Bad Ideas by Laura Huliska-Beith

Recommended For: 

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