Friday, December 20, 2013

All About Middle Grade Interview: Elisabeth Dahl (author of Genie Wishes)

This week I am excited to welcome Elisabeth Dahl, author of Genie Wishes, to the All About Middle Grade Challenge. This was supposed to go up last week, but I was out with a bad case of cedar fever and couldn't even get on the computer.

About the Author:
I write for both children and adults. My first book, GENIE WISHES, a middle-grade novel with line drawings, was published by Amulet Books, an imprint of ABRAMS, in April 2013. My shorter pieces for adults--fiction, essays, poems, and the like--have appeared at,, the Johns Hopkins Magazine, Baltimore Fishbowl, and other outlets.

Born in Baltimore, I studied literature and writing at Brown, then Hopkins (B.A. English, Phi Beta Kappa), then Georgetown (M.A. English, Writing Center Associate Fellow). I spent years as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Bay Area. Now I live back in Baltimore with my family, including my 14-year-old son, Jackson. We have two dogs--one the very Lulu who appears in GENIE. I still edit, and write, but now I also teach writing through Johns Hopkins University's Center for Talented Youth.

You can haunt Elisabeth Dahl at-
Website | Goodreads | Twitter | FB |

1. In seven words can you introduce readers to Genie?
Genie's a funny, generally optimistic fifth-grade girl. 

2. What do you think readers will enjoy about Genie's story? What part of her story did you enjoy writing the most?

Genie experiences a big friendship shift in the book. Basically, her longtime best friend dumps her for the class's new girl. Readers seem to like seeing Genie adjust to the new situation and, ultimately, find happiness with a different set of friends. I liked writing Genie through this transition, but I also liked figuring out smaller details, like what costume she'd make for Halloween and the class graduation party (she's pretty creative).

3. In Genie Wishes, why'd you choose for their to be a class blogger; why have Genie elected to the position?

I am always interested in how kids interact with technology, and in the case of blogging, the technology involves essential activities related to writing as well, such as finding one's voice. I thought that, in serving as class blogger, this relatively quiet girl would be required to take a stand on some bigger issues than she was used to confronting.

4. Elisabeth, since your book, Genie Wishes, is a MG title, could you share with us one of the oddest things that happened to you in middle school? 

In seventh grade, I was cast as the dog (Nana) in my middle school's production of Peter Pan. Weirdly, I'd never auditioned for the part. Even more weirdly, I never asked the director how this bit of casting had come to be. I just quit the basketball team (a scheduling conflict) and showed up at the first rehearsal as if this were all totally normal.

5. How did you feel on your first book tour appearance as a debut author? Best moment?

Transitioning from person-at-a-keyboard to person-in-front-of-an-audience hasn't always been easy, but the one-on-one interactions with readers at the end of an event, during the signing, always make the anticipatory nerves seem worthwhile in retrospect. 

6. I see that you recently did a volunteer day with First Book, could you share with us your thoughts on that experience?

That was a cool day; I'm still a little sore from it. First Book is a wonderful nonprofit that distributes new books to needy kids. In early December, First Book staff members--as well as hat-wearing, sweater-clad volunteers like me--spent time in a drafty Baltimore warehouse readying over 400,000 new books for distribution. It was an amazing effort to be a part of, even for only four hours.

7. What are three of your favorite 2013 middle grade debut books and why you enjoyed them?

Hmmm. This is tough. I loved Melanie Crowder's PARCHED partly because I love a spare writing style. I loved Caroline Carlson's MAGIC MARKS THE SPOT partly for its format, which includes clever "documents." And I loved Kristen Kittscher's THE WIG IN THE WINDOW partly because I love a good friendship story. Frankly, there's so much I haven't even gotten around to reading yet--it's making me crazy.

8. The world has fallen to a robot invasion and only one heroine/hero can possibly save the day, who do you choose?
Yikes.  This does not sound like a good situation in the least. My vote is for Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man. I know very little about superheroes and their various skills, but Robert Downey Jr. would at least provide wryly funny commentary while taking our world back from the robot invaders.

9. Care to tell us about your writing cave (include picture if you want)?

Oh, I do love my writing cave. I recently adorned it with holiday lights. (Photo attached.)

10. Any upcoming projects that you can share with us? 
Not yet! But soon.

Elisabeth, thank you so much for stopping by and answering some questions. I am so jealous that you have gotten to read Parched, The Wig in the Window and Magic Marks the Spot because I have been dying to read them. 

Genie Wishes by Elisabeth Dahl, April 2, 2013. Publishes by Amulet Books.
Genie Kunkle may look like your average fifth grader, but she notices things her classmates don’t. When the school year begins, she’s elected class blogger, and it’s her job to record her class’s “wishes, hopes, and dreams.” But Genie has never been the center of attention, and she struggles to find her voice. What should she write about? Her best friend, Sarah, who’s spending more and more time with the boy-crazy new girl? What about the bras, deodorants, shaved legs, and makeup that seem to be all anyone can think about? Then there’s her widower father’s new adventures in dating, and her older brother’s surly new attitude...

As Genie writes the blog entries, she starts to figure out the types of things she wants to express, and her own wishes, hopes, and dreams become clearer with every day.

You can add Genie Wishes to your Goodreads shelf. 

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