Category: Books

Victoria Griffith Discusses Her New Book “Amazon Burning” + GIVEAWAY!!!

As a longtime journalist, Victoria Griffith has explored many diverse topics, including the Yanomami Indians, space exploration, and the human genome. Now she brings some of her life experience, including living in Brazil and exploring environmental issues, to present her first YA novel called Amazon Burning.

We got to ask Victoria a few interview questions, and she has also agreed to give TWO of our lucky readers AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of Amazon Burning, but first let’s check out what the book is about.

From the press release:

“When 22-year-old aspiring journalist, Emma Cohen, is forced to flee the comforts of her NYU student life, she maneuvers an internship from her father at his newspaper in Rio de Janeiro.  There, Emma is immediately swept into a major news story–and a life-threatening situation–when a famous jungle environmentalist, Milton Silva, is mysteriously murdered.

“Emma must now enter the Amazon rainforest with her father to investigate; both awed by the enormity and beauty of the Amazon, and appalled by its reckless destruction.  Not only will Emma have to brave the primal world of the Amazon, she must fight to survive the kidnappers, villains, corrupt activists, and indigenous tribes that lay in wait along the ever-twisting trail of the murder case.  Stretched to the brink, it’s up to Emma, her father and the dreamy news photographer, Jimmy, to unravel the mystery and live to tell the tale.”

“Victoria Griffith’s debut novel is a triumph! Amazon Burning is a spellbinding tale of love, intrigue, and murder set in the imperiled Amazon rainforest. A young woman’s coming of age story is deftly woven into this vast ecological conflict, as indigenous tribes struggle to defend their land against the loggers, ranchers, and miners who are destroying it. A nonstop thrill ride that will leave you wanting more.”

Courtney Farrell, author of Enhanced

Victoria’s previous book was the non-fiction picture book The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont (Abrams, 2011), which won numerous awards, including the prestigious Parents’ Choice.

Now, let’s get right to the interview and giveaway:

Nice to meet you, Victoria. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I feel like I’m an honorary Brazilian. My husband is from there, and we speak Portuguese with our three girls, ages six, fifteen and nineteen. I spent two years in the megacity of Sao Paulo as correspondent for a British newspaper. That’s when I got to know the Amazon region and the Yanomami tribe.

My book AMAZON BURNING shows that the wildest fiction really is based on fact. I actually rode in a cargo plane with a crazy pilot named Amoeba. I was threatened by a gun-toting Mafioso man in an outdoor café. And yes, the Yanomami women I met wanted to peek under my t-shirt to see if I looked like them beneath the clothes.

You have a new book called “Amazon Burning.” What’s it about?

When a celebrity environmental activist gets killed in the Brazilian Amazon, the main character, Emma, is thrown into a world of trigger-happy ranchers, wildlife smugglers and gold miners. There’s a romantic element, of course, with the photographer, Jimmy, who helps Emma in her quest to solve the murder mystery and make a name for herself at the same time.

Readers tell me they love the jungle setting, and that the book taught them a lot about the environmental battles being fought in the Amazon. The best compliment is when fans tell me they felt transported to Brazil. For me, that’s what reading is all about – getting lost in a fascinating new world.

Why should teens read this book?

For fun! But not mindless fun. AMAZON BURNING is an eco-thriller based on real life experiences and a ton of research. The murder in the novel was based on the actual assassination of one of my environmental heroes, the rubber-tapper turned activist Chico Mendes.

You have been involved in environmental issues for some time. Tell us why this is so important to you.

Until I was in my twenties, I didn’t care at all about the environment. I was the type who in winter would turn up the heat full blast, then open a window when I got too hot. But then I started noticing how places I loved were starting to change, different versions of the old song: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

My “aha!” moment came when I lived in Brazil. It’s a country of stunning natural beauty. Yet many areas feel like they’re under an environmental siege from pollution and overbuilding. Over the last decade, Brazilians themselves have become more vocal about saving their environment, and I think that’s starting to make a difference.

What do you think needs to happen for us to REALLY solve our environmental problems.

When you turn on the faucet and no water comes out, everyone suddenly becomes an environmentalist. Most of us wait until things get to a breaking point to really take a stand. We could be nearing that breaking point. Who hasn’t noticed the crazy weather patterns in recent years? I recently read about a woman who flushed her toilet in California and saw the basin fill with sand. Her well had run dry. It’s time to take action, and I think young people in particular today are ready to take on the challenge.

On your press release, it says you prepared lunch for super-chef Julia Child. What was that all about and what happened?

We used to run a feature at the paper I worked for where we lunched with famous people. I met so many fascinating people that way. I had a sandwich in NH with the documentary maker Ken Burns, who just had a big hit with his series on the Roosevelts.

