Due to the impending weather hitting West Chester on Saturday night, the PAYA Festival will BEGIN at 11am and end at 2pm.


3 authors added!

Three authors have been added to the PAYA Festival line-up!

These authors are:

Beth Kephart

Susan Shaw

Scott Tracey


I’m especially excited to include Scott Tracey in this list because we will have his book available BEFORE it’s actual release! So if you’re anxiously waiting for Witch Eyes, be sure to stop by PAYA to get a copy before anyone else!

Why You Should Come to PAYA (Josh Berk and Sarah Darer Littman)

PAYA newcomer Sarah Darer Littman chats with long-time Pennsylvanian Josh Berk about books, scrapple, and other things to expect when she visits the Keystone State.


Sarah: So Mr. Berk – Have you lived in PA your whole life?

Josh:  I certainly have! I’ve lived in PA and nowhere else, except for a brief stint when I went to college in (whispers) Jersey. We shall never speak of this again.

Sarah:  My son calls Jersey the second circle of Hell.

Josh: He is not the only one.

Sarah: Did you find many cultural differences between New Jersey and PA? Particularly when it comes to food? For instance – a lack of scrapple? And by the way, what the heck IS scrapple?

Josh:  The main thing I noticed was that Jersey had a lot of Yankees fans and/or Mets fans, which bothered me deeply.

Sarah:  Did everyone look like Snooki and The Situation?

Josh:  Only the man in the mirror.

Sarah: Wait – did you look like Snooki or the Situation. Or BOTH, which is a very frightening prospect….

Josh:  A little from column A, a little from column B …. OK: BACK TO SCRAPPLE. You have never tried it?

Sarah: I believe Scrapple has content of the porcine variety, and being a Nice Jewish Girl – well, at least a Jewish Girl, I refrain from such products.

Josh: Well, no one is quite sure what is in scrapple. It’s a great mystery, the likes of which will never be known.

Sarah: So it’s Mystery Meat! Maybe I’ve have eaten it! They served it in my college cafeteria at Duke on Thursdays….

Josh:  You haven’t truly had Scrapple until you’ve had Pennsylvania Scrapple. We’re the champions of Scrapple. But yeah, maybe it’s a weeeee bit not kosher. We could go out for cheesteaks. That’s, um ….

Sarah:  Yeah, also a bit of a problem 😉 Unless I put tofu cheese on it.

Josh:  I’m 99% sure if you ordered tofu cheese at a Philly cheesesteak shop that the guy behind the counter would die laughing.

Sarah:  Yeah, I was thinking that…I guess I’d better stay in CT, huh?!

Josh:  My home state really is not kosher-friendly. I apologize in advance. But, no, you still should come! We’re very excited to have you come to PAYA.

Sarah:  I’m very excited to be joining you!

Josh: It’s a really great event! Last year was a blast. Tell me a little about your latest book. Smooth transition, Berk!

Sarah: WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is about Abby, who is finding the transition to high school difficult because her best friend is spreading her wings and making new friends and Abby…isn’t. So she finds solace online in the form of Luke, who listens and finds her wonderful.  They decide to meet. And then Abby’s missing. And the FBI, the police and her family and friends must figure out the clues if they ever want to see her again.

Josh: Whoah, sounds great!

Sarah: It’s had a good reception so far- in fact, there was a nice write-up in Entertainment Weekly (!!!!) last week!!!!!!

Josh: I saw that! Cyn Balog’s book was mentioned in there too. She’s going to be at PAYA as well. It’s totally star-studded with you EW superstars! (“EW superstars” does not sound like a compliment, but it is.)

Sarah:  I have to say, that as a Mom, it gave me massive cred with my teenage daughter that my book was in there not just with, but ABOVE Sara Shepard’s latest. My stock with her rose for at least…45 seconds.

Josh:  Forty-five glorious seconds.

Sarah:  When you are the parent of teenagers, you learn to treasure each and every second of cred. Because there are so freaking few of them.

Josh: Sara Shep is from PA too, you know? Although I do not think she will be at PAYA.

Sarah:  I didn’t know that!

Josh: I call her Sara Shep. She’s kinda my BFF.

Sarah:  Can I touch you and then say that I’m BFF by association? It might earn me 5 cred units?

Josh:  How many credits is it if I in fact met Miss Shepard just the once and nver called her Sara Shep?

Sarah:  Maybe only 1 then.

Josh:  I’ll take it.

Sarah:  Awesome, you rock! So tell me about YOUR book, dude!

Josh: My first bit o’ news is that THE DARK DAYS OF HAMBURGER HALPIN is newly out in paperback, and will be available at PAYA with its shiny new cover and lovely papery-back.

Sarah:  I will be buying and you will be signing. I NEED this book!

Josh:  With this I will not argue J My next book comes out in March of next year. It’s called GUY LANGMAN: CRIME SCENE PROCRASTINATOR and is another funny YA mystery about a lovable (I hope) and sarcastic (definitely) teen dude.

