Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poetry Is Not a Luxury - Ada Limon, "Bright Dead Things"

Poetry is Not a Luxury July 2017

A finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Bright Dead Things examines the dangerous thrill of living in a world you must leave one day and the search to find something that is “disorderly, and marvelous, and


A book of bravado and introspection, of feminist swagger and harrowing loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the ways the speaker’s sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages past the capriciousness of youth, and falls in love. Ada Limón has often been a poet who wears her heart on her sleeve, but in these extraordinary poems that heart becomes a “huge beating genius machine” striving to embrace and understand the fullness of the present moment. “I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying,” the poet writes. Building on the legacies of forebears such as Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, and Mark Doty, Limón’s work is consistently generous, accessible, and “effortlessly lyrical” (New York Times)—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.

Ada Limón

Ada Limón is the author of four books of poetry, including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry, a finalist

for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, a finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times. Her other books include Lucky WreckThis Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program, and the 24Pearl Street online program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She also works as a freelance writer splitting her time between Lexington, Kentucky and Sonoma, California.

The needs and wants expressed by Limón in the four sections that make up her National Book Award nominated collection are anything but simple. She wants to retain her sense of self as she moves into the “we” of an abiding relationship. She wants life and death reworked into some spirit of “solve-able absence.” She wants the entirety of her physical past and its erasure. She wants to be her “own personal map of America,” love and wreck and all. Most importantly, Limón—a confessed autobiographical poet (see her 2014 interview at the online journal Compose)—wants readers to be intimately by her side, line after line. Reading this collection is like putting together each rung of a ladder that stretches toward the sky by sinking into its watery reflection.

Publishers Weekly review:
Limón goes into deep introspection mode in a fourth collection in which her speakers struggle with loss and alienation. As her poems move across varied geographies (New York, Kentucky, California), Limón narrates experiences in bewildering landscapes that should otherwise feel familiar. Perhaps feelings of alienation result from intersections of identity; perhaps they are the cost of memory, a theme woven through each of the collection’s four sections.

The Literary Review, review by Timothy Lindner
Every so often, I come across a poem that I share with everyone, even those not familiar with contemporary poetry.  “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” the opening poem in Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things, is one of those poems.  Well, it was—until I read “State Bird,” and “Miracle Fish,” and just about every piece in this collection.  By the end of the first part I realized I might have been better off gifting the book to everyone for Christmas.  Content is typically the driving force for my mass poem-picture-text messages, but I wanted people to hear this voice.  It’s not one of a particular person, but of a consciousness.  It’s the voice people ignore in the in-between moments of life that races through sensations, emotions, memories and predictions.  Aptly fit into verse, all of these silenced flashes of human experience get their play time.

The Los Angeles Review, review by Brandon Amico
Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón is musical, emotional, and honest, its verse muscular and unflinching. Limón’s wears her heart on her sleeve, and in this collection that heart takes the form of a huge, pounding horse’s heart. In fact, images of horses and hearts, often together, appear multiple times in the collection, perhaps most notably in the opening poem, “How to Triumph Like a Girl:”
…………………….As if this big
dangerous animal is also a part of me,
that somewhere inside the delicate
skin of my body, there pumps
an 8-pound female horse heart,
giant with power, heavy with blood.
In Bright Dead Things, we read poems of present grief, of her as a young besotted woman, stories of domestic happiness, of failure in and gratitude for love: the poet seems a woman in the middle of her life, reckoning her desires, for belonging, for victory, for getting the dead back. Limón’s poems read as if written by the daughter of Mary Oliver and Wendell Berry—spiritually attuned and redolent with blood. Instead of the poems ending in any settled wisdom, there’s consistently an uplift at the end of her works: as if a breath in. Here in “The Wild Divine” is a teenaged couple sitting in a yard after sex, when the neighbor’s horse wanders over: “and I thought, this was what it was to be blessed— / to know a love that was beyond an owning, beyond / the body and its needs, but went straight from wild / thing to wild thing, approving of its wildness.”