Julia Child agreed to the interview, and I asked where she wanted to go for lunch. In true Julia style she said: “Surprise me!” So I did. I made her lunch myself. She was thrilled, because by that point most normal people like me wouldn’t dare make her a meal. So she mainly ate food she cooked herself or meals made by famous chefs. People told me I was brave to cook for her, but I knew Julia would be gracious, even if she hated my food.

What else do you have in the works?

So much that I think I have to narrow it down. I’m talking with my publisher about a possible sequel to AMAZON BURNING. I’m also working on a new ghost thriller based on THE TURN OF THE SCREW and JANE EYRE.

Anything else we should know?

 Yes, that I’ve got a fabulous team behind me at Astor + Blue. I couldn’t do it myself!

 And of course…we got her to send us a selfie! : )

victoria griffithGIVEAWAY!

Want to win an autographed copy of Amazon Burning? We will have TWO lucky winners this time, each who will receive a copy signed by the author sent directly by the publisher.

How to enter:

Simply follow @teenswannaknow on Twitter and tweet the following line from your account by 11/14/14:

I’ve entered to win an autographed copy of #AmazonBurning by Victoria Griffith from @teenswannaknow at 

Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. We will pick two (2) random winners on 11/15/14, who will each receive a signed copy of “Amazon Burning”. Winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, so must be following @teenswannaknow in order to be eligible to win. Books will be shipped directly from the publisher (Astor and Blue) to winner’s U.S. address.


“From Start to Stardom” by Lisa London – Review

Thousands of teenagers come to Hollywood every year in the hopes of launching a successful show business career. Only a small handful ever establish themselves, despite so many possessing tremendous talent in acting, music, dance and related skills.

So what is missing for the rest of them?

lisa londonApart from the fact that there is an incredible amount of competition, there is a dearth of factual, practical information on how the business of Hollywood actually works. So young people and their parents end up listening to well-meaning friends who are misinformed, which leads to them spinning their wheels and getting discouraged. Or worse, they get taken for thousands of dollars by unscrupulous players who promise lucrative jobs but are in no position to truly deliver even if they wanted to.

Enter veteran casting director Lisa London’s From Start to Stardom – The Casting Director’s Guide for Aspiring Actors.

Being involved myself in Hollywood for the past 5 years in everything from from directing, casting, screenwriting, producing my own short film and web series, co-managing three child/teen actors, as well as co-writing a book covering many of the same topics Lisa does, I feel qualified to speak my opinion about this book.

And it is no exaggeration to say that every single young performer seeking employment in the Hollywood machine needs to own a copy of From Start to Stardom. It should be considered the standard against which other books of this nature should be measured due to its comprehensiveness, timeliness, and accuracy. This is how Hollywood works! For those who already have children in “the biz” for some time, this book will validate all the things you are doing right, and will provide some insight into the things you might want to start tweaking for better results.

Here are some highlights:

  • Features an extremely timely interview with Sabrina Carpenter (who we have interviewed several times on Teens Wanna Know). Her show Girl Meets World began airing just a few months ago, and the answers from her and her mom provide a glimpse of the reality of the business almost in real time. They share exactly how they went from sending in video auditions from across the country to landing in Hollywood and the process that led her to scoring her most important role.
  • Workbook pages with practical activities to get business sense juices flowing.
  • Complete template, with detailed instructions on exactly how to create your resume.
  • Explanation of what makes a great headshot, with examples.
  • Advice on finding an agent.
  • How to get auditions.
  • What to do when you are “in the room” with real life anecdotes.
  • Written by an actively working Hollywood professional, who has discovered or cast early in their careers such notable talent as Miley Cyrus, Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Katherine McPhee, Megan Hilty, Selena Gomez and Mariska Hargitay.

To sum up: many books and classes deal with the craft of acting, but few deal with the business side as well as this one does. Highly recommended.

Teens Wanna Know Rating: 10 out of 10. Buy this book if you want to act professionally.


“The Young Elites” and Marie Lu’s “Legend Trilogy” Giveaway!

Fans of Marie Lu’s Legend Trilogy have a reason to get excited, as her new book, The Young Elites, is slated for release October 7th. To celebrate, Teens Wanna Know is holding another GIVEAWAY! But first, let’s explore the new book:


Some hate us, think us outlaws to hang at the gallows.
Some fear us, think us demons to burn at the stake.
Some worship us, think us children of the gods.
But all know us.

I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out theYoung Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world.A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.


Visit the Official Website

To pre-order your copy of The Young Elites


Marie Lu is the author of the New York Times bestselling Legend series. She spends her spare time reading, drawing, playing Assassin’s Creed, and getting stuck in traffic. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with one boyfriend, one Chihuahua mix, and two Pembroke Welsh corgis.

