Kate Messner’s Character Debut Party

THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z by Kate MessnerAaaaand… three cheers for another 2009 Debutante pick on the Autumn 2009 Kids’ Indie Next List, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z! The cover takes me right back to my favorite season, those rich colors, hot apple cider, the smell of firewood burning into the night, and I’ve been curling up this one under my fleece blanket on the couch lately, just in time to dig out the fuzzy socks and crank up the heat. Perfect!


Gianna Zales has a lot on her plate this fall – a father who drives her to school in the family hearse, a mother who’s turned into the junk food police, a little brother who thinks he’s a member of the paparazzi, and a grandmother who leaves false teeth in the refrigerator. Worst of all, she’s left her 7th grade leaf collection to do at the last minute. It’s a monster project, and Gianna will miss cross-country sectionals if she doesn’t meet the deadline. She’ll need the help of her geeky friend, Zig, and some brilliant ideas of her own to pull it off.

Gianna’s 2009 Debut Party

Gianna’s a kindred spirit of mine. In other words, I hope to finish my last-minute revisions in time so I can make it to this party! 🙂

The Guest List

Let’s see…besides Gianna’s friends Zig and Ruby, I’d invite Catherine from Cynthia Lord’s RULES because they are both artists, and Julia Song from Linda Sue Park’s PROJECT MULBERRY, so they could commiserate about their big science projects. And can my guests travel through time? (I thought I’d ask, since they’re already fictional and all…might as well go for broke) because Gianna would really love Calpurnia Tate, too!

The Party

Gianna would never want anything fancy – she’d rather just show up in jeans and her Picasso t-shirt, so a party under a tent in the backyard of the funeral parlor would be fine, as long as Dad didn’t leave the hearse out front and embarrass her like usual. Let’s see…Nonna would never let them dream of hiring a caterer, so she’d make big pans of lasagna. Mom would do a tossed salad, and there would be Nonna’s famous funeral cookies for dessert.

There’s no theme for the party, but Gianna would make tiny collages for each guest, with magazine cut-outs that matched their personalities. And for sure, everybody who comes to the party will be playing the tree game! (Hey…if YOU were a tree, what kind of tree would YOU be??)

I wish I knew more about trees, because I would love to play this game. For now, I’ll have to go with ponderosa pine, because every time I see them in Colorado, I hug them. Their bark smells like vanilla. Who doesn’t love getting hugged and smelling like vanilla? Mmmm! On the other hand, I just turned blond yesterday… so maybe I’m an aspen!

The Guest of Honor: Gianna

This party must be happening AFTER Gianna’s killer leaf project is due, so perhaps her theme song could be something that reflects her survival of that 7th grade rite of passage. Elton John’s I’m Still Standin’ or maybe the Gloria Gaynor classic I Will Survive.

Kate’s Advice for Gianna on Her Big Debut

Kick back, have some of Nonna’s cookies and celebrate. You worked hard to get here!

P.S. Go sit by Zig. :^)

Congratulations to Kate and Gianna on their fabulous fall debut! THE BRILLIANT FALL is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Kate Messner grew up in Medina, New York and graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communication with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. She worked as a television news producer and reporter in Syracuse, NY and then Burlington, VT, before going back to school to get a teaching degree. These days, Kate is a National Board Certified middle school English teacher. She has helped hundreds of kids work on leaf collection projects and likes sugar maples and catalpa leaves the best. Kate lives on Lake Champlain with her husband and kids and loves spending time in the woods. Visit Kate online.

Megan Crewe’s Character Debut Party

Give Up the Ghost by Megan CreweI’m thrilled to welcome another ghostly tale to the 2009 debut lineup — Megan Crewe’s GIVE UP THE GHOST. Don’t get me wrong… scary movies scare the hell out of me. Nightmares every time. But scary books? I love ’em. Bring on the undead, the spirits, the poltergeists and the hauntings. And seriously, how cool would it be to have your own posse of ghost pals, like Megan’s main character, Cass McKenna? I can’t speak for everyone here, but for me, ghost-buddies would have made my high school experience a whole lot more interesting and tolerable.

Anyway, on to the book!


Cass McKenna much prefers the company of ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody… and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad–and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance…

Cass’ 2009 Debut Party

The Guest List

She’d want Tim to be there, and of course her ghost friends Norris and Bitzy and her sister Paige.

