Boundless talent–okay, some of it has been bound.

Today, a literary feast! I provide below a buffet of edible words and bite-sized bits of authors I highly recommend you get a taste of. (Plus, I answer four questions about my own writing endeavors.)

Facetime-erskine_2_2Participating in a blog hop is a lot more fun than getting a root canal, but not nearly as exciting as winning the National Book Award. Kathy Erskine is one of the only people I know who can speak effortlessly (and humorously) on all these topics and a bucketload more.

One of my all-time favorite authors and a squishable friend, I was more than pleased to throw off my shoes and pick up my pen at Kathy’s invitation to join her in this escapade.

Kathryn Erskine grew up mostly overseas and attended eight different schools giving an interesting twist to her writing.  She draws on her life stories and world events to write her novels including Quaking, an ALA Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Mockingbird, 2010 National Book Award winner, The Absolute Value of Mike, a Crystal Kite winner, and Seeing Red, a Jane Addams Peace Award Honor Book set immediately after the Civil Rights era that questions who we were then and who we are now.

Her upcoming novel, The Badger Knight, is a Middle Ages adventure about a small, sickly teen with albinism who runs off to battle to prove he’s a man — which he succeeds in doing, but not in the way he thought. She is currently working on several more novels and picture books.

She loves travel, taking walks, being in nature, exploring places (any places), laughing, playing games, learning languages (or anything, really, just learning) and eating chocolate.  You can learn more about her at or on Facebook at and Twitter at

And now we go to the interviewed portion of the program …

1) What am I working on?

Currently I’m teaming up with Neil Degrasse Tyson in an effort to prove that “black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes,” but I tell you, it’s tough going. The fact that Neil is wholly unaware of my participation is irrelevant, but I am on that team 100%. The research is arduous; the backlash from some of the world’s persuadably arthritic scientists is a wall of resistance we’re trying to push through. But Neil and I are optimistic.

On a smaller scale of the cosmos, my writing projects are zipping along at what feels like light speed, but is likely clocked at effortful chugging.

DEAR OPL, my middle grade humorous novel about a pre-diabetic thirteen-year old struggling with food and grief, signed with Sourcebooks and will be published June 2015. Currently, the focus is all about pesky edits, but then begins the many month long process of countless photo shoots in order to capture a superb author photo. Again I use the term arduous because nothing else seems capable of describing the lengths this team of editors, marketers, and publishers will go to in order to create the final product. I’m really hoping we don’t end up going with a selfie.

Any leftover time that hasn’t been allocated to either Neil or Opl is directed toward rewrites of two other novels which are dueling in battle to secure the first place position of next in line to publish. The clash is bloody and deafening, and I am nearly at the point where I tell them that I’m either going to flip a coin or mash them both together into one story. It’ll end up being a manuscript about the reclaiming of Scotland’s independence led by a band of mythological fairies. I’m not getting a lot of positive vibes from that choice though.

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2) How does my work differ from others of this genre?

Not everyone makes the decision to mix NASA with obesity and diabetes—and I’ve had my fair share of criticism—but I’m a risk taker. Keeping the two separate is what we’ll likely end up going with, but I’m sure somewhere there’s a Venn diagram that will support my theory that some crossover data exits.

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Still, if we’re strictly speaking of my middle grade novel, I’d have to say that writing about regrettable and distressing topics such as those that are plaguing our children today may flag my work with labels that indentify necessary issues. Adolescent or adult, many of us have elevated levels of stress and anxiety we’re battling. Sadly, we’re using Twizzlers and Moon Pies as our swords and shields.

3) Why do I write what I do?

Writing is what keeps my spirits afloat until I can finish the blueprints of the small moonshine still I’m designing for the backyard. As my rotgut enterprise would be an illegal one, I have been advised to continue championing attention to less illicit endeavors like campaigns for adolescent healthy eating, self-confidence, and encouraging kids to make the impossible dream of scoring perfectly on all standardized tests a reality simply by giving up all fun and sleep. Although I might drop the last one.