Marie Lu 1Learn More at her Official Website

Marie’s NYT-bestselling Legend series will be available in paperback after September 7th. Reviews on the Legend series:

“Legend doesn’t merely survive the hype, it deserves it.” –The New York Times

“Marie Lu’s dystopian novel is a ‘Legend’ in the making.” –USA Today

“An action packed-love story full of inventive details.” -The Los Angeles Times








LEGEND. PRODIGY. CHAMPION. ELITE. Don’t miss a word. Enter for your chance to win the full list of Marie Lu titles including the complete Legend trilogy and the all-new release The Young Elites.

How to enter:

Simply follow @teenswannaknow on Twitter and tweet the following line from your account by 10/03/14:

I’ve entered to win prize pack of @ books from at

Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. We will pick one (1) random winner on 10/04/14, who will receive the 4 books pictured above. Winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, so must be following @teenswannaknow in order to be eligible to win. Books will be shipped directly from the publisher (Penguin Books USA) to winner’s U.S. address.


College Freshman Blues? Check out College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year (Review)

Going to college for the first time is mixture of fear and excitement. On the one hand you are about to be FREE and unsupervised by your parents (yippee!), while on the other you are now entering a world where you will be responsible for most of what happens to you. The problem is…no one tells you all the stuff that you need to know in real life besides the obvious stuff, like: study hard, don’t party too much, yada yada.

college101One book aims to relive some of the mystery and stress faced by college freshmen. Called College 101: A Girls’ Guide to Freshman Year, it was written by Julie Zeilinger, who recently completed her own freshman year at Barnard College. The book is written from a girls’ perspective, and covers things such as :

  • what to pack
  • dealing with roommates (with real-world types like “the slut,” “the thief/mooch”)
  • academics and the difference in class structure versus high school
  • handling the “freshman 15”
  • social pressure
  • sex
  • depression
  • paying for college and handling debt
  • Greek life

The book is written in a hyper-friendly and accessible style, with leanings towards a feminist/liberal slant. Which makes sense since the author is the founder and editor of feminist blog It also reads very up-to-date, with references to current themes which resonate with teens, such as faux pas to avoid when using social media, for instance.

Teens Wanna Know Rating: 7 out of 10

We are giving our review copy away!

How to enter:

Simply follow @teenswannaknow on Twitter and tweet the following line from your account by 9/12/14:

I’ve entered to win COLLEGE 101 by @juliezeilinger on @teenswannaknow here: #giveaway

Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. We will pick one (1) random winner on 9/13/14, who will receive our review copy (used, obviously). Winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, so must be following @teenswannaknow in order to be eligible to win.


Ellen Hopkins “Rumble” Review + Win a “Decade of Ellen” Prize Pack from Teens Wanna Know!


What does it take to get back your faith — in yourself?

In Rumble, the latest book from #1 New York Times Bestselling YA Author Ellen Hopkins, the main character — 18-year-old Matthew Turner — attempts to find out, as he deals with the recent suicide of his homosexual little brother, his parents’ difficult marriage, problems with his girlfriend, and a lack of belief in any kind of higher power.

Rumble touches many hot topics teens and their families are facing today in a non-preachy way. Obviously, sexual orientation and suicide are two of them, as are teen relationships, religious beliefs, school politics, gun control, and post-traumatic stress disorder in friends who have been shipped to fight overseas. There is a lot going on in this book, but Hopkins weaves the different character’s lives together in expert fashion, making even the minor characters interesting. The ending tragedy is foreshadowed, but it and the aftermath are satisfying and poignant nonetheless. 

Rumble is written in verse — somewhat like a free-flowing, train-of-thought poem — which makes it remarkably easy to read. Although it is over 500 pages, it can be finished quickly, as the author keeps things moving and avoids heavy-handed moral lessons.

Because of the subject matter, the book is recommended for teens 14 and above. The book has a publication date of August 26, 2014 by Margaret K. McElderry Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s.

Teens Wanna Know overall rating: 7 out of 10

Watch the book trailer here:

About the Author

“Since the release of Crank, Ellen Hopkins has continued to write powerful verse fiction that has been impacting readers for the last decade. You can find Reading Group Guides and more information about all of her YA titles here:

“Ellen Hopkins is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, ImpulseGlass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Tilt, Smoke, and Rumble, as well as the adult novels Triangles and Collateral. She lives with her family in Carson City, Nevada, where she has founded Ventana Sierra, a nonprofit youth housing and resource initiative.

“For more information on Ventana Sierra, go to

EllenHopkins_PhotoCredit SonyaSones
Author Ellen Hopkins. Photo credit: Sonya Sones



ellen hopkins rumble giveaway

How to enter:

Simply follow @teenswannaknow on Twitter and tweet the following line from your account by 8/26/14:

I’ve entered to win the DECADE OF ELLEN prize pack of  books from  at   

Contest is open to U.S. addresses only. We will pick one (1) random winner on 8/27/14, who will receive the complete Ellen Hopkins backlist PLUS her new release “Rumble” (11 titles). Winner will be notified by DM on Twitter, so must be following @teenswannaknow in order to be eligible to win. Books will be shipped directly from the publisher (Simon & Schuster) to winner’s U.S. address.



