I've known Stephanie Bodeen so long, I can't recall when we first met. But I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her better when we were both on the faculty for what is now the Northwest Institute of the Literary Arts. She's got a flair for the heartwarming (Elizabeti's Doll) and the heartpounding (The Compound). Her brand-new middle grade series is called Shipwreck Island; the first book is a thrilling and lively read-- don't miss it!
I’ve been a reader ever since I can remember. My childhood
was spent on a dairy farm in rural Wisconsin, about as far from an ocean as one
can get. In fact, I didn’t even visit an ocean until the age of fourteen. Yet,
the books I gravitated toward as a child had oceans. In particular, islands. I must have read Two on an Island by BiancaBradbury,about a boy and his sister trapped for several days with no food
or water, upwards of thirty times. Baby
Island by Carol Ryrie Brink, about two sisters stuck caring for four babies
and toddlers,was another I read over and over.
Did I want to be marooned on an island? No, thank you. (I’m afraid of deep water
and don’t even like to swim.) Did I want to read about someone else being
marooned on an island? Yes, please.
Fate has a sense of humor, because in 2002, I moved with
my husband and two young children from the Midwest to Midway Island. Yes, that Midway of World War II fame. Though
it now holds the official title of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the
paltry Pacific patch is still a mere one by three miles in area and a sketchy 1500
mile swim from civilization. We traveled there in an aging 18 passenger
turbo-prop, a white-knuckle flight that was fictionalized with some creative
license (Spoiler Alert: they crash) in my YA novel The Raft. After nearly three years on Midway, I perhaps qualify— in
some circles, anyway— as an expert on remote island living. Well, at least
enough to try my hand at writing my own island story.
Island, my first middle grade series, was inspired by those authors who brought island adventures to
life for me, as a child, shivering under the covers in my ancient farmhouse
bedroom. But writing in a new genre scared me. I’d been successful at both
picture books and YA. Could I meet somewhere in the middle and still tell a
I turned in the first book and waited, terrified,
convinced that it was terrible. My editor told me it was my best work yet.
(Insert huge sigh of relief here.) I’m currently on editorial revisions for the
third book of four in this series billed as Swiss
Family Robinson meets Lost. I
won’t reveal much, except that the danger, the suspense, and the unknown? All
there. Did I mention surprises and cliffhangers? Oh yeah. There are some of
S.A.Bodeen is the author of many award-winning picture books including Elizabeti’s
Doll , as well as several acclaimed YA novels, including The Compound and The
Raft. She grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and has lived in eight states,
two African countries, and one insulary possession. She holds an MFA from
Spalding University and lives with her family in the Midwest. Follow her on Twitter.
Usually I host a writing friend here, to share about their new book, on Friend Friday. Today, I merely want to share a book that's been a dear friend:
We checked this book out of the library a kajillion times when the kids were small. We loved it so much, I spent an exorbitant amount to buy a hardcover copy years ago (the original book was $4.95!) but it brings a smile every time I see the cover.
Is there a book friend like this in your family's life? If so, won't you please share below?
the paperback version of the Lucky Dog anthology that came out in January. Yay!!! My story, Like An Old Sweater, features a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel (no surprise to those of you who know how crazy I am about our Winston). At IRA, the sublime Becky Anderson, of Anderson's Bookshops (Chicago area) told me she was hand selling the heck out of this collection of dog tales, which made me want to wag all over because the proceeds from this book go to benefit Red Rover (learn more about that organization here). Because Mondays generally need a little brightening, I've decided to give away 3 copies! Here's all you have to do: share the title of your favorite ever dog book. First three commenters win a copy of the book!
Today's guest is Michelle Houts with whom I shared an editor (who is, sadly, no longer at Delacorte). Michelle and I got to meet in person a few years back, when I took that great trip out to Ohio and visited schools in Dublin and Botkins. I adored her first novel, The Beef Princess of Practical County, and am delighted to see her career taking off. She is a hard worker with a huge heart, as you will see below.
Before “Bully” was a Verb …
storytellers. It’s what we do. Sometimes we make them up. And we call it
Sometimes we take moments and people and events and put
words to them so that others can read about those moments and people and events.
We call that nonfiction.
I have story to tell. The words are mine. But the story
belongs to Mark Boney.
When Mark was born, he was no different than any other baby.
His parents were overjoyed to have him in their lives. He cooed and cried and
smiled and burped. He was like everyone else.
By the time I met Mark, he was an elementary school student.
And it was very clear that his classmates viewed him as someone different from
themselves. And they were mean.
They picked on Mark for being the smartest one in the class.
They rolled their eyes and groaned when he raised his hand
to ask the teacher another question.
They picked on him for wearing pants that were sometimes too
And for buttoning his shirt up all the way to the top
They teased him because his voice could be loud.
And they mocked the slight Southern twang in his vowels.
Mark’s classmates were relentless. He was target of endless
teasing and taunting in second grade. In fourth grade.In middle school.And in high school.
I know this not because Mark was one of my students. I know
this because Mark was one of my classmates.
So, I now you’re wondering. Was she mean?Did she torment Mark Boney until he cried,
“Please, stop. Just stop?”
Although many years have passed since Mark and I sat in the
same classroom, I’ve often asked myself that question. Did I? Was I mean?
And, to the very best of my ability to recall, I believe the
answer is no. I didn’t fling the insults. I wasn’t one who taunted and teased.
I never pointed out Mark’s differences. I never tried to see if I could make
But I did something far worse.
I stood there. I just stood
there when a girl made fun of his clothing. I watched and did nothing when theboys made him cry.
Now, this story might just be my recollection a boy from
school was picked on by his classmates, but the story doesn’t end here.
so long ago, I was digging through a box of old pictures and found this. My
second grade class. You already know which boy is Mark. Which girl is me? Why,
I’m the awkward one, third from the right, bottom row.
It was a
Thursday,so I posted the picture on my
Facebook page as my “Throwback Thursday” post. The comments started coming in. Some from classmates I’ve
been in touch with recently and some from folks I haven’t heard from in years.
We reminisced. We tried to remember all the names.
And then, someone asked.
“Hey, whatever happened to Mark Boney?”
For quite a while, no one answered. And then, a post.
“Mark married, became a pastor of a church, and had a
daughter. Then he died of cancer. Just a year or so ago.”
Silence. No one posted.
And, then everyone seemed to be posting at once.
“I had a moment of guilt when I
was reading that post. A lot of us teased him...... #feeling awful!”
“We were closer when
we were younger, but as a teenager I was a mean jerk to him.”
“He never knew that we
both had become pastors. He was a great man.”
“I teased Mark a bunch
growing up too.”
“Wish I could have been
One by one, 48-year-old teachers, pastors, businessmen, and writers
took a long look at their 8-year-old selves, and expressed sorrow over words
they now know they can never take back. Actions they can never apologize for.
It is too late.
For our Mark Boney, it is too late. But, there are Mark
Boneys in every school today.
So, with the help of Mark’s only sister, Tammy Boney Martin,
in March 2014 I launched The Mark Boney
Promise. Every author visit I make now includes Mark’s story. And my new
website has a place where students can go and hear Mark’s story.And most importantly, they can make a
promise. The Mark Boney Promise to Always
treat others with respect, and to Speak
up when others do not.
don’t have to wait until it’s too late to do the right thing.
Michelle Houts is the author of four
books for middle grade readers. The Beef
Princess of Practical County, The Practical County Drama Queen, Winterfrost,
and her first non-fiction book, Kammie on
First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek. Visit Michelle’s website here.