Sarah:  Wait – I have to wait till MARCH to buy your next book?! That’s SO NOT FAIR!!!!

Josh: However, I should warn you that this one, unlike HALPIN, is not set in Pennsylvania. It is set in … New Jersey?!?!?!

Sarah:  The Second Circle of HELL!!!! Do any of the characters wear bumpits?

Josh: Just the guy in the author photo.


(Note: Dear Readers Who Live in New Jersey, you should totally make the short drive to PAYA. Josh & Sarah promise to be nice to you. PAYA, the Pennsylvania Young Adult Literature Festival, is held August 27th beginning at noon in West Chester, PA. The PAYA Facebook page has all the info.)


Book Drive!

We’re still collecting books for the 2011 PAYA Book Drive! Books (YA, in new or like-new condition) can be brought to the PAYA Festival or mailed (by the 20th at the latest). All of the librarians in attendance will be able to choose from the books for their libraries.

Female Dwarves and Dumb Minotaurs: Making Fantasy Your Own (Ellen Jensen Abbott)

I was one of those kids who read fantasy novel after fantasy novel. I was obsessed with the Chronicles of Narnia and read my favorite, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, thirteen times. (I have since read it to both of my children—so now I am up to fifteen!) As a fantasy writer today, I owe a debt to CS Lewis and to JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, another of my favorites.

But Lewis and Tolkien would be the first to acknowledge their debt to much earlier sources, such as Norse mythology and biblical stories. As I wrote Watersmeet and The Centaur’s Daughter, and now, as I’m working on the third in the trilogy, I have also drawn on earlier sources: folktales, hero quests, mythology, legend. After all, what are these tales but fantasy stories? Odysseus making his way back to Ithaca—fighting the Cyclopes, Scylla, Charybdis, and the Lotus Eaters? Fantasy! Uncle Remus and the Br’er Rabbit stories? Talking animals are definitely fantasy. Scheherazade and the One Thousand and One Nights? Still more fantasy.

It seems almost as if from the moment language was invented, people were gathering to tell stories about monsters, magic, heroes and power beyond what we could understand. Even today, when our society is so rational, so technological, so scientific, fantasy sells—and bookstores can be open at midnight for the launch of the seventh Harry Potter book and people or the latest in the Twilight series. In fact, I think the call of fantasy is stronger now because so much mystery and magic is gone from our daily lives. It’s no wonder kids and adults are flocking to the genre!

And the wonderful thing about these stories is that each generation, each story-teller, makes the stories his or her own. I doubt Tolkien or Lewis would have considered female dwarves or centaurs. But in the 21st Century, this fantasy writer insisted on females! (Peter Jackson does the same thing in The Two Towers, including a conversation between Gimli and Aragorn about female dwarves.) The Minotaur was a specifically Greek character who lived in the labyrinth and was born of King Minos’ wife and this bull from the sea (ok—yuck).

(This is a picture of Minos’ wife dandling the cute little infant minotaur on her knee!)

As Wikipedia points out: “Minotaur was originally a proper noun in reference to this mythical figure. The use of minotaur as a common noun to refer to members of a generic race of bull-headed creatures developed much later, in 20th-century fantasy genre fiction.” (My emphasis.) These fantasy writers changed the image of the Minotaur to suit their needs, their time, and their place. In my novels, I’ve done the same thing. I created minotaurs controlled by hags and more dull-witted than monstrous. I invented new creatures, borrowing a tail here, a claw there, from other mythological sources. I spent a lot of time developing the dwarf diet. These folk live underground and their diet should be influenced by that. (See my recipe for Hoysta’s Dirt Brownies on my blog: Don’t worry: highly edible, even if you don’t use quail eggs or milk your badgers.)

Apparently Tolkien didn’t really like Narnia; he thought it was too much of a hodge-podge of mythological images from too many traditions. (You can’t mix Norse and Greek!) But we live in a world that’s a patchwork of traditions from all parts of the globe. Our fantasy today reflects that.

When I started sending out my first novel, the Harry Potter phenomenon was just starting. An editor read my book and had nice things to say about it, but offered no contract. (Yes, I got what we know in the writing business as a “good rejection.”) One of her comments stuck with me: “Fantasy always sells.” In fact, fantasy has been “selling” for thousands of years. As a fantasy writer today, I feel like I’m adding my own, individual voice to an ancient and ongoing conversation.


Thanks to Ellen Jensen Abbott for this wonderful blog post. Come meet her this August at PAYA. See the complete list of authors here.

Bio: Ellen Jensen Abbott lives in West Chester, PA and teaches at the Westtown School. Her debut novel, Watersmeet was an IRA Young Adult Award Notable Book, and was nominated for YALSA’s Teen Top Ten. The sequel to Watersmeet, The Centaur’s Daughter, will be released on September 1, 2011.

