The Journey Continues

Remember that exciting news I promised? I can finally share!

Coyote Queen, the book of my heart, is a story I’ve been trying to tell since I first got serious about publishing more than 15 years ago, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!

I’m deep in revisions on the story now, but I’m carving out plenty of space this fall to celebrate the launch of my second book, The Rabbit’s Gift, a story set in a world where human babies are grown in cabbage-like plants and delivered by rabbits. Please join me at one of my two launch events!


LAUNCH EVENTS

I’ll be in virtual conversation with acclaimed author Anne Ursu at 7pm Eastern on October 25th (hosted by Talking Leaves Books). Preregistration is required, so secure your spot now!

Readers in Southwestern Ontario, please join me for an in-person celebration on Saturday, November 5th at 2pm in the Mount Zion Lutheran Church Auditorium. This free, not-to-be-missed event will feature a reading, autographs, snacks, and live rabbits for petting!

Keep an eye out on my social media and events page for a variety of guest blog posts, podcast interviews, author meet and greets & more!


MY GIFT TO YOU

Preorders are incredibly important to authors; they give publishers important information about how much excitement there is in the market for any given title (thus helping them gauge which books to support). I’d love to share a small token of my gratitude to readers who support me in this way. There are a few options to claim your preorder gift.

American Readers: Preorder from Talking Leaves Bookstore; the signed book and swag will be mailed to you.

Canadian Readers: Preorder from Words Worth Books; the signed book and swag will be mailed to you.

Another option: preorder an unsigned copy from your favorite book retailer. Fill out this form (and upload your receipt), and I’ll mail your swag as well as a signed bookplate (an autographed sticker you can place inside the book).

“An enchanting exploration of the importance of perspective and what it means to lead with an empathetic heart.” Booklist

“A clever tale of cabbage, rabbit babies, mistakes made, and lessons learned.” Kirkus


UPDATE: THE WOLF’S CURSE

Unfortunately, I’ve finally been hit by the supply chain issues plaguing the industry. Fortunately, the paperback release of THE WOLF’S CURSE has only been pushed by a couple of weeks. The new publication date is October 11th, and it’s available for preorder now!


ONE LAST THING

My publisher, HarperCollins, is hosting a giveaway. Sign up for the chance to win one of five finished copies of The Rabbit’s Gift! (An extra copy could be a great holiday gift or donation to your child’s classroom!)


It’s been a wild year since my first book came out; I can hardly believe that I’m already speeding toward publication of my second book and working on books three and four. None of this would have been possible without the support of each and every one of my readers, so I’m signing off this post with a heart full of gratitude. Thank you all for your support!

(If you stumbled across the page by accident and like what you see, sign up for “blog posts” on the “news” page of my website to receive future updates. And if you’re searching for Magic in the Middle, click here.)

It’s That Time Again . . .

With my second book set to publish this fall, I’m gearing up for another busy season! But before I get to all of that, here are a few highlights from my summer.

My family experienced the adventure of a lifetime when we sailed a 40-year-old boat from Connecticut to Toronto. Despite being plagued by delays of all kinds, we managed to squeeze in plenty of fun, including a stop in Manhattan, where I got to tour the HarperCollins offices and meet my editor for the very first time.

I also got to preview audiobook narrators, and let me just say: the audio for The Rabbit’s Gift is going to be so cool! There will be two narrators–one for each point of view! (Preorders available here)

***GIVEAWAY ALERT***

I’m thrilled to share that my publisher is giving away 10 advanced reader copies! Enter here! (But don’t wait–the giveaway ends August 13th!)

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IN OTHER NEWS . . .

I’m excited to share that I’m partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters to put books into the hands of children from the program. To learn more about how and why this partnership came about, click here.

***BONUS***

If you’re able to support this cause, I’ll send you a small thank you gift as a token of my appreciation! (Offer good until September 25th, or where supplies last, US/Canada only.)

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DID YOU KNOW . . .

  • I’ll be doing a ton of virtual and in-person appearances this fall. Keep an eye on the “Appearances” page of my website for details!
  • I LOVE doing virtual and in-person school visits and teaching craft classes! Learn how to schedule me here.
  • The Wolf’s Curse will be available in paperback on September 20th! Place your preorder here!

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THAT’S NOT ALL . . .

I have some very exciting news coming soon* … stay tuned!

*Soon being relative in the publishing industry. Be sure to sign up for the blog to make sure you don’t miss any exciting updates!

THE RABBIT’S GIFT Cover Reveal!

The Balbusso Twins did it again!

When it came to the cover for my second book (coming 10/25/22), I couldn’t imagine how they would be able to top the stunning cover for my first book:

I shouldn’t have worried; the twins designed a cover that was perfect for a companion novel; it pays homage to the world I created in The Wolf’s Curse while capturing the vivid fairy tale feel (and unique mythology) of The Rabbit’s Gift.

