Help for Hurricane Harvey Victims–KidLitCares!

Children’s author, Kate Messner, is organizing a Hurricane Harvey Relief Effort with the help of hundreds of children’s literature professionals. Check in at #KidLitCares for updates and at the website. The auction items will raise money for the Red Cross. I am donating a Skype visit and a set of classroom books. If you or someone you know would be interested in any of these prizes, please pass the word along.


FROM THE GRAVE–ZIA Award Winner!!!

On Saturday, April 22 in Las Cruces, New Mexico

I was thrilled to accept the 2017 New Mexico Press Women’s ZIA Book Award for my debut

Sharing some monster magic and thanks

middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE published by Jolly Fish Press.

Receiving the 2017 ZIA Book Award from New Mexico Press Women

Thank you to Jessica Savage, the Zia Award Chairperson, and to all the committee members who took such interest in my monsters. The Zia symbol is ancient to the people of New Mexico. It represents the sun and is found on the New Mexico flag. The rays of the sun can also represent the four directions–north, east, south, and west or the seasons of the year. The Zia symbol can also relate to life stages–childhood, young adult, adult, and seniors. Thanks again for this awesome honor!

Below is a copy of my acceptance speech.

Thank you so much for honoring my middle grade novel, FROM THE GRAVE as the 2017 Zia Award winner. I’m thrilled and flattered that I was included among such wonderful authors as Joan Livingston and Caroline Starr Rose. And now, if I may, I’d like to share with you some post-truth era insights from my monster tale that I have entitled:


Make Way for Monsters and Alternative Facts


Sometimes fact (and I do not mean alternative fact) is surprisingly close to fiction—or as stated by the publication, Business Standard News: “reality is so strange nowadays it could be true.” Such is the surprising example with my debut fantasy– FROM THE GRAVE, in which Frank—a misfit Frankenstein and Malcolm, an intimidating troll—try to prove they are monster enough. I created this juvenile parody, combining horror, humor, and heart, to focus on issues of bullying and diversity. Why then do I say that this fantasy—complete with quirky monsters of every kind—so remarkably mirrors aspects in our current world?


You see, in Uggarland there is a newly elected president named Vladimir (even in the monster world there are possible Russian ties it seems). Vladimir is intent on laying down the law as he decrees it. In order to be elected, President Vladimir has played on the fears of the masses—and I quote: “Misfits suck the life from our failing economy. I will put them out of their misery before they make each of our lives a misery, too.” The president has found the latest scapegoats to abuse—young misfit monsters slow to change their unacceptable behavior or appearance. With swift action, he’s implementing a new law to banish them all.


And there’s another surprising mirror character, Principal Snaggle, the leader of Fiendful Fiends Academy. With each flick of his furry tail, he’s ready to hide any number of sinister secrets. He’s intent only in adding to his own renown—as can be noted by his coveted Principal of the Year trophy prominently displayed on his desk. The principal aims to make every situation resolve in his favor no matter the fallout along the way. He’s also quick to spin the facts to meet his vision. Let me read you an excerpt of the principal and Malcolm plotting the end of Frank and his friends, as a terrible storm—a Run For Your Lives HORRORCane is coming to the Shadowlands. Malcolm, who tells this segment of the story, has also recently learned that his long-lost father is—of all things—a misfit. :


At last, under the principal’s hypnotic stare, my monster wiles kicked into gear. I leapt from the chair. “I’ve thought of it!”

“Have you now,” said Principal Snaggle, arching his back. “Do tell.”

Leaning close I whispered, “A scavenger hunt for the misfits into the Shadowlands during the storm!”

“My, my, my. Such wonderfully wily ways, McNastee. A young monster any father would be proud of.”

I gulped. Even the principal’s praise couldn’t stop me from smarting at the mention of my father.

Principal Snaggle’s lips slid up toward his slitted eyes. “You and I can see how silly the weather warning is. Blazing bunions! What’s to become of this current generation if we don’t put them in harm’s way? It’s only a bit of debris and havoc—which, of course, may last for days. It’s such a mega storm that even the most seasoned of scavengers wouldn’t blunder into it. Why, of course, it’s a perfect opportunity to test my struggling students.”