The Party

Cass doesn’t enjoy big social events, so it’d be a small gathering in the backyard at her house, just hanging out with lots of good food and Cass’s favorite music in the background. But she’d have convinced her parents to take off for the evening so she could talk to her ghost friends without weirding them out. Is there a theme? Nope, that’s not Cass’s style. 😉 But of she’s in a goofy mood, guests will snag some ghost-shaped candies or Halloween-themed pens.

I love Halloween stuff. Just sayin’.

The Guest of Honor: Cass

Cass is wearing something comfortable but a little more dressed up than usual–newer jeans and a simple top that’s blue or green. Her theme song? On The Radio by Regina Spektor

Megan’s Advice for Cass on Her Big Debut

No one’s judging you tonight–let yourself have fun!

Congratulations to Megan and Cass on their big spooky debut, just in time for that fabulously ghostly holiday, Halloween! GIVE UP THE GHOST is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Like many fiction authors, Megan Crewe finds writing about herself much more difficult than making things up. A few definite facts: she lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband and two cats (and does on occasion say “eh”), she tutors children and teens with special needs, and she has yet to make friends with a ghost, though she welcomes the opportunity. Visit Megan online.

Pam Bachorz’ Character Debut Party

Candor by Pam BachorzAnother great debut on the Autumn 2009 Kids’ Indie Next List, CANDOR is high on my TBR pile. I snagged an early copy from Pam’s publisher at the ALA conference this summer and I can’t wait to get into this story. First, bring on the dystopian YA. Second, when I first read the premise, it totally reminded me of this “model community” near Disney called Celebration, Florida. I had dinner there for a work thing a few years back, and all I can say is… Stepford, anyone? Then I read that Pam actually lived in Celebration for several years, which is how she got the idea for CANDOR in the first place. Which makes me wonder if Pam herself has been indoctrinated by the “Messages,” too…

It’s a small world after all! It’s a small world after all! It’s a small world…

*Ahem* Anyway — guess you’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m talking about (and to assess the author’s mental resilience)!


In the model community of Candor, Florida, every teen wants to be like Oscar Banks. The son of the town’s founder, Oscar earns straight As, is student-body president, and is in demand for every club and cause.

But Oscar has a secret. He knows that parents bring their teens to Candor to make them respectful, compliant–perfect–through subliminal Messages that carefully correct and control their behavior. And Oscar’s built a business sabotaging his father’s scheme with Messages of his own, getting his clients out before they’re turned. After all, who would ever suspect the perfect Oscar Banks?

Then he meets Nia, the girl he can’t stand to see changed. Saving Nia means losing her forever. Keeping her in Candor, Oscar risks exposure . . . and more.

Oscar’s 2009 Debut Party

Fasten your tinfoil hats, people. Here we go!

The Guest List

Any other isolated misunderstood YA characters are welcome to attend. But I’d really like to see Oscar and Holden Caulfield kickin’ it. They could compare notes on how to survive in a privileged world of conformity that you know you don’t belong in. Although Oscar and Holden have very different coping mechanisms.

Ahh, yes. The scene where Holden calls a prostitute to his room comes to mind… For the record, CATCHER IN THE RYE is my favorite YA book, so any party where Holden’s a guest? Consider me there. And as for Oscar — any friend of Holden’s is a friend of mine.

The Party

Small, with plenty of space to spread out and get away from other brooding, troubled YA characters who might be annoying you. We’re heading away from Candor, Florida, the town where Oscar is trapped. For once I’d like the guy to have a chance to see more than picket fences and manicured swamp.

As far as party themes, Oscar would dig any party that lets him break out of his perfect disguise and be himself, especially if he gets to do it with his love, Nia. So the only theme would be that you get to do whatever you want. And away from home, guests can load up on M&Ms and other goodies forbidden in Candor, Florida.

No M&Ms in Candor? Not even peanut butter ones?


The Guest of Honor: Oscar

He’s tossed his usual disguise/uniform of pressed khakis and a Candor polo shirt. Maybe he’s got a pair of faded jeans and a t-shirt with a design inked on it by Nia. She’s an artist. His theme song? Yellow by Coldplay. That song tells you everything about Oscar and Nia.

