Every Missing Piece Book Release - Melanie Conklin

Maddy Gaines sees danger everywhere she looks: at the bus stop, around the roller rink, in the woods, and (especially) by the ocean. When Maddy meets a mysterious boy setting booby traps in the North Carolina woods, she suspects the worst.

Maddy is certain she's found Billy Holcomb-the boy who went missing in the fall. Except, maybe it's not him. It's been six months since he disappeared. And who will believe her anyway? Definitely not her mom or her stepdad . . . or the chief of police.

As Maddy tries to uncover the truth about Billy Holcomb, ghosts from her own past surface, her best friend starts to slip away, and Maddy's world tilts once again. Can she put the pieces of her life back together, even if some of them are lost forever?

Q: Hi! Welcome to Teachers Who Read!!! I am so excited about this new release Every Missing Piece! Can you first tell us a little bit about you as an author (and you as Melanie J
A: Hi, all! Every Missing Piece is my second novel for young readers. I started writing about seven years ago after a decade of work as a product designer. At the time, I had quit my job to spend some time at home with my kids while they were little. I had always been a big reader, so one day when I woke up with the idea for a story, I started writing during naptime. Unsurprisingly, that first attempt at writing a book was terrible, but I found my stride after a year or so and now I very much love writing for young readers.
Q: Before you answer the next few questions – can you tell us what Every Missing Piece is about in your own words.   
A: Every Missing Piece is about an eleven-year-old girl named Maddy who is the kind of child who worries about things going wrong. In fact, she’s even gained a reputation for calling the sheriff too much. As the story opens, Maddy becomes convinced that the new boy in her neighborhood is really a child who went missing six months prior!
Q: What was your biggest influence in creating the story line for Every Missing Piece?  
A: The longer I write, the more I see the same theme repeating in my stories: I tend to write about children who wish the adults in their lives would listen to them. I think that as a child, I often felt like adults didn’t take me seriously—at least, adults outside of my parents, who were always very open with me and answered all of my questions. I think because of their positive attitude, I found it strange that other adults would dismiss me just because I was a child. So I decided to write a story about a girl who is very determined to be taken seriously. Maddy has a voice that demands to be heard and I love her for it.
Q: I loved how you explored several different “issues” in Maddy’s life – her anxiety for example -   Where did your ability to address her anxiety come from?
A: I am an anxious person by nature. What’s interesting is that I didn’t understand this about myself until a few years ago. I always thought that maybe I was just short-tempered, but I actually get anxious pretty easily in social situations. In that way, my anxiety is different from Maddy’s, but we both share difficulty getting to sleep when our thoughts spiral with worry. I’ve learned to be kind to myself and recognize my limits as a person. I think that’s why Maddy’s mom is so wonderful. We all deserve family who recognize and respect our worries and respond with love.
Q: As someone who lost her father (almost two years ago now), the way you handled Maddy’s grief was very sensitive, almost elegant in a way – Does that come from a place of understanding, research, how did you know how to describe her grief in ways that weren’t overbearing for young readers?   
A: Oh, Cassie! I’ve cried many a times reading your eloquent posts about your father, may he rest in peace. I am very fortunate that my father is still with me, but I have encountered many children who have lost family members since Counting Thyme published (wherein the main character’s brother is battling cancer). There is nothing that prepares you for a child to walk up to you at a book festival and share their story of losing a family member. Their stories are gutting, and honest, and I very much wanted to honor their truths when I wrote Maddy’s story. As in THYME, Maddy’s family has been through some very tough circumstances, and I respect the complexity of her feelings about her father’s death. It’s hard to know how you should feel, and what I want young readers to know is that their feelings are valid, whatever they may be.
Q: Can you describe your revision/editing process for students? Also, do you start writing on paper/computer/etc?
A: After a lifetime spent drawing, I love writing on paper! I cherish my writing notebooks and scribble all over in them. However, I also type notes on my phone late at night or use voice-to-text to capture a thought when I am out. There is no correct way to write. It all counts! When I have a story idea, I jot it down in my IDEAS notebook. When I am ready to start turning an idea into a story, I use another notebook to collect my thoughts until I know everything there is to know about my character and their emotional journey. I don’t worry about the plot too much, though. I always have to make a lot of plot changes! I save that work for revision. After I have a draft of a story, I step back and make an outline of it to decide what needs to change to make the plot as engaging as it could be. I usually make those revisions on paper, though I do type my stories directly into the computer rather than writing long-hand.
Q: What advice would you give to middle grade students who are writing?  
A: First of all, if you are writing as a middle grade student, congratulations on writing! I encourage everyone to write, even if it just a daily journal/diary or a list of things that annoy you about your younger sibling. All writing is valuable! My biggest piece of advice is to be patient and kind to yourself when you are writing. It is good to dream big, but being mean to yourself never helps. It will just make you feel bad. So let your writing be a mess in your first draft. Make mistakes! Mark words out! Add spider legs to insert new sentences and ideas! The more playful you can be with your writing process, the more you will enjoy it. Everyone can be a writer if you let yourself try.
Q: Future middle grade projects that you are currently working on? 
A: I’m working on a new middle grade novel for Little, Brown that will come out sometime in the next few years. I’m hopeful that I can go just two years between novels this time. This story is very special to me, because it touches on ADHD and perfectionism, which are characteristics that run in my family as well. Hopefully I will have more to say about this story soon!
Q: What were your favorite books as a kid, and what do you recommend to middle grade classrooms?   
A: What were my favorite books? Is it fair to say ALL OF THEM? Lol! I was such a big reader as a child. I read everything I could get my hands on. Going to the public library was so exciting, and I always exceeded my checkout limit. Some of my fondest memories are of re-reading favorite titles such as Black Beauty, The Three Investigators series, and short stories by O. Henry. I even used my birthday money to buy an ancient anthology of his stories at a rummage sale! These days I love reading books by Erin Entrada Kelly, Rebecca Stead, and Jason Reynolds. They all write such powerful and evocative stories. I’m also looking forward to reading Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai, Fighting Words by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley, and Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson.

Check out her books here: Click on the image to purchase! 

Click on Every Missing Piece to preorder and Counting Thyme her debut to order. 

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