To learn more about the story, check out my official cover reveal on MG Book Village!

If you can’t wait to get your hands on this book (or just want to know how you can support me), you can preorder copies online and with all your favorite book retailers!

(Not familiar with preorders? It means you order your copy now, and it’s delivered as soon as the book is released. Preorders are incredibly important to authors in that they give publishers an indicator of how much enthusiasm there is for any given title, thus helping them gauge how much support to throw behind an author.)

Thank you for your support!

Book Two News!

The Wolf’s Curse has been out in the world for six weeks, and I’m so grateful for the outpouring of enthusiasm and support for my Grim Reaper retelling.

Star Thank You GIF by alimacdoodle

A special thanks to those of you who joined my virtual launch celebration with Newbery-medal winning author Erin Entrada Kelly! If you’d hoped to join us but life got in the way, you can find the recording here.

In addition to the virtual launch, I was able to have a few friends join me for a backyard celebration, and I spent much of my debut week on a whirlwind tour signing books for indie bookshops. Besides the excitement of seeing my book on the shelves, one of the highlights was visiting a bookstore where my Wolf got to meet a wolf hand drawn by Neil Gaiman!

***there are major supply chain issues plaguing the publishing industry. If you haven’t had a chance to pick up a copy and/or you’re planning to gift The Wolf’s Curse for the holidays, be sure to order your copy or copies now–there aren’t any guarantees that the book will be available next month (or even in a few weeks).***

Now it’s full steam ahead with book two, and that brings us to today’s big news: I finally get to share the details of my sophomore novel, which comes out in the fall of 2022 with Greenwillow/HarperCollins!

Book Two Announcement!

You can learn more about the story on my website, and I’ll be back in the new year to share the cover . . . in the meantime, I’d love to hear which books you plan to gift for the holidays–please share your recent favs in the comments.

Before I sign off, here’s a writing prompt for those of you looking to get your creative juices flowing:

Describe your favorite fall activity. Now describe it from the perspective of a five-year-old kid. What would they notice or enjoy about the activity that is different than what you notice and enjoy? What words or phrases would they use to talk about their experience?

P.S. If you’ve already had a chance to read The Wolf’s Curse, I would appreciate it so much if you’d pop over to Amazon or Goodreads and leave a short review–even a sentence or two will help the book find new readers!

P.P.S. If you or your middle grade readers love hearing about new stories, be sure to sign up for Magic in the Middle–it’s a series of free monthly recorded book talks! (This month I’ll be featuring The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L.D. Lapinski!)

The Final Countdown!

The Wolf’s Curse will hit shelves in six days. SIX DAYS! After 14 years working toward this dream, I can hardly wait for my book to be out on shelves (and in readers’ hands)!

The weeks leading up to my launch have been wild––in large part because my second book (due out in the fall of 2022) is due the day before The Wolf’s Curse publishes. I can’t wait to tell you more about that story, but in the meantime, I have so much exciting news to share—including a giveaway and the world’s coolest book trailer!

First of all, I’d love to invite you all to my virtual book launch––I’ll be in conversation with Newbery Medal-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly on Tuesday, September 21st at 7pm Eastern. We’ll discuss Grim Reapers, wolves, my writing journey, and more! Pre-registration is required, so get your spot now. (Bonus: you can also order a signed copy of The Wolf’s Curse from Talking Leaves on the pre-registration link!)

Pre-registration link: https://www.tleavesbooks.com/event/book-launch-jessica-vitalis

Second, there is still five days left in my preorder campaign, so get your receipts in now! Everyone who enters will receive a bookmark, postcard, and sticker (while supplies last), and one lucky reader will receive a free book-themed bag and a free 30-minute virtual author visit! Here’s how it works:

Preorder a copy of The Wolf’s Curse at your favorite book retailer. Submit your receipt here, and that’s it—you’re all set (note: you can also submit proof of a library purchase request). This offer is good in the U.S. or Canada.

Finally, I’m over-the-moon excited to share the book trailer my publisher created—isn’t it stunning?

In case you’ve read this far and you’re still hungry for more, here’s a round-up of some of my recent appearances:

Kidlit Chapter Chat (5 Facts About the Wolf’s Curse)
The Nerd Daily (Writing Omniscient Narrators: How to Know When to Know it All)
Kickbutt Kidlit (Interview)
All by My Shelf (Podcast)
School Library Journal Teen Librarian Tool Box (Debuting with Death Guest Post)

Before I sign off, one more exciting opportunity to share: my publisher is hosting a giveaway for The Wolf’s Curse on Goodreads. Enter here!

That’s it for today—I hope to “see” you on the 21st! (Thanks for your support!)

Happy Reading!

One Month to Launch!

Friends, in just over a month my very first book baby will hit shelves in bookstores around the country! 