“Color Me Girl Crush:” Teen Coloring Book for Fashionistas


We recently received a review copy of “Color Me Girl Crush” by Mel Elliott, who has written “Color Me Swoon” and “Color Me Good:Ryan Gosling.” In her latest book, published by Penguin and releasing on June 3rd, the author has put together a set of illustrations depicting the most influential women in popular culture, including:

• Rihanna
• Lena Dunham
• 80s Madonna
• Michelle Obama
• Katy Perry
• Zooey Deschanel
• Christina Hendricks
• Lady Gaga
• Lana Del Rey
• Stevie Nicks
• Alexa Chung
• Sarah Jessica Parker
• and Beyoncé

The point: to allow anyone to color in their favorite female celebrities, using their creativity and imagination to design some completely new fashion designs on these famous women. While the drawings themselves are crude, this actually motivates the colorist to go all out to make the ladies look fabulous. At least that is what the nine-year-old who promptly claimed the book for herself seems to be doing.

We could see aspiring teen fashion designers getting into this, figuring out patterns, fabrics, and even adding to the raw material they see on the page. The fact that they work on celebrities they know and love just makes the activity even cooler.

Each image is accompanied by true-life stories about the girls, along with fill-in-the-blank activities like:

• Create your own Lady Gaga-style dress
• Create your own Mulberry bag a la Alexa Chung
• Match the Girls characters to their items of clothing
• A poetic ode to Beyoncé

So, the book is neat if you like to color and are into celebs and fashion. Its only 15 bucks retail, to boot.

Here are some pics of the inside pages we took, cropped, and put into a nifty pink border thing, just because:

rihannalena dunham katy perry

Autumn Rose – Interview with Teen Author Abigail Gibbs & Book Review

Buy the book (affiliate link)

It must be nice to wake up everyday as Abigail Gibbs!

“Autumn Rose” is the 2nd installment of the “Dark Heroine Series” by the British teen author. The first book in the series “The Dark Heroine: Dinner With a Vampire” was a resounding success on the Wattpad platform, which led to Gibbs landing a six-figure, two book deal from Harper Collins UK at the ripe age of 15 according to her publicist. Gibbs has put that money to good use, paying her way through an education at the prestigious Oxford University, which she currently attends.

Gibbs was kind enough to answer a few questions for us, and the interview is below. First, though, we wanted to write a brief review of “Autumn Rose:A Dark Heroine Novel.”

The book introduces a new heroine, an aristocratic 15-year-old magician (excuse me, Sage) named Autumn Rose. Her job is to protect the humans in her school against an evil group of Sages known as the Exterminos. Problem is, most of the students dislike her and her biggest supporter in life, her grandmother, was murdered. That’s a lot to take for a kid, and Autumn Rose’s gloomy teenage angst reflects this.

The novel starts with a bang, so fans looking for some action will be pleased. However, newcomers to the Dark Heroine Series might feel a bit lost at first, as Gibbs weaves a world which not only features a lot of complex sorcery, but also multiple dimensions which are occupied by different races (including vampires) and a fair amount of political intrigue. It’s a bit much to keep track of.

Also, while the book has its obligatory romantic subplot for the YA audience it is mostly intended for, it is rather boilerplate…of course Autumn Rose is going to fall for the rich, good-looking prince! But Autumn is quite an aloof girl, and her royal friend an aristocrat, so the sexual passion is not quite there in their interactions. This makes the most interesting characters the supporting cast. Edmund, the protector. Valerie, the bully. Gwen, the fan-girl. Nathan, the co-worker. It is they who provide most of the “spice” in this tale.

The action and wizardry doesn’t disappoint, however, and Gibbs moves the story along fairly briskly and generates that all-important interest in what happens next? As such, we look forward to reading the 3rd installment, and seeing this young writer’s talents develop even more. If you are a fan of fantasy or Twilight fan fiction, the Dark Heroine Series” is worthy of a read. Now, scroll down for the interview!

Abigail Gibbs

1. Are you personally more like Violet Lee or Autumn Rose?

There are aspects of my personality in both characters – like my vegetarianism and my slightly sarcastic humour – but on the whole, I’m not like either character (in fact I identify more with the protagonist of the third book in the series, which I’m currently writing). I’m not as reckless or strong as Violet, and if I had to pick, I would say Autumn because she’s quite shy and deep-thinking, and has to learn how to come out of her shell, something I went through around her age (sixteen or so).

2. What can readers expect from the next book?

Book 3 follows the third Heroine, Alexandra. Discovering that she’s been harbouring powers that make her one of the blood-magic users dubbed ‘the Damned’, she is shipped off to college to learn how to use them. But Alex is far from happy about it. The Damned are vilified by humanity because they see blood-magic as evil, and with politics in other dimensions angering the humans, the third dimension is becoming a very dangerous place to be different. With the help of her new-found friends, her magical mentor and a more-than-healthy amount of alcohol, Alex must adapt to her new life and avoid the radical and dangerous Extermino group, who are after her for reasons unknown…

There’s a love square too, but it’s definitely not what fans are expecting!