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jen's Five Books of Collaboration

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland (William Morrow & Company, $35.00)
A brilliant new release! At 750 pages, D.O.D.O. is the longest book I've read in a long time. Initially daunted, I decided to poke my head in after reading the authors' collaboration statements:
"...If the writers aren't in sync, it unravels pretty fast, but if they share a clear vision of the characters and the story -- as Nicki and I did in this case -- then it can come together with surprising ease and swiftness. Once we knew who these people were and what they were going to do, Nicki made a first pass over the opening phase of the book while I ran tech support, tracking the timeline on a spreadsheet and spewing out gobs of techno-gibberish when that was needed. Then she tossed that over to me and I did my bit while she forged ahead. I won't say it was easy but I will say the collaboration went very well, with a lot of humor and a minimum of drama." -NS
"This collaboration was great fun, in part because I got to witness Neal spew out gobs of techno-gibberish, which he does very elegantly. Sometimes I felt like Scout to his Atticus (if Atticus were a mad scientist). ... When we had differences of opinion -- which didn't happen much, given the scope of the book -- they were resolved, as Neal has said, with good humor and a minimum of drama. (Confession: I'm more dramatic than Neal.)" -NG
Funny! So I read the first page, and then I jumped in and kept going. And it was totally worth it. I've since read it again. Read it, read it! It came out earlier this month, and it's a great take on historians, academics, time travel, magic, and shadowy government organizations.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Speak, $10.99)
Collaboration can work in all sorts of ways, of course. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is one in which the two authors each take a character and write their characters' alternating chapters. Two characters, same name, different stories, different angst, and a late-night meeting by happenstance, with dramatic and ultimately healing effects.

Sorcery and Cecelia, Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer (Harcourt Brace and Company, $7.99)
Sorcery and Cecelia is an epistolary comedy of manners set in Regency England -- well, alternate Regency England, with magic added. It came into being by way of the "letter game," in which two authors become their characters and write letters back and forth to each other in real time, creating and refining the story along the way.

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman (Bantam, $7.99)
Hm. Oddly similar to D.O.D.O. in that it deals with the differing priorities of governance and scholarship, and it explores new ways of bringing history to life. Otherwise, it's rather different.
A sequel of sorts to Ellen Kushner's Swordspoint (and, later, The Privilege of the Sword), this book began with the authors dividing up spheres of influence to focus their writing (the City vs the University), and then they began reworking each other's writing, and reworking the reworkings. 'It is a pretty long book, and I wish I could tell you who wrote what,' says Ellen Kushner. 'But true collaboration is a funny thing: as Neil Gaiman recently told an interviewer (re. his work with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens), “I wrote 90% of the book. The only problem was, [s]he wrote the other 90%.”'

"Kushner and Sherman don’t spin fables or knit fancies: they are world-forgers, working in a language of iron and air." —Gregory Maguire

Welcome to Bordertown: New Stories and Poems of the Borderlands edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner
And, finally, here's a massive collaboration: five anthologies and three novels, set in a shared universe, with many recurring characters and many authors, some of whom started out as fans! Begun over thirty years ago, the Borderlands books were created and curated by Terri Windling and populated by an evolving community of authors, including at least three of the aforementioned collaborators. (Four, if you include Neil Gaiman.) They're not available at the Big Blue Marble, but they're worth trying to get your hands on. Here's what I said of Welcome to Bordertown after it came out in 2011:

In the ‘80s and ‘90s came a flood of books from the Borderlands, the newly created edge -- and its floodplain -- between our world and that of Faerie; a place where both magic and technology work ... sometimes. Basically, if you're gonna ride a motorcycle, you want to have some good spells on hand for when the engine cuts out on you. And vice versa. Bordertown is where runaways from both sides of the border go to start a new life. Now the birthplace of urban fantasy is back, and newbies are always welcomed...

Jennifer Sheffield, June 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Harry Potter 20th Anniversary - What's your first Harry Potter memory?

Harry Potter and Philosopher's/Sorcerer's Stone was first published on June 26, 1997 - 20 years ago! Can you believe it?

Big Blue Marble asked our staff and customers to share their first memories of reading Harry Potter and being seduced by J.K. Rowling's wizarding world. 

If you'd like to share your memory, email us at and we'll post your entry here and in our newsletter.

Deborah Zubow, West Philadelphia: Drinking butter beer at the release party for the second volume. Kids in costume, fake owls hanging from the ceiling. First taste of pepper jelly beans.

Kelly Kuwabara, Philadelphia:  I remember once talking to a stranger on the (NYC) subway, a young man who told me he had never had an interest in reading, but got completely absorbed in the Harry Potter series. He loved those books. He said that after that, he was a lot more interested in books and reading, and expanded to other types of novels and non-fiction. When we struck up our conversation, he was reading Notes of a Native Son.