I snorted. “To uh, prove they’ve, uh, changed.”

“Truly changed,” said Snaggle.

“And that they can follow orders,” I added grinning. “Monster or die.”

“Exactly,” agreed Snaggle. “Either they brave a turbulent Shadowlands experience and show they are monsters. Or they run away, proving they’re miserable mutants.”

“Um, sir, a cautious monster isn’t always a mutant,” I mumbled, remembering my barricade last night inside the mausoleum.

“Pfft.” Principal Snaggle waved his claw in the air. “Monster is as monster does, McNastee. We are drawn to mayhem like sloth beetles to the flames. Retreating misfits will certainly reveal their mutant natures amid the chaos. We’ll be able to ship them to Exxillium ahead of schedule.”

“If they make it back, sir.” My tail twitched uncontrollably. My words sounded jittery as well. “I’ve heard whole houses can blow through sometimes. They say once a witch had a house land on her.”

“Monster tales. Just monster tales for little tykes. We’ve all heard them.” Principal Snaggle waved a sharp nail close to my snout. “Don’t believe everything you hear. A tale or the truth. Monsters tend to mix the two up so frequently. But even if the witch did meet her end crushed beneath a bit of timber, what a gallant death. Don’t you think?”

“Yes, sir.” My head nodded so vigorously that my hair tuft bobbed down over my eyes. I envisioned Frank flattened beneath a house. My grin grew wider. “It sounds like a perfect plan.”



Honestly (no alternative fact), I started writing this story a number of years ago, long before the present real life political characters stepped onto the stage. Ironically though, my fantasy was published only a few weeks before the 2016 November election, which set this startling parallel into motion. My story is meant to be a satirical, adventure tale not a thinly veiled caricature of current events. Yet I hope that my monsters can serve as a talking point about the current politics and can open up dialogue about bullying, diversity, inclusion, and cooperation across boundaries—as well as the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction. Otherwise, I fear that Monster Rule #19 will continue to prevail; it says: When the truth compromises monstering, it’s best to lie. If we humans can’t find our way back to the truth, we may all be forced to “scary on!”


Thank you again for honoring my monsters and me with the Zia Award!

A KidLit Superstar: JANE YOLEN

KidLit Rock Star

I had the wonderful opportunity last week to join the other children’s authors in Florida for their annual gathering in Miami celebrating KIDLIT. It was truly awesome! Thanks to all the hard working SCBWI volunteers there who made it happen, especially Linda Rodriguez Bernfield & Dorian Cirrone–the Co-Regional Advisors.



One of my all-time favorite authors was there, Jane Yolen. Not only has Ms. Yolen written over 300 children’s books, but she remains exceptionally modest and extremely motivating for other authors. She shared some pointers with us. I’ll pass along a few of them.


  • Be ready to share your knowledge and to support fellow authors—as Jane does so well.


  • Inspiration and perspiration are musts. Always have numerous projects in the works. “Rest is not for the tired but the dead.”


  • Editing is the key to writing successfully—be ready to revise. But also be ready to give yourself “a pat on the back” for a job well done.


  • Listen to your heart!

Passion, Perseverance, and Patience will lead to Publishing Success!

Happy Halloween! Monster ON!!!

The Gang from Fiendful Fiends Academy

wants to wish you a monstrously fun time on this Halloween!

And they’d like to share another great review of FROM THE GRAVE. This review comes from Kathleen Burkinshaw, author of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM (Sky Pony Press).

I loved my visit to Uggarland!
From the moment I read Monster Rule #9 “A monster’s appearance should incite fear and significant revulsion to scare the socks off mere humans.”, I knew I would enjoy this book!
But this is not just a humorous story. I loved the heart it had.  Frankie is not quite sure how to answer a questions that we all have wondered as humans-Does he fit in?  Monsters, like Malcolm have judged Frankie and his friends to be strange since they do not quite fit the “monster” description.  
Although as much as Malcolm may tease Frankie and his friends mercilessly, things are not what they seem on the outside for Malcolm either. 
I really loved the connection that Frankie had with his Grannie Bubbie and how her love for him lived on in his heart and “a bit of her magic coursed through his misfit hide.”
As worrisome events unfold with the visit to Exxillium, the friendship that Frankie and Oliver form with two others deemed misfits- Vanya and Georgina strengthens their resolve to Keep calm and monster on. But in order to do that, they must decide what is the “right way” to be a monster and whether they can be happy and proud of themselves if they conform to the monster edict. Or will they be able to prove that they already are more than monster enough?
Some great descriptive phrases, such as:
“My neck bolts sent a steady hum pulsing through my body.”
“Last night when I peeked out my cobwebbed window to spy on the demons, I’d seen a bat flying upside down.A bad omen for sure.
“The swirling gust stirred up a powerful aroma of decay and dread.”