4) How does your writing process work?

Wait … there’s a process?

Alright then, my process is this: I wake up and do my morning ablutions, throw in a load of laundry, feed anyone staring longingly at the fridge or pantry shelves, clean the kitchen counter of teenage detritus—bowls, glasses, calculus notes, Ben & Jerry tubs, highlighters, iPhone cords, physics books, socks, glue, receipts from the last six months stored in the glove compartment of someone’s car that were finally brought inside to be filed, tea cups, and a thank you note from NASA, do the dishes, clean out the cat litter—I could go on, but I’ve got to stop because I’ve just heard gunfire outside.

180514kitchen (800x773)

… Everything’s fine. It was a small scuffle between the two fellows who are digging out the spiritus frumenti foundation. We talked it out, I confiscated their muskets—and the jug of hooch they were arguing over, and gave them each a granola bar. What can I say? They’re cousins. And each other’s uncle. Welcome to Virginia.

So writing then, yes? At some point, in between a few rounds of all the above, I find my desk and start thinking about just how funny diabetes and obesity are. And this is the hard part, because they aren’t. But that’s the beauty of humor. You have to work to make the painful and the prickly into knee-slapping subjects to occasionally attract the desired eyeballs away from YouTube or Xbox or computer science how-to-hack manuals. It involves a lot of bathroom breaks, and I try everything out on the hound before I write it down.

It’s not a process for everyone, but it is a process, and I am all about action. Just ask Neil. He knows.

No wait … he actually doesn’t.


And now, may I introduce three fantastic writers who should start showing up on your radar. Firstly, let’s meet Deborah Prum.DebCropped_2_copy (761x800)

Deborah M. Prum has a heart for reluctant readers and those who struggle with learning disabilities.  Her YA novel, FATTY IN THE BACK SEAT, is about 15 year-old Cuss, who is challenged by undiagnosed learning disabilities. Fatty_in_the_Back_SeatTold with humor and sensitivity, the book does not sugarcoat issues yet offers hope to readers. An audio book version will soon be available.

Her interactive, multi-touch iBook, CZARS AND CZARINAS, is designed to engage reluctant readers. TINYThe book is a humorous and anecdotal account of the first nine centuries of Russian history.  It includes: an introductory song, slide shows, charts, portraits that speak to you, various sound effects for artwork (bells ringing, horses whinnying, thunder, etc.)    You can visit Deb at:

Next up is none other than my extraordinary partner in crime (or cartoon), Robin Gott.

Rob head shot.pub1

Robin ( Rob) Gott grew up in North London, England, in the house once inhabited by the boy who would grow up to become Boris Karloff. Scared away by the ghost of the famous horror film actor, the family moved to a house in Stansted in Essex, previously owned by Douglas Fairbank’s Junior’s daughter, and the venue of a Rat Pack party or two.

Whether all this show business history had any effect on the youthful Robin is food for thought, but he did drift into working in the film and TV animation in London, as an artist, and later working with story development. In 1994 he packed his bags, moved to Malmoe in Sweden, fell in love with the lovely Karin, and there he’s been ever since.

He draws cartoons, acts and writes. He’s written songs, poetry, scripts for graphic novels, two screenplays (one commissioned by Per Holst, a Danish producer) and is now being encouraged by his two boisterous sons, aged 8 and 10, to write a children’s novel. This is very much in the early stages, and at the moment he’s gathering all the ingredients for a hopefully wondrous concoction inspired by Anthony Horowitz, Roald Dahl and of course – Boris Karloff!

Rob loves being with his family, especially at their lakeside cabin nestled cozily in a Swedish forest, fishing, running, cooking, playing guitar and flopping about on sofas, drinking English ale and watching old black and white films.

You can learn more about him at or on Facebook.