Maisie Quinn, age 10, Philadelphia: "My first memory of Harry Potter was when I was really little, like 3 or 4 or something, and I found my mom's old Prisoner of Azkaban book. I opened it up to the place where Hagrid just got the letter about Buckbeak saying Buckbeak would have to be in a hearing, and is hugging Harry and Ron and Hermione. Then I shut it again. I first started reading the books straight through in Kindergarten."

Katherine Knorr, South Philly: Visiting the official Harry Potter bus with Elliott batTzedek! Also,  I remember having to take the 3am train back to Philly from New York and being salty about missing the earlier one. But then I noticed the Hudson Books was still open and they were setting out copies of the latest HP because it was now officially release day. I bought my copy and sat around Penn Station reading until my train arrived. 

Douglas Gordon, Philadelphia: My primary memory of HP is also a regret: that I've always intended to write a parody called "Larry Porter and the Crumpets of Doom" but have never gotten around to it. 

Claire McGuire, Germantown/Philadelphia: I didn't learn about it til maybe early 1999. I was working as a nanny in Seattle. My charge was a baby, but her older brother was 5, and his mother was reading the first HP aloud to him. I remember that the mom was excited because her son said, "I'd rather listen to Harry Potter than watch TV!" When they were done with the book, I borrowed it.

Nini Engel, Philadelphia: We were living in England for two years, when HP5 Order of the Phoenix came out. We had pre-ordered a copy, but there were five of us, my husband and I, and our three daughters (14, 11 and 7. We spent the entire day, into the night, taking turns reading it aloud to each other. We got several hundred pages in before the youngest went to sleep and the eldest ran off with the book. It was a magical experience, and really, one of my happiest memories of their childhood. 

Lorrie Kim, author of Snape: A Definitive Reading: I was part of a Usenet discussion group fighting an appalling troll. We were so tired of seeing her name that some people suggested we call her "She Who Must Not Be Named." Others had to explain to me that this was a reference to a popular children's series with an unspeakably loathsome villain. I just now realized that this is my very own "Troll in the dungeon!" story. :-)  Little did I know I would end up writing a book about this children's series. 

Sheila Allen Avelin, Owner, Big Blue Marble BookstoreI bought my first HP books in California because I happened to be there on the launch day of HP4 with Elizheva Hurvich and we noticed this crazy long line of kids and were super-curious about what they were waiting to buy. I feel somewhat abashed that it took me so long to catch on, but I caught up quickly.

Elliott batTzedek, Event Coordinator, Big Blue Marble: I first found Harry Potter when I started working at Children's Literacy Initiative. While we only did books for pre-k to 1st grade, HP was on the staff shelf and all the trainers, who had been elementary teachers, talked about it endlessly. I finally read HP1 and HP2, and, honestly, I wasn't completely enchanted. Fun, yes, but they also felt redundant. Something happens in summer, train to school, feast, things happen, Quidditch, Halloween,  Christmas, things happen, more Quidditch, end of school year and dramatic things happen, tests, train home. But then HP3 came out and while the plot time line was the same for the first 3/4 of the book, the last 1/4 was amazing. Suddenly I cared passionately about Harry's parents and their few living friends, about the  people who had fought evil and paid a huge price, and how that after effects of that fight was totally shaping these kids' world in ways they were only beginning to comprehend.  After that it HP all the way, including the wonderful ritual of re-reading each book before the next one came out, and then going to the Midnight release.  I only discovered the Jim Dale audio books when they came out in Digital format and now they are my constant go-to if I need background for doing cleaning or chores or awake at night and needing the familiar to help me get my brain to shut up and go back to sleep.

