The Best Worst Thing
A Middle Grade Novel
Spring 2016 — Little, Brown
The mini mart clerk has been shot, the murderer is loose in the neighborhood, middle school has just started, the man who lives on the other sides of the fence is about to sell his rabbits to a restaurant, on September 23 the mean neighbor boy with the mean dog is getting a gun for his birthday, and Maggie Alder is sure that it is up to her, and only her, to save everyone.
The Best Worst Thing is a story about learning what you can control (almost nothing) and the good (sometimes even best) things that can come of finally letting go.
"Let me be the last one, let me fall, let lank beat me, let me throw up, let me not be able to cross the finish line."
A "let me be brave" writing exercise you can try in your classroom—
In The Best Worst Thing, when Maggie's scared, she pleads with the universe: "Please don't let me fall, please don't let me fall..." So on a visit to Denver's Bookbar, the kids and I all wrote our own "please don't let" pleas. We then crossed out the "please don't" part and guess what we discovered? when you invite your fears in,
they don't feel quite as scary!
Of all the things I love to write, bios are not one of them, but here is a little of my story: I started out with a pretty deep fear of words. I was a slow reader (missed half of first grade due to an accident) and dreaded the moment when a teacher might call on me to read aloud. So, kind of crazy that I would end up working as a writer, and even crazier that I would one day write a book— that terrible thing I wanted nothing to do with in first grade.
Along the way there were many stops, including a long stop in advertising, and another not-long-enough stop in Richmond, Virginia, where I met Marlene Paul and together we started a nonprofit called ART 180. Thanks to Marlene, ART is still burning bright—brighter than ever—bringing art programs to kids living in challenging circumstances, and bringing their voices to the public through exhibits, performances, books and installations.
I now live in Portland, Oregon where I teach writing through Oregon Literary Arts’ Writers in the Schools program, and co-host an art & literary event series called SHARE. Best of all, I get to pay classroom visits with my book—sharing with kids the message that they are not alone in their worries and that their sensitivity to the world is a beautiful and powerful gift.
And that girl who was once afraid of words—she is currently working on a YA novel and collection of short stories, some of which can be found in journals like Berkeley Fiction Review, Swink Magazine, Poor Claudia, Coal City Review, and Forest Avenue Press's anthology The Night, And The Rain, And the River.
October 19, 7pm, I'll be reading at the amazing Annie Bloom's Books
November 5, 4:15, I'll be in conversation with Jason Reynolds at Portland's Wordstock Festival
Kids at New York's Creston Academy, I had THE BEST time with you!
—and you have the most wonderful librarian in all the world.
Loved my time with all who came out to Teen Happy Hour at Denver's BookBar.
Honored to take part in this Tough Topics in Middle Grade panel at the New York Public Library with Phil Bildner, Paul Griffin, James Howe, Nora Raleigh Baskin, and Rita Williams-Garcia
Thank you Powell's Books for including The Best Worst Thing in your Midyear Roundup, Best Books of 2016 So Far
The Best Worst Thing has been named a Junior Library Guild Selection.
The nicest reviews from Waking Brain Cells, proseandkahn and Children's Book & Media Review.
New work on the SHARE blog by artists (writers, painters, musicians...) who participated in SHARE No. 25.
The Best Worst Thing receives starred reviews from Publisher's Weekly and School Library Journal!
Where Have All the Boys Gone? awarded second place in Berkeley Fiction Review's Sudden Fiction Contest.
Midway through Jason Reynold's beautiful middle-grade novel, Ghost, a finalist for this year's National Book Award.