3. What is the biggest challenge you face as a writer?

Finding time to write! I’m reading for a degree at a work-heavy university, and sometimes it can feel like trying to hold down two full-time jobs. I’ve had to learn to write very quickly and in concentrated sprints during the vacations, which isn’t naturally how I like to work. The first book (pre-degree) took three years to write. The second, which I wrote in my first year, took just a few months!

4. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Everywhere! The books and films I read, the people and experiences in my life, snippets of conversation in the street… There is no one source of inspiration, as stories are always forming themselves in my head and thus are always being influenced by what’s going on around me. But I do find music (particularly soundtracks, trailer and epic choral) is useful when formulating specific scenes, descriptions or dialogue. Often I go on my trampoline at home with my iPod in – the combination of endorphins and music gets the creativity going.

5. There are quite a few YA fantasy tales involving elemental magic, vampires, romance, etc. What do you think differentiates your work from the others?

I think something that often gets glossed over in paranormal and fantasy works is the relationship between the fantastical and the human. Either that’s because the paranormal world is a secret, or because it’s taken for granted that humans and magical creatures get along in the fantasy world. But I really wanted to explore what would happen if the magical creatures and the humans do know about one another, and don’t have an entirely peaceful relationship. There is a villain in the series, but really the ‘bad guy’ – the most sustained and complex threat – is humanity. So the series is different because amidst this huge, multi-dimensional world packed with different creatures; the politics, the violence is all about ‘How do we stop the humans declaring war?’ It’s really interesting and fun to write about a world where you have all the creatures and magic straight from fantasy, the intrigue and backstabbing of a royal court from history and then all the problems associated with a modern, political, human world. Things don’t run smoothly, put it that way!

6. Did you construct the worlds (all the dimensions) and plot out the different character “races” or “classes” for lack of better words before you started writing, or do they all kind of spring to life as you write the books?

At first I only set out to write a vampire story. By the end of the first book I found that the world I was writing about had expanded and been populated with lots of different creatures from fantasy and mythology. Those worlds started to take shape when I started writing the second book, and from the third the world ‘opens up’ so we see lots more of the dark beings. Therefore I’m having to plan out the worlds and beings because I need to keep track of them all!

7. You are quite young and many would consider you are living a dream as a published writer…what keeps you grounded?

I am living my dream, that’s for sure! Being at university keeps me grounded. I try to do very little author-related work during term-time because I save it for the vacations, meaning I can then focus on my studies and social life at uni. Life isn’t hugely different from any of my peers, therefore (and I definitely don’t get treated any differently by tutors!). It’s only when I do publicity or go to one of my publisher’s parties where lots of famous authors attend that I’m reminded of how surreal my life can be!

8. The story behind your first novel, DINNER WITH A VAMPIRE, is pretty unusual. What inspired you to start writing in the first place, and to publishing your writing on Wattpad?

I’ve always enjoyed writing as a creative outlet for my overactive imagination and by the time I was fifteen and found Wattpad (an online community of readers and writers), I’d started many stories but never finished them. Publishing online was a spur-of-the-moment decision driven by a desire to get what I was writing at the time (the beginnings of Dinner With A Vampire) out to readers for feedback. I never expected the success it achieved (about seventeen million reads over three years) and at the beginning, I didn’t have thoughts about publishing my work more traditionally. Wattpad and writing online was a hobby, a welcome distraction from school, exams and general teenage life. I suppose writing at first also filled the void that good books kept leaving. When I was mourning over characters after finishing a book or series, I would throw myself into my own world instead. Over time everything has been inversed, and reading has become an escape from my own world!

9. What advice do you have to other teen writers out there?

Never take any writing advice! Write what you want to write. It’s your story.

10. 5SOS or One Direction? Be honest!

I’m looking up 5SOS (does that make me old now?) so I guess One Direction. I do like a lot of the remixes of their songs that play in student night clubs, so that’s counts, right?

Oh, so it turns out 5SOS have been chart-topping in the UK. I had no idea. Story of my life…

11. What do you do when you are not writing?

Study. Sometimes I sleep…

12. Anything else we should know?

Follow me on twitter for updates on the Dark Heroine Series, random university ramblings and medieval manuscripts (don’t ask…) @AuthorAbigailG


Teens With Younger Siblings Can Help Teach Good Choices With “Healthy Choices Happy Kids”

healthy choices happy kids

Are you a teenager with a little bro or sis that needs a bit of guidance of making good choices? You know, like brushing their teeth before they all fall out or wilt the plants with their bad breath? How about going to sleep early instead of bugging you while you are trying to watch The Walking Dead?