Mariangela Saavedra: I was working at a daycare center in North Carolina in 2000 and a boy there named Kyle was a 4th grader who I drove on my van from school to the center every day after school was out. Because he was so tall (and also well behaved) he was allowed to sit in the front seat. He had HP3, The Prisoner of Azkaban,  with him on day. It had just been released in the fall (of 1999) and I had never heard of  Harry Potter but he was glued to this book every day. So I asked what it was about. Kyle absolutely lit up when he realized I had no idea about the story and he would be able to tell me everything about it. Starting from the very beginning every day on our 15 min ride from school to the center he would tell me a little more, till one day we caught up to where he was in the book. Everyday after that as he read more he would keep me updated on the story till it was done. Not long after that the 1st movie came out and to my excitement it was exactly as Kyle had described the story to me. A book that could capture the attention of a 9 year old, whose details he could remember perfectly, even though he was now books ahead in the series? This was a book series I had to read for my self. I read the first three in time for HP4 The Goblet of Fire US release and I read every book from then on the weekend they came out. Engrossed by every single one of them. I have loved many a book series in my life. But none as much as I have loved every single book in the Harry Potter Series. I can read them over and over and never tire of them. When we take family vacations we listen to the audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale. I look forward to turning my niece and nephew on to them when they are old enough to read them. It will be a magical time indeed! 

Mary Gaia Prevost: I had initially avoided reading the Harry Potter books due to the “frantic fan frenzy”, but then a friend of mine who needed a distraction as her husband (who worked for the CIA) was going on a dangerous mission overseas. So we went to see the first H.P. movie…and I was HOOKED !!! I immediately went out and bought all the H.P. books that were out (the first 4 books) and was even more amazed. This was also the first time I had ever watched a movie before reading the book AND the first time (after reading the book) that the movie had captured the book almost perfectly. (P.S. the husband returned from the mission safely) 

Faith Paulsen, Norristown:  I remember I read a review somewhere and introduced sons #1 and #2 to the first book which is all there was in the US at that time.So they were in maybe 4th and 6th grades. My oldest was a big devoted reader from early childhood and a big magic fan. My 2nd was more of an outdoors kinda kid, totally opposite of his brother. Yet they both loved the book! And we were hooked!

Dawn Vuckson, Minneapolis, MN: When I saw the first movie, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I was completely mesmerized by the Wand Shop. The shop and owner were exactly what my mind pictured when I read the book. I've never had a movie match my imagination before.

Jane Wiedmann, Philadelphia: HP5, "The Order of the Phoenix," came out on my wedding day so part of our honeymoon was spent reading it aloud to each other. We also gave it as our bridal party gift.

Ysabel Y. Gonzalez, Somerville, NJ:   Having a chance to see Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone while the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra played live at NJPAC.

Christopher Schaeffer, Philadelphia:  I remember resenting the first book because all of a sudden nobody wanted to talk about Redwall at recess anymore.  

Tiara Richardson, former Big Blue Marble stafferI was grounded for a week in third or 4th grade. I read every book except for the last one that week. I didn't read the final book until I was in my twenties which time I bought the Kazu Kibuishi edition from Big Blue Marble. I was actually thinking of taking Sorcerer's Stone to Jury Duty with me tomorrow.

Tanya Kegler, NE Philadelphia: I wanted to read the books, but all copies of the Sorcerer's Stone were checked out at my local library.  After several visits, I decided to get the audio version for my morning/evening commute (at the time I worked in NJ) but I was so mesmerized by the story and the narrator that I started listening during lunch and at bedtime.   I finished the entire collection in a matter of five days.  HP books are still my all-time favorite and in honor of the 20th Anniversary I plan on reading them with my daughter (who is also 20).  #potterhead




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Poetry is Not a Luxury - "Bartram's Garden" by Eleanor Stanford

Our June, 2017 selection is Philly poet Eleanor Stanford's
Bartram's Garden. Eleanor will be joining us for the discussion!

From Brazil’s Bay of All Saints to Philadelphia, from Florida’s brutal humidity to the drought-scorched Cape Verde Islands, Bartram’s Garden takes in the pulse and ache of the natural world: the bittern balanced in the swamp, cashew fruit’s astringent flesh. With a gardener’s eye for color and motif, and a mother’s open-hearted sensibility, these poems explore vivid landscapes both intimate and foreign.

Eleanor Stanford is the author of the new book of poetry, Bartram's Garden (Carnegie Mellon University Press), a memoir, História, História: Two Years in the Cape Verde Islands (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography) and of the poetry collection, The Book of Sleep (Carnegie).

Her poems and essays have appeared in Poetry, Ploughshares, The Harvard Review, The Georgia Review, The Massachusetts Review, Brain, Child Magazine, and others. She is a 2014-2015 Fulbright Fellow to Brazil where she is researching and writing about traditional midwifery in rural BahiaShe is the recipient of a Hadassah Brandeis grant and  was a Henry Hoyns fellow at the University of Virginia, where she earned her M.F.A. She lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and three sons.