Pam’s Advice for Oscar on His Big Debut

Hey Oscar? See if there’s some kind of escape hatch at the end of the party… whatever you do, don’t go back to Candor…

Seriously, Oscar. They don’t even have freakin’ M&Ms there. Sometimes you just gotta say… WTF?

In the mean time, I think it’s safe to remove the tinfoil for now and join me in sending a big congratulations to Pam and Oscar on the debut! But do it quietly — we probably shouldn’t draw too much attention to Oscar, since he’s like incognito and all. Still. You should totally get this book. CANDOR is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Pam Bachorz grew up in a small town in the Adirondack foothills, where she participated in every possible performance group and assiduously avoided any threat of athletic activity. Pam attended college in Boston and finally decided she was finished after earning four degrees. Her mother is not happy that Pam’s degrees are stored under her bed. Pam lives just outside Washington, DC with her husband and their son. She likes to read books not aimed at her age group, go to museums and theater performances, and watch far too much television. She even goes jogging. Reluctantly. As far as she knows, Pam has never been brainwashed. Or maybe that’s just what she’s supposed to say. Visit Pam online.

Jennifer Brown’s Character Debut Party

HATE LIST by Jennifer BrownSelected for the Autumn 2009 Kids’ Indie Next List, HATE LIST is a heartbreaking, powerful, and intense debut told from the perspective of a school shooter’s surviving girlfriend.

Bearing the new mark of truly important work, HATE LIST was recently “eliminated” from an Ohio classroom discussion following parental pressure to disallow books that drop the f-bomb from school lessons.

As the author Jennifer Brown points out in her recent post on the subject:

How believable would it be if Nick Levil, in the midst of shooting students, yelled, “Where the heck is she?!” Or worse, “Where the fiddlesticks is she?” Not believable at all. Here you have a guy who’s so angry he’s killing people. He’s going to drop some f-bombs. It just is what it is.

Censorship aside, I’m glad to report a sighting of my Little, Brown sister’s debut at Talking Leaves Books on Elmwood in Buffalo last week. Local friends, definitely check it out. Here’s a bit more info:


Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Valerie’s 2009 Debut Party

It seems almost a contradiction to throw a party for such an intense, emotional story, but as we know, life goes on after a tragedy, even when we wish it wouldn’t; even when we don’t understand how it’s possible. This post is by no means an attempt to make light of the serious nature of main character Val’s story, but is instead here to tell you about the book, invite you to read it, and encourage you to talk about it with your friends and family. Val’s story is an important one, a painfully real one, one that will be read and discussed and remembered. I hope that you’ll join me in congratulating Jennifer Brown on her incredible debut, and celebrate this powerful new voice on the YA scene.

The Guest List

I know the one person Val would most like to have at her party would be impossible to get there, because he’s gone, but we’ll try not to dwell on that too much.

Dr. Hieler, of course, is a given. So is Bea, Val’s art teacher, and Frankie, her little brother. Her parents, of course.

Probably Val’d be okay with it if I invited Jessica and Megan, and maybe even Ginny Baker, but honestly, Val’s not really into big crowds anymore, so we’ll keep it to just those three.

That said, you know, I’d love to invite Melinda Sordino from Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.I think Val would relate to Melinda just fine.

I actually think about Melinda often. SPEAK is another great read, people. Check it out if you haven’t already.

The Party

Very small. In fact, not too partyish at all. More like a private, special gathering of special people. Too big of a crowd would draw attention, and we definitely don’t want to give the press a reason to start hanging around again. Not to mention, we don’t want to invite any public drama… especially when it comes to Val’s parents. In fact, no drama at all would be great (Val’s had enough drama for a lifetime, honestly).

We’ll be hanging out at home, in the back yard. You know, picnic tables, a small stereo providing some tunes in the background. Frankie might kick up a game of volleyball or something, and he’s just the one who’d get Val to kick off her shoes and join in.

Val’s still trying to get her appetite back, so the food’s going to be simple and not overwhelming. Maybe just some sandwiches, because that was Nick’s favorite, and sandwiches always bring back good memories for Val. She wants to keep everything low-key. I’m going with her favorite colors — black and pink (depending on the day), but we’re definitely not going to overdo it. A few balloons, a table cloth, black and pink paper plates and plastic silverware. And for the guests? Everyone gets a sketch book to take home.