Preorder your copy to receive free swag and the chance to enter the grand prize package featuring a gorgeous book-themed tote and a 30 minute virtual author visit! 

Signed copies available at:
Words Worth Books (Ontario) 
Talking Leaves Books (New York)

Or order an unsigned copy at your favorite book retailer!

To claim your swag and enter for the grand prize package, upload a photo of your receipt (or library purchase request) here

New and Noteworthy:

  • Find out what I learned about myself while writing The Wolf’s Curse in this interview by Young Entertainment Magazine.
  • I stopped by Writer Writers Pants on Fire to share my thoughts on “writing what you know.” 
  • I also had a chance to stop by MG Book Village, where I shared why I chose to write from a wolf’s perspective and more! 
  • Check out The Book Duchess for a list of books I think everyone should be reading.
  • It’s more important than ever to provide kids with books that help them process death and grief. I stopped by Nine Bookish Lives to discuss my own experience with grief and death and to discuss the importance of making books about difficult subjects available to young readers.
  • Do you have a book coming out? Are you thinking about forming a street team? Check out my insights and suggestions in a podcast over at MG Book Party
  • Finally, I’m incredibly honored to announce that the Canada Council for the Arts selected me as a 2021 Research and Create Grant Recipient to support the development of my next book! 

That’s it for now! Remember to preorder your copy of The Wolf’s Curse and save the date: my virtual book launch will be held on September 21st at 7pm. (Details and a link to come.)


Thanks for your support! 

Three Months and Counting!

Hello! 

With just over three months until The Wolf’s Curse publishes, life is busy! I recently turned in book two to my editor (I can’t wait until I can tell you all about it) and next week I’ll be reviewing final pass pages on book one––this will be my last chance to make corrections before it goes to print (no pressure!). 

In addition, my publisher is hosting a giveaway for advanced reader copies of The Wolf’s Curse and I’m in the process of forming a street team––an enthusiastic group of readers to help spread the word about my debut. For more details about all of that and more, read on! 

 





GIVEAWAY!

HarperCollins is giving away not one, not two, but ten copies of The Wolf’s Curse on Goodreads! The giveaway ends June 30th, so enter now

Although writing can be a solitary effort, publishing a book is definitely not; I’m looking for bloggers, teachers, librarians, influencers, and bookworms to help get the word out. Learn more here.

Reviews are in and readers are loving The Wolf’s Curse! 

“A lyrical tale of loss and survival, tradition and belief, in which tension and secrets build like a towering wave. The Wolf’s Curse is a story of many layers. Young readers will treasure this beautiful debut and hold it close to their hearts.” -Diane Magras, author of The Mad Wolf’s Daughter

“A fable as polished and timeless as a fine wooden toy. Readers will root for spunky heroes Gauge and Roux while keeping watch for a certain mysterious wolf who’s not what she seems . . .” -Catherine Gilbert Murdock, author of the Newbery Honor book The Book of Boy

“The Wolf’s Curse boldly tells readers to take a closer look at the stories they’re told—not to mention at the wolves that might be lurking in the shadows. A clear-eyed, big hearted fable of compassion, friendship, and love.” -Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy

Pre-purchases are available at all your favorite book retailers (including your local indy) or you can find it on Amazon

***Keep an eye on my Twitter account in July; I’ll be giving away books from each of these authors!***
Before I sign off I want to share a link for my June Magic in the Middle book talk featuring The Nightmare Thief for those of you who might not have caught it earlier in the month. (The story is full of magic and wonder and I think you’ll love it!)

 

The Wolf’s Curse Cover Reveal!

Hi friends!

I know the new year continues to bring challenges for many of us, so it’s more important than ever to celebrate when we have the chance––yesterday, I did just that!

Celebrating (Covid-Style)

You’re probably wondering what I was celebrating. For years, I’ve been a fan of Mr. Schu’s blog. Those of you not obsessed with children’s literature may not know that he’s the Ambassador of Children’s Literature for Scholastic Books––and a Pretty Big Deal. I’ve always dreamed of having him host a cover reveal for my debut novel, and yesterday my dream came true!

You can read the full interview (including my tour of the cover design) here, but in the meantime, this is the cover: (Isn’t it incredible?)

That’s not all!

I also found out that The Wolf’s Curse has a release date! It will be available in stores on September 21, 2021! But good news — you can preorder now to make sure you get a copy as soon as they are available––and before they sell out.*

*Preorder links*

*Preorders really help out authors, too–they send an important signal to publishers about what kind of interest any given book has, which helps them determine which books to spend their marketing dollars on.

Besides my own celebrations (which included launching Magic in the Middle), I’ve also been busy celebrating book releases for a whole ton of other fantastic debut authors––you can explore their books here and here.