Hades is Haute (Charlotte Bennardo and Natalie Zaman)

“He’s so… naughty!”

“I love him!”

“Hades is Haute.”

Everyone loves a bad boy, and while readers have told us that they can relate to either Meg or Shar, they love Hades—and so do we. In fact, we see Sirenz as having three main characters—the girls, and Hades. What was in our heads when we brought him to life? Part myth, part fantasy, Hades is both what you’d expect a Greek god to be—and nothing like you’d imagine.

What Hades IS: Greek, immortal, treacherous and powerful, like the gods are traditionally described. As ruler of the Underworld, Hades controls souls and the afterlife, and has dominion over all things below ground; its riches, its secret places, its aura of dark terror. Hades is self serving and not to be trusted, just like his family: father Kronos, the first god (Titan) who preferred to eat his children before they could wrest away his rule, to his brother Zeus, who usurped Hades’ birthright (as first born, Hades should have, by rights, been ruler of the Pantheon).

In Sirenz, Hades is married to Persephone as is traditional. We wanted to stay as true to the mythology as possible because all the gods’ stories are so tightly interwoven. Demeter is the grieving and bitter mother-in-law who causes the seasons, Hera, the overwhelmed queen of the squabbling pantheon, and Zeus, the absentee ruler/father.

What Hades is NOT: Most depictions of Hades from film to novel show him to be Satan-like; hideous, soul-stealing, and ruler of a hell-like kingdom. How attractive is that? We made Hades to-die-for gorgeous (keeping actor Ian Somerhalder in mind helped with the, ahem, visuals), and gave him a flirtatious, devious, mischievous, and unpredictable personality—as readers will see when Sirenz Back in Fashion comes out next year (sorry—no spoilers!)  What most people don’t expect is to like Hades. Oh, you know he’s dangerous, and he wants to make a deal when you’re at your most desperate. That’s not anti-God, it’s simply a good business deal. Hades doesn’t want Meg and Shar to kill, torture or do anything terrible to anyone, just chauffeur a recalcitrant “client” on his final obligatory business trip.

Our Hades is funny, charming, and dresses better than any fashion icon (togas are so BC). Yes, he’s vain. If you were a god, wouldn’t you be? That makes him even more appealing, his humanness—which is also a built-in aspect of traditional myth; the gods were flawed. But he doesn’t dictate to mortals from afar. He’s mixing it up with us. And the fantasy of a handsome dark soul, still redeemable perhaps, able to make dreams come true, is one that women and men share.

Keep an eye out; there’s more to Hades than truth, fiction, rumor, fantasy and myth. We’d tell you more, but we made a deal and have a non-disclosure clause…


Thank you to Charlotte and Natalie for sharing this wonderful post about how they created their version of Hades. Be sure to pick up a copy of Sirenz and get it signed at PAYA! Copies will be available there.

Why Sports? (Keri Mikulski)

Why Sports?

Many people have asked me over the years why I choose to write sports fiction for girls. The obvious answer is that I love sports and I have participated in athletics for over thirty years. But the main reason I write specifically for female athletes has a little more to do with literacy than the love of the game.

When I was in elementary school, I adored books. But by sixth and seventh grade, I fell out of love with reading. In fact, I became what educators refer to as a ‘reluctant reader’. This baffled both my mom and my teachers since as a child I was never without a novel or a notebook. And it’s not like I didn’t try. I cracked opened tons of novels including all the popular series. But most of the time I would read the first couple of chapters and then skim over the rest because I just couldn’t connect. For years, I searched for books that I could relate to. But over and over again I came up empty handed.

Later, while I was working as a middle school language arts teacher, I watched some of my sporty students fall out of love with reading just like I had a decade earlier. At that moment, I realized that my students and I became ‘reluctant to read’ because we couldn’t find books with main characters that we could relate to. We couldn’t find books about girls who played sports.

This realization led me on a journey to write the novels that my athletic students and I always wanted to read. Books about girls who play sports. Books about the lifestyle. Books about the drama on and off the field, court, and/or mound. Books about teammates. Books about boyfriends and crushes. The book that I always wanted to read. And here I am living my dream.

Thanks so much for having me!

Keri Mikulski is the author of Head Games (Penguin/Razorbill, 2011), Stealing Bases (Penguin/Razorbill, 2011), Making Waves (Penguin/Razorbill, 2012), and Fifteen Love (Penguin/Razorbill, 2012). A three-sport athlete in high school, Keri worked as a magazine columnist, personal trainer, lifeguard, registered nurse, middle school teacher, and high school coach. Currently, she teaches college writing courses at Rowan University and Stockton College while working toward a Masters of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Keri splits her time between the New Jersey suburbs and the shore with her husband and daughter. Find out more at


Thanks, Keri! I can’t wait to read Stealing Bases. I’m not much into sports, but I do love baseball!

Come out and help support Pennsylvania libraries and meet Keri Mikulski and seventeen other authors. Details here.