Last, but nowhere near least, is a writing friend I owe a great deal of thanks to for getting my ‘out of shape’ manuscripts fit for publication: Abby Murphy. I will always be grateful for her keen eye and willingness to slog through that which I dump on her desk. She’s just about as good as it gets.

profile_1Abby Murphy is a self-proclaimed history nerd who lives in Providence, RI. She has donned 19th-century clothing to work at a living history museum, pored over manuscripts at a literary agency, and she now teaches middle school students to read, write, and think. She writes YA historical fiction and recently finished a novel based on her great-great-grandmother, who traveled to Europe in the 1890s. You can learn more about her at


Three days left for the “Help A Teen Do Experiments in Space I Don’t Understand”  fundraising campaign on Indiegogo. If you think space is cool, give it looksee! And a massive thanks to all of you who have already contributed to science. You guys are awesome. 😀

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.






33 thoughts on “Boundless talent–okay, some of it has been bound.

  1. “Currently I’m teaming up with Neil Degrasse Tyson in an effort to prove that “black holes are the cosmic mothers of new universes,”

    Ah Shit! Damn near spilt my beer.
    Hysterically funny (and wonderful writing)

    • I was going for beer nose jets, but I’ll take near spillage as a sign I’m on the right track.
      Thank you for the wonderful compliments, Lance. Cheers to you too (with what’s left in your glass)!

  2. You and Neil make a great team! Keep up the good work 🙂 Now, it never would have occurred to me that “Russian history” and “humor” are topics that go together, but I applaud Deborah’s effort. And finally, I savored the photo of Robin. He’s darling!!

    • If anyone can make weighty history a side-splitting experience, it’s Debby.
      And yes, it’s good to finally put a face to the doodles, and curious to see the space all that drollery comes from. 😛
      Thanks for your lovely comments, Linnet!

  3. “I’m not getting a lot of positive vibes from that choice.” Ha! Getting lots of great vibes from this post, though! 🙂 And some new links to check out…thank you!

    • Thank you for that, Sue. I’m glad it’s “resonating.” And I hope you might find something that will pique your literary interest. All these folks have such dynamic writing chops. They really are the bees knees.

  4. Just a quick thought about your story about the fairies reclaiming Scotland — When I read ‘reclaiming Scotland’, I thought of Brave Heart. Maybe you should make the place somewhere else. It might get you those positive vibes. The fairies doing battle had me thinking of the ones in Labyrinth only being nice instead of nasty. I like that idea.

    Mind you, these are just some thought I have.

    • Many thanks for the thoughtful suggestions, Glynis. It’s rather amazing how if you’re working on multiple manuscripts at the same time, the characters begin to blur and cross over each other’s borders.
      Certainly makes for some interesting dreams. 😛
      Cheers to you!

  5. I loved your sense of humor very much! To quote myself ” I believe that a person with no sense of humor should qualify as being handicapped”

    • Oh what a sad world it would be if humor were an anomaly! I am so happy that you enjoyed the post. And I can’t tell you how marvelous I find your photography. It is inspiring, entertaining and truly educational. Terrific stuff, indeed!

  6. I am always searching for new great authors, thanks for the info!! Also, I love the way you sit down to write, right after the gun shots settle down! 🙂

    • You’re totally welcome, Sasha. I have this desperate need to share all the wondrous finds–and that includes the wondrous people I know.
      As far as the gunshots, that’s nearly as common as answering the doorbell in my neck of the woods. 😛
      Cheers to you!

  7. First, I must say how happy I was to see a post from you in my reader, because I was beginning to have Shelley withdrawal. Second (and since this is a comment from me, you now it’s going to be a bit long-winded, right?), I literally snorted with laughter reading about your–ahem–collaboration with Neil. He’s awesome, isn’t he? But I do think you might have a tiny bit of trouble getting him on board with your idea, seeing as how he wrote a book called Death by Black Hole. (But Stephen Hawking seems to think we have this idea about lethal black holes all wrong, so perhaps you could approach him with your theory?)