Brightly illustrated and easy to understand, the affordable book “Healthy Choices, Happy Kids” by Foster W. CLine, M.D., Lisa C. Greene, and Gina L. May might help.

The book covers 12 common childhood scenarios, such as having to take a bath or take medicine, and shows a poor and good choice for each. The authors intend for caregivers and kids to sit together, explore the pages, and discuss the choices being made — all with the end of encouraging better behavior in kids too young to fully understand the repercussions their actions might have down the line.

In my opinion, the book is ideal for kids up to 1st grade. Beyond that, kids might find the pace a little slow and the lessons too basic. That being said, with bad choices by actors and musicians being displayed constantly in the media, it is nice to see a book which touches on personal responsibility and the consequences of choices directed to children of such a young age. We need more books like this in the marketplace.

And maybe some of you teens can learn a thing or two from reading the book as well!

The book is expected to be released in May 2014.

Teen Author & Artist Cheryl Chan Publishes “The Thing About Things”

cheryl chan

Some teens spend countless hours posting narcissistic selfies or manipulating silly birds on their portable devices. Others spend their times flexing their creative muscles and building careers.

Cheryl Chan is a teenager who falls into the latter group, having just published a children’s book she has both written and illustrated called “The Thing About Things.” According to the synopsis:

“There is nothing worse than being ordinary. At least, according to seven-year-old Joey Jones. When Joey gets picked not first, not last, but right in the middle for playing dodgeball at school, he feels unspecial and unwanted. But through an encounter with a certain monster who has been hiding in his bedroom all along, Joey learns that everyone, every Thing, is special in their own way. With homespun illustrations, clever dialogue and unmistakable heart, “The Thing About Things” is a book that will be enjoyed by both children and adults.”

The seventeen-year-old Chan, born in Hong Kong, says she draws much of her inspiration from her home city and the contrast between its dense, multicultural residential and commercial zones and the scenic mountains and ocean which surrounds it. Here, exclusive to Teens Wanna Know, Chan reveals some of her other inspirations and shares advice to other teenagers wishing to get into the arts.

Why, in such a technological age, did you decide to write and illustrate a classic-style children’s book?

There’s such a magical quality to holding an actual book, rather than a tablet, in your hands. It’s like having something very current and very ancient all at once, since you can flip through the pages when you are a child and then flip through the same pages as an old man or woman and still feel awash in a fantasy land. Also, when I’m 80, I might not know how to press the buttons on whatever fancy holographic, smell-o-vision tablet emerges–but I’ll still be able to turn a page or two!

thing about things 2
Illustration by Cheryl Chan

Joey is a projection of my tendency to overthink.. He’s more afraid of the idea of something than the actual thing, but once he gets past his own mental barriers, he’s very quick to take apart a situation and adapt. I also created Joey as a different interpretation of what it means to be brave–very often children are just told not to be scared, but I’m trying to say that it’s okay to be scared, and only when you accept that can you truly find courage.

Where did you get inspiration for The Thing?

There’s a line from Big Fish that goes something like, “most things that look mean or scary are actually just lonely.” I knew I wanted The Thing to look like a nasty (but not unlovable) creature. I wanted him to be a good mix of cute and creepy. So I tried to think of a real life equivalent to that, and the vampire bat came to mind. Everything else: the green fur, the seven eyes–are all just my attempt to exaggerate things, because that’s what fiction is for, right?

How did you decide to become a writer?

I like having complete sovereignty over what I do, and writing is an exercise that demands that. I don’t have to follow convention to find what motivates me to create–contrary to the portrait popular culture might paint, I don’t spend my days reading classics and hammering away at a typewriter. I am actually inspired by a lot of TV (Doctor Who, Psych), and try to go out of my way to see and experience things as much as possible. It’s a great feeling; to be able to do what I love, exactly how I want to do it.

What is your dream job?

Before, I was completely set on writing children’s books. I still want to do that, but I also want to write scripts and novels, voice cartoons, work in animation…I’m just in pursuit of a good story, no matter what the medium. I want a career in which, on a daily basis, I can apply my imagination to and find humour in new projects. So my dream job would be to work at Pixar.

thing about things 1
Illustration by Cheryl Chan

Ask yourself why you’re doing this. If you feel a little crazy and unsure and terrified, yet at home–then I think that’s a good indicator. A support system is absolutely necessary for inspiration and sanity’s sake, so find one. Don’t be afraid of appearing self-indulgent or inexperienced. Cheer yourself on like you’re the first of your kind. And don’t rely on a single “lucky break”. It’s so much work. But it’s fun!

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I’m on the Speech and Debate team at school, I spend a lot of time on Yelp planning weekend food excursions, and I’ve started vlogging. Whenever I come across song lyrics, concept art, quotes, etc. that I like, I collect them in a folder. I chat online with my brother a lot, since he is away at university. Our personalities are very different; while he nerds out about video games and trial law, I prefer a day of doodling and daydreaming. He’s my best friend, even if he is a little embarrassed to admit it sometimes.