The Guest of Honor: Val

Val is wearing an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Canvas tennis shoes. Nothing special, but she may put on a little lipstick, so that’s something! And her theme song? If Everyone Cared by Nickelback.

Jennifer’s Advice for Valerie on Her Big Debut

Just try to relax and enjoy the progress you’ve made. And know that what you’re seeing is what’s really there.

I’m really happy for Jennifer on her debut, and I also want to send a special shout out to her wonderful editor, T.S., who’s celebrating his own editorial debut with HATE LIST. Congrats to both of you!

HATE LIST is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Jennifer Brown is the author of HATE LIST, a YA novel published in September 2009. As a two-time winner of The Erma Bombeck Global Humor award and weekly columnist for The Kansas City Star, as well as Saturday Featured Blogger for Mom2MomKC.com, Jennifer spends a lot of time dressing up her dog for laughs and thinking of new ways to works words such as “Puh-lease” and “Ch-yeah!” into sentences. Jennifer grew up in the Kansas City, Missouri area, where she still lives with her husband, three kids, and whole herd of uncooperative pets. Visit Jennifer online.

Jennifer Jabaley’s Character Debut Party

Lipstick Apology by Jennifer JabaleyLipstick Apology is a heart-wrenching story that gave me chills — you know, the kind where you just want to hug the one you love before the lump in your throat gives way and the tears spill forth? — from the moment I read the first chapter. Emily’s journey takes us through the horrifying and endlessly-publicized deaths of her parents, her intense and inconsolable grief, a mysterious clue left by her mother in the final moments of her life, and the everyday struggles of a teen girl in a new city searching for love and acceptance. I found myself alternately cheering Emily on and scolding her, just wanting her to finally see the good things and people in her life and to ultimately be okay. Lipstick Aplogy’s cast of characters is flawed and realistic and reminds us that when it comes to home and family, there’s no such thing as typical.


Four little words written in lipstick mean Emily must say goodbye to everything she knows. Emily Carson has always been a good girl. So when she throws a party the night her parents leave for vacation, she’s sure she’ll get busted. What Emily doesn’t know is that her parents will never return. That their plane will go down. And the only thing left amidst the wreckage will be a tray table with the words: Emily please forgive me scrawled in lipstick – her mother’s last words.

Now it’s fall in New York City and Emily’s trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Her public tragedy captures the attention of more than just the media – and soon two very different boys at her new school are pursuing her: the cute, popular Owen, and the quirky chemistry partner slash pastry-baker-by-night, Anthony. But even with such delicious distractions, Emily can’t let go of her mother’s mysterious apology. Does she have the courage to face the truth?

With help of a whole new kind of family – one that includes a make-up artist to the stars, a teen hand model, and a wacky hairdresser – Emily must choose between the boy who makes her forget it all, and the one who encourages her to remember, and ultimately, heal.

Emily’s 2009 Debut Party

The Guest List

I think all of Emily’s close friends as well as her best friend, Georgia from home would get together. Her aunt Jolie and Trent would come also.

The Party

Emily attends a lot of big blow out parties, but her party would be smaller, more intimate, more homey, set on a rooftop with the Manhattan skyline shooting up all around. Guests are treated to free make up from Jolie and hair cuts from Trent.

I want a Trent haircut! Can I get highlights, too? Please?

The Guest of Honor: Emily

Emily is wearing something comfy — jeans and a t shirt. And her theme song? We Are Family.

I got all my sisters and me…

Jennifer’s Advice for Emily on Her Big Debut

It’s okay to miss your parents, but you are not alone. We build our families from the people we surround ourselves with, and you are surrounded by so many wonderful people.

Congratulations to Jennifer and Emily on their big debut! LIPSTICK APOLOGY is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Jennifer Jabaley was born in New York and raised in Bridgewater, New Jersey. She graduated from James Madison University with a degree in chemistry and received a doctorate from Southern College of Optometry. A part-time optometrist and mother of two, Jennifer began writing her first novel after a phone call from her sister sparked an idea for a story that lingered in her mind and stirred her creative juices. Jen lives in Blue Ridge, Georgia and is currently at work on her second book. Visit Jennifer online.