All live wonders of the world--humans, plants and animals--are citizens of meaning in these poems. Each poem is a tesseract which reveals the intimate connections between things seemingly at great distance in time and place."
Kazim Ali

"Sometimes we hurry to grow up too soon, Rilke suggests in the Duino Elegies, and so we may find ourselves suddenly exiled from childhood as from a place we've called 'garden' and have forever lost. Yet such a garden...might still exist if only we could perfect a language to intuit it. Eleanor us that language, by turns synesthetic and elliptical, utterly transportive, reacquainting us with the deep mystery of our lives lived in the womb of the world, attuning us to its sweetnesses as well as its astringencies and to our great arduous task of finding one within the other."
Gregory Djanikian

Flora, fauna, the wild and the domestic, these poems sing gorgeously "with their glowing throats / and feathered tongues."
Moira Egan

As luck and timing would have it, I come to Eleanor Stanford’s Bartram’s Garden just as a seemingly infinite number of Brood XXIII cicadas have emerged from their hidey holes in western Kentucky. I can’t imagine a better book to read to the accompaniment of the music of the spheres, as I keep calling the rattling surround sound produced in the resonant abdomens of the male cicadas clinging to the leaves of every tree, bush, and flower in our neighborhood. The last time I heard it — exactly thirteen years ago, in accordance with the periodicity of Brood XXIII — my children, who are now both almost out of the teenage years, were the same age as Stanford’s young children. If the home is a kind of garden, those are the years of near absolute retreat into its sanctuary.  keep reading
 Ann Neelon


Late sown, they grow
thrifty; in this narrow
rowhouse kitchen,
we set their two-pronged
hearts in jars of water
on the windowsill.
We have little sun,
less earth, and yet
I want my sons to know
that what feeds them
grows from light.


In candle-lit flickering, you trace 
rib’s slope. Your bed
of dark strata, each seam a deeper
face. Not far from here, a town
built on a mine caught fire
fifty years ago and is still 
burning. Beneath the overburden
of those other lives—friable surface
where residents of small hope
and coal smoke make peanut butter 
sandwiches or bicker, or sing 
their coal-tinged lullabies—we move 
in upcast shadow. Lampless 
and luminous, breath crumbles again 
in the smoldering, the bitumen,
the glittering ore body.

With J., Discussing Grammar in the Anarchist Coffee Shop, West Philadelphia

There is only one kind 
of sentence, you insist:
declarative. Meaning,
when you ask—our hands 
conjugating each other 
across the table—do you
love me, what you are saying
is you love me. Meaning,
the basic unit can only be
affirmative: the soft 
gray rain fogging
the windows. Palm
on palm. Black coffee
in a small tin cup.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Poetry is Not a Luxury: Alicia Ostriker, "Waiting for the Light"

Poetry is Not a Luxury Book Club May 2017

Waiting for the Light by Alicia Ostriker


“‘Let us now praise famous cities,’ says Alicia Ostriker in Waiting for the Light. Indeed, let us now praise these poems, their ferocity, tenderness, intelligence, compassion, and joy. A seeker and seer in the tradition of Whitman, Ostriker searches for the ‘light that stabs me with joy’ amid the sidewalks, schoolyards, marketplaces, and many tongues of her beloved New York, spurred by ‘ancestors who remember tenements.’ A walker in the city and a walker in the world, she knows about the flow of dollars and blood through the streets, speaking fearlessly against whoever crushes the body and the spirit. Wait for the light no longer; the light is right here, in the pages of this book.”
—Martín Espada

“Ostriker so loves the world, its griefs, traumas, praises, mysteries, and joys, that she teaches us to love the world with her—sometimes desperately, heartbrokenly, never despairingly. Ostriker is an essential poet, writing at the height of her powers.”
—Daisy Fried

What is it like living today in the chaos of a city that is at once brutal and beautiful, heir to immigrant ancestors "who supposed their children's children would be rich and free?" What is it to live in the chaos of a world driven by "intolerable, unquenchable human desire?" How do we cope with all the wars? In the midst of the dark matter and dark energy of the universe, do we know what train we're on? In this cornucopia of a book, Ostriker finds herself immersed in phenomena ranging from a first snowfall in New York City to the Tibetan diaspora, asking questions that have no reply, writing poems in which "the arrow may be blown off course by storm and returned by miracle."