Pictures from My Author Visit to Immacolata School



Happy 100th Birthday to ROALD DAHL!

September 13

Today marks what would have been the 100th birthday of one of children’s literature’s great fantasy authors.


Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.


Dahl’s spunky, outrageous, endearing characters have become a part of childhood for so many children. I remember reading THE BFG to my two sons when they were young elementary students. We would all be laughing and eagerly turning the pages to find out what was going to happen to Sophie and the Big, Friendly Giant.

Click on this link to read more about the BFG and me.


Celebrate today with Ten Quotes from Dahl’s Stories

Here is a great list from USA TODAY of fun and insightful quips taken from some of his favorite books!

Please share the celebration!!!


Inside an Author’s Mind


(A Morning at the Dentist’s Office)


An exclusive look into the mind of one middle grade author. Read her ramblings as she faces terror! (i.e: sits in the dentist office, having her six-month cleaning and check-up—hoping that no new cavities have emerged in the interim.)


An author’s work is not limited to time spent before the computer or with a pen clutched in hand. No, some of my most productive creative time is down time, when I’m able to let my mind wander. It’s then that I often find answers to nagging plot problems or discover a new twist or—like today—uncover the truth about Monster Dentists!


In my upcoming middle grade fantasy, FROM THE GRAVE (October 18, 2016), I do not have a monster dentist as a character. However, I do mention one ancient vampire improving his bite with a set of new false teeth, so therefore, I know that monster dentists do exist in Uggarland—my monster world.


Today, as I sat in the infamous adjustable chair listening to drills and teeth scraping and moans (okay, maybe the moans were only mine and had nothing to do with pain but only with totally unjustified apprehension), I pondered a monster dentist’s workday. The following is what I envisioned:


The dentist’s name would be something like Dr. A. G. Ony or Dr. Lotta Payne


He would look like a cross between a mad scientist and a mangy dog, or she might be a skeleton in blood-crusted scrubs with a necklace of teeth dangling from her neck.


Tools would include a hammer, chisel, pliers, and a knockout punch, although most procedures would be administered with no pain relief. The louder the howling—the better.


The dentist would also have a file to sharpen teeth for better biting. Every Moanday, there would be a special two for one price on sharpenings. (always popular with the financially fiscal monsters like werewolves and trolls)


Cosmetic dentistry would include the application of teeth tarnishing gel, multiple tooth extractions for that gap-toothed growl, and a take home kit for halitosis—bad breath to the max.


Okay, there you have it. A writer’s mind at work—all while wearing a paper bib and drooling most profusely.


Now it’s your turn! (No, not to drool—to write!)

Open the door, if you dare, and let your imagination out for a bit of fun. I’ve shown you ways a dentist might “operate” in the goofy monster world that I’ve created for my #MonsterOrDieBooks.




  1. Choose a setting for your story. (Feel free to use my monster world if you’d like.)
  2. Create a character.
  3. Fill in the blanks on how he/she looks and acts.
  4. Now write a story with this character. Keep thinking until you discover a problem. Such as: What if the monster dentist had to extract teeth from a crazed werewolf during a full moon? (Check out the classic picture book Dr. DeSoto by William Steig to read how this author wrote a similar story.)
  5. Finally, tell how the character tries to solve the problem. Does she do it—or not?


Presto! You’ve written a story! That’s how you make magic happen—one word at a time!

I’d love to hear about some of your characters. 🙂

Here’s to monstrous reading & writing!!!

