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Monday, January 11, 2016

Guest Post with Melanie Conklin, author of Counting Thyme

Melanie Conklin's debut novel, Counting Thyme, will release this April, but I've already had the distinct pleasure of reading this moving middle grade novel. I cannot wait until everyone is able to meet Melanie's memorable characters! In the meantime, I'm happy to share a guest post from Melanie, in which she shares a bit about her inspiration for Counting Thyme, as well as her tips for unlocking your heart! 

Don't forget to check out Melanie's Preorder Campaign and enter to win a Counting Thyme prize pack!


You know that feeling, when you’re reading a really great story, and the emotion builds in your chest and your throat, and finally—with one line or a few words—you hit the moment of release, otherwise known as laughing or crying your face off? That’s heart, and if there’s one thing middle grade fiction is known for, it’s having great heart.

But where does that heart come from?

The simple answer: from the writer’s heart. But accessing the truths in your heart is not always easy. In fact, reaching a level of truth that resonates with readers is some of the hardest work a writer will ever do. It’s easy to get wrapped up in plot and lose the emotional thread. But there are surefire ways to connect with the heart of your story.

The author and Gretchen Witt, 
founder of Cookies for Kids’ Cancer
When I sat down to write Counting Thyme, the only truth I knew was that childhood cancer was completely unfair. To everyone. Even a sibling like Thyme, who has to leave her life behind so that her little brother can seek treatment in New York City. At that point in my life, I’d become acquainted with pediatric cancer through friends whose son had fallen ill with neuroblastoma. I checked their blog for updates every morning, even though I dreaded any news. The utter helplessness of their situation broke my heart. I cried with every word I read. I sent artwork to make them smile. I became a volunteer for an effort to bake 96,000 cookies to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.

I could not stop thinking about these families, even years later, when I finally picked up a pen and started writing.

Sometimes though, our points of inspiration are not so clear. The key to tapping into the heart of your story is accessing the subconscious, where your mind stores your deepest fears, hopes, and dreams, and applying those connections to your character’s situation. Heart stories grow from truth. Here are some tips for unlocking your heart:
  • Recount your dreams. 
Journaling about yourself opens up connections about your characters.
  • Shift your writing time. 
Your brain becomes accustomed to rhythms. Changing the rhythm can spark new connections.
  • Music sparks emotions. 
Listen to music that connects and let go.
  • Take a walk. 
The rhythm of movement frees the unconscious mind.
  • Read widely.  
While reading, don’t focus. Just read. When you finish, jot down the moments that connected with you while they’re fresh.
  • Let exhaustion take you. 
Lie down. Shut your eyes. When you let go of control, your subconscious has a chance to take the stage and new connections will arise. Jot them down before sleep to give yourself a cheat sheet for the morning’s work.
Pre-orders of Counting Thyme benefit Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a non-profit that provides research grants to pediatric cancer centers that began with 96,000 cookies baked in 2007, approximately 1,000 of which were baked or bagged by Melanie. Learn more about the story behind the story of Counting Thyme at
Preorder from...



1 Winner. US only. Ends 1/18/2016.
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More About Counting Thyme
Newbery-winning Rules meets Counting by 7s in this affecting story of a girl’s devotion to her brother and what it means to be home 

When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

With equal parts heart and humor, Melanie Conklin’s debut is a courageous and charming story of love and family—and what it means to be counted.
More About the Author
Website / Twitter / Goodreads / Tumblr
Melanie Conklin is a writer, reader, and life-long lover of books and those who create them. She lives in South Orange, New Jersey with her husband and two small maniacs. Counting Thyme is her debut middle grade novel, coming from G.P. Putnam’s Sons on April 12, 2016. 


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