    DEAR OPL sounds fantastic, Shelley. (Though how could anything penned by you be anything less than stellar?) Let us know when it’s available for pre-order, so I can have it delivered directly to my Kindle when it’s published. And congratulations, my friend! It’s going to be a very exciting year for you!

    With all this talk of running a still, I have to ask if you’re huddled up in the mountains of Franklin County? Our local radio station used to declare it “the moonshine capital of the world,” or something to that effect. Although I remember reading an account from a man who worked as a volunteer in Nelson County after the devastating Hurricane Camille struck in 1969. He recalls flying over the area with a local pilot, and amid all the destruction, seeing puffs of smoke seeping out of the trees in the mountains. He asked the pilot where the smoke was coming from. The pilot said that those came from all the moonshine stills firing back up.

    And because I’m fascinated with Russian history, I really really want to read Czars and Czarinas, but I don’t have an iPad. 😦 (Remember I’m still stuck in the 20th century, technology-wise.) I’m making a note of that book for when I do shed my Luddite ways. (I intend to be fully 21st-century compatible by no later than 2018.)

    And now I think I’ve rambled on quite enough! (Seriously, who writes comments so long that they need to be divided into separate paragraphs? Me, that’s who.) Thanks for sharing your writing process with all of us, Shelley. As always, I found it enlightening and hilarious.

    • Oh, Miranda, you just say the nicest things. I figure giving folks one week in between posts is a way to encourage recovery from my writing–just long enough so that my skills are somewhat foggy. But I know what you mean. When the pain disappears from a minor injury, you can almost go through a phase of missing it. 😛

      Thank you for the note of congrats. I am thoroughly looking forward to the work with my editor (despite the goofy bits I say). It has been an amazing journey thus far, and a deeply educational one as well. I shall keep you abreast of all the developments. Especially, the author photo.

      And your guess as to my whereabouts is nearly spot on. Albemarle actually. Total heaven–although there is a distillery (a proper one that makes as close to a “scotch-like” whisky as one can make in America) in Nelson County. I would love to work with them. It’s on the bucket list.

      Yes, I too have been accused of acting like a fearful Luddite by my teens, but in truth, I’m simply a penny-pincher who knows the value of a hard-earned dollar. If something is still working, I shall make do. I think 2018 is perfectly respectable. But if I see you before then, I’ll let you borrow my ancient iPad and we can enjoy it together.

      Thank you as always for making my day with your comments, Miranda. They are one of the highlights of my week. 😀 (As are all your posts!)

      • Definitely keep me up to date! And pshaw, you’ll have the perfect author photo in no time, lovely lady. In my case, it’s a super rare occurrence for me to have a picture taken where I don’t have my eyes half-closed, or my mouth open like I’m a cow chewing cud, or where I’m not cringing as though waiting for a punch in the face. Photogenic I ain’t!

        And Albemarle County is just beautiful. I know Nelson County has several breweries, but I wasn’t aware of a distillery. I’m going to be heading up that way to buy some peaches from the orchard in June.

        Ditto about your posts, Shelley! I’m looking forward to reading more about your book as it moves closer to publication. Very exciting!

  8. sumwhut intimidaytid by the (seeminglySeamingly) research and extensions into other dye-mentions which go into a post such as this. and phunnee thru-out, makes it even better.

  9. Pingback: Why I write | Putting in a good word…..

  10. You are in great company with these writers. What an enriching group of friends, too. I’m struck by how much work has gone into your novel. To think you wrote this a year ago. Can’t wait to see it hit the shelves.

    • Alys, whenever you leave a comment on my blog I’m left with this overwhelming urge to squish you with delight. I think folks around you must feel several notches happier just sharing the same air you breathe.

      • Oh my goodness [fanning myself]. You’re the dearest. I would happily take a good squishy hug from you and would deliver in kind. Thanks for your loving enthusiasm. I’m feeling warmth and goodness from tip to toe. xox

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