Reflections From The SCBWI Conference



I’ve just returned from the annual Society of Children’s Book & Illustrators summer conference in Los Angeles. Here are four quick reflections on what I carried away from the meetings and encounters there.




What an amazing opportunity to hear and see how creative minds like Don Tate and Drew Daywalt and Jon Klassen work. I thank them for sharing their journeys, their insights, and their struggles through the completion of a project. Thanks too for reminding me to follow my heart—to listen to that inner voice that makes my story, my creation unique and relevant in this ever-changing world. They helped reaffirm that we SCBWI members–our words, pictures, story may be just the one needed by a young struggling mind, searching for answers, for hope, for laughter, for light. They reminded me to believe that I [we] can make a difference in one child’s life.




The conference was overflowing with storytime celebrities around every corner. When I spied Richard Peck at lunch and met Bruce Coville and Arthur Levine at a small group gathering, I was awed. To hear my heroes Pam Munoz Ryan or Linda Sue Park speak is humbling and amazing. I heard agents and editors, writers and illustrators—each helpful and inspiring, all come to life! I felt sometimes as if I’d gone down the Rabbit Hole and might meet Alice on my next elevator ride.




I was reminded by these celebrity book gurus that being creative is scary—over and over again with each new attempt. It would be so much easier to hide away in a safe place rather than expose myself to rejection time after time. That staying strong requires the hide of an elephant—and by the way, I felt an elephant’s hide once with hairs like a bristle brush. And even though every breath an author or artist breathes says “Like me—like my creations, please!” that we must be prepared to hear “No! No! No!” over and over again. The super important point to remember is that the refusals do NOT mean the end—unless we let them. We MUST NOT let them!!!




What an amazing place the SCBWI Conference is! And I’m not just talking about the over-the-top Hollywood art deco glam of the Biltmore where this year’s conference was held. I was able to hang out with pals old and new. To forge friendships while discussing plot and characterization and the word puzzle challenge of picture books. To share critique horror stories over a glass wine and jubilation at lunch for a friend’s starred Kirkus review news. To hug and to laugh and to sigh. To relish shared passions and dreams and struggles. To know that we all are part of a special tribe who place the importance of children’s literacy paramount in our lives. We are SCBWI!

Watch Out! Monsters Happen Here!

Today I’m offering a glimpse of my writing space—a small office area in my bedroom. Be it ever so humble, this is where monsters are created!


My Desk

There is my usually cluttered desk. I never seem to keep it as neat as I’d like. If I do straighten things up, then I usually lose track of where I’ve put something. So it’s probably better if it stays a bit messy. Monsters like mess anyway—perhaps that’s why so many have moved in.


My Bookshelves

There are a few bookshelves. A whole room full of shelves would not be enough for I could fill them quickly. I’ve had to size-down my book collection to stay within my space. There are books on writing, reference books, files, folders, photos and such. My shelves for favorite books stands in the hallway, a few steps away. Right now Jonathan Stroud’s book, THE HOLLOW BOY, sits on my desk though. He is such a master of fantasy adventure. I’m hoping the close proximity to one of his works will bring good mojo my way.


My Poem

There is a framed copy of my poem, “Reaching for the Stars,” which was published in HIGHLIGHTS magazine some years back. I love the colorful illustration by artist Melanie Hall. And I love the poem’s ongoing words of encouragement, “Go ahead. Try it. You’ll see—stars aren’t really so far away.” That’s the sentiment I keep focusing on in my writing career. Believing that the impossible is possible when you give it your all.



My View

There is classical music playing in the background. The masterful notes soothe my soul and inspire my muse. Periodically a train passes behind me. The rumble reminds me of powerful forces at work both within and without. Sometimes the sound pulls me out of a scene I’m writing and brings me back to the here and now, but more often it simply blends into the world I’ve created. I hear too the soft whirl of wheels on the street down below as cars slow at the corner stop sign. The vehicles pause and move on—my story too slows and accelerates with each new scene, setting, and the cast of characters. Today’s view through my office window is a gloomy one, following a morning thunderstorm. A perfect view for monsters—and this monster writer.


Follow me on Twitter for more monster updates! @cynthiareeg

or Facebook at Cynthia Reeg, Author