Alicia Suskin Ostriker is a major American poet and critic. She is the author of numerous poetry collections, including, most recently, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog; The Book of Life: Selected Jewish Poems, 1979–2011; and The Book of Seventy, winner of the National Jewish Book Award. She has received the Paterson Poetry Prize, the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and has twice been a finalist for the National Book Award, among other honors. Ostriker teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Drew University and is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Poems from Waiting for the Light

 Biking to the George Washington Bridge


Essays and Articles

Craft Talk: How a Poem Happens  - Daffodils

Article: Alicia Ostriker on Emily Dickinson

Interview:Feminism, Spirituality, and Changing Mores: An Interview in Rain Taxi

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Jen's Five Recommendations for Mother's Day, or for Activism Anytime

Some last-minute ideas for those who are celebrating. Also, a reminder, for those who celebrate Mother's Day and those who do not, that Mother's Day was conceived as a day of activism, back in 1870, by Julia Ward Howe. "Arise, then, women of this day!"

Philadelphia Trees: A Field Guide to the City and the Surrounding Delaware Valley by Edward Barnard, Paul Meyer, and Catriona Briger (Columbia University Press, $19.95)

Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World by Srdja Popovic, with Matthew Miller
(Spiegel & Grau, $16.00)

Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
(Knopf Publishing, $15.00)

Why I March: Images from the Woman's March Around the World (Abrams Books, $14.95)
Why We March: Signs of Protest and Hope--Voices from the Women's March (Artisan Publishers, $14.95)

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman, translation by Henning Koch (Washington Square Press, $16.00)

Jennifer Sheffield, May 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 Kids' Lit Fest Author Tiffany Schmidt

Meet Tiffany Schmidt

Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send Me a Sign, Bright Before Sunrise, and Hold Me Like a Breath. She’s found her happily ever after in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles.

You can find out more about her and her books at:,, or by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt.

Meet Tiffany Schmidt's Books

Hold Me Like a Breath

The reviewers say:
 School Library Journal - “A crime narrative that satisfies a craving for suspenseful romance, entertaining adventure, and edge-of-your-seat survival drama.”
USA Today - “Pretty dang awesome modern fairy tale. Add this to your must-read pile!”
Bustle –an organ trafficking fairy tale for the ages.”
Paste – “a badass way to revamp a classic story.”

In Penelope Landlow's world, almost anything can be bought or sold. She's the daughter of one of the three crime families
controlling the black market for organ transplants. Because of an autoimmune disorder that causes her to bruise easily, Penny is considered too "delicate" to handle the family business, or even to step foot outside their estate.

All Penelope has ever wanted is independence--until she's suddenly thrust into the dangerous world all alone, forced to stay one step ahead of her family's enemies. As she struggles to survive the power plays of rival crime families, she learns dreams come with casualties, betrayal hurts worse than bruises, and there's nothing she won't risk for the people she loves.

Perfect for fans of Holly Black and Kimberly Derting, this first book in the stunning new Once Upon a Crime Family series from acclaimed author Tiffany Schmidt will leave readers breathless.

2017 Kids' Lit Fest Author Victoria Scott

Meet Victoria Scott

Victoria Scott is the author of eight novels including TitansFire & Flood, Salt & Stone, the Dante Walker trilogy, Hear the Wolves (March 2017), and Violet Grenade (May 2017). She is published by Scholastic and Entangled Teen, and is represented by Sara Crowe of Pippin Properties.

Victoria’s latest novel, Titans, received two starred reviews, and Fire & Flood has been selected as a 2017 Spirit of Texas Reading Program book. Victoria’s novels have been bought and translated in fourteen foreign markets. The author currently resides in Philadelphia, and loves hearing from her readers.

Here are a few things about Victoria you may want to know:

1. She is deathly afraid of monkeys. No animal should look that much like a human.
2. She has a fiery passion for cotton candy. Her husband once drove herto seven different stores looking for the stuff. We they found it, she bought 12 bags.

3. She likes old, creepy-looking trees so much that she actually house-hunted by scouting streets with the best ones.
4. Music. If it’s not loud and angry, she wants no part of it.
5. She was a cheerleader in high school. Like a hard-core competitive cheerleader you see on ESPN(2).
6. It upsets her when YA books feature mean cheerleaders.
7. Her favorite color is yellow. She doesn't feel like it gets near enough street-cred.
8. She can twirl a baton like nobody’s business.
9. Movies with giant, robotic aliens scare her to her core. It could happen. She just knows it.