I’ll check back again when I have more news to share. In the meantime, I’d love to know what you like best about The Wolf’s Curse cover! Drop me a note in the comments below!

Magic in the Middle

I’m writing to introduce an exciting new program I’m launching called Magic in the Middle!

I often hear teachers and librarians ask authors for content they can use in their classrooms, and I know we all want to foster a love of reading in our middle grade kids. That’s where Magic in the Middle comes in! It’s a series of free monthly recorded book talks featuring upper middle grade fantasy books to help teachers, librarians, and parents introduce new books to their 10-14 year old readers. If this sounds like your cup of tea, you can sign up here and the talks will land in your inbox on the first Tuesday of each month. Please share this program with anyone you think might be interested–the more readers we reach, the better!

Sending you all my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season!

P.S. Stay tuned for The Wolf’s Curse cover reveal, coming in early 2021!

How I Got My Agent and a Two-Book Deal (After 13 Years)

I’ll never forget the day that one of the members of my very first critique group announced she was sure I’d be a published author within five years. FIVE YEARS? I was nearly ready to query my first manuscript! It was unlike anything else on the market. Agents were going to snap me up! Editors were going to fight for my story!

Imagine my surprise when I queried and … nothing. (To be fair, I did receive requests for partials and fulls but no offers of representation. In fact, one agent wrote to tell me how excited he’d been about the premise and how disappointed he was by the pages. I no longer have the email, but the gist of it was that I had no idea how to write scenes, much less a story.)

Undaunted, I wrote book two. And started reading every children’s book I could get my hands on (I was in my early thirties; I’d been an avid reader as a child, but read only occasionally in my twenties). This time, being a few years older and ever-so-slightly wiser, I realized book two probably wasn’t ready for prime time and I only sent out a few queries (to test the water).

By the time book three was written (seven years after my critique partner’s prediction), I’d read hundreds of recently-released children’s books and could see a real difference in the quality of my writing. Instead of rushing to query, I let the book rest and revised, revised, revised. Finally, I felt ready to share my manuscript. I attended an online writing conference called WriteOnCon and uploaded a query and sample pages. The first agent who requested to see more offered representation, and I was sure my time had come. Nonetheless, I continued working on craft, read voraciously, built a network of critique partners and beta readers, and began volunteering with We Need Diverse Books and PitchWars.

It was a good thing I threw myself into the literary community, because that’s what kept me going when my third book didn’t sell (despite a revision for a big five publisher). I shelved my fourth book before sending it out. When it started to look like my fifth book wasn’t going to sell, my ever-supportive agent and I had a heart-to-heart and made the decision to amicably part ways (after five years together), allowing me to use my (newly written) sixth manuscript to seek new representation.

Around the time I began sending out query letters, Erin Entrada Kelly (of Newbery Medal fame) put out a call to the PitchWars mentor group for manuscripts to workshop at her UCLA writing class. She promised to provide feedback from the class as well as her own thoughts. The chance to receive a critique from a writer of her caliber was a dream come true; I sent off my first five pages so fast my computer practically started on fire. A few weeks later, I received the following message from Erin: We are workshopping your piece tomorrow but JSYK: I am obsessed with this story! I love it so much.

Needless to say, I could have probably stopped writing right then and there and died a happy death. But things got even better! The next day, she said she’d used my work as an example of writing well-done and invited me to send her the full manuscript with an eye toward possibly sending it on to her agent (the brilliant Sara Crowe, who was closed to queries at the time). I sent it off, but didn’t dare hope that Erin would love it enough to share with Sara. Imagine my surprise when I got another message the very next morning telling me that she’d shared it with Sara, who loved the story and wanted to set up a call! (Crying, happy dancing, and anointing Erin my literary godmother ensued!)

After signing with Sara, we did a few quick rounds of revisions and a month later, went out on submission. Being a veteran of the process, I knew better than to hold my breath. Yet again, I was in for a surprise. Two weeks after going on submission, Sara informed me that we had interest from an editor who wanted to know what else I was working on. I sent off a couple of paragraphs about two of my WIPs and settled back in, prepared for the sound of crickets. One week later, I received another email from Sara: I’d received a two-book offer from Martha Mihalick of Greenwillow/HarperCollins! Although my story was in the hands of several other editors, we both believed that Greenwillow would be the perfect home for my work. I was beyond thrilled when Sara negotiated a pre-empt, finally bringing my thirteen-year-journey toward publication to an end. (And a happy new beginning!)

Below: Pure joy! (Plus a little shock!). My 15yo daughter was in the hallway outside my office with her phone when I got Sara’s email containing Martha’s initial offer. She heard me scream, ran inside, and snapped this photo.

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P.S. If you enjoyed this post and would like to receive occasional updates as my publication journey continues, you can sign up for email notifications. And if you want to add THE WOLF’S CURSE to your “want to read” shelf, you can now find it on Goodreads.