Buy “The Thing About Things” on Amazon

Young Scribes – Determined Teen Authors Self-Publish “Tale Hunters,” Look to Greater Success

The Tale Hunters Paperback CoverWhat do you get when you combine a group of aspiring teen authors, one dedicated and caring English teacher, and a lot of determination and creativity? You get something like the Young Scribes.

This group of students from  Shelly High School in Shelly, Idaho has taken on an unusual project and turned it into a career-building, self-published book called The Tale HuntersThe students each wrote short stories and then, with the help of their teacher, created a wrap-around plot to tie everything together into one cohesive narrative.

According to Coach/Editor/Contributing Writer Eric DuPuis, “In these sad days when our legislature is studiously cutting opportunities for Idaho students, we wanted to do something special for our youth: provide them with a truly unique opportunity to acquire real world experience in the publishing field.

“As a team, we created a fiction project, and rigorously edited it to a publishable quality. The resulting manuscript is like nothing we’ve ever seen from high school students before. But we are not stopping there.  Our goal is to become agented writers.  Our students are busily crafting query letters and sending them to agents and publishers.  They are learning about publicity and participating in interviews.

“We’ve gained a whole new respect for writers, and for the hard work it takes to succeed in a highly competitive business.”

We got the chance to do a brief Q & A with this unique group of kids, and here is what they had to say:

Tell us about the Tale Hunters and how it came together.
Hard at WorkYoung Scribes: The Tale Hunters is a youth fantasy novel written by high school students.  Collaborating with their English teacher, ten young writers from Shelley High School in Idaho created and published a one-of-a-kind adventure – the story of a small town girl chosen to represent Earth in a high-stakes contest of tale-swapping before the throne of the terrifying Ifrit, king of the jinn.

We had a dedicated group of writers at SHS.  Many of us were serious about a future as novelists… you know… someday, when we’re older.  Everybody knows that teens don’t write novels – not old enough yet.

But, one day, we challenged that assumption!  Why can’t teens write novels?  We saw teen collections of essays (Chicken Soup for the Teen SoulFreedom Writers), even teen collections of short stories.  But could teens actually come together and write a novel?  We were just audacious enough to believe that we could!

It took a year to write the book, longer to edit it, and even longer to publish it.  But The Tale Hunters is a reality at last, a 292-page novel available in paperback or Kindle ebook at 

Can teens really write a novel?  If you’ll give us a chance, we’ll prove to you that we can!
What was the hardest part about working together?
L to R - Standing - Bobby Nelson, Nate Osburn, Calvin Boll, Brennan Taylor, Eric DuPuis - Sitting - Maryssa McLeish, Arielle Smith
L to R – Standing – Bobby Nelson, Nate Osburn, Calvin Boll, Brennan Taylor, Eric DuPuis – Sitting – Maryssa McLeish, Arielle Smith

We had a lot of meetings and discussions.  We had so many different styles, ideas, and genres.  We needed a way to put a little of everything together in one novel and make it a coherent story, not a confusing mess.  We thought of Queen Scheherazade telling stories to save her life, and The Arabian Nights became our inspiration. 

From that root grew the idea for our frame story, a magical palace in the sky where jinn would gather storytellers from a thousand worlds to compete for magical treasures and the granting of wishes.  In this way, we could each write our own stories – any style, any genre – and they would all make sense when we brought them together.

Nate Osburn: We had to have a lot of discipline.  There was no class time, no teacher to give us a grade or take away points for late work.  We had to manage our own schedules.  We had to learn self-discipline.  And that was what made it so rewarding when we finished our work.  We did this!  We had to work hard and stay motivated, and we did it.

What challenges did some of you face while writing and how did you overcome them?

Maryssa McLeish: We didn’t get the support we thought we were going to get.  This wasn’t like sports.  This was a bunch of kids who thought they could write!  Our friends were behind us, but the staff and administration… they wouldn’t even let us bring our lunches to meetings so we could have some time to work together at noon!  They just couldn’t catch the vision.

Darrow Felsted
Darrow Felsted
And even now that we’re published, some of us still have parents who don’t take us seriously.  They think this is cute but not headed anywhere!  It’s frustrating, but it just makes you all the more determined to succeed.  We’re going to show you that we have something to say.  We can do amazing things!
Are the stories heavily edited, or are they pretty much the way you kids wrote them? If heavily edited, what was the process like–and were there any conflicts? What part did Mr. DuPuis play in the creation of this project, and what role will he play in the future?
Eric DuPuis (English Teacher): The students were looking to me for coaching and organization.  They wanted help with proofreading, editing – the technical side of writing.  But we all felt strongly from the beginning, myself included, that the ideas, the tales, should be their own.  I made them work hard to perfect their craft, but the story – that was all them.
Darrow Felsted: Some stories were rewritten as many as ten times.  Each story really became a collaborative effort between all the people who edit and write.  In a way, all of us wrote every story.
Where do the funds from the book sales go?
Young Scribes: College, man!  Most of us are about to graduate and go on to college.  A few of us are already there.  This is about investing in our future in more ways than one.
Bobby Nelson: We’ve had our first few sales now.  It isn’t much.  When we divided it up, our first check was for 64¢.  That’s a couple packages of ramen noodles.  (Laughs)  It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t really.  I’m at Idaho State University now.  I’m $20,000 in debt. Ramen noodles come in handy!