Meet Victoria Scott's Books

Hear the Wolves

Sloan is a hunter.

So she shouldn't be afraid of anything. But ever since her mom left the family and she lost hearing in one ear in a blizzard, it's been hard to talk to people, and near-impossible to go anywhere or do anything without her dad or big sister within eyesight - it makes her too scared to be on her own.

When they leave her home alone for what should only be two nights, she's already panicked. Then the snow starts falling and doesn't stop. One of her neighbors is hurt in an accident. And the few people still left in Rusic need to make it to the river and the boat that's tied there - their only way to get to a doctor from their isolated Alaska town.

But the woods are icy cold, and the wolves are hungry. Sloan and her group are running out of food, out of energy, and out of time. That's when the wolves start hunting them. . .


Ever since the Titans appeared in her Detroit neighborhood, Astrid Sullivan's world has revolved around the mechanical horses. It's not just the thrill of the race. It's the engineering of the horses themselves and the way they're programmed to seem so lifelike. The Titans are everything that fascinates Astrid, and nothing she'll ever touch.

She hates them a little, too. Her dad lost everything betting on the Titans. And the races are a reminder of the gap between the rich jockeys who can afford the expensive machines and the working class friends and neighbors of Astrid's who wager on them.

But when Astrid's offered a chance to enter an early model Titan in this year's derby, well, she decides to risk it all. Because for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, it's more than a chance at fame or money. Betting on herself is the only way she can see to hang on to everyone in the world she cares about.

2017 Kids' Lit Fest Author Justina Ireland

Meet Justina Ireland

Justina Ireland enjoys dark chocolate, dark humor, and is not too proud to admit that she’s still afraid of the dark. She lives with her husband, kid, and dog in Pennsylvania. She is the author of Vengeance Bound and Promise of Shadows. Visit her at

Justina has a blog in which she posts anonymous reviews of YA books - anonymous because authors can suffer very real blow-back for calling out racist and other stereotypes in YA books. All of the reviews are deeply thoughtful, and raise important questions. Intrigued? Start with these:
Writing is Hard: Redemption Arcs for Racist Characters
Mulan as an important cultural narrative

Meet Justina Ireland's Book

Adjectives most often used in reviews: snarky, sly, darkly funny, ominous, dynamic, tantalizing, diverse

 A teen who is half-god, half-human must own her power whether she likes it or not in this snappy, Kirkus Reviews calls “a dark, slyly funny read.”

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changed when her sister was murdered—and Zephyr used a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

On the run from a punishment worse than death, an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend upends Zephyr’s world—and not only because her old friend has grown surprisingly, extremely hot. It seems that Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess that is prophesied to shift the power balance: for hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone else when she can barely take care of herself?
snarky novel with a serving of smoldering romance that

2017 Kids' Lit Fest Author Sonia Belasco

Meet Sonia Belasco

I have spent much of my professional life working with teenagers as a mentor, tutor and therapist, and I'm often inspired by their passion, creativity and strength. I write because I love stories and I love sharing them. Truly great stories transport you to other places, let you live other lives and be a part of worlds only limited by the scope of your imagination. It's the most affordable way to travel.

Other things I love: TV shows about high school, baking, travel, mysteries where everyone is very British. Hip-hop of all types and flavors (ask me about Tupac vs. Biggie and be prepared to hang out for a while). Attempting cooking experiments. Analyzing pop culture. Photography. Going to live theater. Putting on a show.

Notable accomplishments include: I think I've probably seen every contemporary movie that involves dance battles or superheroes. My cat Moo Cow, a sassy Maine Coon/Angora mix from the mean streets of West Philly,  has an Instagram. I once spent way too much time cataloging my personal library on LibraryThing. I make a killer mix tape, and everything I write has a soundtrack.

I'm a native of Washington, D.C., and I currently live in Philadelphia, PA, where I keep (valiantly!) trying to acquire a taste for cheesesteaks.

Meet Sonia's Highly Anticipated First Book

Highly? Who's been anticipating it? Teen Vogue, Bustle, HerCampus, Bookpage, School Library Journal, Girls' Life

Melanie and Damon are both living in the shadow of loss. For Melanie, it's the loss of her larger-than-life artist mother, taken by cancer well before her time. For Damon, it’s the loss of his best friend, Carlos, who took his own life.

As they struggle to fill the empty spaces their loved ones left behind, fate conspires to bring them together. Damon takes pictures with Carlos’s camera to try to understand his choices, and Melanie begins painting as a way of feeling closer to her mother. But when the two join their school’s production of Othello, the play they both hoped would be a distraction becomes a test of who they truly are, both together and on their own. And more than anything else, they discover that it just might be possible to live their lives without completely letting go of their sadness.

2017 Kids' Lit Fest Author Margo Rabb

Meet Margo Rabb 

Margo Rabb is the author of the novels Kissing in America and Cures for Heartbreak. Her essays, journalism, book reviews, and short stories have been published in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Atlantic, Slate, The Rumpus, Zoetrope: All-Story, Seventeen, Best New American Voices, New Stories from the South, One Story, and elsewhere, and have been broadcast on NPR. She received the grand prize in the Zoetrope short story contest, first prize in the Atlantic fiction contest, first prize in the American Fiction contest, and a PEN Syndicated Fiction Project Award. Margo grew up in Queens, New York, and has lived in Texas, Arizona, and the Midwest; she now lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and children. Visit her online at

 Meet Margo Rabb's Books

Acclaimed writer Margo Rabb’s Kissing in America is “a wonderful novel about friendship, love, travel, life, hope, poetry, intelligence, and the inner lives of girls,” raves internationally bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). 

 In the two years since her father died, sixteen-year-old Eva has found comfort in reading romance novels—118 of them, to be exact—to dull the pain of her loss that’s still so present. Her romantic fantasies become a reality when she meets Will, who can relate to Eva’s grief. Unfortunately, after Eva falls head-over-heels for him, he picks up and moves to California with barely any warning. Not wanting to lose the only person who has been able to pull her out of sadness—and, perhaps, her first shot at real love—Eva and her best friend, Annie, concoct a plan to travel to the west coast. As they road trip across America, Eva and Annie confront the complex truth about love. 

Cures for Heartbreak

 A heartfelt novel that Michael Chabon called “sad, funny, smart, and endlessly poignant.” 

Less than two weeks after fifteen-year-old Mia Pearlman’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she dies, leaving Mia, her older sister, and their father to face this sudden and unfathomable loss. As Mia struggles to navigate her grief, she’s also forced to examine the truth about her parents’ rocky marriage, her unexpected feelings for a guy with leukemia, and the nagging health phobias that plague her on a daily basis. Ultimately, her journey down this road slowly paves the way for hope amid immeasurable loss.

2017 Kids's Lit Fest Author Amy Ignatow

Meet Amy Ignatow

Amy Ignatow is an illustrator and teacher who has also been a farmer, a florist, a short-order vegan cook, a dancing chicken, an SAT prep instructor, a telefundraiser, a wedding singer, a ghost-writer for internet personal ads, a reporter, and an air-brush face and body painter working under the name "Ooga". She graduated from Moore College of Art and Design and lives in Philadelphia with her husband Mark and their cat, Mathilda, whom they believe to be well-meaning despite all evidence to the contrary.  Her first series of books, The Popularity Papers, is a Big Blue Marble bestseller, with legions of middle-grade fans.

 Meet Amy's New Series!

 The Mighty Odds is The Breakfast Club for a new generation.
From the renowned author/illustrator of the Popularity Papers series, Amy Ignatow, comes the first installment in a new series about a diverse crew of middle school kids who develop very limited superhero powers after a strange accident and manage to become unlikely friends on the adventure of a lifetime.

When a sweet nerd, an artsy cartoonist, a social outcast, and the most popular girl in school are involved in a mysterious bus accident, this seemingly random group of kids starts to notice some very strange abilities they did not have before. Artsy Martina can change her eye color. Nerdy Nick can teleport . . . four inches to the left. Outcast Farshad develops super strength, but only in his thumbs. And Cookie, the It Girl of school’s most popular clique, has suddenly developed the ability to read minds . . . when those minds are thinking about directions. They are oddly mighty—especially together.

This group—who would never hang out under normal circumstances—must now combine all of their strengths to figure out what happened during the bus accident. With alternating narratives from each of the heroes, including illustrated pieces from Martina, and featuring bold female superheroes and a multicultural cast, The Mighty Odds is The Breakfast Club for a new generation.