We know we’re doing this the hard way.  We don’t have a big name publisher or agent.  We have to take this right to our audience, prove that teen writers have something to say before anyone is going to invest in us, and that’s fine.  We don’t mind working hard.  We believe in ourselves or we wouldn’t be doing this.
OK, now, give us a quick pitch about the book—why should anyone read it? Think “elevator speech” or that you just met a literary agent and you have 30 words or less to sell your novel to him or her.
L-Bobby Nelson, R-Brennan Taylor
L-Bobby Nelson, R-Brennan Taylor

Rachel Kotter: We haven’t found another group of students who’ve done this.  It’s absolutely unique.  It’s worth reading!

Maryssa McLeish: Don’t discount our book just because it was written by high schoolers.  Read it and discover what we have to offer, because it’s something good!
What was the most rewarding part of this project for each of you?
Calvin Boll: Writing is what I love!  I was able to take this passion and work together with my friends who share that same passion. We all pushed each other to reach our goal of getting this project published.  I’m serious about being a published writer, and this was the perfect way to get my feet on the ground.
Arielle Smith (Illustrator): As soon as I heard about this project, I was fascinated.  I couldn’t not be a part of something like that, something so different!
Brennan Taylor: Being a part of this novel taught me humility, because I devour books.  You read the Christopher Paolinis and the Rick Riordans, one after another, and you have no idea just how much work goes into a book like that!  Getting a chance to help write a novel gives me a completely different view.  I respect authors more for how much work they put in.
What is next for the Young Scribes?
Young Scribes: Publicity.  We wrote to a lot of agents.  Some of them were even interested, but they told us that they just didn’t want to take a chance on a bunch of new, young writers.  There was a time when that was what the publishing world was all about – the search for new talent.  But those days are nearly gone.  Music, books, any of the arts – nobody’s taking a risk.  You have to self-publish or sell your own CDs, build up a proven audience before anyone is going to take a look at you. 

That’s ironic, because everyone likes to say that our youth are our future.  We’re trying to show them that youth can be our today, if you’ll give us a chance, but no one is going to open the door for us. 

That’s all right.  We know it’s how today’s world works, and we don’t mind bringing our book straight to you, our readers; because we believe that when you hear what we have to say, you’ll ask for more!
What are your long term goals for the Young Scribes as a group, and each one of you as individuals?
L-Jessica Harrison, R-Rachel Kotter
L-Jessica Harrison, R-Rachel Kotter

Young Scribes: We’re all serious about college and our futures.  We’re all serious about writing – all kinds of writing: journalism, novels, verse.  You’ll be seeing more of us individually.

As a group?  That may be more up to you than it is to us.  We’re headed in a lot of different directions soon, and it takes a lot to keep a group like this together in today’s busy world.  We won’t be in high school together anymore.  We’ll need a team: editors, publishers (and some financial resources) to keep Young Scribes going.

We’d love to write other novels, maybe a sequel, a series – maybe all kinds of projects.  And we’d like to help other young writers launch their dreams too, take our success and use it to open doors for others.  But first, we need an audience.  We need you. 

What is the most valuable feedback you have gotten so far, and who was it from?
Young Scribes: In our community (the neighboring town of Blackfoot), we have a wonderful friend, a published author of youth fiction named Brenda Stanley, known in our region for years as the beloved news anchor, Brenda Baumgartner.  (Check out her books I am Nuchu,The Color of Snow, and others on 

Brenda has been an ally and inspiration to us.  She taught us that writing a novel, difficult as it is, is only the beginning of the work. Publicity, marketing, building an audience, attracting the attention of agents and publishers – all that is even harder than the writing.  But if you want to be a published writer, that’s your world.  Get used to it.
Anything else we should know?
Arielle Smith - The Sky's the LimitBrennan Taylor: The Tale Hunters offers a little something for everyone.  There’s everything from a sword-and-sorcery quest story, to a realistic medical drama, to a campfire-style spine-tingler.  (We call it a “Calvin”.)  So you should give us a try.  Even if fantasy isn’t your thing, we might have something for you.
Visit us on Facebook at!/talehunters for sample chapters of The Tale Hunters.  You’ll also see local media stories about our project including a TV interview.
And don’t forget to check out The Tale Hunters (paperback or Kindle e-book) on